Tag: planet jeanne (Page 1 of 7)

Just Talk Amongst Yourselves

Phone

I know we’re supposed to live in the present, period. Not supposed to look back, not supposed to look ahead. Well, pfffft to that. I love anticipation, love to look forward to something. And I have a nostalgic streak in me about a mile wide. I love to remember when . . .

Today I got to thinking about telephones. Mother worked for the local board of education, Daddy designed and built golf courses and was quite active in politics. I am the oldest of three siblings, and yet despite all that community and civic involvement and popularity, we had one phone. That’s right: one single solitary phone. In the house, I’m telling you. One telephone to be shared by five people. It was a white wall-mounted phone with a curly cord long enough for me to take the receiver into the living room where I could talk in what amounted to the only privacy anybody could find in the confines of that house.

We didn’t have options for phone service – for the set monthly price, you got to make and receive local calls. Long distance calls had to be placed collect (as when letting my parents know that I, their college coed, had arrived safety back on campus, for example. Funny how they never – not once – accepted charges.) or it was charged to your monthly bill. We didn’t have caller id or call waiting or voicemail. Not even answering machines. If somebody called while one of us was on the phone, they just got a busy signal and had to call back.

Busy signals is what I was really thinking about today, if you want to know the truth. That dreaded beep-beep-beep sound that lets you know the person you desperately want or need to talk to is unavailable. And of course all phones were landlines – we didn’t have mobile phones or even phones that were wired into our cars. When we were out traveling and something happened – like, well for the sake of story, let’s say we ran off the road and into a ditch – somebody would happen by and help. In this particular instance – I mean story – somebody happened by on a tractor, pulled out my green Mustang, and promised faithfully to never, ever mention this to my parents.

My first car only had am radio – which was fine by me. I was just tickled to get a car, period. I think it cost $1260, this 1970 green metallic Mustang, but Daddy was friends with the car dealer, so I trust he got at least a bit of a discount.

But back to phones . . . as a sophomore in college, I attended what is now called North Georgia College and State University. Yup, it’s a mouthful. We had a bank of phones on the hall – 3 campus phones and 2 long distance phones on each floor. Folks would call into the central reception desk in the lobby, and whoever was on duty would direct the calls to the floor on which we resided then page us over the loud speaker and direct us to go take the call.

When I met my husband, I didn’t know his last name. (It’s a long story.) (I’ll tell you later.) It was definitely a case of smitten at first sight, but when folks asked his name, call I could say was “Andy” then talk fast so they would hopefully not think it odd that, well, you know. We met on a Saturday night, and apparently I made a good impression because he called me the following Tuesday to ask me to go to a hockey game with him. “Jeanne Hewell – long distance. Jeanne Hewell – long distance.” came the page, which I like to think I would’ve somehow magically heard even were I not sitting – I mean studying – in room 319 Lewis. Because he was calling long distance, the conversation went something like this:

Him: “This is Andy. You wanna’ go to the hockey game Thursday night?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Him: “Okay, good.”

Click.

Must have cost him the better part of a dime.

I did eventually learn his last name (when he introduced himself to my brother that same weekend), and I’d be happy to tell you the point of this post if only I knew what it is.

a doorway

Iris2

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
Zora Neale Hurston

At long last, I’m reconciling with prayer. For so long, I’ve avoided thinking about it altogether, avoiding it like the plague, actually. Probably has something to do with the missionary telling the young teenage me about the man who came into her storefront church and how when she called on him to lead the prayer, he stood up and with his eyes kept open, spread his arms wide and said something like “Hey God, it’s me, James” then just started having a conversation. Having grown up in the world of men (and only select, special men, mind you) leading us in prayer “with every head bowed and every eye closed,” this story was a breath of fresh air. The missionary, however, was absolutely appalled and said she cut him off mid-prayer and asked him to leave. Banished.

Now, Sugar, you need to know that I love being a Southerner, but as a woman living in the proverbial Bible Belt, it’s dangerous to use words like “prayer” lest they confirm the stereotype (that in my case, is not true) and get the dreaded label attached to your forehead. It’s something that’s hard to wash off.

So yes, prayer and I became estranged a long, long time ago. But then one day recently, I sent a letter to prayer by way of my journal and asked Couldn’t walking be a prayer? Yes, came the answer. And Do we have to call on men to lead us in prayer? First there was a chuckle, then a sigh, and finally a No, absolutely not. Anybody can pray, anybody at all.

After a while, my intense dislike of prayer began to wane, and I came to decide that among other things, prayer is a way to give the brain a vacation . . . or at least a day off. Seems to me that prayer is paying such close attention to Small Things that you can’t help but feel Something Big.

We’re not completely There yet, prayer and I, but we’re working on it.


PRAYER IN MY BOOT

For the wind no one expected

For the boy who does not know the answer

For the graceful handle I found in a field
attached to nothing
pray it is universally applicable

For our tracks which disappear
the moment we leave them

For the face peering through the cafe window
as we sip our soup

For cheerful American classrooms sparkling
with crisp colored alphabets
happy cat posters
the cage of the guinea pig
the dog with division flying out of his tail
and the classrooms of our cousins
on the other side of the earth
how solemn they are
how gray or green or plain
how there is nothing dangling
nothing striped or polka-dotted or cheery
no self-portraits or visions of cupids
and in these rooms the students raise their hands
and learn the stories of the world

For library books in alphabetical order
and family businesses that failed
and the house with the boarded windows
and the gap in the middle of a sentence
and the envelope we keep mailing ourselves

For every hopeful morning given and given
and every future rough edge
and every afternoon
turning over in its sleep

says Naomi Shihab Nye

Amen
says me.

ready, set, . . . um

Composite2

These are Nancy’s set 2 drawings – all 454 of them – stitched and ready to be amassed on the backdrop of the doilies then sandwiched in between sheer curtain panels. I should’ve started creating the doilie collage today. I meant to, really I did, but instead, I just sit here sketching new ideas for more hymns of cloth. Tomorrow. Definitely . . . well, maybe . . . probably . . .

Giving Good Phone

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.

revealed

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Marnie (who happens to be my son’s girlfriend) (Don’t you love when that happens?) told me about an art class she took once upon a year. The assignment was to paint a self portrait, and she just couldn’t get her nose to look on the canvas the way it looked on her face. She worked and worked and worked on it, and finally she asked for help from the instructor who did her a nose job in 3 quick strokes. Once done, Marnie began to look around and was surprised to see that the others were painting self portraits that looked like bananas or trees or flowers. She’d taken the assignment literally, others had taken it metaphorically. All painted a self portrait. All were right.

Since Marnie told me the story, I’ve seen myself in nature at least once a day. Here’s who and how I am today, in case you’re wondering:

Intherough1

Brother Sun’s Playground

Rainbowsonthefloor

Rainbowsonthefloor2

Rainbowintheroom6

At a certain time of day
if the sun is shining and
you’re standing in
just the right place,
rainbows come out to play.

You or anybody else,
for that matter,
can stop the light and
vanish the rainbows,
if you’re not paying attention
to where you stand,
if you get in the way.

Seems a simple
yet significant
thing to know.

Rainbowintheroom4

Rainbowintheroom5

First You Decide, Then You Move

Pathbefore

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.

Otto2

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

Ottostands2

sometimes standing right where I needed him not to stand,

Ottodigs2

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.

Compost

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.

Cleared

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?

today’s colors

Otto2

My granddog Otto. He’s fluent in cute.

Goodhugger

I raised a good hugger. A real good hugger. With good taste in clothes.

Fireplace

The fireplace in my son’s new home. We came to Denver today, spending a week here to help with all the things that need tweaking. The piece there on the left of the mantel is the first piece of pottery I ever created.
I love that he has it on display.

Backcloth2

The backcloth for a piece I’m working on.

Visually it was a black and white day.
Emotionally speaking, it was more black and blue.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Planes

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.

NationalAnthem

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.

NavyStanding

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.

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

Helendenton
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.

Reenactors
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.

Germansgiftamericansalift
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.

JosephGetsPin
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.

WalterGetsPin
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.

Bobhope

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.

Adadanceswithwalter

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 . . . ”

Catfight

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?

Alisonwon

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.

Jfk

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

Muddywaterschurning17apr13

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.

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