Well Here's a Huge Update

So what's it been? A hundred years? Five hundred? Something like that because I am certainly older (but no wiser) than the last time I thrust my words in your face. Well, here I am, again popping up out of nowhere. I figured I'd update anyone who's still hanging around. I also have a little request headed your way. Well, not a request per se but an opportunity.

Let's jump into it, shall we?

The first big news...
I'm engaged. I was going to start with I'm pregnant, but the engagement came first so we'll talk about that first. The short story is I started dating a pretty neat guy about two years ago and voila we decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. The longer story is we first met in third grade, our little sisters were best friends through elementary and middle school, and we reconnected many moons later and hit it off, then decided we wanted each other to stick around. The longer story - well, perhaps you'll have to wait for that one. I can't give it all away in one update post, can I? The main take home is he's really more than pretty neat, I love him a whole bunch, he's fantastic with A, he makes me laugh nonstop, and I'm a really lucky gal. And no, we haven't set a date for those wondering. It'll probably be a long engagement. And when I say long, I mean long.

Oh, so I mentioned I was pregnant. Yeah, that happened. So we got engaged in early September. At the end of September, he and I went to Harry Potter world in Universal (yes, I'm fully aware that's not the real name but I'll call it what I want). When we came home I started feeling a little weird (read: my boobs hurt like hell). October first I peed on a stick and there was that one single word. Pregnant. It wasn't a complete surprise. We weren't trying but also weren't not trying. We'd discussed it and thought it might be nice and I said if we were going to do it I wouldn't want to wait much longer because I didn't want to start trying after 30. I turned 30 in December. So that worked out. And now I am due with a little boy in June. Let's say this pregnancy has been a freakin' roller coaster. I'm beyond thankful the first trimester is over, but there are still so many emotions!

I also graduated grad school. I got my Master's y'all! In December, I not only turned 30, but I finished my Master's program. You can now call me Rachel Master-of-Writing Porto. I'm kidding... partially. But seriously, it was a huge accomplishment for me considering I'd had a hard time sticking to a program before I found the professional writing program and then I kinda fell in love with the program and didn't want to leave. My whole last semester I worked on a book proposal too, so that's a big new project that's going on in my life and something you guys could be really excited about if you happen to enjoy my writing... hint, hint.

Lastly, and here's where the opportunity comes in, especially for my fellow widowed ladies, I'm working on an awesome widow non profit called Widow Confidential. I met this really rad lady on the Idaho Military widow trip I went on in July. She has all these fantastic ideas and was designing this company to support widows and she graciously brought me on board. My job title is Content Program Director, so I basically handle all the word stuff - the website content, taking care of the writers, all that good stuff. It's a super opportunity and it's got me feeling all hashtag blessed.
I did mention a sort of request/opportunity and here's where I'll tell you a little about that. Being in charge of content and writers, it's also my job to find writers. We're still in the beginning stages, the website hasn't even completely launched yet. Before it does, I'd like to have a team ready. I'm looking for widows who are interested in writing. They could write a one time piece or be a recurring writer. Our goal is to have many perspectives. We don't want one widow (right now, me) writing the whole thing, we want the voices of everyone. We're looking for articles to fit these categories: work, play, home, sex/dating, self-care, as well as articles just for widows/by widows (like experience type essays) and widow/leadership feature pieces. Basically, how has widowhood affected those categories in your life? Learned a great way to cook for one? Have great travel tips for solo with children traveling? Want to share about a great or awful widowed spa trip? Those are the kinds of things we need. Every day things from widows' perspectives.
It's my hope that there is still a widow or two who checks my blog that might have a little inkling of interest, and if that's the case, please please email me at Rachel@widowconfidential.com and let's talk about getting started!

I think that's enough for you now. My plan is to be back more regularly. I miss you all <3 p="">

Wedding Etiquette: 7 Things to Remember When Your Friend Is a Widow

So, you've got a friend who's a widow and you want her to attend your wedding, but you're having difficulty navigating the etiquette behind asking this widow chick to come. Look no further, friends, as spring approaches and wedding season rolls in, I've got just what you need for smooth sailing with your widow friends.

1. Remember she was your friend before she was a widow.
Or even if she wasn't, her widow-ness shouldn't surpass your friendship. Look at her as a friend first and a widow later. Way later, if possible. Don't try to put yourself in her shoes. Chances are, you'll make an ass out of yourself. Instead, treat her like you always do.

2. Address her the way she chooses to be addressed.
I remember planning for my wedding and how stressful it was addressing envelopes. Miss, Mrs, Ms - why are there so many? Typically, modern etiquette rules for Ms. if you are unsure or if she is an older unmarried woman. Feminism was trying to replace the Miss/Mrs situation with the Ms, but instead folks just added it as another option and confused things more. It was a good idea (I mean seriously, why do dudes only have to deal with ONE but we've got THREE to choose from), but it can be hard to predict who prefers which title. If you're good friends with your widow, you probably know how to approach this. Here's a hint - if her Christmas card comes with a return address of "Mrs. So and So" you should probably address the wedding invitation in kind. I was really persnickety about this in my earlier days, to the point where most people know to put Mrs on anything being sent to me - I always said "I earned my R!" Not all widows feel the same. If you're unsure, it probably wouldn't offend her if you asked how she preferred to be addressed.

3. For goodness sakes, give her a plus one.
As you might have guessed, weddings can be tough for us young widows (which may be where the unsureness around inviting your widowed friend stemmed from in the first place). It's not that we're not happy our friends are finding love and getting married - we are! - it's that we also remember being happy with our spouse and how much we miss them. It's also that weddings are typically an event you would attend with a spouse, you would dance together, you would have fun together... you know. And now the spouse is gone and it's just another event to attend alone. Don't put your wedding in that category, friend. Seriously. Let her bring a plus one. Once, I was told "Only the married people get a plus one." It hurt. Okay, I am married - kinda. I didn't choose to be NOT married and neither did he. If all my friends are married and getting a plus one, and I am the only one who isn't, well that just sucks.  Yes, I can't wait to be surrounded by happy couples so I can drown my grief in your open bar. Why don't you just give her a great big neon flashing hat that says "CAUTION: SAD LONELY WIDOW" while you're at it? Don't be cheap - pay for the extra plate and let your girl bring someone, whether it be a new romantic partner, a fellow widow to help her deal, or a girlfriend to keep her company during the slow dances - don't make her be the only adult woman without a date.

4. Speaking of guys, include her new guy.
If your widowed friend is dating again, don't exclude her new partner. Whether you think it's right for her to be dating or not, it's shitty of you to pretend her new partner doesn't exist. Plain and simple. Oh, they haven't been together that long? Well, see above. Give her the plus one and let her choose if he will be her date. You don't really like him? Well, I'm sure you don't like everyone attending your wedding either. Hell, you probably don't like a portion of the people IN your wedding. As the bride, chances are you won't even have to spend more than 5 minutes with him. And if you know his name, don't put "Guest" on the table card. If she RSVPs me and Joe are coming, the name card should read Friend and Joe, not Friend and guest. Don't be a douche.

5. Don't make it weird.
Sometimes people can be overly sensitive about widow stuff. Don't go out of your way to make it weird. Don't call her up and talk all cautiously. You know the voice, "Oh... heyyy.... sooooo... I'm getting married and..." Everybody knows her husband is dead. It is no secret she is a widow. Don't act like you're keeping something from her when you're trying to talk to her. Want to ask her how to be addressed or what her new beau's name is? Ask. "Hey, do you care what title you get on the envelope?" "Hey, is Joe your plus one or are you bringing someone else?" "Hey, what's your guy's name?" Are all better than "So, I don't want to be weird or anything but... since you're husband isn't here..." Be upfront, be real, don't be weird.

6. Let her take a breath if she needs to take a breath.
There have been multiple times I've had to step out of weddings. Like I said before, although I'm happy for my friends, weddings are tough. I love weddings, but they can be a real widow ass kicker. Sometimes, that song will come on and she can't get out of the dance hall fast enough before tears erupt. Sometimes she cries a little harder at the processional. Sometimes she needs to go for a walk during the oldest couple dancing tradition. Sometimes she needs an extra drink. I am thankful that the vast majority of the time I've experienced that "Need a moment" moment, people have been supportive. Don't be upset or offended if your widowed friend needs to take a breath or needs a second to pull herself together or if you happen to catch her looking kind of sad when you glance her direction. Let her handle herself her way and be respectful that even though she loves you, she might be hurting a bit, too.
The nicest thing that anyone ever did for me pre-wedding was ask what song to avoid playing. I am super attached to our wedding song and most everyone knows it. Especially right after Jonny's death, I couldn't hear our song without completely losing my shit. It was so very kind of a particular bride to ask me. No, I don't expect that treatment and no, I don't include that as an etiquette step, I was surprised and grateful when she asked and I assured her not to change any plans because of me because I would handle myself fine. But it was a very considerate thing for her to do and I will never forget that someone spared a thought during planning their special day on my feelings. Oh, and no, she wasn't weird about it, she was just like "Hey, what's your song again? I'm going to put it on the no play list because I know it's hard for you." And I was like, "You don't have to do that but our song is..." and she was like "No, it's fine, I just don't want it coming up randomly it's not part of anything for us so it doesn't need to be played at all." Very thoughtful.

7. If your friend is a military widow and your wedding is on Memorial Day, don't be pissed if she bails.
Seriously, this one should not even have to be stated, but as Memorial Day really is a beautiful long weekend perfect for weddings, I couldn't leave it out. If your wedding is on Memorial Day and your friend declines or bails out early, you have no right to be pissed. Chances are she is going to a cemetery (or urn, wherever it's located) to spend some time with her husband, or partaking in some other grief related ritual. This tip also applies for any special dates; her anniversary, her spouse's birthday, her spouse's angelversary... if it's a tough day for her, she has every right to grieve and deal with it her way. This doesn't mean don't invite her, of course. Maybe she'll like having something to celebrate and spending time with friends to keep herself occupied. Just don't be pissed if she declines or leaves early.

I hope this helps for brides who might have some concerns about inviting their widow friends. Widows, did I leave anything out? Drop me a comment to add your tip. Think one of mine is great or unfair? Let me know. Want to share your own experience? I'd love to hear about it!

Photo: Creative Commons Rebecca Shiraev

Consistency is Key

... and mine are locked inside. Seriously, anyone got a number for a good locksmith?

Of all the times I say I'm not going to let this sit and I'll start writing here regularly again, poor Little Pink has fallen by the wayside in these chaotic times.

The truth is, between writing for school, writing at Many Kind Regards, and starting to write freelance (yup, I'm taking the plunge!), I'm pretty "write"d-out. But tonight, the call was strong and the urge was not to be ignored to hop over here to my own little space, even if just to ramble.

Things have been going, to say the least. Today was "a day," said in that tone that hints to more than just a day. It started out awesome, but then of course things started going down hill. I won't bore you with all of the details, but let's just say I'm glad to be sitting and doing nothing.

I feel like I'm approaching a crossroads, and maybe that's what motivated me coming here. So many things are happening, a lot of them good, but it has me facing a multitude of decisions. It's like there are so many paths I can choose to pursue but I kind of want them all and I kind of want none. Would it be completely ridiculous that maybe, possibly I am afraid of success? Does that even make sense? It is. It is completely ridiculous. Isn't success what we strive for? Isn't the reason for attempting anything to be successful? So what am I really scared of? Well... what if being successful, even a little bit, is too much? What if I end up completely overwhelmed? What if I can't keep up? What if I am putting my eggs in too many damn baskets because they are all just so pretty and sparkly and appealing? I suppose it inevitably comes down to... what if I fail? There it is. Success isn't the fear, it's the taste of success followed by the crush of failure.

Oh, dear anxiety, how I love you and the "what-if's" you bring to my brain. As if there aren't already too many thoughts whipping around in there, as if processing the things that are actually happening isn't enough, let's add some maybes, could be's, and what ifs to make a delicious stew of fear and apprehension. Yum.

In other less whiney news, my kid is in Kindergarten. And it's full day.

"Wait, stop the presses, what?!" those of you who've hung around all this time are saying, "Little A is in all day school already?" That's right, folks, little A ain't so little anymore. In fact, she refuses to hear anyone say they are baby sitting her - it is only Big Girl sitting these days.

Little A becomes Little Rach more and more each day. Seriously, I see myself in that kid's mannerisms, behaviors, and thought processes every day. Thank God she has her father's eyes.
The funny thing is now that I've noticed how much she is like me, I can really pick out specifics. She likes to sing randomly and make weird noises. She's constantly talking to herself or her friends (that are visible only for her). There are several times after she's gone to bed when Jesse and I are hanging out and I'll say or do something and one of us will say "Holy shit, that was so Ariana." It's quite alarming at times. The really funny part is there are so many times where she'll say or do something and I'll ask where in the world did she pick that up from?! Days, hours, minutes later it will be pointed out to me that I'm doing what I was wondering about. Hello, this is Captain Obvious calling, is Rachel there? We can't forget of course, that she does have her individuality and she's quite assertive. That kid is, as cheesy as it sounds, the light of my life. Sure, she drives me nuts sometimes (makes sense, since I drive MYSELF nuts) but she is so funny and intelligent and caring and it is just so neat watching her grow that being her mom is my greatest gift.

So, yeah, things are pretty good. We're pretty happy. We have our down days, and we're not immune to our fair share of struggles (like today being "a DAY"), but when all's said and done, we're content, we're together, and we're frickin' rockstars. And that's all that matters.

My Abandoned Garden

When I was first widowed, I searched for advice to proceed along this new journey I had been so unfairly placed upon. I read widow self-help books, what to expect books, articles, and conducted numerous searches. I wanted to know if what I was feeling was “normal,” and if I was doing everything “the right way.” There was a lot of useful information and tips in these resources that helped guide me along: not making any big decisions in the first year, financial advice and cautions, information about grief stages and emotions, and general pick-me-up and keep living encouragements. As helpful as some of these resources were, though, I still found them lacking in grit. It’s as if some subjects were too taboo to be put into written form and distributed widely, and it was often those taboo subjects I found myself most confused about. Here are some things I’ve learned along my 5+ years of widowhood that “they” aren’t likely to tell you in those books. These may not only aid a newly widowed person in handling some of the confusion, but I have hopes that they might also shine some light on what a widowed person is feeling for those who are supporting her or him. 
There have been many times over the years where I’ve been approached by the friends of a new widow asking, “What can I do?” or wondering not only how they can help but how they can better understand and empathize with their friend. Remember in reading these that grief is extremely individualized and what may help one person cope may be the exact opposite of what another needs or wants.

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