Eyes on the Prize!

Lately, I’ve been gobbling up Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing like they were peanut M&M’s. As it turns out, the books may well be a whole lot better for the world than the candy!

Here’s a favorite quote from the classic, Writing Down the Bones:

Afraid of being lost, she became lost.

If you’re like me, you may hear lots of tinkly little bells ringing inside just now. There are many ways to think about this.

One is that the human mind/consciousness does not “understand” negatives. Instead of hearing, to borrow from the quote, “Don’t get lost!” we hear only “get” and “lost”.

Or, to risk a bit of potty humor for an even clearer example, let me tell you about my new favorite TV commercial. A young dad is carrying his pre-school aged son rapidly toward the bathroom saying, “Don’t poop! Don’t poop! Don’t…Oh, no!”

They think they’re selling washing machines. We know the kid’s just hearing, “Poop! Poop!”

My Qigong friends would explain it a bit differently.

Where the attention goes, the energy flows.

Chopped is a good place to study this phenomenon. Contestant after contestant claiming, over and over again, with great passion, “I don’t want to lose!” when a more helpful perspective would be, “I want to win!”

If my old friend Steve Glenn were here, he’d encourage us to say to our anxious toddler, half way across your grandmother’s prized antique rug with a glass of milk, “Walk carefully. Keep your eyes where you want to be,” rather than the customary, “Don’t spill the milk!” unless, of course, we were longing to have that antique rug cleaned.

We’ve all done it. Where, we might wonder, are we doing it now? Where might we be lost?

I’ll bet you have some ideas!

Let’s use the resident herd of Newfoundlands for an example. They’re enthusiastic greeters, which is great, but I vastly prefer for them to keep all four feet on the floor while welcoming guests.

Every now and then, in a fit of delight, one of them might forget.

My job is to avoid the very tempting, “Don’t jump!” and rely instead on, “Sit!” which is a word they do know and it tells them, in a positive sense, what to do in the moment.

Far from just language games, “Sit!” has a much higher likelihood of ensuring the safety and comfort of the greet-ee.

(There is probably a truth-in-advertising law somewhere which obligates me to admit that some of us are still working on this, and few things are absolute!)

I have some thoughts about what to do with all this insight.

Instead of caving in to a fear of failure, consider adopting the notion that life is for learning.

Give up on perfect. As soon as possible. Just experiment, five or ten minutes at a time, with a different goal.

Celebrate progress. Possibly with your favorite music and a dance party!

Claim what you need. Or want. You’ll already be a step closer!

I know. This isn’t the way you learned most of this stuff. It’s not the way I learned it either. Until I started learning some new things.

The greatest part of all this is that you don’t have to have it all down pat before you can start helping others learn, too. Grandkids. Dogs. Partners. Possibly even politicians.

And the best way to teach is to do.

Eyes on the prize!

I can’t guarantee immediate gratification. (My magic wand isn’t rated for that!) And progress is often messy and indirect. But “…it beats,” as my old friend Puddleglum would say, in perhaps the best example of all, the old way, “all hollow.”

That’s a lot!

Thanks to Puddleglum for making a special appearance from deep in the magical land of Pinterest, just for us. (I really need to find out how this works!)


It’s Been a Day!

Today has been a bit crazy.

Last night the house bears and I fell asleep in my studio space, West Wing saving the world on Netflix.

Someone, who shall remain nameless, had to pee about 5:00 am. I put them all out, turned out a bunch of lights, checked all the locks, and we all headed to bed.

That lasted about an hour and a half, when a different someone started pacing.

All out again. A cup of hot water with lemon for me. Back to my chair.

Several choruses of, “No, it’s not breakfast time, yet.” Morning meditation conveniently delivered with help from my phone. Birds singing the sun up in the background. Another brief nap.

Sarah off to the dog spa for her summer style update.

Walks. Fast brunch for me. (Which would turn out to have been a good choice on timing!)

A lesson for Luther. His first away from home. Phoebe helped!

The faucet at our kitchen sink staged a sudden walkout. One minute I was happily filling the water dish, for about the 4th time this morning. The next minute, no water.

No warning. No leaking. No funny noises. No quaking construction noises from the big road behind the house.

I did the obvious thing and went to see if there was water elsewhere.

There was.

More perplexing. (And more than a bit frustrating.) Then, the light came on. Or, rather, didn’t.

You see, this faucet was a recent replacement after the one I loved died about six months ago. New-fangled and fancy, more commercial-esque  than actual commercial, but reportedly sturdy. Making a choice was more about urgent, at that point, than important. In-stock. Complete with a sensor that turned it on or off with one touch of a forearm, rather than, you know, smearing raw chicken all over the handle.

Appealing to a former surgical nurse.

But today, in the space of about half an hour, the sensor light went out. And the water did not run.

Fast text to the wizard guy who built our deck. Several texts to Bill who is not, at the moment, local.

BTW, my neck is not amused at the moment, and there’s no way I could get under there and try to fix it myself.

While I was cruising Amazon, pondering a replacement, I noticed a twitchy sort of feeling. Mentally, that is. And then, from my objective observer position (Think owl in a tree. You have one, too!) I noticed something else. I was twitchy but coping. Breathing, even. Deeply.

Suddenly, I really felt, for the first time, the wisdom of meditation which has, historically, been something of a challenge for me.

I believe it works. I’ve just had trouble getting it to work in my world.

Noise. Distractions. Too small a house. Really big dogs.

No time or space.

Recently, I’ve been showing up and sitting more often. Daily, even. (Well, mostly.) A way of coping, I suspect, with lots of learning and change.

The faucet doesn’t work yet.

I still have to deal with the air conditioner repair guy AGAIN tomorrow, for like the fourth time in three weeks.

More to learn. Blogs to write… you get the drift.

And then I knew. From the inside, rather than the outside!

Meditation is not about keeping everything calm and quiet so we can sit on the floor (read that “chair”) and breathe.

Meditation is about being able to breathe even when everything is not all calm and quiet.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty awesome. And useful.

You can start right now, with three slow breaths, as deep as you find comfortable. Those three breaths start sending signals to your brain to relax. Reminders that the sky is not actually falling in this exact moment.

At which point, you might just decide to ask the handy-wizard guy for some advice tomorrow and buy a new faucet then. (One, I suspect, without a battery!)

And, maybe, you decide three more breaths would be good. And teaching the strategy of three deep breaths to your grandkids and any other kids you know would be even better.

Then, if this makes sense to you, you might just want to check out Meditation 2.0 The Miracle of Awakening with Craig Hamilton. There’s an online event this weekend. Jean Houston says it will be fabulous. I’m excited!

Until then, keep breathing!

Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope



Labels are for food. Not kids.

I have a thing about labels. Well, several things, actually.

Not the kind on fancy clothes so much. (Though occasionally purses.) Not cars so much, either, though there’s probably an inherited tendency there on my dad’s side of the family.

Dogs. Yes. I love almost all of them but choose to live with Newfies.

Another set of labels that I’ve found helpful, through the years, at describing and interpreting human behavior (by which I mean, mostly, my own) is the Enneagram Personality Type perspective.

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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

Life Lessons from the “Chopped” Kitchen

I watch a lot of Chopped on Food Network. Not as much Chopped as West Wing, but it fascinates me. First, there’s the whole process of opening up a basket of random-esque ingredients and figuring out in 20 or 30 minutes of TV time how to turn them into something past edible and headed in the direction of delicious.

I cooked a couple of meals like that in San Diego last summer. Unfamiliar kitchen. New friends with a tangled web of food needs. Five big bags of groceries purchased by someone else who was, blessedly, a great deal more benevolent than the Chopped folks. A grill I didn’t know how to use. And, on the first night, about 2 ounces of olive oil to feed 12 people!

Amazingly, it all turned out great! And I have to admit, I felt a bit like I’d just won Chopped.

Then again, the whole mystery basket – vs – clock thing isn’t the only thing that intrigues me about Chopped

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Miracles of Modern Holidays!

Today, I am bowled over by the miracles of modern science. Or, specifically, modern publishing!

Let me start by admitting that I’m one of those odd folks who exists, nicely, without a microwave oven. I’m fine with slow-cooked food. Pots and pans. And an actual stove.

No judgment, here. Just what works for me.

Today, however, I am in awe. The UPS guy–the one who isn’t afraid of the dogs–brought the proof for the paperback version of  Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope in the bright, shiny, new 2nd edition. A couple of clicks on the website and a fast call to the CreateSpace help people later and the 1st edition is retired. The 2nd edition is available on Amazon, all updated and expanded.

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We Gather Together!

I was blessed to grow up with the love of two grandmothers. On my mom’s side of the family, Mary Elizabeth Blandford Algren. Granny. On my dad’s, Elsie Hannah Royce Boardman. Gramma. Occasionally, Gramma Board.

Each of them, in the current vernacular, badasses.

Granny was a wife, mom, and grandmother who worked outside the home in the late 1940’s and 50’s. She looked like a model. Almost like a pin-up girl. She loved dancing and card games and Jeopardy. 

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