Tag: tribute (Page 1 of 8)

The Stanzas of Fatherhood

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From my daddy
(his granddaddy),
my son learned
that making space in his life to
pursue what captivates him
doesn’t make him selfish,
but instead makes him a better person
in every area of his life.
He learned resourcefulness, and
that it’s quite possible to make a good living
doing what you love.
He learned to honor the past.
contribute to your community,
the importance of family.
He learned roots.


From my father-in-law
(his paternal granddaddy)
my son learned perseverance, tenacity,
a can-do/will-do/just-you-watch-me attitude.
He learned that nothing – and I mean nothing –
can take you down unless you let it.


From my husband
(his daddy),
my son learned loyalty,
fiscal responsibility,
logical thinking.
He learned to work hard enough
to have an impressive career,
but never so hard as to
miss out on family time and happenings.
He learned how to fix things,
how to plan for the future
how to treat women
– as well as other men – with respect.
He learned self-reliance and confidence.
He learned consideration for self and  others
and where to draw the line
to avoid abdication of self
which does nobody any good.
From his daddy,
my son learned humility, patience,
generosity and kindness.
He learned how to be a good husband
and a good dad.


My son, Kipp, is now a daddy himself,
and through him,
his son (my grandson),
will learn all the things
passed down through his
daddy’s male ancestors.
He will learn self reliance and kindness
confidence and loyalty
dependability and patience.
He will learn to tell the truth
even when it hurts,
(and, for purposes of entertaining,
how to lie convincingly).
(Wait – that might come from the maternal side of the table.)
He will learn love and curiosity
humor and responsibility
accountability and gratitude.
He will learn to
delight in the success of others
as much as he delights in his own.
He will learn how to make his family proud,
how to be a contributing member of society,
how to take good care of himself and others.
He will learn how to be A Good Man
and a Good Father.

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This is what good fathers do, you know:
they take the best of their forefathers
and pass it on,
setting aside the inevitable not-so-good stuff
to leave it on the side of the road.
And in doing that, good fathers raise good men
who raise good men,
who raise good men,
making the world better
for men and women, boys and girls
for all of us.


Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

An Afternoon with Roxanne Lasky

RoxanneLaskyAndJHC2I’ve long admired and adored the work of Roxanne Lasky from afar. Knowing that she lives in the vicinity, a couple of days ago, as we barreled down the road headed to Hilton Head Island, I sent her a facebook message asking if there was a fabric store or quilt exhibit I needed to see while we are here. Her response? “You’re passing right by us. Stop by. Lorie McCown is here, and we have wine.”


Now it didn’t work out for me to get over there in time to meet Lorie, but I did spent an hour and a half with Roxanne, her engineer Stu, and Miss Nellie at their beautiful home yesterday, and what a treat that was! I hadn’t been there 30 minutes when we were talking with ease about topics even the best of friends usually avoid – things like organized religion and spirituality. There are few things I enjoy more than meeting other cloth workers, seeing their studio, hearing their stories . . .

As far as art goes, Roxanne has done it all.


She’s sculpted


and painted


hooked rugs,
made traditional quilts,
owned a fabric store,
and done longarm quilting.



Honoring what beckons to her,
she found her way to houses


and art quilts.
Intuitive stitching, she calls it.



Roxanne makes jackets
that showcase her intuitive stitching.


This piece, that hangs in the bedroom,
is a collage of cloths she’s bundled,
rusted, and dyed, transforming
them all in one way or another.
She and Lori sometimes do collaborative pieces.
Their current collaboration is
on an indigo-dyed doily.
They’ve just begun,
and already it’s a sumptuous piece.


Roxanne is working on a series about
the erosion of memory
and in particular, Alzheimers.
In these pieces, Roxanne stitches
good memories of her mother
along with the sadness of remembering
her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s
and her fear of developing Alzheimer’s herself.

Having grown up poor,
when her mother married
and found herself with enough pin money
that she no longer had to buy
somebody else’s cast-off shoes,
she indulged in her love of high heels.
New high heels.
This piece is called The Other Oz.
(Roxanne is as good at naming pieces
as she is at conjuring and stitching them.)
As you might imagine,
she finds it necessary to take
frequent breaks from the memory series,
stitching other, unrelated themes.

This piece is her personal totem,
filled with things that
speak to her.
Things like
dresses, feathers, and birds.

A former special ed teacher and
an early contributor to The 70273 Project,
and, Roxanne recently met a fella who regaled her
with stories about his son
who has Down’s Syndrome and autism,
and she was so moved, she vows
to make a block dedicated to his son.


After a morning of thrift store shopping
with The Engineer and my mother
(I’ll show and tell you more tomorrow)
and getting to call Roxanne Lasky “Sugar” to her face,,
the sun set on what I’d be hard pressed to call
anything but A Mighty Fine Day.

How The Engineer Spent His Birthday This Year


Yesterday Morning – 6.3.2016 – on the occasion of The Engineer’s Birthday . . .

The Artist: How do you want to spend your birthday?

The Engineer: I want to take you to that quilt show you just told me about that’s this weekend in Waynesville.



So we took a nice, leisurely drive over to Waynesville, NC

Shady Ladies Self Portraits

And attended the Shady Ladies Quilt Show.

BarnQuilt3The Old Rice Barn by Evelyn Case

BarnQuilt2The Old Rice Barn 2 by Evelyn Case

BarnQuilt5Crabtree Barn by Lisa Heller

The Engineer especially enjoyed the barn quilts

CarQuilt50 Stude by Marilyn Sullivan

and the quilt of the old car
(The quilt is not for sale, but the car is.)

At an even more leisurely pace, I shopped in the boutique, picking up some hand dyed fabric and a couple of other women’s UFO’s (I’m bad to do that) among other things like a quilted eyeglass case for my shiny new sunglasses and a quilted notepad for my pocketbook.

Later in the truck . . .

The Artist: I’m sorry I took my time looking around.

The Engineer: No need to apologize.

The Artist: But it’s your birthday, and I spent a couple of hours of it looking at quilts and shopping. That doesn’t seem right.

The Engineer: It’s really okay. I enjoy watching you look at things that really capture and fascinate you.

Now I ask y’all: Did I pick a good one or what?

(Remember when asked how he wanted to spend the day and he said he wanted to take me to that quilt show? Well, I did hear him mutter under his breath at the end of the sentence: “I’d rather get it out of the way today than to have to dread going tomorrow.”)

But still . . .


We went to eat at one of his favorite restaurants in Waynesville, a place we enjoyed many meals with his dad before he died. They gave The Engineer a free big ole’ scoop of ice cream. (And brought 2 spoons.)


And I came home and backed him that pound cake he likes so much. Even let him eat a lot of the batter (which really isn’t all that unusual, actually).

Happy Birthday, Andy. I really enjoyed your special day, start to finish.

Of course any day spent with you is special-with-a-capital-S.

It’s Her Birthday, and I Got the Gift


Today is Nancy’s birthday,
and don’t you know that
She is The Gift.



the gift of laughter



and love



and reminders of what’s important and what’s not.



of being content with what you have and where you are
instead of looking for That One Special Thing
that will make you happy or make your life Complete.



She’s an example of how to accept help from others
without feeling needy or inadequate
or obligated.



She gifts so many with her art,
her smile,
her Being.


Becoming Nancy’s sister-in-law might just be the best gift
The Engineer ever gave me,
and let me tell you what:
he’s a fantastic gift-giver.


Happy birthday, Nancy.
Here’s to many more years of
drawing and stitching
laughing and loving
and good health.
Cheers. Clink.

Not Once a Year

. . . but once a day,
I utter a big, fat, juicy Thank you
to the Sweet Spirit of Surprise


for the woman who birthed me, Ada (left)
and the woman who continues to help raise me, Helen (right)

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for my grandmother, Maude

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for my grandmother, Katie Belle

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for my great grandmother, Ever Leila
(Isn’t that a fabulous name?)


the woman who raised my husband and raised him Right, Mary


and for the people who made me a Mother.

I am luckier than I deserve.

We Never Had a Problem Sharing


When I met her, she was on her hands and knees planting tulip bulbs around the patio in the backyard while Pepper, the Corgi, made laps around the base of the biggest pine tree in the yard in an apparent effort to build a moat or dig the tree up. We’re not sure which.

I met her 43 years ago, long before I got the memo saying Mothers of the Groom were to wear beige and keep. their. mouths. shut. Not knowing any better, I invited her to join my mother and me and go shopping for my wedding dress, among other things.

We took sewing classes together. We cooked together. We had long talks.

She put mustard on grilled cheese sandwiches.
Ask me how I found out.


She was beautiful in the way young women were beautiful in the 1940s. Mr. Chambers told me that had it not been for the war, he probably wouldn’t have married her. “Well, you would have been a damn fool,” I assured him.

They were married on October 2, 1942 by an Army Chaplain in Hobe Sound, Florida. The bride wore a brownish dress with a matching hat that had a veil that tickled her nose. How do I know? I asked her.


When I asked her about the most adventurous thing that happened to her while traveling, she didn’t tell me about dressing up and winning the prize for her obviously convincing portrayal of a drunken hag on the cruise ship, she told me about how she played gin rummy with a sergeant all the way down to Bermuda where her new husband was stationed in World War II. Her first job as a married woman was as a court martial secretary, and who was there on her first day on the job but the sergeant she’d played so many hands of gin rummy with. “He was a bigamist,” she told me. “He had THREE wives.”

She could be funny – like the time she sent me a pair of clear plastic salad tongs for Christmas with a note that said “Try these with spaghetti.” Sometimes – when I disappointed her, for example – she wasn’t particularly funny.

“How’d you get along with your mother?” I once asked her.
“OK,” was all she said.
“How’d you get along with your daddy?”

After a morning of taking her mother to the doctor or to get groceries or just out for lunch, Mrs. C would call me: “Hello?” I’d answer, not knowing who was on the other end of the line because those were the days before caller i.d. (or even answering machines, for that matter).

“If I EVER get like my mother,” she’d say skipping the greeting and going straight to the point, “kick me.”

(Too many times to count, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “Bend over” cause let me tell you: she was the spittin’ image of her mother, though she fancied herself to be just like the daddy she adored.)

The first house we bought was right down the road from them, and because she liked to drop by during the day to take her friends on a tour (she liked what we did with the place, and she specially liked that I made the macrame headboard just like the one in the picture she tore out of a magazine for me) or to drop off two pies (a cherry pie for me and a strawberry pie for The Engineer – we could eat them back then without consequence), we gave her her own key to the place. She sewed the curtains for the front window . . . and she never quite forgave me for agreeing to leave them when we sold the house. I wish I had them right about now – I really do – but the buyers wanted the curtains, and we were young with many curtains yet to come, so those curtains stayed with the house.


Years later, we bought a house in a new subdivision, and while the in-laws were out having a look, they spied a house one street over that captured their interest. Because they had long lived on the same street and because they lived in a beautiful house, she invited me to lunch to ask what I thought about them buying that house and moving there. Without a moment’s hesitation, I told her to buy it, and when she asked me why, I told her it was on a golf course, and I knew – I just knew – she’d enjoy playing golf.


They did move, and she did learn to play and enjoy golf, and as a bonus that I never even considered, when Alison was born, Mrs. C. was right around the corner and ready to help. I don’t know what on earth I would’ve done without her. I really don’t.

When we were first married, I watched Mrs. C. closely, and not just because watching people closely is my favorite kind of entertainment. I watched to see how she related to Nancy and Mr. C. and her boys. I watched their family communication model, the family dynamics. I took in how they related to each other. She taught me a lot without knowing it. A lot, I tell you.

I wish she’d never started smoking, but if that is too much to ask, I wish she’d been able to stop smoking. I have things I long to ask her, you know. Things I long to talk about. Things I long to apologize for. Mostly I want to thank her (again) for raising the man I married.


Today is not just Groundhog Day, it’s Mary Chambers’ – my mother-in-love’s – birthday.

His Life in Chapeaux

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His life is told in hats made of a different material than the straw and felt fedoras his granddaddy tipped by way of a how-do-you-do to people he passed when driving to town and back . . .

As a young boy, Stacy’s mother dressed him in white linen shorts with white suspenders, white knee socks, white bucks, and a white linen beanie hat and brought him to the green grass (okay, clover) and red clay of Grandmother’s Georgia yards. I’ve often wondered if his wardrobe was a reflection of his mother’s sense of style, an indication of early onset dementia, or if maybe she was preparing him for people he would inevitably encounter later in life – people who wouldn’t like the way he looked, or talked, or thought, or led. I don’t know if the clothes are to blame or not, but I don’t remember Stacy ever once taking a turn sweeping the red clay front yard with that broom made from switches Granddaddy lashed together with a length of twine.

In high school, Stacy donned the plumed headgear of a drum major. Now I think it’s safe to say that out of 14 cousins, he is the only one who paraded around in front of anybody . . . unless you count The Program Grandmother staged every Christmas morning. On that one day of the year, she paraded each one of her grandchildren – a.k.a. piano students – out to spin the bench to the right height, take our seat, and impress the parents with how fluently our fingers tickled the ivories. That’s what 13 of us did anyway, but Stacy? He played the trombone.

Yes, the trombone.

What few parents were left by the time Stacy’s name came to the top of the list fled the room before the mouthpiece touched his lips. Most of them didn’t bother to come up with an excuse, either, they just left.

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Now law enforcement runs deep in our family. Granddaddy was a Revenue Agent and the town’s Sheriff, and today there are police, detectives, and a district attorney at our table. After high school, Stacy flipped the proverbial coin to decide which path to take and wound up in law school, later securing a job as legal counsel for a large corporation in Atlanta. But eventually, regardless of heads or tails, Stacy knew he must pursue the road not taken, and that path eventually earned him the honor of wearing the traditional ceremonial headdress of an Episcopal Bishop.

An Episcopal. In the midst of a bunch of Baptists . . . and me.

Stacy and I don’t always see eye to eye on Big Things like religion, you see, but here’s the thing: we have long, deeply profound, amazingly intricate conversations that never end up with blood shed because we are secure enough in our own belief systems to know that there is no One Right Way. Our confidence, coupled with our love and respect for each other leaves us feeling no need to convince the other, which makes way for good old-fashioned conversation of the back-and-forth variety. Stacy never tries to save my soul, though he does occasionally attempt to repair it from wounds inflicted by my early religious upbringing experiences.

White linen beanies.
Plumed drum major topper.
The traditional ceremonial headdress of an Episcopalian Bishop.

I’ve never seen Stacy wear a baseball cap, and I don’t remember any cousin ever laughing at him or poking fun at him behind his back because of anything he wore or didn’t wear on his head. They didn’t refrain from fear of the punch in the nose they would most surely have received from me had they ever engaged in such behavior. They refrained because while he may have been different – let’s be honest: odd – he is a cousin – blood kin – and that matters around here.

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Several years ago, on his sixteenth birthday, I took Stace to get his driver’s license. Today is his birthday, and if math and memory serve me well, this is yet another milestone birthday. Because I’m simply not a good enough woman, the list of people I love unconditionally is short, but rest assured that Stacy’s name is on it. Up near the top.

93: He Liked People, He Just Liked Them Better One at a Time


That was me you heard groan when the preacher stood up and said, “I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Tom Smith in life,” cause I’ve been to enough funerals to know the unspoken rest of the sentence is “so I’m just gonna’ stand up here and use my time to save your soul, to witness to you, and to get more votes for the Lord.”

But not so today.

We gathered together this afternoon to celebrate the life of Tom Smith, and oh what a fine and fitting celebration it was. I’ve been to more than my fair share of funerals – and I’ve thrown more than a few – so I know what constitutes a good memorial service, and Tom’s ranks right up there with send-offs for my friend Valerie and my Daddy.

After confessing to not knowing Tom, the preacher went on to read us snippets from Tom’s Facebook timeline, and through his selections, it was obvious that he grasped the Essential Tom. And not once – not a single time, I tell you – did he try to save our souls.

Eccentric . . . Stubborn . . . Caring . . . Creative. These are the recurring themes in Tom’s life, and we heard those words and their synonyms throughout today’s remembrances.

Tom’s younger brother, Marion, read a few entries from Tom’s journal, ending with a self-awareness piece which included the itemization of things Tom considered to be – not apologetically, though, mind you – his 12 most prominent faults.

John, another brother, read a touchingly tender letter from his daughter who likened a childhood visit to Tom’s house to entering a magic wardrobe and exiting in a Narnia of sorts, a magical place filled with things just waiting to be rediscovered. Tom was known to hold onto things, you see, in part because as the eldest, he considered himself keeper of the family history and in part because he was an artist who literally turned other people’s cast offs into captivating works of art.

Jim, twin brother to John, regaled us with a tale of teenage Tom’s good idea to steal a watermelon a day from Mr. Bowers’ neighboring farm. On those sweltering August days in Georgia, they’d steal the watermelon first thing in the morning, put it in a sack with a large rock for ballast, then throw it in the deep end of the lake to cool all day. While the three boys worked in the field chopping cotton and doing I don’t know what all, thoughts of that chilled watermelon waiting on them kept them going till quitting time.

Years later, for reasons that might or might not have something to do with redemption, the Smith boys paid Mr. Bowers a visit, taking a store-bought (not stolen) (at least I don’t think it was stolen) watermelon with them. The four guys sat a while on the front porch talking about this and that, and when the boys took their leave, Mr. Bowers stopped them.

“Boys, don’t forget your watermelon,” he called after them, nodding in the direction of the melon.

“That’s for you, Mr. Bowers,” Tom said.

“I don’t eat watermelon.”

“Well, why did you plant them every summer for as long as I can remember?” Tom asked.

“So you boys would have something to steal,” Mr. Bowers explained.

As Jim said, “NSA has nothing on Mr. Bowers.”

Now I’ve taken many rides on the roller coaster called grief, and I’ve spent this week creaking slowly up, up, up then crashing down so fast my eyes and ears became conjoined. This past week has snatched me around this corner then that corner, hurling me into the throes of memory and feeling.

I am mad . . . mad that Tom didn’t choose to throw everything the medical community has to offer at the cancer. And when I wonder if Tom knew and fully understood how much he meant to his community of friends and family, I feel sad.

I’m selfishly sad when I’m unable to stave off the cold splash of reality that I’ll never again wake up to find a note like this waiting on me: “Oh, and that piece on togetherness/space/40 years together was that good…..no smoke. Erma Bombeck couldn’t have done any better. Tom” Or an outline for a book he wanted me to write. Or stories about bullying and about his dad. Or an introduction, of sorts, to his niece Johanna (Johns’ daughter) with his plan to have me meet and mentor Johanna and help her tell her big and powerful story. Or a bag full of books he insisted I read.

But eventually . . . One Day . . . the roller coaster will slow, and the handle bars will release their grip on me. The madness will fade, and the sadness will melt, and both will be folded into the Glad I feel to have known Tom, to be changed for the better by the imprint he left on my life, and to count him always as cherished friend.


P.S. And though I don’t usually sing outside the shower because, well, let’s just say my daughter did not inherit her beautiful voice from me, today I imagined – by way of one of those imprints I told you about – Tom saying “Pfffft” to that and sang my lungs out, not giving one twit if I cleared out my side of the church or not.

(I didn’t.)

(Which is just as much a miracle as the five loaves and fishes and the time I won the Sword Drill at Vacation Bible School.)

62: He’s Inging Life

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He’s quiet with a quick, easy laugh and a kind heart.
He’s easy to love.
You want to protect him
and at the same time,
you want to help him soar.
Sometimes the two desires conflict.

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He makes art – good art –
and while he might not paint or sculpt
right this very year,
what he learned in art classes
will stay with him and serve him well.

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He’s finishing up college,
and taking his new career by storm,
making me very proud of the young man he’s becoming.
He’s a sponge, soaking up life,
trying again,
getting back up,
not doing,
getting ahead and figuring out what that means to him.

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He’s wandering, staying,
wanting, waiting
accepting, excepting
asking, doubting,
seeking, searching.


His name is T.J.
He is my nephew
and today is his birthday.
Seems like it was just yesterday
when I was tapping the glass
at the hospital nursery.

58: She Really Made a Splash, and I Couldn’t Be More Proud


Her mother raised her to be afraid of the water, thinking it would keep her from drowning in the creek that ran behind their house. (Sometimes mothers get love and safety all mixed up.) As an adult, she spent one week every summer at the beach, never staying at a motel with a pool and never wading into the ocean over her knees. When the Medford Manor pool was built, she dropped her children off every morning on her way to work, brought them lunch on her lunch hour, and picked them up on the way home from work, having them sit on one of the quilts her mother made spread over the backseat to protect her car’s interior from chlorine-laden swimsuits. She made sure every one of her children learned to swim.

One day she woke up in her fifth decade and decided she wanted to learn to swim, so she did what any woman does when she’s ready to grow fins:

1. She designed a swimming pool.
2. She found a place for it in the yard.
3. She hired a contractor.
4. She found a swimming instructor willing to travel.
5. She bought a cute, flattering swimsuit.
6. She hired the swimming instructor who was willing to travel.

And I want you to know that in less than two months, I attended my mother’s first swim recital. Can you imagine being taught to be terrified of the water as a young child then learning to swim – of your own initiative – some 50 years later? That right there is why Ada Ballard Hewell, my mother, is a Pink Galoshes Woman. (She’s the tall one in the above photo, and the pint-sized one wearing the obviously out-grown, handed-down swimsuit? That’s me, her favorite daughter.)


Pink Galoshes Portrait: Ada Ballard Hewell
17″ x 21″
cut-up discarded clothing, cheesecloth, seed pearls, embroidery floss
photo transferred to fabric
hand stitched

Oh, and those other words on her Pink Galoshes Portrait – gardening, entertaining, reading, socializing, learning, cooking – those are other things she’s good at.


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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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