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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Being in the woods

Usually Katie-girl tells you about our latest camping adventure. But she says we didn’t do anything exciting so she’s willing to let me talk.

This time.

Spring has been fickle here in Michigan, Cold and rainy and then sunny and hot. When the weather people said we were going to have a couple of days in the 80s (26.6C) with nights in the 60s (15.5C) I thought we should head to the woods for this season’s inaugural camp.

This is a pretty good site mama!

I was lucky to score a site that, though small, had a spot to tuck the tent under some shade trees. It lacked grass, but that’s the price you often pay to have shade. And Katie, though she’s a princess, doesn’t mind hanging out on dirt.

I didn’t make a list of things to take. I just sort of grabbed things as I thought of them and piled them all up next to the front door in the days preceding our scheduled trip.

Katie watched intently.

On Wednesday, as I began to pack the car she stayed under my feet, “helping” me get everything stowed. Even with her help, however, I forgot the bug spray, the sunscreen and the broom, all important things on a camping expedition. I blame her.

Still, even without important essentials it was heaven to be under the trees, enjoying the breeze and reading, then going for a walk, helping ourselves to a bit of a snack. Then a nap and repeat.

Hey mama! These are pretty!

On a Wednesday afternoon I was privileged to be sitting under a blue sky watching the leaves dance in the wind and the light move across the landscape. Not at work, not at the grocery store, not doing laundry, not vacuuming.

Just being.

Katie is very good at just being, but me? Not so much. It’s an acquired skill, I think, the art of just enjoying where you are when you’re there without worrying about what happened yesterday or might happen later in the day.

Let’s go explore mama!

Our first night was perfect, not too cold, not too hot. I slept great, and even Katie lounged around until after 6 a.m. Thursday the sun bore down on us and the winds were strong. I watched the tree limbs above our tent flail about and pictured them crashing down. The temperatures rose, the wind roared.

Katie and I went for a drive in the air conditioned car, she sitting in the front seat with her nose in the air conditioning vent. We headed down to the lake where were we could watch the clouds skip across the blue sky and the waves rush to shore.

Hurry up mama! My fur is getting messed up!

We enjoyed walking on the trails too. The wind wasn’t too bad back in the woods.

Cool stump!

Later that day we went back to the lake to see the sunset, and even though there wasn’t much of a show we enjoyed being out there, though the temperatures were dropping fast.

Waiting for the sun to set.

Our second night in the tent was miserable. For me anyway. Temps dropped to 43 degrees (6.11C). I wore all my clothes, doubled up the blankets, pulled the sweatshirt hood up over my ears. Still it was too cold to sleep. Katie, on the other hand, thought it was perfect and snoozed the night away.

…zzzzzzzzzz…

Lucky girl.

By morning I was more than ready to go back to civilization, with pillow topped mattresses, heat, running water, toilets closer than a half mile away. But the drive home was disconcerting. People were driving to work, fast and furious. I could feel stress begin to build just watching them dart around me.

And then I remembered. I was driving home to a hot shower and breakfast. Not to work.

Lucky me.

Hey mama! Let me show you how to entertain yourself!


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“Democracy isn’t a spectator sport.”

I’ve had a good winter off, playing on the beach, watching light move across water, sleeping in, napping mid-afternoon. But it’s time to get back to work.

Work!??? You’re right; I’m retired. So what work am I talking about?

There are many of you new here at Change is Hard. You probably haven’t heard me talk about trucks and safety and my family’s story. You probably think my life is all about photography and travel and a special little dog. And sometimes it is.

“You can turn grief into action.”

But sometimes it’s about grief and loss and preventable crashes. And honoring the memory of my dad who was killed in December of 2004 by a tired semi driver who fell asleep at the wheel while going 65 miles per hour on a freeway in the early morning hours. A driver who failed to see the lights of emergency vehicles up ahead, the people working to clear a minor crash that had occurred earlier. A driver that didn’t notice the traffic stopped in front of him. Didn’t see my dad in his little red car until it was too late.

My dad was a guy who lived by safe rules. He had retired ten years earlier from a career managing chemical plants, inherently dangerous places. He made us all wear our life jackets in the boat when we were kids. He drove with us around and around the neighborhood when he taught us how to drive a stick shift car, until he was satisfied we could operate it safely. He helped my sister build her house in Tennessee, complete with extra roof brackets to hold the roof down in a tornado. Just in case. He carried an emergency contact list in his wallet, listing the four kids and spouses with work and home phone numbers. That’s how they knew where to find us after the crash.

“Hope in the face of difficulty.”

So after we got through the initial days filled with disbelief and unbearable grief, when we were moving into sad confusion buffeted by unrelenting grief, we began to ask questions. How did the driver not see all that traffic ahead? Not see all the emergency lights? The road was straight. The sight lines clear. We searched the internet looking for anything about truck crashes.

And we found the Truck Safety Coalition.

It’s an organization made up of the families of people who have been killed or injured in preventable truck crashes. It provides support to families and it works to change the way things are done in the trucking industry. Sometimes that means working to change regulations and laws. Sometimes that means working to change perceptions among people that drive trucks. Sometimes it’s about educating people that drive cars. Sometimes it means meeting with legislators and staff, or truck company executives, or members of other safety groups. Always it means honoring the memories of those we’ve lost, honoring the lives that have been changed forever of those who were injured.

It means trying to save lives

Every other year the families meet in Washington DC for a few days. We tell our stories, we sadly welcome the new families — those whose losses are recent, we talk about issues, resolutions, how to make a difference. And we go to the Hill and talk to everyone we can. Legislators, Regulators, the Press. Everyone. Sometimes they call us the ‘crazy truck people.’ That’s OK with us. Whatever gives attention to our issues.

“Even when you’re 100% right getting things done requires compromise.”

The conference is coming up next month. I can feel the tension escalating among my Truck Safety “family” already. Facebook is abuzz with truck issues. People are becoming stressed. Or depressed. Or hopeful. Or everything all rolled into one. Attending the conference brings it all back again for us. Yet it’s hard to stay away. “It’s like attending the funeral all over again.” says one mother who has been fighting for truck safety for more than twenty-five years.

The title of this post, and the quotes interspersed throughout, are from former President Obama’s July 2016 speech. I wrote a few things he said down on a random piece of paper way back then and that paper has found it’s way back to me this week. As I gear up for a difficult few days in Washington I thought they were appropriate. Hopeful. Democrat, Republican or Independent, the world would be a better place if we could learn to compromise. I’m hoping we find a bit of that during our conference this year.

It’s probably the most I can expect.


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Throwing plans out the window

We're in the mountains now.

We’re in the mountains now.

Katie here. Again. Apparently I have to do everything. Mama says she’s been too stressed to tell the story, and besides, I’m the princess, so it’s all about me. Right? Well not always, but anyway I’ll give you the short version of our latest adventure.

So this was day 2 of our great adventure. I’m in the car a lot, but today mama stopped at a couple parks to let me stretch my legs. Did you know that Kentucky has zero rest stops on I-75? ZERO! Who let that happen? How’s a princess supposed to..um…pee…and other stuff if there aren’t any rest stops?

That's a really big river mama!

That’s a really big river mama!

Anyway, because we couldn’t stop like we normally do, mama took me on a side trip to visit Cumberland Falls! It was way back in the woods, 15 miles of narrow winding road before we got there. But when we did it was all worth it!

You're buying me something at the gift store.  Right mama?

You’re buying me something at the gift store. Right mama?

We didn’t get to see the big falls really well because the lower observation decks were closed. But we got a little peak at them.

This looks very very cold.

This looks very very cold.

Mostly we walked along the rocky shore and enjoyed the blue green water and the bright blue sky.

This is a really big rock mama!

This is a really big rock mama!

What a perfect day! It was still cold, and mama was glad she was still wearing her winter coat and gloves, but I thought it was wonderful!

Awesome colors!

Awesome colors!

Of course stopping there put us behind schedule but mama wasn’t worried, who needs a schedule anyway? We were about 2 hours away from our hotel when something happened. Our car quit!

Well not exactly quit….but the power seemed to go right out of it and we were in the mountains of Tennessee! Mama pulled over and called Onstar who sent out a tow truck. The tow truck driver said I couldn’t ride in his truck so mama seat belted me in and I got to ride in the car on top of the tow truck!

Mama was worried I’d be scared, but I’m a big girl and did just fine. OK, I was awfully glad to see her when we arrived at the dealership and she got me out of the car. And I didn’t like the diesel engine on the tow truck at all!

But in the end the tow truck driver was really nice, and took us to a hotel that my daddy had found for us that takes dogs…and now mama and I are all snuggled up in a king size bed with a big TV and some books and we’re going to wait out the rest of the weekend right here.

Notice the lack of cars....cause we don't have one!

Notice the lack of cars….cause we don’t have one!

We’ll be just fine.

We even got to see a little of the sunset behind the hotel when I made mama take me out for the 5th time to check out the pee-mail. I didn’t want her to miss it.

Sunset on evening #1.

Sunset on evening #1.

I’m good like that.

Talk to you later…

Your adventure reporter Katie-girl.

Our room has a holly tree outside our front door!

Our room has a holly tree outside our front door!


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Not trucks

It's a grey day mama.

It’s a grey day mama.

I want to write about something that doesn’t have anything to do with trucks. I feel like I’ve been immersed in truck issues for such a long time that there’s no way out. And in reality that’s true, there is no way out, I know I’m in that fight for the long haul. But sometimes I need to think about, do something, different. To let that truck stuff go for a little bit.

Trouble is today, when I came up for air, the weather outside was frightful. We’ve had a wind advisory all day with gusts up to 50 miles per hour. And rain. Plus it’s cold, and I don’t really like being cold. So Katie-girl and I have spent an entire day inside thinking about things we could be doing but not doing many of them.

It’s not as though I don’t have a long list of things I should do. Starting with cleaning. And organizing. And cooking. Not to mention practicing; the next community band concert is December 1, only a few very short weeks away. But I have only managed to nap today.

We weren’t raised in my family to be nappers so I’m struggling with the thought that I could spend an entire day in a chair watching the rain hit the windows, the light, what little of it there is, move across the yard, checking Facebook and email, reading blog entries. Falling asleep reading a book.

Morning light before the storm.

Morning light before the storm.

I want to write about something that doesn’t have anything to do with trucks. Something colorful and vibrant. Happy. But I seem to be in some sort of grey funk that matches the weather. Even Katie-girl seems to understand and gives up asking me to play after a little while. She’s asleep at my feet at the moment.

Tomorrow. Well tomorrow I will get myself up and go for a walk. After that perhaps I’ll write something that doesn’t have anything to do with trucks.


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Caught up in it all

I have a friend I’ve missed talking to, seeing regularly.  We worked together for many years and probably would have become good friends but I ended up being her manager and you just can’t be friends with people that work for you.  She retired a year ago shortly after her husband died and we promised we’d get together.  We meant it.

But you know it didn’t happen.

I’ve thought of her often, mostly when I’m at work where things remind me of her.  And I’ve pulled out my cell phone to call her and then thought I’d wait till I wasn’t at my desk, maybe at lunch, or before the drive home.  But lunch never happens and by the time I leave I’m so tired I don’t think about anything but the traffic jams waiting for me out on the freeway.

Then this week someone else asked about her, assuming I’d kept in touch, and I made a concerted effort to reach her.  As we talked today I wondered aloud how her retirement was going, what she’d been doing, how life was.  What was new.

She said she’d renewed her library card, read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, spent time with her grand kids.  Slept.  All good things.

And then her voice broke and stilled.  With a little wobble in her throat she softly mentioned that it had been lonely.  Without her husband of so many years, without her friends at work she’d been lonely.  Oh she didn’t want to start working again, face the traffic in the mornings, the stress of the industry we’re in, but still…

And I felt terrible.  I was supposed to have her over for dinner.  I was supposed to keep in touch.  And I let it go every day, day after day, while I got sucked into the endless funnel of work and life.

And she’d been lonely.

It’s ridiculous.  Me, who knows more than most how short life is, who knows what’s important, let it slide.  She’s someone I care about, someone who makes me laugh, someone who was there for me when things were very very bad.

She was lonely.  Damn.

We’re having dinner early next week, she and I and a few more people from work who have wondered how she is and have missed her.  I can’t wait.  She made me laugh this afternoon in the middle of work craziness.  Even while I was beating myself up.  She’s good like that.

Some lessons have to be learned and relearned.  What’s important are the people, not the profit.  It’s pretty simple really, but oh so hard to follow through.  Lesson learned.

Again.

 


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Need an adventure

Hey Mama!

Hey Mama!

Katie here.  Mama’s busy working on that truck stuff so I figured I could get a little blog in while she wasn’t looking.  Shouldn’t be hard, she doesn’t pay attention to me much anyway.  She works works works and then she comes home all tired and stuff and doesn’t want to play with my pig or my cow or my elephant.  I bring them to her and she doesn’t even realize until my dad tells her that I want to play.  Good thing he’s around to make sure I get the attention a princess deserves.

I really want to go on an adventure with my mama, but all she will say is not now baby.  Maybe the weekend baby.  It’s almost summer baby and then we’ll go camping.  Sure mama.   Whatever.

So for now I just focus on doing my job.  I let my mama know when it’s 9 at night and time to go to bed.  I start huffing at her at exactly 8:48.  I have to start early because, as I’ve said, she’s not paying much attention to me.  I keep huffing and stomping my feet and if that doesn’t work I poke her really hard.  That usually gets her attention.  Then she checks the time and is usually grateful that I’ve reminded her to go to bed.

Once she gets settled in for the night I vigilantly watch over her for about 4 seconds and then I crash myself.  My mama’s a big girl, she can sleep without me checking on her.  Plus I need to get my beauty sleep you know.

Then sometime between 5 a.m. and 5:02 a.m. I make sure she’s up!  Oh yes, I know her alarm isn’t set to go off until 6, but I’m saving her the stress of having to hurry in the morning.  I can’t remember the last time that silly alarm even had to go off.  She doesn’t need it.  She has me!

As soon as I’m sure she’s wide awake, (sometimes I have to bark at her quite a bit to get her fully awake, and I find a good walk in the rain helps too), I go to my favorite spot, curl up and go to sleep.  That way my mama can get ready for work without any interference from me.  I’m thoughtful like that.

So anyway.  Don’t you think she should reward me for all my hard work and take me somewhere fun?  Soon?  I think it would do us both good.

Yes I do.

Pay attention Mama!

Pay attention Mama!

 


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When did it all get so scary?

Watching the snow fly.

Watching the snow fly.

It wasn’t so long ago that 14 inches (355.6 mm) of snow wouldn’t bother me.  I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where that much snow was a regular thing.  And I’ve done my share of commuting through blizzards over the years; I remember a few 4 hour drives to get home.  I used to do that just because it was expected that you went to work.  So you did.

Now?  Not so much.

More and more people are able to work from home, hook into their work computers and be almost as, if not more, productive.  So struggling with the car and the snowdrifts isn’t so normal any more.  Still.  Late yesterday afternoon and into the night I watched the snow pile up and worried about how I was going to get to work in the morning.   I pictured the winding hilly roads I travel and imaged driving them with over a foot of snow on the ground.  I strained to hear the sound of snow plows anywhere near my home, but failed to hear anything but the wind.

Driveway...early in the morning.

Driveway…early in the morning.

And this morning it was obvious that I wasn’t going anywhere, at least until I cleared the driveway of over a foot of snow.  Even Katie didn’t want to go out there unless I made her a path first.  Trust me I tried to get her to go without one.  Complete failure.

Never mind, didn't really need to go out anyway.

Never mind, didn’t really need to go out anyway.

So I spent a couple of hours clearing the driveway and the road in front of my house.  My two neighbors, both older men, cleared their sections of the road and helped me with mine.  I began to feel guilty about not making an attempt to get to the office.  But not one vehicle had been by and the people on the news said you needed 4 while drive.  So I didn’t try.

Hunkered down like the juncos.

Hunkered down like the juncos.

Later in the morning the sun came out, the sky was blue, the snow brilliant white.  Beautiful.  I felt brave and almost got in the car to head in to work.   I wonder why I feel so much more brave in the bright light of sun than I do in the middle of the night’s darkness.  And I wonder when I got scared to drive in the snow at all.

That's better mama!

That’s better mama!

The news is still showing back roads covered in snow and saying you need 4 wheel drive to get out of subdivisions.  A few more neighbors have plowed their portions of our road.  Maybe I can get out of the subdivision tomorrow.  Maybe people along the bigger side roads have plowed their own bits too.  Maybe the county has done the paved roads.

Maybe it won’t be so bad.  Maybe I can learn to relax and enjoy an unexpected day off instead of feeling guilty that I didn’t make it in.

Maybe the sun will come up tomorrow and I’ll be brave again.

Maybe this is the last snowfall of the season.

Right.

IMG_0969

 


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Musings from a long commute

Snow on the roof.

Snow on the roof.

It’s still winter here.  You’ve probably heard that, and it’s probably still winter where you are too.  Snow, snow, snow.  And it’s cold.  After awhile it begins to wear a person down.  Add to that stress in the form of employment, or lack of employment, depending on your situation, and it’s hard to stay motivated.

I was on my slow snowy commute this morning and thinking about the other people in the cars surrounding me, all of us creeping on slick roads toward cubicles where we’ll do some sort of work for several hours and then creep home again.  It all seemed overwhelmingly sad.   Then I remembered  the Christmas concert CD I haven’t heard yet.  Yes I know, I’m a bit behind.  We played that concert the 16th of December and I’ve been too distracted since to listen to it.

Who says you can’t enjoy Christmas music in January?  Stuck in traffic I turned off the radio full of grim news, forecasts of frigid cold and more snow, long reports of traffic snarls, and began to hum along with holiday music.  I let it take me away, could see the music in my mind, felt my fingers playing a phantom clarinet.  And then there were tears sliding now my cheeks as the sweet gentle tones of “The Holly and the Ivy” filled the car.  I don’t know why.  If I had to guess I’d say it was the stress of work in combination with a grueling commute coming to a head.  The emotion caught me by surprise.  But shortly I had to smile, because right after “Holly” was “March of the Toys” which reminded me that life marches on.  So I wiped my face, grinned a bit, pulled into the parking lot and marched myself right into work.  And it turned out not to be such a bad day after all.

The commute home was worse than the one going in.  More snow.  Icy roads.  Slow.  Sometimes tense.  I was letting myself get stressed all over again.  Then a few miles from home I came up behind a jeep.  The license plate was GD2BME.   It got me smiling again, and realizing that it’s true for me and for most of us.  Even during a long winter filled with snow and traffic jams and below zero temperatures and long commutes and frustrating work.

Even with all that… it is GD2BME.   Hope it’s GD2BYOU too.