Hallelujah Anyway!

Yesterday, I went on a pilgrimage. The magnificent author, Anne Lamott, was reading from her new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

As is the case with most pilgrimages, I really had to want it. Central is just across from the state capitol, smack in the middle of downtown Atlanta. The building is gorgeous. My favorite part, though, was the sign hanging outside that read, “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome.” While I have lots of fond memories of being there in the past, it’s definitely outside my perceived neighborhood. It also involved a Saturday night after dark. And navigational challenges. And parking challenges.

Bill came along. It’s nice to have other pilgrims along the way!

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On the Other Side of Silence

Have you ever noticed how a book you’d never heard of pops up suddenly with exactly what you need to make progress on whatever puzzle you’re trying to solve? The first time I remember it happening was about 20 years ago when, despite years of research, I was missing a transition I desperately needed for my dissertation.

I was wandering in a used book store when a particular volume called Women’s Ways of Knowing seemed to hop up and down on the shelf in front of me. Obligingly, I flipped through the pages, though, frankly, I wasn’t immediately attracted by the small heard of sociologists listed as authors.

Then I saw it.

Along with the discovery of personal authority arises a sense of voice–in its earliest form, a “still small voice” to which a woman begins to attend rather than the long-familiar external voices that have directed her life. This interior voice has become…the hallmark of women’s emergent sense of self and sense of agency and control (p. 68).

On the surface, not much to do with my topic of pre-marital counseling and the church. Yet, somehow, long before I discovered glitter pens, there it was. Almost glowing on the page.

The next step was obvious. Buy the book and head home as quickly as possible to read.

The authors were clear about their goals.

In this book we examine women’s ways of knowing and describe five different perspectives from which women view reality and draw conclusions about truth, knowledge, and authority. We show how women’s self-concepts and ways of knowing are intertwined. We describe how women struggle to claim the power of their own minds… (pp. 3-4).

All of which sounded useful, but not necessarily game changing. Until I read a bit further.

We listened as women told us their life stories and described the people and events that were catalytic in shaping the way they viewed themselves and their minds. Not all of the women’s stories were happy ones. This is as much a book about pain and anger and static lives as it is about hope and lives in blossom. It is also a book about the “roar which lies on the other side of silence” when ordinary women find their voice and use it to gain control over their lives (p. 4).

Exciting but still, seemingly, not much to do with my topic.

And then the lightbulb came on. The message was not about my topic. It was about me.

I was stuck between all the sources of authority in my life and me. My sense of authority. My sense of meaning. And there, among all the stories of other women, armed with a wholly new perspective, I decided to be less stuck. I decided to write my work.

Yes. It was scary. And, just between us, it almost backfired. At the last minute, though, it worked. (Though I had already learned a great many things which, we might suppose, should be the object of such an academic exercise in the first place!)

Yes, I said it. Should be. (A phrase I generally try to avoid.)

Fortunately, that book is still around. We may need it now, more than ever.

Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know even in the midst of knowing new things.

I do not want my girls to live in silence. I do not want them to discount their own experience and live in others’ notions of truth. I don’t want your girls to live in silence, discounting their experience, either. Nor, for that matter, do I want our boys to do that.

Well ok, I do want mine to listen to their parents and stay off social media and limit tv until they’re a bit older. I’m also glad they’re already claiming their own opinions about all those things, and many more.

And I’m committed to helping them be ready with the tools and strategies they will need to give more and more weight to their own voices. To question everything. To be wildly, passionately who they are. And to be open to the books and surprises that jump out for them in moments when they are wandering.

It’s kind of amazing, actually, to realize that I’ve spent most of my life getting ready to do just this!

Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope

Women’s Ways of Knowing

All Of The Above

Years and years ago, when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at Eckerd College, I was deep in a required class called Psychology of Consciousness. Commonly known to students as “Kooks, Nuts, and Weirdos”!

I suppose it should have been something of a warning that I began to find a sense of myself there.

Our professor was a guy who had a Ph.D. in Ericksonian hypnosis. I had lots of interesting experiences in that class!

One of the most mind-boggling was his assertion that our bodily experience of the thing we call excitement and the thing we call anxiety are the same. It’s all a matter of interpretation.

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It Really Is All Of Us!

Ok. We’re going to try something new today.

More and more of you have shared with me that you have grandkids (Or kids or maybe even yourselves!) who need more help or different help than you imagined they might.

And some of you–old friends and new–have shared some thoughts about that.

So, today I want to share an article by a writing friend of mine. Lauren is an artist and author whose book, Studio Stories, Illuminating Our Lives through Art, is inspiring and comforting in just the ways I hope my quilts are.

This is a powerful story that was recently published in Autism Parenting Magazine.


Before you say, “That’s not me,” I hope you’ll check it out. It really is all of us.

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Door Number Three

One of the big things that has changed in our high-tech virtual world is that we no longer need to wait for September to climb on a bus and go back to school. We can go at the push of a button.

I’ve pushed that particular button several times recently. (Which is no huge surprise to lots of you!)

Many students of brain function and human development hold that the most difficult thing people learn to do is to read. A large number of neuro “switches” are all required to click on before we are ready to read, no matter how eager we, or those around us, may be.

I was eager. Never having been to kindergarten, I clung to the promise that, in first grade, I would learn to read. Truthfully, I somehow supposed that meant on the first day of first grade!

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Each little bit helps!

This morning, Sarah and I went on an adventure. I had two quick errands to run and she loves to ride in the car. At 60 F. and overcast, it’s still cool enough for her to wait 10 minutes in a car with the windows down about four inches.

We ushered Phoebe and Luther out to the deck with a big bowl of water and a variety of rope toys. Sarah was delighted to go with me.

I went looking for provisions from my favorite butcher and a few more veg to pop into an already magnificent pot of soup. I found more!

All the spring flowering trees are in bloom!

The dogwoods are just getting started. The redbuds are stunning. There are some purple ones that look like wisteria but I’m not sure about that. Gorgeous, in any event. And brilliant, crimson Japanese maples which aren’t blooming but look like they are.

Our pinky-purple Loropetalum is dripping with blooms and, one by one, the azalea bushes are popping, too.

While Sarah was snuffling the breeze, I was on a sight-seeing tour for gardeners!

When we got home, I saw some early season bees, happily buzzing among the blooms I left on a few of the collard greens, and I actually felt tears in my eyes.

I have a history with bees.

I’m desperately allergic to stings. Bees, wasps, yellow jackets. You name it.

One day, years and years ago, I got stung on the knuckle of my ring finger in the parking lot of a grocery store. Within 20 minutes, my arm was swollen to my shoulder and I was having trouble breathing.

Enter my close relationship with Epi-pens!

Dave is allergic, too. I try to pretend not to know that he keeps his Epi-pen at home in the closet where the first aid stuff lives.

For a long time, I was pretty phobic about bees. Especially the buzzing. The usual anxiety symptoms. Avoiding anything with flowers. And then, one day, my phobia was gone.

It happened at a training session in Ericksonian Hypnosis. We were watching an ancient, scratchy video of Milton Erickson working with a client about her bee phobia. Somehow, I dropped into the trance experience of that moment and, when the video was over, my phobia was gone.

I’m still appropriately cautious. No floral or fruity perfume. Ditto, scented shampoos. No hairspray. I carry my Epi-pen, especially when eating outside.

Now, though, I can appreciate bees for the aerodynamically improbable, life-giving miracles that they are. I speak kindly to them in the garden. I plant things for their pleasure.

Sage and lamb’s ears are favorites with the local gang. Just about anything with purple flowers. And the funnel-shaped flowers. Check for recommendations in your area. Hummingbirds will like them, too. And butterflies.

It’s a chance to nurture our mother, the Earth. To feed the generations that follow us. To learn new things.

Like no GMO’s. No neonicotinoids. You really can grow a garden without chemical fertilizers and herbicides and insecticides!

And early indications are that feeding Phoebe small doses of very local honey is helping with her severe allergies. (And my sanity!)

Our garden starts with organic, heirloom seeds. And lots of compost. And barrels planted full of leafy green stuff,  right in the front yard, because that’s what I eat.

Or, if you don’t have the room, some potted herbs. This is one place where each little bit actually does help. Which is an encouraging thing to realize on a day when you’re juggling dogs and running errands or whatever it is you’re doing.

And then there’s the whole thing about the power within us to be healed of our fears and phobias. That’s pretty encouraging, too!

For the moment, though, time to dry-brine a perfect chicken for dinner. (Just click for the recipe!)

“May I ask you a question?”

I was wandering around Kudzu the other day. My favorite neighborhood vintage, antiques, collectibles, artwork, industrial, and so forth kind of place. I went for a much needed mental health break.

Bill was home with the dogs. (The new kid still needs quite a bit of supervision.) It was too cold and damp for a walk outside, at least for someone with vivid memories of chronic pain.

Kudzu is perfect. Heat, but not too much. Sirius 60’s on Six radio. (Yes, I sing along!) A few slopes and ramps in the floor but no potholes. Or traffic. And enough eye candy to forget that I’m actually exercising. I try to go twice around, faster, rather than once, slowly.

If you discount, for the moment, the trendy decorators and movie set designers, the majority of the shoppers are people like me. Local. Somewhere between nostalgic and out of the box. Environmentally concerned. Not fans of matching. I often wind up chatting with new friends.

On this particular trip, a woman asked if she might ask me a question.

Neverminding the old joke about, “You just did,” I said that she might, indeed.

(This happens to me a lot. Farmers’ Market. The paint department at my favorite Ace Hardware. Or Lowe’s. PineStreet Market. Intown Quilters.)

Bill thinks I have one of those old hobo signs that translates into ask this woman!

In any event, her question was, “What would you call your decorating style?”

It’s a good question. One I’ve been trying to answer for a few years now myself.

First of all, it changes a lot. At least the expression of it changes. Needs change. We move furniture. We re-designate the funtions of rooms. I need new colors.

If you visited just now, you might assume that my style was something pretty close to early Kennel Club. Or campy dog furniture showroom!

Or, contemporary quilt store.

Or, library wanna-be.

Or, folk art fanatic.

Not too long ago, I hatched up a label that works for me.

Eclectic Urban Nest.

That’s me!

Quilts and books and folk art angels. Dog beds, for sure. (And dog hair!)

Furniture I’ve built. (And some I’ve un-built!) Heirloom furniture. Vintage stuff. Rustic stuff. And an old stainless back table from the operating room at a local hospital!

Colors. Lots of them.

Light. As much as possible.

And wall outlets. More than the guy who built my house in 1962 ever imagined!

Someplace handy for a Sunflower yellow Fiestaware mug of hot water with lemon.

An improbable combination of memory, function, and hope.

Hope for a future unfolding even now.

Breathing. Snoring. WholeTones music. Aromatherapy.

(The new kid is still a bit anxious.)

Comfort in service of the future. Hope.

And room for my family.

Just like a nest.

There is a nest, by the way, in the fountain on the front porch. There was one a couple of years ago, too.

We’ll go around, again. And resist the urge to peek, trying hard not to disturb the mama, while praying that the babies are not too early given the wild swings in weather.

Nesting is an odd combination of comfort and risk. Of faith in the future despite the immediate experience of vulnerability.

Of flight, as it were, to a new land. Hoping against hope that someone has swept a heap of dog hair and a few scraps of yarn and a bit of cotton quilt batting out the door in a gesture of welcome, rather than a mundane task to be forgotten as soon as it’s complete.

Perhaps we are called to be an eclectic urban nest for the world. In any event, I’ll be back at Kudzu soon, eager to find out what the next question might be.


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