Where Is the Lifeguard?

 Summer camps have started at the Y, which reminds me of this conversation with Y campers last December . . .

Where Is the Lifeguard?

   (conversation remembered by storyteller Mary Garrett)

Water Fun and Fitness at the Y

Adult: Children, sit down here please.  We can’t go in the pool yet.

Camper: Why can’t we go in the pool?

A: There’s no lifeguard.

C: Where is the lifeguard?

A: I don’t know.   Do you think she’s lost?

C: No!

A: Do you think the Grinch took her?

C: No.  Santa took her!!

A: Why?

C: To teach the reindeer and polar bears to swim!

A: Why?

C: The ice is melting!  They have to learn to swim.

A: But we need her.  Let’s all say together: Santa, we need our lifeguard, bring her back!

C: We can’t say that.

A: Why not?

C: It’s rude to talk to Santa that way.

A: Oh, how about, “Santa, please bring our lifeguard back.  We need her.”

C: Yes!  Santa, please bring our lifeguard back.  We need her.

A: Who’s coming?  a lifeguard?

C: Yay, we can go swimming!!!   Thanks, Santa!!

*One day near Christmas the day campers at the Y came to the pool for their swim, but the assigned lifeguard had not arrived.  Swimming is only allowed with a certified lifeguard on duty, so  the children waited, as patiently as they could, and wondered where there lifeguard was.  This was the conversation, and the children’s imagination created a dialogue that stayed with me . . .

The director of the aquatics programs left her other work, changed clothes, and filled in until a new lifeguard arrived.  Thanks, Joyce!

Mary Garrett

Kevin Cordi’s “Permission to Play” Workshop!


Kevin Cordi’s “Permission to Play” Workshop!

July 21, 2010  U of MO St. Louis


— very random reflections on the experience by Mary Garrett  (Kevin will be doing this workshop at NSN later this week).

Mom always said not to play with our food, but Kevin had us all pledge, giving ourselves permission to play with stories!!  The benefits were wonderful!

Some partner work opened us up to playful possibilities —

I would never . . .  have a cat . . climb a mountain . . .

I would always . . . (the same — with grand new insights!)

Joined by a purple elephant . . . and I think we all liked our elephants very much!

Working on stories with this collaboration/elaboration technique showed us new aspects of the stories, insights and possibilities . . .

We were told to bring new stories, with less investment from previous “work” on the stories and more room to PLAY!

(I think that it would open up familiar stories as well, and add fresh insights).

We never got beyond the first few lines of my story, which was fine.  In playing with the story, we discovered why the barber had so many problems (hands shaking out of control) and explored the wonders of the wedding gifts to the princess!  (“Barber’s Clever Wife” from Fearless Girls . . . by Kathleen Ragan).

Flavia’s work with “Sody Sallyratus” was marvelous! This was a new story for her, familiar to most of the rest of us, but by the end, new for us all.  Kevin and Flavia fell into an improv bickering dialogue by the old couple about who should go look for the children — we were laughing out loud!  Flavia’s bear got funnier (and more over-fed) with each scene.  It was a riot.

Ric worked on a story of coyote flying with borrowed feathers, ending with us all soaring and (oops) falling . . .  It felt real to me, even though I had missed part of it as I went outside to call to warn Spiro’s about our delay (organizing storytellers is like herding cats) and got locked out of the building until a kind custodian let me in.

Becky and Stephen visited and helped adapt Linda’s  tripod for Kevin’s new camera.  Sue was the “scribe with the camera.”  Lynne participated in the improvs and discussions.  Rosie had to leave early . . . to help a homeless veteran find a safe place to be (that’s so very Rosie).

We had to be extra-physical to stay warm. . . the a/c works a bit too well sometimes.  I almost always have a lightweight pareo with me, which I loaned to Flavia, who was turning blue.  She would have gone outside to warm up, but there was a most dramatic storm, which cleared up by the time we left.

I had a sun precautions shirt to wear over my “Cleverly Disguised As a Responsible Adult” t-shirt, nearly worn out, but it fit the theme of the workshop well.  Now Flavia wants one, and I don’t think Signals has them any longer, but she’s clever enough to make one.  This is the closest I could find with a Google search  http://www.zazzle.com/cleverly_disguised_as_a_responsible_adult_tshirt-235673928994893514

At Spiro’s we did not play with the food, but we did enjoy it* along with great conversation and storytelling.  We shared many teaching stories, and I realized that one of the reasons I enjoyed my years of teaching was that, along with storytelling, I had given myself and my students “permission to play” at least part of the time.

*Dinner was delicious!  Spiro is a conscientious chef.  When asked to prepare shrimp with the dijon sauce offered with the salmon he said no “because I do not know that it would taste right” and suggested shrimp scampi, but provided some of the dijon sauce on the side.

Spiro made special moussaka for me, sans potatoes and untouched by latex.  In gratitude, I gave him my CDs on the way out.  He was ecstatic!  His wife collects frog items, and he’s always looking for new and different frog gifts for her.

Spiro also shared stories from his little village in Greece:

the man who wanted to hear what would be said at his funeral . . .

the brother who told the priest that if heaven is only for those with no sins, only babies must be there . . .

his grandmother reading fortunes with coffee grounds — with some advance information from young Spiro, a good listener.  . .  We turned our cups over and watched the pictures change.

We left the restaurant at closing and continued talking as staff left to go home, so much fun that we didn’t want to let the evening end . . .

(P.S. This morning, the very tiniest little frog, the size of my baby finger nail, was in my mailbox.  With temps already high and heading for the high 90’s, it did not need to be in the metal and brick oven of my mailbox.  It was so cute that it was hard for me to let it go, but it seemed happy to be on a tree, and then in true tree frog fashion, it became invisible).

NSN 2010 in L.A. Concert and Awards

Story Musings

NSN 2010 in L.A.  Concert and Awards

NSN 2010 Los Angeles — a Transcendent Experience!     Mary Garrett’s Reflections . . .

My comments will be scattered, long,  out of order, and from my own point of view (influenced by a concurrent rereading of Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose aka Sleeping Beauty).  I look forward to reading and hearing from others, to build a richer picture/collage of the experience . . .


It was only a few days ago, but it feels like “once upon a time” that some 300 storytellers from around the country (and farther) gathered in Los Angeles to share stories, friendship, and joy — powered by Michael McCarty’s energy and happy spirit, constantly inspiring and guiding the troupe.  Some of my friends made their leisurely way west by chariot, enjoying lovely experiences on the way.  I climbed aboard a magic carpet (Southwest — nice treatment and two free checked bags) and watched the green midwestern landscape magically change to desert  (like a lunar landscape) and mountains and finally ocean!!  I had sworn off planes after a torturous flight from Hawaii on American — I’m a believer in the fun of flying again.  I LOVE flying through and above the clouds and fully understand why young King Arthur, aka Wart, liked Merlin to change him into a bird.  (Odd detail noticed on the shuttle drive: motorcycles may legally weave in and out of freeway traffic, passing cars in the tiny little space between the lanes — major risky behavior, like knights going up against dragons, but for no discernible purpose . . .).

We stayed in the castle Warner Marriott, with beautiful views of the mountains and where all our needs were graciously attended to with comfort and kindness . . . a  lovely experience, beginning with the kind gentlemen opening doors and taking luggage to the room for the tired traveler (and pointing out the hidden coffee maker), just as the whole world should be.


Nice touch – the little sayings on notepads:  Leave a trail of genius.

and key cards:  You hold the power to open doors.  Get both feet in the door.

. . . and in our gift bags Friday night, besides skin products, a little book of love from Maya Thomas!

The All-Regions Concert on Friday night!!  This was the invitation that motivated me to get on a plane to attend the conference, and it was a fantastic, transcendent experience!  The blending of voices, the variety of stories, the smooth planning and organizing of the evening (thanks, Ellen Switkes and Elaine Muray!!) and the audience.  We’ve talked on Storytell about how the right audience can enhance a story (Gateway swaps are very good at this), and this was that sort of audience, sharing in the experience and building the stories with their listening (and sometimes chanting and singing).  Familiar (and new) friendly faces in the audience gave reassurance and support.  The sound was terrific also, True Thomas and John McKee worked hard on balance, not that easy to do with our variety of voices and effects (roars, whip cracking . . . )    It was altogether too much fun!!

I told third — Sheherazade, my favorite story, and I felt as if she had taken over my telling that evening.  It felt new to me, though I’ve told it many times, and the audience was immersed in the story with me.  Lovely!   (and available on my CD —  http://www.storytellermary.com/


http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/MaryGarrett   )

Other tellers were friendly and gracious, organizers took care of us magnificently, and we looked good, too.  It all came together in a most magical way!

Denise Valentine was stunning, telling a Hawaiian tale of the union of fire and water to form the continents — lovely! ** Wenlock Duane Free told a wild tale of pulling a cougar’s tale and howling with the dogs.  Karen Golden (with the golden shoes) had us almost falling off our chairs with laughter over the prizes from the big pushka  in the ladies’ room (and loving her mother’s gentle treatment of her).  Jane Hauser had us in tears of anger and sympathy in her reporting of a KKK meeting and the unmasking of evil.  Bill Parks brought a long story-poem of an amazing drover, punctuated by the cracking of his whip.  Rona Leventhal’s “Drop of Honey” reminded us that it often is “our problem.”  Mike Lockett’s King of Lions ROARED! and Mike ended with everyone singing “in the jungle . . . the lion sleeps tonight.”  (Sleep theme going on here).

There was an reporter from an LA paper (talk about a fun assignment!)  I answered some of her questions, and in reaching for my card to give her,  I noticed that the teller I had just spoken with was from the area — much better for her to get local publicity, so I connected them.  Good thing we were all properly schooled early in the conference to network and share  😉

My friend Laraine (from the TLC blog, so in a way, Elaine Viets brought us together) came to hear my Sheherazade and loved the whole concert  . . . and the food and drinks we ordered afterward by the pool.  I had been very disciplined in resting but not eating before the concert, having had a good lunch for proper fuel, so I was as hungry as Mike’s lion afterward.  Chicken satay and the lovely lava drink (coconut, rum, o.j. and I wish I knew what else*) satisfied.  Laraine’s sweet potato fries were wonderful even as leftovers the next day for my in-room breakfast with trail mix.

*from the Marriott:  Thank you Mary for the lovely comments.  We truly enjoyed your group and hope to see you back with us in a few years.  I asked our Food and Beverage Director about the Lava drink, and this is what he said

It’s basically a pina colada mix, with rum and strawberry puree mix all blended together.

Have a wonderful week!

** Denise Valentine Lovestory for Humanity: Romance of Volcano & Ocean is the story (You can find it on Youtube). And… thank you, Mary, for that beautiful telling of Scheherazade.

Kind words from well-wishers afterward felt so good.  Compliments through the rest of the weekend were a lovely reminder of a magical evening.  . . holding onto the good feelings like . . .

I was thrilled to see you perform that night. I really enjoyed your performance of the 1001 Nights to demonstrate the power of stories.


You delivered your story very well at the National Concert. I was so happy that you chose that story to tell. I hope tons of people want to buy your album now to hear it again. Best regards, your Normal buddy, Mike

from Laraine to our HMOH group:

Mary was practical in her preparations, calm and poised as the evening’s events got rolling, and beautifully engaging and flawless in telling the story of Scheherazade.  There was a nice array of colorful personalities and stories crossing the stage, Mary’s stood up splendidly amongst the group.

NSN is in a stable financial position.

(biggest news of the membership meeting)

It was a treat to see storytell buddies

at the National Storytelling Conference.

Psst…Mary Garrett did a wonderful job

in the All Regions concert.

May the Blessings Be.


Jane Crouse

I had brought with me the cute frog card that neighbor Mary Ellen made for me,

and the three pages of comments from friends arranged with pictures from Jackie Baldwin (with design help from the Apple gurus) — support and friendship

all around . . .


Oracle Awards Saturday Evening

So many terrific people received recognition — it was beautiful!  . . .  and of course, since I’m from St. Louis, the high point for me was the award to the St. Louis Festival (31 glorious years!!) and director Becky Walstrom, elegant, eloquent, and poised.  The award was presented by Roger Armstrong, he of the long white beard, a Storytelling Santa (and minister), so “yes Becky, there is a Santa Claus” . . .  in L.A. . . . in July.

I loved Willy Claflin’s comments about “listening stories into being” and Ghandi’s “consulting the silence,” and from The Tempest “Oh brave new world that has such people in it.”  It was fun that he ended the evening by sharing the stage with that verbose puppet (frog? or am I projecting my own frogs into the story?) and then Maynard the Moose.  (On Friday, Willy told the reporter that “if the Moose could travel without” him, he’d be invited to more places than Willy.  I said only in the sense of the punchline “no time for a boyfriend, but a talking frog is cool” — a self-animating moose puppet would be a sensation).

Awards were followed by desserts and dancing!!  . . . and a conversation with Joel ben Izzy — wow!http://storypage.com/


Desserts and Dancing — with Joel Ben Izzy

Life is good!

NSN L. A. Conference Swaps and Workshops

Story Musings

NSN Conference Swaps and Workshops


 August 4, 2010

Storytell Swap  Thursday 9:45  (felt like 11:45 to Central TZ people, so I was a bit foggy . . .)

I didn’t print out Padraic’s Swap Host responsibilities because I thought there would be copies in the room — didn’t matter . .  . Story-Tellers have our procedures worked out through years of practice: put name on board, gift on gift table, relax and enjoy.

Gifts: many people brought extras, so there were plenty for all, even left-overs, which as we were picking up the room, went in a bag for someone’s (Joyce’s) grandchildren on her return trip.  I brought two of my CDs and a Queensboro Storytell hat, which matched someone’s (Yvonne? — it was really LATE) Storytell shirt perfectly.  BTW, several people liked my black “jacket” — it was actually a long-sleeved shirt, extra large, in case anyone is planning to order one (they run a bit small).

Terrific Stories and Great Fun!!

I (Mary Garrett) opened with a short story combining “St. Louis Blues” and “Worry Bundles.”

Melanie the Seanachie Pratt shared editing woes and the perils of technology (always warn someone if you put them on speaker phone)

Kate Dudding  —  the connection between Feenamint and Porgie and Bess (marketing advice?)

Mary Grace Ketner — Turtle of Coca — lovely and oh-so-tricky!

Dianna Waite — her father’s adventures in farm work with an old and tricky tractor

Bobbie Japka — once had a lingerie party business.  You had to be there to fully appreciate it.  Dr. Ruth watch out!

Kate Franckle — Thurber’s moth parable, lovely!

Joyce Geary — fun with grandpa and his very entertaining bald head.

Marilyn McPhie — as a young, tired mother trying to manage a dose of Triaminic for her  resourceful child

Shelby Smith — Amazon story — lovely trip, but that poor, poor monkey!  (This seems a good place to write down a new favorite phrase, “Stretching the truth”).

Nick Smith  — Jack the Thief (and wife and baby!)

Yvonne Young — liars’ contest with golden apple for prize — ending with a lovely blessing, the perfect final note! *

*so perfect that I completely forgot that I had intended to end with Elizabeth Ellis’ shortest story: bird, boy, stone, threw, flew(and my students added, “poo” because they felt the bird should have revenge) — I came home to news that a band had ended a performance because of pigeons in the rafters, alas.  Elizabeth did not make it to this conference . . . missed her.

— Other Story Tell-ers present at Conference!

Sue Black  Co-Presenting — Old Tales for a New Millennium

Kate Dudding

Tim Ereneta

Cathryn Fairlee  resource table (a hard job handled with grace)  and designed the Conference Logo!!

Wendy Gourley  presenting Cracking the Story Code

Mary Hamilton & Charles Wright

Sarah Hauser

Priscilla Howe  “Queen Berta and King Pippin” Fringe

Mary Grace Ketner — “Don’t be Stymied by State Standards”

Audrey Kopp  Fringe  Tales for Teens

Marilyn McPhie   panel – producing and marketing cd.

Melanie the Seanachie Pratt  hosting “Bars, Cars and

Dating Scares” swap on Saturday night

Linda King Pruitt

Jo Radner  “Art of Gathering and Performing Oral History”

Ellie Shinham Swap: Good Witches & other Wild Women Shelby Smith


Diane Ferlatte   Storytelling — The Tool of a Culture

Many cultures/many stories — collect the cares and worries.

Knowing only one story is incomplete, leads to prejudice.

Not how you listen but how well you hear.

Mary Grace Ketner — workshop “Don’t be Stymied by State Standards”

How to use state test standards, making storytelling connections to help teachers and students to reach the objectives.  Amazing how many direct connections this teller/educator found!

I ran into Gay Ducey after the Yvonne Young’s “Oregon” story — Gay said she wouldn’t mind if I had to leave her“Backstory” session early, so I got to hear about libraries and little people (our “natural peers”).  The  backstory sessions were an interesting idea, granting the freedom to just talk (or as someone said Syd defined it “gossip”).  At the Sunday morning panel, Celebrating Tellers with Disabilities, Syd said he wouldn’t be following the description because “I’m a sub!”  I had to leave that one early because I was assigned to help in the bookstore, but I heard it was wonderful!  I would love to have more details . . .

Old Tales for a New Millenium was phenomenal!  Crafting new messages with traditional tales is exciting.  I loved Sue Black’s Turkey Lurkey, standing up to bullies with his friends and related fully with Linda Garham’s “singing for myself!”  Even with the extra time allowed by an intensive, I’m going to need to invest more time with my notes and the handouts (they had to make many more!) because it’s a rich topic with much to learn.  The workshop rooms had sound systems also, and it really helped in larger workshops like this one.  Kudos to the sound crew!

Membership Meeting  — NSN in Good Shape Financially!!!

Antonio Sacre — “Honest Stories Meet the Real World”

Funny, honest, insightful — our “edgier” performances can impact on the tamer side of our life and work, especially if taken out of context and sensationalized.  (youtube “Kid Owns O’Riley”

When at a Festival or other venue, it’s their home, respect their wishes . . .

Alexander Technique for Storytellers

Fascinating stuff!  Even though they opened by telling us we would need to work a long time with a teacher to actually benefit from the techniques, I left walking taller and breathing deeper.  The concept/process of going from intention to energy to movement, allowing the body to move more naturally, makes good sense.  Breathing more deeply by exhaling completely, letting the diaphragm fully elevate (internal massage) — then letting inhalation just happen, not the muscle breathing of “take a deep breath” — interesting and effective.  Doing that and allowing relaxation to lengthen the spine and neck, my voice was deeper, and I was told louder as well.

Opposites: inhibition (let go, relax) and excitation   Tension/release = lighter

Head leads, body follows (true of all vertebrates)

Choose response to our experiences

Resonance of room is awakened by the air as we speak . . .

(Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley — need to find a copy)

Laraine had already mentioned the hunching over involved in most close work like knitting — no wonder I need to take breaks from that and sudoku and computers.  I’ve raised my desk chair so my hands are more parallel — still trying to figure out how to do computer stuff on the non-latex exercise ball.

Odds and Ends — Socks and Hats

Kate Dudding was a ray of sunshine and joy whenever I saw her.  She brought beautiful and  much-vied-for socks for the auction.

I took an apple hat for the auction, but it decided to hide  from us until after the Conference.  It will appear, with storyteller earrings, at a future fund-raiser . . .

I also made . . .

Two  blueberry hats!!  Finished amidst many good stories, modeled on one I had made for . . .

<< Mary Grace’s Emanuel<<

One hat was for TLC friend Kerry’s new grandchild,  and the other for Shelby, who has a marvelous story of her post-conference adventure . . .

I delivered my grandson in the back seat of her car on the way to the birthing center at 3 am! Mom and son are good and already home.

No rest for the weary!

Walk in Sunshine,

Shelby Smith

Marilyn McPhie brought me a stack of books (including Briar Rose) and a HUGE Folkmanis dragon, saving me shipping costs but adding the dilemma of fitting everything in the suitcase . . . thank goodness for the extra bag we were given at registration which held the oh-so-sad unsold CDs very nicely.  Of course, I could have carried Spark on my arm.  I’ll bet that would have enlivened the wait times at the airport . . . and I’ll bet he would have preferred it to being smashed in with pillowcases in the suitcase, but he made it!

(I’ll admit that I was a bit sad not to have sold any CDs, but I did trade one with Carrie Sue Ayvar (love her Spanish!!) and gave a few away.  I left two on the bed along with my tip for housekeeping, and gave some to parents of lovely children in the airport and to my traveling companion on SW, and two, with a nice tip, to the cab driver who brought me home from the airport.  He had been having a terrible day with ridiculous short trips, most of the day spent waiting his turn in line, until his last passenger, me, going all the way to St. Charles ;-).

Everyone I encountered on this trip was wonderful, at the conference, of course, but on the plane, in the airport, on the shuttles, everywhere — an enchanted journey!  I even saw a family playing cards in the airport — you know, with real cards, not on an electronic screen.  Someone had asked me when I would rehearse my story (well, I’ve been rehearsing it for 20 years), but the woman next to me on the plane asked what I would be doing, had never heard Sheherazade, so she was my rehearsal performance!

8/2  This morning I went to “my” Y to tell stories to the campers — also great fun. I told them I was still on California time, so 10 felt like 8, but once we got going with Wide Mouth Frog and tall tales and such, the energy flowed.  My sound system was being touchy, but one of the counselors stepped in as sound tech and made it work right.  I guess I have to learn more about sound because I’m not always that lucky.  (Then I came home and took a long nap . . . )

8/3  Took a lovely mailbox frog to a tree this morning (It got to 100 degrees today, not good weather to be in that metal/brick oven), taught aqua-aerobics at the Y, and did not manage to reserve/replenish enough energy to safely drive to Illinois for Lynne’s party.  I hope everyone had a wonderful time!!  I’m sure they did . . . and I’m sure Lynne understands.  If I can’t have teleportation, I’d settle for a chauffeur.

L.A. NSN Health Stuff

Story Musings


Lava Drink after Concert

L.A. NSN Health Stuff

Health Stuff

The hard-working Karin Hensley and the hotel’s MaryAnn Youssef made sure I was safe from latex in my room and in the restaurants. The conference committee opted to keep costs in line by not ordering constant food — reducing the “because it’s there” grazing, but giving us a very nice lunch (incentive to attend the membership meeting) and dessert reception after the Awards.  Starbucks and in-room coffee makers (once I learned to use it, third try the charm) and the gracious staff of the restaurant provided caffeine to fuel us — and the hotel buffet was substantial and delicious.  I found that one “real” meal a day was enough for me, with lighter fare and snacks for the rest . . .    (and, small bonus, came home one pound lighter 😉

When I arrived on Thursday Joyce Geary met up with me at the registration desk and kindly stayed until I finished the paperwork so she could literally guide me to the restaurant for much-needed dinner . . . what a pal!  I may not have survived the starvation of modern air travel without her help.  She even shared her sweet potato fries with me at supper Saturday, so good that by Sunday the restaurant was completely out of them.

On the way home I discovered a latex-free Burger King in the Las Vegas airport, and began a new friendship with a musician and his wife by discussing the culinary merits of food eaten when really, really hungry.  He’s looking for a new field and thought storytelling sounded promising . . . I know I found his music business stories very entertaining!

Random thought — pulling out a Lactaid for the cheesecake at the membership meeting: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were tablets to take for other kinds of intolerance?

Sleep theme continues:

Even though I tried to make sure I rested, I’ve been napping quite a bit here at home, in between errands and storytelling and writing.

Home, safe . . . tired but worth it!  It was a terrific conference.  I’ll write more when I’ve rested . . . planning to sleep late. . .

I’m back safely from the NSN conference in LA . . .

Home, tired but feeling good.  We had a workshop on the Alexander technique today — so many ways to get healthier!

Al, maybe 45 minutes of exercise, since Wednesday’s aqua-aerobics — oh, wait, all the airport walking would take that to 90 minutes surely.

I’ve been trying to convince my body to stay on California time, but now it’s even late there, so good-night.

A bit more as the coffee is brewing —  lovely, healthy buffet at the hotel (pricey . .  but not tooooooo bad).  I’m thinking that it’s the California mindset that had so many veggies and lighter foods (and human weakness that called for the luscious desserts).  I did one big meal a day and then trial mix and little stuff the rest of the time — and the beautiful fruit, saturn (doughnut?) peaches were lovely, and apricot like candy, and grapefruit so sweet . . . aaaah!  (I brought trail mix and chocolate for the flight and for snacks in the room, and at the last minute threw in a small hunk of cheese — adequate to get me through the flight there . . .)

I also unabashedly asked for help — asking a strong-looking man to pull the big bag off the carousel, and “as long as we’re both stuck here waiting for the shuttle, could you take that (latex) elastic tag off my bag for me.”  I met so many wonderful people, at the conference, of course, but also those random meetings in planes and waiting for rides . . . all wonderful!

Becky, you raise an excellent point — rest!  One of our “elder” storytellers told me one year that while “those youngsters” stay up after a day of telling stories, visiting until the wee hours, she was “wise enough to know I need to take my rest.”  I did not set wake-up calls for Friday or Saturday so I could be well rested.  I missed some stuff, but appreciated so much more the ones I was truly awake for.  I also walked out by the pool and around the block (nice little park!)  and got outside for non-recirculated air.  I slept in a bit today, got an allergy shot and groceries, napped, went through mail. . . oh, and laundry . . . did I really have all those clothes in one suitcase?

I also watched the food intake.  Past conferences fed us constantly, but this year they cut back on expenses, and I think it was better.  Heavy meals plus snacks make people drowsy.  I managed one large meal each day, and trail mix and such the rest of the time.   Before the concert, I didn’t eat supper (good lunch to provide the fuel) and ate afterward.  Eating right before a performance just doesn’t work.  If I’m telling at a dinner event, I’ll nibble at a bit of fruit, and get back to my meal after I tell.

I found a way to put photos on a screen saver pattern that looks like the placing of photos slowly down on a table overlapping each other.  Very pretty . . . and more eye-catching and thought-provoking than one steady view).


On Jul 29, 2010, at 7:30 PM, Becky Hutchison wrote:

Good luck and have fun, Mary! I know you’ll wow everybody with your storytelling prowess. Oh, and relax too. I find that I’m more busy at conferences and workshops than in my daily life, and I forget to rest, which makes it hard to function when I finally get home. So hopefully you’ll get some time to yourself too.

Becky  ;-D

It’s fun reading all these emails.  Many thanks for your good wishes.  Though I didn’t have a computer on which to read them in L.A., I felt them loud and clear!

It’s hard to manage out of one’s own space.  My email won’t send from some places, but on this trip I won’t even bring the computer.  Sitting in workshops, eating hotel food  😉

When I went to Utah right after that fall at the police station, I couldn’t sit much, so I paced the back of the room.  Maybe I’ll do that a bit.  It wouldn’t even be a lie.  My lower back and hips do hurt if I sit for too long. . .

Y’all have fun. . . back Sunday, well, so late that it will really be Monday.

BTW, check to see if I might have given you an empty CD case for Wisdom and Courage — I had one of each with me so people could see the inside, and now I only have the Frog one. . .

OOPS! Journey Home . . . .

Story Musings

OOPS! Journey Home . . . .


Drive home —  many lovely farms, horses, cows, lovely house reflected in a small pond . . .

I saw alpacas just outside Mt. Vernon, and Googled for info on alpaca farms (or would that be ranches?) — many of them in Ohio . . .

Listened to Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear most of the way — a wonderful BBC recording — lovely voice (a bit jarring when she did an American soldier’s accent — is that how we sound to them?)   Maisie’s method uses careful focus, attentiveness, quiet, contemplation, mirroring posture to understand the other’s feelings  . . . interesting echo of Dovie’s discussion of being quiet and hearing nature around us.  Also listened to Dovie’s stories on the way home . . . wonder if that’s why I was more aware of all the birds at the rest stops (or if there might have even been more of them??)

I met Karen M. for lunch in Dayton and she brought forget-me-nots from her yard.  She’s looking very svelte (our Help Me Out Here group from the TLC blog is working!)

As we were lunching outside the Panera’s (there were balloons on the inside), it started to rain. We retreated to the lobby of the nearby Drury Inn and were quite comfortable and dry while the worst of the thunderstorms raged outside.  Such perfect timing — most of my actual driving was gentle rain or dry, for which I am duly grateful.

I was telling friends at aqua-aerobics that the worst of the storm occurred while we were safe and comfortable at the Drury Inn. . .  and that such happy accidents may not actually be accidents.  There was one other  storm burst, so I stopped for gas to let it pass by.  A nice young man used his iPhone to call up a weather app and show me that I was nearly past the storms, and I was — clear driving . . .

Good to be home!  . . . to a greeting chorus of frog song!!

. . . Several days of recovering from the long drive ( how do full-time tellers do it?)  with aqua-aerobics, and a visit to Mara for some P.T. on May the 4th (be with you  . .  Star Wars Day 😉

Then acupuncture on Cinco de Mayo. . . (almost missed the significance of the day, still in a fog). . . there were celebratory tortilla chips and salsa samples at Provisions, where I stopped for a bite to eat and some coffee and an escape from rush hour traffic after seeing Dr. Kim.  The left thumb hurt more than usual, and she said, “Let it hurt, let it work,” which fits with my new mantra, “Let it heal.”  I did feel better afterward.

I told her how sore I was from the long drive, and she said she admires my dedication to make a trip like that.  Dr. Kim had bought both my CDs last time I was there, and said she really liked them and could understand why storytelling was so important to me (Mara says the same, as does my dentist).  They will keep me going so I can do what I love . . . and I’m good to go . . . where next??

Meanwhile, here at home, I’ve planted some yellow flowers (couldn’t find violas) and little trees from the Arbor Day folks. . . . let them grow . . . .

OOPS! Mt. Vernon, OH, Apr. 30-May 2, 2010

Story Musings

OOPS! Mt. Vernon, OH, Apr. 30-May 2, 2010




“Once upon a time, in the land of” . . . Ohio, O.O.P.S! invited storytellers to a wonderful conference!  (beginning stolen from Cathy Jo Smith’s Adventures of Seamus McSeamus, an Irish Rover)


Wonderful sharing of stories and ideas — such a warm and friendly group, delicious catering, comfortable and friendly lodging at the Holiday Inn.

. . . wonderfulness marred only by the absence of Kim Weitkamp — feel better, Kim!


In “The Finish Of Patsy Barnes” Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, “A man goes where he is appreciated . . .” — as do women, and if so, Ohio is a great place to go!!


I had a great day telling at Pleasant Elementary Friday with Joyce and Julie — lovely, lively, intelligent children!! By the end of the day, they were greeting us in the hallway as good friends and welcome guests.  I tried to vary the stories so children in one class would have something to share with those in other classes, but that Wide-Mouth Frog came out twice (and would also have appeared, by advance request, if I’d been picked for the evening swap . . . ah well, next time perhaps).  The librarian, Marilyn, was such a wonderful hostess, taking us out for delicious Chinese food and helping me find my way from room to room.  I left copies of my CDs for them.  I gave one to the manager at the motel (her daughter’s school wasn’t getting a storyteller this time) and a few to travel-stressed families at rest areas also. (My room in the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Holiday Inn was #314 — the pi room!)


Many interesting questions and discussions came up throughout the weekend, including the “home for the holidays” phenomenon of tellers’ paths crisscrossing the country, to become “out-of-town” talent . . . sorry eco-tellers . . .  but it was worth it for this wonderful conference!


Dovie Thomason shared stories and wisdom.  She is more than willing to return to St. Louis — recovered from that fall on the courthouse steps and speaks fondly of how well Bette Ramirez cared for her afterward!

If you want to see Dovie (and Bil Lepp), I found this  (hope it’s “legal”)



Dovie’s stories (some of my notes don’t make complete sense to me anymore, being there in the moment made more sense)

— First man and woman, resolving their differences (still working on that?)

Liminal — Between Sky & Land — bats

Sleep is a gift

“Pretty girl” story of rabbit girl, too focused on “pretty” to be useful, turning down all suitors.  She could have had a happier life if she’d been less vain, but she did at least invent embroidery with porcupine quills — we all have gifts . . .    When Dovie finished that story, we noticed an Easter rabbit in a fancy dress — it had been behind her on the stage all along . . . coincidence?


Four brothers, thunder  —  divided.

Whirlwind mars spirit . . . the attraction to the lively, dangerous, exciting . . .


Dovie began her workshop by declaring she would no longer define her sessions as “workshops”  (too structured) but rather as conversations, since she is always influenced on the spot by the spoken and unspoken interests of attendees.  She did touch on promised topics: landscape* changing the story and authentic voice as promised in the description, but added so very much more!

*Rain — delights the desert dweller!  (On Sunday’s drive home, the sun was wearing sunglasses so I didn’t have to).


Where have the tellers of traditional tales gone?  With the shift to personal tales and humor are we losing the more serious stories?  (Coincidentally, this topic came up on Storytell this week also, with a discussion of the “arc” of a program, and Elizabeth Ellis’s “Haha, ahah, aaah, amen” concept of balance.  Building programs exclusively with “crowd pleasers” and just humor might be a bit like eating only desserts, fun, but no nutirition, nothing to build on).


Dealing with technology addiction — go out in nature and listen quietly.  In true contradictory storyteller fashion,  on Friday night I looked at Facebook and responded to an old message of Dovie’s “Define your storytelling in five words . . . ‘Why would I want to?’”  The next day, in her workshop, Dovie remarked on it, so we both were still connected through our electronic servers, while existing under the same roof . . . (Once home, another FB post from Dovie about the friendly folks in Ohio, a sentiment I agree with 100%!  😉


Serve the event — stretch a bit beyond comfort.  Not a “cafeteria teacher” (filling trays like an assembly line), more of a “buffet” — offering choices to whet the appetite.


Tell stories from your roots, not diluted from elsewhere . . .


Don’t tell all you know, leave room for listeners to form own images.

Voices come, not planned  — become bear, fox, skunk,  — power in the stories real . . .


Be yourself — everyone else is taken (Oscar Wilde)

Why can male tellers wear jeans and female tellers must always be dressed up?  (I actually forgot to put on makeup Saturday, so did the a.m. olio, my workshop, and a whole day of listening and visiting “bare faced” — and no one seemed to mind too much).  I did remember my frog jewelry, though — earrings from Missouri Conservation and lovely wide-mouth frog that Jessica Carlton and her mother bought for me on the ETSU cruise where we met . . .


Always tell the truth — there will be someone in the room who will know if you are lying . . .


Someone welcomed back the “old tellers” — laughter — “I mean familiar.”  Dovie reminded us that in her culture, they love the “old people” and learn from them . . . so becoming one of them is a good thing . . .   “Them old people told me that” . . . “got that on my own”

** Coincidence!  a friend just sent this — and made me dance right out of my chair!


The morning olio allowed everyone to get a feel for who would be presenting, and most of us wished to split ourselves between several, because they sounded so good.  I got to tell my trio of school stories: Place, Time, and Love, which I don’t often get to tell.  (Friday night I shared “Real and Make-Believe”).


Evening concert and swap:  Fun!  (but few notes)  “born before the Dead Sea even got sick”

Adele — Hobiyah and little dog Turpie (so glad he could be put back together)

Julissa — charming tale of “The Tree that Didn’t Get Trimmed”

Greg and Natalie — tandem telling of “Old Woman and the Willy Nilly Man”


Frog Goes to High School Workshop — lively!   A very engaged and appreciative group! I was “preaching to the choir” a bit, but we all sometimes need reaffirmation to continue to bring storytelling where it’s needed.  We played with stories and the topics they could be used for, and discussed language skill development and the deadening effect of drilling constantly for the state tests — and that’s why we need to “shut the door and teach.”   Near the end of our time, a woman shared a true story of clever orangutans escaping their zoo enclosure using a piece of metal one of the older orangutans had hidden in his mouth to use as a lock pick . . .  which segued to my  story of trying to join the chimp show at zoo, ending us on a positive note.  (I’ve been told evaluations were good — it did feel good!)


Telling in Schools — Jim Flanagan

As a former administrator, Jim shared his wisdom on how to contact schools, get hired, be a good guest, and make a lasting impression on the students lucky enough to hear him!


I passed handouts along to those who couldn’t make the workshop, and picked one up from Donna Marie Kuczynski’s “Bridging the Gap” workshop. . . remembering the table at the MLA conference where all the presenters put their left-over handouts . . . giving people a second chance to get the info and lightening the load for the trip home (another kind of Wopila) . . .


Gifts —  Dovie’s “Wopila” CD inspired the wopila (give-away) of teaching materials and furniture when I retired from FHN.  Having a name for it made it more of a ceremony and gift.  We talked about the weight of possessions and the discontent created by “manufactured wants” that are not really needs.

I did manage to leave a few gifts —

apple hats: one for the raffle basket (much appreciated by the winner),  one for Bizzie for a new grandchild, and one for Dovie, not quite finished, all but the leaf, so I’ll mail it to her 😉

CD stand . . . The resource table was wonderful!  I bought some lovely tapes and CDs, and sold some too, even some of my daddy’s stories, which I had decided at the last minute to have more made (glad I did).  Oasis display stands are wonderful, and they send many, so I left that one with Cathy Jo (hard-working treasurer of O.O.P.S!)

I wished that I had thought to press one of the flowers on the tables as a memento — violas?  Maybe I’ll just have to visit a nursery in search of a plant.  Dovie talked about making candied violets with her daughter.


And a trade — Cathy Jo had actually driven away on Sunday, then retraced her route to return because we had forgotten to trade her books for my CDs.  I’m reading her Adventures of Seamus McSeamus, an Irish Rover and enjoying it immensely.

Wopila, a Give-Away

Story Musings

Wopila, a Give-Away

Dovie Thomason titled one of her storytelling tapes “Wopila, a Give-Away” but asked us not to take that literally and just take the tapes, as she did need to make a living.

Wopila is a lovely custom, and fits my preference for giving things away rather than selling them.

I have happily given away dozens of “apple” and “blueberry” baby hats, including one finished in my dentist’s waiting room for his baby boy.

(He donated a checkup to the Y auction, so he understands Wopila, too).
I always seem to finish one just as a new baby comes into view.

Once, a teaching colleague’s baby came early and had to spend a week in the neonatal unit.  I hurried to finish a hat for him by Friday’s “going home” date, and on Friday showed the finished hat to my students.  One healthy, beautiful young lady said that she had been exactly that small and fragile at birth. We sent her to deliver the hat and, even more important, the message of hope!  These are gifts of love.

Knitting lessons available as well . . .   








I was happy that my friend, who wanted to ride with her children, could use the bicycle I hadn’t ridden in years.

When a student told me that she was hoping her father would be able to afford a typewriter for her for Christmas, I remembered my own longing for a typewriter when I was her age.  I dusted my once “state of the art” electric typewriter, set aside when I learned computer word processing, and made her a very happy girl!

When I was preparing to retire from teaching I announced a Wopila to my students and fellow teachers.  Some were reluctant to take things, but not after the custom was explained.  Those items could continue to make a difference in our school, and other schools, even after I left.  Jim and Deb Wallen took books and bookshelves for their grandchildren’s school in Kansas City.  That school closed, and they gave the books to a school that had lost its library to a tornado.

Last May in Ohio for the O.O.P.S. conference, Dovie added the explanation that Wopila is not just giving away what you don’t want anymore.  Sometimes Wopila means giving away favorite things so that others can have a turn enjoying them.

I saw my friend Maria’s silver card case and realized that it matched a silver flask sitting in my curio cabinet.  I had thought before that the flask would be a good addition to Maria’s Swords and Roses pirate garb, so I presented it to her.  She will also be using it in a “Roaring 20’s” show . . . carrying my good wishes as she does so.










My great-niece Moriah loves green, and this lovely necklace, a gift from a student, suits her perfectly.  It was time to let her enjoy it.    








My young friend Hannah helped me with my move from the condo to my little eco-home.  She took home many “treasures” including the hand-made heavy leather briefcase I had used when I sold insurance (not sure how she could even carry it).  She also spotted and coveted my Shel Silverstein books, and rather than have them just stay on a shelf at my house, I happily passed them on to one who would appreciate them more.

Brendan at Borders remarked that his son has become fascinated by Turkish things.  I had an inexpensive top purchased from a young street vendor in Istanbul.  I never managed to make it work; perhaps his son can . . .

My friend Stephen Hollen wrote a wonderful story “Memories of Lone” about the ongoing trick he played with his mother’s NOEL elves.  I had a NOEL train, which I sent to my adopted cousin so he can continue making his special LONE Christmas magic.

Sometimes I give stories.   Next week  I’ll be telling to the cub scouts whose leader bid highest at the Y auction.

Last year  I told at Hannah’s class’s Christmas party.  I often give copies of my storytelling CDs to children I meet as I go on my merry way, including at rest stops on long trips, when the miles challenge the patience of even the best of children, and their parents.  The smiles and enthusiasm of young listeners is reward enough for that gift.

When we hold onto something, we lose the use of our hands, and letting go leaves room for the new to come into our lives.

I have also received, so many wonderful lovely gifts, tangible and in-
. . .  Jessica gave me a Wide Mouth Frog pin after my first public telling of that story, on an ETSU cruise.  It reminds me of the fun and friendship  each time I see it.  After my frog, Prince, moved into my home, many people gave me frog gifts in his honor, and as consolation after I let him return to the wild.









My niece Jillian made me a lovely storytelling logo.    

and Holly made a dream card, some of which has already come to pass . . .

Toni McGee Causey gave a gift card, which I used to buy copies of her books (it seemed the fair thing to do).

Better Life sent some of their wonderful cleaning products, half of which I gave to the Y auction.

Suzanne Beecher of the on-line book club just sent a vintage apron.

Comfort Suites gave us the use of their pool for our “Wet and Mild”  Aqua-aerobics!

Even the flask I gave Maria had been a gift, which I enjoyed for three decades . . . long enough, time for it to move on and be useful . . .

I had been thinking about this blog for a while, mulling it over (and procrastinating) but this seems the right season to reflect on giving . . . and receiving, which is just as important; both are part of the graceful sharing of the loveliness of our world . . .

May you give and receive in great joy!

Share a comment . . .

Critters At My House

Story Musings

Critters At My House      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have tried to create a healthy environment with eco-friendly materials and no-VOC paints, Better World cleaning products, and no bug sprays.  Sometimes that means I have to tolerate the occasional spider or ant, and even an odd migration of tiny little mites across the window sill, but the rewards . . . .

Lighting bugs (fireflies) abound! Right now there’s a storm making it so dark that the fireflies are lighting up!  There was an interesting beetle last summer, perhaps a stag beetle, that looked a bit like a scarab.  A turtle visited the front walk,

Turtles and other critters welcome!

and a lovely Luna moth, so otherworldly, perched on my deck door.


I have seen rabbits, woodchucks, raccoons, fox . . . but not the deer, only deer prints in the snow (they must be shy).

** March 2014 — I have since seen the deer a few times.  They seem to know they are safe here.  I’ve just discovered they like holly bushes.  Good thing the “bunny in the bush” isn’t sleeping in the holly bush this winter.


Prince, my resident tree frog, was quite entertaining when he spent the winter.  His cousins or offspring have been appearing in the mailbox, on the deck, and on the windows, and their songs at night are so wonderful that I sometimes turn off TV and stereo, the better to hear them.

Mailbox Frog

There will be plenty more frogs, too, judging by the quantity of little bitty frogs Kathy’s grandchildren found in her garden (and turned loose).


 Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mailbox Frogs 2010

Story Musings
First Mailbox Frog of the Year — and More!   (from 2010 — moving posts from old website 😉Image
This morning I found a tree frog in my mailbox, the first of this summer.  I’ve been told that they seek someplace dark and enclosed as the sun is coming up, a place to safely hide.  Of course, they don’t realize how hot a brick enclosed metal mailbox can get at mid-day, so with wet hands I carry them to a tree.  Now that there’s a tree in the front yard, it’s easy to relocate the little guys, though it’s a bit harder to resist their cuteness.  I have to remind myself that they are tree frogs, not house pets. (Thanks to Conservation agents for explaining that).  This sweet little frog stayed put long enough for me to get my camera and snap a few photos. Frog and Friends CD tells of Prince, who spent the winter.   “Mailbox Frogs” — from October 2009 Missouri Conservationist (whose agents gave advice on frog care) I love the photo of the tree frog on the cover of the August issue! The contrast between the bright green back and the dark front of the frog is quite striking. I have many of these little singers by my house, lovely to hear each night. They are starting to show up in my mailbox, I’m not sure how. I take them in my wet hands and introduce them to a suitable tree, reminding them that they are tree frogs, not “mailbox frogs.”Image — Mary Garrett, St. Peters 7/24/10 Tiniest mailbox frog, as big as my baby finger nail. 8/3  Took a lovely mailbox frog to a tree this morning (It got to 100 degrees today, not good weather to be in that metal/brick oven), and then taught aqua-aerobics at the Y. Tiny frog (size of middle finger nail) has been showing up on screen door to deck August 2, 4, 6. Mailbox Frogs 2010 5/20, 6/15, 6/19, 21, & 28 (came back twice, stubborn frogs) 7/8, 7/24, 8/4, 8/5, 8/9 (biggest) 8/10, 8/14 (twice) 8/21, 8/30 (smallest), 8/31 — TWO!  9/1, 9/2 — looked like Prince! 8/14 Going out for the paper this morning, I caught a cricket just inside my front door and took him out to the grass.  Checked the mailbox, and there was today’s Eastern Gray Tree Frog.  This one was very dark brown, not as green as the others, but green underneath.  Settled him in the maple tree where he blended well with the bark.  It’s going to be in the high 90’s today, not a good day to spend in a brick-enclosed metal mailbox. — Went out to get mail — another frog in the mailbox!  This one was quicker and sneakier, and I finally left him there, hiding in a corner I couldn’t reach.  Maybe it’s a new species, a true mailbox frog. This one kept hopping beyond my grasp, and found a hiding space I couldn’t reach.  I decided that if he’s that lively, he’s probably okay with the temp.  I’ll go check on him a bit later to see how he’s doing.  If nothing else, opening the door should cool it a bit. — I just went out to check, and he was much more amenable to being caught.  The mailbox was warmer from the sun, so I suspect my hand felt cool to him (frog felt warm, and I know that’s not right).  I’ll bet the tree branch felt really good to him. Someone explained to me that they seek dark, small, safe places, and that most of those, in nature, would be relatively cool . . . . Lizards and frogs would both eat any insects, so that’s good. . . (Shelby Smith Mary, you are my new hero!) I heard from a woman who finds frogs in her bedroom every summer morning and takes them all outside.  She’s MY hero!  Really, they are so darned cute that it’s hard to give them back, but the Conservation agents assure me it’s for the best. (Laura Broader Gorton Or someone keeps mailing you frogs! ) Didn’t see a stamp . . . Last summer I did wonder if someone, perhaps on the Tom Johnson crew, might have been putting them in, but I think they really can slip through the little opening by the hinge. 8/31 TWO! mailbox frogs today! One tiny one was there first, and since it was staying below 90 d., I let him stay a while but checked on him. He was joined by a larger one, and I got some photos, but none as cute as I would have gotten on first view, both looking out at me.  By the time I got the camera, they were fleeing to the back of the mailbox. I went out at dusk to put them on a tree, and the little one was gone (hope he hopped safely away).  I got the larger one on my hand and took him toward a tree, but he hopped!! — over my shoulder and onto my back!  It was hard to be sure if he’d taken the opportunity to continue hopping to the grass or the tree (pretty lightweight frogs) and I didn’t want a reputation, so I went inside to take off my shirt and check for hitchhiking frogs.  I think he’s outside where the Conservation Department wants him to be. . . . I’ll admit, I don’t see the appeal, but I’ve been told they want small, dark places to spend the day . . . On very hot days, I evict them in the morning when I get the paper.  Lately, it’s been cooler and they seem to like the warmth. 9/1)  I just took a tiny frog to the tree at 5:00.  He may be the little one from yesterday.  If they go way to the back and don’t look out, they disappear in the dark.  He was so cute on the tree . . . looked like a tiny branch . . . 9/2 I may have to think about an auxiliary mailbox* . . . The mailbox frog this morning looks just like Prince.  I let him choose to go back in the mailbox, since temp. is staying in the 80’s (F) today.  Then I saw a cricket in the living room and instead of letting it go outside, I put it in the mailbox — it did NOT choose to stay in the mailbox, jumped right out, past me in a flash and GONE.  Smart cricket! (*Mabel Kaplan Hi Mary, Your story reminded me of a delightful picture book by Jackie French and illustrated by Dee Huxley: Hairy Charlie and the Frog. It tells how a frog took over Charlie’s letterbox and no amount of coaxing would get frog into an identical letterbox labelled ‘Frog House’. So Charlie wrote a note to the postman to put his mail in the ‘Frog House’ as a frog was living in his letterbox). More literary frogs  http://comics.com/spot_the_frog/

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