Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Best of Carson

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Khalil Gibran

Hi there!

For many years one of the joys of spending time here at the lake was a neighboring dog named Carson. We’ve watched him grow up from a soft fluffy bundle of joyous energy …

OK, I’ll hold still for your photo lady. But be quick about it!

…to a soft fluffy sophisticated man about town of eleven.

You’ve been taking my picture for years! I just keep looking better!

Carson liked to visit everyone in the neighborhood, and he seemed to know when we were in town, showing up by the door to check in with us, sometimes meeting us at the car when we unloaded luggage. Each time he asked for an ear rub or a tummy tickle.

That’s a good spot lady!

He wouldn’t decline a treat if you happened to have one on you…

nom nom nom

…but mostly, for Carson, it was about a little loving, a little play. And the lake.

My favorite place to be – my lake!

His favorite thing to do was to walk along the shoreline, knee or chest deep in the water, hunting for those pesky minnows. When he found some he’d pounce on them and then grin.

There’s one over THERE!

All summer you could find him in the water. And year-round you could find him on a neighbor’s porch, getting some loving.

Hey Katie-girl…want to PLAY?

Katie wasn’t too sure about him visiting us. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him. But he was so big…and when he barked it was with one deep baritone WOOF! She always jumped.

She just didn’t know what to make of him, but the rest of us? We loved Carson. It didn’t matter that he didn’t belong to us, we all just loved him.

Is he still back there mama?

Carson was most famous for being the softest dog any of us had ever touched. And he smelled good. Yes he was a dog, and yes he loved to wade in the lake, the muddier the better, but he always started each day smelling good.

You still taking pictures lady?

I imaged he took a shower with his person each morning because he always used to smell like Irish Spring soap. This last week he smelled like some other shampoo, but he still smelled too pretty to be a boy.

Everybody loved Carson, the dog that smelled so good.

Sunset is my time to head for home. See you tomorrow lady!

Sadly Carson crossed the rainbow bridge this week, suddenly and without warning. I’m so glad he stopped by a couple times since I’ve been here this trip so that I got some Carson loving.

My last Carson loving.

But man. We are all so going to miss him. I look for him every time I leave the house, he was so often sitting on my porch. I look for him along the lake shore. I listen for his bark.

We’ll always remember you sweetie!

I am more than sad. But I’m trying to remember that I was lucky to know him.

Somehow it’s not enough.

Who wouldn’t love this face?



When a screwdriver turns into a walk in the park

I’m at the lake house, enjoying the view and the weather and what appears to be spring happening all around me. But evening comes early in this part of the country and during the long dark hours I wander the house, noticing stuff that needs to be done.

Like cleaning — especially those places that aren’t automatically done during a regular visit.

So I decide that the cold air return needs to be spiffed up. I doubt it’s been cleaned in the almost fourteen years since mom and dad left us the house. It’s not something a person would normally pay attention to, but after two weeks of living here, it’s moved to the top of my to-do list.

I look at it more closely and figure I’m going to need a phillips-head screwdriver to get it off the wall. We still have dad’s workshop set up in the basement so I traipse downstairs to search.

Hmmmm….where would I find the right screwdriver?

There’s a lot to choose from, and I quickly find what should be the perfect tool.

Back up the stairs I tromp, petting Katie-girl who is waiting anxiously at the top, unsure of where her mama went. I get down on the floor to begin loosening the screws. But darn! The screws need a flat screwdriver. I don’t know what I was looking at before.

There’s one of everything here.

Shaking my head I get myself up off the floor (which isn’t all that easy these days) and stomp back down the stairs to the workshop. I put the phillips-head back in it’s appointed spot and grab a flat screwdriver.

At the top of the steps Katie waits patiently, wondering what in the world mama is doing now.

Back on the floor again I get the first three screws out; both sides and the top of the grate came out pretty easily. But the screw on the bottom, right down at the floor, is smaller. And, as I peer at it my head flush with the floor, and through my trifocals, I see that it needs a phillips-head screwdriver.

“Hey Katie,” I say, “Want to go to the park?”

Parks are good mama!



I’ve been wondering, lately, what it’s like to be bedridden, with failing eyesight, sitting for more than a year in a small room, dependent on other people to do everything for you.

I’ve been wondering what it’s like to never know what your next meal will be, but being certain you won’t want to eat any of it. Except the ice cream.

With Buddy

What is it like to know you’ll never have a piece of fresh fruit, or your favorite holiday meal again. To spend your days waiting. For visitors, for your medications, for someone to change your sheets, bring you another blanket, a fresh pillow.

What’s it like to know the only escape from this room will be death?

She and I had a nice visit on Monday afternoon. She was in a good mood; the sun was shining and she let me open the blinds so she could see the light. She told stories from the old days, stories about her husband and her son, long gone before her, stories about growing up in northern Minnesota and the winters there.

She was surprised and a little proud of the fact that she was a hundred and two and a half years old. She never imagined she’d outlive so much of her family, so many friends.

The last birthday party.

Tuesday she was less jovial. Her clothes weren’t hung up correctly, the light hurt her eyes, lunch had been terrible, the staff wasn’t helpful.

Mostly she was lonely.

And that’s my one regret. That there wasn’t some way to keep her entertained, to get more people to visit, even for a few minutes, to convince her to get out of bed and into her wheelchair to explore the facility.

A few years ago during happier times.

I wish I had taken her fresh grapes and half a banana last week. Or that personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut she talked about my last day with her. Oh I know I baked her favorite cookies on occasion, and I brought her flowers from our garden, and a pretty white tree with pink bows and birds on it that my sister made for her. I know most people would think I did enough.

But she was lonely.

And that’s why I’m not sad that she escaped her room Saturday morning. Today her eyes work just fine and she’s enjoying the company of her husband and her son and all her sisters and many of her brothers. Today she’s hugging her mom again, and spending time with her dad. Today she’s dancing again. And best of all, today she is no longer lonely.

Aunt V’s 100th birthday

A few months ago she and I talked about what might be waiting on the other side. She didn’t want to talk about that much, she insisted she didn’t want to leave us, that she’d miss us once she had to go. I asked her if she’d try, once she was there, to find a way to give me a sign that she was alright. She grinned and said she’d be sure to do that.

So today begins my wait. I’ll be waiting to see what she comes up with, how she’ll let me know she’s safe and warm and happy. I know in my heart that she is.

But for now I’m just a little lonely.

Last Monday, it was a good day.




Ambush: Make a surprise attack from a concealed position.

I’m trying to declutter the house in preparation for the painter. We’ve lived here a long time, and, I guess I haven’t put things away as promptly as I might have.

I thought I’d start with the guest bedroom – how hard could it be to sort through the stuff piled on the dressers in there? I was sure most of it could be tossed.

But under the piles of old sheet music, bad clarinet reeds, the patterns for sweaters I might have wanted to knit once upon a time, the maps of campgrounds and parks I’ve visited, under all that detritus, was a stack of Christmas cards.

I know I keep Christmas cards way too long. They sit in a basket on the kitchen counter until the next holiday season comes along. And then I have to just toss them all at once, I can’t look through them or I won’t be able to heave them into the trash. So why would a stack of Christmas cards be sitting on a dresser in a guest room?

I shouldn’t have looked.

They are from 1997; cards and holiday letters from many people who are long gone. Cards from people who are gone from my life because relationships faded, divorces happened, or they moved and we just lost touch. And an awful lot of them have died, including one of my best friends, my adopted up north grandma, my father-in-law (that’s him in the center), my sister-in-law, and my own parents.

Merry Christmas, circa 1997

So I’ve sorted through the stack, and have saved the very special hellos and happy holidays, the handwritten notes and newsy letters of those that have gone ahead, and tossed the rest into the trash. But, man, being ambushed by so many memories sure took the wind out of my cleaning sails.

And if you’re wondering how the paint decision is going, I went back to Lowe’s and got four more samples this morning.

It’s complicated.

More of the same.



Looking for a different shade

So many choices.

We’ve decided to have the inside of our house painted. All of it. For the past decade (or two) we have been living with primer white because we can’t agree on a color.

I actually like white. We have a lot of very nice woodwork and with white walls the trim is the feature. On the other hand….white? Just white? Everywhere?

But color can be so scary.

I still want the trim to be the feature and everything I read says if you want to feature woodwork you should choose a color either a lot lighter or a lot darker than the wood. I know for sure I don’t want the paint to be really dark, so now I’m looking for the right shade of, well, white.

Did you know there are hundreds of whites?

So far I’ve narrowed it down to two options and frankly as I was painting each on a paper plate there doesn’t seem to be much difference between them. After I painted one coat of each I stood and stared down at the two plates. For a long time–until I realized I was literally watching paint dry.

There’s a difference between them. I think.

Then I came up out of the basement to discuss it with you. What do you think? Should I push myself out of my comfort zone and try something a little more daring than a shade of white? We already have green carpet and a beautiful multi colored stacked stone fireplace.

Grey beige or tan beige?

I don’t know if I can get too crazy.

And I haven’t even started to figure out the bedrooms, where, I think, we can do something besides off white.


You should just pick the one that matches me mama!



All I want for Christmas – ELDs

Dad and his camper parked among commercial trucks ten years before he was killed.

My dad was killed by a tired commercial truck driver early on the morning of December 23, 2004. Dad was driving to the Atlanta airport to catch a flight north for Christmas. The driver of the semi, who didn’t see all the lanes of traffic stopped up ahead of him, had been driving all night in an attempt to get a shipment of electronics to an Atlanta retailer in time for Christmas sales.

Back in those days commercial drivers recorded the hours they drove in paper logs; safety advocates sometimes called these logs comic books because of the amount of made up information that got recorded. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, so it benefited them financially to drive further and faster, maybe even further and faster than was legal.

So after dad was killed, and I began to learn more about what happened, I began to work toward mandated electronic logging devices, ELDs. Last Monday, December 18, 2017, thirteen years after dad died, my wish came true. Trucks are now required to have electronic logging devices, and though some truckers are still opposed to what they consider is a infringement on their right to privacy, or their right to make a living, and though I’m sure there will be some unintended consequences, I’m happy.

As far as I’m concerned this was a very big, very important, Christmas present to the families of people killed and injured by tired truckers across the country. And, if they’re honest, perhaps it’s a gift to the drivers too, because it will be harder for an employer to push a driver past legal limits now that everything is monitored by ELDs.

ELDs might have happened without the Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers pushing legislators for years. The American Trucking Association (ATA) which represents big truck companies wanted them too, so for once we were on the same side of an argument. But I have to think it was stories of regular people like us that helped tip the balance and get this technology mandated. So to all of you out there that have supported our work, for this gift of safety that begins this holiday season, I say thank you.

I think I’ll consider the ELD mandate as a personal Christmas present sent straight from dad.



Tidal wave

Tonight on my drive home from visiting Aunt Vi I heard Keith Urban’s song Female. The lyrics caught my attention and I turned up the volume.

When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just cause she was wearing a skirt
Now is that how it works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make you second best?
Or did he save the best for last?

Click the link above for the complete lyrics, and short interviews by the song writers Shane McAnally, Ross Cooperman, and Nicolle Gaylon. Urban has a statement there too. The piece was written in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault claims.

The claims against people continue daily. It seems at times like a tidal wave of voices clamoring to be heard and it can be overwhelming, almost desensitizing.

Some want it to stop.

I understand that. We seem to be trapped in a bad loop, the stories of abuse overlapping each other. And worse, sometimes it’s people we’ve held in high regard being accused of outrageous behavior.

It’s hard to watch.

But here’s the thing. Each of these voices deserves to be heard. And the volume, as huge as it seems to be, is only on a small percentage of the total outrageousness that has happened for years.

For years and years.

Some of us see these stories and think that the things that happened to us aren’t that bad, not life changing nor life threatening. It was just the way things were ‘back then.’ And we don’t join in the tidal wave because we feel that what happened to us wasn’t that significant.

But by staying silent we help keep the whole truth from being told. These incidents will continue to be under reported. The problem won’t seem as big as it really is. Maybe some people will think that it has resolved itself.

Clearly it has not.

I think back to my early days at work when four of us, newly out of college, were hired on the same day for the same position. We were all management trainees, assigned periods of time in different departments. When review time came around I found out that another trainee was given a bigger raises than me. I asked why. Turns out it was because he was a young man with a family. I was a single woman. I protested but got nowhere.

Later in my early career I was working in an appraisal department, I was supposed to be trained in the work of an appraiser. Everyone in that department was male. I spent the first several weeks sitting in the office answering the phone while the men went out and did appraisal work. I complained. A vice president came down to talk to the head appraiser. I could hear voices raised in the office behind me. “What am I supposed to do with her?” When the weather got bad they sent me out with a tape measure and a clipboard to measure houses while they counted the rooms and took pictures inside.

In another department the manager in charge told me he liked my blouse while staring at my chest. I mostly tried to avoid him, and when he abruptly left the company years later I was glad and not surprised. There was no talk about why he no longer worked for us but I could guess.

Decades later I was patted on the butt by a passing manager and when I complained to management was told I probably imagined it because he was a ‘nice guy.’ Yes he was a nice guy. But I didn’t imagine it.

None of these incidents were as bad as the events claimed by Harvy Weinstein’s accusers. Or Charlie Rose’s or Bill Cosby’s. But they were events that happened to me, and probably to other women that I knew.

The culture was such that you didn’t talk about these things. Because you weren’t believed, because you needed your job. Because the men were always in places of power. And because you weren’t.

So I hope the news doesn’t move on to the next big story. I hope more women feel powerful enough to talk about what happened to them. I hope more people realize that it’s been everywhere. And more importantly, that it still is everywhere.

More people, people with power, men or women, need to make it clear that behavior that many of us have experienced will not be tolerated. I hope that people who have in the past or are still suffering from various forms of abuse will feel supported and encouraged to say something.

I hope that eyes are being opened.

Meanwhile, many thanks to songwriters McAnally, Cooperman, Gaylon and artist Urbin for writing what many of us have been feeling.

I hope this truly is the beginning of change, that the world will be significantly different when the tidal wave recedes. But darn, change is hard.



Washington in review

It was unexpected and unplanned, but our trip to Washington DC was important. I meant to write on Tuesday evening, after we watched the morning confirmation hearing on the nominated Administrator to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But after the hearing we spent the afternoon in meetings with ours and other Senators offices and by the time we limped back to the hotel I was too tired to write.

And I meant to write about our experiences on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday night after our appointments on the Hill but each evening turned into a night of note writing from the day’s work and preparation for the day ahead. No time to write about the experience for you.

And now here it is Sunday night and the passion I felt during the week is ebbing and though I’m not as tired as I was, I somehow feel reluctant to try to capture it all, to put it down, because I don’t think I can make you understand just what it all means.

But I’ll try.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). It issues and enforces regulations that rule the way trucks move across the country. They set the hours that can be driven, monitor safety issues like sleep and the mechanics of the vehicles, and handle many other things. They are very important to our work at the Truck Safety Coalition.

After almost a year of this Administration an Administrator for the FMCSA has finally been nominated. We at the TSC wanted to hear what he had to say, so we attended the confirmation hearing. Mr. Martinez said a lot of the right things. He comes from New Jersey, heading their Department of Motor Vehicles. He doesn’t know anything about trucks, but he seems to be committed to safety. So I’m willing to give him a chance to show us with actions.

After the hearing my husband and I, along with a staff member of TSC, met with the transportation staff at each of my Senators’ offices. We talked about things that have been left hanging at the DOT since the beginning of the year, other things in the works that have been repealed by the current Administration.

The rest of the week was spent in a similar fashion, going from meeting to meeting in either Senate or House offices, looking for support of our safety causes. We talked about the successful side underride crash tests. We are looking for support of legislation to make underride guards mandated. And we found people that are interested in the developments. It’s progress.

At each meeting I pull out the picture of my dad, Bill, and the picture of what his car looked like after his crash. I look into dad’s eyes and silently promise him that we won’t give up. We won’t give up even though I’ve been making these trips to Washington D.C. for thirteen years. Sometimes multiple times a year. In one of our last meetings of this week I told the staffer that my dad comes with me on every trip to D.C. The staffer looked confused but dad and I smiled at each other.

My husband and I ate dinner one evening in the lower level of Union Station, near the Capital. Tired, and standing just outside the diner sliding out of my dress shoes and into my running shoes, feet aching, I noticed some signs just above the counter where people were enjoying their dinner.

“Excellent food.” ” Bill eats here.”

Yes, why yes he did. Because he’s always with me when I’m in D.C. And everywhere else too. We made some progress during this past week. We talked to lots of people, even some that are usually on the other side of our arguments. There’s interest in saving lives on both sides of the aisle.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you apprised of developments. There may come a time when I’ll need you to call your Representative and/or Senator and ask for their support on proposed legislation. Meanwhile we’ll keep fighting the fight, talking about safety and trucks and our roads to everyone that will listen.

Dad was always all about safety. He still is. I guess I am too.



Cookie memories

I was at the grocery store this week and saw these.

Instantly I was transported more than 50 years back to a time I was five years old.

Oh I know they didn’t have mini Nilla Wafers back in 1961. But they had the original, larger version. I remember the yellow box and the taste. And I remember walking with my dad as we set out on an adventure the afternoon before my first day of kindergarten. I suppose we had something to drink too, but I only remember eating the cookies as dad and I tromped along the route I’d be taking the next day, and each day after, during my first year of public school.

We lived just over one mile from the school and I had to cross two big streets. Or so my mom told me later, I don’t remember crossing any streets at all. I do remember being late to school one morning and being scolded by the crossing guard at the last corner before the school. I’d been playing in mud puddles along the way and lost track of time.

Mom said for years that she felt like a terrible mother making me walk all that way alone. But she had three more children at home, my sister aged three, my brother aged two and another brother just a few months old. Even if she could get all four of us bundled up to go out I don’t think she had a car. I only remember us having one car, and dad needed that to get to work.

I think about the stress of a young mother sending her child out into the world every day, worrying about her safety, no cell phones, no notice of whether or not I made it to school, no information at all until she saw me reappear in the afternoon. Kind of unimaginable.

Mom thought she was a terrible mother for a lot of things that she had no control over. I wonder if other mothers of that period felt the same way. I wonder if mothers today feel something similar too. Even with the technology available now.

I told her often, once I was an adult, that she wasn’t a terrible mother. I hope she believed me.

And I hope she knew how glad I was that she made dad and me that little snack to enjoy as we headed out on our adventure so many years ago. Nilla wafers. Lots of memories wrapped up in that little package on the grocery store shelf.

Yep. I bought the package and enjoyed a few of the familiar sweets on my drive home.



Cee’s Black & White Challenge: All Things Farm Related

My mom grew up on a farm and I’ve been back to visit only a couple of times in many years.

Some of the barns on the farm where my mother grew up.

The farm remains in the family, and the current owner, my cousin, takes remarkable care of all the buildings.

Corn crib with tractors.

I remember spending time on the farm when I was a young kid. Exploring the barns, hanging out in the corn crib. Riding the tractors with my uncle.

Antique tractor.

Tools still hang in my grandfather’s shop. I never spent any time there, we were forbidden from exploring it, and it seemed kind of scary.

Tools hanging where grandpa or uncle left them decades ago.

The farm is a special place and I’m glad it’s still in the family, though it’s a huge responsibility and a lot of work to take care of it.

Time keeps rolling along.

I miss so many people that used to work or live on the farm. Sometimes I think I can see them just around that next barn corner.

Which way did they go?