Little Mamma

As if it wasn’t already evident from previous posts (and my Instagram bio), I am a huge dog lover. I worked through undergrad and grad school at the most incredible kennel, and I grew up with Shepherds and Labs. I’ve always hoped to somehow combine my love for dogs and seniors – to do meaningful work that involves both. This weekend, I took the first step toward doing just that: I rescued a three-month-old puppy. I know, I know…I work 65+ hours a week, I’m never home, and to say I travel often would be an understatement. I promise there is a method to my madness.

It’s no secret that the effects dogs have on people of all ages are immense. Within an instant, they can make us feel happy, loved, and safe – simultaneously excited and calm. Physically, they keep us active and in turn help our hearts. Dogs reduce stress (except during the housebreaking stages perhaps) and teach us lessons. For seniors especially, they can be pivotal in decreasing loneliness and improving mood; dogs live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow, and according to Dr. Jay Granat, tomorrow can be very scary for someone who is elderly:

“Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

And focus on them they do. That goes for both physical impairments and cognitive ones. Individuals with dementia (particularly in earlier stages) tend to be extremely stressed, and understandably so; they recognize that something’s wrong but can’t necessarily distinguish it from what is right. They’re not only confused, but also frightened and embarrassed. Here’s where my little mamma comes in:

“I sort of think that anybody with Alzheimer’s could benefit by a friendly little dog. Somebody they can play with and talk to – it’s kinda nice to talk to a dog that you know is not going to talk back. And you can’t make a mistake that way. … My dog knows things about me before I know them myself. … The one thing I know is that the dog is with me, and when she’s with me I at least have some solace, even if I don’t know the way.”

– Cary Henderson, Partial View

Rosie, that’s your cue. Introducing the newest member of our team and family:


The impact this little girl has had on our residents in three short days is immeasurable. I’m completely blown away. I have no doubt she will continue to amaze me. She is, after all, a dog ❤ one of the only beings that will ever love us without condition or complication. Mamma, we are so thankful for you already.

The “How” Part 2: Packing

I don’t consider myself to be an expert in much, but I can confidently say I am an expert-level packer. Frequent trips coupled with my disdain for airport lines and checked bags have forced me to become pretty creative over the years; although I travel light by most standards, I’m still an over-packer!

I’m often asked how I manage to travel overseas (and change outfits an excessive amount of times) with just a backpack. While my bag of choice is pretty big (find it here on Amazon), I’ll usually try to condense my carry-on further (Marshalls, I love you for this one). How I do it is simple: I fold my clothes so they’re as tiny as possible, then stuff them into packing cubes to maximize the small amount of space I have. When I say “stuff”, I really mean it – think a pair of Spanx so tight you fit into a dress half your normal size stuffed.

More on how (and how much) in the video above. 🙂

2017 Travel Recap

If I had to sum up 2017 in one word, it would be rollercoaster. Between job changes, weekend trips, a health scare, a bittersweet move (miss you terribly, Westmill </3), countless virtual chair travel programs, a CALA certification, and everything in between, I feel thankful yet so happy to be leaving this year behind. It’s insane to see how much change 12 short months can bring. 2018, please be gentle.

Below is a recap of my 2017 weekend getaways. Here’s to bigger dreams and more bucket list cross-offs.  ❤

January: Philippines for LIG Marian Rose Mission Trip

February: Weekend in the Veneto Region of Italy

March: Weekend in Denmark & Sweden

April: Toms River, New Jersey, perhaps my most important *trip* of the year as my April weekends were spent earning the title of Certified Assisted Living Administrator

May: Weekend on Lake Como, Italy

June: Weekend in Scotland

July: Weekend in Puglia, Italy

August: Weekend in Vittorio Veneto, Italy for my 3 year anniversary (already?!)

September: Weekend in Sicily and on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

October: Weekend in Cuba

November – December: Landed in Italy for the 30th time on my 30th birthday.


Thoughts on Aging by a Girl Who Works With the Aged


It may be the psych major in me, but I’ve always found it interesting to think about the things that stick with you from childhood. I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my mom about birthdays: she was indifferent about them then, but she’d admittedly had a really hard time with turning 30. Parting with her 20s made her sad – depressed, even. An impressionable kid, I held on to that. I’ve dreaded the big 3-0 to the extent that I booked a trip alone (at least initially) as to not have to acknowledge it. The only party on the agenda was a pity party, and there’s obviously only room for one on that guest list.

Ma perché?! The more I think about it, my apprehension is not only silly but irrational. I’ve dreaded 30 not because of its consequences (which, by the way, are nonexistent – you don’t even need a new license) but because that’s what I inadvertently learned you’re supposed to do. So much so, in fact, that I f’ing ran from it.

Working in the senior care field these past few years has been nothing short of incredible. It’s insanely difficult at times, heart-wrenchingly sad at others, but always, always fulfilling. If there’s one thing my loves have taught me, it’s to embrace every single day. Our body is like a vessel; it simply transports us through life. Yes, it grows old – there’s no denying that (we put it through a lot!) but that’s the only thing that really changes. The “growing up” we talk about? The part when we’re supposed to suddenly feel like responsible, accomplished, brave, composed adults? That’s the myth. Nobel Prize winning novelist Doris Lessing said, “The great secret that old people share is that you really haven’t changed in 70 or 80 years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.” The famous “age is just a number” adage is corny but so, so true.

My loves have taught me (both outright and indirectly) that doing anything short of all you’ve ever dreamt is ludicrous. To wait for better timing or less responsibilities is dumb. To take risks when you feel more courageous is an oxymoron; courage, after all, is not an absence of fear but rather doing what you’re afraid to do. Things will work out as they should – they always have:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

The point is, who we are inside is not what changes, not at our core. Only our bodies do (speaking of, when does the good stuff happen..? Like no more pimples, for instance?!?). We’ll never feel like we’ve learned it all or that we have it completely together, or that we’re ready for whatever it is we’re scared of. The emotional constraints of growing old are self-imposed and the limits we set for ourselves the real tragedy, not our actual age (even if it’s the dreaded 3-0).

Cuba: It’s Easier Than You Think


Three weeks ago, I spent what felt like countless hours watching the news, reassuring friends/family, and defending my choices. Days later, I schlepped nine hesitant travel buddies to Cuba. Despite how time-consuming and confusing planning was, everything went incredibly smoothly. The below are some tips I’d either heard beforehand or found out the hard way and wished I’d known:

  • You can’t simply travel to Cuba for fun (at least not on paper). There are 12 approved reasons you can choose from, though don’t go crazy compiling proof to back your decision up. I selected “Support for the Cuban People” and was honestly clueless as to how we could actually show support. I counted an AirBnB booking (we stayed with citizens!), had everybody bring requested supplies, and hoped for the best. I was half convinced they wouldn’t let us on the plane, but when we applied for our visas, no one asked a thing. In fact…
  • …You can save $25 by pre-paying for your visa and pick it up at the gate. We flew Delta and were able to call their main 800 number the week of our trip to pay $50 per visa using a credit card. Aside from having to provide our flight info and specify which reason we chose, the process was insanely simple. We grabbed our visas at JFK (no questions asked) and hopped on our plane, accounting for nearly half the total passengers.
  • Money can be a bit of a pain. American cards don’t work in Cuba and you can’t exchange US dollars there. Long story short, your best bet is to take out euros from your bank, then exchange those at Havana airport. There are two local currencies: the Cuban Peso, or CUP, and Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), the one you’ll exchange for.
  • Your phone won’t work, either (at least not your data). You can call your service provider and explore options regarding calls, but data is essentially non-existent. While accommodations are usually a saving grace when traveling, the ones in Cuba don’t have Wi-Fi. Your only option is a pre-paid Wi-Fi card, which will allow you to log in when near a hotspot (like in most parks, for example). In all honesty, your best bet is to embrace the disconnect and go off the grid while you’re away!
  • You can’t just walk into restaurants and expect to be accommodated. Granted, we were 10 people, so it’s no surprise I needed reservations. It’s important in general, though, that you plan ahead for meals. Cuba has been flooded with tourists and while the demand’s increased, the supplies have not. This is especially true in busy areas like Havana. Call ahead of time, even if just hours prior.

I cannot stress enough how pleasantly surprised I was with Cuba. The food was excellent, the people were warm, and the process was easy (once I got my facts straight, that is). There was not one moment during which we felt unsafe or unwelcome. Plus, it was insanely cheap! If you’re on the fence, don’t hesitate: book your ticket and go.

Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?


Last week, I sat beside a client in the hospital and reminisced of days gone by. Though her short-term memory is shot, she’s able to recite stories from the past as though they took place yesterday. She shared one in particular that’s stuck with me for a few reasons: 1) it was hilarious and 2) it hit really close to home. This nonna (who I’ll call Lo) and daughter (D) recalled one summer at their country home, where they took in a baby raccoon that had been abandoned by its mommy. Four-year-old D affectionately named him Rakki and they bonded instantly; she dressed him in tiny outfits and turned a bottom drawer into a bedroom.

September approached and so did the inevitable: it was time to part with Rakki. Obviously D was heartbroken, but in true mom fashion Lo stepped in and made it better. Uncle Eddie lived on a farm full-time in Pennsylvania and was happy to adopt his furry nephew. Perfetto! The story doesn’t end there, though. Lo and D outlined the rest of Rakki’s thrilling life, including marriage, kids, and a subsequent (yet civil) divorce. Lo got a kick out of filling me in, especially when she revealed that they did not, in fact, ship Rakki to PA – he went right back where he came from (the back yard). We could not stop laughing.

The Rakki tale hit close to home because my parents told a similar lie to me: after finding that an egg had fallen from its nest and opened prematurely, I was panicked. We were on our way out, but my mom assured me that if I scooped the baby up and put him by the Virgin Mary, my dad would rush him to the vet when he got home from work. As far as I knew (until my mid-f’ing-twenties), he did just that: Dr. Wilson patched him up and sent my tiny bird to live on a farm in Pennsylvania. Was the PA farm anecdote a Jersey parent thing?! Was it so that we wouldn’t ask to visit? Regardless, the elaborate fibs our parents told were not simply for their own amusement, nor were they to hurt us. On the contrary, they were for our own best interests – to protect our little hearts.

D didn’t find out the truth about Rakki until adulthood, just as I was kept in the dark about the bird. It makes sense considering as kids we’re taught that lying is both awful and unfair. On top of that, we learn to never lie to our parents or to people that we love. Being dishonest with someone with dementia, then, logically sounds appalling. In reality, it can be essential:

“Those with dementia often struggle with logic, rational thought, sequencing, and emotional control. Therapeutic fibbing may be may be appropriate when telling the truth would cause pain, anxiety, or confusion, or when the person with dementia is experiencing life in a different “time zone”.”

Sometimes, a fib may be the kindest thing you can say to your loved one with dementia, though it’s easier said than done:

“To varying degrees, many of us as adults still feel that our parents are parents and that we, the children, are less assured, less capable, and less “grown up.” [We feel guilty for being untruthful.] The trouble with guilt is that it can keep you from making clear-headed decisions and doing what is right for [your parent] and the rest of the family.”

The 36-Hour Day

Remember that the fibs you tell are not intended to hurt your parents, just as theirs were not to you. Shake the guilt and be creative; adaptation is the key to success. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to this stuff. Accept the illogical and embrace absurdities. If your nonna insists her car’s outside and she’s got somewhere to be, remind her that “it’s in the shop.” Show her it’s not out front and offer her a ride. Validate her feelings. If nonno needs an aide post-fall but is too prideful (and too cheap), confirm that it’s just temporary and covered by insurance. Empathize with him: a guest at home is not ideal but the doctor wants him stronger (plus it doesn’t cost a thing!). Think outside the box and go with it. After all, they did the same for you.

The “How” Part 1: Flights

I recently posted a video explaining why I travel so often, and although it touched upon how I do it, I wanted to try to really describe it in detail. There are a few different methods to this madness and it’s somewhat complex (hence the verbal explanation), but if you get nothing else from this post, I want to be sure you remember that the key is to just book it. There’s a 24-hour window during which you can cancel without penalty and deals don’t last; I’ve had friends get back to me within an hour and the price was already gone.

Helpful Links:

Method 1: Pop-up sales and mistake fares

Method 2: Research

Method 3: Points

I hope this helps! Please feel free to email me with any questions. 🙂