Tag: family (Page 1 of 7)

Losses or Gains?

snow on trees

Snow on Christmas Eve
Icy roads before midnight.
Santa made it, though,
thanks to Rudolph’s fierce
determination.

Snow covered trees around the waterfall

snow covered trees around the waterfall

This morning,
the men are up
earlier than the tots
on Christmas morning,
out to do battle with nature
who’s proving a formidable foe
(just as I warned.)
(I mean foretold.)
In their crosshairs:
getting off our slick mountain road
with little if any regard
for all the other potentially hazardous roads
awaiting them.

While all scurry frantically,
in angst at plans disrupted,
their eagerness to leave
lands like families of porcupines on my heart.

Have they learned nothing from 2020,
The Great Teacher
who gave us so gave us so many
opportunities
to learn
and reframe?

At the knee of 2020,
we learn to
consider plans made as suggestions
or possibilities
to jot task lists in pencil
instead of ink,
to linger.

She gives us countless opportunities
to sample a slower-paced life,
our 2020,
to remember how it feels to
spend entire days letting books
be our planes, trains, and automobiles;
to replace text message with
pen, paper, envelopes, and stamps;
to reacquaint ourselves with
childlike wonder
enjoying games made from bits found
and food made from leftovers
and the awe of trees
newly-defined by snow.

snow covered trees and branches

Now I leave the fantasy land of my studio
and rejoin the chaos of angst –
noses pressed to the
panes in the door,
watching the thermometer,
willing it to reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit,
where –
in their own fantasy land –
the snow and ice will magically poof,
disappearing so they can
hit the road
hours after they’d planned,
moving a little faster
to make up for all the time lost.

Unclaimed Hallelujah: Katie Belle Wesley Ballard

 

When the brown paper grocery bag from K. W. McElaney’s corner store was full of fabric scraps, they met in the middle of the road – Mrs. Callaway and my maternal grandmother. After exchanging pleasantries, they swapped bags then returned to their respective homes, spilling the bag’s contents on the kitchen table, marveling at the colors, the patterns, the possibilities. Soon enough, colors were sorted, patterns were chosen, cutting begun. Eventually her Davis treadle machine whirred with life, providing Grandmother the only walls she could lay claim to.

The simple act of me saying “yes” to receiving a garbage bag filled with scraps from an anonymous donor and turning them into quilts made Grandmother smile. I’m sure of it.

 

 

When the box arrived, I had no idea what I was going to do. My mind was a blank slate. I finished a few other projects, and with the calendar ticking, I got up one morning and before anything or anyone else could take the reins of my day, I opened the box, removed the garbage bag, then dumped the contents onto my design table. How I do love a beautiful jumble, the chaos of colors, the cacophony of shapes, the nostalgic imaginings of what the fabric had once been used for. Oh, the possibilities.

But still no ideas.

The calendar ticked louder.

I fiddled with the colorful bits of cloth and eventually began to See.

 

Christmas fabric . . .
Christmas mornings spent in Grandmother’s living room.
Gifts opened only after each of her 14 grandchildren played their two pieces on her black upright piano with the stool that rose and lowered by spinning.
Cousins showing off the 3 Santa gifts we were allowed to bring.
Granddaddy holding up a pair of freshly-unwrapped underwear, hollering across the room
”Katie Belle, are these from you?”
”What William?” she hollers back.
They had big ears – both of them did –
but they were for facial decoration only.
He asks again, “I said Are. These. From. You?”
With a chortle that would not be held back,
Grandmother says, “Oh William, of course they’re new.”

One strip of black and white fabric . . .
88 keys on a piano.
Grandmother’s full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory
an adventure cut short
When her father harrumphed at the end of her first year
That young ladies didn’t need an education
especially in something as frivolous as piano
and declared that she would not be going back
and would instead spend her time in search of a husband.
Even a letter from the Dean
begging him to let Grandmother complete her studies
and telling of her immense talent
could not dissuade her father.
Whether Grandmother’s step-mother influenced the story or not,
we’ll never know.
I doubt anybody thought to ask before now.
She did meet and marry Granddaddy,
and every one of her five children
will tell you without hesitation
that he – Granddaddy –
married up.

Green . . .
How Grandmother enjoyed
cutting grass.
She had her own riding lawn mower
and she used it when the grass needed
cutting
or when she needed the grass to be cut.
Whichever need came first,
she would
strap on her battered straw hat,
take her seat on the mower
and commence to riding.
Another sound
providing her with walls,
a way to close out the world
and giver her space
to create her own.

Flowers . . .
Oh my goodness, flowers.
Grandmother’s entire yard was a flower garden
and how I would love to have just one more
day with her holding my hand,
treating me to a personalized guided tour,
checking on the health of each flowering plant
and telling me the name of the plane
and who gave her the cutting.

The fabric with flames . . .
Even as a teenager
there was nowhere I’d rather be
than at Grandmother’s house.
I stopped by
whenever I wanted.
We all did.
No appointment needed.
Walk-ins welcome.
The back screen door slamming behind me.
Mother forbade it at home,
but it is a sound that didn’t bother
Grandmother at all.

Gray . . .
Color of The South.
She was, after all,
the quintessential Southern Lady
without any of the pretense and subterfuge.

The Jetsons cartoon fabric . . .
Granddaddy died
knowing that Live Atlanta Wrestling
was the real deal
while the man on the moon was
staged.

Sock monkeys . . .
Grandmother always
and I do mean always
had time to stop and play
and talk
and, perhaps most importantly,
listen.

Comfort food could always
be found on Grandmother’s table.
Biscuits made from scratch three times every day.
Leftovers in the center of the table
hidden under a clean tablecloth
always available for snacking
or an impromptu meal.
She entered – and won – cake backing contests.

A rescued tablecloth holds these “scraps”
of memories and love
together
to create the second piece in my new series
called Unclaimed Hallelujahs,
this one a cape honoring
Katie Belle Wesley Ballard.
The woman I call Grandmother.

Sheltering-in-Place Days 17, 18, 19, 20

Waterfalls, moss, boulders, plants

A view of a different part of the waterfall as we walk up the path, holding onto the handrail The Engineer built for me when I was first diagnosed with wet macular degeneration

Friday, Day 17 ~ 3.27.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s 10 a.m. and we are just getting up. While I fantasize about sleeping late, actually doing it ruins the entire day for me. By 10 a.m. I should have much of my To Do List done. Then and only then do I earn time to stitch and write, says the dreaded Voice of Authority on the Committee of Jeanne. (The other COJ members are saving up for a firing squad. I just might create something to sell and contribute to the cause.) Daily accomplishment/productivity is important to my mental health and survival during times like this.

Planning book on red fabric

My weekly planner that functions more like a record/ledger

This year I’m using the Ink + Volt Planner.  I love the look and feel of the red book linen cover and the two ribbon markers, though I only use one so far. Weekly “planning” works better for me this year, though I don’t use the planner quite as it Is designed to be used. So far (and especially now) I use a sticky note (fear of commitment?) to create a Task Well – a list of things I would like to accomplish during the week. Once I’ve done something from the well, I note it in the day it was accomplished (in pencil – again, I ask: fear of commitment?), complete with a box that I then tick off in green ink.  I like structure and accomplishment –  I thrive on structure and accomplishment – I miss structure and accomplishment, but I find it incredibly hard to come by now when time is in plentiful supply. Is it grief or avoidance?

The NC governor issued the official shelter-in-place decree for NC, effective from 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, 2020 to April 29, 2020. We – Mother, Alison, The Engineer, and I – have already been at this for more than two weeks, but there’s something unsettling about it being official and applicable to everyone in the state.

Hosta, moss-covered tree stump

Hope (hosta reaching to the sun) and History (moss covered tree stump)

Saturday, Day 18 ~ 3.28.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC/Fayetteville, GA/Cashiers, NC

Last night Alison said she missed her jewelry, and that sparked an idea that The Engineer fortunately agreed with. We spent the day in the truck, driving to Georgia and back, giving Mother and Alison an hour in their homes to fetch creature comforts and necessities.  It still feels like we’re in a post-apocalyptic movie when we leave the house. They made their lists on the drive down, and they each forgot only one item.

The roads are eerily empty, and I am relieved that there are state patrol cars at the state line. Even though the governor’s decree doesn’t go into effect till Monday evening, it feels like we are doing something wrong, scary, dangerous.  In nearby Highlands, police are stationed at each end of Main Street because apparently people are renting cabins and coming up expecting to shop and dine as if on holiday. The governor as well as Jackson and Macon County officials add into their decree that any rentals less than a month in duration (unless for essential workers) must be canceled and anybody coming up to stay a while must bring enough food and medicine to get them through the two weeks they will spend in self-quarantine.

It was a good day. I close it out as I always do, with a list of Grins and Gratitudes.

Chore chart

Chore Chart V.2

Sunday, Day 19 ~ 3.29.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s surprising how tiring 9 hours in the car can be. We sleep late, nap long, and continue  binge watching Downton Abbey late into the night.

During our waking hours, I hand out the new individualized Chore Charts I created – one for everybody – intended to keep everyone in their own lane, doing their own chores. Each chart has space for everyone to write in other things they want to accomplish (They’ll likely use it about as much as I use my store-bought planner.). I reduced the number of chores, deleting some and combining some, till I have 8 daily chores, two per person. Thursday will be out entire house day, so everybody adds one chore on Thursday. I write the chores on slips of paper, fold them, and let everybody draw – a DIY scheduling that relieves me of that thankless grumble-inducing task.

To sweeten the pot, I institute weekly challenges. This week it’s water intake. Whoever drinks the most water (measured in 8 oz increments) between Monday morning and Saturday night can hand off their 2 Sunday chores to the person of their choosing. (Even though I’m putting much back into their hands, I have a feeling I’ll be real busy on Sundays.) Another week it will be walking – whoever walks the most steps wins the challenge. That’s all I’ve been able to think of so far.

Small art quilt blocks

Small art quilts, lifelines during former dark days

Monday, Day 20 ~ 3.30.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

I am cranky. I don’t want to be, and I try not to be, but I’m cranky, and I can list you reasons. I vow (again) to be kinder and friendlier, and even as I write that, I know that despite my best efforts, it won’t last. There’s simply not enough chocolate to carry me through. Should a chocolate shortage develop, you’ll find me eating bark and vines and howling at the sky from atop our chimney made of gravestones.

Today while trying yet again to bring order to The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug (my studio) (I believe physical environments enkindled and/or support emotional and mental environments, and I need all the help I can get!), I find the small blocks I made during some dark days I lived through in the Way Back When. Funny how many of them I remember. I immediately envision ways to bring them together in one art piece, but my heart settles on nothing yet. It will come, and I think it involves rope. That’s all I know for now.

Supper is at 6 p.m. every day, and for dessert, I stitch as we binge watch episodes of Downton Abbey. (We’re on season 6 and planning to watch the movie next.) Then I think we should make a list and watch movies featuring people who find themselves plucked from their normal everyday life and marooned in a new, surreal existence. Who knows? Maybe we’;ll find them motivational, maybe educational.

Maybe I’ll gift myself a couple of just-stitching days and that’ll be just the ticket I need to get me in productive motion again. Shoot, maybe I’ll even spend some serious time on that book I’m itching to write.

Day 16, an Outing

Bojangle’s sign

Lowe’s with mountains and clouds as a backdrop

Today was my day to cook breakfast, so we ventured out for a PICkuptruckNIC. Went to Bo’s for a biscuit, then – because he is showing withdrawal symptoms – a stop by Lowe’s. I admit it was more than a bit scary – after all, we haven’t been out of the house in two weeks. We never left the truck, though The Engineer and I did go into Lowe’s – he in search of supplies and me wanting to feed my Fitbit. People tended to make sure there was space in our togetherness, and most women wore gloves or kept their hands in their pockets. Why did I feel like holding my breath the entire time? A clear plastic panel was on his shopping list, and their supply’s was nil. When we went to the checkout, we discovered why: a panel of hard, clear plastic separated every cashier from the paying customers. Every aisle was marked off with big, colorful X’s on the floor and a sign asking next-in-line customers to wait here to maintain social distancing. The people behind us paid no heed.

Man and woman planting flowerpots

The weather was absolutely beautiful today, so once back home, Mother and The Engineer busied themselves outside planting colorful annuals in the deck pots while Alison and I worked on our computers indoors. If I told you Mother’s age, you’d be quite impressed at all she did today. But then if I told you her age, she’d kill me and spend the rest of her life wearing ill-fitted orange jumpsuits in prison, (a sentence she’d willingly endure for punishing me for the ultimate transgression. Our motto is Age is just a number, and mine’s unlisted.) I imagine we’ll all  sleep well from a day of good work (and no naps) with visions of Bo’s Biscuits dancing in our heads, though I’m not sure we’ll venture out again any time soon. I don’t like being fearful, but I don’t know how to quell it.

From the Mailbox

Thank you to Julie for sending a long list of quotes in response to my request on Day 14. She includes a quote at the end of every blog post, and she was kind enough to compile last year’s quotes and send them to me. I dare say Mother will enjoy these much more than the oracle cards.

I really enjoy hearing about how you’re getting on during this surreal time. My friend Becky writes of baking cookies and how she and her husband (who is now working from home) enjoy this slower lifestyle, including date night on the newly pressure-washed deck – now festooned with brightly colored plants – twice a week. She’s turned this into a delightful time of delightfully leisurely togetherness.

The Four-Legged Population Sheltering-in-Place With Us

An orange tabby kitten sleeps in the sunshine

Meet Flerkin

Black and white cat sleeping

And Jeeves

Did I mention that we have 8 – yes, e-i-g-h-t – cats staying with us, too? Why oh why does it sound so adorable when Tracy Coan posts of her feline’s antics? Ours are cute as buttons . . . When they’re asleep.

Day 14

A meet cat with hand shading his eye. Text: “Hey, I can see my sanity from here. No wait, it’s just a rock.”

I saved this image but not the info telling me who to credit for it. If it’s you, please let me know, and I’ll add.

 

Pop quiz: 1 introvert + 3 social butterflies = ?

As the resident introvert, hearing “shelter-in-place” sounds like paradise. To the social butterflies I live with, not so much. For me, self=distancing brings on the excitement of having large blocks of time to myself to create with cloth and ink. To the 3 extroverts, it means they have to go more than 2 minutes without interrupting me.

I was a stay-at-home mom, which in those days, was the equivalent of gum on the bottom of your shoe. At last I’m feeling some respect, though, as next generation family members have the choice made for them to  be stay-at-home parents. “This is hard, Mom,” my son tells me. “How did you do it?” Wonder if he can hear me purring in response.

Every few days, I reach into my memory banks and sent my son and niece an email with “”low tech” activities they can do with children – things I did when my children were tots. (I am careful not to include any project requiring toilet paper.) I doubt they’ll use any of my ideas, but I’m itching to pull out the supplies and add a daily arts and crafts hour here at Camp Corona.

Creating Space in Our Togetherness

We – that would be my mother, our daughter, The Engineer, and I – have been sheltering-in-place since Tuesday 10 March  2020. You’d think by now we would have a daily routine, but in reality, not so much , though it’s not from lack of trying, and we are getting there. We spent Day 1 bringing beds up from the downstairs guest rooms and moving furniture in the gathering room to accommodate them. On Day 2 we went to the library to load up with books and to the grocery store. Day 3 we went out  for supper because I expected the restaurants to close. We kicked off Day 4 with me inviting everyone into my morning sacred practice. We read a randomly selected Blessing from this book written by a talented woman and dear friend Ashima Sarin who is  the  daughter of a dear friend. Then we draw an oracle card or 3 from my decks and take a few minutes to take the wisdom into our bodies. I’m not sure Mother has ever seen or heard of oracle cards, and I’m not sure they resonate with her. So last night when I couldn’t sleep, I came up with the idea of writing quotes on slips of paper, put them in a container, and she can draw one of those out every day. I think she’ll enjoy that and find it more meaningful. (If you have favorite positive, uplifting quotes and are willing to send them, I’d be much obliged.)

Knowing the value of structure and accomplishment, Day 5 found me introducing the Chore Chart. (It also keeps one person from having to do all the work.) Community Chores are listed, assigned, and everybody has their own signature color to make finding their daily duties even easier. Knowing how important it is to do something for others, I asked Mother to call at least 2 people every day (something she’s taken quite seriously and enjoyed immensely) and daughter Alison to post at least 2 funny kitty videos on her facebook timeline each day (something she’s not done with any regularity). Everyone is required to spend at least 30 minutes outside every day, with their feet on the earth and fresh air in their lungs. The Chore Chart seems such an easy thing to me – and it would be if everybody would stay in their own lane. Mother is bad to do other people’s chores (usually without mentioning it to them), and daughter (who seems quite comfortable in overage teen mode) is bad to do none of hers. On Day 6 we set a time for breakfast (9:30 a.m.), declared lunch on your own every day, and supper at 6 p.m. We binge-watched Turn and are now on the second season of Downton Abbey. There’s some comfort knowing that at 6, we’ll eat the flop in front of the tv (all) and hand-stitching (me).

Today I will create personal Daily Do sheets for people to add their own tasks needing to be accomplished. Chores take about 1 to 1.5 hours each day, leaving plenty of time for reading and making. I do this because we need to keep as normal a life as possible and (perhaps mostly) in the spirit of self defense so I don’t have to remember and remind.

Other things I’m considering: weekly book club or maybe weekly book reports; daily arts and crafts; and a round of daily calisthenics.

Adjustments are required on everybody’s part. Our house is totally rearranged with stuff everywhere, and I am not one who handles clutter – visual or physical – easily. Mother and Alison are in our house not theirs, so Mother, especially, has to ask where everything is and learn little idiosyncrasies like how much laundry detergent to put in the washing machine,  how you know if the dishwasher is on or not, and which light switch turns on the lights and which one turns off all the clocks, lamps, computers, and other things plugged into electrical outlets. Which reminds me: our first arts and crafts hour will be spent creating signs for rooms (occupied / vacant)  and the dishwasher (clean / dirty).

Meanwhile in the Dissenter’s Chapel and Snug

Red, yellow, blue, green, gray, and orange pieces of fabric sewn together into blocks

Over the weekend, while others napped, I treated myself to some much-needed, much-enjoyed studio time. Cut up some shirts The Engineer no longer wears, and mindlessly put them back together. Now that I think about it, this kinda’ parallels our current existence: putting the discombobulated familiar together in new ways.

How About You and Yours?

How are you and yours? What’s keeping you sane? Be well, y’all. Check in when you can.

Endings

It’s Sunday, 05 November 2017.
Nobody applauds when the announcer declares the 2017 International Quilt Festival over.

Queen Becky gives us a lesson in how to fold the quilts,
how to roll and twist the tissue paper,
and where to place it to prevent creases when the quilts are folded.
She is an excellent teacher from whom I learn an awful lot.

The quilts and all who had a hand in creating them are treated with respect.
A clean sheet is placed between the quilts and the floor,

and everyone who touches the quilts wears clean, white gloves.

Sean and David Rusidill (Caroline’s amazingly polite and fun to be with sons), Judy Jochen,
and Shannon Timberlake join in the take down and store effort.

The Engineer (Andy) takes quilts off the walls, and
Linda Moore and Peggy Thomas (sisters) fold and box quilts as they come down.

Caroline Rudisill checks quilts off the inventory list

as they go into the boxes.

It would not have happened with out Peggy Thomas

and Tari Vickery,
both seen here in The 70273 Project Interactive Booth
where people took home 1000 block kits,
left financial donations, and made Friendship Blocks.

Peggy Thomas and Tari Vickery (The 70273 Project Ambassadors)
– what would I . . . what would The 70273 Project . . . do without them?

Mary Green, Ambassador for The 70273 Project
(seen here in front of her beautiful Middling made with beads)
worked in the Interactive Booth, as did . . .

Cindy Cavallo, Ambassador

Caroline Rudisill, Ambassador

Frances Alford, Ambassador
and folks whose photos must be on somebody else’s phone:
Elaine Smith, Ambassador
Linda Moore, Ambassador
Judy Jochen, Ambassador,
Shannon Timberlake.

Thank you all for making the effort not just to get to the Festival,
but to share your time with The 70273 Project. I am grateful beyond description.

Thank you to Queen Becky, who hung The 70273 Project quilts
in the Special Exhibit, making us look so good . . .

to Rose (she teaches special education) who helped hang quilts in the Interactive Booth . . .

to Becky who, because of health issues, wasn’t able to be at the Festival,
but for months and months before the Festival,  donned her best patience and wit
to guide me through the process,
even taking the time to call me on the phone
with the good news that The 70273 Project had been selected
as a Special Exhibit when she could’ve just sent an email.

to Deann who was on-site, always calm and patient and thorough in her answers and instructions,

to Terri, whose laugh never faded throughout the entire five days

to the people back home who assembled The Go Block Bags
(all 1000 bags were taken!) . . .

 to all y’all who weren’t there in person,
but were most definitely there in spirit – sharing posts,
telling others, sending encouraging, appreciative message, emails, and comments –

and to The Engineer . . .  Andy
the man who has unwaveringly honored
our vision and vow of togetherness
for 44 years now . . .

THANK YOU.

It definitely takes a village, and we have a village made of the  kindest,
most compassionate, smiling, big-hearted people I ever dreamed existed.


All good things must come to an end, and the International Quilt Festival is no exception.
Looking at the photos of empty walls now, I see visual foreshadowing . . .

We get home and take our elder Corgi Phoebe up the mountain on Wednesday,
cooking all her favorite foods and putting them in front of her,
sitting on the floor with her, petting her, talking to her, loving her.
She wants to go outside every 2 minutes or so as though she can’t make up her mind.
She stands over her water bowl as though it’s familiar,
but she’s forgotten what she’s supposed to do with it.

A business trip on Thursday, and on Friday, it’s time to make The Hard Decision.

As we wait on Jeff (our vet, friend, and well, extended family member),
a man comes in and walks right over to Phoebe who would ordinarily
be glad to see him because she has always known that everybody wants to pet her.
This man does want to pet her,
but today Phoebe doesn’t even raise her head
or look up at him.

We are ushered not into the usual exam room,
but into a more spacious room with colorful padded chairs.
There’s even a doggie bed . . . pink.
I know why we are here
– shoot, I’m the one who called Jeff and told him why we wanted to come –
and yet I am unable to let go of the hope,
that Jeff will enter to announce that an IV of fluids
and maybe 2 weeks of antibiotics and our Phoebe will be good as new.

That’s not what happens.

I sit on the floor with Phoebe.
She stands near the door,
and I ask her to move
for fear someone will smack her hard
when they don’t see her standing there.

She makes laps around the room,
walking in circles that take her
in front of the examining table,
in front of Andy,
in front of me,
then back by the examining table.
Around and around and around she goes.
Mindlessly.
Endlessly.

Jeff takes her out to put the catheter in,
and when he brings her back,
she’s content to lay on the bed she’s been avoiding.

We all sit on the floor now.
As Jeff administers the sedative/anti-anxiety drug,
I tell stories that start with “Remember when . . . “.

As Jeff administers the narcotic,
we each lay a hand on Phoebe
and send steady streams of love to her
through our touch.

The precious four-legged soul called Phoebe
who gifted us with her presence
breathes her last breath
to the sound of laughter and love.

From the high of the Special Exhibit at IQF
to the lows of witnessing the life of a member of our family come to a close,
life is a roller coaster, and we have been in the front seat.

May I Have The Envelope, Please

High School Sports Awards and  Letters: We’ll never know whether she would’ve lettered or not because her parents refused to let her play basketball because she would’ve had to wear shorts.

High School Clubs and After School Activities: “We didn’t have clubs back then,” she tells me when I asked what she did in high school, “but I was the first editor of The Hi Times, our high school newspaper, and the man who was Editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was my advertising manager.”

Post High School Education: She didn’t go to college ’cause having only enough money to send one child to college, it was my mother’s little brother who has the college degree.

Jobs: Though her best friend, Harriett Dean, tried and tried and tried, my mother steadfastly refused to take a higher paying job in Atlanta, choosing instead to spend her career in her hometown of Fayetteville, Georgia. As secretary for the Baptist Church, Mother held all the power as it was she who selected the hymns we sang every Sunday.

When the county got big enough to hire a second person, my mother left the employ of the Baptist Church to become Clerk of the County Commissioners. She cleared out a little space for herself in the courthouse, and using the file cabinet that somebody gave her and the desk she brought from home, she set about helping Mr. Jimmy White (the county Ordinary) separate the files, dividing them into 2 piles: County Ordinary and County Commissioners. “It was a nasty job,” Mother told me, “some of those files were covered in tobacco juice.” After a few years, Mama Opal Howell lured Mother to work beside her at the Fayette County Board of Education where, with the exception of the few years she took off to build the business infrastructure while Daddy build the golf course, she worked till her retirement.

Service to the Community: Trustees from the jail – prisoners who’d proven themselves trustworthy enough to go out into the town and empty trashcans at the Fayette County Board of Education – were regularly “adopted” by my mother and the other women who worked at the Fayette County Board of Education, Mama Helen Voyles and Mama Opal Howell. After counseling the men on how to stay out of trouble, the women sent the Trustees out into the world in a new suit, fearing that prison stripes would be detrimental to their success. And though they’d sometimes look out the office window to see a Trustee being returned to his jail cell, these women never gave up hope that the next Trustee they took under their wings would be rehabilitated for good.

These days, if you fall ill, my mother will see that your family is fed in your absence, and if you’re in the hospital, not only will she drive your spouse to be by your side and back home again every day, she’ll see that your family is well-fed until your release from the hospital or till you’re back on your feet in the kitchen, whichever comes first.

As an Ambassador for The 70273 Project, Mother works tirelessly making blocks and delivering materials to others so they can make blocks.

Every year for the past I don’t know how many decades, mother plans, organizes, and hosts the Class of 1945 high school class reunion. They come together for a luncheon at Mother’s house, and though attendance was down to 6 last year, Mother is already looking forward to this year’s reunion.

I am button-busting proud that my mother devoted much of her working life to making the school system she is proud to call her alma mater a better place for all of us to learn, and that she spent all of her adult life working to make Fayette County the best place on earth to call Home.

~~~

These are some of the things I told the Fayette County High School Distinguished Alumni tonight when I nominated my mother, and it is with great pleasure that I tell you that in October, mother will be inducted into the Fayette County High School Hall of Fame.

The Stanzas of Fatherhood

83OctTrainKippCarCar140 copy

From my daddy
(his granddaddy),
my son learned
that making space in his life to
pursue what captivates him
doesn’t make him selfish,
but instead makes him a better person
in every area of his life.
He learned resourcefulness, and
that it’s quite possible to make a good living
doing what you love.
He learned to honor the past.
contribute to your community,
the importance of family.
He learned roots.

AndyJimDec1998

From my father-in-law
(his paternal granddaddy)
my son learned perseverance, tenacity,
a can-do/will-do/just-you-watch-me attitude.
He learned that nothing – and I mean nothing –
can take you down unless you let it.

AJAK111978

From my husband
(his daddy),
my son learned loyalty,
fiscal responsibility,
logical thinking.
He learned to work hard enough
to have an impressive career,
but never so hard as to
miss out on family time and happenings.
He learned how to fix things,
how to plan for the future
how to treat women
– as well as other men – with respect.
He learned self-reliance and confidence.
He learned consideration for self and  others
and where to draw the line
to avoid abdication of self
which does nobody any good.
From his daddy,
my son learned humility, patience,
generosity and kindness.
He learned how to be a good husband
and a good dad.

KippCalderRay

My son, Kipp, is now a daddy himself,
and through him,
his son (my grandson),
will learn all the things
passed down through his
daddy’s male ancestors.
He will learn self reliance and kindness
confidence and loyalty
dependability and patience.
He will learn to tell the truth
even when it hurts,
(and, for purposes of entertaining,
how to lie convincingly).
(Wait – that might come from the maternal side of the table.)
He will learn love and curiosity
humor and responsibility
accountability and gratitude.
He will learn to
delight in the success of others
as much as he delights in his own.
He will learn how to make his family proud,
how to be a contributing member of society,
how to take good care of himself and others.
He will learn how to be A Good Man
and a Good Father.

AndyDCarCarKippThanksgiving1978 copy

This is what good fathers do, you know:
they take the best of their forefathers
and pass it on,
setting aside the inevitable not-so-good stuff
to leave it on the side of the road.
And in doing that, good fathers raise good men
who raise good men,
who raise good men,
making the world better
for men and women, boys and girls
for all of us.

ThreeGenerationsOfChambersGuys

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

Our Little Houdini

Nancy24Marh16c

Hospital Room 534
Orange City, FL
Wednesday
3/23/2016

Nancy is not as alert today as she was yesterday, though I think her tongue is receding in size. Tired of the catheter, she simply wiggles her way out of it, leaving it on the side of the bed. They decide to leave it out, and I am not sorry about that decision.

I  kick some serious ass today, and I feel really, really good about it. Boot one doctor, despite being told by many that it couldn’t be done. Put others on notice. Have an eyeball to eyeball with one particular nurse, and it goes so well that within 5 minutes of my little treatise about both of us being on Team Nancy, she was wheeling me in a reclining chair, pillow, and blanket. Without me asking.

Undoubtedly the best part (aside from booting the asshat doctor) . . .

mittens

Around 4 am I sit in my recliner, stitching. My feet are up and my chair is positioned about an arm’s length away, facing Nancy. In one sure and swift move that takes less than 90 seconds, our little Houdini wrestles her hands out of the protective mittens – without disturbing the velcro binding, mind you – and yanks that tube from her nose.

I fetch Nurse CeeCe who comes into the room and takes her position in one side of Nancy while I position myself on the other side.

“Did Jeanne do that?” CeeCe asks Nancy, giving a curt nod in my direction.

“Yes,” Nancy says, waiting a beat before busting out into a full body chortle. She laughs about once every 17 years, and let me tell you, the sound of her laugh spreads to those around her quicker than poison ivy on a hot day in a wrestling ring.

The three of us keep laughing, and every time we stop to catch our breath, I say “You pulled that tube out your own self, and you’re blaming it on me,” and the chortling starts all over again.

Three women, laughing their heads off at 4 o’clock in the morning. It is one of the sweetest moments of my life, one I will carry tucked into my heart forever. The sound of Nancy’s laughter is delightful in and of itself. And the cognitive connections she makes to enkindle that laughter – that astonishing element of surprise because sometimes I  don’t give her enough credit – well, wow.

A Grandmother by Any Other Name

LettersToMyGrandchildJournalBookOne

Today, in plain sight of the demanding to do list, I shove everything aside and sit writing letters to my unborn grandchild in a beautiful journal my friend Tari bought for me when I took it off the shelf and told her of my plan. I won’t know this grandchild like I wish I would, you see, and she or he won’t know me, either. Geographical distance separates us – undoubtedly not as much geography as lies between some of my friends and their grandchildren – but today I take no solace in comparisons, and the scolding voice that admonishes me I ought to be ashamed of myself for such frivolity in light of all that needs to be done and warns me with a wagging finger that such honesty could bring consequential riffs in an already extensive geographical divide, is asked in no uncertain terms to go hurl itself off the top of the waterfall.

Today my heart breaks into a thousand shards at the thought of it all, and that is just the way it is.

I pen these letters in what most surely will be Book One in hopes that One Day, when the child is old enough to think his own thoughts and wise enough to ask her own questions, she/he will take this book to a quiet spot – perhaps on a boulder in the middle of a particular waterfall – and get to know me more deeply and will feel my caring, love, and unwavering support, maybe even glean some wisdom, in my inked words.

The time draws near when I need to assume my grandmotherly moniker. Now “Grandmother” is a fine name – and I count myself lucky to have known some mighty fine women who went by that name. But me, I long for something different. Am I being difficult? Is it because my mother, who honored her promise to her mother-in-law to name her firstborn after the mother-in-law’s son who was killed as a teenager, chose to spell “Gene” (my uncle’s name), J-e-a-n-n-e? Is it because I’m a writer? Do I put too much stock into names? Maybe, and I don’t give a rat’s ass why, I only know that I want special names for us.

Kaitaiki

My friend Jane Cunningham, who hails from New Zealand, sent me the most beautiful scarf made of yak wool, and it came to me in a mailer bearing the word “Kaitiaki”, the Maori word for protector or guardian.  “Tiaki”, the mailer explains, means “care.” I’ve kept the envelope for I don’t know how many months because that word spoke to me, and though my Southern tongue will most definitely mangle the pronunciation, it’s a word that tapped its foot and cleared its throat by way of saying “Heed.”  Might this be The Name?

Maybe I spend time on this because it is the one thing I have some say over. A child’s personal history begins with the memories and stories of their grandparents. This child will not know independence and grow wings by walking to see me the way my young children walked to see their grandparents. And this child may not sit at the table with the roots of multi-generations telling stories and kidding each other,  or have a treasure trove of stories about great great aunts who hid cheeseballs in pecan trees, or great granddaddies who saw a teddybear advertised in the Western Auto weekly flyer and insisted on going right then to buy one with his great grandchild, or know what it’s like to ride on a tractor for hours on end with his granddaddy, or go see her grandmother after school and be paraded around the office as the obvious apple of her grandmother’s eye, or have any other number of opportunities to give him or her paternal roots that run so deep . . . but she or he will have a book of letters, and we will share special names.

« Older posts