Fall Peeping!

My friend and former LaMarque neighbor, Carolyn Gandara, and I have been planning to take a fall foliage tour for awhile now, so when my son, Jonathan Hander, who lives near Boston asked me to come up for a visit, we decided to head to New England for a Fall Leaf Peeping adventure during the first week of October.
Jonathan took us on a tour through New Hampshire for some of the most beautiful fall foliage sights we’d ever seen. Here I am standing with him under an oak tree covered with gorgeous orange-colored leaves.
While on the tour, we spotted an old stone train bridge spanning a river, and stopped to investigate. Jonathan took this photo from down below of Carolyn and me standing on top, just to the left side of the arch.

After our fabulous fall leaf peeping tour, we headed up to Maine, along with my daughter-in-law, Christine, and two grandkids, Austin and Ashley, to see the Nubble Lighthouse in York. At right is a photo of Carolyn sitting in front of the lighthouse.
Then we continued on up the Maine coastline to a quaint little town where we walked along the rocky Atlantic Ocean shore and ate lobster rolls for lunch. 
At left are Austin, Christine and Ashley, standing on the rocks, with the waves crashing in the background.
It was a wonderful Autumn outing with friends and family.

 Thank you Carolyn, Jonathan, Christine, Austin and Ashley for a fun-filled Fall vacation!

Back to the Fifties!

I decided to do something special for the monthly writers’ critique meeting with my friends, Dawn Storey and Marilyn (Chica) Zapata, to thank them for their creative efforts and hard work on my Surprise Party.
Since one of my most favorite activities is flying, I asked my flying instructor, Jeff Kling, if he could transport the three of us to the Southern Flyer Diner in Brenham, TX. This restaurant is one of many “fly-in” locations where pilots can park their airplanes out front and walk inside to get a “$100 hamburger” ($5 for the burger and $95 for the airplane fuel).
Dawn and Chica were thrilled with the idea since neither one had ever been to a fly-in restaurant before. And since this particular restaurant has a 1950s malt shop theme, complete with a juke box and waitresses wearing poodle skirts, they both thought it might be fun for us to wear outfits from that period.
Here we are in front of the plane, waiting to take off from the Pearland Airport, wearing our puffy petticoats (Dawn and me), scarves (Chica and me), and saddle oxford shoes (Chica).
Dawn and Chica rode in the back seat and donned their pilot headsets (a first for both). Chica wore her glamorous winged sunglasses for some extra “bling”.
I rode in the front and did my best to keep my billowy dress and petticoat from blocking the airplane controls.
After a short, 40 minute flight over the clouds, we landed safely at the Southern Flyer Diner just in time for lunch. At left, Chica and Dawn chow down on their tasty burgers.
Later our group paused for a photo op in front of the restaurant jukebox.
One of the waitresses agreed to pose with us for a total 1950s effect.
On the way home, Jeff played 50s music to keep the mood going. We tapped our toes to the lively tunes while he flew just below the cloud ceiling to give us a spectacular view of the landscape below.
It was a wonderful day with great friends, good food, and a super fun trip back to the fifties!
Thank you Jeff, Dawn and Chica for sharing the joy!

Rocket Ride

Dave and Avril Forster are former neighbors of my writer’s critique group member, Marilyn (Chica) Zapata, and current neighbors of my flying instructor, Jeff Kling. I had the pleasure of seeing them both again at my Surprise Party recently. Dave also flew in the same Sport Air Racing League race in Taylor, TX that I attended. It’s a small, small world!

Since Dave knows that I love to fly fast, he invited me to take a spin in his F1 Rocket experimental aircraft.  “Experimental” means that the plane was built from a kit. It took him three years to complete, and he is rightfully proud of his accomplishment. Here we are at left in this amazing aircraft.
On a gorgeous, sunny morning, with a blue sky filled with white, puffy clouds, we hopped in, buckled our seatbelts, donned our headsets and took off into the wild blue yonder.
Our top speed registered around 250 mph, and Dave introduced me to “cloud dog fighting”. Since we’re not allowed to fly through the clouds, under VFR (visual flight rules), we must go around them. But doing so at a leisurely pace would simply be too boring. Dave zips over them, sending us into almost zero-G free fall on our way down the other side. Then he tips the plane on its side to slide through narrow openings. I felt like Luke Skywalker in a Star Fighter, diving through that narrow channel to bomb the Death Star. It was super fun, but my tummy revolted after a while, and we needed to settle into straight and level flight for a spell until things calmed down a bit.
Next we moved on to rolls, where the pilot literally rolls the plane over to the side into a 360º turn.  It’s an incredible feeling, but it was over in a flash. “Let’s do it again,” I said. I tried to take a photo while we were upside down, but this was as close as I could get. As I mentioned—it’s quick!
For our third roll, Dave decided it was my turn. He handed over the controls and said, “Pull back on the stick, pull back, pull back, pull back!” And we shot straight up into the sky. “Now push the stick to the left,” he said. “All the way, all the way, all the way!” And before I knew it, we were rolling upside down. AMAZING!!
I know I’ve used these words many times when talking about my flying experiences, but here is comes again, “WOO-HOO WHAT A RIDE!” Only this ride was “WOO-HOO 2 !!!!”
Avril returned home just as we were pulling into the hangar driveway, and took this great photo to capture the moment. It was a wonderful day in the sky!
Thank you so much Dave and Avril for your high-flying hospitality!


My writer’s critique buddies, Marilyn (Chica) Zapata and Dawn Storey, decided that for our monthly meeting, we should head for the Kemah Boardwalk, along with their husbands, Art and Doug, for dinner and a spin on The Beast. It’s a motorboat, with scary teeth painted on the bow, and speeds through the bay carrying about 30 passengers. The operators guarantee that “YOU WILL GET WET”. It sounded like fun. So I donned some old clothes that I didn’t mind getting splashed with salt water, slathered up with sunscreen to protect my skin from burn (I smelled like Banana Boat), and didn’t bother to comb my hair because it was going to get wet anyway.
Chica and her husband, Art, picked me up at the appointed time, but asked if we could stop at Claudio’s Restaurant and Piano Bar on the way, to view some artwork by one of Chica’s friends. “Sure,” I replied. “I’d love to see her work.”
When we arrived, however, there was no artwork on the walls, just a room filled with about 50 of my closest friends. “Surprise!” they said. “Does this mean I don’t get to ride on the Beast?” I asked in shock.
As most of you know, I love trying new activities, learning new things, and meeting interesting people—quietly, and in the background. NOT IN THE SPOTLIGHT! But I soon got over my embarrassment after hugging each and every one of my friends and thanking them for such an honor.

My friend, Rene Armstrong, came up with the idea of throwing a surprise party for me, and browsed my Cancer Journey Blog, making a list of everyone who was mentioned in my posts. Rene is a high-energy, super-creative, and brilliant sleuth, who managed to locate about 90 percent of my friends to invite to my secret event.
The tables were set for my former La Marque friends and neighbors, College of the Mainland colleagues, flying buddies, creative writing acquaintances, and Marketing and Publishing associates.
It turned out to be a fantastic party, with Chica and Dawn kicking off the festivities, draped in pink feather boas and dressed in wigs that looked like my hair. They sang a customized, lively rendition of the song, “Friendship!”
Fellow writer and musician, Andy Upchurch, provided dance music along with his band, Andy and the Dreamsicles.
Two of my dance instructors from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Clear Lake, Craig Elsbury and Richard Blachford, dropped by to deliver a bouquet of red roses.
Richard and I performed a Cha-Cha for the crowd, who applauded their approval. It was my first performance ever!
And Craig decided it was high time I tried a dance lift.  Tah-dah!!!
My Fiction-Writing Buddy, Larry Watts
While the party attendees ate dinner, several of my friends regaled the crowd with personal stories about me—many of them embarrassing, I might add. The surprise party had somehow turned into a “roast”! But it was all in good fun. You can see all the photos on my FaceBook page in the “Surprise Party” album.
My flying buddies practice our favorite sport!
It was a wonderful evening, and one that I will never forget—all because of FRIENDSHIP.
Many, many thanks to all my wonderful friends who have made my life such a joyful experience! Love to all!

Unexpected Rewards!

I was both thrilled and honored when I received an e-mail from Karen Platt, a member of The Senior Moments Book Club of Sugar Land, telling me that their group had chosen my novella, Curl Up & Dye: A 1950s Vintage Murder Mystery, as their read for the month. She asked if I could offer any suggestions for discussion topics.
As an author, I write my stories mostly for my own entertainment, but it’s always encouraging to hear from readers who enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Karen told me that the group was formed about six years ago. They decided on the club’s name about three years ago because four of the five members had children who were graduating from the same high school in May of 2013 and were a bit overwhelmed. Shown in the photo are (front row, left to right: Anita Clarkston, Lisa McNally, and back row, left to right: Karen Platt, Terrelyn Teinert, and Sandy Mann).
I also heard from member, Lisa McNally, who said, “We thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that it is a novella with believable characters made it a fun, quick read. Living in Houston, we all could relate to the characters, the close relationships with one another, and the setting. We found ourselves remembering our childhood and our grandmas taking us to the beauty parlor for the ‘weekly hairdo’.”  
She ended her e-mail with, “Thank you for a great read, and we look forward to reading more of your books.”
What an unexpected reward! I guess I need to get busy on my next novella!
Thank you ladies for inspiring me to keep writing!

Ghostly Adventures!

When my writers’ critique group buddy, Dawn Storey, suggested that our members, Marilyn (Chica) Zapata and I attend a ghost tour in Galveston, along with their husbands, we jumped at the chance. As writers with vivid imaginations, we love hearing good stories, and the possibility of seeing a ghost or two lured us down to the Strand area for the “Restless Spirit” tour.
After bolstering our courage with a couple of margaritas at The Originial Mexican Café, we hit the darkened streets in search of ghostly adventures.
The photo at left shows (left to right) Chica, Dawn’s husband, Doug, me and Dawn, listening to our guide tell the story about an unfortunate death, many years ago, in a meat grinder at a factory that is now the location of a Fuddrucker’s restaurant. Folks in the building say you can still hear the clanking noise of the grinder, even though it’s no longer there. Eyeww!!
We trudged through spooky alleyways (me, Dawn, and Doug) but didn’t see nary a ghostly figure.

But when we stopped for a group photo in the alley, we spotted an eerie shadow on the camera screen that appeared, not only behind Dawn’s head, but wrapped around the front side of her body as well. Can shadows do that? Yikes!
Later, we paused to check the photos on our I-phones for signs of “orbs”—the tiny spots of light that signify the presence of energy fields created by ghosts. In the photo are Dawn, Chica’s husband, Art, and me.
Here we are at left, perched on a window ledge, as we waited for fellow tour members to take a break during the 2-hour tour for beverages and pit stops.

After a while, I got tired of looking for ghosts, and began spotting UFO’s instead.
Look, there’s one now!!!
At the end of the tour, we took another group photo in front of the Voodoo Lounge, the site of another gruesome murder. The place was closed that night, with no one inside, but, in the first shot, notice the blue light in the left window and the pink light in the right window. In the second shot, taken just a few seconds later, the blue light has disappeared. Hmm…

In spite of the fact that we didn’t encounter any ghostly apparitions during our outing, we had a fun time and returned home with a few spooky mysteries to ponder. O-O-O-O-O-O!!!
More adventures to come!

Christmas in May

Even though I no longer live in La Marque, I try to stay in touch with many of my former neighbors there, especially my former “next-door-neighbor”, Susan Curnutt.
We occasionally meet for lunch and shopping, and have met twice for fun painting sessions at Painting with a Twist.
We recently decided we needed a “crab cake fix” and headed for the M & M Restaurant at 2401 Church Street in Galveston. This historic building was built in 1844 and survived the 1900 storm. For the most part, it has been alternately either a grocery store or restaurant throughout most of its commercial life. We found both the food and the service to be excellent.
Since the restaurant was conveniently located just a stone’s throw from The Strand shopping district, we couldn’t resist taking a leisurely stroll while checking out the unique shops along Strand Street.
After walking off what we felt was a sufficient number of calories from our tasty lunch, we decided to fortify ourselves with ice cream cones at La King’s Confectionary, an old fashioned candy factory and ice cream parlour. Susan was in a dilemma over which of the many flavors of ice cream to choose, and kept changing her mind while we waited our turn in line. But I had no problem at all—I zeroed in on the Mocha Chip. And Susan came around, too. We both enjoyed a huge scoop of creamy chocolate ice cream, with just a couple of drips landing in our laps in spite of the handful of napkins I grabbed.
We moseyed on down the street to a shop called “Christmas on the Strand”, where I found the most adorable music box in the shape of an old timey television, with a three-dimensional Christmas scene inside. When you turn on the knob on the front of the TV, the scene lights up, the music box begins to play several different carols, and tiny people on sleds ride around a Christmas tree in the center.
I had to have it! It’s the most amazing little music box I’ve ever seen. Merry Christmas to me (in May)!
We had a great time during our Sunday outing on The Strand—good food, shared friendship, a wonderful surprise and lots of fun! 
Thank you, Susan, for an unforgettable day!