We’re going on an adventure!

It began with an email I received a couple of days ago.

“I think of food when I think of you,” it began. “Do you counsel, too?”

My emailed response was simple. “Yes!” (Well, not quite that simple, but you get the drift…)

My internal response was rather more complex.

You see, I’ve been thinking about that very thing a lot, lately.

Specifically, labels for what I do. And how those labels are the same as and different from the tools I use to do what I do.

As you may have noticed, I have a thing for words!

So, fundamentally, I am a Guide. A Coach. A Counselor. Even, according to a quiz I took recently, an Oracle. (Gulp!)

And I have LOTS of tools in my Medicine Basket:

Words. Images. Intentional Creativity®. Flashy stuff like NLP and Enneagram types and Hypnotherapy. Developing Capable People.

And Food. Which is, as I’ve realized in my pondering, one of the most accessible, universal tools in my basket.

Food is an issue for everybody. A different issue, granted, depending on issues like location and culture and degree of privilege.

For today, we’re going with food in families dealing with holiday traditions… not because it’s the only thing, but because it’s often the most emotional thing and a great place for growth.

Awhile back, I wrote a book about this. We Gather Together… holiday feasts with the family you have!

I’ll give you the punchline in a moment. First, a brief story…

The first time I had dinner with Bill’s family, his mom opened a can of green beans and poured them, unheated, into a crystal bowl. She added a silver spoon and set them, with a flourish, on the dining room table.

If I had known, back then, about the ways we filter all the input of our world, I would have been able to explain why it freaked me out so much. At the time, I just began to comprehend Bill’s extreme disinterest in vegetables!

So, tomorrow is the first of October. Food Network is already well into the holiday season. And it’s time, for many of us, to begin to ponder plans for feeding those we love the most in a world that’s gotten a whole lot different since we were kids.

At our house, we start with the food challenges/choices of those who will gather. For us that means two omnivores with strong tendencies toward local, sustainable choices (Dave and me), three pescatarians… fish, yes  – meat, no (Kelly and the girls), and an insulin dependent diabetic (Bill). Plus the varying challenges of gluten and dairy and allergies. And the fact that pretty much everybody wants to help!

All of which should explain why step 2 is so important. It is, as so many of my favorite tools are, a question!

What are we trying to accomplish?

(Here’s where the Guide part starts!)

Using Grandma’s china? Lots of time to play games? Trying something new? (Fill in your answer, here!)

Your real answer! No judgement. It just helps a lot for it to be conscious!

My answer, and my favorite thing about food, is that it’s about belonging and building a sense of capability and significance, especially in the littles.

Hence, the photo of Kenzie, thrilled to be “in charge” of a cheese platter for family game night during a recent holiday visit. She was so proud!

And, yes, my inner Grammy-Guide cried!

There’s an old joke in my family about the Thanksgiving dinner at my folks’ house, with cousins from both sides of the family gathered around the table. We were about 20 minutes into a lovely meal when my Mom suddenly blurted, “I forgot the effing corn! The Pilgrims always had corn!”

Maybe, just maybe, with all due respect, that’s an old story that isn’t quite what we’re trying to accomplish in this moment.

I’m just sayin’…

ps… the book has recipes, too!

I don’t hurt as much… or, how much junk is piled on the actual miracle you need?

I am excited to share this story with you, despite the tiny, all too familiar, voice whispering inside me, suggesting that I might feel kind of, well, dense for not catching on sooner!

A bit of background for all the new folks I’m delighted to welcome to the conversation… I’ve been dealing for more than 20 years, now, with a variety of pain and mobility challenges. (It’s possible that the underlying issue is a legacy from my paternal grandmother, but we’re not blaming anybody, here!) Suffice it to say that I’ve had lots of practice sitting still, trying not to hurt!

The current strategy of staying home in order to stay safe and protect others, frankly, hasn’t helped. I’ve begun to suspect that I may have lost “a bit” of muscle tone by spending so much time in convenient proximity to the magic chair.

Beyond the fact that all my sitting wasn’t really working, the light bulb came on just recently and I remembered that we give power to the things (or people!) we avoid.

(Chase that rabbit wherever it leads!)

Here’s what I noticed when the light came on… I wasn’t sleeping at all well, either.

You may have noticed, as I did, that sleeping poorly is not conducive to much of anything desirable.

And, then, another light bulb came on!

I remembered that, some time back, Bill was sick and snuffly for a bit and I slept on the trundle bed we got for the girls when they visit.

You guessed it! I felt better – if lonely – when I slept in that bed.

This bit of enlightenment presented another challenge, as so often happens.

We’re a bit short of horizontal surfaces in our house. Constantly multiplying art supplies – and art furniture – are a huge contributor to the shortage.

So is the fact that I’m pretty staircase avoidant. And, yes, there’s a pattern here! A pattern that often leaves Bill, who’s considerably more clutter-tolerant than I am, in charge of trips to and from the basement with stuff we either need upstairs or don’t.

Curious, by this point in my journey, I took advantage of the fact that Bill was away over Labor Day weekend, summoned all my determination, and “cleared away” the mountain of spare bedding and pillows which had some how collected on the girls’ bed. Read that cleared away to a co-opted rolling chair from the studio! (No stairs involved!)

Then, obviously, I slept there one night.

And, when I got up the next day, I didn’t hurt as much!

Next began the process of enlisting Bill into my obvious plan to get a new mattress.

After that, the choosing, without, you know, venturing out to actually test anything!

I won’t bore you with the he needs – she needs drama. We figured it out!

Then we waited. Longer than I would have chosen but not unreasonably long, given the current supply and shipping challenges.

By the time you read this, we will have slept on the miracle known as the new mattress for five nights. And, as I mentioned, I don’t hurt as much!

Which, I suspect, led the Muse to whisper visionary eye about my almost finished Legend painting. Connected to the model of right brain creativity, the visionary eye represents, as you’ve clearly guessed, one who sees beyond that which is physically visible.

The Greek word for that is pronounced Bleppo which is there, on her lower eyelid, just in case I forget. (Again!)

It boils down to this:

When we move toward our deepest selves – our most precious dreams – instead of simply away from fear and pain, there is the likelihood of great healing.

All of which just thrills me!

And – best of all – we can help our beloved littles learn, too!

ps… the painting has chosen her name: Living Her Legendary Powers!

Let’s talk modeling!

Nope. Not the kind that may lead to magazine covers and often includes eating disorders, orthopedic challenges, and all kinds of exploitation.

Rather, the kind that centers around opportunities to learn! The kind our littles desperately need us to get comfortable with, now more than ever!

At least that’s what the Muse whispered in my ear way early this morning!

You see, it’s a modeling kind of day in my world.

I’m Hearth Tending for Work-in-Progress Wednesday in the Red Thread Cafe Classroom which translates into offering support, encouragement, and even a tip or two, for sister artists sharing what they’re working on at the moment.

I love Hearth Tending! It feels like a Grammy kind of thing to me. And a Steve Glenn kind of thing.

Or, maybe, place is a better word than thing.

A place where there’s no such thing as failure. Only opportunities to be learned from!

A place where the process – the journey – is at least as important as the outcome.

A place where being witnessed holds huge power for creativity.

A place where we’re wondering, together, about the new things we’re trying and what we’re learning. (And I’ll be posting photos of what’s literally in progress on my canvas!)

And, while I’m Hearth Tending, I’ll also be hanging out in the Red Tent. You see, Forest of Grandmothers is officially starting today. (There’s still time to sign up… I promise!)

Welcome. More witnessing. And more modeling.

In my case, much of the modeling will have to do with believing so much in what we’re doing that I will voluntarily engage technology which doesn’t yet feel familiar to me.

Which is a lot like choosing newness on the way to what matters!

You, dear, clever reader, have no doubt realized that all of this is about things I want my girls to learn, too.

They’re not things that generally show up on standardized tests for middle school kids so they tend to get skipped, at least in any conscious sense, in the place kids think they go to learn.

And they’re hard things to measure, or read in a book.

There is a test, though. It’s called LIFE.

So, today is an intentional modeling kind of day in my world. I’d be thrilled if you’d join me, wherever you are!

Showing up is a great place to start… and barefooted works!

ps… Equinox blessings from Phoebe and Luther and Charlotte the Spider and me!

Two of my favorite participles…

Once upon a time… a really, really long time ago… there was a rather awkward high school student. She wasn’t ever quite sure where she fit in.

She was not, even then, flexible enough to be a cheerleader.

She believed, though it wasn’t totally true, that she was utterly tone deaf, so band was out, too.

She tried Drama Club for a bit but it was complicated by mostly mandatory family weekend fishing trips.

She did have a couple of skills, though. She was good at setting up science labs.

And, she pretty much aced the whole reading and writing thing which seemed, at least back then, to have some promise.

Thus, she was appointed the Grammar Police for the yearbook staff.

Please don’t tell, but she often gave herself permission to break the rules! Especially the one about not ending sentences with participles!

She had two favorites. Noticing. And Wondering.

And, yes, she turned into me. And I still love noticing. And wondering.

It’s a pretty useful strategy these days. I mean, there’s a whole lot of both that needs doing! And, since both of my granddaughters are in middle school, it seems like an excellent time to model a bit of each!

Doing a right brain – left brain cross lateral thing seems to help. Knitting, perhaps. And painting. Dog brushing doesn’t work quite the same way, but is also useful!

Yesterday, it was mainly painting. With a bit of company from season 18 of Top Chef.

As I focused on liberating a figure from all the layers and layers of background, I listened to a delightfully global mix of chefs trying to figure out how to put themselves on a plate, as it were.

Which I couldn’t help but notice sounded quite a bit like I was feeling, trying to put a version of me on canvas.

As the chefs chopped and chatted, one theme kept reappearing. The tension between what they grew up thinking they should be and do and even eat – vs – what they were discovering about their sense of what they hoped to create in that moment. Their intention, if you will.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

It’s a feeling I know well, that tension. If you’re any older than the Gen X crowd, you may know it well, too.

Frankly, I suspect everybody knows it, even though it’s less cool than it used to be.

While I went on noticing and wondering and making dots, a phrase began repeating itself inside me.

The work of my hands…

Five dots and repeat. Each word with its own dot.

Noticing and wondering.

When I shivered, I remembered.

Cold. Hungary in 1989. The ninetieth Psalm, repeated aloud, by heart, in the Reformed Church. Every Sunday.

The work of our hands, establish Thou it.

What if that… whatever our spiritual traditions… was the question we helped our littles to ask?

Them. Their gifts. Their passions.

Just the way they are, free of expectations except, at least for me, compassion.

I know. It’s a leap for some of us. And I’m still not mobile or coordinated enough for literal leaping.

But there are still participles. And I’m still noticing and wondering.

How about you?

There’s still time to check out the year-long journey, Forest of Grandmothers. Just in case it’s calling to you. No paint experience needed! As with many journeys, newness awaits! If you think you might belong, you can!

ps… another glimpse at my Legend painting in progress. More details, soon. Let’s just say that the generations are gathering. And helping!

Today in my world…

Yesterday I had a really helpful meeting about things like consistent visual branding and a plan for social media posts. It was big fun!

Last night I slept. Even bigger fun!

Today we scrambled around a bit to get ready for a massage appointment that I wasn’t really betting would happen. I’m so glad it did.

We fed the big dogs who were sad after missing out on the massage party. I took a nap. Bill fixed dinner. It was really good.

The guy who’s been winning… and winning… and winning on Jeopardy won again, which is probably nicer for him than for us, but we knew lots of the answers, too.

Then, while we were planning for tomorrow, Bill said, “Did you write a blog for today?”

You guessed it!

Which was not, in fact, in the plan…

If I were going to “blame” someone, it might be CNN. Well, not really them so much as the convicted abuser of so many U.S. gymnasts. And, apparently, the FBI and DOJ guys who were “less than effective” in handling the reporting.

I watched those brave young women holding people they should have been able to count on – WE should be able to count on – accountable for negligence and the additional abuse of other young women.

And, yes, there were tears in some of their eyes as they testified before the Senate. Warrior tears!

Because it’s Wednesday, it’s Work-in-Progress day in the land of Intentional Creativity® and I do, indeed, have a painting in progress.

The first glimpse of Luther is becoming visible. The lioness spirit animals have just begun to appear.

And I went back to the studio just now and added the teardrops that are a part of my own coding for Legend paintings such as this one.

They, too, are warrior tears!

Not warriors of violence and oppression and abuse.

Warriors for children’s safety. For peace. And justice. And equality. And civil rights. Warriors for voice and art and decency.

And, yes, they’re rolling down my cheeks, too, as I write these words.

It’s not there, yet, but before my painting is done, the Hebrew word pronounced tzcar – which means both to remember and to remind – will be there, too. A mark of power. And promise.

ps… just in case you’re wondering, this post fits the plan after all. Me, showing up, real and as close to fiercely compassionate as I can manage on any given day.

pps… there’s still time to join us for Forest of Grandmothers! If you relate to this story, it’s so worth checking out! The details are just a click away

Whispering Walls & Grandparents’ Day…

A counseling client from years gone by has reappeared, searching for some help with, well, trauma.

We started with lots of listening on my part. It’s harder to do the tea & Kleenex part via Zoom, but eventually we reached the point when I could say, with a great deal of professional confidence, that I absolutely agree with the current therapeutic movement to drop the D from PTS_, recognizing that much of the world is dealing with traumatic stress and it’s part of being human, not disordered.

Then, before our next time together, I began to hear the walls whispering. Well, metaphorically, at least. You see, our walls are literally covered in my Intentional Creativity® journey. And, I’ve been doing a whole lot of what Bill refers to as hatching, lately.

Hatching as both a coach and as a Grandmother!

You’ve probably noticed, too, that all that stress and trauma is not just a thing for professional debates. It’s a deeply personal thing for many of those we love the most.

That meant a whole lot of chatting with The Muse painting. Here’s a glimpse:

Her job was to help me recognize the wisdom I carry and to lend me some courage for sharing it!

It’s hard, though, to hang with The Muse without also pondering her partner-in-concern, The Critic.

Apparently hating her hair at the moment, The Critic is not available for a photo op. She did authorize me to remind you that she says No! No! No! about a whole lot of things because they’re new and scary, not because she doesn’t love me.

Kind of predictably, in stressful times, The Critic tends to be more emphatic than ever about not doing things we’ve never done before, or even things we have that have become more scary, lately.

Thank goodness for my Medicine Basket, which seems to whisper, too, even as a supposedly inanimate object!

Together, we all got busy with a plan for empowering.

Then, The Muse remembered that, while The Critic assuredly loves us, she was absent on all the days when my old friend and teacher, Dr. Steve Glenn, proclaimed that, We don’t rescue people from opportunities to learn… only from things beyond their capabilities.

That last bit was frequently followed by the example of two-year-olds in traffic. Them we rescue.

And the walls whispered on while I (sort of) slept until I woke with a new question in my head…

How do we, as Grandmothers and Elders and like-minded folk, juggle the muses and critics inside us?

And help our beloved littles to do the same???

These days, that probably feels even harder than usual to many of us!

And, quite possibly, more important than ever!

So, one of the things I’m doing is guiding some folks through a rather ramped-up Medicine Basket process. (Details coming soon!)

And, I’m helping with the teaching team for Forest of Grandmothers, the exciting new year-long Intentional Creativity journey about to start in the tradition of Red Madonna.

You, wise one that you are, have already figured out that if you click the pretty colored link, lots and lots of juicy details about this amazing journey will magically appear, curiosity being one of those things that belongs in all our Medicine Baskets!

Here’s the thing…

Safety is enormously important in the literal sense.

The quest for safe (read that familiar) can also hold us back from our greatest gifts if it becomes the only option we consider!

It’s a bit like dandelions! Noxious weeds? Or hopeful, nutritious gifts???

Gifts, I think. And pretty good ones for Grandparents’ Day!

ps… if you haven’t yet, please click the annoying pop-up thing and sign up for the list so you’ll have all the newest info!

pps… I have room for just two more individual clients interested in exploring some of these issues 1:1. You can email me at suesvoice@gmail.com for more information!

Food and Families…

Yesterday, my first granddaughter turned fourteen. (Gulp!)

I sooooooo want to hug her!

I also want to feed her. To bake something she loves with her.

For now, we’ve agreed to put that on the list for Christmas. Here’s what we chose… from my book, We Gather Together…holiday feasts with the family you have! complete with variations, just in case feeding your family is as complicated as feeding mine!

Authentic Key Lime Pie with a Gluten-Free Variation

This is the real deal – yellow colored – Key Lime Pie. Better yet, with the Oatmeal Pie Crust shell, it’s gluten-free! And Kenzie loves it! This is the recipe right off the Nellie & Joe’s bottle of Key Lime juice. You can order it from Amazon or try Whole Foods or Publix depending on where you are. Did you know that the pie has sweetened condensed milk in it because the recipe was developed before Key West had dependable milk delivery or refrigeration? Really! Would I eat this once a week? No. But it’s a favorite in my family and celebrations are even more precious these days!

MAKES: One 9 inch pie, about 8 servings

Equipment Note: You can use a food processorhand or stand mixer to do this, but a wire whisk will do. A mixing advantage is handy if you opt for homemade whipped cream. I often use an Eco-foil disposable pie tin with the domed plastic crust when I make this. 

Arrange oven racks so pie will bake in center of oven.

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

In a suitable mixing bowl, combine and mix well:

            One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

            3 good egg yolks. (Reserve whites for another use.)

Add and blend until smooth:

                        ½ c. Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice

Pour filling into:

                        One 9 inch prepared Graham Cracker pie shell

Bake for 15 min. Remove from oven and place on rack. Allow to sit 10 min. before refrigerating.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Optional: Add to mixing bowl, preferably metal:

                      1 pint organic, heavy whipping cream

                        1 Tbsp. 10x powdered sugar, if desired. 

Whip cream rapidly by hand or with mixer, until soft peaks form.

If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Just before serving, top pie with whipped cream. 

Fabulous Gluten-free Oatmeal Pie Crust with Vegan Variation, for other days…

Equipment Note: food processor or Vitamix-type blender is used for this recipe.

Depending on how high your pie will get when finished, allowing for whipped cream or meringue, you may want to purchase an Eco-foil pie pan with a plastic cover. 

I found this on an old, yellowed index card, in my mom’s handwriting when I went through her recipes. I don’t remember her ever making it. What a gift for Bill, who’s gluten-free! See how many ways you can find to use this like you would use a graham cracker crust, but better!

Into the bowl of your food processor or carafe of your blender, place:

            1 c. gluten-free rolled oats

            ½ c. brown sugar

            ½ c. flaked or shredded coconut

Pulse until ingredients resemble a fairly fine meal. Add:

            1/3 c. melted butter 

Continue to pulse until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate.  Cover with plastic wrap or lid to pan. Chill.

Variation – Vegan

Replace butter with 1/3 c. melted coconut oil


ps… you can also make whipped cream in a Mason jar. As soon as I hunt up the girls to tell me how, I’ll let you know!

pps…Kenz and me! Feeling Grandmother-ish??? There’s still time to join us for Forest of Grandmotherscheck it out!

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