“What a gift this book will be to your soul.”—Lysa TerKeurst
Whether it's her work today as a reporter and host for Fox News, her years in law school, or the time she spent competing in pageants like Miss America, Shannon Bream has spent her entire adult life navigating high-pressure environments where perfection is expected and competition is the name of the game. But in this laugh-out-loud book of stories and inspiration, Shannon shares the moments away from the cameras and the halls of government, in which she learned that the values and faith of her blue-collar upbringing could keep her grounded in a world where everyone wants you to be something other than who you are.
In Finding the Bright Side, Shannon continues a conversation about authenticity, humility, and trusting in God that she's already begun with her followers on social media. She shares behind-the-scenes stories from Washington, D.C., revelations from her time reporting on the Supreme Court, and lessons learned from the most challenging moments of her life—from the time she was fired from her first job and told, “You’re the worst person I’ve ever seen on TV,” to the time she heard “There is no cure.” But through all of this, faith (and a little bit of stubbornness!) has helped Shannon to keep hope, find purpose in the pain, and find laughs along the way.
Praise for Finding the Bright Side
“Integrity. Faith. Diligence. Success. Shannon’s book—and life—elevate these cherished values. For anyone hoping to move forward without compromising convictions, this book is a must read.”—Max Lucado, pastor and bestselling author
“In Finding the Bright Side, Shannon reveals that her sunny face and disposition is not just from good genetics. Her success is long in coming and well-deserved. She is sheer joy in a bottle.”—Kathie Lee Gifford, bestselling author of The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi
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|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.20(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Meanest Mom in the World”
Not many eleven-year-olds look forward to spending a sunny Saturday afternoon touring a time-share property with their parents. But I wasn’t your normal tween, and I had a very specific reason for accompanying my parents on their path toward fractional real estate ownership: a Sony Walkman.
Weeks earlier, a letter had arrived inviting my parents to a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY! In exchange for giving up a few hours on a weekend, they would be granted their choice of several prizes, including that Walkman. It was 1982, and I was convinced I needed one.
I grew up in a very strict household, where secular music was forbidden. If we didn’t sing it at church, it was pretty much off-limits in the Norris home. However, after a summer spent hanging out with the cool kids across the street, I’d managed to develop a taste for the forbidden tunes of ’80s artists like Lionel Ritchie and Chicago. (You know, real edgy stuff.) As soon as my parents got that letter, I knew the Walkman was my ticket to getting a fix.
That meant I was willing to put up with a lot, including spending the better part of a Saturday with a very determined salesman who regaled my parents with tales of how our ownership week at a modest beachfront property along Florida’s southeast coast could be traded for glorious vacations in Hawaii and Europe. Even at that age, the proposition seemed dicey to me. But I digress . . .
With my Walkman finally secured, I would stay up late under the covers on Sunday nights listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown, safely out of earshot from Mom. I always felt a chill of excitement when Kasem said, “Coming to you from Hollywood!” at the top of each segment. My family lived in Pembroke Pines, just down the street from Hollywood, Florida, and I couldn’t believe Mr. Kasem was doing such important work just miles from my home. (Years later, Kasem was one of my judges at the Miss USA Pageant. I resisted the urge to share this middle-school confessional with him.)
The Walkman was just part of the sneaky behavior I employed to live peaceably under the same roof as my mom, a woman who once bought a plaque with the words Meanest Mom in the World and proudly hung it in the kitchen. She meant it. In my mother’s household, hit shows like the Love Boat and Three’s Company were “not appropriate for nice little girls.” So was the prospect of staying up past 8:00 p.m.—and don’t even think about talking back.
There was no escaping from Mom’s rule, especially because she worked as a teacher and always taught at the school I attended. Looking back on the experience, I can see how it kept me out of a lot of trouble (a fact for which I’m now eternally grateful). But at the time it was a soul-crushing arrangement for someone who already had to fight hard to fit in. Grade school is fraught enough with potential humiliation when your mom’s not correcting you in front of your classmates, or handing out detentions to your friends like Halloween candy.
In fourth grade, one fateful interaction left me with no choice but to run away from home with my friend Michelle. Mom had been passing through the gymnasium just after my class finished recess. The school’s rules required us to wear dresses every day (long pants for the boys), so I don’t remember there being much physical exertion on the playground. But on this particular day, my mom spotted my messy hair from across the room and came over to whip it back into shape. I was mortified.
I remember protesting that I would look like a baby if my mom started fixing my ponytail in front of my friends, but she was undeterred. “Stand up straight!” she said, fussing over my unruly tresses while my peers stared and snickered. That was the final straw!
Later that day, as Michelle and I discussed our parents’ overbearing behavior, we decided to fight back. We both had bikes, and there was a park not far from our school. We figured we could squirrel away some snacks, write good-bye notes, and disappear to the park for just a single day. Maybe that would scare our parents enough to respect our maturity and ability to make our own decisions.
As we planned our big escape, we felt like secret agents, real adults. And if our mothers hadn’t still done our laundry at that point in life, we might’ve gotten away with it. Though I had carefully counseled Michelle over where she should hide her note until we were ready to drop our bomb, she had done her own thing. One day, when her mother went to restock her sock drawer—we were busted.
I was awakened early one morning and marched into the still-dark living room for a thorough debriefing. Still bleary-eyed with zero idea that our foolproof plan had come unraveled, I struggled to understand the barrage of questions. What was I thinking? Didn’t I know how many crazy people were kidnapping girls on bicycles? At one point, I distinctly remember my mom saying, “You’re showing your true colors.” I was baffled, wondering if “true colors” meant there was some type of visible aura giving me away. (Cyndi Lauper cleared that up for me a few years later.)
Sock-drawer escape plans aside, I was a pretty well-behaved kid. I wasn’t robbing banks or punching other kids in the face; I was just full of energy and questions . . . for authority. My mom says she relied heavily on the classic parenting book The Strong-Willed Child, which is chock-full of buzzwords like defiant and stubborn that described me to a T. Rather than blindly accepting the rules and norms as they existed, I wanted to know WHY. When the boundaries didn’t make sense to me, I pushed them.
News traveled quickly to my mother if I caused even the slightest trouble in school, a fact made especially painful by another one of our house rules: “If you get paddled at school, you get paddled at home.” If a teacher felt I’d earned it in the classroom, there was heck to pay at home.
I will go to my grave convinced that the buildup to the spanking at home was infinitely worse than the punishment itself. It usually started with my mom saying the most ominous sentence a parent can utter: “We’ll talk about this when we get home.” From there, it would morph into a lengthy bedroom discussion of what I’d done wrong, followed by an interminable period of time for me to “think about it” before Mom returned for the final sentencing. I am a people pleaser by nature, so everything about this scenario felt like a nightmare. Not only did I not want to provoke my mother’s disapproval, I most certainly did not want to be given an extended period of time to internalize the nuances of it.
Despite the terror this routine set off in me, I refused to cry when spanked, mostly because I usually thought the punishment did not fit the crime. In school, at home, and at church, I was constantly getting in trouble because I couldn’t—or wouldn’t?—stop talking. Today, I make a good living doing just that, so I’d like to argue that it’s all worked out fine.
What doesn’t work out fine is having your mother as a substitute teacher in high school. In ninth grade, one of my favorite teachers went on extended medical leave, and my mom got hired to pick up the slack.
“Your mom’s cool, right?” the reigning sophomore hunk asked me when our teacher broke the news.
“Uhhh, no,” I stammered. Even back then, I knew the wisdom of managing expectations.
Trust me, the tension ratcheted up to another level when she showed up to class one day dressed as Madonna.
Days before, the superstar had graced the cover of TIME magazine. I distinctly remember discussing her celebrity status on our drive home from school and making the mistake of saying to my mom, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to be her, just for one day!?” Mom was horrified, both by Madonna’s general existence and by the fact that her daughter would aspire to be anything like her for ANY amount of time. Madonna was everything my parents disapproved of, wrapped up in a single celebrity package.
And so, to hammer home the most embarrassing object lesson in history, Mom spent the next day teaching my high school class as the Material Girl. I recall a lacy headband, lots of bracelets and eyeliner, and a lecture punctuated with an overdose of “like,” “grody,” and “fer sure.” I can only thank God she didn’t actually burst into a chorus of “Like a Virgin.”
As much as I resented my mom’s guerrilla campaign to keep me on the straight and narrow, even then I took comfort in the fact that she gave me the perfect out for the moral choices that face every high schooler. When presented with peer pressure or a somewhat questionable decision, I could always easily fall back on the excuse, “My mom would kill me.” (I’m not even sure I was kidding.) But more than giving me an out, she also gave me a set of core principles that guide me to this day. They were deeply rooted in a faith that taught me that my Heavenly Father’s acceptance was the only thing I really needed in life.
I remember my mom finding me crying in my bedroom one day after I’d been left out of something. I halfway expected her to give me a lecture about counting my blessings. Instead, she listened to my story and then promised that one day I would forget about this perceived slight. She’s right: I can’t tell you now what had me sobbing.
My mom taught me to respect myself, and to question anyone who would ask me to sacrifice my integrity. As boy crazy as I eventually got, Mom encouraged me to draw lines early and often. She told me how valuable I was, how nothing could separate me from God’s love, and that God had someone just as amazing out there waiting for me. (There was heavy emphasis on the “waiting” part, since I wouldn’t be allowed to date until I’d secured a PhD.)
It breaks my heart when I see young women swept up in today’s celebrity culture that encourages them to give themselves away for the sake of a few likes on social media. It makes me wish that everyone had someone in their life to remind them, “You are worth more.” Maybe having the world’s meanest mom wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Footloose, But Not Fancy-Free
Growing up, my mom wasn’t the only one keeping tabs on my shenanigans. She had plenty of assistance from our church and school community, which operated a lot like the town from the box office hit Footloose. Our school had chapel speakers who explained how secular music was filled with diabolical messages that you could hear if you played the songs backward. School dances were never going to happen, and our cheerleading uniforms were modest to the point of invoking considerable mockery from opposing schools. (Trust me, they were calling us “Jesus freaks” long before the hit song made it a badge of honor.) School felt like a cozy, at times suffocating, cocoon—albeit one full of love and good intentions.
Trust me, though, even if my parents and our tight-knit circle had schemed to make me as uncool as possible—and I’m pretty sure they did—I didn’t really need their help. While my friends were sneaking around trying to kiss boys, I was wearing Coke-bottle glasses, curling up with stacks of books, and nailing down Bible verses in hopes of winning the Sunday school Memory Challenge. (You know I did.) As a childhood birthday present one year, I requested tickets to the local dinner theater production of the musical Oliver. That about sums it up.
My love of musical theater was born out of a visit my family took to New York City when I was nine. We were accompanying my stepfather on a business trip, and I could not contain my excitement. Even the emergency landing we had to do in New Jersey was thrilling! This was the Big Apple circa 1980. Let’s just say it had some rough edges. Streets coated with a layer of trash and cigarette butts, people dressed in clothes that I never imagined existed . . . you get the picture.
Never mind all that. This was the big time, and we were ready to shine. For the second night of our trip, we had secured tickets to the hit musical Annie. Having never seen a Broadway play but knowing that NYC was superfancy, Mom and I had packed long gowns to wear to the theater. Picture us walking the mean streets in floor-length velvet with ruffles. There was a chill in the air, and I remember asking my mom why so many women were barely wearing any clothes, and why they seemed so friendly toward the men on the street.
Imagine our shock when we arrived at the theater in our formal wear, only to see our fellow ticket holders decked out in their finest tracksuits and denim. Nine-year-old me felt sorry for them. “They must be so embarrassed,” I whispered to my mom.
When we returned home, I knew my destiny was to find my way back to Broadway. We found a copy of the Annie score at my local music store, and morning, noon, and night I banged out those tunes on our trusty upright while singing at the top of my lungs. I don’t remember my parents objecting. They seemed happy to have their hyperactive child occupied, even if they never once requested an encore.
As much as I loved music, dancing had always been forbidden. In my family’s social circle, the activity was considered too dangerous for young people with raging hormones. My cool older cousins, on the other hand, took every dance lesson imaginable, and I was totally psyched to attend all their recitals without exception. From the sequin-encrusted costumes to the rock music that blared from the speakers, it was my one permitted brush with the wild side—a place I could visit twice a year for those shows. When Halloween rolled around, if I wasn’t already dressing up like an Old Testament character, I would squeal with delight as the girls let me pick through their old costumes for something to wear.
My parents always warned me about the dangers of peer pressure, but it’s easy to ignore peer pressure when you don’t have many peers. At school, I was always the nerd—partly because I started school a year early and tagged along with my classmates like a little sister. I couldn’t date or drive until long after my classmates fulfilled those rights of passage. Before cell phones came along, I could only chat on the phone in the white-hot spotlight of our mustard yellow kitchen. Calling boys was completely forbidden. (Mom was a Rules Girl long before the book came out.) And if they did call? No whispering, and no conversations longer than twenty minutes. I wore handmade clothes, had glasses, and adored school and Jesus. Other kids made me feel awkward. (Maybe that’s why I talked my way into joining our church’s adult choir when I was in seventh grade, officially cementing my status as a Junior Church Lady.)
Table of Contents
"Meanest Mom in the World" 17
Footloose, But Not Fancy-Free 25
Keeping It Clean 31
Give Me Liberty 37
"Don't Let This Be the Most Exciting Thing" 47
Date Like a Man 65
Life Is Too Short to Ignore Brownies Forever 79
The Darkest Cloud 93
Losing My Toenails (and My Temper) 107
"You'll Never Make It in This Business" 113
Dream Job 129
Better Vision 147
Mom Genes 165
What My Dog Taught Me About God 171
There Are No Coincidences 177
Witnessing History 183
Lessons from the Trail 195