On the Road to Saying “YES”!

Note: I don’t remember how many years ago I first stepped into the True You Creativity Studio run by Cherie Ray. However, I remember I was taking a workshop on Intuitive Painting. I have taken many of those workshops since and always learn more and more about the creative process. I have spent many hours in Cherie’s studio staring at a blank canvas until I took up a brush and dipped it into paint and started making lines and dots of all different sizes in all different colors.

As an international consultant and coach, Cherie works with individuals, couples, and families to help them thrive in their home and work lives. She can be reached at www.cherieray.com.

Thank you, Cherie, for this powerful blog post!


From “No” to “Yes”!

By Cherie Ray

For the last 10 years, I’ve been consistently surprised by what life offers me and what my mind makes of these offers. When I speak of ‘offers’ I’m referring to invitations and inspirations that reach me through other people or fresh ideas that come into my mind. You know the ones that kind of shake your reality? The ones that you immediately say NO to in your mind but then they don’t leave you alone. Those are the taps on the shoulder from the source of all life saying, wanna play a bigger game?

Recently, I’ve received a few of these intense taps on the shoulder and watched how my mind quickly determined what was possible for me. And just as quickly, I believed what popped into my mind as a GO/can’t GO. As if the TRUTH police or Judge Judy made a determination. More times than not, my mind says NO, nope, nada, it can’t work, not possible, etc.

I can trace this conditioned NO response to an upbringing that embedded in me the answer to every invitation to do something ‘unnecessary’ came back with a NO. I laugh out loud when I think of my dear father’s response to me asking if I could spend the night with my best friend. His response was, “no, you have a bed”. Seeing the cause of this historical NO habit doesn’t help. It still looks and feels true.

It’s at this point of the self‐talk conversation where I would live with the answer NO and move on. Now, after the initial NO response, a whispering curiosity comes on the scene, “Could I do that?”

Recently, I received an invitation to attend an event in the Pacific Northwest. Immediately my mind said NO! My internal monologue continued with a litany of, What? Go all that way for one night? Ridiculous! Get a plane ticket, rent a car, secure a hotel room and what to wear? The idea really did look absurd to some part of me but another part was answering, why not?

This time I said YES! With YES, the ball began to roll and the adventure began to unfold. By saying YES, a rich sense filled me! I was delighted and amused by staring absurdity in the face.

Within moments the entire adventure was planned. It was simple and easy. Who knew this was possible? Not me! I marked my calendar and boarded the plane.

The gifts for me in saying YES to the concept of ABSURD:

  1. While deplaning upon arrival, my phone alerted me to check‐in for my flight to Houston the following day. LOL!
  2. Participating in an event that was filled with joy and celebration.
  3. Connecting with people that I don’t usually get the chance to have lengthy, rich conversations with.
  4. Experiencing the Tulip Festival! A vision that compares to Holland and Belgium in magnificent beauty, I’m told.
  5. Standing solo in the tulip fields at sunrise. The vibrancy and vitality from Mother Nature was palpable.
  6. Seeing I really do love an idea that engages a, ‘why not’ response!
  7. By saying YES, so many concepts of limitation fall away.
  8. Having the opportunity to see that NO is a habit, not life informing me of what’s TRUE.

Looking back with immense gratitude for this learning opportunity, I see how much I would have missed by living in my habitual NO. I see that by following feelings of delight, inspiration follows.

I encourage you to face absurdity head‐on and to partner with delight. Your experience of life will grow as naturally as the tulips!

On The Road To A Writer’s Conference

I was in one of my favorite Texas cities recently (one of my favorites other than Houston, of course). The Writer’s League of Texas held their annual Agents & Editors Conference in Austin. Here is the handy cloth bag everyone was given during registration. Not sure where the idea for the bird came from, but we also received a nice pair of blue sunglasses in our welcome packet. This was my first state‐wide writer’s conference. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

The location for this event was the Hyatt Regency that overlooks Lady Bird Lake. Service was good, food was good, beds were comfy, and everything was in one place. Since this took place in June, you were never required to leave the hotel with the fully functioning air conditioning system. However, there was a hike and bike trail right outside the hotel and we were within a block of the Congress Street Bridge where one could view bats flying on a nightly basis. In between conference sessions I could watch as the kayaks and canoes floated down the river. This particular view was taken from the 17th floor outside of areas where the meetings took place with a large group of agents and editors. More about that later.

One of the many perks of this conference were the keynote speakers who distributed copies of their books. For the Saturday luncheon, we heard an inspiring talk by Naomi Shihab Nye and received her most recent book of poetry, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners.

There were also break out sections on the craft of writing; such as, Crafting Irresistible Opening Pages. Always a good skill for a writer. Then there were the sessions on what to expect from an agent, what questions to ask an agent, and self‐promotion for the indie writer. There were genre specific sessions on memoir, historical fiction, mystery/thriller, etc. I never knew there were so many writers in the Picture Book/Middle Grade/Young Adult genre. I met many authors who were working towards their first publication and those who have published many books.

During the opening reception I ran into Sean who works with Typewriter Rodeo. This means he sat behind a typewriter and I gave him the subject of a writer writing a book about Memphis and here is the custom poem he wrote:

Let me tell you a bit

About me—

I was raised

On the music‐streaming streets

Of Memphis

I’ve got rhythm and blues

In my blood

I have seen and heard things

That will inspire you

To sing

Will inspire you to get up and dance

And things that will also haunt you

To the drumbeat core

Want to know

All about it?

Well look for the greatest story

Soon to hit the shelves…

This is what my cat, Hannah, looked like when I got home and shared the poem with her. She’s a tough audience!

Finally, I met several agents while I was there and am pleased to report that three are interested in my book. Now I am writing myself silly, working on a book proposal, polishing and workshoping two chapters and finishing the whole first draft. That’s really good news and a heck of a lot of work to do. I better go get busy!

Until next week.….

The Road To Relaxation

I heard some news reporter on television talk about how the July 4th weekend was turning into a big sales day. Not quite as big as Black Friday, but it could get there in a couple of years. Do we really need another shopping day extravaganza? Do we need to start our holiday shopping in July?

Not me. Nor did I go out to sit in the sun to attend an all‐day concert. What did I do? I rested and relaxed.

Yesterday I went to see Men In Black: International. It’s a good movie. I wasn’t sure how I would like all the new characters, but it worked for me. I laughed and was quite entertained. Afterwards my friend and I went out to dinner. A good day.

Today I went to my new favorite spot in Houston. The Greenhouse Day Spa. This is a new spa, but the people who work there are great. I started getting massages and facials years ago when I had stressful jobs. Now I continue the habit just because it is a good thing to do. And it’s relaxing. And I enjoy it. You get the picture. Also it is a great way to relax when it is in the middle of summer and the temperature outside feels like 110 degrees (literally, I’m not making that up).

At Greenhouse Day Spa you start out in this cool reception room where the atmosphere alone helps you to begin the relaxation process. A few minutes in that space and I am ready to completely relax. Annie, who is both an esthetician and massage therapist, is wonderful to have working on my aging face and creaky old joints.

Self‐care is important for all of us. When was the last time you had a massage? Since mine was today, I am so relaxed that I am thinking of going to bed early and getting a good night’s rest.

Until next week.….

Tintype Field Trip

Remember when you were a kid in school and went on field trips? Weren’t they exciting? As an adult I have perfected the art of the field trip.

Enter Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio.

Who is Laura Burlton? A very talented photographer here in the Houston area. She does all of your basic types of photography. However she also has developed crazy mad skills when it comes to Tintype Photography.

What you may ask is Tintype Photography? Think about all of the photos that were taken during the mid to late 1800’s. (Yes, including the Civil War.) A Google search told me that the photograph is made by “…creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated.….dark lacquer or enamel.….photographic emulsion.….”. Better yet, here are some examples of work by Laura Burlton.

For those of us who are not technologically inclined, this is a fun way to have your picture taken.

These are not your run‐of‐the‐mill digital photos. These are not selfies. The pictures are taken one at a time. With a camera. Not taken with a phone. There is skill and artistry involved in these pictures. To have my picture taken, I sat on a stool in front of the camera. I posed. Laura Burlton put a metal plate into the camera. There was a bright flash of light and a mild puff of warm air. Then Laura took the plate into her darkroom and re‐emerged with one photo.

The trickiest part of this whole process had nothing to do with the artist or the photography process. It had do to with me. For many years I have hated to have my picture taken. I have never liked any picture ever taken of me. Yet, I have recently undergone gastric sleeve surgery and have lost a bunch of weight. What the heck do I look like? Other people see a difference, but I don’t always feel any different. Pictures are good for comparisons.

Here is my favorite picture. Why yes, I am wearing a Bowler hat. Why? Does anyone need to give a serious answer when wearing a Bowler hat? Obviously, I am still exploring this surrealistic phase of life that I have entered. It’s fun. I really don’t understand why more people don’t wear Bowler hats. I’m pretty sure it would help lead to world peace if more people would just wear Bowler hats. What do you think?

I like the fact that these are black and white photos. Black and white photos are developed in a dark room. This involves time and patience. A dramatic play between light and dark and shadows that cannot be found in color digital pictures.

Here is another fun picture from the Tuesday field trip. I think this one makes me look mysterious. This is the one I should bring out at Halloween and use to scare small children. Boo! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would mess with this woman. Yes, I am still wearing the Bowler hat; however, I could throw this hat at you and it just might hurt you. Who knows? As always, I am really looking forward to Halloween. Here in Houston my favorite holiday is just one hurricane season away.

Many thanks to Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio for allowing me to have such a fun time Tuesday morning. Here is Laura talking to me from her dark room. This was towards the end of our session when all of the magic of the darkroom was finished. I can highly recommend this experience and will definitely go back myself for more fun and frolic.

Until next week.….

What Language Is Spoken On This Road?

First the good news.

A good time was had by all at the art exhibition called Midsummer Light. It was presented by the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts. I really enjoyed being a part of this experience and exhibiting my photographs. If you did not get to the opening reception, the exhibition will remain up for your viewing pleasure until July 19th at the Christ Church Cathedral’s Cloister Gallery, 1117 Texas Avenue. The venue is open from 11 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday while Treebeards serves lunch.

In other news:

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself. Sometimes I do things that just go a slight bit awry. Nothing huge. I’ve never killed anyone.….that I know about. If I did it was certainly a mistake. But sometimes all of the technology.….phones.….computers.….televisions.…..can just be a bit much.

For instance, let’s consider Amazon. I order things from Amazon. Mostly books, but sometimes other things. I have been buying things — especially books — all my life. Here is my most recent acquisition that I received on Tuesday. It is a book about Vincent Van Gogh.

First, I apologize for blogging one more time about Vincent. I know I have blogged about him quite a bit lately. However, it does involve my latest acquisition from Amazon and the reason for this blog will soon be made clear. Remember that patience is a virtue.

This book had been highly recommended to me. I was looking forward to receiving it. When I had it in my hot little hands, I sat down in my most comfy reading chair and opened the envelope. I liked the cover. I like a lot of Vincent’s self portraits. He did quite a few of them. I sat back and began to open the book ready to learn more about this artist.

As soon as I open the book I see another self portrait. I am happy. I am relaxed. It still looks like a really nice book doesn’t it? Look closely. Closer. Do you notice anything? At this point I was still happy and relaxed. I hadn’t noticed anything. But wait!

I turned a few more pages and began reading the content. Here is the content that talks about the painting of the potato eaters. I think that’s what it says. Yet, I don’t really know for sure, do I? Why don’t I know? Because I don’t read French! My book is printed in French. How did this happen?

I wasn’t looking for a French book. I spent 5 years studying Spanish. I have never spoken a word of French. Quickly I looked back at the confirmation I received from Amazon when I ordered this book. I look and look and keep looking. Finally down, down, down the email confirmation I go. I look very carefully at the very small print. Language: French.

EGAD! Lesson learned. I still like the pictures in this book. I will keep it and may use some of the photos for collage work. Who knows?

Maybe one day I’ll meet a new friend who reads French and likes books about Vincent Van Gogh.

I remain forever hopeful.

Until next week.….

On The Road With Vincent

Every morning this week I have found myself in very familiar surroundings. I am back at the Glassell School of Art. Sitting in the auditorium listening to Dr. Anna Tahinci talk about art while she shares a PowerPoint presentation.

The subject this time is the current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston called Vincent Van Gogh: His Life in Art. I have strolled through the exhibition twice so far, but I knew I wanted to get more in depth with the subject.

Vincent Van Gogh, the person and the artist, has fascinated me for years. I remember the song, Vincent (Starry, starry night) by Don McLean that was popular back in 1971 (Yes, I am old enough to remember this. I was in Junior High School which was just the right time to sit in my room, playing records, and feeling dramatically impassioned in a way only possible for an impressionable teenager.)

I am now learning about the journey that Vincent took through his life and how that was reflected in his art. He started out learning about lines and drawing. Then when he started painting many of his works were similarly monochrome.

Gradually, working with color theory, Vincent’s paintings became more and more colorful. He dabbed some red next to a green background that stands out and continues to communicate to the viewer to this day. He painted a great deal with yellow. He even painted yellow on yellow which is no small trick. In several pictures he showed us his pipe and tobacco, and his hat. He even showed us a letter from his brother Theo. It is as if these still life paintings are a variation of the self portraits he also left for us. We can see what he thought of as important and how he saw himself.

Quite paradoxically, the brighter and more vivid the colors became in his paintings; the more Vincent struggled. It was while he was living in the now famous yellow house that he decorated with bright yellows, blues and oranges. This was the spot where he also quarreled with friends and cut off part of his ear. Still he showed us everything he had inside him by painting a self portrait while his ear was still wrapped in bandages.

Realism, Impressionism, Neo‐Impressionism, Impasto, and Pointillism are just a few words used to describe Vincent’s work. He only spent the last 10 years of his life as a painter, yet he completed approximately 2100 artworks. He was most prolific during the last two years of his life. He had so much to share and to show us in such a small amount of time.

As Don McLean sang in 1971:

Now I understand, what you tried to say to me, and how you suffered for your sanity, and how you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Until next week.….

My First Year On The Road

What a year!

Has it been a year already?

Has it only been a year?

A year ago on May 23, 2018, I wrote and published my first blog as a RoadBroad! Actually it was my first blog post ever. Thanks to Melanie for having the wonderful idea to start a blog. I became an official RoadBroad and have been writing about my journey ever since. The first picture I ever included on a blog was a picture of one of my cats. I bought a new suitcase to make a road trip to Boulder, Colorado for one of Max Regan’s writing retreats and Hannah (the cat) was trying to figure out how to pack herself into the trip.

I still hold fond memories of meeting with other writers, having writing meetings at the Dushanbe Tea House and gazing at the Flatiron Mountains. I am including some of my favorite photos from that first road trip in this blog post. This was my first trip to Colorado and can’t wait to return.

May 2018 was also notable because that was when I retired from a 25 year career of being a Social Services Administrator for local government. I had been either working, going to school, being a part‐time adjunct faculty member, going to school some more, etc., since the age of 15. I completed all requirements to secure a pension and health care into my senior years. It was time for a change.

Now my entire life revolves around creativity. Either I am engaging in creative activities or I am appreciating the creative work of others. The Vincent Van Gogh exhibition is still going on at the Museum of Fine Arts. I have to go at least one more time before it ends.

Since May 2018 I have been a full‐time writer. Sometimes I submit a piece of writing and it gets accepted. Sometimes it doesn’t. I keep reminding myself that I am not personally being rejected. I merely wrote a story or essay that was not accepted for a particular journal. I continue to work on a book about Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s and 1970s.

I am also a visual artist. I’m a photographer and I work with collage. In my spare time I take art classes at the Glassell and this summer I will add a class at the Art League of Houston to my list of visual studies.

There was one not so fun part to this past year; I discovered I had arthritis. Then I had physical therapy, bariatric gastric sleeve surgery, got to where I could walk a lot again and enjoyed many classes in water aerobics at the local YMCA.

I’ve read a lot of books and attended many lectures by other writers and authors. I love hearing other writers talk about how they write and what their creative process looks like. I heard Annie Lamott who was absolutely inspirational. Getting to hear Annie Lebovitz talk about her life as a photographer was fascinating.

My Dear Friend and I have walked many miles through the Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Natural Science, Bayou Bend, Rienzi and various other art galleries. We have attended performances at the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, etc. We have traveled to the beach over the winter holidays and Austin for a sister writer’s book launch.

As a RoadBroad, I have enjoyed my creative journey and love this new phase of my life. I am going to continue my journey as a RoadBroad and look forward to sharing everything I see and learn with you. Here’s to another RoadBroad Year!

Until next week.….

Many Roads To Creativity

It’s raining again in Houston. Again. Raining. My heart goes out to the ones who had their homes flooded earlier this week. I am currently high and dry.

Since I am stuck at home waiting for the monsoon season to end, it is a good time to try different art forms. I think about the new Aladdin movie that is coming out soon. I wonder what I would do if I found a lamp that I could use to conjure up a Genie that would grant me wishes.

I would wish that I could draw. I have always wanted to draw and have been at least a little bit envious of those that can. However, I cannot draw. Maybe a straight line if I used a ruler.

Yet it is my desire to draw, combined with my love of art, that keeps encouraging me to find new creative outlets. I have done needlepoint, abstract painting, collage, photography, ceramics and I have dabbled in fiber arts.

This week my creative urges have taken me down the road to Alcohol Inks. As you can see in the various samples in this blog; it does not require drawing talent. I bought an assortment of bottles of Alcohol Inks, then I sprayed some rubbing alcohol on paper. The next step involves dropping the various colors of Alcohol Inks onto the paper and then I use a straw to blow on it and spread the colors around.

What you see here are my very first attempts at using these inks. Please be kind and gentle on your judgement of my artistic attempts. I think I will combine these inks with some collage and see what happens.

Of course when I am not playing with lots of pretty colors, I use my creative talents to write. I write essays, short stories, some poetry and blog. Of course I am working on a book.….aren’t all writers? I am quite sure that given enough time, I will bring forth the Great American Novel. But even if I don’t, I will have fun trying.

What is the connecting thread to all this? Creativity. What I have observed is that once I walk down one creative road, then I am always inspired to walk down others. I surround myself with my favorite artists and writers and include my own art and writing. As you can probably imagine, the walls inside my home are quite eclectic. And I am always open to trying new art forms. Book shelves are full and stacks of books sit on the coffee table and bedside table.

If the weather will cooperate this weekend, I want to spend Saturday afternoon strolling around Sawyer Yards. There are so many artists who have studios over there. It feels creative just to walk around. Unfortunately, the weather forecast indicates that all of Houston may be under water by that time. And I don’t own a boat. Sigh.

As I write this, the rain has really started coming down outside along with a good bit of lighting and thunder. Time to sign off and go hide under the bed with the cats.

Until next week.….

The Road From Form To Matter

Form pre‐exists in matter.

Now that’s a deep philosophical statement to start your day. If it’s too early in the morning then you may roll your eyes and wonder what the wacky blogger is up to now. However, take a moment and a deep cleansing breath.

You remember Michelangelo, don’t you? Renaissance man? Sculpture, Painter, Architect and Poet? The Sistine Chapel dude. Yeah, that’s him.

Well, Michelangelo was a neoplatonist. He put forth a philosophy about sculpture where a work of art was already living within a block of marble. It is the calling of the artist to chip away and free the work of art and bring it to life. Through the artistic process of sculpture, art emerges from marble.

What a concept! What if I look upon myself as a big block of marble? I was born with a work of art inside of me. Then as I grew up and continuing into today, my life experiences chipped away at the block of marble that is me. Slowly over the years I have emerged as the person I am today. Each of us is a block of marble with beauty emerging from within.

Sometimes you may see a sculpture that is intentionally left unfinished. The work of art continues to emerge from the stone. A work of beauty already, but still emerging into form.

As any sculptor can tell you, sometimes the block of stone will resist. This can happen even if the artist carefully works with and goes with the grain.

In sculpture, art is forever emerging. Moving towards freedom from the captivity of the stone. Waiting for insight and clarity to merge with life experiences.

Does this only apply to sculpture? Of course not. Whether you are a painter, writer, photographer, scientist or any other type of creative person, there is a beauty that only you can bring out.

Once again, many thanks to Dr. Anna Tahinci, Professor and Art History Chair at the Glassell School of Art, for teaching wonderful classes in Art History where I got the inspiration for this blog. Also, the pictures of sculptures in this blog were taken while on a recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Until next week.….

The Zoo Road

I can’t stop walking. I walk around the neighborhood. I walk around the park. I walk when I am running errands in the neighborhood.

Thanks to gastric sleeve surgery and physical therapy for my “arthritic knee”, I have lost weight and can walk for a couple of miles at a time without any pain or discomfort. Please get out of my way and don’t slow me down.

The other day my Dear Friend and I went to the Houston Zoo. They open at 9:00 a.m. and we were there walking around by 9:30. It was cool and the sky was overcast. There was a nice breeze. What’s not to love?

Our first stop was the area that housed the elephants. There were no elephants. I am guessing that elephants are not morning critters. Bummer. I love elephants. DF and I kept walking.

We came upon the cougars. I love big cats. Let’s see the cougars! There were no cougars. Apparently they were up late last night partying with the elephants. I wish I had been invited to that party!

Finally we walked into a building that looked out on the gorilla section. Seems as though the gorillas were not invited to the elephant/cougar party either, because there were several gorillas looking wide awake and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. They didn’t seem to mind that we watched them and took pictures.

It was just DF and I and the gorillas. We could dawdle and slowly observe these magnificent creatures. They ate lettuce and drank from coconuts.

As we continued walking through the zoo we saw more and more animals. There were many flamingos. They had just finished their breakfast and were strolling around their area visiting with some ducks and other birds that came by for a visit.

I had never seen so many pink flamingos together in one place. Why yes, I did see a couple that stood on one leg. Did you know their knees fold backwards?

It was about this point when DF and I noticed that we were no longer strolling along without any other zoo visitors. Mothers were also strolling pushing baby strollers. There were parents with toddlers. Then there was one school group…and then another. Quickly the children were greatly outnumbering the adults.

One of our last stops was the giraffe area and these wonderful animals did not disappoint. There were several giraffes of various ages and sizes along with some ostriches and one zebra. I had never noticed before that both giraffes and ostriches have long necks. Who knew? Well, I guess I knew, but had never had cause to stop and think about this before. I had never seen them standing side by side for the comparison. The zoo is so full of all of these educational experiences. Unfortunately there was only one zebra. I wondered if there was another zebra who had partied with the elephants and cougars and was still asleep.

We weren’t able to visit with the sea lions, because several school groups were getting a private showing of the water creatures. Then the closer we got to the front there were groups and gaggles of students everywhere we looked. All ages and all sizes plus teachers and parental escorts. Adults were seriously outnumbered. Time to go.

After walking around for an hour, we had not seen all the animals we had hoped to see. Not a problem. This just meant that we get to go back for another zoo walk to visit the elephants and lions and tigers and bears! Oh My!

Until next week.….