{Divorce} Is a Launching Pad not a Failure

Ten years ago I woke up and made a decision. A decision that was months in the making and one that needed to be made for my own sanity. I chose to leave. To walk away from a marriage that wasn’t worth saving and said goodbye to a child that I will love until my last breath.

Only a handful of people knew about my situation. Most thought I had the perfect storybook marriage. I had the big house in an affluent community, money, travel, and a husband that adored me. In reality my husband only adored me in public, my big house became my prison and the money only flowed one way, his wallet. Day in and day out I was told that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, or pretty enough to be loved. Those words cut into my soul and my mind believed them as truth. After awhile I no longer recognized the woman in the mirror and my laugh disappeared. Smiles rarely showed and my light hearted manner slipped away. He broke me in more ways than I could ever explain.

I never correlated what I experienced with abuse. Until I started therapy. My therapist looked at me point blank and said “Hun, that’s not normal. You went through mental and emotional abuse.” All I could say back to her was “Umm what?” She explained that he used manipulation and gas lighting to break me down. To make me feel like I was less than and that if I ever left him I wouldn’t survive on my own.

His last words to me were “you will never make it on your own.” Those very words have been my fuel. I’ve been fighting to do better and be better because I couldn’t let his last words win. It took awhile but I slowly found myself again. At first tears were plentiful. I felt like a failure and having to start over at 27 was scary. I got my first apartment, learned how to pay bills (no side eyes, the ex had done this for me), and I adopted a muppet like dog. And I never looked back. I was determined to make it on my own.

My adorable apartment in Uptown + the muppet like dog

And when I was ready I dipped my toe into the dating pool. It took awhile for me to realize that his words were false and that I was indeed beautiful. To this day I can remember the first time after my divorce a stranger told me that I was beautiful. It was in the uptown Green Mill parking lot and I cried. I cried because it was the first time in over a year that someone uttered that word in my direction. I left that parking lot with a new found confidence and my grove was back.

Dating as a young divorcee is hard. I kept my guard up and my hope close to my heart. I just wasn’t going to settle for anyone that slid into my DMs. I was picky and there were times where I didn’t even show up to the date. Yes, I AJ ghosted people and that’s ok. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it or maybe you got lost and you didn’t want to be super late. Anyways dating is hard, like real hard.

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the pool, Charlie came in and threw me a life ring. Charlie was able to peel back the layers and heal the years of hurt. In his eyes I was everything and nothing would ever change that. Sure he was 13 years my senior, yet the difference didn’t matter. He’d tell me often “AJ do you know why we work?” I’d tell him no. “You understand the work. You understand that an Attorney doesn’t always work a 9 to 5. You understand that sometimes a case comes before family. You understand that sometimes I have to be away for weeks at a time and because you understand, you are ok with it.” He was right as a paralegal I understood the work and all of the late nights and long weekends that go into a case. I never complained or batted an eye when he stayed in the office till 1AM. He was right, because I understood the work we just fit.

That fit was short lived. And my heart to this day still hurts. Charlie died on February 16, 2012 from injuries sustained in an auto accident on Valentine’s Day. His life was taken by a drunk driver. A driver that I have forgiven. He made a mistake and like me he has to live with the consequences of his mistake for the rest of his life. Charlie was a once in a lifetime love. His soul was vibrant and his personality could fill a room. He knew how to make you smile in the worst moments and roar with laughter. To calm me Charlie would tell me stories in Mohican and with each word whispered I’d forget what I was fretting over. Charlie looked out for everyone and lived life to the fullest. A piece of my heart lies in a little cemetery in Montawk and because of that I strive to live the life Charlie had imagined for me.

After Charlie I took time to let my heart heal and when I was ready I dipped a toe back into the pool. Dates were plentifully, but only a few had long term eligibility. After awhile I just gave up and decided that the single life was the life for me. I had a good job, a cute apartment and a muppet like dog. Life was good and I was happy. But fate, she’s a funny lady, Fate had other plans for me. On Veterans Day 2014 a marine slipped into my DMs and I’ve never looked back.

It hasn’t been easy. We’ve had our trials and our triumphs. We’ve gone through more than most couples do and we’ve come out on the other side stronger than before. He gets me and I get him back. Jay believes in my crazy dream of motherhood. Jay doesn’t like the limelight, he prefers to be in my corner where he can cheer me on from the cheap seats. He answers to every whim of my wanderlust heart. Jay gets my Tasty Taco addiction and my need for adventure. If it’s out there and if it won’t kill me, I want to do it. But mostly Jay is what my heart always needed, he can make me laugh until I can’t breathe, he can calm me when I’m out of sorts, he knows that the simplest things make me happy, and he always makes sure the bed is made. (Having a made bed is everything to me) He is a good egg and I am never letting go. Well that is unless he declares that he hates dinosaurs and fluffy white dogs, then I’ll let his ass go. I can’t have that negativity in my life 🙃.

Looking back now I realize that my divorce wasn’t a failure, it was my launching pad. I’ve done a lot of amazing shit in the past ten years and none of it would have happened if I stayed in that marriage. I wouldn’t have worked as a contract paralegal hopping from case to case. That job eventually led me to my niche, I’m a Risk Consultant and it perfectly fits me. It’s a mix of law/regulation review and procedure/policy analysis, which is my jam. I never would have done the best thing ever…….. duh adopted a muppet like dog! Cullen has been my side kick for almost ten years, he is my joy in four legged form. In the end I am the one who got rescued on adoption day. Nor would I have a shit ton of travel stories to share. My life would have been boring and sad. And ya all know me, I may be a lot of things but boring and sad isn’t one of them. This life I’ve built and rebuilt and rebuilt again, is fucking amazing and I wouldn’t change any of it. Life is a beautiful disaster and this disaster is all mine.

What a difference 10 years makes!

From time to time people ask me for advice. Like relationship advice, yes you read that right, relationship advice. And when I respond I think back to what Charlie said “you need to find someone that understands the work.” He was right, at the end of the day you need to find someone who understands the work and understands you as a person (<—- last part is my two cents). Otherwise your relationship isn’t going to work. Things will happen in your relationship that neither of you signed up for, it’s what you do with those things that matter. If those things break you apart and that break is not repairable, it’s ok to walk away. You did your best, you gave it everything you had and now it’s time to call it. A wise attorney once told me “there are no winners or losers in a breakup or divorce, someone has to call it. That’s the hardest part, making the judgment call.” <—- I heard this advice on a Friday and walked out of my marriage that Sunday and then never looked back. Best advice I was ever given. So if you are where I was ten years ago, just call it and never look back. Your launching pad is waiting for you.

{Divorced Life} Standing On The Other Side 

I watched the days tick closer and closer to June 27, to most it’s a regular day, but for me it signifies the beginning. Six years ago today I walked out of my lovely home nestled on a quiet street in Woodbury with my best friend at my side and I never looked back. 

The last words Scott spoke to me were “you’ll never make it on your own. No one will want you.” Those words sunk in deep like a knife cutting through my flesh, those words became a challenge. A challenge to become the woman he never deserved to call his wife. I was broken, yet I dug deep and put one foot in front of the other and walked out with my clothes and kitchen things. Cause ya know a girl has to be able to cook and needs clothes, nothing else in that house mattered to me. 

I will say this, the hardest part of leaving was walking away from Nylan. I helped raise that little boy for 5 years and he was my heart and soul. Nylan will always be apart of me, he will always be my step son. No matter where life takes me, Nylan will always be in my heart. Step parents have no rights, when you divorce you are expected to walk away from a child that you saw as your own flesh and blood. Nylan is a bright funny kid that I miss with all of my heart. I have to believe that one day he will stumble upon this here blog and he will see that I never stopped loving him. 

Not many 27 year old women find themselves sitting across form a divorce lawyer talking about property and bank accounts. Or talking about “um our baby died and he doesn’t want to be financially responsible for any of the bills…….” She asked me like all lawyers do “why are you getting a divorce? Have you tried counseling?” I looked at her and said ” I do not want to be married to a man who rather lie comfortably in the bed of a whore than with his wife. I do not want to be married to a man who chose to stay in Vegas after his wife uttered the words “our baby died.” He never put me first, I was always third best. So no counseling is not an option, divorce is my only way out.” An I did just that, I freed myself from someone who never wanted me. 

In ways I felt ashamed, it was hard for me to admit that I walked out of a mentally/emotionally abusive controlling relationship. I didn’t want people to think I was stupid, all women even the smarties can fall into controlling relationships. I had to work through a lot of shit, his voice on quiet nights seeped in reminding me that I wasn’t pretty and that I was to fat for someone to love. Little by little I was able to push his voice to the side. In the quiet moments I reminded myself that he no longer had power over me, I was free and I owed it to myself to do better. 

The best decision I have ever made is to trade my exhusband in for a muppet like dog. My IKEA filled apartment was lonely, I missed having someone to come home to and mostly a little four legged beast to cuddle. I called in sick to work (cough cough) and drove to Whipstaff Ranch to pick up what I hoped would be my trusty sidekick. Cullen, cullen rescued me that day. A mighty little muppet like dog rescued me, he was exactly what I needed. 

Slowly I began to move and grow in my new normal. Cullen was my constant, he was with me every step of the way and with one sniff he judged all of my dates. Dating was strange, my the game had changed since I last played. I adapted, signed up for dating sites and had fun going out for drinks and then coming home and watching lifetime movies with the dog. Don’t judge you know you get sucked into lifetime movies too! 

Life, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve hit more road blocks than smooth passages. Each one has taught me a lesson, a lesson that has made me stronger than I could ever imagine. Mostly it has taught me to be patient and to trust the journey.  That as long as I keep the wind at my back I will sail into safe harbor. I’ve stopped caring about other people’s opinions and stare down their judgy eyes, divorce means knowing when to get the fuck out and having the strength to leave. The decision to leave is the easy part, physically leaving is the hard part. 

“You will never make it on your own,” still cuts through me like a knife. Thou his opinion no longer matters I still feel like I need to prove him wrong. Six years, I have survived on my own for six fucking years! Like that is a feat in itself, knowing that my bills are paid and I get on the bus to a job that I love in my mind is wining. At the end of the month I have money left over to do things, fun things and I have become very thrifty.  In my eyes I’ve made it and that’s all that matters. 

“No one will want you.” He saw me as damaged goods. Sure a blood clot and stroke mess a girl up, but it doesn’t mean I am down and out for the count. Sure losing a child can scare men away, but it can bring me to someone who wants a family too. This girl isn’t damaged, he was wrong about that, I’m filled with awesome sauce! Whether I was ready or not, love crept in when I wasn’t looking, fate brought me two men that I adored. Charlie left  in the middle of our story. I can die knowing he loved me until his last breath. His leaving gave fate the chance to bring me Jay and his bitchy cat Dexter.  

An that is when the love came in. Jay just looks into my eyes and knows that my soul has seen to much and that I for some reason love him without question. He has my heart for his whole life and I have his. Together we have a baby in heaven. If you are counting, yes I have been pregnant twice and have two babies in heaven, I guess I am special. Anyways back to the mushy love story stuff. In Jay’s eyes I see the soul of a weary marine, he paid the price for my freedom and for that I am thankful, his eye tell a story of things I could never imagine, yet he is determined and never gives up, because he knows I will never give up on him. For now our children have four legs and fuzzy tails, he and I have faith that our rainbow will come and we will add another chapter to our love story. 

The exhusband was wrong, I made it and I found someone who loves me without question. Maybe he uttered those words because he knew deep deep down that without me, he would never make it. As far as I know he is still alive and has remarried, so I think that’s a sign that it’s time for me to stop living in the shadow of his words and to step into the sun where they will never again touch me. 

{Divorced Life} April 3, 2005

Ten years ago a bright eyed college junior walked across the Ross Hall Parking lot to hug her date. He had brown eyes and he was her cup of hansom. That day took them to canal park in Duluth, the ice was just letting out on the lake, the cool breeze landed her in his arms, and they had conversation over burgers at Grandma’s. She felt a tug like she never had before, with each word she fell for him. That night was the beginning of a beautiful disaster.

The Monday after our first date Scott called me and told me he had something to say. That if I wanted to walk away, he understood and that was ok. I waited, he took a deep breath and said “I have a son.” I excitedly asked “what’s his name, how old is he.” At 22 I stepped up to the plate and took on the role of stepmom. It’s a role that I cherished and I loved Nylan as he was my own.

Young love is full of passion with a dash of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what would happen if you veered from the vision you created and the path you dreamed of. Somewhere between 2005 and 2006 I threw caution to the wind and went all in. I graduated in May 2006, moved in with him in July and was engaged by thanksgiving.

Law school was put on the back burner and I started forming a new dream. I found a career in the pharmacy benefit management field and started planning our wedding. May 2008 seemed like a lifetime away, but in the wedding planning word it was just a day away. I planned every detail right down to our orange wedding cake.

Scott and I traveled the globe together. Cruises became our thing, we saw the Texaribian, Alaska, Africa and Europe. Money it wasn’t an object, we did what we wanted to. Scrapbooks were filled with photos of a happy couple and photos of the little family surrounded the home.

I just wasn’t marrying Scott I was marrying Nylan too. I raised Nylan like he was my own, we played together, baked together, and I showed him more love than one soul can handle. He was mine and that’s all that mattered. In the heat of wedding planning I decided to go back to school, we bought a house and continued to build a storybook life.
Married Life
A life that was built on unstable ground. Scott cheated before we even said I do. I brushed it off and thought he would change as soon as we said I do. His ring was more of an anchor than a symbol. He didn’t want to be with just me. Overtime the words unraveled and our story fell apart. He took comfort in the arms of someone else, blamed me for our “bad marriage” and repeatedly told me that I was no longer attractive.

We saw our first wedding anniversary, we spent it apart. He was in Seattle and I stayed home with Nylan. Five months later on one fateful October day I almost died. Scott was to busy being Scott to care. He didn’t realize that my life had changed. I was no longer the woman he married, I had changed, my life was almost pulled away from me and I would never be the same.

He couldn’t handle the new me, he chose to leave me alone most nights and between WOW and the women we hardly spoke to each other. Well we must have found time to hang out because the joke was on me. On April 1, 2010 I found out I was pregnant with our son.Scott seemed genuinely excited to have a baby with me.

Yet the seat in my prius was moved each morning. I knew he didn’t give up his flings and I started looking at my options. My marriage was going nowhere fast and I would raise the child on my own if I had to. God stepped in and on May 11, 2010 I found out our son was gone. Scott was in Vegas, he didn’t even bother coming home, Sherri took me to the hospital and friends took care of me. No one should have to go trough the death of a child alone. When he came back, he expected me to be the same.

I would never be the same! I survived a PE and stroke, to only turn around and have my child die. I was broken and there was only one option, leave. On June 27, I walked away from my loveless marriage and started searching for myself. It will be five years this June, five beautiful years and I can truly say that I found myself.

To be honest I wouldn’t trade the five years I had with Scott, for those are the years that taught me to fight for myself. I know that I never want a marriage like that again and that no woman should settle for being kept. I do not hate him, I actually just don’t feel anything towards him, he is my son’s father and because of that Scott will always be a part of me.

Just like how my life would be different if I had never gone out on that date 10 years ago. Who knows I may be a lawyer, I might not of had a stroke, and I would probably be married with children. I chose to dance that day, I chose to throw caution to the wind and let fate ride. Fate she has brought me to a lot of beautiful places and put me through experiences that have given me a lifetime of lessons. I have no regret, because that one choice lead me through a beautiful disaster that I get to call life.
Post Marriage

{Divorced Life Dating} Light Up The Room


There are moments where I have thought to myself “maybe your relationships fail because you are incapable of deeply loving someone.” That thought is clearly irrational, yet my track record is not. I was married at 25, divorced by 27, engaged again at 29 and lost my fiancé at 30.

Over the past four years dates have been a plenty and relationships are short lived. I never gave anyone a chance to get past my mote and I rarely took off my armor. Emotions make things messy. I wanted the benefits of a relationship, just not the emotional side of things. In my mind if they didn’t get into the deep then they couldn’t hurt me.

Divorce hurts, burying your fiancé hurts, and letting go hurts. Charlie’s death was easier to deal with than my divorce. Divorce in its own right is like a death, the death of a dream. Yet with death there are no awkward run ins with your ex or “I wonder what there doing” moments. It ends at the grave. You bury your heart in the ground and walk away to fight another day. You walk away to rebuild your heart piece by broken piece.

Repairing ones heart is easer said than done. Your heart never truly heals, you you just learn how to live with the void. Charlie will always be apart of me. He showed me what love was and what a relationship could be. He used to tell me “AJ, you light up the room!” His eyes would sparkle and I knew in that moment that I was his everything.
Charlie’s eyes could not hide his love for me and I soaked it all in. Death does not stop love, love never dies. It is the reminder that we need to heal our hearts and to move on. It is the dream that we build our lives upon and that dream deserves to be lived.

Living is what I am doing. Unexpected moments are my crack. On Veterans Day fate took over and a marine walked into my life. (Yes another one) His heart, smile, wit, and charm caught me off guard and I slipped my armor off. I opened up and let him into the deep. He didn’t run nor flinch, instead he fell for me.

Happy?! Heck yes I am. For once I am happy, I am letting myself fall, be swept away, but mostly I am allowing myself to enjoy the process. I have laughed more in the past month than I have in two years and my cheeks hurt from smiling. In this marine I see a sparkle, his face lights up when I walk into a room and that says it all. I have someone who lights up and wants me simply for me. And that is fucking awesome!

{Hurt} Collateral Damage


My past is lined with burned bridges and collateral damage. I am not an easy person to get to know or to even love. Damaged, yea you could say that. My life its a beautiful disaster and those closest to me end up being the ones I hurt the most.

Never in a million years did I think Gopher Guy would become my collateral damage. I have no idea what made Gopher Guy fall for me, I am far from perfect and the complete opposite of him. It became clear that he wasn’t going to see the light and that his new found love is faker than imitation perfume. Old habits die hard, he still acted like there was a chance and he made me feel like he was still interested. Our friendship was built on witty banter and flirting. Deep down I knew I couldn’t be stuck in some weird emotional love triangle and for him to be fully with her I had to let go.

I only know how to let go one way and that is by burning a bridge. He met me by the now dry government center fountains. Part of me was hoping that he wouldn’t show, but he did. In that moment I wanted him to hurt as much as he hurt me. As my words flowed into his mind, his kind eyes faded, his expression went from nice to nothing, and he was shaking. I did exactly what I set out to do and in that moment he let me go.

I’ve burned more bridges than I can count, this time it was different and instead of feeling nothing, I feel a tiny bit of regret. Yet, on the same coin I know that his feelings for me were not real. Gopher Guy never got into the deep with me and he only knows a piece of me. He met me when I was broken and saw me at my worst, but he never got to enjoy my best. He spent the past 3 years chasing me and I ran like hell. I told him I loved him, it was on April Fools day and 19 days later I said I can’t deal. His friends, they hate me because they had to deal with the aftermath of that burning.

But did they really deal? No they didn’t they just kept on checking his pulse to make sure he was alive as he drowned his sorrows in a bottle of liquor. Real friends, take the bottle out of your hand and make you face your shit. Your friends just let you hang on to that bottle and stood by and watched you fall. You cannot blame me for that night because I didn’t put the bottle in your hand, I didn’t tell you to drink your pain away. I’ve heard your recollection of April 20, 2012 more times than I can count. Did it ever cross your mind that someone did exactly that, except they got into a car, and took charlie away from me. It wasn’t you that did it, but someone just like you did. Life is hard liquor does nothing to cure the pain it only numbs it until the morning comes.

Your friends they still hate me. You had three years to clear my name and never made that attempt. You never told them that my fiance had died the day before your birthday party. That I only came because I made a promise. I am a woman of my word, even thou I was dying inside I put on a smile and tried to deal. Being in a bar that night was not the place for me and meeting your slightly intoxicated friends was a bad idea. I knew the moment they met me that they didn’t like me, I nursed a glass of water the whole night instead of throwing back beer and shots. I was physically there at your table, yet my mind was trying to remember if I grabbed everything I wanted for Charlie’s casket. Dinner was over, you went to the strippers and I went my separate way. That was the one and only time I have seen your friends. I got one shot and if I had known that they would be petty bastards, I never would have come to your party. Tell your friends to grow the fuck up and not to be so judgmental.

You failed me. As my friend it was your job to vouch for me and to defend me. You never did that. For three years you let your friends hate the ground I walk on. Hell, even today they probably still hate me. My Daddy tells me that “hate” is a disease and that only a tormented soul has room for hate. So your friends must be broken. Yup, they are broken. They hide behind their mental health, sex therapy, and who knows what else degrees they have to make themselves feel all right. I am human, I am not perfect and I cannot be fake. What you see is what you get. My opinion is never quiet. I may be small but I will use the voice God gave me and I will defend myself.

They say it takes a broken soul to know one. When I look into your eyes I see someone who has been discounted and passed up their entire life. Someone who was judged by the size of his waist line and not his wit. Girls, they never gave you a thought and you were always the friend never the leading man. When I first met you I shook your hand, you looked me up and down with a smile. I knew right then and there that you had fallen. I don’t know why but you did and I was ok with that. When I looked at you I didn’t see a large man, I saw your heart.

Gopher Guy I never paid attention to your outside, your kindness, dedication, unwavering work ethic and wit is what attracted me to you. Your heart is what won me over. You are someone I could trust, you dared to put me in my place, only to apologize minutes later for doing so. You constantly challenged me, made me laugh until I cried, kept me from face planting into mud puddles and you believed in me. For some unknown reason you believed in me with all of your heart and I didn’t know how to deal.

I thought you would always be there. It’s partly my fault I encouraged you to date and to put yourself out there. Orchestra hall, that night I felt the pull and I knew at that moment I had to go for it. Yet I didn’t. I was going to but over dinner you told me about Goodwill and preacher girl. (2 girls at once?! Whoa I created a monster!) Always know that Orchestra hall is the night I fell in love with you all over again. That was the night that sealed the deal. That was the night I realized that I still loved you.

Fate kept the manhuman in Minnesota. He was suppose to leave in July. The job it fell through and he moved in. (Bad idea I know) Someone was looking out for me as it didn’t work and I asked him to leave. I didn’t want to be that girl who leaped into another mans arms right after she left the arms of another. I had to let the socially acceptable time period expire. You, you put on the full court press the moment you found out the Manhuman was gone. You invited me to dinner more times than I can count, told me that I meant the world to you, and that I was the one you wanted. I eluded you and gave you half answers. I was afraid of letting you down and mostly I was afraid that I wouldn’t live up to the woman you saw in me. In my mind you deserved more than a broken surviving heart and I, I sold myself short. While I was waiting for the expiration date Goodwill girl stepped up her game. She grabbed you the day I was going to lay my cards down.

My steal, went down in flames. I fought hard for you and you didn’t want anything to do with me. 3.5 years of history meant nothing to you. I wasn’t shiny and new. I didn’t desperately chase you like she did. Goodwill girl loves beer, going to games and music. That is what you are building a relationship on. Take it from someone whose been divorced, that’s not enough. The shiny will fade, the beer you can only drink so much before you bank account dips, and when that runs out she will be moving on. Fairy tales tell us that you go for the one who fights for you and not the one who loses her shoe.

I fought hard for you and you didn’t care. You said things, did things, and crossed lines that should never have been crossed. You never once apologized for your actions and words. In your mind what you were doing was all right and you said a prayer to make it all better. Yet, you hurt the one girl you never thought you would hurt. I needed you to feel what I was feeling. I needed you to feel deceived, mislead, and used. Then and only then would you understand what you put me through. The difference between you and I is that I own my shit. Only apart of what I told you was true. Play you I did. The bridge I burned it and the answers are on my side of the river. You can fester and pray all you want for the answers, they won’t come to you because only I know what the two lies and one truth are.

Hurt? Yes I am and you, you are hurt too. Neither of us are clean in this. I did what I had to do to protect myself. I don’t do well with weird love triangles and attachments. The pin I pulled it and the bridge that lead me to you went down in flames. I didn’t completely close you out. It takes a beautifully broken heart to understand a fellow broken soul. I have been through more than you could ever imagine and I know that life hasn’t always been kind to you. Just know that you are worth more than you will ever begin to understand and that you, you made a difference in one small town girl’s life.

{Hearts On 22} Five Borrowed Years

Top right photo was taken one month after my PE and Stroke

Top right photo was taken one month after my PE and Stroke

I honestly cannot believe that it’s been five years. It seems just like yesterday when I set out to work oblivious to what this day would hold. I still remember what I wore and that I was upset because I forgot to buy creamer the night before. It was a free jeans day and I wore a gray cardigan with a white eyelet button down peasant style top and jeans paired with cranberry colored flats. It was also day #4 at my brand new job. I was busy learning the ins and outs of replevin work and didn’t have the time for inconveniences.

On Tuesday night I felt this excruciating pain rush through my body. I barely made it through the evening rush hour drive. I came home put my purse down, took some Tylenol and crawled into bed. Wednesday morning I was right as rain and went on about my day. On October 22, 2009 I woke up with a mild nagging pain in my chest. I didn’t think anything of it, figured I was coming down with a cold and brushed it off.

My body was screaming for help and I, I just ignored the signs. I had reached the Sun Ray shopping center, the pain was getting a little worse, still I brushed it off. A few miles down the road that nagging pain turned into what felt like a thousand knives cutting me at once. Breathing was proving to be difficult and my arm was going numb. I’d try to breathe deep, my lungs they fought back and I had to make the decision call mom, no not an option she will panic. Pull over, no you are afraid to be stuck on the side of the road. Oh look Lexington parkway, take the exit.
The exit, I took it. To this day I have no idea how I made it to Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury MN. The only thing I remember is throwing the Prius into park and collapsing into the security guards arms. Some how by the grace of God I made it to safety. When I came to the ER staff ruled out a heart attack and a panic attack, labs were ordered and I apologized for taking up their time. The doctor thought I had an infection in my lungs and ordered an x-ray and labs. As he left the room he turned on his heel and asked “by chance are you on a birth control?” I quickly said yes and he explained what the d-dimer test.
2nd chance
The d-dimer was ordered, my oxygen level was less than 50%, my heart was in sinus tachycardia and my blood pressure continued to climb. I, I was in rough shape. While on my way to x-ray the doctor shouted “where are you going with her? I canceled the x-ray.” I was feeling relieved and waited for him to tell me I had an infect and he was going to send me home. I didn’t get the news I wanted. With caring eyes he told me “the d-dimer came back glaringly positive we need to get you to CT ASAP. He quickly explained that the contrast die could prove deadly but the benefits out weighed the risk. I signed my name and into the scanner I went. They said it would take about 90 minutes for my results to come back.

I watched the clock and counted down the minutes. I could hear the phone ring, the doctor picked it up and said “shit! You have to be kidding, you are not!” Code blue was sounded and I heard a rush of feet come towards me. Within seconds every available hand was in he ER. He took my hand and said, “I am sorry AmandaJean you have a blood clot in your left lung that is blocking the main valve to your heart and your lung sacs have ruptured. Your body is not getting the oxygen it needs and you dear are going to be staying with us for a while.” My brain couldn’t comprehend how dire the situation was. My blood pressure went above 210, I told the nurse I felt woozy, one said it was just the pain meds, another looked at the monitors and said “the fuck it is, she is having a stroke,” he hit the panic button.

Clot busters were shot into my chest, thrombolytics and other medications were being pumped into both arms. I was alone, alone and fighting for my life. The ER doctor walked next to my bed as they were bringing me to the elevator bay. We stopped, he said AmandaJean do you know what’s down that hall? No I said. The morgue, I should be putting you on a slab instead of in a hospital bed. If you had been five minutes later your story would have been different, never ever forget that.
GoRed 2014
It took a few days for the gravity of what I had survived to sink in. Friends came and visited me, my parents and than husband stood by my side. My life became a series of injections, INR checks, scans, nerotherapy sessions and doctor visits. I was alive and that is what mattered. Almost dying 5 days before your birthday steals your innocence and changes your perspective on life.

I didn’t just survived, I thrived. The ultimate gift was given to me, not many people get a second go around. I treasure every moment of every day, because I know that if I were five minutes late my story would have ended with my ashes in an urn. Survivors rarely talk about the guilt that they feel. I walk this earth with a scarlet letter glued to my head and people tell me that I shouldn’t have a bad day, because I survived the worst day possible.

Yet in the quiet moments I feel guilty that I survived. In the past five years I have said goodbye to more friends than one soul can handle. I survived only to watch my son slip away, I took a seat at Adam’s funeral, wrote a eulogy for Connor, only to follow-up a few years later with a eulogy for Charlie, said a tearful thank you to Dr. Delahaunty, and held my friend Jilliann’s hand as we said goodbye to Trinity. I have been surrounded by so much death and heart ache. I can’t make heads or tails out of who lives and who dies, God definitely has the upper hand on that one.
heart on the hill
Hands I’ve got two and my knees are worn from praying. My scars are healed, my body is somewhat back to normal, yet my emotional scars remain. Emotional wounds are he hardest wounds to heal. They slowly disappear with time. Anger was replaced with hope and that hope gave me the strength to make a difference. The guilt it is a reminder that four people had to die so I could be the one out of five who survived. I live each day of this crazy life for them, its the only thing I can do to honor those who went to soon. I vowed to spend my days advocating for those who no longer can and that they would be more than their deaths. Their stories deserve to be told. In one sheer moment of disaster I found my passion. I found that I had a voice and that I had the strength to stand up for myself. I signed my name on the dotted line and became a plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit against Merck.
go red4

The Nuva Ring took a lot of things away from me and on the same coin it gave me a life that even I couldn’t have imagine for myself. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and share the most vulnerable moments of your life. Sharing my journey allows me to educate the public about the dangerous side affects of hormonal contraceptive. Sharing my story has allowed me to shape the view points of politicians and to propel heart healthy policies forward. I owe a lot to the American Heart Association, they took me under their wings and gave me a platform. That platform has allowed me to grow and come into my own as a survivor. I am not ashamed to say I had a Pulmonary Embolism and Stroke, I am more than those events, I am more than a survivor, I am and will always be a small town girl who set out to change the world.
large group Lobby day
The past five years have been a beautiful disaster and I am proud to claim it as my own. Because of quick action and research my life was saved. Every day the American Heart Association gives funds and encourages researches to tread unknown waters. Without the AHA we would not have CPR or advances in heart surgery, early stroke and heart attack detection. Research is why. Advocacy is why. Life is why. Second Chance is why. Without the AHA there would be no why in this world and we would have no hope for a heart healthy tomorrow.

I am incredibly thankful to my Woodwind’s care team, without them I never would have gotten to experience pregnancy followed by loss, then divorce, a little adventure followed by a whole lot of love and mostly without them I never would have gotten the chance to hold my niece. Without them my story would have ended at 26. Instead I got five beautiful borrowed years on this earth and I plan on borrowing a few more. Because life, its only just begun.common thread

{Divorced Life Dating} Go For The One Who Waits For You

“People build up walls, not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down. “

Relationships, are my down fall and I always go for the man I can’t have, not the one I can’t live without. I am always the chaser never the chased. I try to force something to exist when in my heart I know there is nothing to lay a foundation on. I go for the guy who keeps his online profile alive, the one who never calls, texts, or surprises me. If they are lazy and emotionally unavailable, then heck I want em. Sign me up for that shit and let the chase begin.

I chased my ex-husband and it sort of worked. I got the ring, had the best wedding ever, and spent my evenings wondering where the fuck he was or more so who he was with. I had to chase my own husband, he never text me first or called to see how my day was. I would mention this and he would run out to buy me flowers or take me to dinner. Jewelry and shopping trips, now they were his fail safe. Those were just items they didn’t quiet the voice in my head that always wondered who is he texting at 2 am, what’s in his email, and oh god where did he go last night. I made excuses for his cheating, I would say to myself “If you drop 10 pounds or if you did xyz like the other girls he would stop.” I blamed myself and cried alone in my king sized bed.

For those on the outside my departure was sudden and without reason. But if you paid close attention and noticed the stream of girls coming into my drive way, well then you knew why I left. I left with what little dignity I had and I vowed to never chase. That was short lived. A challenge is what I need. If you are a challenge then I want you, if I have to chase you to the moon and back I am so in.

Charlie, now that is a man that I didn’t have to chase. He was the curve to my ball and I had to find a whole gosh darn new field. He looked beyond the scars, and took the walls down brick by brick. He understood where I had come from and that I was still a work in progress. Charlie spent a lot of time on the east coast and in Iowa for work, he told me one night that he had a girl in NYC. I was mad as hell, play me he did. I couldn’t believe it, I got duped into falling for an unavailable man.  I stuck him in the friend zone and went on about my day.

Fate landed me a contract assignment as a case assistant on a little oil spill in the gulf. Late nights and never ending weekends turned contractors into friends. After all no one on the outside understood what we were going through and how tedious the work was. Gopher Guy and I bonded over trip tickets and witty banter.  He knew that I was sort of dating someone and he would always tell me “well that’s only temporary.” Charlie joked that Gopher Guy was my work husband and that he needed to step up his game to prevent me from being wooed away. Charlie stepped up all right, NYC girl was a thing of the past and I was settling in nicely to my life at the Ivy.

If Gopher Guy only knew what the future held, he would take back every “its only temporary.” He was sadly correct. Charlie would become the fifth car in a multi vehicle crash on February 14, 2012, he died two days latter from his injuries. I was crushed, I didn’t know which way was up and life, it just wasn’t the same. Gopher Guy came running to my side, he just sat next to me as I starred into space trying to make sense of it all. He didn’t say a word and that meant the world to me. Everyone else was telling me “it will be ok, you will get through this. or we are so sorry for your loss.” I didn’t need words,  I needed silence, and he gave that to me.

Gopher Guy messaged me every day to make sure I was still standing and he made sure I got out. Subtle hints were dropped and I picked them up. On April Fool’s day he asked me if I would date him, I selfishly said yes. I was afraid of being alone and needed the distraction. This was incredibly wrong of me to do. How could I commit to someone when I was in love with a ghost. I would fall a sleep at night with Charlie in my dreams only to be awaken by the cold wet nose of a muppet like dog. I felt guilty, like I was cheating on him. Gopher Guy put on the full court press and  I couldn’t deal. I called it, I asked for my space and to not contact me.

We went months without saying a word. It killed me inside to lose such an incredible friend and I sent a message out of the blue. He responded with “oh thank god!” From that point on Gopher Guy has spent that past 3.5 years chasing me. I was to afraid to go for the safety of his arms, I went after the emotionally unavailable.  None of my relationships worked and never once did I utter I love you. Instead I found myself rushing home to tell Gopher Guy about my dates and about my life. He would always always throw insinuating text messages into the mix. Gopher Guy would tell me “you are the most amazing girl, you are worth waiting for.”

I never asked Gopher Guy to wait, he just did it. On my worst days my head had a way of finding his shoulder. He has seen my full on ugly cry, consoled me when my relationships went south, and mostly he gives me the best heart felt advice. It didn’t matter how unavailable I was, he always tried to steal me away. Earlier this summer it dawned on me “your relationships never work out because you have mad feelings for Gopher Guy.” Word, subconscious self and duly noted. Hot damn! My subconscious was fucking right, yup now I just had to get over the fear.

I found myself single at the end of August and Gopher Guy was somewhat single. For some reason his game stepped up and I passively passed it on. Until I finally found the strength to say “yes.” No this isn’t a magical OMG she got the guy who waited for her story. Shit Facebook told me he was in a relationship with a girl. It was kind of a shock because he had just asked me out to dinner. Apparently he had no idea his relationship was that serious. I plotted my course, laid my cards on the table and attempted a steal. My steal, yea that didn’t go down well.

All of my secrets are showing. We had a really good early morning ugly cry and he let me know that he has never stopped loving me, even now he still does. Yet he listened to the peanuts, pushed our history to the sidelines, and went for her and not me. He chose her over me. Gopher Guy thought our ship had sailed and that he would never have a shot with me. Shots? I’ve had plenty of shots to grab him. I didn’t because I only know how to function as a chaser and with him there was no challenge, only sweet sweet safety.

Every girl dreams for a man that will love her with every inch of his soul and I, I let mine down. I’ve learned you do not look for the one who compliments you, you, you look for the one that completes you. The one that will bring you new experiences, the one you can teach, the one who will listen without question, the one who dares you to swim with the sharks, and withholds judgment as you plot a crazy course. You, you go for the one person who dares to wait for you.

{PERSPECTIVE} 10 Years of Have Bear Will Travel

10 yearsTen years ago today I boarded a plane with 67 strangers bound for Glasgow Scotland. The only thing I knew was “I’m going to Scotland and will live in a palace.” Everything else was left up to fate. That trip lead me to start havebearwilltravel.com. It was my attempt to stay connected to friends and family back home. I wanted a place where I could share my adventures in real-time. Scotland was only the beginning, it was my starting point to an amazing adventure.

I got to travel Europe, attend the Edinburgh Tattoo, saw the Queen at the Highland games, and there is nothing like spotting a hairy coo in your front yard. I went looking for Nessie, but came up empty-handed, pub crawls, yea I’ve gotta few under my belt, art was a plenty, ghosts were all around, the underground can’t be beat, Rosslyn Chapel is way prettier in person, and if you listen you just might hear the footsteps of giants. I was an intern with the New Scottish Parliament, they thought it would be highly entertaining for me to give tours of the building to school children and tack stacks of papers.

Scotland truly was one hell of an adventure and I now have a place to call “Home” in the Midlothians. Once I returned home I continued to blog about my adventures and encouraged others to step out side of their comfort zones. Funny thing, little did I know that this blog would see me through thick and thin. It has been my outlet to the world, a place for me to gain perspective, encourage others, and a place for me to write my story.

Looking back I did a lot of incredibly amazing shit, so amazing that I have to stop and think “yea you actually did that!” Ten years ago I had no idea where life would take me or what the future would hold. I am a firm believer that everything should be left up to fate. Fate will never fail us and as long as we believe, she will come through. I’ve been married, became a step mom, had a pulmonary embolism and a stroke, became a mama, got a divorce, quit my job, found my voice, fell in love, said good-bye, and hello.

I am literally in awe of my life. I have walked the beaches of Sardinia, stood on Mount Tibidabo, sailed the canals of Venice, climbed the pyramids of Egypt, zip corded through the jungles of Belize, set sail on the high seas, collected sea shells in Mexico, panned for gold in Alaska, and shopped in Morocco. I have stood on three of the seven continents and hopefully will see the remaining four before I die. My soul needs to travel this world and as long as I am able I will always choose GO.

Go? Alfred who is now a very ratty teddy bear still goes wherever I go. He is after all the “bear” in Have Bear Will Travel. That ratty old teddy bear has seen me through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the down right hilarious moments of my life. We never grow up, we just tuck our teddy into our suit cases and no one is none the wiser. I will carry that ratty teddy bear with me until the day I die.

If I could go back 10 years I will tell my 21-year-old self to enjoy the journey and to live in the moment. Moments make us who we are, without them we are books with blank pages. I would tell her to hold on tight because you are going to have more potholes than smooth pavement. That life can be cruel and unfair. That she will endure heartache, turmoil, and fight for her life, only to say goodbye to a son who never walked the earth. Mostly I would tell her” “You are stronger than you could ever imagine and to not worry about law school, you will change the world without a law degree.”

{Divorced Life} I Always Thought I would Remarry First

The end of a marriage is like a death, you mourn what was and try to quiet the memories. Its hard to believe that June 27th, 2014 will mark four years since I walked out of the red house on the quiet Woodbury cul-de-sac and never looked back. You just put your big kid pants on and walk boldly into the unknown. Each half has a chance to make a new start, to rebuild their life, and mostly a chance to find the correct better half.

My ex-husband jumped into a relationship the week after I left, he had her knocked up and moved in by September. Classy I know, yet I knew he would do it, the man is afraid to be alone with his on thoughts. So it was only fitting that he found someone to fill the quiet space that I left behind. Scott needed to drain the sea of regret, to plug the wholes of what if, and mainly he needed someone to warm his bed at night. Scott and his girlfriend have been together for almost four years and are now ready to say “I do.”

Scott sent me an out of the blue text asking questions about our divorce and said that he needed the information to fill out his marriage certificate. Those words stung a little. Hell since I was the better half, I always thought I would remarry first. I came close but unfortunately a drunk driver intervened and took that equation off the table. As I stared at that text for a few minutes, it took everything in me to not tell his girlfriend to run. A leopard doesn’t change his spots. Then I realized its not my place and I went on about my evening.

Its not my place to say anything because I left him in the past and have never looked back. Scott was one big giant life lesson, I gave up law school for him, and in the end I wound up with a pile of broken dreams. He told me once “when one dream ends, you make a new one.” He was right, when my marriage ended I set out to take on the world, but first I needed to find myself. I needed to look into the mirror and figure out who the fuck AmandaJean was. I knew two things: that 1. I was a survivor and 2. a mother to a baby in heaven. Those are two things Scott could not take away from me. I set out to live a life that Lucia would be proud of and one meaningful enough to prove that I was worthy to survive a pulmonary embolism.

Scott never made me feel like I was a priority in his life, I was always last on his list and never first. He never stood beside me and only criticized my every move. In Scott’s mind I was never pretty enough or thin enough, or good enough for him. The thoughts in his head caused him to stray, I figured it out when the seat was moved in my Prius, he told me he needed it and that if I didn’t let him continue, then I didn’t love him. So I turned a blind eye and rang up the Discover card, I buried my emotions for the sake of my marriage. On nights where I couldn’t take the whores, I spoke up, only to have my words thrown on the floor. The man never understood that normal husbands do not look for “friends” on craigslist, they come home to their wives, and love them for who they are.

That normal husbands answer the phone at 8AM when it shows up as “Woodwinds Hospital,” they don’t roll over and go back to sleep. The poor receptionist kept on calling him and he just let it go to voicemail. I faced death alone and when it was convenient to him he finally picked up the phone. He actually had the audacity to ask “do you really need me to come to the ER? I have to go to work.” A woman who is literally dying should not have to beg her husband to rush to her side. He came, and he was shocked at what he saw. He truly didn’t care about me, he kept on muttering about how big the bill was going to be. Yup, you got it he cared more about money than my survival. That was only the tip of the iceberg.

As you can tell I survived. Scott probably does not tell people “I have 3 kids, one died and two are alive.” In my eyes he has not earned the right to claim our son. The morning I found out Lucia was gone, I called him and begged him to come home from Vegas. Most men would have gotten on the next flight and rushed home to their mourning wife. He chose to stay in Vegas and partied the day away. I was alone when I got the news and thankfully my BFF Sherri refused to let me be alone on surgery day. Scott missed it all and came home to find me sleeping, he had no idea the hell I went through. He acted like nothing really happened and again he worried about the bill. Scott does not deserve to be Lucia’s father, because a father never turns their back on their child, no matter if they are dead or alive.

Scott and I were a beautiful disaster. Our lives were meant to collide, because without him, without the heart ache and pain I would not be the woman I am today. I will admit, it took a lot of therapy to get the man out of my head, his words cut like a knife and the wounds they bled for a while. Until one day I faced the sun and realized that I had something to offer this world. I found my space, got my head right and took on the day. The last thing Scott gave to me was a bracelet with little hearts on it, I wear it each day. Not for memory sake, but as a reminder to never give up my dreams for a man. I did that once and in the end I got a bowl full of broken.

I just hope that Scott learned something from our five year relationship and that his craigslist shoes are in the trash. Otherwise his marriage is not going to work. I want to believe that every now and then he thinks about Lucia and feels regret for putting Vegas before me. Yet, on the same coin, I know that in his mind I did everything wrong and that he is innocent. Because I am the one who walked out, in truth I wasn’t going to give him the pleasure of calling it quits. That is why I said it first and walked out the door and never regretted every step that followed.

The last words Scott said to me were “You will never make it on your own!” Fuck you, I fucking did it! And I did it without you! That’s the best revenge a girl could ever dish out, is to prove that she doesn’t need a man to make it in this world. I love my post divorced life, I have a career that fulfills me, a dog that makes me laugh, friends that keep me humble, and love?, I’ve got that too! But, mostly I didn’t have to face a health crisis alone this time and no one uttered “I wonder how big the bill is going to be.” Because I am the one in control and I learned that your health is more important than money. Without your health money is worthless.

If you do not have your health you cannot fall in love with someone or adopt a child. Unlike you I had to fall in love with myself before I could love someone else. I have been in an off and on relationship with myself for four years and it has been nothing but bliss. Your words no longer seep into my mind on quiet nights and I no longer shudder at the image in the mirror. I truly love the woman looking back at me and she is one incredibly beautiful lady. I may not be a model, but survival sure does looks good on me. You told me once that I would never find someone else, again you were wrong sir. When it comes to me, you will always be wrong.

{MN Heart Walk 2014} Why Will YOU Walk?

This Saturday thousands will descend on Target Filed, not for a Twins Game, but to walk for a purpose. To walk in memory of a loved one, in honor of a survivor, for themselves, and to show their support for others. They will walk on behalf of the American Heart Association to raise awareness and funds to stop the number one killer of all Americans. Minnesota is home to the largest Heart Walk in the country and words cannot describe how moving it is to see thousands of people walking for a better day. The MN Heart Walk means I get to put on my survivor shoes and walk for those who have touched my life.

I walk for Emma, she was the first infant in the state of Minnesota to receive a heart transplant. Sadly she died 3 years later due to complications of the common cold. Thou her life was short, she made a huge impact on pediatric cardiology. What they learned in those three short years is helping save thousands of babies each and every day. Emma may be gone from this world, but she will never be forgotten. Since her passing Minnesota has become a leader in pediatric cardiology and we have a tiny little girl to thank for that. I walk because Emma never got to grow up, she never got to graduate from high school, go to college, travel the world, and because her sister Chloe got cheated out of having a best friend.

Ice Cave 16My Father Greg is my best friend, psychologist, sounding board, and my compass. No matter where I go in this world I always manage to find my way back home. I walk because God gave my father a second chance. Twelve years ago I was a freshman in college when I got the call that he was fighting for his life. His body was weak, his heart was sick, yet there was a small ray of hope. Knowing that he was at the Mayo brought us hope, they did not give up and they put this broken man back together again. They fixed his heart and 10 years later he got to say hello to his first granddaughter. Research saved his life and it will continue to save the lives of others. Without research we have no hope.

Hope is what keeps me a float on bad days. October 22, 2009 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I became the very survivor I was advocating for. It’s still hard for me to believe that my hormonal contraceptive device almost took my life. I drove myself to the ER with sever chest pain, shortness of breath, and a whole other mess of complications. They quickly ruled out a heart attack, yet they knew something was terribly wrong. The ER Doctor explained it was most likely an infection in my lungs and that I would be out of there in no time. For some reason unbeknownst to me he stopped in the doorway turned around and asked me “by chance are you on a birth control?” I quickly replied yes and he asked the nurse to order a d-dime test. I was being wheeled to x-ray when he stopped the nurse and told her to bring me back. I will never forget the look on his face and the fear in his eyes as he explained that the d-dime test came back positive. I got a CT-Scan and within 30 minutes a code blue was issued.

_MG_2225 I was in serious trouble, a blood clot in my left lung was blocking the main valve to my heart. I was in sinus tachycardia, my oxygen level was falling and my blood pressure was rising. In laymen’s terms “I was fading fast.” Clot busters were administered and my stroke was stopped in its tracks. The highest dose of Heparin was administered and I would be staying a while. The ER Dr. walked with us as they rolled me to the elevator bay. He took one look at me and said “remember for as long as you live, that you should be going down there, that’s the morgue and not upstairs. Very very few people survive this. Remember that!” I walk because I got to blow the candles out on my 27th Halloween themed birthday cake.

Research has allowed me to live a vibrant life and it has given me five borrowed years on this earth. In those five years I said goodbye to my son, stepped out of a loveless marriage, moved to uptown, adopted a muppet like dog, fell in love, became an aunt, found a job that I love, but mostly I shared my story and found myself. None of the fore mentioned would have been possible if it were not for the life saving research that is funded by the American Heart Association. I walk because their research saved me.