Tag: treasures

just call me elf


whether you’re a card-carrying member of the fabled 1% or not, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for presents this holiday season. you know that, right? we can’t keep spending money we don’t have. what you may not know or may not have thought about: when you give from your deepest creative self, you not only save money, you gift your self and the lucky recipient. it’s just one of those magical inexplicables – like writing every day doesn’t deplete your word pantry, in fact, just the opposite: the more you write, the more you have to write.

allow me to introduce the personal shopper member of the committee that is me. she loves to conjure fun, one-of-a-kind, inexpensive gifts . . .


  • write love letters. give the recipient a tour of the real estate they own in your heart. don’t hold back – this is the gift that will keep on giving. every time they read it – and they’ll read it often cause they’ll keep it forever – will be a gift.
  • my grandmother canned food in green glass ball jars. she sweated in a hot kitchen all summer so we could eat well all winter. find an old jar and fill it with pieces of paper containing words that come to mind when you think of this person. trust me: they’ll feast year-round.
  • get a t-shirt, pajamas, scarf or any other wearable and grab some fabric markers then decorate the clothing with story kindling and punch lines of favorite memories.
  • know their shoe size? buy them a pair of plain white sneakers and decorate them with colorful words and phrases of love to lighten their step.
  • fill a blank journal with favorite quotes – yours and theirs.
  • do you owe someone an apology? write it out, attach it to a blackboard eraser, and deliver it.
  • cut a snowflake from folded paper and turn it into a gift by writing “like a snowflake, you’re one of a kind” or something similar that would melt a real frosty.
  • cut out words from magazines and instead of creating a ransom letter, create a you-are-special letter.
  • create a calendar of compliments by noting compliments in a calendar.
  • get your camera out and find things containing letters of the alphabet needed to spell out words that describe the recipient. (for example, the end of a swingset resembles a capital A – that kind of thing.) (have fun with this – remember: you can rotate and crop.)

  • use your computer or camera to record your favorite stories about the recipient. ask others to participate by sharing their favorite story, then compile them into one album of love.
  • scan photos of the recipient and drop the digitized version into a document containing the story about the photo. OR keep the digitized copy for yourself and glue the original into an empty journal, penning the photo particulars (who, left to right; where; what they were/are doing; and any other details you can remember) to create a special album of memories.
  • do a little research on your computer and create a year-in-review book of things that are of interest to the giftee.
  • for loved ones, commit family legends to paper (digital or otherwise). add photos and maybe even genealogical information to create a family tree album.
  • fill a jar with questions written on slip of paper – things like “tell me about your childhood pets” and “tell me about your first job” and “what stories do you remember about your parents” and “of all the things you’ve done, what are you most proud of” and “tell me about your hobbies.” around the lid to the jar, tie ribbons on which is written several dates throughout the year when you’ll get together and listen to their answers to the questions you’ll draw from the jar. (oh, and you’ll probably want to take a tape recorder on those listening dates, too.)

  • have something you plan to leave them in your will? go ahead and give it to them. they’ll get to enjoy it longer, and you won’t have to dust it. oh, and be sure to include the provenance, telling where you obtained the item, how and when you used it, maybe even how much you paid for it – things that will tell the story about the item.
  • personally, i hate to cook, but i have it on good authority that not every is like that, so gather recipes and create a cookbook. have a section of perennial favorites and a section of new recipes for those who love adventure in the kitchen.
  • keep ’em warm and stylish: embellish an inexpensive scarf or wrap with words of love and mirth using needle and thread.
  • give them a bib, a fork and a calendar with particular dates circled and tell ’em not to make plans on those nights cause those are date nights when you’re cooking for them.
  • reacquainted

    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.

    small things/big things


    today was the (self-avowed and self-allowed) last day of being sick, so i only have 2 little illuminations gleaned from today . . .

    i come from a long line of women who know that in every illness, you eventually reach a point where the best remedy is to take a hot shower, shave your legs, wash your hair, and put on clean clothes – especially clean underwear since you’ll now be going out and what if, god forbid, you should be hit by a car.

    the end stages of availing myself of that remedy led to:

    i also come from a long line of women (the other side of my family orchard) who save things. things aren’t worn out, they rust out. when my childless great aunt lucy died, i could’ve filled a dumpster with the boxes of colorful silk undies, worn only by the tissue paper wrapping. if she tried them on at the store, it was the only time those gorgeous garments felt the touch of skin.

    and i can’t even count high enough to tell you how many boxes of tissues i found. had to throw them all away because by the time i found them, they’d become trees again.

    so you see why finishing a jar of body cream – scooping out the very last bit – was a near milestone for me. i’ve had that particular jar of lotion going on five years, and just in the past year did i vow to change the way i think about something as simple as putting aromatic lotion on myself: it’s not an extravagant, unnecessary luxury. it’s not something i have to earn or deserve. it’s not something that will take time away from other more important things. it’s a simple thing i can do that will not only hydrate my skin. it’s a little ole’ bitty thing i can do to thank my body for supporting me with strength and the occasional moments of gracefulness.

    p.s. i can’t help but wish, though, that if she wasn’t going to wear those slips and panties, aunt lucy would’ve held onto money instead. would’ve been so much more fun finding my way through boxes of green.

    diving in, at last


    my thesis semester found me managing my daughter’s campaign for state legislature. she was one of 4 candidates, and she wound up in a runoff with the older male career politician, an election she lost by the barest of margins. and by the time the last runoff votes were counted, i had 10 days to write my thesis. because it felt right, i worked from the table located in the center of our home – the chrome and glass table that was the first piece of furniture we bought as a married couple. every morning i’d light a candle, push everything and everyone else aside, and get to work. i had no time for angst or indecision. no time to argue with myself or let anything come between me and those notecards.

    it was wonderful. you know what i’m talking about – being in that place that defies description where time and doubt don’t exist. that place i never wanted to leave.

    but all too soon the thesis was turned in . . . and the first draft approved with only a note from faculty saying they were staying out of my way, leaving it up to me to massage if and as desired.

    i wish that’s how i worked all the time – and lord knows, i wish i could get there without all the stress of having to fit it in, but alas. though i come up with more ideas than i can say grace over, and though questions are my native language (next to southern, of course), i have this annoying tendency to think them right out of existence before ever letting them fully hatch. or to run right over them with a ridiculously overloaded to do list.

    that’s probably why i collect these stories about people who plunge right into something, making it up and deciphering it as they go. (there are at least 2 more right now begging me to give them some post time.) it’s how i want to be – just follow an interest without having to define, justify, or explain why it’s a good idea, why it will not be a waste of my time. i long to be a story in my own collection.

    for more years than i care to count, i’ve carried around ideas for several books and plays, working on them and entertaining myself . . . but only on the inside. now let me be real clear here: nobody’s telling me i shouldn’t be working on these projects. nobody is telling me my ideas are ridiculous or that i’m wasting my time or who do i think i am. i am my biggest wall.

    this morning, though, i leapt.

    i wasn’t sure which project i’d work on when i got to the studio, i was only sure that it’s time. and without slowing down enough to even begin a thought, i started transcribing newspaper articles about the bank robbery. my maternal granddaddy was the county sheriff, you see, and my paternal granddaddy was the town’s banker, (yep, i couldn’t do a damn thing.) when my daddy was 5 years old, armed bandits came to town. because the vault couldn’t be opened on their schedule, the highwaymen (as the newspapers called them) brought out the whiskey, kept out the guns, and held my daddy and his family prisoners in their own home for more than 10 hours. it’s something that doesn’t happen to just every family, and yet it’s a story that was told surprisingly little around our dinner table. i don’t know that i’ll uncover reasons for the reluctance to talk about it, but i already know that it’s time to tell this story.

    and i can’t – i won’t – wait.

    p.s. that picture? it’s my granddaddy’s banker’s chair – in its original green leather – and it will be my constant companion as i discover this story.

    diving in: 2


    fast forward several years . . .

    daughter moxie and i are visiting the antique extravaganza that comes once a month. i spy this blue thing that i find intriguing, captivating.

    i have to have it.

    the woman who selling it is cute in that cute-as-a-button sort of way, and french, so i ask if i can call her frenchie, explaining that anything other than english and southern eludes me. flatout eludes me.

    “it’s glass,” she tells me, and as as i stand mesmerized, she continues . . . “years ago i was visiting the new england states when i came upon this big blue blob on the ground. my entire body told me i had to have it.”

    “i want that,” she told the man as she pointed to the blue blob on the ground.

    that? do you even know what it is?” the man asked in reply.

    “no,” she said, “i only know that i want it.”

    “what on earth are you planning to do with that, that whatever it is?” asked her husband.

    “i don’t know yet,” she said, “i only know that i have to have it.”

    “don’t you even want to know what it is?” the man persisted.

    “okay, fine,” she said. “tell me what it is.”

    “it’s glass. it was supposed to be windows for a big office building, but there were bubbles so they poured it on the ground and went back to make more.”

    “so this is flawed glass?” she asked, now even more sure she had to have it. “how much?”

    the day came when it arrived on her doorstep. for the briefest moment after the shippers unloaded it, she wondered what on earth she had done, why she hadn’t thought this through a bit more – especially given that, as it turned out, she’d only seen the tiptop of the blue glassberg that clear summer day in new england. this chunk of glass was ginormous, and now it was hers, so without spending another minute thinking about it, she found her biggest hammer and set to work. she had no plan – not even a skeleton of an idea. she just hammered away, and eventually she’d busted the huge chunk of glass into smaller glass chunklets. somewhere along the way she pursued another wild idea and got a blacksmith to build her some stands. then, not knowing that else to do, she rented a booth at the once-a-month antique market, and, well, in less than a year i am buying her last 2 pieces – one for me, one for my boy, slug.

    now i promise we’ll tie this all together tomorrow.

    or the day after . . .

    (p.s. in the picture, that “whiteness” at the bottom of the top glass chunklet is where the molten glass met the earth.)

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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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