’tis the season for subversive….

For years now, I have loved this quote from Anne Lamott:

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

I hear you. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. You probably learned, as I did, that this is a time for tradition. For the way we’ve always done it. Not so much for subversion.

This year, more than ever, perhaps, I’m with Anne Lamott.

Which is not to say that I’m not deeply missing my kids and my girls and all those who are, and have been, dear to me. And butter cookies. The pressed kind.

I put up a spiral-y little metal tree on a table where Luther won’t run into it and am dry brining a local, pasture raised, heritage breed turkey. Bill loves turkey.

And I am living my life.

Intentional Creativity sessions with old friends and new, filled with actual hope and change.

Experimenting with a commissioned painting known as Mamaw’s Farm which is all about love and learning new things.

Food for neighbors who can’t be “home for the holidays.”

And prayer dots.

An interesting thing happened with the peace painting I’ve been working on. I watched the news.

And so, along with dots for Peace, dots for Wisdom have begun to appear.

And a few more words from an early Christmas gift, Anne Lamott’s new Almost Everything… notes on hope:

So why have some of us felt like jumping off tall buildings ever since we can remember, even those of us who do not struggle with clinical depression? Why have we repeatedly imagined turning the wheels of our cars into oncoming trucks? We just do. To me, this is very natural. It is hard here. There is the absolute hopelessness we face that everyone we love will die, even our newborn granddaughter, even as we trust and know that love will give rise to growth, miracles, and resurrection. Love and goodness and the world’s beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope. Yet no matter how much we recycle, believe in our Priuses, and abide by our local laws, we see that our beauty is being destroyed, crushed by greed and cruel stupidity. And we also see love and tender hearts carry the day. Fear, against all odds, leads to community, to bravery and right action, and these give us hope. I wake up not knowing if our leader has bombed North Korea. And still, this past year has been just about the happiest of my life. So, yeah: it can all be a bit confusing. 

Still, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

And the cover of Annie’s book is sprinkled with swirls of shiny prayer dots, whether she planned that or not.

Sometimes it takes more waiting than we’d hoped. And yet, if we act from the light of love, odds are, it will happen a little sooner.

Whatever your traditions or beliefs, may the light of this season surround you and those you love. And may you contemplate the notion that subversive might just be a good thing. Blessings,

Sue and Sarah, Phoebe, and Luther


Interacting With Chaos

Things have been a bit more chaotic than average around here lately.

All the activity that went along with finishing my Intentional Creativity Teacher certificate felt chaotic in the sorting and labeling and ordering, never mind the tech stuff that was way beyond my abilities. Kind of like book deadlines but with so many more moving parts!

CODEX painting process challenges. Not to mention the logistical challenge of really, really big canvases.

A wonderful trip to celebrate with our kids for Thanksgiving.

Considerable time hanging with Phoebe at the vet.

Lots more painting, which is fresh air in the midst of the chaos, and more than a bit of studio revision, which is a hassle but has left more space in the middle of the room so Luther is more comfortable. He’s not such a fan of having all the furniture on wheels!

Then there was all the learning involved in getting ready for my first artist market — which was awesome — and a bit of recovery time.

The last two days have been about trying to straighten things — including my back —  back out. I keep hearing the thundering voice of Dr. Walter Brueggemann in my head, proclaiming that, “Our God is a God who makes order out of chaos”

Talk about tempting theology!

And yet, there’s also my growing realization that chaos is, as virtually everything is, a matter of perspective.

We might suppose that our personal recent chaos has been of the first world variety and that is, in some sense, true. And yet devastating wildfires and hurricanes happen in the first world and leave chaos in their wake. Shootings happen in first world cities and so does cancer and Alzheimer’s and politics reeking of power and vested self-interest.

All of which has left me wondering if healing chaos might be at least as much about having choices as it is about making order.

And not only having choices, but claiming those choices.

One of those choices is broadening our perspective. Looking beyond the ends of our own noses, even when it’s hard, and allowing ourselves to see that there is order, and sometimes great beauty, in that which looks and feels totally random.

Granted, it may take a while. And considerable practice. I’ve been working on it.

Today, I made a new friend. Both of us, in some senses, more than a bit random in the community we share.

We began with tea. And images. And stories. We did a bit of dreaming out loud.

And then we made some prayer dots. And told a few more stories. And made some more dots.

You’ve already figured out that they were prayer dots for peace.

Peace in the midst of chaos.

It will probably take a while longer. And some of her dots were probably different than some of mine.

But we’re closer than we were. Closer to peace.

Which feels like a really good day’s work.

And my back is looser than it was.




Art Markets… then and now

Yesterday, I did my first artist market.

The night before, I had a dream.

I am back in the village of Szentredre, Hungary. It is, as it was in January of 1989, cold and gray. I am sitting on the floor in this little place known for its artist markets, pawing gently through bin after bin of tiny, hand-built clay creche figurines of Mary and Joseph, the magi, a gentle cow, a shepherd with a tiny sheep and a Puli dog, which I recognize immediately as an Hungarian herding breed, not usually seen in manger scenes! I’m thrilled. 

My fellow seminary students and our dear professor, Charlie, are at least pretending patience as I search for the particular figures wanting to follow me home. I am fascinated by the variations in their expressions and the attention to minute detail. I am overwhelmed by the artistry. 

It doesn’t really take Carl Jung to figure out why this dream appeared when it did. I was about to take deeply personal, powerful images, magically configured into holiday cards and small paintings, along with some copies of my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope, and a vintage linen table cloth, and put them out in a public place, filled with people I don’t know, and allow them to be chosen or not.

I had become the artist.

It went well.  I answered a lot of questions about Intentional Creativity. I passed out a lot of information and told people about my workshop in January. Lots of my work and a few bits of red thread followed people home, after a couple of lessons from a kind friend on how to use the square thing for credit cards.

Some of my work stayed over night in case today might bring more shoppers.

I made some new friends. And shared some good food.

I schlepped my own boxes. And survived standing on concrete for the better part of six hours.

All of which was a challenge for my knees. It was a pretty big thing for me.

Today, more light in the studio. And more space for people to paint with me.

And huge gratitude.

I have become the artist. Well, one of them.

And, after Bill gets back from Kroger, the angel who also belongs in the photo will have her head glued back on and be sheltering us all under her wings once again.

If you’d like to see more of my work, I’ve added lots to FineArtAmericaJust click this link and then click any image that intrigues you to find out what’s available. I’m loving the wood options! And, with thanks to my market friends at Vista Yoga, there are even a couple of yoga mats available!

It is, in some ways, a long way from Szentredre. And, in other ways, it’s the truth that has always come from creation.


Can you can? (Vegans be warned…)

This is not one of those “true stories that might actually have happened.”

It’s a “true story that actually did happen.” And it happened just this way…

In the winter of 1990, as I was about to graduate from Columbia Theological Seminary, I attended a meeting for students who would be open to serving churches in the rural southern US. Among the folks hosting the meeting were several pastors and their wives from the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee.

I had done my internship, happily, in Middle Tennessee and was curious to see what they’d have to say.

After much chatter about the benefits of smaller congregations, especially for new grads, and some arias to the benefits of no traffic, there was time to mingle and ask — or answer — specific questions.

Let me say, first, that they neglected to factor mules into the “no traffic” stories.

Let me also say that there weren’t a lot of women near-clergy in the group.

One pastor’s wife asked me if I could can.

Puzzled, I responded with a reasonably safe, “Pardon?”

She responded with a lengthy tale which included the curious fact that, for the first three years her husband served a small Middle Tennessee church, his “raise” consisted of an elder with a tractor plowing up an extra acre of garden for them.

Hence, “Can you can?”

Well, I couldn’t back then. And I still don’t.

I do freeze!

Tonight was a good example.

After a long day painting prayer dot canvases, the obligatory bathroom cleaning, and some more prep for the upcoming Open House and Artist Market at Vista Yoga, I spent two hours with an old friend who’s working through some healing in paint.

Then, it was time to feed the studio angels.

Among other things, the 4-footed crudo selection for today included shrimp heads.

Wild-caught, US, well-frozen shrimp heads.

It works like this…

Bill and I are having roasted shrimp for dinner tonight, along with brown rice and very gently wilted black kale tossed in onions and garlic oil.

The dogs happily ate the aforementioned heads.

I froze the shells for broth, either for us or for the dogs.

That’s a whole lot of good eating from a little bit of shrimp.

It’s a good investment of our grocery dollars.

It’s healthy, for all of us. (No onions and garlic for the dogs!)

It’s delicious.

It’s an expression of honor and gratitude for the shrimp.

And it gives me lots to share.

I still don’t can. Though I did help bale hay when I lived in Middle Tennessee.

I also believe that the world works better for all of us when we feed as many beings as possible with any given bowl of food, whatever we choose to eat.

In the cold and dark of this night, so close to the longest night of the year, that seems like a good thing to remember.

For now, dots. Peace. Love. Joy.



Could the world be about to turn?

When I was a kid, my mom was huge fan of the soap opera, As the World Turns. It’s a good bet she learned it from my Granny!

I couldn’t help but keep up some because it seemed to me that very little changed from spring break to summer vacation to Christmas break. We used to watch during lunch.

This week, I had a different experience of the notion of the world turning.

As Chanukah ends for this year and Advent goes on and Kwanzaa approaches, the emphasis is on light and dark and change in the midst of time.

I was blessed, this week, to be invited to a service of Lessons and Carols amidst the community of Columbia Theological Seminary, just down the road in Decatur.

A few things had changed since I first lived in that community, about 30 years ago.

One of those things was the music. Diversity is the first word that comes to mind. Not simply new hymn books with different colored covers, for that is dangerous enough as it is, but global influences and widespread leadership. I am dancing still!

I’m also reflecting on the teaching of Walter Brueggemann about the notion that our lives move through cycles of orientation and, as something changes, disorientation, and, eventually, to new orientation. (I suspect there’s some Ricoeur lurking in here, but it’s been a while! I can tell you that a paintbrush can do the trick!)

All of which came to mind as we sang a hymn that was new to me, by Rory Cooney. It’s called Canticle of the Turning and has a decidedly Celtic flavor to it. (Add in a smidge of flute!) I’d like to share just a bit. The refrain goes like this:

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.

Let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away your tears, for the dawn draws near,

and the world is about to turn.

And then, my favorite verse:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

As the darkness falls early and the dogs leave puddles of cold rain everywhere, and people in my community need food to feed their families, I know three immediate things: light, prayers (complete with painted dots), and bone broth.

A new series of paintings and a batch of broth begin tomorrow. For tonight, light.

And love.

Until We Know…

You know that old saying about not knowing what you don’t know until you know? Well, it’s been a week like that around here!

In order for me to explain, I need to remind you that I have lots of frequent flyer miles with my buddy the knee surgeon. Lots! And, while I’m blessedly better than I used to be, my left knee has the occasional hissy fit and buckles, randomly, which results in my falling down.

Falling down is not on the approved list of activities when you’ve had knee surgery as many times as I have.

(Neither, for that matter, is spending  big chunk of a week on the floor at the vet’s office, but Phoebe’s feeling better so we’re just going to overlook that!)

All of which means that, the vast majority of the time, I use a walking stick. One of the snazzy looking ones that implies that I might be headed off for a hike up Stone Mountain. (Not!) The cool thing about it is that it’s completely height adjustable. It’s also a fun toy for my girls.

One of the things the walking stick means, though, is that my right hand is engaged in walking and standing.

And one of the things that means is that I’m addicted to pockets. Preferably pockets in denim vests and jackets which have lots and you can wash them to get out the inevitable crumbs of dog treats.

So here’s what I learned that I didn’t know I didn’t know.

If one happens to live in a place where it is currently cold and needs to go to an event where the mythic denim vest might be rather too casual and, oh, by the way, has suddenly developed the need to schlep really cool new business cards and art books and sketch pads, along with the basic necessities like phone, keys, and lip gloss, and still be able to walk and shake hands, there is an opportunity for problem-solving!

Oh, one more thing… the short black boots with the pink faux fur, complicate things just a bit more.

The good news is that I got some things sorted out in my closet and found a couple of great paint shirts that had somehow managed to escape notice for a while.

Clearly, I needed a cross body style bag that worked with black, pink, and all my more usual, artsy sorts of choices.

Not too much money.

Just the right size.

And not likely to show an occasional paint spatter.

Oh, and I needed it now.

Much research ensued. Art stores. Office stores. You name it, I cyber hunted there. All in the midst of setting up my very own space at FineArtAmerica, where reproductions of some of my work are beginning to be available for adoption.

I found the answer about 5:30 yesterday morning.

I seriously considered swearing Bill to secrecy and never telling anyone. And then I decided that life changes and change means challenge and we’re pretty much all in this together, so here goes:

I bought a diaper bag!

Light weight. Accessible pockets. Fabulous (washable) fabric. And exactly the right size.

I even love the symbolism in the print.

It’s due to show up by the time you read this.

And, yes, I’ll post a picture.

But, for today, some symbolism that also matters very much to me. Every chance I get!



To paraphrase, once again, my Color of Woman teacher and Cosmic Cowgirl sister, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, we don’t have to have all our ducks in a row. Or all our stuff in a pile. Or even be all healed, to make a difference. We just have to be enough.

In the case of new Color of Woman teachers and Red Thread sisters, healed enough to call the circle.

I’m counting on that pretty heavily just now. It’s almost 10:00 pm and “time to start” this blog post.

We’ve had a bit of a veterinary emergency unfolding here and I’m “behind” on a whole bunch of things. (Like the very early stages of my CODEX picture.)

Or I would be behind if we believed in that!

Instead, I’ve spent last night and today reliving my six weeks in Intensive Care, back in the dark ages of nursing school.

Phoebe, as the old camp story goes, is fine. Well, I’m increasingly sure she’s going to be.

Bill will get off the plane tomorrow night and bring home awesome chicken wings from our friends at The Corner Pub, who may feel behind on a few other things but will, predictably, have dinner ready.

The dog laundry is done. The people laundry will get there.

I even admitted to a friend today that the thing I needed most in the moment was a pound of raw chicken hearts, known around here as God’s little pill pockets, and let her go get them for me.

The painting circle has been called for tomorrow. I imagine there will be even more dots than usual.

For tonight, though, I am calling the healed enough circle. And I’m counting on you to call some more folks, too. As many as we can find.

Healed enough to get through the day. To reach out to somebody who desperately needs chicken hearts. To give away a paintbrush. Or vote. Or plant collard greens. (Which is another of those things I’d be behind on if I believed in that.)

For now, though, the ailing pup needs a walk and “somebody” needs to shove dishes in the dishwasher. I am healed enough for that.

Though, if the batteries hold out in the flashlight, that would be good!

Will you join us?

It’s how the world gets better!

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