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!


The Prophets March On!

On this third anniversary of our miraculous Newfoundland rescue dog, Luther’s, liberation from a hate-full puppy mill prison, I am pondering prophets. Two and four-footed ones. Perhaps you first met some in Sunday School, as I did. Amos and Micah. Isaiah and Jeremiah. Ezekiel and Joel.

Voices in my head that I did not quite understand, sounding somehow old and gruff no matter who was reading their words, rather like Walter Brueggemann when I first heard him teach through much younger ears!

And Dr. King, of course. Though I really don’t remember much before the night he was killed. We lived in Chicago and I was afraid.

And a way less old and gruff guy named Gary, who was my first church boss. He was, perhaps, ahead of the progressive curve in a small, rather 19th century-ish, southern town where he helped, a bit after I’d been there, to organize the near total boycott of a Klan parade, realizing that local leaders had to give the KKK a permit but nobody had to show up and watch.

And more recently, a whole tribe of women, joined by Red Thread and spattered in paint, putting empowered, I’d dare say prophetic, images of the divine feminine into a world filled with deep need and longing for their inspiration.


One of my new artist friends is a woman named Billie Brown who created Weeping Madonna #1 in 2019. The “series of six images depicts young mothers sorrowing over their newborn children as they contemplate the racism rampant in America today and how it may harm their children.”

Weeping Madonna is a sister in prophecy with my Bella Mama from 2018, sheltering immigrant children under the folds of her robed arms.

And then, to zig more than a bit, a tall, young challenger on Iron Chef America sporting a baseball sort of hat that read In Diversity We Trust. Bold words from a self-described Norwegian Japanese Black guy from Minneapolis named Justin Sutherland. (He won!)

I’m guessing you have some examples, too. I’d love to hear them!

For now, though, some prophetic words of wisdom from one of my girls.

Kenzie was 9 when she went with her mom to the 2017 Women’s March on D. C. Mostly they stood, for about five hours, because there were so many people that they couldn’t actually march.  At one point, Kelly boosted Kenz up so she could see over the crowd and asked her where the people stopped. “The people don’t stop,” replied Kenzie. “They just keep going!”

We are the people! Or so say my gaggle of internal prophets who are more into questions than answers. Here’s their favorite:

If we believe what we say we believe, what, then, shall we do?

Only you can answer for you. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a couple of hints. Choose some candidates… local, state, national… who echo the long ago words of Mr. Jefferson and proclaim that we are all created equal. Then get involved.

(They don’t have to be the same folks I’ve chosen, but I wouldn’t mind if they were!)

March, in good shoes or in spirit, when you feel called. I marched on D.C. yesterday, in spirit and in connection with so many sisters.

Go check your mailbox for your 2020 ACLU membership card. Mine came this week! And, if you’re not a member yet, it’s easy. Just tell them Sue sent you.

Look deep for prophesy in the images around you. Which ones call out to you? What are they asking of you?

And join in creation. Words, paint, clay, buttons, soup, quilts, even babies. (Well, maybe grandbabies!)

We are the people. And we are partners in the future we dream.

p.s. Luther and Phoebe want you to know that you can reach our talented friend at and  there are new workshops coming soon! 

The Day Our World Changed

Two years ago, on a Sunday morning, Bill and I headed off to North Pointe Mall to retrieve our newest Newfie rescue from his short-term foster parents. I had met Luther once before, very briefly, and knew to expect anxiety.

I also expected discomfort as he had been neutered two days before.

What we got was, in so many ways, so much more. You see, Luther was one of 30 or 40 adult dogs rescued from a puppy mill in Michigan over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend  2017 and scattered to Newfoundland rescue groups around the country. (Huge gratitude, Bart!)

The poor boy was terrified by anything new and he was living in a world where all the things and people were new. It took Bill and me both to get him into our car. He didn’t know how to take treats from our hands. He didn’t wag his tail or respond to petting. He just laid in the back of the car with his security stuffed chicken and waited to see what happened next.

Bless Sarah and Phoebe who did what sisters so often do and, after the predictable amount of sniffing, just moved over and made room on the floor.

My Gramma Elsie used to say, of an unruly cousin, He’s not bad. He’s just busy!

Luther was neither bad nor busy. He was dissociative, which in psych terms indicates only one coping strategy. Trying to melt into the floor and disappear.

There were urgent teaching issues, as well. House training. (Thank you, Jana, for all you did in the beginning!) Leash walking. Surviving a crate long enough to eat without creating a dog fight nobody needed.

Even at a best guess of 2 – 3 years old, he was underweight but very, very strong. And a master, as his name suggests, of passive resistance.

Slowly, we made progress. He attached himself to me first. After a few weeks he could lie, leashed for his sense of safety, on the rug during a client appointment, doing his best to be invisible.

It took, literally, more than a year before I could leave the house, even with Bill sitting in the room with him. I think they watched a good bit of Dr. Who! It hasn’t been easy.

Today, our big guy is healthy, gorgeous, and one of the best greeters I’ve ever known.

He’s also blind. And coping really well. Sarah is his security sister and goes along on walks. Phoebe is, in many senses, the reincarnation of his stuffed chicken. Cuddly and always there. (Also self-appointed eye washer!)

Luther is an excellent studio angel. And, if we do the math right, Bill and I can actually go out for lunch!

We’re still working on the grooming thing but we’re making progress. He actually likes bath time these days, though is still a firm No thanks! on the hairdryer scene. And a tentative maybe on towels.

Life at our house is different, for sure.

And yet, when I’m feeling anxious about something like, oh, showing somebody my art, I look at the big brave guy making his way through a world he can’t see, safe in his family, happy to drool and shed on his many friends, and a lot of things seem different in perspective.

Do-able, even.

And when they all curl up at my feet and snore in that comforting way dogs have, I remember that the best love goes both ways.


Let’s Hear it for Harley!

No, not the motorcycle kind.

(I used to be a surgical nurse and spent way too much time trying to put people back together after adventures with those!)

In this case, Harley is a dog. A new friend from this year’s Westminster Kennel Club show.

The resident 4-footed kids and I watch every year. Well, I watch. They mostly sleep.

Bill deals with dinner. In this case gluten-free pizza.

It’s a real deja-vu thing for me. I started showing the summer I was 17. English Mastiffs! The first time I entered a ring, I was drafted from the sidelines when a professional handler didn’t show. We needed to get one more dog in the ring to hold the major which is dog show lingo for getting more championship points.

The owner of the enormous dog in question said, “Just hold on tight and stay on your feet!”

Much to everyone’s amazement, we took first in our class. I was hooked!

I’ve spent a lot of time in the ring in my day. Mastiffs. Great Pyrenees. English Springers. Newfoundlands. Even a Scottish Deerhound, once, for a friend.

My day, however, was quite a while back, before lots of knee surgery, so these days, we watch. Bill’s still trying to figure out how to make money off my consistently good eye for the winners!

Oddly enough, on my first day in the ring, all those years ago, one of the professional handlers in the same ring was a great guy named Peter J. Green. Tonight he judged Best in Show at Westminster. (This is another one of those true stories that actually happened!)

Congratulations to “Bono”, the Havanese,  who went Reserve and to “King”, the Wire Fox Terrier who went Best in Show. And to the adorable Sussex Spaniel named “Bean” who made the short list.

I have assured my herd of fabulous Newfoundlands that they would, of course, have won if only the judges had met them. (OK, they wouldn’t really. It’s a rescue mom thing!)

This year, though, my number one favorite was the winner of the 24 inch agility class. (That’s 24  inches tall at the shoulder, which is a pretty good sized dog in most places.)

His name is Harley.

Harley was introduced as an “All American Dog” which is apparently a recent attempt on the part of the AKC to be politically correct and include dogs of more diverse backgrounds in some of the sport competitions that run along with the breed judging.

Harley is 10 years old and a cancer survivor. He had surgeries to remove several masses from his legs a couple of years ago. And there he was, leaping the jumps and racing up and down the teeter totter things and dashing through the tunnel with a huge, silly grin on his hound-ish sort of face.

My guys were a bit concerned about why Mom was crying at the dog show.

Harley didn’t win the overall agility championship. That prize went to a fluffy little bitty critter that moved almost fast enough to win the Indianapolis 500. (This is a matter of reality we big dog fans are accustomed to.)

Harley got all my votes for inspiration, though.

I was probably just about to turn four the first time I remember watching Westminster. A black and white English Springer won. Our own Maude got up and licked the rounded edge screen on the  little black and white TV in our living room. It was the only time all night she paid any attention!

I’m still watching. And, yes, I know there are lots of folks who consider Westminster to be an expensive beauty contest without the college scholarships. By and large, though, I think the world could do worse than a family reunion for a whole bunch of people who love dogs.

Harley didn’t go home with the big silver bowl but he went home a huge winner in my book. And so did his mom.

And his vet. Whomever she or he might be.


The Way We’ve Always Done It…part 67

Yesterday, as you may have heard, Sarah went for her summer spa day.

She came home hungry, tired, and looking like a very large puppy.

The voices in my head were squabbling.

I, who showed dogs for many years, seem to still have a case of the way we’ve always done it.

I say this knowing that there are an awful lot of other folks with different versions of the way we’ve always done it who think they’re just as right as I think I am.

Take, for example, Poodle people. Their always and Newfoundland people’s always look pretty different!

And there’s part of me that still hates having Sarah clipped short.

IMG_2986It’s also true that Sarah has allergies and an odd, wooly coat that mats about half an hour after you quit brushing her, which she doesn’t enjoy much anyway.

And so we clip.

And she looks like something Dr. Seuss dreamed up!

The voices in my head squabbled louder, though, when it came to deciding what to do for Phoebe on her spa day, today.

She’s really lovely and has a gorgeous coat. In the winter.

Right now, she itches. A lot.

And she’s blowing so much coat she could be an entire ad for a vacuum cleaner.

I asked my Newf buddies and got lots of good advice.

I still felt a lot like I did when Dave got his first “big boy” haircut and the ringlets went the way of history.

Then I remembered something I count on. (You may have those kinds of things, too.)

It’s all in what you’re trying to accomplish!

And, oddly, the Poodle people and the Newf people are trying to accomplish the same thing, at least historically. Protecting dogs from cold water!

I’m trying to accomplish comfortable, relatively easy care dogs who think of grooming as a good thing instead of torture. (Luther, too!)

It would also, if we’re being honest,  be ok if I didn’t contribute quite so much money and energy to the Swiffer thing!

So, we’re letting go of the way we’ve always done it.

Also, I guess, we’ve never done it that way before.

I’m going with what I’m trying to accomplish.

I imagine it will be interesting!

As God is watering the garden today, I’m going to get really brave and start the next layer on my painting which is, when I think about it, another of those things I’ve never done that way before.

At least I’ll have less hair to pick out of the canvas!

IMG_2997Phoebe, as it turns out, is just right for her.

Sarah is a bit skeptical.

And Luther made it three whole steps into the new family room to find out what all the fuss was about.

Sometimes I guess right twice in the same day!




Who knew? There’s still more to learn!

Hi! It’s me, Luther.

This is a big week at our house. First, it’s my Gotcha week.

That means I’ve been here a year, this week. Rescue dogs, like me, often don’t know when their birthdays are so we get a special time to remember when we got our new homes.

Home is good! I have more and more friends and keep learning new things.

My favorite words are, “Ok, peeps,” which is what Mom says when it’s time for us to go out.

I like out, especially when it’s cool.

Sarah is helping me to practice coming when Mom calls us. She’s been here longer and knows lots of things, though sometimes I think she decides not to do them.

Out is almost as good as dinner, but not quite.

And there’s more good news.

I got promoted to reporter!

We spent the last two nights doing something Mom calls Westminster. Sarah and Phoebe say we do it every year.

Clearly, it had to do with dogs. I could hear them bark but I couldn’t smell them so I didn’t get scared.

I’m not so good at watching TV, though. Mom says I don’t see too well.

I think that’s one of the reasons it’s good that I’m here now.

Mom explained things as they went along.

Dogs run in circles and try really hard not to knock their people down. This is harder for really big dogs like me.

Special friends called judges pet them all over and look at their teeth and watch them move.

Apparently, the judges are trying to decide which of the dogs can do the best job of being the kind of dog they are.

Mom says I’m really good at being a Newfoundland.

Mom also says some of the judges don’t always do things the way she would have done them.

As far as I could tell, lots and lots and lots of dogs ran in those circles.

One of them was a Pekingese Mom liked a lot. He seems to have a famous grandfather who won a few years ago.

Apparently Pekes are little dogs that waddle when they run and look very determined. This guy’s name was Bernie. He came in second in the Toy group which was good but we seemed to be sad about it anyway.

Then there was a Newfie like me. She didn’t win either but Mom said she did really well in the Working group, especially for a girl just getting started.

We watched and watched and watched. (I may have napped a bit.)

Finally, there were just seven dogs running in the circle. We were cheering for a dog called Bean. Mom says he’s a Sussex spaniel.

Bean knows a cool trick. He can sit up on his bum with his front paws in the air and wait for treats.

Apparently, Newfies are not built for this particular trick and Mom says we don’t have to learn that.

I wish we could, though. Mom thought it was really cool.

A tiny white fluffy dog named Flynn won the big silver trophy. Flynn is called a Bichon.

I think it would be fun to have all those people cheering for me, but apparently Flynn takes a bath two or three times a day and I’m not sure about that. Too many towels!

Mom says she used to run in those circles with dogs. I think she might miss it a little bit.

Rescue dogs can’t really run in the circles so much. There are rules.

Mom says that’s ok. She loves us just the way we are.

I’m still learning, though.

I wonder what I’ll know next year that I can’t even imagine yet.

Being a puppy mill dog was not at all a good thing.

Being a rescue dog is a whole lot better.

Though my stuffed chicken doesn’t look nearly as good as it did when I got here!

Thanks for reading. Even if I haven’t slobbered on you yet, you’re one of my friends, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mom and Sarah and Phoebe and me.

Love, Luther




A dog’s perspective on Thanksgiving!

Today it’s my turn to blog…I’m Phoebe!

I’ve been here just about a year now and, even though I’m all settled in, things keep surprising me.

Like Thanksgiving, which is, apparently, one of the days called “holidays”.

Last year Sarah and I went to Camp for Thanksgiving while Mom and Dad went to hang out with our girls.

We had lots of fun at Camp. Then we came home and slept for a couple of days like we always do. That much fun makes us tired!

This year, though, we’re all home together. Luther, too, of course.

Mom and Dad believe in being flexible about when holidays happen. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Sarah and Luther and I had our Thanksgiving on Tuesday. The big dogs had turkey wings which seem to be a Thanksgiving thing. I had duck wings which are really yummy and easier for me to chew. We had kale stems and salmon oil, too. It was really good. I think I like Thanksgiving!

Mom and Dad had Thanksgiving today, which is Wednesday. (I think most people do that on Thursday.) Dad is home this week and he wanted more days to eat turkey so they just decided to do things differently. It smelled really good!

Mom says it doesn’t matter when you have Thanksgiving. It just matters that you’re together and say “Thank you” and remember that there are people — and dogs — who don’t have as much as you do.

I understand that!

Before I lived here I was chained to a fence in the sun with no food and no water. I tried to chew through the chain and kind of messed up my teeth, which I think is why sometimes I get different bones than the big dogs do.

Luther and Sarah didn’t have what they needed before they lived here, either. Mom says we can help local businesses and our farmer friends have what they need when we choose our food. I like our food friends!

I don’t really understand why, but Mom says there are also people who don’t have enough to eat. And lots who don’t have clean water. And something called healthcare, which I think is like when our Auntie Karen comes to visit.

That makes Mom sad. Sometimes it makes her mad, too. She types really hard some days. And calls people on the phone. Yesterday I heard her say that we’ll all be safer if everyone has enough.

I’m just a dog, but I agree with that. It’s hard not to get mad, or mean, when you don’t have enough and others have too much.

Here are some more things I learned about Thanksgiving this year…

There were lots and lots of things that smelled green in our fridge. You know, like leaves. Mom says that’s a new/old Thanksgiving tradition.

The turkey came from our friend, Greg.

And Mom says we’re giving away half the soup that comes from the bones.

I think, maybe, other families do Thanksgiving differently. Mom says different is ok. It sounds to me, though, like the point of the whole thing is to remember the good things and try to share them with others.

Mom has a friend we haven’t met whose name is Rumi. A long time ago, even before Pilgrims, I think, he said:

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Maybe Thanksgiving is about each of us finding our own way.

From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you for listening. I like blogging! Love, Phoebe

PS – Mom’s going to share her recipe for turkey broth on Sunday. Save those bones! (And, please, please, please don’t give cooked bones to your dogs!!!)




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