Pandemic Road: The Good, Bad, and Everything in Between

RoadBroads is Back! I took a brief hiatus to take care of some administrative details for this blog, but you no longer need to despair. I am back and ready to go again on this crazy pandemic road.

How about some good news.……I won First Place in the Authorology Anthology Contest!!! The anthology is called Journey Into The Fantastical. My short story is called Willow and the Cat. You can find it on Amazon and order either a print copy or eBook…or both. Many thanks to both Authorology and Inklings Publishing for making this contest happen. I get a medal and everything. Well, I don’t exactly have the medal yet. In these pandemic days those things are delivered in the mail. I must be patient. I will post a picture here as soon as it arrives! Also, let me know what you think of the story. Willow is a favorite character of mine. I hope to publish more stories about her many escapades as a Grim Reaper!

I have to admit that when we started with all of the shutting down a year ago, I was totally bummed. I was scheduled for an art opening where I had a piece of collage art scheduled for exhibit. Also, I wrote an essay that was scheduled for a museum exhibit opening. Everything went virtual which was nice, but I was disappointed just the same. It is really nice to have a good reason to celebrate even if the launch party took place on zoom.

So, you may wonder, other than getting stories out into the public, how is life on the Pandemic Road going? As good as it can. I am fully vaccinated and had very few side effects. I am still not going out to restaurants or movie theaters, but I have new ways of making life work while I wait on herd immunity. Case in point? Porch Cuts. Or in my case it is actually a “garage cut”. I have been a client of Carol Cooley for years when the pandemic happened and I could no longer go to see her in a trendy Montrose salon. Now she has rearranged her business so that she can take her skills to her clients. Hair is done outside either on a porch or in a garage with lots of ventilation. Everyone wears masks and stays safe. Doesn’t this look like fun? It is. My hairstyle has changed over the past year. I no longer have bangs. Many thanks to Carol for keeping my tresses trimmed and healthy!

Finally I have one sad note. The River Oaks Theatre is now closed. I won’t get into the whys or the reasons. Suffice it to say that I consider this to be an abomination. This movie theatre has been around since the 1930s. I have been going to movies there since I moved to this fair city in 1978. You may remember me posting blogs about going to the movies in the afternoon after I retired from my government job. Many happy hours were spent there. I am greatly saddened by this loss to Houston culture. I can only imagine that in the near future I will be buying the book that will tell the history of this wonderful art deco establishment with many pictures to remind me of the good times I had there.

My but it does feel good to blog again! Please join me as I travel down the next road.

Until later.….

Pandemic Road: The Road Gets Bumpier!

My, My! What a strange couple of weeks it’s been! The pandemic continues and then we had  SNOWPOCALYPSE 2021!!!

Life kept moving along rather routinely for the new pandemic normal. Valentine’s Day 2021 was approaching. My Beloved and I were planning for a small and sweet celebration. Instead of going out to a crowded restaurant like we usually did, we determined which restaurant we would select for our takeout order. Of course we chose Govinda’s. Our now favorite vegetarian restaurant. On weekends and holidays their menu is vegan. What fun!!! This was our plan and a darn fine one it was. A romantic dinner, just the two of us, outside under the glow of a string of red heart lights.

Then as the time grew nearer we heard about the upcoming “cold snap” that was being forecast. The closer Valentine’s Day got, the warnings became more dire and specific. Sunday afternoon, evening and overnight all of Southeast Texas was to expect frozen rain, sleet, snow, and whatever else falls in the northern states during this time of year. Houston has received these types of forecasts before. Sometimes we got the wintry mix weather and sometimes not. I braced for 24 to 48 hours of cold weather.

Our romantic dinner turned into a romantic late lunch. Food was obtained from a very festively decorated Govinda’s. The balcony was decorated, but the meal was moved inside. It was very nice, but all festivities were over by 4:00 p.m.

That was when life began to get weird.….or at least weirder than before and that’s saying a lot during a global pandemic.

As afternoon moved into evening and into night, I listened to the freezing precipitation hitting the window. I was glad I was inside my warm home and didn’t have to worry about going anywhere on Monday. Then around 2:00 a.m. the lights went out.…everywhere. For the next 20 hours I huddled under blankets wearing several layers of clothes, socks, whatever I could find. Then after 20 hours, the nice electric utility put me on a rotation where I had electricity for 4 — 5 hours and then I didn’t have electricity for 4 — 5 hours. Rolling blackouts they called them.

In order to keep the tone of this blog on a positive note, I won’t go into the details of the electric emergency that ensued all around. Unless you are living under a rock, you either lived through it yourself or heard all about it on the news.

After several days, my electricity was back on for good, but then Houston went under a “boil water notice”. That was fun. At least I had electricity with which to boil the water. Many folks did not have this luxury. On February 21st, I once again had both water and electricity. While many people are still dealing with broken pipes and such, I am fortunate to once again stay in my nice comfortable home with clean running water.

A week later the city has warmed back up again. One week the temperature outside was 14 degrees. Seven days later and the temps are back in the 70s. Ice has all melted and I have resumed walking outside for exercise. But not before taking a tumble on the sidewalk and bruising my left hand and wrist. Which, of course, makes typing a blog all that more fun. I hope you appreciate my efforts and suffering for my craft.

Today, my Beloved and I went to the Houston Arboretum. We were curious how the trees, plants, turtles, crocodiles, birds and squirrels handled the wintry blast. I am happy to report that the animals seemed to have fared well. Turtles were resting on logs, birds were flying and squirrels were scampering. We did not see any crocodiles. Alas, several of the plants which had been green during our last visit are now brown.

Remember the good old days when we thought all we had to do was to survive 2020 and then things would get better? Good times.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.…or maybe I can. Stay safe!

Until next time.…..

Pandemic Road: New Year and New Roads

Do you see the blue sky in this picture? I took this picture on January 1st. New Year’s Day. Not a cloud in the sky. I felt very relaxed on that day. I took the clear skies as a good omen for the new year. I survived 2020 with only a few more grey hairs and a few more miles on the body. Overall health is good and I have many creative projects I’m working on. So after a few days of this new year, I am still in good health and continuing to add on additional miles on a daily basis. However, Covid-19 is still running amok and don’t even get me started on Washington D.C.

However, I refuse to be swallowed up in gloom and doom. I am determined to forge a peaceful, happy and healthy pathway through 2021.

One thing I am going to do is continue on with the RoadBroads Blog. Yes, currently there is only one RoadBroad, but I continue to bond with Broads everywhere who hit the road in search of beauty and creativity. Of course, with the pandemic still raging in this country, I am not going as far as I used to on the road. I still do not travel and I still do not eat out in restaurants. But, I do get curbside take out at some of my favorite local restaurants. Yes, with my illustrious cooking skills, I would starve if it weren’t for ready made meals in the grocery stores and curbside pick up. Also, I drive and walk all over the city.

About a month ago I picked up the book, 111 Places in Houston That You Must Not Miss. I purchased my copy at the Brazos Bookstore which is my favorite independent bookstore here in Houston. Last fall I heard the book’s authors, Dana Duterroil and Joni Fincham, speak at a monthly meeting of the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA). Their presentation was very interesting and they spoke about many places in Houston I had already seen, but also discussed many places I hadn’t seen yet. This will be my new “Road” for 2021.

For the next year or so, I will visit as many of the sites as I can during pandemic conditions and tell you all about them. For instance, it may be a while before I can go down to Market Square and sip on a cool refreshment at La Carafe (it’s haunted!). However, I can visit places like the Menil Collection and Discovery Green. Wherever I go, I promise to take lots of pictures and take lots of notes. It’s almost like I have lined up a whole year’s worth of “artist dates” a la Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way among other books).

I can’t wait to start this next leg of my journey. Many thanks to Melanie who worked with me on this blog for the past 3 years. I wish her the best of luck in her future journeys. But I am not ready to settle down yet. I hope all of you will continue to travel with me. If you are yourself a RoadBroad, let me know and we can talk about guest blogging.

I hope you are as determined as I am to make 2021 a good year. Let’s take this journey together and see where we land.

Until next week.….

Farewell to a Year and a Blog

Happy New Year!” means more than words.

Especially this year.

Oops, that’s last year now.

2020 made an impression, didn’t it?

It spoke to me of making change. Big Ones. As in completing my debut novel and overhauling my website.

Wait a minute!

I cannot finish a 100,000-word manuscript, maintain an author website, AND blog as both a writer and a RoadBroad.

SuperWoman, I’m not.

Thus, I pen my final post on a site that’s taught me so much. Since May 23, 2018, I’ve blogged 116 times and taken 348 photos. At an average 500 words per post, that’s 58,000+ blog words written in two years and seven months.

Capturing impressions of Strawberry Fields in NYC’s Central Park.

In author-speak: that’s halfway to a novel! 

My point.

It’s time for me to complete my life purpose: writing stories that help people heal.

First comes the novel, Christmas Card. Its tagline? The Group goes On the Road and meets Rain Man. Many other stories will follow.

As I enter Emeritus status with RoadBroads, Ellen will lead with new energy which is invigorating for any creative venture. She’s faithful to the blog and an entertaining writer. Excitement awaits!

Thank you, all, for your devoted reading of my writing here. Your support offered candles through days both dark and light. I am beyond grateful.

I hope you’ll maintain your support of RoadBroads, and join me later in January at www.melanieormand.com.

Pandemic Road: Holiday Hopes and Miracles

Did you take the time on Winter Solstice to observe the planetary conjunction? Jupiter and Saturn were freakishly close. Some folks thought this was a miracle. Then there were those who thought this was an omen of changing times. Others thought it was a cool scientific occurrence which happens approximately every 400ish years. I just thought it was fun to go out and watch. I considered it a miracle that I was able to take a picture of this with my cell phone. If I had taken the time to think about it, I would have used my real camera. Okay, a whole bunch of tech geeks just rolled their eyes, because I don’t consider my cell phone camera a “real camera”. My apologies.

To the naked eye it looked like the planets were touching. However, if that really happened, it would be quite the crisis. It would be one more “thing” to happen in 2020. On Facebook several people posted that Winter Solstice 2020 was the shortest day of the longest year. Can’t argue with that.

What was just as much fun as seeing a planetary conjunction? How about a green blowup dragon wearing a Santa hat. This is what counts for fun entertainment during these days of pandemic holidays. Since our outlets for entertainment are limited many of us are either walking or driving around and looking at pretty lights and creative lawn art. As you can imagine, I appreciate the more unusual displays of creativity.

On a positive note.….we now have a vaccine for Covid-19. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not necessarily a train! We just need to be patient for a little while longer. Keep wearing your masks, continue to keep your distance and we will make it through this. Try to be like this little squirrel that I met at the arboretum the other day. He didn’t mind posing for a picture as long as I didn’t get too close. He doesn’t seem to be too caught up in all of the human drama. And, when he’s ready, he scampers off into the woods in search of food and frolic.

I am definitely ready for some socially distanced frolicking. How about you? I can’t wait to see what 2021 will have in store for us. Let’s stick together to make the journey easier.

Until next week.….

A Tale of Two Stockings

Eyeball the stockings: which is your favorite?

This single picture telegraphs the difference between my mother and my mother-in-law.

On the left hangs what Glenna Lea sewed for her youngest daughter 60-plus years ago. Done sewing, she hand scribbled my name across the green top.

To the right is Beverly’s creation for her oldest son. His name lies at a sweet angle, stitched among 100+ sequins atop white felt.

DH and I, for years, have quibbled about who has the better holiday stocking. In the fun spirit of the season, I ask for your vote.

Consider these up-close images of the top of each stocking:

And the bottom:

On my stocking, I adore the bell dangles plus there’s a little “M” on the child’s Christmas box. Melanie or Mother?

On DH’s stocking, fancy gold thread edges his entire piece. His mother’s secret way of reiterating her first born’s special place in her heart?

My eyes stumble across a third big difference:

The seams radiate the personalities of these two women, offering perfect metaphor.

On the left, my mother’s independent spirit marries a lifestyle-driven need for efficiency. Four children and a disabled husband will dictate such a choice. 

To the right, DH’s mother reveals a preference for tradition merged with propriety. A lawyer’s wife, she birthed three boys, daughtered four parents. 

Two women, seven children offer different ways of being in the world.

I chose a third way. My best holiday work involved not homemade stockings — yikes! - but rather cookies, cards, and clever gifting. Only one of those do I still practice, and only rarely. 

But something changed in me this year. Dare I blame, or credit, the times? 

These stockings now serve as Totems, no more need for heated discussion. Each reflects the woman who made them, not the names they bear. Names are only a sorting device.

My mother fire-breathed I‑am-my-own-person-thank-you-very-much.

My mother-in-law committed to I‑must-do-what-a-woman-must-do.

Both echoing change and doing good in their own ways, leaving powerful offerings in their wake.

Never would diversity have been my word for these women. But here it is, shining in the Christmas stockings they made so many years ago. 

2020 Santa comes to your town.

Speaking of diversity and change, notice the masked Santa hanging up above, in the top picture — between the stockings?

The art comes from Fred Carter, a Texas-based, nationally-known woodcarver. He designed this cedarwood piece as his special 2020 offering.

FYI: Mr. Carter is 86 years old, proving again you’re never too old to change, expand, or grow.

(Interested in seeing Mr. Carter’s work? His daughter is my friend; we can connect you!)

Pandemic Road: When Negative Is Positive

This picture is so “Thanksgiving 2020”. I saw this poor turkey when I was out walking the other day. It was just laying there in the street surrounded by dead leaves and covered in dust. His poor face looks a little shell shocked. A little deer in the headlights. Don’t you agree? I think I can relate. How about you?

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. I was behaving myself going to a routine medical appointment. Actually it was the last follow-up appointment from a brief hospitalization I had last September. I am doing fine! Couldn’t feel better. That was on Monday. On Wednesday, I received an email from Baylor stating that I may or may not have been exposed to someone during my doctor visit who has tested “positive” for Covid 19. I was given a list of symptoms to look out for and a phone number if I had questions. I called immediately.

Now please keep in mind that I have been so good throughout this pandemic. I wear a mask whenever I am out in public. My hand washing skills are at an all time peak! I have not eaten in a restaurant since last March.….which seems like a hundred years ago at this point. Social distance is a must. Even when I dash into the grocery store I try to go during times that are least busy or during senior hours. I haven’t seen any of my friends during this time except for phone calls, texts and zoom conversations.

I immediately called the number and got on the schedule for a tele-health visit with a doctor. During my video appointment, I explained that I wore a mask during my entire visit and used hand sanitizer three times while I was in the clinic. (Entering, during, and before exiting. Then again when I got into my car.) The doctor assured me I was at low risk, but that I should get tested just to be sure.

I had appointment for testing the next morning. I walked out of my home and out into my car by myself. I drove to the entrance of the parking garage. I had a number written on a big piece of paper on my dashboard. I pulled up to the security guard where I saw a sign to tune into a specific radio station. The security guard waved me into the garage and I listened to a soothing voice telling me to keep my mask on and my windows rolled up until I saw a nurse for testing.

As I approached the testing site a man signaled me to stop. He held up a sign that said, “Please stop your car while you are checked in.” The man looked at the number on my dash and walked over to a window. He came back and held up a sign that told me to put my identification on my dash. He looked at the driver’s license I presented and he returned to the window. Then he returned with a test kit in a plastic bag and placed it on my windshield. Then he held up a sign that said “C” which indicated the specific testing site where I would encounter a nurse in full PPE ready to administer the test.

The nurse motioned for me to roll down my car window. She looked at my test kit and verified my name and date of birth. She stuck a test stick up one nostril for five seconds. Then she stuck a stick up my other nostril. I swear I still have the marks where the sticks went through to the back of my head. Maybe I had a look on my face resembling the turkey in the picture.

It was all over in a matter of minutes. I drove back home. I realized that during that entire experience I had quasi interacted with three different people. I communicated with all three, but had only exchanged words with one and had touched no one. Now I play a game of seeing how many things I can do and how many places I can go without getting close or interacting with others. It’s a fun game to play and a way to creatively get through a global pandemic. And my test came back negative! My efforts are paying off in a very positive way.

Until next week.….

When Weddings & Road Trips Morph into Anniversaries

I met DH on a road trip near my hometown 36 years ago.

That meeting, where I heard Carole King singing I Feel the Earth Move in my ear, led to my accepting a Houston job four months later.

I worked at the local all-news station. Chuck led the newsroom at the cross-town country music station.

First road trip, 1984: check out these youngsters!

Competitors, we began dating.  

Our first road trip took us to Galveston’s Flagship Hotel. 

Our romance made Houston’s newspaper gossip columns. The bosses, gratefully, didn’t mind our courtship. 

Thirty one years ago this week, we married and began traveling. I retired from radio, as DH later did. We began a crisis communications business that took us around the globe.

We overnighted in all 50 states plus 24 foreign countries and three continents. Those trips came many modes. On land, in air, and over water, here’s the (partial) exotic list: 

  • LAND: camel (Australia), funicular (Austria), Ice Explorer (Canada), dog sled (Alaska), horse-drawn carriage (New York), Segway (Colorado), pedicab (Illinois), moped (Bahamas), cable car (San Francisco), ice skating (Houston)
  • AIR: canoe (New Zealand), international flight (Italy), prop jet (Denali), helicopter (Florida), hot air balloon (New Mexico)
  • WATER: cruise ship (Mexico), glass-bottomed boat (Florida), catamaran (St. Thomas), tubing (Wyoming), ferry (Washington), riverboat (Louisiana),

But we haven’t traveled via these modes:

  • Parasail, parachute, zipline, and any activity that might break a bone or blow a body gasket

Aging brings wisdom and we’ve both got hearts, brains, and other body parts to protect these days.

Other wisdom I’ve gained with the years is that both marriage and travel involve journeys of a type. If you can open yourself fully to the possibilities of each, you’ll eventually experience the good, the bad, the ugly, the weird, and more. It’s all Life.

For instance, this month for me marks not only a sweet anniversary but also what I call the beginning of my Lost Decade. Eleven family funerals and 20 hospitalizations/surgeries. One day, I’ll tell that tale, an heartbreaking/heart-expanding journey through (seemingly) unending disease, death; loss, grief. 

But this week, I focus on a happy day and blessed memories. That’s a choice, something that awaits each of us.

Through it all, I also try to remember to lighten up. 

Only eleven years left and the real fun begins?

DH and I keep this plaque in our house, reminding us that when life gets intense, laughter lightens the load.

On some days, it’s the laughing that gets us through.

That’s as true in marriage as it is Every Single Day.

Pandemic Road: Resilience

Self-isolation, Quarantine, Social Distancing and Global Pandemic. These words were not part of my daily vocabulary last February. By the end of March, they consumed my world. These are crazy difficult times. Have I ever survived difficult times before? You bet I have. That doesn’t mean this is not still difficult, but I know I have some survival skills that I can pull from. The most important for me is a sense of humor.

Can we talk about “handwashing”? Before February I always assumed that most people, at least most of the people I knew, were familiar with the concept of handwashing. I never would have guessed that Facebook, YouTube and television news programs would all feel the need to show tutorials about how to thoroughly wash your hands to keep from spreading disease. How did we keep from spreading disease before? Well, considering normal annual rates of colds and flu, maybe we didn’t.

I can remember seeing and sharing the post on Facebook that stated something to the effect of, “Now, if everyone has mastered handwashing, next week we will focus on turn signals!” Apparently, we are still working on handwashing and haven’t graduated to turn signals yet. Maybe that will be one of our New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

In addition to handwashing, I have become an expert on sanitizing everything I ever touch. I use bleach to clean counters, doors, door keys, light switches, you name it, if it is in my home, I have sanitized it with bleach. Except for my cat. My cat has assured me that she wants no part of this human drama and she will continue to keep herself clean as she has done for the last 15 years.

The most challenging word I have learned and incorporated this year: ZOOM. One of the many technological ways for people to stay connected. I’m learning it……slowly……really slowly. By the way, where did the word “zoom” come from. The definition means to move or travel quickly which is an oxymoron when it comes to me and zooming. But I do it, because I can stay in contact with some really wonderful people.

I am just willing to bet that when this pandemic is over and we start meeting together again in person, we will all complain about having to “actually travel” through “Houston traffic” to get somewhere. Yuk! We will think back and remember the “good old days” when we could just talk to people at home on our computers wearing sweat pants and pajamas. I mean people are wearing sweat pants and pajamas. Computers don’t generally feel required to put on clothes for zoom conversations.

Has any of this been easy? Heck no! Have there been times when I have become depressed, angry, sad, forlorn, and every other emotion I can name? Heck yes! What do I do? I look at history. Tough times do eventually come to an end. The Great Depression, The Pandemic of 1918, and World War II are just a few examples.

I love to read books about people who survived tough times. I have read historical fiction and many biographies by people who know what surviving hard times is all about.

Also, I keep in touch with friends even though this does involve a lot of zooming. A good social network goes far into helping me stay sane during these crazy times. That includes all of you who read this blog. Thanks for being there!

Until next week.….

Time to Change your Borders?

We’d traveled into north Texas when the green mileage marker popped up.

Oklahoma 8.”

The road trip that day promised a long journey, another seven hours. I turned to DH and teased, “You game?” He smiled, nodded.

A‑OK = another RoadBroad quick stop. Because, why not?

One left turn and eight miles later, we arrived at our new destination.

We eyeballed the terrain. Nothing: no cars, no animals, no buildings, no people.

To visitors, such a sight spooks.

To a native, it’s heaven, a reminder of similar landscapes, e.g., the Texas Panhandle where I grew up.

It saddens me that so many fail to see the beauty of these flatlands. Here, you can slow down and catch your breath. Tech devices don’t work well. Distraction dissolves.

What follows? A thanks offering for simplicity and clarity, for clean, pure lines where earth meets sky meets river. Hard to see it but there is water flowing in the Red River here:

Centered under a moon dot, the Texas-Oklahoma state line nestles mid-river between banks of scrub.

Look up, in the center of the blue sky, can you see the surprise?

The tiny circle of the moon snagged me, too. How many times have I missed such clear vision? 

The moon hovering sweetens the moment. Overwhelm descends. Earth’s only natural satellite transmutes a spontaneous side trip into holy encounter. Indeed. 

Wikipedia informs that we’re viewing what’s technically called the Red River of the South. One of the few American state borders so created, the waterway meanders across/around/through four states, feeding eventually into the mighty Mississippi.

We sigh, make a u‑turn, and head back toward home.

Texas awaits. So does a second gasp:

Sunlight morphs a new state line?

How did we miss this house? Abandoned or not, it’s the only structure around.

This sight at this moment? A two-fer?

We both do more than pause. We pull over and stop, both silent in a second holy encounter. I wonder: does this bustling city girl need more slow-down encounters like these? Is this pandemic self-care or something bigger?

Where the Lone Star state curves away from Boomer Sooner-land.

I swallow and look up.

Past the house, the land flattens to familiar terrain. Beyond the sign of my home state, I spot Home.

Over there. Around that curve. After a looong afternoon drive. Oddly grateful there’s no eerie ahead, I comprehend. Now I can breathe and drive. Easy.

The straight lines of the Texas state marker offer comfort. I know this place. It’s where I belong, for now.

The tight green rectangle screams precision. The two poles beneath radiate strength. Both offer comfort, valued in these times.

Translating, I understand these as guideposts, each offering a pathway to home. All roads do, but today’s messengers brought intensity in different form: two states, multiple shapes (circles, lines, borders), varying forms (earth, water, sky), and changing landscapes (flat versus rolling terrain).

Homeward bound.

Then I connect. These are messages from my recent existence.

I take the sights and their messages in hand — from this latest little diversion — and put my foot on the gas, heading south to home.

I’ll figure out — precisely — what it all means.

Later.