Stories of Hope and Newness

A few days ago, I signed a petition to end efforts to ban socially relevant books in prisons. Alice Walker was on that list!!! In my opinion, reducing crime in this country means including more ideas, and readers of ideas, in the conversation, rather than excluding them.

It’s not really much of a surprise. Books have been huge in my life since my days of Scamper Squirrel, long before I could pronounce it, let alone actually read it. Then, Sally, Dick, and Jane came along with a massive sense of empowerment. I could actually read about them all on my own. I especially liked Spot!

These days, books are still huge in my life. I’ve even written a few! The stack, above, are some of my long term most essential friends, along with some new additions to my world view.

I’ll admit that, on the surface, they may not all seem to play well together and yet, in my mind, they do.

What they all have in common is a journey toward learning more stories. More life-giving stories.

Now, I’ll admit that not all stories work equally well for me. I skip really violent tales. And I don’t relate all that well to science fiction, though I’m really glad it’s there, especially for those like one of my granddaughters who became a way more confident reader when she discovered sci fi books. I do like historical things, and books with a lot of symbolism, and just about anything that’s really, really well written.

You probably have your favorites, too, and they don’t have to be the same as mine.

Here’s the way I think about many of these issues…

Today is the eve of the Jewish New Year and the beginning of Rosh Hashana, for which the appropriate greeting is shanah tovah, which means, “good year.” According the the Hebrew calendar, this begins the year numbered 5780.

It is a time of prayer and self-reflection and, as I learned yesterday, part of the tradition is to eat apples and honey for a sweet year. 

These are not the traditions with which I was raised, though they are, in some senses, my traditions as well, because they are the traditions of the people who came before some of the people who became mine. And also the traditions of those who have become mine more recently.

There’s a big neuro-linguistic programming shift lurking in that last thought.

It’s about sorting for same rather than different. 

Or, to put it another way, it’s about the things which connect us, rather than things which may, through some filters, seem to divide us.

And many, many of those things are stories. Stories with words and stories in images and stories of relationship.

Stories of newness.

So, Shanah Tovah, to you and yours. May we share our stories and learn those of others and look forward to a sweet future together!


Wednesdays Come Faster Than Sundays!

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind of doing so far. One of those weeks that remind the preacher inside me that Wednesday feels like it comes around way faster than Sunday! And a clear message that time for reflecting leads to things like blogs and sermons and paintings.

There are several gallons of bone broth (aka Bird Soup!) cooling in the kitchen, a creative process which began with thawing on Monday, and simmering from Tuesday until today, about 24 hours of cook time. Surely, at least some of Heaven smells like this!

I’ve painted on three different projects so far this week.

And, a bit earlier today, I joined some of my paint sisters in a guided visioning journey that had to do with steps into the future and gathering and planting, all of which are happening literally and figuratively in my world, just now.

True confession… I have a tendency to wander off on my own during visioning moments, perhaps because the visual part of the experience is often missing for me.

Today, though, I was struck by a particular phrase.  Something along the lines of:

What is your right pace for stepping in this moment?

My first reaction was a little faster than I can go right now!

I’m still having some challenges with a muscle injury in my calf.

IMG_5967Ever helpful, Luther seems to have appointed himself resident physical therapist. In fact, I leaped over him conservatively 17 times yesterday while I was getting the broth pot going. Everybody knows the best place to lay is in the middle of the kitchen floor, between the sink and the stove!

And, no, Luther has not yet developed a grasp of getting up and moving unless the spirit moves him. (I’m holding hope on that one!)

When I thought a bit more about the stepping question, though, I realized that the answer for me is to just keep stepping.

It really doesn’t feel like a contest, but more a matter of perception.

I’m choosing to perceive myself as a being in creative motion, rather than a being sitting still. (Even when I’m sitting still in the service of moving some more!)

And, speaking of creating… The photo above is a glimpse of one of my CODEX paintings-in-progress.

Before I tell you what it says, let me explain first that Hebrew was not my best academic adventure!

So, allowing for missing vowel points and a bit more proof-painting to come, the word, read from right to left is pronounced ba-rah and means create. 

And here’s the punch line, as it were. I realized, recently, that what keeps me stepping from one stone to another in my world is the deep calling to create everything from paintings to soup to love.

Just between us, that feels like a really good place to be! Where are you noticing creativity in your world?


A Place in the (Extroverted) Cosmos

I am, by natural tendency, an introvert. I’m the one pouring tea or doing dishes at church dinners or parties because I feel better when I have a task. I need quiet, reflective, alone time to re-charge when I’ve done too much.

Extroverts, however, are not unfamiliar to me. I’m married to one. Most of our Newfie rescue dogs have been extroverts.

Once upon a time, my official title was Evangelist. This is not an easy function for introverts!

This week, though, I found myself doing an extrovert imitation. It started with patching together homemade hang tags for four of my paintings and helping to hang my first show on a wall made available to me by a generous friend.

While we were hanging things, I met a woman who was prepping for an art bazaar, planned for the next day.

I actually followed her outside, introduced myself and asked about how I might get included in the next bazaar. (Not typical for me!) We chatted, I gave her my info, and she came back inside to see my art.

Since then, I shared my photos on Facebook, designed new hang tags, and stickers for the cellophane bags that hold small matted pieces, got a dear friend to do the layout, and ordered a bunch during the big sale going on at Moo.

I’ve emailed my new friend, the bazaar-organizing woman, about important things like tents and tables.

Along those lines, I’ve chosen a Musea sign to order for my new classroom space.

Spent a great afternoon with one of my paint peeps who is getting ready for a middle school art show.

The washer is washing. The dryer is drying. My studio is set to begin The Gospel According to Her tomorrow.

And, my leg is back on a pillow.

It occurred to me, a bit earlier, that being a member of the Intentional Creativity community is, for many of us, quite like being an evangelist. I just want to share the ways that working with images is changing my life, including my spiritual journey. And, I truly hope, the world my girls will inherit. Even if it means summoning my extroverted alter ego!

For now, I have a workshop to plan and I’m wondering what is calling you forth in your world!

First, one more adventure into the cosmos of extroverted evangelists, just in case you happen to be hunting for an awesome, sturdy phone case for that shiny new iPhone…

The case pictured above shows an under layer of one of my paintings which is known as A Place in the Cosmos. It’s available, along with several other choices, at Fine Art America. Android fans are invited, as well! And, should you not be into cell phones, there are yoga mats and tote bags and throw pillows, too.

Hugs, introverts, extroverts, and even ambiverts, all!



It’s Wednesday, Again!

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Wednesday comes every week. One day in seven.

Hump Day for much of the Monday through Friday world. (A concept I found difficult in my nursing and preaching days!)

These days, as I’ve mentioned, Wednesdays are Work-in-Progress days. Officially, that has to do with paintings in progress. The ones that we need to get back to, or the ones we’re still listening to for more guidance, or the ones that may be begging for a big, scary glaze and a do-over.

Today, I had a different thought. It came to me while I was washing paint brushes this morning. Seemingly endless paint brushes!

There’s not much thinking involved in washing brushes and, apparently, my mind felt free to wander. And wonder.

What, I wondered, would my world look like if Wednesdays were Life-in-Progress days? Or Being-in-Progress days?

What if Wednesdays were to become days set aside for making progress on my personal journey? Or yours???

Perhaps some journaling. Not because I should, but because I’m curious.

A bit more time on Feng shui issues like closets. Tidying up things that are important but not necessarily urgent.

Possibly, even, sorting the freezers. Not because I’m supposed to, but because knowing what’s in them, and having it all where I can get at it means we’re way more likely to eat what we already have which is all kinds of good news for us and for the world.

Hearth Tending, as it were, for my own hearth.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one wondering!

As I finished up the brushes, and was wiping drips of paint-y water off the counter top, I noticed that I had a visitor. Being observant readers, you’ve probably guessed who!

There she sat, amidst an assortment of hair products, slightly the worse for wear and wiggling her one antenna at me. I dried my hands and tried to pick her up gently for a trip out to the deck.

Instead, she clung, with her bristly legs and feet, to her perch. She was still there when I last checked.

I went, as has become my habit when encountering unexpected friends, to look up the symbolism of grasshoppers.

Here’s some of what I found, courtesy of the mini library known as my cell phone.

Grasshoppers have the ability to leap into space where the mysteries of life exist. When the grasshopper appears to us we are being asked to take a leap of faith and jump forward into a specific area of life without fear. Usually that specific area is one that we have avoided and is often connected to change on a larger scale. 

Grasshoppers can only jump forward…not backward, or sideways. So, when grasshopper shows up she could be reaffirming to you that your are taking the right steps to move forward in your current situation. Or… telling you to go ahead and move forward, getting past what is hindering you.

This is why grasshopper is the symbol of good luck all over the world.

Grasshopper’s ability to connect and understand sound vibrations is why she is also a symbol of your inner voice. She could be telling you to trust yours. 

All of which sounds okay to me! And I can think of lots of reasons why I might need such a message from a grasshopper these days. I wonder what occurs to you…

(If you scroll on down, you’ll find a place for comments and I’d love to know what you’re thinking! Or you can email me. Or leave a Facebook comment.)

Before I head off to the closet, I’ll leave you with one more thought.

What might things be like if we all chose a day to move forward on some of the places where we’ve felt stuck? If we listened to our own voices? And used our own where we most need to? And helped our kids learn some of these possibilities, too?

I’ll keep you posted!

p.s. I’m delighted to report that our grasshopper friend was gently escorted outdoors and has wandered off in search of her own dreams!

Paying Attention!

One of the eternal truths of counseling, especially the sorts that involve couples, is that communication requires both sending and receiving messages.

I was pondering this the other day when Luther, one of our Newfie rescue dogs, was sending loud messages, as is his habit. When he first came to us, about two and half years ago, Luther wasn’t much for communication. In fact, his only response to virtually anything was an attempt to disappear into the floor.

I’m delighted that he is finding his voice. I’m less delighted that his particular voice is very loud and sharp. It reminds me of a radio station Bill used to like. It felt to me like nearly every other song they played was in some key that reminded me of nails on a chalkboard. And Luther doesn’t seem to be equipped with a wait button.

Thus, he barks, usually when he wants in or out the door. Receiving the message loud and clear, I respond, “I hear you!” and begin the process of liberating myself from wherever I’m sitting or whatever I’m doing to see what he needs.

I’ll freely admit that Luther’s messages probably feel somewhat more urgent to me than they might if he weren’t blind. I’m always concerned that he’s stuck someplace, or lost, which still happens sometimes.

Usually, though, he’s just impatient to get to wherever he wants to be next.

Recently, I’ve been receiving some similar messages from a muscle gone rogue in my right calf. Messages that remind me a bit of a conversation with the dogs.

Sit! Now! Owww!!! Stay! Down! 

A week or so ago, I got some help from my friend and mentor, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, known to many of you as the magical author and artist, SARK. She sent out an email, sharing about her recovery process from broken ankle. “Unlikely” as this seems, Susan was apparently trying to rush the healing!

Then she recalled some words of wisdom from a physical therapist who said something along the lines of the ligaments and tendons that were injured in the fracture are still healing and when you push them too fast they send “shut down” messages to your brain.

That sounds familiar! In fact, it sounds so familiar that I actually decided to pay attention and took Saturday off. Well, mostly.

It turns out that it is possible to knit prayer shawls while sitting with feet up and a good cup of tea. So, that’s pretty much what I did.

A set of size 11 circular needles and self-striping yarn. Around and around and around. Rainbows of hope.

Hope for me and my healing. Hope for my family. Hope for the ones who will eventually receive these particular shawls. Hope for the world.

That last one takes a bit of repetition for me. But, if you’re going to take a day off, it’s not a bad way to spend some time. And if, by chance, you don’t knit, prayer dots or blowing on dandelion fluffs or some time spent gazing at the spectacular moon will all work, too.

I suspect most of us could use all the hope we can get!

And, if you do knit, check with faith communities in your area to see who might need prayer shawls. These are headed for Shallowford Presbyterian Church, here in Atlanta.

ps… Here’s a sneak peak from my new painting, Blossom and Aria, complete with dandelions filled with hope! You can find more of my work at Sue’s Shop


Thought Quilts

I have been a writer pretty much all my life. Somewhere around the year 2000, I became a quilter and a cauldron stirring creator of bone broth. It was during that time that I first began to think of myself as an artist.

These days, I’ve been painting way more than quilting. (There’s only so much room in my house!) I often notice, though, that my life feels a lot like quilting. I wander around the world collecting scraps of thoughts and dreams and images, much like bits of Gramma’s apron or a scrap from a first day of school dress and, eventually, they come together in a way that teaches me… that connects the puzzle pieces into new perceptions. There’s been a whole lot of that going on this week!

Today is, of course, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA. Writer that I am, I need some words about that. I’m also Hearth Tending in the Red Thread Cafe Classroom today. (That’s Intentional Creativity ® speak for a Facebook group where Wednesdays are Work-in-Progress days and we share what we’re noticing and wondering, and what’s on our easels, with a bit of help from folks like me to hold space for witnessing, celebrating, and offering support.) I need some words for that, too.

I found bits and pieces of those words over the last 24 hours or so.

The first came in the form of a meme posted by a dear Newf Rescue buddy of mine which read, All I want for Christmas is Trump the [bleep] out of office! 

I’ll admit, I was tempted to re-post it, which probably isn’t much of a surprise to most of you. Instead, I read on.

70494044_10162379408920405_280358736185262080_oA few minutes later, I came across a post from an old friend of mine, The  Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, on the right, who is the director of the Washington Office for the Presbyterian Church (USA), standing beside The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II who serves as national co-chair of the growing force known as the Poor People’s Campaign.

Suddenly the pieces of a new thought quilt began falling into place as I realized that both of those posts are true for me.

I do want the current occupant of the Oval Office out of there. And, through the lens of the Poor People’s Campaign, I can see that while he’s still there, he is, in fact, serving a purpose.

However unintentionally, in all his seeming efforts to kill the Constitution and healthcare and voting rights and the Statue of Liberty and the very planet we live on, he is holding up a mirror in which we have the chance to see reflections of what we truly value.

(Now, I’m not the first person to have had this thought. Carl Jung and Richard Rohr and Shiloh Sophia McCloud, to name just a few, have been there ahead of me, in one context or another. But somehow the vision became more clear for me when I “quilted” it myself.)

To be fair, the mess that we’re in nationally and globally right now isn’t new and it hasn’t all materialized since the 2016 national election. What does feel different, though, is that the threats to things many of us hold dear are coming so fast and so explicitly that we are, perhaps, becoming more aware of the importance of these days and what comes next.

I pray that it is so. And, if you’ll pardon a bit of redundancy, I’ve begun to suspect that my friend, Jim Morgan, may have read some of the work of an ancient philosopher named Epictetus, who wrote:

First say to yourself what you would be and then do what you have to do.

So, today, I am remembering. I’m making prayer dots for Global Abundance of the sort that makes life better for all beings. I’m supporting some causes and candidates I believe in. I’m hanging with my neighbor while we ponder a new painting on the theme of Reflections for an upcoming middle school PTA art exhibit.

And, in the midst of all of that, I’m reminding myself of the best thing that I learned in my exploration of Qigong:

The energy flows where the attention goes.

Which, while the language is different, is kind of like intending Abundance for all of  Creation. It is, admittedly, a bit of a challenge. It’s also the best I’ve got, and I’m totally willing to share!



Painting Abundance of Many Sorts

I have been a huge fan of the writer, Irving Stone, since I was in high school. My first encounter was Those Who Love, a biographical novel of John and Abigail Adams. I still consider it one of my more useful history texts, along with the play and movie, 1776.

Twenty five years or so later, I practically inhaled The Agony and the Ecstasy. This amazing account of the life and faith journey of Michelangelo struck a chord deep inside me long before I picked up a paintbrush.

One of my favorite scenes was young Michelangelo, as an apprentice, spending years learning to grind minerals and gem stones into pigments for paint.

I, personally, am pretty fond of Dick Blick when it comes to buying paint. It has, however, been a weekend in the life of the artist kind of time at our house.

Tomorrow, I have a workshop. My first in the classroom at Jabula Dog Academy. For a few hours, the dog beds known as “place” will be set against the walls,  while tables and chairs and easels will be set up for about a dozen artists.

It’s a big room and my dear friend Kate, whose space it is the rest of the week, doesn’t care if a bit of paint spills on the concrete floor. This is big for art classes!!!

The prep work has taken quite a bit of help. The young man next store who paints with me did an extra background for one participant who is flying home tomorrow morning and may be running a bit late.

The Legendary Husband has schlepped and toted and hunted and gathered like a champ.

My sample painting is complete. As is the sign for the front door of the classroom.

I was feeling really good about the plan and the progress until we were setting up furniture this afternoon. Suddenly, as I headed up a short, but rather steep, ramp from one room to another, the place in my calf that “popped” a couple of weeks ago and has been feeling better for the last few days, “popped” again.

It’s actually an auditory sensation. Not to mention the pain. And the timing is, well, pretty lousy.

So, back to the magic chair tonight. Small prints to mat and package. Larger Giclées to put in temporary frames.  And, I suspect Bill might agree that there’s been a little more directing involved than would otherwise be optimal!

We have roses and chocolate and nuts and even some shortbread biscuits straight from Scotland. I have four flavors of tea and a marvelous new machine to make the water hot.

We still need ice!!!

Mostly though, I have an intention.

The quote from a song by an old friend named Jim Morgan came to me while I was reviewing my outline.

You gotta do the things that you pray. 

It’s Sunday now and there’s a glimpse of my painted intention above. Interesting that this particular quote should show up on Grandparents Day.

There are a whole lot of things I can’t change in this moment, but I can help women claim their power and envision a world that works better for all of us, which happens to be what I pray for my girls every day.

Anyway, the workshop went really well, in the sense that everybody tried new things and learned about themselves and noticed, as they listened to each other, that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t the only ones who might have a limiting belief or two that had been holding them back, which then makes room for new beliefs that help create new futures.

There’s only a little bit of paint on the floor. I more or less managed to stand up long enough and am giving thanks for the new wheelie chair and lots of help from Jabula friends and paint friends and the Legendary Husband. Phoebe and Luther are really glad their dinner was only a little bit late.

Next month, we’re going to do it again. I’m excited already, though I’m going to need some more time with my leg up. And some more of the magic Hawaiian joint and muscle oil!

For now, I’m just really, really glad I decided I might be an artistic kid after all!



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