The Writing Life



Current List of Bumper Sticker Philosophy

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Snippets for writing

Bumper Sticker Philosophy #3

And the most recent updates to my bumper sticker list:

Words are powerful! – ELM

There’s no percentage of return in worrying – From my chief mentor, Hank Miller

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself – Recovery talk

Are you a cheerleader or fogger? – ELM. Uh-oh, sometimes I’m both.

Drop the storyline – Thanks to Pema Chodron

No means next! Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections for Gone with the Wind; William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – 20 times

Life is fragile like dew on the grass – From the Buddhist book, Offerings

Just say yes – Improv Wisdom

God made me a twin so I wouldn’t be lonely- paraphrased from Jack Kornfield

Life is a gift!

-Feel free to submit yours-

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

More Bumper Sticker Philosophy

Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Writing | 2 comments

Snippets for writing

Some More Bumper Sticker Philosophy #2

Often there’s no time to read an entire book on motivation, self-awareness, self-esteem, or inspiration, or you may simply want the shorthand blurb for an idea. Yesterday’s blog had my early “helpers.”

I call these shorthand blurbs, my life reminders, or Bumper Sticker Philosophy. Time goes on. The list gets deletions, additions, revisions

Here’s my Solid Gold Bumper Sticker List, first used publicly in 1997 ( and they still work) when I started presenting life skills seminars:

And If Not Now, When?

Follow Your Bliss

Is Your Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Just Do It!

Who Are Your Cheerleaders? – Stick with folks who support and cheer you on in achieving your goals. Be your own cheerleader too!

Keep Chippin’ Away- What seems like a huge task, is lots easier when chipped down into smaller doable steps.

Respond Rather Than React- React is all emotional- sometimes helpful; response includes some introspective thought before reacting. It works!

May Your Spirit Soar

Oh Yes, I Can!

ASK! ASK! ASK! For What You Want and Need – If you don’t ask, you (usually) don’t get. So ask!

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

Don’t ‘Should’ On Yourself

You Are A Prize!

-Tell me your bumper stickers, aka,  tips for positive living-

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Resuming the Writing Life

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Snippets for writing

After a four-month hiatus from writing stories, snippets and essays, my brain, hands, and sit-me-down are feeling the renewed activity of writing. My snippets pad is full; scraps of paper get emptied out of my handbag every evening with the day’s gleanings of overheard conversations, or ideas that pinged into my brain “out of the blue.”

The consistent issue I have with my writing life is not of ideas, but time. I’ve never felt stuck for ideas. I can only answer the question “But what do you write about?” with a huge sigh. I sigh not because of a dry spell in writing ideas. Just the opposite. It’s a flood, an ocean, a tsunami of ideas.

There’s the snapshot writings about situations. Dog walkers in the neighborhood. Marveling at the excitement of coming home after being away for three weeks. The very young couple (probably in their late twenties. I know, young is a relative term) having a love spat. He, leaning in beseechingly. She, pouting, teary–eyed. When does that technique lose its ability to solve problems? All grist for the writing mill.

My favorite ideas grow from character sketches from people-watching or conversations with friends or new acquaintances. Seeds of ideas.

I have journal books filled with celebrity and historical quotes, and author quotes just waiting to be written about. Wise words from friends that could be t-shirt phrases or bumper stickers, and if expanded, personal essays. My own personal list of bumper stickers began when I started writing down positive phrases in 1985, which was a pretty significant year for me. I had post-its all over my apartment, the bathroom mirror. Bedroom closet door. Car steering wheel. All to keep me on track. I started out small. None of the words were original, but they were gems. Some of you may recognize them.

The list looked like this: Bumper Sticker Philosophy #1

F.E.A.R.: False Events Appearing Real

Fake It ‘Til You Make It!

Act As If

Keep Your Head Where Your Feet Are

Stay In The Present

Let Go—Let God

GOD- Good Orderly Direction

Stick With The Winners!

One Day At A Time

You Are A Prize!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

D.E.A.R. Time 4/6/17 “Bazaar” magazine

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

 

“I’m going to the gym.” Hank stood in the doorway of my office, sneaks on, and water bottle in hand. It’s a quarter-mile walk there and back, which adds a half-mile to his elliptical total. He’s got a whole routine of machines and weights and usually comes back sweaty, panting, and pretty pleased with himself.

“The gym? Oh, the community center.”

Our community center is an eclectic place. Great equipment, mirrors, TV (often ironically tuned to the Food Channel) and free weights. Also the bulletin board for events, and business cards of local entrepreneurs. A corner closet holds folding chairs and tables for meetings, and there’s an open shelved book rack where folks drop off used books and magazines, making it a free no-fee lending library.

The other day I dropped off my used “Toastmasters” magazines and posted some notices, then did the bend and stretch to eyeball the latest books. Hmm, some D.E.A.R. time selections, perhaps. Someone got rid of a whole bunch of Debbie MacComber books. Did them already. Murder mysteries, which I’d rather watch on Netflix. And a pile of old glossy mags.

I could hear my third grade teacher sniffing, “That’s not real reading.” But D.E.A.R. time in my second grade classroom acknowledged reading any kind of printed material. Including hardcover books, paperbacks, poetry, research, maps, comics and magazines. We were not exploring ranking fine literature, we just wanted the kids to curl up, read, and enjoy the time. My adult D.E.A.R. time holds true to the same tenets. And good readers make good writers.

I took home two magazines. Yes, yes, I remembered my Kindle downloads. The Liars Club and The Kiss were waiting patiently on my Kindle. Knowing my reading habits, I can foretell hours of reading once I start Liars Club. But for now, an hour of glossy page turning and fast scanning.

I chose the “Bazaar” magazine. June 2016. Eye candy. Skipping over articles that tout aesthetic body procedures I can ill afford, I clicked mental photos of how I may adapt some styles to my clothing. I enjoyed a guilt-free trip through couture art, amid Bazaar fashion firsts from a bikini in 1947 to the LBD to mini skirts. It was a lot of skimming, scanning, color intake and faint urge to go out shopping. Fun.

“Vanity Fair,” and mail deliveries of “The Costco Connection” and Viking Ocean Cruises 2017-2019 await. “Vanity Fair” will make the cut, with a cover of a very fit Bruce Springsteen on bike promising to bare his art and soul in his autobiography, Born to Run.

I know I’ll be into The Liars Club tonight and then The Kiss. Can’t promise another daily post … Have a great weekend.

Have you tried D.E.A.R. time yet?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

D.E.A.R. Time 4/5/17 “Crossing the Unknown Sea”

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

I stood in front of the bookshelves in our guest room/meditation room and took down three books. I’ve added them to the small stack of books and magazines on the floor. My growing wish list for D.E.A.R. time.

One of them is David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea. After the original readings, I used each of these as cafeteria-style books–read a chapter here, a section there.  David Whyte shares in lyrical phrases (he is a master) creative ideas that I can tap into and adapt as my own. I first read Crossing the Unknown Sea when I retired from teaching.

I began counseling and life skills presentations for adults. My clients were working full-time and grasping for time and ways to develop their spiritual and creative side. Whyte’s idea of bringing our spirituality to work was both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. Most of us had been brought up that work was work and spirituality was for someplace else. After reading and rereading it over two decades, I can see how each of my careers was an expansion of spirituality in every part of my life. The seed for it was planted in childhood.

In describing the Inner Template of Belonging David Whyte gives an example of his young nephew stating in simple terms what he wanted more than anything for his life. A profession unlike any academic dream his family wished for him. “To be like my Uncle Michael driving around with a load of washing machines in the back.”

“Whatever particular horizons drew us as a child are the original patterns and templates of our adult belonging.” I spent my childhood summers in a sleepy Long Island beach town called Miller Place. We spent two months each summer in our idyllic small world encompassing an acre of green property, gardens, trees for climbing and a five-minute walk from the Long Island Sound. This world was inhabited by interesting people. What made it idyllic was the time and space to observe, to watch all this, …and to be.

“They are clues as to how we find our measure of happiness and satisfaction in the world.” The times I have been happiest, most content, and also most productive were when I inhabited a world that held freedom within a structure and time to laugh, observe and see new ways. Teaching did that. Counseling teens and families did that. Writing does that now.

My marriage does that also. I am in a space in my life, just past my 70th birthday, nurturing a willingness to let go of certain activities, to be open, to widen my horizons–new people, places, and things. It feels good.

What will be next? D.E.A.R.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships

D.E.A.R. Time 4/4/17

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Time to Drop Everything and Read. It’s here. I have no big presentations to plan. I have no speeches to write. My clients’ folders and notes are in order. But now that it’s here–in abundance–I’m stuck. How can I be stuck? I love to read. I have the latter part of the afternoon to read, to skim, to dabble, or to dive in. And yet I am not reading. It’s not like I don’t have any choices. We have over 500 books on shelves in our house. If I want to hold a book, or inhale the musty odor of older books, the library is a mere six miles away. And then of course there’s my kindle, which now offers over 5 million eBooks.

Maybe that’s it. Too many choices. And just what is the best choice? Wait, this is starting to hold undertones of my old nemesis–perfectionism. Is this the best you can do? I won’t tell you whose voice I’m channeling here.

Five minutes ago I put The Liar’s Club and The Kiss on my iPad. I love memoir and have not read either of these. Oldies, both of them. Liars Club was first published in 1995 and The Kiss in 1998. Both caused some pretty big waves in the literary review circles. I can only imagine the chilling silence that might have settled over dining room tables had the designated Family Truthsayer answered the casual conversation starter, “Read any good books lately?” with one of those titles. I can certainly relate to both with personal experience with alcohol “influenced” behavior, and family secrets.

Okay, I’m digressing. If you hesitate or procrastinate when D.E.A.R. time comes, might I suggest, be your own parent, or kindly teacher, or compassionate friend. Be true to yourself.

My path? First I go to Chunk It Down. Too many choices? Look at that list on my iPad. These are books that people have recommended. Pick ten. Don’t think. This is a time to react. What do you really, really want to read – right now? Pick one. Sit. Open. Read.

        Or do a NIKE. (Yes, I’m using NIKE as a verb) JUST DO IT. Grab book. Go to comfy chair. Read. Whatever you choose is okay, right for you. Enjoy!!

 

Yesterday I finished When Breath Becomes Air and then reread the last section that Paul Kalinithi wrote. I am inspired.

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships

Drop Everything and Read

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Writing | 2 comments

Whether you’re 5, 15, 35, 55 or beyond, D.E.A.R. Drop Everything and Read. (Yes, another acronym – the key to salvaging my memory) I love to read, yet find other ‘things’ get in the way of my personal reading.
April is D.E.A.R. month. I did it when I was a teacher. I’m doing it this month too.
The DROP website celebrates Beverly Cleary’s books to motivate kids. All we have to do as adults is pick up one of the books we’ve accumulated that are lying on the kitchen/bedside/dining room table. You know the ones you’ve been meaning to read. Sponsored by Harper Collins and Walden Media to name a few, this program has been in existence since Beverly Cleary first mentioned D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and schools picked it up. When we did it in my school in West Caldwell, New Jersey, the kids loved it. We had D.E.A.R. time in the classroom. I challenged my second graders to have their parents join them at home at night.
Why let the kids have all the fun? D.E.A.R. Promise yourself 20 minutes and watch it morph into 40 or more.
Once I committed to the idea of doing a D.E.A.R. for myself,  I first thought I’d lay out a curriculum for the month. This was my usual teacher planning method. Old habits die hard. But then I let it go and decided I’d see what happened as long as I read every day–for myself.
From Ramona Quimby to When Breath Becomes Air
I had When Breath Becomes Air on my Kindle for a few days. Started it Friday evening and kept eyeing the Kindle each afternoon to claim time to read it. A moving, informative, beautifully written book of Paul Kalinithi’s internal and external struggle with cancer.  The emotional shock of his cancer diagnosis is lined up parallel to the medical knowledge and past experiences he had in treating cancer patients. And then his experience of being the patient. It’s more than narrative. His own questioning of life and death firmly invited me to look at my own.
What will be next?  D.E.A.R.                                   
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships

Paris, Bookstores, & Sylvia Beach

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Sometimes you just have to travel to learn new things. I had to go to Paris to find out about Sylvia Beach. When we were planning our first trip to Paris in 1998, a writing colleague told us go to Shakespeare and Co., a bookstore in Paris that has books in English. Not only did it have a warren of rooms crammed with books, but newspapers, posters, postcards, and a community  bulletin board that reminded me of the East Village in the ’60s and ’70s. Looking for a room? Looking for Dr. Seuss in English? And the icing on the bookstore cake–a garret room with a single bed with rumpled sheets and an empty wine bottle on the floor.  Who started this wonderful place? An American woman named Sylvia Beach.

Born in Maryland on this day in 1887,  Sylvia Beach went to Paris as a young girl, but returned and lived there for the rest of her life. And what a life it was. She was a “quietly radical” woman, opening a bookstore in 1919 across the street from Adrienne Monnier’s, who became her lifelong friend and lover. Sylvia “carried pollen like a bee… cross-fertilizing these writers” … Hemingway, Joyce, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and French artists. She was at the center of avant-garde literature offering tea and sometimes lodging for artists.

Wandering through the aisles, I had the desire to step back in time and meet this incredible woman. The most I can do is visit Paris which we did again in 2010, read about her, and ask, “Anyone know more about her, tell me. “

The Hemingway Project offers an appetizer of information about this fascinating woman. http://www.thehemingwayproject.com/in-praise-of-sylvia-beach/

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life.

Kind

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

As this month of extra special kindness closes, I thought again of when my husband went on his ‘Be Kind’ campaign. The beauty of it was he didn’t announce it beforehand. He just did it. The outcome was both funny and touching since I first interpreted it as a personal declaration of his love for me. But there are so many ways to be kind. And kindness is universal whether it comes from your life partner or the Dali Lama who has said, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.”

Be kind.

Thank you and gratitude to folks who purchased, read, and wrote to me about Seedlings, and their “Kind” experiences. The doctor who made a “house call.” The friend who brought flowers. The neighbor who dropped off a small book. The “grown-ups” who share special time with a small boy. The driver who let me “cut” and gave me a thumbs-up after.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life.

Loving Kindness

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in Writing | 1 comment

Flowers, chocolate, jewelry. Some traditional tokens of Valentine’s Day. The last three months of my life have been
marked by reduced social interaction and home-bound activities. So there were no wrapped presents, no boxes of chocolates this morning. The reason why  is not the core of my thoughts on this Valentine’s Day. Being home with my husband 24/7 has had its challenges. It also provided time to take out, look at, and reaffirm the reasons and behaviors we chose to be with each other. Out of our 27 years of marriage, and the recent three months of being in each other’s company, what we’ve decided to focus on is the cultivation of simple graciousness- “thank you,” “please,”  “I appreciate…”, “I love you,” along with “I’m going off for some alone time.” Out of some slightly stormy exchanges, this has been the pearl in the oyster.

The true essence of humankind is kindness. There are  other qualities which come from education or knowledge, but it is essential, if one wishes to be a genuine human being and impart satisfying meaning to one’s existence, to have a good heart. ~ The 14th Dali Lama

Peace of mind is rooted in affection and compassion.- The
14th Dali Lama

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. ~ The 14th Dali Lama

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people and writing, and the wonderful place they both hold in her life.