Change Is Hard

…but change is a certainty.


Brahms and magic

Saturday evening + the Michigan Theater + the Ann Arbor Symphony = magic.  Guaranteed.  And even though I knew that going in I was still blown away from the start of this concert until the last thundering applause faded after the encore.

I’m no classical music scholar, I never took a theory class, didn’t play beyond high school until I reconnected through the community band, but I know when I’ve experienced something extraordinary.  That happens every time I hear the Ann Arbor Symphony, but this weekend was beyond any expectations I could have had.

Saturday night it was all about Brahms, starting with Academic Festival composed by Brahms in response to being nominated for an honorary doctorate degree.  The piece includes several student drinking songs, woven through the music.  Who knew that composers back in the mid 1800′s had a sense of humor?

The second piece was The Black Swan:  Intermezzo in A Major.  What a stunningly beautiful piece of music.  Transcripted for orchestra by Bright Sheng, a University of Michigan professor,  the piece is based on Brahms’ composition for piano.  It’s so beautiful you just have to listen to at least a little of it.  Lush, contemplative, you can’t help but let the cares of the week slide off your shoulders as you let the music wash over you.

The last piece before intermission was Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor, played by two amazing young musicians, Itamar Zorman on violin and David Requiro on cello.  They played seamlessly, often one began the phrase and the other completed it, almost as if there was a single instrument. Such talent.  They so obviously loved doing this piece, and we loved hearing it.  Mr. Requiro said it was an ‘indulgent’ thing to play because the first movement begins after only a few measures with a beautiful cello solo.  My favorite movement, though, was the third.  Listen to a little bit of it; how playful it is. I had a stupid grin on my face through the whole thing.

And as wonderful as all that was, after intermission I fell in love with Symphony No. 1 in C Minor.  Though they say Brahms was a bit intimidated by Beethoven you can hear him pay homage to the other composer in this piece.  It’s beautiful, from the suspenseful beginning to the triumphant conclusion.  And the Ann Arbor Symphony pulled every bit of beauty out of the music.  They left nothing in reserve, put it all out there on the concert stage.  The audience didn’t even wait for the last note to drift away, the applause started immediately and continued until we convinced them to play us one last encore.

Ann Arbor, you have a gem in your symphony.  Every concert is astounding and leaves us shaking our heads in amazement.  Even if you don’t think you like or understand this kind of music take a moment and listen to a little bit through the links above.  And if that intrigues you go to one concert of your symphony next season, try a little taste, open yourself up to the possibilities.  You’ll have an experience you won’t forget.  It’s so much more wonderful live and your symphony is..well…there’s no other word…just magical.  Attend a concert next fall, let the music take you away, overwhelm you, transform your soul if only for one evening.  Go listen to the Ann Arbor Symphony and experience the magic yourself.

You won’t regret it – I promise.



Park burn

Katie here.  I bet you’re getting tired of hearing from me every weekend, ey?  I just wanted to tell you that they burned my park between when I was there last weekend and today!  HUH!

Look at all the burned grass!

Look at all the burned grass!

My mama says they do that every other year or so, it helps keep invasive plants away.  I don’t know.  I just know it smells bad.

It’s a beautiful day here in Michigan and my mama took me for a quick trip to my park after we cleaned up the deck and sat out there for a bit.  I was, as usual pretty excited.

It was windy.  This is not my most flattering angle mama.

It was windy. This is not my most flattering angle mama.

Along the walk to the back of the park I stepped on a bunch of big burs and started limping.  My mama is very observant and checked out my foot right away and found 4 big burrs tangled in my fur and running down right to my pads!  She pulled them all out and I felt lots better, but when we got way back to the point furthest from the car I decided to limp again.  Just to see what she’d do.  She checked my foot again and didn’t see anything, but geeze, she wasn’t wearing her glasses so how much did she think she was going to see?

I decided I’d refuse to walk at all.  I do that sometimes when I feel like messing with her.  Then I asked her to pick me up so she did and we walked a little like that, but it got hot pretty fast, all my fur and her sweatshirt and all.  So she put me down and told me I needed to walk.  I did a little and then I stopped again.  She sighed and picked me up for awhile.  But it’s a long way back to the car and she said I needed to suck it up and walk some more.  Then you know what she did?  She dropped the leash and went on without me!  HEY MAMA!


She walked up to the top of the next hill and turned around and you know where I was?  Right in back of her that’s where I was!  She can’t get away from me!  Na-uh.  So we walked a little bit more and then when I refused again she just left me again.  After awhile she turned around and said “KATIE!  COME!” just like in school and I ran really fast with all my furs flowing and sat in front of her just like I’m supposed to and she gave me a treat!

Well!  After that I just walked along with her like a good girl, no more messing with her cause this time she got me good!  Mamas are sometimes smarter than you think.

Anyway, it’s a good thing mama took pictures of the field of grass last weekend…

Last weekend's grassy field.

Last weekend’s grassy field.

…because this weekend it’s all black.

Smelly black field.

Smelly black field.


But it will be green soon, the grass is already coming up.

Bits of green.

Bits of green.

See you guys next weekend I’m sure.  Maybe she’ll take me somewhere new!  I’m off to take a nap now.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

See you later!

See you later!


FedEx and tour bus, a deadly mix

This morning we all woke to the news that a FedEx semi crossed the center median of a freeway in California and collided with a tour bus filled with students touring college campuses.  At least ten people are dead.    The crash is being described in any number of ways, though this morning most of the focus is on the tour bus.  One of the headlines I found actually calls it a tour bus accident.   Of course tour bus accidents are as horrific as semi crashes and certainly are issues that need to be worked on.  But this was not a tour bus crash.

The news media is slow to mention that it all started with a semi crossing the center median.   That’s not the most news worthy aspect of this crash so it’s getting little press.  Rightfully we need to concentrate on the families of those killed and injured, on the students who were headed toward bright futures as college students who will never see another day, on the survivors who are traumatized, and on the drivers, both of the truck and the bus who were also killed.  But when things calm down we need to take a serious look at why that semi crossed the median in the first place.

There were two FedEx drivers.  Were they tired?  Were they distracted?  Did some medical event cause this traumatic crash?  Was speed involved?  How long had they been driving?  Or were they just avoiding something in their path?  This will not be an easy investigation as both drivers are dead.  It will, of course, be done, but you and I won’t hear the result.  By the time this investigation is complete the media will have moved on to the next horrific event.  Most of us won’t even remember this story a month from now.

And that’s how the trucking industry likes it.  If  investigators end up concluding that the semi was at fault, that rules were broken, allowable hours of service exceeded, texting happening, whatever the reason,  we won’t know, and if we don’t know the outragousness of this whole event will be lost and nothing will change, our roads won’t become safer, and truck companies will continue to profit at the expense of other drivers.  Somehow we need to convince the news media that there is more to the story than the initial crash details.  That there are many more important facts to uncover than how long the road will be closed to commuter traffic.

It’s hard to make a big noise when you’re only a small group of safety advocates.  It’s hard to get noticed when we aren’t splashy, or over the top.  It’s hard but it’s something we have to figure out how to do.



Come on summer

Katie says:

Let's get moving people!

Let’s get moving people!

I think my park ranger people should set these picnic tables up and get this summer started!

And guess what? Guess what, guess what, guess what?!!!

Mama made a reservation for us at Hartwick Pines State Park!  For two whole nights in June!  She’s got a campsite in the woods and there are trails for us to explore!

You remember I had so much fun when we went camping at a real campground last summer, right?  Well, this will be even better!  I can hardly wait!  She says we can explore stuff, and people watch, and go for a walk, and then we can take a nap and then we can do it all over again!

I am so excited!




Birds at the park

Sunday afternoon I went to a park without Katie.  Don’t tell her, she’ll never forgive me.  I needed some time to myself and I wanted to walk on some nature trails where they don’t allow dogs.

At this park there is a heron rookery, and the herons were all paired up on their nests high in the oak trees out in the middle of a shallow lake. (Click on the pictures to see more detail.)

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There’s a boardwalk built through the lily pads and cattails where you can sit and watch the herons, and later in the season the egrets on their nests.  The most exciting time is when the youngsters begin to explore and test their wings.

But right now it looks like the nests are all occupied by pairs of herons, I don’t know if there are eggs in the nests yet, but  certainly there are a number of pairs getting ready to be parents.

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As I was watching from the boardwalk there arose a screeching to the left – sandhill cranes make such distinctive sounds.  A pair of them flew right toward us on the boardwalk, then across in front of us and on into the marsh to the right.  This is where I got the hugely cropped photo that’s currently my blog header.  In the photo below you can see the legs of the bird as he/she descends into the cattails.  It was so cool!

crain landing

THEN…on the way home I saw a pair of sandhill cranes feeding in a field near the road.  I turned around and went back.  They accommodated me and posed for quite awhile.

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Aren’t they beautiful!

I had a great day on my own.  Katie had a great day with her Dad.

Win win.


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Searching for threshold

This weeks WordPress photo challenge is ‘threshold.’  That’s an intriguing idea.  I checked the definition and found:

“A strip of wood, metal, or stone forming the bottom of a doorway and crossed in entering a house or room.”


“The magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.”

Huh.  How exciting can a strip of wood, metal or stone at the bottom of a doorway be?  And how do you photograph intensity exceeded?

I also found:

“Any place or point of entering or beginning”

This seemed more workable.  Sunday morning I headed down to Ann Arbor because I remembered a plaque on the steps of the Student Union commemorating the spot that John F Kennedy stood when he announced the beginning of the Peace Corp.  I thought that it would be a fitting interpretation of the beginning of something significant.

As I drove past the main university campus I noted that the roads ahead, in front of the union, were closed.  So I found a parking spot and walked the few blocks.  I soon found why the roads were blocked as there was a road race going on, right past the Student Union!

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Once I was able to get across the road I eagerly climbed the steps and searched.  The plaque was gone!  It has been there for years and years and years and I thought I must just be missing it…but after a through search I had to admit it was gone.  And so was my idea to represent the concept.

So I wandered back across the street and through the law library with it’s Gothic doors…

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and courtyard…

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…and towers.

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It’s beautiful, but really…not thresholds.  This is the best I could find, down two levels in the basement of the law library building.

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Not very interesting. But the prettiest threshold I could find.  So I gave up and drove cross country on pretty back roads to my favorite park where I enjoyed sunshine, lots of birds, blue water and a good book.

But that’s another blog.

Will I have anything at all for this week’s photo challenge?

I don’t know.  There’s one shot I’m thinking about, but it would be a stretch.  I’ll decide later in the week.  Maybe I’ll keep looking, but I don’t have much spare time this week, and I have no inspiration.

Stay tuned.

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Katie here!  Hey remember last weekend when my mama took me to my park for the first time since we got all this snow?  And how much fun I had even though it was wet and cold?  Well today my mama was sitting on the sofa and she told my dad that it was too bad she was so tired.  Because if she wasn’t so tired she’d take me somewhere fun cause it was really pretty outside.

A trifle windy!

A trifle windy!

And do you know what my dad did?  He said to me…..”I bet you want to go to the park don’t you Katie, go for a ride?  Do you want go GO Katie?”  Dad was pretending not to notice mama’s evil eye.  Well!  I got so wound up that I could hardly stand it!  I began to bark and run to the front door and then run back and bark at my mama and then run to the door….you get the picture…right?

Mama yelled at my dad but she really didn’t have any choice.  So she put me in the car and we went to the park!  I knew that bribe I paid my dad would work and it sure did!  And it was worth every bit of my allowance too!

This weekend there wasn’t any snow left over at my park.  Well, a little bit, but I just kissed it goodbye!

Bye-bye snow!

Bye-bye snow!

We got to walk all the way around the park and my mama let me sniff wherever I wanted.  Except she wouldn’t let me go down the hill to check out the railroad track, I don’t know why.  Sometimes my mama isn’t very adventurous.

Can't we go down there?

Can’t we go down there?

She took a lot of pictures of the grassy meadow and the back pond too.  I don’t understand that, she should be focused on me!  But she’s weird that way and I tolerate it because while she’s doing that I can wander around.  I always come right back when she calls, though, because I love her.  And because she has treats in her pocket.

Pretty country at my park.

Pretty country at my park.

We got to walk around my pond too.  It still had some ice on it, but that just made it more pretty.  Of course it’s not prettier than me, but it’s nice.  In a chilly sort of way.

The water looks cold!

The water looks cold!

It smelled good too.  But I didn’t get too close.  I’m a princess you know.

Hello frogs!!!

Hello frogs!!!

I had a really nice time and even mama got over being mad at dad.  She says she thinks she might have heard a frog which would mean spring really is here.  There were definitely a lot of  birds singing there, and ducks and geese too.  I only chased one robin; mostly I was interested in all the great pee-mail that was left by all the dogs before me.  I left quite a few messages myself.

So anyway, I wanted to say THANKS DAD for getting mama off  the sofa.  I don’t think you should do it again real soon though.  You can trick a mama once, but twice in one weekend would probably be too much to hope for.

I’ve got other ways to get her to take me out for adventures, don’t you know.

We’ll talk later.

love, Katie-girl.





For AnnaLeah and Mary

Many of you know that I volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition, a nonprofit in Washington DC that works to make our roads safer by pushing for legislative and rule making changes.  We work both through our members of Congress and through the Department of Transportation and other agencies that regulate the trucking industry.  You know that I do this in memory of my Dad who was killed by a tired trucker in December of 2004.  So when you read a post dedicated to the issue of safety on our roads you run the risk of having to listen to me get on my soapbox.  I’m grateful that you humor me on this because I tend to get a bit passionate, and I know that most of you are already on my side and I’m probably preaching to the choir.  Still…

Humor me one more time and listen to the story of AnnaLeah and Mary.

Last May while my family and I were joined in Washington DC with many other families who have been touched by needless tragedy, while we were sitting in the DOT board room being told by different members of that agency why they hadn’t accomplished tasks they’ve been working on for years, while we listened to excuse after excuse why minimum insurance requirements hadn’t been raised yet, why stronger rear underride guards hadn’t been mandated, why there were no studies of side underride guards at all, why the federally legislated electronic onboard recorders weren’t already implemented ..well… while we were there listening to all these excuses AnnaLeah and Mary were dying in a horrific crash.  Two beautiful girls just gone, another family irreparably changed.

You can hear their mother tell her story here, she does a lovely job, but I understand if you don’t want to listen.  If you want to remain untouched.  If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone.  Best not to know, right?

Well, here’s the short version:  They were driving from North Carolina, heading to Texas for the wedding of their oldest sister.  In Georgia they were hit by another vehicle and were spun under a semi.  If that truck had had underride guards perhaps the girls would not have been killed.  Did you know that every industrialized country in the world has underride guards on their semi trucks?  But not the United States.    Next time you’re driving next to a semi glance over and see where that underside of that trailer would hit you in a crash.  Even a crash that you didn’t cause.

Think about that.  It doesn’t have to be your fault and you can still die.  Family and friends can still die.  Truck companies don’t want to put protection on their vehicles to save lives of people in cars.  They don’t think it’s their responsibility.  They don’t want to incur the costs.  It’s all about profit.  But who is really paying for their profit?  You and I and our families are paying that cost.  Every single day.

OK.  I’ll get off the soapbox now.  Please, just go to this site and read a little bit.  Sign the petition that we plan to take to Secretary of Transportation Foxx in May, one year after AnnaLeah and Mary died.  We want to convince him to join us in the fight on three issues:

1.  Increase the minimum insurance truck companies have to carry to cover the damage to families involved in crashes with them.  It hasn’t been raised in 30 years.

2.  Get the electronic onboard recorders implemented to keep drivers from cheating on their logbooks and driving longer hours than allowed.

3.  Act to improve the safety of trucks by requiring better underride guards.

Even if you can’t listen to AnnaLeah and Mary’s Mom talk about her girls and the trip across country that ended not in a family wedding but in family tragedy, take a moment to read to the end to find out what else you can do to help.  And think about these two beautiful kids next time you’re on the road driving behind or beside or in front of a semi.  Think about these kids and convince yourself it’s not your problem.

I dare you.


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