How will I know?

I watch a fair amount of HGTV.

I like the fix up a house for a family kind of shows rather than the flip options or the chain sawing through Alaska sagas.

We’ve been, as you may have suspected, playing HGTV at our house lately.

We’re making progress. Quite a bit, actually.

There’s room to paint and quilt and write.

A big chunk of our kitchen is rearranged according to the way we actually eat these days.

There’s even a table for gathering our beloveds around art and food, games and stories.

Somebody asked me, the other day, how I would know when we were done.

There are two answers to that.

The first is that we probably won’t be done. It really isn’t in me. Life keeps changing.

The second is that when I can sit in my fabulous new red chair with my feet up and a cup of tea, not feeling like I need to leap up and fix something, we’ll be pretty close for now.

When Luther gets up the nerve to hang out in the new family room, we’ll be right on target.

For the moment, Container Store loves me. Amazon is enthusiastic as well.

Shelves. Little plastic drawers in every size and shape. Rug pads. A shower curtain, even.

Better yet, though, is Kudzu.

Our local vintage and collectible place. Two book cases and an awesome library cart have followed me home recently, all from the budget department.

There’s even room around here in case a miracle happens and I buy another book or two.

It being Mothers’ Day, I can’t help but wonder what my mom would think.

Horrified comes to mind.

We don’t have “living room” furniture. Or “dining room” furniture, the way I grew up.

Nothing matches.

We have drapes but I’m going to have them cut off to the same length as the bottom of the windows.

The rugs, and pads, are to make the dogs comfy. (It takes up less room than a zillion dog beds!)

Vacuuming is a whole other issue!

And yet, with a lot of help, we are getting closer and closer to what we need.

The sheets are clean.

The towels are folded into the linen closet. (Which way needs a paint job!)

Tomorrow I’ll start paint-sketching the Talisman canvas.

There’s really good left-over soup in the fridge.

And parsley to plant in the morning.

Lots of this would seem weird to Mom.

And yet, somewhere deep inside, I think she might get it.

I hope so.

For now, though, a new pair of walking shoes. It’s a paint thing!

Blessings for moms of all sorts who remember and are remembered on this day, and Happy Birthday, dear Kelly!


Practice What You Preach!

Well, it’s one of those days.

Bill is running late.

Dinner is still cooking.

Sarah has a hotspot.

(Let’s don’t mention the do-nut thing!)

The “Do Not Disturb” signs on the doors have, shall we say, not worked too well today.

The paintings have been more than a bit chatty.

And the portions of my person that my beloved physical therapist refers to as quads are not in a good mood.

If you were to call me up and tell me your version of this story, I’d gently suggest that you take a deep breath or two, fix a cup of tea, and let it go.

Tomorrow will come.

It will still be Spring…at least where most of you are.

We won’t have starved.

Well, if you’re reading this, probably not. We’ll keep working on the rest tomorrow.

I’m squirting the dog with the colloidal silver stuff.

The bones from tonight’s chicken will turn into more food for tomorrow.

I’m making bigger signs for the doors.

And sleeping.

I hope.

Some days all we can do is practice what we preach.

This has been one of those.

There are, in all of our lives, days when those little Monopoly cards come in handy. This is one.

At the moment I’m just crossing my fingers that the whole chicken in the Instant Pot thing works!

I’ll keep you posted.


Uncle Epictetus

You know how most families have an eccentric aunt or uncle who is the keeper of the oral traditions?

Even the ones that everyone else would argue never happened?

In my family, it was my Aunt Em. She was my Gramma Elsie’s older sister.

(How much older is a matter of considerable debate!)

Aunt Em was full of stories. Many of them Elsie wished she wouldn’t tell, though we heard them pretty often growing up.

Today, though, I want to tell you about Great, great, great, great…Uncle Epictetus, even though you may have heard about him before.

He’s one of those uncles that you adopted because your family needed him, even though nobody you know ever met him.

Uncle Epictetus lived a long time ago. In fact, he passed on in about 135 C.E.

Born a slave, he grew up to become a Greek philosopher.

(As I mentioned recently, in my opinion Philosophy is a pretty hard thing to wrap your head around!)

If you look him up on-line, you’ll find that there are stone carvings of him, complete with curly hair and a beard.

I’d be kind of surprised if Hallmark has an Epictetus holiday, but if they did, in our house it would be this weekend.

You see, we’ve been pretty caught up in the, “do what you have to do” part of Uncle Epictetus’ saying, which was, ironically, one of my first painting projects, quite a while ago.

More stuff to sort and furniture to move and wires to hook up, all so I can come closer to being the artist and teacher I long to be.

I’ve dreamed and sketched and pondered but, in my world, I have to feel these things, so Bill and I have to shove this here and pull that there and wait until the sun goes down to figure out where I’m going to need more lights.

We’re making progress.

The dogs are having panic attacks.

I keep trying to explain that furniture moves but dogs stay. Treats help.

It’s all going to be ok.

Right now, most of my house looks like a combination of an antique store and a library that exploded.

And, in the midst of the sorting and toting, I keep stopping to check on a couple of friends who are having weekends no mammas/grammas should have.

Then I sit and feel the space and check the reach to my journals and the recycling basket.

We’re making progress.

I haven’t had a nap today.

Or painted even a drop. (Except in my head.)

There are lots of things that would be easier than this.

But I have said to myself what I would be and it’s time to do what I have to do.

I wish Uncle Epictetus were here to tell my girls that story.

I guess it’s my job now.

It might be your job, too.


A Changing World

Yesterday was hectic. All the usual things, plus a big dog food delivery complete with lots of time hanging out in the freezer, a really helpful conversation with a friend, and — drum roll, please — my Muse painting, my inspiration toward my own best self, now has hair!

I suppose you had to be there, but, trust me, it’s been quite a bumpy journey so far.

I’m celebrating.

She has bio-photons, too. And one of these days she’ll be camera-ready!

Finally, though, the time for feet up and Chopped arrived.

Somewhere between my Facebook farming and a cup of hot water with lemon, I think  the contestant chefs were cooking with something called cricket Bolognese, which seemed to involve actual bugs.

The next thing I remember noticing was an ad for some technical college.

You’ve probably seen it. The young cartoon mother works and works until all of her co-workers have been replaced by machines.

Of course, the day arrives when she, too, is made, as the Brits would say, redundant.

Off she goes to learn Information Technology and we viewers are left to assume that she and her family live happily ever after.

I hope so.

Here’s what struck me, though.

The tagline on the ad is “Reinventing yourself for a changing world.”

I can relate.

Somehow, though, this particular Grammy seems to be headed in a different direction.

(Which is probably just as well when it comes to natural skill sets!)

Having developed just enough talent to text my kids and squeeze blog posts out of my laptop, I’m spending most of my time growing leafy green things, boiling bones, and learning the ancient arts of essential oils and putting paint on canvas.

There’s more to it than that, though.

There’s the vital notion of intention.

When I garden and cook I am acting, enormous though it may seem, out of the intention of healing the planet and those with whom I share it.

When I paint, I am acting out of the intention to learn about myself and what it means to heal and be human and create.

(It’s probably about other things, too, but I’m new at this and still working on the big concepts!)

This learning isn’t about gold stars on my permanent record.

It’s about my two girls who are growing up in this world. And your kids. And my neighbors’ kids. And kids in places that have had five new names since I took geography in the 7th grade.

It’s about justice and community.

And the radish I had for lunch yesterday. Just picked. Tiny. Ruby red. Crisp. Peppery. Real.

I’m not saying that all the old ways were good and the new ways are bad.

I am suggesting that we’ve wandered too far from some of what matters.

Perhaps we might intend together to wander back a bit.

For now, another radish or two for lunch and a chapter of Alice Waters’ fabulous new book, Coming to My Senses…the making of a counterculture cook.

Then, more paint. Apparently the Muse wants earrings!

Of Golden Acrylics & Empowering Filters…

It is 2:46 pm, EDT in Atlanta. Just in this moment, a day that began chilly, breezy, and gray turned instantly warmer and brighter, helped along by a gizmo in my ceiling called a Sola-Tube.

It’s a sort of sky light, really, but much easier to install than the more traditional versions in a pre-Seasonal Affective Disorder urban ranch house.

There’s a thing in the ceiling that resembles one of those toys kids love called a dragon fly’s eye with all the prisms in a circle. This, according to the manufacturer, is called the filter.

The filter is connected through your attic space by a thing that looks a lot like a very shiny dryer vent hose.

The shiny vent hose then connects to a light collector placed on the roof and aimed to gather southern light.

These things are magical. We have five of them in our house, spread out over a couple of major remodeling projects. I’d take at least four more in a minute.

Most of the time they just quietly hang out, not making a fuss, and adding very welcome, gentle light to a house that would be way too dark even if I wasn’t a quilter and painter who grew up in Florida.

On days like today, though, they remind me of the power of the filters through which we all experience the world.

Brighter and more hopeful, in what seems like an instant.

Or flashing with lightning on a dark and stormy night. (Ok, I’m a writer, too!)

I’ve been thinking about filters a lot lately.

It has a lot to do with a painting I’m working on. Or, perhaps, a painting that’s working on me.

The class is called Apothecary. As in the old-fashioned word for a place we might go to find medicines or other aids to healing.

We’ve been rooting around in our old stories. The ones that have defined us. The ones through which we filter our day-to-day experience. Many of them, hard ones.

Discovering symbols for those stories which changes, in the moment, the ways we relate to those stories.

And, each in our own way, claiming all of those stories in bringing us to this day.

Yep, all of them.

An old friend of mine has been singing along in the background while the drips of paint and scrubby brushes and vestiges of shame fall to the floor.

His name is Ken Medema and, if you don’t know it, his story is fascinating. I hope you’ll check it out.

For this minute, though, his music…in the midst of whatever day you’re having in whatever place you are.



Tending the Drips

Have you ever noticed that when you become involved in a new group, a new world view, even a new family, there’s a whole lot of new insider language to learn?

One of my favorite examples comes from my own family.

My dad used to get dressed in his oddly colored terry cloth shorts and his sandals and pick up his car keys to head out on some mysterious weekend mission.

Experience had led my mother to ask questions.

We’re talking about a man who famously headed to the garden center to buy grass seed one day and came home with a new car!

After a few years of practice, they had their routine down pat. Daddy would pick up the car keys. Mom would raise one eyebrow in that ominous way I’ve never quite been able to accomplish.

Daddy would calmly comment, “Out. Later. Nothing.”

Even now that they’ve gone on, we’re still known to do the “Out. Later. Nothing.” routine upon occasion and we all understand perfectly!

Today, I learned a new one.

I was watching the last videos for my Legend class in Intentional Creativity. We were working on the final few layers of glaze.

(If there is such a thing as “final” layers of glaze…)

Demonstrating a technique that involves a big brush, a thin layer of paint, and a squirt bottle full of water, our fearless leader soon had a downpour of reddish drips cascading onto the face of a very large cat near the top of her painting.

Not to worry!

Just grab the nearest ancient t-shirt and, tend the drips.

It was really amazing to watch.

Tilting. Patting. Wiping.

Allowing the drips to be where they worked.

Discouraging them where they didn’t.

It went on for quite a while.

Long enough for me to realize that a lot of life is tending the drips.

Tiny acts, over and over again, all designed to bring things closer to the way we hope they will be.

Or, perhaps, closer to the way they hope they will be!

This is a powerful metaphor for someone who lives with three Newfoundland dogs!

Sarah is what’s known to insiders as “dry mouthed.”

Phoebe and Luther are not!

Hence the spit rags strategically placed near doors and chairs.

Along with lessons for guests.

Because sometimes we have more drips than we need. (Ok. Often!)

We also have towels all over the floors on wet, muddy days like today.

Luther hasn’t quite gotten on board with the more traditional paw drying rub down method. And so, we tend the drips.

If you don’t relate to huge, slobbery dogs, think of teething infants.

Or, in some senses, skimming soup pots.

Painting offers a lot of new things for the previously uninitiated to learn.

Keeping the glow. Scrubby brushes. 

How to buy paint.

Assembling easels.

I’m reasonably certain there are about to be a whole lot more things to learn.

It’s a challenge!

Today, though, I found one I understood.

Tending the drips.

As a life skill, it really kind of works when you give it a minute.



Just one word.

I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately.

Mostly writing and art projects.

Missing wandering kids.

Oh, and maybe Henry’s new glasses!

One of my writing friends posted a prompt inquiring about the “soundtracks” of our lives.

It’s kind of a timely question for me as I find myself fishing through stashes of old CD’s for atmosphere and inspiration while I paint.

I seem to be leaning in the direction of ’60’s folk music of the summer camp sort.

Along with some soft rock classics.

A fair number of instrumental, meditative selections.

And a smattering of chant music. Mostly Chinese/Tibetan and Gregorian.

I wouldn’t blame you if you were wondering where the common thread might be.

I wondered a while, myself.

And then it came to me. Intention. 

I’m listening to what I want people see or hear or taste when they look at my art or read my words or eat my soup.

Love. Peace. Hope.

And yes, I sing along.

Some of you who know me really well will suspect that it might be better if I didn’t.

Occasionally the dogs might agree!

There’s a fancy neurological explanation for why singing is such a powerful experience. Simplistically, it has to do with building connections between our right and left brains and even altering our emotional states.

Also, according to my hypnosis guru, it can actually help us get un-stuck from some of our old, ineffective stories, especially if we are moving as we sing. Marching in circles is the classic option.

Dancing works.

Making big, loopy swirls with paint seems to work, too. If you’re up for a real adventure, try both hands at once! (Brushes optional.)

I am continually awed by the complexity of being human. And the opportunities!

Come join the party!

Here are a few of my “current” favorites. Pull up a chair and sit a spell.

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