The Writing Life



What Makes a Relationship Endure? Hint- ya gotta communicate

Posted by on Oct 21, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

What makes a relationship endure? My husband and I have been together for 29 years. He’s changed from being Hank, this really neat guy, to my friend, sweetheart, true north and National Treasure. I’m sure I’ve changed too.

We have influenced each other in ways not imagined when we began in 1989.couple relationship with woman smiling at man

IDEAS THAT WORK:

The two biggest ideas that have helped us are to remember we are a team, and to be honest in ongoing communications. Not always easy, eh? But we’ve learned along the way how to express our thoughts in ways that lift up, and don’t blame.

I recently shared a story (Leave-Taking) from Seedlings, Stories of Relationships that tells all about this. It’s been a process, as my therapist might say.

HOW IT USED TO BE:

“Hank and I were almost smug the night we shared our Rules for Fighting Fair (at our couples support group). After almost two years of Hank’s icy silences as an argument deflector followed by my high drama of crying and/or storming out of the room, we admitted exhausted defeat in our old ways of spousal conflict resolution. We now committed to open verbal communication and were learning “active listening” with each other.”

WHAT WE STRIVE FOR NOW:

I no longer grabbed the car keys and stormed out after he winged a sarcastic, “Fine, I don’t care” at me in the middle of an argument. We were becoming pros at, “So what I hear you saying is you think three hundred dollars is a tad too much for a birthday present for a preschool grandchild.

We glided through “Yes, I love to do things with you. However, if we don’t plan ahead, it won’t happen.” This was countered with “Yes dear, I agree about planning ahead, and (“and,” not “but”) I am having difficulty planning activities in fifteen-minute time slots between your meetings and luncheons. How about we slot our activities first at the beginning of the week?”

We knew about avoiding “gunny-sacking,” that dramatic but emotionally costly weapon of saving up resentments and then dumping them out over one seemingly minor event.

Hank and I had also learned to choose times to discuss an issue so we were more likely to get a positive response. I did not greet him at the door at 6:30 p.m. after his two-hour commute with “What the heck happened with the recycling this morning?” He did not pose any questions to me when my hand was gripped around my first mug of coffee.

Most of us in our couples group had eliminated red flag phrases like “You always…” or “You never…” from our disagreement conversations. We had added soothers like “I have a request,” and the universal bridge over troubled waters, “Thank you.” – Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

BOTTOM LINE

For me it comes back to my favorite phrase, “Words are powerful.” Sure, the timing, and tone of speaking are important. But we have to commit to speak. And occasionally, when both of us are tired, or hungry, we regress. But sooner or later, one of us stops and starts to laugh, (or hint at a smile if the other is really losing it). “Just remembered, we’re on the same team.”

For more on our relationship and others, pull out your copy of Seedlings. Read “Leave-Taking,” or “Rules for Fighting Fair,” or “Kind,” or “The Heel.” You’ll be entertained and may get some new ideas for your relationships.

What, you don’t have a copy? Buy it on Amazon or get an author-signed copy   here 

Or check out “Breaking Bread” aka The Heel on Odyssey Storytelling

What helps your relationship endure? Leave a comment. I’m always looking for new ideas that work.

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.

 

Deal Breakers

Posted by on Oct 17, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

Deal in red circle with line through itEver since I signed up to the be the curator for the Odyssey Storytelling “Deal Breaker” show (this November 1), I’ve been focusing on what is and is not a deal breaker for me. I’ve stepped back and looked at really uncomfortable situations and wondered, “Could this be a deal breaker?”

First stop: my online dictionary. “Deal breaker. Noun: a factor or issue that, if unresolved during negotiations, would cause one party to withdraw from a deal.”

In reality the deal breaker does not have to be a “good reason” by society’s standards, it’s a very personal thing. What’s the bottom line? Or more to the point, what’s YOUR bottom line?

TYPES OF DEAL BREAKERS

Ready for some light introspection? What’s that one thing that you can’t overlook or tolerate in business, in entertainment, in personal relationships, in your home, in eating/drinking/dancing/traveling/clothing habits? The list can go on and on.

What’s the catch that can sometimes be a wakeup call? Who is the person whose presence removes you from attending an event? Do you sometimes ask, “So who’s going?” when gathering information for a decision?

In answer to “What’s a relationship deal breaker?” my friend stated flatly and without hesitation, “Infidelity.” Now that’s one of those very personal decisions, but it made me think, Just what is Infidelity? Lusting in your heart? Physical contact? Daily texting of a very personal nature? A sexual relationship?  Flirting- and how do you define flirting? Here we go down the rabbit hole.

Deal breakers are fluid. Sometimes red flags are no longer red flags. Then, do you forgive or is it a deal breaker? What might have been a deal breaker ten years ago or a year ago and now is a mere shoulder shrug? Or vice versa?

Here’s one:

Then: “Come to Sam’s party. But you know, they don’t serve any alcohol.”– Deal breaker for me.

Now: “Hey look, all you can drink- free. Doesn’t that sound great?!!” Deal breaker for me.

There are dating deal breakers, petty deal breakers – (the most unusual I heard was dimples), relationship deal breakers – ranging from and including living at home after age thirty, a long and continued history of unemployment, debt, drug abuse.

There are job deal breakers – racial prejudice, sexism, no workplace harassment policy, no a/c.

Romantic deal breakers are as varied as the number of varieties of lilies or roses  (lilies-110, and 150 species of roses). A small digression here of a personal nature: If your relationships have a shelf life of 2-3 years with harsh and seemingly abrupt endings, take a listen to some great songs: Try a Little Tenderness. Sure Thing, The Wind Beneath My Wings, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Your Love is King, You’re the Best Thing, Tonight I Celebrate My Love.

There are sometimes the edge-of-deal breaker-remarks or situations that can be solved with “Let it go.” “Move on.” (Verbally, emotionally, or physically).

DEAL BREAKERS ARE PERSONAL

But sometimes…it’s a deal breaker. Three random samples from my life:

  1. When I was in my early 30’s I went for an interview as an assistant dance instructor at a New York City dance studio. It was very posh, lovely décor, full wood floor with non-slip foam backing, and wall-to-wall mirrors. Clean, very welcoming. Very “in.” The director asked some basic questions. We danced. He had me give pointers to three students as a practice class. He was pleased. At our closing talk he confided proudly that I need have not concerns about being uncomfortable in any way with the clientele.  “We screen all our prospective students.”

“What do you mean?”

He smiled disarmingly. He turned me to the mirror. “Well, my dear,  look at us. Not everyone looks like us. There are certain types we don’t want. We don’t want their kind.”

Without a word I knew what he meant. Looking in the mirror, I couldn’t see any clue of compassion, intelligence, or verbal, much less dance ability. I saw only Size – average, Shape – young and fit, and Color – white. And that was a deal breaker.

2. Glass half-empty perspective. If someone has that “yeah, but” tone in more than 30% of their responses to suggestions, invitations, ideas, it can be like a dark cloud moving in on a picnic. After a while, isn’t that pretty tiring?

3. The tone of voice can be a deal breaker in deepening a relationship. When I said I’d pass on watching 2Broke Girls on TV I got “What?!! You don’t like it?!! It’s so funny.” Add on that this was said in an incredulous tone. Sometimes an incredulous tone is like a red flag invitation to heated debate.

“Well, it’s a sexist show and that’s not funny to me.”

“Aw, come on. I can’t believe you don’t think it’s funny.” Deal breaker.

One-liner deal breaker responses from my random sample survey: “He calls me beautiful like it’s my name.”  “Don’t call me ‘hon’ unless you are the waitress in a New Jersey diner who does it with attitude and love.”  “Aw, come on. I was only kidding. Can’t you take a joke?”

YOUR TURN

What are other deal breakers? Send me a one-liner or an anecdote. Come to Odyssey- at intermission there’s a chance for an audience member to share their deal breaker.

What did I leave out on those relationship love songs?

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.

Ways to Expand Your Writing (and other) Talents

Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

Autumn conjures up visions of pumpkin picking (Yes, we’ve got Apple Annie’s in Wilcox to satisfy that desire), Farmers Markets (Like the 8th Annual Harvest Festival Nov. 3), raking leaves (Well, that goes way back), and the general idea of harvesting – reaping what you sow.

Still being fascinated with words, I began sharing at storytelling events – not only reading, but telling. If you enjoy being with people and entertaining, this organic marketing is a solid connector. The next step for me seemed to be to share stories that have not been published (yet).

I’m not a numbers person, but in the last two decades I’ve had some rich “harvests.” Published two books, have the honor of being in several anthologies, 100s of website blogs and posts on Facebook. My writing expanded to sharing about the writing process for groups and writing organizations, and entertaining by reading at Open Mics, and my 2014 ‘baby,” Writers Read, here in Tucson at BREWD.

woman speaking to writing groupNEXT STEP FOR YOUR WRITING: Local writers and lovers of words, why not expand your word smithing outside of your books or ebook? Storytelling in Tucson: Tucson Tellers of Tales TOT, Odyssey Storytelling, Female Storytellers FST, Bar Flies , and other area events. Each of these offer opportunities to share your words. 

HOW TO:

  1. Have two to three stories you have honed to be able to share, without notes. Check the guidelines for the organization – theme, time limits, family-friendly, venue location, book sales possibilities, rehearsal, pitch and acceptance procedure.
  2. Once accepted, practice your story – not necessarily memorized, but be so familiar with the material that you know the next sequence of events. If it’s a true story, this gets a little easier. Memorizing works for some people who can deliver with gestures and facial and body language that seems natural. Memorizing can be a crutch if you forget a specific sentence. Solution: Accept that there’s the story you write or plan, the one you practice, and the one you actually give. They may not be exactly the same.
  3. Send, and then also bring, a very short intro to the event (3-4 sentences with the title of your piece). Do not depend on  the coordinator to remember you sent an email three weeks ago.  Most are wearing several hats at an event and will be grateful to have a half-sheet, typed, large font, short intro about you.NOT A WRITER? Musicians, singers, retired teachers – Why not take your voice to schools, assisted living communities, local restaurants, or residential communities? The audiences are excellent and most places encourage CD/book sales.

    Taking more of a plunge, I’ve been dabbling in improv with the incredibly entertaining and informative workshops at Unscrewed Theater. Now there’s an instant opportunity to be a wordsmith!

          MY REQUEST: Feel free to let me know how you’ve expanded your love of words. Check my Events to find some venues I’ll be at this fall.

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.

Hold Onto Summer

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in Writing | 11 comments

A childhood phrase that I cherished for years was “Hold onto summer.” My summers were idyllic. My family and I had a special place, memories that I captured in my memoir, Thinking of Miller Place. It was the one-acre property and surrounding little “world” of Miller Place where we could climb trees, eat raspberries, swinging lazily on the canvas hammock, rock back and forth on the glider, and go as high as we could on the rope swing, and have Sunday bar-b-ques with sweet Long Island corn. And the beach was five minutes away.

It wasn’t so much the warm weather but the activities and feelings that summer offered: peaceful, calm, exciting, adventurous.

Now that I live in Tucson, summer is quite different, at least weather-wise. Triple digits temps are rationalized with “it’s a dry heat.” Still, loyal as I am to my adopted state, that’s pretty hot.

What’s wonderfully the same for me are the feelings and memories we’re building with the hiking in the cooler mountains, reading on the patio and slipping into our spool to cool off, full moon times outside, and dinner and concerts with friends. This summer has been especially adventurous. A trip back to New Jersey and Long Island to visit friends and family and a road trip to the California and Oregon, and Idaho brought us coast to coast.

For your enjoyment here are some of my summer memories. What’s a summer memory of yours?

 

 

 

Me and Sylvia Beach

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in Writing | 2 comments

woman sitting next to mural of Sylvia Beach and James JoyceOf course I’ve never met her in person. But she’s got to be up there on my  list of esteemed literary women- along with Maya Angelou, Margaret Mitchell, Erma Bombeck, Judy Bloome, Sonia Sotomayor, Natalie Goldberg, Georgia Heard, and Ursula Le Guin. Kind of an eclectic list. And Ms. Beach wasn’t known for her writing fame.

She was a small but evidently feisty woman who assisted many emerging writers – James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Andre Gide, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, D. H. Lawrence.

When I was looking for places to visit for my first trip to Paris in 1998, I discovered Shakespeare and Co., the bookshop opened by Sylvia Beach on the Left Bank in 1919. Her motivation – to provide a meeting place and bookshop for English speaking writers, expats, and artists. There was a growing market for English translations. What intrigued me was her personal commitment for two decades to champion new writers. She published James Joyce when he was banned in the US. And her bookshop became a hub for literary events.

Visiting the Paris bookshop in 1998 and then again in 2014, I fell under the spell – the place is stuffed with books, old photos, brochures, a bulletin board overcrowded with notices for rooms, editors, writers and the symbolic single bed up in the garret where a traveling writer could find a bed for a night, or nights. I could imagine the excitement. I would have been one of those college students who vied to work there (often for next to nothing) to be around that talent and energy.

Looking for places to visit on our recent road trip to Oregon, my sister reminded me of the The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. The hotel pays homage to Ms. Beach with books, rooms themed to writers, and a third floor reading room which I heard is complete with fireplace, hot cocoa, and books! I have vowed to stay there on my next visit.

Not sure of the nexus for my excitement I just went with it. We had dinner there after a short talk with the charming desk clerk about the hotel’s history. So much so I gushingly gave a copy of my memoir, Thinking of Miller Place, to her for the owners,  and took a cherished photo of me and Sylvia Beach.

A colleague tells me Shakespeare and Co. now has locations on the upper West Side and the Village in NYC. If this is true, I think there’s a trip East on my horizon.

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.

A 3500 Mile Road Trip, and We’re Still Speaking

Posted by on Aug 25, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

National Treasure and I recently took a road trip to the Oregon coast, then east across Oregon, into Idaho, down through Utah and back to our home in Tucson. Hours of pre-planning, map questing, 3500 miles driving ( he would say 3493, I’m better at rounding off), two weeks, 600 photos later, we’re back. And we both agree it was a great vacation. Not without its tension, but we’ve learned that after  a time out from talking about ‘it, ‘ (whatever the ‘it’ situation was) ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, we can see the humor in, not the situation but, how we reacted to it.

view of blue lake thru treesThe Oregon coast is visually and physically beautiful. If you’re driving, most bends in the road elicit an “ooh” either from the dips, curves or elevation, or the view that emerges after the curve. Huge forest green trees, growing thickly together, waves ranging from pale blue to grey, to dark blue roll in onto long wide sandy beaches.

pink orange and purple sunset sky over the Pacific OceanWalking the beach at 7 AM is like being set down in a gauzy setting of misty fog, wind, and later sun peeking through. And a sunset walk with almost flat waves promises a reflection of orange and pink off the water.

Hank had divided up the days needed to get to our coast destination near Newport. The first two days were hours long- about eight hours each day. Not my favorite way to spend time. But we both agreed that would give us more time to meander up the coast.

I was prepared. I had read the manual for our new KIA ( which by the way, is a fantastic ride). Music was ready, AAA maps in glove compartment, Apple CarPlay hooked up to show each exit for Rts. 10, 215, 5, and giving me a heads up on the twists and turns in the road on 101 in Oregon. Our excitement kept the conversation lively for the first four hours. Food, coffee, and bathroom stops broke up the ride.

Around about Hour 5 ½,  I need diversion.

“Hank, how about a game?”

“I don’t like to play games.” Now longevity in a relationship has taught us the nuances and quirks of successful interactions. I know this is the standard response to a game request.

“OK, I’ll do this by myself.” I begin “Stream of Consciousness.” You pick a word and the player says a known phrase, title, or proverb, etc, with the word in it. The next player uses that to respond keeping using the chosen word. To keep the game going and to reduce poor sportsmanship, changing the key word in the phrase was declared legal several years ago during very long road trips. The round continues until someone cannot think of a response.

So, I begin. “The word is cross.” I continue solo play as Ethel 2. ” Red cross.” “Cross my heart.” Cross is a versatile word, wonderful for solo play. Soon Hank cannot resist. His competitive streak kicks in. “Cross-polination.” I’m thrilled. We’re playing. Soon he drops out. “I’m done.”

Not a problem. I can go back to solo play. Ethel 1- word. Ethel 2- word. Ethel 1- word. Ethel 2-  Uh… blank.  Incredible. I’ve lost a game I was playing with me as my opponent.

Next diversion. I text my sister to send me a Combo. Combo is two nouns that must be used to create a name of a fictional person. The bonus is to send a bio along with the combo. Her combo to me- something sweet and something in the kitchen. My response- Honey Mixer, a chef at the little restaurant where we stopped at for coffee. Honey is saving her tips to get out of “this godforsaken town.” You get the idea.

I also read aloud from my iPad about some of the towns we drive through. Or what the states’ names mean. Did you know Oregon has been alternately traced back to Sioux, Shoshone and a French corruption of “ouragan” (hurricane)?

The scenery inspires me to sing about “purple mountains’ majesty” and “she’ll be coming ’round the mountain.”

I take pictures of passing scenery, vista stops, and closeups of Hank’s hands, glasses, and right ear.

As the hours 7 and 9 roll in,  we lapse into contented silence.

I take photo bursts of fields, farms, and creeks in California. Once we hit the Oregon coast, it’s hard not to stop for photos at every vista. What a fantastic trip! And that was just the first three days.view of wide beach through trees

 

 

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.

Writer Platform Response from a Montclair Write Groupie

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 in Writing | 1 comment

ANOTHER  WRITER’S THOUGHTS ABOUT WRITER PLATFORM

Short, simple, to the point.

July 20, 2018. From Bing Chang:

Hi Ethel, I enjoyed listening to your presentation on “platform” and learned a lot from you.  Also, it was nice to have lunch with you.

May I share my thinking:

Your thoughts qualify you.

Your words identify you.

Your work represents you.

Your relationships connect you.

Your character brands you.

Your soul elevates you.

Your spirit illuminates you.

And, that’s your platform.

Bing Chang is a New Jersey poet whom I met via ballroom dancing. When he started sharing some of his “musings” with me at dance socials, I was struck by the thoughtful concepts as well as his lyrical language. We kept in touch after I moved to Arizona. I’m a fan of his writing, and he is now familiar with the Write Group.

I was so happy to see him again at my Montclair Write Group presentation of “Just What is a Writer Platform?” during my recent East Coast trip.

And now honored and thrilled to have received this piece from him. Simplicity in this explanation. Thank you, Bing!

More about writer platform – Click on “writer platform” in blog tags.

OK, readers, just what is your writer platform?

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.

Sharing with the Write Group of Montclair About a Writer Platform

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

Still jazzed about the reception I received on July 17  from the Write Group (Montclair).  Felt like a Homecoming to me. Only an hour to skim the surface of the “Just What is A Writer Platform?” And we did it!

WHAT IS A WRITER PLATFORM?

There have been many shifts and changes in how to define this kind of a platform. Jane Friedman has said it’s a difficult concept to explain because everyone defines it a little differently. To that I’d add the shifts and revisions in the last decade that publishing and social media have brought to the “construction” of a writer platform.

Bottom line –  it still needs to be something you (the writer) can figuratively stand on and be visible. It needs to be big enough so stand out. Strong enough hold you up, functional enough be there but not in the way.

You need to know who you are (your platform’s foundation), what you offer your readers (your services), and they have to know you, maybe in person, and via a current online presence and *social media outlets, (the delivery method for your platform, aka Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

So think – strong personal and literary content, usable information, professionally written and designed, and connected with social media networks. It’s organic in that it has to constantly change.

IT’S PERSONAL

Each person at each venue where I’ve presented this program has had something extra to add or subtract in defining their platform. And that is so cool. Because your platform is about you, what you offer your audience and how they can benefit from what you offer. It’s nails on a chalkboard when a writer offers their book to me for 99¢ and defines that as part of their platform. I’ll go for the book but I want to know more about the author, what else defines them as a qualified writer. If I go to their website and it’s informative, entertaining and grammatically correct, I’ll return for more.

THE WRITE GROUP of Montclair

I could write lots more about a platform, and probably will, but for now let me share the summary my Write Group colleague Karin Abarbanel gleaned from the hour and the extra time ten of us spent at a delicious lunch after the presentation.  Her title: Only Connect.  

Thank you, Karin. Succinct and informative as I’ve come to expect from your newsletters.

And thank you, Write Group members. Sharing is enjoyable. Being in the company of dedicated writers is always powerful and energizing.

More about a writer platform – click on “writer platform” in blog tags.

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.

Cynthia Heimel

Posted by on Jul 8, 2018 in Writing | 0 comments

7/13/47- 2/25/18. Cynthia Heimel. I only found this out today. I read and treasured Cynthia Heimel’s columns in The Village Voice (known simple as the Voice) in the ’80s. Her writing was edgy, almost outrageous (if you were born and bred in suburbia), and always truthful.

Book Titles:

The titles of her books alone set off streams of consciousness about life. If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet? (1991). Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Good-Bye (1993). A New York Times review of her work said: “Like Dorothy Parker, Ms. Heimel is an urban romantic with a scathing X-ray vision that penetrates her most deeply cherished fantasies.”

Her truths of thirty years ago still have the flavor of freshly made lemonade – a little on the tart side but, oh so refreshing.

Cynthia Heimel quotes:

A sample of some of her words, with thanks to Dr. Mardy’s newsletter, which sends me literary gems every week along with great quotes:

“More than Mallomars, more than hot sex, we want to belong.”

“A sense of humor isn’t everything. It’s only 90 percent of everything.”

“A comedian is not funny unless he is taking his demons out for a walk.”

“Never judge someone by who he’s in love with; judge him by his friends. People fall in love with the most appalling people.”

“Reading is an escape, an education, a delving into the brain of another human being on such an intimate level that every nuance of thought, every snapping of synapse, every slippery desire of the author is laid open before you like, well, a book.”

What writers influence your writing and your life? Tell me about them.

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.

My Mother’s Beauty

Posted by on Jun 21, 2018 in Writing | 7 comments

My mother’s 101 birthday would have been June 22. This is for her.

I don’t think anyone ever said of my mother that she was “a beauty.” A childhood photo when she was nine shows a slender and almost delicate girl on pointe in a perfect ballet tutu and pose. Her face is serious.

Photos from her teen years show a serious pensiveness–no smile, but no frown either. Was she always a serious child? Perhaps this was before the era of family events that are always being marked by photo opps and parents’ admonitions to “smile.”

Photos with my dad before they were married remind me of two kids having fun together- doing acrobatic tricks, or side by side, she smiling and standing tall and straight, feet together, dressed in the over-sized pants of the 1930’s, he with suspenders, and that wide smile that charmed just about everyone.

image of my mother tall proudWhen my mother was raising children in the expected full-time mom era, the words I ascribed to her were very competent, strong, determined. She was determined her three girls would be accomplished, and achieve all she set out for them. The few times I remember her dressed up she was still tall and proud in dresses that swished when she walked.

The day I noticed her beauty was in early winter when I walked into Regency Gardens Nursing Residence in New Jersey. By then her children were grown, even her grandchildren were grown, and she had been an active widow, painting, traveling, and in Toastmasters until a stroke slowed her down in 2001.

Sitting in her wheelchair by the window in her room, both feet, now in permanent retirement, were propped on the footrest. My first glimpse was the back of her head. It was mid-morning.

Winter sunlight coming in a window holds none of the frigidness of a Northeast winter, only a softer light. Her hair was a silver halo. Coming a few steps into her room, my view of her shifted like a camera on a dolly curving around and in on its model. Her stroke-affected right arm curled up and into her chest at the elbow as if her hand were like an infant wanting to be close to its mother. Her left hand supported her chin. Her face was at rest. A small oval face, pale, held up by an arthritic and age-spotted hand.

She turned and a smile, small and slow, embraced her face. She was beautiful. It was almost as if her face got lighter, not more pale, but suffused with a light like when the sun comes from behind a cloud and the shadow it has cast slides away.

Her head tilted a little to the side as she looked at me.  “I didn’t think anyone was coming to visit today.”

And because my heart filled with love, she was even more beautiful.

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.