Today, I Need Comfort!

You probably have days like this, too! And the details don’t really matter all that much. Huge concerns. The edge of tears. Loss. Anxiety. One rainstorm too many. (Hopefully) random sneezing. The letting go after a worried day.

The sky really isn’t falling, which doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like it is!

So, what helps?

Well, in my case, some time in Zoom-land with a tribe of curious women in touch with their dreams and happy to play with ways to make those dreams into reality.

Which inspired me to make some placement art out of a few of my favorite things. I started with a stockpot, which is considerably more photogenic than the bones thawing in the fridge.

A pitcher of stand-by roses, holding space for the real ones which will one day reappear in the garden.

A white near-candle, safe light in the realm of big, hairy dogs.

A magic paint brush.

My tiny hand-carved wild goose which, courtesy of my friends in Scotland, is a reminder of the presence of the Spirit, even on droopy days.

The beginnings of a new painting for the friend in the midst of some of this week’s worries. Safe and well. (Don’t worry… the colors will change!)

And, if you squint just a bit, my four year old sign of hope, standing tall among the arugula in the garden.

Yes, I’m still all in. Especially after today’s statement. It all boils down to just this… the greatest good for the most people.

Yesterday I did an interview about my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

The magic, like some of today’s, happened in Zoom-land with a new friend I’ll introduce you to soon.

Angela and I had a great conversation. And, as we chatted, people were voting.

According to the exit polls, more of them voted out of fear than of hope.

I understand the fear. More, perhaps, every day.

But part of my journey, my promise to my girls and myself, is to keep acting out of hope.

I’ll admit it’s been a bit of a challenge today. So, just in case I need more reminding, I’m off to make some prayer dots. Forty six of them, to be exact.

And, tomorrow?

Paint peeps. Meetings. Dots. Soup. Hope. And room for you.


If you need a reminder, too…

One of the good things about being a writer is that many of us are “afflicted” with the habit of writing down wise things our teachers have said through the years.

Then, when the world feels like somebody just yelled, “Tilt!”, we have someplace to start hunting for words that just might sustain us. Rather like the tagline on this blog.

…situational angst and stardust soup

I don’t know about you, but the news over the last couple of days sent me rooting through my mental and electronic attics for some words like that. Whether it’s a surprise for you or something already settled into one of your mental boxes, this ancient Sufi teaching story is the best I’ve got in this moment. (This is how I learned it, in a training group for hypnotherapists, 12 or 15 years ago.)

The Wise Old Man at the Top of the Mountain

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, there was a farmer. The farmer lived in a small village in a far-away land, near a mountain.

One morning the farmer got up and went out to care for his animals. As he went about his chores, the farmer, who was very poor, noticed that his cow was missing. “Oh, no!” cried the farmer. “Whatever will we do?” The farmer was very upset and he had no idea what to do next. As the day went on, the farmer became even more unhappy. Finally he decided that he had to do something. There was only one thing he could think of to do.

He walked sadly down the little road until it started to lead up the mountain. The farmer climbed and climbed up the mountain. His feet hurt and it was beginning to get cold, but still the farmer climbed. When he got to the top of the mountain, he found a cave where there lived a wise old man.

“Farmer!” called the wise old man, for he was used to having visitors like this. “Come in. Sit by the fire. Have a cup of tea. And tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer bowed to the wise old man and accepted his cup of tea. And then, with a shaking voice and a tiny tear in his eye, the farmer told the wise old man that his cow was gone. Disappeared.

“How will my family live?” the farmer asked. “We need the cow for milk and to plow our fields. Without her, we will starve.”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer leaped up, dropping his tea on the floor. This man wasn’t wise! Clearly losing their cow was terrible news. And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Several days went by. The farmer spent a lot of time telling his neighbors about his trip up the mountain and how strange it was that the old man just said, “We don’t know if this is good news or bad news.”

The next morning the very worried farmer got up and went out to begin his work. There, much to his surprise, was his cow. And not only his cow, but a big, strong bull as well. The farmer was so surprised and so happy that he dropped his tools and went, as fast as he could go, back up the mountain to see the wise old man.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea.”

The farmer was so excited he was nearly bursting with his news.

“Tell me what brings you here today,” said the wise old man.

“Well!” said the farmer. “I got up this morning and there was my cow. She came home! And not only that, but there was a beautiful, strong bull in the yard as well! Our family is saved! We’ll be rich!”

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands as he looked into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

The farmer had never heard anything so silly in his life! Of course this was good news! And off the farmer went, stomping down the mountain and muttering to himself about the crazy old man.

Some more time passed.

One day, the farmer’s son, who was just learning to use the plow to dig up the earth for planting, hitched the big, strong bull to the plow and began to work. It was a nice, sunny day and the farmer’s son was thinking about many things. Suddenly, a very large bee flew up and stung the bull right on his nose.

Well! The bull bellowed really loudly, as bulls are known to do, and began to run. The farmer’s son wasn’t strong enough to hold on to the plow. He fell over right in the field and heard a loud sound coming from his leg. Suddenly his leg began to hurt more than anything had ever hurt before. All he could do was sit in the dirt and watch as the bull dug up the earth and ran, as fast as he could go, right through the fence and away down the road.

The farmer, who loved his son, heard him crying and went running to see what was wrong. There was his dear son on the ground. The field was destroyed where it was all dug up. The bull had clearly crashed through the fence and run away. The farmer did not know what he and his family would do so he did the first right thing. He went and got the village doctor who came and cared for his son.

The boy’s leg was broken. The doctor tied tree branches to each side of it, as they used to do long ago, and wrapped it tight with some old pieces of cloth. The farmer and the doctor carried the boy to a small porch on the front of their tiny home. The doctor said the boy would have to stay there for many weeks and would not be able to walk.

The farmer was more and more upset. In fact, he was more upset than he’d ever been. Finally, because he didn’t know what else to do, he went and climbed slowly up the mountain.

“Come in,” the wise old man greeted him. “Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Tell me what brings you here today.”

The farmer was so upset he could barely talk. Finally he managed to explain what had happened. His field was ruined. The bull was gone, and with him the plow. And his dear son’s leg was broken and would not heal for many weeks.

The wise old man set his tea down and he began to pull on his long skinny beard with one of his hands, as he looked deep into the farmer’s eyes. “We don’t know,” said the wise old man, “whether this is good news or bad news.”

With that, the farmer flung his tea cup to the ground and went stomping down off the mountain, threatening to tell everyone he knew that the wise old man was not wise at all, but mean and just plain crazy.

The farmer was so angry he could barely do his work. A few days passed as he cared for his son without crutches or wheelchairs or any of the things we might use in our time.

Then, one morning, the farmer woke to all kinds of noise in the village. There were soldiers from far away on the road, with wagons, capturing all the young men of the village to go and fight in a war. People were crying and begging that their sons not be taken.

The farmer’s son couldn’t go, because of his broken leg.

When the soldiers had left the village, the farmer went and fixed tea for his son and himself. And he pulled a bit at his long, skinny beard and said, with a light of understanding in his eye, “We really don’t know, do we? 

(Boardman, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope )

It feels a lot like that around here. And I’m really glad I know this story!

So, lacking the knees to climb our local mountain, I made myself a cup of tea and collaged some of this story to my almost finished painting, The Wisdom of Trees & Grandmothers. Then, I started thawing things headed for  my very biggest stock pot. It’s time to boil bones!

Which is likely to be a good thing, even in the midst of a world full of things we only think we know about.

p.s………. Great day making art with awesome women. Watch for next workshop info, coming soon!

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.




An Interesting Question…

I got an email this week from a dear writer buddy of mine who said she was “confused about my blog.”

I get it.

She went on to say that she, “originally thought you were interested in uniting and empowering elders as a dynamic power… also things like it’s difficult to mature in our culture, which is why we should treasure the brave and courageous people who do mature and become powerful wise elders…”

Because I know her, I can hear the gifts of her academic and activist filters which I so treasure in her question.

If you’ve been reading along for a while, you may have wondered, too.

My blog isn’t the same these days as it started out, nor is it the same as my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope.

I still believe and want all the things my friend mentioned in her email and all the things I wrote about in my book, which is, by the way, pretty handy!

The thing is, that I, in my personal grandmother-ness, am still learning. I have grown and discovered new ways of actually doing those things I believe in. Many of those ways have to do with art and creativity.

You see, as I get more empowered and in touch with the inherent creativity in each of us and with ways to share that in the world, there’s more for everybody! And there’s way more for my girls, for we do these things together, as often as possible.

The work of Intentional Creativity is often about paint, for sure. But it’s also about putting hopeful, empowering images into a world that desperately needs them. Especially feminine images.

And, for many of us, it’s also about teaching others to put that same energy into their families and communities and the world.

Many of the people I learn with and teach are grandmothers. A whole movement of us acting in love and peace and diversity around the globe.

And it’s also about some very cool things like accessing right and left brain processes and more of our own consciousness so that we can all live our gifts in the world.

I want my girls to grow up thinking that’s the way things are supposed to be. I want them to claim their gifts and put them to work creating a world that works for all of us.

And the best way I know to do that is to share what’s changing in my life with grandmothers and grandkids and seminary students and yoga students and friends dear to my heart.

Come. Hang out. Read the stories and check out the images. Ask questions.

Roll around in fierce compassion alive in the world. Roll around in paint, too, if you’d like! Or soup. Or words. Or quilts.

Create, because it’s a huge part of being human.

Risk learning new things. (How cool a model is that for your kids???)

Grow some asparagus in your front yard.

And vote, if you live in a place where you can. Preferably for fierce compassion.


The Difficult C-word!

I’ve been pondering change, lately.

Well, pretty much forever.

I grew up in Florida. During my senior year in high school, our advanced biology class was given the task of setting up, balancing, and maintaining a salt-water aquarium for the school year. No filters or heaters or lights. Just whatever you and your partner could haul home from the beach, along with 20 gallons of seawater and a little fish food.

Gathering was fun.

Setting up was fun. Like underwater interior decorating, with just the right shells and rocks.

Balancing and maintaining were more of a challenge. The fish were all gorgeous until one of them got just a little bigger and started eating all his friends. When it was dark and chilly all through Christmas vacation, some sad sights awaited us when we returned.

Along the way we flushed a lot of dead fish. And made lots of trips to the beach for more suitable companions. More oxygenating weeds. Shells without things dying in them.

Some of my classmates decided to take a C at the end of the semester and quit worrying about it. My partner and I hung in there.

I’m glad we did. I didn’t know it then, but what I was learning was that one little change in any system affects everyone and everything. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that 20-gallon system through the years. Usually when things are changing.

Things have changed a lot in the last year while I’ve been engaged in the journey known as Color of Woman. It’s been amazing. Also hard.

Change is always stressful. Even if it’s the most longed for of changes. It’s always stressful.

My friend, Henry Close, who was trained in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy by Milton Erickson, explains that, before we can change something, we first have to love it. Not hearts and flowers love, necessarily. Just a tiny crack of openness to the possibility that there are huge, often unconscious, things that hold us all back from real relatedness, and yet are, in their own way, trying to help us.

If you’re anything like me, it’s a pretty big challenge. You go ahead and name the folks on your list. Unless they were clinical sociopaths, suggests British psychologist, Donald Winnacott, they were probably doing the best they could, however inadequate or misguided it was. Experimenting with this idea still doesn’t mean that their behavior was acceptable. Or that people weren’t badly hurt. It’s ok if it takes a while.

Now, for the big leap!

The same is true for ourselves. Decisions that turned out badly. Temper tantrums we might have been better off without. Stretch marks. Fear. Nightmares. Anger. Hair we’ve always hated. Opportunities passed by. Self-esteem issues. Actions that haunt us still. We were, in all likelihood, doing the best we could.

Accept yourself, your journey, your body, your dreams. Intentional Creativity is one powerful way to experience that kind of acceptance.

The very best thing we can do for our families is to begin to love the things we hope to change or move past in ourselves for the survival strategies they once were. Like my fishy friends, all those years ago, as we change, everything in the system will change. Eventually for the better.

Excerpted from my book, Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope

The art is is a bit of the portrait of my underwater Muse, 2018.

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.






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