8. grateful (5:31): for all the blessings, the joy, for life itself.
GRATEFUL from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood
heidi, in moments of stress or joy, always asks, “what’s the learning?” a good question to lead with, to sort with, a question that helps things make sense.
this Flawed cartoon, the picture of a teaching moment. good grief, there are so many! teaching moments. learning moments. every single day.
billy, there’s an “s” at the end of my name and idiot has only one “t”./what is the learning? ©️ 2016/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood
it’s holy week and, from the perspective of a minister of music, this is kind of a busy time (understatement lol). throughout lent our church has had a wednesday night service preceded by a simple soup supper (i love that alliteration!), with choir, ukulele band and handbell rehearsals sandwiching around these. although a scheduling challenge, rather than feeling overwhelming, it is a breath of fresh air. full of holy moments.
each wednesday evening the congregation gathered sings a service called ‘holden evening prayer’ written by marty haugen. (now, marty -my pal, even though we have never met, spoken or communicated in any way- is prolific and his compositions are gorgeous – meaningful lyrics with melodies and especially harmonies that resonate and are relatively easy for people to sing.)
his evening hymn begins: joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God’s own face, you who sing creation’s story, shine on every land and race. now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you. God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.
in the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn, in the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song. love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul, love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.
you who made the heaven’s splendor, every dancing star of night, make us shine with gentle justice, let us each reflect your light……
gorgeous, right? “light our hearts anew” “set us free and make us whole” “let us each reflect your light” – words to make you stop the craziness, get off the complaint bandwagon and feel the holy moments.
in another piece, the psalmody, the lyrics “let my prayer rise up like incense before you…” powerful words, magnified by haunting melodies. so visual. so visceral. holy moments.
as we rehearse through this season, i can feel each of the groups ready for a bit of a break, all volunteers dedicating their precious time to this music. i appreciate them more than they know. but there is something that keeps us all going. for in the middle of rehearsals, there is, inevitably, something that makes us laugh uncontrollably, something that makes us in unity say “awww” or something that, invariably, makes me/us want to cry…in a good way. these communities of fabulous people, joining together, to create joy. music is secondary. holy moments.
a small group of the ukulele band decided to go to a concert recently. held in a huge arena, it was louder than we thought it was going to be. much louder. like the guy in the souped-up car behind you at the traffic light with the huge woofers under the dashboard or on the rear deck (the place where you put bobbleheads) was right inside your chest pounding. but when matt maher got up on stage and sang Lord i need you….oh wow. holy moment. not because it was “holy”, but….because it was holy.
we had seen matt sing at red rocks in colorado. outside, surrounded by mountains and the setting sun, the sound echoing off huge red rock, everyone linking arms with the person standing next to them, whether or not they knew them, was unforgettable. i can’t sing that song without that vision in my mind’s eye. he didn’t say much. he didn’t have to. he was one of the rare wise ones who knew that the holy was in the moment, not the stuff he might over-say. yes. holy moment.
the girl-i-have-adored-forever, my beautiful and amazing daughter, and her girlfriend, also beautiful, amazing and adored, called the other night to share some insanely cool news. we laughed and talked and ultimately, i managed to get my daughter to roll her eyes at me, yet again. such a gift of a conversation. holy moment.
the boy and his boyfriend, two fantastic urban young men who i, yes!, adore, left me a sung birthday song message and, another day, texted pictures of a chamber ensemble concert they were at. sharing with me. holy moments.
spring is returning to our backyard. early morning birds wake and the cardinals are feeling the spring juju. they swoop and sing and remind me of my sweet momma and daddy. holy moments.
late on a spring-rainy afternoon we sat on the bed and read aloud together. babycat joined us and then dogdog. all four of us, on the raft. holy moment.
a time of lent, of preparation. another time for recognition of the holy. the “holy”, the holy. the Holy. moments indeed. they are everywhere.
i was standing in our old kitchen looking out the big window over the sink, reveling in the sunshine that is outside. light. it makes all the difference. all of a sudden i saw the fox running through the yard behind the yard behind us (yes, that would be two yards away)… gorgeous reddish brown, confident, its pace unhurried and elegant. a few minutes later, as i watched, it chose a spot under some low-hanging pine branches and curled up in the sun. that beautiful creature is still there, napping, soaking in the sun. what a reinforcement of what sunshine means to all of us living beings. revitalizing. hope-giving. a pure energy source.
it’s been cloudy for days and days and days here…weeks actually. we saw in the paper that there have been only two days of sun since the beginning of january. this is kind of unusual for wisconsin. i bragged to david when he moved here from cloudy (albeit stunning) seattle that he would love winter…that the bright snow and the sun would appease his need for light and counteract the cold temperatures. this winter has been different. the cloud cover has kept some of those distinctly freezing days away, but it has made a groggy world, grey and slow-moving, yawning for naps and staying indoors, despite temperatures that weren’t as cold. snow has been at a minimum and the light has been temporarily suspended.
many of us feel that way about our world right now as well – the light has been suspended. we ache for people whose rights to just BE are being undermined, we shake our heads in disbelief at policies that seem willy-nilly and are destructive, we wonder at how the lack of light might forever change lives – our lives, the lives of our families, friends, colleagues, countrymates, worldmates.
grave decisions are being made. powerful words are being spoken. in turn, people are expressing conviction and passion, some through anger and hurtful words, some eloquently, some in peaceful demonstrations. and while this cloud goes on, people are drawing strength from each other, gathering together to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions. choir rehearsal didn’t start for at least twenty minutes the other evening because people just needed to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions. we are the light for each other as we gather together. where two or more are gathered….
and today? i suspect that many people feel just like this beautiful fox today. we rest for a few moments in the sunshine, we draw in hope and energy. we are revitalized by the light. and we vow to keep on keeping on, to not be complacent, to talk, to discuss, to share, to ask questions, to resist, to act, arcing our way to a better world, no, MAKING a better world.
If you’d like to listen to HOPE from the album THIS SEASON click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1hTs5QcMKQ
right now i suspect my daughter is high on a mountain, hopefully in fresh powder, celebrating her decision in life to be up on that slope, living her life the way she wants to live her life. i couldn’t be more proud. her courage to live and to be who she is will not always be easy. it’s not the most financially or socially rewarding choice, but it’s hers and she’s being real about it. it’s not the first time i have written that she is living fiercely and i know it won’t be the last. she is snowboarding fiercely, coaching fiercely, hiking fiercely, expressing fiercely, loving fiercely. i am awed. and i will always have her back.
right now i suspect my son is high in an apartment in the big city, hopefully looking out over the harbor, celebrating his decision in life to be up in that city, living his life the way he wants to live his life. i couldn’t be more proud. his courage to live and to be who he is will not always be easy. he has been living fiercely too, and he’s being real about it. as he contemplates and gets excited about a new job, he challenges himself to do work to which he can contribute, from which he can learn and grow. these days i am often stunned by his words, awed by his moving from boy to man. i will always have his back.
i believe that each of them, the girl and the boy, have learned along the way about respect. often they have learned this because they have experienced a lack of it, a way that many of us learn about it. they are both learning more about open-mindedness than some adults-who-have-been-adults-longer-than-them i know. i believe that they will be zealous as they move forward in life, continuing to make choices that will reflect their respect for themselves and their respect for others. and the amazing thing? they will both continue to learn, their minds and hearts will continue to open, they will be citizens with voices based on experience and learnings and thought.
today, friends of mine are driving to washington dc to be in the women’s march; other friends of mine are posting messages of hope, reminders to stay in one’s integrity, issuing pleas to speak up. our 44th president encourages us to be active citizens of this country and to take part in its day to day and in its future.
our country has come so far, embracing differences, upholding rights for those marginalized, pursuing the growth of measures of inclusion and equality, encouraging, no, demanding respect for others. respect.
so many people are reeling from the disrespect shown in the last months. i cannot honestly say that i am excited today, inauguration day of the 45th president, because i’m not. truth be told, i’m glad that the girl and the boy are grown now, so that i don’t have to teach them to respect someone with so little regard for anyone out of the “norm”, with vast and sweeping (voiced) generalized opinions about people who he has never met, people he would never uphold or regard as equals. to say that he was so far off base of what is important when he announced that his new cabinet had the highest iq’s of all cabinets is an understatement. iq does not automatically beget compassion or common sense or an understanding of what it means to be part of a whole, as opposed to floating above everyone else. neither, might i point out, does fortune.
i’m glad that my momma and daddy don’t have to see this day, for my dad would never stand for the kind of disrespect that has been displayed. even in his worst, most-angered moments, he wouldn’t denigrate women or those with less than him. and my momma would be appalled, plain and simple. she hardly ever uttered profanity; if she did you knew that there was some passion behind what she was saying. but she would have been sickened by what has transpired in recent months, and would have trouble finding trust, struggling to move past the basic personality characteristics of a person she is, as a citizen, supposed to regard highly in the most esteemed position in our country. and she is someone who is kind to EVERYone.
so what now? we talked about it when we woke up. what do we do now? i guess we are vigilant. we speak up. we help. we march, we hope, we act on that hope, we continue to be who we are, only we do it a little louder. we look beyond ourselves and realize that there really is no “normal”… people’s lives are what they are. we have different situations and different challenges, different purposes in this life. but we are all in it together. and if we cannot see the forest for the trees right in front of us, we are missing the ultimate point of community. we have to seek and see that forest. being reactionary is being stuck on the tree right in front of us; it is not ok (read: forward-moving) to be reactionary without some forethought, without mulling over the possible consequences, without looking beyond the foreground. what does our reaction set into motion?
early this morning, on a grey and foggy day in the midwest (for even mother nature is confused), with hot coffee in our mugs, we wanted to ask if everyone could just think it all through. the worst decisions i have ever made have been when i didn’t think it all through. taking a breath would have changed my world. taking a communal breath would change THE world. we figure it out ourselves. we figure it out together. it all boils down to respect.
“there are angels all around you,” pete said. he said this a few years ago now and it has stuck with me like glue. it was snowing – fiercely – and i had chosen to go drive in it with my inordinately-low-to-the-ground little xb. maybe not a terribly smart decision, but i needed to purchase a special gift and overnight it, so i left home determined to get to the little shop called ‘peacetree’ and find the perfect present. i took wrapping paper, a card, tape, scissors and a fedex envelope with me, in an effort to be organized and confuse the universe with my illogical logic.
having found and wrapped the perfect gift at the shop, i looked outside the big front window and saw that, not only had inches of snow piled up in my short time there, but the plows had gone by, encircling my little scion with drifts. i looked at pete, wrinkled my face in worry and said, “uh-oh…this should be an interesting drive home.” he looked back at me, his eyes kind and clear, and said, “there are angels all around you.” there were several moments of silence between us and then he said, “really.”
my husband just wrote a beautiful post about the angels all around us…the ones who help us, cajole us, take care of us, leave us favorite groceries on our front steps for when we return home from a difficult trip, make us soup, drop off a bottle of wine, bring us brownies….people in our everyday lives who make things easier. we all have them. sometimes we appreciate them a lot, sometimes we have no idea how life would be without them. they are indeed angels and life is better simply by their being in our lives. angels all around us. i was moved when the girl told me about someone she bought a sandwich and water for outside a convenience store…he was a veteran and she felt like she was drawn to helping him by her pa, my dad and a WWII ex-pow. with not much at all to spare, she was an angel for this man, who needed help. yes, angels all around us. ones we know, ones we don’t know.
and then there are the angels that i believe pete was talking about. the ones we can’t see. the ones who are present with us, but just on the other side. how many times have you felt the presence of someone you love who is no longer on this plane of existence? truth be told, i rely on that. i talk to my sweet momma, i tell my daddy stories. i ask my big brother to help me out, to give me clear, precise thinking, as he had. i’ve seen evidence of them, trying to get my attention…my “coincidental” noticing of the big semi on the highway going the opposite direction with the words “WAYNE WAYNE WAYNE” written across it…the two cardinals repeatedly swooping in the backyard over the deck, in moments i am missing my parents desperately…the intervention i can’t explain in an accident that could have proven to be tragic…the slight smell of cologne or perfume in the air…the can falling off the shelf in the green room beside the stage on the last take of the last song (called “divine intervention”) of my very first album (the-best-producer-on-the-planet-ken and i left this sound in the recording, feeling it an important message)…
i’m not sure we can seek these angels out. as much as i’d like, i can’t just call them up. but i do know that they are there. and that blizzarding day i was out in the snow and got stuck by the fedex box, there is no explanation as to why i was able to just – all-of-a-sudden – drive out of the enormous drift into which i had slid. pete was right. pete is right.
occasionally, i see pete out and about in town. one of these times i will stop and tell him how much it meant to me that he said that. undoubtedly he won’t remember. but me? i will never forget. there are angels all around me. and yes, there are angels all around you.
for weeks now i have been going through old photos. now, this is an enormous task – 35 years of life, 35 years of memories, 35 years of pictures…uhh…let’s make that 35 years of disorganized pictures…and i haven’t even gone back all the way (“obviously”, you all think, as you do the math between 35 and 57!) the rest of the journey back i’ll make another time. it will take me another long while.
some of you may have every picture you ever took in albums, cleverly captioned. some of you may have every picture you ever took in boxes, neatly labeled. i would like to say these photographs fell into one of these categories, but, uh, no, as my momma would say, “that ain’t so!” (she never used the word ‘ain’t’ unless it was in this context; she prided herself on vocabulary and grammar, and i (and my children – the girl and the boy) have been cursed (?) with this as well.)
so, my task involved bins and bins and boxes and envelopes and more envelopes of pictures, pictures, pictures. organizing photos into categories and sorting out thousands of duplicates that are helter-skelter likens to playing the match game…where did i see this one before? i spent the first week using a system to sort that quickly became ridiculously impossible. there were piles everywhere, spilling into other piles. this is a tedious task, at best, but i needed a better system. so the categories became more specific and boxes were labeled and placed all around the dining room, which became inaccessible to anything else for the weeks (literally, weeks!) this took place. labels like ‘baby-baby’, ‘random cuteness’, ‘winter’, ‘summer’, ‘christmas’, ‘easter’, ‘the pumpkin farm and fall’, ‘thanksgiving’, ‘pets’, ‘house stuff’, ‘trips’, ‘outdoor fun’, ‘family visiting’, ‘friends’, ‘school’, ‘music, sports, ballet’, ‘losing teeth’….the list goes on. it was daunting. bins of mixed-up photos surrounded me.
and i just finished.
now to find the place to bring them all to so that dvd’s and thumbnail print books may be made. i’ll download onto flash drives all the photos on the computer post-physical-picture-developing. and this task – at least 35/57 of the task – will be done.
last night at ukulele band i told everyone on the patio if they ever thought of doing this that they should either decide not to or to procrastinate it…forever. but on second thought, i am thinking that there has been some real living for me -even in the midst of wanting to scream from the tedium- in these last weeks. i have had the joy of re-watching my children born and grow, the joy of seeing my family – even those who have moved into a different plane of existence, the joy of seeing relationships at their best and through challenge, the joy of seeing what time really is.
there is a peace in that.
the forecast said ‘heavy rain’ so we all gathered in the living room. now, remember, this is an old house – so there is no central air conditioning and this is a summer evening with rain expected. people who are really zealous about the dew point could explain why it felt so ridiculously hot and humid, but we didn’t worry about the details of it. we just all sweated together, our ukuleles in hand, the dogdog running from one person to another getting ample dogdog attention in his nervousness about the thunder. this community of people meets weekly. during the ‘school year’ we meet at the church; during the summer we meet on our patio (ok, for you detail-oriented folks, sometimes it is inside our house, weather-dependent.) playing the ukulele in this band unites us…we strum through songs, singing and laughing, rehearsing for performances. today daena has a huge blister on her thumb. (the hazards of ukulele!) but that isn’t all. we catch up on news with each other. there are conversations about chords, strum patterns, aging parents, children living away, recipes, probiotics, new medical procedures, new pets, houses, chip and jojo and hgtv, life below zero and alaska, vacations, romances, reminiscenses, grandchildren. this community is part of who we are. i look at them in wonder. they are all so important to us. the gift of community.
we sat outside to eat at the pizza place. under the shade of a big umbrella we talked about weddings and health, diets and children, camping and career questions. these two people have been a rock for us in the last years. before it was ‘the four of us’, they used to include me on their ‘date nights’, sitting me in the middle of the movie with them, pouring a glass of wine for me, including me in dinner, helping me surf through the challenges i was facing. their community is part of who we are. i look at them in wonder. they are so important to us. the gift of community.
20 comes to our house most every sunday. we make dinner, drink wine, talk our hearts out and maybe watch a movie or sit out back. we share stories of life, stories of worry, stories with tears, stories of great joy, hilarious stories. we share so many years of memories and times gone by, some very happy, some we speak of with much sadness in our voices. the years have flown by. and now we plan – so many adventures to come. he and 14 are ridiculous middle-schoolers together. they make me laugh. i look at him in wonder. he is so important to us. the gift of community.
the girl wrote about her group of snowboard coaches and instructors one day. she referred to them as ‘family’. she has a fantastic group of people upon whom she can rely who live right there near her. they support her, challenge her, inspire her. i am grateful for her gift of community.
the boy writes about his group of friends – a tight-knit, widespread group of people upon whom he can rely, some of whom live in the city near him, some of whom live in other cities he travels to. they are ‘family’ to each other. i am quite sure that they support him, challenge him, inspire him. i am grateful for his gift of community.
our community is all around us. our community is far away. we have family and friends we’d love to see more, be with more, who live away from us. we have ‘family’ right here. they support us, challenge us, inspire us. i am grateful for our gift of community. i am grateful for you.
you know you are all family – bloodlines or not – when you can sweat all over ukuleles together, create joy and recognize you need each other. a band isn’t a band without all of us.
it used to be we would walk into the mall and you could sniff your way to the abercrombie store. back then, my daughter – the girl – and i would waltz our way into the store, combing for the latest $24 or $30 t-shirt, the latest $78 pair of jeans with holes in them (“deconstructed”), looking for the sale racks in the back. it was important, at that time in her life, to wear the ‘right’ stuff, so we would invest in a few things. on occasion, i would find the perfect pair of jeans for me as well (was that too far out at the time??)
the other day i was pondering summer. the weather was getting warmer and i texted susan that summer needed to wait – that i had nothing to wear. well, let’s be real. i had nothing to wear that fit or that (i felt) looked good. sheesh. once again, menopause rears its head. what is going on?? HE says that all the things i tried on look “lovely, beautiful, cute…” (and some other perfectly-supportive-husband superlatives.) but the mirror tells me different.
so i started to go through my entire closet and drawers. i pulled out everything. i brought a mirror into the bedroom (wow – people actually have standing mirrors in their bedrooms – sooo convenient!) i started to try on everything. and i mean everything! there were still abercrombie jeans in the pile on the top of the closet. and, except for the fact that the blue color wash is the wrong blue now, they still fit. they don’t, however, look the same as they used to. what is going on??
i came across a pair of hollister jeans i had bought many years ago (at least 12!…is hollister even still a brand??) they were a pair of my favorites. they had great holes in them, a button fly, were a dark wash and have stitching on them that says, “follow the sun wherever it takes you”. i am reticent to let these go. maybe i should make a tote bag out of them? regardless, it is unlikely that i will wear them again. what is going on??
so i plodded on through an entire day (no, i’m not done yet) trying to figure out what makes the cut and what doesn’t. i am a total jeans and boots and black shirt person, so some things were easy to put in a give-away pile. but, once again, i found myself lost in thought and memories as i sifted through all this… here’s a wrap that was my sweet momma’s. here’s a top my daddy bought me because he told my mom it looked like me. tucked away is a 1970’s wrap aztec print sweater my dad came home with for me when i was in high school. (i recently saw a remake of this very sweater at a store in chicago on the famous miracle mile.) here’s a ‘peace’ shirt the girl got me. here’s a livestrong tshirt with the word ‘hope’ the boy got me… my ever-‘gets-it’-husband said we should be sure to have a place where i can put items of clothing that are steeped in memory. thank goodness he gets it. that mushy-mushiness, hyped-emotions menopause. what is going on??
anyway, i am determined to make it through the summer with the things that are left. i am no longer a big shopper – i can’t think of the last time i went to an actual indoor mall. i haven’t smelled abercrombie from afar in quite some time, though i still recognize the scent ‘fierce’ if someone walks by me wearing it. i just feel like, with maybe the addition of one or two little things, i can get dressed each day this summer, thank the universe for a body that, although changing, works and celebrates life in walks by the lake, hikes out in state parks, dances in the kitchen, standing at the piano, following the sun….and i can do it without all the latest fashion, without new deconstructed jeans (i have plenty of those that i have organically deconstructed myself), without judging or comparing or being wistful.
all that can be impossibly hard work for women in a society that challenges us with perfect-body/hair/life advertising. but i’m up for it. what is going on anyway??
with the grocery list in my hand, i stared at my husband. he looked back with a question in his eyes. he asked if i wanted to add something to the list. i continued to stare blankly and then said, “yes….umm…those square pasta things with stuff in them…..whaaaat are those called???” “ravioli?” he asked. “YES!!!! that’s it!! ravioli!!!”
menopause strikes again.
i told this story in the middle of directing a ukulele band rehearsal. suddenly similar tales were surfacing. jay talked about how she called kleenex “little blankets” not able to remember the word ‘kleenex’. sally said for the life of her she couldn’t remember the word for “those things you sit on at football games”….(that’s easy, you quip….bleachers!)
what is it about menopause??? or is it aging? i swear that there is a moat surrounding my actual brain and every so often things just fall into it. i am completely incapable of getting them out – at least for the moment. ask me at 3am and i will have no problem remembering what it is i forgot earlier in the day. ask me at 3am and i will list more things i am thinking about then i have thought about all week. these synapses aren’t firing as they used to….and yet there are some things i am really grateful for in this middle age. (no. hot flashes are not one of those things.)
it seems that prioritizing becomes a different animal at this age. it seems that you reach the point where you are not ‘striding’….instead, you are ‘strolling’….not really from a literal point of view, more of a figurative thing. even just ten years ago, there were things that were so much more important than they are now. i like this new time, this new age.
even with the hot flashes, the seemingly overnight fluctuations in the size clothing i wear, the memory lapses, the i-have-to-be-goofy moments, the mushy-mushiness, the menopausal attention-deficit. i love when i am at rehearsal, surrounded by amazing women (and men too, but they have their own menopause and can’t have ours!), and i say “i’m hot!!!! are you hot???” and they all reply – in girls-who-have-your-back-tribal-fashion, “YES!!! we’re hot!!!”
and now i have to go make dinner. maybe we’ll have those square pasta things with stuff in them.