Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tower of London




My excitement overwhelmed me, reminding me of my young self being giddy with excitement for Christmas, as we walked up to the Tower of London.  I studied this historic landmark during my time in college as I worked toward a degree in history.  Over the years, I have read numerous stories about the Tower.  The story that always fascinated me the most was of the little boys who disappeared while imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle, King Richard III.  Well, and of course, the beheadings that took place on the Tower grounds. 

The White Tower within the Tower of London
As I listened to the guide, I marveled at the age of the buildings and the stories.  Hundreds of years of history surrounded me.  How does a person capture all of it in a picture or a blog post?  The thought of writing a travel memoir slipped away.  The task too large.  Even sitting here trying to remember, I get overwhelmed by the extent of my experience.  The visit filled me like a dream.  I walked through the grounds, snapping pictures, and listening, but I failed to grasp the reality.  Now the time is gone, never to be captured again.

Our last spot for the guide to speak with us was the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.  The spot has been a place of worship for over a thousand years.  However, the building isn't that old.  The current building began construction in 1519 with alterations being made throughout the years.  The guide pointed out the burial spots of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (the two wives Henry VIII beheaded) next to the alter.  He talked about hundreds of bodies being buried under the floor where we sat in the pews.  Even with all the bodies and violent history, I felt at peace in the chapel and on the grounds.  I agree with the guide when he said we must not judge the past with the same focus that we judge in the present.  Yes, today, beheadings and torture are condemned, but that was the way of life back then.  We can't fully grasp the culture.  I believe that is why there is peace in the chapel.  God has forgiven.

 
Curtesy of the Internet
Pictures were not allowed in the chapel.




As we left the chapel, I detoured to the side, stopping in front of a wooden down that led to more dead bodies.  Saint Thomas More rested behind the deep brown wood.  I stopped for a moment and read a plaque.  In my emotional state, I don't remember what it said.  The words failed to register.  I prayed.  About five years ago, I went to confession about a situation of being around worldly people who criticized my way of life.  The priest gave me an odd penance.  He told me to watch the movie, A Man for All Seasons, the story of Saint Thomas More.  The lesson for me?  Thomas stood up to Henry VIII in his worldly desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon by leaving the Catholic Church and starting the Anglican Church.  Saint Thomas was beheaded for his convictions.  I must always remain steadfast in my own faith just like Thomas.  I said a prayer for him, thankful for his example to follow.  Overwhelmed at being near his relics.

The Memorial to the Executed moved me much like the chapel.  In roughly the same spot that blood spilled and heads fell into baskets, a statue memorializes the deaths.  A poem is written on the bottom section, which I have to admit I don't remember.  On the top circle in a beautiful light blue, the names of those beheaded was printed around the glass.  I walked around, reading the names and said a prayer for them.  In the middle a glass pillow led my imagination to Anne placing her head down in great fear.  Breathtaking in elegance, I marveled at such a tribute for a harsh time in British history. 



Stunning
I would be remiss in not mentioning that we did see the Crown Jewels.  Though impressive, my mind returned to the chapel and the monument.  Of course, I delighted in seeing the metal statues of some of the animals that lived at the Tower during the days of the Menagerie.  I kept in mind the woman who stupidly showed off to her friends by putting her arm into the lion's cage.  As lions will do, he had a tasty snack on said arm.  The story reminds me of the things people do at Yellowstone or Glacier Park.  We haven't learned much over the centuries.





As we left the Tower, I was content with my time in London.  Yes, I still had two more days of touring, but the Tower was my true destination.  Someday, I will go into Westminster Abbey, tour the Globe Theatre, see the changing of the guard, look on Buckingham Palace, and visit the museums.  But for this trip, the Tower of London fulfilled the ache in my heart to be near Saint Thomas More and feel the history soak into my skin.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sensitivity Readers


As expected, I work every morning on the current events of writing.  I follow a few blogs that discuss little ways of enriching my work.  They also talk about new trends, business, marking, and all things that go into the world of the written word.  Today, I read about a new trend: sensitivity readers.  Are you kidding me?

I am frustrated.  The industry says I have to pay thousands of dollars for a cover, thousands of dollars for a book doctor, and thousands of dollars for an editor.  Now, I am supposed to hire a sensitivity reader.  Writers are beginning to get criticized for writing about things they don't know about.  Really?  Isn't that the whole point is for the writers to research and discover and take their readers with them?  We can't come off as racist or prejudice in our books.  We can't offend.  I am sorry but people offend me all the time with their liberal agenda, loose sex, extreme violence, and that is perfectly is okay.  Yet, now they want to sensor me?  It isn't all okay.  I as a writer have a right to express my ideals in my writing.  If I offend a reader with my ideals that they don't want to hear about, go somewhere else to read.  I don't care.  I have all of their agendas shoved down my throat.  Face it, pay back is a bitch!  If they can have their voice, so can I!

Now the industry is saying we need sensitivity readers.  I don't think so.  I hope I piss people off because no one is being sensitive to me.  I am so sick of seeing and reading through sex scenes.  I am beyond appalled at all the sex outside of marriage that is promoted everywhere I turn.  I want to pass my ideals on to my reader.  They can reflect on them and apply them or toss them.  It doesn't matter.  I just want people to hear another perspective.

Anyway, as always, I am feeling very emotional about this and struggling with the writing.  And yes, I have gone on a tirade.  Let me breath for a moment.  I want to be heard.  I am getting tired of being the little mouse in a corner and writing fluffy stuff so I don't get any controversy thrown in my face.  What happened to the days of having a voice and people either loved the writer or they simply stopped reading the work.  People weren't lambasted all over the media.  I miss those days.

Okay, now that I have spouted, I will try to be a little more logical.  The article I read about sensitive readers had a few good points.  One, if I am writing about modern day poverty and my main character is poor, I need to do some major research because I am not poor.  To write authentically, I need to try to walk in their steps, interview them, and hire a couple poor people to read the manuscript to show me where I am wrong.  I shouldn't be hiring a sensitive reader.  For heavens sake, they are probably just as white as me and probably making more money.  They know poor as well as I do!

Now, let's say I write about a white middleclass prejudice woman working with the poor through ministry.  She is going to be offensive.  That is reality.  So hate the character, not the writer for goodness sake.  Show authentic resentment from the poor people she is helping.  If the writer doesn't show the resentment through the secondary characters, they aren't a good writer, people won't buy their work, and voila, problem is solved.  We don't need sensitivity readers.

I will never hire a professional for this task.  I may ask for help from people who know.  I may pay a laymen of the group I am writing about if I think it is needed.  I might end up writing things wrong.  However, I will always write authentic to who I am, warts and all.  People have found Mark Twain and Harper Lee offensive.  I congratulate these authors because they have also made people think.  What a compliment!  Have I been offended by writers?  You bet.  I hated "The Golden Compass," "The Da Vinci Code," and "The Magicians" with how they represented my faith.  Would I ban them?  Not in a million years.  People feel that way about my faith.  Reading the books helped me to understand a different perspective.  Would I lambast Dan Brown?  Even if he asked my personal opinion, I would tell him that I loved the detail and research he used in the book.  I would tell him I have a completely different idea of who Jesus is and that I am sad that there is in fact corruption in the church.  I respect Dan for his fine writing and staying authentic to himself.

If we as readers and writers hide from the truth of life and let it be censored from our lives, we become ignorant.  However, with that said, I am sick and tired of all the yelling and tantrums that every side is taking to be heard.  Grow up people.  Show a little decorum.

Life is very short, and there's no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend

                        Beatles, "We Can Work It Out"

Friday, February 3, 2017

Depth


Taking this class, my muse has taken some hits.  I don't go deep enough because I do too much plot at the beginning of my scenes.  I like this piece that I just sent in to my instructor.  What do all of you think of it?


Threatening darkness loomed in the background.  Swirling puffy snowflakes assaulted the asphalt road, turning it into a gray wasteland, like a desert backdrop.  The glitter on each flake reflected off the headlights, blinding, reminding Nancy of a spaceship going into warp drive into the desert of space, only the small Escort lacked four-wheel drive let alone the navigational system for the confidence to propel forward with security of travel. 

Forty mile an hour winds whipped the hazardous snow around causing low visibility, much like what her military husband explained to her about the sandstorms in Iraq.  In the comfort of her own home, typically she loved to watch a winter storm from her kitchen window, all snug in the warmth and safety home.  She also loved shoveling the sidewalk and driveway in a snowstorm.   The exertion of conquering the elements, like her pioneering ancestors, filled her with a sense of accomplishment.

Drifting snow piled on the side of the road against the silver guard rail, slithering out into the lane ready to strike out at the tires.

The jeering of the windshield wipers mocked me as the rubber grated on the window.  The heater roared.  All the noises clawing on her stressed nerves.  The music from the stereo blared Beatles tunes to distract from the loss of site, the fear.  She hated snowstorms while riding or driving in a car.  Visions of her sister-in-law laying in a casket assaulted her memory, dying in a storm in the middle of Minnesota countryside.

The musky smell of wet dog permeated the air due to the Beagle standing sentinel in between the front seats shielding his desert queen sitting next to him and the princes in the back from harm.  His back paws on the rear seat and the front paws on the seat divider in the front.  His eyes never leaving the darkness in front of them as if he willed the car to stay on the road, their little protector. 

Her parched mouth thirsted from the anxiety as if she was in a desert.  The irony of the wet flakes falling in front of her only made the desire for drink heightened.  A thermos of hot chocolate lay on the floor of the car, like an oasis, just out of reach.  She longed for a stiff drink to calm her nerves. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

To Go or Not To Go


Thirty years ago, I was a senior in high school.  In January, I caught a horrible cold.  For about three months, I was sick.  My breathing was labored due to living in a house with smokers and a town with wood smoke in the air.  I struggled those days and faced the fact that my dream of going to Oregon or Washington for school was completely out of the question.  I had no money.  I settled for in state as far as I could go which meant Billings.

What does this have to do with anything?  I am not sure.  I might just be rambling.  My classmates are beginning to work on our reunion.  A few of them are excited and chatting about past memories and making new ones.  I sit and watch the facebook feeds wondering what my part is in all of this.  I don't want to go.  I want to want to go, but I have feelings of dread. 

The dread doesn't at all stem from seeing any of my classmates.  They are amazing people.  It comes from facing thirty years.  I dread one more activity that takes me away from home and the gardens.  I dread yet another trip to Libby after the ten I took last year with the death of my dad.  I am already planning three trips up there as it is.  I dread not being the me I imagined I would be at this age.  I love my life, but ….  I dread what to do with my daughter if my husband can't come.  And yes, I dread another trip of being slapped with the reality that I can't hang out with Dad.  I miss him a ton.

Yet, I wonder would I regret not going.  I just don't know.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Winter Lanterns


A couple of days, I took my lantern out in the yard.  We have a lot of snow this year and I wanted to have a little fun with that as the backdrop.  Besides, snow for calendar pictures for the months of December, January, and February in my neck of the woods is a must.  I am sure a couple of my neighbors must look out their window and wonder about me with some of my little projects.  I actually smile when I think of that.  Let the wonder, wondering is good for the soul.  I enjoyed my little outing until my fingers began to tingle from the cold.  


Bushes

All about Snow

Milk Can

Wagon Wheel


Oh, I forgot to mention that my milk can also grabbed my attention.  I know my theme is lanterns, but I had to take a picture of it.  Let me know which is your favorite picture.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Seed Catalogs


Catalogs Arrive

Hope of spring soon to follow

Dad missed tenfold

Dad and I called each other to talk about our plans for the spring planting season every year.  As I looked through  my catalogs, I knew he did the same back home.  We chatted about the changes we wanted to make in the vegetable garden.  He bragged about his adventures planned in the greenhouse.  I listened jealously wishing for my own house, yet knowing I didn't have time for that added work.  This year I will have to have one-sided discussions.  People will drive by my backyard wondering about the middle-aged woman talking to herself as she digs, pulls weeds, waters, and plants.  I don't care, let them wonder how I went crazyJ  I will be asking Dad to pray for my garden.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pinpricks of Light


My morning started out like any other.  I traipsed into my writing room to do my work before the house woke up to distract me.  Once that was finished, I puttered around the house, cleaning here and there.  My equilibrium tanked.  I felt good, but dizziness assaulted me and my stomach felt like I was on a rollercoaster.  I rested between activities and during activities.  Madelle came into the kitchen at one point looking like I felt.  We canceled out movie outing with the neighbor kids.

Not an hour after we canceled, Jerry received a text.  A couple struggling with mental illness contacted us.  They needed to talk.  In two hours they wanted to stop by the house.  I would have been at the movies.  Coincidence?  I think not.  They say God doesn't make us sick.  I chuckled.  He might not have made Madelle and I feeling sick, but he used our staying home as an opportunity to put in play His plan. 

As the four of us talked, I sat thinking.  Jerry talked about his journey of PTSD, a very depressing subject.  Being that I am working on the theme of "Beacons of Light," I tried to compare my husband to a beacon of light in the area of mental illness.  Now, he is definitely a beacon of light to me, but as they compared stories of their struggle, I didn't perceive light shining through my husband.  I saw his sadness and struggle.  I was reminded of the dark days we mucked our way through as this dear couple has been doing.  I saw all the days ahead of the four of us because mental illness is a constant struggle.  We also talked about the work.  How we brought light back into our family through faith, volunteer time, and other steps to help with a better life.

After the couple left, Jerry busied himself with making homemade pasta.  He finds light in keeping busy when he is faced with his PTSD or finds himself slipping into that world.  I read a text sent to me.  A dear friend was called to his father's side.  The old gentleman is said not to last the rest of the week.  I asked how I can help.  My friend asked me to check in with their young adult children.  We had two of them over for dinner.  Sitting around the dinner table for the second time with guests I hadn't anticipated, I was grateful for the opportunity to help such dear "kids."  Waiting for the inevitable is tough.  But we laughed and reminisced.  We "broke bread" together.

I would love to say that we moved mountains yesterday.  I would love to say that a beacon of light pulsed above our dining room table, bringing happiness, joy, and peace.  Instead, I went to bed with a heavy heart.  The sadness and suffering of our loved ones is hard.  Since my dad passed away four and a half short months ago, these events bring his loss to the forefront.  Though a little down in mood, I envisioned the light in all of our eyes.  Light filtered through the laughter at dinner.  Hope lights the way in tasks we can do to help each other on our journeys.  The little pinpricks of light lead to the beacon.
 Blessings.