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.
Famed children’s book author Eric Carle recently passed away at the age of 91.
His timeless classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (written in 1969) became a must have in my classroom library when I was teaching preschool age kids many years ago.
Once I had children of my own I began reading it to them as well from a very young age and it quickly became a favourite in our home.
When my kids got a bit older and I was no longer teaching preschool anymore there were a handful of children’s books which I had collected over the years that I knew I wanted to hold onto in hopes of one day passing them down to my grandchildren.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of those books.
It is a whimsical and playful book.
It’s illustrations are fun and bright and captivating.
But it also has many meaningful and teachable moments between each page.
It shows us the importance of transformation and growth.
It shows us the importance of finding our true self.
It gives us hope.
It shows us that in time and with patience we will all find our way in the world.
It shows us that we are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.
And it shows us that we all have the capability to emerge from our cocoon, spread our wings and learn how to fly.
(Oh and it also reminds us that when we eat too much candy we will probably get a stomach ache!)
I feel so grateful by the overwhelming response I’ve received in the past few days since launching my Class of 2021 grad sign campaign. Wow! The heartfelt messages of support and sincere words of appreciation for taking on this project again this year to honour our most deserving graduates yet is just beyond words.
One of the organizations I wish to support in this year’s campaign through the generosity of your donations is “Phillips House”; home to North York General Hospital’s child and adolescent outpatient programs.
The redeveloped (and first of its kind in Canada) 15,000 sq. ft. Georgian-style mansion, located near the hospital has been transformed into a serene, healing space that promotes health and wellbeing. Their outpatient services and day programs focus on the treatments of mood disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.
I first learned of Philips House by a mom I was introduced to online several years earlier who has since become one of it’s main contributors through her group called “The Maddie Project”.
“The Maddie Project” is a volunteer based organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health needs of children. They focus on ending the stigma surrounding adolescent depression and help to make mental health services more accessible and affordable to adolescents in need.
“The Maddie Project” is named in loving memory of Maddie German Coulter, the daughter of the mom I spoke of above who lost her battle with depression in 2015 at the age of 14. Through the amazing commitment and support of the community they have raised over 3 million dollars to date which helped build “Maddie’s Healing Garden”, a 1.2 acre green space that now surrounds “Phillips House” and provides patients with a calming, natural setting for therapy, meditation and physical activity.
Maddie’s story really touched my heart deeply. At the time of her death my 3 kids were all very close in age to her and it really hit home. I could feel the pain and sadness of her family, of her friends and of her community at large but as someone who struggles every day with chronic depression and understands just how unforgiving it can be, I felt her pain most. She was a young, beautiful, energetic, bright shining light with so much life ahead of her but I am grateful to “The Maddie Project” for continuing to shine her bright light on our community through healing, education, advocacy and giving hope to all the other “Maddies” out there.
I will be placing my order in a few short days so if you would still like to purchase a graduation lawn sign or make a donation to help make a difference in the life of a child or adolescent who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now or in need of some extra support during these most difficult days still ahead please contact me today at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for all your kind words, continued support and encouragement throughout my campaign and throughout my journey itself.
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.
I know I don’t say it nearly enough just how much I truly appreciate you Rich, and everything you do for me.
Your commitment and dedication to our family (which includes Maggie of course!) is immeasurable.
You go above and beyond.
Always looking out for us.
Always putting the needs of your family above your own.
Always willing to watch romantic comedies with me (just thought I’d slip that one in!).
Always ensuring that we are well fed and have clean clothes to wear.
And so much more…
You are the one constant in my life.
The one I can always count on.
My biggest cheerleader.
I am so grateful
and beyond appreciative to have you in my life; in our lives.
I know I don’t “need” some silly “National Holiday” or Birthday or Anniversary or even Father’s Day to remind me to tell you just how truly valued and loved you are but it certainly never hurts either because lets all be honest here for a moment; staying present takes a lot of effort.
We often lose sight of what’s right in front of us and forget how important it is to pause just long enough to appreciate someone else’s presence in our lives and focus on the things that really matter most to us right here and right now.
I guess hashtag #summerofrich isn’t proof enough of how much I really do appreciate you? 🤔🤣😁❤
What do you appreciate most about your spouse or significant other?
Thank you so much Joy for inviting me to share my journey tonight and to talk about the importance of educating both children and adults alike on mental illness and the stigma surrounding it on your “Wellness Wednesday” segment on Instagram Live. And for also giving me the opportunity to read my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” as well.
You are a true inspiration to so many and have such a magical way of spreading joy and kindness to every life you touch.
Please follow Joy’s Instagram page @mrsbiswatchingme for her daily dose of love and light.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused serious disruptions and added stress to all of our lives since it began a year ago which has also led to an even bigger mental health crisis, especially among our youth.
Between dealing with the constant disruptions in their routine, being isolated from their friends, fearing that they or someone they love will get sick and the added financial stressors that many families are now facing, it is quite understandable.
These concerns (and many others) that our youth are facing right now is making them more vulnerable than ever before to Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Addiction and Suicidal Ideations.
Kids who have never exhibited signs of a mental health disorder or mental distress prior to Covid-19 are taking their own lives at alarming rates and many of them sadly choose to stay silent, most likely feeling alone and scared that their life will never get better.
Communication and connection are critical for our young people. Parents need to be even more vigilant than ever when it comes to their children’s mental health. We know our kids best.
Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing, and then keep asking them. Check in with them, check in with them often and then listen. If something feels off, always trust your Mama and Papa Bear instincts because not everyone who thinks about Suicide will willingly want to talk about it.
Signs to look out for:
Making suicidal statements.
Being preoccupied with death.
Giving away belongings.
Having aggressive or hostile behaviour.
Neglecting personal appearance.
A change in personality.
Intense sadness and/or hopelessness.
Not caring about activities that used to matter.
Social withdrawal from family, friends, sports, social activities.
Inability to think clearly/concentration problems.
Declining school performance.
Changes in appetite.
***Boston’s Children’s Hospital***
If you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of immediate help please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.833.456.4566 or Kids Help Phone at 1.800.668.6868
Last night we watched the movie “The Last Blockbuster” on Netflix (a bit ironic I have to say).
It’s a Documentary about the demise of the Blockbuster Franchise (and how they once turned down an offer to buy Netflix; boy do I pity the fool now!). It also highlighted the very last store still in existence today in Bend, Oregon.
To be honest I was never a regular customer of Blockbuster but boy oh boy did this movie ever bring back like a Gazillion or more memories from my childhood and young adult life; so much so that I kept trying to pause the movie in order to share some of those exciting highlights with the kids and Rich as they popped into my head but if you can believe it, they were more interested in watching the movie than listening to more of my silly (and often tearful) nostalgia!
Seriously though, I would’ve thought my kids could’ve at least pretended to show some interest in my stories, I mean like after all, their parents actually met while working together in a videostore and what about my husband, I would’ve thought he’d have been all ears too seeing as he met his future bride over 30 years ago at a videostore as well!!!
They’re just lucky that they’d already gone to their rooms after the movie was over or I may have tried to take them with me on another nostalgic trip down memory lane when, shortly after the movie ended I became aware through Social Media that my favourite (or a very close second to Judy Blume) children’s book author from my childhood Beverly Cleary had just passed away at 104 years young. Boy did they sure dodge a bullet that time!
I am so excited to finally receive my very own copy today of the book I was so honoured to be published in a few months ago.
It’s a compilation of stories, poems and images from individuals around the world.
“The Corona Silver Linings Anthology” captures real life experiences, raw emotions, meaningful issues and life lessons that we have all been challenged by or have had to face in one way or another during this past year while looking for those silver linings.
“The Lifewrite Project” is a non-profit initiative which publishes anthologies “encouraging people to tap into their power to write and share their unique stories” while collaborating with different charities related to the topic at hand and raising funds for many initiatives in the process.
The proceeds from this book are being donated to a variety of charities including “The First Responders Children’s Foundation”.
Check out their website for details on any of their upcoming projects. After all there’s an inner writer somewhere inside of us all just waiting to share our own unique story with the world.