Just tell the stories…now!

You know how two things that are familiar, separately, can suddenly appear totally different when they wind up close together? Especially if you add in an unexpected wild card, or two?

This is what my world feels like just now.

It has a lot to do with stories.

Yesterday, a friend told me that she was spending hours and hours a day worrying about the current occupant of the Oval Office. What, she asked, did she do about that?

Please be clear that the answer was not mine. It came from the uber-wise Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes, whose book, Untie the Strong Woman, I’m reading at the moment, inspired by my Pilgrimage into the mythos of the Black Madonnas.

Because of this book, I who have five college degrees, am beginning to learn some crucial things about world history that I somehow managed to escape thus far.

The one that feels most important to me in this moment is that this is not the first time the world has been here. We have a long history of power-hungry dictator-types trying to secure their positions through fear.

It has never been fun. It has often been effective.

Knowing that, we have other choices.

One of those choices is telling the stories of liberation.

I have some friends who are working hard to do just that.

Our book, Breathing Words, is coming out in September. It’s an anthology. A collection of words by a community of writers. Many of them, stories of overcoming oppression and tragedy, lifetimes in the making, and utterly of the moment.

We’re all busy learning new things. Formatting. Websites. Pinterest. Perhaps even Twitter. Meme making. (See above. Thanks, friends!) Being a writer is complicated in our world. And yet, we have stories to tell.


According to author and teacher, Natalie Goldberg, “To write is to continue the human lineage” (The True Secret of Writing, p. 3). The oral traditions count, too!

Then, this morning, a wild card.

We’re still adapting to the blessing of three dogs rather than two.

Recently, Sarah and Luther have developed a new dynamic. Sarah, as she is fond of doing, stares out the front window.

Luther barks his head off, in these days, even when there’s nothing to bark about.

I devoutly wish he’d shut up.

Suddenly, this morning, in the midst of all these perceptions rumbling in me…a new thought.

But, on the way, a hint from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away, “Write what’s in front of your face”.

Here’s mine… Three minutes. Go.

Luther has eye problems. He can’t see out the window. He can see Sarah, looking out the window. And he assumes that there is something to worry about. So he worries. And barks. Loudly.

It’s a lot like watching the news, especially these days.

The garbage collectors come two times a week. The recycling folks, yet another. The UPS drivers, a whole lot more often than that. It’s the way our world works in this time, no matter how much we might think barking will help.

Politicians worry about polls. And self-image. They look for scary things to distract us from the hunger for power and self-interest. It doesn’t help, any more than barking does.

What will help is hope. Our hope. And the certainty that we will not always be where we are.

Also, paint. And stories.


Keep up with the news on our anthology project by liking Breathing Words on Facebook. We’d appreciate it!







If you’ve been reading along for a while, you may have heard me tell the story about growing up with a mom who spent my childhood telling everybody that I was the smart kid and my younger sister was the artistic kid.

It took me a while to realize that Mom was doing the best she could. I wouldn’t presume to speak for my sister, but that particular set of labels didn’t work too well for me. In fact, I was literally 40 years old before it occurred to me that it was possible to be both smart and artistic!

I’ve found my own art forms through the years. Words. Quilts. Photography. The odd scribble drawing or unexpectedly satisfying pottery project. And knitted scarves. Miles of them.

This weekend, I set out on a journey. A Pilgrimage, really.

The kind of perspectives that involve loosening my grip on tales I learned to clutch tightly, in order to receive additional, more liberating ones in this moment.

Also art. Painting, to be specific. Not rollers and walls. Canvas and brushes and even an easel, which I sincerely hope comes with training wheels!

Thirty three days of exploring the traditions of the Black Madonnas.

Haunting music and dance. Tea and rose petals.

Women I’ve never met, and yet somehow know already. Community, simultaneously virtual and real.

Utterly amazing leaders, including Shiloh Sophia and Kayleen Asbo.

A red thread around my wrist.

And my granddaughters as my inspiration.

The world they’re growing up in needs more love.

More of the divine feminine.

More art.

And a whole lot more openness.

I made a promise that I’d do what I could. So, Pilgrimage.

You can come along with me!

If you haven’t discovered Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor’s bestselling book, Traveling with Pomegranates, that could be a good place to start. Or to re-visit in this moment. Along, of course, with The Secret Life of Bees and The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I’m sure I’ll have some other hints along the way.

We don’t need new hiking boots. Or special tourist visas. Or even a stash of air travel friendly protein bars.

We just need hope. And an openness to more love in the world.

What, really, do we need more than that in such a time as this?

MOTB – 3

Monday evening, we arrived home from a great weekend with our kids. Well, except for the whole flying thing! (I’m improving, but still not thrilled with sitting!)

I wasn’t thinking about my Make One Thing Better list when I wandered through the back door and glanced into the kitchen.

There it was!

A huge better thing we’d accomplished before we left. Actually, Bill did the accomplishing. I just did the international sign language thing for two inches to the left.

One day, a month or so ago, a plan sprouted magically in my head. I’ve learned to pay attention to those.

In this case, the plan was for re-arranging the part of our kitchen the early 1960’s builder would have referred to as the breakfast room. In our case “breakfast room” means the place where the refrigerator and two upright deep freezers rub elbows with our antique oak dining table.

We did a great job with the kitchen reno about 15 years ago, given the fact that we couldn’t change the footprint. I’d still choose most of the things we did, which is kind of a miracle.

The big exception for me was the way the multiplying major appliances had worked to close off the space by my favorite, free-standing wooden butcher block.

Our very sexy glass door fridge used to sit butted up against the left side of the butcher block, headed into the breakfast room. A stainless fridge, with black sides. It felt like this massive wall, sucking up all the light. And I spend a lot of time standing at that butcher block.

So, Furniture Yahtzee. Or, in this case, Appliance Yahtzee!

The fridge went where the smaller freezer was.

The smaller freezer went where the metal shelving was.

The metal shelving went where the fridge was.

Bill, who believes we can’t move fewer than seven things in one of my MOTB games, was amazed. We moved three things and made a huge difference. As in, let there be light!

Light from the french doors to the deck. Light not soaked up from the black sides of the fridge.

And sight lines through to the wall murals I worked so hard to paint back in the day. Along with a couple more inches of traffic pattern.

Perhaps best of all, my treasured stock pots, even the biggest one, are much easier to reach.

Would I double the square footage of the space if I could? You bet!

Does it feel bigger and more open and more welcoming? It does!

There’s more room for chopping since I moved the knives.

And, it makes me happy.

I’m still sorting what goes where on the shelves. That really never ends around here.

And setting some stuff aside for donations.

There are also some changes in our routine coming up which will probably require more adjusting.

Seriously, though, it’s a whole lot of better for a couple of hours and no money.

And, since I’m thinking about money in terms of investing, rather than spending, these days, I’m pretty excited.

What’s tickling your mind in this moment?

It might be worth paying attention!




What are we teaching?

’tis the season for back to school commercials!

My personal favorite…the dad skipping around Office-wherever, with a cart full of notebooks and colored pencils, singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

And some I like less well. Loaded with peer pressure. Subtle, sometimes, but pressure all the same.

Makeup. Sneakers. Backpacks.

“What the cool kids are doing.”

This color. That style. The way to fit in.

I wish I could say I didn’t get it, but I do.

Want to speak on stage? Rich solid colors. Classic but flowing. Sequins at night. (Or in the daytime if you’re really famous!)

Different rules for guys, but rules nonetheless.

It feels like wanting to share the messages closest to our hearts. To connect with our tribes. Really, it’s marketing.

I look at my girls, so different from each other and utterly amazing in their own ways, and I ache for the doubts they feel already.

The Perfectionist and Comparer inner critics running rampant. In elementary school.

I watch my dogs and think that one of the blessings of their type may be a lack of inner critics. And no particular interest in the cool colors for this year.

I would give that to my girls if I could.

For now, t-shirts with wise owls and the encouragement to “Be Different.” Delivered with huge hugs in just a few days.

Support for their unique gifts.

All my love for each of them.

Prayers that they’ll start to catch on before middle school when the stakes only get higher.

And the courage, however wavering, to walk the talk. To be who I am. To risk living out of the best wisdom I know. Out loud.

What else, really, do we have to give?

Showing up here with about 350 words on a day when everything is crazy and it still hurts to sit and type.

It’s me. The most me I have to give.

That is my hope for all our kids.

That they show up. Whole. Real.

Even when it’s scary.

That is my hope for the world.

Kind of an odd week…

Hi! It’s me, Sarah. I’ve been practicing blogging for a while now.

Today, Mom said she needed my help.

She fell down about a week ago. There was a lot of noise. Some of it was crying. Things have been kind of odd since then.

Sitting down still seems to hurt a lot. She goes in the bedroom, in the middle of the day, and lays on her side so it doesn’t feel so bad.

She also does this new thing when we need water. She puts the water in a big cup, holds onto the freezer door and tips over on one foot to get the water in our bowl without spilling too much.

It seems to help a lot if we all sit while she does it!

Mom still loves us, though. And I think she needs us.

I decided to be the nurse. I’m not sure what other nurses do, but I lay in Dad’s bathtub and listen in case she needs me. (It’s also cool in there!)

She’s been doing the thing called reading a lot. Apparently it’s hard to type lying down.

We still do the usual things.

Everybody gets food. And love. Mom says she’s going to be fine but it seems we’re not roasting chickens right now. Something about the oven being too close to the floor. Phoebe and Luther and I are kind of sad about that. Roast chicken smells really good.

We also have people we can help. Mom says there are lots of ways to help.

She does helping on the phone.

One of our friends got her foot hurt.

Dad hunted around in the place called the basement until he found some crutches we could lend.

Mom stood in the driveway with a package of first aid supplies and gave hugs.

I’m not sure what first aid supplies are, but apparently they have something to do with the thing called healthcare. I think we have enough for right now and some people don’t have so much, which makes Mom sad.

Luther and I tried really hard not to knock the fan over while we watched out the window. It almost worked!

Mom says there are lots of things people could learn from Newfoundlands like us. We’re good at helping.

I think, some days, we even help Mom help.

I’m also pretty sure you don’t have to be a Newfoundland to help people wherever you are.

Maybe you just have to believe in love.

You can do that in the bathtub, too!

PS…Dad made the breakfast room better today. Mom gave advice. We stayed out of the way. Mostly.




MOTB – 2

Hoping you read Sunday’s post, Does anybody really know what time it is?  (Or click to read now!)

I was fired up!

And I started out with a big list of Make One Thing Better plans.

Some of them had to do with harassing politicians about health care.

Others, with the current list of making a small house work better projects.

You get the drift.

Then, Sunday evening, while I was talking to a rescue buddy about making food better for the beasties, I got my feet tangled up in a quilt (Not one of mine…they would never do such a thing!) and fell down.

Freddy, as the old Camp story goes, is fine. Me, too. Or, I will be.

Let’s just say, in this moment, that sitting is not an enjoyable activity.

And my MOTB list has needed some adapting.

I did manage to harass a few politicians. (Miracles of modern science!)

I’ve gotten a bit of important paperwork started.

I’ve caught up on a bit of sleep, thanks to some pain meds and the fact that I’m closest to comfortable in bed.

All the things that were on my list are still there. Along with getting this rather abbreviated blog post up. (My fancy eyeglasses make typing while lying down a real adventure!)

It seems to me that for most of us, at least part of the time, life is about doing the best we can in the moment where we find ourselves.

I found myself on my butt. And hobbling. With plane tickets for a Grammy adventure coming up!

So, for the moment, making me better has moved to the top of the list.

What’s going on in your world? What does it mean for your MOTB list? I’d love to hear. (Keep scrolling down to find space for comments…)

For now, I’m back to bed.

Much love, Sue



Does anybody really know what time it is?

This has been a major question at our house for a long time now.

When Dave was in 8th or 9th grade, he got obsessed with the idea that time didn’t really exist and was just something somebody made up to try to organize the world. And him.

While this was, in my mind, an inconvenient perception on his part, I must admit he was in pretty good company. Aristotle. Einstein. Stephen Hawking. Not to mention a whole lot of Zen sorts of folks who are still reminding us to stay “in the moment.”

One of the ways this played out at our house, back in the day, had to do with being late for school. Or, more specifically, for the school bus. I have to admit, part of me suspected he was just exercising his adolescent duty to drive me nuts.

This went on for years.

Finally, by the time he was a senior, I figured it out. No more nagging. No more yelling. Just $5.00, cash, payable up front for the Mom-taxi to school.

The first time he thought I was kidding. The second, he raced up the steps, cash in hand, asking if we could leave now. Learning had occurred!

Bill and I have other issues about time.

The light came on for me at a workshop in Neuro-linguistic programming.

It wasn’t just us! People do time differently.

Simply put, there are primarily In-time people and primarily Through-time people.

Bill is an In-time kind of guy.

I am Through-time. 

Here’s what this looks like on just about any weekend at our house:

Me: What time do you want to leave for lunch?

Bill: Well, I need to check on the world and work a while and bike.

Me: I hear you. What time do you want to leave?

Bill: Let’s aim for 12:30.

Me: Your time zone or mine?

Almost always, I’m ready to go at 12:30. (The dogs are a bit of a wild card.)

Bill is almost always in the shower by 12:30. And he usually doesn’t have more than three or four more things to squeeze in before we go out the door.

He really doesn’t think of things in terms of clock time. I do. Hunger is often a factor.

There’s no good/bad or right/wrong here. Just two very different perceptions of moving through the universe.

After 27 years of marriage, I’ve almost stopped thinking he’ll change. Instead, I’m changing me.

I try to be calmly clear ahead of time about occasions when I really need him to live in my time zone. Airplanes. Readings by Anne Lamott. Appointments with the vet.

As he usually drives, charging him $5.00 is somewhat less effective than it was with Dave!

The rest of the time, I take deep breaths and remember that different makes life more interesting and there might just be some bigger questions in the world right now.

Does anybody really know what time it is?

About this time last year we learned that there’s a guy from Vermont who does know, come hell or high water.

It’s time to try and make the world a better place.

Bernie’s still doing just that. And he’s still inspiring yyuge numbers of us to do the same thing.

Donating to food pantries. Calling members of Congress. Growing organic vegetables. Running for office. Marching. Persisting. Voting with our wallets. Tutoring kids.

You can’t do it all yourself. Neither can I.

Here’s what we can do.


Make one thing better. Every day. One thing.

Write a letter. Pick up a phone. Donate a bunch of stuff you don’t need to your favorite charity. Help make dinner for a shelter. Rescue a dog. Support Planned Parenthood. Encourage somebody else. Write a poem.

Whatever moves your heart. MOTB!

And, lest we encourage our inner perfectionists, maybe five or six days out of seven would be a better goal.

Think of what a difference that could make!

It’s time.