reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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under the flowbrella. [d.r. thursday]

back a while ago – in 2018 – we were designing up a storm. we offered prints, throw pillows, tote bags, phone covers, shower curtains, coasters, leggings. i spent hours designing hundreds of products. it was a blast! one of our designs back then was “go with the flow” and you can still see (and purchase) items on society6.com.

because “go with the flow” still fits – and, i suspect, forever fits – when we passed these napkins at festival grocery store, it was on a day when they were the perfect companion to our happy hour. a reminder. a keep-perspective nudge.

i have learned that going with the flow is really an umbrella mantra. everything else can get neatly tucked in underneath the flowbrella. for what choice do we really have? pushing back causes undue stress and anxiety. hiding in a cave is just downright depressing. moving on – in the flow (picture yourself on an inner tube in a lazy river under a soft sun in 75 degrees with a gentle breeze) – is likely the best option.

having been raised in new york, i must say that goingwiththeflow doesn’t really come natural. there’s a little pushback in each o’ us and the older i get, the more i realize the uselessness of trying to dig in. my heels are not strong enough to withstand the force of the big river and it’s hard to curl my toes in the cold water to grip the riverbed (without getting a foot cramp, which is a whole ‘nother post).

in these days of getting older – and perhaps a tiny bit more sage but not too much but maybe a little – i have learned that the future comes – at least the next day – whether i agree with the present day or not, whether it’s my best day or not, whether i am wrong or right, whether i am blissfully happy or gutwrenchingly sad.

we are all kintsugi vessels. we keep our eyes peeled above the water, through the challenges of being human, and focus on whatever is our “go” lighthouse.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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i’m from new york. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

towering cloud. monochromatic tones. i took this photograph. i may not have taken a second look but for the wire cutting diagonally across it. it was the interruption that made it – a gorgeous cloud – even more interesting.

i’m not from here.

i am proudly from new york and sunday night out on our deck i reveled in feeling new york. i haven’t felt as new york as i felt that evening in a long time. we were playing records outside and painting rocks. i had selected a few albums – dan fogelberg, john denver, michael murphey, survivor, fleetwood mac – and i was playing dj, picking and choosing the songs to play. we sang along, somehow remembering lyrics of songs we hadn’t heard in ages, a mondegreen or two slipping in.

then i went inside to find a certain album, leaving david to pour a little wine and wonder what i was searching for.

i came back out with the double-album-set of saturday night fever. there is nothing that quite defines 1977 like that album and the bee gees. instantly transported back to the discos and beach bars of long island, i got up and, in the new privacy of our backyard, danced. the more i danced, the more i danced.

i texted a few friends, asking them if they remembered the steps to the hustle. crunch wrote back that he didn’t remember all the steps, but he remembered the spins and sent a picture from a beach bar on the island he was at as he typed his message. marc reminded me he didn’t dance – which i, of course, remembered – and told me – if i was indeed sending him snippets of “stayin’ alive” simply to annoy him – not to be such an “assassination” (which, back in the day, i would say for the word “ass” so as not to cuss. friends would tell you i have come around from those days.)

interrupting our 70s mostly-mellow flow, saturday night fever disco drew a line through the soft wash of memory in which we sat. it invigorated us. it made us dance and it made us laugh. it made a perfect night even more perfect. and it woke up the new york in me, never too far away but always a little at-bay, a little tempered.

new york is a little noisy for wisconsin. new york is a little demonstrative for wisconsin. new york is a little talkative for wisconsin. new york is a little emotional, a little animated for wisconsin. new york is a little exuberant for wisconsin. new york is a little brash for wisconsin. it’s a little center-stage, a little aggressive, a little assertive, a little interruptive.

i’m not from here.

i’m from new york.

and i’m damn proud of it.

*****

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buds and blossoms. wrapped in gold. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

if i were to get a tattoo (not to mention the “sisu” tattoo i would love to share with my daughter) i think it might be a simple tattoo depicting the japanese practice of kintsugi: the golden repair and honoring of flaws, beauty in human brokenness. there’s no telling if i will do that. there’s also no telling if i won’t. i’m not averse to ink. i know that ink is an expression of where you are in your life, of what you believe in, of what you seek.

“age and stage,” 20 often says when we talk about the stuff of life. tight bud to full bloom to blossoms falling, petal by petal, to the dirt. all the iterations in the middle.

everything is like that, i suppose.

the first time my boots hit the wood as i crossed from backstage to the apron was memorable. i won’t forget it. each time i’ve walked to the piano, adjusted the boom mic, took a breath and started…memorable. i won’t forget. i remember being in the middle of one of my concerts, in the middle of one of the pieces…i forgot where the piece went…i was lost. i made it up. it was a solo piece; no one else had to share in my lapse of memory. i followed the theme and noodled my way through to an end no one would ever hear again. my producer hugged me and laughed later, “nice coverup.”

the pace of my walk is slower now than it used to be…steadier. now i know that no matter what, no matter the mistakes, no matter the braindrops, no matter the missed lyrics, the thinking notes…the story will get told, the bud will open and, like any artist, i will give of myself, despite of whatever i get or don’t get in return. age teaches you that it is not the return that matters. age teaches you it is in the giving.

we talked in the kitchen this morning about the work we have done in our lives. david’s paintings, hung and not hung, my music, recorded and not recorded. we talked about our youthful desire to have everything seen, everything heard…and not in a little way. we talked about how age has brought us to this place – a place where seen and heard doesn’t really matter. painted and played matters. drawn and written matters. expressed matters. received en masse doesn’t.

it really is “age and stage”. it’s not just the moments of our children, tiny beings not sleeping through the night, toddlers in terrible-two-tantrums – people reassuring us “age and stage”. it’s not just the trials of parents letting go of those adored humans who are now adults in the world, a little less access, a lot less time – people encouraging us “age and stage”. it’s not just our aging moms and dads, significant changes in ability, in perspective, in health – people comforting us “age and stage”.

it’s us. it’s our age and our stage, we are reminded. we try to fix what is broken, try to start something new, try to perfect the blossom. and we realize that it was a bloom all along. it was beautiful. it counted.

were we to be able to see – from the beginning – all the stages – the tight bud, the slightly opened petals – the bloom – the blossom falling to the ground – we might take it all more lightly, we might not cling to ideals of success and how we receive it. we might know there would be mistakes and dropped notes, lyrics mixed up and words not spoken. we might know there would be vulnerabilities and painful angsting, gorgeous improvised melodies, pictures without everything we desired, without everything coming to fruition, vamped decisions, regrets and, yes, bows. we might know that we would join with the rest of the human race on broken roads.

and we might know that the stages of our ages were all wrapped in gold.

and maybe ink.

“and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (anais nin)

*****

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the forest AND the trees. [d.r. thursday]

it was 1999 and bugdom reigned supreme, rollie pollies and ladybugs and fire ants all in the computer game kingdom, with plenty of other-bugs helping and undermining rollie mcfly. it was the early days of games with such vibrant graphics and i distinctly remember being wowed by such a ground-level view of the world.

the chipmunks are in their glory these days. our birdfeeder is always a draw; they have it all figured out. sometimes i wonder about their perspective on the world, these tiny adorable creatures, so low to the ground, scampering here and there. what it must be like when you are in the grass and you can only really see a little bit ahead and, if you turn your head to the sky, up. they don’t seem to mind that they have no real big picture. perhaps that is why they seem so happy-go-lucky and intent on the tasks at hand. over and over they will stock up their tiny cheeks, puffing out and puffing out, and then run across the patio and dart under the deck. again and again. they are not thwarted by the repetition of it all. they just keep on keeping on.

we had a really fun visit with our son the other day. in chicago, on a cubs’ game day, we wove our way through wrigleyville and lakeview neighborhoods to see the new place he would be moving. a cool two-story lofted apartment, it was a bright and happy place. he measured the space for furniture, calculating what he already had that would fit and what new items he would need. he’s done this a few times before, so he is very adept at the whole figuring-out stuff thing. both my children have already moved more times in their lives than i have in my entire life. they are much better at paring down and settling in to a new place than i am.

he mentioned that he would need an ant trap, which, for some reason, surprised me. “yeah,” he said, laughing, “there are ants in the city.” and, apparently, you need to be aware on the ground floor. then, in a told-you-so moment, he pointed to the tiniest ant on the sliding glass door wall. waaaaay high up on the wall this ant crawled. perspective-wise, were we to be crawling and were you to do the math equation proportionately, we would be on everest. nevertheless, the ant kept going. i wanted to bring it outside, but he assured me it would find its way. poor thing. it was a vast sea of white paint and all straight up and down. even bugdom wouldn’t have prepared the ant for this; bugdom was all outside – a lawn, a pond, a forest, a garden and an anthill.

the other day i saw a brown marmorated stink bug (known colloquially as simply “stink bug” and with the acronym “bmsb”). it was on an outside screen window crawling up. now, these poor bugs are not people-biters, but they are surely named properly and no one wants them around. i don’t know where it was going either. i can’t imagine why it would want to be up on the roof, so i’m guessing it was somewhat lost. when you can’t see beyond the screen, it’s hard to find your way.

we are fortunate, we humans. we have amazing prowess to be able to see the horizon. if it isn’t visible, if the horizon isn’t clear, we have the ability to climb higher to seek a better view, an overlook. though i suspect that some opinions are formed at dirt level, most of us seek the air and space to sort through what’s in front of our noses and see the bigger picture. our kingdom isn’t limited to the next grass blade.

rather, we have every advantage for gaining knowledge, learning alternate viewpoints, overcoming a narrow frame of reference, understanding the synergy of working together. we can form educated points of view, evaluate the difference between truth and falsehood, choose compassion and kindness as our stance toward others.

we can see blades of grass AND the landscape of the lawn.

more importantly, we can see the forest AND the trees.

*****

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the stuff we see. [two artists tuesday]

we cannot help ourselves. we see stuff. i usually don’t suppose that’s unusual, until someone stares at us – with that blank look on their faces that betrays the “oh-sheesh-they-are-SOOO-weird” thought they are having. and then i realize we might be a little unusual. i shrug it off. “we-are-all-worthy-we-are-all-worthy” i repeat.

the shark was on the side of the trail. lurking. all crusty and gnarly, his face. he was obvious. he was cause for conversation, tales of scuba-diving in cold long island waters and off the coast of tropical islands. we can’t help but see and we laugh and gasp out, “look! it’s a ……..!”

seeing. it’s a burden every artist carries. it’s in the backpack with the parmesan cheese and the twizzlers and the tiny box wine and the kind bars. it’s probably good that we are mostly alone during these moments; our imaginations fly wild and free and we crack ourselves up.

and isn’t that the point? the laughter? i can’t think of anything better than laughing together, even at our own expense. we tell stories to friends, emphasizing the goofy, the silly, the utterly-profoundly dumb, self-deprecating and reveling in it. getting my hair cut and claiming the highest forehead in the guiness book of world records of foreheads. having a pedicure and claiming the biggest big toe in modern history. even, recently, at the doctor’s office, asking, please, for a sticker or a gold star for passing my bloodwork. just silliness. we can’t help it.

but to walk with him and find the sharks on trail and the ducks stuck in trunks (see below) and the tree mooning us (see below) and the desert hills from space (also see below) is to walk inside laughter. it’s to have maybe learned – at long last – not to take everything quite so seriously.

it’s to learn how to get older and crusty and gnarly ourselves and to hold it all lightly.

because in truth, the shark tree was beautiful.

*****

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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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cold french fries. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

he’s a convert. we weren’t out of this sweet holiday town a half hour when i asked him to take out the baggie of cold french fries.

my sweet momma is the one who taught me how to eat these. step one: you fry them up. (or bake them) step two: you eat them. step three: you put the leftover in some kind of container. step four: you take them out of the fridge the next day and eat them. cold. preferably with momma’s iced tea, but straight up if there is none of that around.

and so, we turned around littlebabyscion in the back part of the driveway, drove out onto the road, waved to buffalo-plaid-man across the street, drove up the hill to downtown and down the hill out of town toward the mountain range in the distance. stopped and got gas, cleaned our sunglasses and i asked about the french fries.

granted, it was early, but breakfast was way earlier and all that packing and loading and saying goodbye used up a lot of energy. it was time.

and so now, when it used to be that the baggie would solely be for me, we shared the remainder of the french fries that we made with baked clams last night for our pop-up dinner on the porch, our last night in this perfect little town. they tasted like crisp outdoors late at night and my sweet momma’s homemade-just-for-me all rolled into one.

we passed a tiny stand on the side of the road. “boiled peanuts” the sign read.

“yuck,” i said, curling my lip. he agreed, laughing.

but i’m pretty sure i could hear the guy in the sun next to the table he had set up as he turned to his companion: “have you EVER heard of ANYONE eating cold french fries?!”

*****

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the horizon! the horizon! [k.s. friday]

like 7th chords vs major 7th chords, some things are irrefutable. the horizon is one of them.

each and every time i take a photograph i can hear crunch in my ear, “the horizon! the horizon!”. decades have passed and i still will look at my photographs post-snap and evaluate the horizon and its relationship in the whole image. post-click i will think, “ahh, crunch would like this one!” and i’ve considered time and again to send it on to this person who has instilled his words in my head from years of taking sunrise and sunset pictures out on long island sound, on the beaches, in the boat, in-between fishing or diving adventures. there is nothing like a sunrise over the water with a crooked horizon. if one has to tilt one’s head to the side to accommodate the degree of angle of horizon, crunch -and i, now – have no forgiveness.

it’s how i feel about dominant 7th chords (using the minor 7th). i find them cringe-worthy. overused and trite, i have, many-a-time, tossed out, “major7th! major7th!” to others, much like crunch’s “the horizon!” admonishment. it’s used as a resolution pass, moving to another chord (usually a fifth below, but that’s too much information for right here). suffice it to say, we all have our quirks, the things that make us grimace or make our eyes twitch.

the gallery where david’s piece “unfettered” is showing is right on the water. the center is filled with delicious light and warm wood floors and white walls and white woodwork. it is a gorgeous place, a mecca for an eye seeking tiny morsels of photo-worthy images. i wander through, admiring pieces of the opening show and taking pictures of the space.

but i am reminded of the huge art expo we attended in chicago. winning – and mightily expensive – exhibits included jute strung across the booth with a kitchen sponge painted blue hanging from a clothespin. this was for sale for literally thousands of dollars and there were curators/representatives/dealers in the booth – those who would privately shake their heads in astonishment, giggling all the way to the bank – who would happily explain its meaning to you. perhaps i am a bit jaded – by looped recordings and garage band and auto-tune and acrobatics and the machinations of the music industry – but i have to admit that, while there were fancily-clothed-people gathered around seemingly breathless-with-anticipation, i did not stick around for the explanation. like the emperor with his new clothes, the oh-i-MUST-have-it crowd amused me and i could hear crunch in my head, “the horizon! the horizon!”.

one of my favorite experiences – albeit adding to my cynicism – was attending a talk given by a curator at chicago’s institute of art. she was speaking about the work of christopher wool and she was giddy that he was present. she had developed wordy narrative all around his work, describing his temperament, his mood swings, his supposed depression. his work is pretty blatant; he uses words and images to speak to or portray conceptual ideas. referencing one particular piece, she spoke about how his dark depression contributed to his art. she glanced over at him as he made a gesture to speak and invited his-own-perception of his-own-work, a photograph. i could see his tic from our seats. “i just thought it was a cool shot,” he interjected into her soliloquy on the spectrum of his personality. the audience laughed and i breathed a sigh of relief. some 7th chords are just overused, overplayed, over-analyzed.

i’m wondering about stringing up some jute in the sunroom and hanging this week’s scotch-brite.

*****

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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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pastrami mountain. [d.r. thursday]

“there are always flowers for those who want to see them.” (henri matisse)

through a rainy windshield we peered out. the windows were fogging up from the vast temperature change that the weather system had brought with it. the lake was grey, light glistening and playing upon it – the sun coming out from behind the clouds. the sky – left to sunset in salmon with lines of dark clouds dissipating – seemed to highlight the snow on the mountaintops in the distance. puddles had formed on the land lakeside, the point that jutted out near us. a photograph after the storm. after our pause, we traveled on.

sometimes things are not what they appear. the same object translates differently to each of us. the same place reads positive/negative; our interpretation determined by the lens through which we view, the way we approach life. we learn to discern what is real, what we imagine. we learn to assess what we see using mature tools of sagacity.

sometimes things are not what they appear. everything is a matter of perspective, where you are seeing from, where you are in life. we arrive at destinations, full of expectations specific to our own hearts. we see what is there through our eyes. it is important work to be sure to be aware of how others perceive the place, the circumstance. we learn differences. we learn compassion. we learn empathy.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some places are not as they seem. we learn to listen to our intuition, to be wary, to ask questions of what we see and of what we are told, to do research, to wonder. we don’t follow as lemmings and we don’t remain silent. we learn to speak up, to give voice to the disparity between what a place says it is and what it shows itself to be. we learn boundaries and we hold our lines in the sand.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some wizards are merely people behind a curtain. their bluster is bluster, their words intended to suggest power, control, whereas their voice becomes synonymous with hurting others and self-aggrandizement. we learn sympathy, even pity. we learn distrust and not to be blind to agenda.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some people are not as they seem. though their roles imply otherwise, we learn to cautiously be with these folks. we realize that others can manipulate our perception of things, others can run over our viewpoint. and we realize those tsunamis are without truth-seeking. there is little communication – it is silent and colorless. there is little transparency – it is opaque. we learn discretion. we learn that there are those who will throw you under the bus, who will subvert you, to raise themselves up or to accomplish their objective. we learn to expose this kind of betrayal for what it is, to push back on this brand of sabotage, weeds attempting to strangle.

but there are always flowers for those who want to see them. we find places and things and people who are indeed flowers in our garden. places and things and people from which and from whom we learn grace and wisdom and adaptability and kindness. blossoms.

and i suppose the converse-henri is also true. if you don’t want to see flowers, you won’t. your perspective will grant you that, an empty garden. if you decide ahead of an experience that you will dislike it, you will likely see only in black and white, your experience void of the colors of sunflowers and peonies, aster and purple mountain sage.

so, yes, henri, there are always flowers. there is always the single ray of sunlight in the clouds. there is always the glass half-full. there is always the beautiful in the ordinary.

and there are always mountains. for those who want to see them, they are even in the trader joe’s shrink-wrapped pack of nitrate-nitrite-free pastrami.

sometimes things are not what they appear.

*****

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