Thursday - New Year's Eve

Williamsburg Wreath

This is the last of the Williamsburg Wreaths for this year. I will be glad to see them again next year because they remind me of the year all our family spent Christmas week in Colonial Williamsburg for our 50th wedding anniversary.
Bringing the wreaths out every year helps keep those memories fresh - just like decorating the Christmas Tree with old, familiar ornaments brings a flood of sweet memories.

2009 In Review:

Blog Year - I began this blog in 2005. This is my 1112th post - the 365th of this year. I had said I would post everyday and I have. Thanks for being here.

New Year's Eve is the day to reflect on the year that is leaving. Severval days ago I began to make lists, goals, plans for 2010 but today it the time to take stock - how did it go this year.

2009 has been a very complex, challenging, sometimes tense and often exciting year for us. We have been blessed in so many ways.

Jim's surgery in February was quite something - that came out OK although we had not been sure of that going into it. We were surprised and a bit shocked when his cancer returned in November but he is doing well with the Chemotherapy and his oncologist is encouraging about the results.

This year has taught us both that Cancer is a chronic disease and the important thing is learning how to LIVE with it. Our teachers are everywhere - other cancer patients - in the Chemo lab, in our families and in our friends. What a debt we all owe to Betty Ford who had the courage to speak publicly about her cancer in a time when that was a tabu subject. Before that I remember an older woman, a mothering figure to me, my neighbor in Chapel Hill, insisting that I feel the tumor in her breast, " so that you will recognize it if you ever have one."

We missed going to California for our planned all-family Holiday gathering, so we turned to Skype. We can see each other as we talk. Wow! Virtual family get-togethers. What's not to love?

On my storytelling front there have been some peak performing moments this year.
  • Last February, just before Jim's surgery, I premiered Pushing Boundaries, my feminist journey told as a folk tale, complete with my Prince.
  • In May, I told several Arabian Nights tales with the NIH Philharmonia for their all-Russian concert. It was a challenge and turned out really well. The music was terrific and a very full-house loved the stories.
  • For Mother's Day I was part of a special troupe of 8 storytellers invited by Speakeasydc to present a special program, Mommie Dearest. I told "Mama's New Story" for the first time.
  • And, then in October I was invited to tell on The Exchange Place Stage at the National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough, TN. What a thrill to look out into that audience of smiling faces - all storylovers! I chose to tell " The Dalmation Dog" - a funny story of a serious fight between long-time marrieds. It was a "mountain-top" experience.
  • Telling with Linda Fang and Noa Baum in a concert for the DC Area's new storytelling theater - Telling Moments Theater.
Combine those with my regular work with Seniors, two regular TV shows and producing the monthly storytelling series in Kensington - my storytelling cup runneth over.

Business-wise a real highlight for me has been working with Robin - in her role as Consultant with her business - Client Centered Marketing - on my web-site marketing and use of Social Media. She's good at what she does and its great to know her in her professional identity.

As for me - over-all this year has been a challenge. Its a good thing women are born with a muti-tasking gene. Staying steady on the balancing beam is an important skill and I am glad my talents at this are in working order.

Yes, I have goals for next year along with some dreams. Scraps of paper litter the floor as I work out the plans. I do know for certain that I have to focus and work on priorities. It would be nice is if this is the year I learn how to do that.

In the meantime - Thank you for visiting the blog this year - for leaving comments to let me know you have been by. I deeply appreciate your friendship. You brightened many days these past months and Jim and I both thank you very much.

God Bless Us, Everyone. Happy New Year!


54th Wedding Anniversary - Do you believe it?

Ellouise and Jim

December 30, 1955
Assumption Catholic Church
Charlotte, NC

Seems like yesterday.

When I wrote my new story, Pushing Boundaries, a personal experience as a folktale, I realized that to work the story had to have a prince. Fortunately, I do!



Monday - Williamsburg Wreath, Three Beautiful Things

Williamsburg Wreath

Three Beautiful Things

1. Napping in warm sunlight in the den.

Feels so good.

2. Enjoying an old movie -
The Courtship of Eddie's Father - Glenn Ford, Shirley Jones and the amazing young Ron Howard. Talk about a wonderful child performance - and so delightfully charming. I had forgotten how cute he was.

3. Saving the planet by wearing the GreenOlogy socks Robin gave me for Christmas. Somehow they transformed bamboo fibers into very soft and comfortable fabric.

Family catch-up.
Our grandson is at home and getting better after his hip surgery. He can be up and around on crutches more than he expected, his meds are keeping him comfortable and his wonderfully attentive friends are keeping him amused. All good. Another grandson, in the same household, had oral surgery this morning, in preparation for braces. OUCH. My daughter is nurse-in-charge forher two patients. Tough duty.


Williamsburg Wreath and Telling Family Stories

Williamsburg Wreath

Christmas is a story-ing time so I am re-posting abut Family Storytelling.

Some time back there was an article in The Wall Street Journal-about the importance of telling family stories in the family. Today I found a copy of a comment I posted then and I am reposting it here. Author Sue Shellenenbarger talks about the importance of telling family stories to children. She quotes many, including Sherry Norfork, NSN President, on the hows and whys of telling these stories in the family. She talks about how children can learn to deal with tough times through family examples.

But - where is the mention that budgets and time are so tight that schools do not make the time to bring storytellers and family stories into the class room or to encourage students to collect family stories and tell them back to their classmates.

A side benefit for telling family stories in our culturally diverse class room is increased understanding and respect. As one student said in one of my classes - "you can't dis on this - this is about your family."

Or where is the mention of how busy parents are these days that they do not take time over dinner to share old stories. Maybe they are not even eating dinner together as a family. Often families today are not as lucky as many of us were - to be baptized in family storytelling on the front porch southern-style. Or those stories are drowned out by television.

Yes, how you tell a story can be important but not more important than for parents just to do it whether they do it well or not. When I taught a storytelling class in a Northern California Middle School over and over the 7th graders said they did not know any family stories. After being asked to ASK for stories at home on suggested topics that soon changed. By the end of the six sessions there were 21 tellers out of 27 students - all sharing stories from their families.

I remember a ninth grader in a my storytelling residency classo at a Maryland High School. When she was asked to interview an elder about where they were on December 7 - the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, she returned to class with a touching story. She called her great grandmother, a woman who lived out of town, a woman she hardly knew. She learned that this woman had worked in a West Virginia munitions plant during WWII after her husband was killed; that she had advanced to wearing the pink dress of a supervisor. The other students listened with rapt attention as she told her story. She ended with, " I did not know anything about her. I have never really liked her. But now that I know her story, I think I can love her."

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have suggestions for strategies to raise awareness of the importance for family storytelling?


Saturday - Williamsburg Wreath,

Williamsburg Wreath

Three Beautiful Things:

1. Talked with our grandson yesterday and he is doing well. Hip surgery is not a piece of cake but the operation was a success and he will be going home soon. Then the work of healing and rehab-ing.

2. Started the day Skyping with my sister in Georgia, sharing stories of Christmas present and past. Nice.



Christmas Day - Christmas Blessings, Mama, New Life

Merry Christmas.
to all.
Wishing eveyone blessings, happiness and Peace on Earth.

Our Christmas Blessings:
Our grandson Jamie's surgery is over, he has started his recovery.
Jim's half way through his Chemotherapy.
I am very grateful for the blessings of 2009 and opening a new calendar book for 2010.

Happy Birthday, Mama.

Louise Keasler Diggle

I keep her close by telling stories about her.

Mama's legacy goes on through the recent births in her family. Two of my sisters have new grandchildren for Christmas so I am very happy for them and for the fresh beginnings that Caitlin and her cousin Finn, born two months ago, bring to us. And, there is the promise of Elizabeth's baby for my brother and his wife in the Spring.

Jim mixed up the dough last night so he is making bread for Christmas dinner at Jimmy's. A good way to celebrate. Fresh bread.


Thursday, Williamsburg Wreaths, Today, Jamie, Christmas Past

6 a.m. It is still dark outside.

Jim and I are going to 8 a.m. Mass on our way downtown for his shot. We hope the church will be almost empty this morning because we are staying away from people until Jim's white count bounces back near normal. This will be our Christmas Mass. But you know something, that's OK. I love our old stone church when its empty and quiet and prayers seem to hang in the air.

We are also praying for our grandson who is having hip surgery this morning in California. I can imagine that they will soon be awake in their house preparing for the drive to the hospital in Oakland. Jamie is a Senior in High School and a basketball injury has side-lined him for the duration of the varsity basketball season. Besides the pain, sitting it out is a bitter pill for a guy who loves the game like he does and has worked hard for his place on the team these four years.
And, for our daughter and son-in-law. This will be a tough morning for them.

Thinking about them this morning and wishing we were there. We had planned to spend these Holidays in California with all the family together at Avila Beach on the Central Coast. If you have not been to the wilder central coast of California someday I hope you will treat yourself to some time there. Anyway - - - Karen says it was the trip that was not meant to be.

First Jim's cancer treatments pulled us out of the game. When Jamie's hip was scheduled for today, everybody else cancelled their United flights. Last Saturday, you know, when we had the Snowcatastrophy on the east coast, was the day the this half of the group had reservations to fly out. They would have been sitting at Dulles Airport watching the snow blanket the area - not flying off to California. The good news is that, with Robin's help, I was able to transfer the accomodations to others and we recouped some of the reservation fees.

We have had other Christmas Eves in California - one magical day in 1977 stands out as a wonderful memory for all of us.

This year Jim and I stayed home for the holidays. It feels strange. But it was a good decision. As it turns out Jim is having some medical issues and being close to home is the right place to be. None-the-less we are missing Robin and her family and we feel a bit off our normal.

Since Robin's oldest son, Jamie, was born seventeen years ago Jim and I have usually spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their kids in California. First in sunny Southern California and then for the last seven year in Lafayette which is on the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay.

Several times we celebrated Christmas Eve with Jimmy's family here and then flew out on Christmas Day, arriving in time to have Christmas Dinner on the West Coast. It was as close to bi-locating as we are likely to get.

Christmas 2004 Jim and I flew to Robin's a week before Christmas and our daughter Karen arrived in Lafayette several days before Christmas. I wrote about Christmas Past then too.

California Christmas Eve 1974
Around the dinner table at Robin's tonight, everyone was taking a turn telling something about a Christmas Past.

Brad talked of a memorable Illinois Christmas at his grandparents house. Jamie, Robin and Brad's oldest, begged the question, not sure that this year might not be the one he would talk about later.

When it was our daughter Karen's turn she laughed.
"Ofcourse I remember the year I got all the stuff."
She paused and then added,
" but there is the Christmas Eve we were out here, in Madera, at Grandma's and we went to Yosemite."

Jim and Robin and I nodded. "Oh, yes."

This is not our first California Christmas.

My husband is a California native. He went to medical school on the East Coast and ended up staying out there. Jim's father died in March 1974.

We came back to California with our three kids for Christmas that year so that all the family would be together. It was a wonderful reunion of aunts, uncles, and cousins as those anniversaries often are.

Christmas Eve dawned. All the resident families had chores to do and fixings to complete for the holiday. We were at loose ends and in some ways in the way.

Jim suggested we take our kids for their introduction to Yosemite - only a 90 minute drive away.

As we climbed toward the mountains we met snow. There were snow capped peaks ahead as we drove through lightly dusted hills and valleys.

We stopped for breakfast at a lodge near the entrance to Yosemite Park. The dining room had a cathedral ceiling and large windows framed breathtaking views of the snow capped mountain peaks.

A floor to ceiling grey stone fireplace dominated one end of the room. Standing near-by was a 20 foot evergreen tree. The top just missed the rough hewn ceiling rafters. The room was perfumed with a mixture of spruce and wood smoke. The thick farm pancakes and maple syrup were as perfect as the setting.

We entered Yosemite Park through a tunnel. As we emerged the monumental El Capitan
stood before us on the left.

Ahead on the right we saw a bright white streak against a sheer rock face where
Bridal Veil Falls was frozen solid.
We were all so awed that we spoke in the same hushed voices we use in church.

The air was cold and crisp and pure. The skies overhead were bright blue with an occasional white cloud floating by.

Ours was the only car at the vista point. And that was how it continued all day. We saw no more than three cars all day. We owned the park.

Deer grazed in snow covered clearings.
When we walked toward a creek we heard the rushing water before we saw
it tumbling over the rocks. At every twist in the road there was a new view of the white capped Sierra peaks that surround Yosemite Valley.
Half-dome dominates and is my favorite sight.

That was thirty years ago today - but I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday.

How could we have known that we were capturing a timeless moment that would live for each of us - -

Today I think of it as the day we spent in the Presence of God -

and I am so grateful we shared it as a family.


Wednesday - Williamsburg Wreath, Surprise in the Mail, Just Doing Around.

Williamsburg Wreath

Blue skies
Sun shining
Great day!

Lovely surprise. received Granny Sue's new cd, Beyond the Grave - Ghost Stories and Ballads from the Mountains. Looking forward to enjoying her stories and songs. More later.

We are behind. Our energy is focused on doctors appointments.
Today running errands. Putting last minute gifts in the mail and paying top dollar to get them to the West Coast. But at this moment - that's OK. It is what it is.

Jim and I took time out for a sandwich at Einstein's. Not crowded. Everyone must be out shopping . And that was perfect. We are sequestered again until Jim's white count comes back up. We are paying attention to when and where we are.

Are we really going to have ice here tomorrow. I hope not! - at least not until Jim has his shot and we get home.

A New Baby

Starting the day on an UP note.

Phone rang.
When I heard my sister Dena's voice I shouted out
"Do you have a baby?"
"Born about five o'clock this morning.
Check your email. She is beautiful!"
What's not to love about technology?????

Caitlin Lackey Ayres
O Happy Day
Congratulations Chris and Ariel.

My baby sister Dena's first grandchild.


Tuesday - Williamsburg Wreath, Chemo, and Hitting the Deck

Williamsburg Wreath - three days until Christmas

Last week was a week-off for Jim's Chemo but today we are back in the Chemo lab. With the snow, I had worried about the trip downtown because our side street still looked impassable but just as we were ready to pull out of the driveway a snow plow turned into the street with its scrapper down. "This is great." says I. Jim says, " I am not surprised. Yesterday Chris told the guy that I had to leave the house early for my chemo and asked him to pass the word along so that someone would come here first." It took two snow-low angels for this - Chris who set the stage and the smiling guy who came by this

We spent three hours in the chemo lab. I sat hext to Jim and set up my computer. There were not many patients in today and those that were came and went fairly quickly. While Jim's IVs were running I focused on my work and accomplished quite a bit - redoing a resume and selecting iPOD playlists of stories for gigs in January. Some of the time Jim and I sat side by side sleeping.
A good use of the time, if you ask me.

Tonight Speakeasy was holding an event to celebrate their Podcast Project - Interviews of the City, which was funded by a DC Commission Grant. I am honored to be a part of it. Andrew Hiller interviewed me about my involvement in the women's movement in the 1970s.
Tonight they were having a LISTEN-IN for four of the podcasts and a Q and A afterwards.

Columbia Road was lined with snow-covered cars. The street was bordered by mountains of dirtying snow. Very few parking places had been cleared so I could not believe my good luck to find a parking place directly across from Chief Ike's, a bar where the event was being held. I crossed the glistening street and had stepped over a rough patch of snow onto the sidewalk. Now, within twenty feet of the doorway for Chief Ike's I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I was home safe. Just then I slipped and my feet flew out from under me. I slammed down flat on my bottom in a pool of icy water from the melting snow. Startled I caught myself with my right hand so that I did not lay flat on my back. A friendly giant stopped, "are you all right, lady? For a minute I was not sure. But I was moving. I tried to get up. He leaned over, took my hand and pulled me to my feet. Icy water dripped down the back of my trouser legs. "Thank you. I think I can make it from here." And I limped into Chef Ike's - cold and wet, with my dignity shattered.

Well, ofcourse I could not stay. My first thought was to get back to my car and head home. I asked for someone to walk me to the car and they did. And, here I am at home now. Dry and warm. And feeling a bit sheepish and embarrassed.

It was my own fault. I was wearing loafers. My boots were at home. Duh!
Moral: If there is snow and ice - dress safely.


Monday - Williamsburg Wreath, Three Beautiful Things: Skype, Jim's Bread and Kindness of Neighbors.

Williamsburg Wreath
4 more days until Christmas

Three Beautiful Things

1. Talking with my sister on SKYPE.

When I opened Skype yesterday morning my computer phone was ringing. I was so startled it took me a minute to find the answer button. My brother-in-law Johnny and sister Kathy calling from Georgia - they had just hooked up their SKYPE and were trying it out.
Yes, Kathy and I talk on the phone. But seeing her was a special gift. Since we were together in July she has been on a journey - through surgery for breast cancer and is now in the last rounds of her chemo therapy. She looked wonderful and we all laughed together as she doffed her wig and then modeled all her hat-options. Later she and Jim talked about Chemo and she shared tips with him from her experience. Her tips and advice have been extremely helpful to us as patient and care-giver since Jim's Chemo started. You need a guide through this new world. Kathy is a good guide. She is living the journey and has read, talked with people and asked the questions to teach herself the ropes. SYMS, the cut-price clothing store has the motto - "there is nothing like an educated consumer" - the same holds true for patients.

2. TA DA !!!!! Jim's First Loaf of Bread.
The house was filled with that familiar smell of bread baking.
And it tastes as good as it looks!!!

Jim was pretty pleased - and he already has another loaf in the oven this morning. This one is for our neighbor, Chris.

3. Christmas Kindness to our Rescue
With our snow blower out of commission the only way to free Karen's and our car was to shovel it out. For the first time in 54 years Jim was willing to stay in the house and sit it out rather than take a chance on getting sick. Karen took up the shovel and started in. When she went out she found that Chris has already started on it. Our driveway is side by side with our neighbor's. When he shoveled his, Chris cleared ours so that we could get our cars out. Yep, today's first loaf goes to Chris.


Sunday - Williamsburg Wreath, Snow, Home-made Bread

Cinnamon and Orange
Frangrances for the holidays.

The Day After the Big Snow

The day after a big snow like this is always beautiful, especially if the sun is shining. I love the large expanses of clean white snow. All the world is softened by wearing white icing like a huge cake. The sun is shining this morning so the snow is sparkling and there are interesting patterns of dark and light.
Ignore the problem - how to move this stuff so that we can get back to our lists and busy routines.
Mother Nature is at the helm and she is slowing things down.

I am still stuck on playing with video.

Jim and I are both trying something new.

Last January Jim, inspired by storyteller Donald Davis, was going to try making bread. Then - our oven broke. It was sad. Read the story HERE.
Its taken a bit for him to get back to it - but today is the day.

A good thing to do when you are snowed-in.


More Snow

It snowed until dark. I think the tally is about 17 inches and blizzard conditions. We will see what happens over night with wind and colder temperatures.

Snow continued to pile up on our deck all day.

Mid day we bridged impassable streets for a family check-in and lovely visit with Jimmy, Monica and their girls via SKYPE. They live only twenty minutes away but it could have been 100s today.

Snow - Collecting Stories

Opened our front door and - here they were - having a grand ole' time.

9:00 am. Chevy Chase, Maryland. 8 inches. Its still snowing here. Channel 9's Topper Shutt says the fall will continue until late this afternoon. That's OK with me.

Random snow associations:
  • 2009 - Can't help thinking about the merchants who had counted on this week-end of Christmas shoppers.
  • 1970s - Remembering the times I watched Jimmy, Karen and Robin trudge out in a heavy show fall to deliver the Washington Post and the now defunct Washington Star. remember the days when teen-agers delivered the newspaper, either on bike of foot. It was a great income for kids and they learned a lot about money, business and dealing with all kinds of people. Paper routes were passed along in families and between friends. When we moved into this house Jimmy got his Post route from a friend and then he helped Karen into another one. Robin delivered the Star, the afternoon paper, until she had enough of a a tyrannical dog. I don't know how it is other places, but in our area those jobs have been taken over by adults in cars.
  • 1962 - When Jimmy was six Santa brought him a Basset puppy for Christmas in Chapel Hill. He named him Kris Kringle. The first year we lived in the Washington area there was a mega snow storm which paralyzed the area. Our neighborhood was impassable for a week. The snow was so deep that when Kris walked out the first time his legs would not reach the ground and the poor dog just hung in the snow until Jimmy realized the problem and rescued him. Fortunately Jim was home. He was on duty late at Malcolm Grow Hospital, Andrews Air Force Base and followed a lone snow plow home after midnight on the brand new 495 Beltway, never realizing that during the night the snow would close down the whole area.
  • 1958 in Brooklyn - the first time I experienced a blizzard. Jim was interning at Kings County Hospital. He had not been home for 48 hours. When he finished his shift the evening of the snow he took the last subway and made it home before midnight. Our apartment was in the attic of an old Victorian house. I remember looking out the window and seeing him turn the corner into our street, bent over against the wind and trudging slowly toward home.
  • 1945 - The other day on the telephone my sister Lynda asked, "do you remember the Christmas we got our wagon?" Absolutely, I did. She went on, "it was snowing that day and Daddy pulled me and Kathy in the wagon when we all walked over the Granny's for Christmas. It was so fun! So happy!" As the oldest I have more to add. That was the first Christmas Daddy was home from the War. (WWII) We lived in an apartment on Hawthorne Lane - about 14 blocks from Granny's. Between Hawthorne Lane and Granny's there were many possible stops, Aunt Betty, Aunt Loretto, Uncle Bill and Aunt Ellie, Bob Robertson, Daddy's friend and many others. That day after we left Granny's we walked home by way of Aunt Ellie and Uncle Bill's. Uncle Bill was Daddy uncle, his father's brother. But more, he and Aunt Ellie made melt-in-your-mouth Christmas Candy Mints. Aunt Ellie gave Mama the recipe. Mama tried for years to make them but she was never successful until she finally got a piece of marble to cool them on and my brother Robert was old enough and strong enough to pull them. Robert still makes them - and if you are reading this Robert, I am tasting them and hoping.
Storytelling tip: Let what's happening at the moment, like this snow, prompt other times like it, and catch stories. Its particularly fun to do it with other people. Stories multiply.

Do you have snow stories?


Snow: Its all about Snow.

My cell phone beeps with revised weather advisories. Now they are calling for almost 2 feet of snow. That's up to 20 inches. That's a lot of shoveling.

Not quite prepared. Jim pulled put the snow thrower this afternoon. He put in the gasoline - - which poured out the bottom. The check-up the other day was wrong. Its not working afterall. Actually the repairman did not put something back somewhere. Sears cannot send anyone until Monday. HMMMMMMMM!

We completed all our errands. Stood in long lines at the Safeway. We have plenty of food. Bought the gasoline for the snow-thrower, which is not going to be throwing anything. Returned library books that were on the brink of over-due. Ordered more firewood. Even took the dog for her grooming. Then to top off the day, another Sears guy came and repaired our washer and dryer. We even have bird seed at the ready.

Funny about expecting snow isn't it? Kids are thinking about sledding and snow-men. Adults are bringing in food and setting out shovels. There will be stories to tell of this snow and snows past.

Frankly, I am most relieved that we are not traveling this week-end and I wish travel mercies and safety for all who are,

Williamsburg Wreath 11

Weather alerts on TV, my phone, and email
with heavy snow predicted for today

Jim scheduled the annual snow-thrower maintenance last week so he's feeling on-top of the situation.
We can count on our familiar fights over how much snow shoveling is too much.

This morning we will bring in food. I have checked the cupboards with good intentions to use what we already have. Yesterday I overheard a woman laughing about the
"emergency shopping" that was coming. " Last time we had snow I was standing in the Safeway check-out line behind a man who was buying milk, bread and 36 rolls of toilet tissue. The milk and bread I understood but 36 rolls of toilet tissue?" Makes you wonder doesn't it? I had better check on the essential items I take for granted.

We enjoyed the card ritual last night - sitting near the fire, watching an old black and white movie, Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan.

Video and storytelling experiment: Playing with video as a way to bring a bit of real-life and action to the written words to add flavor to the story. Yes, I know. This is not good quality video but I am using it anyway because I am involved with the process of working on some ideas about storytelling techniques. Time to tweak and improve the video later.

One errand this morning is to drop the Christmas cards Jim and I wrote last night off at the Post Office. Get them out ahead of the snow.


Catching a Story - Storytelling

One of the things Jim and I do at Einstein's is TALK.
This morning I was telling him about a wonderful telephone conversation I had with my sister Lynda yesterday. Especially about the time we spent talking about our childhood and sharing a couple of Christmas memories.
"Its really important for siblings to talk together or get together, isn't it?" When Jim replied he gave me this story - one I had never heard before. And proved once again - that when we tell our stories we draw more stories from the listener.

Storytelling Tip: When a story comes your way, grab it. There is time to improve the story, video,or anyone thing later. I was experimenting with taking video with my sure-shot digital camera so this is not a good film - but it is a neat story. Especially since I had never heard it before. One of those delightful surprises. I was not about to let it slip away.
Story Bare Bones: Jim was a Freshman at Fresno State College in 1949. A friend, Gene, was elected Class President and to save him from some of the hazing a group hired a rescue helicopter.

Thursday - Williamsburg Wreath 10

heavy with bounty
speaks of blessings
and hearts filled with thanks.

A few minutes back to our routine and grateful for it.
This is an off week for Jim and Chemo. His white count is improved so we can have more of a normal routine - if we pay attention.
We started off the day in the dark, driving up Connecticut Avenue in light traffic at 6:15 am to make 6:30 Mass at Blessed Sacrament.
On our way home we stopped at Einstein's, where we settled into our usual table - our office - to make plans for the day and lists for Christmas. Jim didn't have his notebook so he scribbled his list on a napkin. That's typical.

Jim does not use a PDA. He has his own system and it has worked fine for him as long as I have known him. Jim has always scribbled down a phone number, a patient note or bit of information on small paper scraps - cleaning tags, parking tickets, business cards, napkins etc etc. What ever was near to hand when he needed it. One of my first wifely lessons was that the scrap pile on the top of the dresser was not trash and that he knew what was on each bit.

And why not? Richmond storyteller Slash Coleman talks on his blog about writing your business plan on a napkin. That works.

Keep it simple is our motto of the moment so there is plenty of space on a folded napkin for our holiday plans.
Is Christmas really only a week away?


Williamsburg 9 - Lists

I am making lists
Things to do
Things done

Writing things down
makes me feel productive
even when I am not moving an inch.

Often when I jot lists about one thing I thankfully remember something else that should not get away.

Is it the act of writing
that connects with something in the brain
to trigger the memory?

Yesterday I scanned my 2009 calendar
Reviewed the year
here and there
this and that
and was surprised
how much was was done.

Lows balanced by highs
ups and downs
and falls
goals set
challenge met.

Sorting and sifting
Looking ahead
Lists to
Prioritize and focus

Ah that last
is hardest of all

what really matters?

watch out
don't forget

happens off these lists.


Williamsburg Wreath 8,

Christmas is a-coming
and the geese are getting fat.
Please to put a penny in an old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny
then a ha penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha penny
then God Bless you.

I learned that from my Daddy's mother. I wonder if she learned it from her grandmother, Elizabeth Pyburn Grose who was born in London.

Today I saw bits of the another film version of Dicken's A Christmas Carol - about the fifth. I prefer the old black and white films, especiallly the ones from Great Britain.


Williamsburg Wreath 7 -Paying Attention, Star Wars

Paying Attention:
Jim and I had our flu shots six weeks ago. We use hand-sanitizer, wash our hands more frequently and take lots of Vitamin C. Ordinarily we would continue to be out and about during the cold and flu season - hoping no germs would settle on us. But things have changed.

Jim's white count dropped last week as a side-effect of the Chemo which makes him a high risk for infection. Jim is not seeing patients this week. We are being careful - staying close to home. He has had several shots to boost the white blood count. We are hoping for some yard passes this week. My sister told me, "stay out of situations where you cannot control the possibility of exposure. And when you do go out - pay attention."

That means me too since I could easily bring infection in to him. So I called one of my Senior storytelling clients today, apologized and cancelled for later this week. When I explained my concern over being with her residents my client was completely supportive telling me it was a good idea to stay away right now. "We have something going around out here." We rescheduled the storytelling until January.

When I hung up the phone I patted myself on the back, "good catch." Then - Oops. I realized I have to cancel my hair appointment tomorrow as well. Close contact with several people is even more chance for exposure. Ouch - - and just when my hair has turned into a fright wig. It looks like bunk hair all over. Its a good thing we are in communicado until I can figure out how to fix it myself.

Star Wars: I have been feeling it coming for about a month. Today was the day. I began my annual pilgrimage to Lucas-world. Jim joined me to watch Episode IV tonight. I should tell you - my devotion to the series only includes the first three films - Episodes IV, V and VI. The later back-story episodes are just too computer-graphic for me. They don't have the heart of the first three. To start is a commitment - because I watch them in order, sometimes all the same day, in this instance I am stretching it out over three days. I will also re-read "The Magic of Myth", the catalog from the wonderful Smithsonian exhibit of 1998 which traced the mythic, movie and cultural influences on George Lucas as he developed the story with a lot of Joseph Campbell thrown in. You could say this is my yearly myth and bliss re-fresher course.

Goes right along with the delving into the Arthurian Legends I am doing at the moment.


Sunday - Williamsburg Wreath 6 - Screen Shot, Three Beautiful Things

Screen Shot: Robin has taught me a new trick with the Mac - and I am practicing. Its a quick way to remember or take notes - take a screen shot.
Press down Shift and Command at the same time, hold and press 4 - a bulls-eye cursor will apprear. Use the mouse to spread it like you would to copy. When you release the mouse it will take a picture of it. The picture is on the Desktop. Voila. A Slide
of your target. Title and save. I think this trick will come in handy.

Oops. Here you can see that I took the shot before I corrected the typo in the title.

Here are Three Beautiful Things:
1. After a week my narcissus bulbs are sprouting up.
2. Last night our local family joined us for supper. When daughter Robin called from California to check in with Jim someone said, "Put her on the speakerphone."
We can do better than that. I brought down the MAC and we called her back on SKYPE. We enjoyed a good hour laughing, talking and even taking a virtual tour of her home renovations. Next time we may put the computer on a lazy susan and just swing her around with the group.

We were looking forward to Christmas on the West Coast with the entire group going to the beach together
but we scratched that plan to take care of Jim's treatment. So - we are especially grateful for these virtual gatherings.

3. A touch of Christmas. The already-lighted tree Karen assembled brightens the den.


Saturday - Wreath 4, Movie Night, Cooking like a Painter, King Arthur's Knights

Williamsburg Wreath

1. Movie Night at Home
Last night we watched the delightful film, "The Ladies no.1 Detective Agency" . Its charming, non-tinseled, and subtly amusing. The character of the No.1 Lady Detective is warm, wise and courageous. Her secretary keeps you laughing. The story is set in Botswana; I am not sure where it is filmed. The landscape, animals, and vibrant colors brought back wonderful memories for me of my 1985 trip to Kenya for the United Nations Conference on Women. FYI - We ordered the film from Netflix.

2. Cooking Like A Painter
Never thought I would cook and eat beef liver - but this week I have and I did. Ofcourse I had a powerful motivation to tackle cooking liver. When another patient at the Chemo Lab told me eating liver frequently helped keep her red blood count up I made a note in my book, "feed Jim liver."

Monica stopped at Shoppers and purchased a package of beef liver for me. I checked the internet for recipes and decided on liver and onions. Once the thin-sliced yellow onions were transparent and soft in the skillet I added the slippery slices of dark red liver. All seemed OK. I was hopeful. But once it was cooked the mixture looked blah and pathetic - well ugly. The cooked liver turned a hideous greyish brown. The look of the dish called out for help. So I let my painter's eye take over the recipe. I opened the cupboard. The first thing I saw was a can of red kidney beans. I drained and added them. Good color choice. But not enough. When a painting is floundering I give it a touch of red. Why not this? So I diced in a bright red fresh tomato. Served it over thick slices of toasted 5-grain bread. Perfect! Jim loved it.
The next day I gave the liver dish an encore with a side of bright yellow scrambled eggs. It looked and tasted good.
Frugal Tip: The package of liver Monica bought was huge. I divided it into four packages for the freezer as well as used one portion. All for $3.06. That's a lot of protein for pennies if you and your family develop a taste for it. And, if you do, remember to watch your colors.

3. Reading more King Arthur.
Earlier this year I read John Steinbeck's a version of Mallory's Knights of the Round Table and thoroughly enjoyed it. But the stories are still a bit distant for me to try to tell. And, that is what I want to do. To be able to tell something more than Dame Ragnell.

This week I discovered a series of Young Adult books written by Gerald Morris which take you through the stories of the Knights of the Round Table with his invention, Terence, Squire to Sir Gawain. I am thoroughly enjoying them. I recognize the stories from the Steinbeck telling but they are easier to enter and the repetition makes it easier for me to follow the progression of the myths. Morris includes a version of Ragnell. I am re-reading Steinbeck now to see how he made his changes. Fun. I love entering another world and hanging around in it for a while.

When I tire of all these male heroes I look forward to re-reading Zimmer's The Mists of Avalon.


Friday - Wreath 3, Holiday Spirit,

Glad to hang out a wreath here
because I am
lagging behind.
No decorations up in my house yet.
The cards are here - waiting.
I am feeling a bit like Scrooge.

Today I am going to fill the house with Christmas music.
To get a jump start into the Spirit.

Alan's POST this morning gave me a nudge toward holiday spirit as he stirred up a few memories with his essay about the Coca Cola Santa. That image was the real Santa to me, too - its fun to see him again and to learn something about the artist who created him. Alan has such a gift for wedding history and personal memories into posts that relate to today.


Thursday- Williamsburg Wreath 2, Storytelling

Williamsburg Wreath 2.

I had thought I would add something new for the holidays but I have decided that intead I will establish the Williamsburg Wreaths as a tradition on my blog. Traditions are good. Just like replaying memories, the sweet ones, over and over is a good thing. Isn't that what holidays are about - using traditions and rituals to remind us of memories?

Telling Stories for Seniors today. Looking forward to seeing one of my favorite groups.


Wednesday - More Stories

Back at the chemo lab today for Jim's treatment. He has time to read the Washington Post from cover to cover and to complete short workshops to fulfill his annual CME credits.

And along the way - what do you know - I collect another story.

There was a new nurse on duty. She is warm, friendly and very talkative. As she set Jim up for his IV they discovered a connection with each other - her father also was a Psychiatrist; he worked in Brooklyn and was connected with Kings County Hospital - long before Jim interned there ofcourse but what a surprising small world connection. She told us more, "he was a doctor in Europe and when we escaped to the United States he switched to Psychiatry." They came to the US from Rumania when there was persecution of Jews and fear and oppression. She gave us an example: " I was very little and I heard my mother and father talking about something political that happened. My father said, ' it was probably about guns and gold." I held onto the words, guns and gold - I liked the sound of the words. When our maid came I pointed to a large chest and said,'Look at that - its filled with guns and gold.' Fortunately the woman knew my parents and realized it was just a child talking otherwise they could have been arrested.

While the nurse completed drawing Jim's blood she continued with another memory from Rumania.
" I had a dream when I was about 24- long after we left Rumania. I dreamed that I saw my father and mother at our old apartment. They were outside digging in the yard with a shovel. I heard a clink and they pulled a chest out of the hole. When they opened the chest I saw that it was filled with gold. Later I told my mother about the dream - expecting her to say it was "just a dream". Instead, she said, you probably did see us digging like that my dear - but we were burying the gold. We were hiding it not digging it up. That gold saved us. We used it to pay the man who made our passports so that we could leave the country."

Yesterday I heard a BBC radio interview with Welsh storyteller,David Ambrose. He was talking about folktales as conveyers of cultures especially when they are embellished with local place details. He went on to say that when he tells stories in a foreign land he feels he must tell a tale from his own culture - as represntative of his culture.

It occurred to me at the time that when-ever we tell a personal story we are also telling a story from our "land" - representing our personal culture.

Listening to the nurse's stories brought both ideas together for me.


Tuesday - Three Beautiful Things

1. Remembering our Christmas in Williamsburg. Four years ago Jim and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in Williamsburg with all our family. It was a great week - a very special time.

2. Telling Stories for Seniors - a new group - this afternoon. For the holidays I told a program of folk tales stories that highlight "gratitude." and seeing the gifts we have. In addition I added a childhood Christmas memory that prompted one lady to share a Christmas memory of her childhood.
"When I was living in a foster home Santa brought me a red bicycle for Christmas. I was so excited - until I noticed that there was mud on the tires so I said, "Santa brought me an old bicyle." My foster parents assured me it was new. It was raining and when Santa rolled it into the house the ground was soft and stuck to the wheels." Lovely story - from many perspectives.



Three Beautiful Things

Three Beautiful Things

1. Watching movies with Jim. This afternoon after several hours running errands we settled onto the couch and watched a few familiar and nostalgic TNT Holiday movies. Totally great! I think there will be more of this because Karen brought three plastic bags of DVDs - funny films and holiday classics - from PA. We can have movie-thons whenever we want - and chose our own flicks.

2. Finally finished and mailed off the blanket I knitted for my baby sister's first grand-child. It should arrive in North Carolina about the same time the stork lands. That blanket is well-traveled and filled with stellar stories from the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN and the Brandywine Storytelling Festival in Delaware with stops in between. Hoping the fun, laughter and joy of those moments seep through
to the baby.

3. Getting the books and movies back to the library before the fines are levied.


Paper Whites and Skype


These days they call the narcissus bulbs paper whites. I like the old name. It reminds me that my grandfather Gus Keasler's mother's name was Narcissus - Narcissus Howard Keasler.

Well I bought my bulbs last week and planted them. The paper whites are sprouting on my dining room table and will be ready to give to the neighbor children by Christmas.

For the past few months I have been collecting small pots on yard sale and thrift shop adventures to use as planters for narcissus bulbs for holiday gifts. It averages out to be a $3.00 gift by the time its planted. Never more than $1.50 for the pot (ususally 50 cents.), $1.29 for the bulb and 50 cents worth of rocks. The value is kicked up by remembering to do it.
TIP: The bulbs are medium size. If you do this, be sure to buy pots that have a wide opening.

I like to give them before they bloom - so that the flowering is part of the gift.


In our den in Maryland Jimmy set up my MacBook so that we could see the computer screen on the television and we called Robin and Brad in California.
Suddenly we were all together.
Our family together for an hour.
Now I ask you
what's not to love about the marvels and wonders of technology? Downloading SKYPE is easy - and it's FREE.

Sitting in a doctor's waiting room the other day a man over-heard Jim, and Jimmy and me talking about Skype and he chimed in that he uses it to talk with his grandson in Colorado. " I have a flat screen TV in my kitchen - I am an amateur chef - and he talks to me while I cook." How cool is that?

Anybody else use SKYPE?


Snow -

Big, fat, sloppy flakes started falling about 10 am.
In two hours the world is covered with quieting snow.

I am watching it all from above through the window behind my computer.
A fattening of the tree limbs and branches as the snow piles up.

The white gives away the plump dove sitting on a high branch.
A dark rounded shape perched still

She watches the world change around her.
To a world in black and white
Seeming not to notice she has lost her camouflage.

I remember another time I saw the world as an etching.
On the train from Frankfurt to Stuttgart
Jim, Karen, Robin and I huddled in the chilly compartment
Watching the foreign land outside
turned into a black and white line drawing
Unfurl as we sped past.

Small discoveries
Moments of magic
That hang on
as slender threads
connecting to the memory.


Friday - Snow, Memory, Mama

On television and radio
They are talking about snow

The skies look like snow

I don't think I am ready for snow.

But what does that matter - right?

Its coming anyway -

And when it does - the world will be softened and lovely

- for a while.

The first snow of the year always touches the sweet chord of the first time I remember seeing snow.

I was about 4 years old. We were living in a two story house on 9th Street in Charlotte, NC.

One morning, so early I was still wearing my pajamas, Mama called me and my younger sister Lynda to the windows in the kitchen. "look". She pointed to the backyard where the world was lightly touched with white. "Snow"

Mama ran out into the backyard where she scooped the white snow off the bushes into a bowl.
She was laughing when she came back into the kitchen. "Lets have some snow-cream."
She poured milk, sugar and a drop of vanilla into the bowl, stirred it and gave Lynda and me each a class filled with the white liquid.
It was delicious.

"My grandma used to make this for me." she told us.
She was quiet. That's all she said.
I knew it was really special.

The sun came out and the snow dripped off the bushes.

The house is still there.
It and the street look exactly the same - like magic has preserved them as they were in 1941.
I like to park my car on 9th street and wander through my memories.

Wth Mama.


Thursday - 3 Beautiful Things

Its About Time
e. schoettler
One of my favorite collages.

1. A huge silver moon hanging low in the dark sky.

2. A box of goodies arrives for Jim from my sister, Kathy. Warm hugs.

3. Eating Lance peanut butter cheese crackers while drinking a diet coca cola. The tastes blend for memories - particularly of many lunches at Central High School when those crackers and a coke were my top choice for lunch.


Wednesday - New Stories

Venice Wall

This has been a day like any day when you begin a new journey - FULL.

Jim's new Chemotherapy treatments began today. He is well on his way. And like any journey we met new companions. I am going to tell you a bit about my side-line view of the experience because I was so impressed touched by the other patients and their strong spirit.

There are ten comfortable lounge chairs in the room where the IV medications are administered. The infusions take 2 to 3 hours. Because there were few people in today I was allowed to stay with Jim. I was grateful to be there.

Patients sit close to each other. Cancer bonds everyone in the room. You feel the experienced reaching out to bring the "new guy" into their community. Conversations are friendly with a lot of humor. "Better to laugh." one patient said. And all are generous with their advice from their experience.
"Eat your way through chemo. Keep your weight up." " I eat red meat to keep my red blood count up." " Keep your system open." "Oops, chemo-brain." All this is slipped in between laughter, joking, and talking about the news - even when people are going through a rough patch.

An elegant, very stylishly dressed woman who was sitting next to Jim is further along with the exact treatment that Jim is starting. She has the same cancer. There was an immediate connection between them. She began, " I am 83 years old and I had never been sick in my life. I did not smoke, never had, and only took an occasional drink. There was no cancer in my family. I had a pain in my side. Then the diagnosis. It was like a bolt of lightning." Later she added, "I consider this a time to repair relationships and to prepare for what's ahead."

(A bolt of lightning is certainly the way we have felt about the sudden return of Jim's cancer. We feel fortunate that the treatment could be started so quickly. )

A man in the tall chair next to me mentioned that he mixes dried teas to blend his personal breakfast tea. When I was interested he told me about McNulty's in New York City. This company, which sells the best in coffees and teas, was opened in the 1890's and still uses some of the original furnishings in the shop. "Its like stepping back in time when you walk into that place." If you are as curious as I was - you can find out more at HERE. We chatted over quite a few topics from his career as a Senior Senate staffer on Capitol Hill which began in the mid-1970s - a simpler time - to his chance to be part of an experiment in gene therapy to deal with his disease.

Another younger woman across the room was wrapped in blankets - bright red around her feet and up to her knees, topped with a bright purple blanket that came to her bust where she was wearing a turquoise shirt. Her shoulders were wrapped by a multi-colored knitted shawl. Jim said, " those are beautiful colors you are wearing."

"Do you see this?" She pulled the shawl from around her shoulders and spread it out over her lap. "Let me tell you what happened. A stranger - a woman I have never met - sent this to me. It came unannounced in a box in the mail. She knows my sister-in-law and she sent it because she heard about the tumor in my lung." " I cried and cried at her thoughtfulness in sending it."

"You're wrapped in love." I volunteered. "My sister makes those - prayer shawls - its her personal ministry." And, I thought of my sister and how she prays as she knits a shawl - and how
she is herself receiving Chemo these days in another state.

She is sharing the things she has learned about these treatments with Jim.

Life is circles.