A Tale of Three Women (Well, Four) And a Kid

On Tuesday morning, I listened to a recording from my wise and dedicated friends at Sounds True. They’re in the midst of their 2018 online event called Waking Up In the World.

There are many powerful thinkers and speakers in the group. The one I most wanted to hear was on the schedule for Monday evening but I was up to my eyebrows in paint and laundry and dinner and I missed it.

Fortunately, each recording is available, free, for 24 hours and so, early Tuesday, I was plugged in, over a cup of green tea with jasmine and a hint of citrus. I had no idea, when I curled up in one of my magic chairs that make everything hurt less, how much I was going to need the words, the cadences, the heart, of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

She began, as she usually does, with a variation on the invocation that lives deep inside me: “Welcome to the fire of the Dangerous Old Woman… Tribe of the sacred heart… many of us scar clan. Still standing. Still dancing.”

And then she went on to her particular topic of “Still sowing the seeds of new life.”

A Jungian analyst, post traumatic stress specialist, and Contadora — keeper of the old stories — Dr. E. wandered her way through a personal and riveting view of history until she arrived at this time and claimed, as she has been known to do, that “we were created for such a time as this.”

Familiar comfort and gentle nudging in my world, for a regular week.

This has not exactly been one of those.

A bit later on Tuesday the news came that a dear cousin and friend was gravely ill following a cardiac arrest and there was concern about likely brain injury.

East Coast and Midwest family members have been making their way West. There have been painful, tragic decisions to be made.

Early this morning, she passed from this world into the next. We are deeply grateful for all your prayers and concern.

And, while this story is a family thing, it’s a story so many families I know are living in this moment.

In the same way, the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors, sprouting all over social media, is a symbol for a personal story so many of us have experienced that it seems the only thing to do is to make it a national story as well. Or, rather, a human, global story.

Non-consensual sexual impropriety is a misuse of power. Period.

And I would go so far as to claim that affirming — or even overlooking — that misuse of power is to participate willingly in its tragic impact on all the generations to follow.

Dr. Estes, who is a great deal like my Gramma Elsie was, would remind all of us that the enormous misuse of power being enacted on Capitol Hill in the US is exactly such a time for which we were created.

So what do we do?

What do we do in our families and in a nation that is a major player on the world stage, whether it is our own or not?

Well, to borrow a metaphor from one of the wisest elders I know, we sort the seeds, which, in many parts of the world is called voting.

And, with apologies for not having the exact quotes, we plant and tend and support. You’ll know what that means in your world.

And we tell the stories — and paint the images — of the strong, vibrant, life-giving women in our families… the mortal and the spiritual and the legendary.

And we look for opportunities presented to us by second graders named Luke who are collecting donated toys and books and art supplies for families of pre-school and elementary aged refugee children in whatever hood we call home.

And, perhaps most importantly of all… we tell our peeps we love them. Whoever they are and however far away.

Because this is how change happens.

Here’s to you, dear Chris. And to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And to Dr. Estes. And to Gramma Elsie. And to all the fiercely compassionate women who stand up and sow seeds to make the world a better place. And to kids like Luke.

l’chaim. To life, for us all. Still dancing.

(The art is a snipet from my SoulFire painting. Color of Women 2018)

 

 

 

The Difficult C-word!

I’ve been pondering change, lately.

Well, pretty much forever.

I grew up in Florida. During my senior year in high school, our advanced biology class was given the task of setting up, balancing, and maintaining a salt-water aquarium for the school year. No filters or heaters or lights. Just whatever you and your partner could haul home from the beach, along with 20 gallons of seawater and a little fish food.

Gathering was fun.

Setting up was fun. Like underwater interior decorating, with just the right shells and rocks.

Balancing and maintaining were more of a challenge. The fish were all gorgeous until one of them got just a little bigger and started eating all his friends. When it was dark and chilly all through Christmas vacation, some sad sights awaited us when we returned.

Along the way we flushed a lot of dead fish. And made lots of trips to the beach for more suitable companions. More oxygenating weeds. Shells without things dying in them.

Some of my classmates decided to take a C at the end of the semester and quit worrying about it. My partner and I hung in there.

I’m glad we did. I didn’t know it then, but what I was learning was that one little change in any system affects everyone and everything. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that 20-gallon system through the years. Usually when things are changing.

Things have changed a lot in the last year while I’ve been engaged in the journey known as Color of Woman. It’s been amazing. Also hard.

Change is always stressful. Even if it’s the most longed for of changes. It’s always stressful.

My friend, Henry Close, who was trained in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy by Milton Erickson, explains that, before we can change something, we first have to love it. Not hearts and flowers love, necessarily. Just a tiny crack of openness to the possibility that there are huge, often unconscious, things that hold us all back from real relatedness, and yet are, in their own way, trying to help us.

If you’re anything like me, it’s a pretty big challenge. You go ahead and name the folks on your list. Unless they were clinical sociopaths, suggests British psychologist, Donald Winnacott, they were probably doing the best they could, however inadequate or misguided it was. Experimenting with this idea still doesn’t mean that their behavior was acceptable. Or that people weren’t badly hurt. It’s ok if it takes a while.

Now, for the big leap!

The same is true for ourselves. Decisions that turned out badly. Temper tantrums we might have been better off without. Stretch marks. Fear. Nightmares. Anger. Hair we’ve always hated. Opportunities passed by. Self-esteem issues. Actions that haunt us still. We were, in all likelihood, doing the best we could.

Accept yourself, your journey, your body, your dreams. Intentional Creativity is one powerful way to experience that kind of acceptance.

The very best thing we can do for our families is to begin to love the things we hope to change or move past in ourselves for the survival strategies they once were. Like my fishy friends, all those years ago, as we change, everything in the system will change. Eventually for the better.

Excerpted from my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope

The art is is a bit of the portrait of my underwater Muse, 2018.

House of the Heart

When I was growing up, we moved a lot.

Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Florida.

All by the time I was almost 11 years old. Often more than one house per state.

I remember getting out of school one day in first grade and walking into a neighbor’s house, thinking I was home.

Then only thing I really believed about home was that it was temporary. I was never sure I fit in.

Oh, that, and the fact that my dad would always  plant tomatoes. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic!

IMG_3988Growing tomatoes has been a bit more of a challenge in a 21st Century, Metro Atlanta suburb than I remember it being when I was a kid.

The sun is in my front yard. My back yard is difficult to access for one with my history of knee and back issues.

When I put raised beds out front — also known to some of you as horse troughs with holes drilled in the bottoms — the city administration informed me that I had “un-permitted lawn ornaments.”

We had some accessibility conversations and decided that the world would not come to a screeching halt if I grew veg in the front yard.

I didn’t actually plant tomatoes this year. The little guys in the picture are the last of the volunteers, triumphing in their own tiny way over heat and lack of water, and even over squirrels. They are, somehow, still home.

Thirteen years ago, my dad walked on to the new home where we couldn’t follow. I like to think that, if Heaven is remotely what it’s cracked up to be, there must be Liars’ Poker. And tomato plants.

These are for you, Great Grampie Harry.

I’ll try to plant some for real next year. But first collard greens.

And more Intentional Creativity home-work.

Intentionality and Grace

Normally, when I show you food from my kitchen, it’s all nicely lit and carefully plated and, on good days, garnished with a bit of flair and garden herbs.

Tonight is a bit different. You see, what’s on the plate you’re seeing is, in many senses, garbage.

(Don’t run off… it gets better!)

This particular plate of crab shells, also known to many as the smelly part you throw away, started this morning with one of my trips to the Farmers Market for a bit of intentional walking and shopping.

Except that, really, it started in an Intentional Creativity workshop yesterday, with a question I didn’t quite answer well enough.

We were talking about the notion of intentionality. In art. In eating. In shopping. One woman asked something to the effect of how things could be free and healing and perhaps even fun, if they were also “intentional,” which I realized later carried overtones of “externally expected” for her.

We talked about choosing things intentionally, in a positive sense, but there was still a piece of the puzzle missing. One I didn’t have a conscious connection to in just that moment.

If you’ll hang in there with me, I’ll get to the connection. I promise. But first, grocery shopping.

I went to the market primarily hoping for figs. I have an old friend and art sister coming for brunch tomorrow and my favorite  frittata recipe was just calling out for a side of organic Black Mission figs, macerated in really good balsamic vinegar.

So, about 10:00 on this hot, humid morning, I tied on my seriously groovy walking shoes, gathered my various leaving-the-house essentials and headed out for a bit of baby waving along with some hunting and gathering.

An Arab woman, veiled in black, offered me her grocery cart in the parking lot when I waved at her charming baby.

It was blessedly chilly inside and I spotted gorgeous organic figs right away. I scooped them up first. Then, a few tiny organic mushrooms, some baby arugula, and some miscellaneous bits and pieces for the raw fed dogs who will reappear from Camp tomorrow and sleep like rocks until dinner time.

I needed dinner, too.

I also needed a bit of celebration.

You see, on Monday I finished the biggest of the big Intentional Creativity workshops for my Color of Woman graduation. The last required one is all planned for Friday. (The rest are the kind of play that our souls do when we set them free.)

And, I’m leaving for Italy in a few weeks to paint with my teacher and my art sisters, eat some fabulous food and wander in the presence of the Holy Mother.

So, I found myself drifting in the direction of crab claws, as is my habit when celebration is in order.

About a pound of Alaskan King crab legs, and a big bag of ice wound up in my cart and I made my way home.

Here’s where the intentionality part comes in.

Crab legs are, to be sure, an abundance sort of choice and I believe in living in a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. I also believe in stretching the abundance as far as it will go.

It is, finally, about living in integrity with my values.

Among other things, I value rejoicing. And enjoying fabulous, natural food with a sense of respect and gratitude. And investing my financial resources rather than just spending them.

So, the crab shells in the picture above are already in my freezer, ready to become broth that will turn into 4 or 5 more dinners at our house.

(The Instant Pot helps a lot!)

No finger shaking or shaming or blaming involved.

I so deeply want to help my girls know this.

Just a bit of celebration and a powerful boost to the things I value.

Food can be creativity, too. And I’m being intentional.

Tomorrow, more paint!

 

 

Hoping in the Face of Uncertainty

I would imagine that, at some point in your journey, you have hoped for something very much.

Perhaps it was a puppy. Or a baby brother. Or a new first grade teacher. Or a beloved child.

Perhaps it was knowing, deep in your soul, that you are loved.

(Feel free to fill in the blanks!)

Or, perhaps, it was hoping beyond hope that you could accomplish your dream, which is a bit problematic, assuming, as it does, that there is only one dream.

Sometimes, hoping is terrifying.

Tonight, I have decided not to be afraid.

I have decided to hope.

Not just emotionally or mentally, but with as much of myself as possible.

Which reminds me of a story…

One of my dearest friends is the guy who was my seminary pastoral counseling supervisor, my business partner, and still is one of my partners in trying to inject a bit of hope into the institutional church.

He has a granddaughter named Mary Elizabeth, which was, by chance, my grandmother’s name.

When she was learning to talk and interact with her world, she frequently insisted, “Mebbit doodit,” in the face of all the tall people trying to do things for her.

Tonight, I am channeling Mebbit.

I am taking care of the dogs. Making dinner happen. Painting prayer dots in thanks for an old friend who is marking 3 years free of cancer. And hoping against hope for an amazing opportunity for newness that I didn’t think would be available for me.

Many things have to be sorted out.

There isn’t much time.

And yet, I feel capable, calm, and ready for a new adventure into an ancient and totally new place.

There are details to work out.

Nothing is certain, yet.

And, in this moment, this Mebbit could use a bit of help dood-ing it.

But Mebbit believes, and so do I.

So, a bit of dinner.

Some more dots. (OK- lots!)

The risk of hope.

And 3 big dogs snoring gently on the floor while I try not to run over their toes with my fabulous wheeled painting chair in which I make the particular kind of  magic known as art.

May your magic abound also in the world.

And, thanks, Mebbit, for teaching me well!

Oh, parli Italiano?

 

Second Hand Wisdom

Dear Ones,

It occurred to me, several years back, that second hand wisdom is a bit harder to hold on to than the Life is for Learning kind.

Recently, I realized that sometimes they bump into each other in particular moments. Now, I think, is one of those times.

And, I suspect I’m about to butt in. So be it. I’ve traveled far enough in my journey to take the flack.

In the words of Michael Pollan, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Recycle. But, better yet, buy less stuff that comes encased in junk.

Register to vote. Yes, you. Now. Even if it means going online and wrestling with abysmal government websites. This is how we win! (And my girls are counting on you.) If you happen to live in Georgia, you have just less than 30 days. Now would be really good.

Pick up a paint brush. Or a wild purple Sharpie marker. Or, what the heck, some strawberry jam. Draw. Paint. Smear it around. Make big shoulder motions. Laugh when it gets on your clothes. Make loose, swirly, integrating motions. Good comes from adventures like this.

Go do something for somebody else.

You are healed enough. Really!

And make room for the possibility that you can do something for you, too.

Yes, you’re going to have to grapple with fear.

Newness is always that way.

What has been, can be changed.

Honest.

For you and for those you love and for those on the far corners of the planet who long for peace as much as you do.

How do I know?

Not simply because I remember Simon and Garfunkel from back in Central Park in the dark ages when I was a kid, though that helps.

Rather, because I have known a lot of change. Have longed for a lot of change. And have ventured into a lot of darkness to find change.

As the old song goes, it’s a lot about vision.

The kind that looks beyond the places we’ve always been and into the options for the future.

Yes, the journey is scary.

But it’s better than staying stuck. Better than giving into the machine. Better than setting down our paintbrushes.

Does it matter?

Do you matter?

Absolutely!

You just have to show up.

And, just between us, I’m counting on you.

So, as I mentioned, are my girls.

And the rest of the people on the planet with us.

Luther, for one, will be glad you jumped on board. He comes from a long line of fiercely compassionate peacemakers. And is more than willing to adopt you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The miracle happened!!!

Friday night, I slept!

Perhaps, my chatty, opinionated paintings organized a field trip and went to the beach. Or the mountains.

Or, perhaps, I was just pretty tired. (Truth.)

In any event, I slept and dreamed the sort of dreams that don’t compel me to get up and write or paint or watch paint videos long before the birdies sing.

Mostly, I dreamed about vision. The kind I’m gaining as I go deeper and deeper into Intentional Creativity.

(Which is a pretty big thing for someone who hasn’t routinely “seen the pictures”!)

And the kind that’s more about intuition than it is actual eyesight.

Which may have had a lot to do with Luther’s visit from our dear friend the vet yesterday.

IMG_2811-2-1300x975Luther, it seems, is not seeing so well as he was before, and he didn’t see all that terribly well back then.

Which was, for me, a bit of a blast from the past.

My grandmother noticing, the year I was in 5th grade, that I squinted at books and sat very close to the television.

A teacher concurring but reluctant to speak out lest she be, you know, wrong.

Stepping out of the eye doctor’s office with my first pair of glasses, and realizing, as many of you have probably also done, that I could see actual, individual leaves on trees.

Which seemed quite a miracle!

Sadly, dogs aren’t so known for wearing glasses. And, if he had some, Luther might well eat them.

So, research.

It’s a bigger question with this giant breed guy than one might imagine. We’re going to need a veterinary ophthalmologist who is pretty open-minded as to process.

Luther has been through a lot of trauma and I am, it seems, his transitional object.

Rather like Old Bernard.

Old Bernard was Dave’s beloved, and essential, stuffed St. Bernard puppy, complete with crushed pecan shell legs which I spent a fair amount of time suturing up over the years.

Old Bernard got us through many of the tribulations of a small child with a student/working single mom. Daycare. Doctors’ visits. Mom’s exams in nursing school. You get the idea.

And I am, it seems, Luther’s Old Bernard.

We’ve tried stuffed animals. He consumes them.

So, we need a specialty vet in an office as small and calm as possible. A lavender oil diffuser would not be out of order! A little Wholetones music!

And we need a vet who will let me participate.

Did I mention that Luther weighs about 130 pounds?

And definitely sorts for same?

It’s likely that much of the conversation will focus around protecting Luther’s considerably stronger vision in his right eye.

We’ve lived with a blind rescue dog before but wee, Bischon-esque Albert weighed about 18 pounds.

This is a whole different world!

Honestly, I wouldn’t be too surprised to find Luther and Albert and Old Bernard romping around in my dreams tonight.

Until then, I have more prayer dots to make.

Tomorrow, sushi and dumplings at Noodle in Decatur. A fabulous local, pasture raised chicken headed for the Instant Pot. And a huge tray of roasted veg. Maybe two trays. It’s a great way to make easy, real meals on busy days as the week goes on.

Oh, and CODEX (my new painting class which is, perhaps, more of a thinking class) starts tomorrow!

Deep breaths… in and out and in and …

Oh, and the art for today… signs are everywhere, if only we’re willing to see. Even in my bathroom! Complete with a lovely angel from the Southern US folk art wizard, Flack.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher