If I Ran the Zoo…

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, my head seems to have appropriated the title of one of his famous books and it’s running like a loop inside me.

I’m pretty sure one of the lines is, If I ran the Zoo, I know just what I’d do…

Anybody with me???

Let’s agree together that it’s not necessary to be experts in anapestic tetrameter, as the good doctor was, to get in the conversation! (Not even The West Wing tried to explain this one, but, if you grew up since the time of the  Boomers in the USA, I’ll bet it’s in your head!)

Skipping, for the sake of positive vibes, the first 482 things I’d do, I’ll move along to one I actually have some influence over.

If I ran the zoo, I know just what I’d do. I’d feed those who are ill big bowls of real soup. That’s just what I’d do.

And, since one of those who are ill is one of mine, too, the soup pot is feeling quite special just now!

At this point, I’m going to count on you to keep up the whole metric thing, if you like, so I can share an actual recipe. (I tried to buy fish soup – the patient’s request – and have it delivered but it seems there is none to be had so old-fashioned was the order of the day. And my heart is happy!)

Well, maybe not a recipe, so much, as a process…

  2. Pull out your biggest pot. Figure the dimensions of about 1/3 of the pot’s volume. (Hand gestures are helpful!)
  3. Procure bony pieces of fish equal to the volume estimated above. Preferably white fleshed fish like grouper, halibut, etc. (Salmon is good but makes a stronger flavored broth which isn’t always optimal for those who are healing.) In my case, 2 big heads and a meaty fish “collar” which is the neck piece. *If you happen to have left-over crab claw or shrimp shells in your freezer, and I did, you’re good. If not, add more fish, or head-on, de-veined wild shrimp, up to about 1/2 the volume of your pot.
  4. Place raw fish pieces in stock pot. Cover with COLD water, about 2″ deeper than level of fish. Add between 2 Tbsp. and 1/4 c. (depending on size of pot) acidic liquid (white wine, apple cider vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or fresh lemon juice… I used 1/2 white balsamic and 1/2 lemon juice.) Allow to rest, covered, at cool room temp for 45 min. This draws all the healing magic from the bones and cartilage and into your broth!
  5. Bring to just boiling over med. high heat. Skim, using the closest thing you’ve got to the magic wand in the photo above, removing foam and fuzzy stuff from surface several times until you can tell that you’ve won.
  6. While magic comes to boil, roast crab/shrimp shells, if using, in 450 F. oven, drizzled with good olive oil  for 15 – 20 min. until they smell fabulous. Add to skimmed pot and skim some more.
  7. Add aromatics and herbs as desired. (Onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, fresh bay leaves, fennel fronds, carrot feathers, parsley stems, celery leaves, proportionately to your pot.) If you need to add additional water, it must be steaming hot!!! 
  8. Reduce heat and simmer, lid off, for at least 2 and up to 4 hours. You want medium sized bubbles breaking the surface gently – not boiling!
  9. Remove from heat. Drain, strain, scoop carefully as needed to separate broth from all the solids. Discard solids. (Really! All the good stuff is now in the broth.)
  10. Cool broth on counter until cool enough to add to fridge. I use stainless water bottles, filled about 2/3 full, that have been frozen to speed this along.
  11. Strain again, if needed.
  12. Chill overnight in fridge. Package, freeze, and label, leaving about 1″ headspace in containers. (DO NOT put hot broth in glass or plastic containers! I use BPA-free plastic. Glass breaks and ruins everything.)
  13. While magic broth is freezing, set up an appropriately “distanced” arrangement for delivering. This may well involve text messages and leaving by the door. We’re being adaptable, here!

Broth may be heated gently and sipped from mug or bowl, with or without additions such as chopped veg, cooked rice, additional fish, etc. (Given current circumstances, I’d suggest heating broth/soup briefly all the way to a boil before serving.)

Take a bow!

If you’re like me, there are still things you would do if you ran the zoo. I’m with you. This is one that we can manage, which makes it – or your version of it – a great place to start. And if, like me, you have a really big pot, you’ll have some magic for you and even more to share.

We’ve got this! (With much appreciated help from the Legendary Husband!)


You’ve arrived in the land of the Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother where CONTEXT is almost everything. Let me tell you a bit about the context for our adventure…

Late one night, not long ago, I was watching Shiloh’s paint videos about Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, aka The Virgin of Guadalupe. Being from a faith tradition that considers itself Reformed, it was a journey through new territory for me.

Here’s what I remember Shiloh saying… that someone had asked if the story of the Holy Mother appearing to the indigenous and indigent Juan Diego was really so and the reply came that, “What’s true is that the people have made it so!”

I’ve found myself pondering that a lot in the last days, during this time of not knowing.

What, I wondered, is true because we have made it so that might not be working?

And what is true because we have made it so that heals and helps

In a moment, I’m going to ask you to click one more link, but first let me tell you another story.

I sat, yesterday, in a meeting with the amazing Sam Bennett of The Organized Artist Company.

One of Sam’s team members, the also amazing Veronica Guzzardi, mentioned a Storytelling Ape with powers of good and evil whom she had apparently “stolen” from Sam.

You, of course, have already done the math. Having at the very least borrowed her myself, I’m wondering about the things we might, just now, believe are true and if the Storytelling Ape is using her powers for good or for evil.

And what, of course, it might mean to us to ponder such a question.

 Now, if you’re so inclined, you can click gorilla and set yourself up with a printable pdf coloring sheet of a Storytelling Ape of your very own, with thanks to my granddaughter who coached my portrait and the Legendary Husband who made it appear here! She’ll need some details for her eyes, a mouth that makes sense to you, and whatever embellishments you’d like in terms of hair and color.
Or, you can draw your own Storytelling Ape. Or skip the drawing and proceed to the writing. It’s all good. My hope is simply that you’ll journey, for a bit, with the notion of what you might be believing that’s helpful and what you might be willing to experiment with setting aside, just to see what gets different.
I can’t wait to hear!

Can you can???

Thirty years ago, almost exactly, I was preparing to graduate from Columbia Theological Seminary, planning a wedding, and exploring options for a call to serve a church.

One evening I went to a meeting on campus. It was an opportunity to talk with pastors of small, rural churches in a southern state and their wives (!). One of those pastors’ wives asked me if I could can.

A few questions helped me realize that she meant putting lots of veg in glass jars.

The answer then was the same as it is now. No. I don’t can.

With a few more questions, I learned that for the first three years her husband served a particular church, his “raise” came in the form of one of the members plowing them up an extra acre of garden.

All of which feels even more real now than it did then!

There’s a big online conversation happening in the corner of Atlanta where we hang out made up of folks who are wanting to learn about urban agriculture, given the current grocery shopping situation.

Who knew we’d be ahead of the curve???

Even though there isn’t much happening in the garden yet this year, there are 3 things on my list for today. The first is an online Red Thread Circle event around the topic of Medicine Baskets. (It’s an Intentional Creativity® thing.)

Then, there’s painting. I have three “in progress” just now.

This is What the World Needs Now. She’s almost finished!


And, then, there’s freezing. I still don’t can but we do have extra veg and they’re headed for the freezer, some blanched, some roasted, and all wrapped, ready for the soup pot. Especially the asparagus!

There’s also one other thing on my list, though it’s more of a non-thing.

I am fed up with crooked, fear-mongering politicians so I’m weeding my email list.

I’m unsubscribing to all the many, many emails that pretend to want to know what I think but actually want to scare me into “chipping in” to change things. I’m unsubscribing, with best wishes, to requests to help elect this candidate or that in places where I can’t vote. I’m unsubscribing to name calling and doom & gloom.

Instead, I’m going with gratitude and hope.

Gratitude for honest, concerned representatives of “we the people.”

Hope for some new names in the news, standing up for all of us.

And the kind of hope that comes with a contribution or two to people and causes focused on a future where as many of us as possible have what we need. I’m truly grateful for them.

I can’t do it all. Neither can you. I can stay home. Mostly. I can freeze veg. I can encourage loved ones and reach out to friends. And I can paint stories of hope.

Fear doesn’t help us learn and grow. It makes us angry and separates us.

But, because fear is a feeling, we don’t get to choose not to feel it, if we do.

We DO get to choose not to act out of it. Not to be defined or limited by it. And, usually, it’s a choice we need to make over and over again.

That’s okay.

Just think about what the world might be like if we all joined in and kept choosing hope, over and over again. Even if we can’t can!

ps… Earlier, I sat down with my lunch and flipped on the tv. What appeared was about the last 20 minutes of the movie, E.T. Context is, indeed, everything, which had me first hating/envying all the haz-mat suits and then giving thanks for the courage of those kids in helping one who was different, even in the midst of great unknown. May it be so for me, as well. And for us. ALL of us.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

True confession… I’m quite the fan of Iron Chef America. Today, however, we’re playing a different game. Instead of lemonade or yummy little lemon bars or (better yet!) my fabulous lemon chess pie… we’re making room for the possibility that we can take lemons and build a bridge! Really!

But first, take just a moment to visualize a bridge. What comes to mind?

And old fashioned covered bridge? The Golden Gate Bridge? The Chain Bridge across the Danube in Budapest?

Any bridge will do, as long as it still does what bridges do! Hold that thought, please. Or sketch it out if you’re in a place where that works. We’ll come back to it in a bit.

I’ve been busy, since last fall, learning the tools of Intentional Creativity® Coaching. It starts in a place similar to where my paintings start… with an intention.

The coaching journey, however, takes way fewer tools and considerably less time which is good if you happen to be sitting around with a big load of figurative lemons.

The Corona virus crisis comes to mind.

First, the Legendary Husband and I are, personally, blessed to be fine.

Our friends from The Corner Pub are out of work for “a while.” Our church friends are scrambling for strategies not covered in the ordination exams. The girls are out of school for at least a month, leaving their dad sorting out how to work full time and be the primary home school teacher while their mama is busy trying to help people stay healthy. A dear friend is worried about her kid who has been diagnosed with the virus.

And you, no doubt, have examples of your own. Things that hurt. Things that are struggles. Things that feel stuck.

Well, thanks to Intentional Creativity® Coaching, I help people turn those things into art… and new possibilities.

I hear you… muttering that you’re not an artist! Trust me. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve found your inner artist or not. Here’s the secret… pain leads, if we let it, to creativity!

So, on Thursday, when I needed a new plan for an individual paint client after we decided that “in person” was probably not our best move just now, it was time to build bridges!

And, since the Zoom elves were busy doing their thing, we were in business!

We both needed a decent sized piece of paper (like a page from a sketch book, or even an old fashioned paper bag) and some tools to make marks with. A few colored markers are a good choice. Something handy that doesn’t smear. I had my building plans ready. She needed an intention or, in this case, an inquiry.

I’ll let my bridge buddy tell the next part of the story…

Sue, spending time with you – via Zoom – where you don’t always think creativity can breed between two people across a distance, it did! 

Your new coaching process was a great mechanism for reminding me that shifting is possible and change CAN occur, through drawing, even when you start at a point where it seems like there are only two answers – YES or NO!   

By drawing my voices – and then the contextual frame – I quickly realized that I was dealing with my Critic-project-manager and my Muse-project-creator. Ah-hah!!!

So, with the drawing, all of a sudden it wasn’t a face off. Instead, it was how to work together to come up with the third alternative – and that got me to a positive, hopeful, empowering way to move forward.

I’ve already made real progress – in just 48 hours!

So, in this moment, I’m looking for a few more people ready to build bridges in their lives while, at the same time, magically helping me finish the requirements for my certification in Intentional Creativity® Coaching.

You may be feeling skeptical about this. That’s okay! This is a time for careful choices.

You might be feeling curious. Curious is awesome. It’s our best mental state for learning.

You might even be feeling hopeful and wondering where to start, which is a very empowered place to be.

There’s just one action needed to learn more. Click here. It’s really, really, really okay!

And, if now’s not the time or you don’t have any lemons that want to be bridges, come on back and I’ll try really hard to hunt up the recipe for my lemon chess pie by Wednesday. (It’s full of antioxidants!)







Then and Now…

Last Tuesday I had the pure pleasure of being interviewed by a new artist friend named Angela Treat Lyon about my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope! 

(There’s a link to our conversation on down a bit…)

Let’s start with the rather remarkable news that I made it through the interview without being anxious and listened to it afterward without my usual fixation about “hating” my recorded voice.

I did!!! And I think that’s because I so believe in what I was sharing.

Just between us, though, the world has changed since then. Well, technically it’s not so much the world that has changed as it is the experience so many of us are having of it.

And, yes, I’m talking about the Corona virus.

First, let me say that I made 122 prayer dots today for you and yours, and me and mine, and all the ours in the world. If you squint really hard, you’ll see a bunch of those dots in the picture, above, complete with a guaranteed germ free Red Thread, from my #Legend #WIP. I made them gold so they’d blend in and be, literally, part of the fabric of the work and the world.

And yes, I’ll make more tomorrow. And the next day. And as many days as it takes.

In the meantime, I’m listening and learning.

Listening to wise medical and scientific types with real world advice. Please find some you trust and listen, too.

And listening to some world leaders I trust as well. The kind who are more interested helping real people than they are in looking powerful. If you’d like some suggestions, I’m happy to help.

And, then, me listening to me, as well. Not only what do I need, but what can I do?

All of which brought to mind some words I wrote a while back, which wandered into the book. They’re part of a poem called Grandmothers Lament:

…All over the world, children are crying.
Let us take our fingers out of our ears.
Let us open our eyes in the light of day.
Let us shout until we cannot be ignored.
All over the world, children are crying.
Let us dare to hear.
Let us dare to hope.
Let us dare to act.

Amen. Amen. Selah.

Boardman, 2016, p. 13

Those words feel even more true in this moment. So, let us indeed dare to hear and to hope and to act. Starting with a few tips for being with the littles we love in light of the changes in their worlds.

  • Tell the truth, though not necessarily all of it in any moment. And focus on the hopeful parts.
  • Let them know that whatever they’re feeling is okay. Feelings are just that… feelings. Not right or wrong. Just feelings. And all of them are trying, in some way, to help. (This applies to grown-ups, too!)
  • Give them tools to express those feelings. Age appropriate art supplies are great. Get in there with them. Greens and purples are timely Feng shui colors. Big, loopy circles are neurologically balancing… just be sure to go both directions!
  • Musical instruments. Even pots to bang on, though ONLY until the timer rings! (Sanity counts, too…)
  • Remember their ages. Their sense of time and ability to think abstractly are all developmental. Make a paper (!) calendar to mark off days until school starts again, or they can play in the park, or whatever.
  • Teach them (again, if need be) to wash their hands. Two choruses of the Happy Birthday song is 20 seconds! (You sing, too!)
  • Have a manicure party and massage hands with olive or coconut oil. (They’re antimicrobial!!!)

You get the drift. Yes, these and more are in the book. And find somebody for you to share feelings with, too!


For now, the promised interview link. Which, ironically, fits pretty well in this moment.

And, please, get into the conversation. Add a comment. email me. Ask me about MetaCognitive Drawing! (And why I chose the photo of Shiloh and me on a bridge!!!) We’re all in this together. And, to copy the hashtag craze of the moment… #wecandothis !

ps… “My” Decatur gallery and online source for local and regional art, known as Wild Oats & Billy Goats has special shopping opportunities for this time of “distancing”, including special pricing and hours. I’ve got my eye on a goat!

My Kitchen Smells Like Heaven!

If you’ve been hanging around a while, it’s probably no surprise that there’s a huge cauldron of Bird Soup bubbling on the stove. This batch began with what was in the freezer. Roasted turkey legs and bones from Thanksgiving. Assorted carcasses from roasted chickens. A small guinea hen and a package oddly labeled turkey paws from one of my favorite farmers. A few other bits and pieces, carefully saved for the treasures they are. I started last night.

Then, today, a foraging mission to the garden for fresh rosemary and thyme which just happen to be of the antimicrobial sort. Plus onions, garlic, fennel, and fresh bay leaves, all organic and good for body and soul.

Just in case you’re feeling it, click here for the magic recipe. Just substitute whatever bird bones you have.

This is not a time for the freezer to be short on bone broth!

Dave once asked me, on a college break, why I had waited until he left home to become a Jewish Italian grandmother!

We’ll set aside for a moment the possibility that it took that long for me to have the freedom to explore and go with We’re not ready until we’re ready!

On the other hand, my recent DNA test suggests that it’s entirely likely that my ancestral journey had more than a few Jewish Italian grandmothers along the way, which totally works for me!

No matter the history or the genetics, this seems like a time for soup. If possible, enough to share.

It also seems like a time for listening to wisdom. In my world, wise words are volunteering from books that live in my head and from big-hearted folks in the news and from my kids, via the wonders of cell phones.

I dreamed about The Velveteen Rabbit on Friday night. You know the story. I suspect wee are getting real in these days.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

And then a quote from Sen. Nina Turner who is the national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ campaign:

We are not guided by our fear, but motivated by our fierceness. 

And a Facebook video I can’t post here due to technical difficulties which are on the list of things to fix. You’ve probably seen one like it. Bare streets in Italy with quarantined Italian people hanging off balconies, singing and sharing music.

My favorite features a violinist playing Leonard Cohen’s magnificent Hallelujah!

I love the song but it’s way out of my limited singing range and I’m absolutely no violinist. Still, it works and I suspect you can imagine along with me.

Remember to put cobblestones on your Italian streets!

And, when it comes to where you live, get your medical information from doctors and scientists. In the USA, the CDC is a good bet.

If Spring has begun in your yard, consider growing some herbs and veg. Again, a body and soul thing.

If that doesn’t work, check out hamama.com to grow micro greens indoors.

IMG_6964-2 The cool little quilts last for up to a year so if, by chance, you are a little behind, NOW is the time! Mine have taken up residence in the studio where the lights are good.

Err on the side of caution for you and for those around you, but hold on to that fierceness and keep wisely living out of your sense of calling or mission or destiny, with compassion. I’ll be right there beside you.

Next up: InstantPot full of roasted stone crab shells which have been waiting patiently in the freezer for a moment such as this, sheets in the washer, and a cup of ginger tea. Oh! There are also more hot pink sequins to paste! Artwork to follow…

Today, I Need Comfort!

You probably have days like this, too! And the details don’t really matter all that much. Huge concerns. The edge of tears. Loss. Anxiety. One rainstorm too many. (Hopefully) random sneezing. The letting go after a worried day.

The sky really isn’t falling, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like it is!

So, what helps?

Well, in my case, some time in Zoom-land with a tribe of curious women in touch with their dreams and happy to play with ways to make those dreams into reality.

Which inspired me to make some placement art out of a few of my favorite things. I started with a stockpot, which is considerably more photogenic than the bones thawing in the fridge.

A pitcher of stand-by roses, holding space for the real ones which will one day reappear in the garden.

A white near-candle, safe light in the realm of big, hairy dogs.

A magic paint brush.

My tiny hand-carved wild goose which, courtesy of my friends in Scotland, is a reminder of the presence of the Spirit, even on droopy days.

The beginnings of a new painting for the friend in the midst of some of this week’s worries. Safe and well. (Don’t worry… the colors will change!)

And, if you squint just a bit, my four year old sign of hope, standing tall among the arugula in the garden.

Yes, I’m still all in. Especially after today’s statement. It all boils down to just this… the greatest good for the most people.

Yesterday I did an interview about my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

The magic, like some of today’s, happened in Zoom-land with a new friend I’ll introduce you to soon.

Angela and I had a great conversation. And, as we chatted, people were voting.

According to the exit polls, more of them voted out of fear than of hope.

I understand the fear. More, perhaps, every day.

But part of my journey, my promise to my girls and myself, is to keep acting out of hope.

I’ll admit it’s been a bit of a challenge today. So, just in case I need more reminding, I’m off to make some prayer dots. Forty six of them, to be exact.

And, tomorrow?

Paint peeps. Meetings. Dots. Soup. Hope. And room for you.


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