{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.

{2016} Life Found Its Way In 

2016 was about learning to let go of my single girl shoes so that I could walk comfortably in my relationship shoes. I no longer buy groceries for one, I actually buy vegetables and things that I have no intention of eating but I know Jay will. It’s about yelling “Cully stop trying to hump your brother (Dexter the bitchy cat) while making dinner for two. Doing laundry for two, watching Netflix while eating Chinese, and walking out to a light house because why not. Sharing thoughts and feelings before you drift off to sleep only to be awakened by the snorasours who is inhabiting the left side of the bed. Coming home to surprises and finding the kitchen to be spotless when you open the door after a long day. It’s the little things in relationships that matter. The little things are what allow us as humans to smoosh two big lives into one life. 

2016 was the year the “mass engine failure” light popped up on the 2002 Prius dash board. The Prius barely made it to the shop. I was hopeful that my trusty sidekick could be fixed. I wanted it to be fixed because I am simply not me without a Prius to drive. Then the call came “its in the hybrid system and it will be expensive to fix.” Those words broke my heart. I called my dad about twenty times that day, we weighed out the options and he said “maybe it’s time for a new one?” I gasped at those words. A new one! A new one! I want mine, I haven’t hit my 300,000 mile goal yet. We still have some road trips left! My dad replied “it’s time.” Capital one sent me an email earlier in the week saying I was approved  for an auto loan. Though I’ve never had a car loan in my life or such a big responsibility. I window shopped online. I need a Prius, not a new one, but a new to me Prius. A used one. As luck would have it a 2013 seaglass pearl Prius popped up. The shade was just a tad darker than my original Prius. It was meant to be mine, I bought her, and she is amazing. 

What happened to the old one you ask? It sat at the shop for almost a month when I decided to throw in the towel and have them impound it. The title was in the ex-husbands name and well I wasn’t going to get the fine and fees so I didn’t care. But then my phone rang, the mechanic, his name is Fred asked if he could have it. Knowing I would get practically nothing for a trade in or resale, I handed him the keys. I gave him my beloved well dented old Prius for free. Fred is smart and good at what he does, he breathed life into my old Prius and got it running again. I wave at it every time I drive by the shop and see it in the parking lot. Seriously people I do! It’s like seeing an old friend. 

Sophia turned four and Jack turned one. Being an auntie is a gift. I get to watch this two Little’s grow into tiny humans with heart and guts. Also Sophia loves riding in auntie’s new car, mainly because she thinks it talks. She doesn’t realize the voice she hears is Siri being projected through the speakers to tell me where to go. One day she will figure it out and my car will loose its magic. 

Jay and I took the kids to the county fair and watched their faces light up as we walked around looking at animals while noshing  on funnel cake and hot dogs. Sophia found her brave shoes at the fair. She and I road down the big slide. As we climbed up steeper and steeper she said “auntie I don’t think I can do this.” I said, we are going to do this tongeher Sophia. She happily sat on my lap as we raced down the slide. When we hit the bottom she immediately wanted to go again and we did. 

Kids have been on my mind a lot this year. We tried with no luck. In the fall I finally put my big girl pants on and sat down with a reproductive enocrnologist. We made a plan. Our plan didn’t work and now we move on to level two. I am still trying to wrap my head around sperm washing and inter uterine injection. I picture the nurses picking up the little sperm to wash their bellies and putting them back in a tub. I know this isn’t exactly what happens, it’s science. In away I’ll kind of be like the Virgin Mary, I’ll get pregnant without bumping the uglies. Stay tuned for further updates in 2017. I think 2017 is totally going to be my year. I can feel it in my soul. Fingers crossed! 

In 2016 I found my travel shoes again. In the spring I took my Dad to Southwestern Iowa and Omaha Nebraska. We spent the weekend looking at World War I era planes and touring distilleries. Jay and I returned to Wisconsin Dells and took a trip to the north shore in September. My mom for years has been bugging me to take her to Madison County Iowa. We went in October and spent the weekend touring the covered bridges and drove down to Omaha for a day. In December I took a work trip to Ohio and Kentucky. It felt good to travel again, to explore, and tick of miles on the new to me Prius. 

2016 had a little red in it to. In February I was invited to walk in the Hearts For Fashion Show at the Mall of America during the Go Red Expo. I didn’t trip and I owned that run way! Well I feel apart a little inside when I looked over to see the misty eyes of my parents and Jay. Sherri was there too! Did I ever mention that I have the worlds greatest best friend!? Truly I do! Every survivor needs a confidant in life and she is mine. We’ve been friends for almost 10 years. The show was fun and I had a blast walking in it. Sharing my story allows me to heal. 

2016 is the year my life actually felt like a life. I have a career that I love and I admit I think riding the bus to work is fun. I have a boss who appreciates me. I’ve changed zip codes. I’ve settled into relationshiphood and our home in the burbs. Though my crap is still hap hazardly stacked in the garage, I’ll unpack one day. Motherhood is no longer a mystical thing, but an actual tangible thing that is within my reach. It’s just going to take a little work. Life feels good, I have the life that was always waiting for me and I am never looking back. 

{Engaged Life} Boxes in a new zip code

Life moves on. 

My zip code has moved too. I hung up my single uptown girl shoes, only to put on a comfortable pair of committed relationship shoes. It took almost 6 years but I have finally found my zen, my happy, and that happy is a townhome in the suburbs. I know, I know I said I would never go back.  But hey when the man you love lives in the burbs you go to the damn burbs. 

My things are hap hazordly stacked in the garage. Trust me, I am slowly working on unpacking my shit and making the townhouse a home. Right now our home is in disarray, but in a good disorganized way. One that lets you know that two lives have smashed into one big life. Cullen is no longer an only child he has two brothers, an orange bitchy cat named Dexter and a gray cat named Stiffy. For the most part they get along.

At night I make dinner for two instead of one. I feed three animals instead of one. Everyday I get to come home to my best friend. I get a little giddy when I hear the garage door open and Jay comes bouncing through the door. His face lights up when he sees me cooking away he tries to get in a hug, but I brush him off. You can’t break your woman’s focus while she’s cooking. Breaking focus equals burnt food and no one likes burnt food. To me the key  to a good relationship is eating dinner together every night and we do just that while watching Super Girl on Netflix. So yes I can say that we are a couple who Netflix and chill. 

We are building a life together. A life with two cats, one of which is bitchy and a muppet like dog at our side. One day we hope to be parents to a two legged child. Fertility is a mystery, you either have it or you don’t. One thing I do have is Jay and I wouldn’t want to go through this journey with anyone else. Jay knows what I’ve been through and that men have the smaller part in fertility. I’ve been poked, probed, scanned and prodded, while he just gave a sample. The odds are against us, yet we have hope that deep within the blueprints lies a room called parenthood. We know that rainbows are hard to catch, but watching him/her grow will be worth it.

In Jay I found home. He can make me laugh at the drop of a hat, then again we all know I crack my own self up. We have a running joke of hiding a light saber on eachother’s side of the bed. Most nights I make it through without cracking up until he finds it. Plus there are running stories of Dexter and Stiffy’s adventures behind Walgreens. Laughter makes a home. Jay reminds me to not be so serious and to live life to the fullest and to take chances. Life is different, different in a good way. I’ve found my human, my grove, I’ve change my zip code and I’m never looking back.

{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. 

{Hearts on 22} I’ve Got Weight to Lose and a World to Gain 

What can I say, I am a Minnesota girl through and through. I have a deep deep love for all things tasty. Chocolate isn’t my cup of tea, it helps that I am allergic to it, but girl I can get down with a slice of lemon cake or an apple pie. Preferably pie, I’m not a big cake fan, but if cake is in the room chances are it will find its way into my belly. 

Bacon it doesn’t stand a chance! I am in LOVE with bacon. It was a big deal when I said to Jay “I love you more than bacon!” When I am not with bacon, I am with cheese. Wisconsin’s greatest gift to the human race was CHEESE!!! Fresh cheese is the best cheese, it’s even better when battered and fried, cheese curds are literally a girls best friend. Who needs dimonds when you have cheese curds! 

We need to get real! I mean like really real here folks, thou my love for bacon and cheese is strong, it is starting to show on my ass, my thighs, and every where else it can accumulate. I am starting to feel it in my knees and I have to squeeze myself into my pants. I like wearing pants that don’t squeeze my innards and allow me to eat food while they are buttoned and or snapped up. I also like shirts that leave a little wiggle room. My dresses are more forgiving thou they to are getting a little tight around the ass region. 

Guys and Gals, shopping isn’t AJ’s thing! Yes I am female and yes I just admitted that shopping isn’t my thing. Sorry boys I know I am a catch for that very reason, but I am already happily taken. Anyhoo back to the wardrobe, something has to give I love my current clothes and I want them to love me back. So this only means one thing, “AJ needs to make a life change.” As in clean up her eating and get her ass moving like a boss. 

I should know a thing or two about weight loss and healthy living. My first job out of college was with Jenny Craig as a Program Director, I sold the program and counseled clients along their journey. It was fun, but if you know me and you know me well I HATE prepackaged microwave meals! Like hate them, they never look like the picture on the box, they are loaded with salt, and not to mention the chemicals in the plastic tray that leak into your food during the heating processes. Yes, I know I’ve put way to much thought into that. Anyways I did not want a plan that requires me to live out of my microwave or drink shakes. I wanted something that would fit into my life and not fit my life into a diet.

Enter advice from the world’s greatest best friend Sherri, she said why not try “weight watchers!” Hmmm I instantly pictured little old ladies in swim caps doing water  aerobics while counting points. Then there is Oprah, she’s always yelling “I LOVE BREAD” and urging us to give weight watchers a try. I did some research and took Sherri’s advice, I signed myself right on up for the program. $20.00 a month isn’t so bad plus there is a handy dandy ap that synchs with my Fitbit. Bonus Jay is also going to be working the WW plan too. It’s nice to have your BFF and life partner on board, otherwise this journey would be boring.

The Weight Watchers app is pretty simple to use and was easy to setup. My goal is to lose 34 pounds by my 34th birthday. Which is 10/27/2016, I figure slow and steady will win this race. Best part is I do not have to deprive myself of anything. I still get to have my beloved bacon and cheese. Everything has a point value, foods higher in sugar/saturated fat and sodium have higher point values. Which helps steer you towards healthier choices that will eventually result in drops on the scale.

The Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale program also focuses on activity and non-scale victories. I love that my Fitbit synchs with the weight watchers app. I earn extra points to use during the week based on my activity level. AJ don’t run unless she is being chased but these shoes were made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. Non-scale victories can be as small as turning down Deseret or as big as finally fitting in an airplane seat. You choose your own victories and celebrate all of your success that happens off the scale.

I have been working the program since April 2 and I can honestly say I don’t feel deprived or hungry. I am less bloated and have more energy. Thou I still need naps, naps are my jam man. Cullen is tired, tired because his legs are short and we have been going for longer walks. He really likes naps too! Below is my before photo and hopefully my after will look drastically different. I don’t want to be a skinny mini, I want to be a size healthy and feel comfortable in my own skin. Because Beauty knows no number. 




You can follow along on my journey as I will be sharing the tips and the tricks that I learn along the way. Besides we both know I am going to also be sharing my success and the down right funny moments of this process too! It will be fun so put on your walking shoes and come along with me! 

{Nuva Ring} She Had to Break, Before She Could Shine


One email told me that my settlement check had been cut and mailed out. I knew that the post office closed at 5PM, so today wasn’t going to be my ending. I got home at 5:10, breezed past my Birchbox and opened the mail box to find the all important “we missed you card.” The back of the card said the post office was open til 5:30 PM, it was 5:10, I knew I could make it and I did with 8 minutes to spare. Damn it door is locked, I show the man looking out the window my card. He opens it a crack to tell me they are closed, I explained “sir the back of the card says 5:30.” He points to the hours on the door, the door says Close 5:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Saturdays, again I pointed to what the card said. He explained he was the supervisor and they were closed. I had come so close, yet so far from being done.

I could feel the tears fighting through, I looked at the man and said “Sir, I have been waiting six years for this letter, I know waiting one more day won’t hurt, but you see Sir that letter is my closure, its a settlement check, a check I’ve been waiting six years to see. He started to notice the tear rolling down my cheek, he said “here let me look at that, I don’t normally make exceptions, just wait here ok. He closed the door and disappeared inside, he emerged a few minutes later and told me to come in. In his hand was the letter with a logo I have seen dozens of times, but today it meant it was all over, I just needed to sign and closure would finally be mine. I tearfully thanked him for making the exception, explaining he has no idea what his kindness meant to me.

The tears began to fall, I sat in the drivers seat holding the envelope in my hands, quickly realizing that my tears were staining the envelope, I figured I should probably open it. I did, never in a million years did I think I would see this day. Never in a million years did I think I would see a check. It was just this distant far away untouchable thing, that was never meant to be mine. Yet, there it was in my hands, my name was spelled correctly, its mine and mine alone. I was never in this for the money, I am humbled by what I received. The check doesn’t take away what happened or undo the past six years or bring back my son, but in some way it validates that what happened to me was wrong. Merck never had to admit wrong doing, they will not be held accountable for the deaths or thousands of injuries that the Nuva Ring caused, they simply just had to payout and walk away to operate another day.

I never signed up to get rich, I wanted to stand up for myself and to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Having your life change in seconds scars you, it changes you in ways words cannot begin to describe. If I would have known that this little plastic ring would bring me to the brink of death, I would have left it on the prescription pad and asked my doctor for something else. We as humans cannot see into the future nor can we relive the past, we are in this haze called the here and now, it holds us and comforts us, in away it protects us from the journey ahead. Because if we knew our road was going to be lined with pot holes, tears, and fear, we would stop traveling and stay just as we are. October 22, 2009 taught me more lessons than I could ever begin to explain, it taught me to fight for myself and to always listen to my body, because she will never steer me wrong. It taught me to love my friends like sisters, to cherish my family, to dance on the good days and to fight on the bad. Faith is something I always have, as long as she is at my back, I will face the wind and sail the angry seas.

Survival is a funny thing, you go through phases and it is an ever changing sea, no wave nor current is the same. There are moments where I feel guilty because I lived and someone else’s daughter died. One out of five people will survive a pulmonary embolism with infarction, one out of five is a shitty equation if you ask me. I feel guilty that I have no long term physical or cognitive side affects from my Stroke. I see other stroke survivors struggling and my heart breaks, I know why my out come was different than there’s and it kills me inside to know that if they had received TPA there outcome most likely would have been like mine. I am forever in debt to my Woodwinds care team, One question saved me, if the doctor never paused to ask “are you on a birth control,” my mom would have picked out my urn instead of my 27th Halloween themed birthday cake. Woodwinds will always have a place in my heart, because its where my second story began.

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Looking back my second story has been a beautiful disaster. A disaster that is mine and mine alone, I would not trade this journey for anything in the world. On October 22, 2009 I had no idea that one moment would lead me to give a speech on the capital steps in front of members of congress. I had no idea that I would be come a You’re the Cure Advocate and lobby in Washington D.C., I had no idea that I would be a voice that would help get the MN Stroke System of Care passed and funded. I had no Idea that I would be a Go Red Spokeswoman who shined on billboards and a public service announcement. Money doesn’t matter, using your story to make a difference is how you fight back, fighting back is what matters. Merck may never have to admit their wrong doing, but I can tell the world what happened to me, through my story I can save another woman’s life. I can get her to think about her heart health, her risks, and get her to ask her doctor questions, questions that will lead to answers that will improve her quality of care and ultimately her quality of life.

I am who I am because of Merck and the Nuva Ring, they will always be apart of me. In one moment of disaster I found my purpose and I am never leaving my soap box. But the thing is behind every thriving survivor is an amazing village of supporters. I am so grateful to have the worlds greatest best friends, Sherri, Jilliann, Lisa, and Tara never left my side, on the bad days they picked me up and pushed me to go a little bit further. My parents, they are the rock in which I build my house upon, they gave me strength when I had none. My Mama always looked over my INR numbers and medication lists to make sure the doctors were treating me correctly. My Dad and I are like two little old men sitting on a porch discussing chest pain and the days gone by where we could run and fight to live another day. Now we just sit in our rockers and watch the world go by, running is for the young folks and well neither of us would win a fight. My dad has rescued me from more tight spots than I can count, he’s never seen the ocean, he made damn sure that I traveled the globe not once but twice, so I am paying it forward, I am taking my Dad to the seashore, I want him to feel the mist and to stand on the edge of the world.

I got a chance to be the Auntie that I was always meant to be. Sophia and Jack could be learning about me from old photos and their mama’s memories. Because of early intervention and research their Auntie was saved, they get to hold her hand. The day I became an Auntie is the day my heart healed, Sophia and I have been bonded since day one, little Jack is learning all about super Auntie. Those two have my heart and there will always be a surprise for them in my purse. Sophia and Jack are why, there tomorrows are what I am fighting for. Both of them deserve to grow up in a world free of heart disease and stroke.

Blog 2

Second Chances are far from perfect. Lucia was to be the sun after my storm. Instead God had other plans and just as before the winds of change blew through and I had to sail the waves of grief. Losing Lucia allowed me to put myself first, I called it quits and walked out of my loveless marriage. Divorce was not an end, it was merely a beginning. I traded the ex-husband in for a little muppet like dog, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You can never go wrong with a dog. On a hot August day a small white dog with a big gray nose rescued a human and he never looked back. Cullen became the glue that kept me together, as long as I had him at my side, I was never alone. Together we took on uptown, strolled through the parks and picked up glass on the beach. Cullen has provided me with endless laughter, he makes the bad days brighter and life is more fun with a muppet like dog at my side. Cullen was the love that my heart needed.


Love found its way in, Charlie will always be apart of me, I think that in away Charlie knew that he was not my forever, only a mere moment. He allowed me to be, to heal, and to find myself. Charlie allowed me to believe in love again and when he died, my heart broke. Yet I knew Charlie wanted me to carry on with living and not be stuck in the land of what if. I had to break before I could shine. Jay fell into my in box at the perfect time, my heart it was ready to love again. Jay’s love was the glue that my heart needed. With each date I began to fall for him. In Jay I found home, he has my heart and I have his. Jay joined me on the tail end of the Nuva Ring law suit journey, I am glad that he is at the end, because together we can turn the page and walk away to start a new chapter. Because this is only the beginning the best is yet to come.

Blog 3

There were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up this fight. But then I looked in the mirror, I faced a woman who lived through the worst day possible. She never thought the birth control she took would almost take her life. She was weary and weathered, yet she still faced the sun. Her womb carried children she never met, yet she still has faith that one day she will hold a baby in her arms. Her heart was broken and jaded, yet she still manages to love. Little did she know, she just had to break before I could shine. I am living on borrowed time, my life it is a beautiful disaster and each day I am standing above ground means that the best is yet to come.

Merck you may have won this battle, but the war, it rages on. I will not give up until there are none, because no woman deserves to fight alone.

{Happy Birthday} Goodbye 32, Hello 33

I of all people know that with trial comes triumph. We cannot have the good moments without the bad. It’s how the world turns, no one’s life is meant to be perfect. A perfect life is a life not well lived. Mistakes are lessons and trials are our teachers, with each trial we gain strength. 

32, was a gosh darn great year. I have finally found my stride and I’ve come to terms with the fact that “life goes on.” In February I graced billboards, bus stop posters, and the TV screen raising awareness for women’s heart health. Being part of the Go Red Campaign was a privilege and an honor, I got to meet some amazing ladies that I now call my friends.

From billboard to DC, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be giving a speach on the Capital Steps next to Nancy Pelosi and other members of congress. The American Heart Asssociation, gave me the opportunity to share my health insurance journey with the nation. I got to thank members of congress for securing my healthy tomorrow.

Life, it goes on and love, it finds a way in. Never in a million years did I think year 32 would be the year I fell in love, again. I let myself fall, fall for a man who loves me for me and accepts that our life isn’t meant to be perfect. 

On Mother’s Day Jay and I found out that we were expecting. I was terrified the impossible just became possible. Jay was excited, he spent time looking up baby items online, we started to plan out our nursery, picked out named, and I slowly let myself love our baby. Only to have my dream dashed. 

Our baby, baby E was not meant to be. Right now I should be 6.5 month pregnant, I’m not, our little sac never formed a fetal pole. Two sperms, they said fertilized the egg and a pathology report said it was a partial molar pregnancy. It just wasn’t meant to be, someone needed a baby more than we did, motherhood was so close yet eluded me in year 32. I have faith that my 3rd and Jay’s second pregnancy will be the charm, mother is a job that I desperately want. 

In July it became official I was no longer a single girl, I was engaged, I belonged to someone and that is what I’ve always dreamed of, I wanted to belong and not be alone.

My nephew Jack arrived in July and I fell in love all over again, he has his auntie wrapped around his little finger. Sophia is getting bigger by the day, she is turning into a sassy little lady. I love those two littles with all of my heart, the greatest title I have is Auntie, there is no better job than that. 

32, was my teacher, it taught me to never lose faith and that if I believe in myself anything is possible. I will walk away from 32 knowing that my body is still capable of creating life, my heart she may be weak, but she beats on, and that I am more than a dollar sign. Merck will always be apart of me, year 32 is the end of the Nuvaring’s chapter, life it goes on.

With my muppet like dog by my side, my life quietly fell into place. I have a man that I adore,  I got a new job that I love, and I’ve got hope for a very bright 33.   

{Charlie} Ruin Is A Gift

Love 2015
A few weeks back I was sitting in a park sipping on a berry white mocha with a dear friend when she brought up the fact that I no longer write about Charlie. She asked me “Do you not love him anymore AJ? Do you not miss him anymore?” The thing about loss is we never stop loving or missing someone. There are moments where I wish he would just pop up and start spewing advice that I don’t think I need. Charlie will always be apart of me and there is no removing him from my story. Charlie showed me and taught me what love was. He allowed me to put faith into another human being, he allowed me to move in a space that I didn’t even understand. The greatest lessons, those lessons came after his death. Ruin is a gift, it allows us to travel the road of transformation.

Earlier in the summer I sat at my sister’s kitchen table playing connect four with Sophia. As I dropped my black checker in the slot, I studied her face, how excited she was, how she knew she was about to win (I let her win), and about how Charlie would give anything to be here. I quickly wiped my tears away so she wouldn’t see and plopped the checker in the slot. It had been three years since I played a game of connect four and I could have sworn Charlie was in the room with us. I thought about Charlie as I held my nephew in my arms, about how he got cheated out of holding his brother Coleman’s babies and of how those babies got cheated out of an uncle.

Life it is unfair, there is no way around that fact, life is not kind to the soul. Some of us have to travel roads littered with loss, while others travel road littered with promise and certainty. I will take the harder road, because on that road I am living, as in truly living. Uncertainty reminds me to live in each moment, to breath in each moment, and to appreciate each day I am allowed to face the sun. No ones tomorrow is promised, all of us are ticking clocks and only fate knows when the last hand will strike. Almost dying taught me to live this way, to live in the here and now and to travel on the road less taken. Losing Lucia taught me that it was ok to be angry with God and it also reminded me that God knows what he is doing.

God does not desert us in the muck of our lives, he stays the course and sees that we come out of the muck changed. Losing Lucia prepare me for losing my second pregnancy. This time I was not angry, in it I found hope. The doctors were wrong. I have hope. Hope, that my body can and will support a growing pregnancy. It was a genetic accident, two sperm fertilized one egg and it just wasn’t meant to be. I walked away from this with faith that my 3rd time and Jay’s 2nd time will be the charm.

Charming, that is one word to describe Charlie, he had his quirks and his skills, but in the end he was charming. He took a broken woman and loved her back to health. In away I think Charlie knew that fate was not on his side and that he was preparing me to be another man’s wife. He died loving me and for that I am forever grateful. Charlie taught me to believe in love again and he reminded me of how to love someone. I had to learn how to love myself before I could love another person. I had to heal myself before I could even think about helping someone else heal. I had to just be, to just be in the moment and love being alone with the person in the mirror.

Love, I never lost her she was always there waiting in he shadows and when I was ready I opened my heart. Fate had a hand, an opportunity to love fell into my inbox on Veteran’s Day. That one email lead me to Jay, a man that I love and understand with all of my heart. His ability to be raw and open is what captured my heart. He is not perfect, then again no buddy is, yet he was exactly what I needed. Jay slipped a silver band on my finger in a motel swimming pool, in that moment his eyes were brimming with love and fear. We all fear what we cannot see, or touch or know, yet in those moments of fear we let the light and love shine through. In those moments we become our best selves and open our hearts to those around us.

Charlie is always with me and a part of my heart will always belong to him. Even thou he is dead, Charlie is still teaching me from the grave. Every now and then I look up at the stars and whisper the constellations to a man I cannot see. That man will be honored when I marry Jay, when we give our future child the middle name Rae, when I take Sophia to Paris and each day that I live the best life possible. Charlie would want me to be happy. Charlie would want me to live a life outside of the shadow of grief and to have the love that he never got to have. An I am doing just that, I am fine with the fact that change is constant and that I cannot control fate. I am deeply in love, I am hopeful, and I am present in this life.

{Engaged Life} Jay Asked, and I said……………….

loveFive years ago on July 4th I stepped into the unknown. I’ve always had a plan or a solution, for the first time in 27 years it was just me and the unknown. What lay in the unknown terrified me and kept me up at night. I was so worried that I would never make it on my own. Little did I know that first step was the beginning of one beautiful disaster.

In order to find out who AmandaJean was I, I had to lose it all. My life, it was patiently waiting for me. Navigating Fate’s pot holes and curve balls became my specialty. I have loved only to lose, I have stood only to fall, and through it all you have been by me. Together we have faced the good, the bad, and the down right ugly moments of my life.

Have Bear Will Travel became the story of a Single Uptown Girl and her muppet like dog. An for some unknown reason thousands of you joined me on my journey. I am still amazed to this very day that my story has and will continue to change lives. Through this blog, with each word I type I realize that I mattered in this world and that my second chance was worth fighting for. That God, he didn’t make a mistake, he gave me a second chance to find myself and in the process a small town girl changed the world around her.

Jay fell into my inbox on Veteran’s day and every day there after has been a dream come true. I have a man at my side who loves me completely, he see’s that I am more heart than scars and encourages me to change the world. My made up stories about his cat Dexter’s adventures make him laugh and with each smile he melted my heart. I knew that without a doubt that he was the one I was meant to spend eternity with. There was no other man worthy or strong enough to stand beside me. In Jay’s love I found the best me.

I have openly referred to the State of Wisconsin as “God’s Country” and one of my favorite places in Wisconsin is, Wisconsin Dells aka “the largest most well thought out tourist trap”. This past weekend I introduced Jay to all the things The Dells had to offer. We took a carriage ride through The Lost Canyon, took a boat ride in the Upper Dells, walked through the shops, bought the “good” gummy bears, swam in the hotel pool, and spent our nights fireside.

The pool was our refuge against the hot Wisconsin summer, I was getting my float on and minding my own business when Jay swam up. He turned me around, his eyes in that moment were brimming with love, a smirk told me he was nervous, and out from his swim trunk pocket came a simple silver band (aka the placeholder), he took my hand in his, and lovingly asked me to be his wife and I said yes. Its the end of an era, Have Bear Will Travel will no longer be about a single girl and her muppet like dog, it will be about a couple’s journey into engaged life with a side order of subscription boxes and heart health.

In this beautiful disaster, I found love. I finally have what eluded me and I am never letting go. I am over the moon excited and I cannot wait until the day I get to call Jay my husband. My dad, he is going to sit this one out and let the muppet like dog walk me down the isle. For five years Cullen has stood at my side as my faithful little sidekick, so it is only fitting that he give me away to Jay on our wedding day.