This has been quite a week. I stayed on my list "almost." Dental surgery threw me off track but I had expected that.
Monday I taped two programs: a new story and then taped an interview with Ronda Barrett about her work as a Personal Historian. As soon as I get the disk I will post the interview because it is filled with tips and things to think about whether you are gathering oral history or preparing a story you want to tell.
The big event Monday night was attending a celebration of Jennie Forehands 36 year career as an elected Delegate and then Senator in Maryland's State Legislature. Still feeling so happy after the celebration for Jennie M. Forehand at a reception in her honor in Annapolis Monday night. Who would have foreseen that when I met her in Girl Scouts in Charlotte NC I would later be attending a gathering to honor her for a 36 year career as an elected Delegate and then Senator for the State of Maryland - along with a distinguished group from the Governor, legislators who worked with her, steadfast supporters who helped her pass legislation , her family, and a pride-filled long-time friend - - the room was warmed by the respect and love she has earned by her steadfast and determined work to support those who most need a voice for their concerns - women's issues, abused and domestic issues, human trafficing, education, consumers and the arts - and - working tirelessly to pass legislation that has brought Maryland to leadership in being a smoke-free State. BRAVA Jennie!!!!
Ofcourse these high point events are always accompanied by real life!
The week so far has also included dental surgery that silenced me for two days. I mean, the only way, in my opinion, to handle that is with drugs and lots of sleep - I walked in from the dentist and crawled under the quilts on my bed. My daughter stayed here the first day. The team of handy-men are still here working hard. These considerate men just kept on working for two days while I slept away upstairs. When I emerged - wow - the living room is a new color - and I am so relieved the color I chose is the "right" color. While things change and "get pretty" I am living in an unbelieveable
mess. I have often laughed about renting a dumpster - I think NOW may be the time.
Last night I rented "Saving Mr. Banks" on Fios and LOVED it. I will have to write about it later because memories about Mary Poppins flooded over me. What wonderful books they are - and thank you P.L. Travers for imagining them.
Today I am surrounded by "tax" papers and hoping I can get this together. Jim always managed the taxes and I am really not skilled at them - yet! I realized last night that one of my major problems is my filing system or lack there of. Where is everything? Not a good question.
Today I am also working on my telling of "The Hello Girls" at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Saturday. I am just telling an excerpt which makes this easier - and gives me a chance to get know one of the characters a lot deeper.
A bit of "back story"
World War 1 started in Europe in 1914.
That is 100 years ago this year.
The United States entered WWI in 1917. Only 3 years until we also have the 100th year anniversary.
I decided last year that I wanted to tell a WWl story for the Fringe this summer.
My my great uncle, Walter Cobb, is buried at the San Mihiel American Cemetery in France. He died in France of the Spanish Flu 6 days before the Armistice. In 1930 his mother, Mary Louise Cobb, went to France as a Gold Star Mother to visit Walter's grave. She was on one of the government sponsored pilgrimages for wives and mothers to American cemeteries in France. For years I have thought I would tell their story - before its forgotten.
But, when I found the story of the Hello Girls - well - it was a "siren's song" - -
The Hello Girls - A Tale of WWI
picture taken in France, 1918.
(Courtesy of the Women's Military Memorial)
Storyteller Geraldine Buckley has said
"It IS a cracklingly good story ".
She is right and I was enchanted by it when I first read it. knew I wanted to tell it.
I loved their story - and I was challenged by the idea of telling a story that was not a personal story. This is new story territory for me.
Their story is almost completely unknown which attracted me right away. Anyone who knows me and my history as a feminist activist for the Equal Rights Amendment will understand that a chance to "give them their due" was enticing to me.
When General John Pershing, the Commander of the American Expedionary Forces, reached France in 1917 to bring the "Yanks" to the battlefield he was shocked to discover that France did not have the same top notch telephone system of the day that he was accustomed to in the US. Also an acute problem was that the French operators spoke no English and the Doughboys spoke practically no French. He sent a message to the War Department. "Send over 100 women telephone operators as fast as you can recruit them."
Pershing knew that the war would be won by more than guns - they needed excellent communications with the battlefields and all the camps.
It was a tricky search. Women dominated the role of telephone operators so there were many to pull from on that score. But finding French speakers made the task more difficult. They were recruited into the Signal Corps. These women, 19-35 years old came from across the United States and some from Canada.
They were sent to France on troop ships carrying men headed to the battlefield. They carried out their jobs at stations across France - some were close enough to the battlefields to feel the earth move when the heavy guns were fired.
At the end of the war General Pershing called them "switchboard soldiers.
I hope you will want to hear their story and meet these plucky women!
Before the month of March, Women's History Month, is done, I am posting this story about my aunt,
Catherine Diggle Brown, whose served in the WAC's during WWII - to honor her and all the women who have served or who are serving in the military. Thank you for your Service.
The Handy-men are here.
The handy-men have folded up their tarps and gone home for the week-end. But ---they will be back - - bright and early Monday morning. There is a lot to do to prep and prime the walls before the painting. Every thing is stacked and moved and it feels like a wreck - but I can see lovely changes happening.
This is just one room where the magic is happening. And it is all good.
The best feeling about it is that I am getting it DONE! I found someone to manage it and we are moving ahead.
If I were not in the middle of writing and planning for a new show at the Fringe in July I would stop everything and focus on cleaning out all the "stuff" - - by August I will be doing that.
Talking about my show.
Today, after a search, I found a real lead and called the name of the man I thought was the author of a bio-memoir of a very interesting woman who went to France with the US Army during WWI. Using her diaries and stories he wrote about his mother's service in France. When I called his wife answered. When I asked to speak to him, yes, I did have the right place - and then she told me he died recently. I have just missed him.
Isn't that what happens when we don't ask the questions and gather the stories from the elders in our families?
Just saying. Think about it.
Good Will Mourning is one of my favorite stories about Thrift Store Shopping and about Jim.
I was glad for the opportunity to tell it Saturday night as part of the Better Said Than Done line-up.
I introduced it at the Rogue Performing Arts Festival, Fresno, CA. - as part of a program called "Second Hand Rose." My venue was the La Tienda Thrift Shop, which is in Jim's childhood neighborhood and it is the setting for several of the stories.
Jim actually got a kick out of my telling the Good Will Mourning Story - as did members of his family - after all they all had the inside story on those early albums. And, later the family sat together and told more stories. It was great - storytelling igniting more family storytelling.
Many thanks to Jessica Piscitelli Robinson and Bart Robinson for this video.
Two new stories
"Ashton" - Adam Booth
touching base with music and history
"The Hello Girls" - Ellouise Schoettler
a tale of World War I
Information and reservations: 301-367-9323
Today is about to close so I am looking at how it went.
1. OK I admit it. I started off the day watching the latest "Miss Fisher" episode in the second series. A new one becomes available every Monday - on Acorn.com and its worth the $9 a month. I love the program - from the opening theme, the characters, the sometimes silly plots and the scrumptious clothes. If you haven't tried the series on Net Flix or Public Television - well, what can I say. In my opinion you are missing out.
2. Today I had a dreaded appointment with the dentist. I hate going to the dentist - not that I don't like my particular dentist. My dentist is skilled, competent, compassionate and - expensive. I like him. I trust him. He works away at my teeth without hurting me. And, he has done this for about 14 years. Even though he knows I am a "pain in the neck" kind of dental patient he lets me come back. I am part of his income stream. There I have told the truth about it. Today we talked and about the secrets revealed in my x-rays. I have to go back next week. Then he will get to work. DRAT! DRAT! and more DRAT. When I got home this afternoon, after our "talk", I watched another Miss Fisher murder mystery and took a nap.
3. My house needs attention. Jim's illness took over for a few years and we had to let the house go. After Jim died I let things go. As I been increasingly "wake up" I can see that I can't "let things go" any longer. I spent the past few weeks fretting about "what to do" and "who to do it" for the work ahead. I mean this is not going to be rocket science - but its clear I need " a team" - well, yesterday I found my Team Captain. A construction contractor who also has a "handy-man" service and all the handy-men who can do all the jobs - plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers etc. etc. We walked through the house and talked. He sees what needs to be done - not huge jobs to start - well, except maybe the roof might turn out to be a "biggie" . Anyway - he has the know how and the people!!!!!
I asked, "how much is this going to cost?" He answered, " I will send you an itemized cost proposal for each item - but I think probably - it will be more than you want to pay and less than I would like to charge for the job." That sounds believeable to me! I like him.
Between my Team Captain and my Dentist - I think I am going to be BROKE.
How am I doing, Jim?
I frequently post pictures of my cat - she is two years old now. She watches me closely and keeps me on my toes.
And I have to admit she often makes life very interesting during the day.
When I was looking through my YOU TUBE pages today I came across a story I told on "Stories in Time" shortly after she arrived in my life.
You know there is always a "back story". This is her's and mine.
What are the back stories on your pets?
Over the Back Fence:
When I made this collage ten years ago I was drawn to the calm, peaceful expressionless faces the Renaissance women were wearing. I still like them. But I can hardly ever imitate it.
Often I use this picture when I want to say something to myself as much as to anyone who reads what I write.
I am very grateful for the wise ones in my life. Often I don't recognize who they are - or reach out to them as often as I should.
1. Yesterday, after a long time, I talked with a wise woman I know and just hearing her voice was calming and comforting. She used to live here and I saw her often. Now she lives on the West Coast and we talk seldom - but our connection is "alive". Do you know what I mean when I say that?
Well, it is like this. We don't have to explain ourselves to each other. We listen and we laugh.
She too is a widow. Her husband died a year and a half before Jim. We all knew each other. Right there - that makes our conversations different. I told her I was having a hard time letting go of any of Jim's things and she said, "Oh, Honey, don't worry about it - I have one of Sam's jackets hanging on a chair in the kitchen - and its been there for three years. Its an honoring." We laughed deeply and I felt we had shared a truth, an understanding of each other's grief and love and a permission to "do it the way that is best for yourself."
2. When I felt so overwhelmed by the things going on around me the other day I woke up hearing my voice calling out for Jim. A wise friend suggested that I was calling out for help with the house emergencies I was dealing with. That was certainly true. Based on her comment I re-did my list, tossed the story stuff off the list and got down to doing "life".
Let me tell you, just because you have water in your basement and it feels like an emergency to you, you may not be able to get a plumber to come fix it. These are very busy folks - as well as being very expensive. I made an appointment for next week - the third plumber's first opening.
The water was standing around the bottom of the furnace which worried me a bit so I called the Service we have a contract with for the furnace and AC. We have done business with them for years.
They installed this furnace I am worrying over. The woman spoke of Jim and how long we had been their customers. She sent a mechanic who turned out to be an "angel". He checked out the furnace. Did not stop with just looking at the humidifier - but actually checked out the floor drain which was stopped up. He reminded me of the way Jim would poke around with things. He reversed the shop-vac to blow air into the water in the drain - and POP - forced whatever had blocked it to clear!
What a guy!
Its a great TIP - particularly when it works.
Later after a lot of vac-ing up water - the floor is dry.
Jim did send me the help. Why would I say that? Because he had great relationships with the folks who work for that company. Actually he had good relationship with all the service folks he worked with. He liked them and they knew it.
They liked him and they transfer that good feeling to me and I surely am grateful they do.
Over the Back Fence:
When someone called yesterday she said she was so happy to see how well things are going for me.
"I read your Facebook"
Let me tell you - everything you read on Facebook is not always the real story.
Take today for instance:
while I could tell about the three story gigs I am excited about for next week - which is true by the way - -
but also - - there is water in the basement and every plumber I call is too busy;
the dog peed on the freshly professionally cleaned carpet where there are permanent dog stains already;
a guy is in my attic cutting holes in the roof;
I have an emergency appointment with the dentist and my to do list is out of control.
I woke up this morning hearing my voice calling out for Jim. My voice echoed in the house. It sounded so strange.
Another very smart friend told me, "Sounds to me like you are calling out because you need some help." A simple observation that is helping me to grapple with it.
I'm remaking my list.
Sometimes the most important thing is to re-order your priorities.
Stall the emergencies if you can.
Sounds like good advice doesn't it.
It is the kind of thing Jim would have said - -
I hope it works.
Hi, Leo here.
Some may not remember me because I have been quiet for quite some time. Ellouise let me speak for her after Jim died and then as she regained her voice and her footing she retired me - sort of. But I watch. And, when it feels right I can have something to say.
Two years ago today Jim died here at home. It was the right place for him to be and Ellouise was glad to be taking care of him although she says she's not sure she did everything right. But those who were around say she did a good job- and that's not a story she tells.
It was a sunny day that Tuesday too. She remembers it all - as she remembers so much of their long time together. 58 years is a long time to be together - more than half a hundred years - so it takes time for Ellouise to reconstruct a life without his physical presence. I say that because he is very much with her all the time.
She looks good from the out side. Back on her feet, telling stories, traveling, writing new shows and starting to clean out her house - she says our house - but the truth is its her house now and she has all the responsibility for it. Now that is a big change. Don't always judge someone's insides by their outsides - especially someone like Ellouise who is a marvelous pretender. But - she does believe in the saying, "fake it until you make it."
Two years is enough time to complete some degree programs but it is a minute in grieving time and the changes or any changes are almost imperceptible to the person who is grieving. If you don't know now you probably will find out someday. There is no explaining it.
Today she has chosen to stay quietly at home. To do a few things, like paying the bills that she knows Jim would applaud and to enjoy the quiet - a time to think and to remember.
And, to rehearse the Second Hand Rose show which she is telling tomorrow. What was she thinking - well that is the point she probably did not look carefully at the calendar and she wasn't thinking.
That said, it has also been a good thing.
Ellouise developed this story as her entry for the 2009 Rogue Performing Arts Festival in Fresno, CA.
and since she applied late and had to find an alternative venue, she told the program first in the La Tienda Thrift Shop surrounded by racks of second hand clothes. The La Tienda Thrift Shop is located in the Tower District which is Jim's childhood neighborhood. That was a win/win for both of them. Telling stories for her and being "at home" for him. Ellouise signed up for the Rogue four times - the last time in 2011.
The Rogue is always scheduled the beginning of March so it is going on right now. In the past Ellouise and Jim would be there right now. Those are sweet memories: seeing their Schoettler family, people they came to know through the Rogue and just being in the Valley at this time of the year - riding down Hwy 99 into Madera, Jim's other home town, through the almond groves - trees covered with white blossoms - acres and acres of blooming white fields on either side of the highway.
This day is filled with lovely memories of trips to the Valley from 1961 - 2011. That is good.
And we have the orchid which will continue to bloom for weeks,
Ellouise will meet her family at the 5:30 PM Mass which is set aside for Jim and then they will have dinner together.
I have seen them do this before. An intimate gathering is a good thing - a good time for remembering and stories.
The theme for the evening of stories was "childhood etc." so I knew it gave me a chance to tell my Junior High School story again. It was a chance I could not pass up because I love the story. In this story I can walk back into the halls and classrooms of Piedmont Junior High School when I was in the ninth grade. Not that all the days were perfect - as you will see in this story - but they were all flavored well.
Learning something new all the time. Trying out things. Looking ahead to your dreams.
But - there were hurts that haunted you for years. This story is about one of those - and how help came from an unexpected quarter.
I call this story, "Miss Janie Kilgore" - which you will understand shortly.
Maybe this story will bring up some of your own memories from those wonderful, sometimes difficult days in Junior High School.
Ice and snow are on their way.
"ice will take down trees and knock out power."
Hate that! How about you?
Slipping and sliding is not my favorite sport.
I remember an unexpected snow storm some years ago
when Connecticutt Avenue quickly became a sheet of ice. I was driving toward Dupont Circle and right before Florida Avenue - I was just at the Hilton - my car went into a free wheeling skid and turned around twice. Scared me to death. Fortunately there were no cars near by. The car finally settled down anad stopped. Gasping, I headed toward Dupont Circle creeping all the way and shaking like a leaf in a strong wind.
That's when I decided that there was no where important enough for me to drive on ice. I am not kidding.
However you know how it is - you forget your personal rules.
My son was here tonight to fix my utility room sink. As he left we were talking about the coming weather and I once again proclaimed my concern about ice-driving - as in cautioning him to "be careful"
Laughing he said, "remember the night before my wedding?"
Lordy, lordy - yes.
We went to the rehearsal dinner downtown at GW Faculty Club - which Jim and I were hosting - driving in a slight drizzling rain.
When we emerged four hours later, dressed for a party not for snow and ice, we could barely find traction on the side walk. Jim and Jimmy drove in Jim's car and I drove my parents and my sister and her husband. Creeping slowly up Connecticutt Avenue toward the circle at the border to Maryland was nerve wracking. Just before the Beltway we entered our neighborhood. I chose the flattest streets rather that the hill that leads to our street.
That good plan turned into a nightmare. I became stranded on a slab of ice with wheels spinning, going nowhere - no kitty litter in the car and no one able to push us. Maybe that has happened to you and you have burned rubber like I did trying to get the car moving forward. The scene inside the car was noisy and chaotic. Mama was a bit hysterical, Daddy was telling me to "Rock it. Rock it." Kathy and Johnny were laughing at the predicament. I was not happy.
We were only about 9 blocks from home. But that was before everyone in the car had a cell phone in their pocket so we could not call anyone.
Finally the car lurched ahead and I crept those blocks to our house. Jim and Jimmy, who had driven up the hill with no problem, were standing on the front walkway looking our way. Jim did not look happy.
"Where have you been?"
Why do people always ask that? And even more, why, when they are worried, do they sound angry - like you have done something wrong?
Its a question for another time. Just setting the scene right now.
Once inside with hot coffee and cocoa we told our story and all was well.
Next morning the sun came out, ice melted, and we got to the church on time.
I continue to try to follow my rule and stay inside when it is iced outside.
Just saying, if I have an appointment with you tomorrow - I probably won't be there.
Some days I forget to be grateful for the blessings in my life
so I am naming these today to start March on a high note.
A two year old orchid from Jim's Memorial Mass March 6, 2012
played out its colors and turned off. I thought it was a throw-away but I didn't and I am glad.
A couple of months ago these two stalks sprouted up, grew tall slowly and then popped out 12 tight fisted buds. Those buds have relaxed and opened two at a time for several weeks shouting out hope and color.
Last night two more blooms were ready to open but still teasing me. When I came downstairs this morning they too were wide open and shouting out.
There are three more to come. Which should carry me right to Jim's anniversary next week.
and the ever present iPhone.
My iPhone - my constant companion - ever ready for talking or searching.
I never go anywhere without it in my hand or near to hand.
How about you?
Rarely to do I think to appreciate having it .
There is a lot to thank it for:
* it wakes me in the morning
* it is my safety net -
* I use the flashlight when I am fumbling for my keys
* what about the camera?
* solitaire when I am bored or waiting
* keeping lists on hand
* reading teeny tiny books on my phone Kindle
* connecting with the world
* being connected to the ones I love.
Thank you Alexander Graham Bell and all those who came after with the ideas that finally brought the phone to my pocket.
Jim and I once visited the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Nova Scotia and it is truly amazing to see that progression from an idea to our pockets.