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:

The Road To Being Amazed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

A Trip by the Numbers

In 72 hours, I board a plane bound for Down Under.

It’s a 30th wedding anniversary trip, conjoined with a belated 70th birthday celebration for DH.

Every Journey Needs a Book, or so DH believes.

So excited was he by this Trip of a Lifetime, DH activated his ancient double EE credentials from his Trinity University days and created this book.

I apologize for the shiny cover: kitchen lights don’t like clear plastic overlaid on white. 

What really matters is the profiled cover stops for our Australia and New Zealand adventure:

  • Sydney Opera House
  • Ayres Rock
  • Hobbiton

Beloved has planned even more stops: sailing around the Great Barrier Reef, visits to glowworms and geothermal vents, concerts and ceremonies with Maori dancers and Aboriginal natives, plus sunrise services and starlight shows amid rocks, mountains, and domes.

After the fall we’ve had, we both crave this escape to the other side of the world. But we’re only taking it because it was a journey earlier paid for. Alas.

Getting to/from and then all around Australia and New Zealand requires body padding and patience. It’s a combined 46 hours and five minutes to gallivant between the two nations.

One‐way flying involves 18.4 hours of travel via routing from Houston to Auckland to Sydney. Then, there’s a 17‐hour time difference between here and there. We’ll be on the road 13 days, visiting five cities/towns in as‐yet uncounted stops between the two countries.

Now, Sydney’s on fire, along with much of New South Wales. I’m dreading more news of koalas burning and scorching temps of 94 degrees and more.

Heat stroke fears vanish if I can hold a joey, snuggle with a ‘roo? Maybe eat to chockers? Can I endure the weather and smoke without whinging or sooking?

Half the fun of a road trip is getting ready with research of local slang and customs. This jaunt offers a unique twist, courtesy a late‐trip airline ticket.

How often does your nickname match an airline ticket?

What fun I’ll have landing as Mel in MEL. A lifetime first! Thank you, Melbourne, Australia for this quirky nugget!

It gets weirder later.

On our last day, we’ll arrive home three hours before we left Sydney.

FYI, I beg your understanding.

If I arrive early to your place in December, remember: I may still be on Aussie time. 

Ah, another RoadBroad adventure beckons!

Going Down the Road of Silver Linings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.….

Mourning a Sister — and Fellow RoadBroad

I still reel from the news: my eldest sister is dead.

Late Wednesday, a sheriff’s detective knocked on my front door, asked me to sit down, and told me that Mimi had been found deceased in her home.

I remain in shock. So does my other sister, Merrilynn.

We three sisters were/are textbook Baby Boomers. Born 3–1/2 years apart in the ‘50s, we specialized in one thing: loving each other deeply while living independent lives with very different personalities.

We called ourselves, “Sisters United!”

We met on the road many times, including in Austin 40 years ago last May.

Our mother took this photo of us after my graduation from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mimi, Merrilynn, and Melanie = Sisters United!

Have you ever seen three sisters who looked so different from each other?

Our college experiences mirrored and contrasted in interesting ways.

Mimi also graduated from UT‐Austin, three years before me. Merrilynn’s graduation came in 1977 at nearby Southwestern University, where I attended my freshman year of college.

My university graduation was a miracle (said the older sisters; in retrospect, I agree). Their degrees came in multiple, both of them earning diplomas at the post‐graduate level. Me? I stopped at bachelor.

We shared degrees but not careers: pharmacy, education, and journalism. Link these, anyone?

By 2006, the three of us ended up together again, this time living separately in the Houston area. We moved our aging mother to the area, watching over her as only devoted daughters can.

We managed several road trips with Mother before she could no longer travel. New York (twice). California. New Mexico. Around Texas.

Sisters Birthday Dinner, 2012

2012 was a tumultous year in our family.

We had to move Mother into memory care. Merrilynn’s husband died of pancreatic cancer. My brain exploded from a ruptured aneurysm.

That fall, we sisters came together again. We joined Merrilynn’s tribe to celebrate her birthday that September.

Sometimes a family needs that kind of fundamental happy, if only for a single evening. I forever remember the tears that lined my eyes that night. They felt permanent.

Here we are now, seven years later — almost to the day.

Two sisters remain. 2019 is now another soul‐breaking year.  

I wonder how these cycles of life repeat. Death and life, hearts shattered and minds overwhelmed. Again. 

But, always, Sisters United!

As a final note, let me editorialize:

Mimi did not leave a will. She also did not plan to die unexpectedly.

Reality always beats naivete, creating a different journey for surviving family.

I beg you: love your family enough to leave a will. No one’s grief should become overburdened by unnecessary complications required by the probate experience we now face.

To each of you, thank you for sharing this life and road trip with me.

I love you.

Further Down That October Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.….

To the Birds, I Go

I may have found my next home. 

It’s in this massive mound of sticks, twigs, and grass, resting in aerial perfection two miles from where I presently live.

It’s been here who‐knows‐how‐long.

I discovered this utopia on Friday when cold weather (relative to Houston!) sent me to the gym, not the sidewalk, for my daily exercise.

On the road, I spied these five dark blobs. Each sat in its own corner atop a single high‐voltage electrical transmission tower, aka Power Tower.

Nearby stood more poles, all bare of any dark spots.

Is that because Deadsville hosts a mile‐long strip of power towers parked in a sea of brown grass? Is that why I walk so fast through here, never looking up to notice anything resting in any tower?

I crane my neck. More questions rush in.

How did I miss seeing these nests in seven years of daily walks? This question begs another: if I missed this, what else do I not see? 

I stop the car, taking photos, including some artsy iPhone flips. Up close, the blobs reveal as bird’s nests. More questions download :

Why did the birds build their houses here?

Lofty height? Warm currents along the wires? Baby bird protection? Access along Power Tower Lane?

My eyes look again, noticing another first: cell phone trifecta up top of the pole.

Is this a double‐duty tower: power and phones in one?

So much looking up and my neck cricks. I glance at the ground, spotting a second first.

This fall’s first batch of hay bales lay, already bound for farmers, at my feet. That’s a seasonal thing around here but it’s earlier than normal.

My imagination launches.

I envision an unfurled hay bundle, sliced to pallet size, sliding up the pole. And me? I’m beyond ready to join the birds. 

Smile meets reality. I’d be looking down, not up.

On second thought, I’ll stay grounded awhile longer.

So much still to be seen down here on terra firma.

More stories to write, too.

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.….

Is Lost Ever Found?

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

Dirty T‐Rex awaits new home: trash bin?

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

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

I snap a quick picture.

My feet return to hustle‐heart speed.

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

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

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

Which side is up on Red Rex?

Is this Lost‐but‐Found, V.2.0?

Picture time repeats.

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

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

And so the flood of questions begins.

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

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

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

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

Do I have a journal problem?

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

Journals await.

What do you do with what you find?

Reading & Remembering the Home Team

Sports and me don’t mix. Blame my DNA.

For evidence, I enter my most recent road trip.

Free tickets and curiousity lured DH and me to watch the Houston Astros play Tampa Bay.

We saw our last Astros game in 1993. As in back in the previous century. Our Astrodome was still the 8th Wonder of the World. Nolan Ryan came back to the old home field to pitch one last time. He blew out his elbow and we never attended another Astros game.

Playing ‘gotcha!” with the past — as in three times in one night.

Imagine our surprise last week when, upon arriving at the new‐to‐us ballfield — Minute Maid Park — we spied this. Our first Astros jersey of the night. Ryan? Good old #34 — emphasis on old.

What are the odds that my return to sports would involve the same team and the same player on the same night — 26 years later?

Meaning comes where you find it. Especially when you’re not looking.

Playing with food: a ballpark game for adults only.

By the time we f.i.n.a.l.l.y. maneuvered to our seats, total exhaustion overwhelmed me.

So many people. So much color. So much noise.

Struck out by all the incomings, I returned to my standard healing response: gentle play.

What else to do with a cold pretzel on a hot night?

Look around. Make something new.

Voila! Pretzel + Diamond = Ballpark Playtime. Can you spot the two diamonds?

Reading books: the best game in the universe (all of them).

Afterwards, I turned to my first love: reading.

Yes, I brought books to a professional baseball game. Two of them, because options and variety matter. Like playtime.

My mother taught me well: bring a book because it will always feed you. Life won’t.

Her life‐long mantra echoed in my ear the following morning when I spotted my cousin’s words.

Lila had spotted my reading picture on Facebook. In response, she offered the Compliment of the Year: 

Seventy five years later — Austin to Houston — like mother, like daughter — I’ll gladly be the chip off that old block.

Everyone else can take baseball; I’ll take my books.

Anywhere.