I was a high school drop out.

I started grade 9 full tilt, with my rose coloured glasses on. Excited, ambitious, and eager I was. Made friends, did the sleepover thing, and started dating a boy. Life at home became increasingly tumultuous and I found that my academics started reflecting that. By grade 10 I was making poorer choices – with my social life and at school. I started skipping classes, and began spending more time with friends. Eventually I stopped going to school altogether. I longed for acceptance. I looked to create a “family” within my group of misfits.

The next few years were a blur. A cloudy haze of all-nighters, house parties, raves and rock concerts.

I eventually grew tired of the lifestyle, and frankly I think my dad grew even more tired of it. One summer day he swooped in, grabbed me and my suitcase, and took me off to his home in Newmarket. I was enrolled back in High School, and off I went.

I was making excellent grades – actually, I was a honour roll student with marks in the 90s. I took a Peer Tutoring class, and this was something that really sparked something deep inside me. We were paired up with the “at risk” students – kids who were very much like me back when I started school. My teacher coupled me with a young lady who she described as “a real challenge” – but she winked and said she knew I could handle it.

Her name was Jamie. Her hair was long, dark and pin straight. It hung over her face like a blanket. She was a grade 9 student from Baltimore. Her father had passed away, and she was left to be raised by her mother and older brother. I could tell she was opposed to any sort of authority, and refused to make eye contact with me, let alone speak to me. I tried to make casual conversation with her, just about life in general; nothing even related to school. She finally opened up to me on the second day, talking about how her mother constantly brought home an endless cycle of men, most of which she never knew their name. My heart ached for her. She was so tough on the outside, and so broken on the inside.

We worked on reading a novel; a novel that she chose from a reading list. We read it out loud together, with me taking the lead initially. I would read to her in funny voices, and I would exaggerate with theatrical faces and hand gestures. One day a smile broke through, the tiniest of smirks. I knew from then on that she was warming up to me.

One of my assignments in the Peer Tutoring course was to write an essay about my experience working with Jamie. I titled it “Validation” – and now in my adult life I think about how so very true my words were. I spoke about how Jamie, like the rest of us need validation. For someone’s eyes to light up when we walk into a room. For someone to acknowledge us, to think about us and our needs. Jamie got so mixed up her her mother’s mess of simply just trying to survive, that Jamie got pushed aside. No one to ask how her day was, or how she was feeling. She needed validation.

We all do.

We all need someone to make us their focus; their priority.

I remember my dad being glued to his blackberry in my teens, hardly even looking up when I spoke. He was busy with “work” and I felt like it trumped anything I ever had to say. Now, as a parent, I conciously try to put my phone down when my kids talk to me. I would never want them to feel the way that I did. Like I wasn’t as important as a phone. I let my eyes light up when they walk in the room. I give them big hugs and tell them how much I missed them. You don’t have to give them all the things they want, but you do need to give them your undivided attention and time.

People want to feel heard; to feel loved. Jamie wasn’t acting out because she was a shit kid – she was looking for genuine attention and she didn’t know how to command it.

As adults, we need this in our relationships. Time, undivided attention, and to be made a priority. We want our daily stories about work to be heard, even if they are boring. We want eye contact, and acknowledgment – not a silent nod from behind a phone screen. We want feedback and appreciation. And we most certainly want eyes to light up when we walk into a room.

It’s never too late to start giving our relationships (be it with our kids, our partner, or our friends) what they need. That’s the beauty about validation: it can come at any point and make someone’s life drastically change course. It’s a gift you can give and it almost always has a positive impact.

I often think about Jamie and where she is in life. If she has kids, if she’s married. And I hope I made an impact on her life.

Because she certainly had an impact on mine.

This is thirty-something


The 5am coffee.

It’s nearing the end of summer and the early daylight seems to be no more. The birds are chirping, and the morning commuters are starting to leave, but the sun has yet to come out of hiding.

It’s Wednesday and I think I am finally starting to feel semi-normal after our Boots and Hearts adventure. For those who don’t know, it’s a country music festival where you camp out and basically drink for the whole weekend. You can’t leave the grounds and the daily music doesn’t start until 2pm-ish. Was it fun? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Well, the whole weekend cost my husband and I about $1500 – so I think I’ll save my pennies for a Cuba trip next time.

But… what a time. People brought in couches and chairs, campers with bars built into them, trucks with stripper poles, dance parties in the roadways… and young people. Lots and lots of young people. Girls with tight bodies, unscathed by the marks of childbearing, and perky breasts untouched by several years of breastfeeding.


It hit me hard.

You see, I’m in this transitional period of my life where I no longer feel like a glowing, vibrant young lady. I feel like a mother. And nearly a mother to one of those young ladies. I am woman, but certainly not as young as I used to be. I felt out of place. I didn’t like the crowds. I didn’t like the constant noise. I longed for a campfire, and a cuddle with my kids.

These are your thirties.

This is a time when you swap out high heels and all night parties, for early to bed and sweatpants. And spend Friday nights mapping out monthly budgets, and do 6am Saturday mornings to beat the grocery shopping rush. No all day drinking, and no more perky tits.

And I’m not sure how I feel about it all yet.

For one: I do love an early night in, and sweatpants. But this body? I am struggling to find peace with it. Sure, I am growing more accepting of it. But there are some parts I cannot undo. Wrinkles in the corners of my eyes are forming. I see the creases in the morning as I scramble to put on a coat of mascara on before running out the door. Stretch marks. There for the rest of time. Linear reminders that I am a mother and I carried three sweet babes to full term, and birthed them through these wide, childbearing hips. My hair line is receding, my breasts sag and STILL produce milk (thankksssss horomones), and the bags under my eyes serve as a gentle reminder that I may finally sleep when I’m dead.

Ah, yes. This is the phase I am in. I look older, I feel older, and yet I’m not ready to grow up.

Perhaps you can relate?

Maybe you, too, are having trouble letting go of your youth and are trying to settle into this new role?

I like the peace that comes with your thirties. The routine of my daily commute, and the normal daily tasks I need to stay on top of. I like feeling needed and depended on by my children; soon enough they will grow up and I’ll be a roommate instead of their “mommy”.

But for now I’m learning to let go of the feeling of being desirable, and replacing it with being depended on.

After all, I’m just a thirty-something.

Making a bucket list

Scrolling through Social Media and I come across all these beautiful, smiling faces of my friends and family on their own adventures. Camping, hiking, concerts, road trips, travelling, weddings, new babies etc. I had every intention of living our best lives this summer, but here I am on a long weekend sitting on the couch, scrolling through everyone else’s best lives.


It’s easy to become overwhelmed with envy. Social Media has made jealousy so accessible with everyone posting their highlight reels. Sure, we travelled long before Facebook was a thing. But now it’s in your face all day, every day.

So I had to take a few moments to think about this and check myself. I was feeling inadequate. I was feeling like I wasn’t living up to my potential. I was feeling like I needed more.

And maybe, just maybe, this is why other areas of life begin to slide. People posting about the relationship triumphs: sharing cute, sentimental gestures from their partner. Or maybe you see someone’s engagement photos – sweet, cuddly couples holding each other and staring longingly into each other’s eyes.

Well, guess what… not to be buzzkill – and maybe this is more of a reality check than a crushing-of-hopes-and-dreams – but this is not everyday life.

Those cute, family beach photos? There were three tantrums, 17 seagulls attacking the unattended bag of goldfish crackers, a toddler who peed themselves, a mom who yelled more than she likes to admit, a big kid who gave the little brother a black eye, and sand in everyone’s picnic lunch.

And those cute engagement photos? Well, the boyfriend needed to basically be bribed to even attend this whole thing. And they probably were fighting in the car the whole way there.

I’m not saying we are all living a facade – but just remember that we alllllll have imperfect moments every. dang. day.

Comparaison is the thief of joy.

It’s true, yes. So how do we fix this? For starters, stop comparing. Look at your own life from an un-altered perspective. Those little moments actually mean a lot more than you think.

Next, write a bucket list. This is YOUR bucket list. I started to realllllly think about the moments I could experience that would bring me joy. Not someone else’s moment I am seeing on Social Media. My bucket list may take time. Maybe even a life time… but this is what I am aiming for.

Stop living your life through someone else’s. Live your life through your eyes. Trust me – you have so much more to be thankful for than you think.

My Bucket List:

1. Camp out on a beach next to the ocean

2. Ride in a hot air ballon.

3. Sleep in a villa over the ocean.

4. Travel to Italy.

5. Volunteer at a homeless shelter serving a Christmas dinner.

6. Fly in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.

7. Learn to drive standard.

8. Finish reading the Jean M. Auel series of books.

9. See the Eiffel Tower.

10. Take my kids individually to a concert and see their favourite band.

11. Write a book.

12. Change someone’s life.

13. Buy a home.

14. Ride a zip line through a tropical forest.

15. Get a full sleeve tattoo.

16. Watch a sunset from the beach in Costa Rica.

17. Float down a river in a tube.

18. Meet someone famous.

19. Make a piece of art and have it featured somewhere.

20. Go to a casino, and win something.

21. Do a portage camping trip.

22. Fly a plane.

23. Celebrate Christmas in another country.

24. Learn another language.

25. Visit every province in Canada.

To the mother that feels like she’s failing…

I see you.

I see you waking up before your alarm. Sure, you couldn’t fall asleep the night before because your mind cycled endlessly though thoughts.

Last night you lay awake, contemplating all your life’s choices and over-analyzing everything you have done to bring you to this very moment in your life. You listen to your husband breathing loudly through his mouth beside you, and a tinge of anger washes over as you envy his ability to fall asleep in 39 seconds. There is a fly buzzing somewhere in the room. You get up to pee for the second time, and the fly follows you. You trip over a laundry basket in the hall, and think to yourself, “Right. Shit… Laundry. I left another load in the washer.”

You shuffle back to the bedroom and lie back down. Sleep comes at some point, but you cannot recall exactly when. Your eyes open and you instinctively grab your phone. 5:11am… Still another 49 minutes until your alarm goes off. Not enough time to fall back asleep, though. At some point the baby crawled into bed with you, and now her feet are pressed against your side as she does some sort of yoga pose horizontally across you and your husband. He’s still sleeping soundly, and so is she. *grits teeth*

You wander down to the kitchen and put on some coffee. What a mess. Kids clothing strewn about. Bits of magic sand scattered across the table and floor. And dishes piled high across the counter and into the sink. The recycling needs to be taken out still. And the garbage – judging by the smell, it needs to go out, too.

You grab your coffee and sit down on the couch to casually thumb through Instagram and Facebook before the kids wake up. The steam rises up to your face, and the coffee smells like heaven. Sure, its some generic brand – but this, my fellow mammas, is love in a cup. 5:30am never looked so good, as you sit down and sip your hot cup of coffee in silence.

All you can hear is that damn fly still buzzing somewhere.

The kids begin to wake up, and it’s followed by a series of demands for iPads, fighting for the bathroom, and shouts of, “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clear or dirty?!”

The sparkle of the coffee wears off and you try to sneak into the bathroom to finish getting ready for work. As you apply your mascara, you are repeatedly bumped in the elbow by the swinging open of the bathroom door (thanks to your toddler). You realize you are late, and you give kisses and I love yous as you jet out the door.

Your check engine light is on, and your tank is nearly empty (thank, hun…) You reluctantly stop for gas figuring that being late is better than being stuck on the side of the road. Bank card declines – shit – so you pay with credit, and make a mental note to look at your bank account when you get to the office. You race down the road and stop yourself from brake-checking the asshole riding your behind. You pull into work, try to find parking, and reach for your bags… double-shit. You forgot your lunch.

Your day is filled with work catch up, meetings and text messages from your husband asking how to get to your son’s ball games, or if there is enough money in the account to pay for (insert item here). You email the dentist, and call the doctor’s office to book follow up appointments. You live on coffee and rice cakes you’ve left in your desk.

You race home, only to walk into a house that is ten times messier than it was when you left. You put on more coffee and roll your sleeves up so you can dive into the laundry/dishes/piles of random assorted crap all over. You get some pasta boiling and some sauce heated up for dinner, and say fuck it to the garlic bread – it takes too long, and everyone just eats the broiled cheese off it anyway…

You run through showers and teeth brushing – ok maybe teeth brushing gets overlooked sometimes. You read stories, sing twinkle twinkle little star, refill water cups, scratch backs, do secret handshakes, say I love yous, and give goodnight kisses.

And then maybe, just maybe, you get a workout in and shower.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Mommas, I see you.

This is your reminder that you’re going to be alright. And maybe I need the reminder more for myself tonight.

But know that it IS going to be alright. And you’re doing a good job.

Rhubarb pie

It’s 5am.

This is known as mom time. Me time.

Now that summer is here, it’s finally light out at this hour. The birds are chirping, the sky is a cotton candy hue as the sun comes out from hiding.

This is my favourite time of day.

This to me of day is peaceful, aside from the birds. It’s when I get most of my writing done; my thinking done.

I open Facebook and see the usual stuff. But more recently there was a buzz about the abortion laws being debated in the US, it makes me think of a story. It goes a little something like this.

There was a girl.

She was 16, had met a boy, and they fell in love. He was so sweet, had shaggy hair, and a lip ring. Together they skipped school, went to parties, and dove deep into a lifestyle of popping pills and staying up for days.

This girl was lost. She was smart, but didn’t know her place in the world. So much was falling apart in her home life that she just wasn’t sure of her own self. This boy was home for her. His family was a little strange, but they loved her and accepted her.

One day her period was late. She took a home test. Pregnant… even despite being careful with contraception (aka being on the pill).

In the car she said to her mother, “Mom, I have to tell you something…” He mother knew, and together they cried. Her mother said, “Honey, no matter what – I am here for you and support whatever decision you make.”

So they scheduled an appointment at a clinic in the city. The days leading up to it the girl was sick. She was tired, throwing up, and experiencing all the first trimester symptoms that come along with it.

The girl went for a dating ultrasound, but she went alone. Her boyfriend didn’t go. So it was just her, and she thought, “If this is how things are now, how will they be later on if I have a baby…?”

The girl and her mother drove together on the day of the appointment. A few protesters were out front with signs and it made the girl feel a little uneasy. Due to some threats that had been made, the girl could only go in alone; no extra visitors were allowed. She was to call her ride after the appointment.

She rang a buzzer, and gave her name and a code word. Someone let her in. There was paperwork to fill out, and magazines to read. But the girl was too nervous to absorb any of the information. She saw an intake nurse, and they went over some questions. The nurse asked about how she felt about the procedure, and if she was 100% certain about her decision to terminate. She thought… She thought long and hard about it. So many “what if’s” ran through her mind. What if we are meant to be together? What if we are actually ready to take this on? What is this is my destiny but I am intervening with fate? But then she quickly remembered she was 16, and still so very young.

The nurse asked about future plans for contraception, and drew a diagram explaining the female menstrual cycle. Then, she gave her some pills to ease her anxiety.

She went back into a back room where she was given a paper gown with a plastic tie to wrap around her waist. She was shown to a change room, given a key for a locker and instructed to put all her belongings into it. She was asked to remove all clothing from the waist down, and to put on the paper gown.


That’s how she felt in the barely held together paper dress. Exposed and cold. Shaking with nerves. She sat down in the secondary waiting area with a few other girls in matching paper gowns. No one made eye contact. The sense of panic and nerves lingered heavy in the air.

A nurse called her name and she went into a small room with a little table and a computer screen.

“We are going to perform a quick ultrasound to confirm the location of the pregnancy, and how far along you are. We will also do a quick blood sample.”

The nurse pricked her finger and then asked her to lie back on the table. The gel was cool on her belly, and felt kind of nice among the tension of the day. No words were spoken between the two until she softly said, “Done. You can go back to the waiting room.”

The girl shuffled back to the circle of chairs, trying hard to not expose herself in the flimsy gown. She waited patiently for her name to be called again.

It felt like an eternity, but another nurse appeared and called her up. This time she was led to the back into a room with all sorts of medical equipment. She was instructed to lie on the table, and was briefed on the procedure.

“We will give you some gas, and you shouldn’t feel too much pain. It won’t take long…”

She was asked to get up on the table and scoot down to the bottom, with her legs up in the stirrups. Exposed and vulnerable. Then, she was given gas. Her body felt heavy and her chest felt like there was an elephant on it. A doctor appeared, and her and the nurse continued to converse about rhubarb pie, laughing about something. The doctor inserted something into the girl, and she felt an immense amount of pain. Cramping, pinching, and then a suction noise. The doctor left and it was done. Tears. The girl was hit with a wave of emotions, and all she could do was shake and sob uncontrollably. The nurse helped her up and slid on some mesh underwear and a pad. She led the girl into a waiting area with other women also in recovery.

The girl felt dizzy, and cold. A nurse came over with a blanket, and some crackers and ginger ale. The anaesthetic made her feel sick. As the meds wore off, and she regained some composure, the nurse came by and asked if she was feeling up to leaving. The girl nodded. The nurse handed her some paperwork and an envelope of medication, an antibiotic she was told. She went to her locker grabbed her things, and she shuffled to the washroom. She was feeling off. No, sick. She was going to be sick. She ran to the bathroom no longer caring about the gown coming undone and made it just in time to throw up. She sank to the floor, sobbing.

Exposed, vulnerable, tear soaked, and empty.

Completely empty.

This is what abortion looks like. Nobody chooses this path. Nobody wakes up and says, “Gee, I think this is what I want to do today!” But I cannot even begin to fathom where that 16 year old girl would have ended up should she not have been given the choice to regain control of her future. She would not have finished high school, or been an honour roll student. She would not have found an amazing career, or been as successful as she ended up being in life, rich with love and joy and family.

That girl won’t ever forget that day. As awful and traumatizing as it was, it was a second chance at life.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. People have different perspectives on things, and life experiences to shape those opinions. But to shame others for their life choices – I’ll never understand…

So here’s to the people who had to make hard choices and live with the consequences of their actions. I salute you. I stand by you. You wake every morning and put on a brave face. Maybe you feel guilt, or embarrassment. But you show up. I think that’s my mantra for 2019 – just show up. No amount of shame or sadness or anger is allowed to rob you of the joy in making memories.

Remember that, friends. You are not alone, and you are worthy of great things no matter what happened to you in your past.

Body positive

I know I spend a great deal of time investing into my own personal body positive journey. I do this in small, sporadic bursts on social media, clad in a bikini claiming zero fucks given.

But what does body positive actually mean? And how did this journey begin?

Well, I imagine this translates into different things for different people.

Maybe it means you put on a bikini instead of a one piece, or… maybe you just put on a bathing suit for the first time altogether. Maybe you wore it to the beach and actually participated in beach-type activities like wading in the water, sitting on a beach towel basking in the sun, or building a sandcastle with the kids.

Perhaps your body positive journey involves leaving the house without makeup on. You’ve worn it every day of your life and now, you feel free enough to go bare faced into the grocery store.

For some, body positivity means posting a selfie without a filter.

Maybe you wore shorts for the first time.

Either way, everyone’s journey is going to look a little different.

For me, my body positive transformation looked a little something like this…

I was cycling through extreme dieting in order to lose weight for 8-week transformation competitions. I’d drop my calories and exercise in excess. I’d become obsessed with watching my body shrink in such a short period of time. Losing 20lbs in 8 weeks seemed realistic to me. (Narrator: it was NOT realistic, nor was it healthy…) I was weighing myself daily, and allowing that number to dictate my mood. I would take progress photos and compare them obsessively. I was weighing my foods and carefully tracking everything.

Here’s the thing: losing weight can be done in a proper way. When you do it for the right reasons, it can be done. Slowly, and without excessive restrictions… When you’re in a good mental state, and you aren’t desperate to lose weight in a short period of time – it can be achieved in a healthy manner.

I spent so many years fighting to lose 10-20lbs. I was literally killing myself over such a slight fluctuation in a scale number. Sure, during my first pregnancy I hit 205lbs as my “highest” weight, but I was also carrying a baby, and a placenta, and a significant amount of water weight. My lowest point, aside from childhood? 134lbs. That’s the lowest I’ve seen. And for some reason I spent a good part of my life trying to reach that holy grail of a number because in my mind it would validate my success.

I felt like my identity revolved around my fitness journey, and any regression in progress meant failure.

This, my friends, is what I call disordered eating. Yes, it’s similar to an eating disorder – but when you switch the two words around it has more of an impact. Eating in a disordered fashion might look like this:

1) punishing yourself for eating a “bad” food, or for eating too many calories

2) staying away from “bad” foods all together, instead of eating what you love in moderation

3) skipping meals

4) binging

5) having any sort of negative emotions towards foods

This was me.

Food controlled my life. I had to step back from it all to re-set my mind and get comfortable once again. This meant eating in an un-controlled manner and accepting the changes to my body that came with it.

I started sharing my raw, unfiltered self with the world. I winced when I hit the “share” button of a selfie full of stretch marks and cellulite. It was uncomfortable, but it was honest. This was the real me. No holds barred. Just me with loose skin and curves for days.

It felt good.

Reallllly good.

I felt like I was unbuttoning my jeans and letting out my belly that I had been sucking in forever.

I started back at the bottom. I ate whatever I wanted and watched my body respond. Curves and rolls started to form, and the muscle I had developed started to fade. At first I felt lost. No one to update with my progress, no calories to track, no bikini photo comparaisons to take, or measurements to track. But then, slowly I grew more comfortable in my skin. The anxiety dissipated.

Then I started exercising again. No specific goals in mind, and no amount of weight to lose in particular. I was mindful with my eating – listening to what my body wanted. I cut dairy and gluten to help with my joint pain and skin issues. But I also ate when I was hungry – and if that meant peanut butter from a container, or coconut milk ice cream – then that’s what I ate.

After several months of lifting weights a little more consistently, I could feel changes. That’s what I looked for – a feeling. Added strength, and speed. A little less struggle with each repetition. I stopped looking to the mirror and the scale for confirmation of my progress. And it feels good not having to “check in” all the time.

My mind wanted to default to a progress picture, just for shits and giggles. But this time it felt different. I didn’t analyze, nor did I feel like it was a validation. I looked at it and thought, “Well neat. I mean, I feel better… so I guess this is just a visual reflection of the changes I feel inside. But yeah, cool!”

I didn’t feel like I needed to push harder to maintain, or change my calories. I didn’t feel anything. Just – me. I felt like me.

So here we are.

No goals, no tracking, and no specific body type that I am after. Just happy and healthy, of mind and body.

So I hope you choose to do the same, and prioritize your mental health over aesthetics. We are all ever changing beings; you just have to learn to roll with the tides. Being fit and healthy can mean so many different thing. So I hope you choose to be happy first. And that means being comfortable with where you presently are, and accepting yourself as is.

Just show up. Be awesome.

And for fucks sakes, live your life.


It’s been a while since I sat down to write.

To be honest, the words haven’t flowed like they used to. At first it began as therapy. Each story unfolding with words carefully strung together in a sequence that allowed my mind to de clutter.

But, as my mind cleared and the stories ran out, I stepped back from my blog and focused more on my Social Media page posts.

I shifted the spotlight onto body positivity. By talking about this particular subject, I started being able to reach more people. The feedback was astounding. People reaching out to me and thanking me for motivating them to wear a bathing suit, or for helping them make positive changes to their lives. And some women, helping free them from diet culture.

However, I feel like I’ve hit a wall.

A complete and utter block.

But when I think about the writing and how it compares to life, they seem to be running on the same track.

I’m not drowning. I’m not trying to stay afloat. I have no battles I’m trying to fight, nor do I have any unwritten trauma to work through. My life is relatively boring. Stable and steady. Work is good. Kids are healthy(ish) and in good mental health. We are on summer break and things are fun right now. I am comfortable in my skin, and have found the balance that I was after.

I mean, things aren’t perfect – but I’m not in a terrible place.


It’s the best way to describe things. Plain, simple, yet delicious.

Stripped back, basic, unravelled.

These are the times we need to get more comfortable in. When there is no drama, and things are peaceful. We know how to try and survive the hard times – stay busy and distracted, meditate, drink more water and exercise, read a few more self help articles, engage in a social life – you know the drill.

And when things are blissfully wonderful, well… it’s just that. Easy.

But what about the in between? Do we know how to function when things are mediocre?

After a week in the hospital with my youngest, I am now home on “vacation” with the kids. A stay-cation, if you will. No camping planned, no outings scheduled every day of the week. The boys played with LEGO and went fishing today, Finn spent 90% of the day naked on the deck, Avalon played on her iPad, and I worked in the garden. Makeup free, music on, dirty hands – vanilla. Just… simplicity.

I sat down for a moment in the summer sun, not too hot and not to cool. I thought about how beautiful it was to just be. To get my hands dirty and have nowhere to be, and no expectations.

It took me a while to get comfortable with the thought. But here we are, and honestly – it’s a beautiful thing. I like it here. I like vanilla.