Three Tiny Words

The miracle is happening just in this moment! All three of the big, hairy beasties are busy blanketing the worn hardwood floors and snoring gently at my feet. The light in the garden is clear and sparkly. The weeds, after their morning encounter with absolutely organic, heavy-duty vinegar spray, are passing on to a place that will very shortly be known as compost. Peace reigns and it’s great!

Of course, it isn’t always that way. Especially since our latest Newfoundland rescue dog joined the family. We’ve all had lots of learning to do!

Luther arrived just four and a half months ago from a traumatic and developmentally limiting situation with, shall we say, a lot of baggage. Despite the love and care of some awesome foster parents in the couple of weeks before he joined us, when he went through yet another transition to our home he didn’t understand cuddles, or even petting. He didn’t understand treats. He didn’t understand house!

The thing that struck me most, though, was that he had only two options for communication.

The first was to absolutely melt into the floor and try to disappear in the face of anything he perceived as frightening. And everything was frightening at first.

Friends thought he was well-behaved. Actually, he was terrified and experiencing what psychiatrists might refer to as dissociative states.

I cried a lot in those first weeks. And believed, with every fiber of my being, that he would learn to feel safe, perhaps for the first time..

Luther’s second strategy for communication was to bark. Sharply. Loudly. Insistently.

He had no working vocabulary. No mellow Newfie sense of the word, “Wait.” No certainty that I would appear because I always did. And so he barked.

It reminded me of when Dave was new and I was still learning the different baby cries.

There were days when I wanted to run away from home. (Then and now.)

In time, the days decreased but the moments lingered. It seemed that as he melted less often into the floor, he barked all the more incessantly.

And, more often than I would like to admit, I barked back… usually when he was way ready to get out of his crate after meals and I was otherwise engaged.

“Wait just a #@%* minute!”

“Shut the %!*& up!”

Well, you get the point. Not my finest moments. And not at all effective.

Then, one day, I had a thought. Or, rather, one of those magical, mental connections when two things that are true in very distant corners of your brain suddenly discover each other.

Inspired mostly, I think, by the amazing author and teacher, SARK, who helps wannabe writers and real people deal with the voices of their inner critics,  I discovered a new plan.

The next time Luther barked in that particular demanding, nails on the chalkboard tone, I responded, “I hear you.”

Three tiny words.

The energy of our encounter totally shifted.

I felt better.

I could hear the difference in my tone.

And, since changing me was a whole lot more in my control than changing him, I persisted.

You want out of your crate after dinner and you want out immediately, despite the fact that I am, just this moment, in the bathroom.

“I hear you.”

You want to go out NOW, despite the fact that I am in my chair, buried under a laptop, a journal, 62 index cards, a phone and at least two pens.

“I hear you.”

It’s hard to describe the miracle of these three tiny words.

Admittedly, Luther still wants what he wants, when he wants it.

So do I.

We’re working hard, though, on this whole safe and heard thing.

Luther’s working on his communication skills. He’s gotten the hang of enthusiastic tail wagging.

Nudging my hand for a head rub is a new favorite.

And, if you look really closely at his recent portrait, he’s even mastered my Mom’s infamous one eyebrow up, “What are you thinking?” move.

Oh, there are still vocabulary issues.

We’re still working on the notion that “Come” means now and not when he’s in the mood.

“Stay” may take a good while longer.

Not ready for “Down” yet.

We’ve gotten really good at saving dog hair for our weaving auntie.

One of these days, perhaps, we’ll get the hang of face washing!

One of these days.

It’s a wonder, when you think about it, that any of us can communicate at all. I’m beginning to suspect that it really is all about energy and creating reality.

What we can do with three tiny words!




Begin Where You Are

I have an announcement to make. (Help me out here by imagining a bit of a drum roll, please.)

I just discovered that I can now sit cross-legged in my chair!

It’s really ok if you overcome the urge to call whichever news outlet you dislike least these days and just hang out here with me. I realize this is not, on the surface, an athletic feat likely to make the headlines. That works for me.

If you know, however, that I had knee surgery six times in nine years, it gets a little more interesting. If you also know that my back has had a few major unreliable spells through the years, one of which involved an ambulance, you might be starting to sense my excitement. And, if you know that I’ve been learning some new things about food and pain and mobility, you might begin to catch the underlying energy in this announcement.

It’s kind of ironic that I’m noticing this just now, after spending a week trying to suppress/repress/deny the tiniest hint of jealousy sparked by the yoga-on-the-floor crowd I encountered on my recent trip down the Rabbit Hole.

In fact, I spent a portion of my time there (Break time only, of course!) reflecting on the ancient wisdom I heard years ago that suggests that people who consciously lower themselves to the floor once each day, and get back up, will remain flexible throughout their lives.

This is news I quite wish I’d learned when I was my girls’ age and was totally comfortable sitting “Indian-style” on the floor, decades before the saga of the crappy knees began.

That, however, is water under the bridge.

I’ve comforted myself, in more recent years, with some similar wisdom I encountered in my Hypnosis/NLP training. The most flexible person in any system has the most power to get things done.

Try that one more time.

The most flexible person in any system has the most power to get things done.

Or, to put it another way, curiosity is the path out of stuck-ness.

This thought is really encouraging to me and doesn’t involve the floor.

Even better, it works!

Here’s a fun example.

Just in case you ever encounter anyone in your world who might be feeling stuck in an either-or kind of situation, get curious. Wonder with them/you what other options there might be. Keep wondering until a third real option materializes.

Suddenly the dynamics of making that decision are vastly different. No longer are we choosing between right and wrong or good and bad. Instead, we’re choosing the most helpful, appealing option in this moment.

It’s entirely possible that we will learn some new things, having made that choice.

It’s also possible that we’ll have more choices to make in the future. Along with a handy new way of framing those choices.

And, we’ll have a tremendously helpful new thought pattern to share with the kids we love. They learn fast. It has something to do with having less to unlearn first!

Just like learning to get down to the floor and back up every day, the earlier we start looking for flexible options, the better. It doesn’t feel nearly as scary later when we might really need to know.

Which is, when you think about it, getting some pretty big things done!

Today is a great time to start, or as I was reading in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones…Freeing the Writer Within, “Begin where you are.”

I’m beginning by celebrating sitting cross-legged!






What’s on your list?

It’s 5:54 am, EDT on the longest day of the year and I am awake.

Frankly, this has far more to do with things rolling around in my head than it does with an ambition to see the sun rise on the Solstice, in case you were wondering.

I am, nonetheless, here, watching and listening.

We began with what passes for full dark in an urban neighborhood with street lights.

The very first bird chimed in, excited to sing up the sun. A tweet and then about four trilling sort of notes. Again. And again.

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Perspective is everything!

I’ve been overwhelmed this week with flashbacks to Fathers’ Day (and Mothers’ Day) in the years I was serving a local church.

The major expectations.

The stories no one else knew.

The family that lost a son to AIDS.

The folks longing to be parents.

The families going through divorce.

The parents whose kids had huge physical and mental health challenges.

There just aren’t enough Hallmark cards in the world to make all the pain better on days when everything is supposed to be all warm and cozy.

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“There’s no place like home!”

I woke Monday morning faced with packing and a very long day of travel on the way home from the Rabbit Hole. Part of me wished that I had a pair of ruby slippers and could just click my heels three times and be home.

It turned out just as well that these powerful postmodern ruby slippers are still on their way from Fluevog’s magical shoe elves. It seems there was still more for me to learn on the bumpy flight from Portland.

There was considerable turbulence over Idaho and Utah. I was having trouble reading and decided to check out the movies. Once again, I found a movie with a message for me. A Dog’s Purpose.

Of course, I’d read the book by W. Bruce Cameron, but it had been a while. And I had tissues in my jacket pocket so I took a deep breath and pushed play.

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Doesn’t that just wonder you?

First, let me just say that Oregon is fabulous and, if you haven’t been there, I’d highly recommend it!

The weather in Portland was, mostly, lovely. I saw lakes and mountains and rivers and waterfalls and places where many of those things come together, which is a wonder for this Mid West/South East girl. I had lunch in Washington State, adding yet one more to my list of states visited.

I have crossed through “Tsunami Hazard” zones (Who knew?) and over Humbug Creek, East and West. I even discovered the Museum of Whimsy in lovely little Astoria, OR. Really!

One particular highlight was a visit to Fort Clatsop where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped in Oregon Country during the winter of 1805-06. The model of the original fort left me feeling awed. I’m not sure I could have camped there for half an hour!

Everything being contextual, the only things I really knew before about Lewis and Clark were that they embarked from Missouri and they were accompanied and supported on their journey by a Newfoundland dog named Seaman.

Now, though, I feel some of what they must have felt centuries ago. Mostly the forest.

Hushed. Primal. Upholstered in whiskery moss. Living. Breathing.

A treasure not just as a teaching tool, but as a silent call to cherish and heal our planet.

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The Prom

Once upon a time, nearly 30 years ago, I went to the Prom.

Oh, I’d been before. The usual high school events. Awkward dates. Social pressure. Anxiety.

This was different!

My second year seminary classmates and I decided we needed some fun after a pretty intense year filled with, among other things, Hebrew.

We got permission to have a Prom, reserved some rooms, and hired a DJ.

Then we started spreading the word. Lots of people were excited. All of them asked what to wear.

The response: “Dress creatively!”

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Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach