Self‐Care Matters

My assignment at 7 p.m. last night was to sleep for a few hours then awake and post here.

It’s 4:30 a.m.

Ahem.…that’s a little later than planned. Yet, the last 9.5 hours marked my best sleep of the past two weeks. And I’m still groggy. As in my body’s not done with its 40 winks tonight/this morning. 

There’s a message here: my body needs a major rest. Two stimulating weeks involving a 1300‐mile road trip and an hyper‐invigorating writing retreat will cry out for good sleep at some point. That point came last night. 

But…it’s my turn to post on RoadBroads. I promised Ellen.

I arise out of commitment, devotion, and frustration. Continued sleep will elude until the third necessary is answered.

Thus, dear reader, I offer preliminary pictures from yesterday’s Denver excursion. They provide partial explanation for the good‐tired.

Tattered Cover in Denver: more stacks than any reader can count.
Take a guess: how many new books are stuffed in this one sack?
Done lingering, aunt and niece head to the ice cream stand, walking toward Denver’s handsome skyline.
Olinger mortuary become Linger restaurant when new owners blacked out the “O.”

Linger Restaurant was a must‐stop for a pair of ladies with a Memphis funeral business in the family heritage. We refilled our water from brown bottles once used for organ storage and ordered drinks from an old metal patient chart. Toe tags used to mark the drinks but they were gone yesterday. Too macabre a memory for some? I missed that part of the adventure.

It’s back to bed I go, the call of duty answered, potential guilt assuaged.

The CPAP lets a snore machine sleep well.

Tomorrow — oops, make that today’s — post will focus on my learnings from a writing retreat. First is how to manage this ongoing body‐mind hum.

What a time for my writing life!

Allergy, Auto, Aspergas, and Art

Call it an “A” day.

Allergy: Welcome to the yellow pollen and white wispys now attacking Boulder. Even my car has taken on new hues.

A new ‘do for old wheels: yellow highlights orange. Or does it?

I call them “white whispys” because they don’t stay still for photos. Instead, these feathery bits float around in the air like ephemeral angels (devils?), unnoticed until the sneezing and red eye begin. I thought they were pretty. Until Thursday morning.

It was my fifth morning of four mile walks. A speedwalk on Elmer’s 2 Mile Path devolved into sudden paroxysms of sneezing. Why am I sneezing? Then the teary gushers with itchy red eye began. On my return to the townhouse, I noticed the yellow pollen blanketing my orange car. When I caught me in the bathroom mirror, even I was afraid.

The delightful millenial barista at the Pekoe Sip House proclaimed similar agonies when I explained my junkie eyes. She said blame the oaks for the yellow pollen then curse the dogwoods for the white whispys.

The why of the what matters less than the cure. First, it’s load up on tissues, nose sprays, and eye drops. Second, it’s leave town to head south where after 34 years, my body is well‐acclimated to Houston’s tree floaties.

Auto: My Subaru Forrester died in traffic only hours after the allergy attack. It took Magic Max of our Summer Writing Retreat fame only minutes to get the car (and its two women travelers) safely out of rush hour traffic and parked back at the townhouse.

I met my two BNF’s, as in Best New Friends, this morning: Eric from Triple A who linked with Phil of Hoshi Motors, Yes, that’s two bald commercial endorsements. How many mechanics have you met who will build a list of best gas stations in town to help you avoid another misadventure?

Phil in the Hood, triple‐checking battery connections.

Everything checked out: battery, starter, alternator, transmission, blah‐blah‐blah. Even my homeboy mechanic was perplexed, and he did a thorough car check pre‐road‐trip. Best guess of these three mechanics? Bad gas from an off‐brand service station and a quirky car unused to mountain driving in summer temperatures.

Two learnings emerged from today’s RoadBroad misadventure. If you’re a woman, both can help you.

  1. Don’t buy gasoline from off‐brand stations, especially when you’re on the road. Brand means the major oil companies such as Conoco, Exxon, Shell, etc. What’s four cents a gallon saved today when the engine quits tomorrow?
  2. If you’re stuck in traffic with a malfunctioning car engine, try these Magic Max tricks, in this order:

1. Turn off the engine.

2. Pump the gas pedal twice (or more, but don’t flood the engine).

3. Turn on the engine until it “catches.”

4. Rev the engine for several minutes.

5. Your car should be drivable now. If not, your car has a different problem.

Thank you, Max Regan!

Aspergas: The morning’s car drama preceded our regular two‐hour small group writing class. Only at 12 noon did I realized I had not eaten since consuming a mango popsicle at our Thursday night salon. At a quirky Pearl Street restaurant, I ordered an egg white fritatta.

Arugula tops green squash and egg whites — with a surprise veggie hidden in between.

What you don’t see is the surprise vegetable sandwiched amid the gorgeous arugula that tops the crepe‐style egg white underneath.

You know this vegetable as asparagus.

I call it Aspergas. It should be regulated by the E.P.A. as a toxic substance. It is the most awful vegetable known to sentient beings. This truth has something to do with my mother’s inability to undercook it, causing aspergas fumes to permeate our entire house. For days. As a result: I. Do. Not. Eat. Aspergas. Or Asparagus.

Only after I bit into a thick wad of arugula on my fork did I taste the Aspergas. But it tasted different, and it was OMG good. I left nothing on the plate.

I reported the experience to DH. He was stunned. A first. After 34 years.

Art: Whlle eating my Aspergas surprise, I made art.

When I had entered the restaurant, I noticed a crayon basket on the table behind the restaurant hostess. I asked for two crayons, plus a puzzle page. She did a double‐take. Not many 61‐year‐olds request art time while dining?

When Crayon Art meets a hungry RoadBroad.

I thought of Pat Clark, my dear writer friend who taught me about how art can heal during rough times. I needed ease after my allergy/auto misadventure. Pat’s clever Kindergarten Art morphed into my Crayon Art today.

I felt so much better when I finished.

Thank you, Pat!

Aspergas and Art.

A healing combination after Allergies and Autos.

P.S. My longest post as a RoadBroad. Forgive the windy! I hope you’ve enjoyed this read, even as you’ve learned something. That’s our goal. 

Good News, Good Friends, Good Food

Late yesterday, I learned an essay I wrote is a finalist in a national Creative NonFiction Essay contest. From more than 200 submissions, 37 entries were chosen finalists. Oh yeah, friend, it’s major buzz time.

Finalist notification letter about Boulder‐based essay

It gets better. Call it the woo‐woo factor.

The essay in question involves an incident that occurred in Boulder, at a Max Regan writing retreat, seven years ago this week.

Add that I learned the news while in Boulder, at a Max Regan writing retreat, only one day after visiting the location where the essay unfolded. I shiver.

Imagine a traumatized golden retriever in this picture.

Do you remember the blog mention two days ago of my search at the Trident Cafe? My search centered around an abused dog, an old lady, and a coward.

Seven years ago, cobalt blue draped everything in an eerie blanket of communal color: bands, straps, leashes, and booties engulfing Dylan the golden retriever. 

Only two days ago did I notice the cobalt blue of the awning, the Trident logo, and, in a softer blue — always, the sky. 

Besides weird timing, I’ve relearned several other things about the writing life in the past 24 hours.

One is, foremost, persistence.

I’ve worked on this essay for seven long years. It’s been through more drafts and readings than I will admit publicly. It’s been rejected by magazines (both on‐ and off‐line) multiple times.

But I kept polishing this essay because it felt important, universal. Such bigness demands a big audience, I believed. What writers’ essays demand, I learned, is persistent effort. And patience.

Secondly, I’ve learned that what I experienced in my broadcast news days also applies to the writing life. You’ve got to start small, gain your chops, and work your way up the publishing ladder. That’s rarely the truth any writer — young, old, or in‐between — wants to hear, especially in our get‐it‐now‐or‐get‐lost culture. Slow down, writers, and learn your craft. And, always — be easy on yourself. Max preaches the same. Now, I’m listening. In a new way.

If nothing more develops of this particular essay — as in I end up #37 on the finalist list for this contest — I carry away the call for continued persistence and slow‐small‐steady progress. The simplicity of the message is sweet. And easy to pursue.

I celebrated today’s news with a dear friend, a tasty lunch, and a shopping trip to the Tennyson neighborhood of Denver. For the first time, RoadBroad’s chauffeur became a passenger — nice! 

Today became mix‐it‐up day. We had no retreat classes, by design. Why not try a different city, different restaurants, different bookstores — an altogether different approach? BookBar whispered, thanks to a writer friend’s recommendation. Its theme says buy a book, drink a vino.

I did neither. Instead I bought a clever set of writer notecards plus a pair of map earrings. Do you hear the RoadBroads clapping? After my purchase, I turned around and left. Leaving the writer notecards on the counter.

BookBar bookstore: for books and wine, in that order (for some of us).
Little maps of tiny towns cover quirky earrings. Perfect for a RoadBroad!

Oh, no! Guess who now must return to the BookBar? Who knows what else she can buy? Books maybe?

Of course, she’ll be wearing her new pair of RoadBroads earrings.

Writing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Late & Lovely

It’s after 11 p.m. TX time & we’re only now in our Taos B&B.

So much to see and eat as we cruised across two states. Already Amarillo feels like a week ago.

That’s because, for both of us, today was lovely. For different reasons.

For Ellen, Santa Fe buzzed with memory and possibility.

For Melanie, Taos reconfirmed where home is.

More details manana after we reach our third state in three days. Of course, who knows what state we’ll really be in…

Our writing retreat — led by the magnificent and incomparable Max Regan — begins tomorrow night. And that’s the real reason we RoadBroads hit the highway in the first place!

Since I’m writing this post on my cell phone (& I’m cranky & tired), only one trip pic tonight:

Can you identify what this photo is? Hint: it’s deep, it’s wet, and it flows.

Tick Tick Tick Tick…

I’m in trouble now. Serious time trouble. 

Can all this fit into that luggage?

In 8 hours and 15 minutes — yes, I’m counting — I must leave my house. Ellen expects me at her doorstep at 6:15 a‐m. Wake‐up for me comes one hour before.

At least it’s a makeup free drive. We agreed.

I digress.

A nine‐hour‐plus drive to Amarillo dictates our early departure. Land after 6:30 a‐m on any Bayou City roadway, especially US 59 heading to I‐45, and the asphalt clogs up. RoadBroads don’t do slow.

I digress again. My apologies. Look up there at the trashy picture. Can you figure out what’s not yet done?

But wait. Turn around, leave this room, look to your right. You’ll spot three piles of dirty laundry. Head down the hall, you’ll find an unfinished stack of June‐due bill payments. In the kitchen rests a week of RoadBroad blog papers to sort and file. Intensifying the growing overwhelm is the June family calendar: two birthdays followed by Father’s Day times four.

All awaiting these diminishing overnight hours, and this blog post.

At least, Mother Nature cooperates. Boulder weather shows 88 degree highs and 56 degree lows. Amarillo temps for tomorrow mirror Houston, less the coastal humidity. From my childhood I remember the dry heat of the Texas Panhandle. Translation? Manana, even in an air‐conditioned car, demands less. Tank top and shorts. Less equals cooler. For this post‐menopausal chauffeur and her human cargo, cool matters. As in non‐negotiable.

This begs what may be my salvation tonight. Hot weather means fewer clothes equals less to pack. Or should I pack more outfits because wet and sweaty demands dry and cool?

When did I get too old for this kind of silliness? Mind mania has set in, my god.

My brain hurts. I’m tired. And I’ve got miles of things to finish before I sleep. I can’t pull a Scarlett, either. Tonight and Ellen dictate action and completion. So off I go to take care of all the silly busywork a 19‐day RoadBroads adventure demands. Who knows when it’s lights out for me tonight. Besides, I’ll probably go all “journey proud,” as my grandmother used to say, and not sleep a wink.

We’ll see. Instead, I’ll leave you with what I saw on my morning walk.

The trio of deer lolled in the Full Moon morning, the sun insisting this day belonged to the animals.

Can you find the three deer?

I hope to observe similar vistas in the road days ahead. Amarillo or Santa Fe or Taos or Denver or Boulder.

Crossing fingers.

And off to pack.

Priming, Preparing and Packing

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

Who can forget anything with a list like this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this Blog

This blog came to life, courtesy Ellen, who prefers road travel to soaring skyward. She suggested driving to a Colorado‐based writing retreat in June, 2018.

Melanie answered with two words, one of which can be repeated in mixed company. Young children, however, would probably be confused. C’est le vie — it wouldn’t be the first time either of us has been misunderstood.

Post‐writing retreat, we contemplated life sans RoadBroads. Should we continue this blog? We both proclaimed a loud two‐word answer, identical to Melanie’s reply to Ellen’s initial query. Amazing what happens when two women writers get to know each other on the road.

We’ve dialed back the blogging to one post each per week. Periodically, we’ll post a guest blogger — another woman writer, on the road — reporting some kind of trip and what she’s learned.

We can all learn from each other.

Looking forward to the lessons offered via observations, discoveries, and experiences. The good. The bad. The ugly. Adventure is all this, most especially the ugly. 

It’s only roadtrips. With two broads and some special guests.

Join us?