REAL Family

Is this our family - a bit of reality tv.

Jig Saw puzzles are a favorite with the family. This Harry Potter puzzle has proved challenging because it is treated to look 3-D as it goes together - which ramps up up the fun and the competitive urges.


Lessons for Life

Our sports exposure climbs when we visit our grandsons because sports ARE their lives. This trip it's basketball. Danny (Top) and Scotty (Lower) are attending EXCELL, a basketball skills camp every day.

Today we went to the end of the week session.

This is the 27th year for the Excel basketball skills camp run by deLasalle High School basketball coach, Frank Alloco, Sr.
Coach Alloco addressed the assembled players before he handed out the skills awards.

Once he started talking he really caught my attention and I pulled out my pen and jotted class notes on his remarks into my book.

"Key to playing basketball is about developing good habits. Great teams in basketball are about being un-selfish.
Put yourself second - worry about others.
I want to be the one who makes it better for others.

He then went on to say that the theme for the week had been "habits"
Habits are formed by increaing the repetitions.
Have a plan - do it every day.
These are lessons for basketball and for life.

Don't let this camp be the end.
Ask yourself, what do I have to do to get better?
There is never a convenient time to practice - just do it - everyday.
Be consistent
Form your habits socially:
use eye to eye contact
sit in the front row
talk right: act right

Be respectful and let that respect start at home , with your parents and the rest of your family.
Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do."

I wondered it the kids were really listening to the wisdom so I quizzed them over ice-cream on the way home. They answered with total recall!


OK! OK! I get it. Its not just sports.


Going West

Jim and I caught a flight to CA at Dulles.
TIP: Jim upset the system at security check-in. He had had a thalium stress test a few days ago and he set off the security alarm. Fortunately the folks at the doctor's office had warned him this might happen. They also gave him a little card to show the security guard.

The extra leg room with Jet Blue is great. Now if they could just guarantee smooth air all the way across the US. These clouds may look peaceful but it was rocking and rolling most of the way. Jim reads right through it while I close my eyes and clutch something.

When we fly Jim sits on the aisle with me in the middle. The woman who slid into the window seat proved a very interesting seat mate. She was quietly talkative. And she told me lots about herself. Turns out she had been born in China of missionary parents and had lived all over the Far and Middle East. Our conversation was wide-ranging from spirituality to our children.

At one point in the conversation there was a reference to monastic life. She told me of a new movie, de Stille - about the French monastery Chartreuse. The name triggered a memory for me. I told her I thought I had been there.

The more she told me about the movie the more I remembered of the day Jim and I drove with Enid to a monastery in Provence. The memory was so vivid. In September 2001 Jim and I were meeting a group from the US to tour Provence. We and the organizer, Enid were already in Italy. 9/11 happened in NYC. Jim and I met Enid as planned in Nice. The group never arrived, in fact they never left the US. Jim and Enid and I rented a car and valiantly followed the itinerary as we waited out the time until we could board our flight back to the US September 28. Our bumbling through Provence is an other story.

Tonight I took the memory to Google to find out more about Chartreuse. Oops. Yes, We went to a monastery but it was not Chartreuse . It is a wonderful memory but it is a memory of ANOTHER place.

Le Thoronet (www.provenceweb.fr/e/vae/thoronet/thoronet.htm)
The day we walked through this very space it was also empty. From somewhere on a lower level a group was singing unaccompanied plain song. The clear pure notes floated through the space. I sat in one of the windows you see in this picture and listened for a long and quieting time. Prayer.

I am grateful to my Jet Blue seatmate Carolyn for reminding me of that lovely peaceful moment in a time of potent angst.


Busy Day

Telling stories for camp in Takoma Park. I tell stories for this group regularly. They are a real challenge because they expect and appreciate new stories. Today I told The Green-Clawed Thunderbird, a Native American story and The Bee-Keeper and the Blue-Eyed Hare, a tale from Scotland. The theme was "amazing animals". This was pushing it for the theme but all turned out well - first time tellings for me and stories they had never heard before. YES!!!!!

Three North Carolina charmers who stopped for the night on their northern adventure trip which will take them to New York City and Boston. The brunette on the right is my neice, Ashton, a rising Junior at NC State Univ. It was fun to be with them because their excitement was palpable. I look forward to hearing the stories of their adventures


Catching a Story

People often ask me, "Where do you find the stories you tell?"

Well, sometimes they walk right by you and you reach out andcatch them.

Like today.

Last year, about this time, I accompanied Jim to his orthopedist. While I was waiting for him I found a wonderful story sitting right next to me. Not only that - when I asked that man, "may I ask you about your tatoos?" he opened my eyes to a whole new world of stories.

Ever since I shamelessly engage strangers in conversations and without fail, the reward is a story.

It happened again today.

I looked up and saw the man standing at the little reception window in the doctor's office. I heard his breathy voice as he leaned in to speak to the receptionist he propped his large, fat, polished stick against the wall. I heard his voice first.

"Let me ask you something," he said to the receptionist. "I noticed that there are signs in the lobby and in the halls - direction signs - with Braille dots underneath. They spell out directions."
" Yes, that's right. " she agreed.

" I don't want to make trouble or anything - but how are blind people going to know to go over and feel those little dots?" A long silence and then they both laughed. What a great question!

He was a hefty. over-middle aged man, wearing, faded jean bib-coveralls and a dark T-shirt. Over that, he wore a studded black leather vest with comemorative ride patches sewn across the back and down the vest fronts.

Under his black Stetson hat his long white hair was pulled back in a pony tail. He had blue eyes behind smallish wire rimmed glasses. Walking was a struggle. He was breathing hard and leaning heavily on his stick-cane as he moved past me to the next seat.

"Great vest." I said.
" I said that is a great vest. Are those patches from motorcycle rides you have made.."
" Yep, on my Harley. The patches are from Rolling Thunder - do you know what that is?
"I sure do." I said, thinking back to the guy I met last year - also a biker who rode in Rolling Thunder.

Here we go, I thought. I know there is a story on the way. And there was!
And I will be telling it - later.
For the moment I am calling the story The Man in the Black Stetson Hat.


Deck Gardening and Deer in the City

Lured by the soft early morning light and inspired by storyteller Granny Sue, I took my camera out to the backyard this morning. Granted I could not hope for the bits of nature Granny Sue has just steps from her back door. She lives in a picturesque holler in West Virginia. We have a small in-town low maintenance yard - so over-planted that there is no room for another thing. We are growing tomatoes in pots on our deck.

As usual we have pots of flowering New Guinea Impatients on our deck. They are colorful, hardy and ask for very little care. I am city-bred - this is my kind of gardening. Stick them in, leave them be and enjoy the results.

To help the environment and shrink our carbon foot print - we are growing tomatoes. All right, its a small step.
We are also protesting the pathetic taste in those force-grown hard rocks they pass off as tomatoes.
Oh, for one of the white bread and mayonnaise with thick slices of home grown tomatoes sandwiches my grand-mother made for summer lunch when I was a kid in North Carolina.

OK! Ok! these do look anemic - but we have hopes for them.

These look more promising.

The deck does not have enough good sun and - - we need a re-fresher course in removing the
"suckers" .

There are nice clumps of Hostas beside the deck -

because the deer have not found them yet.

It is only a matter of time.

When I was a youngster the closest I got to a deer was Bambi - the book and the movie - there were no live deer in the city of Charlotte.
Not so where I live today. There are herds of deer roaming the environs of the greater metro area around the Nation's Capitol.
Deer saunter through our neighborhoods and feast in our well-planted, manicured suburban yards.

From a recent article in the Washington Post: " a woman police officer was driving along Massachusetts Ave. Near the Vice President's residence she slowed when she noticed three deer on the sidewalk. She stopped her car, concerned for their safety. They did not move. They waited - until the light turned red - and then they crossed." Our son Jimmy quipped: "I will really worry when I see one push the change button." That's right out of a Gary Larson "Far-Side" cartoon.

Jim and I were stopped in traffic on a neighborhood cross street last week. We noticed a fawn standing in a yard near our car - eyeing the foliage. Then the young deer saw lunch - a thick stand of orange daylilies growing along a weathered wooden fence. She glided over, sniffed, and then began daintily biting off one blossom at a time, carefully chewing it and then moving to the next. She looked so natural, so adorable!

Remember The Yearling? Wasn't this Gregory Peck's dilemma in that movie?


Getting Another Drivers License

Hard to believe but it is time for me to re-new my driver's license. Has it really been five years since my last one? Where did the time go?

Anyway, five years ago after I went to re-new my driver's license I wrote this story.

My NEW Driver's License
I went to the Motor Vehicle Express Office to renew my Maryland driver's license – Express is just part of the name of this place not a description of the service so while I waited in line for an hour I had time to think about my history in whole process of being licensed to drive a car.

I got my first driver's license in 1953 by taking driver education my junior year at Central High School in Charlotte, NC. The class was a breeze.

Four years later when it was time to renew my driver's license I was a married woman. Jim and I were living in Baltimore. Two weeks before my 20th birthday I was hugely pregnant with our first child. Jim drove me to the MVA on a hot, hot, hot July afternoon. When I got to the counter and produced my NC driver's license - ready to renew - the man behind the counter informed me that since I was not yet 21 - I was under age by Maryland law - "Your husband will have to sign for you", he said. I was livid.

"Look at me", I argued - pointing to a very large belly. "I am married, I am having a baby – why should I have to have someone sign for me to drive." He was unsympathetic to the insult. "It's the law, Maam."

Jim urged me to calm down, " just go ahead and get the license and be done with it."

I had never heard the word feminist – but I knew I did not like this. " No." I was adamant. I refused to have Jim sign as my guardian. So I left without a MD license.

I called the North Carolina Motor Vehicle office and renewed my NC license by mail - using my full name Ellouise Diggle Schoettler.

And thus it was for the next twelve years. Since Jim was in the military I could drive under my home state license. By the time Jim resigned from the Air Force we were once again living in Maryland. When it was time to re-new my driver's license I took the MD driver's examand passed it with flying colors. Since then I just go in and renew every four years - sign my full name Ellouise Diggle Schoettler, have my new picture taken, and walk out with a license to drive.

This week when the woman handed me the card and said please sign at the x - without thinking I signed it Ellouise Schoettler. When I saw what I had done – I was flustered, a little unnerved. I started to ask her to redo the card so that I could sign my FULL name - but I didn't. I shrugged. After 46 years that IS who I am.

I was laughing to myself about that while I stood in the next line waiting for my turn to have my picture taken.

I took out my cell phone, pulled off my clip earring and called Jim to tell him about it. He didn't get it at first – - then he chuckled and thanked me for calling to tell him.

About that time the woman called out "next." I sat down in front of the camera. I straightened my scarf and I took off my glasses. I even managed a smile. And then sat on the bench to wait to pick up my new license.

I put my hand in my slacks pocket - just checking for the car key. Yes, the key was there and, so was my earring.

Now, for the next five years, on the best picture I have ever had taken by one of those one-shot cameras -one of my parts is missing - my left earring.

But I know who the whole is -- Ellouise Schoettler ©2002


NEW CDs - TANGY and Rose

June 1 Speakeasydc released their first CD,

TANGY, best of Speakeasy. Ten original stories recorded during performances at the Speakeasy.
Tellers: eddier sarfaty, fritz stolzenback, meredith maslich, twain dooley, stephanie garibaldi, kevin boggs, josh lefkowitz, julie hantman, jon spelman and ellouise schoettler.

I am so happy the included my story, "In Over My Head". I was and it makes a good story.

Second Hand Rose - my new solo CD. I am so excited about this program that I produced the CD myself from the Strathmore Mansion performance so it would be it available while I wait for the commercial edition.

Susannah Holstein wrote on her blog, Granny Sue's News and Reviews:

I was supposed to be paying the bills, but instead I was listening to a CD by storyteller Ellouise Schoettler. I remember when she began telling. She and her family were regulars at the West Virginia Storytelling Festival.That was 10 years ago. Today Ellouise is a pro. Her stories were smooth, nice finished edges, good pacing, and the interaction with her audience was evident from their laughter during well-placed pauses. The performance centered around stories about textiles and textile art, from handmade to crafted items. The rich texture of family threaded the pieces together to make a seamless whole.Ellouise is a teller to watch or rather listen for (although I would bet she's fun to watch too).


Grape Vine Story Fest

Why would Jim and I head into the Virginia countryside on a Saturday morning? For storytelling ofcourse. Jim took this picture of me to mark the occasion - the first ever Grape Vine Story Fest and for the record for the IRS.

Saturday June 16 the sun was bright, the weather

weather clear, birds were chirping in the trees, frogs singing in the pond, and people gathering - a perfect day for storytelling at Grayhaven Winery, Gum Spring, Virginia.

Organizers and tellers arrived early for the FIRST GrapeVine Storyfest - a new storytelling festival sponsored by the Virgina Storytelling Alliance. (VASA)

VASA president, Storyteller Megan Hicks welcomed everyone and then opened the program.

Great line-up of storytellers for the two day Story Fest:

Denise Bennett (VA), Willa Brigham (NC), Ralph Chatham (VA), Margaret Chatham (VA), Lorna Czarnota (NY), Gypsy Moon Tellers (VA), Lisa Hollingsworth (VA), Judith Onesty (VA), Lynn Ruehlmann (VA), Ellouise Schoettler (MD), Tales in Tandem (VA), Kim Weitkamp (VA), Donna Will (VA).

I was glad to be one of the tellers for the Saturday. I had a great time, telling my stories, meeting the other tellers, and spending a day in the country.


Life Slam

Life is slamming me
against a wall
They say my mama has colon cancer.
Isn't it enough to be 92, legally blind and have failing kidneys.
God, what are you thinking?
I keep focused on my to do list.
Hoping for some kind of control
somewhere in life.
That's a joke.
Days are too short!
It is just a list!.
Is any of this stuff worth it?


Down Memory Lane

Kay took my picture on the stoop outside 619 N. Washington Street.

Jim and I started our life together here.

In 1955 when Jim and I got married we moved into the first floor apartment of this Baltimore two story row house which was two blocks from Hopkins Hospital. Jim was in his third year of medical school and I would be working in a research lab in the hospital. And we stayed in that spot until July 1957 when Jim graduated and we moved to Brooklyn, New York for his internship. We started our family there.

We brought our first child Jimmy home to this apartment three days after I delivered him at Hopkins Hospital. Jim drove us the two blocks in our first car, a 1949 Packard. You only see those in old gangster movies.