Traditions, Old & New

Today is, for many of us, Ash Wednesday. Depending on your particular tradition, it might mean anything from the day to recover from Mardi Gras, to a day of fasting (Possibly following Shrove Tuesday pancakes last night!) to solemn church services, marked with something I wouldn’t personally have named imposition of ashes on the first day of the Lenten season.

Frankly, these were not traditions I was raised with in what used to be the old Southern Presbyterian Church. And, for many years, now, Ash Wednesday has reminded me of sugar bowls.

I can see the question marks sprouting over your head! It happened like this.

There I was, in the first church I served, in a tiny southern town, when Ash Wednesday rolled around for the first time. My immediate question had to do with where the ashes came from. Historically, the answer is that they come from the palm fronds from the prior year’s Palm Sunday service which were carefully saved, dried, and burned to make, well, ashes.

All interesting in theory, but what if your current church hadn’t observed Palm Sunday last year???

Answer: a sandwich bag full of ashes from the fireplace of my colleague in ministry who served the “big” church up town.

Next problem: What to put the ashes in for the service?

For this I turned to the source of all liturgical answers, the Cokesbury catalog. There the answer was something called an ash pyx which they were oh, so happy to sell me and deliver.

You guessed it. Lots of money! And a glimmer of inspiration. You see, the ash pyx in the catalog looked surprisingly like the silver plated sugar bowl in a tea set I won once upon a time at a dog show.

Problem solved! Somehow, we made it through the service and all the “Why?” questions that went with it.

Frankly, I still have a few “Why?” questions about the season of Lent which involves the weeks prior to Easter.

The oldest traditions are all about sacrifice and denial. Put most simply, one gives something up during Lent as a remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made.

Lately, though, I’ve come to think of Lent as a time to add something to life. Something that allows us to live more fully in love and joy, which is, I suspect, more what Jesus had in mind.

One of my favorite examples came to me in the words of the wildly wondrous artist and author, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, known to many, many of us as SARK, who talks about radical self care. 

The details of such a spirit of care would, undoubtedly, be different for each of us. I began today with a bunch of fasting (!) lab work and a curious procedure known as a ginger compress designed to encourage my adrenal glands to do their jobs a bit better.

And, no, they didn’t cover that when I was in nursing school!

Depending on your tradition and how you learned to count such things, there are 39 more days of Lent, plus Sundays, which are designated Feast Days.

My plan, as you probably guessed, is, indeed, radical self care. (Thanks, Susan!)

More attention to rest. A firm intention to paint every day. Really! Even knowing that some of those days will probably be 3 prayer dots. Creating. And healing food.

Some of it really good chocolate. And the chicken, sustainably raised on local pastures, who followed me home from Pine Street Market.

This coming Friday has been designated roast chicken night at our house. (I’ll admit to designs on a big pot of broth to follow!)

And, just in case radical self care sounds like a plan to you, I’d love to hear how it goes. For starters, click here for my perfect roast chicken recipe. (It’s kind of got a Lent thing going for it!)

Enjoy! (More about the photo as my workshop, Holy Polka Dots, comes to life. Teaser… Anne Lamott will be involved!)


Onward with Annie!!!

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

-The Word according  to Anne Lamott

It’s been a week for clinging to just those words. (Actually, I’ve been clinging to them for a lot longer than that, and you’ve probably heard them here before, but I’m okay with that!)

Standing up, on Sunday, with a small tribe of bravely anxious women, to BE and to create.

Accepting help on Monday for something I “should”  be able to do myself… traveling along with Luther on the grooming journey.

I don’t have the flexibility to do it alone. And it took a while to find him just the right expert who will sit on the floor in our family room and adjust every day professional patterns to the needs of a huge, blind dog with post traumatic stress.

Luther made it a whole 55 minutes!!! (And I could knit several dogs with what we swept off the floor!)

Then I spent some time painting with the very wise young man next door. While he worked away on his new project, and patiently explained the various categories of chaos from a video game, I felt this small canvas calling for some more love in the form of a Big, Scary Glaze (Dioxazine Purple) and then a good bit of silver, stirred with just a smidge of the purple left on my palette.

If we’re being real, it was was undoubtedly the wisdom of Anne Lamott just peeking through the drips and glaze that was calling to me!

Then I did something that is a major stretch for me personally but is completely aligned with what I believe. It was hard. It will probably be hard when I do it again on Thursday. And Friday. And some more next week and the week after.

I’m hoping it will be a little less hard each day.

I know it will be just as important.

Which is, I suspect, why the hand written intention that insisted on being included in my new painting, Oracle and Ally – otherwise known as Legend, is both prayer and promise to myself and to my teachers. To Annie and Shiloh and Stella Mac and all the rest. To all the generations of mothers and grandmothers, from all over the world, who came before me and made me and my girls, bit by bit, for this moment.

Yes, it’s scary. But that’s no reason to hide.

#WIP’s abound! And I’ve started a serious practice of “should-ing” on myself a whole lot less!



Wonders of the Medicine Bag!

If you’re new around here, you may not know that the fabulous bag in the photo followed me home from Italy last fall. It literally called my name from the floor of a shop full of Italian leather goods and insisted on becoming what we Color of Woman folks call our medicine baskets. (I resisted for all of about two minutes!)

In addition to Henry, there are some new things in my medicine bag lately. Some are actual things and some are things I’ve learned. Just in case you’re up for learning new things, too, here are a few. Kind of like the old-fashioned Hints from Heloise !

First, did you know that you can keep avocados in your fridge? You can! Let them sit on the counter until they’re ripe to touch, then stash them in a basket in the fridge for as much as 4 or 5 days and use as desired.

I eat lots of avocados and this makes the shopping w-a-y easier!!! (I take them out 45 minutes to an hour ahead of time so they’re room temp-ish.)

Then, there’s the matter of dog soup. Not soup made of dogs! Soup for dogs.

Our herd eats raw food, exception for bone broth. They’re also supposed to eat veg but mine are not fans. So, with my recent enormous batch of broth, I (finally!) had the inspiration to run a batch of raw veg through the VitaMix and then whisk it in with their chilled broth before I packed and froze it.

This time, lots of greens from the garden. Ideally, below and above ground veg together. Easiest example, carrots with the feathers still on. (Next time!) Just grind them with a bit of broth until liquid, mix them into the broth, then portion and freeze.

And, yes, it works for hiding veg on kids, too!!!

Then, a blast from the past. Once upon a time, I had knee surgery six times in nine years. That was a whole lot of time with my feet up, trying to feel useful.

I spent a huge chunk of that time knitting prayer shawls for Shallowford Presbyterian Church. Between the pain pills and my own tendency to do only a couple of things at a time, I needed to keep it simple.

Instead of fancy patterns which require lots of counting, I concentrated on breathing and praying. Frequently, (inhale) Mighty God… (exhale) hold them close. 

Stitch by stitch, row after row, back and forth, back and forth. Miles and miles of knitting.

Lately, I’ve been knitting again. (I’ve needed a bit of self-soothing!)

This time, sparkly red yarn. A reminder of the web which connects us as humans moving through life who, often, need some prayer and support.

Then, at the risk of geeking out a bit… Dostoevsky and Puddleglum. Really!

I encountered C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia during my first year in seminary. I hurt my back during the January term and spend much of my time flat on the couch. A dear friend brought me the paperback versions of the Chronicles because they were light and easy to hold over my head to read.

I fell in love with the Marsh Wiggle, Puddleglum, in book four, The Silver Chair.  Puddleglum is my hero!

Then, in the midst of Luther’s recovery, when I was stressed to the max, I picked up Buechner 101… Essays and Sermons by Frederick Buechner, with an intro by Anne Lamott.

Wait for it…

Maybe the final answer that faith can give to that awesome and final question occurs in a letter that Dostoevsky wrote to a friend in 1854. “If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth,” he wrote, “and it really was so that the truth was outside Christ, then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.”

Puddleglum was Dostoevsky!!!

(If these folks are unfamiliar, please go read asap!)

And then, a contemporary magic wand.


I’ve been a fan of the work of Belleruth Naperstak at Health Journeys for years. Her guided imagery recordings are magical. I’ve lived with the Successful Surgery set. (Seriously!)

I’ve recommended these resources to family, friends, and clients for years. Time and technology being what they are, the CD’s have become harder for folks to access. Enter the brand new app that allows you to access recordings via your phone or computer without eating all your hard drive space!

And now I’m delighted to be able to offer you access to the app at a discount for 6 months.

Trouble sleeping, grief, recovery, accessing creativity, stress relief, cancer, spiritual guides, even empowering imagery for kids… Health Journeys can help. Interested? Go to

Choose your plan. The deals are amazing!

***Enter the coupon code, special to us, FierceGma10 with your credit card info to receive  10% off for 6 months.

Then go to your mobile device and download the App from either Google Play or iTunes.

Sign in. Enjoy! (NOT while you’re driving!!!)

I don’t endorse something like this all that often but this is right up there with Puddleglum and Dostoevsky!!!

Let us know what you’re learning…




’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


And some celebrity interviews…

We’re a bit over half-way along with our big adventure. Here are a few things we’ve learned…

The accupressure bracelets for motion sickness help a lot!

The tiny house craze might be a bit of a stretch for some of us!

One cup of green tea, after a year of no caffeine, is ok if you have puffy feet. (Still!)

My favorite cruise buddies had some things they wanted to mention, too, and agreed to an interview…

Me: What are some of the cool things you’ve learned on the cruise?

Kenzie: You can make a bat out of towels! And try not to get stung by jelly fish!!!

TaylorYes! Try not to get stung by jelly fish!!!

Me: What are some of your favorite things so far?

T: Snorkeling and seeing really cool fish!

K: Being with everyone and snorkeling!

Me: What would you bring along next time if we went on another cruise?

K: Scuba gear!

T: One of those neck pillows for the plane and bug spray!

Me: What are you hoping might still happen on this trip?

T: We get to go to the beach!

K: More snorkeling!

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

K: Go on a cruise and try snorkeling!

T: Nope!

And, a few more thoughts from Grammy…

If you bring along a 7-year-old princess who happens to be gluten-free you get lots of attention from the fabulous dining staff. These folks have done an amazing job!

Christmas at sea was fun! Lots more focus on doing than having. Much painting and coloring to do and tomorrow is a long day sailing.

Sadly, not even a floating theme park with ice cream all day long makes us immune to tragedy. There was a serious tour bus accident in Costa Maya, involving 30-some people, four of whom were passengers on this ship. One of those did not survive.

So, we hold each other even closer and file away snapshots of this adventure in our hearts. Which, I suppose, if you’re a New Years resolution kind of person, is a pretty good place to start.

IMG_1777In the meantime, I just wanted to mention that Anne Lamott was right! Reflecting on an adventure of her own, Annie reminds us that it’s time to be kind to the cellulite “Aunties” and let them enjoy the sun and the breezes of cruising. Which is, perhaps, another option for New Years resolutions!


(This particular image of the Divine Feminine is courtesy of the art collectors at Royal Caribbean International.)

I didn’t know I could bring the dogs!!!



Doesn’t that just wonder you?

First, let me just say that Oregon is fabulous and, if you haven’t been there, I’d highly recommend it!

The weather in Portland was, mostly, lovely. I saw lakes and mountains and rivers and waterfalls and places where many of those things come together, which is a wonder for this Mid West/South East girl. I had lunch in Washington State, adding yet one more to my list of states visited.

I have crossed through “Tsunami Hazard” zones (Who knew?) and over Humbug Creek, East and West. I even discovered the Museum of Whimsy in lovely little Astoria, OR. Really!

One particular highlight was a visit to Fort Clatsop where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped in Oregon Country during the winter of 1805-06. The model of the original fort left me feeling awed. I’m not sure I could have camped there for half an hour!

Everything being contextual, the only things I really knew before about Lewis and Clark were that they embarked from Missouri and they were accompanied and supported on their journey by a Newfoundland dog named Seaman.

Now, though, I feel some of what they must have felt centuries ago. Mostly the forest.

Hushed. Primal. Upholstered in whiskery moss. Living. Breathing.

A treasure not just as a teaching tool, but as a silent call to cherish and heal our planet.

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