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the air of the complicit. [merely-a-thought monday]

the snow was untouched. our steps, way over our boots, made the first tracks and it’s visible in the photograph where we chose different paths, where we broke off and went different ways. across the snowy field we trod, heading north, heading south. our tracks would not cross again unless we turned, faced and walked toward each other. otherwise, they would not. a snow-simple illustration of division, an illustration of disunity, of not walking together, of estrangement.

having just passed by the second senate impeachment trial for the person who used to be the president of this country, no far-reach into the recesses is necessary to exemplify this quote or this photograph. without getting into the nitty-gritty details, and gritty they are, the insurrection at the capitol was ghastly. but the incitement of the fervor and the lack of responsibility placed upon the powerful inciters was egregious. the positioning of those grasping onto their jobs rather than their integrity was appalling yet predictable. the snowfield was divided; a chasm of incoherent morality between the tracks of those who walk in capitol halls. the evil remains, sticking to the floor, the walls, the offices, the grand rooms…in all the places that people-who-did-nothing occupy, in the air of the complicit.

momma would say, “speak up!” and speak up i did.

in the late 70s i spoke up. there was a man, a leader, who was sexually abusing young women in my town, me included. i spoke up. i spoke out. i reported it to the people-in-charge, to the parents of these young girls, to the authorities. it was a different time for victims of molestation and it is revolting that this man was never held responsible for the way he changed each life including mine, a forever arc of impact. though his hideous actions remain unpunished, and his threats on my life back then were terrifying, it would seem that at least some of the evil moved on in the rush of air that speaking up provides. impacted forever but not silent, not in dark shadows of aloneness. you simply cannot watch someone do evil and do nothing about it. even when you are in some way imperiled. even when it’s scary.

momma said, “speak up!” and speak up i do.

and i wonder. i wonder about people who don’t, who watch evil and do nothing about it, who hunker down and just mind their own business, who figure that anything that doesn’t directly affect them doesn’t really matter, who get lost somewhere in the chasm of incoherence. those not willing to ask questions, not willing to speak up, to speak out, to speak for, to speak against. or, worse yet, those who are propelling falsehoods further into the world, never pondering their actions or the actions of leadership, never measuring them against truth. i wonder what they would do were they to personally feel the assault of evil – anywhere on the spectrum of questionable to inappropriate to shockingly grievous. i wonder why they jump on unlabeled bandwagons to mystery destinations alongside people-with-authority-but-without-veracity, people-with-authority-but-without-moral-compass, people-with-authority-and-with-unchecked-personal-agenda.

i wonder why they trek through the snow, never turning to face in, never trying to come together, to challenge evil, to reconcile, to unify.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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pink and strong, SIRS. [k.s. friday]

hmmm. substitute “HE” for “SHE”.

it is doubtful – even maybe unthinkable – that this same post from a recent CNN article, a quote by Katherine Heigl, would read, “i may have said a couple things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to ‘HE’S ungrateful,’ then that escalated to ‘HE’S difficult,’ and that escalated to ‘HE’S unprofessional.'” and why is that?

when is the last time you experienced gender bias? when is the last time you experienced gender discrimination? when is the last time ‘preferential treatment’ wasn’t referring to you? when is the last time someone thought it was ok to speak condescendingly to you? when is the last time you were the target of harassment? when is the last time you were the recipient of inappropriate diminishment at work? when is the last time your employer made it clear to you that you were dispensable? like katherine heigl, when is the last time you were told you were ungrateful? when is the last time you were told you were difficult? when is the last time you were told you, as a professional, were unprofessional? if you can answer these questions without a great deal of memory-culling, you are likely a woman.

so, why is this? why did a powerhouse actress have to endure this branding? why does any woman? in this article about ms. heigl, she stated, “the more i said i was sorry, the more they wanted it.” she continued, “the more terrified and scared i was of doing something wrong, the more i came across like i had really done something horribly wrong.”

endless and looping. created by a male-dominated system to hold powerful women, women-who-speak-up, women-who-make-a-difference, women-who-push-back, women-who-point-out-inappropriateness – in check.

and it still – even in 2021 – works.

in the cambridge english dictionary, gender bias is simple: “unfair difference in the way women and men are treated.”

according to a report by the united nations, in 2019 women held merely 28% of global managerial positions. astoundingly, this percentage 28% is nearly the same as in 1995.

wikipedia gives shape to gender bias: “leaders are expected to be assertive, so women who act in a more collaborative fashion are not viewed as leaders, but women who act assertively are often perceived as too aggressive.” what??!!

jennifer lawrence, in an article for harper’s bazaar said, “”i’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! … i don’t think i’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. it’s just heard.”

how many times have you tried to have your voice heard? how many times have you reached out or responded in a nice-nice voice, the “adorable” voice (ala jennifer), in an effort to not escalate a situation? how many times have you alerted others to a predicament, yet they did not do anything to help? how many times have you been silenced, by the shushing of higher-ups, the lack of mature questions and answers, a conversation back and forth like all good chinwags, like all good and professional collaborations, or worse, the retaliatory actions of a superior? how many times have you been disregarded and scared?

meryl streep, interviewed in 2011, said,”no one has ever said to an actor, ‘you’re playing a strong-minded man’. we assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. but a strong-minded woman is a different animal.” why?

jennifer lopez railed, “i’ve always been fascinated about how much more well-behaved we have to be than men.”

michelle obama, during an interview in 2018, said, “keep fighting for gender equality, even if it makes people uncomfortable.” referring to the uptick of open and candid stories from the #metoo movement, she added, “the world is, sadly, a dangerous place for women and girls. and i think young women are tired of it. they’re tired of being undervalued. they’re tired of being disregarded.”

ariana grande, in her fight against patriarchy, is quoted, “the incredible double standards that we [women] face on a daily basis, in the industry and just in the world, it’s shocking.” she stokes hope, “i have a long list of things i’d like to change … i think, judgement in general. intolerance, meanness, double standards, misogyny, racism, sexism. … that’s what we need to focus on. we’ve got work to do.”

oprah winfrey is quoted, “i was once afraid of people saying, ‘who does she think she is?’ now i have the courage to stand and say, “this is who i am.”

my amazing and beautiful daughter, a professional coach and instructor, carried a tourist’s skis up a mountain the other day. she was also carrying her snowboard and i imagine the extra baggage was a bit cumbersome, but she recognized that this other woman needed a bit of help. she arrived at the top of the mountain to hear a man making fun of this woman’s husband for not carrying her skis. he referred to my girl as a “little snowboard instructor”. i can see her rolling her eyes from here, over a thousand miles away. she wrote on her IG that “girls gotta support each other when (they) can.” but, the icing on her gender-cake post?

she added, “also, i’m a strong little snowboard instructor, SIR.” yep. she is.

now we all need to be katherine or jennifer or meryl or j-lo or michelle or ariana or oprah and maybe we, too, will be heard. or maybe their words will help us all on this never-ending gender-journey. women helping women.

because, yep, we are strong, SIRS.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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impact. the smallest among us. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

impact 2 copy

my aunt texted me a link to an article that was published in a long island news source.  the state of ny recently enacted the child victims act, extending the statute of limitations for a survivor of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases.

the article she sent was about a woman, now 58, who alleges sexual abuse by a music teacher in her middle school years that extended into her high school years, a young woman whose first sexual experience was forced upon her by a man twice her age.

i just re-read the article online, which had 70 comments by readers, a mixed bag of revulsion, outright indignation and seething condemnation.  people who claimed this woman was lax in her non-reporting way-back-when and was now after the money in a civil suit.  people who knew that this music teacher had been assaulting young girls for years and years, whose pedophilia was ignored by the administration and who were now cheering for the uncloaking of the mantle of silence, a journey to possible justice.  people who were sickened.

i alternatively sobbed and couldn’t breathe trying to click on this article on my phone when i got the text.  i needed to download an app, couldn’t think straight to remember my apple sign-in; i was not at home and was anxious to get there and read in the safety of our kitchen.  i was sure that i knew who this un-named alleged perpetrator/rapist/pedophile was.

when we got home, i was able to download the app and read the article aloud.  no name was mentioned of the man-who-was-accused-of-heinous-acts-with-little-girls, but a school location was and it was then i realized that – in two different towns, side-by-side, in the late 70s – there were at least two men who made it their mission to prey, to take the virginity of young women and forever change those young women’s lives.  the man who stole my innocence and the innocence of girls i tried in vain to protect was a different man than the one in this article.

there was no victim-witness division in the prosecutor’s office back then. in an all-too-common story, not one of the assaulted pressed charges.  as far as i know, both of these men walk freely about, wherever they live.  the smallest among us may still be suffering their disgusting acts.  i can vouch for the fact that the fallout of the act does not end; this breach of trust, this contemptible forcing of will, the abhorrent power-wielding by another leaves fossils in every cell.

we stumble into small-but-profound acts of impact.  people donating used mascara wands to aid in the cleansing, and thus, healing, of small wild animals in need of care.  donations of suitcases to foster care agencies to give children a place, besides a plastic bag, to keep their tiny collection of belongings.

it may not balance out the atrocities, but these gestures, these initiatives help.  we are responsible for each other.

protecting the smallest among us.  the children.  the creatures.  why can’t this be the most important?

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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count on you [k.s. friday]

count on you song box copy

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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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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SAVE THE BEANSTALK ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 


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#MeToo

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 5.10.57 PM i believe in inherent goodness.  the inherent goodness of each and every person.  born in beauty, walking in beauty.  i blame my sweet momma.  she looked this way at every single person who crossed her path.
          but then, there’s the rest.  predisposed psychological genetics.  environment.  social prejudices.  bigotry.  elitism.  lack of empathy.  the inability to walk in another’s shoes.  the lack of wanting to try to walk in another’s shoes.  some kind of warped misinformed yet embraced caste system.  jealousy.  bitterness.  the web of ‘ugly’ has many faces.  and people twist.  and that inherent goodness seems to go underground.  we wonder if there is, indeed, any goodness left.  we are confronted with this question over and over again it seems, especially these days.
          we had a discussion about goodness recently.  it became heated.  the dog left the room and retreated to the bathroom.  we were intense.  too intense.  arguing for the same point, we came from two different directions, two different backgrounds.  but we were heading, actually, in the same direction.
          each of us carries our gift of inherent goodness.  we choose each and every day whether we access it or not. my momma’s adherence to the adage, “i shall pass through this world but once.  any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.  let me not defer or neglect it for i shall not pass this way again.” often rings in my ears.  we all make decisions each day; some steeped in good, some not so much.
          as we approached the holidays and the end of the year, we were deeply diving into cleaning out.  seems right at the end of the year.  old boxes of random items that had accumulated in the years lived in this home, vestiges of life before, of life growing up, of goodnesses shown and received.  we had so much fun as we cleaned; i’d show d pictures or mementos from places or people or the children, every one of them an opportunity for a story.  some carried aha moments, some elicited sighs of where-does-the-time-go, some made me laugh or teary, some stopped me in my tracks.
          i came across things from way-earlier-life, the time i had spent growing up on long island.  my seagull collection, plastic seagulls suspended on wires attached to rocks or shells or pieces of cork, a 70s thing for sure.  my horse collection, which was, in my mind, massive, but when i unpacked it was more like 15 horse statues and ribbons from showing in horse shows, drawings i had painstakingly drawn, books i pored over and over and studied at a much younger age.  a doll collection with hand sewn or hand crocheted outfits made lovingly by my grandmother ‘mama dear’s’ hands.  books and notebooks and old calendars.  trinkets and rocks and feathers.  cards and letters i saved for decades.  artwork by the girl and the boy.  little notes they wrote to me.  an old electric typewriter and a case of 45rpm records we played the night we found them.
          and then there are the reminders from a time i don’t talk about so much.  a time when i became a #MeToo.  it takes my breath away to think of that 19 year old girl.  me – an idealistic, innocent, youngest-by-far child who looked at the world through poetic eyes and trusting-colored glasses.  my heart breaks now for this young woman who found her way through a terrifying -and life-changing- time pretty much alone, seeking little help for an act that drove to her core and was more than difficult to voice in a late 1970s judicial system.  because, you know, not everyone is good.  not everyone holds their inherent goodness ahead of their selfish, controlling, violent behaviors.  back then, counseling, and even prosecuting, was rare.  i didn’t experience either one.  the help of counseling nor the satisfaction of prosecuting this person who took away my belief and trust in goodness.  for a time, fear coursed through me.  my view of others became jaded and distrusting.  i sought refuge in varying ways, but never really explained why to myself or others.  i didn’t understand what caused this man to behave as he had, nor did i understand that it wasn’t mine to understand.  what i do know, is that i grew.
          and now, as our world opens their listening hearts to women and girls everywhere, i am grateful.  grateful for their collective voices and the deserved help extended to them. grateful that even in giving individual voice, they are moving through the processing of it, the reason for being a #MeToo becoming smaller than #MeToo survival.
          i was once told wise words from a friend when i was grieving my momma’s death.  joan said, “the only way to get to the other side is through it.”
          as i sort through all the pieces of life i have carried in boxes, in bins, in photographs, in my heart and soul, through all these years, i realize again that these words are so true.  in so many situations, so many life arenas. the only way to get to the other side is through it.  and then, you can find inherent goodness again.