To everything…

A miracle happened this morning!

I opened the door to the deck to let the beasties out for their stroll around the back forty. (This is not the miracle part. Well, kinda, but that’s a physical therapy story!)

Then I noticed. It was like a breath on my arm. The first breath of fall. (In Atlanta, this is, indeed, a miracle!)

Soft. Ever so slightly cool. A bit damp in the not-totally-humid way. And the light was different, too.

Phoebe and Luther felt it. They actually stayed a while, wandering. And then they bounded up the stairs for their treats and water.

Bounding, by the way, is also a miracle for two huge dogs, one of whom sees with his heart and one just joining the little old lady syndrome crowd.

As for me, I’ve been humming. If you’ve been hanging around for a while, it’s probably obvious.

It really does feel like some new seasons are beginning.

My Unified Archetype painting, aka The Critic & The Muse, has been quite chatty. Insistent, really. I’ve actually figured out – or drawn my way to – how all this works for me.

This, as you probably suspect, is a shift that makes room for so many other things to shift… and heal. The magic is still in my head. But, stay tuned! There’s a whole lot of new to share on the way.

My Artifact painting is still mulling. And looking forward to gathering for salon time. I’m, kind of oddly, feeling very settled about where we are at the moment.

Also on my list for the afternoon is an online thing with a politician. He and his not-remotely-esteemed opponent are doing an awesome job of reminding me that language isn’t the only thing which creates reality.

Images create reality, too.

And I, in my reality, am hoping and praying for huge amounts of newness, come November. (Also, helping… my action for the day!)

Which is to say, I guess, that I do believe in times to every purpose under Heaven. And I’m counting on the possibility that those times may come even in the midst of chaos. They seem to, for me.

ps… it rained just a bit and then I went hunting in the garden for more signs of impending fall. The grapes have doubled in size and are almost ready to turn!

As summer winds down…

It’s been an odd summer in our world. I suspect it has been in your world, too.

I used to love back-to-school time. The anxious expectation of newness. New shoes. New haircuts, which were decidedly my mother’s idea. The hope for good new teachers. And, depending on my age and whether we’d moved in any given summer, longing for friends, old and new.

The school part was the easy part. And no masks were needed.

This year, of course, will be different for so many of our scholars. Including my girls.

This is the part where I leave space for you to fill in the ranting, raving, or rejoicing of your choice: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

If you’ve been hanging around a while, you’ve already realized that I filled that space with prayer dots for mine and yours and all of ours.

Here are some more:

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Those are for the future.

I spent a chunk of yesterday listening to a politician. Yes, on purpose! Raphael Warnock is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which implies some very large shoes to fill. He’s also the democratic candidate for the unelected Georgia seat in the US Senate.

An encouragingly large herd of folks showed up in Zoom-land to explore volunteering with the campaign, which faces many of the same challenges that schools are facing just now.

We chatted about phone calls and text messages. We learned more about Dr. Warnock’s experience and his views on pressing issues. And we pondered the legacy behind this particular campaign.

And we did all of that in the shadow of loss.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery. The Rev. C.T. Vivian. Congressman John Lewis. All since March of 2020. All close advisors to Dr. King and leaders for civil rights in the USA.

We have lost more than iconic leaders, though. At least I hope so. I hope we’ve lost the notion there is one history in our world that tells the story of everyone. That there is one teller of that story. That there is one next chapter.

Rather, we each have a piece of that historical story to tell. And we each have a piece of that story to write. Now and in the future.

And, if I’ve learned anything at all from the last three years, which I’ve spent increasingly spattered in paint, it’s that we have the power to live and write our stories with intention.

It’s 100 days until the national election in America. This is my intention:

At least once each day I will take action toward a nation, and a world, in which everyone’s story matters.

I have no idea what all that will look like yet, but you’re invited to join me. Each of you in your own way.

Today, I’ll make dots for real peace on the canvas which will eventually be home for my painting known as Dance of the Critic and the Muse. (She appeared in my head this morning but I’m still sketching.)

And, Bill and I will eat chicken wings for dinner.

How, you may be wondering, are chicken wings an intentional step toward a world in which everyone’s story matters?

It’s like this… those chicken wings will help to pay several of our friends who are attempting to cope with the pandemic in ways even more immediate than new school shoes. They’re feeding their families. And paying their rent. And working to keep a small, local business afloat.

And, since we’re being honest, eating those chicken wings – and the extra-crispy fried okra that goes with them – will also let me rest a bit more so that tomorrow I can head off to see my favorite physical therapist so that my hip will get better so that I can do even more things toward the world I believe is possible.

Just in case you’d like to join in and are looking for some inspiration, your version of chicken wings counts, too!

According to whom?

When I got up this morning, I did what I normally do. A favorite sunny yellow mug with half an organic lemon and hot water from the magic little faucet in the kitchen. (Love that thing!)

Feet up. Check for messages. Mostly the usual. And an odd one. Which, even more oddly, I actually opened.

What, inquired my mystery correspondent, did you accomplish yesterday?

My first, un-pondered, not for public consumption, response was, I survived!

Then the other voices in my head chimed in… that’s not an accomplishment!

What does accomplish mean?

Like finished??? Or, made progress on??? Or possibly even, showed up for??? Well, you get the drift. In fact, you may be familiar with some of those voices!

Then another voice kicked in. According to whom?

Now we were on a roll! The next voice in my head belonged to famed teacher and author, the late Stephen Covey. You’ve probably heard of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and perhaps even my favorite, The 8th Habit.

I reached for my markers and paper. Never mind for a moment that my memory does not store things in neat file folders like Habit #Whatever. What I was looking for was right in my head. And here:

But first, my list. Well, some of it…

  • I did, in fact, survive, despite my current spell of very cranky joints. Let’s just say I’ll be really glad to see the physical therapist Monday!
  • I/we got Phoebe’s eye medicine done three whole times! And her exercises twice.
  • I helped a new artist with some of her questions and assured her that she could, indeed, put a handprint in her painting even if that particular symbol hadn’t been covered in the official guidance. And I grinned almost as big as she did when the hot pink handprint actually appeared!
  • I soothed my soul by adding lots of prayer dots to my own Work-in-Progress painting. And I did them with my fingers which is even more kinesthetically empowering than with a brush.
  • I also finished a prayer scarf and rolled the yarn and cast on the stitches to start knitting the next.
  • I helped a friend work through some of the stuff on her own list.
  • I took a moment to celebrate, despite my creaky hip, letting Luther in the door, at his request. This big guy found his voice just after he lost his sight.

The email people who, as it turns out, were trying to shame and blame me into hiring them to make choices for me, probably wouldn’t be impressed.

That’s okay. Stephen Covey taught me that any individual thing on my list is two of the four categories, above. And it’s up to me to decide which two.

You can play, too!!!

And I’d add just one more question to the list analysis. For things that haven’t gotten done yet (In case you’re anything like me!) just ask yourself:

Could you______________________? Would you? When?

Then, go for it! (Or cross it off the list!!!)

ps… In case you didn’t know, today is the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene! Really, really dark chocolate???

Good Trouble

On Friday July 17, 2020 America lost a giant when Congressman John Lewis (D, GA-5) passed on after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

I’ve cried a lot. I didn’t know Congressman Lewis in person. He was elected to Congress in 1987, the year I began my studies at Columbia Theological Seminary, which is located in Georgia’s fifth district. He felt like a neighbor.

A neighbor with whom I sometimes disagreed. We agreed, though, on the big things. Peace. Justice. Racial equality. Fair elections. Human dignity.

Also the current occupant of the oval office and the importance of the 2020 elections.

I’ve remembered a lot, along with the crying… Dr. King. Bobby Kennedy. The Freedom Fighters. The March on Washington… the first one. Worshipping at Ebenezer Baptist. Peter Paul & Mary. Dr. William Barber, II. Hank Johnson.

Those who have walked on and those who march, still.

And of all the words I know from the “Preaching Politician,” the ones loudest in my head and my heart are these:

Sometimes you have to find a way to get in trouble, good trouble.

I’ve been practicing my good trouble more lately. Somehow the notion of fierce compassion has taken root in my heart. My grandmother heart.

I have lots of friends along the way. Preacher friends and grandparent friends. Writer friends and rescue friends. Plain old good people friends. And artist friends. Lots of them.

So it really wasn’t much of a surprise when my tears drew me to my canvas. You’ve probably seen this one before. I smeared tears on it and mixed a new color. The one my painting was asking for in this moment.

It was a riff on my Intentional Creativity grandmother, Sue Hoya Sellars’ recipe for “black” paint. I didn’t have the right colors on hand – though I’m ordering them tonight – so I read a few labels and listened deep and came up with Lewis Black.

A couple of ounces of Van Dyke Brown. About half as much Payne’s Grey. And 3 drops of a good, clear orange… no cadmium at my house.

I shook the magic, perhaps more ferociously than strictly required. And then I sprayed the canvas with water and a few more tears. I got out one of my favorite big sash brushes and I drummed the paint on the canvas.

Slowly, at first. Sadly. Gently.

And I watched the drips.

And I turned the canvas and sprayed, and drummed harder and louder, and watched drips some more, until I was flooded with an image that, while it is likely to say more things in the future, said for me, in this moment, black lives matter.

Just like the sign in our garden. And the other signs for current candidates, most of whom John Lewis endorsed.

Those signs may be my current pathway into good trouble, for I have been informed that I have exceeded the allowable square feet of yard signs in our particular piece of the planet.

I’m okay with that. Every one of them says something I believe needs to be said and so they stay. I imagine I’ll need at least one more when a new candidate declares for the GA-5. (Don’t even ask me about the opposition!)

Sometimes fierce compassion means swimming against the stream. And painting the truth of our hearts. Because we’ve all got more generations growing up in this world and that’s worth standing up for.

Later, dots for comfort and hope. Now, thanks for each one of you on the road.

What does soup have to do with it???

I lost another pot of bone broth this week.

The last time it happened, it was because the predecessor of the swanky new stove died in the middle of the night and my huge, magical broth cauldron was cold when I woke up. This is not a good thing with bone broth.

This time, there’s what was a lovely pot of broth sitting in the bottom of my fridge which is, blessedly, working just fine. I created this pot of magic with some help from my InstantPot, as I haven’t quite figured out the gas stove/ broth thing yet. (It has to do with timing.)

Anyway, gorgeous pork hocks in the InstantPot with onions, garlic, bay leaves, etc. Then, the place where things fell apart.

While said broth was still very hot, my hip decided to do some random, painful, twisty thing while I was minding my own business, walking down the hall, and it’s been both painful and untrustworthy ever since.

All of which means that the Legendary Husband has been busy doing more of the daily living stuff around here than usual. Somehow, we figured that we’d put the broth in the bottom of the fridge and weed all the chunks out in a day or so.

Yep. You guessed it!

It’s now about 10 days later and, well, that’s too many. So, I am now the sad possessor of a pot of difficult to dispose of garbage and I really wish I had soup.

Now, I wouldn’t blame you if you were wondering why I’m telling you all this and/or whether I’ve taken up writing about appliances as a new mission.

No, on the appliances, though they do, in some cases, become useful metaphors.

You see, the next thing you need to know is that I was chatting recently with a very bright young woman who was doing some pondering on the things that “good Christians” do — or don’t.

The last thing on her list, which she’d obviously learned really well, was try to avoid mistakes.

That thought kept bugging me, rather like a case of poison ivy, at which I am, unfortunately, something of an expert. You know you’re not supposed to scratch it but it itches!

Then, early this morning I figured it out.

I have been trying, not quite successfully, not to feel guilty about that pot of broth-turned-garbage in our fridge. I used really good food to make it. Food that’s not always easy to come by. And I could have used it to feed others. And, at the moment, my hip hurts and I have no soup and I want some.

And, just between us, there was a voice inside me wondering if, just perhaps, this was the sort of thing good Christians don’t do.

Thankfully, there are some other voices inside me as well.

One of them is from the guy I think of as the Prophet, Steve Glenn. Steve is the Developing Capable People creator who said, There’s no such thing as failure. Only experience to be learned from.

And another is a voice that is, essentially, mine. At least the part of me that’s been learning new things again. Many of them from Shiloh Sophia McCloud and the Intentional Creativity® gang.

It’s even written on an index card, as most of the really important things around here are:

Intentional Creativity is what helps the struggles become art… and new possibilities!

Thus, the painting with which we began. It wasn’t “doing” what I wanted it to, so I followed the inspiration to pray. In dots. Teal colored dots, which the Feng shui folks I hang out with would say are for clarity. A couple of hours worth of prayers for guidance, with the canvas turned so I could sit!

Now, here’s the tricky part. All the layers under those dots weren’t mistakes to be avoided. They were learning along the way that brought me to a place where I realized guidance was what I needed in the moment. Which seems, at least to me, like the sort of thing Jesus/Yeshua would have been in favor of. And totally what I want my girls to learn.

Next, big scary glaze! And throwing out the stuff in my InstantPot so there’s room for actual soup.

Blessings on your journey!


Everything… and the kitchen stove!

It’s been a bit of an adventure around here, lately. In fact, I was chatting with someone on the phone the other day and he asked me what I do.

I laughed! Then I replied that my current business cards say, just after my name, Author – Artist – Activist – Grandmother

All of that is true. And I really like the cards! Which I why I had some new ones made recently. Certified Intentional Creativity® Coach

I finally realized that, while a 36×48 inch canvas is huge fun, it doesn’t make a great business card and I could have more than one kind!

I’ve also been promoted to Phoebe’s physical therapist. Phoebe is one of our Newfie rescue dogs and she has the very beginnings of what her chiropractor refers to as little old lady syndrome. (She may not be the only one!)

Her favorite exercise goes like this:

Phoebe, come. Sit. (Treat)

Then I back up a few steps and we repeat. Four or five reps. Quickly. Three times a day. If you’ve met Phoebe, you’ve already guessed that it’s the treat part she enjoys! (We won’t talk about the other exercise!)

Just between us, the backing up bit is not my hip’s favorite part!

I’ve been thinking a lot, though, about the future. Part of that, I suspect, comes with the amazing artist and summer intern who’s hanging out with me and teaching me at least as much as she’s learning. If you want to learn new things, try answering questions! The really good, deep kind that come from a person whose journey and perspectives (not to mention, age!) are different from your own.

Grandchildren are great for this! Asking helps everybody learn, too!

One of the urgent questions in my world just now is what I’d like to be asked in an interview about my work tomorrow. Thankfully, some of my friends have come to the rescue with great hints. The laundry is done. (Well, what needed to be done for tomorrow. Or most of it. Writing this reminds me that there’s more of that.)

And the new oven, whom you’ve met before, is pre-heating. It’s roast chicken night, thanks to a great deal of help from Bill who’s in charge of bending over to baste tonight.

Actually, it’s not just a new oven. It’s a whole new dual-fuel range from Fisher and Paykel. The matchmaker in this relationship was a great guy named Greg at SRAppliances, here in Atlanta.

I love the stovetop part, especially the way the heat adjusts perfectly to whatever I’m trying to accomplish. And there are five burners!!! The oven racks are the coolest ones I’ve ever seen. They’re so easy to slide in and out. The little challenge with the oven light is all fixed with help from a nice guy named Eric who arrived with shoe covers and a mask, and actually liked the dogs, who were very calm about spending a bit of time in their box while we had a visitor.

And, I must admit, one of the things I love most is the way this fabulous new appliance has such presence in the kitchen I worked so hard to design. All of which is great as we’re eating at home all the time!

In about an hour and a half, the kitchen will smell fabulous and that chicken will be crispy and golden and comforting.

For this moment, though, something that appeared in my mind during the painting process called Artifact. Part of the journey involves four or five statements to complete the prompt: I am one who………………………

The response that feels most important to me just now goes like this:

I am one who carries multi-colored genetics in a cooling sack of stars which appears white.

It’s okay if it doesn’t quite make sense to you. It’s possible you had to be there. The point, I think, is the question more than whatever specific answers might come. I’d love to hear some of yours!

ps… if you’d like to cause a perfectly roasted chicken to appear in your kitchen, click here for the recipe.

pps… watch for a link to the interview, as soon as the techno magic happens. We’ll have more questions to play with!

Our Voices Matter!

Tonight, I’m going to Graduation. Again! In this case, Graduation from the Intentional Creativity® Coaching program known as Motherboard.

Yes, we finished a while back. And the planned in-person celebration was postponed because of the pandemic. There seems to be no way to predict an end to that, so we’re going to celebrate now, courtesy of our friends at Zoom.

The invitation reads something like, Dress creatively. Bring a candle and a cuppa, and perhaps some chocolate. And a favorite Motherboard drawing.

I foraged in the closet for the black velvet cap that came along with my doctorate. And blew off the dust!

Deciding which drawing to bring was a no-brainer. It’s not re-copied and pretty. In fact, it’s exactly the way it happened live. And yes, it’s the one in the picture.

Why did I pick it?

Because that’s the moment, in the whole Motherboard journey, when I learned the most. The most about me, and what was holding me back. And the most about where Intentional Creativity Coaching fits in my world.

Which is a lot to learn in a Zoom meeting with a wise friend and a big sketch book and some markers.

I’d been working on learning it for quite a while. And it is all about voice.

In fact, I was writing about the same notions of voice just after 9/11 for a paper in a course called Approaches to the Study of Myth. Dr. Christine Downing led us through some of her journeys with Freud and Jung, with some help from a writer named Bruno Bettelheim and some old notions of soul.

Chris told us that “what Freud meant by Seele or Soul was what the Hebrew scriptures meant by soul… what the book of Genesis meant by soul — that which enlivens us while we are still alive.”

Suddenly, I had a place to connect! Here was a concept I knew. The nurse in me knew about those (dare I say?) holy moments you can literally see, which are so much larger than simply breathing, and yet are so tied to breath, with which life enters or leaves a body.

My head was spinning with stories in which the Hebrew notions of breath, soul, wind, and spirit were pivotal. And then, there in class that day, another layer of meaning.

Voice. How could I have missed it? How could I not have been told?

(I’m assuming you won’t mind if I skip along a good bit, to the big thing you need to know… The Advent before all this pondering of voice occurred, I was preaching in a traumatized church down the road a bit.)

The lectionary text was Isaiah 12:2-6. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and will not be afraid,” spoke the prophet in what we now know as verse 2. Not a bad place to start, certainly, but first I had question. You probably did, too. Why did the lectionary text start with verse 2? What was wrong with verse 1?

Were we not ready to say, with Isaiah, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though were angry with me, your anger turned away and you comforted me”? Was it the notion that we might have done something to anger God that we could do without? Or simply the notion of an angry God?

I learned that the Hebrew word the NRSV translates as “comforted me” actually means something much closer to “fixed it so I could breathe again”!!!

Fixed it so I could literally inspire trust and certainty in the God who had become my salvation, even though God had been angry with us.

At the time, that seemed like a pretty big promise for a person who has asthma.

Not to mention seeming like a pretty big promise, still, for a person who learned, in the program called Motherboard, that while she used to be afraid, in a not quite conscious way, of being burned at the stake, she isn’t any longer.

Today, I’m using my voice to speak out for International students, including my friend and intern, Gloria and a whole lot more young people who are hoping to graduate! USA friends, should you wish to use your voice, too, you can find your elected legislators here. I had hopeful conversations today with the Legislative Director for Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA-04) and the campaign manager for The Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, candidate for the US Senate and both of them value our input on this issue and issues like it.

And I’m using my voice, along with a bunch of markers, to help others unstick stuck stuff. If you’d like to know more, I hope you’ll email me at suesvoice@gmail.com

And I’m using my voice to say another pretty important thing that I just couldn’t stand to leave out. Whatever understanding you might have of the Divine is welcome here. If the “angry” thing troubles you and you’re at all conversant with the Judeo-Christian traditions, I highly recommend a stroll through the Hebrew scriptures, in which we find tales of God experiencing all the emotions we identify with humans which says something, at least to me, about being created in God’s image, though that isn’t the way my Sunday School teacher explained it!

For now, a quote from Rumi, with thanks to Havi Brysk Mandell who is also graduating from Motherboard!

Let your throat-song be clear and strong enough to make an emperor fall full length suppliant, at the door.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher