Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Why I go to Washington

I’m packing my bag, getting ready to go to Washington DC for the Sorrow to Strength conference. I’ll be with other families who have lost loved ones to preventable truck crashes and some people who have survived such crashes themselves. It’s five days that we look forward to and dread all at the same time.

It hurts.

Still, if you ask any individual attending, they will tell you straight away that the reason they work to make our roads safer is because they don’t want another family going through the pain and grief they’ve been through. They don’t want another family suffering because of something that is so preventable.

Tonight I’m listening to the 10:00 p.m. news as I zip the suitcase shut. The television is on just for background noise, I’m not paying much attention, more interested in making sure I don’t forget to take something important.

And then I hear the words ‘semi’ and ‘fatal’ and ‘construction zone.’

And I reel around and stand still as the story unfolds. You can read about it here.

There is construction on a stretch of freeway that I travel regularly. Today cars were slowed to merge into the construction zone. A semi lost control and rear ended the cars ahead. Two men are dead. A woman was airlifted in critical condition to a hospital. Doubtless there are other injuries, certainly other people who were terrified.

It’s early yet, and we don’t know the entire story. But regardless of the details the truth is that tonight there are new families facing a long journey through loss and injury. Their worlds have just imploded. A semi running into the back of cars slowing for construction is the definition of a preventable crash. I hope that we can connect with these families when they are ready. Meanwhile, I’ll travel to DC and try to be heard.

Because this is why I go to Washington.


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“Democracy isn’t a spectator sport.”

I’ve had a good winter off, playing on the beach, watching light move across water, sleeping in, napping mid-afternoon. But it’s time to get back to work.

Work!??? You’re right; I’m retired. So what work am I talking about?

There are many of you new here at Change is Hard. You probably haven’t heard me talk about trucks and safety and my family’s story. You probably think my life is all about photography and travel and a special little dog. And sometimes it is.

“You can turn grief into action.”

But sometimes it’s about grief and loss and preventable crashes. And honoring the memory of my dad who was killed in December of 2004 by a tired semi driver who fell asleep at the wheel while going 65 miles per hour on a freeway in the early morning hours. A driver who failed to see the lights of emergency vehicles up ahead, the people working to clear a minor crash that had occurred earlier. A driver that didn’t notice the traffic stopped in front of him. Didn’t see my dad in his little red car until it was too late.

My dad was a guy who lived by safe rules. He had retired ten years earlier from a career managing chemical plants, inherently dangerous places. He made us all wear our life jackets in the boat when we were kids. He drove with us around and around the neighborhood when he taught us how to drive a stick shift car, until he was satisfied we could operate it safely. He helped my sister build her house in Tennessee, complete with extra roof brackets to hold the roof down in a tornado. Just in case. He carried an emergency contact list in his wallet, listing the four kids and spouses with work and home phone numbers. That’s how they knew where to find us after the crash.

“Hope in the face of difficulty.”

So after we got through the initial days filled with disbelief and unbearable grief, when we were moving into sad confusion buffeted by unrelenting grief, we began to ask questions. How did the driver not see all that traffic ahead? Not see all the emergency lights? The road was straight. The sight lines clear. We searched the internet looking for anything about truck crashes.

And we found the Truck Safety Coalition.

It’s an organization made up of the families of people who have been killed or injured in preventable truck crashes. It provides support to families and it works to change the way things are done in the trucking industry. Sometimes that means working to change regulations and laws. Sometimes that means working to change perceptions among people that drive trucks. Sometimes it’s about educating people that drive cars. Sometimes it means meeting with legislators and staff, or truck company executives, or members of other safety groups. Always it means honoring the memories of those we’ve lost, honoring the lives that have been changed forever of those who were injured.

It means trying to save lives

Every other year the families meet in Washington DC for a few days. We tell our stories, we sadly welcome the new families — those whose losses are recent, we talk about issues, resolutions, how to make a difference. And we go to the Hill and talk to everyone we can. Legislators, Regulators, the Press. Everyone. Sometimes they call us the ‘crazy truck people.’ That’s OK with us. Whatever gives attention to our issues.

“Even when you’re 100% right getting things done requires compromise.”

The conference is coming up next month. I can feel the tension escalating among my Truck Safety “family” already. Facebook is abuzz with truck issues. People are becoming stressed. Or depressed. Or hopeful. Or everything all rolled into one. Attending the conference brings it all back again for us. Yet it’s hard to stay away. “It’s like attending the funeral all over again.” says one mother who has been fighting for truck safety for more than twenty-five years.

The title of this post, and the quotes interspersed throughout, are from former President Obama’s July 2016 speech. I wrote a few things he said down on a random piece of paper way back then and that paper has found it’s way back to me this week. As I gear up for a difficult few days in Washington I thought they were appropriate. Hopeful. Democrat, Republican or Independent, the world would be a better place if we could learn to compromise. I’m hoping we find a bit of that during our conference this year.

It’s probably the most I can expect.


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Home is where the sheltie girl lives

Let’s follow that road mama!


Katie here with the last post of my big adventure. Mama did the math (cause my toes don’t work very well on those little calculator keys) — we drove 5,842 miles! And I got to go on every one of ’em! You could say I am a well traveled sheltie-girl.

On our trip back up to Michigan I insisted on taking my dad to the Smoky Mountains. Mama and I visited there when we were stuck in Tennessee way back at the beginning of February. I took dad on my favorite path…

There’s a good smell over here dad!

…and posed with them on a mountain ridge. It was a fun day!

A nice lady took our picture.

Then I took him to see Cumberland Falls. Mama and I went there too, back in February, on a cold day when the spray from the falls was freezing all over the rocks. I had more fun this time when we got to walk around more…

Me and a bridge and the Cumberland River.

…and it wasn’t so darn cold out! The waterfall was huge and the river was full and beautiful.

I was getting tired of being picked up.

The rest of our trip turned out to be rainy and cold, so I didn’t have to put up with mama taking so many pictures. Now we’re home again and mama is doing laundry and cooking and stuff. I’m going to take a nap right after I post this.

I was such a good girl on this adventure. We were gone almost two whole months! I never complained once and was always interested in the new places we visited. I only barked a little bit at the hotels, and I let lots of people pet me. Even better I met lots of great dogs, especially Reilly and Denny in Florida. Mama, Dad and I had a really good time.

The life of luxury.

I’m absolutely positive mama can never top this adventure and I’m going to have to settle for tame visits to my park for awhile, though I know mama has some camping trips planned already.

I guess I better rest up!

Katie signing off for now.


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Busy Princess reports in

Hi all. Princess Katie here. I’ve been way too busy to blog, but mama says I need to keep up with my responsibilities so I’ll give you the short version of what I’ve been up to lately.

As you all know I visited Reilly last month…and then I went over to my lake house for a few weeks, and then my daddy came down to join mama and me and we visited my Aunt and Uncle for a few days.

Me and my guy Reilly!

So…then instead of going home we went back to Florida and I got to spend five more days with my intended Reilly and his brother Denny and their mom! Wow!

Five whole days of running on the beach…

I love running on my beach!

…and walking through the jungle!

It’s a jungle in here!

Mama and daddy and Reilly’s mom went off and looked at forts and zoos and lighthouses and such too…but that’s not important. What is best about this time is I got to spend it with my guy.

One morning we all got up early and went out to the beach to watch the sun rise. I got to run around and mama took pictures of stupid birds. There were some flying really low to the water with their beaks open. Mama thought they were really neat.

Skimmer birds.

And some just stood around a lot. I thought those were much more interesting.

Nobody was out there that early so I got to run a whole lot. I loved running free on the beach!

There was a cool breeze, perfect for a sheltie-princess!

And then another day we went out in the evening when it got cool and played on the beach some more. We watched some big ships go out to sea. I barked at them, as is my right as a Princess.

Watching the ships go out to sea.

Mostly though the three of us hung around waiting for our folks to stop taking pictures of the ships from the seawall.

Whatcha doing up there people?

I don’t know why they were interested in the ships more than us. We three were adorable.

Mama and I ran on the beach again too, until she tried to trick me by running close to where the tide was going out and the sand was really wet. I don’t like getting my feet wet mama! I went and walked with my daddy after that.

Sadly we had to leave, so we drove across a beautiful bridge and headed north.

Mama’s artsy-fartsy bridge image.

But, lucky me, we got to stop along the way and spend a few hours with a friend of mama and daddy’s. She has two beagles! Wow! More doggie friends for me to hang out with!

Me and my new friends!

We all got along just great and we got to go for a long walk.

This has been the best adventure ever, but I think I’m ready to head home now. This hotel living can wear on a girl you know.

This is the good life!

And even a princess needs to return to her castle once in awhile.

Your gal Katie.


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Meandering

Headed out for a day on the lake.


Retirement. What a gift! Here Katie girl and I are wandering without time constraints or obligations.

We’re visiting family…

Riding the waves.

…sleeping in.

Good morning!

Taking lots of pictures of nothing much in particular.

Evening light on azalea.

Exploring places we’ve been many times, and other places we never knew existed.

Morning glow.

We’re watching the weather up north, trying to figure out when we might go home again. There doesn’t seem to be an urgency.

Dangerous dive bombing mockingbird.

Especially when we watch the weather patterns slide across the country full of snow and rain.

Might have to snuggle down here in the South for a bit longer.

Condo living.


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Pictures for my mom

My mom was an artist, she painted and crafted, and back when we were kids she ran a ceramics store and tried to instill in her students bravery to try new things.

I’ve often thought of her during this trip. I’ll shoot something and automatically think ‘mom will like that one.’ Most of these images don’t make it into a blog, because they’re not part of a story. These are just individual shots, not related to each other, that I liked.

Turns out there’s quite a few.

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You’ll notice there’s not a single shot of Katie-girl, and that’s intentional. She gets plenty of blog time, and though she’s certainly beautiful this time it’s all about other pretty things.

I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them. Though that would be hard to do, because I really really enjoyed being in the moment and capturing these beautiful places and things.

And after all, since mom was right there with me, I guess she’s already seen them. That makes me smile.


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Reflections

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Sitting here in the house that dad built I can’t help but keep one eye, sometimes both eyes, on the water.

Sure the lake level is low, as it is every winter, making it difficult to enjoy this huge lake, but just our little part right here is beautiful.

And it’s always changing. The light moves and twinkles and shifts and the water ruffles and calms.

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I have lots of time to sit and reflect as the sun goes down and the shadows lengthen across the slew.

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I wish my parents were here. But the house is still filled with their presence. Not the same of course, as having them physically here.

But not as sad as it was in the beginning.

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Lots of good memories flit through my mind as I watch the water shift in the changing light.

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We’re lucky they left us this place. I think they’re glad we come to visit.

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But I bet they miss us all too.

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Ain’t no mountain tall enough

Katie here.

I have sufficiently rested up from my mountain adventure to tell you all about it. I know you’ve been wanting to know. (PS: Most of the photos here were taken by my aunt. That’s how mama got to be in so many of them! Thank you Aunt B!)

A little bit of a huge lake.

A little bit of a huge lake.

See, there’s this big mountain near my lake house and it has a restored fire tower on it. Almost every time mama comes down here she and her family and friends climb up the mountain and then up the fire tower.

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But this year she had me and she wasn’t sure, at my advanced age of ten, that I’d want to climb a mountain. Plus it’s pretty warm here and she always worries about me overheating my pretty self. After all I do carry my fur coat everywhere I go. (I don’t trust it to the coat check guy. At all.)

Hurry up mama!

Hurry up mama!

My aunt and uncle came over to the lake house this past weekend and they wanted to go up the mountain. They didn’t worry at all about how I would do, they knew I was a brave sheltie-girl and just assumed I’d want to go. Mama decided to pack a bag with all the essentials like water and poop bags and treats and see how far I’d go. She didn’t want to go so far up that she’d have to carry me down. No siree.

Good spot for a photo shoot...and a rest!

Good spot for a photo shoot…and a rest!

Well it turns out that I love being in the woods. I don’t know why mama was surprised. Once again she underestimated me. We took lots of breaks and most of the path up the mountain was in the shade. She gave me lots of water, in fact I drank almost a whole bottle of water myself on this adventure.

I sniffed lots of cool stuff and scrambled up and over lots of rocks, and pulled mama along cool paths covered in soft pine straw. It was fantastic.

Another pretty spot to rest!

Another pretty spot to rest!

Mama had to carry me the last bit…because stupid people had thrown bottles over the top of the rocks and there was broken glass…and then there were a bunch of steps up to very top and you all know about me and not doing steps. I did all the down steps just fine, but I was scared to do the up steps. Don’t ask. I can’t explain it.

At the top of the mountain I sat on a nice cool slab of concrete with my aunt while mama climbed the tower to get a few shots. She says she doesn’t know why she did that, the images she took look just like the images she took when she was there in November. But she loves being up at the top of that tower.

I'll wait for you down here mama!

I’ll wait for you down here mama!

She says she could stay up there for hours, but she knew I was waiting for her down below so she hurried on down. I said no rush mama, cause I was meeting all sorts of nice people and some nice dogs too! It was a beautiful Sunday with blue skies and warm temperatures so there were lots of folks and a few of their dogs out. Everyone said I was really cute. Of course.

Mama and me on top of the world.

Mama and me on top of the world.

Then we walked back down the mountain which I found easier than the trip up. That’s a good thing because truthfully I was getting a little tired. I stopped half way down and looked at my mama. She said no way was she carrying me the rest of the way, so I took a long drink and trotted down on my own.

I’m a good girl.

Monday all we did was go to the little park which was OK.

I've named this Katie's Park II!

I’ve named this Katie’s Park II!

And take some photos in town. Which was boring.

Mama says this is grandma and grandpa's church.

Mama says this is grandma and grandpa’s church.

And today…so far all we’ve done is this.

BORING!

BORING!

Mama says she doesn’t know what she can do to top walking in the Smokey Mountains and on the Atlantic Ocean beach with my boyfriend Reilly, and taking a boat ride and seeing an eagle and climbing a mountain. She says she’s running out of exciting things to do. She better get thinking. I don’t know how long I can be patient.

Because as you all know, it’s not good to keep a princess waiting.

What's next mama?

What’s next mama?


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The princess and a boat

At my uncle's house.

At my uncle’s house.

Katie here. Guess what, guess what GUESS WHAT?

This is my bench, but I'll share.

This is my bench, but I’ll share.

I got to go on a boat ride!!!! My mama was all nervous and stuff cause she has no faith in me at all. She didn’t think I’d like being in a boat. She thought I’d be afraid of the sound of the engine. She thought I’d be shaking like a leaf and want to get out. She thought it would be a very short boat ride.

She (once again) underestimated me.

So let me tell you all about it. We drove over to my Uncle’s house on another lake. I thought this was gonna be another drive all day sort of thing and I protested about half an hour into the trip, but mama told me we were almost there, so I settled back down. She lied of course – it was another half hour before we got there. And then there were all new smells to sniff and I liked it right away.

Me and mama smiling.

Me and mama smiling.

Then mama and my uncle discussed going on a boat ride and decided to see if I liked it. They agreed to drive real slow and if I wasn’t comfortable they’d just go back. The entire focus was on whether or not I’d enjoy it.

What do you think?

Relaxed on my yacht.

Relaxed on my yacht.

I thought it was the best thing since cheese! I got to sit on my princess bench between mama and my aunt. And I got to sniff the air a lot. And watch the water go by at the back of the boat. I didn’t shake one little bit. Sometimes I even smiled.

And once I almost fell asleep! Can you believe that?

Lulled to sleep by the engine vibration.

Lulled to sleep by the engine vibration.

My uncle drove us way up the river, so most of our trip was pretty slow but I liked the fast stuff too. Once, on our way home we were going fast into the wind and mama and I both had a bad hair day!

Matching crazy hair mama!

Matching crazy hair mama!

But all in all I thought this was a most excellent adventure. We’re back at our own lake house now, and I have been all wound up, wanting to play with the toy that Mr. Reilly gave me, and wanting mama to pay attention to me and wanting my dinner, and wanting to go outside and not wanting to come back inside. Mama is exhausted. So to give her a break I’m gonna take a little nap now.

I expect more adventures tomorrow mama! I hear the uncle and aunt are coming over here and I’ll get to show them around.

Can’t wait!

Captain princess.

Captain princess.