Author Archives: adayinmyquotebook

6/19/18 – Learning how to walk again

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“Sometimes the steepest, most challenging and most rewarding paths in life are not meant to be walked, but crawled.” ― Toni Sorenson

I’m currently learning how to walk again. Every day is completely different. Some days I’m in so much pain that I’m sick to my stomach and fight back tears all day. Then there are days where I think to myself, “Phew, finally, I’m getting there.” It changes by the hour, it depends on how long I’ve been sitting or sleeping, sometimes my leg gets so tight that it feels like it will pop, and other times my ankle just can’t take anymore. Then there is the good leg…which doesn’t always feel so good. It’s getting tired of being the strong one, holding this body up through the rehab and the weight gain. I can’t physically crawl, but this path has been slow (like a crawl) and challenging and, hopefully, the most rewarding.

What else can I do, other than put one foot in front of the other every day and learn how to walk again. I have to remind myself that we all have battles and that this one is mine. I have no choice but to overcome it and learn how to navigate my new normal and process all of the emotions, obstacles, battles, and lessons that come with it. But that also doesn’t mean I’m going to act like it’s been easy and that it’s always okay, because it’s not and it hasn’t been.

It’s a funny time to be going through this process. The last 6 months I feel like I haven’t just been learning how to physically walk again, I feel like I’m having to learn how to “walk” in so many other ways: How to navigate relationships; How to navigate my anxiety and depression; Learning how to “walk” steadfast in my beliefs and my morals while also being open to those of others. But, most of all, learning how to stay true to myself and sticking up for myself and what I believe in. Some days are more difficult to do that than others but we can’t be afraid to stand alone in beliefs that mean so much to us. That’s what Brene Brown has taught me. “Being ourselves means sometimes having to find the courage to stand alone.” This rehab process has been very lonely. Even when I’ve been surrounded by people and friends and loved ones, I’ve felt very alone in this battle and in my mind. Learning how to walk around ALONE like that, has taught me so much and made me more aware of the world around me.

I think all of us in this country need to learn how to “walk” again. I think we’ve lost our way and have forgotten that we all do just that..WALK! Whether it’s on two feet, or one, or on two wheels, we move FORWARD. That’s what we do every day. The clock and the calendar move FORWARD. We have a new opportunity everyday to learn from the day before and make progress, try to right our wrongs, to learn about others so that we can relate to their lives and their struggles, and to support one another. Ultimately, we are so much more alike than we are different. We all want the same things for ourselves and our families: love, belonging, safety, good health, success, and happiness. We are in this together. I truly believe in the butterfly effect. We may not see the effect that our words and actions have on others but they do have an effect. We are all breathing the same air and surviving off of the same land. Do we have different beliefs and views? Of course we do. Because we all have different lives and experiences. We were all born to different families with different paths, in different neighborhoods, in different conditions. Some of us were born with more opportunities and privileges than others. All of these things make us the individuals that we are. We can’t relate to someone if we don’t TRY! We have to LISTEN! I LOVE meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures and learning about their lives. At the end of those encounters, no matter where we have come from and what we have endured, we are all people. People that want to be loved, and happy, to feel accepted and equal.

I’m almost done reading Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and I highly recommend it to everyone. That’s where her quote is from above. In this book she speaks to our current political landscape in this country and this really spoke to me: “Most of us are either making the choice to protect ourselves from conflict, discomfort, and vulnerability by staying quiet, or picking sides and in the process slowly and paradoxically adopting the behavior of the people we’re fighting. Either way, the choices we’re making to protect our beliefs and ourselves are leaving us disconnected, afraid, and lonely.” We have to connect! We can’t keep polarizing ourselves. Based on what?! In this process we are dehumanizing one another.

I often wonder, if there is a car accident or a shooting, and the person next to us needs help, are we going to ask them their religion or their political affiliation before we choose to help them? NO! Of course we aren’t. Because those things don’t really matter. What matters is taking care of each other. What matters is wanting our fellow humans on the earth to be safe, and feel loved, and wanting them to be successful and healthy and happy.

Learn how to walk ALONE, without having to fit in or be a part of a group. Learn how to think by yourself instead of getting sucked into group think. I promise, we think more alike on MOST things than we disagree, and if we would just stop and listen and discuss, rather than always be waiting to speak and argue, we could make some progress. Maybe it’s not a full walk, maybe it’s a crawl, but someone once said 😉 “Sometimes the steepest, most challenging and most rewarding paths in life are not meant to be walked, but crawled.” What an awesome reward it would be to be on the same page. We may not ever agree on EVERYTHING, or the details, but I think most of us can agree that we don’t want others to suffer or to feel less than or to feel unsafe.

I’m really just blabbering right now. I have so much to say and I don’t even know how to say it. All I know is that my heart hurts and it’s been wide open lately. Tears are coming more often than normal and I want so badly to make a difference in this world. Let’s do that together. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I will end with quotes from Braving the Wilderness. I mean it, READ IT!

“When the culture of any organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of the individuals who serve that system or who are served by that system, you can be certain that the shame is systemic, the money is driving ethics, and the accountability is all but dead.” 

“People often silence themselves, or “agree to disagree” without fully exploring the actual nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining connection. But when we avoid certain conversations, and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.” 

 

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11/13/17 – The “Sweet Knee Surgeon”

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11/13/17 – The “Sweet Knee Surgeon”

“Health care is about people making your life better.” – Susan Gast

Over the years I have updated my social media “family” with a breakdown of conversations with my knee surgeons. They tend to be quite comical, following the jokes we always have regarding me and my dancing. Some times they are sad and discouraging, sharing information about upcoming surgeries. These conversations have happened between 3 or 4 surgeons and me over the years since I’ve moved a lot and also have a hard time finding surgeons that I like. Well, about two years ago I found one that I truly LOVED!

If you follow my updates you probably know that this surgeon is the “sweet knee surgeon”. Until today, I haven’t shared his name. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. Part of it I think was just to keep that part of the relationship personal. Then today it got very personal because today I found out that he tragically passed away on Sunday in an accident on his farm. His name was Dr. Allen F. Anderson and he was an amazing man, an amazing surgeon, and I would like to say that I could even call him my friend.

Shocked.

Sad.

Sick.

Upset.

Angry.

These are many of the emotions that I have been going through today. I just saw him on October 30th. We talked about my wedding, we discussed the awful surgery he was going to perform on me on December 20th, he tried to get me paper towels to wipe my tears, we discussed my honeymoon, and, before I left that day, he hugged me. He knew I needed it and I’m so glad he did. I never thought, in a million years, that would be the last time I saw him.

I’ve missed my dad a lot more lately with the wedding and the doctors’ appointments. Ya see, if you didn’t know, my dad was one hell of a family practice PA for over 35 years, he was my “doctor” for 26 years. Since he passed away, whenever I have health issues I miss his presence, his guidance, his reassurance, and his attention to my care. It’s not often anymore that you find a doctor that you trust, that you know TRULY cares about you and has your best interest in mind. It’s not often you can look into a doctor’s eyes and KNOW that they are paying attention to you and your specific needs, fears, and vulnerabilities. My dad was that kind of practitioner and I found that in Dr. Anderson. They both had a very quiet and calm demeanor. They both listened and looked you straight in the eye when you spoke. They both cared about people and about making people feel better. They were both the “sweet” doctor.

I’ve struggled with my right knee for 20 years. TWENTY YEARS! I’ve had 5 surgeries so far and have seen close to 15 orthopedic surgeons. If you do the math, there were 10 that didn’t make the cut (no pun intended). I’m very picky. VERY picky! I want you to listen to me, to care about me, to want what’s best for ME and MY case, not someone else’s. To explain to you how much it meant to find Dr. Allen Anderson isn’t possible. It’s this comforting feeling that you can’t put into words. How do you explain an exhale of relief and reassurance in words?

We just scheduled my knee surgery date a couple days before I left on my honeymoon and I’ve had a tough time with it all, but sitting with Dr. A and going through all of my questions, seeing the pain in his eyes for me while also knowing he knew this is what was best made it easier. And then I got the call.

Shocked.

Sad.

Sick.

Upset.

Angry.

All of those emotions for so many reasons. For an amazing life lost too soon. For an amazing doctor lost too soon. For the loss of a confidant and trusted friend. For the loss of a father, a grandfather, a husband. For the assurance I lost not knowing now who I can turn to to trust to take care of me and to also CARE about me.

I may not have known Allen Anderson very long but I knew him long enough to admire him, to trust him, to appreciate him, and to love him. I hope that someone can say that about me one day. He will be truly missed.

After my father died in 2009, one of his patients wrote an article about him that I’ve shared many times. It’s crazy how topical it is today. I obviously felt the pain of losing my father differently than Susan Gast did since he was my father. Today I realized what she felt when Larry LaViola died, and it sucks. It really really hurts, and I’m just a patient of his for the past two years. I’m sharing it again below because it conveys many of the feelings I have for Dr. Anderson.

May his family find peace in their memories. May they find comfort and warmth in the love shared with them by all that he touched like we did after we lost our “Dr. Ravioli”. Today and tonight I weep with them and with a community that has suffered a great loss 😦 An article about Dr. Allen Anderson is linked to his photo below.

Health care is about people making your life better 
By Susan Gast

I don’t think a day has gone by recently in which I have not heard health care discussed, analyzed or dissected. I – like countless Americans – have listened with interest and mixed feelings.

Just over a week ago, however, my health care died. And I was heartbroken.

His name was Larry LaViola. He was a New Yorker comfortably transplanted and welcomed in the Deep South. He spoke softly, in a smooth, calming cadence – so smooth and calming that if you weren’t paying close attention you might miss the pointed ribbing he was shooting your way.

For 35 years, he practiced at Snellville Medical Group and during that time took only two sick days. Officially he was a physician’s assistant. But only officially.

To me, to my husband, to my children and to hundreds who live in southern Gwinnett County, he was our family doctor.

He was the one we went to for camp and sports physicals. He treated us for the flu, sinus infections or toenail fungus. He got us through bronchitis and diagnosed my son’s appendicitis, even when the symptoms had disappeared. He nursed us through tendinitis, referred us for X-rays and blood tests.

A tireless professional, he was good at what he did. Really good. So good that I can’t recall the last time I had an appointment with the doctor whose name is on my prescriptions.

I saw Mr. LaViola in late spring. At a Mother’s Day picnic, I had barefooted it across rocks and into a stream at a park. I stepped on something that lodged itself deep into my heel. He X-rayed it and worked on it, but was cautious about causing further injury. He urged me to call back if it wasn’t better soon.

I remember him looking me straight in the eye and telling me it wouldn’t hurt his feelings a bit to refer me to a specialist. The wound was stubborn, so he eventually did. That was the exception. Usually we had to go no farther than Mr. LaViola.

I recall that last appointment. We talked about his children, my children and the economy. On other occasions, he talked about golf or vacation spots. Occasionally it was about our community and issues it was facing.

My husband often remarked about how he looked forward to medical appointments – perhaps not to the medical part, but to the conversations and sincere health advice he would receive. They sometimes discussed Mr. LaViola’s days in the Army. My husband likened his frank perspectives to the “sanity amidst the insanity” you find in characters of TV’s “M*A*S*H.”

It was that way with Mr. LaViola. You usually emerged from his office with not only a prescription, but a feeling that you had just renewed a friendship. Not a bosom buddy kind of friendship. We didn’t hang out with him on the weekends or ask his family over for dinner. There was a lot we didn’t know about him.

But Mr. LaViola made a connection – a human-to-human connection that seemed to elevate our association above that of just a medical professional and patient.

A few weeks ago, I heard he had stopped working. He had been diagnosed with cancer. It was serious.

The community sent cards and letters. We kept in touch with the doctor’s office about him. We heard that some patients mowed his yard and took food or care packages to his home. His name appeared in church bulletins with prayers requested. The community thought it unfair that we couldn’t do for him what he had done for us.

He passed away Aug. 29 at age 62. The mass for him at St. John Neumann’s Catholic Church in Lilburn on Wednesday was packed.

On the night of Mr. LaViola’s death, someone from his office called us at home to let us know.

I knew from my husband’s voice and subdued responses what had happened. I turned down the volume of the Braves game we had been watching. When he replaced the phone receiver, we sat in silence for a few minutes, then started sharing memories of the man who had helped us raise our children and ourselves, who had touched so many lives, helped so many people.

That’s what health care is.

The debates we hear today are necessary – but they are big debates – ones that encompass law, business, economics and politics.

Real health care is personal. It is a relationship. It is one-on-one.

It is Larry LaViola. He was a wonderful friend and a wonderful healer. He has left a magnificent legacy.

I will miss him.

10/26/17 – Dear Dad, I’m getting married tomorrow…

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“You have a place in my heart that no one could ever have.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Dear Dad,

I’m getting married tomorrow! I know, crazy huh? I know that you never had a doubt, but I did. Man, this past 13 months leading up to this have been fun but they have also been incredibly difficult without you here to share them with us. I constantly think: Would dad think this is over the top? (To which the answer is usually yes.) I ask myself what you would say to me as we walked down the aisle, what song you would want to dance to. I wonder if you would make a speech that day and what you would say to Boyd.

One thing I don’t ever have to ask myself is if you would “approve” of Boyd, and that’s been incredibly helpful for me. Oh how you would love him, dad, I tell him all the time. You’d probably like hanging out with him more than me haha Boyd has so many of your qualities: he’s so kind and humble, reserved, he cares for people and puts them first, he’s smart, and he loves me. (That’s a big one!) I never thought there was a man out there in this world that would love me as much as you did, but he has proven me wrong. They (whoever “they” are) say that a daddy’s girl will find a man like her father. That couldn’t be more true in this case. I try to talk to him about you all the time so that he “knows” you. By knowing me he already knows a big piece of you, but I make sure to share stories that truly share your sense of humor and your interests. I love telling him what you would say in certain situations and we always laugh. Boyd has told me numerous times how much he wishes you were here and that he would have met you because he knows how much he would have loved you (and he would have someone to play golf with). He is a WONDERFUL man!

It’s been eight years without you, dad, and I can’t say that it’s gotten that much easier. I still think about you EVERY DAY! I have my “dad days”, as I call them, when I just can’t quite keep it together. It’s just hard, dad, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. You weren’t supposed to leave me so soon. You should have been here for my milestones, happy and sad, to hold my hand, tell me it was going to be okay, and, in this case, walk me down the aisle. I’m going to walk alone, dad, I think it makes the most sense. You spent the first 26 years of my life preparing me to make this decision on my own and to “give myself away”. Thank you for teaching me how a man should love me, how a man should treat me, and the respect that I deserve from a man. I can go into tomorrow knowing that I am making the right decision because of guidance you gave me so long ago. Thank you for raising me to be strong, confident, and independent. As you told me all the time, I know you are “still along for the ride” tomorrow and always. I actually got your words tattooed on my arm from a card you wrote me. I know, that REALLY pisses you off haha Sorry, but the irony of it all makes me giggle 😉 I wanted them to look down at throughout the day and for the rest of my life so that I NEVER forget.

I’m the Executive Director of a children’s charity, dad. You’d love these kids and their families. I always wish that you were alive so I could tell you their stories, ask for advice, and share with you their smiles and love. Every time we get an application for families that have lost a parent, it hits home and I want to take the pain away from these sweet children. I started this job not long after you died. I think I needed to find a way to continue your legacy of caring for others. You know I can’t do all the blood/medical stuff so this is the route I chose. I know that you would be so proud of me!

Well, dad, I love you! I miss you more than I can even put into words. This feeling in my heart today sucks. There’s an emptiness, a void, that no one else can fill, and I cry for so many reasons. Because I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m excited, and I just wish you were here with me in person, not just in my heart. Nate will be here and he’s doing great. Mom is incredibly happy and we are all healthy. We are going to have a BLAST this weekend, I have no doubt! He makes me SO HAPPY! The only thing that would make it PERFECT is if you were here with us but I have made sure that you are included in the day in many different ways (yes, there will be moon pies and a live -6 piece- band). I look forward to walking with you down the aisle tomorrow…in my heart, on my mind, and in your memory!

Forever your little girl!

Lauren

PS: I’m keeping our last name but I think I’m going to change my middle name to Culver, Boyd’s last name. This way we would have the same initials (LCL). Pretty cool, huh ❤

 

 

8/18/17 – In 2007, I fell in love…

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“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

Barcelona.jpg

 

In 2007, I fell in love…but maybe not in the way you are thinking. In early February of 2007 I got off of the plane in a city and country I had never been to before. Looking back now, there are many reasons that led me there: my love for the Spanish language, my desire to speak it, the experience to get out and see the world, to get TEFL certified, and, ultimately, as I told many people, “to find myself”. That sounds super cliche now but I didn’t really know how else to say it. I’m not even sure then that I knew what I meant. I just knew that staying in the states wasn’t giving me what I needed and I needed  something more.

So, as I mentioned, in 2007, I fell in love! I fell in love with a city, with a culture, with people, with streets and artists, with food and music, and, ultimately, by the end of that year, with myself. When I returned to the states and began my Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Management, we immediately had to start thinking about a thesis. I thought long and hard about my topic, about what I wanted to research and learn more about, and what I thought I could give back in this paper. It all came back to this beautiful city that I got to call home for a brief time in my past. Barcelona opened my eyes to a whole different side of how a city and it’s people can change tourism in a city, and I knew that this would have to be my topic: “Tourism under Dictator & Democracy: How the Catalan Culture and Catalan Nationalism have Affected Tourism in Catalonia, Spain throughout Changing Political Power”. I could go on and on about my findings and even share that paper with you, but I’m hoping you get the point. The Catalan people, their beautiful culture, and the love and pride that exudes from every corner of the city is like nothing I’ve ever seen or lived in since. I miss it every single day of my life.

Do you ever look at your past and think, “Did that really happen?” I think that all the time. “Did I really live there?” It seems so surreal and too perfect to have been a piece of my puzzle. Although it was long ago and the memories become harder and harder to keep clear in my mind, I can feel Barcelona in the depths of my  heart and soul, I truly can. When I start to travel down memory lane I walk the streets in my mind, I walk up to Parc Guell and down to Parc Ciutadella, down Las Ramblas to the Mediterranean. I eat patatas bravas and croquettes and tortilla de patatas, I take the train down to Castelldefels and Sitges and admire the coastline. I see all of the shops and the smell of the food. I can hear the people speaking in Catalan and in Spanish, I can hear the laughter of children playing with their families at all hours of the day, and the folks dancing during all of the festivals in the streets. I can taste the wine and the Estrella Damm, and, in these memories I am at peace.

I cry now thinking back on that short time in my life. It changed me. See, I didn’t just fall in love with the city and the culture and the people, I truly fell in love with myself. After I left I finally understood what it meant to “find myself”. I can’t explain it in a blog and I may not even be able to explain it in person, but just know that that place holds the biggest piece of my heart that any place ever will and I adore it!

When my news alert popped up on my phone yesterday my heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach. NOOOOO!!!! Not there! All of the memories came rushing back and it’s like someone had attacked my home. With so much going on here in the states I was already on an emotional edge. This attack sent me over.

I guess I’m writing this for me and for whomever will listen. My heart hurts and I was so scared for loved ones that still live there. The picture of perfection I had in my mind felt like it had been struck with a rock. What I do know about Barcelona and the Catalan people, and what they taught me in 2007, is that they love HARD! They love one another and Catalonia harder than anything I’ve ever witnessed and they will not be taken down by this hate. They fought Franco and his regime and their cultural nationalism only becomes stronger through things like this.

Our media spends a lot of time sharing so much of the hate in the world. Believe me, I know it’s there and I know it must be fought, but let’s all focus a little more on the love that counters this hate. Love really is stronger, I can promise you that! It’s lighter to bear and it brings us together. Let the Catalan people be examples and mentors of love and unity. If you want me to tell you a story or two I’d be glad to.

As I’ve heard many times in my life, “Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” I feel home this week and home hurts. Part of my heart remains in Barcelona and yesterday that piece broke. I know they will come back from this! Their tourism may take a hit but it will bounce back, my thesis tells me this 😉 People and culture make a city/region desirable and Barcelona is a city that I think many people have always longed for but just don’t know it yet. Go there! Give back to this city after all of this! And open your heart to all that it will give back to you. Who knows, you may even “find yourself” 😉

Barca, you will always be the one that got away! Destiny sure did it right bringing me to you. T’estimo!

Barcelona.jpg

3/8/17 – “Who’s walking you down the aisle?”

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“If I could get another chance
Another walk
Another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love
To dance with my father again”

Dance with my Father Again, by Luther Vandross

Getting engaged is a very weird thing, for so many reasons. I think I’m still learning some of them. Society begins to act funny towards you, everyone wants to know your business, some even know your future better than you apparently, and advice just flows like chocolate at Willy Wonka’s house. I could write on and on with how I feel about most of that, but I’m sure I’m guilty as well when it wasn’t me and I’d prefer not to feel guilty tonight 😉 Instead, I’m going to write about one specific question (well, two really) that I feel I need to explain better to the rest of society so they don’t see the need to ask anymore.

“Who’s walking you down the aisle?”

“Who’s giving you away?”

Ya see, this all stems off of another weird life changing event: losing a parent when you’re quite young. It’s funny how funny society begins to act then. (But that’s a whole different post, chapter, book for that matter, for a different day.) As most of you know, or maybe those of you around that world that sometimes visit my blog from time to time may not know, my father passed away August 29, 2009. Like many girls in this world, I was the poster child for “Daddy’s Girl”. So much so that I need to pause for a moment as I type because even typing that makes it hard for my wet eyes to see the screen.

Ok, I’m back.

I was a daddy’s girl…still am to be honest. But I also wasn’t a typical girl in the stereotypical way young girls are so often viewed. I didn’t love dolls, I hated the color pink, I wanted to be in Umbros and Sambas (look them up if you don’t know) playing with boys on the playground. I didn’t like to be called Laura because it reminded me of ballerinas not soccer players. I don’t know why, don’t ask, just did. I was always boy crazy but they never really had interest in me so I didn’t ever think of getting married. I didn’t spend my whole life thinking about it, what my dress would look like, the colors, etc. Honestly, the only thing I thought about was walking down the aisle arm in arm with my dad, seeing my mom in the front row with alligator tears in her eyes and a big smile on her face and then what my dad and I would dance our father/daughter dance too. That was IT! Truly! Those are the only few things I knew for sure would happen one day if I ever got married: I would walk down an aisle with my dad, my mom would sob and be so happy, seeing her would make me cry harder, and eventually my dad and I would dance to “You look wonderful tonight”.

Then he died.

I remember my mom telling me to “have faith” and that “miracles happen” when he was sick. It’s one of the many reasons I love her so much. She truly believes that. I almost envy her for it. But I also remember my response as I was heading from their garage into the house, “Don’t tell me that! I haven’t walked down an aisle yet!” That’s the one thing I saw blurring away into the distance when I knew he was going to die. Those memories of those moments together would never become a reality and it was crushing. After he passed away every time I have seen a friend walk down an aisle with their father or have their dance together I have done EVERYTHING in my power not to make it about me. If any of you are reading this please know that I tried not to cry, I tried not to think about it, it just happened. But please also know I have always been SO HAPPY for you in those moments and have loved getting to experience them with you. TRULY!

Then I went through some years of accepting I wasn’t ever going to get married. I had dated a lot of men and none of them were right. They weren’t (all) bad guys, they just weren’t for me for forever. So I didn’t really think about getting married anymore. From time to time when I was down and missing my dad I would get upset realizing that the main reason I was sad I would never get married was because I wouldn’t have those moments with him, my dad, one of my best friends.

And then I met Boyd. Shit! Well, two weeks into knowing him I told many of you that he was the man I was going to marry. Many laughed because I am not one to say that lightly, or to say it that soon, but I knew it. So two plus years go by and we get engaged. Wow, I’m actually going to get married, have a wedding…and my dad isn’t going to be there. (Sorry, trying not to drag this out, just give context.)

Since we got engaged many people have asked if my mom is going to walk me down the aisle and give me away. Many have asked if my brother is going to. Many have offered to. And my answer to all of these questions or offers has been, “No. No thank you. No one.” This isn’t personal. This doesn’t mean I don’t ADORE my mother, love my brother, or that I don’t realize how incredibly kind of an offer it is for men that have known me for most of my life to step in because they love me and loved my dad. Let me start with this: NO ONE is giving ANYONE away on 10/27/17! I will be a 35-year-old woman that has been on her own making a life for myself for close to 15 years. I make my own decisions and no one owns me. No one needs to give me to anyone lol I laugh because I’m not even giving myself to Boyd. I’m becoming Boyd’s partner. I am not his, he is not mine, we will still be two individuals living life side-by-side. Now please don’t get me wrong, I understand what the words “Who is giving her away?” mean and I know they aren’t necessarily meant to be taken so literally these days. But I also know I’m getting married a little older in life than many.

Now that that is off of my chest, let me say this. My mother and father did an AMAZING job of raising me, if I can say so myself, and I am honored to be their daughter. Each of them played an equal role in my development and growth and gave me more love than many will have in a lifetime. For that I am incredibly grateful. But, traditionally, it is a father that walks his daughter down an aisle, and that is the image I always had. My father and I were very open about the men I dated, he guided me through more than one break-up, gave me advice, and always knew when a man wasn’t right for me. He treated me with love and respect. He was always kind and understanding. He always knew what was best for me and helped me to learn that on my own but then was always there with me when I had to understand why. So much so that to this day I know EXACTLY what he would say to me when I am battling a decision or judging one’s character. I wish more than anything he was here to talk these things through with me but, he’s not, and that’s okay, because I knew him so well and he taught me so well that I don’t have to question what the right decision is. And when I make these decisions I know he still has my back. Why? Because he always told me, and wrote it in most cards to me, “I’m still along for the ride.” He was always on this ride called life with me. This is why when people ask me who is walking me down the aisle I say, “My dad,” because he is and he already has. He walked me through the aisles of life to get me to this point of being able to do it alone and he is always with me. 

He would have known from the first time he met Boyd that he was the one for me, that he was a wonderful man that would treat me with the same love and respect that he did. And my dad will be with me that Friday evening at sunset when I walk down the aisle, solo, as an independent woman that has chosen to spend the rest of her life with a wonderful, independent, beautiful soul that he would have adored and respected and would have been honored to call his son-in-law.

My mom will be EXACTLY where I want her and always pictured her to be: in the front row, looking at me with a big smile and huge tears in her eyes, and the last slice of love I will need before I get to Boyd and make one of the biggest commitments of my life: becoming Mrs. Lauren LaViola (because who changes a name like that?!) ❤

If I could get another chance
Another walk
Another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love
To dance with my father again

2/18/17 – It’s okay not to be okay

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“It’s okay not to be okay…” – from ‘Who You Are’ by Jessie J

From the moment I heard this song by Jessie J years ago I fell in love with it. It was this one line that instantly made me feel better. Why write about this now? Well, let me explain…

As many of you probably know, in 1998, as a sophomore in high school, I tore my ACL in my right knee. So began a close to 19-year battle with my right knee (whom I recently named “America”, because just when I thought she was doing alright, she is actually broken again and needs to be fixed.) Being a young female athlete this wasn’t really that uncommon. I had the reconstructive surgery using a piece of my own patella tendon, did some PT, and went back to sports. Only to find myself in the operating room again a year later with a torn meniscus. At that point in high school, I had accepted that any dream of being an athlete was pretty much over.

From there I went through college, Spain, and grad school always having to be careful with my knee, unable to do the things I loved. I battled excesssive weight gain and loss and pushed myself through the work outs I could do until I couldn’t take the pain any longer. My knee hurt me every day since I hurt it at age 15. In 2013 I pushed through three day a week boot camps to drop as much weight as possible because I knew my knee wasn’t right and that I must need another surgery. Knowing that meant that I knew I would be on the couch for 6-8 weeks with no way to burn an extra calorie and that I wouldn’t be back to any substantial workouts for 6-9 months. I had to get as fit as I could before that time.

I was right, another ACL reconstruction. Then, just a year later in 2014, dejavu, I was back in again for the meniscus. Something about the two ACL reconstructions was causing the miniscus to tear and also to keep me unstable. I just figured this was life now.

Jump forward to two weeks ago. My knee gave out for probably the 100th time and I fell, but this time on stairs. Normally when I have fallen I get my bearings and get back up. I’m in pain but I move forward. This time I really hurt myself and it required some X-rays. In the X-rays my new Orthopedic Surgeon saw something that shocked him. The holes in my tibia and femur where my ACL was screwed in were three times the size they should have been and not even in the correct place or direction.

Although that sounded bad I agreed to two more surgeries and jumped right in because, well, why the hell not at this point. The only thing is that I didn’t realize how complicated this first one was going to be. I thought I would be able to move around after a week and wait it out until the big one this Fall. Ya see, that’s why many of you haven’t heard from me yet, it isn’t that simple.

As my PA put it, my knee issues are abstract in the orthopedic world. This is very complicated and they have only done 3 other sets of surgeries like this in their practice’s history. Why? Because it’s rare they are needed since these surgeries are to fix other surgeries that were most likely done wrong. Can I walk this week? No! I can’t put weight on my leg completely, drive a car, or release myself from this straight brace for 5 more weeks. I was crushed!

Look, I know people have it worse than me, I get that, but this is me and this is MY struggle and I’m exhausted. Why do we always have to tell people that “it’s going to be okay”? Or tell them how to feel and point out all of the positives immediately after they get bad news or something bad happens? Stop it! Guess what? It’s okay not to be okay! It really is. For a couple of days I want to process this. This is going to effect my every day life more than it already would have pretty significantly for the next close to two months. It’s going to hinder work, my social life, travel plans, my relationships, my weight, my activity, etc. Let me be upset for a damn minute. You wanna know what else? I’m getting married in 8 months. This year was supposed to be cheesy romantic and super fun celebrating US, not focusing on my damn knee again. I’m supposed to fit in a dress that now isn’t going to fit me. I already don’t have a father here to walk me down the aisle or have a dance with and now I’m nervous that I won’t even be able to walk or DANCE! No dancing at my own wedding? If you know me at all you know how sad that makes me. So, please, don’t throw your Patty Positive in my face just yet. I’m not amused by any of this. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty damn sad.

Watch out, everyone, today on social media I’m not showing the picture perfect side of my life, today it’s real and I’m sad and angry and frustrated and a little depressed. It’s been a long 18 plus years and I’m tired. I’m tired of not playing the sports I want or not being able to go on the hike I want or not be able to exercise how I want to. I’m tired of being in pain when it rains or from walking the dog. I’m tired of hating myself for my size and my weight because I can’t be active like I used to be. For that, I’m not okay.

I will feel better and I will see all the bright sides of this. I already do. But for crying out loud I bet you’d be pretty pissed off and tired too. So please excuse me while I bitch, pout, cry, and feel sorry for myself for a moment. Thank you!

End pity party! 

That all being said…Thanks for all of the support and love. Catch me in a week when I’m shooting balloons and teddy bears out of my ass again and hate myself for throwing a pity party because I support kids for a living that fight battles a million times the size of mine. I know, you don’t have to tell me, I’m aware. 😉

1/5/17-What I actually found in my search for Peyton Manning

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“Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.” – Karen Salmansohn

 

Today Emily and I embarked on a mission for one of our CORE families in hopes of finding a way to connect them with Peyton Manning. If you didn’t see my Facebook post, I will give you a little back story. I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees in case you aren’t familiar). The mother of one of our 2016 families reached out to us today with a request. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago and, sadly, the cancer has spread and is now pressing on his heart. She fears he doesn’t have much time and wanted to do something for him. Her husband is a huge Peyton Manning fan and she wanted to see if we had any resources to get in touch with him.

That’s all I needed to hear…Being a HUGE Peyton Manning fan myself there was no other option, we had to find him and he had to get in touch with this family in some way.

I went straight to my Facebook network and shared the following post: “Dear my beloved network,
Does anyone I know have a personal connection with Peyton Manning (other than our love for him) or know someone that does? We have a CORE father that doesn’t have much time left and his wife has reached out with a special request. I’m thinking a video from Peyton to him would be AWESOME! He has the most beautiful 2-year-old daughter and my heart is breaking.
Please feel free to share this post. Thank you in advance!”

After sharing that it was shared 35 times! Yep, read that right, THIRTY-FIVE TIMES! That may not be a lot to a celebrity, but for little ol’ me in less than a day’s work, I was pumped! Not only was it shared over and over and over again by friends, their friends, friends of their friends, I also received numerous calls, texts, and messages from folks letting me know they had someone that may know someone that knows him; that they have a connection with him; that they had reached out and will get back to me. I called any and everyone I could think of that may know a way to reach him or have a connection with him. This Peyton Manning hunt was ON!

Shoot, 5 degrees of Kevin Bacon? More like 5 degrees of Peyton Manning!

At the end of the day, it was the man’s wife that got in touch with Peyton’s assistant and Peyton Manning is calling her husband tomorrow 🙂 What a beautiful woman! In the midst of what is most likely the hardest time of her life, she did whatever she could to make her husband’s final days mean something, to put a smile on his face.

What did I learn from this other than the fact that Peyton Manning is 150% the gentleman I thought he was? I learned SO much more! In our search for Peyton Manning (yes, I keep typing out his whole name because it makes me HAPPY) I was reminded about the good in people. It’s been a hell of a 6 months around the world (or more), I’m sure we can all agree, and sometimes I think I forget that we all have so much love and good in our hearts.

Today I was reminded that the friends I have met along this journey so far are top notch! Not only that, THEIR friends are also top notch! During the busy first week back after the holidays, so many stopped what they were doing to help us help a wife grant her husband’s dying wish. I know we are all swamped with emails, cleaning, meetings, calls, appointments, etc., and today I saw everyone take a few moments out of their busy lives to help support a total stranger. Ugh, brings me to tears just typing this.

In my search for Peyton Manning I found love and compassion and empathy! That, my friends, may be better than finding him at all! (Although, how dang cool is it that Peyton is going to call this man tomorrow!?!?!?) Thanks to all of you that are the reason I believe in the goodness of people ❤ It’s truly AMAZING what can happen when we all put our good energy and hearts together! I have no doubt that all the love we put out into the universe today helped to make this happen. Love trumps hate! 😉