30 Years Later: A Proposal to Remember

On the night he proposed, DH sent me on the road.

His phone message lured me out of the radio station and to the freeway: meet me at the Chevron station — corner of Bingle and Old Hempstead Highway — six p.m. tonight.

Thus began a scavenger hunt across northwest Houston. Thirty years ago today and one week after a no‐ring ocean cruise.

At the gas station, I found his car.

Empty, except for a dozen red roses piled atop the hood. A card lay nearby with a single question, plus directions to a nearby movie theater.

When Harry Met Sally.”

Perfect for us, both as a couple and individuals. 

In a parallel universe, I’m Sally Albright. As finicky as she about meals, clothes, and sometimes, conversation, too. What’s wrong with demanding your kale warmed, with two tablespoons of organic EVOO on the side?

I’m eager to re‐enact the Katz’s Deli scene. Meg Ryan overlooked vital details, ones only I can move and moan.

DH channels Harry Burns to near‐perfection. He approaches every situation with an engineer’s logic. Fortunately, he’s never suffered the movie’s perennial question: can friends enjoy lasting fringe benefits?

DH remains world‐class at Pictionary, screaming out his equivalent of “Baby Fish Mouth!” at every opportunity.

After we watched — and laughed — through every moment of the movie, wine and dinner followed.

Mexican food. He knows me, and my order, well:  Christmas enchiladas but only two, please, and lukewarm charro beans in a separate dish.

A second card followed. With a question.

Then we drove to his home and, in the backyard, DH popped out a third card. Yes, a question.

I aced the engagement exam and DH put a ring on it.

(Could you ace this quiz?)

Three months later, we married.

Our fast altar moves followed a wild, five year, friendship/courtship. We had no idea that, all along, we were channeling our inner Harry and Sally.

Now, here we are, three decades and three photographs later:

The only pose we planned was the first one, our formal engagement picture.

The middle black‐and‐white pose followed a need for promotional photos for our business, Media Consultants.

How could we resist a third pose for this post? But hey, it required no road trip.

Only a swing into our den, the one (un‐ironed) white bed sheet we own, and a willing photographer, my good writing friend, Danielle Metcalf‐Chenail.

Now, we’re off to celebrate. No roses, wine, or cards needed this trip.

Women Artists On The Road Together!

On Wednesday of this week, I finished an 8‐week collage course at the Art League Houston. It was taught, lead and inspired by Sasha Dela. Here is my final 3‐D art piece which of course shows Halloween art, because I love Halloween! As much as I love it, it pales in comparison to the works of my classmates. We were a class full of women all interested in expanding our artistic knowledge and experience. They were all wonderful and I learned so much from every one of them. So, in honor to my wonderful classmates and artists, here is the work they showed on the last day of class. All of the pictures were taken by me. They were sometimes taken at weird angles during our class critique. Please forgive my photography and I hope you enjoy the art as much as I have.

What a great group of artists! What a great group of women! I was so fortunate to spend my summer with them.

Until next week.….

Remembering Ship Trips and Chapel Dreams

At last, 2019 reveals its magic.

Awaiting luggage at a long‐forgotten Caribbean airport

Earlier this week, I searched through family pictures on an unrelated project. These blog post pictures stopped that work and launched this post.

One glance at the dated t‐shirt awakened old trip memories. Not a road journey, but a trip at sea:

DH and I sailing on our first cruise. 1989, I thought. Hmm, 30 years ago. I flipped over the picture: Baggage Claim. Nassau, Bahamas. 8/25/89. 

Thirty years ago. Today.

Batmon & Batwomon — as islanders would say

Something about all the yellow and black colors offered premonition for shipboard antics.

Mention costume party and we’re first in line. Alas, we thought we were quite the lovebirds, too.

Or is that batbirds?

It gets better.

Egads, what was I thinking?

Naive to cruise games, DH and I felt super‐special when we received the captain’s invitation to meet him.

Then we stepped off the elevator and saw all the other special Ones. It’s good to have your Ego Balloon deflated.

I’d like to write that girl from yesterday a letter. Save yourself future grief and tamp down that Texas hair and leave the hairspray at home. Helmet head and fru‐fru attire doesn’t become you. Save your energy for where it really counts.

Young bar greeters welcome station listeners at sea.

The cruise came courtesy of the radio station where DH worked. The free trip required schmoozing with listeners every night—in the bar du jour. All drinks on the house.

One evening, as we sailed back toward Miami, DH quizzed the women cruisers about what they had packed for the trip. He knew I had overdone the shoes. I cackled when my heel count lost by one pair.

In losing, I learned that RoadBroads must pack less. Or, at least, don’t show‐and‐tell your suitcase goods.

I also lost when it came to what I most craved on that trip: an engagement ring. We’d dated five long years. I fantasized, too, about a shipboard wedding, courtesy of that cute captain we’d met earlier.

Neither happened.

I learned expectations can bite. The years since have taught me a better life strategy. Take a breath. Wait. Good news follows every pause.

Adage illustration—here—next week.

NOTE: In discovering these cruise pictures, I realized an amazing synchronicity. 2019 marks notable life anniversaries: graduation from both high school and college; meeting my husband; getting engaged; and marriage. How did I miss these breath‐stopping connections for nearly nine months?

Going Down the Road with a Hearse and a Crematorium

It’s been just over a year since I visited with my niece, Becca, in Colorado. It was a pleasant day. Melanie was there as well. We had lunch and then we had ice cream. What a great memory. Doesn’t she look happy?

Then she shared with me that she was considering going back to school to study mortuary science. This means she has an interest in becoming a funeral director! What fun! It does run in the family. My Dad was a funeral director for Memphis Funeral Home. Have I shared this before? I also worked at Memphis Funeral Home when I was working on my bachelor’s degree at Memphis State University. This was the funeral home that buried Elvis Presley which remains my closest brush with greatness to this day.

Well, somewhere on Facebook I saw a link with a Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria that sold Lego kits that represented various aspects of the funeral business. And, of course, being the self respecting Aunt that I am, I wanted to share this with Becca. Just in case you are wondering and don’t speak German, a Leichenwagen is a Hearse. Now, I haven’t exactly shared it with Becca yet, but as soon as I mail these two packages to her, then I will have officially shared. And if she reads this blog, all of the surprise will be gone. Except for the fact that she will have to assemble it herself. There are many pieces and picture directions and lots of German which neither she nor I speak. More fun!

Ordering these items from the Vienna Funeral Museum was quite the process. Much of their website is in German, because they are located in Austria. The cost for these items was listed in euros. I have many friends who have traveled all around the world, but I have not. I have never paid for anything in euros, but lucky for me, PayPal is good at converting dollars to euros so this American didn’t have to stretch her brain too far. In the process I emailed the Museum a couple of times and communicated with an Erich and a Helga who were most helpful in assisting me with the order. Google helped by providing lots of translations between German and English. The order was placed, dollars converted, the package left Austria and landed in America in about two days.

Then the package sat in customs. Then it sat somewhere in New York. Then the package sat in New Jersey. It only took about a month to get from New York to New Jersey. Was Customs building a file on me? I still don’t know.

Once the package left New Jersey, it made it’s way to Houston within a week and was out for delivery. But Oh No!!! There was a problem with the address. It was not delivered. If I didn’t act soon, it would have been sent back to sender. I went to the Post Office and at last was handed the package that had journeyed for so long to find me.

Now all that is left is sending the package on to Becca. Hopefully I will send it sometime this week and not let it sit here for a month like the Customs office. I hope I haven’t completely ruined the surprise by revealing all in this blog, but as I said before, there is the process of assembly.

It’s not every Aunt that will look forward to sharing hearses and crematoriums with her niece. I am very proud to be just such an Aunt. Happy Birthday, Becca!

Until next week.….

Play Time to Heal a Broad

Flying on a netted saucer?

The week demanded frivolity. Then I remembered last month’s promise.

Six weeks ago, our neighborhood park overflowed with youngsters on Independence Day. No room for free spirits eager to swing, crawl, spin, and leap. (Who cares if she’s 62 going on 8?)

I pledged in my July 7th blog post to return to Commonwealth Park. With youngsters back in school, the neighborhood park returned to me. 

Hmm, helping hands to lift an old broad?

Yikes, this tube was a hard squeeze. And low to the ground.

Creaking bones sent reminders as voice echoed, “you’re living a sixth decade, sweet girl.”

Somehow, I slithered out. With help.

Onward, I continued. The seesaw delighted, especially with its complete recycled construction.

Yabbadabbado!

Old log. Old tire. Old seat.

The latter crept up high. In, shall we say, very uncomfortable places.

Perhaps I can find the builder and suggest a rubber pad for old buns?

The seesaw was the only playground equipment familiar from my childhood. Cough, cough.

You may remember last month’s primo playground piece: this green sponge‐y thing. From a distance, it looks like a larger version of those PacMan creatures that zip out of reach, beyond your joystick’s fastest response. Note: no blame to user’s slowpoke moves.

What IS this thing?

This pole topper was as frustrating as that ancient video game, if only because I have yet to figure out its purpose.

Too high to hold, too big to clasp, even adult hands are forced to hold low.

As for the black stick, you swing around on it. Whoopee. No wonder it was barren on the 4th.

A tight squeeze (in two ways!)

After the pole dance, I climbed Mount Everest like a geriatric monkey.

Scaling ever higher, my limbs became entangled so deep in the ropes, the photographer forced a back‐side emergency rescue.

From all this play emerged several major life learnings:

  1. Body play animates in ways both mind and soul crave.
  2. Joints can bend only so far. In either direction.
  3. Forcing new moves on an old(er) body is not animating.
  4. New meds work; no hyper heartbeat from exuberant playtime.
  5. (Actually #1 discovery): Play like this more often.
Whee!!!

Nothing heals like soaring, flying, and laughing.

Giving thanks for the ability to do all three, especially only one week out of an unexpected hospital stay.

For those reasons, I’ll soon return for more playtime.

Meet me there?

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.….

When your Heart Screams: “IT’S E‐R TIME!”

Thunder started when we left the movie theater. Clear skies outside but inside the car, my heart threatened to blow itself out from beneath my ribcage.

I feared an Alien replay.

Remember the movie monster that bursts out of the victim’s chest? I envisioned me the victim this go‐round. Inside DH’s brand new car.

Be calm, I whispered between breaths, now shortening into wispy gasps. Gather info. Focus on facts.

I googled “women over 60 symptoms heart attack.” 

No mention of racing heartbeat. Or shortness of breath I had earlier blamed on a recent cold. I wasn’t dizzy, tired, vomiting, or sweaty. Neither neck, jaw, shoulder, or back ached.

Relax, you aren’t about to die.

Car grew hot. Sweat bathed my face.

Can you raise the air conditioning, please?” I asked. My chest began to hurt. I imagined Michelangelo placing a block of marble square atop my breastbone. Chill. You don’t hurt anywhere. Don’t over‐react. Gather data first. Worry later.

DH neared the last traffic light. Fairness dictated honesty.

Hmm, I think maybe there’s something going on with my heart,” I force‐wrapped calm around every syllable. “It’s racing, like thunder. A bit of shortness of breath. When we get home, I’ll take my blood pressure. We’ll go from there.”

Minutes later, the numbers screamed, HELP ME!

My heart joined the chorus. My god!

FYI: Normal blood pressure is 130/80; pulse under 90.

I tore the paper from the pad and race‐walked into the den.

We’re going to the emergency room,” I forced an even voice. Don’t scare the driver. “My pulse is 188. Too fast. I need help.”

Thirty five years of me, and DH knows my sound. He whirled around, said nothing but grabbed his keys, wallet, and my hand.

Urgent care or ER?” He knows I like choices.

I barked back, “ER. And turn up that AC. I’m sweating bullets.”

Less than a day later, the diagnosis followed innumerable tests.

SVT with Left BBB. That’s Supraventricular Tachycardia with Left Atria Bundle Branch Block. 

Translation: my heart beats too fast and it’s got a short in it.

Good news? Both involve easy fixes. White pill every morning and baby aspirin every other day.

The remaining ‘scrip is tougher: absolutely no caffeine (as in no chocolate ever again); 100% Mediterranean diet; keep exercising and meditating; minimize stress. 

I’ve had my share of health woes, which I’ve tried to keep off this blog. But, I learned on Friday that women over 60 are at HIGH risk for heart disease.

Even teetotalling, speed‐walking, pescatarians ( that’s fish‐eating vegetarians) who neither smoke nor take drugs can get blinded by what they believe “protects” them.

Truth is, sometimes the body needs extra tender loving care, especially as it ages. Here’s TLC for yours:

  • Exercise: 30 minutes/day, five days/week, non‐negotiable.
  • Diet: Mediterranean or DASH diets are most heart‐healthy.
  • Weight: Pounds appropriate to your height.
  • Smoking: Don’t. If you do, quit. Now.
  • Alcohol: Don’t. If you do, minimize how much.
  • Stress: Avoid as you can; counteract its toxicity with meditation.
  • Blood Pressure: Check yours regularly; ideal = 130/80, pulse under 90.

Four crisis response tips you can learn from my recent health (mis)adventure:

  • Trust your gut: When your body speaks, listen to what information it offers.
  • Stay calm: Information empowers; gather and sort it, then respond.
  • Pain or Blood: Ignore #2; seek medical attention.
  • Mind your mind: Your body depends on your brain to guide you; let it help.

Please: learn from my experience.

Start taking heart‐care of yourself.

You really don’t want to ride in a pink wheelchair.

Or stay on the maternity ward in an overcrowded hospital.

Screaming babies aren’t fun when your heart hurts.

The Comfort of Rituals

I have a ritual. It’s a very sacred ritual and it takes place during the late summer of every year. Actually this year, it came early. However, that’s okay, because I needed something to cheer me up this week. The temperatures in Houston are in the triple digits and not going down any time soon. This is the worst part of summer. Don’t go outside without sunscreen and a hat. Better yet, don’t go outside. You will sweat.

As I have written before, I am a big fan of Halloween. I have been for years. If reincarnation is a fact, then I must have been a witch way back whenever. Did I get burned at the stake in Salem? It would explain so much. Even Hannah, my cat, is a fan of Halloween. She loves my witch hat and poses next to it every chance she gets. Why did I have my witch hat out last week? More on that later.

While I’m running chores and errands at various stores, I always stop and notice the first time I see any Halloween decorations. This year it happened late last week. It was at Michael’s. And of course whenever I see these first seasonal decorations, I have to buy something to add to my collection. Lucky for me, Michael’s was having a sale to clear out some of last year’s stock. Great! That meant that I could buy two new Halloween decorations for the price of one.

I picked up these two little items. One is a skeleton sitting in a meditative position. The other is a stack of books. I took them home and added to my ever increasing stock of Halloween decorations. Since I have so many, there are several items that stay out all year long. Think me weird? Again, just think of it as explaining so much. But the skeleton looks peaceful, doesn’t she? It reminds me to practice mindfulness meditations and keep a sense of humor about myself at the same time. And I like books. I don’t really read palms or tell fortunes, but I can make something up if you like!

I thought this trip to Michael’s was an unusual and fortunate find. Surely I wouldn’t find any other Halloween decorations about. This ritual of mine usually did not take place until September. Imagine my surprise when later the next day I walked out of Kroger’s and saw this pumpkin display! Maybe everyone else was agreeing with me. Late summer in Houston is too hot and let’s proceed as quickly as possible into fall and cool off.

Maybe we need Halloween, because it allows us to laugh at things that typically scare us. There has been a lot of scary stuff in the news lately. Let’s move to a place where the ghosts and goblins are imaginary and we can have some fun. Maybe Halloween is much more about healing from our fears than it is about scary movies.

But please, let’s not forget about the witches. Another fortunate incident happened this past weekend when I made another visit to Houston Tintype Studio and photographer Laura Burlton took this picture of me. Yes, I am ready for Halloween. I am ready for cooler weather. I am ready to relax and enjoy Halloween festivities. I am ready to start healing some of my fears. It’s less than three months away. I will start practicing now.

Until next week.….

Celebrating Traffic Tickets

Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend. And third time’s not the charm.

Pardon the cliches and my negativity.

Truth is, this particular Monday, it’s hard to be positive about much in the world. But I’ve got a blog post due so let’s distract ourselves for the next 300 words or so.

It happened like it has twice before: the cop sprang out of nowhere. Flashing red lights in my rearview mirror and it’s, well, I can’t repeat what I shrieked. I told Ellen no profanity.

His badge read Youngblood. No Officer Krupke here. You’re in Sugar Land, Melanie, not West Side Story.

I felt ganged up on.

He interrogated me as if I’d endangered lives: “Are you the only person in the car? Are you confirming that, ma’am? Are you? Repeat?”

I winked. It had worked in the last century. He repeated his queries as if wrinkles equal poor hearing. I wanted to ask him if he talked to his mother using this tone of voice.

Then I heard my father’s voice whisper in my ear, “the police are always right — when they hold the ticket. And it’s ‘sir, officer.’ ”

The young man said I was in the HOV lane, not the HOT lane. I replied, “Excuse me, Officer, I mean, sir, Officer? HOT lane?”

My mind raced with the unsaid: I’m not hot? Wait, what is this officer saying? Is it the weather? Did I just teleport to Mars? 

Later, in Defensive Driving, I learned that if you see a diamond on the road, you’re in the high occupancy lane. Meaning there must be more than one RoadBroad in the car. Toll tags don’t save a single in the double lane.

The six‐hour course taught me, too, how little I know about lane markings. As in the meaning of solid lines, double solids, and single dashes.

I missed one question in the exams. This picture illustrates what I still don’t understand: traffic can move left or right through dashes but never through any solid line? What about the far lanes? 

For nearly three years, I’ve driven the HOV every Wednesday for writer’s group. It’s a worthy $2.25 toll charge to drive single and save time in a still‐rush‐hour morning.

This time, busted, cost me $146: ticket fee, court costs, defensive driving course, plus a ridiculous $12 for my driving record.

The latter burned.

I remain a convict in Wyoming, courtesy of DH (see RB post, dated 3/3/19). The brutal black on white offers no hint of truth. Where’s that vital line: sleeping while unbuckled?

I’d say third time IS the charm for defensive driving. Except all I’ve learned is how little I know about diamonds.

But now — courtesy of me — you do. You’re welcome!

How Fascinating is Glue?

In days gone by, I never got very excited about glue. I have used it all my life, but there was a time during my long lost youth when I simply used whatever the teacher handed me or what I found at home.

I remember when a plastic bottle with an orange pointed cap and Elmer’s glue inside held everything I needed for any school or craft project. Then someone came out with super glue. You could hurt yourself with that by attaching your hand to a table or your hands to each other. Until everyone got the hang of super glue, one could wind up in the local Hospital Emergency Room. Luckily most of us have gotten a lot smarter over time.

Now my journey through collage and mixed media art work has caused me to discover how many different types of glue are available to me (or at least how many are sold at Texas Art Supply). During my most recent collage class, I actually used four different types of glue. Different materials require different glues. Our focus this week involved textiles. I used different pieces of cloth, paper, yarn, paper, beads, etc.

I was enjoying lunch today with my Dear Friend and I innocently asked him what he thought about glue. Since he is an Engineer, he had many bits of knowledge, factoids, and streams of thought about glue.

There is Elmer’s Glue and then there are glue sticks. Then there is epoxy. Epoxies are exciting because they come in two liquid parts that when combined creates a chemical reaction that makes one hard part. There are pressure sensitive adhesives. Some glues and adhesives need to be flexible; like when you are fixing a tire or fixing the sole of a shoe. Some glues are made of polymers and some are made of monomers. Converting monomers to polymers is polymerization. That’s what happens when super glue hardens. Sometimes you get a chemical reaction when glue is exposed to light. That’s called photo‐polymerization. Then if you want to talk about glue and quantum mechanics you can consider that the shorter the wave length of light the more energy each photon has. A photon, of course, is a quantum of light. And, as everybody knows, light is both a particle and a wave. Thank you, Albert Einstein. AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point of the conversation my eyes rolled in the back of my head and I stopped taking notes. I just want to make pretty, or at least interesting art!

My Dear Friend has a history of buying his glue and adhesives at a hardware store. I have always purchased my glue and adhesives where I find art supplies. I guess this is just the difference in perspective between engineers and artists.

Maybe this is the metaphor for life. Regardless of your approach, there are many ways to keep your self, your act, your art or your life together. Engineers want to make sure they keep things together in scientifically proven ways. I want the world to be artful and interesting.

How do you keep your life together?

Until next week.….