Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I’m not sure what stacks up around your house. At our house, the stacks are paintings, cartoons, designs, composition notes, manuscripts, folios, notebooks of ideas, scraps of paper jammed into the notebooks of ideas, lyrics a-go-go, and the supplies necessary to make the other stacks possible. Colored pencils, brushes, too many composition books, canvas, tissue paper, paint, sketchbooks, art books, and the stacks-and-stacks of stuff teetering on the piano and bench that somehow resemble a nest.

All of this is to note that we are fantastic generators of content and equally inept marketers of what we generate. Thus, the stacks. It was this realization – and the necessity of making a living – that one year ago gave birth to the melange. Melange means ‘mixture’ or ‘medley.’

The idea was simple: Monday would be dedicated to our cartoon, Chicken Marsala. Tuesday would be dedicated to our Two Artists designs. Wednesday was Flawed Cartoon day. Thursday was for my paintings. Friday was for Kerri’s music. We created a Society6.com store for each day, set about designing 5 product lines a week (oh, god,…more content). Through our blogs we’d write about and publish the day’s selection, he-said/she-said-style. People all over the world would read what we wrote, be captivated by the cartoon, design or composition, and race to the Society6.com store to buy a print or a mug or a laptop sleeve or a greeting card. Content out, income, well…in.

And, it happened. People all over the world read our blogs. And, almost no one raced to the Society6.com stores. We studied a few things, learned a few things, reconfigured, tried a few social-media-marketing variations, bought ad space, waved our hands, jumped up and down, danced silly dances – we pivoted and pivoted again.

More readers. Less-than-no shoppers.

One day, after eight months, we looked at each other and considered pulling the plug and would have pulled the plug except for one small-yet-oh-so-important detail: we love to write together. In the course of a year, the melange managed to boil itself down to its essence. Each day Kerri writes her post. “Don’t look!” she says as I, sitting next to her,  write mine. And then, before posting, we share them. We read to each other. It’s always a surprise (though mine are predictably “heady” and hers are 100% “hearty”).

When I looked back at our first post one year ago I laughed at the irony. Love needs no words. Well, in this case, in our case, love revels in words. There are too many words for the love to contain. And, so, our stacks grow happily higher and higher and higher.

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read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Open The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The other night, over a glass of wine, I listened as Kerri, Jen and Brad talked of the things they’ve stored from the lives of their children. Finger paintings, drawings, school projects. There are bins of irreplaceable treasures, moments captured in crayon and paste. Their conversation came around to this question: are these treasures as valuable to the children that made them as they are to the parents that collected them? Who are they storing them for?

I don’t have children of my own. I’ll never know what it means to raise a child so the best I can do during these conversations is listen. I can, however, appreciate the enormous love that flows through the conversation. There isn’t gold or rare coins in those plastic bins. Yet, I am certain, that given the choice between a bin of gold doubloons or keeping their children’s artifacts, the response would be unanimous. The doubloons are worthless when compared to the memories stored in those bins.

Over the new year we went to Florida. During our time there we had the opportunity to go through the storage unit that contained the remaining boxes from Beaky’s house. It’s been three years since she passed. Beaky’s daughters opened every box and the majority of the items were sorted into a donation pile or throwaway pile. A few bins, photographs mostly, were too monumental of a task so were put in the third pile: sort someday. A very few artifacts, rare treasures, surfaced from the boxes: a calendar where Beaky jotted thoughts about her days, a special note. Letters and drawings that she’d saved. Something she touched and cherished because it came from one of her children.

My parents are still with me, I am fortunate, so I don’t know what it means to lose them. The best I can do during these times is listen. I can, however, appreciate the enormous love that flows through the conversation. I am certain, that when time blows us all away, our accumulated possessions, our stuff, our oh-so-important achievements, will hold little or no lasting value. Oh, but those small notes, those child-hand scribbles, those shaky old-hand letters…the artifacts of our relationships, for the children sorting through our remaining boxes, priceless.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STORAGE

 

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Say Goodbye [on KS Friday]

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It is the season of brief visits. Loved ones crossing paths for a few precious days. And then a good-bye. Until we meet again.

Kerri and I do not live close to our siblings or children. Our cousins, nieces and nephews are scattered across the country (and globe). In some cases we count the years since we last saw them and we can’t believe so much time has passed.

This short piece, this bonus track, the last track on Kerri’s Christmas Album, THE LIGHTS, is an especially poignant and appropriate wish for this season of brief visits coming to an end. Until we meet again.

 

BONUS TRACK on THE LIGHTS: A CHRISTMAS ALBUM available on iTunes & CDBaby. Limited CDs available on Kerri’s site.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the BONUS TRACK

 

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bonus track/the lights ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Be With [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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In the cliche’ hall of fame, this phrase probably sits atop the pile: the best present is being present. And, if you stop for a moment and think about it, this phrase is undeniably true. That is the reason it has the top spot in the cliche’ universe.

We gather. The ritual provides the reason. We gather to affirm. To revivify the story. To nourish the one thing that matters: our relationship to one another. The rest is merely accoutrement.

This season I saw many many photos of families gathered around a table. People shared photos of their loved ones standing by a tree, in the snow, on the beach, organized on a staircase, in a kitchen. People traveling to be with their people. On the cards we sent to family and friends we wrote, “Thinking of you.” What we meant was, “Wanting to be with you.”

In the many photos that people shared with me, no one showed me a photo of the stuff they received. No one showed me a photo of the stuff they gave. They showed me the reason they were giving and receiving the stuff. The relationship.

Sometimes it hides in plain sight.

And, since the relationships are the epicenter, there is only one thing that sits atop the pyramid of gifts given and received. And, every day it is the same: presence. Being with.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BEST PRESENT

 

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Feel The Light [on KS Friday]

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Dang! My wife, the solo pianist and composer, sings a mean country song complete with mandolin and fiddle! She is, in her heart of hearts, a country music girl. She tells stories and puts them to music (all of her solo piano compositions are great bits of storytelling and if you are ever fortunate enough to attend one of her concerts she will most certainly tell them to you).

Take a peek into her notebooks of unrecorded pieces and you will find songs with a country heart and narrative soul, tales of love lost and found, messages on the wind, broken roads and redemption. Horses and mountain fields and old trucks and yearning for a simpler time. Mandolins everywhere are dying for her to sing these songs! I know I would be if I was a mandolin!

THE LIGHTS is a sweet taste of country music Christmas storytelling. It’s a mother’s tale. A song that is in love with life, and will, in this season of hustle and bustle and stress, weave a bit of warmth around your heart.

THE LIGHTS on the album THE LIGHTS: A CHRISTMAS ALBUM is available on iTunes & CDBaby. Limited hard copies are available here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LIGHTS

 

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the lights/the lights ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Recognize It [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

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I love this text. It is from 93 year old Beaky to her daughter. The specific context is not important. What I love is the universality of this sentiment, a text  every mother across the ages might have written to their children. It is a text Kerri could write to Kirsten or Craig. What mother does not know more than they say, think more than they speak, notice much more than their underestimating children realize?

I’ve learned, as I watch Kerri not-say things to her children, letting them make their own mistakes and untangle their own webs, that the effort involved in not-speaking is herculean.

Sisu sometimes requires silence. When every impulse in a mother’s body is to reach, Sisu sometimes demands stillness.

As a child who routinely underestimates his mother, Beaky’s text gives sends chills up my spine. I’ve certainly made a mess of things and I can only imagine the fortitude (unrecognized by me) my mother displayed – and continues to display – by letting me fall down. Sisu. Sisu. Sisu.

Of course, the flip side of the coin is that the interruption-of-the-reach, the silence-in-the-midst-of-knowing, comes from a deeper mom-like-faith. Mothers know that the great trip-and-fall-down moments come with some necessary pain but will always end with a return to standing, a re-entry to the game.  It’s a cycle. It’s how moms everywhere awaken Sisu in their children. Like all good life cycles, it’s a paradox, to be sure.

The second thing I love about Beaky’s text? She signs her dope-slap to her daughter with ‘Mom.” This love-thing is tough!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BEAKY’S TEXT

 

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Listen To You’re The Wind [A New Song on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

In our house we mark significant and auspicious dates (actually, we think all days are auspicious). Today is one of those. I never knew Kerri’s father. Her mother, Beaky, had a profound impact on my life during the 18 months that I knew her. Beaky and I united in two common causes: 1) To convince Kerri that her naturally curly hair was beautiful and to stop blowing her curls away, and 2) To convince Kerri to share with the world her music, those incredible unrecorded pieces – some of her best work – that live only in a notebook by the piano. Today is an auspicious day! It would have been Beaky and Pa’s 75 anniversary. It is also the day that Beaky gets one of her wishes  (hint: Kerri’s hair is still straight so…more work to do).

 

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about YOU’RE THE WIND

 

 

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you’re the wind ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood