Tag 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

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

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

D.C. foundation brings joy of play to homeless youth

When you think about the basic needs of children, your mind probably goes to food, clothing and shelter. The things all humans need for survival. If you were to help the millions of homeless children in the United States, you might, rightfully, give some canned goods to a local food bank, or donate some blankets to an area shelter. These basic needs are something many of us can easily provide for our own children, and ones we easily take for granted.

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There is another childhood need we take for granted: play. Play is a fundamental part of childhood development. Play helps shape our children’s characters, develop critical life skills and forge their sense of self worth. A recent study by the American Association of Pediatrics highlights the importance of play and of every child, regardless of circumstance deserving the right to play.

Play is a vital part of childhood, and something all children deserve to experience. Unfortunately, however, kids who find themselves with unstable housing — often moving from shelter to shelter — rarely get the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of play. Continue reading

Reading to NICU babies inspires foundation full of heart

My baby doesn’t belong in the NICU.

At least, that’s what I thought while I held my seven-pound, full-term newborn in a room surrounded by tiny preemies tucked away in incubators, fighting to survive.

My baby doesn’t belong.

Or, maybe, I don’t belong.

My NICU experience was fraction of the time other parents endure. I came to the hospital with a baby born under emergency conditions and left two days later with a healthy child. This is not a typical NICU story, and I often feel wrong putting myself in that club.

I have friends whose children spent weeks, even months in the hospital, their contact with their precious babies reduced to supervised hours and minimal privacy. I have friends who spent days watching their tiny miracles give their all to survive, only to succumb to the will of G-d. I witnessed other parents during my visits to the NICU, whose bravery never wavered in the face of uncertainty.

Even though, my child wasn’t in the NICU for long. The time I spent with him there taught me just how valuable a caring and supportive environment can be for both newborns and parents. As I sat there in that uncomfortable hospital chair, awkwardly trying to nurse my child without detaching the numerous wires affixed to his body, I listened to the sounds of nurses tirelessly rushing from incubator to incubator, checking vitals and comforting bewildered parents. Because I was able to spend time with my child alone, I had the unique opportunity to observe other families and empathize with their hopes, fears and dreams.

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Because I (article author) was able to spend time with my child alone, I had the unique opportunity to observe other families and empathize with their hopes, fears and dreams.

One common connection between all NICU families, as this immense feeling of gratitude. Even those who’ve experienced the greatest of loss, still find meaning and purpose in the midst of tragedy. These parents are an inspiration and a reminder how hope can shine through the darkest of moments.

One such mother is Stacey Skrysak, a journalist and writer who, along with her husband Ryan founded Triple Heart Foundation in honor of their premature triplets, Peyton, Parker and Abby. Born in 2013 at just a little more than 22 weeks gestation, only Peyton survived, with Abby passing shortly after birth and Parker passing in the NICU at nearly two months old. Continue reading

Blogging for Better: Sanctuary for Families

I started this blog five years ago as a way to share the joys and hardships of parenting with others who can relate to my experiences. One of my goals was to build a big enough platform to reach those whose needs go beyond what I can do with words alone (not that words aren’t important!) About two years ago, I tossed around the idea of promoting different philanthropies each month, and growing a network of bloggers to support them. For some reason, I never did anything.

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Today, that changes. Today, I am launching what I hope to be the first of many in a monthly series I am calling, “Blogging for Better.” Each month, I will feature a new charity, often one that is not a huge national philanthropy, which dedicates itself to serving children, families, mothers and other vulnerable groups. I pledge to only feature charities that I have personally supported.

With that, I would like to announce my first “Blog for Better” cause:

Sanctuary for Families

Violence against women and children impacts thousands of families every year, which is why I am supporting Sanctuary for Families.

From the Sanctuary for Families website:

“Sanctuary for Families is New York’s leading service provider and
advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related
forms of gender violence.”

This incredible organization helps victims of abuse escape from a life of pain and suffering by providing shelter, legal counsel, career training and more.

If you would like to support Sanctuary for Families, please click here.

To learn more about Sanctuary for Families services, click here.

(Note if you are a New Yorker in immediate danger and need to take discreet action, Sanctuary for Families offers a secure option for you. Just click on the “Escape” button found on the web site.)

Thank you so much in joining me in blogging for better. If you have a blog, please consider joining me in building a network of bloggers supporting wonderful causes. E-mail me at maybeillshowertoday@gmail.com with the subject line: Blogging for Better.

Let’s make the world a better place, one blog post at a time.