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

A poetic starter

Since I turned in my dissertation draft yesterday, I’ve decided that I am going to take a week’s holiday to rest and unwind before I have to start working on edits for the final version. So, in between now and July 31, I am on holiday! Which basically just means I’m going to go and do fun things for the next week.

And that started today with a trip to Edinburgh.

Way back in May, my cousin Rita was in Scotland as part of a tour group and we spent a day in Edinburgh together. Only two of the things on her list of ‘things to see’ weren’t open (or planted) that day. So I promised her I would return on her behalf. And I decided to start my holidays by following through with that promise!

The first stop was the Scottish Poetry Library. Rita is a librarian, and had been excited about the idea of seeing the place. I don’t know if I would have gone without her prompting, but I’m glad I did because it’s always fun (and educational!) to do new things.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not really ‘into’ poetry, but there are a few poems and poets that I like—mostly because they make me giggle. (Yes, Shel Silverstein—I’m talking about you!) So, today’s goal was to randomly(ish) find something I liked. To do that, I picked out books the piqued my interest—either by their title or typeset—then I flicked through them.

And just as I was about to give up, I tried one last book and I finally found what I was looking for! I know it’s short, but it made me smile very much, and that’s what poetry should do!

A Cat Called Slumber
by Adrian Mitchell (found in ‘Blue Coffee’, pg 63)

In the middle of the night appears
My day-shy tabby with collapsable ears
And I stroke her ears so those ears collapse
And she purrs to say that she loves me, perhaps…

After the library, I wandered over to Princes Street Gardens to have a look at the Floral Clock which was being planted when Rita was visiting. But, I’m pleased to say, it was fully planted—and fully working—when I arrived today. Apparently, the theme is London 2012.

Anyhow, it was a successful trip into the city. And the weather was fabulous which just added to the enjoyment of the day. In fact, the weather was so fabulous that I left the house without an umbrella or a jacket and didn’t regret it once! And better than that, it was so fabulous that I bought an ice cream and sat in the gardens for a spell before catching the train home. Bliss!

I wonder what the rest of my holiday week will hold …

Listening for the phone

When I was in high school, my sister (I think?*) wrote a poem that went something like this:

Lonely, all alone
by Celeste Mills*

Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone
Listens for a call
From anyone at all
Listens for a ring
Saying anything
Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone

Anyhow, I’m not sitting around in some desperate ‘please someone call me because I’m all alone’ kind of mood, but I am desperately wishing that my phone would ring.

In fact, for the past month I have been checking my landline to make sure that 1) it’s still working and 2) I haven’t missed a call. And I keep checking my mobile for the same reasons. And, if I’m completely honest, I may have called one from the other a couple of times just to be sure.

Yep, I’m desperate for my phone to ring. Mostly about jobs and interviews and stuff (mostly). But it’s been ever-so silent. So, here I sit. Listening for the phone. Even though I know that I’m not getting a call about a job interview on a Friday night.

* I keep forgetting to ask my sister if, in fact, it is her poem and I couldn’t get in touch with her today when I decided to write this post. And I’ve tried to search for it online to see if it belongs to someone else but can’t find it. If you know who wrote it please let me know so that I can give credit where it’s due (and so that I can apologise for this blatant act of copyright infringement).

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!]

A mini-reunion and a catch-up

Oh dear, it’s been more than a week since I last posted. Sorry about that. It’s not that I’ve been sitting at home sulking though. No, I’ve been sitting at home writing essays like a mad woman! So, let me get you up to speed!

School: The past week, as I mentioned, was spent working on final essays for this past semester. The last of them was finished yesterday and turned in—with a bit of time to spare. I’m not feeling too confident about a couple of them, but I’m sure I did OK. I am pleased to brag, however, that I have received a few marks over the past week—all distinctions! Yeah, that’s nice for the ego.

So, the semester is done and that means no more classes. But I do have that dissertation to work on, so this probably won’t be my last school update.

Whisky: On Saturday, I went to the Spirit of Stirling Whisky Festival with a friend, his friend, and his friend’s friend. (Did you catch that?) It was an absolutely fantastic day, and one that probably deserves a story of its own. But, it was a late night with too much whisky and I was in no condition to even think about whisky the next day, so the story has gotten downgraded to an update. (Which shouldn’t be taken as a negative commentary; it was a day of great fun, great whisky, and great company.)

Edinburgh (Or: The Mini Eberle Reunion): After turning in my essays yesterday, I hopped on a train to Edinburgh to meet up with my cousin Rita and her friend, who are in Scotland as part of an organised tour. They had the afternoon free to tour on their own, so I was invited through as a personal tour guide. And since they’d already done the castle thing with the group, I got to show them a few other highlights.

We met along Princes Street then grabbed a coffee (well, I had mint tea) to catch up and chat about what we wanted to do, then we went to see the city. Our first stop—The Scott Monument—was easy enough, especially since we opted to not walk to the top. Then we wandered back toward the Floral Clock. Which we kind of saw in that the workings were sticking out of the ground, but it was in the process of being planted so if you didn’t know it was meant to be a clock you’d have missed it.

Next, we wandered through Princes Street Gardens on our way to Moray Place so that Rita could get a photo of a friend’s first house (No 28, if you wondered) before heading up Heriot Row to see the childhood home of Robert Louis Stevenson. The Queen Street Gardens across from the house were later used as inspiration for Treasure Island. (Apparently.)

From there, we wandered through the New Town on our way back to Princes Street Gardens where we sat to visit whilst Rita enjoyed (or at least took a sip of) Scotland’s number-one selling beverage, Irn Bru. I pointed out buildings and landmarks, explained how The Mound was formed and the Nor Loch drained, and even got to bore my captives with the story of how Paul and I met—and (when we’d made our way to The Royal Mile) I got to point out where we met, too!

Up on The Royal Mile, we attempted to visit The Writers’ Museum (we were 15 minutes too late!) before going in to see St Giles’ Cathedral. Then, it was back to the train station for me.

Of course, since one of the things Rita had on her list was closed (The Poetry Library) I’ve promised to go back and see it (and report back) for her. I’ll even have to stop by the Floral Clock on her behalf.

It was an absolutely fantastic afternoon and I am so pleased that I was invited to be part of Rita’s holidays. We’ve decided we’re going to have to do it again—maybe Rome next time with a private audience with the Pope.

[Photo is of RLS’s house, No 17 Heriot Row. Yes, we’re that kind of tourist!]

The Desiderata way of life

It’s time to answer another of your questions so I’m going back to the first request to write about a poem that has stirred great emotions for me. (Don’t worry—I’m working on a couple of family history posts for that question, too!)

My favourite poem is The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. The poem was written in 1927, and has an interesting history including a misconception about the dates and a fun little bit of copyright law. Now, these are not the reasons I love the poem so much, but fun histories do make me happy! Though I digress…

I first read The Desiderata in high school and it instantly touched my spirit. There was something about it that spoke to me in a way that I never could fully explain, but over time I forgot about it. Then, shortly after Paul died, one of my brothers-in-law sent me a letter quoting a bit of the poem. And that prompted me to re-read it.

That first reading as a teenager touched my spirit but that first re-reading as a grieving widow spoke to my soul. All of the sudden, the words seemed more meaningful. All of the sudden, there was a reminder that despite my grief there could be joy in my life.

Since then, I’ve used the ideas from the poem as my guide. I know it’s silly and maybe even a bit trite, but it’s the reminder I need so that I can see the hope that lies behind shattered dreams.

The Desiderata
by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

The world is filled with beautiful things

It’s a poetry day again. I don’t know if this is any good, and I may play with it a bit before calling it final, but at least this is a good start. Well, maybe it’s a good start. [Enter humble and embarrassed apology about how sorry I am for torturing you with my poetry here.]

The world is filled with beautiful things
by Just Frances

The world is filled with beautiful things;
If only we’d pause to notice them.
A broken branch, where a butterfly sits;
A muddy puddle, where a robin splashes.

The world is filled with joyful things;
If only we’d open our hearts.
A gentle breeze that lifts our spirits;
The sun’s rays that warm our souls.

The world is filled with happy things;
If only we’d stop and listen.
Chimes from an ice cream van,
…..as children scream with joy;
Bells from a church steeple,
…..as a new marriage begins.

The world is filled with possibilities;
If only we’d let ourselves believe.

Believe in the beauty the springs from ashes.
…..Believe in the love hidden behind the tears.
……….Believe in the joy that has yet to be realised.

Because the world is filled with beauty.
…..With love.
……….With joy.
……………With peace.

• • •

[Photo is a small heart-shaped scrap of paper that has sat nestled in the lawn in front of my flat for a couple of months now. Through wind and rain and snow—and thankfully a bit of sunshine. I leave it there because it makes me smile to see it there every day; it reminds me that love is everywhere and can weather anything!]

Ode to a St Patrick’s Day Martini

What’s that? The Martinis! Facebook page is running a poetry competition? Well, how can I resist that?

The entry request was simple: “Let’s see who pays attention… Comment on this status with an original St. Patrick’s Day poem about Martinis!, and we’ll pick three winners to post as our status from now until Saturday. The poem status that gets the most likes will win 3 mini shooters! GO!” [See the full thread here.]

And I entered. And just so that I have more proof than Facebook that I’m the original author (you know, for when this poem becomes famous) I’m sharing it here, too! (Yay!)

Ode to a St Patrick’s Day Martini
by Just Frances

Martini.
Vodka.
Dirty.
Filthy, really.
You bring me joy.
You warm my heart.
I love you.
And your olives.
They’re green, you know.
And that fills the bill.
So long, green beer.
Hello, my lovely,
Deliciously dirty,
St Patrick’s Day Martini.

An ode to my platelets

Once again, I’ve found myself with a lower-than-ideal platelet count. Well, it was very low last week (13!) and I had them re-tested today. Hopefully when the results come in later this week, they’ll be better. In the mean time, I have been referred to a haematologist again. Not that they can fix me, as this silly little condition seems to be sticking around.

But it got me thinking about my poor little platelets and how much I love them. I mean, first of all, my bone marrow is a bit stingy with its output of the little guys. So they’ve already started out life at a disadvantage for their required job. And if that’s not bad enough, my immune system bullies them to death. Literally.

So when you hear me complain about a low count, it’s not the platelets I’m angry with—no, they’re fighting the good fight and they’re doing it with a super-small army and are up against the rest of my body. I love those little guys. They’re my friends. And so I’ve decided to write them a poem. (I hope my prose isn’t so bad that they in turn commit suicide!)

An ode to my platelets
by Just Frances

Oh platelets, my platelets
You circulate with grace
You plug, you clot, you scab
You are constantly under attack
By my over zealot immune system
But you fight to help spare my life

Oh platelets, my platelets
How I love you so
You are few in numbers
But still you rush
To fix my cuts and scrapes
Your dedication means the world to me

A Lenten poem

I’ve written about Lent and my beliefs in the past (2010; 2011) but try as I may, this year I couldn’t come up with the words. Not because of a lack of faith, but rather because I don’t know what more I can add to the discussion.

And so, I’ve found a poem to share instead, as a way of celebrating this very important day in my spiritual life. I hope that you all have a blessed Lenten season, full of the love and peace, and the salvation of Christ.

A Poem about Lent
by Elena dal Friuli

Jesus prayed and fasted for forty days
In the desert long time ago.
He showed endurance and restraint
With temptation as His foe.

The length of Lent is forty days
For us a time of preparation.
It starts on Wednesday we call Ash
And it ends with Easter’s celebration.

We follow Lent to follow Him
A time of sacrifice and prayer
We give up something we desire
That His example we might share.

By giving up some things in life
During this time of preparation
We show Him that we too are willing
To overcome our own temptation.

Oh, what joy that Lent will bring
At the end of the forty days
When Sunday’s bells will ring
With Resurrection’s praise.

There is a path we follow

I don’t know what compelled me to play poet again today, but compelled I was, so you get to read my latest attempt at literary expression. I think it needs some work, but I don’t know what kind, so this is really just a draft-ish piece. Anyhow, enjoy!

There is a path we follow
By Just Frances 

There is a path we follow
We follow with faith
We follow with hope
We follow with trepidation

There is a path we follow
A path not mapped
A path found and made by dreams
A path we blaze with faith
……With hope
…………With trepidation

There is a path we follow
A path to love
A path to joy
A path to faith
A path to love
A path to peace
A path to the unknown

There is a path we follow
We chose the route
We follow the twists and turns
We fear the dead ends and shadows
……And monsters and demons
…………But we’re protected by friends and God

There is a path we follow
We follow with faith
We follow with hope
We follow with trepidation
We follow for brighter tomorrows

Dear Self Confidence

It’s been nearly eight months since I last wrote a poem (horrible or otherwise) for you. Well, for me, actually. So, tonight I decided to whip one up.

As always, it’s a bit rubbish but I enjoy writing them so here it is!

Dear Self Confidence
By Just Frances

Dear Self Confidence:
I would like to tell you
how much I’ve missed you.

You tell me
you’re standing next to me
but I can’t always see you.

You tell me
you’re in my heart and soul
but I can’t always feel you.

You tell me
you’re in my thoughts
but I can’t always notice you.

I would like to tell you
that I need you to be stronger.

I would like to tell you
that I need you to work harder.

I would like to tell you
that I need you to barge in and take over.

So during our next encounter don’t be shy.
Come out and shout and scream.
Come out and jump up and down.

I will embrace you.
You will embrace me.
It will be a special moment.

I need you.
I’m ready for you.
Let’s do lunch.

Much love to you,
Just Frances

At the end of the garden

I’ve been thinking about a poem for several days now and started on a draft this evening. I’m not completely happy with what I have so far, but I’ll get there. In the mean time, here’s the first draft for you to enjoy!

At the end of the garden
by Just Frances

At the end of the garden stands a humble tree
There are no leaves or fruits or berries
The bark is scratched and scabbed
Sap seep from its wounds

At the end of the garden a child sits under a tree
This is a place of escape and solitude
This is where thoughts are shared with God
This is where games are played and laughter echoes

At the end of the garden lovers lay under a tree
This is where kisses are stolen and hands are held
This is where promises are made and hearts flutter
This is where dreams are pondered and futures are made

At the end of the garden stands a magical tree
Its limbs are heavy with strength and courage
The bark is scarred with love and imagination
Joyful memories sprout from its roots

A happy thought

I don’t know that my day started off badly, but it didn’t start off happy. Stress has been preventing me from getting a proper night’s sleep for quite some time and it’s causing my days to be more apathetic than anything. But today, the apathy turned to happy thoughts. And the happy thoughts turned to thoughts of a happy future; a future where I plan to be as happy as a king queen.

Happy Thought
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

 

 

Two-poem Thursday

When I’m feeling stressed I turn to my writing prompts. Today, that meant working on a new form poem, which led me to writing a prompt-less poem as well. 

First, the form poem:

Hold on
by Just Frances

Hold on to your love
Even if your heart is broken

Hold on to the peaceful thoughts
Even if your world seems at war

Hold on to your faith
Even if you can’t believe

Hold on to your courage
Even if you’re too afraid

Hold on to your dreams
Even when they seem impossible

•••••

And now, a bit of rubbish that I typed without prompt (other than emotion):

The path I walk
by Just Frances

I once walked with confidence;
My every step full of faith
I once planned with ambition;
My future certain

But then my path was blocked
And my steps faltered;
My plans were shattered
And my future was lost

I now walk with cautious fear;
My every step full of worry
I now plan with hesitation;
My future unclear

The new path is treacherous;
Winding, narrow, and dark
But the way is lit with candles;
Left by those who’ve travelled before

•••••

Obviously, there is a reason that I’m not the nation’s poet laureate, but I don’t mind because my rubbish poems are for me—not the betterment of America.

Common cold

Oh, how I hate being sick. Even worse it when it’s just ‘the common cold’ because there isn’t anything you can do about it—other than hydrate, eat well, and rest. (Sorry, I don’t buy into the chemically-enhanced ‘cures’ on the market today.)

It started on Saturday. It’s now Monday evening. I think I might be just well enough to make it to the office tomorrow. Though I don’t know if I’ll make it through the entire day.

The worst thing, of course, is that there isn’t anyone here to coddle me. And I want to be coddled.

Oh, how I hate being sick…

Common Cold
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honoured system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne’er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare’s plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

Water, water, everywhere

I had a long, partly mostly tear-filled conversation with a friend today where I went on and on about many of the fears and uncertainties that I’m facing as I start looking toward my future. And he commented about how I need to stop looking at the glass as half empty and start looking at it as half full.*

I think I’ve been a glass half full person my entire life. And at times, my glass has been overflowing—like throughout my years with Paul. But when Paul died, that glass shattered and all the water drained out. And there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it.

But I’ve been given a new glass and it’s been filling up very, very slowly. Drip by drip the water is adding up. I’ll admit that sometimes a bit evaporates away, but it’s always replaced and the water line continues to rise.

So you know what? My glass is half full. Sadly, some of that water is my tears. But sometimes, you have to shed a few tears to help fill the glass I suppose.

I know that I seem sad and hopeless at times, but I’ve never given up hope. I’m too stubborn to give up on hope. But, yes, I am sad quite often. I’m sad beyond words at times. But I still hold onto my hope for a brighter future because I know it’s there.

And those tears will add up over time and they’ll eventually fill my glass so much that it’s no longer half full but is overflowing. You see, I have to go through this sadness. There is no way around it. It’s part of grief. It’s part of the human condition. But I’m bound and determined that those tears not be shed in vain. No, those tears are going to help me through it all.

And when most of the tears have dried, there will be enough water to have several glasses that are half full. Glasses that I can share with my friends when all they can find are the half empty ones. Because those glasses aren’t as nice as the half full ones.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

[Excerpt]
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

* This isn’t to say that my friend cast aside my feelings and fears as if he didn’t care. He was just trying to remind me that, actually, my glass is half full. And he’s right. And it’s friends like him who help to keep it from tipping over and emptying out!

Trees

Just for you, some pretty trees that I drew this evening. Yay!

Trees
by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

A-Z poetry (Hey! That rhymes!)

Today’s writing lesson was an A-Z poem where the first letter of each line forms the alphabet in alphabetical order. It was a bit challenging because I often use these writing assignments to reflect on my emotions rather than just silliness, but I do love a good challenge! So, without further ado…

A-Z Poetry
by Just Frances

A long time ago
Back in my past
Cares were light-hearted
Dreams were big

Everything was simple then
Fears were hidden then
Great expectations were in front of me then
Hopes were greater then

I laughed
Just to laugh
Kisses were tender
Love was enough to see me through

My life has changed since then
Now it seems less idyllic

Obstacles seem more challenging
Perseverance seems too hard
Quitting isn’t an option though
Realizing a new future is the only way

Standing still won’t get me there
Through this hell is the only way out
Upon this journey I will one day reflect
Very difficult as it may be

Widowhood has changed my disposition
Xanthippe-type traits appear when least expected
Yet still I believe
Zen feelings will return to my being

A shape haiku

As I work toward my goal of publishing a book I’ve found myself spending a lot of time re-learning different forms of poetry. Added to that, I’ve found that forcing myself to put thoughts in to a predetermined form is helpful as I try to identify my emotions. And blah, blah, blah…

So today I was researching shape poems and all of the sudden my brain jumped to the idea of a sort of shape-haiku mix thing. (Please don’t ask how I jumped from one to another. It’s confusing enough as it is!) But here’s the result: A (sort of) shaped poem with each line increasing then decreasing in syllables from 1 to 10 to 1 again. (Did you follow that?) 

From fear to hope
by Just Frances 

Fear
Sadness
I live them
But still, I smile

I try to forget
I try to remember

I try to re-live the joy
I try to re-live the laughter

There will be times when I want to cry
Times I want to hide away from the world
There will also be times when I laugh

I strive to find peace in my world
Sometimes it’s all a show

But I strive be happy
So this is my life

And I’ll live it
Full of joy
Laughter
Hope

My favourite things

As part of my effort to take back my lunch time, I’ve spent today’s lunch break composing a little ditty on my laptop just for my awesome readers; who are also some of my favourite things. (Yay! for awesome readers! And yay! for reclaimed lunch breaks. And yay! for whatever else you want to celebrate today!)

My favourite things
as interpreted by Just Frances*

Shiny new gadgets and hooker-red nails
Cool vintage handbags that come in the mail
Pretty red sports cars and fun silver rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Movies with mobsters and friends who are so dear
Martinis and pizza and pretzels and good beer
Acting quite silly and playing on swings
These are a few of my favourite things

Books about grammar and good punctuation
Laughing and smiling and Scotland vacations
Songs that are happy, that I like to sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the clouds come
When the tears sting
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

• • • • •

[NOTE: Apparently, my laptop is still set to UK English (not proper American English) from working on school application stuff and has therefore insisted that I have favourite things, not favorite things. And I’m totally OK with that!]

* I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but this is to be sung in the tune of “My Favourite Things”. If you need a reminder, here’s a link to a rendition by Pomplamoose. Yay!

I asked

I asked
by Just Frances

I asked the grass why it was green;
And it smiled and said just because.

I asked the sky why it was blue;
And it winked secretively.

I asked the wind why it was so fierce;
And it tapped its nose knowingly.

I asked the sun to warm me;
And it did; with passion.

I asked the moon to light my way;
And it did; and the stars joined in.

I asked the oceans why they lapped at the shore;
And they laughed with joy at my curiosity.

I asked myself why I was here;
And the earth sang a song of peace.

The eyes of the heavens glistened.
The joyful tears of the angels above poured onto the land.

And I kept quiet.
And everything was perfect.

Hump day haikus

The Squeen, in her most noble and wise ways, has declared that: “Wednesdays, today and forthwith and here-on-after, are haiku Wednesdays.” I’ve thought about posting random things related to haikus (including actually writing my own) in the past but haven’t actually done it. And so now, by royal proclamation, I feel it’s time I address the issue.

I have a love-hate relationship with haikus. I love that it forces the writer to think in a pre-defined pattern, but I hate that school teachers throughout the western world (unintentionally?) don’t explain what that pattern is. As a child I was simply told that a haiku is a three-line poem consisting of a first line with five syllables, a second line with seven syllables, then a third line with five syllables again.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to contain 17 moras (in the 5/7/5 format) which are not really the same as syllables. Now, I will admit that in the English language we rarely discuss sentence structure in terms of moras, but I feel that this is something that should still be brought to the attention of young minds.

Another thing I love about haikus is the seemingly obscure connections between lines. They are vague and sometimes challenging—especially to young school children. I remember being told to write a haiku (with three lines of 5/7/5) that told a short story or gave a description of some random object of my choice. Which was fun because it was a bit challenging to pick just the right words to get the 17 syllable cap right.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to consist of a seasonal reference (a kigo) and a cutting word (a kireji). It is true that the English language doesn’t have a direct equivalent to the latter, but that doesn’t seem like a fair reason to not at least explain this difference.

I guess that my love is that haikus are fun and challenging (yes, I find challenging to be fun).

And I guess that my hate is that while western school teachers seem keen to explain that haikus are a form of Japanese poetry, often combining the writing lesson with a lesson in traditional Japanese art form such as gyotaku (fish painting, basically), they neglect to fully give the lesson in how true Japanese haikus are formed.

I suppose that I wish I’d been given the full lesson as a child, which could have included how haikus in English evolved and are their own writing form—distinct from what’s found in Japan but certainly rooted in the culture and history of the original haikus.

But maybe when you were taught about haikus, your teacher went into all of this with you and so you’re at a loss to why I’m whining. And that’s OK.

Anyhow, as a reward for reading this far, here are the two haikus that I wrote today by orders of The Squeen as part of my silliness course, which are meant to address items in my medicine cabinet, which is more of a drawer than a cabinet, but let’s not split hairs…

Fall is in the air
Wood smoke making my eyes dry
Ah,
Visine, my friend

Summer is fading
Factor thirty nearly gone
Cat Crap is ready

And here’s a bonus one just for Just Frances readers:

Autumn is awesome
And Just Frances is awesome
And her readers, too

Lessons of a new foster mommy; Part 1

It’s been nearly three weeks since the kid arrived and there’ve been loads of little lessons learned.

Here’s today’s lesson:
When you have a new foster placement, check through everything to ensure that there are not items that need to be returned to others.

When she arrived we unpacked her belongings together. But at 11 years old, I gave the little dear a bit more responsibility for putting her stuff away. I went through the bags and boxes then piled like stuff together and had her arrange her room. (She did a wonderful job.) I was pleased to see that she had so many books, despite the fact that they were anime. But reading is reading. (Well, not really but she also reads proper books, so I’m not going to cringe over the comic obsession.)

Anyhow… It wasn’t until Tuesday night that I really went through her books. Which is when I noticed that a large portion of them were from the public library. And they were overdue. Several months overdue.  

Over lunch today, I popped into the library to return the books and learned that there had also been several DVDs checked out at the same time – all but one of which had been returned, but there were overdue fines on them as well as a charge for the lost DVD. Add that to the overdue fees for the stack of books I returned and the total monetary damage is $190. OUCH!

I must say that I’m a bit disappointed that the books were not returned by the caregiver who authorized her to check them out, but not knowing the full story, I have to imagine that 1) said caregiver didn’t know the books were checked out or 2) said caregiver let the next caregiver or social worker know that the books were due at a certain time and that information got lost in the chaos/excitement of a move.

But, ultimately, it was my responsibility to check her books when she first arrived in my home. (That said, the fines would have been about the same even if I returned the books the day after the kid arrived.) And, of course, it was her responsibility to return items borrowed from the library in the first instance.

Lesson learned. Very expensive lesson learned*.

Overdues
Shel Silverstein

What do I do?
What do I do?
This library book is 42
Years overdue.
I admit that it’s mine
But I can’t pay the fine–
Should I turn it in
Or hide it again?
What do I do?
What do I do?

* In fairness to the expensive lesson, they’ve reduced the fees and fines to about $100 and I might be able to replace the DVD on my own which will take that charge alone from $60 to whatever the cost of the DVD is on Amazon.com. [Fine reduction updated from $80 to $100 because I did the math wrong the first time. Big surprise!]

I wish I had

I wish I had
by Just Frances

I wish I had the courage
to say what I want to say;
I wish I had the self-confidence
to know that it’s OK to say it.

I wish I had a window to the future;
I wish I had a magic wand
to make all my wishes come true.

I wish I had the courage
to do what I want to do;
I wish I had the self-confidence
to know that it’s OK to do it.

I wish I had a window to the future;
I wish I had a magic wand
to make all my wishes come true.

Ode to the Beach House

An Ode to the Beach House
by Just Frances

Oh Beach House, Beach House
Your lovely views of the Columbia River gorge entice my senses

Oh Beach House, Beach House
The serenity you offer brings joy to my heart

Oh Beach House, Beach House …

Right, this is silly. Who has time to write silly poems and stuff when the river floats are inflated, the skies are blue, and the girls are ready to hit the water?

Yay for Girls’ Weekend at the Beach House.

Fear is a silly thing

I posted a while back about “I AM” poems, and how I like to re-write mine from time-to-time because it helps me to reflect on my world. There are a dozen or so other poem templates that I like to use for personal reflections, too. For some reason, I felt the need to re-address fear today. And since I’m certain my public is eager to know my thoughts on the matter, I’m sharing it with you here! (Stay tuned for more template poems, or take the time to fill in your own!)

Fear is a silly thing
by Just Frances

Scale the wall.

Fear is not enough to keep you from your dreams.
Fear is a silly thing.

Scale the wall.

Fear is only an obstacle if you allow it to be.
Fear is a force to be conquered.

Scale the wall.

Fear is not as strong as your determination.
Fear is a silly thing. 

Scale the wall.

Fear is a manifestation of uncertainly.

Managed by courage.
Conquered by determination.

Hope lies on the other side
Ready to embrace and support
Life’s eternal goodness.

Whatifs

Whatifs are terrible little things. They hold us back from doing all of the important things in life. They feed on fear and worry and self-doubt. But Whatifs are silly and inconsequential things; they are a manifestation of our insecurities from the dark depths of our imaginations.

I know that. You know that. The whole world knows that. But still, those little Whatifs seem to hold an amazing amount of power over us. I think one of the biggest problems with Whatifs is that they prevent you from accomplishing all of those little tasks that would bring you a step closer to finding out if those Whatifs are real or imaginary.

I have a list of fears a mile long, all starting with Whatifs.

Whatif I apply to school and don’t get in? Whatif I go to school and fail? Whatif I am stuck where I am forever? Whatif I’m all alone for the rest of my life? Whatif I get lost and can’t find my way? Whatif I don’t have any money? Whatif I…

I know I’ll never know until I try. I know that I’ll never succeed if I let the Whatifs get in the way. I know the Whatifs will only multiply if I listen to them. But sometimes, they scream so loud that I can’t ignore them!

Maybe tonight’s bedtime reading should be The Little Engine Who Could

Whatif
by Shel Silverstein
from the book A Light in the Attic (1981)

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

To be blissfully happy

Sometimes I need to be reminded of my ultimate goal in life: To be blissfully happy. On those days, I reflect on one of my favorite poems, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann. His words are truly inspirational to me. I look forward to the day when joy and happiness come as easily as breathing again…

Desiderata
by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I am

“I AM” is a poetry lesson often taught at the grade school level. It is sort of like Mad Libs, but with a slightly more serious slant. (Though I know a few teachers who have their pupils write outlandishly silly poems with the template to foster creativity and imagination.) Anyhow, I like to re-write my “I AM” poem every-so-often because my mood and my environment dictates the outcome and I find it to be a good exercise in personal reflection. Blah, blah, blah…

Here’s my most recent re-write:

I AM
by Just Frances

I am courageous and strong.
I wonder what the future holds for me.
I hear the laughter of happy memories.
I see goodness in the hearts and souls of others.
I want to be blissfully happy.
I am courageous and strong.

I pretend to be happy even when I’m not.
I feel sadness and joy at the same time.
I touch the stars.
I worry that I will be lonely forever.
I cry when I think of the future I once dreamed of.
I am courageous and strong.

I understand the pain of a broken heart.
I say the world is still a beautiful place.
I dream of a happy future.
I try to find a bit of joy each day.
I hope that the joy will one day overshadow the sorrow.
I am courageous and strong.

Lenten obligations

Lent is a funny little ‘season’ in modern society. Each year people around the globe begin to talk about what they’ll give up for those 40-some days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Conversations about what is meant to be a spiritual quest for believers sound more like mini New Year’s resolutions. People who rarely – if ever – step foot into a church begin to talk about their weight loss goals or about giving up booze, caffeine, cigars, video games, or social networking sites. Seldom do I hear people talk about the true essence of the penitential season meant for the preparation for Easter.

Now, this isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to abstain from whatever vice they chose. It’s not even to say that only Christians are allowed to participate in the Lenten season. It is merely an observation from someone who (mostly) tries to follow through with the thought that Lent is a time to strengthen your relationship with God, with your own being, and with your neighbors. In more basic terms, Lent is about baptism – the preparation for baptism and for renewing baptismal commitments.

The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. (For more information: http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/faq.php)

Often people think of Lent as a time of needing to make a sacrifice (hence abstaining from favored vices) though it can also be a time of taking on a faith-based task – a burden, if you will.

Over the past several weeks I’ve thought long and hard about what I could do to prepare for Easter. What spiritual task could I take on? What burden could I accept as a way of bringing myself closer to my God? I’ve gone back and forth on this issue countless times and what I’ve realized is that since losing Paul not even a full year ago, my soul and my heart already feel so burdened and I just can’t imagine taking on anything more.

But my faith and my desire to find some spiritual guidance won’t allow me to use Paul as an excuse to absolve myself from my religious obligations. I’ve also noticed that while I’ve not lost my faith in the past 10 months, I have lost my passion for my faith. And so, I’ve decided that I will bring passion back to my life for the Lenten season. I will pick up my battered copy of the bible once again and try to find a bit of solace in it each day. As I struggle through the daily process of grieving for Paul, I will turn once again to my faith to help me through. And I hope that by Easter Sunday I will have found a little more peace in my world; a little more acceptance for my loss; and a greater connection with my God.

While I go through this journey, you may find me posting a little more about my faith. (Have I mentioned yet that I’m Catholic?) I hope that you’ll respect my right to freedom of religion, as I respect yours; and while I realize that for many of my non-Christian friends it may be a bit uncomfortable to read about my faith journey, I hope that you’ll stick with me, because while my faith helps to defines me, it won’t be the main player in this blog.

And for those who are looking at last-minute Lenten obligations, here is a little something to ponder:

A Lenten Reflection
Give up complaining – focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism – become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments – think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry – trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement – be full of hope.
Give up bitterness – turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred – return good for evil.
Give up negativism – be positive.
Give up anger – be more patient.
Give up pettiness – become mature.
Give up gloom – enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy – pray for trust.
Give up gossiping – control your tongue.
Give up sin – turn to virtue.
Give up giving up – hang in there!

~ Unknown author

Music to my ears

I bought an iPod Classic in October because I was feeling down and shiny things normally cheer me up. I had it engraved with the last line from one of my favorite poems, Desiderata (by Max Ehrmann).

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Anyhow, the iPod will hold up to 40,000 songs and my goal is to fill it up. Well, today I noticed that I am at 10 percent capacity! How fantastic is that?

There are a total of 435 albums representing 24 genres. The top three genres are rock (102), alternative – which I define to include all new age and ska (76), and country (35).

I will slowly start working to digitalize (is that a word?) my vinyl collection (and my folks’ collection) which will certainly add to the number of rock albums and may even bring my jazz collection into a running for #3. (Now, if I would classify bluegrass, big band, jazz, and swing into one genre, it would certainly take the #2 spot – if not top billing.)

In addition to my amazingly eclectic music collection (Which, did I mention includes three albums from the Cle Elum Roslyn Elementary School’s Marimba band?) I have 416 Podcasts waiting to be listened to. They include 241 English language and grammar tips and lessons; 143 Scots Gaelic modules (I’ve been trying to learn for more than 10 years now); and 14 episodes of Johnathan Ross’ radio show. Yes, I really must get caught up!

I’m assuming you care about these little details of my life or you wouldn’t still be reading…