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.….

On The Road With Scooters

Keep Austin Weird!

No, I am not being rude. Maybe you’ve seen the t‐shirts. Anyway, it’s an official slogan that was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance.

And keeping Austin weird is fun. When I was there a couple of weeks ago for a book launch, I had the grand pleasure of staying at the Driskill Hotel. Yes, I have a weakness for historical and haunted hotels. Unfortunately I did not meet up with any ghosts while I was there, but I did spend a lot of time walking around downtown Austin. If you are familiar with the neighborhood, I walked up and down 6th Street, Congress, etc.

My Dear Friend and I walked carefully. To avoid all the scooters. Downtown was crawling with them. Apparently you only need the right app on your phone to rent one. Both citizens and tourists were riding them around the downtown area seeing what there was to see. Then when folks were done, the scooters were left on the sidewalk. There seemed to be an amazing lack of rules to this. Kinda like bumper cars except that half the folks were going 15 miles an hour on two wheels and the rest of us were walking on two legs.

Do you notice the nice gent in this picture driving his scooter down the street? Well, most scooter riders weren’t like this nice person. Most scooter aficionados traveled in packs. Sometimes they traveled on the streets and sometimes on the sidewalks. Sometimes they stopped for red lights and stop signs and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they went the wrong way down one way streets. They were wild boisterous packs of swarming scooter hordes.

In this picture it looks like the red scooters are taking aim with a cannon on a lone green scooter. Of course the statue helped by lighting the cannon. I wonder if the green scooter did some egregious act to rile the ire of the red scooters? I asked, but neither the scooters or statue would talk about it.

Many of the fun loving speedy scooter critters were young. I’m guessing a lot of students and recent alums from the University of Texas cruising the bar scene on 6th Street. But I also saw a lot of grey hair flying in the breeze as a gaggle would soar past. Was this part of a mid‐life crisis ritual? Go to Austin, ride a scooter, drink beer and bemoan a lost youth?

I only got almost hit once. According to the traffic light, I had the right of way to cross the street. I began walking, my Dear Friend tugged on my arm. I stopped just in time to see a woman careening around the corner.

And finally I leave you with this picture. Was this scooter on sale for $5? Was it free as long as it was adopted into a good home? Who can tell. Maybe there were rules to this sport that I just didn’t have time to learn.

Back in Houston we don’t have scooters flying around the streets of downtown. No one wants to keep Houston weird.

Until next week.….

Road Trip to a Book Launch

What a spring time! What a weekend! What a life!

I felt excited about all three of these as I spent the weekend in Austin, Texas. Another road trip for this RoadBroad! Usually it is just fun to travel to Austin and soak in all the “wierdness” that is the State Capitol of the Lone Star State. However, I had a very important reason for this most recent trip.

My dear Friend and I went to Austin to visit the Book‐Woman and enjoy a book launch for an exciting murder mystery called Death Unchartered by Dorothy Van Soest.

I met Dorothy last year when I traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the 10‐day writing intensive with Max Regan. It was just after my retirement from local government and I was beginning to make my way as a full‐time writer.

Dorothy lived in Austin for a while when she served as an associate dean and professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work before she became the Dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work. Turns out we knew some of the same folks in the Social Work field.

Dorothy has already published 10 books and Death Unchartered is the next one in the series of Sylvia Jensen mysteries. This is my first Sylvia Jensen mystery and I can’t wait to read the others. If you like mysteries, you will find this to be a real page turner!

The book launch was a success. The crowd was all but standing room only and Dorothy kept us all captivated as she shared several short readings with us. The story opens with a murder and gets more exciting from there. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Believe me it is good!

Several of us writers traveled from Houston to Austin for this book launch. Melanie was there dressed in her traditional orange. RoadBroads are nothing if not loyal and supportive of each other.

Actually I am delighted to know that I am a part of a really great team of writers. Between Max Regan’s Colorado retreats, classes with the Spectrum Center Writers Guild, and weekly writing get togethers, we are at all stages of our writing careers. Some, like Dorothy, are old hands at the publication game and are willing to help those of us who are just now beginning to send out essays, short stories, and the like.

From Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, I have written a lot (but never enough!), I have submitted pieces for publication and occasionally get accepted, and continue to develop my writing chops. People like Max, Dorothy and Melanie have helped me transition from being a retired Social Worker wanting to write to being a full‐time writer and hanging out with writing friends at book launches.

Thanks to Dorothy Van Soest for coming to Texas for a book launch of Death, Unchartered! You can find it on Amazon, you local bookstore, or wherever you get your books! You can also check out Dorothy’s website at dorothyvansoest.com.

What a great Spring! What a great life!

Until next week.…..

The Floor Show Before The Show

Theater or Theatre? Does it matter? No. I don’t even get confused when I go to the Houston Theater District to enjoy a play at the Alley Theatre. I’m so smart.

All I know is that one of the best reasons for living in Houston is the Houston Theater District. This includes 17 blocks in downtown Houston that houses 9 professional performing arts organizations. My Dear Friend (DF) and I go to as many performances as possible.

However, if you think the only performances worth writing about are found in venues such as The Wortham Center or Jones Hall, then you would be mistaken. Just the other evening DF and I decided to go downtown for dinner before attending a performance by the Houston Ballet.

We decided to eat at The Blue Fish. If you have never been there, it serves a wide variety of Japanese dishes that will delight both the meat‐eater in your crowd as well as the vegetarian. I personally swear by the Agadashi Tofu and the Grilled Veggies. However, this most recent visit had us placed at a table where I could observe the bar area, the reception area and one of the doors that led to the kitchen.

What a floor show! The choreography displayed by the staff could rival anything I have seen created by Stanton Welch (Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet). Movement never stopped and I only saw a waiter hit the kitchen door once during our visit.

Why such a display of ecstatic waitstaff dancing? At night when several venues have scheduled performances, most of them begin at either 7:30 or 8:00. That means that everyone who wants to enjoy dinner before their show gets to the local restaurants at the same time. By 6:15 the tables are filling up fast. There is a line of customers coming in the front door. Everyone wants to get to their theater performances on time. No time for dawdling!!!

Water is delivered to the tables, orders are taken, the bartenders are shaking their martini shakers, sushi chefs are slicing and dicing, and customers are chomping and imbibing. I couldn’t even get a decent picture of the bar staff, because they were moving too fast. Once all the shows begin there might be a lull until later when everyone who didn’t have dinner before the show enjoy a light repast before heading home… or elsewhere.…..it’s not for me to judge.

When our dinner was over, DF and I made it across the street to the Wortham Center in time to enjoy another wonderful performance by the Houston Ballet. After the show, DF and I made our way back to the car as we observed another round of theater‐goers making their way into the Blue Fish. I hope they enjoyed the floor show as much as I did.

Until next week.….

Flinging and Swinging into Spring

It is now officially Spring! I hope everyone had a nice Vernal Equinox. Did you run around outside picking flowers and dancing? I didn’t either. Have you planted all of your spring flowers and gardens? Again…me neither.

However, I have been walking. I have walked around my neighborhood, I have walked at Bayou Bend, I have walked around the grounds at Rienzi. I have observed nature and art. Yes, sometimes nature is art and sometimes art is nature. Think about it.……you’ll get it. I may not have planted any spring garden, but the fabulous people who work for the Museum of Fine Arts have put a lot of work into the Gardens at Bayou Bend and the Rienzi. As you can tell I walked among the Goddesses and Muses (great inspiration for writing) and took lots of pictures of flowers and butterflies.

For those of you who are not in the know about Houston culture, Bayou Bend is owned by the MFAH and showcases the home and gardens of the Great Dame of H Town, Miss Ima Hogg. Yes, for anyone who is not knowledgeable about Houston culture, this was a real woman (stop that giggling now!) who had lots of money and spent it on a beautiful home, the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet, among other things. I can paraphrase the line from the movie Steel Magnolias and say that Miss Hogg “had more money than God” and I don’t think she wasted a penny. When she died, she left her home full of art works and antiques to the MFAH. The ongoing success of the Houston Symphony and Houston Ballet speak for themselves.

The Rienzi is another such home that is also located in River Oaks. Formerly the home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III. I don’t know as much about them as I do about Miss Ima Hogg, but they also left a beautiful home full of art and antiques plus acres of beautiful gardens to the MFAH.

The exciting part about all of this walking is that I feel really good! I have successfully survived gastric sleeve surgery, losing weight and can get up and move! I am literally having a Spring Fling! My once upon a time arthritic knee is MUCH better.

I first started going on long walks when I was about 12 years old. You know, that age when just no one understands you and you almost sprain a muscle in your face from your eyes rolling so much at everything everyone tries to tell you? Just gotta love those preteen years. And yes, I was just that kind of preteen. Yes, I have matured much since those days. No…really!

Anyway, I would go for long walks around the neighborhood. There was a shopping center and an 18‐hole golf course. Lots of places to walk around and get lost in the scenery and sort out my pubescent thoughts. Mom and I both had a nice break from each other. My siblings never followed me on these outings. What’s not to love.

Besides, it doesn’t cost anything to walk. Except there is sometimes an admission fee. It is actually good for you. Except for when the refineries in Deer Park are on fire and the air is filled with smoke and benzene. Don’t forget to breathe deep!

So, I hope you have enjoyed all of these pictures of flowers and springtime. Soon enough it will be summer and hurricane season and it will be 100 degrees in the shade.……you get the idea. I am going to walk as much as possible until that time gets here!

Until next week.……

Death Becomes Me.……and Her!

I’m currently reading a very interesting book. It’s called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Morbid? Maybe. But interesting. So interesting that I also plan on reading another book by the same author called, From Here To Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.

Many people who know me are aware that I have a bit of a history with the funeral industry. To begin with, back in Memphis, Tennessee, my maternal relatives owned a complicated array of businesses including a funeral home. My mother worked at this funeral home until she met and married my father who was a funeral director. Over the years I knew the people at this funeral home well enough that they gave me a part‐time job when I was working on my undergraduate degree at the University of Memphis where I majored in Social Work.

No, I was not allowed anywhere near the dearly departed. I answered a PBX machine and directed phone calls wherever they needed to go. Yes, there were a few odd phone calls along the way. No, I told the nice lady who called and asked, we don’t sell used dentures.

Did I mention this was Memphis Funeral Home. You think you have never heard of it, but you have. This was the funeral home that buried Elvis Presley. My one celebrity claim to fame. No, I never met Elvis and I did not work there while his funeral service took place. Elvis died in 1977 and I worked the PBX machine in 1978.

It was an interesting place to work. The people who work in funeral services have very unique talents. They work with the dead and grieving all day long. They counsel and they listen. It takes a special person to do this.

After graduation I moved to Houston and worked for a funeral corporation. Since I had a Social Work degree and the job placed me in the Accounting Department, I only stayed there about four months.

When I was getting my Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Houston, I had an internship for two semesters with a local hospice. Part of my qualifications included the fact that I had experience with the funeral industry and would be comfortable around death.

Later as an employee for local government, I documented the history of County Poor Farms and Cemeteries. This document can still be found within the Harris County Archives and there is a historical marker in the County Cemetery.

As a Social Worker I often worked in areas that many people find uncomfortable, but I found most comfortable. Today I find all this to be very valuable experience in my new career as a Writer.

Last June when Melanie and I made the road trip to Colorado, we visited my niece who works at a Denver Bookstore. We ate lunch at a restaurant called “Linger”. This restaurant is housed in a historical building that used to be a mortuary.

We both share an affinity for Halloween. She is her own unique and interesting person and it has been wonderful to get to know her as a 20‐something adult.

Imagine my surprise when Becca texted me to let me know that this fall she was going back to school to study Mortuary Science. I asked her if I had been a bad role model for her, but if I was then I was a darn proud bad role model!

Becca has two years of studies ahead of her, but she is very bright and very smart. I can’t wait to see how this next chapter in her life turns out. I will remain “a proud bad role model” and support her any way I can.

Until next week.….

Revising Paths

Every so often the road I am traveling on for this life journey takes an odd turn that I don’t always anticipate. Six months ago I would never have guessed that I would have the experience that I had last Monday.

My one road trip this week consists of traveling to the hospital and having gastric sleeve surgery. I had never planned on having this surgery. I was having a great time with my new career in retirement. I was having fun going all over the city of Houston and seeing whatever there was to see.

However, it was because I was enjoying my life so much that I made the decision to remove a large part of my stomach. According to the process outlined in Melanie’s last blog post, I moved out of my comfort zone, dealt with the fear of having any type of surgery, learned everything I could about this, and am now growing through the experience.

I plan on living a long time and want to be as healthy as I can be. I have a lot of writing to do. I don’t have time to worry about arthritis and high blood pressure as long as there is a safe way to improve my physical body. Being healthy frees up my mind and body to follow my bliss. I am very pleased to report that two days out from the surgery, I am feeling pretty good.

I am beginning some of the very many changes that need to happen in my life as a result of this surgery. I am finding out all the ways I can ingest protein and vitamins and hydration.

At first I was sent home from the hospital with several small pill cups that hold one ounce of water. I was told to drink an ounce of water every fifteen minutes. This would help guarantee that I was receiving enough hydration.

However, these cups are small and light weight. The small cups quickly became cat toys and were getting knocked off of tables and across the room.

That’s one of the many places where my Dear Friend (DF) stepped in to help. He brought me a shot glass that shows the measurements contained within an ounce. It is heavier than the hospital cups so it is not as easy to knock over. Also it helps me the measure all of the water, protein drinks, and fat free Greek yogurt that now comprise my daily diet.

I used to use shot glasses to measure out ingredients for vodka martinis or chocolate martinis. This will not happen again for at least a year. Having and enjoying many years of health is worth the trade off.

Now I measure everything that goes into my stomach. I have a notebook that I use to track when and how much I take in daily. I focus on protein and water. Chewable vitamins are very exciting when you’re on a liquid diet as part of recovery from surgery.

I am also keeping notes on this entire process. I wonder how much material I will have for future memoirs or personal essays? Writing about all of my new experiences helps me as I travel through the growth zone of this experience.

No, I don’t intend for my blog posts to become a “health journey” I am still focused on the writing process. However this week has hopefully made me a healthier person so I can live my life and have lots to write about.

Until next week.….….…

Groundhog Day.….Again!

Groundhog Day! One of the first early signs that we may have survived another Winter and Spring may just be around the corner? Such an odd custom. Depending on a groundhog to determine our future for the next six weeks. Just what exactly makes rodents so smart? How does such a custom come about?

In this country we need to look to the Dutch and German settlers. Back in the “old country” hedgehogs were used to predict weather. Apparently hedgehogs weren’t readily available for the settlers here, so they switched hedgehogs for groundhogs. Rodents are interchangeable? Who knew?

Is this really all about weather and agriculture? Or is this some Jungian tale of how we react when we see our shadow selves? What a fascinating tangent; however, it is a topic much larger than this blog will allow. Back to Groundhog Day…

Hollywood made a movie called Groundhog Day where the day kept repeating itself over and over until Bill Murray could figure out that Andie MacDowell was a catch. I would send you to Google to check this out, but I am guessing this movie will be showing on television several times this weekend. Just check the listings.

Of course if you keep going back in time, you will find that Groundhog Day was celebrated by the Pagans as Imbolc. It was one of the first rites of Spring. A re‐dedication to life and trust that soon plants would grow and that all of life would be renewed for another year. Then the Catholics came up with Candlemas. Again a celebration of re‐dedication to their faith.

However you slice up the cultural pie, this is a time when people look to the future. Even if you New Year resolutions have all fallen by the wayside, there is still hope for you to believe in the future and yourself.

As if in preparation, much of the country endured the Polar Vortex this week. Not only did the US Post Office not deliver, but there were even some bars in the Midwest that had to close, because the beer trucks couldn’t deliver. Talk about your weather emergencies!

Here in Houston, I spent some quality time on the road at the Houston Arboretum.

If you haven’t visited the Arboretum in a while, it has really changed. They are making some big changes as a result of the lasting effects of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the Summer Drought of 2011. They are adding more ponds and walking paths. There is even a second entrance on the feeder road to the 610 Loop. So many paths to take. So much exploring to be done. If you haven’t visited here in a while, it is definitely worth an afternoon of strolling around to discover all that is new.

While I may not be ready for winter to be over, apparently Nature has other ideas. I even saw some of the early Texas wildflowers at the Arboretum. Can the bluebonnets be far behind?

In honor of this weekend of re‐dedication, new life, and the hopes of Spring, I re‐dedicate myself to writing and art. Writing projects continue even as I think up new ones.

Also, I have started another Art History class at the Glassell School of Art. We will talk in depth about lines, shapes, spaces, time and motion. We are even going to delve into the principles of design. I can’t wait!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I will be practicing all kinds of creativity.

Until next time.….