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8/18/17 – In 2007, I fell in love…


“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



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!



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


“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


“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


“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! 😉

11/7/16 – I’m With Them


I try to be as open and honest as I can and this is just something I can’t keep in any longer. I can’t hold back, the stakes are too high. Most of those on my newsfeed have shared their opinions for close to a year and I’ve held back for the most part as to not offend anyone or avoid argument. But there is nothing to argue about anymore, this is how I feel and it is VERY important to me!

I couldn’t sleep last night. When I did fall asleep I had nightmares about the election tomorrow. Who led those nightmares? Donald Trump. Even when I type that it doesn’t seem real. Do we all remember a year ago when the country thought it was a joke that he wanted to run for President of the United States of America? Read that again, folks, President of the United States of America. This is a MASSIVE job for serious people. It was a joke then and is still a joke now.

I could write on and on about why he isn’t qualified and why Hillary is, but you have all seen everything by now. Many people choose to believe that the things they see but don’t agree with are lies…funny how that works. We have a habit of not being open to information if it doesn’t align with our ideology. I don’t affiliate 100% with one of the two parties and I vote for folks on both sides, regardless of their party. I vote for people for their agendas and the issues they care about. Shoot, I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney or John McCain, but my life would be just fine if the two of them had won.

One of my biggest issues is that there are so many people out there that vote for who their parents do, their spouses do, their friends do, without doing their own research or having a voice of their own. STOP THAT! Take the time to research, read, talk to people, have your OWN voice! It’s so important! Not just in politics, but in everything we do. My own voice learned to be kind to people, not to bully people, to treat others how I want to be treated, not to judge people by their looks/background/gender/religion, my voice would be taken away if he won because he is the opposite of all I was taught. He is the opposite of what we aspire to teach children to be! WHY ARE WE GOING BACKWARDS!?

Do this one thing, just this one little litmus test, go up to a young girl or boy in this country and repeat the following things to them that Trump has said. If you can do it with confidence in your voice and no shame in your heart, then he is your guy:

“Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting, both inside and out. If you take a look at her, she’s a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’

“We’re all a little chubby but Rosie’s just worse than most of us. But it’s not the chubbiness – Rosie is a very unattractive person, both inside and out…Rosie’s a person who’s very lucky to have her girlfriend. And she better be careful or I’ll send one of my friends over to pick up her girlfriend, why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice?”

“Arianna Huffington is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision…How much money is the extremely unattractive (both inside and out) Arianna Huffington paying her poor ex-hubby for the use of his name?”

“26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

When asked about calling Megyn Kelly a “bimbo”, Trump replied: “Did I say that? Excuse me…Over your life, Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse, wouldn’t you say?”

About Miss Universe, Venezuelan Alicia Machado who Trump called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. “She was the winner and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was real problem for us.”

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it…I did try and fuck her. She was married. And I moved on her very heavily… I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”

“Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? (about Carly Fiorina)…Can you imagine that, the face of our next next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

“I could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” 

“You know, it doesn’t really matter what magazines write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

“Wonderful looking while on the ice but up close and personal, she could only be described as attractive if you like a woman with a bad complexion who is built like a linebacker”.

“I have days where, if I come home — and I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”

“I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing. Unfortunately, after they’re a star, the fun is over for me. It’s like a creation process. It’s almost like creating a building. It’s pretty sad.”

“I have a deal with her. She’s 17 and doing great ― Ivanka. She made me promise, swear to her that I would never date a girl younger than her. So as she grows older, the field is getting very limited.”

“She had the height, she had the beauty, she had the skin — the whole thing. She was crazy, but these are minor details.”

That all being said, I don’t care if you vote for her, there are other options on that ballot, I just don’t understand how anyone, in the deepest corners of their heart, mind, and soul, can vote for him. I’m not just “With Her”, it’s more than that…

I’m With Them!

I’m with the little girl that gets picked on for her weight and her looks her ENTIRE life.

I’m with the young woman that debates suicide for years because it somehow seems like it would be easier not to be alive than to face another day faced with bullies and hate.

I’m with the young woman that lost her virginity to rape and years later was raped again by one of her best friends.

I’m with the woman her lost her father and turned to food to grieve causing her to gain weight and then be left by her partner because, “He was no longer sexually attracted to her because she had gained too much weight and blamed it on the death of her father for too long.”

I’m with the young professional that is repeatedly sexually harassed by her boss at work that abuses his power because, in his words, “I’m 6 foot 3 and your boss.” 

I’m with the emotional young woman trying to run a business that gets told she’s “too emotional” like it’s a bad thing.

I’m with the sister who spends holidays at a private prison with her brother because our justice system is a mess and instead of investing in his rehabilitation the prison keeps him there for profits while he serves time for personal drug charges.

I’m the woman that works hard to support disabled children and their families.

I’m the cousin of a gay man that gets looked down upon because he wants to marry the love of his life like the rest of us.

I’m with all of these people because they are MEI AM “THEM”! These people are all me at different stages of my life. I am the people that Donald Trump doesn’t care about. I’m the woman he judges and makes fun of for how I look. I’m the woman that he blames for her own rape. I’m the woman that he says “allows” myself to be subjected to sexual harassment. I’m with “THEM”, all the people he has talked down to or about, all the people he sees as inferior and discriminates against, all the refugees that have seen a world I will never know and seek refuge for safety in our wonderful country.

He is an egomaniac that has no right to lead our country. He can’t control himself and is immediately always on the defense. He uses his Twitter account like a 14-year-old. How can this person be our country’s face with the rest of the world? How can this man represent a country like the USA? The whole world is laughing at us. We trust a man with control of our military and nuclear weapons that has such a short fuse he can’t sleep without firing back at SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!? The president is a punching bag for Americans! Always has been and always will. They have to be mature enough to keep their head high and move on, focussing on issues.

Look at this on a broader scale, you want him to be the face of our country? You want our kids to think what he says is alright to say? You want a man that doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes and is proud of that? What message are we sending?

To those that identify themselves as Republicans, I’m sorry that your party has failed you and that this is your option. Please don’t check his name just because he is “Republican”. In four years there will hopefully be a better option, I can only hope. You deserve that, our country does. Checking the box by his name says more than being AGAINST Hillary, it says that misogyny is okay, that racism is okay, that treating woman as inferior is okay. You don’t want a politician in office? Not wise to me. You want politics to CHANGE, that’s one thing, but having someone in there that knows NOTHING about politics or foreign relations and doesn’t have a policy to stand for isn’t the answer. We don’t need someone that incites hate and violence, that has supporters like the KKK.

Get more involved, let your voice be heard in the right way. Get involved in local government, start to pay attention to what’s happening in this country before it’s too late and you are so angry that you have to put the blame on ONE person. Recognize the systemic problems in this country and do your individual part to make change. Voting for Donal Trump is NOT the answer. I’m not saying Hillary is, just that he ISN’T. Four years of HRC in office isn’t going to ruin lives, it isn’t going to hurt the progress our country has made. Take those four years to learn more and be the change you wish to see in the world. Volunteer, listen to others that aren’t like you, hear their stories, understand their struggles, put yourself in their shoes.

This election has taught me lots of things but one of the biggest is that we need to educate Americans. Education is key and it needs our attention. We also need media outlets that can speak the same truths, not stretch them to meet the things that people WANT to hear but what they NEED to hear. We shouldn’t get to choose which multiple choice answer works for us as the fact in the group, there should only be ONE fact. We shouldn’t have to argue about facts, facts are facts. Now give them to us! On all mediums! Websites that make money off of sharing false information should be regulated and shut down.

The America I live in is already great, not sure where you are living, Donald. It’s not perfect but we have made so much progress. Too much progress for you to come in and mess up. But maybe you should have had your trucker hats made here and not in China, that could have been a step in the right direction.

Like I said, I’m not asking you to vote for Hillary, I’m explaining why this election is so important to ME and why I am voting for HER. I’m proud of my vote for her, most of you probably know that. And my fingers are crossed that tomorrow we make history together and continue towards progress in this country.

Below is linked to her final campaign speech ❤




4/14/16 – The Pawprints left by you

4/14/16 – The Pawprints left by you

“The only thing wrong with dogs is that they can’t live forever.” – Unknown

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January 19th, 2003 my college roommate and I went to love on all the dogs at the Humane Society inside Pet Supplies Plus in Knoxville, TN. We had a habit of doing this and we always walked out feeling better and WITHOUT a new pet. That day was different. While we were there a skinny little black and white pup they called “Promise” crawled up into my lap, licked my face and curled up in a little ball. DONE! SOLD! MELTED! After a few lies about where I lived and the pet policy, January 19th, 2003 is the day that I became a mom.

“Promise” was eventually renamed to “Bella” for a few short days until all of the neighbors decided to have dogs named “Bella”. It was then, after thoughts of coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream (black with notes of white and brown, like the rescue dog) that my baby was named “Bailey”. When I finally told my parents that “my boyfriend had gotten me a dog for Valentine’s Day” my father responded how I expected, “I didn’t say I would put a dog through college.” So there I was with a ton of new bills and responsibility at 20 years old. After waking up at 4am every day for a few weeks, I thought two things: 1- This was the worst decision of my life! 2- This was the BEST decision of my life! And over the next 12 to 12 and a half years it is the latter that remained true. Over that time frame we lived in 9 different homes across 4 states and she was a trooper through it all.

Today marks the one year anniversary of saying goodbye to my sweet, sweet Bailey Marie. Right now actually marks the exact time I kissed her muzzle one last time as I said, “You were the most AMAZING dog I could have ever asked for. You are so loved, and so appreciated and so many people send their love to you right now. You will be missed more than you know but mom will be okay, I promise, I’m in good hands. You can go now. Know that you took such great care of me for 12 and a half years and that I will be okay without you. I’m so grateful for you. Thank you for being so amazing, for being the sweetest dog in the world. You were my best friend and you saved my life so many times. It’s okay, you can go now. I love you.”

As I type this I am in tears. I still miss her every, single, day! Sometimes I think I hear her in the house. Her photo is on a canvas on my wall and a few photos are framed throughout the condo as well as her ashes. She was my first child. I don’t plan to have non-fur children so she will ALWAYS be my “first born”. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more loving, more comforting, and more beautiful little girl. I will never know the loss of a child for a parent but I do know my loss and what it taught me…what SHE taught me!

I look back at my Gratitude Journal (that I do a TERRIBLE job of keeping up with) but there is one thing that is consistently on my list of 5, Bailey! Oh how grateful I still am for her. Bailey taught me about:

  • unconditional love
  • commitment
  • personal responsibility
  • patience
  • discipline
  • time management
  • financial responsibility
  • grief

This time, this day, last year was the second hardest day of my life. Bailey was the one that got me going through the first. When my dad passed away I was in grad school and working full-time. I was exhausted and some days it was hard to keep going. But coming home to Bailey’s wiggly butt and wagging tail every night got me through it. Bailey would lick my tears and lean against me through the crying fits and hardest nights. I wasn’t alone because I had her there with me. That is the one thing I am most grateful for. I don’t think I could have gotten through losing my dad, finishing my masters and maintaining a job without her. Actually, I know I couldn’t have.

Today’s blog and my first blog in months is dedicated to my sweet Bailey girl, Bailey Marie. Oh how I miss you so. Thank you, again, for EVERYTHING! I will be forever grateful.

There’s a saying, “The first dog is the dog that gives you so much that the first dog is often the reason for the second dog.” I guess that’s where Maya came from. It was very hard to get Maya. Not that I don’t love her with all I have but just that she wasn’t BAILEY and I didn’t know if my heart was ready. Now I realize that that’s okay and that no one will ever replace her, but I can take all the love I gave to Bailey and give it to Maya. I never thought there could be a dog as sweet, loving, and kind as Bailey, but I’ve been proven wrong. I know that 12, 13, or 14 years from now I will be writing a very similar blog about “Maya Marie”.

Bailey Marie, “my heart will always wear, the pawprints left by you”. ❤

In loving memory of Bailey Marie LaViola, 7/1/02 – 4/14/15



10/27/15 – Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason


Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I’ve seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time.

I’m listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.

He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.

And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:

Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to me—after all these years working with people in pain—that so many of these myths persist. The myths that are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication. The myths that preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on a increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in many ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amidst loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.

The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amidst devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

What to Offer Instead

When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone—anyone—into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.

Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words:

I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.

Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything butsomething is incredibly powerful.

There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.

Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you’re not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you’re not doing anything that you must stay.

Because it is in those places—in the shadows of horror we rarely allow ourselves to enter—where the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.

Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.

You are more needed than you will ever know.

And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there.

Everyone else can go.