Three Goes to Two: How about You?

Mimi, Merrilynn & Melanie — Houston, TX, 1980

Forty years ago, we were three.

The first of the Miller girls married one July afternoon in 1980. We used the occasion to pose for the first formal picture of Sisters United!

Melanie & Merrilynn atop Breckenridge Mountain, CO — 2014

As of last October, we’re down to two.

The sudden death of our sister Mimi is a loss that reverberates too much.

Daily, we sort through her life and what she left behind. We face more weeks, if not months, of emotional intensity.

It means a life that mattered. Matters. 

I struggle with the idea of joy this New Year. After these past nine weeks, life echoes with an odd familiarity: New Normal.

A few days ago, while on the road (again) at Mimi’s house, I found this:

A word which will live in my life’s infamy?

Merriam-Webster’s definition:

ENDURE means to put up with something trying or painful.” 

Something was missing. Synchronicity delivered this Maya Angelou poem:

CONTINUE 

My wish for you
Is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantle of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a
Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good

Continue

To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit

Continue

To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing

Continue

To float
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name

Continue

And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue
Eternally

Back to the dictionary I went. Out leaped a deeper definition of endure:

to CONTINUE: to exist over a period of time or indefinitely.

Aha! I merged the two definitions into my own ENDURE: to continue to exist over a period of time while surviving something painful.

This isn’t the first time I’ve hurt (and it won’t be the last)—but there’s a unique pain in the death of a sibling. It’s more than your oldest secrets they take.

Treasure the gifts they bring to your life.

My command to you rings in my own ears.

For 2020, I seek new hope and special intentions. I travel forward, hoping and intending for continued endurance to clear two homes, complete a novel, and create an I‐develop‐my‐full‐potential kind of life this year.

What are your special hopes and intentions this year?

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.….

From Hobbiton to Home

Bronchitis greeted me when DH and I returned from our 30th anniversary trip Down Under.

Tomorrow, a long‐delayed root canal will greet my awakening.

Alas. Such is the life of a weary RoadBroad.

The bronchitis kept me from these pages last week. Thank you, Ellen, for granting me the expanded recovery time.

About that amazing trip: here’s a look back at our last days in New Zealand, the best part of our journey.

New Zealand is a country formed of two connected islands. Temperatures are much colder. No boiling hot days like the red‐hot bake that preceded our swing through Oz. It’s impossible to imagine smoky Sydney busting the mercury at 107 degrees this past week. We whined at highs of 103 degrees during our Uluru sweat three weeks ago?

Of course, I stopped to paint outside the Artist Hobbit Home!

Hobbiton is a vast tourist trap on the North Island of New Zealand. It sits smack amid a still‐active sheep and beef farm, a property so beautiful that when movie director Sir Peter Jackson choppered over the land he knew immediately it was the perfect home to open his adaptation of J.R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. A swamp was dug out and today, 44 Hobbit homes remain nestled in for tourists paying $84 per person to walk, play, and explore.

The best part of Hobbiton: the bucolic view.

More interesting to me were the surrounding gently rolling hills of the North Island.

Look closely and you’ll spot some of New Zealand’s extinct volcanoes on the far horizon.

These hills undulate for miles, returning to mind previous sights of unspoiled English countryside vistas. Only later did I spot the contrail high in the sky. I silently cursed the white vapors for bringing the modern world into this Edenic scene.

Then it was off to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, called the newest geothermal area in the world.

Having arrived in New Zealand the same day its White Island volcano erupted with horrific results, DH and I anticipated a wild history and education in the Waimangu Valley. Its hundreds of bubbling and steaming ponds, craters and rock formations serve as New Zealand’s answer to America’s Yellowstone Park. What stunned us both was the explosion of color that unfolded as we walked:

Of course, I found Rotorua’s only bookstore.

My final stop in New Zealand revealed the perfect words on a simple book sack. Instead of wasting this perfect bag, I incorporated it into my only home holiday decorations this year.

At my house, this is what Santa will find. That little bench in front of the old guy holds the book I will finish writing in 2020. Will you remind me of my intention in twelve months?

Christmas lands soon.

I’m as ready as I plan to be, having reached that age where trees and lights and shiny balls with tinsel hold no curiousity, meet no unfilled need.

This year, with all its memories, brings wisdom to recognize need from want.

Then: accept it all.

And keep moving.

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.….

From Oz to NZ

I’d planned a detailed Aussie post on this travel day to New Zealand.

Real Life took care of those best laid plans. All I’ve got for today is this photo from MEL‐bourne:


It only took 62 years to get my nickname posted all over baggage claim! And in a foreign country, to boot!

Still sorting thru a continent’s worth of photos, there’s more to come — an island’s worth in the days ahead. I sign off with a last shot from Cairns:

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.….

Thirty Years…to the Hour!

Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words. To wit:

Houston, TX — 12/2/89, high noon

Fast forward three decades & halfway around the world:

Sydney, AU — 12/2/19, high noon

Yes, love is grand! Especially on the road!🧡

A Trip by the Numbers

In 72 hours, I board a plane bound for Down Under.

It’s a 30th wedding anniversary trip, conjoined with a belated 70th birthday celebration for DH.

Every Journey Needs a Book, or so DH believes.

So excited was he by this Trip of a Lifetime, DH activated his ancient double EE credentials from his Trinity University days and created this book.

I apologize for the shiny cover: kitchen lights don’t like clear plastic overlaid on white. 

What really matters is the profiled cover stops for our Australia and New Zealand adventure:

  • Sydney Opera House
  • Ayres Rock
  • Hobbiton

Beloved has planned even more stops: sailing around the Great Barrier Reef, visits to glowworms and geothermal vents, concerts and ceremonies with Maori dancers and Aboriginal natives, plus sunrise services and starlight shows amid rocks, mountains, and domes.

After the fall we’ve had, we both crave this escape to the other side of the world. But we’re only taking it because it was a journey earlier paid for. Alas.

Getting to/from and then all around Australia and New Zealand requires body padding and patience. It’s a combined 46 hours and five minutes to gallivant between the two nations.

One‐way flying involves 18.4 hours of travel via routing from Houston to Auckland to Sydney. Then, there’s a 17‐hour time difference between here and there. We’ll be on the road 13 days, visiting five cities/towns in as‐yet uncounted stops between the two countries.

Now, Sydney’s on fire, along with much of New South Wales. I’m dreading more news of koalas burning and scorching temps of 94 degrees and more.

Heat stroke fears vanish if I can hold a joey, snuggle with a ‘roo? Maybe eat to chockers? Can I endure the weather and smoke without whinging or sooking?

Half the fun of a road trip is getting ready with research of local slang and customs. This jaunt offers a unique twist, courtesy a late‐trip airline ticket.

How often does your nickname match an airline ticket?

What fun I’ll have landing as Mel in MEL. A lifetime first! Thank you, Melbourne, Australia for this quirky nugget!

It gets weirder later.

On our last day, we’ll arrive home three hours before we left Sydney.

FYI, I beg your understanding.

If I arrive early to your place in December, remember: I may still be on Aussie time. 

Ah, another RoadBroad adventure beckons!

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.….