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Dare To Excel: The Wily What-ifs

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As a mother, you wake up with what-ifs in the middle of the night when the kid with the cold is suddenly sleeping quietly after hours of coughing and wheezing. You wake up from a surprising sleep you didn’t expect to get, and the what-ifs are sitting on your chest. You get up and stand over that child, watching her breathe, holding your own breath so that nothing, not even the soft purr of your relief, would disturb her rest. What-ifs are the thoughts that inch you towards answers that are founded in your instinct, where your soul sends messages in the form of questions.

What-ifs sound the alarm of potential change. What-ifs are where innovation and dreams meet. Depending on the setting they can be equally exhilarating as terrifying. It depends on where you are standing. They are what edge you off the cliff and into the gleaming waters of Superior, feet first, slicing in to water so cold that it takes no effort to clamber up the rocks to do it again.

 

People found businesses that begin with the question, “What if…?” During July, I continue with my pack at Tracking Wonder with #Quest2015 and consider what dares me to excel. This inquiry dovetails with the question that Lisa Sonora posed to me last weekend in her Creative Entrepreneur workshop when I wallowed in my feeling of being too much, too many diverse offerings, doing too many things or not enough…. just general NOT ENOUGHNESS which is a place I have dwelled for years upon years…. Lisa looked at me, paused, as she does, and said, “What if you got even bigger? Gigantic? What would happen if you got enormous?”

My immediate response was to laugh and cry at the same time. I did not expect to feel myself expand with a question like this, as if my presence just popped out a few inches from my body and I was, suddenly, without effort, bigger and okay with this new ground. Then today, Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder posed this question to the band of business artists who are working with his free offering, Dare To Excel: “What is my burning question of possibility?”

I can string together a whole lot of questions, but if I strip myself down to the inner layers of my personal and professional quest here on Laundry Line Divine I come to this:

What if I fully unmask my creative fertility first?

(I am not quite comfortable with the “First” part, but I think it is necessary. See that it is not in the collage I made? First feels selfish. More on that in a bit.)

Dare to excel collage by Suzi Banks Baum

I wove Lisa and Jeffrey’s questions together and realized something true. What if I unmasked my creative fertility first? I would have to release my fear of being too much and dare to be enormous, gigantic, an AMAZON of creative practice. The first time I encountered the word “Amazon” in reference to a woman, was in Wisconsin, at my Aunt Johanna and Uncle Bill’s home. I am eleven maybe. I cannot recall the conversation, but some comment was made about my size and Aunt Johanna said something about “we Amazons.” All I recall is the flush of secret pride at being linked to elegant her. What if I let myself be an Amazon of Creative Practice?

So often in my workshops I hear women say that they feel taking time for their writing or artwork or to go slowly and rest is indulgent and selfish. There are days when I feel the same way. I hide out in a certain way, at home and alone, so that the expectations I hold of the world’s judgment on my relative productivity and contribution to the betterment of the planet go unheard. If you really saw me, back here on my porch in my pajamas, painting and writing, making messy collages and beautiful books, would you think I am worthy of this time? Am I doing anything of value? Does what I do matter? Is this art? Who cares what a mother has to say? I wrestle these questions to the ground every single day. Sometimes, I wrestle them in the person of one of my kids or my friends who don’t quite get what I am up to. There are many people who wonder if anything I am doing is really contributing to the welfare of my family and my world. They see me as a woman supported by her husband so she can natter around with paints now that her kids don’t need a ride to soccer and they know how to cook their own eggs.

Need I go on with all of those damning, silencing questions? I know you are all too familiar with them and have your own roster of self-limiting beliefs that shutter your own creative response to being a woman.

That is why I stand for you in this question: What if I fully unmask my creative fertility first? I know that I cannot lead another where I have not myself gone. All teaching I do would be hollow and useless, if I did not know the smell of those wolves at the door, baying about my behavior and what the hungry world needs from me, now, right now.

I know that a woman’s creativity remembers her to her soul.
I know that when I start there, amazing transformations happen-within my family life, within my expressive life, within my community life.

Lisa’s writing prompt today for her 30-Day Journal project flowed from this:

“When you do things from your soul,
you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

My creative practices make me very happy. Creating signature experiences for women to discover their own creative practice is what I do. I teach, I write, I respond to my own experience as a woman and mother. What I do, you see here on Laundry Line Divine. What I you can partake in at Mapping Motherhood at the International Women’s Writing Guild in July. What I do, you can do with me at Slow Time Salon on Superior in Big Bay, Michigan on August 16 or in Escanaba, Michigan on August 20. What I do and have done within my family life, creative, domestic and wild, you will read in my upcoming book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.

All of this requires bravery. That is why I answer my longing for community by creating it, participating in it, forging collaborations and connections in real time and online to remind me that I am not alone.

 

Running right past selfish collage by Suzi Banks Baum

Living in to this question, “What if I fully unmask my creative fertility first?” requires me to run right past selfish and in to the river of joy that is here at my feet. What happens next, you will be among the first to know.

 

Kids feet leaping at Canyon Falls, MI August 2012

So glad it’s summer,

S

Okay. I am leaping. Here is my first audio blog post. Let me read to you here. You can upload this to your iThingy and take me in the car with you.

 

You can sign up for Lisa Sonora’s 30 Day Journal project here.
You can register for Jeffrey Davis’ Dare to Excel Quest here.

Here are some other #DareToExcel posts by my mates.

Vanessa Herald

Brenna Layne

Lauren Ayer

The day after Mother’s Day

Lydia's tulip
I am still really obsessed with my #EasyMacro lens…and every blooming thing. This is my friend Lydia’s tulip.

I know the hoopla around Mother’s Day is hard for some people.
For all the millions of reasons that any relationship
gets complicated, Mother’s Day can exacerbate strong feelings.

I have had a perfectly decent Mother’s Day. I heard first from my daughter’s friend, who I love
as another daughter. Then my son. Then later, my girl.
I had a hard time not waiting to hear from them, even though
I TRY my best to not have expectations like that.

So, I went to yoga and then turned my compost pile.
It seemed the best response on a day when many people are wearing corsages and being given cards and boxes of candy. I was happy with my compost.

Then a dinner with our boy. I like a in-person event.

My Mom used to say, “It’s a Hallmark holiday. Every day is Mother’s Day. Go thank a mother.”
Here she is handling a snake in Florida.
I never heard the story of this moment in her long life, but I sure wish I could.
I have been looking at this photo for a few months, thinking she was holding a scythe or some other tool. It wasn’t until I scanned and enlarged the photo did I see the SNAKE!

Joann Ruth Schauer in Florida with a snake
Joann Ruth Schauer in Florida with a snake

Sometimes stories take a closer look.
Don’t you think?

Happy Monday.
Call it what you will.
A piece of mine was published over at The Mid.
It’s about my Mom.
Let me know your thoughts.
xoS

Mother, may I?

Magnolia 3

There is such sweet permission in springtime.

Spring has me standing under towering Horse Chestnut trees to watch the sunlight filter through brand new leaves that weren’t leaves just yesterday. I crane my
neck under the Copper Beech so I can see the new reddish leaves, nearly copper, as they strain the morning sunlight to a golden shade, where just yesterday, there was only sunlight unabated.

Spring has me stopped in my tracks.

 

 

This is what I am listening to.

 

And this is what I see, standing open mouthed under a magnolia petaled by firm, weighted pink blooms. I wonder if I bite in to them, the perfume would soak my tongue. I don’t because they are so very perfect. The heavy petals hit my head falling towards newly green grass.

A reverie.

And my son is home. For a full day. He helped me sort out converting the recording to the proper file for Sound Cloud. He is very helpful. And he asked if I would make recordings of his favorite books on Sound Cloud. I have to sort out permissions on that idea, but some of his favorite books are very old books.

Oh there goes a shiny object taking my attention away from this very blog post. Chart my lost minutes as I follow a rabbit down a hole…ARGHHHHH!!!!

Spring.
How about you?
What are you looking at, mouth agape?

There is news to share here.

Terri Bocklund’s guest blog post on Out of the Mouths of Babes is up today. If you are in the area of Columbia, Maryland, you can hear Terri perform Songs for Mothers and Lovers of Mothers (and others)  at Mad City Cofffee Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 7pm. Terri joined the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer.

Terri has responded to the prompt, The Village: Who else is here while you mother? I am still enjoying the submissions I have received to this call. I will feature them on Laundry Line Divine until I run out. Then, I will be brewing on the theme for 2016.

What aspect of a woman’s life inside motherhood perplexes you? What would you like to investigate in your life? What investigation is calling you? The diverse responses to this theme tug at my heart, challenge my mind and open my eyes to a wide array of influences that women encounter as they mother. I wish you could have been at the live Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others in March. The stories read aloud were fierce and so very full of a vivacity…like those magnolia petals, so dense, so rich, so completely beautiful.

(And now I understand my son’s longing to hear a story voiced)

As you know, I am caught and stung by motherhood, perfumed and poisoned in a certain way, never the same, every day, never the same, changed by it, by the conversations around it, by what I see of myself and others as I mother, what comes true one day that seemed so impossible the day or even hour before.

There are many ways to care for our own lives, as women, as daughters, sisters and mothers.

One of those ways is to give our selves permission to live our fullest lives. I felt for so many years that there was some external permission necessary to be my full self. I kept waiting for my turn to speak. Every single day I engage in a practice of giving myself permission. If you are intrigued by this, consider joining me for an intimate evening at Lifeworks Studio on May 17 at 6:30 PM. More about that here.

And til then, consider what has you perfumed and poisoned?
Where might a dose of permission give you some space to breathe and then take in where you are?

Could permission give you some space to consider where you are headed?

I am curious.
And very intrigued by shiny objects.

S

#16Days of Activism and Cherishing Gratitude

Janet's Offering Boat

A year of giving thanks on Laundry Line Divine:

We have entered the season of lists.
If you have had your fill of ten bests, three worst, or all the things I dream about condensed into seven bullet points, then this post is for you.
I will not be telling you any secrets to surviving the holidays.
I will not divulge just how it is that I already have an Advent wreath on my kitchen table, except to say, please don’t call it an Advent wreath until November 30. Until that date, it is a joyful Thanksgiving table decoration.
This post links to 16 days of action you can take about a very important topic. I move beyond Thanksgiving here. Forewarned is forearmed.

I cannot help but look back at Thanksgiving.

Mostly because it was in 1990 that I was guided by the angels, by my Al-Anon sponsor, by the hands of fate and maybe my long dead grandmother, to sit next to a very nice man who has since become my husband. But on that day, and ever since, JNB is one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever encountered, generous and curious, and he is also fervent dish-doer. Our friend Ted, husband of my sponsor, considers it is his doing that we are coupled these 24 years now, all due to a dearth of clean dishes after Ted’s preparation of a meal for many Thanksgiving orphans, like me. We stood, Ted, JNB and I, in a postage stamp kitchen, three-part-harmony, doing all those dishes. I dried.

SBB and JNB by Ruth Barron 2011

This year on Laundry Line Divine has had many highlights.

Here are links and highlights because while you are digesting pumpkin pie and packing in your courage for the later part of this post, a little dip in to the Laundry Basket might be fun.


• the Giving Motherhood a Voice Book tour to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my brave Anthology authors, three generous host organizations and my husband and me on a 17 hour drive in a car laden with bikes, books and art supplies. We did return with a few rocks. What a great trip it was!
• Making paste papers journals with my friends in Holliston, MA and the adventure Karen, Sarah and I had on the way
• The week I spent at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina making more paste paper, working with clay and dancing with my mentor Paulus Berensohn.
Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others   the event, the blog series and the way this lives today? Mark your calendar for March 7, 2015!
• FeMail Art and IS183’s ArtLab event featuring To Spring From the Hand, a documentary about Paulus and the beauty of the craft arts
• teaching Writing Motherhood at Edith Wharton’s Mount as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
• Reading aloud my piece, A Minor Miracle at Mohonk as part of the Your Brave New Story retreat with Jeffrey Davis
• The long weekend conference Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions that meets next June at Skidmore College. Teaching Rampant Sisterhood was a blast.
• During the rousing, inspiring, captivating, humbling month of Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, I got to meet and present Gloria Steinem with my book and a gift. What a joy.
Seeing Sarah Ruhl in a reading of her collection, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Sarah is one of the 20 topmost produced playwrights in the USA not counting Shakespeare.
Slow Time Salon on Superior, making art and exploring our awareness of what happens when we slow down with 10 brave women on the shores of Lake Superior in August.
• My girl Catherine and all the work she has done in her junior year already, but mostly her maṇḍala project.
• My boy Benjamin, spending the first part of the year playing lacrosse, then working in Munich, then heading to college. He will be home in a few hours.
Being in Milwaukee with my sister and niece and my Geri.
• Being on the Cape with my sisters and our families.
Paper dress show at the PRESS gallery in North Adams, MA. Exploring themes of permission, freedom and constriction with paper and words.
• The day my pal Nancy Moon came up for a day in the Berkshires.
• Exploring myth during late winter with Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam Workshops and another weekend retreat with Catherine Anderson and Cat Caracelo exploring our personal myths. The day I spent alone with Catherine after that was pregnant with ideas and inspiration.
• The steady pulse of posting here on Laundry Line Divine. My more sporadic posting on Berkshire Family Focus. And all the people I have connected with online, especially Lucy Pearce, Pippa Best, Mandy Thompson, Tania Pryputniewicz, and Jennifer Louden.
• The Powder Keg Sessions, both the Sunday Sessions and the Ramsdell Sessions: what a varying group of amazing women who are willing to show up and write together. You can come hear them read on February 22, 2015 in West Stockbridge, MA at No. 6 Depot. 2 PM.

There are many more things that happened this year. This list is neither complete or in order, but if you follow the links, you will get a sense of how things roll out on the Laundry Line. There have been moments with friends, meeting new ones like Emily McKhann at the Social Good Summit or Holly Wren Spaulding at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, that have touched me deeply. By far, the most gratifying experience for me here is your comments. I have developed online relationships with some amazing bloggers, some of whom I know now and am close friends with, but I must say thank you to Elizabeth, Jennifer, Julie, Marisa, Nancy, Joanne, Laurie, Lori, Lorrin, Kitty, Mandy, Jenni, Amanda, Collen, Janet and Tara and so many more- your words mean so much to me. Those of you who don’t comment, but send me emails or speak to me in person-this back and forth gives me courage. I thank you for this.

I cannot leave this gratitude shower without some attention to the fact that today,

November 25, is Amnesty International’s day to stand up for women on

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The linked post offers you suggestions of things you can do over the next 16 days.

Last night, after a busy day, I sat at the kitchen table reading the new issue of Rolling Stone that had arrived in the mail. It was late. I had tea and a slice of gingerbread cake. I could have picked up an Athleta catalog. But I read the Rolling Stone coverage by Sabrina Rubin Eberly, of an alleged campus rape at the University of Virginia and the culture around sexual assault and date rape on campuses across the US.

If I’d read the catalog, I would have slept better.
Since I read the article, dreamed the dreams I had, I woke thinking of my son on a campus, playing lacrosse and studying to be an EMT, about my daughter, soon to head to college and all the kids I know who have set off to institutions of higher learning in the past few years…. all of them, each of them, fresh thinkers, inspired young people eager to engage in a bigger way.

What if one of them experienced what many girls and boys are experiencing on campuses?
Do you realize that in a college cafeteria, students are warned not to leave their meal trays with open drinks on them alone? The concern is that someone might slip a date rape drug in to his or her iced tea. Does that surprise you? Ask the nearest college kid about this practice.

My son is about to arrive home from school within a few hours. I really want to talk this over with him without stirring his concern that I am worried about his behavior. I have no desire to instruct him, but I want to ask him this and since I am here with you on Laundry Line Divine, I must ask you too:

What is missing in the lives of our children today that they escape to college for unlimited partying and wild social lives? Why the need to be so inebriated? What are they seeking to escape or create? If one person’s fun injures another, then how can that still be fun? How do we help our kids understand limits and tolerance? How do we as parents instruct our children when they are still young and attentive to our teaching that social lives that denigrate one person or another, members of either sex, cannot but lead to dangerous activity?

What is a mother to do?

IMG_2139

Finding my way in to the arena of conversation with my kids is what I can do today. The facts make it imperative. The Rolling Stone article states

“One in five women is sexually assaulted in college, though only about 12 percent report it to police.”

You can read the New York Times coverage here.

So while you are managing the pumpkin pies and who is sleeping where in your full house this week, take a look at the crowd of girls at your kitchen table. Are there five of them there?

Conversation with our children is the best tool I know today to deal with the worries that plague mothers. Having the courage to open a difficult topic within the safety of our own homes is one way to draw common ground and explore scary realities. We cannot stop the reality, but we can find ways to build resilience, compassion and tools for self-care with our children.

I am about to write, “Hate to be a bummer.”
But it is true.
Motherhood puts you in direct line for a shitload of worry and concerns your whole life. Just ask the mothers of military personnel or parents and teachers in New Orléans.
We cannot gather round tables laden with food and love, without also too acknowledging our blessings and the power that compassion can work in the world.

My friend Peggy just sent this quote in her Thanksgiving message. It is more perfect to me than pie.

English novelist Dinah Maria Mulock Craik said:
“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out…knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

I urge you to find ways in to gratitude this week.
Talk about gratitude, express your gratitude, take action in gratitude.      (click that link to Tweet if you please. xo)
I urge you to find the courage to talk about the hard stuff…maybe not over the Thanksgiving table, but sometime, find a way to invite conversation with your kids. No matter how old they are, there is an appropriate way to speak about social behavior, kindness, integrity and truth. Topics about alcohol and drug use, topics about how to ask for and find help or how to help a friend in need.

Our children rely on us to lead, no matter how old they are.

At Helen's in Ishpeming

 

Thank you for staying with me this long.
I am grateful, so purely grateful for the community of Laundry Line Divine.
Many thanks to you and much love,

S

 

 

PS If you need more information or want to look at a website designed to support conversations about gender equality, see He For She.

 

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