Humpday Hero Feature: Nivia

Interviewing Nivia can be summed up in one word: enlightening!  She was a breath of fresh air, offered her wisdom with such humility, and her laughter was contagious.  She vowed to no pictures, but her beauty radiates through her words.  If you have suggestions for future humpday heroes please email here:  For nomination rules please click the Humpday Hero tab above.  Don’t forget to click the follow button above to subscribe.

Quote from the nominator.

“Nivia has taught me lessons that not only apply to my professional life, but also my personal.  After I leave her supervision I feel like a weight was lifted off of me and it helps me get through the rest of the work week.”


Nivia Van Damme, LCSW

How do you describe your 9-5?

“I don’t know what a 9 to 5 is; my day is way beyond a 9 to 5!  I am a therapist.  It is busy to say the least, hectic, and challenging.  I often start early and end late.

If you were the ruler of a country, what would be the first law you would enact?

“This is actually a question that I ask my clients!  It would be to eliminate hunger.  It’s hard for me to conceptualize that there are human beings, of all ages that spend the day hungry.  To be hungry, all day, is the most painful feeling for someone to endure.

You are stranded on a deserted island, a genie appears and can grant you three wishes (can not wish to leave island), what are your wishes?        

“First I want to make sure I have shelter.  I want food because I have to survive.  The last wish is difficult.  I would love to have the companionship of my family, but why would I want to subjugate them to a deserted island.  See, this is a reflection of myself on a daily basis (laughs).  The third wish would be a wish for good health.”

Its Saturday 2:00 P.M., what are you doing?

“Driving home from either the market or after seeing a client.”

Describe the first time you fell in love with someone or something?

“One of the first memories of deep love is the birth of my first nephew.  I was a teenager when he was born and it was like having a new toy.  His father, my brother and I were very close as kids.  He would walk me to class and everything, he was  great.  So when he had a kid the love  for my nephew was precious.  The love that I have for my nephew to this day is still very special.”

If money was no factor, what would you choose to do for the rest of your life?

“I have tremendous love for my family, so I would first make sure that each of them were financially secure.  Then I would be extremely involved in eradicating hunger.  I would also work with eradicating childhood illness.”

If your life could be described by a song, which would it be?

“This is a tough one!  I love music.  I associate music to relaxation, my culture, and my roots.  I can’t think of a song though, I owe you an answer.”

What are three things you cannot live without?

“I am not very attached to material things; it seriously could all be taken away.  I won’t say one of the things is my faith/spirituality because that could never be taken away.  The first would be a form of transportation.  I could not imagine walking around Los Angeles.  The second would be my family; they represent so much to me.  Thirdly, my mental health.  My mental health gives me the ability to evolve, to be, to create.  It’s a great fear of mine to lose my mental health.  Working in the field I work in, I often see what it is like to lose pieces of your mental health and its heart breaking.”

Who is your hero?

“I have several heroes, all of whom I believe aided in molding me into the person I have become. My aunt was an amazing woman; she raised me and molded my personality, principles, and values.  She taught me how to take things not so seriously.  My dad taught me responsibility, work ethic.  He really taught me how to present things to people.  My mother was a very giving woman, her and my dad were complete opposites.  Philosophically, knowing Jesus exist changed my life.  I spent a portion of my life challenging my faith and eventually learned it for myself.  Politically my heroes are Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dr. King, and Salvador Allende.  They were all so significant to our world.  All these significant people shaped me into the person that I have become today.

Which actress would you choose to play your life story?

“Oh gosh, you are making me think!  Let me tell you a funny story.  I used to work at Cedar Sinai Hospital and when you become employed you have to sign a confidentiality statement due to all the celebrities that come to the hospital.  The running joke was that I didn’t need to sign it because I literally never knew who these people were.  I don’t watch T.V. or movies much.  The last movie I probably saw in the theaters was Shrek!  I can’t even think of an actress’s name.  But, at one time in my life was a little obsessed with Dustin Hoffman.”

Final words to the readers

“Life is full of challenges.  We have to be ready to go with the flow.  Remember to hang onto the things that have value and let go of the worries, concerns, and material things.    Those things will give you nothing and if you allow them to define you they will eventually trap you.  Money has value and yes your positions in life can help you gain the access, but you have to balance it so you don’t lose sense of yourself.  This is something that has to be cultivated, it doesn’t just come.”

The Mad Dash

5:00 P.M….10:00 P.M….11:00 P.M….12:30 A.M……2:00 P.M….5:30 P.M….7:00 P.M….The time I needed to leave work, the time I needed to be done packing, the time I needed to leave, the time I needed to get there, the time dinner started, the time I needed to leave again, and the time I needed to arrive one more time.  Time!  Time was all I thought about during the holidays.  It felt like it slipped away from me more often than it gave me extra, even when I paid for it to turn off.


But this holiday season it was imperative that I managed it well. We had three cities to navigate through within 24 hours, catch up with family, and pretend not to be exhausted throughout the process. This was a time of pure endurance! I had prepared for this day for months. I felt like the character in the Black Friday Target commercials. I timed the traffic at peak hours. I worked late and slept less. I would wake up in the middle of the night, screaming “pack, pack, pack” just to see if my husband was prepared for the holiday season. This was no time for mishaps!

I lined up at the starting line, did a few stretches, and was the first out of the gate at the sound of the gun. I actually left a tad early from work, but this was no time to count penalties, I had a race to run. Second hurdle of only utilizing one overnight bag (as ordered by coach husband) posed to be a challenge, but I cleared it with room to spare. Fatigue started to set in by hurdle three of driving down the 91 after the sun had set, but the coach splashed water on my face from the sidelines to jar my endurance. Fourth hurdle was cleared without a stumble as we pulled into the driveway to the T of the estimated arrival time.

But it wasn’t until the fifth hurdle that I started to trip up. The hurdle had been knocked down! Thanksgiving dinner was ready early! AHHHHHH this was unexpected. This meant that the time between dinner and estimated time of departure would be elongated. Time is imperative for maintaining endurance. If the time was stretched, it offered room for me to set in a comfortable pace turning my sprint into a marathon, meaning I had to slow down! I took a deep breath and mentally tried to prepare for this new change of pace; but it did not go as planned.
It started out with revisiting old family stories, laughing until our stomachs hurt, and watching the kids’ eyes sparkle in amazement at the people we grew out of. The stretch led into reminiscing on loved ones no longer with us, predicting sibling’s futures, and watching a series of hysterical YouTube videos. It rounded out with doing each other’s hair, movie watching, and dessert eating. And then endurance’s worse enemy struck: hugs and sad goodbyes. I had completely lost my pace, focus, and endurance.

I had succumbed to familiarity and it felt good. It was like eating that first piece of cake after dieting for 6 months; like wrapping up in a blanket and watching “Stepmom” on a rainy day; like watching your nephew crawl into your arms and say “I love you”; it felt like family; it felt like home. I had trained to get through the holidays but i had not prepared to be in them! Tears weld as I realized the sixth hurdle was in clear sight. While the rest of the race still had to be ran, I was aware now that I didn’t have to sprint.

I came to realize that if I run fast throughout life never slowing down to refresh myself with the reason I am running in the first place there is no reason to run at all. I vowed to terminate my entry in the mad dash of life and submit my name for the marathon of living.

Always with love,



Singing With the Volume Up!

Its 5:30 p.m.! It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night! It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night and I am sitting in bumper to bumper traffic; annoyed, hungry, and crossing my fingers that no one is having a crisis because all I want to do is grab a cocktail and watch my DVR. The car in front takes off late causing me to miss the light and fury sets in. I respond like any overworked, underpaid citizen of the world: curse, scream, and lay my hands in my head. I press my head on the driver’s window to physically display my disdain for this traffic, this wack ass job, and my plastic window covered car that shakes when the AC turns on. I am hoping for sympathy; camaraderie; hell a head nod from a fellow gridlock companion but I am shocked.

There she is dancing her ass off to a song that I wish I knew the lyrics to. She is happy, she is carefree, she clearly must be an unemployed college student because that’s the last time I was ever that damn happy. I stealthily start to scroll through my pre-set stations trying to see if the beats will match hers in desperation to steal an ounce of her happy. Damn you 6-station limited radio player….because clearly if I had a 7th it would have matched my new arch enemies.

This has turned into a challenge; to compete I pop in that CD that everyone plays when you’re feeling fresh. You know, the one after you just left the shop, picked up a new pair of shoes, and got ya stunna shades on. The one CD that you can sing to the love of your life and the chump that never knew what he had. Clearly, it’s Beyonce! My finger slips as I push the broken skip button to get to number 8 in time to get to the good part before she drives off. And then I belt out! I sing to the top of my lungs the opening lyrics, my eyes are closed, and I am dancing! I am feeling myself y’all. I mean the volume is blasting and I am Sasha Fierce. I look over to gloat at my non-taxpaying vice and to my surprise she starts dancing with me! Instantly we are united and on one accord.


I run through the light seeing my vehicle predecessor perform expletive sign language. By this time I am in tears with uncontrollable laughter. And immediately I forget that a client spent five minutes cursing me out; I forget about that fight that caused a loss of a friendship; I even forget that I wrote my cable bill a week late (until I get home).

I send cosmic gratitude to my beach bunny competitor for showing me that Singing With the Volume Up does more than increase my chance for a hearing aid, but serves as a washcloth for the days muddiness. I vowed to sing more often; and loudly!

Always with love,


Thanksgiving Debut!!!

Hello World,

Singing with the Volume Up is happy to announce that blogging will officially commence on Thanksgiving Day 2011! I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and am so excited to share this journey with you all. In the meantime, take a second to leave your recommendations for topics that you would like to be discussed, follow me on twitter at @swtvu, and click on the follow button at the bottom to be updated when new blogs are published.

Humpday Heroes

Every Wednesday SWTVU will feature one person or company that’s helping people get through the week with a smile. Recipients will be featured each Wednesday on the blog with a picture and interview. Please take the time to nominate someone who you believe deserves to be honored. Examples of nominees are: a husband that cleaned the house so their wife could study for classes, a co-worker that advocated for you at work, a barista that gave you a word of encouragement with your latte, or even your nephew that called to say I love you. SWTVU believes that changing lives doesn’t always have to be done on a monumental scale; it just has to be done. Please see nomination rules below.

Nomination Rules:

1. Please send email to with title HUMPDAY HERO NOMINATION. All nominations must be received at least two weeks prior to being considered for feature.
2. Please provide name, photo, and contact information for nominee.
3. In 100 words or less demonstrate why nominee should be chosen to be featured.
4. Nominations will be kept up to three months.
5. Please avoid nominating yourself 

Always with love,