Revising Paths

Every so often the road I am traveling on for this life journey takes an odd turn that I don’t always anticipate. Six months ago I would never have guessed that I would have the experience that I had last Monday.

My one road trip this week consists of traveling to the hospital and having gastric sleeve surgery. I had never planned on having this surgery. I was having a great time with my new career in retirement. I was having fun going all over the city of Houston and seeing whatever there was to see.

However, it was because I was enjoying my life so much that I made the decision to remove a large part of my stomach. According to the process outlined in Melanie’s last blog post, I moved out of my comfort zone, dealt with the fear of having any type of surgery, learned everything I could about this, and am now growing through the experience.

I plan on living a long time and want to be as healthy as I can be. I have a lot of writing to do. I don’t have time to worry about arthritis and high blood pressure as long as there is a safe way to improve my physical body. Being healthy frees up my mind and body to follow my bliss. I am very pleased to report that two days out from the surgery, I am feeling pretty good.

I am beginning some of the very many changes that need to happen in my life as a result of this surgery. I am finding out all the ways I can ingest protein and vitamins and hydration.

At first I was sent home from the hospital with several small pill cups that hold one ounce of water. I was told to drink an ounce of water every fifteen minutes. This would help guarantee that I was receiving enough hydration.

However, these cups are small and light weight. The small cups quickly became cat toys and were getting knocked off of tables and across the room.

That’s one of the many places where my Dear Friend (DF) stepped in to help. He brought me a shot glass that shows the measurements contained within an ounce. It is heavier than the hospital cups so it is not as easy to knock over. Also it helps me the measure all of the water, protein drinks, and fat free Greek yogurt that now comprise my daily diet.

I used to use shot glasses to measure out ingredients for vodka martinis or chocolate martinis. This will not happen again for at least a year. Having and enjoying many years of health is worth the trade off.

Now I measure everything that goes into my stomach. I have a notebook that I use to track when and how much I take in daily. I focus on protein and water. Chewable vitamins are very exciting when you’re on a liquid diet as part of recovery from surgery.

I am also keeping notes on this entire process. I wonder how much material I will have for future memoirs or personal essays? Writing about all of my new experiences helps me as I travel through the growth zone of this experience.

No, I don’t intend for my blog posts to become a “health journey” I am still focused on the writing process. However this week has hopefully made me a healthier person so I can live my life and have lots to write about.

Until next week.….….…

Through The Wormhole

I wasn’t going to write anything else about the holidays. I had done that topic. However, I had such a surreal experience, I just have to share.

This RoadBroad hit the road again. It has always been my tradition to go out of town over Christmas to avoid all of the holiday doings. I go somewhere where I can escape, relax, read, write, and contemplate.

This year I decided to go to Galveston. At least I think I went to Galveston. However, while driving down the freeway I must have turned left into a wormhole somewhere and landed in a parallel universe that pretended to be Earth, but couldn’t have been. Instead of avoiding all the trappings of Christmas, I fell into what looked like a hotel that had been taken over by alien elves and other assorted holly jolly critters. It was an assault on every one of my senses. Christmas music filled every inch of the hotel lobby and outside by the pool and the usually quiet observation deck.

This was the entry way. It looked incredibly festive and harmless at first glance. Lots and lots of trees. But look closer. Look again. To enter the hotel, I had to walk through a literal “Elfin Gauntlet”. Not only were there many elves, but they were all either hanging from the trees or flying through the air. They looked at me as I passed. I tried not to make eye contact. I did not actually see any of them move, but just as I walked past, I thought I saw movement. Quick shadowy movements. They all looked so happy, but in an impish mischievous kind of way.

What they do with you if they should catch you? Fortunately I did not find that out. I can move fast for an old broad.

Once outside the hotel, I found other alien beings pretending to be humans. But, I had my doubts and suspicions. It was 60 degrees outside and these creatures were walking around in bathing suits and bikinis. They floated in steamy water. Were they relaxing or were they being cooked for some future holiday feast?

Escaping the hotel, I ran to the beach. Here I apparently found the winged Overlords who are in charge of this strange planet. They impose strict rules regarding who can access the natural resources. There they stand guard. I did not try to cross into forbidden territory.

Luckily for me, I was able to escape the parallel universe and returned to Houston located on Planet Earth. As always, I thank the nice earthlings who assisted me with house and cat sitting.

Next year I will be more careful in selecting my destination for peace and tranquility. I will be more careful about turning left into wormholes.

After such an adventure, this RoadBroad is home for a while. I hope the alien elves didn’t follow me home!

Until next week!

Why December 2nd Matters

We fly the flag at our house every December 2nd.

This year, for the first time, I notice its wrinkles, saggy middle, and a lengthening shadow.

I smile. Kind of like (cough, cough)… us! 

Twenty nine years ago today, DH and I married.

That ‘80s hair, the pouffy hat, and those puffy sleeves offered omens of flyaway adventure.

Arrive they did.

We’ve traveled by land, water, and sky. In planes, trains, boats, ships, and submarines. Up mountains on Segway and in aerial trams. Over rivers and through woods (yes, sometimes to see Grandma). In three decades, we’ve slept in all 51 states plus 18 foreign countries on two continents.

Some doubted we’d travel so far for so long. A tumultuous five‐year courtship preceded our noon‐time wedding ceremony.

Pre‐marriage counseling smoothed our ride. We predicted our issues and developed a response plan. How’s that for two crisis communicators?

We committed to travel together. Through Everything. Our platinum bands meant more than simple finger metal.

Shout‐out to Dr. Tim Van Duivendyk for his wedding “charge:” you’ve got to meet in the middle with each other — and the middle that’s in the middle of those two middles is very difficult to find. 

Whatever road we’re on, DH and I aim for the middle lane. Sometimes, we don’t arrive at the same time. Sometimes, somebody must wait waaay longer than they’d like for the other. But, always, we meet in our middle. Eventually.

In writing this, I realize this strategy applies to many life situations.

Yes, December 2, 1989 was our Big Day. Big, too, for others in other years for other reasons:

On This Date  BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

1823 President James Monroe outlines his Manifest Destiny doctrine.
1969 The Boeing 747 jumbo jet debuts.

Whether it’s across a century or only half as long, the years, the middle, and the adventure roll on.

For each of us in our own ways.

For DH and me, we’re making more than a life together.

We’re creating a Story.

What’s yours?

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.

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?

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.

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked‐open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post‐movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini‐series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money‐making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.

Life Collage

Another great week full of art and writing. I found myself exploring Collage as a method of creating art by assembling different pictures, objects, photos, etc. into one piece of visual art. I went to the Texas Art Asylum to see the show, Cutting Edge Collage Show.

The collage show was a good demonstration of the various techniques involved in this method. Quite a good variety of local artists and their work. Also, The Texas Art Asylum is a great shop to find anything that you cannot find anywhere else. Check out their website to see what it is all about.

After that visit, I had to try some of my own collage pieces. I have been involved in Soul Collage for a number of years now. Typically I would use pictures from magazines, newspapers and brochures to create. However, I am now in a phase where I like to use my own pictures. I selected a number of the pictures I use in this blog every week to make the following collage piece.

I like the idea of using my own photography to make collage art. It is like making a series of pieces about the journey of my life. I am going to continue to explore this idea and report back to you how it goes.

As you can see in my Soul Collage piece that I am still working with images from the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Bambu: This Thing Called Life. This will close on September 3rd and I just wanted to walk on the bamboo trail one more time. Since this is the second time I have walked through this exhibit, I really walked at a slow pace.  The museum wasn’t crowded so there was plenty of time to walk and observe without holding up others. When the museum is crowded, there can be quite a wait to experience this exhibit. If you want to go this weekend, then plan on getting there early.

Finally, I spent an afternoon at the Glassell in an art history class called, Women in Art. It is taught by Dr. Anna Tahinci who is genuinely excited and passionate about her teaching. She talks about the artists and their works, but she also wants to make sure her students are taking the time to really observe and think about the art we are seeing. The enthusiasm Dr. Tahinci exudes in her teaching makes the class a real joy and the time flies by much too quickly.

Now after being so inspired by all of the art and creativity in my world, I need to get back to writing. I promised my writing coach at least another 1000 words by midnight tonight!

More next week!

Road Trip Twist

NOTE: Not all road trips are alike. The following story offers a compelling twist on the Journey tale, one that only Kay Cox — our dear writing retreat friend — could tell, and well.

Guest blogger Kay L. Cox writes poetry and stories from her San Antonio home. She’s an experienced blogger (check out her writings on www.picklesandroses.blogspot.com). Earlier, Kay worked as an art and family therapist, teaching graduate‐level art therapy classes in the US and abroad.

Thank you, Kay, for joining our RoadBroads team today! — Melanie & Ellen


Road Trip With a Twist

Kay L. Cox

My lunch plate that Friday held sliced roast beef, slathered with gravy. But the instant mashed potatoes looked like a sauce, thanks to too much liquid on top. I spy broccoli. Fresh broccoli. I can’t wait. I grab my fork. Then the broccoli’s so tough, my fork can’t cut it and even my knife has a hard time. It’s so tough, I can hardly chew it.

I open my mouth to complain. Then I remember.

The previous Sunday. Dinner at my son’s house.

Emotion overwhelms me.

My family is active with local churches in helping documented migrant families as they head through San Antonio enroute to their next destination by bus. We were asked to house two families. One family stayed one night. The other was a young father, Juan, and his 2 ½ year old son, Ricardo.

When I arrived at my son’s house, the pair sat on the sofa watching television. Ricardo snuggled, sleeping, on his father’s chest. I greeted Juan in Spanish. He nodded, giving me a big smile. I noticed an ankle monitor on Juan. What have we come to in this country?

I went to the kitchen to help prepare the dinner. Chicken casserole and steamed broccoli. Soon, Ricardo awoke and Juan sat him in his lap to eat. Ricardo’s big brown eyes and shy smile won our hearts. He was so well behaved, almost too quiet. I surmised that in his long treacherous journey from Guatemala he had been taught to be very quiet. Ricardo looked at the plate in front of him. His eyes grew bigger still as he looked at the plate in front of him.

He picked up a piece of broccoli, looking at it as if he had never seen such a vegetable. He spoke softly to his dad. With my limited Spanish, I think he called the broccoli a tree before plopping it in his mouth. Then he picked up another, looking at each “tree” carefully before putting each piece in his mouth. Over and over, Ricardo did this, eating bite after bite. I think his body was craving fresh, green food. I wondered when he had last had fresh vegetables.

Never have I seen a child that young eat broccoli like that. Any complaints I might ever have about food from now on fall into a different perspective. I have so much to be grateful for.

My daughter in law bought clothes and diapers for Ricardo, along with snacks and books in Spanish, and his long journey with his father riding multiple buses to Washington. She found a children’s backpack and filled it. Ricardo proudly put it on and clung to her leg at the bus station when she turned them over to the woman who guided them to their correct bus.

What a beautiful experience to share what we take for granted. We were able to make a difference in making someone’s life easier.

I will never eat broccoli again – be it steamed‐to‐mush, raw or tough — without thinking of Ricardo and Juan. And I’ll feel grateful.

All we have to do is be kind to each other. It’s that simple to create change.

Two for Two

Today I update my recent walking report with a riding one.

Do you remember the tree tale?

Oaks split by lightning — or old age — chopped then ground down to create something new. What, precisely is subject to a writer’s walking eyes.

Intrigued by my starfish observations, DH suggested a look‐see. Up close. From a wheeled perspective. I pulled up to the spot.

Where I’d spied sea creatures, my husband shouted a one‐word rebuttal: “Longhorn!”

I rebutted right back: “Bevo?”

My instinctive answer reflects a distant past at UT‐Austin. Four years of Saturdays at Longhorn football games ended with a national championship. An exercise in giddy jubilation. Even the big‐ass longhorn steer we called Bevo mooed for Earl Campbell and his big‐as‐log thighs as they hightailed into the touchdown zone.

Nowadays, you won’t ever see me at a football game. Multi‐level brain sensitivities—a blog post for another day?—preclude me from returning to that past. But ancient wiring lasts a lifetime, resurfacing at the oddest moments.

I digress. (This happens. Call it post‐menopausal privilege.)

Staring at the flattened remnants of the tree, my eyes studied the woody bits. No cow from this street view. I turned into the parking lot and there he rested, awaiting eyes that could see.

You win, DH. Although I will offer this in my defense: there’s a slight rise in the earth which hides Bevo’s devil horns. You know, like maybe it’s really an Aggie Bevo you’re seeing.

After our couple’s drama, I remained intrigued so drove to the other leveled trees. Could there be longhorns lurking there, too?

Here’s the tree mess I’ve yet to decipher. After working all afternoon to find a creative shape, I gave up on this old oak blob. So I invite your eyes to look.

What see you?

This simple couple‐experience taught me much.

To everything, there’s a learning. This one offered a quick class in New Ways of Seeing.

It’s worth looking again.

Inviting other looks.

Looking longer.

Capturing perceptions and sharing perspectives — both of eyes and I’s — enrich life and expand minds.

Isn’t this what life and the matrix — as illuminated two weeks ago — is all about?

Could this be the writer’s true mission?