Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Sharing the light

On this last night the Jewish Hanukkah I wanted to share an image:

I borrowed it (with permission) from Daily Musings at A Day in the Life.

I share it with hope that we can all become more tolerant. I believe that all religions are variations on the same theme and that we are not so very different.

Let this year be the year we begin to objectively listen to each other.


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Release

Contemplating this past week.


It’s been a long and reflective week, beginning Saturday morning when I woke to hear the news that former President Bush had died. My first response was a deep sadness for his family, particularly for his children. My second thought was joy that he was reunited with his beloved Barbara and daughter Robin.

I guess that’s typical, the intertwining of sadness with joy during times like this, the emotions washing up and even overlapping as you maneuver your way through the tasks that must be done to celebrate a life.

Being retired I was able to watch the last journey of the President’s body from lying in state at our Capital to the beautiful ceremony at the National Cathedral and then his flight to Texas and the train ride to his library and final resting place in Houston.

A bit of joyful color in the bleak winter landscape.

And I watched his children and their spouses as they stood time after time watching the transfer of the coffin, on and off planes and the train, into and out of buildings, up and down stairs, all the while being watched by an entire world. Showing their grief or holding it in. Probably exhausted and moving on adrenaline. It’s a lot to ask of anyone, to have such a prolonged and public goodbye.

I’m glad they had a private time together when they said their last goodbye at the library. And I hope today, the day after all the ceremony is done, I hope today they are spending time with each other quietly remembering, laughingly remembering, wistfully remembering.

Looking for simple beauty.

This holiday season will be the first without their parents. To lose booth of them within the same year is so hard. So much change in such a short time, celebrations will never be the same. This year, for sure, will have sad undertones.

But there’s that sneaky joy that will infiltrate too. At times when they least expect it they’ll hear Barbara or George’s voice, telling a story, singing a silly song, laughing at an old joke. They’ll see them in the food they prepare, family favorites or maybe not, if broccoli is on the menu.

But I like broccoli mama!

And little by little, over the months and years there will be more joy and less sad. And best of all, while the sadness recedes, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents will never be far away.

Today as I watch a gentle snow fall and listen to Christmas music I realize that it’s the same for all of us during the holidays. The losses are always there, but the love is always there too.

Let the light shine on you.

My wish for the Bush family is that they spend these precious days together in privacy and peace, certain of the gratefulness of their nation and of the love they will always share within their family. I wish for them a release from the tension and pressure of such a long and public goodbye.

Let your joy show through.

And I wish, for all of you, peaceful holidays too.

Live in the moment.


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Make a joyful noise

Tuesday night our community band kicked off the holiday season by making a joyful noise.

Last minute instructions before the show begins.

This year we did it with help from talented high school students who sang like angels. There’s something special about young voices raised in song above the music of a band. They brought a remarkable level of joy to the show, raised the bar, and made band members smile.

A little help from our elf.

I think our audience was smiling too, especially when all the little kids came up to ring bells in an invitation for Santa to arrive.

Santa, of course, makes everyone smile, and we enjoyed playing the classic Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson under his baton.

Here we go!

It was even more special this year as the choir sang the carols and the audience joined in. I actually stopped playing somewhere in the middle, just to listen, because I was so enthralled by the glorious sound.

If you ever need reassurance that there is promise in this world, attend a musical event that includes students. These young people are so talented, so sincere, and their joy of music is infectious.

Elves sorting out elf duties prior to the concert.

Check out your local community and I bet you’ll find a Christmas concert near you. Support the arts in your town and hear some beautiful music. You’ll smile, the artists will smile and everyone’s heart will be warmed. And there’s nothing better than a warm heart on a cold winter evening.

Thanks to all of you that came out to our concert. It was magical, and we are so appreciative of your applause, whistles, cheers and of course for the standing ovation at the end.

It was our holiday gift to you, but we feel like we received something special too.

Santa takes a break in his busy schedule.


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I could use a bit of heat, light and holiday spirit

It’s been almost a week since I posted last. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it and all of you. Ideas for posts have slipped through my mind. Bits and pieces of stuff most instantly forgotten.

Fleeting morning light.

I’m distracted and I don’t know why. Could be that it keeps snowing and it’s cold. Could be that we haven’t had more than a few hours of sun in over a week. Maybe it’s the 7 day forecast which shows more snow coming.

And did I mention the cold?

Winter arrived early.

I have no plans for Christmas other than to take the dog for a walk somewhere fun. Unless it snows. Or maybe because it snows. She likes snow.

Me? I don’t think I like snow all that much any more. I remember as a kid having fun building snow forts and sledding down hills and ice skating on the lake. But these days I hurry the dog along on her walks and when she’s outside doing her business.

Quit being a drama queen mama, it’s not that bad.

It’s cold.

Why is it that when you’re traveling and it’s cold it’s fine, it’s part of the adventure. But when you’re home and scraping ice and snow off the windshield in the early dark morning it’s just about too much to bear?

Sometimes snow, sometimes fog. Sometimes both.

Alabama calls me.

But I’m trying to be a responsible adult and I have commitments here in Michigan that I need and want to honor. The most pressing of those being the Christmas concert I’m playing tonight at a local high school. I made a commitment at the beginning of the season to play a certain number of concerts. The dates were provided at the start.

To bolt for warmer temperatures now would be wrong.

Katie says she likes the cold and I should get over it. Katie doesn’t scrape the windows of a car whenever she wants to go to the park.

Can we go play now?

Maybe I should work on my Christmas cards to lift my holiday spirits. On the other hand so far we’ve received only three cards, one from our stock broker, one from Katie’s kennel, and one from an exceptionally organized friend.

It’s possible I’m not the only holiday spirit deprived, disorganized and distracted person out there.

Holiday spirit from another year.

If you need a holiday boost and you’re local, stop by the Clarkston high school tonight about 7 and hum along to some music in a warm auditorium.

I promise any snow you see there will be fake, but the holiday spirit will be real.

Happy Holidays!


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Happy Thanksgiving

Katie would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, even if you’re not here in the States. She says everyone has something to be thankful for and it doesn’t have to be a holiday in order to feel grateful.

She says she’s grateful for all of you that put up with and even enjoy her rants. And she says don’t tell her folks, but she’s thankful for them too. Even though they sent her off to camp for this particular holiday.

I’m grateful for all of you! And that mama takes me on walks.

She does, however, add that she has a long memory and doesn’t forget anything, so when they get back home she expects special princess-like treatment and if that is not forthcoming there will be a price to pay.

She expects mama to be caught up on sleep by then which would be a good thing, because once the sheltie-girl is in the house all sleep bets are off.

Enjoy your turkey day everybody, from Katie-girl and her people.

Katie-girl, our little princess


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Birding

Tamarack trees provided what little color was left out there.


I got to head back to my favorite park with a friend yesterday. It was cold, almost sleeting and I figured those little birds would be hungry.

You see, I’d taken her out there last summer so that she could experience feeding the birds out of her hand and we had not one bird visit us!

Even without color the woods was still beautiful.

She sort of thought I’d made up the whole thing about the birds out there swooping down into people’s hands for a snack. But yesterday was an entirely different story. Those little ones were all over her!

Three birds visit at once!

And at the end of our walk we ran into some turkeys. They were hungry too.

The colors in the turkey feathers was just amazing.

I trust none of them will be on a table come this Thursday.

Dressed in red bowties, but not planning on attending Thanksgiving dinner.


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Ambushed

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.


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Christmas music magic


The holidays are long gone, people are taking down lights and trees, putting away ornaments and tinsel and prized family heirlooms. Our community band’s holiday concert was way back on December 20th, barely a memory now. Up here in Michigan we’re hunkering down for the long cold winter, with not a lot to lighten the mood.

Unless you’re me.

You see, Tuesday evening the band’s sound engineer gave me my copy of the CD recorded at that Christmas concert. And today as I ran errands I listened to the music for the first time. Magic. This afternoon I drove much further and longer than I needed to in order to listen to the entire concert.

Twice.

And I’m still smiling

So thank you to the Clarkston Community Band for making such beautiful music, and thanks to Marshall for making CDs for us. And thanks to Shelley for choosing the program and directing it, and for inspiring us to do the very best we can.

This winter, if I need a pick-me-up, I know just what to do. I’ll put that Christmas CD in the player and take myself for a long ride.

May the spirit of Christmas keep you warm and happy until the spring sun comes back this way to brighten your days!


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Practicing on the lake

The lakes expands up over the beach.

I’m sitting in a warm living room, way up north, on the shores of Lake Michigan. I’m devoting Christmas Day to reading and napping and occasionally running down the forty-something steps in an attempt to capture the magnificent lake in all it’s windy, turquoise and frothy white splendor.

The colors are wonderful. In between bands of snow I try to capture the sound of the roar and sight of the tossing waves and the feel of ice pelting my face.

The sun came out for a brief moment.

I only take a few shots before my fingers are too cold to work and my ears feel like they might fall off. Still, it’s enough to use in my processing practice.

I’m still learning. But truly the lake really is this magnificent turquoise color, and the clouds really were navy.

The waves are bigger than they look.

Since this morning the snow has moved in and though the lake is still it’s beautiful greenish blue, the sky has turned an uninteresting shade of slate grey. They say it’s 9 degrees (-12.77 C) here, and that’s not accounting for the wind chill.

The wind is roaring in off the lake, the sound is deafening outside and noticeable even sitting on the sofa, the huge waves pounding the shore are mesmerizing. I’m glad I’m inside and I doubt I’ll be out again any time soon. So I’ll sit and listen to holiday music while figuring out more about Lightroom.

Standing above the lake on a dune.

I’m so glad I have such an alive subject to use in my practice!

Wind, water and snowy sand.