Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Random, possibly Christmas-y, bits of thought

Anyway, I was reading Quaint Revival’s latest post about all the snow she’s getting over in Wisconsin, and she said it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas…which led her into thoughts about how those lyrics happened to be written and a request for someone to find out for her. Which, being a want-to-be librarian I felt compelled to do.

I think Santa is on some sort of exercise program.

She thought maybe the lyrics were written by Meredith Wilson in 1951 as he sat beside a pool, hopefully under warm skies. But Wikipedia says it probably was written in Yarmouth, and when I google that I can only find Yarmouth Maine, or Yarmouth British Columbia, neither of which sounds very warm, even in midsummer!

Looking for her Christmas gift. Or a peanut, whichever’s available.

But looking for this information did remind me that we played this very piece of holiday music at our recent concert, so I went to listen to it again. Well, actually, I went and listened to it for the first time. Music sounds very different when you’re sitting in the middle of the band than it does when sitting in the audience, and I haven’t taken time to listen to our concert until now. (I recommend listening to this with a good set of earphones…it sounds a LOT better with earbuds than just using your laptop speakers.)

Holiday music always makes things better.

Last Sunday I had a couple friends come for lunch and painting. Well, truthfully, they brought most of the lunch (roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches) and most of their own painting supplies too. After we ate the yummy lunch we settled in to paint Christmas cards. It was so much fun to experiment together. Plus it increased my stock of cards waiting to be mailed out to unsuspecting friends and family. I should do this on a larger scale next year!

Seems like birds infiltrate all aspects of my life.

We have a little bit of snow, enough to make things look pretty, but not enough to interfere with driving. Not that I’m driving much. One of the benefits of retirement is not having to go out unless I want to. When it’s cold and snowing I rarely want to. And though I miss my Katie-girl soooo much, I am kind of glad to roll over in bed and go back to sleep in the dark early hours of these winter mornings.

“I used to put up with an awful lot, mama.”

Speaking of not traveling, we’re staying home this Christmas. We have had invites to holiday gatherings, but this year we just can’t quite make ourselves wander out. Twenty Twenty-two has been a long, hard year for us. Instead of going out this year I’ll fix some of the family mealtime favorites, and we’ll snuggle up on the couch to enjoy the quiet.

I look forward to seeing these guys every year.

Though it might not be entirely quiet. We’re going to have a houseguest for awhile, a little 10 year old doggie will be staying with us while his mom is visiting family out of town. We’ve practiced him being here without his mom a couple of times and I think he’s going to settle in, but he sure does love his mom.

“Does this peanut make my head look flat?”

I saw a movie trailer this morning for something staring Tom Hanks. There was a year, a long time ago, when my husband and I watched several movies, unusual for us, realizing later that all of them were Tom Hanks movies. You know, Castaway, Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan. This movie is called something like A Man called Otis. While I was watching the trailer something felt familiar…and then I remembered one of my favorite books, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, about an elderly man who’s quiet life is interrupted by a family that moves in next door. I think the movie is based on this book, and I think I really need to go see it. Maybe during the Christmas holiday week, as a gift from me to me.

Sometimes Christmas feels like this.

I did get out to feed the birds at Kensington this morning. A lot of the photos in this post are from that visit. I didn’t look at the weather, or even the temperature before I left home when it was still dark. By the time I got to the park the wind was blowing the snow sideways. Not surprisingly no one else was around.

“I don’t eat out of hands, lady. But if you’ve got a spare peanut I’d enjoy it.”

I went out to the boardwalk to see if I could entice the Queen to my hand, but she wasn’t having any of it. In fact none of the birds were willing to get too close, though they were happy enough to come to the railing if I’d leave my treats and back off.

“Not today, lady, not today.”

I wandered in the woods a little, to get out of the wind, and even there things were very quiet. And then I stood still and waited.

“My turn!” “NO IT’S NOT! It’s MY turn!”

And soon enough I heard the flutter of wings and saw, through the trees, the fast moving little bodies of hungry birds. So fun. Even though my hands were freezing and my toes were freezing I stood around out there for a long time.

“Hey Lady! I’m waiting patiently over here!”

I stood there just smiling and watching them, all puffed up against the cold.

“Puffing up helps you keep warm lady, you should try it.”

Merry Christmas to my little birds, and to all of you too. May you all enjoy this holiday season, in whatever way seems right for you this year.

And here’s hoping 2023 is amazing.


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Veterans Day

I live in a place I might not easily fit into if I were to freely expressive my political leanings. So mostly I don’t.

Some election cycles I am more obvious in my support, but this year we were redistricted, and we lost the Congressional Representative for whom we had actively campaigned. She moved on to the newly formed District 7 that encompassed most of her previous district, but doesn’t include us.

I feel sad that we need to start over educating a new Representative. I don’t have huge hopes that she will listen to our issues, but I recognize that I’m making an assumption, and that makes me just like everyone else who jumps to political conclusions without research or data.

So, in the New Year, I will make an appointment to meet with her staff and introduce myself and the Truck Safety Coalition. I’m pretty sure she has not heard of us; I’ll do my best to give a good first impression.

But what bothers me the most during this Veterans Day weekend is that though our veterans fought to keep us free to speak about ideas important to us, it no longer feels safe to talk about issues at all. They didn’t fight so that only Republicans or only Democrats could express their views, yet where I live, and where many of us live, it feels unsafe to be different.

We used to be able to discuss our differences without being called unpatriotic. Without being accused of not supporting the Constitution. I’m certain most people in this country support the Constitution, regardless of political affiliation. I don’t think being patriotic is a trait found only in one party or the other.

I bet there are households on both sides of the aisle who proudly flew our flag in my neighborhood this week, who love our country unconditionally. Who have served to keep it free.

And I’m pretty sure there are both Democrats and Republicans and even some Independents buried in our National Cemeteries. They sacrificed so we could all speak.

It’s about time we all learned how to listen too.


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It’s not goodbye

I’ve been thinking about the best way to share this, some eloquent words that capture the loss our family experienced this week. But there is no easy way.

My last post, Wordless Wednesday is an image I captured in May when my aunt and I were walking through Hudson Mills Park. She was looking for dogwood and trillium. I was trying to capture as much of the experience as she’d let me.

Which means most of my images were taken from behind.

We walked slower this spring than we had the year before, took the shorter trails, gauged whether a hill was too steep or manageable. We stopped to rest on convenient benches more often. There was, after all, no hurry. In fact there was more savoring the moments because we both knew it was our last spring together.

She’d been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and she had chosen not to take any treatment. They told her she’d have a good summer, and, right on schedule, she did.

My sister and brother came up, then my sister came up two more times. We visited her as often as we could. We attended her last symphony, brought her simple suppers rather than expecting the elaborate meals she has made for us our entire lifetimes. We swam with her at her community pool, walked in her beloved Mathi gardens and the University of Michigan Arboretum.

On our last visit, she sat in a wheelchair, pulling sheets of music for my sister and me to play, music she had written when her children were small. She sang along. We played music until she seemed tired, and then we talked just a bit. “Say Hi to Dad,” my sister said, “He’ll surely be waiting for you.”

It was a gift, she said, that she had these past months to spend with her children, with us, with her friends. And so that she could plan and arrange to make things as easy as possible for her family to carry on without her.

We all cried a bit, and then had a long, last hug.

This past Monday morning she left us to say hi to her brother, my dad, and to her husband, her mother, my mother, and so many other family members who had gone on ahead. And on Saturday we all said “see you later” at the most beautiful funeral I’ve ever attended.

She had, of course, planned it all, including her own words to all of us, the hymns to be sung, the prelude and postlude played by the incredible pianist, and the bagpipes played by my sister.

The time she spent with us was our gift as well. She was a gift to all of us, her family, her friends, musicians in her beloved symphony, her neighbors, the students she taught, the community band in which she played.

I can’t be sad, though I will miss her so much; she had a wonderful and joyous homecoming on Monday morning. And, as someone said at the funeral, she’s probably up there organizing heaven right now.

Thanks for all the good times, good meals, good conversation and good company, Aunt Becky. I’ll see you on down the road.


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Goodbye little buddy

Several days last week I noticed a little house finch hanging around the feeders. We have a lot of birds that hang around, but this little guy sat on the feeders, leisurely pecking at the seed, seemingly unconcerned about the comings and going of other birds.

He wasn’t concerned about me coming and going either. He never moved, though he kept an eye on me, as I was filling feeders, until I reached for the one he was occupying. Then he’d fly up to the roof, or over to another feeder to wait. I walked right by him several times, within inches, and he didn’t move. He actually flew up to land on a feeder I was carrying one afternoon.

I knew he wasn’t well, his beak didn’t seem to work right, bits of oiler hull stuck to it. His eyes seemed faded.

I looked for him every morning to see if he had survived the night. Two mornings ago he watched me fill the feeders, walking by him in the process. He wasn’t moving at all, wasn’t eating. I avoided the feeder he was resting on, so as not to make him move.

A few hours later he was dead on the deck railing. I buried him under the ninebark bush, at the base of a lily plant, with a few bright red maple leaves to mark his place.

Bye-bye little guy. I hope you enjoyed your time here with us, you sure did make me smile.


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A conversation

Hey Katie-girl.

Today marks three months since you went over that bridge alone. I think about you every day. But you know that, don’t you.

It’s your favorite time of year, sweetie.

This morning I went to your park to take a walk. It’s the first time I’ve been there alone since you left.

Morning light made the flowers glow.

You know your daddy and I were at your park just after that day, with your Aunt Beth, and she played the bagpipes for you near the pond.

You’d be upset at how much algae is in your pond.

I haven’t been able to go back since, sweetie, not without you. It hurt so much to be a Katie’s Park today, but I had a mission.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

The goldenrod is beautiful this year.

First of all I parked at the township office instead of where you and I always parked. I didn’t think I was ready for everything to be the same and yet so different. So I parked in a different spot.

That helped me get out of the car.

Blue sky and yellow fields.

The park was beautiful, as always. You would have loved it, the air was cool and the sun was just up over the treetops.

Loosestrife, I know it’s invasive but it’s so pretty.

But you wouldn’t have loved getting your feet wet. The path was overgrown, here at summer’s end, and the grass was long and heavy with dew.

You always spent a long time sniffing that corner at the beginning of your path.

The good sniffs might have made up for your wet paws though. I imagine you wouldn’t have grumbled too much, you loved walking in your park so much.

I smiled at that thought.

Lots of wet spider webs. You’d have stuck your nose into a few of them for sure.

I was pretty proud of myself, that I smiled at all. Because mostly I was crying as I walked along. I imagined you everywhere. All our favorite places.

Leaves are beginning to turn. You always looked so good in the fall foliage.

Your turtle friends were out but I didn’t see much else. That might have been because my eyes were all leaky.

I think they were wondering where you’ve been.

It was even hard for me to tell if stuff was in focus on my camera. Yes, silly, of course I brought the camera. Though it wasn’t as much fun without you.

I took a picture of my favorite trees, though it’s hard to understand how they can still be standing when you’re not here.

Anyway, my mission was to hang a memory tag on the remembrance tree. You remember when your Aunt Karen and you and I hung some tags for Reilly and Denny and Norwood, right?

Three beautiful boys remembered. Now there are more we should include.

Well, she had a special tag made for you and she gave it to me after you had to go. I haven’t been able to hang it on the tree until today. I put it right next to your handsome fiancé Reilly’s tag.

Can you read what it says, sweetie? Of course you can.

I know you and Reilly are together now, and you’re both loving the beach and the woods while you wait for your people to arrive. It makes me feel better to know you have so many friends there with you.

Everything in it’s season.

Today I hung your tag at your favorite park, sweetie. I just wanted you to know. Miss you baby-girl.

Love, Mama.

See you around the next curve, Katie-girl.

Well, of course I know mama! Where do you think I was while you were wandering around and crying all over my park? I was right there beside you. Silly mama, I’m always right there beside you. Thanks for hanging my tag, it’s real pretty. Thank Aunt Karen for getting it for me too, OK?

Love you always, mama. Tell daddy I love him too. Got to go now, Reilly wants to go run on the beach.

-Your angel-girl, Katie.


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Hanging with my sister

Katie here. Even though I’m a princess and sometimes come off as being a bit….well…high maintenance, I know that I have a pretty good life. My folks and lots of other people make sure I get to have special times with friends and family.

Sharing my park with my friends.

And this past weekend I got to see my half sister, Payton, and show her (and her parents and her sister Tally the Gordon setter) my park! I was so excited to share Katie’s Park with my sister. And, like sisters do, we joined forces to make sure mama couldn’t get a decent picture of the two of us.

Discussing our strategy to foil mama.

That was part of the fun!

It was a perfect day for a walk, not too hot, and a bit of a breeze to cool those of us still wearing winter coats. The folks made sure we walked at a leisurely pace, though at the beginning I was raring to go!

This is Payton’s mom and dad and her sister Tally!

We stopped at the overlook deck halfway around the park to rest and enjoy the view. I told Payton all about finding a cracker there once and how I’ve been looking ever since for another one. Payton’s dad gave me a treat to make up for the lack of crackers.

“Make sure you remember not to let your mom get us together, Katie!”

I even shared my annual photoshoot in the yellow flowers with Payton! Mama takes my picture over at my park every year during the yellow flower season.

“OK, we can let her have ONE picture of the two of us!”

Payton’s like me – she doesn’t get why that’s so special, but mama is insistent and it’s easier to just let her get the picture than arguing with her.

Tally got her picture taken in the yellow flowers too.

Most of the time, though, we were able to foil mama’s attempts at getting a nice picture of the two of us together. She did manage to get several sweet pictures of Payton though!

She’s such a pretty girl.

I decided it wasn’t all that bad for her to be focused on someone besides me! That way I got to nap mostly uninterrupted under the picnic table.

“Geeze mother, can’t a girl get a break?”

We had a great time and I’m really glad Payton’s parents brought her over for a visit. We decided we’d get together again next fall when it’s cooler outside for another walk.

“Don’t stand still, out of focus pictures mess with mama the most!”

On a much sadder note, we learned yesterday that our friend Sophie got her wings on Friday. It’s a shock because we hadn’t heard that she was ill. She was one year younger than me, and still exploring her yard, swinging with her mom on her swing and supervising everything in the house.

Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

We will miss her daily posts terribly. Mama has been giving me extra hugs and kisses on top of my head and her eyes are all leaky again. It’s hard to understand why some things happen, but we know that we’ll get to see her again, she’s just on the other side of the bridge. Please send good thoughts to her mom and dad who are very very sad right now.

Sophie on her porch swing this past week. Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

Talk later, I have to get mom some tissue cause her eyes are damp again. I promise not to shred it immediately, I’ll do that later in honor of Sophie, who, just like me was an expert shredder!

-Your sad but still happy Princess Katie.

Sending hugs and kisses to Sophie’s mom and dad.


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Blackened

I went for a walk at one of my favorite parks a couple days ago. It wasn’t a pretty day but at least it wasn’t raining. Or snowing.

Between winter and spring.

I went because I hadn’t been in awhile and because I was feeling sad about a friend of mine who is going through some tough stuff.

A place to rest and contemplate.

When I got to the park there was a warning at the gate about a prescribed burn. That’s when parts of the land are deliberately burned to ward off weeds and nonnative plants.

A scorched earth walk.

Much of the nature trail area was black, which accentuated the hills that I’m always trying to photograph. For that reason alone I didn’t mind walking along the scorched earth, or the smell that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Overlooking his park, wondering what happened.

As I walked I stopped often to take pictures. No surprise. It took me forever to walk the four miles, but it didn’t feel like forever.

Back in the woods spring is taking hold.

It felt wonderful. Spring is arriving, though slowly. Tiny wildflowers are popping up. More will follow.

So tiny you might miss the evidence of spring right under your feet.

I thought about my friend and hope he is able to come on a walk with me soon. He’d find hope in the woods, even the burned parts.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

Of course yesterday, listening to the Supreme Court news, I felt sadness overtaking me again. The world seems to be a darker shade of burned right now.

Nothing but darkness.

I’m trying to remember that deep in the woods hope is poking up from under last years debris.

Little umbrellas of hope.

I think I’m going to need another walk real soon.


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Reading in times of covid

I thought I had lost my love of reading somewhere in the middle of this past year of covid testing and isolation. But Goodreads says I entered the year not enjoying my very first book, Writing in Flow, Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan Perry.

“I just couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again.”

I didn’t try again.

And the last book I reviewed, Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout didn’t fare any better.

“I love her writing but I’m glad this one is done.”

There are other reviews for the thirty-four books I read in 2021, but I don’t have the patience to go read the reviews I wrote to find out how many I actually enjoyed. And when I puruse the list I can’t remember the plot to any of them.

In October when I finished the Strout book I had no idea that I wouldn’t read or review another one the rest of the year.

Not reading is troubling. I have always loved to read. I miss reading. You’d think in times of stress that reading would give me an escape, that I’ve be buried in books.

And, in fact, I have plenty of books to read. I’ve started several. There are books about my camera that I need to read, books I’ve seen on daytime television that I’ve purchased impulsively, a book my aunt lent me sits on the table next to my chair.

I have no “number of books read” goal for 2022. Rather, I think, my goal this year will be to find again the pleasure of reading. I should probably start soon. January is almost half over. Who has a recomendation for something light, happy, hopeful or heartwarming?

I could sure use a librarian about now.

My anti-reading dog.


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When Katie smiles

We’re on a roller-coaster around here. Katie has mostly good days, but even during those I can sometimes detect, if I’m observant, her underlying kidney disease.

During an early morning neighborhood walk today.

When I took her to a park to celebrate her 15th birthday a couple weeks ago, I thought we were both having fun. She was walking through the woods with me, sniffing things like always. But our walk was much shorter than normal, and when I looked at the photos after, I didn’t see the usual joy in her eyes. She wasn’t smiling in any of the images.

It was a frosty sort of morning.

That made me stop and really think about the quality of her life, and whether or not she would let me know when she was done. It’s hard to consider end of life procedures when she’s still excited about her meals, still wants to go outside. Still wags her whole behind when you walk in the door.

Is still so beautiful.

You know it’s my supper time again. Right mama?

And then we had a day like today, sunshine and 30 degree temperatures. Perfect sheltie weather. We went on multiple walks around the neighborhood, none of which she wanted to end.

Today, checking her park.

We went to her park — I was thinking we’d just walk around the pond, sure that she wouldn’t have the stamina to walk all the way around the park.

What are you doing taking pictures, mama? We have a whole park to explore!

But once we were there I let her make the decisions and she never once sat down or asked me to pick her up. We took it slow, but we walked all the way around her park’s perimeter, just about a mile.

It sure is a pretty day mama. I get a treat for posing, right?

That, on top of all the walks in the neighborhood should have exhausted her, but she’s been asking for her (numerous) meals right on schedule. And we’ve been on another walk around the neighborhood this evening.

It was a good day, mama!

I’ve looked at the images I took during our park adventure today. I’m pretty sure she was smiling. I guess it’s not time yet. Not today anyway, probably not tomorrow or the day after that either.

Yep, I’m still the Princess Katie and this is my park!

My girl. She and I are lucky we have more time together.

Still so beautiful.


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Vacuum cleaner blues

Katie didn’t bark at the vaccum cleaner this morning. If she was a young dog I’d be thrilled, certain that I’d desensitized her, trained her not to go balistic whenever I pulled it out of the closet.

But she’s barked at that vaccum every single time I’ve used it for the past fifteen years.

This morning she just looked at me with sad eyes and wandered off to nap.

My eyes are leaky.