The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the Sixth Day of Chritsmas in 1955 Jim and I were married at Assumption Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC.

Fifty-two years.

For fifty two years the sixth day of Christmas has been the First Day of our New Year.

Jim always gives me a single red rose - it started when he was in medical school and could only afford one - it became our tradition. Over our 52 years together Jim has probably given me dozens of red roses - one at a time. This year there was no one option - a vase would have to do. It Does!

The tradition, the connection, the linking, the love - that's what matters.


The Fifth Day of Christmas

Today we again crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge to another tournament basketball game with Scotty playing with his other fifth grade team mates. These are eleven year olds. They lost their game by one basket but it was one of the most exciting, hard fought games I have ever watched. The Panters played with heart and determination and they held a strong team that had routed them earlier in the season to a two point lead.

Watching our grandson play basketball we learned a lot about him.
Before the game we stopped at Lava Java for more of their delicious hot chocolate. Scotty told us, "we want to win this game."
and he played hard trying to make it happen. He is not one of the larger boys on the team but he is quick and thoughtful. He stole balls, batting them free from the hands of larger boys, moving quickly, handing off when he saw that another teammate had a better chance of making the shot.

In the car on the ride home he talked over the game, analyzing what worked and what didn't - in detail - not just his plays but those of the whole game. "Scotty, are you seeing the game over again in you mind?" "Yes.I do. I like to watch the plays over."

As the conversation progressed he told us that he wants to play for the NBA. His mother piped up, " well, if you don't play I know you would be a good sportscaster."

He was annoyed. "Mom, I am not going to be a sportscaster, I am going to play."

I hope he does.

But today - I envy him his optimism and all the possibilities ahead.


More on Gus Keasler

(Gus is the guy in the middle of the second row.)

After Gus lost his athletic scholarship at Clemson he transferred to North Carolina A & M College in Raleigh, NC - now NC State University. Again he played football and was an outstanding player. A write up of the 1910 A&M vs Kentucky game gives a play by play of Keasler's contributions to what they called a "spectacular game."

After Gus graduated he moved to Charlotte where he was a manager at the Buckeye Cotton Oil Manufacturing Company. I don't now how he met Ellie Hall, but when they did it must have been love at first sight. They courted and then married in 1914.

Mama was born Christmas Day 1915.

Sometime between 1915 and 1917 they moved to Macon, GA when Gus was promoted in the Buckeye Company. Chritine Keasler came to Charlotte and lived with Alice Hall Granny's moved while she was attending nursing school.

In 1917 Gus became ill suddenly. Granny never left his side, day or night, for the ten days he was in the hospital. Everyone was shocked when Gus died. He was 32. Granny was devastated.

Her sister, Cora,had come to Macon to take care of Mama and comfort Granny while Gus was in the hospital. Her brother Fred came down to help with arrangements.

Granny wanted to move back to Charotte, near her family, and she wanted Gus close-by so she elected to bring him back to Charlotte and buried him at Elmwood Cemetary.

When the train carrying Granny, Mama and Gus's casket came through Anderson, SC the Keasler family came to the station to pay their respects. His father, John Henry boarded the train and accompanied Granny and his son to Charlotte.

I heard this story for the first time about ten years ago when I went to Sandy Springs to meet Annie Laura Keasler Moore, Gus's younger half sister. After Gus'mother, Narcissus Howard, died, John Henry married again and they had two children. Annie was the youngest. When I met her she was in her late eighties, a bright, interesting woman.

Annie welcomed Jim and me with open arms. During lunch she reached across the table and squeezed my hand, "Ellouise, we have the same blood." And I truly felt the truth of my name, Ellouise Keasler Diggle - now Schoettler. That was the first time Gus was real for me.

Until the end of her life, Gus was " my own dear precious love." to Granny.

Fourth Day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas I have four new pairs of socks to choose from. Four pairs of socks - which are delightful. For more than four years socks have been my signature fashion statement. Santa left these for me at Robin's house.

More basketball today. Fifth graders playing at Kezar Pavilion in SF. Running hard, following good coaching to another win in this tournament.

Which means:

We will be back here tomorrow - at Lava Java on Strayan Street - a small, narrow city coffee cafe where they make absolutely delicious hot chocolate.


Third Day of Christmas

What for the third day of Christmas??

Believe it or not - three basketball games.

Last night we watched as our 11 year old grandson's team won their game - meaning they will play off for tournament first place tonight.

Now - today - on the third day of Christmas:

Game 1. Those same boys start a new tournament in downtowm SF at noon today.

And they won their noon game 34 - 14 at an old basketball hall near Golden Gate Park.

Game 2 -Tonight our 11 year old and his team play at 7 pm for their championship.

Game 3 - Our 13 years old grandson plays at 8 pm.

We are over dosing on basketball - and its fun.


The Second Day of Christmas

This morning when I mentioned to Robin that I thought I would write about the twelve days of Christmas - you now a "partridge in a pear tree." she suggested I adapt it and use something from my next real twelve days. Great idea.

On the first day of Christmas
An airplane sailing in the wild blue yonder
Brought us 3000 miles, from pine trees to palm trees for a second Christmas

We were flying on Christmas Day. Jet Blue carried us safely from Dulles to Oakland. When we flew over Indiana it was about the same time that they were opening gifts at my nephew Patrick's down below. With two young children in their house they must have been having a really wonderul time.

We were having a pretty nice time 30,000 feet up until Utah and then things started to rock and roll. Twenty minutes of that action is much. I prefer my rocking and rolling on a dance floor.

Once on the ground in Oakland we found sunny skies. Christmas had moved from pine trees to palm trees.

So good to see the famiily here. Jamie, surely he had ground another three inches since July, was only here until 5 pm, just time for dinner together, because he was going to San Diego with his varsity basketball team for a tournament.

So good to be with them. As I expected - we are very much at home!

On the second day of Christmas:

Two teen-age boys in a mini-van
Holding two broken racing cars - special Christmas joys
On an unexpected odyssey to the hobby store
To get their wheels back on the track.

Something universal about this isn't there. Always the broken toy before the wrapping paper even hits the trash. Te stories of these heartbreaking mis-haps tie the generations together, Fortunately today the damage was fixed and the cars back in the race without too much trouble, All is well.


Happy Christmas Eve

Wishing you every happiness.

We started the day with an early morning delight when our four year old neighbor Lillie ran the bell with her cookie delivery. She proudly held up a polka dotted gift bag filled with the treats. YUMMY.

We had a lovely day with our local family, son Jim and his wife Monica and their daughters, Juliana and Alison and our daughter Karen. Because we have a very early airport call tomorrow morning we decided to have a mid-afternoon gathering and meal. We would attend 4 PM Mass and then come back here to exchange gifts after church. It was a good plan. And fun!!!!

Jim received the "hit" gift from our son Jim - a remote control in-house helicopter.
The little bird buzzes around like a dragon fly and the flight plan varies dramatically depending on who has the controls. I was delighted with Juliana's gift - a DVD of "The Cutting Edge" - one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies.

But it wasn't the wrapped presents that mattered. It was the quality time laughing and being together that was the real gift - - A special caring sweetness that is indeed the real meaning of Christmas.

Outside the huge moon is still bright and shining. Marilyn Kinsella, MO storyteller wrote to the Storytell Listserve to explain that this big moon with reddish Mars visible near-by is called "the long night moon." We stopped to star gaze, to enjoy it and feel the blessing.

When I called Mama the other night she told me that she remembered the year the song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" came out. It was the Fall before Daddy returned from over-seas. He was home by Christmas - as were so many 100s of others in 1945.
That bit of history gave me a new understanding of the meaning of that song.

Just as today I understood what it means to be truly at home when you are with those you love, no matter where you are.

That's why I am looking forward to also being at home in California tomorrow.


O Tannenbaum

Christmas Day Jim and I will be flying to California. We will have Christmas Eve with our near-by family and Christmas Dinner with our daughter and her family near San Francisco. Its as close to bi-locating as we get.

So we did not bring down the boxes from the attic and unpack the ornaments that are carefully wrapped in crumbling vintage newspaper scraps along with fresher, whiter more recent additions.

Jim and I have always favored a big tree - since our first Christmas together when we had nothing to put on it . This was taken our third Christmas. We were living in Brooklyn where Jim ws interning at Kings County Hospital. Jimmy was just a year old.

Because Jim and I lived away from either family of origin the tree took on a special meaning for us. As we added ornaments we took great care to keep them year-to- year.

The kids added homemade ornaments. We bought trinkets when we traveled that became a part of the Christmas Tree dress-up. Every year the decorating ritual added more stories and the tree became a family album.

In 2005 to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversay my art show ABOUT TIME at Gallery 10 was all about family . People were not surprised. Albums and personal content have been a presence in my art work since the 1970s. Including the Christmas Tree was a natural - a perfect fit - an album - a living art work. Family art.

The Christmas Tree is anonymous art work that families make together and value.

We installed the tree - family-style - in the smaller front room of the gallery. Jim reduced the tree to half a tree so that it fit flat on the wall like a relief - to set it up as an art piece. Karen and Monica and I strung the lights and added the ornaments. ( cllick for a larger view - to see the memory pieces)

Another part of the show was a collage album - made as an abacus. Remember - About Time. Jim made the abacus and I constructed the digital photo cubes and collaged them.

Jim and his crew, Jimmy, Karen and Monica installed the abacus .

The photos spanned our fifty years together and included kids, grandkids, family, friends, art pieces and special events - with collage elements to embellish and transform.

Jim and I have another of those anniversaries coming up - next week, December 30.

Another milestone - 52 years. Dick, who was Jim's Best Man, lives near Robin. We will have lunch together on the 30th - a very nice reunion.


Art Field Trip

Yesterday Jim and I took a couple of hours off the schedule and went to the National Gallery to see the Edward Hopper exhibition. It closes Janaury 16 and I did not want to take a chance on missing it.


To enter the show you walk past this mega blow-up of Hopper's famous painting, The Night Hawks, owned by the Chicago Art Institute. The scale gives the impression you could walk right into the painting.

In his canvases Hopper creates drama using light and captures haunting moods which draw you deeply into the scene. "Hooper's painting speak volumes without uttering a word." (from the NGA show brochure.)

These paintings are glimpses into lives and into the soul of the time and of the painter. I have always loved Hopper's work but had never seen this many works at one time. Now I am "in love".

Speaking of "Glimpses" - that's the title of the show Lucy Blankstein and I are sharing at Gallery 10 in February. Full title: "Glimpses: Digital Journals". I am not sure exactly what we meant when we worked out this title but working intensely to prepare the work for the show now I have a pretty good idea of what it means to me. Interesting to see how Edward Hopper related to "glimpsing" other lives.


How about this, Gus?

Gus Keasler died when he was 32 and Mama was only 15 months old. Just look at the family she has given him - a hefty group of descendants. And some "look alikes."

This picture was taken this time two years ago when we gathered to celebrate Mama's 90th birthday. The real day is December 25 - Christmas Day. She used to tell us that she often felt short-changed because she did not have her own day for her birthday - "like everybody else."

Louie Keasler Diggle will be 93 this year.

Happy Birthday, Mama.


This picture of Mama and Grand Dad Gus was taken in 1916. She was about a year old. He was 31. Its the only picture we have of him after he graduated from college.

Gus is no longer a lean and trim football player and his hair is on the wane.

My candidate for the one who looks the most like Grand Dad Gus in the third generation is Henry Smith, Lynda'a oldest son. I hope to have a better picture to make my case.
Until then just compare the receding hair patterns on both guys.

Introducing Henry's mother, Lynda, of backwards alphabet note.

Mama always said, "Lynda is the Keasler." She is also the woman who told us, "Never argue with your mother." Hmmm.

Introducing Christine Keasler Bidwell, Gus's sister.

I guess Mama knows her Keasler look-alikes.

I don't know much about Aunt Christine.
She was born in Sandy Springs, S.C. - just like Gus.
Christine lived with Granny's mother, Alice Shaffer Hall, in Charlotte while she was going to nursing school. I have a letter from Gus to Granny talking about how important it was for Christine to complete her schooling so that she would have a way to earn a living.

Christine married "Dr" Bidwell. They lived in Greenville, SC.
I went to visit them when I was about 13. She was a lovely, sweet woman, who made me feel right at home, even though we did not know each other. They lived in a large white "southern house" with a wide front porch that wrapped around three sides. You entered into a wide front hall with parlors on either side. That house made quite an impression on me.

Dr. Bidwell had a clinic in the house. He was a homeopathic practioner and people stayed with them during their course of treatments. I remember that at dinner Aunt Christine gave me a little salt shaker in the kitchen and told me to use it on the food," it won't taste good to you without salt, because you are not used to it." She was so right. Anyone know the story, "Like Meat Loves Salt?"

This is what's known as "piecing the bits" to try and make the story.

Am I "Yearning" ?

This morning when I opened my email and read Patti's latest alphabet essay Y is for Yearning the first photo image was such a serendipity.

I looked at the picture and remembered this collage from last year. When I made it I cut the girl from an old calendar of Impressionsist paintings. I have also often visited the real painting in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Perhaps the "yearning" Paul Gauguin put into this child's face in Breton Girls Dancing is why the painting continues to speak to us.

Is yearning why I was drawn to this child?

" Where do we come from?
What are we?
Where are we going?" Paul Gauguin

Thinking about my impulse when I made the collage reminds me of Luciano Penay, artist - professor emeritus at American University. Luciano guided me through my painting thesis when I was a garduate student at AU. I would drag in a load of paintings. We would set them up around the studio. After quiet looking for a time - a very long time it seemed to me - Luciano would ask, " These are the answers. What were your questions?"

Again, thanks to Patti for leading me to think more deeply about the art work. Who knows where that will take me.

I will play as long as I can.


Can this be right? Zwischenraum?????

Patti Digh is working on a new alphabet - backwards. I only know of one other person who works their alphabets backwards, my sister Lynda. So I am intrigued. How will Patti do this.

Well for starters she has invited artists to play with her by sending in illustrations of each essay. I can't resist playing. I should have known she would raise the bar. Her word for Z - ZWISCHENRAUM

Oh, please. But I had raised my hand, right? And let me say this, when you enter a game on Patti's field be prepared for finding treasure.

Zwischenraum - a word totally new to me - but I read through this essay, and re-read other of Patti's essays that touch it and then following her lead surfed with her until I touched down on Practically Creative and read Nancy Waldman's essay - Ah, this I understood. This felt right for me.

Zwischenraum - ah, yes. I seek it every day and often find it - through making art work.

It is
The resting space
The place to feel the magic of creation
The space where I have a chance of being most myself
The space where I reach new understandings.
The place where I am most human.

Where I am open to encountering differences
and learning from them
Where I am open to letting go of my ardent desire to be right.

The space where I am most open to change.

In this digitally altered collage the red circle represents that space.

There is no map to chart your course to the entrance and it is difficult to find it.

Once inside it is hard to keep to the quiet of its possibilities.

The world with all its distractions and rules prowls and clamors around that space -
pressing in on it -

on good days

I am strong enough to block them out.

How about you? Where is your ZWISCHENRAUM -
your space between -
your resting place -
the place where you find your spiritual richness to initiate change?


An Old Card for Christmas

Going through old photos recently I found this Christmas Card. I remember the year - mid 1940s - it was mailed to friends in Charlotte by my father's parents, Sam and Louise Diggle. Nanny and Papa Sam are in the front sleigh, followed by their eight children, Lewis, Jack, Mary Cobb, Catherine, Robert, Betty, Loretto and Tut. And theu are followed by the first crop of eight cousins, Sandra, Ellouise, Sam, Tommy, Lynda, Jimmy,Kathy, and Charlie. (click on the image to enlarge it.)

Robert is my daddy and Lynda and Kathy are my sisters. That's a pretty good version of the large house Sam and Louise built in 1915 to house all those kids. And make room for all the rest as their children married and added to the "clan".

Nanny wrote the verse. My Aunt Tut told me, "Mama was a versifier."

" We Diggles are a mighty clan
In size and age we vary
But large and small we wish you all
A Yutetide, Bright and Merry."

Sixty two years later the sentiment holds and so
again this year - from them - through me - to you.

Warm wishes for a Yuletide, Bright and Merry


Dalmation Story On TV

Recently I taped a TV program with my friend Lee Shephard - We had a great time! He sent me the "link" so that I can share it. Hope you enjoy the story.

Online Videos by Veoh.com

As we mention in the program, Lee and I first knew each other in the Second Grade. I think we each made our first stage appearance at the same time. Miss Terry rehearsed the class and we presented an extravaganza of Mistress Mary Quite Contrary on the big stage in the auditorium Neither of us had a speaking part - I don't think anyone did. Even so I have a vivid memory of that play because Granny let me wear my aunt's wonderful yellow ruffled dancing costume so that I was properly out-fitted as Mistress Mary - when I stood holding a watering can over the backs of classmates who were silver bells and cockle shells.

Lee has been a broadcaster since we were in High School. He awed everyone with his wonderful voice on the radio as an early teen DJ. Fame at an early age sent him to UNC in broadcasting (as he mentioend) and then later to Washington as a TV personality here. When we moved to the Washington area in 1968 I loved watching him on TV, knowing that I knew him when.

As much as I admire and enjoy him on TV I am most personally grateful to Lee for all he has done and continues to do to hold our High School graduating class together - with a website- and being a spirit to continue our class reunions. We were a pretty smart group to elect him President of the Senior Class in 1954 - and he continues to take the lead.


Feeling good

Three programs at an elementary school this morning and a program for a Senior Residence this afternoon - that feels good.

Besides that today I received a packet of letters from a class of third grade students who heard my stories a couple of weeks ago. Now this is what warms your heart:

" I liked the way you told the story because you did not tell the story too slow and not too fast. You told the story just right."

"I felt like I was in the story."

"I saw a picture in my mind of a bird that was hurt." (They heard the Pumpkin Seed Bird)

" I liked the Friendship Orchard because it is so cool how the birds planted the seeds ."

" I liked the stories you told today because they were really, really interesting. Like when the woman cut open the pumpkin and there was a fine meal and when the two friends set the birds free so the birds planted an orchard for them."

Then all of them asked "where did you find these stories?" "why did you tell them"

During the holiday season rather than telling traditional Christmas stories and legends I have been telling two folktales The Pumpkin Seed Bird and The Friendship Orchard because they are different, little known tales and they each have images of sharing and thankfulness. And those themes bridge Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Zwansa and Christmas.

Finding stories is an everyday on-going thing. I cruise through books, browse the 398.2 section of the Library, listen to other storytellers and search the internet.
Because you look not just for stories but for stories that say something to you, and that will feel comfortable on your tongue - meaning that the story fits you.

And then I tell them so that I can give them away hoping the students will remember the essence of the story and tell it to their parents, their siblings and others. You know, join the oral tradition of passing on a story.


A Quick Hello

My sister Kathy called. "You haven't written on your blog. Have you gotten trapped in the basement. Fallen under a load of junk?"

No, I am not lost in the basement. I am battling a deadline. Grappling with Photoshop. Flipping through files of photos. And there are so many. Once I started using a digital camera I just snap, snap, snap. And then, never, never, ever delete.
Its sort of like the basement.

In February I am one part of a two person show at Gallery 10 - and do I have art work ready. Well, NO.

And as the deadline presses against my neck like a sharp blade I am scrambling.

So, I have not forgotten about Grand Dad Gus - and I will be back on that -

dare I say it,

going through the pictures on the computer and the boxes of disks I have stumbled across a few surprises for you.

So stay tuned.

In the meantime - if you want a really warm and wonderful read about family, holidays and story stop by and visit Granny Sue. You will be glad you did.

or hear and see me tell a story.


Grand Dad Gus

My sister Lynda wrote this morning - "the people in my office think Henry looks the most like Grand Dad Gus".

Gus you are back - we are remembering you and now Lynda has given the man no one knew a new name we can call him by. He is no longer "your mama's daddy" - he is ours too.

Hello Grand Dad Gus.

Reminds me of the African Story - The Cow Tail Switch.

A great hunter goes into the bush one morning and never returns. He has five sons and his wife is pregnant. She delivers another son. And when this young boy is old enough he asks,
"Where is my father?"
His question stirs the older sons to take their weapons and enter the bush to find their father. They find his bones and working magic they bring those bones back to life and bring the father home. everyone rejoices.
The father makes a "cow tail switch" a prized object - and one day he says "I will give this to the one who did the most to bring me back to life."

The older sons argue about who did the most, who found the bones, who made the skins, who brought back the blood, who breathed in the breath - but the father walks across the circle and stands before the youngest son and hands HIM the cow tail switch.

"He did the most. He asked the question."

This is the joy - the reward of genealogy. Keep asking the questions.

And there is more to come of Gus's story - I promise.


Another Gus Keasler Look Alike?

Well, Gus Keasler is still with us that is for sure. Here is a fifth of Gus' seven great grandsons.

Chris - son of sister Dena.

Gus Keaslere Look Alikes 1

Here are four of Gus Keasler's seven great grandsons.
Shawn - son of sister Lynda
Henry - son of sister Lynda
Travis - son of brother Robert
Patrick - son of sister Kathy


Basement - Day One

I started!

Can't believe I really have all this stuff -
This is going to be a slow process
Many bags to carry upstairs to the trash.

But - the good news is
I started!