The Unexpected - -

On Christmas Day Karen and I drove to Williamsburg expecting to spend a few pleasant days in a familiar place. If I had had any qualms at all it was because Jim and I enjoyed many visits there during the past 20 years.

The weather was perfect - sunny and warm. We arrived early. Karen and I strolled down the main street of Historic Williamsburg so that I could gather some new photos of the traditional fresh Christmas decorations.

We checked in at Powhatan Plantation and I wrote my Christmas Greeting before we went to the movie - The Imitation Game. 

Read my Christmas Greeting HERE.

We came back -

And I snuggled into bed. Tired.


At 3 am I roused, alarmed. Body alerting me.
Stomach attach.
From then on I vomited every 30 minutes for the next 6 hours -

I did not leave my bed until a day later.

Karen drove home, exhausted, from 36 hours as the nurse on duty.

Today we are enmersed in the Harry Potter Marathon and grateful for full diversion.

I have been asking myself what? how? why? Where did this come from -

I don't know for sure but I have a few guesses -

I had just flown to California on a surprise quick trip when Jim's brother died - glad to be there - It had meant so much to Jim for Tom and his wife to come out to see him to say "good-bye." This was a large family gathering of a wide extended family - and I was very glad to be among them for the good-bye to Tom.

Time with my daughter and her family. Great to see her three young men. And, to spend time with Robin and her husband, Brad. And to have a visit with some special friends.

A long flight back - with many young kids on board - arriving after 11PM.  Very tired and grateful my son was there to collect me.

So, many points of exposure for some unexpected stomach attack.

Or was it a well-timed "stop" - - - catch your breath - before the New Year.



VIDEO - The Door Story

This is one of my favorite family Christmas Stories.


What About Time?

Just saying - - - 

What is it about time?
How can a long time seem like yesterday?
Or  - -
sometimes it feels like years to get through the next five minutes?

Once 50 years seemed like such a long time in the distance- -
now 50 years marks milestones which feel very close.

Today is one of those long ago but close anniversaries for me -

Gretchen Marie Schoettler
b. November 10, 1961
d. December 13, 1964

Is it really 50 years ago - - -

We have a long history with Arlington National Cemetery.

What makes the difference -
in how you are feeling the time?

whether you are looking ahead

or looking back?


NEW VIDEO: My Sister Kathy and The Thrifty Tailor

My sister called and prompted a new story.

See the Video:


Christmas Past -1

 After our oldest grandson, the first of daughter Robin's three sons, was born Jim and I often spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their boys in California. First in sunny Southern California and then in Lafayette which is on the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay.

Several times we celebrated Christmas Eve with our son Jimmy's family here and then flew out on Christmas Day, arriving in time to have Christmas Dinner on the West Coast. It was as close to bi-locating as we are likely to get. Our daughter Karen often made the trip with us.

In 2004 Jim and I flew to Robin's a week before Christmas and Karen arrived in Lafayette several days before Christmas.
I wrote about Christmas Past then too.


Around the dinner table at Robin's, everyone was taking a turn telling something about a Christmas Past.

Brad talked of a memorable Illinois Christmas at his grandparents house. Jamie, Robin and Brad's oldest, begged the question, not sure that this year might not be the one he would talk about later.

When it was our daughter Karen's turn she laughed.
"Ofcourse I remember the year I got all the stuff."
She paused and then added,
" but there is the Christmas Eve we were out here, in Madera, at Grandma's and we went to Yosemite."

Jim and Robin and I nodded. "Oh, yes." "That was Christmas 1974", I added.

This is not our first California Christmas.

My husband is a California native. He went to medical school on the East Coast and ended up staying out there. We brought all our kids to Madera for Christmas for the first time in 1969.

Jim's father died in March 1974.

We came back to California with our three kids for Christmas that year so that all the family would be together. It was a wonderful reunion of aunts, uncles, and cousins as those anniversaries often are.

Christmas Eve dawned. All the resident families had chores to do and fixings to complete for the holiday. We were at loose ends and in some ways in the way.

Jim suggested we take our kids for their introduction to Yosemite - only a 90 minute drive away.

As we climbed toward the mountains we met snow. There were snow capped peaks ahead as we drove through lightly dusted hills and valleys.

We stopped for breakfast at a lodge near the entrance to Yosemite Park. The dining room had a cathedral ceiling and large windows framed breathtaking views of the snow capped mountain peaks.

A floor to ceiling grey stone fireplace dominated one end of the room. Standing near-by was a 20 foot evergreen tree. The top just missed the rough hewn ceiling rafters. The room was perfumed with a mixture of spruce and wood smoke. The thick farm pancakes and maple syrup were as perfect as the setting.

We entered Yosemite Park through a tunnel. As we emerged the monumental El Capitan
stood before us on the left.

Ahead on the right we saw a bright white streak against a sheer rock face where
Bridal Veil Falls was frozen solid.
We were all so awed that we spoke in the same hushed voices we use in church.

The air was cold and crisp and pure. The skies overhead were bright blue with an occasional white cloud floating by.

Ours was the only car at the vista point. And that was how it continued all day. We saw no more than three cars all day. We owned the park.

Deer grazed in snow covered clearings.
When we walked toward a creek we heard the rushing water before we saw
it tumbling over the rocks. At every twist in the road there was a new view of the white capped Sierra peaks that surround Yosemite Valley.
Half-dome dominates and is my favorite sight.

That was thirty years ago today - but I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday.

How could we have known that we were capturing a timeless moment that would live for each of us - -

Today I think of it as the day we spent in the Presence of God -

and I am so grateful we shared it as a family.


Guest Author BETSY WHITE: Loss of Innocence

Guest Author: Betsy Villas White

December 7th was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor - "the day in infamy".
The Japanese forces attached the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii - and sent the United States into World War II.

A day to be remembered!

Betsy White is a writer and a dear friend of mine. When she read her story of her childhood memory of that "day of infamy" she transported me back in time. Her words bring back that sweet Sunday in Charlotte, NC from a child's perspective. - as the world changed. Not the usual eye-view for a story that usually touches on "military experience" only as the grown-ups remember it.

 As soon as I heard the story I invited her to share it as a "Guest Author" on my blog.

Loss of Innocence
Betsy White
The thing I remember best about that December day in 1941 is my green reindeer sweater.   It was my favorite sweater and I wore it as often as my mother would let me.  The prancing reindeer on the sweater was white and surrounded by snowflakes.  Wearing the sweater made it easier for me to pretend that I was Heidi sitting before the fire in Alm Uncle’s mountaintop cabin.  As a little girl living in North Carolina, I often pretended to be Heidi.  The land of snow and giant fir trees held a great fascination for me.  My mother frequently thought the weather was too warm for the sweater, but today I had been allowed to wear it. 

Every Sunday my family and my Uncle’s family had Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house.  Today my little brother had a cold so instead of going to church as we usually did we had come early to visit with my grandparents.  I was sitting on the floor in front of the console radio in my grandparent’s “front room”.  The Sunday comics were spread out on the floor and my grandmother was helping me cut out the paper doll which always appeared, replete with clothes, in the Sunday edition of the Charlotte paper.  The adults were drinking coffee as my little brother slept in my mother’s arms.

We were listening to the Sunday Morning Gospel Hour on the radio.  My grandmother hummed along with the music and my parents talked softly with my grandfather.  By now many of the gospel songs were familiar to me and I hummed along as best as I could in imitation of my grandmother.  I liked to rub the angora wool of the reindeer on my sweater as I sang.

Suddenly the music stopped and an announcer broke into the program in a loud and shrill voice.  I didn’t understand the meaning of his words but I heard the alarm and rising panic in his tone.  The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States was at war.

I looked at my grandmother and saw the tears rolling silently down her face.  My Daddy and my grandfather were talking much too loud and their voices filled the room.  My little brother woke up and started crying.  My mother stood up with him and ran from the room.  I sat on the floor in confusion and fear.  In a matter of minutes the peaceful Sunday morning had disappeared and in its place was a landscape I didn’t recognize.  The adults in my life were shouting and crying.  The safety of the room was shattered.  From the outside world had come a force that was bigger than my family, bigger than their ability to control.  I sat and rubbed the reindeer on my sweater.  I willed myself to the chalet where Heidi lived with her grandfather.  I imagined myself in the hayloft where Heidi slept in her bed of clean straw with the moon shining down upon her. The space was quiet and peaceful and I longed to stay there.  That day I didn’t understand the significance of Pearl Harbor to the world at large or to our family, but I did know that something significant had changed for me that Sunday morning in my grandparents’ front room and that my world would never feel the same again.

                                                                                                       October 20, 2011                  


A remembering of December 7, 1941

Ellouise Diggle Schoettler, circa 1942

Earlier today I posted this memory on
the Facebook Page "I am a Native Charlottean."

December 7, 1941 - 

I hopped in the car for a Sunday afternoon ride with my grand-parents. We turned a corner,( from Pecan into 7th Street in Charlotte, NC) at Independence Park traffic was stopped and newspaperboys were in the streets waving pink newspapers and hollering EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA. My grandfather bought one and read the headline out loud "WAR. Japs Bomb Peral Harbor." As a 5 year old, I didn't know what Granny was crying about - but I knew it was BAD! 
Do you have memories of that day?

Shortly after I posted my brother Robert responded on Facebook:
Only six years before my time and of course kids my age grew up very well informed on WWII. I remember Mama talking about the u-boats off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, among other wartime tales.

Its not often that I have a chance to talk to my brother who lives in Atlanta so I sent back:

Ellouise Schoettler Oh, yes. I was at Wrightsville Beach with her for some of that- when there was "lights out" at the coast every night, and the car headlights were painted half black. Uniformed guys everywhere. Closer to home - I used to run out to the sidewalk on 7th Street and salute as the convoys, trucks filled with guys from Fort Bragg rolled by. You could hear the roar of those trucks ten minutes before you saw them. When Daddy joined the US Army Air Corps gave me one of his "oveseas" caps. I wore than hat every day. And aways when I was saluting the troops as they rolled by on 7th Street - and they laughed and waved back.

Later I added another story of Jim's memory of that incredible December Sunday.
Ellouise Schoettler My husband Jim remembered hearing the announcement on a console radio in the Schoettler living room in Fresno, CA - the very same radio that now sits in my daughter's living room near SF, CA and reminds us of a bit of Schoettler family history. The radio also shows us how "things" help us hold on to the memories for family stories. Robin S. Fox 
Talking about the radio always prompted Jim to tell this story - his uncle was married on Dec. 7 in Fresno - the bride's brother was in the Navy, stationed on the US Battleship Arizona in Hawaii - he was granted permission to leave the ship to send flowers to his sister for her wedding - he ran back once the bombing started but when he reached the dock the Arizona was burning and sinking! He suffered over that for the rest of his life. Many of these war stories have several sides don't they?
There are so many bits that make up the enormous quilt of life that day.

So many say, "I wasn't born then." 
Then gather a story of two. 
Ask someone who was there - even as a child.  
They remember.


Over the Back Fence

If you have been reading my blogs for very long you know this is the image I post when I am angst-ing a bit over life.... and death.

This morning I know I should be working on a "commissioned" story that I am telling in 10 days instead of "thinking" - - maybe writing it down will help me shake the thinking so I can get back to work.

For the first thing - it's December.  Christmas is coming.  I should have known better than to make commitments for December. I have never particularly liked Christmas - it was never much fun in my family when I was a child because it was an emotionally charged season for my parents - which took lots of the joy out of it for the kids.

Jim and I got married at Christmas and Jim loved the happy season which for a long time was the antidote to my gray memories - then our youngest daughter died in December. In fact next week is the 50th anniversary of Gretchen's death.  Hard to realize its been that long. Harder still to have Jim now buried out there with her. And it is a bit tricky to accept that I will be buried there with them.....Jim's death taught me to face the reality of that.

Next Saturday I will take flowers to Gretchen at the same time that Wreath Around America is placing Christmas wreaths on all the graves at Arlington. Interesting juxtaposition.

Now what to do about today - how to keep my eyes and mind on another's story when I am slogging around in my own story. Especially since I know that a little later today Christmas is going to come up - "what about putting up a Christmas tree today?"

I have refused to put a Christmas treet since Jim died because those boxes in the basement are loaded for me - - they are packed solid with memories. Jim and I collected Christmas Tree ornaments. Over the years it became an evergreen family album of year-long happy times, trips and events. When we traveled we always brought back something "for the tree." Little odd souvenirs also made the cut - - along with other momentos. Every year Jim set up the tree, turned on Christmas music and we  opened the boxes together and decorated the tree. Later we packed everything safely away until next time.

For our 50th wedding anniversary Jim helped me with an art show at the Studio Gallery in Washington, DC and part of the show was a full size Christmas tree decorated as a family album.

You get the picture. Opening those boxes is a tough duty I have avoided.

Until now - -

I have decided to walk through the smoldering coals. I am going to put up a tree and open the boxes. 

Jim's orchid encourages me. It began to bloom three weeks ago and still has four more pregnant buds. This orchid is one that bloomed at his memorial service almost three years ago and when those bloom dropped off it became dormant - - -  for a bit more than two years.

Quite a few times I considered tossing it out ...

Today I realize its a blessing  - -

and a message  -

to keep on keeping on.


Facebook and Blogging to Capture a Memory

Posted this today on Facebook - 
I don't want to lose this incident so decided to make a add it to a "post". 
Arlington National Cemetery delivers many serendipities. Today I joined Susanna Connelly Holstein, her husband Larry and her sister Teresa on their visit to Arlington to touch base with their Connelly grandfather and a great-grandfather - Granny Sue and Larry knew Jim - we all met at the WVA Storytelling Festival - in 1998 - so - . First stop - a friend- hello for Jim. Right away Susanna noticed - our long time-neighbor Arlington neighbor - buried next to our grave the same week our daughter Gretchen was buried there - is a CONNELLY - " Ellouise, he could be one of our Connellys" - and his name "Harry" is a familiar name in their family tree. Talk about small world - in today and in forever - if that pans out. Lt Col Connelly is one of the neighbors I talk about in my Arlington Story - he fought in WWI and WWII and was in the Air Corps and USAF Force. What really touched me about this coincidence - - since I had already made one visit this week - I almost stayed home - - I would have missed this altogether. Life often visits us with these surprises and I am very grateful I was there for this one!!! Crossing my fingers Lt Col is a Susanna connection - but as my daughter says - it doesn't really matter - we have had a Connelly connection in WVA for a long time.
— with Susanna Connelly Holstein.
Ellouise Schoettler's photo.
Ellouise and Susanna Holstein

Later this afternoon Susanna  - wrote about our visit to Arlington from her perscpective. Always good to two sets of eyes on a story


NEW VIDEO: "Handmade"- story for my mother.

I call this story "Hand-made" and it celebrates my mother, Louise Keasler Diggle, who was a very ingenious and creative woman. Thank you, Mama.

Listen to it HERE


Story Concert with Ellouise Schoettler

An Olio of Stories

It's not that I am lazy - - its just that I look for the least complicated way to to something.

Often someone interested in my work asks me to send a DVD to review. Of course I want to respond quickly. Lately it has occurred to me that there must be an easier and cheaper way to do that than making DVDs of videos, packaging them and taking them to the Post Office. So today I have selected a few of my stories from You Tube for an OLIO and placed them on my blog.

Note:  I am grateful for my growing collection of videos from my Stories in Time TV show and to Jessica and Bart Robinson who film all the Better Said Than Done events they produce in VA.

This week I have to answer some requests to see my work so its time to try this out. If my plan works - one link will take care of everything.

The videos shown here were filmed at Better Said Than Done events in VA.


Maryland resident and North Carolina native, Septuagenarian Ellouise Schoettler tells original stories from Mayberry to Capitol Hill that touch hearts and tickle funny bones.

Writing in My Book -

The Tattooed Man - a story I collected in a Bethesda doctor's office.

Mama's Funeral - We heard my mother's story as she wanted it to be.

Good Will Mourning - a love story.

Miss Janie Kilgore - my favorite teacher taught me a lasting lesson.

1942 = My Daddy walked me to school and then left home to go to War.



Technology Gets Me Through!

Monday night I was driving home from the Writer's Center where I am enjoying the Veterans Writing Project class on writing memoir and non fiction when - - my radio went silent and unreponsive. OMG!!!

I ride through life listening to SiriusXM Radio Fifities on 5 -  sailing on memories of those lovely days when Jim and I were young and in love and starting our life together.

When I am wrapped in that warmth I don't even notice my white hair and Jim is always beside me.

What's this????

Within twelve hours I was sitting in the Toyota Dealer Service Department waiting room - trying not to think the "awfuls" that it might cost many bucks to replace the radio.

Well it was a good day - they diagnosed that the radio amplifiers were done - and covered under the warranty. As I breathed a deep sigh of relief and remembered the day I bought the extended warranty even though I hated to spend the money - okay I paidfor the amplifier - just not today.

Then the technician added: "it will take 7 to 10 days for the part to come from Toyota."

Yikes! Here was the bad news - for me.

Monday I am on the road with The Hello Girls and, to tell you the truth, I cannot see myself making that trip without Buddy Holly and all the other great guys of the "days" and their music.

First I thought - rent a car. It won't take that much of a bite out of the gig money - ---
then - - -  I figured it out - - -

Last year I added the computer to my Sirius Radio account - - for NOW... 
I think this will work out because I have a personal Hot Spot on my phone

Monday I will be happily roaring up the highway toward Hagerstown, Maryland with my computer strapped safely into the seat next to me -

This is the plan. Some of the trip I listen to the Hello Girls tape on iTunes
but most important  - - the rest of the time - -

Fifties on 5 will be blaring those familiar tunes and keeping me company.

What this is really about - 
is learning to take care of yourself and 
going on about life 
the best way you can!

Its my new normal.


Saturday Morning

How about this?

For the next six weeks I am taking a Veterans Writing Project writing class focusing on Memoir and Creative Narrative.

The Class is an extension of the work of the VWP Seminar I attended recently. It is a very varied group of nine which makes it all the more interesting. I can't say I don't mind being the oldest in the class - but am coming to terms with it. It is what it is.

We met last week for an introduction to the class and each other and to set the rules and schedules for the remaining classes. Personally I like this kind of structure. Oh, did I mention homework assignments. We have those too.

The first homework assignment is reading a 1970s New York Magazine article by author Tom Wolfe. In it he describes his view of the evolution of a new form of journalism -  creative narrative. Wolfe started out in NYC as a journalist in the 1950s. He entered that world filled with ambition and dreams and he was surrounded by many of the "names" of the day who would achieve their dreams of writing "the novel".  Through their work they developed a new style of writing for journalists - a style that changed the way reporters often write and that also impacted on the sacred forms of novel-writing.

I see it as the form we are accustomed to today - reporting as story. The presence of the reporter in the the articles as more that just the narrator voice.  

I have read and enjoyed the work of Tom Wolfe for years and I particularly remember the surprises in reading Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" - a novel written in the creative narrative style - published in 1966. In the 48 years since then the style has become a familiar norm.

Last night I was reading a 1995 work, Peterson's "The Hot Zone", which details an earlier Ebola epidemic and reads like a can't-put-it-down-spy-thriller. Non-fiction written as fiction - i.e. creative narrative. The person who recommended the book told me, "this will scare the shit out of you." That's right on target - but more than that - it demonstrates this week's homework for my class.

Creative narrative is so familiar to readers today that I was unaware it is the form I use to develop and tell my stories - especially the personal stories I think of as oral memoir.

So the class is not only leading me to write new pieces it is prompting me to review and revise oral stories and put those words on paper. To help that along I am trying a few new ways of approaching both my writing, my storytelling - - and my blog writing.

For today:

Saturday Morning

This morning I woke up warm and cozy as I cuddled up next to pillows covered in the colorful quilted shams Jim and I used when Jim was in the bed with me. The pillow nesting is my solution for combatting the loneliness of waking up in an empty bed. 

My iPhone alarm began blaring the notes of "by the sea" at 6 a.m. When I bought my new iPhone 5s recently I changed the alarm sound from the lively beats of a "marimba" to the first bars of a tune that sounds like a dated British movie. Hearing it reminds me of waking up to the Arvin clock-radio Jim and I had when were first married another life-time ago. News or music opened every day before the irritating buzzer took over shattering sleep and forcing us out of bed

This morning I snuggled deeper under the covers and didn't actually get up until 7:45. I know the time because before moving an inch I looked at Jim's watch that I wear on my left forearm. At first light every morning it reminds me he is not here. 

When I swung my legs over the side of my tall Texas farm bed I thought  " We have milk. I can have cereal for breakfast." I don' t usually get up thinking about what's in the refrigerator but we ran out of milk a few days ago and it was still on my mind. 

I prefer easy breakfasts out of a cereal box rather than cooking eggs or toasting an English muffin. My daughter Karen bought some milk last evening on her way home from a round of necessary errands. You understand, we had money to buy milk when it ran out -  we just did not have a reason or the urge to go out on rainy days to buy some. 

The weather changed yesterday afternoon and the sun came back.

Have you ever noticed it is easier to do without something by choice than it is to do without it when your pockets are empty and you have to.




Taking stock of the week.

It's Sunday - so playing catch-up - with last week and thinking about the week ahead.

I have had quite a week and now I am standing on the cusp of another one that also has challenges and joys.

Last Sunday I was attending the second day of a two-day Veteran's Writers Project Seminar in Arlington, VA and feeling filled up with new information and ideas. The rest of the week I did "life" and prepared for a a wonderful storytelling gig in Georgetown, DE where I told "Your Story is Your Legacy" to an annual gathering of Delaware Librarians. They were a terrific audience - warm, welcoming and great listeners. Some mentioned the possiblility of bringing me back to their libraries and I do hope that happens -

This week I have also had an advanced case of Apple-itis. I changed iPhones because after getting lost last week-end I decided I would be better off with an iPhone with a talkng Siri and GPS. WHAT WAS I THINKNG? There is quite a steep learning curve when you change your phone. My timing was off and I ended up cruising down HWY 50 Friday morning with no-phone and a silent GPS. So I drove on clutching the MapQuest print-out. My advice - if your are going to need help to get started with a new phone - consult your calendar and make sure all the stars are aligned before you give up your familiar phone.

Then my hard drive crashed on my MAC. Yikes.
They replaced the hard dive under warranty, thank goodness, but said that if I wanted them to transfer it to the new drive I would have to pay $100.  I decided to save the money and try to do it myself. It did not sound like rocket science. The genius told me the step by step way. I am jubilant! I unleashed the power of the MAC perfectly. One for my team. But, the Bluetooth in the car is still not working right.

My problem is that I so wish I could call Jim and tell him about the things that have happened and  bring him in on what's coming up this week. Haven't worked that out yet. Its gonna take more to work that out than connecting the Blue Tooth in my car.

My sister Kathy is arriving from Georgia on Tuesday for a week. There will be lots of talking, computer time, some TV and some special Field Trips in Washington. Kathy is also interested in the World War One period so its pretty sure that we will be visiting some sites. Kathy loves games so my daughter Karen picked up several new games to try out with her.

Tomorrow storyteller Jane Dorfman is the Guest on Stories in Focus and I am looking forward to our conversation and to hearing a new story from her.

Wednesday night I am receiving an award from the MC Business and Professional Women.

They have asked that I tall a story a part of the program. Makes me happy - so I am telling a version of "Your Story is Your Legacy" that will be tailored to them.

BPW is an organization with a long and distinguished history of supporting women in their work and in their education. The organization has a special significane to me as one of their national legends, Mariwyn Heath, from Dayton, Ohio was my mentor when I worked as ERA Campaign Director for the League of Women Voters of the US. She was smart, politically savvy, funny and a great cook.

She believed you had to have something to relieve the stress in all-consuming jobs like we had. On a trip to New York City to the Democratic National Convention Mariwyn taught me something really grand - how to needle-point.

Quickly I embraced needle-pointing. I liked the feel of the colorful wool and the punch as I pushed a needle through the form. It was  soothing, especially on long flights and during interminable meetings. After making several small pieces (eye-glass cases) I tackled a pillow top. I was quite proud to give Jim this pillow for his birthday I in 1981. He was surprised and pleased and kept it on a chair in his office until he died.

Now it is a "familiar" in the living room and I think of both Jim and Mariwyn - who showed me how to make it. Just writing this lets me pricks memories and I know it would be a good thing for me to take out several half-finished lingering needlepoint projects and complete them. Tie up those loops.

Oh, yes, next Wednesday I will be grateful to receive the award and I will be thinking of and thanking Mariwyn Heath.

As I send hugs to Jim.


A Door Opens

 When I learned that Jim's veteran status was my eligibility, I signed up for a week-end writing seminar with the Veterans Writing Project. 

It was this past week-end and its the best thing I have done for improving and enriching my craft in a long time.  Ron Capps, founder of The Veterans Writing Project, an excellent teacher, has developed a curriculum that dissects examples of proven literary writing to teach the fundamentals that lead to more good writing. The excerpts he selected were inspiring and the instruction was dead-on. Read about Capps HERE.

This seminar is intended to encourage and help veterans to write about their military experience so the examples Capps used were written by authors who were veterans and whose writing was about their military experience.  For example: Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, English Poets of WWI Siegried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, Richard McKenna, Ernest Hemingway, Stendahl, and on and on and on. 

Rich prose, wide variety of styles, and unforgettable images. I have read most of the  works he used, and remembered many, but had ever experienced them as I did this week-end as Capps directed the group through the craft the authors used to create them.

Of-course it was writing by men - and no matter how much I admire and enjoy men's writing, that's always an itch for me. But there are many women who are writing these days about their military experience and many who come through VWP seminars across the country. I will be on the look-out to read their works hoping to find others who can bring todays women's experience to life as vividly and emotionally as Vera Brittain did in the WWI classic, "Testament of Youth."

I was introduced to the Veterans Writing Project last July by a dear friend who was in the program. She invited me to a public reading of the works of those attending and I was impressed and moved by
the depth and truth of their stories. It was raw, powerful work. Ever since I have followed information about the VWP,  heard more stories when I could and thought about it.

Then I read Ron Capps book, "Seriously Not All Right." I found it a fascinating read that I could not put down. In June my son, a Hopkins alum, dropped the Hopkins article on my dining room table, whetting my appetite to find out more. The Universe responded. I ran into Ron Capps when I appeared on the Better Said Than Done panel at George Mason University several weeks ago. He told me I was eligible to attend because of Jim's service. A door opened.

If you are wondering why this caught my attention -

My husband Jim Schoettler was an Air Force flight surgeon and psychiatrist on active duty during the Viet Nam war which was a time when military doctors both in Viet Nam and on the home front were dealing with an explosion of something that had been called many names, battle fatigue etc and today PTSD. But in the 1960s they were without defined treatment protocols so they struggled and experimented with ways to help these guys. A physician colleague came back after his year Viet Nam tour and could not rest until he went back, hoping to "help."

Two years ago a friend of mine who is very involved with Art and the Military Experience recognized my Arlington Story as connected to a wider military experience. So did
Roger Thompson (Stony Brook U.) in his review in Arts and Military Experience.

I doubt I would have recognized this connection to Jim, to Gretchen, to my past and ironically to my future without Thompson's article and insights.

Spouses have a different story - but it is surely part of military experience.

Over the week-end, talking about writing about the military experience,  I was reminded of a forgotten story that I had written with Agyle Hillis, another Air Force wife, when our husbands were stationed at the School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. Budding writers, Argye and I interviewed the wives of the astronauts who were undergoing month long tests in the isolation chambers at the ASMS where they were gathering medical data for space flights. A New York agent took our article and there was a buyer, a national publication -- when PLOP -- they lobbed off Commander Shephard and our article about their wives hit the dust!  Even then I was interested in the woman's experience - because that's what I was living.

A good reminder to me to stick with what you know.
It was a great week-end. I hope to continue this connection. On the way home I almost got lost again but -


September Blessings - a gratitude post

September has reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for:

For my family - and the times we have together -

A week-end at Virginia Beach and Williamsburg with Jimmy, Monica and Karen - talking and laughing and enjoying being by the sea and surrounded by history and memories of other trips here.

A trip to California in September to spend time with my daughter Robin and her family.

Robin and I worked on a project together, visited UC - Chico to see her son Dan, visited with her son Jamie before he took off for business in Europe and I caught up with her son Scott and her husband Brad around the house and over meals. All good time.

Robin and I made a day trip to Jim's hometown to visit with our Schoettler family. I went to Jim's home town for the first time in 1959 - with Jimmy and Karen and pregnant with Robin while Jim went to Cape Canaveral on assignment when he was in the Air Force. He arrived two weeks later - and made sure we made time for him to take me to Yosemite National Park - with is less than 2 hours from Madera. That's when I really fell in love with California.

In my professional life:
I am grateful for storytelling - as a listener and as a storyteller. I should add that I count my blessings all the time for having this job where I can write and tell the stories I want to. How lucky I am to have found the story of the Hello Girls that I am telling
these days especially as it gives me such a good feeling to be bringing their unknown story forward.

 I can't leave out the blessing of my job at the Mongtomgery Municipal Cable Station where I can tape stories and talk with others who work in stories and tape the conversations and their tellings.
In Williamsburg we went as a family group to hear Syd Lieberman tell his Gettysburg Story: Abraham and Isaac. We loved the story and admired his telling. Twelve years ago our family bought a get-away place outside Gettysburg so we have a "thing" about that history. Lovely to share this experience and we talked about it off and on all weekend. Its pretty sure we will check out the national cemetery next time we ride into town there.

I appreciate working with Better Said That Done - to tell stories and meet new people and to receive a video of the telling - now how lucky is that???? Thanks to Bart and Jessica Robinson .

Well not as lucky as 57 years being married to Jim Schoettler.

September is not fully over and there are a few more things coming before October 1.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Montgomery County Chapter of Business and Professional Women informing me that I had been selected as their Woman of Achievement for 2014 - WOW!
I am very honored and grateful for the award particularly as I have admired BPW for many years for their work for women's issues and toward improving the status of women in the work world.

Tomorrow I am attending the Veterans Writing Project Seminar - two days of intense writing instruction with veterans who are writing about their experience in the military. I have wanted to do this. Never expected it would be possible. But you see, I am the spouse of a Veteran - and that's my ticket in. Thank you, Jim.

One large over-sight. FRIENDS. There are wonderful and good friends in my life and I am deeply grateful for their presence and their caring - and I feel much warmth from the cyber community - people who encouraged me during the past two years after Jim's death - your virtual hugs and encouragement have been a buoy through the worst time in my life. Thank you.

And last but by now means least - my sisters. I have three from my family - and more that God has sent to my life many years ago and lately. I love you all.


Writing in Your Books

Better Said Than Done storytelling event during the Fall For the Book Festival at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA   Took the opportunity to tell this story - which shows it can take years to reconnect with something you learned when you were in the 4th grade.  Yes, aberrations are strong memories.


A two-in-one gift.

There are days when you really need a hug aren't there?
Today was one of those for me.

A little blue  - just in general and feeling a bit over-whelmed by all I have said I would do
and now the deadlines are riding in
like a sunami  - of get it done's.

When I heard the clanking of the mail slot in the front door and a slap as a bunch of stuff hit the floor I pushed out the air of a big sigh - "more bills probably," I thought.

Instead - a card with a surprise gift for me from my dear friend Kay.

Now this is a hug if I ever felt one.

The necklace is the hug - the message it carries as it rides around my neck is the encouragement any performer sometimes needs.

Why that sounds like a two-fer!



Looking back to look ahead

Over The Back Fence, collage, e. schoettler

Is that really true?
A month since I have written on this blog?
Hard to believe.

I used to write here every day
and if I did not write something my conscience pricked me.
I felt like I had fallen down at the switch.
Times do change, don't they?

So, I am back.
Trying again.
That is the song I sing, the story of my life.
I will see how it goes.

Catch up:

Sisters: Ellouise, Kathy and Ollie
Promo Card from Capital Fringe 2011
I did go to Georgia.  Spent a week with my sister, told Finding Gus at a local library, presented an all-day workshop at the same library and told The Hello Girls at a House Concert. That was great for the storyteller in me - making some money and telling lots of stories to very lovely people who enjoyed what I brought. Now who could ask for more?  Plus, lots of conversation with my sister. Catching up with her and sharing from my world. She has an unflinching eye on the world and her advice is good.

Jim: Pier near San Simeon, CA
Two days after I came home from Georgia I flew to California to visit my daughter and her family, friends, and to make a visit to Jim's home town and his family. All good. Rich time. Tinged with melancholy and tears without Jim there to share it.

But I realized
he is there. For more than 50 years he and I visited California together up and down Highway 99 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Even though things have changed over time, a familiar landmark on the road is missing or a whole new development fills in the expanse of wide open space - Jim is there.

Jim loved California. As he left the hospital the last time I heard him tell someone that one thing he would like to do was "go to California". That did not work out. Instead he went further on his own.  Funny, the things I remember. So, when I go to California I feel that I am going for him too.

While I was in SF with Robin we worked research about The Hello Girls and it was so such fun to work with her although its hard to keep up. She processes stuff so fast, sees possiblities and zooms ahead. Hope we continue opportunities to explore avenues together.

On the flight home I sat with an interesting young guy who is a post-doc scientist at a CA university. We did not talk until the plane began to rock and roll and I said, "I hate this", he nodded, "I don't like it either." Then we dropped into an easy, friendly conversation that was really surprising - this guy is a genius, who along with several others like him, had invented a computer app which became a company which when sold padded their bank accounts. Shades of Facebook and other hot internet companies. But I tell you what really impressed me - when he opened his computer he took out a small folded paper and put it on the seat between us. (We were lucky - sitting in a three seat row with an empty seat). I could see it was a to do list "for the plane." with a box drawn next to each item. Once he turned on his computer he began to tackle those things one at a time and he did not waver until the flight attendant announced "prepare for landing several hours later." Total concentration.
I wish I had asked him what music he was listening to that helped his keep his train of thought.

Yesterday when I heard an interview about post-doc scientists on NPR, I thought of my seat mate on Virgin America.  The talk was about how this group is under-the-radar cheap labor in scientific labs across the country - working and doing excellent work for those who have snagged a tenured academic position - that this is the way progress takes place in their research fields. When I thought of him I was glad he had a well-padded bank account to see him through the excessively lean years ahead for him as a research scientist.

Nice to have a bit of insight into the interview -

My favorite ink pens: love the way they feel as they mark paper.

and more.....

Back home now and happy to be here.
I have lots of work lined up
so I am thinking about my seatmate last week and making a determined list
with boxes drawn next to each item .

Travel is good!!!


Launching Forth

It is Monday and I feel like I am standing at the "start gate" waiting for the gunshot to set me off.

Lots to do today to "get it together" for my trip to Atlanta Wednesday.
List is done and I am primed----

Practicing stories, preparing paper work, last minute tasks in the house,
and in the midst of all that -
I have started a new project...

Excited and hopeful.

Love that feeling at the beginning of a new venture --- all the balloons going up before you bump up against the obstacles which have to be overcome --- but that you didn't think of at the start.

That's part of it - isn't it.

Knowing that the rapids are somewhere ahead -

I will deal with those - later - and as they come up.

Right now I am going to revel in the personal excitement of

Launching forth - -

More will be revealed.


A Surprise Stop-By

Some days are filled with surprises.

Today I am refreshing and practicing the stories I will use in my Flesh on Old Bones workshop next week-end in Georgia.

I use iPod recordings to capture all my stories either in practice or during all the performances. Those recordings become the notes I keep for the record.  I like to learn or practice stories by listening not from a script. So, to prep the workshop I have pulled a group of stories into playlist on my iPod. Works for me - and its convenient because I can take the stories any where. It gives new meaning to multi-tasking.

As I listened to the "Martha Pearl" story today I remembered the exact evening I told this version  of it at the Kensington Book Store. We had a small group that night and at the end of the telling we talked about the story.

First I heard women's voices - Jolene for sure and the other was possibly my friend Cricket - and then I heard the surprise -
Jim's voice. 

I could see him sitting - like he usually did - in the comfortable over-stuffed chair near the check-out counter at the back of the room near the counter with his long legs stretched out in front of him when he chimed in with his comments about the story.

"This is a good story, Ellouise." Then he confirmed his opinion that it was also a good piece to use for teaching because the genealogy sleuthing search is part of the story.

Tears slipped down my cheeks. And - I was smililng.
That's how I use this story and why I will be telling it for the Flesh on Old Bones Workshop next Saturday.

Oh, yes, I remember his voice - but for the past few days my yearning to actually hear his voice has been acute - sharp. I was so glad to hear his voice although I had not expected it.

So grateful he was there that night - and - that he stopped by today

Thank you. Thank you. Steve Jobs.

I definitely love my Apple iPod.

Hope you are also using your iPod to catch moments and memories?