Pelican Triva

With Avila Beach on my mind I can't forget the pelicans. They are so tame on Harford Pier that they sit and preeen for photographs, letting you see all their colors.

Remember this?

The famous limerick about pelicans:
"A wonderful bird is the pelican.
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Food enough for a week,

But I'm damned if I can see how the helican."
written by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910.

As kids we would chant this rhyme, just to get to say the last line.

I think this is an American Brown Pelican. (my photograph) Not knowing much about pelicans, other than recognizing that they are pelicans, I checked google. Wikipedia supplied the information. Here is a prep for your next walk on a pier or trivia game.

FYI: ( excerpted from Wikipedia)
Pelicans are large birds with enormous, pouched bills and long wings. The smallest of the pelican is the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), small individuals of which can be as little as 2.75 kg (6 lbs), 106 cm (42 in) and have a wingspan of 1.83 m (6 ft). The largest pelican species is believed to be the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), at up to 15 kg (33 lbs), 183 cm (72 in) and a maximum wingspan of nearly 3.5 m (11.5 ft).
Pelicans feed either by group fishing or plunge diving - which is used almost exclusively by the American Brown Pelican.

Pelicans are gregarious and nest colonially, the male bringing the material, the female heaping it up to form a simple structure. Pairs are monogamous for a single season but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest.

And what's the story of those old pelican stained glass church windows, you ask.

In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist.

It also became a symbol in bestiaries for self-sacrifice, and was used in heraldry ("a pelican in her piety" or "a pelican vulning (wounding) herself").

Another version of this is that the pelican used to kill its young and then resurrect them with its blood, this being analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus. Thus the symbol of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is a pelican, and for most of its existence the headquarters of the service was located at Pelican House in Dublin, Ireland.

This legend may have arisen because the pelican used to suffer from a disease that left a red mark on its chest. Alternatively it may be that pelicans look as if they are doing that as they often press their bill into their chest to fully empty their pouch.

This is especially good to know for the next trivia game:

The symbol is used today on the Louisiana state flag and Louisiana state seal, as the Brown pelican is the Louisiana state bird.

(information excerpted from Wikipedia.)


Fat Cats

The first time we went to Avila Beach our daughter Robin was with us. In the morning she was up and out to scout the area while Jim and I were still sleeping. She had her first morning coffee at Fat Cats. Since her discovery it has been a regular stop for us

Fat Cats , a small retaurant at the entrance to Harford Pier, Avila Beach, CA., is a great place to have breakfast. You can smell the sea, and hear the birds swooping over the pier hoping to snag a snack.

Scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, coffee - and for Jim, hash browned potatoes. Like southerners relish grits; Californians savor their hash browns. Sadly, I have never mastered cooking them.

But, after years of practice, I can make vegetable soup that rivals the soup Jim's mother made. Even he says so. A trade-off.

Buttermilk Sky

These skies made me think of the old Hoagy Carmichael song, "Ole Buttermilk Sky".
I was a kid when I saw him singing the song in the movies, but when I noticed these clouds I heard his voice.

Sometimes I can't believe the time I spend tracking down a memory.

Where did I hear Hoagy Carmichael sing that song?

I could picture a movie and I knew I would have seen it at the Plaza Theater. But what movie? Thanks to google I worked it out. The secret in the search was hitting the right keyword.

At first I was down a wrong path thinking it was the movie Paleface with Bob Hope and Jane Russell. Nope! It was the 1946 movie, Canyon Passage with Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, and Brian Donlevy. A 1946 release. The video cover shows a banner across the top, "Ole Buttermilk Sky - Hoagy Carmichael.

I knew I was about10 years old when I saw it. I tell you I may not remember yesterday but I have practically total recall on the days when we lived at 814 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte, NC.

Mama moved us to that 12 family apartment house, Apt #12, after Daddy joined the US Army Air Corps during World War II. I was in the second grade and walked the eight blocks to Elizabeth School. At that time, it was safe enough for kids to roam their neighborshoods on their own.

814 Hawthorne Lane was a village so far as kids were concerned. Lots of people looking out for what was happening. And we lived equidistant from each of our grandparents with aunts and uncles in between. And people who knew us and our families I felt safe.

It was a sweet time - even though I did not fully appreciate it at the time.

But like so much, it is gone.

The last time I was in Charlotte I rode down Hawthorne Lane. The entire square block has been razed - its just red dirt with tufts of grass and pieces of wood strewn around. Waiting for progress.


Beach Duet

Nature's duo singing on a beach on the Central California Coast.


3-D collage. Recycling art work. Cut it up and make it into something new. Art work becomes material for new work. Sort of like life - building today on yesterday, and tomorrow on today. Reminds me of a linking story.


Focus on Storytelling

Today I taped a new story for 'the Stories in Time' TV show.

Well it's not a new story - only new for me to tell. How Jack Got a New Shirt.

Lately I have been caught up with Jack Tales. They water my North Carolina roots. I found a bare-bones of the story on the web and re-wrote it, adding dialogue and plots twists. As I worked with the story I began imagining a 9 year old skinny Jack who looked and acted a lot like our youngest grandson Scotty looked and acted a couple of years ago . Scotty like Jack has older brothers who laugh and tease so there were images for those scalawags as well.

When the images of Scotty and his brothers popped into my head the story began to flow. The image stayed with me for the telling this afternoon. I am going to love taking the image of Scotty with me when I tell this story at schools this year.

TIP: When working on a story having a mental image of someone you know who fits the character helps with bringing life to the character and the story.

My first version of the story was OK but it felt like it was missing something. When I told the story to Jim a couple of days ago he was quiet for a few minutes - then asked, "where is the suspense? you need something to involve me more." We tossed it around for a few minutes and then, of course, why did it matter that Jack got a new shirt.

Thank you, Dan Yashinsky.

A few weeks ago Jim and I attended Dan's workshop in Pittsburgh and he talked about creating "the suspense" that keeps the listener connected to the story. So when Jim asked the question, "where is the suspense?" we had a common understanding of what he was talking about - of what was missing for the listener.

Our common understanding was the magic so that I could make the most of Jim's feedback on the story.

Thanks, Jim.

Remember When

Jim and I escaped to PA over the week-end for some quiet and to get away from all the things at home that we ought to be doing.

Like always our first stop was Hollabaugh's orchard store for fruit and vegetables. When I stepped out of the car I looked over my shoulder and saw these clothes flapping in the breeze. The sight brought back so many memories.

* Feeling good if you got your clothes washed and on the line before 9 am.

* The smell of a bed newly made with fresh sheets which had been dried in the summer sun.

* How wet diapers stuck to your fingers as they froze when you were hanging them out on a windy winter day.
Thinking about that now - how ridiculous to hang them out - but without a dryer where else could you put them.
Then the folding.

* Propping the clothesline up with a pole so the sheets and towels did not drag on the ground.

* Liking snap clothes pins better than the kind you pushed onto the line.

* How glad I was when I bought a clothes pin bag that slid down the line so I did not have to hold the second clothes pin in my mouth.

There are so many more. I may add more as I think of them.

Do you remember the days of clothes lines and clothes pins?


Mourning a Storyteller

Storytell is a world-wide community of storytellers on the web. I have been a member of this family for at least eight years. Some I have met face-to-face over the years in various places. Others I have never met and will never meet. But we know, support and care about each other.

Last week we lost one of our group. Illinois storyteller, Leanne Johnson. died. She was a wonderful storyteller, a kind, compassionate and loving wife and friend who embraced life - a woman who will be missed and remembered.

This morning Hawaii storyteller, Vickie Dworkin shared this post from Leanne to the List. Leanne wrote this post in 2001 in response to the question, "how did you know when to call yourself a storyteller?" It feels right to remember her in her own words.

A Post sent by Leanne Johnson - -
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2001 7:14 AM

To: STORYTELL@venus.twu.edu
Subject: Re: How did you know when to call yourself a storyteller

When everything you hear,
tells you a story,
When everything you see,
reminds you of a story,
When everything you taste
conjures up a story,
When everything you smell,
evokes for you a story,
When everything you touch,
summons up a story,

You might indeed be a storyteller.

But it is not until
you release those stories,
Allow the images to free form into the
imaginations of others,
Spilling their seeds
into the creation of more stories,
Funneled through the love and cares of family and friends,
who will love you
Enriched, enhanced,
amplified with the hopes and dreams of strangers
who have no other reason to love
or care for you,
Nestled into the unconscious mind of a growing child
where they will grow with goodness and strength.

Ahh, then, call yourself a storyteller.

And when they offer you praise,

the sounds,
the sights,
the tastes,
the smells,
the touch,

Of the Love of Story.


Its About What We Think

Today storyteller Karen Chace sent the link for this site to Storytell, a large web community of storytellers. When I checked it out I liked the story of the old lady with three hairs on her head - and the message about what we do to ourselves with our attitudes. The author gives an ezine link so I am passing it on to you. Be sure and read the story in italics.

Your Attitude Is Your Choice by Michael A. Verdicchio

Few people believe that their attitude is their own choice. For most people, their attitude depends upon people and circumstances. If people are nice to them, then they have a good attitude. If circumstances are favorable, they are in a good mood.

On the other hand, if someone treats them unfairly, then they have a bad attitude. If the circumstances are not favorable, they are in a bad mood.

Most people fail to realize that their attitude and their mood are really their own choice. Let me give you a silly example.

Awhile back, someone sent the following to me in an email.

A little old lady went to the mirror one morning and noticed that she had only three hairs on her head. As she looked into the mirror, she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today." That's exactly what she did. And, she had a great day.

The next morning, at the mirror once again, the little old lady noticed that she only had two hairs on her head. Looking herself right in the eye, she said, "Today, I think I'll part my hair down the middle." That's exactly what she did. And, she had a great day.

The next day, as the little old lady looked into the mirror, there was only one hair on her head. She looked at that one lonely hair and said, "Today I think I'll wear my hair in a pony tail." That's exactly what she did. And she had a great day.

The following morning the little old lady looked into the mirror and there wasn't a single hair on her head. Her eyes lit up, and she said, "Yeah! I don't have to fix my hair today!"

Your attitude is your choice.

Excerpted from a blog by:

Michael A. Verdicchio is a husband, father, minister, author,and broadcaster. He has been the voice on numerous productions over the years. Michael has a free newsletter called, THE PEP LETTER, at http://www.christianinspirationalgifts.com/pepletter.html .

Other articles can be found at:

Article Source: Self Improvement Articles from PositiveArticles.Com


More than a TV Program

My friend Ed Myers, aka Lee Shepherd, invited me to be a guest on his TV program for Fairfax Cable Television. "come talk with us and tell the Wedding Dress story." What's not to love about working with Ed, and some storytelling?

There is a story about Ed's name! And isn't there always? Ed and I have known each other since Miss Terry's second grade class at the Elizabeth School in Charlotte, NC. "You probably saw my first stage performance," I reminded him, "in fact you must have been in it" " Well, I remember being a tree." he said. "That's the one - no speaking parts. Just standing. I was " Mary, Mary Quite Contrary" and I just stood there holding a watering can." He was Ed then - until he entered professional broadcasting on a network television station in Washington. As Lee says, "There was a guy named Ed Myer already on air here and it was too confusing to have two - so I changed my name".

Working with Lee and his co-host, Chuck Langdon, was a treat. (left - right: Chuck, Ellouise, Lee)

They create a warm easy environment, a skill learned from years of experience. And their voices are wonderful to listen to. Lee started in radio as a disk jockey in Charlotte when we were in high school and his voice has always had a deep smoothness about it - a real radio presence.

Since we don't live in Charlotte - it means a lot to me to be with someone who is a part of the same history. Such connections. No need to explain anything. A quick reference and you know you are seeing the same pictures. Talking about the same people. A street name. A school team. Shared memories.

Lee showed me pictures, "know these people? They are storytellers." Well I am happy I recognized one, Charles Kuralt. The other was a mystery WW II soldier. "Marion Hargrove". Lee reminded me, " we all graduated from Charlotte Central High School." Lee explained that as he works up the story for radio and broadcasts he works in photos and "angles" to enrich the story. Ah, another storyteller.

I hope you have read Charles Kuralt's essays about the people of North Carolina or remember his "on the road" television essays. After graduating from the University of NC he came back to Charlotte where he worked for the Charlotte News. His early columns, short, newsy, human interest pieces, are the seeds for his later work.

After World War II, Marion Hargrove wrote his popular "See Here Private Hargrove." I was still in elementary school when the book came out but I remember the talk about it. And the pride in it. Charlotte was a smaller town then and he was a home-town boy. I remember seeing the movie, "See Here Private Hargrove with Robert Walker playing the lead. And later reading his book - I think I will be re-visiting that book.

Curious about what happened to Marion Hargrove I googled him. I am glad I did. I found this bit of biography on the web.

"Marion Hargrove

Marion Lawton Hargrove, Jr., a screenwriter and best-selling author, died on Aug. 23 from complications of pneumonia. He was 83.

Hargrove was working as a features editor at the Charlotte News during World War II when he was drafted into the Army. The luckless private chronicled his basic training experiences at Fort Bragg, N.C., in a series of humorous columns for his hometown newspaper. His stories were then collected into the book, "See Here, Private Hargrove!" which sold more than 2.6 million copies, hit number one on the best-seller list and became a feature film, starring Robert Walker, Sr. and Donna Reed.

After his time in the service ended, Hargrove spent three years traveling through Asia as a staff writer for the GI publication, Yank. When he returned to the states, he moved to Hollywood and wrote nine screenplays and more than a dozen scripts for TV shows like "The Waltons," "I Spy," and "Fantasy Island." He also penned a film adaptation of ''The Music Man,'' which won a Writers Guild Screenplay Award.

Posted on September 16, 2003 11:32 PM "

Another former schoolmate of ours, Jan Karon, writes about a world we all wish were true in her books about Mitford.

There are others.

My Hood cousin, Mary Kratt, aka Mary Ran Norton, a well-known poet and southern historian, has written the many times re-published local history, Charlotte. The first time I stepped before a mic as a storyteller was for a program, A Genealogy Entertainment, Mary and I performed together at Queens College.

Thanks, Lee for your example in how to draw more memories, connectios and depth into a story. And thanks, Ed, for reminding me of where we come from.


What's Behind a Purple Door?

Again today I spent time going through files of photos I have taken when traveling, looking for images for an exhibition and hoping to remember stories. I found this photo.

In 2001 we arrived in Nice from Italy two days after September 11. So, with the skies closed, we were stranded in France on our own. The tour group we had come to meet never arrived from Dulles.

That's why we did not attend Mass at the Matisse Chapel in Vence, France, even though that promise had been one of the major reasons I wanted to take the tour we did. We did go to the Matisse Chapel. Jim and I rented a car and drove up the hills to Vence. It felt like a pilgrimmage to me - to finally see this crowning work of Matisse, one of my hero-artists.

The chapel was a stunner. Since we were on our own, not with a tour, we were in charge of our time. We chose two chairs in the chapel and settled in to take the time to savor the images and to watch the changing color patterns from the stained glass windows as the day light shifted across the room. By the time we were ready to leave we were fully satisfied.

Being in this space with such beauty was a healing from all the horror and fear of those days.

As we left the chapel museum I stepped onto the sidewalk, and looked up to the hill across the street where I saw this gorgeous purple door with purple wisteria blooming around it.

The perfect setting for a story.

What's behind that purple door?

On a whim I googled "purple door' - to see what I could see -
and here is a teaser of what I saw:

Purple Door is a day spa in Wake Forest, NC

Purple Door is a christian band,

Purple Door is a Tea Room in Detroit that looks like a place I would like to go - if I am ever in Detroit again.

Purple Door looks to be an x-rated site on MySpace.

Purple Door is an August music rock band festival in Lewisburg, PA. Its called a well kept secret. Sorry you have missed this year. Looks interesting, try again next year.

And this is just a sample.


Elderly Like Sex

On the lower left hand edge of the front page of the Washington Post is a hot story, "Elderly Staying Sexually Active."

Spokesperson for the University of Chicago says, "There is a popular perception that older people aren't as interested in sex as younger people." She goes on, " Our study shows that's simply not true. Older people value sexuality as an important part of life."

From the National Institute on Aging, the primary funder for the study comes, " This study paints a portrait of this aspect of older Americans' lives that suggests a previously uncharacterized vitality and interest i sexuality." She goes on. " This has not perhaps been fully appreciated."

I have a few questions to ask:

Who are these people?

Where have they been?

How old are they?

Its sort of like hearing someone wake up one morning, realizing that their grandparents DO IT!


Is this a medical break through - or just another sign of the aging of the "boomers."

Sometime last year, well before this study, I ran into an artist I know as I was dropping off a deposit at the bank. She told me she was leaving for Europe in a couple of days, traveling alone. We talked about her trip and then I commented on how well she looked.

Actually she looked fabulous, tall, willowy, a short bob of snow white hair, and a peaches and cream complexion.

" Not bad for a 91 year old broad, if I do say so myself."

" I don't believe you are 91 - how do you keep so well?"

"Well, my dear, I am 91. And I tell everyone my secret.

I take my pills, just like the doctor tells me to and "
she paused,

and "I have good sex."

True story.


CATS - A Story

When I was growing up Mama would not let us have a pet.

My sister Lynda really wanted a pet. Once when she was walking by Todd's Florist she spied a little grey kitten in the window. She went into the store and asked if she could have it and they gave it to her. Mama wouldn’t let her keep it.

Another time Lynda tied her hair ribbon around a stray cat’s collar and dragged it home – she told Mama that it had followed her. Mama was firm. No pets.

So, years later, that memory of Lynda wanting a pet kicked in when my aunt found an orphaned litter of kittens and offered Karen and Robin each one. “Mama please – can’t we have them. Please. They are free. They don’t cost anything. Please Mama. Can’t we? Can’t we please.”

I don’t know what I was thinking – but I gave in and we took the kittens. One was a grey mix and one was sort of a calico. We named the grey cat – Grey and the calico was called Popcorn.

I knew nothing about cats. I had no idea that once they are old enough they mate quickly and reproduce within forty-five days. First thing we knew they were both pregnant and we were giving away kittens. The girls were ecstatic. They each kept one of the new kittens.

It became almost Biblical:
Grey begat Tricie and Popcorn begat Bing-Bing and the before we turned around – Trixie and Popcorn and Bing-bing began begatting. It was snowballing

Once we had two females deliver at one time. One cat had four babies and the other had five. Jim and I put each mother cat in a separate brown card board box and moved them into our bedroom for safe keeping.

One morning I heard some sounds from the direction of the boxes. I looked over to see the four-kitten mother stepping back into her box with one of the other cat's kittens held gently in her mouth. She dropped the kitten into her box and stepped in to nurse the five. Go figure. She wanted to have as many babes as that other mother.

I am embarrassed to admit it. At one time we had 23 cats. It was absurd. No, it was crazy.

It was not easy but we finally whittled down to one cat. His name was Sammy. He was a big cat – with long grey fur - a mixed breed with a lot of Persian.

And our one-cat life was fine – just fine for several years - until the cold and rainy night my cousin Tom found a stray kitten huddled near the gas pump in a filling station. He stopped by our house with a heart-rending story about this pathetic kitten who had been freezing to death and he had thought at once of me and my kind heart and he knew I would never forgive him if he did not bring it to me. The “no” was on my lips but he turned on his familiar charm – the same charm I had been a sucker for since we were kids. I rescued the cat. If we named it I don’t remember it.

Not long after we took in Tom’s cat my mother and my sister came for a visit. First,let me fill you in about my youngest sister. Mama and I were pregnant at the same time - Dena is six weeks older than my daughter Karen. Same parents – big surprise.

One afternoon I heard Dena saying, “Please mama, Please. I will take care of it”
A pause and then, “please let me take the cat home. Karen said Ellouise would let me have it.”

I could not help it - I remembered Lynda – and Mama’s rule about not having pets –
and then - I heard my mother saying,
"Oh, all right, you can take the cat home."
I could hardly believe my ears. What had happened to Mama's no pet rule?

I did not say anything about that to Mama – I wanted Dena to take the cat - – just like my aunt had wanted me to take two kittens off her hands.

Now that might have been the end of the story except Mama called me a week after she got home ", this is a female cat - -
You gave me a pregnant female cat."


That cat delivered five kittens. One, a smokey grey long hair gave away Sam as the father.

Several days after they were born the mother cat slipped out the back door and she did not come back. Mama drove around until she found the cat - dead in a gutter on near-by Scott Avenue. She had been hit by a car.

This left my Mama, Daddy and Dena with five little orphan-kittens - - hungry and helpless. What to do?

I have to tell you, my mother is very resourceful and she really shines in a crisis. Mama went to Eckerds Drugstore and bought some baby doll baby bottles and a soft silky new-baby hair brush. They fed the kittens from the teeny tiny plastic baby doll bottles. - Mama remembers, "we sat there feeding them, you could see their little stomachs fill up.”

Then mama mixed up buckets of warm soapy water – using “no-more tears baby shampoo” and they dipped each kitten in the warm water bath - one of us dipped and one us would hold the hair dryer while the other one brushed them with the silky new-baby brush.

Just like we had seen the mother cats lick their babies with their soft pink tongues, cleaning them and loving them. The kittens thrived.

It was amazing but true - Mama was smitten with two of the kittens – a calico and a grey long hair. She could not choose between them. She told my sister Kathy, “I guess I will keep them both”

“Mama you can’t do that. The calico is a female and the grey is a male. They will have kittens.”

“Kathy don’t be silly. They wouldn’t do that. They are brother and sister.”

Mama – they don’t know that!”

My sister Kathy took the gray cat to Georgia and they named her Smoke.

Mama found homes for the others and they kept the calico.

Not long ago Mama was talking about that kitten.

“He was so pretty --- different
That's what we liked about him. We named him Mainard.

But you know something, Ellouise.
Mainard never made a sound. He could not Meow.
I mean, I did everything. I did everything but I could not teach him to Meow. I guess he needed his cat mother for that."

“He was the best pet we ever had.”

“ Mama. That cat was the only pet you ever had.”

“ Maybe so.”

(copyright e schoettler 2002)

Storyteller and His Frog

Storyteller and librarian Jane Dorfman invited me to come as a guest teller to the graduate storytelling class she is teaching at the University of Maryland . Fun!

"I would really like you to tell folktales and since none of the other guest tellers have told personal stories - - it would be good it you told one of your personal stories as well." Ok!

One of the ways I keep focused is to relate what I do today to what is coming up - so - I settled on The Wedding Dress, as the personal story. Saturday I will be telling that on Fairfax Va Public Cable. This would be an opportunity to rehearse with a live audience. For the Folktales I selected "All Things Are Connected" and "The Maiden in Green" as examples of tales I use for environmental stories when I am telling in schools for the Audubon and "Lazy Jack", just because I like telling Jack Tales. After that I would see how the time was going and what felt right.

Once I found the right lot and parked my car I set out on foot. UMD is a big campus and going there always involves exercise. Walking from the parking lot to the library, I cut across on a brick path in front of the Student Union to save a few steps. It was a good move.

Ahead I saw a bronze frog sitting on the back of a bench with a bronze man sitting nearby looking toward him, smiling.
I recognized Kermit the Frog, before I realized the male figure was Jim Henson. The class of 1998 gave this memorial statue dedicated to UMD Alum Jim Henson as their graduation gift to the university. The site is unexpected, friendly and inviting - like Henson's work and characters. I walked on smiling. A memorial to a storyteller - "awesome".

Telling for Jane's class was a joy. The students were open, eager, welcoming, and willing to chime in enthusiastically with "their parts" when I asked for it. All that encouraged me to take a risk with a couple of new personal stories. "I am working on a new story using several incidents that happened this past year. I would like to tell them and then ask for your feed-back." They looked curious. "Its a way of developing a story when you are using personal experience."

I told the two short incidents - that I intend to weave together into a longer piece. Then asked the class, "is there anything more you would like to know about the story than I have told you?" I explained that their questions would tell me where I needed to add details or clarify the story.

They had really listened because their comments were on target and very helpful. The questions clarified several areas that need more detail and another that must be explained. Then I told The Wedding Dress, a well-polished story that people enjoy.

Driving home I was feeling good - happy about the whole thing - until - I got lost.

But that's another story.


Dublin Street Artist

These days I am noodling on travel pictures.

My friend Lucy and I have signed up for a 2008 show date at Gallery 10 - for a two person show of works drawn from photographs we have taken while traveling.

At this point I am in the awkward hunting stage, looking for images to work with for the show. I know there is something worthwhile in all these images - its just going to take some work to cull and spot them.

These are digital files. Once I select the images the real fun begins - playing with the images and printing them.

TIP: The first step in the creative process, contrary to some popular notions that an artist waits for the muse to whisper in their ear, is to get down to work. I have to get to work and find the show.

In this case the search is even more fun because the images bring back memories - and stories.

On the day in this photo Jim and I were in Dublin walking toward O'Connell Bridge when we saw the street artist and his half-finished masterpiece. He worked intently, oblivious to the people who stopped and lingered to watch him, or to the fast moving pedestrians who tossed him no more than a glance as they passed by.

I was bursting with questions but he did not look up - and I kept quiet.
How long has it taken you?
How did you get started doing this?
Have you always been able to draw like that?
Do your cover it at night?
Will people leave it alone?

and the $64,000 question -
What happens if it rains?

I took this photograph a year ago -
Surely the chalk drawing was washed away long ago.

Is the artist still there?
No matter. I have the picture of the picture.

So many things are that way.
What is real -
and for how long?

Oh, gee, excuse me That does sound a little overly overly. But its been that kind of a day.


Remember This?

Alison is taking one of these to college tomorrow. its got lots of memory, spell checking, a camera, and real go power. You can carry it with one hand and it fits in a tote bag.

Anybody remember the upright typerwriter.?

My love affair with the typewriter began with a Royal Upright that sat on my grandfather's desk in his office. It was completely off limits to young grandchildren.

The first time I noticed it I was probably about five years old. It was irrestible to me. I would slip into his office and tap those keys any chance I got. Before I could read I was fascinated by seeing small black letters appear on white paper.

That is still true.

Tempus Fugit

Just yesterday our granddaughter Alison was a baby, a toddler, a pre-schooler, on to elementary school, and all too quickly graduating from high school. Thursday morning her parents are driving her to Williamsburg to enter the Freshman Class at The College of William and Mary.

How did it happen so quickly?
Jim and I took her to the Black Market Bistro for lunch today to celebrate the start of her new life-adventure. She is so excited and ready to leap out into the world!

Remember that feeling when you stood on the edge of the nest and plunged? Exhilarated and scared? I surely do. I stepped onto the midnight train, The Southerner, leaving Charlotte, NC for Baltimore and the world beyond. I sat up all night as the train rolled through the dark countryside, sometimes with my nose pressed against the glass, sleepless and scared, but eager.

I doubt that I was as poised and self-assured as Alison is. And I am certain I did not carry the extensive techno-networks that she has in her pocket.
Jim and I were fascinated to hear how she already knows so much about her future classmates through Facebook and how she registered on-line after checking out the professors through Rate the Professor.

We made sure to get her latest email contact and her address. I assume that college students are still getting care packages. No problem with being connected - the campus has WIFI all over.
Since we have the same Apple iMac computer that has the camera up top we can tele-conference, once I learn how to do it. And I will, I promise you.

During lunch we had five trains. Long and noisy and wonderful. One passenger train, and four long and heavy freight trains.

"Do you know the story, Mr Fox?" I asked Alison. She said she was not sure, so I told her a gentle bare-bones version,just hitting the high points of the dangers of being taken in by Mr. Charming. "Its an old, old folktale." I assured her. "Its known that Shakespeare quoted it in Much Ado About Nothing. Its a cautionary tale."

Jim was looking at me rather askance. Alison smiled and listened politely.
But,isn't that what older women are supposed to do? Worse case she can laugh about her crazy grandmother with her friends; best case she may remember the story. Its a story with a powerful warning that is as pertinent today as it ever has been.
Be Bold! Be Bold!
But not Too Bold!
Lest Your Blood Run Cold. -

Its a good thing to remember.

Lectures and instructions are for the parents to do. What could it hurt for a grandmother to plant a little story?

When we finished our lunch and hugged our good-byes I lolly-gagged a little to snap a few pictures. I liked this composition of circles - reminded me of the circles we do in life.


Surfing redux

I found another August post that I want to re-visit.

Since I don't swim I could never comfortably play in the surf but with the computer I can dive right in
and surf
and surf
and surf.

Two years ago when I discovered the fun of riding the information highway I wrote about my experience.

When I tried to tell my Aunt Loretto about the advantages of having a computer and told her how glad I was for email - - she was quiet for a time before telling me, " Ellouise I have lost quite a few of my friends to the computer - so I don't think I want one."

I know what she means.

Maybe I am one of the ones who is sometimes among the missing.

It is definitely a word to the wise.

From 8/12/2005
Discovering Surfing
When I woke up this morning I lay in bed thinking about things I might or could write about on this blog. Then I realized - I am becoming addicted to the computer.

I love working on the computer.

I have loved working on the computer since we bought our first luggable in the 1980s.

I like the sound of my fingers touching the keys - the light click of my fingernails against the hard plastic. Typing makes me feel so productive.

I love email. Being connected to people - immediately.

Recently we set up WiFi in our home. WOW!

The freedom of not being tethered to my desk upstairs in my office is exhilarating. I can use my laptop in front of the TV, on the dining room table, in the bedroom, everywhere. Instantly I am completely linked.

I have become fascinated by the internet itself - linking and linking and linking - moving further and further afield from where I start. I have discovered surfing - - surfing widely on the web. I did not understand what they meant - its a wild and free ride - - -

I feel so unfettered, yet so productive as I hear myself clicking and clicking and clicking -

No matter that the dishes are in the sink, the bed unmade, my work behind schedule, my lists growing longer and due dates looming larger and closer.



This Time Last Year

Life is not just today, is it? I go along checking and cross-checking today with yesterday and back to today. We are the sum of our experiences at every moment -

This morning I was wonderig what had happened this time last year. I remembered that our grand son Danny was here. We really enjoyed having him fly out for a visit -and it was an exciting adventure for him - his first solo flight from the West Coast.

I checked to see what I was writing about this time last year to refresh my memory - oh, yes! Mama.

She walked across her room without her walker, fell and broke her hip, came through surgery well and because she was determined she was back on her feet within three months. Today when she takes off pushing her wheeled walker I have to walk double time to keep up with her.

Talk about da ja vu - Fast forward to last week - Mama took off out of her room without her walker. Walking fast to catch up with one of the nurses. She took a dive and hit face forward, full force on her nose and jaw. Fortunately she did not have her teeth in otherwise she might have choked. They rushed her to the hospital.

Her angels must have broken the fall because there is nothing broken. I understand that she is a "colorful" sight - a beauty of a black-eye, purple on one side of her face down to her neck. She is one lucky lady. Mama has no memory of what happened. Its a mystery.

My youngest sister Dena is the one on the scene; the legal guardian who must be there to sign permissions for treatment.
She does a wonderful job with it. And I am grateful to her!

Here is what was happening last year. Seems I am still living off my calendar - or rather, we are optimists when we make a schedule - "off the calendar" IS living life.

Life Happens Off Your Calendar
You know the saying "life is what happens OFF your calendar." We are living it.

Our grandson Danny flew to Dulles from Oakland, CA two weeks ago -on his own- for a summer visit with us. The plan was so simple. A direct flight back and forth - no problem for the twelve year old to make the trip on his own. It worked well with his older brother Jamie ast summer.

Then, several days after he arrived in Washington the terrorist alert flashed to orange when a plot was uncovered at Heathrow ariport. Flights stopped. Airport regulations for passengers changed immediately. Airpots sprouted long security lines, careful scrutiny of carry on bags, and lots of confusion. We changed the original plan and booked tickets on Jet Blue - while we could get seats - so we could fly back with Danny rather than wave good-bye from outside the security check-in.

Okay, I admit it - I was not thrilled at the idea of the flight. So I turned my focus on the good things about an unexpected week in California - - a visit with our other grandchildren, some quiet time with our daughter, and a quick visit to the Valley to see Jim's family. You now, all the reasons you plan a trip.

Saturday was a beautiful warm and sunny day with clear untroubled skies. Our family drove us to Dulles to see Danny off. As we walked across the asphalt from the parking lot to the terminal my cell phone rang. It was my cousin Jim in NC.

We opened on a cheerful gambit and then he came to the business of the call. "I am in the emergency room in Concord, Ellouise, with your Mom. She fell and has broken her hip. The doctors are seeing her now." I sat down on a near-by bus stall bench to catch my breath.

My mother is 91 years old. She lives in an assisted care facility near my youngest sister in Concord, NC. At that moment Dena was in Raleigh, delivering her daughter to college, I was getting onto an airplane headed for California, another sister, Kathy, was last known to be in Billings, Montana, where she and her husband were in a rental car discovering a new part of the scenic West, my brother, Robert, was at home outside Atlanta and sister Lynda was in her car on the Interstate headed to the emergency room from Siler City, two hours away.

After much angst and several phone calls for updates on Mama's situation I decided to stay on our plan and go with Jim to take Danny home. As my sister Lynda said, "I am here. Mama is in good hands. Nothing is going to happen right away."

Once inside the Dulles terminal the first thing you notice are the insistent loudspeaker directives. "Unattended baggage will be removed. If you see unattended baggage report it immediately to an airport employee or security guard."

Our daugher Karen noticed a four foot gray plush elephant sitting quite alone near the the baggage carrousel. She looked around for a child, a teen-age girl, anyone who might belong to this obviously unattended stuffed animal. When it was obvious it was alone, abandoned - that over-size cuddly elephant began to look very ominous. Karen first told a baggage handler. Initially he did not hear or comprehend her report. And, then when he did, he looked briefly toward the elephant and said, "oh, OK" and continued on his way pushing a train of baggage trolleys toward an unknown destination.

Karen was not satisfied.

About that time the loud speakers blared out another warning: "report any unattended baggage to a security guard or airport employee."

Karen spotted another guy wearing an airport shirt and ID badge. Once again she pointed toward the gray elephant - still sitting alone and unclaimed. They looked at it and exchanged several words. "Oh, yeah." he nodded and walked away. At that point we decided to move on and get as far away from the orphaned elephant as we could.

We were followed by the echoing announcement: "report any unattended baggage to an airport security guard or airport employee. The airport security level has been raised to orange." Karen just shook her head as we walked away. "yeah, right."

Later on the plane I noticed a man with a brand new baby on his knees - a beautiful new life dressed all in pink. The baby slept peacefully at 36,000 feet and her father looked at her with new love in his eyes. " How old is your baby?" "twelve days old." Lovely.

I thought of the continuum of life - this little girl just entering the world and my mother perhaps preparing to leave it.

And what about the grey elephants loose in the world?


A Day at Dupont Circle

The Dupont Circle area has been an important art destination for me since the mid 1970s. The Washington Women's Art Center was located on Q Street, just a few blocks from the Circle. That's where I first exhibited my art work in the 1970s.

For ten years Jim had an office at the corner of R Street and Connecticutt Ave, just four blocks from the Circle. That was his most favorite downtown office.

Today I went to Dupont Circle to gallery sit at Gallery 10. For 30 years Gallery 10 has been located a half a block from the circle, on the second floor over Kramer Books, a long time fixture in this spot. When my turn to gallery sit rolls around once a month I taste the city, walk the sidewalks, pass the resturants, touch base with sweet memories and walk up the 25 steep steps to the gallery. I love all of it except the stairs. They are mercilessly steep, reminding me of an alp. I notice the postman also pants for breath when he stops in with the mail.

Today, typical for Washington in August, it was hot and the air was a heavy humid blanket. Last week we were tourists in Pittsburgh - today I watched the tour bus pass with folks taking a look at the old buildings, getting the feel of Washington, maybe even noticing me as one of the few people on the street in this hot weather.

Changing perspectives.

Gallery sitting is basically a long boring day, hoping someone you know comes into the gallery to check out the latest exhibition. That did not happen for me today - only three people walked up the stairs to see Melissa Burley's interesting and innovatinve Illuminations.

The show includes lamps made from found "trash" -a new take on recycling.
The lamps are surprisingly beautiful. Burley has assembled very appealing shapes of bits of colored glass, bottles,and rusting metal objects.to make the assmeblage which she lights. Sitting with an exhibit for a long time gives me a chance to really look at the art work, to notice that some of the lamps remind me of the Arabian Nights magic lamps, that they have a mystical quality, that these bits of discards have been reorganized into very lovely, haunting and satisfying new shapes.

One disconcerting aspect of sitting this show - all the light were off except for the lights emanating from the pieces themselves. The only work light was a small desk lamp - so I spent a long day in the cool, quiet,darkened gallery - a time for thinking and working on the computer - nice.

At five o'clock I closed the gallery and walked across Connecticutt Avenue to the subway entrance. The Dupont Circle entrance on Q Street has a wide gaping entrance and the escalator slowly moves you straight down into that cavern. Since I don't ride Metro every day I notice everything - how deep it is, that the walls are showing their age, that it is dirty, and that there is a wind blowing through. After the bright sun light its another darkened space. Like the gallery has been all day.

But this is different. This is underground.

I think of the men who worked underground to dig this tunnel. I think of the men trapped in the mine in Utah. Of the rescue workers who were killed and injured yesterday trying to save them.

Riding the underground train makes me nervous. How do they have the courage to work underground?

God Bless them. And their families.


Back in the Saddle

Telling stories at a retirement home this afternoon. I tried some new stories using more audience participation than I usually do with this group. At first the women were a little shy with their part - their voices were low, sort of tentatively whispery. But after three or four repeats and my continuing to urge them they called out loud and strong. By the end even a couple of women who rarely react to the stories had joined in. They seemed to really enjoy the chance to speak-up and I certainly felt good - hearing their voices.

I tell stories for this group once a month. The people coming to listen change, with a few who say they look forward to the stories and would not miss it. The residents range in age from 70 to 92. A ninety year old woman really likes the stories. As I have gotten to know her she has told me her age, that she is legally blind and that she rarely goes out any more. She is not a solitary , seeming to know everyone on a first name basis and she is so easily mobile that I had not suspected how nearly blind she is until she told me. I asked her what kind of stories she would like to hear and she assured me, " oh, any you want to tell. I just enjoy listening and making my own pictures."

Since we do not live near either of our famlies we have not been close-by as our relatives grew older and faced the challenges of aging. Our neighborhood has changed and the older folks have moved out giving way to couples who are raising younger children. In the past ten years Jim and I have become the "older " couple living on the corner.

As they say "growing old is not for the faint hearted." The people I meet when I tell stories in retirement homes are my role
models. Sometimes their modeling is quite scary. But then I have a chance to know someone like my 90 year old friend who meets her days smiling and doing the best she can to "keep on keeping on".

Juliana at 21

Twenty one years ago our oldest grand daughter, Juliana, was born in Munich, Germany, where our son was stationed with the US Army. We believe in marking passages so Jim and I took her to lunch to celebrate. We had a lovely visit and that was as much a gift to ourselves as to her. We caught up and talked a lot of shoes and ships, and cabbages and kings. And Harry Potter ofcourse.

We chose the Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park because I used to bring Juliana here for lunch when she was a pre-schooler. The old house sits right beside a train track so you always have at least one freight train with your meal. We did.

I had hoped we could sit on the porch as we used to but because it too hot they had closed those tables.

Have you noticed? Nothing stays the same.

This used to be a modest place with sandwiches and the like - called something else. Now as the Black Market Bistro it has a slightly French counry atmophere and delicious food from a very interesting menu. The smooth pureed gazpacho sported a sprig of cilantro on top. It was just right on a hot and muggy summer day. We each had the summer salad with additions. I selected grilled shrimp for mine and they were wonderful - marinated and then perfectly grilled.

We agreed that we are not waiting for a birthday to come back.

A Dish to Set Before the King

Shortly after we arrived home from Pittsburgh the door bell rang and a delivery man handed this to Jim. My cousins in Virginia sent him this delectable as a get well hug. Every bite has been as delicious as it looks. Especially the sweet pineaple.


This is a dish to set before a king and a wonderful gift. I could not resist giving them a "plug". Edible Arrangements has locations across the country so they are easily wired wherever you want to send one..


Not Forgetting Daddy

August 13 was my daddy's birthday. I did not forget - other stuff intervened. He would have been 94 years old - except that he died 14 years ago.

Or maybe he didn't.

This is the picture of him they used in my High School Annual. He was my sponsor that year because I was an editor. He was 39 years old.

For my mother he is as alive today as he was when they got married in 1935. She talks about your daddy and tells stories about or on him. My siblings and I do too.

Whenever Jim and I go to Charlotte we take Mama to Evergreen Cemetary to visit Daddy.
When she was still driving she went every afternoon. Recently I watched her standing at his foot stone talking with him. I wondered what she was saying but it seemed private and I did not intrude.

Daddy was a storyteller and a jokester.

After WWII he had a job as a traveling salesman. Friday night supper was the time for his stories from the road. One time he told us that he heard about a mummy they had in a house in Laurinburg so, being curious, he had stopped by to see the "ugly thing".

Even then I was fascinated by anything that remotely suggested Eqypt so as he talked I pictured a wrapped mummy in a painted box. He either did not go into more detail or I long ago forgot it until recently. An item in a book I picked up in Charlotte - little known bits of NC history - tells the story of the Laurinburg mummy. It was real. Now I can tell the whole story for Daddy.

Happy Birthday Daddy.

TIP: Whenever I read an old southern story or joke I test it on my tongue searching my memory as to whether I might have heard it from him or wondering how he would he tell it - if he heard it now. If it feels right for him I may put it on his tongue. And when I tell it I feel him standing close.


A Bit About the 3 Rivers Storytelling Festival

For those of you stopping by on a first visit - My husband and I went to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival but I only heard one day of stories. My husband had an emergency admission to Allegheny General Hospital and was there for the week-end. So for the past few days instead of writing directly about a storytelling event I was writing to "catch" the story Jim and I were living.

We returned to Maryland today. Now I am backing up to capture those parts of the festival that might be of interest to folks.

Friday, before the serious storytelling started, there were four workshops scheduled with Dan Yashinsky, Billy Teare, Elizabeth Ellis and Charlotte Blake Alston. Since Charlotte's was designed for teachers I decided to keep that time for sight-seeing and other business.

TIP: Over the years I have learned a lot by watching how featured tellers interact among themselves and with the folks. I was very impressed that these tellers sat in on each others' workshops. They modeled caring and support for each other and at the same time made themselves available to those attending. It was rich. And fun. And, a lesson.

Dan Yashinsky talked about the importance of examining your stories and identifying those moments of suspense that keep the listener tuned in to the story. He had those attending tell a bit of a story and stop where you thought the moment of suspense was - try it. Its not always what you might think. Dan is most engaging and sets such a comfortable atmosphere that even my husband shared a story - - and he is not a storyteller. Its a good story that will be very tellable if he decides he wants to do it. When it was my turn I told a short personal story I have been working on and with two comments Dan and Elizabeth Ellis suggested a change that feels right and takes the story to a new level.

Billy Teare, a teller from Northern Ireland, told a delightful rendition of Lazy Jack to set up a discussion of types of stories. He added surprising audience participation to the story which cracks it open in a new way. He demonstrated a memory technique he uses which was way over my head but his presentation was so delightfully that I enjoyed watching him do it.

Elizabeth Ellis, who is very well-known for her personal stories, gave a workshop about folk tales, their structure and their importance for the storyteller and the audience. Elizabeth Ellis always has something valuable to say.
In my opinion Ellizabeth speaks and pearls come forth.
I appreciated being reminded that when you read or tell a folktale they speak from a whole culture, not just from one person's experience.

TIP: I heard this over the week-end and I do believe this comes from Elizabeth Ellis - When you encounter someone you admire and respect seek opportunities to study with them. Sit at their feet, as it were, like they used to do in the old days. This has nothing to do with age -either of the teacher or the student. It has to do with finding the strengths and skills that will help you achieve your goals. (Elizabeth Ellis is such a person in my eyes. My advice is - if you have a chance to take one of her workshops don't pass it by!)

The opening concert that evening was fine. All the tellers were on!
I do want to give a special nod to Billy Teare -
He arrived in Pittsburgh after an arduous two day mis-adventure of canceled and delayed flights and no sleep - but his baggage did not make it. And all his musical instruments he had planned to use for his performances were in the baggage. he said, " I guess I will just have to tell stories." and he did! and he was funny, and charming and it was a good time for all. WOW!!!

I particularly enjoyed the ghost story concert because Susannah Holstein aka Granny Sue, a West Virgina storyteller, was telling. I first met her almost ten years ago at the West Virginia Storytelling Festival when she was just starting out. Through all the storytelling she has done since then, and its a lot in West Virginia and other states, she has grown into a seasoned professional who held her own with the featured tellers. Brava, Granny Sue.

Over Pittsburgh

Jim and I are inveterate tourists. This was our first visit to Pittsburgh and we had looked forward to seeing a bit of the city as well as hear stories at the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival.
This may sound absolutely ridiculous but when Jim was discharged from the hospital we decided to take a look at Pittsburgh - beyond the tantalizingly vague view we had from his hospital room window. Seemed like a good way to shake off the tension of the past few days.

Since we thought one thing was our limit we settled on the "incline" to get a view of as much of the city as possible with one look . Before we came, my friend Pat, who once lived in Pittsburgh, had said," don't miss the incline." The Internet advised that the "Duquene Incline" is the #1 tourist attraction in Pittsburgh.

On a sunny afternoon, with clear visibility it was a stunner.

The cable line was built on the side of this steep hill 130 years ago and we rode up in an original car. The polished wood interior had decorative carving and faded velvet inset panels.

The surprisingly smooth ride as your are hoisted up on a cable is quite short and the view answered my question, why "Three Rivers".

At the end of that point, once the site of Fort Pitt, the Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) flow together to become the Ohio River.

Not surprising Pittsburgh is a city of bridges. They form wonderful patterns as they cross over the rivers to connect all sections into a greater city. Most are painted yellow which makes for a very interesting visual between water, land and sky.

There is a small,interesting museum in the cable station at the top. Memorabilia and pictures which tell some of the story of the history of the city and the "incline" itself.
All for $1.75 one way; $3.50 round trip. Free to seniors.

Since this was our one stop for a tourist "fix" we decided to stay at the top and have dinner at the Georgetown Inn. The restaurant, adjacent to the cable station, perches on the top of the cliff overlooking the city. Three walls are huge glass windows which give an expansive view of the rivers and the city. We found the food more pricey than good but the view and the time to leisurely enjoy it was worth every penny.

Satisfied we returned to our hotel, more than ready for a lie-down before heading home.

Its all part of the story.

Back Home

Took us an uneventful four and a half hours to get here. We drove into our driveway around three thirty this afternoon and this place has never looked so good to me. Did not matter that tbe grass is dried out from the heat or that weeding needs doing - it's home. I am very happy to be here.

It always surprises me how quickly experiences fade. Now that we are home - Pittsburgh and Allegheny General Hospital and the tension of the past few days seems unreal. I believe that is why catching the story everyday is so important.

It did happen! I do not want to forget my gratitude for this good outcome or the people - strangers - who graced our lives with their caring and kindness.

I can't give back to them but - if I remember - I can pay it forward. And I will.


Going Home

After he passed his stress today (Monday) Jim was discharged after three days in Allegheny General Hospital. WHEW!

We are relieved and grateful and very appreciative of the folks at AGH who gave Jim such fine care. Someone said this morning,
"Pittsburgh is a city with a small town attitude." Amen. So in addition to medical expertise Jim and I were wrapped in the warmth of human kindness - and a caring for the whole patient.

We are eager to get home but decided to take the sane appraoch and stay over for a good night's rest.
I am bone weary.
We will drive home tomorrow.

And, I will write more about Pittsburgh, environs, storytelling and "stuff" later this week.


Three Rivers Storytelling Festival and a NEW story

Jim and I came to Pittsburg Thursday all set for a weekend of listening to stories at Three Rivers Storytelling Festival. HA!
Life is full of surprises.

Today we are into our own story!

Jim woke me saying calmly that he was going to call 911 to take him to the hospital.
Within seconds I was wide awake, up and starting to dress. "What's the matter?" He explained that he had some questionable cardiac symptoms that he thought should be looked into.

And so it went. We called the hotel operator and asked for an ambulance. She said 15 minutes and it was. Two very efficient
EMTs arrived with a rolling stretcher. Very nice! And very much in charge of what they needed to do. I had gathered my stuff together and was ready to leave when they had him ready to wheel out to the elevator.

At that point I chose to climb up into the front seat and ride with the ambulance, watching carefully the route the young woman driver was taking, knowing that I might have to drive it later. Good move.

At 7:30 am we entered the emergency room at Allegheny General Hospital. They took Jim right into the back to the doctors, and pointed me to the resgistrationa and triage desk. The large waiting room was empty - so they could tend to me right away. Our arrival was fortuitous because business started to pick up.

Jim and I intended to do some sightseeing today. I realized I would be but it would not be a usual tourist view of Pittsburgh. This would be the real life.

A young man and a priest, his uncle, arrived. The young man's mother, in town to help him set up his new apartment, had fallen down twelve steps into his old row house basement,meeting the concrete with her face. She was unconscious.

I left at that point to see Jim who was in the back. Room 2. When I arrived they had alredy wired him to the monitors and he had started telling his story to the first of a string of people; nurses, medical students, residents, the cardiologist.
And I began my usual role - waiting.

Upshot. They admitted Jim. And he will be in the hospital for "observation" until Monday when the stress test folks come back after the week-end. We will not be driving home tomorrow as we planned.

Our daughter Karen will arrive late tonight to keep us company and most importantly to drive home with us on Tuesday.

We are spending the week-end in a sunny eighth floor hospital room that has an expanive view over two bridges of downtown Pittsburgh.

And I am starting new story.

I am counting on a happy ending. I can tell you for sure it will include many kindnesses to strangers by many caring people.


Riding Into a Storm

My cell phone buzzed several times in the morning with weather alerts. Big storm headed for the Washington, DC area.

Our car was packed and ready for out four plus hour drive to Pittsburg, PA to attend the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival. When Jim finished seeing his patients about noon he wrote patient notes and I finished a bit of paperwork and we were ready to leave by 1:30 pm. We headed out. Skies were bright. We assured ourselves we were driving away from bad weather.

Well, that's what we hoped. When we entered the PA Turpike it began to rain, not a soft rain, a hard driving, blinding torrent
Slowed we continued on. The long Allegheny Tunnel was a relief - we could see where we were going. Sortly after emerging from the tunnel we stopped at a service plaza for a Starbucks, a break, and to get some gas.

Jim turned the driving over to me. I saw lightning ripping the sky ahead, over and over and over, Sharp jagged lines flashing across the skies. We plugged on for another forty minutes and then the rain stopped and the skies cleared around us and ahead as well. We thought we had weathered the storm.

When we rode into Pittsburgh we followed the very specific Mapquest directions to the hotel. I pulled up at the front door.
Jim went in to check-in and pick up a big rolling luggage carrier so we could unload the car. I opened the trunk. Turning around I saw Jim coming toward the car. He was not pushing a luggage carrier. He stopped my "why" with "the hotel doesn't have any power - no air-conditioning and no working elevators." I laughted, "you are kidding."

"no, I am not". Then I noticed that the large double glass doors to the hotel were open, and the lobby beyond was like a dark gaping hole.

The storm had knocked out power all over the city, particularly in this area.

We decided to transfer to a hotel further up the highway for tonight, hoping they would restore the electricity by the next morning.


Talking Recipes

When I called mama last night she told me they had a cooking demonstration at Concord Place yesterday afternoon. For entertainment.

"No kidding." I said as I visualized a picture of that group of 80 plus year old folks, living in an assisted living facility without access to even a hot plate, sitting in rows with their wheelchairs and walkers, watching someone show them a new recipe.

"Yes. It was the chef from our kitchen who did it. He showed us how to make hummus.
Have you ever had it."

"Yes, I have. I love it. How did you like it?"

"Well, not too much. You probably have to develop a taste for it - but it was better than the lunch - so I ate a lot of it. And the crackers were real good."

She told me what he had done. "He whirred up garbonza beans with olive oil in the blender. Added "three gloves of garlic. You could smell it all over the room."
"Did he add lemon juice?"
"Oh, yes. He told us they eat this in India and Pakistan - all over those countries.
He is going to do another demonstration next week - and he asked us for suggestions."

Knowing she really liked it, I volunteered, "you could ask him to make pimento cheese and see if he does it like Daddy did."

"I could. I could. You remember, your Daddy used a grinder, one that you clamp to the table."
We laughed. We were both quiet for a minute, making our picture of daddy in their kitchen concocting pimento cheese when he had a yen for it.

"Ellouise, what did he put in his pimento cheese, do you remember?"

"You bet. I make it sometimes. Did I ever tell you I bought one of those table grinders at a thrift store? I keep it in the kitchen and I won't get rid of it - in case I want to make the "real" thing."

"Tell me what your Daddy used. I might just tell that man. It would taste good."

Daddy's Pimento Cheese

A block of yellow long horn cheese
2 jars of pimentos
cayenne pepper
REAL mayonnaise - he always used Hellman's

If you have one a grinder that you screw onto the edge of the table.
Otherwise - use the blender.

Grate out a plate full of cheese.
Run the pimentos ( a few at a time)and the cheese through the grinder, catching it in a bowl.This is a balancing act. If you need more, grate more cheese. It should be a little more cheese than pimento in the end.
Stir together.
Add salt and pepper to taste and a flick of cayenne pepper.
Add mayonnaise to moisten and to taste.

Delicious! This is the real stuff - not that goop you buy in little plastic tubs in the supermarket.

More About Jim

A friend called me today after reading about Jim on the blog. I assured her he was doing well. Then she added, "Ellouise why did you put up such a dorky looking picture of your good looking husband."

Ofcourse she is right.
And I would not have done it if I had found this picture when I was looking in the My Pictures files last week.

This is one of my favorite pictures!


Glancing Over My Shoulder

Reading Sharyn McCrumb, The Songcatcher. About a ballad handed down through generations of a southern family, her family.

I am very impressed by the way she incorporates family history into her story. I came to storytelling through genealogy and did much more of that when I first started telling stories. Yesterday I wrote that I had moved away from family history in my storytelling. Sharyn McCrumb inspires me to go back in that direction, asking new questions.

In her biography on her website McCrumb talks about the two worlds of her parents. That's true of mine too. For generations.

Begging your indulgence I am going to noodle on that a bit - right here.

My father's family held themselves aloof, proud of their social position, mostly based on my grandmother's father. He was a County elected official, a very popular figure. A huge picture of him stared back at me from the front page of the newspaper when I looked up his obituary.

My grandmother was the spoiled apple of her father's eye who had been schooled in a Catholic finishing school. I remember her as a tall, artistocratic looking woman who was not prone to spontaneous hugs, in fact I don't remember any displays of affection. The mother of eight children, she was a reader, a versifier, an Anglophile and an avid Bridge player. Nanny was proud of her lineage, especially her Confederate roots, evidently she did not know her Revolutionary War ties. I wish she had looked into it. That would have saved me lots of trouble. All that deep tap root came through her father's paternal family.

Catherine, her father's mother was an Irish immigrant, from Tipperary, who arrived in America in 1837. She came with an extended famly before the potato famine. Maybe they were seeking religious freedom, because they had both money and a trade. She left us our Catholic faith.

Cartherine's family arrived in America through Nova Scotia, went to Albany, New York for a time where they had family, and then came to North Carolina following the little known 1840s gold rush in North Carolina. She married a young doctor and they had eight children. Nanny's father was in the middle of that line-up.

Strange - no Irish stories have been handed down through the family. I was not raised on the Irish stories she must have told her son and that one would think he told his daughter. And that he might have told my father, his grandson. The newspaper articles I found about him say he was known as a storyteller and a wit.

All my aunts and uncles and my father, and many of my cousins have the gift of gab - even though we never kissed the Blarney Stone. There are storytellers galore among us; lawyers, writers, salesmen and I call myself a storyteller and work at it professionally.

Now my Daddy, Robert, was quite a storyteller. He always had a joke or a tale to tell. He was a traveling salesman after he came back from WWII. Monday to Friday he traveled the backroads of North and South Carolina selling household appliances, washing machines and the like, and he loved nothing better than sitting a spell on a small town store front porch and swapping stories with the local folks. Friday nights he came home with stories from his week - stories about the people he met, jokes and his favorites were embellished tall tales that had us saying, "you're kidding". Often he was.

And then there was my Aunt Catherine - probably named for the Irish girl but I never put two and two together. Koki, that's what we called her, was a born storyteller who also had a love and reverence for keeping the family stories. She photographed everybody, clipped newspapers and held on to things. When I began collecting family history I went to her and when I got serious about storytelling - well, she put her arm around me and loved me forward, adding stories here and there and encouraging me to do it. She did not tell Irish stories. She told our stories. And today I am telling the stories she gave me.

But still I wonder. Why don't we have a legacy of Irish songs and stories like Sharyn McCrumb describes from her Appalachian family?

Ever since I discovered my Irish heritage I have ruminated about this. Now, Sharyn McCrumb, in describing her family, pokes me to ask my questions from another perspective.

I will be looking into it to figure out some answers to the question - why aren't our pockets filled with Catherine's stories.

TIP: (That I almost forgot) There are many versions of the same story. Keep asking questions from different directions to uncover more versions.


Reading Recovery

My friend Lucy sent an email this morning, "you need a spa day." She is right on target.

All the adrenalin running for the past week - to finish my grant and turn it in before Jim's cardiac cath and to get through the worry of the procedure itself - has really left me whipped. Tired out. Even my gratitude does not overcome it. But sleep is helping.

I stayed in bed this morning reading and I could feel myself recovering. Diversion is great medicine.

Last night i started reading a new murder mystery. Nothing special. A paper back I picked up on a library sale table. But its turned out to be the right book for my escape today. A 2003 copy the original owner bought for 6 pounds in Great Britain, "The Bone Vault" by Linda Fairstein - a murder at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC . It is full of art talk through-out as they look for the murderer. It even includes forays to the Cloisters Musuem and talk about medieval manuscripts. Could the victim have been poisioned by the arsenic used to restore the vivid yellow on the old pages? I can visualize the places and that brings the story to life for me.

As the detecive steps outside the Cloisters the author describes the narrow stone steps down to the winding path through heavy foliage. I have a picture of Jim holding Jimmy, then 18 months old, taken at the top of those steps. We lived in Brooklyn when Jim was an intern in the late 1950s. On his Sunday's off we occasionally made sigthseeing trips into the city. The Sunday we went to the Cloisters was a bright cold Fall day, bright foliage and a stunning view from its location over the city. The author's description was so vivid it brought that afternoon back clearly.

Last week I watched a TV interview with southern author Lee Smith. She talked about the southern attachment to the past.

As I get older the past I refer back to is my own rather than the historical or family past. I like things that remind me of or reconnect me to moments I have lived, to places I have been, to people I have known. The memories enrich the today moments and sometimes explain why things are going as they are now. Sometimes its like collage where each moment has its own separate identity and other times it is a true weaving.

Whatever, this is a good way to be spending my time today.


Thankful and happy to be home

Is it really only two days. Seems like a year.

Jim and I drove the fifteen minutes to the hospital at 5:30 am yesterday morning, laughing, talking about nothing. Jim and I have been married going on 52 years. And we have been through crises before so by this time we communicate on a pretty deep level by "knowing" rather than saying.

Jim had a six am arrival time and he must have been first on the list for everything because there were few cars in the lot and only four people in the lobby - so eveything went quickly. They sent us to the third floor to the Interventional Cardiology Center. I tapped Jim on the arm, "get a load of that - interventional cardiology - that's what they are calling it these days - do they call your doctor an interventionalist?

Smiling nursing staff took charge of Jim. "We will take it from here. You can see him before the procedure. We will call you when he's ready."

I took one of the nurses aside saying, "Would you please tell me your plan? What happens/ from now on?" And she did.
This is the drill for a cardiac cath. They prep the patient by starting an IV - they will administer medicines and fluids through the IV. The doctor comes in and meets the family. Then they take the patient into the "cath lab" - he was wired to all the monitoring sysyems. They insert a line an artery in the groin and run the line into the heart. That's how they insert the dye into the heart for imaging the arteries to check their condition. If they find a problem, they will do whatever they can at this point or decide that more is needed and continue with surgery at that point or stop - and schedule a later surgery.

I swallowed rather hard. Listen this is not new to me. Jim has a stent in a left artery that was inserted 10 years ago. And all has been well with it. But this is now.

Our daughter Karen arrived about 7 am and our son Jim about 7:30 pm. We were all there to wish Jim well and to meet his doctor. That was a very good moment. The doctor was seasoned, quietly in-charge and condident and very kind. Yes, this was the interventionalist but I knew he was also a doctor. A blessing. What more could you ask for.

Then starts the hard part for the family. Waiting! When they were beyond 45 minutes I felt that there were "findings." Sure enough the nurse came out half hour later and, "the doctor woudl like to talk with you." He was standing outside the Cath Lab. He was holding his gloved hands covered by a sterile cloth. Through the partially open door I saw Jim's draped form on the table in the middle of the room. " we have isolated a problem - a blockage - and we need to clean the artery and insert a stent. There is a large amount of calcification so it will take a little time." I felt questions rising in my throat about what he was going to do -" but realized this was the time for trust. Instead I asked, "how is he?" " doing well!" he asssured me. He turned and went back inside to do whatever he had decided to do - and we walked back to the waiitng room.

An hour later they let us know that Jim was in recovery and I went in to see him. He was tired, still groggy, and smiling.

The doctor came in later and said, "now it s time for show and tell." He showed us the computer pictures of Jim's heart. The old stent is in good shape and the new stent nicely in place in a major artery that had been 80% occulded.

80% occluded, a heart attack waiting to happen, and his only symptoms were exteme exhaustion.
Jim spent last night in the hospital under the watchful eye of caring and capable staff. And about noon today I drove him home.

There will be a few days of rest and recovery and then life as usual.

We are grateful for this blessing, for the prayers, and for God's gift of modern medicine.


A Note About Jim

Here is my husband Jim at the Grapevine Story Fest in Virginia in June. Doing what he has done for years, taking time to support me as storyteller and whatever else I needed.

Well I will be away from the blog for a few days to stand by for him.
Jim's had a change in his EKG and tomorrow will have a cardiac cath so the doctors can get a close look at what's going on. You can imagine that will be the only thing I am thinking about.

And praying about.

Anyone who stops by - I hope you will add your prayers that all goes well for him.