Tag: birthday (Page 1 of 2)

Happy Fifth Birthday to The 70273 Project!

white cloth embellished with pairs of red X’s that are all different sizes and shades of red

The 70273 Project Quilt 52, a Middling made by Margaret Williams

Can y’all believe it was FIVE years ago today when I mashed the publish button on the blog post launching The 70273 Project? So much has happened in our lives, in this project, in the world since then. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be unveiling several new adventures happening in The 70273 Project and introduce you to the volunteers who are carrying the torch for each adventure. If you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, perhaps you’d like to. Or maybe you’d like to join join The 70273 Project Campfire, our Facebook group or like our Facebook page

I’m sure you have questions, so I’ll celebrate our Big Day the way I began it five years ago: by posting and answering questions you may have.

Q: How many people have been commemorated to date?
A: We have issued numbers to slightly over 72,000 pairs of red X’s, though there are some gaps in the numbers that will be filled in and we still have blocks and quilts to be processed, so check back often for updates.

Q: How many quilts do we have?
A: We have given out up to Quilt #850, though again, there are some gaps in the numbers that will be filled in as new quilts come in. The Engineer still guesstimates we’ll have around 1200 when we’re done.

Q: How on earth do you track numbers and blocks and quilts?
A: I am delighted to tell you that I don’t! We have a merry band of Data Angels, and I will be introducing you to them over the next couple of weeks. They are a group of women who are creative, dedicated problem solvers, and what they are doing is nothing short of phenomenal. Just wait’ll you hear.

Q: Are you still accepting blocks and quilts?
A: We are mostly focusing on catching up with all we have going on right now, plus the pandemic makes it rather hard to host exhibits and block-making parties, but yes. If you’d like to make blocks or quilts, we won’t turn them away because we know that 70,273 is the number of murdered committed and documented by Aktion T4. Actual numbers could easily be more than 300,000. Chilling, isn’t it? There are other ways to become part of The 70273 Project, though as you’ll see in the next Q and A. And there are some new adventures opening up this year that might captivate your interest and attention.

Q: Is there anything you still need help with?
A: I love this question, and the answer is a hearty Yes! Read on, and click here if you’d like to raise your hand and offer to help. We need:
~ volunteers to take bundles of blocks and turn them into tops and/or quilts.
~ folks to quilt the tops.
~ people to create quilt labels (from information we send). This is something done on the computer using email, so it’s something that can be done from anywhere in the world.
~ We need hands-on volunteers who live in the vicinity of Fayette County, Georgia to print the labels on fabric that’s been specially treated to go through inkjet printers then sew them onto the backs of the quilts. Or you could just offer to print the labels and deliver them to whoever is going to sew them onto the quilts.
~ We need folks to add or amend hanging sleeves on some of the quilts.
~ We also need money. We keep our overhead low, but there are still expenses. There’s some annual overhead, and now we need things like the fabric for the labels and storage. Oh my goodness do we need storage! If you’re willing to make a donation, you can send a check (U.S. banks only, please) to The 70273 Project, Inc. / POB 994 / Cashiers, NC 28717. We are an official 501(c)(3) organization, so with your thank you note, we’ll tuck in a tax form you can use next year. You can also make a donation via the PayPal Giving Fund.

In closing, a question from me to you:
Q: Would you like to see where in the world The 70273 Project has touched down in one way or another?
A: Scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you’ll see a world that’s revolving on its axis. See all those red dots? People from all those dots have come to visit our web site, seeking info, volunteering to participate, sharing stories, commemorating lives we honor, and/or keeping up with our progress.

We’re not done yet, y’all, so please keep showing up and sharing the project with others.

Now go treat yourself to a cupcake. Me, I’m headed to my mother’s house where she is doing what she does every Valentine’s Day for I’m not gonna’ tell you how many years – baking my birthday cake, using the pan and recipe that her mother before her used to bake my birthday cake. You can bet your sweet patooties I’ll be raising a forkful by way of toasting y’all with gratitude.

diary of a birthday: waking thoughts


how many times did my daddy tell me the story about how it was snowing in atlanta the day i was born. how he made the long distance phone call to his daddy in fayetteville, how it was hard to understand each other because of the static on the line. he told that story not with the defiance and antagonism and one-upmanship that dressed later stories starring daddy and his dad. the story of my birth was told with the same excitement i heard in my son’s voice when he delivered a fistful of dandelions picked ‘specially for me. daddy made it sound like he was delivering a gift to his daddy, a gift more precious than the new fedora or the 35 mm camera he gave granddaddy in christmases yet to come. and perhaps he did feel like he, the sole surviving son of five children, was delivering a gift to his parents. another important thing? he never even hinted that he or grandaddy was even a smidgeon less excited because i was a girl and not a boy. in face, my gender never came up . . . except in the spelling of my name.

i wish i could ask granddaddy about it, too, but he died on the day of the christmas party when i was in fifth grade, when stories were something endured after the initial telling.


when i look to mother for a genesis tale, i get a recapitulation of daddy’s story . . . probably because daddy was the source of her information, too, given the effects of general anesthesia and all. then last weekend, quite by accident, i discovered a little something new and sparkly. i was talking to mother about her work during world war 2. she worked at atlanta general depot, doing a host of various jobs as she progressed through the field and up the ladder, eventually landing a supervisory position over 3-4 other women. i came upon a form granting her request for maternity leave beginning on 25 september – months before my birthday. i thought i was onto something. did she have toxemia like i did with my firstborn, also a daughter? or were pregnant women required to take leave, in effect being banned until after? or, given her beauty and keen sense of style, was she reluctant (read: embarrassed) to show her ever-protruding body for months on end?

i was on a feminist-fed roll.

“mother, here’s your leave form,” i said. “why did you start your leave on september 25? you were granted six months’ leave, most of it spent before my birth.”

“oh,” she said as she speared another piece of fried egg, always proud of the lacy effect she was able to create in the cooking, always apologetic when the lace did not materialize as she’d hoped. “some officer whose name i can’t remember asked if i wanted to work for him. when i told him no, he said well, he’d just put in an order and there was nothing i could do about it. i really did not want to work for him, so i just took my maternity leave and there was nothing he could do.”

and with that little story kernel, i see my mother – a lifelong secretary – in a new light. i completely forget to be disappointed that i wasn’t the center of her answer, i don’t even consider till now, turning over the stone of feminism, the possible prejudice i showed attached to her being a secretary . . . there wasn’t room for any of that on account of the pride i felt at her spunk and resolve to be in charge of her own life by whatever means necessary.

and it was certainly more than thrilling to discover that even at this age, there’s something new to learn about her, about me, about us.

Happy Birthday to Nancy


Today is Nancy’s birthday. We called her, but Nancy never has quite mastered (or bothered) with telephones. She does, however, like postcards, so perhaps you’d like to send her one every now ‘n then? I probably should mention that it’s an exercise in letting go to send her a postcard because somebody has to deliver it to her, read it to her, and tuck it away somewhere, and that’s a lot of hands that might get busy or distracted or just never get around to it. When I go visit, I seldom see any of my cards, but who knows why, so I just say Whatever and hope that somehow in the inexplicable magic that connects us, Nancy knows I’m thinking about her when I select, write, and mail the postcard.

If you feel like it, send postcards to Nancy Chambers/Gatlin Cottage/Duvall Presbyterian Home/POB 220036/Glenwood, FL 32722-0036. And hey, thank you.

my true childish heart


Came a package bearing a gift from my son. The handwritten note said he was late because he had trouble finding something special enough to commemorate the Big Birthday I celebrated on Valentine’s Day last. So what did he decide on? A vase. A shiny, gorgeous, handmade vessel.


Though he didn’t choose it with this in mind, the small opening is perfect for a woman who’s now in touch with her own mortality and firmly committed to being quite conscious and selective about what comes into those remaining years.


The somewhat extended neck, perfect for a woman who now feels tenured and firmly committed to speaking her mind without regard to being found pleasing or worthy or even sensible.


And oh my goodness, the glaze. The beautiful glaze of rich blues and greens – my favorite – peppered with small circles resembling crocheted doilies.

Or maybe . . . probably . . . Age Spots.

I feel another cloth project coming on, y’all . . .

[ ::: ]

“I learned to value only that which truly activates what is in my heart. I came to value those experiences which activate my heart as it really is. I sought, more and more, only those experiences which have the capacity, the depth, to activate the feeling that is my real feeling, in my true childish heart. And I learned slowly, to make things which are of that nature.“
[Christopher Alexander: The Nature of Order, The Luminous Ground]



[from my journal yesterday morning, 2/14/13,
on the occasion of day one of my big, milestone birthday]

Today I wake up
a milestone birthday.
This is the birthday card I send myself.
I call it My Womanifesto.

I have no more time to waste

on conforming
or contorting
in hopes that you will find me pleasing or worthwhile.
If you are that focused on me,
if you are willing to devote so much time and energy
to keeping me small so you can feel late and powerful,
I give that back to you and call it what it is: your problem.

I will not sit still
Or be quiet
Or calm down
on command
ever again.

Don’t expect me to show my work
simply because you don’t understand.
I am out of apologies, justifications, and explanations-on-demand
and I am not restocking.

Never again will I diminish my light
or quiet my voice
or step aside
– especially when i know i am right –
for fear it will diminish you
or make you feel bad
or incur your wrath.
That is your problem to deal with.

You may label me
and make assumptions
about me
simply because I am
a Southerner
and a Woman,
because I call people I care about Sugar
am funny
carry too many pounds
don’t use phrases like
“for the common good”
“it’s not fair”.
Yes, you can surely do that . . .
and it will show
your ignorance
and small mindedness.
It will say much more about you
than you are trying to say
about me.

No longer will I sit in the
cold drab metal folding chair
in the dim corner of the room
waiting on somebody . . . anybody . . . to ask me to dance.

I don’t have to like you
And you don’t have to like me,
and even if we do like each other,
we don’t have to agree on everything.
But know this: I will not stand still
while you berate me
or insult me
or call me names
or stomp, kick, or otherwise malign me
because I think differently.
Don’t have to
and I won’t.

If I like you and believe in what you are doing,
I will be your number one cheerleader.
I will support you, encourage you, hold you.
I will help you any way I can but know this:
I will not be disrespected or taken advantage of ever again.
And I will not give you something simply because
I have it
and you want it.
That’s where the word earn comes into play.

I will ask you daily if you’ve thought for yourself
so be ready for it,
because it’s what I’m most passionate about:
thinking for yourself.
I will if you will.
I abhor bandwagon mentality,
despise it, I tell you,
and I will do everything within my power
to support you as you burn your bushel basket.
This political correctness stuff
has to stop.
We are different,
and we each shine in our own way.
I am ready to embrace my shine,
to turn it loose,
and I’m ready for you to do the same.

I am declaring to us both
how I will live my life from this point forward:
no excuses,
and no apologies.
This is a big, milestone birthday
and for the first time in my life,
I feel free to unzip, step out, speak up.
I have tenure, you see,
so I can take up as much space as I want
and I can make as much noise as I want
and I can speak and move and live
as raucously and as tenderly
as I want.

I . . . have . . . tenure.

[ ::: ]

I love this woman, and I love this post.

Bushel Basket Burning


This is a photo of my beloved husband, Andy,
taken yesterday as he was buying me the bushel basket
that topped the list of
What I Want For My Big Milestone Birthday.
I have a plan, you see:
I will decorate this basket,
festoon it with ribbons
and words of wagging fingers,
most from long-forgotten,
unnamed voices,
words that nevertheless linger deep and long.
“Who do you think you are?”
“What gives you the right?”
“Well, you’re getting too big for your britches.”
I will write these words (and more) on the basket,
trim them with ribbons and glitter and sparkle,
then I will set fire to the basket,
while singing
“This Little Light of Mine”.
and dancing.
Oh good lord
how I will dance.

one fine day



i’ve often wondered why some leaves hold on, refusing to let go of their branch, their tree. they clack in the wind, like teeth chattering or cleaning chalkboard erasers or ridding the bottom of shoes of debris from a long walk in the woods.

my birthday comes in 3 days. it’s a big birthday, and i’m making a list. noting things that won’t let go of me, things i’ve long vowed i’d do One Day. i add them to the list because One Day is here.

i’ve never liked numbers all that much, but this one seems rather important


i’m hardly ever sick, so i have no established relationship with any physician. this morning i find myself in need of antibiotics, so i go to the doc-in-a-box at a nearby drugstore. the soft tissue of my ear is inflamed, you see, infected. it happens every three or four years, i tell her. i just need some antibiotics and i’ll be fine.

i do not tell her how i fretted as i dressed this morning, washing my hands an extra two times, downing a glass of a supposed immune system booster, packing my purse with tissues, one of which i use to protect my hand from the pen i must use when signing in because i do not know who held it before me, what germs linger looking for a warm host with a vacancy sign. i worry more these days. what if i get sick and don’t bounce back as quickly? what if i don’t bounce back at all? what if i come in to be treated for one thing and leave with something entirely unrelated that does me in?

she listens to me, believes me, says she likes a woman who knows her body. unused to eye contact from a physician let alone such a notion as listening to the patient, i am instantly smitten with her. the computer doesn’t allow for this particular diagnosis. it’s unusual. not standard. she calls to obtain an override, and when she tells the physician on the other end of the phone my age, she says the numbers in the same tone she answers every other question asked of her. there’s no drama when she says my age, no shriek, no hushed embarrassed tone.

my daughter calls while i’m luxuriating in an infrequent middle-of-the-afternoon-i’m-sick-so-i-can-if-i-want-to nap. will she call her brother to warn him? will she and her brother be worried? surely they must wish for it on occasion, but do they ever wonder what it will be like to live without having me around? do they think of me as old and fear “losing me”? i am not so noble a person or good a mother as to not hope that these scenarios play out occasionally. i want to be missed.

i make a point to keep my hands away from my face. after reading the various flu posts on facebook, i wash my hands.

i have a milestone birthday this year, you see. on the one hand i look forward to it as a crown i may now wear, an outward symbol of what – power? freedom? space? behavioral entitlement? on the other hand, i am embarrassed by it.

[ ::: ]

my word for 2013 is “homage”. i didn’t invite it – i never do – it just appeared, hopping up on my shoulder where it remains to this day. it’s an unusual word that initially causes me more worry; it’s a word i now bump into rather frequently. the stanford university band spelled it out at some halftime show, for example, and i heard it in first episode of season three of downtown abbey the other night. just the other day i overheard someone of some import use “homage” in the course of a conversation, and she pronounced the “h” (“HOM-ij”) settling that score for me. i wish i could remember who that was. am i already losing my memory? it’s a milestone birthday, but isn’t it a little premature to lose my memory? why can’t i remember? this will keep me awake tonight.

age has never mattered to me. a dear woman i cherish and knew because she was my great aunt on my daddy’s side of my tree taught me to never, ever, ever, ever, ever state my age. there’s no need, she said, it will just bring you pain because once they know your age, people will treat you accordingly. if they don’t know your age, they’ll treat you the way you behave in their presence.

am i treating my age like i’ve treated my weight? i look at wedding photos and cry for the young woman who bought an empire waist wedding dress to hide the body she thought grossly overweight at 98 pounds.

[ ::: ]

my color of the year is “deep ground”. i like that. find it comforting for reasons i’m unable to explain. that’s another thing: i don’t seem to be able to explain things, not that i ever have – not to certain levels of more literally-minded satisfaction – and now i’m wondering how important it really is that i should explain myself succinctly and articulately (or would that be articulately) anyway.

being a lifelong caregiver of many and various interests, i’ve long been able to tell you what other people will think about something, to see something and thing oh, so-and-so would love this – that sort of thing. but me, focus? historically, it’s been an impossible task. lately, though, i’m able to pare down, and it’s surprisingly (and alarmingly, at times) easy. mostly i funnel down by recognizing what i do not like, and if i say it aloud, i often forget to tack on the apologetic qualifier that implies “but it’s okay if you do.”

[ ::: ]

i’ve not worn a watch for decades, and yet i feel each tick and at least every-other tock. is that why it’s so easy to make decisions about – to sort how to spend my time, who to carry-on with, who and what to surround myself by?

having been a student then a teacher then a mother of students then a student again, my calendar has long started in september and ended in august. now i’ve decided that beginning in 2013, my birthday will be my new year’s day. decisions like that come easily to me, and they feel Good and Right. i continue to make my list of things i want to do in this new year, in this milestone year, feeling like a kid in the candy store. i should think of places to go, i tell myself, but when i consider travel, i shove it aside because it takes me away from the things i want to create. i have SO much i want to create.

[ ::: ]

i think i should probably dread this birthday, skirt around it, shoo it under the proverbial rug given that it’s an undeniable fact that i have more life behind me than in front of me. i am, you might say, quite in touch with my own mortality. death is frequently with me these days, mostly by way of a deep desire – a commitment, really, a resolve – to die well by living well.

a special delivery, homemade birthday card with wings and kisses for my friend Angela

Sugar, today (and everyday, for that matter) (but especially today), I wish you . . .






and solitude.

I wish you . . .


asylum and refuge


cerulean, zephyrs, and lullabies


talismans, bibelots, aubades, and amulets of beauty.

I wish you . . .


tapestries of rhapsodies, epiphanies, and tranquility


silver linings, caresses, and champagne


and all the colorful, textured felicity you can stand.

5 97 1 erased

I wish you sojourns
that as as meaningful as they are memorable
and I send the wishes all
wrapped up in a gossamer bow called love.

If Mothering Came With Do-Overs, I Know How I’d Be Spending the Rest of My Life


I try hard not to pine for days gone by because it makes my heart hurt too bad, but it’s easy to do when it’s my children’s birthday. So many memories – some I’d love to relive just for the glee of it all . . .


I’d still treat your first stitches as a rite of passage, celebrating with the biggest of all big ice cream cones on our way home. No, no, I wouldn’t change that.


I’d still encourage you to dress up and take to the stage at every opportunity. (Ahem . . . by the way, when do you think you might get back around to that?) Like the first day of ninth grade when you just barely got the car door closed before the dam broke, your tears filling the car. You hadn’t been cast in any of the first school plays, and you were understandably devastated. I drove us straight home, and while you stumbled about your homework, I found an audition notice for To Kill A Mockingbird at a nearby community theatre. We shoved homework aside, gobbled down some supper, and drove straight over. After two nights of auditions and one callback, you landed the role of Dill, a role you’d put on your Dream Role List not too long before. That’s a keyper.


I would still move the earth and moon to find that Georgia Tech wallpaper you demanded as a condition of moving with us to the new house when you were six years old. And when we moved out of that house some 14 years later, I’d still hold a parting ritual for you. You with your keen sense of place. We’d probably still sit on the front stoop laughing and crying and telling stories . . . but on a do-over, I might plan it ahead instead of having it be a spur-of-the-moemnt-we-can’t-leave-without-marking-this-occasion event.



I’d still say “Yes” when you, a four year old, asked if you could walk to see YeaYea and CarCar who lived just out of sight, waving you off then rushing inside to call and alert them that you were on your way so they could just happen to be working in the yard when you arrived for your surprise visit.


I’d still let you stay with Aunt Rene as often as possible so she could hide cheese balls in the azaleas and pecan trees, leaving them for you to find and enjoy before going inside to a feast of peas and bacon.


And those swimming lessons? Oh, you bet I’d still sign you up for lessons with Mr. Bob, even though the memory of it still gives both you and Alison nightmares. I’d still make you go even when we were late causing us to literally miss the boat, requiring me to walk you to the other side of the lake – you with all four limbs wrapped around my leg, hanging on tighter than awful (but comfortable) spandex leggings we once wore under oversized t-shirts. And later after swimming lessons, when you stood on the very end of the diving board, turned to me and said, “I guess you’re just gonna’ have to push me in,” I would still walk over and give you a nudge, knowing it would be the only one you’d need.


I’d still let you dig up the boxwoods at the front of the house, damn near killing them as you re-enacted tales of The Boxcar Kids. (Thank you, however, for not getting that involved in the Firebrats series.)


There was the time when I turned my back for a split second, giving you just enough time to crawl off behind your sister to her bedroom and, at her command, pull yourself up into the rocking chair so she could douse you from head to toe with baby powder. That’s one I’d do over just for the joy of witnessing you and Alison in your first act of independent thinking. You are a Southerner, you know, a Rebel through and through. And I don’t care where you live (well, I do, actually – just using a figure of speech here.) don’t you ever forget that.


Other things I’d like to do over so I’d have a chance to do things better, to do things right . . .

Like the day you were diagnosed with diabetes at 11 years of age. They delivered the diagnosis, then left us alone in the exam room. You were mad and scared and loud, and I shushed you thinking that if you proved difficult, they wouldn’t take as good care of you. I know – it looks really stupid. It was really stupid of me. If I could do that day over, I’d tell you to scream, to rail, to rip the paper off that exam table, to turn over the stool, to rip those stale magazines to smithereens, to kick the trashcan – whatever you needed to do to respond with honest, raw emotion in response to the news you’d just been given. I wouldn’t shush you and I wouldn’t rush you. And if they didn’t take good care of you, I’d go after them with teeth bared and fangs showing.


I’d love another chance to take action when the first grade teacher stuck you outside the door, setting you up with a table and an extra chair so you could teach the slower students. What would I do now? I’d probably commence homeschooling that very afternoon or sell my soul to raise enough money to send you to a private school seven years before I actually did. (Send you to a private school, I mean, not sell my soul.) I’m not real sure what I would do, but I can tell you what I am quite sure of: I would not stand there while she responded to my complaint about your needs not being met with her “Well, he’s smart enough to get it on his own, so what are you fussing about?” No siree. I wouldn’t sit still for that again. Not on your sweet patootie.


And the Thanksgiving you brought your college girlfriend down to spend the long weekend with us? Though I then only suspected what you’ve since confirmed, on a do-over, I would act on my suspicions, and instead of just taking her aside and talking to her about the nature of the good kind of love, how it brings out the best in both of you, I’d snatch her hair out by the roots, show her the door, sell the house, and move so she could never find you again.

(Another thing I’d do-over about that Thanksgiving: When your former girlfriend appeared, taking everybody but you – the one who invited her – by surprise, you’d hear me say “Whatever possessed you to think this was a good idea?” on the outside instead of just quietly thinking it to myself.)


If I could go back in time to the day you left for Los Angeles, I’d hurl myself into the back of the truck as a stowaway, without giving a rat’s ass about what psychologists might say while wagging a finger at me. (I would have, you’ll be happy to know, flown home.) (Eventually.) Another thing I’d change about that day? I’d tweak my parting words to you as you hopped into the rental truck that was taking you and your possessions all the way across the universe from me. Instead of saying “You were the best mistake I ever made,” I’d say “You are the best surprise I ever had.”

I call you Slug, a nickname taken from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a word that refers to the hottest coal that keeps the fire burning so the train can move forward. I love you, Slug, with every fiber of my being. Though I’m quite sure you have other plans for how to spend today, I desperately wish we were closer so I could get my lips on you when I tell you Happy, happy, happy birthday, Slug. I love you more than my vintage suitcases.


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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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