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.….

3 Days, 3 Roads, 3 Adventures

Tuesday. Drove to Hermann Park with Dear Friend (DF). We wanted to spend some time outside on a beautiful cool day with art, squirrels and ducks. This particular park is a wonderful place to go for a walk. There are concrete paths, gravel paths, and lots of grass to walk on. There are also many trees, benches and picnic tables. DF and I walked and sat and walked and sat some more. We absorbed as much of the park as we could and committed it to memory. I took pictures with a real camera (as opposed to the camera on my phone).

This particular sculpture was a topic of discussion last year when I took the Women In Art class at the Glassell. The artist who created this piece was sculptor, Hannah Stewart. The title of the work is Atropos Key and is located on top of the hill at Miller Theater.

Since it was a weekday, there were not too many people. Foot traffic did pick up during the lunch hour with several people escaping an office setting to commune with nature. Some folks just walked and others sat on benches and visited with the ducks. Some folks walked alone, some in pairs and others in small groups. The squirrels kept an eye on everyone who wandered through.

Wednesday. DF was in the hospital getting ready for some surgery. Nothing major or life threatening, but necessary. Sometimes a road trip involves being wheeled around a hospital (or accompanying someone who is being wheeled around a hospital). From admitting room, to pre‐op holding room, to operating room, to recovery room, to hospital bedroom. I spent the day either by his bedside or sitting in the waiting room. Surgery was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., but he was not wheeled into the operating room until 1:00 p.m. He pulled through the surgery like a champ. Only a 5 hour wait in the recovery room before DF is moved to a private room. Once I was assured he was comfortable in his room and tucked in for the night, I left with the promise to return the next day to transport him home. Nurses checked on him every hour.

Both before and after surgery, we spent time in curtained cubicles where we caught some strange snippets of conversations.

A doctor said, “Your wound is safe. You could put WD40 on it and it still wouldn’t get infected. You won’t have any problem with a shower.”

A nurse said to a co‐worker, “No, it’s an hour and a half. Do not try to add another 1/2 hour to my life.”

A nurse said towards the end of the shift to someone we could not see,“I don’t like coffee. I don’t like the way it looks. I don’t like the way it smells. I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t even like the look of coffee beans. Coffee is not my friend.

Thursday. DF and I had hoped for a hospital discharge by 11:00 a.m. No such luck. There were no more road trips around the hospital. Lots of waiting in the room. The nurse continued to visit every hour. Finally by 3:00 p.m. DF was sitting in a wheelchair on his way to the front door of the hospital.

Once out in the sunshine, we drove off in my car. We went to a drug store for meds and then to Brasil’s for an early dinner. I drove slowly through tree lined neighborhoods. Classical music played on the radio. Now life began to return to what can be considered normal.

Until next week.….

Coffee!

In a few weeks, I am going to have surgery. Nothing too serious, but it will hopefully have a very positive impact on my life. There’s just one problem. In order to do this, I have to stop drinking coffee.

WHAT??? STOP DRINKING COFFEE??? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???

Coffee. The elixir of life. The joy of my every morning. Sigh.

No, I don’t have to give it up forever, but for a little while. Since I don’t want to go through a caffeine withdrawal headache, I am weaning myself off of the bliss that is java. By now the coffee I am drinking is weak enough that I can see through it. Just about ready to move over to green tea. Oh, woe is me!

Having been raised in the South, I have a long‐standing friendship with caffeine. I was weaned on Coca Cola. Drank it every day in my youth. Iced Tea was the drink of choice with every supper. No, I did not drink sweet tea. I put my own sugar in my tea and stirred it and stirred it until my arm got tired.

I made the move to coffee sometime in high school. It was the 1970s and I can still see Joe DiMaggio in one of his many Mr. Coffee commercials. What? You don’t remember the Mr. Coffee commercials? Please take a moment now and go to YouTube where you will find several. I’ll wait until you come back.

In college I remember many a night going to a local diner with friends to talk and drink coffee until the wee hours of the morning. Study sessions in the dorm also required numerous “cups of Joe”.

By the time I became a working adult in the 1980s, I was drinking about a pot of coffee a day and smoking two packs of cigarettes. I was actually delusional enough back then to think that I was a laid back “Type B” personality. I know much better now. Lucky for me, I gave up the cigarettes a couple of decades ago. Coffee has remained my friend. I drink it black with a little sweetener. I no longer use sugar. Sometimes I will treat myself with a mocha coffee. Oftentimes chocolate can be just as sacred as coffee and the combination will fill my soul with exultation!

Oh, I have given up coffee at least twice in my life. Whenever I did this.….Time Stood Freakin’ Still. The earth literally slowed down in her rotations and felt like it was going to roll away into the universe. What do non‐caffeinated persons do with all of their extra time? I really have no idea.

Like I said earlier, this will be a temporary separation. I am already looking forward to having surgery behind me so I can drink my coffee in peace once again.

One last note: Here is a picture of the artist, Leslie Gaworecki and the picture she painted for Color:Story 2019 based on my essay called “Transitions”. Many thanks to both Leslie and Marlo Saucedo for coordinating this evening and preparing such wonderful works of art. Also, many thanks to those of you who were able to join us. There was a large crowd and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Until next week.….….

Through The Wormhole

I wasn’t going to write anything else about the holidays. I had done that topic. However, I had such a surreal experience, I just have to share.

This RoadBroad hit the road again. It has always been my tradition to go out of town over Christmas to avoid all of the holiday doings. I go somewhere where I can escape, relax, read, write, and contemplate.

This year I decided to go to Galveston. At least I think I went to Galveston. However, while driving down the freeway I must have turned left into a wormhole somewhere and landed in a parallel universe that pretended to be Earth, but couldn’t have been. Instead of avoiding all the trappings of Christmas, I fell into what looked like a hotel that had been taken over by alien elves and other assorted holly jolly critters. It was an assault on every one of my senses. Christmas music filled every inch of the hotel lobby and outside by the pool and the usually quiet observation deck.

This was the entry way. It looked incredibly festive and harmless at first glance. Lots and lots of trees. But look closer. Look again. To enter the hotel, I had to walk through a literal “Elfin Gauntlet”. Not only were there many elves, but they were all either hanging from the trees or flying through the air. They looked at me as I passed. I tried not to make eye contact. I did not actually see any of them move, but just as I walked past, I thought I saw movement. Quick shadowy movements. They all looked so happy, but in an impish mischievous kind of way.

What they do with you if they should catch you? Fortunately I did not find that out. I can move fast for an old broad.

Once outside the hotel, I found other alien beings pretending to be humans. But, I had my doubts and suspicions. It was 60 degrees outside and these creatures were walking around in bathing suits and bikinis. They floated in steamy water. Were they relaxing or were they being cooked for some future holiday feast?

Escaping the hotel, I ran to the beach. Here I apparently found the winged Overlords who are in charge of this strange planet. They impose strict rules regarding who can access the natural resources. There they stand guard. I did not try to cross into forbidden territory.

Luckily for me, I was able to escape the parallel universe and returned to Houston located on Planet Earth. As always, I thank the nice earthlings who assisted me with house and cat sitting.

Next year I will be more careful in selecting my destination for peace and tranquility. I will be more careful about turning left into wormholes.

After such an adventure, this RoadBroad is home for a while. I hope the alien elves didn’t follow me home!

Until next week!

Creativity as Process

Today I had the good fortune to have lunch with two electrical engineers. I mean PhD’s from Rice University genius mentalities that are much smarter than the average bear kind of engineers. One of them was my Dear Friend (DF) and the other one was a friend/business associate of DF.

They are busy creating a company called Northworks Digital Factory, that is all about 3‐D printing. If I were smarter in the ways of engineering, I could explain this better. However, all I can say is they make 3‐D printers and they make things with 3‐D printers. They make art objects for artists and they also make medical devices for various biomedical engineering companies.

SONY DSC

This is one of their 3‐D printers. Don’t ask me how this works. For all I know it runs on Fairy Dust. The important thing is that they know how it works and how to build it. I just look at it all and say something along the lines of, “Oh cool.”

We didn’t spend a lot of time today talking about engineering. What we discussed was creativity and the creative process. How do we look at something or a situation and come up with a solution or a process for making things work.

NASA and the process of working on the Apollo mission to the moon was one segment of discussion. What was attempted could not be done in the time frame that they had. Yet, it was done and we went to the moon several times.

We also talked about story building. What works as a good idea and how to bring that idea to fruition. Have an idea, think about it from all different perspectives, try things out, make some mistakes and learn, and keep moving forward.

Engineering, science, art, writing all involve this creative process. Keep thinking and keep developing ideas. I heard the author Neil Gaiman lecture once. He said that if you want to be a writer, then write. Finish what you are writing. You will learn more from completing a process than looking at something, deciding it sucks, and then start on something else. Once you are done, maybe your project doesn’t suck after all. Gaiman even has a new book out called, Art Matters: Because Imagination Can Change The World. 

A couple of weeks ago I found a perfect example of the creative process at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I was amazed at a collection of pieces made out of gem stones called, Life In Stone. Gerd Dreher made animal carvings from all types of stone. For example, here is an orangutan that was made from one piece of obsidian. I was awed by the intricate lapidary work in this piece with incredible detail of the physical form.

Another animal carving I admired was this peacock. This one animal was made up of 350 pieces of stones such as quartz, tiger eye, agate, and others. Nothing on these animals involves paint. All of the colors come from the stones themselves.

Since I am neither an engineer nor a lapidist, I will continue with my writing. Story ideas are my creative and artistic work. Words are my tools.

Until next week.….….

Lollygagging

All right. I’m here. Writing another blog post. Again, there are no pictures that go with this treatise that explores the life of a writing RoadBroad. Therefore, I will include a few pictures of holiday lights. Enjoy.

I have been lollygagging, dawdling, and procrastinating this week with my writing. My apologies! As you may remember from last week, I was dealing with a torn meniscus. I was on the verge of getting signed up for some arthroscopic knee surgery. But all that changed when I had an MRI on Monday. I no longer have a torn meniscus. Alas and alack, my poetic attempts were all in vain.

What I have is arthritis. That’s it. Instead of signing up for surgery, I have signed up for physical therapy. I have also re‐upped my membership at the Y where I can enjoy invigorating water aerobic classes and stationery bicycles.

Arthritis does not sound as fun or exciting as a torn meniscus. I can’t say I got it because I am such an athlete. Is it just because I am getting old? When I was a young child I remember hearing old people talk about their arthritis. They also talked about their lumbago, their dropsy, or having a bad bout of the grippe. All old diseases. I’m going to have to process this and cogitate on it a while.

But don’t worry. I will not write any more poetry about my ailments. Whatever would I find to rhyme with arthritis? Maybe colitis, but I haven’t been diagnosed with that.

While I was dawdling this week, a friend put a word up on her Facebook post. The word was coddiwomple. What an interesting word. The definition is “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. Well isn’t that what I’ve been doing with my life post retirement? I am redefining my entire way of being. I march down the road in a purposeful manner while writing, blogging, going to movies and museums. Now I can add physical therapy and water aerobics to my journey.

I am a coddiwompler, because I am coddiwompling my way through this thing called life. When I retired from my day job, I knew certain things that I would do. I became a full‐time writer. I have definite goals, but the destination is vague other than living my own life on my own terms and enjoying it. It feels fugacious, but is actually enlightening and transcendent. Plus the word coddiwomple is fun to say. Almost as much fun as fugacious.

Does this writing seem to be a bit of a flumadiddle? I promise it was not my intention to leave you discombobulated. I’m just a logophile which means I am a lover of words and enjoy playing with them.

It was much more fun than sitting around and cogitating on arthritis.

Until next week.….…

A RoadBroad’s Meniscus

What’s the saying? Don’t you know? RoadBroads are like sharks. They must keep moving. That’s why we stay on the road. Whether we are traveling around the country or inside the 610 Loop in Houston. We walk a lot and look at everything. We are always on the move.

Except.……

I have been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in my right knee. Don’t know what the heck that is? I didn’t either before this week. All I knew was that I was in pain. I love to walk, but lately that has been a painful experience for me. 

Isn’t this a cute lil’ chubby knee? Adorable. Who would think anything this cute would cause so much pain?

I planned my entire retirement around writing and walking. Tuesdays are outing days for walking around parks, museums, neighborhoods, etc. Now I am temporarily side‐lined. I am still walking, but it can get very painful after short distances.

What causes this condition? When I checked Google, I found out that this is a very common ailment for athletes. Well, of course, that’s what happened. Marathons, tennis, rugby, I do it all. I am such an athlete, that I hurt my knee. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Okay, so you’re not even going to begin to believe that? I thought you were my friend. Won’t you allow me this one little phantasm?

A torn meniscus can also be a result of aging and wearing out parts. I could think that, but I do not see myself as old. I know I am not young, but I am definitely not “old”. Other people my age may be old, but that does not apply to me. Yes, my youthful delusions do help me sleep well at night.

When I went to the doctor, I was sent off to get x‐rays of my knee. Then what was really cute was that the doctor’s assistant showed me the x‐rays. He would point at things as if I could see what he saw. As he spoke, I nodded politely. I understood what he said. Yes, there is a treatment for this. Good.

When I returned home from the medical appointment, I wondered what a writer could do with a torn meniscus. Should I write out a dialogue with my knee? Write poetry? What the heck rhymes with “meniscus”?

Here we go:

Hello Meniscus,

You make me feel like such a nimscus,

You impede my sunny dispositicus.

Let’s try this:

Oh my meniscus,

Why can’t you be more viscous? 

Yet, you are torniscus.

Maybe this?

Ouch, Ouch my torn meniscus,

Maybe I’ll just sit and drink a tea of hibiscus.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. Yes, I’ll stick with prose.

Until next week.….