reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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two artists tuesday #1

SWEET POTATO copyvery early one cold december morning, a few years ago now, my sweet momma called.  it was early even in eastern time.  but momma had something to say.  she had had a heart event – cardiomyopathy – an event that mimics a heart attack and is dangerous – but is called “the broken heart syndrome”.  my momma’s heart was broken; my dad – her husband of nearly 69 years – had died.

on this pre-dawn phonecall with her she told me she just had one thing to tell me.  “live life, my sweet potato”, she said.

i knew she was fearful.  that was why she called so early.  her message still rings in my ears.

when we were playing with designs as TwoArtistsMakingStuffForHumans this saying found its way onto a sweet-potato-orange field.  later, david purchased it as a framed print for my birthday.  it hangs in a cherished spot as you leave our front door, reminding us – as we go out into the world or as we come back into our home – to live life.

we chose it to be the first of our two artists tuesdays to share in the melange.  not because we hadn’t already shared it.  but because it bears repeating.

thank you, my sweet momma.

LIVE LIFE, MY SWEET POTATO

two artists tuesday

www.kerrianddavid.com/the-melange

live life, my sweet potato ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson


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quirky quirks.

FullSizeRenderwhen i was 38 i got a package from my sweet momma. of course, it was from poppo too but he was pretty much a follower on this one. i excitedly opened the big box and there was a note inside. it read something like, “surprise! it’s about time…thought you could have one of these now.” curious, i continued to rapidly unwrap.   inside this simply wrapped gift (for my momma had to mail it to me across the country and everyone knows that those sticky bows get squished when you mail them) was —- wait for it —- a barbie doll with chandelier earrings in a huge party dress with pastel flowers glued onto it! now, that – blossom beauty barbie – sounds like an unusual gift at 38, but you have to know the back-story…

my momma would not let me have a barbie when i was growing up. ahead of her time, she felt that the barbie-body was somewhat unconscionably derisive for women and the feminist in her was railing against having her own little girl fall prey to that attitude. and so, she never let me get a barbie of my own. instead, she got me the doll penny brite, an adorable, flat-chested, bright-faced, modestly-dressed doll who just looked 1960s happy. a little later i got a skipper doll, who was barbie’s younger sister – clearly she hadn’t inherited the same physical genes barbie had. not being particularly well-endowed myself, in later years, i teased my mom that she had given me nothing to aspire to, but she just pursed her lips and tried not to laugh.

so this was a big deal – getting a barbie from my momma. it’s too perfect that it happened to be one of the tackiest barbies out there. but i received this from her when i had my own little girl and she probably guessed i was about to start buying her some barbies (so as not to be “the only one” in her group of little girlfriends without one, like me, still recovering from non-barbie-ptsd.) momma was quirky that way.

we were driving the other day and had to head into a shop that was on the other side of the street. i said aloud to d that i was going to “go up to the light” so that i didn’t have to cross traffic (in my defense, it would have taken forever to cross.) oh no! words coming out of my mouth directly from momma. she had this thing about crossing traffic. she would give me directions to get places all by making right turns, just to not cross traffic. it didn’t matter how much or how little traffic; she just preferred not to cross it. quirky, eh?

once, my sister told our momma that she had a friend who was struggling financially and had little children to feed. the little boy loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the subject came up that he liked the little containers of jelly you get in diners when you eat out for breakfast. after that, my sweet momma never ever passed up the chance to take those little containers of jelly and wrap them in her napkin to put in her pocketbook (aka purse) so that she could save them for this little boy. even at assisted living, she encouraged everyone at her table (and other tables) to “save your jellies” so she could collect them all. now, it would have been easy/easier to buy small jars of jelly and peanut butter to give to this young woman for her children, but momma was on a quest…jellies it was. quirky.

this morning we laid in bed a little longer with our coffee and talked about momma. two years ago, right about now, the very moment i am writing this, my sweet momma took her last breaths on this earth. i cannot believe it has been two years; i cannot believe it has been only two years. both are true. and i’m betting that you can read, without the words, that i miss her…beyond words.

i’m sure there were times between my growing up and now that i found myself saying something or doing something or having an expression on my face that was identical to my sweet momma’s. i’m sure at some of those times i rolled my eyes thinking “whattheheck?” and trying to push back the momma-isms. i’m betting the girl and the boy find themselves every now and again thinking, saying, doing something that makes them push back at being a little like me. sometimes, we try so hard to escape the genetics, until one day, we realize we are damn proud of some of these traits, some of the quirkiness, some of the same gestures or expressions or….

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clearly, i wasn’t ready for the barbie doll until i was 38. maybe i’m not even ready now. penny brite wasn’t so bad after all. i’m grateful my mom stood against the prevailing winds of pop culture, opting for something different. i’m grateful she wanted her family to not have to cross traffic, figuring out, with her very analytical mind, how to get people from point a to point b in a safer way. i’m grateful she collected the little jellies for someone who needed them. and i am grateful for the quirks.

 

 


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don’t get losted.

img_2688he said it to me every time i left the house or hung up the phone…”don’t get losted, brat.” i smile every time i think of this and i talk to him. i know he can hear me. i’m not sure if he is saying anything back, but i’m sure he’s there. my poppo taught me so much…i find myself quoting him often, using the knowledge that he somehow conveyed to me, even when i didn’t know that i was absorbing it (ie:  listening.)   he was a real rube goldberg kind of fixer….he could fix anything. i find myself trying to follow his lead. every time i fix something or devise some sort of daddy-o kind of method i say, “my daddy would be proud!” he’d be 96 today. he would be an awesome 96. and i wish that he and david could hang out together, because david would have loved him. no doubt.

momma-daddy-and-metoday is also my mom and dad’s anniversary. (momma married daddy on his birthday “so he wouldn’t forget”.) they would have been married 73 years today. “wow-ee,” she would have said. i celebrate their love, their joy with each other, their tenacity, their patience, their steadfastness, their being-my-parents.

last week was our anniversary. the first. kind of odd when you consider our ages. it’s been a fast year. it’s been forever since that day. what is it about Time?

with early morning steaming mugs of strong coffee, we walked to the rocks to watch the sunrise over the lake. there is nothing like a sunrise to make you feel alive in the morning. we had wanted to watch it the day of our wedding, but we were both exhausted from five days of great fun with family and friends who had gathered around us and we missed it in lieu of warm blankets and a few more minutes sleep.

sitting there, we decided that we wanted to catch the sunrise every anniversary from now on…to welcome in a new year of adventures, a new year striated with sun and clouds and blue sky and grey days, warm air and freezing toes…new years to come and past years to celebrate.photo-3

later that anniversary morning, we sat on the deck and read our wedding aloud to each other. the readings, the poems, our roadtrip email entries, our vows. we are both, as it turns out, pretty ritualistic so this was powerful stuff. if you ever want to really remember why you got married, i’d recommend doing this. there is nothing like threading together.

this morning we talked over coffee. we talked about the last few years and the stuff of them. the ups and downs that we rode together, the joys and sorrows we felt together, the easy stuff and the hard stuff. we celebrated dogdog and babycat laying on the bed together with us. we talked about our anniversary. about what is actually important to us in this world. and what’s not.  and today….about my momma and my daddy.

and about one sure thing…that we both know…

together…hanging on tight…just like momma and poppo…we won’t get losted.

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ungrounded.

me&poppofour years ago today my daddy died. while in some ways this feels like yesterday, there are so many ways that this feels like eons ago. my sweet momma pined for him for the next three years. their marriage had been a lifetime of almost 69 years together. it’s hard for me to imagine that amount of time; i’m not even that age yet.

and now there are times i pine for both of them, her gentle but insistently positive and kind spirit, her chatty stories, her “hi, my sweet potato” or “good morning, sunshine”, his quiet pondering, quick norwegian temper, the tears in his eyes when it was time for leave from a visit, his “goodnight, brat” or “i love you, kook.” i wish they weren’t gone.

i find that today is not the hard day. it’s the days preceding today. it was like that for my momma too. it was the days preceding the anniversary of her dying that i was off-balance, out-of-sorts, crabby, ungrounded. anticipatory grief strikes hard, even after ‘real’ grief. anticipation of all the remembering. anticipation of The Day. anticipation of how it will feel…this time. anticipatory grief. ‘real’ grief. what’s the difference anyway…

he said, ‘we need to love more on these days.’ instead, we tangle some. this kind of ungroundedness is hard to explain. it’s raw. painful. one day in a note from lori, she wrote that she just wanted me to know that there is a different kind of grief that happens when both of your parents are gone and, having that experience, she would be happy to talk about it. i should probably take her up on that. sharing experiences with someone who can totally empathize –not sympathize- is a good thing.

we were walking yesterday, arm in arm, dogdog at our side. someone came out of her house, water bottle in hand, sneakers on, ready to take a walk. she said, “i have been trying to get my husband to take a walk with me. i tell him that we should walk together sometime before we croak. i don’t know how much more pressure i can put on him. i tell him all the time about the husband and wife who walk. i tell him they look so peaceful. i love seeing you two walk….”

i felt anything but peaceful yesterday. but there must be something. something that makes ‘loving more’ obvious. even if we can’t see it at the moment. even if we can’t feel it at the moment. even if i am ungrounded.

take a walk. hold hands. love more. every day.

hands

 


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i blame my sweet momma.

IMG_1799three weeks ago we loaded a 5 1/2 foot long piece of driftwood and more rocks and shells than we could count into the xb to drive home. with sand everywhere, we carried back to wisconsin with us morsels of my life on long island…pieces of the north shore and my beloved crab meadow beach, pieces of the south shore and the fierce atlantic ocean.

i have always always collected rocks and pieces of wood. i’d like to be able to say that i could identify each one and its origin, but i really don’t know.  the easier ones to identify are the ones my children painted for me, all of which i saved.  but now all the pieces of my life that i have carried have blended into each other, blended into who i am.

for me, the piece of quartz or granite, the sedimentary rock with mica flecks, the conglomerate somehow arriving in northport, the clamshell that had been home to some northeast clam, the sand in a bag, pebbles, flowers from the field, grasses that dried in the woods…all important souvenirs – unlike a perfunctory t-shirt – things that ground me, help me remember, things i can touch.

my sweet momma loved rocks too. growing up we had a rock garden out back and their tv stand was a huge slab of rock that they moved on a moving van down to florida with them when they left long island. i always knew that i could give her something made of rock, made of wood, something natural, something organic, and she would celebrate it….with all her heart. she got it. that feeling of staying connected with the land she loved, the earth, the very soil, the very spot that gave her a memory. i get that. the rocks around our pond and scattered inside our house, the pebbles in my purse, the 6 foot long aspen branch in our dining room are evidence. the driftwood – and the sand – on our table make it clear.

i am thready, just like my sweet momma. i blame her.

thank you, momma.IMG_1853

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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there if you look

photoi walked into the bathroom this morning and it greeted me. the scent of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume – estee lauder’s pleasures. it took me by surprise, making me stop suddenly. i stood still. i looked around, thinking maybe there was some other reason for this beautiful wafting ghost of perfume lingering in the air. i could see no other reason, no cause of any scent into which i might have meandered. so i stood there.

a few long seconds went by until i could speak and i stepped out of the bathroom to tell him that my momma’s perfume was in the air. he smiled and i could see he was moved. i went back into the bathroom slowly, wondering if i had imagined it. but as i entered the space again, it was there. most definitely – pleasures. the tears in my eyes weren’t tears of sadness. i spoke to her, telling her how much i missed her, how glad i was she had ‘stopped by’. i have been hoping that somehow she would show up, somehow she would make herself known to me, somehow she would let me know she was around.

so now i wonder – if this was her first wave from heaven. i imagine she’s been busy, her energy running high as she catches up with everyone she loves who got there before her. i imagine that she’s been talking up a storm, so to speak, and embracing all the opportunities she has to be with those she loves. so i am grateful for this moment today. this moment that – in an instant – made me feel like my momma is right here, just on the other side.

i talked to my sister during her lunch. i was sitting on the edge of the deck in unseasonable 65 degree sun and she was in her jeep at a favorite lunch spot. i told her about momma’s perfume. she said she had goosebumps. i told her, too, that the other day i found myself saying the words “betwixt and between”. now, who says that these days? we laughed when i said i was channeling mom. my sister said she had said something mom-esque a few days ago and i asked her if it was the word “irked”. again, we both laughed and we could both hear our sweet momma….

last night i woke in the middle of the night. i have no idea why or what woke me, but there was this one thought i was aware of as i made my way into awake-ness. the words – something like this – the more you have gratitude for every little thing, the more the universe gives you to have gratitude for. i woke him up. to talk about it. i’m not sure where the words came from but they were present in the air around me and my pillow. gratitude for every little thing – not just the good things. but also the challenging things. the things that make us weep. the feeling of being tired. the feeling of being exhilarated. with gratitude, the glass never has to be half-empty. it’s always half-full, waiting for the moment it spills over. our universe isn’t full of bubbles and rainbows, but they are there if you look.

my sweet momma’s perfume brought me a moment with my sweet momma. i look for the next time with great anticipation, wondering what this amazing woman will do to let me know she’s there. in the meanwhile, i am grateful for estee lauder’s pleasures in the air. a little thing? i don’t think so.

after working on projects, we played frisbee in the street. we never took a shower but wore sweats and sneakers. (we did brush our teeth.) we ate fresh strawberries and drank strong coffee.

we agreed it was a magic day.

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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take the back road and make your own roses

back road cropped copythe sun is shining brilliantly outside and somehow i find myself wandering through the corners of my memories that take me back to long island – my earlier days. i see myself driving my little blue vw bug all over and, even though i wonder now if i would remember where all those little back roads might end up, i am taking all the little back roads. i’m kind of a back road person. ok. not kind of. i AM a back road person.

growing up with my sweet momma and daddy i was the youngest, separated from my brother and sister by enough years that put them all grown up and out of the house when i was a teenager. and so i would be in the car alone, or with my bestest friend susan, on sunday drives with momma and daddy. momma was good at picking destinations. nothing fancy. an apple farm. or a park on the water, way out the island. upstate somewhere. just enough to make you feel like you got away. and never on the highway, if she could help it. always the back roads. for momma, that was the point. my dad was an ace at seeing groundhogs sitting on the side of the road or spotting special birds. my mom was an ace at navigating for him – my poppo didn’t pay much attention to the signs and such; momma did that for him.

i’m sure i learned about back roads from them. and i’m sure i learned about the point of back roads from them. each and every moment a treasure of what might be around the next bend. the curiosity of a back road. the mystery (without a gps) of not knowing if the back road you were on might become a dead end. the laughter accompanying a three-point turn at the end of that back road. the not-knowing. we never set the bar high on these jaunts. we just traveled together and sang songs. or chatted. or were quiet. or we looked out the window. and because the bar wasn’t set too high, we had extraordinary times – moments i still remember to this very day. feelings i still remember to this very day. and the lure and joy of a back road that i still hold close to me.

so often we set the bar high. too high. i’m all for visioning a wonderful life. but not at the expense of losing the moment we have right now. not at the expense of only having this very moment because we are planning the next. or because we think the next depends on this one. not at the expense of missing the back road.

valentine’s day was this past weekend. people have really high expectations of this made-up holiday. we decided ahead of time that we were to buy nothing. anything we did had to be made. by our own two hands. the back road.

and so i made a little book for him, created out of brown paper and jute. accompanied by a teeny painting. i couldn’t wait to give it to him. i ended up giving it to him the same day i completed it. back roads are like that.

he wrote me a poem and rolled it into a scroll, tied with raffia. and he gave me a piece of brown paper, with lines on it and many folds that had been folded.

later on valentine’s day, i found some origami paper in the house (easier to fold, he says – from his experience of trying to make a rose from brown paper) and we sat in front of the instructions on the computer. together. with music on in the background, we sang. we chatted. we were quiet. we looked out the window.  snow falling.

and, literally giggling at our clumsy hands, we made purple origami roses together.   we placed them, along with candles, as our centerpiece for the dinner we made together.

it was extraordinary.

purpleorigamiroses

kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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frog.

photo-1we have a frog! this sweet green quiet sitting-on-one-of-the-small-boulders-on-the-edge-of-the-pond little creature makes us so happy.

i was summoned from the backyard, “k.dot, quick! hurry!” i ran outside to stand at the edge of the little pond. “we have a frog!” he said. i looked down and this beautiful creature was sunning himself on a rock.

now, having a frog in our pond is no small feat. although lake michigan is a block away, there aren’t frogs running amuck in the yards close by. two years ago one other frog visited here. but this frog, well, it couldn’t be better timed.

we stayed at my sweet momma’s house many times over the last two years. she was either in her assisted living facility or rehab, or even the hospital. there was little there in the way of furniture or accouterments. we loved the simplicity, the two bag-chairs and the TV trays we used for every meal and the times we spent with coffee or wine in the lanai, pondering life and searching for answers for my momma. when a frog literally jumped out of the toilet in her small bathroom, its pale color giving away that it had spent a long time in the plumbing pipes, we were shocked into looking up what it might mean to have a frog show up. the frog is indicative of “the transient nature of our lives. a symbol of transition and transformation, it supports us in times of change…it connects us with the world of emotions, the process of cleansing and rebirth, abundance and metamorphosis.”

helen, who is infinitely wise, told us over hot coffee and soup one cold day last year that having a frog show up in your life is even more meaningful. “it’s not just a frog”, she told us. “it’s a reminder.” a reminder of what, we asked? “frog is a reminder to ‘fully rely on God’,” she explained.

FullyRelyOnGod. FROG. frog.

ahhhh.

thank you, little frog, for the reminder. you are so welcome here.


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brave.

raw-1heidi (also known as h) said, “all of life requires us to be brave.” such truth.

tonight, as i scrolled through facebook, i saw a friend of mine from high school who posted that it had been three weeks exactly since her mom had died and she couldn’t “stand it.” i so totally understand that. totally. so so hard. where is our ground? brave.

last night crunch called and we chatted for almost an hour. our friendship goes back forty years to a time of innocence and playfulness. we don’t get to see each other hardly at all, but the time inbetween calls or eye-to-eye contact drops away with our laughter and reminiscing on the phone, my long island accent rising to the surface as we talk. the first thing i thought of when i got off the phone was that i couldn’t wait to tell momma that crunch had called. brave.

scott wanted to bring his mom’s birdfeeders with him after emptying the sold-house and driving the uhaul truck away.  but the birds in that yard needed them.  he had to leave them behind. so he took the potted plant she last watered, the last living thing between them.  brave.

stress – everyday stressors, big stressors, teenyweeny stressors – wields a big punch. even with huge reminders about perspective, we still trod down the road of worry. what will happen, we wonder. brave.

kim posted a picture of kennedi going to pre-kindergarten, dianne posted a picture of charlie going to preschool, jamie posted pictures of the children eating corn dogs after the first day of school. all. brave.

my little girl -25- lives high in the mountains. my little boy -22- lives in the city and is at the starting gate of life. i am so proud. i adore them and i miss them. brave.

beth posts this amazingly stunningly tough and gorgeous photo of herself each time she learns of someone else who has to walk the track of cancer survivor. this photograph is beautiful and gripping and breathtaking. she is life itself in this picture. brave.

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.


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i want what you have.

photo-1“i want what you have,” she said. in the wee hours of the night, my sweet almost-94 momma, in intense pain from falling, was talking to her emergency room nurse, a young woman who was clearly exhausted and who couldn’t reach the energy she needed to smile. the nurse looked intently at my momma. “what?” she countered. “your beautiful smile,” momma said, with light-transcending-pain in her eyes. “you have a beautiful smile.” and yes, in the moments that followed, that was so obvious as we witnessed a huge eye-sparkling smile come to the nurse’s tired face. tears came to my eyes (because i am a geeky mush like that) as i watched my mom gently and brilliantly gift this hardworking nurse with something she already had inside herself.

how did momma do it? every where she went she gifted people….with things they already had.

yesterday i was at a garden party. it was really lovely. the flowers were stunning and the community of people who gathered were from different walks of the hosts’ lives. i was wearing a pair of clunky dr scholl clogs that i bought on a bringing-my-daughter-to-college-in-minneapolis trip in the fall many years ago. i still have them because 1. they are super comfortable and 2. they remind me of this trip to minnesota with my daughter, my son and his best friend (because i am a geeky mush like that.) a woman complimented me on them at the party, asked where i got them. i was able to tell her that there is a boutique near here where she can still purchase them (and of course, there is always the internet.) the fact of the matter is – most of the people at the party had on newer shoes than i did, newer styles, cooler stuff. but -and this is simple- this woman complimented me on mine and that made me look at what i had.

how many times have you looked at someone’s outfit, shoes, car, house, garden, work, relationship, life and wanted it?

a couple days ago my dear friend and i were talking about resentment. he asked, “what do you do with resentment? how do you combat it?” i have no easy answer. geez, i barely have an answer at all. but i remember that i had to memorize a reading in high school and i chose ‘desiderata’ (because i am a geeky mush like that.) the (not-verbatim) line that stands out in my mind is – “do not compare yourself with others, or you will become vain and bitter. for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” my friend and i talked about that. at length. we cited examples and promised to hold hands -even virtually-through all the challenges ahead (because i am a geeky mush like that.)

it can become insidious – resentment. it eats away at people and families and workplaces and towns and nations. photo-2what if we all took a moment to look at someone and remind them – gently and brilliantly, with light in our eyes – of what they already had. maybe there would be a little less resentment going around. and maybe a little more momma.