Category: writings (Page 1 of 64)

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

There’s Only One Word for Day 2

Today gave me plenty of reasons to smile.

When we picked Handful up from school today, he had a 6 word greeting for me: “Bubbles, today was gooder than yesterday.” And that was before he knew there  were two new monster trucks waiting for him at home..

a young boy opens a box with the help of a woman

First he tries them on as a hat.

a young boy puts two toy trucks on his head

Then he introduces them to each other so they can become friends.

 

the young boy puts two toy trucks together

Sprout enjoys the new Princess Palace her Aunt Betsey gave her. (Aunt Betsey is really Cousin Betsey, but we don’t get tangled up in things like that.

a young girl smiling

a young girl inside a tent

a pink castle tent

Soon the Princess Palace is filled with Handful, Sprout, Bubbles, 3 new monster trucks, an ipad, a music-maker that we call a sound system, 2 small cars, and 2 bottles of water. I texted Betsey and, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, asked if there was a Princess Palace Annex available. With air conditioning.

Handful and I developed a secret password to keep, well, y’all know why we created a secret password – same reason everybody develops secret passwords – and 3 seconds later it became quite apparent that I need to work with Handful on the meaning of the word “secret”.

Grave Digger developed some dreaded tire problems, and Handful knew just what to do, pressing the wolf ear headbands into service.

toys

I mistakenly took possession of 1 of the new monster trucks, and was promptly scolded by Handful who looked at me with a face of disappointment and said “Naughty, naughty Bubbles.”

a young boy

There was tickling.

a man tickles a little girl

Books were read.

a man and a little girl read a book together

Bed covers became garages.

a young boy plays with his toy trucks on a bed

A book from Aunt Fwoozie and a stool became a ramp for the new monster trucks to use for their death-defying tricks.

a ramp for the toy trucks

In another part of the land of our creating, books become stepping stones on a path that lead to all kinds of fantastic adventures.

a girl plays with books ont he floor and makes stepping stones

When in Celle, Germany for The 70273 Project Special Exhibit, I picked up a book on fire engines and fire fighters. In German, of course. It’s in amazingly good shape considering how much it’s been enjoyed.

a little girl reads a book about firemen

It’s back to the big bed for a game of jump-jump-fall with Pink Ellie, who proved to be quite patient and accommodating. Truth be told, I think Pink Ellie enjoyed the game as much as Sprout.

a smiling little girl

The doggie door provides a stellar escape hatch.

little girl looks through door

Because everybody ate such a good supper, there was a walk to the ice cream truck for dessert. Handful and I have a rule about ice cream eating: We only share ice cream with people we love. And that’s the truth.

a little boy eating ice cream from a spoon

a woman feeds a little girl a spoonful of ice cream

Handful and Sprout ran off some of their ice cream by playing chase in the alley where we sat. When Sprout’s 2 year old gait faltered and she sat down on the asphalt with a thump, it was Handful to the rescue with a hug.

a little boy hugs a little girl

I heard from both the other grandmothers today, something that’s always a treat for me. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: I am so lucky to share these amazing chiclets with these two other women. And, if I might say so, these two chiclets are pretty darn lucky to have 5 grandparents with different interests, backgrounds, talents, experiences, and personalities.

From start to finish, it was a day filled with . . .

the word “joy” on an ice cream cone wrapper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Glories, All

So far, today has been

smiles . . . . . .

a young girl smiles

 

a young boy plays with a toy car

 

a man and a dog smiling at each other

art (inside and out). it appears i am the proud grandmother of a 2 year old graffiti artist. And with boxcars not being readily available, a 2 year old resourceful graffiti artist . . . 

a child’s art marks on a brick wall

 

a child’s drawings on a chalkboard

Showing Bubbles (that’s me) all the things he’s learned to do for himself since February . . .

a young boy putting his shoes on

Expressive faces, like what to do when Bubbles says “give me surprise” 

a young child makes a face

and “give me pensive”

a young boy laying on a floor pillow

Serious talks with Bubbles. Seems Handful did not have a very good day at school today, and when I asked if he’d like to talk about it, he said yes. So I asked him why today wasn’t a very good day, and it seems he had to do way too much 2-people, 3-people, and rug work when what he really prefers is 1-person work. Just like his Bubbles prefers.

a young boy

And Morning Glories of the blooming variety. i especially love Morning Glories because that was one of the things my mother called me when i was a tot. other nicknames were fruit loop, peanut, and doll. You can’t go wrong with special names like that. Or “Handful” and ‘Sprout”.

a morning glory blooms

And we still have bedtime to look forward to. Baths to be taken. Books to be read. Songs to be sung.

a young boy sleeps on his fire truck bed

 

a young girl sleeps with Ana from Frozen

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings here in Heaven.

Committed

          Short-sleeved wedding dress

 

Laced and embroidery

 

Lace and embroidery

 

Back of wedding dress. Short sleeves, lace and embroidery, white bow

Forty-seven years ago today, I met The Engineer in Muhlenbrink’s, a popular bar in Underground Atlanta. We met on January 27, 1973, became engaged on April 1, 1973, and said “I sure will” on July 31 of – you guessed it – 1973. If I did my math right, in 1096 days we will have known each other fifty years, and in a mere 1, 837 days, we will celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Fifty years of togetherness.

Oh my goodness.

Red text embroidered on wedding dress

Because I couldn’t pay people to wear my wedding dress and because I couldn’t bear to cut it up, I will be stitching our Love Story Adventure on my wedding dress. Not the whole story in sentences and paragraphs, but words and phrases and dates. I’ll write the stories in the accompanying journal. (I keep a journal for every cloth project I do. Do you?) I’ll be transferring photos onto fabric and stitching them onto the third layer of the dress. (These embellishments will also distinguish my wedding dress from my friend Joan’s wedding dress.

Back in those days, I didn’t know that the Mother of the Groom was to wear beige and start in the broom closet. So what did I do? I invited The Engineer’s mother to go with Mother and me to look for wedding dresses. We picked Mrs. C up, drove to the bridal shop at a nearby shopping mall, and I selected three dresses to try on . . . And bought the first one I tried on. I was not excited about the wedding dress, obviously. Once both mothers offered their seal of approval, the woman in charge of alterations made her marks, then my mother, my mother-in-law-to-be, and I went to lunch, checking “wedding dress” off the list and making plans for what to do next.

Committed is the working title of this project and it officially began tonight. After stitching only a few words, I thank myself for choosing a chapel length train instead of one befitting a cathedral ceremony.

We didn’t get the snow and ice predicted for today. Doesn’t make us sad, either.

Hostage, The Adventure Begins

Vintage boy’s shorts and shirt, vintage embroidered doilie, two red embroidered circles, all appliqués to the top of a small vintage quilt

 

Till the day he died of natural causes, my daddy talked about the barrel of that shotgun placed against the back of his neck. It was a feeling he never forgot.

Daddy was five years old when bandits came to the house, intending to kidnap Granddaddy and rob the bank. It was a weekend of horror I can scarce imagine. After spending my entire life gathering the stories, photos, and information, I am at last sitting down to write the book about that event that happened in my family on May 5 and 6, 1933. It is a story  of many stories woven together, and I will tell them all in books and in quilts.

The red circles represent the double barrel shotgun he felt against the back of his neck when, on Saturday morning May 6, 1933, five year old Crawford Jr. (a.k.a. Daddy) forgot that the bad men were in the house and did what he did first thing every morning: ran for the outhouse.

When I decided to tell the story in quilts as well as words, I went straight to my closet and began culling through all the things I’ve rescued and adopted over the course of more years than I can count. Quilts someone made for their babies; baby clothing that caught my fancy; embroidered doilies or dresser protectors or coasters – not sure what you call them. In less than 2 hours, four quilts were pinned together, using only what I have on hand. That is one of my intentions for this year, you know, using only (okay, mostly) what I have on hand. It’s an idea I got from my talented friend Linda Syverson Guild, who doesn’t buy any fabric the first six months of every year, using instead what she already has. I smile as I weave these storied, already well-loved items into my family’s stories. I also smile feeling grateful  that I listened to my Bones and purchased these things, even with that dreaded voice of authority on The Committee of Jeanne booming in the background things like “You don’t need this” or “You have too much stuff already” or “What on earth do you plan to do with that?” (The others who sit on The Committee of Jeanne are saving up for a firing squad.) Score one – a great, big, fat one – for my Bones.

~~~~~~~

If you’re wondering about The 70273 Project, we’re still here. I’ve been regrouping and hatching plans that I’ll share with you here next week. Thanks for stopping by and trekking through these adventures – all of them – with me.

A Single Sheet of Paper

She stops me, this incredible woman and artist I now know as Miki Willa, and tells me a story . . . this story:

“I knew what to do,” says Miki, “because I’ve watched Nancy express herself through pen and paper, though art.”

The Little Paper That Could

These are Vanessa’s marks. These size of the paper is about 3″ x 5″, while the size of the meaning is limitless, unmeasurable.

As Though That Isn’t Amazing In and Of Itself 

In 2014, when Kathy Loomis mentioned that there were still spots available in the Dorothy Caldwell workshop in Louisville. I put my name on a chair. Never one to sit still, I took In Our Own Language 3 along to work on during “down times”. Dorothy saw me stitching and asked me to kick the next day off by talking about In Our Own Language 3..

After the following morning’s impromptu presentation, a woman sitting behind me my now-friend Rosemary Claus-Gray suggested I write a book about my collaboration with Nancy to give other families hope and encouragement to find ways to communicate with their loved ones that don’t involve the spoken word. She even wrote the foreword to nudge me to get started.  Though I haven’t written the first word, I hold Rosemary’s foreward in a safe, special place so I can find it when I do shove all else aside and write this book. It will happen, Rosemary, I promise, Thank you for listening to your intuition and making the suggestion. And thank you, Miki, for changing lives with a single sheet of paper.

Quilts on Display at Sacred Threads 2019

2 women stand beside a quilt of the Buddha

Miki and Jeanne stand in front of Miki’s quilt Meeting the Buddha on the Path (48″ x 34″) on display at Sacred Threads 2019. When arranging ourselves for the photo, Miki placed me so that the Buddha’s hand touched my shoulder because the Buddha’s raised hand is a blessing offered. (And you thought the Buddha was doing “rabbit ears” behind me!) Ever since Miki told me that, I offer a silent blessing when waving to someone.

2 women stand beside a black quilt covered with colorful doodles and a little girl's white pinafore (dress)

Miki and Jeanne stand with Jeanne and Nancy’s quilt, Playground of Her Soul.

Isn’t it astonishing how much goodness happens when we pay attention?

~~~~~~~

Right this way for more 70273 Project videos.

Shattered

orderly black and white blocks become black and white lines skewed and scattered. pink collar from a little girl's dress adorned with pink ribbon roses lays on black and white blocks.

Shattered / 24″ w by 27″ h / January 2019

Artist Statement

Nancy was born into a family of engineers. It was a world of perfect order, straight lines, black and white. If you followed the formulas, the blueprints, the textbooks, you got to where you wanted to go. There was safety, predictability, and the future was bright.

When teenagers hung three year old Nancy by the neck from the swing set, the world went sideways. Lives were shattered. Order became chaos. Black and white grids became shards. The formulas led to nowhere familiar or comfortable.

It was a fissure of stability and security.

Nancy is my sister-in-law. Today she is in reasonably good health, content with whatever she has, and smiles more than she frowns. She has a vocabulary of about 12 words, and 6 of them are the word “love”.

In June 2012, Nancy began making marks, and since June 2012, I stitch her marks.* Though she gives no indication that she understands our collaboration, it has deepened our relationship in ways I never dreamed possible and opened my life in ways I never dreamed imaginable. Nancy is my Wise Woman, and I am a better woman because she is in my life.

*The drawings you see on the shards are some of her first drawings.

A closeup of Shattered

Another closeup of Shattered

Personal Note and The Particulars

I love emails that begin with “Congratulation,” like the one I received a week or so ago telling me that Shattered was juried into the Fissures Exhibit at the Emerald Art Center / 500 Main Street / Springfield, Oregon. The exhibit opens on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 and closes on Saturday, March 30, 2019. From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Friday, March 8, there’s the Artist’s Awards Presentation and reception that’s part of the 2nd Friday Art Walk. If you can attend, let me know ’cause I just might be cooking up a road trip and would love to meet you there.

Color Me Grateful

As we travel doing presentations and block drives for The 70273 Project the past four weeks, The Engineer and I have seen 3 ocean views , , ,

large rocks in the ocean with much white foam

Mendocino, California

massive, mountainous rocks surrounded by light blue ocean under gray skies

Mendocino, California

woman in pink hat and blue glasses stands beside a white-haired man in front of the ocean

The Artist and The Engineer in Mendocino, California

a fuzzy sun shines down on the clouded blue sky over the ocean

Mendocino, California

sun shining in blue sky over ocean surrounded by rocks

Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine

white haired man stands beside woman in pink hat in front of the ocean

The Engineer and The Artist at Acadia National Park in Bar harbor, Maine

white foam of the ocean splashing on huge rocks

Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine

blue sky over beach and a black bird

Daytona Beach Shores, Florida

woman wades in ocean under a blue sky

My mother wades in the ocean at Daytona Beach Shores, Florida

grasses, sand, ocean, blue sky

Daytona Beach Shores, Florida

the moon shines over the ocean

I see the moon, and the moon over Daytona Beach Shores seize(s) me

Three oceans – the same because they’re all awesomely impressive bodies of water, each different in its own way. That’s the way I like oceans, and that’s the way I like people – the same because we’re humans, delightfully unique in our own individual ways. On whatever path we met – writing, stitching, through The 70273 Project; whether we met in school or through other friends or as a result of an unanticipated coincidence, on this US Thanksgiving Day – and on any ordinary day, for that matter – I am tickled and thankful to have you in my life. Grateful for all the goodness, kindness, and compassion you continue to  spill into the world.

Choose one . . . or both:
Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy Thursday.

Holidays

Whatever you eat

Whatever you imbibe,

Whatever you say

Whatever you sing,

Whatever you decorate

Whatever you do . . .

I wish you deep, everlasting Peace

and more Good, Heartwarming Memories than you can count.

Spending Thanksgiving with Nancy

My vision of a daily diary quickly
disappeared in an unceremonial poof
as the days grew long and full. Here are the highlights  . . .
Animals are usually quite leery of Nancy,
scurrying to unimaginably small hiding places.
I was very proud of Mother’s cats
who didn’t run from Nancy,
but got up close with their curiosity.

Our daughter’s cats were not . . . well, they behaved
like cats usually behave around Nancy.

Our 1.5 year old grandson Calder Ray
(Handfull, I call him. I’ll explain later – it’s not what you think)
simply accepted Nancy as she is without  curiosity or question.
Here we see him plopping himself down
in front of her in the restaurant’s waiting area,
talking to her about getting comfortable
by taking his shoes off.
Nancy talks a lot about shoes – her shoes.

We made it to North Carolina  around 2 in the morning
(way past Nancy’s bedtime),
and that could be why she didn’t understand
that I wanted her to
sit on the toilet not the bathtub.
She wasn’t hurt,
and I did manage to grab both of her arms,
breaking her fall
so she didn’t hit her head.
But goodness, what a way to
kick off Thanksgiving week.

Nancy, who loves her bling and doesn’t usually
share her necklaces with anybody,
seemed quite willing to let Handfull
explore his feminine side with her new necklaces.

We interrupt this blog post to share a shameless adoring Grandmother
(I think I want him to call me Sugar) moment.

We take Nancy with us (almost) everywhere – to see Santa,
to the Christmas Tree
Lighting at the Village Green,
to breakfast in Highlands.
(But not to the grocery store because
her mobility is such an issue,
and she is unable to operate
a motorized cart,
and not to Asheville on Wednesday
because it was a long day
filled with much movement.
She spent the day with our friend Debbie
where she could enjoy some quiet time.)

Handful spent a lot of his exploding
vocabulary on Nancy last week,
showing her the waterfall outside the door,
then climbing up to chat
with her about this and that.

Nancy wasn’t interested in putting puzzles together
or drawing – perhaps because
of the constant commotion – but she seemed
to have a big time, as my Daddy would say, anyway.

On the drive down the mountain from
North Carolina to Georgia Saturday night,
Nancy made a Real Big Mess in the backseat,
something she found quite funny,
even 24 hours later.
Perhaps it’s because it’s unexpected
or maybe it’s because she does it so seldom,
whatever the reason,
when Nancy laughs, everybody around her laughs.

After picking her up eight days ago, we deliver Nancy
back to her home in Florida yesterday,
and after a 72-hour nap,
we’ll begin making plans for Christmas.

~~~~~~~

Were we living in Germany in 1940,
Nancy most certainly would’ve received two red X’s,
been called a “useless eater”,
and declared “unworthy of life”.
What a drab world it would be without Nancy,
Brad, Robby, Rachel, Kevin
and my other friends with disabilities in it,
and that’s one reason I’ll be making
more blocks, quilts, Middlings, and Minis for The 70273 Project.
Join me?

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