All posts by verily sherrilee

Directionally challenged, crafty, reading mother of young adult

The Holiday Pageant

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

Teenager and I attend a Universalist/Unitarian church in southwest Minneapolis. It’s a place with some rite and ritual, but not too much, which is just perfect for me. Like many institutions, there is a lot going on around the holidays, but my favorite, bar none, is the Holiday Pageant.

Like most pageants, we have Mary and Joseph and shepherds. But we also have wise folk, who bring frankincense, myrrh as well as diapers and other things babies need. We have the wind and also angels on wheels who delivery the baby to the manger. And because the idea is to include as many kids as possible, we have lots and lots of angels and a wide variety of manger animals. Over the years we’ve had dragons, kittens, and bees. One year a kid brought his Golden Retriever.

You have to be least five to be in the pageant and when Teenager was little, she could hardly wait to be part of the presentation. On the first Sunday of pageant sign-up I asked her what part she would like to play. She responded by asking what she could be, so I trotted out the litany of options for her. “You can be an angel, you can be Mary, you can be a wise one, you can be a shepherd….” I didn’t even get to finish the sentence before she said “I want to be a leopard.” Sure she had misheard me, I said “Did you mean shepherd?” Nope, she had said leopard and she meant leopard.


Leopard it was. I splotched golden brown paint onto a black sweatshirt and sweatpants and we borrowed a fuzzy tail and ears from a friend. I know I’m her parent, but even so, she was absolutely the cutest thing. As all the animals trooped through the sanctuary that morning, there she was, waltzing up the aisle, swishing her tail back and forth. She completely fit into the menagerie of the manger that day.


In following years, she played a wise one twice (she had me make her a Mulan costume for this), an angel and finally she was old enough to play an angel on wheels, for which she wore all black and rode her scooter. When she was 10 she decided she was old enough to retire from the pageant, so now I sit and watch other children play these parts every holiday season. But I always see her in my mind’s eye, in her leopard outfit, completely sure that she fits into the pageant as well as anyone else.

When have you been the one to add an unexpected twist?


Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

My mom is visiting this week. She hails from St. Louis, where I grew up (mostly) and I get her for alternate holidays. One year I get her for Thanksgiving and the next year I get her for Solstice. My two sisters live in St. Louis as well; since I get her all to myself on my alternate holidays, I like to think that I’m getting more of her than they are, since they have to share.


Before she moved to a smaller place, Nonny’s hobbies included gardening and redecorating. We moved quite a bit when I was a kid, so every new house got the once over. When I was in high school, they stayed in the same house for several years so you would think that the redecorating would subside. Nope, there were a couple of rooms that got new looks every couple of years! I have a very clear memory of her scraping off old wallpaper and to this day, I have a horror of painting over wallpaper that I absorbed directly from her.

But Nonny’s favorite hobby is tennis. She and my dad learned to play tennis when I was in 1st grade and it quickly became a passion. I have many memories of sitting around the tennis courts waiting for my folks to finish; it wasn’t until they were done that my folks would hit a few balls with us kids. When Nonny was pregnant with my baby sister, she played tennis up until the day before Karen was born and tennis was behind both of her knee replacements. If you get in the way of tennis, you are history. She plays in three leagues these days – one senior women’s league and she is the alternate on TWO senior men’s leagues.

I look a lot like my dad but I always wanted to look like my mom, as she is very beautiful. But I like to think that I get much of my personality from her. She doesn’t like to dwell on things; once something has happened, you have to accept it and move on. She is quite stubborn (as was my dad, so I got a double dose) and she likes things the way she likes them. Nonny is also a very kind person and still works at helping others and volunteering. This is the area that I strive to be the most like her.

For years I have tried to get her to move up here, but she won’t budge. “It’s too cold up there.” I tell her we have this great invention; it’s called the furnace. “You can’t stay inside all the time.” I tell her that we have another great invention; it’s called the coat. Nothing works. She has lived her whole life in St. Louis and is still good friends with a kindergarten buddy. I know in my heart she won’t ever move up here, but I’m looking forward to this week of trying to convince her anyway.

What would you say to convince Nonny to move to Minnesota?

Quick Trips

Today’s guest post is by Sherrilee

As I’ve mentioned on the Trail before I have a fabulous job – some days.

Part of my job is to accompany clients to destinations that have been earmarked for incentive travel trips. Over the years I’ve been to some really fabulous places: New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii, Russia, Belgium are just a few.

Photographs credited © Musée du Louvre

The downside to this is the speed with which I sometimes have to see some of these wonderful places as we are often trying to fit in as much as possible in as short period of time as possible. Once in Switzerland we drove four hours to eat lunch and walk through a museum at breakneck speed only to drive four hours back. Another time we visited four historic castles in one day in the Loire Valley.

But the funniest of all my fast trips was in Paris. The incentive program was going to include three days of optional activities and the client wanted to see as many of them as possible in one day; one of those activities was touring the Louvre Museum. Our guide for the day was a small, but extremely feisty French Vietnamese woman, who clearly knew her way around and wasn’t going to waste any time by just wandering around looking at random art. When we hit the museum, she dragged us quickly from one spot to another; in no time we had been from one side of the Louvre to another to see the Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the moats of the medieval Louvre. We were in and out so fast that I had to catch my breath.

So the upshot is that I’ve spent 20 minutes in a museum that most people want to explore for two or three days!

When have you gone a long way for a short visit?

Making A Connection

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I used to work at the big flagship B. Dalton Bookseller in Southdale, so I’ve had the luck to meet many authors. And many were a big surprise. Brooke Shields was quite nervous about meeting people and Rosalind Carter was a very outspoken and determined woman. Garrison Keillor was much nicer than I was expecting from the rumors and Gary Larson was this quiet, non-assuming little guy. I if he hadn’t drawn some cartoons in people’s books, I might have thought they sent somebody else in his place.

But hands-down, the two most impressive authors that I met were Leo Buscaglia and Robert Schuller, and both for the same reason. When you are with them, they each make you feel as if you are the only other person in the universe for them at that moment. It’s a heady feeling and they could each keep it up indefinitely. Leo Buscaglia hugged over 120 people that day he was in the store. Robert Schuller was in the store for 4 hours and made the last person in line feel as special as the first person in line.

Santa, Helping Everyone Feel Special and Loved

It was magical watching them interact with so many different kinds of people. Over the years, however, I thought that being with either of them for any length of time might be difficult; it must be a lot of pressure being the only other person in someone’s universe.

But I’d be willing to give it a try!

What’s the secret to making a strong connection on the first (and possibly only) meeting?

Vegetarian S’Mores

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I became a vegetarian when I was 16. Way back then, there weren’t any vegetarian restaurants, whole food grocery stores or edible meat alternatives. I didn’t meet another vegetarian until I went away to college two years later and I ate a lot of cheese sandwiches during those two years. But it wasn’t a hard road to travel; I was sure of my reasons and happy to make sacrifices for what I considered my cause.

Over the years I’ve only missed a few things. On hot summer days when my dad was traveling, my mom would make tuna fish salad and served it in scooped out tomatoes. My dad didn’t like tuna, so it was a special “girls only” meal. The smell of tuna salad takes me back to those days. I miss BLTs… lettuce and tomatoes just aren’t the same without that crisp bacon.

But what I miss the most are S’mores – the melty chocolate with the marshmallows burnt to a nice dark brown crisp, surrounded by graham crackers. Of course it doesn’t hurt that S’mores are almost always eaten around a campfire, with friends and family in attendance. As Rachael Ray would say “Yum-O”. Since marshmallows are not vegetarian (they contain gelatin) – I’ve missed them tremendously for decades – so when I discovered a company that was making vegetarian marshmallows I was thrilled.

In July we took all the S’more makings, including the vegetarian marshmallows with us on our camping trip to Colorado. The marshmallows aren’t as large as what you usually find at the store, but you can put 4 or 6 of them on your stick and get going. Due to the wildfires out west this summer we couldn’t have a campfire, so we did the next best thing – we grilled over a propane cookstove. The marshmallows smoked, then bubbled and then broiled; a perfect hot accompaniment to the chocolate and grahams. It was heavenly and we ate S’mores every night of our trip. I think S’mores are my new favorite dessert!

What’s for dessert?

Arty V. Smarty

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee.

I’ve always been a go-getter, as my mother would say. If I want something, I figure out a way to get it and if I’m doing something, I like to do the best job I can.

As my middle sister discovered early on, this is a difficult personality trait to have in an older sibling. As I had two years on her, everything she did or tried had already been done by me. After a few years it became clear to my parents that there were things she didn’t want to try because I was already doing them (piano, dance, reading…)

So when she showed an interest in drawing and painting, my parents really encouraged her and DIScouraged me. She got art lessons, she got art supplies, she got her artwork framed all over the house, I got bupkis. To their credit, I don’t think they were trying to discourage me in their efforts to nurture something that was all hers, but the result was the same. As the years went by we were more and more defined this way; I was the smart one and she was the artsy one.

In college, during a particularly rough semester, I was looking for something that would be easy and decided to take a beginning drawing class. It was a shock to my system that I wasn’t too bad and I had a great time in class.

After that it was as if a huge door opened for me. It seemed as if around every corner, there was another artsy-craftsy experience waiting for me. Since then I’ve taken on Ukrainian eggs, rubber stamping, tie-dye, silk screen, sewing, scrapbooking, glass etching, candle making…. it’s a long list. The teenager and I now make most of our gifts and I do cards galore every year.

In a bizarre twist, my sister decided in college that she “didn’t have time for art”. So now I’m the artsy one!

What passion have you discovered later in life?

Uncommon Knowledge

Today’s guest blog comes from Sherrilee.

As many of us on the Trail have discussed before, as we get older, it’s an interesting phenomenon that information that used to be part of our cultural lexicon has passed out of usage. As the mother of a teenager I am constantly reminded that the younger generation doesn’t have the same cultural knowledge that my generation has.


When I was a kid, Lucretia Borgia was well-known as famous poisoner. I didn’t know much more about her except that she had lived in the olden days and wore a big ring that opened up to deliver deadly poisons to her enemies. In fact, I remember a Charlie Chan movie, Castle in the Desert, in which the femme fatale was a descendant of Lucretia and had inherited the venomous ring (which, of course, was the murder weapon). I have since read up and learned that poor Lucretia Borgia was greatly maligned and probably didn’t do any of the dastardly things that used to be “common knowledge” about her, although her father and brother were certainly very poor role models for anything remotely resembling nice guys.

Although she was born out of wedlock, her father, Pope Alexander IV, didn’t hesitate to use her for his political gain. He married her off repeatedly to political allies beginning at a young age. Then when the political winds shifted, he and her older brother Cesare arranged various endings for those marriages (annullment and murder topping the list). Her final marriage survived her father’s ambitions (and life) and she lived the remainder of her life in Ferrara. She died from complications of childbirth in 1513.

She was just thirty-nine

In my job, I arrange a lot of functions in hotels throughout the world – welcome receptions, breakfasts, theme parties, meetings. About 10 years ago, I was working with the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and arranging the final night dinner for a small group. In discussing the evening, I asked where my event was scheduled and my contact replied “in the Borgia Room”. We finished our conversation but as I hung up the phone, I turned to one of my co-workers and laughed… “I’m not sure if I were one of my participants, I would want to have my final night dinner in the Borgia Room.”

The Borgia Room

My co-worker, who is not that much younger than I am, looked at me blankly. Not only did she not get my joke, but when I explained who Lucretia Borgia, it didn’t even ring a bell. I went on a small surveying trip around my department and with the exception of my boss, no one had heard of Lucretia Borgia. I was dumbfounded to realize that something I assumed was common knowledge was NOT.

My group’s dinner went off without a hitch and no one seemed concerned about eating a meal in the Borgia Room. But I have never forgotten it!

What things used to be common knowledge in your world, but aren’t anymore?

The Matchbox Tree

Today’s guest blog is by Sherrilee.

My dad didn’t go to law school until I was born so didn’t settle into his career until a little later in my life. One of the results of this was that we moved around a lot when I was a kid. This meant I was ALWAYS the new kid on the block and I struggled to find friends and fit in.

When I was five, we lived on West Cedar in Webster Groves, Missouri for about a year. It was a great old house on a tree-lined street and as a family, we went through quite a bit in that house. My younger sister had her open-heart surgery when we lived there. My mother survived scarlet fever in this house and I learned to ride a bike on the street in front.

But my favorite memory of living on that block was being befriended by the little boy who lived across the street. His parents had welcomed us to the neighborhood early on; his name was Bobby and he was a year older than I was. There weren’t any other kids on our block that summer (except my sister who was too sick to play outside with us) and this was back in the day when you made do in your neighborhood. You just didn’t get driven around by your parents for play dates back then.

Bobby had a huge collection (or so it seemed to me at the time) of matchbox cars, all different shapes and colors, that he kept in a big shoe box. He knew all the names of the different makes of cars and could tell you when he got each one. He could play with those cars for hours and he invited me to join in his adventures. He did have a little track for the cars in the house but the hands-down best place to play was around the base of the big tree in front of his house. You know the kind of tree I mean – one of those trees with the root systems jutting out of the ground and winding all around. It was the perfect setting for all our matchbox action. We drove the cars all around, up and down the various roots and even placed popsicle sticks across some of the roots to make carports and caves. We had quite a few different scenarios to play out, but it seems that many of our games were spy games, with one spy chasing another all around the tree, in and out of our little caves. It never seemed to bother Bobby that I was a girl and I don’t remember our folks worrying about how much time we spent playing with those cars that summer. My family moved away that fall, but that summer of the matchbox tree still remains as a sweet childhood memory for me.

What childhood game brings back good memories for you?

Machinery on the Mississippi

Today’s guest blog is by Sherrilee.

My father was proud of his intellect and his vocabulary. When I was a kid, my sister and I would try to stump him by picking out random words in the dictionary to see if he knew them. He was better at this than most, since he had studied Latin for law school and could weasel out the meaning of almost any Latin-derived word. We quickly learned to look for words with their origin in Greek – he wasn’t as good at those.

When I was in junior high, my dad decided that he didn’t like the words “get” and “got”. He thought they were “lazy” words and that it was a sign of intelligence if you could use other words in their place. If you slipped up and used “get” or “got”, he would said “What?” until you replaced the little offender. This led to some hilarious conversations when my younger sister decided just to use the word “obtain” all the time, even if it didn’t make sense. “Do you think we’ll obtain rain this weekend? or I’m going upstairs to obtain a sweater.” Finally in college I decided that I didn’t have to play anymore either and my dad had to give up trying to enliven my language.

So, it was these memories that I was thinking of when I happened upon In response to the Mark Twain professor who is bringing out an n-word free Huckleberry Finn, the Kickstarter group is raising money to print an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the n-word replaced by the word “robot”. If you pledge a dollar or more, you get a hard-copy version of this book when it is finished. I coughed up the dollar immediately and just the fun of getting the e-mail updates has been worth the price of admission.

If you could get rid of a word, which word would it be?

Bridge in Brooklyn for Sale, Cheap!

It can be a perverse pleasure to own a pretty thing, especially if that thing is highly coveted by others. But this story may be the ultimate.
Today’s guest blog is by Sherrilee.

Even I, who love winter more than anyone I know, can get a little tired of the season by February. The slippery streets, the slush in the shoes, the high mountains of snow at each side of the driveway that make pulling out onto my street a life-threatening event every day. I often feel like I might be the writer of the Diary of a Snow Shoveler, which has been around forever:

So I read with interest about a woman in Spain, Angeles Duran, who had registered herself as owner of the Sun. Apparently she did her homework, discovered that there is an international agreement that no country may claim ownership of a star or a planet, but that there is no stipulation that an individual cannot make such a claim.

The part of Spain that Angeles hails from is Galicia, which is thought of as the rainy region of the country, although this is certainly relative, since Galicia is in the south of Spain so probably doesn’t have anything close to a Minnesota winter. But apparently the weather is quite volatile there, so you can go many days without seeing the sun. I suppose that claiming the sun as your own might make the gray days a little easier to take. Kind of like taking a vacation to Florida in January or February makes the shoveling a little easier to take.

Of course, it didn’t take Angeles long to try to make some money off her new claim. She wants to make sun-usership a fee-based activity, with the proceeds going the Spanish government, the nation’s pension fund, research, world hunger and 10% left over for herself. Generous woman.

What planetary object would you like to claim?