Locked OUT

There have been times when I was locked out of my house and my office because I forgot my keys

I have been locked out of my car - many times. Standing helplessly by on the sidewalk I could see the keys dangling from the ignition.

Once I was parked on Connecticutt Avenue near Dupont Circle and I wangled my way back into our car using a metal coat hanger. It was simple to do once I learned the trick. Straighten the hanger, leaving a little hook on the end, push the wire through the rubber edging around the window and then wiggle it down until you could snag the lock and pull it up. Voila. Open the door. Do you know it took me an hour to get into that car, on the passenger side - and not one person asked me what I was doing or called a policeman. Hmm-

Last night I was lockd out - and I was totally unprepared for it. I was locked out of this blog.

First I received a notice on my email - which I hesitated to open - what if it was spam. Then I tried to post and up comes a BIG notice from the "spam-blocker robot" -.
telling me my blog was locked and would be deleted in 20 days if I did not request a review.

Deleted. Did they say deleted?

My blog had been tagged as a possible spam producing blog by the automated spam checking robot.. I had to request that it be checked by a human.

I sent the form - you know - copied those funny looking letters to prove I was a human being.

And today - someone turned a key to unlock the blog - sent me an apology for incorrectly tagging me - and i can tell you about it.

Another of today's protections. Probably a very good thing.

Funny, it did not feel good or like a protection when it happened.


Lost Baggage

Today CNN was showing pictures of the baggage piling up at Kennedy Airport because a baggage sorter had mal-functioned. As I watched I remembered the night we met Jim's brother Tom and his wife Ila at Kennedy Airport and we all flew off to Geneva, Switzerland with no idea where their luggage was or if they would ever see it again.

We had planned an East Coast-West Coast hook-up for a three week jaunt together in Europe. Jim and I arrived from DC about 4 PM. Tom and Ila were flying in from Fresno, Ca in time for us to have supper together before we boarded our 9 PM plane.

All smiles Jim and I were waiting at the gate for Tom and Ila's plane. We watched the passengers departing - down to the very last straggler trudging up the off ramp. They were not on it. This was 1985 - before the instant connection of a cell in your pocket. Maybe we had the wrong flight number. A call to California confirmed the flight and that they had left home that morning as planned. Upsetting news.

What to do? Jim and I would have to leave at 9 pm as planned because Jimmy and Monica were meeting us in Geneva and there were "paid-for" reservations for the next three weeks.

Finally we sat down in a coffee shop near our departure gate to eat a bite of supper. We sat facing the corridor, scanning faces. Jim's face was drawn and worried. Then we saw them running toward our gate. Jim leaped up to catch them.

What a story. The early morning fog had slowed them down getting to the airport. They missed the plane in Fresno. They got the next plane out, changed somewhere mid-country to a flight to LaGuardia Airport - the closest they could get to Kennedy. Then a wild taxi ride to Kenndy. They had no idea where their baggage was but trusted it would catch up with them in Geneva.

Tom and Ila were the picture of calm, cool, and collected. They ate a sandwich and then picked up the next beat as we all joined the line to board our plane. Our flight took off at 9 pm as scheduled with all four of us buckled in. Next morning the sun glinted on the snow caps as we flew over the Alps and landed smoothly in Geneva. Ila did say, "we will see if the baggage made it."

Jim and I grabbed our bags off the revolving carrousel. Then the four of us stood and watched silently as new bags plopped onto the conveyor belt and other people collected their baggage and left. We kept hoping to see Tom and Ila's baggage. But it never came.

We went to the hotel to sleep - fortunately Jim and I had packed a couple of exta toothbrushes.

Tom and Ila remained amazingly good-natured - hoping to see their baggage -for the next two days - without breaking step with seeing all of Geneva. Luckily - the bags arrived just in time for us move on to our next stop.

I hope the folks today - whose baggage is on the loose - can manage as well as Tom and Ila did.

I have often tried to do that. Its not easy.

Take it from me - you might as well keep calm. No amount of screaming will help!


Be Sure to Check Your Ducks

The woman said:
"I spent my whole life getting my ducks in order -
then I found out
they weren't MY ducks."

I laughed.
Then I started thinking about it.


Life would be simpler if I remember to make sure the ducks belong to me before I start getting them in order.


I don't think this is going to be easy. Do you?

We Won

A few days ago I surfed onto Travelin Oma's blog and found a word contest. "want to play?" I asked Jim. What a chance for Jim to show-off his crossword puzzling word agility ! We had a good time and submitted a few word pairs.

Throwing a salute our way. WE WON! Marty wrote saying our prize - a book on words- is in the mail.

We never win anything. And we have the bags of dead lottery tickets and mailings from Publishers Clearhouse to prove it.

Could this mean - our luck is turning?


Three Beautiful Things

When the sun is shining everything looks more beautiful

1. When Claudia gently adjusts my knee I hear a barely audible click as everything falls into its right place - and I can walk more easily.

2. Jim and I sit in the warm sunshine at Einstein's, taking a break from the work of the day.

3. The relief and quiet that fills the room when I turn off CNN and the television.


Memory Side Trip

Our neighbor has a large old-fashioned pink crape myrtle tree that stands at least twelve feet tall next to the side of their house.
I see it through the french doors of our family room. When I see it I remember my grandmother's house ar 2308 E. 7th Street in Charlotte, NC. - not as the asphalt parking lot it is now - as it was when I was growing up.

The Rosemont sub-divison opened in 1920 and widow Ellie Hall Keasler and her new husband Jack Baer bought the first house to be built in Rosemont. It was a brown shingle bungalow style home right at the turn around for the street-car line. The location made it a wonderful commuting location from downtown Charlotte. There were sidewalks and a walkway divided the front yard into two halves. Granny planted an old fashioned pink crape myrtle in the middle of each half. They thrived - for more than seventy years - until they were destroyed - making way for the asphalt parking lot for a lawyers' office in Mrs. Bland's large two story house next door. Its a familiar story as cities change.

By the 1940s those crape myrtle trees were tall and full and I loved to play in their shade. There were no street cars by that time but Seventh Street was busy with cars and often Army convoys transporting truck loads of soldiers off to somewhere.

No one knows anymore that John Brown, Granny's sister Cora's husband - a street car conductor - was shot there - on Seventh Street at the street car turn around - in the early 1930s. He was preparing to head back to the street car barn - his work done for the day - when two toughs jumped onto the car, struggled with him for his coins jingling in his money changer, and killed him. Mama's cousin Buck told me, "Uncle John was a bull-headed, cantankerous man - he fought them - he had a bullet wound in his hand. If he hadn't fought maybe they would not have killed him."

Genealogy gave me the story. When I was tracing down details I talked to a man who told me, " I remember it. - I lived about a block away and I heard the shots that night. I was just a kid - about nine years old. They killed those guys." I looked it up. Yes, they did - in the electric chair.

Aunt Cora was dead by the time I found out the details of the story. When it happened she was left a widow with six children. How did she manage? Mama did not want to talk about it then, maybe not now either.

That's how stories are lost.

FFunny, I should remember it.

Crape myrtles and dogwoods are my favorite trees.



When we went to the movie this evening we were looking for fun - and we found it - in MAMA MIA.

What's not to like - sunny days on a lovely Greek Isle, lively music, Pierce Brosnan, and the surprising Meryl Streep - having fun singing and dancing. Its a romantic romp - some might call it a "chick flick" - all I know is - it was light-hearted and made us feel good. We were ready for that!

Jim and I had seen the road show at the National Theatre several years ago - and I remembered leaving the theatre happy. Same with this movie. I would not mind seeing it again - at home - on a cheaper DVD screening. And without the e n d l e s s previews and adds. Have you noticed they are even adveritisng upcoming TV shows?


Friday Wrap Up

A lot happened this week - and I'd like to wind it up by mentioning a few things that touched me.

1. Some people who touch your life are not folks you know or have ever seen in person. I feel that way about Randy Pausch.the courageous professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Randy Pausch, died Friday. About a year ago the video of his "The Last Lecture" entered the cyber world on You Tube. If you have not seen it - its a gift to his young children, advising them to enjoy their lives and live their dreams. Its a gift to all. His death touches me, like it touches everyone who met him through his lecture. He was young, 47, and yet he used his last months to have a major impact on millions of people and to show his love for his family. What a splendid legacy. My deepest sympathy to his family in their loss.

2. CNN keeps taking about the Quantas plane that nearly crashed near the Phillipines. The pictures roll over and over and over. How do you explain a hole as big as a small car that pops in the side of a 747? What do you do when a plane you are on suddenly plunges 20,000 feet? I watch. Horrified and mesmerized.
I thank God they landed the plane and no one died. I wonder it anyone on that plane will ever sleep through the night again? And what about their next flight. What about my next flight. Here is something I never thought of. Can you tell the story wakes and stirs my fears of flying? Is that why they keep talking about it and showing the pictures? Are they afraid too?

3. Knee Report. Would you believe I am walking - - without whining or screaming? For one month I have not been able to walk across the den without wincing - at the least. Today I walked into the back yard for the first time since June. And how has this happened?
I met with the miracle worker, Claudia, my artist friend who is also an Alexander Technique Therapist.
She took one look. "No wonder you can't walk - your right knee is torqued." Meaning it was very out of alignment with my hip socket - increasing the pressure on the "sick" knee. She slid her hand down my leg and showed me the skewed line of the bone structure in my leg down to my toes
She taught me a few moves to adjust my stance, to change my walk and my body posture. I walked into the Safeway and bought a few groceries on my way home. I hate grocery shopping - but this time I relished every step
I am practicing. Lifting the pressure up and off my knee. Saturday Claudia will work with me again.

Do you wonder, as I am, why the doctor never mentioned these possibilities weeks ago --

Enough of that - instead - profound gratitude for Claudia and her skills. WHEEEEE - look at me, I am walking.

5. In my blog surfing I discovered Darlene, an 83 year old widow in Arizona who, undaunted by her difficulties with the computer and the blogging program, has just started her first blog. She defies technical difficulties and adds her photos, showing you her world. She is a delight - a woman I would like to meet. For now, Darlene's Hodge Podge will have to do. Maybe you will visit her too.


Storytelling Round-up

Lots of storytelling around here. Three personal highlights.

1. The first Starrytelling Festival, the brain child of producer Elizabeth Wallace, filled Kensington, MD with activities and stories aimed at the stars last Saturday and Sunday, July 19th and 20th. It was a full week-end. I was happy to be one of the storytellers. The kick-off featured a Galileo re-enactor from Boston followed by Oklahoma storyteller Lynn Moroney. Saturday evening a story concert featured two Maryland tellers, Linda Fang and me, and brought back Lynn Moroney who calls herself a "star teller". I was pleased with my telling of my new star story with combines a personal memory of Kenya skies and an African folktale. Televised excerpts of the Saturday concert were broadcast Wednesday night on Montgomery Municipal Cable (channel 16) - I hear that there are requests coming to the Kensington Mayor to have the Starrytelling Festival next year. Brava, Elizabeth Wallace.

2. Vermont storyteller Jackson Gilman
was in town for a library performance in VIrginia, a house concert Saturday night and a workshop Sunday morning. Choices. Since I was telling Saturday night at the Starry my only option was his workshop. And am I glad I picked up on the chance to work with him. Jackson has a background in mime, stand-up comedy, and music. He makes the stage part of his story landscape, whether in small or large gestures, to bring the listener deeper into his story. He is a gifted coach and through working with him I left the workshop with a new story which I remembered during one of the exercises. More importantly I came way with a fresh way to look at performing my stories. Thank you, Jackson Gilman.

3. July is the month of the Capital Fringe - performances of all tyes around town. My knees have kept me from attending many I had intended to see - but Wednesday evening I made it downtown to see Rivka Willick perform her one woman 'folktelling" Labor Daze.
Rivka is a New Jersey teller I met at Elizabeth Ellis's wokshop in Brooklyn. I was glad to have a chance to see her telling stories here.

Labor Daze is a program of stories that center on women in the labors of giving birth. She has assembled a group of stories which take you from the Grimm Brothers, to an old family story from Scotland, a personal story about her mother, and a touching and humorous story of a woman she assisted in delivery. Rivka is an informal teller who establishes a relationship with her audience and draws them into her stories. For this program she used a few props which I don't think were necessary but they did not detract from the stories. I appreciated the way Rivka maintains a connection with the audience, and uses her voice, gestures, and a few sounds to establish images in the story. In the story of a slave woman delivering her baby in the field she has devised a very effective, mesmerizing chant which involves the audience with the woman and her labor.

I was very glad to have heard Labor Daze and experienced Rivka as a teller-in-performance. A Washington Post reviewer said her program was "completely enjoyable". That's true and it is also skilled storytelling.

The performance was complemented by the small black box cinema at the Goethe Institute which is a perfect 92 seat venue for storytelling.


Bovine Storytelling

Cows at Blarney Castle.
Standing in the shade
Watching all those tourists ambling by every day.
Wonder what stories they would tell?


Frugal Squeezing

Things in the world are feeling a bit of a mess. Gas is over the top, produce prices are rising for those of us who don't have a garden plot and on and on and on.

All this focus on stretching a buck takes me right back to the days when Jim and I got married and tried to live on nothing while he was in medical school and interning. His smallish salary as a doctor drafted into the Air Force (does anyone remember that?) seemed like a fortune.

I cut coupons with the best for years. My sister used to tease me that my favorite brands were all the same ON SALE.

After our kids grew up and left home I let up a little and often paid full price for things. No more. Things have completely flippd around full circle.

So I decided to do some blog research to catch up with the frugal tactics folks are using today.

I can tell you this - across the country familiesp are working hard to make ends meet. Budgets are tight. And the blogs share ideas on how to squeeze a nickel a bit tighter.

The world of the coupon savy is way more complicated these days than just clipping a coupon on Sunday and heading to the supermarket on Monday. Check out this smart mom to see how it can be done. She left me in the dust with my head spinning.

After following many on their trips to supermarkets, dollar stores and other frugal stops I was beginning to think that most of the ideas were about the same - look for a good deal. Some new twists, like the man who drives 90 miles each way once a month to the cheapest store near him were impressive - but then I remembered that we used to drive from Chapel Hill to Pope Air Force Base in Fayette once a month to shop at the commissary.

Then I hit on this. The first really new idea I hve stumbled across came from this blog - She is raving about Wrap-N-Mat. Check this to see reusable sandwich wrappings. I hahve never seen that before - a sandwich wrap that doubles as a place mat. I was intrigued until I read the fine print on the website. "made in China" - oh, drat, why dos everything have to be a political decision?


Tricky Dave

California guys can be pretty tricky.

A Guy Named Dave in San Diego has come up wth his personal challenge for consumerism run amuck. He says"I will only have 100 personal things by November 12, 2008 and I will live with 100 personal items for one year." He has set the rules - this is his challenge.

People are writing about him and his challenge. Read Time Magazine. Crowds are standing back in awe - watching and wishing.Check his blog to find out more and to follow his progress. I did - I could not resist.

Would he have an answer to help me get rid of stuff? Does he have a super strategy that I can borrow to simplify my life.

Well, let me tell you - he does have a gimmick and its not going to help me one bit.

His list of personal things is pared down and getting skinnier - that is true. Electronics and underwear are counted. But - and here is the clever part. It does not include "shared" items in the family. Right tricky there, Dave.

Items like dishes and silverware, pots and pans, basic furniture, linens etc - you get my point. Things that in my life have always ended up in my pile of stuff, up to me to think about. I remember how I learned they were mine. Three weeks after we got married there were no clean towels and it became clear it was my job to wash my towels.

Dave is keeping two small plastic boxes of memorabilia in the garage. Big deal. Where are the family photo albums, the genealogy files, the trip files, Aunt Susie's quilt, the hand crocheted doilies that Cousin Alice made, the kids baby shoes and on and on and on. Do his boxes include the kids report cards, hand prints, art work and more and more and more.

Whenever I begin to think of paring down - whether to 100 items or 1,000 items or endlesslly more its about choices -and discarding bits of our life and our history. Bottom line, I can't do it.

Good luck Dave. I have no doubt you wlll make your goal.

I wonder - where is you wife - out back, hunting and gathering - sifting through your trash?


Dirty Discs

Jim and I love a movie in the evening as a break - a great way to relax from the work day. We have a Netflix "2" subscription so we are rotating two films or more through here every week. The hard part is keeping up with the queque. Making choices. My mood when I open up Netflix to add to the queque has a lot to do with our eclectic "play bill".

This list of some of the films we have watched recently gives you an idea of what I mean:

IRIS - a touching film about British novelist Iris Murdoch's journey as Alzheimers took her away from reality. Dame Judi Dench, as always, is superb in the role.

BASQUAIT - an interesting downer in the story of a young Haitian artist who was overcome by his quick " Cinderella" success in the New York art world that made him an international art star. Befriended by Andy Warhol he was adrift when Warhol died and he himself died of a herioin overdose at age 27. Not a pretty story.

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY - a beautifully filmed story of a man, whose brain is intact but he is locked, mute, , in his immobile body, following a stroke. After a time he learns to communicate by blinking his eyelids and saves his spirit by releasing his imagination. Inspiring.

The Ed Harris bio pic
The BBC Documentary
For some reason I ordered both these films about the mythic expressionist painter of the 1950s who became a legend through his art work and his alcohol soaked life and death. Ed Harris plays Jackson Pollock in the first film and in the second Pollock's friends talk about him. Take your pick, if you are interested - the story comes out the same.

MURIEL's WEDDING - I picked this Australian film starring Toni Collette from the COMEDY list but its not one. Its a melancholy, sad, and touching story of an awkward "ugly duckling" who finds herself as a swan.

All these films had one thing in common - the discs arrived dirty and at a crucial moment in each film the **** disc stuck -
talk about frustrating. At least in the movie theater you can clap, stomp your feet,or holler at the projectionist. We started over, wiped the disc, jumped it from scene to scene - no luck.

I hope Netflix customer service takes my message to heart.

Tip: Check your disc before popping in the player.


Starting my Egypt research

A few months ago I saw a book, Murder in the Place of Anubis, on a library sale table. I am attracted to all things Eqyptian so I plinked down my 5o cents, brought it home and put it in a stack of books "waiting". Noticed it again last week and now its the first of my reading before we make our trip to Egypt.

There are several unsettling things about this book.

First, the previous owner underlined words in different colors - not sentences, mind you, words. I cannot figure out "why" yet. Were they too planning a trip to Egypt or were they jogging their memory on things they had known or needed to know? Their reason is still theirs.

Second, a detective story set in the time of King Tut just doesn't feel right. The crime makes sense - they did those murders then too - but having a special ops priest in the Pharoah's court seems a bit of a stretch. What do you think.

Come to find out this book is one of a series - all with the same priestly detective - hmmm. No, I don't think so. As soon as I find out who the killer is - I am moving on.

Unless - I find another one of these with words underlined in colors - then I would have to continue my own pursuit of a solution for a mystery.


3 Beautiful Things

1. Today the post on 93words includes an inspiring video that demonstrates the power of story - and shows how a group of young people use their passion about a cause to accomplish something historic.

2. Telling stories to a group of seniors whose undivided attention makes the telling better. "you are a good storyteller" one man tells me. I could counter - you are wonderful listeners.

3. The fun of hoping to win when you buy a lottery ticket.

and speaking of taking a chance - go here and enter the drawing for this beautiful quilt.


On My Knees - a cautionary tale

My experience at Coney Island Hospital was pretty scary - but I was on guard. And I comforted myself that once I was out of there I would be safe - safe in my usual world of nice offices, sweet smelling bathrooms and good medicine. Little did I know

I saw the doctor today and he has changed his story on my knee.

Well, the good news is - no surgery.

The bad news - there is a tear all right - but the cause is wear and tear and osteo arthritis. So he now says, "go home and take Celebrex and see me in six weeks." Without explaining the how or why of this change in plan - except to say - "I have looked at your films." Leaving me to believe he mis-spoke in the beginning before he really knew what was going on in my knee.

It turns out this guy wearing his white coat - dispite his Ivy League credentials - is a first rate jerk - saying, " I am not a magician - I can't make you 17 again'' - to shut me up and speed things along when I asked questions about treatments for my knee

But worse he closed the exam by handing me a prescription for Celebrex - telling me to "call me if you have any trouble."
And what would that be?

When we got home I fired up the computer. First, because I knew nothing about it, I checked out celebrex. I was horrified - and a bit frightened - to read the warnings - celebrex can cause heart attack and stroke -in addition to GI bleeding. Jim in checking with his medical sources found that several of the medications I take regularly - don't mix with celebrex, creating another risk. Bottom line - I am not following the doctor's orders and taking that drug.

One thing - I noticed that all the writing about celebrex was directed toward the patient and gave suggestions about what "you" should ask your doctor before taking celebrex. Does that strike you as a bit bizarre - or is it a warning in itself - to keep your guard up?

On another site an internet "doctor" explained osteo-arthritis and laid out a list of recommended things I can do to help myself - while I look for another Orthopedist.

I don't think this doctor meant to kill me - but he surely could have - if I had not checked things out -before I filled the perscription - and started taking it as directed.

I guess like Aesop I should add a Moral to this little tale:

Now I know - even in what you think is the safe, privileged world of good medical care - you are on our own and had better watch your back.

Think about this - my husband is a doctor with his body of knwledge and I am somewhat informed about the medical world - enough to know to watch and ask questions, anyway - what happens to those who don't have the same edge? How are you getting along?


Art Bonding

Sunday when our local family got together to celebrate my birthday we gathered around the dining room table for a bit of collage.

When our grand-daughters were younger and schedules were less hectic, we used to do Sunday Art-ins. Its a fun way to have all ages around the table - together - making things. We have not done that in a long, long, long time. As kids got older their calendars filled - more time at school, games and sports and all of us adults in the family seem to have fuller schedules too. I have missed those slow times. So, when Jim said what did I want to do for my birthday I said, "let's have an evening of Art and Strawberries."

I made up individual baggies of collage scraps - a mix of colored papers, cards, stamps, pictures, bits of this and that.
All you need for this is collage "fixin's" - papers, glue sticks, scissors and willing hands.

We started with dessert and cards. Strawberries turned into a mix of berries: blue berries, raspberries and strawberries over angel food cake - with sorbet on the side. How simple is that? Jim had told everyody _"cards only" - and they brought delightful Birthday cards
and circumvented the "no gifts" by including "gift" cards for some of my favorites - iTunes, Starbucks and Images, my favorite hair salon. Very green - no packing to toss and no "things" to add to our life space.

Everyone fell right in with the "program." Little talking as each one laid out their goodies and figured out how to solve the problem - turn scraps into "art."

But, you know, even in the quiet there is closeness, the closeness of just "being together." No tv in the background, no iPods dishing separate playlists, no text-messaging. Just being there - being with each other and - - with yourself, as you glue scraps of paper on a card.

It was precious time - a special gift for my birthday.


Bastille Day and Me

Two national holidays in July and both have been imporant to me as long as I can remember. The Fourth of July, known for firecrackers and watermelon picnics, and Bastille Day, the French National Holiday. I always celebrate Bastille Day -not because I am French - its my birthday.

We had celebrated with our local family Sunday night so today is a quiet day. Because its my birthday I can feel entitled --- watch movies and talk on the phone with friends and family as well as keep up with what needs doing

TCM was celebrating Bastille Day too - with old movies set during the French Revolution. To stave off any guilt, I took a knitting break as I watched the first one -The Black Book with Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl and Richard Basehart. It brought back waves of memories of sitting in the Plaza Theater on Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC where I first saw this 1949 black and white movie when I was in Junior High School.

The second movie movie for Bastille Day was the 1958 black and white British version of A Tale of Two Cities with Dirk Bogarde. The story is familiar and this particular film did not carry Plaza memories so I put down the knitting and went back to business.

I am telling stories Saturday night at the Starrytelling Festival in Kensington so I am working on the story - an African folktale- which I have wrapped with a personal story about a night under an inky canopy of stars at Amboseli Park.
The image of those vibrant stars twinkling in that black sky is unforgettable - and -speaking of birthdays - it was my birthday - my 49th birthday.

That brings up memories of other birthdays on foreign soil -

July 14, 2003 was certainly the most romantic. Jim and I were on an extended stay in Venice that summer and we loved every minute of the five weeks.
By my birthday the holiday was winding down and we were bracing to head home in a few days.
We had saved a special treat to mark my day. Jim took me for high tea at the fabled Florian's restaurant on St, Mark's Plaza. We asked to be seated in the Chinese Room. Sitting on the uncomfortable chairs, blancing tea cups and tasty teeny tiny tea sandwiches we looked out large rippled glass windows across the Plaza to the grand St Mark's Cathedral. We watched the pigeons swoop down among the people who were strolling across the plaza. Touching history and making a memory. It was a wonderful birthday celebration.

July 14, 2006 - Somewhere in Ireland,
trapped in a bus with 30 other Americans on an elderhostel tour that is best forgotten.

Birthdays mark the passage of time and give us a chance walk through our memories as well as look forward to what's ahead.
And, truly I am grateful for each and every one of them - and hope and pray for more. Recently I agreed to have my name added to an art exhibition scheduled in 2012.

In the afternoon when our California grandsons called to sing Happy BIrthday - I asked the sixteen year old, my computer guru, if he could remove my birthday from my MYSpace page - I hate having the banner proclaim my age.
"Weezie, you should feel proud." (Now, don't you love him for that?)
"I know, I know, honey. And I do. I just don't want the whole world to count with me - to know how much I am proud about."

In my folktale the young boy says to the curious old man - " its not a secret when two know it." Right.
Does it make sense - to spend a pretty penny coloring my hair and then proclaim it on MYSPACE.

Enough birthdays and you wise up.


Happy Birthday, Nanny

Louise Cobb Diggle
Born: July 13, 1886, Charlotte, NC
Died: July 10, 1956, Charlotte, NC
She married Samuel Lewis Diggle in 1910 and by 1923 they had eight children. My father Robert was the fourth child - the third of three boys.

By the spelling of my name, Ellouise, you can tell Mama figured out a way to name me for both grand-mothers - Ellie Hall Keasler Baer,her mother, and Louise Diggle, Daddy's mother. If Mama had gone into labor just a bit sooner I would have been born on Nanny's birthday instead of Bastille Day.

Nanny has been dead fifty-two years but I still have vivid memories of her and I have a few tangibles;
1. a silk scarf she bought for me in Ivey's Department Store when I was about 15 - not particularly pretty to my eyes now - but I can't part with it.
2. the silver flat ware she left to me in an informal personal will she wrote on blue stationery the night before she went to Duke Unv. Hospital for surgery for an aortic aneurysm.
3. the small framed picture of Confederate flags that used to hang in Papa Sam's home office.
4. definitely ugly pewter urns that once sat on her living room mantle.
5. a stack of old books from a literary society she belonged to in the 1930s.
6. a worn flannel receiving blanket edged with handmade tatted lace that she made for her first great-grand child - our son Jimmy - before she died.

What does this tell you?
I was her second grand-daughter, the child of a troubling son and a daughter-in-law she little approved of and barely knew. I admired and loved her from arm's length. That smacks of a side bar in a southern novel.

The tangibles are the stuff of attic museums - if anyone knows the person. In this case, since I am the only one in my immediate family who knew her or remembers her, my guess is - this stuff is headed for the dumpster.

Unless, I can make art out of it - or give it a story. Or toss it myself.

Its time, isn't it - to think of these things.


Taking a Break

This time two years ago Jim and I were in Ireland on an Elderhostel trip. In fact I celebrated a very significant birthday on that journey.

And one of those - birthdays not trips - looms ahead in a few days.

But for now - I am not thinking about it.

For several days I have posted pictures with poems - because I wanted to play with the cinquain poem structure. And I thought surely everyone was bored silly hearing about my knee - which is what is foremost on my mind. But, several folks have written and asked, "how's the knee?" " are you all right, you're not writing much."

So - knee update. Bah! The doctor injected the knee ten days ago. That helped. I walked well for about a week - then, things began to slip back. I am hobbling slowly up steps and sometimes think I will pull out the walker again. I see the doctor again next week. So all is not well.

This week I tell stories a few times and for the Saturday evening performance at the Starrytelling Festival. I just want to stay on my feet for those.

Three Beautiful Things:
1. Several lovely conversations with my mother - her voice is strong, and its fun to talk with her.
2. My "from scratch" cornbread today tasted pretty good - especially considering I have not made such in about twenty years. I am enjoying rediscovering cooking.
3. Knitting - enjoying holding the rich colors of a varigated soft chenille yarn as I knit a long scarf on the horizontal. Ihave the 220 stitches on a circular needle. Going around one row gives me a comfortable break.


Passing Along the Arte y Pico Award

Once again, thank you Granny Sue at Granny Sue’s News and Reviews for giving my blog the lovely Arte y Pico Award! It’s my first blog award and all the better for receiving it from my friend, storyteller Susanna Holstein.

I read Granny Sue’s blog every day and invite you to join me for a visit to her world in West Virginia and her days as a storyteller and devoted wife/mom/ and grandmother.

The Arte y Pico award was originated by Ana, a blogger and doll maker in Uruguay as a way to honor many artistic blogs she visited every day.

Like Ana, I feel enriched everyday by the blogs I read. Granny Sue compared the artistic blog community to a quilt. It’s the best metaphor I know for the kaleidoscope of color, viewpoints, and experiences that offer themselves for you to choose from for your personal quilt. In the three years have been writing Ellouisestory it has become a thread that connects me to the world and the world to me.

One of the "rules" (all five are listed below) of the award is that the nominee must/may give the Arte y Pico award to 5 more blogs. I am delighted to pass it along to:

1. 37 Days: Patti’s blog is a daily touchestone for me and a wide audience of readers who are enriched enriched by her wisdom, insights and playfulness.

2. Marcia’s Meanderings Marcia lives half way around the globe from me but her wise writings and beautiful photographs touch me as they open a window onto her world.

3. Three Beautitful Things - Clare's concise writing reveals for her readers the joy she finds in her world and her viewpoint has a wide-ranging influence on others who adopt a 3BT attitude..

4. Art Junk - now how could I resist. I was in love with this site immediaetly. Lia, an artist who loves to cut and paste, says she "loves squares", shares ideas,is bursting with energy as she creates her journaling world.

5. 93 Words – Robin shows how a picture can boost your word count as she combines words and photographs to explore her world - and keep to a 93 word limit she set for her posts

There are some rules that go with the award. So, should any of you award winners decide to pass on the award to another blog, here is what you should do:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material and that contribute to the blogger community.
(this was hard--narrowing down to only 5!)

2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.

3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.

4.Please include a link to the Arte Y Pico blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

5. Show these rules.




Alluring blue

A steep alp to the top

Is it worth a breath-taking climb?

Beats me.

San Francisco, CA


French Perfume Shop

French Perfume Shop

Delicious and tempting
Silk bags

Which one? Which one?

Can't have them alll.

Like Life.



Spices, Provence, France.


Tempting tabletop

Offering spicey possibilities.

Yours for the taking.

Like life.


Things on My Mind.

Things are happening in the world. I try to shield myself from things I can do nothing about - but sometimes when it pushes close I can't blank them out or forget them.

For instance - the woman who died recently after waiting twenty four hours in the Kings County Hospital Psychiatric Emergency Room in Brooklyn, NY. After my own recent brush with a hospital of the NY Department of Hospitals I could believe it happened. And I can't forget her. They fired a few people. You know, take quick action to smooth troubled waters. Now what? Does it end there?

Big Sur on the Pacific Coast of California is burning. Have you been there and seen that gorgeous coastline and hills? Take a look - through the weather cam on Nepenthe Restaurant's deck. Is that mist or smoke?

Jim and I saw Yellowstone Park several years after the big fire there - stalks of charred trees and burned off underbrush. I can imagine how barren and scarred Big Sur will look and I want to cry.

The American Poet Robinson Jeffers lived near Big Sur.

Fire On The Hills
The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,Insolent and gorged,
cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game;
the sky was mercilessBlue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than men.
Robinson Jeffers


Gettysburg, Family History and Fireflies.

Jim and I are spending the week-end just outside Gettysburg, PA -- just like hundreds of other folks - Civil War enthusiasts who have come for the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Coming into town yesterday we drove down Table Top Road to see what we could see of the re-enactment. Mostly signs to the US Camp to the left and to the Southern Camp straight head. Both camps are set up way off the road - out of sight. And traffic - cars lined up and parking. At that we made a U-turn and headed to our house another way.

When we turned into Gurnsey Road we met a caravan of horse trailers pulling into the narrow farm road from a smaller farmer's road. Jim pulled over to let the groaning trucks pulling their four-footed cargo pass by. Hang on guys - The Cavalry is coming.

The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, took place July 1,2,and 3, 1863. It turned the tide of the war. Ghosts of those days are said to still haunt the area. Jim and I decided to honor the fallen and re-visit those days by watching two classic films, Gods and General's - a prequel for Gettysburg - and today we will watch Gettysburg - much of it filmed around the Gettysburg area.

I can't say too much for the acting in God's and General's. I find it over-played at best, but it gets the gist of the history across - and that's what we were looking for. It was a time when the country fought against itself over State's rights - and questions of loyalty - the union or your home state. Why else would farmer's boys pick up rifes and bedrolls and leave home to die? And there was plenty of dying on both sides.

Family History
As I watched a farmer's son shoulder his bedroll and strike off down the road I thought of Granny's father, Thomas Milton Hall. Thomas Hall joined the Mecklenburg Farmer's Unit when he was 16 years old and left his home in Mint Hill with other boys from the neighborhood. Led by a man from the area who was well-known to them, they walked across North Carolina and into Virginia with the Confederate Army for three years. Thomas Hall was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, captured and imprisoned at Point Lookout Prison, MD. At the end of the war he walked home.

On the Keasler side of Mama's family young South Carolina men joined up. Some rode the train to Virginia to fight at Fredericksburg. There is a letter to a Keasler mother who is anxiouisly waiting for news in SC - "we buried David in a shallow grave. If you want to come and get his body, come soon." As I was told the story, she hitched horses to a farm wagon and drove them from Clemson, SC to Fredericksburg, VA to bring her son home.

At one point during the movie, Gettysburg, The Federal and Southern troops were charging and defending Little Round Top. Our den was filled with the sound of muskets - when I realized some of those shots sounded just outside, not coming from the TV. I stepped onto the deck - sure enough, red rockets lit the sky. More Fourth of July fireworks.

And, better still, a new crop of fireflies, glowing gold, flitted across the yard and the field in the distance. I am so glad I did not miss them.


Happy Fourth of July

Fire Flies
( I wrote this story a few years ago - prompted by 4th of July fireworks)
Ellouise Schoettler (copyright 2005)

Fireworks are legal in PA.
Ever since we bought our get-away place in PA several years ago our daughter Karen waits impatiently for the Fourth so she can buy fireworks and set them off. July 3 she bought a bag full of the legal ones, sparklers and grounded spritzers. No air-borne rockets. When it was finally dark enough we all went outside to set them off and make a show.
Most of the group went into the side yard to set off the sparklers but I sat on the deck above them - a ring side seat. That's when I noticed them - the fire flies.
Fire flies were darting all around the yard. They were blinking on and off as they flew across the deck where I was sitting. The air was alive with their lights. I looked out over the yard to the meadows beyond - tiny blinking points of light flitting across the fields. It was a splendid magical show - Nature's fireworks.
I remembered other summer evenings in North Carolina - at my grandmother's - when I raced around the yard catching fireflies and holding the captives in a mason jar - until I had enough that the jar seemed alive. Granny made me let them go - "so they will come back tomorrow night." And here they were -


Arte y Pico Award


Granny Sue has tapped Ellouisestory for a

Arte y Pico Award.

The Arte y Pico award was originated by Ana, a blogger and doll maker in Uruguay who wanted to honor the many artistic blogs she visited every day. Isn't it a pretty thing?

Granny Sue is at the top of my list of bloggers so its very special to me to receive it from her! I read Granny Sue's blog every day. It's a visit to her West Virginia Ridge. She welcomes you into the warmth of her world as she writes about her home and family, her West Virginia life, storytelling, friends, and nature. I may never actually step foot on her deck but I feel as though I have already been there.

Thank you, Granny Sue, for your blog and the award.

Now I have a job to do - Pass the award forward to five other bloggers.

I am thinking.


Rich with Stories

Anne Sheldon and Bill Mayhew told stories tonight at the Kensington Storytelling and it was a good evening. Grateful to Elie Sola-Hopper, owner of the Kensington Row Bookshop for giving stories the space for the past two years - and for inviting stories back for another year beginning in September. In a few weeks I will post the 2009/2009 schedule for Telling Stories in Kensington

The Starrytelling Festival is more than storytelling - its a celebration of Galileo, Astronomy and Arts and Education. Workshops, storytelling and many other attractions. Originator and Producer Elizabeth Wallace has created a very special week-end for all ages - July 18, 19 and 20. She has a line-up of presenters that includes scientists, educators, dancers and storytellers. Lynn Moroney from Oklahoma is a featured teller along with NASA -astronomer-storyteller, Tim Livingood, Linda Fang and Gail Herman. I am delighted to be telling with them. If you are in this area - check out the website - you won't want to miss it.

For my set at the Starrytelling Festival I have a new story. I am combining an African folktale with a personal story drawn from memories of my trip to Kenya in 1985. The inky black skies and brilliant stars over Amboseli Park on a July night left me with an unforgettable image.
That trip was such a memorable experience, especially the opportunity to see the animals roaming free as they should - under pure skies.

The DC Fringe Festival starts in a few days and this year there is a strong presence for storytelling: 2 shows produced by Speakeasydc, Gail Rosen from Baltimore is presenting her stellar one-woman show about a Holocaust Survivor and Rivka Willick, storyteller from NJ, has a one-woman show, LABOR DAZE. Tickets are on sale now. Check the DC Fringe website.

Personal note: I have seen Gail Rosen's show and it is an emotionally compelling story wonderfully told.


New month, 3 BT Today

July 1 - I want to start the new month with three beautiful things - and gratitude.

1. This morning I gingerly slid my legs over the side of the bed and stood up - without whimpering - and walked slowly downstairs. Such a simple thing. Something I have taken for granted until - I tore the meniscus in my right knee and could not stand up and walk without whining, grunting or sometimes flat out screaming.

I walked early - and have been free wheeling in the world ever since. Mama tells me I started climbing out of the crib when I was nine months old - "you were too little to be doing it - but you did it anyway." You can guess the stories of young frustrated parents whose first child was a kid meant to be on the move. I am grateful to be mobile again.

2. This evening my mother and I had a lively, laughing telephone conversation when she answered the phone herself. For awhile she was not doing that and it broke our fifty-three year communication line. I have missed such easy access to my mother. I was grateful to hear her strong-voiced. She recognized me right off. We talked through her day and then I told her about my knee. And thanked her.

" For what?"

I reminded her how she had shown me her trick for putting her pants on - "put them on the floor, stick your feet in and then pull them up - that way you don't have to lift your leg."
"Mama that has really saved me with this knee - goes to show you are never too old to learn something from your mother."
"Ellouise, that's the truth - and you are smart if you have learned that."

I went on - "This knee thing has also taught me something about your life Mama, and how hard it must be for you somedays."
"Ellouise, I don't want you to pity me."
"That's not what I meant - I am saying you can't understand someone else's situation - if you have not walked a mile in their shoes."

Mama was quiet for a minute. I wondered if I had lost the connection with her. Then,
"That's right. You do have to walk in somebody's shoes, don't you. Thank you for telling me that."

It was a wonderful close hug between us.

Then she flew the coop. "I have to go now. I am going up to the third floor ( she lives in a one story building) to see Mama, and my little baby, Chris. They are expecting me."
"Who is Chris, Mama."
"You know, my baby."
"I don't think I know him. I wonder how I missed that one."
"I couldn't say. But you must have. And did you know little Kathy has disappeared."
"Mama, could it be that Kathy has grown up?" (Kathy is my sister who will soon be attending her 50th high school graduation reunion).
"That's what they tell me."

" But she's not gone - she is still in your heart as your "little piece of baby."
"Maybe so. Maybe so."
(Little Kathy with Granny and Dad Jack at their 25th anniversary reception.)

Then Mama came back.

"Dad Jack's birthday is in July. July 25."
"I know - - and mama who else has a big birthday in July."
She was quiet. She laughed. "Oh, its YOU!"

"You better watch out - I almost tricked you."

We giggled.

"But you didn't."

Truly a beautiful way to start my birthday month.
(Jack Baer - circa 1944, taken at Wrightsville Beach)
3. And speaking of mothers and daughters - this morning on 37 Days Patti Digh told a wonderful story about her four year old daughter Tess. The story takes you right into their sweet loving relationship and into the fun of living with a small child - when you are open to the fun of it.
Tess's story prompted a memory from my childhood and I shared the story on 37 Days.

Blogs are beautiful connections between people. I am grateful to be a part of the blogging community. Without Clare, I might not be naming these Three Beautiful Things.