Pacing in the Waiting Room!

I wasn’t too good at being pregnant.

Part of that was, no doubt, context. Newly single. Stressed. Scared. No real idea of what the future held. The only thing I knew for sure is that I loved and fiercely adored the wee being growing inside me.

Another part of that was, by all accounts, genetic. There’s a long history, on my Mom’s side of the family, of what we used to call Toxemia, but now refer to as pre-eclampsia.

High blood pressure. Major food restrictions. And really, really, really fat ankles.

Timing Braxton-Hicks contractions every night for a week before I finally went into active labor.

Then, I rang the big red bell and had grand mal seizures in labor. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that Dave and I made it and I feel hugely blessed.

I’m kind of back in that place just now, pregnant with a book and a new way of being in the world.

My ankles are better this time!

I’m reminded, though, of the Braxton-Hicks experience, in these days.

My Initiate Book, or graduation project, for Color of Woman is out of my control, in this moment, off in the land of electronic formatting.

Soon, it will be time for editing, which is when the next part of my labor will begin.

Well, not begin, so much, as actually result in a birth.

Until then, I am practicing the fine arts of asking for help and releasing the need for control.

For now, I am waiting. Waiting on a wise and talented friend to make her magic, even in the midst of several life complications of her own. Aided by a bit of pimento cheese!

Today, I have coped by binge watching Grey’s Anatomy and plotting Intentional Creativity workshop dates in my calendar. I’m also having occasional fantasies about video workshops, which seem, for now, to be shouted down by my inner critic reminding me that it hasn’t been a good week for me in tech land.

It’s been chilly and rainy, which makes the floors wet and the big dogs happy.

A couple of domestic projects have been crossed off the list.

I have a plan hatching for the first few weeks in November. Bookkeeping and connection building will be involved. And an exploration of the Colorful Scars painting workshop. And rest. And lots of bone broth. Somehow, the freezer is bare!

In this moment, my phone is feeling seriously empowered by my checking every 5 or 6 minutes for messages.

Tonight, some marathon dog grooming. And an Italy flashback, complete with local, artisanal Coppa, a very fine Italian Asiago raw milk cheese, and some Georgia organic sourdough crackers.

Next on my list… learning how to slipcover a wing back chair which I might just need to know shortly. There is a granddaughter involved!

For now, pacing in the waiting room!

Life is complicated. Making a difference is good.



A Bit of Back Story…

In 1990, I graduated from the Master of Divinity program at Columbia Theological Seminary, got married, and received a call to serve the St. John Presbyterian church in Fayetteville, TN as their solo pastor, all within one week.

Bill and I spent a fair chunk of our honeymoon with the Examination Committee of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee, which was interesting, but not terribly romantic.

Then, we went back to Atlanta with just a matter of days before we needed to be ready to move.

Finding a mover was a whole other challenge. As they wandered through my apartment and Bill’s dorm room, the most frequent comment was, “Why do you have all these books??? Nobody needs this many books!”

Frustrated, and trying desperately to get sermons planned for my first few weeks in St. John’s pulpit, I finally told one of the movers that I didn’t need opinions about how many books we had. I just needed to know how much it was going to cost to get them to Tennessee!

When he burst out laughing, I decided he was the guy for us.

We rented a house, sight-unseen, for Fayetteville was not remotely a hot market for renters and there was what there was. On our first day in “town” we had a massive tire blow-out which resulted in Bill changing the tire on the edge of the road with commentary from the resident cows.

We were, as my old friend Dorothy exclaimed, “not in Kansas anymore, Toto!”

Now, it’s more than a bit possible that you’re wondering why I’m telling you this story today.

That’s easy!

You see, I’m back in just such an experience of quantum change in my universe, with graduation from Color of Woman galloping toward me.

And I’m certain of very little except that whatever comes next is what I am called to be and do and create.

Okay, I’m also certain that I have a wee bit of writing, a truckload of proofreading, and way more than the optimal amount of photo sorting to accomplish in what feels like the next 27 minutes.

And there are some things they forgot to tell me in school!

So yesterday, surprisingly, I painted. The CODEX painting which, thus far, looks very night sky-ish. (Also a lot like my favorite paint pants!) Dots and dots and more dots. Dots of gratitude. And, as I painted, I realized that it was the first time I’d really painted since before I left for Italy.

It felt great!

Today, Bill and I unloaded 60 pounds of dog food into the freezer, accompanied by an enthusiastic chorus of tail wagging. More to come tomorrow.

Tonight, fabulous butternut squash soup in a base of homemade beef broth.

And gallons of the digital version of red ink.

Change is always stressful, even when it’s change that we long for with all our hearts. It’s also the only way to get where we’ve never been before.

I’m pretty tired. And in, all the way!

ps… Luther wanted me to tell you that he’s working on a blog post. Stay tuned!




Old Friends Whispering…

Many of you know, and some of you have been right there with me, that for about the last year, I have been deeply engaged in a program for certifying Intentional Creativity teachers, known as Color of Woman, or COW for short.

It has been, in the understatement of the century, quite the journey!

You’ve read my stories and seen at least bits and pieces of the images that have flowed from my soul to my brush to the world.

There is “one more” project left to complete.

“One more” is in quotes because there are still a few individual projects lurking within the enormous project known as the Initiate Book.

The Initiate Book is basically a digital journal, in words and images, of the vision quest that has framed this last year.

It has a great deal of structure in terms of what is required and a great deal of freedom in terms of how to meet the requirements. And, by the way, it’s due November 1.

Oh, and lots of mine changed — or grew, perhaps — while I was in Italy!

Which is, I suspect, why the freedom of this project has been freaking me out. Seriously!

(And that is rather an odd statement coming from me.)

There are paintings and journals and blog posts and photos and zillions of index cards everywhere I look and my job, in this moment, is to finish, organize and label ALL of them so that the dear friend who actually pushes the buttons to make it beautiful and get it uploaded doesn’t feel trapped in the mythical land of scrap quilts, as I do in this moment.

I had stacks of things on every horizontal surface in our house, which might have worked except that we played Furniture Yahtzee again last weekend and everything got moved, and re-stacked.

Imagine my delight.

And recall that I’m not, historically, a very fast learner when it comes to tech-y things like files and folders and the hypothetical miracles of Dropbox, which I still haven’t figured out but apparently need to. Now.

I’ve been bouncing about from this to that and back to this, color coding check marks on my magic sample table of contents, which seemed like a good idea but hasn’t turned out to be very clear.

My flow-y, creative right brain was getting frantic, so I took a leap of faith and asked for help!

After a lesson in sorting and organizing, along with tea and really good dark chocolate (Thank you, Leisa!) I had an idea.

I could do this in order. Top to bottom. Right off the list of requirements. (Which is not at all how it happened in real life or how it feels inside!)

Laugh, if you need to. I am feeling hugely grateful to my blessed linear left brain for flinging itself into the artsy and well written tangle of my universe with an actual plan.

I suspect more tea and chocolate will be required. And plenty to share with my Muse, as well, who nudged me out of bed at about 5:30 this morning with one of her trademark “next right thing” notions.

For now, it’s time to get back to work.

As my old friends C.S. Lewis and Julian of Norwich are whispering in my ear…

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. 


An Exercise in Perspective

If you’ve been reading along you know that I’ve just been in Tuscany. It was fabulous!

Scenery, history, art, community, food, music, paint, wisdom, and the divine feminine.

Stunning. Amazing. Breath-taking. Insert your favorite over-the-top adjectives here…

Having wended my way back to my usual side of the wee pond, though, I’ve noticed a couple of other things.

Before I tell you what they are, you need to know that I had knee surgery, a lot, and I have a deal with my surgeon who yells when I fall down.

Wheelchairs in airports.

And, as I’ve mentioned, the extent of my knowledge of French and Italian comes mainly from Food Network. All of which is great if you’re ordering dinner and considerably less optimal if you’re traveling alone, need assistance, and don’t speak the language!

Brief timeout to report that it’s a lovely, cool-ish evening in Atlanta and my trip out to the deck with the big dogs suggests that this year’s high school tuba player is a huge improvement over recent years!

Which, obviously, reminds me, as short on news as I still am, that there are a whole lot of people on the northern gulf coast of the US who are not having nearly so pleasant an evening.

Which, in turn, reminds me of the old saying my therapist buddies are so fond of:

Perspective isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

Which is, I suspect, the biggest reminder of wisdom I carried home with me from Italy for I have had a huge experience in releasing the illusion of control.

I began to learn, a long time ago, that we really don’t have control over much in the world.

On a good day, we have influence.

There were moments, mostly in the airport in Paris, when I felt I had very little even of that.

Frankly, I was pretty stressed.

Tight connections. A sprawling, unfamiliar, not at all accessible airport teeming with equally stressed beings who don’t even notice a person in a wheelchair while they’re yelling into/saving the world with their cell phones and counting their kids.

People, intended to be helpful, adamantly declining to speak English even though they clearly understood me.

Elevators. Buses. Time ticking by for the last flight home of the day. And enough luggage to be a major lesson in packing light. Not enough hands for the walking stick. Well, you get the drift.

And the realization, many hours later, that I made it.

Thanks in large part to the driver in Florence who asked wise questions about US politics on the terrifying trip through narrow, crowded streets to the airport.

A true global citizen, he shared some of his observations on politics in Italy and inquired about the Stacey Abrams button on the collar of my treasured denim vest.

Then, when we arrived at the airport, he helped me out at the curb, parked the car, and helped with my luggage — and translations — until the Air France folks were on board with my requests, checked my bag, and summoned a wheel chair.

When I offered to shake hands in real appreciation, he kissed my hand instead and wished me safe travels.

The world got just a bit smaller in that moment. And a bit more united.

I spent much of the trip home pondering the large and diverse refugee community nested around my neighborhood.

Quite apart from my frequent hunting and gathering excursions to the DeKalb International Farmers Market, filled as they usually are with sign language, bowing, and waving at babies, I suddenly have a much deeper perspective into what it must be like for recent arrivals to the US to shop and work and find home here.

You might even suppose that I have become, rather than simply the artist, one of the beings who appears above, sheltered in the embrace of Bella Mama.

Which may just be the beginning of wisdom.

Next year’s trip will be the south of France, in Mary Magdalene country. It will, apparently, be a bit more challenging in terms of exertion.

I’ve decided to frame my massive sense of the calling to go by seeing this past week as the beginning of my “training” for next year.

My guiding inquiry has become, What would need to be true in order for this to be possible for me?

Some of the answers, of course, will be external. Most of them, I suspect, are entirely internal.

 I am, even now, doing my part, encouraged by the affirmation newly applied to the front of my  journal from this trip.

TUTTO E POSSIBILE…………………..All is possible 

So be it for me, and for each of you.

For now, praying with dots for determined wisdom and fierce compassion in the world.

ps… Please vote!


Wandering in the Wayback Machine!

Do you remember the Michael J. Fox film, Back to the Future?

I am there!

Lost in the vast living, breathing past of so many centuries of history, a sensation somewhat uncommon for many North Americans.

Seeing with eyes and heart and hands the gracious communion of this tiny sliver of the present moment.

It is not the present of all people, surely, for there is much more present going on in the world.

And yet, it is just as true, for it is mine and I am here.

It is also, in some quantum way, the future which is being created in ways I, and we, cannot yet comprehend.

Let me tell you a story.

Yesterday, I stood with my sisters in this journey, on the steps of the ancient church of Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, Italy surrounded by a great many beings having wholly other experiences.

For a brief moment, we stood in the sunlight and gawked at the sculpture and architecture and beauty around us.

Then, we leaped a bit further out of our comfort zones — well, I suspect I wasn’t the only one leaping — and, led by a gifted teacher with a frame drum, we sang Psalm 150, there at the entrance to the basilica.

Actually, we chanted the Psalm in Hebrew. Out loud. In public.

(And yes, those of you who’ve known me since our seminary days, may gasp in surprise that I, of the Hebrew learning challenges, might tell such a story. Turns out Hebrew is easier to sing than to read!)

I would imagine that people stared but I do not know for sure for I simply sang.

(More gasping in surprise permitted…)

The confluence of histories and cultures and belief systems and personal journeys was stunning.

And in ways too soon to know, the future has already been changed for — and here I will speak only for myself — I have been changed.

I have a great deal of hope, though. You see, one of those standing with us was a mighty woman-growing on the day of her ninth birthday, reminding us what it is to view the world with wide eyes and endless curiosity.

Eventually, of course, the time for singing ended and we went on to witness wonders like Botticelli frescoes and one of those ancient miracles of marking time that involve a tiny hole in a rose window and a line of gold ever so precisely inlaid in a marble floor. And, perhaps my favorite, the garden in which Michelangelo’s David was carved, for that is another story I know.

Then, too, the obligatory visit to the gift shop and an admittedly rather surprising encounter with a gender-fluid toilette in so ancient a place.

IMG_4271It’s been a long time since I watched Back to the Future. Or Pleasantville, for that matter.

Oddly, perhaps, in this moment, they’ve both become part of my story, too. And our story, if we’re listening.

Let everything that breathes, sing praise! 






Being Fed

About two weeks ago, a miracle came into my life, suddenly, as miracles often do.

I was offered an opportunity to join a group of Intentional Creativity sisters, none of whom I’d ever met in person, on a retreat to Florence, Italy. (Or, Firenza, if you prefer, which means City of Flowers.)

There was much hustling and bustling at our house, and a considerable amount of counting on fingers and toes, to make this whole adventure possible.

An adventure known as a “retreat” designed for encountering the wisdom of the Holy Mother.

We are painting, of course. Or we will be on Saturday, having seen some of the stunning spiritual, artistic, and cultural sites of Florence on Friday, and walked through the amazing city enough for my knees to not-so-gently remind me that I might be pushing my luck just a bit.

There was a great deal of soul-feeding going on.

There has also been a bit of body-feeding going on, which, when done really well, is soul-feeding as well.

First, let me admit that virtually my entire grasp of the French and Italian languages comes from watching Food Network. (Which is totally inadequate in airports!) Fortunately, we are blessed with the super-historian and magnificent Chef Jonathan McCloud among us!

We have, it seems, arrived in one of the local food capitols of the world. Balsamic vinegar, olives, wines, stunning black tomatoes, fabulous bitter greens. Local cheeses and olive oil practically flowing from the fountains.

And, perhaps most amazingly of all for one who has been largely grain free for a couple of years, pasta.

Well, duh! I mean, we’re in Italy.

This, however, is no big box store, back-home pasta. According to Jonathan, it is made silky and delicate, from locally grown wheat which is naturally low in gluten (gluten not being a major structural necessity for pasta as it is, say, bread) and grown as it has been through the centuries without genetic modifying and chemical this and that to keep it from spoiling.

You don’t have to keep it from spoiling when you make it and serve it the same day!

Last night, handmade tagliatelle, simply dressed with local fennel and onions, a smidge of crushed pistachio nuts and divine olive oil, beside an abundance of green salad blessed with local balsamic vinegar, all with the slightest tang of real, local, raw milk cheese.

And as we ate, we told stories. Stories of our first recollections of The Holy Mother. Stories which, in their wild diversity, brought us closer into community, as good stories and good food have always done.

Despite some technical challenges, I’ll have more stories and more images, I’m sure.

IMG_4118For this moment let me say that I completely get that most of you, for a great many postmodern, first world reasons, will not be whipping up some homemade pasta for dinner tonight.

I do believe, though, that it matters deeply for us to know both our food traditions and our stories and our images. To touch the spiritual base of all our peoples when we can.

Not legalistically. Not to prove, as Shiloh Sophia would remind us, that we are believers (or grandmothers!) enough.

But to be fed, deeply and cosmically, of who we are so that we might more intentionally choose what makes us whole and share it with the ones we love.

With blessings, and just a spot of stove envy, from Italia!



Purple Trees and Rescue Newfies

When Dave was in pre-school and kindergarten he used to get fussed at a lot. It seemed he wasn’t making his trees right.

The shape was fine, but the tops of the trees were invariably purple instead of green.

We had lots of conversations about this.

I assured my budding artist that his trees were fabulous just the way they were and that he could make trees any color he wanted to, at home.

Academic that I’ve been for years, I tried to explain that his teacher was, oddly enough, more into following directions than she was into the trees themselves.

Therefore, I proposed, we’d make trees any way we liked them at home but, at school, we’d humor the teacher and make green trees.

This was not as effective a strategy as I had hoped. My normally agreeable son continued to make purple trees.

I continued to joust with the teachers.

A couple of years later, in a follow-up eye exam, it was determined that Dave was colorblind in a lot of mid-range tones. He couldn’t tell green from purple.

I felt terrible!

It’s kind of been a day like that around here.

You see, today was Luther’s ophthalmology appointment.

He’s been with us for about 18 months now and it’s been clear from the beginning that he didn’t see too well. Lately I noticed that either his sight was decreasing or I just knew him well enough to realize he didn’t see as well as I thought.

In the beginning, he was terribly anxious and afraid of, well, everything.

We’ve worked hard. He’s now a friendly guy who radiates good will in the world unless his security sisters are far away. He’s a really great dog.

We practiced for this appointment. Holding his head. Saline eye drops just to get used to the idea. Lots and lots of treats.

Getting in the car was our first challenge as he needed a good bit of a boost. Then we got lost. Eventually, we triumphed and arrived at the specialty vet.

He was very brave, all things considered. Blessedly, we were able to get a good exam without him having a come-apart.

As the old story goes, we don’t know whether it was good news or bad news.

According to the vet, “we suspect that he is completely blind.”

I both was and wasn’t ready for that.

We’ll set aside for the moment the fact this this is almost assuredly the result of bad breeding and criminally negligent puppy mill owners.

Mostly, I’m blown away by this big guy who is finding his way in the world with his nose and ears and muscle memory!

And, it seems that I have been promoted from transitional object to seeing eye person.

Frankly, I’m a bit overwhelmed.

Here’s what I do know:

  • He’s making it so far.
  • I absolutely do not want to limit him by assuming what he can or can’t do.
  • There’s more learning for us all to do.

Tomorrow, he and the girls are off to their happy place at Camp for I am on the way to Italy with paintbrushes and a drum.

My usual 10 pound batch of directions for the counselors will need a bit of editing but I’ve been working on that most of the day.

He’s going to be great. So are Sarah and Phoebe.

I may be a bit of a mess, but I’m blessed with a world-class batch of dog aunties even when I’m out of cell phone range. And the Legendary Husband in town to deliver extra food!

As the prophet, Steve Glenn, would remind us, if I want him to be capable and happy, I’ve got to suck it up and let him.

Luther doesn’t draw trees so much as he pees on them but however he does it is just fine with me!






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