{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. 

{Go Red For Women} I can have bad days too!? 

  There is no perfect survival story and there is no guidebook called “how to live your second chance.” Life is messy, it’s a beautiful disaster. Some survivors chose to curl up in a ball and wish the world away. Others are filled with anger and they become bitter with age. Some simply give up before they give them selves a chance to rise. Then there are the ones like me, a special breed who doesn’t deal with the mental/ emotional aspect of what happened, yet they want to change the world. 

When you survive the doctors do a really good job at taking care of your body. Your mind and soul are left with you to repair, as they do not have time for that. They simply cannot mend what they cannot see. 

Trauma leaves scars behind. Pulmonary Embolisims and Strokes take pieces of your soul and if you survive they leave you with survivors guilt. I’ve spent more days than I can count wondering why me and why not her? Why am I allowed to take a seat at the table while so many women are asked to leave? Fate she amazes me, maybe she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Maybe she knew that I would grow in a moment of darkness. 

I never looked at my PE and stroke as a tramatic event, for me it was a horrible event that I wanted to stuff in my pocket. I wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible, it never crossed my mind that I needed to deal with the mental and emotional side of survivorhood. In my eyes I was doing a really good job at running from my emotions and memories. My back pocket held my PE, the Stroke, Lucia, Divorce, and Charlie. As long as they stayed in my back pocket I was safe. I believed whole heartedly in the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” 

A soul can only carry so much disaster before its seems break. My seems burst long ago, I was living on patches, throwing myself into my work and crying my tears into the muppet like dogs fur. When I turned 32, I knew something had to give, I thought “therapy is only for the crazies and for those who can’t get their fucking little ducks in a row.” My ducks were lined up in size order, my exterior was iron clad, and crazy, ha I probably am but hey that’s ok who isn’t a little off these days.

Research, I checked the health partners sight to see what my plan covered,Watercourse is where I landed. Turns out they were right around the corner from my apartment, I had driven by their office for years. I slowly dialed there number, a nice lady answered, she asked if I had a couple minutes, I said yes. I unfolded the items hidden in my back pocket, she repeatedly said “you poor thing,” and promised to match me with a therapist. I was sceptical and hesitant, a few days later they called, her name was Emily. My first appointment was scheduled. I was ashamed to tell my friends “hey I’m gonna go see a therapist so I can learn how to deal with my shit.” 

Walking into Watercourse I was in denial and skeptical about therapy. Mostly I was afraid she would tell me “you are insane, here is the name of a psychiatrist.” No one wants to be told they are crazy. Emily didn’t tell me I was crazy, instead she asked me question after question and with each answer the items in my back pocket unfolded into the room. She started to build a picture of my past and my survival mechanism “put it in a box and deal with it another day.” 

Bottling up emotions is not the answer. Eventually the top is going to fly off and you will end up in a puddle of tears on your appartment floor. Trust me I know about this kind of thing. Emily understood the road I was walking on and through guided conversation we traced each step. We discussed how I don’t always have to be perfect, she told me “it’s ok for you to have bad days too.” Emily was the first person in 6 years to tell me that it is ok to have bad days or off days or any kind of day I want. Everyone else acted like I shouldn’t complain or have a bad day, instead I should be grateful that I am alive. 

I am grateful to be alive, I know that a few minutes could have given me a different ending. I am a stubborn survivor, help is something I rarely ask for. In my mind asking for help is a weakness and shows your flaws. Emily made me realize that we all need a little help and that people want to be needed. I am so used to being the helper that I put my own needs aside. I do everything on my own, including driving myself to the ER, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone or ruin their day. Which I wouldn’t recommend you do, ask for help, don’t be like me. Then again I have turned a new leaf and have learned its ok to ask for help. Jay can attest to this as he has taken me to the ER about 3 times now and carries heavy things for me. I am still not great at it, but I am learning that it’s ok to not always be the helper. 

I’ve been seeing Emily for over a year now and she has helped me immensely. Not only have we delt with survivorhood but we delt with Lucia too. Everyone says “oh you will have more children,” without knowing those words cut through me like a knife. A grieving mother doesn’t want those words, she wants her children. When a plus sign showed up in May I was terrified and did not want to get to attached to the contents of my uterus. She let me know that these feelings were perfectly ok and that with time they will fade. That I didn’t have to be afraid of an ultrasound machine and that I have a right to demand that we handle this pregnancy my way. 

That + sign slowly turned into an empty sac, I was crushed. I felt defeated that my rainbow eluded me. Emily helped me deal with my emotions and fears when it was determined that a D&C was the best course of action. Without her help I probably would never have gone through with it. We talked about the procedure and that it was ok for me to speak up if I didn’t like something or if something felt off, after all it is my uterus. I did my research and found a doctor who understood what I had gone through and he promised he would take every precaution he could to protect my uterus. He did just that and he said “I have no doubt that you will carry a baby.” Those are the only words I needed to hear, that I can have babies too.

A perfect storm, the past 6 almost 7 years has been waves of disaster. Between each wave I found calm and enjoyed the beauty in the silence before the next one came crashing down on me. I was sailing in a beautiful disaster. My boat on the outside her haul was perfect, but on the inside my engine was slowing burning out. Therapy helped me really examin each wave, to realize that there was nothing I could have done to avoid them and we cannot simply see in to the future. If I did manage to avoid each wave my life would be drastically different and I wouldn’t be me. 

The biggest lesson I learned is this: it’s ok to seek out a therapist. Sometimes one goes through so much that she needs another soul to help her deal with it. I had no idea where this therapy journey would take me, I just went in with a semi closed mind and came out stronger than ever. The doctors they fixed my heart and lungs, but Emily she mended the one thing they couldn’t fix, she mended my soul. 

We are all in this together. 

Mental health is often overlooked when it comes to heart and stroke patients. So many doctors only concentrate on the physical and leave their patients to struggle through the why mes, the what ifs, and other questions that plague survivorhood. The thing is we do not have to go it alone talk to your doctor, let then know about your struggles. Because one’s mental health plays a huge part in their  recovery. If your mind is not in the game, then your heart surely won’t follow. 

To learn more about  Watercourse please visit: Watercourse Counseling 

{Muppet like Dog} It was me who got rescued 


Cullen’s Freedom Ride

 It’s hard to believe that five years ago today I left work sick “cough cough” and drove 6 hours to get a dog. A dog that I had never seen, but Pam and Carrie said was the perfect fit for me. I trusted the Whipstaff Ranch ladies and I knew in my heart that this was meant to be. 

They told me his name was Cullen, that he was mistreated and locked in a crate for the majority of his life. He was just another puppy mill victim awaiting death because his coloring was off and he couldn’t be sold. 

The ranch caught wind of this and rescued Cullen and his brothers from their unavoidable fate. Cullen was the last to find a home, for he was to shy and afraid of the world around him. This little one would need an understanding heart and unconditional kindness to bring him out. 

In their minds I was that understanding heart, Carrie and Pam believed in me and allowed me to be his mom. Cullen had this look of fear in his eyes, a fear of the unknown. He was leaving the only kind souls he knew and heading off into the unknown. He was broken, but not defeated. Carrie hugged Cullen and told him “watch over her and have a good life sweet boy” and she placed him in the back seat of the Prius. With a heart filled thanks we headed off on the long drive back to the city.

The city is very different from Solaway, it’s filled with new sounds, smells, and OMG grass! Cullen was unsure of me, he found solitude under my bed. He would only come out to eat or drink when I was at work. I spent my nights laying on the floor staring at a terrified dog, often crying and wondering “did I do the right thing.” I was freshly separated, on the heels of a divorce, and this was my companion and he didn’t want anything to do with me. That is until about a 10 days later, I was playing angry birds on my iPad and I felt something wet on my knee. I looked down and there was Cullen with his chin on my knee looking at me like “I’ll be your dog if you be my human.” 

Cullen jumped into my lap and I sobbed into his scruffy little head. From that moment on he has been joined to my hip.  Cullen goes where ever I go and he is never that far behind me. Overtime he found himself, the little shy dog faded and the super dog took hold. 

Cullen found his bark, prefers paper over toys, only wants his treats to be chewy and not crunchy. He prefers that his dinner come from the fridge and not a bag. He thinks he’s a cat, tiny dogs are not his thing, now show him a cat and he will make a new best friend. Mention Grandma’s house and he is at the door ready to go. He is my trusty little side kick and I will go to the ends of the earth to protect him. 

 I may have rescued him, but in the end it was me who got rescued. Cullen has been the constant in the ever rolling sea of change. He took the loneliness out of the long nights, in his eyes I found peace and nudges from his big gray nose reminded me that I am never alone. Together we took on the world, he brought me out of my shell and helped me find myself. 

This little dog of mine has seen me through the good, the bad, and the darn right ugly parts of my life. He kept me company when I was recovering from surgery, we made countless new friends both two and four legged at the dog park, and he judged all of my dates and let me know which ones were keepers. Cully nuzzled up against me as I wrote charlie’s eulogy and he stood by my side as I packed up Charlie’s things. Charlie loved cully as much as I did. He understand  that the muppet like dog was the glue that held me together. 

With time my heart healed. I was ok with being single and went about my way. On Veterans Day a new man walked into our lives and to cully’s surprise he had cats! To my surprise cully hopped right up on the couch and sniffed Jay, wagged his tail and waited for a scratch. In that moment I knew cully approved and I slowly began to let myself fall in love with Jay.

Nine months later we are planning a wedding and mostly a future together. This little rescue dog of mine is proudly going to walk his mama down the isle. There is no better way to start the next chapter of my life, than with Cullen at my side. 

photo by Stephanie Rryan Photography


For it was me who got rescued that August day.

{Affordable Care Act} D.C. Meet AJ

There are moments where I have to pinch myself to make sure that I really am living this life. I went from survivor to advocate, to spokeswoman. Last Thursday I received an email from the American Heart Association’s National Advocacy office inviting me to Washington D.C. This just wasn’t any old regular invite, this this was an opportunity of a life time. I was invited to Washington D.C. by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. When Nancy Pelosi invites you to D.C., you go, YOU GO and I did just that.


I went and I became a part of history. I was invited to DC to speak at a press conference celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. The conference was held on the Capital Steps and it was organized by Leader Pelosi and members of the Democratic Caucus. Together we celebrated the Act and the fact that is working for millions of Americans. I am just one of the millions of Americans who benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

This was my moment to put a face to a cause. Words cannot describe the impact the Affordable Care Act has made on my life. As a Pulmonary Embolism / Stroke survivor I can no longer be denied coverage or be forced to pay more because of my medical history. In the eyes of the law I am equal to my healthy peers and because of this I am able to afford quality insurance and put my health first.


Yes, I found myself struggling to choose between paying my bills or paying for the medical care that I needed. For 18 months I went without health insurance and for part of that time I was only making $12 an hour. My most expensive prescription was $287.00 a month and I tried skipping it for a while, that just turned into a very expensive disaster. No one should ever have to choose between life saving care and bills. I never for one thought I would ever be in that position, but at 28 I found myself there. I found myself struggling to stay a float and was ashamed that I could not afford the health care I desperately needed.


Today I am no longer ashamed, I am empowered. I have an insurance card in my pocket and I owe it all to the Affordable Care Act. I no longer had to settle for a job, instead I got to hold out for the one I wanted. I no longer have to check the couch for spare change just to pick up my prescription. Instead I walk right into Target and pay only $20.00 for a brand name drug. I can afford to go to the doctor and I am now getting routine care. I can for the first time in a very long time, put my health first. Life is not worth living if you do not have your health.

{Divorced Life Dating} Fish and Valentines


Friends are quick to offer hugs, Kleenex lay hidden in their pockets just in case I burst, and people tread lightly around the name Charlie. Part of me wonders where the past three years have gone and part of my wonders “How did you find the strength to move on?” Three years is just a fraction in time, but time it stopped on Valentine’s Day. It stopped the moment Charlie became the fifth car in a nine car pile up, it stopped the moment he became the fourth person to die from their injuries. That day was the worst day and the days leading up to February 16, 2012 were the slowest days of my life.

I hung on to every second, every minute, and prayed with all of my heart. That day God failed me and I had to face a life without love. The moment Charlie died, my heart it broke in more ways than I can possibly describe and I lost my faith in the world. My hopes of a country chic wedding with a twist of elegance and a beautiful life were dashed. One person, one person’s decision took the wind out of my sails.I only got to love Charlie for a fraction of my life and he, he loved me until the last breath he took.

A part of me believes that he knew that he would only be a dot on my time line. He Gave me his heart, he peeled back the layers, calmed my fears, and with his love he mended the scars. One man took the time to heal my heart and with that he restored my ability to love. Without Charlie I would still be a semi bitter divorcee. A small piece of my heart will always be for that man. Charlie taught me what love was truly like, he loved every inch of my gloriously flawed self. My heart it needed to heal and in my heart of heart’s I know Charlie would want me to fall, to fall the way I fell for him.

I have fallen, fallen for someone who truly gets my cup of tea. Yes me, little old curly haired me has found love. Honestly, it kind of just jumped out of no where and bit me in the ass. I have no doubt that someone above pushed and pushed until I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a chance. Tomorrow is about spending the day with an amazing man. A man whose eyes light up when I walk into a room, who calls me beautiful when I’m a mess, and who tells me “you are the best woman ever.” Jay makes me smile until my cheeks hurt, a feeling that I haven’t felt in years, he makes me laugh until I am in tears, and his loving eyes never leave mine. This, this thing that I have is something I dreamed of and waited for. Something I lost three Valentines ago and now I finally have it back.


I have this intense desire to make this the best Valentine’s Day ever and I cannot wait to spend the evening with Jay. I bought what I hope is the perfect gift and I have decided to indulge our inner toddler by buying tickets to the MOA’s Sea Life Adventure. Ya know, because in my mind there is nothing better on Valentine’s day than Love, Fish, and watching movies with the muppet like dog.

{Go Red} The Story of A Woman’s Heart Is Why

IMG_6414-1When people find out that I had a stroke, they look at me like I have an infinite amount of wisdom. Wisdom,
Ha I am only 32 years wise and there are things I will never begin to understand. I, I am just a small town girl who had a stroke and some how I get to do big things.

If you would have told me five years ago that I would get to participate in a photo shoot and a PSA commercial to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke in women. I would of probably giggled and said “you’re nuts!” But here I am, it’s been five years and I am thriving. Brave doesn’t describe it, I am baring my soul for the public good. I am putting a face to a horrible experience.

Yet on the same coin, I am raising awareness that strokes can and do happen to perfectly healthy young women. That birth control has and does cause serious life altering side effects. I am raising awareness that, before the affordable care act, young women like me couldn’t afford health insurance. We put off going to the doctor because it was expensive. Now I truly can put my health and mostly my heart first.

I love with all of my surviving heart and I do not back down from challenges. Because I, I survived the worst day possible. I am more than a stroke, I am more than the collateral damage Merck accounted for, I am more than a survivor, I am a woman with a vibrant heart. I am first and for most a mother to my son in heaven and a mama to a Muppet like dog. I am an Aunt, a Daughter, a Sister, a Friend, and a Girlfriend. I am many things and I play many roles, yet survivor is one that I will never give up.

I am proof that every horrible situation has a silver lining. Six months after my Stroke I found out I was pregnant with my son. My heart was full and I felt vindicated. That somehow God still believed in me and that good still existed in this world. Even thou Lucia never took a breath, he is my greatest joy. He is the reason I do what I do and I want him to be proud of his Mama on earth.

My P.E./Stroke and death of my son were not the end of my horrible bad days. They were just the beginning and those moments of utter disaster gave me the strength I needed to put myself first and walk out of a loveless marriage. Eight months after I had my pulmonary embolism and stroke I filed for divorce. Surviving taught me to listen to my heart and to put myself first. A woman’s heart will never steer her wrong.

It’s been almost five years since my divorce was finalized and I have never looked back. I had to come into my own and figure out who I was. Surviving is only half the battle. One cannot simply just survive, they need to thrive. Once you start to thrive, you start living again. I rented my very first apartment, adopted a dog, changed jobs, found myself, and started dating. I’ve had my moments where I swore to myself that I would be single forever, only to be swept of my feet. Love it eluded me, but I finally caught it with my butter fly net! Its an amazing feeling to be in love with a man who loves every inch of my surviving heart!

I own everything that has happened to me. This is the story of my heart and I would not trade it for anything in this world. It’s mine, I have loved every moment of this beautiful disaster that I call “my life.”

But mostly, I have spent the past five years encouraging women to be their best health care advocate. Encouraging women to be brave, to go against the grain, and mostly to fight for themselves. The moment we give up and give in, is the moment we lose hope. No woman deserves to fight alone, all of us are in this together until the bitter end.

{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} Whiskey with a twist of lime

A Colorado number flashed across the screen, having no idea who it was I hit decline call. The number it kept calling and a voicemail was left. It was Steve, he was in town on business and wanted to catch up. Steve was Charlie’s associate, together they wore their white hats and fought for justice. I haven’t seen Steve since 2012, he met me at The Butcher and the Boar, being a partner has aged him, yet his smile was still the same.

He spotted me and came running over, the man gives good hugs. He asked “do you still drink the same?” Yes I said, my whiskey on the rocks with a twist of lime was ordered and our waitress lead us to our table. Steve talked about his new cases, life as a partner, and mostly how he realized that he could never fill Charlie’s shoes. Agriculture Business Law is a tough game, but the payoff and recognition are worth the long hours. We talked about the big three, GMOs, and seed copyrights. Boring to some but highly entertaining to me.

Steve loves to tell me stories about Charlie. Stories of how Charlie had to search every town and airport for a candy shop to bring me strangely shaped gummy candies. Steve quickly caught on to the silly tradition and helped Charlie in his search. Eye balls, that was the strangest thing they ever found for me and the eye balls were so life like I refused to eat them. They are still in my freezer to this day.

With our bellies full of animals and other deliciousness we set out for a walk on the chilly Minneapolis streets. The Spoon bridge glistened under the lights, I paused for a moment, and allowed myself to remember how much Charlie liked the sculpture. Steve noticed that I paused and asked “what’s going through that head of yours.” Nothing I said. He looked at me grabbed my shoulders and put his forehead to mine and said “I’ve read your blog I know, I know you are hurting.” Full on in public ugly cry, yup I am a cryer and it just all came out. Steve smiled and said “a wise man once told me that board games and whiskey can solve all of life’s problems.”

I’ve heard those words numerous times and they brought me comfort. I walked Steve back to the W and was going to head home, He stopped me and said come up to my room for a second. I laughed and said no I am good, the dog he needs me. Steve wasn’t taking no for an answer, so I amused him and followed. Up in the room he repeated “a wise man once told me that board games and whiskey can solve all of life’s problems.” He pulled Checkers out of his suitcase, a bottle of whiskey from a brown bag and two Dixie cups.

I took of my coat and proclaimed, “I get to be red and I get to go first.” Deal! With each checker moved my BFF breakup and crappy October melted into the board. Steve listened carefully and interjected when necessary. Through others I was able to see that Gopher Guy was my bottom and I, I can do better. Steve said to me “you deserve someone who is going to stand up and change the status quo and not please the masses.” Those words made me smile. Steve was right, I deserve someone who is going to vouch for me and protect me. Not someone who tucks me in their pocket and keeps me a secret from their friends. I don’t want to be someone’s secret pocket friend or girlfriend for that matter. I am never going to be someone’s pocket friend or pocket crush again. If you like me own it and who gives a fuck what people think. Just remember no one ever erected a statute to a critic.

Charlie was somewhat right, board games and whiskey can’t create world peace, however they do provide a much needed distraction from life. A couple games of Checkers and Steve’s perspective were exactly what I needed.

{Divorced Life} Emotions In My Pocket

The above quote has kept me going on my toughest days. At the end of the day we are all just little nuts trying to hold our ground. What we do with that ground is what matters. What matters is that we hold steady in the winds of change and stay true to who we are when the storms end.

My life has been anything but easy and there are moments where I look up and say “why me?” I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. I am the human Bermuda Triangle and I always brace myself for hurricanes. I have built up walls to hide the hurt and to keep people out. My heart it’s been broken and patched a time or two. I am afraid that if I put it out there it will get sucked right back into the triangle.

Survivor, that’s a term I hear over and over again. I want to be more than a survivor. I want to be more than a grieving mother, friend and fiancé. I want to be more than broken. Broken is what people see when they look at me. I am strong and mighty on the outside, but on the inside its a different story. I live with one foot in the now and one in the past. Emotions, I am not good at dealing with them. I tuck them in my back pocket and march on.

I cannot out run my emotions, or the heart ache, or the fact that I survived, and definitely not my past. In order to move on I need to face the very things that made me who I am. I need to embrace the very things that terrify me and to realize that I too am human. I, I need to face my shit and deal with my neatly pocketed emotions.

When I deal with the past, face the ugly, and own my shit I will be able to face myself. I want to have healthy long lasting relationships. I want to actually connect with a man on a deep you know all my secrets kind of level, and to stop pushing my dearest friends away when I feel they are to close.

Year 32 is going to be the year of been there, done that, and I owned my shit. It’s not going to be easy, yet I am not scared. My family and friends are cheering me on and all of them think owning my shit is a good idea.

After all in five short years I had a stroke, lost a child, got a divorce, lost friends, fell in love, lost my fiancé, got sick, and yea the list goes on………. It’s time to face all of those things and to deal with the emotions of the past. I am finally ready to face what’s in my back pocket and mostly I am ready to face myself.