A Holiday from Stuck!

Well, it’s been an interesting weekend!

Order out of chaos work (Read that moving closets and drapes!) going on in the house. Also, painting. Lots of painting! Mostly art. Only a tiny bit of touch up on walls.

After my ortho doc assured me, provided I rested a bunch in the meantime, that doing the Abundance Workshop I have coming up next weekend wasn’t going to make what hurts worse, my current Muse painting, who insists on going along, has been in quite the rush to get things done.

It’s the resting part that has presented a bit of a challenge.

I can paint sitting down, which pretty much counts but, in order to get my legs up, I need the magic chair. No problem with the chair.

The problem, instead, is with the TV and internet. There hasn’t been any!!!

Now, I realize that, in the face of hurricanes and wars and crushing poverty and a huge lack of health care and major challenges with our educational system and tragic mass shootings and overwhelming questions about human rights, this is not actually a big deal.

I, however, am a pattern learner.

You know how, if you happen to have a front lawn, and you head out your door every day and walk to the mailbox by the exact same route, pretty soon you’ll have an actual path worn in your lawn? You know… grass mashed down, then worn away, then soil compacted until there is, essentially, a very obvious groove in your otherwise lovely lawn.

Well, our brains work the same way. Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again, actually creates neuro-pathways, or grooves, in our brains and then we tend to “stay in the grooves,” as it were, and keep doing things the same way.

Loathe as I am to admit this, after all the years of knee surgeries, one of my grooves is put feet up… turn on TV. Lots and lots of Food Network and Cooking Channel. Lots of HGTV. (Well, less these days. I mean, even I can only stand just so much house flipping!)

Then there’s the wonder of ROKU and Netflix. The West Wing, whenever I want it. Tony Bourdain.

And, just between us, it took me a while to wear a new groove in my brain to juggle two remotes and figure out which buttons to push and when. I am not a techie person. (At least, historically, I haven’t been!)

This weekend, since somebody put a huge roadblock in my path, and Bill was off communing with tens of thousands of techie/geeky folks at Dragon Con, and the thing called a router, which may be part of the problem, lives in the basement where I can’t get right now, doing some new things was called for.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

YouTube TV doesn’t work on a laptop though they don’t mention that until you’ve already signed up for the free trial.

You can get a whole season of Next Iron Chef in your I-tunes library. (Probably more!)

There are a couple of music mixes on YouTube that actually work for me and I can knit while I listen. Next task… figuring out how to get rid of the ads!!!

And, I can watch Netflix on my laptop! Who knew???

(Feel free to laugh!)

All of these miracles, and this blog post, are possible because my dear neighbor shared her internet access with me. Apparently their signal works at our house, too!

Here’s the cool part… I’ve downloaded apps and figured out how to find them again. I’ve found some stuff that works for me and some other stuff that doesn’t. I’ve had some new experiences to learn from. Which is, just as my old friend Steve Glenn promised, empowering. And the Muses all agree!

One of the songs from that music mix on YouTube keeps running through my head. Here it is… just in case you’d like for it to run around in your head, too….


I am still learning…………..

The 4-footed teachers have been in full form!

Luther, of course, has been the most obvious. Watching him heal, physically, from his eye surgery has been a wonder in itself. I’ve actually been able to watch his energy field come back online after all the anesthesia and the post-op meds. This big guy has been blind for a while but he temporarily lost his navigational radar.

It was all hands on deck to keep him from bumping his face until he was healed enough for the sutures to come out. I spent two weeks with a 140 pound dog literally tied to my arm, to keep him safe.

Today, he can make it out to the yard and back, safely. He’s re-negotiating his paths through the house, learning to feel gently with his nose for doorways and to pay attention to different floor mats to know where he is.

We’ve started some new walking training and directional cues to help and, blessedly, they are.

Sarah and Phoebe, meanwhile, have been in varying stages of regression. Sarah is bossy and needy and in my face, afraid, I suspect, that Luther will get most of the attention forever. She is, in some ways, assisting my inner critic in whispering messages of blame and inadequacy in my ear.

Meanwhile, Phoebe seems to have decided that, since the pattern disintegrated utterly for a few days, she is free to comply with or ignore the suggestions known in dog obedience land as commands, according to her mood.

I get it. Everything I’ve learned about sleeping in the dark with no electronics, eating real food, and believing in my ability to cope has gone astray.

IMG_5303I’m way beyond grateful that my inner Observer is also whispering in my ear.

One of the things that she’s whispering may have come from my old friend, Steve Glenn. Pardon the redundancy if you’ve read this recently, but it’s really helpful and deserves a re-run.

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

This, I’ve been reminded, is something we can’t teach our kids unless we, like Luther, learn to use it as a compass with which to navigate our own worlds.

So, the numbing TV, which wasn’t working for any of us and only added to the stress, has been switched out (mainly) for coloring.

The amazing Shiloh Sophia recently posted a documented medical article claiming that 5 minutes of coloring would interrupt the body’s stress response.

I already had the pencils and markers so I stocked up on coloring books. Mainly Mandalas and Shiloh’s divine feminine images. I’ve colored enough to wallpaper a good sized room and it helps. It was an easy something I could change in the midst of a bunch of stuff I couldn’t.

And, I re-examined my food issues.

Once again, Michael Pollan to the rescue.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

This is a system I can manage. (And remember!) It’s also a system I believe in.

Blessedly, lots of those plants are growing in my garden right now, since leaving home is still a bit complicated.

And tomorrow, I suspect, will bring its own challenges. I trust, though, that my 4-footed teachers and my inner Observer will still be there, shining light on the path.






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.




The Wisdom of Pooh

The other day, I was chatting with an old friend about the challenges of our childhoods.

About the stories we learned from well-meaning parents in a world new to parenting manuals.

And about how ingrained those stories can become in young children who conclude, without benefit of abstract thought, that pleasing the tall people keeps them from starving and makes the sun come up in the morning.

And ultimately about how, 40 or 50 or 60 years later, some of those stories about self and life may not be working too well.

Somewhere during that conversation, a thought popped into my mind, rather like the missing piece of a puzzle.

Many of us were raised to survive, but not necessarily to thrive.

It makes sense, when you think about it.

We were raised by people who lived through or grew up in the aftermath of the Depression and World War II.

Surviving was a strategy they had to depend on.

And, because they loved us, they passed it on, often not as one possible strategy available to us but as the only strategy.

The difference between surviving and thriving is rather like the difference between living out of scarcity or living out of abundance.

I’m about to wander out to the center of the pond where the ice is thin and suggest that the struggle between the worldviews of surviving -vs- thriving, between scarcity -vs- abundance, may well be one of the biggest challenges in our society at this time.

If you’re still reading…and at all like me…you’re probably wondering how we raise our kids and grandkids and great grandkids and students and even ourselves in the inherent abundance of thriving.

Winnie the Pooh and I have some ideas about that!

Don’t just practice believing that you’re braver, stronger, smarter and loved more than you know… believe that they are, too!

Value them for who they are.

Believe passionately in their capability.

Don’t rescue them from opportunities to learn.

Encourage curiosity. (This means resisting the temptation to solve all their problems and tell them all the answers. All your answers.)

Model What might happen if… exploring.

Invest more in art supplies than “devices”.

Value process, and learning, over outcome.

And, insofar as possible, offer the same grace to yourself!

I hear you. None of these strategies are nearly as efficient as directing and expecting, but we’re talking about our beloveds. The dearest people in our world. Including ourselves!

So, if you’ll hang in there for one more thought, while we’re out in the middle of the pond where the ice is thin, and with apologies to all my clergy and therapist friends, let’s listen for a moment to some words from Carl Jung, via a brilliant author named Gregg Levoy,  which I am only beginning to comprehend…

 …people rarely integrate anything told to them by others…even those they pay dearly for their advice. “It is the things given them by their own unconscious that make a lasting impression.”

Now, on the off-chance that Uncle Carl was right, the way we move from surviving to thriving, from scarcity to abundance, is to engage experiences that counter our old, limiting beliefs, whether we’re six or sixty!

Look on the faces of the people with whom you share this world and experiment with believing this…29314237_1788187544820505_9185891725573357568_o


And, just in case you’re up for more… check out Gregg Levoy’s fabulous book, Callings… Finding and Following an Authentic Life.

Or maybe even my Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope !

Let me know how it goes!






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!)

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