Living Vicariously

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lives together! (Note the beautifully smocked - if I do say so myself - dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lmulti-generational together! (Note the beautifully smocked – if I do say so myself – dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

Sounds of
Tiny hands slapping watermelons
and joining in with applause
until she knows an A+.
Boats making their way
through the deep water of our backyard.
Birds melodiously conversing
with birds of different feathers.
Wind chimes singing a duet
with clacking palm trees to the tune of gentle breezes.

The feel of
Really cold ice on her tongue.
The tickle of peach fuzz against her chubby cheek.
Heavily mayonnaises potato salad
squishing through her tiny fingers.
Ephemeral bath bubbles on her arms
Ocean waves stealing the ground from beneath her feet.

Scents of
Roses and peonies.
Heavy hot air of the Lowcountry summer.
A watermelon busting open.
Bubble gum flavored toothpaste.

Seeing
Her mother’s face when she enters the room.
The vast ever-changing ocean.
Her bedtime bottle.

Slowly
slowly
Sometimes taking one step forward
and thirteen backwards,
The shroud of grief is pierced
at least momentarily
and she reacquaints me with
wonder
delight
and hope.

~~~~~~~

Notes:
~ Ava Jeanne is a year older now than in this photo, but the computer wouldn’t cooperate and upload the photo i want to use.
~ My mother took her last earthly breath last fall, and still I grieve. Hard.
~ This was written as granddaughter Ava Jeanne took her 2-hour nap this afternoon in my lap. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be rocking her at this stage . . . but one thing I know for sure: I won’t get a second chance to do this.

April 5 Through the Family Calendar

 

 

April 5, 1947

Mother and Daddy (Yea Yea and Car Car to the Grands and Great Grands) got married in the Fayette County GA jail. yes, really. Granddaddy (Mother’s daddy) was Sheriff, you see, and in those days voters elected the Sheriff and taxpayers got the family – especially the wife – for free to cook, clean, and make sure the prisoners had freshly laundered white shirts and pants with the black strip down the side.

Though I love the story about them getting married in the jail, Mother did not find it charming at all. So 26 years later when The Engineer and I decided to publicly say “I sure will!”, I told Mother to plan and host the wedding she always wanted because all that mattered to me is that I got to spend the rest of my life with this man . . . and that we had watermelon at our reception. Mother went all out, hiring caterers (who brought delicious watermelon, attractively served), planting snapdragons (something she’d always wanted but never could seem to get around to it till she had a big deadline), and her front door – usually ignored by people who preferred to save steps and instead come in through the back door under the carport – got used! At the end of the night, her smile was as big as her exhaustion.

 

April 5, 1973 (the fourth day anniversary of our engagement)

So there we were necking – I mean SITTING – on the gorgeous blue one-piece L-shaped sofa in the living room, The Engineer and I, talking about plans for the next weekend when I noted that I had to go to a wedding shower for a friend, also noting that as an introvert of the first order, showers are not my favorite type of gathering. “Well,” he said, playfully tapping my nose with his finger, “when we get married, you’ll have to go to lots of showers.”

Caught completely by surprise, I sat upright, leaned away from him, and noted the obvious, “You haven’t asked me yet.” I. just wanted to make sure this Atlanta boy knew the correct order of things. They might, after all, do things differently in the big city, but he was in the country now, and we did not make assumptions about such things as being the lead actors in a wedding.

“I know,” he said, obviously pleased with himself, and taking a better position to see my reaction.

I picked him up met him 8 weeks before when a high school friend and I ventured into the bar where he worked weekends, drawing beer, and I took one look at him in that brown leather floppy-brimmed hat and knew that very night that this is who I wanted to go through life with. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life necking sitting beside this adorable, funny, brilliant man, but even I hadn’t had time to start planning how the engagement and consequently the wedding would go.

Finally, he slid off the low sofa, got on one knee, took my hands in his and asked,  “So will you?”

“Have you asked Daddy?”

“No, I wanted to ask you first.”

“You still have to talk to Daddy, but YES I WILL!!!” I said (and I didn’t cry).

That was March 31, 1973.

On April 1, 1973, we were sitting (not necking this time, just sitting, I promise) in the swing in the backyard when he had another good idea: “Why don’t we promise not to tell anybody just yet?” he asked, an idea that was fine with me because I was sure . . . and not sure. You know? We decided to keep it a secret for a while . . . which turned out to be less than 24 hours!

And the rest, as they say, is 51 years of history.

 

April 5, 2023

The 8 month anniversary of the day Mother took her last earthly breath. It seems like this morning, and it seems like my whole life ago. Grief still has its boot on my neck. I now cry at the most inane things. Sometimes I don’t even know what broke the dam and allowed the tears to flow.

David Kessler who studied death, dying, and grief alongside Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says the number one need of a person grieving is to have someone bear witness to their grief. I feel that strongly, deeply, near constantly, but i keep my lips zipped because most people are uncomfortable talking about such subjects deemed “sad” and “negative” and what I want to do more than anything is make people smile. So yea, I turtles in soon after that last breath, retreating to my shell and pulling down the black-out curtains. I stay away from social media, talk to only 3 people: a cousin who’s like my Big Sister, my friend Laura, The Engineer, daughter Alison, son Kipp, and daughter-in-law Marnie.

I know that’s more than 3 people – such is the thinking style of a #BrainOnGrief. I’m just glad I caught it here. Usually it’s weeks after before I see some embarrassing goof.

That’s another thing: my brain is mushy.
I can’t seem to find ground under my feet.
I spend more time in bed than ever before. Bed therapy, I call it.
I’m exhausted all the time – and I do mean all the time. Grieving is exhausting.

Even now I’m embarrassed about what I’ve told you and fear I sound like I’m auditioning for one of those tv commercials for insurance where the fella is trying to teach adults how to be young by getting them to cease and desist doing all sorts of things – like telling your life story to complete strangers! (Personally, I think I’d be a shoo-in for that role.) (And several of the other behaviors the dude is trying to eradicate in the name of not embarrassing your children.)

I binge read grief memories, seeking the magic key or password that will allow me to escape. Just last night I started reading a book on happiness. Joy is still way too far out of reach, but happiness? I might one day find my way back there. I have a plan. I’ll tell you more next time. Right now, I feel a bed therapy session coming on. Thanks for being here. Thanks for listening reading.

Time for Q and A

a trio of sparkly pink hearts embellishing the beautiful arrangement of flowers my daughter Alison sent on the occasion of my first anniversary of what she calls my Second Chance Day

a trio of sparkly pink hearts embellishing the beautiful arrangement of flowers my daughter Alison sent on the occasion of my first anniversary of what she calls my Second Chance Day. Alison, a banker, ordered these flowers from one of her customers. I love that she supports her customers.

The post about my Heart Alert brought many questions on Facebook and behind the scenes – something that delights me because this is an important conversation about a serious women’s health issue that needs to be talked about. Here are the Questions and my Answers:

Q: How long did the diarrhea and nausea last?
A: Less than 5 minutes. It was like my body was stepping up its efforts to get my attention and get me moving toward help.

Q: Did you have any other warnings or was this the first and only clue that something was amiss?
A: There was an episode of the uncomfortable stretching sensation that woke me up 3 nights prior. I breathed my way through it and went back to sleep. Not one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, that’s for sure.

Q: In the comments on Facebook, Dana Boyle LaPointe asked this good question: Can you describe the stretching sensation . . . location? Anything else?
A: The uncomfortable stretching sensation was in the hollowed-out place at the base of my throat. (Where’s that World Book Encyclopedia with the overlays of the human body when you need it?!) It wasn’t on the left side of my chest where I put my hands when sending love to someone, and no pain or discomfort radiated down my arms. The discomfort remained localized at the base of my throat. You know those resistance bands used in fitness workouts? It felt like that. . . like 2 hands were pulling in opposite directions at whatever is in this place in my body. (Research ahead!)

Q: Did you go to Cardiac Rehab?
A: Yes, though I didn’t stay long. When I hadn’t heard from them in a month after my Heart Alert, I reached out to them. The hospital had given them an incorrect phone number for me. I signed up, went to orientation, and show up at the hospital’s gym, ready to go. I danced – I literally danced – my laps that day, so happy was I to be moving forward. I’d been afraid to walk (10,000 to 12,500 steps a day) or dance (every night at bedtime The Engineer and I dance to “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray.) because nobody talked with me about whether I should walk or gallop back into my life. I asked the people supervising Cardiac Rehab and the head of the hospital’s fitness department for parameters: how much could I walk? What was considered a low blood pressure? High blood pressure? Any particular sensations I should be aware of should they appear? What was a good resting heart rate, and what was an alarming heart rate? I got no answers. I asked the cardiologist who directed me to ask them. Because it took us about 40 minutes to get to the hospital, because The Engineer had to tend to Baby Ava for an hour by himself, because I couldn’t figure out what the goal was for me and my recovery, and because we have a well-equipped fitness room at home (complete with treatmill, which is all there were having me do there – walk), I turned in my notice. I was gracious about it, explaining to them what I just told you, and thanked them for being there. I got no response. None at all. I have talked with others who went to Cardiac Rehab in different states, and most of their experiences were drastically different, and they recommended I find another Cardiac Rehab (there is none here).

Q: Of course I couldn’t close this post without sharing the question every member of my family – daughter Alison, son Kipp, daughter-in-love Marnie, and The Engineer each asked me in one form or another (after a respectful amount of time, of course): Did you see St. Peter? How ‘bout Lucifer?
A: Yes, these clowns are my precious family, and I adore them! Truthfully, it never crossed my mind that I might die. Not once. It has definitely changed the way I live, but the notion that I could’ve died didn’t land for a very long time, I guess because there was too much going on!

If you have questions, ask away! You can post them here in the comments, on Facebook, on Instagram (I’ll be posting there tomorrow. Some people don’t like seeing posts on FB and IG at the same time.) And you can always email me: whollyjeanne (at) gmail (dot) com

Appreciate y’all so much.

On the First Anniversary of My Heart Alert

A smiling woman in a hospital gown surrounded by monitors and machines


Hours after acquiring 3 pieces of Heart Jewelry

When The Engineer and I first married, I laid down a rule: last one out of bed made the bed up. One year ago today was the first day my rule was broken. By me.

I lingered in bed then took a shower and washed my hair. As I made my way back to make the bed, I noticed a tug of war happening inside my body in that hollow space at the base of my throat. Unlike the pain folks must have felt on the torture racks of ancient times, I felt only discomfort. Intense discomfort, to be sure, but not excruciating pain that would’ve granted those turning the gears at both ends of the torture rack names and other information they sought. I made a silent note of this unusual sensation, filing it away in my mental file cabinet under For Future Reference, pulling the bedspread up over the pillows. The decorative throw pillows never made it to the bed that day. When the diarrhea and nausea hit simultaneously, Brain and Bones whispered in unison This. Is. Serious.”

We’d only lived on the island a short while, and to that point, not a single visitor had been able to find us via GPS. That’s why I didn’t trust the EMT’s and an ambulance to find me, and I sensed I couldn’t afford such a lengthy wait, so Andy drove me to the ER, something I’ve since given many second thoughts. How awful, I think in hindsight, it would’ve been for him to watch me die in the passenger seat.

As we pulled into the ER parking lot, I uttered my first words, directing The Engineer to forget what the signs said and listen to me when I told him to park at the curb to the left of the entrance to the door. At that moment, I really didn’t care if we inconvenienced anybody especially since we’d left the door open for others, and there was plenty of room for other vehicles to get past us. “You need to take the lead, and you definitely need to fill out the paperwork,” I said as the doors opened to let us through, “and remember to say the magic word: heart.”

A very nice man in a blue shirt greeted us, and when he heard the word “heart”, he quickly moved Andy to a seat near the door to the exam rooms, and offered a seat to me in the gen pop area of the rather crowded waiting room. I ignored him and took a chair next to Andy.

In a very few minutes, a smiling peppy woman also dressed in blue stood before me. “Can you walk?” she chirped. “I can,” I told her, “but I don’t think I should.”

“Oh, it’s not that far,” she assured me, swatting at the air. “Come on. Follow me.”

I tried, but when we passed mile marker 27, I stopped, leaned against the wall, and asked if she had a wheelchair she could summon. “Oh, we’re almost there,” she assured me waving her hand at what seemed to me an endless hallway. “We’re turning right here,” and that made me feel more optimistic . . . until we turned and I looked down another endless hallway. I stopped again, and she let me rest a few minutes before urging me on. People were waiting for me. And besides, we were almost there.

I entered room 16, and sure enough, many people were flitting around preparing for me. I was helped into one of those fashionable hospital gowns and somebody helped me climb up into the bed. It felt really good to be off my feet.

Though I don’t think I ever got his name, the hospitalist on duty that morning was one of the kindest men I’ve ever not met. As the flurry of activity happened all around him, he remained calm, smiling, and he made sure he touched my arm or held my toes (which ever was more readily available), sending reassurance through his touch. His touch was my anchor in what was becoming a very stressful, scary time.

“Stemmy in 16, Stemmy in 16,” we heard over the loud speaker. I looked at Andy and asked “Aren’t we in 16?” “Yep,” he said. “That’s you.

Minutes later the flurry of activity slowed when someone said loudly “The cardiologist is here” and people chose one side of the room or the other as a smiling man stepped inside the door, rubbing his hands together in keen anticipation and announced “Not just any cardiologist. The BEST cardiologist is here.”

Now y’all need to know that my first job as a married woman was working as an administrative assistance for the CEO of a private hospital in Atlanta where I was quickly introduced to arrogant doctors. I can’t tell you how many times I grabbed a doctor by the top shirt button, pulling them down to my eye level, and looking into their retinas saying “The only difference between you and me is the classes we took in college.” But on this particular day, Dr. Smalheiser’s words registered not as arrogance but as confidence – just what I needed to hear before turning my heart over to this stranger.

Shortly after his arrival, I was whisked down to the OR – kissing The Engineer good bye at the door, making him promise to move the car then come back and wait for me close by – and the flurry of activity began all over again in what seemed like a small, cramped room. When I left that room, it was with 3 new pieces of heart jewelry (aka stents) and though tired, I had more energy than I’d ever known.

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lives together! (Note the beautifully smocked - if I do say so myself - dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

Bubbles, Alison, and Ava Jeanne leave the hospital to begin our lives together! (Note the beautifully smocked – if I do say so myself – dress Ava Jeanne wears home. The bonnet Ava Jeanne wears was worn by her mother when she came home from the hospital.

I spent 3 days in ICU and 1 day in the Step Down unit (forget the official name), and recovery was easy, effortless. Three days after I was released (1 week after my Heart Alert) I was back in the hospital as daugher Alison’s pit crew in the birth of my newest Sprite, Ava Jeanne.

Ladies, there is no checklist that I can find for heart attacks in women. I had no radiating pain, no elephant sitting on my chest, no intense pain. Just the uncomfortable stretching sensation and the briefest of brief diarrhea and nausea. Listen to your bodies and heed their warnings. If in doubt, head to the ER . . . by ambulance (though I have another story for you about that on another day.)

I call my event not a heart attack, but a Heart Alert because it did indeed get my attention! My daughter Alison calls today my Second Chance Day, and that makes sense, too. Anyway, I spend today – the one year anniversary of getting a Second Chance from my Heart Alert – creating my Vision Board for how I want to spend the next year and beyond with a side of creating the longest Daily Gladitudes and Gratitudes List ever. My friend Rainy and I call our Vision Boards “Explosive Blessings”, and honestly I need to add a room to the house – a great big room with blank walls to hold it all. Here’s to much life ahead of us all and more goodness than we can count. I’ll share photos when my board is complete. Do you have one you’d be willing to share with. me?

Cheers. Clink, y’all.

Right this way if you want to hear Jeanne read (Remember: she’s fluent only in English and Southern!)

Happy 50th Engagement Anniversary to Us

A woman with long brunette hair wearing a long green dress with white polka dots stands to the left of a man with brunette hair wearing a brown suite with a red shirt. Both are smiling broadly.

A woman with long brunette hair wearing a long green dress with white polka dots stands to the left of a man with brunette hair wearing a brown suite with a red shirt. Both are smiling broadly.

“I don’t like to go to showers,” I (the introvert who, though I may enjoy them, am exhausted by parties and gatherings) told this man I’d known for 64 days and seen a dozen times.

”You’ll have to go to showers when we get married,” he said, touching the end of my nose gently.

“You haven’t asked me to marry you,” I said with breath that was stuck somewhere in my lungs, refusing to come out.

”I know,” he said, then sat back.

<Insert awkward moments.>

”Will you?” he asked after what seemed like hours, weeks, eons. “Will you marry me?”

”YES!” I said on the way to throwing my arms around his neck. It was the easiest, most confident and sure yes I’d ever uttered. “I sure will marry you.”

Later that night, we moved from the mid-century modern one piece L-shaped blue nubby fabric covered sofa with a chunky blue, green, and black resin cylindrical lamp hanging from a gold chain over the teak end table built onto the sofa (Oh how I wish I still had that sofa and lamp!) to the wooden yard swing hanging in the red dirt

yard. The air was cool and quiet. So were we. Keeping the swing moving in a slow sultry back and forth, back and forth, back and forth movement fell to him because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

With one arm around me and one hand on the swing chain, he said, “Let’s not tell anybody about our engagement just yet,” something I readily agreed to. Was his question an April Fool’s joke? Was my answer an April Fool’s joke? We’d sleep on it and have the final answer tomorrow.

As the sun stretched open the next day, my phone rang. It was Andy asking if I still wanted to marry him, and my answer was an exact replica of the night before: “Yes, I sure will marry you!”

That proposal happened 50 years ago tonight at my parents’ house. I can’t speak for The Engineer, but I can tell you with absolutely and enthusiastic certainty that I like the answer I gave then, and I’d give it by way of exact quote again today.

(The above photo was taken 6 months later.)

To hear me telling the story in my own voice, here you go . . .

 

 

Babymoon, Day 2

Today began with a visit to Lowcountry Whimsy, a delightful gift shop filled with . . .

Amazing Things

(Photo: Two smiling women – one wearing pink, the other wearing turquoise and a hat that says “Stand close to people who feel like sunshine” – stand in front of a sign bearing the words “Amazing Things.”]

To hear Jeanne read this post (3 minutes 57 seconds):

 

Beautiful Beautiful Things

[Photo: The same two women stand in front of a sign bearing the words “Beautiful Things”]

Magical Things

[Photo: The same two smiling women stand under a sign bearing the words “Beautiful Things.”]

We each fill (and payfor) a small bag filled with goodies that will serve as souvenirs for an indescribably fun weekend of togetherness as well as reminders of how we can live a life filled to the brim with intention and delight all the time.

[Photo: a small square of paper bearing the image of a red heart with gold and silver lines radiating from it.]

As we make ready to leave, Sylvia the owner of the shop, treats all 3 of us to a lesson in using Flying Wish Paper. First, you select a fireproof base. I choose a heart. Imagine that.

[Small square of paper with image of heart in the center covered with a small square of thin purple paper.]

Then on a sheet of tissue paper, you write your wishes and intentions. Things like spelling and grammar don’t matter one iota cause there is no spell check to wag a finger at you. Shoot, you can even write your words and intentions all over each other and in every direction like I did, and you won’t lose points over your lack of neatness and legibility.

[The small square of paper with the heart image serves as the base for the thin purple paper that is now on fire.]

Then you fold the tissue paper so it will stand up on your fireproof base card, and set it on fire. Yes, really. When the flame has almost eradicated the entire square of tissue paper, the tissue paper takes flight. Lastly you gather the tiny little bits of burnt paper, nesting them in the palm of one hand while shielding them with the other hand and take them outside where you gently blow them into the wind. Our plan is to use this paper on December 23 as part of our New Moon Ritual.

[Smiling woman in pink displaying a blue journal with pink band titles You Got This.]

In the Things I Thought I’d Never See category we have Alison picking up and looking through a productivity journal / planner. She was not coerced, she did this of her own free will. I joke about this because historically I’ve gotten eye rolls and audible sighs when I pick up my planner or share plans I’ve made. My baby girl is growing up! We did not purchase this journal, though, cause she already has a planner she likes to use. And I tell y’all what, she did such an outstanding job of planning this entire weekend, it looks like I’ll soon be handing over my crown.

[Unsmiling woman in pink rolling her eyes in jest sitting beside the woman wearing red heart-shaped eyeglasses. They sit in front of a sign for the Five Eighths Seams Fabric Store.]

Next stop: The Five-Eighths Fabric Store where one of us was obviously more excited than the other.

 

[Photo, top: 7 pieces of fabric are fanned out on display. One is covered in images of cats in hues of white, black, and tan; a pink fabric bears images of eyelashes; two pieces of fabric are covered with images of pink flamingos; one piece of fabric is musical notes and symbols on a cream-colored background; the next piece of fabric is an abstract design of circles (reminding us of my grandmother name: Bubbles) in various shades of pink; and the last piece of fabric is a pink base covered with multi-colored hearts resembling the Valentine’s Day candies.]

(Though she did pick out several fun, colorful, smile-enkindling fabrics that we brought home for me to use in Junior’s first quilt.) (Why yes, that is fabric with wings  . . . though some would argue it’s really eyelashes.)

[An opened bottle of Sparkling Grape Juice and two hands, each holding a paper cup practically filled with grape juice sit in front of a cup filled with trail mix.]

Tired and filled with joy, we come back to the hotel room early, popping the top off a bottle of sparkling grape juice then toasting each other, us, Junior, and offering gratitude for this astonishing weekend and the sense of wonder and joy it continually lays out before us.

[A quilt top made of pink fabrics surrounded by pineapples in yellows, golds, and pinks.]

Then Alison tucks herself in under the quilt I made her when we went for her frozen embryo transfer. Pineapples are symbols for fertility, and, as you can tell by the fabrics, she loves cats and pink.

[Photo: Another view of the quilt that shows the background fabric of cats in colors of greens, yellows, pinks, and browns.]

[Photo: The quilt is bound in the fabric that is used on the back of the quilt.]

Every quilt my grandmother made was created to be used, and without exception. she backed each one with flannel, binding them in what now has a name: self-binding. My family couldn’t love those quilts any more. In fact, fights have broken out over who gets to sleep under the one bearing my name because let me tell you, there is no better, deeper, dreamier sleep to be had then when snuggled and snoring under that quilt made just for me by Grandmother Ballard. Because of that, every quilt I make to be used (as opposed to being hung on the wall) is backed with flannel and finished off with self-binding.

This particular quilt is named Tantivy (tan TIV ee), a word meaning at full gallop, and the story about the name is another post for another day.

Babymoon, Day 1

Come February 2023, I’ll be Bubbles (my grandmother name) to a third Sprite! I’m calling her Junior for now ‘cause she’ll be named after me, though my daughter doesn’t plan to call her Jeanne. In case you’re wondering, I’m named after an uncle I never met.

New parents apparently celebrate upcoming arrivals by dedicating a weekend to a babymoon- a play on “honeymoon” – enjoying a last fling of freedom and gaiety before a life of diapers, feedings, and sleep deprivation begins. Since Alison is a single parent, I get to enjoy this special weekend with her, and it started yesterday. I’m telling you about it in past tense because by the time we got to our hotel room last night, I was too tired to open my computer.

a reserved space!

We kicked the day off with a 2-hour glamor shot photo shoot (a.k.a. sonogram) because to date, Junior insists on refusing to give the medical professionals the views they desire. They want to see her cleft palate, and she insists on putting her foot not in (that’ll come later), but in front of her face. They want to see her spine, she lays on her back. You get the, well, picture. Frustrating as it is, I can’t help but be a teensy little bit tickled by the early signs of Junior’s independent streak and authority issues. I sense her arrival will be more of a “buckle up” than birth event.

 

After photos and a bite of breakfast, Alison and I made our way to an old Charleston building now serving as offices for several attorneys. On a car-ined street, there was one available parking space right in front (and I do mean RIGHT IN FRONT) of the building. We we made our way to the back of the building, I enjoyed the old, old bricks and the determined green plant life – mostly ferns and dandelions – poking their heads out of tiny little nooks and crannies.

The conversation on the drive went something like this . . .
Alison: Mom, you know to be quiet, right. Don’t say anything.

Jeanne: Alison, you don’t have to worry about me. This isn’t my first psychic reading. Every September in the Way Back When, Mrs Fincher and I would buckle you, Kipp, and Blake up on the merry mixer at the Kiwanis Club Fayette County Fair, and go have a reading done by the woman with a card table set up in the parking lot.

Yes, my friends, behind the door we entered was the most delightful, inviting room where the most delightful Andrea conducted our psychic reading. The first word out of Andrea’s mouth was “mom”, and I felt it was wrong not to tell her that Alison is pregnant, but she’d gone to such great lengths to hide her pregnant belly, I knew things would go badly if I so much as looked in Alison’s direction, so I zipped my lips and let Andrea focus on me as the obvious mom. Daddy came to call first, wanting me to apologize to Mother for something, and honestly, y’all, I silently whispered to him that since I was paying for this, I’d sure appreciate it if he’d talk to and about me. He must’ve heard me ‘cause he shifted to another lane and talked a good long time about how he trusts me and how I’ve taken such good care of somebody (who is obviously Mother), that now it’s time for me to spread my wings and fly – spread my wings, he said multiple times, always with Andrea doing hand motions –  to work on something that’s important to me – which I choose to interpret as this book I’ve been writing on for umpteen plus one years now. He said he trusts me implicitly, and Andrea offered that he meant that it’s okay for me to take intuitive leaps in whatever it is I’m working on (cause thought i might have thought about the book, I knew better than to say anything about writing a book)!

The Engineer’s mother shocked the stew out of Alison and me by coming in with great fanfare (that’s not the shocking part. That she came at all is the surprising part.) She seems just as excited over Junior’s birth as she was over Alison’s birth. Andrea rather emphatically conveyed to us that there is something Grammaw (Mrs. Chambers’ grandmother name) really wants Junior to have – something she made or purchased, something that has been handed down. [She bought Alison a christening gown to wear home from the hospital when Alison was born. I’d never heard of such a thing or such a tradition, but Alison wore that dress home as did my son Kipp as did Kipp and Marnie’s 2 children who were born in Colorado. And that christening gown is in a box somewhere in the chaos that is their new and almost-remodeled home in Colorado. Amid everything else they’re doing, they’re searching for that little white gown and bringing it to  Alison at Christmas.] Yep, gotta be the christening gown.

There were many other things that came through via Andrea, including one female wearing a hat who died and traveled across the Atlantic before her death. Alison and I have an idea of who that could be until we get to the part about traveling across the Atlantic. Thank goodness we recorded the entire session.

 

After hugging Andrea good bye, we needed to walk (something Grammaw encouraged Alison to do via Andrea), and there were 20 minutes left on the parking meter, so we started walking, and what do y’all think is the first thing we saw as our feet hit the Charleston sidewalk?  Right: our first found heart of the day!

Not knowing the area and having nowhere in particular to go, we just walked straight down the sidewalk, stopping at the first shop that caught our eye: the Old Whaling Store offering the most aromatic handmade soaps and lotions for sale. We left with lotion for me and lip balm for Alison. As we pulled away from our front-row parking spot, there was a line of cars waiting to take our place – ha.

Y’all look at this tree we parked beside and tell me what you see. At first I saw a tear because I have a thing for tears and see them as reliquaries. Then in a literal blink, I saw a womb cradling a cherub.

We then made our way to the Bye Bye Baby store, our first shopping spree, which turned out to be mostly a looking spree, though Alison found more things to add to her gift registry and  y’all know I found a few things . . .

a few must-have gifts for Junior, and

a little something to remember what Daddy repeatedly told me through Andrea. Oh wait. I thought those black lines were WINGS. Only now do I see them as eyelashes. Well, here’s how it’s gonna’ go down in the history books: those are wings, and wet macular degeneration or no, I absolutely love my vision. I mean Vision.

Moving on . . .

In the house between shopping and our next step at Urban Nirvana for facials and massages, my daughter-in-love Marnie called to tell Alison that she wants to host a baby shower for Alison and Junior! Alison is so touched and so excited, she actually cried a little bit . . . then got right to work on the invitation list.

 

I haven’t had a massage since they added an “e” to the word, and let me tell you, it was wonderful. Okay, it was beyond wonderful. Ditto that for the facial. (And it was 25% off thanks to the early Black Friday sale, so there’s that!) I want some of the cute and comfortable little sandals we wore at the spa, and i might actually want to go back to wearing robes after a multi-decades long absence. (Silly me, a former version of Jeanne decided that robes take up valuable closet space and besides, I need to get up, get dressed, and get to work ticking things off my (always massive) to do list. Jeanne 7.0 thinks Pfffft on that and will be shopping for a luxurious soft, fluffy robe in the Relative Soon time.)

We kicked off the weekend with Storm Hair, we closed out day one with Massage Hair.

Spying a Chili’s restaurant, we turned in, parked, walked up, and were seated promptly at a larger table for four instead of one of those tiny little tables for two. When we left the restaurant, the line of people waiting was way down the sidewalk.

Straight back to the hotel we came, donning our pajamas and climbing into bed lest we fall asleep standing up. It was a day filled with the magic that comes from laughter, love, wonder, and loving, gleeful anticipation. What better way to spend Junior’s first all-girls three-generations outing, right?

~~~~~~~

Want to see more? Let’s get together on Instagram and Facebook.

Straight Lines to the Rescue

the fabric pull Kirk/Curt really likes

To say my life is a little chaotic right now is to become the poster child for understatement.

I haven’t picked up cloth and thread in about a year and seriously wondered if I ever would again. Then in the middle of yet another insomnia-filled night, an idea: I need straight lines. So today, while The Engineer headed to the DIY home improvement store, I browsed the quilt store, and because you’ve never seen how fast The Engineer can move through Lowe’s when I’m at the fabric store, I snatched – and I do mean snatched – bolts off the shelves if they made my heart sing. That was my only criteria. My. heart had to SING, y’all, cause I have no earthly idea what I’m going to make with this fabric, only that I am going to cut it in straight lines, step one.

As he was cutting, Kirk/Curt(?) – a man I’ve never seen before – kept saying “This is my favorite. No, this one if my favorite.” and so on. When everything was cut, he said he’d made a list of the fabrics I selected, then he came around the counter and snapped a couple of photos. “These are beautiful fabrics that are even more beautiful together,” he said, “and I don’t use the word ‘beautiful’ ever.” (For the record, I’ve never been complimented for my fabric pulls or my sense of color.) He took my money, then gave me his card making me promise to either bring in the finished quilt or at least email him a photo, something I promised faithfully I’d do . . . if he still works there 14 years from now when I get it finished.

His kind, encouraging words were so incredibly appreciated today, y’all, which just goes to show that you never know whose day you will brighten and steer back on the path of hope and promise with a few well, chosen, heartfelt words of praise. What say we make a pact to sow a daily kind, uplifting word garden to folks we know and folks we may never see again? Can’t hurt, might help,doesn’t cost a thing, and you just never know the powerful gift your words might deliver to someone at just the right time.

the audio version, read by Jeanne herself

Happy Birthday to The 70273 Project!

If you’re already a part of The 70273 Project Tribe, thank you. If you’re just finding out about us, I hope you’ll poke around a bit  learn a little more, then join us.

For personal reasons, I’ve been mostly dormant the past year, but that’s changing, and you can color me positively zestful. Or positive and zestful, your pick. Over the next few months, I’ll be revealing plans for what awaits us in the next chapter of the project. If you haven’t already, subscribe so you don’t miss a thing ‘cause I think you’re gonna’ like what’s ahead.

This morning I launched a Facebook fundraiser because some adventures in our future require financial support – especially in the area of storage and storage supplies. it’s time for our 850+ quilts (and counting) to slide out from under beds, leap out from closets, gather to accessorize with labels and hanging sleeves (if needed), and pose for their glamour shots. You’ll see all this ‘cause I’m limbering up my fingers (not popping knuckles, though) in preparation of  creating online galleries for each quilt, complete with photos and stories. Thank you for giving what you can and sharing the fundraiser with your friends. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a worldwide village to change the world into a welcoming place for all, whatever their differences and capabilities.

So Glad I Got to Know Her

a woman (my grandmother) playing the piano

 

To hear Jeanne read this post (4 minutes 12 seconds)t:

 

  • A full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory . . . and a father who refused to let her return after her first year, declaring that she needed to find a husband more than she needed an education
  • Teaching each of her grandchildren (except the one in NJ who played trombone) to play the piano
  • The Program (a.k.a. piano recital) on Christmas morning
  • Completely ignoring my pleas and letting my cousin Cynthia play the coveted “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” every. single. year.
  • Newbury’s in Atlanta where she’d send my mother to purchase the sheet music she pre-ordered by phone
  • Award-winning cakes made from scratch
  • Rolling the pink and white washing machine out into the kitchen, hooking the hose up to the sink faucet, and washing clothes, putting them through the wringer (my favorite part).
  • Her refusal to touch or consider using the electric dishwasher her children gifted her
  • Plants calling at least one-fourth of her kitchen home
  • Biscuits made from scratch three times a day, cut out with the top of an empty jelly jar turned drinking glass, dipped in flour
  • “Why of course they’re new, William.”
  • Leftovers in the middle of the table, covered with a clean tablecloth
  • New potatoes from the garden
  • Easter egg hunts
  • The piano bench that twirled up and down, adjusting the height for each individual player.
  • The piano bench turned stage for the Ooey-Gooey Game as seen on The Popeye Club with Officer Don
  • That ever-present smile that covered her entire face . . . most of the time
  • How she held my hand as we walked through her yard, using her free hand to point out and identify every flower, plant, shrub, and tree in her voluptuous, colorful yard
  • New Year’s Day phone pranks
  • Buttered sugared biscuits
  • Sticking our finger in the side of leftover biscuits, then filling the hold with sorghum syrup
  • Milk toast
  • Her adult children grumbling after every meal about how she used every plate and bowl she owned at every meal
  • Her waking us up to say, “It’s Saturday morning, so you just sleep as long as you want to.”
  • The glass of water and flashlight that spent every night on the floor beside her
  • Milk money left in the little bird house attached to a column on the front porch
  • Sitting on the front porch glider to shuck corn, shell butterbeans, or just simply count the cars passing by
  • The bubble-blowing fish adorning her bathroom wall
  • Making preserves and pickles every summer
  • The dark  pantry off the bathroom, always filled with all kinds of food
  • Her laugh that came quick and often
  • Sitting on the floor playing plastic Army men with Jerry and Scott
  • The floor-length powder blue long-sleeved dress she wore to my wedding 48.5 years ago
  • The rimless glasses she wore every day of her life
  • Hearing about the one time she went on vacation – to the ocean in Florida with her sister
  • The sound of the back screen door slamming behind us when we dropped by to visit unplanned, unannounced, yet always welcomed
  • Parchment-like skin that bruised if you looked at it too long and too fast
  • The treadle sewing machine tucked into a corner between the bedroom and living room, the whirring sound providing the walls needed to create a room she could call her own
  • Brown paper bags of fabric scraps from Mrs. Callaway who lived across the road being dumped on the kitchen table, sorted, and moved this way and that till at last an idea emerged and another quilt begun
  • The word “Jeanne” with a period after it, hand stitched in a corner of the quilt she made for me

Were she still drawing breath, we would spend today celebrating the 128th spin around the sun made by my maternal grandmother – Katie Belle Wesley Ballard. How very lucky I am to have known her.

a man (left, my granddaddy) and a woman (right, my grandmother) smile at each other on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary

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Allow me to introduce myself . . .

Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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