New year; new hopes

2013.01.01.new-year-new-hopesI like to start each year with a bright, fresh outlook; with a renewed hope for joy and happiness. But I must admit that I hadn’t planned to start 2013 that way. In fact, the post that I wrote over the past few days was one of despair. It was one of disillusionment laced with bitterness—and one that promised a year not of hoping, but rather a year of expecting disappointment so that I didn’t end up let down when joy didn’t arrive.

I did, however, include a disclaimer that I didn’t think I’d be capable of being that miserable; of being that hostile and angry toward the world. After all, I truly do believe that…with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world….

So, instead of resolving to be miserable and give into the pain, I am resolving to keep hoping for something better. Instead of giving up because 2012 was a rather disappointing year, I am resolving to continue seeking out the good in people, even when they cause me pain and misery—sometimes with intentional malice.

I ended 2012 by going for a run then cleaning my flat and doing laundry so that my first day of 2013 could start fresh and bright. And it worked. I woke up with the sun this morning and opened all the curtains—for the first time in ages. Then I enjoyed a quiet walk into town, soaking up the sun and enjoying the fairly mild day.

Today isn’t what I would have dreamt it to be, but it’s not a bad day. And I know this year won’t be what I would have dreamt, but I’m confident that it will have some goodness and light in it.

And to start it off right, I will be working on my PhD research proposals and academic applications. I will also continue running and looking after myself in the hopes of finding blissful happiness in this world.

As for Just Frances, well, I hope to continue blogging—and I hope that you continue reading. Your support has been invaluable to me, it really has.

I wish every last one of you all of the joy, happiness, and blessings that you can manage this year. Happy 2013!

Only in my dreams

2012.12.29.only-in-my-dreamsThere is a man who appears in my dreams who isn’t Paul. In my dreams, we’re madly in love. And much like the widow dreams I still have, these dreams are different each time. Sometimes happy; sometimes sad. But always a dream; never a reality.

Sometimes, he’s all mine in those dreams; we’re a couple and we’re oh-so-happy. Sometimes we’re married. Sometimes we have children. Sometimes we’re on a first date. And sometimes we’re good friends who are just becoming more than that.

I like those dreams. I never want to wake up when I’m having them. They make my heart so happy all day long—even though I know it was only a dream that will never come true.

But sometimes in those dreams, he belongs to another and we are merely caught in the misfortunate place of wishing things were different. Sometimes I try to push him away but he continues to pursue me. Sometimes we acknowledge that we can’t be together and we part in tears. And sometimes I ask him to make a choice between me and his partner—and his response varies.

Those are the dreams that make me sad. I’m sad because I’ve dreamt of spending time with another woman’s partner. I’m sad because—even in my dreams—I can’t have the love I want. I’m sad because those feelings stick with me all day long. I feel guilty for having shared emotions with a man who’s already spoken for.

The worst thing is that these dreams break my heart. Over and over again, when I realise that they are only dreams and the man is only a shadow who visits me when I sleep, I am sad. I am sad that he’s not really here. I am sad that I can’t pick up the phone and call him. I’m sad that I only know him when I’m asleep.

And sometimes, when I’m out at the shops, I find myself wishing he would walk through the door. I find myself wishing he’d come and whisper in my ear, just like he does in my dreams.

I’m sure this puts me somewhere on the crazy scale. But certainly I can’t be the only person out there who dreams of a man who fills her heart with joy. And, who knows, sometimes dreams come true …

Only In My Dreams
by Just Frances

He walks in the room; my heart skips a beat
He glances at me; I blush and look away
His smile is infectious as he walks toward me
The gentle kiss he greets me with sends shivers down my spine
He brushes my hair off my face; I blush again
Our fingers entwined; we gaze into each other’s eyes
The conversation is easy; the laughter is flowing
He whispers in my ear; I blush some more
Hand in hand, we begin to leave; and I wake up
And he’s not there; he was only in my dreams

Forty-nine days

My visa expires in 49 days. My employer is working on getting sponsorship approval for me so that I can apply for a new visa, but I don’t know if it will all happen before my current visa expires. I might be entitled to a two-month extension, giving me a bit of breathing room to apply for the work visa, but I’ve not heard back from the Home Office to confirm that.

I have just moved into a new flat with a six-month lease. I have spent nearly all of my savings. If my visa doesn’t go through, I have no job, no money, and no legal right to stay in Scotland—but I will still owe the balance of my lease (and my two-year mobile phone contract). I will be destroyed financially—and emotionally.

I am stressed. I am worried. I am frightened. I worry that my mental health and emotional well-being will be on dangerous ground if my gamble doesn’t pay off. I am fearful that losing this dream will turn my life into a spiralling nightmare.

I have to be honest and say that my world is consumed with the stresses of WhatIfs these days. I’m trying not to be doom and gloom, but I really am afraid. I know you can’t fix it. I know that there is very little I can do about it at this point. But I’m trying to stay positive and I’m trying to be upbeat. It’s just hard some days. And the closer I get to November 11 without a visa solution, the harder life will be. Oh, and if I don’t get a visa, I can’t even attend my own graduation ceremony, which isn’t until November 23!

So, yeah. That’s what’s going through my mind these days. I must find a happy outlet …

A year later

Today marks one year since I hit the reset button on my future. Yes, it’s been one year since I moved back to my beautiful, beloved Scotland.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the road leading up to my flight across the pond was a troubled one and that the entire adventure was sparked by a personal tragedy. Or, rather, it was accelerated since our hope was to return to Scotland one day.

Regular readers may also be aware that life didn’t magically ‘get better’ with my move and that I have had a few emotional ups-and-downs over the past year. Most of which can be attributed to the stress and uncertainty I’ve faced with questions about what happens when my current visa expires, and other worries about the next steps for my new future. (I knew this move wouldn’t make life perfect and had expected the ups-and-downs; though I’d hoped for fewer downs than there were!)

But, as I write this, I can feel the road levelling out a bit. There are still a few questions and uncertainties (mostly with visas and jobs!), but things are starting to look a bit brighter at the moment. I admit that if things should fall apart, my mental and emotional health might fall along with everything else, but I’m trying to be hopeful and optimistic.

I don’t know where I will be in another year’s time and that’s a bit scary to me because it means I still don’t have the stability that my heart, mind, and soul so desperately crave. I’m afraid to make plans and I’m afraid of the ‘whatifs’ that haunt my thoughts.

However, I am here in Scotland for now and I’m going to hold onto that for as long as I can because life is happier here than it was the last two years I was in the States. This is home. I just hope that, one day, the Home Office lets me make that permanent!

I dreamt a dream

I wrote this poem a few weeks ago, when life was going great and my future was filled with hope: job prospects; PhD funding opportunities; and more! When I wrote it, I did so bracing myself for disappointment (hence the second part) but the hope kept coming and I actually began to think that maybe—just maybe—my dreams were starting to come true.

Alas, things began to crumble (or is that that my eggs began to crack?) and I’ve been left in a bit of despair.

I am, Dear Reader, struggling to find a bit of hope these days. I’m working on Plan B—which is the ultimate ‘I give up’ plan—but I can’t quite bring myself to put it into motion. I’d like to think that’s because I have a small sliver of hope left in my life, but (said with my newly-acquired defeatist attitude) I fear it’s just wishful thinking.

Anyhow, I am continuing to search for a job (several application deadlines this week!) and am still searching for that golden PhD funding egg. And a couple of friends are doing what they can to help with those things. I am trying to keep the dream alive. I really am. It just seems like it’s becoming a nightmare sometimes…

I dreamt a dream whilst still awake
by Just Frances

I dreamt a dream whilst still awake;
I savoured every moment.
With eyes wide open, I smiled;
I imagined all of the joy the dream could bring.
My heart was happy;
Filled with hope and anticipation.
I thought of the future and all of its possibilities.

I dreamt a dream whilst still awake;
And cried when it began to fade.
Reality’s light brought sorrow;
The joy would never be mine.
My heart was heavy;
Filled with longing and disappointment.
I thought of a future without hope or possibilities.

[I’ll try for a happier poem next time. I promise!]

In flight

Ah, the modern world. Don’t you love how it’s filled with gadgets and gizmos aplenty and whozits and whatzits galore? After all, it means that I can bring you this blog update from an airplane some 10,000 feet above the ground!

So, here I am somewhere in the air between my home state of Washington and the Minneapolis airport. I’m flying on a standby buddy pass (i.e.: dirt cheap!), so was pleased to have gotten a seat on my first leg without problems. The next leg is Minneapolis to London and I’m hoping for good luck once again. Once I get to London I’m on my own and am travelling full fare, but it’s still an amazing savings.

(A special shout out of thanks to a special friend who sorted my travel. I won’t name her because I don’t want to make her phone ring off the hook for others looking for cheap travel, but please know that she is an amazing woman and whilst I don’t know her well, I feel that she is a true friend and someone I hope to know for the rest of my life! Lots of love to you, my friend!!)

But I digress…

I guess the point of this post is to distract me a bit from this new reality that I’ve yet to admit. It just doesn’t seem possible that I’m finally on my way. I feel as if I’m in a dream world and that this is just a little jaunt to someplace. I’ve been shutting out my emotions so much these past few weeks and I know it!

Don’t get me wrong, I cried when I said goodbye to my folks today (and my sister, two nieces and a nephew who joined us at SeaTac). And I’ve cried a few times since getting through security. But it’s all still a dream.

But I think my meltdown moment will be either when I arrive in Heathrow or when I arrive in Edinburgh and am greeted by Rebecca. (Yes, Rebecca, please expect tears. But please know it’s not you!) Yep, I’m a step closer to the dream and it won’t be long until my future becomes my today!!

[That’s a photo of me with the folks just before I got in line for security. I miss them already… (and not just because of the cooking and laundry they’ve done in the past month I’ve been staying with them!)]

Widow dreams

For more than two years now, my nights have been haunted with horrible dreams. I call them ‘widow dreams’ and I understand from other widow(er)s that they are very common.

It started the first time I finally slept after Paul died. That first dream was a re-enactment of the horrors of watching him die whist I desperately performed CPR. For the next couple of weeks, every time I closed my eyes I would witness Paul dying all over again. Not always in exactly the same way, but always with me trying to help him—or with me trying to scream for help but I’d lost my voice.

After a while, those dreams changed. I would dream that we’d just learned his head was loose and we needed to be careful it didn’t fall off killing him instantly. I would dream that he had cancer or that if he ate broccoli he’d have a heart attack and die on the spot. Or I would dream of a million other things that meant we needed to be careful because one wrong move and Paul would die.

In between the dying dreams were the abandonment dreams. Those are the awful dreams where we would be sitting on the couch all lovey-dovey and out of the blue he’d tell me he wanted a divorce. Or I’d come home early and he’d be with another woman. Or we’d be in the grocery store and his girlfriend would show up and he’d tell me he was leaving me for her. Or a million other similar dreams that all ended in Paul leaving me for another woman. (These dreams are extremely common with widow(er)s I guess. I hate them most of all!)

Then there are the dreams where Paul comes back. Yep, he just waltzes in and acts like nothing happened and I’m so excited but also so angry with him. Those are the dreams I have been having more and more often of late. In fact, since leaving the home we shared together and moving in with my parents in preparation for my move to Scotland, I’ve been having them non-stop. And let me just say that Paul is not happy that he went home and saw it cleared out! Sometimes, I dream that I arrive in Scotland and he’s there to pick me up because he didn’t die; he’d just forgotten to tell me he was moving over ahead of me to get our home ready (much to my anger and delight).

And sometimes, the dreams are just plain old dreams. No dying, no abandonment, no coming back. Paul’s just there and we’re together doing normal things. And sometimes the kids we were meant to adopt are with us too. I like those dreams because for that brief time my dreams aren’t shattered and my life is so happy. But those dreams are also the ones that cause me to roll over and snuggle with Paul when I wake up. Only he’s not there to be snuggled.

The worst thing about these dreams is that some of them haunt me for hours after I wake up. Some of them are just so real and so vivid that I can’t shake them. Mostly, the ones I can’t shake are the bad/sad ones, but sometimes it’s the happy family ones that haunt me.

I don’t know how long these dreams will be with me, but I expect them to come and go as my life changes and as I hit major turning points in my journey. In the mean time, I suppose that I should be happy that I can still see Paul in my dreams, since I can’t see him in my waking hours.

[This post is illustrated with my most recent swirls-in-progress drawing—something I like to work on to take my mind off the dreams.]

The table

Three weeks before we moved into our house, I found an Art Deco table on CraigsList for $20. I emailed the link to Paul then excitedly picked up the phone to talk to him about it. Looking at the photos, we both agreed that it was battered—after all, all of the four chairs were in pieces and the finish on the rest of the table was horrible at best! We also agreed that it would look fabulous in the Art-Deco-meets-Craftsman house we were in the process of buying.

With little effort, I convinced Paul that it would be a breeze to refinish, so we decided to get it, which meant transporting it to our temporary home in our Ford Focus and Honda CRX. I don’t know what a tighter fit was: Getting it into the two small cars or getting it into the hovel of an apartment we lived in for a month before moving into the house!

After we moved in to the house in mid-May we would sit out on the back patio in the evenings sanding away the old finish by hand. Each piece had to be taken apart and sanded separately, and then I carefully glued the chairs back together. The table legs were missing a couple of little fiddly bits, too, so my Daddy got to recreate them using the existing ones as a template.

Finally, in November, we began the process of staining the table. When, two weeks before Thanksgiving, it was done, we excitedly placed the table in the dining room. Then I stood back and commented about what a great job we’d done—especially since I’d never refinished anything before in my life!

At that moment, Paul looked at me in shock. He had assumed that since I insisted it would be an easy project that I’d actually done something like it before—and he remarked that had he known I’d not, he would have argued against getting the table. (I reminded him that I never said I’d done it before—I’d only said that it would be easy to do.) But I think that Paul was glad he didn’t have that bit of information because he loved the table and loved to tell the story about our amazing CraigsList find.

And a couple of weeks after it was done we had the table filled with family for Thanksgiving dinner—which fell on Paul’s birthday that year.

Yesterday, I sold that table (for more than $20, after all, it’s all pretty now!). It breaks my heart to say goodbye to the table where Paul and I sat to share meals and dreams together, but I am happy to know that someone new will get to enjoy it now. As for me, I don’t have the table any more, but I will always have the memories…

The laughter woke me

I don’t think I’ve slept through the night since Paul died. I’ve become a very light sleeper and am woken easily by common household sounds or by a dream that just seems all too real.

Being woken by dreams is far worse than being woken by noises because the dreams are normally bad and I wake up in a terrible fright, or they are surreal and I wake up confused or worried about some strange symbolism.

Last night was different though. Last night I was having a slightly surreal dream where I’d just moved into a new house and was excitedly decorating the interior. Then one of the new neighbours stopped by to start complaining about the way I’d displayed the house number and about some of my flower choices in the front garden.

All of the sudden it dawned on me that I was living in one of those terrible communities that has covenants!!

I explained to this new neighbour that I hadn’t realised that was the case and he was very disgusted by the thought that I wouldn’t want my house to look exactly like all of the other houses.

Well, that got me thinking out loud about all of the lovely things I wanted to do to the house and that I was certain I’d be able to get a waiver or community approval for some of my fantastic ideas. And as I continued I could see the look on this horrible man’s face turn to fear. So I kept making my ideas more outrageous which got me giggling.

At some point in the dream, everyone but this man was giggling which got me giggling so much that I actually woke up laughing. Yes, my laughter in my dream woke me up!

It was weird because I’ve never woken up by laughing before. Crying, shouting, and screaming—yes. But laughing? That’s a new one. But I suppose if you’re going to have a restless night, you may as well laugh about it!!

New year hopes

Photo credits to Windy Tevlin; Tevlin PhotographyYay! It’s 2011! Part of me dreads entering yet another new year because it reminds me of where I thought my life would be by this point in time, but part of me is excited because I am certain that the new year will give me new hope for a brighter, happier future.

My 2010 resolution was to find a bit of joy each day. I managed it, but it was difficult. Finding joyful things when you’re grieving can be a challenge. But I really do think that it helped me to be more comfortable with my grief. It helped to remind me that I can be happy even when there is sadness in my heart. More importantly, focusing on the joyful things made the sadness seem less painful.

I haven’t made a resolution for 2011. And to tell the truth, I don’t plan to make one this year. Instead, I just plan to continue on the path I’m already travelling. I plan to spend the year planning for my future and getting used to being Just Frances—a path that I’m still finding difficult, but one that is easier to travel knowing I have support along the way.

In a year’s time, I hope that I am well on my way to reaching my goals and that I am a happier person than I am today. (Which is a happier person than I was a year ago.)

I know I am being a bit vague and I apologize for that, but I am afraid of plans these days and am not quite ready to share my biggest dreams and plans here. Please know that I am very excited about the new year though, and about all of the greatness it has in store for me.

I hope that 2011 is filled with joy, peace, and happiness and all of the love and passion you can hold!

When I was a kid I thought…

When I was a kid I thought that the horses just off the west interchange in Ellensburg were wild and I dreamt that I when I was a grown-up I would capture and tame them for my own farm.

When I was a kid I thought that “The Coast” was such an amazingly awesome—and scary—place where all of the good things happened.*

When I was a kid and I saw interracial couples (is it OK to use that term?) with children, I would dream that, one day, we would all be the same ethnic race and we would all have lovely tanned skin all year long because of it.**

When I was a kid and we got to the place in Sunday Mass where we’d all shake hands, I thought we were saying “Pleased to meet you” which didn’t make sense, because in our small town everyone knew each other already.***

When I was a kid I thought that almonds came from peaches and nectarines, because the seed inside the seed (if you see what I mean) looks just like an almond.

When I was a kid I thought I could invent a car that ran on water.

When I was a kid I was going to be a famous writer living in Paris or Europe. Or I was going to be President of the United States of America. Or I was going to be a big-shot attorney. Or an artist. Or… (But I never dreamed I would be a wife or a mom. Go figure!)

When I was a kid I thought being a grown-up was going to be the most funnest and most exciting thing ever and life was going to be great and I was always going to be happy.

Yeah, life was simple back then. Some days, I want to be a kid again and think all those silly things and dream all those impossible dreams.

So, what did you think when you were a kid?

* “The Coast” is anything west of the Cascade Mountain pass along I-90 (you know, Seattle). And people from “The Other Side” were known simply as Coasties or 206-ers.
** I don’t know that I realized they were different races, I think I just thought they looked different than one another; which, I think, says something positive about the way my parents raised me to not think about race.
*** What we were actually (meant to be) saying was “Peace be with you”.

Art?

I wish I was an artist. You know—a really good one. I wish I could draw things with ease and make them look pretty. In my mind I can see myself standing there with a paint palette creating these amazingly-beautiful landscapes or amazingly-accurate portraits. But in reality, I’m actually quite rubbish. Not only that, but it takes a lot of time to create that rubbish*!

But I enjoy using crayons and colored pencils, so I tend to just kick back on the couch and draw swirly things. And even they aren’t all that great, as you can see below. Now mostly I like this, but the top center(ish)-right-hand side has a really out-of-place looking swirl that I feel ruins the whole thing. However, creating this little piece of art kept me entertained for two evenings, and now I’m sharing the results with you! Yay!

(Sorry, this is what happens when you have no cable, a load of colored pencils and paper, and a state-of-the-art color scanner. Expect more silliness in the future. Especially since I’m going to take an online class on The Art of Silliness2! Yay!)

* I know I draw “OK” things and am not looking to have my ego bolstered here. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my ability, it’s just that my imagination has a very different appearance than reality!

Just a quick trip

So there I was in line at the British Airways counter at SeaTac. With me were three of my five sisters and their kids and a wanna-be sister (that’s you, J.D.) and her kids. (For those counting, that’s 13 people.) I was the only one of the group with experience traveling overseas, so I was the spokeswoman for us. Or maybe that was because I’m bossy and controlling. Either way, I was the leader.

I start handing passports over to the nice woman behind the counter and all of the sudden I realize that mine is dog-eared. Now, this panicked me. I was very upset about having a not-pretty passport so asked her to begin processing the information for the other 12 people in my travel party whilst I popped over to the instant passport printing machine. I took all of three minutes to get my new passport and it was fab! I even managed to include my signature green on the information page. It was an extra $10 for the customized look, but well worth it!

Once back at the counter, we finished the check-in process and made our way through the security lines. In front of us was David Tennant. We struck up a conversation and he was pleased to learn that he was speaking to Just Frances of Internet fame. So pleased, in fact, that he asked for some pens. Left-handed ones to boot!

Before I knew it we were on a plane bound for Heathrow. It must have been the shortest flight in the world because within moments we’d landed and were heading through immigration before heading to the train station. I’d really wanted to fly up north, but the romantic notion of train travel carried by my travel companions meant that I was out-voted. So instead, we took a long and boring train journey to Scotland; my companions pointing out every old building and spray-paint-dotted sheep along the route. (I think I was smiling secretly as I recalled my first train journey in the UK.)

Finally, we arrived at Waverly Station in Edinburgh and made our way to my friend’s amazing country house – which was only about a two-minute walk from the station.

As the rest of the group got settled into their rooms for the night, I sat there visiting with my friend who was preparing to make me a cuppa tea. We were having a great little chat when all of the sudden the kettle started whistling.

At the same time, my alarm clock started to go off. Yep, it was time to re-enter reality and go to work. Oh well. Maybe I can return to my lovely conversation tonight. After all, it’s not fair that everyone else’s holiday was cut short when I awoke from my dream.