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    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...]

    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...]

    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...]

    It is still a beautiful world - Oct 11th, 2009
    I reflect quite often on the Desiderata these days. Mostly because I know that my Paul wants me to be happy and the words of the Desiderata seem to speak to that so very well. The world for me these days seems so bleak, so frightening, so lonely, but still, I know that there is goodness in it. I know that I will find my way through the misery and will be happy once again. I try each day to remember that there is so much good in the world, and that my life will continue and that it will be a good life. It’s difficult to do most days, but it is my duty as a wife to be the happy person my husband wants me to be. [more...]

    Tackling long-overdue gardening tasks - Oct 7th, 2009
    One week before Paul died we spent the day working in the yard. I remember sitting on the edge of the flower beds removing mulch and weeds while Paul raked the front lawn. It was our new cat’s first venture to the great outdoors and she took a bit of enticing to leave the front steps so from time-to-time we’d stop working and play with the cat. We walked around the yard making notes about what needed to be done for spring cleanup and sketching out designs for a couple of garden and seating areas. When we were done we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch under the cedar trees with a bottle of chardonnay. [more...]

    The physical side of grief - Oct 5th, 2009
    The process of grieving and mourning is really starting to wreak havoc on my physical being. This, in turn, intensifies some of the mental and emotional turmoil I’m going through; which, in turn again, adds even further to the degradation of my physical being. And therein lays the problem. [more...]

    Surprising moments of upset - Oct 2nd, 2009
    One of the hard parts about grief is not knowing when it’s going to hit. I can be going about my day quite happily one moment and the next moment I have tears streaming down my face. I never know what’s going to trigger those tears and I am often surprised by what does or doesn’t cause me to become upset. Today was one of those surprising moments of upset. [more...]

    Just a widow myth - Oct 1st, 2009
    I’ve heard a lot of things over the past five months that have taken me by surprise. From “helpful” comments about how I should be grieving to hurtful questions asked by people wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent Paul’s death. I try to remind myself that people just don’t realize what they’re saying and that no one means any harm by the questions asked and comments made. I’ve spent some time visiting online forums about grieving, some specifically geared toward young window(er)s, and have found that the questions and comments I’ve received are very similar to the experiences of others. [more...]

    The confluence of seasons - Sep 28th, 2009
    There’s a crispness in the air now that autumn has started to settle in after a long summer. I’ve always enjoyed the confluence of seasons; it’s an awkward meeting between weather patterns—one anxious to begin its reign whilst the other tries in vain to retain its glory. There will be a few weeks of battle before the summer finally fades, giving way to the changing colours of the trees. [more...]

    It’s not contagious - Sep 24th, 2009
    I met a man the other day who lost his wife not long ago. He is now faced with raising his young children alone and is feeling very lost in the world without his partner. And I hate that I understand oh-so-well what that means. While it’s not nice to learn that someone else is walking this lonely path of widow(er)hood, I found it oddly comforting to hear his words of confusion as to why the world seems so afraid of us. I suppose that his similar experiences help me feel a little less self-conscious about my own place in the world. [more...]

    Finding the things I can control, and taking charge - Sep 17th, 2009
    When I was operating Frances 2.0, I would most often be found with amazing vintage accessories—mostly in the form of handbags from the 1920s-60s. (And bonus points to Paul for encouraging my vintage accessory collection so much that he allowed me the largest closet in the house to store it all!) But when the occasion called for it I would use a “modern” bag because they tend to be more practical if you want to carry more useless junk. [more...]

    Do I have the courage to start over? - Sep 15th, 2009
    I’m in this really weird place right now where I don’t want to let go of the past but I don’t want to move forward. I really loved my old future. I worked really hard and was rewarded with a wonderful husband, a lovely home, and a job I enjoyed. I was just about to have the added reward of two lovely children to call me Mom. My future looked amazing and I was really excited to have such a great life. I was going to grow old with Paul, and the two of us were going to play with our grandchildren one day… [more...]

    I hate fancy hotels - Sep 13th, 2009
    I spent the last few days in a fancy-schmancy hotel in downtown Seattle. And being there made me realize how much I miss Paul; how very lonely I am without him. I was in Seattle for work—a bi-annual event that Paul would normally accompany me to. We’d stay in the fancy hotel, go out for a fancy dinner, then sit in the hotel lounge drinking martinis in our best “la-de-da” fashion. I always looked forward to these trips because of the time I’d spend with Paul. [more...]

    First holiday - Sep 8th, 2009
    I’m taking a holiday in November, and I should be extremely excited about it. I’m going to Scotland, the place where I feel most at home, despite the fact that it’s nearly 6,000 miles from where I’m from. It’s still more than two months away, but I’m already finding myself anxious about the trip. [more...]

    Venice: A random happy memory - Sep 6th, 2009
    It’s not all doom and gloom in my mind. Some days—most days—I think about the happy moments I shared with Paul and I even manage a laugh or a smile in between tears. Today I got to thinking about our trip to Venice, Italy, way back in spring 2004. It was truly one of my most memorable holidays. Ever. [more...]

    Etchings in stone - Sep 5th, 2009
    Paul’s grave marker was placed at the cemetery in England last week, and his family sent photos of it so that I could see how it looked. At 35 years old, I never thought I’d be looking at my husband’s name etched on a headstone. It was so very strange seeing the photos – his name there alongside his parents’ names. I can’t really describe the emotions I felt, but they brought tears and heartache. [more...]

    We never had that conversation - Sep 4th, 2009
    Typical of so many couples, Paul and I never spoke in specific terms about funerals. We’d chat here-and-there about things, but neither of ever said “When I die I want the following…” We were both so very healthy and young; I suppose it never seemed to be such an immediate need. It was just a few hours after Paul died that my Dad arrived and later started asking me questions about what I wanted to do. I was in such a daze; I didn’t even fully comprehend what was happening and all of the sudden I had to start making decisions. [more...]

    A childish visit - Sep 2nd, 2009
    Flik and Haden came to visit for a few days. I think they really came to meet and visit with the cat, Schrodie, and just tolerated hangin’ with Aunt Frannie. [more...]

    I know I’ve got his love - Aug 26th, 2009
    Four months ago today, my entire world was shaken to the core and all of the certainty I’d come to rely on was taken from me in a single moment. I went from being a happily married woman getting ready to start a family through adoption to a grieving, childless widow. I never knew how suddenly life could go from amazingly wonderful to frighteningly lonely. [more...]

    Vanity, thy name is widow - Aug 22nd, 2009
    I was a lucky woman. I had a wonderful husband who always wanted me to have the best things in life. He wanted me to shop and buy new clothes – clothes from high-end shops, and not from the sales rack. He wanted me to spoil myself at the spa, have facials and manicures, massages, and expensive haircuts. It wasn’t that he didn’t like how I looked or the clothes I wore, he just thought that I worked hard and deserved to treat myself. But I never did enjoy shopping and I’ve always hated to part with money. Plus, going for a spa after work or on the weekend was time away from Paul and I always wanted to get home to my wonderful husband. [more...]

    Silent weekends - Aug 21st, 2009
    It’s Friday. I used to really love Fridays – it meant the start of a weekend, which meant two full days with Paul. I remember trying to wrangle a way to leave the office early, if only by 15 minutes because it meant that little bit of extra time “doing nothing” with Paul. Friday meant staying up a bit later, maybe having a drink or two, or maybe going out for dinner. Sometimes, Friday meant getting in the car to go away for the weekend. [more...]

    Who do I share the good things with? - Aug 19th, 2009
    When you lose your partner, you lose so many things that you may not even realize you had. I’m still learning what those losses are, and I’m sure I’ll share many of them here as I figure out Version 3.0 – and all the quirks that go along with it. From the beginning I realized that one of the big things I lost was my confidant – which is something that I never truly had before meeting Paul and after seven years of having someone to share my thoughts and feeling with, it’s difficult to lose. [more...]

    How am I? Do you really want to know? - Aug 18th, 2009
    We’ve all heard the question a million times before: How are you? We’ve all asked the question a million times before, too. What I’ve found recently is that the way the question is asked has changed. Where in the past, people asked in a slightly upbeat voice and expected the obligatory “I’m fine” for a response, they now ask in hushed and concerned tones, in a more meaningful way. But for the most part, people are still hoping for the same response of “I’m fine” because that’s the socially acceptable answer. [more...]

    Learning to breathe again - Aug 16th, 2009
    There are certain things in life that we take for granted. Breathing is one of them. Before Paul died, I don’t know that I ever really thought about my breathing patterns. I just did it – even when I was an active runner, an activity that is not yet compatible with Version 3.0, I just took one breath after another. Yes, I would alter how those breaths were taken, but it was second nature – no thought required. [more...]

    Learning curve - Aug 14th, 2009
    Version 3.0 is scary. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it; maybe it’s because there’s no rule book; maybe it’s because there’s no one to help explain the new features because I’m an early adopter of the program. For whatever reason, I’m scared to death (no pun intended). Versions 1 & 2 were easier – I was able to anticipate so many of the glitches because I watched so many people operating on similar programs. I’m in uncharted territory now! [more...]

    The end was only the beginning - Aug 13th, 2009
    Paul and I met in Scotland on February 6, 2002. We hit it off instantly and on May 21, 2005, we were married and we settled in Washington State. We were in the process of starting a family through adoption before Paul died, just the day before we were talking about excitedly about the young boy and girl who were to come stay with us in just two weeks’ time. [more...]

    Frances 3.0: An introduction - Aug 13th, 2009
    My name is Frances, and I am officially entering into my third version of being. Let me start by telling you a bit about the first two versions because the rest of this blog will surely be heavily populated with tales of Frances 3.0. [more...]

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