reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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way, way past time. [d.r. thursday]

“whenever you see a successful woman, look out for three men who are going out of their way to try to block her.” (yulia tymoshenko)

i read this quote on instagram. i hesitated to use it and then wondered why. it stated truth. it is a fact of life. i have lived it – exactly it – just as many other women have. so why hesitate?

the answer seems obvious. because that kind of blocking still exists, that kind of dominance is still valued, that kind of discrimination still squelches lives and careers, that kind of smothering effort – particularly with leading roles by older white men – is still not – really – questioned, nonetheless challenged in a big, broad way. it’s asphyxiating and it’s way past its time. way, way past time.

“it’s 2021 and we are talking about THIS!” they rolled their eyes and so did i. it is beyond the scope of reasonableness that we are – still – dealing with the devastating blows that those who lean into … or out-and-out embrace … the prejudice of white supremacy, suffocating gender bias, ruinous economic inequity, insufficient healthcare, deficient educational options, the loss of multitudes of innocent lives at the barrel of unnecessary weapons, exclusive immigration…

but here we are. 2021.

we came upon the hot-pink lighted ball of yarn in the garden and laughed. then we followed the string, the yarn that was unrolled over the tree branches, under the bushes, along the sidewalk edge, up the fence, down off the fence, and ultimately, to the end of it, the frayed edges.

it occurs to me we can trace the strings back and back. we can see the frayed edges of injustices, the repeating pattern of silencing, of stifling, of deliberate lack, of unacceptable levels of violence, of obstructive intention.

what now?

we need be stewards of worth, of mending, of healing, of forward-movement, of equal opportunity. we need to find ways – now – to weave an inclusive, equitable, generous, safe, egalitarian story for all. ungrudgingly and with abundant kindness and good will. it is indeed way, way past time.

2021. what are we doing?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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artists. funambulists. [two artists tuesday]

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between us we have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees, four businesses, a coaching and consulting practice, various certifications, multiple states of teaching credentials, fifteen albums, four singles, hundreds of paintings, multiple play-scripts, countless productions and concerts and performances and gallery showings, a radio show, four cartoons, books, blogs that contain a few thousand posts, numerous and diverse leadership positions in theatres and churches and educational institutions, too many non-profits to count, long resumes and a combined total of over eighty years of work experience.

we are artists.  and, as you know, that is not the easy path.  it’s gig economy in a corporate environment.  it means piecing things together, working a plethora of jobs at once, purchasing your own healthcare, investing in your own so-called retirement, advocating for your own value, balancing, balancing, balancing.  the tightrope is thin, but anyone doing the tightrope dance (funambulism) is well-acquainted with the balancing pole and standing tall in the center of mass on the rope, necessities in an artist’s life.

in a workplace conversation once, i was asked how i would even speculate about having a second job.  an incredulous moment, as a person who has always had simultaneous multiple jobs, it was ludicrous to me that the person asking this, who apparently has always lived in absolute bullet-pointed stability, could not fathom having more than one job at a time.  were artists to be so lucky.  were any gig workers, in their area of professionalism, to be so lucky.  that is another world entirely.

so we are always on the lookout for additional gigs, so to speak.  education, experience and skills from the wide spectrum of the first paragraph speak well to helping with growth and change processes and insight and honoring students and employees, not to mention the separate and interwoven threads of music, painting, theatre.  these experiences that span decades speak to the arts, that which the world turns to in times of chaos, unrest, dis-ease, periods marked by adjectives like distraught, devastated, frenzied, unprecedented, uncertain, arduous, splintered, divided, distrustful, untrue, exhausted.  the arts – that which feeds society.  yet, “creativity takes courage,” understated henri matisse (painter, 1869-1954).

as many of you, we receive solicited and unsolicited lists of jobs in our email.  we peruse through the obvious ill-fitting options like neurosurgeon or stem cell biological researcher; we look for opportunities to plug our work as artists into the world.  we are also emailed positions that line up with our professional abilities and tenure in the arts.

and this is what we’ve been sent:  sandwich ARTIST and GALLERY advisor.  it’s hard to know whether to laugh or be insulted.  sandwich artist?  if this is really what subway calls their employees, i would say most of us have related experience since the first time, at like age 3, we spread peanut butter and jelly on our wonder bread.  and gallery advisor?  tesla, really?  car dealer concierge maybe?

it’s a dim future if you cannot see relevance for the arts in a society, if they are secondary to anything and everything else, if they present in sandwiches and on dealership floors.  where are the organizations, the institutions, the employers who recognize the multi-faceted diamonds in an artist’s perspective, an artist’s drive, an artist’s commitment, an artist’s vision, an artist’s project-driven dedication and multi-layered stamina, an artist’s sensitivity, an artist’s heart?

as two artist-funambulists, we’d like something better for the gifted artists giving breath to joy and hope and tomorrow.  from the tightrope of this gig economy, it makes our toes curl to think any differently.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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against all odds, teachers teach. [two artists tuesday]

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“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”  (marilyn monroe)

the desk and the chair were connected and under the chair was a metal book rack.  there were 35-40 of them in my tiered room, which oddly doubled as both my choir room and my eighth grade math classroom.  math 8 was the last period of the day and, to give you a sense of the personality of the class, both of the children who were later voted “class clowns” were in my general math class.  a hot day in florida, the air conditioning was competing with the outside heat and trying to keep tired students at-the-end-of-their-school-day awake.

he was sometimes vocal, but mostly quiet.  he didn’t like math; he told me he didn’t really like school.  his eyes were bright even in his sullen face.  every day i greeted him and told him i was glad to see him.

that day, when he came into the room, i sensed he was even more unhappy than usual.  it wasn’t but a few minutes into my math lesson that his desk-chair came hurtling down the tiers at me.  it didn’t hit me, but back-in-the-day hurling desk-chairs was serious stuff and i, a young teacher at the time, was unnerved.

i think back now about that desk-chair being flung, the way it was all dealt with, the intervention and the caring hearts that were involved.  i think about that young man, whose name i still remember.  i knew back then that against all odds and despite the obstacles facing him,  he had a support system and he would make it.

amid a contemporary rise of real scaled-up violence in schools, less and less is about those support systems, for students or teachers.  resources, help – both are short in supply in public schools across this country.  yet, despite all odds, teachers teach.

i shake my head at the any-day-any-school terrifying concern of shootings in the classroom.  with gun-control-be-damned mindsets determining legislation, children must practice active shooter drills.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

i think about the lack of funding, the lack of supplies, the lack of a sustainable student-teacher ratio.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

and then, i think about this pandemic.  a global threat, this country’s leadership has not risen to the challenge and, in mindblowing checkmate moves, it has mandated that children physically return to schools this fall.  in the middle of an urgent and dangerous contagion, caution is being dismissed, putting children and teachers and administration and support staff at absolute risk.  it’s deplorable.

and yet we know, foolishly mandated, that against all odds, and despite all the obstacles, teachers will teach. that’s what teachers do.

“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”

against all odds and despite all the obstacles.

but the words “we are going to make it” beg a quagmire of unanswered questions, deeply concerning worries, and matters of life and death.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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holding steadfast. [k.s. friday]

holdingsteadfast songbox.jpg

it is against the odds that this tree clings to rock and doesn’t topple into the lake with a great splash and float away.  instead it stubbornly holds on, a steadfast intention.  the rock, the basso ostinato.

at a time when holding steadfast seems mightily important, i wonder about the questions we have been asked.  will you stay?  will you leave?  will you love it here?  in the midst of all the infighting, are you going to give up? will you hold on?

the answers may not be directly related to the actual intent of those questions.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  we will hold steadfast to our integrity.  we will hold steadfast to the reasons we came here in the first place.  to make a difference, to bring ideas and change, to apply that which we have learned, studied, experienced over at least 80 combined years of work, higher education and profession.  to be honest and transparent and collaborative.  to try and instill a sense of working together into a community divided by narratives too numerous to list.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  we will hold steadfast to our belief that people should be kind to each other, that people should not work around others nor should they undermine others, that people should instead lift each other up, not drive stakes into another.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  steadfastly.  to honoring art, the driving force behind this initiative.  to honoring creativity and the blossoming of beauty and wisdom, staunch tenets of artistry.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  steadfastly.  to believing all is possible.

but, in answer to the real intent of the question asked us….will we hold on?

we will not hold on if others cannot join us in what is real, what is truth, what is most important.  we will not hold on in the fire of pettiness or shameful self-serving underhandedness.  we will not hold on, holding still while others take turns throwing rocks at us, at the real goals of this place, if those are indeed about art.

the answer to the question is not up to us.  we can either cling to the rock, holding steadfast or we can topple, with a refreshing splash, into the lake and float away.

download HOLDING STEADFAST from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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HOLDING STEADFAST from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 


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chicken marsala monday #3

fallingdown WITH EYES jpeg THIS COPY copyevery summer i break one of my two little baby toes.  every single summer.  last summer alone i logged tons of miles on my $2 old navy flipflops as a result.  i even talked about it on this blog.  what did i learn?  in particular, what did i learn THIS time as opposed to all the other times?  i learned to either 1. slow down a little  2.  watch where i’m going a tad bit more  3.  never go barefoot.  the thing is, i’m pretty sure it will happen again.  i’m still learning.

i haven’t fallen off my bike in quite some time (and hope not to cause these days it will hurt much more than it used to) but i can relate in countless ways to our chicken marsala monday in the melange this week.  i can distinctly remember taking off the training wheels and teaching the children to ride their two-wheelers, running down the sidewalk next to them.  for that matter, i can totally -and (yougetthis) viscerally- remember teaching them how to drive.

we’ve been watching the olympics.  athletes of inordinate ability who had to start somewhere – and, for sure, who fell in the process.  not afraid of failing, but keeping on keeping on.  being an ace anything is far off.  do any of us ever really get there?

as an adult (ugh, i guess 58 qualifies me if for no other reason than sheer number) there are a lot of things i still want to learn.  a few years ago i wanted to throw pots.  i spent more than i bargained on for clay and lessons and studio time and more clay and ended up with the most wonderful tea light holder. (ok, i also threw a cereal-size-bowl and a few other assorted incredibly-shrinking-bowls as i struggled to center them and not have the clay collapse on the wheel.)  let’s just say i was not gifted at this.  but it did (and still does) make me laugh.  and i know that i will someday try it again and i will add to my assortment of teenytinyclayobjects in which i can store paperclips.

when we see my amazing son and his boyfriend, we seem to be developing this tradition of bowling together.  now, even though i live in wisconsin – and it is practically a law to be a good bowler here – i am pretty bad at bowling.  every now and then i do something (like pick up a spare or get a strike) and am shocked, but most of the time i am aghast at how the ball creates splits in the pins and i find myself leaning while watching it careen (generous term) down the alley.  the thing i must say, though, is that each time i do a little better.  and the reallybadscores will, if i dedicate any time at all to practice, perhaps improve.  mostly, i laugh.  and i wish i could bring that to ANY thing i am learning – be it a new sport, an artform, a study of some philosophy or political issue, or – a big one – relationship.  we fall.  we get up, brush ourselves off, ask for grace and try again.

even though there are so many venues of crashing, the recording studio is a prime place to watch yourself fall down.  you’ve written music, lyrics.  you’ve practiced and practiced – there’s muscle memory in each measure.  you’re ready, water and coffee by your side.  (for me, not so much water once in the studio as it ….toomuchinformationalert…makes throat noises i can’t avoid.)  and then you start.  there’s so much riding on the line.  and some days?  some days you can’t get through a track.  something is amiss; something is wrong.  the first track of my first album was recorded in a studio in evanston.  ken, my producer, was a stranger to me and i drove down with a posse of friends.  i felt a little nervous, but mostly felt confident i was prepared.  hours later, i had recorded the solo piano track for galena (the album released from the heart) and ken gave me a cassette tape (how funny is that?!) to listen to.  i put it in the cassette deck of my old chrysler blue minivan and turned it on.  and was appalled.  rigid playing met my ears.  it sounded nothing like me or my playing, or my piece of music, for that matter.  all that confidence translated to a coldness, an unemotional-ness instead of a good track.  i called ken (who i barely knew then, but now the same brilliant producer who has produced 14 of my 15 albums) and he suggested that, “maybe you should just write the music and have someone else play it on the recording FOR you.”  what???!!!  uhhh, i didn’t even know what to answer that would sound in the least bit polite.

and so i painfully listened to the recording again and sat back down at home on my bench.  and i realized i needed to be ready -at any moment- to fall.  THAT is what would make the piece sound like me and sound like, well, music.  the rawness, the every-moment-ness, the vulnerability to mistakes and moving beyond them.  that is what would make it shine as a learning.  preparation is wise, flexibility is a must, a sense of humor is required, confidence is irrelevant, perseverance is utmost.

and falling down is a gift.

FALLING DOWN IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF LEARNING MERCHANDISE

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CHICKEN MARSALA MONDAY

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check out DAVID’S thoughts on this CHICKEN MARSALA

falling down is an essential part of learning ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood