Tag: creativity

The Eyes Have It . . . For Now

shades used after eye dilation sewn to strips of green fabric woven together adorned with multi-colored stitches

I begin to need more light, more contrast. Then there is not enough light or contrast or magnification. I cannot read emails, magazines, menus, road signs. I notice that things seem to bend. Hard, immovable things like trees and boards on the back of trucks. Initially blaming windshields, I flick that excuse aside when realizing that every windshield in every car, truck, even the rental car I rode in at the University of Central Missouri could not be made of defective wavy glass.

Big gray shapes begin hogging the view from my left eye, making it impossible to see anything smaller than the sky. True, the shapes are interesting in form, true, I sketch them out with thoughts of stitching them One Day, but mostly they are annoying. I can’t see through or around them.

At the 6-week mark with no improvement, things become alarming.

Monday, 4/1/2019

With whispers of “in sickness and in health” tickling my ears, I celebrate the 46th anniversary of the day The Engineer and I became engaged by moving “get eyes checked” to the pole position on my substantial to do list. I begin our rare ten consecutive days at home by calling a nearby ophthalmologist I find online. As the scheduler searches for an open widow, she says, “Oh, we’ve just had a cancellation for tomorrow morning at 10:30.” I take it.

Tuesday, 4/2/2019

This morning I draw the Destroyer Oracle Card: “Releasing what is potentially destructive. Preparing for new life.”

Prepared for a diagnosis of cataracts and actually looking forward to being treated because to a person, everybody who’s had cataract surgery tells me they’ve never been able to see better. They even get to design their own vision, most choosing a lens for distance and inexpensive, over-the-counter reader glasses for reading, computer, and hobby work. I have a plan. All will be well.

Not being able to see is exhausting.

Not to mention frustrating.

The ophthalmologist doesn’t follow my script. Scans of my left eye show a lot of blood, so I am met not with a choice of replacement lenses, but  with a referral to a retinal specialist. As the opthamologist’s scheduler searches for the next available appointment, she says, “Huh. There’s just been a cancellation tomorrow at 1:30.”

Shaken, I take the cancellations as a sign. The retinal specialist will scratch his head and wonder how this ophthalmologist managed to get my test results mixed up with someone else’s or come up with such a creative diagnosis.

Wednesday, 4/3/2019

This morning I draw the Beggar oracle card: “Confronts empowerment at the level of physical survival. Awakens the spiritual authority of humility, compassion, and self-esteem.”

Two years ago, I presented my daughter with a quilt top and a promise to finish it asap. Ever since, she chides me lovingly, wondering where she finds “asap” on the calendar and wondering when will she enjoy sleeping under it. Before presenting myself at the retinal specialist’s office, we purchase threads for that very quilt. I’m not being morbid, I simply resolve to amp up and bring to cloth all the images I carry around on the inside.

I go through a repeat of all the tests from the day before and some new ones at the retinal specialist’s office, and while my visual acuity is much improved in the past 24 hours. there is more blood. In the next 12 minutes, we move quickly from tests to the dreaded “wet macular degeneration” to talk of me being in a clinical trial to actually meeting with the clinical trial manager.

Unsure if the rush is because of my vision, the progression of the disease, or of getting me in the clinical trial. I leave the office with my head spinning and my heart reeling.

Thursday morning, 4/4/2019: The Day After

I wake and am able to see better than I have been in over a month. Ignoring the images I was shown yesterday, I think thoughts from the denial column like “Maybe they’re wrong” and “Maybe my eyes were just tired”. I give myself a day of slow ease, a day that quickly becomes filled with emails, phone calls, text messages. Thanks to the efforts of my brother-in-law, I get a second opinion and decided to go ahead and apply to be in the clinical trial. The screening will the place Tuesday morning, 4/9/2019.

“Your imagination is your super power.” 

My friend Joyce texts me this reminder, and as we both know and have talked about before, there’s a flip side to imagination: fear. “Fear comes with imagination,” Thomas Harris writes in Red Dragon. “It’s the price of imagination.” Imagination is not entirely a benevolent creative tool. Imagination has a torturous side, cluing us into the worst that could happen. “Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn,” writes Mary Ruefle in her chapbook, On Imagination. True to form, my imagination glides from denial into fearful overdrive, flapping around unchecked, frantically shouting “Sure, you can write without seeing, but how will you live if you can’t stitch?”

Cue my internal chorus

With denial and fear beginning to fade, my internal chorus warms up and begins chanting their ever-familiar refrains of  “You ought to be ashamed of yourself because you know good and well that people are dealing with much worse” and admonitions to “stop that pity party right this minute.” Continuing my plan to honor what comes, I listen to the chorus then bid it shush, pointing out that I have never and will not start now using other people’s circumstances as comparisons to shore myself up and feel better about my situation. My diagnosis doesn’t diminish their pain, and I refuse to use their pain in an attempt to diminish mine.

Having ridden this beautiful rock around the sun quite a few times, I don’t throw myself a pity party, I simply take the emotions as they come. Fear. Sorrow. Embarrassment. A pinch of Pity. They come, we talk, they leave. No angst, no wallowing, and fortunately, no overstaying their welcome.

Without apology, I delve into my secret stash of chocolate. More than once.

Friday, 4/5/2019: The Day After The Day After

Knowing that things are piling up in my absence from the computer, we go into town and buy me a pair of reader glasses that I wear behind my prescription reading glasses, and while I can see somewhat better, I still struggle to make out even the enlarged words on the screen, tire quickly, and take frequent eye rest breaks. And so it continues for now.

Note: “I’m going to rest my eyes a bit,” my grandparents used to tell me. Silly me, I thought they were using code for “I’m gonna’ take a nap.”


If you are part of or wanting to become part of The 70273 Project Tribe and are waiting on quilt labels, bundles, a reply to your email, or something else, please accept my apologies for my tardiness. It’s now Sunday, 07 April 2019, and I’ve been working on this post for several days. Taking the aforementioned eye rest breaks take time, Reading a screen filled with words in 40-60 point fonts takes time, too, as there’s room for no more than 5 words on the screen at a time. That one caught me by surprise. I will get my daughter Alison to proof this (she surprised me by coming up to spend several days with me!), mash the publish button, rest my eyes, then move into the studio to begin checking in blocks and quilts. Replies to emails may have to wait till tomorrow. We’ll see.

The 70273 Project is an international endeavor, amazing in the magnitude of geography, numbers of people, and kindness. With my whole heart, I thank y’all for using your imagination as a force of good – for showing me the patience, understanding, kindness, and compassion you continue to show those we commemorate. Your good wishes comfort me, your continued petitions for healing encourage me,  and stories from your personal experience fortify me.

Updates to follow, I promise.


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bed time


my daughter is having some health problems, so i decided to send the husband and dog back up the mountain while i stay and take care of her for a while. on any give day, i am a get-up-when-i-wake-up girl, but today as she sleeps upstairs, i create my own country on the planet called Bed. surrounded by my journals, computer, and cloth, i stitch, read, nap, and write at will.

and i am still in my pajamas.

it is luxurious (and maybe a bit decadent) this impromptu retreat for one.

but i am not totally alone:




the numbers add up . . . if you leave some out


I needed floss. DMC #550 (dark violet) because purple is Nancy’s favorite color, and I like this particular shade. It took one hour to get to the store and four-and-a-half hours to get back home . . .


because on the return trip, we took the road less traveled, and Frost is right: it made all the difference.


Trees just beginning to wake up and think about changing into something green.


Heart-shaped rocks still wet from recent storms.


I felt so small, so protected. The quiet wrapped itself around me like a lullaby.


And just as I dropped the floss off in The Dissenter’s Chapel (the name of my studio), along came a flood of ideas – 21 to be exact – for new quilts. I guess that means I’m working in a series now?

[cue contented sigh]

It was a day well spent (even if we did spend five times as much on gas as we spent on floss).



it has been a busy week.
full, i tell you.
mother had cataract surgery today.
she is doing swell,
and i will be, too,
as soon as
i play a bit.
art does that for me.
creativity to the rescue.
good old-fashioned
messy, no checklist

More about 365 Altars

quests and questions

Who am I now?

What do I want next?

These are questions asked by Sally G. at her altar today, questions I ask myself regularly – questions I have asked myself for a long, long time. These are the questions at the top of the list of questions that enkindled 365 Altars.

What do I know, not What degrees do I have, but What do I know?

Who am I now – not who have I been, but who am I now?

What can I contribute, and not just in terms of money?

How does this longing look dressed in words?

Where do I go from here?

What does the culmination of all the things I’ve done look like?

and the ever popular: What is the purpose/Why am I here, anyway?

I look for clues in my childhood – what did I like that got shoved aside in the mad rush to adulthood? What did I want to do with my life when my life was the only thing that mattered, the only thing I was responsible for?

Inspired by Sally G, I place on my altar today a recording of the first record I purchased with my own money. I moved into the basement apartment that my daddy’s daddy declined to inhabit, and I took the record player that was replaced by a fancy new console entertainment center. On any given day, I’d put this 45 rpm record on the turntable, lower the diamond stylus onto the vinyl, and skate around and around and around the unfinished basement just outside my door, feeling completely free, completely in charge of my own destiny, completely sated. Anything was possible. I was capable, on the ready, and darn near invincible. It was enough just to be me.

It’s how I feel now only in the dark thirty hours on the occasional day.

It’s how I long to feel again on any given moment of any given day (minus the roller skating part, mind you).

As I skated, I knew with my entire being that this song was written for and about me. It’s still necessary to escape occasionally to go downtown and get lost in the crowd, to see brightly lit organized spaces filled with colorful goods that promise to make my life perfect (whatever that is). But I no longer want to leave home to dance. It’s no longer comforting, reassuring, or convincing, this notion that I can crawl through some escape hatch and leave all my troubles and worries behind. I am tired of being encouraged to live for the future.

I don’t want to have to leave myself to be myself.

So maybe I’m a wee bit further along on my quest to self definition, to self determination. And while the lyrics don’t hold what they once did for me, the music still beckons me to get up and dance right here, right now. (Which is good ’cause I’ve vowed to move more this year – preferring the word “move” eversomuchmore than “exercise.”)

And with lingering questions that outnumber answers, I leave you with Petula Clark singing the first record I bought with my own money: Downtown . . .


365 Altars: honoring our deepest sumptuous selves. 4/365



seems like all my life i’ve had somebody professing to take care of me. and truth be known, i’ve kinda’ wanted somebody to take care of me, someone to watch over me to make sure i don’t misstep or misspeak or miss the boat. somebody to take care of me. and at the same time, i learned during as early as the group projects in elementary school that i am responsible for myself. i have to be.

i don’t have to forage for food or a place to sleep every day, but i do forage for something more.

i am many different people, and maybe i’m just not evolved enough, but my idea of wholeness is not to meld the entire committee into one generic version of self, not to be the same jeanne every single day of every single week of every single month of every single year of every single decade. shoot no. wholeness is welcoming each Committee Of Jeanne Member to the table (with one or two possible exceptions), and go on about my business.

i would like to say there’ll be no more trying to remake myself into an image others will find pleasing and acceptable – i’d love to commit to that – but the truth is, i know me too well by now. there will always be a committee member in search of the gold star, the pat on the head, the atta’ girl. one committee member will always advocate abandoning any idea that isn’t readily met with enthusiasm from somebody outside our committee.

i have committed to walking down this path of 365 Altars, to honoring my deepest sumptuous self every single day, and it is my fervent hope that eventually i will become stronger, more sure of myself, and that i won’t grow another single wrinkle worrying about being found pleasing in the sight of others. that i will stand in front of the mirror and smile at the sight of my self (even first thing in the morning), and that that smile will fill me up.


365 Altars: honoring our deepest sumptuous selves. 3/365


a most important note: The notion of 365 Altars was fueled by talking with my sister-in-writing-and-more-much-more Julie Daly of UnabashedlyFemale.com and talks with my sister-in-spirituality-and-so-very-much-more, Angela Kelsey of (of all things) AngelaKelsey.com. I love them.

a funny thing happened on the way to


: 1 :
i look at the houses
on that flat, straight 2-lane country road,
not much distinguishing
one house from another
save the
vehicles in the yard,
some resting on concrete blocks,
others simply parked.

: 2 :
“i’d like to stop
at every house,” i say aloud,
“knock on the door,
and ask the woman who answers:
‘has your life turned out
the way you hoped it would?
the way you wanted it to?
if not, why
and what will you do about it?'”

: 3 :
the epiphany:
i am the woman
on both sides
of the door.


More about 365 Altars

who’d’a thunk it

creation of the collage started on shaky ground – real shaky ground – and for a while it seemed that i would go through 2010 red-faced and collageless. i left my journal at home, see, the one i wanted to shelter the collage, and to make matters worse, my only magazines themed around fiber arts and pottery (not an oprah magazine in sight) (and how can a worthy collage be created without images and words from a staff who knows me. i mean, they really know me.) (which is odd, given that i am not a subscriber.) (or a regular reader, for that matter.)

but then i put on my martyr pants and got busy ripping, and before we got to the end of the 2nd season of lost dvd’s (the television show, i mean), i’d ripped past thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons of every. single. image. i’d ripped my way past looking for words and fonts. i’d ripped my way past justification and rationalization and a whole lotta’ other stuff that i can’t quite name.

now remember: i still didn’t have my journal

so i just crammed tucked the ripped images into my bag, figuring la-te-da i could throw it all away at home just as easily as i could fill the trashcan there, and i pretty much forgot about the whole thing until last night when i couldn’t sleep and couldn’t turn on the television without waking up the dog who would, in turn, wake up the husband who has to get up early so i try not to.

wake my husband up, i mean.

i tiptoed out of the bedroom, fished the ripped bits out of my bag, found my journal, got some glue, and sat down at the dining room table where i was immediately surprised by how many images i had. now you have to understand that spatial concepts is not my strongest intelligence by anybody’s measurement system, but any fool could see that all those images were not going to fit on a 2-page spread in my journal, and i didn’t feel like going downstairs in search of one of those big sheets of paper (and besides, where would i store it) (the collage, i mean), so i just started tearing off any superfluous paper, ripping it right on down to the quick.

to the essential image, i mean.


i eventually came to the last piece, and there i was: surprised again, this time by the hugeness of the discard pile (especially compared to the keypers). coveting wanting my little ole’ collage to be as pretty as emma james‘ vision board, i stuck my tongue out the side of my mouth and started laying the pieces out on the page. but then when i bit my tongue remembered that this is not about planning, i just started squirting glue and laying ’em down, and before i knew it, i was done. finished. collaged.

well, almost.

there was this one image in the discard pile that kept jumping out on the way to the trashcan, and when it leapt out for the third time, i said okay, fine and took it back and glued it onto a page all by itself.


i’m calling it the annex.

and here’s the really super trooper amazing part: by the time i crawled back into bed around 5 a.m., all the keypers – i mean, every last one of ’em – had found a home on the two-page spread in my journal.

and i even had a few spaces to boot.


just goes to show, doesn’t it . . .

pieces of peace


my grandmother made quilts – one for everybody in the family.

she’d swap fabric scraps with neighbors, decide on a pattern, then dump the accumulated fabric bits out on the bed, make her selections, and start cutting. she consulted with us about our preferred color for the flannel backing fabric, but she and she alone made the decision on fabric for the quilt tops based mostly – okay, solely – on what fabrics she had in hand.

she used a sewing machine – an old treadle machine – to sew the pieces together into blocks then the blocks together into the top. one the top was assembled, she’d sandwich batting between the quilt top and flannel backing and stitch those together, the machine whirring it’s irregular rhythm. the very last thing she did once the quilting was done and the borders finished off, was embroider our name in a corner of the quilt, and that she did by hand.


honestly, the quilts weren’t all that special to us. we figured quilting was just something grandmother did to keep busy. my mother used our quilts to wrap furniture when she moved it out to redecorate and as beach towels when we went to the ocean and as dog beds on cold winter nights. when they got dirty, she’d throw them in the washing machine then hang them on the line to dry.

a few years ago i decided to catalog grandmother’s quilts and asked my cousins, aunts, and uncles to bring their quilts to be photographed. when we held the first one up to the backdrop of the woods and stepped back to have a look, there was an audible collective inhale followed by the most exquisite silence – the silence of respect and appreciation and love-in-a-new-light.


my quilt is in the velveteen stage of life, loved raw in places, the batting spilling out and making a mess all over the place. i’ve thought about mending it, but, shoot, i’ve never gotten around to it. i ought to, though, because let me tell you one thing: some of the most peaceful moments i’ll ever know are enjoying that deep, peaceful, falling-off-the-edge good sleep that comes only on the nights when grandmother’s quilt is wrapped around me. mmm mmm mmm. all those tiny little pieces. painstakingly cut, arranged, then stitched together into something bigger. something much, much bigger.


the story is mine, but credit for the kindling goes to gwen bell and her best of 2009 blog challenge.

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forgot to pack my muse


we traveled above the clouds

but not in denver

so i can’t blame the altitude

and the temperature is quite comfortable

so i can’t blame the heat

dry or otherwise.

and i have a lot to do,

but none of it is here with me

my cell phone doesn’t work here

and we don’t really know that many people here

or belong to any clubs or organizations

so there are no social obligations requiring my time and attention.


so as far as i can tell

i have no excuse

no discernible, easily recognizable reason

for running on empty

coughing up dust

seeing cobwebs.


i’ve got nothing

right now.

nothing, i tell you.

i’m trying to finish up a couple of pieces

but can’t quite get theref

can’t get to that satisfying “yes”.


i’m shining

the proverbial light

down into the depths of the proverbial well.

i’m writing

even though the words lack oomph.

i’m stitching

though the result is a foreign language.


who knows why this sometimes happen

times when you can’t buy a creative idea?




thank goodness our scarlett was right:

tomorrow is indeed another day.


and maybe tomorrow

i’ll just whip me up a beautiful fitted


from some curtains.


oh wait,

we have no curtains.


another one bites the dust.


see what i mean?


guess there’s nothing to do

but go have some ice cream.


using the biggest spoon i can find.

that should do it.


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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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