Blank canvases…

Yep. Kind of strange. And yet, it’s #Work-in-Progress Wednesday and this is where I actually am! I kind of feel like I’m channeling a pop artist named Robert Rauschenberg. Mine, however, are not finished. They are holding their collective breath, waiting to begin.

It used to feel kind of scary, this point in the journey. I mean, what if I messed up?

Now I know more.

Anything can be painted over.

There’s always room for noticing and wondering. And new inspiration.

There’s always a way to be me and be part of a group journey.

The Muse dragged me out of bed at 5:30 this morning, with some help from a cranky neck. She’s thrilled!

The Critic is probably off, carb loading for her part in the drama of not one, but three, paintings about to begin. The part that goes, OMG, what if it doesn’t work? What if nobody likes it? What if nobody UNDERSTANDS it? What if people think you’re strange? Or wrong?

I, too, am rehearsing my lines. From memory. Thanks for your concern. I can tell that you really want to help.

And then, intentional dramatic pause… What I really need is______________________________________.

Please don’t tell anybody, but I learned this particular bit of the script in the first church I served. And life got lots easier to cope with. (At least for me!)

I have a few more tools in my medicine basket, too. One of them came in really handy this morning. You see, the blank canvases aren’t the only things about to change. To be seen.

I feel rather like the famous image of Alice, peering around the curtain, wondering where she has landed!

So, the magic chart. The whole bit with Input and Filters and a Map of Reality. (Just imagine along…)

Rather oddly, I spent a bit more time on the far side this morning, while the big dogs snored in the dark.

The part in the oval shape called Outcome.

Turns out there are, at least figuratively, lots of those little ovals for lots of different issues. Lots of desired outcomes for new plans and projects and strategies.

It’s really exciting! Because there are lots of those things going on in my world.

Which isn’t too different from the way the Big World feels!

The miracle is that, with my magic chart, I’m conscious of the things going on and the ways they relate to really old things and Critic things and fears and a whole lot of other things that hold humans back, but don’t have to.

Feel free to fill in the blanks!

For now, I’m off to have my hair adjusted a bit, having noticed what is working and what hasn’t been, so much, and wondered, a lot, about making it better. I even have pics in my phone!

Isn’t art amazing?

ps… I can tell you, even with all the things in progress, that I do have space for 1 or 2 individual clients… possibly folks who relate to all the circles and projects and strategies…or would like to! suesvoice@gmail.com (We could find time to chat!)

Historical Fiction…

Some how, in my rather nomadic youth, I managed to miss a whole lot of history.

Wherever we moved, in the elementary school years, it was New Place State History year and I guess I didn’t feel enough of a connection to soak much of it up.

Middle School did not bring much of an improvement. I did well at Geography because coloring counted. (Back in the day, I was good at staying in the lines!) And I spent much of my time in American history reading library books under my desk.

I suspect I just didn’t have the perspective to understand why it might have mattered.

Among my real history teachers were Irving Stone, who covered both US and World history, Leon Uris on the Middle East, and a couple of guys named Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone who created the Broadway musical, 1776.

More recently, I’ve become one of Aaron Sorkin’s biggest fans.

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I like what I learn watching The West Wing better than what I learn watching CNN.

Well, lots of the time!

And, yes, I know all of that is, technically, fiction.

I can’t help but notice lately, with the help of friends like Dr. William Barber at the Poor People’s Crusade, and the organizers of National Hispanic Heritage Month, and Indigenous Heritage Month, and Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands…, that much of the stuff I didn’t learn in school might be termed fiction, too.

We’ll leave nursing school and church history for another day!

There are probably a whole lot of reasons for the things I missed. Reasons related to environmental input and human coping filters. Not to mention developmentally appropriate self-involvement and sketchy abstract thought skills.

There was one time in my early journey, though, that I remember learning a whole lot of unfolding history. A time that messed with assumptions I didn’t even realize I had.

We lived in a Chicago bedroom community from the summer of 1967 to December of 1968. My dad worked out of town most of the time we were there which I suspect, in hindsight, left me promoted to Mom’s unofficial buddy.

I remember sitting up late with her, glued to the news when Bobby Kennedy was killed. When the riots broke out at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. When Dr. King was killed.

And I remember knowing, at some level of consciousness, even then, that she and I were reacting very differently to all that news.

I suspect my “defection” to the blue side of the political aisle began in those days.

Which, not surprisingly, brings us back to The West Wing.

Here’s Friday night’s path to this place…

And, these days, like my friend Matt Santos, I have claimed the freedom to choose my own stories. Many of mine told by women…

ps… like Alice Hoffman, Alice Walker, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Elsie Hannah Royce Boardman, Gwen Marston, Hildegard, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Julian of Norwich, Mary Elizabeth Blanford Algren, Mary Magdalene, Me!, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, Sue Monk Kidd, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, The women of Gee’s Bend, Toni Morrison…

pps… the art is drippy under-layers of my Artifact painting, from the night Rep. John Lewis passed on. Tears and Hope. My truth in that moment.

Washing the brushes….

Today is kind of an odd day in my world. My Legend painting is finished. (I think!) We haven’t started painting yet in Forest of Grandmothers. Taking Her Place Among the Matriarchs, who is also finished, has volunteered for the upcoming Musea show’s call for entries. Also among the sisterhood, a peek at my first Our Lady of Guadalupe painting who’s eager to meet her forever Mom, and an older friend, What the World Needs Now.

My day is full of meetings. And a massage!

It’s Work-in-Progress Wednesday and I am washing brushes.

That feels like a really good thing!

A reminder that the journey is at least as important as the finish line. That I am the work-in-progress.

And that reminds me of an old quote. With the miracles of technology, I tried to look it up.

Turns out that searching Desert Fathers scrubbing floors/washing dishes doesn’t get much but some sad faces from Google.

If you happen to be one of my buddies from seminary, or a mystic of another sort, feel free to help me out!

For now, I’m foregoing chasing that particular mental rabbit for the actual meditation of Castile soap and well loved paint brushes.

I like the scrubby kind the best. The ones that are a bit gunky even after they’re washed, with the stiff bristles so good for glazing. Some of mine have paint flaking off the handles.

I’m grateful for an amazingly cool silicone scrubby do-hickey which makes brush washing a whole lot easier. It was a gift from a dear paint sister and is still going strong a couple of years later.

Then, time to clean the sink and find a new sketch pad/journal for The Get It Done Lab which starts today. Which kind of goes along with the theme of me being the work-in-progress.

Here’s what I’ve realized, lately. When “work” is also passion and calling and what some traditions would refer to as sacred promise, washing the brushes is all part of the journey.

Now, I know that many of you reading this are paint sisters and other folks who will find these musings of mine familiar. Possibly even redundant.

But, there are many of you who may still be searching for that sense of place and purpose in the world. I’ve been there!

I took several detours along my path that might have been failures but turned out to be huge learning opportunities.

All that learning has led me to a place where I’m thrilled with the blue index card that has my best-ever answer to the eternal question:

What do you do?

It goes like this…

You know how the world feels upside down and the littles you love like crazy are struggling and you’re not sure how to help in ways that are real for you?

Well, I help wise Grandmothers like us to discover and claim the gifts of our special archetypes for empowering ourselves and each other, and the ones we love the most, to survive and thrive!

Stay tuned for more to follow!

For now, I’m so hoping you’ll claim where you are on the journey and have some fun with whatever version of washing brushes works for you.

What keeps you from “flying”?

(#phobia alert…)

I so hope you’re still here. And I promise to be gentle! It’s just that this story feels important today.

As you may recall, we moved around a lot when I was a kid, which contributed to my rather early adventures with airplanes.

I was never afraid to fly. Back in the day, it was fun. Sometimes I even got to meet the pilot. And they gave out those cool plastic wings.

Fast forward to the first time I flew with Dave. He was about 18 months old. We were in the poor, single parent phase, traveling on my Dad’s dime, to my Grandma Elsie’s 90th birthday party.

(I think they thought buying Dave and me plane tickets was a good investment, compared to a 1,000 mile road trip with us in the car. Each way!)

Getting there was bad. Especially taking off and landing. Dave had been through more than his fair share of ear infections so he was, perhaps, a bit more sensitive than usual.

He screamed. People glared. I sang. People glared more.

And all the while, I was terrified that the plan would crash and my fabulous baby would die.

Coming home was worse. We had to change planes in Atlanta, which was not familiar at that point. The flight was delayed. Dave fussed – loudly – wanting out of the stroller. I was afraid I’d lose him.

I had $1.56 cents in my purse. And no credit cards.

And there was still the whole taking off and landing thing. Again.

Elsie’s party was great. I was afraid of taking off and landing for about 16 more years! And I still had places I needed to be.

Bill used to ask whose knee I clutched when he wasn’t with me.

Then, one day, I was healed.

I was flying home to Atlanta from a hypnotherapy training in D. C.

A flight attendant, with a small face peeping out from behind her, asked if I’d like a new friend.

The young boy was flying, alone, to meet his Grandma in Atlanta. He had never flown before and was terrified.

There was no way I could decline.

Milton Erickson would have been proud. My buddy told me all about his Grandma and why he was going to visit. I told him about my Grandmas and some scary adventures they’d had along the way which were now favorite family stories about being super heroes.

We talked about how feeling afraid is actually trying to help us but – sometimes – it’s more help than we really need in the moment.

Feel free to fill in some of your own details here…

Once we got safely leveled out, I shared my Mrs. Field’s cookies and we talked about things we hoped for.

Soon, it was time to prepare for landing. My buddy gave me a thumbs up and took a deep breath. Then he said, ‘I’ve got this!”

And I did, too!

I still think of him every time I get on a plane, because I’m not afraid anymore, either.

Now, if you’re still reading, you may be wondering why this story in this moment.

That’s easy!

Just about everybody on the planet is feeling scared right now. For some of us, it’s kind of new. For others, it’s all too familiar. And it makes everything harder.

Often, though, it helps to realize we’re not the only ones and it’s okay to be scared and a bit of understanding goes a long way. It’s also okay to not need to be scared anymore!

I’ve done a couple of those way-less-scared things recently. You’ll be hearing about them soon. For today, if you’re curious about what way-less-scared looks like, come check out Fierce Art with Heart! It’s still a work-in-progress but you might just find something there that will inspire you or a loved one to branch out a bit.

ps… that bit of understanding even works for ourselves!

pps… tomorrow I have a meeting with an old friend who has several scary things on her mind just now. The lovely lady in the photo has agreed to join us. In case your eyes could use a boost, the little message in her pocket says, Live Your Dream!

National Question Day!

I am declaring a holiday. (Everybody else has!) I’m not sure it’ll get a huge following, but it should. And you’re invited!

The name is kind of catchy. National Question Day.

I know… lots of people are more into answers but many, many answers, like the right/left either/or kind, feel – well – limiting.

I’m starting with this question:

What shall I plant in my garden?

The photo is a glimpse of what it used to look like. Fabulous Oakleaf Hydrangeas happily spreading over the the bumpy area under the huge pine tree. Thrilled about the acidic soil, like the azaleas sprinkled here and there among them.

I really had no idea what I was doing when I chose them. They were gorgeous. And mowing in that part of the yard, back when we did that sort of thing, didn’t work. Bill dug holes. Done.

They’re mostly gone, now.

Maybe it was just their time. Or maybe it was a global warming thing, after 2020’s massive drought and heat. A few of them made it, but some of those are dying, now, too.

In any event, it’s time to move on. And it’s complicated by the current reality of my knees and sacroiliac joints. And Bill’s apparent lack of the gardening gene.

So, questions!

What can we manage? What are we trying to accomplish? What do we want to invest? (Feel free to add a few of your own…)

Let’s simplify!

What are we trying to accomplish? pretty much covers it all.

Oddly, the immediate answer is figs!

I adore figs and my garden wizard, Randy, delivered these this morning. Overflow from his garden. About three miles away.

Who knew?

The longer term answers include lots of bang for minimal bucks, no chemicals required, emotionally uplifting, and edible.

Recently, the list got a bit more interesting.

Pollinators. And, natives.

And, yes, I’ve been reading Facebook.

Fortunately Randy can help with the garden answers. The other ones are up to me.

Yes, I was peeved when Facebook went down Monday.

And, hell yes, I’m concerned about the whistleblower revelations. Not really surprised, which is sad. But concerned.

Which means – as you’ve guessed – more questions!

Questions I don’t have answers for yet. Questions people I care about and respect are asking, too.

Questions about relationships and information and inspiration and business.

Questions about dangerous lies and influence.

They’re not new questions. It’s just that I’ve figured – reasonably capable person that I am – that I could protect myself.

The allegations about knowingly promoting content designed to negatively – harmfully – alter the sense young women have of body image was a huge reminder, though, that protecting myself is not enough.

I have two granddaughters growing up in this world.

And, sadly, my magic wand doesn’t seem to cover this. Though, in the long run, my intentional actions as a guide and artist and writer will make an empowering difference!

So, for today, I don’t know what I will do with all the new questions I have about Facebook and its “partners”.

What I do know is that I’ll push a button in a bit and add these words to the conversation – on Facebook, among other places.

I also know that I’m making progress on the plan for the garden.

And on my painting.

But first, figs for lunch. Locally grown, chemically free food. Food that feeds the other critters and gives me huge pleasure. Food that’s actually healthy!

And, drizzled with a bit of the phenomenal, thick, sticky balsamic vinegar that followed me home from Italy three years ago, I will have accomplished quite a bit in terms of a magical moment.

The rest of the questions will still be there.

ps… magical moments like the figs help the rest of the stuff get done!

pps… there’s really only one question! If we believe what we say we believe what, then, shall we do?

The wonders of transitional lenses…

On Thursday, I got my new glasses. Same frames. Updated lenses. There was the usual adjustment adventure as I tried to figure out where the floor was. Since then, though, the news has been good.

I can actually see my phone, my laptop, and Iron Chef America on TV… all at the same time, with my glasses on. And my neck, as I had devoutly hoped, hurts less, already.

I’ve been having adventures like this since I was 10 years old. Those adventures have been a decades long reminder that there can, indeed, be a difference between what surrounds us and what we see.

And that reminds me, in a free associating sort of way, of one of my favorite quotes.

History is not what happened. It’s what got written down.

– Kathleen McGowan

And who, of course, did the writing.

Our world feels filled with examples of exactly that. I’ll leave the particulars to you, wise friend.

I will say that my journey, as one born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, from Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy to the wonders of Postmodern narrative biblical studies in the late 1980’s was quite the trip!

One of my favorite questions from my time at Columbia Theological Seminary was – and still is –

Whose voice is missing?

And then there are my recent encounters with things that might have been really helpful but seemed, at least to some, dangerous because they were outside the way we’ve always done it.

The gospels known as Gnostic come to mind. The profound perceptions of Indigenous peoples. Archeological finds. CBD oil.

I’ve been wandering in this mind-space a lot lately. And there’s a phrase that comes to my mind over and over again.

Vested interest.

It’s an enormous bite to swallow so, for this moment, let’s talk about writing and the fact that lots and lots of things got left out of what we learned.

For a while, I was pretty pissed about that. All the while, admitting that similar things could be said of my writings, as well.

Then it dawned on me!

What if it worked for the future, too?

What if we could listen for the missing voices and work to include them?

What if our vested interest could be about healing and justice and peace instead of power over and the status quo?

What if we worked to be both open in our perceptions and intentional in our writing and painting, our relating and sharing?

What might WE create?

I am blessed, at this point in my journey, to be part of conversations like this one.

I am also blessed with granddaughters growing up in this world. They are both huge delight and an urgent reason to get up and try harder in the morning!

There’s more. Much more.

For now, a few words about the painting with which we began.

The image now known as Willow and the Bear is actually deep, intentional under-layers of what started out to be a whole other thing.

Then, after a long night of painting, I literally woke in the morning and, with new eyes, saw truth I hadn’t known was there. It’s kind of a long story but there was only one thing to do.

I stopped right where I was and allowed the image that appeared to remain.

I’m really glad I did!

I’m also really glad that – just in case you’re wandering with similar questions and would like a companion on the road – I have space for two individual coaching clients just now. If you’re curious, I’d love to chat with you about what you’re hoping to accomplish! suesvoice@gmail.com

ps… even though I’m a bit behind on shopkeeping, there are some really cool gift items at FierceArtWithHeart. Including some “I matter” mugs and some amazing work by a special guest artist!

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!

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