Third Anniversary For This Writing Broad

Cupcakes with candles! Just perfect for a celebration. What am I celebrating you might ask? Why, it’s the Third Birthday for the RoadBroads Blog! Now, doesn’t that make you feel festive? Works for me. No, I didn’t eat all three cupcakes by myself. I had help from a friend. I only ate the equivalent of one all by myself. Half red velvet cupcake and half chocolate cupcake to be exact. The flavor of the third cupcake will remain a mystery. Many thanks to the nice people at Sprinkles in Highland Village for the tasty treats.

RoadBroads is three years old? Back in 2018 Melanie and I took off on a road trip where we headed west to Boulder, Colorado for one of Max Regan’s 10-day writing intensives. During this trip we blogged on a daily basis to document our adventures. This is the Boulder Bookstore where we would meet daily with other writers to hone our craft. I also bought several books while I was there, because a writer never has enough books. In the evenings we had salons where we could share and discuss our recent writings. Whenever I was outside, I could see the Flatirons off in the distance. What a wonderful adventure.

That was three years ago. This month I am once again attending one of Max’s writing intensives, but this time I am at home and zooming through class meetings and salons. Max is joining us from Boulder, but other attendees are in Texas, California and Maryland, among other places. Instead of looking out the window to admire the Flatirons, I see the same neighborhood that I always see. Instead of staying at a nice Air B&B condo shared with other writers, I cleaned my home and stocked my fridge for the 10 day experience. Instead of traveling to Colorado, I leave daily in my head to visit the stories that I am currently writing. Since I am working on science fiction paranormal urban fantasies, I go to some very interesting locations without leaving home.

Fortunately, RoadBroads is not location specific. Where I am or whatever journey I am on, the blog goes with me. That means that this will continue wherever I am and whatever road trip I take. This blog documents my efforts to always improve my writing craft.

The most important part is that I am writing and enjoying my stories and staying in contact with my writing community.

Until next time.….……

Pandemic Road: New Year and New Roads

Do you see the blue sky in this picture? I took this picture on January 1st. New Year’s Day. Not a cloud in the sky. I felt very relaxed on that day. I took the clear skies as a good omen for the new year. I survived 2020 with only a few more grey hairs and a few more miles on the body. Overall health is good and I have many creative projects I’m working on. So after a few days of this new year, I am still in good health and continuing to add on additional miles on a daily basis. However, Covid-19 is still running amok and don’t even get me started on Washington D.C.

However, I refuse to be swallowed up in gloom and doom. I am determined to forge a peaceful, happy and healthy pathway through 2021.

One thing I am going to do is continue on with the RoadBroads Blog. Yes, currently there is only one RoadBroad, but I continue to bond with Broads everywhere who hit the road in search of beauty and creativity. Of course, with the pandemic still raging in this country, I am not going as far as I used to on the road. I still do not travel and I still do not eat out in restaurants. But, I do get curbside take out at some of my favorite local restaurants. Yes, with my illustrious cooking skills, I would starve if it weren’t for ready made meals in the grocery stores and curbside pick up. Also, I drive and walk all over the city.

About a month ago I picked up the book, 111 Places in Houston That You Must Not Miss. I purchased my copy at the Brazos Bookstore which is my favorite independent bookstore here in Houston. Last fall I heard the book’s authors, Dana Duterroil and Joni Fincham, speak at a monthly meeting of the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA). Their presentation was very interesting and they spoke about many places in Houston I had already seen, but also discussed many places I hadn’t seen yet. This will be my new “Road” for 2021.

For the next year or so, I will visit as many of the sites as I can during pandemic conditions and tell you all about them. For instance, it may be a while before I can go down to Market Square and sip on a cool refreshment at La Carafe (it’s haunted!). However, I can visit places like the Menil Collection and Discovery Green. Wherever I go, I promise to take lots of pictures and take lots of notes. It’s almost like I have lined up a whole year’s worth of “artist dates” a la Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way among other books).

I can’t wait to start this next leg of my journey. Many thanks to Melanie who worked with me on this blog for the past 3 years. I wish her the best of luck in her future journeys. But I am not ready to settle down yet. I hope all of you will continue to travel with me. If you are yourself a RoadBroad, let me know and we can talk about guest blogging.

I hope you are as determined as I am to make 2021 a good year. Let’s take this journey together and see where we land.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Holiday Hopes and Miracles

Did you take the time on Winter Solstice to observe the planetary conjunction? Jupiter and Saturn were freakishly close. Some folks thought this was a miracle. Then there were those who thought this was an omen of changing times. Others thought it was a cool scientific occurrence which happens approximately every 400ish years. I just thought it was fun to go out and watch. I considered it a miracle that I was able to take a picture of this with my cell phone. If I had taken the time to think about it, I would have used my real camera. Okay, a whole bunch of tech geeks just rolled their eyes, because I don’t consider my cell phone camera a “real camera”. My apologies.

To the naked eye it looked like the planets were touching. However, if that really happened, it would be quite the crisis. It would be one more “thing” to happen in 2020. On Facebook several people posted that Winter Solstice 2020 was the shortest day of the longest year. Can’t argue with that.

What was just as much fun as seeing a planetary conjunction? How about a green blowup dragon wearing a Santa hat. This is what counts for fun entertainment during these days of pandemic holidays. Since our outlets for entertainment are limited many of us are either walking or driving around and looking at pretty lights and creative lawn art. As you can imagine, I appreciate the more unusual displays of creativity.

On a positive note.….we now have a vaccine for Covid-19. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not necessarily a train! We just need to be patient for a little while longer. Keep wearing your masks, continue to keep your distance and we will make it through this. Try to be like this little squirrel that I met at the arboretum the other day. He didn’t mind posing for a picture as long as I didn’t get too close. He doesn’t seem to be too caught up in all of the human drama. And, when he’s ready, he scampers off into the woods in search of food and frolic.

I am definitely ready for some socially distanced frolicking. How about you? I can’t wait to see what 2021 will have in store for us. Let’s stick together to make the journey easier.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Art and Compassion

Back in the good old days.….by which I mean the days before Covid 19.…I had two creative works accepted into different exhibitions around Houston. Originally there were going to be opening receptions with wine and hors d’oeuvres, patrons of the arts and various creative types. Alas, that was not to be. However, in this new day of virtual gatherings, the receptions and the exhibitions have been moved online.

The first of these is Compassion, a collaboration between Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA) and the Holocaust Museum Houston. In this project pairs of visual artists and writers teamed up to bring forth their vision of compassion. I was chosen as one of the writers and I worked with visual artist, Josena Arquieta. Her painting is called Listen, which is a companion to my essay, It’s Time To Listen. The picture you see here is the exhibition book. You can see this exhibit by going to WiVLA.org and clicking on the exhibit link. If you want to see our work or purchase the book, you can go either to WiVLA.org or you can go to the website for the Holocaust Museum Houston. The online exhibition doesn’t always give the full text of the poems or essays. For the full literary version, you need to purchase one of the books.

My other exhibition, titled The Art of Attention, was a juried exhibition of art produced by students and teachers at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. This is a work of art that I made while taking a class in collage from instructor Ellen Orseck. You can see the entire virtual exhibit at https://glasscock.rice.edu/sites/default/files/F20_CLE_Student_Art_Exhibit.pdf

Meanwhile, back here in my private oasis known as Halloweensville, my good friend Skellington has come to visit for a few days. He’s pictured below in his black traveling cloak. We’ve had several leisurely dinners out on the patio, because the weather has finally started feeling ever so slightly like fall. He travels the neighborhood at night to visit the other skeletons in the neighborhood. Below is a picture of one of my neighbors who likes to wave at people and other skeletons.

Between all of the virtual art and Halloween, I love this time of year!

Until next week.….

The Road To Being Amazed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

Going Down the Road of Silver Linings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.….

Further Down That October Road

Sometimes things just happen that catch my attention. That’s what happened to me Sunday night when my Dear Friend and I went to the Alley Theatre to see the play Vietgone. The playwright is Qui Nguyen. As soon as I walked into the Neuhaus Theatre, I knew I was in the right place. I took one look at the stage and knew this was a play for a RoadBroad!

If you have not seen this yet, I highly recommend it. The story takes you back to 1975 and is told from the viewpoint of some of the Vietnamese refugees that came to this country at that time. It is both humorous and dramatic. You will laugh and you will cry. What more recommendation do you need to go see this play? Go!

When I wasn’t visiting the theatre this past week, I was walking again around Rice University. There are so many works of art and while we are actually experiencing fall-like weather, I want to get out as much as possible. I don’t remember what the name of the building it was that I was walking past, but I just happened to catch a glimpse at these door knobs.

I have heard of using gargoyles to scare off evil spirits, but what exactly is the purpose of these doorknobs? And just what exactly are these creatures? Are they snakes? Dragons? Mythical sea creatures? Are they supposed to ward off students with nefarious intent? I did not go in this building. I was afraid of what I might find. Maybe a mad scientist brewing up potions for Halloween. It really makes me wonder about the founders of Rice University and the architect they hired for their buildings.

In another part of campus I found this wonderful fountain. It was very peaceful here. I wasn’t worried about my immortal soul in this part of campus. This was a spot where I could stay for a while and listen to the soothing sounds of the rippling water cascading gently over the rocks and down the sides. I am calm just thinking about it. I may have to go back there.

But there is one more question I must ask before I sign off for today.….…Why does the Energizer Bunny wear blue flip flops? You will only know what I am talking about if you watch television. The Energizer Bunny shows up in commercials for batteries. He is a bunny. He doesn’t even wear pants! Why does a bunny need flip flops? I wonder about these things. If you have any answers, please let me know.

Until next week.….

Is Lost Ever Found?

Two miles north of home, I spot him: T‑Rex.

Dirty T‑Rex awaits new home: trash bin?

He’s white-dirty, covered in grass clippings as if tossed, an afterthought, behind Mower Man.

Is little Dino lost, or now Found-but-Forgotten?

I snap a quick picture.

My feet return to hustle-heart speed.

Amid my heels pounding on the sidewalk, my imagination takes off. I envision a little boy scampering from here to the Next Best Thing.

Maybe he imagined treasure awaiting beyond the approaching hill? My feet speed to a near run.

A quarter-mile down the sidewalk, I crest the rise and jerk to a stop. There lies a brand new, multi-colored T‑Rex, still skirted in cellophane. A girl?

Which side is up on Red Rex?

Is this Lost-but-Found, V.2.0?

Picture time repeats.

This time, I imagine a little girl who simply does.not.like old dead animals.

Why do I envision Red Rex as a girl’s toy but Dirty T‑Rex belongs to a boy?

And so the flood of questions begins.

Familiar queries rise up from ancient muscle memory: who, what, when, where, how and why here? On a quarter mile strip of sidewalk out in Nowheresville?

Ex-reporter now daily writer conjures a million stories out of 100 answers that follow. Stories emerge from little boys and girls with old toys who become adults with nightmares. Colors pop, fade, burst. Boredom expands to the unmanageable before eventually, all is forgotten and everything dissolves into none of the above.

Minus the questions, all I really know is that here on a narrow sidewalk, Forgotten became Found, squared, and Lost never existed. Maybe.

I learn that discovery is what matters with its offer of hope and meaning. Maybe what’s left behind is a gift that invites us to make stories of every find we make. 

Do I have a journal problem?

On this Monday, such are the weird wonderings of a walking writer who, as soon as she returns home, writes it all down.

Journals await.

What do you do with what you find?

Women Artists On The Road Together!

On Wednesday of this week, I finished an 8‑week collage course at the Art League Houston. It was taught, lead and inspired by Sasha Dela. Here is my final 3‑D art piece which of course shows Halloween art, because I love Halloween! As much as I love it, it pales in comparison to the works of my classmates. We were a class full of women all interested in expanding our artistic knowledge and experience. They were all wonderful and I learned so much from every one of them. So, in honor to my wonderful classmates and artists, here is the work they showed on the last day of class. All of the pictures were taken by me. They were sometimes taken at weird angles during our class critique. Please forgive my photography and I hope you enjoy the art as much as I have.

What a great group of artists! What a great group of women! I was so fortunate to spend my summer with them.

Until next week.….

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.….….