Five Things You Can Do To Help Someone Who Has Been Abused

Five Things You Can Do To Help Someone Who Has Been Abused And Why it’s Good for You to Do So

By Leslie Vernick

This week, I saw a disturbing video of a two year old child in China being struck by a vehicle laying in the street.  People simply walked by, ignoring her.  She died.

Last week I watched a television show called, What Would You Do? An actor fell down on a crowded city sidewalk, seemingly unconscious. The show wanted to see if anyone would stop to help. Sadly few did. More people stopped for an attractive young woman. A man? Not so many stopped to help. When it was a man dressed as a homeless person with a bottle of alcohol in his hand, only one person stopped–another homeless person.

We’ve all been in situations where something has happened or someone has disclosed something to us and we act as if we don’t see it or don’t hear it. Jesus tells a story like that, where the religious leaders who should have helped, ignored and walked by someone who was beaten, who was laying on the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37).

Could Jesus have been talking about you? Or me?

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. Men, women, and children who attend our church and live in our neighborhood are suffering in homes where abuse is present. Yet we don’t want to see it, and it’s easy to ignore. But that would be wrong. It hurts them, and it hurts us. When we ignore someone desperate for help, they continue to suffer and we lose our humanity.

Jesus tells his followers, “Whenever you helped someone who was overlooked or ignored, that was me–you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 The Message). When we take our time to help someone, Jesus says that we are ministering to Him.

Here are five things that you can do if you know someone who is in an abusive relationship.

1.  Listen hard, speak little. People who disclose problems at home usually feel a great deal of shame. It’s already difficult for them to talk about it, but when we jump in with our response or offer a solution, we often shut them down or give unwise or trite answers to a very painful and complex problem. Proverbs says, “He who answers before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

2.  Validate their experience. It’s normal to feel afraid to tell a family secret. It’s common to blame oneself for one’s partner’s abusive behaviors. Don’t minimize, trivialize, or rationalize things away. Saying things like, “I can’t believe what you’re saying, or he or she seems so nice or godly or normal” is hurtful. 

Instead say things like, “It was good that you told someone.” Or “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but telling is the first step to getting help.” Or “No matter how you disappoint your husband (or wife), you don’t deserve to be treated this way.”

3.  Pray. We often forget how potent prayer is. Even when we don’t know the whole story, God does. Sometimes we feel helpless to really know what to do in these kinds of situations. Prayer is an important reminder that God is in charge and loves both the abused and the abuser. We must bring the situation before God daily, asking Him to intervene in a way that we cannot imagine. 

4.  Offer tangible help. James says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all – it is dead and useless.” (James 2:16,17).

Does the person need medical attention? Counseling help? Legal aid? A safe place to live? Sometimes people need concrete support to break free from abusive patterns and it takes the loving and tangible resources of a community of people to help them. The Good Samaritan didn’t just pray, he also carted the broken and battered person to the inn and paid for his care.

5.  Advocate and/or report where needed and appropriate. If you are a mandated reporter and a child discloses that he/she has been a victim of abuse, you must report this disclosure to the proper authorities. However an adult victim of spousal abuse needs an advocate too. Someone who will come along side of him/her and speak with community agencies, attend legal proceedings and help communicate with church leaders in order to have the best possible hope for repentance, healing, and reconciliation of the family.

I have a framed card in my office that says,

“On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a thin dress, with little hope of a decent meal. I became angry and said to God: why did you permit this? Why don’t you do something about it?

For a while God said nothing. That night He replied quite suddenly: I certainly did something about it. – I made you.”

Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men (and women) do nothing.”

We may not be able to do everything needed to stem the tide of violence at home, but we certainly can do something. What can you do today?

Is Your Marriage Healthy?

Is Your Marriage Healthy?

By Leslie Vernick

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. Because so many of us in the church fail to recognize the reality of domestic abuse within the very place we worship, I want to give you some basic information on the difference between a healthy marriage and an abusive one.

The Surgeon General declared that domestic violence is the number one health problem affecting women today. The Christian church has been reluctant to accept the reality of this devastating problem despite the statistic that one in four Christian women report experiencing some type of abuse in her most intimate relationship.

Domestic violence isn’t really about a misuse of anger although anger may be a part of the abusers strategy. At its core, an abusive relationship is characterized by a pattern of gross imbalance of power coupled with an attitude of entitlement. One person in the relationship feels entitled to control the other and uses whatever works to gain that control and power over the thoughts, feelings, choices, and behaviors of the other.

Physical force and intimidation can be one means of abuse, but withholding money, spiritual one-upmanship, chronic deceit, verbal threats, demeaning and belittling behavior, isolating someone from his/her family and friends, ignoring and minimizing someone’s thoughts and feelings also damage a person’s sense of self. These strategies effectively work together to crush someone’s spirit and gain greater control over him/her.

This was never God’s plan for marriage. From creation, God gave Adam and Eve mutual power and responsibility to rule over creation as well as the freedom to make choices. Healthy marriages are characterized by the foundational elements of mutuality, reciprocity and freedom.

Specifically, a healthy marriage contains mutual care, mutual honesty, mutual respect, mutual responsibility and mutual repentance. Power and responsibility are shared and each individual can express his/her thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution or punishment. There is also the freedom to respectfully challenge decisions and offer different perspectives and thoughts about how to solve a problem.

In abusive marriage theses core elements are missing. There is no mutuality, reciprocity or freedom. Sadly the church has often misinterpreted headship and submission passages to reinforce this power over mentality and as a result enabled entitlement thinking to flourish.

It’s true, God put husbands as the head over their wives (Ephesians 5:23), but that does not put wives at the feet of their husbands. Women and wives are described in the Gospel as equal partners and persons to love, not objects to use or property to own. Biblical headship is modeled by Christ’s gentle leadership and loving self-sacrifice. Husbands are cautioned not to be harsh with their wives and not to mistreat them, or their prayers will be hindered (Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7). No leader is biblically entitled to make selfish demands, order people around, or hurt them when they fail. Jesus clearly rebukes that type of leadership style (Mark 10:42-45).

Submission is a discipline of the heart for all believers to practice, not just wives or women. All Christians are called to submit to authority (1 Peter 2:13), to one another (Ephesians 5:21), and to God (James 4:7). Please understand what submission is and what it is not. In Greek, the word submission (hupotassō) describes a voluntary action or attitude. Biblical submission cannot be forced. It is a position believers take when we are motivated by our love for Christ and our desire to please and obey him. Although God commands us to submit to him, obey him, and love him, he never forces anyone to comply with his commands. He gives us a free choice, including freedom to choose badly (like Adam and Eve did).

When a husband bullies his wife, his behavior does not describe biblical headship, nor is her forced “submission” characteristic of biblical submission. The correct terms are coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or rape and she is the victim. Let’s make sure we use the right words.

When a woman bullies her husband, the sinfulness and inappropriateness of the interactions are much more obvious to church leaders, but the very sinfulness of bullying behavior is exactly the same whether the abusive behaviors is initiated by the wife or the husband.

For more information to evaluate if you are in an abusive marriage, please take my free test by clicking the link below.

Are You in an Emotionally Destructive Relationship Test

Sharon Howard aka Wonder Woman

When Jason asked me to write a guest post for his blog I was more than happy to oblige. Having done a few for other blogs recently, I enjoy getting out there and sharing with others. However, my dilemma (as always) was what to write about. In the end I decided to write about me, but this time without the focus being on my illness. Just so you understand the context of that statement, I’ll just fill you in briefly and then if you want to read more about that you can check out my blog where there are many posts on the topic.

My name is Sharon; I am 34 and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in 2010. BPD is a severe mental illness characterised by instability in mood, emotions and relationships along with self-harming and suicidal thoughts. My diagnosis came at a point where I had been in and out of “crisis” for more than a year during which time my granddad and husband had both died, and I graduated from the Open University with a 2.1 Bachelor of Science Honors degree. Following the diagnosis I continued in and out of crisis because I lost my job since the company couldn’t afford to keep me anymore. I didn’t do anything wrong for them, but the job was no longer available. I moved home, found a new job and a new partner. I signed off work sick because of my BPD in April this year, returned in July and signed off again in September.

But, as with everyone there is much more to me than my diagnosis, which is something I have recently become almost defined by. So I wanted to share a bit about me apart from my mental health issues for a change.

My life has been characterised by a very diverse range of interests and activities. I met my future husband in 1992 when I was 15. I gave birth to my son when I was 16 and my daughter when I was 17. At this point I was defined as a mother first and foremost. Yet, even with this role I still had much I wanted to do and achieve and soon began volunteering for charitable organizations. Both my children were born with medical conditions which meant it was near impossible for me to have a paying job while they were young (My son was born 13 weeks prematurely and my daughter was born with a complex heart condition). So, to allow me to have outside stimulation I worked volunteering part-time in several roles including charity shop sales assistant, classroom assistant, youth work assistant and charity fundraiser. Once the children were a little older, in nursery school, I went back to college and studied English, Biology, Sociology, Law and much more.

In 1998 my son was diagnosed with epilepsy, closely followed by diagnoses of ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome.  My soon-to-be husband was also diagnosed with a brain tumor that year – oligodendroglioma. By the time we married in 1999, my role was firmly that of full-time carer. Following surgery and radiotherapy my husband was in remission and, desperate for a chance to be something more than wife, mother, carer and volunteer, I took my first paid job as a case-work assistant for the Forensic Science Service in 2000. Unfortunately things didn’t work out well (in part because of my own then-undiagnosed mental health condition, but also my husband’s health and son’s education).

I left the job but, to maintain the mental stimulation I needed, continued volunteering and in 2002 I started studying with the Open University. For the next few years my life revolved around my studies. I was addicted. It was the best thing to happen to me – I neglected social life completely. Then in 2008 we got news that my husband’s tumor (which had returned the year before) was not responding to the chemotherapy he was receiving, and his remaining time was likely limited to about two years. A change in my lifestyle was necessary to enable me to cope when that time came. I needed to re-affirm lost friendships and get a job so I would have financial security. I worked hard to achieve both, socializing for the first time in years and securing a part-time job as office manager for a small IT company. But, I was also now on a slippery slope I had not even noticed. My feelings, thoughts and emotions were in turmoil and I didn’t know why, but my husband’s own behavior didn’t help. He had always been quite controlling but my new “freedom” was the death nail for us as he became so nasty even the kids (teenagers by now) were on his case telling him to “stop being nasty to mom” (This had nothing to do with his illness.).

We split up in May 2009 while I was becoming seriously ill with my mental health, and he died in September 2009 which caused hell for me both with my own feelings of guilt over his death, and abuse and harassment from some of his family and friends that led to me to have his brother arrested. My mental health continued to suffer but I managed to continue studying and working until I was made redundant in January 2010.

I guess like for anyone else a typical week varies. If I’m not having a crisis, nothing “triggers” me, then it’s just normal getting on with life stuff. But if I am having an episode, it could go various ways. Something that upsets me can make me have a mega “crash,” which can cause me to feel very low, or have suicidal and self-harming thoughts, so that I “feel” something rather than the numbness that the zapping of my emotions has triggered. I may also feel exhausted and just want to sleep all the time, or I can be empty – devoid of feeling/emotion in any form – uninterested in anything/anyone and dissociating, cutting off from others, unable to eat or sleep – but needing to do anything. The final way an episode/crisis may present itself is in a “manic” phase where I am overtly social, high on positive feelings, impulsive and reckless in behavior, craving attention and contact from others, drinking lots, have excessive energy, not needing to sleep (but hyper from it rather than needing to sleep), or not eating properly. The manic phases are where I am likely to do things that can cause me a lot of trouble; the low phases are where there is a high risk of injury to myself.

If you’re struggling with BPD, fight for help, accept it, ask for it. Don’t try to deal with this on your own. Don’t just accept people saying they “understand.” They don’t, and can’t, without reading/finding out a lot more about it. Try to tell people what you are feeling so they know which phase you are in, even if you don’t really want to say. Try to learn to identify your phases and find out if you can get help managing them.

Being diagnosed with BPD nearly cost me everything. Initially my partner “accepted” that I had this problem, but didn’t really find out anything about it, how serious it really is. I guess people just think it’s like depression or something, that I have “sad” times where I self-harm and “happy” times where I’m the life and soul of a non-existent party, but it is far more complicated than that. When I had a major crisis while he was away with the Army, he came back to a person he didn’t recognize and promptly threw me out. But he was so shocked by who this person was he decided to read up about BPD, and after several weeks of mega hurting on both sides, he asked me to come back and asked me to marry him! He learned so much, but still has a lot more to learn. We have both said at times that BPD is a life sentence, with an unknown terminality. A cancer diagnosis would be easier to live with because at least you normally get a clearer view of how the condition will progress, if it is treatable, curable or terminal, whereas with BPD everything is a “what-if” scenario, with no clear-cut treatment, cure or end. Each spell between crises is like a “remission,” but you never know how long it will last – hours, days, weeks, months or years…

I have two children, ages 17 and 18, and for the most part I’m just still mom to them. They have seen me have ups and downs for as long as they can remember I guess (before we knew why I had problems). I guess they find it really hard when they see me low, but they don’t like to talk about it much, and while I would like them to understand, at the same time I’m not sure how much they want/need to know – an area still in progress I guess.

Now, I am back on the studying boat, and looking to find a new job (I had an interview on September 29) so I can move on from the job I am unable to return to following my latest crisis. BPD plays a huge role in my life, but I am fighting to regain control and will continue to fight.

Hmmm, I kind of think there was still too much focus on mental health in this post…what do you think?

Blind Faith and the Single Mother

My name is Shara Lawrence-Weiss, and it’s an annoyingly long last name, I know. Years ago I was a single mom, and my son asked me to keep his last name inside my name – so that his friends wouldn’t be confused at school (I was teaching Art Masterpiece at the time, and all of his friends called me “Miss Lawrence.”). After getting remarried I hyphenated my last name because my son didn’t want to be the only one in our family with a different last name.

After he enters adulthood I’ll likely drop the Lawrence and keep Weiss. For now, though, it makes my son happy to know that I have (partially) the same last name as him. 

Where to start?

I’ve lived through quite a bit for someone my age: I was married young, lived through his drug use, got divorced and then he died. I still miss Brian to this day; I miss my friend.

I then got pregnant and married for a second time to a man who was the polar opposite personality to mine. Things went quite sour, and by the time I left I was wearing a size 14 in little girl’s clothing, my hair was falling out, and I was skin and bones. A cancer scare was enough to set me straight. I then lived as a single mom for three and a half years, went to college, earned scholarships, won awards and was later nominated “Future Teacher of the Year” by the college staff.

I remarried again to my best friend and soul mate. We now run 12 websites, three businesses and work together from home – sitting about 10 feet apart. My husband joked the other day that we should buy ONE large desk and sit across from each other so we can look into each other’s eyes while we work.

Over the years I’ve been published locally, regionally and nationally in magazines, newspapers, journals and online outlets. I love to write! I still intend to earn my Elementary Education degree, but I’m now pregnant with our fourth kiddo and my businesses are going well so….school is on hold.

My first son was born with no vision in his right eye. They called his eye “microthalmic.” His retina then detached, and he got glaucoma. The eye was removed ten days after his first birthday. Three surgeries later the doctors gave him an implant made from ocean coral, and an eye specialist later created a prosthetic eye – beautifully painted to match his “seeing” eye. New eyes are made every few years as my son grows (spendy!); he is now 12.

Our typical weeks used to be filled with doctor visits, ultrasounds of the eye, orbital exams, surgeries, follow up visits and more. Things have settled down now, and we return for a new eye every few years. The eye is removable, and we keep it clean with soap and water. During allergy season the eye socket does produce lots of seepage but other than that, things run pretty smoothly for us.

My son must wear glasses full-time to protect his “seeing” eye so we do have to buy new glasses for him every year. We were told that he would not excel in sports because of the lack of peripheral vision. So far, my son has proved them wrong and excels at every sport he plays.

Before I had kids I was so selfish and self centered. I cared only about my own wants and needs, my own schedule, my own desires, etc. I really can’t thank God enough for giving me a child who took up so much time, energy and effort. I had to jump into motherhood with blind faith, trusting God and my instincts to carry me though. This made me stronger, wiser and kinder.

I learned to become an avid reader, a researcher of medical data, a faith warrior and a loving mother. I learned to become less selfish and to put my own needs aside. I learned what the Apostle Paul meant when he said:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4

I don’t always feel as though I have the strength to pull through but I do. With faith…I always do.

If you’re struggling, finding it hard to go on, don’t view challenges as a reason to quit and give up. Quitting is so easy and leaves you wondering, “What if? What if I had pushed through and been strong enough to see this situation to the other side?” The only time we can give a testimony to others of what faith can do, is when we stick it out, push through and get to the other side with a story of triumph.

Kutless sums it up so fantastically: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard. Impossible is not a word. It’s just a reason for someone not to try. Everybody’s scared to death. When they decide to take that step out on the water…it’ll be alright.”

Faith isn’t about facts or science or supposed provable data analyzed by fallible men. Faith is about trusting what you cannot see. No parent of a special needs child can SEE what the future holds. You have to have faith, jump in, trust that God knows what He is doing when He gives you a challenge that other parents don’t seem to have and believe that some kind of amazing story will be told, through your tears and suffering. Believers were never promised easy lives. We were simply promised that we won’t be alone as we walk through the Valley. We always have someone there, holding our hand, and we’re never alone.

In the darkest nights I’ve always felt something surrounding me. A peace that passes understanding and arms that seem to be holding me up.

My favorite quote of all time comes from a man named Wintley Phipps: “It is in the quiet crucible of your personal sufferings, that your noblest dreams are born, and God’s greatest gifts are given, in compensation for what you’ve been through.”

Can this man SING or what!?

That’s faith.

Don’t leave home without it.

Before my first son was born I worked in a school for children with developmental delays. I was working there, in fact, when I found out that I was expecting my first child. I worked as the assistant to the school superintendent, greeting parents, running the front office, answering a 10-line phone, writing memos, filing, chatting with parents about their children, talking with teachers and special needs advocates, etc. I learned a great deal from this experience!

I grew up in a home surrounded by talk of helping others and assisting children who have special needs. My father ran a homeless shelter while I was in high school, and my mom worked in special-education classrooms for more than 11 years (She is back working in classrooms again now!). In fact, my mother helped create my book business by sharing her classrooms ideas and needs with me. Thanks to my mom’s insights I learned a great deal about helping children through written text and the creation of custom stories to address personal needs and challenging life situations. Since starting this book business I’ve written custom stories for children addressing issues like heart surgery, heart defects, severe burns, parental loss, pet loss, sibling rivalry, jealousy, sexual abuse and much more.

My desire to work more closely with children of special circumstances was spurred after the birth of my first son. I realized very quickly that helping others was a fulfilling and peaceful way to live. When we give more to others than we take for ourselves, we have very little time left over for selfish thoughts.

I used to watch the parents come in and watch the interaction between the teachers and kids. I would soak up what the teachers were doing: speech paths, physical therapists, early childhood intervention experts and more. After my son was born the school sent over a newborn expert to assess my child and to watch his tracking, finger movements, body movements and so on. I memorized everything she did so I could test my son, on my own, long after she had left my home. When I nannied for other families (for more than 16 years) I ran some of those same little tests on their babies, just to be sure the babies were not showing any early signs of developmental delays. I was, by no means, the expert, but I did have fun playing the baby games and learning more and more about a baby’s brain development and physical abilities! Babies are pretty darn amazing!

What I’m about to say next is very personal for me and will likely offend quite a few women. I “self talk” a lot. I used to say things to myself like, “What is your alternative? You could have aborted your child or you can suck up what’s been given to you, face your fears, jump in, trust God and accept the life circumstances you were handed. You had the choice to be a quitter or a fighter. You CHOSE to be a fighter, and now you have to accept this, jump in with blind faith and believe what your mama and daddy taught you: ANYTHING is possible with God. Do you believe that? Yes or no? Pick one and if you pick to have faith, SHOW IT. Live your faith and live your trust in God’s ability to carry you through this. You want your son to grow up to know that his mother was strong and courageous and NEVER gave up, right? So prove it.”

I would say such things to myself on a pretty regular basis until this mantra became my life walk.

Check out some of the awards and features I’ve received so far.

I’ve written for publications including an adoption journal, local newspapers, the Homeschool Handbook magazine, the Salvation Army magazine, Christian outlets, online parenting websites, and I now write for my own sites. I often guest write for other blogs and sites, upon request. I’ve been interviewed on TV a few times, also.

Take a look at more features and media highlights about me.

Trying to overcome the fact I was a size 14 in little girl’s clothes and skin and bones, while maintaining my faith and being a mother was not easy. I prayed a great deal, listened to hymns daily, read parenting articles and books, went to therapy every week for a year, put my son into play therapy with a child psychologist, swam daily to keep my energy up and oxygen circulating through my body, volunteered, went to church and had regular meetings with a mentor (my pastor at that time). It wasn’t an easy road to travel. I was scared I’d get so thin and so weak that my son would no longer have a healthy mother to rely upon. I moved away from my parents, three sisters, and nieces and nephews when my son was 16 months old, and I’ve been away from them now for 11 years. I can’t return home because of the divorce and joint custody arrangements.

I had to learn to become self-reliant in many regards and to trust in my own inner strengths. The words of Scripture were a huge source of comfort to me, pushing me to believe that even little old me was worth something to God. When we believe that we have a purpose here, everything changes.

My parents instilled hard work into my soul. I am not sure I even know HOW to be lazy. I’ve been working since age 12 and don’t know how to live any other way. When I was a single mom, every ounce of strength inside me was brought to the surface. I learned to fix my own appliances, pump tires, caulk a bathtub, fix a toilet and sink, research for help, utilize resources that are available to single moms, apply for college scholarships and more. I was working as a nanny for a doctor, going to school at night and on the weekends, and I wasn’t making enough money to pay the bills. I had to apply for food stamps. I can still remember walking into Albertsons and vomiting in the bushes at the front of the store, the first time I went to use my food stamp card. I was so ashamed! I’m not great at asking for help, and I hated the idea that I had to rely on other people’s tax money to feed my son. I remember saying to myself, “You can refuse to use this card but what then? Then your son goes hungry. What kind of mother would put pride over her son’s needs? Go buy food.” My son never went without and, in fact, I got to the point that I was so good at budgeting my food purchases that I could share our food with others who were also in need. I would deliver food to neighbors, etc.

Living as a single mom was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It was also the most rewarding. I wake up every day now, not WONDERING if I could conquer the world. I KNOW it.

My advice to single moms who have a special-needs child? Find friends and resources to help you! Google about local support groups, government programs and church assistance. There are so many faith based organizations out there ready and willing to help. They don’t make the news because no one in the media wants to give credit to anything faith based. But your hands can Google and find these folks all on your own, so do it! Join a gym or start some kind of workout routine – you NEED this! When things get really dark, turn on loud music and dance around until you fall over. Get the stress hormones OUT of your body and then sleep. That always helped me.

About Shara Lawrence-Weiss

Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Reliable Bloggers, Early Childhood News and Resources and the co-owner of Pine Media. She and her husband work from home, run 12 websites and are expecting their fourth child. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, marketing, PR, freelance and special needs. She and her husband run three businesses from home offering custom children’s books, web design, development, graphics, hosting, programming, social media campaigns, marketing and branding assistance, and more. Rick has been in business for more than 23 years. Shara has owned her own businesses since 2007.

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Knowledge Conquers Fear: October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month

As some of you may know, if you’ve taken time to read my blog, or even glanced at the title, I was born with spina bifida. Increasing awareness of this disability (and others) is one of the most important things in my life right now and has been for about 12 years, since I graduated from high school and now that I’m “out there” on the front lines and see the kind of crap disabled people have to deal with on a daily basis. When I was younger, my family and some of our friends participated in five or six walks to promote community awareness for spina bifida and birth defects. These walks, known as “Walk America” back then (not sure what they’re called now) were sponsored by the March of Dimes and brought the entire community together one Saturday for about a six-mile walk and cookout to let people know how important it is to reduce birth defects in babies so they can lead happy, healthy, productive lives.

Although I didn’t really understand what the walks meant since I was so young, looking back I would give ANYTHING to get a group together and walk from Georgia to Florida if I had to, so the world realizes people with disabilities are people too and deserve to let our voice be heard. That’s why I am so blessed and honored to have met the lovely, beautiful and absolutely AMAZING Laura Tellado on Twitter several months ago. We talk at least once a week on Twitter, and it’s truly remarkable how much she cares about spreading awareness of spina bifida in the Latin community. Laura has given me the strength to keep fighting for spina bifida and my rights as a person with a disability, and I am really honored to be able to take part in a “blog carnival” by re-posting this amazing article by Laura. She’s trying to raise money for a “Walk-N-Roll” she’s participating in soon, so if you feel it in your heart to give, please give as much as you can. Every little bit helps. From the BOTTOM of my heart, thank you. I know Laura thanks you too!!! 🙂

October is an eerie month, filled with monsters, mummies and the macabre. But while the occasional witch or skeleton might freak you out, one must concede that there are indeed more frightening things–like finding out your child will be born with spina bifida.

And yet, each day in the U.S., an average of eight families welcome a child with spina bifida into the world. An estimated 1,500 infants are born with spina bifida each year in the U.S.

I was born with spina bifida nearly two and a half decades ago. The diagnosis came as a total shock to my family, along with an entire set of secondary complications. I was also born with hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain.” During the first 10 years of my life, it seemed I was in the hospital every other week with a bladder infection or shunt malfunction. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t really scary at times.

But then, when I was 10 years old, I discovered a fantastic way to defeat my worst fears– knowledge. I vowed I would educate myself and read up on the condition that, up until that point, seemed to be taking over my life. Much like a child who imagines a ghost is in his closet, grabs a flashlight and realizes it’s only an old coat, I had come to the realization that, when you take the time to learn about something, no matter how terrifying it may seem at first, everything is less scary in the light of knowledge.

According to the Spina Bifida Association of America, “spina bifida remains the most commonly occurring birth defect in this country.” Just how common is it overall? PubMed Health, the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, reported in March of this year: “Myelomeningocele [the most severe form of spina bifida] may affect as many as one out of every 800 infants.”

Photo courtesy

As a 21-year member of the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida, I’m doing my part to shed light on this condition by raising money for the Walk-N-Roll For Spina Bifida. When my parents and I moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando, Florida in search of better educational and healthcare opportunities for me in 1990, we found a support system away from our family and homeland in joining the SBACFL. My personal search for a public spokesperson for the spina bifida cause, as well as my work as a current member of the SBACFL board of directors, have helped me find my true purpose– galvanizing as many people as possible to support the spina bifida community.

So, in the spirit of shedding light on a little-known condition, and in honor of October, which is Spina Bifida Awareness Month, here are some statistics about spina bifida that might spook you a bit:

  • Spina bifida is more common than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined.
  • Latinos have the highest incidence of spina bifida out of all the ethnic groups.
  • Ireland has the highest incidence of spina bifida in the world.
  • About 50 percent of babies with spina bifida are selectively aborted after being diagnosed with spina bifida.
  • Doctors recommend that every woman of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida up to 70 percent of the time. In spite of this, there are currently an estimated 166,000 people in the U.S. living with spina bifida– up from just 76,000 just last year.
  • About 90 percent of people with spina bifida are also born with hydrocephalus. Many need a shunt inserted near the brain to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid– and many require multiple shunt replacements during their lives.
  • Other very common secondary conditions include bladder and bowel incontinence, as well as frequent urinary tract infections.
  • After the onset of puberty, young people with spina bifida are more prone to clinical depression than most people. Researchers think this may be in part because of social isolation.

Being able to share this information with all of you today is without a doubt the most empowering and inspiring aspect of my life. I’d love nothing more than to give you that very sense of empowerment. Please publish this post on your own website(s) and feel free to add your own personal intro that will make it relevant to your blog followers. As many people as I’ve managed to rally in support of this cause, you have an advantage that I don’t–your audience. So, please share this information with everyone you come into contact with.

Here is a video that explains why the Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida means so much to me and why I’m participating in the WalkNRoll.

I will be raising money online for Team Holdin’ Out for a Hero until October 29, when we have our Walk-N-Roll event. Donations can be as small as $5 or as large as $50,000. (Yes, I do like the $50,000 better!) Every cent counts! Every cent of every dollar will support families affected by spina bifida in 22 counties in and around the Central Florida region and supporting educational and awareness efforts.

Yes, to the new parent, or even to the already-grown individual, spina bifida can seem like a scary thing to deal with. But there’s a power in numbers and a strength in awareness– a strength that gives us the courage to open the closet, shine the light in the ghost’s face and reduce it to nothing but an old coat.

Thank you for helping me conquer my biggest fear– ignorance of spina bifida.

~ Laurita Tellado,

Three Fun Autumn Ideas For Families

Three Fun Autumn Ideas For Families

By Shara Lawrence-Weiss

Create a nature door hanging. My daughter and I went for a walk, gathered a few treasures and turned them into a Fall door hanging.

Go for a Nature Walk and collect crafting products. I often save tubs, tins and coffee cans (plastic ones) so that my kids can reuse them: holding sidewalk chalk, crayons, toys, etc. These reusable items are also great for nature walks. Save a few cans or tubs and go outdoors to collect small sticks, pinecones, leaves and so on. Head back inside and make a nature collage. Our nanny recently had the kids create three nature collages. Here’s one of them:

Paint a window hanging. Craft stores often hold sales, and that’s a great time to stock up. I keep craft products inside my daughter’s closet in a five-drawer plastic container. I always have paint on hand, and my kids ask to paint when the mood hits them. We recently grabbed some fall colors and painted birds to hang on the kitchen window.

Read more:

10 fall books for kids

Four autumn crafts

Five Halloween books and five tips

About Shara Lawrence-Weiss

Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Reliable Bloggers, Early Childhood News and Resources and the co-owner of Pine Media. She and her husband work from home, run 12 websites and are expecting their fourth child. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, marketing, PR, freelance and special needs. She and her husband run three businesses from home offering custom children’s books, web design, development, graphics, hosting, programming, social media campaigns, marketing and branding assistance, and more. Rick has been in business for more than 23 years. Shara has owned her own businesses since 2007.

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The Little Box

Jason, thank you again, for asking me to do a guest post on your blog. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to get it to you. I tend to believe that things happen when they are meant to most times, so maybe this was the exact time. Who knows?

Thank you so much for including me. You have had some amazing guest bloggers. And I can’t keep up with the pace you blog at. It’s a very nice place to come and read for inspiration.

The Little Box

By Melissa Carey

I often wonder if what I do means anything to anyone.

I spend a lot of time blogging about non-profit organizations in the Pittsburgh area. In many cases, I have attended an event for their cause and done video interviews and/or highlights during the event for the online community journalism site, Pittsburgh On Video, for which I am a volunteer correspondent.

Unfortunately, people like to read about grief and misery, loss and disaster, chaos and crime much more than good deeds and nice people. Even when the people and deeds are integral to the strength of our communities, they are too often ignored. I sometimes wonder if it is a case of, “Oh, good. Someone else is doing it, so I don’t have to worry about it.” While I do tend to get a spike in readers when I post something new, and my readership has grown steadily over the year that I have been doing this, I still see that people gravitate toward a negative story, rather than the positive ones. (I have another blog I write that helps people who have customer service complaints. It can get three times as many hits in one day as the “nice blog.”)

I started the Simply Put blog because I see the good in people. While so much of the world says that things are horrible and no one cares, I meet good, honest, giving people every single day. My mission in writing the posts there is to help others see the good around them as well.

I had serious doubts a few months ago about keeping up the blog with its current content because there is a lack of feedback, comments or subscribers to let me know that anyone really wants to read what I am saying. I was frustrated in not knowing if I was reaching anyone out there.

And then.

Then someone I had just met on Twitter came across my blog, and it affected him in such a way that he quietly wrote his own blog post about how my post about Joyce Rothermel (former CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank) made him feel – from the Aug. 30, 2011 Getting Well For The First Time blog:

“What I started to feel was being part of something great, something special that helped others. I want to feel that way again. But I don’t know how to be a part of that without losing myself. Can you tell me?”

I realized the moment I read his story, that’s why I am the way I am. That’s why I write what I write. It’s why I give my time to volunteer the skills I can as a writer, speaker and work as a social media consultant primarily for non-profits. Because if one person finds my words and it helps them learn something new or motivates them to participate in part of the bigger picture or anything POSITIVE, then I will continue to do what I do.

With that said, I still have moments of doubt about what I do. Is anyone out there really listening? Does what I write about make a difference? I had one of those days again today. 

And then.

I had asked if any organization who was participating in Pittsburgh’s third annual Day of Giving (hosted by The Pittsburgh Foundation on Oct. 4) needed help spreading the word about themselves to contact me, and I would donate my time to write a blog post about them. I was actually nervous to ask because sometimes I just don’t know if anyone really wants my kind of help. Six of them took me up on the offer. Still worried that maybe no one really does care to read the nice, good, positive stories, I’ve been evaluating what content to offer as I begin my second year on the blog.

This tweet that one of the non-profits sent me changed my perspective today…

“@mcb1219 — thanks again for helping promote SHIM for #pgdog. Last year: $1,500. This year: $13,000. #omg” 

I don’t know what part of that came from what I did. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the organization liked the post, had something new to promote for their cause, and we now have a connection that is meaningful to each of us. We shared our gifts with one another.

Life’s a lesson learned in hindsight most times. But each one of us has something special to offer. We all have some skill that is needed by someone. If you feel something call to you, go out and do it. Even when others tell you it isn’t worth it. Even when no one tells you what you’re doing makes a difference. If you think it is important, then it is. If it feels right to you, then it is. Have the foresight to know who you are and where you want to be in this moment.

Our life is a gift that we unwrap in layers. It’s like the box within the box, within the box.  Each one holds a new piece of ourselves. The best part of the gift is that we can choose what is inside. What do you want to see of yourself; what are you ready to be when the next layer is opened? When we get to the tiniest box inside, the one that holds the most memorable gift, what piece of your life will be reflected there?

How will what you have done in life relate to what means the most to you in the final box?

I hope that if your life isn’t going the direction you like, you will change it. If you believe in something, you will work to promote it. If you desire acceptance of who you are, you will be accepting of others as they are. I hope that when you unwrap your next layer, you will find positive energies and wonderful blessings to share with those around you. I hope that when you doubt the work you do, that you will find the answer inside yourself and stay strong in your goals. I hope that you will share your thanks and gratitude with others for the gifts you receive. And always, always, always choose to see the good around you.

When you wonder if what you are doing is worth it, if anyone values what you do, just remember that people are always watching, looking, listening, and learning from your actions, words and examples. You never know whose life you will touch by any one simple act.

Will I stop blogging and doing video for the good people of the great organizations around me? Simply put, no. This is the layer I have unwrapped, and it feels like a wonderful present. As long as there’s the possibility that one person out there might come along and be changed by the content I share, I will be there for them to find.

About Melissa Carey

Melissa Carey is a mother, social causes lover, freelance writer, social media consultant and soon-to-be-published tween youth author. For more information on her activities, visit her blog and check her out on Facebook. Watch video interviews and event coverage by Melissa on Pittsburgh On Video, You Tube and Vimeo.

What Do the Holidays Mean to You?

Hi guys. Jason here. As you probably know if you’ve read a couple posts about my grandfather and grandmother, family is one of the most important things in my life, if not THE most important thing. To make a long story short, my grandmother on dad’s side passed away in March 2005 from leukemia, although it had gone into remission, and my grandfather on mom’s side of the family was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about three or four years ago (maybe longer) and is progressively getting worse.

The last couple years, as I’ve had to sit and just watch my grandfather get worse, knowing I can’t do anything to take away his pain and suffering, I’ve had a lot of time to think about all the wonderful times I’ve had with him and my grandmother, God rest her soul. I don’t want these memories to ever end, especially the memories we have made around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know my grandfather probably doesn’t have too many Thanksgivings and Christmases left on Earth with his family, and I want to make them as special as I can for him, even if all I do is go over to his house for Thanksgiving or Christmas and sit beside his recliner and talk to him, to take his mind off Alzheimer’s for a while.

I really wish my grandmother was still here so I could tell her how much I love her and how much she means to me. Some of the best times I ever had at her house were sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or Christmas or sitting in the big family room, when she and my grandfather (dad’s dad) lived in Georgia, around the big white Christmas tree opening gifts, laughing and talking with all my aunts, uncles and cousins…. can you imagine trying to fit 30 or 35 people in a room with a big sofa, chairs and a tree that reaches all the way to the ceiling. It was almost like trying to fit one more smelly fish into a sardine can.

This is where you come in. What is your favorite holiday to celebrate with your family? Do you have special traditions you celebrate during the holidays? Has a parent, grandparent or child passed away and given special meaning to celebrating to the holidays since their death? Has a parent or grandparent been diagnosed with a horrible disease, and do you want to make their last holidays with your family ones they will never forget? Are there special memories that you’ve had with your family that you’d like to share? In short, what do the holidays mean to you?

After watching a video by Joanne Cipressi thanking her Twitter followers for adding special meaning to her life, I thought I’d try something really different for this post, and that is asking you to submit a video discussing the questions above. I thought perhaps if others saw the emotion you felt as you were talking, it may make the posts that much more special and really hit home how important family is to you. You can make the videos as long as you want and can even have other members of your family talk about what the holidays mean to them. Bottom line I want to stress is to have fun with the videos and to be creative in making them.

If you want to submit a video, you can email them to I’d love to post them all during the holidays, from Thanksgiving through Christmas, so if you want to be featured on the blog, please e-mail me your videos by November 15.

Thanks and again have fun!!!

We Believe You Can Fly

As you know already, I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter and have featured most of them on my blog, allowing them the opportunities to share theyr stories of triumph and victory over life’s obstacles and hardships. Now I am honored to present the amazing, uplifting story of Abbey Fatica, who has made it her mission to help others realize their dreams by helping family-owned businesses get their feet off the ground and spread their wings. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me give a warm welcome to Abbey Fatica, President and DEO of Living Your Moment

Living Your Moment

By Abbey Fatica

Living Your Moment was started in April 2009 when I was trying to figure out a way to make some extra cash. I was a stay-at-home mom to my daughter at the time and really wanted to contribute to our income, somehow. After searching online for many months, trying to come up with products to sell and not being able to find anything that spoke to me, I had an AHA moment!

While watching Oprah one day, I was intrigued by the segment on mom bloggers, and although I had never really thought about blogging as a profession, Heather Armstrong from changed my mind. Seeing how a mom just like herself could make a living out of blogging about her life made me realize I could do it, too!

On top of just blogging, I wanted to offer some kind of service to family-run business owners. Our country was in one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, and it’s hard to keep small businesses afloat let alone pay a fortune to advertise. These types of businesses are usually hit the hardest when the economy is bad, and I didn’t want to see all of their efforts go to waste. So why not offer FREE ADVERTISING. And that’s where we started!

Living Your Moment is ready to take your business to the next level. We know that moms who run small businesses are strapped for time and Living Your Moment will provide affordable marketing for your business by doing the busy work for you. We don’t want to add to your already busy schedule. We want to give you the opportunity to be able to spend more time with your kids or perfecting your product.

We won’t treat you like just another client. We want to help you grow your business. We want to share your ups and downs. We want you to know that we care about your needs and realize that situations can come up that as a parent you need to deal with first. And we want you to feel comfortable coming to any of us with any questions that you may have.

Our team is comprised of small-business owners so that they can connect with our clients on a deeper level. They understand what it’s like to be pulled in many different directions. They understand what moms want, where they shop and where they want to spend their hard earned money. We will change with the times. We will find out the new advertising trends or where the moms are now and be right there with them!

What sets us apart is that Living Your Moment is run by parents and is geared toward promoting family-owned businesses. As an entrepreneur and mom, I (the owner) am keyed in to knowing both what the consumer wants and what businesses need!

Advertising and marketing your business is a job within itself, and that’s exactly what Living Your Moment is committed to do for you. Promote your product to your target audience so that you can see your sales skyrocket through the roof!

About Abbey Fatica

Abbey Fatica is the owner and president of Living Your Moment, which she
started in April 2009 as a way to market small businesses owned by moms and
dads. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband John of five years
and their kids Luci (three and a half), Jake (21 months) and is expecting their third in early
January. She loves working from home helping other moms achieve their dreams and
being able to raise her kids at the same time.

Abbey Fatica, Owner and CEO
Living Your MoMent

Living Your Moment: Affordable Marketing for Busy Moms

Office Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST

Follow Abbey on Twitter and be her friend on Facebook

Waking Up To A Life Change

I woke up one particular day, years ago, never expecting the day would be any different than most others. My life seemed typical in many ways, being a mom, a college student, a wife. I had already endured many ups and downs in my life journey and some tragedies too. Perhaps I felt that nothing could possibly happen that would be more extreme or devastating than my past had been.

Except life is often not as we plan it nor does it always turn out as we hope. So on this typical day, although I was going in for minor surgery to have a benign lump removed that had been hitting a nerve and causing pain, I was not any more or less worried about what was to come next in life.

I was more annoyed than anything that I had to squeeze minor surgery into my hectic schedule. Waking up after surgery, I still felt annoyed until I fully opened my eyes. It’s never a good sign when you wake up from minor surgery, and people are standing at your bedside with terrified looks on their faces. It seems so surreal now, yet I can remember those faces and the feeling I suddenly had that something was very, very wrong.

That’s when the words were spoken that forever changed me and my life as I knew it. I was told my small, benign tumor was neither small nor benign. I was also informed that the small incision the doctor promised to make turned into a rather large incision. There are many words to describe my feelings in that moment: terrified, sad, confused, angry and more. All I wanted to do at that moment was to go back to sleep and wake up again with a different outcome.

But, as I knew from my past life experiences, often life just does not work how we want it to or always bring us what we want. It took me a year of dealing with my feelings of emotional and physical pain, sadness, frustration, anger, depression and more to finally accept my diagnosis of stage IV cancer. The shock of the whole situation took time to wear off. The realization, after the first year, of still being alive caused me to make a conscious choice to live like I was living, not dying.

I am not going to say it was easy or quick to reach a point of feeling like I could handle living with the unknown of my health status. I am not going to say there were not days that I wanted to give up. But I will say that the best thing I did was to allow all my feelings as they came and went, learn from them and learn more than ever about myself. I already knew how to persevere and how to face adversity. I had to remind myself of all I had overcome and what that said about who I was. It helped strengthen me.

Understanding my story, all of it, from childhood on was key in helping me to believe that I could handle the situation I was faced with. Despite the horrendous emotional pain I was in when I realized I would not live to be an old woman and be a part of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives for many years to come, I also knew that something within me was strong enough to get through extreme difficulties.

Facing death and living with cancer has helped me to think more intently about life. I have learned to not take people or situations for granted. I have learned what my life purpose is and spend my time living that purpose with the intention of leaving behind a legacy of sharing stories that will encourage and inspire many.

I did not always feel brave. I still don’t always feel brave. But I have maintained my sense of faith and hope. Faith that there is a plan and purpose for my life and hope that all will be just as it is meant to be. When I feel I cannot go on dealing with the challenges, I remind myself that I have overcome so much and have become a better person for it.

If you have faced a situation that you felt was hopeless, remember that it is okay to be afraid, angry, confused or experience any other feelings. The best thing to do is allow those feelings and learn how to deal with them. If you avoid your feelings and/or your situation, you will not learn from it or figure out the best way to handle it. Don’t try to handle your trials alone, seek support!

Whatever your challenge is, I encourage you to learn from it, to embrace your feelings, to allow your feelings and not deny the reality of your own situation, and at the same time I encourage you to find your own hope and faith. All we have is right here and now. We have no idea what the future holds or how or when our life may end. And believe me when I say that having a little bit of hope and faith that good things are yet to come, can have a very positive impact on your attitude and your health!

May you be aware of and pleasantly surprised by the good things and people who come your way and be aware enough to recognize and celebrate them!

To learn more about me and my story, visit and our blog,

About Angela Schaefers

Angela Schaefers is an inspirational speaker, freelance writer, and producer and host of  Your Story Matters radio show. Angela interviews people around the globe to share their inspiring stories of overcoming challenges and living their amazing. She writes various articles on professional networking, inspiration and why our stories matter. She wrote her memoir Grief to Grace and is currently working on her next two books, Your Story Matters ~ You Matter and Cancer Doesn’t Come Wrapped In A Pretty Ribbon.

Angela speaks publicly and shares her story of overcoming tragedies since childhood, facing stage IV cancer and more to discovering her own life purpose. She is a keynote for organizations and effectively shares the message within their story. Angela positively impacts the world, one story at a time!

Angela has spoken to

  • non-profit organizations, community-service oriented groups and government entities as their keynote speaker
  • support groups
  • private sector corporations

Angela’s previous speaking topics

  • the effects and dynamics of the special-needs community, in the home and the community ~ including service providers and families
  • the power of effective communication in addressing conflict
  • the benefit of positive thinking and actions
  • the need to discover your values and beliefs in order to plan and fulfill your career goals
  • the stages of grief, including life after the death of a loved one
  • the importance of overcoming shame and guilt, including learning to value our story (our experiences)
  • why your story matters and how sharing it can encourage and inspire others

Angela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational management and a Master of Arts degree in counseling. She has previously counseled families, couples, children and individuals. She has provided career coaching. She has trained and worked as a chaplain. Angela has three children and is a Mimi (grandmother) to one. She enjoys outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, kayaking and the beach, loves tea time and savors a break to the spa.

Angela eloquently shares a powerful message of hope and encouragement wherever she speaks. Her expressive and positive demeanor leaves a memorable impact on others. Angela’s ability to speak to the audience, from her heart, is potent. Angela’s message has a lasting influence on others.

About Your Story Matters

View Your Story Matters archived shows on the “Radio Show” page at

Your Story Matters Radio Show schedule

  • Encouraging Entrepreneurs: Tuesdays 9 p.m. EST, Wednesdays 8 a.m. GMT
  • Creating Change: Wednesdays 6 p.m. EST
  • Inspiring Healing: Thursdays 9 p.m. EST, Fridays 8 a.m. GMT

Angela Schaefers
Speaker, Writer, Radio Show Producer and Host
Your Story Matters. You Matter.™