Live A Great Story [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I suppose I must not have seen the small print requiring an extra fee for the petals to actually be attached to the stems. Silly me. I’m not a detail guy so it never occurred to me that ordering flowers was like flying on Frontier Airlines: if you want a seat you need to pay extra. If you want wings on the plane there’s an up-charge. If you want the roses fastened to the stem, it’ll-cost-ya.

Every story has a context. Without the context a story cannot be fully understood. Here’s the context for our sad-rose-tale. Kerri and I have out of necessity lived lean. Very lean. This is the first year since we met that I had the capacity to send my wife roses on Valentine’s Day. Context number two: since we spend 24/7 together and she monitors our expenses like a hawk (a necessary practice that comes from living lean) , it’s nigh-on-impossible to surprise her. seemed to be a solution for a long overdue surprise. “How bad could it be?” I asked myself. Woof.

Never ask yourself a question when you can ask other trusted people. I could have asked Jen or Gay or Jay. They would have warned me off. I could have asked them to arrange roses from a local florist and I would have secretly paid them after the fact. I did none of the above. I was having a nice conversation with myself and, left to my own devices, I’m perfectly capable of making a dumb idea sound titanically smart.

The roses (I use the term loosely) came, not on Valentine’s Day (today), but on Friday. Surprise! Gay’s response after seeing the picture truly captured their state: “Too bad they picked them in August,” she wrote. Even the leaves had abandoned the stems. Brad’s comment was my personal favorite: “How efficient,” he wrote, “you received roses and potpourri in the same order.” Efficiency was, after all, my aim.

Kerri, a gifted transformer of lemons-into-lemonade, separated the dead petals from those few still living and put them in a crystal bowl. And then, she offered me this consolation: “Think of it this way,” she said, “if they’d arrived intact, we’d never remember them. Now we have a great story to tell.”

First roses. A Valentine’s tale. We’ve laughed all weekend [I confess, the humor in the story took me a moment or two to see]. With or without roses, on this day of celebrating true love, this is what I know for certain: we live a great story so we have a great story to tell.

read Kerri’s blogpost about NOT-ROSES

Exit Stage Left [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is a love story. This is how the love story began:

I knew the moment Kerri looked up from her computer that we were in trouble. She had THAT look in her eyes. She spun her computer around so I could see: a photograph of a performing arts space on a little island up north. They were looking for a managing director. “We could do this together,” she said.

I was opposed to the idea. I’ve run theatres and theatre companies. For an entire era in my life, I seemed called to restore them when they were on the verge of collapse. This felt like a step backward. It would be the smallest company I’d ever worked with. It had obvious and ominous warning signs of rip tides and undertows.

However, I’ve seen THAT look in Kerri’s eyes a few times and I’ve learned that it is best to either get on the train or get out of the way. We interviewed. We visited. The first time we stepped into the theatre I saw something – beyond words – return to Kerri. She walked the auditorium like it was sacred space. She stepped onto the stage and fell deep into imagining. Life rushed into her. How could I oppose that?

Initially, we turned the job down because it made no financial sense. It made even less practical sense; we’d have to move on island for six months every year, take unpaid sabbaticals from other work. Kerri grieved. Literally. I could not understand the depth of her loss. To me it was yet another job with yet another non-profit that was cracking below the water line, which meant too many hours for too little pay featuring a bottomless to-do list and a board of directors resistant to patching the holes, let alone reconstructing a seaworthy vessel. Standard fare, par for the course, yada-yada.

Kerri wept. What was this about? The image of her walking through the auditorium, hands brushing the seats like they were magic blossoms, haunted me. “They’ll come back to us,” I told her, “no one else is crazy enough to consider this job.”

A month later they came back with an improved offer, still impossible but closer to feasible. They could find no one else that was crazy enough to consider the position. Love is a kind of insanity.

We took the job. That is how this love story began.

Yesterday was our final day on the job. Today is the day the story ends. In many ways it was exactly as my crystal ball predicted: a non-profit that was cracking below the water line, too many hours for too little pay featuring a bottomless to-do list and a board of directors resistant to patching the holes, let alone reconstructing a seaworthy vessel. I am a systems guy; the organizational system behaved like all systems behave. In our first 3 months we had 3 different board presidents. Big battles. No surprises.

Yet, my crystal ball missed the prediction in one very important aspect. The most important aspect. This was not merely standard fare. It was a love story. The incredible people we met, the adventures we shared, the mountains we moved, the dark starry nights, the ominous power of the lake, the deer, many lessons we learned…Kerri stood on the stage and fell into deep imagining. Everyday. Life rushed into her. Everyday.  This may be the day the relationship ends but we leave, she leaves, filled with new imaginings, her heart breaking, full of love for this magic space, brimming with life.


[Kerri made this as a parting note for TPAC]



read Kerri’s blog post about EXIT



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