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! 😉

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11/7/16 – I’m With Them

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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 ❤

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4/14/16 – The Pawprints left by you

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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

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

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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.

8/21/15 – The Semicolon Tattoo Project, My PERSONAL Semicolon Project Story

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“Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.” – Astrid Alauda (If only it were that easy sometimes.)

This is a blog I’m not sure I ever thought I’d write. But after some recent conversations with so many beautiful, strong, open people in my life, I realized that it’s time.

Tomorrow I get to meet Dr. Brené Brown! Do you have ANY idea how AMAZING that is? Maybe that’s what makes it easier to be extra vulnerable tonight. If so, thank you Dr. Brown, again, for making it a little easier each time.

Okay, enough stalling.

Anxiety. Generalized Anxiety. A diagnosis that many of you may not know I got as a teenager. Now, for those of you that have never heard me say that out loud, you may be thinking to yourselves, “Well that makes sense.” Or, “I KNEW it!” Either way, there it is, it’s on the interwebs forever…where I think it should be and it doesn’t define me.

Months ago I heard about The Semicolon Project, in extension, The Semicolon Tattoo project. I was intrigued, I was relieved, I was at peace. Finally! People were talking about my Voldemort (my “he” that shall not be named). For those of you that aren’t familiar but are interested, check their website out here: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/.

A brief definition from their website if you don’t currently have the time:

“Project Semicolon (The Semicolon Project) is a faith-based non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.

There are so many people out there struggling with some sort of mental illness, addiction, depression or anxiety, and not talking about it just makes it worse. I know. Because I AM her. I am YOU. I am US!

I guess it’s time to talk about it. If you don’t struggle with any of this I think it’s easy to dismiss, difficult to understand and almost impossible to relate to. We know that. That’s why we don’t always talk about it. But that’s what makes our battles more difficult and more painful.

I finally realized something was wrong when my claustrophobia got to the point of out of control. It was no longer funny that I couldn’t sleep in a tent. It was no longer funny that being locked in a closet as a joke for more than 10 seconds made me literally flip my shit. It was real and the pain in my head, my chest, my stomach and my mind was debilitating.

Being diagnosed at about 15 or 16 with Generalized Anxiety Disorder was more embarrassing than anything. By definition, GAD is “an anxiety disorder marked by chronic excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control, causes distress or impairment in daily functioning, and is accompanied by three or more associated symptoms (as restlessness, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances)” At such a young age how can people know that about you and think you’re “normal”. It was hard. Being medicated for it so young was something I kept hidden from most people. All I wanted to do was convince myself that I would get to a point in my life when I wouldn’t have to take medication, then I’d be “okay”.

For years I was on and off of medication. Most of the time I was okay, but when my dad got sick it was too much. Back on medication. Then the mental battle began again, “When will I be ‘okay’ and be able to be off the meds? I can be ‘normal’.” Please note that I’ve always gone to therapy to help with the condition. I don’t think that popping a pill is an answer in and of itself. I work SO HARD on myself, to control it, to talk myself down, to breathe, to help others be patient with me, but it’s just not that easy.

Over the past 3 or so years, it has showed it’s scary face again, more often than before. I’m older now, with more responsibility, more to lose in this world and with that load comes a lot of stress and, at times, uncontrollable anxiety. For those of you that can’t relate, I can only share the words of others that have put the feelings into words better than I can:

From an Elephant Journal Article you can find here, “You wake up with that heavy flutter in your chest and a feeling of doom. And the hardest part is that sometimes you don’t even understand why.Work becomes challenging with even the smallest task feeling like a major chore. And reaching out is difficult since the last thing you want to feel like is a Debbie Downer.

From another Elephant Journal Article you can find here, “It feels like the pain of your past is being folded into the joy of your future—and you’re left, somewhere in between, unable to grasp the present. It’s blurring the line between that which is possible and probable, quietly fighting to uncover even the slightest crack in the most brazen of armours. It’s the way you somehow always manage to find one; magnify it, expand upon it—allow it to justify the tidal waves of self-doubt as they build, bend and break to shore. It’s your needing closure to that which you hold open. It’s harboring a silent resentment over the hypothetical scenarios of your own writing, leaving them to play out on a manic loop—sparking a groundless sense of panic which swells and consumes all remaining sense or logic. It’s your questioning even the purist of intentions, deeming yourself forever unworthy—not only of that which you desire, but of that which you’ve already received. It’s tripping over your own laces, tied voluntarily between each shoe…It’s the way you plant such damning evidence in amongst the unassuming beauty of everyday life; setting yourself up as victim and condemning those you love as criminal. It’s anticipating the emptiness to a glass currently full; the crumbling of a wall that remains standing—the eventual end to a feeling finally returned.”

The only thing I can add to that is that it feels like there is a fireball in the pit of my stomach, a dizziness that not even a roller coaster can cause, a nausea that bad seafood can’t create, a sweat from a 110 degree day and a headache worse than any hangover all covered in panic and a racing mind that sends you along falling dominos into a black hole. It’s scary. It’s lonely. It’s dark. It’s painful. It’s hard. BUT, I’m trying my best. I’m doing the BEST I can. So, if it happens around you, please be patient with me.

Why am I writing about this? Why am I sharing this? Because it’s time. It’s time to open up and let others that may relate know that there are others. It makes it a little less scary and I feel a little stronger putting it out there. It doesn’t need to be something I only face in my alone time because that’s not usually when it’s the worst. It’s a REAL battle, nothing to be embarrassed of and the fact that I can get up every damn day and put my feet on the ground and choose to fight my own mind, to live my own life is something to be proud of!

This is my Semicolon story, and I’m choosing not to end it, but to continue to begin it again, every day. An author uses a semicolon when they could have ended a sentence but have chosen not to. That speaks volumes across so many levels to me. Since I heard about this Project I have wanted the tattoo. After watching this video today I am officially ready, now I just need my quote.

To my friends and loved ones, this isn’t a cry for help. It could seem that way if you can’t relate. I’m fine, I’m great actually! I’m happy, I’m successful and I LOVE my life! It’s just that some days, for me, are a little harder than others. And there is NOTHING wrong with admitting that 🙂 I just feel EVERY THING! I feel it a little stronger, a little deeper and a little longer than others. That’s all! I’m not sure I’d change that about me either. My struggles don’t define me, they just help to make me the woman I am.

To any one out there, especially to young kids and teens that are struggling with anything that makes them feel alone…you aren’t and you are NOT your struggles! Your story is NOT over yet! Put a semicolon, not a period. Get up one more day and start it all over again. Life is worth it. It may be crazy but damn isn’t it also BEAUTIFUL?

quote-Jenny-Lawson-i-was-having-problems-with-depression-and-194528

6/9/15 – Vulnerability, Risk and Connection

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“Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection…I’m inspired by everyone who shares their work and opinions with the world. Courage is contagious. My friend Katherine Center says, ‘You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.'” – Dr. Brené Brown

The last blog I wrote was a very difficult one for me to write and even more difficult for me to share. I have been thinking about it for YEARS, ever since I started this blog. I think that one of my hopes when I started the blog was to eventually share what I shared on the 4th without being scared of how vulnerable I had to be when I shared it with the interweb world and my network of family and friends. I’m not sure if I thought that day would ever come but it did…and I was immediately changed!

I received a lot of positive feedback from what I wrote and, please let it be known, that every word, share and like was noticed, appreciated, humbling and was felt in my heart and soul. It’s for those words and that feedback that I write. I read a lot on the topics of self-awareness, vulnerability, authenticity, fear and personal growth. Over the years the authors and doctors behind all of the books and journals I have read have taught me that vulnerability is not only necessary for self-growth but that the courage that it takes to be vulnerable is contagious and it is within the fear behind vulnerability that we find our strength and true selves. It’s AMAZING how true that is today after I shared one of my darkest sides last week. I truly feel like a better, stronger and more authentic version of ME and I BELIEVE what I said to myself. I have already begun to change my thoughts, the way I see and speak to myself and my word choices in dialogue with others.

It worked, it really worked, Dr. Brown!!! You were right! “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”The connection I felt with hundreds of you after I shared my blog is indescribable and connection is such a beautiful and comforting feeling. To know that there are others out there that share your same stories, struggles, pains and feelings is what keeps many of us going when the going gets tough. We are not alone in this world. We all fight very similar battles and its by putting our wounds and stories out there for all to see that we find that shared connection and reminder that it’s not just us on this roller coaster of life. It can be a beautiful ride and we don’t have to ride it alone.

Thank you to all of you that have let me know that you are in the seats with me. By being brave with my life I have helped some of you to be brave with yours and that’s the reason I LOVE to write. Thank you for making the vulnerability worth it and for being vulnerable enough to say it out loud.

Dr. Brené Brown will be in Nashville in August and I bought my ticket immediately! I can hardly wait to meet the woman that has helped to change my life, that has taught me how to be vulnerable, how to embrace my imperfections and that “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Shaking her hand and hearing her speak in person will be a true gift that I’m so excited to receive! If you haven’t read any of her work, start with The Gifts of Imperfection. Consider it a gift to yourself! (Or a gift from me!) 😉

I will end this blog with ONE MORE quote for tonight. It’s one of my absolute favorites:

E.E. Cummings

6/3/15 – We Must Change!

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“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

I feel like every time I have posted a blog over the past 2 years I have started it the same, “Man it’s been awhile since I’ve written…”, “I need to get back to blogging consistently…”, “I really miss writing…”.

Well, here I am again, same old song and dance, and all of the above is true! It’s been awhile since I’ve written, I need to get back to blogging consistently and I REALLY miss writing! It’s not that I haven’t been inspired to write, especially seeing that Bailey passed away 6 weeks ago and she was always such an inspiration for me. I’ve wanted to write about her since that sad day on April 14th so bad, I just haven’t been strong enough yet. And there have been many days when quotes have consumed my mind, I just haven’t put them to “paper”.

But today, today I feel like it’s time for me to write. To address a topic that I’ve wanted to talk about for so long. A topic that consumes my mind on a daily basis and a topic that I have carried on my back like a 5oo-lb gorilla for most of my life.

The topic is broad and can probably be broken into a few topics that all tie together:

The Power of Words, The Power of Judgement, Self-Sabotage

Our news is constantly full of stories like how hot Caitlyn Jenner is as a woman, how fat Melissa McCarthy and Kelly Clarkson are, how perfect and beautiful the Duchess of Cambridge is after having her second baby and how Giuliana Rancic is too skinny. Every magazine on the shelf has a new diet to get you “bathing suit ready”, our first comment after seeing a picture of ourselves has to do with how fat or ugly we look and we edit the picture until it doesn’t even look like us and most of us can’t take an honest compliment anymore without cutting ourselves down. I’ve had it, I can’t take it anymore, and I’m GUILTY as well! But I’m DONE!

This will be one of the most vulnerable blog posts I’ve ever written and it’s way over due.

Words

This is so true…words are an addiction! Our society is addicted to words that are killing us all slowly. Words that we use to describe and judge others, words that we use to describe and judge ourselves are drugs that we just can’t put down, no matter how bad we know they are for us and those around us. We use them and use them and use them!

“Fat”

“Ugly”

“Too Skinny”

“Sick”

“Gross”

“Disgusting”

“Gay”

These are the words we use when we talk about others and when we talk about ourselves. We comment on the appearance of other people CONSTANTLY! We are consumed by it, particularly woman. We are AWFUL to each other! We poison one another with these words and they stab like knives. They leave permanent marks on the soul and they carry on in the minds of young girls, boys, men and women like Scarlet Letters, burnt on our skin for years and years.

Why do we do this to one another? Why is acceptance of ourselves and others so hard? Why must we label and judge by physical appearance and sexual orientation? What are we scared of? Why do we spread such hate? Deep down, I know that we all want love and acceptance more than anything else in this world. That’s a characteristic I truly think all humans share at their core, yet we continue to get our next fix on such hateful and powerful words.

Since I was little I’ve been judged by my weight, by the way that I look, the way that I dress. I’ve been called such hurtful names, thinking about them brings tears to my eyes as I type right now at 32 years old. I can remember specific moments from my past and with each memory I feel a pain in my chest and a lump in my throat. Why? Because these words were SO powerful! They HURT then and they still HURT now! I will never forget them and how they made me feel and continue to make me feel. I’m a grown woman, I know that I “know better” and that I need to “be bigger than that”, but it’s not that simple. As I grew up I began to define myself like everyone else did. I was fat, I was disgusting and I was ashamed of myself. Every day my mind is consumed by my size and my appearance. I can’t remember a time when I have truly been comfortable in my own skin since about the age of 12. It was around that time that I began to talk to myself like kids did around me….and I was listening.

Be Careful

Not only was I listening I was self-sabotaging myself. I hated myself and I was inferior. Now, at age 32, I’m in a relationship with someone who thinks I’m the most beautiful person in this world and I STILL can’t take a compliment from him. HOW ANNOYING!!! I’m over it! I’m over the tears, I’m over hating myself, I’m over all of the tabloids, the news, the judgements, the hate, the poisonous words! I’m DONE!!! I’m sick of not being comfortable in my own skin and I’m sick of being defined by a society by my waist size and my figure. I’m sick and tired of it dragging me down EVERY day!

This is going to take a lot of time because I’m addicted to this drug. I’m addicted to the words, the thoughts, the constant fear of the thoughts of others. But I have to train my mind.  I don’t want to discuss “How much weight ‘he’ or ‘she’ has gained” or “How much weight’he’ or ‘she’ has lost” or “How good or bad ‘he’ or ‘she’ looks”. These conversations just make me feel worse and worse about ME. It hurts! I have to change the way I’m living this life because over a third of it is over and I can’t carry this 500-lb gorilla on my back anymore.

NO ONE CAN. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO. WE MUST CHANGE!

We truly are good enough just the way we are.

So, Caitlyn Jenner, you are a woman. Whether you are some people’s definition of physical beauty or not, you are who you are and hopefully finally comfortable in your own skin, and that’s what matters. I hope that so many out there can find comfort in your journey. Melissa McCarthy and Kelly Clarkson, you are 2 talented women and I commend you for your success and strength in such an angry and judging world. Duchess, you are a mother of 2 and a wife to the Duke of Cambridge and you seem to have such a beautiful soul, I’m sure Princess Di would be so proud, and Giuliana Rancic, you have faced personal battles many of us will never understand and have been successful in your career. You are a wonderful role model for young women in this country. To the young kid or even the oldest adult that is reading this right now, you ARE enough and you ARE beautiful the way you are.

And, last but not least, Lauren LaViola, you are a kind and successful woman who loves with a big heart, who is stubborn as a mule and who deserves a life of happiness, free of judgement. You ARE “bathing suit ready” right now, today at over 200lbs and a size 16, yesterday, and always! Your character is not defined by your weight or your external appearance and you too must change the words you use. You must stop judging others solely because you are actually, deep down, just judging yourself. You must change!

We all must change! We are bigger and better than this and we are capable of so much more! There are so many more important things to focus on in this world.

We must LOVE!