Flick ‘n Fling at the Courthouse

When people take pictures of your shoes, it’s time to write about them.

Especially when Photo Time occurs at the courthouse.

We three women sat next to each other, awaiting the outcome of round one: would we be picked for jury duty? Bailiff updates droned on through rounds two and three. We began to chat.

After a few minutes, the woman sitting two places to my left eyeballed the shoes I’d worn on this road trip:

Both women erupted in surprise when I mentioned the paint job was mine. A cacophony of non‐stop questions and amazement followed. While secretly delighted, I finally said, “they’re only shoes.”

The first woman asked to take a picture. For her daughter, she said. The other, sitting next to me, noticed the faux gemstones.

I explained the white dots are not gems, only sticky white dots. Stand‐ins for old stones that disappeared who knows where, when or how. 

The picture‐taker leaned in and whispered, “so, how do you DIY shoes?” 

Why are you whispering? I wondered. Are these creations too weird? Am I?

I paused before the directions rolled like warm honey off my tongue. My fingers followed along in an artful sign language.

Easy‐breezy: shoe paint, leather shoes, and your fingers. Only four: index, middle, and ring fingers plus a thumb. All you do is flick and fling!”

I giggled at the ad‐lib, morphing it into Flick ‘n Fling Fun. then added, “Best part? No one in the universe will ever own shoes like yours. Who wants to be like everyone else?”

My two new friends nodded in agreement. Our shared middle‐to‐senior ages encouraged that collective attitude. We talked more nitty‐gritty details of painting shoes. Finally, we exchanged our names.

Sheila.

Melanie.

And Melanie.

Jury duty with a namesake.

Who also wished her mother had named her Scarlett.

Who parked two places away in the parking lot; who sat two spaces away in the courthouse.

Four synchronicities for the price of one.

Who says jury duty is a chore?

And, no, none of us was picked.

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.….….…

A Mindset for the Road

We launched this blog last May, shortly before a three‐state drive to attend a Colorado writing retreat.

Nine months later, I’m birthing something new. It’s a merger of sorts, combining what I learned last spring with what I know this winter. Call it a RoadBroad’s 2019 approach to living and writing.

It comes courtesy of my writing friend, Danielle, who shared a version of this “Comfort Zone” graphic on Facebook. The image grabbed my attention so fast, my neck nearly snapped. My mind thought aha!, and off to the Internet rabbit hole I vanished where I found the same image, topped with the creativity quote:

Image copyright: TWH (The Wealth Hike); Quote copyright, Dan Stevens. 

It’s so timely, post‐New Year (either 1/1 or 2/5). There’s 45 weeks left in 2019.

Take a look at the graphic. Where do see yourself here as a woman? As a writer? 

Some days, I stretch across all four zones.

Today, I stretch across Learning and Growth. It’s blog post day.

Tomorrow, I’ll perch in Fear, courtesy of an upcoming public speaking event.

Who knows what Wednesday and Thursday will bring? I suspect Comfort Zone therapy after Tuesday. But by Thursday, Learning and Growth returns, incorporating the week so far.

Learning and Growth involves an awakening, a choice we must make consciously. Comfort Zone and Fear tend to rule by our default.

My goal is to shrink the red circle of Comfort Zone into a smaller dot. It’s home to daily human recovery needs, so elements of it are vital. Healthy eating. Daily exercise. Adequate sleep. Spiritual practice.

Before we are women or writers, we are human beings. Superwoman and her twin, Wonder Woman, checked out of this universe decades ago.

Fear is too much my friend. So that’s why she resides in the orange zone? Moving forward, I’ll honor Fear while keeping a healthy dose married to boundaries and deadlines.

Finally, I focus on where my heart and energy landed when I saw this graphic. Enlarge the yellows and greens of Learning and Growth into ever‐widening zones. Purpose‐filled days. Achieved dreams. Goals enlarged. Objectives accomplished.

Daily, I’ll massage Dan Stevens’ words: creativity comes from activating intuition, expanding perspectives, and living fearlessly. 

What’s your Zone Plan?

Maybe the graphic offers not your life, but a simple story.

Heroine’s Journey, anyone?

Classical Road Trip

I have always enjoyed a wide variety of music.

In my early childhood mother would send me off to dancing school where I would learn tap and jazz steps to any number of Broadway songs.

Then in my teens I terrorized mother with albums by such groups as Led Zepplin and singers like Alice Cooper. She was much less terrorized with musicians like Donovan and Melanie. Also, since I was living in Memphis, I would listen to Furry Lewis sing the blues at a local watering hole on a Saturday night. If you don’t know who any of these musicians are.…..don’t tell me. I will feel old. Just Google and try to keep up.

By the time I hit my early adult years, I added classical music to my growing repertoire. Mozart is my favorite composer. Bach and Strauss are high on my list as well. Evelyn Glennie is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist I have seen perform and I now adore her music.

Here is the problem. If you are like me and you remember when groups like the Beatles and the Stones made their debut performances in the USA, collecting music to enjoy at home can be a bit tricky. Over the years I have followed my favorite musicians through the days of LPs and 45s, 8 Track tapes, cassette tapes, and CDs. Now I am learning to download. I prefer CDs.

Even though I live in a large metropolitan area like Houston, there are very few places where I can go to find a good variety of classical music CDs. That’s why this week my Dear Friend (DF) and I traveled to Old Town Spring to visit Classical Music of Spring. The people who work in this store know everything there is to know about the classical music genre and then some. If they don’t have what you are looking for in the shop, then they will order it for you.

Not only do they sell CD’s, but they also sell LPs for the retro crowd. I picked up a CD called Home Stretch by composer and pianist, Timo Andres. I especially like his work called, Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno. DF walked out with an armful of both CDs and LPs.

Now to understand the significance of this road trip, I will remind you that I drove to Old Town Spring. I live inside the Loop. This was far outside the loop. Even taking the toll road, it took 35 minutes to get there. Since retiring from my traditional day job, I very seldom drive outside the loop. I am a city gal. I am glad to report that Classical Music of Spring is worth the time and the distance.

Of course I still like to listen to the oldies from groups like Chicago and Pink Floyd. And I have added CDs by Imagine Dragons and Beck to my current collection.

Yet, it is still nice to relax to some wonderful classical music whether it is attending the symphony or listening to recordings in the comfort of my home. As in many aspects of life, it helps to know where and how to find what I’m looking for and I always enjoy the road trip.

Until next week.….

You, Alchemist, Springs to New Life

You, Alchemist

Punky Phil says it’s time for Spring.

Hallelujah and pass the tissues (she says, amid her waning cold sniffles)!

Let’s second that hallelujah and offer a third: Chinese New Year begins tomorrow, February 5th.

Here’s a fourth and final shout‐out: in the skies, it’s New Moon time. Clean slate time, akin to another January 1st here in the West. Astronomy reeks woo‐woo but there’s truth to be found in concepts that last a thousand‐plus years.

This particular New Moon comes amidst Imbolc season (as Ellen referenced last week). In Old Irish, Imbolc means “in the belly.” What sits in the belly but seeds awaiting birth? Be they human babies, words, dreams, or simply ideas, they’re all ready to spring to life. Pun intended, by the way.

Imbolc’s arrival says we’re halfway to Spring.

All these gifts: darkness to light, old to new, cold to warm, winter to spring. I accept them all. After 34 days of virus, shadows, and puny days, I’m opening the presents.

First is this painting, discovered on a road trip to Kay Kemp’s art studio in the Houston Heights. “You, Alchemist” speaks of the season, my life, and magic.

“You, Alchemist,” copyright, Kay Kemp.

A refresher first (one I, too, needed): alchemy was the first version of chemistry as long‐ago scientists used base metals in attempts to make gold. Others did the same, seeking immortality.

Sadly, we lost the real meaning of the word alchemy: to transform matter. This painting explains how it’s done, beginning with nine symbolic interpretations:

  • Powerful female figure—Goddess? Angel? Everywoman?
  • Circle of Life—embracing both hot and cold, passion and calm
  • Baby Leaf—gestating in protected circle of mother arms; centered in worlds visible, invisible
  • Hands—touching fingers protect while preparing, guiding new life into being
  • Skyward Leaves—supporting life‐forms, past, present, future; self, other, all
  • Seasons—traveling full circle, clockwise from upper left, in the life of a single year: spring, summer, fall, and winter
  • Colors—personalized (with no prior knowledge by the artist) with the six colors of my novel’s primary characters. And, yes, I color‐code my characters; doesn’t every writer? 
  • Roots—running deep, extending skyward, grounding image in strength, focus and purpose
  • Wings—powering the female as she lives, births; upholding new and old; angels or Self?

What more powerful connection can there be to reinforce our current Imbolc season? Seeds of new life growing within as the next season prepares for birth. Or is it something totally different.

C’est le vie. Gertrude Stein—born 145 years ago—offers cover: “If you knew it all, it would not be creation, but dictation.”

We live in a world and culture that demands we accept dictation. In other words, practice conformity.

Creativity scares many people. Why? It’s what we live, breathe, and consume every hour of every day. It’s what we see the world around us. In paintings. In blog posts.

Let’s bury all lives of dictation.

Let’s start over on this New Moon, tomorrow’s Chinese New Year, this birthing month of February. Let’s live as we are, supported, gestating, grounded, and take flight, creating what’s inside, ready to be born.

As a wise someone said once, let’s start living the lives awaiting our ‘yes!’

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.….

Lava on the Road, Story on the Page

Only weeks ago, I resolved to find magic in this New Year. It landed last night, courtesy of an unexpected gift.

The weekend crisis du jour sent DH and I on the road. A new lamp shade beckoned.

We arrived home with that and a bonus: a Lava Lamp for my writing studio.

In the store, the colorful box screamed, “All this color! You know you want me!” Curious, is it not, that all the box’s colors match my novel characters? Can you identify the six shades?

Looming larger, this toy offers a different kind of road trip—straight down memory lane. But in my 70’s teen days, I never owned a Lava Lamp.

Having one up‐close, I’ve realized a Lava lamp is essentially an electric candle, sans wick, parked inside a glass bottle. It works when a glob of bottled wax gets heated, rises then dances inside glass under illuminated by a tiny light bulb.

Lava Embryo With Legs speaks of new life, new creation, new start. And unable to stand.

This mutant look compliments reality. Nothing’s ever perfect as it’s born.

All applicable for what’s been an ongoing funky new year. Maybe now as we begin week number five, it’s full‐on reboot time? Isn’t that what last week’s Full Moon with a Wolf SuperBlood twist teased? Saying goodbye to the past and moving forward with gusto, finally free?

An hour after plug‐in, Lava Embryo With Legs grows up, sprouting a semi‐carpet of background grass.

Technically, my inner feminist says this should be Lava Woman. I squinted to identify relevant body parts.

It becames that: It. Or SkullScoliosisRump. Alien doesn’t fit because this image resembles no creature I’ve seen in the best (and worst) sci‐fi flicks.

Still, it’s perfect, mimicking change with scary precision. Is change ever easy to figure out?

Two hours in, an entire new world arises: Lava Universe?

This unfolding lava world reminds me of watching last week’s eclipse. Shadows and colors changing on the moon as a memorable lunar evening reveals itself. We changed, too, watching, absorbing.

As I unplugged Lava Lamp three hours later (and DH already in bed), the meaning of the night roared in.

We writers do all this as we pen the stories that call us to the page (or the computer).

Like solid wax in a cold lava lamp, Story remains static, unborn, unchanging. But give Story enough heat, time, and attention, and it rises to new life, changing shape, spawning tales, and building the form that was always inside. Waiting.

More than a half century ago, Michelangelo wrote: “The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of white marble does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.” 

Substitute a few words and you’ll find a writer’s truth: “The greatest writer has no conception which a single page* does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.”

We’re not working alone.

The Story is already inside us, awaiting heat, time, attention.

Like a lowly little lava lamp.

*Substitute computer screen, piece of paper, notebook, etc.

*NOTE: The Michelangelo quote is verbatim from 1501, thus verbiage rings/reads somewhat stiff and awkward to 21st century ears/eyes.

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.….

Howling at the Moon

Copyright Valerie Gache, AFP, Getty Images

Oh, but to be a RoadBroad eyeballing this moon view at the Temple of Apollo in Corinth, Greece! 

That red‐orange orb, captured earlier today, is a Super Blood Wolf Moon. The same image, sans the Temple, will rise across North America at 11:16 p.m., Houston time. Add an hour for the Yankees. Subtract two for the Westies.

With clear skies and cold temperatures forecast, it promises a memorable night of sky viewing. Lasting an hour long, it’s the last of its kind until 2021.

The description “super blood” comes not from astronomers but from copywriters. Two reasons why:

Who wants to say “total lunar eclipse” when the moon’s orange‐red color looks like, well, blood?

Super’ slides in because the moon looks 14 percent larger than normal. It’s closer to Earth than usual for an eclipse. But it’s not actually bigger.

Ancient peoples dubbed the first full moon of the year as Wolf Moon. All that wolf howling in January. Why? High mating season for wolves. In the cold?

All these factoids led DH, the astronomy buff, to inform me that we won’t need his telescope for lunar viewing tonight. This big, bright, wolf moon requires only binoculars. Good. Easier maneuvering out the back window. Warmer, too.

Staying up after midnight might be problematic. Make that ‘will be.’

This Wolf Moon correlates perfectly with the man I married. He’s a real‐life Wolf. But my love doesn’t howl. Not in January. And never in public.

But I almost howled last week when a knock‐me‐flat cold did just that. Onset came less than 24 hours after a career‐rejuvenating writing intensive. Did the virus have something to do with completing a novel outline, consolidating 31 chapter opens/closes, locking down 11 character descriptions, and setting a first‐draft completion date—all in only four days?

The question brings me to the real point of this entire blog post about tonight’s moon.

Full moons offer completion. End of a cycle, stage, or phase. Pick your word. Astrologers say full moons are a perfect time to celebrate growth, note progress, and reflect on how far you’ve come.

Now cold‐recovered, I’m celebrating, noting, and reflecting.

And through the magic promised on this blog on January 1st, I’m starting over.

Happy New Year, January 20th.

Three months from Final‐First‐Draft Day.

Here we go…again.

Second chances always offer my best results.

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.….….