The Barefoot Heart

adventures & derring-do in the third half of life

Happy Daddy’s Day . . . To Those Who’ve Earned It

He called me “Doll”, and even the most ardent feminist in me felt not trivialized and objectified but loved and supported. He said things like “If bullfrogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their fannies” and “I don’t give a rat’s ass what so-and-so said or did, you are not them, you are Jeanne.” He didn’t coddle or smother or take over, but he was always ready and available to help if asked. He  repeated the good things he learned about parenting from his dad and replaced the not-so-good things with something better. He taught my daughter and me what to look for in a good man, and he taught my son how to be a good man. He died way too young, and I miss him every single day.

He calls them Al and Kipp and tells them things like “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong” and “Where you are today is a result of the choices you’ve made.” He doesn’t coddle or smother or take over, but he is always ready and willing to help if asked. He taught my daughter what a good man is, and he taught my son how to be one.

One is my daddy, one is the father of my children. I can’t imagine anybody else I’d rather have be my dad or dad to my children. Both are dads I celebrate and cherish, remember and honor not just today, but pretty much every day.

To all the good dads – the loving, supportive, nurturing dads – Happy Father’s Day and thank you for making the world a better place by raising Good kids. To all the sorry men who had the same chance as other men to be a good dad but didn’t bother, shame on you. 


It’s All About Choices, Y’all




It’s all about choices, y’all. Choices and consequences. A pretty simple concept with pretty darn important repercussions. Too often we let somebody else make our choices for us and we are surprised or unhappy or cranky with the results. Or we go through every single day with a nasty, negative attitude and we wonder why we are so miserable. If these remarks resemble you, thunk yourself up side the head for me, will you? We learn a lot about ourselves from the choices we make and the consequences that ensue, and we learn a lot from life in general when we stew, thrive, or wrestle in life lived in the aforementioned consequences. Making our own choices, accepting responsibility and/or asking for help living the consequences, and making different choices when possible and necessary are the keys to living a self-determined life, and if you ask me, there’s no finer way to live.

Too often we take away the choices of others in the name of expediency or ease. Take dying people, for example. As life wanes, all too often opportunities to choose do, too. I’m not talking about drastic measures – that should already be spelled out in the living wills and such. I’m talking about things like what to eat and what to wear and what would you like to listen to now.


We spent today with Nancy, and we fiddled with cloth because I wanted to give her the option to do something besides draw. If you could see the video (I am, for the first time ever, traveling without my computer, and let me tell you: there’s a rather steep learning curve when blogging from the iPad, so alas, no video.) hear me in the background of the video asking Nancy what color cloth she wants to add next. (Though I don’t have to admit it here since you can’t see the video, I will nevertheless tell you that I am surprised and embarrassed and disappointed at the way I kinda’ rushed and overwhelmed by offering 3 color choices instead of waiting for her to process and decide, but that’s the value of video, and now that I’m aware, it won’t happen again.) She chose to fiddle with cloth; she chose which colors she wanted to add; and eventually she chose to pick up her crayons. 


It was, as all days spent with Nancy are, fun, worthwhile, and thought-provoking. What say we make our own choices instead of abdicating our power, and what say we strive to gift others with the opportunity to make their own choices every chance we get. It’s a quality of life thing.

Inner Authority

IOOL4 10

In Our Own Language 4:10

His grandfather took him into the woods and left him in the quiet all day long. At the end of the day, his grandfather would fetch him and ask: What did you see? What did you feel? What did you learn?

You can learn a lot from reading and listening and watching, but you develop your Inner Authority from doing.

Though she has many external authorities in her life, Nancy also has an Inner Authority. I can see it when she makes her marks – the way she starts without hesitation, the way she stops when she knows she’s finished, the way she selects her colors and turns the page and sometimes rips the page into pieces, keeping the bits she likes while discarding the rest.


She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love) draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.

I Mean It


In Our Own Language 4:9

We All know a lot more than we think we do
and Wisdom is buried inside Each One of Us.
All we need is a way to make Art,
a Good Listener
or a Good Looker
Someone to Witness us
to help the Knowledge and the Wisdom
to emerge and flow.

PS: And hey,
if anybody ever tells you junk that sounds like
you shouldn’t care what others think,
or how you shouldn’t care if anybody
ever even sees your creations
know 2 things:
their inner moron is showing
they’ve had good witnesses somewhere along the way.
Witnesses they’ve forgotten about
and never appreciated enough.


She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love) draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.

Measurement or Meaning?


In Our Own Language 4:8
She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love) draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.

We have neglected the gift of comprehending things through our senses.
Our eyes have been reduced to instruments
with which to identify and to measure,
hence we suffer a paucity of ideas that can be expressed in images
and an incapacity to discover meaning in what we see.
~ Rudolf Arnheim

Juicing the Third Half of Life


In Our Own Language 4:7
She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love) draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.


While in Michigan for my brother’s stepson’s wedding this weekend, we reconnected with friends we haven’t seen in I don’t know how long. We knew them in undergraduate days when we were all young and free and confident. We knew them in that time when our parents were busy creating their own life without children to wait up for or pick up after and when children weren’t even an idea. We could carry little ole’ tiny pocketbooks in those days ’cause we were only responsible for ourselves. We were juicers, extracting every bit of fun and goodness and laughter out of life.

It was so much fun remembering and reminiscing with Bruce and Linda, trekking back down memory laugh. Oh my goodness, the things we did Back Then. And I want you to know that we told the true stories this weekend, with my mother and my son and my daughter-in-love sitting right there listening. I figure they’re old enough to hear those sorts of things now.

I’ve decided I want to keep the body of information and wisdom I’ve acquired and recapture the absolute joy of living as though One Day is Right now. I think it’s possible.

I may have to increase my insurance, though.

Not the Kind of Cracks That Break Your Mother’s Back


Sometimes things fall between the cracks and disappear forever.
Sometimes things fall between the cracks and leave a pattern.
Sometimes things repeatedly falling between the cracks
is a pattern that needs looking into,
needs changing.


In Our Own Language 4:6

Nancy is one of those who easily falls between the cracks.
She’s in a good home now, though
and a good day program, too.
She’s surrounded by women – Mona, Ruby, Kathy –
who see her, protect her,
make sure she doesn’t fall between any cracks.
We all need a team like that to watch out for us.
We all need to be on a team like that, watching out for others.

You Call It Woo, I Call it Way


In Our Own Language 4:5

She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.

Several weeks ago my waking thought was “I’m ready to write.” Within a few days (less than a week), I had 3 requests to write guest blog posts, and I saw an ad in the local paper for a writer’s retreat right down the road from us. Mari Ann, founder of the retreat who’s also a crackerjack editor and writer, and Susan, who wrote a deeply moving book about her brother who was killed in Vietnam and has just turned the manuscript for her second book into the publisher, invited me to attend one of their read-and-give-feedback lunches. (Which I did, and it was fabulous!)


Today on the way to our table at the Boone Tavern Inn in Berea, KY, I bopped into the gift shop to ask if they had any chocolate-covered grapes in. No, the manager said, but she had 4 boxes due in tomorrow. I promised to check back with her after lunch in case some arrived early. They hadn’t, but I paid for 3 of the boxes and we made arrangements for her to hold them for me till we come back through on Sunday. We then went to walk and shop, and after we visited the restrooms, got some water, and filled the car up with fuel, and as we prepared to leave town, I pulled out her card to call, just in case they’d come in while we were out and about. With the phone in my left hand and her card in my right, I raised a finger to mash the first number when my phone rang. It was Kylie, the store manager calling to tell me that the grapes had just come in.

Things like this keep happening to me, do they happen to you, too? Decide what you want and let The Sweet Spirit of Surprise know, then watch for her to put down stepping stones in front of you leading you there. My Shero,  Tracey Selingo who is fluent in this kind of living, calls it Woo, I’m beginning to call it simply Way. It’s pure magic, but it doesn’t just happen without some involvement from you. There’s a turning over, a surrender, a letting go, a trust and faith that must happen. You don’t just tell and wait. Oh no. You have to stay awake and recognize opportunities when they appear because the Sweet Spirit of Surprise can be a rascal. And know this: if you go to sleep or if you don’t avail yourself of the wonderfulness She puts in front of you, She’ll stop wasting her time and energy on you. That’s just the way She is. If you want it, go after it. Talk all you will about what you want, but don’t you ever forget that actions speak louder than words. Especially to the Sweet Spirit of Surprise.

A Cloth, A Lightbulb, A Birthday


In Our Own Language 4:4

She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.

A lightbulb moment as I was having imaginary conversations with real friends: I’ve fallen into the ghetto side of self talk. You should hear what rattles around inside my brain any given day.

“I can’t get anything done for the all the interruptions.”
“I can’t do anything when I travel except what other people want to do.”
“I’m gonna’ die without having finished anything.”

And so on.
And so on.
And so on.

Now you and I both know that what we say on the inside is the navigator for where we go and how we live, so I’ve made a few changes. Starting now, whenever I hear the ever-familiar (and comfortable?) ghetto talk, I’m stopping right then and there and changing it to things like: “Wow – look at all I’ve accomplished despite the interruptions and OPA’s (other people’s agendas).”

Okay, so I still have some tweaking to do, but I’m headed in the right direction, getting back on track.

Today is The Engineer’s birthday, and here are reasons #7340-7344 that I adore him:

7340: He is patient.
7341: He is kind.
7342: Not once in the 42 years of our togetherness has he ever responded to something I want by saying “that’s ridiculous.”
7343: He’s funny. Or can be.
7344: I’ve never had to hide a price tag.

Yes, you’re right: it’s his birthday, and I’m the one receiving the gift.

ARCHoldingJHCBdayCakeFeb1973 copy 2
The Engineer holding my birthday cake. I’d known him less than 2 weeks at this point, and I told him I wanted a picture of my birthday cake. What I really wanted, though, (and I’m pretty sure this will not come as a shock to him) was a picture of his handsome countenance cause I knew – I just knew – from that first meeting, he was The One. Isn’t he absolutely adorable? I mean, really, how could anybody resist him?


The Engineer last fall in Dublin.
He’s a little taller than me, something that always surprises me.
Happy birthday, you.

Another Cloth, Another Cake


In Our Own Language 4:1

I’ve begun stitching the In Our Own Language 4 drawings that were made made in November 2012 when we went to see Nancy for Thanksgiving. There are 94 drawings in the set.


In Our Own Language 4:2

Though I try to never do or use anything that competes with or detracts from Nancy’s marks, I opted for more color this time.

IOOL4 3b

In Our Own Language 4:3

And bling.


Today is Nancy’s birthday. Perhaps you’d like to celebrate her by doing something she does: look at yourself in the mirror (or your phone camera turned to selfie mode) and smile – sincerely, really, hugely smile – and say to the you in the mirror “I’m a pretty girl.” Yep, we could learn a lot from Nancy.

And hey, if you’d like to help her stretch her celebration far beyond the scant 24 hours usually allocated for such things, maybe you’d like to mail her a card or a postcard. If so, let me know in the comments here or on Facebook, and I’ll send you hew new address privately.


Nancy, my developmentally-disabled sister-in-love draws while
I, Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her, stitch.

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