Tag: life (Page 2 of 13)

um, about that new year’s plan


’twas the season of more chaos than usual (deaths, travel plan changes, weather surprises, etc.), and though i rolled with it (and actually, in a strange sort of way, enjoyed letting it push me around), after i ushered everybody back to their lives and cleaned the house, i wanted nothing more than to bring some order to the aforementioned chaos. so i pondered and squinted and grunted and eventually churned out an admirable (if i do say so myself) plan.

and before it was 24 hours old, i had second thoughts.

i have something i want to write about, and for reasons i can’t explain – except maybe that i was drunk on (the illusion of) control – i bowed to the masculine, the left brain, my inner anal retentive or whatever you want to call it, and planned to rev up a dormant blog and post this particular topic there all by itself.

then my heart joined the party, and that changed everything.

now there was a stint when i had two blogs going, but a year or so ago i reached an age where i grew weary of compartmentalizing my life. shoot, i even chose the online name @whollyjeanne to profess to the world (and mostly to remind myself) my intention to shed the outgrown parts and bring me altogether. no more different pieces in different boxes, each box clearly labeled to avoid surprises and waste anybody’s time.

so i’ve scratched it off: no new old blog. when i come up with a name of this topic (maybe before), i’ll be writing about it here, giving it a category name and calling that fine.

two days into the year, i’m having marvelously huge fun writing 6 impossible things before bedtime. most of the time, i blow right on past 6 without even slowing down. creativity is funny like that.

opening up a new year

every year about this time, i become paralyzed. people share their plans and rituals for mapping out the new year, and they all sound so elegant, so elevated, so evolved that i just shut right down and limp through new year’s day, relying on my blackeyed peas and pork and turnipgreens to do their job so all will be well. last year, i vowed to craft my plan for 2011 in september, admonishing myself to let the satisfaction of early completion outweigh – in fact, shut down – any dreaded (and perhaps inevitable) second-guessing.

though it wasn’t in september, i did start earlier this year. and i spent a goodly part of last week talking about my plans with my chicklets, alison and kipp, and my friends angela kelsey, julie daley, and sally gentle. spent even more time making notes – one item per index card to allow for shuffling and flexibility and all that jazz. and yes, i inevitably read about the invitations and visualizations and resolutions, goals, dreams, plans, strategies, stepping stones, big rocks, quadrants, etc. other people use. i even allowed myself 20 minutes to look at (okay, drool over) paper planners cause though i haven’t added to my vast collection in the past three years, i am not too proud to admit my lingering addiction to time management systems (complete with pages of teensy little ole’ lines that i can hardly see, let alone write anything on) encased in colorful, conveniently pocketed-on-the-inside binders. though i’ve tried enough products to know otherwise, i’m here to tell you: when i hold a binder in my hands, i have no trouble imagining my life playing out smoothly, efficiently, and According To Plan. i can taste it, i tell you, and it is powerful.

2011 will be fueled by my participation (and ultimate win, i’m tickled to say) in NaNoWriMo. after 3-4 years of tire kicking, i signed on the digital dotted line and publicly professed (to more than a few non-writers, admittedly, to provide a safe escape hatch should i not finish) my intention to write not the generally prescribed 1667 words a day but 2000 words a day. and though i’m not ashamed to tell you that i upped the ante on account of the fact that the over-achiever (aka teacher’s pet syndrome) in me runs deep, i am proud to say that i wrote more than 2k words every single day. which turned out to be a good thing because i lost the week of thanksgiving and still managed to finish a day early with more than 50k words. and the thing is, it felt so good – the structure, the repetition, the end-in-sight of it all – that i use that i bank on that satisfaction to lay down my tracks for 2011.

so with complete disregard for the the rightness or consideration for whether it’s noble and lofty enough, in 2011 i will:

1. move more. (not anything that involves large trucks complaining about getting in and out of our driveway, mind you. i’m talking about walking and dancing.)
2. become fluent in yoga. (one pose at a time. okay, maybe two to keep it interesting.)
3. read alice in wonderland. aloud. to myself. (starting in january)
4. finish the primary source interviews for the bank robbery book. (by 4/31/11)
5. complete (or at least cease) contextual research for the bank robbery book. (fourth quarter)
6. write 3 children’s books with my daughter. (first quarter)
7. edit the fictional book penned during nanowrimo. (second quarter)
8. attend blogher. (august)
9. meditate a minute at a time (cause let’s face it: i’ve had that beautiful silk zafu – black with golden dragons – for months now, and i just took the plastic off. which means that 20 minutes every day is highly unlikely.)
10. finish volume 1 of the book i’m compiling with my daughter. (third quarter)
11. get that new blog up. (check back tomorrow for details and a viewing!) change of plan
12. further investigate that idea i have for a digital community.
13. quit handing over my personal power.
14. get that broken tooth fixed.
15. uncover (recover?) my muchiness. (warning: this will likely involve unleashing my non-malicious irreverent self more often.)
16. look into completing certification in death education and counseling.
17. remodel our bedroom and create a guest space in nc.
18. learn more about the electronic gizmos i have (iphone 4, ipad, powerbook pro, flip camera, sony camera, livescribe echo pen) (remember apple’s newton? i had one.) and software i own so i can make my life easier through better use of technology.
19. cross-pollinate my creativity by enjoying bouts of making collages, slow cloth, and even playing the piano.
20. attend the storytelling festival in jonesborough, tn. (october)
21. trek to merion, pa to see the barnes collection in its natural and rightful habitat. (april)
22. finish papering the nc laundry room in photos (scanning each one before tacking it to the wall).
23. spend a day (or 3) in milledgeville, ga doing book research and visiting flannery o’conner’s place. (september)
24. be fiercely feminist and fiercely feminine. (there. i’ve said it out loud.) (no ned to quirm cause i’m just the And to Thelma and Louise.)
25. enjoy a monthly massage without feeling i have to earn it.
26. stop spending so many words just for the sake of saying something. (obviously, that starts tomorrow.)
27. write every. single. day. (format subject to change on a monthly basis to keep it interesting.)
28. conjure six impossible things daily before bedtime.
29. create full moon collages with jamie ridler. (jamie calls them dreamboards, but i’ll be doing them in my special collage journal cause i have authority issues, you know.)
30. pen a thank you note a day.
31. reorganize my studio in ga.
32. create walls i can write on.
33. conjure and share more stories (pronounced STO rees) of my altar girls.
34. finish up that production team handbook and the director’s checklist. (january)
35. call many of you sugar to your face.
36. sing out loud without clearing the room. (alison, this one has your name written all over it.)
37. create new e-digs for alison. (january)
38. develop a rhythm of 1 day a week or 1 week a month tending to the inevitable and necessary deskwork. (january, then maintenance throughout the year)
39. book and enjoy creative retreats with selected gal pals. (if interested, let me know.)
40. let go of those stories that just don’t fit me any more. (note: the old paper-tied-to-a-balloon trick just doesn’t work for me, so, shoot, how ’bout i invite you to my (digital) campfire and tell ’em to ya?)

conceptually speaking, in 2011 there will be:
less mass, more movement.
less accommodating, more truth telling.
less talking, more doing.
less squirming, more smiling.
less explanation, more full, deep, satisfyingly content experiencing.
less justification, more justbecause.

and because i’m such a sucker, here are my collages for 2011:



(note at the bottom of the page: “If we’re not supposed to dance, why all this music?” from Gregory Orr’s poem “To Be Alive“)

and my color (pay no attention to the part that says 2010). (and hey, thanks, bridget.)

and my tangible totem:


and last, but definitely not least, my word: ship. (thanks, kipp.)

aspiring for more


i was in line at the pharmacy when they opened to fetch his prescriptions. he told me he didn’t need them, but i called him anyway to ask if he was sure he didn’t want me to just bring the bag with me. “no,” he said, “i’ve got enough.”

then the snow came.

and came.

and came.

and came some more.

and first thing you know, he’s at the bottom of his pillbox. it’s okay now. they left this afternoon, headed home . . . and to the bag with another month’s worth of meds inside.*

it’s my nature to think about things like this. i was, after all, the only fourth grader to build and stock the family bomb shelter. so when did i start second-guessing myself? when did i begin to think that planning ahead – thinking about things like having extra supplies of food and medicines on hand – is a fine display of negativity? when did i become embarrassed enough about the way i am to grow silent and default to others?

when i listen to my self and act as one with my intuition without reservation, without explanation, without apology, those are my moments of pure, unadulterated, ordinary joy.

* (i stayed behind cause let’s face it: when they slide off down the side of the mountain, somebody’s got to be here to inherit everything.)

this post is my response to today’s reverb10 prompt by brene brown: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?


isn’t it always the way?

this morning
with no makeup on
hair that needed a hat
and in my sloppiest old sweatsuit
and rattiest running shoes
i bumped into an old friend.
a wizened old friend
from my childhood
who was by my side on so many adventures
and who, without uttering a single word,
taught me so much
(even though i didn’t realize it
until just now) . . .

my still-sharp old friend
always knew
that sometimes i need to
make my mark
even if only by
carving my initials
in a tree
in the middle
of the woods.

my still-sharp old friend
always knew
that quite often
you have to
whittle away the unnecessary parts
to reveal the essential, unique, irreplaceable

my wizened old friend
always knew
that you can’t receive the nourishment
if you never open the can
it’s just not healthy
to keep things
bottled up
for too long.

my wizened old friend
always knew
that encountering a
rough, uncomfortable
whetting stone
keeps you sharp
that you have to
take good care of yourself
if you want to enjoy
a long, useful, active

my wizened old friend
always knew
that sometimes
things need to be cut
to clear the path
build the fire
open up the view.
that sometimes
pruning is necessary
to promote new

my still-sharp
trusty old friend
knew these things all along
even if i didn’t.

until now.


(allow me to introduce my wizened, still-sharp old friend)

this post is my response to today’s reverb10 prompt:
Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

today’s tip: “make new friends and keep the old/some are silver and the other gold” were the words we sang at every girl scout meeting, and they’re just as apt now as they were then. with over 3000 people involved (which means so many windows open and twitter running in the background and all this on top of your already busy, busy life), it’s easy to lose your way back to new reverb10 friends. if you haven’t already, set aside some time and create an A List of the friends you don’t ever want to lose track of – be they new friends or old, familiar friends. and hey, if you already have your A List, be sure to add your new reverb10 friends to it as you go along.

i offer this tip as a suggestion you might find useful in juicing every single succulent drop out of this month-long experience. tomorrow (or the next day) i’ll fold into the marrow. and hey, if this tip sparks an idea, i’d sure appreciate it if you’d drop me a note in the comments section so i can sprinkle it out to others. and do some sprinkling of your own: point others to the marrow in case there’s something they can use.


i wonder
if you’re having as much #reverb10 fun as i am. (if not, let me know and i’ll toss an extra handful of magic sparkle dust your way.)
why anybody wants to play football.
what little orphan annie did when she grew up.

i wonder
how much longer till we all understand that living into our greatness does not diminish the greatness of others.
why so many people are depressed.
if vinegar does even half the things my mother claims it does.

i wonder what i’m really supposed to be doing with my life.

i wonder
why i waited so long to dress myself in VivaciousBoldness.
if i’ll ever sleep for 8 consecutive hours again.
what the woman who lives in the pink and blue house with a yard full of words spelled out in rocks would tell me if i knocked on her door with a hot pound cake and an afternoon to spend.

of course i wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder who,
who wrote the book of love.

and at least once a day,
i wonder what i did to wind up with a husband and son who bring me such marvelous treasures.


Today’s post is my response to the #reverb10 prompt for today: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

grief is messy


ten years ago today, my daddy died. if you have a minute, read about it here. it’s a pretty amazing story, if i do say so myself. (hint: scroll down and start at the 10th paragraph. i spent the first 8 paragraphs linking the post to that day’s prompt (a year later, i don’t bother), and the 9th paragraph, well, we’ll call it a segue cause honestly, i have no idea how that made it to print.)

i shed tears as prayers of remembrance and gratitude
i chide myself for wallowing.

i crave darkness
i turn all the lights on.

i spew words and send emails to people who rock as my rocks
i scold myself for letting people see me like this.

i long to crawl back in bed and sleep the day away
i choose to honor daddy and my self by leaning into this tender bruise.

i am tempted to stay in my floppy flannel pajamas all day long
i hear the ole familiar “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”
and know that
only pretty girls can get away with such indulgences.

i forego today’s walk
and eat cookies
and do little
besides reading
the occasional blog.

i ask myself:
did i do all that i could do?
was it wrong to give him permission
to go?
should i have knocked on
door after door after door
until some physician eventually healed?

one thing i do not do
is make my daddy more in death
than he was in life.
he was not perfect.
i wouldn’t ache for him so
if he had been.

This post is (loosely) (or maybe creatively sounds better) written in response to today’s #reverb10 prompt:
Q: What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
A: Lately everything contributes to my writing. And nothing – nothing at all – was gonna’ come between me and my writing on this day.

currently in progress

i am living the story i want to tell you. yesterday afternoon, my husband got a call from his brother: his oldest daughter – my first niece – walked in from work the night before to find that her partner had shot and killed himself. it’s sunday morning as i write this, the 21st of november 2010, and i’m flying to colorado in just a few hours to see my niece.

sounds so simple when i write it like that.

i married into a small family of doctors and engineers. linear thinkers who are quite sure about the way things are and should be. they have degrees from highly-regarded institutes of higher learning. their practicality, clarity, and confidence intimidates a writer and slow cloth storyteller gal like me. their consistency eludes a constantly changing creative like me who also has a graduate-level degree, but finds it hard to focus on one thing long enough to develop a reputation as anything even approaching an expert.

[i struggle to type the word “creative” in the sentence above. it takes several minutes before i finally mash the “c” key. same goes for the word “expert”, but the hesitation is for different reasons.]

i begin looking for flights right after we hang up. even though we don’t know the funeral arrangements yet. even though there’s nothing, no specific assignment of something we can do. even though, even though, even though.

about an hour later, i call my brother-in-law to check in, to see if he wants me to call their aunt. they are a small family, my in-laws, my family dwarfs them in sheer numbers, which is to say, i’ve buried way more loved ones than they have. i think about things like the distraction of notification, about the salve of collective love.

[i am having trouble writing this. the censors chirp and caution me against being too uppity, getting too big for my britches. they remind me i’m not the only one who is empathetic and caring. they ask if i’m really, seriously trying to say that i’m good at being there in times of death, dying, and grief. they point out that i have no degree, no letters after my name signifying that i’m qualified and competent enough to do this kind of thing.]

“that would be great if you’d call aunt ginny,” he says. “i didn’t even think about that, and i don’t have her number.”

“happy to,” i tell him. “we’re looking at flights now,” then i hurriedly add that my son kipp who also lives in denver, will pick shuttle us to and from the airport, my way of assuring donn that we will be no trouble.

“you don’t need to come,” he says.

“we want to come.”

“but there’s nothing you can do. we’re her nuclear family. we have friends, and she has a lot of friends here.” he rattles off all sorts of reasons to defend his position that we should not come, then he delivers the sucker punch: “you’ll just be in the way.”

you’ll just be in the way.

let me be really, really clear here: there was no malicious intent in those words. he did not stop and think before he said them, they just tumbled out. which, to an armchair jungian psychologist like myself, gives them added impact. without knowing it, donn has just ripped open my tender place and poured a barrel of salt into the ever-gaping wound.

i think of myself as a committee, and now the dissident, snarky committee members go into full volume yell, starting with “i told you so.” his words, their words form a chorus that sets me back and the questioning of self begins:

Q: what will you do out there, anyway?
A: i don’t know.
Q: then he’s right: you’ll just be in the way.
A: maaayyybbbeee.
Q: don’t you have other things to do?
A: yes, but nothing better.
Q: it’s thanksgiving week. have you considered that?
A: yes, but that doesn’t seem the point.
Q: donn says she’s coming home this week and that maybe you can see her then, right? doesn’t that make sense?
A: it makes sense to that particular part of my brain, but my heart . . .
Q: oh, pshaw. why don’t you think about somebody besides yourself for a change?
A: i thought i was. i only wanted to fly to colorado and give betsey a hug.
Q: what will you say when you get there?
A: probably nothing. words haven’t been invented.

so in just a few hours, my daughter and i will climb into that big chair in the sky that will deliver us to denver. we’ll rent a car, meet up with my son, and tonight or maybe tomorrow, i’ll walk into a room and see betsey. i will try not to get in anybody’s way, try not to take up too much space as i make my way to her to deliver the only thing i have to offer: a hug with all the love i have coursing through me, seeping from my arms into her gentle, bruised, grieving spirit.

i’ll let you know how it goes.


many thanks to karen for putting these support stories. i am honored to be asked to participate and to be the company of such compassionate writer people.

i’m all ears


i’m not a mall person. oh, i’ve spent my fair share of time in malls, mind you, but now i just prefer galleries and arts and craft fairs and etsy. there was a time when malls stimulated me, now they just overwhelm me.

but today we were in the car all day, so we check into the hotel, drop our bags, then stretch our legs by walking straight over to the mall to grab a bite of supper.

i’d forgotten how much i enjoy watching people and looking at the store windows. every shopper represents a bundle of stories. every worker bee: stories. every mannequin: stories. stories, stories, stories. everywhere i look: stories . . .

i look at the girl in the carrot-colored high-heeled boots and the teensy, little ole’ bitty tighty-tight-tight shorts and say, “sugar, tell me you didn’t dress yourself. ahem, i mean, tell me about your outfit.”

to the perky young blonde woman sitting at the table next to me i say, “honey bunny, i just love your pocketbook. do you carry it every day or just for special occasions? was it a gift you bought for yourself?” and i close with “where’d you get it and does it come in blue?”

to the young man with the baggy sweatshirt and the crayola hair and matching crocs while restaging the window display, i watch a while then beg him (because i don’t have all night) “what’s the story you’re telling here? what path led you to this as a career?”

to the woman sweeping the floor and wiping down tables, the woman whose face is a story in and of itself, i pat the chair beside me. “come, sit,” i beckon. “tell me your story. tell me three if you can spare them.”

i find a few perfect gifts for special people, and as i pay and chat with the delightful young woman who works there, a man comes in and barely comes to a stop before saying, “excuse me. can you show me where the roof leaked?” to him i said, “well, well, well. i see SOMEbody failed kindergarten. do you see me standing here?” and when he nods yes, i say, “well, in case you didn’t notice, i am a customer. a customer currently in the process of giving this young woman money to pay for my purchases. money that she will later use to pay her rent and from which you will pay the roofer. now you need to learn to wait your turn, but tell me: why are you in such a galdern hurry?”

okay, truthfully: i say these things . . . but only on the inside.

one day, though. one day i’m gonna’ do some mall walking with a side of mall talking. i’m gonna’ invite and encourage people to tell me their stories ’cause i know they’ve got ’em. and i know i want to hear them. i really, really do.

oh, except . . . remember the maintenance man? well, unless he’s learned a thing or four about manners by the next time we run into each other, i can pretty much guarantee you that in his case, i’m gonna’ talk more than i listen. his mother would want me to.

’tis the season


i saunter and skip
nature’s crayon box containing at least 64 colors,
occasionally stumbling
into a hole
where the turning
my perception,
my empathy,
my compassion.

(and maybe, just maybe
the turning
twists my ankle, too
but that’s far too specific
and not nearly
poetic enough to be the point.)


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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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