Tag: the engineer and the artist

the night that changed everything

JeanneAndyFormal

a girl walks into a bar
and when the bartender asks
“what’ll you have?”
she says
“you.”
43 years ago tonight.

no joke.

it was luck that brought us together
and love that keeps us together
the kind of love laced
with gratitude and respect
with patience and kindness
the kind of love that deepens
with age.

he continues to bring out the best in me.

i love to make him laugh
to hear him lay out the future
and ask my input
to watch him load the dishwasher
(because he does it right, you know).

i don’t tell him
(and more importantly i’m not sure
i show him – because words can’t touch it)
often enough
how much i adore him.
that needs to – and will – change.

i don’t ever want us
to grow stale
or feel taken for granted
and that takes effort,
you know,
conscious, dedicated effort.

Pennsylvania27jan16c

my daughter and i went to a thrift shop
here in pennsylvania today
and it occurs to me only now
what i brought home:

Stretchnsewbook

his mother and i
had the most fun
taking these classes together.
we made t-shirts,
skirts, even swimsuits.
give us some of that dotted paper,
some thread and a length of double-knit fabric,
and there was nothing we couldn’t make
and nobody we couldn’t dress.
i miss those days
and i miss her.

Delftthimble

and this
ceramic delft blue thimble.
we visited the delft factory
– the engineer and i –
on our honeymoon
(our second honeymoon)
in september
43 years ago.

we met on january 27, 1973
became engaged on april 1, 1973
and said “i do” on july 31, 1973.
there was no need to wait cause
i knew a good guy when i met him
oh yes i certainly did.

How I Think About Things Is Changing

Bedsheets

Every night he kicks, yanks, and tugs the sheet out on his corner, and every morning I tuck it back in. When I find myself getting grumpy about having to lift that heavy mattress with one hand while tucking the sheet back in with the other, I remind myself that One Day this could be one of the things I miss the most.

If I knew which one of us is going to die first, it would change everything.

But I don’t know . . . and that changes everything, too.

Winnie the Pooh Should Arrive Any Minute Now

FirstHoney21mar15a

Like a chubby fisted little boy bearing dandelions, The Engineer brings his First Batch of Honey into The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug where I sit stitching. Later on, I can tell everywhere he’s been – floors, chairs, doorknobs, countertops – by the stickiness. 

FistHoney21mar15c

Offering me a taste, he says proudly, “It doesn’t get more local than this.”

FirstHoney21Mar15d

There’s a special piece of equipment, he tells me, that you can use to separate the honeycomb from the honey. “You’re in luck,” I tell him, “cause I’m in a makeshift mood.” And within minutes, I produce and donate some of my “special equipment” for the cause, and right now, even as I type, the honey makes its way through the cheesecloth separator that’s clipped to the rim of the bowl.

The Engineer, watching the honey slowly meander through the cheesecloth: I calculate we’ll need at least 30 quart jars.

The Artist: Though she wonders if a child’s teacup isn’t more like it, she says nary a word as she wipes down every single surface The Engineer has come in contact with since bringing the bowl of honey into the house. Not wanting to spoil The Engineer’s childlike excitement, she doesn’t shake her head or cluck her tongue. Not even on the inside.

FirstHoney21Mar15g

the engineer and the artist: obsessions, planning, devotion

BenFranklinsDaypage

Ben Franklin’s Daily Planning Page

I am a list-making, task-and-project oriented kind of girl who likes to get things done.

The Engineer likes to get things done, but not in the same way. He doesn’t make to do lists (though he does, I’m happy to say, check things off mine when I, in preparation for a big event, create the “kitchen sink” list and lay it out on the kitchen counter, along with a pen for marking through and checking off).

I sleep better if I’ve laid out my tomorrow before bedtime. He likes to get up and see where the day takes him.

I enjoy the feeling of announcing what I intend to do, giving myself a start date, clearing the decks, then devoting myself to the project. He is more of a get-up-one-morning-and-feel-like-building-that-shop-I’ve-bee-thinking-about-building-for-years kind of guy.

I like having deadlines. He prefers getting around to it eventually.

I still have the term papers I wrote in high school – even the math term paper I wrote in 7th grade. I LOVE the deadline, the planning, the gathering, the pulling together. I love the A+’s. Him? Not too big on term papers.

The Engineer is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Standing next to him, I can look for all the world like a short do-whack oddball. I can’t help it – I just love having a project I can lose myself in. Once upon a decade, it was my life. Now, it’s a way of life I want to recapture and reclaim. I want to put the blinders back on and focus. Back Then, it was the way I lived. Life went around a bend, though, and it became harder and harder and harder to devote myself to any project bigger than cleaning the toilet. (Somehow the world opens way for that, you know? But writing a book? That’s different. That’s harder to claim uninterrupted time for.)

Back Then, my brain could handle and hold Big Projects in the context of my life, but now . . . now my brain feels scattered, like it’s turned into a bag of birdseed somebody just opened and dumped into my skull. Like I told the Engineer late last year, I miss that feeling of (and the end result of) devotion, that immersion, that focus. I miss that satisfying, exhilarating sense of accomplishment.

So you know what I’m gonna’ do? I’m gonna’ get it back.

I have a Big Project that’s held a sizable chunk of real estate on my heart for eons, and before I can push up my sleeves in dedication to it, before I can immerse myself like I need to and long to do, I need to devote myself to a few other projects first so they won’t bang around in the background distracting (and guilting) me:

  • put the spit-polish on two books that have been languishing in the corner for several years
  • write the third book of the trilogy
  • as always, stitch Hymns of Cloth
  • and

  • offer that online Keepsake Writing Trellis I’ve wanted to do for who knows how long.

“What are you really doing when you devote yourself to a month of productive obsessing? You are learning how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate; you are accepting the hard existential fact that if you intend to matter, you must act as if you matter; you are retraining your brain and asking it to stop its pursuit of fluff and worry and to embrace its own potential. In addition, you are announcing that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you are standing in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing; and you are turning yourself over, even to the point of threat and exhaustion, to your own loves and interests.” Eric Maisel writes.

This is just what I’m talking about, and I tell you what: this really revs my juices and gets me going. So I’m sitting with my calendar this very day, plugging things in, scheduling my productive obsessions. The Keepsake Writing Tribe (you’re the Tribe, I’m the Trellis) is a series of three monthly productive obsessions that I’m gonna’ lead . . . The first month, we write about self; the second month, we write about others; and the third month, we write about things. So if you’re the kind of person who has always wanted to capture and preserve your stories and if you’re the kind of person who longs for the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to a productive project, perhaps you want to join us. Or maybe you just need the structure (the trellis, I call it) for three months of productive obsessive writing. That’s fine, too, cause really, whatever you write is your story, right?

Now I’ve had some very good questions asked by some folks who are already signed up and ready to go, so I’m going to share them here in case they’re questions you have, too. Should you have other questions, just drop me a line in the comment section or shoot me an email by tapping that cute little envelope in the upper right-hand corner and if all goes according to plan, it will magically open up a SASE email.

If you’re not interested in Keepsake Writing and just want to talk about productive obsessions, that’s fantastic, too. Tell me how you work best, what kind of planning and creative/work style keeps you going forward. I’m all ears.

[ ::: ]

Keepsake Writing questions asked and answered:

Q: Will there be daily writing prompts?
A: No. There will be kindling, though, that you can draw from if you run dry. If you’ve already registered, thank you and maybe you want to go ahead and start jotting down notes of stories when something triggers a memory.

Q: How will we know what to write about during the second month when we write others?
A: About midway through the first month, I’ll start sending you information – specific information about equipment to use should you desire to interview people; questions you can ask; how to keep the interview going; etc. BUT you don’t have to interview anybody to write about others. You might write preserve family lore that’s been handed down orally. You might write about pets. You might write stories about your children (I’ll tell you how you can turn these into treasured gifts.) You might write about teachers, good and bad, and how they shaped and influenced your life. What I’m saying is that writing others does not mean you have to interview somebody. You can, but you don’t have to. I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve . . .

Q: What if I already have some stories written – can I use them?
A: Of course. We’ll just add to those stories. Maybe you feel like taking one out from your stash to polish instead of writing something from scratch. Or maybe you want to use one of those on a busy day when you simply don’t have time to write. (Yes, I will be taking roll, and I will be taking stock, and I will be handing out gold stars and dunce hats.)

Q: What if I’m not a good writer?
A: I’ll bet you’re a better writer than you give yourself credit for, and we’ll deal with that later. This first step is about gathering. Only gathering.

Q: Is this a writing class cause I’m kinda’ scared of sharing my work with a writing class.
A: While I will be sharing specific how to information about writing, this is not a writing class. This is about capturing your stories, your memories, on paper (digital or otherwise). If you sign up for the Torch Toter Tribe, you’ll send me 6 pieces on assigned weeks, and I will read your pieces and offer feedback. If you’re in the Path Whacker Tribe, you might want to share your work with others in the tribe, but you don’t have to. So breathe. And go sharpen your pencil.

questions and answers of the most important kind: a timed test

AdaQuilt1CU

they (her children) say she went through a spell when she cried a lot. day in, day out, she cried, my grandmother ballard did. one of her children posits that she cried over the possibility that granddaddy had a girlfriend on the side, to which another reminds us that granddaddy was the town’s sheriff and it was his responsibility to make frequent trips to the . . . i don’t remember what they called it, this bawdy, rowdy house out on hwy 54. another child imagines the tears were brought on by the never-to-be-fulfilled life dreams. (grandmother had what we now call a full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory, but after the first year, her daddy snatched her out of school saying girls didn’t need an education – especially one in music – they only needed a husband.) the third living child doesn’t remember her crying and has no earthly idea why she would.

this morning as i interrupt application of my daily facial moisturizer to allow my retired husband access to the bathroom for the fourth time since i started this activity (usually) of short duration, i imagine grandmother crying because she had no alone time and no personal space. no quiet time to just sit and ponder. i wonder if that’s why she made so many quilts – did the constant whirr of the old singer treadle machine provide walls of sound that served to keep everybody out and her in?

it’s what we do, you know: answer the unanswerable questions through our own filters of knowledge acquired through books and life experiences. sometimes it’s as though we gain permission to be ourselves, other times it gives us insights that explain us to ourselves. now would be a mighty good time to ask those questions as you gather round the tree to celebrate the holiday with your family. and hey, don’t forget to take a tape recorder. you can thank me later.

[ ::: ]

While others wore necklaces, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers had a Brownie camera hanging around her neck. Always a personal historian, she’s considering dusting off her old workshops on such things and converting them to online classes. Stay tuned.

The Engineer and The Artist Walk

Rock

Every morning we walk up the falls together, and when we come to the fork in the road, he goes left to walk down to the lake, and I go to the right right to walk up the Way Big Hill. This morning he invited me to join him, and I did – reluctantly. While The Engineer likes walking downhill first (says it warms and loosens him up), I prefer to get the hard stuff out of the way first, then go downhill all the way home. He starts hard and finishes easy. I prefer starting hard and finishing easy.

He listens to music while he walks, I enjoy the sounds of my own thoughts, and the music of the falls. This morning I had three impossibly good ideas (or just impossible, depending on who you ask).

He carries a weight in each hand, and for the life of me I don’t know why, but I always like to have my hands free and uncommitted. Ready.

Then there’s this: I like to stop and take photos. Enough said.

Feather

Purpleflowers

Tree2

Tree1

The Engineer and The Artist: Protection

DahliaFlirts

“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:

Trees4

and this:

Trees5

and this:

Trees6

I see this:

Trees2

and this:

Trees1c

and this:

Trees1d

And yet again, we look at the same thing
differently.

[ :: ]

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.

Sands Through the OURglass

Out1

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.

JeanneAndy07319173framed