The Older, But Better, Road

I got a facial this afternoon. I went to the Greenhouse Day Spa which is by far my new favorite spa here in Houston. I got a facial from Annie. She is excellent. I visit this spa on a regular basis to get both facials and massages. I highly recommend it. However, lately I realize that my conversations with Annie revolve around keeping my skin hydrated and protected from the sun. I now use sunscreen on a daily basis. Does my attention to skin care mean that I am getting old?

Women my age…” I am told have funny little hairs pop up their faces out of nowhere. Well, yes, that occasionally happens to me, but I am quite sure that doesn’t prove anything. Facials used to be just a nice luxury treat rather than a long‐term maintenance plan. Doesn’t the waiting room of Greenhouse Day Spa look relaxing and inviting?

Twice during the past six months I have visited doctors for the most routine of appointments. Okay, so one appointment was for an arthritic knee. Yet, since weight loss surgery and losing enough pounds to have a small humanoid walking beside me everywhere I go and attending routine water aerobics classes, my knee is much better. Thank you. Yet during both of these appointments I heard the phrase, “Women your age…” and “You may start noticing different pains…”. Seriously, just because I now make noises when I stand up after sitting for long periods of time, doesn’t mean a darn thing!

Okay, over a year ago I retired from my full‐time government job. However, I retired early so I could devote the next 30 to 40 years to writing and art. I have been very lucky when it comes to aging. I never had any grey hairs until I was in my 50’s. Wrinkles didn’t seem to become permanent until I was in my 60’s. I am still in my very early 60’s. Medicare is still very much in the future.

I am sure I do not look anything like what I envisioned someone my age to look like when I was younger. I do not feel anything like what I saw people my age feeling like when I was younger. I wonder how younger folks see me?

Fortunately for me, I have never felt better! I haven’t been this active in a long time. I am passionate about both writing and art and now I have time for both. I both write and go listen to other writers. I try my hand a various different types of art and spend a lot of time in art galleries and museums.

I have also noticed that among me and my friends, the older we get the more self‐assured and at peace we are. I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.

Also, another great source of joy is the fact that it is now October. After a very long and hot summer, we are supposed to get our first cool front next week. I have been waiting for this. Now I am off to do some more Halloween decorating. I revel in this time of year. BOO!

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.….

Writing Around Manhattan

Five full days in New York City offer a multitude.

Of people.

Of experiences.

Of observation.

Each and all, an overload of every sense. In other words, nirvana for a writer.

DH and I traveled to Manhattan to explore our passions at both Book Expo and the Audio Publishers Association Conference.

I’m the author in our tribe, writing both fiction and nonfiction. He’s pursuing audio narration, a perfect sequel to his radio news days.

Standing among the thousands at these conferences, we both remembered our past. Where we met and how we lived, several lifetimes ago.

But what we learned last week is that, because of our pasts, anything is possible in the future, even if we’re both overwhelmed.

Writing every day offered a balm, a centering point. My computer called me back to the page.

It sounded like a voice whispering me to capture what I’d learned, heard, seen, discovered in panel discussions, even casual conversations. During a round‐trip trek of the High Line, I pulled over to take dictation.

Yes, sometimes writing only involves dictation.

Later, breakfast at Cafe Lalo beckoned. This Upper West Side restaurant remains a must‐stop any time New York calls either DH or me.

Its brick walls and glass‐walled front offer a bohemian decor that enriches the creative food it so playfully delivers.

Go at night and you’ll recognize its interior from the movie, You’ve Got Mail, 20+ years ago. Nothing is heaven like Lalo chocolates and hot tea on a cold New York night.

By the way, that orange cup — for green tea, of course — was this year’s unexpected treat. I’d have bought one but they won’t sell their china.

Finally, a first‐time visit to Central Park’s Strawberry Fields demanded one last round of daily writing. But this became a prayer for peace.

It felt so vital following the cacophony of unexpected crowds a hillside away.

I fled the Imagine memorial, diminished. I imagined John Lennon would feel the same. 

Musicians performing despite signs forbidding it. Vendors selling bad reproductions and cheap art. People plopping down for pictures, one pair of butt cheeks slapping in after another.

Yes, it was that crude. I ran away to write it down, get the unpleasantness, the disappointment out of my head.

DH showed me his photo much later. I saw not me, but a writer at work. I imagined an unwitting Monet model, consumed not by the artist at work but by the art itself.

Maybe that’s what Mr. Lennon was after, too.

When the Road Goes #&$^%!!

Sometimes, the road fails a broad.

A weekend excursion to a Houston‐area arts market beckoned. A knee‐high pile of to-do’s flashed yellow. Is this really what you need to be doing today?

I printed a cursory Google map—home to market—and announced, “we’re set.”

We parked at the recommended parking garage—free parking! I turned us left onto the street, chatting like a bird as I followed my phone’s blue line.

Ten minutes later, DH‐with‐the‐built‐in‐satellite‐dish‐in‐his‐head asked, “We’ve been walking a long way for the short walk you promised.”

I shoved my iPhone in his palm. He coughed.

We were 10 minutes in the wrong direction.

Twenty minutes after we began, we spied the art market.

And spotted a block‐long row of walk‐this‐way cones.

Another half block and more orange soldier‐cones later, navigation time arrives. The electrical cords on the sidewalk offered one challenge.

But the power saw laying on the concrete only ten steps later?

Across the street—where the multi‐colored tents stand—we found one food truck for the multiples promised on the website.

The art was well, bleh!

That’s tough truth coming from a woman who loves to support local artists. None of it—acrylic paintings, drop earrings, and enlarged photographs—was what either of us wanted, needed, or craved.

The best site was this sculpture. What is it? A vertical bike offering a ride to…? And those bonus parts are…?

I smiled.

Sometimes a single piece of art can turn around a moment‐in‐time.

Turning to my right, I spied something to widen that smile.

The wall’s simple, powerful message bettered an entire day. A fierce reminder for each of us, if we choose to see it.

Leaving the art market, we spotted a heretofore hidden parking lot across the street. One left turn and 30 seconds later, we stood before our car. Well, duh!

DH mentioned hunger. 2:30 in the afternoon. He chose a burger bar nearby for linner—as in a lunch/dinner combo. It was millennial‐loud. He ate what they advertised. I chose greens

We reviewed how south the excursion had gone. How do you rescue a Road Trip Gone Bad? We embraced four learnings:

Rescue your Emotions. Slow down.

Revise your Map. Double‐check details.

Reorganize your Agenda. Get flexible.

Return to your Passions. Find new haunts.

To close the day, we relaunched with that last learning. A final round of googling and we discovered a rebranded tea bar. There, we read novels for the rest of the afternoon.

Delicious details on that part of this road trip next Sunday. And it’s a first.

A to‐be‐continued blog post.

A Mindset for the Road

We launched this blog last May, shortly before a three‐state drive to attend a Colorado writing retreat.

Nine months later, I’m birthing something new. It’s a merger of sorts, combining what I learned last spring with what I know this winter. Call it a RoadBroad’s 2019 approach to living and writing.

It comes courtesy of my writing friend, Danielle, who shared a version of this “Comfort Zone” graphic on Facebook. The image grabbed my attention so fast, my neck nearly snapped. My mind thought aha!, and off to the Internet rabbit hole I vanished where I found the same image, topped with the creativity quote:

Image copyright: TWH (The Wealth Hike); Quote copyright, Dan Stevens. 

It’s so timely, post‐New Year (either 1/1 or 2/5). There’s 45 weeks left in 2019.

Take a look at the graphic. Where do see yourself here as a woman? As a writer? 

Some days, I stretch across all four zones.

Today, I stretch across Learning and Growth. It’s blog post day.

Tomorrow, I’ll perch in Fear, courtesy of an upcoming public speaking event.

Who knows what Wednesday and Thursday will bring? I suspect Comfort Zone therapy after Tuesday. But by Thursday, Learning and Growth returns, incorporating the week so far.

Learning and Growth involves an awakening, a choice we must make consciously. Comfort Zone and Fear tend to rule by our default.

My goal is to shrink the red circle of Comfort Zone into a smaller dot. It’s home to daily human recovery needs, so elements of it are vital. Healthy eating. Daily exercise. Adequate sleep. Spiritual practice.

Before we are women or writers, we are human beings. Superwoman and her twin, Wonder Woman, checked out of this universe decades ago.

Fear is too much my friend. So that’s why she resides in the orange zone? Moving forward, I’ll honor Fear while keeping a healthy dose married to boundaries and deadlines.

Finally, I focus on where my heart and energy landed when I saw this graphic. Enlarge the yellows and greens of Learning and Growth into ever‐widening zones. Purpose‐filled days. Achieved dreams. Goals enlarged. Objectives accomplished.

Daily, I’ll massage Dan Stevens’ words: creativity comes from activating intuition, expanding perspectives, and living fearlessly. 

What’s your Zone Plan?

Maybe the graphic offers not your life, but a simple story.

Heroine’s Journey, anyone?

Lava on the Road, Story on the Page

Only weeks ago, I resolved to find magic in this New Year. It landed last night, courtesy of an unexpected gift.

The weekend crisis du jour sent DH and I on the road. A new lamp shade beckoned.

We arrived home with that and a bonus: a Lava Lamp for my writing studio.

In the store, the colorful box screamed, “All this color! You know you want me!” Curious, is it not, that all the box’s colors match my novel characters? Can you identify the six shades?

Looming larger, this toy offers a different kind of road trip—straight down memory lane. But in my 70’s teen days, I never owned a Lava Lamp.

Having one up‐close, I’ve realized a Lava lamp is essentially an electric candle, sans wick, parked inside a glass bottle. It works when a glob of bottled wax gets heated, rises then dances inside glass under illuminated by a tiny light bulb.

Lava Embryo With Legs speaks of new life, new creation, new start. And unable to stand.

This mutant look compliments reality. Nothing’s ever perfect as it’s born.

All applicable for what’s been an ongoing funky new year. Maybe now as we begin week number five, it’s full‐on reboot time? Isn’t that what last week’s Full Moon with a Wolf SuperBlood twist teased? Saying goodbye to the past and moving forward with gusto, finally free?

An hour after plug‐in, Lava Embryo With Legs grows up, sprouting a semi‐carpet of background grass.

Technically, my inner feminist says this should be Lava Woman. I squinted to identify relevant body parts.

It becames that: It. Or SkullScoliosisRump. Alien doesn’t fit because this image resembles no creature I’ve seen in the best (and worst) sci‐fi flicks.

Still, it’s perfect, mimicking change with scary precision. Is change ever easy to figure out?

Two hours in, an entire new world arises: Lava Universe?

This unfolding lava world reminds me of watching last week’s eclipse. Shadows and colors changing on the moon as a memorable lunar evening reveals itself. We changed, too, watching, absorbing.

As I unplugged Lava Lamp three hours later (and DH already in bed), the meaning of the night roared in.

We writers do all this as we pen the stories that call us to the page (or the computer).

Like solid wax in a cold lava lamp, Story remains static, unborn, unchanging. But give Story enough heat, time, and attention, and it rises to new life, changing shape, spawning tales, and building the form that was always inside. Waiting.

More than a half century ago, Michelangelo wrote: “The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of white marble does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.” 

Substitute a few words and you’ll find a writer’s truth: “The greatest writer has no conception which a single page* does not potentially contain within its mass but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.”

We’re not working alone.

The Story is already inside us, awaiting heat, time, attention.

Like a lowly little lava lamp.

*Substitute computer screen, piece of paper, notebook, etc.

*NOTE: The Michelangelo quote is verbatim from 1501, thus verbiage rings/reads somewhat stiff and awkward to 21st century ears/eyes.

3 Days, 3 Roads, 3 Adventures

Tuesday. Drove to Hermann Park with Dear Friend (DF). We wanted to spend some time outside on a beautiful cool day with art, squirrels and ducks. This particular park is a wonderful place to go for a walk. There are concrete paths, gravel paths, and lots of grass to walk on. There are also many trees, benches and picnic tables. DF and I walked and sat and walked and sat some more. We absorbed as much of the park as we could and committed it to memory. I took pictures with a real camera (as opposed to the camera on my phone).

This particular sculpture was a topic of discussion last year when I took the Women In Art class at the Glassell. The artist who created this piece was sculptor, Hannah Stewart. The title of the work is Atropos Key and is located on top of the hill at Miller Theater.

Since it was a weekday, there were not too many people. Foot traffic did pick up during the lunch hour with several people escaping an office setting to commune with nature. Some folks just walked and others sat on benches and visited with the ducks. Some folks walked alone, some in pairs and others in small groups. The squirrels kept an eye on everyone who wandered through.

Wednesday. DF was in the hospital getting ready for some surgery. Nothing major or life threatening, but necessary. Sometimes a road trip involves being wheeled around a hospital (or accompanying someone who is being wheeled around a hospital). From admitting room, to pre‐op holding room, to operating room, to recovery room, to hospital bedroom. I spent the day either by his bedside or sitting in the waiting room. Surgery was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., but he was not wheeled into the operating room until 1:00 p.m. He pulled through the surgery like a champ. Only a 5 hour wait in the recovery room before DF is moved to a private room. Once I was assured he was comfortable in his room and tucked in for the night, I left with the promise to return the next day to transport him home. Nurses checked on him every hour.

Both before and after surgery, we spent time in curtained cubicles where we caught some strange snippets of conversations.

A doctor said, “Your wound is safe. You could put WD40 on it and it still wouldn’t get infected. You won’t have any problem with a shower.”

A nurse said to a co‐worker, “No, it’s an hour and a half. Do not try to add another 1/2 hour to my life.”

A nurse said towards the end of the shift to someone we could not see,“I don’t like coffee. I don’t like the way it looks. I don’t like the way it smells. I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t even like the look of coffee beans. Coffee is not my friend.

Thursday. DF and I had hoped for a hospital discharge by 11:00 a.m. No such luck. There were no more road trips around the hospital. Lots of waiting in the room. The nurse continued to visit every hour. Finally by 3:00 p.m. DF was sitting in a wheelchair on his way to the front door of the hospital.

Once out in the sunshine, we drove off in my car. We went to a drug store for meds and then to Brasil’s for an early dinner. I drove slowly through tree lined neighborhoods. Classical music played on the radio. Now life began to return to what can be considered normal.

Until next week.….

Stuck? Try Constraints

For the first time in our 30‐year history, DH and I low‐balled our gift exchange.

$30 apiece on each other.

Why the limit?

Boredom? Familiarity? Fixed income? Seasonal stress?

A numbers thing: $30 for 30 years?

But that anniversary isn’t until next December. And we’re not early partiers.

What answered was this: time for something different.

And so, DH gained Sherlock socks plus a World Travel Book for Kids.

Nirvana for a retired kid with a travel‐hungry Holmes heart.

He gifted Springsteen’s Broadway concert CD plus colored pencils and word puzzles.

Music for a writer’s ears while filling in word clues with 48 different hues.

The deliberate, inexpensive gift exchange has, in less than two weeks, ascended to status as Most Memorable Holiday Ever.

Why?

We forced ourselves to think outside the box. Which, unwittingly, drop‐kicked us into another one. Whoever hears ‘think inside the box’? 

With four hard walls around our gift‐giving, we surrendered dollars and expectation to creativity and consideration.

Overwrought, over‐priced shopping expeditions sit in the ash‐heap of our coupled past. Thank god!

Now, it’s simplicity, fun, and creativity—in all presents. And presence.

Constraints: they’re as clever as you make them.

Like a < 200‐word blog post.

First ever.

Magic, Not Resolutions

We say it once every 365 days.

Happy New Year!

What we forget is what else is true every January 1st.

It’s also Happy New Day!

And Happy New Week!

And Happy New Month!

Four times to thrill at a new start.

Next year, we’ll add a fifth: Happy New Decade!

It wasn’t that long ago that some of us celebrated Happy New Century and tag‐teamed with Happy New Millennium, too.

Why do we make only one of these happy proclamations then repeat it year after year, too? Are we numb to what the words really mean? Or could mean?

Photo copyright Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX.

Odd questions follow an otherworldly afternoon.

DH and I experienced the profound New Year’s Day Crystal Bowl Meditation at Houston’s Rothko Chapel. Neither words nor a singular photo can ever fully encompass this sacred space.

Multiply the mysticism by imagining people of all ages and types sitting on every bench with others camped on the floor on yoga mats and meditation cushions. Others crowd in quietly, filling the space at insistence to hear soul‐speaking chimes.

Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga offered gentle guidance as harmonies rang out from crystal bowls arranged in the chapel’s center. From the chimes came a year’s intention for release, recovery, resilience, and renewal.

An hour later, DH and I emerged to the glory that is Barnett Newman’s incomparable Broken Obelisk. The reflection of Newman’s sculpture in the Rothko’s pool is only part of its charm.

The art honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, ironically, our nation will honor two weeks from today.

Synchronicity roars. 

Today also marks the New Year’s Day birth of Irish writer Maria Edgeworth in 1768. Praised by Jane Austen, the British‐born Edgeworth was noted for her ground‐breaking innovation to the novel form. She also issued an ahead‐of‐her‐time clarion call for women’s rights and children’s education plus pithy and comedic social and political observations.

Edgeworth penned the novel Ormond, a title only one letter removed from my already unusual surname.

Synchronicity returns. 

How did I not know of this woman writer before? She’s so prescient that quotes from her 1795 Letters for Literary Ladies were recycled by 1960‐era feminists in America.

Edgeworth also penned this quote: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

Comforting words on this New Year’s Day. A sort of centering prayer.

As are the words of noted American author Neil Gaiman: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.…I hope you read some fine books…Don’t forget to write…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I’ll merge the wisdom of Edgeworth and Gaiman to craft my own vision for the new year: caring moments in 12 gentle months laced with magical dreams and self‐surprises, topped off with a dollop of healthy madness, all in service of full‐time storytelling and a life fully lived every day.

Four intentions of projects to embody, complete, and present by this time next New Year’s Day.

You heard it here first.

What’s your vision to surprise yourself?

Writing Chain

Prayer Chain, she called it.

I heard Writer Chain.

How could I not?

Look at its pieces—orange beads, angel wing, spiral, open hand.

Each, aspects of me.

The number four prominent—bead colors, bead types.

Divine Mother rising.

I bought Mary Jane White’s lovely bead work at Kay Kemp’s Holiday Marketplace in the Houston Heights. Upon returning to my writing studio, I laid the chain on my writing desk as you see it here—tucked in a circle and cradled in orange crepe paper as it was handed to me.

Words have flooded out of me since. More, better words than in months. Long‐percolating ideas and stories breathe with new life. Novel scenes possess a depth and weight unimagined at conception. Even scribbles from a novel initiated 15 years ago sparkle with invigorating possibility.

Best: feedback gathered on that writing stuns. (Note to reader: I share these comments begging your advance forgiveness for any perceived narcissism.) Some direct quotes: wow, what are you doing differently? Your writing has improved so much. Your stories flow so well; you’ve really crossed some kind of hurdle. How did you do this? 

I credit the Writer Chain.

Wonder invites pondering: what does chain mean? Words of pain—going dark and negative, a place I often reside—spring forth. Prison, gang, bindings, suffering. Then, Nelson Mandela.

To every yin, there’s yang. Mandela sought, and found, other meaning in his chains. Light to dark.

Perhaps chains serve as bindings, or links, to connect us, one to another. In uncovering those connections, we listen and interpret then discover what might move us forward. Uncover to discover.

Are these links, or chains, the key source for inspiration and progress in our journeys as writers, artists, human beings? How do we connect all the links we find?

Is this ultimately the Circle of Life?

The Lion King, courtesy Elton John’s songwriting wisdom, roars as the season encourages rumination.

I hope the chains, the links, in your life offer you similar inspiration and forward movement. Open your eyes and unclasp your hands. You’ll see chains and links illuminating your path. Little gifts surrounding you, awaiting uncovering.

On your desk. Under a tree.

Maybe take a quick, short road trip.

Only a half hour after I got into my car, I discovered Writer Chain.

I’m forever changed by a piece of art lying on a table awaiting my discovery. With my writing practice now unexpectedly richer than before, my life, too, stands enriched by a marketplace reunion with four wonderful artists—Kay, Mary Jane, Virginia, and Sharon. Thank you, friends.

A final thought for this almost‐over season:

Nothing reveals the truth like six little words on a t‐shirt.