Say The Word [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“In the realm of ideas, everything depends upon enthusiasm…in the real world all rests on perseverance.” ~ Goethe

To outside eyes it looks like a small stack of plastic Adirondack chairs. To our eyes, it is a marker of something almost unimaginable to us during these past few years: stable ground.

If you want to know what these semi-cheap plastic chairs represent to us, look no further than the movie Gravity. Sandra Bullock in space in a story of “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Through a rolling series of disasters peppered with just-in-the-knick-of-time hand-holds, against all odds, she splashes down to earth, safe. She stands on a beach, shaky legs. For the first time in a seeming eternity: stable ground.

Perseverance is a word used after the fact. During the free fall to earth, nothing feels even remotely like tenacity. Survival-mode does not allow for meaningful reflection or personal congratulations. Look for anything to grab to stop the fall. Believe that the ghost of George Clooney will crawl into the space capsule with a kick-in-the-butt speech at the very moment when giving up seems like the only option.

“There’s always another option,” we told ourselves. There’s always another step to take. Any step. There must be…

During our free fall we sat on our back deck in our broken white, cracking-and-en-route-to-collapsing plastic Adirondack chairs. We felt the sun on our faces. We talked of appreciating our moments. We encouraged and affirmed each other when “hope” was a word that made us roll our eyes and laugh-out-loud.

Last week, in a daring gesture of new times, we bought (on sale!) six black Adirondack chairs. Six! For friends to sit in when they come to visit. A statement of “hope” during a season of pandemic.

Yesterday we sat for the first time in two of our new chairs, faces in the sun, appreciating our moment. And, for the first time in three years, we dared utter the word “perseverance.” Shaky legs. Stable ground.

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW CHAIRS

Arrive At The Essence [on Two Artists Tuesday]

This past Saturday we passed a milestone. We began writing our Melange on February 12, 2018, four years ago. We’ve published 5 days a week, every week, no matter what chaos or crazy storm blew through our lives.

Our Melange has moved through many phases. Originally, we wanted to regain some control over the publication of our music, paintings, plays, children’s books and cartoons. In our first post I called it our “pile of creative perseverance.” Also, we wanted to make a living from our mountain of work so we set up Society6 storefronts and spent hours each day developing products based on what we published. It was a blast and a total bust.

Eventually, the stores fell off, the daily themes changed, and we arrived at a pure essence: we love to sit together and write. Each day. There’s always a visual prompt, mostly from photos Kerri’s taken during the week. There’s only one rule: we can’t read or know what the other is writing about until we’ve completed our drafts. And then we read to each other, talk about our posts and clean them up. It’s my favorite thing to do. It feeds our hearts, energizes our artistic souls and that is more than enough.

Somedays I feel as if we are writing ourselves into existence. Our Melange is the story we tell each other – and you – of our life together. It’s a continuation of the Roadtrip, the daily emails we wrote to each other before we met. And, if the Roadtrip was a narrative offering of “this is me,” the Melange is a narrative offering of, “this is us.”

We launched the Melange with this Chicken Nugget (below). I wrote, as an introduction in the inaugural post, that this Nugget – and the Melange – was “a quiet reminder that the universe of feelings was – and is – so much bigger than words can possibly contain.” Ironic, yes? Coming from two people who, each and every day, write words as their way of reaching into this vast universe of feelings.

Thank you for reading what we write. We appreciate every step you take with us on our journey.

read Kerri’s blog post about 4 YEARS

chicken marsala © 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

the melange © 2018-22 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Trust The Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” ~ Victor Hugo

It is nearly November and the tomato plants are still producing. I’ve come to think of our tomato proliferation as a dance between Kerri and the plants. Each morning, all summer long, with the good advice of 20, she tended the tomatoes. And, the tomatoes tended her. They continue to inspire quiet in her. I’ve watch the gentle morning dance from the window, DogDog circling the yard, Kerri with the watering can, pinching leaves, securing supports, or simply admiring yet another green orb that appeared overnight.

There was also the basil, mint, and lavender. After the tomatoes were nurtured, they joined the dance. Presence.

You know things are not going well when your friends start comparing you to Job. I’m not a bible guy but even I was keen to the reference. We’ve had a few years of rolling bad luck and molehills turned into mountains. 20 is fond of saying, “Karma is a long game,” and there were days that I asked Kerri what she did in a past life to deserve the most recent disaster. After punching my arm, we’d chant in unison, ‘One day at a time.” Take this step. Enjoy this day. The circumstance doe not define us. And, mostly, we lived it, staying in the center of the hurricane.

And, then, about the middle of May, the winds changed. It was palpable. Somethings actually began to tip in our favor. And, for reasons I cannot explain, we needed to grow tomatoes. Kerri needed to grow tomatoes. Last summer we made an anemic attempt at growing lettuce. We ate a salad or two from our mini-farm, but it was more of an exercise, something to do, rather than a symbol of the arrival of better times. The tomatoes came as harbingers, heralds of a new era.

To say that they’ve been prolific is an understatement. All summer long, lines of tiny red miracles sat on our table, ripening. The plants have withstood pounding rain, excessive heat, and withering humidity. Not only have they withstood it, they’ve prospered in it. It’s a hopeful symbol. Somewhere deep down inside, we hope to follow their lead. After a few years of the-other-shoe-always-dropping, we’re slow to trust our symbol. But, like our symbol, we’re taking our time, not getting ahead of ourselves, and will harvest our good fruit when the time is right.

Until then, we persevere, one day at a time, grateful for the portent our good tomatoes bring.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

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

Persevere [on KS Friday]

holdingsteadfast songbox copy

To me, the album cover is like a time capsule. The woman who would become my wife looking through a camera lens into a future unimaginable.  Over twenty years later, I look back, peeking through that triangular keyhole, the impish woman, the near smirk. Does she know the path she will walk, the mountains she will climb? The falls she will take? The sturdy resilient woman she will become?

The impishness remains intact. The brat with the wicked laugh I adore even when – especially when – I am the object of her rascal-nature. The kind of perseverance developed over a lifetime. Clinging to the cliff, against all odds, holding steadfast through the storm. This mettle must have already existed in her blueprint! And, look what life built from that blueprint! A ferocious and very kind soul. An artist.

 

HOLDING STEADFAST from the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOLDING STEADFAST

 

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holding steadfast/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

button to button copy 2

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.

love needs no words jpeg copy

if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copy

read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

chicken and perseverance website box copy

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Catch The Miracle [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

Walking through Bristol Woods, Kerri stopped, pulled out her phone, stepped off the path and into the trees. I’ve learned that means she’s seeing a little miracle that I’ve missed and is on a mission to photograph it. She walks through life noticing the details while my view is generally at 30,000 feet. I often miss what is right in front of my nose.

marbled orb-weaver copyShe signaled me to join her and I saw it. The aerial acrobatics of a marbled orb-weaver. Bobbing on a single thread that stretched into the sky, climbing back to its egg cocoon. The breeze made the already difficult climb seem impossible.

I was transported back in time. Alaska. Watching salmon struggle up a waterfall. Jumping, exhausted, nearing the end of their quest to return to their source, their spawning ground.  They lay their eggs and then die. I followed them upstream, beyond the waterfall to yet another waterfall and beyond. I came to the place, the spot in the river where their lives began and would now end. I was moved to tears by their struggle.

The salmon. The marbled orb-weaver. This thing called life – nature – is gorgeous and profound.

Watching the spider I whispered to Kerri, “How does it do that?”

“Sisu.” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SPIDER SISU

 

taking pix website box copy

 

spider sisu ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

See Sisu [on Merely A Thought Monday]

sisu box copy

Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. … Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity…an almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times. [definition from The Sisu Group, Inc.]

Until I met Kerri, I’d never heard of Sisu. Her company is named Sisu Music Productions so I asked a lot of questions. What’s Sisu? What does it mean? She has Finnish roots so Sisu runs in her veins. Her family invokes it during difficult times. “Sisu, yes?”

When obstacles arise, Kerri gets this look in her eyes. It’s the same look her momma, Beaky, would get in the face of a challenge. It’s Sisu. I’ve learned it’s best to step aside when the Sisu tide rises. Sometimes I AM the obstacle and, believe me, there is no place to run, there’s no place to hide. No amount of resistance or self-righteousness will win the day. I have the Sisu tracks on my back to prove it. Now days, when I see the look, I simply step aside. Occasionally, self preservation and wisdom look a lot alike!

It is Sisu week at Studio Melange. A celebration of grit and determination. As I started to write this morning I made a list of the people I know who are teeming with Sisu. Chris and Janelle, 20, Horatio, Judy, Skip, Master Miller, Wendy, P-Tom, Jen and Brad, Kirsten, Heather, JimmySue, Craig, Dan,…. the list goes on and on and fills me to the brim with gratitude and awe that I get to walk life with these people.

It’s a good exercise. Focus on the Sisu that surrounds you. And then, consider putting yourself on the list. When have you drawn on your Sisu? In the face of adversity, when have you been surprised by the perseverance-spirit that arose with in you. Courage rarely feels like Hollywood defines it. Can you see it? Sisu, yes?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SISU

 

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Get Back On And Ride

Guess what. I'm doing it.

Guess what? I’m doing it.

It is universally true that we must fail to learn. In fact, as absolutes and paradoxes go, the single universal lesson that we must learn is that there is no such thing as failure. To unlearn is, in fact, also to learn. Everything is a step forward when failure is out of the equation. I fell off my bike more than once before I learned to balance and ride. I made some terrifically ugly colors as I learned to paint. That is the nature of learning.

Over the past decade I’ve tried more than once to produce my play, The Lost Boy. And, like learning to ride a bike, I’ve fallen off with each attempt. The latest tumble came with a failed Kickstarter attempt. Sitting on the curb, my metaphoric bike akimbo, I asked, “What is it about this play?” It will not leave me alone and yet it has been more than difficult to produce. And, as it does, the learning followed the fall. And there is nothing to be done but get back up and ride.

And, as is also true, when you decide that you are going to do something, the way opens (note: that does not mean that there are no challenges). When we didn’t meet our Kickstarter goal, I had the option to let it go forever or, I had to decide that I was going to produce this play with bake sales, lemonade stands, or any other whacky idea that would get me to opening night. This play will not leave me alone and, as I learned in the fall, I will not leave it alone. The decision was already made and I needed the failed campaign to see it.

And the way opened. The University of the Pacific decided to donate the theatre and to help with some marketing through alumni networks. I laughed when, given their generous donation, I made my new budget. The amount I need (bare bones) to get to opening night is almost identical to the amount pledged in the failed campaign. So, taking what I’ve learned, I’ve mounted a new campaign and asked the previous pledgers to pledge again. And, since I adore paradoxes and don’t really believe in absolutes, I’m passing this link out in every way possible. Nothing is for sure – except that I will do this play in February in California.

The lesson, of course, is to ask for help and ask again (something I was not good at doing in the first campaign). The other lesson is this: a play that will not let you go is worth doing and it is worth doing whatever it takes to give it life. So help me give it life. Here’s the new Kickstarter campaign. Please support it if you can by pledging or passing the link out through your networks.

I don’t mind falling off my bike again because now I know that I will simply dust myself off and get back on to ride. Join me in California in February for the world premiere of The Lost Boy.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Guess what. I'm doing it.

And, in case you missed it, here’s the link to the new The Lost Boy Kickstarter campaign

Hide The Horse

from my archives. This one is called 'Angels At The Well.'

from my archives. This one is called ‘Angels At The Well.’

I first learned this story prompt from Rick Stone at The Storywork Institute: I come from a people who (fill in the blank), and from them I learned (fill in the blank).

Rick’s story prompt was with me when I awoke this morning because I’ve lately been thinking about my grandma Sue. Kerri and I just started rehearsals on our Back To Center concert series and for some reason Grandma Sue has been present when we rehearse. She passed away several years ago and I adored her. She was small in body but big in spirit. Over the weekend my mother said of her mother, “She took everything in stride and adapted to whatever came her way.” Grandma Sue did not resist her lot in life, she made the most of it. She had fun. She created fun.

I’ve been rolling over and over in my mind a specific story about her that happened before my time on this planet. The shorthand goes like this: the glue factory was coming for an old horse that lived in the pasture next to her house. She knew the truck was coming so she hid the horse in her kitchen.

I grew up playing in her house. I know her kitchen. What makes the story miraculous to me is that 1) her kitchen was teeny and 2) you had to climb some stairs to get from the back door into her kitchen. This tiny woman managed to get an old horse through her back door, make a right hand turn, and climb some very narrow stairs. And then she “hid” it from the owner and the glue factory search team.

I do not doubt the truth of this story for a moment and if you knew my Grandma Sue you would not doubt it either. She was a champion for the underdog, a lover of the small moment, a believer in the extraordinary in the ordinary. She lived from her heart and not her need to make sense. What do you do if the sweet old horse next door is in imminent danger? Anything you can.

This morning, as I awoke, I was again thinking of my Grandma Sue and Rick Stone’s prompt came to me. I smiled because I come from a people who act on what they believe- against all odds. And from them I learned moxie and perseverance.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, Go here for hard copies.