reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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all the riches. [k.s. friday]

i don’t suppose it matters how old we get. we are ok if they are ok. conversely, we are not ok if they are not ok.

our children. that moment that your entire life changes – the earth tilts on its axis – and things are never the same again. it’s a conversation i have had again and again.

written when my son was a little boy with a dirty little fist of yellow flowers and my daughter was just a smidge older and taller than he, i am no less gobsmacked by the passage of time now than i was then. days become weeks and months and suddenly many more candles on the birthday cake. and time does what time does. these tiny people become grown human beings in the world and no longer need you to help tie their shoes or put bandaids on owies. no yearning will slow it all down, yet we tend to want to linger in feeling a sense of being needed. the earth keeps spinning; the laugh lines and worry wrinkles appear suddenly in the mirror as we glance on the way past. and the riches are a deep and vast trunk we keep close, always mindful of every tiny or big opportunity to add to it.

it really is the simple stuff. hearing your grown child laugh, watching them adventure, applauding their successes, reassuring them in times of trial. blissful moments you can spend with them, texted pictures of their lives, unexpectedly hearing their voice on the other end of the phone, hugging them. always walking the fine line. so much pressure to hold that line. always learning. knowing their star is still in your galaxy, but is independently forming its own constellation. the emotional perils of motherhood, of parenthood.

“it overwhelms me what i feel…this heart outside of mine….is walking in another person, in another life.”

and always, the bottom line, it seems in each conversation i have had, is the ok-ness. for truly, if they are not ok, there is no way to rest easy. if they are not ok, it changes how we are in the world, how we engage. if they are not ok, it is the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing in our prayers at night.

little or big, they – indeed – are the riches. they are every single dandelion.

in the whole wide world.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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damning ice-damming. [two artists tuesday]

there is a price to pay for having an adored old house. ours is 93 years old. sturdy, charming, with wood floors and crown molding, built-in cabinets and solid doors, details that wouldn’t necessarily be affordable in new construction. but then there’s that thing that many of these sweet old houses don’t have enough of — called insulation.

many’s the time i have been on a ladder in the winter with a hose that is stretched to the basement laundry tub spigot. just me and hot water tending to the ice in the gutters. one year, when it was a particularly big problem, big jim came over and performed magic. i remember driving to illinois to purchase the proper tools: heating cables (they were out in wisconsin stores) and one of those really long telescoping snow rakes. and now d has had the distinct pleasure of dealing with this as well. each fall now we check the gutter cables – i’m always holding my breath to make sure they are still working lest the winter comes and they cease being warm in the middle of ice-damming weather.

and ice-damming weather it is.

it’s not like i’m happy that other people are dealing with it, although there is a little bit of content that we aren’t alone in this. as we walk around the neighborhood or drive around town we point at houses and icicles, inches of solid ice clearly stoked up in the gutter, snow falling off roofs like icing sliding from a cupcake on a hot summer’s day. even newer houses and brand-new construction have ice-laden soffits and fascia. and i listen and just keep hoping i don’t hear the telltale drip-drip-drip sound somewhere inside the house; that is never a good thing.

my first experience was memorable. i was alone when i walked in the front door and could hear water literally pouring somewhere. thinking someone had left a faucet on, i immediately went to check the bathrooms, but the sound lured me directly to the sunroom where i stared at the scene that ice-damming had created. my dad and a friend, neither in town, provided some pretty healthy support over the phone for my first adventure on the perilous ladder perched on the icy deck with an unwieldy and uncooperative long garden hose that i had to first thaw from its frozen coiled state as i tried to win against mother nature and too little insulation. eventually, i did win, but not until i was solidly drenched in 20-degree temperatures and i had earned the nickname ‘hoser’ over my moral-support-suggestion-laden-phone-calls and their quest to keep me laughing.

another time, my son can attest to walking into the sitting room one day to find water coming in from above the windows. we both stared at the phenomenon (staring is a requirement as a first reaction in ice-damming). then we got to work with every spare towel we could find. so, yeah, it’s not like i’m happy other people are dealing with it (isn’t that something like schadenfreude?) but i am happy for company in misery. and i know that in the summer, when we are calmly sitting outside in adirondack chairs in the warm sun having an iced tea, these will be funny stories.

but now? this year? yes, i am still holding my breath. the ice is particularly stubborn and the temperatures are lingering in ice-damming territory. facebook posts are abounding with pictures of dammed ice (or “damned” ice, depending on your level of zen) and people’s comments are empathetic and knowing. i don’t remember this from long island at all. i blame wisconsin. nevertheless, in the words of my momma, “this too shall pass.”

i seem to be thinking about those words a lot these days.

*****

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maria, tennis and tow trucks. [merely-a-thought monday]

i wanted to be maria. who wouldn’t? the lead of ‘the sound of music’ was a coveted role and every girl wanted to try out for that part.

i was cast as sister berthe. reading the sheet of paper on the wall outside the music room at harley avenue elementary i was not reassured by the fantastic job that portia nelson delivered as sister berthe in the 1965 film; i wanted to be maria and i knew in my heart that julie andrews would have agreed. sigh.

but i held a double role. i was also in the chorus. and mrs. lafayette took no prisoners. she was charming and beautiful to the eyes of all of us elementary school artiste wannabes but she was also deliberate, purposeful, and intentionally firm about making sure we understood the role of the chorus. “singing together in unison,” she’d tell us, encouraging us to listen to each other and match our timbre to that of the choral line, admonishing anyone who tried to stand out. “it is a chorus together,” she’d tell us, “and there is no ‘i’ in ‘chorus’.” it was humbling for all of us, striving to be tiny stars. and yet, it was the moment during which we understood that that we, indeed, became tiny stars.

driving hours to tennis matches was a big part of my life when my son was in college. he played singles and i would sit on the sidelines, my breathing shallow when i wasn’t utterly holding my breath altogether, my adrenaline racing, making tiny motions with my hands as if i could help move the tennis ball down the court or slice at the ball with the racket in his hand. he was a good tennis player – passionate and strategic. i was an anxious mess watching but i was often lucky to be watching with another mom and, together, betty and i forged our way through. although our sons played singles and we clearly wanted them to win their matches, i was always struck by how the team came together. instead of simply zeroing in, each on his own performance, the team cheered each other on and it was how the team did – in an overall sense – that really mattered to them. that doesn’t mean that disappointment didn’t exist for individuals, but they were encouraged time and again to remember that they were on a team and there was no ‘i’ in ‘team’.

the show ‘highway thru hell‘ is kind of a masculine show. big-rig tow truck drivers in the mountains of canada pull wrecks out of ditches, out of snowdrifts and from all kinds of precarious situations drivers find themselves in. before you roll your eyes at the thought of watching this kind of show, let me just add that it is fascinating. the mathematician in any of you will revel in the geometry and physics of it all; these tow truck operators are highly skilled and often put their lives at risk doing recovery alongside icy highways. egos are definitely rampant – each wants a little piece of stardom – but in the end they never hesitate to call each other for help, for another rig, for the rotator to show up. as kevin, one of these diligent heavy rescue workers, said, “there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’.” they are all part of the milky way on those dangerous roads in british columbia.

real life doesn’t cast us as maria each and every day. real life doesn’t grant us wins every day. real life places obstacles in front of us, calamities to sort out, heavy rescue needed. together, in chorus, as a part of a team, foregoing the ‘i’ in self-agenda, the ‘i’ in selfishness, the ‘i’ in narcissism, the ‘i’ in division, we are all stars.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

happy birthday, my beloved son.


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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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yes.”time for a cool change.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the little river band sings it, “time for a cool change….i know that it’s time for a cool change.”

that’s for sure. on so many fronts.

the horizon looks promising…the sun setting on the toxic, the sun rising – now, tomorrow, soon – on a deep cleansing breath of new.

we could feel it in the air on saturday. we wondered if it was our imagination. there was something. something kinder. something more generous. something hopeful.

we felt it at the gas station, pulling in just as a pickup pulled in from the other direction. the pickup stopped, backed up and pulled around to the other side, the driver waving as i called my thanks out the open window. we felt it at the corner, turning to head to the park, the trucker waving us on instead of taking his turn. we felt it on the trail, people wearing masks, allowing distance, eyes smiling above their masks, hands waving. something was different.

time for a cool change. time for healing. time for unity. time for responsibility. time for leadership.

yet, the next day, in the wake of this deep breath, in the wake of a called election, in the wake of inspiring victory speeches, i could sense the waves of anger rushing to the shore. the grace of the day before was a little less pronounced, the relief a little less relieved. the pulse of the nation had quickened and there was a bit of uneasy quaking.

i sat this morning for a bit, reading the narratives of the angry. i read the fights that people were picking with others. i read both intelligent debate and angry spew, baseless rhetoric. i read attacks on people of the populace, people fuming at an election loss, verbally going after other voters, some barely acquaintances, ugly, threatening words of vitriol splashed across social media and the news. my brilliant son put it well when he wrote of the harmful mean-spiritedness of conservatives toward anyone who voted blue. he wrote of the marked difference between that and the reactions of the left, who have specifically directed their dismay to those committing the heinous and not to everyday people. he pointed to the difference in the celebratory reactions of the left vs the right. his words ring true. and, devastatingly, this violence, whether verbal, emotional or physical, is incited by this president, his administration and the party that sits there, silent, complicit. it is indeed time for a cool change.

it is unfortunate, but not really mind-blowing, that this current administration continues to dial up the temperature on this. it’s consistent. compassion and kindness, honesty and the democratic principles of this country are not part of the equation for a president who is still coddling his own agenda rather than seeking peace and health for this nation.

this country is exhausted and, while 71 million people voted for this president, 75 million voted for a new administration and new light. because it is *most definitely* *way past* time for a cool change. it’s time to move on.

yes, little river band, “you KNOW it’s time for a cool change.”

so we stand outside, our faces to the wind and take a deep breath.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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it is my hope. [d.r. thursday]

my beloved children,

in the last few years i have become increasingly vocal, doggedly writing about the politics of this nation. i have watched an administration sweep in wearing hatred and division on its sleeve, attempts to undermine and destroy any forward movement this country has made or has desired to make on so many fronts. i have decried their rhetoric, narrative of severing, narrative of bigotry, narrative of self-serving agenda. i have pushed back against the frailty of humankind and against the furthering of prejudice and discrimination of any sort, be it under the heading of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, economic status, religion. i have, time and again, asked to uphold what would make the populace safer in a raging pandemic. i have asked for leadership to be responsible, to be truthful, to be one with integrity, to prize virtue. i have raised up climate change and this good earth time and again. i have cited examples of inequality. i have been open and honest about my feelings and opinions, vulnerable to assault by those who do not agree. i have learned that’s ok.

in the last few years i have become increasingly vocal, doggedly writing about the evanescence of time, the impermanence of this very life, the beauty that rises with the sun. i have pointed to moments of joy, moments of devastating grief, moments of sheer bliss, moments to memorize. i have spoken of and to the ocean and of and to the top of mountains. i have drawn pictures in the sand and let the cool waters of high elevation streams run through my hands. i have described treasured moments with you, my children, with family, with friends, with my husband. i have been aware of how fleeting time is as it races on. i have learned that life is simply that – learning.

in this time it is my hope that this country will gather its resources into its national quiver and will lead forward with arrows of love and compassion. it is my hope that this country, like committed and passionately dedicated parents holding newborn life, will embrace each and every one of its citizens, holding and blanketing them with reassurance, with protection, with a promise of doing better. it is my hope that this country will offer to you – its children and its children’s children and its children’s children’s children – new times of peace, new times of equity, new times of profound and wise knowledge, new times of opportunity, new times of kindness, and that this will surely sweep across the land from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, from sea to shining sea.

it is my hope that you both, my amazing and brilliant daughter and my amazing and brilliant son, deep in your adventurous souls, will feel the freedom promised you in the universe. it is my hope that you speak your truth, that you speak for, that you speak against, that you speak up, that you speak out. it is my hope that you feel affirmed in your lives, strong and powerful, fiercely dedicated to every breath, tenacious, and both gently kind and profoundly vehement in the demand for justice and liberty. it is my hope that you feel unconditionally loved and cherished: by me, by partners, by family and friends, by this nation, by this very good earth. it is my hope that in the moments you take a deep breath and exhale you know that your presence in this universe is light itself and is truly making a difference…forever.

i love you,

mom.

***

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SHARED FATHERHOOD © 2017 david robinson


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better humans. [two artists tuesday]

one of my sweet momma’s favorite stories to tell me, about me, was when i used to stand in place and bellylaugh. she said i would put my tiny hands up in the air and then deeply bend at the waist and bring my hands down, up, down, repeating over and again, all while laughing heartily. it made everyone nearby laugh, hearts-open. it made her giggle to tell me this old story. and each time she told it i felt deeply loved.

i remember my first baby’s – The Girl’s – bellylaugh. it was extraordinary hearing this wee child, knowing little about the world, laugh. it felt like the same miracle when it was my second baby’s – The Boy’s – turn to chortle with all his little body. their giggles made everything in the moment alright. they are deeply loved and their giggles still to this day make everything in the moment alright.

so perhaps that’s a good place to start in the quest to be better humans. perhaps bellylaughing first about the sheer unlikeliness, the improbability, that you get to live this very instant, in this very place, at this very time. nevermind the division, the hostility, the challenges, the histrionics of forces-human-designed. you are here. i am here. no matter how same we are, no matter how different we are. we are in this together. that’s a start. now commence betterment.

“so, i wanna laugh while the laughin’ is easy. i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile. we may never pass this way again. that’s why i want it with you.” (seals & crofts)

he spoke about humans today. how it all really boils down to a measure of how we live in community that is the important stuff. the never-pass-this-way-again moment-after-moment-ness of how we help each other, hold each other, support each other, raise each other up, love each other, regardless of the each or the other.

momma loved the verse “i shall pass through this world but once. any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. let me not defer or neglect it, for i shall not pass this way again.”

maybe the beginning of being better humans is that simple. let’s share this moment. let’s be amazed we are in it together. let’s be amazed we are in it at all. let’s learn how to be in community together. even in the hardest stuff. it’s a worthy exercise to see two people or two disparate groups defuse a hot and angry moment communicating with humor, to temper down with a lightness of spirit, to divert what could divide them forever, instead focusing on how to move forward with generous hearts.

maybe “let me drown in your laughter” (john denver) is a good start. maybe love will take shape in the pause of anger overtaken by a wave of kindness and gentle temperament, an intentional defusing of heat. maybe then grace will flow in like the tide of change. maybe then we can recognize what we have been, what we are, where we want to go, who we want to become – together. mindfully knowing “we all do better when we all do better.” (paul wellstone) maybe then we can – together – have the real conversations, sob the gut-wrenching and worthwhile cries, see our human failings. and we can take a tiny baby step toward being better humans.

yesterday a small peaceful protest drove and walked by our house. we live on a street perpendicular to the more important streets, the more likely avenues for protest. yet, right in front of us, right in front of our house, was this marvelous group of people marching and driving, chanting and beeping. we stood and clapped, joining their enthusiasm, echoing their pleas, and couldn’t have been more proud to see them go by. and we laughed in those moments of living, joining, hearts-open. not bellylaughs, but audible smiles, exulting in the baby steps, right here, right now.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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“the most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” [merely-a-thought monday]

unicorn store 4

i still have it.  the index card is taped to the inside bottom of my old piano bench down in the basement.  these  words, “perfection is an eight letter word.  p r a c t i c e ” written in eight-year-old pencil-printing.  it’s been there – in that old spinet piano bench – since 1967, when i started taking lessons and needed a reminder how to keep the ups and downs in perspective.

i spent long hours on that bench and on the organ bench also in my growing-up living room.  what i could hear in my imagination wasn’t necessarily what was showing up on the keys.  my sweet poppo would encourage me, “remember, practice makes perfect,” he’d say.  i’d add, well, at least practice moves you in that direction.

there’s no guarantee for perfect.  there’s no route to it and any expectation that you will achieve it really is for naught.  the best you can do is the best you can do – moment by moment.   with practice, each best-you-can-do is better than the last.  and so on and so on.

it’s the caring that matters.

i have two amazing children who have shown me examples of the pursuit of how to do something, to a point of excellence, that you’ve never done before.  the keeping-at-it, toughlove-letting-go-of-judgment, the training, the practice, the trying-failing-rinse-repeat-ness of learning.  they approach new things like stoic explorers, adventurers prepared and open to experience.

it’s the very thing that inspired our snowboarding lesson earlier this year – the one where i broke both of my wrists.  every time i hear someone say, “eh, i’m too old; i can’t learn that,” i store my emotional response to that statement away in my memory bank, waiting for the day i’m about to say just that so i might pummel the words before they escape my lips.

even though my wrists broke and might never be the same and even though i cannot point to any great accomplishment or success on the slope, i would not take back the experience or the exhilaration and anticipation of learning something new, particularly, in this case, that very thing that would give me the slightest first-hand touch, not merely a window, into my daughter’s professional world.

in post-cast moments many people, aghast, said to me, “what were you thinking?  don’t you think there’s a point you are too old for that?  remember your age!”  i am more aghast at these words than all the months dealing with uncooperative wrists in a livelihood where they really matter.

knowing first-hand how difficult and humbling pure novice-ness is, i hope i can always release the suffocating self-evaluating that goes hand-in-hand with being new at something; i hope that i always care about learning.

at eight i had no idea what piano lessons would mean to my life.  i simply wanted – really, really wanted –  to learn.  i, at 8, didn’t beat myself up over getting it wrong or failing nor did i get self-conscious about my journey of mastery.  i just stepped into it.  and i cared with all of my eight-year-old heart.

we walk and talk about the day The Girl or The Boy suggest to getting-older-every-day-us that we purchase new technology or download a new app or try a new recipe or consider a new lifestyle or or or …. the day we will want to say, “eh, we’re too old; we can’t learn that.” i look down at my right wrist, which may never bend at a 90 degree angle ever again, and i remember to care.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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my lullaby. for them. [k.s. friday]

i will hold you forever and ever

and as yesterday passed into today and i drifted off to sleep i knew, despite that she is on a different plane of existence, my sweet momma was holding me close to her.  it was bracing to think of the five year mark that has just passed now since she has been gone and the every-day-missing-her that goes along with that.  no different with my dad.  in a month it will be eight years and i can hear his “hi brat” in my heart.  i have no doubt that he is right there, holding on tightly.  both of them.  forever and ever.

it is a fact.  this parenthood thing is mind-bogglingly paramount.  ever forward from the day they are born.  it is all-consuming.  in every good and every daunting way.  every most-jubilant and every brutally-difficult way.  every securely-confident and every tumultuously-distressing way.  every way.

in this pandemic time of chaos we pine for a sense of normal which escapes us.  anxiety barges in and replaces our regular routines; peace escapes us.  we long to see each other.  we feel tired; we feel restless.  we sleep more; we cannot sleep.  we are astounded by the surrealness of this; we are crushed by how real this is.  and we worry.  it is hard to be away from those whom we love and knowing that right now we cannot go to them compounds it.  my heart needs to hug My Girl and My Boy and see that all is well.  we feel anxious.  our wishes go unfulfilled.

and yet as today passes into tomorrow and they drift off to sleep i know, despite how busy they may be or where they are in the world, that i am holding them close.  that no doubt can exist –  i am right there, holding on tightly.

and i hope, like you with your beloved children, that they can feel it.  forever and ever.

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I WILL HOLD YOU FOREVER AND EVER ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood


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“bacon-wrapped pears” [merely-a-thought monday]

baconwrapped pears

the pressure.  gee-willikers!  you simply cannot browse through any social media platform without seeing family’s and friends’ beautifully-prepared foods or rustic breads fresh out of the oven, off the grill, sizzling on the griddle, staged and plated for photos.

the pressure.  my first question is always one about wondering how, in the middle of this socially-distanced-stay-at-home-pandemic, all-these-people have all-those-ingredients in their homes at-the-ready.  we must be pretty basic shoppers; our larders are not filled with the likes of these ingredients.  we plan ahead; like you, we are shopping very rarely, limiting our exposure.  we miss our peeps at festival; we used to see them almost daily, as we would cruise about town to get fresh fruits and veggies.

the pressure.  neither of us wanted to go out to the store the other day.  we had chicken out to prepare, but, low on or depleted of fresh vegetables and potatoes, a side dish escaped us.  we did, however, have a multitude of pears, because you can’t purchase a normal amount of pears at costco; instead, it is assumed you have an army of pear-eaters and you will all devour them before the dreaded brown spots form on the outside of its smooth green-pear-skin.

the pressure.  what to do with pears, other than just, say, slice and eat them.  we googled.  every pear recipe has goat cheese in it, for good reason.  i love goat cheese and wish we could eat goat cheese, but a dairy free diet precludes that.  so we had to move on.

knowing that you must be sitting on the edge of your seat as you (maybe) read this, i’ll tell you what happened:  we looked in the freezer to see what else was there.  bacon!  now, i really love bacon.  i probably shouldn’t, but i do.  thinking we were being brilliant, we googled what you could make with pears and bacon.  those of you out there in perfect cooking/baking/inspired feasting social media land will say ‘no duh’ when i tell you we found -drumroll, please- bacon-wrapped pears!  simple!  you slice a pear into quarters and wrap bacon around the slices.  place in 400 degree oven and bake.  that’s it!  they were freaking amazing!

the pressure.  so then the pressure was to NOT post this pear-bacon-pairing-extravaganza on social media.  we sent a picture to a couple friends who knew of our facebook-meal-snack-drink ogling and we sent a picture to The Girl and The Boy.

our friends responded enthusiastically but our more recipe-savvy children did not.  i suppose they just thought to themselves:  yup.  pears.  bacon.  pears + bacon = bacon-wrapped pears.  yup.  the pressure.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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