Lemonade

So fellow travelers, many recent events in my own life and the lives of many I am blessed to call friends have me thinking about a concept known as “framing.”

 

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

It’s a familiar phrase, one which evokes an accepting nod of the head, an acknowledging shrug of the shoulders or  an aggravated rolling of the eyes.

Notice how those three actions symbolize different “frames of reference”  the contemporary psych speak for “perspective.”  Now take it a step further to the next thought or action. Think how each perspective will create a different result. One can see how each choice brings either a moment of refreshment, a missed opportunity or a charge of aggravated assault with a lemon.

Ok, maybe that last one was a bit extreme, but never underestimate the impact of a piece of fruit hurled with the full power of a woman’s frustration. There’s an old dent on the side of my camper which proves the point.

Sooooo, what does one do when life hands you the lemonade, all ready made? As I pondered this question a poem emerged:

lemonade

What does one do when life

hands you not lemons but lemonade

all ready made

Unaware, indeed uncaring

if it’s served up cold or hot,

mixed to taste or not

No choice in how tart or sweet

or the glass it’s served

life’s got some nerve

Like a koan in zen this is when

with furrowed brow

one asks now what? or is it what now?

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snoopy Meets Daft Punk: Finale at Herald Square

So fellow travelers, some of my readers have been asking what happened when the Baldwinsville Marching Band reached  Herald Square.  So we pick up the story as the kids march out of sight, rounding the corner at Columbus Circle, heading, via 59th street,  for Sixth Avenue.

macysCCturn

As any viewer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade knows, the final stop of the parade route is Herald Square. What I did not realize until the first parent meeting last August was the Herald Square viewing area would be completely inaccessible to anyone who did not have a VIP ticket. In fact for several blocks before the 6th avenue/35th street crossing there is a strictly enforced “silent zone” due to the broadcast of performances at Herald Square. The only way to see the kids final performance would be to watch the broadcast on TV and in fact only on NBC, which has exclusive rights to the Herald Square portion of the parade. So parents were faced with a tough decision; go to NYC and watch theirs kids march in the parade or stay home and watch their Herald Square performance on TV. For me there was no question I’d be on a New York City street corner watching them march.

A handful of parents managed to obtain rooms in hotels with views of the parade route and one family had friends with an apartment at 67th street and Central Park West, so they were able to see the kids march and then watch them perform about 45 minutes later at Herald Square.

The Herald Square performance was unique because it featured a special set of music and field style marching moves which would not be seen anywhere else during the parade.  In fact bands are forbidden to perform their Herald Square sequence at any other venue prior to the parade, except of course during practice and rehearsals. Our band asked for and received special permission to do a practice performance at the high school’s homecoming football game. They had also done some “standstill” performances of their Herald Square music which reflected, as I mentioned in an earlier post, their assigned category of “contemporary relevant.”  The director had chosen a piece by the  Pentatonix  a popular vocal group  with amazing vocal dynamics and diversity.  (I’m willing to bet if you have a Facebook account you saw the video of their harmonic version of “Mary Did You Know?” which circulated during the holidays. )  The Marching Bees would be performing their Daft Punk Mix, a funky mash-up of synthpop songs created by two French musicians who first hit the music charts in the 90’s and are still “relevant” now with their album Random Access Memory winning album of the year at the 2014 grammy awards. Known as much for the visual storytelling elements in their performances and mysterious robotic helmet disguises,  Daft Punk proved a perfect match for our kids whose field band shows earn standing ovations season after season, whether the judges score them well or not.

macyspracticestar72dpi

To prepare for their nationally televised performance at Herald Square, an exact replica of the Macy’s Star was painted in a back parking lot on the school campus. In between preparations and rehearsals for the field show  Death of Superman ( a potential blog series of its ownthe band also worked on the Daft Punk performance.  I’ve described how the band director prepared the kids for the long cold march through the streets of New York.

macysfinale

Once at Herald Square they would be expected to run to their positions at the star and perform flawlessly, hitting all their marks, smiling for the cameras for millions to see.  The actual process of running accurately into position was a big focus in their later practices.

macys3am

(Photo Note: staff photo of the 3am, yes that’s 3AM, practice run at Herald Square.  Notice the distance markers and TV cameras in front.  Producers watch the rehearsals to be sure the kids are “hitting” their marks.  Bville was so well prepared they only needed two practice runs to get final approval.)

I’ve lifted the bells my daughter plays into the back of my SUV.  I doubt I would be smiling if I had to run a full New York city block with them strapped to my cold, tired body which had just marched two and a half miles on freezing concrete streets.

macysemwbells

Yet later that day, when we watched the DVR recording of their performance on my brother’s High Def TV, there she was, along with her 160 plus bandmates running, smiling and Daft Punking their way into the hearts of America. We had to run the video frame by frame to catch a glimpse of her running on and off at the beginning and end of the performance.  The standing percussion instruments were lined up outside the camera view of the main performance, but one can hear the bells loud and clear throughout the performance.

The Pentatonix were also in the parade, but on a float about a half hour after our band. Weird right?  Why not place them right behind our kids; but parents who went to a meet and greet at the Hard Rock Cafe the day before the parade said the group was excited to have a high school band performing their version of Daft Punk’s music.

macyspentatonix

It was a surreal experience, watching my phone light up with the posts on social media as the band was performing live at Herald Square.

“Wow great job kids!”  “Baldwinsville you’ve made us so proud.”  “Herald Square is shining with Bee Pride.”

At that moment, my husband and I were working our way through the NYC transit system to get across town to the designated location for parents picking up their kids after the parade. I had promised my daughter she would still get to have a full Thanksgiving Dinner so we had to make the rendezvous on time or she would be riding the bus back home. Thanks to the generosity of my brother and sister-in-law who were hosting her family at their home in New Jersey, we made good on that promise.

We had no idea how long it would take for the kids to get to the pickup location.  They had to march over to the public library for their professional post parade group shot, head back to their hotel, change out of uniforms, pick up their luggage and have one of the buses bring the kids staying behind to the rendezvous point to meet their parents. By the time my daughter stepped off the bus into my big Mom hug we were all feeling pretty jet lagged and we still had to get to my brother’s house for dinner.  Still, she came to life when I asked her how it felt to do the parade. Her face glowed with excitement. “Mom, I just had no idea there would be so many people.  The further we marched the crowds just kept getting massive.  It was so crazy when we got to Herald Square, we just ran on and did the show. It was amazing.  You guys were right.  This is something I will never forget.”

and that’s when my heart overflowed into tears of joy.

macysHSqsign

(If you would like to see the band’s Herald Square performance, this link will bring you to the YouTube file of the broadcast from NBC . Also, my daughter’s amazing experience with her fellow band members was possible because of a network of tremendous community support.  You can read about that here. )

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Shared Post: Love Held Close

So fellow travelers, a truly special guest post today.  This link will bring you to a  moving and beautiful poem about the love we have for our companion animals written by the talented Kate Rantilla, a fellow Creative Bedlam Group member, someone I am also blessed to call friend and Spirit Sister.

Kate is one of those people who has depth in her observations  and a compassionate heart of gold. She also has the BEST soulful laugh. We’ve been rooming together for the Bedlam Events for a couple of years now.  The last time we stayed at the retreat center, a plaque on our door stated  Daughters of the King  and so it came to pass that we became sisters by proclamation.  The ease with which we picked up where we left of when we last saw each other  made it obvious the connection between us was not just a “special event glow.” We went from Roommates for Life to Sisters of the Heart in a hug and a few good laughs.

In a few days Kate and I will meet in Saratoga to hear another CGBF friend, Candy Cuthbert, sing with the Battenkill chorus at the stunning  Zankel Music Center of Skidmore College. The next day we will meet with a few other “farmie” friends at the Round House Cafe for brunch.  It is a respite that comes at a perfect time, when my tolerance  for “stupid $#!+ ”  at work is at it’s breaking point and I can’t afford to break.  I have a daughter headed for college later this year in Tokyo!  But that is the subject for  future post.

DofKsignedit

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

On Making Magic Happen

So fellow travelers,  I often refer to the Creative Group of Bedlam Farm, an online community of people started by New York Times Best Selling Author Jon Katz.  It is an amazing conglomeration of people from all walks of life who are also writers, photographers, musicians, dancers and artists who paint, draw, zentangle, sew, weave, knit, carve, cook and more.  I have made connections on line which forged into life time friendships when meeting members face to face.  Being part of this experience has changed my life in ways I am only beginning to comprehend, none more powerful than the experience of a heart filled with the joy of giving.

Last summer, when Jon had sudden and unexpected open heart surgery just after the June Bedlam Farm Open house,  we held our collective breath. We filled the Creative Group Facebook page with poems and images of Light and Hope. He not only survived, he returned home in record time.  During his recovery we took up the call to become “warriors of light,” posting images, poetry and prose of inspiration.  Through it all a little thread of wanting to do something more, something “magical,” as our ring leader Lisa Dingle called it, began to grow and weave itself into a full out Super Secret Plan.

Earlier in the year at Jon’s urging, Lisa posted her own travel journal of her family’s magical vacation.  It was time to bring that magic to Bedlam Farm.  So a plan was hatched and miraculously kept secret until the very moment of the final presentation last August. I remember having “sweaty eyes” while sending a message to Lisa saying ” You did it, you made magic happen” and she replied ” We all did it.” It was a lesson in gracious acceptance for Jon and Maria. It was an experience of pure joy for all of us.  In fact it still is, as reflected in this post from Lisa on the group page today:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The Troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…”

Last summer, this group of creative crazy ones and misfits, and rebels and troublemakers did something absolutely amazing.

When our founder, our guide, our creative spark ignitor and encourager had open heart surgery. We banded together to send him and the love of his life to his favorite place on earth… a place where he and the love of his life find smiles and magic.

And at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow, the car arrives at Bedlam Farm to whisk them away toward Orlando. Let the magic continue.

Jon and Maria have promised to write and post photos of their trip.  I cannot wait.  I am as excited as if I were going to Disney myself. Jon called it a trip of a lifetime. Indeed it will be a lifetime experience for all of us through the power of Magic Made Real.

100_5035

(photo note:  Mickey in Tokyo Disney  taken on our own magical vacation in April 2010)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Ho Mitakuye Oyasin: We are All Related

So fellow travelers some of the best moments from the Bedlam Open House weekends are the spontaneous side trips and adventures shared with fellow “farmies.” Those are the times when relationships initiated in the on-line group are forged into genuine friendships.

During the open house last October,  Donna Bolls asked if I would like to come out to hike the quarry by Tom Atkins’s home where she was staying.  I loved the idea of spending some time with Donna but I was also really tired from what had been a very full weekend so far. Yet, something in me said “go.”  I am grateful I listened to that Inside Voice, something I am getting better at.

When we pulled in his driveway,  Tom emerged from his home, welcomed us warmly and offered to guide us along the quarry trail.  As we climbed the hill,

quarrytrail2edit

Tom told us of the history of the quarry and of the things he saw on and off the path

quarrybatcave edit

during the changing seasons.

quarryleavesedit

 

All three of us carried cameras, so we stopped frequently to take shots of things that spoke to us

quarrytomeditquarryfloweredit

and , as is the way with the Bedlam Creatives, we captured images of each other.

quarrymossDeditquarrytrailDedit

It was a walk filled with beauty

 quarryedit

and mystery

quarryshedBWedit

and the simple joy of friendship.

 quarrytrailTandDedit

I remember Tom’s quiet comment of how he never tired of the view

 quarryfoliageviewedit

I can see why.

quarryviewedit

Tom was at his father’s side this week when his father died.  Our group was with Tom in spirit during his vigil, posting our support as he shared his experiences through his moving poems and posts. One of our Bedlam friends was able to attend his father’s memorial service.   Donna is now walking the path of her father’s final days as well. I thought of our quarry hike as soon as I read her post. Two of my friends connected by shared life transitions, a reminder that in so many ways we are all related.

quarrysunsetedit

(note: the title phrase Ho Mitakuye Oyasin is a native american phrase originating from the Sioux but used widely by the tribes of the Iroquois Nation which live in Upstate New York.  It is used with the deepest respect for my teachers who guided me through a Vision Quest experience many years ago.)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Setting Love Free

 

 

My friend and creative mentor Jon Katz had to let his sweet dog Lenore go today, taken by a  recently discovered painful tumor in her spine.  Her death was a sudden and unexpected blow to all of the Bedlam Farm Community.

It is impossibly difficult to say goodbye to Love.  These words came to me once tears had run dry.

 

lenore

Somewhere in Heaven

Where dogs run free

A friend of mine is walking

Shes eating forbidden apples

And basking in the sun

Her jet black coat soaking up Love

So  Radiant Rays from her sweet gentle heart

Will shine down to comfort those of us left behind.

lenore and jay

 

Goodbye Lenore, sweet Hound of Love.  Those of us blessed to have visited Bedlam Farm thank you for the love.

(Photo note:  The photos of Lenore were taken at the June 2014 Bedlam Farm Open House.  We sat for a while sharing some secrets and later in the day she offered to help Jeff Anderson’s son Jay with his lunch. )

Farewell Simon

So fellow travelers  there is one less ass in the world and you may be surprised to learn we are worse off for the loss.

simon72dpi

I am grateful to have connected with Jon Katz and Maria Wulf  through the Bedlam Farm Creative Group.  I have made so many wonderful friends as a result of this unique and genuine community. Still I have to say being befriended by Simon is perhaps one of the greatest blessings of this connection. Wait, you ask did I actually say “befriended by a donkey?”  Yes,  indeed I did.  But not any common ass (although read Jon Katz’ latest book Saving Simon and you will realize there are no common donkeys.)

You see as a young teen I was thrown from a horse.  I was a reluctant participant in some trial riding lessons, something I did when pushed by social pressure to fit in. The so called friends I was trying to emulate mocked me for my lack of equestrine skill.  I learned a valuable lesson about peer pressure and true friendship from that experience however I never really overcame my fear of horses.  I tried riding several times over the years, but always felt awkward in the presence of horses.  Until I attended the Bedlam Farm Open House in September 2013 where I first met Simon.  He was so gracious in accepting my hesistant offering of a carrot, nuzzling me gently when I rubbed his nose.  I literally felt all the trauma from my past experience melt away from deep in my heart. My subsequent visits to Bedlam Farm in 2014 were punctuated by reunions with Simon.  His melodious bray made my heart sing. Ever a dog person I was surprised but joyful at this equine connection. His healing gift also made it possible for me to stand fearlessly in the middle of Jeff Anderson’s pasture as his magnificent horses thundered majestically around those of us who attended his photo workshop on the Monday following last October’s open house making it possible for me to capture shots like these.

jeffshorsesedit72dpi

 horseEyeViewedit100dpi

 

Simon has left Bedlam Farm, but he left a healing hoof print on my soul forever.  Thank you Jon and Maria for sharing Simon with us.

Snoopy meets Daft Punk: Part Six and the Band Played On

So fellow travelers, our band’s moment in Macy’s Parade history is about to unfold.

Macyscelebrateclown72dpi

One thing about the illusion created by the massive character balloons is observers lose all perspective of how close things are to their actual location. It’s the same effect created by large mountains visible from a distance like Mt.Hood or Fuji. Spotting the Wimpy Kid’s broad white forehead created a flurry of activity on our corner, as parents stashed snacks and water bottles, readied signs and checked cameras.  Still before we would see the Bees, there were several attractions to go including the NY Mounted Police Unit with their big blue balloon

mountedpolice72dpi            policeballoon100dpi

then Dora with her new BFF  pop star Becky G

dorasfloat

followed by none other than Big Bird, Bert and Ernie.  There were several band siblings very excited to see them.

sesamest float100dpi

and I am certain the  Diary of a Wimpy Kid handlers were pleasantly startled by the enthusiastic reception our corner gave their  balloon.

DWKballoon72dpi

I heard later that the DWK handlers complimented our band staff on the quality of our kids performance of the patriotic music mix they played along the way.  Each band is given a specific category of music to perform while marching and also for their Herald Square Performance.  Baldwinsville was given “patriotic” for the parade and “relevant contemporary.”  Huh?  Well, we’ll have to wait for them to reach Herald Square to find out just what that means. Our corner came alive,  voices raised in support as half a block to our north we see the school banner and a sea of red hat plumes coming our way.

“There they are!”  “BEEEEEEville!”  “Gooooo BEEES.”  .

macysbandbanner72dpi

And then, as periodically happens, the parade paused; on our side we saw the assistant director motioning for a halt and with pinpoint precision the band stopped right within photo range. A moment which allowed me to capture this

emmaedit72dpi

Uh Huh.

Wow.

That would be our talented daughter on the left playing bells, marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Of course my eyes got (as we say in the Bedlam Creative Group) “sweaty. ”  I blinked back the tears. I knew I needed to be able to keep the shots in focus because I planned to shoot a continuous stream of photos as soon as the kids were on the move, which they were within minutes.

Last year, NY Times best selling author Jon Katz  wrote a reflection about the difference between photographing and experiencing an event. It grew out of watching the members of the Creative Group he started online armed with cameras recording every moment of the Open House held twice a year at Bedlam Farm II.  As I prepared to gather with my friends last autumn I intentionally challenged myself to commit to “camera free” periods when I could be fully present.  It did not take long to realize the richness of those experiences far surpassed the chagrin of missing a “photo op.” Besides, any number of my Bedlam friends would eventually post photos of anything I didn’t capture. So as I stood on that street corner in New York City, having captured some great shots as the band held steady I lowered my camera and breathed in the moment, trying to meld its memory into every fiber of my being.

macysemmaportrait72dpi

I looked, really looked at our daughter trying to memorize the bright red of her plume, the silver shine of those very heavy bells, the deep concentration in her expression, the pink glow of her frigid fingers, the ramrod stance of her friends in the lines around her.

And just as my heart felt it would burst into tears that could not be held back, I heard the drum major call for the band to march and she raised her mallets to play again

emma3edit72dpi

and march they did, waving their flags

macyscolorguard72dpi

playing their hearts out

macysfrontbrass72dpi

line by line

macysbackbrass72dpi

section by section

macysflutes72dpi        macyswoodwinds72dpi

color guard bringing up the rear

macysrearguard72dpi

 

followed by their instructors and the band staff

staff

onward to their soon to be televised performance at Herald Square.

macysStar

 

 

 

 

 

Snoopy meets Daft Punk: Part Five Balloons Aloft

So fellow travelers, with the Macy’s parade well  underway it wont be long ’til we hear the band, but first a few balloons will pass our corner.

 

There was a tangible surge of excitement as the crowds spotted movement up the road. The cheers spread along the curb just ahead of the first wave of rollerblading clowns. One of them took a pretty good tumble, rolled over and popped right up waving at everyone as if it was all part of the routine.  The clowns slapped hands with people, tossed confetti and handed out balloons to kids.

macysclowns2

A sudden roar of engines startled a rooftop flock of pigeons into flight

macyspigeons72dpi

The police motorcade headed our way.  Behind them we spotted the bright yellow Macy’s stars with the massive Thomas the Tank Engine looming behind them.

 

macysStarballoons72dpi

and, once the motorcycles quieted their engines as they approached Columbus Circle, we could hear the first strains of  a band playing.  Western Carolina University’s Marching Band, over 500 strong  and sounding it strode down the street.

macysWCU

The thing about band parents is we cheer for any and all bands.  Even during competition season, while we may cheer louder for our own band, we still cheer for every  performance.  Baldwinsville’s field band show earned standing ovations at several competitions. We got so excited for this first band that our visitor from London asked if this was our band. Nope, we assured him the best was yet to come.

Gazing uptown  we scanned for the incoming balloons ( we’d received an update that the kids were on the move), some of us thought we could see the large white head of the Wimpy Kid balloon far behind Thomas, a football and what appeared to be some pumpkin balloons.

macysuptownballoons

But since we were after all watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course Turkey comes first.

macysTTEballoon

Honestly the bird and his company of pilgrims were dwarfed by Thomas the Tank Engine cheerfully looming large right behind them.  I had to be sure to get a shot for the young son of my friend and Bedlam Farm photography mentor Jeff Anderson.

macysthomas72dpi

Watching the parade on television I always knew the balloons were big, but seeing them pass right overhead I realized how massive they truly are.  Thomas towers several stories high and easily half a city block long, although Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon is currently the longest balloon.

macysToothless72dpi

The number of handlers needed for each balloon ranges from 40 up to 90. It’s a tricky job requiring training and a code of whistled signals which direct the team when and how fast to walk and how much to pull in or let out their ropes to control the balloons. Every handler is either a Macy’s employee or sponsored by one and once on the team, handlers can return every year, so the handlers are a coveted spot.  Which might explain why grown men seem perfectly content to wear Hello Kitty “pinnies”.

macysHKteam72dpi

The chop-chop hum of a helicopter overhead drew our eyes skyward.

macysheli72dpi

Later, we would discover we could go on line and look for photos of ourselves in the crowd, captured by this aerial photography unit. There’s an entire industry stemming from photos participants can order after the parade.

When I returned my focus to the street uptown I gasped. It turns out the large white head we had spotted earlier was in fact Snoopy !  and my heart skipped a beat.

macysnoopy1

Suddenly I was ten years old,  glued to the TV in my parents living room watching for the debut appearance of the Snoopy Balloon. I do believe I may have  bounced up and down, as much as my frozen feet would allow, and then held my breath as my childhood favorite drew closer

macysnoopy2

 

and drifted

 

macysnoopy3

right overhead…..

macysnoopy4

I noticed some drops of water in my shots  (look closely at the buildings in the photos )   I muttered some warnings to the weather gods about the deal we struck where slogging through yesterday’s steady precipitation was repaid with dry marching conditions this morning.  Not surprisingly whatever was sprinkling from the clouds ceased within seconds. Of course Mother Nature would know better than to mess with band moms. Besides it wasn’t only our kids; this band from the Bahamas would not have been able to condition for cold weather as our kids had.

macysBahamaband

These kids danced their way down Central Park West Drive as if it was 70 and sunny.

macysBahamaband2

Their joy was so inspiring I have to say for a few minutes we all felt a warm tropical breeze.  The Bahamians shown here were actually a few floats after our kids, so the music we now heard coming down the street after Snoopy was in fact the high school band from Utah, whose school colors happen to also be black, red and white.

macysutahband

At this point we were beginning to wonder whether we had miscalculated where in the lineup the kids would be until we spotted it, there uptown….see it?……behind some sort of blue balloon…

macysUtah2

yet another big white head headed our way and this time we knew exactly which balloon which it was.  The Baldwinsville Marching Bees were just minutes away.

(To be continued)