reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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up a notch and up a notch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i do not remember my sweet momma ever peeling and mincing a garlic. i suppose it’s possible that she did – and i missed it – but i would venture a guess that she didn’t. garlic powder and garlic salt were in our spice cabinet growing up and i think they were the substitutes for the real thing.

they were depression babies, so my parents were not lavish spenders, fine-dining diners, exquisite kitchen-keepers. we had aluminum pots (it was a very big deal when they one day, at long last, purchased revere ware) and the infamous formerly-featured corningware. the cookware mattered not. family and friends gathered around the table together regardless. which, of course, is the point.

my dad was pretty proud the day he purchased my mom a portable dishwasher. they kept it in the laundry room right off the kitchen behind the accordion door that looked like it was made of woven straw. on special days they would roll it out and attach the hose to the kitchen sink spout, load it up and turn it on. when they moved to florida after they retired, a dishwasher-that-was-already-installed-in-the-kitchen was on my momma’s list. my poppo was in charge of loading and unloading, practically entirely washing the plates beforehand. my mom never tired of this amazing appliance.

i purchased a used dishwasher – not full-size, for our kitchen layout would not accommodate that – about a decade back and had it installed in the spot where the formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher dishwasher sat. sadly, it did not work for long. i should have purchased a new one, but that was not in the budget. the dishwasher-that-took-the-place-of-the-dishwasher is now also formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher. sigh. one of these days…

but friends and family have gathered around the table together – regardless of our dishwasher or cookware status – and we have happily prepared food to take to other gathering tables. which, of course, is the point.

when we lived on island, we had the same size dishwasher and i have to admit to being in love with it. it IS amazing – yes, momma! – you load it up and turn it on and voila! i know you know the rest. any time we are in airbnb’s and vrbo’s we embrace the dishwasher – well, not like hugging it…more like using it. it’s so twenty-first century! but i digress.

yesterday, when i was making rice, we got to talking about rice. (we are exciting people, folks.)

neither of us remember growing up with anything other than minute rice (and, of course, the exotic rice-a-roni array of rices.) with absolutely no judgement, we dove into the finer details of the cooking of minute rice vs raw rice that you boil and steep. it goes along with not peeling and mincing garlic, a collection of ragu and prego in the cabinet, canned and frozen vegetables. people’s habits and budgetary concerns are deeply ingrained and are hard to break.

from time to time we get pictures of what our grown kids are eating. they have prepared some fabulous meal or are dining out at a restaurant with incredible food and exquisite platings and presentation. often they are eating something we have never heard of; often my response is “wow!! that looks fantastic!” they have upped the notch on food from where we are and we glom onto what they send, asking for or looking up recipes, jaunting over to the restaurant website to ponder a meal there.

it’s funny how this happens. though i suppose it is not unexpected.

we have moved from garlic powder to real garlic in a generation. from the portable dishwasher to the installed dishwasher-formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher.

the next generation is taking it to the next level. dinners in instant pots, dinners with smashburger presses, dinners sous vide, dinners in air fryers, dinners with ethnic spices, sauces, harder-to-find ingredients, et al.

and a working dishwasher is non-negotiable.

of course.

*****

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edges and kaleidoscopes. [two artists tuesday]

the edges come fast. a blink and they’ve arrived.

i did a photo shoot with my cello. it’s a gorgeous instrument, elegant and full of tear-your-heart-out melodic possibility.

i am sitting at the edge.

i clutch onto it tightly, yearning to yo-yo-ma, yet knowing this edge is somewhat irrefutable. in my heart, my wrist, the tendons of my fingers ache to bow, to press string to fingerboard. the edge pushes back. i know that it is time and that no dream in the night – onstage with soaring, weep-worthy lines – will change that.

my edges – like conglomerate rock, a mixture of wishes and knowings and new – reorganize in the kaleidoscope of life. and, because life is like that, surprises will show up, lit by spotlights and sunlight.

and, once this stunning instrument has moved, as it should, from my studio to the embrace of someone else, i understand that, though my hands will not touch its graceful lines and resonant soul, there will be other learnings, other touches. and always, other edges.

“though i play at the edges of knowing, truly i know our part is not knowing, but looking and touching and loving.” (mary oliver)

*****

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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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30,240 minutes. [k.s. friday]

the mimosa tree grew in the middle of the front yard, its fanning leaves dappling the southern sunshine streaming through it. pink and white flowers adorned its graceful branches; it was beautiful color on a wooded lot full of big oaks and maples. the roots of a mimosa are invasive and the pods and brittleness and attraction to disease put it on the do-not-plant list. but it spelled home, and, though i don’t remember the ultimate reason it needed to be taken down, i do remember how its absence felt.

the pink bloom stopped me in the middle of the botanic garden greenhouse. it wasn’t a duplicate of our mimosa; it may not even have been a mimosa. but the pompom shape and the blossom echoed our tree’s blooms and, instantly, i was taken back home.

the mourning doves have started cooing. we’ve seen robins. wild turkeys were out on the bike trail as we walked and talked. a pudgy squirrel lingered on our deck rail in the sun and the birds are lining up on the fence to take turns at the birdfeeder. it is another spring – soon. it rolls on and on. time.

we watched an interview…a man in ukraine who – devastatingly – lost his wife and two children was talking with erin burnett (cnn) who earlier had been reporting from ukraine but is back in ny now. tears streaming down her face, she struggled to hold onto her composure as she prompted this gentleman to speak about his children, his wife. less than a month ago he had a normal life. i’d believe the thought of losing his family to a violent bombing invasion was far from his mind. in what is mere minutes (only 30,240 minutes) all was gone.

there are mimosas in ukraine. called acacia trees they canopy parks and walkways, their pompoms and curtained branches greeting all those who walk underneath. i would imagine that somewhere there was a house with a front yard. and in that front yard sat a mimosa.

now, 30,240 minutes later, there is nothing. not because the tree’s roots were lifting the sidewalk or the spent blooms were littering the grass or the seeds are toxic to animals. no. they are decimated because they – along with their people – were blown to bits in acts of cruelty, in heinous evil. it takes our breath away. no more mimosas. no more homes.

what will we do with the next 30,240 minutes?

*****

THE WAY HOME

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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back window. front window. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t think that i will ever be able to have a kitchen sink placed without a window above it. in all the homes i have lived as an adult – every single one – both houses in florida, in wisconsin, even on island – there has been a window over the sink. working at the sink, gazing out – a time for pondering, reviewing, sorting. it is the place to watch the world go by, the seasons, time.

the big plate glass window over the sink in our home has given me a view into the flow – filmy strands of babies growing, toddlers on swings, snowmen on the deck, cherished dogs romping, snacks in the fort, oversized plastic t-ball stands, basketball hoops, a bright yellow slide that attracted a bazillion tiny gnats at a certain time in the spring. i’ve watched trees grow and shed and bud and shed, plants planted, transplanted, re-planted, snow fall and cherry tomatoes flourish. there’s been grass and no grass and dirt and grass again. i imagined the patio – where people would gather, play ukulele, dance, laugh – before it was there. and the little pond has been a treasure, inviting birds and squirrels and chipmunks and frogs to its little rock bank. i’ve stared out that window with great appreciation. i’ve stared out that window, wondering.

in this time of covid, lots of our time in the winter is spent looking out. we are not really participating in gathering, trying to minimize risk to ourselves and others. even vaccinated and boosted, we know that so many around us have taken ill, have fallen to the highly contagious pandemic. so it has been rare to see even our neighbors. sightings of them, as we stroll the ‘hood or they walk by, past our front windows, have been about it.

but monday afternoon they all gathered in our driveway. just before 4:30 there were two loud bangs outside. directly across the street, in the driveway, tucked up by the garage and right next to the house, the neighbor’s jeep exploded. the firetrucks were here seemingly instantly and the road was closed off by police cars that came from all directions. and all the neighbors stood together on the apron of our driveway. for the while that it took to extinguish the flames, we had time together. we could see each other’s faces, exchange a few words, exclaim about how scary it was and express relief that our neighbors-across-the-street were safe and unharmed.

a police car or two began to leave. one of the fire trucks left. the neighbors began to disperse. after some time the tow truck came. the tiny bit of time that we were all out there, mostly coatless in the cold, was over. but i could feel something else…the reminder that we are all here.

someone spoke the words: “i hardly ever see or talk to anyone in the neighborhood, but do you remember after the derecho that came through? everyone was out, walking around. eight hundred or so trees down, sidewalks heaved, power out…all in the matter of less than five minutes. and we were all walking around. together. and now…here we are.”

out the big kitchen picture window looking over the backyard are reminiscings, fallowed and growing plants, a bubbling pond fountain, massive trees, tiny creatures, dreamy summer nights, barney, bonfires, grilled eggplant, snowfall.

out the front window is community.

*****

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not so ruthless. [two artists tuesday]

i dare not hang them inside (or even on the actual front of the house, for that matter). but they will find their place. my mom and dad’s old christmas lights were in the bottom christmas bin in the storage room in the front of the basement. all bins had to be moved for the water utility folks to replace our water line so it seemed a decided task to go through the bins and, maybe – if i could find any ruthlessness – pare it all down a bit.

this is not a task for the nostalgic.

my digging and sorting and organizing and paring-notparing-paring-notparing down was like listening to all the old christmas record albums at once. it was frank sinatra and the carpenters and jim nabors and the firestone orchestra and chorus and herb alpert and the tijuana brass and dean martin and john denver and bing crosby and julie andrews and burl ives and doris day. it was old glass ornaments sprinkled liberally with glitter and felt cut into homemade trees with elmer’s-glue-laden-decorations. it was golden angels and hardened flour-water wreaths and crocheted bells and plastic poinsettia corsages and thick red yarn for stringing. it was cloves and pomegranate seeds and macaroni and tinsel and sugar-coating and silver sleighbells and styrofoam snowmen. it was crayon-printed “kirsten” and “craig” signatures, old red stockings-to-hang and fuzzy santa hats. tree skirts and tablecloths. rogers’ christmas house treasures and andrea’s christmas candle bubble nightlights. gift tags with long stories in a simple “from”.

as i was standing over those bins on thursday and friday, half my body buried deep into the bottom of the piles, i came upon a snowman ornament. “to kerie, from patrick” read the gift tag i had saved in the box from circa 1982, a gift from a piano student to me, his teacher. i took a picture and sent it to patrick, now my friend across the country on instagram. instantly, i had one of those heart rushes you get when you stumble across something tiny yet just simply precious. reaching out and letting him know seemed obvious. (not to mention a distraction when i needed one.)

i pulled my sweet parent’s vintage lights out and, because of that way that wires entangle even in the best of circumstances, i took my time detangling. i plugged each strand in, tightening the bulbs and removing the ones that had burned out. on the dining room table, i put together one long strand with working bulbs and made a decision. this year – as opposed to most all other years – i would wrap our front porch rail with memories. i would carefully place each old bulb so everyone passing could revisit a time long ago, decades in fact, a simpler time. i would succumb to the multi-colored-lights this year. on purpose. and after the new year, i will gently place them back in one of the bins, next to the painted-glass ornaments and the trees made of construction paper and paste.

and though next year we’ll likely go back to white twinkling happy lights out front, i will always remember the multi-colored lights and the enormity of love-filled stories and i will – just-as-always – know they will be a treasured part of my heart.

there were three overstuffed bins when i started. with a few things to donate and much in bags to dispose of, there are neater, tidier, more organized bins now. but there are still three.

*****

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fish-fry friday. [k.s. friday]

fridays are fish-fry days in wisconsin. if you want fried fish (or baked, to represent actual menu-inclusivity) you can find it practically anywhere. truly. any where.

it’s a year. tomorrow will mark a year. we didn’t go to a fish fry that day, though it was a friday. it turned out i was the fish du jour. and, in an unremarkably remarkable statement read on a zoom call, my eight years with my employer came to a screeching halt.

i have no false notions as to why. i know, from decades from experience, that i was doing an excellent job, at the time further impacted and expanded by covid, necessitating additional online skills and responsibilities. i had contributed in a big way to the place. i brought my best game and, sadly, my heart and big love to that place. the community had become my family. but the cloak of covid was hanging over it and no one in the community really knew what was happening; they still don’t. i spent an hour in the dog food aisle with a member of the community who asked me over and over again what i had done that was so wrong, so egregious, so as to be fired. it sickens me to think that there are unanswered questions out there, that there are slanderous statements made by leadership, that, without any transparency, this place – a church – allowed a small contingent of “leaders” to make a choice that the people who actually paid my salary had no idea they were making. even my own supervisor had no idea what was going to take place on that zoom. once done, there was no recourse. done. with no identification of conflict, no attempt to – together – mediate or mitigate such perceived conflict, no conversation, no communication, no resolution. and clearly, no truth.

and so, suddenly, it’s a year. and in a way like yesterday’s post and in a way not like yesterday’s post, it is way past time.

i had never been fired before. in all my years, in all my work, in all the places i worked, i had never been terminated. it is unlike anything else. and it takes a toll. which, i see now, is precisely the point. mean-spirited comes in many shapes and forms and people.

the loss of work and income are monumental losses for anyone, particularly in the middle of a raging pandemic, particularly after whole-hearted dedication, particularly at an age when new positions are fewer and farther between. the loss of community is a whole ‘nother thing. the phoenix doesn’t rise quickly with new relationships, new friendships, trusted alliances. these cherished people, who had spent great deals of time in our actual life and at our home, know the drawer where the silverware is kept, where to put their coats and their potluck casseroles, stood with me as my sweet momma was dying, know the moment we were married and surrounded us in a circle at our wedding singing “we are family”…these people are no longer a part of our everyday life. that has been a devastating blowback from a power move made by – mostly – people who barely knew me, had never been to our house or a rehearsal and obviously didn’t have any real investment in the joy that had been created through years of committed effort. so be it.

“new beginnings are often disquised as painful endings.” (lao tzu)

and so, today, a year-to-the-day-before, the ashes release from the scorch of the flame. time has taught me of those who are compassionate, those who seek the truth, those who actually care enough to ask questions. time has reminded me – once again – that no one should be put on a pedestal, that people will shock you and throw you under the bus, that others, in the busy of their own lives, will surprisingly not step up and advocate for you, that power and control are clearly addictive and snowballing agendas, that the health of a place will suffer at the hands of those agenda-driven, that hypocrisy is alive and well. i am weary of the painful.

“all that talk about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is so not true. do you know what makes you stronger? when people treat you and your art with dignity.” (lana del rey)

it is as it is. it’s life. it’s friday. a year later. i’ve got bigger fish to fry.

*****

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the hush. [merely-a-thought monday]

the snow swirled outside the floor to ceiling glass – the city was blurry beyond the wind. it was brief. it didn’t stick. it was a statement. fall was gusting a bit of winter. everyone shivered, glad to be inside during the band of squall.

there is much still to be done. time seems to have raced by and we chose trails instead of pruning, talking in adirondack chairs in disappearing sun instead of packing away. procrastinating, holding onto the last vestiges of warmth and perfect autumn days, we opted to do the minimum, knowing the rest would need to be done in the colder days; the season keeps moving on.

we rise now in early quiet morning, without multitudes of birds out the windows, without sunny-the-chipmunk calling from the fencepost, without the sun beckoning us, “outside, outside.” we check the temperature…24 degrees…we reluctantly turn the heat up a smidge. we re-stock the nespresso pods, choose warm holiday teas for the coffee-pot-canisters over the counter, and seek out new soup recipes. we think about placing the shovel by the back door, its winter home. we crack the window just a bit now and sleep with an extra quilt.

the mums bow in the hush of the brisk mornings, chillier daytimes, less sun, more clouds, frost at night, all delivered by the magic wand of the calendar marching on. they are still beautiful and, from this view, we see the intricacy of the bud, sepals nestling and supporting petals, protecting the pink. we dig out my miracle mittens, his warm gloves, earmuffs, scarves, baselayers.

we talked about the silence this morning. it is still and the sun is trying. it may snow.

there were tiny flurries as we walked on the sidewalks of chicago, down coats and gloves, our heads bowed to the wind. it’s time to be inside more and we recognize – in the way of the universe – that we are much like the mums.

*****

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pudgy pigeon. [flawed wednesday]

the pudgy pigeon was in the doorway. it didn’t move as we approached. it didn’t move as we took photographs. it didn’t move as i spoke to it and it didn’t move as we moved on. i worried about it after. something seemed awry.

while we were in colorado, we looked at a shutterfly book of pictures taken in 2013 – what was columbus’ 80th birthday party – merely eight years ago, so little time, so much time. but the difference – for us – is between 50-something and 60-something. and there is, shall i say, a difference.

our bodies changing-changing. our faces morphing into, well, i hope, slightly more wizened faces with less self-consciousness and more solid aplomb. aging. we read in headlines today, “fillers, procedures are wiping out generations of beauty.” (jamie lee curtis) we stand firmly in the camp of less-is-more. mmm…firmly and, yet, still, a little shakily, noting this youth and body-image-society.

what does this pudgy pigeon think?

*****

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and the wind brought fall. [k.s. friday]

the wind brought fall.

iowa and kansas were full of summer-on-its-waning-edge, the sun streaming into the truck making merely having windows open not enough. the highway noise was loud and the air conditioning a welcome buffer so we could talk and ponder what the next days would bring.

we saw it from a distance and assumed it was farmers plowing in dry fields of dirt, billowing cloud dust across the horizon from afar. and then we drove into it. in minutes, touching the window glass cleared up the mysterious billowing. the beyond-blustery front was bringing cold air and as we drove from kansas into colorado, the gusts delivered autumn.

we walked into their living room this morning and the fire was lit. there is nothing like a cup of coffee by an early morning fire. the day is cool and the sun is out. those of us who traveled for yesterday’s celebration of columbus’ life and are still here will gather later around a fire out back. in the meanwhile, we’ll walk and talk and have a little quiet time after much visiting and catching up till later last night. the service is over and next follows.

when these flowers were blooming, they were vibrant and gorgeous, spilling over the old fence along the sidewalk. the petals started to drop off as fall started to arrive, dropping in little by little. bright yellow pistils started to turn mustard then cocoa brown. the picture begged to be taken – beautiful and fallow on its eventual way.

as we drive back to wisconsin, we’ll again pass fields of corn waiting to be cut down, plowed over, vast brown rolling land. we’ll miss the green, we know, even at home, even in our little gardens, on our little potting stand.

but we know that time just doesn’t jump from one season to another. it actually shows signs as it comes, gives fair warning, allows us time to process a bit and adjust. it transitions and gently encourages us to move on, into the next season.

summer yields to fall and we will bring home a little wisdom harvested from the side of the highway.

*****

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PART OF THE WIND from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood