The Light Road

So what’s the first thing a writer does after spending four days in a writing intensive at the Spectrum Center? Well, of course, I went to see a movie about a writer. Little Women proved to be a great way to spend a Tuesday afternoon in January. Yes, I went to the first showing of the day. Yes, everyone else in the audience had grey hair just like me. There was one woman in there who didn’t look old enough to be there with the retirement crowd, but she must have taken the day off work. We let her in anyway. It has never been overly crowded at the 12:15 pm showing on a Tuesday.

In the movie, Jo March is played by Saoirse Ronan. Another brilliant performance. Loved the scenes where she was on the screen with Meryl Streep. Two incredibly talented actors! Can’t believe the Director, Greta Gerwig, wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

I also noticed that Jo spent much of the movie writing late at night by candlelight. Today I write in a modern home with electricity and air conditioning and such. I also don’t have to write by hand and keep my handwriting neat enough to be read by my publisher. I think I might be spoiled?

Coincidence. After the movie my Dear Friend and I went to buy some light bulbs. Have you bought light bulbs lately? Used to be when you needed a light bulb, you went to the store and bought a light bulb. There weren’t that many choices. Now there are whole stores dedicated to light bulbs. Compact fluorescent? LED? I don’t know! I just want to be able to see what I’m doing and not fall down. I don’t want to have to write by candlelight, because I’m pretty sure my eyes are not as good as Louisa May Alcott’s eyes. It was very helpful to have the assistance of an Electrical Engineer with a PhD to help me with my choices. He even installed them later that evening.

My brain was so taxed after the trip to the light bulb store, Dear Friend and I headed straight to my favorite restaurant for relaxation and solace. Yes, of course I mean Houston’s on Kirby. What is my favorite meal you may ask? A veggie burger with a side of Cole slaw and a Vodka Martini. The veggie burgers at Houston’s are the absolute best in the city. Then when I am half‐way through the martini, a server showed up with a lovely chilled glass to freshen my drink. The lights were low and the booth was comfy. What’s not to love?

If you haven’t seen the movie, Little Women? Go. Now. It’s been nominated for a bunch of Oscars.

If you’ve never had a meal at Houston’s, what are you waiting for? It’s okay if you don’t care for veggie burgers. They offer a wealth of meats on their menu. You can’t go wrong.

One final note: Save the Date! On June 11th plan on attending the Holocaust Museum Houston. An exhibition called Compassion will open. There will be 25 works of art and 25 essays/poems from members of the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (Wivla). I am fortunate to be one of the writers contributing to this wonderful exhibition.

Until next week.…..

The Mindfulness Journey

Oh rats! Here we go again.

There’s been so much stressful news this week and now this.

Just 10 days into the new year and already we are facing a possible weather catastrophe. Lots of rain and severe weather is predicted. The television weather pundits are doing everything they can to scare the stuffings out of all of us. I guess that’s a good thing in that it might help some folks stay home tonight or at least get home earlier than planned.

Ever since I retired from my job with local government, I promised myself that I would never go out when the weather was threatening. However, today I am at a Texas Writing Intensive at the Spectrum Center. I love being a part of the Spectrum Writer’s Guild. I love the intensives and the classes. Max Regan is a fabulous writing coach and teacher.

So I am here. The skies are grey and cloudy. I am looking out a window at a bunch of beautiful trees and landscape. I am hoping that the rain holds off until at least 9:00 p. m.

Many years ago I worked for a hospital and had to spend the night on a couch in a patient lounge because I could not make it home due to flooding. Almost everyone in Houston has a flood story. Some only get caught and can’t get home. Some lose their homes. Stories vary, but there are many.

My “internal risk manager” has thought this all through. I am in a place where I am safe. Worst case scenario I am in a place where there is coffee and water. I packed protein bars and protein drinks. In case I can’t leave tonight, there are many couches which we can use for sleeping. I have my phone and my lap top. All fully charged. Why didn’t I think to bring a book? Oops!

Now you may understand why I practice Mindfulness Meditation. I was introduced to this over 12 years ago. I took my first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class from Micki Fine at Mindful Living. Over the years I have attended many “Days of Mindfulness” where one spends the entire day in silence and mindfulness. I have also attended a meditation group for at least the past two years. We meet twice a month and it has become a steady part of my schedule. I also practice on my own at home.

For me, mindfulness meditation is about focusing the mind on being present in the moment. Thoughts and worries come and go, but the meditation allows space to remain non‐judgmental. It’s helpful when I am feeling anxious (about the weather?) and I don’t want to get hooked into my anxiety. I can feel it and acknowledge it, but I don’t have to let it rule my day. Focus on the breath.…in.…out.…repeat.

Micki just published a book for children about mindfulness. It’s called May All People and Pigs Be Happy. It is a sweet story for children of all ages and our inner child as well. Check it out at Amazon. Micki is engaging in readings and book signings all across Texas and the rest of the United States. Also, if you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness Meditation, check out her website at livingmindfully.org.

Well, now I am off to the business of attending a writing intensive. If you are interested in exploring your “inner writer”, check out the Spectrum Writers Guild at spectrumcenter-houston.com.

Where Caves Tell Stories

What” beats “when” in every tale.

That truth rings even more true in the world of cave art.

Amid the ongoing agony of bushfires, Australian archeologists celebrate their discovery of what is, to date, the oldest rock painting on Earth. In the 14‐foot high cave painting, wild pigs and a buffalo stand surrounded by spear‐bearing humans.

Indonesia: where the buffalo roam? Copyright, Ratno Sardi, Nature.

The image was found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and dates back at least 44,000 years.

It’s old. It also ranks as the world’s first figurative artwork. Translation?

Our first Storytelling‐by‐Picture!

At the news, my mind flashed back five weeks ago to a sunrise beacon and I thought, Australia! We’re coming full circle! 

From north‐central Australia, Uluru offers an Oz‐ian close encounter — with cave art.

Drawings incorporating red paint, white circles and ancient charcoal dot the upper cave space.

At Uluru, DH and I came face‐to‐face with rock cave paintings. Our guide explained these illustrations as tales of aboriginal movement and migration.

Round mythological figures on the right look leftward toward small concentric circles. Anangu travelers nearing their first watering hole? 

The Anangu look for concentric circles which symbolize waterholes or other significant way stations. For a roundtrip journey, the key appears in multiple concentric circles linked via straight lines.

Uluru, ancestral home to the Anangu, includes hidden waterholes (some dry by drought these days). Tribe members travel between waterholes and other way stations then relate their experiences with each other.

Each experience lived becomes a story shared then passed from generation to generation.

What concentric circles tell the Stories of your Life?In discovering Indonesian rock paintings after seeing the same in Australia, I fascinate on the tales of each. The age and location of either mean nothing.

I ask instead—what does it mean? What are we supposed to do with these newly discovered paintings? 

Some people see only line drawings and chuckle.

They glance once then mutter about Stone Age Neanderthals facing off against big, mean animals. In a single reaction, they revert to what comforts: light and breezy with a touch of standoff pose, ready for battle.

Others stand up and study the lines marking the rock.

They scrutinize the concentric circles. They find deliberate postures or speculate about hidden meanings: underlying glances, line direction, or distances between figures.

They’re all correct.

Sometimes, an image is what is says. Two figures squaring off in what is universal to every story: conflict rearing its inevitably ugly head.

Other times, an image stands in for meanings four layers deep.

Both matter.

And both are part of a story waiting, sometimes thousands of years, to be understood.

Some things never change.

Is that good news?

New Year, New Road

Another year gone. A new year is upon us.

This year I got smart in so many ways. For starters, my Dear Friend and I went to Kiran’s for dinner on New Year’s Eve. Have you ever been there? It has become my most favorite restaurant in all of Houston. Do you like Indian food? This is the best Indian restaurant ever. Anywhere. I mean it! If you have never been there, it is located at 2925 Richmond Avenue. Google it. Call and make reservations. Go. I will wait for you to return to this blog.

The restaurant is named after the chef, Kiran. I have gone there many times for a random dinner. It is my go‐to‐restaurant for a Thanksgiving buffet. It is now my go‐to‐restaurant for New Year’s Eve. Everything is always delicious. Everything. Every. Time. Delicious. This is a picture of Kiran greeting diners. She is very easy to talk to and she is the heart and soul of this restaurant. It is not unusual to see her walking among her guests and talking to diners. The menu is very vegetarian friendly while offering plenty of meat to the carnivores. And don’t let me forget to tell you that customer service here is beyond wonderful. And there is an afternoon tea every Friday and Saturday. Don’t even get me started on how wonderful the afternoon teas are. Again, if you haven’t tried it.……go.

Since I have had bariatric surgery, I can only eat small amounts at a time. No problem. The waiter boxed up whatever I couldn’t eat and I took the left overs home. He could not have been more accommodating.

I was at Kiran’s to celebrate celebrate the changing of the year. A lot of stuff happened in 2019. In December of 2018, I went to Galveston, but was unable to go for long walks on the beach which I typically enjoy very much. My knee hurt. Apparently I have arthritis. In early 2019 I had gastric sleeve surgery and spent a year losing a ton of weight. I am now walking 2.5 miles an hour with NO pain.

I lost my beloved cat, Vesta. She was only 19 years old. I still miss her. However, my other cat Hannah (who is a mere 14 years old) is enjoying having me all to herself for the first time in her life.

2019 was also a busy and rewarding year for me as a writer and an artist:

  • I participated in Color Story: 2019
  • I participated in the Midsummer Light Show presented by Women in the Visual and Literary Arts
  • Became a board member and Literary Chair for WIVLA.
  • Sold art works at the annual gala for Children At Risk.

My life as a writer and artist continues. This is what I will focus on for 2020. I hope you manifest all of your dreams this coming year. I am also hoping for World Peace. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Until next week.

Three Goes to Two: How about You?

Mimi, Merrilynn & Melanie — Houston, TX, 1980

Forty years ago, we were three.

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

Melanie & Merrilynn atop Breckenridge Mountain, CO — 2014

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

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

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

It means a life that mattered. Matters. 

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

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

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

Merriam-Webster’s definition:

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

Something was missing. Synchronicity delivered this Maya Angelou poem:

CONTINUE 

My wish for you
Is that you continue

Continue

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

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

Continue

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure the gifts they bring to your life.

My command to you rings in my own ears.

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

What are your special hopes and intentions this year?

A Road Full Of Elves

Apparently last year I started a new annual tradition without knowing it. That was when I went to Galveston for Christmas and stayed at the San Luis Hotel. I was fascinated and, let’s be honest, a little frightened by all of the bizarre elves that lined their entrance. Big elves. Scary elves. I swore their eyes followed me whenever I walked past. I have continued with the holiday tradition of “elf hunting” in 2019.

This year I went to the Houstonian. A lovely hotel. Best customer service ever! While at the Houstonian I spent much time at the Trellis Spa. Wonderful massages, facials, whirl pool, tranquility room, etc. I had a most relaxing time.

However, once again, I was faced with elves. Not exactly the elfin gauntlet that I faced in Galveston, but they were still there. Watching me. Watching all the guests that walked into and around the hotel lobby. Some of them were in Christmas trees, others were slinking along on the floor next to a sleigh. Just trust me, they were everywhere.

This guy greeted me as soon as I walked into the front door. I thought he was Santa getting ready to deliver toys or whatever it is he does this time of year. Yet, this critter had pointed ears. Santa never had pointed ears.….did he? Why is the reindeer riding in the sleigh next to those dolls that eerily look like children with bad hair styles?

Don’t you think at night these little elfin creatures spring up and run around the hotel playing tricks on the guests? I could’ve sworn one night, really late at night, I heard giggling and the sound of little elfin feet running down the hall. Maybe it was children? Maybe it was some adults who had partied into the night? I made sure the dead bolt was on and pulled the covers up over my head just in case.

Elves are supposedly small creatures with pointed ears that are typically mischievous and have magical powers with capricious natures. What do you think these guys look like they’re up to? Can they ever really be trusted?

According to elfin lore, the wee elves aren’t supposed to age. Yet, I saw examples of elves who were both young and old. It is possible that we mere humans have yet to scratch the surface of what makes this species tick.

Now, for those of you who know me well, you know I spent many years going to Austin over Christmas and staying at my favorite Austin spa. I loved it there. I never saw any elves in Austin. Apparently elves are a Gulf Coast phenomenon. Anyway, a couple of years ago a giant hotel conglomeration bought my favorite Austin spa, added rooms, additional pools, and raised the prices. Now I am a Winter Holiday Nomad. Next year I will continue my search of the elfin world in Southeast Texas.

Until next week.….

From Hobbiton to Home

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

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

Alas. Such is the life of a weary RoadBroad.

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

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

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

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

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

The best part of Hobbiton: the bucolic view.

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, I found Rotorua’s only bookstore.

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

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

Christmas lands soon.

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

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

Then: accept it all.

And keep moving.

Animal Road

Is it my imagination or is this gorilla smiling at me? It sure does look like he is a very friendly chap. A big and powerful chap and aren’t I glad there is a thick pane of glass between us. But still, I love this beautiful face.

This is one of the many creatures that I encountered during my most recent visit to the Houston Zoo. I like to go early in the day before the crowds show up and before all of the school tours start. Of course I am glad that so many people like the zoo as much as me. I just prefer to commune with the animals when there is less of a crowd. Since I enjoy walking and I have a zoo membership that gets me in for free, this is a favorite spot for me to visit early on a week day.

On this particular day it was actually cold here in Houston. I even wore my heavy winter coat for the first time this year. Many of the birds were inside huddled up to the heaters provided for them. But I was also surprised at how many animals not only stayed outside, but also played in the water. Take this elephant for example:

She played in the water for at least an hour. You might be able to see the stick that she kept with her the whole time. She would go under water and then pop back up with the stick held tightly in her trunk. She was having a great time and the cold air did not appear to bother her in the slightest.

Also these flamingos did not seem to be deterred by the weather. If you have never looked at flamingos up close, they really do stand on one leg quite a bit. Who knew? And they also seem to stand very close to each other. A cozy friendly bunch of wading birds. I learned that a group of flamingos is called a “pat”. A pat of flamingos lives at the Houston Zoo. I am so glad that someone as old as myself can still learn new stuff all of the time. Of course as you can see the weather may have been cold that day, but the skies were blue and full of sunshine. Perfect for admiring the pink and orange hues of the flamingo feathers.

The last animal that I will write about today never lived at the Houston Zoo. Rather, this Siamese cat lived in my home and in my heart for 19 years. Her name was Vesta. This is a picture I took of her about 4 years ago when she was a spry 15 years old. This past November she became ill and did not bounce back as she had done before. I was with her and holding her when she was put down on November 19th. A part of her will live in my heart forever.

I am so grateful for all of the animals in my life.

Until next week.….

On The Road To A Gala

Yes, it’s the season. The season for parties and galas and celebrations and such. Of course it is a way to come together and congratulate each other for all of the hard work everyone has done during the past year.

It’s also a way to raise money for various organizations. Having spent many years in the Social Work profession, I knew there were always long lists of non‐profit agencies that do good work. This time of year they need our help.

That’s why I was honored when Sasha Dela asked me if I would consider donate a piece of collage art work for the Children at Risk 30th Annual Gala. I know Sasha because she is a local artist and teaches collage among other classes at the Art League of Houston. I learned much from her class and was happy to donate two of my collage artworks for the gala.

If you haven’t heard of Children at Risk, it is a research and advocacy nonprofit that works for improving the quality of life for Texas’ children.

Here are some of the art works that were up for bids at the Gala. The first picture is one by Sasha Dela:

The bottom picture shows one of the collage pieces that I contributed.

Everyone was bidding and raising lots of money for the good work done by this agency. I didn’t stay until the end, so I don’t know exactly how much money was raised. However, a good time was had by all.

If you would like to donate money, get involved, or just learn more about Children at Risk, you can go to their website at childrenatrisk.org.

Happy Holidays!

Until next week.….

From Oz to NZ

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

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


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

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