A plate of avocados!


My daughter went shopping at Costco - the store where you cannot buy just one of anything. She came home with a green plastic net bag of these delicious treats. Are they fruits or vegetables? Really doesn't matter. We will have them eaten and gone before that is settled.

I did not always like avocados.
I had never eaten one until I was married.

Jim loved them. Raised in California he was used to them on his family table in a salad or smashed into guacamole. His family is not Latin but their taste buds often craved all things from across the border.

The first time I was served guacamole was at the Original Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio, Tex. It was recommended for having the BEST. This was before Riverwalk and the re-do of the river. Although it was not in a great location the parking lots were filled and it was packed with people.

 Jim was eager to have some "real" Mexican food and to introduce me to it. I was shocked when I discovered that the pile of green slime smeared on my plate was absolutely delicious. Ever since it has been a favorite.

I am so changed about avocados that I also love biting into an almost over-ripe avocado - - - just plain.

No, these won't be on this plate for long.

Would I be eating avacodos today if I had not met and married Jim? I doubt it.

I know he would not have acquired a taste for okra without me - so I have to say "no, probably not."

Just saying - there are layers of dear and wonderful things in my life that would not have been there if I had not boarded a train for Baltimore, MD to go to school and met a guy who had driven across the US to do the same. 

 Jim would be as saddened  today as I am over what is happening in Baltimore now.

On all sides - the violence is the explosion
that speak for the layers and layers

below it that finally erupted.


Talking About Storytelling

Telling with Better Said Than Done in early 2014.

That evening I was telling  The Dalmatian Dog, a story of a little dust-up between Jim and me twenty years before. Looking back the story is funny and sweet instead of being the drama it seemed at the time.  Jim liked it and enjoyed that I had turned the incidents into a story. I have a tape of one performance where I clearly hear him laughing out loud as I told it.

Before telling a story I listen to tapes of previous tellings. That evening as I listened to the story in the car on the way from my house in Maryland to the venue in Virginia tears slipped down my cheeks as stepped back into the story and relived it. I wondered if I had made a mistake in choosing this story.

Later the audience changed that. I laughed as I told it and loved telling the story for people who appreciated it and laughed in all the right places.

Jim felt close. That was an immediate and wonderful gift.

Soon after Jim died people asked me if it was hard to tell stories. "How can you do it?"
The answer to that is - "because I have to - its my comfort."

 Even though I may weep privately to prepare and afterwards- but for those moments when the memories are vivid and Jim is so close by it is well worth a few tears.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories.


A Gardenia on My Mind

 Welcome back!
After almost two years the gardenia plant is blooming.

A friend sent this plant to me in March 2012 as a sympathy connection when Jim died. It came in a box. I transferred it into a pot and it bloomed. It was a bright spot during some dark days.

After a while it tired. Its perfume grew faint and the blooms turned brown and dropped off.  It gradually shed all its leaves and was just a stick in the pot. I thought it was gone for good. Until a wise woman with a healthy green thumb took over a year ago and brought it back to a green leafy life.  It has grown and promised blooms since then but none ever opened until this week.

This is the first of three buds to open to show its lovely, soft white petals and to release its familiar scent which brings back sweet North Carolina memories.

My memory that comes to mind first is of a summer night in Monroe, NC.  The bedroom was lit by by moonlight and I was slipping into sleep in a comfortable bed in a strange home where I was a guest for a few days.  Near the bedroom window a large, years-old, gardenia bush was in full bloom. The intoxicating perfume filled the air in and out side the house.  It triggered my 13 year old imagination to times described in the Old South novels I loved to read.

Perhaps those romantic images were also stirred by the stories of the long-gone glory days of the Confederate South we listened to during the day. I was in this foreign town 20 some miles from home in Charlotte to attend a State gathering of the Children of the Confederacy. We were all teen-age descendants of those days.

My grandmother's father was a 16 year old water-boy in a regiment of locals named The Mecklenburg Farmers - which is what they were. He was injured at the Battle of Petersburg, Va, imprisoned in Southern Maryland and walked home at the end of the War. His name was Thomas Milton Hall and he is buried at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill, NC. I never did think about his soldiering or his war very much. He was what today we call "a grunt" in the Army. I can imagine he joined up because he wanted to be part of the excitement but all he gained was a hole in one hand and a ticket to sit on the porch with the "big boys" and talk about marching off to war.

My gardenia also reminds me of the small wristlet corsages that were popular for school proms and teen-ages dances in the 1950s. Orchids were too expensive for a boy's budget so the gardenia was an affordable choice. I always liked the small white gardenias best even though they were fragile and gradually the edges of the petals turned brown and looked tired as the evening wore on. But the perfume never faded. It still lingered on your clothes next morning.

As my gardenia opens now I breathe in it's perfume I think of three years ago and those sad days but somehow it also brings a reminder of the friendship and comfort so many people shared with me so that I could reach today where I can once again appreciate the gentle beauty of this fragile flower.


Ah, a REAL Typewriter

AH, the old Royal upright typewriter.

I loved the one that sat so temptingly on my grandfather's desk in his home office. Before I could say my alphabet I loved to climb up on his desk chair and hit the keys - making a noise as it made a mark on a piece of paper.

After my grandfather died that typewriter eventually became mine. Talk about a bit of happiness. By that time I made those marks to make words and tried writing things that made sense only to me.

Shortly after Jim and I married we bought an old upright typewriter at the Goodwill in Baltimore.  I am sure we could not have paid more than $20 dollars for it, if that much, because we would not have had more money than that. Jim thought he would write his medical papers on it but he had never taken typing and his large, warm, steady hands were constantly thwarted by the machine.

I never took a typing course in high school either but my hands have always been so much more agile when playing with the clacking typewriter keys than when I tried to make music on the piano.

Jim worked long hours in those months of medical school after we were married. I was a lonely bride
adjusting to this new life alone in our apartment. Many hours the typewriter was the reassuring noise that kept me company. Writing letters, stories and articles. I even sold several for only a few dollars but it made me feel more productive than the day job I had at the hospital. That's how the seed of the the idea that I could create something from inside my head was planted.

There have always been typewriters in our home. Many. They changed over the years from the old upright, to the sporty blue portable, to the wondrous IBM Selectric of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Who ever thought anything would eclipse the Selectric - but the computer came along.
Even though it was silent, it had seductive skills of memory which lured me away from my old typewriters.

Our first computer was a "luggable" which I could hardly lift. These days I carry a mini-ipad in my purse so I can sort-of type on a touch screen where ever I am.

But its not close, not even close,  to the wonderful sound of making noise on an old upright - a real typewriter.

That's why I keep all our old typewriters - just in case!


Thoughts About Change

This is our son Jimmy, Christmas morning  in 1957. He was one year old and we were living in Brooklyn, NY.

Who could have imagined years later on this morning in 2015 he would send me a TEXT MESSAGE saying-
"landed Munich." Its not the first time - its the first time I did not take it for granted.

Bits like this force me to acknowledge the changes in the world we live in today from the world I thought I knew those years ago. Jim and I could not TEXT the first time we flew overseas. Next day we spent a LOT of money calling home to let the kids know we "landed London." Thanks to technology we can connect in seconds from where-ever we are without plugging coins into a telephone.

Would you go along with me in thinking that not recognizing the changes is what creates problems between the generations?

Just a thought.

Glad I could TEXT BACK - "hope the trip goes well."

What's an even bigger change - my son is traveling on business and he will be home in three days. 
It often took several days for me to get over jet lag and culture changes.

Oh, did I mention one of our grand-sons often jets in to SF from Europe, does his laundry, and flies out to "down under".

Today is sometimes incomprehensible to me as I poke on down to the Safeway in my faithful Toyota Sienna, knowing parts of my family are cruising at 30,000 feet over-head.

And, only God knows where Jim is because Jim is not Texting in.



Watching History Talk

I really enjoy history talk especially with someone like Tom Brokaw - maybe you will too. ( I often skipped the inteviewer to focus on Brokaw). Brokaw talks about his career, the role he sees for social media today and in the Presidential Campaigns ahead. Good to hear Brokaw's voice again.


Some of his remarks connected with Edward R Murrow and the 2005 movie Good Night and Good Luck.  I was lucky to stumble across on it on HBO the other day. The movie is about the conflict between Murrow and Senator Joe McCarthy and is set in 1953.

 I was in HS in 1953. I remember that a few teachers brought TVs into the Auditorium so we could watch those hearings. Students wandered in and out for the hours it was on.


Looking Ahead with a New Story.


spring is showing itself around here!

Since the 1970s I have worked with various album formats - from scrap-books to digital movie to oral history and personal stories - as a way to capture and keep the stories of my family and personal life.

Now I am working on a new personal story. These stories are like albums for me - reviewing memory pictures are like sorting old photos and arranging them on an album page to tell a story from the past. 

I hope that my work encourages others to capture and record - in writing or recording - their stories.

A glimpse of the new story - write up from the press release.

" Love Notes"

Happily Ever After is a matter of perspective.

A 1954 blind date between an 18-year-old nursing student and a fresh faced Johns Hopkins medical student launched Ellouise and Jim on a lifetime together.  

Love Notes, a one--widow show performed by Ellouise Schoettler, is a funny and touching journey of a 57-year marriage traversing through the peaks and valleys of the marriage vow. 

Death? It's not a clean break.

I have been thinking about this story and writing notes about it for almost a year. Now I am going public with it.

The story will it premiere June 4  at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, VA

It is scheduled at Stories in the Round, Hagerstown, MD in August. It will be one of my performances as Storyteller-in-Residence, International Storytellers Theater in Jonesborough, TN in September and at Tales in the Village come 2016 Valentines Day. 

I love the discipline and excitement of shaping and telling a new story. This one is going to be funny and heart-warming but it is difficult to thread through all the days of our long marriage and pick out the incidences I want to include. This is the tough part of a "sentimental journey."  

Tears go along with the working-it-out stage as well as lovely memories. 
57 years slipped by so quickly. 
Hardly time to savor and appreciate all the blessings.


Saturday Morning Reflection

Saturday Morning

This has been a hard week for me - appointments, farewells, surprise attacks etc.
You know - one of those tough weeks.

To escape I dove into some heavy Netflix movie binge-ing .  Someday I hope I will learn to remember that there is no escaping -best to stay focused. Probably even better is to identify priorities and stay with them.

So here it is - Saturday Morning - my alarm pushed me out of the bed before 7 am when I really wanted to hunker down deeper under my covers.

This is the Saturday I have been looking forward to --- the Saturday I am telling stories out of town - -  have you noticed - even the things we love have "to do" lists attached.

And to keep life going as you want it to - you have to continually keep building "to do" lists -

As I wind-up one list today - there are others pending with new items jumping on as I spin around.

* Follow-up for a summer gig request that came yesterday.
* Submit the info for a June show before bedtime tonight.
* Read the Fringe information I received yesterday - including my venue assignment and show dates.

--> Life sometimes feels like a Merry-Go-Round.

But - even in my earliest memories - the Merry-Go-Round has always been my favorite carnival ride.

It still is.

Hopkins Med School Reunion - 2011

I can almost hear Jim saying, " Just enjoy it, Ellouise."

Miss his good advice as well as his hugs.


Hiding Your Broken Heart

Another Anne Lamott Quote

Found this jpeg nesting on my computer desktop where I had copied it weeks ago to make sure I kept it. Ah - an H for today's blog - Hiding your Broken Heart!

When I was a child I loved to play Hide and Seek and was very skilled at picking out excellent spots to hide. I rarely got tagged.

Recently I sat down with someone who is battling a serious illness and I was amazed at her ability to slide right under give-away hurdles when she feels her secret is threatened. Her hiding skills are fairly new but they are graceful and impressive. I bet she was marvelous at Hide and Seek when she was a kid.

Three years since Jim died.  I have learned that - as Anne Lamott says- you can live with a broken heart and gradually you get better and better at hiding it.

I notice that on good days I have moved from staggering to hopping to limping. On not so good days - well I get tagged.

Aren't we all hiding something?

How about you?


Another Blog Day: E F G


" Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides." Anne Lamott - Face Book, April 2015

For a couple of days I have been casting my line like a fisherman in promising waters hoping to snag something I wanted to write about. 
My line kept coming up empty - until I read Anne Lamott's latest Facebook essay. She makes a list of things she has learned before her 61st birthday falls on her this month. I could relate to most of them but # 4  - this excerpt  -  sent me back to 1962. How can that be 53 years ago? It is as clear as a bell when I open to the Chapel Hill chapter in the book that is my memory.

That's the first time I heard the advice - " don't compare your insides to my outsides."
from a new and very wise friend in Chapel Hill, NC. I was young and quite crazy at the time. A mother of three youngsters under seven I had recently given birth to our fourth, a Downs Syndrome child whose heart would not sustain her. Life felt like an elastic band had snapped and my clothes were tangled around my feet as I stumbled through the darkness of grief trying to regain my balance.

My new friend reached out to support me as I toddered through the days. One day I lashed out, "you don't understand!" and she pulled my choke chain with "don't judge my outsides by your insides." Even behind the shutters on my mind I understood the truth of what she was saying. I was not the only one in the world struggling to survive.

Ah, me. 
How would we make it through without them?
I hope I am as good a friend as those who have stood by me.

Thank you.


A Free Day - A Nudge from the Red Tent

Urban Landscape, e.schoettler, collage

The sun is up
Birds are back
Could it be that Spring is finally springing?

A Nudge from The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant has been gathering dust on a top bookshelf downstairs for at least ten years. I started reading it once but the turned down page corner confirms that I only read to page 9. I started reading it again a few days ago. I am not sure yet whether I will finish it - - but I am underlining in the 4 page Prologue. Anita Diamant has pricked a nerve that needed a prick.

In the 1980s I was diving deeply into genealogy waters - looking for "my women" and finding things I never knew about those "survivors" who nourished my deep North Carolina tap root. I wanted to tell my family, especially my daughters,  about them but only Jim listened to the stories. The others found the chorus of begats boring. Then I stumbled upon storytelling for grown-ups.  I squeezed Jim's arm one evening when we were listening to a fine storyteller tell about her father - "I am going to do that - - and they are going to come."

That's when I say I became a storyteller - although I was born and raised by women who were good North Carolina talkers and I learned to tell stories as they told them.

The second sentence Diamant writes for the character in the Prologue is, "my memory is dust"- meaning her story has not been told.

She goes on -
"If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.
Stories about food show a strong connecton. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter."

There follows a page on what women and daughters share over the chores they do together and then she rocked me again.
" But the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive."
The character says " I carried my mother's stories into the next generation ----"

Then, " I wish I had more to tell of my grandmothers. It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing." 

The Red Tent is a mid-rash on the life of the Biblical woman Dinah whose story is untold.  Diamant's reconstruction and re-telling is brilliant. However, I doubt I will finish reading Dinah's fresh story. Anita Diamant has made me realize that I have a lot of work to do in a shortened time. To tell my story - and to refresh the survivors' stories I have gathered.

I owe this to my daughters. My grand-daughters need to learn their maternal line stories first, maybe later they will have interest in mine. I don't expect my grand-sons to have much interest at all - maybe their wives will be curious as I was about Jim's family.

Grateful to have storytelling to use as a vehicle for sharing the stories.  Perhaps,like Diamant, I will say something that will spur others to look for their stories.


Another Day - D

Right now there is a blogging challenge happening - write every day in alphabetical order. I have signed on and done this in past years, actually meant to sign on this year, but let the opportunity slip by. In many ways that is fortunate for me - not to be tied to another obligation right now.
So - I am going to try to stay in the game without signing on officially - just wandering along as best I can.


D - is for death.

I seem surrounded by death lately, but then aren't we all - especially after we enter our seventies and keep trucking on. I was laughing with a friend the other day saying, " I used to stock up on birthday cards - these days I stockpile sympathy cards."

My mother lived to be 94. After she passed 80 she was living in a retirement community. People were dropping like flies around her all the time. I was surprised when she became very blase about it. Now I understand. It wasn't that she was blase - she was numb.

A younger, well-loved guy died suddenly, unexpectedly in our area recently. People were numbed by the shock of the loss. For those in the younger crowd the reality of it probably slammed them hard. From the sidelines, I too cried for him and wanted to shake my fist at God. But I find that since Jim's death and with the addition of age I also end up thinking some inane cliche like Their time ran out and then wonder how my own sand is doing.

This is Easter  - a time when Christians grieve collectively--- and then rejoice at Christ's resurrection...
which is our Hope.
Arlington Cemetery, Washington, DC


A B C - to try and catch up.


Right now there is a blogging challenge happening - write every day in alphabetical order. I have signed on and done this in past years, actually meant to sign on this year, but let the opportunity slip by. In many ways that is fortunate for me - not to be tied to another obligation right now.

So - I am going to try to stay in the game without signing on officially - just wandering along as best I can.

A - is for Apple

I used to think of APPLE as a delicious red skinned fruit that grows on trees lined up in rows in large orchards.

Today I know that I am owned by APPLE - and you would know that too if you were near me and saw how I tote Apple products around with me -
an iPhone
an iPod
an iPad
and an Apple lap top.

I am depedent on Apple to do my work and to keep in touch with the word through the internet and social media. Oh, did I say  - I LOVE everything Apple.

B - is for bad-ass.

This bad-assedness has been creeping up for a while but it was more like occasonal blurts - now its in full swing and I just don't hold back.
I will tell it straight and give my opinion freely. It's like I am tired of being nice.

For instance:
I had some medical tests recently and the receptionist told me they would call me with the results. I balked. "No, I don't want you to do that. Call my doctor - you know. the one who referred me here - let her tell me the results." They balked. " I am not a medical professional - What if I cannot understand what your person tells me. No, I want the report to come through my doctor." We argued a bit but they finally understood that I meant it. By the way - they did call my doctor and she called me with the results. The news was good fortunately but what if it had not been?

Without my late husband, Jim, a doctor, at my elbow I feel vulnerable in the medical world - and I have learned to speak up on my own behalf. However, to some - that makes me a bad-ass pain-in-the-neck.

C- is for CANCER.
This one is simple. I hate CANCER. It is a bad-ass disease.

That is about all I have to say tonight. I want to learn to keep posts shorter as a respect for my and your time.


Yearning,  eschoettler, collage

April 11 in Baltimore - Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home

Press Release for the April performance of Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home