Day Four - 37 Day Challenge, Mea Culpa on March Birthdays

Eclipse, collage, e.choettler, 2009 Series
1. 37 Days Challenge Report - Day Four. I think I am understanding something about me and this challenge to myself to exercise. It is a tug of war between me and the computer.
To exercise I have to move away from the clicking keys that I love. I have to move more parts of my body than my fingers. I have to stand up and move.
This may sound obvious and silly to you - but I have to say it out loud into the room so that the words will come back to me. I have to hear myself say - get up.
I work hard every day - mostly on the computer - researching stories, keeping up with several email accounts, promoting my storytelling, making plans, rewriting, and writing on the blog, altering photographs for art work etc., etc., etc. You get it. I lose track of time. Do you do that?
And now - some say its important to get on the band wagon with Social Media. I find it fascinating. I want to. I am. But I also do that sitting down.
Back to Patti - and choices. That's why I signed on for this challenge. To see what I do. To make ordinary moves count.
Just so you know. Before I sat down for this - I did 6 squats - picking up stuff off the floor so that could get to the computer. I am finding my way.
2. Mea Culpa - March Birthday List
Its the last day of March. I have been so caught up in Jim's surgery and recovery that I completely let birthdays slide. I try to remember, I really do. This list is family from genealogy, today family and friends. I used to keep it more up-to-date - here is what I have in my old Birthday Book.
So before the month slides away - Happy Birthday to:
March 2. Gus Keasler, b. 1885 - Mama's daddy.
March 3. S.L. Diggle, Jr. - Uncle Lewis - daddy's oldest brother - b. 1911
March 4. Jane Thornill Cobb - CHS Class of 54 - one of the fabulous Big 5
March 5. Alive Shaffer Hall - b. 1853 - Granny's mother
March 5. Narcissus Howard Keasler - b. 1857 - Gus Keasler's mother -
March 7. June Wayne - fabulous woman artist - friend and mentor
March 10. Chrisine Keasler Bidwell - b. 1895 - Gus' sister.
March 12. Bill Mason, CHS54, dear friend.
March 15. Betsy Villas White - from Girl Scouts to today - well-loved friend
Betsy - we have talked all through this and I forgot. mea culpa, mea culpa.
March 19. Hal Schoettler, Jim's father
March 20. Kit Duncan - Tut Diggle Duncan's son, cousin, world traveler
March 26, Sandra Hutchins Hogan, Mary Cobb Diggle's daughter, special cousin
March 26. J. Earnest Grose, b. 1880, Aunt Annie's youngest brother
March 28. Henry Smith, Jr. Lynda's son - my nephew -
an unsung hero - an EMT
I have a feeling I have missed people. If you know someone is not on this list please let me know.

3. Back to Verizon.
I tell the people who answer the phone whether they are in Bombay or the US - "this is not personal to you - but I hate your company."

Did you quess? Our internet is still in and out and our land lines are crackling so that the only way we can have a satisfactory conversation is to use our cell phones. I bet the only thing that works with them this month is that their bill will come on time.

Yesterday Verizon called to check "on your service." Jim answered the phone. He came to tell me to talk to them. I refused. They wanted us to go back through their computer drill again so they could "fix" it.
"Tell them to forget it. We have done that 4 times. They can't fix it and I will not spend another minute on the phone with them"
Jim took his turn and he talked with them and you know what - they gave him a month of free dial-up service for our inconvenience. That's to replace our "high speed internet." What a joke.
He says I have developed an "attitude" - exactly.

I talked to Verizon Fios again today. Their technician will be here Thursday - sometime between 8 and 12 - (my money is on 12:01 PM) - to install our new top-of-the-line service over optical wires. But get this - like the rug cleaners - they say we have to move all the furniture
and give them clear access to the backs of all the computers and tvs.
Isn't there another option????? Does it have to be Verizon?


3BT - Challenge Day 3, UNC Stays in March Madness, Sunshine and a Special Visit

Three Beautiful Things

1. Challenge Day 3 - Exercise Report
15 minutes - the first half of my exercise challenge for today is done - brisk walking through an almost empty grocery store. Standing up straight, stretching my legs out, feeling myself move through the labyrinth-like aisles picking up food items and looking for Jim.

I usually slouch through the aisles at the Safeway, leaning on the cart, sliding my feet - the perfect picture of a slug. Today I bounced through - and it felt GOOD. I can imagine myself one day breaking a sweat.

Really - this is a break through. I realize that my exercise must be a part of my daily plan. Where-ever I am, what-ever I am doing. I am not a person who is going to put something down to go and do this wonderful thing for me and my body - I just don't see it. But I can find other ways to work in exercise.

2. Go Tar Heels!
We are happy that UNC won their game yesterday and that they are still alive in the NCAA tournament. March Madness goes on. Guess what we will be doing next week-end.
Jim and I were talking about the game over coffee at Einstein's this morning and that sent us down memory lane.
Jim did his Residency at UNC's NC Memorial Hospital - 1960 - 1964. We lived only a few blocks off the UNC campus - close enough to walk down Boundary Lane, across Rosemary Street, across Franklin and then into the campus. And when the chance was offered we bought Season Passes for basketball at the student rate - a real bargain. I am not a great sports fan - except for basketball. I love the action - things can change in a flash. The basketball stadium was bursting with energy and the sound of feet pounding back and forth on the court. Legendary Dean Smith was the coach. It was truly exciting and we loved it. Both Jim and I have vivid memories of it - and make a fuller picture when we share them.

3. And not to forget - Sunshine. This has been a lovely sunny day!

A Special Visit.
Our friend Cres called. "are you home? Can I stop by? I have something for you and Jim."
Ofcourse. Talk about sunshine - Cres is always a a dash of love and laughter. "And, would you like Communion? I can stop by the Church and pick up Jesus for you if you do."

I should explain. Cres is part of the Home Bound Ministry at Holy Redeemer - a near-by parish -and regularly takes Communion and companionship to the sick - "my home bound" she calls those in her care. Jim and I were touched that she thought of us. We were back at Mass on Sunday but have not picked up our daily Mass schedule yet and we miss it. One of the great joys of being a Catholic comes in receiving Communion daily.

Cres arrived a half hour later wearing her wonderful smile. She was bearing fresh baked bread from the market and a very special food for our souls. What a blessing on the day.


A Challenge from 37 Days

Patti Digh has done it again. She has tossed out a challenge I cannot resist - because I need to do it.
Read about it here.

I have written my contract to commit to 37 minutes of exercise for 37 days. That does not sound like such a big thing - does it? Then you don't know the real me. I admit it - I am as sedentary as they come.

And along with that I am very easily diverted to the next really interesting thing - sometimes leaving the really important in favor of the new and intriguing.

Patti says - something new and wonderful can happen - in 37 days - if you stick to the challenge. I am ready. And, just so that I can't fool myself I will tell you how I am doing most every day.

How about you? Anything you would like to do for yourself and work consistently for 37 Days to form the habit to do it? Jump in.


SWAN Saturday

Jim went with me to M Street in Georgetown this afternoon for SWAN - and it was good to be out and about together again. Could it be that normal is ahead?

SWAN - Support Women Artists Now - was fun - and there was an unexpected surprise for me.

My Surprise
Jim and I arrived at Barnes and Noble and found the group gathering on the 3rd level. I checked in with Director Catherine Caselford to let her know that I was on time and on tap.

We settled into our seats. Then, “Ellouise.” I turned to look into this woman’s smiling face. “ My name is Debbie and I am a friend of Granny Sue’s in West Virginia.” ‘You are kidding” and I gave her a big hug – any friend of Granny Sue’s is immediately a friend of mine. Debbie and I talked about how we know Sue and she told me they went to school together – that’s really a connection. She and her husband had driven up from Virginia to hear my stories. Wow. “I am so glad to see Jim here looking so well. I recognize him from the pictures you put on your blog.

Do you wonder that I love blogging. Debbie tells me she is one of my internet readers – a cyber friend. And now I will know her face, her voice, we can talk and hug. We are meeting in real time.

Debbie, thank you and your husband so much for coming to hear my stories – and I hope that our paths cross again in real time and space. Please leave me a note - wave hello - when you stop by the blog. Lets keep this new connection.

Ah, Granny Sue – another link in our “small world “ chain.

Panel Discussion - De Ja Vue
Catherine Caselford, Director and event organizer convened all the women artists who were participating to start the events with a panel discussion about issues and concerns of women working in the arts. I found myself sitting on a panel with playwrights, authors, directors, actors, filmakers, and poets - I was the only storyteller.

Catherine opened by asking if panelists were influenced in their art making by being a woman, by a woman's sensibility? And I felt a very strong sense of de ja vu. I have been on panels like this before, discussing these same issues - thirty years ago during my involvement with the women's artists movement. As the questions probed deeper for the problems facing women with careers in the arts - it was clear - little has changed - the art world is still male favoring.

I was the lone ERA veteran on the panel although there were a couple of other women who had been involved at the later edge of the movement. We all agreed that is important for younger women to know their history. Melisssa Houghton, Director, Women in Film and Video added but more than that, "Do Something." I agree but think the history is important so that women making careers in the arts will not think its them - they will understand they are women working in a field that favors men.

At the end, a woman stood up, "I am just shy of 50 years old and I never heard any of this."

Isn't that a shame.

It is time for Pushing Boundaries, my ERA Story, which I introduced in February. Anybody want to hear that story?

Only part of the action happened at Barnes and Noble after the panel. There were poetry readings and plays in other venues.
Curvy by Nature -
Meet Curvy by Nature - Katie Nelson-Croner, Kristin Cantwell and Leah Young -
a trio of young actors from New York City who formed this group two years ago. They write their own material and perform comedy sketches. They have talent, energy and guts.

Adjoa Burrowes
, author and artist, talked about her illustrated books and told how her stories are drawn from personal experience and memories.

and Me - telling stories.

When I looked at this photo Jim took I could not resist the back ground image of Salvador Dali looking over my shoulder.

I told two folktales about Wise Women, La Bruha and Middle Woman and one of my favorite personal stories, The Wedding Dress. A small audience of wonderful listeners. Fun.


School Storytelling

Seven, collage, e.schoettler, 2009 Series

School Storytelling - with some teaching on the side

Today I told folktales for the fifth grade classes at Harford Day School in Bel Air, Maryland. as part of the activities for their unit on Storytelling. They wanted a professional storyteller to demonstrate a storyteller- at- work and to talk with the students about techniques for telling stories.

The students were primed and ready which makes storytelling such a joy for the storyteller. I told stories which I enjoy telling and which have a variety of gestures, from slight to more sweeping. I chose to tell two "chain" stories as a way to demonstrate that you don't memorise the story - you learn it - scene by scene.

In a "chain" story the action is carried along by a series of changing actions - learn the order and you have the story. After I told the first story we talked about the chain. They got it. Repeated the chain and were confident they could tell the story at home in the evening - using their own words. I bet they did too.

Stories I told: The Old Woman Goes to the North Wind, The Drum - a story from India and Lazy Jack, a story from Ireland or Appalachia, depending on your take on the story. The Drum and Lazy Jack are what I call "chain" stories.

With some teaching:
Usually I go to a school to tell a program of stories and there is not really time to open a door to storytelling for the students. Its active entertainment in that they have to listen and create mental pictures or respond with audience participation - but that's not really an invitation to the students to tell stories themselves.

In this instance I could invite the students to see themselves as tellers and then share a few secrets that make telling the tale seem easier and possible for them to do. For instance: I asked them to tell me what they had seen me do during the telling - that helped tell the story. That was funny for me to hear. I know these stories so well that I was not even aware of small gestures, like reaching into a pocket, that are just a natural part of thinking myself IN the story.

Talking about it - they got it!

An Art Surprise at Harford Day School.
I always enjoy the student art work on the walls in a new school. Today encountered a special treat.
This large and fascinating dragon was hanging in the Harford Day School library. I learned that it was done last year when artist Maryand artist Stephen Parlato came for a working school visit. This particular work was a collabortation with Mr. Parlato and fifth grade students

I hope you can see in the detail photo that the dragon is made of pictures of books. That was hte criteria for the photographs used - books of some kinds, whole books, pieces of books, closed, open, flat or standing. The effect of massing the pictures together within the shape the artist provided is stunning. And the finished work very well done and sophisticated for the student work. It is an exciting project. Fun to look at for the visual discoveries.


Three Beautiful Things, Working on Stories, Something New, Artists Group,

Mother and Child, collage, e.schoettler, 2009 series

Working on Storytelling
Preparing for a performance at a school in Baltimore tomorrow. And for SWAN Saturday in Georgetown. Love it. And delighted for the call today inviting me to be part of the ensemble for "Mommie Dearest", the May Speakeasy DC special performnces. I will be telling the story Mama told Father Gary - a new version of how she met Daddy. Mama changed her story to one more to her liking. I love it. And good for her.

Something New

I went in today to block Stories in Time - my television program - in their new system - and wow, this is going to be so exciting. From now on we will be using a "virtual" set. I will tell you more about it as we go along but I can tell you this much - don't believe everything you see on television.

Artists Group

Artist Luciano Penay is in town and we are having our artist gatherings with him again. He is still as vital and astute in talking about paintings as he was when he was our professor at American University. I heard one of the artists say, "Its amazing - everyone here is working so differently." Professor Penay heard her . "That's why they are here." Every one laughed. Not often can you find someone who is open to all viewpoints and can be equally respectful and appreciative of each art work. This group fosters creative energy. That's right. That's why we so glad to be there.


Bits and Pieces

Balancing, collage, e. schoettler ( 2009 Series)


Internet Connected - Finally.

Totem, collage, e. schoettler ( from the 2009 series)
Internet Connected - Finally
How quickly the pain goes away.

For the first time in four weeks I am using my desk-top PC computer and the internet is ON. A Verizon technician just left. All the little green lights on the modem are blinking - GO. Guess where the trouble was? At the pole. This guy is the first one who has checked the basement box and the lines. Of course he can't take all credit - Karen, who could not be here, made me promise I would not let him in the house until he checked the outside lines. Voila!

"What did you do?" I wanted to know. "I climbed up the pole. The line was cracked so I clipped it and put it back together." A real line-man. Now the phones don't crackle and the internet is working.

Four weeks of frustration and three technicians to fix a cracked line!

I was sitting with the technician when he called in to establish passwords and connections. I could hear the automated answering voice taking him through the steps to get to a person. "Don't you hate that?" I asked. "Naw. I have gotten numb to it." Isn't that a great answer. Numbed to it! Right up there with "get over it."

Now this is the clinker. We are really outside the boundaries for this service. We have to set our DSL on a lower speed to prevent it from dropping off again. I have a suspicion they should not have installed for us in the first place. Hmm. We probably have FIOS in our future.

But for the moment - I am savoring this!


Collage, Our Own Bed, Mulling Over


Zip Dog is one of a series of collages I have been making since Jim's
surgery. Collage-making is a very flexble art form. You just need a small flat surface, glue sticks, scissors, paper for a base and magazines for inspiration and materials. I have made them both in the hospital and here at home. I am using a 6" x 9" Mole Skin blank journal with heavyweight cream colored pages and keeping the pages attached in the journal to contain the series. Yesterday I posted "French Collage" - also one of this series.

In the case of Zip Dog and half a dozen others I have used scraps of the Charlotte Observer, July 1953. Jennie Forehand, my classmate from Charlotte Central High School gave me a manilla envelope stuffed with clippings from the summer before our Senior Year. I kept a few and am using the rest as material for collage. I really like the yellowed papers - their color, typefaces and ad images. And, working with materials from my familiar past.

Our Own Bed.
Last night Jim and I slept in our own bed for the first time in three weeks. It felt good.

Mull This Over
Reading the novel The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield I was stopped by a character thinking:
" A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but really the continuation of someone else's story." pg. 58

Hmm. Very interesting. I can see that. So when does our story start?


Three Beautiful Things

1. Sunday dinner cooking. The delicious smell of a chicken baking in the oven fills the kitchen and sets my mouth to watering.

2. Bright yellow blooming forsythia in a blue vase.

3. Checking items off my LIST - gives me a good feeling.



Sunflowers in the market in Arles, France were an immediate memory of painter, Vincent Van Gogh.

This morning when I sat down to write my mind was blank - no sparks firing from my spark plugs. So I flipped through a few of my computer photo files and came across this bucket of sunflowers I photographed in a street market in the Provence town, San Remy

Jim and I came to San Remy to make the pilgrimage to the sanitarium outside town where Van Gogh lived the last days
of his life.

That was our trip in 2001 when we were stranded overseas because planes were grounded by 9/11. Instead of touring the area with a group Jim and I were our own. We drifted through the plan of the tour, town to town, hoping our hotel rooms were still available. Marking off the days until time for our plane in Marseilles which would carry us home.


Storytelling - Spring,SWAN, Storytelling tradition,

Welcome Spring and Personal Stuff
1.A sunny welcome to Spring. We are finally seeing daffodils peeking up in our backyard.
March Madness tonight Sorry that American University lost to Villanova last night, especially as AU played so well. University Maryland won so we still have a local contender. But - I have to admit it - UNC- Chapel Hill is always my top choice.

Glad to report that Jim continues to improve. Surgery was three weeks ago today.

The post on93 words today left me speechless.The pictures show that this Easter Season stores are selling plastic eggs in new shapes - Batman, Spiderman, other super heroes and sports objects with a collection of other items targeted for girls. Does this bother anybody else but me?

I know for sure that I will dye my Easter eggs this year as a celebration of the Christian traditions of the renewal of Easter. And what about Easter baskets - are they gone too?

SWAN - Support Women Artists Day

Do you know about SWAN?
Are there events in your community Saturday, March 28?

In Washington, DC there will be 11 hours of women artists offering playreadings, performances, film screenings and poetry - - and storytelling. All free for the community.

This year I was invited as the lone storyteller to bring stories into the creative mix. The programs begin at 10 am.
and run simultaneousely at several venues which will be listed in the newspapers.

This sounds like a great day to me and I am looking forward to being a part of it.
2:15 - 3:00 Ellouise Schoettler - Storyteller
WISE WOMEN: folktales

( a family program for adults and youth audiences)

Barnes and Noble

M and Thos. Jefferson Street, NW

Georgetown, DC

The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Kerala
I started off the day learning about something - new to me - in the tradition of storytelling. Shadow puppetry is a tradition in India where the puppetry is a religious ritual and a popular entertainment. You can read about The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Kerala here.


Storytelling -three viewpoints

Storytelling and Healing
Today I surfed into Spinning Tales - Weaving Hope - an International Symposium for Storytelling as a Healing Art - a blog originated in Denmark by Marianne Christensen. I was especially interested in an article by Dr. Lewis Mehl - Madrona, a Stanford educated physician who is tapping into the healing traditions of his Native American heritage.
Loving Jeeves and Wooster
Jim and I are slowing working our way through Karen's set of cds of all the A&E seasons of Jeeves and Wooster starring Stephen Frye and Hugh Laurie. We are savoring the characters, sets and costumes - enjoying the period, the spoof of Britain's upper class and the tongue in cheek humor. I remember first reading the P. G. Wodehouse stories when I was in high school - probably influenced by Daddy's mother who was an avid anglophile. It seemed to me that Nanny loved most things British from Agatha Christie mysteries to Alec Guiness movies. I particularly remember going with her to the Visualite Theater to see the Lavendar Hill Mob and both of us shaking with laughing as the film unfolded. I still laugh at that movie. What's not to love about all those things? The first time Jim and I went to London I thought of Nanny and was sorry she never got to walk those streets.
World Storytelling Day
From around the world- world storytelling day in Dubai. What's your favorite story? I answered the question - not with my favorite - I have too many - but with the first story I remember.
Mama's mother, Ellie Keasler Baer read Henny Penny to me when I was still small enough to sit on her lap. What's your first or favorite story?



We are really frustrated around our house these days. Our WiFi has been down for ten days. A Verizon technician has been here twice and they have not gotten it right yet. To say that I am irked with Verizon does not even come close to my real feelings - irked - the polite way to try and let you know I am close to pulling the wires out of the wall.

Fortunately for me we still have my contract going with Verizon for Broad Band service - and that's how I am able to pick up email and keep up with the blog.

What we have learned with all this contact with Verizon. The people on the phone mostly live very far away on the other side of the world. And they are extremely polite - "so sorry for your inconvenience" as they tell you that the technician cannot come for one or two weeks or more. "yes, madam, very sorry for the inconvenience." And as my voice escalates - feeling totally paralyzed by the politeness - their voice becomes calmer and calmer. I guess I could do that too if I was 15,000 miles away from this screaming, demanding woman who has nerve enough to want service. How foolish of me.


Happy St.Patricks Day

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon you face
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
My God hold you in the palm of your hand..
An Irish Blessing


Monday - three beautiful things

1. Sitting with Jim near our fireside watching movie - Iron Man - fun following the development of a Marvel Comics Super Hero.

2. Blooming Spring.

3. Good doctor's report for Jim.


Sunday - Women's History

March is Women's History Month.

March is an opportunity to remember the women who contributed to HISTORY and on a more personal level remember and tell stories about women in our families or women in our lives who have influenced us along the way.

When I was in the 5th grade Sister Mary Michael took our class to the library and introduced us to the Biography section. She told us to pick out a book to read. I remember fingering the books until I pulled out a book with a picture of a young and pretty women standing next to an airplane. Amelia Earhardt. A woman flierI A woman who did something extraordinary. That's the first biography I ever read - and I remember her and ODonoghue School whenever I see her picture.

For a while after that Biography was my favorite section in the library - I read about other women - Marie Curie, Sister Carrie, Florence Nightingale and Alice Paul.
Real women who did something.

Looking back I am grateful to Sister Michael for showing me where to find their stories.


Wall Street Journal - family stories

March 11 The Wall Street Journal ran an article, March 11 The Wall Street Journal ran an article, Life Stories: Children Find Meaning In Old Family Tales, touting the importance of telling family stories. There are still five days for you to read it before it is archived. Because the WSJ only posts for paid subscribers I have posted my thoughts about the article here. I hope you will post comments for a conversation here also.

Author Sue Shellenenbarger 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.

What better way for students from different cultures to know each other better and respect each other. 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 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 more vital is that parents just do it -whether they do it well or not.

When I taught a family storytelling class in a Northern California Middle School students said over and over that 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 my storytelling residency class on family stories 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 came back 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 increase awareness of the importance of telling family stories?


Watching movies:
Change of Plans - last night when I went looking for the Pride and Prejudice films I found a long lost set of Jeeves and Wooster with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in the A&E series. So - following Hugh Laurie's career again. Delightful shows. Ofcourse Jim and I like most anything made in England, especially recreating a period. Glad to have found them.

Yesterday Granny Sue mentioned The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - it is mesmerizing and I appreciate her other recommendations.

Anyone have any other suggestions for good films they have enjoyed?

Chosing your own programming is so much more enjoyable than being at the mercy of scheduled TV. Don't you think that is part of the popularity of Net Flix? As well as the run on cds at the Library these days. There was a report yesterday on the rise of usage of the public library in our County - books, movies and the foot traffic to use the computers. I imagine that is the story across the county.

There are magazines, bits of paper, scissors, and glues sticks scattered on the table in my studio where I am working on a collection of new collages. One-a-day is my goal. Feels good. I started this work in Jim's hospital room. And it jump-started my urge to cut and paste.

My other recycling this week was to NAMI - a local thrift shop - where I found two great jersey shirts and a pair of sweat pants for Jim - comfortable convalescing clothes. He has a one of the shirts and the sweats on this morning and looks back to himself.

Rip Van Winkle effect:
After two weeks of being off-normal I am widening my focus, waking up to getting back to my routine and work plans. And facing stacks of mail, the papers I left stacked on my desk, catching up with what has happened since I have been off.

This is sort of like coming home after vacation - except that when we got home - we did not just step back into regular life we brought new issues with us - all the issues concerned with Jim's care and recovery. So it was not just walking in the front door, unpacking and picking up where we left off. We had to switch gears - and let the old stuff stay there until we could get to it.

Now we are getting to it.

Waking up is something. Tell me, how has it multiplied like this? Or have I forgotten how much I walked away from?


Friday - Amazing - 3 Beautiful Things

1. This time two weeks ago Jim was just coming out of surgery - today he is walking around the house unsupervised - carrying his purple cane under his arm. (That last makes me crazy but what do I know.) The wonderful Daniele, who fixed our oven - came back this week and installed safety railings and bathroom grab bars - which makes us more accessible here - and seems over-the-top now that Jim is thinking of leaping tall buildings to show he is getting back to normal.

We are so grateful for the prayer blanket that is wrapping him through it all.

2. I am very grateful that my knee is cooperating and keeps me on my feet and climbing up and down steps.

3. We are thinking or trying to make bread - what is this -three months later - but it shows our progress. And I will be thinking and writing about something other than health issues.

Tonight we are going to watch a favorite movie - the A&E Pride and Prejudice - a good choice, it calming, beautiful and gently genteel. New net flixs arrive tomorrow. I hope we chose well. Lately we have made some big mistakes and the disks left quickly. Our grand-daughter brought over a folder of some of her collection of films - a very varied group - from Simpsons through Harry Potter. We thoroughly enjoyed some early"bits" with comedians Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Interesting to compare this early Laurie work with his current persona as "House".
Now that's a program I love. have you ever gotten caught in a "House" marathon? Mesmerizing. I get caught up and then lose hours in the heat of medical mysteries. Love it.


Wednesday - Three Beautiful Things

1. Jim walking outside with his physical therapist and then being promoted to "cane only" status - using his new purple cane.

2. Spring - the world is waking up - cherry trees budding and daffodils blooming.

3. Working in my studio - cutting and pasting - making collage.



Tuesday roared right by me.

I did get out to teach with Adjoa Burrowes this afternoon and it felt good to be back with the class. Makes me feel that we will regain some normal.



My friend Betsy wrote: "i know you are really busy keeping your nurses cap starched and ironed." I have always loved her sense of humor - I have not even combed my hair today.

7:40 Pm Are you thinking that recovery days at home are quiet, restful? Think again.

The home health care nurse and later the physical therapist have been here. The nurse declared Jim is doing well. The physical therapist told him he could walk up the stairs for eating and walk with a walker without someone by his side. But she also declared, "cool your jets" and cautioned him about moving too quickly with the stabile walker. The wheeled ones are much better - and she commended Mama's walker as being the best on hand. Thank you family for sending it home with me.

meals - good heavens I have not made three meals a day for years. you just finish with breakfast and then its time for lunch, blink and then its supper. Ordinarily Jim and I both work at home - he sees patients here - my office is upstars - we eat independently during the day. I hardly ever "do lunch" so this is a change.

Yesterday I whipped up a batch of Daddy's pimento cheese for sandwiches. Umm good. Yellow long horn cheese whirled in the food processor with a couple of little jars of sliced pimento and several tablespoons of mayonaise. Beats the plastic tasteless stuff you buy at the supermarket. Lunches ready for two days.

Our wireless went down Saturday. After all the diagnostics with the lady in Bombay it is clearly something wrong with the phone line. Can you believe this? They will come next Sunday. They will refund the cost of the days we are with out service. don't they get it. it's not the money - for a week Karen and Jim and I have to share my broadband and my machine and work one at a time on the internet. Are you kidding??????

10:00 am The sun is shining and the chimes are singing in the tree outside by the deck. That is a great way to start the day.

I am making a list of things people need to line up, set up, have on hand before going home from the hospital.

1 Be sure you have a home based land line phone plugged in near by on the level where the recovering patient is located. Most outside services will be calling your home number.
2. don't think you can casually change your shower head in an old house. The shower on this level works but it would be easier if it had one of the heads where you can lift if off and spray your body sitting down. Karen bought the new shower head. Jimmy was ready yesterday to attach it - oops, newer shower heads are not made for old fittings. This is a 50 plus year old.
house -

3. Plenty of extension cords are nice - various electrical applicances will be set up in different spots - not the usual places. Don't take that for granted.

4. Light in the room - if you hate an over-head light - as I do - think about enough table or stand-up lamps to provide adequate lighting. For computer, for reading, for checking out wounds. And don't forget to have handy flashlights.


Home Health Care

Caring for a patient at home makes for full and busy days. No time for sitting around eating bonbons that's for sure. o A number of days ago I realized that I was off-my-list and would try to accomplish only one non-Jim thing a day - the blog and a few emails.

Jim is improving. Gets tired out easilyt - better every day true - but still tired out.

To further complicate things today our Verizon DSL and wireless is down and I cannot get to the PC desktop I have been yearning for. Using a mini computer ------- so pictures and fuller stories will have to wait. I will gradually go back and fill in stories and details - not for you - for me.


Jim At Home - Day 1

Sun is shining. Birds are singing outside. Being home is wonderful.

We have settled Jim in on the ground level of our split level, taking over his consultation room as a bedroom. Really working. And it felt so good to slide into bed next to him last night.

There are temporary adjustments and challenges as he gets more sure-footed. For the moment Jim totters a bit and can't walk safely without a walker. He feels held down by that because he is ready to be back action. Max, the PT guy at GW, cautioned him to "keep your head on" before you make a false move. Sound advice.

A Home Health Care Nurse will check in with him this morning. And a Physical Therapist will come Monday or Tuesday. We are learning about another world of heath care. More later


Jim Day 8 Friday

7 :40 am Doctors have been in. We have the word. Going home.

Yesterday I was writing on this blog and remembered that I first wrote a "log" as a student nurse on the ward. Circling. Isn't it interesting how small things have such an effect on us. I really liked logging what was happening with each patient. Documenting. Bits of information that make a story. Here I am 50 some years later still doing it.

Jim is sitting up already. The tubes are being removed so he is no longer tethered and he is raring to go.


Jim Day 7 Thursday

7:20 PM Jim's surgeon came in late this afternoon with good news. He says the Pathology Report from Jim's surgery shows that the cancer was contained in the bladder system and was successfully removed. Lymph nodes were also clear of any cancer. Ofocurse they will monitor him closely as is the practice with any cancer patient. If Jim had any doubts about this surgery - this was his answer. It was aboslutely the right move.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and encouragement that has helped and steadied us through this difficult challenge. We are looking forward to moving on - praying Jim stays cancer free and in gratitude for your support.

8:20 am Good morning sunshine. Glorious day here in DC and our room if filled with sunlight.
The doctors came in at 6 am followed later by his private surgeon and all oronounced Jim on the right track - the path to home! They have removed the central line IV port in his neck which will free him a bit for walking and for turning his head. If he continues well with liquid diet he gets solid food for lunch. Solid foot held like bait before him for the race down the hall with his walker. He is sitting up in bed, eyes are brighter and he definitely looks more like himself. Complete that picture - he has his memo book in hand and is writing his own lists.

3:25 pm Busy day. Doctors in and out. Finally regular food tray showed up. Seems the trick is - doctor oks it in the chart but patient has to call down and select the food. delayed lunch two hours because we did not know that. Old bromide "communication is everything" applies. Those two hours were harder because he had been waiting since last Thursday to eat again. You bet he has already ordered his supper.

If all goes well with the eating we have marching orders for tomorrow noon. Going home! I am packed.

My Own Country is a wonderful book by Abraham Verghese, MD. I have been reading it out loud to Jim today - and we are loving it. I am reading it to him because it fun to share - since we know so much of his history in medicine and the locations first hand. If I give it to Jim I will have to wait to read it myself. Sharing is good. Dr. Verghese is quite a writer - vivid images, compelling storytelling. Its a story for anyone - especially if you are interested in medicine.


Jim Day 6 Wednesday

11:06 PM
Just could not get to this until now, Partly due to distractions and also just plain being too tired. Anyway.
Jim is progressing well. He is walking stronger, still using a walker - but more independently steady. Not too much pain on moving around. Eating finally, clear liquids today and will start regular foods tomorrow. Can I tell you he is happy about that. Surgeons are happy with their work.
Thinking of the stories that will come out of this - They will feature: fear, human kindness, family , courage, aggravation, mistakes, disappointment, love, generosity, friendship, and laughter. In other words - the human condition. Modern medicine today is astounding in the level of skill and capability and at the same time it is utterly infuriating - I hate feeling helpless under the control of others I am not completely sure of. Bottom line - I want to go home.
Well its good to get that out.
Can it really be day 6.
I have not left this hospital since we drove in with Jim an 5 am last Friday. If that seems over the top - you have not been in a hospital without an advocate. I learned the patient side of that when Jim sat with me in the emergency room at Coney Island Hospital last June.l
I think I will pair Jim's story here at the zenith with mine in the pits in Brooklyn. last Nice counterbalance but similar in many waysl
At least I am thinking of storytelling again.

Robin flew home to California today. It was good to have her here. Special time with all our kids. Laughter and caring. A family. All part of Jim's healing.

Thanks everybody. The album of your words is at his bedside and we feel your presence. Our people.


Jim Day 5 Tuesday

5:00 Is it really Tuesday? I first saw the sun at 6 am and now its 5 pm. Tme melts.and I

Jim walked for the first time today - challenging ofcourse but he is motivated. He wants to go home. I am a bit more cautious. He has had very serious surgery and I don't want to go home before he is really ready.
We are now encountering new problems to solve - what do we need and how to set up when we get home.
Fortunately Robin, Karen and I have organized events - we have the skills and experience - it is a matter of identifying how we will set up the house so that he does not have to climb stairs and figuring out what supplies we need.

Feel sure there will be a story here.


Jim Day 4 Monday

9:00 PM Time in the hospital is so strange. It drags or it gets eaten up. Whatever it begins to feel weird.
A lot has happened.

Jim has been moved out of the ICU and to a room. We must have done something right because we are ensconced in a wonderful front room with a wall of windows overlooking Washington Circle - with a view of the area and gulls swooping close b y. To me being bathed in natural light is so enriching and spirit lifting, This is good.
Today Jim is improving. There are issues ofcourse - pain and getting up and starting to eat again etc, etc, etc. Tomorrow he will be up again and walking. That is going to be a challenge.
Yesterday Granny Sue, said I sounded tired, I am. And so very grateful for our family who have been here almost the whole time. Such a gift. And we have met some lovely people. Talk about stories - touching and heartbreaking stories are shared in hospital waiting rooms. As well as comfort b ietween strangers that is w'arm and caring.
12:15 PM Happy to say an hours good sleep brought Jim to a better place. The Urology team came back and decided hat he will be moved to the ward later today. That is a step forward. Not only that - it will be much quieter there and he should rest better. They will also start having him out of the bed and walking - that will be a challenge.

We are on the 5th floor which gives us a pretty good view of the area. This morning when the snow was flying around and covering the streets it looked like an "ash can school" painting. Those are fresh in my eyes as we just saw a few last week at the Phillips.

6:00 am Robin and I walked out into the snow and walked over to the hopsitaTHe ICU nurse had agreed she would let me in tol. "take a peek" before the 8:30 am opening time . I appreciated it. We have to come in through the ER and the Security t that point cldars us in.

I like these early morning glimpses of the world of the hospital. Takes me back a bit to memories of when I was a student nurse on duty at night.

10:00 am I wish I could remember more of what I knew in those dark ages days of medicine. Jim's blood pressure is running high - they are using drugs with names I never heard of - and in my day you had to clear with a doctor before administering a medication. Today it seems to me the nurses are let loose with syringes and lots of discretion. I would have loved that myself - its just new to me.

Jim did not sleep all night - watching out for himself. He does that well but this is really tiring him out. As the new nurse told him, "you are supposed to be resting and sleeping so we can get you past the acute phase." Jim agreed. I could see he was appreciating this guy and his logand the way he spoke to him with respect and understanding The upshot is that Jim let them give him a shot of a short acting sedative so he can rest. Now I am watching out
while he is asleep.


Jim Day 3

6:00 PM Sitting in the ICU waiting room with other family members sharing stories of why you are here,

4:15 PM What do you do when you are sitting in a room in the ICU?
* you watch - monitors, which you don't fully understand and his breathing
as he sleeps.
* thanks to wifi and laptop computers you check and write email and in my case
* write on a blog. It keeps you connected to the outside world and to people so
that you don't lose track of time and place: i.e. "sundown" like the patients do.
* stare out the window
* make lists of things you will do when you life is back to normal.
* knit
* read - the same paragraphs over and over if your mind won't focus - I brought Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - beautiful language on the fitst few pages over -and over.
* cut and paste paper into collages in a sktech book - my preferred activity

3:30 PM Jim was up in a chair for 2 hours this afternoon. Big hurdle. exhausting for him so now he is sleeping. Good job.

11:30 am Have you heard that we are expecting a BIG snow here today? This should be interesting. I am glad we are already in town and we don't have to concern ourselves with getting back and forth to home.

11:15 am The surgeon was in a bit ago and he is very pleased with the way things are going for Jim's progress. He is going to keep Jim in the ICU for another day though because of the level of nursing coverage.

Jim was startled when he told him that, " well you have rested for two days - now this afternoon we will get you into a chair." Whoops! We will see how that goes.

I tell you everytime I look at him and see him improving I think of everyone that sent a note, a greeting and a prayer. And we are grateful.