Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Storms brewing ahead


Today I took the dog for a walk at a local park. The clouds were heavy, dark, and hanging low over the fields and ponds. I felt melancholy and I wondered why.

And then I remembered.

The time is coming for me to attend another Sorrow to Strength Conference in Washington DC. The Truck Safety Coalition hosts the conference every two years; I’ve been to six of them since dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver in 2004.

The conference is a time for families to join others, all of whom have been damaged by preventable truck crashes, to share their stories, gain support, and learn about truck safety issues. Some families are struggling with permanent injuries, others are grieving the loss of loved ones. And some are trying to deal with both injury and loss.

It’s almost too much to fathom, all those people in one room.

But it’s a good thing too, because you won’t meet a better group of people to support a family in the throes of grief. These are people that know how it feels to get that call or to sit next to a hospital bed knowing that life will never be the same, but hoping for at least a semblance of normalcy sometime in the future.

It’s a difficult conference to attend, but it’s called Sorrow to Strength for a reason. We begin filled with sorrow, and leave, after several days, stronger for having been together. We’ll be talking to Congressional members, agency employees, and the media about truck safety issues. The current political environment in DC is not particularly conducive to regulation these days. But we aren’t giving up finding compromises that make our roads safer for everyone.

Everyone has trepidation as they head to DC for this conference. Attending dredges up all the old memories and emotions. Even after almost thirteen years I still get anxious thinking about the crash, anticipating the questions, planning for the meetings.

But then I think about dad. And so many others that I’ve come to know over the years. There will be new families attending this year, there always are. They are stark reminders that every year, every month, every day that goes by without solutions more people are being injured and killed. This is no time to let politics get in our way.

Wish us luck.


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On loss and spring


I’ve been to a lot of funerals held in winter and I used to think the hardest thing in the world was to walk away after a winter graveside ceremony, bowed with grief, huddled in a coat against the wind and rain or snow. Though you knew your loved one couldn’t feel the cold it was just so hard to leave them there in the darkening light of a winter day.

I used to think that was the worst.

But yesterday, when a local family had to leave their young man behind in the cemetery, the sun was shining and the bright blue sky was filled with puffy white clouds. It was a perfect spring day.

And now I wonder. Maybe losing a young life in the midst of the hope that is spring is the worst.

Yesterday a family had to come to grips with a life ended way too soon. I don’t know them, or the young man gone, but I understand their shock. Accidents happen, but never to your family. Never to someone with an infant and a wife and loving parents and a huge extended family.

Never just as spring is blooming with promise.

How can someone just be gone when so much around us is bursting into life? How does a young wife with an infant son survive without the loving husband, the doting father, at her side?

How does a family walk away from a new grave, bowed with grief, when bright blue skies are smiling down? It just seems wrong. Certainly the sky should be crying too.

But this young wife is strong, and she has a strong family to help her. She has good friends to listen and provide support. They know that sometimes the road takes an unexpected turn; they know how to navigate grief. They’ve been there before.

She’ll be OK eventually. And her son will grow up surrounded by people who will tell him about his daddy. How he loved his family. How he will always be there in their hearts.

It takes family and friends to get through grief filled but beautiful spring days when life is bursting from every tree and shrub, every bulb and seed, but tears are hiding behind every eyelid.

May the beauty of spring moving on into summer give some comfort to a family whose hearts have been broken once again.

And may that tiny little boy know that he is truly loved.


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Bling revealed

Katie here. I know. I’m hogging mama’s blog again, but I needed to get this out right away. As you know I visited my boyfriend Reilly Cowspotdog a couple of months ago. He and I got officially engaged after we introduced our parents to each other. (Reilly is a very conventional guy and likes to do things the proper way.)

My guy and me.

Anyway, he sent some engagement bling for me to wear on my collar. I think he wanted to make sure all the other doggies up here know I’m spoken for. Mama put it on my collar right away, and then you know what she did?

I’m sending Reilly kisses!

She forgot to take a picture!

I mean really? Mama forgetting to take a picture? I don’t know what’s come over her. I hear she got a year older yesterday, maybe it’s just old age making her so forgetful. I had to remind her that my guy would be wondering if I liked the bling and it wasn’t fair to make him wait. Because I really really like the pretty charm he sent.

Don’t you think I look beautiful in it? Me too.

Thank you Reilly. I love you and my pretty bling. You are definitely a class act sweetie!

I hope we get to spend time together again sometime soon!

Love,

Your Katie-girl.

I miss you Reilly!


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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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WordPress Photo Challenge: Wish

Tonight as I sit out on the deck of the lake house, watching the moon rise, I wish everyone had such a warm, beautiful and safe place to relax.

I wish upon a moon.

I know that many of my friends ‘up north’ are facing their third night of no electricity following a major wind event. I know the temperatures are heading down toward 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.77 C) tonight.

I wish that spring could come early for them. That I could somehow share the warmth and color and contentment surrounding me here.

I wish they could all just come down here and soak up the sun. Or sit with me under the moon listening to the waves gently lap against the shore

I wish, not upon a star, but upon the bright moon, that the warmth from here in the South could find it’s way up to the dark and frozen North.


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Reilly and me

Katie here. HEY! After years and years of a long distance relationship I finally got to meet Reilly the Cowspot Dog in person! Nose to nose! Well, more like nose to behind at first, but now we’re on a nose to nose basis. He is so tall, dark and handsome! I just love him to pieces. I think he likes me too.

Me and Reilly - taken by Reilly's mom.

Me and Reilly – taken by Reilly’s mom.

Mama and I got down to Florida on Thursday evening, and we all spent some time getting to know each other. There’s Reilly the big boy, and his little brother and best man Denny. And of course his mom and dad.

My Reilly and his brother Denny.

My Reilly and his brother Denny.

I like everyone here, though I have to admit I did show Reilly my teeth a tiny bit right at first. But now all three of us doggies can run and chase the ball in the living room. Reilly usually wins, cause he’s the biggest. And to be truthful, I generally just jump up on the sofa when they’re playing, as is due my stature as a princess. That way I can watch the action without getting stepped on.

I also have sucked up…um…bonded.. with Riley’s mom and dad. In fact my mama and Reilly’s mom went away for most of the day today and I hung out with Reilly’s dad. It was fun. I got to sit on the sofa with him and chill out. All us pups slept a lot today which is a good thing. Cause the moms are making us go on lots of mini adventures while I’m here.

Our first adventure was a walk on the beach!

Our first adventure was a walk on the beach!

I’ve been to the beach! On the Atlantic Ocean! Oh my dog, that’s one big lake!

But mama!  Reilly and I want to explore those sandy hills over there!

But mama! Reilly and I want to explore those sandy hills over there!

And I’ve visited a couple of Reilly’s parks Everything is so green!

It looks like summer around here mama!

It looks like summer around here mama!

I’m not used to that in February; usually I have snow to play in…but it’s pretty wonderful here right now. No snow, but not so hot as to make a sheltie-girl miserable. No bugs to speak of either. Mama saw some great campgrounds that we would have loved to explore. Maybe someday we’ll be back with our tent!

It's like a jungle here!

It’s like a jungle here!

I had a lot of fun. When mama asked me last week if I wanted to go on an adventure I never dreamed it would be like this!

Going for a walk with my guys.

Going for a walk with my guys.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do tomorrow, but I heard someone say something about a sunrise. Maybe I better hit the sack early tonight so I can be sure to get mama up extra early.

I know she’d appreciate that.

My man Reilly.  Isn't he beautiful?

My man Reilly. Isn’t he beautiful?


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Throwing plans out the window

We're in the mountains now.

We’re in the mountains now.

Katie here. Again. Apparently I have to do everything. Mama says she’s been too stressed to tell the story, and besides, I’m the princess, so it’s all about me. Right? Well not always, but anyway I’ll give you the short version of our latest adventure.

So this was day 2 of our great adventure. I’m in the car a lot, but today mama stopped at a couple parks to let me stretch my legs. Did you know that Kentucky has zero rest stops on I-75? ZERO! Who let that happen? How’s a princess supposed to..um…pee…and other stuff if there aren’t any rest stops?

That's a really big river mama!

That’s a really big river mama!

Anyway, because we couldn’t stop like we normally do, mama took me on a side trip to visit Cumberland Falls! It was way back in the woods, 15 miles of narrow winding road before we got there. But when we did it was all worth it!

You're buying me something at the gift store.  Right mama?

You’re buying me something at the gift store. Right mama?

We didn’t get to see the big falls really well because the lower observation decks were closed. But we got a little peak at them.

This looks very very cold.

This looks very very cold.

Mostly we walked along the rocky shore and enjoyed the blue green water and the bright blue sky.

This is a really big rock mama!

This is a really big rock mama!

What a perfect day! It was still cold, and mama was glad she was still wearing her winter coat and gloves, but I thought it was wonderful!

Awesome colors!

Awesome colors!

Of course stopping there put us behind schedule but mama wasn’t worried, who needs a schedule anyway? We were about 2 hours away from our hotel when something happened. Our car quit!

Well not exactly quit….but the power seemed to go right out of it and we were in the mountains of Tennessee! Mama pulled over and called Onstar who sent out a tow truck. The tow truck driver said I couldn’t ride in his truck so mama seat belted me in and I got to ride in the car on top of the tow truck!

Mama was worried I’d be scared, but I’m a big girl and did just fine. OK, I was awfully glad to see her when we arrived at the dealership and she got me out of the car. And I didn’t like the diesel engine on the tow truck at all!

But in the end the tow truck driver was really nice, and took us to a hotel that my daddy had found for us that takes dogs…and now mama and I are all snuggled up in a king size bed with a big TV and some books and we’re going to wait out the rest of the weekend right here.

Notice the lack of cars....cause we don't have one!

Notice the lack of cars….cause we don’t have one!

We’ll be just fine.

We even got to see a little of the sunset behind the hotel when I made mama take me out for the 5th time to check out the pee-mail. I didn’t want her to miss it.

Sunset on evening #1.

Sunset on evening #1.

I’m good like that.

Talk to you later…

Your adventure reporter Katie-girl.

Our room has a holly tree outside our front door!

Our room has a holly tree outside our front door!


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Let the adventuring begin!

Katie here. Surprise! You didn’t think you’d hear from me again so soon did you! Well mama says she’s tired and if I want to tell you about our adventures I’m just going to have to write it myself. Plus she says we haven’t even really gotten to the real adventure yet so I should just go lie down.

Right. Like a princess is going to take a nap in the middle of an adventure.

So anyway, this morning mama didn’t argue with me when I got her up at 4:30. She said she had packing to do. Packing? I started getting nervous. Usually when they get the suitcases out I end up at doggie camp. It’s not like she pulled my tent up from the basement or anything. Oh no. These were suitcases!

But it turns out that I got to go! At least I think so. I was kind of worried at the beginning, figuring she was going to drop me off at camp and take off on me. But so far so good. Tonight mama says we’re in Kentucky.

Checking out tomorrow's route mama!

Checking out tomorrow’s route mama!

I don’t know what a “Tucky” is….but it comes with two beds and I get to decide which one I’m sleeping on. I thought I’d sleep on the one over there, but then this one over here looked good, and now I can’t decide. I guess I’ll sleep on both of them.

I don’t know where we’re going next, but if it’s as good as “Tucky,” then I’m in.

See you tomorrow…

Your tour gal Katie.

I think we both need a nap!

I think we both need a nap!


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Imagine

Imagine you’ve lived on your own for over 100 years. Sure the only reason you could is because people helped along the way, but you had your own space. You had your own things around you, things that reminded you of places and people you’ve loved.

And then imagine the day comes that you can’t live alone anymore and you find yourself in a cramped and overheated space with strange sounds and sights, strangers in and out of your small space, other people determining when you sleep and when you are awake, what you eat, when you shower.

You are depressed.

Your things are gone, your space is gone, your pet is gone, your friends are far away. Only your family and your memories remain.

Your family tries to make it better but there is no better here. They remind you to get out of bed and move your feet and legs but you don’t want to. They try to entertain you when they visit but the visits are never frequent enough even when they occur every day. And they can’t change the reality.

You are tired.

You can’t see very much, can’t hear anything when your hearing aid is away being repaired. Your roommates change but are similarly confused and wandering.

You are scared.

There are noises in the hall that you can’t identify. You can’t tell when people are headed into your room or when they are just passing by.

You are dependent on strangers.

You used to be independent. You like to tell people that you always did things for yourself. You tell people you don’t like to be a burden. That you like to make your own decisions.

But you are allowed so few decisions now.

You recognize that your time is short. And you’re not sure if that isn’t a good thing. Because you can’t imagine your life moving forward like this forever.

You never imagined life ending this way. Or that the gift of living to be 101 could be so hard.

Just never imagined.