The Opposite of Writer’s Block

An old preaching professor of mine was fond of saying that, if you couldn’t say it in 12 minutes, it was more than one sermon and you should save some for next week.

Personally, I used to run an average of about 17 or 18 minutes which, while longer than Wade might have liked, was pretty brief compared to lots of preachers.

Blog writing works in similar ways. And today, I suspect Wade would be turning purple. You see, I feel overwhelmed by things jumping up and down to be said. Or, to put it another way, I feel like I’ve been noticing at warp speed.

It seemed to start on Saturday with the dogs which, in my universe, is not all that surprising. Bill and I were headed off to calm my food variety cravings with some really excellent raw oysters. Well, for me, at least.

But first, the beasties needed a brief break out back, lest we return home to flood conditions.

I was on the deck, reveling in the sunshine and encouraging Phoebe to actually go down the steps. (Let’s just say she’ll be glad to see her dear friend the chiropractor on Tuesday!)

Just as she made it all the way down, I noticed the siren in the distance. Phoebe noticed, too. And started howling, as is her habit.

Explaining to her that Newfs are not known for howling has not, thus far, convinced her to stop. And just behind our yard is a very busy road that runs straight to the Perimeter which translates into lots of traffic.

As the ambulance came into view, my lips began to move in an old, old habit from my nursing days, “God go with you.”

Just then, Luther joined in. Head back, nose to the sky, ear-splitting bass howl in counterpoint to Phoebe’s soprano.

It was the first time I’d ever heard him howl! (He didn’t start barking until a few months ago.)

The therapist in me celebrates this wondrous being finding his voice after early years of huge abuse. The urban neighbor with very sensitive hearing in me wishes that voice was a bit less loud and harsh.

The mythical Hounds of the Baskervilles came to mind. And Kenzie’s wolf painting!


And then, much to my surprise, I was flooded with a torrent of all the things in our world that make me want to howl just like that.

And then, in the midst of the torrent, a memory of some words I read just this morning. Words from someone I’ve never met. A guy named Karl Moore, introduced as a guest in the part of my world known as Learning Strategies.

Karl was writing about stories. The kind of stories we tell about ourselves. And the punch line was that we are not our stories. He even went so far as to explain that when those stories hold us back, we can actually loosen our grip on them and let them go. (Stay tuned for more about my version of how!)

And, right on the heels of that thought, another. You see, I’ve signed up for a long distance pet healing session with my Qigong friends.

Some of you are probably laughing. And others of you, shaking your heads. I’m okay with that. You see, Phoebe’s hips are hurting. And I believe — in fact I know — that putting hopeful energy about healing into the world shifts some of the negative stuff that feels so overwhelming.

It’s a lot like making prayer dots. And Physics.

Which brings us to my current Legend painting, also known as Oracle & Ally. In, through, and under what is visible to the observer is a story of my own, almost as deep and powerful as Phoebe and Luther howling, which has needed quite a bit of processing. That part will have to wait for another day.

For today, my version of a treasure I’ve learned from many, many teachers through the years:

Moving toward that which we most desire is far more empowering than resisting that which we fear, for that which we resist persists. 

Which, as I think of it, isn’t a bad motto for International Women’s Day! I was delighted to participate in a brunch hosted by Refuge Coffee Co. in near-by Clarkston, GA which exists to serve the global community. Fabulous art and food and new friends, along with an Intentional Creativity sister!


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!)


My Piece of…

One of the true things for today is that, when you can’t quite tell if the stuff on your nails is paint or chocolate, it’s been a pretty good day!

Hint… if it washes off the first time, it’s chocolate. If it takes a bit more effort, it’s likely to be paint from something like my Work-in-Progress Legend painting. Here’s part of what’s happening…


And, yes, the former surgical nurse still lives inside me, so you can bet that I’ve washed those hands about 20 times!

Which reminds me of another good thing. An online seminar from my friend, Paul Scheele at Learning Strategies, about – wait for it – helping people learn HOW to learn. Imagine that! Today was only day one. I suspect there will be more to share.

For now, here’s another thing that’s true.

Even when it’s been a day with lots of good things going on, life can feel a bit snarly and knotted up.

One of the times that happens for me, especially lately, is when I get really, really brave and open my email.

Yes, there are things in there that I want and need to know about or deal with.

There are also about a zillion things I don’t need or want to know about. There are even occasionally some things in my junk mail that the Committee on Ministry would probably prefer I didn’t know about!

I’ve gotten really proficient at deleting and unsubscribing. Also just plain old ignoring. I’ll bet you have, too.

The problem occurs when there are things I care deeply about but can’t change all by myself. This moment in history seems to be even more full of those than usual.

Requests to sign petitions and contact legislators on issues with the power to change the future for many, many people.

Voting polls.

Pleas for donations.

Even very enticing offers for things that require tough choices… I don’t think any of us can have or do them all! (Okay, at least I can’t!)

Every now and then I’m tempted to just not engage, as in not even opening the email. It’s not a great strategy, though, for any sense of doing some good in the world.

A sorting strategy of some type is essential. Mine goes a bit like this:

  • Is this a personal message from someone I know?
  • Is it an Intentional Creativity® thing?
  • Is it information I’ve requested, like details on some new shoes that might just make it easier to teach on concrete floors for 5 or 6 hours at a time?
  • Is it from Newf Rescue?
  • Is it from Bernie Sanders?
  • Is it about one of my top 3 human issues?

You get the drift. Sadly, there are lots of days when even that kind of sorting strategy leaves me with more than I can deal with. That’s when I pick up the yarn!

Specifically, the red yarn. If you’ve been hanging around for a while, or noticed the photo, you probably suspect that the Red Thread Legend is nearby!

Indeed, it’s always nearby for me. Not only the part about the mythical red thread that connects us, one to the other, with people we know and people we don’t know and people who are likely to be important in our lives, but the part that reminds us that we are only called to hold our piece of the red thread.

I think that’s because, since the time women first started telling stories, we’ve known that none of us can do it all alone. And the gift of accepting that reality is that we are then free to do what we can.

Maybe you remember, like I do, coming home from school, or perhaps Girl Scouts, with a snarly, knotted  wad of yarn and directions to return it to school all untangled and neatly rolled into a ball for some project or other.

Just between us, it was usually my mom who wound up making the magic that seemed so hard for my little fingers and age-appropriately short attention span.

These days I make a lot of that kind of magic. The girls and I made some together at Christmas. It’s important if you have prayer scarves or shawls to knit. Or hats or socks or baby blankets. It’s really hard to make things out of snarly, knotted wads of anything.

The bonus is that, once it’s unknotted, we actually can find and claim our own pieces.

And, yes, it works for email. Even snail mail. And politics. And relationships. Especially when we’re all doing it together.

What feels like your piece of the red thread? I’d love to hear!

ps. Here’s a bonus #WIP. She’s headed to Wild Oats & Billy GoatsHaving a blast with the edges!!!


As Promised, Really Excellent Chocolate!

In the land of Intentional Creativity®, where I spend much of my time lately, we show up for transformation and community and fun.

We are sustained by roses and almonds and chocolate. So much so that planning a workshop experience means hunting ideal sources for food, as well as for paints and canvases. For a serious real-food foodie like me, it’s just that much more fun!

Here, with thanks to Danette May, who got me off to a great start, is the recipe for my latest creation:

Grammy’s Chocolate Almond Bark


  • 1 c. organic roasted almonds with sea salt, coarsely chopped if desired
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. coconut oil, measured while solid
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped excellent dark chocolate, like Greene & Black’s 85% cacao (about 2/3 of a 3.17 oz. bar) or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 scoop Cacao Bliss or a slightly rounded Tbsp. of organic raw cacao powder
  • 1 good pinch Anthony’s espresso baking powder, if desired (or instant espresso granules)
  • 1 tsp. Maldon flaked sea salt for garnish if using unsalted almonds

Recipe doubles easily!

Line a sheet tray with unbleached parchment paper.

In a heavy saucepan (or double boiler) combine chocolate, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Stir over low heat until completely melted. Add Cacao powder and espresso powder and stir thoroughly. Add almonds and mix until covered.

Pour chocolate mixture onto tray with parchment paper, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula to a thin layer.

If you used salted almonds, you’re done. If you used unsalted nuts, sprinkle evenly with sea salt flakes, or omit if you prefer.

Refrigerate for an hour or until well set. Break into bite sized pieces and store, tightly covered, in fridge or freezer. Allow to warm a few minutes to cool room temp before serving, preferably with roses on the table!

Technically, I suppose, you could call it candy. I call it sustenance. Body. Mind. Spirit.

Or, in the eternal words of Charles M. Schulz…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. 

Stay tuned for workshops coming soon!

When the painting writes, too…

Mythic Musings on the Journey Known as Codex

I was raised, as a child and as a theologian, in worlds devoid of images. Images were for others and “we” were not like them.

Words were my first art form. Useful. Approved. Occasionally even eloquent.

Quilts came next. The liberated sort, full of wild colors and wonky lines that began teaching me to trust my eyes.

Bone broth came after that. A huge container. The very best ingredients. Energy. Time. Lots of time. A new kind of embodiment.

Then, in my wandering, I tumbled into Intentional Creativity ®… and eventually into the arms of Grandmother Moon, the in progress nickname for my most surprising journey, Codex.

The path has been both Wilderness and Promised Land. Sometimes in the same moment.

One day, just as we were about to begin, Shiloh asked me what kind of images graced the hallowed halls of the seminary I attended. I was shocked to hear myself reply, “Old, dead, highly educated white men.”

It was true. (A bit less so now, but that’s a story for another day.)

When I look at the painting now titled The Co-Creative Soul, I see a quilt, for I have picked through generations of scraps, like baby dresses and old aprons, and added the words of my own code: Word, Remember (which also means Remind!), Create, and Steadfast Love, all a bit mysterious, in the Hebrew.

Grandmother Moon, who appeared first, needed her partner, Grandfather Sun. She needed a visionary eye and a huge heart and a red thread.

Symbols appeared and disappeared again, leaving their energy and allowing for change.

Finally, in these last few days, I –  and perhaps you, as well – appeared in the gaping empty space at the bottom of the canvas.

Hands, which are also power in Hebrew, raised in thanksgiving and praise for the eye of my soul, which has been waiting to be recognized for so long.

I have painted an understanding of Co-Creation!

And then, written on the back of my discoveries, another scrap collected from the recent musings of Shiloh Sophia, during the days of the fires.

My work in the world is to wake the sleepers to degree that they are ready to wake. Period. The way I do that is through Intentional Creativity. Full Stop. Full Start. 

There is a bit of tending to do yet, and some rainy teal prayer drops to make for souls in California, but today I take this new expression of a very old, very big calling as language for my work, too. And my heart is changed. Again.

(slb  10/29/19)

Amen. Amen. Selah.


A Place in the (Extroverted) Cosmos

I am, by natural tendency, an introvert. I’m the one pouring tea or doing dishes at church dinners or parties because I feel better when I have a task. I need quiet, reflective, alone time to re-charge when I’ve done too much.

Extroverts, however, are not unfamiliar to me. I’m married to one. Most of our Newfie rescue dogs have been extroverts.

Once upon a time, my official title was Evangelist. This is not an easy function for introverts!

This week, though, I found myself doing an extrovert imitation. It started with patching together homemade hang tags for four of my paintings and helping to hang my first show on a wall made available to me by a generous friend.

While we were hanging things, I met a woman who was prepping for an art bazaar, planned for the next day.

I actually followed her outside, introduced myself and asked about how I might get included in the next bazaar. (Not typical for me!) We chatted, I gave her my info, and she came back inside to see my art.

Since then, I shared my photos on Facebook, designed new hang tags, and stickers for the cellophane bags that hold small matted pieces, got a dear friend to do the layout, and ordered a bunch during the big sale going on at Moo.

I’ve emailed my new friend, the bazaar-organizing woman, about important things like tents and tables.

Along those lines, I’ve chosen a Musea sign to order for my new classroom space.

Spent a great afternoon with one of my paint peeps who is getting ready for a middle school art show.

The washer is washing. The dryer is drying. My studio is set to begin The Gospel According to Her tomorrow.

And, my leg is back on a pillow.

It occurred to me, a bit earlier, that being a member of the Intentional Creativity community is, for many of us, quite like being an evangelist. I just want to share the ways that working with images is changing my life, including my spiritual journey. And, I truly hope, the world my girls will inherit. Even if it means summoning my extroverted alter ego!

For now, I have a workshop to plan and I’m wondering what is calling you forth in your world!

First, one more adventure into the cosmos of extroverted evangelists, just in case you happen to be hunting for an awesome, sturdy phone case for that shiny new iPhone…

The case pictured above shows an under layer of one of my paintings which is known as A Place in the Cosmos. It’s available, along with several other choices, at Fine Art America. Android fans are invited, as well! And, should you not be into cell phones, there are yoga mats and tote bags and throw pillows, too.

Hugs, introverts, extroverts, and even ambiverts, all!



Dream Week!

When I woke Monday morning, I struggled to climb out of one of my classic stress processing type dreams that involved lots of strange creatures chasing me while I tried desperately to find the location of the final exam for a course I’d only attended the first day of the semester.

I was shaking and my heart was racing and I felt all fuzzy-headed.

Not exactly a great start to the day!

This morning, just before I woke, I was having a very different sort of dream. I’ll share it with you the way I learned to do dream work at Pacifica Graduate Institute, in the first person, present tense.

I am in some dreamy version of what is clearly my home. I come upon a door that I didn’t know was there. Reaching out, I turn the knob and the door swings easily inward. 

As I wander through it, I am amazed to discover two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a whole other kitchen. A BIG whole other kitchen! 

These new rooms are not flashy or trendy. Instead, they are spacious and generous and welcoming. And, somehow, they are miraculously a part of our home. 

Amazement is an understatement!

This morning’s dream has followed me all day and I was blessed to find some more insight into it with the help of a couple of dear friends.

First, a phone call with my art-sister and mentor, Julie Steelman. It just happens that we’re working on notions of something Julie refers to as Wild, Sacred Bounty. 

Questions like What do you dream? and What would it take to make it true? and possibly even How much would you have to invest to get it? are floating around in the land of Blossom and Roar. 

As we talked, Julie helped me articulate the deeper desire under the magical rooms’ spaciousness that appeared in my dream.

And, my Muse whispered the perfect way to create an image of it in my painting!

The second bit of insight came from Carl Jung, by way of a timely email from the delightful Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.

I’m thinking it may just be possible that who looks outside and inside, dreams and awakens!

In any event, my Muse has also chosen an earth eye for seeing outside and a winged, visionary eye for seeing inside, both wide open.

And, as is perhaps often the case, this choice feels both totally right and, well, way more complicated than I had planned!

But, there’s more paint for tomorrow!

For tonight, I find myself wondering what you’re dreaming of… what Wild, Sacred Bounty would look like in your world. (You can leave a comment below, if you’d like to share!)

And a quick reminder that, through August 25th, the Studio Angels and I will donate 15% of my proceeds from all art sales on my Fine Art Marketplace page to Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.

Which, come to think of it, is another of my dreams!

PS… In the land of Intentional Creativity, it’s Work-in-Progress Wednesday. The opinionated Muse, pictured above is definitely a #WIP! (Stay tuned!!!)




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