Monthly Archives: April 2014

Teens Speak Out: April 30

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Lost In Art
Who Are You?

I’m am a girl. You talked at my Jewish Camp and it really touched me.
Whose arms do you fall into?

My friend, Sophie. She’s extremely loyal and is really nice.
What is the one miracle you are waiting for?
I’m just waiting for something amazing to happen to me.
Whom do you miss the most?

I miss my best friend from my old school. We were really close, but now we rarely talk.
What are you scared of?

I’m scared of being alone, mostly: my friends and family not loving me.
What is your favorite memory?

It’s not a particular memory, just being at camp. It’s my actual home, where I can be myself.
When was the last time God spoke to you and what did He say?

At camp, I asked Him to make something unforgettable happen. He didn’t make one thing in particular amazing, but instead gave me the gift of being at camp.
What words are you holding onto in your pockets?

The words that you said to us: Things Don’t Happen For a Reason. Things Happen and Then There’s a Reason.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter
What advice would you give to your parents that will help them in raising you?
Be there for me, but don’t smother me. If I need help or advice, I will come to you, but you need to be there for me.
Is there sometimes an emptiness inside you and what does it feel like?

There is an emptiness inside me. I feel like nothing’s in my stomach and my heart feels like it’s breaking.
Are you enough?
I don’t think I am. When I look in the mirror, I don’t always love what I see back.

Topic Tuesday: What’s Chlamydia?

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I was recently asked to present at a conference of teens teaching other teens about STIs. While I was impressed with the few students who led the workshops, I was saddened to see the lack of basic STI knowledge in the rest of the student body.
Many of you have told me that you don’t have health classes in school. Some of you who have taken health have told me that you’re not learning enough facts that will keep you safe. With the absence of comprehensive sexual health education in too many schools today, some teens search for answers online.
Please beware: some of what’s out there may not be correct or useful information.
BUT…I’m here to help guide you in the right direction!
Here’s a great post on chlamydia that IS useful! It’s from And here’s the full link, if you want to search through their site:
What is it?
Chlamydia (pronounced: kluh-MID-ee-uh) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. Although you may not be familiar with its name, chlamydia is one of the most common STDs. Because there often aren’t any symptoms, though, lots of people can have chlamydia and not know it.
The bacteria can move from one person to another through sexual intercourse, and possibly through oral-genital contact. If someone touches bodily fluids that contain the bacteria and then touches his or her eye, a chlamydial eye infection (chlamydial conjunctivitis) is possible. Chlamydia also can be passed from a mother to her baby while the baby is being delivered. This can cause pneumonia and conjuntivitis, which can become very serious for the baby if it’s not treated. You can’t catch chlamydia from a towel, doorknob, or toilet seat.
How Does a Girl Know She Has It?
It can be difficult for a girl to know whether she has chlamydia because most girls don’t have any symptoms. Because of this, it’s very important to see a doctor at least once a year if you are sexually active. Your doctor can tell you about how to test for chlamydia, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
Much less often, symptoms are present and may cause an unusual vaginal discharge or pain during urination. Some girls with chlamydia also have pain in their lower abdomens, pain during sexual intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Sometimes a chlamydia infection can cause a mild fever, muscle aches, or headache.
How Does a Guy Know He Has It?
A guy can also have a difficult time recognizing that he has chlamydia and should be tested by a doctor at least once a year if he is sexually active.
When symptoms are there, guys may have a discharge from the tip of the penis (the urethra — where urine comes out), or itching or burning sensations around the penis. Rarely, the testicles may become swollen. Many times, a guy with chlamydia may have few or no symptoms, so he might not even know he has it.
When Do Symptoms Appear?
Someone who has contracted chlamydia may see symptoms a week later. In some people, the symptoms take up to 3 weeks to appear, and many people never develop any symptoms. 75% of women and 50% of men will show no symptoms.
What Can Happen?
If left untreated in girls, chlamydia can cause an infection of the urethra (where urine comes out) and inflammation (swelling and soreness caused by the infection) of the cervix. It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection of the uterus, ovaries, and/or fallopian tubes. PID can cause infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancies later in life.
If left untreated in guys, chlamydia can cause inflammation of the urethra and epididymis (the structure attached to the testicle that helps transport sperm).
How Is It Treated?
If you think you may have chlamydia or if you have had a partner who may have chlamydia, you need to see your family doctor, adolescent doctor, or gynecologist. Some local health clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, can also test and treat people for chlamydia.
If the infection occurs through vaginal or anal intercourse, doctors usually diagnose chlamydia by testing a person’s urine or taking a tissue sample from the anus or the vagina. If the infection occurs through oral sex, doctors will take a culture from the back of the throat, whether or not there are symptoms.
If you have been exposed to chlamydia or are diagnosed with chlamydia, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics, which should clear up the infection in 7 to 10 days.
Anyone with whom you’ve had sex will also need to be tested and treated for chlamydia because that person may be infected but not have any symptoms. This includes any sexual partners in the last 2 months or your last sexual partner if it has been more than 2 months since your last sexual experience. It is very important that someone with a chlamydia infection abstain from having sex until they and their partner have been treated.
If a sexual partner has chlamydia, quick treatment will reduce his or her risk of complications and will lower your chances of being reinfected if you have sex with that partner again. (You can become infected with chlamydia again even after you have been treated because having chlamydia does not make you immune to it.)
It’s better to prevent chlamydia than to treat it, and the only way to completely prevent the infection is to abstain from all types of sexual intercourse. If you do have sex, use a latex condom every time. This is the only birth control method that will help prevent chlamydia.
Reviewed by: Nicole A. Green, MD
Date reviewed: March 2013

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this post is intended to inform readers and is not intended to replace specific advice from a health care professional.

Motivation Monday: Secrets and Acceptance

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One evening after I had given a lecture a parent approached, weeping. It was her son who, in the middle of my talk, asked about my thoughts on death. She shared that her brother recently died. “He opened up his heart to us and it helped him.” She wiped her tears behind her eyeglasses. “If we could just learn to open up our hearts to others,” she continued, “it might just buy us a little more time because we’d be feeling the love of all the people who want us to live.”
So much of our lives are wrapped up in the secrets we hide away. When I tell you mine, you tell me yours. Somehow this brings comfort. The stories we tell will become the scripture we read and wish for others to read. They will be written upon the pages that form the Book of our Lives. Our histories are holy.
Often I think our pocketful of secrets is more like a moving tabernacle. We carry it with us on our evolutionary exodus, our journey through life. Other times I think of it as transportable closet. Some of the most interesting things about us are actually hidden in our closets, stashed away on a shelf. A box of photographs. A wedding dress. The blanket in which we were wrapped as an infant. So too are the hidden things in our figurative closets. Our unmanifested potential. Our talent. Our greatness.
In order to find ourselves we must first sometimes lose ourselves. In order to move forward in life we must learn to build a lasting peace with our losses, with the changes in our lives. What if we lingered awhile with acceptance and a sense of belonging? What if we were to empty our pockets, open our closets and actually dance with our secrets?
In the words of that mother, “it might just buy us a little more time.”

Podcast: “HIV/AIDS 101″

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In the second episode of “A Pocketful of Wisdom,” I share the distillation of my HIV/AIDS expertise in a quick 15 minute overview. There is a lot of information packed into this one. In it, I share the realities of the STI and condition and give you an easy to remember phrase that will help keep you safe.
Please take some time to listen. It just might save a life.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this post is intended to inform readers and is not intended to replace specific advice from a health care professional.

Thoughtful Thursday: Your Voice (and T-Shirt Contest Reminder!)

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Today, I wanted to share a sweet message sent by one of my students a little while back.

This is the reason I do what I do. I teach, write, and pour out all I am in the hopes that I can make a positive impact on your life. And notes like the one below make me smile to know that I am helping.

I recently finished your book and just like to say how much it meant to me. I have social anxiety that prevents me from doing the things I normally would love to do and meet and connect with people. I have also tried reading many self-help books to inspire me to make a change but nothing really clicked with me the way your book did. I don’t know. It just seemed to come from a real place. While reading it I felt I could relate to it and was part of something. It also did inspire me to make changes to my own life where I felt it lacking. I might even reconnect with some people I once knew. All I’m trying to say is keep up the good work. I hope to be able to attend one of your lectures sometime soon to hear you speak, just to further evolve my education on myself :) Thanks so much for taking the time to write a book for us teens who don’t usually feel we have a strong voice in this day and age. You probably hear this a lot but you can’t possibly understand how much it means to all of us and how much we appreciate it. For someone to take the time and say, “I see you.”

And don’t forget to submit your t-shirt designs to!

Check out all the contest details again here.

Teens Speak Out: April 23

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Who are you?
One of the many.
Whose arms do you fall into?
I fall into the arms of the people who once fell into mine.
What is the one miracle you are waiting for?
I am waiting to learn who I am and what I want. I don’t know in what direction to use my initiative. You can say that I’m waiting to stop waiting.
What is your weapon?
Self-confidence. There is a comfort far greater than the compliments that others can give you and that is what you can tell yourself. All I need is one reminder that I am enough, and I will feel safe thereafter.
Whom do you miss the most?
I miss my childhood self: before my parents’ divorce, before my heart was broken twice, before I took the path with all the mistakes. True, they say that you learn from your mistakes. But I learned to hide and avoid my problems and myself through my experiences, so I would blunder again and again through the same problems, through the same loneliness, as time repeats itself ad infinitum. Not only until I say that I had enough, until I said that I AM enough.
What are you scared of?
I’m scared of not having enough friends. I jump into a strange group and befriend them all, I meet everyone in every class that I’m in. I gain allegiance and acquaintances, although I’m always shy of friendship. Some see me as popular and gregarious, but only I see myself as a facade. I’m scared of being true to myself, honest to others, loving.
What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory is when I went to a summer camp in Mont Tremblant, QC. When I met my best friends and learned that I am allowed to feel. That I don’t have to be lonely. That I am enough.
When was the last time God spoke to you and what did He say?
I don’t know if it was God who I was speaking to, or if I was just in contact with my unconsciousness, but I decided that I will live how I want to live.
What words are you holding onto in your pockets?
I don’t want to be gay.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
What advice would you give to your parents that will help them in raising you?
Please be more real with me. I can’t stand it when you pretend to be happy. And when you take that advice and start yelling like you always do, compromise. And when you decide that you can’t compromise, beat the impossible. Concede, for your own sanities, for the sake of your love. And  step away from being selfish.
Is there sometimes an emptiness inside you and what does it feel like?
It feels like it will swallow me whole. Like nothing anyone can do will save me. Despair. I feel lost. I stumble. I don’t smile. I wish it to end. I hit my head against my wall. I cry. I forget the great life that I believed in before and will believe after the trauma that I have and will have.
Are you enough?
I am enough. No matter how much you hate me, no matter how much I hate me. No matter how much you love me, no matter how much I feel like I’m dying or going insane. Never will I be more, never will I be less. Everyone is enough. When I’m sad, lonely, or suicidal, I stop feeling that way by telling myself, “I am enough.” You don’t need friends to tell you that. These are words that anyone can say. But when people talk about the power behind words, that is when you can man this phrase as your weapon, and tell it to yourself, every morning, afternoon, night, as long as you live. As long as you need to know.

Topic Tuesday: Defining HIV & AIDS

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Anywhere I teach, I find that there are fewer teens and parents who are educated about HIV. Most of my students don’t even know what the acronyms “HIV” or “AIDS” represent.Just last week, I met a 24 year-old student who approached me at the end of a lecture to tearfully share that he was recently diagnosed with HIV. He wept in my arms.

It reminded me of my friend Larry who, a few days before he died of AIDS, grabbed the IV pole that was attached to his arm, infusing him with medicine, and pulled it toward his chest. He thought it was a person standing by his bed. He needed someone to hold.

We all need more HIV education and we all need someone to hold.


The acronym “HIV” stands for: Human Immunodeficiency VirusThe acronym “AIDS” stands for: Acquired Immunodeficiency SyndromeACQUIRED: One gets it, as opposed to it occurring naturally in one’s system.

IMMUNO: Refers to a protection in the immune system which fights off or defends us against unhealthy viruses, bacteria, germs and other disease‑causing micro‑organisms.

DEFICIENCY: A loss of this protection; implies that something is not working properly.

SYNDROME: A group of symptoms or physical signs that together indicate a disease or condition and in this case, define AIDS as a human pathology.

You don’t give AIDS.
You don’t get AIDS.
You don’t catch AIDS.
You don’t spread AIDS.

You don’t give it, you don’t get it, you don’t catch it, you don’t spread it.

You become INFECTED with or CONTRACT the virus (HIV or the HI‑virus) which can then sometimes, but NOT all times, LEAD to or PROGRESS to AIDS.

AIDS is not an organism that exists. It can not be seen under a microscope. It can not be grown in a Petrie dish. It can not be located in the blood. AIDS is a term that scientists and researchers coined in order to describe the phenomenon of what happens to the body after HIV succeeds in destroying the immune system. AIDS is a syndrome of many diseases, each resulting from an opportunistic agent or cancer cell or other infection that multiplies in humans who are immunosupressed because of a virus known as HIV.


The four fluids that carry and transfer the virus are blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breastmilk. Not urine, not saliva, not mucous, not sweat, not tears, not vomit, not puss, not drool, not diarrhea, not spit, not anything but:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal Secretions
  • Breastmilk

For transmission of HIV to occur, one or more of these fluids must get into your bloodstream. Not on your clothes. Not on your fingers. Not on your sleeve. Not on your hands. Not on your skin. They must get into your bloodstream by way of a cut or tear in the skin or onto one of your torn mucous membranes.

Mucous membranes line body passages and cavities like your respiratory and digestive tracts and other internal organs. Mucous membranes also line passages and cavities that are open or exposed to the outside, protecting foreign particles or antigens from invading the body. According to scientists, researchers and AIDS service organizations, the mucous membrane must be torn, lacerated or have an abrasion for transmission and infection to occur. The variables are the amount of HIV and the length of time on the membrane. It’s risk reduction! You decide what’s best for you!

Always remember the equation:


DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this post is intended to inform readers and is not intended to replace specific advice from a health care professional.

Motivation Monday: Someone Else’s Miracle

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I met a woman who decided to plant a bean garden one summer.

She planted shortly after the last spring frost in a soil temperature of exactly 50 degrees. Carefully, she placed the seeds into the ground, one inch deep and two inches apart, as instructed, covering them with soil to keep them warm. Then she painstakingly constructed a 16 foot long by 5 foot tall “cattle panel,” which is a portable section of wire fence, so that beans could climb with ease. She mulched the soil to retain moisture and made sure it was well-drained. She watered her bean garden regularly and weeded diligently.

In the end, after all her hard work, she yielded only three beans. So when the last spring frost arrived the following year, she decided not to plant anymore seeds.

One day, after a late summer rain, a neighbor knocked on her door.

“Are you the person who planted a bean garden in your yard last summer?” he asked. “I notice that you didn’t plant this season.”

He explained that he would pass her house every day on the way home from work and was so inspired by the 16 foot long by 5 foot tall trellis she had constructed that he set out to plant his own bean garden.

He was overrun with beans!

Sometimes, the seeds we plant today might just bloom in someone’s else’s garden.
Sometimes, the wishes we put into the universe might just manifest in someone else’s life.

This week, tend to your miracles and watch where they grow.


Thoughtful Thursday: T-Shirt Contest!

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2014 T-Shirt Design Contest

Are you an aspiring fashion designer?

Yes? Awesome – remember us when you’re famous!
No? You don’t have to be!

I want to create a new t-shirt and want you all to be a part of it. From now until the end of July, I’m asking you to send me your designs. And there are cool prizes for the winner!


“I breathe. I belong. I am enough.”

These are the only words that have to be included. Other than that, be creative and have fun. You can use any digital graphic design program, pen and paper, paint, colored pencils, or whatever you want!

If you’d like a template help get you started, feel free to use this image as a starting point – tshirt.jpg

All submissions can be sent to


All of the submissions will be uploaded to a gallery on my Facebook page. So if you haven’t yet – make sure to “like” my page so that you can vote!

The new designs will be uploaded every week on Thursdays and the design with the most likes at midnight on 7/31/14 will be the winner.


I told you there would be cool prizes!

The artist who submits the winning design will get:

1) Signed copies of all three of my books (A Private Midnight, If I Grow Up, and My Invisible Kingdom)
2) Signed copies of both of my CDs (As I Grow and Defining a Life)
3) One of their winning t-shirts

I can’t wait to see the amazing designs you will come up with!