Merry Toth, Friends of Guest House, June 14, 2021

My Journey Began

My journey began as a loved child

Spoiled and disciplined

Then when I became the age of choosing,

I chose the wrong path.

The path I chose was fun.

There was a boat ahead

And when I got in that boat,

I wasn’t given any oars.

One day I knew

One day after drifting,

That time had gotten away from me

And I looked into the water

And realized I was becoming an old woman.

I knew that I had let life get away from me.

I looked to the land and saw my family.

While I was drifting down the rocky stream

Filled with darkness and struggle,

They had light and laughter I could hear.

I had missed so much.

I yelled for help.

Someone came and got me.

But when I was thrown a rope

I had consequences to pay.

Determined to save the only life I could

The consequences I had to pay

For the life I had no direction

But darkness had its consequences

Waiting at the shore.

Put in a cell where I could reflect

On the life I did not have and the things I had done

While drifting in the dark with no oars.

A demon had attached itself to me,

And directed my life and had chains on me,

but invisible they were,

but there all the same.

This time in a cell gave me time to think

About what to do now.

A new life awaited me.

Was I going to get back in that boat

And put the chains back on, or

Choose a new path?

A path full of life,

No longer being controlled by the demon that was my closest companion,

but my worst enemy who only wanted my soul.

Today, I have chosen life.

The years in the boat adrift I learned many lessons.

I am able to be a strong woman.

I have chosen God to direct my life.

No more chains, but

Freedom at last.

Dark Valleys to Bright Paths

Nicole Prince, Friends of Guest House, June 14, 2021

My journey began when I was young & new.

I was gullible & He knew.

He took me through ups and downs

good times & bad.

In the beginning it was fun & a lot of laughs.

We went everywhere together

I had his back & He had mine.

One day I knew it was too good to be true.

My journey was taking me on lefts

when I was supposed to go right

& rights when I was supposed to go left.

The sunshine & rainbows were fading away

along w/the good times & laughs.

This journey had me isolated but it was too late

I had already started on this road & had to see

which way would bring me home.

Determined to save the only life I could save

I knew I had to take the wheel again

& control where I was going

because my journey had gotten out of control

& I was lost,

just floating along in blindness

& I knew I had to get my life

back on track

& to do that I had to bring this journey to an end

so I could start a new one.

Today I am on a different journey

& I am focused and in tune with how I am

& with what I want

& I know I have to stay in control

& stick to the right path

so this journey doesn’t take me

down the dark valley which I knew all too well

& never want to see again.

From here on we are on a bright path of the journey.

Called “my life.”


New Beginnings

Tory R., Friends of Guest House, June 9, 2021

While I hate confined spaces

I love being outdoors

Music is my safe place

Silence is my killer

Being bored agonizes me

The feeling of loneliness fades

As love invades my life

New beginnings

Peak over the horizon

Sobriety has overtaken me

And darkness finally shatters

Hope overwhelms me for the first time

Failure is not an option now.

I Am One

Friends of Guest House, June 8, 2021

I am one

Which became three

And now I am whole.

                                              Nicole Prince

I am one

Who has the intensity

To love everlasting

                                   Tory R.

I am one who

feels the universe’s energy.

Never forget where we came from.

                                       Katie K.

I am one who

fears nothing for fear is

false evidence against reality.

                                                     Erynn M.

March Newsletter – Spring2ACTion Preview

We’re never afraid to try new things, and with that in mind, we are bravely entering the Spring2ACTion fundraising contest that runs from April 14 – 28! Sponsored by our community foundation, ACT for Alexandria, Spring2ACTion is an online fundraising event open to any local nonprofit. We’re jumping in with both feet and hope you will support us! To access the links in our newsletter, click here. Better yet, why don’t you sign up to have our newsletter sent directly to your inbox?

Making Change with Catherine Read

We always love our time with Catherine Read, the genius behind ReadThinkAct.com and a true walk-the-walk social activist. Catherine is also a strategist, activist, advocate, speaker, trainer and a host of two weekly television shows and a live radio show on the Fairfax Public Access Channel. I was privileged to be her guest on one of those radio shows, Making Change, on March 18, where I spoke about Heard’s exciting plans for world domination, or at least for sharing how we are ready to help those in need in all communities through art.

What Mask do you Wear?

We all wear masks. We wear masks that reflect who we want to be to the outside world, and we wear masks that we wear only to ourselves. Our amazing art teacher Sharmila led the women of ALIVE! House through this project last night, with such power results! They each shared what their masks represented and gave us permission to share their masks – some of them – with you!

February Newsletter – Was Heard Born in Ecuador?

We hope you enjoy reading about our origins. And stay tuned – there’s more to come! And we’re having lot of fun sharing this with you. So maybe we were born in Ecuador? Tell us what you think? And just click here to open the links: Listen to Sharmila teach a class in Hindi, or visit Keely’s site to learn more about her improv business!

Helloooooo India!

Sometimes opportunities present themselves that are just too good to resist. And sometimes good people come together in strange and beautiful ways. That happened on January 22, 2021, when we partnered with 7 Sisters International, a nonprofit in Assam, India, that provides care for trafficked girls in South Asia, for a one-time arts project. How did this happen? Their founder was a friend and peer of our founder when they both served in the United States Air Force. Our India-born Sharmila Karamchandani was thrilled to teach a class in her native Hindi, despite the 12 1/2 hour time difference. She tells the story so well, which we lifted and edited from her Facebook post. Video and photos follow. And I love this video of Sharmila teaching this class in Hindi.


Last Friday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a visual art workshop through Heard for 7 Sisters International. [I]t was Saturday morning for them and Friday night for me. I felt fortunate to facilitate this workshop in my home country and in my national language Hindi. There were around 20 girls who attended the workshop. We made puppets. Each one made two puppets, One of themselves and the second one of the person who had positively influenced them the most.
They all sat on the floor with very little space in-between. After demonstrating what they were asked to make, soon innocent giggles warmed up my heart to see them all engrossed in cutting, thinking, making their puppets. They shared their supplies and also exchanged silly talks amongst each other…I wish I was there in person to bask in all the joy and happiness they emitted through the rectangular boxes on my screen. We created our puppets for an hour while listening to Bollywood dance songs.
Then came the time to share…which happens to be my favorite part of these workshops as there is so much wisdom imparted by these young souls. They each came on camera and shared their puppets one by one…some were bold and chatty, some shy and pensive, some apprehensive to come on camera…but they all shared and their counselor was happily surprised to see some of the quiet ones talk and share. I was so enamored by their innocence, silly child-like qualities, and creativity, and one yet a part of my heart was deeply saddened by the thought of what these girls must have endured in their young lives.
I was so impressed by their creativity, craftsmanship, and sharing. There made some unique puppets–a puppet of 7 sisters international building as this girl expressed was the best thing that happened to her; a puppet was made of “inspiring quotes” as that influenced this person the most; puppets of founders Janice and Donald and one of their Counselor Anna…Some made puppets of their sisters and other girls in the room, one created a puppet of God, one puppet was of a tik-tok (Social media platform) celebrity. One unique puppet was of a pigeon according to this girl was her guardian angel always flying above her to protect her.
They shared three things about themselves through their puppets…the atmosphere was light as they were being silly and goofy just like how children should be…a few said they love to read, to cook, one said she loves to sleep and quarrel, a lot of them liked to go out and see new places, to sing, to dance, eat chocolates and talk to their friends, counselors, and family members. I am grateful for organizations like 7 Sisters International that provide a safe space for girls who have been through such a rough childhood. Grateful to
Heard for this partnership and grateful to Jane Hess Collins for bringing me this opportunity to work in my home country. My heart is filled with gratitude and blessings for the girls whom I wish a lot of healing and a great life ahead.
Last but not least, I made a puppet too of my mom Anjana Khushalani who always inspires me to see the best in every situation, think positive, have faith in good karma, to never stop learning, and be kind to everyone 🙂

Who is your Puppet Avatar?

Happy new year everyone! Heard held its last class of 2020 at Friends of Guest House yesterday. Sharmila asked the women to create two puppets – one of the person who has had the most positive influence on you, and one of yourself. If you shared what you created, you were asked to share three interesting facts about you through your puppet.

Meet Crystal. She loves to work with hair, to sew, and to read. The puppet on the right is her mom. She always encouraged Crystal to think about people who had it worse than her and then she would always feel how blessed she truly was.

The puppet in Meet Tonya. Don’t you love her pink hair? To the right of Tonya’s puppet of herself is an unnamed family member who always stood by her and never gave up on her. This family member may have been a bit disappointed with her when she got in trouble but never stopped loving her.

This last puppet is of Sharmila’s brother who she credits as her role model and hero, and who introduced her to reading, music and strong values. Sharmila said that he has been extremely supportive of her in every step of her life, and she would not be the same [amazing] person if she did not have him in her life.

As you start 2021, who is your puppet avatar?