Monthly Archives: December 2014

New Years Eve – December 31, 2014


My beautiful orchid is fully open. Looking at it makes me happy. The blooms seem fuller and more vibrant than when they bloomed for Jim’s funeral Mass. The blooms began to open before Thanksgiving and now at New Years they are full and radiant.Maybe they needed the two year nap they have just wake-ed-up from.

I am a person who looks for signs and serendipities to give me hints and directions. This orchid shouts and sings its message of Jim to me. And its song is opening me up to accept new life just as the flower has accepted its reviving.

Maybe that is the reason I am not writing lists or making plans for 2015 today. I have some ideas of what I hope will happen in the New Year but I am not going to close any doors by making plans. I want to open my arms and my heart and hope I have sense enough to recognize the signs and songs the universe will sing for me.

Before he died Jim said, “I wonder where you will be a year from now.” That was almost three years ago. I responded, “I will be right here – loving you.” and I am… with no time limit.

But – – finally I do feel my spirits lifting. There is more light around me and I deeply appreciate the love Jim and I shared  instead of being engulfed in a suffocating fog.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 1.46.56 PMJim offered a sweet and loving toast to me and our years together for our 50th anniversary. I send one back to him – with love and gratitude.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year – filled with blessings  – and hoping that you too will recognize the messages coming to you.





Viva Better Said Than Done

http://March 2014 I had a chance to revisit this teen-age story, The Sock Hop, for a performance with Better Said  Than Done storytellers at the Auld Shebeen.

You can count on Better Said Than Done to fill the room with lively audiences who are ready to enjoy storytelling. Tellers love that  – –  which makes for a really good show.   I look forward to being on their stage again in 2015.




A Christmas Wind-up

Merry Christmas – December 25,2014


This orchid, left from my husband’s Memorial Mass  2 years and 10 months ago, began to bloom again three weeks before Thanksgiving.  By Christmas Day all seven blooms were fully open.  Watching the pregnant buds slowly open and bloom has been a beacon of hope and encouragement during this holiday season.

It is also an important connection to Jim. So I decided to use Jim’s Orchid which has been bursting with new life as a symbol of hope to go along with my Christmas Greetings.

Tonight is  Christmas Night. I am away from home. The quiet of this place gives me space to think about the past year and when I do I am extremely grateful for the blessings in my life: blessings of family and friends – including the Facebook Community, storytelling work that gives me satisfaction and joy, and stories to tell. The void left by Jim’s absence is enormous and I doubt it will ever feel any less than it does now – but I am learning to adjust. Jim often said, “we will adjust”, when situations changed  – – and we needed to “go with the flow.”

My new lists for 2015 include changes and challenges for me in almost every nook and cranny of my life. We will see how things work out – – – for certain it includes some travel, new stories, completing some over-due projects and a lot of organizing.

Most important – I wish everyone who comes across this post – peace and happiness, along with courage and strength to see you through the hard times  – – –  and red shoes to dance through the great times ahead.

Christmas-es Past

A Family Christmas Story – 2: At the beginning

 Christmas Season 2014:
Surprised today  when I “googled” Bargain Town USA – Brooklyn – 1957 and this post of mine was at the head of the Google selections. That seemed like a “sign” to re-remember this one again – so here it is.
Williamsburg Wreath, photo by e. schoettler

Christmas 2013

Continuing the review of blogs I have written about celebrating Christmas in our family.

Jim loved Christmas. He was raised in a large family in California surrounded by extended families in the area so he loved to celebrate – even when we were living so far from either family.

I, on the other hand, never really liked Christmas. Some of my childhood holidays are spiced with love and laughter and I prize those memories but many other are best forgotten.  My father was an alcoholic and the Christmas Holidays triggered unhappy memories for him and tension and unhappiness for the rest of us.
Jim’s love of the Season went a long way to teach me that Christmas is a time to be happy.

That’s one reason I like to look back on our Christmas-es together

Blog From December 2008

Christmas 1957
682 Argyle Road, Brooklyn New York.

We moved to Brooklyn in July 1957 when Jim graduated from medical school and was assigned to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn for his internship.

Christmas 1957

1957 was our first Christmas on-our-own. Jim and I were married December 30, 1955 and Jim came to Charlotte for that Christmas with my family. The next year Jimmy was one month old and we went to Charlotte for the holidays and for Jimmy’s Baptism at Assumption Catholic Church, where Jim and I were married the year before.

Our first Christmas ornaments purchase at Bargaintown USA, Brooklyn, NY, 1957

We still have and prize a few of the fragile glass ornaments that we bought at Bargaintown USA – one of the pioneer warehouse-type operations in Brooklyn. The balls are decorated with silver glitter.

Christmas Ornament, circa 1957, purchased from Bargain Town USA,  Brooklyn, NY

What was bright and shiny for years is now darkly tarnished by 50 years of being wrapped and un-wrapped with newspaper scraps.

In those days an intern’s salary was laughable so we planned a very spare Christmas.

The single interns took the duty on Christmas so the married guys could spend the day with their families. It was a swap. Married guys worked New Years Eve. I was grateful and Jim would have hated missing being there for Jimmy’s first Santa.

Santa brought Jimmy the noisy push toy he is holding and a classic small wagon of colored wooden blocks. By the time he had opened all the gifts for him sent from Califoria and North Carolina he was over-whelmed. Stopping only long enough to take a bite of the candy he found in his stocking. He was a happy kid, laughing and grinning all day.

We went to mid-morning Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church about a mile away and then drove over to the hospital for a sumptious traditional dinner which we could not have afforded at home and I had no clue how to cook.

Jim says he thinks we drove to Manhattan after eating, parked the car, took out the stroller for Jimmy and walked down Fifth Avenue to see the animated windows at Saks and then take in the monumental tree at Rockefeller Center.

Back to 2013

Storytelling has taught me to watch for the ways life circles back on itself when I work on my personal stories.

Jim and I left Brooklyn in 1958 and did not live in New York again. However after we moved to Washington, DC area in 1964 we went back frequently and usually at Christmas.

In the late 1960s Jim entered training as a Psychoanalyist at the Washington Psychoanalytic School and every December Candidates attended the American Psychoanalytic Society Meeting in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. That meeting was always scheduled the weekend before Christmas – not convenient true, but that was a magic time to be in New York. And at the Waldorf – Astoria Hotel with all its lavish Christmas Decorations. On Park Avenue we were a quick walk from St Patrick’s Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center.
Not to mention access to all the wonderful museums in NYC.

Several Christmases in the 1970s we took Jimmy and Karen and Robin with us so that we could all share the magic – visit the Metropolitan Museum, see a few plays and take in all the sights of Manhattan.

Then one Christmas in the 1990s all our East Coast family which now included our grand-daughters
took the train and spent a Christmas week-end at the Waldorf -Astoria Hotel where we enjoyed the magic of New York City: Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Macy’s Santa Village and Santa Claus.

I am so grateful it is all part of our family’s Christmas stories. Just writing this down prompts me to  remember more and more and know that I will be looking for pictrures later today to see what stories the others remember when we sit down for supper Christmas Eve.

Brierly Road Christmas
Telling the stories of our family stories of Christmas
is the best way to remember and honor Jim and celebrate all he was to us.
Who are you remembering during this Holiday Season?
Back to 2014 –
We are remembering Jim and missing him as much as ever. I doubt that will ever change.
But it feels particularly strong today. Jim’s brother Tom passed away yesterday. Thursday – two days from now I will be flying to California to join the Schoettler family for his funeral.
I can start the trip remembering the wonderful memories of Jim and Tom and all their family –

Christmas Past


After Jamie, the oldest of daughter Robin’s three sons, was born, Jim and I often spent Christmas with Robin and Brad and their kids 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 forty years ago – 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.


A Bit of Genealogy

photo: ellouise schoettler, 2007
Late afternoon light
and fragile dried fowers
timeless mystery.
It is in the book.
All Isiah Harrison descendants
are related to Abraham Lincoln.Another genealogy surprise.
A few years ago Jim and I went to Harrisonburg, VA on a Genealogy search.
We visited the home place of Isiah Harrison and there we made another connection
to this man who is an early ancestor
of mine and learned that all Isiah Harrison descendants are also related
to Abraham Lincoln.
Well, I’ll be darned!

Remembering Dec. 7 1941

Ellouise Saluting
Earlier this morning I posted the following on Facebook:
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 he 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.

Many people say, “I wasn’t born then.”
You can still add to the story – if you ask someone who was there for their story.
Even as a child.

They remember.

Letters are an Important Link

Gus Keasler Letter Sig 2

Finding old letters can add richness to family stories.

There was so much to love about a letter I found at the DAR library 20 years ago  that I  prize it. There is advice and inspiration for stories. I quote it to make the point that asking questions of our elders is essential to learning the history of our families.

In 1893 when Mr. James Parks answers his grand-daughter’s questions about their family history he explains that he did not ask questions when he was young so he knows little about them.

He explains that when he was young he cared more “about fish hooks and pocket knives” than he did about family stories and “when I did want to know, my grandfather had fallen into a foolish state and could tell me nothing.”  So he explains why he could tell her very little about their history.

And, he counsels her to value the people she finds.

” You will see that there were no great ones among our ancestors. They were all in the common walks of life, no blue-blooded aristocracy, but just upright, high-minded honorable men and women. If there were no”great ones” among them, there were none of who we were ashamed.

September 9, 1893 (signed) James Parks


Holding Hands

Holding Hands

Sitting my parked car listening to Fifties on 5 on Sirius XM I watched a couple walk by.  When I noticed that they were holding hands my hands felt empty. I lifted a pen and wrote this poem.

Jim in a Composition 1 Composition with Jim, e.schoettler, 1979

I saw a couple holding hands as they walked down the street

imagining the warm feeling  in their hands

made me miss the connection

I’ve lost touch with Jim


We used to hold hands

he would take hold of mine

or I would reach out and touch him

his leg or arms or hand  –

I miss that connection.


When we were dating

I would wait

anticipating his touch

on my  hand or my arm

or his putting his arms around me.


As the months and years went on

I reached out for him

no longer shy

just wanting to feel him near me.


The world feels empty without that

I can’t touch him

he’s not here

I reach for him but

he has  gone


Death is so cruel.

it makes you understand

the importance of the things you took for granted.