Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


Happy Birthday to Me! 30 things to look forward to in my 30’s from 30 people I love, admire, look up to/want to be in my 30’s… ;)


Time sure is flying by; it seems like just yesterday I was a little tot hanging spoons from my nose and olives from my fingers. Ahhhh, deep sigh, such is life… always moving forward.

Stepping out of my 20’s and into my 30’s for the first time seems terrifying— to soften the process I reached out to 30 people who I love, admire, look up to/want to be in my 30’s… and I asked them to please provide some insight (some hope) with things to look forward to in my 30’s. I was unprepared for the responses my friends, teachers, and family provided and found myself tearing up (and laughing) more then once. This exercise in asking for others experience on the passing of years took me to a higher level of appreciation for my relationships and the beauty of life. These little messages came from people all over the world and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who participated. I can honestly say that I am thrilled to be entering my 30’s. Life is good! 🙂


Pat Pauline:

When I was 30 I had a precious baby girl named Theresa Rae. It was one of the highlights of my entire life. Andrea, Leah & Jenna were also born when I was in my 30’s. 30 is NOT old. It is a time for new beginnings! For me, it was the beginning of motherhood. 30 is just another birthday, so is 40, 50 & 60…hopefully 70, 80, & 90 will be too. What matters isn’t how old I am but how appreciative I am for what I have. There is always always always something to be thankful for, sometimes I just have to look a bit harder. Look for the blessings in your life; it beats the alternative.

Jade Mapes:

In my 30’s I find that I love and respect myself so much more. I have more faith in God and have a deep knowing that through all life’s ups and downs I will always be ok. Choices I made early on that seemed like life or death or potential mistakes, I realize now were so important in making me who I am today. I care less what others think knowing that my path is mine alone and in return am gentler on others giving them that same freedom.

Connie Queen:

-Turning 30 find one true friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.

-Turning 30 know where to go — be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat — when your soul needs soothing.


Turning 30, get your shit together.

No more tomorrow, no more later, no way

If you feel, say

If you see, do

What you need to

3 stands for sensitivity and expression

0 represents inner gifts

So be ready for some major shifts

This is your time, this is the age

Three decades over, now turn the next page


I love to be in the thirties:) For every year I get more connected to myself… And the blossoms that grows out of that (like my trip to India) and my Yoga and art studio is adirect result of trusting myself and getting more close to my true nature. I needed all this years to loose my self and rediscover myself, collect experience…

Shanti Devi:

– When you turn 30, you are old enough to do whatever you want, and still young enough to do whatever you want

– Look forward to becoming confident in your own skin and feel freer to let go of hang-ups.

– More wisdom to know whom you are and what it is you want out of life.


I loved being in my 30s – I am 50 now and that isn’t so bad either!

In my 30s, I got properly sober for the first time, and then tackled a lifelong belief that I was stupid by going back to school and getting my first degree!

In my 30s, I became truly fit for the first time in my life, learning how to swim lengths in the local pool and cycle hard and fast on city streets.

I made lifelong friends from all around the world and learnt how to use the Internet and program websites.

In my 30s, I bought a little Oxford English Dictionary and began to teach myself to use words differently, word by word. I had never been careful with words before and had had a poor education. I went on to write short stories and even won a competition called Queer Rites. Later I became a journalist.

When I think of being in my 30s, I think of Dublin. I think of living in a broken-down but utterly beautiful Georgian house near the city center, painting murals and listening to and learning about Bach and Pat Metheny with the windows open in the summertime. I think of sunbathing in Dublin’s parks, and hanging out with friends, getting fit, swimming in the freezing sea, eating chips off newspaper and visiting family and friends by bike all weathers. True, I hadn’t a clue about life but whether I knew it or not, I did understand some of the simple laws of being happy as I still love the same things I loved then.

I still have the dictionary. I still program websites. I still love Bach but Mozart and Stevie Wonder are my favorites. I am sober. I continue to love words.

Kazuo Ishiguro – from An Artist of the Floating World

“I smiled to myself as I watched these young office workers from my bench. Of course, at times, when I remembered those brightly-lit bars and all those people gathered beneath the lamps, laughing a little more boisterously perhaps than those young men yesterday, but with much the same good-heartedness, I feel a certain nostalgia for the past and the district it used to be.”

Morgan Hutchinson:

I LOVE my 30’s…here are several of the things I love about it:

– I married the love of my life – and I knew he was the love of my life because I finally knew myself.

– I gave birth to an amazing baby girl – becoming a mother is wonderful – but I am so glad that I waited until I was truly comfortable in being me to be the best mommy and to really enjoy the simple, and wonderful joys of life.

– I became comfortable with my flaws.  I am bipolar.  So what?

– I decided that if I want to wear 5″ heels to run to the store or take out the trash – that is my choice and no one can make a stupid comment that will steal my stiletto joy.

– I fully accepted and took pride in my love of aerosol hairspray, my teasing comb, and red lipstick.

– I said goodbye to coach international travel and hello to nicer hotel rooms.  You only live once and travel is my (our) biggest splurge.

– But mostly – I just became grateful for every second with my husband, my daughter, my family, and my friends.  Life is good.  And the thirties have been the best part of my life so far.

Joe Hieninge:

Your sex drive goes down so you can finally relate to people as human beings instead of constantly trying to get in their pants” but this may not apply to women

Yan Zhang:

In my thirties I feel the need to check Facebook less often!

Nicole Schirm:

Turning 30 reminded me that I have to grow older, but I don’t have to grow up. In my 20s, there was a lot of struggle & resistance, I grew a lot and discovered myself, therefore, I feel like now, in my 30s, I can really live authentically. I know myself better than I ever have, I am happier than I have ever been and I am so grateful for my train wreck 20s, I’m also grateful that I never have to be 24 again.

Turning 30 broke down another myth for me–that growing old isn’t fun. It’s a lot of fun. You get to know yourself better, you get to fall in love with yourself more, and life is richer and more beautiful–you appreciate your friends & family more and realize that 30 isn’t so scary, it’s fantastic. It has also made me question all the other “myths” out there and I have learned it comes down to this: This is MY life, I am in charge, and I get to choose how my adventure unfolds.


“In my 30’s I wish to reach a point of understanding that I don’t understand anything and only then I’ll naturally bow down to life”

Jenny Roberts:

Turning 30 was terrifying.  I dreaded it for months in advance, concerned that life was going too fast and I wasn’t doing enough or I wasn’t where I should be by this age.  What a relief when I did turn 30!  So, part of me wants to say that one thing that you can look forward to when you turn 30 is never having the fear of turning 30 again.  But it’s more than that.   Its embracing the knowledge that life will continue and rush on whatever we do.  It’s learning to let go of our anxieties, fears and our need to control.  It’s smiling with the whole body instead of holding on to our worries.  It’s accepting what life brings as a gift and ridding yourself of expectations.  Its being happy in the knowledge that what is now – is real.  Nothing else is.  Or at least it is for me and this is what I remind myself when the panic about turning 40 starts to creep in.

Dallas Tokash:

Since thirty is the new twenty, I would like to say there is nothing to worry about. However, those of us who have passed over into the great beyond should warn, it’s not all over but at 1159 on the last day of your twenties one sound will be louder than ever. This sound will increasingly grow between your two ears and ring in every thought. It is a new sound, what was once ticktock ticktock , now becomes tick tick tick tick tick tick . The kitchen timer that you didn’t notice until now because it only gets louder as the last bit of time suggests you won’t be able to twist the time back now.

Carol Anne Anderson:

Turning 30……. well you live one day at a time and are grateful. Of course that is a little bland so.. Since this is the day you have waited for all your life…Whahoo!!!!!!!!

Barbara Grace Hill:

Turning 30 is a time to look at what one has been doing up until then and ask “Is this working for me?”  If yes, it is a passion. Dive deeper.  If not, let it go to make more room for the things that are working and the new things you want to do next.

Donna Pisciuneri-Volpe:

By the age of thirty you should know when to try harder and when to walk away.   I’m still working on that one. Lol

Faith Holland:

Things to look forward to in our in our 30’s

1. Turning 40

2. More Freedom to BE YOU (only because we know more about who we ARE)

3. Letting go of competition on many more levels

4. Committing more to your OWN LIFE

5. Becoming more balanced.


Confianza en uno mismo. Trust in yourself.

Ingrid Schroder:

Never being more comfortable in your own skin, you’ve never been wiser but still have so much to learn in life.

Denise Pisciuneri-Abraham:

Age is just a number. As you get older those numbers just seem to go by more quickly. Remember to take time for the important people in your life, and count each of them as a special blessing.

Alma Alguira:

30’s are nothing to be fearful about, in fact they are time to embrace your femininity & power within you.

Most importantly take care of YOU! Physically, emotionally & mentally.

Exercise, take personal development courses & keep LEARNING new skills.

Eric Deihl:

In my 30’s I began to appreciate my family as individual people and not as ideals or the ‘roles’ they held in relation to me. I have begun to see them as beautiful, creative, loving, flawed, fallible, human beings. I can appreciate them for who they are and not feel as many resentments or want to change things about them. I see that as I am able to accept them for who they are, they begin to accept me for who I am.

In my 30’s I have started to appreciate aging and not fear getting older. I suddenly began to see many beautiful, sexy, attractive people over the age of 30 and started to believe that I could be like that too. My eyes began to see the beauty of people beyond the ‘youth’ that I was bombarded with in pop culture and could see the sensual beauty of experience, depth, maturity and compassion. I let go of a lot of old ideas about what it was to be sexy or attractive.

Anna Sophie:

In my 30’s I spent less time feeling anxious about what other people think and more time enjoying my life.  I spent less time feeling like I need to be there or I need to be doing what every one is doing and more time enjoying the moment.


In my thirties I will strive to be more me. I will let go of old ideas that no longer serve me and I will create new ones. I will continue cultivating relationships with the ones who really matter in my life and I will do my best to take the time to listen, to hear and to act. I will embrace “level 3” with love and a lighthearted spirit… 🙂

Anything else?

*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for details on Taozi’s travels, teaching schedule, and inspiration!***




What Aliens are Saying About Us:

And our ROOTS…

 The loss of family ties and how to rebuild them.



There is an alien spacecraft, hovering billions of miles above the Earth’s surface. They have discovered us. They are watching down on us with their super high definition telescopes and they report back to their home ship the following:

 We have found intelligent life. We have found the human race. What are they like? They all seem to shop at Wal-Mart, and wear things called Jeans and listen to a band called One Direction.  The humans are proud of what they call Globalization. They have become a unified global entity…. Kind of. Currently many factions of the planet can’t seem to get along. They are killing each other. We can see, even from all the way up here, a billion miles away, the potential implications of the simple fact that the governance of the worlds “leading Democratic” body doesn’t agree on anything but war, and money. 

 The people are either starving, living in extreme poverty, or attached to material goods and glued indefinitely to electronic devices and the Internet. They are destroying the planet, knowingly. They have lost touch with their ancestors and their heritage and instead keep their eyes on the future. There is a desperate need to be unique while at the same time, the same. It seems like they are all looking for something and they don’t know what it is. Bustling around from point to point, all day long.

We have found life yes… But actually…maybe they aren’t so intelligent. 

one direction

Obviously, the aliens see a lot of current/emerging problems. Today I’d like to examine one of these.

The loss of family ties and how to rebuild them.

It is important to not to dwell on the problem, but instead to focus on possible solutions. And the solution to rebuilding connections to your roots is ACTION and LOVE… As always.

Here is a picture of me with two of my little Italian cousins… Vivian and Izzy.


Never before have I been so proud of my family. I am half Norwegian, and half Italian. 50/50. The Italians rein on my fathers side and they are a gregarious bunch. I love them. After this recent trip back to Pennsylvania, only a couple of weeks ago, I love them even more. I admire their willingness to stay connected to each other, a trait that from my limited perception is dwindling in the modern world. Think about it… as it becomes easier and easier to fly around the world and live in x, y, and z… to go outside of the normal 20 kilometer boundary that once inhibited most of the globes population, people are starting to lose their roots. Things have just CHANGED. Big time. To me it is incredibly sad.

My Daddy with Aunt Jo… he misses her when he is away…


I suppose that a part of this comes from the nostalgic, sentimental, softhearted women in me. I find my heritage, my lineage and my blood relatives to be a beautiful part of who I am. We are a unit. Each human is part of a unit. These days however, with technology and the obsession with personal identity, this seems to have faded. CULTURE, CUSTOMES, HERITAGE, TASTE! Where have they gone!? These are the things that once added color, flare, and interest to the world. I am terrified that as gentrification continues to envelope the planted, all this will be lost. Imagine living in a world that is defined by Wal-Mart, Blue jeans, and One Direction. *Not a dis on One Direction! Just on our loss for zest…

I am honored, proud, and LUCKY to be from a family that still holds onto its individual roots, its family bond. I am aware, that many families just don’t care anymore. I am ashamed to say that it has been easy for me, to drift away… Into the things I think are important and to forget my extended family. After this last trip however, I’d like to make a commitment to stay connected, to stay present with the culture, customs, heritage, and tastes of my Italian roots. These are some of the things I took away from my time with my family…


One thing that families consistently pass down from generation to generation, in every culture, is food. As an Italian, I never want lose the eggplant Parmesan, the meatballs and the pasta! In New Castle, PA…the Coney Island hotdogs! While in Pennsylvania, we ate the most incredible foods… for two weeks straight! I’d like to commit to keeping up the recipes and cooking like my ancestors. That being said…. As a yogi, moderation and thoughtfulness are so important! I can’t eat like this forever, no one can. So perhaps it’s a little bit about keeping up with our roots and modifying for modern attitudes about health?



This part of my time here was so wonderful to me. I am NEW to the Catholic Church; I just took my first communion in April. A large part of this is to reconnect to my father in a very special way. He is super Catholic, goes to mass every day, and the sweetest gentlest man I have ever met. Since joining the church and going to mass with him, I have felt so much more connected to my family. While in Pennsylvania, every Sunday the “Pope-mobile” (my cousin Todd) would pick Uncle Ralphie, my dad and myself up from the house and we would go to mass. What a cool experience for me and what a beautiful place to feel a spiritual connection. I used the time in the church to reflect and to meditate. When I was getting ready to leave, and come to Mexico to begin final wedding preparations, my Aunt Joanne gave me something very special. My late Grandmother’s Rosary beads. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know how to use them but she gave me a card and I have been practicing. 😉  The sensations that are brought up by doing something so ritualistic, following the footpath of my ancestors, are indescribable. I find it sad, again, that it is now so common to let this drift away from us.




My parents have parents, and their parents had parents, and their parents had parents, and on and on it goes. The parent’s of my parent’s parent’s (that’s a mouthful eh?) were born in Italy and Norway over 100 years ago. When thinking about this in comparison to today, I can see how things have changed so fast! They were relatively the same for so long…. They all lived together, shared together, ate together, and when they would grow up they would live near by. It seems in the last one hundred to fifty years, with the astonishing speed of technological advances and transportation our cultural norms have been blown away with a BANG! What is so cool about the Italian side of my family is that they have maintained a sense of this.  Many of the Pauline’s (originally Paolini) live in the same area the immigrated to from Campostoto, Italy 100 years ago. While we were there, we were lucky enough to be there for one of our annual family reunions. It totally rocked my world. I met cousins I had never met before, I befriended many amazing people who are my blood relatives. Isn’t that hard to believe? We ate the most delicious Italian food all day long, listened to LIVE traditional music, and played games with the youngsters.  This time was a very special opportunity that I am so grateful for.







These are the things that originally made people different and interesting. These are the things that bond groups of people together so closely that they are there for each other, no matter what.  I don’t want to lose the ties that I have to such an amazing family; yet, it would be so easy to. Heck… perhaps it is more honest for me to say I HAVE lost the ties and am now working on rebuilding them? Or perhaps I just have to accept the distance, the lack of connection and simply make the efforts to stay as connected as I can with the available resources we have? Maybe Facebook and the Internet can be used to my benefit after all?

All I know is that if we as a species continue to let it all go, and all morph into the same people at the same time, then the thousands and thousands of years of history that come before us will be lost. We will all be, Wal-Mart shopping, One Direction listening, Facebook surfing people. The aliens will continue to be disappointed.

So! To end this on a positive note… What can we do to prevent this from happening? What are some simple Action steps that we can take? Here are some ideas that may help you if you are currently pretty detached from your family and your heritage. I realize that this may only apply to 2nd or 3rd generation Americans but perhaps not?

-Do some research and compile a family tree. Find out what you are. German, Italian, Mexican, Spanish… whatever…

-Start learning how to cook the foods.

-Make a trip to visit your family! Connect.

-Make an honest attempt, enquire as to what your family customs and traditions are and then try to follow them!

-Listen to traditional music…

*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for more on Taozi’s travels, inspiration, and yoga pictures!***


Like a Child

After 5 years in Uganda… this past Tuesday… she left. It was heartbreaking for her but she knows it was the right thing to do.

This is a very special post by my dear sister, Leah Pauline. She wrote this as part of our “Adventures Abroad” series. It is a moving piece about walking forward with faith…Enjoy. 

leah 2

Like a Child…

     First of all, I am not a yogi. I like yoga. I respect people that do yoga. I once committed myself to doing yoga for a week and loved the way I felt so physically aware of my body, but again, I would never call myself a yogi. When my incredible spiritual yogi sister asked me to do a guest post on her yoga blog, I had no idea what to write about. In fact, I was confused why she would even ask me. She is convinced that I am a yogi at heart. In Theresa’s post ,Welcome to Yoganda, she talked about how the people in Uganda are yogis in disguise, maybe perhaps that makes me a little bit more of yogi than I thought? After all, these yogis in disguise have been my greatest life teachers in the last five years, as I have made their home my home. I have learned so many life lessons from them on a daily basis from patience, simplicity, unity, humility, confidence, the list goes on and on. The latest thing I have learned is PRESENCE.


 A couple weeks ago, after the kids got out of church a few of the older girls asked me to teach them my favorite church song. I chose, “Like a Child” by Mercy Me. Later that day, we sat in my office and sang the lyrics over and over again.   “They say that I can move the mountains, and send them falling to the sea. They say that I can walk on water… If I would follow and believe… with faith like a child.” While we were singing, Musana’s five youngest girls ran into the office with the biggest smiles and joyful spirits imaginable. They started jumping around, laughing uncontrollably.  I listened to the words we were singing, and watched the pure bliss of the three-year old girls in front of me. I envied them. They exemplify the words, “faith like a child,” perfectly. Nonchalantly and naturally, they live in the moment. They have this never failing faith and belief in everything…. It is so refreshing. It makes me rethink where my mind has been recently… worrying about the future.

Right now, I am living in Uganda, where I have lived for four of the last five years. I have a job that I love. I have a new house that I love. I have a boyfriend that I love. I am surrounded by kids that I love. This foreign land is no longer foreign, it is my home and I love it. However, I am on the verge of moving on. In four months, I will be moving to a city that I have never been to with people I have never met. Four months after that, I will be in another foreign city. Four months after that, I will be in another. And four months after that, another. I am about to start this huge adventure and I am terrified. I am leaving a life that I feel blessed to have and I have no idea what my future holds. Terrified. On a daily basis, I worry about it. I worry about leaving my job, my house, my boyfriend, the kids, everything. I worry that I will regret my decision to leave. I worry that I will be forgotten. I worry.


So I am sitting in my office, singing about how to have faith “Like a child” when these three-year old girls run in, living fully in the PRESENT, without a worry in the world. I have suffered very little compared to them and yet I am the one that worries. The giddiest and happiest of all these little kiddos is Irene. This is her story: her father died around the time she was born and her mom who is HIV+ abandoned her. Irene started living with her uncle deep in the village. He was caring for multiple other kids, completely neglecting the needs of three-year old Irene. We found Irene in this village, and recognized her as the neediest, dirtiest, sickest of all the other impoverish village kids. This is saying a lot. She had a terrible skin rash, and jiggers ALL over her body. She was dirty and malnourished. Her state of being was to the point that nobody wanted to be around her, in fear of also getting sick. A month later, here I was envious of the joy that Irene has, envious of her ability to live in this present moment of singing and dancing, with no worry of her situation or where she would be tomorrow… she was completely content.  She lives day by day, trusting that she will be provided for. She has inspired me to look at my own life and challenged me to live in the today and be content. She is my teacher and with this lesson, I have started a ritual.



On a daily basis, I take time and go to one of my favorite spots around Musana or in town…. My absolute favorite is on a balcony that I climb up to that overlooks the busiest, craziest part of Iganga town- the market. I go there and I just sit. I use the time to reflect on my life, meditate, and simply BE PRESENT. It is amazing how I have overlooked such a simple necessity of being content… presence. I watch, I listen, I live.  I soak up the African sights, smells, and sounds that surround me- People everywhere. Businessmen and women walking home from work, Children walking home from school. Hundreds of local men and women, sitting under bright umbrellas selling fresh fruits and vegetables from a long season of labor. Cages and cages of live chickens, being sold for tonight’s dinner. The African mixed aroma of fresh fruit, body odor, and garbage overwhelming my nostrils with its unique freshness. Trucks passing with loads of green banana being dropped in the market. The sound of motorcycles passing, cars honking, vendors making a sale. Total chaos. However, for me, it is where I find peace. It is where I grasp the life I have been blessed with. It is where I can pause and take a look into the world I live in and appreciate it. It is where my physical and spiritual presence becomes one.




The lesson: Yes, I am leaving. Yes, it is terrifying. What I need to do is be like Irene… like a child. I need to remember my favorite child hood phrase and a common saying in Africa, “Hakuna Matata.” I can’t worry about the adventure. I need to embrace it. I need to open my mind, ready for anything that comes believing that everything will be okay. At the same time, I need to live in the moment and enjoy the today. I need to soak up the sights, hug as many kids as I can, close my eyes and remember the smells, the sounds, the people, and the feelings of where I am.  I need to laugh until I cry; I need to cry until I laugh. I need to be completely PRESENT. I need to do so with faith like a child because tomorrow will be exactly how it is supposed to be and when it comes I don’t want to regret not living my life to the fullest today.


*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for more on Taozi’s travels, inspiration, and yoga pictures!***



Doug “The Lion” Vitale, The Witch, and The Wardrobe


Doug and Lex. Many say they never saw a couple more in love. Ever. Doug “the Lion” Vitale, lost both of his legs and suffered sever brain damage after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan. A young U.S Marine, built like an ox, charming,  funny, and passionate.  His wife, the smart, beautiful, courageous, and devoted Alexis, my cousin.

Their story is one of unprecedented courage, compassion, and love. It has sprouted from his service, his tragic accident, his family, his community and ultimately the American spirit. This story has changed my life as well as any one else who has been touched by it.



 Doug was deployed to Afghanistan with the US Marines in July of 20011, soon after their one year anniversary. On September 25 th, a little over 2 months after he arrived, after many of his patrol had passed by safely, he stepped on a roadside improvised explosive device, instantly changing his life forever.

 The Witch: The War in Afghanistan

 Doug was deployed as part of the War in Afghanistan, started in 2001, after the attacks on the twin towers in New York City, to dismantle Al-Queda and the Taliban, a.k.a “the war on terrorism”.

 Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when meeting Doug and seeing my cousin Alexis for the first time since the accident. I am ashamed to say that for the last couple of years I have subconsciously tuned it out, looked the other way, unwilling to fully embrace the severity of the situation, in hopes of avoiding feeling anything. For those that know me, I can be quite emotional, and this felt beyond my capacity. Being thousands of miles away made it easy to stay in fairy foo foo land. My own opinions and feelings towards the war and our involvement are intense. So much so that I gave up maintaining them after leaving the US in 2007, six years after the US invaded Afghanistan. I totally detached myself. Doug’s accident has brought  the reality of the war into our families heart. And while visiting them in Pennsylvania, during Doug’s homecoming, it was due time to re-evaluate my feelings and to face the truth.


The war in Afghanistan (as well as Iraq), I just didn’t get it. I was hearing mixed messages and conflicting attitudes about it. Never ending excuses for why the US was sending all these young men and women across the oceans to “protect our freedom” and to “save us from the Taliban/Al Queda/ terrorists”. It was about retribution, about saving them,  saving ourselves, about finding Osama, and constantly about freedom.  Pie charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, images of the war were at one point abound on the news. Too many things swirled around that it was hard to latch on to anything substantial and slowly we all just started accepting it.

 From my limited perception, the results were not what we had hoped for. It looked like confusion, chaos, and there was no end in site. There was no quantitative evidence that things were going well. It seemed as though we were aggravating a hornets nest and our troops were returning home… unhappy, discouraged and torn apart. Men like Doug, only a few months before, over six feet tall with an entire life ahead of them, were coming home…changed men. I have  a new appreciation for how brave our service men and women are, they risk their lives to protect what they believe is our freedom.

 As part of our around the world tour, visiting my Italian family in Pennsylvania was a must. We decided to head to PA specifically for this past week. When Doug would finally return to his hometown and be honored for his service. After we first arrived and we were sitting around discussing the accident, Doug, and Lex… my eyes welled up with tears instantly.  The common factors that everyone would discuss were that a) Doug, has improved… so much so that there is vibrant emotion in his face b) that Lex is a hero, worthy of a medal of honor herself for the way she has stood by her husband and supported him, willingly and happily, the way she treats him like nothing is different… and c) that Doug and Lex’s families, along with the city of Pittsburg has lifted them up and supported them in a way unprecedented and historical.  This past week in Pittsburg PA, we had the honor of participating in and witnessing this support in a first hand way, it was truly a magical and life changing American experience.

The truth is that Doug was very seriously changed by his injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Ghastly so. He suffered amputations of both of legs due to a substantial loss of blood, he suffered two strokes that caused sever brain damage. “Doug was left unable to speak or effectively communicate and unable to move his body appropriately, But his sense of spirit soars on. His sense of humor is right where he left it and he understands much of what is going on around him”. *Lt. Dan Band’s Website. Still,  it is heart breaking to see him. The way that his family and his community has decided to step up and support him and his wife Lex is truly remarkable. They called him Doug “the Lion” Vitale because of his courage, strength, and power before the accident, and they still do.doug 2

The Wardrobe

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to the Towers Foundation and The Lt. Dan Band, lead  by Gary Sinise, (Lt. Dan from Forest Gump), united to form a coalition devoted to raising enough money to build a high technology smart home for Doug, who is in need of extra home living support. The smart home will be complete with tracks on the ceiling to help carry Doug from different points in the house, easing the work load for Lex immensely, an art room for Doug to paint to his hearts desire, and wide open doorways to allow him to move freely with his wheelchair.  So much of the project has been developed, implemented, and donated by so many different members of the community that the thanks needed are unceasing.  On Friday there was a concert held here in Pittsburg, starring The Lt. Dan Band and Doug,  with the proceeds from the show and preceding activities devoted with the goal of raising $500,000 USD. For the last week Doug and Lex have been honored and supported in so many incredible ways.


It began with his homecoming parade with motorcycle riders, fellow soldiers, and hundreds of local supporters welcoming him. Through out the week he got to hang out with the Pirates, the Steelers, his family and friends.  On Thursday at the VFW in Peters Township,  an American patriot by the name of Scott LoBaido dedicated a large American flag painting he did on the side of the building to Doug, a small token of our countries appreciation for the sacrifices made during his service in Afghanistan.  It was here that I met Doug for the first time.  In his face, his emotions, his expressions lies a peaceful Lion.  I felt a powerful affinity for him instantly. Looking into his big beautiful brown eyes, it’s as if he can see right into you. His smile. The most genuine and real smile you can ever hope to see.  While witnessing his interactions with his best friend Brian, it becomes evident the kind of man that Doug is. It brings a smile and a warmness to the heart.






The Lion

Friday night was the big show. It was sold out and people turned out in droves to support him. As Doug was wheeled out the audience erupted in applause and I could not restrain the tears. The band was incredible, it was fun, there was dancing. At the end of the show, Lex and Doug were honored and presented with checks from the Miller Family, The VFW, and more. They have earned well over the intended amount and the evening proved to be one of the most overwhelming and moving experiences of my life. Seeing Doug on stage, with his smile, sitting next to his wife, and his parents, Gary Sinise and fellow soldiers… recognizing that he was being held up by those around him, with thousands of members of his community in front of him…holding up lit candles… cheering him on, truly incredible.


It is my belief and guess, that Doug sees more, and understands more about life and the human experience now, then any of us could begin to comprehend. With the combined experience of being in Afghanistan, seeing what he saw,  experiencing the trauma of the accident, the dramatic shift in his physical form, and then the lack of his ability to communicate… it is all fertilizer for growth. If pain is the foundation for growth, then there is no doubt that Doug is now one super advanced human being.

What is perhaps most incredible is how his experience has changed others, in both monumental ways, and small. On a micro level, he has brought the awareness and realization home, that what is going on “over there” is effecting us “over here” in profound ways.  A reminder that the war in Afghanistan is still “on” though it often gets swept under the rug. Doug’s trauma and the awareness it has provided has given his family, friends, and the  citizens of Pittsburg an opportunity to stand up and support him. Doug, a fellow man who was brave enough to serve for a government he trusted and a country he loves.

Doug’s family and friends have been changed in huge ways. Seeing the spirit of Doug, and the supreme surviver he is serves as proof that God is present in his life in the biggest of ways. And Alexis… has shown her true colors as an angel. Deserving of the highest honor for supporting him with devotion and courage unlimited.





So… how has meeting Doug, and seeing the American Spirit in full swing changed my heart? Well… it has brought me back to a place of TRUST.  If Doug was brave enough and strong enough to trust, then I can be too.

I have come to the place where, because I am American, and because I love the United States for what it fundamentally stands for, I have to trust it.  Trust that the people in charge know more then I do and will do what they think is best for our country and the world. What do I know about foreign diplomacy? Not much.

However… I do know that there is a right time and a wrong time to be involved. A right place and a wrong place to send our troops. A right place and a wrong place to accept casualties both military and civilian. There are right reasons and wrong reasons to get involved. It is a fact that there are only limited factors and quantities of information that lead governments to their ultimate decisions.

 In 2001, before we engaged, we would hope that the US took each question in turn. Is it the right time? The right place? The right reason? We would hope they answered an unwavering yes to each and next, with out hesitating and with deliberate and calculated execution began the operations. We would hope that the US government saw that the sacrifices to come would lead to something positive. That the injuries incurred by Doug were for the greater good. It seems hard to believe.

This is where I always end up. Why? Was it worth it? And again… why? These are the similar sentiments of dissatisfaction and wonder that plagued our country after Vietnam, when broken soldiers returned home. What has  been evident by watching the activities here in Pittsburg this past week, is the way that we treat our veterans once returning home from a war that, even though we may not understand it, we appreciate their service.  Our feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about the war do not need to impact the way we treat the men and women who serve.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to say one way or the other what a country should or should not be doing based on the information we have.

It is possible however to trust in its authority and to stand by those who risk so much. I love the United States, I love Doug “the Lion” Vitale, I love my family, and I love the American Spirit that has been so vibrant here in Pennsylvania this past week, so yes… I can trust.

If you are interested in making a donation to Doug, please visit

http://www.ourbravest.org and donate to Doug Vitale.

For more information on these organizations… visit



*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for more on Taozi’s travels, inspiration, and pictures***