What are you going to be?

Frost season has arrived in Atlanta. The deck is really cold. And, at our house, Charlie Brown and his pumpkin patch friends are hoping against hope to actually make it out of the basement for the festivities this year.

The freezer is well stocked with fabulous butternut squash soup.

And one of the superstore chains is oh, so happy to remind you that you can get same day pick up on costumes.

Clearly, it’s almost Halloween.

Just between us, this particular holiday has never been one of my personal favorites.

It’s grown on me some since my girls came along and there are trick or treat bags to sew and pictures to look forward to, each year more amazing than the last.

The thing that most surprises me, though, is all the people wondering what I’m going to “be” for Halloween.

Here’s the scoop:

I’m going to be a grandmother!

(Not more babies. Just more awareness.)

My “sparkly silver” hair is all set. And a bit wild-looking in a maybe growing out kind of way these days!

All I need is my favorite peachy-orange Oxford cloth shirt covered, as it usually is, with quilt threads and dog hair. Paint spatters are not out of the question.

Black leggings.

And, who knows? If it really gets chilly I might even bust out the magical ruby slippers that followed me home from Portland in June.

The whole “costume” question seems to be almost an obsession in our world.

What are we going to “be” in our lives? And how will we communicate that to others? Especially the little ones who are watching us?

It used to be easier for me.

Back in the day, nurses and pastors had pretty specific “costumes” for going about their business. At least it seemed so at the time. Though it got a bit more complicated if you happened to be a “girl” pastor in the south.

For a while, even before Steve Jobs, I flirted with the “uniform” theory. You know. One less thing to think about.

Inevitably, though, I busted out of the box and wound up with a bunch of random “fun” things that never seemed to solve the what-to-wear problem.

Eventually, I read a book that suggested starting to plan a wardrobe with adjectives rather than color swatches.

A concept I understood!

Three descriptive words for what you hope to “say” with a wardrobe.

(Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

The thing that continues to wonder me about the three words I chose, close to 15 years ago, is that they still work for me!

Not that my wardrobe choices are still the same. Or my life, for that matter. But the message still feels true.

Now, just between us, I’ve tried hard to figure out how to tell this story without actually telling you the words I picked. It feels really personal.

It seems, though, that there’s no way around it. Your words will no doubt be different. (That’s the way it’s supposed to work.) Mine were/are:

Wise, Creative, and Refined

Let’s start with a bit of reality! When you live with three Newfoundland dogs,  actually looking refined is, at best, a special occasion option.

These days, the meaning that particular adjective has for me falls somewhere between the William Morris notion I mentioned recently of having nothing we do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful and moves on to the old quote by Coco Chanel about getting all dressed and accessorized, then removing one piece.

Both of these ideas inspire me.

Wise and Creative have some more practical applications.

At this point in my journey, Wise reminds me of safe, organic, natural fabrics. Almost nothing that needs to be dry cleaned. Layers of all-season garments. As few shoes as possible.

Creative is all about flexibility and color and imagination, with a few quirky accessories.

I’m loving the environmentally friendly, colorful, decidedly quirky clothes from Gudrun Sjoden these days. It’s like Garanimals for grandmothers!

And, of course, a red thread around my wrist.

This year, I’m going to be me for Halloween.

How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

“I love to go a-wandering…”

I spent a recent morning in the Decatur post office.

You’ll have a better grasp of what a big deal this was when I explain that I’d do just about anything to avoid going to the post office. Bill will confirm that fact.

This, however, was a special mission.

I needed to renew my passport which is a bit ironic for a woman who, for a lot of boring logistical reasons, needs to negotiate dog-sitter time for a quick trip to the Farmers Market.

But, let’s back up just a bit.

I hate paperwork. I hate government forms. I’m none too fond of having my picture taken.

So why did I find myself leaning against the wall, waiting for the door to the passport kingdom to open at 9:15 on a Thursday morning?

I love my kids!

And this year, we’re going on a cruise for Christmas.

I can’t wait!  And yet, complications abound.

First, there are the usual sort.

When is school out? Who has to work when? Which choices are–shall we say–better investments?

Then there are the somewhat more complicated sort. Names. Birth certificates. Social Security cards. Not numbers. Just cards.

Then there are the really cosmic sort. You see, we made these plans just before the 2017 onslaught of hurricanes started.

It’s entirely possible that we’re getting on a boat headed for several places that aren’t there anymore.

On the one hand, it’s no big deal. I’ll happily float around and teach the girls to play Cribbage.

On the other hand, it’s a huge deal for the world.

I have friends in South Florida. And Puerto Rico. And the Dominican Republic.

Friends who are thrilled that, even though they lost all their stuff, their houses are still standing. And friends who are less thrilled.

Friends who are still wondering when they will have power and clean water.

I also have friends who don’t have the luxury of being able to plunk down some papers from the file cabinet so they can go where they want to be.

And a whole bunch more friends who are trying, with every fiber of their beings, to figure out what you and I can do about all of that.

There don’t seem to be any easy answers.

In fact, the best thing I’ve got is to hang out with people asking the same questions.

Here’s where my list starts:

More experience. Less stuff.

Getting out of our personal safe spaces and meeting people from other places.

Hearing the stories those people need to tell.

Voting for people who realize that climate change is important and urgent and real.

So, a couple of months from now, I’m getting on a boat with the people I love the most, and a whole bunch more I’ve never met.

Pens and paper and cameras will no doubt be involved.

So will some conversations about blessings. And how to share them.

I don’t know what will change in our lives because of this trip, but I’m pretty sure we’ll learn some things we don’t know now.

Sure enough to show up at the Decatur post office at 9:15 in the morning and sign papers, swear oaths, and write a very official check, all to make the cruise, which may be going to nowhere, a possibility.

I’m betting my girls and I will learn something.

Maybe Cribbage!

Also, I suspect, that the world is both huge and very, very close by.

 

“Before I built a wall…”

Hi! It’s me, again. Sarah.

There’s been a lot going on at our house lately. Mom says some of it’s my fault, which doesn’t seem to be a thing that gets me more treats.

I think it started about three weeks ago, though I’m better with clocks than calendars.

Mom went out to run a fast errand, which usually means she comes home with food.

Luther and Phoebe and I stayed home with one of our favorite aunties who was helping mom with some stuff that needed to get done.

Luther and Phoebe were in the house. According to Mom, I was being stubborn–whatever that is–and wanted to stay outside.

It’s started to be Fall here!

As the story goes, right after Mom left I got out of the gate.

I’ve done that a couple of times before, though I’m never quite sure how it works.

It seems like I just want something really badly and I’m on the other side, though nobody can quite figure out how. I just go to the driveway and wait for something exciting to happen!

Anyway, one thing led to another and our friend Greg came as soon as he could to fix the gate.

Fixing made lots of noise.

Something called sawing and some more stuff called drilling. We all had to stay inside for a long time.

I wanted to help. Mom said I could help most by staying inside.

Sometimes she’s no fun!

Anyway, the gate is “fixed”. I can’t see through it anymore and it doesn’t move when I push. Also, it smells like new wood.

Mom seems more relaxed now and we get to play outside for longer times.

Yesterday it was really pretty out and we all sat on the deck. Mom was reading to us.

Something called a poem.

It seemed to be about fences, but also a little about me, even though it was written by somebody I never knew called Robert Frost, a long time ago.

“Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.”
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

Mom says fences are often hard but that this one was an easy choice for us.

There’s a big road right behind our house with lots of traffic and Mom seems really sure it’s dangerous.

There’s a smaller road out front but there are rules and one of the rules is that dogs have to be on leads and I never had my lead on back when I used to get out of the gate.

I can’t get out any more.

Somehow, though, I think I can’t get out anymore because Mom loves us, which feels different than the poem she read.

Today, Luther and I chased squirrels and Phoebe rolled on her back in the grass which she likes to do a lot.

Then Mom called us in and gave us all our favorite treats.

She seems to like it when we do what she asks us to do.

(Though, apparently, I’m supposed to try harder!)

Mom writes poems, too. Not usually about fences.

I’m not sure if this is a poem but it might be. I tried hard.

Love, Sarah

I used to bake bread.

Really, I did!

Delicious, perfectly textured, yeasty, golden brown bread in gorgeous pottery loaf pans, scenting the house with a hint of heaven.

I loved the process.

Planning. Checking the pantry. Checking the calendar. Doing the math on mealtime.

I loved the mixing. Measuring just so, even though that’s not my usual thing. Everything in just the right order. (It matters!)

A bit of help with the kneading from the magical mixer. My shoulder singing its gratitude.

Mostly, I loved what came next.

Rising.

Helped out, according to the season, with a light bulb or an ever so slightly warmed oven.

Alchemy in my kitchen!

Then, what bakers refer to as punching down, which always struck me as a bit more assertive than necessary. The heel of one hand pressed into the puffy dough, deflating it before my eyes.

And then, hand kneading. Just a bit, with a smidge of leftover flour, silky, elastic dough on the way to loaf pans for more rising.

Baking, next of course. Fragrant. Comforting. And the torture of cooling.

Actual eating, almost (but not quite!) anti-climactic after a day of music for all the senses.

Take. Eat. Ritual as much as anything.

I used to bake bread.

And how my grandmother used to bake 40 loaves a week on a wood stove will remain a cosmic mystery for me!

Now, though, I am in a season apart from eating bread. (And pasta and most grains. Except for a bit of rice with really good sushi now and then.)

It’s not that I no longer appreciate them.

It’s just that I feel a lot better when I don’t eat them. I’m more mobile. Less limited.

These are great things!

Greater, perhaps, than actually eating the bread.

Oddly, the baking of the bread is still with me, even though only in my memory just now. In some unexpected way, I am changed by the bread I have baked.

By a commitment to the best ingredients I could get.

By finding time for an art form.

By rolling around in the process with all of who I am.

Do I have questions?

Well, yes. Conflicts, even, some days.

For now, though, I’m appreciating.

Appreciating what I learned baking bread.

Appreciating how I feel when I choose, in this season, not to eat it.

This is not an “all or nothing” kind of experience.

Instead, it’s something much harder.

An experience of making room for the many things that are true, even when they don’t always go together very well.

Harder, and still more helpful, I think.

Where have you had similar experiences?

What have you learned?

What difference might it make in your world?

I used to bake bread.

Bread is baking me still.

A Blast From the Past

In 1968, I lived with my parents, a younger sister, a springer spaniel and a golden retriever, in a west-side Chicago bedroom community called Wheaton, Illinois.

I was in the 4th grade while we lived there,  and then the first half of 5th grade.

Wheaton was a tiny town most known for a college made famous by Dr. Billy Graham. (And some fairly well-known relatives on my dad’s side.) There was a quaint downtown area, a couple of blocks square, with a commuter train stop.

What I didn’t know then was that, in the days when Dr. King was killed, leaders of the Civil Rights movement were helping black families settle in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods right there in Wheaton. A child of one of those families went to my school.

What I did know then was that I’d been the new kid often enough to be concerned for that particular new kid.

It would be reasonable for you to wonder why this story is rolling around in my head this day.

Perhaps it’s simply lack of sleep from last night’s bone broth marathon.

More likely,  it’s Turner Classic Movies’ showing of the movie, Yours, Mine, and Ours, complete with Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda and a young Tim Matthieson, who grew up to be John Hoynes on The West Wing.

Yours, Mine, and Ours was the first movie my sister and I were ever allowed to go see by ourselves. It was 1968.

The movie theatre in Wheaton was a tiny, vintage sort of establishment, just next door to a popcorn vendor, who claimed a space half the width of the adjoining alley. It was really, really, really good popcorn, complete with actual butter.

Mom and Dad dropped us off one afternoon with money for popcorn and for the pay phone when the movie was over.

Given the amazing fact that we were almost exactly the same ages that my girls are now, I have more than a bit of trouble imagining that felt safe even all those years ago.

I’m also oddly glad it did.

The news these days doesn’t exactly sound like Yours, Mine, and Ours. 

It didn’t sound so much like that then either.

So, tonight, I watch old movies while perfectly dry brined chickens roast in the oven with some basting help from Bill, and pray that the news will be better and the fires will stop and all the kids will be welcome and love will prevail.

Afterall, we’ve been working on it for a long time.

It may be time to work harder.

 

 

Good Enough!

I remember the Sunday before the first Gulf War began. Much of the world–the portion I want to be part of–was hoping and praying that bloodshed would somehow be avoided.

I was not only hoping and praying, I was also preaching in a tiny church in Tennessee.

In a time when there was really nothing to say, I put it all out there. Everything I had. It was terrifying.

The parts of my internal process that my friend, the fabulous artist and author, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, refers to as inner critics were having a field day.

Who are you to think you have something to say?

What difference could it possibly make to hope and pray in the face of war? 

What if you piss somebody off?

My inner critics clearly did not realize that when 11:00 Sunday morning (or in that case, 10:00) rolls around, the one in the long black robe has to have something to say.

To be fair, the inner critics mean well.

In many ways, they’re either mimicking the things they heard and believed when we were growing up, or they’re trying to keep us safe.

Though often safe in the sense of overprotected and voiceless which isn’t really safe at all.

My inner critics have been jumping up and down again in these days, perhaps urged on by the many requests for prayers on Facebook countered by folks raising questions about whether hope and prayer actually help people facing wildfires and hurricanes and earthquakes and poverty and violence and threats to civil rights.

Who are you to think you have something to say?

What difference could it possibly make to hope and pray in the face of all the overwhelming news in our world? 

What if you piss somebody off?

It seems that the inner critics haven’t learned a lot of new stuff recently!

And, those are not totally unreasonable questions.

They are, however, the questions of comparers and perfectionists and they are not our most resourceful questions.

For now, I’m sticking with SARK:

Good enough is the new perfect!

You, and I, and all of us have something to say about the needs of our world.

Spelling doesn’t count.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Oxford comma or not. (Well, it might, but not in this moment!)

And, as somebody once printed on a T-shirt, speak your mind even if your voice shakes.

That’s how we teach our kids. Yours. Mine. All of them.

And whether you believe in hope or prayer or positive energy, I’m counting on the notion that enough of us doing it together does make a difference.

As for pissing people off, if you speak your truth, you probably will. But a whole lot more folks will stop and wonder if they might just be able to speak their truth, too, since, afterall, you did.

Words work. Art works. Soup works. Running a post on Facebook to see if anybody knows anybody who has a horse trailer available to help rescue horses near Sonoma and Napa works too.

Listening also works. Sitting with the pain. Staying in the room.

Hugs work.

Money certainly doesn’t hurt, sent carefully to the people who really need it.

The counselor and coach who live inside me, wrestling with the inner critics, have taught me many things.

One of those things is that it’s entirely likely that the words I’m writing in this moment are the words I need to hear.

When you remember, though, that many of the things I need are things we all need, it’s not such a bad way to go.

So, for this moment, I’m sticking with Susan.

Good enough is the new perfect.

Welcome to the club! Let’s go make a difference!!!

 

 

 

 

 

What makes you ask?

You know how you don’t know what you don’t know until you know?

I’ve been thinking about that today. The story started a while ago.

A client walked into my office one day, and asked what I knew about Feng shui.

“Um, nothing,” I replied. “What makes you ask?”

It had something to do with a major disagreement over the color of a sofa.

I was admittedly relieved when we moved on to other things.

I was also curious. I don’t tend to be fond of things I know nothing about.

So, a trip to the bookstore later, I began reading about ancient Eastern schools of Feng shui.

It has to do with space and energy and intention. Also numbers and colors and compass points. Suffice it to say that there’s a whole lot to learn.

Here’s my favorite part: According to the Feng shui gurus, it takes a great deal more energy to ignore, avoid, or sublimate the things in our worlds that aren’t working for us than it does to fix them.

It recently came to my attention that I’ve been ignoring/avoiding a few more things than might be optimal for my health and creativity.

Thus, some intense days of sorting and releasing and rearranging and, if all goes according to plan, making some things work better.

There have been moments when I’ve felt buried under the stuff of old visions. I mean, what is a person who happily wears the same two pairs of earrings about 363 days of the year doing with heaps of earrings that used to be trendy but turned out to only make noise or get caught in favorite sweaters?

Fashionable briefcases that won’t hold my laptop, let alone my beloved sketchpads and markers?

A silver lame’ phone clutch my phone won’t fit into?

Really cool shoes that haven’t been comfortable since about 4 knee surgeries ago?

I’m tired. There’s more work to do. And, oddly enough, none of that really has much to do with the motivation for this whole project, which has more to do with keeping the dogs and me from going nuts that it does with how many purses I need to own.

Progress has been made, though.

Along with a reminder that progress is often messy.

And another reminder that this is what we might call a first world challenge.

We’re not talking survival.

We’re talking enhancement.

We’re talking energy.

Energy set free to do the things I feel called to do.

Some of which, every now and then, help other people do the things they feel called to do.

Which, ultimately, helps us all to thrive.

(Though the trash collecting folks may not be thrilled, come Monday!)

Through it all, there’s been a quote running through my head.

Have nothing in your homes which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

These words come from William Morris, ironically another author, artist, and activist, associated with the British Arts and Crafts movement.

Take a deep breath, if you’re inclined, and imagine what that might be like.

Have nothing in your homes which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

If we’re being really honest, we have quite a way to go at our house.

I’m delighted, though, that I have reclaimed my commitment to getting a whole lot closer than we have been.

For me it means less stress. More freedom. And actual horizontal space here and there.

I have a birthday coming up next year. One of the ones the world thinks should be earth-shattering. I’m kind of looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on getting closer and closer to the vision William Morris shared with the world back in the late 1800’s.

Where does that vision fit in your life?

 

 

 

 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher