Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weekend Wanderings

Just a little heads up for you - so you don't wonder quite where I've wandered off to and possibly forgotten to come back from - I'm heading out of town in little less than seven hours. First to Oxford to see a friend of mine from high school and then on to London proper for the rest of the weekend.

Yes, I have an entire day extra day in London which I will find lovely things to do and see, most likely including wandering aimlessly while snapping pictures like the overzealous tourist that I can be.

So, come Monday or Tuesday, expect a recap of the Madcap Misadventures that are sure to happen while I'm in that international wonder known as London.

If you'd like to follow to me while I'm away from my blog, you can more or less live vicariously through me via Twitter, as I Tweet from my phone, and of course, come Monday or Tuesday, there will be plenty of pictures on Photobucket for those of you who don't have access to my Facebook. Fear not, there will be plenty to, again, live vicariously through me.

And that concludes our general Public Service Announcement


There are days when I love my editor and there are days when I'm glad she's on one side of the Atlantic while I'm on the other. The latter usually happens when I'm supposed to have an article in, I don't, and am more or less scrambling because she's usually got empty space to fill and is looking with all the fury of nature at the screen waiting for an email with an attachment. Well, I did good yesterday. She graciously extended the deadline, and lo and behold, in her inbox sat an email with an attachment.

After I had accidentally emailed myself of course, since I'm still more or less getting used to working the new-fangled version of Exchange the school thought prudent to upgrade to.

And because I'm writing about my experiences abroad, and because I haven't done a meaningful post that introspects in a while, you get my martini article. Sadly, when the issue comes out tomorrow, I'm not going to get it until I come back from London on Sunday.

I'll just have to have a martini before I go to my internship on Monday. Which should be quite fun.

So, without further ado, the latest bit of publishable shenanigans from The Abroadest.

There are a few different types of people in this world, if you couldn’t already tell. You can start to see the divides in high school, if you look right. You can tell the ones that are bound for Ivy League schools, those who will wind up in some private institution much like ours, those who will enter the SUNY (State University of New York) system, and those who will, upon graduation, be entering the workforce because that’s what they need to do. Due to goals, expectations, finances, and a whole host of other factors, some paths might not be accessible to certain people.

A college like ours, however, puts you on a semi-level playing field. I say semi-level because not all of us are athletic enough to play on the varsity sports teams, talented enough to be in Chorale, or have the slightly psychotic and almost overwhelming patience when dealing with kids to go into the teacher education program.

And not all of us are able to step outside of our comfort zone to do something like study abroad. If you’re fully willing to step outside your comfort zone, but you just can’t make it happen with your major, that’s understandable. Your situation is different than mine. Just like that kid in high school who thought it best to enter the workforce straight off the stage, my decision to enter into four more years of academia was what was best for me.

I respect all those on campus that don’t have the right situation to study abroad, or simply haven’t go the interest. For those of you who do, welcome to the club our campus truly enjoys flaunting.

But being on home soil and saying, “Yeah, I’m going abroad” is way different than being on foreign soil and going “Holy shit, I’m here.” What matters is what you do after the latter – whether you stay in the little circle of what’s become known to you – your room, the other internationals, your fellow students from your home university – or if you step completely outside that zone and cease to become a spectator in the whole study abroad experience. The CGE tells you before you go that you make of the experience what you will. This is one of those occasions that you will reap what you plant.

I went on a little shopping excursion last weekend with another international from Texas and I wanted to know if she thought of Carmarthen as home. There’s this habit I have where I tend to make home wherever I go. When I move back to Geneva in January, wherever I live on campus – and that’s still up in the air, by the way, which is going to get real interesting next month when I get to deal with Res Ed – will become a home. First and foremost home is a little town in central New York that nobody’s ever heard of unless they’ve looked at my Facebook page, but since I’ve been living on the opposite side of the pond? Home is a certain flat in Carmarthen.

So when I asked her if Carmarthen was home, she looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Hell no. Home is in America with my boyfriend.”

Alrighty then. I mean, I’m used to the whole lookin’ at me like I’m crazy thing, but I really wasn’t expecting that. And for a moment I really floundered how someone who was thousands of miles away from home, in a foreign country, seeing and experiencing things they might never again get to do, could say – reading between the lines – that they’d rather be home with their significant other. Granted, I don’t really have that problem, but I do have a niece that I get to see on a regular basis. And I get a little homesick every now and then where I miss my parents.

Then I look around, realize I’m not in New York, and want to know where we’re going next for a weekend trip, or what I can do in the spare time that I have to further explore. Where can I further break out of my comfort zone? And the one that I have, it’s not the one that I came with.

When you go abroad, you build yourself a new place. A new comfort zone. It becomes your flat, the people you live with, the classrooms you have class in. Hell, even the mile walk to the grocery store becomes normal. I’ve been here not much more than a month and when I watch movies set in the States, I think the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the vehicle, and they drive on the wrong side of the road. French fries are chips; potato chips are crisps; and everybody drinks enough tea to have a second Revolution. That’s normal. It’s also normal to hang out in the kitchen or in the lounge with the Wii. It’s normal to pull pranks on each other, accidentally sneak up on each other, and regularly take the piss (make fun of) out of one another about the foods that we like to eat and therefore eat too much of. My flat mates have named me Wallace from Wallace and Gromit because I really like Welsh cheese. I think they eat too much pizza and way too many sausages.

To be honest, I spend about ninety percent of my time with my flat mates, our mutual friends, and others whom I have class with. Ten percent of my time is spent with the other internationals be it in the Welsh heritage class that we’re in together or on our weekend trips, or if I randomly see them while out on Wednesday nights. Am I purposefully snubbing them? Nope. I’m simply choosing to meet other people. I’m choosing to meet the friends of my friends and get a better experience. Some of us went bowling as a flat a few weeks ago. When I go out on Wednesdays, I go out with the girls I live with. All of us look after each other in a way.

I know that situations like that don’t happen often. I know that I can probably consider myself lucky. Incredibly lucky since, even though it’s not a holiday they readily celebrate over here, they’re ready and willing to do a Thanksgiving dinner and then help celebrate my twenty-first birthday. I’ll tell you right now that what I remember of that night will be epic.

When you break it all down, it becomes choice. You can choose to go to college; choose your major; choose to study abroad; choose where to study abroad; choose to meet new people and expose yourself to different things; choose be an adventurer instead of a spectator, and choose to make the most out of what you’re given. Yeah, it’s going to sound corny and cliché, but, honestly, you get one life.

What exactly are you doing with yours?

Monday, October 25, 2010

YouTube Playlist

Yeup. Every now and then I like to clue you guys into what I've been listening to - what's been stuck in my head, really - for the past couple of days. One has started to grow on me, one makes me want to dance immediately, and the other is guaranteed to do my sister's head in. Even though I happen to like the song. We'll start with Bruno, move on to Michael, and end with Alexandra and Laza.

Oh, and because I'm currently on their original side of the pond, bonus video.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Murphy and Me XXVII

[Two new Murphy's in two days? That must be a record.]

As usual, I had papers sprawled from over almost the entire surface of the round table in the common space outside my corner single. The only difference was that it wasn't physics homework. It was my major declaration form.

For a bachelor of science degree in chemistry.

It's not unusual for college kids to switch majors. My cousin at Potsdam switched at least four times while he was there. It was odd, though, for science majors to switch, as they normally know they're going to be science majors by the end of high school at the earliest, middle of their first year at the latest. My saving grace was that bio and chem majors shared so many courses. Intro chem, both organics, and two semesters of physics.

Really wish the physics was debatable. Not a big fan.

I'd already switched advisers, Yeng to Montrose. Even gone so far as to tell my parents that I was no longer a bio major but that underwater basket weaving had yet to be approved as an acceptable course of study. Since my sister and I like to joke about having degrees in underwater basket weaving - utterly useless in the so-called real world - I chuckled.

And started filling in classes on the little lines.

And tried to ignore the fact that this may or may not be a life-changing process. In a quiet kind of way.

Ten minutes and some slightly complicated choices later I had, more or less, planned out the rest of my collegiate career. Minus my minors. With teaching as a back-up plan, it provided me an automatic education minor. This happy fact meant that I technically didn't need an interdisciplinary minor to go with my disciplinary major. So while I might not need my creative writing minor, I wanted it. Just to go with my three-year work-in-progress I happen to call a novel.

Which I hadn't touched in about four months.

The shower kicked on down the hall; music flared as a door opened while another thumped shut. There was some shuffling; I looked up to see Jo come 'round the corner.

"That time already?" I unearthed my phone and verified that it was nearly five-thirty. It didn't seem like that long ago - almost six hours now - that Murph had crawled out of my bed to head downstairs to get some work done. After about five minutes of last kisses, of course.

"Yeah," Jo said, flopping into the beat-to-shit armchair with a thump and a cloud of particles only visible in the shaft of sunlight. She pointed to the papers. "You leavin' us?"

"Yup." I gathered everything and stuffed it back in its manila folder. "I've gone to the dark side. The pull of the cookies was too strong."

"Drat," she deadpanned.

I went back into my room, dumped the folder onto my laptop, pulled on my sneakers, and started to hunt for my WS soccer hoodie, the one I'd bought when Izzy had taken me to the Open House that cold day September before last. The same hoodie I'd had to cut the neck of to get my head through comfortably, despite it being an XL. Funny, I'd thrown it over the back of the moon chair, last I knew. And there it was, predictably where I'd left it.

Second thought, what I'd found wasn't mine. It was too big, and -

Oh. Hold the phone. I looked at the front. That sneaky, sneaky....sneak.

Jo knocked on the partially open door. "Ol?"

"Be right there." I tugged the sweatshirt over my head and shoved my arms through the sleeves. It was a bit big, but I wasn't swimming in it. I pulled the neck up to my nose and breathed in while I grabbed my Vera.

The scent was pure, unadulterated Murph. I could drown in that.

And run the risk of whacking into walls in the process. Which was an acceptable risk.

"That's a new one," Jo said, pointing to my chest.

"Not mine, if you can't tell." I locked my door. "See, there's this guy that hangs around and he's pretty good-looking, and he stole my sweatshirt."

She snorted. "And left you a present."

"Yeah," I chuckled, "much like an elf."

And if she had to wait by the second floor door for me to get over my fit of hysterics at my own cleverness, well, she wouldn't hold it against me. Not until later, at least.

I'm somewhat used to being stared at but this was ridiculous. All because of a sweatshirt. When Mike nearly ran into some half-terrified first year with a tray, I was ready to stand in the middle of the second tier and yell, "Grow the hell up, people!" Counter-intuitive, that is.

Shoving at one of my half-assed bangs as it dropped onto my nose, I deposited my Vera at the table Mel and Em had already claimed and high-tailed it toward food before they could ask any questions.

There was shrimp alfredo at Hal's station. Which sounded like a winner. One quick trip through the veggin' line for some wheat penne and a quick wait at Showtime Hal's with his typical "Hi, lady," and my "Hi, Hal" and then it was on to the wolves.

"That Murphy's?" Mel asked as I pushed up my sleeves.

"Yup." Barely restrained my Captain Obvious reply. "And yes, before you even ask, he has my sweatshirt and yes, this smells like him and it's wonderful." I looked up at three somewhat dumbstruck faces. "Any other questions?"

"When can you start practicing with the team again? Like, full contact?" Em asked. She was poking delicately at her shepherd's pie - the part that wasn't smothered in gravy - her lithe dancer's form hunched slightly. She might have slouched at the table, and I'd seen her sink and sprawl at her desk in T-S Britain, but from what Sasha told me she was the most form-correct dancer Sasha had ever seen. And Sasha had danced for as many years as I've played soccer.

"We're looking at Tuesday, though it'll be light contact. Then Mac'll do his thing and if he likes what he sees we might go full on Thursday. Whether I play on Saturday is still up for grabs." That happy fact stung. Much more than one would think. And I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to slide back in like I'd never left or if I was going to have to fight. I had no issues fighting for my position - and starting spot - in practice, but I really wasn't up for an all-out battle, either.

Mostly because there was a physics test on Wednesday.

That I was more or less not-so-quietly freaking out about though Pat - some professors insist you call them by their first name and won't even answer to professor - had told us repeatedly it wasn't something to freak out about. Then again, considering that Pat was, and still is in some ways, a physics major, how valid is that opinion? Seriously. I'm physics stupid.

"Hope you do play," Mel said softly.

"You and me both." I looked at Em. "How did auditions go?"

She grinned. "From what I could see, Sasha and Cara's dance is going to be awesome."

I nearly choked on a shrimp; Jo thumped my back as I coughed.

"She tried out?" I gasped when I could breathe.

Em snorted. "Auditioned and kicked butt."

Which was no surprise, honestly. Cara was a ridiculously good choreographer and Sasha was a sick dancer, especially jazz and ballet. Odd combination, sure, but no odder than a chem major with a penchant for creative writing.

"How's the bio goin', you two?" Mel asked as the silence stretched. She was an unrepentant computer science major coupled with a taste for foreign language. Specifically Russian.

"Well," Jo said sadly, "we've lost another to that crap called chemistry."

I kicked her foot under the table. "Grump. Least I didn't move to something like English."

"Hey!" Em shot me a dark look that softened into a half-smile almost immediately.

"I could have said it sucked."

She shrugged. "True."

An awkward silence descended; Mel, Em, and Jo looked pointedly behind me. I turned in my chair, narrowly avoiding dragging my sleeve through alfredo sauce, and openly stared. Colby was standing at the opposite end of the third tier and motioning toward us to someone out of view. He wouldn't - He wasn't -

Yeah. They would.

Sure enough he was joined by Liam, Dev, and Murph. And they headed our way.

"Can we join you ladies?" Colby asked as they gathered 'round.

There was some generally shrugging and scuffling in agreement, and we pushed the nearest table together with ours. There was some squeezing and the line between cozy and rubbin' elbows? We were flirtin' with it.


"Uh, Mel, Em, Jo," I started and then looked at what Murph was wearing. My sweatshirt. On him. Honestly, it fit him better than it did me.

And oh, did that boy look downright sinful.

"This is Colby, Murphy, Liam, and Devan," I said when I'd found my voice. "Guys, Mel, Em, and Jo." Murph had met Jo accidentally that morning, and this was the first time his friends were really meeting mine.

To call me nervous was an understatement.

"So, do you all play soccer?" Colby asked while mixing his shepherd's pie and gravy. It resembled soup more than solid food.

Em shook her head; I desperately wanted ice cream.

"Ollie's the only soccer chick among us," Mel said with a grin. "Though I play a mean game of badminton."

"Jo likes to ride horses," I added quickly, moving my shins away from her feet. The table jiggled a few seconds later and she winced.

"Liam tried that once," Murph chuckled.

Seven stares turned to a furiously blushing Liam.

"The soccer thing or the horse thing?" Em asked innocently. She pulled it off better than I could.

"Murphy - "

"The horse thing." He grinned at his positively flaming twin.

Colby's eyes lit up. "Oh - I think I remember that. Weren't we at my grandpa's farm?"

Dev, caught between Liam and Murph, wisely kept his mouth shut. His expression said everything quite clearly.

"What happened?" Mel leaned forward on her elbows.

"We were at my grandpa's farm and he asked if we would take the horses out for a ride since the guy he pays to do it normally - since he's got bad knees because of his arthritis - couldn't make it because of a family obligation." He looked at Liam and stifled a laugh. "It'd been a couple of months since I was in the saddle and taking two horses out was not going to feel good later. SO I ask Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum if they know how to ride."

Murph cleared his throat, trying to keep his smile under wraps. "So Tweedle Dum over there says he'll do it, no problem." There was a thunk and the rattle of cutlery; Liam's forehead was on the table, shoulders twitching with embarrassed laughter. "When the last time we were both rode was when Ma sent us to summer camp when we were eight." He paused.

"Just friggin' tell them, Murphy," Liam growled.

"And that was a pony ride at the end of camp carnival."

I pulled the neck of the sweatshirt up to my nose to hide my grin.

Colby snickered. "So, he watches me saddle one and I ask if he's good to go. He says yeah, and Murph gives him a hand into the saddle. We're only going around the paddock to start with. Flat, soft ground. We start and I look over, and his legs are clamped so tight to the mare's sides that I'm impressed she can still breathe right. We make it around the paddock a couple of times and I want to move on to the field. Let them have a bit of a run. Murph opens the gate and out into the field we go. At a trot. And I can hear Murph laughin' at somethin' and I look over and there's Liam and the saddle practically getting hang-time. Milly, the mare, turns to follow the track over a bit of uneven ground, and Liam and the saddle go sliding off the horse. Right into a puddle."

"I'm impressed he didn't break himself," Murph got out between bits of laughter. I was chuckling so hard my sides hurt.

Liam, still blushing furiously, had cracked a grin when he lifted his head. "I was bruised from shoulder to hip and on my shin where the saddle landed. And I was sitting in ankle deep water."

That must have acted as an appropriate ice-breaker because pretty soon we couldn't get the stories out fast enough.

Hell, I didn't even want ice cream anymore because I was afraid I'd miss something. And this? Definitely better entertainment than cable.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To 200 And Beyond!

First thing on my agenda for the evening (or morning, depending on which part of the world you're currently inhabiting) is that - and I don't even know how I missed it because I was keeping careful track - Murphy and Me XXVI marks the 200th post for The Wandering Sagittarius.

Whoa. That's kinda cool.

200 posts for a blog that's not even been in existence for two years. I'd say that's pretty cool. A decent accomplishment. And, said blog seems to find a new follower or two every day. Heck, we're even getting comments on entries now.

In that case, a great big, tremendously important Thank You goes out to all those who clicked the follow button, or the comment one, or somehow stumbled upon the place and more or less watches uncertainly while trying to figure out if poking a sleeping dragon - or a white-haired bear - with a stick is really something you want to do.

But really, my snark is worse than my bite.

I feel kind of proud of myself for coming out of my little blogging bubble. I've started to comment on more of the blogs that I've been following for a while - nearly a year, in some cases, two - and I've noticed a couple of things.

Not all blogs have comments that go straight through to the actual blog post. Some have to be approved before they show up.

Now, I know that's user preference. I get that. I'm only incredibly dense on some days, not all of them. But...why have a comment button at all if you're going to pick and choose which you display and which you don't? If you write about a controversial topic, something that might not gel with everybody that reads your blog but is generally going to foster discussion, what good does it do to have the ability to censor the comments coming through? I'm not saying this happens, but theoretically, you could be playing only one side of the issue. And the person who sees the other side might be too scared to comment because, well, the people in the pool aren't going to like the color or style of their swimwear. Just doesn't make sense to me.

Then again, just because it doesn't make sense to me doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to someone else.

Trust me, I'm going to be the last person to tell you how to run your own blog. Mostly because I wouldn't want someone to try that on me. And, I'm not going to lie, I can see it now.

Louise, why do you have to be so damn combative on your blog? Can't you stay nice and neutral, keep both feet on one side of the line?

Erm, I can't. There are lines you shouldn't cross - those are pretty damn obvious - and lines that you can not only flirt openly with, but you can also sit there and make out with. Those are the fun ones. Generally, the first lines that you flirt with, in anything, are the ones that you can use to make a little box around yourself. It's cliched, it's probably been overused, but hey, cliches had to be made some way.

So those lines in that box? Well, call it dipping your toes in the river to test the temperature. Even if you put the smallest part of your big toenail on that line, you've still pushed it.

It's not so much like openly rebelling by dumping a catastrophic amount of tea in a harbor, but more like learning to live a little more. A little bigger. Notice that bigger doesn't mean grander. You can live big and quietly. It's a combination of what you do and how you do it.

Which, when you're translating parts of your life into a widely viewable blog for all of the internet to see, can seem really big and really loud. And twenty kinds of scary. Like life though, it's only overwhelmingly scary if you let it be that way. It's also only as awkward as you make it. That little gem I learned from both my mother and my sister in the fallout of the soccer season that never was. That was a curveball. A nasty one. But I picked myself out of the dirt, gripped the bat a little harder, and aimed for the pitcher's head on the next swing.

Didn't knock him out, but I got to first. And from there, well, it's a little more dodging and reading the situation.

I like my metaphors, if you can't tell. Though, when I start to sound like Doc from The Boondock Saints you should probably take a step back and ask if I'm still alright. Chances are I might be a little on the spastic side. That's okay; hand me some coffee or tea and shove me in the direction of the nearest writing utensil and paper.

I think what I'm trying to say is that it's been a fantastic first 200 posts, and if I was a little braver I'd pull random bits from the archives to show you how much growth is possible when you just let yourself be.

Now, I know it's late, but I'd like to make a toast. So, raise your tea cup (mug, in my case), and give a healthy, hearty salute to friends, followers, lurkers, fellow bloggers, and everyone else who has even the smallest hand in this whole crazy process, 200 in and a lot more to go. Thank you all.

Murphy and Me XXVI

[Happy Thursday Morning, Heather Ann.]

If that pounding didn't stop there was going to be hell to pay. The living pillow next to me shifted, easing away from me. I promptly rolled into the warm spot Murph left behind, eyes resolutely shut and really only half-awake.

"Ol - Oh. Hi."

That was Jo. A very confused Jo who was wondering why a boy was answering my door on a Sunday. Early on a Sunday.

I missed the exchange, tuning back in once the door was shut. Murph pushed my hair away from my nose and I blinked sleepily.

"Jo wanted to know if you wanted to go to brunch."

"Text?" Almost incoherent on my part.

"A ton, apparently."

I scooted away from the edge of the bed, holding up the comforter so Murph could climb back in. He did, settling on his side to look at me across the pillow.

"You do not look awake."

No shit, Sherlock. And I wouldn't be until and unless I got more sleep or some coffee. Either. Or both. Really didn't matter.

He moved his hand, slowly and gently, to my cheek, tracing with his index finger under my eye and down the bridge of my nose. I had no idea what he was doing, and was more than content to let him do....whatever he was doing.

Good Lord it was too early for coherent thought.

"You have very pretty eyes," he murmured, inching slowly across the pillow.

If that line had come from anyone else but Murph I'd have hit someone. Murph - Murph was so genuine that it made my heart ache. That I'd found this boy - young man, really - and that he was mine...

What did I do to deserve this? And when was someone going to take him away? Because, seriously, shit this good doesn't happen to me, no questions asked. There's always a catch, a hidden string.

"And," he whispered, now close enough to tangle our legs together, his bare feet cold on my calves, "you have crazy hair."

I snorted softly. 'Course I had crazy hair. I'm Polish. Practically everything about me's crazy in one way or another.

Murph touched his nose to mine; I went cross-eyed for a couple seconds.

"Your smile gives me an arrhythmia."

Which was a big word for this hour of the morning. I grinned; he chuckled, "See? Instant arrhythmia."

"I'm a walkin' heart attack, I am," I said, choking back a giggle.

"You don't walk so much as..."


He drew back enough to look at me properly, clearly offended. "I was going to say something along the lines of glide but if you'd rather me use that then, fine..."

I was giggling like a nutcase. "Murphy."

"This is what I get for trying to be a nice boyfriend." He smiled anyway, sliding one hand around my hip to rest in the small of my back.

"Well," I said, poking that ticklish spot under his ribs - I'd been there when Liam and Dev had double-teamed him and practically made him shriek - to watch him wiggle. "You're not exactly flat-footed."

His expression was priceless. In a please continue kind of way.

"You're light on your feet for someone...your size." I'd seen him move - last football game it was like he'd had a personal vendetta against the opposing team. And Murph had a certain grace to him, anyway. More than I had, at any rate. He might have danced when he was younger. Or maybe in college - it was quite common for athletes to take an intro dance class. Not only better balance but it fulfilled the fine arts goal, too.

Murph bit his lip, face falling like the expression had just melted off. "Is that okay with you?" His hazel eyes locked on my right ear. "My size. I'm - I'm a big guy."

Oh, Murph. This was a side I would be good money not many saw. This self-conscious, hesitant, blushing Murph who wouldn't look me in the eye. It wasn't one of my favorite looks on him and it made my heart hurt. I know there's no rules on for who can and can't feel like a fan of their own body, but...Murph was and probably always would be nothing short of keel-over gorgeous to me. The pretty smile and hazel eyes were a bonus to what actually made Murph, well, Murph.

"Murph," I said, drawing his eyes to mine. This required an interesting answer on my part. And some tact. "You make me feel dainty."

Of which that delivered neither. And made us both wince.

"Hear me out." I slid the hand on his side around to his chest over his heart. "I have broad shoulders, for a girl, and big thighs from so much soccer. I'm not a pixie. You make me, the girl who usually feels clumsy and out of place, you make me feel feminine. And dainty." Cue flaming cheeks. "Even though I'm sturdy, and I'm still that way around you...the way you can fold yourself around me and almost hide me....I feel safe with you. So safe and warm and..." My throat tightened. Shit. I was in serious danger of crying. "You make me feel pretty, even when I can't stand my thighs or my love handles or my back fat. Even when I've eaten something that bloats me like a balloon, you make me feel pretty. And all the things that make me feel safe and warm - your shoulders, chest, arms, the way you tangle our legs and my smaller hand in your big one - they're you." I sniffled, barely keeping the tears corralled. "And I like you. All of you. Like, a lot." I did, too.

Murph caught the tear on his thumb as it fell. "You, my favorite crazy Polish girl, don't have love handles. You have curves." He slid his hand to the small of my back by way of my hair, nape, neck, and spine.

I looked at him oddly. "How many crazy Polish girls do you know?"

He stuck his tongue out in faux-concentration. "Just one." He grinned at me. "And I like her. A lot."

It was then that I noticed his teeth weren't straight. Not serial-killer crooked, but that the teeth between the front ones and his canines were shoved a bit forward, onto the others. And the ones on the backside of the canines were the same, only less angled. His bottom teeth were straight.

"Good," I said, tearing my eyes away from his gumline to the rest of his face. "I hear she's pretty cute."

"Aye, that she is," he said, "but a bit snarky when she hasn't had some coffee."

"Heard she's got love-handles and hates fashion."

"It's curves and she wears jeans and t-shirts. Though she'd look good in anything."

More blushing on my part. "Heard she's Polish."

Murph rolled his eyes with a chuckle. "Absolutely."

"Anything else I should know about her?"

He propped himself up on his elbow, learned in next to my ear, and whispered, "She's a Sci-Fi nut, looks adorable in her lab goggles, and is one very fierce central defender. Personally, she's amazing. Just as she is." He drew back, pressing a kiss to my cheek. "And I like her. Like, a lot."

And then kissed me, tasting vaguely of stale Winterfresh. But I liked it. Quite a bit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things to Know: International Edition IV

- I got a parcel on Monday with all the stuff that I couldn't fit in my suitcase, plus more toilet paper and my pillow.

- The pillow was the unexpected part.

- I love getting mail.

- Pretty sure all college students love to get mail, no matter which university they're at and where in the world they are.

- I've been a blogging fiend lately.

-Ranting, raving, deep thoughts - I've been all over the place.

- I'm in London in little over a week.

- I bought my train tickets to Bath today.

- Bath is the station that my Host UK host is going to pick me up at.

- Her name is Mrs. Scott and she's over 60.

- I wrote a little more in the novel yesterday.

- Hell, I might just churn out a new section of Murphy while I'm at it tonight.

- So, the oldest written poem in Welsh - also the oldest manuscript, I think - was written by a prior (this guy prayed for you when you were dead - after you paid him - so that you spent less time in purgatory) about this guy that lived in the forest around Carmarthen, and that he was a bit of a nutcase.

- This slightly mad man went by the name Myrddin.

- Myrddin means "Merlin" in English.

- Edmund Tudor - grandfather of Henry VIII of England - was once buried at the greyfriar's monastery in Carmarthen.

- When Henry VIII closed all the monastery's, they had to move his grandfather to Saint David's.

- Edmund is now buried in the Cathedral at Saint David's.

-Everybody had fleas way back when.

- If you didn't scratch your fleas, you were trying to be of a higher class.

- Maps used to come in easy-to-read strips so that you could easily read them while on horseback.

- You can put a shoe on a horse, a cow, and a goose.

- One does not put shoes on sheep.

- No, the goose is not a typo.

- I've been experimenting in the kitchen again.

- Don't worry - nothing's blown up yet.

- Hello and welcome to all of my new followers - and welcome back to those who have been with me for quite some time.

- I really need to shave my legs.

- I am very much in love with the song Haven't Met You Yet by Michael Buble.

- No idea how to make accented letters on here.

- And honestly, I'm not even going to try because there are days when the blogger editor hates me enough as it is.

-I really do think a cup of tea and working on Murphy would be an excellent way to spend the evening up until the phone call back home.

- Healthy tip for students living in a foreign country - call your parents on a regular basis!

- I really am tempted to do a Things I Learned in High School post, just for hell of it.

-Oh, by the way, The Wandering Sagittarius is approaching its 200th post.

- Should we throw a party? Make a toast?

- There should be a cake.

- Or, if not a cake, at the very least, we should have some frosting. And maybe a beer.

- Definitely a beer. Cheers!

Wandering Heart

There's a reason that I chose the title The Wandering Sagittarius for this blog. It's a two part equation, though both sides aren't equal. I'm a Sagittarius, and I've done enough posts to let you know some of the finer details of what exactly the temperament and personality of a Sage is. But that's only part of me. The other part is the wandering part. Is the part of me that doesn't want to be tied down for long. The part of me that wants to wander through this world to see what it holds - and what it doesn't - and then come back and share that because it's made me a different person. Something bigger. Or smaller. The point is that it's changed me.

I'm not going to say I'm fearless. Far from it, actually. I'm scared of a lot of things, most of which you'd probably laugh at me for. I do, on the other hand, have enough courage to put aside my fears and wander through this life with a good pair of sneakers and an open mind. Not to mention a sense of adventure.

I love the girls I live with. Honestly, I do. And I get that they worry a bit, especially when I travel.

I might never come back to the United Kingdom. So while I'm here, I'm going to do everything in my power to see as much and experience as much as I can. If that means that I do things - like taking in an English Premiere League game if I can get tickets - well, you can come with me (in which soccer's not their cup of tea) or you can be behind me and wish me a happy time. I might not have experienced the actual European soccer atmosphere, and yes, I know it's a common game (and honestly, that made me a little angry because I played it for fourteen years) but this is something that I want to do, and something that I have the opportunity to.

Despite what people might think, I'm not a complete dumbass. I know how to travel safely and smartly. The whole reason that I usually walk somewhere with purpose is because to more or less meander around somewhat aimlessly implies that you're lost. If you don't imply that you're lost, ain't nobody going to question whether you really know where you're going or not. If you're going to be totally lost, go with confidence in the direction you think you ought to. Eventually, ask for directions.

I have a wandering heart that beats toward adventure. It knows enough to do what it needs to - always get the job done - but in the end, it's going to want to wander hither and yon. Eventually, it'll wander back.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Always Blunt, Never Dull

Right. Well, for as wonderful a time as I’m currently having in this country, I gotta say that I am less than impressed with the quality of my wireless. Namely, every time you breathe wrong it cuts out. So, instead of writing this post in my Blogger editor like I would normally do, I’m typing in a word document (which will then be transferred to the internet later since if it’s a word document forever nobody’s going to read it) and if you couldn’t possibly tell, I’m not thrilled about it.

I’m also not overly thrilled about making a tentative return to inkpop.

I’ve ranted and raved about the site in the past. I know I have. Don’t believe me, you can literally look it up. The thing is though, it’s a great tool. There’s nowhere else I can think – other than Authonomy – that you can have your project on an editor’s desk so easily. Okay, maybe easy isn’t the right word. It’s not painless, either. Let me put it this way – it doesn’t require much effort.

And before all of you who have inkpop accounts and steadily update, swap, pick, read, and do whatnot in front of the screen between the times that you work on your algebra homework and think about the cute guy in the locker next to you and how he doesn’t notice you and wouldn’t that be great for a book jump down my throat, let me point some things out.

You haven’t actually sent a query letter in this whole process. You’ve put your book online – or what of it that you have done (which, let’s be honest, there’s very little on my own account that’s actually finished) – and you’re trying to get people to read it to put it in the top five. I can respect that. For the most part. But there’s nothing much to that. Sure you have to beg, borrow, steal and occasionally offer your first born to have someone read it and pick it because hot damn, you’re sitting at number six and that fifth spot looks mighty tempting.

Or you could be down in the ranks of the un-ranked – like me! – where you more or less have the desire to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do the whole American thing where you take nothing and make it into something.

Newsflash – If you haven’t exactly done that in your writing, then it’s not going to work outside your writing.

I’m going to be bluntly honest because, well, that’s the only way that I know how to be when it comes to writing. Including my own. And I’ll be the first one to line up and tell you that yeah, the entire opening three hundred pages of my novel needs work. A lot of work. With the exception of the prologue, it was first written six years ago and the last time it was edited was about two, so, yeah, it should probably be labeled as a construction site. Not to mention things have changed – in terms of characters and storyline details – that need to be added to make things not only more clear at that moment but also down the line since I, as a writer, don’t tell you anything you don’t need to know either now or in the immediate, near, or distant future of the storyline.

In plain yeoman’s terms I’m not going to shower you with prose that doesn’t do shit for the continuation of the plot and character development.

Why am I rehashing this? Because when I finally get the lead out of my ass and finish my novel and start to actually edit the beginning in earnest, things are going to hit the fan.

And I might – just might – try to gather some readership. Maybe something like what I have for Murphy and Me which, although it has forty-three comments, they’re not substantial. Do I appreciate them and the people who took the minute they had to do them? Of course I do. I’d be an idiot not to. But they’re not very substantial, they don’t really let me know how things are going in terms of the story as a whole, and they really only tell me that I’m a funny writer. That’s great, thanks. I really do appreciate that. But it’s not what I’m looking for, and it’s not what I need.

I also need for people to put on their big-boy pants and deal with chapter length.

I would suggest splitting up the first chapter into a few pieces, it's a bit too much to handle--and a few too many characters.

Can’t handle it? Why don’t you go back to reading storybooks, darling?

Mean? Eh. Possible. Honest? Hell yes. Did anybody point out to J.R. Tolkien that maybe he should cut down on the pages long dialogue and description because it might be too difficult to handle? Pretty sure I hear crickets and ooh, look, a tumbleweed!

My point is, always has been, and always will be, allow your writing to speak for itself. Give us, the reader, a shove toward it with maybe a, yeah, well, it’s got core values, vampires, magic, and gypsies, just give it a go and let us have at it. If we don’t like it, we don’t like it. If we hate it, well, we’ll mask how we’re really feeling and hopefully not break your soul in the comments since, well, it’s not really a good thing to cry over your keyboard. Makes the buttons not work.

Now. I know I’ve got lurkers. I haven’t checked my tracker in months, but I know that I have lurkers. And I know I have regular readers. And I know that I might have just offended someone – or maybe more than just one person, probably – and if you don’t like it, well, leave a comment. Tell me I’m wrong. You can also tell me where to shove it. If you liked it, well, tell me that, too. The point is, tell me something.

That’s the point of writing, isn’t it?

Flat Back Lookin' Up

I found Narnia last night!

Just kidding. Still haven't found it, though the wardrobe seems to be shrinking in size, rather than getting bigger. Also, just kidding, though there is less space now that my package - parcel, excuse me - has arrived from home. Which means that I have more clothes and more outfits to add to my rotation. I was getting pretty crafty in switching things up, though, mathematically, there's only so much rearranging of a set number of outfits that you can do in a week.

Anyway. These past couple of weeks of being all day in a school have really dredged up some, well, interesting (if nothing else) memories from my own days of high school. I'm in a primary school, so you'd think I'd be remembering elementary, yes? Well, not so much. Nothing overly exciting happened back then, really. I mean, there was kindergarten graduation (that same spring, while I graduated kindergarten, my sister graduated high school), I started playing soccer, and I generally formed the impression that I'm not really head over heels about math.

Fourteen years later I still don't like math. But, since I've done my required two semesters for my major - as well as my required two semesters of physics, which I'm on the fence about most days - it doesn't really bug me anymore.

What's sort of eating away at my brain are the memories that are dredging themselves up from high school. Most notably from junior and senior year when you more or less figure out quite a few things. Or try to, at least. I figured out junior year that I'm not a big fan of pre-calculus, but that I did miss having Spanish in my schedule. Also figured out that while I do enjoy American history, having to take band independently was not as fun as it sounds (and you should have heard the concerts - one lost first/second clarinet comin' up) and physics was at times the bane of my existence.

Which I just realized I repeated my experience last year in college.

What I figured out senior year is that it is possible to make yourself go more or less batshit crazy within the first month of school; that half-assed taking independent Spanish isn't what you think it is (and procrastinating on Immersion again is still not a good idea); and both calculus and economics suck while taking the last regents (literally) of the year - and your high school career - and thinking you are going to scrape by with a 67 (but really get a 98 and wonder which body orifice you pulled that out of) is just ballistic.

I could probably do a series titled What I Learned in High School and not all of it would be academic. Because, seriously, who really learns anything about economics when you're trying to do calculus at the same time? It's like an overload for your brain.

And for the record, though I took AP/ACE calculus, I did not take the AP test. I wasn't sure I was going to do well on it, and therefore didn't want to pay $86 to get a 2. And wound up taking it again in college for my major. Funny how those things work.

I think back to senior year - which is what I really remember best in terms of, well, almost everything - and remember the multiple days of wanting nothing more than to whack my head against the desk, running on five hours of sleep, taking a science class with the sophomores, and the ever-loving Spanish phrase, Como se dice.... which means, How do you say.... and then you insert one long English sentence in there and call it good. Oh, and actually attending band practice was a plus.

Why am I going through a backlog of memories? Might have something to do with the notice I got from the CGE staff about registration. Yes, you might be abroad and yes, you might be traveling that week, but do remember that you need to register with the rest of your classmates during your day even when you're on the other side of the Atlantic.

Which means email conversations with both my advisers (my teaching certificate professor will let me know what's going on when I get back to campus in January, because that's how we roll as a program) because my copy of my major declaration sheet is currently in the box of stuff that crawled out of my desk at the end of last year that resides under my bed. Great place for it. The upside to all of this is that my adviser has a copy and it was crafted around the idea that I was going abroad this term (the one we're currently in). 'Tis wonderful.

I'm probably going to be the only junior in an intro geoscience class. Ah, well, when you think about it, been there, done that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anybody Home?

Sometimes in the middle of the night, there's these little, very quiet but very persistent tapping noises. Tap, tap, tap, tink.... and they're coming not from the window (that would be incredibly creepy and would require some serious talent) but from the computer. From the screen, more exactly. And it's my twenty-one followers (I have as many followers as the birthday I'm turning next month, how cool is that?) wondering where exactly the newest post is. Maybe not the newest Things to Know: International Edition which, while very fun to write, doesn't really give me a chance to stretch my vocabulary and my snark with the relative ease that you've all become accustomed to.

In other words, where's the post in which Louise analyzes things and looks at life a little crookedly? You'd think that spending little over a month in a foreign country, I've have a massive to-do list of stuff to write about that that I could, more or less, pick at.

Not so much.

Truthfully, I've been commenting more than I've been writing. That's okay, too. It means that I'm stepping out of my proverbial blogging comfort zone and becoming more involved with the blogs that I follow and read. Means I'm not really lurking as much in the background anymore. In other words, I'm not just sitting there like a lump in class without opening my mouth when the tutor asks a question. Those times when you swear you can hear crickets? Maybe even the ocean slapping on the shore? Hell, I can probably hear cars going by the house in Townsend if I really try during those times. Instead, now it's like I'm actually sitting up straight, putting my hand up, and putting something out there.

I have no problem doing this with writing. And apparently no issues doing the same in class.

There really just hasn't been much to talk about. Last time I did a post about writing I talked about going to see Dylan Thomas, his boathouse, and the shed where he wrote. Yesterday was a trip to the cliffs at Gower (and if I can change my Flickr to Photobucket here on the blog, that would be fabulous, as there are more pictures up) and then into Swansea. The shopping center at Swansea, and you all know how I am with shopping centers. There was a bookstore and a Starbucks - though not in the same store - so it was all good.

Actually, an interesting thing to note is that there is more of a selection for the native UK authors. I very much like Terry Pratchett - his Tiffany Aching series is wonderful, as was his compilation with Neil Gaiman on Good Omens - and I picked up another book by Mr. Pratchett. It's part of his Discworld series (give me some time, I'm still trying to figure out if I can really handle that) but not overtly. And deals with vampires and witches. Two of my favorite things. In one place.

New book, peppermint mocha from Starbucks, and a Student Railcard - hell, I'm nigh unstoppable.

And Halloween weekend I'm taking London by storm.

I might have explained this before, but I'll say it again. I've an interesting philosophy about life. I'd rather be looking back twenty years from now going, Damn it, I shouldn't have done that at the time rather than, Damn it, I should have done that. Almost like begging for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. I'm on this side of the ocean for three months. I might never get to come back. Or I might like it so much that I move here when I'm done with college. That would be incredibly difficult considering how much being close my family means to me - especially a certain Mayhem Maker - but it would be one of those things that you think long and hard about. Couple that with the fact that I've hit the halfway point of my collegiate career, and I seriously need to start thinking about what I'm doing after I get to toss my cap at graduation. Do I start looking for a "real" job while working as a waitress, or do I stay in school for some graduate work in the forensics field. That would require me to get into grad school of some kind. And do I get my Masters degree in teaching while I'm at it? Or do I do something completely different?

Like most of life, I've got a ton of questions and not a lot of answers. At least not yet. And really, that's my preferred method of rolling with it.

Speaking of rolling with it, Sundays are the days that I call home. Puts me in a bit of a mellowed-out mood because it leaves me feeling a little homesick, but it catches me up on the stuff that's happened since the last time I called.

The Code Enforcement Officer of our county has issued official paperwork to my parents to move the junk car - namely, the red, '93 Oldsmobile - from the driveway.

Despite the fact that I'm over three thousand miles away, I'm insulted that man called my car a piece of junk. Trust me, there's a very good reason that it's been sitting in the driveway for as long as it has. See, the girl who normally drives it to and from wherever she needs to go, well, she's currently studying abroad in a foreign country. For three months. Which means, dumbass, that she's coming back in December and even though her license would have expired a month previous, she'd still like to be able to have some form of transportation. Namely, her beloved Fred.

People amaze me.

Now, we all know I'm pretty good with stream of consciousness stuff, and while I've been sitting here deciding whether to wrap this up or what to say further, I've had a thought. Not quite a moment of brilliance, but, well, those only come at certain moments. Only when the nine planets align in true formation and considering that Pluto isn't a planet anymore, moments of brilliance might get a little far and few between.

Anyway. Now, I know my Things to Know sections are what's called A Wandering Sage Original, and so are the posts about the Foci, should I make another original? Have weekly guest posts (though I don't think I know enough people to have them guest post) or do a question and answer session (though that would require getting emails and my inbox is kind of empty) or maybe giving something away (what exactly would that be?) to kind of spice things up? Do I need to spice things up? I mean, I have twenty-one followers. I used to have twelve. I've grown a little bit (as a human I've grown a bit more than the blog, but as a blog, I've grown more, if that makes any sense) but I'm not a household name. Do I even want to be a household name? Sure, everybody wants a bigger readership, but that means more posting and more talking about serious things and giving insight....or maybe it doesn't.

Maybe I should simply Keep Calm and Carry On. Seemed to work just fine for the English. Then again, so did Lie Back and Think of England. Take that one as you will.

I guess what I'm trying to ask my faithful twenty-one official followers (and all you lurkers out there, I know you're watching) and anybody else who happened to more or less fall gracelessly onto the site, are you happy with what's being produced or is something missing?

Actually, I'm assuming that if you didn't like the blog, you wouldn't be following, and you wouldn't have made it this far into the post. That being said, the previous question still stands.

As for me, I need to get some sleep as I have to teach small children in the morning. Foci not included.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Things to Know: International Edition III

- I don't want to hear a word about where I've been blogging wise about college, maybe what Murfee's been up to, and just generally life in general because you definitely don't want to hear when the last time I wrote in my journal was.

- I feel like one exceptional fail of an Abroadest because I didn't turn an article in to my editor for this week's edition.

- Horoscopes are, however, still under my domain.

- Which reminds me that I have a batch I need to do.

- Kind of like making cookies.

- While having the song Oh Maria on YouTube on repeat.

- Well, that song along with Joyful, Joyful (from Sister Act 2), Zero to Hero from Hercules, Club Can't Handle Me by Flo Rida, Spectacular, Spectacular from Moulin Rouge, and on one occasion Hallelujah from Shrek.

- Oh Maria is the one from Sister Act, in case you were wondering.

- I had to post a Facebook link on the wall of my editor for her to stop asking me WTF is Skip-Bo!?

- Got approval, booked the hostel, and it's official - I'm staying in London an extra day next week.

- Which gives me the opportunity to see my friend from high school currently studying at Oxford.

- Wanna know something very funny? Hollywood gets things a little bit wrong when it comes to history in certain parts of the world.

- Much as I like Mel Gibson - on his good days - there are some facts that are just quite screwed up about Braveheart.

- Though, way back when, if you had a tattoo, you were considered high class.

- If you didn't have ink, you tried the next best thing which was painting yourself with a plant called woad. Made you blue.

- Woad also acted as an antiseptic. So it was okay for you to get scratched in battle - since you ran into it naked, if you were a Celt - because it would heal better.

- It wasn't okay to get scratched, but you know what I'm trying to say, right?

- Now, before you went into battle, you also got yourself drunk on lots of honey mead.

- Another interesting point about woad is that it also acts as an hallucinogen.

- Naked + Alcohol + Hallucinogenic Blue Woad = No fear when facing down a Roman.

- (This is exactly as I have it written in my notebook) Celts vs Celts: Drink stupid for a week; Celts vs Romans: Damn Romans kept coming back.

- Celts had body hair. Because Romans shaved themselves, they considered the Celts to be barbarians. Because they were hairy.

- A Celtic chief could be either male or female.

- If you weren't feeling well, you took something valuable and threw it into the lake and wished to the goddess that you would feel better.

- They drained a lake in Wales and found all sorts of neat shit - including a chariot.

- How badly do you feel to chuck a chariot in a lake?

- Want to have a hairstyle like a Celt of old? Get what equals cement, animal fat, and coat your hair in it. Then spike it.

- Me thinks I'll keep my slightly unruly head of hair. No offense.

- And I think I'll sleep now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Six and Eleven

I haven't worked on composition book eleven of my six-year-in-progress novel since January. Which translates into Louise hasn't worked on the novel since her grandfather (in every way but actually being my blood grandfather) passed away shortly before I was due back for spring semester last year.

Writing is a way to pull the frayed edges of myself back together. When it serves the purpose, it really helps me to relax, unwind, unload, and remind myself that I'm an optimist when it comes to life and that there is a good side to practically everything. There are certain things that are exceptions to that, but for the most part, there is a bright side. Sometimes it's tarnished and dull. Still, it's there waiting to be found if you've the right mind.

You've got to want to find it to find it when it doesn't want to be found.

I'm not like other writers. I'm not going to force myself to get something out onto paper because I haven't written in a week or two. Hell, I haven't written in ten months other than some Murphy or maybe for the blog. I've written little snippets of stuff that comes to mind, but in terms of working on the novel and progressing and finishing it - it hasn't been there. I know better than to force something that's not there and doesn't want to be. If I've got nothing, there's a good reason for it. Probably more than one, too.

In a lot of ways ending this novel will be like ending a part of myself. Never do I mean in a self-harm kind of way - I don't do that, I never have, and I never will - but I mean in a sense of a stage of my life coming to a close. We know that we're different people when we're children. There are things we grow out of to grow into, and things that stick with us through those times into the young adulthood that we all face. And there was a time six years ago, that I traded a part of myself - a part of my innocence - and I couldn't get it back. The following two years were not the easiest. Freshman year of high school, this big damned secret, the shame, the fear, and me being one of the best internalizers that I know, kept everything bottled shut.

Except for when I would write. I wouldn't write about what happened, but I figured that if I was in such a shambles - and trust me, there were days when I would sit in class and think about what had happened and half expect him to come through the damn doorway into the classroom, and then just cry - then someone else's life didn't have to be. I needed something to do, something to take my mind off of reality when it got a little too heavy. And then it just went from there, growing into something bigger and more than I had originally intended it to. I couldn't stop its growth because in a way, I was growing with it. I grew a lot in two years. In ways that most people wouldn't expect.

And I realized that maybe I'm pretty good at this whole writing thing. I used to, when I was little, stand outside with a soccer ball on a string (I cannot for the life of me remember what exactly it's called, but that's the main idea), look at the gnarled apple tree against the little runoff creek, and think what would happen if it was a house. Who would the people who lived there be. What were their names. What were they like.

A boy and his grandmother. Sometimes he had a dog. At one point he had a dragon.

Ralurick lives with his grandmother for most of The Crossing. There are mentions in the beginning - though brief - of the time when he lives with both his parents and everything is quite hunky dory. For the rest of the book, when he's not wandering with Jack through foreign countryside running from some magical creature or the villain of the book, he lives with his grandmother.

There are similarities. There have to be. I'm not good enough to keep every little bit of myself out of my own writing. The times when Ral can't really handle being emotional? Been there done that. Jack trying to figure out why exactly he was on Typrien and what he was going to do with his life, once he reached a certain age? Been there as well.

In some ways, their story is my story. And my story is theirs. It's been six years. And while part of me is quite anxious to get this over with, to end this remarkable journey that these three have come on, part of me isn't quite ready to be completely at ease with shutting the door on a part of my life that's so largely influenced who I am overall.

Maybe it's not so much shutting a door but turning to a blank page. Some of my toughest days were hashed out in those pages. The days I stayed home from school because of whooping cough are in those pages as well. My own broken love affair is scattered through Anna and Richard, Jack and Kayley, and Ralurick and Bella.

It's a lot. That's an understatement.

I've had people tell me - through the Inkpop message boards, actually, which I haven't visited in months - that the fact that I see the story I want to write as a movie in my head isn't real writing. It's copying. That I'm not creating anything. Yet I have something real and tangible in my hands. I have composition books with writing, with characters, faces, places, words, and meaning. You have this drive to have your project be number one in the lists, to be on a publisher's desk. I've got that, too. That's what I want as well. When I think it's ready.

When I've finished it.

I'm pretty decent when I've got something half-assed written. The finished product? I want you to remember me for the stories that I can tell. For the depth that I have as a writer and as a person. For what I can create.

Writing is personal for me. It's not mechanics and sentence structure. Well, it is, but it isn't. It's no the main focus. It's me taking you somewhere and you going on a ride through a bit of life that, while in places, might not be grand, but still real. Life can be glorious and big, or it can be simple. Easy and difficult.

Most important is that you don't get to decide - you get to deal.

I only get serious and slightly insightful when I've got good reason. Paying a visit to Dylan Thomas's writing shed and the boathouse where he used to live would be what spawned that because for the first time in months I wanted to write when I got back on the bus. Actually, I wanted to break the lock on the door of the shed, sit at the same desk as he did - which is still exactly how he left it - and start writing. I probably would have gotten arrested and it would have been bad manners, and I would probably be packing for New York instead of writing this, but it made me want to continue. It really made me want to finish what I had started. To continue and to gather the spread threads of this long story and weave them together. To finish the tapestry.

To finish a part of me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things to Know: International Edition II

- Did you honestly expect there to be just one? Really?

- I have a backlog of postcards and such that I need to send but haven't been able to get to the post office to purchase international stamps.

- Such is the pain in the ass that you need a special stamp - I think - to be able to mail things home.

- Mads might wind up with about four post cards in one go. The rest should be more normal.

- I booked my hostel for London. I feel quite proud of myself for that. Everyone else is now scrambling a bit.

- I have been nicknamed "Wallace" by my flat mates. This is actually a fairly inside joke concerning me and my new found love of Welsh cheese.

- The Welsh make good cheese. No joke.

- I am a closet history buff.

- If you hadn't figured that out from the two courses from Kadane that I took - The Enlightenment and Stuart-Tudor Britain - then you clearly missed something.

- My favorite period to study in history is the American Revolution. It will always have a spot in my heart.

- The movie The Patriot has nothing to do with this. Really.

- The Welsh alphabet has two more vowels than the English one.

- The above is kind of interesting because if you look at road signs and such, you honestly wouldn't think so.

- I can make it a week and a half on twenty quid worth of groceries. And there were school supplies thrown in there, too, so less than that if you want to get technical.

- Mama sent me cookies.

- The FOCI just attempted to climb onto my head to better see the screen because I mentioned something about cookies.

- Being 300 feet below the surface of the earth was absolutely amazing.

- Only in Wales can you climb a mountain one day, and two days later be in a coal mine.

- Cadair Idris is the second highest mountain in Wales - Snowdon is the highest.

- I climbed Cadair Idris. I have the photographs and postcards to prove it.

- I mentioned this in my earlier post, but if you aren't privy to being my actual friend on Facebook, feel free to check out my Photobucket - all the photographs from my time abroad are posted.

- This whole cookin' gig gets easier the more you do it.

- I finally learned how to play Skip-Bo.

- The reason I finally learned was because we play it as a flat - usually before we watch a film together - as something to do in the evening.

- Though sometimes the Skip-Bo has the potential to get quite violent.

- Can't wait to see what we do with Uno.

- That is the kind of flat I live in, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.

- I'm doing my Dramatic Texts homework. Finishing it, actually.

- Might possibly be a cross between Intro to Stagecraft and Craft of Fiction. Which is just awesome.

- I thought you might like to learn some Welsh:
pont - bridge
ffenestr - window
llyfr - book
eglwys - church

- Welsh is not really based on anything that anyone familiar with the English language might readily identify. It's more like Spanish - there's a familiar and an impersonal, and a male and a female.

- I have never been so thankful that I took Spanish because of this background knowledge, which one of my fellow classmates - and fellow Americans - was completely lost on.

- And none of that even remotely sets you up to deal with mutations.

- There are three types of mutations: soft, vocal, and nasal.

- The language is difficult, but musical.

- Gwy a aeth catraeth oedd ffraith ei lli. (Men who went to Catraeth were full of vigor.)

- This makes reference to one very bloody battle in which Wales lost the land that is now the northern part of England.

- "Don't bother with Botox - do the Welsh alphabet in the morning."

- I believe I mentioned before that signs in this country are bilingual - if the Welsh is on top, Welsh is the predominate language of the area. If the English is on top, English is the predominate language of the area.

- The Scottish Highlands are where you have to go if you want to hear people speaking their native Scottish Gaelic.

- Irish is making a comeback.

- I am expanding my horizons and my wealth of knowledge.

- They put an ethernet jack in my room yesterday.

- As a result, my room smells like burnt plastic and there's a fine, white powder that you can kind of find in places from where they sanded and all that good stuff.

- Law and Order: UK is absolutely brilliant.

- My fascination for it has nothing whatsoever to do with my humongous crush on Jamie Bamber. Not. At. All.

- The last part of the previous is complete bullshit, in case you hadn't guessed.

- And yes, the picture of Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy still dominates my desktop background.

- Let me tell you that man has aged like wine. Good, classic, vintage wine with an English accent and nary a gray hair to be found in that red-gold head of hair.

- No, of course there's no drool on my computer.

- I have a pair of fuzzy socks that are rainbow striped that my mind classifies as my "surgery socks" because they were the ones I wore to and from the hospital when I had surgery nearly two years ago.

- None of my flat mates have really asked about the amount of OTC medication that I take on a regular basis. They don't find it a big deal.

- I live with seven other people. Six of them feel more like family than the complete strangers we were only two weeks ago.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Livin' Large

There are a lot of times that I second guess myself. Or, I have this really thought out plan that works perfectly for me, and I forget to inform everyone else that I need to of what I'm doing. There is sometimes a distinct lack of communication between me and those that really need it, otherwise they worry what exactly their favorite wanderer has gotten into.

I'm not afraid to say that I screw up more than I should when it comes to keeping my mother and my sister in the loop with what I'm doing. Especially when this includes taking a few days and going up into mid-Wales - the southern tip of the Snowdonia National Park - and seeing the mountains. Huw had assured me that they were beautiful, and that I would possibly regret it if I didn't see them. Which, I can say that he's right. They were beautiful. It took the natural beauty of the gorge, multiplied it by ten, and put it to shame.

Seriously, when you're coming down the mountain and you can look into the cockpit of a fighter jet as it's weaving its way through the valleys for practice, while it made me want to piss myself with fright, it was also pretty damn cool. The sights - being able to practically see Ireland when the cloud bank shifted with the wind from the summit - that was awesome.

Another really cool thing that I've done this week? Been 300 feet in the earth in a coal mine. Seriously. It's a place called Big Pit, and it used to be a fully functioning coal mine before it stopped production in the late '90's. It's now a museum. They do tours in the coal mine every day.

I'm not kidding. They take you into this area, take all of your stuff that might have a dry cell battery in it (watch, phone, mp3 player, and you leave your bag, too), they kit you out in a helmet with a real light (wet cell battery) and this other little pouch attached to the belt (which turns out to be a gas mask because there could possibly, though it's checked every day, somehow be a build up of methane gas) and pile you into this rickety-looking lift. Then your mind kind of goes all Phantom of the Opera because the only thing I could think of was "down once more to the dungeon of my black descent/Down we plunge to the prison of my mind/Down this path into darkness deep as hell" and I've told you before that I have this thing for doing great worst-case scenarios.

Another thing to note is that I wasn't really sure prior to getting into that lift whether or not I was going to be really okay with the idea of being 300 feet below daylight. In an enclosed space. With no way for me to get the hell out of there if I really needed or wanted to.

But once you're down there and your ears stop popping (mine have been doing that a lot lately, though I think it's because there's a cold sitting in my sinuses), it's really cool. Of course, every now and then someone forgets that they have to "mind your head" and you hear a thunk followed by some sort of curse and look back in time to watch somebody more or less stagger away.

In a way, you start to feel like a miner. And you really can't let yourself think about the fact that there's so much earth between you and sunlight. Or that people died in those mines because, well, when you have something flammable in that small of a space - and you don't have a canary (they have a better sense of smell than a human, so if you're carrying a canary and it keels over, get the hell out of there before you do the same) - or something goes really wrong and the pony freaks out because it's in the dark (yes, they used ponies to carry up the coal all the way almost up to the eighties, and these ponies lived in stables in the mine) and tramples somebody...well, you really can't think about that or you're going to make yourself sick.

Now, you might think that you've seen darkness. That you've experienced the utter, utter blackness that comes with a space that light can't reach. A darkened room, maybe. On a new moon night? That has nothing on what the darkness is in a coal mine.

Yes, we at one point all turned out our lights and while my hand was approximately six inches in front of my face, there was no way that I was going to be able to see it. I didn't. This darkness, this blackness...take the most black thing that you know, the darkest that you've experienced and multiply it by one hundred. This was just ridiculous. And also so, so cool. You get a real feel for what those twelve-year-old boys waiting by those doors for the pit ponies must have felt because the only way they were going to be able to find the door was by a rope. And they had to listen for the pony. But just because you hear the pony coming doesn't mean that it's going normal speed - it could have freaked and be running. And the boy doesn't know it.

What also really impressed me is the closeness and fraternity between the miners. If there was an accident - and you had to get out in a hurry - you don't run (because, well, it's dark and you're going to beam yourself in the face, more or less) but if you passed someone who had beamed himself in the head and knocked himself out, you grabbed whatever part of him you could and you dragged him out. Miners never left another miner in the mine. Just. Not. Done.

For some reason all I could think while I was down there was this voice going, "My cousin Balin would give us a royal welcome" in reference to the mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Heh. Wonder why.

So, for those of you in the audience that know me but don't quite know me enough to have access to my Facebook page but still want to see all the photos from the time that I've been across the pond, just check out this link, which takes you to my Photobucket. And feel free to browse around through the pictures.
"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz