Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Musings

I’ve been thinking, since I’ve been injured, about how hard life can be when you have a disability.

I broke my little finger Saturday. Seems a small injury, but it’s wrapped up in a cumbersome cast that engulfs most of my right hand. And the same fall re-injured an older wrist problem on my left hand, so there’s a splint over there too.

It all makes me pretty useless.

For example, I was talking to my brother and sister-in-law who were concerned about my fall, with the phone propped awkwardly between my two useless hands, when I realized fibers from my cast on my right hand had become attached to the velcro on the splint around my left hand, essentially gluing my hands together. I kept talking while sort of waving the whole mess at my husband, silently asking for help.

Ridiculous.

Last night I couldn’t get my socks off. Neither hand could grasp the back of a sock much less had the strength to pull. I finally used the toes of one foot to push the sock off the other. Then repeated the maneuver.

And don’t even ask how taking a bath while one arm is encased in a garbage bag works. Turns out you can’t hold a washcloth or soap with that hand at all, which makes washing the opposing side of your body pretty much impossible. But hey, I had a nice warm soak which felt pretty wonderful.

Yesterday, the day after the injury, the dog asked to go out very early in the dark morning like usual. She doesn’t care about her mama’s finger. I got my shorts almost wrestled on using one hand but I couldn’t get the zipper up, the shorts were hung up low on my hips. Well, it was 3:30 and dark out, I figured I didn’t need them zipped.

Then I couldn’t get my sweatshirt on, my bound up hands didn’t fit through the cuffs. I left the sweatshirt hung up on my hands and half way over my shoulders. Obviously that didn’t zip either.

By then Katie was hopping up and down in anticipation and I couldn’t get the leash attached to her collar using my only my left hand. After much groaning and improvising, and some sweat, I managed, though my hand was starting to throb.

Katie and I wandered the yard, me hoping my shorts stayed up and for no cars to come by, her enjoying the cool morning breeze. I was looking up at the stars, thinking about nothing much when I realized I should probably be watching my feet instead. I couldn’t afford to trip, over Katie or a piece of sod. I didn’t have a spare hand to catch my fall. The Cheshire cat smile of a moon illuminated our path as we carefully made our way back to the house.

Today I’m in sweats and an oversized t-shirt and Katie walks the house dragging her leash. My hand doesn’t hurt as long as I keep up with the Tylenol and don’t bang it into things like walls or cupboard doors.

I didn’t bother with socks.

I have appointment tomorrow with a surgeon. I’m looking for good news. Meanwhile I’ll keep improvising.

I’m grateful this isn’t permanent.


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Truck safety earworms

The term earworm generally refers to a bit of music that’s trapped in your head, playing over and over inside your brain long after you heard the actual song. And that’s just what happened inside my brain today as I worked to weed my impossibly overgrown gardens.

With Congresswoman Norton

I keep hearing a mother’s voice as she described her young daughter’s journal, filled with life lessons, found two days after her twelve year old was killed in a school bus that was struck by a semi driven by a distracted driver. I hear another mother’s anguish as she described the crash that killed her seven year old sitting in the back seat of her stopped car when a semi slammed into the back of them. And the voices of the young adult children whose parents were killed when the semi hit them head on, going the wrong way down a mountain road. I hear the tremor in a survivor’s voice as she describes being pushed off a bridge by a semi. I hear the anguish in a husband’s voice as he talks about his wife and stepchildren gone in an instant.

Day 1 on the Hill, visiting my Representative.

I spent five days in Washington D.C. with these and many other families at the Truck Safety Coalition’s biannual conference we call Sorrow to Strength. It’s something of an emergence into grief, but it’s also a place to witness the rebuilding strength that comes from being together with others who have had similar experiences.

Before the press conference.

We spent Saturday getting to know each other, to offer comfort and hugs and empathetic tears. We laughed together too, over the silly things we miss about our loved ones lost to truck crashes, about the things we used to do but can’t any longer if we are injured survivors.

Representative Garcia, from Illinois, introduced the new bill to increase minimum insurance.

Sunday we buckled down and learned about the issues, many of which were contributing factors in our own crashes. This year we have four bills in Congress that we support, all focused on making the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.

Then, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we went to work, walking Capitol Hill and visiting offices of Senators and Representatives to educate, as well as transportation agencies to discuss the lack of rule making progress.

Things in Washington move with great deliberation.

It was hot, with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index well above that.

It was especially hot during a press conference we held on the Capitol grounds at noon on Tuesday. We were lucky to have three Congressmen introducing two new truck safety bills, and we were glad to support them by standing behind the podium holding pictures of our lost loved ones.

Kate talks about the multiple surgeries, costing millions, that her son needed after his crash.

But man, it was hot.

Regardless, our families were troopers and made it to all their assigned meetings, sometimes wringing wet, sometimes red faced, but there. People who never spoke in public before spoke to strangers in Congressional offices and spoke up at DOT meetings even while facing a row of men in suits.

And they did it all because of love.

Day 2, with one of my Senators who has cosponsored one of our bills.

Their love for those lost is bigger than any fear of the unknown. Bigger then the fear of being uncomfortable or sweaty or lost in the long marble halls of a Senate office building. Their love carried them through the telling of their stories over and over, reliving it each time, each time adding one more scar on top of the thousands of scars already lacerating their hearts.

A crash survivor being interviewed after the press conference.

And at the end of our time together there were more tears and hugs as we said goodbye to our Truck Safety Family, knowing that we’re never truly alone, even on our worst days, because these people have our hearts and our backs. Most of us will stay in touch through email and social media. And though we wish we didn’t have to, we’re ready to do it all again when D.C. calls.

Some of my Truck Safety family, ready to generate some change.

Love conquers all and our loved ones deserve to be remembered, not just for the way they died, or were injured, but for the way they lived. And that’s why I don’t mind the earworms dancing in my brain today.

We made time for ice cream.

It’s just another way of remembering them all.

Change is hard.


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In the heat of the moment – Washington DC

A press conference a couple years ago.

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We’re headed to Washington DC today, to attend over the weekend and into next week, the 8th Sorrow to Strength conference. Many of you know that I’m a volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition, that I’ve been working with them on truck safety issues ever since my dad was killed by a tired trucker in December of 2004.

Every other year a lot of families, all whose lives have been forever changed by truck crashes, meet in DC to provide support to each other and to lobby for safer truck regulation.

Tami, a good friend now, lost multiple members of her family in a truck crash and resulting fire.

It’s hard.

But it’s good too, to reconnect with people we’ve come to know and to meet the new families, fresh in their grief.

At another press conference, fighting double 33 foot trailers.

I’ll let you know more about it next week, if I have time to post, or after we get home if I don’t.

Safety is no accident.


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Fifteen years without you

Father’s Day has rolled around again, the fifteenth one without you.

I don’t have any new photos of you to share. I wish I did. I wish I could just snap a few the next time I’m down in Alabama. Photos of you laughing like you used to. Or reading the paper. Or sound asleep on the sofa after a day out on the lake.

Photos of you building something, or fixing something. You used to build stuff for us all the time and you could fix anything.

I wish I could take a picture of you sitting in the back of the church during Mom’s evening organ practice, timing the pieces she planned to play at the next Sunday’s service, letting her know when you thought it would be cool if she played a bit louder.

And I’d love to snap another memory of all of us out in the boat, you driving while one of us skied behind, you grinning. Us too.

Or climbing Smith Mountain and then the fire tour. You were seventy-five and still raring to go all the time. No mountain was too tall for you, no fire tower had too many steps.

I wish I could spend another holiday with you, the family favorites on the dinner table, us all sitting around the table talking and laughing long after the meal was over.

I wish.

But all the wishing in the world won’t make any of that happen, so I have to be satisfied with the memories I have, the snapshots I’ve already collected. But darn, I wish I had some new pictures to share.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven Dad. We all miss you every single day.


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Conflicted

I don’t want to talk about this and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe no one wants to really talk about this, to leave our own biases behind and talk and then listen without interruption to the other side of the debate.

I wasn’t exposed to guns growing up. My parents didn’t hunt, I didn’t have any friends that hunted. I have cousins that hunt but I was never actively involved. The closest I’ve been was to walk by deer hanging in the back of a pole barn, and though the first time was startling, I didn’t have an objection, knowing they used every possible part of the deer as a food supply for their family and friends.

Tree peony at it’s peak.

Still, I’m not personally comfortable with guns. And sometimes that bothers me, because I don’t know how to understand both sides of the gun debate. I’ve even considered taking a lesson or two, in order to know what it feels like to shoot a gun. Though that feels a bit intimidating.

But I do question the need for the average citizen to own automatic weapons. And yes I know I don’t even know the differences between them. But weapons that allow a shooter to pull off multiple shots a minute, kill and injure so many in the first moments of an attack, well, I just don’t think those should be in the hands of anyone but active military.

Blue thoughts this morning.

We hear the arguments against banning assault rifles every time the topic comes up. The constitution gets waved and we’re reminded it guarantees gun ownership. And besides, we’re told, these weapons are already on the streets and we’d never get them away from the bad guys anyway.

But I don’t think the writers of the constitution, when they were giving us the right to bear arms, knew anything about the devastation created by an assault rifle. I doubt they could even imagine such a thing. Moreover, banning a certain type of weapon or accessory doesn’t ban all weapons, doesn’t take away a person’s right to bear arms.

And if we don’t begin somewhere, don’t attempt to make our country safer, then what?

Geranium looking for a bit of light.

Do we just continue down the road we’re on now, where every few months people, sometimes dozens of people, lose their lives for no apparent reason? People just doing their jobs, running their errands, going to school, seeing a movie, enjoying a concert? Attending their place of worship?

Do we just continue to watch the news, see their faces through a fresh sheen of tears, while inside giving thanks that it wasn’t someone we knew, no one from our family? And do we just keep saying, sometimes out loud, that someone ought to do something? And then let it slide from our mind as we go about our daily lives?

Virginia Beach victims, photo from the internet.

What will it take for people in this country to have an honest discussion about the whole problem. Not just the guns, I realize there’s a problem with our mental health system too, but guns can not be left out of the equation.

What will it take for all of us to leave our comfort zone behind, leave our assumptions and personal histories behind, what will it take for us to face this uncomfortable place where we sit across from family and friends with opposing views and just talk.

And then come up with some viable first step.

My bleeding heart is fading among the forget-me-nots. I am not immune to the irony of that.

Sandy Hook with it’s children and teachers lost should have been everyone’s last straw. That tragedy should have been the catalyst for change, but even that loss wasn’t enough for most of us to be brave.

It’s complicated. Change is hard. But this morning, as I wandered my gardens looking for a peace I didn’t find, I grew convinced we have to try.

Can we find the light?

Because how many lost is the magic number, how many shattered families are too many, what does it take for us to grow up and do the hard work to become a responsible nation?

Can’t we be the adults here and sit down with someone we know holds opposing views and talk? I think we have to.

It would be a start.

Forget-me-nots remind us to never forget.


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Truck rant

Several lives changed or ended abruptly in Colorado Thursday, April 25th.

Photo taken from the internet.

As many of you saw on national news a semi truck came barreling down a mountainside, out of control according to witnesses, stopping only when it struck rush hour traffic. Four people were killed. Ten people, including the semi driver, were treated for injuries.

This crash brought out strong emotions in me, the daughter of a man killed by a semi driven by a sleepy driver. I know first hand how difficult the road ahead will be for the families of those killed, and have friends who know all about the hurdles facing the surviving victims.

The driver’s life has changed forever too. He’s been charged with 40 charges, including four counts of vehicular homicide. His family, of course, supports him.

He was newly hired at the Texas company who owned the truck, a company who has had previous safety violations, including those involving brakes. He was only driving a truck temporarily to earn some money. He wasn’t planning on becoming a professional driver, though he was happy to get the job.

But the story gets even worse.

This crash was the perfect storm of all the things that can go wrong when an inexperienced driver gets into the seat of an 80,000 pound vehicle, working for a small, independent company. A company that obviously didn’t care about safety, as evidenced by their earlier safety violations and the lack of training. A small company, with only five trucks, a company that carries only the minimum liability insurance of $750,000.

That minimum insurance is required for a truck company to operate, the law requiring it was implemented in 1980 and has never been increased even though the cost of living, including medical costs, have skyrocketed since. Small companies often carry only that much, even though, as we can see, the death and destruction caused by a semi crash doesn’t correlate to the size or wealth of the company.

So those four families who’s loved ones died last week, and the families of all those injured, some still in the hospital, will have to split the available liability insurance of $750,000 between them, and share it with the state of Colorado too, if there are any needed road repairs as a result of this crash.

Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand doesn’t begin to cover the costs. It won’t begin to compensate families for their losses. It won’t cover lost wages, or pain meds, skin grafts or surgeries. And what about the company itself, the one who put that young driver in the driver’s seat and sent him off to the mountains of Colorado with faulty brakes?

They will likely file bankruptcy and start up again the next day under another name. And don’t think they’ll have learned anything from this – the likelihood of them becoming a safer truck company in their next incarnation is negligible.

Because for companies like this it’s not about safety. It’s all about the money.

And unless we raise the liability insurance minimum to something substanstial so that the insurance company will underwrite the truck company, including it’s safety record, until we require companies to cover a larger portion of any damage they cause, then there’s no incentive to put safety first.

The opposing argument is that increased insurance requirements would be too expensive, that it would put small truck companies out of business. Well. My opinion is if you can’t afford the actual cost of doing business you should find another business to be in. Don’t pass your costs on to innocents, who will then have to file bankruptcy themselves, buried under medical bills, and eventually get assistance from Medicaid, which is paid for by all taxpayers.

I don’t know about you, but to me it’s only common sense to tie the required level of liability insurance to the rise in medical expenses. But I know that’s not likely to happen all at once, if at all. I’d be happy to get it raised to $2 million, which also wouldn’t have been enough to handle all the loss and expenses from last week’s crash.

This week some of those families are likely finding out there’s little to nothing available to them to help them in their new normal. It’s going to feel like a slap in the face.

Image taken from the internet.

Those people were sitting in their cars in rush hour traffic. Doing nothing wrong. They got up to go to work or school or the grocery store and the world as they knew it imploded in a split second because of greed. Because profit trumps safety. Because people, with no thought of anyone else, made some very bad decisions.

For those involved in the April crash spring will never come again in quite the same way.

And this is why we go to Washington, over and over and over again. Because someday someone will hear, finally hear, how crazy this all is. This year it’s remotely possible that there will be another attempt to get the minimum required level raised. If that happens I’ll ask you all to call and text and email your Washington Representatives and Senators.

It takes a lot to get their attention, so we’ll need you all. Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for your support.

The regulrly scheduled blog will continue shortly. While you wait, if you’re the praying sort, send a little prayer up for the families involved in this crash, and for the victims of all the other crashes happening daily across our country.

Thank you.

Hey Dad. Hope you’re showing the new people around heaven.


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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.