Tag: women (Page 1 of 3)

The Story of Women Exhibit: Cannonball

I’m delighted to tell you that three of my girls were selected to be part of  The Story of Women Exhibit at the Milford Arts Center in – you guessed it – Milford, Connecticut. The exhibit opened online and in the brick-and-mortar gallery yesterday and remains open until November 19, 2020. Judge Shanna T. Melton put together a strong multi-media exhibit telling stories of women. Click here to hear from Executive Director Paige, then scroll on down to find links to the virtual exhibit, information about Judge Shanna, and on further down to find a ballot where you can take half a minute to vote for your favorite piece of art in the exhibit, the one you think should be awarded the coveted People’s Choice.


The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life: Cannonball


We all have them – moments that startle us into utter clarity about the need for significant change. And if we’ve made enough trips around then sun, we know that it’s up to us to create the life we are meant to live, so we grab onto the thread that has guided so many women before us – the thread that is being offered to us now – and Begin. People – even those who initially quake in fear at the thought of how our change might affect their lives – fall in beside us, cheering us on. Ancestors gather round to aid and abet. People we’ll never know urge us on and vow to live a self-determined life of their own. I immortalize that spark and resolve in a series of art quilts I call The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life. I call this one Cannonball.



“Then One Day she knew she would rather Dive in and make Waves than Drown in silence.”



Yes, the back of the swimsuit is on the back of the quilt. Of course it is!


The Other Two Girls

Swing back by sometime to read about Pink Galoshes Women: Aunt Addie and The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life: Whispering Bones, my two other girls who are in The Story of Women Exhibit.

Travel bans may keep us from seeing the exhibit in person, but there’s not a ban strong enough to keep us from making art, right? I’d sure like to see and hear about what your hands are up to, and if you’re a mind to tell me, please leave a comment and/or connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.  Thank you, Milford Arts Center, for your continued dedication to being a facilitator for the arts that no travel ban can stop or even detour.


i’ve finished stitching Nancy’s 454 drawings in set 2, and now that we’re home for a while, i’ll be pulling them altogether in In Our Own Language, 2 this week.


i’ve been amassing a collection doilies for this one, and truth be known, i’ve never really liked doilies. i crocheted a lot of afghans – in fact, my husband’s grandmother and i had such similar tension, we could pick up each other’s crochet and never tell where one started and the other left off. it’s the funniest thing though, in that way funny way that doesn’t make you laugh: as i’ve quietly acquired these doilies over the past 5 months, i’ve come to really enjoy looking at them . . . and i suspect that i’ll miss going on doilie treasure hunts.


some seem downright happy and carefree.



some seem to represent individuals in community, something that can sometimes be tricky.


some make me think of fields freshly plowed and ready to plant.


and some seem like optical illusions and threaten to make my head hurt.



some leave me gobsmacked with their intricacies.



and some seem quite fragile . . . but you’d be surprised.
(i am leaving the stains and discolorations of age because it makes them real somehow.)


i see spiderwebs in some.


some make me think of mandalas, and i swear just looking at them calms me.


some beg me to ponder negative and positive use of space.


some are crocheted metaphors.

shoot, maybe all are crocheted metaphors. my father-in-law always said i read too much into everything.

Looking Back, Moving Forward


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.


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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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 . . . ”


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?


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.


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.


6 145 1 erased

She writes of silence, Radka Donnell in Quilts as Women’s Art: A Quilt Poetics, of how in Bulgaris women kept a small stone in their mouth to keep them from talking back or screaming. The stone kept them quiet. Quiet kept them safe. They called it their wisdom stone.

Silence, a verb.

Silence, a noun.

An ebullient, enthusiastic talker as recent as two years ago, Nancy is now quiet. She speaks very little, and when she does say something, it’s barely more than whisper, causing you to focus, tune out, lean in. Do these drawings surface from the recent pharmaceutically-induced silence or do they emerge from a life of physiologically-induced silence?

She draws in silence.

I stitch in silence.



She is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning



they wrap
themselves up
into small packages
so small
that they
blend right
into the background
becoming invisible
but . . .
if you pause a beat
and use the time to
look very closely
you’ll see
their bright colors
seeping out,
unable to be
the swaddling.


maybe you want to visit the women’s history month series my friend angela is hosting.
there’s a whole lotta’ women letting their colors seep out over there, and it is quite beautiful.

In Our Cute Shoes

Today I’m honored to be a guest blogger over at Angela Kelsey’s place where she’s celebrating Women’s History Month by asking women to share stories about women who educated and empowered them. Though I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a long list of women who have supported me, nudged me, shored me, I chose to use this opportunity to tell you about Fran and Marcia and how they wore their cute shoes to step right into my life without waiting on an invitation. May we all have them, may we all be them.

~~ ::: ~~

And today’s altar is dedicated to storytelling from the inside out . . . to letting our loose threads, our frayed edges, our scratchiness show . . . to removing our masks and veils . . . to undoing the ties that bind and hide and silence . . . to stepping out of the darkness and into full bloom as we crack ourselves wide open and sparkle.


More about 365 Altars

no more and forever


On the way to her day-after-cataract-surgery eye doctor visit, Mother and I stopped by one of our favorite restaurants where the women who work there know what the regulars want before the regulars do. “You take care of yourself, Miss Ada,” Mindy Sue told my mother as we checked out. “Don’t be bending over or anything. There wasn’t anybody around to stay with my mama when she had her cataract surgery, so to remind herself about not bending over, she cut off a broom handle and put it down her pants leg.”


The eye doctor is an old friend of mine. Our children played together. We vacationed together. We walked into each other’s house without knocking. Then the kid started to different schools, and parenting commitments caused us to drift apart.

I had dread in my bones this morning. I noticed it, sure enough, but decided I was probably just tiredness and a reluctance to get out again. “Y’all come on back here,” his assistant said as she ushered us from the waiting room, motioning us to sit in a couple of waiting chairs in the hall outside the exam rooms. Two. There were only two chairs. Two chairs and two women – Mother and me. That’s it. Two.

“Hey Mike,” I said cheerily when he appeared, and I was relieved to be sincerely glad to see him. “See,” I hissed to the dread, “it’s not so bad.”

Apparently the happy reunion was a party for one. He said nothing. Didn’t even look at me. Didn’t even look in my direction. Didn’t even look at my chair leg. Just told Mother how glad he was to see her, took her arm, helped her into the exam room, never once acknowledging in any way imaginable that I even existed.

I took a seat in the small exam room, cramped with three people inside. He proceeded to talk to Mother, continuing to ignore me as much as he ignored the socks on his feet. As much as he ignored the hairs on his face. As much as he ignored the box of tissues sitting on the counter.

It’s been a while since I felt so overlooked, so thoroughly invisible, so totally and absolutely dismissed.

“Hello Mike, I’m Jeanne,” I eventually said, giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he didn’t recognize me. It has been an age since we saw each other. “I know who you are,” he said without even turning his head in my direction.

“Oh well, then,” I said, “so you really were being rude.”

Now this is tricky because my mother is so nice – NICE, I tell you – and she gets very upset when there’s friction and disharmony.

“No,” he said. “I was just focusing on your mother. I didn’t want her to stumble or fall. She had eye surgery yesterday, and one eye is bandaged and when you’re used to having two eyes, you might fall.” Like I didn’t realize she had cataract surgery yesterday, like I couldn’t be trusted to help steady her.

To keep from upsetting Mother, I declined to say anything further and swatted away the insult I felt. He continued his examination of Mother’s recently de-cataracted right eye. Wanting to smooth things over, Mother said, “Well, I thought you probably didn’t recognize Jeanne. Thought maybe you haven’t seen her with red hair.”

“That’s right,” he said. “I didn’t recognize her. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her.”

I remained silent, not wanting to embarrass Mother, not wanting to upset Mother, not wanting to be a bad girl. He talked with Mother about his wife and his grandchildren. When he pointed to the grandchildren’s photos, I didn’t even turn my head for a peek, a small rebellion. “Tell your wife hello for me,” I said as we made ready to leave. “Perhaps she will be glad to hear from me.”

“I guess I hurt your feelings,” he said flatly while making notes in Mother’s chart. “Didn’t mean to,” he added, still making notes.

“You did hurt my feelings,” I told him, desperately wanting to add “but more than that, you made me angry and you lied and you trivialized me and you were rude and you gave me as much attention as you did the chair I was sitting on and for all you know, I was a customer. And which is it anyway: you wanted to help Mother (because I am apparently incapable of helping her) or you didn’t recognize me?” . . . but I didn’t, of course, because Mother was looking anxious.


“I didn’t know what to do,” she told me in the car at the bank’s drive-thru window on our way home.

“I know,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt. Then, speaking in a voice that amazed me with his calm, quiet, matter-of-fact tone I said, “This man was rude. He was wrong. He was obnoxious. Mother, I love you, but I can’t join forces with him and erase myself. Far too many times in my life, I’ve been dismissed, cast aside . . . and I realized today, that I’ve dismissed myself as much as anybody else has dismissed me. Yes, I still want you to be proud of me, to love me, but I will no longer stand for being treated like an object. Not ever again. There’s plenty I long to tell him, but the fact that I called him on it – no matter how small my words – is enough. Instead of overlooking his dismissal, instead of excusing it or being quiet or staying calm or refusing to wrestle with pigs or taking the high road or imaging how busy he was or how much he had on his mind, or minding my words, or not saying something for fear of regretting it later, I spoke up. The tiniest bit, but I spoke up and in my own respectful-of-my-Mother way stood up for myself, and I can feel a deep unearthing, a subtle shift. Is it enough to salve over all the other times I’ve been treated by myself and others like lint on the back of a jacket? No, but it’s a start.”


Annie worked the bank window today, and as I turned to see what was taking her so long to cash one little check, she pulled the microphone down to her lips and asked, “How would you like this – are 10s and 20s okay?”

“Yes, that’s fine,” I said. “Sorry for the delay. I’m a bit upset.”

“I could tell,” she said. “That’s why I gave you some time.”


Later there was Skype call with Sally and Karen. There were text message conversations with Julie and Angela. There were brief exchanges on Twitter and Facebook. There was a hot stone massage and reflexology with Marcia, and after supper, an impromptu visit with three girlfriends from high school.

Women holding space for other women, witnessing the brilliance of other women. Women reclaiming their own glorious genius. This is what we do, this is what we need, this is what 365 Altars is all about . . . this and more. Much more.

More about 365 Altars

the order of things


the lovely julie daley, my writing partner and friend kept me company (via phone) on my drive today, and she fanned my flames (i love her for that) (and much, much more) . . .

she came while he was out cavorting with the radiologists. ordinarily, i would’ve left so i wouldn’t be in the way as she cleaned, but my wise woman self said “stay” so i did. from vietnam, she worked and saved and lived beneath her means to put not one, not two, not three, but all four of her sons through medical school.


she works the midnight shift taking care of grown women (some of whom are older than she is) who can’t take care of themselves. she throws the ladies birthday parties, inviting the families, making sure the brother (whose birthday is the very next day) has a cake, too. a separate cake because nobody should have to share a cake on their birthday.


she sells jelly at a little farmer’s market, the prices handwritten on signs made from torn-off box flaps. she’s there on the weekends, making a little pin money to help with the kids and grandkids. the jelly she sells, the wisdom she gives away freely.


she came in to clean our hotel room, and on my way out (i did get out
of her way) i spied the request for privacy door hanger, gold with one word: peace. i stopped and asked for one to send to my friend who’d just broken up with me. “i just want to stick it in an envelope with a note that says ‘this is what i wish for you,'” i told betty, the housekeeper. who then told me about a lifelong friend she’d recently lost, and as she gently placed seven (yes, seven) door hangers in my hand, she clasped both her hands around mine, and looked deeply into my eyes and smiled at me through tears of kinship.


at the age of one, her grandson was stricken with polio. her daughter said there was nothing they could do because they had no money. and when the daughter refused to call that one telephone number in search of help for the boy, the grandmother took in ironing and baked cakes to sell to raise enough money for the long distance phone calls and the bus tickets needed to get her to her grandson, then get both of them to the Shriner’s hospital where the boy underwent five bouts of surgery. and afterwards, he walked just fine till he died at age sixty-eight.


if you think that one person is more important because of the clothes they wear, or the car they drive, or the job title that’s on their business cards, well, you just get on outta’ here and go peddle that somewhere else cause i’m here to tell you: that dog won’t hunt.

(which for those of you not fluent in southern means that garbage just flat-out don’t play here.)

never has,
never will.


today’s altar is dedicated to, well, i ‘spect you’ve figured that out by now.

More about 365 Altars

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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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