Life After The Slammer: A journey of inspiration, insight and oddity. 


For just over five years Geraldine was involved in bringing creativity, hope and inspiration into Maryland prisons and jails, first as a volunteer and then, for almost two and a half years as a Chaplain at the Maryland Correctional Training Center – Maryland’s largest men’s prison.


Blue Sky Puppet Theatre

Last week I stepped into a living fairytale.

Or that’s what it felt like when I went to a house in University Park, Maryland that resembled an illustration for a children’s story.

In my mind this is how the tale started.

"Once upon a time there was a cottage on the edge of a big city that was made out of decorated gingerbread.  It belonged to a puppet maker and his wife.  Ten years before, the puppet maker discovered he was a wonderful painter and his vibrant artwork was now displayed throughout the house. 

People were amazed when they saw the paintings because they were so beautiful!

The puppet maker had a mobile puppet theater and he went round to schools and libraries, churches and country clubs putting on shows.  His theater became so successful that he hired other people and formed teams so that he could reach more children.  He loved his job because he really enjoyed making children happy. 

In his spare time the puppet maker created a giant xylophone made out of recycled materials that sat in his garden so that the neighborhood kids could come and make music. He and his wife loved to hear the children laughing and creating new songs right outside their kitchen window…."

 Do you see what I mean?  It sounds like the beginning of fairytale – but it happens to be true.

I met Michael Cotter, puppet maker and owner of Blue Sky Puppet Theater and his wife Judith at SpeakeasyDC, the storytelling club that I love in Washington DC. 

He very kindly offered to pass on his knowledge of the business side of an arts venture both to me and to author and fellow storyteller Julie Kraut , who is also a SpeakeasyDC regular.

I had seen one of Michael’s productions on a hot July day under a tent at the back of Strathmore Mansion.  It was the “Barker of Seville”, and I had been entranced by the creativity of the show and the enchantment on the face of the children in the audience. 

So I was delighted to take up his offer of an intense learning experience at his University Park home. Over the almost three hour seminar Michael poured out the lessons and secrets he had gleaned from twenty five years of running his puppet business that has been successful enough to provide a comfortable living for his family and to put three children through college.

In a nutshell the information mirrored the story of the rich Greek farmer who on his death bed passed on the secret of his great success to his sons.  “Every day you must walk over the land because the owner’s eyes must see everything.” 

For a puppet master, and a storyteller, that translates to - balance the creative side with the business side.  If one is to thrive they both must thrive.

By the end of the session I was enormously impressed with the professionalism, precision and creativity that Michael uses in running his puppet empire.  All the shows are primarily excellent entertainment as well as being a first class educational tool. 

And  they are fun!

The company travels regularly to a two hour circumference around University Park (which is near Washington DC) and goes further on request.  So if you need a fabulous puppet show, contact Blue Sky Puppet Theater.

 I left with facts, figures and strategies swirling around my head and encouragement warming my heart. 

What a gift!

Thank you Michael for so generously passing on your knowledge!

I was proud of myself when leaving the house for two reasons.

  • I successfully resisted the urge to bang on the outdoor xylophone.
  • I didn’t break off a gingerbread shingle and nibble on it all the way back to Frederick.

 I’m saving both those pleasures for my next visit!






The Power Of Three

In storytelling things go in threes it seems - three blind mice: three wishes: three bears. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was strongly impacted by three things last week.


On Thursday and Friday I went to the two-day Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit where a yearly changing roster of innovative, exceptional business and church leaders are invited to share their story and insights at the Willow Creek Church campus in South Barrington, Illinois.  The event is telecast to hundreds of host sites throughout America and the world.

I attended a satellite center in the Baltimore suburbs.

The speakers included luminaries such as:

  • Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric:
  • Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS Shoes, Inc, a company famous for giving a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold:
  • Jeff Manion, Senior Pastor of Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan which for years hovered around fifty members but has recently exploded to over 6,000 attendees.

Although the other speakers were excellent, it is Jeff Manion’s words that are still reverberating within me.

He talked about finding God in the aftermath of crisis - where life as you knew it has changed whether because of unemployment, foreclosure, illness, family tragedy, heartbreak – we can all fill in our own blanks – and the future has not yet solidified.  

He calls this place “the land between” – where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question.

In a perfectly pitched presentation filled with the wisdom gained by experiencing his own extended dark night of the soul, Manion laid out the proposition that it is our response to “the land between” that will decide whether our journey through the desert will result in deep, lasting growth or prove as destructive as acid on plastic.

The pivot point is trust.

Will we choose to trust the One who has been proven trustworthy?

 It could have been trite, but it wasn’t.

It was gut-touching, thought provoking stuff presented with sensitivity and humor.

 I left clutching Manion’s recently published book “The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions,” hoping it would live up to his lecture.


Getting home from the two day juggernaut of rich ideas and concepts I was delighted to find a book I’d ordered had arrived. 

Ripping open the packaging I immediately started inhaling “The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness” by Storyteller Joel ben Izzy reading until dawn approached and continuing the moment I could pry open my eyes.

This small, powerful work, a true tale, is a cross between Mitch Albom’sTuesdays with Morrie,” and an anthology of the finest stories from around the world.

From the first page the reader travels close alongside Storyteller ben Izzy, going from a dark place of unwanted transition after losing his voice, through a series of meetings  with his eccentric but wise old teacher, to a realization that the desert time was an unlikely gift that brings transformation as great as any seen in the ancient folklore that weaves in and out of the book.


My head was still awash with a world of beggars and kings, monks and tigers, hope lost and restored when – on Saturday evening - I went to a concert.  The Scott Day Band were playing at Redeemer International Family Church, temporarily turned into a dinner (well a dessert) theater complete with draped tables and dramatic candles.

The Scott Day Band’s music is soaked in prayer and an otherness that transports listeners to a place of healing and peace, a place where fears are calmed and equilibrium restored. 

Their message is - trust.  

We are deeply loved. 

In times of darkness God will send moments of illuminating, strengthening grace.

The only way out of the swamp is to take His hand and let Him lead us on the journey from despair, through the wilderness, to a place of praise-filled fulfillment.

It was a moving concert – in part because it provided the perfect vehicle to sift through the lessons that had been surrounding me that week. 

Different mediums, same message.

Three times within three days.

It feels like I’m inhabiting a folk tale and the Great Storyteller is speaking.

And believe me, I’m listening as closely as I know how.



Nicolo The Jester

This evening, at the Germantown, Maryland library, I experienced another side of Storyteller Nick Newlin as he brought to life his alter-ego Nicolo the Jester. 

And what fun he was!

The room was heaving with dozens of tiny toddlers, their older siblings and watchful adults and Nicolo kept them all entranced with his juggling, his audience participation stories, his vivid costume, his poetry and his delightful joie de vivre. 

Although I don’t normally like someone telling me what to do from the stage (a stubborn reaction from too many years of preacher’s saying “turn to your neighbor and tell them…”) I found myself joining in all the silly songs, and every “repeat after me” – and what’s more thoroughly enjoyed doing so! 

Perhaps the difference was that Nicolo didn’t take himself too seriously – and that he didn’t talk down to his predominantly pint-sized audience. 

For one glorious hour we were all equal citizens of Never Never land where anything was possible – little girls became queens, seven year old boys became princes and all volunteers were awarded temporary custody of glorious hats denoting nobility in the kingdom and were instantly able to juggle!

At the end of the evening Nick knelt down and became the Pied Piper as children swarmed him. 

They asked him questions.  They posed for pictures taken with him by doting adults.  He gave each one focused attention and shook their hand.   

The evening was a delight! 

If you need a juggler or a jester for anything – especially a children’s event – choose Nicolo.

The children left with magic in their eyes.

And so did this adult.






Destination? Slammer! Has Been Recorded!

I am delighted to report that the recording of my one woman story show “Destination? Slammer!” on Sunday evening was a great success.

Thank you to all who came out.  Thank you to all who prayed. 

Thank you Lord for answering those prayers!

Beans in the Belfry, a defunct Brunswick, Maryland church, now a delightfully quirky coffee shop was the perfect choice for the venue.  The place oozes with character and on Sunday it was packed with people and the applause and laughter were loud and frequent.

Three days after the event I am only just landing after being afloat in a bubble of “once upon a time” delight! 

My euphoria was enhanced by the comments of attendees.  Bruce Saunders, a friend and excellent professional communicator who attended the show with his family, wrote on Facebook:

“Not many people can use words effectively – you are a masterful story teller. I think all in the room ended up on your magic carpet, taken to other times and experiences.  Really loved the wry and gently humor and the way you brought things back around to points of growth and life lessons for each vignette.”

Another review was written by Chuck Tressler, the founder of the North Eastern Storytelling Festival, He wrote:

Buckley A Hit! 


Approximately 20 members of Redeemer International Family Church and dozens of others experienced the taping of Geraldine Buckley's first CD at Brunswick's Beans in the Belfry coffee house Sunday evening, the 25th.

In a word, Geraldine was sensational.  Thoroughly not only words, but in her gesticulations and presentation as well...she regaled the audience with stories of an incredibly varied and altogether fascinating life.  A life that spanned Nancy Drew-style capers in Catholic boarding school to serving sangria to nuns in Spain to suppers with Lady Bird Johnson (yes, the President's wife) to years in prison (buy the CD and find out what that means!) Oh, and her British accent added to the charm.



Enough tooting of my own horn! 

It is back to reality...

Editing and packaging are the next tasks.

I am hoping that the CD’s will be ready by the beginning of September.  I will let everyone know as soon as they are available.  Indeed you might not need to have access to this blog, Facebook or your email to receive the news.

If you listen carefully you might well be alerted to the arrival of the finished product by my nation-spanning squeals of delight!

Yea God!



Awash With Words

The last ten days – all oppressively hot - swirled past me crackling with creativity.

A SpeakeasyDC open mike; as many Capital Fringe shows as I could stuff into my schedule; rehearsing my upcoming show “Destination? Slammer!” and discussing plans for another show, a possible collaboration with Storyteller Ellouise Schoettler, have kept me deliciously immersed in the creative process.

Followers of this blog will know that I am a sold out fan of the Washington DC biographical storytelling organization, SpeakeasyDC – so it was a joy to be part of the lineup for their monthly gathering on July 13th

The theme was “Lonely Planet: Stories About Road Trips, Travel And Being Away From Home” and the tales were gripping – each one a gem. 

Top notch storytellers told tales that ranged from reaching international accord on the ice flows of the Artic, discovering a true calling while at a Grateful Dead concert and a malaria-induced change of philosophy. 

I shared about going away from home at eleven to attend a convent boarding school, longing to have a midnight feast and the subsequent ensuing adventures.

The audience loved it and I had such fun in the telling! 

Part of SpeakeasyDC’s success is having Education Director, Stephanie Garibaldi, give each participant a compulsory one hour telephone coaching session before taking the stage. As always the finished result was an excellent evening.

The Capital Fringe ends on July 25th and I managed to see six shows (next year I’ll plan to attend many more.)  One of those I saw twice and three were packed into the same day! 

Besides Ellouise Schoettler’s “Pushing Boundaries” I particularly enjoyed Slash Coleman’s thoughtful one man show ‘Chaidentity” where Slash, a Holocaust survivor’s son, learns to embrace his religious and creative heritage.  (His maternal grandfather, originally a performer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, became a Resistance fighter after Hitler banned Jews from participating in any creative activity.)

On the opposite end of the seriousness scale was the sold out show “Logic, Luck or Love,” where two men and two women explore the thrills and heartbreak they encounter along the road to find true love.  It received a standing ovation on its opening night and garnered a fabulous review – all well deserved.

So now I am awash with glorious words! 

And I’m loving every syllable!