Blog Archives

the effect of mistaken identity

Ottoistired

this is otto.
my granddog.
he’s bad to confuse
the sound of andy’s
text message notification
with the doorbell.
andy has gotten
a lot
of text messages today.
so i guess we can all see
why otto is worn slap out.

breadcrumbs of my yesterday

we walked to city park in denver yesterday,
where my son, kipp, and marnie will get married in may.
will you promise to put in a good word
for weather like this on their big day?

Citypark022414a

Citypark022414b

Citypark022414c

Citypark022414d

Citypark022414e

we saw an eagle,
and i’m pretty sure
the eagle spotted us, too.

Citypark022414eagle2

~~~~~~~

and on our way back,
we stopped off for some
voodoo doughnuts.
it’s the law, you know,
if you walk more than 7 miles.
(and yes, that really is a maple doughnut
topped with bacon)

Doughnutbox

Doughnuts2

my granddog, otto,
feigned disinterest.
but i still put the doughnuts
out of his remarkably jinormous reach
because i really didn’t find his performance all that convincing.

Otto1

~~~~~~~

and as if all that wasn’t enough,
i began work on In Our Own Language 3 . . .

Iool3a

(it’s my second start, really.
forgetting i’d bought this yummy cream colored thread,
i started stitching with white embroidery floss.
glad i remembered before i stitched much further.)

~~~~~~~

yesterday went down in the herstory book with a gold star beside it. today we’re back to cloudy and cold, but i’m pretty sure it’ll go down as a gold star day anyway. you know, sometimes i think it’s all that effort to Be Happy and Think Positive that makes us miserable.

sometimes i think . . .

Apocrypha1e

that those who can’t drive a car
are the very ones we need to be asking for directions

Apocrypha1f

that those who can’t cook a meal
are the ones who nourish us most deeply

Apocrypha1a

that those who can’t tell their own story
are the ones with the stories we most need to hear

Apocrypha1g

that those who can’t add 2 + 2
are the wisest of us all.

Apocrypha1d

Apocrypha1b

i have reworked and renamed this quilt.
it is now titled Apocrypha 1.

[ :: ]

Stitching Nancy’s drawings since June 2012
and still loving and learning with every single stitch.

diary of a birthday: waking thoughts

NewDaddyCrawford

how many times did my daddy tell me the story about how it was snowing in atlanta the day i was born. how he made the long distance phone call to his daddy in fayetteville, how it was hard to understand each other because of the static on the line. he told that story not with the defiance and antagonism and one-upmanship that dressed later stories starring daddy and his dad. the story of my birth was told with the same excitement i heard in my son’s voice when he delivered a fistful of dandelions picked ‘specially for me. daddy made it sound like he was delivering a gift to his daddy, a gift more precious than the new fedora or the 35 mm camera he gave granddaddy in christmases yet to come. and perhaps he did feel like he, the sole surviving son of five children, was delivering a gift to his parents. another important thing? he never even hinted that he or grandaddy was even a smidgeon less excited because i was a girl and not a boy. in face, my gender never came up . . . except in the spelling of my name.

i wish i could ask granddaddy about it, too, but he died on the day of the christmas party when i was in fifth grade, when stories were something endured after the initial telling.

MomWBabyJeanne1

when i look to mother for a genesis tale, i get a recapitulation of daddy’s story . . . probably because daddy was the source of her information, too, given the effects of general anesthesia and all. then last weekend, quite by accident, i discovered a little something new and sparkly. i was talking to mother about her work during world war 2. she worked at atlanta general depot, doing a host of various jobs as she progressed through the field and up the ladder, eventually landing a supervisory position over 3-4 other women. i came upon a form granting her request for maternity leave beginning on 25 september – months before my birthday. i thought i was onto something. did she have toxemia like i did with my firstborn, also a daughter? or were pregnant women required to take leave, in effect being banned until after? or, given her beauty and keen sense of style, was she reluctant (read: embarrassed) to show her ever-protruding body for months on end?

i was on a feminist-fed roll.

“mother, here’s your leave form,” i said. “why did you start your leave on september 25? you were granted six months’ leave, most of it spent before my birth.”

“oh,” she said as she speared another piece of fried egg, always proud of the lacy effect she was able to create in the cooking, always apologetic when the lace did not materialize as she’d hoped. “some officer whose name i can’t remember asked if i wanted to work for him. when i told him no, he said well, he’d just put in an order and there was nothing i could do about it. i really did not want to work for him, so i just took my maternity leave and there was nothing he could do.”

and with that little story kernel, i see my mother – a lifelong secretary – in a new light. i completely forget to be disappointed that i wasn’t the center of her answer, i don’t even consider till now, turning over the stone of feminism, the possible prejudice i showed attached to her being a secretary . . . there wasn’t room for any of that on account of the pride i felt at her spunk and resolve to be in charge of her own life by whatever means necessary.

and it was certainly more than thrilling to discover that even at this age, there’s something new to learn about her, about me, about us.

stories seen and unseen

Heartrock

Stories are what make us . . . not the other way around. ~ Roger Housden

One day, perhaps for no discernible reason, you decide you want to dig up that cute little heart shaped rock and take it home. You get down on your knees and brush the dirt away. You dig at it with a trowel, trying to unearth it, and in the process, you find that it’s only heart-shaped because of the way the dirt has piled up around it, giving it shape and defining it as a heart. Through continued digging you discover that it’s not just a cute little heart-shaped rock, after all, but a part of something bigger – something much, much bigger.

The digging is hard work in and of itself, and that’s why some people prefer to enjoy the cute little heart-shaped rock as it is, to leave it undisturbed . . . which is absolutely fine. Whether you want to leave it as the heart-shaped rock you’ll enjoy on your walks or unearth the boulder and see what bedrock you’re walking on, perhaps you’d like to join the Keepsake Writing Tribe. We kick off on Saturday, 2/15 and we saved you a seat.

southern fried haiku . . . at least on the surface

so there i was: on a productive track. whizzing through the day, feeling on top of the world and in control of my life by ticking things off The List. then the mail came, bearing my copy of rhonda’s book.

opening that book – holding it in my hands – i could do nothing but stop, drop, and read the afternoon away.

i cried as i read – i cried big, i tell you – each tear filled with love, sorrow, admiration. i grieved things and people passed: rhonda, graduate school, friends, life. so much.

so much.

rhonda wrote honestly, openly, about her body dressed in multiple sclerosis. her words will tear you apart and put you back together in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. i am immediately thrown back to admonishments about the wickedness of a woman’s body . . . of my body. rhonda heard those same admonitions, heard them from the same (though different) sources, but when multiple sclerosis struck, she could no longer hide or deny her body. she learned to live large within the confines of her body, writing openly about her step quota, her falls, her bladder issues, her libido. as i read her candidness about how she learned to work around the “numbness of her crotch” to achieve orgasm, i thought Well, shoot. if she can write about that, surely I can share my southern-style efforts at haiku.

so here goes, red-face and all:

Cloud your thinking mind
Send it behind yonder tree
Then run away. Fast.

Laugh was her real name.
She married a man named Moore.
No sense of humor.

Pay tribute to them,
those society discards.
You will never be sorry.

Peer around the bin
The looney tunes await you.
You don’t have to stay.

The shadows open up
To let the light trickle in.
Boulders block the way.

Iron the wrinkles in.
It’s not the usual way.
It takes less time, though.

i’m not much of one to saddle the dead with responsibility for my life, but i swear i’m hard-pressed not to think about rhonda and ask myself what the hell am i waiting for . . .

[ ::: ]

“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” ~ Unknown

[ ::: ]

i bought each of my children a copy of her book, you know. not so they’ll go blind at the sight of their naked mother, but as a sticky note to remind them that to be vulnerable is its own kind of strength; to keep after what your heart just will not set aside, even if it takes you 16 times longer than it should because of things you cannot control; and to always, always, always open yourself up to something new . . . even if it looks like a squirrel.

[ :: ] [ :: ] [ :: ]

maybe you’re ready, too?

no words, all walk

Walkingwednesday

Walkingwednesday2

Walkingwednesday3

Walkingwednesday4

Walkingwednesday5

[ ::: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers walked 95,453 steps last week (which translates into 43.21 miles). It would’ve been more, but last week the mountain was covered with snow and ice, and her boots were apparently made for walking only in shopping malls, so she slid more than she stepped. She bought herself a new pair of shoes yesterday, though: waterproof hiking shoes. So there.

the engineer and the artist: obsessions, planning, devotion

BenFranklinsDaypage

Ben Franklin’s Daily Planning Page

I am a list-making, task-and-project oriented kind of girl who likes to get things done.

The Engineer likes to get things done, but not in the same way. He doesn’t make to do lists (though he does, I’m happy to say, check things off mine when I, in preparation for a big event, create the “kitchen sink” list and lay it out on the kitchen counter, along with a pen for marking through and checking off).

I sleep better if I’ve laid out my tomorrow before bedtime. He likes to get up and see where the day takes him.

I enjoy the feeling of announcing what I intend to do, giving myself a start date, clearing the decks, then devoting myself to the project. He is more of a get-up-one-morning-and-feel-like-building-that-shop-I’ve-bee-thinking-about-building-for-years kind of guy.

I like having deadlines. He prefers getting around to it eventually.

I still have the term papers I wrote in high school – even the math term paper I wrote in 7th grade. I LOVE the deadline, the planning, the gathering, the pulling together. I love the A+’s. Him? Not too big on term papers.

The Engineer is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Standing next to him, I can look for all the world like a short do-whack oddball. I can’t help it – I just love having a project I can lose myself in. Once upon a decade, it was my life. Now, it’s a way of life I want to recapture and reclaim. I want to put the blinders back on and focus. Back Then, it was the way I lived. Life went around a bend, though, and it became harder and harder and harder to devote myself to any project bigger than cleaning the toilet. (Somehow the world opens way for that, you know? But writing a book? That’s different. That’s harder to claim uninterrupted time for.)

Back Then, my brain could handle and hold Big Projects in the context of my life, but now . . . now my brain feels scattered, like it’s turned into a bag of birdseed somebody just opened and dumped into my skull. Like I told the Engineer late last year, I miss that feeling of (and the end result of) devotion, that immersion, that focus. I miss that satisfying, exhilarating sense of accomplishment.

So you know what I’m gonna’ do? I’m gonna’ get it back.

I have a Big Project that’s held a sizable chunk of real estate on my heart for eons, and before I can push up my sleeves in dedication to it, before I can immerse myself like I need to and long to do, I need to devote myself to a few other projects first so they won’t bang around in the background distracting (and guilting) me:

  • put the spit-polish on two books that have been languishing in the corner for several years
  • write the third book of the trilogy
  • as always, stitch Hymns of Cloth
  • and

  • offer that online Keepsake Writing Trellis I’ve wanted to do for who knows how long.


“What are you really doing when you devote yourself to a month of productive obsessing? You are learning how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate; you are accepting the hard existential fact that if you intend to matter, you must act as if you matter; you are retraining your brain and asking it to stop its pursuit of fluff and worry and to embrace its own potential. In addition, you are announcing that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you are standing in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing; and you are turning yourself over, even to the point of threat and exhaustion, to your own loves and interests.” Eric Maisel writes.

This is just what I’m talking about, and I tell you what: this really revs my juices and gets me going. So I’m sitting with my calendar this very day, plugging things in, scheduling my productive obsessions. The Keepsake Writing Tribe (you’re the Tribe, I’m the Trellis) is a series of three monthly productive obsessions that I’m gonna’ lead . . . The first month, we write about self; the second month, we write about others; and the third month, we write about things. So if you’re the kind of person who has always wanted to capture and preserve your stories and if you’re the kind of person who longs for the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to a productive project, perhaps you want to join us. Or maybe you just need the structure (the trellis, I call it) for three months of productive obsessive writing. That’s fine, too, cause really, whatever you write is your story, right?

Now I’ve had some very good questions asked by some folks who are already signed up and ready to go, so I’m going to share them here in case they’re questions you have, too. Should you have other questions, just drop me a line in the comment section or shoot me an email by tapping that cute little envelope in the upper right-hand corner and if all goes according to plan, it will magically open up a SASE email.

If you’re not interested in Keepsake Writing and just want to talk about productive obsessions, that’s fantastic, too. Tell me how you work best, what kind of planning and creative/work style keeps you going forward. I’m all ears.

[ ::: ]

Keepsake Writing questions asked and answered:

Q: Will there be daily writing prompts?
A: No. There will be kindling, though, that you can draw from if you run dry. If you’ve already registered, thank you and maybe you want to go ahead and start jotting down notes of stories when something triggers a memory.

Q: How will we know what to write about during the second month when we write others?
A: About midway through the first month, I’ll start sending you information – specific information about equipment to use should you desire to interview people; questions you can ask; how to keep the interview going; etc. BUT you don’t have to interview anybody to write about others. You might write preserve family lore that’s been handed down orally. You might write about pets. You might write stories about your children (I’ll tell you how you can turn these into treasured gifts.) You might write about teachers, good and bad, and how they shaped and influenced your life. What I’m saying is that writing others does not mean you have to interview somebody. You can, but you don’t have to. I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve . . .

Q: What if I already have some stories written – can I use them?
A: Of course. We’ll just add to those stories. Maybe you feel like taking one out from your stash to polish instead of writing something from scratch. Or maybe you want to use one of those on a busy day when you simply don’t have time to write. (Yes, I will be taking roll, and I will be taking stock, and I will be handing out gold stars and dunce hats.)

Q: What if I’m not a good writer?
A: I’ll bet you’re a better writer than you give yourself credit for, and we’ll deal with that later. This first step is about gathering. Only gathering.

Q: Is this a writing class cause I’m kinda’ scared of sharing my work with a writing class.
A: While I will be sharing specific how to information about writing, this is not a writing class. This is about capturing your stories, your memories, on paper (digital or otherwise). If you sign up for the Torch Toter Tribe, you’ll send me 6 pieces on assigned weeks, and I will read your pieces and offer feedback. If you’re in the Path Whacker Tribe, you might want to share your work with others in the tribe, but you don’t have to. So breathe. And go sharpen your pencil.

breadcrumbs

Evidence01feb14i

meet Evidence, the hymn of cloth that documents this year of my life – the year dedicated to building a body that works and a body of work – beginning on 11/15/13. (because every day is new year’s day, right?) it’s color coded by what elements constitute, for me, a day well spent:

red = moving (as in walking, yoga, etc.)
orange = making (stitching, mostly, but also collages and photographs)
aqua = marking (writing, as in journals and books and blog posts)
purple = laughing (as in the surprises and wonders of the day that don’t go unnoticed)

Evidence01feb14m

i was filled with excited anticipation when i started work on Evidence back in november, and decided to use my sewing machine (a christmas gift from my husband 40 years ago, bought and paid for with winnings from a radio show contest) instead of stitching it all by hand as is my standard, my preference, my love. it quickly turned unfun, though, on account of the bulk. and if all goes according to plan, the bulk will become greater and greater.

Evidence01feb14d

today i pushed up my sleeves and set about getting caught up. with the walking foot on the machine, i put an audio book on and started, telling myself that i would not abandon this project and i would make this enjoyable and worthwhile. period.

as i sewed, i noticed that i had a tendency to push and pull the fabric in an effort to speed things up. sewing was much easier and more enjoyable when i relaxed and worked with the machine instead of against it. ditto when i quit disregarding and underestimating the flexibility and forgiving nature of fabric – when i let it be what it is instead of trying to make it something else, like a glass or an egg. this may be a transferable epiphany.

///

later, along comes this David Walcott poem titled Love After Love sent by my friend tom:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

which is what often happens when you capture and preserve your life stories . . .

for yourself and your posterity

Stone8

when you write from life
you sometimes hit pockets of dark

Stone7

and just when you don’t think you can take any more,
you hit pockets of sparkle

Stone5

it is not linear, writing from life.
oh sure, you can start with your earliest memory,
but before you know it,
you’re writing about something that happened just yesterday.

Fragments

there are memory fragments

Cracks

and there are rifts and crevices
in the ole’ memory bank.

Stonecomplete

yet through it all,
writing your life
recording your stories
capturing your memories
is a rich and colorful experience,
just like your life.
and in the end,
you have something that will be treasured
treasured, i tell you
for generations to come.

[ :: ]

Maybe you’re ready to write your autobiography?
As a lifelong personal historian, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers
knows how to navigate through the treasure map
that is your life.
And hey,
even if you don’t become a Keepsake Writer,
(but I sure do hope you will)
promise you’ll carve out some time to capture and preserve
stories from yourself and your family.
You’re the only one who can, you know.