{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 fiancĂ©. 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 fiancĂ©, 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.

{Survival} Cancer Will Fear The Day It Whispered My Name

Stop and Enjoy the view, because you may never come this way again.

Stop and Enjoy the view, because you may never come this way again.

Sometimes you wake up one morning and you find yourself unable to bend your leg. You try to work through the pain and then the pain is gone and you are left with numbness. With the numbness setting in you decide its time to call the doctor. You go into that appointment and they say “its most likely a torn meniscus, you need an MRI.” That MRI leads you to an orthopedic surgeon who is more concerned with a blood clot than your actual symptoms. You get pissed and ask for a second opinion.

The second doctor listens to you, checks you over, and starts talking about multiple sclerosis. Which doesn’t sink in until he utters “MS.” He sends you to a physical medicine doctor who proclaims “I know nothing about multiple sclerosis, my specialty is spines.” Fuck Me, why the hell am I here. You call the orthopedic doctor back and demand a neurologist. You see that neurologist and he orders an MRI of your brain, neck, and spine. Yay you spend 2.5 hours inside a tube while looking like an astronaut.

You go to work and as soon as you get there the neurologist calls and tells you “the MRI came back a little iffy on your neck, we want to do a more detailed MRI on the soft tissue in your neck.” Shit, fuck me, back into the tube you go for another 90 minutes. This time you don’t look like an astronaut and you head to Target afterwards. Ah, Target, Target can solve all of life’s problems. Before you know it your follow-up appointment with the neurologist arrives. Yay, ANSWERS!

Damn, no answers. Instead you get a bit of mystery. The neurologist explains that your lymph nodes in your neck are swollen and this is not normal, because you don’t have an infection. He softly explains that he is going to order a PET/CT Scan and that his nurse will schedule it. Nurse tries to schedule it, tells the doctor the soonest the hospital can get you in is on April 28th. Then you hear “no, no that is not acceptable, you call her insurance, you call CDI, you stay on hold with Methodist. She needs to get in for a scan now.” This is the moment when you think “shit just got real and in your gut you know the doctor isn’t telling you the whole story.

Yay! IV for Radio Pharmaceuticals and a cup full of contrast die.

Yay! IV for Radio Pharmaceuticals and a cup full of contrast die.

PET/CT gets scheduled for April 24th and you do your best to not google “why does a doctor order a PET/CT scan.” You try really really hard. Wow, look at that its April 24th, yay PET/CT scan day. While filling out a mountain of paper working something on the last page catches your eye: Reason for referral: “Cervical Lymphoma (neck).” Oh shit, fuck me and you suck it up, you hold back those tears only to read: “Procedure: PET/CT Eyes to Thighs, Cancer Initial Staging.” In this moment you say “fuck it” and go get yourself injected with radio pharmaceuticals and contrast die.

An that folks is exactly how I found out that I may have cancer. The big key word is “may” have cancer. Tomorrow at 8:00am I meet with the doctor to go over the PET/CT scan results. I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t scared. It is what it is. I cannot will the cards to fall in my favor, they are going to fall where ever they wish. My big girl pants are glued on with duct tape and my knees are worn from all the praying I have done. I have to believe that this is all apart of his master plan. If my scan comes back CLEAN I am going to celebrate and take more time for myself. This was the wake up call I needed, it made me realize I work to damn much and that I rarely take time to make a life outside of work. My job has become my life and that’s not cool. If the scan comes back DIRTY I am going to fight like hell. AJ never gives up and I will give it everything I’ve got. Cancer is going to fear the day it whispered my name.

One thing I keep on reminding myself is that “had it not been for my leg hurting I wouldn’t have gotten that all important MRI of my brain, neck, and spine.” I saw 5 different doctors and made two second opinion requests before I got in front of the doctor that I needed. The one that dared to look past the fact that I passed the neurological exam with flying colors and still ordered the MRI. That MRI led to another and that one led to a PET/CT scan, that scan will change my life tomorrow. That one scan holds my fate and I hope we can CELEBRATE tomorrow. I truly do, because I like smiles more than I like tears.

{For Jilliann} From One Mama to Another

Late Wednesday night I had an epiphany while Facebook messaging with my friend Jilliann. In that moment I realized that losing my son now made sense. That some how, some way God knew that down the road a friend would need me. That a friend would need a woman who knows what its like to lose a child. I was suddenly at peace with losing Lucia and knew that I could offer a shoulder of comfort to my dear friend.

Life is crazy, we follow the twisting roads marked with laughter and joy. No one ever tells us ‘hey life can be shitty at times.” We just hear about the happy ever afters and never about the tear-stained sidewalks. Truth is, this earth is lined with tear-stained sidewalks, we tread on them everyday and very rarely do we give the stains much thought. Thoughts, mine have been with Jilliann as I know she is just walking down the dark path of grief. Yelling “Why me? Why us? Why my daughter?” These are questions that will most likely never be answered. However they need to be shouted in order for her heart to heal.

Jilliann, I can tell you that you will never cease to question, you will always wonder what if and dream about what could have been. There are days where I drift away and wonder “what would Lucia look like today? ” I try to imagine what his laughter would sound like and if his smile could light up a room.” Then harshly I am snapped back into the land of the living and remember that my son died, not me. That my son died, that I survived and need to keep on living for him. That no matter where I go in this world my son is always with me and he will never be forgotten.

Trinity will never be forgotten, she is and will always be your little girl. For a few moments you had the sliver of happiness that we all so desperately want. You were eagerly awaiting the arrival of your sweet little girl, only God chose to shatter that sliver and you are left in the wake. Take time to be angry, curse God if you have too, stomp your feet, and cry your tears. Get the emotions out, run away, but always remember to run back. Hide for a while, but remember to return to the world when you are ready. There will always be a hole in your heart and nothing will fill the void. A wise woman once told me “You never get over the death of a child, you…. you just learn how to live with it.” She was right and that was the best advice I ever got. I didn’t have to be ok, I just had to learn to live with the fact that my child is in heaven.

Jillian, you never have to be ok with losing Trinity. In time you will find your way and you will become comfortable in this new normal. You will figure out how to live with the fact that you lost her and in time you will heal. Your heart will always be broken, yet full. There will be days where you look at the sun and smile. A random breeze will be felt upon your cheek and in that moment you will know that she is safe with God.

{Summer 2013} Northern Spark

Northern Spark 4Northern Spark is an interactive art festival that takes place during the hours of dusk until dawn. The theory is that you will take this journey and view your city in a whole new light. This years festival was focused around the recently restored Depot in downtown Saint Paul. (I know I had to leave my beloved Minneapolis for one night) From there it branched out into the city’s streets and parks. Each turn brought us something new and exciting. Buildings lit up in hues of purple, blending to blue and bursting into a rainbow. One man bands and music were abundant through out the night.

Northern Spark 1I was able to cross an item off of my bucket list by adding my own graffiti to the wall of an underpass. Overwhelmed by the scent of spray paint we journeyed on to he depot where we found a house made out of cardboard and other curious sights. We watched as actors shoveled dirt from one pile and unloaded it into another. Tired of the shoveling we moved inside where we came upon the printing press. Each of us had a custom sign made and spent the reset of the night trying not to damage said signs.

Northern Spark 3One might wonder “How is a cardboard house art?” Art is in the eye of the beholder and one never knows when something will be lost. The guide book said the house would be torched at 2AM, which meant we needed to caffeine ourselves up and wait. Soon the torching hour arrived and as we stood on the train platform the rain started to fall. Our patience would pay off as in the blink of the eye the house became a burning ball of glorious fire. Fire brings out the inner child and pyromaniac in all of us.

Northern Spark2The fire was starting to dwindle and with rain drops falling, I was ready to go home. I had spent another amazing night at Northern Spark and explored the city in a whole new light, dreaming of what Northern Spark 2014 would bring. I’ve got an entire year to wait, yet I know it will most likely top the previous years and I will be one happy girl exploring the city under the darkness of night.

{Julep Maven} July’s Box

July Julep Box

Late one night I noticed that my friend Kate had posted a link about getting a free starter kit from Julep.com, all I had to do was pay $3.99 for shipping. I thought what the heck its only $3.99 and if I don’t like it I can cancel the subscription. The website claims its an easy cancelation process or I can choose to skip a month. With that knowledge in mind I completed my style profile and discovered that I was a modern beauty.

The modern beauty box gets you two full sized products and a bonus product each month. I opted to chose a different style profile for my starter kit, as I was in need of some summery nail polish. For my started kit I selected classic with a twist and was delighted by the quality of the polish and hand scrub. July’s options did not disappoint.

July’s theme is “The California Coast” and the modern beauty box products included a full sized Sea Salt Texture Spray for hair and Beach Tonic dry body oil mist. Both products smell amazing and make me feel like I just walked off the California coast. The Sea salt texture spray does not weigh my curly hair down and it does not feel sticky to the touch. The Beach Tonic oil spray is light and dries quickly, leaving you with soft ocean kissed skin. The bonus product is Green Tea Facial Blotting papers, I have yet to try them.

I am in love with Julep and I am so glad I became a Maven. For $19.99 a month I get a box of lovely products shipped to my door step. If you do not like what’s in your style’s box you can switch to another profile and receive a different box that month or you can constantly switch it up from month to month. I am going to stick with the modern beauty box, as I feel that its the best value.

If you would like to give Julep a try and become a maven. You can use the code FREEBOX to get your first box for free (only pay $4 shipping) just go to http://www.julep.com and enter the code at checkout.

I hope you will enjoy the Maven box just as much as I do.

(I was not compensated for the review. The content and opinion are my own.)

{Charlie} Death Is The Only Guarantee In Life

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

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

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

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

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

{Mother’s Day} A Yearly Reminder That My Son Is In Heaven

angel-in-heaven-1Through work and every day life people ask me if I have children. To save myself from sharing my story I quietly say no and change the conversation. Deep down I know that I have a child, he was born silent and didn’t get the chance to set foot into this world. On May 11th, 2010 an ultra sound revealed that my son no longer had a heart beat. He was no longer alive and there was nothing they could do to bring him back. Genetically he was perfect, he had all of his chromosomes, it’s just his little heart stopped. That day his Mama’s heart broke and she had to learn how to live on this earth without her son.

In the days following family and friends gathered around me and tried their best to make sense out of the situation. Aloucious’ God Mother Lisa told me “You will always be a Mother. God saw that you were special so he made you a Mama to a baby in heaven, you are a Mom, and no one can ever tak that away from you.” Those words brought me comfort and got me through the darkest days I know that I will see my son one day.

There are days where I let my mind wander to the land of “what if” and I wonder what he would be like today. Would he be a wild child like his Mama or be a nerd like his Dad. Would he dare to jump without fear or sit quietly on the sidelines and watch the world go by. I wonder what Aloucious would look like, would he have blue eyes and curly hair or would he look more like Scott.

People often ask where the name Aloucious Gregory came from. Scott picked his first name, the name Aloucious comes from the book Colors of Chaos. Aloucious was the main character Nylan’s sidekick and they build a civilization out of ruin. On the pages they conquered evil and fought for a better world. Scott’s first son is named Nylan, so in his mind it was only fitting to name his second son Aloucious. Gregory is my Father’s name, I chose it because I wanted my son to have the strength of my Father. I wanted him to know that the blood of warriors ran through his veins and that he was destined for greatness. We referred to our son as little bear and his nickname was to be Lucia. I had no doubt that my child was going to change the world, I was the proudest and happiest pregnant woman on the planet.

Little did I know that Aloucious would change my world in more ways than one. Aloucious gave me the strength I needed to take back my own dreams and the strength I needed to walk out of a loveless marriage. He is the reason I fight so hard for those around me and to bring a little justice to those covered in darkness. I would like to believe that Aloucious is looking down on this earth and saying to his friends “Hey look right there, that woman with the passionate heart, that’s my Mom!”

I want Aloucious to know that he was wanted and he was sent off to heaven with more love than one soul could ever hold. Aloucious will never be forgotten. I have a tattoo on the top of my right foot. It is four tiny bear prints, it is a reminder that my son is in heaven and that no matter where I go he will always be with me. My son is most likely the only child I will ever carry and that is all right by me. When the time is right I am certain God will send another child my way, until that comes I am going to live life with passion and be the most incredible Aunt Sophia could ever have. One day when she is older I will sit under the birch tree and tell her about her cousin in heaven.

If you are like me and you no longer have your child in this world, then my heart goes out to you. For we are and we will aways be Mothers to children in heaven. Our hearts are heavy, yet we love fiercely and handle this card with grace, for we know that one day we will see our children again.

Life Is A Beautiful Disaster, Not A Perfect Plan

I find comfort in a delicately plotted plan. In college I made vision boards that plotted my success from point A to Z. I had a grand plan of attending law school and becoming a kick ass attorney. Plans of traveling the world, building a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home, and when I felt I was successful I would adopt a child. A child that I would raise alone. I never planned on falling in love or getting married. It was going to be me against the world and if love happened, it happened. I wasn’t going to count my eggs before they hatched, instead I plotted them neatly in my head. I was focused, I had vision, and nothing could veer me from my future.

Nothing that is until a dark-haired brown-eyed boy walked across the parking lot of my dorm and swept me off my feet. In him I found comfort like I had never felt before. I would do anything for him and his son. We date long distance, he didn’t come to my graduation nor did he seem to care that I got my degree. I talked about going away for law school. He told me “I won’t wait for you to finish.” With those words spoken, I put hat dream a side and moved in, by Thanks Giving we were engaged. He told me “when one dream ends, another begins.” Over the next 3 years that became my motto. I set out on creating a new plan, a plan that never quieted my desire for more. I loved Nylan with all of my heart, being a mom was one of my greatest joys, I gave everything I had to my husband, and kept our home polished. Yet, something was missing, it never felt right, and I wanted something more. Durring my marriage I never put myself first. My dreams and desires were not worth keeping, they sank slowly to the bottom as my husband whispered “this is your dream now.”

At 26 I became a survivor and little by little I started putting myself first. I was determined and created a new plan. A plan that would never ring true. I found out I was pregnant in the spring of 2010, I was filled with joy and began to plan for this new life. I spent hours debating paint colors and nursery themes. I read pregnancy books and looked into pregnancy yoga. I was happy. Happy because 6 months earlier I was on the brink of death and here I was six months later carrying a baby. This was my calm after the storm. It was decided that I would have a c-section and that I would take blood thinners during the pregnancy. I didn’t have a say in this and I wasn’t looking forward to twice daily injections for 9 months. However I knew that in the end the reward would be worth it. All of my planning went out the window the day I found out my son no longer had a heart beat. I was devastated and overwhelmed. This was never part of the plan. At that point in my life I knew something had to change. I had to find my way and figure out who I was. I only knew AmandaJean the college student and AmanadaJean the wife. I no longer knew who I was or what I wanted. The death of my son was the turning point in my beautifully broken plan.

Divorce, I never planned on it, yet it became a part of my history. I realize now that my PE and the death of my son were to prepare me for the hardest journey I’d ever take, the journey to find myself. The day I left my ex husband was the day I decided to live an uncharted life. I was terrified of failing, mostly I was terrified that I wouldn’t find myself. Terrified of falling down and that when I did no one would be there to help me up. I trip a lot and lord knows I’ve had my share of face plants. Since my divorce I have fallen more times that I can count. The City of Minneapolis is littered with potholes.

In January I unexpectedly found myself unemployed and without a plan. I was terrified I had never been unemployed in my life and I felt like a failure. I started to question my skills. Tears were heard in my voice and friends, they rushed to my side. Attorneys I had worked for in the past reminded me of how my work helped them and why I love my line of work. Lucky for me I was not unemployed for long. Within a week I was hired on as a temporary editor at a publishing company in the cities. That job ended in early April and I am not worried.

A few years ago I would have been a tearful puddle on my couch and desperately grabbing at tiny shreds of a plan. That was then and this is now, now I find joy in living an uncharted life. I can take this time to find the job I really want and take some time to just be me. Nothing in this life is set in stone. Each day we are above ground is a mystery and filled with wonderous exceptions. I’ve learned that a life lived on a vision board, is not a life lived at all. I have come to believe that fate loves to mess with a perfect plan. Maybe its fates way of giving us a slap in the face and saying “hey, while your planning you are missing out on the good stuff. You my dear are missing out on your own life. So stop the planning, throw the vision board out and just go with the flow and expect a few pot holes along the way.” That is exactly what I am doing. I am finding comfort in the beauty and meaning in the potholes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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