Art Openings and Armadillos

The weather has been so nice and cool lately. It has inspired me to do some hanging out at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. What did I find? Armadillos. These are usually nocturnal creatures so I could not pass up the chance to talk to one of them. The Nature Center will tell you that conditions have been dry and that the cute little critters are just looking for insects, but I suspect they just wanted to see what all the humans were up to. I kept my distance while taking some pictures and as I walked away I could swear I heard the ‘Dillo say, “Have a nice day and come back soon!”

Yes, I did. I really heard that. The Armadillo spoke to me, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If I see him again, I will ask his name.

When I am not conversing with my forest friends, I am getting ready for the WiVLA Art Exhibition. The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, December 3rd, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the theme for the exhibition is “Reflection”. Here is the card being distributed to advertise the event:

Both visual and literary artists paired up to submit collaborative artwork pieces and literary writings to the exhibition. I paired up with two separate artists; which means that I have two literary pieces in the show. Wonderful artist Marie Casamayor-Harvey painted a wonderful picture to go along with my story entitled, Lorelei.  Here’s a hint for appreciating this collaboration: We both like the color red.

My second piece of fiction writing was done in collaboration with artist, writer and sister RoadBroad, Fernanda Brady. She developed an intense collage piece while I wrote about Different Women; Different Paths. Both collaborations are different and both are inspiring. Working with other such talented people really ups my level of creative energy.

This is all happening at Lee College , in the PAC Art Gallery. The address is 801 West Texas Avenue, Baytown, Texas. Believe me, it’s worth the drive to see all the amazing creative results.

I hope that you will be able to join us on December 3rd or make it out to the exhibition sometime before February 7, 2023.

Until next time.….

On Table Shuffleboard

In October of 2019, I joined the Fun Hangers Shuffleboard League. I had just divorced and my dear friend, Neil Rodrigue, harangued me about sitting around mopping. He said I had to get out there and do something fun and different. He’s the president of the league and he introduced me to the game of table shuffleboard.

I will always be grateful to him for the huge gift. Table shuffleboard has been an amazing experience. Yes, it’s played in a bar setting. Yes, there are those who get drunk and stupid. But, it is overwhelmingly the coolest game I’ve ever played. And the camaraderie of the league, the team members, is just wonderful. Neil often says it’s like a family and I think that’s an accurate description.

The game itself is awesome. At first blush it may seem to be easy. Just throw the weight down the table. How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you, there’s a significant amount of skill required to get that weight to a good scoring position, and then to keep your opponent from knocking it out and scoring on you.

The table may seem flat, but it isn’t. It is actually concave. And so you have to learn how to use the inertia of the board and the physics of the table, the speed of the weight, and your body position to get your weight to the right spot. You need to concentrate on your breathing, your hand position, the position of your body relative to the shot you are trying to make, and all these factors create a uniquely zen feeling when you are playing. It’s almost mediative. You can’t worry about anything else, just focus on the board, your weight, and your body.

Some people who see no value in the game just get up and throw the weight nilly willy. But when you begin to really see the beauty, the mathematical and physics elegance, of it, you take note of the various kinds of shots. There’s several ways to send your weight down the board. The primary is the Jersey shot, but there’s the span, the free hand, and several others. When you are standing there, preparing to shoot, there’s a focusing of all your energy.

Besides the game itself, the camaraderie is phenomenal. It’s competitive, but there’s no put downs if you miss. The players all encourage you to keep trying. They give you feedback on your technique. Some players go out of their way to meet up and help you practice, like the amazing John Hayes who taught me so much in my first seasons and continues to be a great sensei for the sport.

And, there’s a feeling of safety here. Sure, it’s a bar sport, but the community of shuffleboards won’t let one of their own get hurt. They step up when some idiot is trying to get stupid with one of the ladies. They walk you to your car. As I’ve engaged in some first dates with only matches, this is were I like to meet them. Because here, amongst my shuffleboard tribe, I’m going to be safe no matter who the guy turns out to be.

The Grand Championship match for the season that is closing will be this coming Wednesday at the Ashford Pub off Eldridge near Westheimer. If you want to check out what Fern is gushing about, come out and join me there. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a shuffler out of you?

Haunted Holidays: The Haunting Continues

Just when you thought Halloween was over and it was safe to go back out after dark.….…It’s time for Haunted Holidays! Yes it is definitely time to call the neighbors and wake the kids! As you can see from the banner above this exciting event is scheduled for this Saturday. Yep, this Saturday, November 5th. It will take place at the wonderful Brazos Bookstore located at 2421 Bissonnet Street, in Houston, Texas!

This event consists of several local writers reading their best work about how haunting holidays can be. Any holiday. Ghosts and goblins don’t just go away and hide once Halloween is over. Sometimes it’s just hard to see them behind all of the bright shiny holiday lights.

Both the Houston Writers Guild and the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts have joined forces with Brazos Bookstore to find the writers who are scheduled to share their work. A great partnership indeed.

Here is a list of writers that will so graciously favor us with their creative brilliance:

  • Gabrielle Langley
  • Sabina Gartler
  • Sandi Stromberg
  • Margo Stutts Toombs
  • Brenda Preuss
  • Penny Koepsel
  • Fernanda Brady
  • and yours truly, Ellen Seaton

Are you as excited as I am? I hope so! Please join us this Saturday, November 5th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Brazos Bookstore for haunting tales and spine-chilling verses.

See you this Saturday!

Last Halloween Blog Of 2022

It’s a little sad. This will be the last Halloween Blog for 2022. It also saddens me that some of you still do not know how to decorate for the season. Below you will find some sample of the kind of decorations that should be displayed in October:

As you can see in this following picture, even Starbucks knows how to celebrate the season. This picture was taken on October 27th and there weren’t any patches of red or green, no Christmas holiday cups, and no Cranberry Bliss bars. I have discovered new respect for my overpriced coffee. I will go back sometime before Monday.

I will note that I did vote for my favorite decorated pumpkin. I won’t tell you which one I voted for. We will just have to wait and see.

Now for the real scary abomination that I saw this year. This picture was taken on September 22nd. Yes, you read that correctly. September 22nd. That was before the start of the 31 days of Halloween that most of us observe. I like to celebrate October by watching all of my favorite Halloween movies on television. Why else would I subscribe to Disney Plus except to see Hocus Pocus 2? Now the Hallmark Channel has started airing Christmas movies 24 hours a day. How rude!!!!!

I also noticed one other sad state of affairs when I went to at least 5 local stores looking for some Thanksgiving decorations. I did not want a pumpkin and I did not need any fake fall leaves to scatter around. I need turkeys! No, not the kind you cook in the oven. I have been looking for silly hats and other turkey accoutrement, because the skeletons want to dress up after Halloween and commemorate the fowl holiday. They always enjoy dressing up for all holidays, but this is the first year they have asked about Thanksgiving. Finally I found a few items on Amazon. DO NOT JUDGE ME! I shopped locally first, but could find very little in the way of the November feast day. Amazon was my last resort. Anyway, you have to admit these skeleton turkeys are awfully cute. Next week, I should have received the Turkey Hats and will let the skeletons model them for you.

Except for overeating, parades and football it seems as though Thanksgiving has less and less importance in our fall holiday schedule. What will all of the live turkeys do who want to receive a place of honor in the middle of the dining room table? How will we burn down houses if we don’t deep fry the turkeys? So many questions and so few answers.

Until next time.….……Happy Halloween!

Road to Health

I was diagnosed with diabetes just over ten years ago. Up to that time, I was very haphazard with my doctor visits. I did not do regular check ups nor worry about my health. But right before my wedding, I went to get my eyes checked so I could buy new contacts for the honeymoon.

During the visit, I found that I was unable to see out of my left eye. It was as if someone has smeared Vaseline on the lens. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that my retinas were bleeding in both eyes, but the bleed in the left was affecting the main area for vision. I underwent laser intervention and, after a time, the sight has healed, though not entirely. I still have slight blind spot right in the middle of my left eye’s field of vision.

When this happened, I realized I had to start taking better care of myself, and that meant better eating habits. The road to a more balanced way of life is a long and hard one, and, I must admit, I’m not there yet. However, I have made good strides towards a healthier lifestyle.

For one thing, I cut out most of the soda intake. Prior to that moment, I drank regular Coke as if it was the recommended servings of water — eight or nine a day of the 20oz bottles. Yup, a diabetes nightmare waiting to happen… which it did. It was hard to move toward drinking water. I honestly hated the taste of it at the time. However, I made myself drink it, and with the help of coffee, I managed to change my palette. Now, I really enjoy the refreshing taste of water… and of course, coffee.

I also added exercise to my life. Having dogs was a great motivator for this purpose. I enjoy a good half hour minimum walk with Arya, and, on the days when it’s possible, we extend it to a full hour. In addition, I have discovered the wonderful effects of yoga. The suppleness it leaves on your muscles, the way it helps build strength, and the relaxation of the mind as you mindfully focus on your breath and the position of your limbs have all been a great boon to my life. I even occasionally add in a Zumba class, or a bit of weight training. The latter, according to my doctor, I should do more of as building muscle helps burn sugar.

In spite of this, the main struggle remains — food. Unlike drugs, you can’t stop eating. You have to eat everyday, so the battle for what you choose to eat and how much is a continuous daily war in your mind. Balanced meals with vegetables are important, but sweets call to me like drug dealers peddling their wares. Stress makes the war harder to win. Some people don’t eat when they are under stress. I, on the other hand, feel a need to eat all the time.

Working with my doctor and my therapist has helped me build in new ways of looking at food as well as strategies for healthier stress management. But the battle continues to rage, and I don’t think it will ever be fully over. The road to being a healthy, balanced person is, in my opinion, the road of life; one which we must all traverse until our time to depart this mortal realm arrives.

** I hope you enjoy the pictures of artist Diane Gelman’s work. You can visit her studio at the Sawyer Yards in Houston, TX.

Haunted Holidays

As we begin this new month, I’m so happy to be working as head of the Houston Writers Guild with the leadership of Brazos Bookstore and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA) to bring to Houston a fun event connecting readers and writers.

On November 5 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Brazos Bookstore locale authors will be reading out loud from original work. The theme is Haunted Holidays. The stories will be set during a holiday of the author’s choice but with a haunted element in the telling.

Last year, the collaboration resulted in a wonderful event via zoom. I enjoyed writing and reading my short story about a Witchy Christmas. This year, I’m working on a story about A Very Dragony Halloween. Some of the pictures that have inspired the tale are posted here for your enjoyment.

Having built a rich world with multiple planets to play with, I’ve decided to highlight the one which the dragons across Thyrein’s Galactic Wall have chosen for their home world. Driven out of planet after planet, hunted to extinction on many, the sentient dragons and the dragon born offspring have banded together to create a safe place for their kind.

The planet is not acknowledge by the intergalactic alliance. Many in the alliance are opposed to allowing dragon born to go unmonitored. Fear of the power that these beings hold makes gaining equal rights and protection for them difficult.

I’m still working out the details for what my story will be about, but it will feature dragons and set during the time of Halloween. What will this time of year look like for that world? What will be similar to our own? What will be different? These questions keep my mind churning with possibilities.

Do dragon children trick or treat? Do they dress up in costume? If a dragon child were to choose a costume, what would it dress up as? Would it choose to dress up as a human? If they carve pumpkins, what kinds of pictures will they carve into the fruit? Most important of all, do dragons enjoy pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes?

The fun part of being a writer is getting to explore questions that probe and push the creativity of our imagination. We’ll see what I come up with.

Sign up either to read a story you wrote OR to come and just enjoy the stories of local authors. Here’s the information on the event. Go to the store’s page to learn more and to sign up.

OCTOBER IS HERE!!! OCTOBER IS HERE!!!

October is here and I couldn’t be happier! Both I and several of my neighbors are in the midst of pulling out our Halloween decorations for all the world to see! Grim Reapers, hard of hearing Skeletons, Ghosts, Goblins, Witches and all variation of spooky creatures are popping up everywhere. Have you and your neighbors started with this annual tradition? Scary and spooky movies are beginning to pop up everywhere as well. The weather is beautiful. Why not go outside and try to scare somebody?

Of course, if you’re like me, you’ve had decorations up all year round. I just add a little bit more every year and tweak a few things. However, witches and skeletons remain my favorites. It is always fun to see how many ways I can include Halloween decorations in all aspects of my home decor. Then when September 1st comes around, I slowly begin to move things outside. Slowly at first. Nothing too showy. Until Now!!! Once October 1st shows up, then all bets are off.

Here are a few of my friends just sitting outside enjoying the beautiful (for Houston) Fall weather. As long as the days are sunny and the temperatures stay below 95 degrees, I decree that Autumn has arrived. Up until now these skeletal folk have remained pretty quiet. That’s all going to change this weekend. I have lights and I have sound effects and I intend to use them! It used to be that I never saw Halloween decorations in the stores until September. This year I found really cool stuff out early — which is fine as far as Halloween is concerned. For years people have chided me for decorating too early or too much. My dreams have come true. I am now the crazy old cat lady with just a few too many skeletons and I don’t care. Enjoy!

It gives me hope to see my neighbors enjoying this Holiday as much as I do. I personally always think about Halloween as that time when we can look at scary things and enjoy them. Maybe have a good laugh. Share the joy with friends. Some might say that there is so much to be scared about this year, that we have to have Halloween so our own ghosts and goblins can scare away the frightening events that we can’t control. Enjoy the season! My biggest regret this year is that I don’t subscribe to the Disney channel. I am working on ways to see the movie Hocus Pocus III might have to come up with a spell in order to get it on my television. Or will I break down and subscribe to the Disney Channel? What would you do?

Have lots of spooky fun! Halloween is here and I plan on enjoying every second of it!

Until next time.….

Tournament Time

As some of you may know, I play table shuffleboard in a couple local and national leagues. This exciting game is played on a raised table that is 22 feet long, narrow and slightly concave. The object of the game is to get your weight down the table to the scoring side. Your opponent tries to knock your weights off and/or go around your weights so that they are the ones scoring.

This year, I attended the 23rd Annual Women Wondering the World Tournament in Del City, Oklahoma. Several of the Houston ladies got together to travel there and we rented a lovely house. It was like being in a sorority with your fellow sisters for a whole week. Not that I know what that actually is like as I never joined a sorority when I was at university. But I imagine it was kinda like this past week’s adventure.

There where several events during the tournament and I decided to hop into all of them. It started on Wednesday with the AB draw. This is where a top level player is paired with a beginner player and they work as a team. I was paired up with the amazing Mary Hoang. Unfortunately, we didn’t fair well, mostly because I was so nervous I gave up way too many points on my end of the board. Still, I got to see her play and watch her strategy which was a great learning experience.

The next day’s event was the ABC Draw. Like the AB match up, players were randomly sorted into teams of 3 ladies with an advanced, intermediate, and beginner player. I had the awesome Joyce Roberts and Amelia Reed on my team. We fought hard, but were defeated quickly. Again, my nervous anxiety at failing these wonderful ladies managed to make my self-fulfilling prophecy come true — I failed them.

Then there was the Singles tournament. In the winners bracket, each match consisted of best out of 3 games of 15 points each. I won my first contest against Carla Louvier. She was a tough opponent and I managed to win just barely. Then I lost my second match up against Lesley Petterson. She is an amazing player and placed in many events. Once I struck out of the winners bracket, I landed in the loser’s bracket and had to play a single game of 21 points to stay in the running. Sadly, I lost to the amazing Linda Aragon. What a great player and such a nice person too.

The last day, was the Doubles tournament. My partner was Sharon Gilmore. We are both beginners so we didn’t expect to do very well. We lost our first match up 2 our of 3 against the powerhouse team of Helen Soto and Patty Pierce. Then we went into the losers bracket and won our first match against Kathy Sparger and Tera Bradstreet. Sadly, we lost the second match in that bracket against Cayenne Kilpatrick and Leanna Prigmore. Considering we thought we would lose every match, we did very well for our first time.

I learned so much from all the wonderful players and had a blast hanging out with the great friends from my Houston league. I will definitely do this again next year.

The End of a Royal Era

Back when I was about 12 years old, I became a feminist. Part of that process involved looking around at the world both local and global and noticing how many women were in positions of power. One of those women was Queen Elizabeth II. There were a few others, but she managed to out last all of the women and most of the men as well. This is a book I read about her back in the 1990s and I still use it for reference material today.

In 2018 I was visiting the Museum of Fine Arts here in Houston and came across this picture of Queen Elizabeth II and Governor Ann Richards. Both women were wonderful role models for feminists everywhere. Maybe it is a sign that I am getting older that I remember so much about the lives of these women, but it is knowledge that I am glad to have.

In the meantime, I believe it is now proper to say “God Save the King”, However, I will always remember Queen Elizabeth II.

Until next time.….

Reflection

WIVLA (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) have a project collaboration between a visual artist and a writer. The topic is Reflection. When I read the information about the opportunity, my mind filled with a collage idea.

For a long time, I used to oil paint. As the years have progressed, I have put that part of my creative nature aside, literally, in a closet. Mostly because I’ve lacked the space to have a studio ready to go. With time being so tight in my life, having to set everything up before painting, and then put everything away again… well… that’d pretty much be all I had time for.

For some reason, though, the WIVLA collaboration spoke to me. I could see a collage in my minds eye. I reached out to Ellen, of course, my blog partner and friend. We began to share the ideas of what I was hoping to create.

So much has been changing in my life as a woman, and the journey of a woman’s life has been filling my heart and mind. I decided to do something which expresses a reflection of womanhood.

It began with this meme. The idea behind it, that how you see yourself matters, drew me. At first, I was going to try to use smaller pictures about women engaged in aspects of their lives to somehow create the big tiger, while pasting the small kitten to look at it as a reflection.

Well, I soon got realistic. I don’t have the artistic chops for such a project. So, slowly, the project morphed. It became focused on the idea of a woman in silhouette seeing herself in a mirror. The reflection in it would be of her lifespan.

Then I started collecting the pictures from magazines. As the images emerged from the pages, the project took shape. It became about expressing the journey of a human being born female, to reflect our life’s spans and the decisions we make in each phase.

At one point, we thought of using boxes to symbolize the way that society tries to make us conform to what it considers appropriate for a woman. But in the end, we discarded that. Rosa Glenn Riley, a very dear friend, suggested adding some young girls as well, not just starting in a grown up woman.

That added an element of the men in our lives. Having found a picture of a young girl and boy playing happily together, I began to find pictures of men in the background with women in the forefront. At first we are just good friends, then society makes them become the focal point of a woman’s existence. We must be fit and sexy to attract one, but also modest and demur.

Inside us, we long to fulfill our purpose in life, with the talents and skills that we have been given. We have keen minds, and can offer professional talent to the world, yet we are pressured to be mothers and wives. While, some equality has been achieved here, there’s this idea that women should put family first, while men continue to be unencumbered by the pressure of putting parenting first.

I found beautiful stickers to add a three-dimensional element to the piece. Plus the symbolism of the animals in it: butterflies, lions, eagles, dragons. My favorite are the google eyes. We are always being watched, critiqued, and forced to stand up and defend our decisions when they don’t conform with the basic understanding of society’s traditional version of womanhood.

It was interesting when it came time to doing the older woman’s life. If you get a chance to look through a magazine, you will find that there are few images depicting a successful older women receiving accolades for professional efforts. You do find them standing behind their husbands though as they take the spot light of life achievements. And there’s a ton of pressure to remain youthful and wrinkle free. Yet, that’s not applied to men. Men can grow old and still be considered hot, wrinkled and grey hair not withstanding.

Well, here’s the end result of this project. I still need a good frame for it. But, for what it’s worth, I think it’s a pretty good reflection of womanhood. Maybe that’s what I’ll call it.