Same or Different?

I never went to Kindergarten. By the time I started the first grade, I was six and a half years old and a very eager student.

This was, of course, long before innovations like Sesame Street. I began my school career able to sing the ABC song and count to ten. Everything else was new.

My teacher had been teaching the first grade for 40 years and she didn’t put up with what she referred to as, “being a baby.” I was very careful to stay on her good side!

Sally, Dick, and Jane were my new best friends. The reading and writing came quickly for me. Other things, not so much.

A particular struggle was my teacher’s fondness for worksheets with pictures of objects in neat rows and the perplexing directions to mark which ones were “same” and which were “different.”

I had a particular challenge going with fruits and vegetables. I knew the difference between apples and grapes, but they were both fruits. Cucumbers and squash were even worse.

I knew nothing of botany at that time but, in my mind, they were “same” because they lived near each other in the produce department at the Kroger store where my Dad knew everybody. (And, yes, now that I know some botany, they are both “same” and “different”.)

And then there were dogs.

Neverminding for a moment that the Westminster Kennel Club show I was watching last night was a re-run, anybody “should” be able to see that, while they’re all dogs, there are 197 different breeds and I began relating to them very early in my journey. “Same”? “Different”?

Here’s part of the challenge… It’s not until kids are about 12 years old that the ability to think abstractly begins to kick in developmentally. And, like me, most of us have some pretty firm opinions by the time we reach our tween years.

And, Westminster is not the only thing on TV. There’s CNN. It seems there’s still Fox News because it somehow keeps leaking into my email. Then there are political parties. Run the “same” or “different” game on those!

If you’re hoping, about now, for a tidy answer, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

This is the best I’ve got…

Let’s change the questions! What if we went with something along the lines of “What do we/these things share?” And, “What might we learn from each other?”

If the news is to be trusted, break time, such as it was, is over and Georgia’s about to get even more complicated. I’m in.

I have two granddaughters growing up in this world and I am going to vote on the questions!

ps… Westminster, for which we’ve often moved Valentine’s Day at our house, will happen (Gasp!) in June this year in Westchester County, NY instead of the traditional Madison Square Garden site, because of pandemic restrictions. Same? Different? Both? (The stunning black Standard Poodle won last year/night, in case you were curious!)

pps… Phoebe and Luther, who aren’t much for running in circles, will probably just nap, while sending out their wondrous, peaceful energy. I hope they believe me when I tell them they’d win if those judge folks knew them!


Wednesday, 2/10/21

Wednesday is usually a blog day at my house. Never before, though, has it been a day which also included being riveted to CNN‘s coverage of, “The 2nd Trump Impeachment Trial” and painting a canvas flag which will soon be covered in prayer dots.

A friend of mine asked me why I was watching when I already know what I think.

It’s a good question.

My answer – at least the primary one – is just this: One day, my girls, who live closer than I might choose to D.C., might ask me what I think about all of the news. I need to know as much as I can so I can answer their questions if they come.

And so I watch, spattered in paint, big dogs sleeping peacefully at my feet, because prayer is what I have to give. And new images for old.

You see, I’ve been other places before. I’ve been a survivor of domestic violence. I’ve helped surgeons sew injured, battered people back together. I’ve walked with people through trauma therapy. I’ve prayed for and with people burying loved ones. And I’ve stood on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, feeling awed and safe.

And one more thing. I’ve voted. In Georgia, among other places. I’ve voted, knowing that my own Gramma Elsie was 31 years old before she had the right to vote and that I was 7 years old by the time voting rights were “guaranteed” for my brothers and sisters of color.

I grew up learning that Betsy Ross made the first version of the flag we know as the Stars & Stripes. Today, it doesn’t matter so much to me whether that’s fact or legend. Today I have been designing my own flag-inspired image as the trial evidence goes on.

I haven’t gotten far enough so that you can see how much of a challenge it’s been. (The stripes were harder than I planned!)

Here’s what I do know. You don’t get to do what the video footage shows people doing with such glee.

The therapist who lives on inside me suspects that not watching might be wiser. The preacher and grandmother and artist who share space with her need to know how to not wind up here again.

For now, the Impeachment Managers are showing security footage of insurrectionists hunting the Speaker of the House, and the first coat of paint is dry, and my brush is calling.

I’m pretty sure this is how we persist.

Dreams of many sorts…

I know. It’s probably not exactly what you expected in this moment. It’s just that my work-in-progress paintings have been whispering in my dreams again.

This story will probably feel a bit stream-of-consciousness-ish to you, which is great, because that’s the way it happened!

First, context. Tomorrow, we observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. I’ve spent some time wondering what he might say if he were with us in this moment and I suspect it would be much like his famous speech, I Have a Dream.

Quoting from the biblical prophet, Amos, Dr. King called for judgement to, “run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” Or, as another translation says, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as an everlasting stream.”

I can’t help but imagine that if Dr. King were with us today, he’d say the same thing now, though possibly more loudly. The time for needing justice and righteousness seems to go on.

Dr. King’s birthday is another type of holiday at our house as well. This weekend marks the liberation of our dear Luther from an awful puppy mill existence in Michigan.

Newfoundland rescue groups from across the US went into emergency mode to get about 25 abused, sick, terrified dogs to families who would love them back to health.

It wasn’t easy. Luther was terrified of everything. His one coping mechanism for noise or movement or a new voice was to dissociate and try to melt into the floor.

He’s been with us for four years now and the transformation is miraculous. Despite losing his eye sight, this big guy knows he is safe. (Also well fed!) His two favorite words are water and friend.

We’re still working on some of the fine points like nail trimming. And, I could do with a bit less of the barking-at-traffic hobby, but he is as good a preacher for justice as his namesake was.

I’m struck, though, by the context in which we are reflecting on these words and observing these holidays.

And I’m stuck between the 24/7 stream of words from CNN and the utter lack of sense around us. (Feel free to fill in the blanks.)

Here’s what I do know. I want for all people what Luther has both found and taught in his time with us. Safety. Respect. Love. Justice.

We have more work to do. And I have more dots to make. Dots for victims of Covid. And for victims of insurrection in our nation’s capitol. And for new leaders with enormous jobs to do. And for voting rights.

And, there, in the midst of the dots, and the prophets known as Amos and Martin… a bit of embodied healing. The painting known as #Artifact volunteered. You see, she has a new plan. So, with respect for all the hope and tears and prayer dots already lending their energy to the under layers, we did a new thing.

A big change, but not really. Just a reminder of what I’ve already learned, deep inside. And space for a new image in a new world.

Leonard Cohen, singing Hallelujah in the background. Phoebe tracking paint spatters across the floor.

And that is, indeed, Luther, in the painting on the wall, blessing the journey.

ps… Sending you and yours hope.

pss… I still have space for a couple of 1:1 coaching clients this Spring! email me at suesvoice@gmail.com and let me know if you’d like to chat. It’s time for all the Soul Expression Breakthroughs® we can create!

The Only Thing…

Truth. While missing my kids and resisting Christmas cookies, I’ve been indulging my serious fondness for The West Wing.

A couple of days ago it was time for Jed Bartlet’s second inauguration. The speech writing was complicated by a crisis in Africa. One of the writing team was off running for Congress in California. It was, at least in TV land, time for new characters. Will Bailey jetted in to help.

On the night of the Inauguration, the President gathered the Senior Staff for a rather surprising announcement. The (very!) new kid on the block was being named Deputy Communications Director, complete with a certificate signed by Bartlet and stamped with the seal of the President.

Then came the question. (You may know the quote from American Cultural Anthropologist, Margaret Mead. Please play along, if you do!)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. [Do you know why?] …it’s the only thing that ever has.

I’ve loved this for years. And, especially in this moment, I’ve begun to suspect it just might be about me, too.

The political challenges are about to wear me out! And I’ve been flinging my commitment far and wide. But that’s not the only thing I’ve been up to. You see, despite everything else that’s going on in the world (and with a cranky knee), I’m still painting.

Paint by soul. My teacher and friend, Shiloh Sophia McCloud, who is the amazing force behind Intentional Creativity® in this moment, explains it this way…

Musea is one of the largest and most well established art movements on the planet.

(Really? Me? Yes!!!)

We are the curators of consciousness, using a methodology called Intentional Creativity which is making with mindfulness in any medium. Painting. Music. Language. Cuisine. Culture. Poetry. Theater. Pottery. Drawing. Sculpting. Dance. (Even quilts!) All mediums, when made with a sacred intent, tell a story. 

Our Intentional Creativity Movement has roots going back close to 100 years and invites participants to step into the role of Artist… There are currently over 400 Intentional Creativity Teachers worldwide, empowering more people to claim their self-expression and live a life more aligned with who they are through the power of Intentional Creativity.

The reach of our work is far beyond our knowing and we believe it will be carried into the millennia with teachers, both present and future. They will bring Intentional Creativity into their homes, schools, wellness and mental health centers, and prison systems. Our methodology can be used any place awakening consciousness through creativity is possible, to lift up others and bring healing to our planet.

MUSEA : Intentional Creativity  

Many Voices. Many Hands. Many Lands.  

Crafting Culture and Curating Consciousness

Now, you’re probably wondering why this, now? Well, because, amongst my Musea sisters, I’m living the truth of Margaret Mead’s quote. And, as Shiloh said, there are many ways to do it!

I’m one of those 400 Intentional Creativity teachers. I’m also one of a small but growing number of people using Intentional creativity for coaching with individuals and groups. And a huge part of my work is in empowering others to clarify their visions for helping to heal the world and putting them to work. (You’ll hear more about this very soon!)

“Talent” is not required! Just a longing to be part of more light for all.

ps… This glimpse of my current painting is a reminder from Luther that there are many ways of seeing.

pps… May your New Year be filled with hope and blessings!

Keeping warm in the cold…

Luther is loving the weather. Cold. Damp. A smidge of ice. It feels familiar to him and Luther is a guy who sorts for familiar much of the time.

Phoebe and I are not so sure. Cranky joints seem crankier than usual. Plus, there’s lots of laptopping to get done so, while Luther is out chatting (loudly) with the dogs next door, Phoebe and I have been huddled in the den, with fuzzy blankets and movies on TV.

Sister Act (1 & 2) have been on a bunch. I’m a fan and excited to learn, in a recent Colbert interview with Whoopi Goldberg, that a third movie is in the works.

I know. It’s not likely to win an Oscar but the music is great and there’s lots of empowering going on, which works for me. Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the first movie:

The novice nun, Sister Mary Robert says to Whoopi, Do you know how sometimes it’s as if you have to be yourself or you’ll just burst?

Whoopi’s succinct response is, Yep, I do.

Well, I do, too. And the painting and teaching and coaching are the ways I do me. And, of course, being a Grammy!

Then, as I was sketching out the outline for the Miracles workshop, I happened across a rerun of The Help.

Fairly true to form, I had read the book before I saw the movie. And I loved the book! All that speaking the things which “must not” be spoken.

One of my favorite scenes appeared as if on cue today. The maid/nanny, Aibileen, says to the small girl in her care, You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important.

That claim is, in so many ways, at the core of my commitment to the notion that Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope!

Hearing it felt different today. Bigger, somehow. You see, the world has changed since the last time I heard it.

Well, it probably hasn’t changed so much as we’re more aware, many of us, of things that are both true and not working at all.

As I listened and wiped my tears, I wondered what it would be like if that affirmation suddenly became the core of our sharing this planet?.

What if we looked at each person we met and related with them out of the basic premise that they, and we, are kind and smart and important?

What if that was the message not only for our nearest and dearest, but for our nation?

On the one hand, it feels like an awfully big change to imagine.

On the other, it has the rare advantage of being something you and I can start today, no act of Congress required.

Now, I’ll admit that there are exceptions. Not everybody is kind and smart and important and we do have to protect ourselves… but would there be as many exceptions if we started there?

There will undoubtedly be days when we’ll stub our verbal toes over old barriers, but we’ll learn more doing it. And, bit by bit, things will get better.

Some folks won’t be thrilled, but that’s no reason to give up. I’m starting, consciously, now. (The editor who lurks inside me has politely suggested that we fluff the grammar up just a bit.)

You are kind. You are smart. You are important.

Pretty good news to preach…

ps… the artwork, above, is a snippet from my painting, The Fiercely Compassionate Artist.

Pieces of a legend…

I’m having a bit of re-entry shock. It was, in a metaphorical sense, a looooong way down the mountain from the legendary painting adventure known as Vivid.

And when I got back down the mountain, all the things I hadn’t gotten done before were waiting for me. (I can see you nodding!)

I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that there’s handy homeowner stuff on that list. And holiday prep stuff. And learning stuff. LOTS of learning stuff.

Oh, and Luther has grungy ears and decided blowing coat would be helpful which means a whole bunch of other stuff, besides.

Intriguingly, it’s my first Legend painting that’s whispering the comforting thoughts in my ear. Here she is:

Wow, has she taught me a lot!

You can use your imagination on what some of those teachings might be. There’s one, though, that I especially want to share tonight.

You see, her name is Follow Your Heart. I have followed my heart to this time and place. I suspect following it into the future will mean coming out from under the rock where I sometimes hide.

Being visible. Entering the world as a living symbol that love conquers all. Gathering my beloveds and inviting them into their own legendary futures.

It’s going to take a lot of us. Women who understand the need for loving legends in our families and our world.

We have the power to change lives. I’m saying yes. And I’ll have more to share soon about how you might join me. For today, Follow Your Heart is hanging out in my special Etsy holiday gift shop, in a couple of different forms, along with some of her best buddies, ready to follow you home and remind you, the way she reminds me.

It’s the red-winged blackbird in her hair!

ps… Luther says to remind you that he’s legendary, too!

Can you see it???

Today, I went to a meeting. In and of itself, that’s clearly not news!

It was an online meeting, all quarantine appropriate, and full of people I didn’t know before.

It doesn’t matter so much, in this moment, what the meeting was about. Here’s what you need to know:

Over 700 people, from all over the world. Kenya, Canada, USA, France, Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, the Ukraine, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, the UK… and those were just the ones I caught going past in the chat!

If you’ve been to meetings like this, you may be familiar with the quotes going by on the screen in the beginning. One caught my eye…

Don’t be pushed by your problems… be led by your dreams. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And there, in that little spot of www.land, I found some hope in the midst of what I’ve been experiencing as election terror.

The hope came, mostly, from being surrounded by hundreds of strangers all there because they, too, have dreams for their lives and our world.

I’ve already voted and, as far as I can tell, my job in this moment is to keep dreaming a better nation. A better world. Because, as I’ve mentioned, I have two granddaughters growing up in this world.

Chances are you have a similar motivation for the future.

Let it be conscious. I know it feels safer to try to bury it, so that disappointment isn’t so scary, but that’s not going to work. Please, please, please let yourself believe in whatever it is that keeps you getting out of bed in the morning and doing the good you can.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have some more information about the meeting, and about what I’m up to. And some ideas about how you might get involved…

For today, check out the art, above. It’s under layers of a painting from a year or so ago. If you look closely, you might just find an eye, gazing with hope into the future.

ps… Hi from Phoebe and Luther who have been helping by, you know, not eating roofers and such!

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher