Category Archives: Blogging for Better

Writing can save lives

The first few months or so after I gave birth to my first child were a blur of sleepless nights, days without a decent shower, and scrambling to eat to keep up with the never-ending hunger I felt from constant breastfeeding.

I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, sad and confused.

New motherhood brought on a slew of emotions I had little experience with before I had kids.

I needed a way to process those emotions — to make sense of what I was experiencing — so, I turned to writing.

I started this blog in 2013, shortly after I made the decision to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.

My first entries were short, often nonsensical ramblings, I never intended many people to see. Though, I guess, subconsciously, I was hoping others would read it, otherwise I would have stuck with an old-school journal.

Regardless of my intent, getting my thoughts about parenting out of my head and on to the screen helped me to work through some of the harder parts of motherhood.

Writing might seem like a simple solution, but for me and others, like Kimberly Zapata, the founder of Greater Than Illness, there is so much more to writing than words on paper. 

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Two dads are on a mission to “solve” childhood cancer

I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, when I first knew of a parent to lose a child to cancer. A family in my community had a little girl who was very ill. I knew she had cancer, but not what kind. I understood she was suffering, and her parents were working hard to care for her.

That little girl passed away, and I remember seeing her father in the days, weeks, months and even years after; always amazed by how positive he always remained. At my age, I couldn’t comprehend the depth of child loss, the unique experience of caring for a child with cancer, or how grief manifests itself in many ways.

I wish I could say that little girl would be the last time I knew of a child lost to cancer, but year after year, a family I know — whether from my “real life” or online community — has to bear the unbearable and mourn the death of a child to this horrible disease.

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What inspires me most about so many of these families is how even in the face of unspeakable grief they find hope and the will to seek out ways to help others dealing with a child’s cancer diagnosis. As a parent, I can say, most of us would do almost anything for our children, and it is no surprise parents are often at the forefront of movements to better our world.

Parents like John London and Scott Kennedy, the co-founders of Solving Kids’ Cancer.

Inspired by their children Penelope (John’s daughter) and Hazen (Scott’s son), who even while dealing with their own illness, remained hopeful other kids wouldn’t have to suffer, John and Scott came together in 2007 to form a foundation dedicated to addressing the unique issues of childhood cancer. Continue reading

Foundation seeks to make college a reality for deserving youth

My parents drove me up to my dorm, the family car stuffed with clothes, bedding and more to get me through the coming year. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of fear, as I was about to embark on my collegiate journey.

I had the typical freshmen concerns:

Will I like my roommate?

Will my classes be hard?

Will I have a good time?

One question, I never had to ask, however was:

Will I be able to afford my education.

I am privileged to have had my entire college education paid for by my parents. Not once in my four years as a student did I ever have to worry about where I would find money for books, room and board, or even food. I was fortunate. More fortunate than many of my peers.

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Knowing my financial situation was always stable, I was better able to focus on my studies and handle the other pressures of college life.

But, my family support wasn’t limited to money, I also had parents, who, were actively invested in ensuring myself and my two siblings made it through school and earned our degrees.

They knew getting through college is not a task easily accomplished without help. Continue reading

Growing a love for gardening one community at a time

I was volunteering in my son’s classroom, when his teacher asked me help a few students do some weeding in the school garden. She handed me an example of what to look for, and I thanked her, as I am as far from a “green thumb” as one can get.

My shortcomings in gardening mattered little, as the children themselves schooled me on the finer points of tending to their little plot of various flowers and produce. I thought about how fortunate they were to be part of a educational community that values the importance of learning where our food comes from and teaching future generations to care for and respect the Earth.

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The benefits of spending time outdoors working in the soil are evident, and one Chicago-based woman has made it her mission to show the world that anyone can be a gardener — no matter where they live or their level of experience. Researching for this blog has even started to convince me I might have a shot!

Natasha Nicholes, saw the empty plots of land in her Chicago neighborhood as opportunities. From one small, West Pullman community garden plot started in 2016, the We Sow We Grow project was born. Today, Nicholes spreads her enthusiasm about gardening beyond the reaches of Illinois and has indeed launched a movement to make gardeners out of all of us. Continue reading

Announcing the Blogging For Better Facebook page

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Last fall, I started a campaign known as Blogging for Better (#bloggingforbetter) as a way of raising awareness and money for various nonprofits. My dream was to bring together a network of bloggers, writers and influencers and use our collective platform to champion those smaller, grassroots organizations which don’t always have the time or money to engage on social media.

Since September, we have raised hundreds of dollars for foundations serving victims of sexual violence, homeless families, children in need of speech services, our veterans and much more.

Though, we still have a long way to go in terms of raising the amount of money I believe these organizations deserve, I am proud of how much this movement has grown over the past nine months.

To support our the efforts of Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter), I am excited to announce we are launching a public Facebook page. This page will serve as one-stop place to find all of the great content about our various nonprofits, as well as a home for inspirational stories and ways you can help your community.

In a time when social media can often leave us feeling sad, angry or defeated, Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter) will serve to bring some hope and good will to the digital world.

I invite you to like our page, comment on our posts, and share our content.  Also, please feel free to comment on this post with any suggestions or ideas on what type of stories you’d like to hear more about.

Here’s to blogging for better.

Foundation seeks to make play possible for all kids

We all know how important play is for childhood development, and, few things are as magical as watching a child’s face light up when exploring a favorite toy.

For special needs children, however, toys designed for neuro-typical and physically-typical kids, often fail to meet their fundamental need for play.

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The Gerlach family wants to make the world a more inclusive one for all children. Children, like their son Benjamin, who was born at only 25 weeks old on June 30, 2012. Along with his brother Colin and sister Ava, Ben spent 4-5 months in the NICU.

Once discharged, Ben’s challenges would continue. He relied on a feeding tube, had limited motor ability, visual impairment and was nonverbal. The Gerlachs knew he would have a tough road ahead of him.

Four years later, Ben passed away of respiratory failure on May 2, 2016. Though his life was brief, and often difficult, the Gerlachs were blessed with a happy, thriving child, thanks to the support of friends, family, doctors, therapists and more, who helped him live his best life.

The Gerlachs wanted to honor their sons memory, and honor those heroes who helped him along the way. To do so, they launched the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation to bring adaptive toys to deserving children and to help spread acceptance of kids with all abilities. Continue reading

No veteran should feel alone

On May 12, millions of Americans spent the day celebrating the mothers in their lives. Mother’s Day serves to remind us of all these women have done.

Later this month, Americans will celebrate another special group of people. A group, much like mothers, who put others before themselves. A group who paid the ultimate price for what they loved — their country.

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This Memorial Day, we will place flags on our windows; we will march in parades; we will cheer for those who serve, and bow our heads for those who died in the process. We will swell with patriotic pride.

But, what happens when the parades end, the flags come down, and everyone goes back to their lives?

Like mothers, veterans give their all for what they love. And, like mothers, veterans, all too often, get so little in return.

We praise those who serve, yet when the time comes to provide the services they need to cope with the toll of warfare, America falls short.

Our soldiers return from battle, suffering from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are often left to fend for themselves. The resources they find may be limited or too expensive.

One foundation is working to change that. Continue reading

Son’s incredible progress inspires couple to help other families get much needed speech services

Pam first noticed something different about her son, Joshua, when he was 18 months old. Though he was a perfectly healthy baby, she knew he was unlike other kids in his age group.

“We were in play groups with other kids around the same age,” she recalls. “When we went to their houses, Joshua would play with their toys but never showed any interest in the other kids. They would play with each other, hopping around from one toy to another. But Joshua would focus on one toy the entire time. The other kids were starting to form words or to have some semblance of communication with their parents, and Joshua just wasn’t.”

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Like many new parents, Pam, and her husband, Joe, chalked these differences up to Joshua’s unique personality and speed of development. They assumed Joshua’s desire to play with one toy for hours at a time or his avoidance of eye contact was just his quirky behavior, and nothing to be too concerned about.

At their son’s two-year checkup, however, the pediatrician suggested Joe and Pam have Joshua evaluated, and after several appointments, interviews and therapy, a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed their son with moderate autism.

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Nobody should ever have to choose between tampons and a meal

You are out and about and the dreaded “time of the month” has arrived unexpectedly; you go to use the restroom, only to discover, as you desperately fumble through your purse, that you don’t have any menstrual products on hand. You scramble around for spare change, and thankfully, the bathrooms vending machine has some tampons available.

Crisis averted.

Nobody Should Ever Have To Choose Between Tampons And A Meal

Plenty of us have been there, and can relate to the awful feeling of not having period supplies on hand when we need them. We can usually rely on having enough cash to purchase what we need from a local drug store, or even ask a friend. Someone we know always has a spare.

But, what if it weren’t so easy? What if having your period meant searching around for spare pieces of cardboard so you wouldn’t have to bleed everywhere? What if it meant choosing between buying food or buying menstrual products? Continue reading

Let’s smash the cycle of negative body image

I am lucky to have had a positive view of my body for most of my life. Sure, I had a few moments, such as wondering whether my breasts would come in by the time I got to high school, or if I put on some extra weight in college,  when I didn’t absolutely love how I looked, but overall, I was happy with what I was given.

I would like to believe this positive body image was built from within, but that is not the case. Those feelings were nurtured by being raised by two parents who never once made me feel ashamed of how I looked, and who modeled healthy attitudes themselves.

Let's smash the cycle of negative body image

In our home, the word, “diet,” was never uttered from anyone’s lips, or written on any product we owned. There was no pinching of fat, or lamenting about weight gain. The only scale I ever saw was at the doctor’s office.

My parents always reminded me of the beauty they saw within me, even if I didn’t always believe them.

Sadly, I know my experience is unique. Many of my peers grew up with moms who were constantly on diets, or subtly, or not-so-subtly, reminding them of their physical flaws. They were raised in homes obsessed with obtaining the “perfect” number on the scale, fueling a lifetime of unhealthy attitudes about weight. Continue reading