The Writing Life



Halloween From a (Good) Witch’s Point of View

Posted by on Oct 29, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

CUTTING THROUGH HALLOWEEN STEREOTYPES

It’s not all gore and ghoulish stuff #2

Two little darlings came trick or treating. They were quite well costumed, a ninja clothed all in black, and another super hero with huge wings AND winged feet.

I asked them if they had any tricks.

They looked puzzled, then looked at each other. Each reached into their plastic pumpkin loot collector, pulled out one piece of candy, put their hands behind their back and looked at me expectantly.

Then they whisked their hands in front, fists closed, covering the candy and twirling their little hands around.

Voila! They opened their hands! And there was a piece of candy!

“Magic,” I exclaimed.  “Where did you learn that incredible trick?”

Ninja said, “It’s called The Nothing Trick.”

We all laughed. Ok, so my laugh was kind of a cackle, but still…

Happy Halloween!

(Attributed to a Halloween lover in Tucson)

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Halloween From a Skeleton’s Point of View

Posted by on Oct 28, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

CUTTING THROUGH HALLOWEEN STEREOTYPES

It happened at a skeleton’s residence on Halloween.

It’s not all gore & ghoulish stuff #1

A pint-size trick or treater had a superhero costume on complete with cape, fake muscles, head totally covered with a rubber mask that looked like a green ant.

I said,  “Oh, what a great costume.”

He said, very earnestly, lifting his mask, “It’s really ME.” (He looked just like the little boy in Jean Shepherd’s beloved “A Christmas Story,” glasses and big eyes. We in Halloweenland watch this movie every year. Really.)

I gave him his candy and he and his dad turned to go.

Then at the turn of my front walk he turned back and said, “Thank you, Have a lovely evening.”

(Attributed to a Halloween lover in Tucson.)

Tomorrow: Story #2

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.

A Colorful Way to Travel Pack

Posted by on Oct 18, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

Travel Packing

I’m packing for a trip to Santa Fe. My very organized process for packing consists of printing out our Vacation Checklist ( yes, I can send it to you if you are in need of a detailed list). Anyway, it’s got what needs to be done around the house before departure, and what clothes, toiletries, health items, aka Rx’s and the ever-expanding lineup of anti-aging jars, supplements, and creams, and “my stuff” must go with me.  What starts out as categorized piles of clothing items becomes a panorama of clothes, shoes, socks, scarves, snacks, brochures, and “my stuff” all vying to get in the suitcase.

A Color Palette for Planning

A dear friend advised years ago to have a color palette for what clothes to pack. “Start with black.” Of course, and then decide whether you want mostly blues, reds, oranges, pinks. As I looked at the burgeoning piles I saw my palette. Green and pink.

I’ve been attracted to green for two months since our trip East which surrounded us with the green of the Berkshire and Adirondack Mountains. It was quite calming and peaceful. Stream of consciousness here.

Colors of Joy

I thought of Colors of Joy by Nancy Andres. A delightful book for “self-discovery, balance, and bliss.” The gem of Ms. Andres’s book for me has been the growing awareness of not just what colors I like, but why. It’s how they make me feel. Relaxed. Confident. Energized. Calm. Also what colors crowd me, stifle, block me.

I take you to page 26 of Colors of Joy: “Green is the color of nature and growth, pink stimulates compassion, and yellow helps keep you lighthearted.” Perfect for our road  trip to celebrate our 30 years of shared joys, sorrow, challenges, love, and quite a few laughs along the way.

Nature’s Green in the Northeast

Before Mother Nature turns to autumn art, dark forest green was reflected in Palmer Pond, the shadows were almost a black/green near the Hudson River, and a silent path in the woods soothed me. What greens will New Mexico bring to my palette?

The blue of the pond reflects that forest green of the woodsPrivacy among the treesGreen as calming

A Harvest of Autumn Events

Posted by on Oct 1, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

IF YOU LOVE WORDS, STORYTELLING, WRITING, & BOOKS …

Every Tuesday. 11:30 AM-1:30 PM – THE EASTSIDE WRITING ROOM. No fee, no phones, no talking. Just write. Contact Ethel etheleemiller@me.com or   https://etheleemiller.com

OCTOBER

Thursday, October 3 – 7:00-9:00 PM  – ODYSSEY STORYTELLING: “Spirits”   An eclectic group of storytellers share personal stories about spirits! Curators: Phil Gordon, Jess Kapp. Sea of Glass Center  330 E. 7th St.  $10 Adults, $7 Students.   https://odysseystorytelling.com

Saturday, October 5  – 9:30-11:30 AM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES: “Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Brittle Bones” Join us to tell or listen to spooky or broken bones stories. Unscrewed Theater 4500 E. Speedway Blvd #39. $0 Members. $5 Guests.  https://tellersoftalestucson.com

NOVEMBER

Saturday, November 2 – 10:00 AM–12:30 PM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES   A very special holiday kick-off. Brunch and Dia de los Muertos stories. RSVP. Contact Ethel or Tellers of Tales.   https://tellersoftalestucson.com

Thursday, November 7 – 7:00-9:00 PM – ODYSSEY STORYTELLING: “Second Chances”  You messed up, goofed, “forgot.” Did you get a second chance? He/She lied, cheated, misunderstood. Do you give a second chance? Storytellers Gina Rooney, Susy Plummer, Jennifer Treece, Hank Miller, Paloma Ibanez, Riley, Andrea Carmichael, and Tim Bentley share their second chance. Curators: Ethel Lee-Miller & Bella Vivante. Sea of Glass 330 E. 7th St $10 Adults, $7 Students.   https://odysseystorytelling.com

Saturday, November 9  – 12:30-1:30 PM (afternoon session) – ARIZONA MYSTERY WRITERS hosts Ethel Lee-Miller “From the Page to the Stage” Turn your next reading, lecture, or presentation into an entertaining, effective performance! Get some very good answers to: Best way to use notes. Stage fright, Talk into a mic? Eye Contact and Read at the same time? And more. Tucson City Center Inn Suites, 475 N. Granada Ave. $30 non-members, includes lunch; $25 for RSVP’d members. Info:   https://www.arizonamysterywriters.com

DECEMBER

Saturday, December 7 – 9:30-11:30 AM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES:  “We Remember” Tell or listen to stories remembering Pearl Harbor and honoring our military service men and women. Unscrewed Theater  4500 E Speedway Blvd #39, Tucson, AZ 85712. Free for members; $5 guest donation.     https://tellersoftalestucson.com

Saturday, December 7 –  10:00 AM-12:00 noon – HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR Santa Cruz Valley Chapter- Society of Southwestern Authors. Gifts for the book lovers in your life. Or take advantage of this wonderful, low-cost event to showcase/sell your books. Village of Green Valley Recreation Center 400 W. San Ignacio, GV. Handicap accessible. Reg.: https://www.ssa-az.org/santa_cruz_chapter.htm

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.

A Summer Place

Posted by on Sep 23, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

I believe each of us has a special place that holds sweetness, peace, and memories we can wrap around ourselves. Sometimes it’s a place we’ve only been to once. For a day. Or a time even shorter than a day.

Now that summer is ending, I think of mine even more. Mine is a summer place. Miller Place.  

My Red Ribbon Place

Grandma brushed the little girl’s hair back and up into that one-fisted hold in preparation for a skinny, silky ponytail. She twisted the rubber band around the bunch—then pulled the tail up and out to the sides. The little girl felt some hair pull, but only a little. She pushed her bangs over to the side.

“Wait, turn around.” Grandma’s hands deftly tied a thin red ribbon into a bow around the ponytail. “There. You look sweet. Now skedaddle.” 

The little girl skedaddled. Off Grandma’s lap, out through the screen door, down the wooden steps, across the burnt grass of summer, and up the slight hill of the driveway. The dust from the sandy driveway felt cool and soft on her bare feet. The air smelled faintly of the crabapples from the tree up the hill.

She ran past Grandpa’s flower gardens, past the cement birdbath, past the old stone fireplace. It felt as if her six-year-old body was lifted entirely off the ground. The red ribbon lifted up in the running breeze. The little girl was fast, light, and pretty.

This red-ribbon scene is a memory from my childhood over half a century ago. I remember not only how everything looked but also the smells and the sounds. I use this memory as my foundation for self-comfort, my vision of  “It is all right.” I believe each of us has, from childhood, a magical place and a beckoning to an almost spiritual terrain.

What was your red-ribbon place or experience?

Thinking of Miller Place Ch.1  © Ethel Lee-Miller 2016

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Exploring a Bit of Boston

Posted by on Sep 12, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

Putting on a travel writer hat. It feels good.

Just what is the Back Bay?

If you have a few days to enjoy Boston, think about the Back Bay neighborhood. Reclaimed from a bay in the late 19thcentury, it’s now an affluent neighborhood of charming Victorian brownstones, historical churches, museums and great places to eat.

Accommodations

Our room on the 31st  floor of the Westin Copley Place hotel on Huntington Ave. offered a beautiful view of the Charles River and is within walking distance to – well, just about anywhere in Back Bay. Mother Nature cooperated for the three days we were there in mid-August. We had sunny days with cool breezes. Back Bay folks apologized for the heat. “No problem, we’re from Arizona.”

Places that inspired us

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a half-hour walk from our hotel, designed after a Venetian palace and built by Isabella in 1903 to house her extensive European, Asian, and American art collection- paintings, tapestries, furniture, and decorative arts. She had inherited $1.75 million from her father so she had a bit of spending money! You can take an audio tour on your phone or browse through each room and use the large print (thank you) cards describing each piece on the N, S, E, and W walls in every room – three floors chockfull of art.

The Museum of Fine Arts is within walking distance of the Gardner Museum. We didn’t go in but the artwork around the grounds is … interesting.

Heading back to our hotel, we stopped in at the Shops in the Prudential Center on Huntington – found a Lord & Taylor store! Then took a ramble to see the shoppes on Newberry Street, ranging from elegant to trendy to funky.

We stepped back in time to visit the Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library, the Public Gardens with the famous Make Way for Ducklings area on Charles St., and the Copley Square Market.

Of course we needed sustenance

We enjoyed breakfast in our hotel before each day’s outing, a dinner at the Summer Shack– very casual and delicious fish. A great lunch with clean and colorful food prepared fresh daily and organic coffee at PRÊT a Manger on Boylston- with a nice patio, and just across the street from the Boston Legal “building.” A surprise find was a French restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Bar Boulud on Boylston Street – French cuisine with Boston dishes and American burgers. Take your pick.

A sunset walk along the Charles River ended with the pleasant discovery of The Met Back Bay Café on the corner of Newbery and Dartmouth with supper on the outside patio.

Just for fun and an interesting overview was the Duck Tour around Boston. 90 minutes past just about every top spot in Boston with an outstanding narration. An hour on land and half hour on the Charles River gave us great ideas of places we’ll visit when we return to Boston.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. Ethel is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

“I’m Not Afraid of Cancer”

Posted by on Sep 3, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

I’m reposting this blog because it gives me hope. Reading and sharing how my friend approached her cancer diagnosis refocuses me to be proactive in my endeavors to help close friends and acquaintances who are dealing with this disease. Thanks and appreciation to my Toastmasters colleague Laura Lohner for the original idea in 2016.

“I’m Not Afraid of Cancer”

A Little Background

When I was seven the modern mode of communication in our house was our very clunky rotary dial black phone with a jacketed (material) round line cord that stretched two feet from the phone to the wall. It was at the hub of our house in the tiny hallway that opened to all the other rooms–living room, kitchen, bathroom, upstairs to my older sister’s room, my room shared with my Finn, and my parents’ bedroom. A hub with no privacy.

If you grew up in the 1950’s and had a phone, the word privacy was further blocked by being on a party line. A live operator connected you to your phone call, but then no one else on the party could use their phone. Often when you picked up the phone you could hear other people talking.

So when my mother got a phone call one afternoon, we heard:

“Hello.”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“I see.”

Then there was murmuring as she dragged the phone into the bathroom, the semi-private area of our house. It only took a few minutes, then clickand clunkas she hung up and put the phone back on the little hall table.

My sister and I were experts at “reading” moods, atmospheric tension, and body language. Since we were in our room and Mom went in the kitchen with Dad, we heard one six-letter word. Cancer.Then “my mother.” “Funeral.” The air felt thick, almost gray. I learned early on to label it “fear.”

After that phone call I don’t remember any discussions with us. Most of my childhood information came from my peers (the Big C), or books in the library (definitions of malignant, surgery, drugs, fatal).

Words are Powerful

It starts with a six-letter word. Cancer. Then it gets personal: Your neck, brain, skin, lung, breast, bone, soft tissue, sinus, pancreas, uterus, pituitary, renal, vascular. Then it gets specific: Tumor, lymphoma, leukemia, melanoma, and neoplasm sarcoma. It gets more specific and more complex- Rhabdomyosarcoma. Esthesioneuroblastoma.

Being Proactive

Over the years I did what worked for me to diffuse fear of not knowing when a medical issue arose. I asked friends. I went online. I read books; I had good rapport with my doctors.

It helped – some. My grandmother’s cancer was fatal. My sister-in-law died of cancer. My husband’s mother died of cancer. In 2014 my stepdaughter was been diagnosed with lung cancer, which had metastasized, to her brain. She lived in New Jersey; we were in Tucson. We lived in fear and apprehension every time the phone rang.

One evening a Toastmaster colleague Laura Lohner was on the meeting agenda as a speaker. Title of her speech: “I’m Not Afraid of Cancer.” Cancer. The big C. I was back in the gray atmosphere. Not afraid? Come on, who is she kidding?!?!?

I forced myself to listen. Laura’s cancer survival was the first I heard where a patient was ultra-proactive. Of course she got info from her doctors; she’s a Toastmaster and we Toastmasters talk and listen. But Laura did more. She incorporated seven areas of her life that underwent ‘training’ to protect her and help do battle with her cancer. “I made that list based on my research; I didn’t even realize it was seven things until just before giving the speech –  I counted them to ensure I repeated the list without missing one. I’m pleased to provide it here:  diet, sleep, stress management, exercise, community, faith, and freedom from toxic exposures.”

I copied the list to remind myself to personalize this – diet can be the cancer fighting kitchen diet, or go green, or macro, or Mediterranean. Stress management can be yoga, meditation, affirmations, tai chi, walking, journaling. What I came away with was being pro-active and having an inner locus of control can cancel out the debilitating emotion of being a victim.

When a close friend was diagnosed with cervical cancer two years ago, she heard the word cancer, and then echoes and a buzzing sound for the rest of the “test result consult.” When her partner read back some of the information he had written down the next day, he realized there were gaps in the notes he took. That one word and the meanings and experiences attached have caused countless emotional and physical reactions.

Sadly and yet thankfully they both knew people who had gone through treatment and could fill in some of the gaps. They also were online in the next 24 hours, and in touch with her doctor, and the Cancer Society. In the last two years, more people in my life have been diagnosed, battled and won (some more than once), and some have lost the battle with this horrible disease. Some are still holding the line. Friend B. emails me her numbers are down. “The doctor did not see any other areas of cancer. I’m so happy.”

Just this week I read Mary Maas’s book Sisterhood of the Wounded Breast. It’s a journey alongside 22 courageous women gathered by the equally courageous cancer survivor, Mary Maas, who gathered the memories and stories of survivors of this horrendous “equal-opportunity” disease.  Some of the women state the facts of the tests, discoveries, and decisions to fight their disease. Others open the doors of fears, indecision, searching and living for months not knowing the outcomes. Those were the hardest to read and yet the ones I appreciate the most. Most survivors shared heartfelt stories of the support of partners, spouses, churches, medical professionals, friends and their own personal spiritual power that will surely boost a reader’s faith in humanity. I could only add up my minimal aches and pains and find I was filled with sorrow for their harrowing times mixed with admiration for the determination of these 22 women. It’s a hard read but one I am grateful to have read.

Empowerment

Laura Lohner emailed me, “If nothing else, I hope that learning there are options may help folks feel empowered to help heal themselves, which all by itself can do wonders for one’s outlook and attitude.”

My friends and the survivors in Mary Maas’s book leave me speechless. How do they do it? More than one survivor has said something like “You wake up each day and get out of bed. You put on clean clothes, look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” Close your eyes and say, “Thank you. I can do this.”  You have a friend or family who look and you and say, “I love you, we can do this.”

So what’s the takeaway from this? I’m certainly less apt to take my good health for granted. I’m more aware of being compassionate, helpful, willing to offer specific help and to continue to learn, in any way I can about health and healing.

A Request

Please send comments, share your experiences and thoughts about dispelling fear when it threatens to take over. We can do this.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Labor Day Weekend

Posted by on Sep 1, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

Friday morning my intention was to “get stuff done.” Paint those baseboards that were kind of chipped, update some work documents, research for a client, organize our recent Boston and Adirondack vacation photos. A mix of mental and physical work, but all under the category of “projects.” Desk folders lined up, documents in sequential order. I had downed one big mug of bulletproof coffee and was totally energized, courtesy of a really nutritional breakfast of two eggs, and two slices of bacon.

Before I headed down the hall to my office to start work, my husband Hank and I each chose a Universal Angel Card to set our intentions for the day. Did we get a card that said “responsibility” or “work” or (our least favorite) “obedience”?  I mean, I was totally geared up for that. No, I got “play” and H. got “delight.”

“How do I take a sense of play to my office to WORK today?” This led us to talk about work and the careers we had had in our lives. I loved each of my jobs. When it wasn’t the love I had for children I taught, it was also the sense of breakthrough that happened with clients as a counselor. Sure, it was hard and work, but what a sense of purpose and caring knowing I had earned the trust of a client. Later years, planning a presentation for seniors, or kids, or college students called for hours of research, writing, rewriting and practicing. But sharing practical ideas and experiences that worked in relationships made it so worthwhile. It really wasn’t like “work.”

Singing, dancing, laughing, improvising – all had their beginnings in my childhood. Just because that was over half a century ago, doesn’t mean I have to let any of it go when I work today.

In 1997 my writing life began. Writing a memoir is personal, exhausting, fun, scary and ultimately, for me, a cornerstone in the building of my life story. I spent hours looking over photos, researching places that no longer existed but had been a part of my summers in Miller Place, Long Island. It wasn’t work like toiling, or struggling. I’ve loved this work of writing for more than two decades. I love the sound of words, arranging words to create pictures, and show the story and emotions that drove the stories. Observing people, hearing their stories, making up new stories and then sharing them. Toil? I don’t think so. Even the business of writing – marketing, filing, promotion – yes, that’s work, but enables me to enjoy the fun parts of a writing life.

I realize there has always been a sense of play in my work, laughing with colleagues – even over oddly worded rejection letters, or listening to Deva Premal or Nora Jones while I reconcile my checkbook.

Sitting at our kitchen table, coffee cups in hand, and morning sun coming in the east-facing windows, Hank and I smiled. We can play wherever we are. An attitude of play is all we need. We often remind each other to look for what’s funny in a situation. Where do improvisation and laughing and curiosity come into play in play? What better job for someone who loves to play with words than being a writer?

How do you combine work and play?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Summertime Visuals

Posted by on Aug 15, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.  ~ Sam Keen

Even the fog is lazy

 

2 trees +1 hammock= summer relaxation

 

Hangin’ out in the pool

 

You steer, I’ll relax

 

Nowhere to go and that’s fine

 

Patio peace

 

Go horizontal

 

Lazy summer conversation

 

Oregon coast sunset

 

Water= Calm

All photos property of Ethel Lee-Miller

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, 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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

BLD and Books I’m Loving These Days

Posted by on Aug 9, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

August 9! It’s Book Lovers Day!

How and Why I Love Reading

To gear up for BLD I wrote about what got me started loving books. There’s a bit of a gap between then and now, but this is what I’m loving to read now. It’s quite an eclectic range. There’s 11 of ’em, so read on. From memoir with a political tone, to a non-fiction exploration of how we care, or don’t care for the aging populating in the United States, to inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, to a current food plan book about Whole30.

Part of why I love reading books is for “where” they can take me. I also relish the connections and memories that stories stir in me. I know I’m enjoying a book when I think, ”This reminds me of….”

 

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

I got this on Kindle after watching the Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts. A lonely childhood with a definite absence of warm family fuzzies. From where did she get her resilience? What instilled this sense of integrity? I’m finding out.

 

Cowgirls: Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan

After our early summer trip down to the Chiracahuas and a recent visual treat through the Phippen Museum up in Prescott, I pulled out Teresa Jordan’s Cowgirls: Women of the American West. Ms. Jordan is a prolific writer and part of a fourth generation of ranchers. Her bio alone reads like a pretty active story. The almost thirty Western cowgirl stories she has researched and compiled are vivid, exciting, and inspiring. These were and are strong women. What a great read!

 

Elderhood: Redefining Aging by Louise Aronson

For years, “old” was always ten or fifteen years older than I was. When I hit seventy some undeniable signs had me sliding into the category of  “those people are really getting old.” Those people now include me. But I cringe when I hear folks say, “Well, I’m getting old and I can’t ____, or ____, or _____.” Fill in any number of activities someone thinks they have to give up because they are “old.” Maybe I won’t go skydiving now but it’s because I’m scared, not old.

Elderhood is helping me accept that yes, I am getting older, and old is not a synonym for “infirm.” It means relishing my accrued life experiences. I am becoming an elder in my family, my community, and my society. I am sharing experiences and being grateful that I’m enjoying my eighth decade of life. Childhood, adulthood, elderhood. All part of the progression of life.

 

In the Mystery’s Shadow: Reflections on Caring for the Elderly and Dying by Susan Swetnam

With decades of cultural training and often horror stories of mismanaged health care for the elderly, who would want to read about caring for the elderly? Add to that, the cultural perpetuation of death being a top fear along with taxes and public speaking, and this book’s title sounds like it could be a tough read. But for anyone who has loved, cared about, or cared for someone who is aging and declining, the author brings comfort, hope, and a sense of wonder at the opportunity to be a part of the connection with people who may be, as my friend says, “On the down side of the mountain.”

As I read this book, it brings back bittersweet memories of caring for, visiting with, laughing with, crying with, and coming to respect and adore my aging mother. I see the last five years of her life that I spent with my mother as a gift. Reading this book links similar experiences with my father, my brothers-in-law, and my stepdaughter, and eases my mind about their final journeys.

 

 A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren

Is Elizabeth Warren this decade’s champion or is she pushing too hard? Reading her 2014 memoir may provide grist for the mill. Her memoir combines a readable mix for me of biography and politics.

 

The Lido by Libby Page

This was recommended to me by my older sister. The Lido tells the story of a friendship between an octogenarian and a twenty-something reporter. Two very different generations. I keep pausing my reading because scenes in the book remind me of the friendships I’ve had that have crossed generations, as the two main characters in this charming book do.

Of course, the friendship that developed between my mother and me in the last years of her life is at the forefront.

I also had the privilege of befriending senior writers, not a few who were nearing or at the century mark. I was “teaching” them about the writing process. They taught me about dignity, resourcefulness, resistance, and resilience.

A “chance” meeting at a Habitat for Humanity outing with a local artist when I was in my forties and he was moving towards eighty was a gift to us both. We both, for our own reasons, knew next to nothing about building a house, but the organizer put a caulking gun in my hand and extra tubes of caulk in Marc’s. We worked our way through each room of the newly-built house, and over the next decade shared our life stories and friendship.

 

Repeats:

Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. My bedside reading table go-to for remembering simplicity, the ideas of walking or standing as a meditation. Keeping it simple.

What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher. This book was first introduced to me when I was teaching writing process to second graders. Thanks to a recent visit with my friend Bryn, I stayed in her guest room which has one whole wall filled with books. And there they were. Books about writing, emerging writers, and beginning readers that brought back fruitful lessons and the writing celebrations we had in the classroom. Most of all was the excitement of giving young children the belief that they were the bosses of their writing. And I was the boss of my writing. Fletcher’s book is timeless. More than twenty years later, it still works.

Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. I first followed this food plan in 2015 and lost 15 pounds. That felt great. Four years later my motivation is to reclaim the energy that had been depleted over the last two years of stress, loss, and foolishly putting some issues before my health. Whole30 does work. On June 1, 2019 my husband and I committed to thirty days. Having him join me in this commitment earned him a renewal of his National Treasure title. I have kicked the sugar craving, lost weight, and have incredible energy. The very astounding thing is I have discovered I can not only prepare nutritious meals, but can experiment and create new combinations of foods that taste really terrific.

A Small Toot of My Own Horn

And finally… Remember the quote by Toni Morrison? “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So I’m also rereading two of my favorites, Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Contact me if you’ve read any of these. Let me know what you think.

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. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.