Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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So about that spunky little bird

A few of you are wondering, still, what the story is about that spunky little bird you saw in a previous post.

He was a quick little painting to do, all wet paint on wet paint running together. I really liked him, and didn’t mail him off right away, though I did post him on Facebook saying something like “I think he’s ready to fly.” He got a lot of comments, naturally, as he is very very cute.

I considered keeping him, he made me smile so much, but he was created to fly off to a forever home so eventually I scrolled through my address book and chose a place for him to land.

His new mom is a member of my Truck Safety family. Her son and her ex-husband were killed when the car they were in was rear ended by a semi a few years ago. She’s using her unrelenting grief to work with the Truck Safety Coalition as we try to make safety a priority.

I thought of her because she’s spunky too. She’s not a very big person, but she’s so strong and eloquent and unafraid to make waves. She’s just the kind of spark we need and I so appreciate her.

So I wrote a note on the back of the painting saying he reminded me of her and mailed him off. A few days later I received a Facebook message from her, thanking me for the gift of her little bird and telling me this story:

She noticed ‘her’ bird on my Facebook post, and said, aloud, “Oh I want you little bird,” but she didn’t comment on the post. She figured I had made him for someone, and had already decided where he was going.

But she connected with him.

So she squealed when she opened the unexpected envelope and the little bird hopped out. Her husband wanted to know what was up…and she told him I had sent her the bird she’d wanted. He figured she had asked me if she could have him. But she hadn’t.

No, she never commented on him at all, I randomly picked her name out of all the names in my address book. I think this little bird was destined to find his forever home with this mom. I think he was meant to help her her with her unbearable sadness.

And I don’t believe it was a coincidence.

Do you?


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Another Father’s Day

When your dad dies you’re in the moment of loss and you don’t really consider how permanent it is. But dead is forever and that’s a very long time.

In the beginning you get through each day, each moment really, one moment at a time and you try to accomplish all the things you have to do, from arranging a funeral to cancelling his next doctor appointment, and you don’t think about what it will be like sixteen Father’s Days later.

But I can tell you what it’s like. It’s like the first one, just a little softer around the edges. Less the slice of a knife, more the dull ache of a bruise.

Dad would have turned 91 last February. There’s no guarantee he’d still be alive today, but I know for certain that a sleepy truck driver took several years from him — and us — sixteen years ago when he failed to see dad stopped on the freeway ahead.

A young man with big dreams

I wonder if that driver ever thinks of dad. Or us. I think of him often; he’s a father too, and I am sure there will be some Father’s Day thing happening for him this weekend. I don’t begrudge him that. I just wish…I wish he had pulled over when he got sleepy that morning.

I know you all expected some sort of uplifting Father’s Day post, but that’s not where I am this year. Grief ebbs and flows, but the work remains.

In fact I’m working on some truck safety stuff over the weekend. In some ways that’s in honor of my dad. I guess, for me, just about every day is Father’s Day as we fight to improve safety on our roads. Can’t give up, though sometimes it feels futile.

I like to think of him up in heaven sitting with some of your folks who have gone on too, sitting around in easy chairs telling stories about all of us, sharing experiences. Smiling a lot. Don’t see why this isn’t possible, after all, most of us met over the internet, just as unlikely as our folks meeting in the afterlife, right?

Anyway, now I’m rambling. I hope those of you that still have your dad here get the chance to give him a hug or a call or a card. Sometimes dads get lost in our busy worlds, but time is not infinite. Don’t waste any of it.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. No matter where you are.

A new dad.


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It’s National Sheltie Day!

Katie here. (What? You were expecting someone else to tell you about my national day?)

Mama woke up this morning crying and she’s not sure why. Maybe it’s because of all the bad news lately. She’s quite sensitive, my mama, and things like protests turned violent, and people dying, and stores being burned down on top of so many people sick and dying from the virus, well, sometimes it’s just too much.

Let’s celebrate mama!

Lucky for her today is National Sheltie Day! Of course the only reason she knows that is because it turned up in her Facebook memories from last year. To be honest, she’s not even sure there really is a National Sheltie Day, she has suspicions that it’s all made up by someone short and furry in her household.

Ahem.

But I assured her this morning that it was real. I am very persuasive, so she said she’d take me to one of my parks to celebrate and I was all excited. We went to a little park not far from home and I was so happy when I got out of my car!

I sniffed my way up and down the smaller hills at the beginning of the trail.

Yep, something very interesting walked here not long ago.

But when we got to the top of the first big down hill (and uphill on the other side of the creek) I stopped. I looked at mama and she looked at me. She asked me if I wanted to keep going and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug. She asked me if I wanted to go back to the car and I wouldn’t move, even when she gave my leash a little tug in that direction.

I don’t know, mama, that looks like a really big hill to come back up!

She said we could just stand there awhile if I wanted to. So we did. We stood at the very top of that hill and just listened to the birds and watched a chipmunk scurry in the underbrush. Finally mama asked me again which way I wanted to go and I turned around and headed back to the car.

I saw mama look one last time over her shoulder at the trail. She said her eyes weren’t really wet, she said a bug just flew into them. But I know the truth.

The truth is that it was 62 degrees outside (16.6 C), too hot for this little sheltie girl to want to wander up and down big hills. The truth is that I’m 13 and a half now and walks have to be shorter then they used to be. The truth is that even though I get excited at the thought of an adventure, the actual adventure sort of wears me out.

Thanks for understanding, mama.

Mama and I both know the truth and that was no bug in her eye.

But I’m still smiling, I had a very nice, though short, walk in the woods to celebrate me and my National Sheltie Day. And when we got home mama gave me a frozen banana and peanut butter treat and that made me smile even more!

No matter what, I’ll always be your beautiful girl, huh mama.

Signing off for now, it’s time for me to take my power nap, your elder stateswoman, Katie-girl.

Whatcha done for me lately, mama?


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It’s hard to smile

This week it’s been hard for me to find something to smile about.

So many families with broken hearts this week.

The news was filled with awful things. The virus killing over 100,000 Americans. The protests and violence stemming from the death that reminds us of other similar deaths.

No, this week I didn’t feel much like smiling.

And then my silly girl wouldn’t sit pretty for a picture and I had to smile…just a little.

Reminding us to stop and smell the flowers.

Yes, this week I looked really hard for something to smile about.

Oh, all right mama. I’ll look at your silly camera. Sort of.

And I found it right here at home.

I hope I made you smile too!


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In the woods on a rainy afternoon

Katie here.

Yea, I know. I was just here a few days ago. But really, wouldn’t you rather hear from me than watch television news? Of course you would.

What’s over that way, mama?

So I was guarding the house er, napping this afternoon and mama said I looked old. My head was up but my eyes kept closing and then my head would droop and then I’d wake up and try to keep watch again. Just resting my eyes, you know.

Why do I always have to wait for you, mama?

Anyway, mama asked me if I wanted to go to a park. She said she was going a bit squirreley herself, being in the house so much. Huh. I didn’t know mama could be a squirrel — maybe I better watch her more carefully.

Are you really a squirrel, mama?

The next thing I know I’m in the car and we’re driving to a park! Mama told me we had camping reservations for next week at this park but the reservations got cancelled cause of the virus.

Mama is sad about that and said we could at least walk in the woods near the campground. She said it would be beautiful even though it was sort of raining on us.

Mama thought these raindrops were pretty. I think they were just wet.

Mama was right.

The trees are beginning to leaf out and they are that pretty early spring green. No one else was there. There weren’t even any mosquitoes!

She spent way too much time on this silly acorn.

Mama spent a lot of time taking pictures of little things she thought were pretty. I don’t get it. There’s nothing out there more pretty than me!

Seriously mother? It’s a leaf. Who cares about a leaf?

Sometimes when she took too much time on things not me I’d huff at her. She told me I was being annoying. Do I look like I’m annoying her?

Well, yea. Sometimes I can be a little bit annoying.

Well. Maybe just a little.

And another thing. She told me I looked old. Do I look like I’m old to you?

I don’t like to be left behind. Plus she has treats.

I didn’t think so. Of course this was the only time I ran like this, and I didn’t do it when she asked me to, I did it just because it was fun. Mama was lucky to get the shot. I got a treat for that one!

Anyway, we had a lot of fun walking in the woods. We didn’t walk real far, because it was over 60 degrees (15.55C) and kind of humid. That makes it sort of uncomfortable for me. Frankly I’d like it if it snowed every day, but I guess that’s not what most people want.

Mama found some yellow flowers for me to sit next to. I think she’s taking this yellow flower project too seriously.

After we got done with the walk in the woods mama said we should check out the boat launch because the sky was getting kind of interesting.

I didn’t mind making another stop at all, even if we were approaching my supper time and normally I’d want to be home so as not to miss it. I’d had quite a few treats on our walk so I was good for a little more adventure.

Even with all these clouds it wasn’t raining on me.

It was beautiful out there at the lake! Some people were fishing but we maintained our social distancing just fine.

I posed for mama whenever she asked and when it started to rain and she wanted to go back to the car I didn’t want to go! Mama says I am stubborn, I say I just know what I want.

Two guys and a boat made a nice picture.

And a princess, always, should get what she wants. So we walked for awhile longer in the nice cool rain. It was wonderful.

Pretty colors and a bit of rain.

I’m a happy princess now. I haven’t had an adventure like that in a long time. Mama says it’s to make up for not being able to go camping next week.

I told her she better get the tent put up in the yard, one walk wasn’t going to make it up to me.

If you agree, please let her know. The more people telling her I deserve a couple nights in the tent the better!

Thank you,
Your girl Katie.

Glad you could come along with me on my walk!


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A very Covid Mother’s Day


Not having a mother still on this earth I hadn’t been paying attention to the upcoming celebration preparations. But today’s newscast reminds me that Sunday is Mother’s Day and that most people won’t be able to celebrate it in traditional ways.

Of course not.

This year most adults in this country will be separated from their moms by more than distance or time, the usual excuses not getting home to visit. Even some younger children, those who didn’t happen to be living with their mothers when all this started, likely won’t be celebrating with her this Sunday. They’ll be separated by the virus. By fear. By common sense.

But I bet there are plenty of creative ways to connect with her. Technology sure helps. At worst people can make coupons to send, dinner at a future date, for example, promises for time spent together when it’s safe again.

Flowers dropped off on the front porch would work too.

None of that will help my family have physical contact with our mom, as she went on ahead sixteen years ago. She’d be 91 now, and I have often wondered, during this pandemic, what she’d think about it all. I know we would have been scared for both of my folks, if they were still alive. I can feel the fear friends with elderly parents have, and I feel some guilty relief that I don’t have that worry.

And as I make weeks worth of meal plans and shop with my lengthy list these days, trying to limit my trips to the store, I remember my mother doing the same thing, for different reasons. It must have been hard feeding a family of six day after day. The endless scrimping and planning. Not wasting anything because there was never enough.

I know I have it much easier, though I sometimes feel the same way these days.

I don’t think we appreciated her for all the things she did for us, all the things she was for us, all those years ago. I wish she had lived longer because I think we were just beginning to realize what we owed her when she died.

Anyway…if you’re a techie and can figure out a way to get Zoom or some other app to connect to heaven…let me know.

I’d like to check in, express my appreciation, even if I can’t be with her, right now, to share a meal.


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Remembering to breathe

I used the last onion 4 days ago, ate the last apple day before yesterday. We’d been out of bananas and garlic and salad fixings for a while. No fresh meat left in the fridge, we were reduced to eating packaged food out of the freezer last night.

Time to go to the grocery store.

Grocery shopping has never been my favorite thing to do, but on the list of household chores it used to be the least repugnant. Now it’s something out of a Twilight Zone episode.

Resenting having to be out so early, I turned into the store parking lot at 7:30 this morning, detailed list (organized into like store aisles for faster shopping), antiseptic wipes and mask piled next to me in the passenger seat.

Good. The parking lot was relatively empty.

I note two women going in, masks in place, hands covered in gloves, eyes covered in glasses. A man coming out is similarly dressed. I sigh and done my own attire.

Here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I feel claustrophobic wearing a nose and mouth mask. I start to breathe faster, my glasses fog up and then I feel like I can’t breathe. At home, practicing, I can only go a few minutes before I need to rip the mask off my face. Actually wearing one for an entire shopping expedition, especially since I’m trying to buy enough stuff for at least two weeks, will be an experiment.

I figure at worst I’ll run screaming out of the store, leaving my partially filled basket behind. I doubt I’d be the first.

Anyway.

The store wasn’t busy, everyone was going about their business, not looking at anyone else. I guess when you’re wearing a mask and glasses and gloves you’re somewhat anonymous. Apparently there’s no time for friendly when shopping these days. It’s all about survival now. In fact, as I looked down the aisles and noted that everyone there looked like a bank robber, I decided I didn’t feel very friendly either.

Fresh stuff is so welcome.

Shopping was a big adjustment for me. I hadn’t been out of the house in almost two weeks, except to walk the dog around the yard. To find myself in a store with a long and detailed list, surrounded by new signs including those designating one-way aisles was almost overwhelming.

I suddenly felt…well…elderly.

Wearing my glasses over the nose piece of the mask wasn’t comfortable, and they were no longer at the right distance from my eyes. Things were kind of blurry. Plus did I mention they fogged up if I breathed too fast? But not wearing them was worse because then everything was blurry, and I couldn’t even read my complicated list.

Time to just suck it up.

Grateful that I had segmented my list I moved as quickly as I could. I found most of what I needed, and I only had to circle around a few times when I encountered wrong way signs. Sometimes, to be honest, I ignored them.

There were fewer things out of stock than my last trip to the store, though there were still plenty of empty shelves. I didn’t go down the paper goods aisle, so I can’t tell you about the toilet paper inventory. I’ve heard there’s still a shortage.

In the end I forgot the eggplant (the produce was the most difficult for me because I was still adjusting to breathing and seeing at the same time), and I couldn’t find any baking soda or flour.

I’m chalking this trip up to a success.

Standing on the blue sign labeled “STAND HERE” at the checkout line I watched the man in front of me unload his overflowing cart. Mine looked the same, in fact it was so heavy it was hard to push. I looked like I was buying for a family of twelve.

A sea of groceries.

Two Hundred forty-eight dollars and eighteen cents later I escaped the store to the parking lot, ready to unload everything into the back of the car and get out of there. I took the mask off and breathed deep.

Everything is precious these days.

Twenty-eight degrees and sun felt wonderful.

I’ve never spent so much money at one time in the grocery store. Rarely in any other store for that matter! Lugging it into the kitchen was another adventure, but now it’s put away and I am safe, back in my cocoon of a home where I hope to stay for at least the next two weeks.

If this was a glimpse into our future I will be very sad. I hope someday to drop into the grocery store for a couple items like I once did. I look forward to smiling at other people, chatting over the produce, standing a bit to debate the merit of salmon over trout. I’d like the time to weigh the benefit of fresh versus frozen.

I dream of being able to go free-form and shop without a list.

But until then, I’ll shelter in place and reminisce about the good ole days when grocery shopping was just an inconvenience.

And when breathing was easier too.

Full


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What was there to smile about this week?

It’s understandable if you felt like there wasn’t much to smile about this past week. Off and on these past few days I’ve been feeling pretty down too. After all, thousands of people are dying, and the rest of us, the lucky ones, are confined to our homes. Those less lucky still have to go out to work, risking their own lives and the lives of their families to do so.

No, there’s not a lot to smile about right now.

Still…I made it out to my favorite park before I realized it was too crowded to visit. And Katie-girl and I have explored our backyard and have come to a realization.

Spring waits for no virus.

So here’s a compilation of things that made me smile this week, both at the park and here in my very own yard.

I hope you were able to smile too. Stay safe everyone, and stay home.


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Feeling guilty

I went out to my favorite park today. It was the first sunny day we’ve had in a long time, and the blue skies drew we outside. I felt like I’d be safe at the park, especially on the nature trails where I don’t usually see a lot of people during the week.

I miscalculated.

But before I get into that let me tell you about the most extraordinary thing that happened while I was in the woods. I had followed a popular trail half way around a lake. Every corner seemed to have more people and I wanted to find a quieter place in the trees, so I veered off onto an old, unmarked cross-country ski trail. I figured wherever it ended I’d recognize where I was and find my way back to the car. And no one else was walking that trail.

When I was quite far back into the woods, I noticed three red bellied woodpeckers screeching and chasing each other among the top of very tall trees. I stopped to watch. They stopped and watched me. In all my years visiting this park I’ve never had a red bellied come to my hand. Sometimes they’re interested, and they always take advantage of any seed I drop, but they’ve never landed on my hand.

Bet you can guess what happened today!

Yes, I was looking the other way, watching a chickadee decide whether to come in for a treat when I felt something with considerable weight land on my hand. I looked out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t believe what I saw. I had to really look, and I had plenty of time because he was sitting there eying me and considering which seed he wanted. He sat there and ate every single peanut out of my palm, leaving all the oilers, before he flew off.

I have no pictures because I had my long lens on the camera, too long to catch a shot of him sitting on my hand.

I refilled my hand and waited. I saw him, or one of his friends, come in for more treats from a long and high way off. He swooped down at what seemed to be breakneck speed, aiming directly for my hand, and landed with quite a bit of force. And once again we watched each other, eye to eye, as he swallowed down every peanut there.

He flew up on this tree after his snack.

Well! I decided if they were going to be this assertive I was changing my camera lens and grabbing a shot. But of course by the time I got the short lens on the camera they were long gone.

Still. It’s something I’ll never forget and I hope you can imagine.

Back to my miscalculation.

I figured the number of people at the park would be similar to most other weekdays that I’ve been there. But the parking lots were full. There were families with kids screaming and running everywhere. There were lots of individuals quietly walking too, but overwhelmingly there were groups of people tromping around the trails. It was noisy. It was crowded.

It felt like a Saturday, and then I realized that it might as well be a weekend day. Kids were no longer in school. People were off work. There will no longer be a difference between weekdays and weekends. I felt a small pang at the loss of my quiet weekday mornings at my favorite park.

And then I realized that none of us should have been there. That maybe we do need to close the parks. I know that people have been cooped up for a couple weeks, that kids are going crazy and need to expend some energy. But maybe that should be done in their own back yard.

And that’s where I’ll be staying into the foreseeable future.

Yesterday in the United States almost 1000 people died of the virus. The day before it was just over 900. When these kinds of numbers were being reported in Italy I couldn’t fathom the enormity. Now that enormity is here. Here in the states 5,713 people are dead, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So I realized, as I left my favorite park, that maybe I won’t be back any time soon. I will miss it. But it’s important that we all stay home. All of us. Stay home. That’s the only way we will get through this.

And on a lighter note, I had a successful grocery store venture this morning, though I spent twice what I would usually spend because I’m hoping not to go back for at least two weeks.

And look what I found!

Mama! I don’t know why you’re so excited about that…it’s not edible or anything.

But today’s post is not about the toilet paper…it’s about the realization that a stay-at-home order means just that. Stay at home. Don’t go to the park to walk. Walk around your neighborhood or your yard if your neighborhood is too busy. If your yard is too small then walk around your house. But stay away from everyone else.

It’s going to be hard. But we’re strong. We can do this.

We have to.

Time to clean up our act.