Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Ten years

Ten years is a long time and yet ten years is nothing more than the blink of an eye.  2014 is the tenth anniversary of my parents’ deaths; family members and I have been working on truck issues for 9 of those years to honor dad who died 5 months after mom.  After that much time you’d think I’d be able to tell the story easily, without emotion, just the facts.  That I’d be able to get my point across without having to wear waterproof mascara.  Sometimes I can.  Sometimes I am surprised to feel that familiar catch in my throat.

It happened to me at the truck company meeting two weeks ago today.  Half way through that day it became evident that not everyone sitting around the table knew our story so we were asked to give the brief version.  I wasn’t worried about telling it, I’ve told it a hundred times in all sorts of situations.  But I found I could only get the first sentence out….”My dad was driving to the airport early in the morning on December 23, 2004 when he slowed for a prior accident ahead…and was hit from behind by a semi whose driver said he fell asleep.”

And then my throat closed down and I had to take a moment.  The moment seemed long as everyone waited quietly for me to continue.  And I couldn’t.  The head of safety at the truck company who knows our story finished it for me.  I sat silent wondering what in the world had happened.

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  It’s been ten years.  I’ve been telling people who have lost loved ones to semi crashes, families in earlier stages of grief, that it gets better.  That it will never be OK, but it won’t always be as bad as it is in the first years.  I’ve been promising them that it would get easier.  Because it does, really, it isn’t always a dark cloud hanging over, it doesn’t always invade every minute of every day.  After awhile grief just catches you by surprise, like it did me that Wednesday in a conference room far from home.

I think what happened to me that day is that I stopped being angry.  Here I was working toward a shared goal of safe roads with a huge truck company.  They pride themselves on their safety programs and they’ve gone beyond any rules and regulations, taken up safety rules on their own, made their goal zero preventable fatalities.  So I wasn’t angry when I was in those meetings.  I wasn’t indigent, I wasn’t outraged.  And when angry and outrage is taken away all I have left is sad.

I think sad will stick around forever.  Sad is a very big place, it stretches ahead as far as I can see, as wide as the Great Lakes, as high as the furthest star.  And while it doesn’t surround me every minute, doesn’t cloud every thought, doesn’t prejudice every experience, it is always just around the corner.

Sad waits to surprise me.

I don’t want those other families to know this.  I want them to have hope for an easier day.  There are families I care deeply about that are only four years into this journey.  They feel like they’re on an unrelenting treadmill, a treadmill set on a very high incline.  Every day is a struggle and they don’t know how they can go on feeling the way they do.   I want them to know it will get better.

But there will always be sad.

I know that most of you will tell me how strong you think I am, and how what we’re doing is saving lives, and thank me for the work.  And I appreciate that, every bit of it.  I know that what we do is important.  But it’s also important, I think, to recognize sadness when it comes.  And to let it just be.

I guess what I have to share with families right now is that sad is OK.  Sad is here, will always be here, there’s no fighting it.  But that the rest of us riding along on the same journey are here too.  And you don’t have to be in the sad place by yourself unless that’s what’s right for you.   We’re here if you need us.  Sad is around, but so are all of us.  If you need a hug, real or virtual just let us know.  I know some of you are facing your anniversary this week.  We’re with you.  Hang in there.  It gets better.

It gets better, I promise it does, even though today I’m feeling a little sad.


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My mama owed me

Katie here!  I think it’s been a bazillion years since mama has let me write on her blog!  That’s because she went away for a hundred million days and I had to go to doggie camp.  She thinks it’s a doggie camp  but it’s not like real camping and I should know!  We don’t get to sleep in tents or sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya.  Mama is just fooling herself.

Peep's mom, Peep and me!

Peep’s mom, Peep and me!

But I digress.  Mama owed me big time for that long camp stay and so she set up a play date for me and Peep!

Meet my friend Peep!

Meet my friend Peep!

You remember Peep, right?  She’s a Swedish Vallhund and she and I like to go on long walks in the woods.  We let our mamas come along too.  Mostly because they drive better than us.  And because they have treats.

Did someone say treats?

Did someone say treats?

So anyway, we went to the park that Peep’s mom showed us last fall!  My mama and I have been going there a lot, and we wanted to show Peep the trail we’ve been walking on.  It is really pretty right now with all the fallen leaves!

Strolling along enjoying the fall colors.

Strolling along enjoying the fall colors.

We had a beautiful day, sunny and pretty warm, but not too warm, you know what I mean?  Too warm is not good, because a princess (like me) doesn’t want to sweat in front of her subjects.    If I, the princess, get too warm then everyone is going to have to deal with me, and it’s not pretty I tell you!

Mama kept trying to get a picture of the two of us together but we weren’t very interested in sitting nicely beside each other.  We like each other and all, but it seemed like a waste of a good day in the woods to sit there quietly when there was so much stuff to smell!

This is silly.

This is silly.

But finally we sat sort of near each other.  Then my mama called “COME!” and I took off running toward her.

 

Coming mama!

Coming mama!

Notice how good Peep is?  She didn’t move a muscle because it wasn’t HER mom that called!

You've got cheese...right?

You’ve got cheese…right?

I just kept going toward my mama cause I knew I’d get a treat (and I had seen her cut up that cheese before we left, I haven’t had cheese in a really long time and I wanted to get to her before Peep found out she had anything good!).

 

TREATS!!!

TREATS!!!

Then Peep’s mom called and Peep got to run over there for a treat too!  We are both very good girls, and nobody tries to grab anyone’s treat.

Got anything good mom?

Got anything good mom?

We had a really awesome time and we got to walk a very long way.  I personally think our mamas were lost, but they’ll never admit it.  We didn’t care, that just meant we got more time in the woods.  We had fun running around.

Running off some excess treats.

Running off some extra treats.

I’m pretty sure Peep is sleeping now….I know I’m going to take a little nap myself.  When we got home I had to get brushed some more…I guess I had a few hundred burs in my fur.  I was good about that too, even when my mama said stuff like “oh dear” and “I’m getting the sissors” I didn’t worry too much.  It’s all worth it just to have time in the woods with my mama and Peep and her mom.

Stylin

Stylin

I hope we get to do it again, but it’s probably not going to be until next spring cause it’s hunting season around here now.  I look a lot like a deer don’t you know.  A very fashionable deer, but a deer none the less.  So we’ll probably stick to my little park for awhile.

I think I should invite Peep over to do my park, don’t you?

Peep ....a very good girlfriend!

Peep ….a very good girlfriend!


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Lighthouses and waterfalls Part II

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the last installment of vacation photos.  Those of you on Facebook have already seen where we were on Monday, our last day of vacation, but to keep my blog complete I’ll show you again!

Monday we were still in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so we stopped by Tahquamenon Falls State Park.  We were only going to take a quick look, but it was so beautiful we couldn’t keep our visit brief.

Early in the morning there was still a mist over the water down by the lower falls.

Misty morning.

Misty morning.

Of course we had to stop and enjoy that view…then we wandered down the boardwalk to get up close and personal with the river.  If any of you have been here in the summer you know that people row boats over to the island in the middle of the river and play on the big flat rocks.  Last Monday the roar of the water made even the thought of playing in the river impossible.

No playing on these rocks!

No playing on these rocks!

Like every waterfall we saw last week the water flow was much more than normal for this time of year.  We stood there mesmerized for a long time.

Eventually we headed over to the upper falls, where you can stand on a platform right at the edge and watch the water rush by your feet.

Falling into fall.

Falling into fall.

Isn’t it beautiful?   You can also go down 116 steps to the river…

Start counting!

Start counting!

…and get another stunning view.

Incredible!

Incredible!

Now we were really behind schedule, but we wanted to see one more lighthouse in the UP…and it wasn’t that far away, so after we climbed back up the stairs we popped over to the Point Iroquis lighthouse.  Meet the man lucky enough to live in this one…

 

Telling us the history.

Telling us the history.

…and his cat Ziggy.

Ziggy the mouser!

Ziggy the mouser!

It’s a beautiful lighthouse sitting right on the shore of Lake Superior, built in 1870.  Part of it is a private residence, and part of it is a museum.

It's a beautiful location.

It’s a wonderful location.

You can go up in the tower for free; here’s one of the many beautiful views:

Commercial fisherman out there.

Commercial fisherman out there.

Then, reluctantly, we headed south for home.  That included a foggy trip across the Mackinac Bridge, always a thrill regardless of the weather….

5 miles of bridge.

5 miles of bridge.

…and a stop in Mackinaw City which has the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse…

Lighthouse and bridge combo.

Lighthouse and bridge combo.

…and believe it or not, just two miles up the road the McGullpin lighthouse, built in 1868 and privately owned from 1913 to 2008.

 

Another gem.

Another gem.

It’s a beautiful little lighthouse with a view from the tower of the bridge.  Don’t miss this one if you’re ever up in the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula!  I didn’t know it was there, and it’s only been open for a few years.  They take donations, but you can go up in the tower for free.

By now it was late in the day and we still had hours of drive ahead of us to get home.  No more dawdling, I had to be at work in the morning.  So we headed for the freeway and hurried home.  We’ve been home all week and I’m still missing ‘up north.’

Till the next trip I’ll just have to enjoy the memories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 


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WordPress photo challenge: Refraction

Photography is all about light and this week’s challenge speaks directly to that.  Here’s a definition of refraction that seemed to gel with my choice of photographs:  “The fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.”

 

Flying through refracted light.

Flying through refracted light.

I took this during our recent trip through Wisconsin, looking out over Lake Michigan early in the morning on our first day of vacation.

You can see other interpretations of refraction by going to the original post.  Or stop by here, here, here, and here for a few of my favorites.  I’m pretty early posting for this challenge…so if you stop by  the original post later in the week I bet you’ll see even more wonderful examples.

In fact you might have something perfect for this challenge yourself!  You have all week (until next Friday when there will be a new challenge) to post something!  I look forward to seeing what you have!

Enjoy the light!

 

 


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The truth behind the trip

We enjoyed sharing our trip around Lake Michigan with you through photos here on this blog and on Facebook.  It was a lot of fun exploring new places, revisiting places we used to work and live, spending a tiny bit of time with friends from long ago.  Mostly it was good to get away and explore.

But that’s not the reason we went.

As most of you know I volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), a nonprofit group that works on safety issues surrounding commercial trucks.  We work through Congress and the agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Most of us have family members that were killed or injured in crashes with commercial trucks and those experiences inspire us to work hard to make our roads safer.

Last week members of my family and I, along with the Executive Director of TSC and a member of another family who has also been forever changed by a truck crash, spent the day at a huge trucking company learning about their safety procedures, their plans for future safety enhancements and their feelings about the issues we’ve been working on.  They invited us to come visit their facilities and talk, to see which issues we agree on and what we might be able to  work on together for the good of everyone –  to make our roads safer.

Imagine that.

A giant in the industry invited us, a group of hurting, stubborn, sometimes angry individuals who have no ties to trucking except through tragedy, to sit at their table and talk with them.  They listened to us,  expressed concern and empathy, and then told us how they are approaching safety and answered our questions as we tried to familiarize ourselves with their side of the issues.

Unprecedented.

We won’t be able to agree on everything.  These are complicated issues; electronic monitoring, rules about hours of service, minimum liability insurance increases, maximum size and weight challenges, even how drivers are paid.  But the more we talk the better the odds are for positive change.

TSC has worked with Congress and made some advances.  We’ve worked with the DOT and made some advances.  And now we’re working with a part of the trucking industry.  Maybe this is another front, an untapped resource.  We’ve not anti-trucking as some would like to portray us.   We remind people that truck drivers die too.  We’re working for safer trucking, for the good of everyone.

As a group we need to explore every avenue to safety.  I am glad we got the invitation, and I’m glad I went.  I learned a lot.  I saw compassion and humanity on the ‘other side’ and realized once again that we’re all in this together.  I know that no one individual, no one group, no one truck company can make it all right.

But together we can make it better.

We do it one day, one rule, one law, one truck company at a time.  We do it in honor of those we loved and lost, in honor of the hundreds of thousands of injured.  In honor of all of them we work for change.  This time change began in a meeting room of a large truck company and this change is good.

And that’s why we went.  Miss you Dad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 


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Lighthouses and Waterfalls: Part I

I know you just can’t get enough lighthouses and waterfalls are always a favorite, so here’s how we spent Sunday in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along Lake Superior’s shore.  Sit down…this might take a bit of time.

On our way out of the Copper Country we stopped in Marquette, one of the largest towns in the UP.  There we saw the Marquette lighthouse.

Pretty in pink?

Pretty in pink.

It was built in 1866 and is the oldest building in Marquette.  There’s a tour available, but we had so much to see that day we decided not to wait.  We’ll be through Marquette again, and it’s now on our list of things to do on the next trip.

The museum there has a few retired Coast Guard boats out front, and I’m putting this photo in just for friend Michelle who is retired from the Coast Guard.

The stories they could tell!

The stories they could tell!

These guys have seen better days, but still, they’re being recognized for their work keeping the waterways safe, so it’s all good.

Then as we were passing through Munising we stopped for a quick visit to Miners Falls.

Falling water in the fall.

Falling water in the fall.

We and about 30 of our closest friends walked the short walkway back to the falls and shot the obligatory picture.  Then husband and I climbed stairs and shot one that was more interesting.  There is a lot of water falling over the cliff, unusual for this time of year, which made it especially pretty.

Onward we went, heading east across the top of the UP to the Au Sable Light Station, located way out on an isolated point of land near Grand Marais.  This is, perhaps, my favorite lighthouse, both because it’s beautiful and because it’s so isolated.  As early as 1622 this bit of land was called the most dangerous place for ships during storms because of reefs just offshore.  To get to the lighthouse, after you drive miles through beautiful countryside, you walk down a 1.5 mile path along the shore of Lake Superior.

Walking...walking...walking.

Walking…walking…walking.

We had a beautiful day and enjoyed listening to the quiet little waves roll against the shore just feet from our path and the golden light streaming in through the fall colors.  But still, the 1.5 miles seemed like more.  And then finally, finally you could just catch a glimpse.  Do you see it?

Almost there!

Almost there!

It’s a window and a bit of the tower.  And as you move closer, and then explore the grounds you see what a wonderful building it is.

One light keeper and 2 assistants lived here.

One light keeper and 2 assistants lived here.

And inside the rooms were huge,  painted as they would have been in 1910, with wonderful views of the lake outside the many windows.

Beautiful angles.

Interesting angles.

 

We stayed there a long time, and not just because we were resting up from the 1.5 mile hike in and the 94 stairs up to the top of the tower (where you could see views like this!)…or the thought of the 1.5 mile hike back to the car.

View toward Grand Marais.  They used to walk there for groceries.

View toward Grand Marais. They used to walk there for groceries.

Really.  It was just that it was so beautiful there.

We eventually had to move on…we wanted to get to Whitefish Point for sunset…many miles to the east.  But first we stopped at Sable Falls, a waterfall quite close to the lighthouse.  The information we had said the walk to the falls was only 500 yards from the parking lot.  We knew we could do that, though we were stiffening up on the drive over there.

It is an absolutely beautiful waterfall!

Once again, lots of water for October.

Once again, lots of water for October.

They apparently didn’t think it was important to mention the 166 steps you needed to climb down in order to see this wonderful waterfall.  Or the 166 steps you had to drag yourself back up after.

101...102...103....

101…102…103….

But we made it, and lived to laugh all 500 yards back to the car.

Now we had to really hurry to get out to Whitefish Point, along the eastern edge of the UP, up at the top, it’s near where the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a November storm in 1975.

We arrived as the sun was sinking, the evening was warm, the light was pink.

Beach walking.

Beach walking.

Sunday night the lake was deceptively calm and as we waited for the sunset we watched another freighter pass silently by.

Huge.

Huge.

We walked maybe a half a mile or more down the beach, clambering over logs tossed to shore during past storms and slipping on smooth Superior polished stones as we chased the sun.  We must have taken hundreds of pictures of the sky filled with peach and pink and then orange light.  I’ll share just one.  You can imagine the rest.

Sigh...

Sigh…

After the sun went down and the freighter slipped over the horizon we picked our way through the growing darkness to the car.

And we smiled.

Imported Photos 01864

 

 

 


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Keweenaw Peninsula

 

Today's adventure begins.

Today’s adventure begins.

All you map lovers out there know the Keweenaw Peninsula is that finger of land that juts out into Lake Superior from the northwestern edges of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Right?  Of course right!

I used to live there way back in the early 80’s and I’ve only been back a couple of times in all the years since.  So it was wonderful to spend a day exploring a few of my favorite places Saturday.  Want to see some?  I have so many photos, but I’ll try to keep myself reigned in.

Houghton/Hancock lift bridge.

Houghton/Hancock lift bridge.

It won’t be easy.

Quincy mine at sunset.

Quincy mine at sunset.

For starters the area was once a copper mining mecca.  In fact more than 100 years ago the state of Michigan considered making a town in the Keweenaw the state capital!  Today most of the mines are at best turned into tours and at worse abandoned.  Friday night we had dinner with friends from the olden days, on the top floor of a hotel with a beautiful view across the canal of some of the old mine buildings.

Restored historic buildings.

Restored historic buildings.

Saturday morning we headed north, up the peninsula.  First stop was the snow thermometer.  What is a snow thermometer you ask?

HOW much snow??

HOW much snow??

The winter of 1978/79 the area had record snowfall…390.4 inches! (that’s 991.6 centimeters).  The thermometer shows you how high the snow would have been had it all fallen at once.  You can also see the arrow up near the top that shows what last year’s snowfall was.  It didn’t beat the record, but it was a lot of snow!

We continued north all the way to the tip of the Keweenaw and visited Fort Wilkins, an historic site with beautifully restored buildings and displays.

Fort Wilkins..I snowshoed through here 30 years ago.

Fort Wilkins..I snowshoed through here 30 years ago.

Then we headed back down the western coast of the peninsula and saw the Copper Harbor Lighthouse…

Copper Harbor Lighthouse.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse.

…and the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse…

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.

…where we got to go inside and imagine what life would be like as a light keeper.

 

What a view!

What a view!

Then we drove up Brockway Mountain for a view of the fall color, the blue of Lake Superior and interior lakes.

You can see forever.

You can see forever.

Lots of beautiful color everywhere up there!

Taking pictures.

Taking pictures.

It’s really indescribable.  You’ll have to make the trip for yourselves someday…my pick for you would be a perfect October day, just like we had.

Copper Harbor from Brockway Mountain.

Copper Harbor from Brockway Mountain.

Three magical things happened on Saturday while we were in the “Copper Country.”  We saw three bald eagles; one in a tree, one flying over Eagle Harbor, and one from the kitchen window of the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.   We had dinner with a friend I’ve known for more than 35 years, and her husband.  And on our way back to the hotel Saturday we saw a beautiful shooting star.

I love the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Yes I do.

I left my heart in the Copper Country.

I left my heart in the Copper Country.

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