Newsflash

Brent Clanton: Vacationing this Summer

The summer doldrums have set in early this year. Houston’s vast matrix of concrete simmers and shimmers in the harsh sunlight, and it’s only 10 in the morning. The hourly growth rates of St.                     Augustinian lawns soon will be stunted by the blast furnace of July. It’s time for a vacation.

I am a very low-maintenance vacationer. I am just as happy camping out in my living room for a week as I am laying on the foredeck of a cruise ship (although if you are offering me an expense-paid choice, I’ll take the latter over the former) I have learned to eschew air travel — it’s no longer fun to fly — and to appreciate the slightly longer, less-traveled, but less crowded, routes from A to B.
 
Time should be no object while on vacation. That’s why traveling from Houston to Dallas by car, for example, can be made to stretch into an all-day affair if you’re careful. Getting off the Interstate and traveling the original route that US Highway 75 carved through this part of Texas can be an adventure in itself. Stop in the little towns along the way, and savor the rolling, winding vistas in between. My cousin operates a café on the town square in Madisonville. Walker’s Café is worth the detour.
 
Austin and the Hill Country are also favored destinations for city-stricken Houstonians. You can get there in under three hours — if you live on the west side, or leave before dawn. But,  why rush? Turn off Highway 290 at Chappell Hill, and follow your GPS to Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of Texas. Get out of the car, and walk around.
 
I believe there’s not a more scenic, tranquil and beautiful county in the entire state than Washington County. There’s a reason those Blue Bell cows are so happy up there. It truly is Heaven on Earth.
From Washington on the Brazos, drive north to Highway 105 and head west to catch William Penn Road to connect with Loop 390, the scenic La Bahia Highway. Originally an Indian trail, this appealing ribbon of asphalt connects Burton, Gay Hill, Long Point and Independence. 
 
Burton boasts the country’s oldest operating air system cotton gin; Gay Hill features an ancient railroad viaduct; and Independence is steeped in Texas history, with the ruins of the original Baylor University. Independence Baptist Church, into which Sam Houston was baptized in 1854, also marks the gravesite of Houston’s wife, Margaret Moffett Lea.
 
Between Independence and Gay Hill is the cabin of the naturalist, Gideon Lincecum, at Long Point. Gideon was an explorer of the southeastern territories beyond the 13 colonies, and a correspondent with Charles Darwin. He lived among the Choctaw in Mississippi, learned their language and recorded their oral histories. He moved to Texas in 1848, settling on 1,828 acres centered at Long Point; he passed away in this cabin in 1874.
 
There are plenty of similar, back-road trails to sate your summer wanderlust. Most can be reached within a few hours of Houston by car. I fill up the tank, clean off the windshield, drop the top, and go. No airport lines, no luggage, no surly TSA attendants. And, the best part about any vacation: the first night back home in my own bed! 
 
Brent Clanton is a native Houstonian, member of Texas Radio Hall of Fame and regular contributor to Houston Woman Magazine. 
 

Sarah Gish and Labyrinths

The idea of walking around and around in circles may seem like an ideal way to get dizzy, but veteran labyrinth walker Sarah Gish knows she can always find serenity at the center. 

“A labyrinth is a walking meditation. It’s a way of getting centered, of getting connected to God and to myself,” she said. “It’s kind of a weird paradox the way it works, because you’re active — but I love it  because you are active. The action of moving your feet forward helps you calm down and get focused.”
 
Unlike a maze which is a puzzle with multiple dead ends, a labyrinth is a series of winding loops that lead only to the center. 
 
“It’s always one path in and one path out,” Gish said. “You’re unlikely to get lost.”
 
Gish said there are many parallels to be drawn between labyrinths and life itself, and it’s easy to understand them if you think about the center as the soul. 
 
Labyrinths can be traced back to the Minoan era of ancient Greece and Pliny’s World History, published in Latin long  before his death in 79 AD, references labyrinths in Crete, Egypt, the Greek island of Lemnos and Italy. 
 
Those following the traditional Cretan design consist of seven circuits, but some may contain nine or 11 layers of loops that meander toward the center. Others can be very creative in their designs, with heart shapes or utilizing a cross as their center point. 
 
Today, labyrinths are commonly located at hospitals, retreat centers, parks and even prisons. Gish said she’d like to see a labyrinth constructed at every school, because of its calming benefits. 
 
In 2006, John Rhodes, Ph.D., past president of the Labyrinth Society, developed a questionnaire for 122 respondents to report on their feelings after walking a labyrinth. More than 80 percent reported feeling “much more” or “more” relaxed, peaceful, centered, quiet or reflective. And, 73 percent reported less anxious, while 80 percent reported a reduction in their stress level. 
 
The Labyrinth Society’s website (www.labyrinthsociety.org)  provides a labyrinth locator that includes 5,100 listings in 80 countries.  There are at least 43 within 100 miles of Houston, and the locator includes photos and notes about size,  materials, hours and whether or not they’re on private property. 
 
It’s no coincidence that many of these labyrinths are on church grounds because in Europe during the Middle Ages, they were frequently used for prayer, reflection and meditation when actual pilgrimages to Jerusalem were impractical. One of the most famous is the one built in 1200 AD at Chartres Cathedral, south of Paris. 
 
In Scandinavia during the 17th century, about 500 non-ecclesiastical labyrinths were constructed near fishing villages to trap trolls or rough winds, thus ensuring a safer fishing expedition. 
 
Gish, a Houston native, is the administrator of the Houston Labyrinth Walkers Facebook page, which has 350 followers. She organizes and leads labyrinth walks regularly across the Houston metropolitan area, many of which are paired with art projects. 
 
In May, she led a group of walkers on World Labyrinth Day, wherein people all over the world agreed to “walk as one at 1 p.m.” The event will  repeat on the first Saturday in May 2017, with the goal of “creating a peaceful wave of  energy across the time zones.”
 
Although she is not invested in any one traditional religion, Gish said she has studied a few and, now, characterizes herself as “a seeker.” Spiritpicks.com is also her site, leading other seekers to find inspirational activities in the Houston area. 
 
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in art history, Gish spent six months studying in Europe and then lived for three years in Japan as an ESL teacher and radio deejay. Today, this mother of two grown sons maintains a weekly e-newsletter, Gishpicks.com, which is a guide to cultural activities for families, and thesummerbook.com, a guide to day camps for kids. 
 
She launched a campaign and ongoing community art project at IgniteYourOwnLife.com to inspire others to find their passion. In honor of her brother who died in 2003, a portion of donations to the site help                  fund Archway Academy and Teen and Family Services, two organizations that support teens recovering from alcoholism and addictions. 
 
Gish calls herself an “infopreneur” because she loves to peddle information via all these websites.
“That's what I love to do –– ignite lives and create connections,” she said. “For me, that includes all kinds of connections, including the labyrinth.” 
 
“Labyrinths are just a beautiful way of getting quiet in this crazy, crazy world and connecting to yourself and whatever you call your higher power –– God, creator, the universe or nature,” she said. “If everyone walked a labyrinth every week, then we’d have a different world.”
 
Deborah Quinn Hensel is a staff reporter of Houston Woman Magazine.
 

Take the panic out of packing!

 

Do you struggle with a large suitcase on a trip but only wear half of what you’ve packed? Or, are you at the other extreme, throwing things into a suitcase just a few hours before leaving for the airport and praying you’ll have the right things to wear? Both scenarios can be maddening!
 
Panic-free packing is a result of careful planning. It’s time well spent, so you can relax and travel with confidence and ease.
 
Planning ahead is key.
My husband and I are traveling south this week – way south to Buenos Aires and the Argentinian wine country. For him, it’s to revisit the sites of his early-career business travel and taste the wines of the Uco              Valley. For me, it’s finally seeing “Paris of the South,” and tasting the wines of the Uco Valley!
 
Planning my wardrobe for this trip was a little challenging because Argentina’s seasons are reversed from ours in the U.S. Planning well ahead of our departure date was critical since I had need of a few new city-chic, yet hot-weather and comfortable pieces.
 
End-of-summer sales reaped a few nice basics, but online research and shopping resulted in bigger wins. The weather will be in the 80s and 90s, with high humidity. Light cotton gauze is a good, easy-care, easy-to-wear fabric for the casual tropics, but it’s not city-chic. I focused, instead, on lightweight, breathable and travel-friendly rayon knits and added separates from J. Jill’s Wherever Collection.
 
Easy packing is a process.
1. A week to 10 days before a trip, I set up a collapsible clothes rack in our guest room. I hang up every clothing item I’m considering taking. This rack makes coordination of separates easier (four tops can hang by one pair of pants); shoes go on the floor below, matching up with the selected clothes.
Note:  When I lived in a New York City apartment, I didn’t have a spare bedroom, so I hung a clothing rack over our bedroom door. You might use a section of your closet. The key is to see everything before you edit and start packing.
 
2.  I chart out each day of my trip on a blank calendar page, noting where I’ll be and expected activity, day and night. Glancing at the rack of clothing, I plan what I could wear each day, and make a note on my calendar. This exercise helps me edit my wardrobe.
 
Note:  The calendar also provides me with a daily wardrobe guide when I unpack at my destination. I don’t need to think about what to wear; I look at my notes, and I’m dressed and out the door.
 
3.  I try everything on, creating outfits and adding accessories that will be the most versatile with all clothing. My mantra is to “pack smart; pack light.” Each top should go with each bottom. Take more tops than bottoms.
 
Neutral colors are the most versatile. Black/white/beige are my favorites for warm weather travel (city-chic and also country smart).
 
Plan to wear each item several times during the trip (accessories are another key to versatility, and they can take wardrobe basics from day to evening).
 
Double-duty items are golden – a tunic-length blouse that can also be worn as a jacket over a camisole.
Limit shoes to three pairs, and be sure to include a comfortable, supportive pair for daytime walking.
 
4.  I check out all of my toiletries and cosmetics to be sure they are replenished and ready to pack. I collect samples of my favorite skin care products and save them for trips; others are transferred to travel-size, leak-proof containers. 
 
Note:  Most hotels have shampoo, conditioner and body lotions, so you only need to bring the toiletries that you cannot live without.
 
5.  I prep a little each day or night before I leave to spread the chore out. For those of you who tend to over-pack: Look at your rack of travel clothing frequently and use this time to edit, following the tips in #3 above.
 
Note:  Ignore the urge to keep in any “but what if…” items. Smart travelers plan what to pack based on the weather and activities, packing only for what is known and logical possibilities. (There’s nothing wrong with shopping for a suddenly- needed item when you get there, that’s part of the fun of travel!)
 
6.  I do my final packing the day before departure. Before you shut your suitcase, however, check the weather forecast again for your destination. Forecasts change daily, and if you didn’t think you’d need that extra sweater yesterday, now you might!
 
I’m ready, relaxed and off to Argentina! Follow me on Facebook, where I’ll share street scenes of Buenos Aires, shopping highlights and the beauty of the vineyards in the Mendoza wine country!
 
Leslie Willmott is the founder of Smart Women on the Go, which provides image and wardrobe consulting to women with busy lifestyles who want to polish their look, enhance their style and streamline their routine. Willmott combines her corporate experience with her fashion and travel savvy, to teach others the strategies to build a wardrobe that is flattering and stylish…anytime, anywhere. She has a degree in fashion merchandising from Florida State University and holds a certificate in image consulting from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She’s lived in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and is now based in Asheville, NC, where she “was discovered by our publisher.” For much more information, go online and visit www.smartwomenonthego.com/.
 
 
 

Brent Clanton: Rodeo Daze

My heroes haven’t always been cowboys. Contrary to Willie Nelson’s sentimentalities, my favorite cowboy flew a twin-engine Cessna T-50. Schuyler “Sky”  King named his aerial steed “Songbird” and captured crooks in the not-so-old west. 

Wonder what Schuyler King and his niece, Penny, would have thought, were they to buzz  Memorial Park last month as the Salt Grass Trail Riders converged on Houston? That trail ride ushers in rodeo season for our corner of the state and, for a few weeks, all of Houston resembles a sound stage from the movie, Urban Cowboy. 
 
Let me share with you a secret from the “Things Men Wish Women Knew” Department: I don’t like to dress up like a cowboy. Never have. The boots hurt my feet; the jeans are too tight, and the hat makes my head sweat. 
 
I realize that, for some women, the sight of a be-denimmed derriere above a sharp set of snakeskin Noconas, capped by a wide-brimmed beaver hat, is the epitome of Southern style, if not swag. There’s irony in such objectification, but little comfort.
 
Cowboy boots, as we know them, originated with Spain’s vaqueros of the 16th century. Their smooth sole and pointed toe were intended for easily stabbing into a saddle stirrup, and if necessary, the lace-less design allowed for quickly slipping out of said stirrup, if one’s mount  became unruly. Somewhere along the line, top stitching was added, the leather shaft acquired additional decoration, and the heel grew about an inch. There are some mighty pretty boots being made today, but I don’t own a pair. I don’t ride horses.
 
John B. Stetson is credited for creating what is today’s classic cowboy hat. The Stetson was wide-brimmed to keep the sun off your face, and water from running down the back of your neck whilst a-horsetop in the rain. It was made from beaver, rabbit, or some other varmint, so it would last in the elements.
 
The Stetson rim was curved upwards to stay out of the way of a spinning lasso, and the crown added a pinch in the front, so the cowboy could easily grab onto it on his way out of the saddle (see aforementioned comments on exiting a horse.) Cowboy hats are very stylish in Texas. Cowboys even wear them inside their pickup trucks, despite a king-cab roof and tinted glass. 
 
I don’t drive a truck; I drive a convertible. That Stetson likely would take off like The Flying Nun in my car.
 
Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented putting metal rivets into men’s denim work pants in 1873. The blue jean was born, and “Billie Jean” moon-walked across the stage in sequined glory 109-years later. The first jeans were loose-fitting and wore like iron. Today’s denim jeans often look sprayed on, and the kids prefer them to look worn-out. I like mine boot-cut and comfort-fit. No starch.
 
Rodeo fashion this year will faintly resemble the origins of western wear. Oh, all the elements will be there — jeans, boots and hats. Most real cowboys, however, will spurn the fancy stuff for practicality and comfort on the job. 
 
When I go to the rodeo, I wear jeans…with a pair of leather lace-up sneakers and a ball cap.  
 
Brent Clanton is a native Houstonian and member of Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He is now outnumbered two-to-one by his wife, Darlene, and their three-pound Yorkie, Sophie.
 
 

Legacy of Booker T. Washington

 

The most terrorizing and oppressive form of slavery in recorded history was abolished on December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. For nearly four million Blacks, the joyous occasion of freedom from physical bondage was swiftly greeted by the enormous uncertainty of how one was to earn a living and provide for his family. Millions of illiterate, impoverished and unemployed, Blacks were thrust onto a foreign land and told to survive. One of these formerly enslaved individuals was Booker T. Washington, merely a child when he was granted freedom. 
 
Washington, like the aforementioned former slaves, was unequipped for this new reality. Due to the obstacles, he could have simply accepted the conditions of his people and no one would have found fault with this judgment. Instead, Washington worked diligently for the betterment of himself, Black people and the citizens of the South. He displayed a level of resiliency and determination that was truly a rare commodity during this time.
 
He was able to make such unfathomable strides by sticking to the core principles that he developed in his early life. Washington’s life journey is one we all can, and should, learn from. 
 
As a young boy, Washington wanted the opportunity to gain a meaningful education. These ambitions were met with the immediate need to work in the coal mines to help support his family. Despite these great responsibilities, Washington still pursued his education, which he so greatly sought after. He eventually worked out an agreement with his mother that allowed him to go to school in the afternoon if he worked in the mines in the morning and returned to work when school let out. Even as a child, Washington displayed a type of initiative foreign to many individuals. The immediate challenges he faced did not deter him from laying the foundation for his education, and he compounded these aspirations with the goal of attending the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute to greaten his future opportunities.
 
While preparing to attend Hampton, and while at the institute, he was the personification of hard work and the ability to endure difficult times. He was constantly without money, food and suitable clothing for the various seasons. He worked very diligently to earn his keep at the university as a custodian and never complained about his misfortune, but rather looked for ways to improve his condition. 
 
Upon the completion of his studies at Hampton, Washington earned a teaching position at the university and proved to be a tremendous addition to the school. Due to his terrific performance as an educator, he was recommended by General Samuel C. Armstrong to become a head administrator at Tuskegee and was offered the position. 
 
Washington was largely responsible for the establishment and continuance of Tuskegee University and made a strong commitment to help others of his race. He constantly referenced the fact that he wanted not to use his proficiencies for commercial use but rather for the advancement of people. He stayed committed to his work for decades and never strayed from the course. In this span, he rarely took time off for himself and had to be pressured from peers to take vacation. He documented that his work was very tiresome and often caused him great anxiety. He most effectively managed these complications by the efficient utilization of his time. He noted that he never wanted to carry over work from a previous day and worked meticulously to accomplish this. 
 
Along with this impressive showcase of self-discipline, Washington is a prime example of integrity and class. He showed what it means to stand by your words and own up to your personal decisions. Despite receiving backlash on a multitude of occasions for statements at his various speaking engagements, he never recanted a single word. Considering the times in which he lived in, this was a true testament to the bravery and fearlessness that he must have possessed.
 
The qualities Washington developed are ones that would greatly benefit my life. I cannot imagine having to endure the trials he faced in order to become such a success, but I, too, have faced obstacles while working to obtain an education and become successful. Although our challenges are not comparable, my time in college has definitely been faced with many financial and personal difficulties. Though I have reaped much academic success, early in my collegiate career, I had considered dropping out of school multiple times. The pressure of weekly eviction notices, constantly having my meal plan cut off and family and relationship dysfunction kept me distressed. Luckily, through resiliency and the utilization of a strong academic foundation, I was able to pull through these tough times and reroute myself towards a brighter path. I am currently excelling in school academically; however, there are a couple of qualities I must develop that are vital to my educational and professional growth.
 
The first of these qualities is the ability to efficiently organize my time. Although I am very well-intended, I have poor time management skills and often find myself with not enough time to effectively work on things to which I have committed. 
 
Secondly, I need to work on having the initiative to act on ideas and recommendations I have for professional and academic assignments, rather than  deferring to someone else.
Similarly to Washington, I too am at a crossroad in my life. I am being faced with the decision of using my capabilities for personal gains or to make an impact in the lives of others. 
As a finance major, I am constantly taught of the importance of money. A countless number of administrators at the university view the significance of career opportunities by the amount of money you have the potential to earn in that specific role...it is frowned upon if I consider anything that isn’t connected with the making of a dollar. 
 
However, being a resident of Third Ward, I see the pain, suffering and anguish on the faces of those in the community. I see the grandmothers walking miles from the grocery store with arms full of bags because there are no quality stores within a reasonable walking distance. I hear the confusion of the youth because of the mis-education and under-education that is being taught at the local schools, compounded onto the lack of meaningful job opportunities being afforded to them. I feel the hopelessness of mothers and fathers when I see them break down crying while holding their children.
 
I understand the terrible predicament our people are in, even 100 years after the passing of Booker T. Washington. 
 
With time running out in my collegiate career, I soon must own my destiny and stand firm in my beliefs regardless of where they take me. I sometimes wonder how useful it would be for me to try to improve the conditions of our people when so many have previously attempted to no avail. However, when I find these questions in my conscience, I think of Booker T. and the commitment he made to our people. The same commitment that ultimately helped pave the way for me and those I love. 
 
Money, without a doubt, plays a huge role in all of our lives. I would be foolish to say that money has no significance. However, the primary goal of life is not about how much money a single person can obtain. I want my life to be valued by the number of lives I am able to positively influence, not by the amount of money  I can gain at the expense of others. I truly believe God attributed me with this passion for the sake of building people’s lives.
 
Learning so much about a man who spent his life doing the same has definitely reaffirmed my                 belief in what my purpose is. 
 
It is important for us to collectively uphold the legacy of Booker T. Washington. However, it is even more important for us to continue the work that he began over 100 years ago. 
 
Editor’s Note: Derrick Smallwood is a student at Texas Southern University. His article is the winning entry in an essay contest on the legacy of Booker T. Washington. Caring Friends, Inc. was the sponsoring partner with the TSU Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry. 
 
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