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unpredictable beauty. [two artists tuesday]

“sometimes beauty is that unpredictable; a threshold we had never noticed opens, mystery comes alive around us and we realize how the earth is full of concealed beauty.” (john o’donohue)

a simple errand. we needed to pick up some furniture to transport in big red for a friend. destination: ikea.

there is something magical about ikea. we hadn’t been there in ages and were relieved to find few people there and everyone masked properly. vowing to hopefully come back soon and browse a bit, we pulled the boxes off the shelves on our pick list. pushing our cart to the front checkout lines, david, more than once, had to re-focus me away from the enormous displays of product. iphone in hand, we wove our way through the covid-floor-circles-disney-style line, waiting our turn at the cash register.

every where i looked, we were surrounded by interesting color, repeated pattern, textures that begged to be touched. david, more than once, softly called my name from the other side of the pushcart, gently spurring me out of the threshold-of-alive-mystery-of-concealed-beauty, snapping pictures with inordinate joy. “k-dot,” he would quietly prod.

the spatulas called my name too, repeating patterns of red-mama-dear-lips making me smile. spatulas are usually not mysterious creatures, but their color, design, stacking lures you out of ordinariness, opening that threshold, the place for glitter to be seen.

it wasn’t just the spatulas, though. i was victim to the lint rollers, the stainless steel utensil holders, the cork trivets. hidden beauty everywhere. i could feel my sweet momma and poppo cheering me on; they were likewise entranced by ikea.

if safety allows, we will return. there are a few small things on my own pick list i’d like to consider purchasing. but mostly, i just want to wander the aisles with my camera, noticing the unpredictable beauty.

yes, not a bad way to spend any day. noticing the unpredictable beauty.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the little people. [flawed wednesday]

“you can’t take it with you,” my sweet poppo would say, referring to money and an eventual dying. he and my momma were generous people. even in the lower-middlest-of-middle-class living, they were giving and altruistic. they gave out of pockets-not-full-of-plenty, never hesitating, never clutching onto money. they worked hard, paid taxes, contributed to organizations they believed in, helped their children and their children’s children. they were amazing examples of character, especially as defined by the ironic presidential proclamation earlier this week. they never failed to lift others up and believed in those who needed assistance. they were not greedy.

but greed rears its exceptionally ugly head nevertheless. and the administration that currently rules this nation (i rue the use of such an unfortunately appropriate word) continually thrusts forward self-serving agenda for those-with and denies the importance of policy for those-without. in a country that calls itself a democracy and ensures domestic tranquility, it is a pitiful state of affairs to celebrate, undermine and invite more disparity in its populace.

it should be with a (large) modicum of shame that leona helmsley is quoted as saying, “only the little people pay taxes,” but instead it is apparent that is the whole point. keep the little people little; keep the rich people rich.

we drove through tiny towns from canon city, colorado to limon, colorado. the never-ending rangeland boasted tiny mobile homes and collapsing houses, people living in squalor. the trump 2020 signs were prevalent. i wondered aloud why anyone living in such circumstance would fly a giant flag for a man and a complicit administration that could care less about them. i wondered why they would choose to campaign for a person who cannonballs along the unfair advantages for the wealthy, the keeping-those-with-less down policies, the brutal inequity under every umbrella. i wondered why they would support someone who has clearly paid less taxes than they had. i wondered if they knew that this very president, a self-expressed billionaire, had paid merely $750 in taxes. i wondered if they knew that he and his cronies consider them the “little people” of this leona quote. i wondered how they, as humans who are citizens of this country and deserve respect and equality and opportunity, would feel about being called “little people”.

it was my dad’s 100th birthday on saturday. he always wanted to live to be 100 and, as we talk about him and tell stories and i talk to him aloud, we celebrate him as 100 even if he is on another plane of existence.

as we drove the rest of the way home through green fields turning to gold, viewing signs of a clear misinformation election campaign, i thought about my dad. we entered quick stores after pumping gas to use the restroom, stores with large signs on the door that clearly stated “masks required”, to find misinformed, defiant and cavalier people wandering about with nary a mask, and i thought about my dad. we stopped for a picnic by the side of a lake, stretching our legs, and i thought about my dad.

in the warped definition of the current pompous leadership of this nation, i suppose he, like we, would be considered “little people”.

but i thought about his integrity, his love, his tolerance, his hardworking nature, his just-make-it-work-ness, his generosity, and i have no doubt about how he would feel about the united states’ current administration and attitudes.

the topic of money is an easy one. “you can’t take it with you,” my dad would say. virtue, on the other hand? “no,” he’d say, “you can’t take it with you either.” and, after a pause, he’d add, “especially if you never had it.”

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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apples and numbers. [k.s. friday]

it’s approaching. you can feel it in the morning air. fall. its scent lingers in the fields of wildflowers, succumbing to cooler nights, a lower sun on the horizon. the bees are desperately, frantically, trying to hang on for dear life. the mosquitoes, thankfully, are writing their wills and the cicadas are singing as if the judges of ‘american idol’ or ‘the voice’ were gathered beneath the trees, an audience of appreciators.

it’s different though.

this fall is all about numbers. covid-19 pandemic numbers. lethal-force racial fatality numbers. protest numbers. healthcare numbers. unemployment numbers. eviction numbers. payroll tax numbers. rally numbers. poll numbers. we are surrounded by a plethora of numbers with an increasingly urgent need to be aware of all of them.

there will be no relaxing inside starbucks sipping pumpkin spice lattes. there will be no apple festivals or street fairs celebrating fall. there will be no hayrides, bale-bouncing with friends on a rickety wagon. there will be no chili cook-offs or slow dance parties on the patio. this was the stuff of pre-pandemic. the stuff of the olden days. the stuff of 2019. the stuff of 1996. the stuff of 1973.

there will be thoughtfully attended protests. there will be emotional vigils. there will be testing sites. there will be virtual funerals. there will be video-conferenced schools and meetings and religious gatherings. there will be jobs sought, financial devastation for too many, unreachable healthcare. there will be speeches to listen to, about which to have hope. there will be speeches to fact-check, about which to have righteous anger.

the numbers have risen to the surface and rightfully demand our attention.

but there’s this – written one year ago: every fall, my sweet momma and my poppo would load us up in the dodge with the old wicker picnic basket and a small cooler.  we would drive out east on long island or head north into upstate new york.  the baby of the family with siblings already out of the house, i always had a friend along.  susan went everywhere with us.  we would take mad libs and gum, snacks and cans of soda and we would talk and giggle our way to the apple farm. it wasn’t like we couldn’t find apples near us; the jaunt away to apple-picking was the point.  the walk in the orchard, the drive through leaves of indescribably stunning color.  we’d stop at roadside picnic tables and take back country roads.

and now, a long while later, i think of those places, those times.  the memories are sweet, macintosh-apple-sweet.  but the yearning is real.  every autumn makes me just as wistful.  i think of my children jumping in leaves and pumpkins carved with silly faces.  my parents and the old dodge.  pies with homemade crust, hot soup and cocoa, the smell of cinnamon and caramel candles.  fires in the fireplace or outside around the firepit.  jeans, sweaters, boots.  and apples.

and so now that the time for jeans and sweaters and boots is in the offing, i need remember. there are still quiet fires in the firepit to have. there are pies we can make and cocoa we can brew up. there are big stock pots of soup to steep. there are trails with crunchy leaves. there are pumpkins to carve, sunflowers to vase, and backroads to drive.

there are things that must be done. the numbers insist. it’s a profound time filled with information and a call to speak up, to question, to research, to, yes, wear a mask and yes-yes, to vote.

but my wistful-near-autumn heart also needs apples.

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we deserve better. [merely-a-thought monday]

we deserve better

“words matter,” my sweet momma would tell me, “things people say matter!” she was right, of course.  even back then.

so i did an experiment.  i deliberately straddled the ideological fence and listened.  and this is what i heard and saw:

“masks. eh, they’re a symbol of fear!” he spouted.(*1)  what?!

on reporting on his own viewing of a reporter at a protest on long island getting verbally attacked, he mouthed off, “it was pretty entertaining!” (*2) what?!

on the president haughtily announcing ‘we’re back!  with or without vaccines!’ she cheered,  “i was doing the fist pump there!” (*3) what?!

and then she needled, “democrats are favoring lockdowns over liberty!” (*4)  what?!

“libtards,” she wrote. (*5)  what?!

wow.

we were hiking and passed by a couple people on the other side of the trail.  moving into single file and off the path in an effort to avoid their non-single-file-ness, we heard, “i want to  keep people safe and this is a big deal, but….” she resisted.  (*6) but what?!

the wisconsin supreme court overturned the safer-at-home order and five minutes later the bars were crowded.  “i miss going out,” she whined to the news, maskless and inches away from the next person at the crowded not-a-mask-in-sight bar. (*7)  what?!

on america, he ruminated, “we don’t do critical thinking in this country.” (*8)

now there’s an understatement.

spouted.  mouthed off.  haughtily announced.  cheered.  needled.  ruminated.  whined. resisted.

he’s right.  we don’t do critical thinking in this country.  otherwise we would expect better.

we would expect a leader who is respectful and thoughtful, steeped in truth, who has an ounce of empathy and who recognizes that the divides in this country – economic, political, moral, prejudicial – are perilously close to chasm-esque, never to return to center.  a leader who sets an example.  a leader who wears a mask, just like the rest of us.  the centrifugal force is spinning out of control; the lack of careful, prudent and meticulous planning, the words from his mouth making us all teeter into the danger zones of no return, of never-be-the-same, of absolute division, of a dismal road ahead.  especially in matters of health.  in all matters of disease.

we would expect a country with a primary intention to attend to the most basic of needs for its populace (think maslow’s hierarchy):  physiological needs.  health.

we would expect the encouragement of the coming-together of people instead of the touting of ripping-apart division.  extremism, headstrong nationalism –  in the name of patriotism (def:  devotion to and rigorous support of one’s country) doesn’t consider the equality of all people and their fundamental rights and needs.  ie:  health.

we would expect that people will – in their willingness to acknowledge that their every behavior will impact literally everyone around them, everyone they come into contact with –  sacrifice and rally around that which protects all, that which will help eradicate the invader, this pandemic.  efforts to protect the health and well-being of all.

we would expect to take advantage of the brilliant minds of scientists, doctors, researchers in order to responsibly get the country back on track.  for our health.

we would expect consistency in message, consistency in plan, consistency in dedication and commitment to the well-being of the people of this country, the people of the world.

we would expect that the weight of a person’s life is far more important than the weight of that person’s (or any person’s) bank account.  for as my poppo would say,  “you can’t take it with you!” and any money or stock or holding or real estate or hedge fund pales in comparison with, say, your own actual life.

we would expect more.

yes.

because we deserve more.

————

* and if you are curious about the quotes:  *1: rush limbaugh, *2: sean hannity, *3: laura ingraham, *4: laura ingraham, *5: someone i went to high school with, *6: a young woman on the des plaines river trail, an Illinois park with signs posted requesting single file trail-walking, *7: a woman interviewed at a wisconsin bar, *8: chris cuomo

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

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my lullaby. for them. [k.s. friday]

i will hold you forever and ever

and as yesterday passed into today and i drifted off to sleep i knew, despite that she is on a different plane of existence, my sweet momma was holding me close to her.  it was bracing to think of the five year mark that has just passed now since she has been gone and the every-day-missing-her that goes along with that.  no different with my dad.  in a month it will be eight years and i can hear his “hi brat” in my heart.  i have no doubt that he is right there, holding on tightly.  both of them.  forever and ever.

it is a fact.  this parenthood thing is mind-bogglingly paramount.  ever forward from the day they are born.  it is all-consuming.  in every good and every daunting way.  every most-jubilant and every brutally-difficult way.  every securely-confident and every tumultuously-distressing way.  every way.

in this pandemic time of chaos we pine for a sense of normal which escapes us.  anxiety barges in and replaces our regular routines; peace escapes us.  we long to see each other.  we feel tired; we feel restless.  we sleep more; we cannot sleep.  we are astounded by the surrealness of this; we are crushed by how real this is.  and we worry.  it is hard to be away from those whom we love and knowing that right now we cannot go to them compounds it.  my heart needs to hug My Girl and My Boy and see that all is well.  we feel anxious.  our wishes go unfulfilled.

and yet as today passes into tomorrow and they drift off to sleep i know, despite how busy they may be or where they are in the world, that i am holding them close.  that no doubt can exist –  i am right there, holding on tightly.

and i hope, like you with your beloved children, that they can feel it.  forever and ever.

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read DAVID’s thoughts on this K.S. FRIDAY

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I WILL HOLD YOU FOREVER AND EVER ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood


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the biding of time. [two artists tuesday]

birch in winter

i’m writing this as i listen to the loud interruption of wind machines and a large lawnmower/mulcher behind our yard.  a family with many children (6 or maybe 7) is having their yard spring-cleaned up and it makes me nostalgic for the days we, as kids, as families, cleaned our own yards.

the feel of the rakes in our hands, the smell of leaves, the chill in the air and the anticipation of spring-on-its-way, the promise of hot chocolate.  the quiet.  i can hear the sound of the metal tines of the rake, many bent out of shape, as i attempted to make piles of leaves.  my dad would later clean up my messy attempts but in the meanwhile i knew i was helping.  i was outside and the sounds of birds-early-on-the-wing and rustling squirrels, the wind whispering high in the oaks of our yard, these were the sounds of march.

ahhh, the blowers and the large-engine machine just stopped for a moment and i took a deep breath before they started back up again.

in these days of unsettling and increasing isolation we are challenged to find ways to calm our souls.  recently we took a long walk on the frozen lake up north.  all around us nature was quietly waiting.  gracefully bending in the cold wind, birch trees wait.  grasses, browned from fall and a long winter, sway in pause.  all around us you could feel it; anticipation of what is to come and the quiet biding of time.

in between all the remotely-done work-of-the-day tasks, maybe later today we will take a walk.  we’ll put on our boots and drive to the woods.  we’ll feel our breathing even out as we step from little-baby-scion into a hushed space, a place of waiting.  we’ll likely walk in silence.

there’s so much noise around us these days.  angst and anger, concern and contention, rhetoric and reason, pomposity and push-back.

we have no choice but to wait.  to be respectful of each other, of the time it will take.  to do what we need to do in order to survive as best we can with as few dire repercussions as possible.  to be responsible and proactive.  to do the right thing and honor health and life in the none-too-steady heartbeat of the world.  to wait.  like the birch trees and the grasses on the edge of the lake, bowing to the wind and rising to the sun.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“indecency keeps getting rewarded.” [merely-a-thought monday]

indecency

it’s bewildering.

“indecency keeps getting rewarded.”

recently i heard someone say that she was glad her parents weren’t here to see what is happening.  i would have to agree.  my sweet momma and my poppo would be appalled by today’s incessant and prevailing lack of decency.  it’s embarrassing and mind-numbing to witness.  this is not just a simple lack of kindness for others; these are displays of a complete lack of regard for the sanctity of human life, the privilege of living together on this good earth.

i am relieved that my children are grown so that i don’t have to explain to them the ugliness that is pervasive, accepted, even overtly encouraged.  name-calling, lying, undermining, blatant cruelness aimed at others; egregious acts aimed at those less fortunate, elitist prejudices and judgements loaded into automatic weapons spewing vitriol at others, vindictiveness toward people who have a different opinion, who stand up for something different, who live different lives, who are courageous and whose bravery shows up in truth-telling.

we find that this is not just poisoning the outer limits – the circles we don’t belong to, the social or financial ladder-rung we have not reached, the country we belong to but the government by which we are not employed.

no.  this sinister lack of decency has reached its slimy tentacles into our communities, our work, our friends, our families, our homes.  people, who we would not expect, displaying reactionary anger – jousting their epee of mean-spirited words at the unsuspecting, stepping over the boundaries of democratic principles, over the clearly-now-elusive stopgaps of doing-what’s-right, over the limit of how-i-would-want-you-to-talk-to-me-is-how-i-will-talk-to-you or how-i-would-want-you-to-treat-me-is-how-i-will-treat-you.  there is no conversation.  there is righteous indignation, cavalier disrespect, face-down-i’m-not-listening-to-you body language.  there is anger.  there is hate.

and, instead of being struck down by an army of goodness, a wealth of kindness, even a modicum of fairness, this indecency has become normalized and it seems rewarded.  whether outwardly applauding or quietly complicit, the indecency is forwarded on.  and the tentacles of this corrosive nastiness, unchecked, reach both inward and outward into the concentric circles surrounding each of us; the incivility is a contagion and it wins.

it’s more than bewildering.  it sickens me.

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

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“make hundreds.” [merely-a-thought monday]

make hundreds

when he said, “make hundreds”, he wasn’t referring to blogposts.  my sweet poppo was for-sure-analog and didn’t really even know what a blog was.  he was sending me off to school or work, calling after me to “make hundreds”, a tad bit of pressure for an A+ seeking student but taken with a bit of a grain of salt because my poppo said it with great love.  today starts the one-hundredth week of our blogposts in the melange and daddy-o would be impressed.  it’s one hundred weeks, after all.

clearly, in just a few short weeks it will be two full years.  two years that we have sat next to each other and written a post that was inspired by the same image, the same quote, the same painting or piece of music.  it has been a profound experience.  we have written on the raft with dogdog and babycat curled up next to us, on the beach, in the high mountains, in hotels and airbnbs, in coffeehouses, in relatives’ homes, in the noise of a city, in the quiet on island.  whether or not others are reading my words, i look forward to every single day of writing and am stunned to think that i probably have more in the way of written word now than songs.  is that possible?  (even at a mere 500 words a post it is somewhere around 250,000 words, about 3-4 novels worth.)  it is the best stuff of sitting up in the maple tree outside my growing-up-house on long island for hours on end, writing, writing, writing.

we sit at the starting gate with our inspiration of the day and then, without looking at what the other is writing, we expound on what we see or feel or think.  it’s ‘he said, she said.’  we’ve often thought about, and might just follow through, capturing them into a journal where the same image or quote could stimulate a third person’s writing.  a ‘he said, she said, you said’ book. having a prompt is the juicy stuff that makes it absolute fun.

my posts are often stories, emotional – perhaps poetic – glimpses into our life. david’s are more esoteric, more complex.  a friend of ours said she can tell the difference without even looking.  goodness!  i’m sure that is true.  when we share our writing with each other, reading aloud, i often wonder about the value of what i’ve said.  like recording an album, these are words ‘put out there’ for all to see and you and i both know that judgement is alive and well.  but i always bravely try to remember what our point is.

we wanted a place to put a variety-pack of endeavors, a place that our conglomerate artistries could live under some kind of umbrella.  that umbrella became our‘studio melange’ and we found we could offer our individual work (paintings and music) in addition to our cartoons (earlier on, the melange included chicken marsala and flawed cartoon) as well as the quotes we jotted down each week and the images i recorded on camera that we found pertinent or thought-provoking.  about a year along the line we changed the melange and added ‘merely-a-thought monday’ and ‘not-so-flawed wednesday’ in lieu of our cartoons.

if you pare our melange down you will find one overwhelming similarity.  hundreds upon hundreds of moments.  moments captured, moments written down, moments to remember, moments we’d sometimes rather forget, moments of confusion, moments of regret, moments of incredulousness, moments of fear, moments of scary honesty, moments of challenge, moments of pushing back, moments of questioning, moments of indescribable joy and moments of deep sorrow.  all of them moments of life, a reminder to grasp onto them and hold on dearly.  for that is what we have.  the ability to make moments.  the ability to make moments count.

make hundreds.

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

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joy. [k.s. friday]

joy songbox

the video from My Girl made me out and out cry.  it was just a little hello, sent from around a firepit in the high mountains after a long day of working.  and it was perfect timing.  to see her face and hear her voice was pure joy.

we walked and walked and walked.  miles from millenium park’s christmas tree and skating rinks, past beautiful ornate displays of lights and simple twinkling white branches.  in a rare opportunity linking my arm through My Boy’s as we strolled, i was filled with joy.  the loudspeaker music and dancing lights of the lincoln park zoo just echoed my delight.

as adults, the holidays carry a different set of qualities than they did as when we were children.  much pressure, oftentimes grief, maybe a slippery slope feeling of never-doing-enough, some disappointment, a measure of jealousy or envy perhaps as others-with-family-all-in-town gather together in big festive celebrations.  for those of us who work on christmas eve and christmas day, there is a yet another added layer.

we walked through the woods yesterday looking for the right branch laying on the ground.  we don’t yet have a christmas tree up.  we have other little trees – i have collected small trees through the years – but no true christmas tree.  each year in these last years, we have chosen that “tree” carefully, always something we found, something re-purposed into a christmas tree, something that had meaning.  there was the christmas-tree-on-a-stick – a christmas-tree-misfit – we cut down on the tree farm, a piece of the tree that fell into our backyard narrowly avoiding the house, a branch that had snapped off of our beloved tree out front, a star suspended over a straight trunk wrapped in lights to tease The Boy.

this year i thought about just going to a lot and purchasing a tree, thinking maybe, in the midst of the ending of a really tough year for many,  that might put me into the holiday spirit.  but i just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  we figured that the answer would become obvious, as it has done in the past years.  and it did. watching My Boy, clearly proud of the decorations of the neighborhoods north-of-downtown, agree with us about how simple, beautiful and truly elegant the white branches were, made up my mind.

last night we put the first coat of white spray paint on the two sets of branches we brought home.  we’ll finish coating them with paint later today and wrap them in white lights.  we’ll gently place silver ornaments as we play christmas music in the background.  i will miss My Girl and My Boy like crazy.  i will yearn for my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and sister and brother-in-law and nieces and nephew and all their families, david’s parents and extended family.  it isn’t the christmas of christmas-past.

but there still is magic.  those moments of joy – when everything else ceases to exist and joy eclipses it all.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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JOY ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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paint-by-number. [two artists tuesday]

paint by number .JPG

some things just stop me in my tracks.  strolling through school days antiques mall i turned the corner and screeched to a halt.  familiarity swirled around me as i stared at this painting – a paint-by-number.  my breathing slowed.  the scene, the hues…all made me feel like i was embraced.  by my sweet momma.  i texted a picture to my sister, to check in, to see what she said.  she texted back that it, indeed, felt familiar and we tried to remember what happened to this painting of my mom’s.  every time i look at this photo on my phone i feel ‘home’.  even right now.

this wasn’t the first time this happened.  back a couple years ago ON mother’s day we were tooling around an antiques store in woodstock, illinois.  we had taken a ‘sunday drive’ (i am turning into my parents!) and looked for antiques stores to visit.  as i turned the corner from one booth to the next it was there, staring at me.  the paint-by-number-jesus that my mom had painted.  i photographed it and called everyone that day.  this painting was hung somewhere in our growing-up house that we can’t all agree on.  but we know it was there.  i turned the painting over looking for my mom’s signature on the back, but didn’t find it.  i studied the frame, one that was identical to a frame that my sweet poppo had made on a paint-by-number-nude (yes, it’s ok to laugh aloud here) my mom had painted and hung in their bathroom (which i know i have written about before).  i pondered how it might have gotten to woodstock, if indeed this painting and truly-identical-wooden-frame might have been my mom’s paint-by-number-jesus.  it wasn’t likely.  our growing-up-house was on long island and then my parents moved to florida so illinois was a bit off the mark (unless she had given the painting to my brother a million years ago and he “generously” donated it, which would make me laugh aloud.)  we left and went home and a few days later drove all the way back, just to study it a little more, to touch it again.  i thought holding it in my hands might tell me if i should buy it and bring it home and, well, i had no idea what to do with it then.  i mean, what does one do with a paint-by-number-jesus?  i didn’t buy it.  i left paint-by-number-jesus in woodstock and i gratefully welcomed my mom’s embrace from afar.

so the other day, in the midst of the stresses of life, we took a stroll in one of our favorite antiques stores, chatting and reminiscing and laughing about all the stuff we used to have growing up and all the stuff that we still have in our cabinets that are now considered antiques.

we tried not to talk about the things that were nagging us, the things we are worried about, the things that seem insurmountable.

and my beloved sweet momma showed up.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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