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!






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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Life is for learning!

At least that’s what Mom says. If she’s right, I must be doing a good job!

Oh, sorry!  You don’t know me, yet. I’m Phoebe. Sarah is my sister. She says I’ll be good at blogging like she is. I’m supposed to start by telling you my story.

I’ve been here about eight weeks. Here is really good. I was in a couple of places for just a little while on my way here and they helped me, too. I guess I needed a lot of help.

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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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