Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The misadventures of a Katie-girl

Katie here. HEY! It’s not my fault if I had a few unsettling adventures around here. It’s not like mama takes me anywhere fun after all.

Happy at my park.

First I thought I was going on an adventure and I ended up at camp for a whole week while they were off frolicking in Florida. I like Florida, I’ve been there three times, I love to run on the beach and stuff. Plus my boyfriend Mr. Reilly is there. So I don’t get why I couldn’t go with them.

Me, my boyfriend Mr. Reilly and his little brother Denny on our first beach adventure way back in 2017!

So I showed them. The morning after I got home I talked mama into taking me on a walk. She was tired cause she just flew home herself, but she felt guilty (as she should) for making me stay at camp, so she took me up the street.

Me in my yard, which is not an adventure mama!

I was doing my sheltie prance, butt wagging, sniffing all the good stuff like usual when suddenly I slowed down. Mama thought that was odd. Then I turned around and looked at her and threw up! And then I threw up two more times!

Then I just lay down in the middle of our street and I started to quiver all over.

I told mama not to show anyone my tummy!!

Mama said that was not normal. And even though we were only about four houses away from home she called my dad and he came and got us. Then she called the vet.

So the next car ride I get was to the vet! This is not an adventure mama! They poked me and looked in places no princess should allow, and they took my blood. I didn’t give permission for any of this, but I felt kinda miserable so I couldn’t argue much.

I guess my backyard is better than nothing.

The vet couldn’t come up with anything, but mama had a sinking feeling cause I had an episode just like this in 2015, also one day after being sprung from camp. We didn’t figure out anything then either.

I finally convinced mama to take me to my park.

So the next day I was feeling all happy again, but mama put me on a low fat wet food for awhile just to see. Boy that was good! And when I stayed happy for several days mama did a bad thing.

She scheduled me to get my teeth cleaned, and while I was out she asked them to do an ultrasound of all my innards!

So the next week I find myself at the vet again! This is so not fair, especially because this time daddy left me there! Mama couldn’t even come because she fell on some ice and had both hands and wrists wrapped up in splints and she didn’t feel so good herself.

I would like to say, for the record, that mama’s fall was not my fault!

My park needs my inspection more regularly!

Anyway, I got all sleepy and stuff and when I woke up I didn’t feel so good and my tummy was cold! Mama and daddy came to get me and I was sort of happy but kinda confused. The vet said he didn’t see anything on the ultrasound, but he’d send it off for a better look by an expert.

All I wanted to do was get out of there.

I watched two sandhill cranes very carefully. Not going to chase them though, cause they are bigger than me!

I got home and I slept and slept and slept. But when I went out to do my business my #2 was liquid. And you know what? It’s been four days now and it’s still not right. But the vet said the ultrasound didn’t show anything abnormal.

Sigh.

Mama and daddy are talking about my poo all the time now and deciding what to do. They have even cancelled their next adventure because they don’t want to send me back to camp. Score one for Katie!

They say they might have to take me back to the vet. Uh oh. Minus one for Katie!

Trying to look cute so they don’t take me to the vet again.

Somehow that’s not a win for me, ya know? So I’m doing my best to produce a normal poo for them so we can get on with some fun stuff. Mama did take me to my park yesterday for a short walk around the pond. That’s where most of these pictures come from. It was a beautiful day and I was very very very happy to be there.

We didn’t get to walk all the way around the park because mama’s hands are still wrapped up and her mittens don’t fit. She is a wimp!

Mama says if I straighten up my act (and if her hands ever heal) we’ll do something fun cause spring is almost here. Heck I told her, I like cold weather, we need to be out there enjoying it right now!

All that poo talk made me sleepy.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope all of you are having a much better end to your winter than mama and me. She says to watch out for black ice. I say to watch out for car rides to the vet!

Talk later, I got stuff to do now….maybe even a #2!

Your gal Katie.

I’m outta here people! I’ve got adventures to plan!


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Photography makes me fat

I admit, the title of this post wormed it’s way into my brain during sleep last night. It made perfect sense then, but it’s less clear in today’s snowy morning light.

I weighed myself yesterday because my knees, hip and legs ache most of the day and night. I particularly notice my knees when I’m carrying the dog, an extra twenty pounds on top of my own extra poundage.

Snow is on the way.

In my sleep I analyzed the situation. I rarely take long walks anymore. When I do walk, even on short neighborhood strolls, I almost always have a camera, though sometimes it’s just my phone. There is always something to stop and take a picture of.

Always.

So the walk turns into a photo shoot. Very few calories are expended while leaning over a mushroom or shooting up into trees.

Let’s go for a walk before it snows more mama!

I wear my Fitbit and religiously note the dismal number of daily steps. Even knowing I’m barely moving doesn’t get me off the sofa. It’s just so warm and snugly there. And here comes winter in full force. Record breaking cold is on the way. More snow. Little sunlight. The odds or me taking more steps slips lower.

But! We have a perfectly good elliptical in the basement. It’s been there for years and I’ve used it twice. It’s hard. It’s boring. But I have no excuse, something has to change, probably more than one something.

Darn. Change is hard.

Don’t stop visiting us lady!


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Trent’s Weekly Smile or A Bird in the Hand

During the holidays I’ve lost track of Trent’s Weekly Smile challenge, but surely there are things to make me smile this week. After all Christmas was just this past Tuesday.

Come along with me, there’s got to be something to smile about down here!

Still, I was feeling kind of blue, typical for me around this time of year, with the anniversary of my dad’s death on the 23rd. And this year I had the loss of two people I’d call friends, one in his 80s who was a big supporter of our community band, another a friend from almost forty years ago, someone I haven’t seen in many years but still count as a friend. Both died this week of cancer before Christmas had a chance to arrive.

So early this morning I headed out to my favorite park with my new camera, intent on figuring some camera stuff out while searching for a smile. This park never lets me down.

Even though it’s winter there are still colors here.

My goal was to figure out the manual settings on the new camera, how to set the aperture, the iso, the shutter speed. I’d read the manual and I’d searched youtube. Still, though it made sense while I was sitting on the sofa, I hadn’t been successful on the fly once in the woods.

New ice.

Maybe without Katie to distract me I could figure it out today.

I hadn’t intended to grab images of the birds eating out of my hand this time. You’ve seen those before.

Sure, I’ll pose next to these berries for you lady. That will be one seed please.

But I did have a pocket full of seed, hoping to lure them to me so that I could get good photos of them in their ‘natural’ habitat.

Got anything for breakfast lady?

But darn they were cute on my hand too. They were so hungry! I think I was the first human out there and as soon as I started down a trail they’d be swarming overhead.

Wait your turn!

So I set the camera back to auto and tried to get those iconic ‘eating out of my hand’ shots.

Back off titmouse!

One thing I noticed is that it was harder to get a clear focus. I think I’ll need to work on that. And I haven’t figured out how to fire off a bunch of shots at once yet. So I missed a lot of stuff. But I still had a blast.

Does this seed make me look fat?

I didn’t spend too much time feeding the birds at the beginning of the trail, I dropped some seed and moved along, and around the next corner was the flock of turkeys.

Nom nom nom nom.

I tossed them a bit of seed and kept on walking. The birds were following me and making a fuss so I stopped and took a video with my phone just to show people how crazy it was. And while I was doing that a male cardinal showed up.

Surprise!

This has never ever happened. I’ve had a cardinal here and there that was interested in the fact I was feeding the birds, but they’ve always been too shy to hop up on the hand themselves. They generally waited till I tossed some seed on the ground and moved away.

Good seed lady!

This guy startled me, I’d been focusing on the little birds and suddenly my hand was full of a big red bird!

He sat there and ate until he finished all the seed. I talked to him, stopped the video and clicked through some stills, he tipped his head and looked me in the eye, then casually selected another seed.

Yep, I’m pretty from all angles.

He was obviously king of the birds, because all the little birds waited on the ground or flew around my head while he was eating. One chickadee was braver than the rest and did a fly-by and grabbed a seed without stopping. Everyone else waited respectfully.

Meandering makes me smile too.

Finally he finished the seed, nodded at me and flew off across the swamp. I couldn’t stop grinning.

And that’s my smile for the week. A cardinal sat on my hand for a long time. Maybe he was sent from Aunt Vi, or my friends who have recently moved on. Maybe he was just a hungry bird. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

These guys are still hanging around. They make me smile too.

I couldn’t ask for a better smile, it’s one I’ll remember forever.

And when I got home this little bit of nature was napping on our deck.

I hope the images here made you smile too.

Magical.


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A Christmas visit to pay respects

This afternoon, with the sun popping in and out of high clouds, I visited the nearby veterans cemetery hoping to find images that remind us all how important the people resting here were and still are.

The sky couldn’t decide between clouds and sun.

When I first arrived the sun was hiding and the images seemed flat. Still, there were stories to imagine as I read headstone after headstone.

Everybody here has someone missing them.

There are so many buried here, with room for thousands more. It’s a peaceful place way out in the country, surrounded by farmland, far away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Still there’s a bit of Christmas tucked among the stones.

A wreath stands among the white headstones.

Some sections of the cemetery had wreaths placed against each stone, other sections had what looked like more personal decorations, perhaps placed by family members.

Some holiday cheer in a solemn place under dark skies.

I was just about to leave, not pleased with the images I had, when the sun come out, spotlighting the edges of the lines and lines of stones.

Sunlight changes everything.

Then a gun salute went off somewhere on the other side of the cemetery, and taps was played as another soldier began eternal rest. And the sun continued to shine, showing this place in all it’s beauty.

The sky clears.

If you have a similar cemetery near you, take some time and explore it, even if you don’t have family or friends there. There are many stories on the headstones, each one telling us a bit about the person resting below.

Notice this young man died at 24 years old, and the stone just to the left and back one row was a WWII vet, dying in the same month and year, but with so much more life lived.

We owe them at least a bit of time. I think you’ll find it a beautiful experience, especially this time of year.

Wishing you all joy and peace this holiday season.

Merry Christmas Mr. Kirchoff.


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Release

Contemplating this past week.


It’s been a long and reflective week, beginning Saturday morning when I woke to hear the news that former President Bush had died. My first response was a deep sadness for his family, particularly for his children. My second thought was joy that he was reunited with his beloved Barbara and daughter Robin.

I guess that’s typical, the intertwining of sadness with joy during times like this, the emotions washing up and even overlapping as you maneuver your way through the tasks that must be done to celebrate a life.

Being retired I was able to watch the last journey of the President’s body from lying in state at our Capital to the beautiful ceremony at the National Cathedral and then his flight to Texas and the train ride to his library and final resting place in Houston.

A bit of joyful color in the bleak winter landscape.

And I watched his children and their spouses as they stood time after time watching the transfer of the coffin, on and off planes and the train, into and out of buildings, up and down stairs, all the while being watched by an entire world. Showing their grief or holding it in. Probably exhausted and moving on adrenaline. It’s a lot to ask of anyone, to have such a prolonged and public goodbye.

I’m glad they had a private time together when they said their last goodbye at the library. And I hope today, the day after all the ceremony is done, I hope today they are spending time with each other quietly remembering, laughingly remembering, wistfully remembering.

Looking for simple beauty.

This holiday season will be the first without their parents. To lose booth of them within the same year is so hard. So much change in such a short time, celebrations will never be the same. This year, for sure, will have sad undertones.

But there’s that sneaky joy that will infiltrate too. At times when they least expect it they’ll hear Barbara or George’s voice, telling a story, singing a silly song, laughing at an old joke. They’ll see them in the food they prepare, family favorites or maybe not, if broccoli is on the menu.

But I like broccoli mama!

And little by little, over the months and years there will be more joy and less sad. And best of all, while the sadness recedes, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents will never be far away.

Today as I watch a gentle snow fall and listen to Christmas music I realize that it’s the same for all of us during the holidays. The losses are always there, but the love is always there too.

Let the light shine on you.

My wish for the Bush family is that they spend these precious days together in privacy and peace, certain of the gratefulness of their nation and of the love they will always share within their family. I wish for them a release from the tension and pressure of such a long and public goodbye.

Let your joy show through.

And I wish, for all of you, peaceful holidays too.

Live in the moment.


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Trent’s World, the Weekly Smile

Looks like a front is going through.


The day before the midterm elections feels stressful. I feel like I can’t turn the TV on, can’t check social media. Too much conflict, too much negativity.

On my way home from an early morning run to the grocery I noticed dramatic clouds. And me with no camera.

Barns and cloudy skies make me smile.

I hurried home, but the drama was gone by the time I unloaded and put away the groceries.

Still, the sky was interesting. And I was restless.

The seasons are changing, the crops have been harvested.

So off I went, camera in my lap, to see what I might see. Sure it would never be the extraordinary sky I saw earlier. But you never know what you’ll find.

At first I was disappointed, mostly muddy grey skies, not the dramatic navy blue ribbons I’d seen before.

Time to hunker down for winter.

But when I got out of the car on a dirt road to grab a shot of a barn I saw the whole sky above me and actually said out loud – “Wow!”

This was my ‘wow’ moment.

And that inspired me to keep looking. And you know me…

Everywhere you looked was something wonderful.

…looking for barns amid wild skies makes me smile.

Couldn’t resist this one.

What made you smile lately?

Well yes, she makes me smile too.


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So they aren’t forgotten

Something horrible happened in this beautiful place.


We’ve all seen them, those markers of loss by the side of the road. Do you wonder about the person they represent? When a new one appears do you feel a sudden stab of emotion?

I do.

Sometimes these memorials act as reminders to drive safely.

I think I’ve always unconsciously noticed the markers, but ever since my dad was killed on a Georgia freeway I’ve been more aware.

And more curious.

I don’t know who this was, or what it symbolizes, but I nod hello when I go by.

Because I know we as a family wanted the spot that dad died be marked. A life changing event happened there and it seemed wrong that the road returned to normal almost immediately after. That thousands of people passed by and no one knew what an extraordinary place it was.

Somehow you want people to know.

Sadly, turned left in front of a truck.

So for a few years I’ve stopped at roadside memorials, wherever it was safe to do so, and taken a picture to document the name and dates.

The driver lost control, she was ejected from the vehicle.

And back at home I’d try to find something out about that person. Sometimes I’d find a report of the crash, or the obituary.

See the gash at the bottom of the tree? I think she became an angel right here.

And then, each time I passed the memorial I’d remember that person, sort of an acknowledgement of their existence, a bit of sorrow at the way they left.

State trooper hit by vehicle pulling a trailer, dragged to his death.

I think that’s what the families want, to keep their loved one alive in the minds or hearts of people.

It’s not always a religious symbol.

I feel sad for all of them, but none so much as the young ones. The young drivers, the children who happened to be in the vehicles.

A young driver, he crossed the center line on a curve.

There seem to be so many of them.

Nothing permanent, just left the flowers from the funeral. Motorcycle hit a deer, then a car hit him.

So what, are you asking, did we do at the site of the crash that killed dad? It’s on a very busy piece of freeway, about an hour west of Atlanta, right at a truck weigh station. We knew we couldn’t safely stop there for much more than a moment.

Some crashes happened so long ago, but family never forgets.

So we concocted a plan.

We bought three bags of daffodil bulbs, loaded up into the car with a pic and a shovel and drove there one rainy afternoon. We pulled over as far as we could, piled out of the car, hacked a hole in the soil, tossed the bulbs in and covered them up as fast as we could while cars and trucks streamed by.

Some are so recent.

In the fourteen years since, I’ve rarely been in the South at the right time of year, and never have I taken the more than hour drive from the lake over to the crash site to see if they’ve survived.

The loss of small children breaks my heart.

But last spring I went.

And the road was still as busy, several lanes of trucks and cars flying by. Lots and lots of trucks on all sides of me. I couldn’t really take a long look. But out of the corner of my eye, as I passed the site I saw something.

Waiting in the dying light to offer solace.

Just a simple flash of yellow, there below the guardrail.

I’m not sure how many daffodils were in bloom, I think more than one. To be honest it could have been a yellow solo cup, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that for a brief moment, driving down that freeway, my heart sang and I smiled.

So many stories lost.

So if the daffodils really bloom, there along the highway every spring, then I have to think a few other people have noticed them as they speed past. And maybe they smiled too, and wondered at their meaning.

And I think dad would have enjoyed the beauty and mystery of that.

Hope.


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The comfort of Mahler more than 100 years after his death

Saturday evening found my husband and I in Ann Arbor with my Aunt listening to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major performed by the Ann Arbor Symphony.

I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of listening to the long symphony, over an hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission and no chance to change gears if it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I thought longingly of the concert last month filled with Dvorak and Gershwin. But I figured this one would be good for me.

And it was – in an unexpected way.

You see Saturday morning was the horrific mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Throughout the day I watched updates and wondered, again, how such things continue to happen in our country.

By Saturday evening I was overwhelmingly sad.

Music Director Arie Lipsky gave his typical lecture prior the the concert, explaining bits and pieces of the four movements, giving us a better understanding of the composer’s life and this particular piece. It’s thought to be Mahler’s goodbye, perhaps a foreshadowing of his fatal heart ailment, but, Maestro Lipsky said, the final interpretation of the meaning behind the music would be up to the performers, and ultimately us, the listening audience.

And there he paused, stared down at his score, then looked up with pain in his eyes and quietly dedicated the evening’s performance to the murdered members of the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My own eyes filled with tears. And as we settled into our seats to hear the music I wondered what my interpretation would be. What would I hear in this long piece on this, such a sad day?

And, it turns out, for me the music was intertwined in the events of the day.

As someone who has experienced the unexpected news about a violent death of a family member, all I could hear in this music was the raw emotion of the families left behind on this horrible Saturday morning. It was as if the music was describing the road each of them will be traveling as they move through their grief in the days and years ahead.

The first movement, Andante comodo, started out innocently, peacefully, much like the lives of the parishioners themselves as they settled into the service, like those people still in traffic on their way to meet friends and family as they probably did every weekend. But about two minutes into the piece there came a foreboding feeling.

Something was wrong.

At 5:45 into the music I could hear the news being spread, tension built, shock, disbelief and confusion were all being felt. The rest of the movement took me through the roller coaster of those first moments, hours and days after the event, the music filled with layers of rage and grief followed by bits of sweet memories and longing, always overcome with the deep swells of pain and sorrow.

The second movement, Im Tempo eines, represented, for me, a time in the future when family members have given themselves permission to be happy again. It started out with a lighthearted, though clumsy, dance. The family was, rightly so, a bit rusty in their happiness. But soon enough the music began to change tempo, to speed up and become a bit manic, as the nightmare of reality interrupts even the simple joy of dance.

The third movement, Rondo-Burleske, is all about the chaos, rage, and disbelief inherent in grief with an almost nightmarish circus motif. It was loud and fast from the very first notes, allowing for no contemplation, only emotion. And the interweaving themes kept pounding at our emotions until the abrupt end which forced a collective gasp from wide-eyed audience members.

There was a longer pause, then, between the third and fourth movement, Adagio, as the musicians seemed to collect themselves, to adjust their mindset from the frenetic third to the quiet resolution of this last movement.

And here, in the fourth, was where my tears fell again. For it was here that I felt the resignation and acceptance, the finality of the loss. The soft tones were contemplative, but there was a hint of joy too, hidden between the layers of deep pain, in the pools of grief.

The joy came from finally realizing that our loved ones, lost to violence, are safe now. And though it’s hard, so very hard, not to have them here with us, it became clear, as the last distant notes faded into the night air, that they are truly and forever home.

I felt a bit silly as I surreptitiously wiped the tears from my cheeks, but I noticed a few others doing the same. And then I stood, along with the rest of the house, to applaud my appreciation

So that’s my interpretation of Mahler’s ninth, heard on this particular difficult day in the history of our country.

If you would like to hear some of this Mahler piece, but don’t have over an hour to devote, I recommend listening to a few minutes of each of the first three movements and then to the entire fourth movement.

I trust Mahler will bring you a similar feeling of hope and peace.


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We could all use a smile.

Reflecting on current events.


Trent, over at his blog trentsworldblog has decided that we could all use a smile, so he has resurrected his weekly smile post in which he invites us all to post each week about something that has made us smile, and then link back to him.

I think he’ll post a recap, but I need to go back and read the instructions (you’ll find those at his Weekly Smile blog).

There’s gold in the woods. And a bit of peace.

As I sit watching the horrific news out of Pittsburgh this morning I have to admit I was feeling guilty for feeling good after my short trip to northern Michigan.

Sometimes you just need to walk away.

For me going into the woods is like living on my own personal private island. No TV, no email, maybe a bit of blog producing, but that’s all about looking through images I’ve just taken and then letting the fingers do their thing.

No stress there. Usually no tears.

The logging museum shows life in a simpler time.

And yet the world carries on even while I’m not noticing. Pipe bombs get mailed. Mass shootings happen. Candidates snipe at each other. No one tells a complete truth.

Is there really only one way?

Who even knows what the truth is anymore.

Sometimes a person needs the welcoming woods.

As Carol says in her latest post, we’re all probably overloaded. By everything.

So I think Trent’s idea is wonderful. Let’s look for at least one thing that has made us smile this week.

No television out here.

For me, it was being in the north wandering among the last bit of fading color. I was only there for a little more than one day, and it was drizzling rain most of the time.

Still. In the last few minutes before I climbed back in the car to head home the sun burned through a layer of cloud and the woods glowed.

It was just for a moment.

Glowing in between the raindrops.

But it made me smile.

Follow the path for soul renewal.