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. 

 

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From Pain to Passion

A friend of mine posted the above on Facebook several months ago. It resonated with me immediately. I thought about several things instantly, but I think now, months later, the pain of losing a former student compounded with the pain I saw his friends and family dealing with, is what has pushed me into doing what I am now. 

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was passionate about the mental health of my students as soon as I started teaching. I didn’t categorize it as mental health and wellness support though. I was just doing my best to help students I  could see were in crisis. This help was done quietly, as students then did not want to let others see them this way. Very little has changed. 

If things were different, if young people could feel comfortable with discussing mental health issues and challenges, tragedies could be prevented. If young people could avoid feeling shame or embarrassment when dealing with a mental health challenge, tragedies like the suicide of my former student George could be prevented. 

This is what I am trying to do right now in my community. I think it starts with awareness. There are a number of disorders that fall under the umbrella of mental health: anxiety, stress, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, depression…and the list goes on. If stress is considered a mental health issue, then almost everyone I know has struggled with this mental health challenge. We should all consider that for a minute. We are not alone. Mental health struggles are not abnormal. 

If someone hurt his ankle running, it would be EXPECTED that he would seek medical help. He’s not just going to leave it and hope it gets better with no attention. So why should someone with a mental illness just leave it and not seek help? Why is it shameful to ask for help for a mental illness/ailment but not to ask for help for a physical illness/ailment? It shouldn’t be. 

I am passionate about making mental health matter. I am trying to raise awareness and support around mental health and wellness with the hope that further tragedies can be prevented and people suffering can seek help without feeling the shame they’ve felt for too long. My group – Mental Health Matters Wingham – held our first event in July. It was an information event with community organizations that offer support around mental health. With the donations from that, we are working on having a mindfulness bench made and placed at the local secondary school. Again, the goal is to raise awareness and show support so that teens know it’s okay to not be okay, and to encourage them to stop for a breather and ask for help if they are struggling. The group is also in the process of planning other events, and one big one is partially planned for May. I’m super excited about this one as I really feel it makes that connection between physical health and mental health in a perfect way. We’re also receiving a significant donation in a few days from an organization that supports our work in the community. This will be divided and donated to the organizations that came and presented at the July event, as they are the ones providing the expert care needed. I think we’re doing some good in the community and will continue to work away at this. 

Losing a bright light in my world was incredibly difficult and painful. I do think that my greatest calling has been found through that pain. That pain ignited the fire within me to make mental health and wellness understood, prioritized, and supported in my community (and hopefully beyond). I am hopeful this passion can help others so that we don’t have to lose any more bright lights in this world. 

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~M. Gandhi 

Birthday Wish

Right now I am on a family trip out west (in Canada). I’ve always wanted to come out here, mostly because of the Rockies. I’m a mountain girl. You know how there are places where you feel peaceful, grounded, and where you’re meant to be? That’s me with mountains. So when my specialist’s secretary called me to go over my surgery information, I decided that I needed to go to the mountains. 

Let me back up. A few months ago I saw a specialist because of something that showed up on my recent MRI and my CT scan from several years ago. It seems there’s a mass in my nasal passage that is taking up almost the entire passage. Nothing should be there. Nothing at all. I now will have surgery next month to remove this mass and have it biopsied. 

I try not to worry. There are days when I can push those bad thoughts to the corner of my mind where they seem small and are almost forgotten. And then there are days when those thoughts overwhelm everything else. 

Not to be morbid, but I thought taking a family trip would be a good thing right now…just in case. I want to make memories with my kids so they can look back on their time with their mom and remember having wonderful experiences. So here we are. My dream was to be in the mountains for my birthday – in Banff to be exact – and I was. I’ve always wanted to go to Banff. It just looked heavenly in pictures. It certainly did not disappoint. We stayed at a very expensive hotel – at my insistence – which had spectacular views (the reason for my insistence). It was most definitely a dream come true. 



(The view from our room. 👆🏻)


The kids had fun in the pools and exploring the area, including the lovely little town.

After Banff, we moved to Lake Louise, which was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It’s now my new favourite place on earth (sorry, Switzerland!).  


Though there are trails to hike and canoes to rent for an excursion, we didn’t have enough time for these. We did, however, have time to dip our toes in the lake. 


At my request, we returned early the next morning for more breathtaking views. My thought was, Who knows when or if we’ll ever be back? 

The peace that came over me in that place was indescribable. 


(This was snapped by my 6 year old when I didn’t know she was watching me. 👆🏻) 

After taking in all that natural beauty, we took a gondola ride up a mountain for even more stunning views. My kids aren’t hikers, and I have learned on this trip that we need to be more ACTIVE, so we just went to a restaurant up there for an early lunch. I could have stayed up there forever. 


Bliss. Pure bliss.

We’ve now left the mountains and, though we’ve seen some amazing things, nothing can compare to them, for me at least. Being among the mountains made me feel at peace and happy, at a time when I am struggling to not stress out about the unknown. 

My birthday wish came true, and I just hope that my other wish – for this mass to be nothing – comes true too. 

#AtoZChallenge: G is for #GirlsRock (an Interview with Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley

Reblogging this: An interview done by my friend Eli, with Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley. 💗

girls-rock-lede-11-3 Snowtrooper at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, a gorgeous fall Sunday morning.

The winding roads that unfurl before us.

cd-interviewsWe rode them on this trip to Roanoke, descending from the top of Mill Mountain to the stately St. Andrew’s Catholic Church below. We couldn’t see our destination at first, but took faith in the ribbon of the road down the mountain.

For those of you new to this blog, #GirlsRock is a series of interviews with women who do incredible things, from musicians to writers to bloggers to those who take a dream and make it a reality. Read other #GirlsRock posts here.

Today’s guest knows all about those winding roads that bring us to our fate.

She’s Kitt O’Malley. Many of you know her for her blog, on how to Learn, Love & Live With Bipolar Disorder. It’s an incredible and inspiring journey. She’s…

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#AtoZChallenge: K is for the 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With

My friend Eli’s latest blog post! I have a new duet partner! 🙂 Enjoy!

stormtrooper guitar singer photo credit: Nukamari Just voice and guitar via photopin(license)

I get crushy.

KAlways have. At first, it was Judy Jetson, then Ms. Truesdale, the kindergarten teacher’s aide. All of a sudden, I’m drinking whiskey, eating sunflower seeds and writing blog posts about seven famous women I want to sing cheesy duets with.

Just like that.

Two years ago on the company trip, I sang La Bamba. Sally, the tall, winsome blonde from our Dallas office, swayed back and forth, stage left, and let me take center stage. I might as well have been the Mexican Mick Jagger. (Meek Yagger, as it were.)

I’ve chosen seven women you’ve heard of, and cheesy ballads from my childhood that I’d read clumsily up on a tiny monitor in a Motor Inn lounge, in a heartbeat.

Sing along if you know the words.

1. Shannon Adams

Love Will Keep Us Together

Captain…

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Seeing the Light

I have been wanting to write another blog post for quite some time now. The thing is, there have been a lot of not-so-great things going on in my life and the lives of people I know, and so I didn’t think I was in the right mindset to write a post. I knew the post would be sad, and I didn’t want that. I’ve had a few sad posts in a row, and I didn’t want to continue with that pattern. I even talked to my friend Eli, the talented blogger Coach Daddy, and told him that I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer. So what could I write about?

Today Eli asked me what was good about my day yesterday. And, despite the sadness hanging over me like a dark cloud, I was able to list a number of things that made my day good. So why not write about what made my day good and practice gratitude?

Physiotherapy. I have been going off and on for 16 years, but for the last year I have been going regularly to two different physiotherapist teams. I have just added a third, as of two weeks ago. I’m grateful for those people whose job it is to make me feel better. Today. I felt 1000 times better leaving the physio office than entering it, physically and mentally. That was also in part to one of the other patients reading corny jokes to me from a Reader’s Digest magazine. They were corny but they made me chuckle, which always makes a day better.


Tea. I had a party a few weeks ago for a friend who sells tea. I was very excited for this party. Maybe too excited…? Anyway, my tea order came yesterday, which means I can try out my new purchases and tasty new teas, which makes me giddy. On the menu tonight: Toffee Crunch Rooibos Tea.

“Survivor”. I still love this show. I have watched since season one. It never gets old to me. I get excited during the competitions, and I always seem to find someone to cheer on. This season is especially fun to watch because it includes some of my past faves (Ozzy 😍). The best thing is my husband and I actually sit down together to watch this – he’s usually on his iPad playing a game, but will occasionally look up so we can chat about the show – and there’s really no other TV show we watch together. I look forward to Wednesday nights for this reason.

My dog, Sophie. A few months ago, a beautiful 10-year-old dog became a member of our family. She was a friend’s dog, but that friend recently moved and couldn’t take Sophie with her. Our family has wanted a dog for a long time, and we always planned on getting a puppy, but we just never knew when the right time would be for that to happen. That right time turned out to be now, and instead of a puppy we were blessed with an already trained, calm dog. Sophie is such a sweet dog, and she’s become a much-loved fixture at our house. The kids run in after school and call for her immediately, giving her hugs and kisses after missing her all day. She and I have spent the last few weeks together, as I have been on sick leave from work, and I love having her here to cuddle with. We had lots of that cuddle time yesterday.


My kids, Zander and Zoey. These two gems are obviously the most important people in my life and what I am most grateful for. All I want for them is to be happy, and yesterday they were happy. There were no meltdowns or fights. There were no tears. It was all good. Zander and Scott went out for a long walk with Sophie, while Zoey read me a story before bed. Zoey is also counting down the days to her birthday – we’re at 6 now – and she’s so excited. I love these two so much, and they brighten every day.



I am a very lucky person to have so much to be grateful for. Despite the sadness, and despite the uncertainty and frustration, I must see the light in every day.

You Just Never Know 

A little over a week ago, my principal sent an email in the evening. It said something about an incident involving a student at our school, and that we all needed to meet first thing in the morning before classes. Unfortunately my brain went right to the worst thing possible…and it turned out to be the case.

Having taught for over 16 years, I have connected with a lot of young people. There are always some that you connect with more than others though. I must admit that although there were a few kids I seemed to “get” in my early teaching days, I really didn’t start feeling like these were “my kids” until much later into my career. 

Last year I returned to teaching after 4.5 years off to be home with my youngest child. I was blessed to be able to take that much time off and still have a job waiting for me. I taught part time, and one of my classes was a grade 10 academic English class. At first I wasn’t sure how things would go, and it was kind of strange going back to it after being away so long. However, relatively quickly I knew this class was special. It was the nicest group of teens I had encountered. They were kind, studious, fun, always up for discussions about world events, and I felt like they were my own children. I loved them that much. I looked forward to seeing them every day after lunch. 

One student in the class was a boy named George. George sat in the front, in the centre of the room (he ended up there because of his last name). He always had a smile on his face. He was always polite and friendly. He always raised his hand if I asked a question and no one else tried to answer. He was, to put it bluntly, the perfect student. 

He always entered with a smile and a greeting. He and I would often chat about the day or world events when students were doing independent work. Since he was front and centre and my desk was up there, I naturally gravitated to him during those times. (Maybe he thought, Lady, leave me alone because I am trying to get work done, but he never looked like he was thinking it!) Everyone loved him. A few girls and I would rib him about his hair (which was slicked back and styled perfectly), and he would respond shyly with that smile that would light up the room. George knew it was in good fun, but it WAS perfect. I remember a day he must’ve had gym and didn’t slick it back, and we noted how great it looked that way too. The kid was blessed with amazing hair, and we were jealous. 

Though I was sad to not be teaching them anymore once the course was over, I was happy to see those students in the hallways, in other classrooms, and around town. I would always exchange smiles and greetings with them, and that included George. Last semester a new teacher started at the school. She had many students from my much-loved class last year, including George. She and I were running a group, and so I would often pop in to her classroom for a quick chat. There was George, smiling and waving, and I would say, “George is my favourite. I love you all, but…” It was kind of a joke, but also not. The students knew I loved them all, but George was just that kid. The sweetest boy with the perfect hair, the beautiful smile, and a “hello” and wave every time we saw each other. 

A few weeks ago I was having a bad day. These headaches were getting me down and I was really frustrated. George walked into my classroom, with another student whom I didn’t teach but know from my group, and said something like, “Hey, you’re the best.” I found out that the teacher he had last semester had sent him in to say that to cheer me up, knowing that George had that power. Apparently his response to her was, “You don’t have to ask me to do that!” and he headed straight to my classroom. Of course it brightened my day immediately.

So when the staff gathered on a Thursday morning to hear what that incident involving a student was, I was shocked, confused, and devastated that it was about George. That sweet boy with the power to make a day better and brighter was gone. That boy whom everyone loved was gone. 

I thought about how, just the week before, he had come into my classroom to lift my spirits. I thought about how I had seen him the week before that as I was driving away from school late in the day and he was heading in “for English homework” he said. I thought about how he got up in front of the whole school the week before that, with about an hour’s notice, and took part in a lip-sync/dance-off battle that was the greatest thing we’d seen. That new teacher, another, and I laughed and cheered for George. He was so full of life. How had this devastating thing happened?

A little over a week later it is still difficult to process. I never saw anything but that sweet smile on his face. Listening to his family and friends speak at the funeral made it even more puzzling. George had so many people who loved him and would have supported him if he had reached out. But he didn’t. And now those of us who were blessed to know that extraordinary boy will never get the chance to see him again. 

I cry every day about George. I wish he had come to me to say he was suffering. I wish I had known he was so I could have tried to help him. I would have done everything in my power to help. I can just hope that George, that sweet soul who was only 16 years old, is resting peacefully now.

*If you are or anyone you know is in need of someone to talk to, please reach out. The Kids Help Phone line is 1-800-668-6868. Know that you are loved and supported.*