Eye to Eye


It only takes a moment
For your world to change.

The first time Jim looked into my brown eyes 
with his deep blue,
intense and
smiling eyes                                                                        
my knees went weak and my heart melted. 

58 and a half years later

When I looked into Jim's blue eyes 
he suddenly could not see me 
and my heart broke 
as my world crumbled beneath my feet.

Only a moment. 


Please Help Me Spread the Word

Every year I enjoy the new temporary art painted on the wall in the box office - reception area of 'Fort Fringe" at the Capital Fringe Headquarters downtown DC.

I call this portrait "Fringe Wall Head". It reminds me of a folktale man in the moon - or a ventriloquist's dummy - once you notice how the door panel frames the side of his mouth.

My eyes were wide open - rather like that head on the wall - when I walked into the room dripping a bit from the rain outside. I had just driven over an hour in blinding rain and dramatic lightning flashing across the DC sky over the Capitol ahead of me followed by thunder rumbling and I was not wearing a thunder-coat. 

I was delivering promo cards like this one for my show "Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home" - hoping someone would pick one up, be intrigued and come to my show which opens July 11 the first day of the fringe.

But THIS is the catch that has me chewing my nails:

My show opens on the first day of the Fringe.

THURDAY July 11 at 6:15 pm on Seventh Street downtown DC. at the deliciously airconditioned and comfortable Goethe Institut - INFO HERE 

THIS is my question - - will anyone come at 6:15 PM P.M. on a work day?that time??????

This is what I am picturing - performing my show in a 90 seat screening room for one person - the reviewer.

How about it?
Do you or do you know someone who works downtown in DC and would like to see a heart-warming and touching story with an "Our Town" sensibility about the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

The people who told me the stories I have collaged into this story are alive although they are talking to me about those who are not ... most who lost their lives in the service of the Country - i.e. for us.

People who have seen the show say, "It's a must see."

Please help me spread the word.

Come yourself. Tell your friends.


How to cut Fringe ticket prices with multi-ticket packs

Capital Fringe, the annual performing arts bonanza in Washington, DC , opens July 11 and continues through July 28.  It occurred to me that while the Fringe is in the head-lights this would be a good time to play an interview with Capital Fringe Founder and Executive Director, Juliane Brienza. Lots of behind-the-scenes information about the Fringe and some great advice on how to self-discount tickets by buying the multi-ticket packs. That's what I am going to do.


Hey, I Need A New Flash Drive

Even though I may be way over my head here I am going to carry-on anyway.

E, collage, ellouise schoettler
In a conversation about ten days ago a retired and seasoned fireman talked with me about his experience with firemen's PTSD and his ideas about what happens to vets when they return from battle. He explained that he could do this because firemen also experience PTSD and he understands what happens.

In a nutshell he explained that the vets return with mental carrousels - that's the old-days name for a flash drive - filled with miserable images of sights, sounds and experiences embedded in their brains that can be suddenly and inexplicably triggered by harmless sounds and sights which bring on the same fears and terrors in a safe situation that were originally gathered in the midst of life-threatening circumstances.

They are the only ones who see the images - so those around them do not have a clue what's happening.

Fortunate the vet in this fireman's life who has one person standing by who understands.

Jim Schoettler

I was moved by this conversation and wished that Jim were there to talk with the fireman. They could compare notes. When Jim was in the US Air Force during the Vietnam ERA he served as an MD and Psychiatrist and treated airmen shipped home from Vietnam suffering with PTSD before there was a name for it - and little to no respect or understanding from the world at large for the pain and scope of the problem.

At least today there is a name, a diagnosis, treatment and some understanding... and increasing public education about it.

When I was telling my bestest friend Betsy about this conversation she said, "it reminds me of Daffodils."  When I was vague she said, "you remember, I wandered lonely as a cloud".

I got it - Wordsworth - and once again - as I had many times since I met her in the fourth grade, I was amazed at how smart my friend is. The image of the fireman's picture filled carrousel had brought the image of Wordsworth on his couch to her mind.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


Stories rely on Details

Sharing a bit more about the process of developing my new story Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home for the 2013 Capital Fringe. While it is not a major theme of the story itself
the process has been more than just story-creation it has also been a means to reach beyond the fog of grief to embrace Arlington and to return to life. Storytellers look for details to help bring a story to life. In the past year of visiting Jim and investigating Arlington I really see the surroundings and have come to appreciate how well cared for the grounds are. As well as noticing the colors of changing leaves on the trees and dashes of color from flowers in Spring. Lately I am particularly appreciating the presence of birds. I think I will keep binoculars and a "bird book" in the car. For more than forty years Jim and I walked in our neighborhood in Chevy Chase and watched the varieties of birds which are drawn to our close-by area by the presence of the Audubon Naturalist Society. I like the connection I feel when I see many robins flitting through the stones just as they flit across our front yard.


Video: Seed of a Story

By way of introducing you to how I decided to create my new show - not the opening of the show. People often ask me, "where do you find your stories?" For me its a simple answer - I live them. But there are often glimmers of inspiration or small seeds that sprout into stories. In the case of my new one-woman show, Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home - the story began while I was sitting beside my husband's grave in Arlington. I know my husband Jim is not surprised by this story ... and that he would approve. The show is part of the 2013 Carpital Fringce. There are 5 shows - July 11, July 13, July 18, July 21 and July 26. I hope you will visit the Fringe website for more information and to buy your tickets.
This video is excerpted from a recent Stories in Time show on Montgomery Municipal Cable TV


A Bit of Adjusting

Happy Birthday, Jim.

Jim has been prominently on my mind all day - not that he is not on my mind every day.

I made my usual Wednesday visit to Arlington yesterday and I am really glad I did - because I could not have gone today.

This was a memorable day - with a storm that sped through the DC area this afternoon. High winds, lots of rain and warnings. And later destruction.

Early in the day as storm warnings brewed I cancelled a taping of my TV show and then followed Jim's usual storm-drill:  check the batteries in the camp lights because we often lose power, fill the gas tank in the car and bring in a bit of food to eat if I can't cook. My daughter Karen came over and stacked the deck furniture.  Then - the dog and cat and I were ready to sit out the storm.

While I was out and about on my "survival" errands I stopped for lunch at Einstein's - our favorite local bagel shop. Sitting at our usual table by the large front plate glass window I enjoyed a "traditional lox and bagel" sandwich which we often ordered here.

Its a pleasant and comforting place for me because I am surrounded by memories of other times we have spent together there: after Italian class, making lists and plans, stopping between errands, reading or kibitzing with friends from the neighborhood. Scribbling in my journal today I thought of other stories that had started right there.  I talked them over with Jim. I miss that - his in-put,  his
support and encouragement, his interest  - mostly I just miss being with him.

The storm came and went and so far I don't see any damage in our yard but hearing all the warnings of felled trees and flooded roads I decided to stay home rather than attend the 5:30 pm Mass which was "for" Jim on his birthday. The priest lives across the street so I knew he would keep the Mass Schedule without me and other family members in the pew.

And, I knew that if he had been here Jim would have said,
"we will adjust". So - I did.

I am grateful Jim's sayings, bits of advice and wisdom pop up at just the right moment to help me keep my balance.... by "adjusting".


A Role Model and Her Story

Very grateful to my Facebook Friend Mary Caserta Baker for sharing the link to this woman and her story. She was a WASP during WWII and later organized the effort for those women who served as WASPS to be given the military standing they were promised. Her story is a banner for all women -- especially those who have not heard of her. Meet her in this wonderful interview! Thanks Mary Caserta Baker for sharing her story.


VIDEO: My Cat - the back story

Angel is thriving and growing into a lovely and affectionate cat - on her terms. But just as you would expect - there is a back story.


Finding Granny in an Old Film.

Looking back through my stuff today I found a film I made ten years ago about my grandmother, her mother and my mother for a show, Digital Glimpses,  that Lucy Blankstein and I showed at Gallery 10 in DC and then at the DC Art-o-Matic.

Ellie Hall wearing Gus Keasler's football sweater. Circa 1913

For years I have added my grandmother to my art work. In this film I digitally altered old photos of her at different ages wearing hats of the era.  Stored in my studio is a paper quilt that I pieced from a selection of these altered hat photos. I particularly like the hat with the big white feather.

This is not a great film but I am glad to have it for my genealogy and family records - for my family. All the quotes are my mother's words taken from interviews over the years that I taped when prying her childhood memories loose. She dearly loved her Grandmother and outside of Mama's words  we have no first-hand information about Alice Shaffer Hall.

Considering that I was a neophyte at computer movie-making programs I still think this was a pretty good effort. Yep, I am keeping it.

Maybe my less than perfect effort will spark your ideas if you want to share/keep your family story. 


Granny's Birthday

Ellie and Jack Baer with grand daughters daughters circa 1950
A bit of serendipity.

The new assignment for my memoir group is to write the chapter about your early childhood.

Well my grandmother Ellie Hall Keasler Baer will be the loving center of many of those memories so its right to begin with a few notes on that chaper today.

June 1st is her birthday.

Remember how you learned important birthdays- other than your own day - when you were young?  Maybe like me you still know them. That's how it is with me and June 1. That's Granny's day.

She was the loving center of my childhood.

Ellie and Jack Baer group-up with grand-daughers Lynda, Kathy and Ellouise before the at-home reception for their 25th wedding anniversary.

Granny loved a party and she worked for weeks getting ready to celebrate their 25th anniversary. She prepped the house from top to bottom and I remember helping with polishing  the silver. It was a very special evening  - which afterwards she pronounced a big success.

June 1 - a good place to start my childhood notes.

Where would you start yours?

I am going to kick this off with something she always had with her.

Granny's big leather pocket-book with the loud snap on top was like a treasure chest.  It smelled of butter-rum Life Savers and Juicy Fruit chewing gum which are both still my favorites. You could count on a neatly folded handkerchief- later a small purse-sized packet of Kleenex. And, her coin purse always yielded pennies for the gum ball machine or a dime "for later." Oh, yes, there was always a package of Sir Walter Raleigh cigarettes and a little box of matches but I was not allowed to touch either one.

Yes, that prompts more memories - for later.

And, I admit it, this makes me wonder what my grandchildren might remember about my "tote bag" - maybe the sketch book, pencils, scissors and glue or my camera but for sure my digging deep for loose change dropped into the bottom of the bag - you know, a quarter or two for a snack.