60th Wedding Anniversary

Jim Schoettler and I were married December 30, 1955 -
at Assumption Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC.

This was the beginning.

December 2005   Jim  and I celebrated our 50th anniversary with a  reception at our home in Chevy Chase, MD.  It was a wonderful party shared with family and friends - and Jim's toast was sweet and funny. 

I am thinking of that today - which is our 60th anniversary. I am pretty sure I can guess what he might be saying if he were here.

A long marriage is a beautiful gift - you have the time to know each other so well, the satisfaction of making it through tossing winds and troubled seas together, 
the  joy of many blessings, large and small, and most of all  - - love.


Remembering 60 years ago

Several years ago I opened a box of papers and found this Hallmark Date Book 1955.

Memories are the food for my stories so finding an old personal calendar to fill in gaps is a great blessing.

By January 1 1955 Jim Schoettler and I  were a couple. Most dates are marked with something to do with "dating" Jim from a "coffee with Jim" to "marrying Jim today" on December 30.

So - today --- 60 years ago - - I was excited and nervous as I packed the last items in my suitcase so I would be ready to leave home tomorrow  - - for a honeymoon week-end in Washington, DC before we put the key in the lock at our waiting apartment in Baltimore. We never guessed that we would return to the Washington area in 1964 and live out our lives there.

During the polo epidemic of 1944 my mother became so frightened for our safety that she arranged for me and my sister Lynda to live with the Sisters of Mercy at their "mother house" in Belmont, NC. She felt that living on their farm would be safer for us. I celebrated my ninth birthday there that summer - and I also learned how important receiving mail can be which has left me with a particular appreciation and love of letters.

My love of letters continued whether they were mine or written by strangers. Years later as I delved into genealogy and storytelling I became enamored with old letters because of the stories they hold. I look for letters in old boxes in back rooms, in library collections and in local history files. 

One afternoon at the Historical Society in the District of Columbia I asked to read "domestic files" and I found this letter - 

In 1845, from her parental home in Washington, DC, Normanstone, Dora Barnard writes to her finance John Higgins three days before their wedding.

Normanstone, 1845

My dear Sir,

I fully intended writing yesterday but was prevented. I have attended to your requests and I have finished sewing much to my relief.

I believe all planning is done, everything goes on smoothly. I went into the store room today to pack something away ready to be sent up and I deliberately sat down by the side of the trunk and took a good cry. That's just the way I am when I am excited.

Do not think it is regret, for my determination to leave all, and cleave to thee, Oh, no.
But this leaving causes struggles. I tremble also at the responsibility I am incurring. I suppose you are calmer than myself.

Now, good-bye till Tuesday.

Yours - - for the last time - - S. Dora Barnard

What a lovely surprise to find this sweet letter. When I read it I felt connected to Dora Barnard across 110 years.

Finding the little calendar brought back memories of how I felt the night before Jim and I married.  Writing this tonight reminded me of Dora's letter. I knew just where to find it because I often use it in a program about stories written in letter by ordinary women across the years.

Another gift from storytelling.


Dream traveling

I woke up dreaming again this morning. I think Jim was there - in the dream - but .... I am not absolutely sure.

As I woke up I could see that I was in a bedroom in a lovely B&B somewhere else, say like England. It was in an older time - not today. I recognized that immediately because of the furniture and a small fire burning in the fireplace.

People talking outside the window. Not that I understood what they were saying because they were speaking with a beautiful accent - no doubt British. It had to be British to sound that precisely clipped and correct. Ah, I love to hear a British accent.

By now, I am opening my eyes. I looked around. Darn. I am in my room in my very own bed warm under my favorite quilt. And - -  since my bedroom is on the second floor there is no one talking or walking-by outside my window.

"Why was I in the other room in the dream",  I asked myself out loud. The cat moved at my feet disturbed by hearing my voice.

When I lifted the quilt so that I could sit up - I got an inkling of the why.

The iPad tells the story. Instead of reading in bed, like I used to,  I watch Netflix movies on my iPad most nights.

This morning Netflix is paused but the screen shows what I was watching when I fell asleep -

Foyle's War  - which is set in Britain, with the marvelous man of few words, Michael Kitchen starring as Foyle.

The rooms are of another time ---- another place ---- and most rooms do look like a B & B I would like to book a room in.

Hmm. I do have a new Passport - Could I be telling myself to take a trip - "across the pond?"


Dreaming stories

Jim was always willing to listen and to talk when I was thinking my way into a new story.

As I woke up this morning I was still in a dream with my arms around Jim and his holding me. He began to melt away as I became more awake so I quickly whispered "thank you for coming."

The Christmas holidays are a testing time for me and the family. We miss Jim. The games and days have lost a bit of their sparkle and joy without him. "Dad always added the happy" Karen said yesterday. "That's true," I said and added, "now we have to work hard on our own to make the "happy" happen." That feels like a tall order and I am grateful I feel more up for it than I did for a long time.

Our 60th wedding anniversary is this week.

Last night my son Jim called to set a date to go with me to see The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars movie playing at the Uptown movie theater on Connecticut Avenue. I am a devoted Star Wars Fan and I love the Uptown Theater.

New Years Eve, 1955, on our honeymoon in Washington, DC, Jim and I went to see 'What Happened to Harry" at the Uptown Theater.

Change is ever-present in this city. Buildings regularly fall to the wrecking ball and rise ugly. However, very little has changed in the l930s-1940s low-rise shopping area where the Uptown theater is located. I often think about it's timelessness as I drive down the long familiar stretch of asphalt and pot holes.

Jim rides with me. Even though he has been gone almost four years he would not be a stranger on this path. Connecticut Avenue is the primary way we traveled to and from DC after we moved into our house in 1970. Memories crowd every inch of the way from Constitution Avenue to our turn off at Manor Road, Chevy Chase, MD.  For ten years Jim's favorite office was at the corner of Connecticut and R Street. When I worked for the League of Women Voters their office was located on M Street so I rode with Jim mornings and evenings most days. Newly empty nesters   with our kids off at college we often stopped along the way for supper out.

When I talk with him now I point out any changes - like favorite restaurants that have moved or closed or an empty lot where once there was an old building. I also remind both of us of things that happened like the morning we drove to George Washington Hospital for his surgery or a hurry-up ride to National Airport to put me on a plane to Africa. This is my way of keeping our story alive.

I do miss hearing his take on things but I know him well enough to sort of guess what he would say to recapture his good advice or to have just a bit of friendly sparring.

Right now I am working on several new stories - one a history story about women and the other a new take on Jim and me and our life together for sixty years.

So it does not surprise me to wake up with my hands beneath his jacket hugging him close  - - -  I know that, just like always - he's helping me with the story.


Stage Kiss - at Round House Theater

A few days ago my daughter Karen and I decided to extend our Christmas "doings" so we bought tickets for a play.

This afternoon my daughter Karen and I laughed out loud, along with the rest of the audience at Round House Theater , Bethesda, MD, during a performance of Stage Kiss.  It was great!!!

As I expected Excellent reviews are posted on Joel Markowitz's fabulous site, DC Metro Theater Arts.

It feels so good to lose yourself in a play as actors work hard to keep you laughing and to draw you into their world on stage. In addition to outstanding performances I have always appreciated the sets designed for plays at the Round House Theater - and today was another winner for me.  I particularly enjoyed seeing several characters wearing ridiculous orange clothes from the 1970s. Could not help wondering if they were the "real thing" or successful copies.

The run of the play ends tomorrow. We were lucky that we caught Stage Kiss on the next to last day.

On the drive home Karen and I agreed we need more real-life theater performances. We have already checked theater schedules and picked a few we want to see. Come on 2016!


Our Star Wars Christmas

For weeks all eyes have been on the calendar waiting for December 18 and the opening of The Force Awakens, the latest Star Wars film.
Now I am a Star Wars enthusiast but I was overwhelmed by the devotion of the guy in Lafayette, CA who made this 700 pound Death Star for his roof in October and proclaimed he would not take it down until after the new film was released.

This topped everything I had been reading for months as fans eagerly looked forward to a new episode. I was especially eager to see it since they reassembled many of the original actors from the first films. Harrison Ford is back as Hans Solo along with Carrie Fisher once again playing Princess Leia.

Our grand-daughter Juliana is a hard core fan of all things Star Wars. I was not surprised when she told me at Thanksgiving that she had tickets for the opening night at the Uptown Theater in DC. Like thousands of other fans across the US she had ordered as soon as they were available on Fandango.

Yesterday grand-son Jamie Fox posted this picture taken at an opening event in San Francisco area.

I was so happy to see his smiling face as he kneeled close to R2D2  - "a real one from Lucasfilm."

Later I laughed out loud when his Mom, my daughter Robin, reminded him of a Star Wars backstory in our family.

# Star Wars Christmas Memories: Round 3

Christmas 1997 is known in our family as "The Star Wars Christmas."

Jim and I were really looking forward to Christmas that year. Robin and Brad were flying in from Los Angeles with their three young boys. The rest of our immediate family lived in the DC Area so the whole of our family would be together for the holidays. Jim was determined that we plan things to make it as memorable for everybody as we could.

When he read the write ups about the Smithsonian exhibit "The Magic of Myth" Jim announced "this is IT. We will all go to the Star Wars exhibit together."  I was quite skeptical about it.  In 1977 when Star Wars initially appeared in the theaters Jim and I had schedules packed with work responsibilities and family doings.  For recreation time we did not include long lines to see what looked like a "kids flick."  Sorry  - - apologies to George Lucas.

 Jim was stubbornly determined and he blocked all of my objections. Finally, as a last ditch effort, I countered, "we ought to at least look at the films before we make the final commitment." He agreed to that.  We borrowed our son's VHS set.  So Jim and I met those marvelous characters for the first time on a table top television in our den. OK. That did it. The plan was set.

Early December 23rd we set out to the Smithsonian Exhibit in a caravan of two vans. We had a group of 11 - Jim and me, Jimmy and wife Monica, daughter Karen, Robin and her husband Brad and 5 grandchildren ages ranging from 11year old to 18 months.
Jim insisted that we leave home early in order to get parking spaces near the Air Space Museum and we did. Our little crowd stepped into the lobby as the doors opened at 10 am. The lines inside were not heavy so very quickly we entered the world George Lucas created.

The exhibit featured all the stunning costumes and other artifacts from the film -  from Jabba the Hutt in his cave to a display with the small robot R2D2 and golden Threepio. For the adults there also were fascinating panels explaining all the influences on George Lucas as he wrote the scripts. Those influences ranged  from Saturday morning Flash Gordon space serials to the ideas of Joseph Campbell. This was not a kids flick - it was the story of a quest!

Step back in time for a virtual visit to the 1997 exhibit: The Magic of Myth for a sense of the flavor and scope to the exhibit.

Photography must not have been allowed in the exhibit because I do not have any pictures and I promise you I would have been taking plenty if I could have.

The only pictures I have are taken in the cafeteria with everyone gnawing on a hot dog for a fast lunch rather than spend more time away from the exhibit.

I did come home with this silly souvenir Ewok cup - in fact I bought one for everybody. Maybe I had a vision of all of us drinking coffee or hot chocolate together using these cups. Sad to report, I am the only one who still has their cup.

Jim was already a fan of Joseph Campbell and his writings so those panels elevated his appreciation of the film to a new level. I also loved connecting with the Campbell ideas to deepen my understanding of the film  as well as seeing all the "artifacts". Every one of us had something special that caught our attention even the youngsters.  Danny, almost 4 years old, was fascinated by "Darf" Vader with his mask and deep voice.

We were caught up in the "magic of myth" so Jim and I bought the re-mastered and improved video set. As soon as we got home everyone gathered in the den to watch the films while the visions and images  from the exhibit were fresh and strong in the Force. It was great!!!!  Jim had been so right.

But there is more to this story for us.
Myth and magic don't just fade away you know.

Even though I had been cool to the idea in the beginning the imagination, images, and storytelling of George Lucas and the films pulled me in.  I had just started performing as a storyteller in 1997. While I watched the Star Wars films over and over and over I learned a lot of basics about how to seamlessly knit a story. And I love the story and the wonderful characters.

After that Christmas when we went to CA to visit Robin and her family I took the Star Wars films, until she bought her own set. The kids watched the films again and again with Jim and me. We talked Star Wars trivia. Played Star wars games. Read Star Wars books. I especially liked the after-novels by Timothy Zahn.

I thought of our grand-daughter Juliana when she was standing in line outside the Uptown theater the other night waiting to see "The Force Awakens". Opening this post you see grand-son Jamie with his old friend R2D2 in San Francisco. His brother Dan, who was out of town, commented - "I hate you." and I understood he wanted to be there too because I have to admit I felt a tinge of that same wish when Jamie's picture came through on my Face Book feed.

My "Hope: that our family will share a Star Wars film together again. It's a lasting connection.

Thank you, Jim.


Artworks as Personal Story: Two African Carvings

Recently I wrote a series of blog posts about some of the art works hanging in my daughter's home and how they passed from my hands to hers. I enjoyed catching those memories so now I am paying 
attention to the art works that hang on my walls and where they came from.


This wooden carving has stood on a shelf in the den since 1971. 

One afternoon when I was browsing through interesting shops in near-by Georgetown (DC) I walked into a small art gallery which was crowded with intriguing African objects.  At the time I was a full-time college student art major taking many art history classes. I was drawn to this figure. Even  though it was small it had a presence as it stood in its place. It reminded me of the pictures in my art history textbooks in the chapters about the influence of African "primitive carvings" on Picasso and many other European artists in the 1900s. It was for sale. The price was surprisingly low. She has been here ever since.

Over time I have learned that this is an Ashanti fertility doll. There are many interpretations of the image which all have the large head, pronounced and upright breasts and small arms extended on either side.  She is a classic figure. Perhaps that is why she has such presence. I have drawn her and photographed her just because I like the simplicity and directness of the carving. She helps me to see and understand why these "primitive" objects had such a powerful influence on the artists who discovered their simple forms and used them to break away from the accepted images of the past. 

Or maybe, there was more. During those days when I was becoming an active advocate for women's issues I appreciated that her head was the dominant feature of the figure. 

Along the way I have added bases to give it more of a presence. I often change them. This is the latest composition. 

Ashanti Figure - Hand Carved Wood - purchased in 1972 - no known date

Animal Figure - Hand Carved Wood - purchases in 1985 - no known date
In 1985 I took The American Album, an art project representing American Women Artists, to the United Nations Conference on Women which was held in Nairobi, Kenya. I was in Kenya for three incredible weeks. During that time I made a brief safari to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to visit Amboseli Park to see the "animals" in natural habitat.

On the drive to Tanzania Francis, our driver and guide, stopped at several road-side stands where people were selling local crafts. I was attracted by the contrasting shapes of this intriguing figure and the power of the negative space in the core of the body. I was profoundly moved by the game rides through Amboseli Park where the animals roam free in a space that suggests Genesis and this figure also had mystery about it. The figure was not expensive so I bought it even though adding it to my already bulging baggage was foolish. The basket was a second purchase - also without considering how I would manage to get it into my suitcase. I worked that out by filling the basket with clothes - - and leaving some things on the bed in my hotel room. Since then I look for small items to take home.

The figure and the basket seemed to belong together so the carvings stand side by side.


TIS THE SEASON TO LAUGH - Tales in the Village


Join us for an evening of entertainment 

                              Stories, Music and ... Juggling

Friendship Heights Community Center
4433 S. Park Street
Chevy Chase, MD

7:30 PM      FREE to the Public



David Wallace - Mixed Media Collage, 2004: Artwork As Personal Story Series, No. 4

Seven years ago on a warm May afternoon Jim and I stopped by Neptune Gallery in Bethesda, MD. This review by Claudia Rousseau was probably what lured us to visit the exhibition.

We were particularly captivated by the collages in the show. David Wallace was so assured with his use of mixed papers and fragments of images to create works which suggested subtle and appealing stories. Those works really spoke to me - maybe you will agree if you look at the galleries on his website. 

We came home with this one. I hung it in my office near my computer and I loved having it near-by. 

Several years ago I gave it to Robin for her birthday. Something about the piece looked like one that she would like and enjoy.

Today it is on a shelf in her living room.

My favorite genre for my own art is collage. Cutting and piecing bits of color to make new compositions satisfies me. My textiles are also collages - its a form that suits me. 

About ten years ago I reluctantly began to realize that I needed to find homes for my favorite art works - whether they are mine or works Jim and I added to our  personal collection. At first I moved slowly with giving things away but lately I am realizing that I need to get on with it. 

And I am - but I am holding onto the stories and connections they stir.


Stories in the Sky

Since September I have been on and off airplanes in five states - NC, TN, KS, SC and CA - traveling to tell stories. Flying is not my most favorite sport ...but as I review the trips I have to say I sat with some very fascinating folks and the conversations were worth the rolls and bumps. 

One conversation was with seat mate who was a Boeing mechanic. He recognized my nerves and every time the wind tossed us around he would tap my arm saying, "don't worry about that one. The wings will stay one." We talked about a lot more and a native of the Jonesborough, TN area he was a natural storyteller.

I loved the trip to Kansas City, KS when I flew out to tell The Hello Girls at the National World War One Museum and Memorial. I was traveling with my son Jim who was as eager as I was to visit that museum. We were sitting separately because we both prefer aisle seats. My seat-mate was friendly and ready to chat. By the time I reached our destination he had filled me in on some places to eat in SC when I was there performing for the Starburst Storytelling Festival and he urged me to have a dinner at Jack's Stack Barbecure in Kansas City. Jimmy and I were very grateful for his advice as we ate our fill of fabulous food later that evening. The museum was a total winner and I was grateful for the opportunity to tell the WWI Hello Girls story where it belongs.

Several weeks later returning from SC I shared a two seat side of the aisle with a Clemson post-doc student. He was as unhappy as I was about being on an itty bitty prop plane especially since he was in the window seat right beside the rotating propellors. We talked and laughed our way through some rough flying all the way to Dulles Airport. While the wheels squealed and smoked on the runway on landing he pulled out his phone and took a Selfie of us laughing..then he gave me a big bear hug.

On my way West to CA from Dulles Airport, I was sitting in an aisle seat next to a SC guy tall enough to make a name for himself on a basketball court. First off he introduced me to his lovely girl friend who was  quite small on the Face Time screen. Later he told me he was from Charleston. When I expressed my sadness over the church shooting tragedy he told me he knew the lone survivor of that horrifying madness. He shared his story and showed me a few pictures taken at the Memorial Service which included President Obama. I felt touched and quite privileged to hear the story.

Six hours is a long time headed to San Francisco. Later when my seat mate nodded off I said something to a woman sitting across the aisle from me. (You know that is only about two feet away.) She was a darling contemporary.  Somehow we soon learned that we were fellow widows who had walked similar paths. She conducts Bible retreats and exudes warm kindness to everyone. We exchanged emails and I hope our paths will cross again in PA.

Two weeks later returning home on my final flight for this year I was sitting with a young guy who coming home to his TV job in DC. We warmed to each other and were soon chatting about the Thanksgiving holiday. He had me in stitches with stories of his week with four family fema-nazis saying, "every conversation ended with me on the defense of my gender." Later he shared a remarkable story of his family history. HIs vivid images gave away his theater background and I nudged him toward Speakeasy DC saying "you are a natural."

Was it really a five hour trip? 

I know people who say they never talk to seat mates when they fly. "I like to read, or work,  or watch a movie", they say.  To each their own. 

How about you. What stories do you gather when you are trapped in 24 inches of cramped space  while you are sitting in the limitless vastness of the sky? 

(P.S.  I borrowed the "sitting in the sky" line from Louis C.K. because I laugh out loud over that image and hope you will too.)

Thinking myself back to California

Home after two wonderful weeks in California with daughter Robin and her family. Then daughter Karen and grand-daughter Juliana arrived for turkey on Thanksgiving. It was a good time together.

I did not get to do as much as I had hoped because on arrival I was felled by the revival of an airplane malady I picked up on my storytelling  trip to SC.

I felt terrible for three days. Saved by Robin's good care, fine Urgent Care doctors, and three days of back-to-back Hallmark Christmas movies. Don't be misled by my going to an URGENT care - -  IMO a really good Urgent Care is much better than dragging into a hospital ER when you are "a traveler." I recommend STAT MED if you are in the Walnut Creek-Lafayette-Concord area.

When Jim died I was not only flattened by grief I also felt extremely vulnerable medically. After
living with a doctor for more than 56 years I was used to having medical care close by - all the time.
After a year of trying to take care of myself and deal with a doctor I did not really like,  I joined a Concierge Practice - where the doctors know you, talk to you and are available when you need them For example: I called my doctor from California. She had been treating the first wave of this malady and when she heard my rough voice and coughing he said, "you need to see someone to have them listen to your chest." So I did. If you have ever considered entering a concierge practice check into it. I found out it was more affordable than I thought it would be and it has been just right for me. Yes, I use my Medicare and Secondary just as I always did.

Robin asked me if I would bring the costumes and tell The Hello Girls while I was there, Now, really, how could I turn down such a wonderful request? She produced a fabulous house concert event. Her family room became a very nice theater. She only invited people she thought would be interested in the history and the show - and her emails and calls turned her theater into a lively "full house." It was a very satisfying evening for me and the audience declared themselves very happy to hear the story. All good.

Robin and I also spent some time playing a favorite game - "find the story" after we stopped by to photograph a local WW1 Memorial and then traced the history of the who, what, and why it was there. We picked up some interesting history and found a hero. I love this work! Love it! Love it! Love it!

Now I am home. I have un- packed, hear the washing machine sloshing the clothes around downstairs and think about how I have to tackle the mail today. Two weeks away and the bills, throw away mailings and magazines pile up.

But first, I wanted to think myself back to Robin's  - - -  for just a bit!


Ellouise Schoettler - Textile Collage Series, mid-1990's: Artwork As Personal Story Series, No. 6

These are textile works from a series I worked on in the later 1990s. They were shown at Creative Partners Gallery, Bethesda, MD and at Washington Theological Union, Takoma Park, MD.

They were inspired by light filtering through stained glass church windows. I passed these to Robin and I kept the larger ones - sold a few and have enjoyed living with the others.

People will ask - and I answer "yes, it took a long time and I loved every minute of it."

High Cotton


Monet's Garden


Gathering Round

A few things to say.

RE: The Hello Girls

Since September The Hello Girls and I have been cavorting together in five states - TN, MO, MD, SC, and last week in CA.  It has been fabulous - a chance to meet many new people and to hear their reaction to the story.  Thank you to all who have come to hear this story celebrating women veterans and the role they played in WWI history.

We have plans for 2016 so more will be revealed.

But for now I am concentrating on something else - the joy of being with family.

I am in California visiting my daughter Robin and her family - husband Brad and their three boys - now young men. This past week with Robin has been filled with laughter and that is just grand.

Today we are expecting more to join us. We are waiting for my daughter Karen to fly in tonight from Dulles and my grand-daughter Juliana, recently moved to Los Angeles, to drive in this evening. Tomorrow we will crowd around the table to relish the turkey son-in-law Brad is cooking for Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful gathering although there are a few pieces missing.

Son Jim and his wife Monica and their other daughter Alison are in Maryland. Our Shih Tzu is with his breeder. The cat, wrongly named "Angel" is staying with Jim and Monica. I hear she is exploring every inch of their house - including trying to make an escape through the chimney.

Holidays are a blessing, aren't they, for bringing folks together.

Through our memories and stories Jim will be with us.


Maryland Plein Air Oil Sketches, Circa 1920-30's: Artwork As Personal Story Series, No. 3

This is a picture I call The Red Barn.
It is unmarked with either a title, a date, or the name of the artist.

Today it hangs in my daughter Robin's dining room. There are three more similar plein air oil sketches on canvas of the same size - probably done on the same day. None have any identifying words on them.

On a Fall Saturday afternoon in 1976 I stumbled upon them in sort of art-junk shop in Funkstown, MD . Funkstown is a small town with a lot of history. At the time we went it also had many second-hand shops with "stuff" and other shops filled with old books. Just the sort of places I love.

The day before my cousin Tom called saying he had discovered a place in the country that we were sure to fall in love with and enjoy. It was also a place that had interesting small restaurants with "good food." We were game. Tom and his then wife Pam picked us up and we were off.  All his promises about Funkstown came true along with a good afternoon with  Tom - a fascinating word smith and artist who had charmed me since our childhood in Charlotte, NC.

I don't remember the name of the shop where these small paintings were hanging on a crowded wall but I remember being drawn to them. Jim too was smitten with them - the subtle light, the simple shapes and composition. These oil sketches are the kind of notes an artist makes as they think out the plan for a larger painting which would most probably be painted in the studio. For me, this is like the handwriting in a letter which takes you close to the person who wrote it. When I asked about the artist the shop owner said he did not know a name but he had been told it was a Baltimore woman and that the sketches were probably done in the 1920's or 30's. Being a woman and a painter, I knew I wanted them to go home with us. It was a lucky and surprisingly cheap decision - $10 each.

These pictures hung in our dining room for years. Until - you guessed it - I wrapped them up and carried them on the plane to Manhattan Beach hoping Robin would like them for her new home in California. She welcomed them - and they moved to the Bay area when she and her family did and I will be able to see them as I eat Turkey this week at her table on Thanksgiving.


Sister Mary Irenita Ecklin's 1970 Watercolor - Artwork as Personal Story, No. 2

Another piece of art work now in Robin's collection that has a strong connection to the my past - - as well as to hers.

In 1968 Sister Mary Irenita Ecklin was the Chair of the Art Department at Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross, Washington, DC. She interviewed me that year and accepted me into the academic program when I decided to return to college as an Art Major in Painting. 

I remember that she wondered how difficult it would be for me considering I had three elementary school age children - but I shrugged confidently and said, "not to worry." So I dove into classes and rediscovering myself and the changing world outside my kitchen. 

Ironically I would learn later that Dunbarton was founded in the 1930s with a primary purpose of providing college education for working women.

My children often had to sit out a day on the Dunbarton campus when I was in class on an out-of-school day for them. They came to know the place and the instructors. You see, that year, I was at the beginning of the tidal wave of women returning to college. There were only 4 married women registered at the time.  

I can't say the kids always loved being there - they have their stories about that but - - they had some interesting experiences, especially in the fine library where they set up study desks in the stacks. When Sister Irenita had a show of her wonderful watercolors I bought this one. I don't remember the price exactly,but I imagine I paid $100 or the work. We lived with it at home and for a time Jim hung it in his office on R Street downtown. It became a familiar! 

When Robin moved to New York and was "shopping at home" for art for the walls of her Madison Avenue apartment she asked for this piece and it has hung in her home since. It is now a familiar to a wider group. When I come to visit it reminds me of a warm and understanding woman who was my teacher and later my friend.

Stephen White's 1970s Wood-Cut: Artwork as Personal Story, No. 1

Earlier this week I arrived in San Francisco for visit with my daughter and her family.

The surprise for me the last few days have been realizing how many stories there are to gather by reviewing her art work and cataloging how it got to be hers. A lot of the pieces are works I made and others are works I gave her and they there is a whole category of works by Washington artists who have been part of our lives.

Don't you love art works and family treasures that have personal history for you? There is bound to be a story wrapping it!

This large Stephen White wood-cut from the 1970s has history for me and connects to my daughter Robin.

I bought it at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina about 1974 because I loved the ladies and their hats when I saw it in the museum shop. At the time I was a graduate student working on an MFA Degree at American University which kept me in the painting studios or in the museums. The image and composition had so many echoes of Japanese art and Art Deco that I wanted it in my home.

Jim was delighted when I brought it home (which was not always the case with my building art colectionliving with it and in the 1980s loaned it to Robin for her NYC apartment. The loan turned into a gift and she brought it to CA when she moved out here. Ever since..I have loved reconnecting with this image whenever Jim and I came to visit and seeing how it is a part of her life. Amazing to do the math ... It's been part of our lives for 41 years...history building.


A look at lists

Making a list - getting ready for my trip to California. Looking forward to seeing my family and friends and catching up. There is a bitter sweetness to these trips West without Jim. Some say, "if it makes you sad,why do you go?" I used to try and explain it - I won't try now. Some people just don't get it! and, that is that!


Another story of women in World War One

Investigating another group of unknown women who served in WWI. Working at an Archive yesterday, I was going through a file of 75 to 100 carefully written responses - in beautiful cursive, using pen and ink on personal stationery - from women who had been contacted to volunteer. All answered, "I am ready to serve." Holding these notes, written 100 years ago, I imagined their voices, repeating as a chorus - "I am ready to serve." I feel so fortunate to to touch this history - to hold it in my hands - and yes, there is a story here.


Ask the Question

When Marybeth Evans, Director of the Starburst Storytelling Festival in Anderson,SC, invited me to tell The Hello Girls and to present my Flesh on Old Bones Workshop as a start-up for a community story search they are initiating, I was excited and delighted. In my experience when you ask a group to share their family stories you are in for a treat and surprises. Now I am home and winding up the paperwork that always follows a road-trip. I am thinking about last week and mulling over what happened - all good. But - I realized there was something missing. I did not have time to share this story. Because the message is so important I am sending it now. The young Pouli in this story is the KEY actor because he asks a question - something we all have to do if we are hope to find the stories in our families. The Cowtail Switc


Flying Home

As the sun was fading in the sky over the Greenville Spartanburg Airport last evening I was waiting to board this plane to fly home to Dulles Airport.

This is not my favorite air plane. I had not read the fine print on my reservation in time to make changes. So  - - having ridden one of these  - the 3 - 800 Haviland DASH - from Tri-Cities TN in September I knew how it could roar and toss and turn - no way does it ever DASH.  It pokes along. I was nervous - oh, truth - I was scared. So - preparing for the worst -  I took one half of a small pill to help with that.

And the Lord provided.

Turned out my seat mate was a clean-cut, red head with a crew cut - a grad student at Clemson University - who took one look at the propellors outside our window, which he was sitting next to - turned to me and said, - "I don't like this". I agreed, " I don't either." And that opened our two hour conversation. We began to talk and we talked and talked and talked. And best of all we laughed. We laughed all the way to Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.

I learned about why he came to Clemson from up North, and how he liked living in the South and more and more and more. And he was curious about storytelling and a grand-mother traveling from home to tell stories. We told stories to each other and at one point when the plane jumped - we found out that we had both laughed out loud at the Louis C.K. comedy routine about flying - "what's the matter with you people, you are sitting in a chair in the sky?"

The time sped by - slower than ususal on a plane, that's true - and louder - but, hey. it had turned into fun.

Before we landed, he took out his phone. "we have to take a selfie." And he did.
He caught the moment.

He has my email and I hope to see it after his partying is done this week-end.

The nightmare I expected had flipped into - not a DASH - but a good ride home.


Hello Olive Shaw !

A few bits to wind up the trip to Kansas City last week where I presented The Hello Girls at the National World War One Museum and Memorial.

My son Jim and I arrived at the National World War I Museum and Memorial Saturday morning at 10 sharp to meet Curator Doran Cart who showed me their new acquisiton which is beautifully installed "in the spotlight".

The new acquisition is Olive Shaw's Signal Corps uniform from the days when she was one of The Hello Girls who served in France. When I called Chief Curator Doran Cart to ask if I could see anything they had on the Hello Girls he told me they had just been given a uniform. " I have been looking for and hoping for a donation like this for 20 years." "Whose is it?" I asked. I could hardly believe hearing, "It belonged to Olive Shaw." Tears rolled down my cheeks. " I know her" I told him. She is one of the 3 characters in my performance. After two years of working with her words I was very moved to come this close to the real "her."

He called back later and said that he would be able to have it on display for the show. What a thrill!!!

For me it was another experience with the power of objects to bring history to life and a personal example of the importance of the role museums play in keeping history real and vibrant.

The museum is amazing - the exhibits take you into the experience of the world war not just by looking at maps, weapons and pictures - the curators bring the people as well as the soldiers to life. They are marvelous storytellers.

I was grateful to be presenting The Hello Girls where World War One is remembered and to give voices to the three monologues created from their words for them to tell their story. The audience gave them a standing ovation - a "thank you for your service." 

While there I gathered more material to either add to the show as it is or enlarge to another show featuring more of these women who went "Over There" during WWI - - -
women who served near the battlefields where the sounds of battle roared in their ears and the earth shook beneath their feet as the big guns fired. 

These are the women General John Pershing called the "switchboard soldiers."


Getting it Together

When I walked into the house Monday afternoon after 4 days away in Kansas City the cat checked me over before coming close. How do I tell her that I am lashed to the computer all day and tomorrow preparing to take off again on Sunday - this time The Hello Girls and I are going to Anderson, SC.  Looking forward to being there where I can pop in and order sweet tea and grits anytime I want them and they will be there waiting for me.

Also happy to be presenting The Flesh on Old Bones workshop which shows people how to use genealogy techniques to find and enrich their stories.  I love it. Spent all day tracking down a woman who went to France during WWI, who is from Anderson, SC and who I think may be a character in a story I am working on. Went onto Ancestry. com and got lost - - but came back with a wealth of material that just maybe the steak of a new story. This kind of research and finding stories is what opened the way to storytelling for me some twenty plus years ago - - - I still love playing at being Nancy Drew, especially when the puzzle pieces are fitting together.

Now on to the laundry or I won't even be going to the grocery store.


The Hello Girls at National World War One Museum October 11

October 11 - The Hello Girls at the National World War One Museum in Kamsas City, MO.

Free to the public - but RSVP required.

If you want to know more about the program
go to my website



My lovely plans for last week began to fall apart three days before the week started when I backed into a car in a parking lot. The good news is that no-one was hurt - - but my car was damaged and went into the shop for 10 days.

My sister arrived three days later on the same day Pope Francis was landing at Andrews Joint Base to begin his historic trip to the United States. We expected the city to be flooded with pilgrims and traffic blocked. As it turned out it did not effect us at all. On Tuesday morning daughter Karen and I drove over to pick Kathy up at Reagan Airport in DC.  Karen, like most people who worked in offices downtown, had been asked to work at home during the Pope's visit. Now - that turned out to be a marvelous blessing for us. 

Two days after my fender-bender with the car my back became quite a problem. I could not walk without severe pain.  You see how this is working out. The connectedness of events in our lives pops out when you begin to really look at it. 

That afternoon Kathy and I went to check on the status of my car while Karen took Leia, our little Shih Tzu, to the Vet. There is a back story. 
Several Vets had been working on an infection in her right eye. It was not healing, in fact it was worse. She was scheduled to see an eye specialist. Later that afternoon, as I drove home, Karen called. "You have to make a decision, Mom." We raced to join her and meet with the eye doctor. Damage from the infection out-of-hand. They removed Leia's eye next day. 

Kathy and I had planned a sweet week of talk, fun and several short road trips. Not happening.  

My back was no better - walking painful and difficult. Now Leia in for surgery and care for recovery. Yikes. 

But - perhaps because our plans changed - was a blessing. 

We were not racing from pillar to post so we had time to journey along with Pope Francis thanks to CNN. We saw it all. 

Along with following the commentators along the way.  

It was good. 

Pope Francis has arrived home to Rome safely leaving much for millions to remember and think about.

Now we start a new calendar page - 
My back is improved and continuing to improve. Leia is healing.

Kathy and I have had lots of wonderful sister time together that also included Karen. Kathy goes home tomorrow and I will miss her - lots.

Lists, lists, lists -to prepare for the storytelling schedule ahead in October.

But I know there are changes in me - - - something has touched and warmed my heart and opened my soul to heal. 

There is room for JOY.


Pushing Boundaries Returns - for one performance

Bringing Pushing Boundaries to Tales in the Village September 16. Hope you will check out this link for details.

For Details : Check this Link


A Drive A-long Story - 1

The other night as I was driving over to Alexandria to tell Love Notes I snapped photos with my phone whenever I was stopped at a light or stalled in the 5 PM "going home" traffic. Later when I put up the first two pictures which were taken on Connecticutt Avenue - they worked as story-prompts - which I made into Facebook posts. Decided I wanted to save it - who knows I may go somewhere with this story - in fact I know I will as I have been thinking about it for several years.

Note to explain "waving to Jim"-  Jim is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Jim and I spent a 3 day honeymoon in DC - then moved here in 1968.

I will be ISC Teller in Residence for a wk in September. 



July, 1978

The ERA MARCH, Washington Mall, Washington, DC

More than 100,000 women wearing white - the connection to the women who fought for the Vote - marched in favor of Congress granting an extension on the time given to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

When the vote was taken that year  theygranted an additional three years.

I was there that day marching with a group under the flag of the Coalition of Women's Arts Organiztions.

It was an exciting, energizing, and hopeful gathering on a very hot and humid Summer day in Washington. We were eyewitnesses to history.

Those days were filled with challenges. The memories of the times and the people are vivid for me
and being a part of the 1970s Women's Movement changed my life.

Pushing Boundaries is my personal story of those days - -

I will be telling PUSHING BOUNDARIES:

2 PM  Thursday  September 10 at the International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, TN

7:30 PM  Wednesday, September 16, Friendship Heights Village Com. Ctr., Chevy Chase, MD

I hope women will come to hear this story and to remember their own.


WInding Down July and Looking Ahead

So -- July is winding down.
Its been a very full month for me.

There has been the 2015 Capital Fringe and five performances of The Hello Girls,
my 79th birthday - which has not fully settled in yet, and the blasted heat that falls on Washington every July and August.

There have also been a few decisions to agonize over - like should I drive to Jonesborough or take a plane. I finally decided to drive. I will be there for a week and to settle in, work and be happy I want to have my laptop, ofcourse, and my printer too. For me, its always a good idea to set up a small office in the hotel room - keeps me feeling comfortably at home where-ever I am. Do you do that?
And - - just saying - - driving keeps me from changing planes in Atlanta on Labor Day week-end.

Trips are better for me if I take my toys with me. First the office supplies that I need to keep my business underway. Fortunately with laptops and iPads, files stored in Drop-box, and books on my Kindle, I don't have nearly as much to pack as I used to that's true, and it leaves space to put in my familiar quilt - - jus saying.

Astrology says that a "Cancer" is a home-body and I run true to that description but I also like to go places, meet people and see the world. So - toys help me go, go, go.

There is a lot of travel in store for me until December. September I have the week in Jonesborough telling five shows at the International Storytelling Center and then another drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to tell the Arlington Story in Bridgeville, DE which will be followed by a couple of days on a sister-trip to Staunton, VA with my sister, Kathy. We are staying at an intertesting B and B so that we can tour, the town see a Shakespeare play and re-visit the Woodrow Wilson home.

The Hello Girls story keeps my head focused a lot of the time on the WWI period. When Jim and I visited the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library we did not see the exhibit of WWI trenches ---
have you seen them? This is the discription on the website - "Immerse yourself in the new, state-of–the-art World War I trench exhibit complete with lights and sound to experience what life was like for soldiers as they engaged in battle. See authentic weapons and uniforms as you discover the unforgettable story of the doughboys." Don't want to miss that.

In October I will be telling The Hello Girls at the National World War One Museum and Memorial -
makes sense to me to see the trenches in Staunton - and then see more and more about "the Great War" when I get to the museum.

Late October I will be in Anderson, SC telling The Hello Girls at the Starburst Storytelling Festival along with four Flesh on Old Bones Workshops - all good to me.

November 13 The Hello Girls and I will be in Hagerstown, MD for the Maryland State BPW Meeting.

Then I go to California to visit with my daughter Robin and I suspect we will use some of that time to do more of the sleuthing about a group of the first Hello Girls that  we started last August.

I love this kind of research - its the Putting Flesh back on Old Bones and making stories as we go along. What's not to love?????