Jessica Rude 5/30

It’s only right that Jessica Rude be the next in the sequence of people after Sam Lyle. Jessica is so important to me. From being the best youth leader when I was in my teens to continuing to be one of my greatest supports in my adulthood, Jessica has always been there.


Jessica surprised me at my college graduation last June. This was by far the best surprise I have ever received (thanks Kiana for orchestrating it) Whenever I introduced her to people I struggled with her title. I didn’t want to just say, “past youth leader””friend” or “mentor” because these names didn’t capture who Jessica is to me. I began introducing her as “An influential person from my youth” “one of my favorite inspiriting mentors” and “One of my closest friends who I started a band with once.” These descriptions did a bit of a better job to convey to my friends in Oregon how important Jessica is to me.

A special nugget about Jessica is that she shares a birthday with my great grandmother. The first birthday after she passed Jessica posted on my Facebook wall that it was a hard day for her to get older without my great grandma. She said she was thinking about me and praying for me on what must be a hard day for me too. She is part of the reason I’m doing this series. The smallest acts of reaching out to one another and showing our love could mean the world to someone.


Jessica has been by my side for more important things in my life than anyone. She has always encouraged me, fought for me and told me to get my act together when it was needed. She has never judged me, and for how much she knows about me that’s saying something. She has always been ready to be goofy, real, genuine and fantastic. She is my Influential mentor who accepts me and loves me for all that I am. And Rumor Has It…we were in a band once 😉



Thank you for always standing by me in the many things I’ve been through.

Thank you for being real with me and telling me like it is when needed.

Thank you for the nickname Tor-a-Lor

Thank you for coming to my graduation, it meant everything to me.

I owe a lot to you and miss you everyday.

With all the love and laughs (have I ever told you yours is one of my favorites?)




Sam Lyle 4/30

Sam lyle is a gem, a ginger gem.


Sam is just one of the best people I’ve had in my life. He is one of my oldest friends and our bond is special. I’ve always admired Sam for his commitment to his dreams. When he sets his sights on something he doesn’t let anything or anyone stop him. I have loved watching him grow and succeed in so many things over the years. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday we were making music together at church camp or “freestyle walking” with Kyle Yake our youth leader.

The best part of Sam Lyle is how BIG he loves. He doesn’t love a little or in a subtle way. He loves like I do: deep, unwavering, intense and unconditional. There’s no “right” time for him to express his love. All time is the right time. 941084_10154183308198054_8572034539907921134_n

Sam lyle is an incredible musician, actor, friend, and uncle to little Charlotte.He is passionate, talented and gives the best hugs. He stands up for social justice unwaveringly. I absolutely love watching his succeed and can’t wait to see all that is ahead of him.

Sam hasn’t always had the easiest of times and I see that in him. I respect him for never letting this things stop him. I see a different Sam than others see and I try my best to show the real Sam to the world. He does a pretty good job too 😉


Thank you for always being the best of friends to me.

Thank you for showing the world how to love big.

Thank you for all the memories we’ve had so far.

Here’s to many many more.

I love you.



Nikki Burian 3/30

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Nikki is one of my favorite humans! Even though we are not all that close, every time I’ve been around Nikki it has been a hoot. As far as when I’m not around them I watch them on social media and they just ooze style, love, social justice and genuine identity. I’ve watched them stand up for those they love, share experiences, journeys and gratitude.


On top of all of that they are an incredible poet. They share their struggles, fears, and deepest loves through the power of spoken word poetry. I have laughed, cried and been inspired to work even harder in my art therapy degree because of Nikki. Nikki’s poem style is by far my favorite I have encountered. I remember the first time I saw them perform I was immediately desiring a friendship with this fantastic human being.

Nikki never hesitated to invite me to spend time with them and their friends. They are never weary of new friends and the chance of making someone smile. I hope they realize how much they have meant to me and many others. Life is better with Nikki around.My favorite thing about Nikki is their huge heart for others, and their ridiculously perfect style. If I could have half the style and solidified identity that Nikki has I will be beyond successful and happy.

I love watching their success, excitement and snapchats of their cat 🙂 Also they are the biggest (and cutest) Cubs fan I’ve ever met.14612636_10154580133368764_9035902523664030685_o


Thank you for the snapchats that make me laugh and smile.

Thank you for always being genuine on and off stage.

Thank you for wearing overalls and making everyone want a pair.

Thank you for all the love you give this world.

I wish you the greatest love, success and happiness in this world.

Never stop being you.




Jay and Jayne 2/30


I originally met Jay at school. They came into Marylhurst as a Music Therapy student. Jay and I ran into each other here and there. I always loved their smile and the way they played guitar. There was something about them that made me want to know them more.  One day a few years ago some friends decided to go ice skating and Jay came! This picture was a moment that I truly loved Jay.


How could you not love someone who photobombs one ice-skates? It was a lovely afternoon and from then on I felt closer and closer to Jay every time I encountered them. We began to hangout more and Jay just has a way of making you feel so important. When Jay asks you how you are, they genuinely want to know how you are.

Last year I found out that Jayne, Jay’s Fiancé (girlfriend at the time) was in The Curious Savage at a local theatre and as it is one of my all time favorite shows I had to go see it! Supporting a friend’s girlfriend at the same time? Score! I went and it was incredible. I had met Jayne  before but I had a new love and respect for her after that nights. From then on I hoped that Jayne would join Jay whenever a social gathering was afoot. Jayne is the theatre geek, people loving, passionate friend I always needed! haha I loved them both dearly. I also attended any show I possibly could to support Jay and Jayne including Jay’s return to the stage and Jayne’s casting in a lead role.

My birthday is 2016 was shaping up to be a bit of a disappointment unfortunately. It was my last in Portland, but for many it was just another day for them. For Jay and Jayne? It was a day to make me happy with the simplest acts. They joined my roommate and I for drinks at the bar Jay bartends and simply enjoyed the evening with me. They then bought my drink, got me a free piece of Bailey’s Cheesecake with a candle and a rose in a orange crush bottle and sang to me. It was one of the most kind and heartfelt moments of my life. It makes me cry to this day.

Jay and Jayne inspired this project of mine a little bit. A few weeks ago, Jay and Jayne were expressing how grateful they were for my friendship and for how much I’ve been supporting both of them by coming to their shows. I was so caught off guard and did not respond well. Later that evening my boyfriend and I were talking about why we were so awkward. Kirk simply said, “People just don’t express themselves like that so we don’t know how to respond.” Which began me thinking about how I could express my love for people in my life better and thus I came up with this project.

So thank you both for making me want to take these actions.

Thank you for the wonderful acts of love you have shown me.

Thank you for always being so caring to all around you.

I can’t wait to see Jayne’s directing debut and Jay’s second show in Portland soon.

I also can’t wait to see how incredible of a music therapist Jay will become!

Thanks for being in my life and please know I love you both so much.

You are both genuine, wonderful, and perfect.




Elise Albano: 1/30


Elise Albano is a mother, wife, academic and wonderful friend. I have known Elise since I was a young girl. She was one of the “older, cooler” youth in our youth group. I remember her from those days as a loud laughing, happy goof ball that hung out with the goofiest brothers at our church, the Albanos. She was always around even if we didn’t chat or hangout much. As you may be asking yourself, yes she ended up marrying one of those fellas! She was always so true to herself, I loved it. (and still do of course!)

As years passed I watch Elise get married,(which I distinctly remember loving her wedding so much) and have an adorable daughter. Her husband also joined the military which took her and her family on great adventures of new towns, military bases, red tape, and struggles.  In all of this she has been working away on her Bachelor’s degree online while raising Ariana and supporting Chris her husband in all he was doing. Elise has always handled all of these things with such grace and a little sass. I have always admired how many things have not been easy for Elise and yet she has made them seem manageable with the ways she approached each challenge.

I see the way she mother’s her precious little girl and it gives me hope for our future. Truly she is so patient, caring and loving to her little one. She loves her family so fiercely.

On top of that she is one of the most encouraging people I have ever met. She is one of the people in this world that will tell you how much she admires you on a regular Tuesday and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. She is also so good at sharing her positivity to you when you’re having a struggle. There have been times I was at my lowest and I posted a status about it and boom there’s Elise saying just the right thing to make me feel worthy, powerful and capable of anything. She is also able to articulate her opinions, thoughts, criticisms, and stances in a very respectful and caring manner. She is opinionated in the best way possible.

I have not seen her in I’m not sure how long but I feel so close to her just through social media. I can’t wait until christmas comes around and I will see her and hug her. She is genuine, calm, wonderful and just all around awesome. I am so glad she is in my life to cheer me on and I’m so glad she’s on the planet to make the world just a little better.

Thank you Elise for being wonderful, caring and compassionate to all around you, especially me.

Thank you for fighting for social justice and encouraging me in all I do.

You Rock!





So the month of November is widely considered the month in which we express gratitude for aspects of our lives, especially on social media. I’ve always loved this idea but these expressions of gratitude are always closely followed with the criticism of only expressing these things in the month of November. Now, I absolutely agree that we should express gratitude as often as possible, but I don’t see any issue with using a specific month to intentionally name things we are grateful for.

Recently I have felt overwhelming gratitude for people in my life. Some I’m very close to and others I know in a less intimate manner, yet they are regularly on my mind and in my heart. I smile thinking about many people everyday. So, I’ve decided that the month of November for me will be 30 days of expressing my sincere gratitude to 30 people. I will choose a different person each day and make a special blog about them with a story or what I admire about them most. They will be in no specific order and if someone is not on the list that definitely doesn’t mean they aren’t inspiring to me. I have some catching up to do and I intend to get there today or tomorrow!

I feel as though this is an  action we could all do more often. We don’t tell each other how much we love each other on just a random Monday. We feel we have to wait for a holiday or birthday, but we shouldn’t! If  you feel inclined to join me please do! We learn a lot about ourselves when we express gratitude, and we will be brightening someone’s day.

Here’s to gratitude, here’s to friendship, and here’s to November!



Religion…and me.

This blog post will be a bit of a surprise to some and not as much to others. I am going to share a part of me that may change your perception of me, although I hope it won’t. Please read with an open mind and heart.

My graduate program in Mental Health Counseling and Art Therapy has been quite the ride so far. Some of the most important work we are doing is analyzing our identities such as our racial/cultural identity, our professional, our therapeutic identity, our identity as an artist, as a student and as a scholar. It is important for us to be solid in who we are in order to best serve others in our future profession. 

I am currently enrolled in a class titled Power, Privilege and Oppression. The subject matter, as you could guess, is all the types of power, privilege and, you guessed it, oppression. We are covering everything from race, to religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender and everything in between. In this class we are asked to examine one of our resistances, i.e. a group of people, type of people, organization or otherwise that we just have an innate problem with and can’t quite shake it. After identifying our resistance we are supposed to take steps to move through this resistance and try to find a neutral ground for ourselves and ultimately our future. For many of us we will not be able to dictate who walks through our door for therapy, nor do we want to. So, it is important for us to know that our resistance could come in, and need help and we need to be able to be in a place that we can give that to them.

Religion and religious people are my current resistances that I have been examining for the last 6 weeks. Now, many of you may wonder why, since I grew up religious and many of the people I love are religious. So let me try to explain. 

First off, this is pertaining primarily to the people who use religion as an excuse to judge, demean, and exclude people from their worlds. There are people that use doctrine to make others feel lesser than themselves. To me, this is the complete opposite of what religion is supposed to be. “Love one another” is how I was raised. Not “Love one another, unless-you-disagree-with-their-lifestyle, religion, sexuality, appearance, language, etc. then you don’t have to love them and you can judge them instead.” This is when I start seeing religion as far more damaging to the people I love instead of a comforting way of life. Now you might say, people mean well or they are showing love by sharing their religious opinions with me, but that doesn’t mean they are not being jerks. That doesn’t mean I can’t be offended. Well meaning or not, judging is judging. 

I like honesty and I like people knowing what is going on in my life. However, as of late I have been less inclined to share because of the fear of what people from my upbringing might think or say. This is where my resistance is situated. When I feel I can’t share exciting news or opinions because of what others may say or think about me is when I see the negative side effects of religion. Here is some honesty, though. As of right now I am not religious. I do not know what exactly I believe when it comes to the existence of God. For now I am living my life to the fullest, loving, learning and experiencing everyday. Religion is the reason I am where I am today and part of who I am today but it is not something I am currently practicing. 

First Baptist Church has always been a home to me. And the wonderful people there have always been family to me. There have been things the members of that church have done for me and my family that is beyond anything I could ever repay or imagine possible. But being unfortunately judged has hurt in the same intense ways. 

Things I need to make clear: 

  • One can still have morals without being religious.
  • One can still be around and love people who are religious without being religious.
  • I came to this decision alone with a lot of research and introspection.
  • Religion is part of who I am. Religion taught me to be loving, confident, compassionate, empathetic, brave, passionate, kind, open, and happy. 
  • Religion also made me doubt my education, doubt my love, doubt my thoughts, doubt my friendships, doubt my intuition, my decisions, and some of my experiences.
  • But Religion gave me some of my absolutely most treasured memories and people. 

I’m trying to understand, process and love all people. I’m trying to accept myself and everyone around me. This is the way in which I can get through some of this muck. I’m trying to work through my resistance, and as part of that I felt the need to share this journey with my friends and family. 

I am still the happy, silly, compassionate and creative Tori. I am still the girl you know and love and I’m a lot more complex than one blog post can explain. I welcome clarifying questions if you have them, but I would ask to keep any other opinions left out. I am not a lost sheep, I am not a heathen, I am not going to hell. I am living and I am happy.