Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

By William Ernest Henly

I saw the movie that shares a title with this poem yesterday. I’d never come across the poem before, so I decided to look it up and read it. I like the words of the poem, they speak to me of strength of spirit and self ownership. My life is full of confusion, and this poem encourages me to face it without fear.

A lot of people should learn to face life without fear. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you make, or what unfair circumstances life throws you. You are the master of your own fate, you are the captain of your own soul. Next time you feel fear, confusion, distrust, frustration, anger, sadness, or another dark emotion, read this poem and let it encourage you, let it left you up. Then, raise your head, put your shoulders back, stand up straight and walk forward in life without fear. Set your course, keep your eyes on your dreams, and be your own master and captain. Katie 8-29-2010

Venture Forth

I am an avid reader, especially of fantasy and science fiction books. I used to imagine myself inside the stories of the various books I read. I’d spend hours daydreaming (when I was supposed to be doing something else), thinking of how wonderful it would be to discover a magical world, or go on a fabulous adventure. My daydreams took me away from the boring, frightening, or annoying real world. I admit to relishing in those daydreams, constantly on the lookout for something in the real world that would equal the power and majesty of my dreams. Unfortunately, the real world just never reached that level of interest and fun.

Most people would have learned to accept the real world as it is, and stopped dreaming of adventure and magic. Well, I’m not most people. I’m 30 years old, and still dreaming about finding that magical place where I fit in and where my gifts and talents are needed. That place that has been waiting just for me to come and be a part of things. I think I might have at last found that place.

In two weeks time, I will leave the United States and fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland. Scotland, a place I’d never paid much attention to before 2006, is now as significant to me as my native country. When my church hosted a group of Scottish people for a soccer related mission trip in 2006, I found people who loved and accepted me just as I was. I wasn’t boring, ordinary, or invisible to them. I found true friends. Through those friends, I found my wonderful boyfriend, Murray, and discovered a land of magical places and beautiful features. Scotland is that world that I dreamed of as a child, teen, and now as an adult. It is my Narnia, my Middle Earth, my Inkworld.

I’m ready to set out on this grand adventure. I will be spending the entire month of July in Scotland, something that is both scary and exciting to me. I will experience being more or less on my own, away from my family (love you family!), away from this small town with so few friends (except for my church peeps), away from this country and it’s problems (for awhile at least), and I am SO ready for it. I have been feeling an increasing desire to set out on my own, to stop living with my parents, get my own place, have a good job, and eventually a family of my own. This trip is the first step down that road.

My greatest adventures are waiting. Do I have the courage to take a leap and defy gravity? I think I do. Get ready Scotland, here I come again!

Happiness Is In The Air

♥ Because I’m getting Murray for Christmas!!!! ♥

Escapism

“Because by now Elinor understood this, too: A longing for books was nothing compared with what you could feel for human beings. The books told you about that feeling. The books spoke of love, and it was wonderful to listen to them, but they were no substitute for love itself.”  Cornelia Funke Inkdeath

I have had a love of books and reading since I was a child. I remember listening intently as my mother read us such books as The Chronicles of Narnia, and Little House on the Prairie. The first book I learned to read was Hop On Pop.Thus, my mother is responsible for infecting me with the book geek virus.

Ever since then, the written word has been a source of magic to me. It takes me to worlds both known and unknown, introduces me to characters both familiar and unfamiliar, and feeds me knowledge and dreams. Many people call reading a form of escapism, and I guess that’s true, especially for me. I have hidden inside the stories of many books, inserting myself into lives that seemed much more exciting than my own. That’s the magic of the written word, it pulls you into a story that’s not your own. Just turn a page and you can become a wizard, a dragon rider, a fire breather, a hobbit, or anything else your imagination can make you.

Lately though, I have been thinking that I spend too much time in a world not my own. Right now, my life seems stuck in a very boring holding pattern. I have no job, not many friends nearby, and I constantly long to be in another place. I want to be in Scotland, with my boyfriend, Murray, and my others friends there. I feel this longing in my heart that never goes away. Even the magic of the written word can’t banish it for long. I can disappear into another world, but my heart calls me back.

I think that’s what Elinor has come to realize in the quote above. Books can take you anywhere you want to go, make you anything you want to become, but they can’t replace human beings. A book cannot hold my hand, it can’t kiss my lips, or look at me as though I’m the only woman in the world. Books are my friends, yes, but they can’t talk to me, they can’t include me in activities, or give me a shoulder to cry on when I need it. A book can describe love, but it can’t give to you.

I love my books, they are a comfort to me. You can look at my bookshelf and tell which ones are my favorites because they’re falling apart as a result of being read so much. As much as I value my books, I value the people in my life even more. I’ve always loved my family, but now I know a different kind of love. I’ve read so many books that talk about true love, but nothing I’ve read compares with the real feeling.

I know I’ve probably rambled a bit here, but that’s what blogs are for, rambling. I’m a dreamer, I always have been. I’ve imagined myself in countless stories created by others, so often ignoring my own story. Now, as I look at my life, I see an exciting story that’s still unfolding. How it will unfold is anybody’s guess. How I live it, and react to the events that come my way is my choice. After all, who writes the stories of our lives if not us? I know people say God does, and I believe He does have a plan for everyone, but we make our own choices, we determine our own attitudes, and we create our own characters.

I encourage everyone to read, and want everyone to love it as I do. That’s why I’m studying to be a librarian, because I’m at home among books, and want to spread their magic to others. All the same, I must remember not to lose myself so completely in another’s story that I ignore my own. You all remember that too, readers. Books are not substitutes for humans, reach out and love those around you with the power that only real people can.

I Remember

I was a 22 year old woman, working as a member of AmeriCorps that day. My job was an assistant to the elderly, and I didn’t really like it, as it made me very uncomfortable. The man I was caring for that day was bedridden, and spent most of the day sleeping. As I pulled into the driveway of the house where my job was, I heard these words on the radio, “We’ve gotten word that a plane has just hit the World Trade Center in New York City.” I brushed it off, thinking it had to be a joke or some small accident. I went on into the house and prepared to watch television and keep an eye on my patient.

I was watching Little House On The Prarie, and trying to do some schoolwork when something happened that I had never seen before or since. The broadcasting on TBS was interrupted by a news Special Report. Normally, cable channels like TBS don’t have news coverage. My attention was drawn away from my work to a scene of terror unfolding on the television. I believe the first tower had just fallen when the Special Report came on. I sat and watched in complete shock and confusion as the second tower fell, and the reporters told of a hit on the Pentagon. At that time they were still tracking the plane that would eventually crash in Pennsylvania. Eventually the wife of my patient came home, her comment on all that was happening seemed very casual to me, for all she did was exclaim that she was glad I was watching the news too. I got in my car and went on to my next patient, a very sweet elderly woman who let me leave early, telling me I needed to be at home on a day like this.

Many things stick out in my mind about that day, but the strongest is the powerful feeling of aloneness that I had. There I was at a stranger’s house watching the world change forever, and there was no one to help me understand. My family was scattered in different places, my parents at work, my sister and brother in another city. I had to face this immense tragedy on my own. I remember the fear I felt as I drove home. The radio was full of news about the attacks, and I kept looking up at the sky, expecting a plane to come crashing down on me. It was as though my car had a huge target painted on it. I have never been so relieved to get to my house before. I sat on the coffee table and watched the news, waiting for my mother,a school teacher, to come home. When she finally did, I jumped up and gave her the biggest hug. I wasn’t alone anymore.

I remember that she and I went grocery shopping after that, the only normal thing that occurred that day. I found out that one of the kids in her class had a father in Washington DC that day, his mother came and got him out of school, his father was not harmed. I also found out that my grandmother had been going crazy with worry about my uncle, a pilot with American Airlines. She finally got a call through to him after hours of trying, he was at home. He had that day off, which was lucky for him, as he sometimes flew the route from Boston to L.A. (I may have that wrong) that one of the planes used for the attacks was traveling.

It was many weeks before life returned to a semblance of normalcy for me. I was one of the lucky ones who knew no one who had been killed. I was glad I had no children to try to explain all that had happened to. How could I explain to them what I could not understand myself? Any innocence I had left, any belief that America was invincible, and right to take it’s role as the world’s policeman, was shattered that day. My carefree life was forever changed. It took over 3,000 people dying to strip our country of it’s invulnerable shield, to reveal to it’s citizens that their government was not perfect, and that they opened the doors of hate with their decisions.

I still remember September 11, 2001. I will never forget it. But, I refuse to let that memory serve as a platform of support for the misguided belief that we are AMERICA and the world should do what we say. We share this planet with billions of other people. We should work together to heal ourselves and others who suffer as a result of past actions and mistakes. We shouldn’t use the deaths of our fellow citizens to condone rash, foolish decisions that only result in thousands more lives being lost. Let us all work for peace, and remember September 11, 2001 as the day when the world drew together, instead of the day when it split apart.

I honor all those who died that day, and the ones who have given their lives since then. I thank you all for giving the “last full measure of devotion”, and I pray that soon no more will have to give it. Let us all remember the words of Ghandi, “An eye for an eye, and the whole world goes blind.”

How Good Is This?

I had a job once. It seems like it was many years ago, although it’s only been a year and half since I quit working. I was working as a paraprofessional (aka teacher’s assistant) at the local elementary school. I worked primarily with special needs kids, and I enjoyed the job. During that time of working, I had a thought one day that I could run the media center at the school as well as anyone. This thought developed into a career decision. I decided I wanted to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. So, I enrolled at Valdosta State University, and am taking part in their online degree program. I’ve enjoyed it so far.

This decision resulted in me not going back to work at the school. I thought I wouldn’t have enough time to devote to my studies, that having a job and being in school would distract me from both. I had proven this theory earlier in my college life. When I tried to work and go to school, I found that one or the other took up the majority of my effort. It’s hard for me to balance the two things, being ADD and easily distractable. Either work or school had to be eliminated, I chose work.

So, what does a person do when they haven’t got a job, and their schooling doesn’t require quite as much time as they thought it would? How does one occupy oneself day in and day out? I’ll tell you. First, they devote at least a day or two (or more) to useful endeavors. In my case, I started volunteering at a couple of libraries in town. This has the useful aspect of getting me out of my house, and providing me with good work experience. Second, the person learns how to clean house. One spends an endless amount of time vacuuming, sweeping, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and washing clothes. This is useful in that it’s healthy to live in a clean house, and, even if one is not paid for this labor, at least it gives one something to do. There is also yard work for the more ambitious among us. Third (this is my favorite step), the person spends time getting to know their television set very, very well. Now, most people who know me know that I can watch the same movies dozens of times and be perfectly content. Is it a bad thing to be able to quote an entire movie word for word? I think not, I think it sharpens my memory skills. (No comments from the peanut gallery!)

Imagine my surprise when I began to tire of watching the same movies over and over. How could this be? A movie good enough to watch once is surely good enough to watch 50 times. Alas, that is true only if you space out those 50 times. I was faced with a dilema. By virtue of not having a job, I couldn’t go out and by more movies, and our rental store is not exactly the best. What to do? It didn’t take me long to think of a plan. I knew my grandparents were using Netflix, so I decided to try it out. I bless the people who thought of Netflix, I get four movies (or tv series) at a time and can keep them as long as I want. I don’t have to pay for every movie and I don’t have late fees. It’s the perfect system. I no longer have to be bored with my movie selection. I can refresh it occasionally. Netflix is helping me keep my sanity. This may make me a geek, but I was born one so that’s ok. I love Netflix and I think you all should try it,

Readers, remember to get out of the house every once in awhile. Go to your local library, the grocery store, or the park. Enjoy the outdoors. Also, get a treadmill. Nothing better than mixing exercise and television!

Color Me In

Over a year ago I noticed that something was invading my body. Invading, you say. That sounds serious. What was invading my body? Germs? Worms? People? No, it was none of those things.

My body was being invaded by gray hairs. Shocking I know, especially for someone of such astonishing beauty and perfection as me. I am not to blame for this invasion though, early graying runs in my family. My gene pool is to blame for the lightening of my beautiful brown locks.

I could not, of course, allow this invasion to go unfought. I have long cherished my role as a brunette. I am convinced that my dark hair keeps my brain cells inside my head (no offense to my blonde readers). If I let the gray win, I would surely lose some of my great smarts (for I am a genius). I had to draw up a plan of attack.

I started by plucking out as many gray hairs as I could see. I do believe I can vouch for the opinion that plucking only causes more hairs to grow in. So that wasn’t working, on to the next step. I had never colored or highlighted my hair before. I always liked it as it was, and thought that coloring it would damage it. However, it was getting close to my brother’s wedding, and I was to be a bridesmaid. A bridesmaid must look her best right? So I gave in and told my hair dresser she could do whatever she thought would look good.

Apparently the results were a success. More than one person at my brother’s wedding (including family members, though I won’t say which ones) commented on how pretty and grown up I looked. Imagine the confidence boost I received by being told that, at 28, I looked grown up. I should have known that all I had to do to be a grown up was to change my hair color. How unfortunate that I failed to discover that fact earlier in life.

I have since regularly gotten my hair colored. I wonder how grown up I am now….

And Today’s Word Is: Frustration

I have certainly become familiar with the feeling of frustration in recent weeks. More familiar than I ever wanted to be, that’s for sure. In my last post, I wrote about my boyfriend, Murray. Never fear, he’s not the source of my frustration (yet). The source of my frustration is the UK government.

Big surprise that government can make a person frustrated right? I know I’m not the first person, and certainly won’t be the last, to be frustrated by government run-around. It’s a time honored tradition for the government of every country to be impossibly complicated and defy straightforward logic. We simple citizens are surrounded by miles and miles of Red Tape. Allow me to explain (if I can).

I may have mentioned in my last post that I’m looking for a way to get back to Scotland. Last month I had the brilliant idea of getting a work visa and moving to Scotland for about 6-12 months. Should be an easy thing right? I get a visa, go to Scotland, find a job and a place to live, and enjoy having a normal relationship with Murray. In the process, I get my circle of friends back, learn to live away from home, become less dependent on my parents, and grow and develop a stronger since of myself and my abilities. A simple process if I’ve ever seen one.

Some of you are already laughing at my naive thoughts. I can hear you saying, “The government? Easy? Get real!” I am real now. It turns out that there are two basic kinds of visas. A work visa, and a student visa. To get a work visa, I need a job waiting for me in the UK. Someone tell me how I am supposed to get that job from 4,000 miles away. In addition to that little snag, there are several subcategories for work visas. I appear to fit into none of them. I’m not a migrant worker, I’m not a caregiver, I’m not part of a religious group, nor have I been invited to participate in a sports group. I’m just a simple girl who wants a job to get by on for awhile. Apparently I am the only person who has ever wanted that. I am an anomaly. Curse me for wanting something simple from a government program.

Getting a student visa also appears to be too complicated for words. I can’t have a full time job, nor depend on any public funds. I would have to support myself entirely. How does one do that without a job? I found a program offering something called a Blue Card that seemed promising. They would help me find a job and go to school. A good deal, right? Wrong. I’m not eligible because the program of study I’m currently a part of is an online program. According to the Blue Card people, online classes seldom count toward eligibility. Blast these impossibly complicated programs!!

So here I am, mired in frustration, fighting back tears as I try to figure out why nothing run by the government can be straightforward. I apologize to my friends and family (particularly Murray) who have had to deal with a rather unpleasant Brave Gal in their midst of late. I know inside my heart that this is the right thing for me to do, I know that I need this. I need to go to Scotland and experience a new and different life. For reasons I can’t understand, I’m being blocked at every turn. I’ve prayed and I haven’t felt God saying that this isn’t a good plan. Am I ignoring His signs, or am I missing the signs pointing the way? Am I too wrapped up in myself? Are my motivations not as pure as I like to think? Is there something wrong with this plan, something I can’t see because I’ve blinded myself to all the negatives? What on earth can I do to fix this, and push past the red tape out into an actual plan? I just don’t know what else to do.

Acceptable Change

My life has encountered numerous changes over the past two years. In the summer of 2006 my church hosted a group of 19 Scottish people who came on a mission trip. They taught soccer clinics and led worship for us on several nights and Sunday mornings. I really bonded with the mission team members, becoming close friends with several of them. It ignited in me a desire to travel somewhere different and experience being around a different set of people.

In December of ’06, I acted on that desire by visiting Scotland for two weeks. My best friend Erin went over with me, and we had a wonderful time. I fell in love with the country of Scotland, and was loath to leave when the two weeks were over. At the time, I wondered why I couldn’t simply move there, and carve out a place for myself among my friends who had become like family. I went home in tears, wondering when I would next see my friends.

Shortly after I returned home, a friend of mine over there named Colin introduced me to another friend of his using MSN instant messenger. This friend’s name was Murray. Murray and I struck up an immediate friendship, talking for hours nearly everyday. I encouraged honesty between us and we became very close just through typing and sharing our lives. This went on for a year and a half. Sometime in that year and a half, I lost control of my heart (not unusual for me), and began to like Murray as more than a friend. It took him longer to come to feel the same for me, a wise thing on his behalf I believe. When my church finalized the details of our own mission trip to Scotland, Murray and I agreed to meet up with each other and have a “date” of sorts.

I arrived in Scotland on June 9th of this year feeling excited, nervous, and full of butterflies. I finally got up the courage to call Murray that day and we arranged a time and day to meet. I’d seen pictures of him, but I will always remember that first time I saw him in person. He was walking toward me in a hoodie with dinosaur teeth and eyes (no, I’m not lying). When he saw me, he grinned self-consciously and walked over to us (Erin was with me). I felt a leap of happiness and nerves when I met his eyes. We spent that afternoon walking around the East Kilbride mall, talking and dealing with Close Encounters of the Georgia Kind. Murray dealt with the interest and teasing from my fellow church members well.

I won’t tell the details of those two weeks here, they are too private, and would take too long. By the end of those two perfect weeks, I had a boyfriend who had spoken those cherished words, “I love you.” I’m pretty sure I was able to say them back, I may have been overcome by shock. Here I was 29, and thinking I’d never hear those words. But I did hear them, and I still do. Leaving Murray was the hardest thing I have ever done. We were both crying, and if Erin hadn’t been there to lead me away, I don’t think I would have left him.

Almost two months later, I am in the midst of planning to get a work visa and spend six months or so over in Scotland. I know that’s a very big step, but I am anxious to get back to my friends, experience life away from home, take my life into my own hands, have a change of scenery, and, of course, get back to Murray. Getting a visa is not proving an easy process, the websites are confusing, and the process does not appear to be straightforward at all. The stubbornness in me will not allow my frustrations to keep me from my goal. I regret to say that Murray has taking the brunt of my frustration and annoyance with this process that he has no control over. He has been amazingly patient with me, encouraging me to keep working at it, and providing me with a steadiness that has kept my balance. He is most definitely an acceptable change.

All these words that I have written above boil down to this: I love you Murray, with every piece of my heart.

Magic My Mower

Today I discovered the joys of mowing the grass with a riding lawn mower. Some may think me crazy, but it is tons of fun to drive around the yard attacking grass and weeds. The only thing missing is wings. I quite like an activity that I can do but don’t really have to concentrate on. My mind is free to wander where it will. I did learn two things specific to mowing though: (1) do not stick your tongue out in the cloud of bug spray you’ve just put on prior to mowing; and (2) one should keep one’s mouth closed when mowing. Bugs and grass bits don’t taste very good. So train up yourselves and your children to experience the joys of mowing. Just make sure you’re riding, not pushing. On a side note, is there anyone out there who can soup up a mower? I should so totally go into lawn mower racing.

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