The Writing Life

Summer Solstice

June 19 – Solstice Brings Changes

Here in Tucson it’s been humid, hot, monsoony, and definitely summer. Frances Billinghurst, a writer in New Zealand does seminars on the metaphysical and mystical aspects of the summer solstice. For me in the Northern Hemisphere it’s a time of greatest abundance of nature and the power of the sun. Frances, in the Southern Hemisphere, is going through a period of reflection. 

I’m definitely feeling the Northern Hemisphere abundance. Right now my glass is more than half full.

An Abundance of Changes

Life can be as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. Some changes have held the excitement of a happy rollercoaster ride. Seeing and hearing Ottmar Liebert with my friend Lori from the second row at our Rialto Theater. Experiencing the fulfillment of abundant health after a couple of years as a stroke recovery person. Traveling with my twin to Virginia to be a part of my great-nephew Ben’s high school graduation. Witnessing his combination of young adulthood poise and confidence as he looks to his future. Proud. Being around the exuberant energy of family and friends ranging in experience and ages from middle-teens to mid-eighties. Inspiring.

Some changes in 2024 made life feel like I was catapulting down a dark twistng rabbit hole. Hank and I deal with the death of Heather, his younger daughter, my stepdaughter, who lost a four-year struggle with cancer on March 29. Any death is a distinct, stinging reminder of other losses. I try to balance this with the comfort I find in our beautiful and safe home, knowing good health, the deep knowing of the love my husband and I share that soothes the sorrow of this loss. I know the support of friends and family that smooths the way for us for peace, harmony, and serenity. I know I have the wherewithal to grieve; to put my memories of Heather in that place in my heart reserved just for her. And we plan a Remembrance as a gift to Heather to honor her as a special person and mother to her son, our grandson.

June 29 –  A Mix of Summer Changes

The solstice days rolled by like a monsoon storm. Usually June in Tucson is hot and dry. But like my emotional roller coaster being unusually surprising this year, so were early June days. Rumbling thunder, building to a crescendo of strong winds and steady rain. Almost daily. Seemed a bit early for monsoon season.

Our summer solstice period has been thick with heat and humidity. The often used rationalization for surviving the heat of our wonderful state is, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” 

Well, not when the monsoons come rolling in, bringing over half of our average annual rainfall  (11.16 in). We recently had what we refer to as “a really great monsoon storm“ delivering between 1-2 inches of rain. I found myself standing quite still by my office window watching the drops pelt against the glass, thinking Why am I  surprised at this weather? This can happen every year.

 

 

I am just as surprised, holding my breath, stunned into stillness when a death comes. “”How sad.” “Too soon.” “It isn’t supposed to happen this way.” Yet I have seen it happen, more than once, even more than twice. I know death comes. It is the unfairness of some losses that stun me for weeks, or more, before my breath comes easier.  

 

The thunder is fading in the distance now. It’s getting brighter out and … look out there … there’s an expanding patch of blue. Breathe.

The seasons of a year bring weather changes, just as changes happen in life.

  

 

 

 

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Monsoon and Other Summers

Mid-June, if all goes according to climate tradition, tradition not being written in stone, there’s a build up of humidity here in my adopted hometown of Tucson. For those of us who have lived here and back on the East Coast we can feel the slight difference. Then, when the humidity is 35% during monsoon season, many Tucsonans are “sweltering,” we nod knowingly with fellow East Coasters. Ha! Try New York City in July. 

Last week we had temps over 108°. Today it’s only 100°. As I look out my office window, the afternoon monsoon sky is darkening accompanied by distant rumblings of thunder.

I don’t really need heavy, humid heat to remind me of East Coast summers. On the first day of summer I always, and I mean always, think of Miller Place. My well-worn copy of my memoir  Thinking of Miller Place:; A Memoir of Summer Comfort is on my bedside table. 

 The first edition was November 2007 – 18 years ago.

 

 

 

I loved those first three years after the book launch, sharing my book with classes, groups, and clubs. If you’re at this early stage in your marketing, grab the opportunities. it’s a blast!

           

 

 

 

 

 

When we moved to Tucson Arizona, an updated edition came out in April 2016 – 8 years ago. It’s been quite a journey – meeting wonderful supporters, readers, speaking to book groups, seniors, Miller Place residents, and aspiring writers from ages 5 (yes) to 85. I recommend it to all writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some summer evenings I think I’ll just scan one chapter of MP and I’m taken back to the 1950’s and spending entire summers on the North Shore of Long Island, NY – with seemingly endless days climbing trees, picking raspberries, shucking corn for Sunday cookouts, and diving off the rocks at the Woodhull Landing Beach. Always with my Finn and our friends. 

We deal with Tucson summer heat with a/c, cool drinks and our “spool,” and humor. 

Meanwhile I’ve always got my copy of Thinking of Miller Place. Heat getting to you? Pull out your copy, get one at Amazon, or contact me to purchase a copy. I’ll cover shipping.

 

Happy Summer, wherever you are!!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

 

Our Own Haiku Hike

Haiku Anyone?

My Eastside Writing Room colleagues and other writer friends are an eclectic bunch as far as genre preference. Regardless of our genre expertise a few of us stepped outside our comfort zone and entered the Haiku Hike Contest in February, presented by The Downtown Tucson Partnership and the University of Arizona Poetry Center. The prize for this fifth annual Haiku Hike literary competition was 20 winning haiku poems printed on signs along Congress Street and Stone Avenue for all Tucson to see. TC Tolbert, Tucson’s poet laureate, selected this year’s winning haiku. It was a visual and springtime event lasting to June 1.

Following the haiku format of three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, off we went to muse and create. Some of us even did research about the traditional theme of haiku from 17th Japanese literature: “insight into natural phenomena,” seamlessly merged with the theme of this year’s contest, Serenity.

We submitted. We waited. We lost. Not one of us won. More than 2000 poems were submitted, but only 20 chosen as winners. 

Five of us entered, plus one intending to but… well, you know how that goes. A bit of a disappointment; but we united in our rejection. OK, so we’re losers. We slumped for a bit – maybe half a day, and hummed the Beatles song “I’m a Loser.” (John Lennon 1964).

Revise, Refashion, Reuse

“No” means next in my book. “Losers, we can join our losing forces for a trek along Congress to view the winning entries. As a finale, we can gather to read our non-winner haikus.” A chorus of YES YES!

But I never planned it. Oh dear, I guess I am a loser🤣

Then a fallback save. Submit somewhere else- which some of us did.

Next idea: Send me your loser Haiku poems. I’ll share them with our online world.  Losers Unite!

Here They Are- Our Haiku “Winners”

They’re pure haiku and brilliant!

Haiku Hike Losers / Serenity 2024

Three by Veda Kowalski – Serenity Theme 

No longer alone

 Aging hands clasped together

 Is what brings me peace

 Sitting in my car

 My space for creative thought

 Now where are my keys?

We who speak her name

Invite her essence within

She’s serenity

Three by Eileen – Serenity Theme

“Finding Serenity”

Ach, I feel soooo stressed

The garden wind-whispers: come 

Hello, my roses

“Boom”

Hear that low soft voice

Slammed by nostalgic scents

Returned to childhood

“My Own Serenity”

Kid cries, car’s broken

What is this to me right now

Having my cuppa

Two by Ethel Lee-Miller – Serenity Theme

“Serenity Abyss”

Hopscotch on concrete

Children playing in the street

Longing for nature

“Tucson Spring”

Early morning rain

Surprise! A double rainbow

Thunder, rain, then sun

We kept our eye on the prize to get started. Who hasn’t responded to that carrot on the stick? The carrot became the writing, reading, and appreciating our results. They are good. 

OK,  you’ve read them. Did you tap your fingers to count those syllables?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Montclair Write Group Flash Fiction Welcomes “Snowdrop”

My first fantasy piece was inspired by a prompt from a New Jersey writing colleague, Hank Quense. He put out a call for submissions to the Montclair Write Group: Flash Fiction Anthology 2024 published by Strange Worlds Publishing. Hank has more tech tips for writing and publishing than there are Crayola colors.

The Montclair Write Group was my first “home” writing group in 1999. Three or four of us gathered every Tuesday at the Montclair New Jersey Library on S. Fullerton to talk about our writing and offer support and encouragement. Out of that grew a vibrant group of multi-generation members now boasting over 30 events a month. One of my few regrets at moving to Tucson was the loss of those weekly meetings and the coffee time before or after the meeting. 

Submitting to Hank’s annual publication has been a touchstone to stay connected with my New Jersey writing roots. 

I was crafting a piece about an unusual and somewhat mysterious sight I saw on a neighborhood walk, and “she” came into being. I profess to love memoir, and true relationships stories. But Snowdrop, yes, that’s her name, answered the need to have a magical inhabitant for the small treehouse I discovered on my walk. I also profess to love little Snowdrop and realize she has a life beyond her little red treehouse. 

Snowdrop has found a home in the Montclair Write Group: Flash Fiction Anthology 2024. You can get a copy. She’s in good company with 19 other stories. A fun read – and free! Click:  Montclair Write Group: Flash Fiction Anthology 2024

Have you stepped out of your genre comfort zone? From what to what? Results?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teach about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Maya Angelou Quotes that Spark Memories

Maya Angelou Quotes

Words That Spark Memories

Maya Angelou’s quotes often bring a flash of a personal memory that epitomizes that quote for me. It’s like I own the quote. This is usually followed by a quoted post-it up on the bathroom mirror or on my bulletin board or a reminder stuck on the corner of my monitor.

Quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Memory: R.S. has the amazing skill of listening without interrupting. She has dark eyes that gaze at you while you are talking. Her very white hair is in stark contrast and emphasizes that gaze and feeling that you have 100% of her attention. When I visit with RS, I feel like am truly all I want to be.

 

Quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Memory: When I sat next to A. and he slowly opened the easy to read book, I mentioned how words have shapes. Some letters are like tall buildings and some have tails that hang down. That A for his name is a tall building.

“Just like the A in Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day had that tall building A. As we read today, I wonder how many of those tall A’s you can find for Alexander.”

“OK. I know there’s probably one in the title.”  He turned to the title page. (He knew the title  page is at the beginning of the book and is usually just a few words on the page, but he didn’t know he knew it).

     I read.
     He stopped me. “There.”
     “Yes,” I turned the page.
     His small index finger stamped on another A and another.
     “Yes.” I read and turned to the next page.
     He grabbed the book turning the page. I read and when I tapped the last sentence on each page, he turned to the next page. We whizzed through the book.
     “Again.”
     “Sure. And you can take this book home tonight.” My second grade A. whose mother told me he hated books, smiled a half-smile as he took the book. A. left school that day, clutching his book.
I still feel good when I think about that day – and it was 40 years ago.

 

Quote: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Memory: When you accrue more than 70 years of living, there are bound to be people and situations that “come along” that you certainly never would’ve asked for on a Christmas list or wished for as you blew out the birthday candles on your cake.

Two stand out as unchangeable; permanent. One was with someone outside of me; the other was something that happened inside of me. The sudden tragic death of my first husband; an ischemic stroke.

Although 46 years separated the events, both brought immediate shock and numbness – a protective device to enable me to cope with extreme trauma. Although with a stroke the “numbness” sure lasted longer. I could not undo either of them, and I went back and forth hating each situation. With each event, I knew somewhere along the line I had to figure out how to accept it because staying angry, or devastated would make me physically ill and that was not part of my life plan.

I think my core temperament was stronger because in both instances, I knew that I wanted to survive, thrive, and be happy. I was still me – changed, but still me. And I could add survivor, thriver to my list of strengths.

 

Memory: It was a small thing, really. When I got home after the doctor’s appointment, he didn’t ask about the medical results.
     I felt alone, weakened even, though the report was positive. I’m sure my body language showed – a bit of a slump, no big smile after we said hello.
     But when he showed me what he did out back on our patio to make it look so clean and neat, I knew the slumpy, poor-me attitude was a garment I had to take off if I wanted to feel lighter and happy. So I smiled. “Let’s have coffee out here.”
He said, “I’ll go make it.”

Triumph on Rocks

Maya Angelou quotes from

Because of Them We Can 

What quotes do you “own”?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Living Easily with Writing Intentions

Our Eastside Writing Room Writers

The Eastside Writing Room. We’ve been meeting for 11 years, the last three via Zoom. We meet each Tuesday to state our writing intentions for that day. It’s an individual commitment in a group setting. Sounds pretty structured, eh?

Intentions

My intention on a recent Tuesday was to do some business writing. Not exciting but a certain creativity was required to “lean in” and make the results compelling enough to get replies to my requests i.e., better customer service, repeating a request, questioning the lack of response for a medical report request – that kind of “best to do it now” stuff. 

Then two colleagues shared their method for tracking the next steps for an essay, memoir, novel, research, or character development.

This got me thinking. I’m not procrastinating about that business folder. I can see it right there in my peripheral vision. Intentions are not have-to’s or solemn promises, and do not come with a 24-hour expiration. Intentions get me on my creative path for writing. I trust my thinking when I make intentions. And I know how my writing process works.

What I Know About My Writing Process 

Two concepts that I know are true for me:

  1. When I was teaching elementary children we used a writing process approach ( thank you, Lucy Calkins). The primary question we asked each young writer was, “Who’s the boss of your writing?” Second graders aced that one. “Me.” Being the boss  included what they wrote about and which system they chose (of the many modeled) to track their writing. For some it was circles with ideas written inside the circle to be cut out and lined up for sequencing. True for me too. See Word Splash
  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had the “nothing to write about blues.” I have tons of ideas. The obstacle is deciding which idea to focus on. I do love all my ideas when the lightning of a fresh idea strikes. While I’m in that walking around with the idea or in the cleaning out cabinets mode of deciding which one, I usually come to the deadline factor. When must it be done? Soonest date gets first writing. 

Some Tracking Ideas

But how to keep track of what got started, what got done, and what’s next? In my head is inefficient, fatiguing. and unrealistic. Over the years, I have used various tracking methods:

Every piece I write gets labeled with a working title and date created. Brainstorm topic words are hand-written immediately; drafts are on my laptop. I keep a spreadsheet list on my computer of titles and dates created, revised, completed, where submitted, and the results. At the very least the title, date, and what to do next is entered on the spreadsheet.

 

 

Pre iPhone my tracking was bits of paper. Then I got organized and carried my ideas pad everywhere. I jotted things down in a notepad – just bits and pieces of an idea. Snippets.

I started using Notes on my iPhone in 2019. But I find I write faster on paper. My fingers don’t hit the right keys on the phone and the mic reinvents dictated words which then requires spell and word check. I could investigate Scrivener, Evernote, and go back to Google docs. That would involve a learning curve of sorts so… back to the Snippets pad.

Tracking Drafts for a Book, Essay, Story, Presentation

The most recent organization plan is for a new book where drafts are already completed; some also have revisions (with their working title, date created, and revision dates).

I culled drafts and blogs that will work for Seedlings 2. This can be a companion to Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. The individual stories or essays were all listed on my master spreadsheet so scrolling titles made it easy to then locate them in ELM docs or ELM blogs and print them. Handling hard copy is still easiest for me. Documents and photos are now in one folder. 

Utilization plan: Open the folder. Choose one to explore, revise, or proof right now. Note with date what was done and put it on the bottom of the pile. Choose the next doc. 

In reality: Today I prioritized all pieces according to what appeals to me most. I reviewed, revised, and updated one. That’s good progress.  

 A Visual/Tactile System That Works

This was Bee Bloeser’s technique for her book Vaccines and Bayonets.

 

 

 

 

It seems to have worked quite well for her because the book’s published, and she’s still on a whirlwind of speaking engagements at book clubs, organizations, and conferences about the book and her writing process.

Materials: At least three colors of Post-its and wall space. In this case it was a rather long hallway. Chapters became delineated to detailed scenes, to be removed during a celebratory final draft. 

Quotes From Other Writers

  • I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~ Elmore Leonard
  • I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. ~ Peter De Vries
  • I keep little notepads all over the place to write down ideas as soon as they strike, but the ones that fill up the quickest are always the ones at my nightstand. ~ Emily Logan Decens
  • Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet. ~ Zadie Smith
  • Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. For each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain. Don’t break the chain.” he said again for emphasis. ~ Jerry Seinfeld from  “Productivity Habits from Famous Writers” ~ The Don’t Quit Podcast

You Decide

It seems the success of it is that writers, often by trial and error, find the tracking system that works for them at a certain time, for a particular piece. There are no “shoulds” of when to write, where, or how long. Who’s the boss of your writing? What’s the deadline?

What’s working for you right now?

Interested in being with interesting writers? Contact Ethel.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Honoring Maya Angelou 1928-2014

Maya Angelou

May 28 is the 10th anniversary of the death of Maya Angelou. It is also 55 years since the publication of her first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). Both the date and year are intricately connected in my life.

1969

In 1969 I graduated with honors from Wagner College, had a job teaching kindergarten starting in the fall in the lovely town of West Caldwell New Jersey. My childhood was officially over. I was launching into what was a planned, graceful entrance into adulthood. 

Of course it didn’t turn out smoothly as planned. But still, the launch was on. The true north in this early adulthood era  was the “job” which became a beloved 28-year career, guiding, teaching young children, and being taught, in turn, by being with them.

I spent the summer of 1969 drifting from a friend’s home with her folks to the upscale Barbizon Hotel, “a boardinghouse hotel for women” in NYC. It was a drifting with a knowing of what and where I wanted to settle, but needing to first drop off some baggage of beliefs and misplaced loyalty to “shoulds” and cultural expectations of a “good girl” before settling into womanhood and my first studio apartment on Staten Island, New York.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In 1969 I was also in the orbit of Malachi Lee, a charismatic black martial arts champion and his friends, acquaintances, and karate students in NYC. It was either Mal or his friend Ron who showed me I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “She broke out of her cage. You can break out of yours too.” I read it. Got my own copy. Read it again-underlined phrases. Cried and started a journal about my own cage. 

Only over years have I seen, felt, and understood the cage I was in. I remember what was described as a sentimental song from childhood, I’m Only a Bird In a Gilded Cage. A beautiful woman married for money (security), not love. Seeing a black and white film clip of this – the woman had long flowing hair, a sweet face; she is swinging gently in her cage. As a young girl I was confused- OK she’s beautiful, she’s got money- two quite nice attributes. But the money wasn’t hers , and only her physical beauty was appreciated. How is that a good thing?

 A far different cage from the one Maya Angelou was thrust into. How did she find the strength, the courage to be brave, to keep going in the face of all that blocked her path- racism, abuse, poverty? She had survival strength, the fight to break out. And so began decades of following the life of Maya Angelou through her books, newspaper articles, and as time went on – films, interviews, videos, Oprah, YouTube.

Who are Your Rainbow People?

It was one of Maya Angelou’s masterclasses, “Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud” that gave me a tool I still use today.

“Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud” is metaphoric talisman that gives me the courage to get through my tough times. One line from a 19th century African American song is the treasure in Maya Angelou’s talk: “When it looks like the sun won’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”

Maya Angelou: I’ve had a lot of clouds, but I’ve had so many rainbows.

Big nod of recognition at that.

Everyone has tough times in their life. This is not to diminish the pain and dehumanization anyone’s experiences. I frequently feel a visceral  anger about the cages in which others are imprisoned.

I think only each individual can define what’s tough for them. “Tough” for one friend was saying no to her parent’s supporting her financially (with many strings attached). Some toughies for me: Tough: quitting drinking (not trying to quit. Who was it who said, “Trying is lying”?), when someone dies, recovery after a stroke, the deep mourning at the loss of a friend or relative, addressing the ignorance of remarks like “girls can’t do that,” and on and on along the spectrum of tough times, fear, and pain.  

Here’s my version of what Maya Angelou suggests, aka, the Rx, to prepare for the tough times.

First: List all the crap that happened. Brainstorm; don’t spend hours on this. The times, situations, remarks will come pretty fast. 

Then: List all the people who listened to you, supported you emotionally, gave gifts of friendship, a safe home, kindness, honesty, affirmation, time, respect, or love during tough times. They are your rainbow people, or heroes, or angels, or spirit guides. At some point in your life, thank those people (in person, in writing, by living the way they showed you) I can be someone’s rainbow in just the same ways.

Finally: “Take”  some of your rainbow people with you to the tough times.

Instead of all the old stuff I 86’d along the way, most days I mentally bring a few of my rainbow people with me. When I get up on stage to tell a true story, when I get in my car, when I go to the doctor to question a decision they deem best for me, when I share non-traditional ideas in a workshop. 

When I had a decision to make concerning my friend’s drinking, I struggled with the question: Do you want to be her friend or sponsor? If you have this difficult conversation and reach out a hand to help as a sponsor- that conversation will always be between you. The conversation required a whole entourage of rainbow people. There were far more hours spent with her than we might have spent as friends. We did not go shopping or have lunch together. We read, talked, cried, laughed, wrote, and I came to find I held her in my heart and learned and loved myself more from this connection. I became a sponsor mainly because a rainbow woman did that for me and it worked!

When I say no to protect my boundaries, to avoid the bars of a cage descending that will block my physical, emotional, spiritual or financial security, I take some rainbow people with me. I have the memories of courage and kindness from my family, KB, MAB, EM, KM, J., AA, MQ, FQ, L., EC, some people whose names I never knew. I know they’ve got my back. And it feels good.

Who are your rainbow people? 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

What is Love?

PROCESS WRITING – ABOUT LOVE

Writing a story is often a long process for me with red pencil slashes, rewrites, and revisions before arriving at a polished product. What goes on behind the scenes? Sifting ideas. Where’s the focus? Does this align with the theme? Does it make sense? Will my beta reader “get” what I am sharing?

Since most of my writing has its seeds in real life – mine and that of others, I do memory lane work- looking at photos (of which I have over 20,000 on my laptop), perusing journals, staring into the space of my distant and recent past, walking in the park observing couples, kids, singletons. This usually means I cannot write a polished piece at the last minute. I admire those who do. When words morphing into a story do spill effortlessly onto the paper I must admit I’ve been musing, and seeing sparks of the idea from different times and places in my life.

In this case Love was the given theme. Valentine’s Day holds more than a bit of value in our house with cards, phone calls, and texts to and from loved ones. The opportunity to share a love story this past Valentine’s Day for The Center For Spiritual Living Tucson newsletter, complete with deadline, moved it along to completion.

 

 

Even after that, the love theme continued into April with a Love Boat topic at Odyssey Storytelling, my favorite live storytelling event here in Tucson. But the memory sifting went back farther than this year or even several years.

 

 

When Foreigner’s hit song “I Want to Know What Love Is” came out in 1984 it was the perfect accompaniment to another of my overdramatic, sad, and exhausting relationship break-ups. It was then I began to seriously search for answers. Just what is Love?

 

WHO DO I LOVE?

I looked at it from the perspective of What is the love that I feel for my family and friends? This gradually led to thinking about What is love for strangers? Is it possible? And at an even slower pace- What about loving or maybe caring about people who seem so different from me? The mantra of “we are more alike than we are different” yielded a cognitive response of, “Well, OK.” But my emotions often shake their little emotional heads. “Mmm, but to love? Maybe not.” I watched in awe when my 9-year-old grinning grandson exhibited his whole-hearted, whole body gyrations of “I looove pizza!” Chogyam Trungpa said, “Everyone loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.” That may sound trivial, but really, there’s something going on if I say or show I love something/someone. To me it’s a feeling, a sense, an essence. I am a manifestation of the essence of love. It’s up to me to choose to use this love essence, share it, give it, and receive it.

Here’s one aspect of Love from almost 40 years ago that still holds true for this period of time in mid-April 2024.

A TRUE LOVE STORY

The speaker was young and earnest; he seemed very poised. He had been invited to talk to this group because we needed to hear what he had to say. The room was packed. There were probably 200 people – seniors, couples, moms, dads, singles, a few teens sitting in the back row with that arms crossed I-don’t want-to-be-here-but-the-court-said-I-better-be-here slouch.

Our speaker launched into his intro. He had a pleasant voice, and an interesting way of telling us about the power of love.

From the back of the room there came a sound of rustling and clattering, as if something had dropped. The noise traveled down along the side aisle, and then back up the aisle.

A few people turned to look. Where is that noise coming from? What was that? Our speaker kept talking with great confidence. 

The noise started again; it was like the clattering of footsteps, but not overly loud. It was just kind of distracting; a flappity-flap of uneven, running footsteps. More people were distracted.  

The noise was coming from a 4-year-old child, escaped from his parent’s grasp. He was running up and down that side aisle. Now people were fidgeting in their seats murmuring, Where are his parents? Who is he with? Why doesn’t someone stop this child?

Our speaker stopped, looked up, and took off his glasses. A huge smile spread across his face as he watched the flappity-flapping tyke running up and down the very long aisle. He was now using his little toy truck, scraping it along the wall so we heard a clackety-clack of the toy along with the flappity-flap of his shoes. 

The speaker pointed and said, “Well now, look at that. Isn’t that something?”

Of course, we all turned to look at Flappity. “Someday,” continued our intrepid speaker, “when that child is older, and if that child needs to find a place where he’s accepted, he’ll know he can come here because we have accepted him with love.”

The little boy stopped, clutched his toy truck, and beamed at all of us.

There was a collective sigh of relief, or was it a sigh of the acknowledgment of love? 

An older gentleman in the third row reached out his hand to the boy. “Come sit with me and show me your toy.” And he did. 

“Love is the grandest healing and drawing power on earth. It is the very reason for our being, and that explains why it is that people should have something or someone to love.  The life that has not loved has not lived, it is still dead. Love is the sole impulse for creation, and the man [woman, child, person] who does not have love as the greatest incentive in his [their] life, has never developed the real creative instinct. No one can swing out into the Universe without love, for the whole Universe is based upon it. ~ Ernest Holmes The Science of Mind 

When, how, where did that unconditional love swing out to you? From you? How did it make you feel?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Odyssey Storytelling- The Love Boat: Smooth Sailing or Sinking Ship?

Odyssey Storytelling April 4, 2024, 7:00 pm.  Doors open 6:30 pm.

The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.

For more info: ODYSSEY STORYTELLING

THE LOVE BOAT – IS IT SMOOTH SAILING OR A SINKING SHIP? 

                                              

Has your love flowed smoothly, like sailing on placid seas – Or did you find yourself crashing on hidden rocks?

Everyone’s got stories. Sublime, unrequited, tragic, or outrageous. Love for another person, a dream, or a cup of coffee. 

Join us on April 4 when six storytellers share their take on love. During intermission you may have the opportunity to share a 3-minute spontaneous “love story.”

Co-curated by Bella Vivante and Ethel Lee-Miller

Got a story? Email: stories@odysseystorytelling.com Ethel etheleemiller@me.com     Bella bvivante4@gmail.com 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

The Eastside Writing Room-Tucson

Why go to a writing meeting where you don’t write

Tuesday, February 20. Another full and informative meeting of the Eastside Writing Room. We zoom each Tuesday 11:30 AM MT time to share our writing intentions for that day. There’s something especially powerful about stating intentions in person, and to a group of people who are staring, quite intently, at you, and are interested in what you have to say.
90% of the time I do what I say I have to do. If I don’t it’s because writing has led me down some other path, equally as interesting.

The Eastside Writing Room

A free Zoom group, no fees, no writing critiquing, but lots of sharing of writing ideas, resources, and a place to declare your writing plan. For adult writers, published or not; any genre, no rants, no crosstalk, just good ole listening and support.

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.