Retreat Ends.…Boo Hoo!

I had my last and final meeting with Max for this year’s writers retreat. Sniff, Sniff. At least we met once again in the beautiful Dushanbe Teahouse.

It was a good meeting. We reviewed much of what had been covered during the retreat classes. We discussed both of my writing projects and the kind of writing structure I would maintain once I return to Houston.

In addition to learning and practicing new writing craft skills, I have the following takeaways from this 10 day adventure:

  • The craft of writing is a life‐long endeavor. During this retreat, I read things I wrote several years ago and I can see where I have grown and evolved with craft skills.
  • Community really does enrich a writer’s life. Whether it is attending a retreat, attending a class back in Houston at the Spectrum Center, or just getting together at a coffee shop or in someone’s home, writers can really encourage and help each other.
  • I have learned how to truly live as a writer. My hobby has now been elevated to a passion. The next year is going to be great fun.

After I finished my meeting with Max, I got a table and sat down for a tasty lunch. The entire inside of Dushanbe Teahouse is a work of art. Here is the statue that I had the honor of sitting next to as I ate:

After lunch, I strolled once again down Pearl Street and did a little shopping. Since I had an elephant as one of my writing prompts here at the retreat, I found an onyx one in a local store. That along with two rose quartz hearts completed my purchase. Now I have an elephant totem and pieces of the heart of Boulder to take back with me to Houston.

Tomorrow will be a special day. I get to visit with my niece who lives in Denver. We have not seen each other since she graduated from high school. At this point she has been out of college for several years. I am looking forward to catching up with her.

Good night.

Chocolate!

Here is my daily picture of the Flatirons. I just can’t get enough of those mountains.

I took this picture last night at the Chautauqua Park here in Boulder. I had a wonderful dinner there with friends. It was cool enough to sit outside and enjoy a fresh breeze. Some of us drank champagne to toast ourselves as writers. I also had a chocolate martini.…chocolate, yes, a theme that will carry through all day today.

This morning I was back at the Boulder Bookstore bright and early for my last small group meeting of this writing retreat. I knew this time would fly by so fast. My great American novel is not finished yet. We had a very good class today as we discussed where we go from here. I am pleased with where I am. Like I wrote earlier, I feel like I have my arms around this project and a timeline for completing it by the end of the year.

To reward myself for what I have accomplished since June 1st, I decide that tonight I can take some time off from the book project and write a short story. Usually when I write short stories, I am working on developing a character who just happens to be a grim reaper. This is more in the genre of Science Fiction or Fantasy. I may or may not ever publish these short stories, but they amuse me.

After class I wandered once more around the Pearl Street Mall. I found a most wonderful shop called “Peace, Love and Chocolate”. Oh my! There I had a 4 ounce cup of dark sipping chocolate. Magnificent!

That was 4 ounces of pure heaven. I sipped slowly. I watched other tourists come in and purchase their chocolate delights. Never had I enjoyed such a simple treat as what I found in this cup. The way the light shows up in this picture, it almost seems as though the gods and goddesses are smiling down on my brief afternoon respite. I hope to visit this miraculous spot again before I leave Boulder.

I drag myself away from chocolate heaven and return to the townhouse. Now I will sit down with my favorite non‐fiction character, the grim reaper, and see what kind of tale I can weave tonight.

But remember.….Peace, Love and Chocolate!

Tea Houses, Flatirons, and Salons

There is nothing like the weather and scenery of Boulder to provide inspiring places for meeting and getting inspired about writing. I have already written about the Boulder Bookstore.

Now I have had a meeting with my writing coach on the patio of the Dushanbe Teahouse sipping fresh brewed teas while surrounded by beautiful roses.

What isn’t inspirational in that kind of a setting? Of course it helps that I finally have a solid story outline, I know where the story begins, where it ends, and what has to happen in between. Now all l have to do is start filling in all of the spaces and ideas I have outlined. It is very energizing to get to this point. Before this, my story was just this amorphous blob of an idea that sat in my mind without a good form. On with the first draft!

After my meeting at the Teahouse, I could not help but walk along the park and soak in the beautiful Boulder surroundings.

I keep taking pictures of the Flatirons as if I am afraid that they will disappear before I have admired them enough. It also helps that once I leave the park I know I am welcomed in Boulder because they have special crossing signs just for people like me. The good news is not everyone in Boulder is 20‐something and climbing mountains every day. Some of us just want to go for a walk in the park and cross the street safely.

Tonight I did get my chance at reading at the salon. I picked out a selection that I wrote several years ago. I dusted it off, re‐wrote, and edited several spots. The good news is that when I look at pieces I wrote several years ago, I can see that I have in fact grown as a writer. I have had a wonderful teacher in Max Regan and a wonderful writing support group in Houston. I felt good about my reading tonight and I received some very good feedback from the other attendees. It all inspires me to keep moving forward with my creative work.

But first, I need another good night of sleep and I have been sleeping really great in all of this clean mountain air!

Sweet Dreams!

New Scenes and Memories

This morning I sat in the room on the upper floor of the Boulder Bookstore gazing out of the window. From where I was sitting I could see the tip of the flatirons. While that may not make for historic news in this town, for someone who lives in Houston where the landscape is quite flat, this is magnificent. The picture below was taken when I was just standing on Pearl Street Mall. Everywhere I look I see these wonderful mountains.

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And then I am reminded why I am here and that is to write. I look away from the mountains and back into myself to see where my mind and creativity are headed.

My thoughts move to the serious arena today as I am reminded that this is the anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy when he was running for President back in 1968. I was 11 years old at the time and remember being awakened by my mother with the sad announcement. We watched the television news reports. We were saddened. Since I was living in Memphis, Tennessee at the time, we were still recovering from the assassination of Martin Luther King earlier in the year. So many memories of sadness that year.

As a current resident of Houston, Texas, I am also reminded that this is the anniversary of Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001. So much of the Houston area flooded, people were killed in the flood waters, so much property destroyed. Up until Hurricane Harvey last year, this had been the worst local flooding in recent history. It was the first time as a local government employee that I was assigned to help with recovery activities.

These are definitely part of the tapestry that make up my life. They have both helped shape who I am today and what I feel drawn to write about.

Then as I left my writing class and head back for home, I learn of the suicide of Kate Spade. Don’t get me wrong, I am no expert on fashion and do not think I ever owned one of her namesake purses. However, she was a creative and successful woman. She was a mother. She was only 55 years old. There is so much need for good mental health services in this country. Sadly, sometimes even those who can afford good quality health care, cannot escape the hellish depths of depression.

Back at the townhouse, I refocus on my writing. I am preparing to read some of my work at the salon that will take place Thursday evening. I hope I can do justice to the world I see around me and try to make it a better place. Having dinner prepared by two wonderful roommates definitely helps.

As I reflect at the end of this day, I am reminded of a quote by George Bernard Shaw that was borrowed by John, Robert and Edward Kennedy:

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why.….I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Off for a good night’s sleep and more writing tomorrow.

Writing!

A pocket watch, a turtle, and an elephant walk into a bar.…..wait, that’s not right.

What do a pocket watch, a turtle, and an elephant have in common? I have no idea…yet…but I am using them as writing prompts.

So goes the beginning of our writing retreat which meets in the wonderful Boulder Bookstore.

After our first meeting on Saturday, I spend Sunday morning at the townhouse getting inspired by my three prompts. Finally, the words begin to flow and I am ready for class this afternoon. I also work on story outlines and plot points. I am ready to head out to class.

My roommates already left for their class. Everyone at the retreat is divided into three groups. Melanie and Diana are in the same group (maybe I am a little jealous not to be with them?). Oh well, we will be in some of the same writing groups when we return to Houston.

I enjoyed the few hours I have by myself at the townhouse. I am finally beginning to adjust to both the Boulder altitude and sharing house with two roommates. All three of us have been friends for a while now but have never roomed together before. Three strong, independent, assertive women. We all know what we want and how we want the universe to revolve. It is inspiring to see us adjust to each other. We are dedicated to our writing and to supporting other women writers. The room may be too cold for one or too hot for the other, but we don’t lose focus on why we are here. RoadBroads Unite!

I Uber to the bookstore. Now I’ve Ubered twice in two days. That makes me a pro. I even tipped Howard, the driver.

I walk along the Pearl Street Mall enjoying the shops and all the people. Each block seems to have its own street performer. Guitar players, drum players, even one guy standing on top of a ladder while juggling. The day felt festive.

I stop at one of the many coffee shops to get coffee and water to take with me to class. Then I enter the bookstore, walk up the stairs to the second floor and make my way back to our meeting spot in the middle of the religious/spiritual book section.

Max Regan lectures on different aspects of writing. Several of us read our writing assignments and get good solid feedback. The two hours fly by quickly and class is over.

It is now time to head out for dinner and our first salon. I walk the four blocks to the location of the salon to find a wonderful spread of salad, breads, cheeses, sliced veggies and more. There was fruit for dessert which included some of the best fresh mango I have had in a long time.

We will have several of these salon meetings during the retreat so that every writer shares some of their work with the entire group. Melanie read tonight and did a masterful job. I take a turn at reading next Thursday. I hope I can be as good as Melanie. She has set the bar very high.

Now back at the townhouse, the day is over. I am exhausted but pleased with that I have accomplished today.

Ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Boulder At Last!

Early this morning we had to leave the wonderful Dream Catcher Bed and Breakfast in Taos to head out for another day of exciting travel. That bed sure was comfortable and the people there sure were nice. Even Jake, the dog and official B&B greeter, was a delight as you can see in his picture.

But our focus is getting to Boulder for the writing retreat. And, on the way, we needed to pick up Diana (another “Sister RoadBroad”) at the Denver airport. I enjoyed the wonderful travel through New Mexico as we were continuously hugged by all of the beautiful mountains. I could stare out at that scenery for hours on end.

Finally we arrived in Colorado. We took our first stop in what looked to me as a typical Colorado town called Walensberg. We visited a coffee shop called Serendipity that was right across the street from a building called “Roof and Dick”. There has to be a good story behind that name. Maybe one day I will write about it.

Inside the coffee shop there was a young gentleman playing the guitar and all of the pastries were homemade. I got the biggest cup of coffee available and Melanie got tea and a blueberry pastry. As people came in to the shop, you could tell everyone knew everyone else. I got the sense that some of the folks went by the coffee shop every morning for their daily caffeine requirement.

All through Colorado the wind blew and Melanie white‐knuckled the steering wheel to keep our car on the road. I once again fulfilled the role of navigator and tried not to forget too many important turns. Driving through places like Pueblo and Colorado Springs the traffic became more and more congested.

Colorado has as much road construction as Texas. At one point we slowed down when we had to pass a four car pile‐up. Then we really slowed down when we had to pass what was only described as “police activity”. We never did find out what that was except that there were 6 to 8 squad cars, one guy with a large camera looking out over a bridge and several other men gathered around. Mystery or mysteries.

Driving around Denver from the Airport to the Brown Palace for lunch I observed that traffic is as bad in Denver as it is in Houston. Of course it is Friday and people want to get away from work to start their weekends.

Once we turned off onto the road that led us into Boulder, traffic once again lightened up. We arrived at our home away from home, dropped off our luggage and made it to downtown Boulder for dinner. This gathering was the official opening of the writing retreat.

On the way to the dinner, I took a picture of Boulder Creek. The weather here is beautiful with no humidity and full sunshine. In Houston the temperature is in the triple digits. Here in Boulder the high temperature today was about 86 degrees. I think I am going to like it here.

Now off to unpack and get some good rest. I have a busy week ahead of me.

Amarillo!

We made it! Our first day on the road is a success! Melanie and I arrived all the way to Amarillo after only 10 hours of driving (following 4 hours of sleep).

Sam Houston guided us by pointing the way north from Huntsville and our journey heated up!

The weather was good, if not warm, and the traffic, tolerable. I don’t even mind that the temperature reached into the upper 90s, the humidity is very low here compared to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tomorrow the temperatures will be even cooler and I cannot wait!

Melanie did all of the driving today while I co‐piloted with the use of a AAA Trip Tik. Loved the turn‐by‐turn directions. Really helpful when driving in and out of road construction that seems to plague every conceivable road and highway in Texas. Counted 14 cops running radar from Houston to Fort Worth. Funny how all the police disappeared in Cowtown. We could have used their help in navigating the worst road construction since TXDot started ripping apart the Gulf Freeway.

One of our first stops on the road turned out to be a Stuckey’s. I remember taking family vacations many years ago and we stopped at many Stuckey’s along the road. This is the first one I have seen in a really long time. Now this fine establishment is famous for fudge and sausages. I did not sample either.

Then while driving down the road, we passed many wind farms. I have never seen one up close before. I was amazed at how big the fan blades on the wind turbines are (I hope that is what you call them) and pleasantly surprised at how many wind farms there are in this part of Texas.

We drove through Memphis. Having grown up in Memphis, Tennessee, I found this quite entertaining. No, it does not take much to excite me during a 10‐hour car ride. Memphis, Texas is much smaller than Memphis, Tennessee. We drove through it pretty quickly.

Finally we reached Amarillo and stopped for the night. And, of course, nothing says “Lone Star State” like the Big Texan Steak Ranch. The deal here is that you can get a 72 ounce steak for free if you can eat the steak and all the trimmings within an hour. Yes, there are people who really take this challenge and succeed. Being a vegetarian myself, I munched on a salad, sweet potato, roll and iced tea.

No one took the challenge while we were there, but Melanie and I did get serenaded by some fine Cowboys. They sang The Yellow Rose of Texas.

Day one successfully completed. Now time for a long sleep before heading out for more adventures tomorrow in Santa Fe and Taos.

This road trip keeps getting more exciting!

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2018. Let me begin by remembering the reason for this day which is to honor those who gave their lives in service for this Country.

Also today is a first for me. It is the first holiday of my retirement. Always in the past I have thought about Memorial Day as the long weekend before summer gets into full swing. Many people start their summer by vacationing this week. Personally, I have never vacationed around this time. I always thought this was time for people who had kids getting out of school for the summer to begin their family vacations.

My retirement is still new enough that I feel particularly excited knowing that tomorrow morning my former co‐workers will return to the office while I continue with my road journey preparations. Will all holidays feel like this from now on? I am hoping for the good vibes to continue through at least the first six to twelve months. I hope my former co‐workers do not hold that against me. This year I am, according to the USA Today, joining 41.5 million Americans projected to travel this week. EGAD! That’s a lot of us. Before I always had the pleasure of staying at home, listening to the news and hearing about all of the traffic. Now I will be in the middle of it. Hopefully everyone else will be where they are going by the time I get on the road. Watch out everybody! RoadBroads are on the loose and on the highways!

So, how did I spend my last weekend before heading out to the Wild West? Obviously I did not finish all of my travel preparations. Like Melanie, I am going to finish as much as I can and then leave. I will throw a bunch of suit cases in the back of the car and hope I have packed anything helpful or necessary. It does not help when I do a load of laundry, set some of the clean clothes aside for folding and hanging only to have Vesta, the cat, deposit a nice fluffy hair ball on them. Have I started packing? Of course not. 

I did go see a really good documentary over the weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts called, Lives Well Lived. Senior citizens aged 75 to 100 were interviewed to share their wisdom for living a long and meaningful life. Some of the interviewees reminded me of my Aunt Grace who lived to be 94 years old. She was active and independent until the very end. During our last conversation she told me to enjoy every day of my life. What a wonderful role model she was for me.Last night I went to the Alley Theater and saw Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It is a very funny play where Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet in a bar. They discuss the differences between the creative process involved in scientific discovery and the creative process involved in developing works of art. I’ve known my share of both Scientists and Artists. Both groups tend to be full of very creative people. We need examples from both groups to keep society going. I am hoping for lots and lots of creativity during the writing retreat in Boulder. Can’t wait!

Now I am off and running to do more laundry and packing!

Details and Mindfulness

I just read Melanie’s blog post about her experience at the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I went to the same exhibition and, even though I went early in the morning before all the school children arrived, I still needed help solving the crime puzzle. Obviously I need to hone my skills at observing the details.

My life has been so hectic in the past few months, I am proud just to say that I am keeping up with everything. Yet, here I am heading for a long road trip where I can slow down and look. We are going through Santa Fe, New Mexico. The home of my favorite artist, Georgia O’Keefe!

Again, for those of you not familiar with the art of Georgia O’Keefe, please Google. Again, I will wait for you. She painted a lot of big flowers and a good deal of the landscape around the Santa Fe area.

One of my favorite quotes of O’Keefe’s is the following:

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

An artist like Georgia O’Keefe sees the beauty in the detail and gives us a painting to help us see. Doesn’t a writer do the same thing? Take an event, a moment or a thought and give it words so that the reader can read and understand.

Going on this road trip means that I will completely change my surroundings. I am a city chick. I like a big city and the energy it produces. The sounds of the city relax me and I feel a part of the big scheme of things. Now I am going outside the big city to cities that are much smaller and further apart. I want to see everything.

More than 20 years ago I traveled to New Mexico. I drove between Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Abiquiu (toured Georgia O’Keefe’s home). I remember pulling over to the side of the road just to admire the beauty of the mountains all around me. After living so many years along the flat Texas coast, the mountains are a miraculous sight.

I also practice mindfulness meditation which helps me to stop in the middle of all of life’s craziness and just be. Sometimes it is just best to sit down and be quiet.

Looking forward to being mindful in Boulder.

Priming, Preparing and Packing

Once upon a time I used to think that I knew how to pack a suitcase and prepare myself for a vacation. I have done it before. I have gone places and returned home quite successfully. Then I began planning a road trip to Boulder with Melanie.

Who can forget anything with a list like this?

One of the first documents that Melanie gave me while discussing our road trip was a simple piece of paper that said, “PACK THIS!” On this simple piece of paper were lists of things to take with you when packing for any conceivable travels. I glanced down at all of the 17 sub‐lists and immediately wondered how I ever made it anywhere by myself.

I can remember when I used to work full time in an office setting, there were days when I surprised both myself and my co‐workers with the ability to dress myself in the morning and have all articles of clothing land in the right places. However, I blamed this little quirk on the fact that I have never been a morning person and really cannot function without at least one cup of coffee.

Now I have a list that I can look at any time of the day or night fully caffeinated and wonder how many more suit cases I am going to need. It is truly daunting.

To begin with, do I really need a list to remind me to pack underwear? The list also specifies to pack a tuxedo. I’ve never owned a tuxedo. Great, now I have to go shopping before I leave town. Guess I’ll pick up some more underwear while I’m at the store.

There is also a line item for anxiety medications. Really? What does this list know about my road trip that I don’t? I am hoping for a couple of relaxing days while driving and seeing parts of the Southwest that I have not seen before. Yet, apparently now I have to worry about anxiety and what to do about it. That makes me feel quite anxious!

The good news is that I only have to prepare and pack for myself. Melanie is in charge of the automobile. Normally when traveling with others, I will ask if the tires have been checked, have all the fluids been topped off, etc. I did not have to do that this time. As you just read, Melanie is the official keeper of all particular detailed lists. I know she has this handled. Then, as if I had asked, she told me about some minor car repairs to make sure the air conditioning was working. Good. Air conditioning is good. Especially since day time temperatures are already reaching into the high 90’s. It’s not like we will be driving through deserts and mountains and such. I am glad Melanie is in charge of the automobile.

We are taking Melanie’s SUV because it is bigger than my Prius. With two of us traveling we need the extra space to pack all of the things on the “PACK THIS!” list. We may pick up a friend at the Denver airport on the way to the writing retreat. Friend may have to lie in the back on top of the luggage. What fun!

Now I am off for more priming, preparing and packing.