Rodeo Barbie, Leap Day and Richard Lewis

I am taking the literary license to change the topic of the blog that I had originally written for today. As you can tell by my most recent skeleton picture, my first topic involved the Rodeo. That’s always big news here in Houston this time of year. I guess I can call this picture “Rodeo Barbie”. You might notice that I have placed a clip on her shoulder which is securing her to the chair. Either she was getting up at night and partying with the other skeletons, ghosts and otherworldly beings or the wind blew her out of her chair and cowgirl hat three times. I hope the truth is that she was partying and having fun.

Then, when I finished reporting on Skeleton Barbie’s escapades, I had a whole discourse ready to go about Leap Year, Leap Day, and Daylight Savings Time. All of us, unless you live in Arizona, have to Spring Forward on March 10th. Why do we still do this? How arbitrary is time? People long ago developed things like the calendar and clocks. Then for some reason, we all agreed to go along with these arbitrary markers. I prefer the Lunar Calendar, but what do I know.

What did shift my life a few degrees this morning was waking up to the news that Richard Lewis died this week. In case, you are not familiar with him, he was a most talented comedian and actor. I used to love to go to a place called The Laff Stop located on West Grey in a part of Houston that is still considered River Oaks. For these memories I am having to go back as far as the late 1970s and 1980s. I probably first saw him perform on the Tonight Show back in the days of Johnny Carson. Seeing him perform in person was a true delight! I loved that he could make neurosis look so funny. Hysterical neurosis was definitely something I could relate to, as any number of my friends will gladly attest. Then I watched him on television shows and movies. As soon as I heard that Richard was part of a production, I put it down on my calendar to watch. Most recently he had been on HBO with Larry David in the show Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I wish I had a picture of Richard to share, but just watch the news this evening or google his name. I will find a picture somewhere that I can print out and place with my pictures of other comedians that have helped shape my life and my personality. (Robin Williams, George Carlin and Joan Rivers are included in that group.) They taught me that life may be a very serious endeavor, but if we do not approach it with humor and some lightness, life will be very dull indeed. Maybe I’ll spend this weekend binging on Richard Lewis. I can re-watch all of Curb Your Enthusiasm or I will go to YouTube to re-watch some of his stand-up work.

I am sad about the passing of Richard Lewis. His memory will always remain a blessing in my heart and life.

Until next time.….

Enough Distractions?

How many distractions do mere mortals need to deal with at any given time? We just finished the Winter Holiday season; yet, how much of the fun and frivolities have already been forgotten? When do we really slow down and pay attention to the world in front of us? I’m trying my best. I am always a better writer when my mind can focus on only one or two things at a time. Like, the plot and the characters. It’s always easier to write my stories when I have a plot and some characters. Funny how that works.

Yet, it is difficult to turn on a television to check the news or walk outside my home and engage with other humans without dealing with the myriad of things that want my attention and engage in plans to distract me from writing. The list of distractions is quite long. February is quite the busy month!

First, this weekend I will be busy ignoring the Super Bowl. Yes, the commercials are funny and the half-time show can be entertaining, but I can see all that in a much shorter format after the game is over. I will hear about any scandal on the news and then go to social media to see what happened. Also, I must stand firm in my belief that Taylor Swift is not a part of any conspiracies. I think it is sad how some men get so upset by a powerful and successful woman. Watch the game if you want and get over yourselves.

This year we have both Mardi Gras and Valentines Day mixed up together. I, myself, do not celebrate Mardi Gras, but many people do. Galveston devotes two weekends to parades and parties. I have never been to any of them. Valentines Day I enjoy, because my skeletons enjoy getting dressed up in a lot of red. Don’t they look cute? My neighbors are really coming around to enjoying my skeleton displays. They may still think me odd, but the skeletons are harmless. At least they are during the day.

I don’t know enough about Lunar New year, but I enjoy the dragon dances. And this is the year of the dragon! Back in my teaching days, I always had some exchange students from Hong Kong who would give me red envelopes. I felt special and so international.

As soon as the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras are over, people will begin focusing on the Rodeo. Of course, this is always a good reason to attend parties, concerts and look at all the different animals. Since I moved to Texas back in 1979, I have been exactly twice. I just don’t have the wardrobe for the Rodeo. I have been known to squeak my way through Go Western Day once a year, but that’s the best I can hope to accomplish in that arena.

What is my favorite holiday? I enjoy any event where I can dress up the skeletons. Whatever they want to dress up for is fine with me. So far, in the month of February, that includes Valentines Day. My skeletal friends have a wardrobe for the heart day. Also, working with my skeletal friends will always remind me of a story plot or another character I need to write about. My theory here is that if I want to engage in creative writing, then it is very important for me to live a creative life. Art inspires writing which then inspires more art. It is a constant cycle. Also, artistic projects help me to focus on what I am writing and bring my ideas into my visual realm. What fun!

So I am off to be creative some more. I hope you are too.

Until next time.….….

Out With the Old, In With the New

Was this one of my most exciting New Year’s ever? Not by a long shot. It was pleasant and it was nice. 2023 tried its best to kick my ass, but I am still here. I am standing upright with a good mind (mostly?) and still exercising.

My 2023 basically looked like this desk here. It was a functional piece of furniture that I had used for several decades and moved from one home to another. At the time I needed/wanted a L‑shaped corner desk and this certainly fit the bill for many years. However, after a while, it came time to replace it. I tried to give it away. I contacted many charities and service organizations and resell shops. Couldn’t give this away. I felt bad for my little desk. I even put a sign down by the mailboxes that said, “Free to Good Home!” To no avail. Houston Recycling, here we come.

This was very symbolic for the way 2023 had gone. Instead of a desk, my body needed updating. Only I couldn’t just toss out myself and buy a replacement. No, but I went to many doctors. I spent some time in the hospital and was diagnosed with A‑Fib. In between cardiac ablations, I moved to a new living environment for “independent seniors” so that I now have lots of buttons to push and strings to pull in case I have a stroke. As enjoyable as that sounds, I really do like the new homestead. I guess 2023 is the year I became a Senior Citizen. Bah Humbug. However, that does not mean I can sit in a rocker and pass my days quietly. No! All of my doctors want me up and active. I now wear a smart watch that counts my foot steps, my pulse and my stress levels. I take my blood pressure. I take Tai Chi and aerobic exercise classes. I am definitely not slowing down.

So, what am I hoping for in the near future? For starters I have a new desk. It is smaller and sleeker than the last one. I am still getting organized, but it is working dandy well for this blog. My good friend Jim put the desk together and it didn’t even take that long. This picture shows the construction site where all parts were assembled. The best news is that none of this seems to have confused my cat, Hannah. Of course she has hidden under the couch a few times, but never for very long.

I am busy attending a series of writing intensives, and having a new nifty desk is helping with my inspiration. For those of you who know me, yes, I am still writing about ghosts and grim reapers. I continue to work on short stories and, of course, the Great American Novel. I am even taking an online course on “Jewish Ghost Stories”. Who knew there were such things? I’ll keep you posted on the details.

So here is the finished product: the new desk. I like it and the computer works on it very well. The printer even fits on the desk which is a luxury I did not have before.

Here’s to many ghost stories and scary tales in 2024. Maybe I’ll even finish the Great American Novel!

Until next time.….

Krampus is Back!!!

For those of you who are aware of my proclivity for all things spooky, I know you did not expect the winter holidays to come and go without a greeting from the skeletons. This is their favorite Holiday outfit, especially because it confuses those who are expecting to see some jolly old elf clad in red. It’s a beautiful day here in Houston and these two are enjoying the fresh air and sunshine while laughing about the reactions they receive from those mere mortals that walk past.

Also, I have had great fun this traditional season of light by studying up on the monsters who are associated with the dark time of the year. As a writer, I am constantly researching new topics for my blog and other stories. This year I learned about Krampus. He is a delightful creature that shows up before the big guy in red and takes care of all the bad little children. Sounds fun!

What I have gathered in my brief studies of monsters is that there are a select few, Krampus being one, that show up just in time for the end of the year when many people celebrate Christmas. The sole purpose of these critters is to scare children into behaving themselves. These creatures almost always are from the northern climates where December is a dark and cold month. People have to stay inside for warmth and survival. The children get bored staying inside so much and begin to get rowdy. One way to make sure the delightful little ones stay quiet is to create monsters to scare them into behaving. When I study Krampus, I see that he will find all of the naughty children and either eats them or sends them into the underworld. In addition to their being banished for ever from the earth plane, it also means means they don’t get any presents or treats! Oh no!

Fast forward a couple of hundred years and what we have now is Santa Claus who will put misbehaving cherubs on a “Naughty List”. Today’s children don’t have to worry about being eaten or thrown into the underworld or anything fun and scary.

I find it very interesting that so many cultures, religions and societies have references to lights this time of year. However, monsters like Krampus come from the cold northern regions of the world. I am still researching this topic, but I have not found any monsters (yet) that steal away the children of tropical climates. Do you know of any? I’ll keep you posted on my research. Then we’ll see what shows up in my writings by next year. Apparently Krampus is making a comeback and taking part in parades. Be on the lookout!

My niece, Becca, sent me this wonderful pillow that pretty much sums up my life. I believe she got it in Salem, Ma. Is it possible that spookiness runs in my family? Can you find it in my DNA? Please don’t tell my sister!

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy your holidays whatever you celebrate. I will stay inside with my skeletons sharing scary stories and drinking hot chocolate.

Until next time.….

After Halloween — The Hauntings Continue

I’m relaxing this week and for good reason. Another successful presentation of Haunted Holidays Readings at Brazos Bookstore has come and gone. If you missed it you have two options. You can go to https://youtu.be/A83grQr9bis?si=ZETZ-A-2F9k8nxSi

and watch the enjoyable event on WiVLA’s YouTube channel. Also, you can start writing more spooky stories in preparation for next year.

I must take this opportunity to thank Brazos Bookstore and especially, Amy, who helped to coordinate this evening. Also, when you watch the presentation on YouTube, please know that Melody Locke is our wonderful and official film crew.

As you can see the skeletons who participated this year are quite tired and taking a bit of a rest. You might notice that this year Barbie was able to join in the fun. This was in addition to all of the other spooky guests. Once again this year, my good friend, Jim, served as the Chief roadie and skeleton wrangler. He made sure all skeletons made it to the event on time and then landed back home safely. I think we only lost one sock in the process. Also, Sabina Gartler (Sister WiVLA Member) helped with additional decorations. Finally, thanks to all of the wonderful members of WiVLA and the Houston Writers Guild for joining in with their creative talents. It takes a village to pull off a well organized Haunting. Much gratitude to everyone.

Of course, there will not be a lot of time for rest. There are other holidays to consider, but for me and my skeletons, the stress level goes way down. This fine fellow volunteered to be our official Turkey Day mascot. My official Thanksgiving plans include going to Govinda’s for a vegetarian Holiday dinner with all the trimmings. Yes, I actually like Tofu Turkey!!! I will bring enough home to share with my skeleton crew. It’s the least I can do.

So as of now, I have completed all of my public readings for the year. I will keep you up to date with all of the antics me, my crew and my friends get into over the rest of the holidays.

And of course, I have plenty of time to write. I have both short stories and the Great American Novel that I continue to work on. A writer’s work is never done and skeletons can try to scare you all year round! BOO!!!

Until next time.….…..

Keeping Promises, Breaking Promises

I retired several years ago and at that time, I made a promise to myself. The job I had for 25 years involved a lot of driving. I drove to see clients, I drove to meetings, and then I drove to some more meetings. During that time, I developed a distinct dislike for driving in the rain. You know the situation. I would find myself behind the wheel of my car, the rain was pouring down and visibility stretched for an entire 5 feet or so. Maybe there was thunder and lighting, but that did not bother me. It was the pounding rain causing ponding on the roadways and oftentimes flooding. I knew it was time to retire the day I drove to work during an actual tropical storm. Gratefully, I survived to tell the tale and swore I would never drive in the rain again.…..never.….…ever.….ever.

So it came as a shock to me the other day when I found myself driving along I‑10 on my way to Highway 6. For those of you not familiar with Houston geography, it felt like I was driving from the Grand Canyon all the way to California. Well, it felt that long to me and then I had to drive back home. I went to a place called Crown Trophy. The Authorpalooza conference is happening this weekend. Friday night is the Journey Into Art Anthology launch and I had the First, Second and Third place medals for the winners of the writing contest. This was a very nice company to work with and I highly recommend them for all of your medal and statue needs. But must they locate themselves so far away from where I live? Not very neighborly of them. But at least I have fulfilled my obligation for this weekend.

As soon as I got home, I sat down with some of my skeleton friends. Now that the temperatures are actually cooling down, they prefer to sit outside and study their books. I think they also go for walks at night or so they tell me. Luckily they are in a spot where they are protected from the rain.

Now of course the two friends who are not necessarily protected by the rain are Mr. Gargoyle and his friend, Skelly. One day I asked them why they chose their current spot and Mr. Gargoyle said that it was the spot where he could best protect my home. Since he feels like this is his primary function, I decided he could stay there. He assured me a little rain wouldn’t hurt him. Also his friend, Skelly, knows how to hold on real tight in case the wind starts blowing. I feel very safe knowing that these critters are in charge of the safety of my home. Of course, when I leave and go somewhere else (like Highway 6), I am pretty much on my own. That’s why I stay close to home.

But I will attend Authorpalooza this weekend! It is much closer to me than Crown Trophy. Thanks to the Houston Writers Guild for pulling this wonderful weekend together!

Until next time.….….

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX 2023

I’d like to wish you a Happy Autumnal Equinox!  For those of you who are not familiar with celestial terms, then I will wish you a Happy First Day of Fall. According to many pictures on Social Media and television commercials we can now expect colorful leaves, the nip of coolness in the air and Pumpkin Spice everywhere we go. What difference does this make in Southeast Texas? Apparently, not a damn thing. As I write this, it is 97 degrees outside with lots of humidity. The only real sign I have of the arrival of fall, is the appearance of the Spirit Halloween Store! I was there this morning and purchased another skeleton, because obviously seven are just not enough.

I have enjoyed sweating through the early stages of decorating my home. Of course it is always decorated on the inside, but this time of year is when I let all my neighbors know for sure what kind of neighbor they have. The best comment I have gotten so far is that folks are happy that I am finding enough chairs for all of the skeletons and witches to sit down. Yet, please understand, I am only getting started. I have plans. Lots of plans. There will be bats added into the mix this year and even a gargoyle. I like to start out small so as not to scare the villagers too quickly; however, once October 1st arrives everything is fair game.

I have extra space to decorate this year and I plan to cover every inch possible. I even have extra doors, so I don’t have to decide which wreath to use. I just have to make sure that I follow current fire regulations by keeping walkways clear. Now that’s a funny thought, because the ghosts already know to get out of the way whenever there is a fire or medical emergency. Even the goblins have that basic knowledge. Humans are so weird sometimes with their various rules and regulations as if they are in charge of things.

The only thing left for me to do, in addition to decorating, is to write haunted, scary stories. All of my standard characters show up during the fall. Willow, the Grim Reaper, is already present and accounted for, and I’ve lost track of all the ghosts and goblins who are showing up to get a good spot in the next plot.

After presenting AuthorPalooza in early October, the Houston Writers Guild and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts will once again join literary forces for a night of Haunted Holidays stories at Brazos Bookstore. All of the original stories, essays and poetry are written by members of those two illustrious organizations. I hope you will join us for the fun and frolic!!!

Until next time.….…..

Holidays in Confusion

Lately the Gulf of Mexico reminds me of a witch’s cauldron. As I watched the news coverage of Hurricane Idalia this week, I could just see the waters getting churned up. Then late at night when I listened very carefully, I could hear the faint strains of Shakespeare’s witches as they chanted: Double, double. Toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble. As I reflected on this I realized that there were forces on the loose in the Gulf that were indeed doubling our toil and trouble. Then I realized that not only is climate change messing with our weather, but it is also causing much confusion with our holidays.

Every year around this time, I pay close attention during my shopping trips, looking for my first sighting of Halloween decorations. Of course, I would always purchase something to add to my already busy collection. My personal rule is that once Halloween decorations hit the store shelves, then summer is all but over, and it is time to decorate with my favorite witches and skeletons. This usually happens around the month of September.

I had my annual first sighting this year, but it happened in July. It was over 100 degrees outside. Yes, I made my first yearly Halloween purchase, but something felt off. I sweated entirely too much taking my new purchase out to my car and then when I arrived at home, it was too hot to start decorating outside. I know that last statement to be a fact, because I tried it and it didn’t work.

Now it is the last of August and turning into September. The situation gets worse. The last time I went shopping, I not only found more Halloween decorations (which I didn’t mind, because I can always use more!) I also found a display of Christmas decorations. Please let me repeat this, because this is newsworthy and worth repeating. In AUGUST, stores were displaying both Halloween and Christmas decorations right next to each other. It wasn’t like one holiday was over and items were marked half off. No, this was more like Santa’s sleigh was going to be pulled by both reindeer and goblins! Santa’s elves will walk around in the dark and try to scare children while skeletons will help to create exciting toys for the good little girls and boys.

The holidays are now all higgledy-piggledy. Can I blame this on climate change? There seems to be a direct correlation here. Maybe if I contact Neil deGrasse Tyson he can explain this with better scientific reasoning. I’ll let you know what he says. In the meantime, please only purchase Halloween supplies in September and Christmas decorations in November. A little decorum if you please.

Applause, Applause and More Applause!

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember how excited everyone around you got when you said your first word or took your first tedious steps? People around us would clap and tell us how wonderful we were. Then we all started going to school and the competition got a bit stiffer and there were always more people who wanted to compete against you. As we all got older, the competitions became harder. There was still applause and adulation for the winners, but the ratio of winner to not-winner shrank it seemed every year. Then you finally finished with school and most of us entered the work world and the cycle of achievement and adulation started up once again and yes, the number and talent of competitors increased.

Once I retired from the work-a-day world, I knew that my achievement based applause would decline. But sometimes I think we could acknowledge Seniors for the accomplishments that are made. For instance I am now getting a C‑Pap machine. I didn’t have to go in anywhere to get my face measured, because technology digitized my face on my phone. I sure hope I held my face correctly. The digitizer would give me instructions on how to set my face, but since I could not wear my glasses during this bit of technological wonder, I often couldn’t read the instructions.

I’ll find out next week how all of this is going to work. I will attend a group seminar to get introduced to my C‑Pap machine and then I MUST use it that first night to keep insurance companies from getting mad at me. Not only am I not receiving any recognition for achieving this life milestone, I might make anonymous insurance bureaucrats angry at me in the process.

In the middle of all this, I realize that I am now going to make strange noises while I sleep and I might look like an alien. I guess you could say that my snoring was also noisy, but at least that was an organic noise. This is more of there’s a monster in my bed sounding like Darth Vader or something. I have attempted to prepare my elderly cat for this adjustment to our sleep environment. To date, she is not too excited about the whole new arrangement. So far she has responded by sticking her tongue out at me and shedding extra fluffy white hair on my black bed sheets and comforter. I’ll keep you posted on how this progresses.

When I’m not looking for more alien devices to attach to my face, I have been settling into my new apartment. I have one long wall that I am converting into the likes of a French Salon. Pictures will be hung as they fit rather than by topic or color. It helps to receive Hannah’s input and opinion on some of the tough decisions that must be made. Several of the pieces are works completed by other artists. Some are my own creations. I love the “hodge-podgieness” of the whole experience. Yes, of course I will send you pictures when all is done. And yes, skulls and witches alike are given equal amounts of space.

July. Just That Much Closer To Halloween

Greetings and Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday. While most folks were enjoying their time at the beach or snarfing up lots of barbecued dead animals, I was moving into a new home. I even hired the movers that supposedly pack and unpack everything for you. After three days, we sent them on their way. Jim and I are finishing the rest of the job by ourselves. We’re not quite finished yet, but things are coming along. The biggest issue with moving is the amount of books and art that I move around with me. The books are currently back on the bookshelves, but not in any correct order. I may be working on organizing them through the end of the year.

One of the really nice features about my new home is the variety of flowers and water features. I especially like the koi fish. They seem to be really happy critters that come up to greet you when you draw near their home. No, I don’t feed them. There are very strict instructions about not feeding the wildlife around here. And speaking of wildlife, there is quite a bit to observe. The first few days I’ve been here I have seen squirrels, frogs, squirrels, lizards, squirrels, cats, squirrels and even an egret! We’re asked not to feed the squirrels, but from the chubby looks of them, I think someone is providing some tasty snacks. Or maybe they’re stealing some of the cat goodies that some nice people leave out.

Of course, as a writer, I keep copious notes on everything. Everyone and everything that I meet and see become potential characters for my next story. My skeleton friends were in a hurry for me to set up the writing table so we could get back to work. We have lots of stories we are working on. I especially enjoy the scary stories that are being prepared for Halloween!

Until next time.….