Early Morning Reverie - sometimes is a pain.

This morning I woke up way ahead of the earliest alarm and despite having things I should get started on, I mean important things that need for me to get started on, I snuggled deeper into the warmth of the covers. Sometimes that between dreaming and waking state is a good place to linger.

First I thought back through what is now last week. Keeping things together, checking things off my lists, working on stories, a couple of lattes at Starbucks --

Then I remembered a surprise from two days ago - - something to look forward to in May. I received a note telling me a friend wanted me to select a show at Strathmore Hall Music Center as a gift. Strathmore's program line up is rich but with just a quick glance through the next three months on their schedule I knew what it would be.

I chose An Evening with Shirley MacLaine in May.

I have admired Shirley MacLaine's work for years and also appreciated her support of women's issues and the ERA.
Now this a wonderful opportunity to see her at work in person.

That's how life is isn't it?
Keeping on and keeping on and then - wham - a delicious and thoughtful surprise.

And then - there are things to mull over:

While I was drifting in this reverie in the warmth of my bed, I replayed yesterday afternoon at the National Museum of Women in the Arts where I was part of the 8th Annual SWAN Celebration of Women in the Arts. It was an afternoon of play readings.

I was presenting one of the short monologues from The Hello Girls - a preview of the show before the Capital Fringe in July. I felt my performance went well. The audience liked it. They stopped me and told me so afterwards. That felt very good.

But the best part for me was hearing the other theater groups and solo performers showcase their previews for the Fringe. I enjoyed watching the ensembles work together to create the scenes and characters without the usual stage props and costumes. The other two solo performers commanded the stage with energy and their well crafted stories. I watched them "at work" and I learned more about stage craft that will be very useful.

Catherine Aselford, actor and director, organized and produced the event. She arranged the line-up of plays and performing groups/solo performers to complement each other and to create a satisfying whole. Good show!

Jim Schoettler
The afternoon ended with a chance to talk with the other performers and members of the audience who stayed afterwards.  Another surprise when Jim showed up.  One of the performers mentioned that she remembered meeting and talking with Jim at one of my shows a few years back. I felt warm and hugged and very grateful.

Several women from the audience, a performer and a playwright, both my-age contemporaries, approached me with compliments on my performance and then they added, "it was wonderful having an older performer on stage in the mix." Oops. I was a little taken-back.

We exchanged notes on what their work is - on stage and with their play-writing. It was considerable which, of-course, made me even more grateful for their complimenting my work - or was that it, I wondered. Weren't they really complimenting me for being able to get up on the stage - and that people include me even though I am silver-haired and sit on a stool?

As I started my gallop down that track of thinking I was suddenly reminded that I said recently I would like to be more like author and thought-provoker Anne Lamott - - - what would Anne Lamott say in this situation?

So I reined in that stream of throught and asked myself
why is it that I am thrilled to be seeing Shirley MacLaine at work in May.

Is it because Jim and I saw her break-through movie at the Uptown Theater in DC when we were first married?

Is it because she has been to Downtown Abbey?

Is it because she is an older woman who is still at work -
 remembering how impressed I had been by Estelle Parson's October 2013 stage performance at Arena Stage that I wrote about it.

Or has it crossed my mind that this is my only chance to see her before we both drop dead  - -

I am glad I opened my mouth and invited Anne Lamott to chime in. Thinking of her possible answers she helped me put the brakes on as I sped away on a fast train of useless thinking.

After mulling it over here is my answer!

None of the above apply!

I want to see Shirley MacLaine in a live performance because I know it will be a fun and enjoyable evening -  interesting, funny and provacative - - and I will learn something about stage craft by carefully watching her at work.

I wish the two women who spoke to me the best of luck, hope that our paths cross again and that we are all fortunate to have chances to follow the "yellow brick road" we "creatives" love and thrive on.

I hope people come to hear me tell stories because I have something to say - not because I have white hair -

but hey, if you are looking for an older woman performer  - - who has her own stool - call me.



An Eye-Opener

Thumbing through some old journals I stumbled across an entry in one that brought back the memory of something I thought I would never forget ..... But I had. 

 In 1999 I booked gigs in North Carolina for my first on-my-own storytelling road trip. I was performing at Meredith College in Raleigh and at the Museum of the New South in Charlotte for an event sponsored by the Mecklenburg County Women's Commission. I was so excited about telling, Flesh on Old Bones, my stories about my North Carolina women that I did not think about the dreaded eight hour drive ahead.

Saturday afternoon before I was to leave on Sunday, I was moving fast around the house to get ready for the road trip. I stepped out onto the deck to ask my husband, Jim, who was working in the yard, a question. He answered and when I whirled around to go back into the house I tripped on the doorway. I splatted forward and met the kitchen floor full on my face. I felt my glasses dig into my cheekbone on the right side.

Jim heard the commotion and rushed in. "Stay still until I check you out." His doctor-self always jumped to the rescue. He did his checking and then he helped me to a near-by couch.
"Ellouise, this eye is going to look bad. It is already swelling. I will ice it for you."
 I reached up and when I touched my forehead and the area around the right eye it was tender.
"Jim, what will I do. I have to drive to North Carolina tomorrow."

He was crushing ice in the kitchen.
"We will see. Just keep you head down for right now."
" I have to go."
His doctor’s voice answered,  "We will see, Ellouise."

By next day my face was swollen and the right side was now a deep magenta. I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror.
 "Jim, " I called out. "I look like I have been beaten up. How can I tell stories to people?"
Please look at this, my eyelid is so swollen I can't see out of my right eye."

Jim carefully lifted my eyelid. Then he reached in the medicine chest and brought out the band-aid box. "This might work." He taped my eyelid up so that I could see out of the right eye.”
"Ellouise, I don't think you can drive to NC like this ….
plus the way you look you are going to scare people."

"I am going." And, I did. Changing the band-aids frequently and wondering how I was going to get along.

First stop was Meredith college where those folks were ever so delicately, so painfully polite they never mentioned my face. Only the young guy who wired me up with a lapel mic said anything –
 "what happened to you, Lady."
 After that I told my hour program of stories feeling like a gold fish in a bowl as I stood in an amphitheater looking up into about 100 young faces who looked to me like they were wondering “what happened to you, lady.”

When I called Jim that evening he was encouraging,
 “Jim, they act like they don’t believe me when I tell them I fell.”
“ Honey I was pretty sure they wouldn’t.
"Sounds like your eye is all right. You are doing a good job. Keep it up."

“That felt good but I would have felt better if there had been a strong warm hug to go along with it.

Next day, still using the band-aids to hold up the eye-lid so that I could see to drive, I drove on to Charlotte, to perform for the women's commission event. A woman met me at the museum to help me set up. She gasped when she saw me. Then she explained that the issue they were working on for this year was Domestic Violence. We both agreed I looked like they had brought me in as a poster for the issue. I was embarrassed and felt a bit dumb, that I had not made the connection between my face and their issue work.

I swallowed hard and explained how I had tripped in the kitchen.
"Well, tell them that when you start your program. Some of the women will believe you - some won't."
At least that would be better than ignoring what a sight I looked like  as I had done at Meredith.

Oops. I had forgotten about my mother.
She lived in Charlotte, where I was born and raised. Part of my trip was a visit with her. Yes, she was coming to the performance - with my Aunt. Sure enough, they came all dressed up and a little early.

When I saw them come in  I hurried to the back of the room to greet them. They both gasped. Mama seemed to have lost her voice but my Aunt Katherine was never without words,
"Good lord a mighty Ellouise, what happened to you, girl".  And I told them the thumbnail version of the story. When I finished, Mama had her words back, "Well I knew Jim didn't do that." I hugged her.

The woman who spoke after my stories was a survivor of Domestic Violence who now spoke to groups to  educate the public. When she was called to the microphone she paused and waited a moment before she said –
"I used to look like that," she looked over at me "but it wasn't because I fell in my kitchen – like she did. It was because my husband hit me."

They liked my stories that night – they laughed and listened and they told me so afterwards.
But there is no question that the story that was the "eye-opener" was the survivor’s story.


Monday - A Fresh Start

There is sun this morning and I am grateful. I am soon off to Fed Ex to send in my tax docs to an accountant - thanks to my daughter, Karen. Yesterday when I was talking with my daughter Robin I told her about a new project I have in mind. Through our conversation the ideas were watered. I started writing a few things down before I went to bed. It must have influenced my dreams. Lots of dreams last night. I woke up feeling like sparks were kindling. Grateful for starting a new week with a tinge of excitement. Now off to the car to shed a heavy burden. How can a manila envelope that weighs so little be carrying papers that felt so heavy?


Happy St. Pat's Day.

Celebrating St.Pat's Day with a story told to Jim and me in a pub in Dublin. I taped this version of the story in 2013.



A Little Blue, e.schoettler, collage

At the local Starbucks time of day makes a big difference.
4PM yesterday there was a fair crowd and multi-layers of sound blending the voices of all the conversations.

Since I am usually alone when I am there I spend my time
people-watching or eavesdropping.

After a while a white haired man across the room stood up to put his coat on. He was not totally steady on his feet but he was on his own and hefting a heavy backpack onto his back. That's when I noted his wrinkled, aged hands. They reminded me of the look of Jim's wonderful, strong, and capable hands as his last days ticked away.

Those hands brought me up short.

You see, they confirmed again to me that I never saw Jim as an aging man. I always saw him as the vital and vigorous guy I fell in love with. Funny how that happens, isn't it? It's a gift.

I hope he saw me the same way.

The irony for all long-married couples is that you continue to hold those youthful images of each other - - - but once one of you is gone there is no one who sees or thinks of the one left you as you were when you were young and starry-eyed.

Darn. That's really too bad. One of life's tricks.


Giving Thanks Feels Good

Always happy when there is a parking place right beside the patio at my favorite Starbucks near my house. It makes things so much easier so I said, "thank you" to the "parking place Angel" as I pulled into the spot.

As much as I was anticipating tasting my Chai Tea Latte I walked across the parking lot to the service station next door first before I went in to Starbucks. I had a mission. I was going in to thank the service manager for warning my daugher that her 20 year old Toyota had seen its best days and was now clearly in its worst. "Use caution" he told her a few hours ago.

A good honest evaluation if often tough to hear - but in the case of an old car it can save your life as well as protect your bank account. There was a chance Sean's conversation this morning was doing both.

It feels good to say "Thank you" doesn't it? I
was savoring that good feeling when I took my place in line to order my "latte" - then I realized something that brought tears to my eyes as it  made me feel even better.

I had just done exactly what Jim would have done - what he often did - acknowledge and thank folks when they helped him out.

I suspect that's one of the reasons those guys at the corner service station watch out for me and our daughter.

Here is a  "thank you. thank you" to Jim -


Feeling Scared

When I was in Georgia in August I sat on my sister's deck and watched humming birds feeding and then sitting on the edge to taste the sweet juice as it ran down their throats.

Today I am hanging onto the edge, feeling pretty much like this bird looks, but its not sweet juices I am tasting. It is stinging bitter juice that's burning my throat.

I am out of my comfort zone.

Whenever I get ready to speak my mind I have to take deep breaths before I say what I think. I have been taking deep breaths all day. Or longer, but I don't remember when I first read about the letter the rogue Senators sent to the Iranian leadership,

Now there is a lot more written and I am breathing even harder - are you?

Do you have questions like I do - such as  -

Who are those guys in the Senate that did this thing?

What are they thinking? Are they capable of thinking?

They have been elected to the most respected leadership body in our land and they don't know how to conduct themselves?

They embarrass all of us in this country when they act so ignorant that they forget the good manners their mothers might have taught them - follow the rules and traditions of the Senate if you were elected to serve there.

Didn't that new guy from Arkansas get the hand-out with the rules when he checked in less than three months ago? Didn't any of the old-timers that signed the letter know better?

I tell you something. I am a southern woman - an elder southern woman - and I am embarrassed when I read that this new southern boy has been so dumb that he has messed with the President, the Senate where the home town guys sent him to serve, and all of us in this country.  And the old-timers stood with him and let him do it.

Arkansas aren't you ashamed of this one of your good ole boys? Is there anyway you can get him to come home before he shows off any more than he has.

Bottom line for me - - I am more than embarrassed - I am scared!

I am going to clean out a safe place in my basement - a place to hide.