These events are currently canceled and will be rescheduled ASAP. All registrants have received a full refund. Stay tuned for an update.

For Mother’s Day, I announced that I am offering a gift for mothers and others in an update on our GoFundMe.

Mothering, this year, has been my most difficult balancing act. I have Noah home full-time, I am working, I run my household and I have been juggling the needs of our other family members, learning to be a dog handler and organizing fundraisers to make certain Appa’s training happens. I am also still in a very slow recovery from surgeries in 2014 followed by whiplash.

This road has been equally difficult and rewarding. I’ve learned there is nothing I won’t push through to help my child. I’ve also learned a new level of humility by reaching out for help. The most amazing piece of knowledge is how many are willing to help even though you don’t know us. You reach out to tell this mama, “You are going to make it.”


I wish I had something beautiful to offer writing-wise this Mother’s Day. I’m exhausted. And while I’m hopeful, I can see there is a long way to go. I’m not referring only to fundraising. I have been trying to allow financial concerns to settle so I can focus on what I am able to solve on my own. That’s why this GoFundMe has been quiet. Not because we don’t need it or appreciate it, but because it requires a split of my energy to come in here with my fingers crossed and say, “Hey, keep helping us! We are important!” Especially when I believe YOU are important and I have been unable to give and support you the way I would like.

I’m reflecting on that as I parent followed by travel for training followed by other work repeat repeat repeat. Yes, I’m busy. Some days I feel like I’m being crushed under the weight of providing a service dog. More than once I’ve wanted to pull the plug just so I can lay my head down. Nathan sees how much I’m juggling. He helps as much as he can outside his own job and parenting and being an amazing partner, but even he has wanted to pull the plug. More times than I have, in fact.

But we have had Appa in our home, and in one month he transformed our child from a twisted, painful, self-wrecking anger machine into a laughing, joking, hug-attacking, merry-making kid. With Appa, Noah is a kid. Unafraid, centered, and joyful. Appa did that instinctively. Can you imagine what he will accomplish as a full service companion who can go with Noah anywhere?

Then Appa left for his next leg of training and I realized–I can’t do this without him. Not just because I’ve been stuck in nightmares every other night because he’s not here to wake me up. Not because I don’t have other support at home. This isn’t actually about me at all. I can’t do it because with every day that Appa is gone, I see the flailing come back just a little in Noah and I will do ANYTHING to create happiness in his heart. Over in Missouri is a fluffy white poodle who hops around like a rabbit and that furry bounce machine is the key to keeping Noah’s joy unlocked so that he can learn to stay open. Unafraid.

Appa "dancing" with Noah.

Appa “dancing” with Noah.

As Kate Sidun, the woman who found us Appa and set up his training (and will be completing his training herself), “A service dog is a tool.” Appa grounds Noah and puts him in an emotional space where he can learn the life skills he needs to return to school like he wants to do. Possibly even to play a competitive sport, for which his body is clearly designed. Certainly to grocery shop without an anxiety attack or play on a park when other kids are there.

But back to YOU, because that is what is eating at my heart. YOU, you mothers and other, are giving and I like to give back.

I am fortunate to have a great partner at home who listened to me first when I wanted to use my retreat income to cover service dog costs, and again when I waffled because what I really want is to make expressive writing for release and recovery available to everyone. Nathan supported me by suggesting I lower the prices to s low registration fee only so that these retreats can be accessible, even though I risk running them at a loss.

The thing is, I don’t consider investing in YOU a loss. I know there are many of you who have donated time and/or money who would love to join me in celebrating yourselves–in releasing what no longer serves you in a safe space. I want to give back.

If you’d like to learn more about my upcoming retreats, please visit You are free to register a friend or loved one as a gift. (Body on the Page is $25 for an 8 hr retreat, Heart on the Page is $10 for a 3 hour retreat.) If they are unable to make it and you let me know in advance, I will pay their registration fee forward to someone who needs a scholarship. If you are registering to provide a scholarship rather than for yourself, please make a note with your registration. Unused scholarships, unless you note that you would like a refund, will be used to cover course expenses. As originally planned, all proceeds will go back into Noah and Appa’s fundraiser, so take a peek back after Memorial Day to see where we stand.

I hope you can join me. I’d love to share my time and energy with you, and to offer you skills that will continue to support you throughout your life.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

4 Discussion to this post

  1. Happy Mothers Day darling,

    This was lovely to read xxx

    As someone who has never had loving caring parents it is so amazing to see how it exists in the world.
    You gave us such an amazing gift this year, so did Noah and Appa, you gave us hope, options and you have personally given me so much support in just believing in me.

    I wish so much that I lived near you to get some of your amazing skills with regards to trauma writing, I would love to sponsor someone to get this instead of me, I shall arrange to this next month.

    Lots of love and thank you for your positive energy xxxxx

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  2. Shawna Ainslie says:

    Thank you, Charlotte! I’m so happy to hear that our journey has impacted you positively. There has been much struggle, but more benefit. <3 Sending love and positive energy back to you.

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  3. Rachel says:

    Happy Mother’s Day, lady! You are so inspiring to me and I appreciate everything that you do :).

    I also wish I could provide a scholarship for your retreat, it sounds incredible! But a recent job loss in our family has me reeling & the only thing I can do is send good vibes your way.

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    • Shawna Ainslie says:

      Thank you, Rachel! I will hold you at the retreats in spirit. <3 I am always happy to receive your good vibes and comments and words for my eyes.

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