Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.



I ran across this documentary today, and though I can’t say I identify with every person in it, and I don’t necessarily think the government is deliberately creating fear and demanding that we buy more stuff for some evil purpose, I do identify with those in this piece that value their freedom enough to learn to live with less in order to enjoy it.

I recognize that everyone has different dreams and that sometimes practicality wins over any dreams at all.  But I don’t think a person should give up on the dream, and in the end that’s what this documentary is all about.

It’s 50 minutes, and for me the best parts were scattered throughout.   If you’ve got the time, watch.  And then think about what stuff you would be willing to  live without if you could trade all your stuff for the ability to do what you love every day.

Even if what you love doesn’t include living in a van off the grid in the wilderness.



The Fitbit saga

While we were in Green Bay visiting the big truck company the executive in charge of safety  kept parking a long way away from various destinations.  He said he was doing that to accumulate more steps.  We probably looked confused, so he fished out of his pocket this little black electronic thing that tracks his steps, the number of flights of stairs he climbs and other things that add to his activity levels.  He said he knew it was silly but he liked to see how active he could be.  I asked how many steps he usually took in any given day.  He said somewhere between 10,000 and 13,000 depending on his schedule.


He talked about discipline in several meetings that we attended.  He’s retired military so he knows a thing or two about discipline and it’s a hallmark of his management style.  He says it takes discipline to follow safety rules every time, every day, every mile driven.  It takes discipline to make sure you get enough sleep before you begin your driving shift.  It takes discipline to pull off and rest when you’ve reached the maximum hours of service allowed.  It even takes discipline to call in when you know you’re not fit, for whatever reason, to drive.

I liked that concept, and I admired him for recognizing and taking care of himself even if it just meant parking far away from the lunch reservations on a cold windy day when it would have been more comfortable to park next to the door.  I’ve parked out at the end of the parking lot at work for years for exactly the same reason.  Sometimes it’s the only exercise I get aside from walking the stairs up to my 4th floor desk.  But I had no idea how many steps I walked in any given day.

So I bought myself a little black electronic Fitbit.  The first day I tossed it in my pocket and didn’t think about it till I got home.  Lounging on the couch I pulled it out and realized that in an entire day I had only walked a little over 2800 steps.  Sure I climbed 8 flights of stairs.  But still.  I handed it over to my husband for inspection and that’s the last I thought about it that night.

In the morning I looked for it on the coffee table, on the dresser, up in the cubbyhole in the kitchen where I keep my work badge.  It was nowhere to be found.  I searched the pockets in my pants, checked under the couch, and finally gave up as time was ticking and I was going to be late for work.

Well darn.

That night I searched some more to no avail.  It was garbage day the next day and husband put the garbage out after I went to bed.  In the morning I hauled the garbage back from the curb and went through all the stinky bags just in case the Fitbit got caught up in newspapers or magazines or who knows what.  No luck.

So I figured it was really lost and I was bummed.  How wass it possible to lose something without even getting up from the couch?  I felt old.  I had no recollection of getting it back from my husband.  He had no recollection of what he did with it after he looked at it either.  I swear we need someone to follow us around and pick up stuff we leave laying around in random places.   Later in the week I got a Fitbit update in my email.  It said it hadn’t been used since the previous Monday and it had a sad face to make me feel even worse.

My husband must have felt bad too because he went out and bought me a new one!  Over the weekend he was entering the new data into their website, getting me all set up to get back to work when he noticed there was a way to see if the Fitbit was syncing with the laptop.  And as he watched it did.  The website said that if you lost the Fitbit (apparently I am not the only senile Fitbit owner out there) you could take your phone or your laptop around to places it might be and check to see if it synced.  And if it did it would be within 15 feet.   The laptop was sitting on the coffee table.  Right next to the couch.  We looked at each other and started to laugh.

Then we tore the couch apart.

In addition to the fork and the spoon and several really gross pieces of random crud there was a little black electronic thing between the cushions.  Resting I guess, getting ready to count steps and flights of stairs and calories used.  Back into my pocket it went.  Sunday Katie and I walked over 5000 steps.   (She says she knows she had that many because wherever I go she goes.  Naturally.)   Today, back at my desk it’s down a couple thousand.  Obviously I sit too much at work, but isn’t it good to have that gut feeling validated with real numbers?  And I did 11 flights of stairs today.

So far.  There’s a load of laundry in the basement just calling my name.

That’s my Fitbit saga.  I’m going to try not to put it in the laundry or lose it in a restaurant or the couch cushions again.  I’m going to try to install some discipline and get my feet moving.  Even when I’m at work.  I’ll be interested in finding where I can add steps in my daily life.  I bet it won’t be that hard.

But 10,000 to 13,000 steps a day?  Now that’s going to take some real discipline.



FedEx and all of us

Photo credit Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Photo credit Wyoming Tribune Eagle

In Wyoming last Saturday three innocent people died when a FedEx truck crossed the median and hit their minivan.    While the initial story indicated two people in the van died, a subsequent article, which describes those killed as involved in their community, shared the sad news that a third person, the son of the woman, died as well.

Does this sound familiar?

I bet most of us have forgotten all about the crash last spring in California where a FedEx truck crossed the median and hit a tour bus filled with college students.  At least ten were killed including both drivers.  The NTSB still hasn’t issued a report telling us what caused that crash, though they shared a report earlier on the sequence of events.  And at the time there were lots of heartbreaking stories about the individuals who were killed and injured and how they and their families were coping.  When ten people are killed in a senseless crash in California it’s a big story. But still, we all forget as soon as the next big story comes along.

It’s inevitable.

Internet photo by Lockett

Internet photo by  Jeremy Lockett

So when only three people die in a remote state like Wyoming there’s little press.  Not so much national coverage.  It’s not headline news.  And when one person dies here, another one there, over time and across 50 states, no one notices at all.

Except those of us that have been there.

And when it’s the same company that has killed innocents we sit up and take extra notice.  FedEx warrants some of our attention, some research.  I know people will say that it’s early and we don’t know the cause of this latest crash in Wyoming.  That we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  But it has been proven that a driver involved in one crash, regardless of fault, has a bigger probability of being involved in another.  Logically that is because a person involved in a crash, even one not their fault, may be a less observant driver, perhaps not as defensive, as someone paying more attention who might have been able to avert disaster given the same circumstances.   I can extrapolate on this theory to assume that a company that has been involved in one fatal crash has a larger probability of being involved in another fatal crash, perhaps due to the culture of the organization.

What’s the culture at FedEx?

I’m not the only one wondering what’s going on.  Turns out others are investigating their safety record.  And included in the article are some numbers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration comparing FedEx and other carriers.  Notice the 3.8 crashes per 100 drivers for FedEx compared to 1.74 crashes per 100 drivers for UPS.  Makes you wonder doesn’t it.  And don’t you doubly wonder when you realize that FedEx is one of the large shippers lobbying hard to get longer and heavier trucks approved to travel on all our roads?

The holiday season is upon us.  More and more packages will be shipped and companies like FedEx will be busier and under more stress to get your baubles and gifts shipped faster then ever.  We all leave holiday shopping to the last minute.  We all want instant gratification.  We all want that next day delivery.  And so we all contribute to the culture of pushing drivers to go faster and further just to make our dreams come true.

Let’s just stop.

Let’s shop locally.  And early.  Or send gift cards from your family’s favorite local store.  Let’s not demand instant delivery.  Let’s spend more time with our families and less time shopping.  And while we’re doing that let’s remember the families and survivors of the crashes in California and Wyoming, and all the other crash victims we haven’t even heard about.  Let’s remember that they are going to face their first holidays in what is their new normal.  Let’s be thankful for what we have while we remember those we’ve lost.  Let’s never stop working toward fixing this problem, investigating those responsible, and supporting those hurting.  Let’s not forget.  Ever.

And maybe, just maybe, let’s not use FedEx until they can understand that profit over safety is unsustainable.




A simple thank you

Great Lakes National Cemetary

Great Lakes National Cemetery

Today was Veterans Day; the eleventh day of the eleventh month and designated by President Wilson in 1919 as a day to honor those who have given so much so that we here in the United States remain free.

It was a day for all of us to say thank you to those who have served our country in the military.

Flowers amid the stones.

Flowers amid the stones.

Over hills and across farmland, not far from where I live, is the Great Lakes National Cemetery.  It sits on over 500 acres, was opened in 2005 and is the final resting place for thousands, and someday hundreds of thousands, of veterans and their spouses.  The numbers, even now, are staggering and very visual as you look across row after row of white marble headstones.  You can become lost in the vastness of it.

Thousands of souls.

Thousands of souls.

Or you can stop and wander, read a few of the names and messages found there.

Wandering and reading.

Wandering and reading.

Each stone honors an individual, a veteran yes, but also a person.  A person that had a life outside the military, someone who laughed with family, hung out with friends, traveled, went fishing.

Sometimes the story on the headstone is simple.

Pearl Harbor survivor.

Pearl Harbor survivor.

And sometimes it gives you just a tiny glimpse of the person who once walked this earth.

Animal lover.

Animal lover.

So many of the stones reminds you how short life can be.  How short it was for so many.

Imported Photos 00052

While we were out there we had something of a flyover.  Five sand hill cranes flew in formation directly overhead, crying their own version of a patriotic melody.

In formation.

In formation.

It seemed fitting.

Today was Veterans Day.  But really, shouldn’t we honor those who serve our country every day?  Tomorrow, the day after Veterans Day, take a moment and thank a veteran.  Smile at them.  Shake their hand.  Buy them a cup of coffee.

This WW II veteran understood the truth.

This WW II veteran understood the truth.

Make someone’s day.  And yours.

Let's not forget.

Let’s not forget.

Just say thank you.

Imported Photos 00032



WordPress challenge: minimalist take II

I wandered about today, camera in hand, even though the sky was mostly uninteresting.  The leaves, once colored, are long gone, the crops nearly gone as well.  The landscape was brown.  And gray.  Drab.

But that works for what I was looking for; minimalism in the country.

I honestly think the concept of a minimalistic photograph fits more into an urban setting, at least in my mind, but I wanted to see if I could show you the vast expanses of farm country here in mid-Michigan.  And see if I could convince myself that minimalism can have a country side as well.

I found a few interesting things, but so many seemed busy, cluttered.  I like filling the frame when I’m on a photo hunt, so it was hard to look for negative spaces, to leave part of the frame empty.  I’ll show you some of the shots that didn’t make the minimalist cut, but when I came across this I had to capture it.

harvest time

It’s the end of the harvest here, and the white truck parked and being filled with shucked corn by the harvester in the middle of nowhere just struck me.  The muted colors, the empty field.  It all shouted to be noticed.

So I did.

You can see other photographers’ minimalistic offerings here and here.   Go.  Enjoy.  Spread your arms in all the space.   You can see all of photos by going to the original post.

And give it a try yourself.  No matter where you are you can find something minimal and interesting if you look.

Even way out in the country.



WordPress Photo Challenge – Minimalist

The concept of a minimalist photo is simple.  You might even say minimal.  It should contain a large amount of negative space and a somewhat monochromatic color scheme.  And if you can, it should tell a story.    This morning we woke to our first significant snow, so large parts of our world were monochromatic; I found this right outside my front door.

Imported Photos 01885

I’m not sure this is totally correct, I don’t see negative space for example.  I’m hoping to get out tomorrow to search for another example.  But you never know about tomorrow, so I’ll put this out there for now.  You can see other examples of minimalist photography here, here, here and here.  And especially this one.  Or go to the original link and read all about it, then look at the hundreds of submissions attached.

Meanwhile I’ll enjoy looking for another bit of minimalism.  You can too.  I’d enjoy seeing what you come up with!


Walking away

Northport 2008 036

Maybe you’ve heard the news story about the man in Denver that went to a football game and disappeared at halftime, leaving behind his friends and his stepson.  He’d worked for the friends who took him to the game for years and they called him ‘reliable’ and said he’d never disappear on his own.

Turns out he walked away – walked over 100 miles south.  There are lots of questions now and perhaps we’ll never know why he did what he did.  I’m sure people are assuming there are mental issues because no sane adult just walks away from family, friends, job, life.  Right?

But let’s be honest.

Who among us hasn’t wanted to do what he did, to walk away, drive away, somehow slip into another life.  Surely I am not alone.  Aren’t there other people out there, approaching the freeway for the early morning commute,  who are pulled, almost physically, toward the entrance ramp heading the other way?  And who, when driving back to work after lunch hasn’t dreamed of going right on by the building?  Haven’t you ever wanted to slide away from adult responsibilities, bills, home repairs, even vet visits and yard work?  Haven’t you wanted to ride off into the sunset without thought about the reality of whatever is just beyond the horizon?

So, though I assume this particular adventurer has a big issue, maybe mental, maybe otherwise, I have to give him a bit of credit.  He wanted to go and he did.  Irresponsible?  Certainly.  Unfair?  Of course.  But still.  Monday morning, if I headed north instead of south, how long would it be before someone noticed I wasn’t where I was supposed to be?  How many hours of freedom would I have before I had to reluctantly head back to real life.

What do you think?  Was he crazy?  Or just done in, fed up, tired and worn out?  And do you ever dream of doing something similar?  I do.

And I bet I’m not alone.

Northport September 2009 001




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