Together Until the End

Four Wives

There was a rich merchant who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best. He also loved the third wife very much. He’s very proud of her and always wanted to show her off to his friends. However, the merchant is always in great fear that she might run away with some other men. He too, loved his second wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and in fact is the merchant’s confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times. Now, the merchant’s first wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.

One day, the merchant fell ill. Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, “Now I have four wives with me. But when I die, I’ll be alone. How lonely I’ll be! Thus, he asked the fourth wife, “I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” replied the fourth wife and she walked away without another word. The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant’s heart.

The sad merchant then asked the third wife, “I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No!” replied the third wife. “Life is so good over here! I’m going to remarry when you die!” The merchant’s heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the second wife, “I always turned to you for help and you’ve always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” replied the second wife. “At the very most, I can only send you to your grave.” The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.

Then a voice called out: “I’ll leave with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant said, “I should have taken much better care of you while I could have!”

Actually, we all have four wives in our lives. The fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it’ll leave us when we die. Our third wife? Our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, they all go to others. The second wife is our family and friends. No matter how close they had been there for us when we’re alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave. The first wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material wealth and sensual pleasure. Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go. Perhaps it’s a good idea to cultivate and strengthen it now rather than to wait until we’re on our deathbed to lament.

— Author Unknown

To All My Doubters, I’d Like to Say “Thank You”

In an earlier post, I said that I really wanted to be a writer at a local newspaper in the Atlanta area after I graduated from Kennesaw State University, about 30 minutes north of Atlanta. Long story short, I sent in a couple dozen résumés to papers all around the Cartersville, Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth and Atlanta area and heard back from maybe six total, and they all wanted from three to five years of experience. I got really frustrated and even a little depressed because it seemed like nobody would hire me and give me a chance. Thankfully, the city of Marietta took a chance on me in June 2007 and I have been working in their public information office ever since, writing news releases and taking pictures for our website.

Photo courtesy

You know how you’ll hear a song, and it strikes a chord or hits a nerve and stays with you forever because it comes in handy in a situation (or in my case several)? Well, I’ve never, EVER been a fan of Taylor Swift, but I was driving home in my van this afternoon and heard her new song “Mean” on the radio. I don’t know what happened but I felt this wave of revenge (or in Barney Fife’s case REVENG) come over me… I suddenly remembered the disappointment I felt when I got rejected by the newspapers.

So…. I would personally like to dedicate Taylor’s new song “Mean” to all the newspapers who turned me down and those I never even heard from, who are missing out on something I’d like to think is pretty special!!! 🙂

Why Kindness Matters and Is Good For You

Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference – in our own lives and those of others.

– Sharon Salzberg

No wonder Sharon Salzberg is one of America’s leading meditation teachers and spirituality writers.  What she says covers the entire basis anyone ever needs to know as to why kindness costs nothing, brings gets joy, does as much for the giver as the receiver, can change society and also bring unexpected rewards.

I have worked with all kinds of people, from celebrities and the powerful to those whose daily life is filled with pain and struggle not knowing where the next meal will come from or if there will be anyone to share it with. Money may give you choices, but it surely can’t buy you happiness. We all know this to be true, otherwise why are so many of the rich and powerful in and out of rehabilitation centers, take their own lives and often unbearable to be around?

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Now there’s another woman I admire for her wisdom and heart.

Kindness can be a smile across a room to someone you see feels nervous and out of place, it can mean a few minutes of your time to talk to the guy who lives on the street that is invisible to the average passersby. It can mean a practical helping hand or mentoring someone through college or their career.  In fact the act of kindness – whether it’s just a smile, a word or when you do something practical is all about taking action and when you do any or all of these things then something wonderful happens. Perhaps the hardest type of kindness is being kind to yourself – have you noticed how much more forgiving we are to others and yet so unforgiving of ourselves.  In psychology we call this the “special person syndrome.” If it’s okay for another, then why do you see yourself as being so special? It isn’t for you.

Those who work together using their kindness to cooperate for the well being of others bring about major changes. Kindness does not mean you cannot fight your corner and be as assertive. Have you ever seen a lioness fight to protect her cub? You wouldn’t want to stay around! Psychologists, sociologists and academics say that we do this to ensure the survival of our communities, and some even say it’s programed into our genes.

Kindness, gratitude and compassion are also good for your own mental and physical health. Sonya Lyubomirsky from the University of California has been able to demonstrate through her research that repeated acts of kindness make you happier. Small random acts of kindness make you feel good about yourself and individuals find they often get something unexpectedly back in return. You find yourself gaining friends or getting an email one day from someone who remembers you and wants to offer you a job. You may even have forgotten the name of the person but they have not forgotten you. 

The happier you are the better your immune system and your ability to withstand stress. Kindness is good for you emotionally and psychologically and may be better than all the vitamin pills you can take. One study stated that there was a strong relationship between the wellbeing, happiness and health of people who are kind. There are many more studies that demonstrate this relationship including the lowering of rates of depression so no one can deny that kindness is good for you.

Catherine Ryan Hide in her book “Pay it Forward” wrote about the story of an unhappy schoolboy who decided to do a good deed for every good deed done to him. The book was made into a film. What no one expected was that people who had read the book and seen the film started doing the same thing. Perhaps the act of  being kind (as in pay it forward) is conditional, but once the joys and rewards associated with this way of being are felt, it becomes like a welcome habit and one that is good for you too.

Businesses have also found that kindness pays. You might be in business to make money but you make money from people. Some have said that good customer care has nothing to do with kindness. However, you can recruit individuals and train them to smile and say “Have a nice day,” but you cannot train them to mean or feel it. 

I have read about businesses such as Disney World who have made millions of dollars because they recruit people who gain personal meaning and satisfaction from being kind and helpful. This strategy certainly works as those of us British who have visited Disney World have been amazed at how nothing seems too much to ask and how our whole experience is enhanced because of the way we were treated.

Kindness, love and compassion are what bring meaning to life and I, for one, am grateful for every gesture made towards me and for every gesture I have shown towards others.

Abour Gladeana McMahon

Gladeana McMahon is a three-time award-winning coach, considered one of the leading personal development and transformational coaches in the UK combining academic rigour with down-to-earth communication skills. She holds a range of qualifications andfellowships as a therapist and coach. An innovator, Gladeana is one of the UK founders of cognitive behavioral coaching and an internationally published author with approximately 20 books of a popular and academic nature. She has presented a range of coaching programs and was listed as one of the UK’s Top Ten Coaches. She loves cats and likes to smile a lot.

Firm Foundations: Parenting Tips for Overcoming Disease and Helping Your Child Live a Life Without Limits

Words can’t express what goes through the mind of a parent when you find out your child has a life-threatening disease. Suddenly, the dreams you had of your precious child having a normal childhood filled with unlimited possibilities are replaced with questions like… “How could this happen to us?”

“Will she be able to do things that other kids do?”

“Will he spend most of his life in the hospital?”

“What if he looks different to other people?”

“Am I to blame for this?”

“How on earth are we going to give him a normal life?”

All of these thoughts consume your mind at first. Now, I must share with you that I am not a parent. These are all thoughts that my mother shared with me when I asked her what it was like to hear that I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your world shaken like that, but I do know what it’s like to be the child. I am the result of parents who chose to rise above their fears of a diagnosis and raise their daughter in a world without limits.

Before I share these tips that my parents did to shape my adult life, I must tell you this: you’re not to blame for your child’s health. It’s not your fault and you’re not being punished. You have been given an incredible gift – the chance to instill hope, faith, and the foundation of a life without limits to the precious little person that you love so much! So, are you ready to learn some ways that you can be an encouragement to your child? If so, grab a pen and paper because we’re going to cover lots of quick tips that you’ll want to write down and start implementing!

1. Choose Strength and Courage in the Face of Bad News

Let’s face it. When we’re given a diagnosis of CF or other life-threatening diseases that our precious children have, our world gets rocked. Instead of living a life of doom and gloom, choose to have strength and courage so you can overcome it as a family.

When they could’ve given up, my parents made the decision to be strong and courageous, and to find a way to make it work. Was it easy? No, not at all! There was a learning curve as they rearranged their lives to fit in daily treatments and doses of medication. Yes, there were even moments of fear and sadness, but their decision to stay strong and focused on positive results gave them the ability to smile again! Guess what else? It taught me, as their child, to be strong and courageous in the face of bad news too.

2. Give Unconditional Love

Children need to know that we love them unconditionally. There was never any doubt in my mind that I was loved as a child, nor is there any doubt now. My parents loved me unconditionally and they told me this often. Their unconditional love instilled in me the security that no matter how much money I cost them just to stay healthy and alive, they would always be there loving me. Our children need to know that they are loved in sickness and in health!

3. Teach Responsibility

I started mixing my own medications for nebulizers when I was in fourth grade. My parents taught me how to be responsible with my health and they trusted me to not only mix my own meds correctly, but to also remember when to take them. When we’d go on vacation, it was my responsibility to pack my meds correctly. Why did they do this? It wasn’t because they were tired of doing it. No, it was because they knew that in the future, as an adult, it would be up to me to keep tabs on my health. They knew that in order to live a normal adult life, I’d need to be responsible.

Here’s the key. My parents were told that I would never become an adult. Guess what…that didn’t matter to them. They made the decision to raise me as though I had a long, healthy life ahead of me and in that life they knew I’d need to be responsible for myself. We must instill responsibility in our children no matter what the statistics say their life expectancy could be. If you begin to treat them like they have unlimited possibilities in their futures, you’ll be amazed at what their future will hold.

4. Encourage Them To Go For Their Dreams

What does your child like to do? I’m sure there’s something that they talk about being when they grow up. Pay close attention to that and feed it!

I wanted to become a singer since the time I could talk. This wasn’t a secret – I told everyone. My parents never tried to talk me out of that dream. In fact, they encouraged me to sing where ever and whenever I could. They even helped me record my first CD, they believed in me that much!

We need to encourage the dreams that our children have, especially if they are overcoming sickness. Those dreams might be the only thing that keeps their hope alive – we shouldn’t dare think of crushing those dreams! No medical condition should ever be an excuse not to go after our dreams!

5. Create a Foundation of Structure

One of the most important lessons we can learn as children is structure. If a child learns structure at an early age, then she will remember and utilize it when the time comes to be responsible herself.

My parents were very structured when I was growing up. Every morning treatment and every evening treatment was at the same time and doctor appointments were always the third Tuesday of every month. The structure that they taught me carried over to my adult life and even to this day if I start something new that has no structure already set up, I go the extra mile to design a structure that works for me. Structure is important!

6. Laugh Every Day

Don’t you just love a good belly laugh? You know, the kind that makes your stomach hurt and possibly even causes tears to roll down your cheeks? I had lots of laughter growing up. In fact, one of my nicknames in high school was “Giggles.” Even when there were uncertainties with my health, my parents found a way to make me laugh. My favorite memories of our family vacations always involve laughter, and some sort of silly song that my dad and I made up. Laughter is important. Kids love to laugh so encourage more laughter!

7. Share the Truth

Whenever there’s a disease to overcome, there will always be scary facts that come with it. In my experience as a child overcoming disease, it was always best to know what I was up against. It helped me form my own strategy as to how I was going to beat it, and it kept me responsible with my health. We shouldn’t try to scare children about their disease, but a healthy knowledge regarding their disease is going to shape them into stronger adults. Always share the truth!

8. Be Honest and Upfront With Others

I’ve met a lot of people who have hidden the fact that they were born with CF from their friends or co-workers. I don’t recommend this. Here’s why – by being honest with your friends and co-workers about the fact that you have a disease, you give them a chance to see your strength. You become more real to them. In many cases, you also allow them to be your advocates.

My parents never hid my health from anyone – my teachers, my friends, everyone I knew was always aware of what I was born with. Yes, sometimes I was treated differently at first, but because my parents set the foundation and treated me normal, other people soon fell in line too. That’s not to say that there weren’t some challenges with some people – you can’t avoid that. But telling the truth and being open with people is always best – for everyone involved.

9. Provide the Best Life Possible

My parents did everything they could to give me the best life possible. They worked hard and always made sure I had the best health insurance available. They always did their best to give me a full life. Sometimes I marvel at the sacrifices they made, and I must admit that I’m a bit choked up as I write this because my parents provided such an amazing childhood for me. They could’ve lived a life full of excuses and succumbed to poverty because of the enormous medical bills and the sometimes overwhelming medical statistics. Instead, they chose to never give up and never give in.

Providing for your child who may be overcoming a disease doesn’t mean you have to be rich. It means you make the decision to do everything possible to give them the best life and the best future you can.

10. Live a Life of Faith

That great success book, the Bible, says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. We exercise faith everyday whether we believe in God or not. We have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow and the proof is that we have plans for tomorrow. Some people take faith a step further and have so much faith that they believe better health is on the way. My parents instilled that type of faith in me. They taught me to believe in God and to put my faith into action. Of all the tips I’ve shared today, I’m the most thankful for this one. I’ve become a woman of bondage breaking faith and I’ve overcome the death sentence of Cystic Fibrosis because my parents instilled it in me when I was a child. I promise you, if you instill the tool of faith into your children, they will utilize it when they’re adults.

We don’t have to accept the negative words that come with disease. We can help our children overcome this! My suggestion for you is to utilize these tips every day and to speak them over your child. There’s an adult inside of your child that is waiting to overcome the disease that ails her right now. With these tools, it can become a reality!

About Mandy B. Anderson

Mandy B. Anderson is an inspirational speaker, singer, writer and independent Juice Plus+ wellness coordinator. Born with cystic fibrosis, Mandy’s journey of overcoming a life-threatening disease encourages and equips people to rise up and conquer their own barriers in life. She is passionate about helping people overcome their obstacles! Download her free e-book “True Wholeness: Lessons Learned On My Journey From Cystic Fibrosis to Total Health” at

God, Autism and Acceptance

Even before my firstborn was diagnosed with autism in 2002, I knew he was unlike toddlers his own age.  His differences were never embarrassing or heartbreaking to me, but were certainly challenging and confounding.  I just wanted to know what was “wrong” with him so I could “fix” it.  Oh, the naïveté of a new mother – the overconfidence in my abilities and my underappreciation for God’s sovereignty.

While my five-year-old son was in the throes of intensive in-home behavior therapy, my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was exhibiting some symptoms that caused the supervising clinical psychologist to ask, “When are we going to do an evaluation on her?”.  Since my husband and I had spent half of her young life wondering what disorder we could attribute her developmental differences to, there was a certain relief when I realized her behaviors also were consistent with an autism spectrum disorder.

“I know how to do autism,” I thought to myself triumphantly.

But what was I really doing?  The vast ocean of theories and speculations dotted with research and anecdotes regarding autism was waxing by the second, and every wave crashed on the shore with unsolicited advice.  A mother could feel as if she were drowning.

Thankfully, a crisis of health prevented a crisis of faith.  While my husband and I are devout Christians, we had lost sight of God’s goodness throughout the journey.  We were so busy attempting to determine what was best for our children that we managed to miss the whisperings of God through the storms of our kids’ lives.

And this was shaping up to be quite a storm. After spending the better part of a Friday between a hospital emergency room and the pediatrician’s office because my son had abruptly lost his ability to walk, we were admitted to our local Children’s Hospital.  Our son lay in a hospital bed with what was believed to be Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a sometimes-fatal auto-immune response.  As I was packing a weekend bag, pleading with God to heal our son and give us the strength we needed to get through another diagnosis, He communicated to me that our children would go through some trials in this life.  Yet my job was to be concerned not about their health or their happiness, but their holiness.

Somehow, this released me from the self-imposed burden of having to “fix” my children.  After all, weren’t they made this way by their Creator?  And wasn’t He able to prevent harm and cause cure if He wished?  And did He not promise both me and my children that He would never leave or forsake us?  I was free to accept them just the way they were, shifting my energy from trying to craft who they would become to demonstrating His great love for them.

This move toward acceptance found its way into my professional life as well.  After spending seven years as a stay-at-home mom, another mother of a child with autism suggested to me that we make a film teaching elementary school students about autism and how they could be good friends.  In a matter of months, we were on our way to incorporating a nonprofit organization, researching and developing curriculum, and producing our first video.  First, we focused on creating autism awareness, teaching acceptance of differences and fostering empathy for students with autism in elementary school.  Last year, we started taking steps to modify the message for middle school audiences.

Along the way, we’ve met dozens of families with children with autism.  We’ve noticed that the families most cooperative with what we’re trying to accomplish are those who’ve accepted their children in the context of their diagnosis.  Whether their faith played a role in that acceptance is beyond the scope of our interactions.  But it is clear that children raised in a culture of acceptance are more likely to enjoy their peers’ acceptance.

So I urge all parents of children, whether those children are young or grown, to trust in God’s goodness and accept His creations just as they are.  You will find the blessings He intended when you see them with His eyes.  And as they sense your acceptance of them, they will be more understanding of His plan for them – and so will you.

About Chelsea Budde

Chelsea Budde has lived in Waukesha, Wis., since 2001 with her husband and their two children, ages 12 and nine.  She graduated from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., in 1995 with a B.A., and worked in public relations for several years before leaving to care for her family.

Her son’s and daughter’s special needs have kept her engaged in the community as an advocate and a resource for other parents and professionals.

“Parenting children with autism, mood issues and medical challenges is nothing I would have hoped for, but has turned out to be greatest blessing of my life,” she says.  Her faith in and reliance upon God have sustained her these years, as have the prayers and support of her many friends and family, both in southeast Wisconsin and throughout the country.

As president and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Good Friend, Inc., Chelsea has delivered Good Friend’s autism awareness-acceptance-empathy® message to more than 12,000 people since 2007, including through presentations at six major conferences.  The script she wrote for Good Friend’s “Choosing To Be a GFF [Good Friend Forever]” middle school film contributed to its earning the 2011 Autism Society Media Excellence in Video, Print or News Award.

The Superhero Behind Isaiah Alonso Foundation

When I first started this blog, one of the goals was to raise awareness of childhood cancers and disabilities, in children and adults. It is my honor and esteemed pleasure to present Sue Axelrod, who reminds us that childhood cancers do exist and to cherish every minute you have with your son, daughter, nephew, niece, grandson or granddaughter because tomorrow is not promised.

The Superhero Behind Isaiah Alonso Foundation

Isaiah was a typical, silly and fun-loving six-year-old boy who loved to wear costumes of his favorite superheroes everywhere he went. On Friday, September 3, 2010, my sister, Cheryl, took him to the doctor for a cough, and he was diagnosed with allergies. Hours later, he stopped breathing, collapsed in front of his parents and was rushed to the hospital. When Cheryl called me very late that night, I immediately knew something was very wrong. Isaiah had been without oxygen and, although he received CPR almost immediately, he didn’t regain consciousness and they weren’t sure if he would make it. 
They live in Kentucky, so I left for the six-hour drive to go see Isaiah in the hospital first thing the next morning.  I literally threw a few things in a small bag and dropped everything. My family was left at home to wait. That drive was one of the most difficult rides of my life. About an hour into my trip, I got the devastating news. Isaiah was diagnosed with cancer. They didn’t know what kind of cancer he had at that point, but they did know that he had a huge tumor pressing on his airway. I also learned that they were afraid Isaiah may have suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. Needless to say, I cried the whole way there. Cancer? Brain damage? How does this happen to a seemingly healthy first grader? 
Shortly after I arrived at the hospital, we learned Isaiah had T-cell Lymphoma, which is a type of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections. Most cases of lymphoblastic lymphoma involve the T-cells in the thymus, and usually become evident with a mass in the chest and swollen lymph nodes.  Isaiah’s tumor grew very large and very fast. I’m still wondering how “allergies” become lymphoma in a matter of hours. 
My sister and her husband, Vinnie, stayed in the hospital with Isaiah all day and night, and I spent my nights at the Ronald McDonald House Kentuckiana while we all hoped for a miracle. No miracle came.  There were no prior symptoms other than the cough, but Isaiah suffered severe brain damage as a result of complications from the T-Cell lymphoma, which wasn’t diagnosed until the Friday he collapsed. He never regained consciousness and took his last breath a week later on September 10 in his mother’s arms.
The next few days were a blur as we made preparations for Isaiah’s services. I will never forget preparing his favorite Batman costume for burial. My husband and children came to Kentucky to join me, and we actually went to Isaiah’s wake dressed in superhero costumes. I wouldn’t wear a short Super Girl costume for just anyone, so that shows just how special Isaiah was to me. During the funeral procession, we drove by Isaiah’s school and were amazed to see all the kids and staff standing outside, and they all released balloons as the hearse drove by. We were all incredibly touched by that heartfelt gesture.  
Shortly after Isaiah’s untimely death, the charity that bears his name, the Isaiah Alonso Foundation, was born. Isaiah’s parents realized that many families don’t have the level of support they had or the financial means to care for kids who sometimes battle cancer for years. These parents need to be able to focus on their children, especially during treatment. Everyday finances become increasingly more difficult to manage and expenses such as groceries, the cost of gas to get to and from the many doctors’ appointments, lodging when a child is admitted to a hospital or even utility bills can cause undue stress and hardship.
Our mission at the Isaiah Alonso Foundation is to raise awareness for childhood cancer and raise money to lighten the financial strain on families dealing with this type of crisis, as well as helping to fund a cure.  We are a registered 501(c)(3) public charity headed by Cheryl and Vinnie Alonso. I run our social networking sites, help out in many areas of day-to-day operations and head our Georgia chapter. We are all very passionate about raising awareness for pediatric cancer.

I’m ashamed to admit that before Isaiah’s diagnosis, I was blissfully unaware of the realities of pediatric cancer before it was too late. Yes, I donated to other cancer charities before, but I never paid attention or took the time to really get involved. I didn’t want to think that kids got cancer, but they do.  Did you know? There are roughly 13,000 new cases of childhood cancer diagnosed every year in the U.S. alone.  Childhood cancer isn’t just one type. There are actually twelve different types of cancer with unique mutations within each type. Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths in children under the age of 20; more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. Every day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer, and seven will die from it. 

Presently, pediatric cancer remains grossly underfunded. If children are our future, then why are they being left behind? For Isaiah and others, a pediatric cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. Cancer often strikes with little or no warning and is often misdiagnosed. Those who beat cancer can’t ever really leave it behind. The effects that chemotherapy and other treatments have on a child’s body can last a lifetime and sometimes cause other cancers. Sometimes the treatments themselves are deadly. We need more funding to change all of that.

I truly hope no one else has to feel the pain a childhood cancer diagnosis brings. I grieve not only for my loss, but also for my children’s loss. I especially grieve for my sister, Cheryl, and her husband, Vinnie, whose tremendous loss is truly unthinkable. They’ve shown such strength, courage and grace though it all, and they have inspired me in so many ways.  Isaiah himself has inspired us all to help kids with cancer and their families. I would tell families facing a new childhood cancer diagnosis to educate themselves about the disease and make sure they are the best possible advocate for their child. It’s also important to use the many resources available and to ask for help because there will be times when they need it.

I wouldn’t say that this experience has made me a better person, but I do appreciate life and my loved ones so much more.  I remember to tell people I love them since tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us. Helping families battling cancer in Isaiah’s name has been very rewarding as well. We are very fortunate to have so much support from family, friends, Isaiah’s community and his school. 

No parent should ever be told, “Your child has cancer,” but it happens 46 times every day. Right now there is an urgent need to help parents who often have to quit their jobs to care for their child; meanwhile, their medical bills continue to mount.  Until there is a cure, we are determined to make a difference “Helping One Family at a Time.”  Will you help?

By Sue Axelrod

For more information about the Isaiah Alonso Foundation, to make a donation or learn about volunteer opportunities, visit

About Sue Axelrod

Sue Axelrod is a stay-at-home mom with three teenagers who keep her busy.  She moved to Georgia from New England about four years ago and lives in Atlanta. Moving to the South was a huge change for her, but the biggest change in Sue’s life came in September 2010 with the passing of her six-year-old nephew, Isaiah, from complications from cancer.  Sue is now very active trying to raise awareness for childhood cancer and make a difference in the lives of the families still battling this horrible disease.

The Enlightened, Heightened, Sensitive Person

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for a couple months, and was deleting some of my e-mail a few minutes ago, when I came across this article from a woman I met a few months ago, probably before Christmas. I mentioned previously that my parents wanted me to be in a regular classroom when I was in school because there is absolutely nothing wrong with my brain or my ability to think. However, I can’t help but think of those students who never have a chance to be taught alongside other “normal” children. I cannot imagine how they must feel knowing they’ll never be able to learn like the rest of us. I’d personally like to thank Barbara Lee for reminding us that there are other people out there who want to be accepted, even though it may take them a little longer to understand something.

The Enlightened, Heightened, Sensitive Person

By Barbara Lee

There are many facets of the human brain that have not yet been discovered.  Through the study of children, we are finding an abundance of learning disabilities.  The stack gets higher and higher every day.  We all have at least one such disability; if we didn’t, we would all be perfect readers, writers, spellers, mathematicians, poets and the like.  As adults, we learn to compensate for our imperfections and move on.

With the study of learning disabilities (LD), autism and hyperactivity, the world was able to open doors for billions of learners. Small class size, individualized education plans and medication are just a small sample of techniques used for the LD population.  A disproportionate amount of fair-skinned males continue to be born with learning disabilities allowing us to detect these disabilities and provide intervention at a very young age.  The publication of “Why Johnny Can’t Read” was a beginning at focusing on reading patterns in an effort to correct them.  “Driven to Distraction,” published in 1994, focused on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), hyperactivity and obsessive-compulsive behaviors that often times people cannot change without the assistance of family, educators and, sometimes, professionals.

Current statistics report that one out of every 93 babies born have Autism Spectrum Syndrome.  Autism has no boundaries; it crosses through intellect, gender, race, opulence and culture.  Most children with autism are attractive with normal-looking facial and body features.  The dilemma they face is a heightened awareness of taste, sound, touch, smell and sight, coupled with an inability to communicate.  Thus, the individual draws inward and is not able to relate to the world they live in.  Dustin Hoffman exhibited an autistic savant in the movie “Rain Man” and HBO presented a fabulous movie representing the life of Temple Grandin, a woman with severe autism who made wonderful contributions to the prevention of animal cruelty.

When heightened sensibilities turn to liberal and/or fine arts such as music, culinary art, photography, design or writing, we soar high above the rest of the population because we have the capacity to absorb more of our environment in specific fields.  Cher, who is dyslexic, and Madonna are outstanding examples of talented women who were ostracized for being different in their youth.  The shame is children are often criticized, belittled, bullied and made fun of for owning unique characteristics and behaviors.

I own up to my learning disability.  I am not a phonetic speller and very grateful for spell check.  I use my heightened sense of awareness to my advantage as an artist and ability to appreciate and play music. Labels in the back of my clothing can be a bit pesky but cut out rather easily. Being distracted leads me to hyper focus or pick up on everything in my surroundings, which is often times awesome when it’s not too LOUD.

About Barbara “Barbie” Lee

An Ohio native, Barbara “Barbie” Lee’s immediate and extended family fostered her art by providing lessons in her home town at The Akron Art Institute at the age of eight. Her extended family still lives in Kittanning, Pennsylvania in the Allegheny Mountains, which allowed her to capture colorful memories expressed in her artwork, with an impressive array of colors and mediums.  Barbara has lived and bicycled through all four regions of the United States, which has given her a special artistic flair.  She says her best treasures have been found running up and down the eastern seaboard.

Barbara is a member of several art galleries on the East Coast and supports the arts whenever opportunity arises.  She entered the Nuevo art contest last year with the Island Art Association, and the theme was “On the Edge.” 

Barbara fills her life with volunteer work for Special Olympics, elder shut-ins, nursing home care and various fundraising activities. Her passion is physically disabled children. She has provided respite care and tutors challenged students with autism.

In her spare time, she enjoys simple pleasures of cycling, reading, bird watching, turtle watching, baking, sun bathing, and frequent visits to the Barnes and Noble Bookstore and Cafe. She is an avid reader of Children’s Literature and writes on occasion as a hobby.

What is Love?

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boost, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a and 13