The Unexpected - -

On Christmas Day Karen and I drove to Williamsburg expecting to spend a few pleasant days in a familiar place. If I had had any qualms at all it was because Jim and I enjoyed many visits there during the past 20 years.

The weather was perfect - sunny and warm. We arrived early. Karen and I strolled down the main street of Historic Williamsburg so that I could gather some new photos of the traditional fresh Christmas decorations.

We checked in at Powhatan Plantation and I wrote my Christmas Greeting before we went to the movie - The Imitation Game. 

Read my Christmas Greeting HERE.

We came back -

And I snuggled into bed. Tired.


At 3 am I roused, alarmed. Body alerting me.
Stomach attach.
From then on I vomited every 30 minutes for the next 6 hours -

I did not leave my bed until a day later.

Karen drove home, exhausted, from 36 hours as the nurse on duty.

Today we are enmersed in the Harry Potter Marathon and grateful for full diversion.

I have been asking myself what? how? why? Where did this come from -

I don't know for sure but I have a few guesses -

I had just flown to California on a surprise quick trip when Jim's brother died - glad to be there - It had meant so much to Jim for Tom and his wife to come out to see him to say "good-bye." This was a large family gathering of a wide extended family - and I was very glad to be among them for the good-bye to Tom.

Time with my daughter and her family. Great to see her three young men. And, to spend time with Robin and her husband, Brad. And to have a visit with some special friends.

A long flight back - with many young kids on board - arriving after 11PM.  Very tired and grateful my son was there to collect me.

So, many points of exposure for some unexpected stomach attack.

Or was it a well-timed "stop" - - - catch your breath - before the New Year.



VIDEO - The Door Story

This is one of my favorite family Christmas Stories.


What About Time?

Just saying - - - 

What is it about time?
How can a long time seem like yesterday?
Or  - -
sometimes it feels like years to get through the next five minutes?

Once 50 years seemed like such a long time in the distance- -
now 50 years marks milestones which feel very close.

Today is one of those long ago but close anniversaries for me -

Gretchen Marie Schoettler
b. November 10, 1961
d. December 13, 1964

Is it really 50 years ago - - -

We have a long history with Arlington National Cemetery.

What makes the difference -
in how you are feeling the time?

whether you are looking ahead

or looking back?


NEW VIDEO: My Sister Kathy and The Thrifty Tailor

My sister called and prompted a new story.

See the Video:


Christmas Past -1

 After our oldest grandson, the first of daughter Robin's three sons, was born Jim and I often spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their boys in California. First in sunny Southern California and then in Lafayette which is on the Oakland side of the San Francisco Bay.

Several times we celebrated Christmas Eve with our son 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. Our daughter Karen often made the trip with us.

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


Around the dinner table at Robin's, 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." "That was Christmas 1974", I added.

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. We brought all our kids to Madera for Christmas for the first time in 1969.

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.


Guest Author BETSY WHITE: Loss of Innocence

Guest Author: Betsy Villas White

December 7th was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor - "the day in infamy".
The Japanese forces attached the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii - and sent the United States into World War II.

A day to be remembered!

Betsy White is a writer and a dear friend of mine. When she read her story of her childhood memory of that "day of infamy" she transported me back in time. Her words bring back that sweet Sunday in Charlotte, NC from a child's perspective. - as the world changed. Not the usual eye-view for a story that usually touches on "military experience" only as the grown-ups remember it.

 As soon as I heard the story I invited her to share it as a "Guest Author" on my blog.

Loss of Innocence
Betsy White
The thing I remember best about that December day in 1941 is my green reindeer sweater.   It was my favorite sweater and I wore it as often as my mother would let me.  The prancing reindeer on the sweater was white and surrounded by snowflakes.  Wearing the sweater made it easier for me to pretend that I was Heidi sitting before the fire in Alm Uncle’s mountaintop cabin.  As a little girl living in North Carolina, I often pretended to be Heidi.  The land of snow and giant fir trees held a great fascination for me.  My mother frequently thought the weather was too warm for the sweater, but today I had been allowed to wear it. 

Every Sunday my family and my Uncle’s family had Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house.  Today my little brother had a cold so instead of going to church as we usually did we had come early to visit with my grandparents.  I was sitting on the floor in front of the console radio in my grandparent’s “front room”.  The Sunday comics were spread out on the floor and my grandmother was helping me cut out the paper doll which always appeared, replete with clothes, in the Sunday edition of the Charlotte paper.  The adults were drinking coffee as my little brother slept in my mother’s arms.

We were listening to the Sunday Morning Gospel Hour on the radio.  My grandmother hummed along with the music and my parents talked softly with my grandfather.  By now many of the gospel songs were familiar to me and I hummed along as best as I could in imitation of my grandmother.  I liked to rub the angora wool of the reindeer on my sweater as I sang.

Suddenly the music stopped and an announcer broke into the program in a loud and shrill voice.  I didn’t understand the meaning of his words but I heard the alarm and rising panic in his tone.  The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States was at war.

I looked at my grandmother and saw the tears rolling silently down her face.  My Daddy and my grandfather were talking much too loud and their voices filled the room.  My little brother woke up and started crying.  My mother stood up with him and ran from the room.  I sat on the floor in confusion and fear.  In a matter of minutes the peaceful Sunday morning had disappeared and in its place was a landscape I didn’t recognize.  The adults in my life were shouting and crying.  The safety of the room was shattered.  From the outside world had come a force that was bigger than my family, bigger than their ability to control.  I sat and rubbed the reindeer on my sweater.  I willed myself to the chalet where Heidi lived with her grandfather.  I imagined myself in the hayloft where Heidi slept in her bed of clean straw with the moon shining down upon her. The space was quiet and peaceful and I longed to stay there.  That day I didn’t understand the significance of Pearl Harbor to the world at large or to our family, but I did know that something significant had changed for me that Sunday morning in my grandparents’ front room and that my world would never feel the same again.

                                                                                                       October 20, 2011                  


A remembering of December 7, 1941

Ellouise Diggle Schoettler, circa 1942

Earlier today I posted this memory on
the Facebook Page "I am a Native Charlottean."

December 7, 1941 - 

I hopped in the car for a Sunday afternoon ride with my grand-parents. We turned a corner,( from Pecan into 7th Street in Charlotte, NC) at Independence Park traffic was stopped and newspaperboys were in the streets waving pink newspapers and hollering EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA. My grandfather bought one and read the headline out loud "WAR. Japs Bomb Peral Harbor." As a 5 year old, I didn't know what Granny was crying about - but I knew it was BAD! 
Do you have memories of that day?

Shortly after I posted my brother Robert responded on Facebook:
Only six years before my time and of course kids my age grew up very well informed on WWII. I remember Mama talking about the u-boats off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, among other wartime tales.

Its not often that I have a chance to talk to my brother who lives in Atlanta so I sent back:

Ellouise Schoettler Oh, yes. I was at Wrightsville Beach with her for some of that- when there was "lights out" at the coast every night, and the car headlights were painted half black. Uniformed guys everywhere. Closer to home - I used to run out to the sidewalk on 7th Street and salute as the convoys, trucks filled with guys from Fort Bragg rolled by. You could hear the roar of those trucks ten minutes before you saw them. When Daddy joined the US Army Air Corps gave me one of his "oveseas" caps. I wore than hat every day. And aways when I was saluting the troops as they rolled by on 7th Street - and they laughed and waved back.

Later I added another story of Jim's memory of that incredible December Sunday.
Ellouise Schoettler My husband Jim remembered hearing the announcement on a console radio in the Schoettler living room in Fresno, CA - the very same radio that now sits in my daughter's living room near SF, CA and reminds us of a bit of Schoettler family history. The radio also shows us how "things" help us hold on to the memories for family stories. Robin S. Fox 
Talking about the radio always prompted Jim to tell this story - his uncle was married on Dec. 7 in Fresno - the bride's brother was in the Navy, stationed on the US Battleship Arizona in Hawaii - he was granted permission to leave the ship to send flowers to his sister for her wedding - he ran back once the bombing started but when he reached the dock the Arizona was burning and sinking! He suffered over that for the rest of his life. Many of these war stories have several sides don't they?
There are so many bits that make up the enormous quilt of life that day.

So many say, "I wasn't born then." 
Then gather a story of two. 
Ask someone who was there - even as a child.  
They remember.


Over the Back Fence

If you have been reading my blogs for very long you know this is the image I post when I am angst-ing a bit over life.... and death.

This morning I know I should be working on a "commissioned" story that I am telling in 10 days instead of "thinking" - - maybe writing it down will help me shake the thinking so I can get back to work.

For the first thing - it's December.  Christmas is coming.  I should have known better than to make commitments for December. I have never particularly liked Christmas - it was never much fun in my family when I was a child because it was an emotionally charged season for my parents - which took lots of the joy out of it for the kids.

Jim and I got married at Christmas and Jim loved the happy season which for a long time was the antidote to my gray memories - then our youngest daughter died in December. In fact next week is the 50th anniversary of Gretchen's death.  Hard to realize its been that long. Harder still to have Jim now buried out there with her. And it is a bit tricky to accept that I will be buried there with them.....Jim's death taught me to face the reality of that.

Next Saturday I will take flowers to Gretchen at the same time that Wreath Around America is placing Christmas wreaths on all the graves at Arlington. Interesting juxtaposition.

Now what to do about today - how to keep my eyes and mind on another's story when I am slogging around in my own story. Especially since I know that a little later today Christmas is going to come up - "what about putting up a Christmas tree today?"

I have refused to put a Christmas treet since Jim died because those boxes in the basement are loaded for me - - they are packed solid with memories. Jim and I collected Christmas Tree ornaments. Over the years it became an evergreen family album of year-long happy times, trips and events. When we traveled we always brought back something "for the tree." Little odd souvenirs also made the cut - - along with other momentos. Every year Jim set up the tree, turned on Christmas music and we  opened the boxes together and decorated the tree. Later we packed everything safely away until next time.

For our 50th wedding anniversary Jim helped me with an art show at the Studio Gallery in Washington, DC and part of the show was a full size Christmas tree decorated as a family album.

You get the picture. Opening those boxes is a tough duty I have avoided.

Until now - -

I have decided to walk through the smoldering coals. I am going to put up a tree and open the boxes. 

Jim's orchid encourages me. It began to bloom three weeks ago and still has four more pregnant buds. This orchid is one that bloomed at his memorial service almost three years ago and when those bloom dropped off it became dormant - - -  for a bit more than two years.

Quite a few times I considered tossing it out ...

Today I realize its a blessing  - -

and a message  -

to keep on keeping on.


Facebook and Blogging to Capture a Memory

Posted this today on Facebook - 
I don't want to lose this incident so decided to make a add it to a "post". 
Arlington National Cemetery delivers many serendipities. Today I joined Susanna Connelly Holstein, her husband Larry and her sister Teresa on their visit to Arlington to touch base with their Connelly grandfather and a great-grandfather - Granny Sue and Larry knew Jim - we all met at the WVA Storytelling Festival - in 1998 - so - . First stop - a friend- hello for Jim. Right away Susanna noticed - our long time-neighbor Arlington neighbor - buried next to our grave the same week our daughter Gretchen was buried there - is a CONNELLY - " Ellouise, he could be one of our Connellys" - and his name "Harry" is a familiar name in their family tree. Talk about small world - in today and in forever - if that pans out. Lt Col Connelly is one of the neighbors I talk about in my Arlington Story - he fought in WWI and WWII and was in the Air Corps and USAF Force. What really touched me about this coincidence - - since I had already made one visit this week - I almost stayed home - - I would have missed this altogether. Life often visits us with these surprises and I am very grateful I was there for this one!!! Crossing my fingers Lt Col is a Susanna connection - but as my daughter says - it doesn't really matter - we have had a Connelly connection in WVA for a long time.
— with Susanna Connelly Holstein.
Ellouise Schoettler's photo.
Ellouise and Susanna Holstein

Later this afternoon Susanna  - wrote about our visit to Arlington from her perscpective. Always good to two sets of eyes on a story


NEW VIDEO: "Handmade"- story for my mother.

I call this story "Hand-made" and it celebrates my mother, Louise Keasler Diggle, who was a very ingenious and creative woman. Thank you, Mama.

Listen to it HERE