Silver Linings

As the year 2020 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what a year it has been. It’s definitely been one that most of us won’t forget: isolating, obsessive sanitizing, and constantly worrying were the norms of 2020, at least for many. And though it’s been a very difficult year for everyone, I feel blessed that I am able to see the silver linings of the year that, quite frankly, sucked.

It became “real”(ish) to us in my area in March when the schools closed down for what was to be a temporary period after March break. (I say “realish” because COVID-19 was not in our community for a very long time, which gave many a false sense of security. ) For weeks, fellow educators closely monitored the news for word on what was to come next for us. Would we be teaching online for weeks or would it be months? Would we be going back to school before the summer vacation? What was the expectation for our students? How would our students be feeling about online learning? As a parent of 2 school-aged children, would I be teaching my students from home at the same time that I was supposed to be teaching my own children at home? Though it was chaotic and we were flying by the seat of our pants, I felt fortunate that both my husband and I could work from home. We were still working, still getting paid, and therefore didn’t have to think about how to pay our mortgage and bills, or how to pay for groceries. Many families were not so fortunate.

That temporary closure ended up lasting until the end of the school year, which meant that my son, who was graduating from grade 8, would not have the “normal” graduation ceremony. Sure it’s only grade 8, but in my day this was a rite of passage. You bought a beautiful suit or dress for the occasion, your entire family would be in the gym auditorium watching you receive your diploma, you would be congratulated for your hard work with an award or two, and the valedictorian would recall all of your school experiences up until then that made your elementary school years so memorable. Not so for the grads of 2020, sadly. That said, the staff at our school (my son attends the school where both of his parents teach, which is a 7-12 school) put together a YouTube grad ceremony and a diploma pick-up day for the students, which was lovely. We did the same for the secondary graduates. Though the pomp and circumstance were missing, the fact that there was still an acknowledgement of the students was wonderful and, I have heard, not something that other schools did. I am glad that our school did, because these students should be celebrated! My son was also chosen as 1 of 3 speakers for the grade 8s, which sweetened the moment more for us.

As you can see in the above photo, my son thought it would be appropriate and very fitting to record his speech in a bathrobe because WE WEREN’T LEAVING THE HOUSE! Ha! I think it is a perfect representation of much of the year: sitting at home, well overdue for a haircut, not bothering to throw on anything but pjs and a bathrobe.

Yes, we didn’t leave the house…for months. Correction: I and my kids did not leave the house for months. My husband was the errand-runner and grocery shopper, ensuring that we were well taken care of when the first lockdown was in place. We had A LOT of family time. I remember thinking that though it was unfortunate that we were stuck at home and couldn’t socialize even with my parents, we were so lucky to have each other and to have so much time together. Though we’re not a family that is usually busy with sports and extracurriculars, my husband and I are very busy with work, and I run a nonprofit mental health organization. That meant that any of my free time was spent either working or doing things for my nonprofit, including organizing and attending events, doing presentations, and hosting training sessions. My family time was almost nonexistent. And I was EXHAUSTED. Though all of our in-person events, presentations, training, and meetings for the year were cancelled due to COVID-19 – and that has been difficult especially because we bit the bullet and opened a walk-in/resource centre that has sat empty since March – it has meant that I have had more time to spend with my family and to recharge. We took long walks with the dog, enjoyed some campfires, and had sleepovers in the living room. My daughter and I would watch “90 Day Fiance” every Sunday night, doing each other’s hair and makeup. We painted rocks with positive sayings and dropped them off – quite stealthily – around our town. We did things we never seemed to have time to do before. Connection is incredibly important for our well-being, and so it was wonderful to have more time to connect with the people I love the most in the world.

And speaking of connection, I have spent this time reconnecting with folks I haven’t gotten to see or chat with for too long. I was able to reconnect with one of my best university friends in the spring, reconnected with my best childhood friends just a few days ago, and will be reconnecting with my old colleagues from the radio station tomorrow. It warms my heart to see and chat with these friends, and it reminds me how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. If not for this pandemic and having to stay put where we live, these reunions may not have been possible.

I even tried my hand at podcasting in the spring, which didn’t last long but was something I wanted to attempt. It gave me a chance to try something new, and the bonus was that I was able to chat with some folks whose stories and passions I find incredibly interesting. What an awesome opportunity! I need to think of something new I can try during this lockdown if it lasts awhile…

I am also very thankful that we have not caught COVID-19. We had several scares, with my daughter getting sick right off the bat in September, and then my husband’s class being closed due to a COVID case one week, and my son’s class being closed due to a COVID case the next week. We really didn’t need that stress, but who does? It also makes the relief that much bigger when the tests come back negative. Sadly I know several people who did get COVID and are not doing well at all, and I hope and pray that they will recover and heal.

Now, with only a few days left of 2020 and at the beginning of another lockdown, I want to continue to see the silver linings in this. School is out again for a bit, but we all can teach and learn online, and have had experience with it now. We cannot see our family and friends in person, but we can jump on Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, Messenger video, or FaceTime to visit them. We can’t have “traditional ceremonies”, but we can celebrate those who deserve to be celebrated in less traditional – but still meaningful – ways.

To all reading this, my hope is that though you may be first in line to kick 2020 out the door (!), you, too, have had some silver linings in 2020. Here’s to a new year and all the hope that it brings. Cheers to 2021!

Podcast #2!

I’m making the most of our new normal – social distancing – by doing this podcast thing, from the comfort of my own home. I love it! It’s so much fun.

Podcast #2 is now done! It’s 4 parts, and Part 1 is ready to listen to!—Part-1-of-4-ebvkbv

Please, if you feel so inclined, have a listen! This episode is with my friend Cat, and it’s about the paranormal and some of her experiences with it. Spooky stuff!

My First Podcast!!

Well, with the state of the world these days, schools are closed and I cannot go to work. Since I am used to being super busy all the time, I decided to take this opportunity to keep busy by creating a podcast.

My first episode is here:—March-24–2020-ebse66

Please, if you feel so inclined, have a listen! This episode is about finding calm through meditation, with some info about reiki as well. 😊


Connection. It’s incredibly important for a person’s well-being. When we feel connected, we feel valued. When we feel valued, we feel like we are enough.

Right now we are more connected than ever before. We can talk to friends around the globe, see what they’re cooking for dinner, and keep up with everyone’s lives through their social media.

But social media can also highlight how disconnected we are, and can cause our insecurities to overwhelm us.

I have always been an insecure person. Though growing up I was smart and sweet, I only saw what I wasn’t. I used to tell myself that if I couldn’t be pretty I better be skinny, and that led to several eating disorders and a lifetime of caring A LOT about what others see when they see me. It’s sad, really, that even though I was intelligent, driven, and social, I only thought of how I looked and put so much importance on that. I starved myself because of my insecurities. Anyone who has had an eating disorder can tell you that the insecurities never go away. As I have gotten older it has gotten easier – though I will always struggle – but the insecurities I have about whether people like me or not have been amplified…

Enter social media. It’s hell for teens and it can also be hell for adults. It’s especially terrible for adults who put a lot of stock into what others think.

Several years ago I noticed something. I noticed that a group of folks I used to interact with a lot stopped interacting with me. And I mean completely. No more responses to tweets, no more likes or comments…It was just like I had vanished. For someone as insecure as I am it was hard. Really hard. (It still is.) I kept thinking, What did I do? Why do they hate me? The worst was probably seeing the liking of tweets in response to my tweets, while mine were ignored. Pictures of my family were not acknowledged and yet responses with pictures of other people’s kids/families got those much-sought-after red hearts. All of a sudden I didn’t exist in this world that I had been a part of for some time. I became invisible. And it spread to others in this circle, to people I had considered friends. Folks I had talked with daily and trusted with my innermost thoughts and feelings were no longer interested in communicating…with me. And then, of course, came the blocking, but that’s another story.

I will admit, I was hurt. Profoundly. I still am. I truly felt a connection with some of these people, and to be completely cut out of a circle or online community was difficult. I am having a tough time letting it go, because I have absolutely no idea what happened, and because I feel betrayed. One day I was fine, and the next day I ceased to exist. It makes me feel insecure – I am obviously unlikeable – and unworthy, at least to all of them, right? It makes me feel disconnected. It makes me feel like I am not enough and will never be enough.

All of that said, I know I need to focus on the positives on the situation: 1) those people obviously weren’t my people, and 2) less time online = more time for real life. That disconnection can help my connection with the people who really care about me, insecurities and all.

Reality Check

Strength. It’s something I like to think I have: strength to push forward when things are falling apart around me, strength to help lift someone up who is struggling, and strength to get through each day with chronic pain.

I know I don’t look like I have pain. I post pictures on social media and it’s a smiling face you see, but that’s not the complete picture. I’ve been told those photos make people think I am just fine and that some of my colleagues believe I am “faking” my health struggles. They see this:

Does that girl on the right look sick? Well, she’s smiling, so obviously she’s just fine. What most do not know is that on that night I fought my headache and nausea, as I do every day, and all I consumed was gingerale.

Now for today:

Though I am mortified to post this shot – because I am extremely self-conscious and in no way like my appearance – I am doing so in an attempt to present the real picture. It’s me on only a few hours of sleep over the last 4 days, with no makeup, suffering without my daily medication, feeling exactly how I look: like garbage.

These shots are not what I post on social media, for a number of reasons, including my opinion that no one – me included – wants to see a picture of a sick person who can’t get out of bed except for a physiotherapy appointment that she can’t even drive herself to.

Forcing myself to get dressed, go out of the house, and slap on a smile for some pictures does not mean I am healthy or that I am simply pretending to be unwell. My neurologist, GP, 3 physiotherapists, osteopath, physiatrist, chiropractor, massage therapist, reflexologist, and reiki practitioner can confirm this. My husband and children who live with the girl in the second picture can confirm this. My closest friends can confirm this.

Forcing myself to get dressed, go out, and smile for photos – even though I feel terrible – is something I do because, to me, life is about having meaningful and valuable connections with others. It’s about sucking it up and making the best of one’s situation. I know I am sick, but getting out takes my mind off of that for awhile. And those smiling pics? They make me forget how horrible I feel for a few brief moments.

I apologize if this post is too negative, but I just don’t have the strength to fight that battle today.

Emotional Clutter

The art of letting go.  I can’t seem to master it.

It’s not that I don’t want to let go.  I absolutely do.  After all, who in her right mind would want to hold on to every word, event, situation, and person that has caused her pain, sadness, frustration, anger, and self-doubt?

But I do hold on.

Today has been a particularly difficult day for me.  Part of it is because it is the day before I am going back to work, for the first time this school year.  I am feeling the same nervousness I feel at the end of August on a “regular” school year.  No matter how many years I have been teaching – this month it’s 17 – there’s still that feeling of butterflies in my stomach with every new year.  It’s difficult to let go of that nervousness.  I know it will be wonderful when I meet my students, and some of my nervousness disappeared last week when I saw some of my former students who were very glad to see me.  However, there are other things that I cannot let go of and which are completely out of my control.  Learning to let go of what other people – other adults – think of me is something I have been trying to do for YEARS, and, no matter how far I think I have come, I end up feeling self-doubt, confusion, and frustration, and I end up getting trapped in the middle of that emotional clutter.

Today has also been difficult because I am trying to let go of friendships that I can’t seem to resuscitate, no matter how hard I try.  Here’s the thing about me:  Friendships are high on my list of priorities and always have been.  Making time for friends is important to me, and I will do anything for my friends.  So, when someone decides that there’s no longer any point in having a friendship, I can’t seem to let it be and let it go.  I worry about what I have done, what I have said, what I haven’t done, what I haven’t said, and on, and on, and on…until I drive myself crazy.  I wonder how I can change this person’s mind, and if we’ll ever be friends again…someday.  There are times when I think I am okay with letting go, but then, once again, I end up feeling smothered by all of the emotions I am experiencing and I can’t clear that emotional clutter.

Though letting go would most certainly make my life easier and make me happier, I just can’t seem to get a handle on it.  And, quite honestly, I’m not sure it’s a “Shannon thing”.  I guess time will tell.

Tomorrow will hopefully be a less emotional day for me, or at least a day with more positive emotions than negative.  I can handle that kind of emotional clutter any day.


Warming My Heart

There really is very little I can think of that could warm my heart more than a genuine smile on the face of a child.

Several years ago, I wrote and self-published three children’s books.  The purpose was to do something creative that I had wanted to do for a long time, and to have a material example of following your dreams and accomplishing a goal for my kids to hold in their hands.  Upon writing them, finding talented illustrators (who would generously work for free!), and self-publishing, they went on a shelf, occasionally to be read to my kids and, once, to be read to my son’s second grade class.

Time slipped by, I went back to work, life got busy, my health became an issue, and I had all but forgotten the books placed on our bookshelf in the living room.  Until a random encounter on the street with one of my illustrators, Michelle Z (she illustrated book #2 – Sammy’s Rainy Day – And How It Went Away).

I had heard that she had been in my daughter’s first grade class to do some art lessons with them, and so when I ran into her, and after we had chatted about what was going on in our lives, it dawned on the both of us that we could inquire about going into that class to read our book and do an art lesson with the students connected to it.  Why not?  Wouldn’t it be fun?  we thought.  And, since my daughter’s afternoon teacher was one of my former students, I had no qualms about contacting her immediately and asking.  Her answer was “Of course!”  Michelle and I were excited about being able to share our book with some sweet six and seven year olds.

I decided to contact another friend who works at a school in a nearby town, just to see if there might be another group who would be interested in us stopping by.  To my surprise and to my friend’s credit, she immediately found 5 teachers at her school, of grades 1 and 2, who would love for us to visit and share Sammy’s Rainy Day.

I honestly couldn’t have imagined a more satisfying experience.  It left me with such a feeling of gratitude.  The kids were so attentive and so enthusiastic the entire time we were there with them, and we received so many “thank you”s and hugs that it was overwhelming.  How lucky were we to have not only gotten the chance to share Sammy’s Rainy Day with the kids, but to also see their happiness and excitement?  One class even wanted us to come visit them again at the end of the day so they could share an additional activity they did with the book:  a writing activity about their favourite part(s). They did a wonderful job too!

The smiles on the faces of the first and second graders we visited were the greatest gifts I think I could have ever received.  The best part was one of those smiles was my daughter’s.


Resolutions – I Have A Few…

The new year is always the time to reflect on the previous one and decide on changes we need to make to our lives. Usually I am not a resolution-making type of girl, but I think it would do me some good to change THAT. So what resolutions am I making for 2018?

First, I need to stop overthinking things and jumping to the worst conclusions. I am that person who thinks, and worries, and stresses about everything. I have always been this way. And social media has made me a thousand times worse I think. I am the one constantly worrying why a friend isn’t responding to a message, and eventually concluding that I messed up in some way – was it something I said? was it something I didn’t say? – and the friendship is over. I have done this more often than I would like to admit over the past decade that I have been on social media, and nothing good ever comes of it. I only end up with knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes. This is going to be extremely difficult since, as mentioned, this is something I have always done, but I will honestly try to stop. I am trying to do that right now as I am writing this…😬

Second, I will be grateful for something each day. I noted what I was grateful for each day for a very brief period last year, and did so on social media to make me accountable. It was a great practice and allowed me to see how truly blessed I am. We can all get weighed down by our struggles and hardships – health challenges, work issues, family stresses – but seeing the good things we also have can lift that heaviness even if just a little bit. I adore the band Coldplay, and in their song “Up &Up” there is a line that I love: “You can say it’s mine and clench your fist Or see each sunrise as a gift.” I think even on the most difficult of days you can note the sunrise, or the beautiful full moon, or some shining stars as things to be grateful for.

Third, I will keep trying to live life to the fullest. This could also be worded as doing things that make me feel happy and good, at the risk of seeming selfish. I admit that I do feel guilty when I leave my husband home and go out with friends, or when I plan a coffee date with a girlfriend and am out all day, into the evening, but I am a very social person. I love talking (my husband and children can attest to this!), and so when I have the opportunity to socialize/chat, I usually take it. When I was younger I would occasionally cancel plans with friends because I didn’t feel like going out. These days I try not to do that, no matter how I feel. Life is short. And life can be HARD. We should do things we love and do things that make us forget our hardships, even if just for a few hours over a coffee date with a friend. This also means I will keep trying to plan fun day trips and vacations with my family, even when they’d rather stay home (!). (They ultimately feel better having taken the trip and experiencing the fun that, let’s say, taking a gondola up a mountain would be!)

I am certain there are a number of other things I could add to my list of resolutions here, but for the next little while, at least, these 3 are my most important. Tonight I will stop overthinking, and tomorrow I will sit and visit with a girlfriend I have been gabbing with since we were 11 years old, grateful for our decades-long, treasured friendship.

Reflections on 2017

This past year has been a doozy. I’m eager to see it over. I don’t like wanting time to pass quicker than it already does, however this year has been one of the worst for me.

In March, a former student died by suicide. This was a shock to everyone who knew George, and a devastating loss to anyone whose life he touched. I was profoundly affected by it because he was a favourite: he was the one with a smile on his face always, the one who would ask how you were, and the one who always said hello to you. He was a sweetheart. He was kind, empathetic, intelligent, inquisitive, and funny. Losing someone I thought would be the last person who would take his life was eye opening and heartbreaking.

In June I found out I had an abnormal mass in my nasal passage. It could be sinister…or it could be nothing. For several months I didn’t know what to think, but I tried to remain calm and think positively. (Okay, I faltered a few times.) I had surgery to biopsy it and remove it all in September. Then I waited. I worried. I thought the worst but hoped for the best.

In September I didn’t join my colleagues going back into the classroom. I haven’t been able to return to work at all. My headache situation has only worsened and it is beyond frustrating and gut-wrenching to not be able to do what I love and see my former students and co-workers/friends. I honestly feel like teaching is my calling, and so not having “kids” right now is really tough.

The headaches are bad. Very bad. They’re the “I think my head might explode” kind on a regular basis. Living with chronic pain is not easy or enjoyable. I take a lot of medication and go to a lot of medical appointments…with no change.

So 2017 has been challenging. That said, I try to be grateful for all that is good. I went so far as to get the words “gratitude” and “kindness” tattooed on my body. And there is a lot of good.

After the loss of George, a few teens, George’s dad John, George’s sister Grace, and I connected and formed a mental health and wellness group in the community. We’re planning some big events to raise awareness of mental health issues and struggles and garner more support for those suffering. We want to erase the stigma of mental illness and work to make people see that it’s okay to ask for help. We are very fortunate to have lots of support in the community, and we will be partnering with some organizations in the near future, which makes me so thankful. We’re also making sure that George is always remembered, and that his legacy is one of helping others. Hopefully we can make a positive difference and prevent further tragedies.

Also, my tumor was non-malignant, so that’s worth celebrating. It could have been bad news but it wasn’t. Not knowing pushed me to take a family vacation to a few places I have wanted to see for a long time: Banff and Lake Louise. If not for the tumor we likely wouldn’t have gone, and so for that mass I guess I should be thankful (as strange as that seems).

The headaches and work situation? Well I need to be grateful that I have employers who are understanding and that I have a doctor who is exploring every avenue to try to ease my pain. I have a whole team of medical professionals with whom I spend a large amount of time, and I enjoy their company so the appointments are not so bad. In fact, they make me smile and keep me on the “positive train”, so I am incredibly grateful for that and for them.

Tonight I will do an early New Year’s Eve celebration with my family, and then I will ring in 2018 with friends who have listened to and supported me during this difficult time. I know I am lucky to have these ladies in my life, and that I have been blessed with many amazing friends who make me laugh and make me feel loved. For them I couldn’t be more thankful.

I hope wherever you are and whomever you are with, you are happy and grateful today and every day, and that your cup overflows with goodness and blessings. Cheers to 2018.

The Ability to Give Back 

As mentioned in my previous post, my Mental Health Matters group was set to  receive a sizable donation from an organization that held a festival in the area last month. The group, Transfigured Town Inc, held the Festival of Wizardry in Blyth, ON on October 14, and part of their mandate is to give back to the communities where they host their events. They chose my group as one of the fortunate recipients of $1000, and the cheque was presented last Thursday by Senior Event Planner Sally Litchfield to me and two of my fellow group members. 

We are so incredibly grateful for this and are excited to be able to share this with the organizations in our community that provide services for mental health: Huron-Perth Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, Choices for Change, Huron County Health Unit, and Huron Hospice. 

A gigantic thank you to Transfigured Town Inc for giving back! Because of them, we can give back too.