The Barefoot Heart

adventures & derring-do in the third half of life

Page 2 of 77

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.

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.

KippMarnie3 copy

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.

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