Babies in Foster Care

It’s hard to imagine, but newborn babies are placed in foster homes if the baby tests positive for drugs or the biological mother has a history of abuse or neglect. With the opoid crisis the numbers are climbing. Probably due to my own tumultuous childhood (read about it here), I am a strong advocate for babies in foster care. I advocate for them by being a Court Appointed Special Advocate of Essex County, NJ.

It is astounding to know that last year, nearly 1,000 children in Essex County (11,000 in the state and 400,000 nationwide) were placed in foster care, according to CASA’s statistics. These children ranging in age from birth to 21 months were removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Nearly all of the children CASA of Essex County serves come from families living at or below the national poverty line.

The CASA volunteers’ sole role is to represent the best interests of children who are placed in foster care. We ensure they are living in a safe environment by doing home visits, speaking with their pediatricians about their level of care, as well as with their teachers, and guidance counselors. And we report everything we find to the judge at the hearings.

It is immensely gratifying work and I get great satisfaction from it. But, because there is a growing number of babies in foster care (in part due to the opioid epidemic in Essex County), they initiated a pilot program called the “Safe Babies Program.” I was assigned an 8-month baby who was taken from their mother at birth because she tested positive for heroin and falls under the Safe Babies Program. The goal is to stay much closer to the baby than those CASA volunteers assigned to children who are 3-18 years old.

Instead of doing a home visit once every three months, we do them every month. Hearings are also once per month instead of once every three months. The idea behind this program is to put in place additional safeguards since a lot can change in one month in the life of babies in foster care.

Luckily, my baby is a sweet constantly cooing irresistible red-headed green-eyed beauty. She is placed in a loving, beautiful home, she is quite attached to her foster parents and they hope to be able to adopt her. But it hasn’t been decided yet.

3 Children Successfully Adopted Out of Foster Care. Photo by Mark Hanson for the New York Times

Typically, the biological parents have 12 months to prove they are capable of providing a safe environment before any long-term decisions are made. In my case, the biological mother lives alone in an apartment, is unemployed, receives federal assistance, and has been addicted to heroin since the age of 13 (she is now in her early 30’s). Her mother died of an opioid-related overdose and she has chosen to give up 3 other children for adoption. But she is highly motivated to make this one work.

The baby is now 9 months old and the biological mom has reached each milestone mandated by the court including outpatient rehab treatment, twice weekly visits with the baby, passing drug screens, and will be going inpatient this week. Like with all foster cases, the overriding hope is to return the baby to the biological parent (no father has been identified).

While we root for mom, I can’t help but wonder what the long-term effects of taking this baby away from its foster home — the only home she’s ever known? Detachment Disorder is just one of the many psychological effects she can suffer as a result. For a better understanding, view my blog on the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

The foster home is filled with siblings, has 2 playrooms, age-appropriate toys, lots of love and the schools in the area are top-notch. Whereas, the mom lives in an apartment, in a lower-income area where schools are questionable.

But the most important obstacle to getting the baby back to her mom is the mother’s battle with opioid addiction. The statistics on recovery are discouraging. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin users’ relapse rate is nearly 80%. That can mean 1 slip or a lifetime of continued abuse.

I know firsthand how hard it is to kick an opioid addiction. My son struggled with it for 7 long years and we were fortunate enough to be able to provide him with the very best care. Unfortunately, he succumbed to it and passed away 6 and a half months ago from an accidental Fentanyl overdose (read about it here).

I truly hope this biological mom gets well and she can be a shining example for all babies in foster care, but I have to admit I am somewhat skeptical. I’m interested in your thoughts. Please comment below



A True Inspiration

One of the non-profit organizations I devote my time to is Reveal to Heal. I use my professional business background to address a wide range of needs the organization has. Reveal to Heal offers a variety of cost-efficient services aimed at individuals and families in need. They provide counseling services, workshops, retreats, a food pantry, and clothing drives. The organization was started and is led by Octavia Bradley – CEO who is a true inspiration.

How Octavia Overcame Many Obstacles to Become a True Inspiration

Octavia grew up in the mid-1980s at the height of the crack epidemic in the Bronx. She lived with her mother a well-known crack dealer and a drug lord. Because of her vocation, she provided Octavia with stylish clothes, expensive toys, and other luxurious items.

At age seven everything turned around when her mother started using her own supply and quickly became a crack addict. Her mother would do almost anything to get money to support her habit and eventually Octavia was placed in foster care where she moved from house to house.

Octavia periodically escaped and naturally became a kid of the streets in many ways replicating her mother’s habits as children with a history of trauma tend to do. For more on the negative outcomes of growing up with Adverse Childhood Experiences read here. She was on a dangerous road.

How Octavia is a True Inspiration Today

With the help of mental health counseling, mentorship, and pursuing higher education, Octavia overcame her traumatic childhood and today holds a Master’s Degree, and is a Licensed Social Worker, working towards a Ph.D. She is highly motivated to help kids who are experiencing similar traumatic childhoods overcome their obstacles and become stable adults who can dream big.

After spending 15 years working as a substance abuse counselor, case manager, and family services worker for the state of New Jersey, she wanted to make a bigger impact on families who have suffered similar traumas and started Reveal to Heal. The name signifies the continuing stigma of seeking mental health assistance in the black culture.

Since its inception just a few years ago, Octavia has expanded Reveal to Heal to include a summer enrichment program, a therapeutic childcare center and, has set a goal to purchase a transitional home for kids aging out of foster care. Kids in foster care age out of the system at the crucial age of 18 and have no place to live. In turn, they often become homeless. Her vision of the transitional home (she calls Rise ‘N Hope House) would offer qualified young adults an opportunity to live for free while receiving mental health counseling, career counseling, and higher education counseling thereby giving them a shot at pursuing a successful life with real purpose. Octavia continues to identify needs in the community and address them with real solutions and that’s what makes her a true inspiration.

Leaked by Octavia Bradley

Did I mention she is also married, a mother of five, has written a book (available on Amazon), and does appearances and podcasts? Her drive and determination push the boundaries of how one person can truly make a positive impact on an entire community. She is a true inspiration. And personally, I find her problem-solving skills, leadership, and creativity to be contagious.

How are you helping to make your community a better place? For ideas on how to get involved use the resources provided below. Together we are powerful and hopefully, we can be a true inspiration to all.


Reveal to Heal

Reveal to Heal – there are a number of ways to get involved. Follow the link provided and find out how you can help.

Volunteer Match

Volunteer Match – a nonprofit that matches your skills and interests with local charities. Once you sign up they email opportunities that match your profile.

Court Appointed Special Advocates advocate for children in foster care

Court Appointed Special Advocate – a national program advocating for kids in foster care in each state. Follow the link to see how to get involved in your area.


My Son Died From a Fentanyl Overdose, Don’t Let it Happen To You

It’s been a long six months since my son died from a fentanyl overdose. And while writing about is challenging, I continue to advocate about it so it doesn’t happen to you. Please view my recent posts about Fentanyl here and here.

CNN recently aired a town hall meeting titled America Addicted – The Fentanyl Crisis. It was both informative and emotional. They represented all sides of this scourge from doctors, sociologists, and the DEA Administrator to parents who lost their kids from Fentanyl overdoses.

How Much Fentanyl Is There?

The DEA released new numbers regarding seizures of Fentanyl. In 2022 12,000 pounds of Fentanyl were seized by the agency and so far in just 2 months of 2023 they have already seized 14,000 pounds (that’s more than three times the amount). Last year one seizure in South Carolina included enough Fentanyl to kill the entire population of the state. Obviously, our country’s efforts to combat the supply are clearly failing.

The Fentanyl Trail

So how does it get here? Tracing the manufacture and sale of the drug reveals the precursor drugs are made in labs in China (and their government is well aware and does nothing to sanction them). The labs ship the precursor drugs to Mexico where they are transformed into either pills that look exactly like a prescription drug (like Oxycontin, Adderall, Xanax, Ativan etc.) or powder form to mimic cocaine, heroin, or Methamphetamine.

Fentanyl is made to look exactly like prescription drugs to purposely fool buyers
Photo courtesy of the University of Boulder

What You Need to Know so You Can Help Your Kids From Overdosing

The cartels have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to sell the drug globally. They target teens on the internet using fake social accounts. They befriend kids for a while before trying to sell them the lethal drug (no more than the size of a pencil point is needed to overdose). Many kids overdosed last year by unknowingly purchasing the drug on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Snapchat, and Instagram. In essence, the Mexican cartels purposely murdered our children. The DEA says these sites do not allow any outside auditors or other security teams to review their technology to detect and shut down the fake accounts that sell them.

According to Ann Milgram – the DEA Administrator, this is a new drug crisis unlike any other we have seen in the past. Cartels used to sell illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana – which teens knowingly experimented with. Now they are purposely out to murder them.

How My Son Died From an Accidental Fentanyl Overdose

My son was in a Methadone program for the last two years of his life. It worked really well in helping him combat his Substance Use Disorder. But, during those years the drug supply drastically changed, and when he had a “slip” (which is extremely common during recovery) he died from an overdose of Fentanyl.

In his case, he bought it on the streets of Newark, NJ (about a 15-minute drive from our suburban community) where young dealers stand on many street corners knowingly selling lethal doses of Fentanyl under the pretense that is another drug. We’ve seen it with our own eyes and it is frightening. And if we know who and where they are, don’t the police have an obligation to arrest them over and over until they scare them out of the business?

This is essentially a national healthcare crisis for kids and parents. That’s why every arm of the government from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the National Institute of Health and the Health and Human Services Agency must pool their resources to keep our kids alive. This is not a political issue, a race issue, or a sociological issue. Fentanyl-related deaths cross all parties, colors, and socio-economic groups.

Don’t Let it Happen to You

Here are some very practical measures you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Make sure your teen has Narcan (a nasal spray that reverses overdoses) on them at all times. In most states, it is sold over the counter at a drugstore. While it won’t save their own life because once a person is overdosing they won’t be able to use it, it could save a friend’s life
  • Make sure your child’s school has a plentiful supply of Narcan on hand and that kids are aware of how to access it.
  • Reinforce to your son or daughter that if they are having problems with anxiety (or any other mental health issue) they know to come to you for help rather than self-medicating by purchasing a counterfeit pill online.
  • Look for signs of opioid addiction in your kids (dilated pupils, red eyes, slurred speech, craving sugary foods, and listlessness) and make recovery options available.
  • Educate your kids about the very real dangers of innocently experimenting (as teens will do) with any pill or powdery substance at a party, a friend’s house, and especially from the internet.
  • If you know someone who died of a Fentanyl overdose, you can have their picture posted on a wall at the DEA in their latest exhibit titled “Faces of Fentanyl.” Send their name, date of death, and attach a picture to fentanylawareness@dea.gov or add a pic to any social accounts you have with the hashtag #JustKNOW and they will add it to the wall.

More Information and Resources are Available At:


Adverse Childhood Experiences Are the Leading Cause of Health and Social Problems in our Nation

Remember when you were in grade school there was always a kid(s) who continually spoke out of turn, was absent a lot, or just generally misbehaved? While it tested our patience, that kid didn’t have a choice. His behavior was likely the result of having Adverse Childhood Experiences in his home environment. It has been scientifically proven that; Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the leading cause of health and social problems in our nation.

Instead of blaming and repeatedly punishing the child, like teachers and guidance counselors do or politicians who say, “the breakdown of the family unit is the reason for the turmoil in our society,” we need to dig deeper to better understand the reasons for their behavior.

Simply put, we need to use the research to help children and families to resolve the underlying reasons for their behavioral issues. And thanks to the long-term studies of ACEs we have the scientific proof that accounts for them and how best to resolve them.

The adverse Childhood Experiences Study was first published in 1998 and included 17,000 respondents across cultures, communities, and various economic levels. The study provides insight into how repeated trauma affects not only the individual but whole communities.

Adverse Childhood Experiences – The Study

Adverse Chilhood Experiences

You know the expression kids are like human sponges? That’s because their brain is rapidly developing more during childhood than at any other time of life.

Nature Vs Nurture

As parents, we wrestle with the impact we have on our kid’s behavior and personalities. When they behave well we like to take credit (attesting to our ability to properly nurture them). When they exhibit poor behavior we like to say they were born this way (nature). For the first time, the ACES study proves that the nurture portion has more impact on the brain than previously thought.

The human brain

That’s because we are not born with hard-wired brains. A child’s experiences early in life are important building blocks for brain development. While genes (nature) determine the basic blueprint for the brain, environmental influences fine-tune how the brain works and determines which brain connections get used. Connections that are used often grow stronger and more permanent, whereas ones that do not get much use fade away. So we now know that a child’s environment physically changes the structure of the brain.

For example, a child that experiences severe stress will have poor development of its prefrontal cortex and the hypothalamus – the areas of the brain responsible for logical thinking and memory.

There are 3 general categories that ACES fall into:

When stress is frequent, chronic, and uncontrolled it adversely impacts a child’s brain development with the secretion of increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This part of the brain gets overly activated and the child responds to potentially dangerous situations with the “fight or flight” instinct. The child is left with high anxiety levels that can lead to lifelong issues with learning and behavior.

According to Pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, “childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. She explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.”

As a survivor of repeated childhood trauma, I can personally attest to the long-term effect it has had on my mental health. I’ve been able to overcome much of my adverse childhood experiences by changing my brain structure – using a combination of modalities including psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, meditation, yoga, and consistent exercise. View my personal journey here.

Dr. Burke also says, “Toxic stress during childhood can affect the processing of sound, development of verbal language, perception of social cues and facial expressions, and the ability to coordinate movement or to integrate rational ideas when in a highly emotional state.”

“Toxic stress can also affect brain interaction with body systems and lead to disease, disability, and social/relational problems throughout the life course. But childhood times are also windows of opportunity for building resilience – after all, the developing brain is sensitive to all kinds of experiences.”

Epigenetics – Passing Down the Genes

Epigenetics proves that trauma is passed down from generation to generation

Generally, a child that grows up in a home with repeated ACEs is likely to have parents who grew up in similar adverse circumstances. It is passed down from generation to generation and is termed “Epigenetics.” Epigenetics is an emerging area of scientific research that shows how environmental influences—children’s experiences—actually affect the expression of their genes.

The epigenome can be affected by positive experiences, such as supportive relationships and opportunities for learning… or negative influences, such as environmental toxins or stressful life circumstances.

Experiences very early in life, when the brain is developing most rapidly, cause epigenetic adaptations that influence whether, when, and how genes release their
instructions for building future capacity for health, skills, and resilience. That’s why it’s crucial to provide supportive and nurturing experiences for young children in their
earliest years.

ACEs plus Epigenetics combine to create entire communities with health and social problems in our nation. Instead of blaming victims who exhibit these issues, we can help people who have experienced repeated trauma, neglect, poverty etc. to overcome their behavior and health problems that will also positively affect entire communities as well.

Solutions to the Leading Cause of Health and Social Problems in Our Nation

  • The first step in making significant change is to educate parents, teachers, childcare providers, and pediatricians about the science and provide them with the skills to use instead of using purely punitive measures. You can’t punish trauma out of a child.
  • Services such as high-quality health care for all pregnant women, infants, and toddlers, as well as support for new parents and caregivers can—quite literally—affect the chemistry around children’s genes.
  • Supportive relationships and rich learning experiences generate positive epigenetic signatures that activate genetic potential and can help cure the leading cause of health and social problems in our nation.

To learn more about ACEs and ways to combat them refer to the following resources:

Social Work Synergy

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Grieving the Loss of a Child

It is the 146th day since my son died from an accidental overdose of Fentanyl. Jack had a Substance Use Disorder that grabbed him in his early 20s and never let him go. Opioid addiction is much more challenging to recover from compared to the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. As long as he was alive (though there had been many close calls) we had hope. But now we are left grieving the loss of a child.

They say losing a child is the most devastating type of loss to experience and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve suffered other losses in my life like losing my grandparents and my parents, but nothing prepared me for grieving the loss of a child. Unlike other losses, this is not one I will ever get over, but instead, I have to learn to live with it.

As I see it, a parent’s sole responsibility is to support and protect their children. Based on that hypothesis we failed Jack miserably. Even though we researched and provided every possible resource to him to recover from this debilitating disease (Substance Abuse Disorder has finally been classified as a disease) we feel like a failure because he ended up dead. And our first instinct is to blame ourselves because we didn’t live up to the singularly most important goal of protecting our child. That’s why grieving the loss of a child is so devastating.

So How Does One Actually Grieve?

So how does one grieve the loss of a child in a way that simultaneously provides room for overwhelming feelings of sadness and the ability to go on with a happy and productive life? I am still trying to figure that out. I’ve chosen to seek help by joining a grief group called Compassionate Friends – a global non-profit strictly for parents who have lost a child and I see a therapist once per week. These are both helpful and I highly recommend them. But neither is a panacea for grieving the loss of a child.

 Experts say there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are our attempts to process change and protect ourselves while we adapt to a new reality. While there are consistent elements within each stage, the process of grieving looks different for everyone.

I would say I have experienced aspects of the first four stages since Jack’s death. It is not a linear process. Grief comes over me in waves like the ocean. I tend to go back and forth between the various stages, depending on the trigger. A trigger can be a sad thought such as I will never hug my son again, to missing him terribly during the holidays.

Tools for Grieving the Loss of a Child

In addition to group meetings and individual therapy, I use two other tools for grieving the loss of a child and I hope they can help others who are also grieving the loss of a child. They both require staying in the moment as much as possible. Practicing meditation is a good way to get strengthen this process.

Tool I – DECOMPARTMENTALIZATION – By staying in whatever moment I am experiencing I allow myself to feel sad when I am sad about Jack, but I also allow myself to feel joy (which I initially felt guilty about) when I am experiencing a joyous moment. It’s strange to allow yourself to swing between these opposing feelings, but it is essential if you want to continue to live a full, productive life.

Tool II – DISTRACTION – Keeping yourself busy with work, spending time with friends, exercising, and traveling are all great methods for distracting yourself from the pain of loss. Being present in these other moments allows you to get away from the pain for a while.

One of the hardest parts about losing a child? Is how other parents behave. They can imagine the devastating pain they would feel if they lost a child. Because of that, they are afraid to approach the subject with the grieving parent and tend to stay off the topic or make themselves less available for comforting the bereaved. But, it is far more helpful to have support and be asked how we are feeling and have a comfortable space to express it.

Psychotherapist Megan Devine in her book “Its OK to Not Be OK,” debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with a far healthier middle path, one that invites us to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it, nothing takes the pain away forever. In my opinion, true grief is learning how to live a fulfilling life while the pain of loss is felt deep in your soul.

Know Anyone Who Lost a Child?

If you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a child, I am happy to speak with them and also offer productive resources. Just have them email me.

Note to Parents — it is imperative to educate your kids on the dangers of Fentanyl and the fact that it is in 94% of the illegal US drug supply killing over 100,000 people each year. It is often pressed into pills that look like real pharmaceuticals and also sprinkled into powder substances like cocaine. It is 50 times stronger than morphine and even a little bit can be lethal. Read more about Fentanyl here.

Teens are the most susceptible to Fentanyl overdoses since dealers use fake Instagram and Tik Tok accounts where they sell the drugs and send them to their homes.

Helpful Resources:
Learn More About the Dangers of Fentanyl
It’s OK Not to Be OK


Addiction Recovery Accessible to All

Some of the most disturbing recent statistics about overdose deaths in this country are the dramatic increases among Black and Hispanic populations. At the same time, overdoses have steadily decreased in the white population (who still account for the majority of deaths). Underserved communities have less access to treatment – which is insanely expensive. That’s why I support the work Prevention Links (and other non-profits like them) which is making addiction recovery accessible to all.

Addiction Recovery is Big Business

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the average cost of an inpatient 30-day recovery program is $9,766. For best results, patients should stay for 90 days which would cost $29,298. And there’s no guarantee it will work. The data shows that 40-60% of patients will relapse. In total, drug rehabilitation generated $10.1 billion in 2022.

Addiction Recovery Accessible to All

Prevention Links is a private non-profit organization that is more than 50 years old and takes a leadership role in the prevention of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and related issues. Essentially, it makes addiction outpatient recovery accessible to all. This means all services are free to substance abuse victims and their families – making addiction recovery accessible to all.

Courtesy of State of New Jersey – Department of Law and Public Safety

It is a critical service since accessing inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and medication treatment are all incredibly expensive. Most addicts in underserved communities do not have medical insurance or Medicaid which is not accepted by most recovery programs, psychologists, and psychiatrists anyway. That’s why it is such an essential resource.

Right up front in the Permanent Links mission statement, it says, “At Prevention Links, diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational to the work we do. The heart of our mission is to shape healthier, stronger communities. We recognize the rich diversity of the communities we serve and reflect it: in our services, our staff, and our management. Through our work, we have seen the negative impact that inequities and overall lack of inclusivity have on our communities. We acknowledge this ongoing injustice individuals face in their everyday lives and we commit to actively fostering change .”

Permanent Links can make addiction recovery accessible to all because it is funded by State grants, Federal grants, corporate donors, and individuals. They now have centers in 4 locations in New Jersey and even created the first sober public high school. They offer numerous evidence-based programs for those with substance abuse disorders and their families. There are several different programs that are an alternative to the 12 Step Program. While the 12-step Program can be effective, there are many users who don’t find it helpful.

The Importance of Family Support and Understanding

How families cope with their child’s substance use disorder can make all the difference. That’s why Prevention Links meshes individual counseling and peer support with family and group support. As parents, our reactions, language and support are critical to minimizing the shame the user experiences bringing them closer to the family.  It also helps to share experiences with peers so parents don’t feel alone and ashamed. Believe me, I wish I knew about this resource when I was going through my son’s opioid addiction for seven years.

If you appreciate Permanent Links’ mission to make recovery accessible to all you can donate and/or volunteer your time to help get more services to those in need. You can donate to my son’s memorial fund here. Or find out more about volunteering here.

I hope those of you or someone you know who are currently battling this disease, owill join the fight today.

Want to Talk Privately? Contact Me Now:


Recent Posts


Our Government Needs to Focus On Fentanyl Overdoses

One day before 14-year-old Alexander Neville entered a substance abuse treatment facility he took one last oxycontin pill he purchased on Snapchat. Unfortunately, the pill was pure Fentanyl and he overdosed. With 858,00 deaths so far this year, our government needs to focus on Fentanyl overdoses.

This story should set alarm bells for all parents of teens across the country. I’m not sure which is scarier the fact that teens can purchase illicit drugs on social media or that the drugs they buy are marketed as being something other than Fentanyl.

Drug dealers target teens on social media, pretending to be just another teen. They develop close relationships with them over time so they can manipulate them in all kinds of ways. This includes convincing them to send nude photos, potentially meeting and physically abusing them as well as sell them drugs that can kill them.

Fentanyl is made in labs in Mexico and China and comes in through border towns in the US. Fentanyl is now the number one drug the Cartels are smuggling into our country and it is deadly (see Fentanyl Overdoses Are Killing Our Children here).

Drug Use Remains Stable – But Overdoses Are Skyrocketing

According to the Los Angeles Times article (pictured above), “drug use among teens ages 14 to 18 remained relatively stable between 2010 and 2020, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” But, The Times also reports the number of overdoses is skyrocketing. Teen fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled, from 253 in 2019 to 680 in 2020 to 884 deaths in 2021.


In 2020, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Gang and Narcotics Division seized about 117,000 fentanyl pills, Det. Art Stone said. That number ballooned to 858,000 pills in 2021. So far this year, nearly 3 million fentanyl pills have been seized, Stone said.

Overdoses and abuse of prescription drugs have decreased percipitously since the government cracked down on opioid pain relievers in 2016. However, overdoses have risen dramatically because teens are known to experiment with drugs, but have no clue what is in them. Pills like Adderall and Ritalin are known to be helpful for increased concentration which is ideal around exam time. But often these teens receive a pill made with Fentanyl instead. Some kids are searching for something to ease their anxiety and buy what they think is Xanax which turns out to be Fentanyl.

Our Government Needs to Focus on Fentanyl Overdoses

We need our government to focus on Fentanyl overdoses and towards that goal I am proposing a national task force solely focused on this crisis. The task force needs to stop/slow down the Cartels from smuggling it into our country and provide better education to teens about the drug and how it gets marketed.

To make this change I urge you to write or call your Congressman and/or Senator and plead for these ideas to be put into effect. Below is a sample letter you can download and use if you so desire.


To make it easy to reach out, you can find out who your congressman is by clicking here and then click on the contact button at the top of the page. For your convenience, I’ve also provided all the house reps by district for all of New Jersey, and most of New York State (since these are the areas where most of my readers reside):

New Jersey

New York

Together we can fight to slow down/end this massacre of our children. Without your help, we will watch at least another 858,000 teens die in 2023. Please make your voices heard.

Update on Advocating For More Government Involvement:

Since I wrote this piece two days ago, I called my congressman’s office about the need to do more about the skyrocketing deaths of teens from Fentanyl. They got right back to me and I will be meeting with them shortly. I just found out a new statistic that you can inform your teen about. Fentanyl is now in 97% of the drug supply in the US. They use it in a pill format (i.e. Ritalin, oxycontin etc.) and in powder formats (i.e. cocaine and heroin). Remember it’s 10 times stronger than Morphine and just taking 1 pill or 1 snort is enough to overdose. Together we can fight to slow down/end this massacre of our children. Without your help, we will watch at least another 858,000 teens die in 2023. Please make your voices heard. Call Your Congressman Now!

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Recent Posts From My Blog

Addiction Recovery Accessible to All

Some of the most disturbing recent statistics about overdose deaths in this country are the dramatic increases among Black and Hispanic populations. At the same time, overdoses have steadily decreased in the white population (who still account for the majority of deaths). Underserved communities have less access to treatment – which is insanely expensive. That’s…


Fentanyl Overdoses Are Killing People By the Thousands

Every 15 minutes at least one person dies of a drug overdose in this country. From April 2020 to April 2021 (the most recent data available) The Center for Disease Control estimates over 100,000 people died from overdoses. That number is up from 76,000 in 2020. Two-thirds of those deaths were from the synthetic opioid called Fentanyl. Teens and young adults are known to experiment with drugs and alcohol — it’s almost a right of passage. But now, they are unknowingly consuming a drug called Fentanyl and fentanyl overdoses are killing people by the thousands.which is killing people by the thousands.

According to CNN, adolescent overdose deaths in the United States more than doubled from 2010 to 2021, jumping from 518 to 1,146 deaths annually. The good news? Drug use has substantially decreased among teens. But when they experiment with drugs like Adderal, Xanax or Oxycodone from a dealer, they are likely taking Fentanyl instead. And that’s why Fentanyl overdoses are killing people by the thousands.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used for medical purposes for patients in severe pain post-op.

Overdose Deaths

Source: KFF

But now it is being produced in labs in China and smuggled in through Mexico to the United States. Cartels distribute Fentanyl by the kilogram.  One kilogram of fentanyl (approximately 2 pounds) has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Most drug users don’t know they are taking something mixed with Fentanyl so they take a normal dose and end up dying.

This year Florida has had more Fentanyl-related deaths than any other state. To help combat this, they are providing Harm Reduction services right at Fort Lauderdale Beach where many Spring Breakers go to party. They have a mobile unit on-site in case anyone overdoses from Fentanyl. Plus they are distributing kits with Narcan – a drug that can prevent a patient from overdosing if given early enough.

Fentanyl-Related Deaths Don’t Discriminate

Fentanyl-related deaths cross all races and socio-economic groups. In just the last few years we lost a lot of well to do, writers, musicians, and actors from fentanyl overdoses:

Preventing Fentanyl From Killing More People

In addition to the occasional user, opioid addicts are dying in droves from Fentanyl. In San Francisco, in 2021 there were twice as many Fentanyl overdose deaths as Covid deaths, most of whom were heroin addicts. Addicts use Fentanyl knowingly and unknowingly. The knowing group uses it because it is cheaper than heroin and a little goes a long way. Unknowing users don’t know that it is mixed in with either the pill they dead. We need to better educate occasional users as well as addicts about the high risk of Fentanyl overdoses.

One group that is doing a great job of advocating for those at risk is The National Harm Reduction Coalition, a non-profit organization solely committed to preventing overdoses. Instead of being judgemental or shaming users, they treat them with humanity. The Harm Reduction volunteers are there to help keep the addict alive. Some of the critical services they provide are:

Me Volunteering at At the NJ chapter of the Harm Reduction Coalition
  • Narcan Distribution – a drug in nasal spray or injection form that reverses the effects of an overdose if administered during the actual overdose. Police and EMS workers now carry it on hand.
  • Needle Exchanges – dirty needles can cause abscesses (serious bacterial infections) amongst other problems for the addict because they use the same needle over and over to save money. Needle exchanges allow the addicts to turn in their used needles for new ones.
  • Distribution of Fentanyl test kits – so the user can test the levels of Fentanyl in the drugs he buys.
  • Political Action – New Jersey just passed The Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458) which decriminalizes possession of syringes and allows for expungement of previous convictions. Treating addicts like criminals instead of treating them with dignity does nothing to stem the problem. It makes them self-isolate, which only perpetuates the addiction.

Let’s Fight to Keep the Influx of Fentanyl

While almost every young person experiments with drugs the consequences have never been higher. While 90% of adults will never get addicted in their lifetime, we treat the 10% who do like criminals. Instead of using punitive measures to curb the use of drugs, it should be treated like the mental health issue it is (like eating disorders). Our jails are filled with non-violent drug addicts who would be much better off getting therapy and medication instead of losing their rights as a citizen. Incarcerating an addict is like jailing a person who has diabetes without providing them with insulin. It is the absolute opposite approach to remediating their addiction.

Even today, with all of the science to the contrary, there is still a drug possession arrest happening in the US every 23 seconds. Some states (like New Jersey) have revised the statutes so simple possession is no longer a crime. While most people think decriminalization would increase usage the facts prove just the opposite:

  • Millions of people would no longer be arrested, (re)incarcerated, deported, and burdened by criminal records
  • It would free up law enforcement for more serious offenses
  • Prioritize health and safety over punishment for drug users
  • Stop the illegal importing of Fentanyl

As parents, we need to get the word out to our children about the lethal dangers of taking Fentanyl before it is too late. The teens think they’ll be safe because they are buying a prescription drug like Adderall, Oxycodone, or Xanax. Instead, they are buying a synthetic pill manufactured by Mexican Cartels. A 14-year-old in Connecticut took 1 pill (thinking it was Oxycodone) and it had enough Fentanyl in it to kill 4 people. He bought it off of Snapchat.

How about the 4 West Point cadets who went to Spring Break in Florida and overdosed on what they thought was Cocaine, but it contained Fentanyl? Two are currently on ventilators. What you can do to save your kid(s):

  • Talk to your teenagers (as young as 12) about the risk factors inherent in buying street drugs or drugs off the internet
  • Tell them what Fentanyl is, how it is likely mixed into whatever drug they are buying, and its effects on the human body
  • Provide them with literature about the dangers of Fentanyl

I hope the urgency of this issue motivates you to stand up for drug users and addicts, recognize the disease for what it is, advocate to fund more resources for treatment, and most of all treat them with dignity.

If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs they can call the 24-hour National Help Hotline at 800 662-4357.

Ways to Get Involved

You can volunteer, donate money or help get the word out about Fentanyl through these 3 and many other organizations:

The Voices Project

National Harm Reduction Coalition

Safe Project


Why Roe V Wade Is Such a Big Deal and Why You Need to Vote

Boy, the shit has hit the fan on this issue. I can’t believe in 2022 the supreme court overturned a hard-fought battle to make Roe V Wade a national law in 1973. Abortion has now been legal for 49 years. But this past summer, the Supreme Court voted to overturn it nationally and send it bake to the states to make their own abortion laws. That’s Why Roe V Wade is such a big deal. So why are we considering taking a giant step backward in this modern era?

The answer is twofold – the first is men and their power base and their need to control women. The second is the conservative Christian’s view about when life begins. Can you imagine if the situation were reversed and we were debating whether men should have the right of agency over their own bodies? It would never happen. That’s why the Roe V Wade ruling is such a big deal.

If we look at the statistics, while abortion initially increased substantially right after Roe V Wade was passed in 1973 – 1980, since then (from 1981 through 2017) the abortion rate fell approximately in half, according to the Center for Disease Control. In the 1970s, the conservative movement peddled unfounded fear that if abortions were to become legal it would be used as a birth control method and abortion rates would soar. unfounded.

Graph of US abortion rates 1973-2017 by the Guttmacher Institute
Abortion Rates from 1973 – 2017 collected by the Guttmacher Institue

Why Roe V Wade is Such a Big Deal:

Anti Abortionists – I refuse to call this group “pro-lifers” since the other side isn’t “pro-death.” Anti-Abortionists are composed of a minority of Christian religious right activists. They believe that life starts at conception. That’s what their religion teaches them. So, they don’t believe abortion should be legal at all even in cases of rape and incest because it goes against their religious beliefs. But we are a country of diverse religions, many of which do not share this belief.

Additionally, our country was founded on key democratic principles, one of which is the separation of church and state. Overturning Roe V Wade for religious reasons removes the separation of church and state and could lead to other religious beliefs dictating laws like gay marriage. That’s why overturning Roe V Wade is not only a big deal but a huge one.

Pro-Choice – This side is the majority of voters who believe that according to a recent poll by Reuters of 998 voters (since the Supreme Court’s ruling was leaked), “52% of respondents said it should be legal in most or all cases, while 40% said it should be illegal in most or all cases.”

This group is backed by the constitution’s 14th amendment. The amendment was primarily added in 1868 to provide civil rights to black/minority people. But it also includes the clause “the right to privacy without any government interference.” So Pro-Choice advocates and the Supreme Court from 1973 onwards believed women were solely responsible to make the decision to abort a private matter.

Why Roe V Wade is Such a Big Deal

If abortion were to become outlawed in the US, we would be joining only 24 third-world countries with this law. This includes; the Dominican Republic, The Congo, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jamaica, Laos, Madagascar, Malta, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sierra Leon and the Palestinian Territories. Conversely, abortion is legal in Canada, most of Europe, Australia and Russia.

Abortion protests with pro life anf pro choice activists

My Opinion on Why Roe V Wade is Such a Big Deal

It’s frightening to think that individual states are now responsible to decide on the legalities associated with abortions in their states. It’s no surprise that blue states are shutting down clinics and outlawing all abortions, even if the mother was raped or is in danger of losing her life if she gives birth. I am not a Christian, so I don’t share their religious beliefs about life beginning at conception. But they are actually valuing the life of the fetus over the mother. What kind of religion does that?

Just like many other laws in this country, just because something is legal doesn’t mean you have to participate. Simply put, if you don’t believe in abortion – don’t have one. But should your religious beliefs govern the many thousands of Americans who believe differently? It’s a lot like the gun control debate. Personally, I would never own a gun, but they are legal. So, if you want one, by all means, go get one.

It may or may not be right for me to have an abortion, but I don’t think I should have an opinion on whether you should be allowed to have one or any number of personal decisions about how to live your life.

The idea of a religious belief becoming law in a diverse and democratic country like the United States makes the Roe V Wade debate a very BIG deal.

Whatever side you are on make sure your voice is heard by voting on November 8th, 2022.

Read More About the Debate Here:

A Summary of the Law

Defining What is Pro-Choice and Pro-Life


Parents Are Having a Healthcare Crisis

Remember the days when your worst fear raising kids was them falling down and skinning a knee? Today parents still fret over innocuous accidents but are much more anxious about the rise of very real threats they have no control over. Threats like mass school shootings, the possible turnover of Roe V Wade, and the huge number of adolescent drug overdoses. These are some serious reasons for parents to feel more fearful than at any other time. Taken together, parents are having a healthcare crisis.

And they (and their children) need our help if they are going to make it through with their mental states intact.

Parents Healthcare Crisis 1

Mass shootings are a devastating healthcare crisis for parents and their families. And since the number of them is skyrocketing, there is an ever-widening number of people directly impacted by them such as the victims, the victim’s parents, parents of their kid’s friends, teachers, the shooter and his family and friends, the first responders, policemen and women and their friends and family. That’s alot of people in crisis.

According to the Washington Post, “Mass shootings, where four or more people — not including the shooter — are injured or killed, have averaged more than one per day so far this year. Not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least three mass shootings.” If that’s not a healthcare crisis for those parents I don’t know what is. These frightening statistics move the issue from being a political one to a health care crisis because the results are death, extreme depression, and anxiety.

“In 2021, almost 700 mass shootings occurred, a jump from the 611 in 2020 and 417 in 2019. Before that, incidents had not topped 400 annually since the Gun Violence Archive started tracking in 2014.” To date, 256 people have been shot and killed so far in 2022 – not including suicides, murders, gang violence, and all other types of shooting deaths. If each shooting affects approximately 20 people that’s 6,120 in crisis.

The mental health toll on the shooting survivors and their families (more than 14,000 people per year) is so traumatic some say they will never be the same as they were prior to the shooting experience.

In my mind assault weapons should be reserved for the military and police only. No one goes hunting with an assault weapon, nor needs to own them for recreational use. The fact is more people die from suicide by a gun than they do from mass shootings. And the reason is that guns are so accessible and therefore tempting.

Parents Healthcare Crisis 2

Abortions; plain and simple. Since they were legalized in 1973 death by abortion has dropped significantly and the number of abortions performed has dropped significantly as well. According to the CDC roughly 1.5 Million abortions were performed in 1980 and 862,000 were performed in 2017 (the last year the CDC updated the numbers). That’s a drop of about 50%. So fears that abortions would be used as a form of birth control by anti-abortionists are completely unfounded.

Instead, it’s just the opposite. Women having better access to healthcare prevents them from having unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Now they have access to medical professionals to discuss all types of birth control, specifics about abortion, and other choices they can make. You can read about it in more detail here.

Parents Healthcare Crisis 3

Addiction and overdoses. It has been proven that addicts are people with a mental health disease plain and simple. They are not criminals (though they may steal to get enough money for a fix) and they are not people who simply can’t control their impulses. They are mentally ill and require medical, and psychological treatment to effectively combat the disease. You can read more about Fentanyl in my previous post.

Punitive measures like jail time and fines do not help the addict overcome his/her illness. Instead, we should be thinking about putting harm reduction measures in place (view details here), and training emergency room doctors in the science behind addiction so they can speak to the patient about their options for getting better and recommending appropriate care.

Parents Desperately Need Our Help

In large part being a parent means protecting your children by providing them with a safe environment. But these three catastrophic healthcare crises have become a crisis for all parents. How many parents have kissed their kids goodbye in the morning before school not knowing it would be the last time? Or how many parents gave their teenage son/daughter the keys to the car to attend a party not thinking it’s the last time he/she will need them. 200,000 parents found themselves in this position in 2021. And if you multiply this by several years you are talking about half a million parents trying to move on after surviving their child’s death.

How many daughters will no longer have access to legal abortions and agency over their own bodies? How many will die from trying to undue pregnancies themselves?

These three healthcare crises are having a very negative mental health impact on parents and their children right now. And since parents are the foundation of our families and the bedrocks of our communities we must provide laws and policies in place to prevent more senseless deaths. And we need more crisis centers where these parents and their kids can get the help they need right now. Let’s all support the organizations that are attempting to reverse these patterns (both financially and physically). Let’s all get in the same boat to make life safer for our parents and their kids.

We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines any more. We must change these trends. Here are some resources to both get help and provide help:

Mental Health Foundation’
March for Our Lives
Everytown – for Gun Safety
Planned Parenthood
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

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Amy Harris

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7 Days in London

I just spent 7 days in London and it is truly a magical place where tradition is king and the government is run by a Queen. Yes, an actual Queen. The Queen is not just a ceremonial position. She actually signs off on every bill that comes out of Parliament.

Queen Elizabeth is highly respected for her devotion to her civic duties and will be celebrating her 70th anniversary as England’s monarch – the longest any monarch has served. The celebration is called The Jubilee and takes place for 3 days beginning on Friday, June 3rd, 2022.

Because of the unusually clear skies and sunny days, I decided to make the most of London from the outdoors and by walking as much as possible. This trip recap can be used as a guide to help you plan your own vacation to London.

London’s Overall Look and Feel

There is so much to see you can get bogged down with just visiting museums, churches, and castles without getting a real sense of what life is like living in London. I chose not to go this route and did not go to Buckingham Castle, The National Gallery, or Westminster Abby. The weather was too perfect each day to spend it in dark spaces. Instead, I chose to soak up the sites, sounds, and overall feel of the city by taking advantage of all that Hyde Park has to offer, eating at high-end restaurants, taking a side trip to the English countryside, and shopping til I almost dropped.

London in 7 Days – The Look and Feel

Overall, you’ll notice from the pictures that the city is incredibly clean and well-manicured. Every home and store either has colorful blooming window boxes or pots, or both. The buildings are much lower than in US cities like NYC or Chicago, letting in more sunlight. It doesn’t have that cement feeling because trees and flowers accent virtually every street.

Day 1 of My 7 Days in London- Hyde Park

While Hyde Park is about half the size of Central Park in NYC, it feels much bigger. The formal gardens, fountains, commemorative statues, diverse walking paths, and Kensington Palace and Gardens make it feel much grander. Alongside the walking path is a bridle path for horseback riders.

Some iconic views not to miss are:

  • The Albert Memorial
  • Formal Garden in Hyde Park
  • Horseback Riding in Hyde Park
  • Horseback Riding Along the Walk in Hyde Park
  • Kensington Palace in Hyde Park London
  • Statue of Princess Diana with her Children

Princess Diana Memorial
Bird Sanctuary

Day 2 – of My 7 Days in London – A Cruise up the Thames

This is a really great way to see London.

Tower Bridge London UK
Tower Bridge
Having Fun on Our Cruise up he Thames
London Tower Palace viewed from the Thames
The Tower Palace

The West End

The West End is London’s theater and arts district. Ticket prices for shows are far more affordable than in New York City. We saw a great pop musical titled Six which is now on Broadway. It’s a must-see.

It’s a pop concert spectacle featuring the 6 wives of King Henry the VIII. It is now on Broadway. Get tickets.
Covent Garden
A few Blocks Away is Covent Garden with loads of shops, and restaurants.

You Can Also View Gravity Defying Street Performers

Days 3 and 4 – of My 7 Days in London -The English Countryside

We took an overnight trip to Windsor – approximately 45 minutes west of London. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular and so was the hotel we stayed in. It’s called the Oakley Court Hotel and is a fully renovated Victorian-style mansion built in 1859. It sits on 35 acres along the Thames and is a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle.

There is a grand entrance, many sitting rooms, eating areas, and approximately 150 hotel rooms. The traditional details have been meticulously restored and is decorated with modern furnishings. It doesn’t feel old and stodgy as some of these old estates can feel.

Visiting Windsor Castle

This is a side trip worth your time – no matter how limited it may be. Windsor Castle is where the Queen spends most of her time when she is away from Buckingham Palace attending to her official duties. It is the most used palace of all.

It was built in the 11th century and has been used by the reigning monarchs since then. It is the longest-occupied palace in all of Europe. The tour takes you through all the staterooms which are bigger than any room I have ever seen and are lavishly decorated.

And every hour there is a formal ceremony for changing of the guard.

The Food Scene in London

There is a very strong pub culture that frankly surprised me. After work, people swarm the pubs and drink out on the sidewalks. Pubs are less of a bar and more of a neighborhood gathering spot. While I ate in a couple, I much preferred the more contemporary restaurants with great decor and dine where the beautiful people go.

Dinner at Fischer’s

Fischer’s has a warm ambient light with a warm cozy atmosphere. They serve Vienese (Austrian) fare and it is delectable. I had a traditional Viener Schnitzel and it was perfection

Fischers Restaurant in London UK
Fischer’s Restaurant London UK Delicious Viennese Food

Lunch at Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse is both a hotel and a restaurant and is a converted firehouse. It offers indoor seating as well as a beautiful tented terrace. We ate on the terrace. The food was delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower
Great Salad
Anchovy Pizza

The food scene includes traditional English fare. On Sundays, everyone goes to their neighborhood pub to enjoy Sundy Roast as a late lunch. This can be found in any decent pub throughout the UK.

Sunday Roast
Traditional Sunday Roast – typically eaten in a pub.
Digging in to my Sunday Roast
The roast includes meat, gravy, roasted vegetables, and, classic Yorkshire Pudding.
Leisurely dinner at Oakley Court in one of the many sitting rooms
Leisurely dinner at Oakley Court in one of the many sitting rooms.

Days 5 and 6 – of My 7 Days in London – Shopping in London

We hit 4 main shopping areas and that’s not even half of what’s available.


Selfridge’s is a unique department that is equal parts apparel, jewelry, and fragrances mixed in with entertainment, and live experiences.

Marleybone Village

Marleybone is one of the poshest residential neighborhoods in London that also includes great shopping and dining. There are a few American chain retailers like Theory and Lulemon, but we didn’t go into them. Instead, we focused on purely English brands. And we did quite well.

Notting Hill / Porto Bello Road

This neighborhood was made famous by the movie with the same name. It was once a slum inhabited by immigrants, but has been gentrified to become an affluent neighborhood that hosts an incredible amount of boutiques.

Porto Bello Road is within the confines of Notting Hill, but has its own shopping district and an open market on the weekends.

Day 7 in London

I was sad to leave but knew this was a city worth coming back to for at least another 7 days. Read about my other excursions here

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Bras Are A Painful Necessity

Wearing a bra has been a painful necessity since the 16th century. If you are like me, taking your bra off at the end of the day is the first thing you do when you get home. Why are bras still a necessity? Who invented them and why? In this post, I will provide you with the history of the bra, figure out how they came to be, why we still wear them and recommend the most comfortable, supportive ones on the market today.

History of the Bra

The predecessor to the bra was the corset an even more painful necessity during the 16th century. According to Wikipedia, “In the 16th century AD, undergarments were worn by wealthy women in the western world. The corset was meant to train the body to be more erect and to support the breasts by shifting their weight to the rib cage.” It sounds painful. The combination of medical experts who were concerned about the long-term effects of corsetry and the feminist movement which sought liberation from wearing these painful devices ended the corsetry era. Thank God.

“In the latter part of the 19th century, women experimented with various alternatives such as splitting the corset into a girdle-like shaping device for the lower torso and transferring the upper part to devices suspended from the shoulder.” By the 20th century, bras became common for all women – used with and without a girdle.

So there you have it. All of the earliest patents for bras are owned by men. Inventing the modern bra was another way men control women – this time with their undergarments.

History of Bras
Courtesy of Glamour Daze

It wasn’t until the 1920’s that bras went from flattening breasts to lifting them. These early models were invented by women forming companies like Maidenform. In the 1940’s conical-shaped bras were all the rage as worn by starlets Lauren Bacall and Jane Weiman.

Underwires were used from the 1940s until today as a way to take the weight off the shoulder straps while still lifting the breast. But women tend to find them uncomfortable and having metal against your breast 12 hours a day became a questionable health issue. Due to consumer demand, bras have once again been reformulated with more wireless bra options.

When we talk about bras today, it is a whole different ballgame. Women are disrupting the bra market by starting their own companies since they consume lingerie and know what feels right and what doesn’t. Their sole goal is to make quality bras that provide coverage, support, and comfort – no pain allowed. And these companies have been disrupting market share from the behemoth companies like Victoria’s Secret (owned by a man) which has closed 25% of its stores.

Instead, women are happy to shop online for bras, shapewear, and lingerie where they can order a style or two in varying sizes and try them on in the privacy of their own home and return what doesn’t work. The following brands do not cause pain and are all available online only.

Some Suggested Bras To Try for Support and Comfort

Honeylove at honeylove.com @honeylove. Their bestseller is their “V Neck Bra.” Their site says it is “so comfortable you’ll forget you are wearing it.” The company was founded by a woman named Betsy Larkin who was a vocalist and couldn’t find a bra that was both comfortable and supportive, so she invented one. They serve all body types and also make shapewear as well.