Tag: churnings (Page 1 of 9)

Like I Tell The Kids: If You Don’t Tell ‘Em What You’re Doing, They’ll Think You’re Doing Nothing


Don’t take up too much space.

It’s not nice to talk/think/write/focus so much on yourself.

Who do you think you are?

(which was really more of a statement than a question).

These are some of the messages that came at me from all directions during my formative years, and let me tell you what: they burrowed in deep and took a tight hold. Despite my Big Birthday, I still need reminding every now ‘n then (like yesterday, for example), and I thank my son Kipp for splashing a little of his wisdom on me and wrapping it around my finger as a constant reminder that it’s not only okay, it’s imperative that I speak up and tell people what I want and need instead of wishing, hoping, thinking, and maybe even praying that they’ll get it on their own. It’s okay, for example, to tell the hair stylist that I need a towel under my neck at the wash basin. And it’s okay to open my mouth and tell my friend that I’d like her to occasionally ask me how my writing is going. And to tell another friend that I’d sure appreciate it if she’d give me credit when using my words. That it’s okay if I look my mother right in the eye and tell her that I need and want more than anything for her to see me as the creative, funny, trustworthy, honest, reliable, responsible, talented, caring woman I am. Cause you know what? I just can’t waste another nanosecond sitting around waiting to be discovered.

Giving Good Phone


Here’s the situation: a friend is going to court tomorrow morning. She’s innocent, and while I don’t know that I have anything that can be used to help her, I’m certainly willing to help in any way I can. I offer to talk to her attorney if she (the friend) wants me to. She does and calls her attorney to relay my name and number. I am on the phone when the attorney calls, but I return the call as soon as I am off the phone. It’s about 3 minutes after noon – lunchtime – so I leave a voice mail that goes like this:

“This is Jeanne Hewell-Chambers returning [insert attorney’s name]’s call. I can be reached at [insert my phone number, area code first of course]. I should be here most, if not all of the day. I look forward to talking with you soon.” All said with a smile because you can hear smiles on the phone. It’s inexplicable but true.

Three, almost four hours pass and I hear nothing. Now I know that if the attorney and I are to talk, it has to be today, so I pick up the phone and call back because she and/or her assistant (I don’t know if she has an assistant) may not have thought to check for messages after lunch. Or maybe she’s in court this afternoon. Or maybe the sticky note with my number got covered up on her desk. Or maybe she had a heart attack, God forbid. The maybe’s stretch out into oblivion, so the only sensible thing for me to do it call back, to return the call a second time.

“Law offices of [insert name(s)]” is the greeting. She also says her name, but it’s blurred because she says it so fast.

“This is Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. I’m returning [insert attorney’s name] again. Is she available?”

“She’s booked in meetings all afternoon.” A brief pause then, with a much nicer tone of voice: “Oh wait. Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. I know she wants to talk to you, but she’s in meetings all afternoon. It’ll be after 4 before she can call you.”

Notice anything?

I’m gonna’ help you out. In no particular order, here’s what would have catapulted this attorney’s assistant into the gold star realm of customer service, making both the attorney and the assistant hugely credible and desirable:

1. She could have (and should have, in my opinion, because I used to teach exceptional gold star customer service) (I am a girl raised in the South, customer service is what we do every day of our lives). Anyway, the assistant could have/should have taken the initiative to issue me a courtesy call to let me know that she got my message, that the attorney is in meetings all afternoon and will call me when the meetings end.
2. All of the above PLUS: When she tells me when the attorney will be able to call me, she asks if that time will be convenient for me. Let me rephrase: She asks if that time will be convenient FOR ME.
3. She confirms my phone number.

Little things are huge. Why is it so hard for people to think of things like this? It doesn’t increase the overhead by a penny while the return on investment of the extra minute is priceless.

First You Decide, Then You Move


Weeds are pesky things. Maybe once upon a year you liked them, actually spent money acquiring them then spent time planting and tending them. But comes a day when you realize they are more invasive than pleasing, that they have spread and are now growing and blooming where you don’t want them to grow and bloom. They are taking up too much space on your path.

That’s when it’s time to pluck them out . . .

Borders had been installed at the very beginning, but the weeds had long ago ignored the boundaries, going over and under as they pleased, determinedly oblivious to my growing discontent, so yesterday was weed-pulling day. Many were not happy to leave. Their roots had spread deep and wide over time, taking strong hold to that part of my path. They were apparently quite comfortable and vehemently protested the change. Tools were required to assist in the removal of the most obstinate weeds, and quite often when the weed did finally let go, it came out with great clumps of dirt that went into my shoes, my shirt, my eyes, my hair. It was not a pretty sight.

It was tough, time-consuming work. Fingernails were blackened and broken. Before long, my back hurt and neck and legs ached so badly, I considered throwing in the towel and going to find something to do that was more fun and less arduous, just leaving them be. After all, I could still technically step around them.


Otto, my granddog, provided company and stood as witness – sometimes enjoying the sun,


sometimes standing right where I needed him not to stand,


sometimes doing a little digging himself. There was an important difference, though: Otto simply moved what he pulled up, burying it in a new spot in the yard.


What I pulled up went into the compost bin to be recycled into something new and useful and nourishing. I suppose you could say that it will eventually go into another spot in the yard, too, but you get my drift.


Yeah, I’ve had days that were more fun, but by bedtime, the path was cleared, and I could once again see the stepping stones and imagine where they might lead me. You know what I mean?

Looking Back, Moving Forward


Saturday was World War 2 Heritage Days, an event in Peachtree City, GA honoring those who served in WW2. Veterans wear their uniforms or at least a hat to indicate their field of service.


My daughter travels around to various events, portraying Betty Grable, and let me tell you: she has the legs and the voice and the hair to pull it off. Years ago I bought a 1940s era dress just because I liked it. It’s hung in the closet since then, but on Saturday morning, I pulled it out and put it on, along with my black gloves, a 1940ish pocketbook, and the cutest hat you’ve ever seen, all topped off with shoes to die for (and by the end of the day, my feet almost had) (died, I mean). My hair is now too long to hold pin curls, and I didn’t know how to do victory rolls, so I decided I’d just tell the stitch nazis (women who delight in pointing out inadequacies and unauthenticies) to (a) bug off or (b) that I’d been out picking cotton that morning and simply hadn’t had time to do my hair. Thank goodness I didn’t hear from the stitch nazis, but I’ll have you know that three men asked me where I bought my dress. Not cross-dressers, mind you, just men who say they find shirtwaist dresses (accessorized with black gloves and a purse that snapped shut with an attitude) like mine sexier than today’s dresses. Here she is, my daughter, singing the national anthem.


Later when she sings The Armed Forces Medley, veterans stand when she gets to the theme song for their branch of service. These fellas were able to name the song Anchors Away in three notes.

This is my mother’s boyfriend, Walter, cheering as his song – Army Air Corps – ends. Loyalty runs deep.

Speaking of loyalty, this is Helen Denton telling some young girls what it was like to be General Eisenhower’s secretary. Though she joined in hopes of meeting a man, she had some pretty important jobs during her tour of duty . . . some things she couldn’t talk about for 50 years – not even to her husband – because she’d promised she wouldn’t.

Re-enactors don period attire and engage in immersion imagination as the veterans watch and remember, telling stories and shedding tears all along the day. The re-enactors spend an awful lot of time and money doing their research and trekking to these events. They take history seriously, and do not tolerate revisionists well. Their equipment and uniforms are authentically correct but they are not government-issued like the originals.

When they’re not in character, you see things like a German giving a ride to US military folk . . . and they are all smiling. This vehicle, by the way, was a gift from the driver’s wife one Christmas. Yes, really.

When they came home, the veterans were told they could wear their uniforms for 3 months until they found a job and got settled. They were given special pins to wear to indicate that they had served and were now discharged, reacclimatizing themselves into society. Though the pin had an official name, the veterans called it The Ruptured Duck. All veterans were given a Ruptured Duck pin Saturday morning. This is my 98 year old Uncle Joseph receiving his pin.

And this is Walter receiving his pin.

The hangar is filled with rows of tables filled with ribbons, pins, uniforms, photos, and other memorabilia on Saturday. In one corner of the hangar, young women have set up a 1940s kitchen, complete with the cutest stove I’ve ever seen, a ringer washing machine I’m glad I don’t have to use, a wooden ironing board that looks like it positively salivates at the thought of pinching fingers, a Hoosier cabinet that reminds me of the one in my Aunt Rene’s kitchen, and a small kitchen table from that era. I like that there was some attention shone on the domestic arts of the time.


There’s a camp show that is performed word-for-word from the transcripts of camp shows of the era. This is Thomas Eastin (the best of the good guys, if you ask me), a college student who’s been portraying Bob Hope for several years.

When the whistle sounds at 4 o’clock, tired volunteers find a second wind and leap into action, clearing the hangar of military paraphernalia and transforming it into a ballroom for The Swing Dance. The tired young re-enactors change into their dress uniforms, and just as they must have back in the 1940’s, line up to ask pretty young women to dance. I look at the young men in those WW2 uniforms and think about how the 93 and 94 year old men sitting across the table from me were about that age when they trotted off to war. How did their mothers ever stop crying?

When I interviewed him for the book I wrote about him, my father-in-law told me that he received his marching orders the same day he was to graduate from Georgia Tech. Said the school moved the graduation ceremony up, making it earlier in the day so graduates would have time to gather their belongings and take their leave into the wild blue yonder and beyond. He said he and the other graduates walked up on stage, received their lambskin, then stepped off the stage and immediately received their orders. In the space of the few hours separating graduation from shipping out, many of them – including my father-in-law – got married.


But it’s not just the young re-enactors who take to the dance floor. Here’s my mother dancing with Walter while Alison sings “Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time . . . ”


At one point during the evening, this 94 year old veteran was dancing with Jenny (left) when Alison went up and in the spirit of fun, staged a cat fight for his attention. Is it just me, or does this fella seem to enjoy all the commotion?


In the end, he chose Alison, I mean Betty Grable. His daughter cautioned Alison to hold on to him tightly, but there was magic in the air that night, magic that took his body back in time – maybe not to a foxhole, but he sure didn’t need any help finding his way around the dance floor.


Freddie hails from Long Island, New York and travels around the country making appearances as JFK. This is my mother being totally won over by his charming personality. Look out, Marilyn. You may be able to sing Happy birthday, Mr. President, but you can’t cook like my mother.

We can argue that memory is construct and fallible, and we might agree that we’d rather war be the last avenue taken rather than the first, but surely we all agree that there’s nothing like learning about history from the lips of those who lived it. You can’t learn history like this from books. You just can’t.

muddy waters are beautiful by me


i love how the falls,
ordinarily so lacey and pristine,
go all muddy on us after a storm.
the sediment, once hidden in quiet repose underneath the surface,
comes rushing to the top,
debris once settled in another life faraway from here
gets added to the mix,
sometimes staying a while
as though waiting on the next big storm to come along.



[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.

s . . . s . . . s


IMG 0342


i’ve been many places
in the past several weeks,

IMG 0210

traveling for many reasons,
all reasons involving other people.


some folks are quick to divide people
into two groups:
those who like people
and those who don’t like people.
i continue to bump up against
that categorization,
but i no longer spend time and energy
trying to explain that i, too, like people
just in different doses.
defending and explaining is time and energy better devoted
to what my soul must have
as nourishment:


water under the bridge

the sun peeked out from the clouds
just enough to lure us out
for a walk this morning.

i chose this hill,


which looks enticingly meandering
from the bottom
and a bit more formidable from the top


husband went another way.
he has his own hills to climb.


yesterday the water raged,


fierce and muddied in its flowing.
agitated, to say the least.

today, such a difference.


there’s still a lot of water flowing,
but much has settled
making things clearer.


on one side of the bridge,
the water is calm,
like an oddly-shaped mirror
reflecting all around it.
deceptively placid.

but when it flows under the bridge
it transforms noticeably.
letting no boulder
or branch
stand in its way.
moss growing
only around the far edges.

Fine Lines

It rained all night, giving us this view from here this morning:


and this:


Note: The preceding photos may or may not be visual metaphors . . .


I got up, showered, washed my hair. Would’ve gone to walk except it continued to rain hard all day long. I stitched my way through the day, preparing five more Envoy packets to go out. (Thank y’all.) The up and down, back and forth of the needle soothes me, assures me.

I am not holed up in a small room with the blackout curtains pulled closed. I am not wallowing. I am not whining. On the outside, I look the same. If we talked, I would make you laugh, and I would laugh alongside you. “If my cat would knead my back and shoulders like he kneads my thighs and chest,” I posted on Facebook, “I would buy him the good food.” I am the same save for one important detail: I laid something down yesterday, and you held me. Your comments and your emails, they swaddled me in gentle support. I don’t know when I’ve felt so seen, so held. Thank you.


Renae used the word “sorrow,” and that resonated deeply with my bones. I may laugh, but I still carry this sorrow. There is such substance in sorrow, in this deep, long, unnamed sorrow.


Fine lines separate a pity party from authenticity, distinguish whining from honesty, keep sharing from becoming a stage. While my brain screams “You get over yourself and stop this right now, Missy,” my bones whisper “You’re okay, Sugar.”


Happy feels like an obligation, something manufactured, something I do for others, something I am obligated to do for others, to make them comfortable, to make and keep friends.

Glee feels natural, organic, spontaneous. I can’t stop glee, and I don’t want to. It’s not heavy, not one thing I have to drag round. Its not scratchy or tiresome.

Sorrow feels, well, comfortable in a way. Like I’ve landed right where I’m supposed to be. And sorrow doesn’t exclude other emotions or other situations or other people. It’s inclusive, though not in the misery-loves-company-kind-of-way because I’m not actually miserable. Sorrow doesn’t assign blame but invites reflection and pondering.


My brain is my aggregator, my protector, my assimilator. I need my brain for so many reasons, but somewhere along the way, it got the big head, my brain did. Thinks thinking is The Only Thing That Matters.

My heart is the home of my spirit. Childlike, playful, spontaneous. Heart is home to glee.

My bones are home to my soul. They connect me with my ancestors, with something ancient and unspoken. I am finally learning to trust them enough to let them speak. Bones are the voice of wisdom.


My body is a cache of Knowing.

And of memory. All these voices, all these proverbial fingers wagging at me, they are remembered real. I have read them, heard them, interpreted them before. I have been baptized in them. Some come from well-meaning sources concerned with my well-being and safety. Others come from sources who don’t know me but speak with great authority. All promise a life of shame if I perform in a way that is disruptive, inconsiderate, inconvenient for others. Sadful is at the top of The List of Inconsiderate Inconveniences.

This avoidance of shame has guided me for so many years. For too many years.

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Allow me to introduce myself . . .

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

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