{Hearts On 22} Scales Are For The Birds

I have never been one to follow the crowd or listen to critics. I rather stay in the woods and join the teddy bear picnic. Society tells me I am fat and that I should change. Change, means losing weight and striving to be there kind of beautiful.

There kind of beautiful is not my kind of beautiful. I’m not exactly fat, some call me fit. Others, well they just call me fluffy. Society wants me to be ashamed of my tits, my hips, my stomach, my ass, and my curves that go on for days. Once I was ashamed, I strived and I tried to be skinny. But, skinny wasn’t me, we didn’t work out and I put my size 14 jeans back on.

My size 14 ass has seen a lot of shit. When I look in the mirror I see curves with a dash of strength and a twist of determination. My body, she is powerful and she is amazing. She has never let me down. She beat the odds to walk another day. Scars are stories that left an imprint on your soul. My scars, shit I’ve got more than I can count. The newest one is a really cool neck scar and it is a reminder to always fight for answers.

Answers never come easy and sometimes you kind of wish you stayed in the woods. People stare at my scar, they look me up and down when they find out I had a stroke and lord they hit the floor when they find out I have a son in heaven. We are never told that sometime the fairytale sucks and that shit gets deep. Life isn’t fair and we are never prepared for the short deck. Yet we must always play the hand we are dealt and love the only body we will ever have.

My body is beautiful. Beautiful because it carries my surviving heart from place to place. I will never be a model, a hottie or hell even a heartthrob. I am simple and unexpected, and someone out there cannot get enough of my kind of beautiful.

Rock what the good lord gave you, put down that diet book, throw out your scale, and girl start loving yourself! Strength and determination are fucking sexy and they look good on YOU! Girl, you are not a bird, stop eating like one and enjoy food. As in really enjoy your life and have a little fun along the way. Kiss a stranger, dance in the rain, be daring, and never ever give up on your sweet self!

{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

{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.

{Community} Coming Together to Find a Child

The line to register for the search party

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Today the village came out to find a child. Scotty a non-verbal autistic boy wondered away from his Prescott home on Tuesday. By night fall there was no sign of the little guy and a call was put out for more volunteers to come out on Wednesday. Sitting in my cool apartment I made the decision to put my heart on my sleeve and head to Prescott the next morning. After all it is the 4th, I have no where important to be and hey this family deserves to have their little boy home.

I wasn’t exactly sure where the high school was in Prescott, I didn’t need to worry either. I just followed the stream of cars up hwy 10 and was soon in line with about 400 other people waiting to register for the search party. Once registered, we were funneled into the gym, briefed, and loaded on buses. They said it would be hot, there would be bugs, and mostly to watch out for rattle snakes. Armed with my water I set off with my group searching in the fields. There was no place I rather be.

I have never met Scotty or his family. I just knew I had a pair of eyes, two legs, and time to give. That if I were in their shoes I would want someone to do the same for me. That they deserve to have their little boy come home alive. Losing a child sucks, I know that first hand. Everyone in our group was positive, energized, teary eyed, and filled with hope. Hope that Scotty would come home today.

Word came that a child had been found. Some were quick to clap and cheer. Others stood silently as we awaited confirmation from the Sheriff that the child was indeed Scotty. 20 minutes went by without word, a group across the field erupted with joy. At that moment we knew it was true. I have never hugged so many sweaty strangers in my life. We all cheered, clapped, and cried happy tears at the news Scotty was reunited with his parents. That he was all right and that tonight he will be resting safely in his parents arms.

My happy bucket is overflowing and my heart is full. Watching this community come together to find a child they didn’t know is a moment I will always remember. A moment that I will always remember because I cared enough to get up early and search for a child that wasn’t mine. This is something we all should do. No one ever got hurt by giving to others. Share your love, your life, and in the process you will bring hope to the community around you. Do this and you will live an incredible life.

{Divorce} Learning That I Matter

Divorce taught me that I have the right to be picky and not to jump at the first man that walks through the door. It taught me that I matter and that some day I will find a man who realizes that I am worth it. I learned to hold out and not to give in just because someone calls me beautiful. Words speak softly, actions shout I love you to the world. I want a man who speaks with his actions and whispers to my heart.

My mind speaks softly on nights that are a little to lonely. I still hear the ex-husbands voice in my head when my pants feel a little to tight and when my hair doesn’t look just right. He’d say “those don’t look good on you. God you’re getting fat. Or I like your hair straight.” Tears softly fall to the floor when those thoughts roll in. They are a constant reminder of my past. Strength I portray it well, however inside every strong woman is a broken little girl. He never did like my curly hair nor did he like the fact that I chose to wear glasses over contacts. Its simple straightening my hair takes forever and well contacts make my eyes itch. In truth I love the curly mess that sits a top of my head and glasses set me apart from the rest.

I’ve taken one hundred steps forward since I left my ex. He loved to tell me that I would never make it on my own. I realize now that he was the only thing holding me back and keeping me from leading an incredible life. A life that I deserve to live. Chucking him out of the picture was the right choice and now everything is falling into place. My career I love it, the dog he’s the best, we call the UpTown Projects home, and hey all of my bills are paid. So I think I am doing all right. The only thing that’s missing is a man.

I’d like to believe that we need to walk this earth alone in order to find our best selves. For the longest time I was standing in a fog muddling my way through and now I am standing in the sun. Blinded by a future so bright that my heart is beaming. Finding myself was an incredible journey and its funny Mr right was standing there all along. Holding my hand, listening to me complain, and shouting Go Ninja Go. Things are so looking up for this girl and I couldn’t be happier. Finally I matter to someone and know that I am worth every breath I take.

Remembering Dr. Delahunty

Some of us can go our whole lives without being saved. I on the other hand can say my life has been saved three separate times. My faith is strong and my zest for life is even stronger. I have a life because one man believed in me and wanted to make my life better.

That man was Dr. John Delahunty. A man I am forever in debt to. This afternoon my father gave me the news that John had passed. I did my best to hold back the tears as I walked through the skyway. Holding it in until I got to the Prius and then it hit me; it hit me that he was really gone. If it weren’t for Dr. Delahunty you would never have met me and my light would have been extinguished at 3.

My Mom was sick of the answers she was getting from our normal doctor. He would tell her “Oh AJ has the flu. Maybe you fed her bad food. Oh its allergies.” Remedies were tried but nothing worked and I just kept getting worse. I remember the day my Mom took me into see Delahunty. I hadn’t drunk anything in days, I was too weak to stand on my own, and I would scream if you touched me. I at 3 was one hell of a hot mess. She scooped my screaming 3 year old self up, grabbed radar, and put me in the truck. He was her last hope. A Mother knows when her child is dying.

Dying was not an option. Dr. Delahunty took one look at me and instantly knew something wasn’t right. The secret lied with in the X-Rays, CT Scans, and Ultra Sounds. The secret was that I was born with an upside down bladder and a messed up kidney system. He didn’t know how to fix me. John promised my mom that he would make me better and that he was going to do his best to give me a life. A few phone calls later and we were headed to Minneapolis for surgery. The plan was to reconstruct my bladder and kidney system. What I wasn’t born with the surgeons built and I was put back together just like humpty dumpty.

Dr. Delahuanty wasn’t just a doctor. He was a healer and he believed in the power of healing. John really listened to his patients and dug until he got an answer. He would call me squirrel, always the Squirrel. Never AmandaJean, AJ, or Mannie, it was always Squirrel. John promised me that I would live a normal life and that I would grow old. He made good on his promise. Its 25 years later and I am still standing. In return I promised him that I would change the world and I am doing my best to do so.

I got the chance to tell him thank you. Thank you for taking the time to figure me out but mostly thank you for saving my life. On the day of his retirement he fought back tears at our last appointment, he couldn’t put pen to paper to write out my prescriptions. He just looked at me and said “Squirrel you and me we have been through the mill together. Yes we have. Promise me that you will stay in touch and let me know when you change the world.” I made good on that promise sending emails, letters, and cards letting him know that I was doing all right. Letting him know that I was forever in debt to him.

John Delahuanty believed in me and because of him I have enjoyed one hell of a life. He taught me to reach for the stars and gave me the strength to dream. He gave me life. The greatest gift of all……Life. I will miss getting letters and emails from John, yet he will always be with me. For as long as I share our story, our life saving story. His memory will live on through me, his family, and the hundreds of lives he touched.

{29} Happy Birthday!

Me and My Mama at my Birthday Lunch

Wow I can’t believe that I am one year closer to 30. I guess when you have all ready been through a life time of shit it means everything is down hill from here. I may only be 29, however I have lived a life that dreams are made of. Sorrow reminds me that I am human. Each night I ask God to keep my son Alucious close and to make sure Nylan turns out all right. I’ve been a wife, a mother, a best friend, a sister, a paralegal, an advocate, a lobbyist, and now I get to be an auntie to Sophia.

Survivor is a label I wear proudly. I tirelessly advocate for heart health, stroke symptom awareness, and healthy kids. There is one thing I’ve learned : I would trade all of my money in a heart beat if it meant I could have my health back. Money can buy me things that will make me happy. However it cannot buy my health. Wealth is no fun when you do not have health on your side. So take it from me. Take care of yourself. You only have one body, one heart, and in the end money will mean nothing. But your health will mean everything.

I’ve struggled with the fact that my health will never be the same and that this is the body I have to grow old with. My body has brought me to some pretty darn amazing places over the past year. It has brought me to DC, the gulf coast, NYC, and countless other locations. It has allowed me to share my story and save lives. Life is the ultimate gift and I am so very glad God has granted me with one more year upon this earth.

It is my hope that the next year is filled with goodness and big amazing things. If I dare to dream then I can dare live a big meaningful life. People try to knock me down, rip my reputation apart, and spread the words of incapable across the firm. That alone gives me strength to prove that I am 1. a bigger person, 2. a professional, and 3. I will out shine the {redacted}. I have something he will never have and that is class. One can’t lie their way into class. They can only fumble when their lies start to unravel and unravel they will. I may not be there to see it. Yet I will smile silently at his blunder and step over him on my way to the top. The only place I am going is up.

Up. Thats where I am headed. I’ve got two jobs that I love. One requires more effort than the other. A speaking schedule that can’t be beat, a book deal on the table, and well my lawyer tells me we are winning. I’d say that’s some pretty darn awesome sauce. Not to mention this here blog isn’t doing to shabby either. People like to read about my antics, dating blunders, cry with me, and say fuck it. I swear online as I swear in real life. I am nothing but myself and I am human. Humans swear and they like it too!

Fuck it. I am in a relationship with myself. I have no time for dating. I want to but I have no life outside of work. It’s bad my friends have to remind me that we have dinner dates and nights of ninja antics. My goal for year 29 is to work a little less and have what you regular folks call a social life. A social life sounds interesting and wow taking trips for fun sounds like a gosh darn good plan. Who knows maybe there is a man out there who is brave enough to step into my world and take me on. I’m not holding my breath. Thats why I have the muppet to keep me company.

So Ninjas a toast! Goodbye 28 and Hello 29. May year 29 be filled with good friends, endless opportunity, laughter, adventure, and mostly love. Thank you so much for being a part of my life. Each and every one of you means the world to me. Know that I care about you and love you more than you will ever know. Ninjas for ever. May we go down kung fu fighting!

{Judgement} – Open The Book For Once!

“Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. It’s The Story Inside That Counts.”

We live in a day and age where people continue to pass judgement upon one another. You think by now we would have all of our social issues worked out and that we wouldn’t need to treat people like crap. Yet as a society we do.

This didn’t dawn on me until a friend said to me: “AmandaJean you are the first woman to actually treat me like I exist. You don’t look at my weight. You see me as a person.” I lost my kung fu right there on the floor and uttered Shut the front door kid! He went on to explain that he has never had a real girl friend or even a real date. That most of the dates he went on were awkward or out of pity. Pitty is not a reason to date someone. Tears began to fill my eyes. This man is a great catch and deserves to find happiness. He truly deserves to find the one, make those babies, and have the picket fence. I want this for him.

It angers me that people look down upon the overweight. They are people too. Hell when I was in Europe the cathedrals were filled with frescos of women who had back fat and gasp curves. It was in the cathedrals that I personally became ok with having hips and tits. My hips and tits get me lots of places in this world and I am glad to have them on board. Sure I go huff it at the gym just like everyone else and eat mostly organic. But, do we ever stop to think that some people are just built with a smidge of extra love.

Recently a woman was working out next to me. She said to me: ” I want to look like you. You are so skinny.” Trust me, my ass isn’t skinny. I’ve got junk in the trunk and I am ok with it. I quickly said thank you. Took her hand and said “I don’t even know your name, but Babes you are beautiful just the way you are. Do not let anyone tell you any different.” She cried right then and there in the middle of LifeTime fitness. She told me: “No one has ever made me feel so beautiful until now. Thank you, Thank you.” An you can all guess what I said next…..oh yes I pulled the NINJA CARD and she giggled her socks off. Now I’ve got a new friend at lifetime and she is a sweetie that’s for sure. It should be known that I will workout and then treat myself after said workout with a cup cake. Thats how I roll.

Rolling is something we as humans need to do. You’ve gotta roll with the punches and duck from the kicks. Instead of beating one another down, maybe we should try the opposite. Like on Tuesdays we should be nice to each other or hell let’s be nice to each other every day. Yup, I like that idea lets lift each other up every day of the week. Throw back fat, curves, and shit our hips to the side and party like were skinny bitches. Heh, then again the skinny ones are not so fun. I am going with the ones who eat cup cakes after running on a treadmill, those are the real ninjas.

For me Ninjas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, and gender. Growing up my parents taught us and pounded into us that judgment and hate are bad bad words. Still to this day if I say “Pete I hate the treadmill.” My dad will tell me “Mannie you do not hate, you “dislike” the treadmill. Hate is a sickness and you are not sick.” My father thou a little nutty in his own right is on to something. We are not born to hate and be mean. Hate and meanness are learned traits. Someone had to teach you how to be mean and to hate. Maybe if we stopped the teachers of hate and discrimination our world would be a little brighter.

That is my new goal to stop the hate and get people to really look at one another. To actually see what its like to live in their shoes and to look beyond the flesh that holds the soul. The soul holds the answers, the body is just the vessel that holds it in.

SUICIDE: It Robbed Me Of My BFF

Tuesday July 13th 2010 was on of the worst days of my life. If I could strike it from memory I would. More like Early Wednesday morning of July 14th was the worst moment of my life.

Depression took away my best friend, it robbed me of his laughter, his grace, and mostly it busted my happiness bubble wide open. I constantly replay my last conversation with Connor in my head. Searching for any clues, signs, or signals of what that night would bring. If only I had known how badly my friend was hurting in NYC. Maybe I would have taken that red-eye like he asked me too, maybe I would have talked a little longer, maybe I would have said an extra I love you.

All I have left are maybes. Maybes do not tell me I am beautiful nor do they erase the pain or fill the hole that Conner’s death left. Suicide is something that happens all to often. Its something I know all to well and if I could I would whisper Go Ninja Go in everyone’s ear. I would be their beacon, their rock, and hold them up until they could fly. It’s impossible to help everyone, I can at least die trying.

Suicide first became part of my vocabulary as I stood before the open casket of my former classmate Cameron Goetz. I vowed right then and there to make sure this never happened again. The yellow ribbon project became my mission, I lived and breathed suicide awareness. UW-Superior gave me the go ahead to start a chapter of the Light for Life Foundation on our campus. The organization became a life line for students, with in the first year 6 students handed over the card and got the help they needed. For me this avenged Cameron’s death. I will never understand why he took his life. I only know that his pain was too much to bare and that he thought death would solve his worries. Instead he left behind a sister, parents, friends, and a town that misses him dearly. I often wonder what he would be today. I just know that he is giving God his best serve and lending his voice to the choirs of heaven.

Connor lived the life that dreams are made of. He found his passion and harnessed it into a blossoming medical practice. For as long as I live I will never forget his laugh. His beautiful laugh. I met Connor when I was a freshman in college he was 12 years my senior. I would joke that he was a cougar and that he was an old man. Soon our relationship fizzled, mostly because I had asked him for some space. I was only 20 after all and needed to find me. He gave me the space I needed, always lending an ear and a shoulder to lean on. Leaning is something I always did with Connor. He is one of the few people that can capture me and reel me in from the crazy life I lead. Just hearing his voice calmed me.

A calm I longed to hear on the day I left my x husband. I couldn’t form words. I just cried into my blackberry. He whispered back ” Its gonna be all right AJ, you are free now. No more tears beautiful. No more tears. Ok?” I managed to get a meek ok to leave my mouth. Each day he called me, each day he’d tell me “Its going to get better you’ll see.” He was right each day got better and better. Before I knew it I wasn’t muddling anymore and I was on day 13 of my new-found independence.

Day 13 brought two things a text argument with a certain attorney and a frazzled phone call to Connor. I explained everything to him tearfully. I had lost my dear friend, caused someone I didn’t know to have a bad day, and hurt the attorney by not believing his word. As he always did he told me “Seek out the truth, find the one you trust and listen to them. They will not steer you wrong hun.” With that our call ended with a quick I love you.

2am my phone rang. It was Connors mom and she quickly asked if I was sitting down. I could tell that she was crying her voice so weak. Margaret couldn’t get the words to flow, Charlie took the phone and whispered “I’m so sorry hun.” Sorry for what I demanded, what are you sorry for. I could hear him crying on the other end, “I’m sorry AmandaJean Connor is dead.” My body went numb. How I asked. I could hear Charlie gulp back his tears. “He hung himself sweetie, he hung himself.” Life left my body, it hurt to breath, I fell to my knees in anger. This, this was a lie I thought. I feverishly called the airline and got on the first flight I could. Part of me wanted to believe it was a joke and that when I got to NYC he would pop out at me.

He didn’t pop out at me. I tried to will him back. It didn’t work. Instead I was left to write his eulogy and pick out his final outfit. Going through his things, setting foot in his apartment was out of the question for me. It was to painful and I was to filled with anger. Hurt and angry is how I felt, maybe a little abandoned too. He, he took my happiness away that day. Or so I thought he did.

Connor’s suicide taught me one thing. Happiness is what we create and it is what we give to others. His family often tells me “AmandaJean you were Connor’s happy place, in you he found peace.” A peace that he couldn’t find on his own, a happiness that was only half-baked without me. Connor gave me happiness, more happiness than I could ever imagine. When I was with him the world melted into the night, the fire so bright, and marshmallows the perfect shade of gold. That is what I will remember, I will remember the happiness he created for me. Those moments that were filled with laughter, passion, and advise.

I would give anything to hear his advise and to get a big Connor hug. Instead I have peace, peace because I know that heaven holds no pain and that he has the happiness that eluded him on earth. Suicide robbed me of my BFF, but the one thing it can’t steal are my memories. As long as I remember, Connor will live on through my stories and will always be apart of my heart.

My wish is that none of you will have to know my pain. That none of you will have to write a eulogy, pick out a final out fit, and kiss your friend goodbye as the casket closes on last time. You are a source of strength, a beacon of light, if your heart is right your friends will know it. Just remember that everyone is fighting a battle, some are so lost in the darkness they don’t know which end is up. Smile at everyone you meet, be the ear that someone needs, and be the shoulder in which their tears fall upon. Together we can prevent suicide, together we can help people find their happy place again. Reach out, reach out until you have nothing left to give.

The song ” I can only imagine” By Mercy Me was played at both Cameron Goetz and Connor’s funerals. This song has brought me so much peace and I can’t help but wonder did they fall to their knees when peace was finally theirs.

The Three Fs

The three Fs help me through every situation and make life worth living. What are they you ask? Its simple: Faith, Family and Friends.


I was raised in a primarily Lutheran/Catholic town, with a sprinkle of Methodist. I was part of the sprinkles.

At a young age I learned what God was and how he could either save you or leave you. Mostly I learned that its mind of matter. At the tender age of 4 I understood God and was thankful to him because he, he had saved me so I could play with my Barbie’s.

My Father is the most religious man I know, he can quote the Bible like no buddies business. Yet he has rarely set foot in a church outside of weddings and funerals. He taught me that God Lives in our hearts, not in the brick and mortar that we flock to. That God is in the water, the air, the trees, he is in everything. I just had to open my eyes and listen. On the other hand my Mom made sure we went to church every Sunday, minus my Father, he was allowed to stay home and watch GI Joe. ( I was mad because I loved that cartoon and didn’t get to watch it) Instead I had to wear a stuffy itchy dress and sit in church, all while knowing GI Joe was on at home.

GI Joe would be the least of my worries in life. I have come to find my spiritual self. My faith is strong and its something I have mish mashed together. Combining the spiritual beliefs of my Ojibway side and mixing it with a sprinkle of Methodist. I just call my concoction Faith so strong it sets your heart on fire. Honestly, I know God exist, in those dark quite times, he’s there with us and when the sun shines he whispers in our ear “Go Ninja Go!”


What can I say I love my family through and through. They are my foundation, my base, an anchor to my soul. My Mama tells me “I didn’t raise you, you….you raised yourself. Your father and I were just lucky enough to be along for the ride.” Its true I did practically raise myself with their help of course. I listen to their advice, heed their warnings, and do what I want regardless. They pick me up when I fall and cheer me on as I rise.

My Mama is one of the most courageous women I know. She came from a poor farm family of 10 kids, they had nothing. Yet, she had a desire to create something better, to do better, and be better. My Mother she…she was one of the first women in Minnesota to hold a heavy equipment drivers license. Yup, she was! She was a first and she drove that dump truck better than a man ever could. She always told me that women can do what ever they want in life. An to never let a MAN tell you, you can’t. Because you can. My Mama has had many careers in her life which lead her from the coal yard, to health care and eventually the kitchen. She no longer drives a dump truck, hasn’t done it in years, today she’s wielding a tongs and shouting orders in the kitchen.

Now my Daddy he’s like a cat! The man has 9 lives, nothing can get him down. Its funny I don’t call my Father, Dad. I call him Pete. Pete isn’t even his real name, but to me he is and always will be Pete. My father is some what of a legend in Red Wing. I’m not sure if any of the old stories are true. However I am certain that he had to do something pretty good to earn the nick name “The Animal.” I’ve seen men quake in their boots at his meer presence in a grocery store, the gas pump and so on. If only they saw him today, he is a shadow of his former self. I got two things from Pete, My curly hair and my A.D.D “its a family tradition.”

When I was a little girl Pete would take me fishing, we never caught anything, yet I cherish those moments and memories that he gave me. I learned everything I know about trimming trees, growing plants, and orchards from my Father. Those are handy skills to have. Unlike most Fathers, Pete took an active role in raising my sister and I. He was a stay at home Dad. My mama she wore the pants, brought home the bacon and Pete, well he cooked it. Watered down Koolaide and steak were his dinner specialties. Winter was never his thing, spring and summer where the seasons he cherished. On cool summer nights he’d let us sit in the back of the old Ford pick up truck as he drove through the countryside, the breeze whipping my curls as I slurped my slushy. Nothing mattered, it was just me, Pete, and my dreams.

They say a parents success in life is judged by the success of their children. I’d say my parents are pretty darn succesful and I’ve got the ninja skills to prove it!


Life is more fun when spent with friends. Friends come and go, but they always leave an impression on your soul. I have more BFFs than I can count and love every single one of my friends like family. They keep me sane, listen to me whine, and laugh when I fall. They only laugh because I probably tripped over a crack or something. We dry each others tears, live like were dying and laugh until our stomachs hurt. It’s nice to know that I’ve got friends all over the globe and that no matter where I go, I always have a place to stay. My BFF Joy said it best “Know that no matter where you go in this world, what happens, and what you do, you always have a home with me.”

I hope you have the three Fs in your life. Without the three Fs life isn’t a journey worth taking. If you lose faith, just remember that deep inside there is a ninja and when you don’t think you can go on. Slip on your suit, let that ninja take over, and let your kung fu fly. Lean on your family, if you don’t like your family make your own. I hope you have more friends than you will ever need in this world. Friends truly make this place brighter.