Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Quick Performance Update: 
     Wed., 12/31/14 - First Night Williamsburg (VA) at 8:15 pm (Ol' Bess Speaks at a Gathering:  18th-Century Storytelling Program) and 10:15 pm (General Family Storytelling), performing at Temple Beth El, need tix;  
Lamont and I
       Tues., Jan. 6, 2015, 12:30 pm, Churchland Academy Elementary, Portsmouth for Young Audiences of Virginia, Inc. presenting "Ole Skool Classics Storytelling Program" , a part of Portsmouth Heart and Soul Project

Jan. performances:  IL (Peoria); Virginia (Charlottesville, Norfolk, Portsmouth)
I started this year with my Mom, but without my fiancĂ©. 
I end this year with a husband, but without my Mom.
                        Is One Better than the Other? 
                        I wonder!

I started this year with hundreds of emails, but without calm in my Spirit.
I end this year with under 20 emails, but with a peace that only Christ could provide
                       One is Definitely Better than the Other!
                        I delight!

I started this year with a blog called “New Beginnings”, and believed lots of blogs to come.
I end this year with 1 blog being completed and a blog called “With/Without”
                        One doesn't always lead to another.
                        I procrastinate!

I started this year with a goal or two, but could only wait.
I end this year with a goal or two met, but more goals to go.
                        One should always grow.
                        I hope!

Kriss and I
I started this year with my son close by, but me traveling a lot.

     I end this year with my son leaving for ATL, 
         and me sitting for a month at home.
                        Will I miss that ONE?
                        I won’t!

Wait a minute, Sheila, what was that last answer?
It’s true, I won’t miss my son….too much.  I won’t miss him the way I missed him when I dropped him off at DePaul University, Chicago, IL and cried for an hour straight and then slept for 3 straight hours on the train back home.  

I’m glad he’s going to a place he has wanted to be.  I’m glad he has matured so much since he has been home.  I’m glad he’s going to what he worked for and still has goals to do much more.  I’m glad I had so much time with my friend, my son, my fan, and now want him to GO FORWARD. 

Stephanie (my younger sister), Mom and I
I started this year holding tightly to my family
I end this year with my hands open….
        My Mom to see again in heaven
        My Son to see on holidays
        My Father redefining traditions
        My Sister coming home a little more often
        My Adopted Daughter with the job she loves
        My Husband and I still growing as “one flesh”

And Me?  Well, I believe every start has an end, and many ends can lead to  new Starts….and maybe more than one blog in 2015.  :) 

What is Ms. Sheila reading? "Parables of a Country Parson":  Heartwarming Stories of Christian Faith and Love" by William E. Barton.  I am hoping to tell a ton of new stories from this book and it is an absolute delight.
Most interesting thing researched this week? Smithsonian Magazine article about research regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Civil War Soldiers.  Fascinating to see the research into the past correlating so much with soldiers today.  My father, a veteran of war himself, said there probably was PTSD in every war, we just didn't have that name and the understanding that war can have residual effects.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Beginnings: Stories “Off the Cuff”

     Quick Performance Update: 1/8 at Chesapeake Conference Center, Chesapeake, VA (private; Storytelling Program for Young Audiences of VA, Inc. at Rotary Club)
Other Jan. performances:  Virginia (Aldie, Middleburg, Purcellville, Williamsburg); WV (Nellis)
Upcoming Feb. performances:  IL (Palatine, Dunlap); VA (Richmond, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Alexandria), CA (North Hollywood); PA (Downingtown, Chester Springs)

My first blog of the year and, since I love celebrating and reflecting in the new year, my topic today is “New Beginnings” .  I love reading new stories, even bad ones.  Every story gives me something even if that “something” is stay away from those kind of stories.  J  My favorite new stories last year came from Jim Heynen, The Man who kept Cigars in His Hat, which I found by accident when on a Storying Retreat with some amazing women in May.  (See Heynen's updated book of stories, The One Room Schoolhouse:  Stories about the Boys

I love hearing a new story, or one that has been adapted differently.  This year I heard lots of new stories, not just personal ones and great tall tales, but stories that took my heart away, i.e., Denise Bennett (http://www.storiesbydenise.com/site/) telling a love story that made me cry and smile.  One adaptation I heard last year still haunts me and makes me asks hard questions and that was/is Megan Hicks’ (http://www.meganhicks.com/), Jo Bob.  She told it at the NSN Conference Regional Showcase and it was weeks before I was able to let it sit still.  This story was recently shared on the NSN blog (http://blog.storynet.org/the-book-of-joe-bob). 

I love telling new stories as well.  In 2013 I began telling “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and fell in love with the word “naked”.  I also fell in love with telling “Story of the Deluge” from Uncle Remus, and it is the first story on my newest CD.  You can hear it, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg5rSRwmQcI.  Then this year I was challenged by Susan O’Halloran (http://susanohalloran.com/newsite/) to share some personal stories for Stories Connect Us All (https://www.facebook.com/storiesconnectusall).  She helped me to revise them and I am proud of the power in the stories.  It’s been a good year for me and stories.

However, sometimes my most favorite stories are the ones that are so new, that I don’t know them until they come out of my mouth.  I call them “off the cuff” stories.  Sometimes these stories come, they are told, and then they just as quickly can disappear.  However, most of the time, they come and they stay long after I ever thought that anyone would like them. 

Two of the stories on my first CD, “Hands Wide Open” were “off the cuff” stories.  “Weeping Willow:  Why the Leaves Change their Colors” was thought out in my head on the way to a program for a first grade class while looking at the trees.  I told it in the classroom and the teacher asked where I had heard or read it, and then stood with mouth agape as I told her I had just made it up.  “Elaina’s Birthday Dance” was created while meeting with four parents who were the only ones to show up for an Evening Program sponsored by a local parent involvement organization.  A parent asked how to create a story for her child.  I asked her child’s name (Elaina) and what she liked (dancing), and the story poured out of my mouth.  It was another year before I ever told that tale again, and the response was so positive, I told it at almost every program for several months.

A couple of years ago it was “Jonathan’s Pretend Baseball”, which was a fill in on a program about “hats” for Preschoolers.  I had a baseball hat and was going to sing, “Take me Out to the Ball Game” and then do the poem, “Casey at Bat”, but I could see that my audience wasn’t ready.  So I sang the song, said, “I have a friend who loves baseball”, put on my baseball hat and told Jonathan’s story.  Instant hit and to this day, if students have heard it once, they want to hear it again on my return.

Last year one of my best “off the cuff” stories was told to the graduating Fifth graders of a Hampton, VA school who invited me to be their Graduation speaker.  What an honor!  I wanted to leave them something they would actually remember and that their parents could take with them as they went to middle school.  My theme that day was L.I.F.E. 
                Live every day making good decisions
                Inform yourself; become knowledgeable
                Find Good Friends
                Expect Great Things from yourself

Most of all, LIVE LIFE.  At the end of my 4 quick points I told the story which I created on the spot.  Once you read it, if you like, you can tell it as well.  It is my New Year’s gift to my Storytellers and Friends.  Please share if you ever tell “off the cuff” stories?  If so, what and why was it created?

What is Ms. Sheila reading?  Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly (fantastic so far, but I am very curious to check where he is getting his "facts") and The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren (an incredible book of increasing our faith in Christ).
Most interesting thing researched this week?  Many languages are becoming extinct because we are becoming so globalized that only a few languages are being spoken regularly.  Thank you to Tellers and Linguistics who are trying to keep the diversity of languages alive!
"Five Sisters" by Paula DiLeo
 5 Sisters:  L.I.F.E. by Sheila Arnold
     A mother and father had five daughters.  When it was time, they came to their daughters and said, “It is time for you to go over the mountain to the village on the other side, for there you will find your purpose.  Go together and you will do well.”  So the sisters set off.
     They walked and they walked and they walked and they walked, until one sister said, “I am tired.  I am going back home.”  “No,” the other sisters cried, “Stay with us and we will do well together.”  But the sister did not listen and she turned around and returned home.
     The four other sisters began walking again.  They walked and they walked and they walked and they walked, until one sister said, “I am tired.  Look, see, there is a village here and some comely men.  I will stay here and settle down.”  “No,” the other sisters cried, “Stay with us and we will do well together.”  But the sister did not listen and she turned toward the nearby village and settled down.
     Again the sisters walked, just the three of them.  They walked and they walked and they walked and they walked.  They began to walk uphill and the road became difficult.  With a weariness in her voice one sister said, “I am tired; I can go no further.”  And with no words she went to the edge of a cliff.  “No,” the last two sisters cried, “Stay with us and we will do well together.”  But before they could finish their words, the sister turned around, opened her arms and fell back.
     The two sisters cried, but soon they lifted each other up and again began to walk.  They walked and they walked and they walked and they walked.  They walked up the mountain.  They walked through crevices.  They walked in snow and sleet and rain, as well as sunshine and warmth.  I know you expect that another would stop, but, no, they both came to the village on the other side of the mountain and found their purpose because they walked together. 
      But that is not the end of the story.  You see, the sister who returned home, one day thought, “I want to find my purpose”, and she set out and up the mountain, and although the walk was difficult alone, she did arrive at the village.  The sister who had settled and found home and family woke up one morning and thought, “Ah, I need to find my purpose.”  She talked with her family, packed up their items, and they went across the mountain and she found her purpose in the other village  There is one sister, however, who could never change her mind, could never turn from her detour, had no options.  So continue your walk, and even when the path over the mountain may not be straight, try to hold someone’s hand and walk in LIFE.