Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Retreat to Terabithia

I have retreated. Just now. Less than five minutes ago. I am in this place - but it is like Terabithia after the death of the queen, lonely and somehow lacking the full magic.

The Old
In my Terabithia, imagination runs wild. Dreams of the future combine with fantasy and ideal notions to create seredipitous prospects for the days to come. Everything has feelings, the air is charged with a motivational energy. Nothing is impossible. Clouds pass to create cool moments of shade during sunny days. The night is like tonight, with a detailed moon the color of old parchment poised against a faded midnight blue sky. To the west is the wishing star; a single prayer can make dreams come true.

The Now
Overgrown are the acres of flower fields, as long grass pops up among the periwinkle, daffodils, daisies, and strawberries. Trees are covered in a barely green moss that hangs like twisted feathers to dust the shoulders of passersby. There is a presence. Giants once walked here, elves danced, and fairies ran amok. They aren't gone, but it is hard to remember the last time you saw one. Magical whispers blow on the breeze, and soft, wispy clouds make shapes in the blue sky. But it is almost nearly dusk, always. The sun has set but the night has not arrived, and the periwinkle remnants of light fade smoothly into a velvet violet. Glimpses of stars playing hide and seek are made more vibrant by the new moon, invisible in the coming night.

Perhaps my Terabithia is going through a change of season. I can't decide which place is better. I feel comfortable in the Now, but hope for the Old to rush back in tomorrow. Is it missing the Old that makes the Now seem less magical? If magic fits the laws of physics, it can't actually leave a place, just transform into different types of energy. The Old was certainly potential energy with a mixture of kinetic. The Now is like a ball on a pool table that is slowing down, waiting to bounce off a wall and get moving again.

I'm leaving the world of fantasy now. Real work calls. Love always, ~Heather

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cooking devices

When I was an undergrad, I lived in on-campus housing. One of the fire safety rules included a prohibition of toasters. No toasters in our rooms meant no toast, no frozen waffles, no toasted sandwiches ... you get the idea.

When I moved to France, there was no way I was going to buy a toaster to fit in the French outlet system. I did have a conventional oven there, that made due, especially for the sandwiches (I used that thing to bake, broil, fry, rotisserie ... you name it!).

As I moved in to my first real apartment, I was thrilled at the prospect of having a real toaster. I use it so frequently it doesn't even have a place in the cabinet, it just stays on the counter for easy access.

Now, as I am considering my options for the future, I have come to regard another cooking device as ideal. For my next apartment, I am going to actively seek a grill of some kind.

It will be glorious to not have to broil or sautee all of my fish, to not have to bake or fry the chicken, to make a hamburger the way it should be. Yes, I think the cooking device I want next is a grill.

I say this, because I am prompted by the lack of cook-out in my life this Memorial Day. It is quite possibly the first Memorial Day I have spent without the fine American, traditional grilled food. Making hot dogs in the microwave or burgers in the oven just isn't the same, so a grill it shall be.

Then again, let's keep things in perspective: I'm alive and free in the greatest country on Earth.

This Memorial Day ... God bless those who have lost their lives in the service of our country. Bless the families that celebrate without a loved one, lost in defense of our freedom. Bless those who stand on the front lines and defend liberty and justice; America is beautiful because of them.

Celebrating Memorial Day is celebrating the lives and sacrifices of those brave men and women. Let us never forget how they gave "the last full measure of devotion" in the name of the Stars and Stripes.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day, eat some grilled food for me, and God bless America.

Love always, ~Heather

This was taken at the Oise-Aisne Cemetery in France. There were too many soldiers killed there during WWI to bring their bodies home. It is a strange feeling to be standing in a foriegn country, on American soil; American by the blood shed on it and the brave patriots buried beneath it. May we never forget. ~HB

Saturday, May 26, 2007

(un) Prepared

Bascially my whole life I have been preparing for this moment. This piece of time when something is going to happen ... it will be a turn for the real world ... a whole new stage. I have been preparing for my job.

I know this sounds silly, but realistically, it's true. Elementary prepares for middle, middle for high, and high school for college. College is certainly prep for a job, but if you are too scared, or too unprepared at that point there is always grad school. I was so burnt out preparing for this moment before grad school I had to take a break and get a temporary job!

Now, as grad school wraps itself up, I have finally arrived. The job market is out there. My future job is waiting. And all of a sudden 18 years of school and a year teaching overseas doesn't seem like enough.

People keep saying that it doesn't matter too much what I choose because my first job is not likely to be my last. I understand that, I do. But at the same time, my degree leaves the field of possibilities wide open. The step I take with this first "real" job, is going to make a serious impact on the direction the rest of my life takes.

Campaign politics means at least a year of no sleep, working like a mad person, hopefully traveling, possibly moving up, and eventually burning out or falling in love (with politics, that is).

Science communication means a regular job in a regular place. Stability, room to move up, a training program to prepare me for my work Benefits like healthcare and a dental plan. Enough money to finally start saving something and pay off my student loans.

Civil service means dealing with bureaucracy everyday but likely getting to travel, having serious job security, learning new things everyday, supporting the country I love so much, and potentially making a huge impact on American (maybe international?) society.

I know I could do all of these things. I could try one or the other and float about every five or so years. They say.

But the thing about me, is that I fall in love with things. I really do. I do them for a little while, see what is good, what isn't, and then try to fix the problem areas so whatever it is can be perfect. Ultimately, I have been forced to move on because of graduation or time restrictions (specifically why I chose a one-year commitment in France!). I have only willingly left one job in my entire life and realistically, I left because my family moved and the new location wasn't at all like the job I left.

So, knowing myself, when I make this choice, I am going to be giving myself to a career path for as long as I can handle it. For as long as it can handle me. For an exceptionally long time. And I might never get a chance to try another one. Because once I start in on something, I feel terrible if I abandon it. Giving up is not for me. I am not a quitter.

Whatever I choose, it will lead me in a direction I never thought I could/would go. The future is so hazy ... the path to what and who I will be is still being paved.

On the swings in the park today, T and I were talking about how drama in high school seemed so important. We thought that that was the time in our lives that would shape everything else. It was all so important, so serious. Now looking back, I think what silliness that was. The drama wasn't horrendous, the Earth did not shatter, we survived the transition from high school to the next part of our lives.

So on the swings we decided that now is actually the place where the decisions we make will change our whole future beings. This is the pivotal point. That place where everyone goes back to in movies to fix the "big mistake" they made.

Whatever I choose, I am sure of this ... it will not be a mistake.

It seems crazy to me now that I thought my decisions 6 or 7 years ago could be so influential in my life today. In fact, they have helped shape me, but they didn't "define" me. I've become a different person than I was then. Perhaps still naive enough to think that finally now I have come to a place that will shape who I am to become.

Maybe that place doesn't actually exist, maybe we slowly evolve into ourselves. Sure, there are inciting events and culminating events and open and close chapters, but all-in-all, every choice we make is a self-definition.

I like the idea that everyday we can redefine ourselves, add to the palette of colors on a dot-painting of enormous expanse. Sure, there are occassional blots - where you spill the paint and make a mess, perhaps covering up something that was just getting good. Maybe it takes lots of decisions, hundreds of dots to fix the blot, but it is possible.

So tomorrow I am going to get up and make decisions. What to have for breakfast. How much homework to get done. Where to put the piles of junk on my desk. How to clean up the giant spider I Raid-ed to death in my bathroom tonight. Who to hang out with. Who to forgive. What to forget. When to return those pants I bought that turned out to be too short. Whether or not to send my resume to the potential jobs I have saved in the 20+ open tabs in my browser.

Whatever decisions I make will paint the picture for tomorrow, building on today and creating a foundation for tomorrow. I'm planning on a colorful life. My brushes are ready.

I am prepared.

Love always, ~Heather

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Three Things

1. Being caught up on school work is a fantastic feeling. Enjoying all the reading is an even better one.

2. Fostering unhappy feelings (basically keeping ideas of an unpleasant nature completely to oneself) isn't really good for a person; avoid this at all costs.

3. Time flies when you are having fun, when you aren't, and when deadlines are approaching. Basically, time is flying all the time.

I don't think those are the actual three things that prompted this posting, but they were the first three things out on the keyboard. As I head off to do some grocery shopping, I am thinking about one particular subject that just this week started needing a plan for a solution. For all the lessons in school about campaign planning and strategic planning, I don't ever feel prepared to make outlined plans for my own life.

I'm going to pretend it is because I have a naturally free and adventurous spirit. Hope you are all having a fun day!


Monday, May 21, 2007

Long time gone

So, since I wrote over two weeks ago...

I had a birthday, took my finals, finished my practicum, completed my thesis and had it printed about a bijillion times (apparently landscape, double sided, book-style bound, 53 page bundles take a minimum of five prints for the UPS store to print).

My family came up for my graduation celebration, we celebrated Mother's Day at a cute french restaurant, I started summer school (6 hours until the completion of my Masters!), Derek and Janis came to visit and we went to the Udar-Hazy Air & Space Museum and I got to stand next to the mock-up of the space shuttle used in atmosphere tests.

This past weekend was spent at HOBY at Christopher Newport University. I had an amazing team and the other facilitators and staff, were, as usual, outstanding. Now, I am back, working hard at my physical therapy and starting my summer work hours studying opinion leaders.

Today, my aunt and uncle and my two youngest cousins came to visit. I had a blast taking them to the Natural History Museum and watching the three-year old enjoy the Metro ride. Tonight, I caught up on ABC shows online (since the TV has been out since before I wrote last time) and fooled around on Facebook finding the new friends I made this weekend.

In general, I have had an insane two weeks. My time has been ragingly busy and with two hard-core summer classes, ten hours (minimum) of work each week, the HOBY surveys to analyze while I still have access to SPSS, giving swim lessons, finally (slowly!) getting back into volleyball, and wanting to volunteer to work a little bit more on programming for next year's conference .... I think the busiest times are still with me.

My biggest mission, aside from finally getting a 4.0 in a complete school, is to find the perfect starter job. I'm getting to read a little bit, picking the newspaper back up, and as soon as the TV starts working, I'll be able to watch more of the political programs to see if I really want to take that route.

So, that is my life right now. I've been crazy busy and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down anytime soon. In a way, I'm looking forward to a regular schedule for at least the next month - until the future brings its unexpected excitement.

What a great time to be free, energized, and full of potential in the capitol of this great country. I have God, friends, a fabulously supportive family, and my future ahead of me. I can't wait for it to start .... right after I get some sleep ("must stop and rest... must reboot brain ... sleeeeeeep")

God bless you and God bless America and God bless all the overachievers who love every single minute of their too-full lives! Love always, ~Heather

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Beethoven's Fifth

That is the music that best represents the next few days for me. I am still working on my thesis, because, I am ridiculous.

Basically, I have almost five case studies now, I have at least four long stories, tons of examples, and that is just the "extra stuff."

There are five literature reviews: science communication (17 pages), organizational branding (1.5), framing (1.5), political communication (2.5), and crisis communication (2.5). Also, I did a review of general communication principles .... it is getting longer every minute.

Tomorrow is the last day I am letting myself add any new text. After that, it is all revisions.

Speaking of "just revisions" I finished writing my first keynote speech. Then I revised it, and now I am waiting to get notes back from my Dad and a friend/classmate who will hopefully have some ideas in case there are any mistakes. But for only the third time this semester, I feel like I hit this speech out of the park. The fist time, the professor said I mastered the format dead-on. The second time, I got an A and only positive feedback in class. I'm hoping my instincts are right on this one.

Okay - it is super late, and there are going away parties to attend tomorrow before church, a mass to sing at, two management briefs to write, a thesis to revise, a movie to watch, and a bedroom that hasn't been tidied in so long, that I can't remember the last time it was spic and span.

How weird is it that despite all this I am in a totally pumped up mood? I love being happy - especially about my work.

Hope you're happy too. Happy Sunday! Love always, ~Heather

Friday, May 04, 2007

Draft in Progress

My thesis is coming along rather nicely. I've had some timing setbacks with it and a few of my other class assignments that are due next week, but in general things seem to be going well. If anyone is kind enough to offer their copy-editing services (this may or may not be a masochistic gesture) I'd love the help.

In case I haven't told you, my thesis is about science communication and how scientists can use communication principles to improve the public's understanding of science. This is explained through the case studies of NASA. I think it's really fun and exciting (for a topic). Then again, I am a well established geek.

Off to sleep. Speeches, revisions, papers, exam prep, and oh yeah, my thesis to finish by Wednesday. Sleep is as necessary as air at this point - my brain needs to shut down and reboot or I'd never be able to concentrate.

Hope all is well with you! Love always, ~Heather