Category Archives: Blogging for Better

When a luxury item isn’t a luxury: How one organization is giving homeless women their dignity

I remember the day clearly, especially what I was wearing. I was in high school and Umbro shorts were all the rage. If you don’t remember these, they were a thin nylon/polyester short, usually in wild colors. I think they were originally made for soccer players, but seeing how I hadn’t played soccer since I was five years old, I was more concerned about the cool factor, than the practicality of these shorts.

I remember a classmate whispering in my ear  that I had a stain on my shorts and might want to go check it out. I went to the bathroom and discovered what every girl-of-a-certain-age dreads discovering: I’d started my period a few days early. At school, and without any sanitary products. My coveted Umbro shorts were ruined and I was totally embarrassed.

Looking back now, I realize I was lucky. Not only was I able to go home where I had a change of clean clothes and big box of tampons waiting, but I had a washing machine to try and salvage my favorite pair of shorts.

According to a 2016 HUD Report there are approximately 220,000 homeless women in the United States, and 50,000 of these women are between the ages of 18-24. These women do not have those same conveniences I did and while getting my period early was a nuisance, for these women it can become an issue that keeps them from being able to work, attend school, or even properly care for their personal hygiene.

Even though HUD found that 76% of homeless women were staying in temporary shelters or half-way houses, these places are often unable to provide anything but the basics for the women, and for many sanitary products are considered a “luxury”.  This is not surprising since the majority of U.S. state governments classify feminine hygiene products the same way. In 36 states these products are taxed as “luxury items”, often referred to as the “pink tax”.

This tax is on top of the already rising sticker price for these items that must be purchased monthly (a box of 50 tampons costs anywhere between $8-12 dollars and just 30 pads will run you $6-10 depending on the brand and style). As TV-show host Mike Rowe said, “A luxury?! Who’s going to treat themselves to a tampon?”

Rowe said that after learning about the “pink tax” and an organization called I Support the Girls, recently featured on his show “Returning the Favor“.

I Support the Girls is an organization that started in 2015 by a local DC-area woman named Dana Marlowe, with the core belief that “A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health.” To-date, I Support the Girls has helped more than 320,000 girls and women retain their dignity by collecting over 1 million bras and 2,500,000 menstrual hygiene products and distributing them worldwide to 500 vetted shelters and organizations.

I first learned about I Support Girls in the fall of 2017 when I found out they were collecting bras and hygiene products for women living in communities devastated by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. I hosted a collection at the Renew & Restore Women’s Retreat that year to help provide these essentials to displaced women and girls who either lost their homes or were unable to return for many weeks due to the damage.

Yet I’m struck with the levity of the situation that 220,000 homeless women face every day. Every time I run into CVS or Walgreens to grab a box, I am reminded of how lucky I am that I don’t have to choose between feeding myself and my family or caring for the most basic of feminine hygiene needs.

I Support the Girls has approximately 50 local affiliates in 27 states, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and while that may make it sound like they are big international non-profit, the truth is they are very operationally lean and incredibly dependent on volunteers and donations. Director of Operations, Erin Persaud told me, “although we are able to attract and manage partnerships with major organizations, we do so with minimal staff and funding.” She went on to say that they “love product donations, of course, but truly being able to grow our impact in a meaningful way requires funding.”

Persaud also said that all of their local affiliates are low on hygiene products at the moment. I reached out to the contact for the local Northern Virginia Affiliate, Mia Jimenez and she shared with me that “The NoVA area is in need of more volunteers that would be willing to start local, ongoing drives. We’re also always looking for individuals to collect and sort donations and find shelters that are willing to accept these donations.”

If you live in the Northern VA area and would like to help, please message Mia via their Facebook page. If you are located elsewhere, here are four ways you can help:

  1. Contact your local affiliate and ask what they need
  2. Host a local collection or drive
  3. Order products off of the I Support the Girls Amazon wishlist.
  4. Donate financially

In the words of I Support the Girls founder, Dana Marlowe, “Sometimes when you learn something new, you get a nugget of information that you didn’t know before but it changes your mindset, your worldview…your perspective shifts.”

Now that I know about the real need to provide teens and women with their dignity, I will never look at a box of tampons or old bra the same. How about you?

Designed by Kristen Gardiner @

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter


Featured image by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Wonderfully made: breaking the cycle of self-loathing and an unhealthy body image

“I need to lose weight! I’m fat.” These are words spoken by my 13 year old daughter last week, and not for the first time. My beautiful, strong, muscular, dancing, soccer-playing, cross country running daughter. And my heart breaks a little each time she says something disparaging about her body.

I worry for her. I worry for her sister. I worry because every day they are faced with images that tell them what beauty is and then they look in the mirror and decide they don’t measure up. I worry for them because I have battled with my weight and self-esteem my entire life and I know what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food and with the scale.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I have used food as a means to numb my feelings, reward myself, and fight off anxiety. I’ve forced myself to throw-up and I’ve deprived myself.

But I am absolutely determined my daughters will not follow in my footsteps. That they will learn about healthy eating habits, taking care of their bodies, loving themselves, and seeing in their reflection what God see’s when He looks at them. I’m not always the best example, but I’m thankful that there are others championing the message of healthy bodies and self-love. There are people bravely sharing their battles to overcome an eating disorder, like my friend Danielle Sherman-Lazar. And there are organizations like Southern Smash, campaigning to end negative self-talk and raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

Southern Smash was founded in November 2012 by McCall Dempsey, an eating-disorder and self-love advocate who struggled to break free from her own eating disorder of 15 years. Southern Smash is dedicated to ending the cultural norm of poor body image and negative self talk. Through their SmashTALK panel discussions and empowering scale smashing events, Southern Smash challenges men and women to redefine their worth and beauty by letting go of those perfect numbers that weigh them down.

If you, too, want to empower our daughters and sons to know about healthy body image and self-love, you can come along and join Southern Smash by hosting your own event with one of their SMASHkits, by becoming a Smash Ambassador or Scale Ninja, or by donating.

Most importantly, though, remember that a healthy body image starts with us. Let’s stop the negative self-talk and demonstrate for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews what real health, strength, and self-love look like.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

Stories for hope: how one family is honoring their premature triplets by giving children’s books to hospitals

When I was pregnant with my twins I was put on bed-rest at 34 weeks because of some early-labor symptoms. The doctor told me as long as I could make it to 36 weeks, it would be considered a full-term twin pregnancy. At 36 and a half weeks I felt the contractions begin and I could not wait for those babies to be born. I was D-O-N-E being pregnant!

I labored through the night and into the next day, my only focus: getting through the pain and trying to deliver my babies safely. When they placed my tiny 5 pound, 11 ounce little boy in my arms after 22 hours of hard labor I was overjoyed! Here it was, what we’d been waiting 9 months for, and he looked perfect to me. A few minutes later they whisked him away so I could focus on delivering his sister. She arrived weighing in at just 5 pounds, with some powerful lungs, and I breathed a sigh of relief…two healthy, beautiful babies.

Twenty minutes later, my bubble of euphoria was burst. A pediatric doctor from the hospital came to talk to us. Something was wrong with my son. They had taken him to the NICU. The next few minutes were a blur of words like emergency surgery, transport to another hospital, and birth defect. My beautiful boy had been born with a condition called imperforate anus. His little body had not quite finished developing and as a result he would not be able to pass stool. If he didn’t have surgery right away he would get very sick and the local hospital where I had delivered my babies did not have the pediatric surgery specialty needed to perform the delicate operation.

At one day old my son was transported two-hours away to the University of Virginia Hospital and at two days old he had his first corrective surgery (a second surgery happened when he was 6 months). My husband followed along and I stayed behind with our baby girl because she was having trouble maintaining her birth weight and was jaundice. The following week was mostly a blur and I only remember bits and pieces. A few days after his surgery, I was finally able to travel the 2 hours to see my son. As I sat in that NICU holding my tiny boy with an IV taped to his little hand, trying to nurse him for the first time, I cried. Tears of relief, fatigue, love, fear, gratitude…all of it flowed out.

As scary as those early days were, I will always look back with fondness for the NICU teams at both hospitals. I am eternally grateful for their kindness, quick action, skill, and empathy. I also realize how lucky we were. At seven days old, both of my babies were home, making our stay in the NICU relatively short. Many families are not as fortunate. Their babies spend weeks, even months in the care of the NICU staff. Which is why I want to tell you about the Triple Heart Foundation.

Stacey Skrysak gave birth to triplets Peyton, Parker and Abby in 2013, at 22 weeks 6 days gestation. Abby passed away shortly after birth; Parker passed away in the NICU at nearly two months old. Peyton is their lone survivor, a healthy and happy 5-year-old girl.

When Peyton and Parker were first whisked away to the NICU, Stacey and her husband Ryan felt helpless. Their one-pound babies were too fragile to hold. After a few days of staring through the isolette windows, a nurse made the suggestion of reading books to their babies. Stacey and Ryan began bringing books to the hospital, creating a bedside library by the time Peyton came home at 4 months old. The books provided comfort and created a special bond during a trying time.

In 2016 Stacey and Ryan created the Triple Heart Foundation — in honor of their premature triplets — to help other families who spend hours, upon hours in the NICU waiting for the day they can bring their baby home. They Triple Heart Foundation provides new children’s books, care packages, and other gifts to families in the NICU. While Triple Heart Foundation currently serves the Springfield, Illinois area, Ryan and Stacey have plans to reach other hospitals in Illinois. Triple Heart Foundation also takes requests from families across the country.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Spread the word! Follow Triple Heart Foundation on Facebook and share with others the good work they are doing.
  2. Donate new books. Check out this page on their website for more information on what type of books they need and how to send them.
  3. Hold a fundraiser or send monetary donations. Triple Heart Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity and is 100% funded through donations. Click here for more information on how to donate.


This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter



photo credit: Stv. Peek-a-boo! via photopin (license)

She needed her story told

When I was 13 I was molested by my step-father. There was no police report filed. There was no public announcement made. I never even got to confront him. When I told my mom what had happened she could not accept the truth. She said I had misunderstood. She said if I reported it to anyone it could ruin his life and his career.

Two days later I went to live with my dad and step-mom, where I could feel safe, but still no one talked about what happened. There was a lot of whispering behind closed doors. There were awkward hugs and “how are you doing?” from family members. I wasn’t sure who knew and who didn’t. If they did know, most of them never said anything to me, and I was afraid to bring it up.

I was sent to a counselor – a stranger who sat behind a large desk. This was supposed to be the place where I could talk about what happened, but it was the absolute last place I wanted to be. While no one ever said the topic was taboo, I felt it deep in my heart. I felt like it was too big, too real for anyone to handle. So I pushed down my truth and hid it in a dark corner, under a heavy rock in the pit of my stomach. There it stayed for many years.

I was embarrassed and I was scared of how my truth could tear apart my family and destroy my already estranged relationship with my mom. But hiding my truth, and avoiding true healing impacted my other relationships, it impacted my mental health, and it impacted my spiritual growth. And so, for nearly 20 years I stayed stuck. That scared, angry, hurt 13 year old continued to live inside me feeling all of those same feelings but she wasn’t given a voice.

Nearly two decades later, fed up with it all, I sought out professional counseling and finally started to speak my truth. Then I began to share with other people what had happened to me. The first few times I told my story my hands trembled, my heart raced, and I sobbed — barely able to get the words out. Then, with each telling it got easier. With each telling I healed a little bit more; I took another step towards freedom and redemption. I began to own my past, not hide from it.

This was the beginning of learning how to forgive my mom.


Friends, I don’t want another woman or man who has faced sexual trauma to wait 20 years to find that same kind of freedom. That’s why I’m grateful for organizations like The Voices and Faces Project They are an award-winning, non-profit storytelling initiative created to bring the names, faces, and testimonies of survivors of gender-based violence to the attention of the public. Through the power of the personal testimony they are changing minds, hearts, and laws.

The Voices and Faces Project does this through educational and advocacy trainings, their survivor story archives (housed at The Voices and Faces Project and World Without Exploitation), and their signature program, The Stories We Tell – an immersive, two-day testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and trafficking.

On this #givingTuesday will you consider being a part of this important work? Every $650 raised provides a full, two-day scholarship to a workshop applicant ready to take part in The Voices and Faces Project’s groundbreaking writing program. Together, let’s help another woman who needs her story told.

Click here to donate.

Click here to learn more about The Voices and Faces Project.

And don’t forget to share on social media so more people can learn about the life-changing work this organization is doing, and so those who are looking for freedom, healing, and redemption can connect with The Voices and Faces Project.


The first half of this post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Forgiven and Restored, planned for release in 2019.

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter