Seedlings: Stories of Relationships


Seedlings invites us to look at ourselves with humor, acceptance, and love. Seed w Final.LabelEach story tells a lighthearted or not so lighthearted story of regular people in and out of relationships, marriages, and that particular phase of life known as retirement.

The stories come from real life—either it happened just the way it says, or the event is a part of someone’s life and I took some literary license, or one word or phrase or snippet of a scene got me started. Who isn’t in a relationship of some kind— professional, personal, or both? Although weren’t we all told about the dangers of merging those two?

Some tips that emerge out of  reading Seedlings may fill the gaps for you, offering the ‘stuff’ other people learned while you were surviving your childhood, cutting classes, working the second job, having a baby, or believing the myths of “I can’t do that” or “I’m just too old for that now.”

This collection of essays offers a bit of everyday easy wisdom—from the power of the triumvirate of “yes dear, I’m sorry, you’re right,” to the styles of leave-taking, from leaving a party to leaving a relationship.

Each story is written with a charm and honesty that comes from a sensory love of detail and the power of words, and told with love and affection for who we are—imperfect, goofy, beautiful, intelligent adventurers.

Book Trailer

Reading Group Guide (Print)

1. At first glance, Seedlings appears to be a collection of assorted entertaining short stories. Yet the chapters reveal emotions and connections that are prevalent in our society. What chapters resonated with you? Why?

2. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to get into it? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused? Which stories made you laugh? Cry?

3. Seedlings was not written as a how-to book, yet the stories are containers for tips about successful relationships. How did this affect your reading? Did it work for you? What ideas may have resonated to use in your relationships? Which stories gave you ideas to nurture relationships?

4. What is your own experience with the kinds of relationships in Seedlings— infatuation, long-term commitment, first child, new marriage, step-parenting, caring for aging parents, chronic illness and the impact on a family or relationship, death of a parent, self-esteem, mother-daughter? Are your experiences the same or different from the book?

5. What main ideas/themes does the author explore? Has reading this book impacted what you might read or how you may view your current relationships? Has it changed your perspective about relationships?

6. Does the author use a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints? Why might the author have chosen to tell each story the way she did—and what difference does it make in the way you read or understand it?

7. The chapters of Seedlings are brief in page count yet serve to tell stories that hold emotional impact. How did this affect your reading of the book? What passages—narrative or dialogue—struck you as insightful or profound? Are there stories you found contrived or overworked?

8. The author uses the metaphor of a garden for both her “garden of stories” in culling, watering, and watching her stories grow, and in nurturing relationships. How do the sections of the Seeds, Shoots, and Blossoms fit this metaphor?

9. The author uses humor through self-deprecation. Discuss the tone of this device. Do you think the author achieved the effect of entertaining along with possible relationship suggestions? Is egocentricity also one of the author’s traits? Part of the charm?

10. Discuss the author’s relationship with her husband Hank. Would you like to be Hank?

11. Which story did you enjoy the most? Why? The least? Why?

12. View the YouTube videos: Introduction to Seedlings, and reading excerpts: “Losing Things” pp.42-45, “Big Al” pp.54-57, “A Rose for Karen” pp.87-94, and “Leave-Taking” pp.148-153.

People are Talking About…

A provocative look at the precious people who share our lives, including a mother who dances at 89, a queenly dental hygienist, and a second husband who serves the heel of the bread. Read, enjoy, and inwardly inventory your own treasures. ~ Lorraine Ash, author,  Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life

Beautiful, fun, spirited stories on humanity and connection. Ethel writes with such grace and passion. Her stories will melt your heart. A fantastic read for all ages coming from all walks of life. ~ Tara Kligman, Holistic Health Coach, Bangkok Thailand

“More alike than different” sums up this delightful collection. Ethel’s fine eye for detail is matched by her ability to discover the common threads between us all, and to illustrate them touchingly, poignantly and yet lightly in this, her best book to date. Each story is a window into the process of our lives. I can’t wait to see what flows next from her pen—as a gift from her deep well of insight and compassion. ~ Beth Lane, author, Lies Told Under Oath

I am enjoying your book…laughing, crying & thoroughly enjoying this reading journey. You write beautifully. Congratulations, your book is a wonderful read! ~ Karen Frey Tucson,  AZ

I love the first story of your dad and his handshakes.  I like how he said, “you might be the only person who says hello to them all day.” What a nice memory and a good thing for all of us to remember! ~ Suzanne Bruens   Irvington,  NY

Seedlings raises so many emotions and thoughts. I laughed, cried, said out loud, “Yes, yes, that happened to me.” I sometimes forget all the various relationships that exist in my life  … all of these relationships exist in Seedlings…a delightful collection… a wonderful book to keep by the bedside, share with a friend, give as a gift. ~ Eileen Erickson Tucson, AZ 

Seedlings, a collection of personal essays and memoirs, exposes universal truths about the experience of being human with stunning simplicity. Ethel Lee-Miller cleverly uses her brilliant analogy of life’s garden, with its seeds, shoots and blossoms, to capture poignant moments and events in her life. The stories and characters are drawn so beautifully that any reader will readily identify with them. Be prepared to be moved to tears and laughter as she makes personal relationships assume an almost spiritual quality. Seedlings easily could be a life-changing book. ~ Duke Southard, author, A Favor Returned and Agent for Justice

Seedlings is a gem—a work that starts out small and grows with each subsequent story. Ethel Lee-Miller has a gift for painting a picture with words and drawing the reader into her world. ~ Janet M. Neal, author, Soul in Control: Reflections of a Reformed Superwoman & Queen Bee at The Superbwoman™, Inc.

I finished “Seedlings” this morning. I loved it! I am considering getting it for my mother and aunt…they would appreciate your topics and writing style…The Seven Second Connection was a very strong beginning to the book … the stories about your mother…My Mother’s Hands, Pegasus, and Dancing with My Mother were wonderful portraits of her. They had a great mix of subtlety and humor.  ~ Chris Richards  MA

I loved reading Seedlings! You reflected the complexity of the human condition with such wit and wisdom. I laughed, cried, and saw myself in your characters – often ruefully, I must say. I’ve even started developing my list of what I really want in a relationship – that suggestion couldn’t have come at a better time! ~ Robin Peel