A Bag, A Man, A Card

To live well, we must see.

But some days, life demands listening, too.

Consider yesterday.

At the grocery store, I laid my blue recycled bag onto the short conveyor belt. Beneath the bag scooted a pair of soup jars, cornbread muffins and bananas, plus a bag of greens. Dinner.

I turned to my purse. On the phone, I tapped the grocery app then reached for my wallet. I heard a male voice and looked up.

The checkout person — millennial, I assumed — repeated his question, “you like books?”

I smiled.

Compadre! I love when this happens!

Love them actually.” I shook my head, wondering why he had asked me the question. He held up my bag, returned my smile.

My grin broadened. His friendly blue eyes returned kinship. On the conveyor belt, his hands slowed. Both palms now clutched the bag of greens as if they offered secret treasure. I looked to my left. A growing line behind me. Here we go.

I write books, too,” I said and, without pausing for his acknowledgment, volunteered, “My first novel, it’s in progress. Agents awaiting completion.”

Really?” his eyes alit with new interest. “What’s it about?”

My mind raced. What do I tell this reader about a book targeted at older women, female readers who’ve lived longer lives than his, many who’ve raised children and worked for older versions of himself? 

A brain flash. Elevator pitch then the blog. I sped‐talked through my novel plot then soared to here, the RoadBroads blog. I was on the road here at the grocery store.

You might check out my blog.”

He cocked an eyebrow. My left hand clawed through my purse, scrounging for a RoadBroads business card. Holding one aloft like an envious prize, I elevator‐pitched the blog.

(An explanation for non‐writers: an elevator pitch equals a short summary of a story‐in‐progress. The concept riffs off the image of a writer and agent riding an elevator together, giving the former only a few quick floors to tell her entire novel to the latter.)

Mr. Checkout took my card and listened to my generous pitch. WIth kind eyes and matching generosity.

In our brief exchange, he taught me much.

When you listen, you see people, discover opportunity, and, sometimes, find a fellow reader.

Translation: listening builds Life.

Plus, we’re never too old to learn.


A day later, I wonder: did the grocery store exchange begin with my t‐shirt? Pardon the sloppy selfie but consider the sentiment.

Like listening, words matter, too. Now. More than Ever.

Election Day Art Stroll

On election day while so many people were standing in line waiting to vote or working at the polls or watching the election news on television, I decided to take an Art Stroll. I had already voted and done everything I could do as far as campaign efforts. Watching the news was just making me nervous and stressed. I needed some self‐care and relaxation. As always, one of the best ways for me to stay calm and centered is to surround myself with art.

Lucky for me Wivla (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) had an exhibition called Shape at the Downtown Houston Library. Visual art was combined with the written word. Artists and writers combined forces give their impressions of Space via paintings, poems, collage, short essays, and mixed media. I believe this exhibition will be on display through December.

As it turns out I recognized the names of several women writers and artists who were a part of this exhibition. Here is a mixed media piece by Sharon Bippus. Her piece deals with Space as it pertains to family and generations of relatives.

I took the following picture of a group of works in this exhibition. When I looked at it later I noticed that I had included the painting in the upper right corner that was created by artist, Josena Arquieta, who has a studio in the Silos at Sawyer Yards. She is a very talented artist I met in the Women in Art class I have been taking at the Glassell School of Art. I look forward to seeing more of her work during one of the upcoming Second Saturdays at Sawyer Yards.

After strolling through this exhibit at the Houston Library, I traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts. I wanted to see the exhibit of the British Royal Family. I especially enjoyed the following pictures.

I loved this one of Queen Elizabeth with Ann Richards who was the Governor of Texas in the early 1990s. The Governor was hosting a party for the Queen here in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Ann Richards was always self‐assured and projected a strong independent persona whenever she was in public. She also had a great sense of humor.

Of course the Queen remains a very powerful woman herself. Throughout the exhibit it was interesting to see how the various portraits of her have shown her over the years.

I especially liked this picture of Queen Elizabeth. It’s not the typical portrait where she is sitting down looking elegantly regal. There is a real strength in this picture that is not always shown in her day to day duties.

This exhibit will remain on display until late January 2019, I enjoyed it so much that I strolled through it twice and may go back again.

By the time I had made my way through all of the works by local women artists and the pictures of strong women rulers and leaders, it was time travel home. I was in a much better frame of mind and ready to take however the election results turned out.

Until next week.….….…..

On the Radio Road

The glory of a road trip is its implied permission to slow down and see.

Even quickies allow a glance of both.

First, I beg your advance forgiveness. This post is intensely personal.

Yesterday involved a quickie trip, four hours by car north to Kilgore, a small east Texas town near the Louisiana state line. There, at the Texas Broadcasting Museum, DH joined 17 other inductees into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

Big honor, big deal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dQtG38hfjw

This first‐ever RoadBroads video is worth your viewing time. Objective? Of. Course. Not.

Truthfully, 55 years’ work in one industry—radio and television—across four states and six cities merits celebration. In today’s world, where do you find that kind of dedicated work and unending passion? 

Our present‐day rush‐rush‐rush world celebrates the opposite: speed and superficial over slow and deep. The 240‐mile drive forced me to experience the latter.

The heavy blanket of morning fog hovered across fields that resembled where I grew up. Those Texas Panhandle wheat fields told me to leave. Now they spoke of memory rising in solitude.

The mist of this slow Saturday sunrise, sight offered hope, oddly.

Afternoon and a drive back home to Houston changed the view. A different kind of hope.

Something about the sun insistent on cracking with light, Cohen‐like. Clouds. Breakthrough. More hope.

I smiled, understanding unnecessary.

In between these trip bookends, the day became a trip down memory lane. Like DH, I worked in radio/TV news in a previous life. We used equipment like this every hour on the hour. We dubbed it The Board.

Translation: it’s one piece of equipment, used in the dark ages (aka ‘70s to early ‘90s) of radio to communicate with listeners like you. Standing before The Board in a now‐silent control room , my fingers twitched at my sides. Ancient muscle memory reactivated. Palms flattened against my thighs. My mind returned, smiling at the The Board, to the studio in Pampa—or was it Lubbock? Austin? Houston?

I backtimed to meet the network clean. Fingers hovered above the cart’s green “start” button, right thumb flat against the mic lever ready to go live, bladder squeezing tight for an overdue break, and lips ready to pronounce another station ID: “KPDN, Pampa, Texas. 740 AM on your radio dial. It’s eleven o’clock.” 

I swear I heard the station jingle in my ear, through non‐existent head phones. My mouth even whispered the time. In my memory, the network sounder blended in and the join was clean. “Yes!” I whispered.

Later, I saw these rabbit ears atop the now‐tiny‐looking television. Do you remember?

Change rules. Then and now, it always has. Even when we don’t like it.

Perhaps we can embrace that truth, beginning with slowing down. Going deep.

Seeing. Remembering. Celebrating.

Special memories. Special days. Special people.

Breaking RoadBroad News

Change is good. Especially when it involves the RoadBroads.

We’re growing. Ergo, a new tagline created for our blog:

Women writers. Ordinary journeys. Extraordinary stories.

Check out the look on our first official blog business card:

That view offers only half the story. Flip the card and you’ll find the full color, glossy image. Recognize that logo? The bonus on this side? Your favorite blogger’s name sitting in the upper right‐hand corner.

This image actually shows our individual business cards stacked as one long piece of paper. A certain blogger has yet to figure out how to split .pdf images in WordPress. Sort of like her problem with blog pictures overall.

C’est le vie: so much to learn. 

I’m never bored. Grateful.

Next step in our blog growth is to “seed” these cards. The concept comes from authors placing their books in locations where potential readers (ahem, make that translation = fans, buyers, etc.) will find them. 

I call the best seed sites discovery places. Possibilities include:

- Coffee shops

- Airport terminals

- Bookstores

- Women’s stores 

Other ideas? I’d love to hear! After all, we’ve got two big ol’ boxes of these beauts to spread far, wide, high, and low. Think I’m joking?

Six months post‐blog launch (to the day — love that unplanned synchronicity!), we RoadBroads aim for a bigger world. We expand our reach. After all, what awaits us — roads to travel, women writers to meet and greet, adventures to relive here with you. 

Who knows what comes next?

To See or Not to See

It only took 34 years. To need a new front windshield for my car.

Blame four rocks smashing into my windshield. A trio in the past month alone. Could that be a record in America’s fourth largest city?

Years? Rocks? Days? All smacking into a single pane of auto glass?

It’s repaired now but I wonder how long this perfection will last. I considered not replacing the windshield at all. With my recent track record, was it worth it?

Consider another factor.

It’s been a spring, summer, and fall for endless car repairs. New tires. New brakes. New shocks. New struts. Restored air conditioning.

Traveling nearly three thousand miles across three states, plus mountain driving in summer heat, would impact anything and anyone. Add to that 60K miles acquired across seven years in Houston’s humidity atop her pothole‐laced freeways.

Besides, every car needs routine maintenance. Even more results from the adventures of a committed RoadBroad who must venture out weekly to gather her blog posts.

But this kind of cash makes for a hard swallow. These repairs exceed 16 months of car payments. What I completed four years ago.

I wanted to leave the windshield as it was. Ugly, yes. But it’s only glass. Ugly, ugly glass.

Look for yourself.

See the jagged crack on the lower left? Swing your eyes to the far right. Spy the dot of pebbled glass? That’s the Hillcroft rock.

Out of range are the remaining pair of cracks. The worst split the windshield’s top quadrant like a boxer’s uppercut.

I felt confident of my do‐nothing approach. Then the heavy rains came.

Caught in a blinding downpour, the freeway’s dotted lines vanished before my eyes. I white‐knuckled the steering wheel and glued my eyes to the roadway, bird‐dogging for other blinded drivers. The windshield began to mock me. Its four cracks widened, expanding, before my terrified eyes.

It’s expensive to be a RoadBroad, I decided. New windshield got fitted two days later.

Meaning‐Me decided to reframe the issue.

Maybe now you’re free. To see clear and clean the road that lies before you.

Then my eyes whispered, reminding me of July’s summer laser surgery. A sudden onslaught racked them, too. It was a bout with spider vision, aka PVD. That’s short for Posterior Vitreous Detachment, a common, surprise malady afflicting the post‐60 crowd. A second whisper chimed.

New glass. New eyes. New view.

When I hear my inner voice(s) whisper like this, I listen. Even if it’s woo‐woo. Or simply mental. Who cares?

Now I can see.

I’m ready for the road.

When Old Becomes New

A delightful discovery this morning: three new trees planted along my daily walk path.

The sight stopped me in a near‐stumble. I jerked my head to the left, staring before snapping this once‐in‐a‐walk image.

Questions pounded my brain walls:

How long have these oak sprouts been here?

What made our tree police suddenly shout “Green!”

Did last week’s U.N. climate change report finally awaken city fathers?

Perhaps you remember the breath‐stopping removal of four trees from this same walkway last summer.

A mid‐July lightning bolt had zapped one oak tree, splitting it in two. It was a beautiful, natural strike. Destructive natural art remained. Tears followed.

Suburbia struck back in a wood frenzy, removing four trees in response to Mother Nature’s single zap. Where I live, we don’t remove damage. We play Whack A Tree. To ensure nothing stands in weather’s way, we haul in the Big Equipment and ground down the leftovers - all the way down to nuttin’, baby. 

In my new man‐made walking ground, I sought, and found, a gift: Starfish Bevo. See it/him? A horizontal figure on the right up there. Oak ground bits resembling quinoa. My new morning breakfast?

For weeks, I checked my little tree star every day. Then New Normal became Sidewalk Path. I forgot Loss.

Imagine my glee this morning as I stumbled onto this New New Normal.

Upon looking closer, my smile broadened.

Starfish Quinoa has a buddy. Shade.

Mornings like this urge me outdoors every dawn. Five mile walk, six a‐m start. 2372 walks since April, 2012. Yes, I counted.

I walk daily to remain healthy.

Today reminded me of a second reason: to see. When I opened my eyes — really opened them — I saw new life and second chances. 

Right around the corner surrounding a trifecta of trees.

How personal, meaningful can a little daily walk become?

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

This is a snippet of a song that I learned years ago when I attended a women’s camping trip in the Texas Hill Country. I don’t remember who wrote it or when it was written. This is all I remember of the song, but I think about this every Halloween. Actually it is my interest in women’s history; including the history of witches and the Salem Witch Trials that has really sparked my interest in Halloween for many years. Anyone who is invited over to my house around October 31st gets my lecture on how witches were persecuted women. Yes, back in the old days (Really.…old days.…days even older than me!) women were subjected to torture and hanging if the local cow’s milk went bad or farmer Brown’s crops didn’t grow. Many women were killed because of the suspicions of others. I wish I had a broomstick I could ride around on today. Not only would it be better than Houston traffic, but maybe it would solve my fear of flying in planes!

Of course one would hope that after that dark period in history, humanity would evolve. However, please tell me if you have ever heard of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Mary Ann Evans, Karen Blixen, or Joanne Rowling? They are all women writers. Maybe you are familiar with their pseudonyms; George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen and J. K. Rowling. Even Louisa May Alcott started her writing career by publishing under the name of A. M. Barnard.

 Back in the day, women had a lot of trouble getting published. It was easier to write using a male pseudonyms or initials so the reader could not tell the author was a woman. It would be nice to say that this was not the case any longer. Alice Mary Norton died in 2006 having spent a career writing science fiction and fantasy works under the name of Andre Norton. One of her works was called Witch World.

Women artists have also had their troubles. There was a time when women weren’t allowed in art academies or art guilds. They were sometimes seen as mentally ill because of their avant garde life styles and independent natures. Sometimes they were merely shunned, because they were too different from those in polite society. One sculptor, Camille Claudel, spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum in France because her mother and overly religious brother kept her in the asylum and wouldn’t allow her to return home.

I love almost any form of art. I love taking the art history class at the Glassell, Women in Art. I also love to write. Do these facts make me a witch or does this make me crazy? No, that’s not a trick question and I won’t put a spell on you if I don’t like your answer. (Probably.) I have been called a strong and independent woman; which I consider a compliment.

Consider the image below:

Do you think this is a picture of a male figure or a female figure? How can you tell? How does sexual identity change your impression of this critter? Does it make a difference in how scary this image is?

Halloween gives me so much to think about every year. I review my list of positive female role models and hope that I have been a positive role model to some of the women in my world.

Until next time.….….….

A Rose is a Rose is a … Story!

The sun‐kissed white rose lay abandoned in the red‐hot seat of the grocery cart.

What came first?

Did its buyer choose to leave the gift my DH had just handed to me?

Or was it a senior DH who forgot the present for his/her love?

And so began Story Time, Round 543,928 between DH and me.

Yes, we play this game a lot. And we’ve been together 34 years.

It was weekly road trip for groceries. The two of us: me, the RoadBroad, and him, well, I’ll call him RoadDude for this post. After all, you’ll be hearing more of him as these posting adventures continue.

As I locked the car, I saw DH/RoadDude (this is going to get complicated) grab a grocery cart. Then he stopped and pulled back. Turning toward me, he pointed inside the cart.

The two of us froze and stared at the orphaned flower. It lay there with such strength. It radiated an odd, quiet solemnity. How does a rose gain that power?

It was then I noticed its head — the flowery part — was flat. As if it’d been smashed.

DH read my mind.

They left it because it got ruined,” he said.

No, they forgot,” I responded and went on, “because it was an old guy and he had an attack of some‐timers.”

In RoadDude’s big brown eyes, I spied a sparkle. I knew what was coming.

Tall Tales of Creative Riffing. Our favorite game.

His turn, first: “No, he accidentally put the sack of potatoes on the flower and when he saw it flattened up, he said ‘well, she’ll just have to get over no roses for her birthday.”

My response: “Or he’s back at home, looking for his anniversary gift to her and he keeps saying, ‘I know I picked up a white rose for you, darling.’ And she smiles gently at him, her eyes filling with tears and pats his hand. His eyes well up as he repeatedly apologizes for no flowers for their 65th.”

Him: “Maybe he bought it to leave for us, a Saturday Pay‐It‐Forward action. No why needed.”

Me: “And we found it. I like that one. You win!”

I reached in to the cart, picked up the rose, and said, “Here’s your prize!”

We both laughed and returned the flower back to its original perch, leaving it for the next couple to story‐time their find.

I’d like to believe my writer fantasy came true.

Who knows the real story of how a long‐stemmed yellowed white rose, wrapped in an empty grocery sack and tied off with navy blue ribbon, came to be in an abandoned grocery cart in Texas?

The truth doesn’t matter. What does is the possibilities for play, storytelling, a wee bit of magic on another ordinary day.

How about you? Do you play the storytelling game on errand day?

Best part of this game?

No wrong answers!

Sage Offerings, Post‐Parking Rage

Reader’s Note: No pictures accompany this post. You’ll soon discern why. 

She flew into my orbit from nowhere, like a bumblebee soaring on wings of rage.

Jabbing her rigid index finger toward me, she stabbed the air. Over and over.

I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.

Excuse me? What’s your problem, lady? I do something to you? I just parked my car. 

We stood—two women, strangers, facing off in a strip center parking lot. I had 20 minutes to kill and she appeared ready to oblige.

I stood outside my car, the driver’s door offering partial shield.

She stood perhaps ten feet away but taller, elevated on the sidewalk. I shrunk back.

Her dark eyes dissolved into black bullets. They fired at me rat-a-tat-tat—a hundred thousand bits of metaphorical ammo—aimed on the perfect horizontal. Target: my car, body, and spirit.

Pure instinct made my body dodge right, shoulder and arm tucking into my car’s door frame. My right foot moved into the car as if bracing for future impact. I said nothing.

Calm. What the..? No. Breathe. Let her talk as she can. Calm. Breathe. She’ll explain soon.

The longer I remained silent, the angrier her face became. Eyes tightened to pinpricks. Face squashed, raisin‐like. Lips darkened to brown‐bloody, a passionate underline.

In reaction, my eyes and lips squinted as I looked deeper into her. But, in my chest, wild fear ran amok. My heart thundered. Life‐threatening beat. My brain scrambled to stay ahead of her emotion. Brute willpower forced my lips to soften.

Show no judgment. Only listen. No mirroring anger. Cool. Take quiet charge. Calm.

You took my space,” she yelled, her voice knifing my inner dialogue to silence.

Excuse me?” I answered in my easiest, be‐the‐adult‐here voice.

You pulled in front of me,” she said in a near scream, finger jabbing harder into the space between us. Did she fear my attention had disappeared?

She leaned toward me, jerking full forward at the waist and leaning over the curb. “I was waiting over there,” she pointed to her left, “ready to pull in and park but you swung in and took my place.”

A cacophony of words flooded my brain. Willpower stood up, tall.

Two roads here, kiddo. Challenge. Or back off. Latter. Go.

I walked around my open car door, exposing my unprotected body to her. She glared back, eye bullets still flying. I broke the stare, looked where she had pointed earlier. Her red car sat diagonally parked two spaces away, resting illegally in a handicapped parking space. The car’s hazard lights blinked with manic urgency.

Clarity landed.

I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, my voice gaining strength. “I didn’t see you. I saw the open space, pulled in, and never saw your red car. I apologize.”

I repeated myself.

As I talked, the woman’s face relaxed, eyes now simmering brown, lips relaxing into the hint of a smile. The air between us thawed. I repeated my apology. Calming mantra, round three.

She dropped her eyes to the sidewalk then raised them, gazing almost soft. Her smile widened, filling her face. One question popped up.

Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life? 

I moved my car and entered the coffee shop. The woman sat in her car—in my old parking space—and texted on her phone.

I wonder what story she told and what she learned.

My learnings?

I can defuse stranger rage.

Plus: choosing peacemaker and sucker‐upper aces throwing temper tantrums and threatening body blows.

It’s been a good week here.

I hope the same for her.

Saturday Morning with Friends

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. What the heck was going on? When was the last time I actually set an alarm clock for 6:00 a.m. with the intention of getting up so early? I hit the snooze button at least twice.

Then I remembered. I had a very important appointment to keep this morning. After a quick cup of coffee I was off down the road to visit the Elephants at the Houston Zoo!

The Zoo sponsored this Elephant Encounter which took place in the morning before the Zoo opened to the general public. I have been enamored with elephants since I read the book When Elephants Weep back in the
early 80s.

We started off outside where we admired the beautiful creatures. We met the staff who care the animals on a daily basis. It is obvious that they are very fond of their four‐legged friends


While we watched, one elephant painted a picture and another lifted her feet so they could be inspected by the keeper.

The elephant that drew the most attention was Tess who is approximately 3 months old. Have no fear, Mom was standing very close by. Whenever Tess tried to wander away and explore on her own, Mom would take her trunk, grab Tess by the tail and pull her back to the safety of maternal presence. This did not seem to deter Tess’s desires to wander and kept Mom quite busy while other animals were engaged with the keepers. This technique has been adopted by human mothers. While walking around the zoo after the general public was admitted, I observed several children in harnesses being tugged by protective moms. I hope the human children had as much fun as Tess seemed to have.

After a brief lecture and demonstration of husbandry skills, we went inside to see where the elephants are cared for behind the scenes. Much goes into enriching the lives of these fine animals. Any training of the animal is focused on what will help the humans care for these animals. There were no circus tricks for entertainment. Only skills that will assist in caring for the elephants.

Then we were led out to an area where the elephants get bathed and we saw a demonstration. Since it had been very rainy in Houston for the past couple of weeks, the elephants had enjoyed the cool mud in their enclosure. The elephant even knelt down so that the keeper could wash his back. Once the elephant was all clean, then we were allowed to pet this beauty. I asked one of the keepers if the animal minded this much interaction. I was assured that the elephant was enjoying this, because of the added snacks and attention.

This was the first time for me to pet an elephant. The skin was softer than I had imagined it would be, like a fine leather. Standing next to the elephant was a humbling experience for me. I was dwarfed by even one of the smaller elephants.

I am very grateful to the Houston Zoo for this fun and enriching experience.

I dare say it was even worth getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the journey.

Until next week.…..