Coffee!

In a few weeks, I am going to have surgery. Nothing too serious, but it will hopefully have a very positive impact on my life. There’s just one problem. In order to do this, I have to stop drinking coffee.

WHAT??? STOP DRINKING COFFEE??? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???

Coffee. The elixir of life. The joy of my every morning. Sigh.

No, I don’t have to give it up forever, but for a little while. Since I don’t want to go through a caffeine withdrawal headache, I am weaning myself off of the bliss that is java. By now the coffee I am drinking is weak enough that I can see through it. Just about ready to move over to green tea. Oh, woe is me!

Having been raised in the South, I have a long‐standing friendship with caffeine. I was weaned on Coca Cola. Drank it every day in my youth. Iced Tea was the drink of choice with every supper. No, I did not drink sweet tea. I put my own sugar in my tea and stirred it and stirred it until my arm got tired.

I made the move to coffee sometime in high school. It was the 1970s and I can still see Joe DiMaggio in one of his many Mr. Coffee commercials. What? You don’t remember the Mr. Coffee commercials? Please take a moment now and go to YouTube where you will find several. I’ll wait until you come back.

In college I remember many a night going to a local diner with friends to talk and drink coffee until the wee hours of the morning. Study sessions in the dorm also required numerous “cups of Joe”.

By the time I became a working adult in the 1980s, I was drinking about a pot of coffee a day and smoking two packs of cigarettes. I was actually delusional enough back then to think that I was a laid back “Type B” personality. I know much better now. Lucky for me, I gave up the cigarettes a couple of decades ago. Coffee has remained my friend. I drink it black with a little sweetener. I no longer use sugar. Sometimes I will treat myself with a mocha coffee. Oftentimes chocolate can be just as sacred as coffee and the combination will fill my soul with exultation!

Oh, I have given up coffee at least twice in my life. Whenever I did this.….Time Stood Freakin’ Still. The earth literally slowed down in her rotations and felt like it was going to roll away into the universe. What do non‐caffeinated persons do with all of their extra time? I really have no idea.

Like I said earlier, this will be a temporary separation. I am already looking forward to having surgery behind me so I can drink my coffee in peace once again.

One last note: Here is a picture of the artist, Leslie Gaworecki and the picture she painted for Color:Story 2019 based on my essay called “Transitions”. Many thanks to both Leslie and Marlo Saucedo for coordinating this evening and preparing such wonderful works of art. Also, many thanks to those of you who were able to join us. There was a large crowd and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Until next week.….….

COLOR:STORY 2019

It’s here! It’s finally here! The opening for COLOR:STORY 2019 happens this Saturday! The Houston Press is calling it a “can’t miss” art exhibition.

COLOR:STORY 2019 is a wonderful combination of art and writing. This is yet another example of the fact that creativity cannot be pigeonholed in any one specific medium or genre.

To create this event artists Leslie Gaworecki and Marlo Saucedo asked local writers to submit poems and essays. The works of 17 different writers were chosen. Then paintings were created based on the inspiration received from the written words.

For the Exhibition Opening all of the writers will have the opportunity to read their poems and essays. What a great opportunity to share work with anyone who wants to come to look, listen and enjoy!

I am very excited to take my place in this exhibition! I feel honored to be a part of this wonderful creative event.

I hope that you can join me Saturday evening, January 12th for COLOR:STORY 2019. The location will be The Silos at Sawyer Yards located at 1502 Sawyer Street, Gallery 200, from 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m.

If you need directions, please Google The Silos at Sawyer Yards where you will be able to find a map.

And just in case this news hasn’t excited you enough.…..here is a picture of Hannah the cat. She won’t be able to join us at The Silos on Saturday, but she is very busy helping me prepare. A very important job indeed!

I look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday!

Stuck? Try Constraints

For the first time in our 30‐year history, DH and I low‐balled our gift exchange.

$30 apiece on each other.

Why the limit?

Boredom? Familiarity? Fixed income? Seasonal stress?

A numbers thing: $30 for 30 years?

But that anniversary isn’t until next December. And we’re not early partiers.

What answered was this: time for something different.

And so, DH gained Sherlock socks plus a World Travel Book for Kids.

Nirvana for a retired kid with a travel‐hungry Holmes heart.

He gifted Springsteen’s Broadway concert CD plus colored pencils and word puzzles.

Music for a writer’s ears while filling in word clues with 48 different hues.

The deliberate, inexpensive gift exchange has, in less than two weeks, ascended to status as Most Memorable Holiday Ever.

Why?

We forced ourselves to think outside the box. Which, unwittingly, drop‐kicked us into another one. Whoever hears ‘think inside the box’? 

With four hard walls around our gift‐giving, we surrendered dollars and expectation to creativity and consideration.

Overwrought, over‐priced shopping expeditions sit in the ash‐heap of our coupled past. Thank god!

Now, it’s simplicity, fun, and creativity—in all presents. And presence.

Constraints: they’re as clever as you make them.

Like a < 200‐word blog post.

First ever.

Rhapsodic Creativity!

Rhapsody in Blue. What a treat! This weekend I am going to hear the Houston Symphony perform George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

This has been one of my favorite songs for as long as I can remember. I remember seeing it performed during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. I remember hearing it in one of Woody Allen’s movies (you know.….back when he was funny?) It was even included in the Disney movie, Fantasia 2000.

Not bad for a piece of music that was originally written in 1924. At that time it was considered modern music, because it was one of the (if not the) first times jazz music was combined with classical music. It was seen as a way to introduce popular jazz music to the more refined high‐brow symphony crowd. It begins with a “wailing” clarinet and includes both a piano solo and a symphony orchestra. It was an immediate success.

In musical terms the word “rhapsody” means a piece of music written in one movement with a free flowing structure and a range of highly contrasted moods. Not being a musician, I spent years thinking this was a piece of music about ecstatic enthusiasm. I think both definitions work.

Blue is a favorite color for many people. It is the color of the sky and of the sea. Both of these are limitless in their range, depth and possibilities. Many think of blue as a peaceful and tranquil color. When you have a dear and trusted friend, you think of them as “true blue”.

What a wonderful combination of words to use as a musical title!

Here is an interesting fact to know and share: Part of George Gershwin’s inspiration for this music came from riding a train. The sound of the train inspired parts of the melody. I read a quote where he stated that he “heard” the melody in the sounds made by the train. What others on the train may have heard as noise, he heard as music.

Isn’t this what creative people do? Musicians hear music everywhere. Writers hear stories and plots in every day life. Artists see shapes and colors everywhere they look. This is what I like about being a creative person and a writer. I am never bored. If I find myself stuck in a place whether I am happy, uncomfortable, relaxed or unhappy, I can always look around and start developing stories in my head. The most recent character I have started developing during a process just like this is named Mr. Meringue. He should show up in a short story real soon.

I must close now. I have to get ready for the Houston Symphony, George Gershwin and Rhapsody in Blue!

Until next week.….….…

Magic, Not Resolutions

We say it once every 365 days.

Happy New Year!

What we forget is what else is true every January 1st.

It’s also Happy New Day!

And Happy New Week!

And Happy New Month!

Four times to thrill at a new start.

Next year, we’ll add a fifth: Happy New Decade!

It wasn’t that long ago that some of us celebrated Happy New Century and tag‐teamed with Happy New Millennium, too.

Why do we make only one of these happy proclamations then repeat it year after year, too? Are we numb to what the words really mean? Or could mean?

Photo copyright Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX.

Odd questions follow an otherworldly afternoon.

DH and I experienced the profound New Year’s Day Crystal Bowl Meditation at Houston’s Rothko Chapel. Neither words nor a singular photo can ever fully encompass this sacred space.

Multiply the mysticism by imagining people of all ages and types sitting on every bench with others camped on the floor on yoga mats and meditation cushions. Others crowd in quietly, filling the space at insistence to hear soul‐speaking chimes.

Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga offered gentle guidance as harmonies rang out from crystal bowls arranged in the chapel’s center. From the chimes came a year’s intention for release, recovery, resilience, and renewal.

An hour later, DH and I emerged to the glory that is Barnett Newman’s incomparable Broken Obelisk. The reflection of Newman’s sculpture in the Rothko’s pool is only part of its charm.

The art honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, ironically, our nation will honor two weeks from today.

Synchronicity roars. 

Today also marks the New Year’s Day birth of Irish writer Maria Edgeworth in 1768. Praised by Jane Austen, the British‐born Edgeworth was noted for her ground‐breaking innovation to the novel form. She also issued an ahead‐of‐her‐time clarion call for women’s rights and children’s education plus pithy and comedic social and political observations.

Edgeworth penned the novel Ormond, a title only one letter removed from my already unusual surname.

Synchronicity returns. 

How did I not know of this woman writer before? She’s so prescient that quotes from her 1795 Letters for Literary Ladies were recycled by 1960‐era feminists in America.

Edgeworth also penned this quote: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

Comforting words on this New Year’s Day. A sort of centering prayer.

As are the words of noted American author Neil Gaiman: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.…I hope you read some fine books…Don’t forget to write…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I’ll merge the wisdom of Edgeworth and Gaiman to craft my own vision for the new year: caring moments in 12 gentle months laced with magical dreams and self‐surprises, topped off with a dollop of healthy madness, all in service of full‐time storytelling and a life fully lived every day.

Four intentions of projects to embody, complete, and present by this time next New Year’s Day.

You heard it here first.

What’s your vision to surprise yourself?

Through The Wormhole

I wasn’t going to write anything else about the holidays. I had done that topic. However, I had such a surreal experience, I just have to share.

This RoadBroad hit the road again. It has always been my tradition to go out of town over Christmas to avoid all of the holiday doings. I go somewhere where I can escape, relax, read, write, and contemplate.

This year I decided to go to Galveston. At least I think I went to Galveston. However, while driving down the freeway I must have turned left into a wormhole somewhere and landed in a parallel universe that pretended to be Earth, but couldn’t have been. Instead of avoiding all the trappings of Christmas, I fell into what looked like a hotel that had been taken over by alien elves and other assorted holly jolly critters. It was an assault on every one of my senses. Christmas music filled every inch of the hotel lobby and outside by the pool and the usually quiet observation deck.

This was the entry way. It looked incredibly festive and harmless at first glance. Lots and lots of trees. But look closer. Look again. To enter the hotel, I had to walk through a literal “Elfin Gauntlet”. Not only were there many elves, but they were all either hanging from the trees or flying through the air. They looked at me as I passed. I tried not to make eye contact. I did not actually see any of them move, but just as I walked past, I thought I saw movement. Quick shadowy movements. They all looked so happy, but in an impish mischievous kind of way.

What they do with you if they should catch you? Fortunately I did not find that out. I can move fast for an old broad.

Once outside the hotel, I found other alien beings pretending to be humans. But, I had my doubts and suspicions. It was 60 degrees outside and these creatures were walking around in bathing suits and bikinis. They floated in steamy water. Were they relaxing or were they being cooked for some future holiday feast?

Escaping the hotel, I ran to the beach. Here I apparently found the winged Overlords who are in charge of this strange planet. They impose strict rules regarding who can access the natural resources. There they stand guard. I did not try to cross into forbidden territory.

Luckily for me, I was able to escape the parallel universe and returned to Houston located on Planet Earth. As always, I thank the nice earthlings who assisted me with house and cat sitting.

Next year I will be more careful in selecting my destination for peace and tranquility. I will be more careful about turning left into wormholes.

After such an adventure, this RoadBroad is home for a while. I hope the alien elves didn’t follow me home!

Until next week!

Writing Chain

Prayer Chain, she called it.

I heard Writer Chain.

How could I not?

Look at its pieces—orange beads, angel wing, spiral, open hand.

Each, aspects of me.

The number four prominent—bead colors, bead types.

Divine Mother rising.

I bought Mary Jane White’s lovely bead work at Kay Kemp’s Holiday Marketplace in the Houston Heights. Upon returning to my writing studio, I laid the chain on my writing desk as you see it here—tucked in a circle and cradled in orange crepe paper as it was handed to me.

Words have flooded out of me since. More, better words than in months. Long‐percolating ideas and stories breathe with new life. Novel scenes possess a depth and weight unimagined at conception. Even scribbles from a novel initiated 15 years ago sparkle with invigorating possibility.

Best: feedback gathered on that writing stuns. (Note to reader: I share these comments begging your advance forgiveness for any perceived narcissism.) Some direct quotes: wow, what are you doing differently? Your writing has improved so much. Your stories flow so well; you’ve really crossed some kind of hurdle. How did you do this? 

I credit the Writer Chain.

Wonder invites pondering: what does chain mean? Words of pain—going dark and negative, a place I often reside—spring forth. Prison, gang, bindings, suffering. Then, Nelson Mandela.

To every yin, there’s yang. Mandela sought, and found, other meaning in his chains. Light to dark.

Perhaps chains serve as bindings, or links, to connect us, one to another. In uncovering those connections, we listen and interpret then discover what might move us forward. Uncover to discover.

Are these links, or chains, the key source for inspiration and progress in our journeys as writers, artists, human beings? How do we connect all the links we find?

Is this ultimately the Circle of Life?

The Lion King, courtesy Elton John’s songwriting wisdom, roars as the season encourages rumination.

I hope the chains, the links, in your life offer you similar inspiration and forward movement. Open your eyes and unclasp your hands. You’ll see chains and links illuminating your path. Little gifts surrounding you, awaiting uncovering.

On your desk. Under a tree.

Maybe take a quick, short road trip.

Only a half hour after I got into my car, I discovered Writer Chain.

I’m forever changed by a piece of art lying on a table awaiting my discovery. With my writing practice now unexpectedly richer than before, my life, too, stands enriched by a marketplace reunion with four wonderful artists—Kay, Mary Jane, Virginia, and Sharon. Thank you, friends.

A final thought for this almost‐over season:

Nothing reveals the truth like six little words on a t‐shirt.

Creativity as Process

Today I had the good fortune to have lunch with two electrical engineers. I mean PhD’s from Rice University genius mentalities that are much smarter than the average bear kind of engineers. One of them was my Dear Friend (DF) and the other one was a friend/business associate of DF.

They are busy creating a company called Northworks Digital Factory, that is all about 3‐D printing. If I were smarter in the ways of engineering, I could explain this better. However, all I can say is they make 3‐D printers and they make things with 3‐D printers. They make art objects for artists and they also make medical devices for various biomedical engineering companies.

SONY DSC

This is one of their 3‐D printers. Don’t ask me how this works. For all I know it runs on Fairy Dust. The important thing is that they know how it works and how to build it. I just look at it all and say something along the lines of, “Oh cool.”

We didn’t spend a lot of time today talking about engineering. What we discussed was creativity and the creative process. How do we look at something or a situation and come up with a solution or a process for making things work.

NASA and the process of working on the Apollo mission to the moon was one segment of discussion. What was attempted could not be done in the time frame that they had. Yet, it was done and we went to the moon several times.

We also talked about story building. What works as a good idea and how to bring that idea to fruition. Have an idea, think about it from all different perspectives, try things out, make some mistakes and learn, and keep moving forward.

Engineering, science, art, writing all involve this creative process. Keep thinking and keep developing ideas. I heard the author Neil Gaiman lecture once. He said that if you want to be a writer, then write. Finish what you are writing. You will learn more from completing a process than looking at something, deciding it sucks, and then start on something else. Once you are done, maybe your project doesn’t suck after all. Gaiman even has a new book out called, Art Matters: Because Imagination Can Change The World. 

A couple of weeks ago I found a perfect example of the creative process at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I was amazed at a collection of pieces made out of gem stones called, Life In Stone. Gerd Dreher made animal carvings from all types of stone. For example, here is an orangutan that was made from one piece of obsidian. I was awed by the intricate lapidary work in this piece with incredible detail of the physical form.

Another animal carving I admired was this peacock. This one animal was made up of 350 pieces of stones such as quartz, tiger eye, agate, and others. Nothing on these animals involves paint. All of the colors come from the stones themselves.

Since I am neither an engineer nor a lapidist, I will continue with my writing. Story ideas are my creative and artistic work. Words are my tools.

Until next week.….….

Rocking B’s

At the entryway to Oyster Creek Park, I spotted them.

Grandmother and granddaughter sitting on a park bench, bonding over books.

The thumbnail photo of this bronze sculpture caught my attention when I scanned Sugar Land’s Public Art brochure. Of the ten such sculptures in the city, this is the only one I really cared to see.

Something about young and old, innocence and wisdom, reading and sharing. And the precious grandchildren in my own life.

When I arrived at the park entrance, I found no hints—maps, signage, arrows, etc.—of where this pair sat.

On instinct, my eyes swept to the ten o’clock position.

How did I know to start at ten? Why not eight, or three or…

Intuition? Silly girl, I thought. Be grateful and walk toward them.

Along the way, I spotted alligators and paint‐can art. A dog learning to frisbee. A baby taking its first steps.

Picture taking and future blog posts. Of course.

As I walked, the bright‐shining sun and a clear blue sky sparkled on my shoulders. Seventy degrees, the phone tells me. Mid‐December? Winter begins in four days?

When I finally stood before the Grandmother and Granddaughter sculpture, B’s assaulted my vision: binoculars. book. bear. backpack. birds. bun. bench. braids. boards. buckles. blouse. buttons.

Twelve in a single shot. Why all the B’s? And why did I notice? Is that what real writers do?

I took a second picture of the sculpture.

Clean shot, I thought.

Only at home do I spot the next B. As in sunBeam.

The ray of sunlight was not there when I snapped the picture. I promise. 

When I saw the light, the word followed: Beam.  

My, that sounds like a song. Or a Bible verse. Egad. I digress.

Back to a photograph. We’re up to a baker’s dozen of B’s.

One final B surfaces as I stare at the image. It’s less obvious, but more special.

Bonding.

What happens when grandmothers and granddaughters Be together.

(Offered with heartfelt apologies to my writing teachers).

And now, we’re up to 15 B’s in a single Blog post.

Oops, that’s 16.

What a day for frisky, frivolous fun.

You’re lucky.

No F quiz follows.

Lollygagging

All right. I’m here. Writing another blog post. Again, there are no pictures that go with this treatise that explores the life of a writing RoadBroad. Therefore, I will include a few pictures of holiday lights. Enjoy.

I have been lollygagging, dawdling, and procrastinating this week with my writing. My apologies! As you may remember from last week, I was dealing with a torn meniscus. I was on the verge of getting signed up for some arthroscopic knee surgery. But all that changed when I had an MRI on Monday. I no longer have a torn meniscus. Alas and alack, my poetic attempts were all in vain.

What I have is arthritis. That’s it. Instead of signing up for surgery, I have signed up for physical therapy. I have also re‐upped my membership at the Y where I can enjoy invigorating water aerobic classes and stationery bicycles.

Arthritis does not sound as fun or exciting as a torn meniscus. I can’t say I got it because I am such an athlete. Is it just because I am getting old? When I was a young child I remember hearing old people talk about their arthritis. They also talked about their lumbago, their dropsy, or having a bad bout of the grippe. All old diseases. I’m going to have to process this and cogitate on it a while.

But don’t worry. I will not write any more poetry about my ailments. Whatever would I find to rhyme with arthritis? Maybe colitis, but I haven’t been diagnosed with that.

While I was dawdling this week, a friend put a word up on her Facebook post. The word was coddiwomple. What an interesting word. The definition is “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. Well isn’t that what I’ve been doing with my life post retirement? I am redefining my entire way of being. I march down the road in a purposeful manner while writing, blogging, going to movies and museums. Now I can add physical therapy and water aerobics to my journey.

I am a coddiwompler, because I am coddiwompling my way through this thing called life. When I retired from my day job, I knew certain things that I would do. I became a full‐time writer. I have definite goals, but the destination is vague other than living my own life on my own terms and enjoying it. It feels fugacious, but is actually enlightening and transcendent. Plus the word coddiwomple is fun to say. Almost as much fun as fugacious.

Does this writing seem to be a bit of a flumadiddle? I promise it was not my intention to leave you discombobulated. I’m just a logophile which means I am a lover of words and enjoy playing with them.

It was much more fun than sitting around and cogitating on arthritis.

Until next week.….…