The Barefoot Heart

life in the third half of life

Page 2 of 75

Moving Mother: There are Consumables and There are Consumables . . .


As we go into the store, I tell her “Mother, we’re not bringing in one more thing that we have to dust or pack.” This – this right here – is what she comes out of the store with.


Then we go to another store – an antique store – and as we leisurely stroll through, taking our time because the realtors are showing the house – Mother sidles up next to me and says, “I read this book when I was a little girl.”


Then she opens the front cover, shows me the inscription, and says, “And Miss Mary Lou played the piano when your daddy and I got married.”

I bought the book.

But you knew I would.


On the way home:

Mother: Miss Mary Lou didn’t play the traditional wedding music, and I thought that was terrible.

Me: Mother, you and daddy got married in the jailhouse. What did you expect?

[For the record: My grandadddy/Mother’s daddy was the Sheriff, and back in the day, the Sheriff’s family lived in the jail, so Mother and Daddy got married at home . . . in the living room . . . that just happened to be in the jail. The sheriff’s wife cooked and cleaned for the prisoners. The Sheriff got paid. His wife didn’t.]

[Another note: Miss Mary Lou played Irving Berlin’s “Always” at the wedding. I knew that part before this outing, and it may not be considered traditional wedding music, but it’s still one of my favorite songs of all time.]

Moving Mother Begins


We’re having The Big Clearing here at Mother’s house. It’s harder than you might think. I didn’t realize how much I rely on Mother to be the museum for our family, holding onto our history.


Tuesday night, we found bundles of letters I’d written to her over the years. I’ve always – and I do mean always – been an epistolary kind of girl. I still swoon at the sight of some of the stationery I had and remember using. Swoon-worthy stationery is so hard to find now, you know. I still have an impressive collection of seals. Could use some more sealing wax, though.

One of these letters I wrote Mother and Daddy the day I left for college. Another was penned as a newlywed. One is written from college. My handwriting has changed a lot.





We found coupon books I created one year when I could not think of a single thing to put under the tree for Mother and Daddy. (Important note: make them cute and clever enough, and they’ll never redeem them.)

These are the easy decision things. They don’t take up too much room, and the decision is already made: they go in the Keep box. This is where we start. With the easy no-brainers.

Starting Is Such Sweet Fodder


Starting is, quite often, the hardest part for me, and since beginning my daily walking practice, that’s how I start: I walk. I move my body through space. I see parts of this beautiful rock we call Earth up close and personal. It gives me fresh perspectives and newfound confidence. It opens me up and leaves me eager (or at least ready) to start any creative project of writing or stitching, and today I have much writing to do.


Today we walk this bridge in Daytona Beach, Florida
something I would have found daunting before last year, something I suggest today.


There are birds


and clouds


and even a deliciously ancient tree
right at the end of the bridge . . .
or beginning of the bridge, depending.


They say that if you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail.
Maybe that’s why I see quilted water


and shadows of quilt lines.


There is, as you might expect, a most remarkable view from the top of the bridge.


There are even quilts of tile
portraying the rich variety of animal life around these parts.


and bald eagles.
Have you seen this?
My daughter, Alison, turned me onto it.
Caution – it’s addicting.



and my personal favorite: manatees.
I’m going to swim with them this year, you know,
just as soon as I feel comfortable
trotting this swimsuit-clad body out in public.
Manatees are called the gentle giants, and they remind me of Nancy
slow moving, quiet, gentle, always smiling.

Speaking of Nancy, we’re here to move her this week. Stay tuned.

Getting to More Through Less


I want to be the kind of woman who can live with little. I want to live at home like I do when traveling – everything I need in two bags. Unburdened.


It’s a matter of trust, really. I want to trust myself and trust the Sweet Spirit of Surprise. Trust that I can find what I need when I need it. Trust that I’m resourceful enough to use whatever I have on hand.

When we visited the beach at Normandy, France last fall, the tour guide invited us to take home some sand. The Engineer’s initial startle was instantly replaced with sadness because we hadn’t come prepared with a container. I smiled and opened to the back of my journal where there were bags of all shape and size, ready. We used a small tiny little bag with a zippered top and ultimately brought him enough sand for souvenirs for ourselves, our children, my mother, and Walter. Ha.


Three years ago we moved to a small house in a small town. “Will I die without this?” I asked myself as I prepared to move. I didn’t die, but I did spend a year mourning some of the stuff I gave up in the move. We have only 2 closets in the entire house, which means everything is out in the open. Visual clutter.

I don’t want to want more closets. I’m a systems girl – I love the convenience of having things I need within reach. And besides: out of sight, out of mind.

I want less.

And I want to be happy with less.


Now it’s true that some things bring me comfort and some things enkindle memories that make me laugh and tingle with love. But still.


I want the space – the orderly space – to breathe and create and think. I want space for possibilities. Too much clutter – physical or visual – causes me to spin aimlessly.

This morning I found a big bag and wondered what if I fill it each week and get rid of that much stuff. Palpitations started. Most of the stuff I’ve needed and might need again some day, and it will be hard to find as remotely located as we are. I make excuses. Parting is such stressful sorrow.


My mother is moving soon, downsizing. You know what that means: more palpitations. Will I opt to keep things in the family? Will I choose space instead? Will I be able to live with the guilt if I say “No, thank you” because really, around here we have a tendency to hand those things we’re not quite ready to let go of off to children (and daughters-in-law, my MIL did it, too) as a way of holding on less tightly.


This needs to be the year I finish the projects I’ve started. The year I use what I have on hand. The year I trust myself and my creative abilities.

I will get there . . . I just don’t yet know how.

Relics or Legacy?


I don’t know whose hands stitched this frayed beauty.
There is no name, no date, not even initials,
though there is definitely evidence of use,
and, as I choose to believe,


Now that I’m living squarely on the finite side of infinity,
I find myself wanting to create a tangible legacy
a way for the kids to remember me.


Having had no career
having become no expert
having received no honors
or gold watches,
these little Hymns of Cloth I stitch
seem of vital importance.

To me.
Maybe not to my children, though.


Making labels for each Hymn of Cloth
is on my list for 2015 anyway.

Just in case.

I’m Knot Making This Up. Well Yes, Actually, I Am.


Working on a new piece in a new series.
I have over 40 hours worth of tying knots
with about 10 or so more hours to go.
This wasn’t part of the original plan, these knots,
but they’ve become integral.

Biscuits 2: Sour Cream


Ever on the trail of things The Engineer and I can enjoy doing together, 2015 is the year we make biscuits using a new recipe every week with this cookbook as our roadmap.

We started on New Year’s Day with sturdy dorm biscuits, and yesterday it was sour cream biscuits, cooked to enjoy with our friends who spent the weekend with us atop this mountain. You know, kneading biscuit dough is a good arms workout . . . especially when the recipe calls for 2.25 cups of self-rising flour but I use 3 cups because
I am distracted by talking to our friends. That’s my reason, and I’m sticking to it . . . even though I feel like I’m bumbling my way through this biscuit making adventure.


I just kept adding sour cream by the unmeasured blob until the dough was clumpy, then I kneaded till it was smooth and made a nice enough coherent ball.



I remember my grandmother cutting her biscuits out with a glass top dipped in flour. Best I can recall, it was a jelly glass. Though I don’t have the glass Grandmother used, it was still quite satisfying to dip the glass in flour, then press it into the dough, twisting it first one way and then the other to completely separate and define the circle.

Did you know that if the bottoms brown too quickly, you can simply slide another baking pan underneath it to retard the browning? Neither did I . . . until this morning.


These biscuits were hard – not crisp, but hard – tiptoeing up on delicious anyway, something helped along by the addition of condiments like Moonshine Jelly and Carolina Peach Preserves and – wait for it – Toe Jam. I think the hardness comes from leaving the biscuits in the oven longer than the recipe called for to get them to brown. I still think it’s an altitude thing.

But hey, they look like biscuits, and I’m tickled pink about that.



This morning, what to my wandering eyes should appear, but buttered sugared biscuits made by The Engineer using the leftover biscuits. Made just like Grandmother used to make. And that, my friends, is true love.


Using the heirloom bread bowl, I’m kneading my matriarchal lineage in 2015 (and learning something new with The Engineer), one biscuit at a time.

It all started here.

From Scratch


My grandmother made biscuits from scratch three times a day every single day. For an afternoon snack, we’d use our finger to drill a hole in the side of a leftover biscuit, fill the hole with syrup or molasses (whichever was readily available), and make a big ole’ mess like you’ve never seen devour. Sometimes we’d have Buttered Sugared Biscuits, cutting the leftover biscuit in half, smearing butter over each half, then covering the butter with sugar and broiling till the butter melted, the edges browned, and the sugar crisped-up. You’ve never tasted anything so yummy . . . or napped so soundly afterwards.

Maybe that’s why I have such a deep, lasting, loving relationship with biscuits. I love everything about biscuits – I even love the word “biscuit”. So when the Southern Biscuits Cookbook fell off the shelf and into my hands last Saturday night, a new tradition for 2015 was hatched: The Engineer and I will sift, knead, and eat our way through the year, baking biscuits from a new recipe (or 2) every week starting with page one and making our way to The End.


Using the wooden bread bowl that has been in my family for I don’t know how long, of course. The preferred biscuit bowls are wider than they are deep, you know, and wooden bowls need only be wiped out between uses.


This morning, we cracked open the book and before we could get started on Julia Regner’s Sturdy Dorms Biscuits, we had two new culinary adventures: we made our own self-rising flour and a big batch of Homemade Refrigerator Biscuit Mix (aka Bisquick). I mistakenly used the 1/2 teaspoon instead of the 1 teaspoon, but I caught my oops in time for The Engineer to do the math, add the necessary additional quantities, and get us back on track.


Being on top of a mountain messes with every baking adventure, and these biscuits – thin as they were – took almost 3 times as long as the recipe called for. Good news, though: they were mighty delicious. So delicious, in fact, that we ate them before I even though to snap a picture. And there were no leftovers. Nary a one.

Oh, and just so you know: I have already hired a personal fitness trainer.

Remembering Walter in 3-Part Harmony

~ 1 ~


Though I’ve been physically hit and emotionally scarred by some real scoundrels, it’s far more important to note and remember that I’ve been lucky enough to be loved by some genuinely good and decent men. Men who have more quirks than flaws. Men who are trustworthy, generous, kind, loyal, and caring. Men who want me (and every other woman, for that matter) to shine our own lives out into the world, dimming our lights for nobody, not a single person. Men who do much more good than harm. Men I wish I could clone because we all need more like them.


One of those men took his last breath Friday night (12/19/14), and while I know it means there’s one more guardian angel who has my back, it’s an awfully painful transition from . . .
feeling his arms wrap around me and his dry lips brush mine,
hearing him clear his voice and say “Oh, honey”,
seeing his beautiful mustached smile that stretched from his forehead to his chin
watching him shake his head as he begs me to get more sleep,
having his curved, bony hands wrap around mine
. . . to recalling these things from memory.


Walter Mashburn (my stepdad) was . . .
a good, fair, knowledgeable, and wise “big dog” at the Ford Motor Company
an interesting and affable friend to many
a loving, supportive father and grandfather
a tender, loving, deeply caring mate to my mother
an enthusiastic, never-wavering encourager, teacher, and friend to my daughter, Alison
a good example of how to suck the marrow out of life.


Walter will live on in stories, but right now, that feels a mighty poor substitute.

~ 2 ~


5 Dec 2014
5:47 a.m.

Dear Walter,

I miss you.

I woke up this morning thinking about all the things I miss about you – all the bright, shiny things that are absent in my life now that I don’t see you nearly as often – and I quickly realized it’s a list of all the things I love about you, so consider this a love letter . . .

  • I love your quick laugh and constant smile.
  • I love that you love to dance.
  • I love that you love music and know the words to more songs than I can count.
  • I love that you sing along – right out loud, even in the grocery store.
  • I love the stories you tell of working at Ford. Stories about Mr. Cannon’s support. Stories about outsmarting and working around the union. Stories about giving people a second chance to prove their worth or prove you right.
  • I love your knowledge of cars.
  • I love how when we visited the car museum in Asheville, you paid no heed to the “Please Do Not Touch the Cars” and placed both hands right smack dab on each car so you could get a better look.
  • I love that when Andy asked what was the best built car ever, you answered without a moment’s hesitation: a Packard. And you recounted that their slogan was “Just ask the man who owns one.”
  • I love how you unabashedly love to shop. Do you have any idea how rare that is and how much fun Mother had shopping with you?
  • I love that you love your birthday as much as any 6 year old I ever knew.
  • I love that story about the hard-top convertible pace car at the Atlanta Raceway – how when the early morning call came, you knew just who to call to get it fixed and how you always end that story by saying that top was “one of the worst mistakes Ford ever made.”
  • I love that you love dark chocolate. And Maker’s Mark.
  • I love your foot-stomping drinks.
  • I love talking politics with you.
  • I love that you love Georgia Tech.
  • I love that you owned a Jaguar.
  • I love that J3 now loves owning and driving your Jaguar.
  • I love how you take such good care of Mother. You let her be herself. You accept her as she is. You love her without conditions or strings attached.
  • I love that you take such care, take such an interest in your appearance.
  • Though I find it baffling, quite honestly, I love your willingness to push your plate away and turn down desserts.
  • I love that you and Mother are on a first-name basis with so many waiters in so many different restaurants.
  • I love that you were my elf last Christmas when I bought Alison your floor radio. I love that she went to the estate sale and bought one of your leather jackets.
  • I love that I can’t think of your face without seeing your smile.
  • I love that you won’t wear a hat from any place you haven’t visited yourself.
  • I love how you listen so deeply, so attentively, and without interrupting.
  • I love hearing you say “Oh, honey” to Mother and Alison.
  • I love being hugged and kissed by you.
  • I love remembering you coming out in Alison’s Christmas pajamas, something a lesser man would never have done.
  • I love the way you speak up and speak out.
  • I love how you love life and suck the marrow out of it.
  • I love remembering you dancing at the World War II Days event.
  • I love remembering how you loudly (because, really, your volume control button got busted a long time ago) said “There’s no way he can be that old” about the one veteran who beat you out of the oldest veteran in attendance recognition at the World War II Days event year before last.
  • I love how you know all the female singers, actresses, songs, and movies from the 40s, and how you share your stories and knowledge with Alison.
  • I love how you once told somebody that Alison is your best friend. Obviously I wasn’t there.
  • I love how you took my shoulders in your hands, looked into my retinas, and thanked me for giving you a second chance after you and Mother divorced. I mean, really, Walter, how could I not have given you a second chance?
  • I love how easily, frequently, and sincerely you say “I love you.”
  • I love how your ringtone on Mother’s phone is a car horn. Ford, obviously.
  • I love talking with you about leadership and management skills, something we both agree is sorely lacking in today’s world.
  • I love how you share your opinions on matters large and small and always give others a chance to voice their opinions, too, knowing that differing opinions diminish neither person.
  • I love how tirelessly and enthusiastically you supported Alison when she ran for political office.
  • I remember this one lovely spring day when Andy and I met you and Mother and Alison for lunch at Planterra Ridge. I remember the feel of the warm spring day on my skin as we sat outside and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with libations. It was one of many such lunches, of course, but this particular day stands out in my memory.
  • I love how thoughtfully and carefully you shop for cards, taking the time to read every card on the rack until you find Just The Right One.
  • I love how you sold your car to pay for The Twins’ birth.
  • I love how you and Jim have lunch every Thursday.
  • I love that you called Mother every morning at 9.
  • I love that you religiously went to the gym.
  • I love that though you spent most of every day together, there is still space in your togetherness with Mother.
  • I love that you attended the Daytona 500 when it was run on the beach, and I love that when a car would flip over while making the turn, y’all would run down, set it right, and it would get on back into the race.
  • I love your hands and how carefully and deliberately you use your fingers.
  • I love the rituals you and Mother created. I love that they were every day ordinary rituals.
  • I love being out with you and witnessing the respect you command just by your demeanor, by the way you carry and conduct yourself.
  • I love that you tried to learn to use the computer and send emails.
  • I love how you feed Jason and Clyde and Phoebe, too, when she’s there, a treat just before you go home every night.
  • Even being the feminist (of the woman’s libber variety) I am, I love how you never fail to appreciate a pretty woman.

  • I love how I make you laugh when I channel Vickie Lawrence’s character on the tv show Mama’s Family. (It’s not all that hard to channel her, really, since I think there’s a big ole’ streak of Mama running through me, don’t you?)

And that story about the Daytona 500? Of all the stories you’ve told me over the years, that one is my favorite because it typifies how you walk around this earth : You do things that interest, entertain and delight you, and when something goes off track (as it invariably will), you don’t hesitate to offer assistance, then you get on back to your seat to enjoy the rest of the race.

Nothing much gets past you, does it Walter Mashburn, and I love that because it means Mother didn’t get past you which means that you are a part of my life. An important part of my life. You’ve a man who teaches me, by example, how to spend time on earth filled to the brim with living, loving, and laughing. I must’ve done something good in another life to have had you be a part of this one.

I love you so much, Walter. More than I could ever quantify for you.

[kissed and signed by JHC]

~ 3 ~


I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through.


In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well.


I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way.


I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.


I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way.


I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.


(“I’ll Be Seeing You”: music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal)

Nancy and Jeanne: Alike . . . But Different


Jeanne hates P.E. and avoids it at all costs.
Nancy boards the bus with a smile.


Jeanne walks into the gym
and finds the nearest corner to hide in.
Nancy walks in, surveys the scene,
then finds herself a comfortable spot along the edge.


Jeanne hates touching the dirty, rough, grimy balls.
Nancy doesn’t mind playing . . . once she’s good and ready.

Jeanne makes sure she stays in at recess when Red Rover or Dodge Ball is played.
Nancy is willing to play Dodge Ball,
but she sees no need to run the bases like they told her to.

Jeanne is your classic over achiever.
But our Nancy? Not so much.
You’ll notice how she throws the ball
away from her teacher – at least initially,
indicating a complete lack of concern for such dreaded things
as grades or (coveted) distinctions as teacher’s pet.


People clamor all over each other for a chance
to hurl the hard, gritty balls at Jeanne
who just curls herself up into a small knot
and vows “never again”
while the teacher rides around the gym on her golf cart,
yelling belittling motivational phrases through the bullhorn.
Nancy’s student teacher doubles as an angel,
patiently staying with her, then
using his body to shield her from incoming balls.



On the rare occasion she actually went to P.E. (which was never),
Jeanne was graded on her performance (or lack thereof)
as compared to others in the herd.
Nancy worked one-on-one with Michael Jones
(a student teacher in the Bethune-Cookman College class
called Adaptive Physical Education
conjured and taught by Timothy Mirtz).
Michael took the assignment from his professor
along with the information he’s learned in the classroom
and adapted it to fit Nancy’s special and unique needs.

I love the word “adaptive”, don’t you?
When I’m queen, it’ll be the first word in every course title
because let’s face it,
one thing Jeanne and Nancy do have in common:
we both . . . we all . . . have unique, special needs,
some are just more obvious than others.


P.S.: Tim asked me to say a few words to the students at the end of the class. I led by telling them how I found their trash talking impressive. It was impressive . . . and not just because of the intensity or steady stream of the trash talk. See, the thing is, with the trash talking, the student teachers treated these special students like “normal” folk, and trust me: this very important act didn’t go unnoticed by anybody in that gym. They may not have noticed it consciously or given words to it, but they noticed. Oh yes, they noticed.

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