reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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columbus. a jewel. glistening. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.

living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.

monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.

we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.

just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.

*****

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light or apathy. [merely-a-thought monday]

normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.

like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.

so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.

cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”

goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.

i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.

we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.

yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?

we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.

do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?

“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)

“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)

hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”

apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)

and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?

how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?

might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?

what a blessing that would be.

*****

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i carry your heart. [k.s. friday]

i officiated a wedding last sunday. the bride and groom, their parents, twenty-one attendants and family and friends gathered on a venue patio under the sun on a stunning september afternoon in milwaukee.

reminding them to go slow and drink it all in, they celebrated in a ceremony i wrote for them, personal and intimate, with pieces of their romance and tidbits of what was mutually important to them. we had gathered together to talk, for them to answer questions and tell stories, and i searched for the right poetry, the right music, the right sentiment, the right words, and it was an honor and a privilege to stand in front of them and everyone there on this most important day for this most important ritual. i reminded those attending this wedding that their presence was not passive. they were witnessing this event and, in doing so, were promising to be there for this newly wedded couple, through thick and thin. to stand by them in all times, to help carry them through joys and sorrows, successes and challenges.

“i carry your heart. (i carry it in my heart.)”. i read the words of e.e. cummings as they stood, with tears in their eyes. it was hard not to weep with them. they danced down the aisle after the words, “the light will shine through your skin and they will ask, ‘what have you done with your life?’  and though there are many moments you will remember, in the end, you will be proud to say i was one of us.” life stretches out in front of them. they will be amazed at how their hearts will grow and hold the treasure trove of memories that will come. and, all the while, they will tenderly carry each other’s hearts.

i was supposed to fly that day. i had already purchased a kringle to bring to my sweet momma and poppo at the other end of my flight. but, just before i left for the airport, 20 called and told me to turn on the news. it was surreal and i dropped to the floor of the sitting room in front of the tv. i called my husband, called my beloved children’s schools to have someone tell each of them that i had not gotten on an airplane that morning and i watched the horror unfold that sunny september 11th in new york city.

a friend from yamaha in nyc sent me a picture of the world trade center location where i had just recently performed. it was destroyed. i stayed glued, watching, carrying the hearts of all those worried about someone in those towers, someone in the pentagon, someone on flight 93. it was terrifying to know this was real.

tomorrow is twenty years from the day of this tragedy. though i’m sure not a day goes by that survivors and surviving family members and friends do not think about this, it seems, in the middle of this pandemic and political chaos and climate-changed extreme-weather episodes on a grand scale and divisiveness in the nation, that the marking of this anniversary should remind us, should unite us instead of prompting the sneering that i am viewing on social media.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to defeat this global pandemic and cease the loss of loved ones.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to cross the aisle and embrace inclusivity and fairness and equality for all.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to confront global warming and climate change and save this planet for the children of our children’s children.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to turn toward each other, ask questions, have conversation, seek collaboration, surrender agenda, recognize truth, work together.

it would seem important – at the very least – to remember to carry each other’s hearts in our hearts. on wedding days and days of destruction of great proportion. it should all be the same.

*****

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no way back. [d.r. thursday]

when i was little, going over bridges made me nervous. not because i was afraid of heights or because i was wary of infrastructure and thought it would fall down, but because i was nervous about not being able to get back. something about going over bridges made me feel like there was no way back, especially if we were heading in the wrong direction, taking a wrong turn. i did not like to feel lost.

texas is lost. they have traversed a bridge that appears to be a hellish dead end and, i fear, with no way back. the new abortion law in texas that the governor has touted is a despicable piece of legislation, currying to the favor of men and full-scale demeaning women. that the governor would couch this as concern for the “sanctity of life” elicits a visceral response, a sickened-gut feeling. that the governor would ignorantly speak to the six weeks of freedom-to-decide as plenty, as generous even, is a slap in the face of every woman in his state. that he would put a bounty on the heads of anyone helping in this situation is disgusting wild west gunfire into the crowd.

people have spoken since this decision with more eloquence than i might muster at this moment, but it would seem that every one every where needs to speak up. as more governors make moves to further control the rights of women, we need to – we must – speak up, speak out. the ironies stacking up are deplorable piles of dung as we sit and watch legislation and policy skewed against any kind of gender equality being written, being celebrated, being enacted. sanctity is not in the building.

i read an article about the use of words in statistics. number of girls and women raped. number of girls and women sexually assaulted. number of girls and women harassed. number of pregnant teenage girls. violence against women. the use of the passive construction – noting that these descriptors don’t state the number of boys and men who raped women or assaulted women or harassed women or impregnated women or were responsible for violence against women literally shifts the focus off the guilty parties, pretends that these things have simply happened to women.

it’s hard not to be hugely cynical, disenchanted, about a country that clearly measures women’s rights differently than it measures men’s, that cares about women differently than it cares about men. once again, that yardstick is two-headed and those wielding it speak out of both sides of their mouths.

cynical. disenchanted. yes. these words. from desiderata they seem so hopeful, yet… “neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.”

perennial. usually a positive word. perennial flowers. perennial love. yet, in the docket of these days, what is perennial is the absolute denial of respect and rights for women. it is tiresome to watch the constant lostness. instead of bridges to better times, better health, equality and respect for all, a lifting up of those oppressed, bridges are being built to places of continual control, to power unleashed over others, to inequity and doubletalking agenda – with no way back.

it’s no wonder why i didn’t like bridges when i was little. no-way-back is a terrifying place, for a little girl and for a country.

*****

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initiative. [flawed wednesday]

(sign on the door of the milwaukee institute of art & design)

a year and a half.

jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.

two and a half years.

i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.

artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.

though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.

though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.

when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.

“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)

initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

the milwaukee institute of art and design has posted signs on all their doors. they have taken a stance.

wearing a mask in public spaces – and vaccination – have been scientifically proven to lower the rate of transmission, sickness and death of a deadly global pandemic. already a year and a half.

exactly what additional kind of initiative do you need?

*****

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way past time. [d.r. thursday]

she was sitting at a computer desk, a colleague at her own desk behind her. she asked, “what’s the difference between being assertive and being aggressive?” her colleague turned and replied, “your gender.”

the cartoon on facebook made me stop in my tracks. “this captures it better than any dissertation on gender inequality,” i thought. “sad, but so true,” i commented in the little fb box.

yes. it is way past time that the interpretation of women’s words and actions be viewed through the same lens as men’s. it is way past time that women’s intentions be measured with the same stick. it is way past time that women are respected for their strength, their power, their initiative, their intelligence, their skills, their talents, their creativity, their education, their experience, their motivation, their confidence, their risk-taking, their candor, their emotional intellect, their multi-tasking, their persistence, their sisu. it is way past time that women should be expected to simply be sweet. it is way past time that misogynistic men should be allowed to subjugate women – in any way. it is way past time that women be treated equally. it is way past time that you should have to look at an experience and say, as a woman, “if i were a man, would you have handled me this way? would you have spoken to me like this? would your behavior toward me have been acceptable? would you have pushed me down? would anyone have spoken up?” it is way past time for egalitarianism. way, way, way past.

we walked out in the county, sun setting in the western sky. the sunflowers rose high above us, glorious, though waning. is it the end of summer or is it the beginning of fall?

what do you see?

*****

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water and grace. [k.s. friday]

it’s a mystery.  grace.  it falls on us like morning dew, each and every day.  we rise, buoyant or troubled, joyous or grieving, in clarity or murky, in the light or in the dark. we step into next, knowing we have yet another chance. (nov. 22, 2019)

we live within the grasp of lake michigan. we can feel its power, its potency, its glassy peace, its lostness when fog envelops the horizon line and any sense of direction is blurred. the water draws us to it. it is a magnet, especially on blurry days.

things feel a little blurry right now. people all across the globe are struggling, with a wide spectrum of sickness, of loss, with devastating blows to their lives, their families, their homes, their towns, their countries, causes too many to list. blurry and disoriented and lost. existential questions beckon. yet answers are elusive.

there is something about staring at water. taking us out of the moment. each iridescent drop of water lapping at the shore, the mountain stream in the woods, the ocean waves breaking, the jets of water in the park, the pond in the backyard, the tiny fountain in the sunroom. even in our own blurry it reaches us. water. granting a little peace, a little grace.

i just got a card in the mail from one of my beloved nieces. she wrote, “one day it will all fall into place.”

i suppose grace really is like that. mysterious and ubiquitous. it falls on us. like a new day. unexpected and welcome. like a card in the mail. like a surprise text or an unexpected call. it rains down on us and gently re-directs us into next.

we are aware of how often water has shown up in our last year. not peaceful water that we passively have looked at, admiringly. instead, water that demands our participation. water pouring into the basement from a suddenly-broken pipe gasket. water dripping under the sink. water leaking out of the freezer-bottom-fridge, ice having formed from some drainline issue. water coming up from the storm drains downstairs after a heavy rain. water squirting all over from a suddenly broken shower head.

each time water has taken us out of the moment and propelled us into a different moment, in reality, a series of different moments…hours, even days. instead of being where we were, we were cast into roles working together sopping up, plugging the hole, rube-goldberging the fix, figuring out how to deal with the issue at hand and still maintain a sense of humor.

were i to think the universe was watching our every move, i might suggest that these occurred during times of blurry bleary-eyed-ness when perhaps a little re-direction was a good thing. water that washed us past that very time into next. it forced the change in our focus. gave a little clarity when unmoored seemed the the theme. helped us remember that all will fall into place. grace.

neil degrasse tyson said, “where there is water on earth, you find life as we know it.”

perhaps we also find grace.

GRACE from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

*****

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GRACE ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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yes. say something. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

bill never failed. and he would get me every single time. we have had many, many dinners together, lunches together, even breakfasts together, at their house, at our house, in restaurants, in picnic areas. and each time he has managed to break through my confidence and subtly – or not so subtly – point to a tooth or wipe at the side of his mouth all the while staring at me with that-look . . . the one that says, “you might want to mimic this – be aware – there’s something you should know”. i would fall for it each and every time, quickly closing my wide-toothed smile or stopping mid-sentence to scrub my napkin at the side of my mouth, whereupon he would belly-laugh and i would lovingly roll my eyes at his antics while linda would, with one word, admonish him, “bill!”

grace’s “if you see something, say something” made me laugh aloud. we are now watching ‘grace and frankie‘ episodes all over again, starting at the beginning. while i am on the treadmill and david is on the bike, aerobic exercise our goal, we turn the volume way up and grace and frankie and sol and robert and the kids get us through exercising. each episode we see things we missed the first time; such brilliance and great writing, words at their funnest. (yes, i know…not formally a word.)

“if you see something, say something” is kind of a girl rule. i have made it a rule for david, but he misses things in a guy sort of way, so if there is a woman around, i would totally count on her to let me know about the head of broccoli in my teeth or the pasta sauce that escaped to my chin or the mascara falling onto my cheeks, inadvertent momentary flaws that need pointing out. we women have a way of letting each other know about these things and we extend the kindness to each other mostly without previous acknowledgment of the rule. first world, yes.

when i taught music at the elementary school in florida we were cautioned to watch carefully as our children were released at the end of the day. “if you see something, say something,” the principal directed. and, at the end of one particular day, a day that i was not on duty but had just walked outside under the breezeway near my room, i watched as a parent on a no-pick-up-list drove up into the line to pick up his small child. i bolted back to my little music shed and called the office, alerting them and asking for help to waylay him. i don’t know what we averted that day, but i do know that our watchfulness protected that little girl from whatever placed him on the list as dangerous. if you see something, say something. absolutely yes.

i’ve recently seen videos explicitly showing a hand motion you should use or watch for in times of peril: tucking one’s thumb in and closing one’s fingers over it. a sign, without words, for domestic abuse. a signal for help in a threatening situation. a plea for aid, for an intervention. important stuff to know and to be aware of. if you see something, say something. always yes.

in this world in these times it would seem that watchfulness is paramount. it would be lovely to think that you could just mosey through life, naively unaware, but these days call for something different than that. these days call for more attentiveness, more caution, more observing, more alertness. these days call for responsibility to each other, whether it is following pandemic health guidelines, obeying traffic rules or being vigilantly aware of keeping each other safe. these days demand it. yes.

perhaps that is why, on the treadmill in the basement of our house, immersed in grace and frankie and thinking about stuff in my teeth and bill teasing and laughing is so, so good. exercise good for our hearts in more than one way. mmhmm.

*****

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free-hearted. [two artists tuesday]

with a cowboy hat perched on his head, he rode toward us on the trail through the woods, his gorgeous horse nickering as they approached. as he passed by he looked down at us, smiled and said, “you look like you like each other.” we squeezed arms, already linked and thanked him, telling him that we do like each other, most of the time.

as we left the trailhead parking lot that day, an athletic-shirted mohawk-haired motorcycle guy looked over at us crossing the lot to littlebabyscion and gravelled, “you two look good!” we are not even close to cool and gravelly in appearance, but this guy’s comment warmed our hearts and put a little jaunt into those last steps after a few miles of hot and humid hiking.

we have been the recipients of many sweet comments along the way. i don’t know if it’s simply because we usually walk – and hike – arm in arm or if we are just somehow comment-magnets. it is usually something like what these gentlemen said to us and it’s always unexpected. the guy trimming his trees, the woman stepping out of her car in her driveway, the guy passing us in gunnison on the sidewalk, the gal in the grocery store…all positive words which have upped the ante of our days, the free-hearted surprise-gifting us.

my momma was like this. she would speak simple kindnesses to people she passed by, gentle words of compliment to people she knew, generous encouragement and – even unruly – cheering on for those she loved. it makes a difference. in each case. just a little positivity wave starts concentric circles outward. every time.

i don’t know if that cowboy speaks to everyone, but i know he impacted our day. he could have just ridden past, me gazing back at his horse, pining, as he rode on. but instead, he spoke and, in seven words, he reminded us of goodness. i wonder how many people he touched that day on the trail.

any time i have reached out to another, recognizing to them something beautiful, something helpful, something of gratitude, something in their demeanor or their appearance, something touching, it has been restorative for me and, though i will never know, i hope it circled out from them. on or off the hiking trail. on or off the sidewalk. in or out of the store.

i know – that on any given day – i have seven extra words to give away. even ten. or more.

i’ll just grab my virtual cowboy hat on the way out to the world.

*****

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nine-million-dollar people. [merely-a-thought monday]

so, yeah, i agree with frankie of ‘grace and frankie’. nine million dollars would solve everything.

i once was in a meeting with a person-in-power who said to me that he could direct me to a financial counselor who would teach me how to budget. it was all i could do to not retort, appalled at his gall. i answered instead that – at that time – it wasn’t a matter of budgeting. it was a matter of not having enough money TO budget. as a life-long math-lover having grown up with a mother who taught me how to balance checkbooks and make soap-socks at a young age, remembering clearly my first $50 calculator and my high school math teacher both fondly, the act of budgeting – and doing taxes and paying bills – is something i kind of enjoy. especially with enough money. that would probably still hold true if i had nine million dollars.

what i do know, even though nine million dollars would be pretty amazing – keeping that out there in the universe – is that it hasn’t taken that kind of money to appreciate here and now, to be present. i know we would love the ability to be more altruistic and generous; those things are gifts that are more rewarding than the money in the first place. but we try to be giving the best we can in any circumstance we find ourselves. and for us, we find joy in the simplest stuff around us – the repurposed, the long-pondered, the deals. each little thing is something we celebrate as we bring it into our home.

there have been people over the last year and a half who have shown up for us. they have acknowledged hard moments and have helped in a variety of ways. when you break both wrists and lose jobs to a pandemic and tear ligaments in your wrist after you had finally healed and get fired from a long-term position – it’s pretty intense. civil unrest, political mayhem, isolation all spice up the anxiety.

but the nine-million-dollar people have written, have called, have sent cards, have helped out with generous gifts. they have surprised us in their magnanimity and we have been the recipients of bounty even from people we have not even met.

there have been other people, who, for some reason or another, have not been there. they have disappeared and would, i suspect, hide behind an end cap should they spot us in the grocery store. they didn’t bring casseroles when i had two casts and didn’t call or write to ask how we were. kind of salt on the wound-ish. but they have their story too and as max ehrmann in desiderata points out, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

life has a way of letting you know who the nine-million-dollar people are. they aren’t the ones with an actual nine million dollars. instead, they are the ones whose hearts are huge, who stand up for you, whose compassion is not measurable by budgets, who have reached out, who want to listen, who ask questions, who inquire what you need, who, oftentimes, just know.

this time of pandemic has been eye-opening in so many ways. it has peeled back layers. the isolation has taught us that, though it is difficult, trying at times, we can be apart. it has shown us those whom we choose to stay in touch with, those who stay in touch with us. it has shown us – with wistful hearts – who we miss, who we wish we could see, who we want to wrap our arms around. it has pointed out those who have stuck close by and those who have fallen off.

we don’t really need nine million dollars, though i doubt we’d turn it down. we already have that in the people who have loved us through this time, in one generous way or another.

and that, like those really wise mastercard commercials say, is priceless.

*****

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