What Is Life

Almost a month ago, I spent my last night in Omaha.

Most of my things were moved already, and all that remained were a few odds and ends, and my furniture.

The morning of the big move, I was seriously anxious. What was going to go wrong? What was going to get broken? What if this happens? What if that happens? I was also very emotional, even though I tried my hardest not to be.

My parents showed up to say goodbye; mom was a bit weepy and, of course, my dad says the things I always need to hear: I am worthy, I deserve everything I want, I can do anything I want to do, and I am loved. So, there went the tears. My brother showed up a bit later and stayed with me until just before I hit the road. He helped calm me down and let me know on his way out how well the moving truck was being packed. Phew.

The drive up here went by quickly and slowly at the same time. I got caught in five o’clock traffic just two miles from my exit and I was absolutely livid. I just wanted to be there!

That evening, and the week after, are a total blur of unpacking, buying shelving units and other fun IKEA things, building said things, hanging photos, organizing the kitchen, organizing the closets, etc. Oh, and sleeping poorly because one huge window in our bedroom was missing blinds. Waking with the sun every morning, regardless of when I went to sleep the night before, was aggravating as hell. And didn’t really restore me for a new day of work.

By the next week, we were already looking at puppies to adopt. I got Andrew caught up in the search and essentially all of our texts consisted of puppy photos all day. We knew we wanted a bigger dog and we wanted to adopt a rescue. In looking at the adoption process, I got discouraged. An application, an interview, references, a meeting, a home visit?! Jesus Christ, are we adopting a child? Applying for a government job? I had no idea it was so thorough and difficult. I understood and completely support the method behind the madness, but for those of us normal, decent human beings who aren’t going to chain the dog up outside 24/7… ugh.

We ended up applying for a dog that we totally fell in love with and then got denied because another couple was ahead of us in the process. Then we applied for a couple more and the same thing happened. At this point, I’m going, Jesus Christ, I’d almost rather pay double to just get one from a pet shop. But instead, we applied for a few more.

Finally (I say, finally; it was probably like, within a couple days), we got invited to go meet one of the puppies. He was adorable and cuddly and I think Andrew was pretty goddamn set on him. We fell asleep that night discussing ridiculous names, such as: Sterling The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers versus The University of Iowa Hawkeyes… [last name].

We communicated to the foster mom and the lady from the shelter that we indeed wanted this little pup… and then we never heard anything from the shelter.

Then, in true things-happen-for-a-reason fashion, the day I was bitching about the lack of communication and consideration, I got a call from another foster mom about another puppy we’d applied for. Apparently the people who wanted her were having trouble coming up with the adoption fee (red flag, much?), so if we want her, she’s ours.

I think this was a Wednesday. We set up a meeting for Friday, we filmed a home video (in lieu of a home visit) Thursday, we drove an hour to meet her Friday, and that night, we brought her home.

Meet Olive Adventure (and insert heart-eyes emoji):
Olive Adventure

She’s a (now) nine-week old Shepherd Mix. We aren’t sure what she’s mixed with, but we’re pretty sure that it’s a wirehair of some kind. She’s a joy and a laugh and a little shit and a snuggler and a whiner and so sociable and sweet. She’s super outgoing; she’ll go up to anyone and any dog. She wants to play with everyone. She doesn’t like being hot and will whine (kinda like me) and she has recently started fording the stream in the park across the street.
Olive in the stream

Andrew and I are now ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy’ and we’re just totally in love. (Cue: ‘awww’)

We’ve had her a week and a half now and, well, she’s exhausting. ‘Daddy’ is at work five days a week, so ‘mommy’ has to do the most potty breaks and cleaning up accidents and trying to get her to stop biting or chewing on absolutely everything. Not to mention, she’s up with Andrew when he gets up for work (somewhere in the neighborhood of 6am). So yeah, I’m getting a spa afternoon on Thursday lol

Adding to the frustration, I’m getting paranoid about my dwindling savings, so I’ve resumed the job hunt… again. I’m being fairly goddamn picky because I just am, but I want it to be within walking distance (which isn’t a huge ask, seeing as we’re downtown), part-time so I can be home with bb most of the time, and not a receptionist or food service job. Actually, what I’d really like to do is some writing from home. If only I could get myself to finish that ‘novel’ I started.

I’ve also resumed the fitness journey. Buzzfeed posted that circuit workout a couple weeks ago and I’m on the third week today. You’re supposed to up the weight each week; I started with 10lb dumbbells. Because the tiny rec in my building didn’t have 12s, I had to go straight to 15s… And to be consistent, I need to use 20s tonight. I’m a tad nervous I won’t be able to do it all, because I also have to up the reps by two. I don’t know how much physical change I’ll see in two more weeks, and I haven’t weighed myself because fuck the scale, but who knows. I’ll prob just keep going with it and eventually be curling 50s LOL

Anyway, I love Saint Paul. I keep saying it’s like Omaha and London had a baby because it really does feel like home and the city I adore. Our apartment is brilliantly located a block from the train and ten meters from the park, a few blocks from the river and a half-mile from Starbucks (win). There are a bunch of microbreweries and awesome restaurants within walking distance and anything else is on the trainline. I probably came up here with 6100 miles on my car, and I noticed the odometer read 6171 today. So, about seventy miles in almost a month? Not fucking bad.

The only driving I do now is to the chiropractor, which is still only about seven miles away. It’s a different technique than I was getting in Omaha, but apparently, this is the next step in my treatment that makes the most sense. Here’s to hoping I get back to 100% after a couple months of this. I got really emotional when I had my consultation with the new bonebreak. It just dredges up all of the accident memories and memories of all the pain. It’s almost been a year and I’m still dealing with everything. Thank God for Andrew, seriously. What a loving, caring, thoughtful support system I have. I’m embarrassingly lucky to have him. And my family, holy shit.

Tell me, what is my life without your love? Tell me, who am I without you by my side?

When You Walk Through My Door, You’ll Be Home

When I moved into this apartment, I planned on being here for quite a while. I spent a lot of time applying for over 300 jobs outside of the Midwest and finally accepted the fact that I just wasn’t going anywhere at the moment. Hence, starting Far From Everything Films, LLC with Jennifer, and basing it out of Nebraska.

When I had spent two and half years being single, I planned on being that way for quite a while. I mean, I didn’t have a job-job, I don’t like bar-hopping, I’m anti-social; where the hell was I going to meet somebody? Hence, downloading Tinder.

When I started talking to Andrew, I really just knew that was it.

When he told me he may be transferred to Minnesota, I knew I wanted to go with him.

When he officially got the job and asked me if I wanted to move when my lease was up, I said, ‘yes.’

Today, we officially signed the lease. So, by the end of May, I will have become a Minnesota resident. 🙂

Enough Doors: A Short Story by Nina Friis

Graham knew when he found the house. He knew. He just knew.

Actually, he’d found some sort of house. Some sort of dwelling.

It was a tiny, brick building built into the hillside. He’d practically run into it after struggling out of the ravine.

It was empty. Of inhabitants, anyway. There was a table and stool, some ratty shirts hanging in the open closet, odds and ends and cobwebs everywhere else. He couldn’t see much through the rain-stained, dusty window.

He tried the door. It wasn’t much of a door. It was thick plywood with a lock. No lintel. And no budging it.

There was a garage door. Strange, he thought. That wouldn’t budge either.

He could break it down; he could break it all down. It was a pile of rubbish.

He looked through the window again. This time, he saw one of the shirts rustling in the closet. There must be a breeze coming through the other side.

Graham squinted as he remembered there was no other side. He worried his bottom lip and pushed back from the window. Narrowly missing the railroad tie behind him, he walked up the grass by the side of the house.

He couldn’t quite tell, but nestled among the trees, there appeared to be a large, dark metal shed.

Another locked door and another locked garage door. No windows to peer through this time.

Beside the shed was a gravel road lined with trees. Perhaps he’d found the driveway.

The gravel road led directly to another shed. White. Wooden. The door wedged closed with a log.

The log was easy enough to twist and roll off of the door. It slipped against the worn timber and clunked to the ground.

Graham instinctually looked around, but knew he wouldn’t have roused anyone in the vicinity. There was no one in the vicinity.

He fed his fingers through the opening of the door and pulled it open. After only a few inches, it got caught up on some rocks, the rocks acting like a foyer runner, hindering the door’s ability.

Kicking the rocks away, he was able to incrementally shove the door further and further open.

He coughed on the God-knows-how-many-year’s-worth-of dust and waved his hand in front of his face.

Until now, he’d made his way by what little sight he had and by feel. Now, inside this shed, he fished his mobile out of his pocket.

Graham flicked on the phone’s flashlight with his thumb. He swept the light back and forth slowly, waiting for a reflection of something, anything.

He raised the phone over his head to see into the rafters. Only planks of wood. A few belts, maybe for an old tractor.

He heard the door scrape across the rocks behind him. Fight or flight kicked in immediately, but as soon as he made to face either certain death or certain arrest, the door had stopped moving and remained propped mostly open.

With his heart rate sped up, he decided the shed wasn’t haunted, nor was it worth a heart attack. He gingerly pressed his fingertips to the door, expecting some sort of resistance. It required little at all, in fact, as he exited the old shed.

He looked down at the rocks and noticed that they seemed less rucked up like a rug and more smoothed away. Well, he did that, right? When he had to get the door open in the first place. Yeah. That’s right.

Graham took a deep breath and looked up at the giant Christmas trees that met him. His mobile flashlight was still in use, so he shined it at the tall pines.

It looked like a balcony had been built out of the top of one of them. Clearly not right.

That’s when there was a glint off of some glass.

Lots of glass.

Holy shit, there’s an actual house on this property.

He walked around to the wooden deck behind the trees. It was attached to a two-story house.

He couldn’t see a door, so he walked to his right, following the edge of the concrete foundation.

In the darkness, he could make out the length of an exterior wall that met another wall perpendicularly.

A few steps further revealed another jut of a wing and another deck. The house seemed to wrap around him as he got closer.

Graham turned off his flashlight and followed the line of the house, nearly running straight into an air conditioning unit and then even more nearly off of a retaining wall.

Below the retaining wall was a landing and a door. It was a double-wide door with no window.

This couldn’t be a house. Maybe a business. But the sheds… no, this had to be a house.

Past the door, he came up against the other wing of the house and felt his way along until he reached a corner.

He was under the other deck now, and on yet another landing, there was yet another door. This door was mostly glass, but had the blinds drawn tight.

He dumbly tried the handle. Locked, of course.

To his right, he followed the concrete landing with his eyes and made out the ridge of a step. He peered around the corner to find a winding trail of concrete stairs and an overgrown sidewalk.

He got out his flashlight again and trained it on his path.

It was a low-grade staircase, but fighting the long-dead hostas was treacherous, even with light.

About halfway up, the concrete disappeared altogether. It was completely littered with fallen branches and twigs.

Graham crouched to hold his phone closer to the ground. He walked with flat feet over the limbs, correcting here and there to maintain balance.

Finally out of the thicket, he began to straighten back up. He stretched his back and rolled his shoulders. How long had he been hunched over?

He twisted round and shone the flashlight down the path, seeing only a few steps and then the corner of the house.

It couldn’t be. It looked only about ten meters away.

“Bullshit,” he said aloud to no one, and looked down at the ground in preparation to head back. He had to check again, this time without being so careful.

He was about to take his first step toward verification when he felt a whoosh in front of his face.

He jumped back just as the branch hit the ground loudly.

He looked up, like there was someone up there to yell at about it.

Not wanting to test his luck, he turned around and continued up the path.

Rounding the corner, he ducked beneath the low branches of rotten fruit tree.

River rocks skittered across the sidewalk as he stepped free. He moved his phone to light his surroundings. He seemed to be standing in a yard now. A front yard. Yes, there was an actual driveway past a tree.

This was definitely a house.

Graham followed the rest of the sidewalk that ran in front of it.

It passed a bank of two windows jutting from the siding. Must be a windowseat.

The sidewalk curved around some overgrown landscaping and ended with two names written by finger in the wet cement, long-since dried.

Just past the names was a step to a porch.

Shining his light up at the front door, he noticed an official-looking piece of paper affixed behind the glass.

He stepped up onto the porch and reached for the door handle. Locked, naturally.

He held the light up above the paper and read: VACANT. PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO TRESPASSING. LAST INSPECTION: 05/2012.

There was a list of previous inspection dates, like the ones you find in restaurant bathrooms.

It either hadn’t been inspected in over two years, or the inspectors have neglected to mark the sheet.

He expected the former.

Graham looked behind him at the driveway. It was a long driveway. Leading up to a bend in the road: a road that looked as abandoned as the house.

He walked the length of the porch and came to another bank of windows. Another windowseat.

He cupped his hands around his eyes and leant up to the glass.

There was hardly any visibility, of course. And nothing to see, anyway. Some bits of packing materials strewn about on the dark carpet, light tile in the entryway, French doors leading to another room.

He straightened up. There was a step down to the garage door.

He saw a keypad on the door frame. He punched a few buttons and hit the pound key. It beeped at him, but nothing else happened. He knew nothing would.

He turned around and looked at the flat expanse of the driveway before him. An almost-burnt-out streetlight hummed near the end. A lot of help that was providing.

He looked to his left and saw what looked like yet another sidewalk leading around the house.

Graham kept his flashlight in front of him as he went around the corner. He swept the light around and found, “Jesus Christ,” another shed.

He kept walking, ignoring the millionth shed, until he had to round another corner to, “fucking hell,” another deck.

Shaking his head, he took the first step up. The unused wood groaned under his foot.

He paused, one foot on the step and the other just with the toe of his shoe grazing the ground. Slowly, he straightened his leg and brought his other foot to the next step.

Testing it with two heavy presses, he determined that it was sound and hopped quickly up the next two to the top.

He let out a sigh of relief and found a sliding glass door ahead of him. He checked it.

Locked.

He tried to get a good look through it, but there were thick blinds blocking his view.

He stepped back and walked to the end of the deck. There was a built-in bench that went all the way around. He knelt on it and looked out into the darkness.

He could see the large, metal shed he passed earlier. He thought about it; it seemed like ages ago.

He stood up and sighed. Maybe there’s something interesting in the new shed.

As he turned around, he moved his light to relocate the stairs. As the light passed the glass door, he spotted movement: the blinds were swaying gently.

Graham stared at the blinds moving on their own. Or what must be on their own, because, well, the house is vacant. Or should be.

He stayed frozen there on the deck, light fixed on the blinds, wondering again if he was facing certain death or certain arrest. Or certain insanity.

Finally, he decided that he should probably run. Just in case.

He kept his eyes on the blinds until he shifted the flashlight back toward the stairs for a quick getaway.

This is when he found yet. another. door.

He gaped at it. Just how many goddamn doors and decks and sheds does this property have.

He told himself that everything is locked. It doesn’t matter. He just needs to go. He’s been lucky so far and his luck won’t last forever. He should go.

After he tries this last door.

Graham decided not to take a last glance over at the blinds and just head straight for the door.

Which opened for him.

He stumbled into a pressing darkness. He saw the tiniest sliver of light ahead of him. He was in the garage.

He searched with his phone and found nothing but empty shelves.

And, expectedly, another door.

This one had to be open. Suddenly, his faith was in success and not failure.

He reached out and grasped the handle. He shone his light at the door and a compact, white box caught his eye.

It was a burglar alarm.

Shit.

There was a little, green light that said, READY.

He lit the box directly and saw that there was a light over the word ARMED that was not glowing.

He worried his top lip, for variety’s sake. If the alarm is hooked up, he can just run right back out the door and back into the woods.

If it’s not, well.

Graham took a deep breath and twisted the doorknob.

It went willingly with his hand.

He hesitated before pushing it open.

Moment of truth.

He let out the held breath and took in another.

He gathered potential energy in his arm and mentally counted to three.

On three, he shoved the door open and jumped back off the step.

There was a momentary panic as he heard a loud, rapid beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

And then it was silent.

Five beeps. That couldn’t have been the alarm.

He waited a full minute, straining his ears to hear God-knows-what.

And heard nothing.

He realized he’d been breathing incredibly shallowly and took a few relieving gulps of air.

He rolled his eyes at himself and stepped back to the door to the house.

He crossed the threshold and then froze.

It was pitch black.

When I Think of Home

I had a dream the other night that I was traveling to London. 

For whatever reason, I had upwards of six hours between flights and was apparently close enough to home that I could go there on my layover.

As in all dreams where I’m ‘home,’ I’m home. On North Post Road. Where I grew up. Where I spent twenty-two years of my life. 

My room was in a bit of disarray, so I decided to rearrange it. I had two loveseats to put in there now, God knows why. I moved my bed over by my windowseat so the couches could fit on the adjacent wall. That must have worn me out, because I laid down to take a nap.

Yep. In my dream, a dream I had while I was sleeping, I laid down to take a nap. And I slept. 

This is how interesting my dream-life is, folks – I fucking sleep. In my dreams. 

Upon awaking from my nap, I look at my watch and it’s 915pm. My flight left at 908pm. Fuck. I’d missed my flight to London. I rushed out into mom’s office and had her get on the computer to look up other flights. She was very lackadaisical about it and really pissed me off. 

What she found were flights with about three or four stops, which would take days to get me to London. (I guess air travel in my dreams is only just worse than it actually is).

I went into the kitchen where dad and Conor were and mom followed me. She and dad stood arm-in-arm as we said goodbye to Conor; he was going on some trip, I guess.

This is what jarred me maybe the most: mom and dad are still married in my dreams, or so it seems.

I woke with a start (in real life, not from my dream-nap). I was stressed out over the missed dream-flight to London and confused because my parents were still married in dream-life. I wondered why, having lived on my own for three years now, why ‘home’ is always home in my dreams.

And it’s always home. 

It’s not like I wake up and think I should be there, confused by my surroundings and all that. It’s more a sense of sadness and loss. It’d be like dreaming of Grammy Fran or my dog, Frisbee, which I did recently. Must have been the Redbeard feels. 

To me, the reason behind it is fairly clear. (Heavy psychoanalysis aside). Home will always be my home. It’s the most engrained in my mind as home and I haven’t felt that sense of ‘being home’ since I moved out. Sure, I’m comfortable in my apartment and I even felt scarily comfortable in London, but… I guess I’m just clinging to the last time I felt whole. And that would be when I was at home and we were all together. 

I can’t remember if I wrote about this in here, or if it was in my physical journal (probably there, because that’s where I keep my more weepy entries), but I was going through old photos and came across all the ones I took of home. I realized how much I miss being there.

How familiar it was. I could walk it in the dark, know exactly where I am or what piece of furniture I was approaching. I thought about being downstairs and wanting the light off – walking over to the doorway and swinging my arm around the corner to hit the switch. Doing the same thing going out the door to the garage – my right arm naturally crossing my body and hitting the garage door opener. There are still so many things.. It’s almost like I can feel my muscles twitching at the chance to perform the memorized motions. 

Then there’s all the times we sat at the table together. I’ll never have another breakfast at that table in that house. Being the last one to make it to the table and sit in my chair on the east side, Conor to my right, mom to my left, and dad across from me. A bowl on the lazy susan, scrambled eggs in it. Toast in the oven on a plate to keep it warm. A plate of bacon to one corner. Frisbee nudging mom’s elbow to get a scrap or to clean the plate. Conor getting up for more milk and dad asking for just ‘half a glass’ more. 

All of it. I can still see all of it. and I ache for it. 

I guess I won’t know that again until I have my own house and family, will I? 

I wonder when I’ll dream of ‘home’ and it will no longer be the home in which I grew up. 

I wonder how I’ll feel when that day comes. 

Twenty-two years is a long time to overwrite. Will it take another twenty-two? 

Part of me hopes so. Part of me never wants to stop dreaming of ‘home’ as home.  

I Need A Walk

Preparing to leave London is like preparing to rip off a part of me.
It sounds stupid because I’ve only been here for three months, but the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been…
I’ve never once been homesick. Because this is home.
And I’m going to do everything I can to get back here.

Consumed

As the titles of this blog and post state – I am consumed. But that’s just poetic for obsessed.

“I awake consumed with thoughts of you¹” sounds much better than “I’m obsessed with you.”

Already off-track.

I’m consumed, or shall we say, passionate about, journaling. I’ve journaled in physical journals since 2001 when I got one for Christmas from a friend. She doesn’t even know what kind of a monster she created. Some day when I write my novel or become a famous blogger, I’ll make sure to send her a royalty check.

Since that first journal, I’ve filled up about 15 of them. I couldn’t have started at a better time, really. In 2001, I was in middle school. Need I say more? Not particularly. I went back and read through every single journal before I started the one on which I’m currently working. Let’s just say that most of the tears were of happiness, but most of the laughter was of embarassment.

What I want to say is that, I am a total rambler as well as procrastinator. Again, needless to say, as it is evident from this post. Does it have a real direction? It’s a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? It could be exciting for you then.

Again I attempt to make my point – but that’s the thing, sometimes I never arrive at one. That’s what’s so free about journaling/blogging: it’s a release of thought, a stream of consciousness that may be neverending. And yet, it’s healing.

I like to think of journaling as a form of talking to myself. I like even more to think of talking to myself as a form of client-centered therapy. I just keep writing, internally urging myself along with implied questions, until finally my hand writes the right thing. That’s what I’m feeling, that’s why I feel this way. It’s like a less dramatic, less exciting form of House’s epiphany or Sherlock’s deduction. Yet, still just as satisfying.

For example, last May, my boyfriend came to me to let me know he was not in love with me, nor did he think he ever wanted to get married or have children. I could see that he was being conscientious, he didn’t want to waste my time because he knew that I wanted to get married and have kids; however, that didn’t make it any less difficult to swallow: I probably would have married him.

A couple months later, I was thinking about it and decided to journal – I had far too many thoughts running through my mind and just needed to put them somewhere else. After writing for ten minutes or so about what I want from love, what I want in a man, what I’ve had, what would make me happy, a wash of intelligibility came over me. I want A, I had B – why am I sad about losing something that wasn’t exactly what I want, maybe even need? Close, but not close enough. In that moment, I went from distress to elation. The obviousness was astounding, but it was like I had never thought of it that way until just then. This is what I want, so I need to focus on getting it. Hello. and duh.

Those are the situations that keep me journaling. Those are the client-centered therapy sessions that I’ll fully endorse. It’s empowering to work through such a personal problem and come out in the sunshine on the other side.

Not everyone gets it, though.

Anyway, consumed. I’m consumed with writing, and I’m also consumed with London. Growing up, I was a fan of most things British/English. The music, the humor, the cars, the people. Finally, I had my chance to visit Mother England. It has been very difficult to describe to people how at-home I felt walking those streets. It was as though I belonged there. So much so, that when I returned home, I was London-sick for about two weeks. I felt out of place in my own apartment, my own hometown. I love Omaha, but London just felt so right.

So right, that I’m in the process of applying for a visitor’s visa to go back for six months (and hopefully longer, serendipity permitting).

Part of the purpose of this blog is to document my experiences with the process. Not so much instructional as reactionary, I think. I’ve filled out the app about 95%, I’m working on getting a letter from my university that states I will continue my education online (which is what I’m doing now), and my next step will be to get a letter from my employer stating my leave of absence (likely) without pay.

My goal is to jump the pond ‘fore the end of May, this year. It’s a bit daunting, but I’m so ready to be there. Every day since I’ve been back, I’ve awoken consumed with thoughts of London, of walking the streets, of exploring, of meeting people, and of embracing the culture. If I had a crush before, it’s a full-blown, soon-to-be-requited love affair now. I wasn’t born there, but I feel it’s where I belong.

This is one thing I will not procrastinate.

¹Napoléon, who wrote to his beloved Joséphine

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