The Bliss Blog

<p>Day 36: “I’m not in a party, I am a party! Everywhere I go is a party!” - Kid President<br />


It starts out with the words “I think we all need a pep talk.” and quotes a legendary poet (“not cool, Robert Frost”). The speaker of these words is a cherubic looking youngster with the wit and wisdom of an ancient sage, juiced up on life. He waxes forth with quotables such as “The world needs to stop being boring.” “If life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?”  “I want to be on the road that leads to awesome.” “Create something that will make the world awesome.”

This wise man is 9 year old Robby Novak from Tennessee; on the surface, a ‘normal’ kid with a sense of humor that belies his age and likely as a result of being ‘broken open by life.’  Born with Brittle Bone Syndrome, formally known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Robby (a.k.a. Kid President) has broken over 7o bones in his body. Some of his videos show him sporting colorful casts. Do you think that stops him from keepin’ on keepin’ on?  No way!  And if he can dance through life, literally and symbolically, so can we.

With his brother in-law as camera man,  he created a series of home made videos that have him waxing philosophical and silly, encouraging grownups to stop being boring and boo-hooing over things that we can actually change.   Rainn Wilson from “The Office” and Soul Pancake, got a glimpse of the videos and invited KP to play. Over 7 million views of his motivational. transformational, inpsirational words and moves have made this young man a viral phenom.

In his Pep Talk video, he queries: “In high school, what if [Michael Jordan] had quit if he didn’t make the [basketball] team? He would have never made Space Jam. And I love Space Jam. What would be your Space Jam? What would you create that would make the world awesome? Nothin’ if you keep sitting there.” “If it doesn’t make the world better, don’t do it.”

When asked what policital party he affiliates with, his brilliant response was: “Don’t be in a party. Be a party.”

What I love most about this brilliant beam of light is that he is a thriver who moved beyond being a victim and even survivor of a serious condition and is a role model for kids and adults alike about the power to overcome challenge through love and humor, playfulness and deeply held values that we can and are called on to make a difference in each others’ lives. If I could meet him, I would hug him and thank him for shining his heart so magnificently. For now, this will have to do. A Pep Talk Kid President Answers Your Questions The True Story of Kid President


Variations on an artist\'s paint palette.<br /><br />Please support my work<br />by visiting the sites where<br />my images can be purchased.<br /><br />Please search for \'Billy Alexander\'<br...


“I love how each day starts with a blank canvas. What masterpiece shall we create today?”-Mark Semple

Each morning, we are given the gift of 1440 minutes. It comes in a package wrapped with a ribbon of infinite possibility. You may think, as you are presented with it, that you know what it contains, but the reality is, it is truly a surprise. Each moment is ripe with possibility and it takes only one tweak of thought to change what you find when you open it.

The same is true with regard to the artistic metaphor that New York based coach, who refers to himself as a “Passion Dude”, Mark Semple uses. Imagine beginning with a completely clean slate, despite what may have transpired before your head touched down on your pillow and you snuggled beneath the blankets and journeyed off to dreamland. While the seeds we plant moment to moment, grow our bountiful harvest, we can still ‘start a new life’.

In any given day, we may be faced with joys and challenges, illness or injury, fun and frolic, inspiration and indignation; all part of the mish-mosh, soul stirring soup pot that we immerse in. We are offered an opportunity to pick up metaphorical markers, prodigious paint brushes, creative colored pencils and go for it. No artistic training needed.

Today, mine began at early o’clock when my son got up and I heard him rattling about. Drifting in and out of twilight state, the Muse beckoned me to awaken to be a partner in creation of word pictures. When She speaks, I am often helpless to resist. Once I finish this entry, I will head over to the gym for my playout, and then to my ‘day job’ that involves counseling with folks who are in recvovery from addictions of various sorts. Somewhere in this next 24 hours, I intend to write more, do promo for my radio show, and my other endeavors, plan a fun weekend with whoever shows up to play. I will then plant seeds for  next week’s activities, which in typical oddly juxtapositional form includes being a guest on a radio show, seeing a childhood musical icon Peter Yarrow; from Peter, Paul and Mary at a local bookstore and getting together with and interviewing relationship and sexuality educator, Reid Mihalko who created Cuddle Party for which I am a certified facilitator (and that’s just on Monday!)

Somewhere in there, will be sleeping, eating, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping, getting tax info together for my accountant and likely shoveling snow, since we are going to be visited by Jack Frost here in the Philly area. Cosmically coincidentally, as I am typing these words, the song A New Life sung by Jim James from My Morning Jacket is coming out of my computer speakers.

Regardless of whatever presents itself, Mark, I do intend to create a masterpiece.

How do each of you intend to take up your art supplies and color with your creative juices?

A painter working on chinese ink paintings. They are for sale.. but all so expensive that I can't even begin to judge it's artistic merits after seeing the sticker price.  A New Life by Jim James


Helen's Funeral Band | Living Slowly

Ever listen to a CD by  musicians who were not on your radar screen and find yourself entranced by its charm? The entire recording by an unusually named group; Helen’s Funeral Band feels like a caress. Combine the silky voiced sounds reminiscent of Aaron Neville, the keyboard of Van Morrison and the tonings of Bobby McFerrin and Living Slowly is what you get. Michael Slattery’s classically trained voice is such a surprise on a pop-jazz-bluesy-funky release,  and when combined with multi-instrumentalist Alex Brofsky’s gifts, it is genre crossing delight. Not only are they superb musicians, but carry poets’ souls as they have penned a host of heart rending songs.

The echoing and haunting sounds of Rivertown have the listener feeling the penetrating depths of both water and the souls who have passed through “this forgotten river town”
There’s a world here left in time
But there is nothing left inside

A lacy trail of creeping vines

Over the river’s deep divide


By far, my favorite piece is Living Slowly, since it is what I most need to remember

Living slowly doesn’t hurt my soul

I learn much more that way

The time has come to bring a change of pace

As love can slip away



The Deep Water referenced in the third piece sounds like the journey our hearts take above, within and then below the  surface of love.

You know love isn’t fun

No not any more and didn’t it used to be fine

Is it the end of love?

And what did she say and how do I feel did she go did she make a scene?

This is the end of love

Oh just leave me alone a while


Evergreen  seems to be an ode to the tender care  relationships require.

Promise me this

Build me a garden

And I’ll tend to her

As I tend to you


Even in winter

I’ll faithfully guard her

Faithful and evergreen


An achingly powerful song, Longing has a darker feel than the others, with the deeply resonant voice of I, Storm issuing forth with:

All I know is anguish

Darkened is my language

Why did I think it would be painless when I’m alone I cannot frame this

And I wonder

If you ever think of me

Lullabye is a sweetly embracing offering for a beloved child

Ooh my baby child

Rest here in my arms awhile

Ooh just close your eyes

And listen to this lullaby


The Joni Mitchell classic Both Sides Now is re-imagined as the closing song.

Bows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere

I’ve looked at clouds that way


I love learning about what it is that inspires musicians and Alex Brosky shares the origin of this creation:
“The band was born after my wife Helene’s mother’s (Helen) funeral. It was the first time that Michael and I had performed live together. A year later we put a few songs together and needed a name, “Helen’s Funeral Band” rang true to us, and here we are.
About four years ago I was in a tough place; I had just lost my (plan B/not music) job and was drinking too much. I had sent Michael an email with an instrumental of “Coming Home”. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, but Michael called to say how much he loved the song and was already writing lyrics to it. That was the beginning of this project and also the start of my getting my life back together, and getting back to plan A.
“Today” and “Living Slowly” are songs I did years ago with a rhyme and horn melody, respectively, where the verse lyrics are now. Helene and Michael wrote the verses for “Today”, the verse in “Living Slowly” was all Michael. I wrote the lyrics to both hooks. The rest of the songs were a collaboration. I would put music down, and then Michael would expand on it with lyrics, and his beautiful interpretations of the music. “Deep Water” was inspired by an Ernest Hemingway short story “The End of Something”, always a favorite of mine. “Lullaby” was written to as a gift to our cousin Sara when she was beyond weary waiting to bring her daughter Vanessa (and Michael’s goddaughter) home. Fate gifted us back on this one as our first performance of “Lullaby” was the same day Sara brought Vanessa home to NYC, which also happened to be Michael’s birthday.  “Both Sides Now” is a great Joni Mitchell song that Michael has performed solo playing the Squeeze Box, I added the arrangement on the recorded version.
The album is a very organic project – several of our family members were involved, all of them great musicians. My sister Natasha Brofsky-Tapping wrote the intro melody on “Living Slowly” and her daughter (my niece) Cordelia sings it. My brother-in-law Roger Tapping (who recently joined the Juilliard String Quartet) plays Viola on “Deep Water” with Natasha playing cello. The two of them did the string arrangement for that song. Michael and Helene’s cousin Kate Murphy, a country singer in Nashville, sings on the outro of “Living Slowly.” The great drummer Abe Fogle (of Rob Thomas and my own AB+ band) plays drums on “Deep Water,” “Longing,” “Living Slowly,” and “Coming Home.” The solid and surprising Konrad Adderley (Sonny Rollins, Aretha Franklin, AB+) plays bass on the same songs.
Michael Slattery’s Bio:
Since graduating from Juilliard, Michael Slattery has enjoyed an exciting international career. He has worked with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the French National Orchestra in Paris, the Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall. Career highlights include The Very Best of Lerner & Loewe with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall, Bach’s B Minor Mass with Ivan Fischer and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, the Tristan Project with the LA Phil at Lincoln Center, the title role in Bernstein’s Candide at Royal Festival Hall in London, and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the Châtelet Theater in Paris, the Staatsoper in Berlin, and at Glimmerglass. He was recently included in The Spectator’s list of tenor “Heroes of the Concert Hall” and his “Dowland in Dublin” CD was chosen for “Opera News” Best of 2012 list.
Alex Brofsky’s Bio:
Alex Brofsky is a New York-based Composer/Arranger/Performer/Producer. He has performed and recorded with some of the greatest names in jazz including Miles Davis, Lenny Kravitz, Gil Evans, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker, Woody Herman, McCoy Tyner, Jim Hall, Dave Holland and many others. He has done remixes for Da’ Brat and Mary J. Blige. Alex has released several CDs on NewBreed records and two solo CDs (“AB+ – the Unentitled” and “Absolution”), both available on Itunes and cdbaby. listed AB+ as one of the top ten artists of the new millennium after several of his song hit #1 on their charts. In addition to “Helen’s Funeral Band” he is preparing a release for the U.K. label “Adaptation Music” in 2013.

My wish is that this debut album be only the first of many for this collective and that, as is shared in the title song, wishing that you recognize that

Love is a celebration


photos taken at the Colorado Springs Balloon Classic over the years


What if you had a decision to make that involved your livelihood, relationships, your health, where you live, who you choose to have in your circles, or whether to pursue new ventures?  How would you face it? Daily, I speak with people in my personal and professional life who ask these questions.  I examine them myself  as well. When speaking with a friend tonight, I asked a question…”Is what you are doing now draining or sustaining?”; by my way of looking at things, a pivotal query with a ‘no brainer’ answer.  Back in June I left a job that I had held for more than a decade that had me on both sides of the equation. While much of it was rewarding and I made a difference in the lives of those I served, eventually the see-saw was imbalanced and I knew it was time to step outside of the pseudo-safety of full time with benefits job into the freedom and major responsibility of being a self employed conscious entrepreneur. I make my own schedule which explains why I am up at nearly midnight, writing this article and took time earlier in the day for such health enhancing activities as going to the gym, having dinner with a dear friend who is soon to be heading westward to her new home in Crestone, Colorado, and then enjoying a  massage. Prior to that, I designed a flier for a workshop I am teaching, paid bills, renewed my social work license, did promo work and laundry.

I consider relationships that I held onto way past the time when it was nurturing to my soul and plummeting into a feeling of toxicity. If I had allowed myself access to those polarities:  draining or sustaining, they would have been mercifully shorter and far less damaging. I might also have entered into other situations with greater gusto, if I recognized their power to enliven me.

Another recent conversation had an image come to mind about a hot air balloon tethered to the ground in anticipation of take off. What needs to happen in order for it to soar skyward is to lighten the load by tossing the sandbags out and untying it.

Sometimes it takes a leap of faith into something uncertain, growing my wings on the way down that has me leaning over a precipice, trusting that I will land safely. I am reminded of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems:

The Journey
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice —
though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
Mend my life!” each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
 determined to do the only thing you could do — determined to save the only life you could save.
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