The Barefoot Heart

adventures & derring-do in the third half of life

Page 2 of 77

Joint Custody


By the occasion of his first birthday after graduating from high school, Mother had saved enough money to buy Daddy an i.d. bracelet. After Daddy died, the bracelet wound up in my basket, and when my brother trekked off to Afghanistan, I tucked it in his backpack as a link to Home.


My brother (I call him J3) is home now, home to stay, and when I began to miss the bracelet, I proposed a joint custody agreement. Every year on Daddy’s birthday, we’ll get together, my brother and I, for supper and stories, and right about the time dessert would usually hit, we’ll swap the bracelet, having it in our possession for the next year.


Tonight, on Daddy’s birthday, I took possession. It is a good plan, if I do say so myself.

Calendar Schmalender


In the beginning, there were two grandmothers (his and mine), two mothers (also his and mine), and three Other Mothers (all mine. I think it’s a girl thing.) to honor and celebrate by way of food, flowers, gifts, cards, calls, and visits. Then one fine year, I had a baby on Mother’s Day, and I thought “Yay! Now that I’m a mother, I’ll be able to sleep in, have breakfast served to me in bed, get all kinds of goodies, and spend an entire day doing whatever I want when I want.” Wrong. There was now a daughter, two grandmothers, two mothers, and three Other Mothers to honor and celebrate.

As time rolled on, there was a daughter, one grandmother, two mothers, and three Other Mothers.

Then a daughter, two mothers, and three Other Mothers.

Then a daughter, two mothers, and one Other Mother.




And now: a daughter, one mother, and one Other Mother.

In a Velveteen Rabbit kind of way, what started out as balm for my I’m-worn-slap-out-and-who-needs-a-Mother’s-Day-for-herself-anyway soul has gradually become Real: I don’t ever want to guilt my children into obligatory public displays of affection for me on one particular day of the year, and I don’t want fancy, expensive gifts that I’ll just have to find a place for then dust. I lean towards gluttony – I want them to love me every day in a myriad of ordinary ways, and I’ll take cheap trinkets and baubles and handwritten notes that show they were thinking about me throughout the year.


When I gave birth to my daughter and 14 months later to my son, it was Mother’s Day, regardless of dates on the calendar. (And yes, I realize she is standing on the kitchen counter, unattended. I learned everything I know about child safety from my mother.)


Every time my son brought me a dandelion bouquet or my daughter brought me roses picked from her grandmother’s yard, it was Mother’s Day.


When my daughter insists I try on new makeup, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my son calls me just to check in or texts me the title of a movie he wants me to see so we can talk about it or emails me a link to an article or app he knows I’ll like, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my daughter asks if she can come up to the mountain top for a while or when my son calls to insist that I fly out for this particular arts festival he knows I’ll love: Mother’s Day.

When my children tell me it was not easy having me for a mother when they were in high school because I am creative and not at all like anybody else’s mom, it’s most definitely Mother’s Day.

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When my daughter-in-law gets on the phone to wish me a happy birthday, it’s Mother’s Day.


When my answering machine is filled with messages that my daughter and my Other Son Whit have scripted as part of the elaborate prank they orchestrated (instead of doing their homework): Mother’s Day.

When the son manages enough breath support to beg me “Stop, stop. I need a minute” then falls on the floor literally rolling in uncontrollable laughter, eventually composing himself enough to climb back in the chair to take his place beside me and says, “Okay, you can continue now” so we can finish reading Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby: Mother’s Day.

When my daughter saves a place for me down front and introduces me from the stage, when she thanks me publicly for my support, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my son asks me to help him weave a basket for a cub scout badge, and when my daughter picks out the fabric for the dress she wants me to make, and when we move to the farm and they invent elaborate games to entertain themselves – you betcha, it’s Mother’s Day.

When my children unabashedly introduce me to their friends and their friends become my friends, it’s Mother’s Day.


Both children and maybe even my daughter-in-law and Other Son will check in at some point today to bid me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I’ll be tickled to hear from them. But what I ache for, appreciate the most, and never tire of is hearing them tell me that I’m still a part of their lives wherever they may be and that they’ll always love me, regardless of who they may be sharing their lives with — hearing their laughter — hearing them use the familiar words and phrases that never fail to send us into gales of chortles — seeing their bright eyes — having them call to say “I’m coming for a visit.” — cupping their precious faces in my hands — swapping stories that all start with “Remember the time when . . . ” as we sit with a bowl full of photos in our laps — growing a strong, loving relationship with my daughter-in-law — feeling their arms around me or their hand wrap around mine — hearing them purr when I scratch their backs — listening to the delights and angsts of their lives — having them ask me questions, even though my answers become increasingly thin and worn and run the risk of showing I’m not half as brilliant as they once though I was (oh those were the days) — watching them move through this world with grace and intelligence and compassion and creativity . . . I’ll put a flower behind my ear and raise a forkful of cake to that kind of Mother’s Day any ole’ day of the year.

[ :: ]

I’m feeling prolific today, which makes this the third post du jour in a day that has all the markings of being a 4+-post day, so scroll on down if you’re a mind to . . .

Mothers Loved Us Differently Back Then, I Guess


Growing up, I swam in The Cow Pond where snakes roamed freely amongst the bovines, where I was serenaded by frogs of every size and ability, and where I made my way to the deep end with God knows what squishing up between my toes. Mother had a rule that the maid had to go with me to The Cow Pond, and looking back, one can’t help but wonder if she made the rule to make sure she’d have a witness who would put her hand on a Bible and testify to her of my certain and undeniable demise. There were no swimming pools in the entire county at that time, plus I had outgrown the bathtub and hadn’t read enough books to think otherwise, so it was A Very Good Day when I could get the maid to take her hand out of the starch box long enough to accompany me to The Cow Pond for a swim.

We are a hardy bunch with longevity genes running strong, and every cat who’s using up one of her allotted 9 lives reading this will turn green with envy when I tell you that I survived not only The Cow Pond, but riding bicycles without a helmet; drinking water straight out of the garden hose; a bicycle with no brakes (my birthday present one year. Kinda’ makes you wonder, doesn’t it?); getting hit by a car; roller skating without knee pads; taking the stray cat for a ride in the car (Take your time. I’ll wait.); eating raw cookie dough; sleeping in the back window of the car on road trips; swimming in The Cow Pond, of course, but I forgot to mention that I didn’t wear sunscreen; and, in the case of my brother, one particularly memorable Alberto VO5 hot oil hair treatment that I’ll tell you about later. Right now I need to go shopping for a Very Special Mother’s Day card.

[ :: ]

This week I made a guest appearance over at Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s blog and talked about what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. Bop over and say Hey if you’re a mind to.

An Off-The Rack Birthday Card

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May you walk like someone who knows she is cherished
and never confuse that with being thought of as being weak or incapable.

May you find someone who will inspire you to trust enough
to tear down the wall
and let them in.

May you know
enough sorrow to keep your kindness bone oiled
enough darkness to know light as a good and safe place to be
enough goodness to be sure that the rejections are just yesses in disguise.

May you laugh more than you cry
glide more than you stumble
skip more than you stomp.

I wish you satisfying companionship,
the love of a good man,
and friendships with women that will stand the test of time.

May you need
more deposit slips than checks
more flower vases than weed-pulling gloves
more empty boxes on your booking calendar.

I wish you success as only you can define it,
continued opportunities to flash your creativity,
and never-ending songs.

It’s your birthday, but I’m the one who received the gift, Moxie.
Thank you for continuing to fill
my life with laughter
my heart with song
and my soul with the wonder that is you.

hush: the delicate tremble

work on in our own language 4 has begun. nancy’s drawings become more intense in this set, the stitching takes longer, there are more lines and sometimes more chaos. i occasionally feel the need to set them aside and turn my own hands loose . . .


the moon drapes itself over trees and mountains, and i am once again inside a childhood tent of blankets over chairs, in a world where anything is possible – anything, i tell you – and where time stretches out before me with no end in sight. life is simple there, nothing is silly or stupid or un-doable. everything i’m interested in, everything that calls to me, everything i want to do is worthwhile.


in my moon tent, i am spacious. thoughts and feelings commingle freely and naturally and without argument or vying for position. polarities exist amicably, naturally. attitudes that regard differences as automatic oppositions meet with head scratches and laughter.


in my moon tent, i am protected. nothing has to be justified or explained or defended. concerns about returns on investment need not apply because when the moon drapes its beams over trees and mountains, i am protected from all that would judge or scoff or balk or argue.


questioning is the native language of residents in my moon tent where doubt is valued and sentences that start with “what if” are treasured. most prized of all are the questions that can be answered only with more questions.

i love being a moontent dweller.
i’m safe and possible and free.
(and y’all to know what i love best of all about life inside the moontent?
i can hang the No Morons Allowed sign out
and enforce it.)


The Delicate Tremble
15″ x 33.25″
commercial fabric, embroidery floss
indigo moon and other pieces dyed by Glennis Dolce

How I Think About Things Is Changing


Every night he kicks, yanks, and tugs the sheet out on his corner, and every morning I tuck it back in. When I find myself getting grumpy about having to lift that heavy mattress with one hand while tucking the sheet back in with the other, I remind myself that One Day this could be one of the things I miss the most.

If I knew which one of us is going to die first, it would change everything.

But I don’t know . . . and that changes everything, too.

Even When Nancy Doesn’t Draw, I Stitch


Then one day instead of drawing, Nancy reaches in her art box, pulls out all the contents, and arranges them on her blank page. For months I wonder how on earth to turn this into a part of the In Our Own Language series. I fiddle and ponder, wonder and sketch . . . then one afternoon the light bulb (finally) goes off.

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I work a lot slower than Nancy.
Probably because I’m encumbered with words and caring what others think
and such.


Nancy arranges.

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I stitch.

In Our Own Language 12
18.5″ x 33″
machine and hand stitched
thread, embroidery floss, and bits of fabric from my scrap bowl

Photos of Nancy taken by Mona Diethrick



i am ready to have more space than stuff
so . . .
i dedicated this week to using what i have on hand
to create something new.
my plan may not to The Engineers of the world,
but to me, it is a delightfully sensible solution.
(but let’s don’t take into account that i
have to store the new things i made, ok?)


today i made vessels
from yarn
using the sewing machine
and, since most of my work is hand-stitched,
i am downright giddy
with the speed of completion.

i’m also more convinced than ever
that my grandmother
spent lots of time at her
sewing machine
letting the constant whir
build walls around her.




. . . a language delicate and quiet,
that maybe will take root
and maybe not.


words unspun
11″ x 15″
hand stitched
embroidery floss, commercial fabrics from my scrap bin

words from the poem “Terms” by Anne Coray

ancient skins


she fed us from her vast garden,
neatly-plowed rows that stretched on and on
as far as my short eyes could see.
we drank from assorted jelly glasses
ate from mismatched plates
most of them chipped or cracked,
bruised by life.
she didn’t draw attention to the
imperfections by way of
apology or neon sign,
but she didn’t hide them in the 
back of the cabinet, either,
any more than she hid the bruises
just underneath her parchment skin,
oceans of color splashing forth
at the mere thought of
getting too close to a hard surface.


Ancient Skins
12.5″ x 11″
commercial cotton cloth and embroidery floss from my scrap bowl
hand stitched

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