Catching up

Catching up with myself.

Two storytellings last week which kept me busy with the preparation. As much as I love and enjoy storytelling I am tired and need a break.  And it is on the way - not a sit down with you feet up and eating bon-bons but no performing and no short-term deadlines until July and the Capital Fringe. Hooray!

Memorial Day - May 25, 2015

The Memorial Day remembrances began for me Friday when I went to Arlington to visit Jim. Going early was a way of avoiding the traffic jams that are stalling everything right now. Because the family went to Arlington on Memorial Day several years ago and experienced the world headed there and stopped on roadways I am sure I am right, especially as it is a beautiful day, warm and sunny.

Some days I write on Facebook because it is faster - that's what I did Friday afternoon - so I am posting this picture to introduce Doctor Duck, a cute souvenir someone gave me when I was at Walter Reed Hospital Thursday to tell stories.

That was an interesting day. Snafu with the performing space so we made a dash to a different building - but no one knew we had moved. The people in the new location were surprised but those that could stayed and enjoyed the stories.

The real snafu came as I went back to my car and it was all my doing. I was parked in a seven level parking building thinking I had parked on level 3. I hadn't .  Searched for 40 minutes to find my car until I realized I kept overlooking floor 1. You got it! There it was in the exact spot I thought it would be - just on a different level. Later when I told my sister about the mess-up she told me a great tip. "Use your phone. Take a picture of where you park it next time." Good advice!!!!!


The Choice is Mine

Jim's bread.

A few years before he died Jim tried some cooking - bread making and soup concoctions. He was good at both. Delicious soups and worthy bread.

I found these pictures the other day. Nice memory. I can almost smell that bread and I certainly remember how we enjoyed the taste of it.

Finding these pictures reminded me of Thorton Wilder's play Our Town - when in the third act the stage manager advises Emily, recently deceased, who wants to come back to life "just for a day", to chose an insignificant day to re-live.

I felt that advice like a hot blade because I have been working on a story about Jim and me and our young life together. In doing that I am reliving even the slightest moment I can remember and sifting for those that will make a story.

I am not saying that its easy to do that work. Its difficult to make choices. And, more, its difficult to wade through things you wish you could re-do. Having said that, I am not sorry to be tackling the memories. But, I have decided to delay the first telling of the story. Its not ready and I am not ready. I have not settled on the why of telling it outside our family.

Originally I planned to tell it in June for Jim's birthday.

Well, that's not happening. Its delayed until August and it might possibly be delayed until February for Valentine's. However I am a stubborn devil and when I want to work out a story I stick to it -  maybe beyond reason.

There will be other stories to tell on the scheduled dates if I keep delaying my "love story." Actually my storytelling dance card is doing okay - - local and out of town - - which feels good. Its my house work that is taking a beating.

The good news is that I can do whatever it is whenever I want to!

Isn't that a nice thing to grasp?

The choice is mine.



Jim Schoettler

Working on my new story, Love Notes, keeps me focused on days in Baltimore when Jim and I met.
Not complaining. I love it.
Especially as it seems to be creating some serendipity connections between then and now.

When I boarded the train in Charlotte to head to Baltimore to enter Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing I was carrying a book that a nurse gave me "to read on your trip." I did read "Miss Susie Slagles" by Augusta Tucker as the train clipped off the miles toward Baltimore. By the time I reached the nurses home to check in my imagination was fired by Tucker's novel and her romanticized version of Hopkins in the early 1900s. I loved it.

I have been re-reading Tucker's novel as part of my "research" for my new story. It prompts many memories.

Yesterday my friend Kay called from Texas, "Do you want to go back to Hopkins in June?" Before I could say, "YES." she added. "lets stay where we did last year?" She read my mind. Those words were on my tongue. Last year we stayed in a renovated row-house on the street where Jim and I lived when we got married. Talk about walking back into the past - - it was great. "YES"  Now, the plans are underway and I am very excited to return to the old neighborhood.

I have also been reading a history of Hopkins as a teaching hospital.

Last night at family gathering a new acquaintance suggested I read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" which is the story of a major breakthrough in research on cervical cancer which occurred in 1951. Jim came to JHH in 1952 and I arrived in 1954. I recognized the names of researchers. I was sure Jim would have known them. It would have been so great to talk about it with him.

That led me to call one of Jim's classmates. He is an OB-GYN - its his field. "Yes, I read the book - went to see the author speak. She was terrific. Several of the researchers had been professors at time we were there. You were right to recognize the names." He and is wife may be coming to the scientific meetings the same time Kay and I will be there. Maybe they will try to stay in the same area we are.  Yes, he would like to talk about the days he lived in a boarding house very like the one in Miss Susie Slagles. "I remember it well."

There are others I want to see and talk with and places I want to go. I know I will have to work hard to walk down memory lane because so much has been changed.

But  - - it will be worth the struggle.

I really love it when life moves in circles!



A plate of avocados!


My daughter went shopping at Costco - the store where you cannot buy just one of anything. She came home with a green plastic net bag of these delicious treats. Are they fruits or vegetables? Really doesn't matter. We will have them eaten and gone before that is settled.

I did not always like avocados.
I had never eaten one until I was married.

Jim loved them. Raised in California he was used to them on his family table in a salad or smashed into guacamole. His family is not Latin but their taste buds often craved all things from across the border.

The first time I was served guacamole was at the Original Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio, Tex. It was recommended for having the BEST. This was before Riverwalk and the re-do of the river. Although it was not in a great location the parking lots were filled and it was packed with people.

 Jim was eager to have some "real" Mexican food and to introduce me to it. I was shocked when I discovered that the pile of green slime smeared on my plate was absolutely delicious. Ever since it has been a favorite.

I am so changed about avocados that I also love biting into an almost over-ripe avocado - - - just plain.

No, these won't be on this plate for long.

Would I be eating avacodos today if I had not met and married Jim? I doubt it.

I know he would not have acquired a taste for okra without me - so I have to say "no, probably not."

Just saying - there are layers of dear and wonderful things in my life that would not have been there if I had not boarded a train for Baltimore, MD to go to school and met a guy who had driven across the US to do the same. 

 Jim would be as saddened  today as I am over what is happening in Baltimore now.

On all sides - the violence is the explosion
that speak for the layers and layers

below it that finally erupted.


Talking About Storytelling

Telling with Better Said Than Done in early 2014.

That evening I was telling  The Dalmatian Dog, a story of a little dust-up between Jim and me twenty years before. Looking back the story is funny and sweet instead of being the drama it seemed at the time.  Jim liked it and enjoyed that I had turned the incidents into a story. I have a tape of one performance where I clearly hear him laughing out loud as I told it.

Before telling a story I listen to tapes of previous tellings. That evening as I listened to the story in the car on the way from my house in Maryland to the venue in Virginia tears slipped down my cheeks as stepped back into the story and relived it. I wondered if I had made a mistake in choosing this story.

Later the audience changed that. I laughed as I told it and loved telling the story for people who appreciated it and laughed in all the right places.

Jim felt close. That was an immediate and wonderful gift.

Soon after Jim died people asked me if it was hard to tell stories. "How can you do it?"
The answer to that is - "because I have to - its my comfort."

 Even though I may weep privately to prepare and afterwards- but for those moments when the memories are vivid and Jim is so close by it is well worth a few tears.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories.


A Gardenia on My Mind

 Welcome back!
After almost two years the gardenia plant is blooming.

A friend sent this plant to me in March 2012 as a sympathy connection when Jim died. It came in a box. I transferred it into a pot and it bloomed. It was a bright spot during some dark days.

After a while it tired. Its perfume grew faint and the blooms turned brown and dropped off.  It gradually shed all its leaves and was just a stick in the pot. I thought it was gone for good. Until a wise woman with a healthy green thumb took over a year ago and brought it back to a green leafy life.  It has grown and promised blooms since then but none ever opened until this week.

This is the first of three buds to open to show its lovely, soft white petals and to release its familiar scent which brings back sweet North Carolina memories.

My memory that comes to mind first is of a summer night in Monroe, NC.  The bedroom was lit by by moonlight and I was slipping into sleep in a comfortable bed in a strange home where I was a guest for a few days.  Near the bedroom window a large, years-old, gardenia bush was in full bloom. The intoxicating perfume filled the air in and out side the house.  It triggered my 13 year old imagination to times described in the Old South novels I loved to read.

Perhaps those romantic images were also stirred by the stories of the long-gone glory days of the Confederate South we listened to during the day. I was in this foreign town 20 some miles from home in Charlotte to attend a State gathering of the Children of the Confederacy. We were all teen-age descendants of those days.

My grandmother's father was a 16 year old water-boy in a regiment of locals named The Mecklenburg Farmers - which is what they were. He was injured at the Battle of Petersburg, Va, imprisoned in Southern Maryland and walked home at the end of the War. His name was Thomas Milton Hall and he is buried at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill, NC. I never did think about his soldiering or his war very much. He was what today we call "a grunt" in the Army. I can imagine he joined up because he wanted to be part of the excitement but all he gained was a hole in one hand and a ticket to sit on the porch with the "big boys" and talk about marching off to war.

My gardenia also reminds me of the small wristlet corsages that were popular for school proms and teen-ages dances in the 1950s. Orchids were too expensive for a boy's budget so the gardenia was an affordable choice. I always liked the small white gardenias best even though they were fragile and gradually the edges of the petals turned brown and looked tired as the evening wore on. But the perfume never faded. It still lingered on your clothes next morning.

As my gardenia opens now I breathe in it's perfume I think of three years ago and those sad days but somehow it also brings a reminder of the friendship and comfort so many people shared with me so that I could reach today where I can once again appreciate the gentle beauty of this fragile flower.


Ah, a REAL Typewriter

AH, the old Royal upright typewriter.

I loved the one that sat so temptingly on my grandfather's desk in his home office. Before I could say my alphabet I loved to climb up on his desk chair and hit the keys - making a noise as it made a mark on a piece of paper.

After my grandfather died that typewriter eventually became mine. Talk about a bit of happiness. By that time I made those marks to make words and tried writing things that made sense only to me.

Shortly after Jim and I married we bought an old upright typewriter at the Goodwill in Baltimore.  I am sure we could not have paid more than $20 dollars for it, if that much, because we would not have had more money than that. Jim thought he would write his medical papers on it but he had never taken typing and his large, warm, steady hands were constantly thwarted by the machine.

I never took a typing course in high school either but my hands have always been so much more agile when playing with the clacking typewriter keys than when I tried to make music on the piano.

Jim worked long hours in those months of medical school after we were married. I was a lonely bride
adjusting to this new life alone in our apartment. Many hours the typewriter was the reassuring noise that kept me company. Writing letters, stories and articles. I even sold several for only a few dollars but it made me feel more productive than the day job I had at the hospital. That's how the seed of the the idea that I could create something from inside my head was planted.

There have always been typewriters in our home. Many. They changed over the years from the old upright, to the sporty blue portable, to the wondrous IBM Selectric of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Who ever thought anything would eclipse the Selectric - but the computer came along.
Even though it was silent, it had seductive skills of memory which lured me away from my old typewriters.

Our first computer was a "luggable" which I could hardly lift. These days I carry a mini-ipad in my purse so I can sort-of type on a touch screen where ever I am.

But its not close, not even close,  to the wonderful sound of making noise on an old upright - a real typewriter.

That's why I keep all our old typewriters - just in case!