Gifts in our Stories

Gifts in our Stories

As I sit down and write these words, I am grateful for friends like Karen and Mike who inspire me to continue to share my story.   I often think about writing my blog but always seem to find something else to do or someone else to take care of.  It seems to be a pattern for me; and I am sure some of you can relate.   But, first the kitchen needs to be clean and then I can sit down and write.   Oh… and then I have to get to the paperwork for the kids to take to school.  I can’t forget that, can I?  Then, the grocery list needs to be made… and soon and so on.  Why do I constantly have something else to do and not take the time to do what I am so passionate about?

As many of you know, at the beginning of 2018 I had a very difficult “emotional” time.  Struggling with my husband Marty working away, trying to keep up with life schedules, supporting our kids (especially our son who needs extra love) and I was too proud to admit that I needed help.   I like to say that I have learned my lesson, but it is a slow process.   I know we don’t change overnight and I certainly need others to help keep me accountable.  

I have found more time for me (piano, biking, dancing, friends, and moving forward with my passion of teaching kids about food).  My openness to continue to share my struggles with friends and family helps to remind me that I am not alone.  For many years, I have found ways to “stay small” by continuously cleaning my house, staying busy doing things that don’t serve me well, wasting time on Facebook and unconsciously downplaying my potential.  My belief that I am “not smart enough”, “not good enough” and the anxiety that comes with these beliefs have kept me hostage for a long time. The relentless thinking, many sleepless nights, pounding heart and the feeling of exhaustion that then spirals into negative thoughts which all propel the vortex of “not good enough.”  It can be a hard cycle to get out of until you “hit the ground” and all that is left to do is “get up.” 

No one likes to be in those dark places, but I have learned that with light, there is always dark.   We can’t avoid it… it is part of life, and the more we can embrace the dark and be mindful that it soon will pass, the more inner calm we can find.  I never believed that I was anxious and a person that often worried.   Being more mindful of my thoughts I often catch myself in my negative “worry” thoughts.   I think this is half the battle… being aware and catching myself in “negative thought.” Wow…I have been very surprised how often I am catching myself in these negative thought patterns.   I saw agreat sign the other day, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Erma Bombeck.   Yep… that about sums it up. 

It is not easy to share what is in our heart, but closing our heart is not the answer either.  Mark Nepo says it so well, “It is essential to realize and embrace that paradox that while no one can go through your journey for you, you are not alone.   Everyone is on the same journey.  Everyone shares the same pains, the same confusions, the same fears, which if put out between us, lose their edges and so cut us less.“ 

As we move towards winter I am mindful of my patterns and how the winter weather and shorter days can affect my mood and motivation.  I continue to be open-minded and trying new things and recognize that it is okay if things don’t go the way I expected them to go as it doesn’t make me any less of a person.   It makes me who I am! 


Our Deepest Fear
ByMarianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.

Your playing small 
Does not serve the world. 
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking 
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, 
As children do. 
We were born to make manifest 
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; 
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, 
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. 
As we’re liberated from our own fear, 
Our presence automatically liberates others.

December 4, 2018 at 4:24 am 2 comments

When things fall apart

Haven - BlogAs I sit down to try and write about the last two months of our life, I feel anxious, as I don’t know how I will put it into words. All I know is that I believe that sharing our stories creates connection and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable gives others permission to be vulnerable as well.  It seems only weeks ago that I surrendered to my anxiety and a deep need to convince everyone (including myself) that I could, “Do it all.”

It was late Sunday night at the beginning of January and Marty was going back to the mainland for work and he asked me if I was going to be okay. My pride in the past kept a strong face but that night I had nothing left.   My response to my husband Marty was, “No… I am not going to be okay” as I broke down in tears.  As Marty drove away, I wondered how I would get up in the morning to get our kids to school and also how I would make it through another six days of trying to raise our twins, both who were struggling so much themselves.   How could I help them? I couldn’t even help myself!   I felt like I had nothing left. I felt so alone, so afraid and I just wanted it to all go away.

It is hard to believe that we can get to these dark places in our lives, but I am sure that many of you reading this right now can somehow relate to the pain I was feeling either personally or through someone dear to your heart.   Marty and I moved to Vancouver Island one and a half years ago and many people asked if I would be able to be on my own so much with the kids.  I wanted to prove everyone wrong as I have always been the ‘Strong Shannon.’ I have been through a lot in my lifetime: abuse as a child; breast cancer; raising a son with autism, and now trying to support his twin sister’s need of living with a brother with autism.  What I now know is that we can’t be strong unless we are putting our needs first.  My belief was that my kids’ needs were supposed to come first.  An old belief that somehow became ingrained in my mind.   But if their needs come first… what happens to us (the parents)?   In the end… I fell apart and I couldn’t help myself, or, my kids.   I don’t need to explain to any parents out there about how much work it is to raise a family, cook healthy meals, get to activities, work, volunteer, do house chores, and also find time for self-care.  We all know it is no easy feast.   But, what I do know is that we are not meant to raise our children on our own and we need to schedule in family time, self-care time and parent-bonding time.

It has been said that there needs to be a breakdown before there is a breakthrough. We often continue on our path doing the same things over and over again that are not serving us well.  It was hard to admit that I was not functioning well.   I was drinking wine every night (not lots but enough), I was drinking coffee in the morning (to help wake me up), I was not sleeping well, I had become very reactive to my children and was starting to have anxiety attacks almost every day… something had to give.

Marty came home to support me for six weeks while I slowly recovered and we worked together on finding support for our family. Many blessings have come our way since the beginning of January that has changed our lives and connected Marty and I like we have never been connected before.   With Marty being home we were able to join a parenting course for kids with anxiety to connect with other families going through similar life situations which helped us feel less alone.   Abigail was able to join a ten week kid’s anxiety class which has given her tools to help deal with bullies at school and living with her autistic brother.  Marty and I also met an amazing counsellor in Courtenay that was able to help both of us express our deep fears and frustrations in a safe and compassionate way to each other.   We have found a babysitter to help us get out of the house weekly.  I took six days and went to the Haven on Gabriola Island to do some deep heart work and shed many much needed tears.  I now schedule in exercise 5 days a week like a doctor appointment and make time to go out with girlfriends.  We have found an amazing man to work with Nolan for 4 hours every Wednesday teaching him about mindfulness, breathing exercises, environmental education and using the forest as a teacher.

Nolan’s anxiety has decreased substantially.  What I find interesting is that for some time I have been quick to blame my anxiety and frustration on my son Nolan (who is autistic) and also on my husband Marty for being away so often.   What I have learned is that we are in control of our own happiness and under all my anger and frustration was the anxiety and under the anxiety was deep sadness.  I just needed to allow myself to be vulnerable and look within.  Everything I needed was always right there.


The quote below from Melody Beattie says it all.

“Our strength will continue if we allow ourselves the courage to feel scared, weak, and vulnerable.”



Books to read:

 When things fall apart: Pema Chodron

True love: Thich Nhat Hanh

The book of awakening: Mark Nepo


Comox Valley Resources:

Group: Creating Calm: A group for kids dealing with Anxiety

Location:  Comox Valley Family Services Association

Cost: Free

Group: Parenting Through Anxiety

Location: Comox Valley Family Services Association

Cost:  Free

March 20, 2018 at 2:44 am Leave a comment

Space In Your Heart

Holding Space in your heart was something that I first heard about on one of my cancer retreats with the Callanish Society. I had never heard this before and really did not truly know what it meant.  My vivid memory of the Callanish retreat was crying more than I have ever cried in my entire life.  I remember sitting in a circle and sharing our losses and as each person spoke it was like they were speaking for me.  But there was one person…who I will never forget…who changed my life in that very room forever.   A young man, so full of love, kindness and wisdom but his life was soon coming to an end.  How can this be…how is this fair and how can I ever be sad about the little upsets in my life…I have the privilege to live.

This year has been full of memories, new friendships, leaning about farm life and creating a new community for our family. It has also been a year of many great losses.  A dear family friend (whom I called Mommy), our neighbor who was like a grandfather to Abigail and Nolan, a cherished friend from our Callanish retreat and one of my best friends Crystal.

I was not sure that it was possible to have enough space in my heart for all these beautiful people to leave so soon in such a short period of time. I did not have the power to make them stay…so I had to say goodbye.

What I have learned is that life will always bring dark and difficult times.   Just like the tide…it ebbs and flows.  Learning to feel and stay in the difficult times…cry, scream, punch a pillow, allow the emotions to come is all part of being human and growing as a person.  Feelings are meant to be expressed not suppressed.  Allowing ourselves to feel helps us to reset and live a more authentic life. Somehow in the end there is always good that comes out of the difficult times.  When people pass away…people come together.


Thank you to the Janie, Danielle and the ladies of Callanish.   I will never forget all you have taught me.


The Callanish Society creates a healing space for people who have been irrevocably changed by cancer.




September 21, 2017 at 11:43 pm 1 comment

Time for Connection and Time to Heal

When we moved to Vancouver Island from the Lower Mainland one year ago today we were excited for the opportunity to start over and be able to provide an amazing space for our children to learn and grow. With that said, there were still many times I thought, “what the Hell are we doing?” There is no doubt that it has been a roller coaster ride and we are still learning new things every day. Finding a good doctor, dentist and even a new hairdresser can prove to be challenging. Life has slowed down which has given us more time with the kids and more time to be in the moment. There is time for card games, building forts, blasting Michael Jackson and rocking it out on the trampoline, painting tree houses, organizing community block parties, biking in the forest, spending time with neighbors, play dates and quiet times reading in the swing on the back porch. The childhood memories I remember.

It has just been within the last month that we have started to really feel our roots settle here in Courtenay. The end of the school year has proven to be the best year school year EVER for Abigail and Nolan. Both kids had amazing teachers and have connected with some great friends that have wonderful families. Nolan has settled into routine with his chickens, reading often, trampoline time and looking forward to his baby chicks hatching. Abigail has become excited about new things like sewing, horseback riding and doing her gymnastics flips every chance she can. Marty and I have found our groove with him travelling back and forth to the Mainland for work.   We are grateful to our friend Rav who allows Marty to stay in his condo in Surrey, while he is currently living in England. Marty’s self- care has improved significantly too as he is taking time to go to the gym, working outside on projects and making time for friends and family too. I have connected with some very special people working (and now running) the salad bar at the kids school and volunteering at a local Farm. I come alive when I am around great people that are inspired to make a difference and open to talking about all the ebbs and flows that life brings.

Staying at home has also allowed me to focus on Nolan and Abigail’s healing. We have connected with a great Doctor in Kelowna (Dr Bratt). She is a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Naturopathic Doctor. She also has a son with Autism so she can relate to what families are going through. If you did not know already, our son Nolan is diagnosed with Autism and is also gifted. We took hair samples that show that Nolan is still very high in Mercury (due to the fish, seaweed and sushi we have been eating). He was also very high in arsenic which was very surprising to me. Because we eat gluten free, we often eat a lot of processed rice products (pasta, crackers, bread, and waffle mix).  Rice that is grown in North America has a lot of arsenic in it because it is grown in the soil that previously grew cotton. Cotton farmers used to use arsenic-based chemicals to kill boll weevils and to remove plants leaves before harvest. Now rice is grown in that toxic soil.  The other interesting thing Nolan was high in was Manganese. Manganese is a mineral that naturally occurs in rocks, soil and has tested high in our well water. Exposure to high levels of manganese in drinking water can affect children’s brain development. We have recently put in a whole house water system to decrease the manganese.

Finally we did comprehensive stool analysis on both Abigail and Nolan. Yes, sounds disgusting but a really great way to see what is going on in the digestive system. Did you know that in years past, the Kings and Queens of our time would have their stool examined daily to determine their health? With that said, the test looks at: beneficial flora, imbalanced flora, dysbiotic flora, parasites, yeast, digestion / absorption, inflammation, and more. With Abigail and Nolan being twins it was very interesting to look at the two tests side by side. This test gave us a window into the affects the gut has on the brain as Abigail’s test came back significantly more positive than Nolan’s. Often people mistake Autism for a mental condition only and we are looking to “fix” the brain. But if we know that the gut controls the brain… we know that gut health is key to helping Nolan and others with Autism and sensitivities. The part of the test that was the most mind blowing was Nolan’s Secretory IgA. Reference range is: 51-204 mg/dL. Secretory Iga is secreted by mucosal tissue and represents the first line of defense of the GI mucosa and is central to the normal function of the GI tract an immune barrier. Abigail’s was in range at 105 but Nolan’s was out of range at a staggering 566 which means his gut has been chronically inflamed for YEARS. Chronic inflammation causes the body to constantly be on high alert and can cause lasting damage to the body and brain.

So what are we doing to help heal Nolan and Abigail’s GI tract you ask?

  • Curcumin (bioavailable form of turmeric) – for inflammation
  • 5HTP – to help with anxiety and sleep
  • Grapefruit seed extract to kill the bad bacteria
  • A great probiotic to increase the good bacteria
  • Broccoli sprouts, garlic, cilantro, MCT oil, chlorella daily for detox
  • Reduce rice (bread, crackers, pasta) to decrease arsenic
  • Reduce seaweed/sushi/seafood to decrease mercury
  • We replaced our whole house water system to decrease manganese

This probably feels like a lot but we just take it day by day and do the best that we can. Because Nolan (and many kids with Autism) detoxification pathways do not work as well as most of ours, it makes sense that his toxins are higher than Abigail’s. With all this said we are excited to see what unfolds in Nolan’s healing journey in the next six months.


“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Albert Einstein.


Great book to read: Healing the New Childhood Epidemics – Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies by Kenneth Bock, M.D., and Cameron Stauth

Dr. Anita Bratt – Naturopathic Physician –



July 7, 2017 at 3:06 am 1 comment

Follow Your Heart

When I reflect back on the last eight months, it is clear to me why I have not written a blog since February. My good friend Alison told me that this year has been described as “the year of change” and this is most definitely true for myself, and MANY other people in my life.

Since February, we have pulled Nolan out of French school and taken Abigail to art therapy lessons to help her move through her emotions and distress around being bullied at school. With support from my husband, family and friends I completed my three and a half years of schooling at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. In May, we put our house up for sale, on Mother’s Day weekend and purchased a home in beautiful Courtenay on Vancouver Island at the very same time.  Just three weeks later, we sold our business of 10 years (Clover Clean) and, with continued support from my amazing counselor Colleen, we packed and moved our entire life, this summer, to Courtenay on July 8th.   Yes… the year of CHANGE.

Our world seemed to be falling apart in February and everything felt very uneasy. We had been talking about moving to the island but in the middle of chaos, it was not the right time to do so.  In April, things became more settled.  Nolan was in a new school, Abigail was getting good support from outside of school and the Principal at her school was being very helpful.  I had one class to complete and on top of all that, we had a serious buyer for Clover Clean.  Then, a new MLS listing came up and Marty sent me an email saying, “This house is AMAZING.”  It was in Courtenay and we went over to see it that week, and the rest is history.

Many of our family and friends were unsure of our move (some still are) but sometimes we need to think outside the box and follow our heart, not our head. Too often we listen to our mind and intuitively we know that our heart is right.  Science has proven that the heart is smarter than our head.  I (we) followed our heart and it has been quite the ride.  Four months later we are in our beautiful home, moving at a MUCH slower pace, spending way more time in nature and surrounded by a community of amazing, kind, and generous people.  I am glad I listened to my heart.

At night I listen to the wind in the trees and often hear owls in the distance. In the morning I light the fire, head out to the barn to let out the chickens, feed the cats and bunnies.  I make breakfast, walk the kids to the school bus (9 minutes from the house through the forest).  Afterwards, I take the long way home for an extended walk (because I can).  When I get home, I have time to make a coffee, tidy up from breakfast, plan dinner, get outside and cut wood, and volunteer at the school.  My new life if a very different lifestyle from before.  Still lots to do, but it feels good to give my children the same type of childhood that I was so very blessed to have. Thanks mom and dad!  My dad said to recently me, “I hope you crossed all your T’s and dotted all your I’s Shannon?”   I replied, “I want my kids have the same childhood I had dad.”  Dad’s reply was, “I can’t argue with that.”

This last Saturday I come back to the mainland to attend a funeral for a dear family friend. She was our neighbor for 18 years, close family friend for 39 years and we celebrated every Christmas Eve together.  The amount of people that attended her funeral was a true representation to the beautiful, caring person she was.  Many people called her mommy, including myself.   The stories shared at her celebration of life reminded me how very lucky were to grow up in the small, close knit Port Kells Community.  Many of the families from our small community attended and we reminisced, laughed and cried.  What a blessing!   I walked away on Saturday wanting to be a better mom, love more and also was reminded why community is so important.

If you have been thinking about making changes in your life, don’t let fear hold you back. Follow your heart because it knows best.   I am glad I did.







What we fear doing most is usually what we need to do – Tim Ferriss

Stars can’t shine without darkness – Author Unknown


Great Books to Read:

When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron

Simplicity Parenting – Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross

Less is More – Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska


Great articles

November 18, 2016 at 5:08 am Leave a comment

Stories Of The Heart

Stories from the Heart

As I sit down to write this blog, I am moved to share the story of the last several weeks in our home in hope that it might help others. Marty and I decided to pull our son Nolan out of school, as we could see that the traditional school environment was not a fit for him.  Nolan would hold it together all day at school, but when he got home (in his safe place), he would erupt and let out all his frustrations (especially on his twin sister). This became too much for Marty and I as we could clearly see that Nolan’s world was coming undone, and our hearts were breaking.  Nolan was always putting his hand on his heart to see if it was still beating (anxiety behaviour), and his passion and excitement for learning seemed to be gone.  He started to have bouts of anger that we had never quite experienced before.  That same week, we found out that Abigail had been bullied at school for several months, and it was very clear that this has affected her mental health.  Hands down, parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done.   My heart has never felt so much and been so broken all at the same time.   These little people that we bring into the world that we are so excited to teach, I have come to learn, that they will and they do teach you more than you will ever teach them.   They make us do, say and feel things we never imagined.   The term “mama bear” really does have meaning!

I have found a lot of comfort in sharing my story with other parents and our counsellor and I am always humbled and reminded that we are not alone and people genuinely want to help.   We are all going through struggles and when we talk to others and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and share our stories we also give others permission to share their stories and be vulnerable too.   Then all of a sudden… we are not alone.   Just by sharing my story I was able to connect with several people that have gone through the same thing as we have.  I love how the universe answers when you ask for help.  I just finished reading an AMAZING book by Brene Brown called, “The Gifts of Imperfection.”   She really does say it well… “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”   She also talks about the word “Resilience.”  I really love this word.   I learned a lot about resilience when I went on my cancer retreats with the Callanish Society where we took the time to dig deep and do some very healing but also very difficult “heart work.”  Brene says that if you look at the research that the five most common factors of resilient people are:

  1. They are resourceful and have good problem solving skills;
  2. They are more likely to seek help;
  3. They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them manage their feelings and to cope;
  4. They have social support available to them; and
  5. They are connected with others such as family and friends.

We all have it in us to be “resilient” and the more we share our stories, we realize we are not alone. We can connect with others that have been through similar situations and all of a sudden, we find “Hope” and knowing that “this is tough, but I can do this.”

I have a deck of virtue cards and each card has a different word along with a description of the word with beautiful quotes, pictures and sayings.   Each night before I go to bed I like to pull a card from the deck and often the card is synchronized with my day or the day to come.  I am always amazed how things come into your life just at the right time.   Last week I pulled the card “Determination” which brought a huge smile to my face.   Determination is the power of intent that drives our dreams.  We focus our energy on a purpose and persevere until we meet our goal.   We care about something so much that even when difficulties arise, and things don’t come easy, we keep on keeping on.   If one path doesn’t work, we try another way.   With determination… we will succeed.  The last several weeks have been very difficult for us, and once again, I am reminded that there will always be ebbs and flows in life.   The word determination really resonated with me as our journey in raising twins with a unique bond, a son that is very sensitive and smarter than his parents and a sensitive daughter that constantly reminds us that she has always been in her brother’s shadow.  Ever since the twins were born we have experienced so many highs and lows, been down so many paths, shared so many laughs, so many tears, but determination allows us to keep on keeping on.





Great Quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:  “People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”


Great books by Brene Brown:

Daring Greatly

The Gifts of Imperfection

Rising Strong


Great intention setting reminder called the vowel check: A E I O U Y (from Brene’s book – The Gifts of Imperfection)

A = Have I been Abstinent today (however you define that – can be challenging when you think of things like food, work, cell phones, facebook and computers)

E = Have I Exercised today

I = What have I done for myself today

O = What have I done for Others today

U = Am I holding onto Unexpressed emotions today

Y = Yeah!  What is something good that has happened today?








February 24, 2016 at 4:57 am 2 comments

Breakfast On The Go

Fall is here, school days are back and so are early morning routines.   Sometimes, this can create some anxiety for our kids but also for the parents as lunches need to be packed, forms need to be filled out, drop off and pick up’s needs to be coordinated, and a healthy breakfast created to start the day.  Because we are often rushing in the mornings, breakfast can  be a challenging meal and this is why I have decided to make this blog about BREAKFAST; one of the most important meals of the day.   Breakfast can be fast and healthy especially if it can be created the night before.

Here are some Great Breakfast ideas: 

Slow cooker pumpkin pie oatmeal:

Chocolate / banana Chia Pudding:

Chocolate / coconut chia pudding:

Apple cinnamon muffins:

Carrot/date/ apple spice muffins:

Shannon’s Shake: 

1 Banana, any frozen berries, hand full of spinach ( you can’t taste), cinnamon, avocado, pumpkin protein, cacao powder, hemp seeds, add water to thickness you like, blend!  Yum!

Chocolate hemp smoothie:

Homemade granola bars:

Avocado/eggs on toast:

Banana nut butter wrap:

Whole grain wrap, nut butter, raisins, and one uncut banana.   Roll and eat!

Plain yogurt: add granola, seeds, and berries

Breakfast wrap:

Oat Squares:

chocolate-pudding-650wbreakfast granola

Other Great Ideas to Try:

  • Try sun butter on your toast/apples/celery
  • Pumpkin protein can be added to chia pudding, shakes, pancakes and more
  • Sprinkle seeds (hemp, chia, pumpkin, sunflower) on your breakfast for more protein and brain power
  • Add bee pollen (I use Western Sage) to your shakes for extra immune and energy booster
  • Purchase coconut wraps. Cover with nut butter & roll in a banana. Yum!
  • Make your own hemp milk: cost effective, great protein and good fat for a great brain:
  • Try coconut butter on your toast or in your shake –I like Artisiano brand

egg wrap

Below are some great sites for recipes:

Wellness Mama:

The Healthy Family and Home:

Feel life:

Alive Magazine recipes:

Yum food for living:

Food Matters:

Fresh raspberries an oat flakes in bowl of yogurt on wooden surface

Great (Documentary):

Food Matters:


Did you know? Our bodies are made up of 10 Trillion cells.

Quote of the Month: A HEALTHY outside starts from a healthy inside – Robert Urich




September 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment

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