Shonnie turns 50 on December 28!

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On the 28th day of December, 2021, Shonnie Lyn Lavender celebrates her 50th birthday–half a century! And to commemorate this milestone event, you are invited to share a memory, what you love about Shonnie, and/or your birthday wish for her. You can share your message to Shonnie in the comments section, and be sure to include a photo of the two of you if possible. Thanks for helping to make Shonnie’s big 5-0 a special day for her!

Jeri Clemons, Shonnie’s birth mom

Jeri, Shonnie & Arlen

I’ve loved Shonnie since she was born 50 years ago. After finally meeting, crying, and holding her for the first time in our lives, my love for my beautiful daughter only increased. The joy her Grandparents felt when we all met in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport 20 plus years ago.

Shonnie is a caring, nurturing, intelligent and beautiful woman. I’m so blessed to have such a beautiful daughter. Many more birthdays to come for you, Shonnie. Being a part of this family means the world to me.

I love you, Shonnie,
Your Mom, Jeri Clemons

Deb, Shonnie, and her dad Bob

Deb Lavender, Shonnie’s step-mom

It is so hard to pick one photo and memory to cover the past 38 years I have known you, but this picture, to me, shows the joy you take from the everyday moments. I love your smile, love that it is Bruce taking the picture and love that it was a fun day for the four of us in Pirate Harbor.

Love You!

Deb Lavender

Jason German, Shonnie’s brother

Through all of the years we have known each other, you have always been my big sister. Thank you for showing me your support and love! Here’s to 50 more years!

Jason (photos below)

Judy DuMont, Shonnie’s aunt

What is in my heart is that Shonnie is truly a very special woman, and I wish we had had the opportunity to know her from a baby. She is a blessing to all who cross her path. Sending a dozen red roses to the birthday girl along with a wish that her next 50 years bring her even greater happiness and joy!

Aunt Judy DuMont

Donna Watkins, longtime family friend

My favorite memory of Shonnie was at lake Powell when Shonnie and Teen were trying to learn their stanzas for her dad Bob’s Casey at the Bat. Laughed for days watching them!

Donna Watkins

Anne Heck

Your 50th year! That grand trip ‘round the sun!
I’m wishing you joyous celebration and fun!

As I ponder how our lives have woven and laced,
I’m struck by the good way your life has mine graced.

Shonnie with her brother Jason during their high school cross country days!

There was mastermind group, self-development days–
Supporting each other in numerous ways.

The Clarion Coaching website unveil –
Inspired by the way your purpose set sail.

Shared mornings at Toastmasters, where words were our choice;
Being vulnerable, candid, both finding our voice.

An occasional Jubilee hug from the heart,
And chats at LEAF lakeshore–warm words to impart.

You as a mother – a fit like a glove,
Demonstrating your strength, affection, and love

Jason, Courtney, Shonnie & Gracelyn

Not just for your family, but community too–
Kind and supportive, present, and true.

I value you, Shonnie. Though time together is rare,
This isn’t a measure of the love that we share.

Our connection has been wondrously made by design;
I’m grateful for the ways our lives intertwine.

You are one of those people whom I truly adore.
Happy birthday, my friend, may you have many more!

Anne Heck

Larry and Lynn McAllister

We unfortunately haven’t spent much time with Shonnie, given we live on opposite coasts – so we have limited memories to choose from. But what comes to mind is her warmth and ability to connect with others. We doubt that she will ever meet a stranger. Shonnie, what we wish for you for your birthday is love, connection, your acknowledgment of your first 50 years upon this planet, and memorable years to come.

Happy 50th Birthday!
Larry and Lynn McAllister

Val & Shonnie on the infamous red velvet disco couch!

Val Rosen, Shonnie’s college roommate

I can not pick a favorite memory of you, Shonnie, as I have too many. My first memory is when my parents took me to our freshman college dorm and my Mom met you first, as you lived down the hall. She said you were so sweet and welcoming, you made her feel it was OK to leave me there since I’d have you as a new friend. That was just the first of many times your genuine kindness would impart a sense of safety and fun in my life. We all joked about what a good Mother you would someday make as you nurtured all of us–from teaching me to clean up after myself by hiding my toaster when I kept leaving crumbs on the counter, you and Red taking me to the ER when I got sick, to having all of us say 3 good things that happened during the day way before gratitude became a thing.

You broadened our social horizons when you had us come to your sorority party where we were flight attendants, were given airplane wings pins to wear, and walked down the plane aisle to find our assigned date in the number and row we had been given. You were also the brave one who said we should deliver home-made cookies to the cute firemen at the firehouse next door to our campus condo. How can we forget our first real off campus apartment and the famous red velvet disco couches we bought at a garage sale? There are so many wonderful college memories to reminisce about. And after college, though we moved apart geographically, we have kept in touch all of these years.

Shonnie, Jamal & Val in ’93

The fact that I can pick up the phone and when we talk, whether its been a month, a year, or several years, it always feels like we are right back there in college where we lived together for years–that to me is what is so special about you–your friendship never wanes. You were there at my wedding as a bridesmaid. When I lost my Dad I knew I could call you and you would understand from your own loss and be there for me. You have always been a strong support for me and all of us, and you have been strong through all your difficult journeys as well. For your 50th, let us all celebrate you, the wonderful Mother we knew you were destined to become, the loving wife, consummate professional, soon to be official therapist, and the most caring, selfless, absolutely wonderful friend I am so blessed to have!

Love you Shononda,

Val Rosen (and Jamal)

Elizabeth Barbour

Dearest Shonnie,

Shonnie & her mom Cora Sue

I remember the first day that I met you back in 2001. We were attending a casual coffee for the local coaches group. I had just arrived in Asheville a few months prior and didn’t know anybody except for one friend from high school who had a brand new baby. I was newly divorced, feeling lonely and craving connection. YOU sat there, all bright and shiny, in that meeting and as you talked, I knew we would become friends. I still think of you as my first real friend in Asheville!

Over the years, we’ve shared a lot of life together – our paths as coaches and helpers, our stories and relationships as adult adoptees and the complexities of dealing with biological & adoptive families and in recent years, the joys of parenting our beautiful daughters, born just months apart! I appreciate your compassion, your wisdom, your humor and your big heart. You are a gift to the world!

May your 50th birthday be a special time of celebrating YOU – the amazing woman that you are – and feeling the love from all who know & cherish you.

Elizabeth Barbour aka Bupkus (Eric & Riley, too plus Coco & Tang!)

Randy Siegel

The memory that immediately comes to mind is sitting in your sweet apartment in North Asheville with you, Shonnie, Cynthia Pat, and the kitties. I had just moved to Asheville and you had pulled together a group that had gone through Life Training. Being with this group of very special people, I felt I had come home. Shonnie inspired me then—as she continues to inspire me today—with her unwavering commitment to leading a conscious life and deep wisdom. I am a better person for having Shonnie in my life.

Randy Siegel

Barbara Brady

Gracelyn with her niece Molly and sister Lilla!

Having shared so many wonderful memories of Shonnie since 2002, when we met in our Coach training program teleclass, it’s hard to pick just one, so I won’t! One of my favorite memories of Shonnie is the time we shared in 2007 when she so generously took about 100 “professional” photos of me for my updated website. It was a warm, sunny afternoon as we moved around the grounds where we lived at Oak Terrace to get those perfect shots. I changed into about 6 outfits, as we moved from indoors to outdoors where Shonnie took more photos. Shonnie was teasing me, and we laughed for hours. I felt even closer to this wonderful sister of mine and experienced her sense of humor in a deeper, richer way. I relished our leisurely uninterrupted time together and appreciated how she brought out the playful side of me in those photos.

I loved driving to our Thursday morning Toastmaster meetings together and sharing that experience. I loved that Shonnie introduced me to Improv, which I loved, and really enjoyed seeing her perform in her class. I’ve greatly appreciated her generosity with spending time giving me technological help with my websites and newsletter over the years. I’ve loved our deep, authentic heart to heart talks. And so many memories are linked with not just Shonnie, but Bruce and Gracelyn also. One of my favorite recurring memory is the Saturday evenings with she and Bruce at their Oak Terrace condo, sharing pizza & salad, holding hands around their coffee table, expressing what we were grateful for, and sharing deeply from our hearts over a delicious dinner – then lazing around watching a fun movie together. This was our Saturday night ritual for quite a while which morphed into many fun family dinners with Gracelyn, including dancing together to music on Alexa, playing Boggle, eating homemade vanilla ice cream, and drawing. All these dinners over the years have been a huge highlight—so nourishing to my heart, soul and stomach!

I’ve loved co-creating and holding space for various ceremonies and rituals for Shonnie, Bruce and Gracelyn, including Shonnie’s 40th birthday ritual, a pet memorial for Bandit and Desmond, and her and Bruce’s Vow Renewal Ceremony with Gracelyn. It meant so much that she and Bruce attended my small self-marriage ceremony in 2007. I’m sure there are many more memories which I’ll think of later.

Bruce, Shonnie, Gracelyn & “Aunt” Barbara

I love how I feel in Shonnie’s presence. When we hug it’s a real hug, full of heart and love. As corny as it may sound, sometimes if I’m having a down day and need to get back to an open heart I think of Shonnie and the love I feel for her, and it’s easy for my heart to open wider and get back into a vibe of love and appreciation. I love and appreciate Shonnie’s presence sense of calm. She’s the kind of friend I would want to be there in a crisis and who I trust with my life. Being with her feels like stepping into a warm, soothing bath. I feel safe and held. I love her heart centeredness, compassion, active listening skills, curiosity and desire to truly understand what someone else is feeling and thinking. I love and appreciate how authentic she is along with her willingness to be vulnerable. I love how intentional she is in her relationships and her ability to communicate consciously and compassionately. She has a great sense of humor and play that’s grown over the years which I’ve really enjoyed. She is gentle. I’ve loved her ice cream, and other yummy foods she’s made. She’s very nurturing. I love that she loves to learn and grow. She is also very patient, steadfast, and loyal. Again, I’m sure there’s much more to write about Shonnie! She is much more than a dear friend to me. She is a heart and soul sister.

At the Dayton Compound on Jasper Lake, MN

My dear sister-friend, my birthday wish for you is that the love and care you so generously give to and share with others comes back to you 100-fold. That you continue to align fully in your beautiful soul self, letting anything that is not truly you fall away. That you dream new dreams and relish new adventures. That you experience your 50s as being a time of freedom, empowerment, boldness, and joy. I love you dearly!

Barbara Brady

Chuck Dayton

Three memories of Shonnie, Teaching, Writing and Family. Hugs, and Merry Merry,

Gracelyn, Shonnie’s 11-year-old daughter

I love you so much, Mom. Thank you for all that you do for me!

Shonnie & Bruce with the grandkids Molly and Jack 20 years ago or so

Rodney Boyd, Bruce’s former high school student

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the world was graced with a baby girl who here loving parents called Shonnie. The little baby grew into a little girl and then into a young lady. She had desires, dreams, visions and imaginations that paved her way into the future. Part of that future was meeting a young man named Bruce who shared common desires, dreams, vision and imaginations and they walked forward together, along with an eleven year old daughter, Gracelyn, with an image of themselves on a great adventure called life.

Part of Shonnie’s desire’s, dreams, visions, and imaginations was to help others who were discouraged with mental health issues. No one seemed to understand that they were sick because they could not see some physical problem, but Shonnie could. So she enrolled in school with a purpose to get educated so she could effectively serve those who could not serve themselves.

Now, she is on the verge of completing her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling within a couple of semesters. I recall when I got my Master’s degree in Speech Pathology, how long the road seemed, but towards the last couple of semesters there was feelings of weariness and excitement as I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Know this Shonnie, the journey is not almost over, it is only about to begin as you leave your fingerprints on the world as you help others who can’t help themselves.

Rodney Boyd, Bruce’s former high school student

Amy Bryant

I can clearly see the very first time I met you, Shonnie, in early February of 2018 at the Lives in the Balance conference. I was sitting at a table and you came and introduced yourself, handed me a book you wrote, and we talked for a long time. I remember your smile, warmth, confidence, and energy. My most favorite memory is our recent time together when I was in Asheville. Your warm welcome, invitation to join your family for dinner, and our long walk and talk was truly a gift to me. Thank you. I am so very glad to know you, and honored to call you friend.

Amy Bryant

Suzannah Tebbe-Davis

Please send my regards to Shonnie on her 50th birthday. What I love most about Shonnie is her genuine way of showing up in the world; so heartfelt, so humble, so generous.

Everyone who meets Shonnie is left with a sense that the sun shines brighter, humanity loves more deeply, and that the world is a better place.


Shonnie face to face with her baby girl for the first time!

Bruce (Hey, that’s me!)

“I didn’t think old people could have babies,” was my granddaughter Molly’s initial response when her mom Lilla told her that Shonnie was pregnant. When Lilla explained that it was only older women who couldn’t have babies, Molly reflected a moment, then replied, “I thought they were just going to have cats.” And during our approximately twelve years together, Shonnie and I figured we’d only have cats, too. However, in early 2009, after considerable soul searching, we decided Shonnie would discontinue birth control, and we’d let nature takes its course. And as the clock ran down on 2009, it appeared that additional furless family members were not in our future.

On January 1, 2010, however, Shonnie walked out of the master bathroom holding something that looked vaguely like a thermometer and gleefully exclaimed, “I’m pregnant!” Shock, amazement, excitement, and trepidation washed over me all at once. But it was impossible not to be caught up in Shonnie’s profound joy. And after a deep breath, I took her in my arms and joined her there.

Upon learning Shonnie and I were becoming parents, the response from friends and family was overwhelmingly supportive. Yet I sensed a few folks wondered about the advisability of a sixty-seven-year-old man fathering a child. Of course, I’d spent a considerable amount of time contemplating that myself. But from the beginning of our relationship in 1996, Shonnie and I made conscious choices that fit for us regardless of the conventions and dictates of the dominant cultural paradigm, including choosing to live our lives together despite an almost thirty-year age difference, following a spiritual path outside the bounds of traditional religion, and electing to follow our true callings rather than working hard at jobs we disliked to make lots of money to buy stuff we didn’t really need.

Gracelyn’s 1st birthday!

Now we’d made another conscious choice that ran counter to conventional wisdom; we’d chosen to have a child, even though I’d be eighty-five (hopefully a hearty, energetic, spirited eighty-five) when he or she turned eighteen.

When Gracelyn first arrived on September 7, 2010, Shonnie declared repeatedly that bringing Gracelyn into the world and becoming a mom was the best thing she’d ever done. It was clear to me that the two of them were (and are) connected at a deep and primal level. Shonnie is generous, loving, patient, focused, light-hearted, intuitive, and attentive with Gracelyn. Her instincts, intelligence, and intentionality have led us to many conscious choices, some of which lay outside mainstream parenting, including endeavoring to see things from Gracelyn’s perspective and consistently loving and respecting her as a fellow family member with wants and needs worthy of our attention whenever they arise. Shonnie also chose to be a full-time mom while Gracelyn was a baby.

And so here we are, Shonnie turning 50, Gracelyn 11 (going on 17), and me at 78. At this point Shonnie has lived more than half her life with me, and I’m deeply grateful she’s chosen to do so.

Family raft trip down the Nantahala!

May our connection continue to deepen, my dear Shonnie, and may you continue to evolve and prosper, living your life as the beautiful, playful, brilliant, inquisitive, courageous, spirited, openhearted woman you are. I love you with all my heart! Happy birthday!


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  • Holly, Jason, and Finley

    Happy 50th birthday to a woman who oozes wisdom! Shonnie, you are such a gift in our lives. We benefit from knowing you and treasure each moment we share with you. May this milestone in your life provide an opportunity for reflection and a renewed understanding of how much you are loved and appreciated!

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