The Writing Life

Aging Eyes

I was pretty smug for two years after my cataract surgery. No glasses needed… ever. I could read ingredients on vitamin bottles, see veins on leaves, wave to hikers up in the Catalina Mountains from my office window here in the foothills. My doctor advised I might eventually need “cheaters.” I was in minor denial when I started doing the arm stretch to get a better focus. I have long arms, but even they failed me. 

I bought one pair of cheaters — lowest magnification. Then another to keep in my handbag. Then a third pair for bedside reading. And a fourth for the kitchen.

Okay, now I’m back to having specific reading-for-small-print glasses for each room. So how come they tend to hang out in my bathroom?

And where is the other pair? When my sweetheart and I start house roaming to locate a missing pair, I realize it’s not worth the energy to get upset.

 Him: Why can’t you just use another pair to read the recipe?

Me: (with exaggerated slow speech signaling false patience with someone who just doesn’t understand) Because they belong in the kitchen.

I have to laugh and thank those clever folks who know exactly what happens in homes where folks have aging eyes.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her 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. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Oh WOW! News

Oh WOW! News 

Yes, I’m tooting my own horn! Because I had been wavering, vacillating. Could I? Would I be able to be active in creative venues that have given me an incredible amount of joy and laughter? 

It’s not been a straight path; there are and will be detours, but persistence and support and encouragement from so many people paved the way.

TOOT TOOT!

Artists Standing Strong Together is an artists collaboration throughout the US established during the pandemic by Sheila Arnold. As a writer and storyteller I had signed on to participate in one of her many programs. My stroke in August 2021 intervened. I had to delay participation for a year. Sheila kindly kept me on her list and when I said I was ready, she replied. Thank you, Sheila Arnold and all the storytellers, writers, and readers who reminded me I could do this.  

First happy happening

I will be a storyteller this Friday, October 7 at Artists Standing Strong Together’s Intergenerational Story Fest on Zoom. Sheila is a wonderful facilitator and storyteller. I’m excited to be a part of this. This is a free event; I did hear that I’ll be the first teller. I hope you can make it.

Event and registration link is below, with Eastern time. Adjust for your time zone.

Artists Standing Strong Together is proud to present a wide array of storytelling programs live online, designed to make storytelling – and story listening – more accessible than ever before: financially accessible, differently-abled accessible, geographically accessible, new listener accessible, and more!

Friday, October 7, 2022

TGIF Intergenerational Story Fest

stories for everyone to start your weekend right

7-9pm (ET)/6-8pm (CT)/5-7pm (MT)

4-6pm (PT)/3-5pm (AKT)/1-3pm (HT)

Click here to register for free.

This is one of four online storytelling programs presented by ASST each month, always free and open to the public.

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Second happy happening

Thanks to Penelope Starr for introducing me to the intuitive art program of SoulCollage®. Creating art without words was a big change for someone who is a writer. Making a SoulCollage® card calls for allowing an image to speak to you from an array of images without any preconceived idea or words. Not easy for someone who loves to use words and plan things out quite precisely before beginning a project. To my surprise creating without thoughts beforehand was calming and… yep, fun. 

What made this a profound experience was going to SoulCollage® workshops after my stroke when often the words weren’t “there” anyway. I took a chance this summer and submitted an article to SoulCollage® about using my cards as tools for stroke recovery. My article was accepted and is featured in their October 2022 newsletter. Thank you SoulCollage®! I am a writer! And sharing this may help another stroke recovery “thriver.” 

Read on. Link to SoulCollage® October newsletter:

 https://community.soulcollage.com/posts/soulcollage-an-unexpected-tool-for-stroke-recovery 

Life is Good.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her 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. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

 

Eastside Writing Room- Tucson and ZOOM

Meetings: ZOOM October 4, 11, 18, 25. Hybrid  meeting: October 18- Zoom and in-person for those who can make it.

The Eastside Writing Room moves into autumn mode- meeting each Tuesday and In-Person once a month. We’re in the final quarter of our 9th year- now a National group- original members have moved to California, Oregon, Maine and snowbirding in New York and elsewhere.

Thanks to Zoom we’ve been together through fires, monsoons, and oh yeah, a pandemic. Members have published books, done readings, led workshops, started blogs, and showed up at our weekly Zoom meetings. With migration of members, we’re committed to continue Zooming to stay a national group!!!

I have loved writing for decades. My dear EWR nurtures that love.
We welcome adult writers Tuesdays on Zoom. Contact me if you’re looking for a welcoming, professional, talented group to stay connected with writers and committed to your own writing. No fee. No phones. Yes- support, sharing, writing.

Artists Standing Strong Together- Storytelling Event- Join Me

I’m stepping back onto the virtual stage after over a year away. Very excited to be one of the storytellers at:

ASST logo words.jpg

is proud to present a wide array of storytelling programs live online, designed to make storytelling – and story listening – more accessible than ever before: financially accessible, differently-abled accessible, geographically accessible, new listener accessible, and more!

TGIF Intergenerational Story Fest-    stories for everyone to start your weekend right

​Friday, October 7, 2022:  7-9pm (ET)

Click here to register for free.

This is one of four online storytelling programs presented by ASST each month, always free and open to the public.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her 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. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

SoulCollage®: An Unexpected Tool for Stroke Recovery

My essay about my creative experiences with SoulCollage® pre- and post-stroke has been featured in the October issue of SoulCollage® newsletter! Read on:

What is SoulCollage®?

At my first SoulCollage® workshop with Penelope Starr in June 2021 I knew there was an emphasis on using images to express thoughts, feelings, moods. As a memoirist I had honed the skill of using words to do just that.

“Words are powerful” had been my mantra for decades. Clarity in speaking prevented many a conflict escalator ride. I relish using words in presentations and storytelling that pull an expression of joy, understanding, or laughter out of even the most intractable listener. I’ve been incorporating images in almost all of my writing, and happily blogged along for almost a decade. Playing with words.

That 2021 SoulCollage® workshop was both delightful and hard. Hard to NOT use words.

Me: Not even one bold print word?

Penelope: No. No words. Look – here –  at all the images I have for you to choose from. 

My first SoulCollage® card

Stacks of pictures from magazines, piles of categorized images of people, places, food, things, nature. A visual delight to create my collage … But no words.I looked around. Mental comparing rose up like a spector. Two of the participants were also writers. Were they gnashing their teeth, feeling the resistance of letting go of the ever-ready tool kit of the perfect words? I gave the language side of my brain a rest and went with — what? My intuition? My inner guide? I’ve always said I was willing to try something new. Okay, here was something new. Choosing the images was a portion of the workshop that was quite comforting. Placement of images on the card was unsettling. I wanted to put in a phrase to indicate passage of time or distance. “Just play around with placement.” Well, okay. 

The room was quiet except for sounds of images being shifted around. Scissors snipping. An occasional sigh or hum. My first two collage cards looked as hesitant to me as I felt. But the overall sense of accomplishment of having finished it, and then sharing I Am One Who with a partner – now, that was extremely satisfying.

(The figure is leaning toward a boarded-up cabin. There is a large mouth in place of a face. Think I was a bit resistant to not using words?)

 

 

Fast forward five months to November 2021. A SoulCollage® workshop that I can attend is scheduled. The positive feelings from June remind me — sign up for this one too. SoulCollage® for Writers. Penelope knows how to drive the concept home. 

The difference for me is I have had a stroke. A blood vessel in the left anterior part of my frontal lobe reached its expiration date and a baker’s dozen of problem areas were affected. I had residual right-sided weakness but no overwhelming physical problems. Language retrieval, memory, and organization were affected. My ever-ready tool kit of words was scrambled.

Click here to read the full essay and view more cards.

SoulCollage® is an expressive arts practice done individually or in community. Founded by Seena B. Frost, the method develops creativity and intuition, encourages self-discovery, and provides personal guidance.

Penelope Starr is a certified SoulCollage® facilitator

This was my current favorite card (until a card-in-progress created this week (9/28/22).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her 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. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Artists Standing Strong Together- Storytelling

ASST logo words.jpg

is proud to present a wide array of storytelling programs live online, designed to make storytelling – and story listening – more accessible than ever before: financially accessible, differently-abled accessible, geographically accessible, new listener accessible, and more!

Friday, October 7, 2022

TGIF Intergenerational Story Fest

stories for everyone to start your weekend right

7-9pm (ET)/6-8pm (CT)/5-7pm (MT)

4-6pm (PT)/3-5pm (AKT)/1-3pm (HT)

Click here to register for free.

This is one of four online storytelling programs presented by ASST each month, always free and open to the public.

One Year Post-stroke

On August 25, 2022 I celebrated one year post-stroke. One year -12 months – 365 days – 8760 hours – 525,600 minutes –  31,536,000 seconds. But who’s counting? (Ok I’m not, since that’s an area where those one-year-old brain cells are happy to do simple adding, but any more than that, they cross their little arms and sulk. )

On that 2021 August 25 I woke up to find parts of me couldn’t move. I had had a stroke. So this year, when the calendar page turned to August 2022, my eyes scanned immediately to August 25. My heart rate went up. I saw myself back in the beautiful room at our hotel where we had begun our summer vacation two days earlier. But that day my right arm hung off the bed; couldn’t move, head felt fuzzy; my right leg was numb. How did this happen to me?

Life can and does turn on a dime. One little rotation of the wheel of fortune, and we’re no longer feeling so on top of life and impervious to change. ~ Sharon Salzberg

Short form: Sh** happens.   And then: Shift happens.

Today I feel and know gratitude that my stroke was a “mild” one. I retained the ability to speak, read, and write both by hand and on my laptop (very slowly). Bits and pieces of skills I had honed in my life – writing, laughing, listening to music, exercising, yoga, and meditating, enjoying laughing, and loving loving the idea of loving people. It was all still in there. And some days it kicked in automatically.  I made a promise to Ethel to exercise those skills – and my recovery began. 

We age not by years but by events and our emotional reactions to them.  Maxwell Maltz, New Psycho-Cybernetics 

Reading and listening to inspirational books , I discovered how they applied to me. They kept me calm and hopeful.

When we feel unhappiness or pain, it is not a sign that things have gone terribly wrong,  or that we have done something wrong by not being able to control the circumstances. Pain and pleasure are constantly coming and going, and yet we can be happy. When we allow for the mystery, sometimes we can discover that right in the heart of a very difficult time, right in the midst of a painful situation, there is freedom. In those moments when we realize how much we cannot control, we can learn to let go. ― Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Numerous times a day my new and healing brain cells rolled their baby eyes and shrugged. Huh? What is she trying to make us do? But I kept at it with therapy, love, and caring attention from you.

I have so much more empathy for folks who have even the slightest hearing loss, or balance issues. I walk around today with a growing awareness that someone’s disability may be invisible.

When I was in the Flagstaff Medical Center in 2021 the medical team suggested keeping a journal when I got home. For future doctors and for my own awareness. How fortunate that my words didn’t fail me completely. It takes energy to think and write about, but it’s worth it. Each segment of the day for a year I wrote what’s going on, how I’m feeling, along with marking the spreadsheet my Hank made for meds. 

Fabi Hirsch Kruse encouraged me with the reminder that stroke recovery continues way beyond one year. It is possible to have improvement for years after a stroke.

That’s a part of why I wrote a stroke recovery newsletter each month. To keep improving and reminding anyone that this is true. Never mind that insurance companies may say one year is probably the limit of recovery. Yes, one year shows huge amounts of recovery and growth but neuroplasticity is something I really believe in.

My family had first-hand experience with neuroplasticity with my mom’s stroke, witnessing her five-year appropriate level of recovery for her age (84-89). My sister’s work with her husband for eight years after his stroke was incredible. She kept creating more and more opportunities for physical, mental, and artistic stimulation for him. Even after doctors said no she would and find a doctor, program, an organization that offered what he needed.

Then there are the encouraging beautiful words from people that came to me. I have saved every email and note for the last year. I wish I could share all of them here – there may be a book on the horizon. I’m sharing some of them here:

  • Whatever I can do, I’ll be there. Bring you homemade food, read you stories, entertain you will my misadventures, Zoom or IRL. Anything. I know you have a fabulous support system and know that I’m there for you, whatever you need, silly or not.Take it slow, respect your process. ~ “Lucy,” Tucson AZ
  • know the Beloved in me is also in you. May that force clear any obstruction for healing and may YOU know that love is circling each brain cell and synapse for a complete recovery.  Love and lightness of being. ~ Beryl (Ambassador of Joy), Tucson AZ
  • Writing poetry has healing power. Select a personal experience that evokes joy, wonder, beauty, fulfillment or elation. Reflect upon it, chronologically, and put it into words. The words should fit together, like a neat and tidy package, but when spoken aloud, should sing, sound lyrical with or without being rhymed. ~ Joanne Sabates, NJ
  • …Like most of us who admire you, we’ve gained strength from your updates because it puts life with all its twisty turns in clear unvarnished perspective. At least it does for me, and while I would never wish you ill, your stroke has given me a gift – an awe for pastel clouds in the early evening,  gnarled tree limbs stretching heavenward, an old man waving as he sings a love song. Don’t misunderstand. I appreciate such wonders and often journal about them, but my gratitude and wonder flows beyond me to others I care and love now. ~ Barb Chapman, Tucson AZ
  • Thank you for sharing with others that recovery from a stroke continues for years. It is so important that we dispel the myth that stroke recovery ends only months after a stroke. Hope is a very important key to ensuring the best recovery possible. ~  Fabi Hirsch Kruse, Tucson AZ
  • I’m so happy to receive your letter, to know that you’re making progress, and that you’re being tender-hearted and nurturing to yourself. You are indeed very fortunate that it was mild, that you can recover further. We, too, are fortunate that you’ve chosen to be the light bearing way-shower of recovery. It helps and inspires many that might have given up, not just with stroke recovery, but in the face of other major life adversities. ~ Alexandra Musser ❣ White Mts. AZ
  • I appreciate your sharing because you are in control and others can benefit from seeing your progress. My favorite saying has been “Attitude is everything, so pick a good one!”~ LaVerne, Tucson AZ
  • I am reminded from your words and positivity to be grateful for all that shows up. Being strong and centered! I’m also practicing being in a place of love, for myself, those around me, and the world at large. It’s needed so much right now. ~ Maggie Dermond, VT
  • Don’t over exercise, is my only advice.  Take it from a former dancer. Condition SLOWER than your guilty mind wants you to.  Fewer reps. Space it out more than you think.  When in doubt, stop.  Go for a short or long walk instead. ~ Heidi Scheuber, NYC
  • As always, when I open Outlook in the morning and see something from you…I smile. Your 11th Month letter did not disappoint! I only take umbrage with your closing. Life isn’t just good, it’s AMAZING.      It’s amazing in that it starts out with doing something that’s so much fun 😊 And nine months later there’s a full person. We are supported until we can support ourselves. We find someone we can’t live without and (here’s the most unfathomable part) that person feels the same about us. We make friends and join a community of support beyond our family…and those people become our extended family. Along the way, all too often we break and there are remarkable people who put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The people in our lives shower us with the love and support that gives us a reason to heal. And we have the gift of communication to share that love and support. WOW!!! Now that’s truly amazing. ~ Ken Mortara, FL

From the immobilizing and numbing shock, pain, and fear of August 25, 2021, I turn my mind to this year’s August 25 and beyond with patience, trust, action, gratitude, and joy.

I read the encouraging, kind, and peace-giving words that have come my way in the last year. Words that lined the path for me. Reading them you may find they can line someone else’s path. Please share them.

Yes, it is amazing!

Thank you. 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her 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. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, ASST, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.

Hair Talk

Topic:

Hairdressers: wise beings; skilled and direct communicators

Things your hairdresser asks you:

Usually prefaced with either a tilt of their head as they gaze at your head. Or a very slight shake of their head while they greet your hair by lifting a bit here and there and sorrowfully smoothing it back down.

“Sleep late today?”

“Have you been painting?”

“Did you take possession of the scissors again?”

“Bangs were driving you crazy?”

Subtle tips offered, accompanied by “tsk tsk”:

“Henna and home hair dye require a 6-8 week separation time.”

“20-year olds on YouTubę do not always know the nuances of styling women-over-50 hair.”

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

Best of Tucson 2022


Great news! I’ve been nominated in the category of Best Blog for the Best of Tucson 2022.

There are more than 200 categories (restaurant, park, brewery, comedy, tattoo artist). You name it—there’s a category! Mine is Best Blog.  

The rules state you must vote for at least 15 categories in order of your vote to count. Best Blog is #50 on the list. So scroll through 14 to vote, or all of them, and vote Ethel Lee-Miller for Best Blog. The name of my blog is also listed The Writing Life—but most readers go by my name Ethel Lee-Miller so please click on that. 

You can only take the survey once, but you can remind your friends and neighbors countless times. Voting ends August 20, 2022. Head over to the site and vote:

https://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/BestOf 

As the website says: This is your chance to highlight the best businesses, organizations, and people in Tucson. Your vote can have me be one of the best!

Thanks and cheers!

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

11th Month Post-Stroke

July 25 marked the 11th month out from my stroke. I can’t help but think ahead. I know the one-year marker is on the horizon. What a milestone! One-year celebrations have a special energy. Could be a Yeah!, or At last!, or Yahoo! Or – Is this great or what?!!!!

And yet I’ve felt that energy on the 25th of the last four, maybe five, months. And it’s a superb  feeling. This 11th month holds a softening of anxiety and confusion. 

My first thought every morning is not, “Whew, I made it to another day.” I sometimes get past exercising, showering, dressed, breakfast, maybe even having that second cup of coffee before I go to the jewelry tray. I do like to accessorize.

And there I see my Stroke Survivor bracelet, which is as much an every day piece of jewelry as my wedding ring. (Thank you, Stroke Resource Center of S. Arizona Support Group)

Every day, every hour offers choices of what to do and how to respond to reactive issues that can occur (sudden fatigue, strong emotions, surprise noises, changes in plans). I’ve gotten lots better at slowing down so I can give myself time to see which response path to take that is the most positive. I have an understanding support team (you know who you are) to help me when I need reminders. 

My daily container of energy and stamina no longer holds room for meeting a friend for breakfast after a recovery work-out, going shopping, reading, researching and writing a blog, calling my sis, a Zoom with my meditation and/or writing group, and a walk at Agua Caliente Park with Hank. (Okay, I’m exaggerating). But many of my non-stroke colleagues in this eighth decade of living tell me they’ve “downsized” activities too. 

My days are as easy as I choose to see them. Responding to unpredictable “wobblies” means certain steps that work for me-stop, grab something for balance, sit or rest, breathe, rest, rest, rest, distract from overthinking, aka worrying about physical quirks. 

Self-talk: There is no percentage of return in worrying. I am a very fortunate person. 

Life is Good. Dive in.

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