New Roads, New Skills, New Creativity

It’s true! You’re never too old to learn. By default that means that I am not too old to learn. What I have noticed is that the older I get, the more interesting stuff I can learn and experience.

For starters last Sunday I went to Murder By The Book bookstore and attended a meeting of the Houston Sisters In Crime. You guessed it. This is a group of women who enjoy writing murder mysteries and the like. There was a panel presentation from women who have been writing for a while and have had many experiences with getting published.

That’s Fern Brady on the left in blue. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Inklings Publishing and a dandy fine writer. You can check out the website at inklingspublishing.com.

At the March meeting for the Houston Sisters in Crime, the speaker will be someone known as “The Poison Lady”. For those writing a murder mystery and have a character that will die from some type of poisoning, this speaker will tell us how to write the scene realistically and convincingly. What fun! There is just no end to the exciting topics you can research when you call yourself a writer.

Then this past Tuesday I attended a meeting for Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA). There I heard two speakers talk about Zines! What fun! What is a zine, you may ask? Well, I found out they are physical printed self published creations that can consist of a single sheet of paper or more. They are made for the love of creating and rarely makes a profit.

Well, sign me up! After the meeting I checked out some information through Google and YouTube and have started planning on making a few of these to see how it all works. The first thing I discovered is that I may have to practice a bit of coordination to make the paper booklet that is so common to zines. After watching several YouTube videos, I just might actually be able to pull this off. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how is goes.

What topics will I cover in my Zines? Who knows. The possibilities are endless and I’m feeling creative! And in November there will be a Houston Zine Fest! It’s already on my calendar.

There are a lot of writing adventures coming up in March including some very exciting writing classes at the Spectrum Center Writers Guild! More on that soon!

Until next week.……

Hearts And Traffic Jams

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day.

This is the blog post that I intended to write yesterday when it actually was February 14th. But that was before all heck broke out in Houston.

The Southwest Freeway was shut down because a truck overturned. No one was hurt, but the entire freeway was shut down on a Friday afternoon just around lunch time. Now trucks turn over on a regular basis in this town. However, this one was extra special because the truck was carrying .….…wait for it.…..raw sewage. Yep, you read that right. Raw. Sewage. All over the freeway on a Friday afternoon on Valentine’s Day. I went out to run one little errand and almost couldn’t get back home. All of the traffic from the freeway was spilling out onto the main roads, the side roads and every other type of road.

By the time I got back home, I was running late to get ready for my Valentine’s Day date. We had reservations at the Backstreet Cafe. I wanted to be a proper lady for the occasion so I wanted to take a shower, wear a dress, etc. It takes time for me to look all ladylike. So I put off this blog until today.

And all I really wanted to say was a nice “Happy Valentines Day” to all my friends and blog readers.

Surprisingly, with all of the traffic jams around the area, we actually made it to dinner on time. I wonder how many other dinner reservations had to wait, because folks were stuck in traffic and honking their horns. There was a lot of horn honking yesterday. Egad.

Our dinner at the Backstreet Cafe was wonderful. We really took our time. Service was wonderful and the menu there never disappoints. There were rose petals on the table for that special romantic touch. By the time dinner was over, the freeway was open and traffic was back to normal.

I hope your romantic day was a joy and not stymied by the traffic. Did you do anything special?

And I would like to end this blog by wishing Susan B. Anthony a Happy 200th Birthday! She was an American social reformer and promoter for women’s rights. If you are a woman, please give her a nod of thanks every time you go to vote in an election.

Until next week.….

Road Signs

Back in 1970 there was a song. Yes, I realize some of you weren’t even born then and you might not be familiar with this song. Please, indulge me.

The band known as the Five Man Electrical Band recorded a song called Signs. The chorus of the song went something like this:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

I don’t know the story behind this song, but it came to mind the past couple of days as I drove around town.

First, there are the helpful arrows. These tell us which way to go and they don’t give us any choices or options. Whenever you drive down a street with these kinds of arrows, you not only know that the road curves, but you also know that you are traveling in the correct direction. I see this. I breathe a sigh of relief and then slow down to the posted speed limit.

Other arrows are a bit more confusing. Take these examples:

As you can see, the Exit sign confused me so much that I couldn’t even take a picture that was in focus. If the building is burning, which way do I go? Or do I risk burning up, because I can’t decide between right or left. I need more specific instructions.

Other arrows can be very context specific:

In the Center Lane example, it appears as though that is the lane you want to be in to turn sharply to avoid a head‐on collision. Apparently, this is a confusing sign, because very few people use the center lane as a turn lane and hold up traffic when they turn from the outer lanes. I find this quite annoying. The example with the squiggly arrow is alerting to me that the path ahead is not straight. Kinda a philosophical viewpoint for life, don’t you think?

Signs in parking garages can be quite bossy:

I find that most of the time “Management” never likes to be liable for things like theft or damage. If you need a reminder not to leave your new purchases, laptop or phone in plain view in your car, then maybe you shouldn’t live in a big city.

Since I drive a small car, I like the designations for compact car parking. At what point do pickup truck drivers think they are fooling anyone when they park in one of these spots? Maybe they just think that if they drive a big pickup truck in Texas, they have the right to park anywhere they want. Those folks just need to know that those of us with small cars and not thinking nice thoughts about them.

I have no idea why one can’t idle in a car for more than five minutes. If you have any idea, please let me know.

Finally, there are small signs that give us grave warnings, Harry Potter!

Have you ever noticed how many of these are in any given neighborhood? Don’t stop to think about how much stuff is buried under ground. You won’t be able to sleep at night. I promise I will do all of the worrying for you.

What signs do you see during the day?

Until next week.….

Bumps In The Road

Last week I wrote about how exciting it is to live in a big city like Houston. We have theaters, operas, movies, ballet and other types of dance performances, plays, and Broadway musicals.

This week I am going to talk about one of the more irritating aspects of city life. The speed bump. They are everywhere. I live in the heart of the city and must travel over at least 5 or 6 a day. You would think that since we are civilized people, we know.….just by common sense.….not to drive too fast while trying to be nice to others on the road. Oh well, that was a nice thought. Apparently we need to be told many times to slow down. What’s the rush?

But really, whose bright idea was this? Why are there so many?

Are they called “speed bumps” or “speed humps”? After querying several of my friends, I decided to ask the professionals. I did a Google search.

Oh my!

Speed humps are sections of raised pavement across a roadway. Speed bumps have a more abrupt design. According to sources on Google, these various creations are “traffic calming devices”. Let me repeat this,.….traffic calming devices. Now, my dear reader, stop and think. When was the last time you went over either a speed bump or speed hump and felt.….wait for it.….calm. Me neither.

This family of traffic calming devices use something known as vertical deflection to slow vehicle traffic and improve safety conditions. I tried to get you a definition of vertical deflection, but it was so scientific that my eyes rolled back in my head and I passed out. Who knew there was so much science regarding speed bumps.

And, dear reader, if you don’t like the name speed bump, speed hump or road hump, then you can try these variations:

There are “speed cushions”, but that conjures up images of having a pillow fight with either asphalt or concrete. This sounds painful.

There are “speed tables”, but that sounds too much like something I had to memorize in school and promptly forgot as soon as the test was over.

I also saw a reference to “woo woo boards”. Seriously. This brought up visions of witches standing around the street with a cauldron casting spells to create humps in the road to cause innocent drivers distress.

Those who construct these traffic calming devices swear they will not hurt your automobile as long as they are used properly. That means you are supposed to drive over them going no faster than 20 miles per hour. Now when was the last time you felt “calm” driving 20 miles an hour in Houston traffic? Again, me neither.

I don’t remember speed bumps playing a major part of my childhood. (Okay, yes, I am a Boomer.) Maybe that was because they weren’t invented until 1953. A lovely gentleman by the name of Arthur Compton is credited with this invention. This is the same Arthur Compton who was a Physicist and won a Nobel Prize in 1927. He also worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. Physics, nuclear reactors, and speed bumps. Who knew they’re all connected.

Now don’t you feel smarter? You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

New Roads

One of the best parts about living in a city as big as Houston is that there is always something new to do and see. Recently I have had two new experiences. One involves live theater and the other involves a new restaurant.

Stages celebrated the opening of their new home, The Gordy, at 800 Rosine. I have been a fan of stages for years and always enjoyed their productions. Now, they have a bigger building with three stages, prop shop, costume shop, scene shop, classrooms and lots of extra space. Before entering this new theater, I wondered how they would be able to expand while maintaining the up‐close and personal feeling of the previous location. Well, they did it. Each stage has seating surrounding the performance area on all sides. I doubt if there is a bad seat to be had anywhere. I can’t wait to see some of the upcoming productions that are planned for the rest of the cultural season.

During the open house I walked through all of the different departments. The costume shop had many examples of their various costumes. However, it was in the prop shop that I found this large cat head on top of a microwave. I didn’t ask what happened or where the rest of the cat was hiding.

One of the best parts of the tour was watching actor, Denise Fennell, in character as “Sister”. I have seen several of the Sister Catechism shows. Fennell is hysterical in these productions and very interactive with her audience. Her quick wit and good humored banter followed her wherever she went throughout the open house. I am looking forward to her next show at Stages.

My next adventure involved my Dear Friend and I going to a new restaurant. We like finding the small intimate places that provide great options in food. Literally, this new spot had been open for about two days when we arrived. The place is called Alma and is located on Drexel Street in Highland Village. As a vegetarian/sometimes pescatarian, I always check out the menu before going to a new restaurant for the first time. While they have plenty of options for the carnivores, they also have many options for picky vegetarian. There were several variations of salads, side dishes and grilled salmon. The staff were very helpful answering all of our questions about ingredients and options. We had a wonderful meal and will definitely go back again.

Can’t wait to see what other new adventures await me.

Until next week.….

Taking a Rest on the Tree of Life

Tree of Life, copyright Oisin Kelly.

Years ago, renowned Irish sculptor Oisin Kelly hand‐cast his interpretation of the Tree of Life.

His artwork hung in my mother’s den for years.

Its recent re‐discovery offers new meaning in a life battered by Big Change.

Creation’s trunk?

In Kelly’s detail work, I spy more than a simplistic image of the Garden of Eden story. 

I see a strong center, rising in bands up from the ground, each aiming skyward in search of new air.

I count the threads of strength — four — and find my favorite number. Is there a message here?

I find a solid base, anchored deep in the earth but not buried there. Holding there for a strong foundation from which to rise.

Branching out to expand Life.

In these branches, I see possibility. Make that possibilities.

I discover multiple limbs stretching out and up, seeking further growth.

I count bud after bud of either leaves or acorns, I do not know. Maybe some scarabs (of the mystical Egyptian kind?

I spot finger‐like growths stretching past boundaries, hungry for something new.

Curious about the sculptor’s artistic life, I discover (thank you, Wikipedia) where he’s cited in “Glanmore Sonnet” by Seamus Heaney:

These things are not secrets but mysteries

Oisin Kelly told me years ago

In Belfast, hankering after stone

That connived with the chisel, as if the grain

Remembered what the mallet tapped to know.”

I read these words and know instantly why I was drawn to this Tree of Life.

The message comes as clear as Kelly chiseling the stone that became his creation above: take a six‐week sabbatical from RoadBroads.

After weeks of intense, unending work, it’s time to chisel out the final mysteries of my sister’s life and estate. These revelations promise critical conclusions, both of which demand my focused time and energy.

Thus, I return to this blog in late February.

Call it a different kind of birthday present.

What better blog return than the day your life finishes its annual solar return?

In six Sundays, I’ll write here again.

Promise.

That’s the day after Leap Day.

Perfect!

The Light Road

So what’s the first thing a writer does after spending four days in a writing intensive at the Spectrum Center? Well, of course, I went to see a movie about a writer. Little Women proved to be a great way to spend a Tuesday afternoon in January. Yes, I went to the first showing of the day. Yes, everyone else in the audience had grey hair just like me. There was one woman in there who didn’t look old enough to be there with the retirement crowd, but she must have taken the day off work. We let her in anyway. It has never been overly crowded at the 12:15 pm showing on a Tuesday.

In the movie, Jo March is played by Saoirse Ronan. Another brilliant performance. Loved the scenes where she was on the screen with Meryl Streep. Two incredibly talented actors! Can’t believe the Director, Greta Gerwig, wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

I also noticed that Jo spent much of the movie writing late at night by candlelight. Today I write in a modern home with electricity and air conditioning and such. I also don’t have to write by hand and keep my handwriting neat enough to be read by my publisher. I think I might be spoiled?

Coincidence. After the movie my Dear Friend and I went to buy some light bulbs. Have you bought light bulbs lately? Used to be when you needed a light bulb, you went to the store and bought a light bulb. There weren’t that many choices. Now there are whole stores dedicated to light bulbs. Compact fluorescent? LED? I don’t know! I just want to be able to see what I’m doing and not fall down. I don’t want to have to write by candlelight, because I’m pretty sure my eyes are not as good as Louisa May Alcott’s eyes. It was very helpful to have the assistance of an Electrical Engineer with a PhD to help me with my choices. He even installed them later that evening.

My brain was so taxed after the trip to the light bulb store, Dear Friend and I headed straight to my favorite restaurant for relaxation and solace. Yes, of course I mean Houston’s on Kirby. What is my favorite meal you may ask? A veggie burger with a side of Cole slaw and a Vodka Martini. The veggie burgers at Houston’s are the absolute best in the city. Then when I am half‐way through the martini, a server showed up with a lovely chilled glass to freshen my drink. The lights were low and the booth was comfy. What’s not to love?

If you haven’t seen the movie, Little Women? Go. Now. It’s been nominated for a bunch of Oscars.

If you’ve never had a meal at Houston’s, what are you waiting for? It’s okay if you don’t care for veggie burgers. They offer a wealth of meats on their menu. You can’t go wrong.

One final note: Save the Date! On June 11th plan on attending the Holocaust Museum Houston. An exhibition called Compassion will open. There will be 25 works of art and 25 essays/poems from members of the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (Wivla). I am fortunate to be one of the writers contributing to this wonderful exhibition.

Until next week.…..

The Mindfulness Journey

Oh rats! Here we go again.

There’s been so much stressful news this week and now this.

Just 10 days into the new year and already we are facing a possible weather catastrophe. Lots of rain and severe weather is predicted. The television weather pundits are doing everything they can to scare the stuffings out of all of us. I guess that’s a good thing in that it might help some folks stay home tonight or at least get home earlier than planned.

Ever since I retired from my job with local government, I promised myself that I would never go out when the weather was threatening. However, today I am at a Texas Writing Intensive at the Spectrum Center. I love being a part of the Spectrum Writer’s Guild. I love the intensives and the classes. Max Regan is a fabulous writing coach and teacher.

So I am here. The skies are grey and cloudy. I am looking out a window at a bunch of beautiful trees and landscape. I am hoping that the rain holds off until at least 9:00 p. m.

Many years ago I worked for a hospital and had to spend the night on a couch in a patient lounge because I could not make it home due to flooding. Almost everyone in Houston has a flood story. Some only get caught and can’t get home. Some lose their homes. Stories vary, but there are many.

My “internal risk manager” has thought this all through. I am in a place where I am safe. Worst case scenario I am in a place where there is coffee and water. I packed protein bars and protein drinks. In case I can’t leave tonight, there are many couches which we can use for sleeping. I have my phone and my lap top. All fully charged. Why didn’t I think to bring a book? Oops!

Now you may understand why I practice Mindfulness Meditation. I was introduced to this over 12 years ago. I took my first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class from Micki Fine at Mindful Living. Over the years I have attended many “Days of Mindfulness” where one spends the entire day in silence and mindfulness. I have also attended a meditation group for at least the past two years. We meet twice a month and it has become a steady part of my schedule. I also practice on my own at home.

For me, mindfulness meditation is about focusing the mind on being present in the moment. Thoughts and worries come and go, but the meditation allows space to remain non‐judgmental. It’s helpful when I am feeling anxious (about the weather?) and I don’t want to get hooked into my anxiety. I can feel it and acknowledge it, but I don’t have to let it rule my day. Focus on the breath.…in.…out.…repeat.

Micki just published a book for children about mindfulness. It’s called May All People and Pigs Be Happy. It is a sweet story for children of all ages and our inner child as well. Check it out at Amazon. Micki is engaging in readings and book signings all across Texas and the rest of the United States. Also, if you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness Meditation, check out her website at livingmindfully.org.

Well, now I am off to the business of attending a writing intensive. If you are interested in exploring your “inner writer”, check out the Spectrum Writers Guild at spectrumcenter-houston.com.

Where Caves Tell Stories

What” beats “when” in every tale.

That truth rings even more true in the world of cave art.

Amid the ongoing agony of bushfires, Australian archeologists celebrate their discovery of what is, to date, the oldest rock painting on Earth. In the 14‐foot high cave painting, wild pigs and a buffalo stand surrounded by spear‐bearing humans.

Indonesia: where the buffalo roam? Copyright, Ratno Sardi, Nature.

The image was found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and dates back at least 44,000 years.

It’s old. It also ranks as the world’s first figurative artwork. Translation?

Our first Storytelling‐by‐Picture!

At the news, my mind flashed back five weeks ago to a sunrise beacon and I thought, Australia! We’re coming full circle! 

From north‐central Australia, Uluru offers an Oz‐ian close encounter — with cave art.

Drawings incorporating red paint, white circles and ancient charcoal dot the upper cave space.

At Uluru, DH and I came face‐to‐face with rock cave paintings. Our guide explained these illustrations as tales of aboriginal movement and migration.

Round mythological figures on the right look leftward toward small concentric circles. Anangu travelers nearing their first watering hole? 

The Anangu look for concentric circles which symbolize waterholes or other significant way stations. For a roundtrip journey, the key appears in multiple concentric circles linked via straight lines.

Uluru, ancestral home to the Anangu, includes hidden waterholes (some dry by drought these days). Tribe members travel between waterholes and other way stations then relate their experiences with each other.

Each experience lived becomes a story shared then passed from generation to generation.

What concentric circles tell the Stories of your Life?In discovering Indonesian rock paintings after seeing the same in Australia, I fascinate on the tales of each. The age and location of either mean nothing.

I ask instead—what does it mean? What are we supposed to do with these newly discovered paintings? 

Some people see only line drawings and chuckle.

They glance once then mutter about Stone Age Neanderthals facing off against big, mean animals. In a single reaction, they revert to what comforts: light and breezy with a touch of standoff pose, ready for battle.

Others stand up and study the lines marking the rock.

They scrutinize the concentric circles. They find deliberate postures or speculate about hidden meanings: underlying glances, line direction, or distances between figures.

They’re all correct.

Sometimes, an image is what is says. Two figures squaring off in what is universal to every story: conflict rearing its inevitably ugly head.

Other times, an image stands in for meanings four layers deep.

Both matter.

And both are part of a story waiting, sometimes thousands of years, to be understood.

Some things never change.

Is that good news?

New Year, New Road

Another year gone. A new year is upon us.

This year I got smart in so many ways. For starters, my Dear Friend and I went to Kiran’s for dinner on New Year’s Eve. Have you ever been there? It has become my most favorite restaurant in all of Houston. Do you like Indian food? This is the best Indian restaurant ever. Anywhere. I mean it! If you have never been there, it is located at 2925 Richmond Avenue. Google it. Call and make reservations. Go. I will wait for you to return to this blog.

The restaurant is named after the chef, Kiran. I have gone there many times for a random dinner. It is my go‐to‐restaurant for a Thanksgiving buffet. It is now my go‐to‐restaurant for New Year’s Eve. Everything is always delicious. Everything. Every. Time. Delicious. This is a picture of Kiran greeting diners. She is very easy to talk to and she is the heart and soul of this restaurant. It is not unusual to see her walking among her guests and talking to diners. The menu is very vegetarian friendly while offering plenty of meat to the carnivores. And don’t let me forget to tell you that customer service here is beyond wonderful. And there is an afternoon tea every Friday and Saturday. Don’t even get me started on how wonderful the afternoon teas are. Again, if you haven’t tried it.……go.

Since I have had bariatric surgery, I can only eat small amounts at a time. No problem. The waiter boxed up whatever I couldn’t eat and I took the left overs home. He could not have been more accommodating.

I was at Kiran’s to celebrate celebrate the changing of the year. A lot of stuff happened in 2019. In December of 2018, I went to Galveston, but was unable to go for long walks on the beach which I typically enjoy very much. My knee hurt. Apparently I have arthritis. In early 2019 I had gastric sleeve surgery and spent a year losing a ton of weight. I am now walking 2.5 miles an hour with NO pain.

I lost my beloved cat, Vesta. She was only 19 years old. I still miss her. However, my other cat Hannah (who is a mere 14 years old) is enjoying having me all to herself for the first time in her life.

2019 was also a busy and rewarding year for me as a writer and an artist:

  • I participated in Color Story: 2019
  • I participated in the Midsummer Light Show presented by Women in the Visual and Literary Arts
  • Became a board member and Literary Chair for WIVLA.
  • Sold art works at the annual gala for Children At Risk.

My life as a writer and artist continues. This is what I will focus on for 2020. I hope you manifest all of your dreams this coming year. I am also hoping for World Peace. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Until next week.