The A-Z Blog Challenge is winding down. I have enjoyed it even though I have not kept apace at one a day - just stayed in the game.
W - is for Widow
When your husband dies you become a widow.
We had just flown in from the East Coast in 1974 to be with the family in California. His father has had just died.
I remember sitting on the couch next to Jim's mother in her living room in California. She turned and looked at me, "I am a widow now, Ellouise." She seemed to listen to the words as she spoke them. Then she softly chanted them to herself.
"I am a widow now.
I am a widow now.
I am a widow now."
over and over and over.
It seemed a bit strange to me at the time - but what did I know?
Now, I know why she did it - and I think I know how she may have felt.
I sometimes do it myself.
"I am a widow." "I am a widow." "I am a widow."
I think its possible I will be doing this for the remainder of my life.
That's all right - along with that chant - reminding me of Jim - I am filled with 58 years of memories of the love and the life we had together. Remembering those days helps me to find a place for myself in a new life - where I remember Jim - - - - as I keep going.
X - is for Xerox
Today they call it the copier - but to me it will be forever the Xerox. The machine that makes copies and whose brand name Xerox became - and still is for me - a verb.
Jim bought a XEROX for his home office in the 1970s. I was ecstatic. I love technology and machines but this one more than others because it made copies. Good for workshop hand-outs, resumes, making invitations to art shows and a multitude of other things.
The machine could enlarge and shrink. WoW!!! This made it an art tool as well as an office
Today there is a table top multi-tasking machine in Jim's office downstairs in our house. I think the brand name is "Brother". But that does not make any difference to me - it is now and ever will be the XEROX.
Its not working as hard as it did when Jim was here - he loved to run off multiple copies of patient records, bills, travel articles - anything he thought he needed or that others would enjoy. I inherited an endless supply of paper - reams and reams of it - stacked in the storage closet.
I love hearing the machine come to life at the flip of a switch. Sounds like Jim is home.
Y - is for Yonder
When I grew up the grown ups would say, "Its over yonder." and I would go to get what ever they asked me to.
Yonder was not a mystery.
I am sure that I said to my children, "Please get the "whatever" for me. Its over yonder." And they did.
They still seem to know when I ask for something using my favorite "yonder" location.
But no one else does.
What has happened to that fine old word?
That perfectly good word that was not nailed down to one place.
I miss"the good ole yonder."
T is for TELLING
I call myself a storyteller and telling stories is what I do.
Actually I have always told stories without even knowing I was a storyteller.
My family told stories about today and yesterday - about those that were here and those that were gone. I learned my family history that way - and I hope I am passing on my family stories the same way - and I hope my telling family stories prompts other people to tell their stories.
Stories are our LEGACY.
U is for UNDERSTANDING
Here is a lesson I have learned again recently. Before I say I understand I have to be clear on what it is I am supposed to understand. No use reacting to something when you did not understand what you were supposed to understand and you are coming at it all wrong.
Jim always asked me when I brought something to his attention - whether is was between us or between me and anyone else in the world, " Why didn't you ask first?"
Do you ask?
It saves a lot of time, angst and in some cases - money.
During my recent home re-freshing project I have learned that it is a good idea to see the cost in black and white on a piece of paper before rushing ahead...... and that impulses add money to the bottom line. Not that I regret a single penny or thing that has been done here - - it all looks wonderful - but without Jim standing by to remind me -
"Did you ask all the questions?"
Just saying - learning to live a new life after a major change has many lessons.
Isn't this a great word?
One of the my painting professors when I was an MFA graduate student at American University was the first person I every heard sprinkle the word "verisimilitude" like salt his teachings and his conversations.
He believed in the "appearance of truth" in a painting - not to look like something real - but to reflect the truth of what was in the painting - whether realistic or abstract.
Storytellers don't necessarily talk about their stories as having "truth" or "verisimilitude" but you often hear talk about the importance of the "details" to get the story across or to bring a story to life.
I find it a sort-of connection between the crafts of making stories and painting.
How about the truth in making a life versus the versisimilitude of a life - you know the making it look like it is real?
I guess I am telling you that I do not understand how to create a new versimilitude for my life yet.
Not ready to turn that into questions either - because I want to develop my own plan.
R and S - -- Rewriting and waiting for the SUN TUBE.
With this double blog I should be caught up. Whew!!
R is for REWRITING
Rewriting my script for The Hello Girls.
I usually don't write my stories before I tell them - so preparing this script is a bit intimidating.
But - - for The Hello Girls I am writing a script - because I want a piece that someone else could tell without me or after me. i.e. I am working on a short play and thinking about how to work if out like theater.
Fun and loving it.
The Hello Girls is not a personal story and that is quite a departure for me.
Where did this come from? Last year Michael Toscano interviewed me about my Arlington story for the Senior Beacon. He is a theater critic and so talking about storytelling was a bit of a departure for him.
One of his questions was, " How is anyone else going to tell this story? Aren't you worried about the story dying without you to tell it?"
Good question and it haunted me for months afterwards.
I decided that for this Fringe I would work at being more of a theater piece that someone else could tell.
Its a new challenge. I love it.
S is for my new SOLAR TUBE
I am excited.
The solar tube boxes are sitting in the living room. Tomorrow they will install the SOLAR TUBE
on the roof over the master bedroom. For the first time - ever - this room, which faces North, will be flooded with natural light.
I can't wait.
O - P - Q ----
Wow when I get behind I really get behind.
So -- here I am -- catching up on the A-Z Challenge -
Did not Quit - just stepped off while I caught my breath -
O is for OVERWHELMED
My list tilted.
It reached "overwhelming"
That is where I have been - over-whelmed.
Too many things to do and not enough time to keep up -
Wasn't that enough?
A couple of disappointments got in the way-
And - - my old friend grief stepped on board,
added its weight to an already over-loaded cart
and really slowed me down.
Mainly - I lost focus.
Does that happen to you??????
P is for PUSHING AHEAD
Focus is back and I am "pushing ahead"
Sucking it up some would say
Isn't that what you do?
Q is for QUIT
(Message to self. )
I know that is what Jim would say to me.
Sometimes I feel like quitting
On a number of fronts
But I am not going to -
That has never been my style.
I don't aim to start now - - -
A Quick Aside - no one said "No" that won't do for the A-Z Challenge.
A memorable afternoon with an artist in Provence -
I like being reminded of sweet times with Jim -
Now I will move on to the A-Z Challenge for today -
N is for NO
Consider the word "NO".
I have been thinking of this several days
What's wrong with saying "no"?
I must consider this some more
Ask myself questions
Why would I say NO?
When would I saw NO?
What are the consequences???
Would YES really be better - - - -
Or just delay the inevitable NO...
This afternoon I attended a lecture by the Warden of St Antony's College, Oxford University, Margaret MacMillan - on her new book about the beginning of World War I, The War That Ended Peace." She is an impressive speaker and gracious woman as well as an exceptional scholar.
Grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her - and will be reading her book "The War That Ended Peace" .
Working on my new story The Hello Girls, set during World War I, is expanding my interest in the period and I am loving that.
Also thought of the visit Jim and I made to Oxford years ago. It was a gorgeous day to walk those historic streets. I mostly remember the treasures in Ashmolean Museum which were wonderful.
On a silly note, surrounded by the soft-spoken, educated voices of the Antonians (Alumni who live in the DC Area) I thought of the Inspector Morse Mystery on WETA and could not help myself from wondering, "where is the corpse?" First saw the Inspector Morse mysteries in 1987 and watched all through the series and still enjoy them even when I know how the mystery will come out because John Thaw created such a good character.
Today L is for Looking Back. Much of my storytelling comes from "looking back." I mine my memories for stories. That works for me in several ways but the most important to me is that it keeps other days "alive" for me. A few months ago I discovered a "prompt" in a box and it brought back a whole year - the year that my husband Jim and I were dating, that he proposed and we got married. When I opened that little yellowing date book it was like sinking your pick into a rich vein of gold. So I started working on a story from it. Sometimes I don't wait until the story simmers and cooks - I just plunge in and start telling it knowing it will work itself out through the telling. These days, with my 78th birthday coming this summer, I often feel compelled to launch the story - - and then mellow it. This morning when I was reviewing stories I have told on my TV show as I decided what to tell on Monday - I came across this video. "Looking back" - I say as I start the story. Hey, I thought. L. I am looking for an L post this morning. What an opportune moment. Use this - - and I am. Maybe it will prompt you to do some "looking back" and who knows what you will find. Wishing you good hunting and a great "gold strike."
Jim, usually a behind-the-scenes guy, takes center stage like the "king"he was for the toast at our 50th wedding anniversary party in December 2005.
This last month as the workmen are refurbishing our house I am filled with incredible gratitude for our life together and grateful to Jim for his love, caring and kindness through our 58 years together.
|The first aromatic loaf of bread Jim made.|
J is for JOY
Thinking of the rich often overlooked small joys that give life sweet happiness.
The joy in the fragrant smell of fresh baked bread from your own oven.
The joy of the pungent smell of turpentine and oil paints in a studio filled with other artists who are also concentrating on the canvas on an easel in front of them.
The rich and satisfying joy of feeling a large warm hand cradling your smaller hand as you walk together - where ever you are.
The joy of seeing someone you love walking toward you -
from across the room
from his car
from around the corner
waiting for you at the airport
The way the world goes grey when you lose someone you love - -
there is no joy -
after a time, a long time
it is possible to feel small bits of joy
in the sunshine of a warm day,
in flowers showing their colors,
in the warmth of a pet nudging against your leg
in the smile of a child
in the encouragement of a good friend
Even though something precious is missing - -
you can feel a bit of joy.
Keeping up with the A-Z Blog Challenge is a stretch today because my list is crowded. But -- wanting to keep to the every day aspect of the challenge here goes - almost nothing - unless you make something from it.
I is for ??????
Thinking about it I started a list.
I is for:
Invisible - like Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility. Now that would be nice.
Irrestible - Many thing are -
Interesting - now that's an easy way to go
Intriguing - that offers the imagination a prod.
Inevitable - ah, me - - no escape.
Intertwined - what do you think?
And, so it goes - I,
I - - - -
I have told the story of this letter often over the years and included it when I was making larger programs with letters from my collection - - - but there is a new twist to the story. Something I would never have imagined that binds us together forever.
When I woke up this morning I wondered what I could write today for the blog challenge about - G.
The way I work - I never pre-plan - I hope something will emerge.
And it has.
Here is is - thanks to a Facbook post and comments from a few "friends."
This morning I posted this picture and it prompted a conversation which led me to a new understanding of what I am doing -
"dad gum" it's an album.
Start of the fourth week of work on my house. Not a great picture from last night but it tells me something - first art work is going up - house recovery in process. This job is
all for me - with the changes in the house I want to rotate the art work, change placements and add new stuff. I will imagine myself living in a "gallery" and hang a new show. Jim was the "master" hanger and the job will be a lot harder without him to help me - but then, truth be told, most things are harder without his hand in.
- Susanna Connelly Holstein I like the way you center your home around art. That says a lot about you. You draw creative energy from it, I think. Also peace and comfort. Be careful climbing around to hang it! Jim's height was probably an advantage as well
- Ellouise Schoettler Thanks Susanna Connelly Holstein Yes, I do center on the art.Jim's height was part of it - but also his "eye" for placements and relationships and his determination that everything would be level. I am more of an "essence" person and just knock a nail in and hope it works. Our son Jim helped to get this started last night - hanging a few larger ones to key the space. More will be revealed.
- Ellouise Schoettler I have not heard that story - bet its a riot. Yes, the art work is all mine. A few years back I gave the walls on this level to my art work - moving the works by other artists elsewhere in the house. That works for me.
- Ellouise Schoettler @Thanks Kaye Miller I think he would like it. For one thing it's clean! Wall color is subtle - and I am refurbishing furniture we have accumulated for 50 years - taking two chairs that were in his long-time DC office to the upholstery shop this morning. Jim is definitely here. The house is refreshed, I like to think renewed - with the history in-tact and room for change. Does that make sense? Dad gum - its a kind of album.
Thanks to my facebook Friends: Susanna Holstein, Linda Crim and Kaye Miller.
I first met Susanna (SusannaJHolstein.com) more than a dozen years ago at the West Virginia Storytelling Festival as she began her storytelling career. her blog: grannysu.blogspot.com
Linda Crim and I have never met in-person but, oh,my, I feel that we know each other through our writings. Her stories: eldergeneration.net
Kaye Miller is a proud Air Force Mom and she and I know each each other through mutual understanding of keeping on keeping on.
Thank you all for helping me on the road to a story about our house.
F is for Facing My Reality
Facing my realities and in this case I mean my limitations is HARD.
I want to do everything.
Never say no.
Saying I will go when I really did not want to and then HAD to.
Maybe you know these situations.
For me facing up and giving up something is HARD.
This week I wrote a note to a few art friends and faced up.
I cannot possibly produce several new "worthy" prints for a show in Venice - for a book that would be an international collaboration - by May 1. Actually not by anytime this summer. It all sounded so wonderful when I was told about it - an opportunity to jump at. And, I jumped. I love these kinds of things. Working with artists, making art, being part of a show - -
But, the truth is, I gave up a lot of that when I jumped into storytelling. When I fell in love with storytelling it took me over. No matter what you think at the out set- - serving two masters in the arts is HARD.
Twenty plus years ago I did not think about that. I did not face the reality of my limitations - of time and commitment and of creative and physical energy.
Jim said, "you are going to have to choose."
I said, "Maybe so, maybe so." But I did not believe him.
That was a mistake.
The maybe so - always depends on timing.
Have you experienced that?
Adding something else when your plate is already spilling over?
In my case in this current situation - I had already signed up for the Capital Fringe and am into developing a new show. That is all good.
At the same time I scheduled a House Concert for April - here at my house - and seeing how tear stained the place looked I decided to to scrub its face clean to hide my grieving before I re-opened my home theater. That also is all good.
Then I heard the "siren song" of the Italian show - and I jumped at that too........
That was not good -
two days ago I wrote to my friends and said, "I am so sorry - - I can't do it."
But, being tempered by grief and learning to flounder in the world alone - I am a bit wiser.
Hopefully next time I hear the sirens sing I will check my calendar FIRST - before I sign on to something new.
Maybe so. Maybe so.
E is for Epiphany
Those folks who read my Facebook posts know that I am more than three weeks into a house re-viving me project of my whole house. It would have made more sense to eat this elephant one bite at a time - but that kind of reasonableness has never been my strong suit.
This morning I posted this picture from yesterday's work in the house on Facebook with my explanation of the photo.
Our house was built in the mid-1950s and the re-do is showing a bit of the history. This 1950s wall paper was hidden under the kitchen wall paper - fresh and colorful. Folks like us had just painted around it for 50 years. Looks happy doesn't it - and I can imagine the room with all those dancing flowers - but I don't mind that we did not live with it.
Consuelo opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the walls and at what's happening in the house. My house is is telling me its story - if I will listen. And it is reminding me of the days of our 44 year history in this house - our home.
- Ellouise Schoettler Consuelo Samarripa exactly - love your words - "talking wall" - they do talk, don't they. That's how I felt when I saw this scrap of wall paper. The painter thought I was a little nuts - "Stop. Wait" and I ran to get my camera. I can think of a few other pictures I better take today.
Eyes opened. I am watching and listening. Keep talking to me walls. Tell me back our story.
Thanks to Texas storyteller Consuelo Samarripa for her wisdom.
D is for DOG
Running today. Oil changed. Dining room chairs to upholstery. Lunch and good conversation with Solveig. Dog to the Groomer.
Poor Leia was a mess. Tending to all that is happening in the house I hardly have time to brush and groom her and she looked terrible. I am sure when she was outside people looked and frowned and
knew for sure that I am not doing a good job as her "mother". Ah, me.
Joe takes good care of her. Afterall he is her breeder. As he was for our other Shih Tzu, Chuchu.
Leia is a sweet, independent and stubborn dog. She favors men because she really was attached to Jim. We got her right after he retired from hospital practice and he was around the house most of the time since he was seeing patients in his home office. He feed her, walked her and taught her tricks. Tricks which she remembers and occasionally does spontaneously just to remind me that she has special talents. Now, poor dear, she is stuck with me.
When Jim died her grief was as deep as mine - and I think she thought I had done something that sent him away. She held that grudge for months - until I took in the kitten. Another one of her "kind."
Having the kitten in the house, and then and now as a playmate and pal brought Leia back to her former good natured self. I think she also came to realize that I was the one who was feeding her now.
Lately I am providing a marvelous gift to her. My neighbor's son, 16 years old, comes several afernoons a week to take her for a walk. When the light changes to afternoon she begins to watch the front door. The door bell rings and she jumps up and down, bursting with excitement. She is ready to go.
He is not Jim with bits of ham treats in his pockets but he is her "pass" for a long walk and her friend.
Making this arrangement is the smartest and kindest thing I have done since Jim left.
Maybe I did not think of it all on my own.
There is a back-story, ofcourse.
A few months after my husband died in 2012 our son found a two week old kitten outside on a cold rainy night and she was screaming her head off. He brought her to me. In a moment of weakness I agreed to adopt her.
I fed her with a medical syringe until she could lap from a saucer.
She needed a name and I tagged her Angel because it felt as if this needy little life was an angel in my life at a very dark moment.
That was almost two years ago.
She has thrived. She is bright, ambitious, exceptionally smart and sometimes actually affectionate - most of the time she is into her own games. Except when I am working on my computer - then she is pacing back and forth across the keyboard.
She owns my house. She knows and has touched and smelled every inch of it as well as every thing in it.
When I settle into bed at night she roams and patrols downstairs. I have grown relaxed with that so that the noises of her leaping and running no longer
startle me. When I hear something I listen and then roll over - "oh, Angel." and go back to sleep.
Before the night is over she settles on my bed next to my feet and I am grateful for her warmth now that I sleep alone.
B is for BLOGGING
This year I have joined the A-Z Blogging Challenege. Read about it at http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com. This is a wonderful opportunity to read a wide selection of bloggers and discover folks to follow.
Inspired by Patti Digh of 37 Days I started the Ellouisestory blog the summer of 2005 - with the intent to write everyday about life around me. And, I kept up the writing everyday until my husband died in 2012 - when life seemed harder to write about. I have entered this challenge because I miss the way writing everyday helps me to keep my eyes wide open to the world around me and the life I am living in it.
Before starting this blog in 2005 - around 1998 --- I was inspired to start blogging by storyteller Stephen Hollen.
Stephen was publishing his original stories and poetry and I was intrigued by blogging as a means to write and "self-publish".
Using that first blog I wrote an on-the-spot journal from an extended trip to Venice which I have since exhibited and which I treasure for its freshness of experience although it was a " sometimes burden" for Jim and me because cyber cafes were hard to find and technology from a distance was not as easy as it is today. In Greece and Turkey, especially Istanbul, while on a tour, trying to keep writing the blog led
to some interesting stops off the beaten path to search out internet connections. In Ireland by 2008 there were several computers available in the hotel lobbies.
Good to add that many of those were days before Facebook and Twitter existed. How times have changed. Today you could probably tweet from the Grand Canal in Venice. "Just Waving."
B- is for Blogging. I love it - and look forward to discovering many new bloggers this month.
Multi Colored Diary is leading a blog challenge - to write a post every day for the month of April. Among the throng who have signed up is a group of storytellers.
(I am posting this list for you and for me - these are folks I want to follow).I signed on because I have slacked off from writing everyday as I once did and I want to recharge my batteries. Hoping this challenge will be the jump-start.
A is for APRIL
This is the third week of work on our house - the refreshening for it and for me.
March marked the second year since Jim died. April is the first month of the third year without him. Maybe fresh paint and a good clean-out will ease the ache.
In "The Year of Magical Thinking" Joan Didon writes about the difficulties of getting rid of things that belonged to her husband. I have found that to be very true - I have been holding on to anything Jim ever had his hands on. With this freshening I have decided to re-new this place as I know he wanted it - and would love it. Cancer took our full attention for months that turned into years and the up-keep on our house list out. We hated that - Jim particularly because he felt the up-keep was his job.
Looking around me as the sun streams in onto freshly painted walls I am so aware that houses grieve too. They reflect back your sadness. I did not realize that for months - - but I as I watch the house perk up I can feel a bit better myself. Not that I am not sad. Not that I don't miss Jim terribly - - but maybe it will be a bit easier to live with that missing - if our home and my heart are wrapped in light.
I plan to move the paintings to see them in a new way - to give them a new life. I first learned that years ago from watching what happens when the Phillips Gallery curators move the painting around.
The new positions and juxtapostions change the way you see the paintings. Another kind of renewal.
This awareness of wanting to move light into the dark corners has led me to a fascination with
Nothing new here, really. Our daughter, Robin, flooded her California home with light using solar tubes and recently, our daughter-in-law Monica did the same when she and Jimmy remodeled their kitchen. I liked it but it did not register until I started the work on reinvigorating our house.
Do you do that? Just keep living with the negative - when actually some parts of a negative situation can be changed - - or eased ....
Anyway - A is for APRIL.