Happy 18th Birthday Baby Brother // We love and miss you!

“It’s not the goodbye that hurts, but the flashbacks that follow.”

Dear Sweet Baby Brother,

Last Friday was your first heavenly birthday, and even though we are excited that you got to blow out your candles with NEW lungs we sure did miss you down here. We missed your BIG smile and contagious laugh and I think I speak for everyone when I say it just wasn’t the same without you. I personally miss our Birthday game of trying to be the first and last person to text Happy Birthday by texting each other the day before and the day after. I thought about just doing it to ease some of the hurt but as most of us have learned these past 9 months your phone number has been inhabited by an older man (who I am pretty sure is really tired from getting random texts from people he doesn’t know).

As I sit here writing this letter I reminisce about our past birthdays shared together. One in particular makes me tear up and smile with amazing memories. Since you were born so close to July 4th our parents decided to have a Red, White and Blue party for you. I can’t remember exactly how old you were turning (I want to say 1) but I remember they had you dressed in that years Old Navy 4th of July t-shirt, you know the one that basically every mom in the USA made their families wear so everyone matched. I also remember the cute invitations with the made up song set to the tune of Yankee Doodle. I think it went something like this “Cole is turning 1 today, come join the celebration, lots of food and drinks to have, for Cole’s Birthday celebration” (I think the ending was different). All of our friends and family where there to help celebrate that special day! I will forever hold that day in my heart with the funny memory of you singing to everyone while we cut the cake.

I know it took me almost a week to write this but it was hard. It was hard because I realized that this is the first of many of your birthdays I won’t get to spend with you in the flesh. It was hard because I have such conflicting feelings when it comes to you being in heaven. I know it’s selfish of me to want you here, now that you have had your taste of freedom from the grips of Cystic Fibrosis, but I’m human and if I had it my way I would be spending many more birthdays with you. I am also happy knowing that you are in a much better place but like everything else it still doesn’t make it better. You left this amazing legacy behind that gave everyone something to celebrate this past Friday and I hope you enjoyed the view from where you were sitting.

To you Cole, I hope when it’s my time we can make up for all those birthday celebrations missed! As for everyone else, my advice to you is to celebrate every birthday with the ones you love because you never know when it might be the last.

Happy Birthday Colabug!

I love you forever and always to the moon and back!

AC

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“To live will be an awfully BIG adventure” \\ Peter Pan

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” \\ Hurcules

On to the second stop on our #Coles50StateBucketList Disney World in Orlando, Fl

A couple weeks ago I visited the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ with my second family! This was a much needed vacation from such a busy couple of months and I am so thankful that they let me tag along. I had only been to Disney two times before this last trip, once when I was 6 and the other when I was 13. I am very thankful that I did get to experience Disney with my brother, even if he was too little (or scared) to ride many of the rides! That time together was well worth the wait in line to have him turn around and say I don’t want to do this ride anymore.

 Disney is the place where you can ‘Wish Upon a Star’ and your dream will come true, and as much as I would love to have my dream of Cole being by my side physically I know he was there spiritually laughing right along with me (or at me knowing my brother). So without further adieu here are some of my favorite moments from my #Coles50StateBucketList Disney trip!!

Day One- Epcot & Hollywood Studios

We started our vacation in Epcot, and what a way to start it off! There is something about seeing the iconic golf ball looking building up close a personal to get you excited for the day. After we soared over California and flew to Mars we took a walk through 11 countries tasting Mexico’s margaritas and Germany’s beer all before lunch with the princesses. After lunch we walked around some more then headed to the boat that would take us to our next park. Hollywood Studios, or as I remember it as MGM, is a story in its own. Back during my first visit to Disney World we came to MGM, and I road the Tower of Terror for the first time at the age of 6. Let’s just say I might have cried for my mom on the way down while sticking my head into my dad armpit. So this time around was my chance to conquer my fears and dominate this ride, which I did, we road it twice that day and all I did was scream and laugh in delight! Next we went on Rock ‘n’ Roller-coaster, which is an amazing ride that is set to Aerosmith songs, I love me some Aerosmith and roller-coasters, so all in all it was probably my favorite ride. After our adventure with R2D2 and C3PO and waiting in line for an hour to ride the awesome Toy Story ride we finished our day with the Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller-coaster at midnight and headed home.

Day Two- Magic Kingdom

Day two was the day I was most excited for, Magic Kingdom!!! When you walk through the gates to Old Time Main Street and see Cinderella’s Castle you just get sooooo excited. That moment had me forgetting all about my ‘grown up’ worries and just made me feel like a 6 year old once again. Once we took our much needed picture in front of the castle we were off because of course we picked a fast pass early in the morning so we literally had to RUN to Big Thunder Mountain (if you have every been to Disney you know that BTM is on the OPPOSITE side of Disney). To everyone’s surprise this was the first time I would be riding Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, I was so excited I literally danced!! After my arms thrown in the air windblown experience with BTM we headed to Space Mountain which I learned is scary fun! If you haven’t ridden it yet let me just tell you at times you might feel like you are about to hit your head or you hand (if you raised them) but that was the amazing part of it the fear adds to the ride experience! We had a little time before our Italian lunch so we HAD to ride Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride because Aladdin is my favorite movie and I’m a child sometimes. When we were flying it took me back to a much simpler time when I was little and would always have to be Jasmine when playing princesses making Cole play the monkey. After an amazing lunch we split up with Tyler’s parents going back to the hotel with Grayson to nap and the rest of us running around riding different rides. Later after we ate dinner and all met back up The rest of the day was spent riding rides and sharing old and new memories with each other.

  

 Day Three- Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is an adventure in its own. If you love animals then you will love this park like us! When we first got there we headed to DinoLand USA where we were transported back in time to retrieve a Dinosaur and spun on an old time dino roller-coaster. We then headed to Asia to Expedition Everest where we rode through the Himalayas and encountered a Yeti. We had a fast pass for this ride (of course) so the girls road it first while the guys waited with Grayson. Tyler and his dad talked this ride up so much that I was so excited to ride it!! When we got seated and the ride started it was a slow climb to the top. Once we got there I kept on thinking about how Tyler raved about how fast and fun this ride was, yet it was fun but not fast. That is when it happened; all the sudden we were flying backwards in the dark and it wasn’t the same way we had came. Once the ride had finished and we met the guys to switch Sarah, Amanda and I left Grayson with Tyler’s mom so we could run and get in line for Kali River Rapids. Once everyone got soaking wet on the Rapids we went and grabbed a bite to eat then headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris. This ride was amazing! You get to ride in an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition to see many African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills. We got to see elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, gazelles, zebras, hippos, lions, Nile crocodiles, giraffes, and white rhinos! After our 30 min safari we walked around and took pictures then headed to Sanaa for a steak dinner where we could watch animals roam the grounds! Since Animal Kingdom closes earlier then all the other parks we headed to Downtown Disney to look around then headed home to get much needed sleep before our last day.

 Day Four- Hollywood Studios & Magic Kingdom

Our last day was our “lazy day” for sure (just Tyler and Me)! Both parks were equally busy but the wait times weren’t as bad and when you’re in the magical land of Disney with your partner in crime you tend to not worry about how long you have been standing in line. We started the day riding Tower of Terror then running over to Rock ‘n’ Roller-coaster and just like the last five times they were a blast! After the two main rides were out of the way we decided to walk around and see the sights that we might have missed from the first day. This led us to the Live Action Indiana Jones Stunt Show, which of course we had to stop in and watch because one Its Indiana Jones and two Tyler THINKS we are going to name one of our future children Indiana Jones(not happening). The show was just how I remembered it from my first visit, well sort of; the only thing I remembered from the first time was the big ball rolling over Indiana Jones. It was mesmerizing to watch all the flips, tricks and the joy in their face as they do something they love! After the show it was time to say goodbye to Hollywood Studios and hop on over to Magic Kingdom. This time we had later fast passes for our three favorite rides in the park so there was no running to the rides. While we waited for our ride times we lazily walk to the Mad Hatter Tea Cups which is a must ride for any Disney adventure. Waiting in line was probably one of my favorite things to do during this ride, seeing all of the little kids dressed up as their favorite Disney princess\prince\character laughing and smiling while spinning in cups with their loved ones. We of course had to spin super fast because we are big kids and yes I did feel a little sick afterwards. The rest of the night was spent walking hand in hand browsing every land and riding our designated fast pass rides while also getting stuck on splash mountain (thank goodness I didn’t get suck by the drunk pirate on the Pirate of the Caribbean ride like I did when I was 6).

As we were leaving Magic Kingdom for the last time, they were starting the ‘Celebrate the Magic’ on Cinderella’s Castle. While walking down Main Street towards the exit we heard a little girl turn to her mom and say “Look mom it’s Tinkerbell! How did she get up on the castle so fast?” She sounded so innocent and excited. At that moment I realized that this whole week was not just a vacation from a few busy weeks of work or weekends of charity golf tournaments and college graduations, but it was also a vacation from the struggles that I have been trying to over come this past year. For that week I wasn’t the women who lost her best friend 9 months ago I was that innocent little girl who was in wonder of meeting my favorite princess and riding my favorite rides. What I would give to go back to my innocent years of singing “A Whole New World” as we passed the water tower in down town Newnan or dressing up Cole as a girl while I performed “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie. That week spent at Disney was amazing and as silly as it sounds opened my eyes up to a lot of things that I have been struggling with. For that little girl I hope she never loses the wonder that I heard in her voice because once gone it takes a lot to get back (I’m slowly getting mine back thanks to my amazing friends and family). The advice that I leave with you till our next adventure is this; if you ever lose your wonder find the place that takes YOU back to your ‘happy’ days and go there, life is too short to wait.

2 down 48 to go!!

AC

We’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free

 “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.” //Finnick Odair (Hunger Games)

First off I want to thank everyone who helped me put together the 3rd Annual Cole’s Commanders Golf Tournament this past weekend.  Without your help it wouldn’t have been possible.  As you know this is the first BIG fundraiser we held since my brothers passing and it’s only fitting that it was the one that brought the Cole’s into our life.

This past week has been a very emotional one.  There were times I wanted to throw my hands in the air and give up, but then I thought about Cole and how no matter what he would never give up.  I realized that even though he is no longer here in person he still has yet to give up, that what we are doing now is because we want to carry on his legacy that is so much bigger than us.  In his 17 years of life he has done more then most people have done in their 80 years.

 Growing up with Cole was an adventure to say the least.  I can’t tell you how many times he would cuss me up and down saying “This was the worst day ever!!”  Then in the same breath say I was the best sister in the world and how much he loved me.   He was a spoiled hard headed evil little monkey that was the kindest most caring person you would ever meet.  God, family and friend always came first in his eyes; his disease always took a back seat when someone he cared about was in pain.  After his passing we learned of all the amazing things he did in his life time.  We learned of bullies that he stopped from harming others, Bible verses he send to people who were having a bad day and just how may people he brought to God.  Cole might have been a typical teenage boy in many ways but when it came to his passion of helping others he was wise beyond his years.

Not having Cole by my side this past weekend was another milestone I needed to overcome.  He was always the level headed one when it came to our projects, even though I was the one doing most of the work, he would tell me “what ever happens, happens its in Gods hands.”  When I got home that late that night I cried.  I cried from the sadness of not having Cole by my side, I cried from the relief that the stressful day was over but I also cried because we met an amazing goal that day.  The money raised helps with my brother’s dream of helping other CF families who are in need.

I know there are more mountains I still have to climb in the upcoming years.  Some are just hills while others will be compared to Mount Everest but with the people I love by myside and Cole looking down on me I know I can do anything.

First Stop….The Masters

 “Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.” //Jack Nicklaus

Wow thank you to everyone for the support so far 🙂 Im really excited to see where this adventure takes us, and I’m glad ya’ll are along for the ride!

On to the first stop on our #Coles50StateBucketList The Masters in Augusta, Ga 

Growing up with a dad who was a golf pro and a mom who was later an accountant for a golf course, you learn to love golf.  I remember most Sundays there would be a golf tournament playing on our tv(if football wasn’t on)!  While some people saw it as boring Cole and I enjoyed watching it especially the Masters.  Dad would take us out and try to teach us how to play but would grow tired every time he would tell us to do something different and all we would say is “I know dad.”(hard headedness runs in the family as you can tell).

The Masters has always been a dream of ours to go watch and experience the history of Augusta National.  Cole received that chance 2 years ago today, when he got to go to the final round and watch Adam Scott win the green jacket.  When Cole got home that night he wouldn’t stop talking about how beautiful the course was and how cool it was to see his three favorite golfers(Mcilroy, Mickelson, and Scott) play.  Oh and the most important advice he gave me was if I ever go I have to try both the egg salad sandwich and pimento cheese sandwich because quote “they are only $1.50 and they are heaven.”  That’s the type of experience you want for your baby brother who has a disease like his, you want him to experience every place he wants to go and every dream he has because if you ever lose them you want to look back and say he LIVED.

So this past Wednesday we got to experience our first Masters and our first stop on the Cole’s 50 State Bucket List, and let me tell you Cole wasn’t lying……Pictures do not do the course justice.  There isn’t a piece of grass out of place and the rough, lets just say it looks like the retired man’s lawn that lives down the street who takes care of it every day.  The trees and flowers surrounding the course are kept to perfection as well as all of the facilities.  When we first walked in the gate (at 8:30 in the morning) we didn’t know where to begin, I felt like a kid on Christmas day not knowing which gift to start with.  It was amazing to see all the old traditions such as the skipping of the golf balls across the pond at hole 16 and getting to see the beautiful Amen corner.  As the day went on and we had finished our walk around all 18 holes I was determined to find my FAVORITE golfer Phil Mickelson.  We decided to sit on hole 3 and wait (when I say sit I mean we were sitting right behind the tee box I could reach out and touch them) , we got to see Ernie Els and a few other noticeable faces but still no Mickelson.  As we were getting ready to get up and go find him, we hear the volunteer turn to the guy beside him and say “here come Rory.”  Soon after he says that we see a big group of people walk towards us and see six men walking up to the tee box, one of course being my brothers favorite golfer Rory Mcilroy.  Its amazing to see the #1 golfer in person but its even more amazing to see him laugh and joke around with the crowd, because that is the moment you realize they are normal people they just happen to be very good at golf.  After he joked around a bit and hit an amazing tee shot we were off to find this wonderful heavenly food before we headed to the par 3 course to find a good seat.  Once we found the concession stand we waited all of 2 seconds in line to get our egg salad sandwich and pimento cheese sandwich….Let me just tell you Cole was still not lying (he is 2 for 2 for those who are keeping count) those two sandwiches were AMAZING, and yes they were only $1.50 each and taste like heaven.  After our amazing experience with the cheap food we started our journey to the par 3 course.  As we got close to the par 3 I had all but given up hope in seeing Phil that day, but low in behold we decided to stop at the practice putting green and there he was!!!! I had to contain myself from yelling his name I was so excited!  Fast forward though 5 minutes of me staring, hitting Tyler in the arm and smiling we finally made it to a perfect spot on hole 7.  As the tournament started I took in the beauty of this place that has so much history and at that moment I could feel Cole sitting right beside me.  Throughout the tournament it was amazing to see the golfers with their family and friends (who as you know are their caddies for the par 3 tournament) joking, laughing and even letting them tee off and putt.  It showed me that even though this is one of the most important tournaments of their lives family still comes first and that no matter what don’t take life to seriously.  Cole taught me this a long time ago and I still hold his words close to my heart every day.  As we were heading home from the course we learned that Jack Nicklaus had hit a hole in one for the first time at Augusta National, it was a great way to end such a longing and amazing day.

As I laid in bed that night I couldn’t help but wish Cole was with me to complete his dream I would give anything to have him by my side as we travel to all 50 states, but then I looked back and realized that he always will be right beside me cheering me on in every step of the way.  Does this make me feel any better? No but it does give me peace that I know I will never be alone.  So my advice to you LIVE LIFE to the fullest and never give up on your dreams.  Until our next adventure hug your loved ones and tell them you LOVE them because you never know when you will have to let them go.

1 down 49 to go!!

AC

Never Stop Wondering…..Never Stop Wandering

Hey ya’ll! So I’m new to this whole blogging thing and I thought I would give it a try.

My Hero....This is for you.

My Hero….This is for you.

I hate starting something with sadness but to understand why I’m doing this it’s a must. On Sept. 28, 2014 my brother lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 17.  He was an amazing person and always put others before himself. His dream, besides helping others, was to travel to all 50 states. When he passed away my boyfriend and I decided that we would keep his dream alive by visiting all 50 states and documenting our adventures. I have decided to create this blog to detail my travels and to write about my life living with a brother who was born with Cystic Fibrosis. I hope to give ya’ll insight on who Cole (my brother) was from my point of view.

So here is my story and our travels for Cole’s 50 State Bucket List!

Enjoy!

Alexandra Croteau