Thursday, April 30, 2015

Full Circle

Tomorrow morning, I'll be on my way to Virginia Beach for my friend Lindy's wedding. Last June, just one month after Rick died, I spent a day at the beach with my three friends - Libes, Beth, and Lindy. I documented that day here on this blog.

"All three of my friends are getting married in the next year," I wrote that day. "I hear them talk about their plans and smile. All three of them deserve so much love and happiness. I am so excited to share in their joy and to see their lives unfold. It is a stark contrast to my own life, though, and it couldn't be clearer. They are starting their lives with the men they love and my life is just a blank page."

Well, Lindy is the last of the 3 getting married. The year of those 3 weddings, and simultaneously my first year post-death, is about to come to an end.

I remember that day at the beach and how I struggled to live in the now... turning off parts of my brain as needed in order to be able to smile, talk, and laugh. I have been lucky to have such good friends - those 3 among them - to punctuate this past year with many days of enjoyment and camaraderie.

Even back then, after that day at the beach, I wrote: "I don't have to think about my life pre-death or my life post-death. I don't have to draw a marker down the center of the timeline that is my life. I try to put a positive spin on the hand I've been dealt: I'm a writer, so a blank page has always appealed to me. I can do this. I have to live in the now, because there is no other way."

As a woman who is all about self-reflection, I love it when things come full circle. So here I am, kind of proud to say that for the most part I've learned to live in the now. And it's served me well! I still get impatient at times or find myself, like any normal person, letting my thoughts jump to the future, but I think that's healthy and only natural. I know, though, that I've learned to enjoy living in the moment. And I've been given the gift of so many great moments lately. I have been collecting so many moments of awesome, happy, special, and meaningful over the last few months. And as for how I feel about my life moving forward...I've discovered that living in the moment is actually the best way to begin to fill that blank page with the things that really matter...and the things I really want.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


The braver we become, the more we are rewarded. This is why we can experience such hardship, why we can face challenges, why we can endure great pain...AND STILL COME OUT ON TOP.

Perhaps come out better.

Perhaps come out happier.

There are times when I can feel my life expanding. I watch my future spread out before me, vast and beautiful. I know that courage brought me here, to this point. To this moment. I know that courage taught me, molded me, and propelled me forward. My past knows me. But my future is waiting, ready to receive me. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sleeping with Myself

When I was a little girl and I went to sleep at night, I lived with my parents, so they were in the house.

When I went away to college, I always had a room mate (or room mates) every year, so when I went to sleep at night, someone was asleep in the same room, in a bed just feet from my own.

When I finished college, I moved back home for almost a year. I lived with my parents, so when I went to sleep at night, they were in the house.

When Rick and I got engaged, I moved out of my parents' house and began living with Rick, so when I went to sleep at night, Rick was with me.

For the next 7 years, when I went to sleep at night, Rick was there.

Which means once Rick died, shockingly enough for the first time in my whole life, I was alone at night. I learned to sleep alone in a quiet house.

Until Rick's death, my life was comprised of transition after transition, where I had somehow moved through 29 years of...never living alone.

Like a little frog, I hopped from lily pad to lily pad...always sharing space with someone else. But for the last year, I've lived alone and I've slept alone at night. No parents. No room mates. No significant other. No kids of my own. Just me. And the nights.

And you know what I realized? It's not so much that I've learned to sleep alone. It's that I've learned to sleep with myself.

Every night, no extra stuff going on around me, no human interaction, no breathing somewhere else in the house... but the house isn't empty, because I'm there. Me. So much of me. Emotions to untangle. Words to write. Songs to sing. Thoughts to hear. Dreams to dream. Tears to cry. Lessons to learn. Me. So much of me.

Literally hundreds (320+ so far) of days of learning... of having the new experience... of sleeping with myself.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Coming

We are fast approaching May. Last May was the worst month of my life. I can hardly believe it is about to be May again. It doesn't seem possible.

And yet... in most ways, it seems ages ago. I feel as though I've been living this life for such a long time. I am used to living alone. I am used to total independence. I am used to being the woman who writes on a widow blog each night.

But all that can change too.

May is a month of transition... I welcome it this year in ways I could not welcome it last year. So much is happening around me and inside of me. I sense change and promise brewing. I sense relief. I will finally be free of the most difficult year of my life. I am ready to release this past year - spring to spring - May to May - and completely begin again. In truth, I have never been more ready.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Camera Never Lies

I think if I was still in graduate school, I would do a research study on selfies. I'm serious. I believe I could turn it into a social work issue. 

Long before "selfie" was even a term, taking photos of myself was part of my recovery from an eating disorder. 12 years ago, in an attempt to see the beauty I had a difficult time seeing, I began taking a lot of photos of myself. This was long before you posted stuff like that. Before Facebook. Before Instagram. Before you shared your face after you snapped a picture. 

I didn't take pictures of myself to look for bones and thinness. I took pictures of myself to look for beauty in them. The purpose was to try to like the photos I took of myself. Or at least to like something about them. 

Taking selfies (before the word "selfie" existed) was how I learned to smile at myself. How I learned to laugh at myself. It was how I learned to tell myself it was okay to have thoughts like, "Wow, I look really nice here" or "I like this picture of myself." It was how I learned that liking a photo of myself didn’t mean I was conceited. It was how I learned to perceive happiness in my face in a picture. It was how I learned to like my own appearance, even as the weight went on. 

Back when taking selfies would have been deemed ridiculous or unheard of or horribly self-centered, I used to just sit with myself, inside or outside, hair up or hair down, and snap photos of my own face and body with my old digital camera. I'd upload them to my computer and save them in a folder. Then, instead of picking them apart, which was the initial reaction my mind had, I did my best to admire them.

As time wore on and self-criticism was replaced with self-confidence, I took selfies more to chronicle feelings and changes in myself. Not to share, just to keep for my own personal reflection. And then lo and behold, selfies became a craze... First, selfies were mocked with zeal, then they were all the rage, and now, they are simply part of our new culture. 

If I could make a video montage of all my selfies from the last year, I know it would show a progression of great magnitude. A tale of grief and growth and change and strength and emotion. When I post a selfie, it's not to say, "Hey, look at me!" - it's to say, "Hey, look what's happened to me! Look what's changed in me! Look what's inside me!"

I mean, yes, selfies are a portrayal of the outward appearance. Obviously you can't ignore that or discount it. But I know damn well that every one of my selfies shows just as much of what's inside me as what's on the outside. And that's what I think is so cool.

You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Once Upon a Dream

This morning, I was having a nightmare and I couldn't wake up. I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn't awaken myself. My limbs were heavy, my eyes wouldn't open, and I felt sluggish and unable to break away from my dreamworld.

Please make it stop, please make it stop, please make it stop was thundering in my head and I was willing myself to get out of there, to end the dream. To wake. To be free.

I eventually woke up thrashing in bed, panting, cats aside of me.

And as my heart began to slow and I steadied myself in the real world, sheets tangled around me, I breathed a sigh of relief, because there is a difference now.

Before, when I would wake up from a bad dream, it would be to the heavy realization that my life was still a nightmare. I would lie there, deadened, anxious for relief from the bad dream that had just ended... but no relief would come, because life was difficult. Waking up brought no immediate rush of solace. Remembering my lot in life would hit me like a ton of bricks. And the dreamworld nightmare would fade, but it wouldn't be replaced with better emotions.

Now, it's different.

I woke up from my nightmare, breathed that sigh of relief, and felt ease. Joy. Gratitude. Love. The sunlight hit me in bed and I smiled. Thank God it was all just a dream, I thought. Relief flooded my heart. Good things are here. And even better things are coming.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Who I Am

When I say that I have been a writer my entire life, I'm not exaggerating. I know that I've posted before about my childhood writing aspirations and my first "novel" at age 7. But fictional stories aside, for a long, long time I've been mastering the art of self-reflection. To really understand Arielle, you have to understand that The Cat Widow is just normal course of action for a child who began writing her deepest thoughts and feelings way back in elementary school.

I still own journal entries from when I was as young as 10. 

Decades ago, at 9:39 PM on a Monday (yes, I always wrote the exact date, day, and time), 11 year old Arielle wrote:

"I really want to be different, do something that no one else has ever done."

I'll admit that from time to time, the entries waver on humorously dramatic, such as when I wrote that same year, "Please read this with respect for your childhood." I always chuckle to note how I gave myself directives, as though I knew I would always be the kind of girl who would save her writing and look back many years later. It wasn't out of character for me to write myself a note on the page, addressing myself by name, like a letter to the future. 

But I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is not my experience with tragedy and widowhood that makes me the way I am...or that causes me to write the way I write. Long before I was ever grown up, my old little soul was writing journal entries that are eerily similar to the tone and depth of this very blog. 

At 9:21 pm on a Tuesday in 1996, I was 11 years old, sad and conflicted about something...and I wrote: "What will I do? My good, strong, fearless spirit will help me."

2 days later, I wrote: "There is a saying: 'Those who endure most are rewarded most.'  I believe it is true and I have endured a lot so maybe my reward is yet to come."

I read these sentences from my childhood and realize with some surprise that they could be posted here, in 2015 - on this blog - and still hold the same weight, still resonate, and still be true.

When I was 13, I wrote: "I feel years older." And I've always felt that way. I carry that girl with me every day...the 7 year old, the 11 year old, the 13 year old... she has taught herself along the way to 30 that the act of feeling - really feeling - is the pathway to writing... and by writing, she can be the person she wants to be. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015


There are nights I sit here, waiting to see what I'll write. It's not because I don't have anything to's not because I don't know what to say. It's because I have too much to say. And on nights like that, rather than write a long post, babbling on and on, getting philosophical or introspective to the max, I look back. I click through the archives and take myself back to different posts in my own mental timeline, just to see how I've fared.

12 weeks ago, I wrote:

It's fun to play this game of life, but sometimes I'd rather just take a deep breath, fall, and be caught. I get tired just like everyone else. I get scared.

11 weeks ago:

I don't know what I'm doing...I don't know what I'm doing at all...but at least I'm having fun.

10 weeks ago, I wrote:

Life is a ride. A pretty cool ride actually. Every single day - no, every single moment - is a crossroads of some sort. You can take so many different paths - left, right, back, can even stand still. You get to decide. Even though there are so many curveballs, so many circumstances, so many risks, so many questions, so many positives and negatives, we get to decide what direction we take. And that in itself is empowering.

At 9 weeks, I skipped a night of blogging because "I wanted to feel everything but keep it and not give it away."

At 8 weeks, I examined the subtle differences between promises and guarantees, even making promises to myself.

7 weeks ago, I wrote:

The outer layers of the onion that is my heart are no longer ripped and shredded and bruised. They've been ripped away completely and that strong, resilient core is all that's left. My heart beats in a different way now.

And I really like it.

No, I love it.

6 weeks ago:

I enjoy being pleasantly surprised. That tends to be the most fulfilling kind of life - the kind that surprises you.

5 weeks ago, I wrote:

The Universe works at its own pace. And since my every day already holds great things, it's easy to believe that even better things are coming. As Tom Petty sings, "The waiting is the hardest part..." But I will always, always, always wait for the things that are worthwhile in this life.

4 weeks ago, I listed the things that are important to me in life (living in the moment, positive relationships with the people in your life, genuine interactions, kindness, laughter, real love, hope, passion, honesty, respect, and fulfillment).

3 weeks ago, I wrote:

The quiet, soft, open kind of crying is the kind of crying that so few have seen...the kind that brings me closer to those who have witnessed it...and closer still to those who have wrapped me up (figuratively or literally) in their love and understanding.

2 weeks ago:

I'm resilient, folks. Don't expect to see me crash and burn. I am full of life.

And 1 week ago:

If you have no expectations, everything is a gift.

And tonight, I sit here typing at almost midnight, looking at just the titles of my blog posts over the last 3 months...

Titles like Enthusiasm, Surprise, Alive, All In, Happy, Celebration, Positive Change, The Amazing, Serendipity, and Laughter jump out at me...

I must be onto something here. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I can't even remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did today at work. I laughed and laughed and laughed again. I laughed so hard tears came out of my eyes. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. I laughed so hard I worried that I'd pee my pants.

I work with some hilarious people.

It was a good day.

When I arrived at work in the morning, I was already in a FANTASTIC mood. And once the laughter started, my mood continued.

I've always been a big laugher. I can go from a smirk to a cackle in 1 second flat. My laughter tends to burst out of me. I just enjoy life and I enjoy laughing. And watching other people laugh makes me laugh.

It's good to be reminded that laughter always has a place.

It's always such a satisfying feeling to start your day with a huge smile and finish it with laughter. I'm hoping for more days like today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


One of the things I've been blessed with since 2015 began is serendipity.

serendipity (noun):
- the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

To discover things life has to offer without seeking them out is such a gift. Stumbling upon something truly wonderful is thrilling... and it's a thrill that doesn't go away.

There are times I find myself consumed with a feeling of luckiness. Me. A widow. No stranger to pain and hardship. A social worker who works hard to pay the bills. A woman who sometimes lives the mundane.

But I can tell when a star is smiling upon me. I can feel it illuminating what's real, what's sincere, and what's wonderful. So I simply look up and say, "Thank you."

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Message

I think in a way my blog has been a message to the universe.

I've been sitting here, night after night, week after week, month after month, essentially putting out into the void what I want to receive back...even if that wasn't my conscious intention.

I've been saying to the universe, "This is me. Accept me. And please, please, please give me what I want and need."

So, by way of this blog, I've been praying.

And my prayers have been answered.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Today Was My Wedding Day

So today would be my 7 year wedding anniversary.

7 years ago today, I was waking up at my parents' house, getting ready with my bridesmaids, and rushing to a church to walk down the aisle to Rick. In fact, right now, I was a few hours married...dancing the night away.

It feels as though it might as well be 70 years ago.

You have no way of knowing how things will turn out. You put in fancy earrings and talk to your mom for the last time as a single woman in the house where you grew up, ready to embark upon a marriage journey at 23.

The photos show me looking basically the same as I do now, but I've aged so much inside these past 7 years. When you're taking charge on your parents' front porch, trying to instruct the photographer what you want him to do, you don't foresee widowhood at 29. 

When you're laughing in the sun, excited for a new life, you can't know that financial hardship and the emotional pain, depression, chronic pain, and alcoholism of your mate will one day shake your world. 

I loved Rick and Rick loved me. He taught me a lot in the 7.5 years I was with him and during the 6 years we were married. Today would be 7 years, but I want to stop counting...because he is not here anymore and I've moved on. That time is over, and in truth, I feel that girl is gone. A better, wiser version is now in her place.

As with anyone who has been married and then not been married (no matter the circumstances), my marriage to Rick will always be a part of me. We went through a lot together and made a lot of memories. That won't go away. And that is totally okay. Because it happened. But it doesn't mean I won't be happy again. Or even happIER. I've learned a lot along the way and I know that second chances exist. I also know what I want and don't want in a way I didn't know at 23.

People say your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. And I was happy in those photos. I was happy on my wedding day.'s the thing about the way this crazy world works: I'm even happier now.

A new life is difficult to begin. But beautiful things are waiting... happiness exists beyond past happiness... we can have what we want... surprises find us. Our past has a place, but our future can be brighter still. And I know wherever he is, Rick is so happy I've figured this out.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Walking on Sunshine

Rick's been dead 11 months today. ...But today was a good day. The morning was awesome, the afternoon was spent soaking up sun and chatting with my mom, and after some errands, the evening has been relaxing and full of heartfelt daydreaming. 

In fact, I just finished writing out my thoughts somewhere else tonight... so I don't feel my heart has anything left to put here until tomorrow. 

I'm sunburned/tan, tired, and happy. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


Sometimes I sit here, fingers poised above keys...ready to type...ready to feel...and I stay frozen, paused for just a moment.

Because you know so much about me.

I've bared my soul. I've gone philosophical and introspective. I've explained and over-explained. I've put myself out there. Every day (with very few exceptions) for the last almost 365 days.

I've talked about my past, my present, and my future. I've talked about my goals, my dreams, and my fears. I've told stories and I've shared secrets. I've given details about the serious and the humorous.

You know so much about me. It's a strange one-sided relationship really. You feel like you know me and I don't know much (or anything) about you. You read about my day, but I don't know how yours went.

The counter at the bottom of my blog goes up, up, up. 144,000 and counting... The outermost circle of readers is vast. Strangers click in from different cities, different states, different countries. And you know so much about me. 

Then there is the next circle of readers...a little closer...a friend of a friend of a friend perhaps...people I've never met, but who are connected to me by several degrees of separation... I go to a baby shower and a woman who recognizes me sits down next to me to whisper, "I read your blog." A relative of a friend I know. Or I go to pick up routine fluids and special cat food at my vet to be told that I have a $300 credit from someone who reads my blog. Or an email comes in from a local stranger who tells me: "A high school principal told me, 'There's this woman in Northampton who writes this blog you should read...'" And she's talking about me...but I don't know a high school principal...though somewhere out there, in my own region, she's reading my words. Or an anonymous local widower sends me kind packages. You know so much about me.

And then a smaller circle. I pass you in the halls at work perhaps. You know my story, you know my thoughts. You know me well. But I don't know you the same way. I bounce in with a chipper "Good morning," and we exchange hellos, but you also know that I cried last night or that my house is for sale or that I went for a run. You know I got a package in the mail or that I met with my attorney or that I'm getting happier and happier. Sometimes you mention something I wrote on my blog in an offhand way - working it into conversation - and surprised, I make a mental note that yet another person I work with or live near or went to grad school with or see on a regular basis is reading my words though I never realized. You know so much about me.

And I don't mind.
I'm still writing.
And I'm not scared of the vulnerability or the openness.

But you know so much about me.
So be gentle. :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Everything Can Be A Gift

If you have no expectations, everything is a gift.

Think about it.

If you expect someone to show you something, give you something, or do something for you and they don't... you're disappointed. If they DO show, give, or'll simply remain on the plateau of mediocre existence because your expectation was met. It's somehow no big deal (even if it's something great!) because you expected it in the first place. But if you live each day without such expectations, and someone shows you what you need, gives you what you want, or does something nice for you, you'll feel lucky and grateful. Those gestures will be gifts.

If you live life allowing everyone to be who they are, without expecting them to change based on your expectations, every good thing they show you will be a gift. Not an expectation. Not the deliverance of a demand.

It can be pretty difficult to do at times... because we're all human... but the attempt to just be open to what everyone has to offer is a worthy one. And I think it's important to remind ourselves that receiving a gift is so much better than having an expectation met.

A clear cut example:

Someone brings you flowers. You like it. The next week, they bring you flowers. You like it. The following week, you expect them to bring you flowers and they don't. So you're disappointed. And you start wondering why they didn't bring you flowers... or what's changed... and so, you devalue them a bit...perhaps even become sad or annoyed...even though they have done nothing wrong.


If you expect nothing each week and someone brings you flowers from time to time, you're going to think it's wonderful. Every time. It's going to feel like a gift. Not something that's expected. You'll see it as the extra it really is, not an expectation.

Sometimes, expectations have a place: job performance, our own goals and aspirations, etc. But when it comes to every day emotional relationships and our interactions with the people in our lives, it's better to tweak the mindset...because by letting go of expectations, we really gain so much more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Miracle Cat

This blog is called The Cat Widow, after all, so I have to write about my cat.

My special needs cat Tumbler has saved me twice. The first time was when he chose me at the shelter where I adopted him and his sister in December of 2010. After bad fertility news and no luck being able to have a baby, I wanted a companion animal in the worst way. Tumbler healed my baby emptiness with his uncanny affection and helped me through a sad time in a way I find difficult to explain. His birth defects made him extra lovable. A cat is certainly no replacement for a child, but he helped me through the disappointment.

The second time he saved me was in 2014. Last April - a year ago now - Tumbler was very sick. I took him to the vet. X-rays showed major problems with his kidneys. They gave him fluids. They weren't very hopeful. Rick took him to the vet. They said he might have to be hospitalized. Gave him more fluids. Told Rick he had kidney failure. Gave us needles and a bag of fluids to give Tumbler at home like a kitty dialysis patient if we were willing to try.

They told us Tumbler didn't have long. They said we could give him subcutaneous fluids with the needles and he'd be comfortable until he died or we could bring him back in and they'd help us say good bye. Tumbler wasn't eating much, but he was still snuggly and hadn't seemed to lose too much of a quality of life. Devastated by the sudden fate of my cat who was only 4 years old, I tried to prepare myself for making either the decision to euthanize him if he showed pain/discomfort or to wake up in the morning to find him dead in his sleep. I was so, so sad.

Tumbler slept more and ate less. He got his fluids every day from the IV bag. I accepted that he wouldn't be around too long and even began going through funny photos of him on my computer so I could share them and remember him when he died.

And then, just a few weeks later, Rick died. Not Tumbler.

And the very next day, in a frenzy of trauma, bustle, and grief, I told Tumbler he was not allowed to die. "I can't handle it right now," I told him. I needed my cat to help me through the pain. I couldn't deal with one more loss on top of the terrible, awful reality that had just become my life.

And that very day, just like that, Tumbler decided to start eating a normal amount again. And he listened. He did not die.

In fact, glued to my side, he grieved Rick and dealt with the confusion of seeing one less person in the household. And (maybe for me?) Tumbler actually got...better. I gave him the fluids every day from his IV bag and he patiently accepted the process like a champ. When I took him back to the vet, they were stunned by the massive improvements in his kidney levels and couldn't explain it. They happily told Tumbler he'd surprised them.

[I told him to smile - he always listens]

I began giving him the fluids every other day instead of every day, thankful not to have to stick the poor cat with a needle every morning. But Tumbler was on a roll. He thrived on less fluids and returned to his old playful, rambunctious, goofy self. He still gets fluids every other day, but he doesn't let that stop him and it's impossible to tell anything is wrong with him (except for his original birth defects, that is). And a whole year later...he's still awesome as ever - my miracle cat.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Over the almost 11 months since I started this blog, I've talked about the things I want. I have posted goals, promises, and desires. Hell, I've even posted personal ads (in poem form), not that I was actually soliciting anything with them.

10 months ago, way back at the beginning of August, I wrote:

I have learned the hard way that life is just too short and unpredictable for us to be guarded. I won't keep from telling people how much I care about them in any capacity. 

If I feel appreciation, you'll know it.
If I feel love, you'll know it. 

I am not afraid to say the things that people keep to themselves. I don't mind being emotional as long as I'm being truthful. 

I'm chipping away at the stone that encases me. The fresh, vulnerable Arielle wiggles inside the stone, her toes and fingers reaching out, her mouth moving to say the words that she wants to say. 

I have never been ashamed of emotion. I have been chipping away at the pretense to which other people are so accustomed for years now. During my interactions with others, I feel at times that my genuine emotion makes people uncomfortable. I just want to be real. I don't see the point in hiding away. I don't see the use in mastering secrecy. Maybe that's why I'm a blogger - putting life out there on the web for the world to see. 

So, in true Arielle fashion, I'd like to list some more of what I want.

I want: love, affection, fun, comfort, safety, excitement, authenticity, honesty, laughter, purpose, relaxation, compassion, adventure, experience, memories, emotion, stability, sincerity, fulfillment, support, conversation, humor, kindness, playfulness, serenity, freedom, intimacy, sweetness, surprise, calm, beauty, and joy.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The beautiful weather seems full of promise. I want so much to believe that great things are ahead and I am leaving all the fear and heartache behind in the wintertime. 

I went for a 3 mile run today after work, legs pumping, feet pounding, breath moving, brain thinking. My mind works out all the knots inside of it while I run. I can go from contemplative to triumphant to introspective to concerned to hopeful to determined in a matter of minutes. I like to feel the sun hit my back, my face, my arms. I like to feel heaviness is leaving me... knowing I'm becoming lighter just by running out my thoughts.

There's something I want to say.

Something I haven't ever said here.

And I'm a little bit afraid. But I just want to get it out.

I'm a lot less anxious now that Rick is gone.

I don't want to feel guilty for saying that. I will not feel guilty for saying that. 

The last year of Rick's life (spring 2013 - spring 2014) was a painful one. For him...but also for me. I have spent the last year not only coming to terms with his death, but with his suicide. And I have spent the last year not only healing from that loss, but healing from the pain I experienced while he was still alive. 

Last Tuesday, in my post This House, I wrote:

"I gave up a lot while I lived in this house. I gave in a lot while I lived in this house. I cried a lot in this house."

And I meant before Rick died. And so, every day... in spite of all I have lost, as awful as it may sound to an outsider, I feel relieved. 

I was a caretaker, I was a helper, I was a wife of a man with depression and chronic pain, I was a witness to addiction, I was an easer of pain, I was his life support, I was Rick's anchor to the earth. 

But now...after the trauma, the shock, the pain, and the transition... I can fly.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Memory Reel

Several months ago, my friend Daniele and I planned a small adventure. It was our something to look forward to... We saw something we felt like doing and instead of shrugging our shoulders in a "wouldn't that be nice" attitude, we decided to just do it. Our plan: Drive to Philadelphia, have dinner,  and finally see the Indigo Girls in concert at the Kimmel Center. I mean, it's not like it was an arduous journey or extremely far outside the box... but it wasn't the kind of thing we'd normally do and we weren't really sure why.

I think it's partly because we so seldom treat ourselves to something like that. It seems so often that other people say: "Hey, we should do that," and they just do it. Daniele and I see something we'd love to do and we wonder if our other responsibilities or concerns will get in the way, we prioritize others ahead of ourselves, and/or we are too frugal. 

I told someone recently that moving forward, I don't want material stuff. I want experiences. What I want years from now isn't boxes of nice crap or a house full of luxury. I want awesome memories

When I was with my best friend in Connecticut over her wedding weekend a few weeks ago, I went with her to the jewelry store to get her engagement ring cleaned for her wedding day. She looked at me and asked me if I would do something completely different the next time I get married. 

The short answer is yes. I don't want stuff. I want experiences that will be part of a memory reel later. I told her seriously that instead of a nice ring, I'd rather go on a trip somewhere awesome with the person I loved. I always want a memory - an awesome experience - over a possession.

In that same vein, I'd rather buy tickets to a concert and have a Sunday night adventure with my friend than buy something material for myself. So off we went...

Ever since I first heard the Indigo Girls in the backseat of my dad's car decades ago, I've loved the song Watershed. It's kind of like a life staple, especially now... and it seems to fit in perfectly with my post tonight.

Thought I knew my mind like the back of my hand
The gold and the rainbow, nothing panned out as I planned
They say only milk and honey's gonna make your soul satisfied
Well I better learn how to swim 'cause the crossing is chilly and wide

Twisted guardrails on the highway, broken glass on the cement
A ghost of someone's tragedy, how recklessly my time has been spent
They say that it's never too late but you don't, you don't get any younger
Well I better learn how to starve the emptiness and feed the hunger

Up on the watershed standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize till your agony's your heaviest load
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while

And there's always retrospect to light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh
You start at the top, go full circle round, catch a breeze, take a spill
But ending up where I started again makes me wanna stand still

Up on the watershed standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize till your agony's your heaviest load
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while

Stepping on a crack
Breaking up and looking back
'Til every tree limb overhead just seems to sit and wait
'Til every step you take becomes a twist of fate

Up on the watershed standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize till your agony's your heaviest load
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while

And now I have another memory to add to the reel...another experience to enrich my life...another promise of more fun times to come. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Amazing

I may have a baby face, but I have an old soul. And I know that we were put here on this earth to live life to the fullest. "The fullest" means something different for each of us, but we are not meant to live for fleeting moments of amazing, resigned to status quo the rest of the time - we are meant to turn those fleeting moments of amazing into hours and days and weeks and months and years. That is the secret of this thing called life.

When you're shown a slice of amazing, it's a gift. It's okay to stand in awe of it for a little while... but then you have to let gratitude show you the way.

Every time I'm shown a slice of amazing, I soak it up and carry it with me. Then when I go to sleep at night, I say to myself: How can I make more of this happen? How can I have more of this in my life? How can I treat this as something precious so it never goes away and actually multiplies?

I'd like to think that's why my life is not a mess of misery and pain. It's not that there's not misery and pain in it at times... it's just that I choose not to ignore the amazing... in fact, I am beyond thankful for the amazing... and in asking for it to multiply, the misery and pain diminishes considerably.

We will never be able to predict the future. That is part of the thrill of life. The amazing shows itself like a firefly in the darkness, slightly elusive, but so bright. It invites you to come closer. Chasing the amazing is all part of living life to the fullest... Because when you chase the amazing, you never have regrets.

Friday, April 10, 2015

What's Inside...Now

Back in September, 4 months into grief, I made a Feelings Heart to display my emotions and show what my heart looked like. {Click to view my first heart}

A little over a month later, I posted a new heart to show how things had changed inside me. {Click to view my second heart}

Then, in December, 7 months out, I posted a new heart to show again how emotions had changed inside me. {Click to view my third heart}

I haven't posted a new heart for a while... Now it's April and I'm just about 11 months out... Here is my current heart...Amazing how this exercise never gets old... This is what's inside me now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


So today was not the greatest day.

It was hectic. I felt unappreciated and misunderstood. I was cranky. I've already worked 4 extra hours for the week. I was stressing.

I pulled out of it. Plastered the usual smile on my face. Reminded myself of what's important and what's not.

At one of my meetings today, we talked about Spirit Week and all the events and themes for that particular week coming up. What did we do last year? People were trying to recall. What should we do this year? And I remembered with a bit of a jolt that I was on the committee that planned last year's Spirit Week. And then... Spirit Week was when Rick died. So I never made it in to work that whole week. I missed the whole thing. I was transported back to remembering what I was doing then. Planning a funeral. Letting a disaster clean-up crew into my house. Holding on to Rick's brother from Florida and bawling my eyes out. Walking around like I was on a mission. Staying awake all night long every night. Picking out photos for boards for the funeral home. Calling all the companies to say: My husband died. My husband died. My husband died. Talking to the State Trooper. The coroner. Crying. Crying. Crying. Wow. What a different time.

It's the kind of memory you have to shake off. Like a chill.

The social worker I hired a year ago today posted the most adorable long post on Facebook about having grown so much as a social worker and thanking me for being an amazing and kind boss. It literally made me tear up and kind of redirect myself.

My day did not end on a good note, but as I left the building full of frustration, I ran into my old boss/executive director at a CVS on my way home. I hadn't seen her in a number of months. She came to Rick's funeral. I then had lunch with her and some former co-workers in the summer. We had exchanged a couple emails many months ago and I sent her a card when I learned her mother passed away. But I hadn't seen her in almost 9 months.

She hugged me and said how happy she was to see me. She told me I looked great and how glad she was that I was doing so well. We played catch up for about 20 minutes, filling each other in on things. She remarked again, in a fairly surprised manner, how great I looked and how glad she was I was doing so well.

I'm resilient, folks. Don't expect to see me crash and burn. I am full of life.

I walked out of CVS feeling 10 times better than when I'd walked in. It was so nice to be reminded that I am missed, that my "old life" still cares.

I drove home, took a hot shower to wash away all of the stress of the day, poured myself a glass of wine, and...breathed. I'm so ready for relief and love and happiness and comfort. I'm thankful for my resilience and hope.

I got this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Comfort Measures

I think comfort is very important.

comfort (noun):
a state of ease and freedom from pain or constraint

My Top 10 Comforts:

1) Coffee
2) Tea
3) Lying in the sun
4) Handwritten notes
5) Reading a book in a hot bath
6) Listening to a music album over and over for weeks until I know it inside out
7) Shirley Temple movies
8) Almost any kind of soup
9) Clearly not all year long...but...Christmas music
10) has to be cats

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

This House

I was thinking about something today.

8 years ago this month, I had a realtor because I was buying a house. Now, 8 years later, I have a realtor because I am trying to sell it.

There's a sign in my front yard right now, just like in this photo from 2007.

My house and front yard may look eerily similar at either end of the span of 8 years, but the woman in the photo is definitely very different.

I look at that girl in the photo and laugh. There I stood, newly engaged, not even a wife yet...wearing a hippo t-shirt with my hair pulled back, pointing proudly at the "under contract" part of the sign in the front yard of my new house. I was only 22 years old.

Even as I type that, my own jaw kind of drops. 22. I was a baby. What did I know about anything back then? I was way more mature than my 22 years... I was ready in most senses to start an adult life... but wow... I just had NO CLUE what life would throw at me over the course of the next 8 years in this house.

After a year in this house, I married Rick. The third bedroom upstairs was always "the baby room" and I was waiting and eager to fill it. Years of trying to have a baby proved fruitless and to move on and accept that motherhood was not in the cards for me, I turned "the baby room" into my office and renamed it "the writing room." I started and finished grad school in this house, spending hours in my writing room typing papers as well as poems and stories. And of course...blogs. The "baby room" turned "writing room" is now just a black hole of everything post-death. It's where I've thrown all the papers and documentation and files and photos. It's where the wedding photos went that I took off the walls. It's where the funeral cards and photo boards from that day are stored. It's where the death certificates are...where Rick's suicide note is... somewhere in the mess of memories and plastic bins and junk.

At the very end of 2010, the cats took up residence in this house.

There was laughter in this house. There was order in this house. There was pain in this house. There was worry in this house.

I got a new job while we lived in this house. Rick lost his job while we lived in this house. While he was unemployed in the months before he died, he spent a lot of time in this house.

I made countless meals in this house. I gave up a lot while I lived in this house. I gave in a lot while I lived in this house. I cried a lot in this house.

Then, Rick died in this house.
Then, I lived alone in this house.

I look at that girl in the photo and I think of the lifetime that's elapsed during the last 8 years...from that moment the picture was taken until this moment tonight - where I sit blogging as a widow in this house.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Night Owl No More

For as long as I can remember, I've been a night owl. I was the kid who stayed awake after being put to bed, flashlight under the covers, book in hand. As I got older, I used to love being the last person awake in the whole house. I enjoyed the solitude, but there was always something about that time of the hours ticked away into the darkness...that made me feel more alive.

I always wrote my best work late at night. I remember nights in my late teens and early twenties when I'd scribble away at the speed of light, words coming to me more rapidly than I could get them down on paper, poems being created in bursts of energy and creativity. There were times I wrote so long and so late, almost delirious with exhaustion, threw the papers to the floor and gave in to sleep, only to wake up in the morning almost completely surprised by what I had created in my last hour before the sleep overtook me. It was kind of like a surprise. Kind of like a dream you don't remember until something triggers it back to the front of your mind. I'd see the papers, the words, the lines on the page, and I'd say OH! Yes! I did write that last night! How awesome!

In college, it wasn't unusual for me to retreat alone to the living room of my shared apartment to watch old movies on TCM until 2 am. A few years back, married to Rick, I used to work all day, go to grad school all night, get home around 10 pm for the first time all day, and still have energy to blog or film a self-help YouTube video or start a paper. A night owl I was, and a night owl I remained.

Until now.

I don't think I would have ever called myself a morning person. But now, I wake up at 5:45 am. Sometimes earlier. Even on weekends, it's unusual for me to sleep past 7:00. I've begun going to work earlier and earlier, starting my day in a persistent manner, full of energy. I need my coffee, of course, but I'm ready to take on the day. And I like it.

I don't go to bed late most of the time. My body and mind have adjusted themselves to a new pattern. They've decided upon something they like better. Change comes. Apprehension leaves. We find a groove. We settle in. We live.

I used to be a night owl. Now I'm an early bird. Either way, I sing.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


This is my 300th post. I wonder how many pages this blog would be all bound together... I wonder how many volumes it has yet to become...

Today, before an early Easter dinner at my parents' house, I went for a long head-clearing run. The wind was a bit intense at points, but with The Eagles playing in my ears, I barely noticed. I let the air fill me, the sun touch my skin, and every time my feet hit the ground I felt a bit lighter. 

[post-run Easter selfie]

I'm looking forward to the warmer weather... the spring, the summer. Last spring into summer left a lot to be desired. It was horrific, hollow, hectic, and bittersweet at different points. I remember always feeling like the warm sun and beautiful weather was a huge contrast to how I felt inside, with my mourning and emptiness. This year, I'm hoping for transition, change, peace, excitement, inner happiness, and the chance to enjoy each day as it comes. 

I thrive in the warmer months...on the sun, the heat, the brightness, the light... 

Saturday, April 4, 2015


warrior (noun):
- a brave or experienced soldier or fighter
- a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness

I like to think of myself as a warrior. I feel experienced by now - not in the ways of the world, of course - but in a bunch of very specific things. I may not have physical weapons, but I have soldiered on... I am a fighter. Never a victim, always a person who longs to prevail. I am aggressive at living life.

I'm living life in color, with all the lights turned on...

The thing about me (well, there are many things I suppose) is that when I have something to say, I want to say it. When I know good stuff, I want to share it. When I feel an emotion, I want to express it. When I am happy, I want the whole world to know.

Hey world, I'm happy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Positive Change

You may remember my posts about the anonymous widower from around Valentine's Day. I shared each item I opened in that original package for the next few days. Well, Anonymous Widower is back! Today when I checked my mail, I found I had received a large package. Not expecting anything, I opened it to find another letter and a variety of very thoughtful gifts, all lying in plastic Easter grass.

It is amazing to me that a man I've never met, who reads my blog because he has been widowed himself, takes the time to send me packages out of kindness.

In other news, I think April and May will bring a lot of positivity. This is me with my "Positivity Wall" at work...well, one corner of it anyway. I began wallpapering my office with squares of positive quotes in art form many months ago. The wall continues to grow...

I am in the homestretch of this first year of widowhood. By the end of May, I will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that I made it through, that in fact, I came out on the other side of it all happier and better. 

The final weeks of this tumultuous year bring changes, memories, and things to look forward to:

April 5th: Easter (the final holiday of the first year alone)
April 12th: A concert in Philadelphia with my friend Daniele - a celebratory adventure of sorts
April 19th: my wedding anniversary (the first one since Rick's been dead due to when he died)
May 1st & 2nd: a trip to Virginia Beach for my friend Lindy's wedding
May 8th: Rick's birthday (again, the first one since he's been dead)
May 16 & 17: I'll be manager on duty that weekend, exactly one year since the first time I was...the fateful weekend I lost my husband
May 18th: the anniversary of Rick's death
and finally...
May 22nd & 23rd: My mom and I will make the trip to Ogunquit, Maine to scatter Rick's ashes where he always wanted them to be, I'll stay where Rick and I used to stay at the shore there for the last time, and mark one year by gaining closure and saying good bye.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A History of Tears

It's funny to think how much I've cried this past year...  I remember writing months ago that my grocery list almost always had "tissues" written on it, because I was always running out...

Granted, most of my tears were shoved into the first half of these last several months and the act of crying became a history rather than a common occurrence. 

But as I was's funny to think how much I've cried this past year, and how often I speak about crying and/or emotions on this blog...but yet, so few people have ever really seen me cry. 

The number did rise drastically, of course, when I consider that I stood at the front of a funeral home receiving every single person who came to Rick's funeral. Technically, they all saw me cry. And there were a lot of people... 

But that's not the kind of crying I'm referring to... That's not the quiet, secret kind of crying that comes just by opening up a little, or by saying words that are hard to say, or from being moved by the compassion of another human being. 

The quiet, soft, open kind of crying is the kind of crying that so few have seen...the kind that brings me closer to those who have witnessed it...and closer still to those who have wrapped me up (figuratively or literally) in their love and understanding. 

Thank you to everyone who has ever entered the inner circle of my emotions. The blog is sacred, but what you've seen is even more real.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Every time I meet with my attorney about all of the business of death, I think it will be the last time. But it never is. It seems to continue on and on, paper after paper, signature after signature...mail some forms...wait a while...mail some forms...wait some more.

I find it strange to see on paper all the words referring to me:

"Sole survivor"



"Spouse of the deceased"


I just really don't want to be those things any more.

Tired from lack of sleep, feeling impatient about a number of things, angry at Rick for leaving me with the burdensome task of dealing with the mess he left behind, and frustrated with my disorganized attorney, I made a pit stop at my parents' house before going home to have a small cry.

It was the sort of cry I scheduled into my evening so I could have it over with and move on. It was the kind of cry that starts out as a reaction to one tiny little thing and becomes about everything.

Why couldn't Rick have had life insurance?
Why can't my attorney even get my address correct?
Will I ever be done with this paperwork?
What if someone is interested in buying my house and I don't want to leave yet?
But also...what if no one is ever interested?
Who will feed my cats while I'm away at Lindy's wedding in May since my parents are also away that weekend?
It's spring now and the slope in my backyard is too steep for me - who will mow my lawn?
When can I really relax and just enjoy feeling good?
Will I ever get the things I desperately want?
Why do I have to be the girl carrying the baggage of a husband who shot himself in the head when all I want to be is free?
And why do I have to cry alone without anyone to hold me?

And then, just like that, I end the cry. I remind myself of all the wonderful things in my life. I remind myself I will be okay. Patience, Arielle, patience. I remind myself the light is coming.