Can you see it???

Today, I went to a meeting. In and of itself, that’s clearly not news!

It was an online meeting, all quarantine appropriate, and full of people I didn’t know before.

It doesn’t matter so much, in this moment, what the meeting was about. Here’s what you need to know:

Over 700 people, from all over the world. Kenya, Canada, USA, France, Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, the Ukraine, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, the UK… and those were just the ones I caught going past in the chat!

If you’ve been to meetings like this, you may be familiar with the quotes going by on the screen in the beginning. One caught my eye…

Don’t be pushed by your problems… be led by your dreams. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And there, in that little spot of www.land, I found some hope in the midst of what I’ve been experiencing as election terror.

The hope came, mostly, from being surrounded by hundreds of strangers all there because they, too, have dreams for their lives and our world.

I’ve already voted and, as far as I can tell, my job in this moment is to keep dreaming a better nation. A better world. Because, as I’ve mentioned, I have two granddaughters growing up in this world.

Chances are you have a similar motivation for the future.

Let it be conscious. I know it feels safer to try to bury it, so that disappointment isn’t so scary, but that’s not going to work. Please, please, please let yourself believe in whatever it is that keeps you getting out of bed in the morning and doing the good you can.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have some more information about the meeting, and about what I’m up to. And some ideas about how you might get involved…

For today, check out the art, above. It’s under layers of a painting from a year or so ago. If you look closely, you might just find an eye, gazing with hope into the future.

ps… Hi from Phoebe and Luther who have been helping by, you know, not eating roofers and such!

How often do you think about your roof?

It’s pouring rain outside right now and I, rather oddly for this point in my week, am giving thanks for our roof.

When the rain started, I dug out from under all the blog writing tools in my lap and went around the house, checking. Five skylights, none leaking. No water over the door to the basement. And tears rolled down my cheeks.

You see, we have a new roof. It’s been quite a production.

To be honest, we’ve needed it for a while. The old one was the least expensive version when it went up 20 years ago and a good 10 years past its official life-expectancy. Which is to say, this really wasn’t much of a surprise. It just hadn’t made its way to the top of the list until it did.

Many decisions were involved. How to get the most possible good out of wise spending. How to do some good for the rest of the world while we were doing good for us. How to invest in something longer range than a box of bandaids.

Going through this adventure has made me even more conscious than usual of all the souls on this planet who would be beyond amazed to have a dependable roof. To have choices about a roof. To be able to think beyond the next rainstorm.

We’re not done with the drama. There are several more adventures related to the roof yet to come. And there’s a good chance they’ll be just as much hassle in the doing as the roof has been.

The bottom line is that we are fortunate enough to get to choose the questions. Questions that affect us and our family and, with a bit of perspective and a smidge of imagination, you and your family and all the families who are our global neighbors.

I’ve learned, as many of you know, most of what I know about Civics from watching The West Wing. It’s not a perfect educational plan, perhaps, but it works for me. And I suspect that our roofing adventure is a fair model for what we, not only as Americans, but as world citizens, are going through just now.

When you get right down to it, it’s about the questions we’re asking. My prayer is that we ask wisely.

ps… the art work is a smidge of a painting known as Abundance Muse. For me, dandelions are not weeds, they’re a really good picture of hope, even in the rain!

pps… dandelions are prayer dots, too!

Time Traveling…

There are, in this moment, still guys tromping all over the house with ladders and drills. They were supposed to be done. I was supposed to have peace and quiet for writing and painting and hearth tending.

But, things don’t always seem to work out the way I thought they were supposed to. Perhaps you’ve noticed a similar phenomenon at one time or another.

Undeterred, I went searching through my phone for a photo to inspire today’s post, which is kind of opposite from the way it usually works. Somehow I must have pushed a button other than the one I meant to, and I ended up in Italy.

Well, not literally, but definitely in my mind. You see, just a little more than two years ago, I was there geographically and I’ve been thinking about that adventure a lot.

The photo, above, is me on your left with the amazing Shiloh Sophia McCloud. We’re standing on a bridge in Florence (aka Fiorenza!) Italy just a few hours after we met in person the first time. I was already thrilled to be there and I had no idea of the adventures to come.

One of those adventures was a conversation Shiloh and I had one morning out on the porch when no one else was around.

“What kind of images,” she asked, “did you have at your Seminary?”

It’s not all that often that a question leaves me speechless, but that one did.

I thought and thought. And then it came to me.

“None,” I replied. Except for old, super-educated, white men – many of them passed on – gazing down on students either eating lunch or trying to find the book which would answer all their questions in the library.

(I never found that one!)

There are centuries worth of reasons for a lack of images in a seminary in the Reformed tradition. Reasons that I suddenly began, on that trip to Italy, to re-consider. You see, there was no lack of images there.

Much pondering ensued.

Eventually I heard a voice in my head. It was the voice of one of my professors totally freaking me out a few decades earlier by proclaiming a notion from a postmodern linguistic scholar at the University of Chicago who said (as I heard it) language creates reality.

Now, by the time I found myself in Italy, I’d made intellectual peace with that notion. While I was there, I learned that art creates reality, as well!

This is an example. I don’t know the artist’s name, or when this image was painted. I only know that it creates a reality which wouldn’t have occurred to me before I saw it.

Part of that statement comes from genetics. Another part from tradition. And, maybe, just maybe, part of it comes from finally being ready to see what I’d never seen before.

What do you see?

What do you notice and wonder?

I’m really asking. You can scroll down and leave me a comment (which works way better if you’ve clicked the main photo, above, so the elves know you’re in this post) or you can email me. suesvoice@sueboardman.com

It may take a bit for you to let the noticing and wondering become conscious. Really big questions often require a bit of time to settle in.

You can trust me, though, when I tell you it’s totally worth making the room!

ps… I’m making room in my private practice for 3 – 5 women ready to go on an adventure! We’ll use art, images, reflections, and a tool called the Soulful Visioning Process to create a soul satisfying life path of awakening awareness and expression of the Divine Feminine, as you encounter her. (Hint… claiming our SuperPowers® will be involved!) If you’d like to know what that might mean in your world, email me. I’d love to chat about whether this feels like a fit for you!

Tiny People… Huge Power

We are blessed to have lots of new readers among us lately and it’s possible that some of you will have seen some of these words recently. I’m so hoping you’ll hang in here with me, even so. You see, sometimes words volunteer for new jobs!

In my Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope, Chapter 4 began like this…

When we were expecting my first grandchild, just before I turned 50, I noticed a surprising thing. In the midst of making tiny quilts and packing glass baby bottles for the trip across the wee pond, I began to get an inkling that things were changing inside me. Suddenly things that had been sort of philosophically important to me for years, began to seem more urgent. This tiny unknown person, this new spark of love in my heart, had to grow up in this world. And if we’re honest, this world could use some work!

I began, a bit tentatively at first, to shake loose the voices of the ways we’ve always done it. That left me searching for ways to do things better. The family elders were not universally pleased, tending in the “sort for same” direction. There are serious health challenges in parts of the family and I grew up in a strongly environmental summer camp program, so I began my learning with “green” choices.

Household chemicals and personal products — the least toxic I can find or make. (Take a look at dishwasher soap when you have a minute some day.)

Laundry hanging on the front of my house to dry. (There have been many days I couldn’t get to the back.) And yes, Granny. No unmentionables!

No tissue in shopping bags. No paper appointment cards. Recycled paper towels. Sorry, Mom!

Well, you get it.

Now, I’m not usually considered naive. And I do realize that there really aren’t perfect solutions. I also believe that we can all do better in some way and I wanted this child, even before she was born, to have the best possible chance to live in a world with clean water and safe food and a big picture approach to energy. (Not to mention peace and justice and respect!)

I got involved.

I hope you will, too. Today…

…My narrative therapy friends are fond of noticing and wondering. As you think about your own littles’ futures, make room within yourself to notice new things. You know how you buy a new car and immediately start noticing the same cars everywhere you go? This is like that.

As you imagine your kids growing, you’ll automatically notice the things that are working in the world and the things that aren’t. If you’re concerned about dependence on fossil fuels, you might start noticing hybrid and electric cars. And, you might consider one if you’re currently driving a model that’s not so fuel-efficient.

If you’re concerned about safe, clean food you might start noticing signs for farmers’ markets. You might actually read the garden catalog that appears, so full of hope, in your mail…

…Those tiny people really do have huge power, don’t they?

Now, get ready for a bit of a shock.

Yesterday, I sat down with an iPhone pointed at me, camera turned to record. (Really!) I tried and tried to record myself reading the words you just read. (Thanks, Veronica, for the directions!)

It sounds like it should be pretty simple. I mean, I wrote them!

Instead I cried. And tried again. And cried… well, you get the picture. It wasn’t the historical camera phobia thing, of which I’m basically healed. Instead, it was because I care so much.

So I wimped out. Or went with expediency. (Up to you!) And decided to write a bit more. More of the things I’d say if I were writing this chapter for the first time. Like this…

When you watch the news, or go to vote, or (Heaven help us!) don’t, it’s really all about those tiny people.

Who would you rather have taking care of your grandkids… actual or eventual or mythical? That is what we’re deciding! And, if you happen to be having one of those visceral, whole-body shuddering kind of reactions just now, please listen to that.

Who would you rather have taking care of them and their future? I’m going with the ones who believe in civil rights and healthcare and know that climate change is real, etc., etc., etc.

I have two granddaughters growing up in this world.

ps… I’m supposed to remind you to be sure you vote all the way down the ticket. No matter where you live, those votes count, clear down to the local level. And, just in case you live in Georgia, one of the guys we need in the Senate is, alphabetically, waaaay down in the W’s, near the bottom!

pps… The lovely lady above is a glimpse from my first Legend painting and she’s known as Follow Your Heart. It was good advice when she came to be in January 2018 and it’s even better advice now!

Of voting and other super powers… including soup!

“His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, said it best, The world will be saved by Western women. I believe that with every fiber of my being,” claims my wise friend and teacher, Julie Steelman.

Just between us, saving the world seems like a pretty big job right about now and I suspect we’ll get there faster if we all pitch in, East, West, North, or South! Fortunately, I’ve been working on my SuperPower SelfPortrait workshop!

First, I voted. Well, the mail-in ballot is all filled out. Bill’s going to hand-deliver it tomorrow. I feel about equal parts proud of doing my part and anxious about things like, you know, voter suppression. I live in Georgia where this is not just a quaint story from the old days.

Blessedly, my second super power is butternut squash soup. And it’s time for that, too!

There’s broth thawing. And lots of veg waiting in the kitchen. It’s guaranteed to take the edges off the situational anxiety of our world. And, while it won’t end the pandemic, it’s really good for anybody you might know who’s struggling. Hence, the recipe…

World’s Tastiest Butternut Squash Soup

Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day and awakens and refines the appetite. – Escoffier

Makes about 6 quarts of soup. Leftovers freeze well.

Equipment: You’ll need a 10 quart stockpot and a couple of pans for roasting veg. I use heavy gauge stainless ½ sheet trays. An immersion blender, food processor, or Vita-Mix type blender are really handy. In a pinch, a food mill will work. Or a hand potato masher.

Ingredients: I try to pick organic squash that are more cylindrical in shape, than those that have the bulbs on the bottom. They’re easier to cut up and peel! Also look for smaller squash, about 2 lb. or less in size. They have thinner skin and smaller seeds. Plan ahead for this soup and buy pears about 5 days ahead of time so they’ll be ripe. If you need to purchase stock, the varieties in the shelf stable boxes, no salt added, organic if you can find them, are usually the best choices. A small, local butcher may have broth periodically. That would be a great choice! This soup is comforting in the same way that the m-m-good tomato stuff from the can seemed when you were six. But way better!!!

Note: Additional ingredient suggestions are listed below under Garnishes.

  • 2 quarts bone broth or veg broth, preferably homemade. Chicken, turkey, or pork are all great. Veg works really well, too, for an easy vegan dish.
  • About 6 – 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a bit of kitchen string.
  • 1 – 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh.
  • 3 – 4 lb. total butternut squash (about 2 smallish ones), washed and peeled, with seeds removed. (If the squash are really small and tender, sometimes I skip the peeling!) Chop into chunks about 1 inch square. The pieces don’t have to be pretty. They just need to be about the same size. (If you want to save the seeds, rub orange strings from them with a clean, dry dish cloth. Rinse well. Spread on paper towels to dry.)
  • Good olive oil.
  • Good grey Celtic sea salt.
  • Freshly ground pepper…black, mixed, or pink.
  • 3 – 4 ripe organic pears, washed, cored, seeded, and chopped to about the size of the squash pieces. (Substitute organic apples if they’re more local or pears aren’t available.)
  • 2 large or 3 medium organic red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, washed, cored, seeded, and chopped.
  • 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cover 2 sheet trays with unbleached parchment paper, if desired to help keep veg from sticking.

In a 10 quart stockpot, place the broth you’ve chosen and heat gently, adjusting heat as stock thaws or warms from fridge. Bring to very gentle boil. Skim any foam that appears on top, and continue to simmer slowly while you prepare the veg.  Add thyme and bay leaves to broth.

Place squash pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle with good olive oil to coat lightly and season with salt & pepper. Toss together well. Be a bit generous with the s&p. It will be most of the seasoning for a big pot of soup. Hold on to the bowl. You’ll need it again in a few minutes!

Spread squash on prepared sheet tray, in single layer. Place in oven at 450 F for 15 min.

While squash begins to bake, prep veg and pears or apples as noted above. Add to bowl. Drizzle all with good olive oil and season with s&p. Toss together well and arrange in a single layer on 2nd sheet tray. Add tray to oven and continue to roast, along with squash, another 20-30 min.

You’ll begin to smell the veg as they get close to done. Check with fork for tenderness. They should brown to about a medium tone. The squash will get darker than the pears and onions. Remove  trays when done.

Check simmering soup stock. Raise temp a bit so it’s simmering fairly boldly, but not boiling. Remove bay leaves and herbs if used. Transfer all the veg into the stockpot CAREFULLY. An extra set of hands is helpful for this. Mix well and allow to simmer to blend flavors, 10 or 15 min.

Prepare desired garnishes. Get creative! Here are some thoughts to start:

  • Chopped pumpkin seeds. (Save squash seeds until fully dry and use, lightly toasted, in other soup or salad, or save them to plant in your garden.)
  • Popped corn, lightly salted.
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley or other herb or green of choice.
  • Crumbled, cooked sausage-preferably local in spiced pear flavor or Italian sausage, mild or hot, to taste.
  • Good, homemade toasted bread croutons, pan fried in a bit of melted butter.
  • Crumbled local goat cheese.
  • Really fine, aged Balsamic vinegar for drizzling just a bit.
  • A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.
  • Chopped avocado.

Just before time to serve, puree mixture. A hand-held immersion blender is easiest. Other wise, transfer in batches to a food processer or VitaMix (blender). Use caution with hot liquids – only fill containers ½ full! If using a food mill or potato masher, allow liquid to cool a bit first to avoid burns. Working in batches, mash and blend soup well.

Stop when you like the texture you’ve achieved. Chunky, really smooth, whatever works for you! If you want it super smooth and velvety, you can pass the puree through a fine screen sieve. The cone shaped ones work well and you can push soup through with a wooden spoon. It’s all a matter of personal preference. I’m fine with a little texture left in mine!

Return all soup to pot, if necessary. If using hand-held blender, be sure plug does not fall into soup! Stir to blend well.

Taste for seasoning. With a good, homemade broth base and generous seasoning along the way, it probably won’t need any additional seasoning. I like the pure, clean taste of all the veg! If you like a little heat, try:

A few drops of hot sauce, to taste, or a pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper. Warm spices like cinnamon, curry, or nutmeg are another good choice.

When it tastes perfect to you, it’s ready! Small children may like to do their own garnishes and are more likely to actually eat the soup if they do.

Set your imagination free on serving options, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Traditional bowls and spoons are great. Try shot glasses in a small bite appetizer setting. If you don’t have enough soup bowls for your crowd, teacups or coffee mugs will work.  Add a slice of really good bread and perhaps a piece of good cheese and you have a fabulous meal. Have fun!

Save those leftovers!!! Cool soup before placing in freezing containers. Glass jars break a lot. We use BPA-free plastic but never pour hot food into it. I freeze soups like this in quart, pint, and even ½ pint size containers. Then you can thaw what you need for a family dinner, a comforting lunch on a crazy day, a care package for a friend, or even a creative way to add extra veg to any soup or sauce. Try thawing a small container and using the warmed soup instead of cream or olive oil to mash potatoes! Leave an inch of headspace before placing the lids to allow for natural expansion when it freezes. Label clearly including whether the broth base is meat or veg. And be sure to date it. That’s a freezer full of comfort food and all you did was cook dinner!

ps… the art for today is a glimpse of my SuperPower SelfPortrait Work-in-Progress, nicknamed Mystical Me.

Red Pen Party!

I started reading the genre of books known as southern fiction in the summer of 1988, when I was serving as an intern in ministry among the folks in a small Tennessee town.

Somewhere early on I encountered Clyde Edgerton. I loved several of his books though, as some of the characters carried over from one to the other, I’m never quite sure which one is which. I’m guessing it was either Rainey or Walking Across Egypt in which I met an elderly Southern Baptist woman who is still a favorite of mine. She was the proud possessor of a King James Red Letter Edition of the Bible.

She kept that treasure next to her chair, along with a red ink pen which she used to write in “the things Jesus would have said if he’d thought of them!”

There are many reasons she might have come to mind today. (Feel free to use your imagination!)

I’m guessing, though, that it had a great deal to do with a conversation I had about a book by an old friend named Steve Glenn. The book is called, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World…seven building blocks for developing capable young people.

If I were in charge of such decisions, I’d probably slip it into the Bible between The Gospel According to John and The Acts of the Apostles.

Really!

It came to mind during a conversation about helping a 2nd grader cope with the challenges of remote learning.

The part of me that spent a whole bunch of time hanging out with Steve, and teaching Developing Capable People classes, is convinced that helping this little girl believe that she is significant and capable, and has influence in the world, is probably more helpful in the long run than the math problems on any given day.

And then it occurred to me that most of us could probably use a reminder on that issue, ourselves. I know I could.

Please hear me say that I have nothing against French or math. (Well, maybe I do have some hangups about math.) It’s just that some things form a foundation in each of us which helps all the details actually be useful.

Believing that we are significant, capable, and have influence in our worlds is about as foundational as it gets.

(It is, however, possible to get out of balance and forget that these same truths apply inherently to all of us. This imbalance is sometimes known by names such as megalomania.)

The moral of our story for today, though, is that the world does, in fact, feel all upside down for pretty nearly anybody who’s paying attention. Reminders of changes we’ve navigated before, and tools we’ve learned while doing it, help.

So does modeling taking care of ourselves.

I’m not up for a debate about whether or not we might usefully proclaim, The Word of the Lord after that last sentence. I am, with great certainty, going with, thanks be to God. (Get out that red pen!)

And, if we model taking care of ourselves long enough, it just might become natural!

ps… for more information on the work of Steve Glenn, you might want to check my Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

pps… The artwork for today is a long gone under-layer of a painting which started out to be named Apothecary. It’s here today to remind us that there is order in the world, beautiful order, if only we remember to look. Think of a rose or a sunflower and you’re there! And, yes, there’s a polling place on the corner!

A bit of subversiveness…

This past week has been a crash course in healthcare.

A few days ago I called my primary care doc’s office to inquire what the logistical possibilities were for an appointment. They did have phone visits as an option but, since I wanted some lab work done, I went with the choice described to me as “tiny house isolation rooms”.

I was, to say the least, curious. And yes, the photo above is what I found in the parking lot!

Built by a Native American man named Black Fox, just outside the Atlanta Perimeter, these tiny houses reminded me of very classy Newfoundland-sized dog houses!

And, just in case you live nearby and are looking for a doc, I’m so impressed with the Humanizing Medicine gang. Dr. Mark Hancock has, in addition to his M.D., a masters in public health which seems like quite an advantage these days. They’re integratively inclined, mask-wearing people, which I find comforting, and I never felt germ-anxious while I was there! (If you’ve known me longer than about 10 minutes, you probably appreciate the miracle hiding in that sentence!)

Sadly, things in the larger world went downhill from there.

My sister’s grandson was born, on the West Coast, and did, in fact, have the serious heart conditions which seemed likely, given a host of pre-natal scans and tests.

On Tuesday this little guy was in open heart surgery all day. Some progress was made but the surgeons decided to give him a rest and start again when he was stronger.

My understanding, as I write this, is that he was taken back to surgery very early this morning.

Many of you have prayed with us and we are grateful.

I think of this little guy and what he is likely to need into the future. Every now and then the news interrupts my thinking and praying, often with “paid political announcements”. Many of those announcements, as you may have noticed, too, have to do with the pandemic and with healthcare.

All I can see, as I watch those ads, is a battle over the future, not only of our nation, but of the people we love. And we have a choice to make.

That choice means supporting people who don’t think we need healthcare for all. Who are opposed to covering pre-existing conditions. Who behave as though, during a pandemic, some humans deserve the best healthcare available, while hundreds of thousands die of needless exposure and limited access to resources.

Or choosing other people. People who believe, with differing details, in something way closer to universal healthcare coverage. In paying for pre-existing conditions like massive heart defects and all the things that come after such a reality. In everybody having access to the best healthcare there is, along with affordable vaccines when they become available, because very nearly everybody is somebody’s loved one and, ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.

Yes. I’m pissed. And I’ll understand, sadly, if you’re uncomfortable with that.

For today, though, I’m giving thanks for women.

Experts are saying that it is women who will make the difference in this election. Not just the one nominated for Vice President, but the ones like you and me. Daughters, sisters, mothers, partners, godmothers, grandmothers, aunts…

And many, many of us stayed home four years ago.

Now we know more. The world needs every one of our voices. The world needs your voice.

And so I have to ask… What will you speak out for?

Only you can answer for you.

The earlier draft of this post had quite the list here of either/or kinds of choices. Obvious ones, if not terribly clever or suspenseful on my part.

Then, I listened some more, before I pushed Publish, and I heard a voice that’s lived inside me for a long time. A voice that belongs to the writer, Anne Lamott.

So… I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.

I’m an artist, and these words are painted into and written on the back of one of my paintings.

I’m also a grandmother. And they’re written on my heart, as well. So, this is part of me showing up.

I’m happy to loan these words to you. (Annie would approve!) And, I’d be beyond grateful if you’re considering what that looks like in your world, too.

ps… this is Reflections, with thanks to Annie.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher