Send The Cash [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

Evidently, we’ve made it to the swanky-wine-promotion-(scam)-list. This came as a text. No words. At first, we treated it as a mystery. A quick Google of the bottle reveals this wine is more expensive than both of our cars combined. “Ooooh, Maybe this is a heads-up! Maybe They’re sending us a bottle!” I suggested.

“Maybe we should call them and tell them to keep the bottle and just send the cash,” Kerri replied.

Victor is Betsy Ade’s manager. He recently posted an attempted scam. Someone wanted to hire Betsy to do a show. They needed to pay with a check and also needed to make it out for a larger amount (insert ridiculous scenario) and requested that Victor return the difference. In the scam world, it’s an old saw. You may or may not be amazed at how many people have reached out to buy paintings but, since they were sailing in the North Atlantic on a scientific expedition, needed to send a too-large-amount-check. After deposit, would it be possible to return the difference?

I’ve thought of papering my bathroom with the schemes, a hall-of-fame for imagination gone bad. To do it, I’d have to print the emails and photos, including the bottle of wine – but I want my paper to be used for worthier causes so I’ve rejected the idea. Plus, the ink would fade over time. I’m having enough trouble with my eyes as it is and don’t want my future self to have to squint to have a chuckle.

“Don’t they know that we’re incapable of enjoying a bottle of wine that costs that much?”

“Yes. We’re goats,” I agreed. “We’d never be able to discern the difference between our wine and this bottle. But, maybe that guy in the North Atlantic would be interested!”

read Kerri’s blogpost about WINE

Go Roman [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Today we begin the Whole 30. The first time, we did it because Kerri’s system had run amok. The only way to find the culprit of her system’s craziness was to eliminate all the suspects, rebalance her system, and then slowly reintroduce foods. That’s the idea behind the Whole 30. It worked like magic.

This time, Kerri and her nieces are doing it together. They’ve made a pact. I am going along for the ride.

There’s a distinct difference between the days before our first experience and our run up to beginning today. Last time we were desperate. We needed to find something that would help her system. This time, we went full-Roman. We ate everything, even things we normally would not have thought to eat. We’ve made a full-on-food-assault on both our systems. “Since we can’t have wine for a month, I think we should have another glass,” I said…every day last week.

It’s human, isn’t it? To pretend that what you are about to do is nigh-on-impossible, so, the strategy to make it possible is to front-load the rewards. It’s the thought behind Lent. It’s the reason diets fail. It’s the story of “We deserve this…”

We created our own personal Mardi Gras.

I knew we’d given up all pretense the night Kerri looked at me and said, “When was the last time we had a Hostess cupcake?”

“We’ve never had a Hostess cupcake,” I said. “I used to eat them when I was a kid but you and I have never had one.”

“What!” I saw the wild cupcake intention in her eyes. It was late in the evening. “We have to have one!” she exclaimed jumping up. “Hurry! Ann’s is about to close!” Ann owns the local corner market. She carries cupcakes. And wine. And ice. And has a terrific deli. Kerri grabbed my arm. We ran-walked to Ann’s. Roman, Roman, Roman.

None of this would have happened without the looming Whole 30.

It’s not yet 8:00 in the morning, day one, and Kerri’s already asked me, “Do you remember the cupcake?”

Truth: I do. And my second thought? Cupcakes are better with red wine.

Human, human, human.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CUPCAKES

Name Your Wine [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Ooooh,” I said, reading the bottle, “I want to be untamed and unbound. Plush and jammy!” She rolled her eyes. I won’t tell you what she said. There might be children reading.

As wine bottles often do, it inspired an interval of time paying attention to the phrases I paste on the labels of my life. What if I described my days with wine-label terminology? Last week was definitely earthy and robust. Crusty with hearty notes of calamity.

In my work life, I’m hearing with alarming frequency the word taxonomy. We need to create a taxonomy. We are approaching a taxonomy. The study of naming. The science of definition. With what classification will we identify, and therefore label, our creation? If our product was wine, what would we say of it? Bold and expansive, yet subtle and refined? Are we talking about what it is, what it does, or defining it so it will sell? Those levers are never mutually exclusive. A written language is always an abstraction. Reaching yet never hitting its mark.

Aren’t we living in an age where the world is seeking a new-ish taxonomy? Spin your news channels and hear the same story-wine described in remarkably contradictory terms. What is fruity to one audience is classified as filthy to the other. Two labels, one wine. One team refusing to taste for themselves. We brand ourselves “divided.”

William Shakespeare either created or wrote for the first time in the English language over 1,700 words. I want him on my taxonomy team. I want him to lead my wine-life-labeling committee. Though, I imagine he would be amused to tears at our wild word-world of marketing, our reality-wielding-“news” channels, he wouldn’t be at all surprised that the power of a label pasted on an experience. “Call it what you will,” he might say, “It’s a sorry sight.” No matter. Words, words, words.

Sorry sight! A great name for a wine. A bold red blend for a brave new world. William gives it two thumbs up. Edgy and energetic, nutty and dippy with hints of crackers.

read Kerri’s blog post about WINE LABELS

What’s Now? [on Two Artists Tuesday]

After a fairly contentious conference I co-facilitated in The Netherlands, Kerri and I took the bullet train to Paris. It was early in our relationship and our first time abroad together. We couldn’t afford to get to Paris otherwise, so tagging a small vacation onto a work trip seemed foolish not to do. It was the perfect place at the perfect time. I released the conference friction the moment we stepped off the train. I didn’t know it at the time but on the streets of Paris I left behind a skin that I’d badly needed to shed.

We had limited funds so we bought baguettes and Camembert cheese, fruit, tarts from vendors and bottles of wine. We ate in parks. We wandered the streets. Climbed the hill to Sacre’- Coeur, visited Rodin, and tried to get lost. We fell exhausted into bed each night, full of art and sound and color and delicious wandering. One night we sauntered to the Arc de Triomphe and barely escaped a riot. Bus loads of police in riot gear appeared on the street and, wide-eyed, we slipped out of the crowd and hustled to find more peaceful rues. Paris now serves as a marker. There was before Paris. And after.

“This shadow looks like that picture I took of the Eiffel Tower,” she said, showing me the photo of the shadow. The angle is perfect. The shadow is appropriate. Shadows. What was. An outline of the people we were, reflected on the snow. And, the series of photos, shadows along the way, the surprising people we have lived-into since we wandered those streets, shedding old skin, and boarded a plane home with a a question, “What’s next?” What’s now?

read Kerri’s blog post about SHADOWS

Keep The Embers Glowing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

If you encourage us to talk about porches of our past, we’ll tell a tale of sitting in the rocking chairs at our airbnb in the mountains of Colorado, one evening, watching the traffic go by, accidentally drinking the whole bottle of wine (at 10,000 feet), “walking” down the street to get a burger, and instead, finding ourselves at the center of what the locals called “experimental drink night.” I’m sure, to this day, they laugh at the two black-clad tourists who were too polite to turn down what came out of the bartender’s blender. We dialed 20 at 1am and too loudly told him the tale. Good friends will listen to anything that comes out of your mouth at anytime, day or night, and 20 is the best.

Last night, sitting on our airbnb porch in this North Carolina mountain town, sipping a glass of wine, watching the traffic go by, I “remembered” that night. This is our first venture out – just for us – since COVID washed over our lives. It’s become habit to plan our travel path – through an ordinary day or, in this case, miles from home – with minimal human contact as a top criteria. Watching the traffic go by, I thought about that, too. Now, we’d never stumble down the street to get a burger. We’d sit tight – as we did last night – and make ourselves a meal.

As part of our meal, we lit a few luminaria. We brought a few sacks and candles with us. I realized that we’re keeping a tradition going, however small, so that one day we’ll tell the tale of how we kept our holiday traditions alive – traditions that were once about gathering together, traditions that were meant to bring people into proximity to each other rather than carefully maintaining distance. Our tradition always includes candles. Luminaria. Fire and light. One day – someday – the light we place on the porch will include other people. For now, we keep a small flame to keep the tradition intact.

We’ve started a new tradition that I adore: pop-up dinners. We carry with us a small bistro table and two folding stools. They are lightweight and, in a moment, can appear anywhere. Last night – our last night here – they popped up on our porch. We made a special dinner, surrounded ourselves with luminaria, and watched the world go by. We greeted the people who walked by. We shouted greetings over the traffic across the street to the old guy who’s so beautifully decorated his house for the holidays. He loved our lights. We loved his. At a distance.

We keep the flame alive. We keep the embers of tradition glowing. We’ve established new variations on our adventure theme. Experimental drink night was a one-off affair. Pop-up dinners are here to stay. Be careful what tales you inspire us to tell. Someday, when we’re all together on the porch, we’ll give you an ear-full.

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHT

Take Another Sip [on DR Thursday]

I am spending a significant amount of time studying software. An unlikely task for an artist that prefers brushes and canvas over screens and keyboards. This improbable exploration follows a trend in my life: much of my work has taken place in foreign arenas. I love it because I learn. I love it because I am completely prepared to fail: a trait necessary to walk an artist’s path. To learn, it is necessary to begin in unknown places and make big mistakes. The same rule applies to creation. “Make big offers,” John used to say to his actors. “See what happens.”

Yesterday in my software study, I read about Mathilde Collin, the CEO of Front. She inspires me. She believes work should make people happy. She believes people shouldn’t dread getting out of bed in the morning. She believes in balanced-lives and finding each person’s “genius zone” and leaning into it. She knows a healthy culture doesn’t just happen, that it must be created and tended. And modeled. She believes paths to prosperity must include everyone.

I’ve also spent some time with Evariste Galois. He was a French mathematician who died in a duel at the age of 20. The night before he died, so the story goes, believing it was his last night on earth, he compiled and wrote his thoughts, his life’s work. What he left behind has kept mathematicians busy for more than two centuries. I’m not a mathematician but I am a systems guy and Galois’ Group Theory is useful when studying cultural change – or, more to the point, why it often looks like change but doesn’t really change. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s useful to consider when products are being developed – or stories – when they iterate but go nowhere.

When I come down from the office I am often glazed. Kerri gives me a glass of wine and steers me to the Covid table. While I stare at the bubbles in the wine she makes a snack. Food and wine always bring me back to the land of the living. After a cracker and cheese, a sip or two, I blink my eyes and she says, “Welcome back.” She knows better than to ask what I did at work. A time or two I’ve taken her hand and headed back toward the mind-cave and she’s learned to dig in her heels. “I learned the most amazing thing,” I say. She responds, “Take another sip and we’ll talk about it later.”

Mathilde Collin. Evariste Galois. Both are French and it only just occurred to me that they share the same country of origin. Revolutionaries both, believing that the systems should work for the people – rather than the people working for the system. Life should feed passions. Evoke personal genius. Happiness.

All of this good stuff from a stumble into the land of software.

“Take another sip,” Kerri prompts. I blink my eyes. “We’ll talk about it later.”

read Kerri’s blog post about WINE BUBBLES

in dreams i wrestle with angels © 2017 david robinson

Eat Chips! [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Snack-time is one of our favorite times of the day. It signals the end of work. In full disclosure, there have been days that snack-time was announced earlier than usual. When Kerri appears in the doorway and says, “It’s snack-time,” I know it is time to put down the pencil and close the computer. Something is up and only a snack will help.

And, also in the vein of full disclosure, for the foods and beverages that comprise snack-time, we can justify almost anything. Okay. We can justify anything. Some days there are french fries. Some days there are pears. Most days, there are Late July chips and an all important question: “Salsa or hummus?”

“Both!” we chime in unison.

When snack-time arrives, the day instantly gets better.

read Kerri’s blog post about CHIPS

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Pack The Cheese [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Let me state from the get-go that Bota Box wine should sponsor Joey Coconato. More than once in his back country hiking videos, to the delight of his hiking companions, he pulls a box from his back pack. There is general merriment all around, not to mention amazement: every ounce counts when you are carrying it on your back and a Bota Box is more than a few ounces. For a dedicated wine drinker like me, it is heroic. “I want to hike with Joey!” I exclaim, knowing that I don’t have the metal to hoof in a box of wine on top of everything else I’d be hauling.

In one of my favorite Joey moments, the Norwegian Xplorer and Joey are comparing the food that they’ve packed into the back country. The Norwegian Xplorer has space-like silver pouches of freeze-dried meals neatly displayed and organized for the camera. They look easy to carry. Easy to pack. Joey, on the other hand, shows us a dozen raw eggs in a collapsing carton, avocados, a bottle of sriracha sauce, a pack of brats, flour tortillas and the item that made me howl with appreciation: a full can of Parmesan cheese. “I was cleaning out my cooler,” Joey narrates as the camera pans his supplies. Huy Fong Sriracha and Kraft should consider sponsoring Joey, too. It takes some serious dedication to hump those luxuries into the land of grizzly bears and moose.

I think it is why we’ve become dedicated Joey followers. On every level – even to his food – he’s not doing life as he “should” do it. He’s doing life as he wants to do it. Comfort is not high on his list of organizing principles. Being fully alive is. How many people do you know who can claim that?

The rules on the margins are different than they are in the main. It is the hallmark of someone truly free.

His pants are ripped, his equipment is collapsing, his tent is on loan, he regularly breaks his cameras or loses lens caps, and yet he finds a way. What most of us would see as an obstacle, he simply rolls with. I mean, why shouldn’t you pack your backpack with a carton of raw eggs, a can of Parmesan cheese, and a Bota Box of wine? Joey tells those of us watching from comfort-land that, after the wine is gone, the box makes a good fire starter.

There are two things to note: he is generally surrounded by friends and supporters. When his equipment breaks, someone sends him a replacement for which he is always grateful. Not a little grateful, Not pretend grateful. Grateful. Second, no matter the condition of his clothes or equipment, no matter the weight in his pack, he never ceases to notice how gorgeous is the world, how breathtaking is this earth. Appreciation. He knows it is his privilege, for a time, to walk on it.

Gratitude. Appreciation.

And, at days end, sprinkle some cheese on it and wash it down with wine. No one living in a penthouse has the view that Joey has. The ridge is brilliant in the last rays of the day. No one lounging in a tower or afloat in their yacht is as carefree or as willing to walk away.

Open your pack and I’ll wager that there are more than a few “should-do’s” or “should-be’s.” Open Joey’s and you’ll find only what he needs to fully live another day. Maybe. But, if it’s not there, no problem. Something nourishing will certainly be found along the way.

read Kerri’s blog post about PARMESAN CHEESE

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

Pop A Cork And Ponder [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It is, at long last, election day in these-once-united-states. If I had a wine cellar it would be stocked to the top with election night libation and reality-numbing assistance.

Through Kerri, I received a loving and gentle push back against my use of the phrase these-once-united-states. Our reader reminded me that these-states-were-never-united. Not really. Of course, there is the very real possibility that division IS what identifies us. In a stroke of planned obsolescence or perhaps a nod to the absurd, our forefathers wrote that all men are created equal while participating in and promoting slavery as the driver of the economic engine. They certainly knew what they were doing. It might be that division is what unites us.

Who would we be if we actually practiced equality and made sure that our institutions were not only the guardians but promoters of our central ideal?

Mostly, those wacky forefathers kicked the can down the road. They understood that the nation would one day have to reconcile its split-intention. We’ve made a run at it more than a few times and, like every good fractal, rather than deal with our shadow pattern, we manage to repeat it. Slavery becomes Jim Crow…and here we are. BLM meets The Proud Boys.

We are so far away from dealing with the can kicked-down-the-road to us that the mostly-men-on-the-red-team deny the very existence of systemic racism. That, too, is part of the fractal. Take note of how much energy has been spent making it hard for black Americans to vote. Right here in the year 2020. Some things never change. Some things need to change.

So, today we line up to cast our ballots. In this seemingly endless and ugly election season, we’ve been witness to an undermining of the postal service, the removal of ballot boxes, the stuffing of the supreme court, a president casting doubt on the very system he was sworn to support.

So much energy spent to ensure the continuation of the divide! Another squirt of glue? An organizing principle of negative and positive charges? Opposite charges attracting?

We need a new organizing principle. Division is a threadbare story and, as we know, can only run in a vicious circle. I hold little hope for it but wonder what might come about if we attended to a simple basic, just like the sign says. “Be Nice. Say Hi!”

In the absence of general kindness and courtesy, something every mother teaches and every grandmother upholds, I will pop a cork and ponder what we might have been if the system had been set up and penned by our foremothers. I suspect we’d all know how to play nice by now.

read Kerri’s blog post on BE NICE. SAY HI!