Tuesday, September 30, 2008

London Royalty

We arrived in London on a Friday. On Tuesday the guys rode the tube early in the morning to save a place at the fence around Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. The women (daughter-in-law, granddaughter and me)took a taxi about an hour later. (In order to get a good place to stand, a person has to get to the Palace about two hours early.) Our taxi driver was from Afghanistan. He, like everyone we met, was interested in America and where we were from. When he found out our daughter-in-law's family lived in the country, he talked about the way he lived in his country. Contrary to the pictures we see of Afghanistan, there are areas there that are lush, green and productive. He said his family had 3000 fruit trees on their land. The farmers in his area have banded together and he said, "No one can come in. Not the government, not the military and not the Taliban. We are safe from the war." They must not let the press in either because we've never seen anything like that on television.

Reid and I stayed across the street so the other four could take their places at the fence at Buckingham. We visited with an interesting man from Spain who had never been out of his country. He wasn't even sure what was going to happen so we filled him in the best we could. After the changing of the guard, we toured the Queen's Mews (where she keeps her horses, cars, carriages), her gallery where she has numerous paintings of the masters and the State Rooms of the Palace. Afterwards we walked to Pizza Express to eat then Reid and I took the tube back to the hotel while the others did some more touring. That evening we were excited to be able to watch a shortened, yet complete, video of the Dallas vs Eagles football game.
Sometimes the best part of being away from home is hearing from home.

One part of this trip stood out to me, and that was the opulence of the monarchy. We saw it at the Palace and again at the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are kept. When you go into the area where the jewels and other golden pieces are stored, you are walking into a vault. Crowns, jewels, golden goblets and dishes, a huge punch bowl that surely can't be lifted without some mechanical apparatus--even the ladle would take several men to wield it--all within this room and absolutely useless.I think they take one of the crowns out when the Queen has to wear it. (I could go into a diatribe about how much "stuff" we all have that we don't use, but I'll just leave it at this.)If you know anything about the Tower of London, you know it was, among other things, a place of pain and passion, treachery and torture. English prince, Edward V and conspirator Guy Fawkes were imprisoned there as was a friend of Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More. Having anything to do with Henry was perilous to one's health. His six wives are remembered thusly: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. His second wife, Ann Boleyn,was beheaded at the Tower. Execution inside the tower was a privilege for those in high rank. Makes a person glad they didn't live back then nor know any of these "important" people.

I imagine most Londoners don't pay much attention to the tourist places. I don't think most of them pay attention to the queen either. Kind of like right here at home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alone in London

Being alone in a strange city may not be unnerving to most people, and when it happened to me, I thought nothing of it--for awhile. Since I hadn't slept the night before the Paris trip, I knew I couldn't go. All day sightseeing, no place to lay my head when sleeplessness caught up with me. It would ruin the trip for the others so I chose to stay at the hotel.

They left at 4:45. I dressed at 5:45, went downstairs and paid for computer time, (7 pounds for 45 minutes), wrote emails then had breakfast at the hotel at 6:30. I was able to sleep from 7:45 until 10:30 and when I woke up, I wished I could magically join my family in Paris. Since that couldn't happen, I walked to Starbuck's instead, sat out on the sidewalk and watched London life go by.

A truck picking up large containers of garbage, "City of Westminster Clean Streets" emptied one of the few trash containers available on the streets of the city.

A young man came out of Starbuck's carrying two coffees in one hand, one stacked on top of the other, with a cell phone to his ear in the other hand. (It's no different there. Everyone has a cell phone.) He put the coffees on a table, continued to talk on the phone and lit a cigarette. (Since July, 2007, no smoking inside buildings in England.) A friend came, grabbed one of the coffees and went to catch the bus that was pulling up to the stop on the curb. The young man said good-bye, turned off his phone as he walked to the the bus, took one more drag on the cigarette and dropped it to the sidewalk. As he got on the bus an older little man came upon the still smoking cigarette, picked it up and held it toward the man on the bus. With a broad smile he seemed to be saying, "What luck!" and walked away smoking it.

He wasn't the only person I saw finding something and taking it for his own. A man in the tube found a mint on the platform, put it in his hand and after studying it for a second, popped it into his mouth. I have no way of knowing if it had fallen from someone's mouth, or his own, or was brand new. At any rate, it didn't stand a chance with this guy around.

An older, rather paunchy man got off one bus, his jacket buttoned wrong, longer on the left and hiked up on the right side. It worked well for him since he easily put his hand in his right pants pocket.

After finishing my coffee and reluctant to go back to the hotel room, I walked a bit in the neighborhood. It was sunny and warm, a lovely day to stroll the streets. A young Londoner asked me for directions and laughed when I told him I didn't know anything. He could easily see I wasn't a local. I passed St. George's Catholic School that had a sign stating the school was inspired by gospel values. After a lunch in the hotel I went back to my room, lonely and wishing I could hear a friendly voice. Although the price wasn't right, I called my daughter in Las Vegas, and after talking to her, I knew I'd make it the rest of the day.

I read English newspapers and watched TV (Diagnosis Murder, Murder She Wrote, and a recap of Sunday's NFL games)I napped a bit and managed to make it until Reid came back around 11:00 that night.

Being alone is all right for a little while, but it can become too much after awhile--at least for me. I wouldn't make a good hermit. I talk to myself as it is, and with no one around, pretty soon I'd be answering.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Poet's Corner

It's four in the morning and I've been awake since 1:30. Guess ye olde jet lag has settled in. Whatever it is, I'm awake and thinking about Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey in London. I love standing in the midst of the great minds of old authors hoping some of their ghosts will pass their genius along to me.

The most famous monument is to William Shakespeare and wasn't erected ujtil 124 years after his death. He's buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. When the Abbey began burying famous folks, it was suggested his body be reburied there. But his epitaph made it clear his bones should not be disturbed:
"Good friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear
to dig the dust enclosed here!
Blest be the man that spares these stones
and curst be he that moves my bones."
So they built a statue instead. It shows him pointing with his left hand to a version of Prospero's lines from the Tempest:
"The Cloud capt Tow'rs
The Goreoous Palaces
The Solemn Temples,
The Great Globe itself,
Yea all which it Inherit, Shall Dissolve,
And like the baseless Fabrick of a Vision
Leave not a wreck behind."
(I'm not sure what all that means but Willie must have thought it was good.)

Many of the masters are buried beneath the Abbey floor, their names and dates engraved in the stone. Some have statues, like Wordsworth, and only the front of a bust like William Blake, which looks rather Halloweenish if you ask me. Jane Austen is one of seven women writers honored and she has only a small plaque that was installed in 1967.

Shelley and Keats are commenorated together. Shelley was initially refused because of his atheism but in 1945 he was linked to Keats by a marble swag. Lord Byron was excluded because of his scandalous lifestyle, but in 1969 he was given a floor stone.

Charles Dickens is the most visited. A floor stone covers his grave. The Bronte sisters have a wall memorial that states their names, dates of birth and death and below it is carved, "With courage to endure." Robert Browning is buried in the Abbey but his wife, Elizabeth Barrett is buried in Italy. John Milton waited 60 years before he was honored with a memorial bust that states simply, "Milton."

Chaucer, the father of English poetry, rates an altar sarcophagus; Christopher Marlowe, a memorial window in 2002. Handel, Laurence Olivier, Kipling. Names we all know and many more.

Being a writer, I decided I'd try my hand at a sonnet (written on the plane coming home.)

Good-bye, Britain
To your land of poets, palaces and queens,
To monarchs' fits of fancy, beheading, bedding and debauchery,
To glittering crown jewels and oppulant coaches that obscure the masses from your sight.
They've served you well and birthed our Eagle's Nest.
Thank you, Pilgrims, visionaries and Lovers of Liberty,
Pursurers of God's own plan.
Freedom has become our song, and bound by loyalty we wish not be released.
For holiday we visit you.
For living we come home.

Think I'll ever get a marble slab in the Abbey?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Place Like Home

It is so good to be home!

After 20 hours of being awake and flying from London to here, we slept 10 hours last night and have spent the morning unpacking, doing laundry, picking up mail and all the "normal" life activities. I'm sure I won't be flying across the Atlantic (or the Pacific) ever again. But the trip was good, and we did enjoy being with a son, daughter-in-law and two grandkids.

We arrived in London on Friday and had planned a trip to Paris on the EuroStar, which goes through the chunnel between England and France. Our taxi driver told us there had been a fire in the chunnel a few days before and the chunnel was closed. We were thankful we weren't on the train when that happened! As it turned out, they re-opened the chunnel for the Paris trip on Monday. However, it was the last day tours were going to be able to go through it. I didn't make the trip since I didn't sleep one wink the night before. I spent Monday alone sleeping, watching TV, reading, walking around the neighborhood, sitting at Starbuck's and people-watching. I didn't mind missing the trip since I'd been there before.

We heard that Ike had hit Galveston and the Gulf Coast where I used to live. From what we have heard from those we know who live in that area, the devastation was horrific. It's difficult receiving news from the States when in London. Their papers report a little and the BBC reports a little. (We didn't mind not hearing about the campaign.)The bank failings were widely reported. It seemed their reporting was without bias--like it should be here.

Sunday morning we attended Westminister Abbey's 10:00 service. That was a new experience. The Abbey is so beautiful and used to be wonderful to tour, but in order to keep the homeless and drunks out, they have changed all of it. Lots of barriers. It isn't the same. I spent most of my time in the Poet's Corner, which I'll write more about later. It can't be toured on Sunday but we had done it Saturday.

Every day was a blog event, and I'll be writing some about it. Right now, all I can say is that there's truly no place like home!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Don't Miss Life

The first book in a series I'm writing is pretty much edited and finished. I've sent a couple of queries out and received one rejection. Haven't heard from the other one yet. I began the second book and couldn't figure out why it wasn't flowing. Last night, at a writer's meeting, I got my answer, which means I have to totally re-plot and re-character (if that's a word.)This morning I read an article from one of the blogs I follow (look to your right on this page), about Character External Goals. Turns out this article will help me when I re-character and re-plot.

I like to think of myself as a writer, but I don't think at this time in my life I really have what I need to try to get to the "top" of that profession. I'd like to have this series published, when and if I ever get to book number five. I have another book that needs serious revising before it will be ready. I put in a lot of time researching background for it, and feel I need (want?) to write it. When we were in Virginia City last year, I took pictures of some tombstones. There's a story there for sure. We have two real-life events in our family that could be written. Lots of research needed for both of them. I have a memoir floating around in my head, too. And I like writing short stories. But writing any of this takes discipline, and "life" always gets in the way.

I probably will never be on the Best Seller List, but that doesn't matter. I enjoy writing when I do it, love going to critique meetings and reading other writer's work, hearing ideas of how to improve the craft, and most of all, I love reading almost any genre.

I think that's what life should be about--doing what you love but not allowing it to interfere with Life. Otherwise, it becomes a Job. Jobs are all right if they're just jobs and not life. I was married to a man who thought Job came first. That is, until he was dying of lung cancer. In the end he did recognize how out of balance his thinking had been and apologized for it...and made up for it the best he could.

I loved working when I did it. I loved my job, but it never got in the way of Life for me. My job today is to enjoy the years I have left. I don't want to spend them chasing after something that has no real lasting value. Lasting value things are family, loving other people, enjoying God and His world and playing with grandkids and great-grands.

Trace Adkins sings a song, "You're Gonna Miss This." Listen to the words. They're right on. When my girls were growing up, I spent a lot ot time--too much--worrying about keeping the house neat and a myriad of other small things. If I could go back, which I can't of course, I'd look at everything through different eyes. That is if I could go back with all I've learned over the years--which I can't, of course. The reason I bring this up is because I don't want to miss anything now. If I don't get to the computer to write 300 words every day, well, so be it. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow--if Life doesn't happen first.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting Our Peace

When I have time every morning, I sit on my patio. We seem to have more geckos than usual right now. They skitter across the flagstone and hide under bushes and in the rocks. Pity the unsuspecting bug making its way to the water fountain or wherever bugs go. From its hiding place the gecko strikes and the bug is still. I watch as the gecko waits--15 seconds, 30 seconds--then he takes a bite. Soon the bug disappears and the gecko skitters back into the brush.

For the past two springs one of our flower pots has been host to a dove couple and their offspring. The first spring she sat twice--four babies. Last spring we determined she wasn't going to do it again. We turned our pots upside-down, and although she appeared for a few days, she must have finally found another birthing room. Thinking we'd outsmarted her, we proceeded to get our pots ready for planting. Before we had a chance to get one plant in a pot, she had built a nest. Twice we cleaned out her nests, then planted flowers in our pots. We got up one morning and there she sat, amidst the flowers on two eggs. As a postscript, one of her babies died. I wonder if that will deter her from our pots next spring but I doubt it.

It occurred to me this morning that every creature on earth, whether those who stand upright, or slither, or skitter, or fly, or crawl--all of us are looking for one thing. Getting our needs met.

The picture of the Maui skink (could have been a gecko) was taken last spring when my daughters and I were there for a week. It was the first time we'd been together, just the three of us, in years. The first evening on our lanai we spotted the critter searching for water. That week taught we something. Along with the skink all three of us were looking to get a need met. We wanted to re-create the relationship we'd had over the years as they grew up, and we all had aged in our different lives. What we have learned since then is that life doesn't work that way.

We love each other but we've all changed. In order to get our needs met today, we have to learn how to love each other differently. That road is unfamiliar and bumpy at times, but like all roads, it has a destination.

Now if you're a "super Christian," you may be thinking, "We shouldn't be talking about getting our needs met, but should be trying to find ways to meet others' needs." Hmmm... Even when we're trying to find ways to meet someone's else's needs, ours are still at the top of the heap.

Years ago, when I was in a troubling time, I prayed for God to give me peace. The song I sang everywhere I went was, "Master the tempest is raging.....The winds and the waves obey His will...Peace be still." It took awhile, but eventually the peace came. Life hasn't always been smooth and the road has had an awful lot of speed bumps along the way, but peace makes the Life Road easier to travel.

Once again I find myself desiring peace. I want to know that everyone I love is all right. I pray for them and I pray for myself knowing that even if everyone isn't all right, peace is available. That's why, when the man who died and came back, told me how profound the peace was where he went, it made me long to be there.

Being without peace eats away at a person's heart, soul and physical body. Jesus said He came to bring us peace. Somehow I don't think He was only talking about when we die. If that's true, then just as in my past, the peace will come--again. And maybe that's all "getting our needs met" is about anyway. Peace.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stretching the Limits

I'm a fiction writer and reader--mostly. I belong to a book discussion group and have read books of genres that I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own. Because of dipping my toes into other streams, I've read two excellent non-fiction books in the past few months.

One is "Blood and Thunder" by Hampton Sites. (I'd underline the title or put it italics but when I try, it comes out really strange.) It is the true history of the Southwest wrapped around the life of Kit Carson. After our friends read it, we made a trip to Taos where we visited places mentioned in the book. We saw Kit's house and his grave, along with the graves of his wives and children. We'd been to Taos Pueblo before but seeing it through the eyes of what we'd read made it more meaningful.

The other book I read is "109 East Palace" by Jennet Conant. This one is the true story of Robert Oppenheimer, head of the secret Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. The scientists and their families lived in secret (and appalling living conditions) all the war years as the atomic bomb was being "created." We plan to make another "field" trip to Santa Fe and Los Alamos some day.

In reading these books I was stretching out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it isn't easy for us to get out of that zone, is it? When we went to El Morro a couple of weeks ago and climbed to the top and walked around on those horrible rocks, I was definitely uncomfortable. It's done and I'm glad I did it. Maybe that's why people climb mountains and jump out of airplanes. I won't do those things (or ride roller coasters, bucking horses, or race at NASCAR) but I can still stretch my limits.

I've always loved learning. Since I no longer go to school or am in a profession where I learn something new every day, I need to keep my mind alert. Reading does that for me. Writing, too.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. This old dog is into new tricks!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mornings and More

I love mornings. Retired mornings now. In the past, weekend mornings. Mornings when I wake up without an alarm clock going off, when I don't have anywhere to go. Quiet mornings when I can write. Fall is in the air, and I love fall here in the Desert Southwest. I loved mornings in Hawaii. Mornings in Tahoe, England, Italy. I just love mornings.

This morning I read in 2 Timothy. Paul is talking to Timothy about persecution. He tells him that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived." I don't want to believe that. I want to believe the other words that tell me how powerful God is and how we overcome everything in Him. Later in that book, Paul says "For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths."

The Political Conventions have been and are going on. We've been inundated with political speeches and ads, etc. for months now. (Or has it been years?) I find it hard to imagine how people can listen to one of the candidates and think he'd make a good President. It seems so clear that he's not what this country needs now or will ever need. I can't understand how people believe what he says. Is it because of itching ears? Or am I putting words that were written for another time into our lives today? Do they belong here? I get tired hearing all the rhetoric from the media gurus, many who twist the truth. "Reject the truth?" "Chase after myths." I find it hard to understand how people believe them, but do Paul's words apply?

One such person made the statement that the hurricane was God showing he's for one party and not the other. Since he was speaking about the "other" party I don't belong to being the beloved, and is well-known for his disbelief in God, people can see through it. But haven't we said the same things? Isn't God always on "our" side, and we see events, natural and otherwise, that prove He is? So, are these words from 2 Timothy any different? Do they apply to us today? It's a question I can't answer.
God is all powerful, and we are overcomers in Him. Of course, I don't want to have to be persecuted to overcome!

Anyway, I really love mornings.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I don't know if I'm going to blog any longer.

When I write, it comes from my heart, and what is there comes out onto the page.
I'm way too transparent.

I wrote a blog a couple of days ago that I'd give anything I had never written. I wrote about something I thought I knew, but my information was wrong. I should have checked it out before I believed it. (Just now I started to give my reasons for believing what I was told, but have decided I had no excuse.)

That's a problem people have. We see things from our own perspectives and make what we see "the truth" when it isn't always "the truth."

So, if you read the blog that isn't there any longer, let me tell you that what I wrote about someone isn't true.

I will continue with one more thought. Division. I don't believe in families being divided. I think, if any people should ever stick together, it's a family. My dad had two sisters and a sister-in-law who were always mad at each other for some silly reason or another. My mom and dad refused to be a part of any of it. I admire them for that. Life is just too short to be mad at the people we love the most, although we may think they have hurt us the most. One way we can keep the peace is be willing to look at our own actions and realize we've done some things we shouldn't, too. When we face ourselves truthfully, how can we cast that stone at someone else?

That sounds like something Jesus said, doesn't it?