Pandemic Road: Week Seven

OMG! Is it a witchy ninja or a ninja witch? Which witch? Bwahaha!

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I use humor to deal with stress. I know the serious stuff is out there.…..especially now. There are many places where you can get all the serious news and information you want. I hope to make you smile.

Helping me to help you smile are two friends who sent me homemade face masks that I now use when I go out in public. Jan, from Colorado, sent me the ninja mask. Nora, from Texas, sent me the green and gold one that reminds me of spring and is shown below. Just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t (yet) worn the hat and cape with my ninja mask when I go outside. Maybe in October.

I also found the following story on social media. I don’t know who started it. I am just passing it along. Thanks to my friend, Constance from Texas, for helping me find this:

Just be careful because people are going crazy from being in lock down! Actually I’ve just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee and we all agreed that things are getting bad. I didn’t mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant. In the end the iron straightened me out as she said everything will be fine, no situation is too pressing. The vacuum was very unsympathetic…told me just to suck it up, but the fan was more optimistic and hoped it would all soon blow over! The toilet looked a bit flushed when I asked its opinion and didn’t say anything, but the door knob told me to get a grip. The front door said I was unhinged and the curtains told me to.….yes, you guessed it,.….pull myself together!

Jan, from Colorado, (who may have sewn a few too many face masks) responded with the following:

I am in constant conversation with this sewing machine, seems to be zigging rather than zagging. That, and I have been known to cuss out the fabric, in measured terms. As for the needles, I’ve been forced to speak rather sharply to them!

What can we learn from this bit of folly? (Other than some good hints as to the state of my mental health?) It’s good to have friends. You can stay in touch by text, Zoom, Skype, or just regular old phone calls. The important part is to stay in touch during these times of isolation. And try to laugh a little.

Until next week.….

Traveling on a 3D Road

Do you see your life in 2D or 3D?

I see life in both and I am constantly moving what I see and what I experience from one to the other.

I love it when I see parallels between my writing life and my artistic life. They are always there and every so often they pop out at me. This is what happened last Wednesday during my collage class at the Art League of Houston. The challenge for the day was to make a 3D collage piece of art. I had been planning this for weeks. I picked out the perfect box that I wanted to use. I found a music magazine from the early 1930s. I picked out some books by Jane Austen and Mary Shelly. I used these pages to cover all sides of the box. Then I collected found items. A bit of carpet found on the walkway of my apartment. I found some items at Michael’s. My Dear Friend made two grand pianos with a 3D printer. I found some items in my home. I am not finished yet. Here is my “work of art”, but it is still a work in progress.

What I realized was that as I learn more and more about collage art, I want to make more and more of the pieces by myself. I used to rely heavily on magazine pictures. Now I am developing an idea of what is not limited by copyright. My own photos are mine to use as I please. Works of some very famous writers prior to 1923 are not subject to copyright. What can I make of my own to add to a collage? What can I make that is thoroughly my creation? It’s a process and I am well on my way.

It’s the same way in writing. I can write a novel and tell you that a character named Sally is upset. Or I can give you a scene where Sally bursts into her living room, crying. She balls her hands into fists and looks up as if to beg the heavens for an explanation. She yells out to her sister, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” This gives writing depth. It makes the writing more of a 3D scene and not just an informational narrative.

I guess I am always looking for ways to see my life in 3D. It is so easy to look at the world around me as 2D. Just see what there is to see and don’t look any deeper. It’s like comparing a picture of a flower to the real thing. I have had this painting of flowers up on my wall for years. It’s nice. I used to know the artist when she lived in Houston. I like the colors and the way it is framed. I can only wish that I could paint flowers as good as this artist. I haven’t yet.

Yet when I look at this group of flowers that I found at a restaurant called, Vibrant, I see the life of the flowers. I want to touch them, because they are such an interesting shape and color. I know they are local, but where did they come from? There is a story about these flowers that I may never know, but I can use them as a writing prompt for a new story.

So, how do you see life? In 2D or 3D?

Stay tuned for further developments.

Until next week.….

Revising Paths

Every so often the road I am traveling on for this life journey takes an odd turn that I don’t always anticipate. Six months ago I would never have guessed that I would have the experience that I had last Monday.

My one road trip this week consists of traveling to the hospital and having gastric sleeve surgery. I had never planned on having this surgery. I was having a great time with my new career in retirement. I was having fun going all over the city of Houston and seeing whatever there was to see.

However, it was because I was enjoying my life so much that I made the decision to remove a large part of my stomach. According to the process outlined in Melanie’s last blog post, I moved out of my comfort zone, dealt with the fear of having any type of surgery, learned everything I could about this, and am now growing through the experience.

I plan on living a long time and want to be as healthy as I can be. I have a lot of writing to do. I don’t have time to worry about arthritis and high blood pressure as long as there is a safe way to improve my physical body. Being healthy frees up my mind and body to follow my bliss. I am very pleased to report that two days out from the surgery, I am feeling pretty good.

I am beginning some of the very many changes that need to happen in my life as a result of this surgery. I am finding out all the ways I can ingest protein and vitamins and hydration.

At first I was sent home from the hospital with several small pill cups that hold one ounce of water. I was told to drink an ounce of water every fifteen minutes. This would help guarantee that I was receiving enough hydration.

However, these cups are small and light weight. The small cups quickly became cat toys and were getting knocked off of tables and across the room.

That’s one of the many places where my Dear Friend (DF) stepped in to help. He brought me a shot glass that shows the measurements contained within an ounce. It is heavier than the hospital cups so it is not as easy to knock over. Also it helps me the measure all of the water, protein drinks, and fat free Greek yogurt that now comprise my daily diet.

I used to use shot glasses to measure out ingredients for vodka martinis or chocolate martinis. This will not happen again for at least a year. Having and enjoying many years of health is worth the trade off.

Now I measure everything that goes into my stomach. I have a notebook that I use to track when and how much I take in daily. I focus on protein and water. Chewable vitamins are very exciting when you’re on a liquid diet as part of recovery from surgery.

I am also keeping notes on this entire process. I wonder how much material I will have for future memoirs or personal essays? Writing about all of my new experiences helps me as I travel through the growth zone of this experience.

No, I don’t intend for my blog posts to become a “health journey” I am still focused on the writing process. However this week has hopefully made me a healthier person so I can live my life and have lots to write about.

Until next week.….….…

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.….……

Wisdom and Greatness

This has been a week for wisdom and greatness. Not from watching television news or paying attention to current events. What I did was to surround myself with some wise and great people.

Last night I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her latest book. The title is, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. While standing in line, I was able to capture this picture of her arriving for her talk. I was delighted to be joined there by so many great and wise members of the Spectrum Center Writers Guild plus a couple of folks from my Soul Collage group. What a great group of creative people.

Back to Anne Lamott. In her chapter on Writing she states:

We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”

Paying attention has been an ongoing theme of the RoadBroads. It is essential to stay curious and see what is all around us. I paid attention to Anne Lamott speak on how to keep moving whether you are writing or living life. One foot in front of another, one word at a time and next thing you know you have written the next chapter, survived the next crisis, accomplished what was once just a dream.

And speaking of accomplishing great dreams, I had the great opportunity to attend the Houston Symphony Thursday evening. Itzhak Perlman played and conducted. His passion and intense attention to every detail of the music is amazing to watch. He is focused yet is able to play a concerto by Bach all the while conducting a symphony orchestra. I was awed. It goes without saying the music was transcendent. If you get a chance see Itzhak Perlman perform, then run…don’t walk, to the nearest symphony hall. Hint: there is another performance in Houston on Sunday afternoon.

Finally, this past Friday afternoon I attended my first Halloween Party for the season. I went back to the workplace I had retired from back in May. This was my first time to go back. Years ago I started a tradition of holding an annual Halloween Party for staff and didn’t know if it would continue in my absence. I needn’t have worried. Janet, the woman who took my place and Brenda, one of the greatest Administrative Assistants of all time, made me proud. They not only carried on the Halloween tradition, but they even added a Haunted House to the festivities.

Here is a picture of the three of us. I am once again joined by wisdom and greatness. Yes, the creature with the skull face is the woman who replaced me. Obviously, she is doing a great job.

On a final note, I have to thank my friend, Ann, who remembered the song that I wrote about during my last blog post. The name of the song is, Who Were The Witches? You can catch a version sung by The Gaia Choir on YouTube. Thanks, Ann!

Until next time.……

Saturday Morning with Friends

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. What the heck was going on? When was the last time I actually set an alarm clock for 6:00 a.m. with the intention of getting up so early? I hit the snooze button at least twice.

Then I remembered. I had a very important appointment to keep this morning. After a quick cup of coffee I was off down the road to visit the Elephants at the Houston Zoo!

The Zoo sponsored this Elephant Encounter which took place in the morning before the Zoo opened to the general public. I have been enamored with elephants since I read the book When Elephants Weep back in the
early 80s.

We started off outside where we admired the beautiful creatures. We met the staff who care the animals on a daily basis. It is obvious that they are very fond of their four‐legged friends


While we watched, one elephant painted a picture and another lifted her feet so they could be inspected by the keeper.

The elephant that drew the most attention was Tess who is approximately 3 months old. Have no fear, Mom was standing very close by. Whenever Tess tried to wander away and explore on her own, Mom would take her trunk, grab Tess by the tail and pull her back to the safety of maternal presence. This did not seem to deter Tess’s desires to wander and kept Mom quite busy while other animals were engaged with the keepers. This technique has been adopted by human mothers. While walking around the zoo after the general public was admitted, I observed several children in harnesses being tugged by protective moms. I hope the human children had as much fun as Tess seemed to have.

After a brief lecture and demonstration of husbandry skills, we went inside to see where the elephants are cared for behind the scenes. Much goes into enriching the lives of these fine animals. Any training of the animal is focused on what will help the humans care for these animals. There were no circus tricks for entertainment. Only skills that will assist in caring for the elephants.

Then we were led out to an area where the elephants get bathed and we saw a demonstration. Since it had been very rainy in Houston for the past couple of weeks, the elephants had enjoyed the cool mud in their enclosure. The elephant even knelt down so that the keeper could wash his back. Once the elephant was all clean, then we were allowed to pet this beauty. I asked one of the keepers if the animal minded this much interaction. I was assured that the elephant was enjoying this, because of the added snacks and attention.

This was the first time for me to pet an elephant. The skin was softer than I had imagined it would be, like a fine leather. Standing next to the elephant was a humbling experience for me. I was dwarfed by even one of the smaller elephants.

I am very grateful to the Houston Zoo for this fun and enriching experience.

I dare say it was even worth getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the journey.

Until next week.…..

Movies and Plays and Spontaneity!

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite theaters to see a play. I went to Stages Theater which is one of the first venues I visited when I moved to Houston back in the late 1970s. Below you can see a picture of what this theater looks like today.

They are in the process of building a new Stages in a new location one block away from the current location, so I am including a picture of the current Stages just for old times sake. Of course when I started going to stages back in the early 1980s, that large apartment building behind it did not exist.

The play, “Sister’s Summer School Catechism: God Never Takes A Vacation” starring Denise Fennell as Sister was hysterically funny. Now, I am not and I have never been Catholic, but listening to Sister explain summer school to an adult audience was the funniest thing I have listened to all summer. The play involves a lot of audience participation and the audience was in a really good mood last weekend. Here is a picture of the stage at Stages. 

Then on Tuesday, there was all kind of talk about rain here in Houston. If you do not live in Houston, then please understand that there is rain and then there is RAIN, OH MY GOD WERE ALL GOING TO DROWN, ALL THE STREETS ARE FLOODING, HAVE ANY HOMES BEEN FLOODED YET?!?!?! I say that because I still have friends who are trying to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Harvey which made landfall over a year ago.

Since Tuesday is my weekly “cultural” day, my friend and I could not decide what to do. At the last minute we decided to stay close to home, go to a movie which has received very good reviews and guaranteed a good time. We went to see Crazy Rich Asians. We arrived at the theater for an afternoon performance, snuggled into our seats and started watching all of the previews. Half way through the first 50 (or so it seemed) previews, we kept hearing the sound, but there was no picture. Everything came to a screeching halt and a voice in the dark announced that, “A tech is rebooting the projector. Please be patient.” We waited. Then a theater representative showed up stating that it would be about five more minutes and gave everyone free passes to come back for another movie. We took our free passes and waited. After more than five minutes later the nice theater representative came back in and told us we could go see any other movie they were showing that day or we could get a refund and come back another time. My friend and I laughed at our feeble attempts at spontaneity and left with both our refunds and passes for a free movie in the future.

We went to a late lunch/early dinner at Mia Bella. I tried to order as Vodka Martini, lemon or lime twist, no olives. The waiter left. The waiter returned.

Do you want your Vodka on the rocks?” he asked.

No, I want it up. Lemon or lime twist please, no olives.”

Do you want it with soda?” he asked.

No, I do not want any soda,” I responded. I was beginning to get a bit concerned.

Oh,” the waiter said, “You want it like a Martini?”

Yes, a Vodka Martini,” I replied.

It was very obvious then and through out the meal that the waiter was new, but willing to bend over backwards to make sure that we were served with the utmost excellent service. The Vodka Martini with a twist was delicious. The food was also delicious! We will definitely go back to Mia Bella.

What a way to spend a completely spontaneous day!

Until next week!

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked‐open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post‐movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini‐series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money‐making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.

Life Collage

Another great week full of art and writing. I found myself exploring Collage as a method of creating art by assembling different pictures, objects, photos, etc. into one piece of visual art. I went to the Texas Art Asylum to see the show, Cutting Edge Collage Show.

The collage show was a good demonstration of the various techniques involved in this method. Quite a good variety of local artists and their work. Also, The Texas Art Asylum is a great shop to find anything that you cannot find anywhere else. Check out their website to see what it is all about.

After that visit, I had to try some of my own collage pieces. I have been involved in Soul Collage for a number of years now. Typically I would use pictures from magazines, newspapers and brochures to create. However, I am now in a phase where I like to use my own pictures. I selected a number of the pictures I use in this blog every week to make the following collage piece.

I like the idea of using my own photography to make collage art. It is like making a series of pieces about the journey of my life. I am going to continue to explore this idea and report back to you how it goes.

As you can see in my Soul Collage piece that I am still working with images from the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Bambu: This Thing Called Life. This will close on September 3rd and I just wanted to walk on the bamboo trail one more time. Since this is the second time I have walked through this exhibit, I really walked at a slow pace.  The museum wasn’t crowded so there was plenty of time to walk and observe without holding up others. When the museum is crowded, there can be quite a wait to experience this exhibit. If you want to go this weekend, then plan on getting there early.

Finally, I spent an afternoon at the Glassell in an art history class called, Women in Art. It is taught by Dr. Anna Tahinci who is genuinely excited and passionate about her teaching. She talks about the artists and their works, but she also wants to make sure her students are taking the time to really observe and think about the art we are seeing. The enthusiasm Dr. Tahinci exudes in her teaching makes the class a real joy and the time flies by much too quickly.

Now after being so inspired by all of the art and creativity in my world, I need to get back to writing. I promised my writing coach at least another 1000 words by midnight tonight!

More next week!

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!