Navigate / search

The Year of the Permission Slip and a New Year’s gift

Permission Slip header image



2014 on Laundry Line Divine


Today feels like a bonus day.
Both my kids are around.
There are still cookies in the pantry.
In yoga class this morning we worked on Side Crow. It gives me something to look forward to in 2015. Doing it, that is.

I have started and stopped this post about 75 times in the last three days.
I usually write early in the morning and especially on Mondays.
But these holidays, aren’t they wonderful everyone home, hungry and around the house? Oh, I have taken hours and days of not being in my studio, which is very well and good for socializing, but I begin to behave like a dog that has to pee, wanging my tail against the door, sniffing around quiet spaces and circling my studio.

Let’s see. Today I found my long-lost brown wool jumper that required several phone calls to different dry cleaners, one trip to town and a renovation of my closet. I am the one with no closet in our family, so I had to haul everything out of the unheated eave, no lights, out on to a rack where, there, was the brown warm dress that I have been thinking about for days. Do you ever loose things in plain (ish) sight?

I’ve had my yearly check-up and all is well, thank you for asking. I lost five pounds somewhere and my low blood pressure is still low. Today I walked over to the hospital to have blood drawn and the technician went through 5 people ahead of me in line in under ten minutes. I studied his moves. Kind, but no fluff. I aspire to that.

I’ve baked, but there is more butter on the counter for another set of guests and gifts. The holiday card is going to be a New Year’s card because I have not gotten the four of us to sit down in one place and have someone else take a picture of us. I do have a sweet #TBT photo that seems like the last time we were all in one place and that is from seven years ago. It still counts, doesn’t it?


I have been keeping up with the Quest 2015 prompts about “What is your most valuable personality trait and how can I bring it forward in my best work in 2015?” and also “How can I be of Highest Service?” Here are the collages I made in response to those. Sometimes doing visual work is easier for me. I need more quiet to write. Like right now. No one home. Windows thawed from the morning freeze, light in the west. Oh-oh. As I write this one child has just returned.


As I contemplated my personality traits and my highest service, I reflected on this past year. It is all the rage this week, right, highlights from 2014?


Soozie Permission Slip

I am calling 2014 the Year of the Permission Slip.

I wrote all kinds of them this year, made photo posts and we used them in my Powder Keg Sessions. I created an mixed media installation for an art show at the PRESS gallery in North Adams and over 200 people wrote themselves permission slips. I have been asking who and how and when we grant permission for ourselves, who we have looked to for permission, when we feel permission to be our fullest selves. This topic is a dense rainforest of wonder.

There is a wide well of agency that comes from granting your self permission.

Just think for one small minute. Read these questions and then close your eyes.

What would you do today, for one full hour, if you had full permission to do it?
What if you could grant that permission to yourself?

The Permission Slip I created for the PRESS gallery show Paper Dresses revealed so much longing. Take a look at these images.


It was Tara Mohr of Playing Big who asked about highest service. Sally Hogshead prompted me about my most valuable personality trait. Pondering the prompts, I realized that I have a diverse personality. There are many ways you could describe me. But one of my most valuable personality traits is that of Catalyst. I love to be at the heart of creating. Here is the dictionary meaning.

Chemistry. A substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
Something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
A person or thing that precipitates an event or change:
A person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

I like to spur change in others and myself.
I am very enthusiastic, even with my family. (Though none of my enthusiasm is urging my offspring to help around the house this week…. hotel-ish is how I am feeling.)
I love to facilitate discussions that prompt deeper thought and instigate ownership and experience of momentum. I am going to include myself in this definition:

Suzi Banks Baum is a catalyst of creative expression, for herself and others.

I really like the idea of engaging my catalyst self this coming year.

I give myself permission to be that catalyst.

I wrangled with the highest service idea because in my role as mother, facilitator of two conscious human beings, a household, supporter of my partner and the work we both do, I feel I am in my highest service. Not very glamorous, but it is true. Being my fullest self while doing this is what makes the difference from a dull day when I feel like a cog in a very old wheel to feeling that I am affecting change, improving the world in a small but important way and just being my fine self, loving this world just as I find it, bumps and all.

But is this my highest service? If I move this inhabitation of motherhood towards expression, which is the flame that burns steadily within me, then I come to “being immersed in and illuminating real life.” Every single time I share from the place of being a woman who is a mother, who is deeply connected to the whorls and wonder of real life, I speak with authority and grace. I am not making it up. I am not trying to be a smarter someone else with better credentials. When I fuel my devotion with my natural enthusiasm (catalyzing, right?) I find myself doing work that feels like it is mine.

Your heart permssion slip

This is what I am devoted to:

I am devoted to unmasking the fertility of women through story.

Doesn’t it sound really good strung all together like this?

I am a catalyst devoted to unmasking the fertility of women through story. I immerse myself in and illuminate real life.


Which brings me to my gift to you for this New Year.


All year long I have made space for myself to do work that feels soul full to me. I have written, made art, traveled, collaborated, taught, and raised my family thinking about permission- who gives it, grants it, needs it, wants it, struggles with it and how I can be part of permission being fully available for others. My writing groups are spaces where the participants feel fully supported with permission to write, speak and work from their deep selves.


So here is my proposition to you. On New Year’s Eve, or in the early mornings of the next days, candle lit and quiet, just by yourself, sit with your journal and ask,

  • “What do I need permission to do?”
  • “What have I been waiting to do?”
  • “What is stopping me?”
  • “What could I grant myself permission for in 2015?”


Then take your pen or embroidery needle to your permission slip and stitch yourself a go-ahead.


Or how about this? Are you going to be with a group of people on New Year’s Eve, one that includes sitting around a table talking for hours? Print off enough permission slips and let this be part of how you share. Ask the group to take turns talking about their dreams and desires for 2015. Then, have everyone write a permission slips for each other. The quality of listening and friendship is so enhanced when we carry the wealth of what is possible along for the other.


Right now I hear my daughter calling all of us to hike. She is my own little catalyst.

I am going to join her.


Please enjoy your New Year’s Eve. Thank you for reading me all this year.
Please print out this page of Permission Slips and use them for yourself or someone you know who needs an endorsement to step boldly, dare greatly, and live their fullest selves.

The Powder Keg Sessions Permission Slip



Permission Slip with SBB by Ursula Kern


See you in 2015!

xo S


PS In the time that we hiked, my son opened a cookbook and is making dinner as I type. Is this permission in action? When I allow myself to be acted upon by the catalyzing enthusiasm of another, do the people around me begin to take action for themselves? All this and more in 2015. Together. I will be sending out a newsletter for the New Year with my teaching schedule and event calendar. I’d love to see you in person this year!


PPS If you are intrigued by Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate Assessment, please leave me a comment here and I will share with you her offer through Quest 2015 for free access to her Fascinate Assessment tool.







Who Will Miss me? Quest 2015

Clara Sue's gift
Clara Sue Coleman sent me a gift. It is full of blessing.

Seth Godin and my inquiring mind want to know this:

Who would miss you if you were gone? If you didn’t show up to work, didn’t send out that newsletter, didn’t make that sales call, didn’t tweet that tweet…who would miss it? How does your answer shape how you’ll live out 2015?

I know who would miss me. If you are reading me here, I trust you’d notice if I folded up my laundry line and headed in to the house, never to stretch my arms out in the sun and sometimes the rain, hanging wet wash on white rope, taut between two clothespins to dry. You’d notice.

But what I did not understand until considering this question is who doesn’t miss me. Long ago, my cherished friend Joan (who for point of fact IS gone and I do miss her daily and wear her painting smock to keep her near) named me as one of the most loyal people she’d ever known.

To a tee.
I am loyal. You want me on your team, more than ever.

But, loyal, at times, to situations and people that have ebbed in interest and affection. I am the last cheerleader on the field. I am there after the parade has gone past. I still have your phone number in my book; years after you stop calling me back. As I responded to Seth Godin’s Quest2015 prompt, I began to see where tension, conflict and sorrow have risen in my life due to my unfailing attachment to a person, cause or effort that all objective observations report as being over.

Ships sail and I am still on the dock with my white hankie, waiting for a message in a bottle or returning sea bird to tell me how they miss me. I linger longer over friendships or commitments than most people. The shadow side of loyalty is resentment. I have been holding up my side of this arrangement- where the heck have you been?

This dynamic applies to many things…to churches, to organizations, to schools, to yoga studios, to boyfriends, to teachers and to family members. I think, in my grandiose way, that if I keep showing up, no matter what the conditions, that they too should want to show up. Here is my very mottled underbelly. I am driven by the desire to connect and remain loyal long past when my devotion is valued or my contribution necessary.

Who would miss you?

But, as I sat with this question, I began to ease up on the drama and recognize that relationships and arrangements more often than not have life spans that are shorter than I expect or plan for, but are natural to the vitality of that organism. If a professional or service situation is a live being and that live being comes to the end of it’s life cycle, than what have I been doing dragging all these dead bodies around with me?

I could ease myself with newly maturing self-care, to see that this necessary awareness allows a massive wave of forgiveness, toward self and toward others. Loyalty is an esteemed quality, but discernment about the vitality of the energy invested is worth recognizing. Oh- yes, disappointment is to be expected. Sadness even. But long lasting bitterness is not worth my time or my effort.

And I have a wellspring of effort to offer the world.

Apparently, so does my daughter. Last week she won first place in her high school’s Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition. Over the fall semester, students memorize poems chosen from the POL listing of over 400 selections. My girl chose Celebration for June 24 by Thomas McGrath. I helped her break the poem down only once, on an early morning drive back from the dentist. The poem ends with these lines:

Still, my dice are loaded: having had such luck,
Having your love, my life would still be whole
Though I should die tomorrow. I have lived it all.
—And love is never love, that cannot give love up.
Thomas McGrath, “Celebration for June 24” from Movie At The End of the World.
Copyright © 1972 by Thomas McGrath.


She needed help with the last line, about giving love up. This was over one month ago.
Since that time, as the date approaches for her own departure for an expedition semester away in the Rocky Mountains, and her wings are dry enough to fly away butterfly, she is feeling her heart prepare to “give love up.” She continues to live with the poem. We have talked about it with friends. She discusses it with her Philosophy teacher. And for Christmas, she presented us a hand-written copy of the poem. There is something new being acknowledged in our family as she prepares to leave home for six months. Dice loaded, we are the luckiest parents alive, to have children, butterflies, who have gained enough strength and momentum to be released in to the world.

Having had her love, I have lived it all, with certainty. I know, that I have to give her up to the world, to let her go. She knows as well as monarchs do, the very way home.

Monarch Female
photo credit Ken Slade

I am writing this on Friday. On Wednesday, as part of her Christmas gift, I made a vellum sleeve of photographs for her to carry in her backpack. Without an inkling of the words I am writing here, I chose a random magazine photograph of a monarch butterfly to collage on to this little sleeve. I am as filled with her leaving as she is. I know that when my visual work is mirrored unintentionally by my writing, that I have written in to necessary words. Sacred resonance sounds around the understanding that every inch of parenting is “giving love up.” (For those of you paying extra close attention, she, the girl, the monarch butterfly, will return home with her backpack for one more year of high school. This is practice semester for both of us.)

Maybe there is a little bit of dying off here. Like Nadia Bolz-Weber states about Spiritual Physics, “something has to die in order for something new to grow.” But unlike those relationships or arrangements that lived their lifespan, my relationships with my children can contain a world of space for expansion and learning. I can step back and let my children fly.

So when I look at how the relationships that count on my being here, those that would miss me if I was gone, I know that the ones that offer me room to grow, room to become my fullest self, room to witness expansion without taking it as a personal slight that I won’t remain small to maintain the original dynamic are the ones that have a longevity that is sourced from authentic inspiration and mutual devotion to loving each other right where we find ourselves. I cannot hold on to dead relationships or work arrangements or collaborations and expect anything other than a very bad smell. Neither can I hold my children back from expanding in to the world. This is what I have helped ready them for.
Kate Arms Roberts, one of my Quest mates, wrote that the people who will truly miss her are the ones who have seen her “in my full, messy, completeness.” This place of messy completeness is full of vitality.

This vitality, a quaking newness, a vigor that tugs, is exactly what will guide me as I make my plans for 2015, as I listen, contemplate, write, create, speak, teach, collaborate and produce in this coming year. It will guide me in the way I conduct myself personally and professionally.

How about you?
Who would miss you if you were gone?
And who doesn’t miss you? Isn’t it time to tuck your fluttering hankie in your pocket and get on with things that fuel your own vitality? Here is to an awe-inspiring 2015. I look forward to sharing it with you.


Suzi Banks Baum by Lynnette Lucy Najimy 2014

Thank you for reading me here, following me on Social Media or simply dropping by today. I relish your comments as tokens of resonance.



SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, and  The Icarus Deception. His latest, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work, and embracing tension when doing your art.

Starting Where I Am: In the Dark

Sometimes an angel is all you need. SBB 1964

My Shadow Bags

This month I have taken guidance from two resources I trust.
One from the Wild Mystics, who draw me in to a circle of women writing, praying, and making art that examines the presence of the holy, right now.

The second has been with my mentor Jeffrey Davis, of Tracking Wonder, who I spent a week with in October working on my book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. Throughout December, I have been responding to prompts sent through Jeffrey’s Quest2015. You can learn more here.

Saturday’s prompt from Eric Klein stopped me in my tracks.

How will you face your shadow bag and stop the stink, so you can bring forth what is best within you in 2015? What can you claim right now?

Eric defines shadow bags as the place you stuck the parts of your self you cut off or abandoned in order to fit in to family expectations. He describes these as parts of us that are still alive, just hacked off and stinking in a bag we haul around with us all the time. These vulnerable places that we did not dare expose are what he dares us to handle and heal. Eric believes that here is where our strengths lie.

“You can still proceed with your life with parts of you cut off,” but is this a wonderful way to live? And is anything short of wonderful/joyful/wholehearted/truthful/forgiving/resilient/turned-on/happy/responsive/compassionate/satisfied worth getting out of bed for on a daily basis?

I have to tell you that I have struggled with this prompt since Saturday. I like to take care of assignments promptly. I like to be excellent, to learn…. but this one stumped me. Hadn’t I just dug down to a new level of self-awareness last week? What else was there to see in this dark season?


But, as you know, there is always more to see. I just had to wait long enough for my eyes to adjust.

Solstice Spiral 2014



Jeffrey always asks us what is right beyond our computer screens. What is beyond yours? Right beyond my screen I can see the Solstice Spiral that I laid out under my beloved oak tree in the backyard. Yes, we celebrate Solstice here, with a large group of spiritual questers. Solstice has become a family tradition for us, one that had no proscribed practices so we invented our own and the celebration resonates for all of us.


The Solstice Spiral 2014
“On a dark night, love lights a lamp.” Sultan Bahu



My family is a mash-up of faith practices.

My husband grew up in a devout Jewish family who lived among a dense Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. He went to Hebrew school in his elementary school years. He had his Bar Mitzvah. Then, he struck out on his own exploration, always returning to temple for the High Holy Days. He has a story to tell about his faith journey. But I can tell you that when we married, he’d become more of a secular Jew, honoring the holidays and some of the traditions, especially when he was with his family.

“‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”
—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I grew up in a firmly established Lutheran household. My grandfather was a Lutheran pastor in Illinois. I had a busy life growing up with church at the center of my social life. I taught Sunday school alongside my mother in my high school years until I was not asked to return. It was there, with a pastor at our home church who I dearly loved for his iconoclastic inquiries in to the practices of a very staid Lutheran community, that I began to question all I had been raised to know as true, sure and unshakeable.

In the fourteen years between leaving high school and meeting my husband, I experimented with different faith practices, worshipping in a glass pyramid in Houston when I lived with my Dad, attending a tiny Lutheran church in Louisville where I was one of the youngest congregants at age 23, then years of Sunday mornings when I’d wake up and wonder, “Who am I if I am not going to church? Does God forget about me if I am not singing with the altos or handing out programs or running the Food Pantry?”

My eyes are beginning to sting. I thought this post was going in another direction.

But truth?

The holidays are super charged with shame and grief for those of us who have stepped outside the religious practices of our upbringing, who are making it up as we go. Many mixed faith families who for the lack of a welcoming spiritual community invent ways to infuse the sacred in to our daily lives. There are guidebooks beginning to be written for us misfits, but the ache we feel at the rising line of the Hallelujah chorus or the way the alto line of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” weaves through the valves of my pounding heart and will not let go, permeates the frothy snowflakes of this season. Lay on the snowy ground the commercial onslaught that butchers the quiet and gorges on getting and you have a community that weeps as we watch, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and wonders how to get through this week.

For this, I turn to my Wild Mystics, because this patch of women, led by Mandy Steward of Thrashing About With God and Hilary Rain, know Sunday School and how our thighs stuck to pews and how the communion wafers felt important but mystifying in our mouths. I read Mirabai Starr and begin to feel my longing for spiritual nourishment slake. I read John O’Donohue and feel the ground under me become, as Pete Seeger sang, “Holy Ground.”

My shadow bags are full of the questions I asked but have not been able to answer until now.

Do I believe?

Yes. I believe in the Creative Power of the Universe, in the Beloved who is source of all things, the “very first breath in this miraculous creation of our Universe.”  I believe our planet evolved, that biology describes our transformation as humans. I believe that we are evolving as human begins having a spiritual experience and vice versa. I believe.

But do I believe to the exclusion of others?

“In my house there are many rooms.” John 14:2 King James Bible

I am 18 standing at the door of our church in Escanaba, about to shake the hand of my favorite pastor, a man I trust with my truth to this day. I swallowed my shame, for I knew this question would open the door on my doubt, and asked him, “If there are so many rooms in God’s house, why do we have to believe in only One Way?” He has a way of pausing before he answers; eyebrows raised, eyes wide, paused. There in the foyer of folks eager for Coffee Hour, I asked a question that he was not prepared to answer right then and there. He said we should talk about it. I am sad to say that I never completed that conversation. I peppered him with other questions over that period, or vaulted statements like, “So Jesus was a hippie, right?” But that first question led me to leaving a regular church affiliation until I had a family of my own.

(That is unless you allow Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion as Saturday night church. Through that radio program on NPR, I stayed tuned to the songs, stories and people I grew up among, who taught me how ice fish and eat pasties, who taught me how to prepare the communion trays and to hold my hands just so, when receiving the Host. Garrison told stories of a small town, which felt like my small town, and that radio program was my strongest tether to faith seeking people for many years.)

Eric states, “You were taught from a young age to hide your deepest longings, to deny essential and sacred parts of who you are. In your family, at school, in the world, you’ve been encouraged to act as if you are complete while simultaneously cutting of parts of your self and exiling them to the shadow bag.
When you cut off parts of yourself, you cut off the flow of your life.”

From the time of our marriage, we decided to blend our faith practices, to honor each others upbringing and to find a new way for ourselves. From the time we moved to Great Barrington, we attended a Lutheran church that welcomed my husband’s presence and his clarinet playing. We were an unusual mix, but there were others among our congregation who had migrated from other faith practices. Our pastor, a remarkably compassionate and brilliant man, made sure we were integrated and honored for who we were and our children were fortunate to learn from him. The lessons we received as a family from that man of God are gifts that we will never forget.

But once he left that church, we very quickly began to feel less welcome. And, with broken hearts, we left.

We lived life and lived loss and did not feel forgotten by God. We came to accept the invitation to one of the many rooms in the house of the Beloved. The name of that room is Love. This is a room that we make new every single day. A room that is sometimes filled with the traditions of our upbringings, but also includes new practices, contemplative practices, and prayers of soulful honesty turned to the Power Greater Than Ourselves who we met years ago in Al-Anon. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the 12 Step Programs for helping my husband and I find a name for the holy that includes both of us, our families, our grandparents who preached from different temples with different words but with common yearnings, desires and values.

So today, the shame I felt as a young person, daring to voice questions that stirred my soul, that itched me under my choir robe and caused me to doubt what was so firmly established as the one single way of faith, I can release in to the clear air of deep winter dark where candles light the Spiral just beyond my computer screen.


Candle in the spiral

In Mirabai’s most recent book, God of Love, she states, “The same Supreme Reality that surpassed all understanding was accessible through every Sanskrit chant, Hebrew prayer and Christian hymn, through Buddhist meditation retreats and affirmations of the merciful and compassionate nature of Allah, through deep silence and unbridled song.”

GOD OF LOVE (Monkfish 2012)

I honor those of you who have a faith practice that answers your questions.

Last night, as I looked in to the eyes of a dear friend I saw the hollow look that has caressed poinsettias and nativity scenes, who has lifted the soprano line to so many hymns right next to me, and I saw a woman who carries the shadow bags of “she who belongs to the Beloved” but has no community that folds together her transformation, her family and her history.

So I offer both of us these words of St. Teresa of Avila, who I came to through Mirabai Starr:

This magnificent refuge is inside you.
Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway…
Be bold. Be humble.
Put away the incense and forget
the incantations they taught you.
Ask no permission from the authorities.

Close your eyes and follow your breath

to the still place that leads to the

invisible path that leads you home.

~ St. Theresa of Avila

Welcome home my dears.
Drop your shadow bags.
Pull up a chair; I will pour you a cup of tea.
There are cookies for all of us.


Ursula's Heart

Barbara Mahany wrote about December at the On Being blog. She said,

“And therein is the sacred instruction for the month: Make the light be from you. Deep within you.”

Tell me, how does love light your way today?



The founder of the Wisdom Heart School and a longtime internationally respected spiritual teacher, Eric Klein has been a pioneering voice in bringing more spirit, meaning, and authenticity into the workplace. He’s worked with over 20,000 leaders from Fortune 500 companies, healthcare, governmental and non-profit organizations as well as mid-size companies. He’s author of the bestselling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work, To Do or Not to Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions, and You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For (a 2008 Nautilus Award-winner as a world-changing book in the conscious leadership/business category). His online meditation program The Meditation Habit is used by corporations and individuals globally.



%d bloggers like this: