{Cabin Life} Do we save her or do we let her go?

In 1986 my dad was driving through the Wisconsin country side when a log cabin caught his eye. The cabin had seen better days, her windows and doors were gone, and the roof had a gaping hole. But, her logs were strong. Where others saw a dilapidated building, he saw beauty. And he knew that he had to have her. So he sent my mon off to go find the owner. The owner was more than happy to sell the cabin to them, he needed $5,600.00 for a new pole barn. So a deal was struck and the log cabin was ours.

After purchasing the cabin my Dad learned that it was built in the late 1920s for a sheep herder and his family. The basement is a dirt floor and that is where the lambs and sheep were kept on stormy & winter nights. The family lived on the first floor and utilized the sleeping loft. They lived in the home until they moved to town in the 60s. And there she sat, she sat empty waiting for her new owner. Slusher purchased the 300 acre parcel somewhere in the 70s and had no interest in the cabin, so she sat empty. He rented out the land to Mr. Bathel a Christmas tree farmer and to Mr. Smith a Bee farmer. Eighty acres across the road was sold to a Postal Carrier from Saint Paul and he built a little cabin down by the creek. He was our only neighbor.

When I was a little girl the son of the sheep herder would bring his family and friends down to see where he grew up. He often shared pictures and stories with us. He was thankful that someone was working on restoring the place he once called home. He was glad to see that a new family was making memories in the logs that once protect him.

This cabin of ours is a magical place. Its a place of healing. When I was little I was sick. Being in town meant that our world revolved around doctor visits, tests, medication, and pitiful looks from strangers. I couldn’t even play with the kids in my neighborhood or go to school. I was homeschooled by Ms. Ann and played dolls with my next door neighbor Ms. Cora (she was my 90+ year old best friend). Every once in a blue moon they’d let me go to Sunday school, which was a real treat. As a child I didn’t understand that they were protecting me from getting sicker than I already was. It was torture not getting to be a normal kid. But, as an adult I realize that they gave me an escape, they gave me something most people never have.

My Dad bought a second home, a summer home without electricity or running water. He bought a place where his daughter could truly be a kid. I was allowed to explore and dream. These woods that surround the cabin entertained me for hours on end. These old logs over heard scary stories and jokes told in the dark. Her old logs sheltered us from stormy skies as we played board games on the living room floor. And with time her logs healed a sick little girl and her family. She allowed them to dream again.

It’s more than logs, the land the cabin sits on is magical. The woods were my playground. I often could be found picking strawberries, mixing potions, “hunting bad guys,” playing in my make shift fort, or just laying in a field of wild flowers calling out shapes in the clouds. When my parents weren’t looking I was known to capture an unfortunate toad, frog, salamander, or turtle in my bucket. Somehow my dad always knew, he didn’t even have to look at me and I’d hear him yell “Mannie! You better put that critter back where you found him!!” Snakes? I wasn’t afraid of snakes. I was fearless as a child and my dad had to teach me about poisonous snakes in order to keep me safe. If a snake crossed my path it was a guarantee I’d pick it up and put it down the back of my sister’s shirt. I’m pretty sure I am the reason she has a fear of snakes. I am probably the reason for her fear of the dark, dead fish….. and many other things in life. And yes, she deserved it, she’d cheat at board games and violated my Barbies by cutting their hair. As we grew older we grew apart, she lost interest in being my sister and in her eyes the cabin lost its magic.

Even though the magic faded for her, it grew and grew for me. We are not the only folks who love the land the cabin sits on. As I said earlier Mr. Slusher rented out the land to local farmers. As a child I’d watch Bathel and his crew expertly care for, trim and spray paint the Christmas trees that would be sold in the fall. Yes, believe it or not Christmas trees are spray painted…. that’s why you sometimes get a tree where the needles fall off as soon as you get it home. It’s a pretty neat process to see in person. Anyways, Mr. Smith tenderly cared for over 20 hives and he’d tell me “now Mannie, don’t kill the bee. The bee doesn’t want to sting you, he just wants to get back to the hive.” He taught me to respect the honey bee and to this day I find myself telling people “don’t kill that bee! He just thinks you are a flower. Once he realizes you aren’t, he will go on his way.” It’s true, they will. My Dad used to have an orchard on the land. I’d spend my summer days following him from tree to tree with trimmers in my hand as he patiently explained the delicacy of grafting. When we weren’t trimming or grafting, he made me carry 10 gallon buckets of water up the hill to thirsty little trees. He said “it will teach you character….” I don’t think it taught my character, however I did have really strong arms for a 10 year old.

Sunset is my favorite time at the cabin. My Dad calls dusk “God’s magic time,” because each sunset is a beautiful painting to remind us that life goes on. I spent my summer nights sitting by the fire roasting marshmallows while watching fireflies dance in the darkening skies. We’d tell stories about UFOs and aliens as the foggy mist rolled in through the trees. The sound of bullfrogs singing, crickets chirping, and wind rustling the leaves would lull me to sleep in the old iron bed. I’d dream of another day at the lake and rescuing turtles from the road. The smell of the fire would stir us awake, the morning mist dissipated through the trees as our feet touched the wet grass. Breakfast was always fried potatoes and some sort of meat, if my Mom was there we’d get pancakes + fried potatoes + meat. Breakfast always tastes better when eaten outside under the old oak trees. Those are days that I will always cherish for as long as I have breath in my body.

Speaking of body, this little log cabin of ours is no match for the test of time. She was built back when we knew little about concrete and her foundation is crumbling. Her logs are good, but her base has seen better days. My dad guarded me from her fate all summer long and told me over and over “I can fix it, I just need some materials.” When I laid eyes on her, I knew that this wasn’t a project for him. We needed help. We had to map out our options and attach cost to those options. We needed to make the decision of do we save her or do we let her go?

We chose to save her. All roads pointed to one contractor, we are bringing in Heritage Builders from Menominee WI to restore her. In the spring of 2021 she will be lifted, her old foundation will be removed and a new one will be put in its place. Once the foundation is completed the Jacks and supports will be removed one by one and she will be sat on her new foundation. This project terrifies me. One wrong move and we will end up with a pile of Lincoln logs. I know our log cabin is in the right hands, Troy from Heritage Builders immediately saw what we see, he saw the gem. The gem that my dad saw all those years ago, the one painstakingly brought back from ruin to life.

I know in my heart God is making a way. This land, this house is my Dad’s heaven on earth. And he gave her to me, he’s trusting me to carry her on to the next generation and beyond. We pray each day that this cabin of ours will hear the pidder patter of little feet within her walls again. That scary stories and laughter will once again ring through her rafters. This log cabin craves life and life is what we will breathe into her.

Because she breathes life into my Dad and makes his soul sing. This log cabin of ours will be where my Dad’s soul rests. As his daughter I made a promise to ensure that her log walls are his final resting place. I will honor that choice. When the time comes his ashes will be placed in an old ceramic Indian whiskey decanter and tucked up in the rafters to watch over the place he loved most in life. And I will spend the rest of my days caring for and protecting his Heaven on earth.

{Road Trip} To Montana You Go!

Back in November my Dad was ran over by a car while walking through a grocery store parking lot. My heart sank when we got the news that his left knee was shattered and that there was a chance he wouldn’t fully recover. It’s been seven months since the accident and he is slowly getting better. He now has a healthy fear of parking lots and a bum leg. Slow and steady is how we move in our new normal. A normal that still contains road trips.

In the past he would follow me anywhere. It didn’t matter how far or how high, he was always there right by my side. This trip was different. I had to think about walking distances and terrain. I had to ask myself “can dad walk to this? Can he climb these stairs? Can we drive up to it or…..” Those thoughts echoed over and over in my head as we drove closer to Montana. I wanted to make this trip accessible for him and not have him wonder if he could do something.

There were many times where I went ahead as he took his time or sat on a bench awaiting my return. My heart broke a little each time I walked away from him. A daughter should never have to leave her father behind. This is our reality now, he is never going to be the same crazy active 67 year old that he was. In this season in life I will enjoy the Dad that I still have and be thankful to God for what he can do.

The internet told me that dinosaurs once existed in Montana. So naturally I put on my dinosaur t-shirt and headed west. We stoped in at the Glendive Dinosaur Museum in Glendive MT. The museum is small yet well executed. The staff is knowledgeable and extremely friendly. Now I should warn you this museum isn’t for everyone due to its religious undertones. The founders of the museum do not believe in evolution and they believe that Noah brought baby dinosaurs on the arch (pretty cool theory if you ask me). The theory of Creation is sprinkled through our the museum in a very tasteful way.

We said goodbye to the dinosaurs and continued westward. Destination: The Battle of Little Bighorn Battlefield. I have watched numerous documentaries on the Battle of Little Bighorn and to see it in person just takes your breath away. As the wind swirls around you, you can start to imagine the battle on the land before you. As you look around you start to wonder “why this land? Look at all of these hills, no wonder the union troops lost.” A single stone with a black shield sticks out among the small white stones. This stone, isn’t a stone for a regular soldier, this stone is Custard’s. As you travel through the grounds you will notice clusters of stones through out the fields. A white stone marks the place of where a union soldier fell. There are also red stones but those are few, the red stones mark where a warrior fell in battle.

The park closes at 6PM each night and with that we decided to mosey on to our next stop. Google told me about Pictograph Cave Park and I was excited to see it in person. If you are an out of state resident $6 gets in to the park. The trail to the cave is a little steep but paved. There are cameras everywhere along with signs telling you vandalism is a crime. Not to mention a sign warning you of rattle snakes.

The Cave was bigger than I thought it was going to be and it was beautiful. If you take a moment to readjust your eyes the pictographs start to pop out at you. Red warriors painted to the left, along with guns, Buffalo, and a funny looking guy with a shield. This land was sacred to them and they forever left their mark that withstood the test of time.

The beartooth pass is something I googled and googled and googled again. I stalked the MTD’s website for any updates about the roads opening for the season. Per the website the planned 2019 opening was Memorial Day weekend and I could wait! I even watched videos of MTD clearing the snow from the pass.

Lucky for us the pass was OPEN! But only halfway open! We didn’t care so long as we got to go. This road is a white knuckle you better pee before you get on it road. And just incase you are wondering my Prius did just fine on the pass. I have no words for how beautiful this road is. Snow capped mountains and vistas that go on for days! My dad even threw a snowball or two, thankfully it didn’t hit any cars below.

From the pass we drove to Yellowstone National Park….. this is where our adventure came to an abrupt end. The below photo is the only thing we saw in Yellowstone. As soon as we paid our $35 fee to get into the park, my rear breaks went out and we had to limp it back to Billings. In which by the grace of God I happened to catch a mechanic on Saturday night and he took pity on us and agreed to fix my car. Top Tech Automotive in Billings MT was amazing and I am so grateful that the owner Darren gave up his Sunday to help us out.

With new rear breaks installed we hit the road and started heading back east. We stopped off at Pompey’s Pillar and I climbed up the steps to look at Clark’s signature. Lewis & Clark stopped at the pillar and named it after an Indian guide named Pompey. The Indians also used the pillar as a bat signal. They would go to the top and send smoke signals to warn near by tribes that the whites were coming.

The walk up the pillar is easy. There are wooden steps that take you to two different viewpoints. There is a park ranger stationed at the signature to make sure no one damages it.

From here we continued on our journey back east and we made a quick stop at Theodore Rosevelt Park, ND Badlands.

Jamestown is home to the sacred white buffalo and the National American Buffalo Museum. The museum was closed on Memorial Day so we strolled through the frontier village which has goats!

We said goodbye to ND and continued east to home sweet home, Minnesota, this trip wasn’t what we expected but even in chaos we found adventure. My dad was excited about taking his first Uber ride and we discovered that MT is filled with a lot of kind folks who take putty on weary travelers.

{Road Trip} “To South Dakota You Go!”

Originally this trip started out with a destination of Western Minnesota. Once I looked at a map and saw how close Sioux Falls was I added it to the itinerary and booked our hotel. I then realized that the badlands were only a 4 hour drive from Sioux Falls and that The Black Hills were only like an hour past that, so drive west we did!

My dad and I made it to Sioux Falls late Friday night and checked into our hotel. Which the hotel was busy, heck the town was busy. We went straight to sleep because it was almost midnight and I had this grand plan of waking up at 5AM and driving west. Drive west we did!

My research told me that the Badlands Scenic Byway was not to be missed. $10 gets you a pass to the 35 mile long byway. The badlands are gorgeous or as my dad said “seeing it in person is much better than seeing it on TV!” There are lots of photo opportunities and many pull overs where you can safely take photos and walk trails into the canyons. We came upon a flock of big horn sheep munching on mustard weed. My dad again “aren’t they neat!? This is so cool!”

The scenic byway dumps you off in Wall South Dakota aka Home of Wall Drug. We decided to stop because well we read their billboards for over 100+ miles. I gotta say, I was disappointed. Wall Drug is always hyped up on travel shows and blogs, it was just meh. It didn’t make my little souvenir loving heart go pitter patter. It just went “this is it!?” We made the best of it and ordered lunch and walked through the shops. We did find trinkets to take home and a shoe horn. My dad needed a shoe horn and he was glad we found one at Wall Drug. Oh! My dad made some new friends at Wall Drug, they weren’t much for talking though…. I did find one bright side, I loved the little Travelers Chapel, it was simple, yet a reminder that no matter where we go we find faith.

With our bellies full we got back on the road and headed, you guessed it “West!” I just have to add the speed limit in South Dakota is 80MPH!!!!!! Once again I was legit and not speeding!! It was great!! I could go 80 all day every day! Destination Rushmore! Mount Rushmore was a bore. You walk through the flags and hey there is a gift shop and an ice cream shop and oh yeah some old dudes in stone. My dad didn’t walk up to the balcony he stayed back near the parking ramp. He said “I liked watching the look on people’s faces…. they were like “that’s it!”” Word! “That’s it, is right!

From Rushmore we drove to the Crazy Horse Monument. Which by the way is still under construction and the people at the gate let you know “you cannot get any where near the monument.” Which was fine by us. My dad stayed in the car while I went to check out the visitor center and gift shop. Again there were a lot of people with “that’s it” looks on their faces.

From Crazy Horse we drove to Custer and from Custer we drove to Wyoming!!! Yes, yes we kept on driving west! And because why not!

After our little side trip to Wyoming we drove back to Rapid City for dinner and then drove EAST!! We got back to our hotel around 2AM. Holy that was a long ass drive but it was totally worth it! Google told me that there was actually a water fall in Sioux Falls, so off we went!

From the falls we headed east! East to the famous “Devil’s Gulch.” Jesse James supposedly jumped the 20 foot gap and hid from the law. Because ya know robbing a bank in Northfield gets you in to trouble.

From the Gulch, you guessed it we drove EAST!! East to the Jeffers Petroglyphs.

We continued to drive east until we reached Red Wing where I traded my dad in for the beloved muppet like dog and headed back home to Jay.

{Infertile Me} Infertile Mertyle with the old EGGS 

I am a firm believer in second opinions, especially when it comes to the medical profession. In January I settled in to my fertility clinic, I liked the doctor and her staff, they seemed confident that IUI would work. We did 3 IUI cycles and each one resulted in a big fat negative. Heart breaking, that is what the last 6 months have been. In March I learned that my clinic was not covered under my insurance  plan and that I needed to go to CCRM Minneapolis. I kicked my feet, tried to appeal to the insurance company and eventually gave in and scheduled a consult with CCRM. 

Night and day difference. Dr. Hayes didn’t rely on some other doctor’s data and findings. She ordered a slew of tests for Jay and I. Tests that would tell us our over all reproductive health so she could get a better idea of what we are working with. Since the old clinic said everything on my end was normal, I didn’t give it a second though and was confident CCRM’s findings would be the same. I should know by now nothing in my life is easy…….. AJ with the old eggs, yup that’s me AJ with the old ass eggs. 

I spent months doing IUIs that would never have worked. I’ve got old eggs and Jay’s got dumb swimmers. In that moment I felt a little violated by the other clinic and instantly wondered did they know about this and just carried on for the money? I’m sure they knew my resting egg count was low and that only 2% of our swimmers were champs, but they didn’t care, because we paid the bills and so they carried on with treatment. I can’t think about this, if I do it will just cause me more stress than I need right now. I want to believe that they had good intentions but as I’ve learned the IVF industry has a douche canoe around every turn. 

So what happens now? Well our only option of achieving a human of our own is IVF. Each month that ticks by my egg reserve drops, so we need to move quickly. Quick like little bunnies! We already know that we are not going to retrieve a huge number of eggs. At this point we will take what we can get and ICIS will be used to make sure only one swimmer fertilizes the egg. I just pray the our embryos will make it to blast and that will we have one or two to transfer. In my heart of hearts I know my body, she is weary and she can only handle one cycle, we’ve got one shot at this and there will be no do overs. One shot to make CoraLeigh or Oliver a reality. 

Summer. I want a summer. Sophia and Jack need their auntie this summer so IVF is on the back burner until August. In July I am sitting down with a perinatal physician to go over lovenox protocol, when to start it and when to stop it and what dose it should be. We will also be discussing if it is safe for me to carry more than one baby. Once the protocol is determined we will begin the really fun IVF meds and start growing eggs that with a little luck will become embryos.

My rainbow baby is just one embryo away and I cannot wait to have a baby that we can keep. 

{Road Trip} Madison County Iowa 

This post is a little late. Life always gets in the way. I have been busy moving and enjoying life. 

Anyways, my Mama absolutely loves the movie Bridges of Madison County. Clint Eastwood gets her all steamy – she is totally a huge fan, she’s seen like every Clint Eastwood movie known to man. So I as her daughter was like “hey mom want to go on a trip.” She of course said yes and I set off to planning. My north shore idea fell through so I talked to my dad and he said “why not take her to the bridges.” Bridges? What bridges? Umm the covered ones in Iowa, ya know that movie, he said. Oh yes right the ones in the movie. So with that idea in mind I found us a hotel in Stewart Iowa and started planning our trip.
Madison county Iowa is about a five hour drive from Minneapolis. Wintersett is the county seat and it is also the town featured in the movie. I will admit the town is so stinking cute! We ate lunch at the north side cafe, which again is featured in the movie. There menu was full of Iowa comfort food and home town charm. I had a ham sandwich and deep fried cheese balls. After our bellies were full we walked around the town square and did a little shopping. I bought wine at a pharmacy and kept searching for a signal. Wintersett is a dead zone for cell phones. The nice pharmacist gave us a paper map to all of the bridges. 

There are a total of six remaining covered bridges. All except for two of the six sit on their original sites. Getting to the bridges is an adventure in itself, your drive on winding gravel roads and follow these little tiny brown bridge signs. It was kind of like bingo! My mom and I were actually trailing behind the cutest little old couple. Though the weather was misty a lot of folks were out looking for the bridges and it was fun watching people’s faces light up when they walked through them. 

Only a few of the bridges were featured in the movie the bridges of Madison county. The most important bridge is the Roseman Bridge. That is the bridge Francesca drives up to and leaves a note inviting Robert to dinner. At this bridge there is a cute little gift shop where you can buy copies of the book and local goods. The bridge, well all of the inside walls of the bridges actually, are covered in signatures, poems, and art work left by visitors. My mom and I thought about adding our names, but we decided not to. 

I thought it would take an entire weekend to see all of the bridges. They are actually really close together and it took us about two hours to visit all of them. In wintersett there is a cute city park where the Cutler-Danahue Bridge sits and if you drive back into the park you will come along the stone bridge (it was in the movie) and way back into the woods is clarks tower. I decided to climb to the top of the tower and the view was amazing.

Since we had one more day to spend on our trip I thought it would be fun to head on down to Omaha Nebraska. My mama seconded the idea and off we went. I always thought Nebraska would be boring, it’s not boring, it’s actually beautiful. We went to the Durham Museum, tooled around the farmers market, did some shopping, visited the La Familia Shrine, and an apple orchard. It was a jam packed Saturday. 

Oh bonus while in Omaha we had lunch at the Golden Corral. When I was little my mama would take me to the one in Red Wing and I loved the Texas toast and ice cream. Which she always told me was not a meal. On Tuesdays your child at for the price of their weight, 20 cents per pound. They had this big scale, you’d stand on it and they would write your weight on a sticker and slap it on you. I was a cheap date for my parents. Anyways back to present day! People! OMG! They have cotton candy on there dessert bar! I smuggled some out! I know I am such a criminal. 

Sunday arrived sooner than we liked and it was time to journey back home. The fog was pea soup that morning so we took it slow and by the time we got home it lifted. Driving in fog is not fun. If you are looking for a fun weekend getaway I highly recommend visiting the Bridges of Madison County and the city of Omaha. There is so much to do and see, everyone will be happy that they went. Now I am going to go refresh my memory and rewatch the movie! 

{Engaged Life} Boxes in a new zip code

Life moves on. 

My zip code has moved too. I hung up my single uptown girl shoes, only to put on a comfortable pair of committed relationship shoes. It took almost 6 years but I have finally found my zen, my happy, and that happy is a townhome in the suburbs. I know, I know I said I would never go back.  But hey when the man you love lives in the burbs you go to the damn burbs. 

My things are hap hazordly stacked in the garage. Trust me, I am slowly working on unpacking my shit and making the townhouse a home. Right now our home is in disarray, but in a good disorganized way. One that lets you know that two lives have smashed into one big life. Cullen is no longer an only child he has two brothers, an orange bitchy cat named Dexter and a gray cat named Stiffy. For the most part they get along.

At night I make dinner for two instead of one. I feed three animals instead of one. Everyday I get to come home to my best friend. I get a little giddy when I hear the garage door open and Jay comes bouncing through the door. His face lights up when he sees me cooking away he tries to get in a hug, but I brush him off. You can’t break your woman’s focus while she’s cooking. Breaking focus equals burnt food and no one likes burnt food. To me the key  to a good relationship is eating dinner together every night and we do just that while watching Super Girl on Netflix. So yes I can say that we are a couple who Netflix and chill. 

We are building a life together. A life with two cats, one of which is bitchy and a muppet like dog at our side. One day we hope to be parents to a two legged child. Fertility is a mystery, you either have it or you don’t. One thing I do have is Jay and I wouldn’t want to go through this journey with anyone else. Jay knows what I’ve been through and that men have the smaller part in fertility. I’ve been poked, probed, scanned and prodded, while he just gave a sample. The odds are against us, yet we have hope that deep within the blueprints lies a room called parenthood. We know that rainbows are hard to catch, but watching him/her grow will be worth it.

In Jay I found home. He can make me laugh at the drop of a hat, then again we all know I crack my own self up. We have a running joke of hiding a light saber on eachother’s side of the bed. Most nights I make it through without cracking up until he finds it. Plus there are running stories of Dexter and Stiffy’s adventures behind Walgreens. Laughter makes a home. Jay reminds me to not be so serious and to live life to the fullest and to take chances. Life is different, different in a good way. I’ve found my human, my grove, I’ve change my zip code and I’m never looking back.

{Road Trip} Wisconsin Point 

I have a long standing love affair with Lake Superior. For me it’s not just a lake, it’s a part of my soul and the story of how my family began. My extremely great grandfather Basile Hudane Beaulieu was a voyager who sailed the Great Lakes and landed on the shores of what we now call Minnesota. He being a frechmen did not speak the Annishenabe language, yet somehow they understood each other and he fell in love with Chief Skywoman. An that is how one side of my story began.

As a child I walked her shores collecting sea glass and rocks. She drew me in like an old friend each crashing wave comforted my soul. As an adult on my drive up north, I get giddy knowing that as each mile ticks by I am getting closer and closer to her shore. When my blue eyes meet her, my worries melt away and I feel at peace. Superior has this affect on people, she is powerful and calming in one full breath.

For Jay’s birthday I took him on a mini road trip to the north shore. I took him to my old college haunts The Anchor Bar, the S.S. Meteor, the UW-Superior Campus, and Wisconsin Point.  He listened to me chatter as the memories of college came flowing back. I explained how we use to walk to the mall to see movies, the grocery store to get snacks and beer and the other things that we did. Ahh college was the best time! My fondest memories are of the bon fires we would have out on Wisconsin point, those were good times to be had. 

When we pulled up Jay was instantly drawn to the light house and for some odd reason we decided it was a good idea to walk out there. Walking out to the light is no easy task. There is no walk way, you just jump from bolder to bolder and hope for the best. On our way out to the lighthouse we encountered a snake and to many spiderwebs to count. 

One might think “oh that looks like an easy feat.” Trust me it is not. It takes a lot of effort and balance to get from rock to rock and it’s about a mile each way. Jay and I high fived as we hit the light house steps for we had made it and in that moment we didn’t think about our return journey back. 

The light house has not been used in years and she has seen her share of storms. Most of the windows have been bricked over and some pricks are filling the broken windows with beer cans and other trash. Little graffiti was seen but you could tell that this little light had seen her hay day. 

It was starting to get late and we did not want to get stuck at the light so Jay and I decided to make our way back to shore. When we reached land Jay declared that if he had a bucket list the lighthouse  would have been a bucket list item. He loved Wisconsin Point as much as I do and asked that we return next year. I said of course, nothing can keep this girl from Superior. For she has a long standing love affair with her deep blue waters. 

{Hearts on 22} I’ve Got Weight to Lose and a World to Gain 

What can I say, I am a Minnesota girl through and through. I have a deep deep love for all things tasty. Chocolate isn’t my cup of tea, it helps that I am allergic to it, but girl I can get down with a slice of lemon cake or an apple pie. Preferably pie, I’m not a big cake fan, but if cake is in the room chances are it will find its way into my belly. 

Bacon it doesn’t stand a chance! I am in LOVE with bacon. It was a big deal when I said to Jay “I love you more than bacon!” When I am not with bacon, I am with cheese. Wisconsin’s greatest gift to the human race was CHEESE!!! Fresh cheese is the best cheese, it’s even better when battered and fried, cheese curds are literally a girls best friend. Who needs dimonds when you have cheese curds! 

We need to get real! I mean like really real here folks, thou my love for bacon and cheese is strong, it is starting to show on my ass, my thighs, and every where else it can accumulate. I am starting to feel it in my knees and I have to squeeze myself into my pants. I like wearing pants that don’t squeeze my innards and allow me to eat food while they are buttoned and or snapped up. I also like shirts that leave a little wiggle room. My dresses are more forgiving thou they to are getting a little tight around the ass region. 

Guys and Gals, shopping isn’t AJ’s thing! Yes I am female and yes I just admitted that shopping isn’t my thing. Sorry boys I know I am a catch for that very reason, but I am already happily taken. Anyhoo back to the wardrobe, something has to give I love my current clothes and I want them to love me back. So this only means one thing, “AJ needs to make a life change.” As in clean up her eating and get her ass moving like a boss. 

I should know a thing or two about weight loss and healthy living. My first job out of college was with Jenny Craig as a Program Director, I sold the program and counseled clients along their journey. It was fun, but if you know me and you know me well I HATE prepackaged microwave meals! Like hate them, they never look like the picture on the box, they are loaded with salt, and not to mention the chemicals in the plastic tray that leak into your food during the heating processes. Yes, I know I’ve put way to much thought into that. Anyways I did not want a plan that requires me to live out of my microwave or drink shakes. I wanted something that would fit into my life and not fit my life into a diet.

Enter advice from the world’s greatest best friend Sherri, she said why not try “weight watchers!” Hmmm I instantly pictured little old ladies in swim caps doing water  aerobics while counting points. Then there is Oprah, she’s always yelling “I LOVE BREAD” and urging us to give weight watchers a try. I did some research and took Sherri’s advice, I signed myself right on up for the program. $20.00 a month isn’t so bad plus there is a handy dandy ap that synchs with my Fitbit. Bonus Jay is also going to be working the WW plan too. It’s nice to have your BFF and life partner on board, otherwise this journey would be boring.

The Weight Watchers app is pretty simple to use and was easy to setup. My goal is to lose 34 pounds by my 34th birthday. Which is 10/27/2016, I figure slow and steady will win this race. Best part is I do not have to deprive myself of anything. I still get to have my beloved bacon and cheese. Everything has a point value, foods higher in sugar/saturated fat and sodium have higher point values. Which helps steer you towards healthier choices that will eventually result in drops on the scale.

The Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale program also focuses on activity and non-scale victories. I love that my Fitbit synchs with the weight watchers app. I earn extra points to use during the week based on my activity level. AJ don’t run unless she is being chased but these shoes were made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. Non-scale victories can be as small as turning down Deseret or as big as finally fitting in an airplane seat. You choose your own victories and celebrate all of your success that happens off the scale.

I have been working the program since April 2 and I can honestly say I don’t feel deprived or hungry. I am less bloated and have more energy. Thou I still need naps, naps are my jam man. Cullen is tired, tired because his legs are short and we have been going for longer walks. He really likes naps too! Below is my before photo and hopefully my after will look drastically different. I don’t want to be a skinny mini, I want to be a size healthy and feel comfortable in my own skin. Because Beauty knows no number. 




You can follow along on my journey as I will be sharing the tips and the tricks that I learn along the way. Besides we both know I am going to also be sharing my success and the down right funny moments of this process too! It will be fun so put on your walking shoes and come along with me! 

{Happy Birthday} Goodbye 32, Hello 33

I of all people know that with trial comes triumph. We cannot have the good moments without the bad. It’s how the world turns, no one’s life is meant to be perfect. A perfect life is a life not well lived. Mistakes are lessons and trials are our teachers, with each trial we gain strength. 

32, was a gosh darn great year. I have finally found my stride and I’ve come to terms with the fact that “life goes on.” In February I graced billboards, bus stop posters, and the TV screen raising awareness for women’s heart health. Being part of the Go Red Campaign was a privilege and an honor, I got to meet some amazing ladies that I now call my friends.

From billboard to DC, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be giving a speach on the Capital Steps next to Nancy Pelosi and other members of congress. The American Heart Asssociation, gave me the opportunity to share my health insurance journey with the nation. I got to thank members of congress for securing my healthy tomorrow.

Life, it goes on and love, it finds a way in. Never in a million years did I think year 32 would be the year I fell in love, again. I let myself fall, fall for a man who loves me for me and accepts that our life isn’t meant to be perfect. 

On Mother’s Day Jay and I found out that we were expecting. I was terrified the impossible just became possible. Jay was excited, he spent time looking up baby items online, we started to plan out our nursery, picked out named, and I slowly let myself love our baby. Only to have my dream dashed. 

Our baby, baby E was not meant to be. Right now I should be 6.5 month pregnant, I’m not, our little sac never formed a fetal pole. Two sperms, they said fertilized the egg and a pathology report said it was a partial molar pregnancy. It just wasn’t meant to be, someone needed a baby more than we did, motherhood was so close yet eluded me in year 32. I have faith that my 3rd and Jay’s second pregnancy will be the charm, mother is a job that I desperately want. 

In July it became official I was no longer a single girl, I was engaged, I belonged to someone and that is what I’ve always dreamed of, I wanted to belong and not be alone.

My nephew Jack arrived in July and I fell in love all over again, he has his auntie wrapped around his little finger. Sophia is getting bigger by the day, she is turning into a sassy little lady. I love those two littles with all of my heart, the greatest title I have is Auntie, there is no better job than that. 

32, was my teacher, it taught me to never lose faith and that if I believe in myself anything is possible. I will walk away from 32 knowing that my body is still capable of creating life, my heart she may be weak, but she beats on, and that I am more than a dollar sign. Merck will always be apart of me, year 32 is the end of the Nuvaring’s chapter, life it goes on.

With my muppet like dog by my side, my life quietly fell into place. I have a man that I adore,  I got a new job that I love, and I’ve got hope for a very bright 33.   

{Engaged Life} Jay Asked, and I said……………….

loveFive years ago on July 4th I stepped into the unknown. I’ve always had a plan or a solution, for the first time in 27 years it was just me and the unknown. What lay in the unknown terrified me and kept me up at night. I was so worried that I would never make it on my own. Little did I know that first step was the beginning of one beautiful disaster.

In order to find out who AmandaJean was I, I had to lose it all. My life, it was patiently waiting for me. Navigating Fate’s pot holes and curve balls became my specialty. I have loved only to lose, I have stood only to fall, and through it all you have been by me. Together we have faced the good, the bad, and the down right ugly moments of my life.

Have Bear Will Travel became the story of a Single Uptown Girl and her muppet like dog. An for some unknown reason thousands of you joined me on my journey. I am still amazed to this very day that my story has and will continue to change lives. Through this blog, with each word I type I realize that I mattered in this world and that my second chance was worth fighting for. That God, he didn’t make a mistake, he gave me a second chance to find myself and in the process a small town girl changed the world around her.

Jay fell into my inbox on Veteran’s day and every day there after has been a dream come true. I have a man at my side who loves me completely, he see’s that I am more heart than scars and encourages me to change the world. My made up stories about his cat Dexter’s adventures make him laugh and with each smile he melted my heart. I knew that without a doubt that he was the one I was meant to spend eternity with. There was no other man worthy or strong enough to stand beside me. In Jay’s love I found the best me.

I have openly referred to the State of Wisconsin as “God’s Country” and one of my favorite places in Wisconsin is, Wisconsin Dells aka “the largest most well thought out tourist trap”. This past weekend I introduced Jay to all the things The Dells had to offer. We took a carriage ride through The Lost Canyon, took a boat ride in the Upper Dells, walked through the shops, bought the “good” gummy bears, swam in the hotel pool, and spent our nights fireside.

The pool was our refuge against the hot Wisconsin summer, I was getting my float on and minding my own business when Jay swam up. He turned me around, his eyes in that moment were brimming with love, a smirk told me he was nervous, and out from his swim trunk pocket came a simple silver band (aka the placeholder), he took my hand in his, and lovingly asked me to be his wife and I said yes. Its the end of an era, Have Bear Will Travel will no longer be about a single girl and her muppet like dog, it will be about a couple’s journey into engaged life with a side order of subscription boxes and heart health.

In this beautiful disaster, I found love. I finally have what eluded me and I am never letting go. I am over the moon excited and I cannot wait until the day I get to call Jay my husband. My dad, he is going to sit this one out and let the muppet like dog walk me down the isle. For five years Cullen has stood at my side as my faithful little sidekick, so it is only fitting that he give me away to Jay on our wedding day.