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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.







Acting With Grace and Joy: summertime pleasure research


Clothespins at the Coop

These windy June days are perfect for hanging wash on a laundry line.


I am heading to Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions tomorrow for
three days of learning, sharing and celebrating women creatives
at Skidmore College. The symposium is led by my friend Jan Phillips.

This morning I read Jennifer Currie’s newsletter. I think she has been reading over my shoulder as I prepare my class plans for Rampant Sisterhood.

I teach women who want to build platforms for their work online.

Jennifer asks a beautiful question that I wanted to share with you.

So, I’m wondering…what dreams and great ideas are you turning over in your mind or actively working toward? Now is a great time to be doing research and creating a plan. Mercury is Retrograde until July 1st, and it’s good to review things, gather information, and complete projects that are already underway. Mercury is the planet that rules communication, travel, and electronics so it does have a reputation for causing miscommunications, computer glitches, appointments that seem to vanish from the calendar, and urgent texts that don’t go through {to name a few}.
from Jennifer Currie’s newsletter

My dreams and great ideas are percolating like mad this month.
I consider summer a time for research. I try to make my decisions based on pleasure, no matter what. Yesterday I was in North Adams where I am collaborating with a group of women artists making paper dresses. I’d spent the afternoon making pressure prints from fabrics I have kept hoarded 35 years or more. I hauled out a black silk kimono that I’d borrowed stole from a community theatre I worked with when I was a teen. I wore it to a party and someone spilled white wine on me. I was horrified. I tried to repair the damage, but wine on black silk permanently altered the fabric, so I carried that kimono around with me to every single place I have lived and never wore it again. It had a terrible stain on the front.

It was in my box of shame.

Yesterday, I gave myself permission to let it out.
My friend Karen, who is my FeMail collaborator, stood next to me as I bravely cut out the embroidered panels of the dress and used one on a printing plate. I set up the Vandercook press under the guidance of my friend Melanie, and before you know it, the very piece of clothing which bore the shame of my mistakes- multiple- come on! I took it without asking. I wore it. And while I wore it, the kimono was ruined.
Not life shattering but I take my integrity seriously. Even at 18, I knew I was in the wrong.

Yesterday allowed me to release this mistake and let that shame be transformed in to art. Jan says this:

To create is to make something whole from the pieces of our lives and in the process to become more whole ourselves.
~Jan Phillips

Whatever I am making makes me whole, mends the rents that daily living make in my spirit.

Whether it was the hummus I made on Sunday or the pressure prints I made yesterday, the book I published last March or the book tour I am taking with that very book back to my homeland- back to the town with the very community theatre that I stole from! Hey, I am sure there is some way I can make a little forgive me card from one of the prints.

Oh well. You see how one thing leads to another in my life.



A doodle in the ZenTangle style by my dear Carol LeBlanc
A doodle in the ZenTangle style by my dear Carol LeBlanc

The breeze is high in the Berkshires today.
Forgiveness is running clear.

So I want to ask you:
What wholeness can you create from something you release?
A cleared off shelf upon which to set a vase of peonies?
A dumped out magazine bin to turn over and set your latest doodle in a frame upon?
Some badge of shame that really does not need to clutter your life anymore?

I look forward to hearing.
Heading out to the laundry line,



Thank you for reading Laundry Line Divine.


For more writing from inside motherhood by Suzi and 35 other women, find yourself a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In a recent review posted on Amazon and Good Reads, a reader said:


This book is filled with little gems, golden nuggets of words and illustrations, emotions and dreams, vulnerabilities and expressions of deep pride, humor, poetry, and prose that’s visceral.


You can give a gift to a friend that has the power to grace women’s lives. Proceeds from the sale of An Anthology of Babes benefit two organizations in Berkshire County that provide free and low cost health care for women and families locally. Make a difference in one woman’s life that ripples out in to the world.

If you will be in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August and would like to know more about the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour, subscribe to this site for updates and opportunities to connect.


Order your copy here.



Jenny Doh’s JOURNAL IT!

Super excited to review #journalit by @jennydoh featuring one of my favorite art sisters- Melanie Mowinski of #PRESS. XoS

I admit it.
I love books. (recent purchases are Barbara Kingsolvers’ new fiction and a gorgeous book about writing by Katherine Paterson)
I love to read books. (see a girl with very bad hair emerging from the library, feeling her way down the steps with her feet because she cannot see around the armload of books tucked under her chin obscuring her view)
I love to make books. (I make and keep a daily journal, art journals, collage-a-day art journals, tiny books of quotes, recipe journals, desire journals)

Book taking shape. Sewed one today. More tomorrow. #paulusberensohn #laundrylinedivine #mixedmedia #artistbooks #fun

And, I love books about making books.

My pal, Melanie Mowinski is a sister in art making. Mel runs PRESS up in North Adams, alongside being a professor of art at Massachusetts College for Liberal Arts.
Mel was recently featured in Journal It! Perspectives in Creative Journaling by Jenny Doh.

Mel sent it to me so I could read it and share it with you.

But the sharing got delayed because after pouring over the book, I got busy with these.

As close readers of LLD know, I am a collaborator with Karen Arp-Sandel in FeMail. We create one of kind mail art that we send to each other. We produce a line of note cards with our work and we sell postcard collage kits filled with vintage, hand painted and found papers for you to jump start a piece of mail art. You can find these in the gift shop at Kripalu in Lenox, MA or at our website.

Selling @FeMailArtNews art notecards at the #wwam weekend marketplace. Don't ya wanna sit right down and write someone a letter? #snailmail

Thinking I was preparing papers for our mail art kits, I took the cue from page 101 and used walnut spray, gesso, watercolor inks to create these pages that I have since decided will be part of my next ArtHouse Sketchbook Project for the Brooklyn Art Library. I will keep painting papers for our kits, but this series is calling to be used in my next sketchbook. Here is a visit with one of my sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library.

Journal It! gathers 29 artists who keep a wide variety of visual journals- from gardens to photographs to Tyvek tree journals. If you have any appetite at all to embellish your journals or to keep a visual journal this book offers you just the direction you need to get started. And, if you are, like me, an avid art journal keeper, filling books with doodles, collages and writing, this book will light you on fire.

Melanie’s books are made from dyed Tyvek.
Just take that in for a moment.
She makes books about trees that are just so fine; you will look out at your yard and want to go rub the bark of those tall sentinels who provide you with shade. Now, they will provide you with art!

The techniques highlighted in this book are all attainable without fancy equipment.
There is a great list of definitions and resources in the back. The sidebars give you small bites of information that can change your approach by giving you ready tools.

A journal captures your journey. The transit of one day or a trip or a relationship or a project documented with techniques found in Journal It! will hold your attention for years to come.

Jenny Doh says about making Journal It!,

“I have come to value the process of studying and observing my surroundings. Journaling allows me to be a good observer and it allows me the opportunity to better react, respond, and relate to all that is around me.”

Jenny has assembled a lively inspired group of people who keep journals for all sorts of reasons. I believe that capturing your day, your experience on paper gives you the chance to integrate the learning of each day, the gifts each day delivers in your life and opens the door to a deeper understanding of your self in the world.

These books, artist books, art journals, collage-a-day or visual journals all fall in to a larger group that I call by an ancient reference, ‘commonplace books’. All of these books are visual and intellectual collections of inspirations and experiences, written, illustrated or simply scratched out in list form, as a way to document your time. Commonplace books were used to collect ideas on a theme, to draw out ideas from a collection of sources compiled therein.

It is a human act to collect and order our thoughts. Books have been used as a means to cataloging a time since the earliest centuries. Great thinkers, inventors, scientists and artists have collected their ideas in commonplace books. I love the term ‘commonplace book’ because it draws on our daily life as source material. You can fill a book with lists of what you see on your way to work, with doodles you make while on the phone with your grandma or ideas for your next great novel. Think of your high school diary and the love sodden poems you illustrated in number 2 pencil. Think of the doodles in side margins of all those yellow pads of lined paper you filled in biology class. We are constantly digesting the information we take in. Giving your thoughts and ideas and daily experiences a home in a gorgeously created book elevates the act of keeping a log to making art simply by paying attention and letting yourself play for a while.

If you’d like some company with making a small journal of your own to capture your writing, you could join me at the International Women’s Writing Guild Winter Wonderland conference in February. Information will be out on this gathering soon. I will be leading a workshop about the commonplace book and writing techniques, mixed with some art experiences. We will play with words, paper and color for a weekend retreat with other women writers. The conference will host one of my favorite poets, Myra Shapiro, author of 12 Floors Above Earth, who is a fierce teacher of the art of poetry and an experienced miner of the magic in daily life.

Karen and I will be leading a FeMail workshop in the Berkshires in the fall of 2013 where we will dive deeply in to art and writing techniques and build our own commonplace books over the course of a weekend. But if you are far from here, look at your local art stores or schools for classes to get you started on embellishing your journals. The web is full of people sharing their art journals for inspiration. Many artists are showing their artist books in shows. I would love to see the books in Journal It! in person, but the next best thing is pouring over the beautifully laid out pages of this hefty book and taking plenty of notes!

I don’t know about you, but the information overload I experience every day is better managed when I write and make art. My journals keep me seated in real time where the virtual world melts away. I dare you to take up journal keeping and heck, I double dare you to doodle. Here is a post about some books I made last summer.

Hand doodle in progress. XoS

Please go find Jenny Doh’s beautiful new book published by Lark Crafts. Here is a link to Amazon, but I bet you’d like to go to your local bookseller to buy it there.

Let me know how this journal thing goes for you.
Where do you like to write?

Start with a comment below!
xo S

Favorite Frame #10 by Michelle Gillett here on the Laundry Line- and she brought snacks!

Michelle Gillett, our poet in the house of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’, won the first copy of Alana Chernila’s new cookbook The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. Here is the first report from her kitchen. More on this week’s drawing below.

We all win sometimes. I hit the jackpot twice when I got to read an essay about mothering at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers’ event, “Out of the Mouths of Babes.” Not only did I get to read about running a marathon (okay, a half marathon) with my daughter, but I got the added bonus of reading with five wonderful writers. The energy and pleasure of the evening—reading to a receptive and attentive audience, listening to my colleagues’ stories, engaging in a lively discussion about creativity and mothering– made it memorable.

And THEN I won one of the event’s raffle prizes: a copy of Alana Chernila’s about-to-be published cookbook, “The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making.” (Clarkson Potter)

I didn’t leaf through its pages noting what I would or would not be likely to cook as I usually do with cookbooks; instead, I read the stories about food and family that precede each recipe section and found them to be as nourishing as the recipes and advice offered in the book’s pages. Then I looked at the photographs and reminisced about my two daughters when they were same ages as Alana’s girls.

I looked at the photographs some more, read some more. I was as hooked as I am when I read a really good novel. But I thought I should honor the book’s intention and try out a recipe. Since I always make a snack for the writing workshop I teach, I studied the possibilities for baked goods and found a recipe that sounded uncomplicated yet likely to satisfy my students’ hunger after a lengthy discussion of “the unreliable narrator.” (It’s one thing to be an unreliable narrator, but quite another to be an unreliable baker.) I decided to make “Car Snack 2: The Sweet Bar, because I happened to have all the necessary ingredients in my cupboards including Lyle’s Golden Syrup. They were easy to make and delicious.

In the essay my students read in the workshop this week, “The Truthless Narrator,” the author Judy Doegnes writes, “…in the end our unstable world doesn’t topple the unreliable narrator but shores him up.” After our break for tea and coffee and snacks, I encouraged them to try creating their own unreliable narrators which they did with great success no doubt because they were shored up by Alana’s Sweet Bars.

Thank you Suzi and Alana for rewarding me with so much enriching and enduring sweetness!

Thank you Michelle!

Snack bars! Potato Chips? Butter? Alana offers a story for them all along with the warmest of invitations to her table, where, if you are lucky, Joey and the girls will share a jar of homemade pickles they just cracked open.
Would you love to win this book or one of the recipes of our bedtime snacks? Or, a piece of my art work, a letterpress print with a quote from my ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ program?
To register you must be a subscriber to this site already or become one by simply filling out the box in the upper right hand corner of this page. You will be joining my mailing list, which will deliver to you a discreet note every time I put up a new post and a very occasional announcement of Laundry Line Divine events.

One upcoming event is my appearance in Pittsfield at the Alchemy Initiative on April 28 for a day-long FeMail workshop with my collaborator Karen Arp-Sandel. Details here.
Another is my appearance in the WAM (Women’s Action Movement) theatre 24 Hour Theatre Project on April 14th. Details here.
And lastly, Michelle Gillett is leading a Memoir workshop with another of my She-ros, Marion Roach Smith, on April 20 &21, 2012 at the Stockbridge Library. Details here.

But first! Wait! There is more fun with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers first. Saturday the Gala closing of the Festival at The Mount. I will be there, grinning from ear to ear, celebrating this wonderful Festival and all it has created here in the Berkshires and the ripples that flow out from this beautiful place.

I cannot leave without telling you about another mother author who shared her journey with her adult son, this time in Manhattan. Linda Wisniewski came to ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog series through Face Book and I could not be happier. Please read her post here.

The growing list of women offering their insights in to their mothering through the lens of creativity fills me with glee. Thank you authors and readers for joining this discussion.

Be the Ripple, right?
xoxox Love,

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