Category: writings (Page 2 of 64)

Diary of a Week with Nancy: Day One

Saturday, 17 Nov 17
Fayetteville, GA
3:30 a.m.

The alarm clock goes off. The Engineer and I dress and make our way to the Atlanta airport. We are flying to Florida to fetch Nancy today and bring her home for Thanksgiving.

9:00 a.m.
Arriving at Nancy’s house, I ask her for a hug and get a two-armed hug instead of the usual lean-in-my-direction with her upper body. She’s ready to “go home for Thanksgiving.”

10:15 a.m.
Andy drops Nancy and me off curbside while he goes to return the car. As I toss the carry-on over my shoulder (I make it sound so light and easy!), freeing up one hand to roll the checked-bag while the other hand holds onto Nancy, Wayne Friday, a Southwest Sky Cap, leaves his station and walks over to the curb. He takes the suitcase then tells Nancy and me for us to stay where we are while he goes to get a wheelchair “’cause I can tell you need one.” He is gone several minutes, then returns smiling with a wheelchair in hand. As I struggle to get Nancy seated  in the wheelchair as expeditiously as possible so as not to hold Wayne or any other customers up, Wayne assures me he will wait as long as possible. He is calm, kind, and patient. I want him on my Committee of Jeanne.

He checks the three of us in, then pushes the wheelchair inside the terminal and down I don’t know how far to the elevator he says Andy will surely be taking. “This way,” he tells me, “you can see him right when he gets off the elevator and you won’t have so far to walk.”

“You can’t leave yet,” I tell him, “because I have absolutely no money for a tip, and if anybody ever deserved a tip, it’s you, Wayne Friday.” He chuckles and says, “Just keep flying Southwest. That’s more than enough.” When Andy gets off the elevator, just as Wayne promised he would, we walk back to Wayne so I can leave $10.00 in his hand. It’s not nearly enough, but all the cash we have. That with the letter I intend to write will have to do.

11:05 a.m.
We arrive at gate 120 and position Nancy’s wheelchair just behind the sign that says “Preboard Area.” Twenty minutes later, two women come – one pushing her wheelchair, the other walking hers – and get in line behind Nancy, but only for a few minutes, preferring to sit directly in front of the gate agent’s desk instead. He tells them that while they don’t have to go back to the Preboard Area, they will need to move because there’s a plane landing in a few minutes and people will need to go right through where they are sitting. Perhaps fearing they’ll be forgotten, they don’t budge.

11:35 a.m.
I take Nancy to the bathroom where women don’t wait for me to ask for help. They simply see what I need, and they do it, all the while offering me reassuring words as I apologize for inconveniencing them. I didn’t know until we had everything off that Nancy wears two pairs of disposable underwear, and I only brought one. There’s nothing to do but go back, fetch another pair, then find our way back to the bathroom.

On our second trip to the restroom, a plane has arrived, so there’s a line. The woman in front of me holds the hand of her young daughter, and when it’s finally her turn, it’s the handicap stall that becomes available. “You go ahead,” she tells me with a smile as she steps aside to let me pass.

Now our first trip was to the handicap stall at the far end of the bathroom where there is a sink and room for the wheelchair and my mother’s family. This stall is mere steps away. It is much smaller, and when I finally manage to get me, Nancy, and the wheelchair inside, I am sitting on the toilet with my feet on the arms of the wheelchair, the feet of the wheelchair touching the toilet, and not nearly enough room to close the door. Though it disrupts the flow of things, I open the stall door, stand Nancy up, then push the wheelchair out. I catch the eye of a woman and ask if she’ll roll the chair over to the little cubby I spy. It’s a small bathroom, and to leave the wheelchair just outside the door would mean nobody could enter or leave the entire bathroom. “Of course,” she says with a smile, and when I open the door to leave, I’m greeted by the same smiling face. “I thought you might need help again, so I waited on you,” she tells me. I resist the urge to  kiss her.

On the way back to the gate area, we twice navigate our way past a woman who is leaning on her baby’s stroller, texting while she walks in leisurely, mindless circles, oblivious to the presence of anybody else. Three men stand in the middle of the aisle – also texting – their carry-on luggage on the floor beside them. For a moment, I wish the wheelchair came with a “wide load” sign, flashing lights, and maybe even the back-up beep of a golf cart. We must get past them to get back to Andy. I scout out options for other routes, there are none. In response to my, “Excuse me, please,” one grumbles, one signs audibly, and the other does nothing.

1:00 p.m.
I find the spot for my boarding assignment A55, leaving Andy (who has a higher boarding assignment in the C group) to board with Nancy. Eric, the gate agent, motions for them to board first because we were the first ones in line to Preboard. He notices, he remembers, he boards in order of arrival. I’ll write two letters to Southwest – Eric gets his own.

1:25 p.m.
Comfortably situated in the first row of seats, we get to hear and see Flight Attendant Bingo (“After four girls, BINGO, we have a boy!”), and that right there is worth the price of admission. He is firmly in control of this flight with reins we are happy to leave in his hands because he is so darn fun and pleasant. Friendly, really, affable. He greets every person – not every fifth person, not every time he happens to look up, but every single person –  as they board the plane as though welcoming us to a party at his home. He notices the bling of princess attire (we are in Orlando, you know), the hats of fellow veterans, reads the t-shirs on the young boys. This is going to be a good flight.

3:15 p.m.
We arrive in Atlanta, and because Nancy moves at the speed of frozen molasses, we wait to let just others get off first. Every passenger makes a point to smile and say “Thank you” to Bingo as they leave. It changes the air we breathe, all that gratitude. Yes, Bingo set the tone for the fight, and he is pitch perfect. I’ll write three letters.

Bingo frequently glances out the door to assure us there’s a wheelchair waiting for us. He even offers to hold up the line so we can get off, and we tell him we’d prefer to wait a little longer so as not to back things up. Finally it is time for us to get off, and just as Nancy’s foot crosses the threshold separating airplane from jetway, we spy a woman take her seat in the waiting wheelchair while her husband gets behind her to push, and off they go in a great big hurry. Bingo hollers after them, but they don’t even look back. We get Nancy completely off the plane and stop. It’s the only thing we can do. As they exit the plane, the pilots tell us they’ll make sure somebody brings back a wheelchair. Nobody does.

A female gate agent comes out and says Nancy will have to walk because there are no more wheelchairs. “It’s a long walk,” I tell her, “this could take a while.” I turn around so I can take both of Nancy’s hands in mine and walk backwards down the jetway, guiding her and alerting her to inclines and speed bumps. Though I know she’s anxious for us to get off the jetway so they can have an on-time departure, the gate attendant never says so, slowing her pace to match ours, holding onto Nancy’s left elbow as we make our way towards the terminal. Eventually, we make it to the gate area, and voila – there’s a wheelchair waiting on us . . . in the gate area . . . at the end of a l-o-n-g jetway.

On the train, off the train and into the l-o-n-g line for the elevator that will land us at baggage claim, we find ourselves behind the woman and man who took Nancy’s wheelchair. The man (her pusher) makes his way to the front of the line and informs people that his ride is waiting on them upstairs, and when nobody will let him break to the front of the line, a miracle occurs: the woman stands, hoists her bag, and the two of them walk back to take the escalator to baggage claim, leaving the vacated wheelchair sitting empty in line.

5:30 p.m.
We pick up our daughter, get a quick bite to eat, then drop Andy and Nancy back at the house to enjoy (I use the term lightly, as it turns out) the second half of the Georgia Tech game while we run an errand. Once back, I sit and try to write this post, but my brain is screaming for sleep, threatening to post unintelligible nonsense, so I prepare the photos then sit and stare at the screen until 9 p.m. when we can give Nancy her bedtime meds and call it a day.

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The Engineer

 

He fetches the mail,

sets up (and takes down) tables,

and quilt stands.

He develops hanging systems for the round In Our Own Language 3,
so it can be a backdrop for a block drive.

He addresses postcards,

and helps create holiday cards.

He makes blocks,

he makes more blocks,

and he prepares materials so others can make blocks
for The 70273 Project.

When we travel, he takes a turn carrying the backpack.

and stops (or at least slows down) while I snap photos on our walks,

and pulls over to the side of the road to let me hop out
and snap photos of things I find captivating.

When the big projects I juggle feel like a quagmire
or an imminent implosion,
he doesn’t just tell me to take a break,
he takes me out to play

or on a date to the Georgia Tech bookstore
(where he looks at Science & Technology
while I browse the poetry section, you’ll note).

He is the light at the end of my tunnel,
The Man behind The 70273 Project,

and were I a cat,
this is how I would spend our evenings
because I adore this man.
I absolutely, thoroughly, flat-out adore him.

Happy birthday to The Engineer.

~~~

Why yes, he was born one day after Nancy
. . . and a few years earlier.

Time for Nancy to Blow Out the Candles Again!

It’s that time of year again – the day for Nancy to blow out the candles on her cake! If you’ve poked around this blog, you know who Nancy is, and if you’re at all familiar with The 70273 Project, you know that I was stitching Nancy’s drawings when The Idea came and whispered to the ears of my heart. Since Nancy is a woman of few words, I think we’ll celebrate today in photos.  Click on the photos and get to know Nancy, if you’re a mind to. I’ll be surprised if you don’t leave this post smiling and feeling a little lighter. Nancy does that for folks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy birthday, Nancy. May you have many, many, many more.

~~~

P.S. I want y’all to know that when I called to order flowers for our Nancy, the owner of the shop told me about her brother who is 1 year older than Nancy, disabled, and lives right down the street from her. Can we say “small world” one more time?!

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.

If


If the Hong Kong flu hadn’t taken hold in the US,
If I hadn’t already spent my week in sick bay, wrestling the virus into the ground,
If they hadn’t closed the college because there was no more room to quarantine,
If I hadn’t been bored enough to go to the high school basketball game,
if my high school friend hadn’t been bored enough to go to the basketball game,
If we hadn’t gotten bored at the basketball game and decided to take our leave and head to  Underground Atlanta,
If a would-be boyfriend hadn’t passed out gone to sleep early and rendering him unable to follow through on his promise to call my daddy if I wasn’t back by midnight,
If we’d had enough money between us for one drink and two straws,
If she hadn’t remembered this guy she met the weekend before who was wearing a brown, floppy-brimmed leather hat and worked in Muhlenbrink’s Saloon,
If I hadn’t been thirsty enough to shove aside my intense crowd anxiety and join her to push our way to the bar through the throngs of drunk people listening to Rosebud,
If the guy drawing beers hadn’t borrowed the brown, floppy-brimmed leather hat from the guy mixing drinks at the other end of the bar,
If she hadn’t argued with the cute-as-all-get-out beer-drawing guy when he said he’d never seen her before in his life,
If she had listened to me and we had left right then,
If he hadn’t asked us to go to a party at the bouncer’s apartment when the bar closed,
If she hadn’t said “Yes” so quickly and enthusiastically,
If we hadn’t taken her car, leaving me no choice but to go along,
If the Sweet Spirit of Surprise hadn’t put the roommate in the car with her and me in the car with the beer guy,
If he hadn’t been so cute and charming and caused all kinds of climate conditions to change with the kaleidoscope of butterfly wings he set to flapping wildly when he kissed me . . .
I never would’ve met the guy who has never – not even once – had to call on his engineer training to turn my life’s lights on.

44 year ago today, my life changed forever when I met and instantly fell head-over-heels in deep, unwavering love with The Engineer.  Look at my long list called The Best Day Ever, and you’ll find January 27, 1973 at the very top.

Monthly Mixer January 2017

The 70273 Project Monthly Mixer for January 2017

You’ve seen those challenges for instagram and blog posts, right, where there’s a prompt for every day of the month and you snap and post a photo or pen a post accordingly? Well, thanks to my 3 a.m. self, we now have one to call our own, and I’m calling it our Monthly Mixer, and here it is. Nobody’s taking roll, so play along as and if you will.

Feel free to share throughout social media land and post on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and your blogs using #The70273ProjectMonthlyMixer and #The70273Project. It’d be muchly appreciated if you’d tag me, too, so I don’t miss it. I’m @whollyjeanne on twitter and instagram, and Jeanne Hewell-Chambers on facebook. It’s a fun way to acquaint others with The 70273 Project, and to get acquainted with other folks ourselves. (Me, I can’t wait till 1/20 cause I’ve got a thing for pincushions.)

It’s the first time I’ve created something like this, so here’s the text in case the graphic is unreadable:

JANUARY 2017
1: Something imperfect
2: Something edible that’s red and white
3: Something small, white, and round
4: Something rectangular
5: The block you’re working on
6: Where you’re stitching today
7: A finished block
8: Something that makes you smile
9: A naturally occurring X
10: The tiniest x’s you can make
11: Your sewing kit and what’s inside it
12: A word to describe what you feel as you stitch blocks
13: Somewhere you’d like to sit and stitch blocks
14: Something you find in a s’more
15: The arm to the chair you sit in to stitch
16: Your favorite beverage
17: Photograph a block outside
18: Two fat X’s
19: Your ironing board
20: Your pincushion
21: The sky
22: A white button
23: A finished block
24: A surprise – something you didn’t expect to see
25: Favorite sewing notion, tool
26: Your hands
27: Your scissors
28: Something in the shape of a teardrop
29: What’s to your right
30: Your favorite mug
31: Two x’s made of something besides fabric

Playing in the Meadow on the Other Side of the Rainbow Bridge

kippandotto1

My boy, Kipp, rescued him from a Denver humane society.
It was between the border collie and a Corgi – he couldn’t decide.
Ultimately, Kipp chose well.

neuroticotto

Otto was a slightly neurotic dog
afraid of the most, um, unusual things.

otto2a

He was a mischievous dog,
though you usually only knew
he’d been mischievous
when he had this certain look about him.
Oh, he knew you were smart enough to figure it out eventually,
but he was always hopeful that once – just once –
he’d be wrong about you.

otto1
If you couldn’t find Otto,
you could bet your bottom dollar
that something resembling food
(cooked, raw, packaged, unpackaged – no matter)
had been left within, oh, 4′ from the edge of the kitchen counter.

prissyotto

Otto was a dog secure enough in his own manhood
to be prissy on occasion . . .
without apology.

marnieottokipp1

We’re still not quite sure which one
Marnie fell in love with first:
Kipp or Otto,
but no matter.
They were a package deal
and she won both their hearts.

ottowatchesover

And though they were as nervous
as any first-time parents in the history of the galaxy ever were,
Otto proved to be a good Big Brother
to Calder Ray,
watching over him when others
well
went to sleep on the job.

ottstands

Though they’ll surely adopt another furry baby
sometime down the road
when their hearts have had time to heal,
one thing is for sure:
the next Chambers canine will have awfully big paws to fill.

mygranddog

R.I.P. Otto.
You were the best Son Dog,
the best Big Brother Dog,
the best Granddog,
the best Great Granddog,
the best Nephew Dog,
the Best Friend
ever.

Living Gratitude

To all who brighten days with laughter, kindness, and thoughtfulness,

To all who spill goodness into the world at every turn and opportunity,

To all who keep a respectful, open heart to those with differences large and small,

To all who shine light into the darkness,

To all who dare to think for yourselves and allow others to do the same,

To all who help commemorate the 70273 precious souls,

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving from The Engineer, Nancy, and me.

Going to The Dog

phoebe12202

Meet Phoebe, our Corgi, a Christmas gift from our children in 2002. Today is her birthday, and so you don’t have to do the math, I’ll tell you: she is 14 people years old today.

phoebeoncart1104c

Her preferred mode of transportation is a golf cart. Until about 6 months ago when her hearing began to decline, you could say “golf cart” and out she’d scoot. Now it’s the loud, shrill beep-beep-beep of reverse that gets her attention.

phoebechillin_1024

Her wants are few, and her needs are simple: breakfast and supper with sprinkled treats in between and at bedtime. She likes a squeaker toy (which the good ones do for about 5 minutes before she’s demolished the voice box) and a walk every day around 4. Phoebe doesn’t demand more than her fair share of our paycheck and what we get in return is priceless.

kippandphoebe4-copy

Phoebe gets along with everybody going into fierce protection mode only if somebody messes with her people with the intent to do them harm.

phoebesleeping

Not one to dictate how you should live in your own backyard, Phoebe doesn’t really care how big you dig holes or how many bones you bury there. She doesn’t care if you walk around the house in your underwear or put furniture and appliances on your front porch. She only asks that you don’t try to make her do things your way or tell her what she can and cannot do in her yard.  Tend to your own backyard and afford Phoebe the same consideration, and you’ll get along swell.

phoebehappydog_1024-copy

It’s a given: some folks like dogs more than they like cats while some folks like cats more than they like dogs. Phoebe is respectful of the fact that everybody’s different with different preferences and perspectives which is why you’ll never read a post on her Facebook timeline ordering people to unfriend you if they think differently from you. Phoebe values individuality and personal relationships far more than that.

phoebe2003-copy

You know, without cluttering the environment with a single yard sign, without enduring a single robocall, without losing an entire forest to unsolicited junk mail, I think I’ve just convinced myself to vote for Phoebe as a write-in candidate this November.

P.S. That last photo? It’s her head shot from a local performance of “Annie.” She played the role not of Daddy Warlocks but of Sandy. We’re not afraid to do things a little differently in this neck of the woods.

Of Turtles and Home

HughesHallSign
A house is not an end in itself, any more than “home” is just one geographic location where things feel safe and familiar. Home can be any place in which we create our own sense of rest and peace as we tend to the spaces in which we eat and sleep and play. It is a place that we create and re-create in every moment, at every stage of our lives, a place where the plain and common becomes cherished and the ordinary becomes sacred.”
― from “The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir” by Katrina Kenison
Thank you to my lifelong friend Susan Bray Green for reminding me of this book last week. I’m enjoying it the second time around as much as I enjoyed it the first time.
IroningBoard
This is my home this week: the Wild Wing of Hughes Hall at Arrowmont. Camp, I call it, and it is the best kind of camp: a week long arts and crafts time . . . although what I learn this week is nothing like the lanyards I excelled in at Camp Inagahee, and my friend Dianna isn’t along. This week, I fly solo.
beginning1
Monday I spend the entire day feeling befuddled as I walk on unfamiliar ground, trying to grasp what it is we’re doing and what lies ahead of us so I can plan.  I sleep 13 hours Monday night.
JournalComputer
Tuesday is Photoshop day, and for this former freelance graphic designer, it is a homecoming. I feel a skoch better . . . but only a skoch because it’s been a l-o-n-g time since I used Photoshop, and what with all the upgrades through the years, about the only thing that is the same is the way it’s spelled.
CalmSpot1b
Wednesday my best laid plans go kaput, but I keep moving, even though I’m still not quire sure where I’m headed. I make good use of some of the sit-a-spell-and-rest spots.
BearCrossing
These signs aren’t posted (this one right behind my dorm room) just for the cuteness factor – a bear stops by at lunch time. A real skinny woman makes herself bigger and says authoritatively “Go away,” and the bear did. It’s funny how an animal that is so huge has no concept of size. And speaking of lunch, these camp meals are infinitely more delicious than what we were fed at my childhood summer camps. And nobody makes me clean my plate or drink milk.
ClothsPrepared
Today (Thursday) I’ll print, (and tomorrow I’ll no doubt print do-overs for the ones that don’t quite turn out the way I’d like. It’s a given.)
DormRoom2
The dorm room is comfortable in its simplicity, and the studio is magnificent. I have asked The Engineer to bring a tape measure when he comes to fetch me on Friday so I can at least dream about recreating one atop the mountain. The work table is sturdy and gives the sense it can withstand anything. This table is a partner, an accomplice, a studio assistant. It is constant, ready, and able. The top is covered with a layer of padding and topped off with white vinyl. Underneath the table is a built-in shelf, perfect for storing bags and whatnot. A strip of electrical outlets runs down the side of each wall so there’s never a need to search for a place to plug something in or a need for a multi-outlet gizmo. Several other outlets hang from the ceiling, making them perfect for irons. There is a place for and room for everything.
The design wall is massive – I need a step ladder to fully avail myself of it, and for one who hasn’t room for a design wall in The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug, this is like working in a dream. There really is a tremendous difference when you can see things from a distance.
JeanaKleinPiece
Done by Jeana Eve Kelin
JeaneKleinCloseup1
This week renews my desire to print on fabric, and I’ve learned things that will take me further on that adventure.
I’m not sure I’ll ever recreate this technique, though, (even if I could!) because (a) Jeana’s technique requires painting, and I do not paint and have sub-zero interest in learning; (b) I like my quilts to warm you up when you get cold and to make you feel better when you’re feeling puny; and (c) this process is rather tedious and technical while I prefer intuitive and take-it-as-it-comes. But then I’m certainly old enough to know to never say never . . .

(Please excuse any formatting ick. WordPress is being difficult.)

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