Tag: friendships

Juicing the Third Half of Life


In Our Own Language 4:7
She (Nancy, my developmentally disabled sister-in-love) draws.
I (Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.


While in Michigan for my brother’s stepson’s wedding this weekend, we reconnected with friends we haven’t seen in I don’t know how long. We knew them in undergraduate days when we were all young and free and confident. We knew them in that time when our parents were busy creating their own life without children to wait up for or pick up after and when children weren’t even an idea. We could carry little ole’ tiny pocketbooks in those days ’cause we were only responsible for ourselves. We were juicers, extracting every bit of fun and goodness and laughter out of life.

It was so much fun remembering and reminiscing with Bruce and Linda, trekking back down memory laugh. Oh my goodness, the things we did Back Then. And I want you to know that we told the true stories this weekend, with my mother and my son and my daughter-in-love sitting right there listening. I figure they’re old enough to hear those sorts of things now.

I’ve decided I want to keep the body of information and wisdom I’ve acquired and recapture the absolute joy of living as though One Day is Right now. I think it’s possible.

I may have to increase my insurance, though.

in the middle of unmuddling


I think of the letters shared by women who preceded me . . . “I put up 7 pints of bread-and-butter pickles today.” . . . “Jerry is down in his back again.” . . . “Katie sent me her upside-down pineapple cake recipe. It’s in the oven baking now, and it smells so good. I’ll let you know how it turns out.” . . . “My iris are blooming this year. I separated them last year, planted them not quite so deep.” Sometimes a copy of a new recipe was tucked inside the envelope along with the letter . . . sometimes an article snipped from the local paper . . . sometimes a picture of a grandchild.

I love these old letters. The handwriting is evocative and so is the dailiness of a (so-called) ordinary life. Women staying in touch. Sharing. Reporting in. Plucking jewels from their ordinary day.

Something Sarah said in her comment got me thinking about these letters . . . (she always opens a window for me, and i never know what the view will be but i always love it) . . . about how back in The Day we used blogs and the comments as exchanges of letters. We’d read a blog post and respond in the comment how it resonated with us, what it brought up in us, how it affected us. We’re share stories. Sometimes we’d take something from a comment and write a whole post around it, carrying on the conversation. We had the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, and we used some of that time to read each other’s blogs.

I miss that.

So that’s what I’m gonna’ do here in this blog. That’s what feels right in my bones. It’s like it touches some deep longing and beckons it out to be tended to. Susan says in her comment: “Share when the urge hits and if you don’t feel like it, don’t bother.” Advice that feels real good to these bones. And that’s why I’m posting twice today. Maybe even another post before bedtime (cause I’m getting of an age when at bedtime I can’t remember what happened in the morning, so why not make it easier on myself).

(But hey, one thing you’ll never read here: “I put up 7 pints of pickles today.” You can take that one to the bank.)

p.s. The photo is altar #103. I’m revving that up again. It’s 365 or bust.

p.s. 2: The altar is treasures I picked up on Daytona Beach a couple of weeks ago when we went down for the opening of the museum exhibit my first hymn of cloth is in. Yes, really. Me. My cloth. In a museum exhibit. SQUEEEEE!!!!!

this changes everything



amanda farough offered me a new dress for my blog, a little something she stitched together from her own creative hands. but i thought i needed more color. i selected my current blog dress (aka template) because it is colorful and messy, more than a bit of a chaotic conglomerate – a virtual snapshot of my life. inside the chaos, in the space where my words are, is orderly. calm. uncluttered. there’s space to breathe there . . .

we spent memorial day weekend in room 545 at the hospital, only a few doors down from the catherization lab where they discovered the need for – and ultimately inserted – a stent in his restricted artery.

things like that change everything.

as an occasional end-of-life doula, i’m pretty much in touch with my own mortality. but in touch with my husband’s morality? well, that’s something else entirely.

for a while now, i’ve been carrying around this postcardesque image of Jeanne’s Ideal Day. it involves yoga, writing, walking, cooking (i honestly can’t believe i wrote that), yardening, maybe teaching the occasional workshop and speaking to a group somewhere or other every now ‘n then.

in other words, i want to live in the bubble that is my blog’s text box.

so i organized my calendar, blocking out boxes in my days and started poking around in search of yoga classes. in an act of desperation, i shook my tin cup out on facebook, asking for recommendations of yoga classes in my area. i heard from a few who were only about a 2.75 hour drive each way, then – in the same day, i want you to know – i hear from bindu wiles that she’s throwing a party that involves 1 part yoga and 1 part writing.

i guess they’re right: when the student is ready, the womentors appear.

it’s only day 2, so i’m still pretty much moving around in the chaos, looking longingly at the text bubble, but i’ll get there.


hey, anybody got a plan combining yardwork with facilitating a workshop?

coming to term with our grips, 2


“The blueprint isn’t the building.”

Mary Pipher

“actions speak louder than words.” shoot, if i had a nickel for every time i’ve heard my mother say that, we’d be having this conversation in person, and i’d be picking up the tab. laboring, trusting, noticing, speaking, writing, yearning, connecting, pondering, desiring, building, standing, dancing, surviving. these are all actions that julie mentioned in her post. her post reads to me as a segue, a bridge from talking to doing.

caring is an action. so is caregiving, tending, pondering, deciding, preparing, singing, trying, loving, wiping, cooking, nurturing, hugging, listening, crying, seeking, writing, bearing witness. see, actions don’t have to be global to be valid or worthwhile.

many women who are career caregivers and family hearth keepers eventually find themselves stepping over the threshold of their front door, and all too often, it’s like leaving a darkened theatre and stepping right smackdab into the sunny parking lot. there’s an acclimation that must take place. many of these are women can tell you in the blink of a gnat’s eye what everybody around them thinks and feels, but ask them what their opinion is on something, ask them what gets their blood churning, and they draw a blank.

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.

~Virginia Woolf

knowing our own thoughts and passions takes a little longer. discovering, defining, and clarifying personal voice are actions. so is supporting ourselves and others as we move through this stage.

we talk, write, listen. we poke around, visiting blogs to see what resonates with us – all actions – and while there are books and plays i want to write, i’m itching to do something that involves moving more than my fingers. i’m ready to live into my word of the year, ready to do something JustBecause.

some women go spend time at the ocean. other women get a job doing something they’re interested in. others collect, paint, draw, yarden, train for marathons.

but me? right now – as of last week – my action involves finding an old piano and deconstructing it down to the keyboard. all i want is the keyboard. a full keyboard. 88 keys. and once i have the keyboard, i want to hang it on the wall in my studio. it’s a desire, and desire is an action.

when this crazy idea came to light, i smiled (a good sign) and said to myself, “okay. so where do i find a piano?” i have a piano, mind you – music is in our blood – but i don’t want to take it apart, so i did what i always do: i asked my friends. within 4 hours of posting a note on facebook, a woman i seldom see even though i’ve known her for decades, commented that she had a piano i could have. the plan is to look at it tomorrow, then find a way to get it from there to here, find some tools, and let the deconstruction begin.

will harvesting the keyboard of an old piano save the world? shoot, no. will it cure cancer or restore order to haiti or stop domestic violence and rape? don’t i wish. no, i expect this is nothing more than one woman who’s itching to do something, doing something. nothing more, nothing less.

and i’m doing it with the help of friends. some i haven’t seen in years. others i’ve never seen (in person) at all. helping, listening, giving, picking up . . . those are all actions. and every action leads somewhere.

even the teensy little action of clicking on the name of a woman who left a comment on julie daley’s blog. there’s one more piece to this post, but i’m about to be late to a very important writing date with a friend i met when she came to audition for a show our theatre company produced last summer, so till soon . . .

my great aunt rene (and i mean “great” in terms of lineage and as an adjective) was a career caregiver. she never had children, but she took care of us, her brother, her two sisters, and countless others. in her younger years, she took such good care of a sick, elderly man that when his father died, the son deeded the house to her in appreciation. she then build a small house on the back of the lot and created an apartment on one side of the house, and the rental income fed and clothed her when her youngish husband died. laughing, playing canasta, yardening, and flirting were some of aunt rene’s more noteworthy actions. she took care of people and plants, and she tended them – us – well. the azaleas in the photo are in her yard.

coming to terms with our grips


“I’m not sure where this post is going to go, but I trust it will take us somewhere” wrote my darling julie daley. she stepped out on the digital page that day, not knowing where her fingers would take her, and oh what a journey she set in motion. earlier in the week, she wrote about voice – about finding hers, me finding mine, others finding theirs. two days later she found herself writing about connections. connecting. the digital currency of the internet, she calls it.

“As we tell each other who we really are,
we find the people with whom we really belong.”

Christina Baldwin via @creatingwings on twitter

the comments after julie’s post are filled with women tracing their digital lineage, paying tribute to women they’ve met online, women who have been and who have found breadcrumbs leading to a forest (or desert) of women ready and willing to bear witness, encourage, cajole, dance.

in our journey to voice, we gather around the digital well of blogs and comments and tweets, telling our stories and speaking our truths (perhaps tentatively at first and at times), and an entrainment takes place. we find women with whom we resonate. women who inspire us, tickle us, enkindle and excite us. we gather around the digital well, knowing that encouraging, supporting, cheering on other women does not diminish us in any way because this is a well of abundance.

as i scrolled down to leave my comment at julie’s place, i came across a comment left by a name i’d never seen before. debra notes that women finding their voice is an “old, old” theme, one that’s been “grappled with” for centuries – which is true. she goes on to point out that actions speak louder than words, and, on the topic of voice, asks the good question “how will you use yours?”

feeling a quickening, i click over to her blog, eager for a chance to learn more about her, to have a conversation. I find that she’s written a post elaborating on her comment, but alas, there is no place on her blog for comments. though i take exception to her use of the word “soppy” because it reads judgmental, i do see how if it’s your first visit to some of the blogs i call our digital well, they could be received as soppy. sometimes when i write a particular post, it feels soppy. necessary, but soppy nevertheless.

i’ve only been on twitter three months, and the first time i called someone “sugar”, it was scary. i knew there was a chance folks would recoil and unfollow me in droves, but i did it anyway because it felt right. i am fluent in english and southern – it is who i am. now several of us have sweet pet names for each other, and it works. for us, it works. for a while, my son (who’s knows his way around the digital social scene) would read the comments on my blog and call on his way to the office, offering feedback. “mom,” he said more than once, “when you tell people you love them, when you call them ‘sugar’, when you use ‘xo’, and compliment them profusely, you sound needy. cut it out.” he read a few more weeks, then one day i got a call saying, “mom, about the way you reply to people in the comment section of your blog . . . that’s not neediness, that’s caring, and they’re two different things. i see that now, and it works for you because it’s who you are. you care. you really care.”

i do care. and the way i see it, caring is action.

it’s where action starts.

it’s the ember, the kindling for action.

to be continued tomorrow . . .

singing my heroes and sheroes




i tell them i love them, but do i tell them why?

i tell them i’m proud of them, but do i elaborate?

sometimes i do, but not nearly enough.

today, i tell them that they are my unsung heroes and shero, and yes, i tell them at least some of the reasons why (to list all the reasons would get us into bandwidth issues) . . .

my husband, andy has been my hero for 36.5 years now, and here’s why:

he makes me laugh. sometimes he cracks himself up more than he cracks me up, but he still makes me laugh.


he listens when i talk (well, not like i’m some e.f. hutton. i mean, sometimes his eyes glaze over, but we’re working on that).


he will go to the grocery store with me just because. once, in the days before cell phones, he figured out where i was and just showed up in the spices aisle to help me get groceries then we went home and put them up together.


to this day, we hold hands wherever we are.


he shares the scepter (read: remote control) to the television. he may leave the room when i’m in control, but he shares.


willingly and without complaint, he helps members of my family.


he is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.


he gives me cards. now, honestly, it used to make me mad that he gave me store-bought greeting cards. but then i had this small-huge shift in thinking and realized that he spends a lot of time sifting through racks of cards in search of one that says what his engineer-trained brain can’t quite articulate. or maybe it says what he doesn’t even know he wants to say until he finds the card.

my son, kipp. my hero because . . .

he knows that you can learn more about humans and their relationships from poetry, music, and literature than from any psychology class or textbook.


he edited my thesis, and when it was done, he asked if he could share it with some of his friends (who then became my friends from ensuing conversations.)


once, on a trip to hawaii, he surprised me with a handblown stylus and inkwell set because he knew – he just knew – how much i would enjoy the scratching of nib to paper and how much i needed to allow my brain to exhale and make room for all the important things that get buried and shoved aside under burgeoning to do lists and overcrowded calendars.


when he landed in l.a., he took a job delivering food to learn his way around.


he is an adventurous eater, something he learned all on his own.


he writes poetry, songs, and essays; does open mic events; is an actor and skydiver – all this and balances his checkbook.


we go to movies and shows, and afterwards to dinner or for drinks and discuss what we just saw from as analytical deconstructive creativists.


he is willing to say “i don’t know” right out loud.


he is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.

my shero is my daughter, alison. want to know why?

she ran for local city council then the state legislature before she was 25 years old. (and in the state legislature race, he was in a run-off with the older male career politician. lost the runoff only by a slim, slim margin, too.)


she started a local theatre company in 2005, and it’s still going and growing.


she supervises my hair stylist and goes clothes shopping with me.


in 2006 she hit a rough spot with depression, and i just kept putting one foot in front of the other, doing what needed to be done. a year later, she directed steel magnolias, casting me as m’lynn to her shelby. coincidence? i think not.


as a beautiful, articulate, talented public figure in a small town, she receives more than anybody’s fair share of other people’s insecurities and bad behavior. yet through it all, she remains the bamboo – bending but refusing to break. she is tenaciously nonconformist.


she is wicked smart, talented, creative, and funny.


she can do genealogical research and retain what she uncovered.


if you need to know what to give a person, call her. she knows people better than they know themselves.


she speaks her truth. others may not understand or agree, but she speaks it anyway.

yes, i am one lucky woman. luckier than i deserve.

the stories are mine, but credit for the kindling goes to gwen bell and her best of 2009 blog challenge. today’s prompt: who is your unsung hero?

Technorati Tags:
#best09, #bestof2009

will all the queen’s horses and all the queen’s women be up to it this time?

wisps of hope float around, but they’re hard to latch onto, harder still to hold onto once latched. i am anxious today. nervous. looking for the redbird as confirmation of today as a happy day. trying hard to be hopeful and optimistic, trying hard not to invest too much in hopeful and optimistic . . .


i sent a friend a book and a l-o-n-g letter, and she gets home today to open the package. this is not just any friend, mind you, it’s one of my precious few soul friends. a woman i grew up with – not in terms of chronological progression through the years, but as women growing into ourselves. this is the woman i called in the middle of my darkest night.

this is also the woman who broke up with me over a year ago. she sent me a dear jeanne email, and i have not talked to her since.

i didn’t reply to the email, didn’t call her, didn’t write her letters because the ball was in my court, and honestly, i wanted to keep it there. i didn’t even dribble the damn ball for fear it would get away from me because you see, as long as it was my turn to write, i still could. and as long as i still could, the friendship wasn’t totally, absolutely over.

we went to graduate school together (that’s where we met). she waited outside the office as we checked out of the residency, saying she wanted to walk back to the dorm with me, and that’s when i knew she was crazy enough to be my friend. while in graduate school, we shared research, ideas, and even feedback from our faculty advisers, asking each other to read the emails from faculty lest we missed something important.


in our togetherness, we built our own cathedrals.

we once spent a week in a cabin in the woods, writing, talking, laughing, walking, eating. she was working on her thesis, i was her sounding board, her editor, her questioner. the day we emerged from our week in the woods was the day sue monk kidd’s book the mermaid chair came out. before we left, i called the local bookstore and asked them to reserve 2 books – 1 in each name. we picked the books up on our way back into civilization.

a year or so later, we attended a weekend writer’s conference in charleston led by – you guess it: sue monk kidd. it was, as all our togethers were, a special time. hot like you wouldn’t believe, but oh the laughs, the tears, the places we did go in that one town on that one weekend.

she’s from the north; i’m from the south, so we decided early on (another of her good ideas) that instead of sharing physical presents on special days, we would meet twice a year and spend a week together. longer, if we could manage it. the world fell completely away when we were together, leaving us free to explore our overlapping interests without having to justify or explain. we were free to create our own little rituals, doing things that held meaning and marked significance for us, even if it looked downright silly to the outside world. for several days of our togetherness, for example, we’d put a banana out in a certain spot, and upon awakening each morning, neither of us spoke a single word until the banana was moved twice, indicating we’d both journaled our way to the surface.

we created collages as outlines for books we would write. we peeled back the bandages on old wounds and trusted that the light and salt from shared tears would help heal. we laughed till we peed and kidded each other as though a shared secret language that only the two of us spoke.

you get the picture . . . but only part of it because i haven’t the bandwidth to paint this picture of friendship in its true colorful and magnificent breadth and depth.

early in september, sue monk kidd’s new book came out. i was there, at the same local store, first in line to purchase 2 copies of the book. i brought them home and began to read mine, underlining things, making notes in the margin of things i longed to talk to my friend about.

her copy of the book lay on my desk, waiting for me to take the next step.



one saturday morning i woke up knowing it was time to write The Letter. i couldn’t’ve picked a worse time. daughter was here, recovering from pleurisy. husband was here doing his saturday things (which means i’m on call), and to top it all off: my Self chose to write not tucked away in my studio, but at the dining room table (a.k.a. the fishbowl).

i didn’t ask, i just found paper and pen, took the book and sat down to write. i have no idea what i wrote. i remember writing “i miss you” several times, but beyond that, i just don’t know. did i even tell her why i was sending the book? will she remember if i forgot to tell her? did i come close to telling her how much she means to me? did i beg? did i say anything, anything that will spark a fire of reconciliation? i wrote for years, but it only took about an hour, and when i came to the end, i found myself rambling. though i can’t remember the words i wrote, i remember the feeling of not wanting to close the letter because signing the letter just might mean closing, ending the friendship. i was tossing the ball back, and the possible finality of that was not lost on me.

the package sat on my desk for several days before i took a deep breath and mailed it. somehow i managed to not think about it every single minute of every single day, then came an email from her last monday that she was out of town and would be home to open the package today.


though i’ve tried to keep myself busy (read: distracted) this past week, i have also spent inordinate amounts of time creating an emotional scenario, giving words and feelings to my biggest hopes. feeling the absolute full body tingle of excitement when i get an email from her that opens the door to possible reconnection. imagining the talks we’ll eventually have about this time apart and our coming together again – how we’ll explore it with symbols and myths and personal archetypes. how we’ll find ways to fit it into our personal theories of resiliency and female development. i’ve tried to actually read over our imagined shoulders as we write about this whole chapter in our togetherness. i have tried to write the script then will it to happen. it is an exercise of relinquishing control.

i have also thought of all the things i wish i’d’ve said. for example, there’s the upcoming 6-week online session with clarissa pinkola estes – the kind of thing we would enjoy doing together, the value of the session hugely enriched by the discussions we’d have aftewards. i’ve signed up already, but i forgot to mention it to her. do i send her an email or is that too much? there is a deadline because of the beginning date of the session, but do i need to give my friend space? it is an exercise of patience.

who will i share these deep interests of the soul with, these explorations and forays into the unknown? who will hold the space for me to cry without clucking over me and trying to stop the tears? who will be bold enough, willing enough to step in when needed, even if not beckoned? it is an exercise of trust.

have i made a fool of myself? it is an exercise in risk.

in her book, i will not die an unlived life, dawna markova writes of learning to open herself to fear instead of numbing it out. she then asks the question, “what do i love more than i fear?” it is an exercise in confronting the bully called fear and moving past it towards something – or in this case someone – i love.

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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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