Tending the Drips

Have you ever noticed that when you become involved in a new group, a new world view, even a new family, there’s a whole lot of new insider language to learn?

One of my favorite examples comes from my own family.

My dad used to get dressed in his oddly colored terry cloth shorts and his sandals and pick up his car keys to head out on some mysterious weekend mission.

Experience had led my mother to ask questions.

We’re talking about a man who famously headed to the garden center to buy grass seed one day and came home with a new car!

After a few years of practice, they had their routine down pat. Daddy would pick up the car keys. Mom would raise one eyebrow in that ominous way I’ve never quite been able to accomplish.

Daddy would calmly comment, “Out. Later. Nothing.”

Even now that they’ve gone on, we’re still known to do the “Out. Later. Nothing.” routine upon occasion and we all understand perfectly!

Today, I learned a new one.

I was watching the last videos for my Legend class in Intentional Creativity. We were working on the final few layers of glaze.

(If there is such a thing as “final” layers of glaze…)

Demonstrating a technique that involves a big brush, a thin layer of paint, and a squirt bottle full of water, our fearless leader soon had a downpour of reddish drips cascading onto the face of a very large cat near the top of her painting.

Not to worry!

Just grab the nearest ancient t-shirt and, tend the drips.

It was really amazing to watch.

Tilting. Patting. Wiping.

Allowing the drips to be where they worked.

Discouraging them where they didn’t.

It went on for quite a while.

Long enough for me to realize that a lot of life is tending the drips.

Tiny acts, over and over again, all designed to bring things closer to the way we hope they will be.

Or, perhaps, closer to the way they hope they will be!

This is a powerful metaphor for someone who lives with three Newfoundland dogs!

Sarah is what’s known to insiders as “dry mouthed.”

Phoebe and Luther are not!

Hence the spit rags strategically placed near doors and chairs.

Along with lessons for guests.

Because sometimes we have more drips than we need. (Ok. Often!)

We also have towels all over the floors on wet, muddy days like today.

Luther hasn’t quite gotten on board with the more traditional paw drying rub down method. And so, we tend the drips.

If you don’t relate to huge, slobbery dogs, think of teething infants.

Or, in some senses, skimming soup pots.

Painting offers a lot of new things for the previously uninitiated to learn.

Keeping the glow. Scrubby brushes. 

How to buy paint.

Assembling easels.

I’m reasonably certain there are about to be a whole lot more things to learn.

It’s a challenge!

Today, though, I found one I understood.

Tending the drips.

As a life skill, it really kind of works when you give it a minute.



Just one word.

I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately.

Mostly writing and art projects.

Missing wandering kids.

Oh, and maybe Henry’s new glasses!

One of my writing friends posted a prompt inquiring about the “soundtracks” of our lives.

It’s kind of a timely question for me as I find myself fishing through stashes of old CD’s for atmosphere and inspiration while I paint.

I seem to be leaning in the direction of ’60’s folk music of the summer camp sort.

Along with some soft rock classics.

A fair number of instrumental, meditative selections.

And a smattering of chant music. Mostly Chinese/Tibetan and Gregorian.

I wouldn’t blame you if you were wondering where the common thread might be.

I wondered a while, myself.

And then it came to me. Intention. 

I’m listening to what I want people see or hear or taste when they look at my art or read my words or eat my soup.

Love. Peace. Hope.

And yes, I sing along.

Some of you who know me really well will suspect that it might be better if I didn’t.

Occasionally the dogs might agree!

There’s a fancy neurological explanation for why singing is such a powerful experience. Simplistically, it has to do with building connections between our right and left brains and even altering our emotional states.

Also, according to my hypnosis guru, it can actually help us get un-stuck from some of our old, ineffective stories, especially if we are moving as we sing. Marching in circles is the classic option.

Dancing works.

Making big, loopy swirls with paint seems to work, too. If you’re up for a real adventure, try both hands at once! (Brushes optional.)

I am continually awed by the complexity of being human. And the opportunities!

Come join the party!

Here are a few of my “current” favorites. Pull up a chair and sit a spell.




Get woke!

If you’ve been reading along for a while, you’ve noticed that I’m kind of hooked on food TV.

At the moment, Bravo’s Top Chef.

I’m not sure I’d be a realistic candidate. There’s more lifting and toting than I’m used to. And, this season, the whole camping in the Colorado winter thing.

Personally, I like my house with central heat and my glass top stove I can set on low and leave to bubble gently all night.

And, just between us, sleeping in tents is not my thing!

All that being said, there’s still a lot to learn. And not just about food!

But, before we get to all that, there’s something else you should know.

I’m not sleeping much these days.

I get tired. I can even sleep for the first couple of hours after I go to bed. All too often, though, I’m awake about 3:00 am.

The kind of awake where your mind is racing with new ideas and things the paintings need and a new recipe for soup.

I try to sleep, because I believe I “should” but it doesn’t work out that way too often.

Then I wind up in my chair with a cup of hot water and lemon and a good book.

Except that my reading gets interrupted every few minutes by yet another thought that I must write down.

The pile of index cards next to my chair is getting impressive!

One of those cards, from a couple of nights ago, says, “Get woke!” with a note to remind me that this is a quote from Top Chef.

It would be handy if my wide-eyed muse would remember to jot down a bit more information as to episode number, etc., but there it is.

As I recall, vaguely, this may have been from the infamous camping in the snow episode earlier this season.

One of the contestants was telling a story about growing up with his grandmother (I think) in, perhaps, a Caribbean nation.

Apparently, Grandma was fond of instructing the children to, “Get woke!”

There sits the index card.

And, while the exhausted part of me just wants to sleep for a week or so, there is another part of me that suspects that maybe, just maybe, my insomnia is about getting woke.

At the very least, I’m deep in a spell of new learning and creating.

And, what materializes as words and images seems to require a lot of processing, which I seem to be doing while most people are sleeping.

Or, perhaps, other people are not sleeping so much either.

It seems as though this is a time in history that may be calling us, more than any other I remember, to “Get woke!”

Sleeping, clearly, would be easier.

For this moment, though, it looks like I’ll be sipping lemon tea and wondering about the bird who seems to be calling, “Who’s there?” as the sun prepares to rise.

Which is, if we’re getting woke, quite possibly the biggest question of all.

Untitled design-45I have two very dear reasons for getting woke. Kenzie and Taylor are growing up in this world.

A very happy birthday to Taylor who is eight today. And big hugs for both my girls!


Now, though, a wee nap. Dinner for the dogs. And glaze!




Voices from the past…

If you’ve been hanging around for a while you know that when Dave was about four — the same Dave who just turned 38 — I wound up, kind of accidentally, in a parenting class called Developing Capable People.

To make a long story less long, I’m so glad I did!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until the cows come home…I’m not sure Dave and I would have made it if it weren’t for the author of the course, Steve Glenn.

Skipping along a bit, I wound up as a certified DCP group leader and, for many years, could practically recite the audio stuff by heart.

Literally, by heart.

This weekend, I’ve been pondering one of the best (and possibly most subversive) things I learned from Steve:

There’s no such thing as failure. Only experience to be learned from.

Read that again, please.

I’m not sure about you, but this is not what I grew up hearing!

I grew up with the notion that failure was shameful and made one somehow less than expected.

And, just between us, I was more than ready to trade that particular perception in for Steve’s considerably more radical notion.

In case you’re wondering why Steve is sitting, psychically, beside me as I write this just now, I have a very simple answer.


A very simple answer and a bit of an explanation.

First, we’re pondering oracles in my Legend painting class, and Steve is right up there on the list of the oracles I’ve encountered.

Secondly, I spilled my brush water. Again.

No worries. That’s why my little vintage serving cart on wheels has paper towels.

It’s also why I posted a question for the far more experienced painters in the circle and asked if anybody knows where the cool little beige paint caddies with sides in all the videos come from!

No time for shame and blame or labels like “clumsy”. It takes time away from painting!

Then there were the eyes.

First, let me say that this is only the third painting I ‘ve ever done, and the first where I’ve attempted open eyes. Very scary!

“Not to worry,” insist the experts. “Just paint over it!”

I didn’t really understand.

I just knew the eyes weren’t working for me. I kept adjusting.

For a while they looked a lot like martini olives. Oops!

Finally, it occurred to me that all the fixing wasn’t fixing anything and I could actually start over!

No failure. Just experience to be learned from.

Hence, the rather alien looking being in the photo above. I adjusted the size of her eyes and then painted out the “olives” and, after what I devoutly hope will be a good night’s sleep, I will begin again.

No shame or blame or labels like “totally without talent”.

Just, as the master sculptor of the Renaissance, Michelangelo, would say, “I am still learning.”

What if that was what we were teaching our kids?

And, for that matter, what if we believed?

I believe. (Most days!)

Who knew? There’s still more to learn!

Hi! It’s me, Luther.

This is a big week at our house. First, it’s my Gotcha week.

That means I’ve been here a year, this week. Rescue dogs, like me, often don’t know when their birthdays are so we get a special time to remember when we got our new homes.

Home is good! I have more and more friends and keep learning new things.

My favorite words are, “Ok, peeps,” which is what Mom says when it’s time for us to go out.

I like out, especially when it’s cool.

Sarah is helping me to practice coming when Mom calls us. She’s been here longer and knows lots of things, though sometimes I think she decides not to do them.

Out is almost as good as dinner, but not quite.

And there’s more good news.

I got promoted to reporter!

We spent the last two nights doing something Mom calls Westminster. Sarah and Phoebe say we do it every year.

Clearly, it had to do with dogs. I could hear them bark but I couldn’t smell them so I didn’t get scared.

I’m not so good at watching TV, though. Mom says I don’t see too well.

I think that’s one of the reasons it’s good that I’m here now.

Mom explained things as they went along.

Dogs run in circles and try really hard not to knock their people down. This is harder for really big dogs like me.

Special friends called judges pet them all over and look at their teeth and watch them move.

Apparently, the judges are trying to decide which of the dogs can do the best job of being the kind of dog they are.

Mom says I’m really good at being a Newfoundland.

Mom also says some of the judges don’t always do things the way she would have done them.

As far as I could tell, lots and lots and lots of dogs ran in those circles.

One of them was a Pekingese Mom liked a lot. He seems to have a famous grandfather who won a few years ago.

Apparently Pekes are little dogs that waddle when they run and look very determined. This guy’s name was Bernie. He came in second in the Toy group which was good but we seemed to be sad about it anyway.

Then there was a Newfie like me. She didn’t win either but Mom said she did really well in the Working group, especially for a girl just getting started.

We watched and watched and watched. (I may have napped a bit.)

Finally, there were just seven dogs running in the circle. We were cheering for a dog called Bean. Mom says he’s a Sussex spaniel.

Bean knows a cool trick. He can sit up on his bum with his front paws in the air and wait for treats.

Apparently, Newfies are not built for this particular trick and Mom says we don’t have to learn that.

I wish we could, though. Mom thought it was really cool.

A tiny white fluffy dog named Flynn won the big silver trophy. Flynn is called a Bichon.

I think it would be fun to have all those people cheering for me, but apparently Flynn takes a bath two or three times a day and I’m not sure about that. Too many towels!

Mom says she used to run in those circles with dogs. I think she might miss it a little bit.

Rescue dogs can’t really run in the circles so much. There are rules.

Mom says that’s ok. She loves us just the way we are.

I’m still learning, though.

I wonder what I’ll know next year that I can’t even imagine yet.

Being a puppy mill dog was not at all a good thing.

Being a rescue dog is a whole lot better.

Though my stuffed chicken doesn’t look nearly as good as it did when I got here!

Thanks for reading. Even if I haven’t slobbered on you yet, you’re one of my friends, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mom and Sarah and Phoebe and me.

Love, Luther




Many kinds of magic…

Growing up, my sister and I had two amazing grandmothers, often differentiated in the family as the farm gramma and the city granny.

Tonight, the farm gramma is much in my memories. You see, there is a huge vat of turkey bone broth simmering on my stove.

I really don’t know if Gramma made soup. She did the hard part!

Elsie raised poultry on the farm in Indiana. Turkeys, geese, chickens. Probably ducks but I don’t remember any colorful stories about them.

(Ask me one day about my dad and a toy bow and arrow and a certain cranky turkey!)

In addition to feeding her family, Elsie was selling eggs to help send her sons to college. (Which is, indeed, an historical issue for another day!)

Just between us, I’m pretty glad I’m not the one raising the birds that wind up in my stock pot.

And I also spend a bit of spare time now and then imagining how shocked Elsie would be about contemporary, sustainable family farming.

Elsie, who lived to be 97, didn’t trust computers.

“They’ll tell you things,” she’d whisper, “that you don’t want to know!”

I think she may have been on to something!

Then again, I’m grateful for the fact that I can sit with my laptop, watching Top Chef re-runs, and magic up a delivery of birds and bones and other yummy things.

I can even get eggs. Real, farm eggs, laid by hens who ran around like Elsie’s no doubt did, being happy, healthy chickens.

I’ve thought about backyard chickens, but there are three Newfoundlands who hold previous title around here and I just don’t see that turning out well.

Frankly, turkeys might stand a chance. They’re big and scaly and kind of pre-historic looking.

And they are, oddly, among my farm heroes.

I can make, conservatively, 50 or 60 meals from the bones of half a turkey, with a couple of miscellaneous additions. Even 100, depending what I do with the broth!

Not to mention some really excellent gravy.

And that’s after we eat the turkey!

I know.

Some of you are all, “Blech!”

I hear you.

I also know that I feel a lot better since I started eating a bowl or two of bone broth, chock full of veg, almost every day.

And I can use less food for my family so there’s more food for others.

I have a magic wand.

I even have a crystal ball.

They’re useful therapy metaphors.

My stockpot is more useful for real world healing.

I’m working on revisions for my book, Let’s Boil Bones! which should be out in paperback this Spring.

Comfort food and research all at once!

It’s a stormy night in Atlanta.

My house smells heavenly.

I don’t hurt.

I think I inherited Elsie’s bird wisdom.

Maybe that’s why the cardinals were all over the garden this morning!



Submit Your Rebel!

One of the most powerful things I learned in all my years of doing Developing Capable People classes for parents and teachers — or was it family therapy??? — was the notion that whether we are complying with an authority or rebelling against it, we are still not making our own choices.

The author, Steven Covey, talks about it a bit differently when he encourages people facing a dilemma to look for a third alternative, opening the way to real choice instead of picking A and rejecting B.

Recently I was advised by the amazing, talented Shiloh Sophia McCloud “submit my rebel” in the Intentional Creativity process.

I can almost hear you gasping! (I know I did.)

This was, frankly, not advice I was hoping for.

I rather like my rebel. Most of the time.

She’s a great buddy for shoe shopping.

Gifted at choosing quilt fabric.

She’s also a really good cook who doesn’t own a microwave.

There are times, though, when she’s not quite so helpful.

Sometimes she tries to get me to “rebel” against things, not just for the sake of rebelling, or because I have a better idea, but because I might do something that scares me. Or calls me out of my comfort zone.

As in, I don’t need to do all the steps in the process. I’ll just skip a few I don’t understand.

Apparently, it’s not just me. In fact, it seems lots of us may struggle with this.

I was a complier for my first 18 years. Then I rebelled the only way I knew how because I was scared. No, make that terrified.

Then I went back to mostly complying for a while. I complied with my knees and my back and the images people had of who I was and what I should be afraid of.

These days I’m working hard on making choices. Real choices. Some of the choices are scary, too.

Like submitting my rebel to the process in Intentional Creativity.

But only one step at a time! I get to keep on choosing along the way.

You might say I’m choosing to choose.

It sounds better that way!





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