Having an Event

When I was planning my very first book launch in 2008 a good friend said to me, “Don’t just have a book signing… have a book event.” 


The spirit of his explanation was “A book signing is so functional, so utilitarian. But an event is… different. Think of the events in your life. Holiday celebrations, your first prom, graduations, a wedding, anniversaries, birthdays. Events elevate what happens above the mundane. Putting something in the event category makes it glorious rapturous exciting entertaining, noteworthy of great attention. Why not do that with your book?” 

From then on every time I planned anything to do with my book-publicizing, marketing, book talks, all so businesslike, I made it A Book Event. A Fall Writing Event. A Holiday Happening Event. It added to the attitude I had, the atmosphere of the event, and the success. Little did I know the most unexpected things can also be an event.

That first book launch event was held at a beautiful banquet room at a local hotel in New Jersey. The marquee usually announcing Happiness for Bob and Alisha or Welcome Baby Shannon, Or 75th Anniversary, was emblazoned with CONGRATULATIONS ETHEL! Introductions were made by a local celebrity. I swept in through the double doors of the banquet room. Confetti shot into the air from party poppers and drifted down like so much happiness. It was an event to be remembered. Hopefully this makes you think of events that happened in your life- wonderful, noteworthy events-and how you can create more.

A Different Kind of Event

On August 25 of this year I experienced a very different kind of an event. Some brain cells in my left frontal lobe decided to goof off. When I woke up that morning my right arm from shoulder to the very tips of my fingers was numb. Couldn’t wiggle/lift/move it. It flopped off the bed. This was not pins and needles.Try as I could staring and willing it to move. Nothing.  

A fleeting but quickly buried thought. You had a stroke. Denial immediately said, “No, maybe you just slept funny.” It wasn’t until I staggered into the bathroom and tried to wash my face, I realized I couldn’t lift my arm. Denial tried again by encouraging me to massage my arm vigorously, actually lifting it with my left hand and attempting the morning water splash on my face. The result was I slapped myself in the face. Stroke. I needn’t tell you all the details but feelings like anxiety, dread, fear, panic rushed through every part of my body except that right arm. I was triaged right through the intake and to ER. Technicians, nurses, doctors paraded in and hooked me up to machines. There were a series of tests that had letters EKG, MRI, CT and others. By then Denial had crept away in defeat.  

I had had a stroke. It was when an ER doctor came in to talk to me that I learned another name for it. 

“You have experienced a small cerebral vascular event. She called it an event. I started to laugh which maybe made her I think I had some real cognitive issues going on. 

“I’ve only thought of events as wonderful celebrations in my life, not anything like this.” 

She looked thoughtful. “Well, it’s possible that you can reframe the stroke from something horrible/scary/hurtful, into something that’s not entertaining, but certainly can be elevated to a level of importance in your life.” She had that right. It is and has been for the past month. I have been getting to know my stroke. At first I couldn’t sleep at nights with headaches and also because I thought it would happen again during my sleep. 

The medical care I received in Flagstaff Medical Center was extremely professional and compassionate. Medical advice began with REST REST REST. I’m beginning to understand this event. My mother and brother-in-law and friend had strokes. I’ve written stories about them. It’s not the same when it’s yours. As I have been accepting it, little by little the fear and panic have subsided. 

A Healing Event

Healing happens every day. I was told to keep a list of what’s different. I’m a master list maker. Each day I write a two-column list: 

What I Noticed Today: 

Yay!                 Different. 

100% recovery is expected. I put just as much time into changing this stroke event to a recovery event as I have with birthdays and book events. Yes, I’m planning a whole body healing. My daily routines of yoga, meditation, a whole food diet and daily exercise (gentle for now) are the foundation for recovery. This week I started PT and walking 20 to 30 minutes at a time. It gets kind of wobbly when I attempt something “new” and I cry often, but I add to that to my What I Noticed Today lists. And I’m surrounded by people (virtually and physically) who help me laugh. Each day is better and better. (That goes on the Yay! side). 

I am so grateful — it could have been lots worse. I have a beautiful safe house, medical insurance, neurologist, cardiologist, physical therapist- all are involved in treatment. My family and friends are so supportive and caring which sure affects physical and spiritual well-being. My Hank is wearing many hats of main caregiver, cook, shopper, chauffeur, reader, and retains his title of National Treasure. 

It may be a while ’til I post again but I want to close with this. A writing colleague, Mary Darling, wrote a lovely book titled The Charm Stories. I was saddened to learn she died this past March. 

This quote from her book is simple but powerful:  “I would like my granddaughter to understand even though life gives us unexpected traumas, it is okay if we take our time to muddle through…There is light at the end of our darkest tunnels, and life will continue to surprise us.” ~The Charm Stories by Mary Darling 

Yes, Mary, it is okay. I’m doing a slow but sure muddling, and finding my way.

Hope in a rainbow at Redemptorist Center

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic.