A Lucky Find

This stash of letters between two young people in North Carolina was a very lucky find.

There are 68 letters dated 1942 - 1944 in this bundle I found in a collection of family papers being sold in a used bookstore. They came from an old woman's attic in Charlotte, NC.

The letters are all written by the same young man to his sweetheart, Jane, from the time he was in a boarding school, to his days as a college student at The Citadel in South Carolina and then Davidson College in North Carolina. In 1944 the boy was drafted into the Army and the subjects of the letters shifts from parties to combat training.

When I found them they were tied together with a blue ribbon - I presume Jane kept them. I wonder if they married and she kept the letters or - as happened in many cases - was he a casualty of the war - - and this packet of letters was her only connection with her young love.

He sounds so young and naieve as he declares himself to his love - pleading with her to write more often and to save dances for him. I imagined him as Robert Walker played the young soldier-grandson in the classic WWII home-front movie, Since You Went Away.  His love deepens in this two year period and he thinks of her endlessly when he goes away to the Army. He tells her of the fellowship with the other new soldiers and describes the card sharks and the wise guys in his barracks. He also writes of the battle trainings and although he does not say so out right he hints at his fear.

Through these letters you have a glimpse of the young men of WWII who were pulled away from schools, colleges and jobs and sent to battle.

I  love old letters. They are a magic carpet to the past.



e. schoettler

Trying to catch up with paperwork.
I have come to the place where its so overdue - I can throw some away.
Now that's not all bad.
Would be better if I saw that in the first place and did not hang on to it.
To Clutter up the desk, the dining room table and my mind.

I need to remind myself who's boss here

I make these to-do lists myself.

Well, lady, its time to ease up a bit.

Do you cut yourself some slack?


Red Socks

You have to love red socks!

Feeling very with-it tonight.  I ordered my groceries from www.Safeway.com today. Did not to leave the house to  finish my shopping. Tomorrow the truck will come and the driver will carry the bags into  tthe house.  Wow. $9.95 fee for that strikes me as reasonable. I saved more than that in the impulse spending I could not do. A new era dawns.

And - - it saves on gas and reduces our carbon foot print.

That sounds like four birds with one stone to me!


Keeping it Cool

The latest slogan around is Old is the New Cool. At 75 I agree - but there is also a hitch. Old also has powerful surprises in store and getting old is not for the faint hearted.

For the time being Jim and I are some what home bound as he recovers from what turned out to be a small stroke.

We are so fortunate - it was an infarct - a small clot - - which is now dissolving. At first he could not say clearly what he was thinking and his balance was off -- he became a fall risk.  Anyone who has experienced this knows how frustrating it is for the patient and everyone else - and how scary the question "will it get better" is.

In Jim's case - with the assistance of a physical therapist and a speech therapist who come to our house, a nurse who checks in and good doctors things are turning out well. God Bless Medicare and our health insurance.

Oh, did I mention me - as the full time Nurse Ratchett. I come free.

We have learned a few things:

Keep everything simple from cooking to household chores.

Keep laughing and stay engaged with the outside world through TV, computer and telephone - avoid the
    feeling of isolation as much as you can.

Keeping up with the treatment schedule is a challenge. 3 therapists (who come to the home), a nurse,   and an aide - plus visits outside to doctors. We can't move without consulting our calendar.  Fortunately my career includes several jobs where I organized and coordinated challenging projects - - all that experience is coming in handy these days. Everyone does their calendars differently - just be sure you have one ---and oh, yes, keep the phone numbers. My brain these days is a hot pink composition book. I write everything in it.

Order groceries - Turn back the clock to your grandmother's day and sign up for Safeway and/or Giant delivery. Fortunately we have it in our area as well as pharmacies that bring medications to the door.

Make every trip to a doctor a stop and shop trip as well. I have started to plan my routes in order to
   pick up other stuff we need. Jim has become a patient car-sitter while I dash in and out of pharmacies, cleaners, and grocery stores.

Work with the therapist - our grand-daughter helps Jim with the speech-therapy homework, our son
   added newspapers and games to the iPad for Jim, Scrabble is a great game for word recognition and
   problem solving, also cross word puzzles. Physical therapy exercises are good time fillers.

The computer is a blessing for keeping up with work and staying in-touch.

You need help. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Our family has been wonderful. Bringing in groceries, doing dishes, carrying in wood, etc. etc. One night our son proved himself a good plumber so that I could keep washing. Our daughters scan the scene and just do what needs doing. And all of them visit frequently - laughter and conversation and hugs are great medicine.

Friends too. Prayers, wonderful cards and messages, and phone calls - because I can tell you from first   hand  - - the home-bound feel isolated - not just the patient but the spouse too. Something I never fully understood before. The old saying, "not until you walk in my shoes" is very real and true.
From the care-giver's side - there is not enough time in the day to get it all done.

However - its all worth it if you keep your eye on the prize.

Maybe that's the cool in old.


A Texas Welcome

Now, that's a real Texas long horn!


Better and Better

Hard to believe that Jim was released from the hospital two weeks ago today. We have been so busy settling into a new routine that the days have telescoped into each other.

For years we have said that this was a good house because it had a potential apartment on the ground floor - but you know I never really thought we would use these rooms as an apartment. Never say Never.  Its working quite well and living in this smaller space has convinced Jim and me that we really do not need the whole house - and maybe we will move - once we fill several dumpsters.

But first we are learning some valuable lessons. An unexpected upset in your life gives you some some new perspectives on what is really important.

I find that I get along just fine with fewer clothes - alternating several outfits and washing every night. Sure the rest of my wardrobe is upstairs and I could easily retrieve it - but why? That's just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much stuff - our treasures - filling our house and these days we get along perfectly well without any of it.

The real benefit is that Jim and I are together being there for each other as he gets better.
Its a beautiful time. People ask us how does it feel to be married to the same person for more than fifty years..... its richer than we ever imagined it would be. We are grateful.


Aesop and EEOV

Tonight I am selecting and practicing stories to tape tomorrow for Stories in Time
on Channel 16 and have decided to tell a few Aesop Fables. Re-reading and finding myself noticing and attracted to new fables.

How about Belling the Cat - for a relevant moral. The mice need a way to be warned when the cat is creeping up on them. Several smart one say, "lets put a bell around her neck."

"Good idea," they all agree until a wise elder asks the question -
"Who will put the bell around the cat's neck?"

Aesop's moral: "It's easy to come up with ideas but harder to put them into action."

Makes sense to me.

Manoli Canoli

Manoli Canoli is a former Connecticut Avenue Deli that's been redone into a charming Mediterrean-like retreat.

One night this week I had a nice dinner at
Manoli Canoli which is our favorite Chevy Chase restaurant. It reminds us of  a neighborhood ristorante you would find in Italy. Over five years it has become a familiar destination for locals and we often see people we know. This gives Manoli Canoli a small town feeling in a large metropolitan area.

Recently Laura Thornton wrote this article for the Chevy Chase Patch and told the story of this place.

Jim and I always order the Caprese for a starter - you know slices of homemade mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, drizzled with the house EVOO made in Greece - topped with fresh basil leaves. YUMMMM!

What's your favorite spot in your neighborhood?


Urban Deer at Lunch

Urban deer enjoying a mid-afternoon snack of the lawn at the Audubon Naturalist Society, Chevy Chase, MD.

Urban growth, the felling of trees on an acreage to make way for new elegant houses to be exact, displaced their ancestors a dozen years ago and they fled to a near-by refuge of the wooded grounds of the Audubon.

They love to snack on grasses and anything remotely lovely that grows in your yard cutting the leaves precisely with their sharp little teeth.

However, I still love seeing them on our neighborhood street because it makes me feel a bit closer to Nature.



Life is just full of surprises.

Jim was released from the hospital last Monday.

We expected to step slowly back into our old normal. Well no. Tuesday morning Jim collapsed in the shower and someday it will be a funny story to tell ... it was a Laurel and Hardy routine getting him back on his feet. Clearly something was amiss and they had missed it in the hospital.

This was an MS attack ...we recognize them. more than that we needed help...and he was discharged without orders for in-home assistance. Fortunately Jim's Primary Care doctor intervened and now we do have PT and an OT coming to our home, an occasional nurse, and an aide three times a week to help Jim in the shower.

And Me.

Let me tell you ... The first few days were a nightmare as I worked to get some kind of routine that included all the medical stuff Jim did for himself, taking care of him and all the other stuff that goes along with eating three meals a day and having clean clothes. You know multi-tasking on the grand scale.
Our kids have been wonderful
and we could not have managed without them.

I have learned a few things to share:

Write everything down. Not just the calendar but the daily list of medications you give, medical instructions, grocery lists - the works. Don't rely just on memory. My old itty bitty bit of incompleted nurses training at Johns Hopkins is coming back - so far as charting is concerned. As well as the experience learned from being a professional "coordinator". So ---- this is why I had those jobs.

Think ahead. Allow extra time to get to outside doctor appointments and don't leave things to the last minute because someone who has balance issues cannot move as fast on you do.

Cancel as many things as you can that you had planned to do before all this happened. You cannot leave someone who is a "fall risk" on their own.

Be prepared to do everything in the house yourself while your partner recovers. For instance I am pretty proud that now I can make a decent fire in the wood stove in the den - makes me feel like a pioneer woman.

Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Look around for options to make the home situation more recovery friendly. We are fortunate we have a ground level back entrance and rooms Jim used as his office reception area and consultation room with a full bath and the utility room on the same floor. Using a blow-up bed on legs, which is quite comfortable, the consultation room quickly transformed into a bedroom and the reception room is a pleasant living room with a wood stove.

Be realistic. I keep thinking I will get some writing done or practice storytelling or other things. Doesn't happen. The days are filled with routine tasks that are the nuts and bolts of medical recovery.

Be patient. Somedays that is really hard for me. I keep telling myself I am not the first and won't be the last person to face these challenges.

Try to keep laughing!  Yesterday I called my bestest friend in PA. She and I have known each other since we were Girl Scouts together in Charlotte, NC. She knows me like few do.

When I was telling her how sweet our neighbor has been - pushing the trash cans up the drive and other things - I said "I feel like I should make a cake to thank."

"oh, Lord Ellouise, how Southern of you. You sound like my mother. Well-- all I can say is -  if you do make that cake - - don't forget to crack the coconut yourself and don't scrape your knuckles on the grater and spill blood on the cake as you sprinkle the coconut on the top of the white icing."

We burst out laughing - and laughed and laughed. And I felt better.

Friends are the balm that heals.


Brenda Starr of the Chevy Chase Patch

Remember reading comic books? I loved them. Brenda Starr: Reporter was one of my favorites.

I read her adventures and fantasized that I too would write for a newspaper.

The Christmas I was 14 Santa Claus brought me a Kodak brownie camera and I carried it to Piedmont Junior High School and everywhere else so that I could snap pictures of people and places. I never saw the pictures though because I did not have the money to have them developed - remember black and white film. Oh, well!

I still carry a camera in my purse - and fill it with digital images that I post here on this blog. To my way of thinking digital filmless photography is one of the greatest advances of the 20th century. At least in my world.

In 1985 I carried that vivid memory of Brenda Starr as I proudly wore a PRESS PASS for Women Artists News at the UN Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya and carried pen and paper everywhere. We did not call in any stories actually but we did have ACCESS to all the events

That's part of why I started my blog six years ago and love this place to write and publish. And, its free.

With that backstory you will understand how delighted I was recently when Laura Thornton, editor of the CHEVY CHASE PATCH invited me to be a blogger on her paper.
CHEVY CHASE PATCH is one of the on line local newspapers that are part of the nationwide PATCH system. Here is my first post.

I will be posting once a week and my head is swirling with ideas for covering many local people and places.

Taking pictures, yes, but I am not wearing my camera around my neck - just carrying my iPhone with the camera at the ready.


Be Prepared

e. schoettler

This poor woman looks about like I feel right now.

We are starting out 2012 with some memorable experiences:

A few evenings ago we took a wild ride in a Volunteer Rescue truck-ambulance. Jim was strapped to a stretcher and the stretcher was locked onto the floor of the truck. Me - I was strapped into an upright seat riding backwards as the ambulance bumped and lurched up and down metro Washington streets toward Sibley Hospital making me slightly nauseous. It felt like riding a worn out carnival attraction. Except - - there were four really capable folks in charge taking care of the situation. And, I was glad to be with them.

Why did I call an ambulance instead of driving him myself? Well, not because I wanted this excitement or a scene outside our front door when the ambulance  - with red lights flashing - drove up and spilled out the stretcher and the four EMT folks. I called them because Jim was in pain - severe pain - that was new - in his abdomen - we had no idea what it was - and I was afraid to take him in case something untoward would happen that I could not handle while I was driving. All the medical folks I have talked to have assured me I made the right decision. SO - - I am passing this along. Maybe our experience will serve you well some day.

Here are other bits of advice.

Take food when you go to an Emergency Room - because you are going to be there for a L O N G time - and by the time you think about your being hungry - all cafeterias will be closed and your only choices will be stale in a tall class snack machine. Oh, yes, hopefully you have change or you will be locked out of that food. I wish I had packed some sandwiches while we were waiting for the Rescue truck to arrive.

Take your toothbrush - you'll feel better eventually because you have it with you.

Take a computer - or iPad or anything else that will connect to the internet - so you can do work, read your email and Facebook or, hey, watch movies streaming on Netflix. Most hospitals have Wi Fi.

Take any medicines you take regularly in the evening if you are not the patient.

If you can, take a notebook and pen or pencil so you can catch the stories all around you.

In other words,  remember the Scout Motto - BE PREPARED.



Our life has changed.

It seemed to happen slowly - but I think what really happened is that I refused to acknowledge the changes as they occurred and built up.

Jim and I live with Cancer
 - and many times it distorts your view of your world.
Jim's cancer came back November two years ago. The new tumors were situated in such a way that more surgery to remove them was not an option. For those two years a program of chemo maintenance kept the tumors at bay. Then last summer for good reason the doctor thought a vacation from Chemo was in order to give Jim's body a rest. Within two months the tumors became active again. The old drug was not effective and they have been trying a new chemo drug. We can't tell about its effect on the tumors yet - but we can see the toll it is taking on Jim. Recovering while battling cancer is tough. You need support and more physical help than you like.

The first new trouble began in Texas. This past November we went to Texas so that I could tell stories at the George West Storytelling Festival. And, so that Jim and I could re-visit San Antonio where we lived with our young children in the late 1950s. Our son Jimmy and his wife Monica came with us for the first several days in San Antonio and it was a delicious time - remembering and telling family stories and touching base with old memories in a new way - showing Jimmy where we lived and where his Daddy worked.

The storytelling festival was Fun. People were lovely. Stories were great. But--- behind the scenes Jim began having more discomfort than before and it was difficult to paste on a smile and hide our situation - especially far from home and the doctors we trust - even though Jim often doubles as his own doctor  - and does a real fine job at it.

That ramped up the stress. It was like living two realities.

That was early November.

Since then things have continued to change and I can't pretend any longer that they haven't.

You see - I am a spoiled woman. A feminist yes, but a spoiled woman all the same - because Jim was always standing tall beside me and I leaned on him. 

Now we are swapping roles a bit - and this is one spoiled woman who is having to stand tall - it is my turn to BE THERE and let Jim lean my way while he gathers his strength to work with the drugs.

Priorities are shifting.

My lists are changing.

I am changing.

For a start - I am taking off my phoney smile - - - smiling honestly and grateful for the real blessings in my life - and I am telling the truth - -

Second, I am rethinking my choices - about the two things I am most truly passionate about -Jim and storytelling.

For the time being - its Jim first, storytelling second -
Cutting back on a few things -
focusing on the ones I really want to do.
The New Front Porch radio show, my TV shows, some performances, 

Last year I celebrated my Diamond Jubilee
to walk in my own footsteps, tell the old stories and gather new ones.

This year, like many an Academic - - I am taking a sabbatical -
a breather -
to re-examine my BRAND -
answer questions like
HOW do I want to be a storyteller
WHAT STORIES do I want to tell.

maybe I will tell a few stories about that.

More will be revealed
but I can promise one thing
Jim will be at the CENTER of it all.


Thinning Out

Pages from an old 1950s Charlotte Observer that I had saved in a box in my studio finally see the light of day again in this collage. I clung to those pages for years as if by keeping them I would never lose those past days.

Funny - once I used some of the stack I had been preserving in a series of small collages it felt all right to toss the rest away.

Holding on is one of my problems. Perhaps its a hang-over from my mother's "depression - era" thinking about things. She used to say that we could not understand because we had not lived through those times.
I am sure that's true.

However I lived through some tough times with Mama and Daddy which left me clutching useless things for protection even though I did not need to.  Then on top of that I embraced collage making - which requires collecting and storing the world's discards - ditritus to be transformed into art.

For some time - holding on - is something I have wanted to face and work on - - to turn that holding on into letting go - and see what happens. People say you open doors for new work and new ideas when you stop holding on to old ideas and old materials. We shall see.

Recently I accepted help with thinning the accumulated "stuff" that has been overwhelming us in the house we have lived in for more than 40 years. My studio was a particularly tough job. At first it was extremely difficult to toss useless possibilities into the trash bags - until I began to see space opening up on shelves that had been stacked and packed with bits and pieces.

We found forgotten things - bringing back memories - resurrecting stories. All that had been buried - out of sight - hidden - robbing me of parts of myself.

I am still sorting and sifting and tossing - - feeling lighter.

Its a feeling I want to continue.


Happy New Year - Looking for Blue Skies.

starting 2012
looking for blue skies
smooth sailing
happy times.

Wishing the same for you!

the sun is shining
skies are blue
taking stock
and feeling grateful for the blessings in our life.

Jim and the family first

then looking ahead to several projects
which will keep me hopping
and learning new tricks

stories to tell
at Friendship in February
Stone Soup Storytelling Festival
in April
Pushing Boundaries - my ERA memoir -
here in DC
in March.

dusting off my textiles
to be part of a show
at the Ratner Museum in February

plus the TV shows
and talking to folks on the
New Front Porch
on World of Storytelling Radio
the technical issues for the radio
show have had such
a steep learning curve that
people probably think I have dropped
that ball.
No way.

would you say - that even as I
cut out a few things
my dance card is full.

no New Years Resolutions this year
just telling myself to
keep "balancing"
so that what's most important
Jim and family
are always at the top of the list.

where they belong.