1/25/2016

Snow Gifts

Friday daughter Karen and I moved out to Silver Spring with son Jim and his wife Monica. Being snowbound has had many good times to catch up with each other. We have spent hours talking about nothings and about the important stuff you don't have a chance to cover during busy work days.

We brought two non-talkers with us - a cat and a dog - who settled in quickly and learned the language to get along in new surroundings on their terms. A cat that rarely sleeps on my bed at home has been sleeping at my feet all night and snuggles on the familiar quilt I brought with me. Karen says she's happy because her humans are here and she trusts us to feed her.


We watched as the snow piled up 30 inches. The world became very quiet because the roads have been blocked and the cars are stopped.  Its now the third day and I am getting itchy to get home - knowing I will miss this unusual "being together" with my East Coast family.

I have learned some important things while I have been here.


Our two grand-daughters are living away right now - -one at an out-of-town law school and the other following her business to the West Coast. But SYPE keeps them close. Watching their warm conversations about life's dailies left me wondering why I have not been using SKYPE with my West Coast Family and other friends, particularly my sisters. We talk and text a lot - but there is a deeper connection when you are face to face.hmm - 

This is one of the reasons I love technology - so many options on ways to keep connected with people you care about. I already have SKYPE and FACE TIME on all my "devices" and anyone who knows me can probably guess that I have many of those things --so what's been holding me back?
Good question. Time to put them to action.






Snow is pretty to look at and a big job to remove but I heard laughter coming from the outside during the doing of the
hard work - that is a good sound!

Now we are waiting for the snow plow to get to our street -

and I till be glad to be home - and taking a few lessons with me

I am happy to have had this extra time with my family - local and extended  through calls and texts - hearing their voices is great - but now I realize Apple can show me their faces as well.!!!!!!

1/23/2016

Blizzard 2016 - One

For days last week the weather TV reporters kept up talking about the story of the coming storm they called the "Snowmagedon". Prepare. Prepare.

Well when I prepared the chimney sweep discovered a problem with the woos stove. So, that changed our plans.

 Yesterday my daughter Karen and I and our two pets, cat - Angel and dog Leia, packed our cars like the old pioneer Conestoga wagons and drove 30 minutes away to Silver Spring to stay with our son and his wife in Silver Spring.

The snow started at 1 pm yesterday afternoon. We settled in quite comfortably in Silver Spring. I slept well in our grand-daughter Alison's bedroom while the snow steadily fell to earth. This morning the world was coated with white. It was peacefully quiet with no cars moving.

I woke to find a guardian watching me from the end of the bed,

The snow has continued steadily all day. Cars have disappeared as have yard furniture. The world has begun to look like a black and white line drawing. 



We have spent the day working on the computer, watching a few movies. some shoveling, and watching the snow being tossed by the winds as it continues to fall. We hardly know what is ahead. Snow continues to fall.The roads are closed by snow. Our lives are altered for a time. No hopping in the car and running errands. There are questions about what comes next. We are here for the duration. Tomorrow I plan to settle down into my work plan - - - but the snow is distracting.

1/14/2016

37 Days is Coming Back - A memory of Before

There are so many ways we "inhabit our lives" and many people who nudge us forward. Author Patti Digh has been one of those nudgers for me since she started writing her blog "37 Days" in 2005. Her writings spoke to me at a time I needed it. After a number of years her work expanded and she stopped writing on "37 Days". I missed her.

I followed her on Facebook - busy, busy, retreats and books and raising her family. Today she announced on Facebook that she is re-opening the blog and will be writing every day. Read why - here. Along with others who admire her I wrote a comment on her blog - "Welcome Back, Patti. I have missed you."

 She talks about her first book "life is a verb" as being her favorite. It is mine too. I remember her talking about her excitement as she worked on it and as it went to press and was launched. She let people in her world-wide community share the experience with her.

 Then she went one step further - she invited artists from her "community" to be a part of the project by sharing drawings made for specific subjects. I felt the excitement and was thrilled to have a chance to participate. Worked hard and submitted two drawings.

  "life is a verb" was published eight years ago. I knew it was on my bookshelf. Dusty yes - but where I expected it to be. It felt familiar as I thumbed through looking for my two drawings. Ah! Ha!





Live an Irresistible Obituary

 "It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." Anne Sexton

Patti Digh writes:
Are we leaving behind numbers or stories?
I vote for stories.

The page is illustrated with my art work - honoring her father. I used a young picture of him with my childhood WWII picture of
me to salute him - - - with orchids as the background.



The art is followed by another quote.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.  Isak Dinesen

Today when I read this quote it took my breath away.

I cannot say that I actively remembered this quote or this page when my husband Jim died in 2012 -
but it is an excellent back up for explaining my creating a story for my healing - Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home, which I am telling still.

More - I was touched and delighted by my small piece on another page -

 I used a picture of the shadows Jim and I cast on a California beach and topped it with children who danced past us .




The quote for that page is:

To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak - Hopi saying







Thanks, Patti.

1/13/2016

An Evening of Stories told by Elizabeth Ellis

Tonight The Grapevine Storytelling Series featured Texas storyteller Elizabeth Ellis. Her reputation as one of the outstanding storytellers in the country preceded her and the room was packed.














Elizabeth Ellis does not disappoint. Her rich stories touched hearts and revealed the complexities in human relationships. Her story program included a wonderful history story, a folktale,  and two brilliantly crafted personal stories.

I have admired Elizabeth's work for years and have heard many of the stories in her repertoire but every time I encounter a repeat I hear something new, something different. She is a skilled word-smith who fits words together into metaphors that give deep meaning, add to the power of the story, and paint pictures you remember.

Elizabeth Ellis beguiles the audience with her soft southern accent, her sharp sense of humor, her compassionate delivery and world-view. Her gestures and facial expressions enliven her performance and pull you closer into the story. The audience is with her from the first word. Even with waiters bumping between tables and taking orders the audience is caught in the web she weaves with her storytelling.

When she closes the show she thanks the audience for coming -
if they feel as I did - -
they are glad they came,
grateful for her stories,
and look forward to hearing her again - soon.

Thank you, Elizabeth Ellis.

The Grapevine Storytelling Series is produced on the 2nd Tuesday of the month by storytellers Noa Baum and Tim Livengood at Busboys and Poets in Takoma Park, MD.







A Series of Prompts - The Ninth Steet House

The stack of blank books on my shelf is as tempting as a bakery because I know things are hidden inside that I have forgotten. Today I paused my work at the computer to take another look. And it was loaded with sugary sweets.

 At one time I pasted copies of pictures in a blank book. I used the photos as prompts for my memory to gather family stories. Have you tried it?

 I was glad to see this page when I opened the journal today. I was five years old when we lived in this house. I remember the Sunday that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Christmas Santa brought me a metal kitchen sink that really held water and the day it snowed and Mama made "snow cream." You know - the days when life is simple for a child.

The Ninth Street House - Charlotte, NC

1/12/2016

From an Afternoon in Baltimore: May 2000

The book shelves in my office are bulging with books, stacks of files, three ring binders stuffed with papers and stacks of sketch books. It is space that cries out to be cleaned out and neatened-up. The other day I pulled down a sketch book thinking I could toss it. Wrong. Its dated May 2001 - the notes are from a Doug Lipman storytelling workshop in Baltimore, MD. Storyteller Gail Rosen had organized it. This was one of my first workshops. It was held in a fine old house downtown. A lovely space. The notes are interesting but the drawings on most every page from doodles to contour drawings of other storytellers were the surprises. They hold the memory of the experience more vividly than the notes.

Several potted plants on the window sill with light filtering over them now look animated and amusing. This head of someone pleases me.

 Some one's story prompts me to think of my father in Presbyterian Hospital dying in the town where he was born, Charlotte, NC. Hmm. I never worked with those memories to create the story - whether to tell for an audience or just to leave for my children.

Ah, me. This is a bit of treasure for me. It is the quickly assembled outline for my Africa Story.

That afternoon as the light faded in the room where we were gathered was the first time I organized my thoughts on that adventure and told it as a story.
The next year I told it - as my first one-woman show - in a solo performance at the Washington Storytellers Theater - quite a thrill.


This is an except from the Africa Story told for a performance with Better Said Than Done.


Interesting to look back  - all from a few pages in a journal - which I am NOT tossing out.

Would you? Do you?





12/30/2015

60th Wedding Anniversary









Jim Schoettler and I were married December 30, 1955 -
at Assumption Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC.















This was the beginning.




December 2005   Jim  and I celebrated our 50th anniversary with a  reception at our home in Chevy Chase, MD.  It was a wonderful party shared with family and friends - and Jim's toast was sweet and funny. 

I am thinking of that today - which is our 60th anniversary. I am pretty sure I can guess what he might be saying if he were here.

A long marriage is a beautiful gift - you have the time to know each other so well, the satisfaction of making it through tossing winds and troubled seas together, 
the  joy of many blessings, large and small, and most of all  - - love.


12/29/2015

Remembering 60 years ago





Several years ago I opened a box of papers and found this Hallmark Date Book 1955.

Memories are the food for my stories so finding an old personal calendar to fill in gaps is a great blessing.

By January 1 1955 Jim Schoettler and I  were a couple. Most dates are marked with something to do with "dating" Jim from a "coffee with Jim" to "marrying Jim today" on December 30.

So - today --- 60 years ago - - I was excited and nervous as I packed the last items in my suitcase so I would be ready to leave home tomorrow  - - for a honeymoon week-end in Washington, DC before we put the key in the lock at our waiting apartment in Baltimore. We never guessed that we would return to the Washington area in 1964 and live out our lives there.

During the polo epidemic of 1944 my mother became so frightened for our safety that she arranged for me and my sister Lynda to live with the Sisters of Mercy at their "mother house" in Belmont, NC. She felt that living on their farm would be safer for us. I celebrated my ninth birthday there that summer - and I also learned how important receiving mail can be which has left me with a particular appreciation and love of letters.

My love of letters continued whether they were mine or written by strangers. Years later as I delved into genealogy and storytelling I became enamored with old letters because of the stories they hold. I look for letters in old boxes in back rooms, in library collections and in local history files. 

One afternoon at the Historical Society in the District of Columbia I asked to read "domestic files" and I found this letter - 

In 1845, from her parental home in Washington, DC, Normanstone, Dora Barnard writes to her finance John Higgins three days before their wedding.

Normanstone, 1845

My dear Sir,

I fully intended writing yesterday but was prevented. I have attended to your requests and I have finished sewing much to my relief.

I believe all planning is done, everything goes on smoothly. I went into the store room today to pack something away ready to be sent up and I deliberately sat down by the side of the trunk and took a good cry. That's just the way I am when I am excited.

Do not think it is regret, for my determination to leave all, and cleave to thee, Oh, no.
But this leaving causes struggles. I tremble also at the responsibility I am incurring. I suppose you are calmer than myself.

Now, good-bye till Tuesday.

Yours - - for the last time - - S. Dora Barnard

What a lovely surprise to find this sweet letter. When I read it I felt connected to Dora Barnard across 110 years.

Finding the little calendar brought back memories of how I felt the night before Jim and I married.  Writing this tonight reminded me of Dora's letter. I knew just where to find it because I often use it in a program about stories written in letter by ordinary women across the years.

Another gift from storytelling.