Tag: saging (Page 1 of 2)

of then, of now, of forever


it seems there’s so little time left
which means i must be selective
not must
but want
i want to be selective about how i spend the time i have left.

i want to do big little things that 
will change not the world
but my world.

near the top of The List:
to spend some time reconciling with
and poetry.


it seems to me that prayer is usually a petition
made on behalf of self or someone else.
it’s a turning over (something i’m not very good at).

poetry is more of a turning out.
turning inside out.

maybe prayer is a turning inside out when there’s nowhere else to turn.

i’ve been mad at both for too long
poetry because of
that english teacher who
focused too much on the rules
(which sounded a lot like history class
with its unending string of dates)
and was too generous with her red ink.
with prayer
because i was taught
that not everybody could do it.
everybody should do it
everybody must do it
but not everybody could do it.
only men
were to speak to god.
my contribution was to be part of the
every-head-bowed-every-eye-closed gang.
i was first puzzled then angry
that i couldn’t pray by my own self.
not in front of anybody anyway.
it was okay if i prayed without moving my lips.

but now i pray throughout the day.
i pray to trees, asking for strength and wisdom.
and to the falls asking for relief and clearing.
i pray to the sky asking for a bigger vision
and to the clouds for nap time.
to the blooms i pray delight and gratitude
and to the boulders, i pray a sigh.
to the afternoon i pray a dance.
sometimes i lay out my ponderments and uncertainties
and ask for clarity and maybe a sign.
i pray to daddy asking for help with this or that.
i pray in a host of ways to a host of recipients
and i still don’t move my lips all that much.

one thing prayer and poetry have in common:
no words are necessarily required.
walking can be a prayer or a poem.
same goes for
and even cleaning.

with the right attitude and choices,
days can be prayers and poems.
entire lives can be prayers and poems.


the engineer planted flowers yesterday.
my son called.
my daughter smiled.
the sky thundered.
the trees danced.
the cats napped.
i stitched.

i rest my case.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock


For years, I’ve longed to close out each week by creating a collage on Sunday night. I can site a list of reasons that make this A Good Use of Time and A Worthwhile Endeavor . . . but I didn’t have magazines. Or I had magazines, but not enough to carry me through 52 collages. Or I didn’t have a book to do the collages in. Or I didn’t have time I thought I could spare for such frivolity.

I didn’t have.
I didn’t have.
I didn’t have.

Today, on Easter Sunday, I pick up a single magazine, a blank journal, and a glue stick and begin ripping words and images that whisper “choose me, choose me” then quick as a bunny commit them to the waiting page before I can tell myself all the reasons I shouldn’t actually do this.

It’s time to stop waiting for The Perfect Scenario so I can have The Perfect Life. My life is here. My life is now. My life is perfect in all its imperfections.

diary of a birthday: waking thoughts


how many times did my daddy tell me the story about how it was snowing in atlanta the day i was born. how he made the long distance phone call to his daddy in fayetteville, how it was hard to understand each other because of the static on the line. he told that story not with the defiance and antagonism and one-upmanship that dressed later stories starring daddy and his dad. the story of my birth was told with the same excitement i heard in my son’s voice when he delivered a fistful of dandelions picked ‘specially for me. daddy made it sound like he was delivering a gift to his daddy, a gift more precious than the new fedora or the 35 mm camera he gave granddaddy in christmases yet to come. and perhaps he did feel like he, the sole surviving son of five children, was delivering a gift to his parents. another important thing? he never even hinted that he or grandaddy was even a smidgeon less excited because i was a girl and not a boy. in face, my gender never came up . . . except in the spelling of my name.

i wish i could ask granddaddy about it, too, but he died on the day of the christmas party when i was in fifth grade, when stories were something endured after the initial telling.


when i look to mother for a genesis tale, i get a recapitulation of daddy’s story . . . probably because daddy was the source of her information, too, given the effects of general anesthesia and all. then last weekend, quite by accident, i discovered a little something new and sparkly. i was talking to mother about her work during world war 2. she worked at atlanta general depot, doing a host of various jobs as she progressed through the field and up the ladder, eventually landing a supervisory position over 3-4 other women. i came upon a form granting her request for maternity leave beginning on 25 september – months before my birthday. i thought i was onto something. did she have toxemia like i did with my firstborn, also a daughter? or were pregnant women required to take leave, in effect being banned until after? or, given her beauty and keen sense of style, was she reluctant (read: embarrassed) to show her ever-protruding body for months on end?

i was on a feminist-fed roll.

“mother, here’s your leave form,” i said. “why did you start your leave on september 25? you were granted six months’ leave, most of it spent before my birth.”

“oh,” she said as she speared another piece of fried egg, always proud of the lacy effect she was able to create in the cooking, always apologetic when the lace did not materialize as she’d hoped. “some officer whose name i can’t remember asked if i wanted to work for him. when i told him no, he said well, he’d just put in an order and there was nothing i could do about it. i really did not want to work for him, so i just took my maternity leave and there was nothing he could do.”

and with that little story kernel, i see my mother – a lifelong secretary – in a new light. i completely forget to be disappointed that i wasn’t the center of her answer, i don’t even consider till now, turning over the stone of feminism, the possible prejudice i showed attached to her being a secretary . . . there wasn’t room for any of that on account of the pride i felt at her spunk and resolve to be in charge of her own life by whatever means necessary.

and it was certainly more than thrilling to discover that even at this age, there’s something new to learn about her, about me, about us.

The Engineer and The Artist: Protection


“Where do you get gas masks?” I ask Him this morning as we eat breakfast, him reading stories on his iPad and me with my pencil and paper. “Haven’t quite finished my list yet, but looks like I need about forty-four or so. Do you think they offer quantity discounts?”

“What in the sam hill do you want with gas masks?” he asks.

And here I thought this was a relatively easy question. “I think the reason for gas masks is pretty obvious,” I tell him. “I just need to know: where do I go to get some?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Maybe an Army/Navy store.”

“I don’t want leftovers from World War II, and I don’t want any that have little pinholes in ’em. Don’t want any seconds or military rejects. I just want some good, tight, operational gas masks that I can give out to the people I love. I tell you what: this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, making this list. I mean, what about That Hussy in-law. Now that she and her mama are both out of jail, they’ve made up on account of how they have something in common, so I figure I have to get her a gas mask cause she’s an in-law (maybe I could get her one with a few pinholes, though, now that I think about it), but does that mean I have to get one for her mother, too, so she (the Daughter) won’t worry the stew out of us? Mean and Stupid are a bad mix, and I frankly don’t want to be known as The Woman Who Preserved That Tramp And Her Daughter The Hussy for all posterity. Anyway, I’d like ’em to fold up real small so they’re easy to carry around – the gas masks, I mean, not the Hussy and Her Mother – and it sure would be nice if they came in cute little bags. Oh, and they need to come with a warranty, too, of course.”

Right about then is when he remembers he has some hammering to do outside.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers can remember when he stopped for breakfast on his way into work, and she didn’t eat breakfast at all.

The Engineer and The Artist: Trees

“We need to take some trees down before they fall on the house,” he says.
As he points to this:


and this:


and this:


I see this:


and this:


and this:


And yet again, we look at the same thing

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers (who some declare got thunked up side the head one too many times as a child)
is still getting used to her husband (the retired engineer)
being home 24/7.

on today’s menu: existential stew


i don’t know why people turn away from the nancys of the world.
i don’t know why i find them so much more desirable to be with than hoards of “normal” people i know.

i don’t know why some folks steal other folks’ thunder.
i don’t know why that makes me so damn furious.

i don’t know which colors are analogous and complementary.
(oh, i know where to look it up,
i just don’t know why i can’t remember that.)
(or why i think i should.)

i don’t know what makes for a good hug
(i just know when i get one.)

i don’t know where to add on to our house.
i don’t know why i can’t seem to live a fine life with only what will fit into a backpack.

i don’t know how some people can be so absolutely sure about things.
i don’t know why i question everything and attach qualifiers like “the way i see it . . .” or “in my experience . . . “.
(okay, i lied. i know why the qualifiers: they’re tacked on because i know as well as you do that i don’t know everything.)

i don’t know how to tailor clothes.
(and i’m fine with that.)

i don’t know why plaids and polka dots look just fine on some people
and so atrocious on others.

i don’t know why people feel an intense need to convert others.
and i especially don’t know why they act on it.

i don’t know why i can’t tell you in one short, snappy phrase what i’m about.
some folks have themes,
i have a theme park.

i don’t know which is bigger: a universe or a galaxy.

i don’t know when “earn” became a 4-letter word.

i don’t know how to tell what are load-bearing walls.

i don’t know why or how some people stay.

i don’t know how people can have deep, unwavering religious faith.

i don’t know what the magic ingredient is that has some victims moving on with their lives in the spirit of self-determination while others get all comfy in the victim hood.

i don’t know why people abuse power,
manipulate others,
lie, steal, and cheat.

i don’t know why you don’t just push up your sleeves and set about changing things if you’re not happy with your life.

i don’t know why we don’t value and practice independent thinking any more than we do,
why we don’t ask more questions,
why we roll eyes and attack people who do.
(okay, at the risk of being called a conspiracy theorist, i think i do have a theory here: people who think for themselves are hard to control. we’ll talk more about that later.)

i don’t know why knowing is more valued than not knowing.

Sands Through the OURglass


Forty years ago, I publicly promised to spend the rest of my life with this one man named Andy – a man I’d known a scant six months at the time. I’m still married to him though we don’t look the same and neither does our marriage . . .

Then we vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health with only some romanticized notion of what that meant based on movies we’d seen and books we’d read. Now after his stent a few years ago and my recent bout with staph infection, we have a clearer idea of what that means, the patience it requires, the commitment is demands.

Then we spent a lot of energy finding ways to be together. Now that we’re together 24/7, we find ways to build some space in our togetherness – even if it’s only agreeing to work on our separate projects for three hours then meet in the kitchen at noon for lunch.

Then we looked forward to the weekends for the romps and recess they offered. Now that the structure provided by careers and children is gone, we create our own weekends by doing something outside the normal routine, even if it’s simply dropping the dog off at the spa then taking ourselves on a walk through the local village green to look at the new art sculptures on display or taking a leisurely trip to the local museum.

Then we were high on the thrill of discovering everything we could about each other. Now we deliberately find ways to lay out the welcome mat for surprise in general, even if it’s something as simple attending an art lecture on the Spiritual Language of Paintings and practicing our new vocabulary and pondering our new perspectives over pizza afterwards.

Then we held hands everywhere we went.
We still do.

Then we laughed as often as possible.
We still do.

Then we made it a point to argue and disagree in ways that don’t require follow-up apologies.
We still do.

Then we knew we’d spend the rest of our life together.
We still do, though we now know that forever isn’t infinite, and that makes all the difference in the world.


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


Don’t take up too much space.

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

Who do you think you are?

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

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

There’s Wicking in Socks and There’s Wicking in Candles


Tonight my niece Betsey, along with her mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law, will participate in the Out of Darkness Walk, an event sponsored by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Beginning at sunset, they will walk 18 miles or so through the streets of Washington, D. C., crossing the finish line about the time the sun rises tomorrow.

. . . The sun rises tomorrow. If I had a magic wand, I’d make sure every single soul has at least that much hope . . .

In November 2010, Betsey got home from work to find that her boyfriend Nick had committed suicide. Mourning for Nick was woven in with concern for Betsey, of course, and how she would go forward. Of course she’ll never be the same – survivors never are. But you’ll be happy to hear that she’s good and getting on with her own life. She continues to accept the support of her family and friends, practice good and unapologetic self care, and now gives support by sharing her experience and knowledge with other survivors. She is amazing, my niece, absolutely amazing, and I love her more than I can count.

I am with them in spirit tonight, members of the Chambers, D’Angelo, Okuliar Team (I’ve already volunteered to come up with next year’s team name) and all the other (perhaps more creatively named) teams. I won’t be walking through the (hopefully well lit) streets of D. C. tonight, but I’m here, with my journal and my needle and thread, lighting a candle in memory of those who could conceive of no other way to deal with the situations, problems, demons, thoughts, people that tormented them relentlessly.

And in honor of the loved ones who are left wondering and wounded by a grief that never goes completely away. Those who curl into fetal positions and weep, sometimes raising fists to the sky, and always, always, always wondering what they could have done to assure their loved ones that nothing is ever that awful or that insurmountable, to convince the loved ones that there’s nothing they can’t get through together. For survivors, the “how” is often immediately obvious, it’s the “why” that plagues them without end. Even if there’s a note, even if there have been indications, even if, even if, even if . . . they never find The Answer that makes sense, that would leave them incredibly sad but understanding. I honor those whose lives are forever changed.

My candle also burns in honor of someone I deeply, hugely, gloriously love who once saw only darkness, who took steps to end that darkness, and who didn’t “succeed”. I honor my loved one and all the others, for that matter, who are brave enough – and hear me on this: it takes a tremendous amount of stamina, determination, and flat-out courage to ask for an ear or a shoulder or whatever else they need to get through any given day. If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for staying, even though I know it’s not an easy thing some days. I know it’s not about me, and I admit my selfishness when I say that despite the fact that you still have the power to drive me crazy with frustration and concern, you also have the power to delight and tickle me . . . and creative as I am, I can’t imagine stepping out into a single day that didn’t have you in it. Thank you for for reaching out when you need to, for making the effort, and for allowing yourself to feel laughter and lightness on occasion, even when the darkness is more familiar.

While others lace their shoes and walk, I sit here in my bare feet beside the candle that’s already burning in memory of those who saw no other way, in support of those who love and survive them, and in honor of those who continue to find just enough light to hold onto.

As we find our way around this big rock called Earth, as we ride on the magic carpet ride called Life, may we all be more gentle with each other than fussy; may we replace the arrogance and condescension with acceptance and (at least an attempt at) understanding. When we find ourselves feeling scared or lost or confused or desperately sad or hopelessly depressed, may we dig deep and find enough strength (a.k.a. dregs of self love) in our vulnerability to ask for help, and if we’re the ones asked, may we check judgment and disgust and to do list at the door and respond with tenderness and patience. May we listen more than we speak, hold hands when the words won’t come, and may our loving concern seep and shine through every pore. Amen.

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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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