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Which Opportunity?

Catherine and SBB at No. Six Depot taken by my son Benjamin

I am sitting in my kitchen, my laptop in my, well, on my lap and my toes wriggled in to the slots in the radiator. A chilly rain falls on my newly raked out garden, like a shower on a balding head, reaching the soil ever so swiftly. No resistant leaves to slow the soaking wet.

I await the chiming of my kitchen timer, ringing every five minutes as a request to shift around another batch of ginger molasses cookies that I am about to drive over the high school theatre where my daughter, the birthday girl, is in tech rehearsals for the Shakespeare & Company Fall Festival. In this version of Henry VI, she plays a man. It is a set of bloody scenes with lots of stage fighting, not something for the fairy loving set. She plays Buckingham and does not fight, nor does she die. But she is turning 18 and so today, I bake.

In the version of today, November 10, that I am living, toes on the radiator, ginger molasses dough under my fingernails and the kitchen smelling like a place you want to hang around in all afternoon, I am celebrating her birthday and in a certain sort of shock, mourning, stunned-towards-agreement. I am in awe on this auspicious day. When I woke this morning, I lolled around for another visit to the dream I was having, then heard her padding along in the hallway and
I broke in to a rousing “Happy Birthday” at dawn’s early light. My first thoughts are of her and her brother, however old they are, my prayers banter with my worry, my meditation placates my projected agenda and I listen, listen, listen for signs of need, concern, and outright joy.

St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
Girl with the cherry earrings
Girl with the cherry earrings

On my cushion the thought came to me that this day is one of particular opportunity for me. But, what confounded me then is the question that has confounded me since I began this motherhood career, that of which opportunity? Isn’t that always the thing? Every time we fly we are coached with what I know to be good advice, “put your own mask on first before assisting others,” but the others quickly expand beyond your progeny, your mate, your pets, your parents, your siblings, the tomatoes, your job, your other boss, your tiny bosses, the school your kids go to, the schools they might want to attend, your faith practice, your friends, the poems that tantalize you when you are seemingly idle, and all the other ways fancy, inspiration and dreams dare you to draw them on to your lap.

There are many factors that decide our time for us. Delivery times for kids, articles, donations to fund-raisers, thank you notes, completed jobs, inquires, appeals, submissions, contributions, invitations-all the ways we do things that adhere to a timely arrival of the expected materials cause us to rouse and make haste. But then there are the other calls, the ones that show up in our dreamy times, in our journals, doodled in the sidebars of the tests you are grading-somewhere over there, out of the reach of your direct discerning attention, in the shady area where yearning and action do a little gig.
Lately, I have been researching how my work hours go when I don’t check email after every little thing I do and parceling out the minutes I spend on social media. I learned this from my friend Katey Schultz who posted an excellent piece here about how we use time online. For nearly a week I have mostly sequestered my email and online time to three segments of an hour a day. I respond to the immediate needs with care. I flag items that I need to mull over. And I delete a ton of email. I spend a bit of time on the social media sites I am active on, then I get to work. This new boundary I have made relieves me of a burden I had completely adjusted to, feeling anxious if I had not checked my email every hour. And really, there is nothing that cannot wait for at least a few hours. People who need to reach me about emergencies will text or call, and so, the online beast becomes something like a domesticated animal that I feed on a schedule. Moo. Arf. Peep. The animal is content.

Every single day we make choices about how we use our time. Do you put limits on your hours with email or on the Internet? I surely appreciate that some of your time is spent here on Laundry Line Divine. Thank you!

Here are some friends I have lingered with this week.

Janet at Modern Loss.
Joanne at Your Digital Blueprint for my #RampantSisterhood
Natalia at IndieGogo-help another artist mom fund her work
My friend Bryan plays Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank at NJ Shakespeare. It is an excellent, moving, affecting production.

Lastly, I will be selling my bespoke journals and Powder Keg Sessions painted prompt cards, along with copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Creative Spirit Showcase on November 22, 2-15 in Pittsfield, MA. I’d love to meet you there!

Catherine’s day has been sweet. I feel her turning towards womanhood and meeting similar challenges that I met-jarring moments of surprise where gender affects decisions made by adults that you thought would not yield to stereotypes. She has weathered a few bumps this week so differently than I would have at her age and I am proud of her. But where, oh where is the girl who hung cherries on her ears and made puppet shows for hours? I took the opportunity to watch a bit of the play rehearsal after dropping off the cookies this afternoon. She affects a male swagger in knee high boots, a low-slung belt and sword, and I gasp. She is so believable as perhaps, the 8th wonder of the World, this young becoming woman. I miss that little girl; I observe this blossoming beast and I will feed it cookies and tea until I am no longer.

CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri
CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri

So. Good evening my dear pals.
And much love,


Making Time

Leaf heart

I have been away all week in a most beautiful location in the Catskill Mountains, Mohonk Mountain House, which is a very popular place at this time of year. The fall colors are peaking and on the ridge of the Schawangunk Mountains, the vistas are remarkable.

Early morning at Mohonk.
Early morning at Mohonk.

Every morning my wise mentor, Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder, meets all who care to, at 7:00 AM out in dawn’s early light for a walking meditation out to a cliff. We sit to watch the sun reach over this ridge and in to the valley west of us. Every morning this week has been different. We have watched the golden leaves turn more golden. The reds have come out in the sugar maples. This dense diverse forest is rich in hardwoods so the path is full of differently shaped leaves. We hear Crows, Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows. The squirrels and chipmunks startle as we pass, even when we are a silent string of women walking in step single file, gently closed fists clasped over our bellies, eyes cast on the path before us. After a certain point, Jeffrey claps the signal that we can lift our gaze and walk at our own pace. Yesterday, steps after lifting our eyes, there was a double rainbow right in front of us.

Morning rainbow

It has been a week soaked in wonder.

I am here working on my book, Laundry Line Divine. I made important headway on this work that has carried me along since I started writing it 7 years ago. I think I can see the book as a whole now.

What came through most clearly to me this week as we worked on story structure and looked at aspects of our work in the world as business artists is this. The fullness of what you have come to recognize as Laundry Line Divine stands for the value of every woman’s life, no matter where she is on the spectrum of motherhood, no matter what age, no matter where she lives. As I read segments of my book to the gathered company last evening, I sensed resonance in a way that ears sense sound. I felt heard by the variety of women in the room, heard and listened to. For a writer, this is a sweet sweet thing.

The conditions of every woman’s life require some consistent elements and one that I believe is key to our well being is time. Sufficient time in solitude, out of the range of our myriad responsibilities, enough time to fill our inner wells. The work I do in the world, as an artist and writer, as a teacher and workshop facilitator, as a mother and wife, is all tied to tending time and how we spend it, as a family and as singular beings. My commitment to my daily creative practice shapes the way I spend time. It also impacts what I teach, what I make and how I make it, whether it is plum jam, dinner or a hand bound journal.

Mohonk clock face









Another woman on this writing retreat, Donna Druchunas, of Sheep to Shawl, doodled while she listened. We peeked in to each other’s journals. These illustrations are hers.

I hope this weekend finds you with time outside, in golden fall, if it is happening where you live. Or just simply with time to do what feeds you, even a short time will do. And if, like me, you have a mountain of wash to hang, take it outside in the fresh air. I assure you, the time will bring you joy.

Barb Bruckner Suarez and me on the cliffs
I got to meet Barb Saurez in person this week. Her blog Birth Happens is wonderful. We clearly shared the same dreams last night because her blog and this one are in the same field today.


Super Powers are dangerous. Quest 2015

Catherine and Suzi 1999
It’s #TBT right? Me and the adventuring Cgirl in 1999.



Today is January 29, 2015.
That means I am 38 days away from Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others.
That means this blog is about to burble with activity in the Out blog series.
That means I am 25 days away from the show at No. Six Depot of my Coptic stitch journals, titled “What a daily writing practice looks like: The Hand bound journals of Suzi Banks Baum” and the public reading of the women of my Powder Keg Sessions writing workshops.

This also means I am deeply immersed in the small projects I am doing that will illuminate these events. It also means my writing time is divided up and so far, I have slipped out of my long post/short post schedule here on LLD.

My @Quest mate Brenna Layne wrote this post about developing brevity as she hones her time-shaping skills. For many years, I considered multitasking as my super-mother-power-force for maximizing my time. You know, churning the butter while rocking the baby, while working on my abs? Exercising this power, I got cricks in my neck from holding the phone while hanging laundry, dropped the phone in the rain barrel more than once, and nearly blinded myself by leaving a spoon in the blender and looking away at some other small shiny object while I pressed the ON button. The kids were fascinated by the pattern spread across the ceiling from the blueberry smoothie. We will call this episode “another cleaning opportunity” and not chide myself anymore than the nightmares I had about being impaled by a soup spoon have done.

Doing one thing at a time while you have children underfoot is really a challenge. There is always a pot of soup simmering, a load of wash spinning, someone throwing up or jumping off radiators, beds to change and lunches to unpack. And, there is the dreaded topic that I still hate: dinner. For inspiration, I always go here.

Today, no kids underfoot and I am still capable of near death experiences by distraction. I am, however, letting that super power go.

Light Divine Clarity

So to better deliver a quality blog post and magnificent events to you, filled with lasting impressions of real life illuminated by articulate women engaged with their creative voices, I may put up shorter posts this coming month. And perhaps only once a week. There will be guest posts, and photo posts and tiny glimpses of the short movie Lynnette Lucy Najimy and I are making with miles of great footage submitted by many of the women of the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. The short movie will be full of moments in these women’s lives where they “leave the dishes” as Louise Erdrich suggests in her catalyzing poem, Advice to Myself.

People often ask me how I do all that I do.
I have a couple of answers to that, but I have to admit I am growing my brevity muscle and my “no thank you” muscle and the discipline to consider that the urgency of an incoming email is not something with which I have to engage at the moment of seeing it.

Just writing this makes me feel I have more room to breathe.

Thank you for reading me here on Laundry Line Divine.
Please stay in touch by subscribing to this website.
I do send out a newsletter once a month, usually.
And you can count on at least weekly posts here where I illuminate the sacred in daily life, with kids underfoot or not.


If You Worry, Why Pray? If You Pray, Why Worry?

Lake George and the moon

This sounded so manageable before I had kids.

Arriving with the boatload of life-change my offspring brought in to
my tidy little life, was a continually developing habit of worry disguised as imaginative thought. This habit became the default setting for my mind.

One small event is expanded upon. It is as if a Sears catalog of horribles opens with the merest slight. My mind draws on all resources including hearsay, titles from grocery aisle magazines and Huffington Post blogs, everything I have ever heard said about, say, concussions or menstrual cramps or faulty brakes comes forward. I not only deal with the facts at hand, but I have this Wagnerian chorus chanting doom in the background.

Some days the chant murmurs.
Some days, it lofts to colossal measure.
Worry prepares me, I think. I check through my resources and concoct solutions to possible outcomes.

I found myself at the kitchen table the other midnight. I laced my Sleepy time tea with elderflower syrup because that is what Janet would do for me, if she was there
in her jammies, reading and keeping company. But I was alone, and though I know I am never truly alone-by this I don’t mean mice or my husband upstairs snoring, I mean that I am never truly abandoned by the Holy. But, the Holy was not there in flannel at the table with me to talk through my concern about something that had happened to one of our kids that day.

Winter Berkshires

I do pray. Without ceasing, really. Not in the way that I learned as a child, I don’t grovel or abnegate. But I face this Power Greater Than Myself, and for the sake of brevity, please call that Power whatever you will and let us allow each other that name in our hearts. I do pray earnestly with a heart full of gratitude for the many blessings in my life. I read, on another night at the kitchen table, Danielle LaPorte’s words, which so closely resemble my own.

In The Desire Map, Danielle writes “My relationship to prayer has transformed in parallel with my relationship to life. My name for God has changed. My location for God has changed. My capacity to feel God has changed. What I used to call him, I now call Life.”

Believe me, I have sat with people who are dying, people who I knew to have lived long lives devoted to a religious practice, others with a deeply personal relationship to the Holy not attached to an organized religion. There was no debate in these hallowed moments, where the lapses between breaths were counted, where time slowed and the shimmery veil between life and death rested on our shoulders. There was no debate in these moments about which club they belonged to or not. There was no checking of credentials. There was life and there was Life and as I sat with these cherished souls making their way, picking their way with tender aliveness over the last rocks and crevices of their time on earth, which is to say, there was care and time here, slow, very slow time, I never ever felt that the religious or the not religious ones were more or less welcomed in to death.

This strengthens my resolve that though I do worry, and some days, I worry a lot, my prayers are answered in ways that I cannot know immediately. It struck me during a perfectly horrible time with my son, when his teenagerliness overshadowed any kindness between us and our conversations were minefields, that this, even this, was exactly how things were supposed to be.

My heart, bless my heart, my heart or my deeper knowing that is revealed in quiet hours, asked, “What if this is exactly how things are supposed to be?”

Magnificent Goat

There was a moment, at 10:17am on a Saturday 3 years ago, when my husband called from a Berkshire ski mountain to say that the EMT s had him, but our boy had a badly broken leg and I should come, now, right now, and meet them at the hospital in Hudson. I leapt to my knees to pray. It anchored me in grace. I don’t think there was a second of consideration of to whom I was praying. Names were not mentioned. Grace was provided. Courage and stamina for a grueling day of holding my son’s head in the ambulance as they transported him from one hospital to another on a very very very rough, icy wintry road where every bump caused him to gasp and tears to flow. The EMT who sat with us in the back of the ambulance breathed with us. There was plenty of grace. No names mentioned.

So, this week, when I was murdering Wednesday night with worry, I let my prayers become, as Danielle suggests, declarations. I love my child. I “immersed myself in the pure wanting” of this child to be safe and well, to heal and feel comfort. There was something different in this praying than I have ever experienced. Rather that seeing the horribles, I envisioned all that was possible, I envisioned that child well. The Wagnerian chants quieted. I was able to finish my tea and crawl back in to bed.

Kripalu Mountain

Years ago, when we were planning our wedding, the celebration of our faith lineages uniting as one (read: Lutheran meets Jewish, Escanaba Michigan meets Coney Island New York), we found a verse that resonated for us then and has only increased in importance to us now. Our best friend Benita read from Psalm 121:

A song of degrees. I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Looking in to the hills at night is not so easy, but the stars help. Looking in to the hills from my desk right now is one way that I gain perspective and calm myself. Truly, we have all witnessed horrible events in our lives, which cannot be explained or mollified by “being the perfect thing”. But, having witnessed those things myself, knowing grave loss and tragedy, untimely death, stupid mistakes and earth shattering changes, I know that I live differently because of them. Perfection arrives in knowing more, in learning, in gaining confidence standing close to the edges of life and feeling the presence of whatever you call the Holy. And though I cannot stem the losses, my living differently, this slowing down is the gift.

Worrying, how I love thee. Worry, you bring me in to necessary relationship to slow, to prayer, to requests for help and light. Worrying, though I carry you as a horned Viking screeching agonies, you drive me to candle light and to seeing what I desire.

“Desire joins you with God, with Life.” writes Danielle.

All is well today. Bumps are healed. Legs are strong. Tests have been taken. Life bumbles along. There was a bluebird, a female, at the feeder near our kitchen window this morning. Almost too heavy to perch without shutting the feeder, she batted her wings wildly while grabbing seed- her body engaged with frantic beating while her beak steadied to reach and gather seed. This combination of action and focus is just like worry and prayer for me. I may be worrying frantically, but prayer allows me to focus and rally what I need for the situation at hand.

May your desires bring you closer to God, closer to Life.

I woke up singing this song, which led me to think about mountains, which led me to thinking about worry and prayer, which led me here.
To you.

Thank you for reading me here. Please share this post with a friend. Share it with your people if you are up to that. And look up at the hills.

xo S





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