Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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How music heals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI heard a piece on news radio during my commute to work Tuesday morning about how upbeat music helps sad people feel better and calm music helps settle people who are stressed; how music can be used in any number of problem situations to make things better.  True I thought.

True.

And I hoped at that evening’s concert we would be able to deliver a bit of fun, maybe even a bit of relaxation to our audience.   We’d be playing Halloween music, things like March of the Trolls by Grieg, Shadow Rituals by Markowski, and The Fortune Tellers Daughter by Gorham.  Mostly fun stuff, mostly things we could play if we paid attention, though Shadow Rituals was a toss up.  We’d made it through that piece, from start to finish, for the first time at  last week’s rehearsal.  There were no guarantees we could do it again.  On the other hand, as people who listened to it played by professionals have said, “Who would really know if you made a mistake?”

Good point.

We were all dressed in costumes for the concert, a bit of freedom from the normal black concert attire.  Lots of people went all out and were unrecognizable; a purple telatubby, a vampire, the tallest leprechaun trombone player I’ve ever seen.  (The photos here are from last year, I forgot to take a camera this year!)   I just added a big tie and a clown hat to my normal workaday outfit.  I figured some of my customers take us for underwriting clowns anyway so it was fitting.

I’d started the morning with a headache, a bit of a sore throat, and a sense of being light headed.  By afternoon my eyes were itching and I couldn’t stop sneezing.  “Great,” I thought.  Just what I need.  All I wanted to do after work was drive home and climb into bed.  Then I got to the concert venue.  Sniffles disappeared, eyes cleared up.  Headache?  Gone.

And that was even before we began to play.

I think the audience had fun.  We got a standing ovation from most of the audience when we finished.  Maybe they were just glad we were done.  Or maybe they’re our relatives.  Or both.  But I think they had fun.  But not as much fun as we had playing.  I’ve always said, and I’ll say it again, it’s much more fun to be the one playing then the one listening.  Even when listening is pretty darn good.

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Our sound engineer forgot to turn on the recording equipment until after the third piece, so we played the first three over again at the end of the concert.  Most people stayed to hear them again, and turns out we played them better the second time.  We had a blast doing it. Tuesday night the news piece on the radio proved to be true.  Music is what’s good for you.

And for me.

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Walktober

 

I was going to take you on a walk somewhere exotic.  Far from here.  Somewhere different.  I had maps out and was studying locations.  But then I discussed it with the dog.  Katie said she wanted to show you her little park.  And Katie, being a princess, is used to getting what she wants.  So come along while Katie and I show you the local park where you can often find us on a pretty weekend afternoon.

The park is not very big, but it has a lovely pond where you sometimes see people fishing.  Today we had it all to ourselves.  Katie likes to pose near the blue water.  If there are treats involved of course.  (You can click on the photos to see more detail.)

See?  This is my pond!

See? This is my pond!

It was a pretty afternoon, getting late in the day, stretching our shadows as we made our way to the back of the park where they mow a path around the perimeter.

Enjoying a warm October afternoon.

Enjoying a warm October afternoon.

The sun also made the milkweed seeds glow as a stiff wind began to pull at the silky strands.

 

Soft.

Soft.

My favorite part of the park are these golden trees at the very back.  I always love the way they show against the sky, whether the sky is blue like today or stone grey as fall acquiesces to winter.

Gold in the sky.

Gold in the sky.

The mowed path is just about a mile and Katie and I work a little bit on her distracted recall.  It’s an important skill to have; she comes running even when distracted by good smells if I call her sharply.

I love to run & I get treats too!  Win win!

I love to run & I get treats too! Win win!

She loves this game, because she knows the faster she gets to me the sooner she gets a bit of cheese.  This automatic reaction is necessary in an emergency and we work on it a little every time we’re in the park.

We keep wandering, and pass another pond, filled with wildlife.  I saw two kingfishers chase each other from the top of a tree near us off across the pond.  No photo of that, but it was fun to see and hear.  Across this pond, filled with ducks and other waterbirds you can see the township offices including the library.

See the library way over there?

See the library way over there?

I feel lucky we have such a wonderful natural place surrounding our library.  You can sit inside and read while enjoying the lovely views through big windows.  It’s one of my favorite places.

We’re lucky to have a place where we can walk among wetlands and towering trees in all seasons, in all sorts of weather.

Fall just makes a person smile.

Fall just makes a person smile.

Every time we’re there we find something beautiful.  Just look at the trees shine across the big field of tall grass.

Up in the front of the park are four softball diamonds.  Katie likes to walk around them too.

This big green area is fun to explore too!

This big green area is fun to explore too!

You never know when someone might have dropped something good there.  Always looking, that’s my girl.

Thanks for coming along on our Walktober!  And thanks to Robin too who coordinates the posts from all of our walks.  Katie and I wouldn’t have gotten out today without her motivation.   And we had such a good time!

We hope you did too!

Another perfect day at my park!

Another perfect day at my park!

 

 

 

 


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Ten years

Ten years stretches forever and yet  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.

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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.

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