NABLOPOMO and More Gus

This is the last day of the month-long challenge to blog post every day for a month.
I thought it would be a cinch because I already post almost every day - but the added pressure of knowing I could not take a day off has been a little tough.

All that being said - I DID it. This is the last post of the challenge - not of my blog posting.

I am grateful because this month started me on the Gus Keasler story - and started is the important word. There is lots more - and I am enjoying leaking it out a bit at a time. Gives me a bit of apace to think the story through - and actually has been an opportunity on the business of creating a story.

Its going to be fun to see whether the audience participation comes through on my family crowd. Will they send pictures for the "Gus Keasler look alike" contest?

Winding up this post with a picture of Gus!

The 1910 North Carolina A & M Football team.
By the time I was 5 years old I could point out Gus. Can you?
Which one is Gus Keasler?
And no fair asking Mama!

Next installment - soon.


Countdown - Two Days until - - - More About Gus

Only two days until I start on the basement.
To ward it off - - - my head is filled with lists of things I need, want, should, could, might DO instead.

Make a quilt.
Write my obituary.
Run away to Tahiti.

Write about Gus Keasler. Now that is something I CAN do.

This whole thing of thinking about Gus and talking about Gus with my siblings has brought up a guestion - what remains of Gus in our family? Who is carrying his genes?
Have you ever thought about it?

Well, for starters I carry the name. As the first born I was named Ellouise Keasler Diggle.

My mother always said that sister Lynda looked like the Keaslers. There is a photo of Gus's Sister Christine that favors Lynda.

Ok Ok But do any of the next generation have the "Keasler Look".

Since I have been looking at the early football pictures from Clemson - some contenders are emerging.

Gus Keasler - age 19 - Clemson College

Gus Keasler - age 25 - NC A&M College

My brother Robert enters this picture of his son, Travis.
No doubt about it - a good-looking entry and at first glance
there is indeed a strong resemblance - the dark, curly hair, charming smile,
but - does he have that wicked arched eyebrow over his right eye? the bit of a turned up nose of a Gus?
Hmmm - anybody else see a lot of Daddy in him - I have a WWII photo in mind.

Any other contenders?


Five Pink Ladies

Today when I opened up a photo file of images taken at a roadside flea market on Hwy 64 in North Carolina. several years ago I could not resist fooling around.

When I happen upon a place like that - with intriguing objects strewn out on tables or in boxes on open atation wagon tail gates, I have to stop. Taking digital shots is a lot better than buying stuff. I can take the image and oftentimes the memory home without having to "carry and store" it.


Coming to Grips

My days of leisurely day dreaming in the sun - or anywhere for that matter - are on the wane.

My sister Kathy called me today, "I looked at your blog today - what's with this thing about the basement." "I am finally going to do it."

She laughed. She has heard this from me for five years. She has advised me on how to proceed. She has described how she and her husband attacked theirs. And occasionally, I guess when she is frustrated listening to me whine about it, she has admonished me that I had better get on with it. Time is marching on and all that. Having sisters is a blessing - no one else is willing to go through these things with you.

I heard her take a deep breath. "Do you watch Oprah?" "No".
"Well there was a man on her show recently - he is an expert organizer - and they showed how he had helped someone in far worse shape than you are." (Oh, great, I thought)

"Anyway," she went on," he said that the way to get started with it is to fill just two bags a day - one with trash and one to give away. At the end of the week you will have 14 bags to go out. Little by little you will get it done."

"Ellouise, you don't have to go down in the basement on December 1 and stay there until you drop dead."

That's good news.

But, you see this is the problem, with the situation I have in my basement studio, at two bags a day, it chould take me the rest of my life to complete the clean-up. I could well be dead by then.

No, I think I need something far more radical than that.

I keep thinking of my cousin - once she advised me to rent a dumpster and park it in the drive way. She assured me that the meter running on the rental would be a big incentive to get it done.

Not to mention the dirty looks from the neighbors.


Basement Countdown

Only five days until I have to face the demons in the basement! I need this red-bird to bring me luck - (and, in case you are wondering, I do know it is a cardinal.)


Who Me?

Lee Shepherd sent me a few pictures from the recent TV show I taped with him and Chuck Langdon. We had a good time. He says that the show looks great and that my story came out well. I will publish the link as soon as he puts it on the Channel 10 website and maybe you will want to listen to me tell my story about the Dalmation Dog.

Tonight I am feeling a little euphoric and relieved. Several weeks ago Patti Digh, 37 Daysposted a request for artists who wanted to contribute an illustration for her up-coming book of essays. We would have 10 days to complete the art work.

Ofcourse, I stuck my hand up. That's been a problem of mine since the first days of school. Always sticking my hand up.

The project has been quite a success for Patti - 120 artists tossed their hats in. She assigned essays. I had two essays to work from - to develop a personal visual interpration. And, by George, I have done it. Completed them today. Six days ahead of the deadline. I am emailing them to Patti as soon as I finish this blog entry.

Its highly likely that one or two others are creating images for the same essays. The publisher will select the ones to use for the book. Ah, always competition.

At this juncture I am not as invested in actually being in the book as I am delighted to have been a part of the project and to have created images that resonate with me as good efforts for the assignment.

But most delicious of all - I made composite images from several of my own photos using Photoshop! That program has not beaten me afterall.

This image came from another bit of playing around.
This is FUN! I can pull up to the toasty fire with my laptop and PLAY!


It is NOW

Like a bad dream it keeps coming back.

Its creeping up on me. I know its coming.

The basement.

Its the secret I hide downstairs.

It has been so easy to ignore it for so long. The basement - do the basement - is the item on my list that repeatedly gets moved to the bottom of the list, making room for more exciting, more pressing, more fun things.

No, more. The stuff down there is rising to the top of the steps. I can hear all of it thudding against the door as it piles up taller and taller. Like the "things" on the stairs in a Halloween story - it is coming after me.

After ten years of saying, "I have to clean the basement" and then doing anything else - now I have to do it.

I am announcing - mostly to myself - December 1 is the start date. Six days from now - December 1 - that's it.

Don't let me forget it.


Royal Left-overs

In the tradition - we ate left-overs this evening for supper. And they tasted so good.

I love turkey and dressing that has set for a day. And the sweet potato casserole was just a tad better. But I realized that what I relly enjoy and savor the most about the Thanksgiving dinner is the jellied cranberry sauce, tangy and smooth as it melts in my mouth.

The novelty and treat of rich royal red-purple jellied cranberry sauce is what puts me back in Granny's dining room at 2308 East Seventh Street or Nanny's at 826 Central Avenue.

We had it later when Mama cooked Thanksgiving dinner. I have it for all of mine. I love to eat it any time - but its power comes from the early years of my childhood when we alternated going to one or the other grandmothers for the big dinner. Is this what is meant by "a comfort food?"

What's your favorite food? Is it connected with childhood or some other memory? Or is it a favorite just because it tastes good?



For several days the tree outside our bedroom window has been suddenly golden
Lighting up the world when you look out into its limbs.
A burst of color that lifts the spirits.
A prayer for Thanksgiving.


Gus Keasler - 2

Did you think I had forgotten about Gus Keasler?

Before I could write about him I had to un-earth and scan the photos. I am still hunting for others but I have decided to write about him a bit at a time, out of chronological sequence, rather than waiting until I have all the stuff together.

Making a story from bits of genealogy info is like pieceing a quilt. This is a work in progress. I will be adding to this post - tweaking the story, adding pictures and and editing for the next few days. Let's start with the usual genealogical data:

Gus Keaser was born March 2, 1885 in Pendleton County, South Carolina. He was the fourth of nine children. His parents were John Henry Keasler and Narcissus Howard Keasler. His mother died in 1900 when Gus was 15 years old.

John Henry married Lettice Smith in 1902 and Annie Laura was born in 1903. John Henry died in 1940. I have a four year old's vague memory of sitting in the church at his funeral with Granny and Mama.

There are no early pictures of Gus and we know little about his early life. He was schooled because in 1903 he entered the near-by Clemson College (now Clemson University) in Anderson, SC. He was a tall, strapping farm boy and so he was a natural for a football scholarship. Football and the scholarship may have been the only way he could have gone to college. I recall hearing - either from his brother that I knew as Uncle Bud or from Annie Laura - that as a farm family they "always had food to eat and a place to sleep but rarely heard the clink of coins in our pockets."

In 1989 I went to Sandy Springs, SC to meet and visit Gus' youngest sister, Annie Laura Keasler Moore, the last surviving sibling and and a staunch Clemson footbal fan. Annie was born the year Gus entered Clemson and she had clear memories of her "big brother Gus and of my mother as a young child when Granny brought Mama to visit the family after Gus died.

Annie drove Jim and me through Sandy Springs to see the old Keasler home and to near-by Clemson, SC to see the Clemson campus. She pointed out a hollowed clearing, "they have a big stadium now but that's where your granddaddy played football. In those days it was a rougher game even than it is today. They wore little leather helmets and they didn't have all the padding like today." (That was the first time anyone had talked to me about Gus as my Granddaddy and the first time I had thought about him as a real boy - not just the lionized football hero in the uniform-picture in a little gold frame on Granny's living room table - not just as "your mama's daddy".)

Gus was 19 years old when he enrolled at Clemson in 1904. The details I have now about his sports career at Clemson came to me from Sam Blackman, Jr - a grandson of Gus' sister Loucinda.Sam is part of the sports communications staff at Clemson.

Gus was on the 1904 and 1905 Clemson football teams. In 1905 he was named by one newspaper sports writer as one of his "picks" for an "all-southern" college team. And we know that Gus was part of a pick-up team coached by the illustrious Coach Heisman - a team which was a pre-cursor for the later Orange Bowl teams.

Annie told me that the boys who played in that game for Heisman were paid $50 each and because of that they lost their amateur standing and Gus lost his Clemson scholarship.

That explains why Granny is wearing the A and M letter sweater and why his worn brown leather covered college album which Mama had is the Accromeck, of A and M College, now known as North Carolina State University.


UK Calling

Storyteller Eric Wolf interviews other storytellers on interesting topics, records them and then posts the interviews as podcasts on his website, The Art of Storytelling with Children.

Eric sends emails inviting anyone interested to call in and participate in the conversation. I have been curious about these telephone conferences but the time had never worked out for me to call in - until tonight. I have to admit that I was drawn like a moth to a flame when I read that British storyteller, Tim Sheppard was the guest this evening.

Tim Sheppard also follows the listserve Storytell and I always read his posts. He never fails to reach to the heart of an issue or to push the boundaries of a discussion in an interesting direction. I have never met Tim and wanted to - even over the telephone.

The call lasted an hour - a very enjoyable and all too quickly over hour. Eric is an easy-going host, ready with questions to lead the guest into the plannned discussion. Tim, well I have already told you how erudite and informed he is, was right on the mark. Rready to talk about the Moment of Impact for a storyteller.

<Listening to his discussion, I understood that to be the moment we are in with the audience. I have known it before to be called "in the NOW". Be aware of the audience. Tim talked about the importance of eye-contact in creating a relationship with the audience. For me, that works when I keep my eyes in their eyes - making sure that I am staying with the audience.

At another point I appreciated hearing Tim say, "the storyteller is a guide, taking the listeners on a journey, giving them a satisfying journey and seeing them home safely at the end."

Adding, its best when the storyteller "accepts themselves and is less of a performer - then is able to give their attention to the audience."

There was much, much more. I hope you will check Eric's website and watch for this podcast. Down load it and enjoy this conversation yourself. Spend time with Tim Sheppard.

I am very glad I called. Maybe you will call on the next one.


Virtual Visit with Storyteller, Priscilla Howe

This afternoon I was surfing the web and stopped by to vist storyteller, Priscilla Howes's blog. Her fresh and informal writing makes you feel you're talking with her as she brings you into her life and tells you what she is doing as a storyteller. I also clicked over to her storyteller webpage and listened to her telling a story. Fun!

Meeting new people and sharing experiences is what fascinates me about the blog world. There are so many opportunities to encounter new ideas, learn about other viewpoints - its continuing education - expanding my lifelong learning experiences.

When Pricilla writes about her struggles with meeting the "write every day" commitment of this November NABLOMO challenge, do I ever relate. I signed on for the same challenge and anyone that is reading this blog regularly knows that I sometimes slip through by posting just a picture.

One of the problems is that I run out of things to say. what will be interesting to whoever might read this, or for that matter interesting enough for me to write about it. Daily life gifts us with stories and it can also be tedious at times.

My day was a mix. Three performances at an elementary school this morning went well and were really fun. This is the fourth year I have told stories for this school and the kids remember me - and my stories. So I always have to have new stuff. Good for both of us. I also enjoyed recognizing many of the students and noting how they have grown over time. A teacher came up after the third grade set and told me, "You had them in the palm of your hand - they were mesmerized." What a nice hug!

Telling those sets was actually hard because my throat was quite sore. I came home, brewed some tea and laced it with honey to soothe my throat. To tell the truth I settled into a chair near the fire that Jim had blazing in the wood stove. And slept.

I had to cancel an after school gig which I knew could be rescheduled so that I could hunker down for that long nap and to give my throat a rest. It threw me off schedule but it was definitely the best decision. Actually it was "doctor's orders". Jim checked things out and prescribed it. That's one of the many benefits of having a doctor in the house.


Mary and Norma "claim space" in the Washington Post

When I opened the Art Section of the Washington Post this morning and saw first, two big color photos of works by Miriam Schapiro and faith Ringold and then the heading:
AU Museum Give Women's Work the Space It Deserves, I let out a whoop! YES!!!!!

Following was a really insightful review by, of all people, Jessica Dawson.

Often in the review Dawson mentions an appreciation for the vision of curators Norma Broude and Marry Garrard who selected choice works to construct an outstanding show with an important point of view.

This is a show to see more than a few times.

Brava Mary and Norma!

pictured here: Miriam Schapiro, Norma Broude and Mary Garrard.


Tellebration - 2007

When Jane Dorfman got home tonight she wrote to the Storytell, a computer list serve we both call our storytelling "family".

When I read her "post" I decided illustrating what Jane said with my pictures was a good way to tell the story of the evening.

From Jane to Storytell:

Just took part in our Tellebration last night. It was a delight. All four tellers ( Jane Dorfman, Bill Mayhew, Anne Sheldon and Ellouise Schoettler) were

I organized it and asked people I like to hear. And, I have the feeling
personally, that I've never told better.

We had it in a pretty little used bookstore in an area of antique shops.
We had 35 in the audience, the kind of listeners who would have listened all night, after the stories we finished with refreshments and lots of talking.

Bill Mayhew did his version Beowulf,

Anne Sheldon told/recited the last part of Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" about the death of Arthur-amazingly moving.

Ellouise Schoettler (of this list) told a very funny personal story about accidentally winning a Dalmatian puppy at an auction, and, in tribute to Duncan Williamson, one of his Jack tels,

and I told a personal story of my old neighbors in Annapolis that has the subtitle "Daddy's on the roof and he's got the ax." I wish you could have been there. It is one of those things that will make me smile for a long time. -- Jane


Kensington Row Book Shop is the same place where I have the monthly "Storytelling Salon". It is a welcoming place for storytelling and owner Elisenda Sola-Hopper (Eli)generously hosts these events. Its also a very interesting used book-store - a fun place to browse if you like bookshops, which I do. If you are ever in Kensington, MD do stop in.

Jane has said it - " a delightful evening.
We had a great audience, many who had never been to the Book shop before but people who love and enjoy stories. I was particularly glad to meet Eve Burton. She is a teller and the mentor for a group of young tellers, The Twinbrook Tellers. Her son Justin, a telling member of the group was with her. Very nice to have young tellers in the group.

Jane was in top form tonight, I am glad she felt it. Her "ax" story is a mix of funny and pathos and she tells the story with warmth, humor and compassion.

Bill Mayhew tackles tough pieces and pulls it off. His style puts me in mind of what I imagine a hearth side teller might have been like when bringing long epic tales into the midst of a group.

Anne Sheldon is an elegant teller using her voice and her gestures to create a presence that enhances the story.

For me, I love telling my Dalmation Dog story. Its a true story - funnier now than when it happened - as is often the case with personal stories. Tonight the audience's response and laughter added a touch of magic for the telling.

Afterwards folks hung around to talk and have a cookie. It kept the spirit of the stories alive a little longer.

(If you were there please leave a coment.)

Fun with Stories on TV

This morning I went back to Channel 10 in Merrifield, VA to film a guest spot on Out of the Past, a show with Chuck Langdon and Lee Shepherd.

We had such a good time. After I told my story Lee and I started talking about growing up surrounded by the influences of storytelling. And Lee shared some of his stories about our mutually favorite North Carolina storyteller, Charlie Kuralt. We ended up laughing, forgetting that we were "on camera" not just on a front porch swapping stories in Charlotte. Can't wait to see how it comes out.


Advice from the Past

I know I am a little far afield from Gus Keasler - and I will get back to him - but while thinking of genealogy I wanted to share this letter.

Parks is one of my mother's family lines. Did we know this? No. Did she know this? No to that too. Its amazing how the shade from your family tree begins to spread when you start tracing your families.

On one of my forays to the DAR Library looking for ancestors I found this letter from James Parks which says so much about how and why family history slips away.

More than 100 years ago on September 9, 1893 Jams Parks sat down to write this letter to his Granddaughter:
"My dear granddaughter,
You desire me to write out a history of our family, I regret that I know so little compared with perhaps what I might have learned from my grandfather. But the truth is that at the time when he was capable of affording me information, I was more interested in pocket knives, fish hooks, and pop guns than in family history, and when I arrived at an age when history of my family would have been more interesting, my Grandfather had fallen into a childish stage and was incapable of giving such information about anything of a worldly nature."

What else is there to say. I am grateful for finding this letter - James Parks encourages me on. Letters put you close to the author and I felt I met him when I found this. We are not direct descendants of James Parks - but are collaterally related. Coming EARLY as Mama's families did - the ties are tightly woven.

I will get back to Gus Keasler.

Follow up:

We waited all day for the phone call with the good news that our friend had come through his surgery well.

Its a struggle but I am determined - Photoshop is not going to get the best of me!



The rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun came out for a little while today.
Not complaining about rain - we need it so badly. But there were times today when it felt like the world was weeping.

This was a day of emotional contrasts, gratitude and sadness.

Jim and I started the day with an early Mass - to pray for all the doctors, nurses, and anyone else who will be inolved with surgery for a dear friend of ours tomorrow. Lord please help them to be at their very best.

Some years ago Jim had some serious surgery and during it a clamp slipped from one end of his aorta. He came very close to bleeding to death. Later as the surgeon told me how brilliantly he had saved the situation - I could not help telling him that he might not have known it but he had a lot of help - prayers from many that he would be at his best.

This was the morning for my monthly visit to a local pre-school. The kids are delightful and they welcome me. " Did you bring stories?" Now I ask you, how good is that. Even though it was a rainy day I included stories which featured the sun, Rooster Calls the Sun and Grandmother Spider Brings the Light because they are both very participatory - just right for energetic kids who had been inside for a week of raiiny days.

In the afternoon my monthly visit with elders at a retirement community was scheduled. Since it is close to Thanksgiving I included several folktales about friendship and sharing, The Pumpkin Seed Bird and The Friendship Garden. Talking about the stories prompted them to tell stories about friends they remembered from their childhoods. One 90 plus year old woman spoke up, "I want to tell you about my Grandmother" - and her lovely memory of a woman who had loved her unconditionally and encouraged her was as fresh and vivid as when she was the child sitting on her grandmother's lap. Lovely! Days like this, when I am telling stories across generations, are a gift and I am grateful for them.

The sun came out as I was driving home. The foliage was glowing. I saw a tall tree with red leaves that looked as though they were on fire - shimmering in the sunlight. One of those sights that makes your heart sing.

That singing feeling was still with me when I walked into the house. Jim greeted me with " there's terrible news". The mother of our grand-daughter's good and close friend - a woman in her mid-forties, died suddenly last night. The news was now circulating.

She was a woman filled with life and vitality, wit and humor, love and friendship.
A wife and mother, daughter, and sister in a large family. Such a loss. So much sadness to follow.

I am grateful to have met her and known her a little and I am especially grateful that our grand-daughter had this woman as a friend. Right now her pain is too great to think of the gifts or feel the gratitude - its all about shock and grief and missing.


Pushing the Season

Do you believe it?

Our local shopping center has put up their Christmas decorations and set aside a large part of the parking lot for a Christmas tree sale.

But that was not all. Inside the stores they have turned on the Christmas music!

This is just much too early - we haven't even killed the turkey yet.

Oops, we don't do that anymore, do we?

When I was a kid I went with my Grandmother Diggle to Morrison Farms outside Charlotte on the grim errand. My cousin and I walked around the fields and admired the turkeys. They were stutting their stuff in the penned yards, cackling and spreading their feathers. We waited while Nanny went inside and picked up the bird she had ordered for our Thanksgiving Dinner.

It was part of the natural progression of things.

My brother sent me a joke that is making the rounds on the internet about a rude parrot who finally pushes his owner too far. Angrily the owner shoves the squawking parrot into the freezer to teach him a lesson. Shortly the squaking stops. quickly the owner opens the door to see if the parrot is still alive and well. He is not only alive and well the parrot is repentant. "I am so sorry. I will never do it again."

After a pause the parrot asks, "Will you tell me just one thing. What did the turkey do?"


White Plume Hat

Gus Keasler's wife, Ellie Hall - later Baer.

Granny looks to be about twenty in this photograph

I ran across this picture today. I love it. Several years ago I made a large art piece with colored variations of this photo.

Maybe that's why I was drawn to it today. I am finally beginning the real work of making the art work for the art exhibition Lucy Blankstein and I are sharing in February.

Spent the day playing with Photoshop. I tell you no matter how many times I use the magnetic cropping tool it continues to make me feel like I am working with my feet.
Now to settle down and really start some serious - playing - oh, I mean work.

Artists are so lucky - our play is our work.


Falling Apart Day

Today my "list" was so well organized and I was charged and ready to tick things off one by one - then - my AOL locked down. Something was corrupted. Fortunately I did have another program disk. Whew. I loaded it in and waited for everything to whir back into action.

Guess what. The new installation wiped my address book clean. That's right clean. Not one single address left. I was stunned. And upset. I have worked hard to collect quite a few names for email alerts. And, segmented them into identifying groups. That's hours of work! I am proud of myself that I did not start screaming.

Instead I called Juliana. Would she, could she come over and help. It would most likely be data entry to re-enter all those names. Yes, she could and would.

Well when she took a look at the hard copy I handed her - (fortunately I recently printed out a copy of the address book ) - she said "let me have a look." One of her side jobs at college had been as an IT troubleshooter. I stepped back.

She was a bit slowed because she does not use AOL but her fingers flew and she found "helps" - at first it looked like a LONG cut and paste job - but then - after much cogitating and googling she found the right article and - somewhere and somehow unearthed the address book file from the innards of the computer and added it back.

Like magic all those names re-appeared.

How do they do it. Is this younger generation born with a new gene that makes them computer savvy. Whatever it is - I am grateful for it.

My grand-daughter Juliana to the rescue. Thanks.


Memorial Day

Remembering Walter Cobb - who died in France during World War I. There are other veterans in the family to mention, I know, but Walter haunts me a little. He died young, he was not married so leavers no descendants - and all his family is gone and now that Koki is gone too, no one thinks of him anymore.

Walter was my grandmother, Louise Diggle's, younger brother. He was serving in France, when like so many others, he contracted spanish flu and died. He is buried in France in an American military cemetary.

Walter is another loose end in my genealogy work. I have pictures of him and of his mother, Mary Louise Grose Cobb when she went to France to visit his grave as part of a Gold Star Mother's trip.

I will come back later and enter pictures, maybe add more about them - but I did not want this Day of Remembrance to pass by without mentioning Walter.

Life is OFF the Calendar

My calendar is set. My plans are made. Often weeks in advance. How about you? Then just when I think I have it under control, all the pieces in place, life steps in to remiind me - I am not in charge.

Today the weather has given us a jolt.
This morning I am thinking about PA - specifically about our little house an hour and a half away. A $64,000 dollar question. Why, oh why, did we think it was a good idea to get involved with another house?

The last time we went to Pa I took some pictures of skies and barns. Loved this old red barn near our place for it's blue roof. And I fear everything near it is blue - with the cold this morning.

The weather turned cold last night. Frost on the ground and dusting the cars this morning. Makes Jim frown - worrying about the pipes in our house in PA. Oh, no, today is not a good day for that drive to check things out.

Have I mentioned that we are now a one-car family. Our 1986 Honda died last month. Just cough, cough and kaput. The demise of Julius was not sudden or a surprise. Old age creeps up on cars just like on people. "Julius" had been eating a lot of money to keep it on the road as a neighborhood car. So now - we are faced with the regular dilemma of balancing schedules and sharing the wheels. After so many years of not having to do that - its a big change and it is hard.

Which brings us back to the weather and the pipes in PA. We cannot dash up there today and check things out - there is a committment here. Hmmm.

We are crossing our fingers - and will go tomorrow. And hope for the sun has been bright and warm over the "Apple house".

So today the weather is pulling our choke chain. Yesterday I had a bigger reminder.
Driving home from Adventure Theater I turned into Jones Bridge Road, just two blocks from the turn for my street. Last year the traffic folks decided to add a third passing lane - all marked off with yellow lines - so that the turning car could move over for a left hand turn - you know, not block the cars behind. I did that, carefully, just as a speeding car crested the hill - coming my way. He must have entered that turn lane four blcks away at the signal and was using it like a personal speedway. I swerved and fortunately there was room so that the car behind me did not rear end my car. The intruder never wavered. He sped on - I wondered if he was concerned that he had almost killed us both.

I turned into my street seconds later - shaking. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.


Storytelling - reviewing the week

Adventure Theater , the oldest young audience theater in the Washington area, opened their newly renovated theatre today with a delightful production of "The Secret Garden". The production is very high quality from the acting and staging to the beautiful costumes, amusing puppets and handsome stage set. Parents and kids and this storyteller were enthralled.

To enhance the opening day they included craft activites and storytelling between performances. I am happy to say they invited me to be their storyteller. It was great fun - with wonderful family audiences who listened, participated and really enjoyed the stories. After one set a small girl, about four, ran down from the audience, straight for me with her arms stretched out to give me a hug. "Thank you" she said. I was the one who was grateful.

Their new amphitheater style auditorium gives a storyteller a wonderful stage , formal, yet close to the audience. It's a winning venue for storytelling.

This week I have told stories for several elder audiences and for large school groups. The variety of ages is a challenge and keeps me on my toes.

Andrea Hull and I taught our book and storytelling class at Pyramid for high school students. The students had a great time making papere in the paper mill with Andrea. They loved getting their hands deep into the water and lifting out a screen of wet pulp which will dry into their own paper for their books.

For the story segments I made a booklet of short "aesop" like stories from around the world. In small groups the students selected a story, read, it and then told it several time to the group. They practiced eye-contact and careful listening skills and then gave each other positive feed-back. Once they relaxed into the exercises and decided to really work with it they did a great job, telling the stories in their own words, and adding a new twist in some instances. Positive feed-back really enlivened the group as they gave and received appreciations. It was lovely to watch their enteractions during this part of the process.

Art is not part of the lives of these students. They are all very bright and dealing with many social and economic challenges which put them "at risk." Things have to have meaning for them in order to catch their attention. When I explained that storytelling could help them develop communication skills necessary for job interviews and that employers would value a person who looked them in the eye and listened to them - the students understood that storytelling is not just for "kids."

Gus Keasler - Getting Underway

There are more files on Gus than I remembered.
And I have photos to scan as well.

That is I used to have photos. No surprise, they are not where I thought they were and I cannot lay my hands on them immediately.

The hardest part of research for me is organizing and filing so that I can touch it as soon as I think it. In all the books and workshops those "in the know" tell you to set up systems. Its good advice, I have sort of followed.

My way means more work, ofcourse - however it is fun to leaf through file folders, re-read letters. Day dream. Put two and two together. Hopefully coming up with a story.

It would have helped this process if my previous desk top computer had not crashed a few years ago. Ok, now I remember. Ah, yes, that's what was on that hard drive. Know the feeling?

All this to say - this is going to take a bit more time than I thought.

But not like Ione Keasler. about ten years ago I saw a spiral bound soft cover "Keasler" Book at the DAR library. I tracked down the author, Ione Keasler, to ask if I could buy one. She had two copies left. I bought them.

The best part was that I met my Keasler cousing, Inez Winans over the phone and through letters. I have been re-reading those letters as I graze through Gus' files. This process is like rubbing sticks together to spark a fire. I am stoking the embers to remember what I knew a few years ago.

Inez, a woman in her eighties, lived in Texas. She was devoted to researching her families. She was also extremely generous with information - sharing with her Cousins. Her letters to be begin, Dear Cousin. I loved that. I also felt included when she wrote about "our Abraham" and suggested I go here or there to fill in another blank,

She wrote, " I have been working on this for thirty years. I don't know what I would do without my genealogy."

Inez is still with me through her letters - urging me to ties up these loose ends and - move on - to work on another line - and then another- and another..

TIP: If you are working on genealogy research - make a system for filing and keeping your records. Later you will be glad you set it up in an organized way. AND, back-up, back-up, back-up if you are using a computer to store files and photos.


Michael Clayton - a comment

Jim and I went to see Michael Clayton. The reviews have been good. We have talked to people who recommended it. It was fast paced, emotional, well acted, violent, and disturbing.

I left the theater feeling that I had been drawn in as a viewer-participant in a cold blooded murder of one of the characters - - it left me unsettled. And asking questions about whether this is the kind of thing I want to come in and watch. Do I need that in my life? How will that change my take on or understanding of the world and life?

Like someone being mesmerized by a cobra, I sat and watched it. Until I shook myself out of the trance. Have I become so desensitized to violence that I can watch close up as a human being injects something lethal between a person's vulnerable bare toes - human beings coolly killing another human being because it is an expedient thing to do - its not personal; its business.

While I munch popcorn and sip Coke. This is entertainment?

I don't need that.
Better to cook popcorn at home and eat it while watching a classic film on TCM.

Gus Keasler - 1

Every once in a while I get an itch to work on our family genealogy. To complete a file and tie loose ends together. Gus Keasler is one of those loose ends.

This picture sat on a side table in my grandmother's living room at 2308 East Seventh Street. I knew it from the time I was little. When Granny died it moved to Mama's living room. A few years ago Mama gave it to me and it sits in our living room.

I don't remember when or who told me "that's your Mama's daddy." No one ever said, "that's your grandfather."

Jack Baer, "Dad Jack" , ws my grandfather. I was old enough to sort it all out - I had [lenty of help from Granny.

Gus Keasler was Granny's first husband - mama's daddy. He died when Mama was only 15 months old - and "I like to never have gotten over it." By the time she told me about it, twenty -five years later, she went to Elmwood Cemetary to see Gus only on Sundays - not every day of the week. I often went with her. Mama, too. It was a Sunday outing. To ride out and see "Mama's daddy."

When Mama was eight years old, Granny met and married Jack Baer. My aunt Punny, Mama's younger sister, was Alice Baer. Mama was Louie Keasler.

I never really knew much about Gus' story until I was bitten by the "Genealogy bug" about 15 years ago. First I had bare bones of names and dates for the South Carolina Keaslers and then I pieced together some of his story.

Much of the story had been available to me all along. I just had never asked for it. Isn't that the way it goes.

This month I am going to write out some of those pieces - much like taking out quilt scraps - and bring out Gus Keasler, my grandfather. I am doing it on the blog hoping some of the family will read it and meet him.


Every Day is Day One

On 37 Days Patti Digh put out a challenge to watch yourself and your whining, complaing and gossiping. Don't pick up a challenge like that thinking that its easy or comfortable. Its harder than you think to really listen to what goes on in your head.

Many people have picked up her glove. Artist Donna B. Miller designed this charming art card "talisman" and gifted it to the readers, and to you.
Patti suggests, "Print it off, laminate it and carry it in your pocket as a reminder." Donna Miller's blog is a treat!

Blogger Rick Hamrick has taken on Patti's challenge to really look at the negative thinking we grapple with every day and how it gums up your life. He writes about the stuggle very candidly on his blog.

That's what I love about blogging. Patt's challlenge a couple of weeks has spiralled out into the universe and through it there are all these intriguing new people and ideas enter my life. I do have to be careful though - surfing to meet them takes time - - meaning I have to curb my appetite for the riches.

Curbing that appetite it HARD. I have joined the National Blogging Month Challenge - and so have MANY Others. Check out NABLMO for the list and surf away. (click on the Blogroll link at the TOP of the page.)


Art, Art and More Art

Crowds gathered at American University's Katzen Art Museum for the opening of Art Of Confrontation - an exhibition of three concurrent shows. We were interested in
Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators and Abu Graib, Painting by Fernando Botero.

Lucy Blankstein is standing next to a sculpture by Ray Van Santen which is in the Katzen collection. Later Lucy introduced me to Ray as we were standing in the Botero show. She and her husband had some very insightful comments about the paintings.

Artist Botero (the tall guy) was there and mobbed by admirers. The paintings were inspired by the shocking newspaper photographs of the prisoners in Abu Graib prison and the descriptions of what they endured. The images in the large paintings seem serene compared to the dynamic images of the drawings. The show is disturbing - worth seeing and thinking about.

Lucy and I went early and I was glad because it gave us a chance to talk with artist Miriam Schapiro and curators, Norma Broude and Mary Garrard. They selected a wonderful show and have written a fine catalog which accompanies the exhibition.

The works are choice. Among them is Miriam Schapiro's Anatomy of a Kimono, a monumental work from the 1970s. The work has not been seen in thiry years. Not been seen? That's right. It was purchased by a European collector and has been in a storage crate since it was shipped to Europe. ( Miriam Schapiro, Norma Broude, Mary Garrard)

Seeing the works in the show is a trip down memory lane and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have another look at them.

Being at the show, however, was a disappointment. When these works were first shown the atmosphere of at an opening was charged, exciting - last night I over heard conversations which let me understand it was just another show to many of the gallery goers. They had no context for the work - ideologicaly, aesthetically or emotionally. They are just things. Curosities. Relics.

I guess that's what history does - it takes away the people, the involvement and the emotions. Leaving what - names, dates and explaining catalogs.

I left feeling a bit sad.


Writing on the Run

What's that old saying?
"can't see the forest for the trees"
I am rushing through several days like that right now. The trees are a barrier to any meanderings and absolutely no stopping for day dreaming.
Storytelling programs tomorrow and the next and wondering what stories to tell and what else is on the list.
Its all good. I am not whining.
But I am cutting corners. Re-ordering my list. Knowing I cannot write here right now.
However I entered the National Blogging Month Challenge and made a commitment to write on my blog every day in November.
Will take this opportunity to recommend my favorite storyteller blog.
On Granny Sue's blog you will be invited into a warm family life, the creative life of a West Virginia storyteller, glimpses of West Virginia, amusing anecdotes and recipes.
Don't miss the opportunity to visit with Granny Sue!


Happy Birthday Robin

Some years ago Robin was born November 5. She is our gift from Texas. She was born at Fort Sam Houston Army Hospital in San Antonio, TX. *

Robin, our third child, has always been a delight to have around, smiling and quick with an infectious laugh. The one down side - she lives in California with her husband and kids - our three grandsons. We miss being part of her every days - and bless cell phones and email for the connections.

* Jim was in the Air Force, stationed at Randolph Air Force Base at the time. During those days most everyone we knew had at least one child born in a military hospital somewhere because of the draft. Jim was brought into the USAF in the
"doctor draft" when he completed his internship.



Late afternoon light
and fragile dried fowers
timeless mystery.

It is in the book.

All Isiah Harrison descendants
are related to Abraham Lincoln.

Another genealogy surprise.


Happy Birthday, Jimmy

November 3 Jim, Jr. our oldest, was born in the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD some years ago. He has many titles in the world: husband, father, lawyer, professor, colonel, etc. etc. but to Jim and me - he is Jimmy - - as he has been since the beginning.

Jimmy - getting his first taste of salt water at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

We will celebrate this afternoon and I will arrive carrying a BIG bowl of my mother's macaroni salad - by request.


Catherine Brown - a memory

My aunt, Catherine Diggle Brown is very much on my mind these days. Koki is gone, buried in Wilmington, NC, next to her husband Jim Brown but she is not forgotten.

Koki's son George walked into my Halloween program smiling and holding up a gift for me. He was carrying one of Koki's quilts, the one she had given to me just before she died. When she offered it to me the last time I saw her I just could not take it - it was too much a final good-bye.

"Is this the right one?" he asked. "Oh, yes. That's it." I recognized it - I had snuggled down under it several times when I spent the night in the small guest room in her apartment in Charlotte.

Its a simple design. Nine rectangles across, 12 rectangles down - 108 rectangles - sewed together at random. I remember when she made it. Someone gave her a box of drapery fabric samples, pre-cut into these very rectangles.

Koki believed in recycling. She studied about those pieces for awhile and then decided to piece them together for quilt. Vivid colors, flower prints, stripes, patterns, solid colors, paisleys - colors of the late 70s - pinks, turquoise, blues, yellows and golds. Full of life and joy - just as she was.

After she organized and stitched them together she added decorative stitching - in black - on the top.
The scalloped lines make those colors work together. Its machine stitched except for the hemming. I love seeing Koki's hand in her tiny, neat stitches around the edging. Those stitches put you in touch with her.

Later, at home, I spread it on the bed - mostly on my side. And slipped in under it. My Jim does not mind. He loved her too. To her he was always, "himself" and how is "himself", she would ask.

We are both fine.

Glad that she is with us.


Sharing an Inspiring Moment

Today someone posted this amazing video clip to Storytell, a community of storytellers on the web. Its worth watching to see an obscure Welsh cell phone salesman amaze talent judges and bring an audience to its feet with his stunning voice.

November 1st is the start date for a blogging challenge..A few weeks ago I signed on for this blog-challenge -saying that I would write something everyday for a month. When I received the Paul Potts clip this morning I thought this would start the challenge on a high note (no pun intended.)

Challenges are everywhere today. On 37 Days Patti Digh has thrown down a gauntlet challenging her readers to edit their knee jerk complaints and negative thinking. Oh, Patti, talk about tough! I can write everyday - but I am not sure whether I can stifle my complaints - for one day - let alone 37 Days. But - its worth a try!How about you? Are you up for challenges this month? Today?

Explaining myself and this blog..

On this blog I interact with the daily ordinary things that are happening - on a wide range - because I believe the stories we live every day are important- and the stuff of stories- even if its the lists of the day.

Often I share family stories and memories because rhey float through the constant rolling of my mental home movies. Past and present co-exist in my everyday. And, I talk about my life as a storyteller and visual artist- these are my passions.
( As you see, I often add something of my art or a photo. Above, a marker drawing on an old snapshot.)

Finishing Halloween
Its been fun! Three programs in two days - telling for adults. New stories mixed with some family favorites. My family is a little bit haunted. I grew up with tales of ghosts and sightings. I love bringing them out and talking about the people who told them to me.

A real plus of telling the personal ghost stories is that the stories often prompt memories in the listeners. They tell me their ghost stories. When I ask if I can tell their stories - God Bless them they give me permission. Yesterday four wonderful new stories joined my collection - for next year.