Category Archives: Memoir

A Valentine Delivery

A bit of story for Valentines Day.

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The other day as I fiddled with my roses for Jim I was surprised when the Arlington tour bus made an unusual stop at the edge of our Section. Two men stepped down – the older man stepped down and the younger man jumped to the road. The older was carrying a large coloful bouquet wrapped in clear cellophane.  I watched them walk through the tombstones to deliver their Valentine near-by. In the bitter cold of the day we were all about the business of Love.


Weaving Women’s Stories

Weaving Stories of Women’s History

February 15 was Susan B. Anthony’s birthday. She is a legendary women’s rights advocate from the early 19th Century who led the struggle for Suffrage so that today we women have the right to vote.

When I was reading through some past blog posts and I came across this one from October 2007.  It seems right to re-post it on Susan B’s birthday as an homage, a connection, and a bit of reminder for the gift she and the women following her won and passed on.

October 30, 2007 The Veteran Feminists of America held a reception at the Sewall Belmont House on Capitol Hill, DC. which was once Alice Paul’s home and the seat of the National Women’s Party, particularly during the fight for gaining women’s right to vote.  This evening was an induction ceremony and I was one of the inductees. So many familiar faces. For any one who had been actively involved in the many parts of the struggles of the 1970s it was a flashback of those days.

I came to be a part of this group on that evening because of my activism in several roles for national organizations during the struggles to gain equal rights for women artists and for work as ERA Campaign Director for the League of Women Voters the last three years of the campaign to ratify the Equal Right Amendment.  It was a proud evening!!!

I reported on it for my blog that night.

Well, a lot has changed since that evening.

For one thing, I stopped dying my hair shortly after that and my budget is grateful.

Since well before 2007 I turned the skills learned in my lobbying days toward becoming a professional storyteller.  I still keep women, their history,  and their lives at the center of my work.

Last year I introduced a new story that is more personal to me than anyone would guess unless they knew my history as a feminist activist or know women’s history of being told to wait for years for the right to vote or for the Equal Rights Amendment – which, by the way, women do not have yet.

Months ago I discovered the story of THE HELLO GIRLS – switchboard operators who volunteered to the Army Signal Corps and served in France during WWI – and when they returned home after the war were denied their veterans benefits. Sound familiar? But they were determined to fight against this unfairness. They lobbied for 60 years – finally gaining their veterans benefits in 1977. Audiences gasp when they hear – “of 233 who served in France there were only 18 were still living.”

The “plucky” women of THE HELLO GIRLS have been left out of history books and remain in the shadows of history.

You can see, I am sure, why I am devoted to this story.

I consider my telling this story as lobbying for women’s rights but using a different megaphone.
THE HELLO GIRLS will return to the 2015 DC Capital Fringe in July. Perhaps they will show up in your area. Their story is our story.

Let’s celebrate Susan B. Anthony – she never gave up – – and neither can we, or our daughters, or all the women after us.


They Left Me Laughing

Textile Collage

Today I braved the cold to keep my doctor’s check-up appointment. First time I have been out for a few days so I was enjoying the window-shopping,  people watching and just noticing things hoping for something that might be particularly interesting  or maybe spark a story.

I sat in a straight chair in the small reception room, thumbing a magazine and “noticing.”

Then I really looked at the two women who were sitting across from me. They were dressed for being “on business” and chatting about several pieces of paper they shared. Then my eyes fell on the over-sized, bulging black sample case on the floor near the feet of one of the women. I have seen drug detail sales men and women many times in doctor’s offices  but I had never seen representatives from a company that billed itself for providing, “innovative hospice care” and had that slogan embroidered in white on the side a large black canvas sample bag.

It took me back. Then I was curious. And, since I was the only other person in the doctor’s waiting room I spoke up when it was polite to ask, ” I see your sample kit. May I ask – just curious – how do you market hospice care?”

They were surprised by the question but since I was friendly and just sounded interested  – one of the women confidently responded about the quality of their service and that they like to come in to educate the doctors on what they offer. “We sometimes have to explain the Medicare benefit too.”

Now here was something I knew about, ” Oh, that should be pretty simple – they take it all – at least that was the requirement when my husband signed the forms to enter Hospice Care.”  “Well, yes.” they replied.

There was a lull in the conversation and since  I felt we were at ease with each other – so I lobbed another gambit. “Would you mind a suggestions?”

“No” They both nodded me on.

“I suggest you put something over that sign on your case.” They did not say it but I heard the “why” they were thinking so I laughed – “it struck me as being a bit out of place in a doctor’s office where patients are here hoping to get well.”

” You know you have put your finger on something. As it happens – they have changed the name of our company – to XXX Healthcare.” “Really?” I gasped.

At that moment the doctor who was seeing them arrived on the scene. They gathered their sample cases and went in for their meeting.

I just sat there and laughed.

At least I was laughing,




First Snow Day – 2015

Last night I worked out the list and plan for my work today. Good. Good. Went to sleep feeling on top of things. I was on track. Ask any solopreneur – that’s the goal.
Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.57.36 PM But instead –

I woke to a snow white world this morning although I went to sleep thinking the snow was going to fall in PA not around us. One of nature’s changes of mind and surprises.
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Listening to the weather alerts  Karen went to the PA house last night to make sure all was well up there. Neither of us expected that I would wake up on my own to handle the snow pile up. I am challenged when it comes to shoveling. Thank heavens there are two strapping boys living next door who wield a fine shovel.

Last night it occurred to me that I should move my car from the street in front of the house to the driveway. Even though I knew that’s what Jim would have done I shrugged off the  warning thought and went to bed.

So this morning after the boys cleared the walkway and the driveway I decided to make that car-move even though the streets were not completely cleared. The snow was lightweight and dry. Surely I could manage this. For years I had watched Jim manage these moves. I felt confident. And it was going well until I started slipping down the steep street entrance to my driveway and ended up turned across the middle of the street.
This was not what I intended!

Fortunately Chris, my very capable neighbor was home. He did not make it into the driveway either but he drifted the car down the street further and parked it out of the way. “I will move it for you after the snow plow comes through.”

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Fine. I am not planning on going anywhere. Cat, dog and I are sitting tight.

And  – I am listening to the news and wondering about the real possibility of losing power – so rather than just thinking about it – or leaving it to chance – I am getting out the lanterns and replacing batteries.


Where Do Stories Begin?

For me the beginning days of a New Year bring on spurts of cleaning out, letting go, reflecting and musing on the past. I have a long-time habit of making lists, sorting out, neat-en-ing-up, and day-dreaming as I prepare for an early year week-end workshop with storyteller Donald Davis.  Donald is a brilliant guide  to work with as you tip-toe into a new story.

Often I open long-closed boxes because there is no telling what you will find – – especially when there might be photos among the papers. Sometimes it takes more time than the initial finding for the possibilities to emerge. It reminds me of gathering scraps when I am thinking of a working on collage. In this instance its collecting  a bit of this and a bit of that until you can feel and form a story.

For instance: last year I found a few black and white photos of cars in the snow on North Broadway, Baltimore, MD circa probably January 1954.
Snow at JHH  March 1954

My husband Jim took the photos from the roof of his fraternity house which was across the street from Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was a few doors down from Hampton House, the Nurses Home where the student nurses lived.

Jim came to Baltimore in 1953 from Madera, CA which is located in the heart of the fertile and sunny San Joaquin Valley and in sight of the majestic snow-capped Sierra-Nevada Mountains. Snow was not  unfamiliar to him – when he went to the mountains – but not piled up on city streets.

As I looked at this picture I realized it was taken before I arrived in Baltimore in September 1954.  It is a moment before we met – – before our first date – – before our  courtship and wedding –  that led to the 57 years of our life together.  Before death “did us part”.

We don’t exist together in this moment.

Jim was 22 years old and a first year Medical Student at Johns Hopkins. I was 17 years old and a Senior in High School in Charlotte, NC with no “fixed ideas” of where I would be after Graduation.

We were poised on the edge of a story that was not known or even imagined.

Maybe this is the moment for taking  a “long-view.”


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.





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!