Month: May 2014

Angeline Allessandri

Angeline Alessandri

Angeline Alessandri is a regular in our Monday evening yoga class, and the Sunday morning yoga class…in fact, she’s pretty much a regular at most of the classes at our local gym. Angeline is a 2009 graduate of Elizabethtown College with a degree in Elementary Education and is a first grade teacher with Manheim School District. She is also certified in Early Childhood Education and ESL and will finish a Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language in August. She is absolutely one of the most positive people I know, but she manages to be both positive and realistic. It’s funny, when I interview most women, they are sometimes puzzled by why I’d pick them as “incredible.” Angeline is one of those humbly incredible women who do such good work in the world. I’d trust my first grader to her any time and I’m glad that teachers like her are around to guide our young ones.

Q:  As a first grade teacher, what message do you have for the world?  You see so many kids where they are eager to learn and at such an interesting stage in life, what should people know about what you do?

AA: Kids are fascinating- plain and simple. I learn just as much from my little “firsties” as they do from me. They are kind, forgiving, intelligent, playful, imaginative, engaging, caring, and inquisitive- all at the same time with 150% gusto!  My first graders teach me a lot of about life. They are so impressionable. They LOVE everything. They think everything is spectacular and new and exciting. It’s exhilarating to work with kids- it gives you a new outlook on life for sure. Sometimes the biggest obstacle of their day is what lunch choice to make!  And it’s so adorably fascinating to watch something like that. They’re just so pure and innocent. It’s refreshing in the busy world in which we live in.

People should know that teachers are some of the hardest working people I know. It’s common for people to say to me, “Must be nice to have your summers off!”, but being a teacher is so much more. Teachers are some of the most dedicated and passionate people I know. We love our craft, we love to learn from each other, and most importantly we love the feeling of knowing that we’ve touched the life of a child. If you know a teacher, thank them. It means the world to us to know we’re appreciated. I’ve heard it said that teachers are in it for the OUTCOME and not the INCOME. There’s a world of truth to that saying.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in your line of work?

AA: The biggest challenge in my line of work is probably leaving “work” at “work”. As any teacher knows, we are constantly taking steps to better ourselves as educators- to do more and become more for our students. Especially when I taught in the inner city, there were difficult stories and baggage that my students came to school with each and every day. Teaching is something that takes a lot of an individual- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think that every teacher would agree with me that there are days that we feel defeated and there are days that we feel like we’re on top of the world. It’s being able to understand the importance of doing the best we can each and every day and to the work that’s left undone or unfinished, knowing that it’s okay to pick up where we’ve left off the following day.

Q: If you were moving and could only take one shoebox of your most treasured things, what would be in it?  (Assume all your basic needs are met).

AA: My kindle (I love to read), family photos, a deck of cards (I’m a sucker for card games), and my recipe book full of family recipes.

Q:  What question did I miss?  What else should I know about you?

AA: My friends constantly refer to me as the “eternal optimist”. In every single situation that I’m put in, I find it my goal to find a silver lining. It could be a 90% chance of rain and I’ll keep talking about the 10% of possible sunshine- it’s sometimes almost laughable!  But I don’t let the little things bother me…I don’t see a point in seeing the glass half-empty. I am blessed beyond belief and I spend my days acknowledging that gift. I enjoy the little things in life. I take time to tell my friends and family how much they mean to me every chance I get.

Oh yeah…and I love to bake cupcakes 🙂

Elyse Venturella


Photo credit: Georgia Darlow (

Photo credit: Georgia Darlow (

Elyse Venturella is a licensed social worker in Philadelphia. She is a trauma therapist for adults and children, focusing on survivors of sexual abuse and prostitution. Elyse also volunteered as a social work consultant from August 2013 to January 2014 with Abide in Uganda. During her time at Abide she contributed to social work documentation, family assessment, home studies, and providing training in mental health, specifically trauma. Back in the States, Elyse recently completed her 200-hour power vinyasa yoga teacher certification at Anjali Power Yoga. As she works towards a career in trauma-focused yoga, Elyse and fellow Philly yoga teachers are starting the Kali Yoga Project, which offers weekly on- site yoga classes designed to promote community, emotional regulation, and safety. The Kali Yoga Project creates community that empowers and supports individuals with substance abuse, mental health, and/or related traumas. Learn more: kali_yoga (Instagram), or email Elyse earned her masters in clinical social work at Temple University.

Q:  Can you tell me more about Abide Family Center  How did your work with Abide lead toward Kali Yoga?

EV: Abide Family Center is located in Jinja, Uganda. I resided there from August 2013 to January 2014. I served as a social work consultant for the launching year of the center. The center’s mission is to keep children in families not orphanages. The center provided income generating programs, classes, family counseling, emergency housing, and much more. While I was there, Stitched Together was launched as one of the income generating programs. It all began when I asked a tailor if she would make me a yoga mat bag. The items (yoga mat bags, children’s clothing, lunch bags, etc.) are handmade by Ugandans who are apart of the family center. I sell the yoga mat bags in the States and the proceeds go directly back to the Center. Abide inspired me because the social workers and founders truly understood the value in family and community strength.

I returned to the States to begin yoga teacher training at Anjali Power Yoga. Prior to Uganda, I completed trauma yoga trainings with Yoga Gangster and Street Yoga. I began sharing yoga at Womanspace, where I was a therapist for women with concerns related homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health. Yoga followed me to Uganda where I shared it at Abide, Ekisa (an orphanages for children with physical and mental disabilities) and a local cafe.

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself” (Alan Alda) is a very inspiration quote connecting to my teacher training experience and reason Kali Yoga Project is launching. The Kali Yoga Project is a group of Philadelphia yoga teachers and I who are reaching out to various organizations that serves communities with substance abuse concerns. Other concerns may include mental health, sex work, abuse, and violence. We are very much in the beginning stages of this project. Our intention is to bring weekly yoga classes to the organizations. The long-term goal is to have a space for yoga classes, computers for job searching, practicing interviewing skills, etc. Yoga will act as the springboard to empower individuals to apply for work, housing, and other additional services to increase their effective support network. Right now, Kali Yoga Project is accepting meetings with organizations that would like weekly yoga on-site…so one step at a time!

Q:  You mentioned the Alan Alda quote earlier (“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself”). What have you discovered about yourself through your journey?

EV: When I left the States to travel to Uganda, I went to get clarity and to gain some perspective about who I was, as well as support Abide Family Center. The one thing I gained by going away and not knowing anyone and being in such a different culture is that if you stand in your power, if you stand in who you are, it radiates into other people. I found strength even in unfamiliar places, if I stood there and said “Here I am, I have not idea where I am, and that’s ok.” I learned that I’m willing to keep learning to make a mistake, and that’s ok. People ask with Kali Yoga, “What will happen in 5 years?” I don’t know. I have a vision (to have a studio) but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Being ok with not knowing has been a huge lesson. But I also learned that if I try, then I’ll know.

Q: Can you tell me about a time when you were traveling when you realized that you were here on your own with no one else to rely on?

EV: One time, I realized that dealing with corruption especially where it relates to adoption. I was in a government meeting with biological parents and potentially adoptive parents. I saw the bio parents pressured to give up their kids for adoption. I saw that if someone had money, they would get what they wanted. There was nothing that I could do to change the situation and the children went to the adoptive family. That was one of the hardest things about living in Uganda.

Q: Besides your work in Uganda, you also work in Philadelphia.  Can you tell me about your work and how yoga impacts your work?

EV: In Philly, I’ve been a trauma therapist since I was in grad school. I got my masters in social work in 2012 at Temple University. I had an internship in drug and alcohol rehab. All the women I was assigned to had a background in prostitution. This sparked my interest. After graduation, I got a position at Joseph J. Peters Institute in Philadelphia, where I currently work.

Yoga first impacted me as self-care. Hearing trauma day in and day out can be taxing, and the yoga studio became my sanctuary. When I did two trainings (Yoga Gangster and Street Yoga), I realized that if this works for me, why can’t it work the same way for my clients? I started to share yoga with clients at a treatment facility. The first part of our sessions was yoga and the second part was an open discussion about wellness. The women LOVED it! The women accepted yoga (mostly) and as long as they were breathing, they were doing yoga. So Kali Yoga will be working with these therapy centers to bring yoga.

Q: Tell me about Kali Yoga.

EV: I went into TT so that I could become a yoga teacher with my clients, who are victims of abuse. I’ll balance my job as a trauma therapist and work with Kali Yoga. We reach out to organizations and coordinate yoga teachers to their sites.

Q: Prostitution – What should people know from your point of view?

EV: It’s one of those things that has become such a reality for me. Other people have a hard time believing that this is happening in Philly in 2014. My clients are part of Dawn’s Court – they have a significant amount of prostitution on their record. None of these women wanted to be prostitutes. They fell into it because of drug and alcohol or they needed money. A lot of my clients started prostituting as young teenagers. A lot of them do it because it’s easy money – they can quit drugs or alcohol, but they are so numb to prostitution. They don’t view things that have happened to them as abuse, but simply part of the job. There are so many layers that keep women connected to prostitution including culture, friends, and family. But I have never had a client say, “I woke up one day and wanted to prostitute.” It becomes so comfortable and what they know.

The other problem in Philly is that the cops arrest the women, but not the men who are buying them. One thing I’d like to see happening is that the police crack down on the men who purchase the women.

Q: What is the goal of your work with prostitutes? What is a measure of success in your work?

EV: In terms of success, the clients that I would deem very successful are the ones who create a sense of community in their lives – a church, family, work, school, they have AA or NA group. The ones who create a new supportive community are the ones who succeed. This is one reason that I want to start Kali Yoga, because yoga is my community, my safe place, and I have a sense of belonging there. I want that for these women – so they feel confident in a community. When women engage in prostitution and drug and alcohol, they are alienated, they don’t have a community any more. The ones that create that community are the ones succeed.



Marie-Louise Abram

Marie-Louise Abram

Photo credit: Amy Kann

Marie-Louise Abram is the Director of International Programs and External Relations at Penn State Harrisburg.  She and I have traveled together on Penn State study trips to China and India and each time I have been impressed with Marie-Louise’ inherent grace.  Nothing seems to fluster her and she navigates cultural norms easily. She has a PSU graduate degree and a Vanderbilt undergraduate degree.  Her volunteer works includes multiple board appointments, and her hobbies include dance of all types, including the Argentine tango, music, and investing.  She is a mother to a university student studying music and pre-med studies. Marie-Louise has continually been an inspiration to me and with every conversation we have, I leave with more to think about.

Q: You have such an interesting role at Penn State. Can you tell me some of the most rewarding parts of your career?

MA: I have the distinct pleasure to see and experience people, places and things from all over the world with my work in university international programs.  My   experiences can take multiple forms so that stakeholders can be as diverse as college presidents, ambassadors, students, donors, etc.  This intersecting point is rich with possibilities and creates value for anyone involved.  It is amazing to watch an idea come together with different people providing what is needed.  The joyful moments come when you hear a new perspective emerge as one learns about a new culture, country or people.  Students always provide lightness and joy in those moments, and it works for the visitors we host from overseas as well.

Q: You traveled a great deal growing up; what lessons did your childhood teach you?

MA: My childhood shaped my life in every way.  Growing up in an international family where we spent childhood summers in Lebanon with my grandparents was a gift.  It was incredibly fulfilling to be part of a family whose members are diverse in their interests and experiences and would do anything to support each other.  The extended family is accomplished and unique.  They live and travel all over the world, and speak multiple languages.  For example, my mother went to medical school, became a biochemist, and as a woman of her time, it was remarkable.  She was encouraged by her father who was a pharmacist, businessman and diplomat with ties to Egypt and the United Kingdom.  He encouraged my mother to achieve, accomplish, and make a career.

Against the backdrop of my childhood, I was able to see the contrasts between cultures.  I could see as an American how we are raised to be individually minded, while most parts of the world, like the Lebanese, work together to make each other whole.  During my childhood, Lebanon was thriving, but by the time I was 15, we stopped our trips due to the war years.  Those were terrible times and people suffered.  Much was lost and it was devastating to lose regular, personal touch with family.  That longing shaped my attachment and affection for the country and family.

Those early times in Lebanon taught me how humor, good will, and an understanding people of different cultures are critical.  The world seemed flat because I had to negotiate with parents from a different culture and learn to my hometown in South Carolina.   It requires a lot of agility and stillness to modulate between different cultures.  It did produce some anxiety about functioning in different cultures, but without knowing, one integrates different expectations.  This perspective still resonates with me and works well.

Q: Tell me about your interest in investing?

MA: I enjoy markets and investing.  While in graduate school, I started to develop more interest in international investments, microfinance in particular, and made a trip with a group of bankers and investors to Argentina to see firsthand how this type of business works.  It was inspiring to see capital being made available to people who did not have access to traditional banks and sources of money.  These types of small loans were making a difference in people’s lives in astounding ways.  Businesses could grow and families could thrive, and donors or investors could know that their money was stimulating an economy and provide sustainable autonomy to these entrepreneurs.  My interests have grown from there, but I will always remember the micro bank’s customers and their stories.

Q: What is something that everyone should know?

MA: There are several things I ponder:

  • We come from the most creative force in the universe – whether you call it God, the Holy Spirit, the infinite field of possibilities, etc. and that this force is feeding us every moment.  This creativity is beyond anything we can imagine and speaks through our instincts and the people we encounter.
  • It’s easy to forget to trust yourself.
  • It helps to remember that we are all in this together, and seeing ourselves as interdependent is necessary.
  • Choosing the high road and kindness always pays off, even when you feel like you’re losing something in the process.
  • Peace of mind and health is worth everything.
  • The truth will always be revealed, even if it’s not on your timeline.
  • Following what you love is the path filled with grace.
  • Choosing love over fear is a relief!

Q: Describe what inspires you.

MA: I know when something or someone is inspired – it takes my breath away.  I’m inspired by simplicity, brilliance, intellectual genius, generosity, creativity, beauty, nature, my daughter, joy, laughter, music – it goes on and on.  I’m particularly awed and humbled when I can connect with someone who clearly is bringing inspiration and encouraging the idea that all is well.

Yashira Rivera

Yashira Rivera


Yashira Marie Rivera-Calero is an enthusiastic and passionate volunteer that in the span of 11 years has contributed to 15 different organizations. Her exposure to volunteering came from a childhood coach that provided a positive atmosphere and shelter to Yashira a girl, with an uncertain future. A graduate from the Art Institute of Philadelphia with a degree in Fashion Design, she currently uses her design experience to style clients at Dress for Success with the South Central PA affiliate. She truly believes that regardless of background and social standing any individual has the ability to persevere. She is in the process of launching, a personal composition blog that will use inspirational stories, art, and volunteerism to help women regain confidence. Her volunteerism and dedication has awarded her the 2013 Community Involvement Award through Northwest Savings Bank, an award granted to one regional employee yearly.

Q: You have a broad range of volunteer experience and you mentioned a childhood coach that “provided a positive atmosphere.”  Can you tell me more about that influence on your life?

YR: There was a point in my early teens where everything seemed to be falling apart. The relationship between my parents, certain living conditions, peer relationships, and the large gap between my siblings and me made it seem as if I was an only child.  My childhood coach was fully aware of my personal life and became a beam of light. She became a mentor and helped me become involved in sports, extracurricular activities, clubs and volunteerism. Once I volunteered for events such as, Swap Shop, an exchange event were individuals with torn and tattered clothing could be exchanged for clothing of a better quality. I then became humble and realized that there are other individuals that go through life challenges that are more challenging than your own. Instead of reprimanding me for my unacceptable behavior she nourished me with tough love and encouragement to persevere. After that first experience, I was involved in the Renova Center in Lebanon and Cedar Haven. In college I was a part of Philabundance and other charitable events. I didn’t volunteer for many years until I helped out the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which rekindled my passion for volunteerism.

Q:  How does working with Dress for Success utilize your fashion degree?

YR: I saw the interview you had with Ruth Koup and she is an incredible inspiration. Having a degree in fashion design along with experience has helped me utilize many of my skills while suiting clients at Dress for Success. In art school I learned:

  • Fashion Trends/Colors
  • Fashion Sketching
  • Draping
  • Illustrator/Photoshop
  • History
  • Pattern Making & Draping
  • Extensive knowledge in sewing
  • Time Management

All these skills are used when suiting/styling a client.  One thing I learned in suiting clients is the variety shapes and sizes of women and what colors/prints and styles look best. The average fashion mannequin or fashion model tends to be thinner than the average women. Something many women have to think about when it comes to image.

Q: Tell me about M0ntage.  What is your inspiration and how will you change the world?

YR: will be a personal life/style composition by Yaya (ME). My inspiration will be one featured story monthly of a woman with positive image to other women. I will also be documenting my journey as a public speaker at events/organizations about volunteerism and how it helps people improve as a human being.  Lastly, using various forms of art along with the other topics to help women regain confidence. My goal for is for it to be an escape for women to find a positive form of social media. As women, we have to take a stand against negativity and work with each other to form a positive movement. I want women to understand that they are accomplished and beautiful regardless of the daily challenges life brings. I truly do believe that regardless of background and social standing any individual has the ability to persevere.  If one person is inspired enough to become the person they dream of becoming by reading, then it is the beginning of a tremendous movement. I am currently in the process of building the website and hope for a launch this year!

Q:  What makes you joyful?  Where do you find inspiration?  Where does peace come from?

YR: I love laughing, and singing (though I am a terrible singer) and dancing. I love spending time with the individuals in my life that remind me of my greatness when I forget.  I find inspiration from anything such as: music, film, art, and other inspirational women. I hope to become the absolute best person I can become regardless of all the obstacles life brings.  I get my peace from exercise, and hearing the impact I’ve left on a client’s life.  Hearing what people say about how I have affected their lives brings me the greatest peace.  It shows that regardless of the doubts I may have, I am gearing towards the correct path in my life.

Lori Renwick Zaimovic

Photo Credit: MJR Photography

Photo Credit: MJR Photography

Lori D. Renwick Zaimovic is a former helicopter pilot, a humanitarian specialist, and an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves who currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany.  She is newly married to a Bosnian National, and their first child is due within the month (Congratulations, Lori!). Lori is also working on the film “TROOPER,” which is in the final stages of distribution.  This personal project is a story about a returning Veteran from the wars who is faced with everyday situations, decisions and delusions of life after war.  TROOPER started from a poetry reading and has led to her Executive Producing the film. According to Lori, “life has brought me a lot of opportunities through choices that I have made and I consider myself “lucky.”

Q:  I am totally impressed that you flew Blackhawks!  Was it always a dream of yours to fly?  How did you come to be a pilot?

LR: I have to correct your question. I didn’t fly Blackhawks; it’s much cooler than that! I flew Apaches, AH-64A models.  This is the Army’s gun ship.  However, of the four conventional airframes, they all have their mission and importance in the big scheme of things.

My story isn’t as magical as those whose life led them down a path of their dreams coming true.  Mine was a bit more about determination and a moderate amount of work.  I never dreamt of being a pilot or of being in the military.  From an early age I wanted to be a pediatric doctor.  When I entered college as a pre-med student, I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the lab work required of a Chemistry Pre-Med student and that I didn’t have the drive to do well enough to succeed.  I was working to pay for food and housing and an occasional dinner out, like normal college students.  After a full summer of course work, I thought that it would be fun to take a R.O.T.C. course that also gave me credit towards my “gym” requirement.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take the time out of my normal course work.  I found that out of all of my classes that I excelled in the R.O.T.C. environment, established many friendships that were lacking due to no free time, and had fun rope bridging, rappelling, etc.

After realizing that I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, I had a small crisis, since this was the only thing I had ever dreamt of doing.  I took half the fall semester and the spring semester off of my sophomore year to try to decide what I would do.  I knew I would return to college, but I didn’t know what my goal was and therefore didn’t see the point in spending money on school just to be there.  I took the time to do some soul searching and make decisions.  I got several misc. jobs to pay the bills and came up with the solution of joining the Army.  Once that decision was made, I thought…the only thing I would want to do in the military is fly.  So I set my sights on that goal.

Along the way, I was told that I couldn’t fly because I wore glasses.  I read regulation after regulation and determined that this wasn’t the case.  A future commissioned officer in the Army only needed to have 20/50 vision, a rule that I had to use in the future when a military doctor during my “first” official flight physical tried to disqualify me, remind him of.  Then I was told that I couldn’t fly Apaches by an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in my R.O.T.C. chain of command because I was a woman.  Again I researched and found out that that rule had been out the window in 1995 (I would be graduating in 1997).

I graduated with honors from college, and was in the top 2 of my R.O.T.C. class.  Both of these as well as a good showing at the summer course required for all R.O.T.C. cadets, I was awarded my first choice of branch, Aviation.  I would have to wait until I was in Flight school to learn that I also was awarded Apaches.

Q:  Congratulations on your first child! What is the biggest lesson that you want your child to learn?

LR: Benjamin is due on the 21st of May, so that puts me out only a couple more weeks!  Yikes!  Trying to answer this question actually makes me a little weepy.  Silly hormones – or that fact that it’s such an important question, who knows which…  There are so many things that I think are important to teach him and yet I have some difficulty pointing to how I really feel.  I want him to respect life and treat it as the gift that it is.  I want him to know that all people are equal in their own way and that you have to accept people for who they choose to be an not who you think or want them to be.  I want him to be responsible for his own actions and contribute to society in a positive way.  I want him to love openly and freely and to find a partner that is his equal in every way and that will challenge his thinking and ideas.  I will want him to embrace this challenge.

Q: Businesses, especially international ones are really interesting to me.  You bought a business in Sarajevo and Croatia? What are you working on?

The international business that I first purchased is an individual franchise of No+Vello in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  No+Vello is a Spanish franchise opportunity that came across my path during a coffee break with one of my girlfriends.  She and I were discussing business ideas and opportunities when I shared a desire to open a spa style center, only my idea was and is still so grandiose that its not a practical start up…  She told me about an opportunity her sister had considered and talked about the city of Tuzla as one of the biggest cities still in BIH that was available.  The franchise was a reasonably priced start-up and one that I could do with my savings as well as use as a stepping-stone to get to that grandiose plan from earlier…

I opened No+Vello in Tuzla with the help of my future husband Ismar.  It is incredibly challenging to run a business in a country where I don’t fully speak the language or understand the business rules and law.  I had to do a lot of research to ensure that we aren’t taken advantage of or lose an advantage simply by not knowing that it existed.  Once the single franchise was running well and returning a profit, I started to think about ways to improve the business.  We discussed options between ourselves about opening a Master Franchise of the same, No+Vello in several different countries.  Croatia was where we felt our opportunity of success was the greatest given the cost of doing business.  After quite a bit of deliberation and consideration, we decided to take the plunge as a married couple.  Luckily, the language of Croatia is very similar to Bosnian and my husband is able to handle the operations of the business and I handle the expansion.  I hope that the two business ventures will allow me to bridge the gap between working for someone else and receiving my pension, and/or they will be the stepping-stone to my bigger plan.  Until both are fully functioning, that answer remains to be seen.

Q: How do you juggle the demands on your time?  What brings you balance?

LR: My biggest demand is yet to come with Benjamin’s pending arrival.  I handle the challenges day-to-day and hour-to-hour.  I think women are good at multi-tasking.  We handle all sorts of situations as they hit us and we are resilient and flexible.  I have had to temporarily give up some of the things that I love, like traveling to new countries and taking classes for personal growth, however, I’m growing through personal adventures.  And I understand that sometimes there needs to be a temporary suspension of desires to allow for a greater goal.  My husband and I agree that we will focus our ambition and knowledge and make sacrifices early, making the businesses successful so that we can enjoy our children when they are at ages of remembrance.  It isn’t always easy and I break down from time to time.  But I don’t think of that in a bad way…it’s about picking yourself back up, dusting off and being stronger afterwards.  It’s a state of mind and every now and then it needs to be rebuilt.

As for balance, sometimes I just take a little me time and recharge with family and a massage.  A trip, no matter how long, to the ocean or water body, feeds my soul, maybe it’s my “cancer” horoscope influence, but it has always allowed me to put things in perspective.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?  Alternately, what didn’t work out as planned but taught you a huge lesson in life?

LR: I hope that I will be most proud of how I have raised my children.  However, this remains to be seen!

For now, I guess I would say that I am proud that I have taken the divergent paths in life that most others wouldn’t choose.  No labels define who I am.  They simply have added to my life experiences.  To really know a person you have to be able to reach their soul for understanding.