Woman with Arms in the Air

Find a community that gets it.

This guest post is by Sarah Wayland of GuidingExceptionalParents.com, who will be speaking at the 2016 Happy Mama Retreat.


I lost my friends so gradually, I didn’t realize it had happened.

One friend told me she’d prefer to have lunch with me, without my son, on the days I took off from work to be with him.

Another told me there was nothing wrong, and she had no idea why we were stealing our children’s childhood by taking them to so many appointments.

Another told me she couldn’t understand me when I told her that I had ceased to feel emotions because when I allowed myself to feel them, it was too overwhelming.

One day I realized that the circle that had supported me and my family was no longer there. One by one, they’d moved on, leaving us alone to navigate supporting our kids. A few remained. Always ready to help. Always willing to distract. Always willing to listen.

But our community was shifting.

Over time, I found new friends. They were parents of children who were also struggling. Who understood the incredible gift of language. Who understood how precious it is to be able to move on your own. Who understood how overwhelming the world is for a kid who is “different”. Who knew what it was like to live on eggshells.

There was no judgment, only support.

One of these new friends told me about the Happy Mama Retreat. She thought it would be fun to take a weekend together to go there. We made arrangements. We drove to North Carolina.

The first morning we walked into the room with the other Mamas, there was no judgment, only support.

For two days we learned, laughed, and connected with others who got it. I didn’t need to explain my kids, my choices, or my life. I was just me.

Now I know there are other Mamas who get it. We support each other. And together we are Happy Mamas!

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2015-05-24 18.44.54

2016 Registration Now Open!

2015-05-23 06.32.33-1I’m excited to announce our 5th annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, taking place May 13-15, 2016. We will meet at Lutheridge, in beautiful Asheville, NC, for the second year in a row. This location offers peace, serenity, and affordability for our mamas.

We had a wonderful experience at Lutheridge in 2015. As usual, we parted at the end of the weekend feeling like one big family, and counting down the days until the next retreat. Take a look! 

I am working on filling up the speaker roster still, but rest assured, they will speak on self-care, relationships with special needs in the mix, and strategies for a better home life, and they will be fantastic.

register for the 2016 happy mama retreatHurry on up and register to reserve your spot for this weekend of respite, relaxation, and community with mamas who understand your brand of parenthood.

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July 1, 2015Penny Williamsnews

Applications now open for scholarships

Tanji Dewberry  attended Happy Mama every year and shared a bright energy that touched us all. Sadly, in 2014 a house fire claimed the lives of Tanji, and her sweet son, Evan. Tanji’s friend, Dr. Marilyn Griffin, attended the 2014 Happy Mama Retreat in Tanji’s honor and brought some of that same positive energy to the group. Moved by the support our happy mamas give and receive at our annual event, Marilyn decided to graciously offer one deserving mama a scholarship to attend the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat each year, beginning with the 2015 retreat. In addition, we have raised more money for scholarships and will be awarding at least two scholarships for the 2016 retreat.

The scholarship will be awarded based on two things: (1) financial need, i.e., mamas who wouldn’t have the means to attend otherwise; and (2) how a mama will pay it forward. The scholarship will pay the registration (includes conference, lodging and all meals) for a single occupancy room. Travel expenses are the responsibility of the scholarship recipient.

The deadline for scholarship application submission is January 10, 2016. A winner will be chosen and notified February 1, 2016.


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Social gathering

2015 Retreat a Huge Success!

Our 4th annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat was held last weekend on the beautiful campus on Lutheridge, in Asheville, NC. Our mamas shared laughs and tears, and went home refreshed. Here are some highlights.

Subscribe to email updates so you’ll be among the first to know when the 2016 retreat is announced!


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May 27, 2015Penny Williamsnews

Only 5 days left to register!

The Happy Mama Conference and Retreat is fast approaching! Registration closes on April 21, 2015, so you have just FIVE days left to sign up to attend.

The 2015 Happy Mama Conference & Retreat will take place May 22-24, 2015, at Lutheridge in Asheville, NC. This is a beautiful, natural setting that affords many opportunities for relaxing and bonding with other mamas who have a similarly challenging parenting experience. Lutheridge has a lake, walking/running trails through wooded areas, and an overall serenity perfect for mama respite. It is also just two miles from the Asheville airport. The all-inclusive retreat includes:

  • lodging (double room with another mom, lakeside cabin with 4-6 moms, or single occupancy room) Friday and Saturday night
  • all meals, buffet-style, from dinner Friday through lunch Sunday
  • Social and cash bar by the lake Saturday evening
  • 3-4 speakers on mama self-care, emotional regulation and sensory strategies, mom guilt, and behavior intervention (including at school)
  • s’mores and burn your worries away around the campfire
  • yoga class
  • zentangle class
  • canoeing on lake
  • and more…

We still have cabin bedrooms and rooms in Thornburg Hall.

This is it! We cannot extend registration past April 21st.

Register now! You are worthy mama!

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April 15, 2015Penny Williamsnews
Woman Shouting with Bullhorn

Powerful speaker lineup for 2015 retreat

Speakers are chosen for the Happy Mama Retreat with great care, focusing on individuals that will inspire and educate mamas on taking care of themselves, managing a special needs child, and thriving in your special parenthood. The retreat offers education and support to help you advocate for your child, and for yourself. Taking all of those needs into consideration, I’ve lined up an excellent panel of ladies sure to inspire and educate.

Michelle Perry

Emotional and Behavioral Interventions and Support

michelle perryMichelle is a Behavior/Autism Specialist with Buncombe County Schools. She works to help K-12 students, staff, and administration develop strategies and interventions for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and recently finished her Masters in Educational Leadership. Over the past 19 years in special education, she has served as a Title One Assistant, a regular education classroom assistant, an EC assistant, a special education teacher in a Day Treatment classroom, and a behavior specialist. In addition, Michelle is a Master-level CPI trainer and the owner of Know Behavior, LLC. She presents behavior workshops for agencies, schools, districts, and educational conferences.


Susan Ward

Remaining Calm Under Fire! Parenting Strategies for the Tough Times

susanward2Susan Ward is a therapist in private practice, working mostly with adoptive families whose children are struggling with behavioral, social, relational, and mental health issues related to attachment and early life trauma. In her practice, she utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches including therapeutic games, art activities, parent coaching, trust-building games, and EMDR.  She provided therapeutic respite in her home for children with aggressive, defiant, and non-compliant behaviors for 12 years. She’s an adoptive parent, past foster parent, and was a therapeutic tutor working with children who just didn’t fit into a classroom setting. In another life, a long time ago, she was curator of Biltmore House.


Janet Lindsey

Emotional Regulation and Self-Regulation Strategies for Family Life

JanetLindseyJanet Lindsey is a Licensed Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L) in Asheville, NC, with 7 years experience working in a pediatric setting. She works with children with various diagnoses, including Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, ADHD, and other developmental/cognitive delays. Her job as an Occupational Therapy Assistant is one of developing solutions to help her clients become as independent and successful as possible, despite any obstacles. She also helps families learn new ways to help their children thrive at home, at school, and in the community.


Laura Wright (aka, the ODD Mom)

I’m Not a Bad Mother: Moving Past the Blame and Shame of Children’s Mental Illness

LauraWrightI am “that” mother. You know the one I mean. The one whose child is melting down in the middle of the grocery store or is running up and down the aisle at church. Or maybe you don’t know me, because I’ve stopped going out in public with my child. But I’m not a bad mother, despite what people might think when they hear my child yelling obscenities at me. In fact, I deal with more parenting challenges in a week than most parents probably deal with in a year. I’m an ODD mother — the mother of a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I’d love to say this doesn’t define me, but something that consumes your every waking hour can’t help but define you. So rather than hanging my head in shame, I’ve decided to wear the label like a badge of honour.

There’s More!

But that’s not all… We also have two talented ladies joining us to lead Zentangle and yoga classes, to fill your self-care toolbox with relaxing techniques.

Emily Van Eman


emily_yogaExperienced instruction and inspirational philosophy come together in this Gentle Yoga sequence for all levels of practitioners. Traditional postures are combined with some free movement, chakra therapy, and core strengthening, all with beginner to advanced options. Emily has been teaching for 13 years, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology and rehabilitation techniques. Her style is spiritually uplifting, compassionate, and always different from class to class. This is a full-body “ahhh.”


Nancy Newlin


Nancy Newlin zentangle“The Zentangle(R) Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.” Founded by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the benefits of practicing Zentangle include fun, opening up your inner artist, better hand/eye coordination, a sense of accomplishment, creating something beautiful, slowing down, learning how to focus, and the list goes on and on. Some people don’t think they can possibly do Zentangle, but: anything is possible, one stroke at a time.


Gain the knowledge, expertise, and inspiration all of these women have to offer. Register for the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat 2015 today, before rates go up February 1, 2015!

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