{Brave} Let Thy Sea Glass Heal My Heart

Let each piece collected heal my heart

Let each piece collected heal my heart

At the close of summer I found myself with a full hand of sea glass. My excitement grew as I held my treasure up to the sun and when I got home I placed it safely into Charlie’s jar. That day would be the day Charlie’s jar would no longer hold anymore glass. It was officially full. I laid the last tiny piece on the top, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders and I was over come by a warmth I cannot explain. In that moment with that one tiny shred of sea glass I let go of my fiancĂ©. My mission was complete, with teary eyes I whispered “Goodbye my love, I will see you again one day.”

That one tiny piece of glass allowed me to open my heart, it gave me the strength I needed to put myself out there and to look for someone new. My friends helped me compose a profile and soon I received responses. Most were lackluster or endless email chains. I am to old for games so endless emails are not my style. In essence I am wise beyond my years, my heart is sacred and I deserve the cream of the crop. Except the cream didn’t respond to my profile. Online sites were getting old, duds filled up my inbox, and speed dating was fun, but I never came up with a winner. Hope, I was losing it and slowly retreated back into my solitude.

That is until one day a Marine emailed me in actual sentences and paragraphs. I wrote back, my two sentence responses led to paragraphs, the paragraphs led to text messages, and soon he would be sitting across from me at Burger Jones. That first date was only the beginning. To his surprise I asked to see him again and then again. Soon my birthday was upon us and he met my family for the first time.

My parents eagerly awaited his arrival and welcomed him into the fold. We had lunch at The Bronks in Lake City, picked out a pumpkin at Pepin Heights, and like always found ourselves drawn to the water. This was to be the last nice day of the year and I wanted to go for a walk on the beach. I found a few pieces of glass, my Mom she brought me a few more and so did my sister. The Marine quickly noticed that everyone was helping me and he to took up the search while skipping rocks. As my hands grew full I explained that when Charlie was alive we would search the beach for his precious sea glass. Of how I spent my summer looking for glass to fill the half empty jar Charlie left behind.

That night when I arrived home I put my spoils into a new jar, to my surprise it was filled to the brim. I snapped a photo and fired of a text proclaiming a success. The Marine’s response caught me off guard “Next summer we’ll have to fill an even bigger jar!” He doesn’t know it, but with those words read I became a teary eyed mess and in that moment I knew I was finally brave enough to let someone new into my life.

{Charlie} A Half Empty Jar of Sea Glass

Charlie left behind a quarter filled jar of sea glass

Charlie left behind a quarter filled jar of sea glass

One night while strolling through one of our favorite boutique shops in Minneapolis, Charlie spotted a glass jar. I politely told him that the jar was meant for a candle and not sea glass. Charlie looked at me with his grin and said “AJ, it says beach on it, a jar that says beach on it, is meant to be filled with sea glass. Duh?” Ok I said and we walked up to the counter to purchase his crazy jar. That was in September of 2011, the jar sat on the island in the kitchen for months.

Upon his return from the beach Charlie religiously deposited a piece of new sea glass into his jar. He would tell me that dark blue was the hardest to find and the most common was clear or green. Charlie has been mesmerized by sea glass since he was a child, often filling multiple jars by summers end. His mother kept all of his jars, each piece represented the mystery of the ocean and his joy of searching the beach. Charlie loved the water and we often spent our weekends on the shores of Lake Superior. I can still picture him on his knees scouring the beach for tiny pieces of treasure. With each piece he found, he safely tucked the glass into his pocket and when his pockets were full, he often turned to me. I would hold his treasure tightly in my hand only to drop it into the jar his mother kept on the back porch.

Charlie would save a few pieces for the jar on the island and often filled it with pieces of glass he found on the beaches around Minneapolis. He bought the jar in September which limited his time to search. Winter came and his jar was only a quarter full, he’d say “I am going to fill our jar this summer.” Summer never came for Charlie, he left before the waves could even break free from the ice and his jar sat half empty waiting for his return. I packed his jar away, my heart was too broken to have the constant reminder sitting out in my home.

I have always loved the beach and would search the sandy grave for hidden treasures. As a child I would collect clam shells, sparkly rocks, and pieces of glass. My father’s pockets proved to be the safest spot for my treasures, he would empty my bounty when we reached the car. I stored my shells, rocks, and glass in a bucket. Over time it got lost, yet my desire to walk the shores remained.

Earlier this summer I decided to finish filling Charlie’s jar. When I visit my parents we go to the beach, my Dad helps me search the shores for Charlie’s treasure. Each time I place a handful of glass and shells into his beloved jar, a part of me heals. I am at a point in the process where I am ok with Charlie being gone and have become open to letting someone else in. As we walk the beach my Dad tells me “No one will ever replace Charlie or fill the void you have, but you have to move on. There is someone out there for you.” My Dad is right, I will never be able to replace Charlie, he will always be a part of who I am. Charlie taught me that its ok to let go and to live life outside of the lines.

Just like Charlie, the sea glass that captured his sense of wonder will always be apart of who I am. For I am just a girl who collects sea glass to fill the empty jar that the man she loved left behind. Filling the jar is my way of saying goodbye. With each piece added I am letting go of the past and healing my beautifully broken heart.

{Charlie} Death Is The Only Guarantee In Life

Sunrise on calhounThis morning while sipping my coffee I glanced at my iPhone and saw that today was June 8th. It took a few moments before I realized that I had let Charlie’s birthday pass me by without a tear. On Sunday June 2nd, Charlie would have been 42. I still find myself looking up and asking “Why?” Why, did you have to leave the stage in the middle of your song.” Did God know something that we didn’t, did he need an angel with one wing in the fire. My Mother tells me that our fate is determined before we are even born. Some of us grow old and weary, others die before their time. Then there are those who knock on deaths door and walk away to live another day. Fate is written in the stars, only God knows what’s ahead and we must keep on fighting the good fight until our names are called.

Death, is the only guarantee in life, everything else is up in the air. It’s simple really we start dying the moment we are born. We spend our lives climbing the mountain and searching the every day for salvation. Church teaches us that there is a here after and that if we live a Christian life we can walk through the gates of heaven. I believe that a life without sin is a life wasted. Those who never sin, are like dreamers without dreams. Heaven knows that I’m not perfect, like Charlie I too have raised a little cain and I plan on raising a whole lot more before they lay my body down. When someone has lived a good life Indian people will say “He lived a good fight.” Each day is a struggle and each of us must find the strength to see it through.

No one said life would be easy nor will it ever be perfect. The moment you think fate has smiled on you God will pitch a curve ball and throw a wrench into your plans. I have seen more balls and wrenches than I care to count. I have fallen in love only to fall out, I carried a child that God called home before he set foot on this earth, and I fell in love with a man that died before I could even say I do. For some reason I was allowed to walk away from deaths door only to find myself taking a seat at a friends funeral. Honestly I have been to more funerals than I have weddings and baptisms. It seems that I keep on fighting the war while my friends lose the battle. This leaves me mystified. One day I am certain it will all make sense.

Sixteen months ago I felt like my life had ended, my heart was broken, and I was tired. I was tired of saying goodbye and watching my dreams crash upon the shores. Everyone else’s boat was reaching the safety of the harbor, while my dingy kept crashing into the sandbar. I wanted the safety of the harbor. I wanted to feel the comfort of the navigational beacons as I sailed through the channel. Safe harbor is what I wanted, but the sandbar is what I needed. The sandbar taught me to breath and to let go. I faced the horizon and swam towards the shore. My memories are what carried me, I said goodbye to the land of what if and hello to the land of the living.

There are moments where I look back and wonder if Charlie knew that he was going to die before his time. He lived his life outside of the lines and loved with all of his heart. He would tell me “AJ, God is the only thing standing between us and the sandman, only he knows if we will rise in the morning light.” I thank God for each day I wake to face the sun. With each new day comes promise, a chance to write a new page, and to raise a little cain. Life is best lived outside of the lines. I rather party with the riffraff than waltz with the straight and narrow. I rather hold the hand of a sinner than the hand of a man who never dared to live. I am in no hurry and the cold ground will have to wait another day to claim this sinners heart. For I’ve greeted the sun and I’ve got a little more cain to raise.

{Charlie} Learning How To Finally Let Go

On February 7th Charlie was packing for what would be his last business trip to New York. He kept telling me “AJ are you going to be able to handle having me in the same town for all day, every day.” Yes, I said. He looked up with his famous grin and said I can’t wait to start our life together, you know be a normal couple with a dog living in a condo by the river.” I just laughed and walked into the kitchen. In truth I was delighted that he was giving up the fast paced New York life for a slow-paced midwestern life. The Valet brought my car up first. Charlie waved eagerly and said seven more days babe. Seven more days and we will be together all day every day. I love you he shouted and he caught the kiss I blew. With those words I was off to work.

Thoughts of our pending wedding raced through my head and mostly I was pretty darn excited to have someone to come home to at night. To have someone who understood how far I’ve come and where I was headed. Charlie knew me better than I knew myself and would tell the bartender “The lady will have a crown and coke, light on the ice with a twist of lime.” When a man knows your drink of choice, he’s a keeper. Most of my problems were solved over connect four and whiskey. Charlie trusted me with reviewing his memos and briefs. He would tell me “AJ this is going to change the world, please review it and check my spelling.” Charlie was a damn good legal writer however his spelling skills needed polishing. Together Charlie and I made the perfect team. He was a successful litigator and I was one hell of a paralegal. Together we created the life that dreams are made of.

Soon the weekend was upon me and I was rushing around getting ready for Charlie’s return. Shopping lists were completed, the Ivy Staff came over and cleaned. Cullen was set and I had started looking for someone to take over the lease on my uptown apartment. My IKEA filled apartment was to be packed up and stored. Each morning I awoke to the voicemail light blinking on my phone. Charlie always left me voice mails when he was out-of-town. On Valentine’s day he left me a long one. The words are forever etched into my memory. “Hey babes, its 3AM my time, 2AM your time, which means you are fast a sleep plotting your world domination. I just wanted to let you know I am all packed and ready to come home. In you I found my home. My world doesn’t make sense unless you are in it. You baby are the reason I breathe, you are the reason my life makes sense. I love you. Happy Valentine’s day love.”

In that moment I knew Charlie loved me more than anything in this world. He called me through out the day to tell me that he was being delayed and hat he was going to take the red-eye. Our last conversation was around 4PM, he was driving back to the city. We talked about his day, how the trial went and if he thought he had won. Charlie asked me how I was, about Cullen, and my day at work. I told him that I was ready for him to come home. Home, never sounded so good he said. I could tell that he was smiling. We said I love you and hung up. I went about my evening and drifted off to sleep around 10:30pm. In my heart I knew Charlie would be boarding the plane and coming home. Home. That Minneapolis would truly be our home. Little did I know, that Charlie would not be coming home.

At 6:05PM east coast time Charlie became the fifth car in a multi vehicle crash. He was air lifted to a nearby hospital and under went emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain and spine. He was unconscious. His mother got the call from the state patrol around 8PM and she rushed to the hospital to be by his side. The Doctors said it wasn’t good and she knew she had to call me. Minah couldn’t bring herself to do it, Charlie’s brother called me and broke the news. I fell to the floor and prayed that he would be all right. The earliest flight they could get me on was the late night red-eye.

On February 15th I went to work and acted like nothing had happened. I was dying inside, yet I knew in my heart that nothing I did would change the fact that Charlie was dying. Bad weather would delay my flight till the morning. At 2:55AM on February 16th my phone rang, in my heart I knew what it was. Minah could only whisper “I am sorry.” In that moment I knew he was gone. Charlie died while in surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. At 3:15AM his heart gave out.

If only I had known that February 7th was the last day I would see Charlie alive. Maybe I would have chatted a bit longer, gave him an extra hug, and played that morning round of connect four. Then again I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Because I know he died knowing that I loved him with all of my heart. I can die knowing that Charlie died loving me. Love never dies, it is the legacy we leave behind. I may not be able to see Charlie or hear his voice, yet I know he is always with me. He is the voice that whispers “you can do it” on cloudy days, Charlie is pushing me along as he knows a woman like me deserves to be in love and happy. One day Charlie will see to it that I bring a child into this world and he will smile down on a little girl named Charlotte Rae, his namesake.

It has almost been a year since Charlie died and I finally have the strength to let go. To let go of what could have been and to say hello to my present. Losing someone isn’t as hard as the letting go. Letting go was the hardest part of my journey. To me letting go felt like I was turning my back on Charlie and the life we had. It meant saying goodbye one last time and waking up from the land of what if. I had to let go of the past so I could let someone new walk into my life and fall in love all over again. Charlie would want me to move on and to be happy again. Charlie would want me to live life to the fullest and to love with all of my heart. An because of that I am able to finally let go. To let go of a beautiful broken dream.

That is what makes life beautiful, beautiful because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Each day is uncertain, it is up to each one of us to live it like its our last. To love with our entire heart and to do whatever we can to make this world a better place.

{2012} Finding The Lining, When the Bottom Falls Out

2012 was filled with promise. As the clock turned to midnight Doctors were closer to coming up with a cocktail that would put my kidney disease into remission and I was finally starting to feel better. I was no longer taking up residence on the couch, instead I was out and about. Charlie was happy that his AJ was getting better. So glad that he proposed to me while I was a sleep. He totally took advantage of my ability to hold conversations while sleeping. Lucky for me he proposed to me again, this time I was awake. Wedding magazines slowly piled on top of his Play Boys and he was enjoying every minute of my drooling over Vera Wang. I had decided on a simple lace gown with a gecko green sash that tied into a bow on the side. Pie, I wanted pie and Muddy Paws Cheesecake instead of cake. Charlie wanted to pick out the venue and he had chosen the Chateau St. Croix winery. He wanted to hang lanterns from the 100-year-old oak tree and thought it was best to say I do at sunset.

Wedding plan lead to talks of babies. Charlie wanted to be a father, well with a catch. He was a Helion as a child and did not want a boy. He would tell me “If we have a boy I am going to FedEx him back to God. There will only be girls in this family.” I almost died laughing. You can’t blame the man, he grew up with three brothers. Charlie wanted to name our first-born girl Charlotte Rae. I giggled because well he’d say “We can call her Charlie for short.” Yup, he was going to name our daughter after himself, selfish I know. In truth I loved the name Charlotte Rae and couldn’t wait to start a family with him.

Thoughts of weddings jumped in my head as I started my new position at the firm in the burbs. Leaving the team at Faegre was hard, they had become like family. For once in my life I got to be a part of the ripple that was creating a better day. An that ripple will always be with me, because never again will I get to work on a case that big. I was excited to get started at the new firm and lucky for me I hit it off right away with the new Attorneys. While working away and learning the ropes I was counting down the hours to Valentines day. Charlie would be returning to Minneapolis permanently on Valentines day and I was excited to start building our life together.

Valentines day didn’t bring me love, instead it brough a wave of tears. The bottom fell out. I received the late night call that everyone dreads. Charlie’s brother said to me “AJ, sweetie I’m sorry to call so late. Choking back tears he said Honey, there’s been an accident and Charlie was hurt pretty bad.” The air left my lungs and I crumbled into the floor. I couldn’t find the strength to speak or to even cry. I muttered an OK. Two days later on February 16th, I got the call I had been dreading. Charlie’s Mom said to me “Sweetie, I’m sorry.” In that moment I knew he was gone. The man I loved with every fiber of my being was dead.

Charlie never got to say I do and we never got to plan the perfect wedding. Instead I got to plan a funeral, write a eulogy, and place connect four into his casket. I got to say Goodbye to my best friend. Charlie loved the song Cowboys and Angles, the chorus reads: “She lives for me, and I’d die for her.” I can die knowing that Charlie loved me until his last moment on this earth and that he would have died for me. So I must live for him. As the grave side service ended I was given a final moment to say goodbye. The funeral directors stood guard and looked toward the crowd as I placed my hands on his casket. Tears fell onto the cobalt blue lid and I promised Charlie: “Charlie, I will not let this one moment define me, I promise you with all of my heart that I will pick up the pieces and find my new normal. I will not lose my way and I will not lose my sense of wonder. I will always love you.” I also promised Charlie that when I start a family of my own I am going to honor him by naming my first-born daughter “Charlotte Rae.”

With those words whispered into the wind I walked into my future and began to heal. I will never understand why the man thought he was fit to drive after one to many drinks at a Happy Hour. That one drunk driver took the lives of five people on a NY state Hwy that day. Five families will never be the same and our lives will be forever impacted by the moment he turned the key and put his car into drive. I no longer ponder the why or the how. I am at peace with what happened and know that Charlie’s life was not a waste. Charlie’s life was full and he is now resting on the clouds of heaven looking down on all of us.

Bronks Charlie was looking forward to meeting Sophia and he couldn’t wait to hold her in his arms. Sadly Charlie never got to meet his niece. Having my niece helped me cope with the pain of losing my best friend. Sophia’s sweet smile and tiny laugh make me smile. When I look into her eyes I see hope, hope for a better world. I have no doubt that Sophia will create change and impact this world in a big way. The world is at her finger tips all she has to do is reach up and grab it. For now she settles on puffs, yogurt melts, and grabbing her Auntie’s hand. She has grown so fast. It seems just yesterday that I was holding her in my arms and now she comes crawling when she hears my voice. I love that little girl more than anything. Charlie would have loved her too. He couldn’t wait until she was old enough to play board games and to learn how to snow shoe. We had big plans to take her to Paris when she turns five. Now I will be taking her by myself and capturing the moments of her standing in the Streets of Paris. Charlie often viewed the world through child like wonder, I pray to God that Sophia does the same and that she will never lose her way.

While Sophia rested in the safety of her home, I was packing up mine. The Ivy no longer felt like home. The condo that we shared was no longer filled with laughter, drafting sessions, and board games. It was like someone came by and sucked the hope right out of the air. It was gloomy and stale. Minah and I cataloged and packed up Charlie’s things. Durring this processes I realized: “It doesn’t matter what we do in life, because all of us end up in boxes.” Tears where shed as I packed away his board games, wrapped art work, and God his clothes still smelled like his cologne. The muppet was sad to lose his friend and would walk around the condo looking for him. Soon the cars were loaded on a flat-bed, the last box was loaded into the semi, and I stood in an empty condo looking out at the Minneapolis skyline. I said my good byes and headed back to uptown.

Before I knew it spring had arrived in uptown and I was slowly finding my balance. One thing Charlie’s death taught me was to spend time with the ones you love. Because you never know when there last day on this earth will be. An I did just that. I no familylonger worked 70 hours a week and felt like I was cheating when I left the office at 5. Man it felt good to have a life again. I reconnected with Sherri, that girl deserves an award for being a saint. Her friendship means the world to me and I thank God every day that she is back in my life. Cocktails were had on the sidewalk, laughter filled the air, and I was smiling again. I took the time to actually listen to my Father when he called me, had lunch dates with my Mama, and babysat Sophia. Work is no longer a priority, it is no longer my life, and I am thankful that I was able to find the balance. It feels amazing to have a social life and friends again.

In July I went on vacation with my Mama and my sister for the first time in years. My Mama learned that one must keep their mouth closed when going down a water slide. WI Dells She drank slide water. No one likes slide water. All it took was one weekend to remind me why I love my Mama and my sister. My sister is always there for me. We may fight hard, but we love even harder. August brought Pete and I to the river road winery tour. Connecting with my Father is important to me and well wine makes it fun. By summers end I was ready to put on my dating shoes and make an attempt at a personal life.

On one August night a Chump walked into my life and well as they say “One moment can change everything.” For now the Chump is a keeper. He thinks I am goofy and well he just gets me. It’s not easy to date a complicated stroke survivor. He truly deserves a trophy for taking on such an endeavor.

I said goodbye to my twenties and hello to my thirties in Chicago. I am so glad to be 30, my thirties have to go a lot better than my twenties. Then again I of all people know that nothing goes as planned. So far we are off to a good start.

2012 is the year of construction. Fate tore my life apart and I put it back together. When the bottom falls out you must use everything you have to patch the bucket and move on. Living in the land of what if does nothing for the soul. It only steals your fire and brings you down a dark road. Ferry 20120818 - Copy I traveled that road when my son died. Charlie was the light I needed and he helped me over come a bad marriage and made me believe in love again. I have no doubt that he was there pushing me along the path and cheering me on once I found my way. Sometimes we just need one person to throw us a rope, other times it takes a village to help someone out of a dark place. What matters is that you get out. No one is ever to proud to ask for help. Help can come in many forms. For me my Family, Faith, and Muppet like dog got me through the darkest days. I know that Charlie is resting beyond the stars watching over me and cheering me on to my highest potential. I can go to the grave knowing that he died loving me and I will love him until my final breath. Until that day comes, I am going to live the life dreams are made of. Knock down a few walls, take down a few names, and leave this world a little better than I found it. Charlie would want me to do that.

My bucket is patched and I am ready to move on. I am ready to take 2013 head on with all cylinders burning. Love the life you live and live a life full of love. When you do that, you can never go wrong.

A toast: May 2013 be filled with love, prosperity, hope, and more laughter than one soul can handle. May the wind always be to your back and may you always wake up fighting the good fight.

{Dating} Baggage – We All Have It

We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Each of us carries a suitcase full of memories, hopes,and dreams. There are times where I feel that I need to be strong and show the world that I am not a statistic. I am a hopeless romantic. I of all people should turn away from the quest of love, I divorced my husband only to find myself standing at the graveside of my fiance. I of all people know that life is not fair and that nothing goes as planned. There are days where I say “Fuck it” and just sit on my couch watching Lifetime movies. Then there are the days where I am determined to prove to the world that I am more than a statistic, I am one hell of a survivor.

In away I am lucky because I know what its like to love with every fiber in my being. I know what its like to say I love you and mean it with all of my heart. I’ve been filled with trust, honesty, and the illusion that those would carry us through to death do us part. Four years ago I meant every word I uttered on my wedding day. Part of me wants to believe that Scott believed in the words he said, then again his actions prove otherwise. He will always be apart of my story and mostly he will always be Alucious’ father. I have him tucked neatly in the bottom of the bag and carry him along as a reminder. A reminder to never give up my dreams for a man. I will however fall for someone who believes in my dreams.

Alucious will always be a part of me. You never get over the death of a child you just learn how to live with it. I think about him every now and then. I wonder if he would have his father’s eyes and my curly hair. One thing I know is that he would have been stubborn just like his Mama. Alucious would have been two this year. I have faith that he is resting safely in heaven and that his death was part of the master plan.

Last December Charlie and I were making plans for our wedding and planning the rest of our lives. Or at least that’s what it seemed liked. I was paging through wedding magazines looking for the perfect lace wedding gown and pinning down our colors. I found the dress, it was a beautiful lace ball gown with pockets sown into the seems, and a gorgeous gecko green sash around the waist. Charlie teared up when I showed him the picture of the dress. He said “I can’t wait to marry you AJ. You are going to look stunning.” He never got to see me in the dress, our wedding day was never to be. On Valentines day my life once again changed forever and two days later my heart broke.

I got to help make the plans for his funeral. I decided to wear a charcoal dress with a green cardigan (Green was Charlie’s favorite color), black tights, and my red pea coat. My red stood out like a beacon against the pallbearers. I walked in front of the casket as it was carried up the hill, holding back every tear I could and then I crumbled. Life isn’t suppose to be like that, no one should have to bury their fiance.

At 29 I was no longer a divorcee who lost a child, I was now a widow of sorts. In times of sorrow I turn to my faith, my family, and the muppet like dog. Faith gets me through, family reminds me its ok to cry, and the muppet takes me on walks where my mind can wonder. Dwelling on the past does nothing but open the wounds and pulls me back into the land of “what if.” No human should live their lives in the land of “what if.” What if only brings heart ache and keeps you in the past. So I tucked Charlie into my suitcase and marched on.

It took me a while to start dating again. August was when I felt brave enough to give it another shot. Lucky for me all it took was one date. I wake up to “Good Morning sunshine.” He calls me a goof and laughs at my lack of navigation skills. I’ve never been good with maps and driving directions. My bags are fully open, he knows about the past and it doesn’t phase him. He has his own baggage, when he opened it, I didn’t blink an eye. Instead I said “Its all right, we all make mistakes, that was the past and this is now.” Our baggage is out in the open and I am learning to fall, to feel, and to just be.

{Happy Birthday} Hello 30!

One little Ninja and her Mama
October 27th, 1982

You have no idea how excited I am to put my twenties behind me. My twenties were amazing yet terrible at the same time. In truth I wouldn’t trade them for the world, they made me into one hell of a woman.

In ten short years I traveled the world, graduated college, bought a Prius and a house, got married, became a mom to Nylan, had a pulmonary embolism induced stroke, became a mama to a baby in heaven, got divorced, adopted a muppet like dog, hit rock bottom, and found myself. The only thing in the above equation I plan on repeating in the next ten years is travel, marriage, house, prius, dogs, and kids. Thats it no ifs ands or buts about it. Then again I of all people should know that we really don’t have control over our lives. The only thing I can control is how well I live my life. An I am determined to live one hell of a life.

Not having a plan used to scare the crap out of me. Now its a thrill. When I walked out on my ex husband I didn’t have a clue on what my life was going to be like. I just knew that it had to be better and that someone out there would love me. I dabbled in dating only to come up empty-handed. Turns out Mr. right was waiting in the wings. Charlie was an amazing man who was brave enough to take on my baggage. He patiently waited for me to drop my bags at the door and walk into his life. Charlie made me feel like anything and everything was possible. Mostly he showed me that love does exist, it’s not just a dream. Love is worth waiting for ladies, it truly is. The biggest lesson of my twenties was “don’t go for Mr. Right now, instead hold out for the one who takes your breath away.” Don’t get me wrong, I will always have a tiny place in my heart for my ex husband, at the end of the day he just wasn’t the one.

My ex showed me what it was like to be last. Scott always put my wants, needs, and well me last. I was never a priority in his life and what I needed didn’t matter to him. My dreams were shoved to the bottom of the pile, heck I gave up law school for him. Yet, I am glad I met Scott. Because without Scott I would never have met Nylan. Nylan will always be my first son and one of my greatest joys in life. This equation proves that there is always good in the bad, we just have to pick out the good parts and sweep the bad a side. You can guarantee that Nylan and I will continue our bond into my thirties. Any man I date will have to realize that I have a date with Nylan one Saturday a month and that date will never be cancelled on.

Dates are funny little things. Some dates stick in our minds and others leave us forever changed. I am not talking about dating rather the dates on our calendars. April 3 2005 Scott and I had our first date, November 13 2006, Scott asked me to marry him, and on May 31 2008, Scott and I said I do. October 22, 2009 is a day I will never forget. That was the day I had my PE induced stroke. May 12, 2010 was the day I found out that the child I was carrying had died and June 27 2010 was the day I walked out on my marriage. August 13, 2010, was the day I adopted the muppet like dog. On September 24, 2010 I quit my job and on December 23 2010, my divorce was finalized. May 27 2011, was the day I started at the big firm. January 27 2012, I became an aunt, February 6 2012, was the day I started at the little firm and on February 16, 2012 Charlie died. The above dates are forever engraved in my memory. All other dates are irrelevant and are trivial compared to the moments that changed my life. Each and every one of us are a collection of dates. Dates tell us how far we’ve come, how long we’ve loved, and how long someone has been gone. My hope is to only add happy dates to the running list during my thirties. Lord knows I could use some happiness to go along with the bad.

I’ve stuffed a lot of living into ten short years. Even I look back and think “Holy Shit AJ! Do you realize you’ve been to Egypt, lived in a Palace, snorkeled in Alaska, and Zip Corded trough the jungles of Belize?” Then I look at my scrap books and say “Yup, I sure did!” Incredible is the one word I’d use to describe my life. Its been incredibly strange, awesome, and darn right tough at times. Hitting rock bottom gave me the strength to dig out and find my way to the top. Now that I am on top, no one will ever knock me down again. The past ten years have taught me to hold my ground and to fight for my place on the mountain. My heart is strong and I have vowed to never lose myself again. I am going to savor my place on the mountain and enjoy the time I’ve borrowed.

I am going to enjoy the time I have on this earth and will not dwell upon the past. Sure I have questions that will go unanswered. I will never understand why my ex husband stopped loving me or why I had to be the one who suffered a PE induced stroke. Mostly I’ll never understand why God called my son Aloucious and Charlie home. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what was going through that drunk drivers mind the day that Charlie died. Nor will I ever understand why my ex husband chose to stay in Vegas and push his grieving wife a side. I just know that one day it will all make sense. That in life we cannot have the good without the bad. It has to make sense, otherwise every moment of the past ten years was worthless. My faith tells me that each moment is part of a grander plan. I may not understand that plan, yet I am willing to go where ever fate takes me.

A Toast:

To one more incredible borrowed year on this earth. May year number 30 be filled with love, adventure, hope, and more laughter than one soul can handle. Goodbye 29 and Hello 30!

{20’s} A Snap Shot

Holy, its hard for me to believe that I will be 30 in 31 days. I am excited to say goodbye to my 20’s and hello to AJ 3.0. My 20’s were one crazy ride. The past decade was filled with, love, advenutre, loss, learning , and so much more. So take a stroll with me as I recap the good, the bad, and the down right funny parts of the past decade.

During the fall of 2002 I started college at the University of Wisconsin Superior and managed to fall in love with a boy from Sri Lanka. Made some great friends and took part in all of the activities that the Northland had to offer. I met my greatest mentor Dr. Maria Cuzzo and she taught me everything there is to know about the law.

Ah! Finally I am legal. Legal to drink that is. However my 21st birthday was a bust. I was sicker than a dog with mono that October. It sucked. Anyways at 21 I came into my own as a bi-racial woman and started speaking at different conferences around the state. In the fall I applied and was accepted to the Wisconsin in Scotland program and was pretty darn pumped for living abroad. I spent most of the year plotting my trip overseas. The Sri Lankan and I saw our first anniversary. Man, back then I thought one year was a huge accomplishment. If I had only known right. That spring he and I drifted apart and I was once again single an ready to mingle. Well I didn’t really mingle.
I spent my summer working at the St James Hotel in Red Wing and saved every dime I made for my trip to Scotland. That August my Mama wrapped her arms around me and waved good-bye as I walked towards the ticket counter. I am not going to lie, I was pretty darn scared and had no fucking clue if I would make it over seas. Scotland was everything I hoped it would be and I got along great with my roommates. In September I wondered the streets of Paris, tanned on the beaches of Sardinia, rode the funicular in Barcelona, and sailed the canals of Venice. I had been to the Edinburgh Tattoo, seen the Queen of England in Person and took in the highland games.

I set off to find my place in the world, I didn’t find my place, instead I found myself. Scotland taught me that I can do anything and that life is one hell of an adventure. I had an amazing 22nd birthday in Scotland and returned home that November forever changed. I was no longer the shy sheltered small town girl, I was now a citizen of the world and a shadow of my former self. I gained so much strength. In January I said goodbye to the Sri Lankan boy and said hello to Scott.
Scott walked into my life that April and he brought a little boy along as well. I fell head over heels for this man and I knew within a few months that he was the one. Scott and Nylan were a package deal and I loved them both with all of my heart. In the fall I started my senior year and plotted my next overseas adventure. Joy and I spent our fall prepping for Egypt and our pending graduation. I lived it up with my sorority sisters and took my speaking skills to the national stage. I got a kick ass LSAT score and was filling out my law school applications. I applied to four that fall. My heart was set on LSU Baton Rouge.

In January Joy and I took off for Egypt. Traveling with my best friend was a great way to say good-bye to our college years. We explored the Great Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, sailed the Nile, and ran from creepy Egyptian men. Joy and I will always have the night train. Ah, yes the night train. Motion sickness got the best of me and Joy growled at the hobos as I puked my guts out in the not so nice bathroom. I swear to God that train popped out of 1920 something. I made some great friends on our trip and was forever changed by my journey to the land of the Pharos.
That Spring Scott and I saw our first anniversary and I began making plans to move in with him that summer. Law School was put on the back burner as I focused on finding a job and being a Mom to Nylan. Woodbury would become my new home and I quickly learned what it was like to live with his brothers. His dogs became mine and I started to build a new dream. Jenny Craig was my first job out of college. I felt a little defeated, my heart laid with the law and without experience that was out of my grasp. Yet, I made the best out of the situation and kept on pushing for something better.

In November Scott and I took a cruise to Mexico and Belize. We took doon buggies to the ruins, zip corded through the jungles, and fell deeply in love on the high seas. The Monday after we returned from our vacation Scott asked me to come out to the garage. He explained that Nylan had left something for me and directed me to my Halloween porch kids. Nylan left something for you in the skeleton’s bag, reach in and see. No I said, it might be a spider. Scott got me to reach in, to my surprise the object was square. As I pulled it out and turned around Scott was on one knee. He asked me to be his wife and of course I said yes. This was one of the happiest days of my life and I was now the proud owner of a calla cut butterfly engagement ring.
In January I said good-by to Jenny Craig and Hello to Express Scripts. Life was great. I loved my job and our relationship was going strong. Wedding planing became my top priority and lucky me I found the dress of my dreams in March.
I needed to itch my travel bug so Scott and I planned a cruise to Alaska that September. It was chilly, yet incredible. Once again he and I fell in love on the high seas.

Whoever said your cube mate can’t become your best friend was wrong. Lisa and I bonded over wedding planning and puppies. She is one of the most incredible women I know
. Today she is no longer my cube mate, instead she is my best friend. Scott and I were getting tired of living with his brothers and we set out to find a home of our own. We looked at more than 30 houses until we found the perfect one. Nylan said he wanted a red house and that is exactly the color of the house we bought and called our home. I spent most of the spring making the red house our home and putting the final details on our wedding.
That winter I started the paralegal certification program at the MN Paralegal institute. I excelled at my courses and my teachers would ask “um why are you here, you know the law and can draft.” Well I am here because no one will hire me unless I have a paralegal certificate. I spent some evenings after class helping my classmates understand the law and proofing their drafts.
On May 31st, 2008 Scott and I said I do with Nylan at our side. It was a beautiful day filled with love and family. Together we were unstoppable and our love bubbled over.

It seemed that the home we bought to bring us together was instead ripping us apart. A rift was formed. Scott had done things I couldn’t forgive. Yet with the walls crashing down we planned another cruise. This time we were headed for Europe and Africa. At times I wonder why we even went. Maybe we thought the magic we had before on past cruises would find its way in and that we would fall in love once again. Love didn’t find its way in. I had few words to say. yet I held on for Nylan’s sake. He deserved a home. To those around us we looked like the perfect couple. In reality we were far from that.
Change was brewing in the wind. That October I took a job at a law firm in Plymouth. I was excited for this new adventure, yet sad to leave my friends and the safety of Express Scripts.
I was excited to start my new job on the 19th of October. I hadn’t felt well that weekend and I just wrote it off as nerves. On the 21st I had terrible pain through out my body. It felt like someone was trying to cut me open. I took some Tylenol and went to bed early that night. On October 22nd I never made it to work, instead I made it to the ER and was fighting like hell to survive. When I arrived at the ER I could barely breathe and my chest felt like a thousand knives were stabbing me. This would be the day I learned what a pulmonary embolism was and on how lucky I am.

I almost died five days before my 27th birthday. I was still finding my way as a survivor and dealing with the aftermath of my blood clot. My life revolved around lovenox, INR checks, drs appointments, and so on. I was sick and tired of it all. Mostly I was tired of being married to a man who didn’t love me. I wanted a man who was moved by the fact that his wife almost died, instead I got pushed to the bottom and cheated on. Yet he promised me that our life was going to be better and that he was going to try harder. That December we had our first Christmas with Nylan in Minnesota. He had an incredible day and enjoyed playing in the piles of snow.
We learned in January that the blood clot had finally dissolved in my lung and that I was half way out of the woods. Once we got that news we decided that Scott + AJ = baby. In April we found out that we were expecting.
To me this was the silver lining. My moment to say that I survived one of the shittiest things in the world and now my body is carrying life. In this moment Scott and I were Happy. The world seemed to stop spinning and love slowly seeped back into our marriage. He talked to my growing belly and would say with a smile “We did it bear.” That we did. Our pregnancy was high risk and we knew the odds. I held out hope that our baby would make it and that we would say hello in a few short months.
Hello never came. In May we said goodbye. Sherri held my hand and dried my tears as I sat waiting in the hospital. We both knew why we were there. She held on to my wedding ring as I went into surgery. When I came out I was no longer with child, I had become a mother to a baby in heaven. My son’s death showed me just how little I mattered to Scott. It showed me that I needed to call it quits.
That June I met an attorney who told me “It all comes down to a judgment call. There are no winners or losers in divorce. Someone has to walk away first.” I heard that on Friday June 25th 2010 and walked away from my marriage on June 27th. It was easy leaving Scott. It hurt like fucking hell when I said good-bye to Nylan. I loved that little boy with every fiber of my being. He was and will always be my son.
I spent the rest of that summer learning how to be unmarried and rescued the muppet like dog. The muppet quickly became my trusty little side kick and he is totally the best dog ever. it was me and the muppet like dog against the world. I tucked my ring away and set out to find myself. Part of finding myself was to quit my job. I hated the law firm I worked for and decided I was done. Of course I was scared. I didn’t have a plan or a fucking clue what I was going to do next.


Me and My Mama at my Birthday Lunch

I actually got a job offer on my 28th birthday. It didn’t pay well. I didn’t care a job is a job. I started dating a little and made new friends. I was creating the life I wanted and had been waiting for. I came to turns with all of the shit that happened during year 27 and walked into survivorhood with grace.
I was no longer a Cohen. My divorce was finalized on December 23rd, 2010. Merry fucking Christmas to me. I was one very happy divorced woman and those papers proved that I was now a free woman.
In the spring I tried on a pair of lobbying shoes. To my surprise they fit and when I opened my mouth people listened. By May I had enough of the bullshit at my $12 an hour job and set off for something new. Enter the big downtown firm. I must admit I was scared half to death to start working there. The attorney from last June and I fell on bad terms. I had no idea if he was going to try to sink me. My lovely friend Lisa talked me into taking the job. She was right I had as much right to work there as he did.
In truth, I shined. Before I knew it I was the go to girl and had 12 attorneys emailing me for assistance. They didn’t care that they had their own assistant, they wanted me. They wanted AJ. I will admit, I worked my summer away and eventually worked myself sick. Yet I was happy to be apart of something huge and I now know more about fishing than I could have ever imagined.
Charlie and I started dating off and on that summer. He was in NY most of the time, yet we made it work. I slowly fell in love with my best friend and started spending more days at The Ivy. Life at 28 was perfect. I loved Charlie, Loved my job and the muppet like dog.

At 29 work became my life. I barely had a social life and at times Charlie got mad at me. This is where I learned that trying to prove yourself isn’t necessary. By Thanksgiving I had worked myself sick, barely slept, and rarely did anything outside of work. Something had to give. If the big firm wasn’t going to give me a permanent position I would find a firm that would. I had several interviews and few call backs. I had started to give up and was accepting my fate as a temp. In late January I got a call, a firm wanted me. I accepted and said my good-byes and left the big downtown firm. I made a lot of great friends there and will always remember the late nights and crazy hours I put in to make someone’s life better.
Oooo, I became an Aunt. Yes, this is definitely a highlight! My niece Sophia and I are 29 years and four months apart, totally cool if you ask me. I love that little girl with all of my heart.
Speaking of love Charlie sat on his coffee table and asked me to be his wife. Of course I said yes. My world was once again perfect. I had a new niece, I was on the mend, engaged, and I loved my job again. Once again I felt like this was my calm after the storm and that nothing was going to destroy my bubble. Bubbles burst way to often in my life. I should know by now that when things are perfect, it take one little prick to burst my happy.
Charlie passed away on February 16th and I was heart-broken. He never even got to meet my niece Sophia or my sister for that matter. Charlie would have loved Sophia. Saying good-bye was hard and I can live the rest of my life knowing that Charlie loved me with all of his heart. There are days where I can feel him around and on others I look up and say “stop pushing Charlie, I can do it on my own.”
An that I did. I proved to myself that I am more than a survivor, I am one hell of a woman with one incredible story. Charlie’s death taught me that memories are worth more than dollars. I have spent more time with friends, uttered I love you more often, snuggled with niece, and spent time with my family. Life is precious and it is worth living. The ultimate lesson of year 29 is “Putting memories into you memory bank is more important than the balance in your bank account.” I will never again work my life away. I will be damned if I let moments slip away because of a work deadline. I have learned to say no and walk away at 6pm. I deserve a life and you know what my bank account doesn’t miss the overtime.

One thing is for certain My 30’s have to be better than my 20’s. I hope that there will be less pot holes and more smooth black top ahead of me. Life is a journey worth taking an I am going to hold on tight. The next 10 years are going to be awesome. I hope to find love again and start a family of my own. Hell I just might entertain the idea of law school or something awesome like that. I do know that I will keep on blogging, so grab your tickets and in 31 days come see AJ 3.0 in action.

{Dating} Writing A New Chapter

Life has a way of moving on and healing our wounds. We cannot have happiness without pain. They go hand in hand. A life without pain is a life not lived. There are those who sit safely at the road side and never dare to get on the track. Then there are the dreamers who keep on running until their dreams run out.

I’d like to believe that I am a dreamer and that I will run as far as my surviving heart will take me. My Mama use to tell me “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible in this world. You my child can do anything that you are brave enough to dream up.” We are braver than we think we are and smarter than we could ever imagine.

I have to be brave, some days being brave is the only thing I have to hold on to. Take dating for instance, to me dates are always like job interviews. You exchange the niceties, job info, life status and so on. Over the past few years I have become guarded and do not spew my life story on first date. Instead I choose to hand it out one layer at a time. Some parts have caused men to run and others chose to stay. Part of me realizes that when I go on a date, I compare every detail of a mans life to Charlie’s life. Charlie is the good that I know and I also take side notes to see if the guy could turn out like the ex husband.

In away I am lucky. Lucky, because I know what worked and what didn’t. Then again I also know what its like to have your heart tore out and stomped on. I have been humbled by the fact that Charlie loved me until his last breath. Charlie showed me that it was possible to love someone with every fiber of my being. He showed me that no matter what happens to us, our love never dies. That love does not disappear when we are gone, it lives on. Love is our legacy.

An I am writing a new chapter in my legacy. I am putting one foot forward and following my heart. Internet dating sites turn my apartment into my own little speed dating session. With the click of a mouse I can say yes or no and move on to the next profile. Truth: I can stand in front of thousands and shout to the world, yet I clam up like a Louisiana oyster on a first date. So for me a string of emails breaks the ice and lets me know what I am getting into. Most of the time I get bored and that string leads to nowhere. But, sometimes I get lucky and meet the person in real life. Well sometimes real life isn’t the best either, there is a reason why I have a google number.

Then there are those moments where I quite the voice in my head and say “just be AmandaJean. Stop analyzing and jus be.” An that is exactly what I did one steamy August evening. I peeled a few layers of my story off over dinner and slowly let a country boy walk into my life. An for now he is a keeper and with each new day another chapter is penned on the pages of my life.

{Charlie} Moments of Impact

They say a lady knows when she is ready to move on. She knows when to let go of the past and walk into her future with an open heart. She knows how to love like she is dying because the one who had her heart died loving her.

Our lives are nothing but moments. Most of the moments are trivial, however there are the ones that impact our lives so greatly we are forever changed. When that impact hits us we will never walk the same course again. We can dream about what was, we can long for it, but at the end of the day what was will never ever be again. I have come to realize this over the past 7 months, that my life will never be the same.

Over the past three years I have encountered several moments of impact, my blood clot tought me how to survive, the death of my child and the end of my marriage made me into the woman I am today. Those moments were filled with trial and tears, yet those are the moments that changed the course of my life. They charted the course for my life to collide with Charlie.

Collide is what we did. Charlie renewed my faith, taught me that love was more than just a word, and that life was a dream worth fighting for. I have enough memories to keep me company for a lifetime. While I am remembering Charlie, a young man in New York will alway be haunted by the moment he chose to get behind the wheel while drunk. His moment of impact changed the course of his life and that of five families forever.

Because of this man I am not able to say I do, instead I got to say goodbye. That day my dream ended. That day a part of my heart broke and I am afraid it will never be repaired. Justice tells us that he must pay for his crime. Is there really a punishment big enough for someone who took a life, who carelessly turned the key and drove down a freeway drunk. No there is not, if you ask me no there is not. Because for the rest of my life I have to live knowing that he is alive living his life, while my fiance is six feet under. That one day this man may get married and have children of his own, his life will go on once the prison door is opened, it will go on.

Charlie’s life ended that day. He dreamed of having a baby girl named Charlotte Rae, that dream died the moment his heart gave out. One decision, one moment of impact ended all of his dreams. He dream of being the first Native American to sit on the Supreme Court, he dreamed of a better day for his people. He dreamed of a better day for farmers and small business owners. He dreamed so big that those he left behind are stepping up and ensuring that his people will see a better day. That some day a Native American will sit on the bench, and see that large ag businesses will toppel and give way to the family farm.

That man sitting in a prison cell may have taken Charlie’s life, however he will not kill his dreams. Because Charlie’s dreams were bigger than the life he lead. Mostly because that young man will never know a man like Charlie, he will never love like he did, care like he did, or give like he did. Because Charlie was one hell of a man and I thank God every day that I collided into his life for a little while. I can live the rest of my life knowing that one man loved me until his last breath, his last moment of impact.