Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Monstrous Eiffel Tower

In preparation for my trip to France and Germany, I read the historical novel "Paris" by Edward Rutherfurd.  The story spanned many generations of characters.  The storyline which fascinated me the most was about a young man who worked for Gustav Eiffel.  Since I came home, I have read up a little on the Eiffel Tower and Gustav.

My first surprise was that Gustav, a French civil engineer, built the Statue of Liberty in 1881.  Six years later, he began work on the tower after buying the copyrights from the original designer.  Of course the tower was named after Eiffel, which I didn't know before reading the novel.  Many people opposed the construction.

 We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched        beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its   barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de           Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.[8]  Wikipedia

The tower was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle.  The contract stated that in 20 years time the tower had to be dismantled.  I can't envision Paris without the tower.  I am so thankful the French government decided to let the beauty stand.  In the early days, noted visitors included Buffalo Bill Cody and Thomas Edison visited the site.  I walked in the footsteps.

As for myself, I marveled at the structure.  I have a fascination of beautiful bridges and the Tower did not let me down.  Of course, I am afraid of heights, so at the second floor, my nerves almost got the best of me as we wound our way around all the metal to reach the elevator to the summit.  In the novel, the author talked about Eiffel taking the stairs to the top everyday.  I can't even imagine.  I turned my head towards my husband's chest not daring to look out.

I cautiously took a step up to the windows at the top.  My stomach would have leaped out of my throat if it weren't as scared as myself.  Looking over the city, the beauty settled my fear.  My family coaxed me to take the stairs to the last landing at the very tip top.  I gazed into Eiffel's office.  People milled about making me a little jumpy, but I enjoyed the view.  The drizzle of the rain was cold, so we didn't stay very long.  On the way down, I felt 100 times better and enjoyed looking out the windows of the elevator.  I would definitely go up again.

On our way back to the hotel, I found fun art to take pictures of on our walk.  I also caught a glimpse of George Washington.  What a fun day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

To Let Go

As I mentioned a long time ago, I signed up for a twelve week class about mental illness.  I finished up the course about two weeks ago.  I learned a few new things.  I met some amazing people who understand, truly understand.  They are in the proverbial trenches as well.  My last night before I left for class, I had an episode in my life that had me spinning.  I went to get my survey out of my binder when a piece of paper fell out.  It was a list of "To Let Go" statements.  Boy, did I need them at the moment.

I have a few people in my life struggling with mental illness.  I only talk about Madelle because I have her permission.  I haven't asked the others if I can write about them.  I can also write about myself, but I find that is a bit lame.  I have only had a little depression.  Sure, it can be tough, but nothing like what those around me go through.  I found while I wrote my responses to the statements, I would think about different people.  I found it interesting that at times I was thinking about those without mental illness that judge others so harshly and won't budge on their judgment. 

At any rate, the statements are underlined and italicized.  My responses follow.  Many of the statements have similarities as do my answers.  I could consolidate them, but I want all my readers to have the opportunities to read them in their original form in case one strikes a cord that might not if I changed them.

Mental illness is a huge issue in our communities.  So many people runaway from the issues whether in themselves or others.  Many of our extreme cases are homeless or in prison because there is no one to take care of them.  I am not mentally ill and struggling through the medical system was hell on earth.  I can't imagine having to do all the phone calls and stuff when in a mental breakdown.  I could go on and on, but will cut my soapbox short. Here are the statements.

* To let go does not mean to step caring.  It means I can't do it for someone else.

Letting go can be excruciatingly hard.  When I let go in the past, I have done so out of frustration.  I try to convince myself that I don’t care. Frankly, sometimes I don’t care for a short amount of time.  The attitudes of people with mental illness can be taxing at best. Other times, I let go for a bit just to regroup and take care of myself.  I also end up caring again which puts me back in the middle of the situation. I wish I had a button that I could turn off to allow me to let go and not care to the point that my heart hurts.

* To let go is not to cut myself off.  It's the realization I can't control another.

On a good day, this works.  I let go and let the person talk/vent.  I just listen and know that I can’t fix their problems.  Unfortunately, I want to be in control. I want to fix it.  Of course, on bad days, I let go and cut myself off from contact for a time.  The mental illness becomes too much for me to bare.

* To let go is to allow someone to learn from natural consequences.

Oh, this is so hard when the person is a loved one.  I want to step in and protect them. I want to make it better.  Alas, I can’t. If I step in, I tend to make the relationship worse.

* To let go is to recognize when the outcome is not in my hands.

So very true.  Even though I am the mother, Madelle’s education is not in my hands.  Yes, I can encourage, but the work has to hers, not mine. I can’t force her.  I have tons of other examples of my not having control in many other situations with many others as well.

* To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

I can’t take care of many people in my life with mental illness.  I do care about them. But ultimately, they have to care about what happens to themselves and do the work themselves.  I can’t do it for them.

* To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

I am horrible at this.  I want to fix it. Sure, I am supportive, but I also can’t keep my mouth shut.  I have to give suggestions on how to fix everything. I would think I could learn.  Sometimes I do well, but I inevitably find myself suggesting how a person can fix their lives.  I come off as a know it all when I just want to fix. Hopefully someday I will learn to just listen.

* To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

We all judge.  I believe it is part of human nature.  I work hard at not judging and I fail quite often.  I know I am getting better at refraining from judging and keeping my opinions to myself at times.  I find I am becoming more empathetic, though I have work to do. I watch other people judge my dear daughter and think they need to let it go.  But again, that is something I am not in control of. I know many people don’t like her at the moment and may never like her. They are missing out.  They don’t understand mental illness. I try to explain, but they have to do the work to see behind the quirky, harsh personality traits.

* To let go is not to expect miracles, but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.

I truly think I have reached this.  At the moment, my daughter is doing amazing.  She has worked hard and doing well. She is working about six hours a day on school work, art, writing, and hiking.  She is hoping to get into an alternative school next fall. She is happy. She hasn’t cut in almost a year. The anxiety and panic still trip her up.  They probably always will. I am enjoying the good times we are having. It could change tomorrow. We have no idea or control.

* To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

At the beginning, I tried to regulate Madelle when she started using her voice.  She can be very harsh and judgmental. But, then I thought why? I could fight with her and risk her losing her voice.  Risk her cutting again and risk her becoming suicidal again. I am not going there. Yes, she upsets people and they end up not liking her.  That is her burden, not mine. Frankly, it is also their burden.  Well, it is mine when people go off about her attitude to me. But I “let it go.”

* To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

There are so many things I could regret: not taking her out of the private school a year sooner, not seeing the signs of her illness, being a tough boot strap mom, and the list could go on and on.  I know I have loved her and others with all my heart. I have screwed up. I will screw up again. I am human, far from perfect. I can only handle the here and now. I will live in the moment.

* To let go is to fear less and love more.

I would love to say that I don’t fear the outcome of the mental illness that shadows relationships in my life.  Or should I say worry? I worry about the future. Where will we all be in the next ten years? But, I refuse to let the fear or worry cripple me.  I will continue to love and live.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Louvre

Growing up, I don't remember an appreciation of art in the form of the greats.  I knew nothing of Monet, da Vinci, or Michelangelo.  Our home didn't have any pieces of "art" of known artist.  On the walls, we did have my aunt's pieces.  Mom also displayed two of my string art pieces that I had done at youth group.  I do remember loving the stained glass window at church of Jesus praying in the garden.  I also loved the crucifix at the local Catholic Church.  My cousin fascinated me with how she could draw, but I had no talent.  I also loved watching my friend Joe do a piece in class.

I began taking note of art when I was hired at the Ben Franklin Frame Shop.  Seeing the pieces come into the store, I studied the local artists of Montana and around the United States.  I was determined to have some good pieces in my house.  I have a few outdoor scenes and religious pieces.  None are of "known" artists.  I also have a piece of my aunt's art.  The entertaining part is by the time I could start collecting I decided I really prefer my own photography.  But I do love to go to a good museum.

The Louvre originally  was built in the late 12th to 13th century as a palace and fortress by Philip II.  In 1682, the Palace of Versailles became the residence for Louis XIV.  The Louvre housed the royal collection, including Greek and Roman sculptures.  Over the centuries, the palace developed into the art museum of today.  There are approximately 38,000 objects in 782,910 square feet museum.  I only saw a small fraction and it was magnificent.

The day started out questionable.  I messed up and bought the wrong tickets.  The problem was we were so confused when they turned Madelle and I away, but they let Jerry through with his ticket.  Madelle panicked and wanted to just go back to the hotel.  She only does well with Jerry and he was on the other side of the ticket area.  I waved him back.  Seeing panic in your child's eyes is a tough situation, but I wasn't going to let her miss out on The Louvre.  I told her she would not be going back.  We went to sit down while Jerry went for the right tickets.  She turned her back to all the world and regrouped.  Once he returned with the tickets, she had gathered herself and we made it into the museum.  The first sculpture grabbed her attention and she was enjoyed herself.

Because of the panic, we didn't get headphones to learn or a map to guide us.  We just wandered.  Jerry worked at reading the French signs.  Madelle insisted we stick together, so I didn't get to engross myself in the art like I normally do.  Instead, I watched her and snapped pictures.  Really, the experience was overwhelming in its magnitude of people, space, and beauty.  I would love to go again by myself to take notes and learn. 

A few of my favorite sculptures.

As we went through the Christian paintings, I marveled at the Crucifixion pieces.  We saw them on a Wednesday and in two days we would be remembering the event since it was Good Friday.  I loved that we visited and saw these great works during Holy Week.

Part way through this section, Madelle turned to me upset.  "They aren't even stopping to really see the art," she observed.  I began watching the people.  The majority of them just walked through with a glance left and right.  A handful of people actually stopped and looked at the artwork.  "I am kind of glad though," I commented, "this way we get to appreciate it more without the crowds keeping us from the art."  She liked this thought and we continued on looking.

Finally, we came to the room with the Mona Lisa.  People were stopped here.  The room was huge and it was shoulder to shoulder.  I worried Madelle would get anxious.  "Do you want to go up front?"  Her eyes had grown large with wonder and she nodded.  We put her between us and went forward.  She did wonderful and was delighted to see the beautiful lady.  I loved her as well.

After seeing one of the most famous paintings in the world, we escaped the chaos and found the gift shop.  We picked up a couple of things.  Madelle was finished with the museum.  Jerry wasn't, so we found some stairs and went down to the lower level and found a section with hardly any people.  This was my favorite spot.  The display was a lot of sculptures of scenes from Jesus' life.  We spent a little time in this area and then made our way out of the museum which wasn't easy.  There is a huge mall in one section, but Madelle was done.

Outside, we breathed in the fresh air.  We found a crepe restaurant and had the best French lunch of the vacation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Social Anxiety in Little Women

Through the years, I have no idea how many times or versions of “Little Women” I have watched on television.  I do know that I have read the novel once and probably need to read it again one of these days. I love the story.  I used to daydream about the characters when I was young. Since the first peek into their lives, Jo March has always been my favorite.

In the latest rendition that is airing on PBS, Jo hasn’t disappointed.  I still love her dearly and even at my age, I want to emulate her daring and drive.  However, while watching the first episode, I caught an issue that I never noticed before.  I wonder if the situation was always there. Beth has never been my favorite. In fact, she always annoyed me.  Last night, I found myself watching the scenes with Beth with interest.

Mr. March wrote home to his little women and told them to be brave when fighting the battles in their lives.  Later, Marmie is talking with Beth. In the conversation, she is reprimanding Beth for staying in the house too much after they allowed her to leave school.  She understands the struggles Beth has being around a lot of people, but she fears Beth will become imprisoned in her home. Beth responds with the fact that she hasn’t been fighting hard enough like her father asked.

The scene took my breath away.  Beth has social anxiety. Remembering back to all the other takes on the story, I realize her “mental illness” was always there.  She hesitated to play the piano at Mr. Lawrence’s home. I never realized her struggles. Now, I know I am more sensitive to mental issues, but the directing of the show may also be more sensitive.  I really want to go back and read the novel to see if the author was making people aware of problems in families.  In reality, she probably didn't do it on purpose, but the awareness is there for me now.

Continuing in the production, there are at least two scenes of Beth stepping out of her house intending to play the piano.  One time she reaches the porch steps of the Lawrence residence only to turn around. His front gate is as far as she gets the next time. 

The scenes are so poignant to me.  My daughter has been through this.  She has struggled going to school until she just couldn’t go anymore.  Our home was becoming a prison for her as Marmie fears for Beth. I so related with Marmie and felt sadness for Beth.  Social anxiety is not a new illness. People have dealt with social anxiety for centuries. I am sure other great authors in the past have written about such people.  I just haven’t noticed before in my reading or watching of the classics.

The first episode ended last night.  Jo is still my favorite and always will hold the top spot.  Now however, I relate to Marmie and sympathize more with Beth. I have always cried when Beth dies.  I probably will again. I do wish she lived so I could see how her life turns out. Does she become that old spinster who lives with her parents until they die.  At that point would she live in the family home or go to live with one of the sisters? Does a dashing young man see her for the beautiful person she is and marry her?  I have these questions with Madelle. What is in store for me sweet girl?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Troubles

I just read a terrific post that hit my outlook feed while I was on vacation: "Overcoming Burnout: How to Recover When You're Exhausted From Writing."  In the last eight months, I have written 218,000 words for the Tenet series.  In February and March, I felt like I was slogging along.  I am tired of this project.  Besides a couple of side distractions, I have been working on the project consistently for eight years.  Granted, in the beginning, the going was a crawl forward, but the last couple years I have been running and these last months I have been sprinting.  My poor little writing brain is tired. 

I had hoped the vacation to Europe would help.  The problem with a trip to Europe is the pace of running all over to see everything possible in a short amount of time.  That causes a whole different type of exhaustion.  I will say that I did have a little writing epiphany while in Germany, but I will discuss more of that later.  Upon coming home, I haven't wanted to write about Corrion or anyone from the country of Icordia.

The article resonated with me because yesterday I realized that I couldn't face my big project.  I decided I was going to take April and maybe May off and do something fun.  The fun will be in the form of gardening, housework, playing with a new character, and maybe some painting projects.  The first part of the article talked about committing to recovery from burnout.  I already have.  Boy, I am a genius.

The next suggestion was picking the right amount of time.  For a novel, they say one to two months of rest is a good number.  Now, I am burned out on Icordia, not writing per say.  I hate to not be playing and practicing with words for that long, so I will work on something different.  I started the new little project last night.  I am going to work on my D&D characters back story.  As I thought about it over the day, I had no clue of a story.  I knew Belvora ended up in a prison.  She was of royal birth and due to past circumstances, she was paranoid.  I brainstormed with Jerry when he came home from work.  After thirty minutes, I had some inspiration.  I wrote 1,246 words.  I now have a direction and plan to have a short novel by June to send my editor.  This will set me behind on my publishing date for my last Tenet novel, but I know the rest will make the writing richer.

Okay, I wrote this post last week.  I am still finding it difficult to write.  I have rewritten the opening of Amber Rose about four times.  Gurr.  I need to just back off, but I keep looking at my writing total for this month, pathetic.  I know I can be doing better.  I am so not good at giving myself a break.  I am not sure what I am going to do.  Okay, I do know.  I am going to plod along and sit in the bloody chair until the writing begins to flow again. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Arc de Triomphe

Normally when I plan a trip, I try to study the area.  I especially love to research the history.  For this trip, traveling with a teen with anxiety, I didn't really know what to expect or what I would be seeing on the trip.  Thus, my second day of travel found me abandoning the itinerary set for the day.

We started out going to breakfast at a quant little caffe.  I just had coffee while my two companions had a simple meal of toast and eggs.  I enjoyed taking a couple fun pictures to begin my day.

The next task was to conquer the subway system.  Our first problem was that the credit card didn't work in the machine to get tickets.  We finally used Euros.  After line 14, we were supposed to switch to line 4.  A red X crossed out the line on all the signs, construction.  With the confusion, our daughter began to panic.  She did well and didn't display her anxiety.  Once we found an alternative line, we made it to our destination to find it raining.  We noticed her struggle and bought an umbrella.  We also had an early lunch.

The plan was to see Notre Dame.  The rain became worse along with a strong wind whipping about when we came to the courtyard.  The line went on for what looked liked miles and it was frigid cold.  Madelle panicked and asked to go back to the hotel.  Frustration ensued.  We complied by her wish and took her back. 

Once safe in her spot, Jerry and I left her.  I took the opportunity to bring up the Arc de Triomphe.   I had hoped to get a chance to see the famous monument.  What a sight!  I hadn't researched.  I know no French.  I simply enjoyed the beauty. 

I also didn't know the top was a destination.  We bought tickets.  I had no idea how high it really was or how many steps it took to get to the top.  I looked it up, 284 steps.  I am not in the best shape, and after a fall last winter, my knees protest with stairs.  Luckily there was just enough room that I could rest a couple times going up.  And what a view!!!

Notice the garden on top of the roof.

Once I came home, I did some research.  The arch was built between 1806 and 1836.  The arch memorials those who have fought for France, specifically during the Napoleonic Wars.  Engraved on the inside of the arch are the generals and wars fought.  I looked over the names, trying to find Richard.  I didn't read all of them, but I found my son's name with the exact spelling.  Very cool.

We also found a treasure or two on the second "floor" of the arch.

Going down the stairs wasn't much easier then going up.  I ended up getting dizzy and had to stop to regain my balance.  Yes, I have issue.  At the bottom, we looked around and found the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I didn't realize at the time, but he fought in WWI and was laid to rest here in 1920 and commemorated in 1921.  Edgar Brandt was commissioned to construct an eternal torch.  The flame was lit in 1923 and has never gone out.  I find this fascinating on two levels.  One, they came the torch never went out during the German occupation of France.  Also, I always assumed America had the only tomb of the Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame.  Yep, I am an arrogant American.  The French built both well before we copied the idea.  I am humbled.

Underneath the arch, I found this beautiful ceiling that reminded me of a quilt.

After seeing the Arc, Jerry wanted to get visit the Eiffel Tower.  He wanted to walk the two miles to get there.  I said no, we could take the subway.  Now, I did do a little research about the tower when I read the novel "Paris."  I will go into that more in a later post.  All I know is that I love!!! love!!! love!!! the tower. 

Going back to the hotel, we took a different route.  Up ahead, Jerry pointed out an amazing building.  I snapped a couple pictures when I realized the door was one my cousin suggested I find for my door project of 2018.  I had so much fun taking pictures and am sure that I will not find another door to compare to its majestic design.  Absolutely stunning!!!

I also had fun taking pictures along our way of other things.

The day ended with an amazing meal at a Japanese restaurant.  They served the best dumplings I have ever eaten.  Their authentic Romen was delicious.