Heartbreak… Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Maybe you were dumped, diagnosed with a life threatening illness, suffered loss, financial downturn, or simply gave in to fear. It’s that moment when you feel completely numb, isolated and alone, desperate for something or someone to give you faith. My own heartbreak and battle with heart disease led me to create Voices To Share… Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time. Together we'll banish self-pity, and invite prosperity in all matters of the heart. As a Heart Coach, I will share: inspirational stories that will give you courage, tips to shift your fears into love, recipes and products to live a heart healthy life.


Nicole's Voice

Several months ago my friend took me to a wonderful play called "Expressing Motherhood", which featured 13 women talking about the trials and triumphs of motherhood.  The show was amazingly raw and powerful.  I was excited when I met one of the moms at the park a few weeks ago.  We immediately connected and she sent me this story.  Even if you're not a mom, Nicole strikes a nerve.  Sometimes life presents challenges, and it can feel like your world is unraveling.  Use humor and look for those little glimmers of light, it's right there in front of you.  By the way, Nicole's a comedian and she has a show coming up November 1st.  Proceeds go to the Be Aware Foundation to fight breast cancer.  Enjoy Nicole's voice.

Nights and Daze
By Nicole Blaine

I swear to God I am going to throw this baby off the balcony.

Okay, I’m not Michael Jackson. I love my child. The moment the Nurse laid her on my chest, she looked into my eyes, and I fell in love. And then... she screamed. FOREVER.

They call it colic. No one warns you about colic. Why? No one knows what colic means. For me, it meant months of sleep deprivation. So I had to create a very detailed, extremely precise, yet ever-changing method to turn her off at three in the morning.

You start with the swaddling, which is like making a little baby burrito. Swaddling is meant to recreate the feeling of security in the womb. Next you play the white noise to mimic the sounds of the womb. Then comes the movement. What started as gentle rocking, soon turned into bouncing on an exercise ball, which morphed into lunges. It's 3:12 in the middle of the night, and sweat is pouring off me as I'm thrusting forward, legs burning, arms like jello, lost in a sea of deafening white noise. This is what my womb was like?

My husband, of course, is asleep. God, I hate him. I couldn't believe this was our life. We had been together for twelve years. We were madly in love, and we were best friends. I used to tell people our life was like a never-ending slumber party. Now everything he said bore through my skin, ripped into my muscles, and got on my very last nerve. Everything he did with the baby he did absolutely wrong. Eat, poop, sleep: That’s all babies do. He sucked at getting her to sleep, he went into gagging convulsions around a poopy diaper, and he never lactated!

He tried. He bought her stuff. We have a mantle of 82 different rubber duckies. As soon as she showed slight interest (a “smile” not a gas bubble) he went to the store and cleared the shelves.

“Are you kidding me? I’m on maternity leave, we can’t afford all these stupid rubber duckies! She also likes rolling over, and that doesn’t cost anything! I understand you want to make her happy, but you don’t earn enough money to make her happy.” Some of it may have been the hormones.

I mean, I hated everyone – everyone who still went on dates, who still loved their partners, who still had a life, who still slept. I hated all my friends who didn't make the fatal mistake of having a baby. And I hated all my friends with babies. They all had babies that slept. All the time, everywhere. They slept in their cribs. They slept in the car. They slept in the stroller. They slept in a sling. The slept in a tuba in the middle of a marching band! I hated everyone. I hated you.

Why is my baby like this? What did I do? I was too stressed out during the pregnancy. I should have quit work sooner. I didn't take enough vitamins. I took too many vitamins. I slept the wrong way. On my stomach. On my back. On my right side. She practically died inside me every night. No, wait, it's his fault. He must have some crazy genes that snuck their way into my uterus. I should have known his family tree bore nothing but crazy fruit. God, I hate him.

Then one day he grabbed me. He threw me down on the bed. And then… he tickled me. I laughed. We laughed. We laughed until I cried, until I peed my pants, until I punched him in the face just to get him to stop tickling me. And I missed him. I missed us. Everything that was great about us came back with that rush of laughter. How could I have forgotten him? He’s my BFF. We can still have a slumber party, we just can’t sleep anymore.

And when our daughter said her first word I cried tears of joy. Who knew the word “duck” would make me love my husband even more? She’s 3 ½ years old now, and she is perfect.

There’s this old wives tale about colic: it will magically disappear around three months. That we never believed. It didn’t seem possible, but abra cadabra: she fell asleep. She stopped screaming. Our house calmed down. We all fell in love with each other, and I realized something: We would never be a couple again, we were now a family.

**Nicole Blaine currently resides in her hometown, Santa Monica, CA, where she met her husband. You can see her headlining in an all female stand up comedy show on November 1st. The cover charge is $10 and all proceeds go to the Be Aware Foundation to fight Breast Cancer, held at The Varsity Sports Grill Los Angeles 6311 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048 from 6:30-9:30pm.


Emily's Voice

I met Emily several years ago.  We were both pregnant with our now 4 year olds, volunteering for a wonderful organization called Harmony with No LimitsNo Limits is an after school program created for low income children with hearing deficiencies.  Like so many of my stories, Emily and I reconnected on Facebook.  She shared a quote about Bodhichitta, and I was immediately intrigued.  The quote is powerfully beautiful, and you can read it at the end of Emily’s story.  Through Emily’s pain and darkness, she awakened her own heart.  I am honored to share Emily’s Voice.  

Photo of Emily and Dad in 2006.

My Heart Opened in My Darkest Time
By Emily McGill

Growing up my Father was a friend to all – a stray animal, anyone who needed guidance. He put others first because he cared, and I think looking back he wanted to control his environment. If he took care of others he somehow believed he would be okay, too. He seemed so strong. He could almost will things to happen.

My Stepmom was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. With her perseverance, treatment and the selfless care from my Dad, she lived well after the diagnosis. However, the tighter he held on to things and managed her care, the more insecure I watched him become over the years.  Every test, every appointment no matter how routine threw him off course for weeks.  Love and hugs did not comfort him.  He wanted answers. Absolutes. A guarantee she would not have cancer again.

My Stepmom was diagnosed with a secondary cancer the beginning of 2010.  She passed in the summer of 2010 after a very short 6-month fight with liver cancer. My Father’s will and spirit passed away the night she died. I felt it as I drove away from the hospital. My husband stayed with him.

He spent many nights with my two young boys and me for the 11 months that followed, and then returned to his home during the day. There he searched for answers.  He read about the afterlife and spirituality.  He flew across the country to meet with an author and doctor who wrote about the afterlife. He met with religious leaders in his community searching for answers.  He was angry at the world.  He was angry with himself.  He had no compassion for anything but perhaps my two young boys.

I knew the answers were within him.  I couldn’t give them to him. Why couldn’t he know that? I listened to him for hours at night. Repeating to him "for now" you feel this way. "For now" you can't see a path ahead of you, “But it's just for now, Dad”. 

My Father committed suicide three months ago.  He always woke up bitter and sad at my house.  When the sun came up day after day, he couldn’t bear his reality without my Stepmom.  He left my house that morning and went home. Normally, we spoke every few hours.  When I did not hear from him, I knew in my heart something was wrong.  He went home to his house, and took his own life. 

My world forever changed in that moment I found out.  It changed and there is a sorrow that I have deep in my soul.  Yet, it was then that I found an (my) open heart for me and it demanded grace and compassion from me, not from others – but from me.  

It's not been a subtle transition.  He was one of my best friends in addition to being my Dad. I felt anger and wrote my Father a letter one night several weeks after.  I spent a miserable time in anger and loathing his decision, and after my letter to him my anger was released.  And in walked more sadness and sorrow.  Yet, when I found the passage about bodhichitta I also found compassion, understanding and grace.

I think I've been on a journey of self-discovery since I was a child; I had always liked the idea of yoga and Eastern thinking. Been drawn to it since I was young. However wanting yoga and more Eastern thinking to be in my world seemed a struggle. It's as if I thought just thru my yoga practice I would find enlightenment. If I just could master wheel or headstand all would come to me. It wasn't until my Father’s death that I realized all those beliefs where within and not a struggle at all. They were inherent. I’ve always had an open heart for the world and finally I had an open heart for me.  I have to heal me, look for the deep soft place in my heart I see so easily in others and saw so easily in my Dad.

I'm actually at peace in one of the darkest times in my life. My journey may never be over in regards to healing from my Father’s suicide, but I have compassion for him and for me. Something my Father wouldn't allow himself to do if ever. I realize now that he was searching all along for what was right inside of him, inside of all of us: the most tenderness of love and hearts, he just never turned it onto himself to give himself the compassion he needed.

A good friend introduced me to the writings of Pema Chodron earlier this year as I was struggling to take care of my heartbroken Father.  I bought him a book of hers, which remains untouched.  I found one of her books “Comfortablewith Uncertainty – 108 Teachings on Cultivation Fearlessness and Compassion” just a few weeks ago that had a passage on Bodhichitta.

Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means "noble or awakened heart." Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in sesame seed, the soft spot of Bodhichitta is inherent in you and me. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. No matter how committed we are to unkindness, selfishness or greed, the genuine heart of Bodhichitta cannot be lost. It is here in all that lives, never marred and completely whole.  
It is said that in difficult times, it is only Bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself. Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion - our ability to feel the pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. Based on a deep fear of being hurt, we erect protective walls made out of strategies, opinions, prejudices, and emotions. Yet just as a jewel that has been buried in the earth for a million years is not discolored or harmed, in the same way this noble heart is not affected by all the ways we try and protect ourselves from it. The jewel can be brought out into the light at any time, and it will glow as brilliantly as if nothing had ever happened. 
This tenderness for life, Bodhichitta, awakens when we no longer shield ourselves from vulnerability of our condition, from the basic fragility of existence. It awakens through kinship with the suffering of others. We train our Bodhichitta practices in order to become so open that we can take the pain of the world in, let it touch our hearts, and turn it into compassion.


Stacey's Voice

I first met Stacey several years ago when she designed her own children's clothing line called Bloom Love.  While Stacey was styling some of the cutest kids in Hollywood, my friend and I were looking to pitch a show called "Baby Chic".  Nothing came of the show, and eventually Stacey stopped designing her clothing.  Lucky me, when my daughters were born, I got some leftover samples.  She's so talented, and I was excited to hear about her newest venture, Warm Giving.  No more feeling guilty about shopping!  Stacey's voice will inspire you.

In Memory of My Sister
By Stacey Kohl

When my brother and I were very young, ten and eleven, we lost our sister at the age of twelve to polycystic kidney disease. She was the youngest participant to have a double kidney transplant, and unfortunately, her organs just couldn't handle it.  She ultimately passed away from a heart attack. 

Growing up, I always knew that when I could, I would donate my time and money to the Kidney Foundation.  When I started my first business, Bloomlove, a children’s clothing company, I donated 10% of my proceeds to The Painted Turtle Camps. These camps are where my sister loved to go.  A place where all of the children could feel normal and equal despite their disease.

I soon became a board member of the Southern California Kidney Foundation, and that led me to become a board member of The Lopez Foundation, a wonderful foundation that supports The Painted Turtle Camp, and awareness of Kidney disease and organ donation.

Soon I realized this was not enough. I realized that there are many causes that need support. Children all over are in need, woman are in need, men are in need. It seemed to me, that I could help many different people in need.  So my brother and I came up with an idea to support a variety of charities, and Warm Giving was created.

We hope that buyers feel warm knowing they are getting a great product or service, while at the same time helping people in need.  And it seems to be working. Feel the warmth. Change the world.


Amber's Voice

You can find inspiration everywhere, even at a topless show!  I first met Amber when I went to the opening of Fantasy.  It's a topless review in Las Vegas where beautiful women get on stage and perform different fantasies, in a tasteful, sexy and fun way.  These women can dance, and they have amazing bodies so yes I'll admit it, I'm a little jealous!  I met Amber again in a television hosting class we were both taking with Marki Costello.  We were talking one day and she opened up about how she constantly felt judged for following her heart and pursuing her passion for dance.  Thanks for inspiring us Amber!

Follow Your Heart and You Can Never Go Wrong

What frustrates me, is society encourages children to play sports or participate in the arts all the way from childhood to high school, but when senior year is over, society only supports the student to go to college so "you can get a real job."  First of all, in the dictionary job reads "a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price."  Whether it is filing in an office, searing fish at the five star restaurant or dancing in a topless show...  It's a job! 

I dance in a choreographed topless show in Vegas and I love it!  Sure people judge me, but really they are judging me because they are inflicted and frustrated at themselves for suppressing their own reflection that they see in me.  I am a woman.  I am a sensual being.  And I embrace this truth, and hopefully inspire others or at the very least entertain them.  When I am performing onstage in Vegas, it's as if I am living one of the many characters within me; I really like this character.  It is tough performing the same show night after night so you have to keep it alive within yourself otherwise you will look dead even though you are marking movement.  

I love the freedom of expression that dance and acting allow.  I like that I get to share my gift with the world.  I love that in my line of work, I take others out of his/her everyday lifestyle and bring them into my artistic world.  I am proud of myself for believing that I could and have made my dreams my reality!

Follow your heart and you can never go wrong.  As long as you are living truthfully from within, you will be rich in happiness.  Remember, you have to do something in life, so it might as well be something you love; it is a choice!


Julie's and Kim's Voices

I volunteer for the American Heart Association 2020 Task Force which consists of a wonderful group of women on a mission to bring awareness to the disease.  So when one of the volunteers sent me Julie's email, I was expecting a heart related story.  Instead, I was immediately struck by Julie's touching words.  Her son suffers from mental illness and the diagnosis was devastating.  Her best friend, Kim Carnes, sang one of my favorite songs of the 80s, "Bette Davis Eyes".  The singer/ songwriter also wrote a song for Chris.  This story of friendship and motherhood will touch your heart.  I'm inspired by Julie and Kim.

Photo of Julie and her son Chris taken July 31, 2011

A Mother's Story of Mental Illness
By Julie Chandler

When my son, Christopher was growing up, he was the happiest, sweetest and most fun loving child I could have ever hoped for.  He was easy, funny and there was no indication of what was to happen when he turned 21.  Within a 3 month period, Chris changed from a normal, responsible person to a frightened, unhappy and different one.  He was diagnosed at UCLA as having a mental illness.  Naturally, as his Mother I was devastated.  Of all the things I worried about that could happen to a growing young man, this was absolutely the last thing I could have imagined or expected.

One of my dearest life long friends is singer- songwriter Kim Carnes.  We shared many happy times together sharing dinners, celebrations and vacations.  Kim knew Chris when he was just 3 years old and watched him grow up!  She spent endless hours listening while I expressed my fears and sadness.  I remember well, telling her that I expected to never ever smile or laugh again.  

Being the sensitive and creative person she is, she was inspired to write a song about Chris.  She even incorporated some of his poetry into the song, recorded it and put it on her album.  The song is called "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)"

Over the years, Chris has been up and down with his illness.  I became involved with a wonderful group called NAMI (National Alliance of Mentally Ill).  I would strongly urge anyone who has a loved one suffering from a mental illness to contact them.  They saved both me and my son with their enormous support, information and guidance.  1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime.  That is quite a statistic and you never know how or when it will manifest itself.

I have often said that my son has "lost his life" and my expectations for him have been lowered to just hoping that he will stay alive and find some joy and richness in his everyday life.  I have learned I can laugh again in life and so can he.  In fact, just 2 days ago, when I played the song for him he broke into a small laugh, remembering how touched we were when Kim had us listen to it for the first time.  Click here and press play to hear "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)".

Inspiring "Where is the Boy"

I first met Chris when he was three years old.  He was a beautiful, precious child.  Chris is the son of one of my closest friends, Julie, so I watched him as he was growing up turning into a smart, funny, confident young man.  One day, all that changed.  The Chris we knew disappeared.  One day, after Chris had been staying at UCLA, Julie called and described what it was like to pick up a very scared, confused boy...  That phone call is fresh in my mind today, and caused me to go to my piano, and write "Where is The Boy (Chris's Song)".  I imagined what he must have felt.  Out into the world after his stay in the hospital, and remembered some of Chris's own words, describing how he was feeling.  These writings of Chris's were discovered by his Mom during his first hospital stay.  No one ever knew what a gifted writer and artist Chris was.  He never showed his work to anyone.  Julie shared them with me, and I knew his voice had to be heard.  The song, "Where is the Boy (Chris's Song)" poured out of me in one sitting at the piano.  "He's yours he's mine, another child of the times, we've gotta help him through."  Click here and press play to hear "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)".


In Memory of Joe...

Thanks to Jodi for emailing me this photo of her and Joe!  It's exactly how I remember him senior year.

I couldn't sleep last night.  I figured after a fun dinner out with another couple, my high school newsletter would do the trick...  Instead, half way through I sat up in bed and gasped!  Every thought went through my mind.  Are you sure this is for real?  Hadn't I searched his name on Facebook when I was checking up on all those past loves (yeah I'll admit it, and I'm sure my husband will too!!)?  How could this be possible?  Joe Terrasi, my hot carpool driver that became my love interest for a brief period in high school was dead!  I spent an entire year dreaming about that guy.  While I have a feeling he was more interested in his BMW than in me, there was just something about Joe that took my breath away.  He was older, cute and he wore black gloves while driving.  All things that are very important when you're in high school!  Even though he drove like we were on a race course, I was never scared.  Joe always made me feel safe. 

Last year when eliminating clutter from my life, I came across an ethereal rectangular glass jewelry box with a painting of an angel.   Over the years, the silver butterfly broke off and there was a small chip in te glass.  I remember looking at that box and thinking of the moment Joe gave it to me, and how my heart dropped.  Last night I envisioned that box and thought about the fun and crazy memories I shared with Joe.  Then I thought about how grateful I am.  In this amazing game of life, I was given a second and third chance.  The doctors didn't know if my heart failure would improve when I was initially diagnosed.  Then I was dealt another blow after my first daughter was born.  But I survived.   Joe, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.  He died of thymic cancer at 34 years old.

If you need a wake up call, there it is right in front of you.  You never know what life has in store for you.  So stop living just to pass time.  I challenge you to try something you always wanted.  Be adventurous and leave work on time, start writing that children's book you've been talking about for years, call up a past love and say hi.  I've always wanted to drive a race car... Without getting a speeding ticket!  It's the perfect tribute to Joe.  Anyone know of a good race track or where I can find a pair of racing gloves?  Thanks for the memories Joe!!


Meredith's Voice

Last week we got the cutest cocodot invite for a 3 year old Milk + Bookies birthday party.  What a cute name and great idea... I had to learn more!  I immediately headed to the Milk + Bookies website.  Meredith Alexander and her partners are not only inspiring parents, but they're teaching young "future philanthropists" the importance of giving. 

Read!  Give!  Grow!
By Meredith Alexander

As a new mom, I didn't want to spend EVERY weekend going to birthday parties and soccer games with my kids.  I was hungry for meaningful experiences with my small children, experiences that would reinforce the values that our family feels strongly about (like giving back and reading).

In 2004, I decided it would be fun to throw a party, which I named "Milk + Bookies", at the local children's bookstore, Storyopolis, and invite all our friends with kids.  Once there, we asked the kids to choose a book that they would want to give to a local child without any bedtime stories.  We then asked the young guests to inscribe a bookplate (most of the kids could only scribble with a crayon), stick it in the book and then drop that book into a box for a local recipient group.  

We had milk and cookies and story readings - it was fantastic!  When the check out line had a 30 minute wait to buy books, I knew I was on to something and that other families were looking for theses kinds of experiences as well.

Zoom ahead four years.  After hosting Milk + Bookies parties biannually, I knew it was time to grow.  I brought on two of my smartest friends, Laura Zimmerman and Heidi Lindelof.  Luckily for me, they had no idea what we were getting in to so they said yes to sitting on the Board of Directors.  We applied for a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt statues, built a website, created models for birthday parties, class projects and book fairs.  Then, we went national!

The Milk + Bookies mission is to recreate the experience (choosing, inscribing and giving) as much as possible so that kids get switched on the amazing power of giving and how great it makes them feel.  We hope that it will set them on a path to a life of giving/ helping/ sharing in ALL ways.  The exciting by-product of our movement is getting thousands of books into the hands of kids who really want (and need) them.  

To date, we have raised over 20,000 books and inspired over 4,000 young "future philanthropists".

Read!  Give!  Grow!


Toby's Voice

One of my best friends Gina is the sweetest woman in the world.  She connected me with her mother in law, Toby Katz, who writes a column for the Parkinson's Disease Research Society.  Toby was diagnosed with Parkinson's about four years ago.  Her voice inspires patients throughout the country!  She wants to be a sounding board for patients to share their feelings, concerns, experiences and fears.  Her voice is so strong that it relates to everyone undergoing a difficult time.  Enjoy Toby's voice!

Tell Me How You Really Feel
By Toby Katz

Hi, my name is Toby Katz and I am a Parkinson's patient...  I am very lucky.  my symptoms are very mild, just a tremor in my right arm and leg and muscle spasms in my shoulders.  On a good day you probably wouldn't know that I suffer from Parkinson's, but as Parkinson's patients, we all know that a "good day" for us is not the same as a "good day" for someone else.  

Like many of you, I do not feel ready to attend a support group, but I would like to have a positive forum for those of us who just don't want to burden our friends and families with the problems with the problems we experience daily.

As you see from above, the title of my column will be "Tell Me How You Really Feel."  I hope to become a sounding board for patients to share their feelings, concerns, experiences and fears, and to become a connection between the medical community and the patients.  I do not hold myself out as a medical professional, nor will I give out any medical advice other than to refer a patient to a specific doctor or support group.

OK, here we go!!

The acronym for my column will be the word "HOPE."

Be honest with yourself and those around you concerning the implications and manifestations of Parkinson's.  Be honest with yourself when it comes to recognizing your attributes and limitations.

Try to be positive, it can be contagious.  Focus on all of the things that you can do and not just on the skills that seem to be fading.  Pinpoint the everyday tasks that you can improve on and strengthen.

Work on maintaining and even improving your health with exercise, meditation, and spiritual regimes.  Plan your day to be able to get the most positive experience possible.  Do not give up until you can find a doctor that you can relate to and be comfortable with, someone who allows you to be a partner in your treatment and who truly listens to you.

Educate yourself and others.  No one can understand your experience if you do not share it with them.  Research the research.  Stay abreast of all the new advances in research and medical trials.  Every patient has a different perspective based on the path of the progression of their disease.  Be empathetic.  Nothing feels better then to put yourself in someone else's shoes and to stop focusing on yourself for a while.

Finally, from my experience, one of the most positive things that has come with my diagnosis is the art of communication.  Not just talking but listening.  Taking ownership of your own behavior and the power you have to alter your life!  Making decisions based on strength instead of weakness and most importantly, putting yourself in a position to feel support, the ability to accept being educated and the gift of empathy.  Don't be afraid to take that next step, put yourself out there, and risk failing, or you will never know what it feels like to succeed!!!

Let's Get Started


Caroline's Voice

Every year my friend hosts the most amazing "girlfriends luncheon".  It always comes at the perfect time, when I'm craving an afternoon of good food and fun conversations!  I met Caroline four years ago at the first luncheon.  She co-founded the LA Diaper Drive, and epitomizes cool charity mom!

Making a Difference
By Caroline Kunitz

A 53' semi pulls up in front of my house in Santa Monica to drop off the equivalent of 20 elephants worth of diapers.  Drivers crane their necks to watch.  People walking their dogs ask if I run a day care, which I do not.

How did we get here?  Rewind six years.  I'm in my living room watching Jessica Seinfeld on The Today Show discussing the million diaper drive her New York City charity, Baby Buggy, was hosting.  She mentioned that low-income mothers have to decided between buying diapers and buying food on a daily basis.  My heart broke.  I mentioned it to a friend, Melissa Ratcliff, who asked, "How hard is it to raise a million diapers?"  LA Diaper Drive was born.

LA Diaper Drive is a volunteer-based charity that gives diapers to low-income families in Los Angeles.  We partner with other charities and community based organizations that use the diapers as an incentive for these low-income families to attend important classes.  Some examples include LAUSD's Homeless Program, Friends of the Families' Young Moms/ Young Dads programs for parents ages 13-21, and The Children's Institute, which specializes in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect.

We discovered that it is actually very hard to raise a million diapers.  It took five years for LA Diaper Drive to reach that goal.  Then, in 20110 we gave away another million.  1.3 million to be exact.  We give away diapers donated by families or diapers purchased in bulk at an extreme discount.

The current economic times mean more families than ever are below the low-income guideline.  You can make a difference without spending money.  Donate diapers your child has outgrown to LA Diaper Drive, or host your own diaper drive.  Ask friends or colleagues to bring diapers to work or school, or ask them to bring diapers in lieu of gifts to a party.  LA Diaper Drive can help you with flyers and more.  You can also hold a garage sale and donate the money to LA Diaper Drive or another charity so we can purchase diapers at a discount.  Or donate your time.  Every charity needs warm bodies to do things like count diapers, sort or distribute items and more.

To find out more about LA Diaper Drive check out our website.

Happy Volunteering!


Ginger's Voice

The minute I met Ginger I was intrigued.  She has such a zest for life, and I'm always excited to hear about her latest adventure.  She recently returned from a trip to Cambodia where she met children infected with HIV and AIDS.  I'm honored to share Ginger's voice.

Cambodia Gives New Perspective on Taking Risks
By Ginger B.
My husband and I purchased a trip at a charity auction to raise money for Friends Without a Border, the funding and program supporter for the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap, the second-largest city and tourist center of Cambodia.  We didn’t think too much about what we were getting into, both of us being a bit spontaneous and even more so after finding the open bar.  All we knew was we were going on an adventure, but little did we know it would change us forever.
There is an HIV problem in Cambodia that continues to rise in rural areas.  When farmers find themselves in the close company of the city’s prostitutes -- with little education on HIV and a cultural stigma against condoms -- the men contract the disease.  Returning back to the farm months later, they bring home the disease to their wives.  As their family grows, they unknowingly pass the disease to their newborn babies.

As the doctor told us these stories on our drive towards the outskirts of town, it became clear that these children had seen the darkest moments of the world:  loss, physical pain, and shattered dreams.  They had lost parents, felt the painful repercussions of HIV-related illnesses, and had an uncertain future dependent on medical advances and their access to them.  On top of this, they lived in poverty.  I expected a very glum situation.

We arrived at the first home.  The children were playing hide-and-go-seek, laughing, smiling, with joy in their faces.  When they saw the doctor, one child came forward, no less content than the others.  The doctor sat with him, checking his supply of pills and giving him a short physical, joking with him and tickling his feet.  Although small for his age, nothing about the child would have indicated his illness.  And in his eyes there was not a speck of that glumness I anticipated.  He was surrounded by his extended family, cared for by this doctor, and in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  He didn’t have much in the way of anything material, but what he did have was enough.

As we drove back down the little dirt road, I felt privileged to be able to peek into this world.  To see joy in people’s eyes firsthand, due to nothing except that for today, things were okay.  Today they had some food, today they had health under control, and today they were surrounded by loved ones.  That was all that was needed. What I realized is it takes very little to live, and the chance to be happy does not suffer as long a person has food, good health, and have a community to feel connected to.

So what does this have to do with risk?  Many people, including myself, hold back from doing things because of the fear of losing something.  Fear of losing time, money, or face to others and even yourself.  What if this doesn’t work?  What if it’s a waste of time? What will they think if it’s a total failure?  Who am I to think I can do this?  It can be paralyzing. 

But, to look into a world and see somebody who has lost everything, and still see joy, the world still turning, hope and love still swirling around, then why NOT take a risk?  There is nothing to fear, the best humanity has to offer is still there even at what most westerners would consider the “bottom.”  The only difference is lack of material things, but this rare experience showed that our stuff isn’t the stuff that joy is made of.

T.S. Eliot wrote, “…And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  Those children in Cambodia gave me something to walk away with that would change me forever, by showing me my own world in a new way.

This year, I will take more risks.

To make a donation to Friends Without a Border, providing funding and program support to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, please visit http://www.fwab.org/.


Debbie's Voice

A friend sent me one of Debbie's Lymphoma updates.  She was so straightforward; I knew readers would connect with her story.  Right before writing this story, not only was she finishing her last round of chemo, but she was rushed back to the hospital for a terrible blood clot.  The next week she was rear ended while driving home from a lecture on Lymphoma.  Despite all her hardships, we spoke about turning her day around through finding some positive inspiration.  It's so easy to give up and succumb to a disease, especially when everything seems to be going wrong.  It takes courage and fortitude to fight towards healing.  I'm honored to share Debbie's story.

My Lymphoma Life
By Debbie K.

Starting with today, my last day at the oncologists', this is my chance to tell my onco-tale. I never knew I was sick; this all started innocently last spring.  My work as a real estate broker had me at the computer.  That led me to carpal tunnel syndrome.  From a sore hand to a nerve test, to an internist, to a gastroenterologist, a diagnosis.  Next step on the hit parade (as in what can they hit me with next?) was a trip to the thoracic surgeon.  A biopsy led to a diagnosis: nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I was referred to a wonderful oncologist who specializes in lymphoma. 

I started chemo at the beginning of September.  Chemo was every two weeks, and followed the next day by hydration and a shot of a white cell-building drug, Nulastin.  My chemo mixture was ABVD. That's Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine. The A is responsible for hair loss, and makes your pee-pee pink! What a combination!

I was very lucky, no egregious side effects. I could drive to the appointment, and after the 2.5 hours of chemo, drive home with stops at the bakery for my favorite cookies, or the market. I felt fine. I attribute this to my years of exercise and good eating.  After two months of treatment and some tests, my site had shrunk from 20 cc to 7.  I felt like I was the poster child for Lymphoma.  I was still holding off on shaving my hair off. At the chemo center, a volunteer brought a cart by with goodies to snack on.  They were on the top shelf, and wigs on the bottom, all donated. I have 3 very beautiful wigs, one even in my hair style, two more adventurous! I have only worn them twice. I prefer ski hats, scarves or stylish (albeit old) hats. I have an antique hat rack with 10 hats on it, and now I am wearing them.  Here I am, having finished chemo just yesterday, with a little hair left. It's enough to peek out from under my hat.

My doctor gave me next month off, and then in February, I will start radiation.  I can certainly use the time off; my 60th birthday is in January, and I plan on celebrating big time!

Through all, I have met the most wonderful people. The oncology group had the kindest nurses, the best lab techs, great receptionists, and free valet parking.  Most chemo times, I had a friend with whom I played Scrabble or who took me to lunch after chemo.  My friends have been super-supportive and they have helped me keep my chin up throughout these past months.  I have a new friend who was introduced to me just a few weeks ago.  She was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will start chemo soon.  I am glad I met her, she's so upbeat.  I hope I can be of some help to her. 

My mother had metastatic breast cancer 30 years ago. Her doctor is in one of the oncologists in the group I go to.  Small world…  I always feared going for my mammogram. My mother had been diagnosed when she was 55.  I thought that was my destiny. I never expected Lymphoma. Apparently, this disease is on the rise. The doctor said it is tied to stress.  I can understand.

My advice would be to get regular checkups, get a blood test, eat healthy, be active, and have friends.  Friends to have lunch with, to go on trips with, to go to medical appointments with, to plan parties with.  Friends to support you through thick and thin.


Candice's Voice

When I first started my blog I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had my doubts, wondering if anyone would really care about what I had to say.  Then I met a reader who has now become a friend.  Candice is an inspiration.  She quit her job and became a volunteer at Casa Emanuel orphanage in Guinea Bissau.  I am honored to share Candice's voice.

The Gift of Love
By Candice Scott

It was exactly a year ago when I set out for a small country in West Africa called Guinea Bissau.  After years of wanting to volunteer in Africa, I had the good fortune (or maybe it was fate) to move in upstairs from a wonderful couple that had just moved from Guinea-Bissau. Mika and Kjetil were those kind of fully-realized, fascinating people, with distinguished careers with the UN, the World Bank, busy raising a newborn and developing documentaries, setting up charities...the kind of people that make you wonder, "how do they do it all?"  Through their contacts, they put me in touch with an orphanage called Casa Emanuel run by two Costa Rican nuns and missionaries.  In a whirlwind 6 weeks, I confirmed my stay, arranged my flight, and decided to set a BHAG of $10,000 in donations.  What is a BHAG?  It is something I learned while working at Nike, a phrase coined by Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric).  It is short for "BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL"....it is a goal that is way outside your comfort zone, so far out that it seems impossible but that stretches to you achieve something greater than what you ever imagined.  Emails went out to friends and family, and tears would come to my eyes every time I received a donation.  Each one resonated with me - an unemployed friend struggling financially sent a donation, a distant acquaintance sent a check with an extra zero that made look twice to see if it was a mistake, clothes and medicines were dropped off, strangers would hear and send contributions, and my company generously matched donations.  And, guess what?  We not only amassed over $10,000, my friend Erika and I set out with 7 duffel bags filled with clothes, medicine, toys and shoes.

Arriving at the orphanage, we were greeted by smiling faces and overjoyed nuns, who whooped with excitement over small things like Neosporin and baby aspirin.  What I did not know is that the orphanage is solely dependent on donations andwas running very low on shoes for the children.  So the nuns began praying for shoes for the children, and then we show up with over 150 pairs - 1 for each child.  I was stunned to learn this, as the way I had come by the shoes was very random - I had received an email from a stranger who worked for Crocs.  He received my email from a friend.  It seemed like happenstance at the time, but when I heard the story from the nuns I realized my life was part of something much bigger than I could fathom.

Before I left for Africa, I worried that I might not have the skills to be an effective volunteer - I am not the best with a hammer and don't know any rare plant concoctions for burns - but I quickly realized that I was really skilled in holding hands, cradling babies, and dispensing hugs.  With maybe a 20 to 1 ratio of children to volunteers, the children yearned and were starved for affection and physical touch - one particularly eager group of three year olds I nicknamed the hugging bandits due to their race to rush into my arms every day.

I left the orphanage with 6 new godsons that I now sponsor for $20 a month, which pays for their education and living needs.  I told the children that not only did they have 1 godparent they had more than 200 back in the US - every single person that donated funds or items.  Their mouths dropped in amazement and they still brag about it!  Can you believe that just a simple thought or concept that someone loved them was enough?  I don't have children yet, but each one of those children made me understand the selflessness and love that goes into being a parent.  To say the experience was transformational is expected, but the love I felt for children I had just met was not.  Like many other volunteers have observed what I ultimately learned about myself and what I received was much greater than and far surpassed what I gave.
Donations for Casa Emanuel may be made via Life Link Rescuing Children.