Marking the end of an Era, Mom died on January 19, 2022 at 5 in the morning.

Mom in her 90s

Her lifelong goal was to be 100 years-old, but “Big Rosie” fell a mere 73 days short of that milestone. For her valiant effort and positive attitude, the family has given her a pass and will consider the cherished goal achieved. It broke her heart when our dear dad and her loving husband Harry passed in 2001 some 21 years earlier, but ever the optimist, she never gave up. She was a strong and determined woman.

After some weeks of reflection since Mom’s passing, I’m (Em) overwhelmed with many happy memories. My mere 70 years of life as a “practicing adult” under Mom and Dad’s tutelage have given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams—too many to recount. However, amid the flood of countless thoughts and emotions, I turn to their legacy of values passed down to me and hopefully through me to our children and subsequently, on to their children as well.

The focused team

Mom and Dad had a shared vision: Love, Faith, Family and Fun. It was just that simple. Those basic elements were apparent every single day in numerous ways. They believed that if they kept their focus on those central values, everything would be just fine—a life full of abundance, success and happiness. It turns out that they were right. It worked!

Memories are the greatest keepsakes that we all inherit, but there were also two tangible memory-pieces that I wanted from them as well. Those two items serve as visual reminders of essential gifts they gave me—those particular attributes that have carried me forward throughout my life.

Dad’s favorite drill

Dad had an old wooden drill that he sometimes used on projects at home. That simple tool now symbolizes his steadfast work ethic and natural capabilities. Constantly busy, Dad made all sorts of things that helped create our strong sense of home—a tireless lover of projects of all types and sizes. He made stained-glass, carved wooden figures and fashioned an intricate plaster replica of the Taj Mahal, loved oil painting and even played an electric guitar. In his spare time, K9VTD became his ham radio presence around the world, giving him untold hours of pleasure. Not many people knew that he built all of his radio equipment from mail-order kits with hundreds of tiny parts he staged and stored in muffin tins. He also designed and built an intricate setting for his miniature train that filled most of the garage, painstakingly making all of the mountains, streams and towns from scratch.

Taking a work break

Any projects that were needed around the house, he did himself. Fortunately, as the youngest I was always his sidekick, learning by both watching and doing. He taught me resourcefulness, commitment, perseverance, kindness, patience and problem-solving. To this day, I’m a willing volunteer if something needs a little adjustment or major repair. For me that simple wooden drill captures all of those wonderful qualities he quietly wove into the fabric of who I am. The many lessons and skills he taught me, by example, have served me well.

Mom’s tap shoes

Mom was the consummate mother who resumed tap-dancing at 50 years old—all I wanted was her patent leather tap shoes. She loved to dance as a child with her older sister, Margaret, on the Garfield Park stage. She was a natural performer and it showed-up in every aspect of her life. So when we three kids became young adults, she decided to dust-off her tap dancing skills, navigating her return to the “stage” with grace, dignity and enthusiasm. A young dance teacher gave her lessons and as her “performer” persona reappeared, I saw a new spark of life flash in her eyes. She turned the music up loud and tapped away in the garage where the concrete floor created the perfect click/slide sound. The rhythmic beats echoed as she tilted her head and gracefully extended her arms, swaying and tapping to her heart’s content.

She had no intention of performing for anyone (although she graciously accepted an occasional  request). Mom just loved the process, the practice and the promise—forever a little girl at heart. So, for me those shoes symbolize her love for life and an unfaltering zest in everything she did. Just like Dad, she modeled values, hopes and dreams for us kids. I always saw her as youthful in spirit, socially engaging with others and being as entertaining and joyful as possible. Her tap shoes sit prominently on the living room bookshelf. A quick glance there reminds me to make every minute count as I aim for those same qualities.

The Family project

Mom and Dad together also gave me a tangible model of what it looks like when committed partners create family, striving toward a vision so big it requires a team of two kindred spirits. They produced a legacy of love that continues to trickle down through each generation, soaking deeply into every cell of our being. That’s immortality!

Thanks Mom and Dad for all you gave me. May I allow your selfless gifts to flow through me over the course of my lifetime, hopefully adding my own little tweaks and twists to your beautiful story. The “Rose and Harry” playbook will live on forever.

Love, Emerson (and Cheryl)

Music – “Where Forever Waits”

Related Stories and Music

We also wrote the following stories and songs over the years as the life of Rose and Harry continued to unfold before us:  “Lucky Day,” “Yesterday Me.” “Rocking Chair,”  “Lover’s Leap” and “99 Years,” “Where Forever Waits.”

Credits: The featured image at the top of the post is Rose Louise in 1942 at the age of 20.

Here we are, greeting the new year—2022. During this time of reflection, resolution and gratitude, we would like to extend a simple “Thank You” post to honor three special people who have had a major impact on the direction of our lives.

Twenty years ago we embarked on a new direction with our relationship—namely: writing and recording music. We had things to say and decided that our shared interest in music would provide the perfect medium for us to speak, creating “musical stories” to notate our shared Life experiences. Our intention was to capture and preserve moments of meaning for us, that might spark a feeling or jog a memory for someone else along the way. Since our songs are more like folk-narratives, we often joked that no one would ever dance to one of our songs.  Our musical adventure opened a new pathway for us to explore individually and who we could become together. But we had no idea how to actually make music. So we needed lots of help with our chosen path that was both exciting and daunting at the same time!

Jim Bruno

By 2001 we had written13 rough-hewn songs with only guitar accompaniment and wanted to turn them into our “musical story,” as we had long imagined. We wanted to sing together as equals, in harmony, creating “one voice.” Our first discovery was Jim Bruno from San Jose. He had started performing professionally at the age of 12 and was known as “Little Jimmy Knight.”—a child prodigy with amazing talent. Jim plays multiple instruments, writes music and is a consummate performer, but above all, he loves to teach. He immediately began teaching us to make the most out of our untrained voices and how to harmonize to become that “one voice.” He also showed us how to record our vocals and hear the subtle nuances in our singing. Ultimately, he recorded the vocals for our entire first album—allowing us to learn by doing. He also taught us how to perform and provided our first audiences allowing us the freedom to experiment. We value Jim as both a teacher and friend, remaining forever grateful for the countless hours of inspiration and patient guidance he offered. 

Tom Tomasello

As Jim began to expand our vocal capabilities, it soon became obvious that we needed someone who could turn our simple guitar chords and vocals into musical arrangements. Jim pointed us to just the right person—Tom Tomasello—a gifted musician, performer and writer with his own recording studio. In the early days, we were mesmerized as Tom  listened to us play/sing a tune just one time through. He’d typically jot a few notes, test a few sounds, and then spin around to spontaneously play keyboard accompaniments with complete instrumentation. It was truly amazing! We spent many days together in his studio, working out arrangements. It was an unforgettable experience. As with Jim, Tom also became a friend and collaborator who taught us the basics so we could continue on our own as soon as we felt confident enough.  

Tardon Feathered

Finally, we had the 13 finished songs completely arranged and Tom suggested that we should consider having them “mastered.” We were unfamiliar with the process, so Tom sent us to the Master-Mind himself, Tardon Feathered at Mr Toad’s Recording Studio in San Francisco. Mastering is the process to boost and balance the finished arrangement so the individually developed songs had consistency when played together. Who knew?Voila, the tunes suddenly became the “musical stories” that we had set out to create. As helpful as each teacher/guide was in helping us develop independence, we came to understand our practical limits. Tardon’s hearing was so finely turned and the equipment was so far beyond anything we could manage, we decided not to try the procdss on our own. He mastered our first 4 albums, which we could never have done alone. Of course, he also became a friend and mentor. 

With the cusp of the new year, we realize once again, that it takes a village to nurture dreams. We all need vision and determination to make things happen, but we also need the expertise and creativity of professionals who know their craft. We also need open-minded and kind-hearted helpers, willing to give away a few secrets of the trade. Each guide took us down a slightly different path to a unique place around the “musical fishing pond.” In his own style and way, each guide taught us to fish—to eventually do things for ourselves whenever possible. In three short years, we finished 4 albums and had built confidence.

So here we are, some 20 years later—still fishing. We pause for just a moment as this new year starts “rocking and rolling,” to thank that “band” of extraordinary talent who took the time to patiently help us help ourselves. You guys are the BEST (although we still can’t write a song you can dance to).

Sincerely,
Cheryl and Emerson

Music

Following is that first song we ever wrote and produced together some 20 years ago today. We named it “Never Sleep,” which was even more appropriate than we ever imagined at the time. We continue notating life as we walk this path together, with eyes wide open, in awe of the unfolding Journey.
 

Brood. What a complicated plucky word!

Brood—Noun

It began as a bouncing baby noun in merry old England some 900 years ago—meaning the young offspring or a family of young ones. Then after 300 years of good solid use, it morphed into an alternate form—an adjective. For example, they began referring to a “brood-flock,” which refers to birds kept for breeding. Suddenly the word brood had emerged as a full-fledged descriptor instead of just a thing. Then later that same century, the word transitioned once again into the highly coveted verb form (in addition to retaining its previous noun and adjective positions).

Brood flock—adjective

As cool as it was to become an action word, inaction remained the mode of the hen house— brood carried the original meaning of “attending to,” such as to brood eggs. In this instance the word implies the passive incubation of the offspring. The goal was to simply sit on the eggs in the nest to make something happen—to hatch a chick. So the brood-hen brooded her eggs, anticipating they’d soon become her family of little ones—her brood. Does that mean you could actually “brood a brood from a brood flock?” Exactly.

But wait! There’s more. That simple little B-word morphed once again. In this case, brood took on a whole new meaning—that is, to dwell gloomily on a subject, or to be in a state of depression. Gosh, that sure took a turn! With that shift in definition, brood adopted its most popular meaning today. It seems that everyone but a chicken farmer would agree.

Brooding Mood

So what if we combine the two meanings of “gloomy mood” and “hatch”? What then? There are definitely times when we become discouraged, uneasy, bored or confused with our lives, sensing something isn’t quite right—that pretty much nails the depression part. Then if we embrace this “hatching” idea, maybe we can shift that gloomy introspection into an unmatched force for change. Think about it. We withdraw, go inside and ponder the possibilities. We create a cocoon of sorts that protects us from being disturbed while contemplating life and healing our wounds—the important work of the Soul. A “dark night” for sure. (A grateful nod to Thomas Moore.)

Voila!

After a time of stewing and ruminating, we crack out of our protective shell. We emerge a bit musty and disheveled on shaky legs. Hmm. It seems that we have experienced a quiet transformation, a hatching of sorts amid the dark confusion. Perhaps clarity, direction and determination are birthed from our silent retreat of fretting and waiting—sitting with the discomfort of it all.

The real trick is to know when the brooding is finished.

New vision dawns

A hen who sits too long on the eggs may stifle the hatching process. But chickens, with their instinctive nature, seem to know just the right amount of time to relax into their stationary routine. After all, the purpose of the brooding (action) is to eventually produce a brood (noun). Results! Change! Birth! Hopefully, we humans have a remnant of innate “hen-wisdom” or “bird-brain” thinking as well. Will we know when to stop brooding? Will we sense when our innovative idea or new vision has already been hatched and it’s time to get on with it? Well, let’s not count our chickens.

Invitation to reflect

Let’s face it. Wouldn’t we rather just peck around the hen house instead of hanging-out in that dark dingy interior space? Of course we would. But on the other hand, if we want to produce a change and make a real difference we may need to go inside for a while, because something beautiful wants to be born. We can choose to forcefully resist, insist or just calmly sit with it, and let the potential magic happen.

Music

Following is a song we wrote to explore this idea of incubating a different future. Of course, we called it “Brood,” (the noun, adjective and verb forms).

Related Story and Music

Narrow Ledge

Years ago, we wrote another personal story with music about depression, called “Narrow Ledge.” When we find ourselves brooding, yet falling deeper and deeper into despair, there are many different helpers who can throw us a lifeline. There’s always a solution!

If you have a great life, but still sense a longing for something more; if you ever considered acting on your special dream that has waited patiently for what seems like an entire lifetime; or if you’ve ever tried to create, or even change a long-term relationship, this book may be for you.

The title is Time to Partner—Relationship Changed Through Dreams, Intuition, Trust and Courage.

The story of our journey into a new way to partner together is now available thanks to the wonderful capabilities of Apple Books. Originally, we documented our process of personal change by writing the story and then binding the books by hand—creating only 27 copies. That was over 20 years ago. However, more recently, technology has opened doors to other possibilities.

The entire book has been transformed into a digital format, exactly like the original (amazingly close, except for a few improvements). The new version includes stories, art, poetry, quotes and 14 original songs. In the book we share the details of the first four years of our partnered journey, openly disclosing the dissatisfaction, risk, creative spark, intuition, dream and magic exactly as it happened. Now, our hope of sharing it with a broader group has become a reality. As we pass the 50-year mark in our relationship, we think it is a good time to reissue the digital story.

Join us on our adventure

You can easily get the e-book with just a few clicks. However, the app is only available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Simply go to Apple Books and search for Time to Partner—download for free and you’re ready to start reading, viewing and listening.

Below is a short video called Accidental Authors, we made as a way to introduce the book. Check it out to discover something that might spark your own insights and inspirations. Also, feel free to share the link with any friends you think could be interested. Basically, we’re inviting you to take Time to Partner!

Cheryl and Emerson

Accidental Authors (Trailer)

Uncommon Promise (Music)

An “uncommon promise” became extremely important to us in the early years of our relationship. We knew we had to become impeccable with our word, and open and honest like never before. It was then, that we decided to use “Uncommon Promise” as the name for all of the art, music and stories we were creating together. Then, we decided to write our feelings of recommitment into a new song so we could capture that feeling and sincerity for all times. At that moment, we envisioned our journey into a stronger relationship like trying to discover an unimaginably beautiful Pearl. We haven’t yet uncovered everything we’ve been searching for, but remain committed to the quest.

Autumn arrived in Italy.

South side of the Arno

Turning from warm summer breezes in the shade, to cool gray rains, the fall season clearly was approaching. Winter wouldn’t be far behind. We were grateful to be staying in a friend’s small unused apartment in Florence, just across the Arno river, with easy access to the historic center—a delightful 10 minute walk. We enjoyed being in a different part of the city, which offered us new perspectives.

We had stayed in many different places over the past four years as we waited for the long-delayed completion of our dream-studio in the nearby Florentine countryside. Our romantically naïve plan was to run off together to a peaceful place of inspiration, leaving behind the often hectic pace of the Silicon Valley. The Tuscan hills beckoned.

Awesome view

We imagined ourselves living a simple life in nature with just the bare necessities—a small stone one room studio with an awesome view, where we could write stories and music about our experiences of life in Italy. We planned to share heartfelt conversations in front of an old open Tuscan fireplace, while sipping on hot mugs of coffee—dreaming, creating, spinning story and song into contemporary fables and fairytales that could actually come true. Still very much in love after nearly 30 years together, we were up for the challenge of taking our relationship to the next level, whatever that meant—longing to find out.

We decided to recommit

The message of another delay in the project arrived on that cold rainy day, and we felt our patience fray. Frustrated and deeply saddened by the thought of yet another problem, we actually considered ending the project. Just call it quits. As we talked it over, though, the vision slowly started coming back into view. We reminisced about our feelings and desires that led to this dream in the first place. We found ourselves re-engaging, breathing new life into our intentions. Determination and commitment rallied to fill in the gaps as we took a collective deep breath. Looking into each other’s eyes, we both felt a shared resolve.The answer: the dream must continue. The strength of our partnership literally rose-up in that moment of need to protect our fragile possibilities.

As is our custom, we turned to music and story to sort out the jumble of feelings we were experiencing—the hope, love and appreciation for both the challenges and successes. We decided to write a song to commemorate that time as if we were getting married again—recommitting to our shared vision, the romantic dream, the Tuscan studio. It became a  ceremony of rebirth (Renaissance) in our little borrowed home in Florence.

Music can sort things out

Friends Patrizia and Virginio dropped by for an unexpected visit later that evening. We had just finished a rough version of the song, and decided to sing it for them. They quietly listened as we stumbled through our newly penned lyrics and still-settling melody. Little did we know, that song would became the touchstone for this journey of the heart. We were delighted to share that moment of celebration and hope with them as they unknowingly became silent partners in our autumn sojourn.

On that cold, damp fall night, we did exactly what our hearts desired, fulfilling the essence of our shared dream. We vowed an Uncommon Promise to one another, knowing that it would be strong enough to carry us through—whatever was to come!

Music

Uncommon Promise

Here’s the song we wrote nearly 20 years ago to commemorate that turning point—commitment no matter what! It remains a touchstone for our relationship to this day. The name is as you might expect, “Uncommon Promise.”

Note: This post became the first to be recreated into a podcast with additional commentary, also under the name of “Uncommon Promise.”

2020

What did you do over the Pandemic Sequester?

As for us, we basically laid low, hunkered down, worried about all the wonderful people working the front lines in the battle to heal. We cheered and clattered with wooden spoons on pans at 8:00 pm, as everyone in our neighborhood poured out onto their porches and balconies. We video-chatted with our loved ones, read everything we could find, watched some great movies, shows and documentaries, focused on self-help, exercised, did lots of remote therapy work and on and on and on—much like so many of our fellow Americans. 

But there was one other thing we did that perhaps helped us keep our sanity while processing everything that was swirling around us in the news each day—we wrote music and stories together, a privilege that we’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years. We were “working from home” before it became a necessity. 

Following are the stories and music that showed-up for us during the turbulent and often disturbing year, 2020. We decided to collect them all together for our continuing reflection and conversations, asking ourselves and each other, “What just happened?”  It certainly wasn’t all bad. Overall, our assessment is that it was extremely sad and devastating, but also an interesting and transformative time that we shall never forget. This post includes a quick synopsis and links to each separate story that will serve as our way of documenting what 2020 inspired, as experienced by two 70 year old Patriots from inside their apartment looking out—for 10 months, and counting!

Music and Stories 

Lightning Rod

January 1, 2020

Lightning rod sculpture

Not knowing about the pandemic that was stealthily making its way to the US, we started the year with hopeful introspection, working in therapy on ourselves and our relationship, anticipating an even better year than 2019 had been. Fortunately, it was the therapy that prepared us for all that was to come—global turmoil, chaos and unbelievable sadness. The world was suffering in ways too many to count.

Playing with Echo

May 17, 2020
Then came the beautiful springtime and the May birthday of our dear Rosie June. Even a pandemic can’t dampen the contagious youthful energy of a birthday celebration. We were captivated by the creative mind of our 3 year-old granddaughter. As she arrived at her newly remodeled home, she discovered an unexpected playmate for the first time ever—ECHO. They were suddenly best friends!

No Better

June 1, 2020
Summer arrived and we found ourselves returning to a more reflective mood as the harsh realities of the global catastrophe became clearer and closer to home. The new fears and concerns were layered on top of what was already overwhelming heartache for many people—regular life. Divorce left a friend lonely and all alone—not quite what he imagined. We could see firsthand, how the accumulating psychological weight was dangerous for all of us. You might think we would all KNOW BETTER!

Lucky Day 

July 1, 2020

We were missing family due to the isolation of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders—becoming quite sentimental. Simply being together with loved ones suddenly seemed like an incredible luxury that we used to take for granted. Em’s brother sent an old audio recording of a song that Em had sung for his Mom and Dad for their 50th anniversary. We decided to seize the opportunity to recreate the gift of the original music, bringing it into today’s world as a way of commemorating that special time of family gatherings and freedom—the ability to hug, laugh and celebrate without masks or fear of risking harm to those we love. 

Quiet Comes Along 

July 13, 2020
The heat of summer matched the heat of battle required to fight the relentless virus. For us, and perhaps even for others, we felt a need to create an adult “lullaby” for the times. We know that soothing songs are  important for children, so we pondered that they could be equally meaningful to calm grownups. We acknowledge those responsible for the safety and healing of others. With that in mind, we decided to write a quiet, relaxing and hopeful song that would lull us into much needed rest, peace and compassion.

The Pusher

September 8, 2020
By the fall, our spirits were tattered and worn with all of the death, destruction and division. It seemed that our president wouldn’t  or couldn’t stop the chaos, and intentionally added incendiary rhetoric to it every day. We felt like the dynamics of conflict and negativity were determined to push and push and push us to the brink—of what we didn’t quite know. Life felt, we imagine, like a powerful drug overdose—we were given far more bad news than we could tolerate, and the situation went from dangerous to dire.

Follow the Leader

November 23, 2020
Late fall brought us to a fever pitch with the upcoming presidential election on top of the pandemic. We thought things couldn’t get worse, but they definitely did. We were struck by the awesome power of a charismatic leader. As if in a trance, people seemed to follow their hero no matter where he decided to lead them. Hearts and minds had already been captured and there was really nothing left to think about—just FOLLOW! The danger to our democracy was palpable! 

Feathers and String

December 31, 2020
Exhausted yet hopeful, we closed out the year by returning to the way we started—reflection. This musical story is about a deep meditation on love, joy and compassion in the midst of the horrific, ongoing winter wave of the pandemic. We found ourselves relying on meditations to keep us centered and resilient—musing about the mystery and magic that abides in every day, no matter what life tosses our way. We pondered the power of a smile, even though masked. We decided to trust the awesome logic of the universe. We know that healing is in the future. 

 

 

The last line of the message was left unfinished.

Our therapist said that WE would need to complete the sentence later. That evening, after re-reading the notes from the day’s session, we both paused at the unfinished line as if slowly, cautiously walking up to the edge of a cliff. We each knew the answer. Then together, we spoke the missing words like the powerful ending of a sacred song—we whispered. “Her Destiny.” Silence followed as we pondered the significance of what we had just spoken. Hmm. Something shifted.

That moment was actually foretold 17 years prior as we put the final touches on three important musical stories: “Out Of the Block,” “Swinging Statues” and “Letting Go.” Looking back, we hear the words of those songs describing in great detail what was happening within us then. And now, they speak about what is happening once again, but in an even more powerful way.

It was 2004 when those songs first appeared. Little did we know that just over a decade later, on the 17th of May, in 2017, our sweet little granddaughter would arrive in this world—a force to be reckoned with. And now, four years later, we’re faced with the awareness that in this our 70th year, we must prepare for our own “Transformation.” We ready ourselves to pass on that which was promised.

Our promise is our Destiny writ large—a message magically scrawled among the stars. The time to deliver is upon us and we are prepared to do our part. Like in a relay race, the crucial handoff that only we can make is fast approaching. And, our granddaughter is undoubtedly determined to carry it forward in her words, deeds and the precious DNA. The lineage shall continue unabated and unaltered, on into the distant future—forever and a day! Destiny.

Music and Story

Out of the Block

In 1999, we found ourselves on a partnered journey of discovery in Florence Italy where we fell in love with the city, the people and the glorious history of the Enlightenment. There, we were moved by images of Michelangelo in his studio workshop, carving the stone to release the form hidden within. That was a major turning point as we felt the same urgent chisel, chipping away at us. We were beginning our own personal works of art—our destiny, waiting to be revealed! But it’s more than that. We now see that “lineage” links multiple destinies together. Like a relay race, each relies on those who come before!

Out Of the Block

Swinging Statues

We opened ourselves to change, not knowing exactly what that would look like. It reminded us of the childhood game of Swinging Statues. Regaining our balance after a few extreme spins was always exciting: What would we look like? Who would we be? That simple game set us in motion, twirling and tumbling in surprising ways. Invigorated, yet quite unaware, we were preparing ourselves for something grand that would happen. Well, later has finally arrived. Twenty years have landed us in a form never quite imagined. We scramble back into position, take another deep breath and extend our arms again—ready for one more spin. This is our destiny—directly tied to the destiny of our precious little granddaughter.

Swinging Statues

Letting Go

Beginnings and Endings have a lot in common. They both challenge us to reach deep inside, trust completely and let go! Any step we take toward our destiny requires that we begin something new and end something familiar—trade what we know and love for the unknown. That’s just the way it’s been for us. Without the ability to let go, we would be stuck in the past. Destiny requires us to listen closely to intuition and heed the call. The discomfort of not knowing has been our only path forward. Surrender. Release. Then soar! We are ready, once again.

Letting Go

 

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