After The “But”

As my “Class of 2021” graduation initiative comes to a close this week I will have sold AND delivered over a thousand lawn signs since it began last spring and raised over $15,000 for youth mental health. 

During this time I’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing and kind people, some of whom I now call my friend. 

I’ve also made some incredible connections along the way. 

I’ve started relevant, much needed and VERY important conversations. 

And I’ve listened as many others have shared with me some of the most heart-wrenching struggles they’ve faced or are currently going through with their own mental health or that of a loved one. 

Overall this has been one of the most purposeful, meaningful and rewarding experiences of my life, especially knowing that I have helped bring smiles to so many faces (both young and old alike) and maybe even brightened up their day. And it also feels really good knowing that in some small way I am helping to make a positive change for our young people today.

BUT, (and there is always a “but” with me), there have also been many, many days throughout this process where the overwhelm of what I do behind the scenes and the hours upon hours I’ve spent making sure that my campaign is the greatest possible success takes a gigantic toll on my mental health. 

And this past week while already feeling vulnerable and defeated has been no exception. 

As many of you already know, I was placing my final order to go to print earlier this week. This included a sign for someone who had literally contacted me last weekend only hours prior to my twelve midnight cutoff. 

We ended up having a friendly chat back and forth for a good hour during which time she chose which sign she wanted to purchase for her son who is about to graduate grade 8 from the same elementary school that I attended, she gave me her address for delivery and before we signed off for the night (which was now midnight) she asked me if it was okay if she sent me her payment in the morning. I said sure, not a problem.

So, in good faith I put her order through with the rest of them first thing the next morning which she knew I would be doing. After our friendly chat the night before I saw no reason not to trust that she would pay me as she had promised (which I’ve done before for others).

Several days lapsed and my shipment would soon be arriving for delivery (which it did this afternoon) and I still had not received her payment so I followed up with a friendly reminder (people forget or get busy etc., I get it) and as though it was no big deal she told me that she had decided that she didn’t want the sign anymore and could I cancel her order. Like WTF! 

She knew I was placing her order first thing the next morning.

Did she just think the sign and me would miraculously disappear?

Did she not think it would’ve been a nice and simple courtesy to let me know she had changed her mind at some point before I would have possibly delivered it to her?

Does she not have a conscience?

Did she not care that the money from the purchase of the sign was being donated to charity?

In case you’re wondering, I confronted her and asked her those exact questions and guess what; she didn’t care! I’m sure you’re not surprised “but” I trust too easily I guess.

It really set me back even though this had been my first time experiencing this during my entire campaign so I guess that’s pretty good odds eh?

I was really trying through all of my upset and anger to remind myself of all the positive experiences I’ve encountered talking to well over a thousand people over the course of my campaign “but” instead there I went right down the rabbit hole again.

I wish that the word “but” didn’t even exist in my vocabulary and that I could finish both my thoughts AND sentences before the “but”; “but” it always feels like an impossible task. 

By connecting a sentence or statement with the word “but” for me is kinda like deflating a balloon with a sharp object. 

Those words before the BUT, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones where I praise myself, see my strengths and acknowledge all the good I try and do for others just end up feeling completely meaningless. 

“But” I will argue that I have a really good excuse for it, I swear I do!

Or at least that’s what my depression and anxiety seem to want me to think.

#afterthebut #depression #anxiety #suicideawareness #gradsigns #mentalhealth #classof2021 #graduationday #stayathomeorder #lockdown #forouryouth #ouryouthmatter #campaign #initiative #lawnsigns #kindnessmatters #itsoktonotbeok #bekindtoyourself #selfcare #letitgo #selfdoubt #justbreathe #startaconversation #endthestigmatogether 

2021 Graduate Campaign

As many of you know, last spring I created a series of lawn signs to help honour our 2020 graduates after receiving the devastating news that my daughter’s high school prom and graduation ceremony were both cancelled. 

The initiative quickly grew in abundance and at the end of 6 short weeks I had hand delivered somewhere in the ballpark of 700 signs to the front lawns (and porches) of so many deserving Graduates across the GTHA from Pre-K to Post-Graduate education. 

With the help of so many generous people in our amazing communities together we raised over $10,000 for Kids Help Phone which is why I have decided to launch my campaign again this spring. 

Our class of 2021 (including my other daughter who is just days away from earning her undergraduate degree in Communications) are all feeling the same disappointment, anger, loneliness, overwhelm and sadness as so many deserving graduates did just one year ago. 

I don’t need to tell you just how difficult this past year has been on our youth especially, many of whom are now struggling with debilitating anxiety and depression issues along with other mental health concerns due to the devastation and impact of the Pandemic. 

Our youth need to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that they are not alone which is why I have also decided this year to spread the wealth around by donating the proceeds to several youth mental health initiatives instead of just the one I did last year as the need to support our youth mental health programs is so much greater than ever before. 

I look forward to brightening up our neighborhoods soon.

#graduationday #grads #classof2021 #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #lawnsigns #2021grads #youareenough #ouryouthmatter #payitforward #strongertogether

Four Million Reasons Why

I read an article the other day whose title immediately caught my eye. It read:

4 million cries for help: Calls to Kids Help Phone soar amid pandemic.

As I continued on to read the body of the article my heart sank further. 

Since the onset of the Pandemic last March, Kids Help Phone has seen an upsurge in calls from young people. Statistics show that calls, texts and their many other online resources have more than doubled since the previous year and they are now receiving over 800 calls, texts etc. every day from all across Canada (with Ontario making up for approximately half of those calls received each day).

Callers have been as young as 5 years old with a good majority of the calls coming in between midnight and 4 am. Many of these call are related to feelings of isolation, loneliness, self/body image, virtual learning, missed milestones and an overall deterioration of their mental health. And of all the calls received by their large team of trained counsellors per day, there is at minimum, 10 calls where police are being dispatched for “active suicide rescues”. 

These stats are truly heartbreaking but I am so thankful at the same time that our youth have a safe place like Kids Help Phone to reach out to in order to help them survive a Pandemic. Knowing just how many of our young people have become so withdrawn, angry, frustrated, anxious and sad (and rightfully so) is beyond scary. 

I hear from speaking with so many concerned parents in my community (and beyond) how their kids are staying up all night gaming with friends online just to feel some sort of connection and how so many more have completely checked out from their daily routines, especially online learning. The concerns over the emotional and financial impacts that isolation and lockdowns are having on our youth are growing more and more concerning by the day and suicides among our youth are increasing at alarming rates. 

As spring quickly approaches, (at least according to Wiarton Willie, the adorable little Groundhog that is, who just yesterday predicted an early spring, yay), I had recently been giving a great deal of thought to starting another Graduation Initiative again this year for the Class of 2021. 

I will afterall in just two short months have another Graduate in my home, who as of yesterday received the disappointing news in an email from her University informing her (what we already knew in our hearts) that they will be postponing her Spring Convocation Ceremony until such time when large public gatherings can once again take place safely. 

I know how much disappointment, anger and sadness this reality caused my other daughter last spring when both her Prom and Graduation ceremony were cancelled, along with millions of other young people’s around the world but after reading the article and taking note of the imminent crisis our young people are facing due to the Pandemic I felt a great sense of pride knowing that the 10k that I along with the help of 100’s of incredibly generous and kindhearted people in and around my community helped raise and donate to Kids Help Phone last spring, that the money went to a very worthwhile cause.

I now feel as though I have at least 4 million more reasons to take on this initiative once again and who knows, maybe with the help of my amazing community we could double the amount of proceeds we raised last spring.

Services like Kids Help Phone are needed more than ever before and even though it may only be a stepping stone toward other resources or long term services for some, our young people deserve a fighting chance and are going to need all the help they can get long after the Pandemic is over because although many of the imminent issues at hand may one day dissipate, the lingering effects and fallout from the Pandemic are sadly going to affect much of our younger generations for many years to come.

If you or someone you know needs a safe and confidential place to start please call Kids Help Phone at: 1.800.668.6868 or text: 686868

#kidshelpphone #ouryouthmatter #helplines #lifelines #classof2021 #graduationday  #grads #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence 

The LifeWrite Project

Back in mid July I submitted a piece of writing to a non profit organization called “The LifeWrite Project” which is situated in the States. They were looking for a collaborative compilation of stories to be published in an upcoming new book titled “The Corona Silver Linings Anthology” which will be released sometime in December.

After a very difficult few days I’ve been having it was a really nice way to end the week by receiving an email this afternoon that my story will be published as part of the collection as well as in a digital version. 

They were looking for stories that give messages of hope and kindness, inspiration and strength and “silver linings” of light and positively we may have found during the darkness of the Pandemic to be compiled as a thought-capsule of this historic time in all of our lives.  

My story I wrote was about my “Class of 2020” Graduation Lawn Signs Initiative which as most of you know by now honoured our 2020 Graduates and raised over $10,000 for Kids Help Phone as well.

The proceeds from this book will be donated to a variety of charities including “The First Responders Children’s Foundation”.

#lifewriteproject #thecoronasilverliningsanthology #youareenough #authoragain #graduationday #2020grads #silverlinings #mentalhealth 

Paint The Town

Today Rachel will embark on a new chapter in her life as she begins her first day of University; working towards her lifelong goal of becoming an Interior Designer (in LA!).

Today you leave behind a once in a lifetime cancelled Graduation trip, a brand new Prom dress with the tags still on, a High School Graduation Ceremony that is still TBA and a summer like no other. 

And although today as you begin this new chapter in your life very differently from how it’s meant to be, it will still be filled with new beginnings and endless possibilities.

Today is your day to start anew and wipe the slate clean. Today is your day to focus on the journey forward. Today is your day and I know that you are going to paint the town with every colour of the rainbow.

#todayisyourday #mondaymotivation #paintthetown #ryersonuniversity #interiordesign2024 #futureinteriordesigner #focusonthejourney #onlinelearning #zoom #followyourdreams #youvegotthis  #youareenough #youarenotalone

Dear Teachers, Educators, Parents and Children:

***Grab a tissue before you watch*** 

Listen closely to the real “experts” tell us how they are feeling right now as they prepare to head back to the classroom (either virtually or in person).  Listen closely to the real “experts” talk about their fears of the unknown ahead and their growing uncertainty of the future. And listen very closely as they send a genuine, sincere and incredibly powerful message to our teachers about how important they are to them and just how much of an impact our educators can make on a child’s health and wellbeing. 

These “experts” of all ages, races and ethnicities are speaking with truth and honesty from their heart on behalf of youth everywhere to let teachers know how truly missed and respected they are and how much their guidance and support keeps them feeling hopeful both in the classroom and beyond. Thank you to our teachers for giving our children a safe and inclusive place to turn.

Don’t forget to grab your tissue first; you’ve been warned!

#schoolmentalhealthontario #ouryouthmatter #strongertogether #kindness #goteachers #staysafe #youvegotthis #youareenough #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #endthestigmatogether #youarenotalone #kindnessmatters 

School: To Be Or Not To Be?

You’ve probably heard the saying before “You can’t please all the people all the time.” It’s nearly impossible for anyone to be able to please everyone at the same time because we are all unique individuals with our own unique set of expectations, experiences and perceptions and that’s perfectly okay. 

This fall will be the first time in almost 20 years that I won’t have a child in my home entering a new school year in the Pre to K, Primary or Secondary School system. Both of my daughters fate were determined for them several months ago as the Post Secondary Educational systems all made the decision early on to begin the upcoming school year mostly online, but right now many other anxious Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Support Staff and children are eagerly awaiting their own fate as to whether or not schools will reopen, will continue online or will do a combination of both.

As a parent I am quite torn with the decision that was predetermined for my girls months ago and especially for my youngest daughter who has already lost so much in her graduating year from High School to now not be able to experience the excitement and comradary that comes along with this next milestone in her life. 

Sadly there is no right or wrong, risk-free decision as to whether or not or even how our kids can safely return to the classroom this fall or if they should continue their studies online, nor am I here to debate it either way but I know that when the decision is finally announced there will be plenty of Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Support Staff and children cheering in support of the decision and many more yelling with rage.

Whatever decision is made (there will be no clear winner or loser), just remember that everyone has a right to their own opinion and even if that opinion differs from yours that no one has the right to judge you for that. We’re all in this together but as I said before we will never be able to please everyone all of the time.

Therefore it is more important than ever, no matter what the outcome is, that we focus our attention on keeping our children (and family’s) mental health and wellness in check above all else right now which may very likely look a whole lot different for each of us as our expectations, our experiences and our perceptions are all unique to us, and guess what; that’s perfectly okay.

#cantpleaseeveryone #ouryouthmatter #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #bekind #kindnessmatters #schoolkids #distancelearning #backtoschool #wearamask

One Final Thank You

Just one final thank you to @cbcthenational for sharing my story so perfectly.  Thank you to @kidshelpphone for making a difference in so many young lives and thank you to the “Class of 2020” Graduates for teaching the rest of the world the true meaning of resilience while learning to face adversity head on in a time of so much uncertainty. You may forever be remembered as the “Graduating Class of Covid-19” but the lessons you will take with you as you transition into the next phase of your journey will carry you far beyond what any classroom ever could.

#classof2020 #graduationday #grads #strongertogether #togetherapart #wereallinthistogether #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok  #makingadifference #ouryouthmatter #pandemicdiaries

Another Happy Graduate

When I receive pictures like these ones it completely warms my heart. Today a group of amazing Teachers and EA’s surprised some of their “Awesome Grads” from Our Lady of Victory School in Toronto with a small Graduation ceremony outside their homes toting presents, balloons and a “Class of 2020” Graduation lawn sign.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a smile is worth a million more.

#graduationday #grads #classof2020 #ouryouthmatter #strongertogether #smiles #togetherapart #wereallinthistogether #mentalhealth #youareenough #youarenotalone #bekind #kindnessmatters #thankyou @kidshelpphone @boorola

Graduation Day

Tonight we should be gathered together in a room bursting with pride and surrounded by 100’s of excited parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, administrators and many more to watch our Graduate(s) take centerstage and handed their diplomas and recognized for their many successes and achievements they have put forth over the last 4 years in High School.

But instead tonight we improvise, still bursting with the same pride though as we quietly celebrate our Graduate’s successes and acknowledge her many achievements over the last 4 years.

Tonight we close this chapter and look forward to celebrating many more of her successes and achievements that lay ahead.

Mazel Tov Rachel and Congrats to all the 2020 Graduates.

#youvegotthis #youareenough #westmountcollegiateinstitutegraduate #bewolves #nextchapter  #paintthetown #2020willneverbeforgotten #graduationday #capsoff #thegraduate #celebratetheclassof2020 #wherehasthetimegone #itisabigdeal  #ouryouthmatter #strongertogether #family #memories #togetherapart #wereallinthistogether #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #thecupcakeshoppe #vegancupcakes #champagnewishes