Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

& her barefoot heart

Search results: "in our own language" (page 1 of 10)

In Our Own Language 16


Usually Nancy (my disabled sister-in-law) draws,
and I stitch her drawings,

but this time we laid the crayons down
and played with bits from my scrap bag.

Nancy placed the bits of fabric on fusible sheets,
and I took it from there


stitching in the car . . .


and under Adonis . . .


and under Mr. God (dog, in reverse) . . .


and under Dante.

It’s obviously a hit with the felines,
and Nancy seems to like it, too.

In Our Own Language 18


last Friday . . .

Jeanne: Do you want to ride in the convertible?
Nancy: Yes.
Jeanne: Do you want to spend the night with us at the hotel?
Nancy: Yes.
Jeanne: Do you want to go shopping?
Nancy: SHOPPING!!!!!!
[I took that as a yes.]
Jeanne: Do you want to walk on the beach?
Nancy: [crickets] [Nancy does not like to walk.]
Jeanne: Do you want to look at the ocean?
Nancy: It’s green!!!


We went down to visit Nancy this weekend.
She didn’t know we were coming.
There were rides in the convertible


a spend-the-night in the hotel on Saturday night




and time spent looking at the ocean
the lacy, green ocean.

There was also drawing
of course.
86 drawings made at school since our visit in late October
and 46 drawings made in the hotel room.
The two batches make up
In Our Own Language 18.
132 drawings.


Note the color choices


the use of negative space


the border


the movement.


She continues to make this shape
a vessel, I call it.
It will play a prominent role
when I begin to stitch these.

IOOL4 22

In Our Own Language 4:22

Right now,
I’m still stitching
In Our Own Language 4.
Yes, four.


Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-law draws.
I, the woman who flat-out loves her, stitch her drawings.

89: In Our Own Language 17

After beginning in June 2012, Nancy continues to draw.
and I continue to stitch,
though some of her more recent drawings are too line intensive.
But not to worry
cause I have ideas.
We brought home 470 more drawings
after an all too short visit with her last week.

Nancy makes this shape in many of her drawings:


I call it a vessel.


Sometimes she arranges them
in a specific way on the page.


Sometimes they are part of the overall design.


Sometimes she fills them.


And sometimes she spills them.

Most of the time, Nancy’s drawings are non-representational,
an expression of her emotional climate,
an expression of how she’s feeling
and her response to what’s happening around her.
But sometimes
people see shapes they recognize.
I always enjoy hearing what people see
or how Nancy’s drawings make them feel
or what they think about when they gaze upon her drawings.


Usually I like her drawings for the color choices she makes


or the intensity


or the movement.

But two of her most recent drawings made me wonder


if she was drawing a palm tree


perhaps the one that’s at the front door
of the ARC where she spends her days.


And a pumpkin
an artsy pumpkin.


And, well, this one tickles me
because I see an entire story.
Or at least a vignette.
Do you see it, too?

44b: In Our Own Language 4.12

IOOL4 12

I write, I stitch. This is the twelfth drawing in Nancy’s fourth set of drawings. There are 95 drawings in this set.


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

12.5: In Our Own Language 4:11

IOOL4 11

In Our Own Language 4:11

Meanwhile in the background, I’m still stitching.


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

59: She Haunts Me Ever Since Our First Encounter


The antique store is more like a basement of a man who bought what was left when the garage sale ended. The ancient building creaks and sings harmoniously with the occasional soft breeze. Each filthy wooden floor plank bends alarmingly like a rickety bridge strung between mountains. The slow moving ceiling fan stirs slowly, blending the odors of countless unnamed families, their trials and tribulations melded now into their celebrations.

As I dig through the plastic storage box in search of the few white doilies I want to cut up and turn into ocean froth on a Hymn of Cloth currently in progress, it whispers “Psssst” so softly I almost miss it. I stand up, turn to the back of the store, and there she is: a wedding dress decidedly past her prime. Her netting is ripped and her side seam zipper gapes open, refusing to zip herself up ever again. Whoever made this dress – and it most assuredly is homemade as evidenced by the facings tacked down by hand – clumsily added a ruffle of blue satin to the edges of the bodice. It stands awkwardly, this addition, not enough fabric to be a modesty panel, too little fabric to be a striking embellishment.

The skirt of layered netting is covered in rust stains, not from exposure to weathered metal objects, rather the rust of time and neglect. A center panel of lace takes its place down the front of the dress, culminating in a V shape. A big uncomfortable stain of blue sits off to one side of the lace panel, not the same blue as the added trim around the neckline but the blue of an unintended encounter that leaves her forever marked. Tulle forms a cap sleeve on the left. The sleeve on the right must have run off in search of a better life. And what of the woman who walked down the aisle in this below-the-knee length dress? I am already listening to the stories.

Dropping the doilies, I go immediately to the dress, climbing over piles of detritus of lives unknown to rescue this beauty from the tack on the wall. A price tag proclaims her value at $1.50, and I know we will be together forever. But when I go to pay for her, the man says the tag can’t possibly be right and he will only sell me the dress for $30. Being one who wants everybody to make enough money to pay their bills and feed their families, I expect (perhaps naively) complete strangers to give me a price that will treat us both fairly. I do not negotiate outright – that’s a language I do not speak fluently – and I do not point out what some would surely call the dress’s flaws, blemishes that diminish her value, things I call beauty marks that define her and tell her story.

I try to keep my head straight, but I feel taken advantage of by this man who refuses to honor the price on the attached price tag. I’m not ashamed to tell you that it is with tears in my eyes that I walk slowly to the back of the store and return her to the tack in the wall. That was hours ago, and I still miss her terribly. This is more than (non) buyer’s remorse. I abandoned what is quite possibly her only chance at a life with one who loves her dearly for the dress she was then and the dress she is today. And in abandoning her, I deprive myself . . . and y’all . . . of her stories.



There are some things money can’t buy, and there are some things money can’t not buy. The Dress and I are reunited. After calling the shop owner, I seal the check into the envelope with a sincere wish that the money will bring food to the table or lights to the room or maybe a pink birthday cake with a princess on top for a special granddaughter. Underneath the stamp is a hope that The Dress knows I would’ve paid more (even though it would’ve no doubt left The Engineer scrarching his head) because really, how do I attach a number to her?


Once upon a time, some belle met some beau at the altar to say “I do” and “I will” and “I promise” as directed, imagining a life that would be dreamlike in its rosy perfection, soft in its feel and touch, lasting in its tenure. It would be a fairy tale life like the one she cobbled together from stories read, movies watched. Her marriage would be embellished with dancing on weeknights, sewn with threads of laughter throughout, cut from the fabric of adoration. And never – not for a single minute – did she imagine that This Cherished Dress would ever be anything other than the Coach that would take her right on into Happily Ever After.



If you’d like to read along and throw some rice or birdseed, say “I do” by mashing the “right-this-way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen, and follow the directions. It’s free, fast, easy, and much appreciated.

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.

Sands Through the OURglass


Forty years ago, I publicly promised to spend the rest of my life with this one man named Andy – a man I’d known a scant six months at the time. I’m still married to him though we don’t look the same and neither does our marriage . . .

Then we vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health with only some romanticized notion of what that meant based on movies we’d seen and books we’d read. Now after his stent a few years ago and my recent bout with staph infection, we have a clearer idea of what that means, the patience it requires, the commitment is demands.

Then we spent a lot of energy finding ways to be together. Now that we’re together 24/7, we find ways to build some space in our togetherness – even if it’s only agreeing to work on our separate projects for three hours then meet in the kitchen at noon for lunch.

Then we looked forward to the weekends for the romps and recess they offered. Now that the structure provided by careers and children is gone, we create our own weekends by doing something outside the normal routine, even if it’s simply dropping the dog off at the spa then taking ourselves on a walk through the local village green to look at the new art sculptures on display or taking a leisurely trip to the local museum.

Then we were high on the thrill of discovering everything we could about each other. Now we deliberately find ways to lay out the welcome mat for surprise in general, even if it’s something as simple attending an art lecture on the Spiritual Language of Paintings and practicing our new vocabulary and pondering our new perspectives over pizza afterwards.

Then we held hands everywhere we went.
We still do.

Then we laughed as often as possible.
We still do.

Then we made it a point to argue and disagree in ways that don’t require follow-up apologies.
We still do.

Then we knew we’d spend the rest of our life together.
We still do, though we now know that forever isn’t infinite, and that makes all the difference in the world.


in her own language




We visited Nancy last week, my friend Angela and I. After she finished her brownie sundae with strawberry milkshake, I put paper in front of her and a pen in her hand, and our Nancy drew like a woman possessed. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills to turn a single page at a time, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. She drew then stopped, waiting on me to find her a fresh page. She filled the remaining pages in my pocketbook notebook then Angela’s notebook then a few bits of paper I happened to have tucked to the side. That night I bought her a 6-pack of composition books and a side of pens, and the next day when we took her to lunch, I opened them in front of her. Though she didn’t draw with quite the same intensity as the day before, she was nevertheless focused, and filled the better part of three of those six books.

Yesterday and the day before, I scanned those images, and purchased several yards of white fabric – some broadcloth and some white textured fabric purchased at a thrift shop. (Stay tuned for details on my choice of fabrics.) Today I cut the fabric into pieces, and tomorrow I’ll print each image onto a sheet of tear-away paper, then I’ll set about stitching each of Nancy’s 163 drawings – one image to one piece of cloth – using purple thread because purple is her favorite color and Angela’s purple pen is the one she obviously preferred. I imagine doing one sketch/stitch a day, but you know how that goes . . .

Week 23 in Review (July 18-24, 2016)


Highlights of week 23 of The 70273 Project include:


~ Storms. Lots of storms. Three days’ worth of storms that uprooted trees and flickered our electricity. And what does this have to do with The 70273 Project, you ask? Just wanted to explain in case you think, from my absence in social media, that I’ve packed up and left without leaving a forwarding address.

IOOL1.1CashiersLibraryIn Our Own Language 1:1

IOOL2CloseupFullFront1In Our Own Language 2

Apocrypha1bApocrypha 1

CashiersLibraryExhibit1L to R: In Our Own Language 16 and
In Our Own Language 3

ApocryphaPiecesCashiersLibrarySmaller pieces from the Apocrypha Series

CashiersLibraryExhibit2L to R: In Our Own Language 1, Quilt 1 of The 70273 Project,
and In Our Own Language 2

~ We held a block-making party at our local library in Cashiers, NC with some of the collaborative pieces Nancy and I created as backdrops.

~ Posted our first Monday Meditational Morsel on Facebook – good, positive thoughts to think on as we stitch. The idea comes from MJ Kinman who’s posted some brilliant pieces in the past. If you’d be willing to send a word or a story or a quote or some other kind of short morsel for us to take in and live out one week, please let me know, and I’ll assign you a Monday.

~ Tami Immel Draxler wrote a beautiful blog post about The 70273 Project. When you get a minute, please give it a read and leave her a comment so she’ll know you’ve been by. Thank you, Tami.

~ I’ve now heard from people in 77 different countries.

~ Thanks to envelopes from:


MJ Kinman


Carolyn Katzoff


The Engineer


and a host of Block Makers at The Cashiers Library

we close out the week with 2522 blocks in hand. Think we’ll make Kitty Sorgen’s goal of 3000 blocks in my hands by 9/5/2016? Yeah, I do, too.

As we roll into a new week, thank y’all for being part of The 70273 Project.

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