The Writing Life



Reading Opps in the Elementary Grades: A Teacher’s Dream

Posted by on May 27, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Encouraging Reading in Elementary Grades

Many years ago in the 1980s and ‘90s, my teaching colleagues and I at Washington School in West Caldwell, New Jersey were constantly finding ways to encourage the habit and love of reading. We had D.E.A.R. time, Big Books; write your own book, read to a friend, and the Scholastic Book Club.

Using Book Clubs

Founded in 1920, Scholastic offered a book buying opportunity in schools so kids could choose books to purchase for their very own. The book order came within the pages of news magazine called the Weekly Reader. The years I taught first, second, and third grade, we made a big deal out of the Reader, modeling reading a newspaper and discussing it with our “neighbors.” Then there was the perusing of the Scholastic book offer sheet that listed titles and prices of paperbacks, hardcovers, book packs.

We had class discussions as to which we could get for our classroom with bonus points. Students learned about the existence of a (teacher) veto vote by the teacher.

Those of you who are/were a teacher or know/live with a teacher, are surely aware that a good portion of expenditures for classroom supplies comes from said teacher’s pocket. We knew some kids were not going to have any money to buy books even with a low price of $.75 for some of the paperbacks. “Somehow” there was always at least one book for each kid in the class.

Some kids decided very quickly which books they wanted. They often ran up against a  (parental) veto vote again once they got home. Their money came back in envelopes or little baggies or sometimes just pulled out of pockets or dumped out of backpacks. Their order sheet with x’s next to the titles they wanted accompanied crumbled dollar bills, quarters, and lots and lots of pennies.

Make It More than Reading

I used it as a business/math lesson.

“Have you filled in the complete order sheet? You’ll need your first and last name here. Michael is not enough; we have three Michaels in class.”

“Have you consulted with your accountant buddy to make sure you have the correct total?” Each student had a partner to check and recheck the order sheet. You just know the future teachers loved doing that and entrepreneurs in the making were advising their friends which was the best deal. I admit I was not adverse to oohing and ahhing over certain books by extolling the economics of a purchase or the intriguing plot of the story.

All orders checked, they were clipped together with a class tally sheet, all monies going in one manila envelope for the teacher to complete the master order sheet and send off with a check to Scholastic.

A Volunteer to the Rescue

Continuing the tallying and ordering at home to figure totals, bonus points and rewards could have been tedious for some of my colleagues and me. We had had enough of penny counting in the classroom. Our relief and rescue came in the person of the kindly retired husband of my second grade colleague, Jackie. Glenn had a way with numbers.

Glenn would get the word that the book orders were ready and would visit our faculty lunchroom to gather all our class envelopes. At the height of his assistance I think there were seven class orders. I always remember him dressed as if he were going off to the office. Crisp shirt, pressed pants, silver hair neatly combed and glasses perched on his nose ready to review our orders or to answer questions.

I was always impressed with his seeming enjoyment of this task. “Well, you girls work hard and I can do this easily at home after I finish the New York Times crossword puzzle.” I came to appreciate his addressing us as “the girls” even though I was fervent feminist. From Glenn it was polite and courtly. That we fussed over him and extolled his talent for handling this job with such aplomb may have influenced his generosity with his time.

Several days later he’d return triumphant with our orders all tallied, bonus points noted, and the total amount we owed the Scholastic Book Club on a slip of paper, sometimes circled in red. The mailing date and expected delivery dates were marked on our classroom calendar. The calendar person for each day would report how many days left until delivery.

Make It Even More than Reading/Math/Economics

When the book order finally arrived, there was a private conference between the teacher and calendar person about how to craft “the books are here” announcement. Public Speaking 101. Some kids just plunked the Scholastic box on the their desk with a flourish. Others had a speech prior to the unveiling of the box. At reading time we opened and divided the kids’ orders. Labeling books with names was a priority. Classroom orders were also labeled. “Look want we got for our classroom from our reward points.” Then we settled in at desks, on the reading carpet, in groups of twos and threes, or in a solitary spot on a huge cushion to read. The absorption in the pages of our Scholastic treasures was as peaceful as gliding in a canoe on a placid lake.

In my teaching career, Glenn Martin shepherded the Scholastic orders of my second grade classes. Today orders get done online, tallies automatically set, your credit card taking care of payment. I don’t know if it would have been as much fun getting the orders ready without our lunchtime meetings with Glenn. All those years of Scholastic orders and not one error.

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’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it.

A Metta Meditation

Posted by on May 2, 2020 in Writing | 4 comments

For your heart. I don’t know the original author, having heard it at Spring Hill in the ‘80s, and having  read it  in works connected to Jon Kabat Zin, Jack Kornfield, and Thich Nat Hanh. I share it here in what is probably an often-revised version. It holds a simple rhythm  and message that can comfort in this very unsettling time.

A Metta Meditation

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be happy.

May I be happy.

 

May You be filled with loving-kindness.

May You be well in body and mind.

May You be peaceful and at ease.

May You be happy.

May You be happy.

 

May All be filled with loving-kindness.

May All be well in body and mind.

May All be peaceful and at ease.

May All be happy.

May All be happy.

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’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. 

Just Bag It- Safety is possible during COVID19

Posted by on May 2, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Sometimes brainstorms turn out to be… well, something else.

COVID19 has reawakened my reduce/reuse/recycle cognitive file.

 

Brainstorm:

Realizing kitchen trash bags are a rare commodity, I decided to sanitize all those used grocery bags we save to use as trash liners.

 

Research:

One of the many websites suggestions was to wash the bags in hot soapy water. Rinse well and they could be used again. I got as far as “used again” and Eureka! I could see my mother nodding approvingly from that great COVID-free space in the sky.

“Why not just throw them out if you think they have germs?” This from my true North, aka my husband, who is usually my #1 supporter. But, as we all know, these are not usual times.

“No way.” I was determined, but also in denial about the simplicity and ease of this task.

Day 1

I gathered all the used plastic bags from their hidey-holes around the house- kitchen bin under the sink, laundry room wall bin, two bathroom containers, garage over-stock (now there’s a trigger word). Steam from hot soapy water rose from the kitchen sinks. Wash in one, transfer, and rinse in the other. Hmm, there seem to be quite a few bags here. Okay, rinse in both sinks. Squeeze out water. Now to dry them.

Dry them?

Attempt #1:  Squeeze bunches of bags. Better yet, wring each bag and lay out on the rack. This works for a few but I’m sure I have more than 100 bags.

Attempt #2:  Take them outside, shake and hang them… somewhere. Hook five bags on a hanger and hook on the backs of the patio chairs. A flawed solution. Most of the bags have puddles of water in them. Shake them again, vigorously.

Attempt #3: Take out the hair dryer and blow-dry them. Do you know how persistent little drops of water are in plastic bags? They scoot along the wind tunnel like tiny transparent bugs.

Flight of Fancy:  “Hey Hank, think I can put the bags in our clothes dryer?” He barely gave me a glance. A quick flick of the eyes in my direction, slight but definite shake of the head, and back to his reading. There was no offer of help from my sweetheart. I was now out of denial and into acceptance of a poor execution of an idealistic idea. A resolve sometimes known as obstinacy sets in. The sun is also setting. Hank deigns to help me take the hangers to the garage.

Day 2. 7:00 AM

There are small puddles in some of the bags. Out they all go to the patio. I extend a travel clothesline (which will not see cruise or travel use for quite a while) from one patio chair to another. Wetter bags get hooked individually on the clothesline. Remaining hangers are hooked on the line intact. The burning sun of today’s 90° weather will dry them. The somewhat erratic hum of the overhead patio fan creates a vigorous breeze that attests to my continuing zeal.

Day 2. 2:30 PM

The bags are dry! I remove each of the more than 200 bags, roll them, and squish them into the containers to be placed back in their hidey-holes. Never have our trash liners been so clean.

Not a great science success, very poor time management, but a pretty neat patio art installation.

 

 

Postscript:

Washing the bags immediately after one grocery outing is easy, effective, and useful.

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’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it.

Adjusting My Attitude – Christmas in a COVID-April

Posted by on Apr 28, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

NativAmerican Santa with long beard and dark fabric robeI’ve got a thing for the Christmas season. My usual routine is to start pulling out decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Lights, artificial trees, holiday motif tablecloths, napkins, dishtowels, bath towels, placemats, candles, photos, and lots of Santas. Holiday gloves, hats, slippers, tops, and sweaters. I read Christmas books, have a stack of holiday DVDS, and about 50 CDs of holiday music. We send cards, gifts, and up our community outreach. Over the top? Not for me. All that holiday cheer boosts what is usually a pretty positive mood to begin with.

Boost a Feeling of Happiness

So why not boost that feeling of the Christmas season when it’s not Christmas?

During this shelter-at-home period because of the horrid COVID virus, I need daily reminders that I can be happy. Every day we try to do things that will release some of those endorphins we need to keep healthy.

 Four Christmas Ideas to Use Now

This email arrived in my mailbox soon after we started sheltering at home:

From one of my favorite holiday designers, Mark Roberts. “In this time of social distancing and high anxiety, hope ends when you stop believing and love ends when you stop caring. So let us continue to hope and love; it will Make Life Beautiful.” ~ Mark Roberts Christmas Magic. Thank you, Mark Roberts.

Last night around midnight I completed a 500-piece puzzle, “Father’s Christmas Train.” Extremely satisfying.

My husband suggested we “up” our community outreach now along with what we usually do in December. “OK, what about this one?” Drive Thru for Tucson’s Frontline. “Hill Bailey’s project on behalf of local businesses and hospital worker/first responders is still going. They’re up to over 300 donors and over $30,000. The goal is $45K. Every bit of the money donated goes to purchase take-out food at a local restaurant and that food is delivered to someone serving on the front lines.” https://www.gofundme.com/f/drive-thru-for-Tucson-frontline?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

And my sister called me last night to share that some folks in her neighborhood have decorated their houses with white sparkly holiday lights.
“What a great idea.” I do like sparkly.

All good reminders that attitude adjusters are all around. I think I’ve got a Christmas angel.

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’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. 

Hummingbird Rescue

Posted by on Apr 9, 2020 in Writing | 2 comments

For almost ten years in early March a hummingbird has nested in a lovely tree in our backyard next to the lemon tree and bordering the outdoor kitchen. Several times we have witnessed the birth of one or two little hummers.

One year the nest was low and visible enough that I got a photo of Momma when she first returned. At the end of April I saw her perched on the edge of the nest as the babies stretched up their fragile little necks to be fed. And then one day they were all gone, hopefully having had a successful launch.

Another year, my husband Hank saw a baby climb to the edge of the nest and out to the limb. Flapped its wings on and off for about twenty minutes while the mother sat on a limb about three feet away. Then the little bird flew to the limb where the mother was. Later both were gone. The empty nest remained for some weeks after.

Momma was back this year. I like to think it has been the same female in the last three years. This year’s nest was extra small and made of light-colored fragments. It was so camouflaged among the leaves of the tree I couldn’t get a good photo. My observations were confined to in-person checks each morning or using my binoculars in late afternoon. Around the end of April I finally saw Momma perched on the edge of the nest. This meant the eggs were hatched and she was in the feeding position, bobbing her head up and down to feed her babies.

After a few feeding days, Momma hummer wasn’t sitting on the nest. She did a flyby several times a day. Online research told me the parent does not stay on the nest once the babies begin to have their little pinfeathers and can keep themselves warm. This reduces the chance of predators seeing the nest. But she comes to feed them and is always nearby.

One morning this week I was watching for her fly by or feeding time and saw the nest had fallen apart – a section still in the branches and part hanging down like a blob of carelessly thrown tinsel on a Christmas tree. No Momma for fifteen minutes, or thirty. Then she was zooming around the tree but not going near it. I went out to look. I read that hummers can recognize colors. They have a mega brain (for a bird) and remember every flower they ever went to. They also can recognize faces of humans, especially those who fill their feeder. I only hoped she recognized me as the safe person who viewed from a distance.

That’s when I saw a perfectly formed lifeless baby bird on the patio under the tree. If hummers can interpret emotions, that Momma must have known how painful it was for me to see the body of that baby bird.

I was even more startled when I saw another baby was stuck by one tiny leg in the tangled hanging mass from the nest, twisting and trembling.

I’m not a passionate animal or bird lover. I think dogs are funny companions, snakes don’t alarm me, but I don’t need to care for them.

But I found myself crooning and talking to both the baby and mother. “It’s okay. I’ll help you. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. I want to help.”

Got to my laptop in about 15 seconds and was googling how to rescue a hummingbird. Of course there were many sites. I used Life, Birds, and Everything

I’m paraphrasing here but this was the gist of what to do: Use leaves or gently put the baby on a soft material. If you can’t find the nest, put the baby in a cardboard box, lined with the material for it to be able to grip. Add any nest material you can find. Put the new “nest” back as close as possible to the original site. If necessary staple the cardboard box to a branch. Do not try to do anything after this. If the female returns, leave the nest alone. Your job is done.

I was fired up. I could do this, with the help of my husband. A very new and helpful fact for us: hummingbirds have no sense of sense so will not avoid the nest or baby if humans touch it. We rescued the baby, a really tiny baby, hanging and twisting with a bent back little wing. We put it in a cardboard box with what was left of the nest and a cut-up cloth headband. Before I put the “nest” in the tree again I put a dropper of water near Baby Hummer’s tiny beak. It opened its mouth but was very shaky. We stapled the box back in the tree near where the nest had been. Then we tiptoed away. After the box was up in the tree Momma came zooming around and perched on the edge!

Now to see if survival was possible. No guarantees. We had to wait and see.

The next morning I woke up at 6:00. Hummingbird. Check the nest. No, wait a while. I was doing my mat work by our patio windows when Momma came fluttering up to the window, darting up and down.

“What? What is it?” I got the step stool and went out to take a look. The “nest” and branch had a disturbing line of little ants going along it. The baby didn’t make it. Not a Hollywood ending.

What a tragic story. Why tell about this during this time of of the COVID19 pandemic? How weird. How cruel to tell this now.

I don’t think so. Yes, I cried when I saw the baby bird’s body. I had to sit down for a few minutes and just… stare. But strangely, I didn’t feel like I had failed. I felt proud that I had tried. Without any thought to the percentage rate of success, I tried. I also realize I’ll be on the lookout for other ways I can try to help – with an animal, a bird, a friend, a neighbor, myself. Because that’s what we do.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs 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’s writing to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it.

The New Normal with COVID19

Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Two weeks ago, on March 16, I began self-isolation. I was not sick; I had no symptoms of this horrible virus. My first lesson about COVD19 was via the red circles on an interactive world map that got bigger and more widespread. I heard a news interview from BBC clarifying epidemic and pandemic. More lessons: Photos of people lying in hospital beds. First responders looking like something I had only seen in NASA photos or science fiction films. It scared the hell out of me.

 

Stay Safe

Safety phrases entered my daily newsfeed and conversation. “Use caution” became “an abundance of caution,” then “extreme caution,” “isolation,” “shelter at home,” “self-quarantine,” “quarantine,” “lock down.” I looked at risk factors like medications and past illnesses. I came to the reluctant conclusion: I’m in that risk factor of older people. And so self-isolation.

Being me, I read voraciously–online, my nutrition books, emergency safety tips, how to prepare for COVID19 when it seeped into the US. About three days into being home, my husband said, “We can’t always be talking about this, or reading about this, or thinking of this virus. We need to live too.”

And so began our search for the new normal.

 

Change is Difficult

Especially change I didn’t ask for. Today, even in our state-ordered stay-at-home, I feel fortunate. I am healthy; I have a solid and safe roof over my head. I live in a lovely neighborhood where I can easily walk out to the foothills and at most see three or four other people. I’m sticking to routines I had before COVID19. Like my morning routine of meditation, stretching, and yoga. My husband and I still do a daily spiritual reading and talk. We eat three meals a day, sitting together. We get outside, hike, or bike, sit in the sun (the newly appreciated antiseptic).

 

Learning a New Habit

In this new normal, I have committed to keep to my daily routines as strictly as possible. Because I know, like New Year’s resolutions or a new food plan or other promises to self, boundary lines can get wavy. It’s tempting to not do the exercise or eat whatever is handy from the cabinet. Especially when negative stress is present.

 

An Example

When I taught kindergarten and first graders about writing, the steps to print letters were pretty strict. We started them writing top to bottom. Left to write. “Make it a habit-do it this way. A habit is something you do a lot–so much that after a while you don’t have to think about it. It becomes a habit by practicing. Like brushing your teeth, or tying your shoe. In the beginning you have to remind yourself how to do it or have someone else remind you to do this new thing. You can say what you’re doing. ‘Top to bottom. Left to right.’”

Whew, I was tough in the beginning. Because I knew after a while individual personalities would slant the letters, some forwards, some backwards, that little dot over an “i” would become a circle or, more precious, a heart. And that’s okay as long as the foundation of the routine was still there.

 

Our New Normal

We adhere to the AZ stay-at-home order. We don’t hug people (a hard habit to break but… consider the consequences). We wear gloves outside and enter the house through the garage, disposing of junk mail right away in a container that gets closed and wiping down other mail before opening. We wash everything (soap and hot water) that comes from the store. We have outside shoes and inside shoes. I do not go to someone else’s house and no one comes into ours. Today I will work on crafting a mask to wear when I do have to go out for food. I dance at home instead of going shopping. I look through still-pristine pages of cookbooks to find new ways to prepare sea bass or what to do with carrots instead of “Let’s go out to eat.”

I will do this. Because I have read or seen on TV that these new habits to stay safe – have an added incentive for compliance – to stay healthy… and alive. And that could scare the hell out of me.

 

Suggestions to Balance Anxiety with Hope and Humor

Surrounding these new routines, I added the practice of gratitude, Facebook posts that are humorous. Check out Bored Panda, Electric Lit, Lit Hub, Brain Pickings, photos that poke fun at ourselves, words that inspire, music, parodies, free shows online from London National Theater, virtual meetings with writing groups and family, and neighbors who give a thumbs up as they walk by my window and see all the pink and purple hearts I’ve taped up with “We love our neighbors.” (Thank you, MM for this idea).

Some Thoughts

It’s a good thing to be negative today. (COVID19 test)

“No hugs” gets a reward.

“Keep in touch” has a certain irony.

And

Love is still the answer.

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’s writing to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it.

Writing and Ambivalence

Posted by on Mar 31, 2020 in Writing | 2 comments

I JUST CAN’T WRITE TODAY

Tuesday is the Eastside Writing Room time. These days it’s virtual. Today some of us wrote, one writer took a bike ride, another did Qigong, another a meditation, I did some major staring out my patio window, did a doc dump for a blog, and then wrote this after our official writing time had ended.   

LIT HUB

Earlier this morning I read an article by C Pam Zhang  in Lit Hub about writing and grief. It kind of addressed the ambivalence I felt about writing the other day and what some of my colleagues felt today. I ended up not writing but reading a luscious book Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. His use of language had me almost drooling. I kept thinking of words I love. That reading time sparked my desire to write. Anyway this Lit hub article focuses on how grief can freeze our writing. But writing is so much more than putting words on “paper.”
 
“Walking is writing. Crying is writing. Talking to a parent whose health you fear for is writing. Cooking is writing. Lying prostrate on the rug and watching sun stripe the wall is writing. Your lover’s hand on yours is writing. Your dog is writing. I have had years in which I could not see the shape of my life or string together a good sentence; and I have had a summer in which, three years late, the fog lifted in a different climate and suddenly I could write about my father. Don’t force the words. They will come, like old friends. You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles. If you are grieving, then I give you permission to write in the best way you can—which is to say, to live.” ~ C Pam Zhang
 

IT’S OK

Each of us today chose our way to do our writing. How cool is that! I too am grateful for my group and our precious time. It’s my Tuesday Special.
 
Thanks for checking in.
Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay home.

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’s writing to connect with folks, and for the fun of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a mic. 

We’re Still Writing

Posted by on Mar 24, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

My Eastside Writing Room group is not meeting in person these days. Sheltering at home because of the coronavirus, we have lost the energy of collective writing together around a table. But we have committed to continue to write. We write at the same time as we would be meeting. Being a people person, I miss the physical and emotional connection that comes with being in a group. So  visualizing us writing at the same time is an amazing and helpful concept for me.

We of writing groups in this time of the virus are not simply writers in isolation; we are writers-in-solitary-residence. It’s just that our residence is not a cozy cabin up in the woods, or out among pine trees by a lake, or on the edge of a red rock in Sedona, but in our own living room or dining room or at a desk or on the patio in Tucson. If it’s Tuesday 11:30 AM-1:30 PM MST, we’ll be writing. Feel free to write with us. Contact me with your intention of what you will write about and then email again to let me know how you did.

( With thanks to Pat Bean for this clever transformation of isolation to residence association in her recent blog. )

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs and workshops 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’s writing to connect with folks, and for the fun of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a mic. 

Words are Still Powerful

Posted by on Mar 19, 2020 in Writing | 1 comment

Thursday, March 19, 2020. 10:00 AM. Tucson AZ. I’m sitting at my desk. Looking out my office window I see a few patches of blue sky as dark clouds and low fog roll eastward.

 

Inspiring words- You are the blue clear sky.

You are the vast blue clear sky.

The clouds are like your thoughts.

Sometimes the clouds are big, puffy and exciting.

Sometimes the clouds are dull and gray.

Sometimes the clouds are dark and ominous.

Sometimes the clouds are so full of moisture they rain down tears.

But … you are not the clouds.

You are the vast blue clear sky.

I can’t remember where or who sent me these words, but I know I first used them after 9/11. The parallel message was that when panic threatened- stop, recognize, and quiet the emotions first. Then measured and careful action had more of a chance to be taken, resulting in a higher percentage of safety.

 

Caution in the days of COVID19

I’m thinking of this poem today. I’m thinking of the messages I read online and in emails that advise “caution.”

Caution signs on the highway mean slow down, look around. Pretty much the same today on and off the road. Slow down, look around. This is not a new reminder for me. For folks like me who are really enthusiastic, very social, huggers and lovers of many things, and aspire to just say yes (to almost anything), the flip side of this coin of personality can be impulsiveness, foolhardy decisions, and resistance to moderation. That, my friends, is part of my nature.

 

Impulsiveness vs. caution

For many years I had a t-shirt that had OTT across the front – all caps, bold, and italics. OVER THE TOP. My energy could move people to commit to being more honest, stop stealing, be willing to forgive. I could also move groups of people to sing, dance, laugh, and let the endorphins fly. But the negative extreme of my temperament sometimes meant my emotions could plunge me into huge anxiety, anger, exhaustion, or danger. Gradually I saw my words and actions could also be tempered with pre-thought and, oh gosh, some planning.

 

Caution in the face of COVID19

Today the bombardment of info and misinformation about COVID19 can wreak havoc with my emotions. This COVID19 is powerful, but so am I. I remind myself, or Hank my National Treasure reminds me, that I am not those dark clouds of anxiety, worry or fear. I can take action with a calm and refreshed mind. I can influence and inspire myself and others to not only take care for ourselves in the midst of this world catastrophe. I think calm clear blue-sky actions can inspire us to travel along this new learning curve and live with the very real awareness that our actions affect everyone around us.

 

Mindfulness as a tool against COVID19 fear

Have the recent years of mindfulness trends been preparing me for this shift in our world? Studies show that meditation for a few minutes each day in a regular disciplined routine can improve mental and physical performance.

I read the tragic stories of those ill with COVID19 with no medical help available. Or they see caring behind the extreme tiredness in the eyes of or an exhausted doctor or nurse or ER driver leaning over them. I react in a way that’s human and very emotional. I feel horrified and a sense of dread.

“Be mindful you are the clear blue sky. Feel those emotions.” I acknowledge my accelerated heartbeat, the constriction of anxiety in my heart, and the slight pain in my abdomen. I take ten slow exhales and inhales, releasing most of the tightness. My actions after the emotions calm down are responses, not impulsive reactions. The clouds of fear that this virus layers around us do not have to rule my life. I am trying to be the clear blue sky. Sometimes, I am the clear blue sky.

 

You are the vast blue clear sky

You are the vast blue clear sky.

The clouds are like your thoughts.

Sometimes the clouds are big, puffy and exciting.

Sometimes the clouds are dull and gray.

Sometimes the clouds are dark and ominous.

Sometimes the clouds are so full of moisture they rain down tears.

But … you are not the clouds.

You are the vast blue clear sky.

 

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’s writing to connect with folks, and for the fun of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a mic. 

Eastside Writing Room- Virtual

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

laptop with writing and coffee mugEastside Writing Room – A New Plan for Tuesdays 11:30 AM-1:30 PM

The Eastside Writing Room is staying connected. We may have to unlearn hugging while we conquer physical distancing, but we can stay socially connected. I will send out an email every Tuesday morning @10:30 AM to prompt you to write at home for our usual 11:30 AM-1:30 PM time. Email your writing intention with “reply all” to the group. In place of telling each other what we did at 11:30, check in with an email. I’m using this at home writing to keep to some of my routines during this time of restricted activities. Contact Ethel if you want to receive that Tuesday morning email. 

How We Did So Far

We started this past Tuesday, March 16. I reorganized and wrote text for my website update. 
H.M. did his “musings.” 
B.M. was sidetracked by home office stuff but has completed the manuscript for her memoir. 
P.B. sent in 4 submissions (there’s an overachiever in every group).  
R.S. sent a link to one of her stories that was printed online. 
B.B. sent greetings from the West Coast.
As an avowed group joiner junkie, I do miss being with my Eastside Writers, Tellers of Tales, Odyssey, Quiddlerettes, Sabino Springs Travel Group and more. So on to Plan B. Take it online. Come on. You can only clean out some many closets and shelves. Organize your 1000’s of .jpg photos later. Write “with us” Tuesday or Thursday. Or both. Until we can really meet again.

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’s writing just for the fun of it, and sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling Tucson Tellers of Tales, and anywhere there’s a mic