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.….……

Traveling Down the Medical Road

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures that pertain to this blog post. However, for your viewing pleasure, I will include a few pictures of my cats. Enjoy!

Friday morning my dear friend (DF) was driving me to a medical procedure. It was nothing major.….just an endoscopy.….just having a camera stuck down my throat.…..what could be more fun? I had this procedure once before and woke up in the middle of it. That was no fun at all. So, I was nervous. Since I was nervous, I did not sleep good the night before. I was tired, cranky and nervous. Don’t you wish I had asked you to drive me?

So there we were going down Holcombe Boulevard on our way to the Medical Center. When I am nervous, I have a tendency to talk to other drivers because they just aren’t driving right.

If you are going to turn, just do it. You don’t have to think about it.”

You know, I wish you would go a little bit slower. 15 miles an hour is just way too fast for me.”

You get the idea.

Occasionally I gave DF helpful information and suggestions.

Be careful, there is a car pulling up next to us,” I said

DF replied, “Yes, I see that car in that lane of traffic next to us. We’re not turning for a few blocks, so it’s fine.”

Once we arrived at our destination, I checked in with the receptionist and had a seat. There were quite a few other patients with family members/friends/care givers. Now keep in mind that I was at a place where many people were there to get tests for all kinds of imaginable digestive disorders. Which made it seem especially cruel when two medical employees cruised through the waiting room with a cart brimming with bags of food from a local barbecue restaurant.

Finally I was called back for the preparation stage of this journey. I was directed to a curtain lined cubicle where there was a small hospital bed, a lovely gown (don’t forget.…the nurse reminded me.….it opens towards the back), and a cute pair of beige socks with non‐slip tread on the bottom.

When I had finished changing clothes and made myself comfortable, the curtains opened again and I was greeted by two nurses. I got my official hospital wrist band, I had my “vitals” taken, and I answered a bunch of questions. Then DF was brought back to visit with me until it was my turn.

The waiting began. Since there were several other patients in cubicles all around me, I would occasionally catch snippets of conversations. I could tell the nurses were asking the same types of questions I had answered. They seemed very interested in sleep apnea.

One nurse even walked into the cubicle next to mine and I heard her say, “Hello, I am one of the Susans, my name is nurse.” Everyone seemed to get a good laugh about that. I was glad that Susan wasn’t my nurse.

Finally, it was my turn. I was wheeled back to the procedure room and the last thing I remembered was talking with the nurses. The next thing I knew I was waking up to see DF. I almost wondered how he got back into the procedure room, but then realized that I was in recovery. Everything was over and I had survived.

The road trip back home was much more pleasant than the drive earlier that day. This time I had just enough medication that I never felt the need to talk to other drivers or give DF any driving instructions. He seemed to enjoy that much better.

Now that I am back in good health, please check back later this week when I will post my first official annual Halloween Blog.…..Boo!

Breaking RoadBroad News

Change is good. Especially when it involves the RoadBroads.

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

Women writers. Ordinary journeys. Extraordinary stories.

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

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

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

C’est le vie: so much to learn. 

I’m never bored. Grateful.

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

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

- Coffee shops

- Airport terminals

- Bookstores

- Women’s stores 

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

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

Who knows what comes next?

To See or Not to See

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

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

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

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

Consider another factor.

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

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

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

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

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

Look for yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

Meaning‐Me decided to reframe the issue.

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

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

New glass. New eyes. New view.

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

Now I can see.

I’m ready for the road.

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.……

When Old Becomes New

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

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

Questions pounded my brain walls:

How long have these oak sprouts been here?

What made our tree police suddenly shout “Green!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upon looking closer, my smile broadened.

Starfish Quinoa has a buddy. Shade.

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

I walk daily to remain healthy.

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

Right around the corner surrounding a trifecta of trees.

How personal, meaningful can a little daily walk become?

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the image below:

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

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

Until next time.….….….

A Rose is a Rose is a … Story!

The sun‐kissed white rose lay abandoned in the red‐hot seat of the grocery cart.

What came first?

Did its buyer choose to leave the gift my DH had just handed to me?

Or was it a senior DH who forgot the present for his/her love?

And so began Story Time, Round 543,928 between DH and me.

Yes, we play this game a lot. And we’ve been together 34 years.

It was weekly road trip for groceries. The two of us: me, the RoadBroad, and him, well, I’ll call him RoadDude for this post. After all, you’ll be hearing more of him as these posting adventures continue.

As I locked the car, I saw DH/RoadDude (this is going to get complicated) grab a grocery cart. Then he stopped and pulled back. Turning toward me, he pointed inside the cart.

The two of us froze and stared at the orphaned flower. It lay there with such strength. It radiated an odd, quiet solemnity. How does a rose gain that power?

It was then I noticed its head — the flowery part — was flat. As if it’d been smashed.

DH read my mind.

They left it because it got ruined,” he said.

No, they forgot,” I responded and went on, “because it was an old guy and he had an attack of some‐timers.”

In RoadDude’s big brown eyes, I spied a sparkle. I knew what was coming.

Tall Tales of Creative Riffing. Our favorite game.

His turn, first: “No, he accidentally put the sack of potatoes on the flower and when he saw it flattened up, he said ‘well, she’ll just have to get over no roses for her birthday.”

My response: “Or he’s back at home, looking for his anniversary gift to her and he keeps saying, ‘I know I picked up a white rose for you, darling.’ And she smiles gently at him, her eyes filling with tears and pats his hand. His eyes well up as he repeatedly apologizes for no flowers for their 65th.”

Him: “Maybe he bought it to leave for us, a Saturday Pay‐It‐Forward action. No why needed.”

Me: “And we found it. I like that one. You win!”

I reached in to the cart, picked up the rose, and said, “Here’s your prize!”

We both laughed and returned the flower back to its original perch, leaving it for the next couple to story‐time their find.

I’d like to believe my writer fantasy came true.

Who knows the real story of how a long‐stemmed yellowed white rose, wrapped in an empty grocery sack and tied off with navy blue ribbon, came to be in an abandoned grocery cart in Texas?

The truth doesn’t matter. What does is the possibilities for play, storytelling, a wee bit of magic on another ordinary day.

How about you? Do you play the storytelling game on errand day?

Best part of this game?

No wrong answers!

Sage Offerings, Post‐Parking Rage

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

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

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

I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarity landed.

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

I repeated myself.

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

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

Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life? 

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

I wonder what story she told and what she learned.

My learnings?

I can defuse stranger rage.

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

It’s been a good week here.

I hope the same for her.

Animals Watching Humans Watching Animals

6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and someone is knocking on my door. Surprisingly I was up, awake and dressed. How did this happen? I opened the door to see my friend standing there looking only slightly more awake than me.

Who’s idea was this?” I mumble.

Yours!” my friend replied.

He was right. This had been my idea. The Houston Zoo was hosting “Photo Day”. The only catch was that we had to arrive there at 7:00 a.m. Yikes, that was early. I used to get up at that godforsaken hour when I was employed, but not since I retired. Would my love of animals make this expedition worth while? We were about to find out.

In an email from the Zoo, we were told to bring whatever camera equipment we could carry. There would be a light breakfast and then we would have time to photograph the lions, tigers, and bears. I assumed that most of the attendants would take photos with their phones. Hardly anyone used actual cameras anymore.

Wow! Was I ever wrong. I haven’t seen that many cameras, lenses and tripods in one place since.….ever! A total geeky photo nerd convention. And, yes, I was right there in the middle of them. Here is what the crowd looked like when the picture taking commenced:

However, before the photo sessions began, we did enjoy a nice breakfast compliments of the Houston Zoo. Coffee and doughnuts and fruit…Oh My! While consuming sugar and caffeine, we gradually woke up and the sun came out. As photographers mingled around, I listened to several conversations:

This baby will zoom from 20 to 600.”

Yeah, but the 70D will shoot 7 fps continuous.”

I can’t believe I didn’t bring my polarizer.”

It cost a lot more than the f4.0, but I get better DOF control.”

Would you know what they were talking about? Me neither. I was way out of my league as far as how much I knew about operating my Canon camera. That’s why I brought my friend along. He’s an Engineer and knows pretty much how everything operates. He even brought his own monopod.

Soon we were off to see the lions. A male lion came outside, but did not walk very far. The keepers put out a lot of food to encourage the animals to move about, but this guy wasn’t that hungry. However, he was beautiful!

After visiting with the lion we moved over to the habitat for tigers. This wonderful creature was much more cooperative and walked around a lot while the “paparazzi” clicked away.

Then it was off to the bears! The two bears in their habitat were sisters. Their names were Bella and Willow. They walked around a good bit, but also spent a lot of time eating coconut. I watching these gals as they finished off the coconut and then gathered grapes and frozen fish. Is it my imagination or is Willow smiling at me?

Last, the male lion went back inside and three lionesses came out for their snacks and pictures. They were much more animated than their male counterpart.

All the while we were moving about to get the best possible pictures, Zoo keepers were talking to us about the animals. By the time Photo Day was over, my friend and I had taken approximately 350 pictures. I hoped I picked out some of the best to share with you.

Was it worth getting up before sunrise to do this? Yes! It was much more pleasant to wake up for Photo Day than to wake up to go to work!

Until next week.….