With Hope on Mothers Day!

As many of you know, it’s been quite the week in post-op puppy nurse land!

Luther is healing well which is great because I’m pretty close to wiped out. I’m thinking of having my mail forwarded to the magic chair where I’m pretty much living at the moment.

In an effort, perhaps, to channel my early years, there has been a lot of Grey’s Anatomy going on.

One episode in particular hit home for me just now.

An explosion, thought to be a bomb, happens at a shopping mall. Many people, including a number of children, are injured.

One of the ER docs, a young woman who is pregnant, reacts with tremendous fear and wonders over and over how to bring a baby into a world where such a thing is possible.

Her mother-in-law, a woman more given to snapping orders than to extending comfort, offers a surprisingly profound response:

Raise your babies well. This is how the world changes. 

The obvious question, especially as the American Mothers Day holiday dawns, is “How?”

Allowing that we must each find our own answers, I’d like to offer a framework that has been hugely helpful in my journey. It comes from the late Dr. H. Stephen Glenn, whose work, Developing Capable People, I first encountered when my own baby was four years old.

According to Steve, much of parenting (and grandparenting) comes from helping kids to believe three things:

I am capable.

I contribute in meaningful ways and I am genuinely needed.

I can influence what happens to me. 

Raising Self-Reliant Children In A Self-Indulgent World, p. 49

I believe!

In fact, I know. And it isn’t easy. It involves ditching our societal obsession with success and claiming the amazing possibility that there’s no such thing as failure. Only experience to be learned from. 

Kind of like acrylic paint!

Here’s the catch.

In order for our kids to learn these amazing truths, we have to at least experiment with believing them ourselves.

It doesn’t make a great Hallmark card. It does help us to raise kind, confident children, even in this world.

Steve walked on some years ago and the book is a bit dated in terms of language and examples but it still lives in my study on a shelf I always know how to find, no matter how much we rearrange the furniture. And it lives on in my own book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

With my whole heart, and with hope for my own girls, I invite you to check it out. It’s never too late to start! We need all the capable, significant, influential kids we can get.

This is how the world changes.

Many blessings to all of you who are mom-ing and grammy-ing anybody, anywhere and teaching these truths in whatever way works for you. This day and every day. Amen.




A Day for Action

Yesterday a visiting friend requested a tour of the garden.

That’s kind of funny when you realize that there’s nothing much to see yet this year, at least to the casual observer.

The buds on the grape vines are still almost invisible. The fledgling greens in the raised beds are still to small to peer over the edges.

The asparagus is still working its way toward actual production.

I ate the dandelion leaves for dinner.

The plant that joined us as a gift from a friend, which I know as an Egyptian walking onion is, frankly, the only really assertive sign of edible life.

I know, though, that there’s some volunteer cilantro and parsley off in one corner.

There’s one small-ish rose amidst a huge hedge of bushes.

And, in a sure sign of spring, there are fiddleheads, standing there bravely on a day that’s still more than a bit chilly.

Standing for what will be but isn’t quite yet.

They remind me of the students standing up across America today. Walking out of class for 17 minutes in symbolic memory of the victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas high school in Florida, one month ago today.

Standing up for effective gun safety regulation in the nation where far too many of them will not live to become adults.

Standing up in the nation where taking a stand, where speaking out, feels increasingly dangerous.

I’ve spent much of today praying and wondering what else I could do to help.

The first thing that I thought of was the fact that I can vote. And I do.

I can also speak out. Even though somebody, somewhere will read this and decide they don’t want to hang out here anymore.

The third thing that I remembered is, perhaps, even more important.

I can be one of those five people and help others to learn to do that as well.

If you’re a more recent friend in this conversation you may be wondering exactly which five people.

Years and years ago I listened to a brilliant psychologist named H. Stephen Glenn explain to an auditorium full of people who cared about kids that if a teenaged child has five adults who will listen to them, take them seriously, and not shame or blame them for their questions, that child is practically immune from ever attempting suicide.

I decided, then and there, that I wanted to be one of those five people.

It seemed like a pretty big job back then.

It seems even bigger now, especially since I have granddaughters growing up in this world.

And, while this is certainly a matter of perspective, the world feels even more complicated than it did back then.

I suspect, if he was still with us in this world, Steve would agree that having those five people is also a good start toward minimizing bullying and aggression in children who mostly just want to matter.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that all their behavior is acceptable.

It just means that the child and the behavior are separate and we can love the one while not tolerating the other.

And so, we listen to our kids. Take them seriously. Remind ourselves, as many times as it takes, that questioning everything is how they learn.

We model, and reinforce, kindness and confidence.

Some of us didn’t get enough of that ourselves and we may be wondering what it feels like and how to do that with others. You can read more about it in my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

And you can ponder the words of songwriter, Jim Morgan, who climbed up a mountain in North Carolina with a bunch of us one week and taught us a song called Alright By Me. 

The chorus, imagined in the voice of God, goes like this:

Ooo, child don’t you walk away telling me its nothing at all when I can see those tears swimming in your eyes, sayin’ your self-confidence has had a great fall. It’s just natural to want to hide when you’re feelin’ that you just don’t belong. Why don’t you crawl up here and sit by my side ’cause when you’re sad I want to sing you this song. ‘Cause you’re alright, you’re alright, you’re alright, you’re just as fine as you can be. And you can stay right here as long as you like ’cause you’re alright by me.

Maybe Jim knew Steve, too!

Now you know them both. And maybe you’ll join all those brave kids, their parents and teachers, the fiddleheads, and me, standing up for what will be but isn’t quite yet.

It’s time to call together circles of those who will speak.






Voices from the past…

If you’ve been hanging around for a while you know that when Dave was about four — the same Dave who just turned 38 — I wound up, kind of accidentally, in a parenting class called Developing Capable People.

To make a long story less long, I’m so glad I did!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until the cows come home…I’m not sure Dave and I would have made it if it weren’t for the author of the course, Steve Glenn.

Skipping along a bit, I wound up as a certified DCP group leader and, for many years, could practically recite the audio stuff by heart.

Literally, by heart.

This weekend, I’ve been pondering one of the best (and possibly most subversive) things I learned from Steve:

There’s no such thing as failure. Only experience to be learned from.

Read that again, please.

I’m not sure about you, but this is not what I grew up hearing!

I grew up with the notion that failure was shameful and made one somehow less than expected.

And, just between us, I was more than ready to trade that particular perception in for Steve’s considerably more radical notion.

In case you’re wondering why Steve is sitting, psychically, beside me as I write this just now, I have a very simple answer.


A very simple answer and a bit of an explanation.

First, we’re pondering oracles in my Legend painting class, and Steve is right up there on the list of the oracles I’ve encountered.

Secondly, I spilled my brush water. Again.

No worries. That’s why my little vintage serving cart on wheels has paper towels.

It’s also why I posted a question for the far more experienced painters in the circle and asked if anybody knows where the cool little beige paint caddies with sides in all the videos come from!

No time for shame and blame or labels like “clumsy”. It takes time away from painting!

Then there were the eyes.

First, let me say that this is only the third painting I ‘ve ever done, and the first where I’ve attempted open eyes. Very scary!

“Not to worry,” insist the experts. “Just paint over it!”

I didn’t really understand.

I just knew the eyes weren’t working for me. I kept adjusting.

For a while they looked a lot like martini olives. Oops!

Finally, it occurred to me that all the fixing wasn’t fixing anything and I could actually start over!

No failure. Just experience to be learned from.

Hence, the rather alien looking being in the photo above. I adjusted the size of her eyes and then painted out the “olives” and, after what I devoutly hope will be a good night’s sleep, I will begin again.

No shame or blame or labels like “totally without talent”.

Just, as the master sculptor of the Renaissance, Michelangelo, would say, “I am still learning.”

What if that was what we were teaching our kids?

And, for that matter, what if we believed?

I believe. (Most days!)

Submit Your Rebel!

One of the most powerful things I learned in all my years of doing Developing Capable People classes for parents and teachers — or was it family therapy??? — was the notion that whether we are complying with an authority or rebelling against it, we are still not making our own choices.

The author, Steven Covey, talks about it a bit differently when he encourages people facing a dilemma to look for a third alternative, opening the way to real choice instead of picking A and rejecting B.

Recently I was advised by the amazing, talented Shiloh Sophia McCloud “submit my rebel” in the Intentional Creativity process.

I can almost hear you gasping! (I know I did.)

This was, frankly, not advice I was hoping for.

I rather like my rebel. Most of the time.

She’s a great buddy for shoe shopping.

Gifted at choosing quilt fabric.

She’s also a really good cook who doesn’t own a microwave.

There are times, though, when she’s not quite so helpful.

Sometimes she tries to get me to “rebel” against things, not just for the sake of rebelling, or because I have a better idea, but because I might do something that scares me. Or calls me out of my comfort zone.

As in, I don’t need to do all the steps in the process. I’ll just skip a few I don’t understand.

Apparently, it’s not just me. In fact, it seems lots of us may struggle with this.

I was a complier for my first 18 years. Then I rebelled the only way I knew how because I was scared. No, make that terrified.

Then I went back to mostly complying for a while. I complied with my knees and my back and the images people had of who I was and what I should be afraid of.

These days I’m working hard on making choices. Real choices. Some of the choices are scary, too.

Like submitting my rebel to the process in Intentional Creativity.

But only one step at a time! I get to keep on choosing along the way.

You might say I’m choosing to choose.

It sounds better that way!





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