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    Home, sweet Scotland - Mar 3rd, 2010
    We arrived in Scotland yesterday afternoon to bright sunny skies. Our plan had been to spend the day winding up the English coast and stay somewhere on the England/Scotland border so that we could arrive in Scotland first thing this morning, but Scotland must have been calling me home because one England-based plan after another fell through so we just headed toward the border. [more...]

    The North - Mar 1st, 2010
    After a lovely couple of days in Yorkshire, we made the trip to Teesside on Sunday by way of a few small, back-country roads where we were able to see a couple of twee villages and lovely little farm houses as well as the ruins of a fantastic abbey. [more...]

    Finding Joy: February - Feb 28th, 2010
    My 2010 resolution was to find a bit of joy every day. Each day, I thought about the things that bring me joy and posted them on Just Frances where you can share in my joyful things—one month at a time. [more...]

    Yorkshire - Feb 27th, 2010
    I’m well into my second full day in the UK now and while I know I’m just on holiday, I feel as if I’ve come home. I really like how at ease and at peace I feel when I’m here. It’s a feeling I first had a few weeks after moving to Edinburgh and it’s never gone away. I guess it’s true what they say: “Home is where the heart is” and my heart has been here for nearly 10 years now. [more...]

    Go! - Feb 25th, 2010
    And we’re off! Actually, we’ve been on the go for about 10+ hours now and are now waiting in Amsterdam for our connecting flight into Manchester. [more...]

    Get set… - Feb 24th, 2010
    We’re at SeaTac now. We’ve checked in. We’ve gone through security. We’ve checked our gate number. We’re all ready to go… and are just waiting to be told we can. [more...]

    On your mark… - Feb 24th, 2010
    Remember when you were a kid and on Christmas Eve you were so very excited for Santa to arrive that you couldn’t sleep? You’d wish and hope and pray all through Midnight Mass that he’ll have come while you were away. [more...]

    Greener grass - Feb 23rd, 2010
    As I turn on the “Out of Office” reply for my work email, I have to giggle. I’m so excited to be on two weeks’ holiday, but what am I really getting? Two weeks where there will be no work? Two weeks of work that will just vanish from my workload? [more...]

    The problem with Seattle* - Feb 23rd, 2010
    It’s Monday night and I’m busy getting ready for my holidays: Doing laundry; packing; cooking up ‘leftover stew’ with the contents of the fridge to put in the freezer (can’t have spoiled food when I return!); and reassuring Schrodie that I really do love her, despite the fact that I’m abandoning her yet again… [more...]

    Happy birthday to me - Feb 21st, 2010
    Today is my 36th birthday and to celebrate, I’ve opened a bottle of bubbly and I’m feasting on caviar, wild salmon, and Alaskan king crab. The house is empty, save for me and the cat. There is soft jazz playing in the background and I’m admiring the way the light glistens off of the lovely ring I’m wearing; a birthday present I purchased for myself at Macy*s. [more...]

    A day at the spa - Feb 21st, 2010
    I’ve just returned home after enjoying my first-ever spa day. It was pure heaven and I can’t believe that in my nearly 36 years of life I’ve never done it before. In fact, other than haircuts and a couple of years when I had fake nails in my 20s, I never had any treatments at a spa or salon until about two years ago when I got my first facial. [more...]

    Still stitching - Feb 20th, 2010
    I started crocheting this baby blanket last February. I’m still a beginner(ish) hooker and wanted something simple and small to work on while Paul and I traveled to England for a Ryan family reunion. [more...]

    Bag it - Feb 20th, 2010
    It’s a quiet Friday night at home. I’m enjoying a Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen and cleaning my vintage handbag collection. Yes, I am that pathetic! [more...]

    I am - Feb 18th, 2010
    “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.) [more...]

    Vinyl issues - Feb 18th, 2010
    I’ve finally gotten around to my first attempt at digitalizing my vinyl collection. Actually, I’ve started with my parents’ collection, as it’s their fancy-schmancy machine. And can I just say it’s a bit of a bizarre world when dealing with LPs is a confusing and difficult task?! [more...]

    Near fail on day one - Feb 18th, 2010
    Ash Wednesday is a fasting day in the Catholic Church. I’ve spent nearly a week preparing my mind for that fact. [more...]

    Lenten obligations - Feb 17th, 2010
    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. [more...]

    Back to church - Feb 17th, 2010
    Today is Ash Wednesday, and the first time I’ve gone to church since Paul died other than his funeral and memorial service and a wedding. It’s the first time I’ve been able to bring myself to go alone, and it was harder than I thought in some ways; easier in others. [more...]

    Freak of nature - Feb 17th, 2010
    We adopted Schrodie when she was about eight months old. She’d had a hard life and was certainly not your typical cat, but we didn’t want a “typical” cat. [more...]

    Shopping failure - Feb 16th, 2010
    I have an affinity for handbags. Mostly vintage bags that have a unique character and flare to them, but I also enjoy modern-day bags when they are a little different than the every-day look. I also tend to be a little cheap and hate to part with my money. [more...]

    Music to my ears - Feb 16th, 2010
    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). [more...]

    Just Frances - Feb 15th, 2010
    I was born in a hospital (not in a barn, as sometimes questioned by my mom, who should really know!) on February 21, 1974. The third of six daughters, I am “lucky number three” because we all know that the third time’s a charm. [more...]

    Inside jokes - Feb 10th, 2010
    I hear voices in my head most days. I hear these little quips and one-liners; I hear comments and jokes; I hear moans and groans; and if you could count them (which would be a stretch), I ‘hear’ eye rolls and other similar body language. I say “voices” but it’s all just one person I can hear – with varying accents depending on context. [more...]

    Partners in Phun - Feb 8th, 2010
    My nephew, Haden, came out to visit so that we could run the Partners in Pain 5K together. We had a fantastically fun weekend! [more...]

    Nine months - Feb 2nd, 2010
    It dawned on me today that it’s been nine months since I buried Paul. I just don’t know how that’s possible. I still have trouble comprehending how things could go from a happily-ever-after fairytale to horrific nightmare in a flash. No warnings, no time to prepare. It just doesn’t make sense. There are days when I think “I can do this. I can live on my own without Paul and be happy. I can build a new life and it will be good.” Then there are days when I wonder how I can possibly function without him. But I manage, mostly. [more...]

    The struggle of finding joy - Feb 1st, 2010
    My new year’s resolution was simple this year; or so I thought. I resolved to find a bit of joy in each and every day. The idea is that each day I will reflect on what’s happening in my life and in the world around me and pick out the things that bring me joy – no matter how trivial. After a month, I’m finding it to be extremely difficult! [more...]

    Finding Joy: January - Jan 31st, 2010
    My 2010 resolution was to find a bit of joy every day. Each day, I thought about the things that bring me joy and posted them on Just Frances where you can share in my joyful things—one month at a time. [more...]

    Finding the words - Jan 27th, 2010
    I wrote not long ago about finally getting around to making arrangements for Paul’s headstone. At the time, I was maybe a little sad because of the three options I was looking at, I was certain that my first choice would be well out of my price range because it’s so very different from a ‘typical’ headstone in the region – maybe in the nation. With that knowledge, I began to think of the words that would go on the second and third choice stones, both of which would have given me more space than the first choice. [more...]

    Fannying Around - Jan 25th, 2010
    It was the inaugural “Freeze Your Fanny, Scrabble Showdown, and Burns’ Supper Extravaganza” at the Ryan house! [more...]

    Unscented memories - Jan 25th, 2010
    Science has proven time and time again that scents are the biggest human memory triggers. Of course, most of us don’t need to read boring articles in scientific journals to know this to be true because we experience it so often. What I’ve recently learned though is that ‘unscented’ can trigger memories, too. [more...]

    Carrying on - Jan 18th, 2010
    The last few days have been bitter-sweet for me. I’m trying to move forward with life; trying to continue doing all of the things I used to enjoy. And in some ways, I’m very happy to be continuing but I’m so very sad at the same time. [more...]

    Soothing words - Jan 14th, 2010
    In the hours and days after Paul died I received countless emails, Facebook messages, and sympathy cards. Everywhere I went I was bombarded with the most inane and superficial platitudes. “Time heals all wounds.” “At least he didn’t suffer.” “You’re young; you can start over.” “There will be better days.” “He’s still here with you.” The list goes on. [more...]

    Family-in-laws - Jan 6th, 2010
    I spend a lot of time here complaining about things that I find upsetting and frustrating, but there are many things that I find comforting and joyful, and some of those things have really helped me to make it through these past months with at least a shred of sanity remaining. Funny, the most comforting of those things is the thing that so many people complain so loudly about: The In-Laws! [more...]

    Emergency contacts - Jan 4th, 2010
    I had my first doctor visit of the new year today as a follow-up after becoming quite ill on Christmas day. Sadly, a new year means new paperwork. And new paperwork means new answers to old questions. And new answers mean new realizations. It was inevitable, I suppose, that those simple check-boxes would bring tears. [more...]

    Facing 2010 boldly, with a side of tears - Jan 1st, 2010
    It’s the first new year of this new life and I wish I knew what it had in store for me. For possibly the first time in my life, I don’t have something to dream for in the coming year. I don’t have that anchor point that says “2010 is going to be a great year because [fill in the blank].” And for the first time in nearly eight years, I don’t have someone to share the year’s daily adventures with. [more...]

    Christmas tears - Dec 26th, 2009
    Several weeks ago I decided that the best way to deal with Christmas was to avoid it. I figured that if I treated it as a normal day it would feel like a normal day. So I didn’t decorate the house or send Christmas cards. I didn’t play Christmas music or attend Christmas-themed events. And the plan worked – for a while. [more...]

    Stone crosses - Dec 21st, 2009
    For nearly eight months I’ve been putting off ordering a headstone for Paul. Even after I knew what I wanted, I still couldn’t bring myself to start the process of ordering something. I hoped that at some point, I would just feel ready to face the task, and planned to wait until then. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point during my trip to the UK, I knew it was finally time to make the call. [more...]

    Being selfish - Dec 16th, 2009
    Before I met Paul, I was one of those habitually single people and quite happy that way. I did what I wanted when I wanted. I never had to consider the thoughts, opinions, likes, or dislikes of someone else. In the first few months after we got married, changing my habits was very difficult. I had to learn how to make joint decisions for the first time and I had to remember to get input from someone else on what to make for dinner, what color throw pillows to get for the couch, and where to hang what pieces of art on the walls. It was so hard to do and caused so much frustration on both of our parts. [more...]

    There is a future to be had - Dec 13th, 2009
    I spent nearly two weeks in the UK with family and friends, and have returned feeling refreshed and relaxed. A break was just what I needed to face reality again. I am so glad that I went and if I’m honest, I really do wish I was there still. I can’t explain how amazing it was to be surrounded by people who are so very supportive. It was nice to be able to laugh without worrying that I was upsetting someone by not grieving ‘correctly’ and it was nice to be able to laugh with people who would also allow me to cry. [more...]

    Solo UK Holiday - Dec 10th, 2009
    I’ve taken my first solo holiday spending nearly two weeks in England and Scotland visiting family and friends. [more...]

    When sadness hits - Nov 24th, 2009
    I’ve gotten quite good at forgetting that I’m a widow at times. I can be rather comfortable laughing and joking and just being ‘in the moment’ when the times call for it. Over the last two days, I’ve been on the game. Travelling for work with the bosses and working hard to make a great impression for our first-ever benefit auction was easier than I thought, really. Maybe more so because everyone knows that even though I look the part of a ‘normal’ person, they all know that I am still grieving and expect that I will be a bit sad from time-to-time. And when I get around people who are OK with my laughter and grief being combined, I relax and find it easier to be myself. [more...]

    Things get easier with a second take - Nov 22nd, 2009
    I’ve found myself at a fancy hotel for work once again. It’s one of those really fancy rooms with a separate living room and a bathroom bigger than most people’s bedrooms. This trip comes right before my holidays, and I’ve been psyching myself up for it for a while now, trying to figure out how to make it bearable. While my last stay at a fancy hotel was miserable and gloomy, this trip has started out to be fairly positive and slightly empowering. [more...]

    A comforting visit - Nov 16th, 2009
    I went to visit Paul’s grave site at the weekend and realized that it might be the last time I’m able to sit there and talk to him until the spring because of all the snow. I took a small chair with me, and trekked through the snow, then sat there in the cold talking to him. [more...]

    First snow’s sorrow - Nov 13th, 2009
    The first flakes of snow have started to hit the region and while it’s blanketing the ground with soft, white flakes, my heart and soul feel like they are being weighed down with sorrow. I didn’t expect a simple weather change to affect me so profoundly and I’m finding it a little hard to cope with the thought of a long winter. [more...]

    A lost focus - Nov 9th, 2009
    As strange as it sounds, there are days when I wish I could go back to Day One of the grieving process and start over. It’s not that I want to re-live those first horrible weeks—because I don’t—but I wish that I’d given myself the time I needed to just sit and grieve. As I keep working on the glitches with that came with Frances 3.0, I realize that I never really gave myself the time I needed to get used to the fact that Frances 2.0 doesn’t work anymore. I didn’t give myself time to test drive the new version before taking it public. [more...]

    I don’t want to go out and play - Oct 31st, 2009
    It’s Halloween. I should be excited and giddy; it’s always been a much-loved holiday of mine. In the weeks leading up to it, I would be busy making costumes for everyone I knew—hoping there’d be enough time to make one for me. Last year, Paul was Sponge Bob Square Pants and I was a vampire. It was our first Halloween in our new home; our first in a neighborhood where we could expect trick-or-treating. We stayed home to hand out candy to the kids, many of whom shrieked with excitement at a grown man dressed as Sponge Bob—which made Paul grin from ear-to-ear. [more...]

    Lessons learned - Oct 26th, 2009
    Paul and I used to spend a lot of time talking about our relationship. We’d reminisce about the early days, talk about the present, and dream about the future. We always joked about these “State of the Marriage” conversations but knew that we were lucky to be able to just talk about things. Every year, we would spend our anniversary remembering the details of our first date, Paul’s proposal, and the time leading up to that evening’s dinner. We were less than four weeks shy of our fourth anniversary, but we were already starting to chat about how lucky we were to have found each other. [more...]

    Getting angry - Oct 21st, 2009
    Sometimes I feel very angry and I can’t figure out where to place the blame. I know that my anger is part of my grief, but I don’t have a person or a thing to blame for my anger, nor do I have a recognizable focus for it. [more...]

    Support networks - Oct 17th, 2009
    I joined a grief support group a couple of weeks ago and have found it oddly comforting, despite the fact that I’m the youngest one in the group and that most are not widows. I suppose there is comfort in talking with others who are grieving because it’s a safe place, and whilst our grief comes from different life perspectives, it’s still grief. What I find most useful about the group isn’t the time spent with others, but rather the thought process that happens between the weekly meetings. I find myself focusing on my feelings and emotions because of something someone in the group said about their own grief journey, or because of a “homework assignment” given by the group’s leader; I like that it makes me confront something that I had never thought of—or something I may have been avoiding. [more...]

    Looking forward to shared laughter and tears - Oct 15th, 2009
    I booked my ticket for a holiday to the UK today. Now I’m happy and sad; I’m looking forward to my trip and I’m dreading it. [more...]

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