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Early November gratitude

What I started to write a few days ago but have not returned to because of Halloween and because of a large bodied young man loping around the house, is that Benjamin is feeling much better. (He is that loping guy.) Thank you for your prayers.

Swiss heart


What I wanted to say a few days ago, but have been too timid to write it, is that I get so very worried about my kids I pray the paint off the walls, and though it makes me feel better, makes me feel that I am not the only one keeping the wheels on the car, all those random elements like drivers in correct lanes, flu viruses and recreational activities, blood composition and cranial vaults, hormones and integrity, will behave as they behave. Whether my prayers influence any of these things, I hardly really care frankly. My prayers help me, and so I pray.


But what do we do when, again, our community suffers the loss of another kid? This one a college freshman, walking home with two buddies back to campus, struck by a drunk driver. The kids were walking. The driver was drunk. And of the three young men, one is dead and two are seriously injured.

*Pause here to do what you do, light candles, kneel, look at a tree, fold your hands over your heart…for his sweet life ended, for his family. I don’t know them at all, but believe me, loss does not need proximity to be shared.*

Every single community in this nation wrangles with loss; tragic, mundane, daily loss. The varying levels of loss, the extreme violence that is generated by all the -isms at play in our society, and the school incidents we weep over, yet cannot find a way to curtail-all of these realities get run through the washing machines of our hearts. We take them in, all the details we can fit. We wash them with tears and ministrations, and we set them out again to dry. How how how do we carry on?

Fall evening

This was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. My daughter, a high school senior, has philosophic leanings, just like her brother, and by virtue of proximity, my husband and me, too. We were considering something of the question of “what gets you out of bed in the morning, knowing, as you do because you are human, that you will die, if not today, some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. Why get up?” While this may sound morose, it digs pretty efficiently to the heart of the matter of what we makes each of us tick. And since my kids are old enough now to get them selves out of bed and in to their respective days, the answers become more and more interesting.

For me, it is a question of faith in goodness.

I grew up thinking it was God with a capital G, with a white beard and pearly gates and the Bible is a record of fact. I have come to believe a wider truth today. And because I am human and because I believe we are here for a reason and because I know the healing that comes to broken hearts because of the power of love, I get out of bed intent on loving bigger than I did yesterday. And praying to a power greater than myself helps me know how to do that.

I came upon this in Mirabai Starr’s book about Teresa of Avila:



if you want to make progress

on the path

and ascend to the places

you have longed for,

the important thing

is not to think much

but to love much,

and so to do


best awakens you to love.”



What best awakens you to love?

I trust that readers of Laundry Line Divine might answer this question in a myriad of ways. Yesterday, my she-ro Anne Lamott batted the question of faith and fear around in an excellent post, in which she concluded that in the face of all these odds, she would, “…flirt with every old lonely person I see,” along with a few other things to which I would add, “…go hang my wash out on the line in the sun and plant a few rows of garlic.”

along the river

I return to this question of faith over and over again. My Lutheran minister Grandfather seems to have a hand in this inner debate because he modeled for me a man of faith and consequence, an imperfect man doing what he believed to be God’s work, who left a lot of unfinished business in his wake, who, among other things, raised pigeons for lab research and grew lots of gladioli to sell (I guess), but who, towards the end of his ministry started to participate in Baptist services. The man was a seeker, a blustering red-faced pulpit speaker who just did not settle on one way of seeing things. I was too young to know more about him before he died. Much of what I know I learned by asking my mother and her siblings, but even they are not forthcoming with stories. I don’t think life with my Grandfather was easy.

But, this yearning to “love much” leads me to a theme I learned long ago in Al-Anon, the 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics. In those rooms filled with people of so many different faiths and religions, atheists and anarchists, the one common cup we could all drink from is gratitude. And it is through gratitude that I have found my way in to a prayer practice that connects me to spirit, that presence which comforts and preserves me outside of radiology rooms where my kid is being scanned or at my mother’s bedside where her breath slows to her very last. I can say thank you to every single human being, no matter what our language, religion or belief.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”

-Meister Eckhart

I want to get to this because “thank you” is what leads me to loving much. Like Anne Lamott smiling at all the old people she sees while out walking her dogs in Marin County, I find that offering thanks in real time, in letters and cards, in phone calls, in person at the drug store, at the Doctor’s office, in the ER, saying thank you seems to be the connection point between humans. It is where smiles spring up.

So today, on this Monday, a cool but warm-in-the-sunshine fall day, I am so very grateful for Benjamin feeling better and an acupuncturist who could see him on a Sunday. I am grateful for each and every kid who showed up on our porch for tricks and treats on Saturday evening, especially the tiny ones who my son would kneel down to meet and treat instead of them encountering our scary-as-shit table prank that my Halloween collaborators and I cooked up.  (see below) I am grateful for my husband being patient with me when I am not the most loving I could ever be. And I am grateful for him in the moments when he is doing his best, though not what I would have planned had it all been up to me.

A video posted by Suzi Banks Baum (@suzibb) on


I guess the point of this writing is this: The goodness and grace of daily life exists in all cases. When I tune my attention towards it, my ability to keep going is fueled, motivated-this force is generative and a certain salvation.

People get hurt. As William Stafford says in his luminous poem, The Way It Is:


“Things happen. People get hurt

or die, you suffer and get old,

Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”


But, we get to wake up again on the next day and decide how to use our time, no matter what the prevailing conditions or our marital status or the laundry outlook,

we carry on.


How we carry on, in what state our hearts are, how connected we are to what is true and real and beautiful and whether or not we get to have our say about that, let alone perhaps make art in response to that, is exactly why I get out of bed in the morning.

I wake up curious.

Usually have to pee.

But once done, I am deeply attentive to the first signs of light.


I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here is much love to you each.

From my laundry line to yours,


Queen of my Own Heart: Sisterhood and thanks to Shiloh Sophia for this painting and poetry on the Laundry Line.

My Keystone Practices    July 17, 2013

Every morning I do a few things consistently.
I wake up.
I pray for a while.
Pee. Come on. I cannot do anything more before I pee.
Then I light a candle on my way past my dresser and send love to whoever appears in my heart at that moment.
I hop back in bed to do my meditation. This can take fifteen minutes or less.
It grounds me. I learned the one I do right now from Jennifer Matthews.
I do another ritual here, a very special one that is sacred to my well being that I learned from Regena Thomashauer.
I do a breathing ritual and stretches I learned from Saida Desilets.
I hop out of bed and do some hip spirals that I learned from Dr. Christiane Northrup.

And then, I hold my pink feather and speak my Stand, which I learned to do from Jill Rogers.
Depending on the day, I slip outside to do a sun salutation I learned from Kali Ray.
35 minutes, maybe 45,  if I am really doing full slow breathes all along the way.

All these small gestures of grace have connected me to Source. I have offered gratitude and opened my heart.

At this point, the morning is upon me. My girl gets up, often before me, but she too enjoys a quiet morning. Ben, he gets up when he has to. School days, we are all together. This summer, there are quiet spaces among us.
In the kitchen, I spin green drinks, which I learned from my friends Patrice Colle and Janet Elsbach, and honed with my daughter Catherine.
Again, depending on the day and the season, I write in my journal, which I did long before I read Julia Cameron, but she affirmed the 45 minutes or three pages in my journal, right away. The optimal situation is if I have woken early enough before everyone and done my morning practice so I can write before I talk to anyone. Lately, this is a challenge, so I write after they are off in to their days. I write at 10 or at 11. On days when I have to be out of the house, I write in the evening when the house quiets down and I can focus.

I am made up of things I have learned from other women.
I make these practices my own; sew them in my upbringing as a Lutheran girl, my yogic studies, my years in Al-Anon. All these things  let me shed the trappings of religion to carve down to what is immediate, to my absolute connection to the Divine.

I read Rumi every day.
I read Mary Oliver.
I read the funnies because ‘Zits’ makes me know I am not alone with the teen-agers who don’t pick up dirty socks ever.

These are things I do before I pick up the phone. Before I engage in social media. And, if I am lucky, I do these things before engaging in any nagging or carping or hound dogging my kids.

There is another big chunk which I do daily, a check-in I do with my husband. This gets mixed in to the time with the kids. I’ll write about this check-in another time, because it is integral to my relationship and fosters and feeds our connection throughout our busy days.

I read this article about ‘keystone species’ last night in the Economist, about mistletoe. I have studied the way grapes grow and the ‘mother vine’. When blackberries grow, that first ripe richly black berry out at the end of the cluster is called the ‘king berry’. The phrase Keystone practices has botanic and architectural appeal to me.

More Kings

In an act of sisterly synchronicity, Shiloh Sophia sent out that magnificent painting and this poem in her newsletter today, about every single woman being the ‘Queen of her own Heart’.

Every Woman is the Queen of her Own Heart

 By Shiloh Sophia

Every woman is the Queen of her own heart

She must decide how to govern her own domain.

She seeks friends and allies that honor

who she is now

and who she is becoming.

She has the power to create miracles.


All this congeals in me a sense of what makes me who I am today. I am steeped in this day, 18 years ago, which was the day before the day I gave birth to our first child, Benjamin. On this day, 18 years ago, I gardened and swam and lay in our hammock, not knowing how profoundly my life would change within 12 hours or more. I just did what I was to do that day, the Queen of my Life. And so, as I have lived and laughed and wept and worried and tended this family and hung years of socks and sheets on our laundry line.  I have distilled all I learned in to what it is I am doing today.
The practices I have learned from women so dear to me allow me to enter the holiest place in my life, the still quiet where I can hear God/Goddess without interruption. I listen to the silence and sweetly await the calm knowing that I carry in to the chaos of motherhood. These practices have strengthened me to mother with my authenticity present almost of the time. And they have buoyed me as I have claimed my voice as an artist, writer and actress. No matter what response I get, I am able to stand in my value as Suzi, as the individual that I am today.
And I can only hope, in doing so, I model for my children

I am an artist… I am here to live out loud.

Emile Zola

I am grateful for that quiet day in Hillsdale, New York, eighteen years ago. The day lilies and phlox, the monarchs, and a swim in the ore pit in the mountains kept time with me as I listened. They prepared me, as I prepare myself every single day, to be present to this mystifying and magnificent life.

Today, Michelle Aldredge posted a brilliant piece on her blog, Gwarlingo, about Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.

She writes: “To do our best creative work, we must be focused, but also relaxed and at ease in our own skin.”

In the midst of mothering my children, I have raised myself up by committing to finding comfort in my own skin. My Keystone Practices allow that to happen for me every single day. I am a diligent student and willing to make mistakes and grow.

Creativity lives at the edge of chaos.

For me, mothering and creativity are wedded, one.
Creativity has caught my life on fire and set me blazing.
Mothering combusts all that is dross. My desire to live fully and joyfully continually fuels me to shed and release all that no longer serves me.Being a mother means I am always wading in chaos, it simply comes with the territory.
This is the place from which I write these blog posts, my books, letters and poems.
This place, which I arrived at nearly 18 years ago now.

July 17, 1994, 5:13 a.m. at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

JNB and Benjamin day 4
JNB and Benjamin day 4


I am so grateful to have woken up to this day with you all. Thank you for reading me here.
If you like what you’ve read and would like more, you can subscribe in the box to the upper right of this post.
You will get a small email when I hang something new on the Line.
And, if you are are inclined, please share this post with someone you know who might enjoy it.

With all my love,

Appreciations of My Mother and of Me. What about you?

Mixed Media Collage by SBB May 2012
Mixed Media Collage by SBB May 2012

It is an achingly beautiful day here in the Berkshires.
And, one that no matter what I do, I cannot soak up the sweetness enough…wake up early enough to do all I like to do before my family hops around me on one foot then the other, waiting for the fun to begin.

They have given me an hour of their time in the garden.
But first there is brunch.
And, then a performance at one.
So, the phlox a-thon will wait to three or so. (My garden is engulfed in phlox)

Today, I am listing things I love about my Mom.
And then some about me as a Mom.
Then, an invitation for you to do the same in the comment section here.
Tell me of a few moments when, like today, you could not scoop up all the goodness flowing in your life so it dribbled over like mango juice down your arm and in to your shirt sleeve.

Ten appreciations for my Mom, Joann Ruth Schauer Schmeling, who died on October 10, 2010.

1. I loved my Mom’s laugh.
2. I loved her hands, big and veined and strong.
3. I loved her gait. We walk the same way, fast and strong and long. We could wander too and lollygag…but same length of stride.
4. I love the baskets she made.
5. I love her slightly sharp singing voice singing hymns in church. She knew all the words.
6. I loved sitting with her in church as a little kid and playing the hand game with her, stacking our hands- hers, mine, hers, mine and pulling them out in order silently, waiting for the interminable sermon to be over and done with, Amen.
7. I love that she always wanted to say “ A-woman” instead, but only did that at home sometimes.
8. I love that she kept her paddle in the waters of her life, even when she was stymied, ill or upset.
9. I love that she found a great love in my stepfather later in her life.
10. I love that she took us out in to the woods often as little kids- picking berries or to find a beach or to get to the top of something.

This is from a camping trip my sister Becky and I took with Mom and Pa, our stepdad, in 1988.

Here are ten appreciations of me, as a Mom… that I embarked on 18 years ago.

1. I love that it was Jonathan and me that started this whole show.
2. I love that my pregnancies were easy.
3. I love that the miscarriages I had brought me to a deeper understanding of how rare and miraculous births are.
4. I love the voices of my kids calling to me in the house.
5. I love the sacred geometry of our bodies and the way then fit in to mine, even now.
6. I love watching them in plays or performances or out in public talking to other people…just a marvel to see them as people.
7. I love what they love about me which they are loath to admit now…I can’t imagine them making a gratitude list for me now, so steeped in detaching from me and all I am today. But one day, they will admit to the tiny things I notice that they do which tell me, we are of each other, no matter what.
8. I love hearing my girl whistle. We both love to whistle.
9. I love looking out over our backyard and having all the tracings of their feet running to and fro over that ground for 15 years in this place.
10. I love yearning for them to crawl in to bed with us in the morning like they used to do, just that sense of us all on the ship of life together, but feeling them building their own boats and really…we will likely never have that sense of tight togetherness in that way again. Our boat is bigger than our bed now…it has expanded to include the bigness of their lives and this…maybe this is why I keep dreaming about ocean liners, huge catamarans and other vessels that I never quite get to in my dreams, but am always moving towards?

Here is an interview I did with Jennifer Boire about Laundry Line Divine and mothering and my work.

Here is a link to a radio clip about mothering that I did with Melissa Rosati.

I am off to enjoy a salad-y brunch they are making for me.

I hope whatever your day brings, that you spend a moment appreciating your mom, either here on the Line or in your hearts.


What do you have to say about Motherhood? Tina Fey and a video blog from ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’


As I look back on what I have written,
I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say.
Katherine Peterson

She is right.

The blog series running here within Laundry Line Divine called ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ was initially inspired by my desire to create opportunities to share stories of mothering and creativity with other women.

I thought it seemed like a good enough reason to invite other women to share. Now, I have women sending me posts at a rate of about 6 a week, at least. This sets my head spinning. The depth and beauty of the posts, all different, all savory with the piquant flavors of raising children and sweetened by those very experiences which in turn, raise us.

Half her life ago now, age seven
Half her life ago now, age seven

I know there are readers of the Laundry Line who do not have children. This blog series is not exclusive to mothers, it just invites them specifically, because as a culture, unless we are talking about products- and there is history here– read about the advertising campaigns of the 1950s designed to make Rosie the Riveter want to return home and stay home- the voices of mothers have not been given equal value in our culture.

Women artists, creators, inventors and innovators are seeking equality. We have been at this for generations. As a writer and artist who is a full time Mom, I am sharing my stories and invite you to share yours. I have room for you here, whether you are creating books, like my dear friend Joanne Tombrakos or creating peace with your four children, like Dr. Deborah Gilboa.

I am getting more relaxed about these video blogs. My son has been watching them, offering me only a small amount of scorn. I can tell there is a bit of pride in him, proud of me, surprised by me a bit. This is his third week with a broken leg, at home in bed and he has graduated from literate infant to literate toddler. Yesterday, he successfully used his crutches. Today, he is exhausted by the effort.

Ben when he was eleven
Ben when he was eleven

Like the time I see it is taking him to recover from his skiing accident, so is my ability to move this ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ project ahead. It is every bit a part of me, as my visual work or my parenting and equally susceptible to interruption. This post has taken me hours to write. I cannot move this work any faster than I can move my son and his 25-pound casted left leg. He is the living expression of ‘One Step at a Time’.

Ben racing 2011
Ben racing 2011

Catherine, my girl, has been eternally patient these weeks and just a little cranky. I have been looking at this photograph of her, comparing her black eyeliner gaze to the wonderment of this child.

By Bonnie Nordoff
By Bonnie Nordoff
Catherine in Miami
Catherine in Miami

Raising children takes time. And those children take time.
As a mother, I have offered my time, a coursing vein of O-positive blood for the life force of my children to quicken and stand independent, away from me. Women do this with all the work we create, infusing our projects with our life force. The meals we plan, our matrix of thought or the vivid arenas of relationship all require our time, our currency of aliveness.
‘If only I had more time’.

How would you answer this question today?
If only you had more time?

If only I had more time? I would share this post with you. Honor Tina Fey for her hilarious and truthful prayer for her daughter and then jump over to my art table and forget the rest of the world exists for a while.

Here is Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter. You can find Tina’s book BossyPants at your local bookstore. Read this before you run over there because, well, it is snowing here today, life is full of surprises and a little bit of humor makes it all worthwhile.


Tina Fey’s The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor
Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the
creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her
grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean,
swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform,
crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting
on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on
large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels,
roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of
Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,”
and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where
she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get
outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m
asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the
sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and
be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a
Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day –
And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled
invective of her peers
And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V:
Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of
Hollister,Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in
front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord,
That I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M.,
all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is
leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off
her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude
will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental
Note to call me. And she will forget.
But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


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