Bumps In The Road

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

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

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

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

Oh my!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.….

New Roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.….

The Light Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.…..

The Mindfulness Journey

Oh rats! Here we go again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Road

Another year gone. A new year is upon us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.

A Road Full Of Elves

Apparently last year I started a new annual tradition without knowing it. That was when I went to Galveston for Christmas and stayed at the San Luis Hotel. I was fascinated and, let’s be honest, a little frightened by all of the bizarre elves that lined their entrance. Big elves. Scary elves. I swore their eyes followed me whenever I walked past. I have continued with the holiday tradition of “elf hunting” in 2019.

This year I went to the Houstonian. A lovely hotel. Best customer service ever! While at the Houstonian I spent much time at the Trellis Spa. Wonderful massages, facials, whirl pool, tranquility room, etc. I had a most relaxing time.

However, once again, I was faced with elves. Not exactly the elfin gauntlet that I faced in Galveston, but they were still there. Watching me. Watching all the guests that walked into and around the hotel lobby. Some of them were in Christmas trees, others were slinking along on the floor next to a sleigh. Just trust me, they were everywhere.

This guy greeted me as soon as I walked into the front door. I thought he was Santa getting ready to deliver toys or whatever it is he does this time of year. Yet, this critter had pointed ears. Santa never had pointed ears.….did he? Why is the reindeer riding in the sleigh next to those dolls that eerily look like children with bad hair styles?

Don’t you think at night these little elfin creatures spring up and run around the hotel playing tricks on the guests? I could’ve sworn one night, really late at night, I heard giggling and the sound of little elfin feet running down the hall. Maybe it was children? Maybe it was some adults who had partied into the night? I made sure the dead bolt was on and pulled the covers up over my head just in case.

Elves are supposedly small creatures with pointed ears that are typically mischievous and have magical powers with capricious natures. What do you think these guys look like they’re up to? Can they ever really be trusted?

According to elfin lore, the wee elves aren’t supposed to age. Yet, I saw examples of elves who were both young and old. It is possible that we mere humans have yet to scratch the surface of what makes this species tick.

Now, for those of you who know me well, you know I spent many years going to Austin over Christmas and staying at my favorite Austin spa. I loved it there. I never saw any elves in Austin. Apparently elves are a Gulf Coast phenomenon. Anyway, a couple of years ago a giant hotel conglomeration bought my favorite Austin spa, added rooms, additional pools, and raised the prices. Now I am a Winter Holiday Nomad. Next year I will continue my search of the elfin world in Southeast Texas.

Until next week.….

Animal Road

Is it my imagination or is this gorilla smiling at me? It sure does look like he is a very friendly chap. A big and powerful chap and aren’t I glad there is a thick pane of glass between us. But still, I love this beautiful face.

This is one of the many creatures that I encountered during my most recent visit to the Houston Zoo. I like to go early in the day before the crowds show up and before all of the school tours start. Of course I am glad that so many people like the zoo as much as me. I just prefer to commune with the animals when there is less of a crowd. Since I enjoy walking and I have a zoo membership that gets me in for free, this is a favorite spot for me to visit early on a week day.

On this particular day it was actually cold here in Houston. I even wore my heavy winter coat for the first time this year. Many of the birds were inside huddled up to the heaters provided for them. But I was also surprised at how many animals not only stayed outside, but also played in the water. Take this elephant for example:

She played in the water for at least an hour. You might be able to see the stick that she kept with her the whole time. She would go under water and then pop back up with the stick held tightly in her trunk. She was having a great time and the cold air did not appear to bother her in the slightest.

Also these flamingos did not seem to be deterred by the weather. If you have never looked at flamingos up close, they really do stand on one leg quite a bit. Who knew? And they also seem to stand very close to each other. A cozy friendly bunch of wading birds. I learned that a group of flamingos is called a “pat”. A pat of flamingos lives at the Houston Zoo. I am so glad that someone as old as myself can still learn new stuff all of the time. Of course as you can see the weather may have been cold that day, but the skies were blue and full of sunshine. Perfect for admiring the pink and orange hues of the flamingo feathers.

The last animal that I will write about today never lived at the Houston Zoo. Rather, this Siamese cat lived in my home and in my heart for 19 years. Her name was Vesta. This is a picture I took of her about 4 years ago when she was a spry 15 years old. This past November she became ill and did not bounce back as she had done before. I was with her and holding her when she was put down on November 19th. A part of her will live in my heart forever.

I am so grateful for all of the animals in my life.

Until next week.….

On The Road To A Gala

Yes, it’s the season. The season for parties and galas and celebrations and such. Of course it is a way to come together and congratulate each other for all of the hard work everyone has done during the past year.

It’s also a way to raise money for various organizations. Having spent many years in the Social Work profession, I knew there were always long lists of non‐profit agencies that do good work. This time of year they need our help.

That’s why I was honored when Sasha Dela asked me if I would consider donate a piece of collage art work for the Children at Risk 30th Annual Gala. I know Sasha because she is a local artist and teaches collage among other classes at the Art League of Houston. I learned much from her class and was happy to donate two of my collage artworks for the gala.

If you haven’t heard of Children at Risk, it is a research and advocacy nonprofit that works for improving the quality of life for Texas’ children.

Here are some of the art works that were up for bids at the Gala. The first picture is one by Sasha Dela:

The bottom picture shows one of the collage pieces that I contributed.

Everyone was bidding and raising lots of money for the good work done by this agency. I didn’t stay until the end, so I don’t know exactly how much money was raised. However, a good time was had by all.

If you would like to donate money, get involved, or just learn more about Children at Risk, you can go to their website at childrenatrisk.org.

Happy Holidays!

Until next week.….

The Road To Being Amazed

Go past the moon and turn left down the hallway,” were the directions I was given.

I looked into the face of the nice lady who spoke those words to me and replied, “And you are probably the only person on the planet who can give directions like that.”

I was at the Houston Museum of Natural Science for “The Art of the Brick” exhibit by artist Nathan Sawaya. This is the picture that is shown in most advertisements for the exhibit. I wasn’t sure where the exhibit was in the museum so I was told to go past the “Moon” exhibit by Luke Jerram. As you may have guessed there is a giant Moon hanging from the ceiling. I first saw this exhibit several weeks ago, but it was still impressive to walk past just the same.

Then my Dear Friend and I arrived at “The Art of the Brick” which is essentially art work created with Legos. Yes, you read that correctly, Legos. I must admit, my expectations were warm at best. Dear Friend is an engineer and has had a life long excitement for anything that you can use to build and create. I thought I would be amused at all of the bright colors.

Was I ever wrong! Before you get to enter the exhibit you watch a short video with the artist explaining himself. I won’t give you any spoilers, but I found Sawaya’s motivations and inspirations for his work quite interesting. Then we entered the exhibit.

It begins mildly enough with some Lego representations of famous works of art. Of course my favorite is The Scream. Some of the works are 2‐D, some are 3‐D, and some are life size. This is almost the look I had on my face as I began to let the artistry around me sink in, but my look was from amazement rather than from distress.

After touring the first room, then you get to see the pieces that fascinated me the most. What absolutely amazed me was the fact that the artist was able to evoke such emotions. Here are three examples:

These are just a few examples. If you have not taken the time to go see this exhibit, then please stop reading now and go.

At the end of the exhibit is a room where the kiddos can play with the Legos themselves. Be careful walking through this room, because there may be a few Legos pieces on the floor.

Of course what is a visit to the Museum of Natural Science without strolling through Hermann Park? My Dear Friend and I decided to stroll around the duck pond. We were serenaded by this friendly and vocal group of water birds that included several geese and one duck. A variation on the theme of “duck, duck, goose” maybe? If you have never been serenaded by a group of geese, then your life is still missing something. Apparently this group has received much positive attention from the humans strolling through the park and they are not shy about showing off.

If you have not stopped reading by now, I will again strongly suggest that you get yourself to Hermann Park now. Go now while the weather is cool and sunny.

You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

Going Down the Road of Silver Linings

I am now a member of the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA). All this year they have been celebrating their Silver 25th Anniversary. Along with several other writers and poets, I was asked to write either a poem or an essay on the topic of “Silver”. Here is what I wrote and read at the monthly meeting tonight. I apologize in advance that I have no pictures to go with this personal essay. Just read it and imagine the color “silver”.

A silver anniversary means that 25 years have passed. Surely a silver anniversary involves at least one silver lining. While researching this topic, I found out that I am a Silver surfer. I am a senior citizen who surfs the internet. Who knew that had a name?

Twenty‐five years ago, 1994 (the year Wivla began) was the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. No, I wasn’t there. I was only 12 years old at the time. But I watched it on the nightly news. I read about it in the newspaper. I was fascinated. Three days of peace, love and music and so many hippies showing the rest of us how to live in harmony with each other. A lot of cool silver jewelry, which I still like today. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to go to such a music happening.

By the time I was actually old enough for Woodstock, the culture had changed. Music made the switch from the Beatles singing that “All you need is Love” to KC and the Sunshine Band singing “Shake your booty”. Morally it was quite the let down, but I put on my best 1970s wardrobe with my platform shoes and danced with my friends. And, yes, our dances were called things like “The Bump” and “The Hustle”. If you don’t remember how goofy some of those dances were, I dare you to look them up on YouTube. By the end of this decade, Saturday Night Fever showed on the silver screens of movie theaters.

During the 1980’s I turned 25 years old while living in Houston and working at a basic office job for your basic oil company. I wore business suits with shoulder pads and pumps on my feet. I walked the streets of downtown Houston and saw men in three piece suits, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats…in the middle of July. I went to the disco with my friends and we all wanted to dance like Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance, (or at least her body double dancer), but we didn’t. Not even close, I’m afraid.

By the 1990s, I had switched careers and become a Social Worker. I worked at a psychiatric hospital and transitional living facility before hiring on with Harris County. Musically, Whitney Houston was singing I Will Always Love You and My Love is Your Love. Pretty music and easy to dance to. On the silver screen she starred in the movie The Body Guard. Beck recorded a song called Loser and Nirvana recorded Smells Like Teen Spirit. Neither was danceable to me. Snoop Dog was a silver‐tongued rapper. It took me a long time to appreciate rap music. I was in my late 30’s…..was I beginning to get old? In 1994, again the year WiVLA began, Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. Of those 90’s musicians I listed, Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Michael Jackson met tragic endings. Lisa Marie still rocks on. I listen to Beck who is still writing songs and performing. The last time I saw Snoop Dog, he was hosting a game show and is BFF’s with Martha Stewart. Go figure.

Now it is 2019. It is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. During this decade I retired from being a Social Work Administrator for Harris County after 25 years. I was given a gold and silver watch for my troubles. I have my own silver hair. Beyonce showed women how to rule the world. Shakira’s hips didn’t lie and Pink got the party started. I now listen to a lot of classic rock music on Sirius radio. I also listen to the band Imagine Dragons, because they’re RadioActive and that makes me feel “Cool”. However, I think the fact that I am still using the word, “cool” means I’m probably not. I’m now a member of WiVLA. For the next 25 years I look forward to being a full time writer, a part time visual artist and an ongoing member of the WiVLA community. Now that’s what I call a silver lining.

Until next week.….