Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The weekly smile is buried in snow.

Trent hosts a collection of smiles each week. People post on their own blogs, describing things that made them smile that week, and link their posts to his. On Mondays, a day when we could all use a few smiles, Trent posts a recap so that we can all visit everybody else. It’s a nice way to start the week.

So this week, in Michigan, we got snow. Record breaking snow, more snow this early in the season than we’ve ever received in the history of our weather.

Sure it was pretty, but nothing to smile about.

Did we smile?

Well, not so much, not after the first “Oh it’s so pretty” wore off. My husband went out three times during the day to clear the driveway. And then he went and bought a bigger snowblower.

We all wanted to fly away.

To add more drama to our lives, this week we’re having drywall put up in the garage, so the car had to stay outside. In the accumulating snow.

Is this supposed to be fun mama?

I took his truck with four wheel drive to my morning physical therapy appointment. Driving in blowing snow, through snowdrifts, and finding out, after the appointment, that there was no snow scraper in the truck meant I was still not smiling.

My feet are cold. This is not fun.

And Thursday and Friday we had painters doing the inside of our house. Katie and I were relegated to one bedroom with the door closed so she didn’t end up a painted dog. She wasn’t smiling.

Camping makes me smile, but not in the snow!

And when Katie is unhappy everyone is unhappy. So most of Thursday and some of Friday she and I explored her parks.

About time you found me a park where they plowed the path!

And then the sun came out. Which made us all smile!

Now this is perfect weather mama!

After two long days of exploring cold, snow covered parks, we spent last night playing hide the sheltie-girl.

You can’t hide from me mama!

And the smiles continued.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us! Those of us up here in snow country could use more smiles.

Adventures always make me smile mama!


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Living large as befits a princess

Katie here.

Welcome to Davis Lake Overlook Park! Or as I call it – Katie’s Park Two.

Boy I’ve been busy; mama says you wouldn’t know I’m going to be a teenager next month. After lolling around all summer I’m now all energy and bark. Maybe too much bark, but it gets me what I want so I’m not going to stop.

Even when mama calls me “KATE!”

Stop lolly-gagging around mama!

So when I kept barking and getting under her feet, mama gave in and took me to a local park. It was a beautiful, if a bit windy, day. Mama said that worked in our favor because no one else was out there.

The wind is taking down the last of the leaves!

She was intent on taking pictures of these yellow trees out in the wet swamp.

It was such a pretty day!

She does this every year and every year she gets her feet wet. I chose to stay up on the hill and wait for her; I haven’t forgotten how I got my feet wet following her last year.

I’ll wait here.

Then she started focusing on the light shining through this young oak tree leaf. I was bored and figured she should be focused on me and my treats, so I photo bombed her shot and she got the message. After that it was all about me.

Which is more pretty? This stupid leaf of me?

Still, this was just a local park and I thought I deserved a bigger adventure. After all, this year I’ve spent weeks and weeks at ‘camp’ and she feels quite guilty about that. I milk it for everything I can, so I kept bugging her to take me somewhere more fun and guess what?

Whatcha going to do for me next, huh mama?

She made a date with another sheltie and her mom down in Ann Arbor at Nichols Arboretum!

Meet Abby!

Abby is going to be 12 soon. She is a very elegant lady.

Mama and Amy’s mom have been Facebook friends for a long time, and it turns out Ann Arbor is sort of halfway between where we each live, so we met there yesterday.

Isn’t Abby pretty? She has a regal air about her don’t you think?

Abby and I got along just fine, mostly because we ignored each other. If I’m honest I sniffed her behind a couple times, but she was polite and didn’t try to sniff mine at all.

Abby’s mom didn’t bring her any treats, and she still posed when asked. I, of course, demanded payment after each shot.

At first we weren’t too excited to pose too close to each other, but almost right away we recognized if we just did what they asked we got to go off and sniff sooner. And there are so many good smells in the woods there!

This is Abby’s mom Shaun.

Since I had been there before I showed Abby some of my favorite places. There was one spot with lots of pretty leaves on the ground.

Abby didn’t mind hanging around getting her picture taken at all.

Then mama saw this tree. Well. You know we had to pose by that!!

“Does she always make you stop and take pictures on your walks Katie?”

We walked for a long time, but Abby and I didn’t get tired at all, mostly because mama was always stopping for more pictures. You know how mama is.

I think Abby had a good time too!

On our way back to the car I asked Abby if she wanted to come back sometime and explore more. She said she was definitely interested!

“I think this was a good idea, Katie!”

It’s a good thing we went for that walk yesterday. Cause this is what’s happening today!

Oh yea, Fall is over!

So, as you can see, I’ve had a pretty good time lately. I didn’t even tell you about the new park I explored last week with my friend Deuce!

Me and my friend Deuce as the sun set on another perfect day.

Yep, mama’s keeping me pretty busy. She says she’s trying to get me to sleep through the night. Yea. Like that’s going to happen.

Talk later, your park advisor pup, Katie-girl.

I always have fun with my friends.


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Snow infringes yet again

April 15th of this year we had snow. It seemed way too late to be getting so much of the wet white stuff. Sure it was pretty. But really, winter around here is long enough without it lingering on.

Our back yard on October 30th.

So our warm season seemed even shorter this week when on October 31st we got the first snow of the season. Yes, Halloween night, when kids from around the neighborhood should be enjoying a house-to-house foraging for candy, we were enduring wind, sleet and snow.

The snow made the colors pop.

Needless to say no one came to our front door.

But in the morning we enjoyed the beauty the night’s storm left behind. We still have quite a bit of color here, leaves had only just turned when they were coated with snow.

Fall and winter, mixing it up. Unfortunately we know which will ultimately win.

It made a pretty juxtaposition, the warm colors of fall against the stark coldness of winter.

The ginkgo tree begins to lose her leaves, the maple has hardly any left.

Katie and I went out to explore the backyard. Lots and lots of pretty things there.

Kind of like a Christmas card.

She wasn’t even jealous that I wasn’t paying attention to her, she was having such a good time following smells.

Mama, I kind of like this snow.

It was pretty cold, the snow stayed around for most of the day, but by the next day it was gone. We’ll enjoy a few more days of sun before winter comes back for a longer visit.

Add a little ice to the mix.

Katie says we should get out there and enjoy every one of the good days. Cause she knows how it is when the snow is higher than she is tall.

The last hurrah.

And it’s not fun.

Sad sunflower.


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Missed it by THIS much

A few weeks ago I drove an hour north to visit a wildlife refuge and found the trail was closed for hunting. I left not knowing if there was anything there enticing enough to make me drive all that way again.

Three cranes drift noisily over the trail.

But it’s stayed in the back of my mind, a little whisper nagging me. What if it’s beautiful?

So Sunday I got up early (OK, Katie got me up early as she does every day) and jumped in the car heading north. I arrived about 8:30, the refuge opens at 7:30. As I was driving down the last dirt road toward the parking lot I heard cranes. Lots and lots of cranes.

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is out in the middle of farmland.

I realized I should have arrived earlier, because there were hundreds of cranes flying high overhead, and odds were they had just left the very place I was going. I was missing the mass exodus by minutes.

I stopped in the middle of the road, leapt out and pointed my camera blindly at the sky, trying to capture just a bit of it; I had no idea what I got, but I kept snapping until most of the birds were gone.

Then I drove to parking lot and began to explore.

On the drive north I had been watching the sky, the clouds were really interesting and I was assuring myself that even if the park was a dud, the clouds would make the drive worthwhile.

Early morning art.

Turns out the park was not a dud, though with the heavy cloud cover and a bit of morning fog the colors were initially muted. Still, I was there mainly to see what kind of birds I could capture. So I moved along, further into the preserve.

The over 9,000 acres was once mostly farmland. There are a series of earth dams, pumps and drains to manage the wetlands now. Most of the time I was walking along the top of a dam, with water on both sides of me.

Not a lot of color right at the beginning of my walk, but still beautiful images everywhere.

I seemed like maybe the water was high this year, as full grown maples and hickory trees were standing in water to my right.

Young cottonwood trees glow on the other side of tall trees.

And to the left, on the other side of a tree lined and water filled ditch were open fields.

Splashes of red from maples that lined the ditch.

I was headed down a long straight path toward a ‘wildlife viewing area’ that turned out to be a bench sitting in a nondescript place along the path.

Looking for wildlife.

Along the way I accidentally flushed out two blue herons who had been standing in the ditch. I guess I’m a noisy walker. Both of them startled me and I missed catching their images. No time to get the camera up, turned on and focused. I barely figured out where they had come from when they were gone from sight.

All I got was that little dark spot in the sky. But I know it was a blue heron, and I’m OK with just seeing him.

Darn. Missed each of them by seconds.

I turned around after half a mile, working my way back to the path intersection. A sign said there was a viewing tower 2 miles in another direction. I switched to my long lens and began the trek.

Walking along another earthen dam, water on both sides, I was focused on trees turning colors over to the left. It was pretty amazing.

Mostly maples turning, our first trees to give in to fall.

Then I happened to glance to my right and I laughed out loud.

Fall hasn’t made it over here yet.

It was so green even the air seemed tinged with jade.

I thought I caught a glimpse of a little bird, then two, flitting in some nearby shrubs. Ah…maybe I could catch them before they flew off. From their tail feathers I thought they might be dark eyed juncos, though I hoped not. Juncos are only in our area during fall and winter, and they are my first harbinger that winter is really on the way. It’s a reality check I hate to accept. I never got pictures, the little birds remained hidden in the dense underbrush.

I missed them by micro seconds.

I continued on and the colors of the trees got more and more intense. At least the leaves stood still for me while I messed with my settings.

Kind of unbelievable.

Even though there was no sun, maybe because there was no sun, the colors were intense. It was taking me forever to walk that two miles out to the viewing stand.

Loved the shape of the trunk.

The long lens was heavy and I hadn’t seen any other birds. But there really wasn’t a good spot to stop and change it, so I slogged on. Even when there weren’t colors it was still beautiful.

Oh wait…there’s something, a family of geese enjoying a quiet moment together. Good thing I still had the long lens on the camera so I could be far away and not disturb them.

They stood still for me too.

I finally got out to the viewing “tower” which was a large, elevated deck overlooking a huge pond. A long way away were hundreds of geese and swans and probably cranes too, all making a lot of noise.

Lots of birds way down there.

I was too tired to walk further in order to get closer, and I figured if I went down there they’d all leave, so I sat on the deck and watched and listened for awhile. And then I changed my lens back to the lighter and shorter version.

The view was pretty from up there. The subtle colors in the fields and marsh looked like an oil painting. But I knew I had over 2 miles to get back to the car and and hour drive home, so I reluctantly started back.

Not as flamboyant as the maples but just as pretty.

Glancing to my left I stopped as a doe and I stared at each other. She was several yards away from me, but well within range if I still had my long lens on the camera.

She showed me her white tail of alarm as she ran the other way.

Darn. Missed again.

The walk back was faster, mostly because I was focused on not taking any more pictures! Well, maybe one more. And that over there is stunning. But no more!

And then the sun came out.

The world began to glow.

I couldn’t resist, even though my stomach was rumbling with hunger, and my back ached from carrying the camera, and my poor little finger, still aching from being broken was telling me it was time to stop. I couldn’t resist.

Light is what it’s all about.

But eventually I got back to the parking lot where several cars full of people were contemplating if it was worth it to walk back into the preserve.

Gold trees, blue sky. What’s not to love?

I don’t know…what do you think? Even though I didn’t get one single fabulous wildlife image I still had a great time.

Far far away, but still beautiful.

And I learned a few things.

One, now that I have the lay of the land scoped out, I need to sit in one spot and see what comes by. Walking around only makes the wildlife nervous. Two, I need to leave the camera turned on, lens cap off, and not regret whichever lens I happen to be using.

And three, I need to go up there again before it gets too cold.

Soon all the color will be gone.


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Sunflower fade

As most of you know Trent hosts a weekly smile challenge. Each week he encourages us all to find something to smile about, and then share it. On Mondays he puts up a compilation of all the posts that linked to his.

It’s a good way to start your Monday, reading post after post of smiles.

Here in lower Michigan the maple trees are finally turning, and they are brilliant this morning against the blue sky. But that’s too common a smile. No, last night we had our first frost which would normally make my smile fade as the few flowers I have left will die and winter feels like it’s right around the corner. (It isn’t really, it just feels that way.)

But today the early morning sun caught the tired petals of a sunflower, planted by chipmunks weeks ago next to my front door.

And the delicate white frost on the crown of the fading flower made me smile.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us and link to Trent’s blog so he can share it with people you haven’t met yet.

And that will make you smile too.


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The greening

Taking a walk in the Jacksonville arboretum.

There’s nothing more special than watching your world transform from winter brown to brilliant spring green. But sometimes those of us in the north get impatient while Mother Nature takes one step toward sunlight and falls two steps back into sloppy slushy cold.

Peeking out to see the sun.

So you can’t blame a person for skipping all of those last moments of winter and retreating to warmer climes. Like Florida. And that’s what I’ve done.

Magnolias are in bloom here.

A friend in Florida wanted to take a short vacation, but her two dogs couldn’t go with her, and she wasn’t comfortable putting them in a kennel.

Whimsical tree.

And on a whim she asked me if I’d consider coming down to house sit with her lovely pooches. My calendar was open for the proposed dates. Hmmmm… let me think…would I like to stay in the cold north and continue to watch winter fighting it out with spring?

Cedar stumps create sculpture covered in moss.

Or would I like to walk barefoot on a sunny beach, watch palm trees sway against blue skies.

Pops of color everywhere if you look.

Let me think about that.

Spiderwort grows wild here.

So here I am, hanging out with two sweet boys, enjoying the sunshine and the warmer temperatures. Sure tomorrow is going to be stormy and we’ll be stuck inside all day.

Pretty shell-like fungus hides in the shade.

But that’s OK. It’s almost guaranteed not to snow.

It’s called Christmas licen, bright red on tree trunks.


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Beautifully unwanted

Yesterday we experienced hail, sleet, and a tiny bit of snow but mostly cold driving rain fell all day. It was a no good kind of day through and through. And this morning I woke to this.

Early morning blue light shows off the overnight snow.

It was the ‘blue hour’ when Katie-girl decided we needed to go outside. I couldn’t help but try to capture the magic that surprised me once we got outside.

Wet snow covered every detail.

And then, as the sun came up I saw how truly beautiful, but truly unnecessary, it all was. From the warmth of our living room I framed the backyard, ornamented by some Florida seashells on the mantel.

Cold and warmth represented.

I liked the juxtaposition, not the snow.

Still, it was stunning, and on my way to an appointment in town I couldn’t help but park and dart out to take a picture or two.

No matter how boring the scene, the snow made it prettier.

Or three.

I knew it wouldn’t last long and by the time I got back home it would be gone. No chance to take Katie for a walk in it, no time for formal portraits against the black and white art of Mother Nature.

Swampy wetlands looked beautiful against the black and white of the trees beyond.

No, just a few clicks with the camera on my phone in the early morning light would have to do.

Even muddy dirt roads look good decorated with fresh sticky snow.

It was beautiful and it was gone within the hour. I hope that’s the last of our snow for this season.

Spring green of the willow competes with stark white of yet another snowfall.

Our grass has greened, the trees are budding and our early spring flowers are in bloom.

No early morning golfers today.

Time for winter to let it go.

Just stop.

But it’s Michigan, so I’m not betting on it.

Waiting patiently for summer.


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Birding around

I have all these photos, taken during our March 31st snowstorm and now it’s feeling warmer and the snow is long gone and if I don’t post these soon I never will.

Yes, the snow is gone, at least down here in Southeast Michigan. Not to say it won’t be back. But at least we’re not still covered in snow like our friends to the north.

Last week we a were enjoying a beautiful day when I noticed this out my kitchen window…

“Seems a little small, lady. Do you have anything with three bedrooms and two baths?”


…and the next day the view out my kitchen window looked like this:

“Brrrrr….I should have migrated South.”

I spent much of the morning sitting in my nice warm living room taking pictures of frantic birds landing on the feeders.

“It’s a smorgasbord!”

Eventually I put the camera on a tripod, sat on the sofa, and used my phone to release the shutter in order to get these shy gold finches.

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It was so much fun!

I never know exactly what I’m going capture when I’m trying to shoot birds. Sometimes I’m surprised when I download everything and take a look. This one made me laugh.

Take off!

I know professional bird photographers spend hours and hours preparing for a particular bird shoot…and it takes a bit of luck too. I feel pretty lucky that I can sit here and watch all these little guys stop by for a visit.

I hope you enjoyed my birds as much as I do!

If we’re lucky this was the last snowy day around here for awhile.