Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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This week’s smile

Trent, over on Trent’s World, hosts a weekly blog post that collects smiles from bloggers all over the world. This week his featured smile is the bees that survived the Notre Dame fire.

And he wonders what all of us have found to smile about lately.

I did plenty of smiling this week, given the first part of the week I spent in Florida, walking beaches and exploring parks, and especially hanging with good people and wonderful dogs.

Hi mama!

And of course I flew home on Wednesday to my husband and my Katie-girl. Lots to smile about there too.

Then last night I attended a community orchestra concert in a small town about an hour from here.

A fun evening.

On the early evening drive over to the venue the sky was filled with big beautiful blue bottomed clouds. I wished I had my camera and time to find a place to stop.

I had neither.

The concert was fun, and it was good to see an almost full house to support a community orchestra. There were some really talented people playing, and you could tell they were having a great time.

Pretty amazing!

After it was over I emerged from the high school to see the clouds were thinning, but still in evidence. And they were turning purple and pink.

The barns were glowing.

With only my phone to capture the beauty and in a community I didn’t know I set out trying to find an open field with a place to pull over before all the light was gone.

Everything was beautiful.

I got a few good shots, and that, in combination with the evening’s music, made me smile.

What made you smile this week?

The last glow of a great evening.


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Still smiling.

There have been plenty of things to smile about this week. A couple days with sunshine, my hands are healing, Katie is feeling a little bit better, I did my grocery shopping in the middle of a Thursday when most people have to work, (that one made me smile pretty wide) and beautiful morning light two days ago that made my world glow.

Oh yea, lots of things to smile about this week.

But the biggest smile happened for me and, I think, a whole lot of other people on Tuesday night during our Clarkston Community Band concert that we played in conjunction with the Dave Bennett Quartet.

We’ve been working on our portion of the concert for weeks – most of what we played Tuesday were movements from Shostakovitch’s Jazz Suite no. 2. Though the music isn’t jazz like we know it today, it was fun, kind of tongue in cheek, sometimes almost circus like.

And some of it went really really fast.

To break up all the Shostakovich we preformed Oblivion by Piazzolla, which was slower and featured our oboe player. She sounded wonderful, with a full, rich tone filled with mystery. (The Oblivion link above takes you to our full concert; Oblivian is # 3.)

And we were honored to accompany Dave and his jazz clarinet for two of his own pieces, Blood Moon (#6 in our concert at the Oblivion link above.) and Falling Sky (#7). During Blood Moon I actually stopped playing to watch him and be mesmerized.

I couldn’t help it.

We played the first half of the concert, (through #8 in the link above) and while the Quartet played the second half I got to sit out in the audience and just listen. To be honest I had to wipe away a tear during his rendition of Hallelujah (#12).

Magic.

I couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t stop clapping either, even though my hands, wrapped up so that I could play my own clarinet without further injury, didn’t make any sound. And even though it hurt to clap.

I just couldn’t help myself.

Winding up, the music and the evening.

What a night! The crowd gave us a standing ovation after our portion was complete. And they stood up and clapped and a few even danced through Dave Bennett’s entire last piece. I don’t think anyone (except maybe the quartet) wanted it to end.

It was fabulous.

Things got a bit crazy. In a good way.

I just got the link from our recording engineer and listened to a few of the pieces. OK, we weren’t always in tune and there were some things that went a bit awry. We’re a community band. But overall I’m so glad that I get to play music with this group.

And I’m extra grateful that I had the opportunity to hear Dave Bennett play his clarinet. Check out his website, see if he’s going to be playing near you. And if he is, make a point of going to hear him. He’s a young Benny Goodman with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis breaking out on occasion.

Guaranteed to make you smile.

A full moon greeted us at the end of a magical evening.


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Let’s explore Bok Gardens and Pinewood Estate

We’re back home in snowy, cold, shades of white Michigan this evening. But I have so much more to show you from sunny, warm, colorful Florida, so let’s pretend we’re still there, shall we?

The front of Pinewood Estate.

I last left you with a tease about Bok Gardens, a wonderful place full of magical gardens, a winter mansion and an amazing bell tower. I don’t want to leave you hanging, so here we go!

We wandered under huge trees enjoying the azalea bushes that were in full bloom.

Bok Gardens is a 7 acre slice of heaven, including several types of gardens designed by Olmstead brothers landscaping company (the same that designed the gardens at Biltmore in North Carolina, and Central Park in New York City), a new children’s play and educational area, what seems like acres of azaleas, a Florida desert trail, and towering live oaks covered in lichen and ferns.

I’ve never seen red sugar cane before.

The home, built in the center of all of this beauty, was the winter home of industrialist Charles Buck (not Bok, I know, it’s confusing) from 1932 to 1945. After that it was purchased by a couple of families before being acquired by Bok Gardens in 1970.

The house from the back.

The house, with over 12,000 square feet, feels much more intimate than many of the seasonal homes of the wealthy back in those days.

Dining with color everywhere.


The rooms were smaller, and many had lower ceilings.

One of several bedrooms.

There wasn’t gold gilding, unlike many homes of this vintage, but there were plenty of wonderful details.

An ibis acts as a doorstop, holding up the heavy and intricate door.

Tilework acted as wainscoting throughout the first floor, and ran up the stairs to the less public rooms.

Beautiful tile covers the risers on the front stairs.

The floors on the main level were covered in handmade red tiles, each room with it’s own pattern.

One of many patterns of these tiles.

The docents told us the gardens were put in first, and then the house was built so that each area had a different garden view. Pretty spectacular.

Magnolias, azaleas and camellias were all in bloom.

And then there’s the bell tower, with it’s huge carillon and sixty tons of bells which are played regularly. It is absolutely stunning.

Glimpsing the tower through the trees.

There were two concerts the day we were there, one we heard as we wandered the garden, and another that we purposely sat and listened to.

Details of the top, the colors are beautiful.

Bok Tower Gardens is located between Tampa and Orlando, and I think time spent there is well worth the admission for you and your family. Kids can play in the kid garden and run on the lawns up by the tower.

Stonework at the entrance to the childrens’ garden and play space.

Parents can let the beauty wash over them…and I guarantee everyone will smile.

And after all that, we made it over to the Gulf for the sunset.

A pretty ending to a very good day.

I’ll post more about the beaches in another post. We did spend a bit of time walking those white sands. After all…it’s Flordia.

Door knob detail.


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A musical smile

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine you know I’ve been working on a pesky Shostakovitch piece, Dance 1, for this Sunday’s community band concert. It’s hard. Not the key it’s arranged in, or, really, any particular part of it, done at a manageable tempo. But this one is presto, which translates to really really really fast. Please click on the link above, it’s a YouTube post of a group playing the same arrangement we’ll be doing, a three minute and eleven second thrill ride.

There’s a whole other page too.

I let this piece stress me out.

I’ve practiced many nights, starting at a slower tempo and working out difficult fingerings, going over and over passages until my fingers could remember what my eyes and brain couldn’t always coordinate. Every evening this past week I worked at a faster tempo.

I shouldn’t let playing music stress me. The whole idea behind a community band is to provide an opportunity for people to continue playing after school. People that aren’t professional musicians but who loved to play as young people have the chance to reconnect with others just like them, all working toward a common goal – make some music and have some fun.

In our band several generations are represented, and that’s special. We have people that some would label elderly and kids just getting their drivers licenses. This season I’m sitting between a tenth grade boy and a ninth grade girl. Sometimes the sheer drama of their lives overwhelms me. I’m not typically a lover of kids. Individually there have been some I really like, but mostly I think they’re best enjoyed at a healthy distance.

But here’s where this week’s smile comes from.

During a break.

Tuesday was the last rehearsal before our concert. Everyone was pretty worried about this particular piece. When the conductor asked us to pull out Dance 1 we all took a collective deep breath. And then we began. One hundred fifty beats per minute, and the music just soared. The runs climbed and dipped, the trills thrilled, the beat pulsed. And when we got to the end of page four the conductor put her baton down and sort of hugged herself.

And she smiled.

In the back row of clarinets there were quiet grins and a few high fives. Kids on both sides of me sat back satisfied. The ninth grader told me she liked sitting back there with us. I told her I liked having her next to me too. The tenth grader, who generally doesn’t engage with me actually looked at me and smiled.

Music brought a whole bunch of disparate people together. Music made us all work hard for a common goal. Music made us all, for that moment, beyond happy.

Music made us smile.


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Hope = smiles

This week I had plenty of reasons to smile. After all I’m retired; I don’t have to get up in the dark and drive on congested construction strewn roads to work and then do it all again the next day.

That in itself makes for automatic smiles.

Visiting Lansing, the Capitol of Michigan, on a cold Sunday afternoon.

But if I had to pick one thing that made me smile this week it would be Sunday afternoon when my husband and I attended the ceremonial swearing in of our new Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

I keep insisting that I’m not political, I don’t like politics, I don’t have the patience for all the talk and lack of action, for the arguing, for the lack of empathetic listening, the insensitivity. I hate that neither party even tries to hear an opinion outisde their own dogma.

But this year the candidate challenging my district’s incumbant Congressman caught my attention. She actually sat down with my husband and me and listened intently to our truck safety issues. So I became involved in her campaign, canvasing and talking politics to strangers, which was very scary for me. She won by 13,000 votes and attending her ceremonial swearing in made me smile.

Photo from Slotkin’s webpage. Senator Stabenow, Congresswoman Slotkin and her husband, retired Colonel David Moore.

Presiding over the ceremony was Michigan’s Senior Senator who has also been very open to our issues, which made me smile broader.

But the biggest smile during the event was reserved for the Sexton High School choir who sang for us. A group of young people, diverse in ethnicity and culture, sang of hope and change to a huge ballroom filled with mostly middle aged white people.

Lansing’s Sexton High School Choir rocked it!

They sang from their hearts and we listened with ours, knowing that we were on the cusp of change for our district, filled with hope for a more responsive government. And when they finished we rose in a standing ovation before their last note ended, which made them smile.

“If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
(lyrics from Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror)

After the event, while we were all milling around talking I noticed one of the young singers standing behind me. I turned around and told him how beautiful the music had been. He nodded his head respectfully, then burst out into a wide grin and swallowed me up in a hug.

Seems smiles were the order of the day.

The gears of change grind slowly.

What’s made you smile? Tell us about it and link to Trent’s blog, he’ll recap for us next Monday!

Note: Follow the link above about Elissa to read a short article about the ceremony which contains a few quotes from her speech. I think they’ll give you hope too.

Something to smile about in Lansing last Sunday.


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Cee’s Black & White photo challenge: Music

A few years ago we had a mother/daughter duo playing clarinet in our community band. I took this image just before a concert, for another of Cee’s black and white challenges, that time for two of anthing.

I’ve always liked it, and so did they. I gave them a framed copy.

The daughter was in high school at the time, and now she’s graduated from college. Time flies, but connections made through music last forever.


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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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The comfort of Mahler more than 100 years after his death

Saturday evening found my husband and I in Ann Arbor with my Aunt listening to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major performed by the Ann Arbor Symphony.

I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of listening to the long symphony, over an hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission and no chance to change gears if it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I thought longingly of the concert last month filled with Dvorak and Gershwin. But I figured this one would be good for me.

And it was – in an unexpected way.

You see Saturday morning was the horrific mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Throughout the day I watched updates and wondered, again, how such things continue to happen in our country.

By Saturday evening I was overwhelmingly sad.

Music Director Arie Lipsky gave his typical lecture prior the the concert, explaining bits and pieces of the four movements, giving us a better understanding of the composer’s life and this particular piece. It’s thought to be Mahler’s goodbye, perhaps a foreshadowing of his fatal heart ailment, but, Maestro Lipsky said, the final interpretation of the meaning behind the music would be up to the performers, and ultimately us, the listening audience.

And there he paused, stared down at his score, then looked up with pain in his eyes and quietly dedicated the evening’s performance to the murdered members of the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My own eyes filled with tears. And as we settled into our seats to hear the music I wondered what my interpretation would be. What would I hear in this long piece on this, such a sad day?

And, it turns out, for me the music was intertwined in the events of the day.

As someone who has experienced the unexpected news about a violent death of a family member, all I could hear in this music was the raw emotion of the families left behind on this horrible Saturday morning. It was as if the music was describing the road each of them will be traveling as they move through their grief in the days and years ahead.

The first movement, Andante comodo, started out innocently, peacefully, much like the lives of the parishioners themselves as they settled into the service, like those people still in traffic on their way to meet friends and family as they probably did every weekend. But about two minutes into the piece there came a foreboding feeling.

Something was wrong.

At 5:45 into the music I could hear the news being spread, tension built, shock, disbelief and confusion were all being felt. The rest of the movement took me through the roller coaster of those first moments, hours and days after the event, the music filled with layers of rage and grief followed by bits of sweet memories and longing, always overcome with the deep swells of pain and sorrow.

The second movement, Im Tempo eines, represented, for me, a time in the future when family members have given themselves permission to be happy again. It started out with a lighthearted, though clumsy, dance. The family was, rightly so, a bit rusty in their happiness. But soon enough the music began to change tempo, to speed up and become a bit manic, as the nightmare of reality interrupts even the simple joy of dance.

The third movement, Rondo-Burleske, is all about the chaos, rage, and disbelief inherent in grief with an almost nightmarish circus motif. It was loud and fast from the very first notes, allowing for no contemplation, only emotion. And the interweaving themes kept pounding at our emotions until the abrupt end which forced a collective gasp from wide-eyed audience members.

There was a longer pause, then, between the third and fourth movement, Adagio, as the musicians seemed to collect themselves, to adjust their mindset from the frenetic third to the quiet resolution of this last movement.

And here, in the fourth, was where my tears fell again. For it was here that I felt the resignation and acceptance, the finality of the loss. The soft tones were contemplative, but there was a hint of joy too, hidden between the layers of deep pain, in the pools of grief.

The joy came from finally realizing that our loved ones, lost to violence, are safe now. And though it’s hard, so very hard, not to have them here with us, it became clear, as the last distant notes faded into the night air, that they are truly and forever home.

I felt a bit silly as I surreptitiously wiped the tears from my cheeks, but I noticed a few others doing the same. And then I stood, along with the rest of the house, to applaud my appreciation

So that’s my interpretation of Mahler’s ninth, heard on this particular difficult day in the history of our country.

If you would like to hear some of this Mahler piece, but don’t have over an hour to devote, I recommend listening to a few minutes of each of the first three movements and then to the entire fourth movement.

I trust Mahler will bring you a similar feeling of hope and peace.