Breathe and Make Choices [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James

A note from the Rejuvenation Fairy: the relief we seek may depend upon the phrase we choose. For instance, consider this phrase: coping mechanisms. What ease might become available if we viewed ourselves as something other than machines? Turn this dial. Adjust this screw. Add a little oil. Check the battery. Do this, then that will happen. Turn down the pressure gauge. Talk to others. Take a break. Cause and effect.

Breathe. Sentient beings are much more complex and subtle than apparatus made from iron and steel.

We story ourselves. For reasons no one will ever fully comprehend, we sort to the tragic. We imagine the worst. Ask any good storyteller and they will confirm that conflict is the driver. Yearnings meet obstacles and stories ensue. Everyone, without exception, is telling themselves a story. Everyone, without exception, is starring in their own movie, complete with impossible mountains to climb, monsters to face, dreams that remain just out of reach. Robert Sapolsky has it right: zebras don’t hold onto their tale of stress while human beings are reticent to let it go. We like to tell it again and again and again.

If we cast ourselves as victims in our movie, our stories will be filled with ogres to blame. If we reduce ourselves to the mechanical, our stories will be endless attempts at fixing what’s broken, looking for the right hose to replace. How to recharge the battery. The fortunate few recognize that their movie might be a story of choice. Choices made within given circumstances. The storm, like time, passes. How do we stand in it?

There’s little doubt that we are living in stressful times. There’s nothing like a deadly pandemic to turn up those mechanical pressure gauges. Add another notch or two of pressure with extreme national ideological division, cowards at the switches of government, mix in some economic stress…there are plenty of choices on the angst-menu. All are visceral. All are circumstances to the story we choose to tell, the story I choose to tell.

I came across a few universal coping strategies. Eat healthy. Exercise. Give yourself a break. Get plenty of sleep. Talk to others. Recognize when you need help and ask for it. I wondered why these good choices are reserved for times of stress. Why not give yourself a break as an everyday expectation. Talk to others. Eat healthy. Weave a calm center it into the fibers of daily life. Make choices. Especially in the story you tell yourself about yourself. The thought upon which you choose to fixate, to play over and over again in your movie-mind.

When Kerri and I fall off the pony and run around like our hair is on fire, we make chicken soup. I am the sous chef. She is the master mind. The recipe comes from her mother so the making of the soup is more than food prep, it’s a love-touch to her anchor. We touch love. And, of course, defying the advice of experts to avoid alcohol, we enjoy a glass of red wine. We choose the glasses: Jamie’s? Or Skip’s? Or Joan’s? For our wedding, we were gifted with many special wine glasses from many special people. Recently, Jay and Carol and Rob sent us wine. When we clink our glasses, we touch the depth of our support and reach of our friendships. We call 20 and laugh. As the soup simmers and the wine disappears, we realize that our hair is not on fire, that, although we are not zebras, we are infinitely capable of releasing our tale of woe. We need not cope or distract. We can grasp hold of the full tale of the enormity of our lives. We need only refocus our eyes, see the depth and expanse of our story and choices, enjoy the warming soup. Appreciate the story of the wine.

read Kerri’s blog post about CHICKEN SOUP & WINE

Fill In The Blanks [on KS Friday]

Richard Stone from The StoryWork Institute often begins his workshops with this prompt: I come from a people who_______________, and from them I learned_________________. It’s a fast-track statement, a mainline revelation to the place you come from.

I thought a lot about this prompt during our recent trip to Colorado and visit with my parents. I come from people who persevere.

I was moved to tears over and over again watching the deep well of calm, the kind patience my mother taps as she travels with my father through his dementia. She is more solid than she knows, more steady in her root than she has ever realized.

Her father had his leg kicked off by a horse. He fashioned his own prosthetic leg – it looked more hoof than foot. He fashioned new gas and brake pedals for his car, a matching pedal for his bike. He did not slow down. He did not invest in self-pity or the notion of a disability. His missing limb became a new ability, a reason to invent.

My mother’s mother was a study in joy-within-difficult-circumstances. She grew up in a gold mining camp. She was a tiny person with a titanic spirit and bottomless capacity to laugh. She once took a neighbor’s horse and hid it in her kitchen because she caught wind that it was due to be shipped off to the glue factory.

I come from a people who keep walking and laughing in the face of hardship. And from them I learned [and continue to learn] perseverance. I will, with a little more resolve, I hope, develop the patience and discover the kindness that both my parents, my rich lineage, reveals.

It’s where I’m from.

WHERE I’M FROM from the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post on WHERE I’M FROM

where i’m from/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Hear The Echo [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Hitting the road double-haiku:

The sign speaks the truth.

In the last moment of life:

Food with family.

My face, too, will fade

But the laughter will remain.

Echoes across time.

read Kerri’s road trip haiku

Leave Her A Note [on DR Thursday]

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my loves, mixed media, 24 x 48IN

I came around the corner just in time to see it. Kerri crawled onto the bed, resting her head on DogDog, she closed her eyes. BabyCat, not wanting to be left out of the snuggle, moved over and curled into the cuddle. I stood very still and memorized the moment.

My artistic well has been dry all winter. I believe dry spells are great opportunities to experiment, to make messes and learn again to be free, to not take anything on the easel too seriously. And so, in my emptiness, I began playing with my memorized moment [last week I published the rolling iterations this image passed through].

Sometimes playing with an image feels like wrestling with an angel. It has the upper hand and is toying with you, the mere mortal. One day, after wiping the latest iteration off the canvas, I had a very mortal thought: this might be the last painting I ever paint. Pandemic thoughts reach deep.

And, what if this was my last painting? What if? I would want my last painting to be a love note to my wife. I would want her to know that one day, as she laid her head on DogDog and BabyCat curled against her, I stood in absolute adoration and appreciation of my family, my wife, my moment. My life. My loves.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MY LOVES

 

 

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my loves ©️ 2020 david robinson

*this painting is not yet up on the site. the paint is still drying.

**there’s another canvas on the easel with a painting already in process! (phew).

Invite Some Joy [On KS Friday]

joy songbox copy

David and Molly are taking their amazing young son, Dawson, home to Seattle for the holidays. Margaret, Dawson’s equally amazing grandma, adores them and will heap huge joy on them.

Quinn’s daughter wrote after his death that she is who she is in the world because her dad delighted in her. It’s true. His intense delight forged a joyful intrepid spirit.

We walked with our son in the bitter cold from Ogilvie Station to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights. Kerri threaded her arm through Craig’s and I could literally feel the joy, mother and son, walking together.

Last night we went to 20’s house and tried a new soup recipe. We laughed and drank wine and talked about…everything and nothing at all. Late in the evening 20 said, “People don’t get it. This is what the holiday is about. Being together. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about time together. That’s what makes life rich. Joyful.” Sounds like a cliche’, doesn’t it?  It will until you, for whatever reason, spend a holiday alone.

Kerri was missing Kirsten. The holidays come with a hot yearning to be close and Kirsten is far away. And then, a text binged in. Mother and daughter are deeply connected. It is a joke in our house that if Kerri speaks Kirsten’s name, inevitably, within a few minutes, we hear from her. It’s uncanny. With Kirsten’s text, a simple ”hello” to her mom, Kerri’s despair flared into huge Joy. I wrote to Kirsten, “Best gift ever.”

It’s true. What could be better than the gift of presence? What could be better than Joy?

Joy! on the album Joy! A Christmas Album is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JOY!

 

 

by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

Joy! A Christmas Album ©️ 2004 Kerri Sherwood

Love Your List [on KS Friday]

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I lost track of Dwight. For years. He  was dear to me and his loss was profound.

And then, after moving to a new city, on a very foggy Easter morning, just after sunrise,  driving a bread truck to work my way through school, I almost hit a man who appeared out of the mist. He was running across the road. I slammed on the brakes, bread flew everywhere. Standing directly in front of my bumper was Dwight. I got out of the truck. In the middle of the road our friendship was restored.

After more than a decade I lost him again. 5 years passed. And then, one day, the phone rang. He was coming to Chicago. The circle returned as I hoped it would. Our friendship is renewed. His presence in my life is a deep generous river.

I am of the opinion that I am rich beyond measure. In my world there is Master Marsh and Horatio, Brad and Jen, Master Miller and Dwight, Arnie, 20 and the up north gang, Judy, Skip, Linda and Jim, John and Michele… Old friends (and new). They stir my thinking, they challenge me to be a better person, they feed my body and my soul. They show up for me when I call. And, I am always grateful when they call on me – that’s how I know we are friends. We want to participate in each other’s lives.

I am now long-lived enough to know that this life is not about the things I do, the achievements, it is about the people I do it with.

 

OLD FRIENDS on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OLD FRIENDS

 

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old friends/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Hold And Be Held [on KS Friday]

YOU HOLD ME songbox copy

Tom and I sat on the little deck just off the kitchen of his cabin at the ranch. We watched the sun set on the land his family had owned for generations.  “They’re going to build a Walmart just off McKenzie Road,” he said, not taking his eyes off the setting sun. “That’s about it, I think.” The tide of development would soon gobble up the ranch.

He told me that, without the land, he would not know who he was. It held him. He held it.

It was a complicated relationship. During his life, he’d attempted to flee the land more than once but it would not let him go. During his life, the world tried to take it away from him more than once but he would not let it go.

Tom died on his land. His wife and nephew fought hard to make that possible. They held him and the land together, through their passing. Both are gone now.

Why does a piece of music evoke such a specific memory? Kerri’s YOU HOLD ME always takes me back to that deck and that sunset. A love story. A life story. To hold and be held.

 

YOU HOLD ME on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU HOLD ME

 

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you hold me/this part of the journey ©️ 2000 kerri sherwood

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

What’s The Story? [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Be Grateful [on KS Friday]

grateful song box copy

Grateful. The perfect word to carry into the season. Today, the perfect word has a soundtrack. Enjoy it with your family and leftovers.

 

GRATEFUL on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATEFUL

 

laughing website box copy

 

grateful/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood