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sisu. [merely a thought monday]

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sisu.  perseverance.  fortitude.  stamina.  courage.  determination.  my grandmother mama dear used this finnish term all the time and passed it down to my sweet momma beaky who passed it down to me.  a philosophy of life, a mantra, “you gotta have sisu!” mama dear would say.  if up against the odds, if forging upstream, my sweet momma would say, “you gotta have sisu!”  and so it was without a second thought when it was time to name my own company, the independent recording label that has been sisu music productions for the last 23 years.  i can’t think of a better name for all the challenges that have risen – and continue to rise – as an independent artist.

any moment of fear, of uncertainty, brings me to draw on that sisu…digging in my heels and standing firmly in it.  it’s kind of a blind faith and has everything to do with that.  in the face of adversity, of the scales tilted not-in-your-favor, you just keep on.  in the face of fear…everyone has their thing…the thing that makes them afraid…the thing that makes them white-knuckled…you just keep on.   sisu.

i was flying back from telluride to denver a couple days ago – in a smaller plane.  there was a big strapping guy all dressed in camouflage who got on the plane before me.  he told the flight attendant he had been out in the middle of nowhere hunting (successfully) elk and mule deer.  he was a rough and tumble kind of guy and ended up seated just across the aisle from me.  when the plane hit turbulence, particularly over the front range, his face turned red and he looked over at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look and said, “i hate this part!!”  i started talking to him then, trying to ease his obvious fear, talking about the wind currents and the mountains…how i could see the airport…we are almost there…just a teeny bit further…wheels are going to touch down any minute….  he was gripping the lock on the little tray table and finally relaxed his grip and smiled.  everyone has their thing.

we can loan others the sisu we carry with us.  we can bank on the sisu we carry with us.  i often credit being-from-new-york for times i have just forged-ahead-anyway, but my sisu roots go way further back than that.

sisu.  i stood back from the edge of a deep deep canyon the other day, my beautiful daughter on another boulder a few hundred yards away.  i looked at the sky, the sunset playing over red rock.  thought about that very moment in time, this moment i was sharing with the part of my heart known as kirsten…this moment that wouldn’t be repeated.  and i heard the voice in my head, “you gotta have sisu.”  i stepped to the very edge of the canyon, stretched out my arms and laughed aloud.

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free solo. [merely a thought monday]

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while i laid awake, i tried to picture how i would react to someone literally placing me – without ropes – several hundred feet up a sheer granite wall, my hands gripping a crack and small outcropping, my feet perched on a slight deviation in the granite face.  it made my hands sweat and my heart race thinking about how paralyzed by fear i would be, unable to move either hand or foot.  THIS is out of my comfort zone. far out.  and i couldn’t get the image out of my mind.

the wind was gusting about 35mph and there were tiny snow squalls on the way to madison.  we were on our way to a movie theatre for a national geographic release of the movie FREE SOLO, the documentary capturing alex honnold’s successful free solo scaling of el capitan in yosemite.  free solo.  without benefit of any ropes or safety gear.  just his hands, his feet, climbing chalk, and memorization, no – absolute physical retention – of the precise moves he would make on the way up this 3000′ beautiful monster.

alex doesn’t talk about his fear much.  he, instead, speaks of enlarging his comfort zone, little by little.  his somewhat unemotional approach to this challenge is daunting.  one of his support team said words to the effect that alex had this challenge:  like an olympic athlete he needed to win the gold.  no ifs, ands or buts.  it was the gold or he would fall to his death.  who does that?!!  the black and white of that makes my breathing pause.  but alex pressed on.  clearly his comfort zone is huge, that bubble around him.  at least when it comes to mountains.

i know, as fascinated as i am with mountains and climbing stories of all sorts, that this is not something i could or would do.  my mountains are different than that and my comfort zone bubble has more to do with my artistry, music, writing.  not necessarily less scary, but certainly less physically demanding and clearly, without a doubt, less treacherous.  but we are not limited to one mountain at a time.

each of us has this bubble and i picture pushing on the walls of the chrysalis, little by little conquering the fear of the outside – whatever the challenge or challenges – making our way, without ropes or safety equipment, into the next step of our lives.  we try to “dream big.”  we “go after it.”  we “just do it.”  but in reality, with no protective membrane around us, we first have to gear up, face fear vs comfort, garner courage and climb.  yes. we free solo every day.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this MERELY A THOUGHT MONDAY

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count on you [k.s. friday]

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i drove back and forth and back and forth to nashville when i recorded this album, each time returning with a cd of the work we had done on the album.  i’d play it numerous times, taking notes to share with my producer, re-writing, practicing, sometimes sharing the songs-where-they-were-at-the-time with others.

joan was the one who told me i needed a “strong woman” song included on this album.  so i walked across the street home, directly into my studio and wrote one.

now, this isn’t my favorite song – it’s a little kitschy if you ask me – but i have had many tell me how much they like it and one of my favorite performances of it was when beth’s students sang it.  (i was long-term-subbing for her. she’s a dear friend and an amazing choir teacher in a middle school in our district.)  those kids really rose to the occasion and kitschy fell by the wayside in favor of strength and power and belief in themselves.

recently d and i listened to some of my first recordings.  they were from 1979-80 and recorded in a studio in a town called port washington on the north shore of long island.  i had found a cassette (now isn’t that retro word dating me!) and we have a boombox (another retro word) that plays cassettes so we settled in to listen to the three songs on what would now be called an EP.

one of the songs is called leaving and is a song i wrote for my parents as they retired and moved from our long island home to florida.  i remembered that song well.

the other two?  well, it’s funny.  i could sing every word, but i didn’t remember the intense emotion behind them.  THESE were my #metoo songs, i discovered (rediscovered?) as i listened.  one of these days i might share these songs, not because they are great songs but because they are truth and every artist has songs that are life-defining.  not the ones necessarily that chart (although those are lovely, indeed!) but the ones that speak from deep inside, with lyrics or music that must be spoken.  these two songs were written by a vulnerable (and pretty angry) young woman who wanted to unleash the power of her crayon and live out loud, who definitely wanted to live without fear, who tried hard to break away from an experience i still would rather forget and who prayed – alone at the time – beseeching words.  all this is what i wrote about in this week’s melange.

my heart goes out to all those women who are also card-carrying #metoo survivors.  the out-loud ones and the silent ones.  my wish for each of you: unleash your crayon, live without fear, break away, pray with another, count on you.

from this song of today’s melange post COUNT ON YOU, which may be more #metoo and less kitschy than i thought,  “just move forward and then believe – you gotta trust…in you.”

DOWNLOAD the song COUNT ON YOU track 12 AS SURE AS THE SUN on iTUNES or CDBaby or purchase the CD on kerrisherwood.com

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COUNT ON YOU from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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living without fear. [two artists tuesday]

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probably one of my favorite photos of graffiti i’ve taken, i found this sprayed on the wall of a building in tuscany years ago.  i thought it was kind of lofty then and i think it is lofty now.  living without fear seems next to impossible.  how can one be that brave?

there’s this song we sing in the band called only the brave (t.hughes, m.smith, n.herbert).  we just sang it a couple days ago along with our ukulele band.  the first line, “this is the moment, this is why i’m living to face the giants with you…”  who is the You in your life?  the vastly abundant magnificent Love you may call God?  your partner?  your best friend?  your mom?  someone of this earth?  a spirit-filled presence?  the song continues, “it’s now or never, and though my heart is racing, i’ll leave my armor with you.  your love makes us stronger, and your love sees us through.  only the brave will go where you go, into the fire but never alone.  we know you’ll always carry us home; only the brave….”

as i get older, i find myself in this sliver of a space between fear and no fear.  a quandary of emotion.  i look back at all the things that made me quiver, the things that ate away at time itself and i realize that maybe, just maybe i had been just a teensy bit braver than i thought.  i look at right now and worry; i look ahead and worry.  am i brave enough?  will i be brave enough?  life has a way of presenting challenges right alongside bliss.

i find that words i had written in a post three years ago – a post about being brave – speak to me now and so i’m just going to copy and paste them here:

we face down our fears, we risk our dreams, we forgive without being forgiven, we acknowledge our disappointments, we are given grace in our mistakes, we plod on, we face the sun, we scurry through the rain, we feel our way through the fog, we celebrate the moment without investing in the whole day, we love without ceasing.

we’re braver than we know. every single day.

living without fear.

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face your giant – save the beanstalk [flawed cartoon wednesday]

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when he was a kitten, i wanted to name our cat ‘jack’ but The Girl and The Boy objected.  to me, he looked like a ‘jack’ in the way animals look like names, plus every ‘jack’ i could remember meeting had been a really nice guy.

and, in line with my nice-guy-jacks, this jack – the one with the ‘save the beanstalk’ picket sign – is a nice guy.

another case of little-guy-vs-big-guy, jack just wants to face his giant, save what is good, fight for that which he worked hard, keep what is his safe, preserve what is organic and part of the earth.  i immediately think of the many marches across our country.

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speaking their minds, good people are making an effort to face their giants, save what is good, fight for that which they work hard, keep what is theirs safe, preserve what is organic and part of the earth.

i believe that good prevails over giants, in the long run.  sometimes, the long run is waaaay long.  but good prevails.  and beanstalks grow and flourish.beanstalk FACE YOUR GIANT LEGGINGS copy

 

 

 

 

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two artists tuesday

brave-poster-jpegthis one’s hard.  i’ve written about bravery before.  i’ve written about women with backbone.  i’ve written about holding to truths and actively working for peace and respect.  about waking up each day on mother earth and the people around us working to keep this a good place.

faced with the word “brave” as our two artists tuesday image, i flounder with where to start.

very early this morning our dear friend linda left her home to go to chicago to have a cochlear implant.  we spent time with her a few evenings ago, as she sorted through hope and fear, what she’s known and the future unknown.  one of her greatest passions in life is dancing.  she dances to music designed for dance, to music she hears in passing, to music in her head.  terrified of losing the ability to hear music post-surgery, she pondered the what-if of not having this done.  but her desire to actually be able to hear MORE (more beloved voices, more broadcasted music, more cds out on the deck or in the dance hall) won out and she is on a new journey.  she is brave. brave. brave.  brave word jpeg copy

my sister just had surgery on her hand to remove a skin cancer.  i am grateful and relieved she is healing from this and will likely not have to have any additional treatment.   d and i talked about this on a walk the other day.  i was weeping openly on the sidewalks in our neighborhood as i spoke about my big brother, who died after a valiant fight with lung cancer, my daddy who was a twelve-year-or-so survivor of lung cancer, my sweet momma who had a double mastectomy for stage four breast cancer at the age of 93.  i cannot help but have some fear.  who among us is exempt from that?  but my big sister was brave and positive and i am determined, as i move forward in life, to be brave as well.  in all arenas.  on all fronts.  d says i am much braver than he is.  i’m not sure why he says this, but his words make me feel stronger.

we meet our challenges singlehandedly, we meet our challenges with a world of support, which is sometimes just one living person, one other being. our bravery is fortified by the love of others, by their words of wisdom, by their ability to shift our perspective, even just a little, by our re-defining.  for we are not in this alone.  we have on our wall in the bedroom a sign that reads, “wherever you are, that’s where i will be.”  our ‘brave’ is fed by our faith, the sisu (perseverance and fortitude) we’ve honed in life, the courageous alter-reaction to the terror of taking a step, our community of people.   susan and i have used the word “scrappy” to describe our lives; in looking at the definition of “brave” i would add intrepid and plucky.  great word – plucky.   Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 10.41.48 AM

i mean, let’s face it – just being in the world and being who we really are each day is damn brave.

 

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be brave. make a difference.

brave-poster-jpegabout a year ago our church community made a decision to state in no uncertain terms that it is a “reconciling in christ” church. this was a momentous occasion, a brave declaration; the closest church of the same denomination that is also RIC is in the next town north, a location maybe a half hour away.

the language used to enter into the church bylaws was: “We acknowledge that throughout history the Christian church has at times condemned and excluded people because of race, culture, age, gender, economic status, disability or sexual orientation. While the church has made progress in being open to many groups, there continues to be condemnation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from the community of faith, or at least, a tolerance of such condemnation and exclusion through silence. We believe such actions are inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. Trinity is a community of faith-keeping and faith-seeking people who affirm that every person has worth as a unique creation made in the image of God. We recognize, celebrate and give thanks for the many diverse gifts of God among us. We declare ourselves to be a Reconciling in Christ congregation, welcoming into the full life and ministry of the church persons of every race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and economic status. We commit to model a community of faith and spirit that works toward openness and understanding, offering justice, healing and wholeness of life for all people. We believe that through our diversity, all can grow and practice a unity of faith that transcends our differences.”

and i am so proud.

but it brings to mind some questions for me. this inclusivity and acceptance that we are “officially” announcing seems like a no-duh (for lack of a better term; it seems incongruous to me to attach flowery language to something so very basic) for a church community. it IS my understanding of a church community. what else could be more important than acceptance? what are we Actually learning from any religious organization’s underpinnings? why does it require bravery?

before i took the job of minister of music at our present church, i inquired about the attitude(s) around LGBT membership and involvement, within the church general membership and within staff and clergy. it was important to me – no, not important – it was vital to me that i would be at a place of inclusion where people did not draw boundaries because of race, sexual orientation, financial status… i would not attend a place where my own child would be looked down upon because of homophobic attitudes (read: fears.)   even now i find it incredible that i would have had to ask this question, but i know better than to think that all churches are about loving all people. why do you have to be brave to say this?

some of my friends will leave this week to march in the women’s march in washington dc, taking place next saturday. i am unable to go to this, although i will march in my mind with them. i do feel like i step in this march everyday, however, because i believe in the equality of gender, the equality of people’s sexual orientation choices…equality period. as the mom of an amazing son who is gay, (see previous post: the right place) i wholeheartedly embrace his happiness, his inclusion, his bravery to live authentically, anywhere he goes. i embrace this for both of my children. why would i not generalize this to all people?

carol suggested that i enter my design using david’s painting and the text “women. we’ve got backbone.” for poster usage at this march. (see previous post: women. we’ve got backbone.) although this poster is not among the posters that will be distributed at this march, i do believe that this backbone is what will help grow and change the world in times moving forward. the active pursuit of what we feel is right. the active pursuit of what we feel is just. as women and as men who want to be proponents of equality and opponents of hatred we need to stand up – with backbone – and make sure that we are not voiceless.

that starts at home. in our own families. in our communities. in our churches. in our states. in our country. oh yes. in our country.

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