I have belonged to the same online community since about the time Matt and I started planning our wedding (Sometime in 2000-01). Originally, I joined a wedding planning site called The Knot, and it was an invaluable resource of information and ideas for planning a wedding. I got some really unique ideas, excellent advice and found great ways to save money.
Several of the other girls I became friends with over that period of time decided to get away from the Knot since our weddings had already taken place, and we were starting to switch gears to planning a family. Plus, some of the other girls on The Knot were Not so nice. So, we created our own board called "Gumdrops." In our years of friendship, we’ve experienced joy from the healthy babies born (and gory birth stories), heartache for babies we lost and everything between–divorce, infertility, death, baby poop, entrepreneurship, dinner ideas, dirty jokes… We share laughter, tears and have given each other the strength to get through the hardest times in our lives. We’re often the first to know when one is expecting and eagerly await the news when one goes into labor. We’ve pooled together to give baby showers for those in need, sent necessities to those who endured natural disasters, and pooled our resources to make donations to such charities as Make a Wish, and Big Brother/Big Sister. I really believe that I'm a better mother for having so much great parenting advice.
Each woman brings to the board something special. There are many personalities, but we all get along and respect each others’ differences. We’ve grown very close since becoming friends in 2000 and plan to stick together even after our kids are teens–when we’ll probably need each other the most! Since we’re scattered around the US (and a few abroad), our board is the best way to keep in touch. Those who live close meet regularly. 2005 was the year of our first large Gumdrop get-together. We've had several since then (we try to plan them annually), all in different locations in the country. Not everyone is able to go, but a lot of them are willing to make financial sacrifices to get together with friends we’ve shared so many details of our lives with. I bet people who aren’t familiar with message boards can't understand the bond that can form among members, but we are a very tight group and consider each other "sisters." Several women from this group came out for Matt's memorial service to surround me with love, a few came after for a separate visit, and even more are planning to come out to run in the 5K in August.
There are a few girls that I went to high school with that I am still best friends with 'till this day. Connie and Karin, their husbands and children (who still live in the area), and Jenny and her husband and children who live in Florida. Connie is going to give birth to her third baby at the end of this month!
My best friend from work, Kim, has been an incredible source of support, and is someone I can share tears and lots of laughter with. Matt's best friend Rick, and his wife Heidi who are great friends of mine (I work with both of them, too) have been awesome support, are so much fun to hang with, and our kids get along fabulously. We are like brothers and sisters, and our kids call us "aunts" and "uncles"...
My sister Michelle who is moving in with me, my brother Bryan who's coming out to visit me again next week, my cousins Dana and Lorinda, Matt's cousins Jennifer and Amy (and their husbands and kids), and several other of our aunts, uncles and cousins and in-laws have been awesome friends of mine. It's pretty cool when you can consider some of your family members good friends as well.
Not to mention all the people in our lives that have come out of the woodwork to offer their love and help in any way they can...
I've also made a couple of new friends so far since Matt's death - one near, and one far. It's a shame that we've been brought together through tragedy, but I'm thankful just the same to have these new people in my life. I hope that not only will we be able to support each other through the sadness, but also share a lot of laughter with each other.
I think God knew I was going to need a lot of friends and good people in my life. I certainly have been abundantly blessed in this area, and for that I am very, very thankful.