Tag: Christmas

just call me elf


whether you’re a card-carrying member of the fabled 1% or not, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for presents this holiday season. you know that, right? we can’t keep spending money we don’t have. what you may not know or may not have thought about: when you give from your deepest creative self, you not only save money, you gift your self and the lucky recipient. it’s just one of those magical inexplicables – like writing every day doesn’t deplete your word pantry, in fact, just the opposite: the more you write, the more you have to write.

allow me to introduce the personal shopper member of the committee that is me. she loves to conjure fun, one-of-a-kind, inexpensive gifts . . .


  • write love letters. give the recipient a tour of the real estate they own in your heart. don’t hold back – this is the gift that will keep on giving. every time they read it – and they’ll read it often cause they’ll keep it forever – will be a gift.
  • my grandmother canned food in green glass ball jars. she sweated in a hot kitchen all summer so we could eat well all winter. find an old jar and fill it with pieces of paper containing words that come to mind when you think of this person. trust me: they’ll feast year-round.
  • get a t-shirt, pajamas, scarf or any other wearable and grab some fabric markers then decorate the clothing with story kindling and punch lines of favorite memories.
  • know their shoe size? buy them a pair of plain white sneakers and decorate them with colorful words and phrases of love to lighten their step.
  • fill a blank journal with favorite quotes – yours and theirs.
  • do you owe someone an apology? write it out, attach it to a blackboard eraser, and deliver it.
  • cut a snowflake from folded paper and turn it into a gift by writing “like a snowflake, you’re one of a kind” or something similar that would melt a real frosty.
  • cut out words from magazines and instead of creating a ransom letter, create a you-are-special letter.
  • create a calendar of compliments by noting compliments in a calendar.
  • get your camera out and find things containing letters of the alphabet needed to spell out words that describe the recipient. (for example, the end of a swingset resembles a capital A – that kind of thing.) (have fun with this – remember: you can rotate and crop.)

  • use your computer or camera to record your favorite stories about the recipient. ask others to participate by sharing their favorite story, then compile them into one album of love.
  • scan photos of the recipient and drop the digitized version into a document containing the story about the photo. OR keep the digitized copy for yourself and glue the original into an empty journal, penning the photo particulars (who, left to right; where; what they were/are doing; and any other details you can remember) to create a special album of memories.
  • do a little research on your computer and create a year-in-review book of things that are of interest to the giftee.
  • for loved ones, commit family legends to paper (digital or otherwise). add photos and maybe even genealogical information to create a family tree album.
  • fill a jar with questions written on slip of paper – things like “tell me about your childhood pets” and “tell me about your first job” and “what stories do you remember about your parents” and “of all the things you’ve done, what are you most proud of” and “tell me about your hobbies.” around the lid to the jar, tie ribbons on which is written several dates throughout the year when you’ll get together and listen to their answers to the questions you’ll draw from the jar. (oh, and you’ll probably want to take a tape recorder on those listening dates, too.)

  • have something you plan to leave them in your will? go ahead and give it to them. they’ll get to enjoy it longer, and you won’t have to dust it. oh, and be sure to include the provenance, telling where you obtained the item, how and when you used it, maybe even how much you paid for it – things that will tell the story about the item.
  • personally, i hate to cook, but i have it on good authority that not every is like that, so gather recipes and create a cookbook. have a section of perennial favorites and a section of new recipes for those who love adventure in the kitchen.
  • keep ’em warm and stylish: embellish an inexpensive scarf or wrap with words of love and mirth using needle and thread.
  • give them a bib, a fork and a calendar with particular dates circled and tell ’em not to make plans on those nights cause those are date nights when you’re cooking for them.
  • my soul food


    mary talks to her bookkeeper from under the dryer, hammering out an appropriate memo to explain to her employees that there will be no holiday bonuses this year – not because of the economy (well, not directly anyway), but because her store manager (for reasons she can’t fathom) approved 33 hours’ worth of overtime for one full-time employee and 24 hours’ worth of overtime for another. after those two checks are written, there simply isn’t any more money.

    suzie sits on the gold sofa with a leopardskin throw over her legs as she patiently explains how to cook a turkey to her daughter who is preparing the holiday dinner for the first time ever.

    janie’s grandmother drops by to beam her pride at her teenage granddaughter who is now working as the salon’s receptionist and girl friday.

    as i sit waiting for kristi (the owner and my stylist) to mix my color, an adorable little 10 year old girl appears at my chair and introduces herself. “are you alison’s mother?” she asks. “i sure am,” i told her.

    “i’m ansley. miss alison is my voice teacher.”

    that’s when her 5 year old sister, lily appears. in her flannel nightgown. we chat a bit, and just before her mother appears back on the scene, lily tells me “you’re funky” – which i take as a compliment and put my glasses on to punctuate and prove her right. “lily, child, you go put your clothes back on. go on right now. shoo,” her mother says, sending the girls to what was a bedroom when mrs. geiss owned the house decades ago. ansley and lily will spend the day playing with brandie’s (the other stylist) daughter while their mothers spend the day making other women like me feel special and beautiful.

    in answer to the simple question as to her readiness for the rapidly-approaching holiday, beth pours out her grief, frustration, and exhaustion. as she tells us about her mother who’s in the depths of a deep depression, currently in ICU where the medical staff treats her body and refuses to treat her troubled mind, as she tells us about her teenage daughter who’s recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident, injuries requiring her mother’s assistance with everything – and i do mean everything, phone calls are quietly ended and cell phones tucked away. it’s two days before christmas, yet all thoughts of shopping and parties and cooking completely disappear as we bear witness to beth. in that moment, nothing is more important to us. nothing.

    this is my soul food. this gathering of women in an old victorian house tastefully transformed (with the help of mid-century accoutrements and the tasteful style of the owner) into a veritable pink tent where women come together regularly in the name of beauty, always remembering that there’s beauty . . . and there’s beauty.


    today’s post is my response to today’s #reverb10 prompt by mysticflavor: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

    and no needles

    our first christmas tree followed us from the room
    so we started anchoring them
    to the ceiling.

    then there were the times
    when we tromped out as a family
    in search of
    the perfect tree.
    even though the trees
    were always resplended,
    their branches fully laden
    with handmade ornaments
    crafted from glue
    and popsicle sticks
    and fuzzy red pom-pom balls,
    the actual shopping
    excursion was never
    our finest moment.

    the shortest tree-shopping trip ever
    was the year we found the coveted
    two-headed tree.
    but because it started to rain on our way home
    didn’t stop raining till mid-january,
    that famous tree never made it inside.

    four full-to-the-brim calendars
    ushered in the
    color-coded tree-in-a-box.

    the december daddy died,
    hubby went out by himself
    and fetched a $5 tree.
    we leaned it up in the courtyard.
    and for the first time ever,
    we were totally unconcerned about
    turning its bad side to the corner.
    foregoing the ornaments and even the
    dreaded tree stand,
    we threw some lights at it
    and enjoyed looking at it
    through the glass
    where it became a metaphor
    for my life.

    there was the year
    we wanted to buy
    a tree from the
    local filling station.
    they had two left,
    and while the girls
    were prepared and willing
    (eager, even)
    to take both home,
    the guys said an emphatic and convincing “no”
    so we drove on,
    unwilling to separate
    the two trees one from the other.
    (we didn’t go treeless, though,
    eventually paying somebody $25
    when they agreed to let us chop down
    a tree from their front yard.)

    there were the christmas cruises
    when we left the decorating
    (and the consequent clean-up)
    to them.

    a friend’s accidental death
    this week
    caused my son to get home
    just yesterday,
    on christmas eve afternoon,
    which effectively eliminated
    any time for the annual
    tree-shopping excursion.

    scanning the roadside
    on the way home from the
    asheville airport,
    and finding absolutely nothing
    i’d just begun to mourn
    when the idea fairy screeched in to visit
    just as we entered the
    last curve before home.

    we were just too tired
    to deal with it last night,
    and it would’ve been easy
    to skip on past it this morning.
    in fact, the kids voted nay,
    but my adorable husband
    sensing how much it meant to me,
    spent the
    12 minutes required
    (and that’s from fetch to finish, folks)
    decorating this year’s tree.

    well, it’s not actually a TREE,
    mind you.
    you see, this year
    we strung lights around
    the green TRUNK
    that’s been in my daddy’s family
    for forever
    and a day.

    looking at that festive trunk,
    i see roots that run deep.
    i see dints and dings that bear witness to storms weathered successfully.
    i see gifts being tenderly cradled on the inside,
    till they’re ready to be
    shared and laughed and sung right out loud.
    i see locks and latches that are easily undone,
    but effectively protective when needbe.
    i see where the lights are plugged into the nearby outlet
    because let’s face it: everybody needs help generating energy every now ‘n then.

    what else do i see?
    i see stories
    and smiles
    and laughter.
    i see hugs
    and tears
    and togetherness.
    i see resolve
    and grief
    and love.
    long-standing, deep-running love.
    and perhaps best of all,
    i see a brand new tradition
    conjured from the oldest of old traditions: resourcefulness,
    or as we might call it just this once: inJeanneuity.

    o christmas trunk, o christmas trunk . . .


    this post is my response to today’s reverb10 prompt from tracey clark: Photo – a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

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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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