connection vs. attachment

We were talking about connection vs. attachment and the epiphanies were pouring out of our mouths. Like a lightbulb had gone off in both our brains, I could tell we were thinking of all the experiences we have had – and finally realizing what it has meant to us.

There’s a difference, no? Attachment is temporary, and holds little weight beyond the surface. Connection is where the magic happens, the experiences are felt and lasting impressions are made. Attachment takes, connection gives. But, its like an oxymoron, we can’t be disconnected from ourselves if we want to be open to the full depth of experiences. You are as open to connection as you allow yourself to be.

We can certainly “fill the void” and superficially attach ourselves to people, places and things …but beyond just collecting tokens, we’ll never truly grasp the richness of any of those experiences and walk away feeling full because of the fear in connecting to ourselves.

What do we really want, who do we really want surrounding us and where do we really want to be? Grabbing onto and staking claim on everything outside of you won’t satisfy the basic need to be at home with yourself, will it?🏠💛

The way we relate to each other, thats what gives meaning and depth.

Thats when you know you’ve done some soul work, and found the open connection to you.

You lock it in with someone else who has also done the soul grind and it feels like a freedom to create a “home vibe” with them. Finally, I can bring all that I am and have …to us. It is gold. Anywhere we go, as long as we’re both there… is home base.

– caroline & jmag


life by design

Caroline not only shares my passions but she wants to bring them to fruition as well. Having someone that doesn’t look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language when I talk about my dream life is like having the key to the city. No mountain too high as they say, she’s ready for the climb.

Having a partner that gets you is one thing, but having one that wants to be a part of your ascent and what you do is another and rare. Not a business partner, a life partner.
When we talk about traveling, working from home, or creating our own work schedule, it hasn’t been just empty conversation, filling the room up with hot air. It resonates with me. I’ve had these chats in the past but it fell on deaf ears. It never felt right.

It is refreshing to have someone beside you that has similar aspirations, it doesn’t feel like such an impossible task to chase them. To have someone on the same path as me, to have our idea motors running, I don’t have to lay down so much of a map to navigate her to understand what I am talking about. Our frequencies are matched, our energy is synced. For myself it’s been a stumbling block I’ve tripped over all of my adult life. Watching others doing the things I’ve aspired to do. Deep down I always knew that things just weren’t aligned until I met Caroline. It is refreshing that we can talk freely about our visions, but we are starting to implement those into action and see results.

We’ve been Behind-The-Scenes-ing a whole lot of ideas and plans and goals for just the landscape of our next 30 days with our blog and rolling out our story, and what we want to stick our hands in.🔮

What we have realized is, the opportunities are endless to create our life by design, like an endless buffet. I guess it’s not so much a realization, as it’s a mindset shift.
We don’t ever have to stay stuck doing any one thing or feeling like we are handing over the keys to our precious time. 🗝 We’ve relinquished our time and power to too many jobs, people and places that we never saw true return and/or fulfillment from.

So we’re trying something different, something new, something that creates excitement centered around our time together with each other and our little family. Sure there’s a little fear involved, but just enough to keep us on our toes and engaged and tuned into the process.

We don’t want to just shuffle through our days, pay our bills and die.
Too many people do, and too many of our loved ones have. We weren’t brought through this, been through any of this, to come together and play it status-quo. So, we’re going all in not to. Your personal debts are wiped after you die, what’s the point in busting your ass and emptying your soul stressing about a job that will replace you within a month upon your passing. Any which way you slice it, we all expire. We might as well go running toward at least trying to live as the best versions of ourselves, with the best version of our happiness that we can create.

We’ve found that the closer we stay connected, talk (exhaustedly!) out our hopes, fears and desires… the more at ease we both are that this unchartered territory won’t be as scary as we’ve been conditioned to fear the unknown to be. Breaking out into the unknown can be incredibly nerve-racking alone, but doing it with someone who shares your passion for this purpose is LIFE-giving.
Decide what to do and go do it.
Believe it to receive it.💫
You won’t ever get what you don’t demand.


There’s been fear, to really step into our power with this whole thing, our story and our blog. But after setting a specific intention the other day, we really are not taking no from the universe as an answer to our desires. A life making decisions, or not making them, because of fear really isn’t a life we want to subscribe to.

So, our intentions are set. And we’re both on fire for transforming essentially the little we have… into something big. It’s dominated our conversations and actions. It has to.
So for the next 30 days, we are trading in uncertainty for certainty. Things will happen because we have already created a shift in our lives with the intentions we set and visualizing it all happening. Our sense of freedom is worth any technology hold-ups or dips in the valley.

What keeps me walking in inspired action is Jessep, my second chance. His trust. His trust in me, in us and himself. We don’t need a comfort zone. We are all the safety net we need, and our conviction to create a life we design. And the reassurance that I am his accountability and he is mine. We’ve both committed and ignited the flame. Now we just have to keep stoking it.


There aren’t too many other more exciting feelings than looking across to see your person with the same fire of intensity for our shared success.
Gulf oysters from Shunk Gulley + mocktails don’t hurt the cause either… cheers to 30 days of hustling for a LIFE BY DESIGN.

– caroline & jmag

make it a double

We sat down at Amici 30A Italian Kitchen a few days ago and discovered in addition to our fantastic waiter (with awesome blue hair) and delicious options on the menu, their drink menu was superbly accommodating.


Several of their hand-crafted cocktails could be made into mocktails as indicated by a symbol on the menu, and cost a few dollars less than their alcohol-infused versions.
I pointed it out to Jessep and we both smiled so big, super stoked, and couldn’t decide which one to order, so we ordered a couple over the course of lunch.
In all the places we have enjoyed together here by the beach, this was the very first restaurant that catered to those who live that sober life.
And not just force-fed bland non-alcoholic beer, or virgin daiquiris… but a variety of mouth-watering, fresh juices and homemade syrup cocktails.
We wouldn’t be left off the train to Flavortown just because we have 86’d alcohol out of our life. In fact, in our eyes, we are rewarded.

Out and about, I have typically ordered a tonic & lime with a splash of cranberry. I’ve gotten confused looks from our waiter, as if they are waiting for me to say “with Stoli.” I’ve even had one say, “No alcohol, right?” Right.
There is a great drink menu posted at the HUB, and I sheepishly ordered one of their mixed drinks sans liquor. The bartender obliged, and when I asked if they had non-alcoholic beer, he apologetically shared with me he had been trying to get some in-house for years. Still nothing.

We couldn’t stop talking about this menu filled with non-alcoholic libations.
How cool is that?!
An enticing drink menu that didn’t leave us out.
I love fancy cocktails and drinks. I love big, muddled flavors and fresh herbs and simple syrups, fruit garnish and gorgeous glassware. I want it all. There’s not many places, if any, that will know what to do when you ask for something “non-alcoholic” but not… a coke. No… not that.

We wanna have fun but…. not the inebriated fun. Capisci??

Sometimes its hard to NOT feel like you are in permanent vacation mode here by the beach. Even in those nose-down, hustle-and-bustle days…
We live by the beach.  A stunning one. People flock here all throughout the year to break out of their own hustle and settle by the sea for relaxation. Vitamin sea does a body good.

With that… naturally… there is no shortage of “happy hour” specials, events and rubbing elbows and schmoozing revolving around kicking back and relaxing with some good booze.  Of course the beer flows like wine around here. Alcohol, after all, helps us “let loose,” escape, reprieve, and relax. When you think of beach, more times than not your mind goes to popping a bottle or some cans and sticking your asses in the sand.
And even when the low tide of out-of-towners hits, the local liquor specials keep rolling.

Well, out of all the men in the universe, I met this really special guy JMag who had more than 10+ years of sobriety under his belt and it’s gotten me thinking. A lot. More lately, along the lines of, “Why not me?”
The first time we met up in Toledo, I told Jessep, knowing his lifestyle choice, I really didn’t have a desire to drink in his company at all. So why should I? It didn’t mean that much to me. I was totally capable and willing to leave it at the door out of respect for him. And really, out of respect for me.

He ordered me wine at the bar we ended up having our first date at, anyway.
Maybe as an icebreaker – he knew I liked my wine, maybe to set the tone and in keeping with our promise to have zero expectations, maybe in making me feel comfortable he could feel the same. Maybe a little bit of all the above. But, I did drink in front of him a few times since we’ve met. It didn’t bother him, didn’t bother me. I never got obliterated or sloppy, he has and had no reason to give me major stink-eye about it.

But my moment in the sand came when he wasn’t even here, he wasn’t around.
After several open conversations about his own story of overcoming addiction and the role alcohol played in his life, I always came to the same conclusions about alcohol…
I’ve never, not once, had a night of drinking and wanted to high-five myself the next day. “YES! All that alcohol was FANTASTIC!!!! I’M WINNING AT LIFE!!”
Alcohol has never solved any of my problems, in fact, quite the opposite… has given me more. Or more to think about.
It hasn’t improved my ability to cope with my grief. In fact, quite the opposite. Made me feel worse, and created isolation and inhibited me from being brutally honest and truthful about how I was really feeling at the time. Depressant, suppressant…. much?
It accompanied me, which was typically 1-3 times a week, on the nights I felt lonely, which was every night of the week.
But ultimately began suffocating any real and true growth that could bring me far and away from grief and loneliness.
I lost my husband, and I was cradling my grief with empty wine bottles.
I wasn’t putting anyone or myself in immediate harms way, leaving my girls to go partying at the bars or clubs, or even meeting up with friends to unwine-d. I would retreat at the end of a day to my couch. Just me. And my living room. After the girls had been put to bed.

Up until August of this year, I was enjoying my wine. Some days.
Most days, however, I found myself drinking alone to the bottom of a Kim Crawford bottle.
Not necessarily finding any comfort in my solitude.
The clear pattern revealed itself… the more I drank, the sadder I became.
It was inevitable, I’d crush some Sauv. and tears, big griefy alligator tears, would be streaming down my cheeks by the time I was ready to slither into bed. I did this, alone. I’d pour sadness right back into the bottle as sure as it filled me up with the wine. I was filling up with a depressant, and as quickly as I was filling my glass, I was expressing my loneliness in tears.
Quenching the grief monster’s thirst.

I cooked myself a delicious dinner and was sitting down to eat it by myself.
I poured myself a glass of White Zinfandel, took a sip off the top, sat down, picked up my fork and began eating. I took another sip. Another bite. Looked around, and just started balling my eyes out. Eating a yummy meal, I had wished I was sharing with someone else. Sharing meals with my love was… something I looked forward to, my love language, sharing an experience with someone, my someone is so important to me. And it hit me like a tidal wave, as it always did. And the wine, leaning into a depressant, was sucking the joy right out of me. Go figure. The girls were upstairs and I was alone.
I got up from the table, poured the rest of my goblet of wine down the sink and emptied out the entire 1.5L bottle, less one glass, and called it a day. No mas. That’s been it.

I decided to take a break. I wasn’t making this life-long, beating my chest declaration and swearing off alcohol and #SOBERLIFE-ing myself,  I know better.
What makes the most sense to me is I know its a walk, not a sprint. Its a “one day at a time” exercise. I won’t make any promises but more importantly to me and myself: no expectations. That has served me well.
I just needed to take a minute.
Sometimes I need minutes from situations, people, places, LIFE… I know myself well enough now to know, I just needed a minute from alcohol.
Simple: I’m already a grieving widow and the shit makes me even more sad, and frankly, makes my body feel like 3-week-old garbage. Period.
I’ve just not answered the call to go hang out with it again.

Lucky for me, the universe abides, my person I am with has not either.
And as much as I haven’t thought I needed it, and could do it all on my own… his own stubbornness and conquered addiction has helped me through doubt and frustration and guided my confusion through, “should I drink, or should I go?”
He is not my reason I cut myself the break, but he is the reason I understand why and how I continue to choose not to choose it. My healing needs me. Needs me sober, and ready to face my issues and fears and anxieties full-on. No inhibitors. No masks. No hiding. Let it all rise, up and out.

We didn’t realize, and probably didn’t want to even admit, how BIG this subject was to us and how fired up we felt until we started unraveling the WHY we’ve been given our paths and how we are continuing them.


The ugly truth from the gutter is, our lives have been touched very negatively due to the effects of alcohol. Both of us have been witness to people close to us who’s lives have been touched very negatively due to the effects of alcohol.
The worst effects of it one can experience, death.

We are living with the effects of choices made with alcohol every day, by our own hands and others. We didn’t know how we would, but, in sharing truths… it hurts, it hurts to talk about, it inspires fear and tears but we know, we were brought together to share this. Because we’re still alive to tell it.
It’s important.
And we are not holier than thou, we have and make our jokes about drinking like the rest of them. But, as of today and this moment, its just…

Jessep obviously has quite a different perspective on all things alcohol because he’s had a different journey with it…

With the holidays approaching it’s time for the parties, drinks, and families gathered around the tables. For someone like myself, this time of year can be filled with feelings of uncertainty. Not knowing who’ll show up to the party, if someone doesn’t know about my choice of sober living over the past decade, or the monotony of explaining why I don’t drink.

At times I feel like I’ve isolated myself from many things I once enjoyed.
I was taught early on in my sobriety not to entertain the idea of glamorizing alcohol.
Maybe there’s been an underlying fear that if I hung around people that drank, I’d eventually relapse. I’m not sure. Not until recently have I even wanted to explore this sacred space within myself.

Caroline has a way of reminding me this life is short. Her spirit radiates, and makes you want to enjoy all the things. With her the fear dissipates. Together we enjoy the experience, wherever it is.
I’m realizing it wasn’t really the alcohol that made the event great in the past.
When the smoke settled after those “gatherings” back in the day, there was typically guilt or shame involved. And the people even, most of which have become acquaintances, faded away over time.

With her its different. She understands and shares some of my fears.
Together we’re sifting through heartache but creating a lifestyle, a safe space, that we’re proud of.
Alcohol never gave me the freedom I chased or desired it to give me. The letting go, the euphoria, came with too many restrictions, too many consequences.
Without the alcohol, there is added accountability that I have to have for myself and actions, and creates a different type of thrill.
It is a risk I take not being able to hide behind a substance or a mask. The real and authentic me has to show up to every situation, whether I like it or not, without any enhancements or suppressants.
When Caroline and I are together and we go have mocktails, we truly are enjoying each other’s company, the true, unfiltered taste of the experience we are creating together. We aren’t there for any specific motive other than the experience and time together we are having. No expectation. When I would go out to the bar, there was the expectation I would get wasted, escape the bondage of self.

When we are out having our mocktails, there is an overwhelming joy that we are creating a moment with each other that neither one of us will feel guilty about, neither of us are putting anything – our well-being, health, family – at risk of loss. Nothing is jeopardized. The reality is, we are still in the same places we were before, we just aren’t inviting any alcohol. It’s refreshing that we can go enjoy pizza and a mocktail and Caroline won’t be sad about being widowed and start crying, or I can go pick up my kid from school and not be risking a DUI. This would be our exact scenario if we invited alcohol to the table.

Everything we have been through, as sad as it is, and individually hard to deal with, we are very lucky to have each other.
I feel very fortunate now, to be able to do the things I feared.
I used to not be able to even entertain the thought of going to a bar, and enjoy my time.
I was paralyzed.
I never thought I would have an opportunity to sit in a bar environment and feel totally content and at ease again in my life.
With Caroline, what I am realizing is it can be a bar or Burger King, she makes me feel safe. And I don’t have to have seven drinks to open up to her, or to feel confident, or be intimate with her. Caroline is naturally providing me with what alcohol used to do.

We can bust our ugly parts wide open to each other, and others.
Some of the biggest ugly moments and obstacles in my life, I created, but she has a way of showing me that, “Maybe I am okay. Maybe there’s a different way of handling this.”
She calls bullshit on the old ways of thinking, yes we can do the same things we used to and still enjoy life.
No one has to know we don’t have alcohol in our glasses.
The victory is, we leave without risking anything, no one is the wiser. We don’t have to shout it from the rafters, WE’RE FUCKIN SOBER! We just do it. Live it. Share our truths. And keep living.


Both of us drank with a purpose, a detrimental purpose. And I would never have found happiness submerged in a depressant. Caroline understands this life can be taken away in the blink of an eye. I don’t need to explain myself to her, she gets it.
Being unapologetically asinine together lit up is one thing, but doing it sober is worth a million bucks.

Make it a double.

– caroline & jmag

I’ll fix it.

Wouldn’t it be great if life came with a set of instructions? Maybe not IKEA instructions, we’d all be screwed. Just a basic step 1-5, then everything would be fixed. Most of my life I’ve taken on the people pleaser approach. As I get older and dig deeper into my soul search, its bigger than what I originally thought. This fixing it thing.

I’m finding a lot of what I try to fix in others, is an overlooked internal repair I’ve avoided within myself. It’s almost like the more I can see the results working for the others, the less I address it for myself. Caroline and I talk regularly, about being emotionally depleted. Not only the impact it can take on us individually, but how it overflows into all that we do.

I’m learning the more I’m fixing things around me, the longer I wait for replenishment myself. The balance of jobs, kids, relationships, hell, even the people we share the roads with, can be draining. Not always in a bad way. People are demanding. Plain & Simple! WE NEED THINGS. Typically, it’s a temporary form of satisfaction that serves us. What’s next though?

I’m always looking for something I can get my hands into, some advice I can offer, or an example of a win I experienced. I generally have good intentions, I mean well, and truly want to fix the problem. It’s the “problem” that gets me though. That deep seeded secret, the resentment from 5 years ago, a childhood skeleton in my closet, or whatever the case may be. I know how it felt, the pain, the hurt, the experience. So I try to prevent someone else from having to experience it.

Not everything can be fixed. Shit, most of the time it doesn’t need to be. Not everything is my responsibility to get involved in. Allowing people to make life choices, without causing harm to themselves or others isn’t my business on how they do it. Who am I? Honestly, we’re all rough around the edges. Learning as we go.

Having a moment of clarity can really help a person address some shit. The action step that follows is us being honest with ourselves. My new crossroads. Fill myself up and let that overflow, or keep giving the plants in my life a little drop here and there. We all know what happens when something isn’t watered properly.

Part of the lesson for myself lately has been this…

Not everything needs to be put together or fixed like an IKEA nightstand.

Take a look inside today. I encourage you to engage in a meaningful conversation with a loved one about your shortcomings. You’ll find you’re not as weird as you might think.

– JMag











the balance.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed my gratitude levels haven’t been stellar. There’s been some moments. Frustration has been trying to peek around the corner. Checking up on me, almost like it senses when there’s a weakness in the system.

It’s always been easy for me to disconnect and revert to that inwardly safe space. The funny thing about that space, it’s not really safe for me. I had an old friend that referred to our minds as a dangerous neighborhood that we should never be in alone. I have a tendency to overthink and cause mini explosions of emotion. Normally after the smoke settles I kindly remind myself that I was being ridiculous and it’s time to get back to this life thing on life’s terms, not mine. My terms generally consist of being a control freak ego maniac.

When I take some time to get serious with myself and set the bullshit aside, typically the gratitude starts showing up again, the smiles a little brighter, the days more tolerable. Digging deep within hasn’t always come naturally. IT still doesn’t. What does come naturally now is the desire to be real. Even if it’s sloppy. So here we are.

Lots of change happening all at once can be a bit overwhelming. Add a few crazy kiddos, a new job, and all kinds of fear into the mix and we have an official shit show. BUT, I signed up for ALL of this. Willingly, with the expectations that it wouldn’t be easy, but worth it. Every last bit of it. And so it is.

I watch Caroline a lot more than she realizes. Most of the time it’s because I’m wondering what she’s thinking about. The cool thing about her, she’ll tell me if I ask. I rarely do though. Her body language, the look in her eyes, her smile, even the prized raised eyebrow. All of it. Tell me exactly what she’s thinking about. There’s days when her strengths come in her weaknesses. Watching someone intentionally break a little so they can rebuild stronger each time is remarkable.

Our story is hard for me to understand at times. I often ask myself when is the crew gonna jump outta the bushes… SURPRISE. You’re on candid camera. Seriously though. Being available to each other has become very easy. The tricky part, that balance thing. Allowing ourselves the crucial time for self-care, the growth on both individual levels and as a couple. Being mindful of her well-being has become a priority of mine, and in many ways I’m still learning.

Today as I was working my new job I had a moment of clarity. I was standing on a rooftop overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The emerald waters, palms swaying in the wind, with a cool breeze, beautiful blue skies, and sunshine shining down upon me. I just stood there and laughed. Looking out at all the people walking around so disconnected from the person they were with, everyone on cell phones, and in a hurry to get somewhere. Totally missing the beauty that surrounded them, oblivious to the idea that this could very well be their last opportunity to witness any of it. It hit me, like a rock. I needed to add some gratitude back in my diet.

So there’s that. Where do I get the motivation to self start the gratitude machine. Its an inside job, really. Well, it came in the form of an e-mail. I was laying on the couch after today’s events of shoveling gravel, scrubbing roofing membranes, and questioning what the hell I was doing at 39 years young doing a gig like that. The e-mail was a notification from Caroline’s blog. A new post. As I was reading it I almost started crying. I was trying to secretly read it and not get emotional. I found my gratitude extremely quick, let’s say that. The loyalty and the way she loves is breathtaking. Never in a million years did I think I would ever want to be a part of someone’s love story, unless it was my own.

Caroline has a way with expressing herself in such a way that it’s basically impossible not to get addicted to her writing. I find myself waiting for her next blog like the iPhone freaks that stand in line at stores. And it’s generally about another guy. WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?! It’s more than her writing though. It’s her food, her touch, her laugh. It’s all a labor of love with the utmost detail. She’s a modest masterpiece. When I think about her, this place we call home, and the new tribe of people loving me hard AF…

I find my gratitude.


– JMag


why the secret?

What is all this? And what is the secret ingredient?

There’s a ‘je ne sais quoi’ about living life happy… fulfilled… joyful.
Especially, and specifically, in the aftermath of being devastated by a tragic event or circumstance.
We have all watched people, our own people, go through trying times and wonder, “how” they are doing it. How is that person even laughing, smiling, enJOYing life… and, simultaneously grieving? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Being joyful while grieving?
How can that be?
It’s our desires, our secrets, our WHYs. The WHY we are doing something or feeling a certain way. It’s the motivation, inspiration, reason, determination, whatever you call it.
It’s our self-preserving tether to finding and claiming our own joy of choice.
The joy that will eventually carry us upward and onward.

But most of us keep it, our why, a secret.

. . .

So, we met. Ours eyes locked, hearts connected. And felt & experienced, and are nurturing, something we’ve never experienced with another before.

And because of our individual perspectives we brought to our picnic, we wanna blow the lid off of how we are taking advantage of those perspectives that have given us 100%, all in, unlocked availability to enjoy LOVE + LIFE. Total openness.

And what do we do with something wonderful that we feel? Have discovered?
Like an amazing restaurant we found or good experience we’ve had, what do we do?
We give it away. We share it.
We tell people about it.
We let them lean in a little closer and share …the secret. The why.
Of our bountiful joy. Happiness. Smile.
We gush about the higher vibration we are on and striving to be on.
Because giving our goods away feels …good. Telling people our whys validates, and connects us.
We all have those secrets. Something, someone, somewhere, that has been the key to unlock our secret desires, whys and joy. Maybe one we didn’t know we’d ever unearth, and take with us to the grave.

So here we are, doing just that. Wanting and willing to share our secrets, our whys, with each other.
And this, this is all to simply grab hands to take people with us on our journey to figuring out what truly makes this life and love …rich.
Each experience exploding, oozing, with wealth.
Which, none of that was created without creating space within ourselves.
We are creating space, letting go of our shame, guilt, pain and disappointment of what this life has certainly served up… and making plenty of room to absorb what this life has to offer in spite, and be totally saturated in the joy of it.
Tastes, sights, smells, sounds, and most importantly, the secret of all this… the connections with people… everything amplified to the nth.

We both look at each other and know we are holding something special. Something rare. Something that most, including ourselves, have not experienced or …will.
And we want to promptly give it away.

. . .

The secret ingredient to us? To our life, love, where we live, the way we experience life and our lifestyle is… how we connect to each other. Our stories. Our truths.
Allowing each other to break open. Be honest.
In sharing, in being vulnerable and letting go… we give permission to each other and ourselves to lead in love. And not in a sit-around-the-campfire Kumbaya-ing way.
But practice what we so want this world to look and feel more like… compassion, patience, love and a whole lot of hope.

Starting with the person looking back at us in the mirror.
Then, our partners/spouse. Then, our children. Community. So on…

We don’t have the key to unlock all the secrets of this world and life. But we do have our own. And are finally looking at each other, feeling safe enough, valued and cared about enough, to open up the door and let it all go. We don’t have to throw away the key to a dark, locked room in our hearts. Not anymore.
We can give it all away. And still be loved for it.