On the Radio Road

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

Even quickies allow a glance of both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled, understanding unnecessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeing. Remembering. Celebrating.

Special memories. Special days. Special people.

Visiting the Veil Between the Worlds

It all started out one night when my dear friend (DF) and I were on our way to dinner. In addition to eating, we were also on a mission to visit a restaurant that knows how to appreciate El Dia De Los Muertos (otherwise known as The Day of The Dead)!

There are ghosts out there. Some are friendly and some not so much. How do you interact with your ghosts?

At a restaurant in the upper Kirby area of Houston called 100% Taquito, they honor the souls of loved ones who have departed. As soon as you walk in the door, you see ofrendas, or altars dedicated to the departed. You are also welcomed into the restaurant by this jolly fellow.

One aspect I love about living in Houston is the access to so many cultures and customs. That is never more true than this time of year. Whether you call it Halloween, El Dia De Los Muertos, Samhain, or All Souls Day, this is the time of year when we are reminded that there is an afterlife. There are souls, spirits and ghosts out there and this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. Some of us prepare favorite foods of loved ones who have passed. Some of us dress up in costumes so that the bad goblins will not recognize us and hurt us. Some of us pray for those who have gone on before us.

At 100% Taquito DF and I had the honor of dining in the presence of some wonderful spirits. We were also serenaded by a delightful chap with his guitar.

As I have alluded to in previous blogs, this is the time of the year when we can laugh at things that scare us. We can take charge of our lives and not get unnerved by things that go bump in the night.

Along one wall of the restaurant there was an elaborate ofrenda. We sat next to this as I enjoyed a traditional flan desert and DF had a mango pudding. This was my first visit to 100% Taquito, but I am sure that I will go back.

When I returned home I looked at some of the various seasonal items I have collected over the years. It is a definite mix of Halloween and El Dia De Los Muertos. I like to think that the spirits that surround me this time of year are friendly. Hopefully the ones that aren’t will be scared off by my collection of skulls and scary faces.

Here’s to hoping that your ghosts and goblins are friendly as well.

Until next week.….……

Breaking RoadBroad News

Change is good. Especially when it involves the RoadBroads.

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

Women writers. Ordinary journeys. Extraordinary stories.

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

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

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

C’est le vie: so much to learn. 

I’m never bored. Grateful.

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

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

- Coffee shops

- Airport terminals

- Bookstores

- Women’s stores 

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

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

Who knows what comes next?

To See or Not to See

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

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

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

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

Consider another factor.

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

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

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

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

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

Look for yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

Meaning‐Me decided to reframe the issue.

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

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

New glass. New eyes. New view.

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

Now I can see.

I’m ready for the road.

When Old Becomes New

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

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

Questions pounded my brain walls:

How long have these oak sprouts been here?

What made our tree police suddenly shout “Green!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upon looking closer, my smile broadened.

Starfish Quinoa has a buddy. Shade.

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

I walk daily to remain healthy.

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

Right around the corner surrounding a trifecta of trees.

How personal, meaningful can a little daily walk become?

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the image below:

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

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

Until next time.….….….

Sage Offerings, Post‐Parking Rage

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

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

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

I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarity landed.

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

I repeated myself.

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

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

Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life? 

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

I wonder what story she told and what she learned.

My learnings?

I can defuse stranger rage.

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

It’s been a good week here.

I hope the same for her.

Road Trip Twist

NOTE: Not all road trips are alike. The following story offers a compelling twist on the Journey tale, one that only Kay Cox — our dear writing retreat friend — could tell, and well.

Guest blogger Kay L. Cox writes poetry and stories from her San Antonio home. She’s an experienced blogger (check out her writings on www.picklesandroses.blogspot.com). Earlier, Kay worked as an art and family therapist, teaching graduate‐level art therapy classes in the US and abroad.

Thank you, Kay, for joining our RoadBroads team today! — Melanie & Ellen


Road Trip With a Twist

Kay L. Cox

My lunch plate that Friday held sliced roast beef, slathered with gravy. But the instant mashed potatoes looked like a sauce, thanks to too much liquid on top. I spy broccoli. Fresh broccoli. I can’t wait. I grab my fork. Then the broccoli’s so tough, my fork can’t cut it and even my knife has a hard time. It’s so tough, I can hardly chew it.

I open my mouth to complain. Then I remember.

The previous Sunday. Dinner at my son’s house.

Emotion overwhelms me.

My family is active with local churches in helping documented migrant families as they head through San Antonio enroute to their next destination by bus. We were asked to house two families. One family stayed one night. The other was a young father, Juan, and his 2 ½ year old son, Ricardo.

When I arrived at my son’s house, the pair sat on the sofa watching television. Ricardo snuggled, sleeping, on his father’s chest. I greeted Juan in Spanish. He nodded, giving me a big smile. I noticed an ankle monitor on Juan. What have we come to in this country?

I went to the kitchen to help prepare the dinner. Chicken casserole and steamed broccoli. Soon, Ricardo awoke and Juan sat him in his lap to eat. Ricardo’s big brown eyes and shy smile won our hearts. He was so well behaved, almost too quiet. I surmised that in his long treacherous journey from Guatemala he had been taught to be very quiet. Ricardo looked at the plate in front of him. His eyes grew bigger still as he looked at the plate in front of him.

He picked up a piece of broccoli, looking at it as if he had never seen such a vegetable. He spoke softly to his dad. With my limited Spanish, I think he called the broccoli a tree before plopping it in his mouth. Then he picked up another, looking at each “tree” carefully before putting each piece in his mouth. Over and over, Ricardo did this, eating bite after bite. I think his body was craving fresh, green food. I wondered when he had last had fresh vegetables.

Never have I seen a child that young eat broccoli like that. Any complaints I might ever have about food from now on fall into a different perspective. I have so much to be grateful for.

My daughter in law bought clothes and diapers for Ricardo, along with snacks and books in Spanish, and his long journey with his father riding multiple buses to Washington. She found a children’s backpack and filled it. Ricardo proudly put it on and clung to her leg at the bus station when she turned them over to the woman who guided them to their correct bus.

What a beautiful experience to share what we take for granted. We were able to make a difference in making someone’s life easier.

I will never eat broccoli again – be it steamed‐to‐mush, raw or tough — without thinking of Ricardo and Juan. And I’ll feel grateful.

All we have to do is be kind to each other. It’s that simple to create change.

More Reasons to Celebrate and More Creativity!

For starters.……Good News! A personal essay I submitted has been accepted by Story:Color 2019. This will be an art exhibition, reading, poetry slam, etc. sponsored by some of the artists from the Silos at Sawyer Yards, Words & Art, and WriteSpace. They asked for some poems and essays from writers that artists could use for inspiration to create visual art. I am honored and delighted my essay was accepted. The Opening Night Reading and Art Exhibition will take place on January 12, 2019. I will be sure to share more details as I have them.

As for the journeys I took this past week, I spent Saturday afternoon in a Process Painting retreat facilitated by Cherie Ray of True You Creativity. Ah, yes. Another internal journey!

For starters, this studio is located in a relaxing embracing environment. Here is the outside of her studio filled with plants, trees, art and bird houses.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to experience Process Painting, I will give a very brief explanation. This is a process of painting where the end result is not the picture that is painted. Rather it is the process of creating that is the focus of attention. The purpose is not to paint a pretty picture; rather the purpose is to put paint on paper and see what the process of painting can tell you. It is great for unleashing creativity and creative potential.

Here are some of my painting samples as they were in process of being created:

There was no right or wrong with these pictures. They just were. I observed what came up for me as I painted. I considered what the colors told me. I loved my spot right by the window, because I was visited all afternoon by cardinals, turtle doves, and other birds as they snacked from the bird feeder and tried to figure out what the silly humans were doing.

This process reminded me of writing. I can’t write the “great American novel” in one sitting or in one draft. However, I can write by sitting down and putting words on paper. You can’t write a book or a short story without trying out ideas, putting words together in different arrangements to see what works. As my wonderful writing coach, Max Regan, frequently tells his students, just write something that is really crappy. Then if you like your draft or idea, you can begin to work with it. If your goal is only to write things that are good and meaningful, then you won’t get much done. Just write and then write some more. Whether you are putting paint on the paper or words, let the creative juices flow freely.

Thanks to the guidance provided by Cherie, I went home Saturday afternoon inspired and ready to continue creatively with both art and writing. As I walked out of her studio, I saw one of the universal signs that everything was going to be okay.

If you are interested in Process Painting or any of the other classes and retreats offered by Cherie Ray, please check out her website at Trueyoucreativity.com.

Then after a great weekend, I ended my day on Sunday by going to see the play, The Mouse Trap, which is currently being performed at the Alley Theatre. This play was written by Agatha Christie and is a good entertaining mystery for a late summer evening. I won’t give away the surprise ending. You’ll have to go see the play yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The stage design assures you of mysteries and murders just waiting to unfold!

I am looking forward to more writing this week and beginning an Art History class at the Glassell.

More details to follow!

Reasons to Celebrate!

This blog post is all about celebration! There are two reasons for my joyful attitude.

The first reason pertains to this blog in particular. I have recently learned that this blog is now read in 5 different countries! That’s three more countries than I have ever visited.

Yes, as a RoadBroad, I have to admit that I do not fly in airplanes. That is why I travel everywhere by road. Get it? RoadBroad? A Broad who travels by Road?

Back to the point I was making. RoadBroads is now read by folks in the USA, Canada, Bolivia, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Wow. I’m so excited that I think this is worth a glass of really nice champagne!

Well, yes, the champagne that is pictured is French. No, we are not read in France.…yet. But Dom Perignon is still a dandy champagne for celebrating. If you have a better selection, please let me know.

The second reason I have for celebrating is that yesterday was one of the most important days of the year for me. It all started out with a trip to the Galleria Mall.

Initially my reason for going to the Galleria was two‐fold. It is August in Houston and that means it is really really hot outside and the Galleria is a good place to walk for healthy exercise. And walk I did. I strolled around without stopping as I passed by all of the clothing stores, the art stores, the restaurants, the ice skating rink, etc. I noticed there are several Starbucks in the Galleria. I can remember back in the old days when there was only one.

I also wanted to go on a journey for some sipping chocolate and I know there is a Godiva store inside the Galleria.

I walked and walked and finally found the nice little shop full of chocolate confectionaries. I walked inside admiring all of the delicious wares that were on display. I very politely waited my turn after the other customers had been assisted. However, when I spoke with the nice ladies about some sipping chocolate.…..There was none! AGHAST! No sipping chocolate. I became dizzy and grabbed onto the counter. Oh woe was me. My happy journey was at risk of turning into a disaster! What was I to do? I told the nice Godiva ladies that I might come back in December.

Then I stumbled out of the door. Thank goodness I had a friend with me to make sure I did not fall over third floor railing to a certain death. I walked and I walked some more. Then as I wandered my eyes spotted a store that had the one and only thing that could raise my spirits. That one thing was a Halloween Display.

I always celebrate the first time I see Halloween decorations out in stores. Even though it is the middle of August, I now know that summer is on its way out. It is my first sign that I will survive yet another hurricane season. Cool temperatures are just around the corner.

Also Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love dressing up. I love decorating. I love reading scary stories. I love all of it. I think of everything I am scared of and make a point of laughing at it.

No, I’m not this way about any other holiday. Keep your Christmas wreaths and lights. I save my heart for Halloween.

My thanks to the White Barn for making my day!

Now I am off to write scary short stories!

Boo!