reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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restless and fidgety. [d.r. thursday]

and the saga continues. april. “april showers bring may flowers,” someone quips. everyone turns and snarls. that kind of positivity is just a bit much.

i looked at my weather app – again. we have several important places on there: chicago and charlotte (to see what our kids are experiencing), denver and tampa and columbia (family), breckenridge and dory (mountain towns we check in on), brevard (another mountain town we check in on), washington island (because we lived there), northport (because it was home).

the weather was iffy this past weekend (no surprises there). as we drew closer to it, i started googling real estate companies. zillow and realty.com, redfin, trulia. looking at houses in places with better weather, houses in places with different terrain, looking at house plans for places we dream about being. i’ve lived here a long, long time – longer than i have lived anywhere. it’ll be thirty-four years this year – thirty-three of them in this cherished house – more than half my life.

and like spring poking at us, teasing, causing us to be restless and fidgety, thoughts of living somewhere else do the same thing. poke, poke. prodding me…think about it. “what’s keeping you here?” someone asked me. “you grew into it because you had to,” else someone explained my midwest life.

the sky is glowing orange right now. literally glowing. there is some fog over the lake so the rising sun is diffusing into it. it’s pretty stunning. i suspect it’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize for the rain and snow. uh-huh.

the sun pops out over the cloud of fog and streams into the bedroom. the quilt lights up, david peeks out the window, dogga stirs at our feet, the mourning dove outside coos. and one more morning – yet again – i think about how much i love this home.

*****

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dining. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are not fancy-schmancy froo-froo types. we don’t have chandeliers or swagging silk curtains. we don’t have china or sterling silver utensils. we don’t have a matchy-matchy dining room set or linen tablecloths graced with taper candlesticks. but we do have rich dining experiences, nevertheless.

whether at our cozy table in our old kitchen – the square one that my sweet poppo refinished in our basement – the one with a couple white painted legs dogga chewed on as a puppy – the one that i had to wipe clean every week as babycat would rub up against it leaving a dander mark – the one that my babies sat by in their high chairs and that many a cuppajava was sipped….or at the covid table in the sunroom – the one with snakeinthegrass and leticia and nonámē and stubby and boston and, now, charlie – the one with happy lights and tealights – the one looking out back….or at the big table in the dining room – the one with the memories of big gatherings and games played and pass-the-mashed-potatoes and pasta dinners…any table, it doesn’t matter. we sit together and, in our together, are grateful for the chance to prepare our meal and share it.

we choose our plates carefully. it might be a white crock night or a black plate night or maybe kenandloida colorfully-painted ceramic bowls or small plates. the vessel matters. and so do the cloth napkins. no matter what we are having for dinner – vegetable soup or a tagine or plant-based meatloaf – we try to pay attention to dining and not just eating.

we can count the number of times we have been dining inside a restaurant since before the pandemic – on one hand. it has been for very specific reasons – mostly our children, but once, the up-north gang, freezing from winterfest, gathered indoors at a pub to sip drinks and gorge on kettle corn. these times have been rejuvenating and joyfilled, though i have to say, blame-it-on-covid, i usually count the days hence. sigh.

regardless, our two-years-heading-into-the-third have not been without a richness that comes with choosing to make a big deal out of meals. nothing lavish, but still meaning-affluent. nothing opulent, but still flush with deliciousness. nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing froo-froo, but dining. definitely dining.

not just sitting and eating.

*****

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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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30,240 minutes. [k.s. friday]

the mimosa tree grew in the middle of the front yard, its fanning leaves dappling the southern sunshine streaming through it. pink and white flowers adorned its graceful branches; it was beautiful color on a wooded lot full of big oaks and maples. the roots of a mimosa are invasive and the pods and brittleness and attraction to disease put it on the do-not-plant list. but it spelled home, and, though i don’t remember the ultimate reason it needed to be taken down, i do remember how its absence felt.

the pink bloom stopped me in the middle of the botanic garden greenhouse. it wasn’t a duplicate of our mimosa; it may not even have been a mimosa. but the pompom shape and the blossom echoed our tree’s blooms and, instantly, i was taken back home.

the mourning doves have started cooing. we’ve seen robins. wild turkeys were out on the bike trail as we walked and talked. a pudgy squirrel lingered on our deck rail in the sun and the birds are lining up on the fence to take turns at the birdfeeder. it is another spring – soon. it rolls on and on. time.

we watched an interview…a man in ukraine who – devastatingly – lost his wife and two children was talking with erin burnett (cnn) who earlier had been reporting from ukraine but is back in ny now. tears streaming down her face, she struggled to hold onto her composure as she prompted this gentleman to speak about his children, his wife. less than a month ago he had a normal life. i’d believe the thought of losing his family to a violent bombing invasion was far from his mind. in what is mere minutes (only 30,240 minutes) all was gone.

there are mimosas in ukraine. called acacia trees they canopy parks and walkways, their pompoms and curtained branches greeting all those who walk underneath. i would imagine that somewhere there was a house with a front yard. and in that front yard sat a mimosa.

now, 30,240 minutes later, there is nothing. not because the tree’s roots were lifting the sidewalk or the spent blooms were littering the grass or the seeds are toxic to animals. no. they are decimated because they – along with their people – were blown to bits in acts of cruelty, in heinous evil. it takes our breath away. no more mimosas. no more homes.

what will we do with the next 30,240 minutes?

*****

THE WAY HOME

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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that crooked smile. [merely-a-thought monday]

his crooked smile stopped me.

we were wandering slowly through the orchid show at chicago botanic gardens, drinking in the colors, the fragile blooms, the deliciousness of being-out-somewhere-doing-something. in the hallway between two larger spaces, there he was. waiting. wearing the imperial margarine crown, large bulbous nose, really long kind-of-jay-leno-chin and a crooked smile, his eyes squeezed a little shut in an engaging invitation, he was waiting.

i stood there staring at him, laughing. he was sitting in front of an old piano painted in bluebird-sky-blue-peely-paint and he winked at me. all the other orchids didn’t have to do anything to get our attention, and, truthfully, neither did he – they were all stunning and refreshing hopeful harbingers of maybe-spring-will-come – but he tried extra hard anyway.

i see him as toothless. but i have no judgements about that at all. i suspect most orchids are toothless, well, except for the one that made me do the “duh-chomp, chomp, chomp—what’s up doc?” bugs bunny imitation in the middle of a room full of people. that one most certainly had teeth. two buck teeth just screaming for us to notice. nevertheless, this guy – the imperial margarine guy – did not have teeth. his jimmy durante schnozzola was all he needed. and those eyes. and that crooked smile. sheesh! what charm!

when we left the botanic garden we felt a rush of fresh air. this wasn’t just the difference between a heightened-warm greenhouse and the cold chicago air. it was a sense of newness. a refreshing, though albeit tiny, touch of “normal”, a reminder of beauty. it was sheer magic. it was diving into a rainbow and immersing, coming out the other side dripping with colors we hadn’t seen in a long time.

it was admiring blossoms of solid colors and stripes and polka-dots and marveling over shapes and sizes and textures. it was reading of orchid seeds sailing over oceans and great expanses of land, steadfastly enduring. it was laughing with orchids which had personality, confidence and humility, joie de vivre.

they reminded us of life, in the middle of a neverending pandemic, in a period of time that would mark the beginning days that ukraine was invaded by russia, the world shocked by the wickedness of it all. the country-of-sunflowers was under siege and the orchids were blooming. all existing at the same time, on the same plane, in the same world. a gentle prod – yet again – to appreciate every last little thing.

maybe that’s what his crooked smile was all about.

*****

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not a dress rehearsal. [merely-a-thought monday]

i don’t believe there is much more frustrating than trying to get the attention of someone you love, someone you care about. you keep upping the ante, waving your arms above your head, metaphorically jumping up and down, raising your own bar time and again. just to get their attention. you try more-achievements-for-1000-please, imploring-for-800-please, passive-aggressive-ignoring-for-600-please, lonely-weeping-for-400-please, poor-acting-out-behavior-for-200-please, but none of it seems to work.

i read in the book “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering” (claire middleton) a few days ago that the author suspects “people who only need a cup, a plate and a blanket are cold-blooded”. i know this was in application to stuff-in-the-house. but i would hasten to add that it applies to relationship as well. some people, in an unplugged, unsentimental-about-other-people way, don’t need any more than a cup, a plate and a blanket. it all seems such a waste of good time.

when my adored big brother died i was pregnant with my second child so i was an adult, 33 years old. though it is just shy of 30 years ago now i still vividly remember the stunning realization that the world kept going anyway. i had lost grandparents; i was a bit familiar with grief. but this was strikingly different. i could not grok how the world kept going without my brother being able to feel it. this sounds like gibberish to some, i suspect, but grief is not linear nor is it rational. it asks questions of our heart and mind and it slays us with feelings of overwhelm at moments we don’t expect. i looked to a gift i was given – a ceramic sign that says “this life is not a dress rehearsal” – and i thought “pay attention!”.

a few days ago i was talking to one of my long-lost-and-now-found-cousins on the phone. she told stories of her mom, my dad’s sister, things i had never heard. i could literally feel my heart swelling as i listened and laughed and i wanted more tales of my sweet dad’s growing-up years. the summer home upstate new york, the rice in the sweater pockets from mice and the snakes in the outhouse, housekeepers i was unaware they had, the mob boss around the corner in the city. my grandpa’s felt business in brooklyn, piecing felt for pianos, of all things…that connection. a little bit of touch-back, an hour of family-i-had-lost-in-the-confusing-shuffle-of-life. building. paying attention. being astonished.

in a world full of intricacies and details and deadlines and accomplishment and competition and agenda, to stop and pay attention is sometimes a challenge.

to marvel at the song of birds at dawn, to watch the east sky change in answer to the western sunset, to taste the first sip of coffee in early morning, to stare wide-eyed at your grown children…astonishment in exponential depth.

to tell stories of life’s moments, the tiny ones, the top rung ones, the puddle-on-the-floor ones…is exponential sharing of living.

to pay attention to the other, really pay attention – without prompt and without reward – is exponential love.

*****

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coffee mug viewmaster reel. [d.r. thursday]

inane information moment: i am drinking coffee out of this mug right now.

in a small shop on the main street of frisco, colorado (elev. 9075′) these mugs sat on a shelf and waited. since we are bring-back-a-mug (or cloth napkins or a rock or a big branch) people, it seemed destined to go home with us – a black mug with trees and the word “colorado”. how much more perfect can a memorymug get?

it’s visceral drinking coffee out of this mug. it makes me want to walk down main street, jaunt into the bookstore, find the trailhead at the end of the road. i merely have to hold it in my hands and i am in the high mountains, squishing the goodness out of every single minute we get to breathe in that air.

there are quite a few mugs in our mug cabinet. and this is after we pared them down, bringing cups to the church we used to go to for their coffee hour, which had a huge collection of people’s memorymugs. you’d wrap your hand around a floral mug and wonder who gave it to whom. you’d cup hot coffee and laugh at how many i-love-my-teacher mugs had been options on the rolling cart with the coffee urn.

there are some mugs that i simply could not have let go. a peanuts mug from the 70s, a mug from the cape, a handle-less clay mug from a potter in the north carolina mountains, two round glass mugs from which my sweet momma and dad sipped coffeetime, a charlie brown mug from h, the shayne mugs from my sister, our breckenridge cabin coffee mugs, the remaining unbroken snowmass mug, a couple mugs our girl left behind a few summers ago.

i guess that the point is what each of these conjure up nestled in my hands, steaming-coffee-ready. they are like a timeline of life, the viewmaster of the coffee world. click – another slide. click – another slide. choose your mug, choose your reel.

coffee is never just about the coffee. at least that is what i have learned in my life. it is always about the moments and, at risk of hyper-redundant-emotion-waxing, presence is what counts. for there is simply nothing better than sitting here – this very minute i am writing this – early morning, with coffee, under the quilt, dogga at my feet and d next to me, my mom’s old glass nighttable lamp on by our side, snow falling falling falling outside the window, holding every frisco memory in my hands. even if i have forgotten the tiny details of the trip, i can feel the majesty of the mountains and the way it feels to look across lake dillon and catch my breath.

the gift of this mug in my hands is that it delivers me there – just by opening up the triangle cabinet in the kitchen, selecting this mug and pouring coffee. though we are right here – at home – we are also right there. in summit county.

when we talked to 20 on the phone last night he told us he had only one thing of note he had saved recently that he felt worthy. expecting it to be a helpful hint of some sort, we waited. he paused and then quoted, “by replacing your morning coffee with green tea you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life.” (shah of blah tweet)

i suppose you could drink green tea out of this mug too. but why would you do that?

*****

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backwards. [merely-a-thought monday]

maybe it was the glass of wine in my hand, but i doubt it.

we sat at the table in our sunroom, happy lights on, gazing into the inky blackness of the backyard. it was still rather early in the evening but, these days, dark happens early. it suddenly caught my eye and it made me laugh. the backwards “let the adventure begin” seemed just about right, right about now.

we bought ourselves this little wooden sign a few years ago now, for the littlehouse on washington island. it graced the table that looked out on the lake and was the opening line of our time with TPAC, a magical performing arts center on that tiny island. a treasured adventure. and then covid. we packed our sign into a bin and brought it back home.

it sat in the bin in the basement, quiet, for months or so, i guess. then we redid the sunroom…more plants, our table, a new rug, an old door on horses, happy lights, an old suitcase. a few more adventures later – and i went downstairs, seeking the sign.

it sits on the old door in front of the old suitcase that holds the old cd player and lost-man, who is a stuffed mountain goat that reminds us of an amazing hike our intrepid girl took us on – to lost man lake on independence pass, with exquisite high elevation views and tufts of mountain-goat-fur snagged on the branches of bushes along the trail.

“let the adventure begin” makes me smile every time i see it. for it has already begun. we are in the middle of it. covid and wrists and job loss and angst and incredible-joy-times and glasses of wine and dogdog moments and new work and questions and hikes and dancing and music and plans and tiny trips and big trips and grief and laughter and babies and water and cartoons and writing. the middle of it. no re-sets necessary. like the tide, it ebbs and flows, but it’s ever-present, this adventure. like john lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” while you are waiting. it’s right there.

when i was in junior high or maybe early high school i had to do a project for science class. i had this clock that, for some reason, ran backwards. a big round face, the second hand ran backwards, which pushed the minute hand backwards, which pushed the hour hand backwards. with a master bulova watchmaker as my dad, we collaborated on this mysterious phenomenon: time running backwards. we researched and experimented, asked lots of questions, tried to get the clock to go forwards. it never did. instead, we devised a new face for the clock. and we learned how to read the time as it ran backwards. it made us think and laugh and think more and, also, gave us an interesting perspective on time. it’s happening. whether it’s forwards or backwards, it’s marching on. we simply need to adjust and adapt. at dawn, in midday, at dusk, in the darkness.

it was particularly funny to me when this sign – “let the adventure begin” – was backwards in the window reflection. well, maybe not really funny. maybe just really, really wise.

it feels like it might have been an even-greater little sign painted that way.

*****

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betty’s right. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

each of us can rack up the could-haves, like in a pool triangle, all stuffed in next to each other and ready to break with a cue. fragile, though. we can look back and think “why didn’t i…?” time and again. we can regret.

i suppose the gift of a new year – and those dang resolutions – is to sort and reevaluate the things that you consider important, the things worth continuing, the things worth letting go, the things worth learning. new practices of things-to-do and new practices of things-not-to-do. the lists permeate our brains and hearts, nagging, nagging.

there is a meme, well, many memes, circulating about betty white. it states something like “you have lived a really good life if, at 99, people say you have died too soon.” i realize that betty was inordinately popular, successful, always at the top of her game. but she was a real person, too. and she had to decide how to live. her positivity and laughter gifted each of us who have watched her or listened to her. in a recent interview she recommended, “taste every moment”. mmm. not at all corny, just a simplicity, a reminder.

we carry this pop-up-dinner table and stools around with us, switching from big red to littlebabyscion and back, depending on which vehicle we are driving. when big red refused to start for our road trip over christmas, we transferred the pop-up stuff into littlebabyscion and packed up to go.

we know we could have eaten at the sweet dining room table in our airbnb in the little mountain town. we ate there several times. but that last evening…we needed just a bit more time on the front porch, a bit more time outside, a bit more time admiring buffalo-plaid-man’s holiday decorations across the street, a bit more time in that town. we set up the pop-up table and stools, put up the luminaria again, lit a candle, brought out hors d’oeuvres for happy hour and, later, dinner. a little more effort, but not really much. everything tasted better out there. each moment.

before we even left home and while we were hiking in those north carolina mountains i thought about the new year approaching. i thought long about grasping onto the opportunity to just go, roadtrip to a new place, changing pattern. i thought about chances to amend, to let go, to reach out, to break the racked-up could-haves. big ways and little ways. i tasted a few resolution-ish moments, trying on for size – acting on – some of those thoughts-i-had.

and even in my first meager efforts – nothing earthshattering, nothing that will likely change the whole wide world – i must say, betty’s right.

*****

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a candle, lotion and a pair of mittens. [merely-a-thought monday]

one whiff of the good earth non-gmo soy wax cypress-pine candle and i was sold. the holidays in a mason jar with the added bonus of having spent hours of my life in many years past at shows near the founder of this absolutely-good-earth company, a place where brilliant science and creativity and big heart merge. it made me happy to see her products at the boutique shop and, in the way that this season does, makes me want to reach out to her with greetings.

we were in cedarburg on saturday, wanting to participate in the anticipation of christmas. the streets were cold, but the lights were beautiful and the holiday spirit warm and contagious. the wind was brisk so it was a constant cycle of earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk-gloves off-earmuffs off-mask on-go into a shop-wander and browse and admire-exit shop-mask off-earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk and repeat.

it was a perfect day. we stopped to have a bite to eat – a rarity in these past couple years. there was a giant outdoor tent with tall bistro tables spaced more than socially-distanced apart, fresh air coming in and tall propane heaters scattered about. with our coats on, though unzipped, we sipped an oustanding merlot and shared a burger laden with bacon and mushrooms and grilled onions and some kind of special sauce with a gigantic side of french fries. did i mention perfect?

our day-adventure took us through our favorite shops, the familiar a reassuring hug. in another rarity, we bought a few items – our new candle that tracy made, almond coconut hand lotion from a long island company that smells like an almond joy bar, a pair of fair trade mittens that fit over my finger splint from the everest corner of the world. treasures. we brought home ideas for decorating and fresh energy for the upcoming week.

sitting at the tall bistro table in the tent i glanced around. four girlfriends enjoying a chardonnay, a family surrounded by shopping bags and ribbons, two friends having a shopping extravaganza, an older couple perched on stools finishing lunch and sipping tall glasses of water, our server, delightful despite the busy. i appreciated the mix of the multi-colored and white lights strewn through the tent. the chatter, the joy, delicious anticipation that the rest of the day still stretched in front of us. there would be tiny expressions of graciousness and courtesies and we would see grandiose expressions of the season.

i looked at david and held my hand to my heart, saying nothing. he nodded.

“christmas is here, bringing good cheer. to young and old, meek and the bold. ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song. with joyful ring, all caroling.” (carol of the bells)

*****

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