August 30, 2010

Reality





This is my clever way of acknowledging that my posting record on this blog has been somewhat patchy, spotty and/or intermittent of late.

Do you ever find yourself thinking, "OK, things are crazy now. I can hardly even hear myself think over the din of all my to-dos clattering around in my brain. But as soon as _____ is over, I'll have much more time to myself, to do the things *I* want to do"?

Because I swear I have that conversation in my head every day of my life.

And the reality is, there will always, ALWAYS be another _____ to take the place of whatever ____ I'm referring to that day. Always.

As one of my favorite sayings goes, "It's like trying to dig a hole in a bucket of water."

As I was telling a good friend recently, I find myself STRESSING about what I'm not getting done. Working on my children's books. Making gifts. Doing more volunteer work. Fixing up my house. Spending more time with family. Spending more time with friends. Working on about 50 other creative projects I have swirling around in my head somewhere. And devoting more time to this beloved blog, which you'd never know was beloved from the way I've been neglecting it.

And when there's no time for those things, because my career and the rest of my life get in the way? I get stressed. I can't sleep. My stomach actually churns. As though I'm missing some kind of deadline. As though all of those things aren't things I LIKE to do, but things I'm SUPPOSED to be doing. Like I'm falling behind. Letting people down.

The reality: All of that is self-inflicted.

The only one losing sleep (although, sadly, never appetite) over all of the above is me.

And by doing this, I'm not only creating a giant mental block when it comes to actually DOING those things, I'm cheating myself out of the most important part: enjoying the process. Enjoying the getting-there part. Enjoying the DOING, rather than just thinking about the end goal.

So, in the spirit with which this blog is named, I'm trying something new: I'm giving myself permission to just loosen the hell up.

I still want to do all those things.

But I'm no longer going to mentally flog myself for not posting something here every day.

I'm no longer going to inwardly scream "Bad Shannon!" when I spend a Saturday afternoon watching a movie or hugging my dogs instead of cleaning out my refrigerator.

When someone asks me how the books are coming, and I have to say, AGAIN, "I haven't had much time to work on them lately," I'm going to unplug the inner flashing marquee sign that reads "Coming soon to a town near you: Shannon! Is! A! Failure!"

Because the other reality is, while some other, better women than I can surely handle all of this and more without needing a mental break?

I can't.

And I think -- at least I'm trying to think -- that that's OK.

August 25, 2010

Birthday traditions and delayed gratification (One of these things is vastly overrated)

Every family has birthday traditions.

When I was growing up, the birthday honoree got to choose the entire dinner menu; surprisingly, we ate very few green vegetables on birthdays. In my husband's family, his mother baked his favorite cake: white cake, chocolate frosting, whole walnuts.

(I know one family where every person, adult and child alike, gets breakfast in bed on their birthday. And while I would appreciate the gesture, the thought of eating scrambled eggs immediately upon waking makes me slightly queasy.)

In our little family of me, T and the dogs, we have this:



The top is just a regular old candle. The bottom piece, though, sings "Happy Birthday" in ridiculously-high-pitched tones that most human ears cannot process. Over and over and over and over. Until someone finally turns it off.

I don't remember anymore who purchased this treasure, but it's so obnoxiously loud and silly that we can't help but haul it out year after year.

Another birthday tradition? (And, actually, Christmas and Valentine's Day and any other holiday, real or Hallmark-driven, where gifts are traditionally exchanged?)

T cannot--CANNOT--wait until the actual day to give me a present.

He gets all antsy and little-kid-excited to the point where I can SEE how he must have been as a little boy, all anxious to give someone he loves something he thinks they'll love.

Typically (particularly with Christmas presents, which are often of the movie or video game variety) he lasts until about a week before the day. Then he starts asking. "Do you want to open your present?"

Since I tend to prefer delayed gratification, I always say "No" (if only because I know this drives him NUTS; mwah ha ha).

And so the games begin. At least once a day (and sometimes multiple times per minute): "Do you want to open your present? How about now? Now? Now now now?? OPEN IT!!!!!"

This year, he made it to two days before my birthday. Since I'm pretty sure that's a new record, and since the next two days were going to be pretty busy, I gave in.

And ohhhhhh, are my tastebuds glad I did.


Friends, let me tell you something about me and ice cream.

You've heard tell of the love that dare not speak its name?

This is a love that is told not in words but by the inches of my butt, the smear of chocolate across my cheek and the almond stuck to my eyebrow.

I loves me some frozen treats.

Since the ice cream recipe in the handy-dandy accompanying booklet called not only for whole milk (which our non-child house never sees) but heavy cream and refined white sugar, a Kroger sojourn was necessary. But a quick grocery-store-grab-and-a-few-pulses-of-ye-olde-food-processer-to-chop-up-fresh-strawberries later and we were...waiting. For it to freeze.

But friends? When it did? And I took it out to taste-test it and only the outside of the container was frozen and the inside was still sort of mushy and a little runny? And I didn't care and I just dove in and ate it anyway?

Oh. My. Goodness.

Strawberries mixed with fatty milk products and huge amounts of refined sugar and then frozen are SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD.

So good, in fact, that we finished the batch before I thought to take a picture of it to share with all of you.

Thankfully, for both humanity and my butt, the booklet also includes recipes for fro-yo and sorbet, the latter of which seems to call for not much more than water and flavoring and the occasional fruit.

(And if you think I'm not making dark chocolate sorbet with raspberries this weekend, YOU DON'T KNOW ME AT ALL and we should probably just break up now.)

August 18, 2010

Fairy dust and (sort of) fast cars

It's been a looong time since I attended a two-year-old's birthday party.

So I'd sort of forgotten how, because EVERYTHING is a toy to them, the whole "ooh, LOTS of shiny!" aspect of present-getting hasn't quite sunk in yet.

This weekend was my niece's birthday party. First thing you need to know: Girlfriend is ALL about the Tinker Bell. According to her mother, she watches a Tinker Bell DVD approximately 47 times a day.

By chance, she happened to open our gift first. A gift that included a Tinker Bell doll.

I call this picture "OMGz Tinker Bell droooooool...."


She stayed like that in the middle of the room for five minutes and REFUSED to open any of her other presents. I felt sort of bad (but also secretly kind of giddy that I'd hit the two-year-old jackpot).

Thankfully, my brother (who has somehow made the transition from a reckless 20-something to father of one with a wife, a house and three dogs) coaxed her back to the pile of waiting gifts.

And a good thing, too, because otherwise she would've missed out on this:



Her very own car! Complete with Flintstones motor (aka: her feet) and pimped out with a door that opens, a gas tank flap and a shelf in the back.

The girl was excited.


My other little gift, I'm happy to say, was also a hit. And it cost less than $3. (Again: LOVE buying for a two-year-old!) Fresh from the Wal-Mart checkout line: A plastic pink "camera," covered with decals of Disney princesses, that says things like "You're pretty!" and "Say 'Princess'!" when you click the shutter button.

We "took pictures" of each other for about half an hour after the party was over:

Bonus: After we returned to my parents' house, she and I spent another 30 minutes throwing an old-school Koosh ball back and forth. For some reason, it was HYSTERICALLY funny to yell "Kooooooooooooosh BALL!" as we threw it. And by that I mean we both laughed hysterically EVERY time we did it.

Mid-"Koosh" declaration:


Being an aunt is totally the coolest.

August 17, 2010

Oh, just hanging out


Thank you for all your well wishes. Belly rubs and snuggles are being administered in earnest, and we now own stock in Pupperoni. :)

One day at a time.

August 16, 2010

Reason #402


T and I have different sleep schedules.

I go to bed before he does, and I get up before he does. It has been this way from time immemorial. It isn't a big deal to us.

But, as a result, we find ourselves leaving each other a lot of notes, reminding each other about errands we have to run, asking each other to feed the dogs, scolding each other for failing to get gas for the mower (I forgot to do that last one a record eight days in a row; oopsie).

And while I love these little notes, there are very few that warrant saving for the scrapbook. (We are, after all, usually writing them either as we're going to bed or immediately after waking up -- not the best time for wit.)

Last week, the ice maker in our fridge just...stopped working. And started making a scary-sounding clicking noise. We were without ice for about a week, debating the possible causes and theorizing about who one calls for a busted ice maker (plumber? electrician? Home Depot?) before it occurred to us that...maybe we just needed to change the filter.

(We aren't what you'd call savvy in the way of home appliance repair.)

Friday night, T was changing the filter as I headed to bed.

Saturday morning, I woke up to this note:

"Baby,

Fed and watered and walked the dogs. Can you PLEASE get gas for the mower today?

Love you.

T

P.S.: We now have more ice than King Tut!"

...

I love that man. :)

A very special birthday today!




Smart.

Hilarious.

Amazing hair.

Great sense of style.

Fantastic listener.

Talented writer.

Incredibly centered sense of being.

These are things I knew about my friend Two Pretzels within hours of meeting her my junior year of college.

Something I've discovered over the past 13 years?

She still possesses all those things. And she's also one of the best friends a girl could ask for.

K, our all-nighters in the Wit office (brandishing a giant umbrella for protection when we had to go to the bathroom in the basement, eating Taco Bell at three in the morning (delivered by fire escape), sweating at the very tippity top of the oldest building on campus, defending ourselves against a bat with a broom) will always be some of my favorites of that entire phase of my life. I'm so thankful for them, and so thankful you were there for it.

But I'm even more thankful that you're my friend today. Your friendship, support and encouragement ("You should start a blog, Shannon!" "Seriously, have you started a blog YET?") has meant more to me than you'll probably ever know. I LOVE seeing how your life has grown with each new addition (starting with Nattie and Craig)! :) You, my friend, are nothing short of amazing.

I absolutely love you to PIECES. And I hope today is one of your favorite birthdays yet. :)

August 13, 2010

Curse: Broken!

When last we left my green stuff, I was beating the curse...but one little thing was mocking my attempt at total victory:


That was the beginning of July. We suffered through a long, hot month, I got out my pruning shears and hacked the dead stuff to pieces, and now in August we have...

...this!


OK, so I cheated a little and threw away the truly dead stuff around the edges. But look! The snapdragons (the white flowers) are blooming again! The geraniums are STILL blooming!

IT'S ALIVE!!

And so is this stuff:


And even my herbs have survived! Well, most of them:


AND. Remember the sad, sad story of my dill, that was being drowned by the uncharacteristic amount of rain we had in Ohio this summer, so I had to transplant it, and then it ended up looking like this?


Turns out, there's a reason dill was named the herb of the year. See that giant green thing in the corner with the yellowish flowery type things on top?



Resilient little booger started growing all on its own after I moved its parent plant to its eventual death.

And it even has a little brother that somehow made it over to the geraniums!


Curse: Broken! I am the champion! Weeds, fear me! Potted plants, revere me!

Maybe next year I'll try something harder. Like perennials.

August 12, 2010

I take it back, Hollywood

For the past few years, I've been ragging on Hollywood for having NO original ideas.

Honestly -- it seems like nearly every movie I've seen or heard about in the past three years was a remake (and sometimes of an original that wasn't very good in the first place) or the movie version of a book (ditto).

For the past three weeks, whenever I turn on my TV, it's resting on Showtime -- which is INEVITABLY playing this movie:


I'm not kidding. At least eight times in the last three weeks, I wake up, turn on the TV and am greeted with this:


Here's the synopsis of the movie: An evil business executive {ooooh!} (played by George Lazenby) {...who?}, is releasing dangerous toxins {just...randomly?} and the Barbarian Brothers {...} set out to stop his evil work {presumably with their synchronized hair-and-pec-flipping routine}.

After its fourth surprise appearance, I decided the fates apparently wanted me to check out this movie. Thirty seconds in, I decided the fates apparently hate me. Oafish, non-acting twins? Check. Annoying, wish-they-were-Macaulay-Culkin, non-acting younger twins? Got it. AMAZINGLY bad early-90s clothing and hairstyles? Quadruple check. Plotline that makes ABSOLUTELY no sense, and yet somehow is featured constantly on one of the supposedly "premier" movie channels? OH heavens yes.

If this is what Hollywood does when left to its own devices, I owe it a giant apology. Remake The Honeymooners 'til the cows come home. Do a new, preachy version of The Goonies where a gang of kids fights Corporate America and saves the dung beetle. Make a new Pretty Woman for the geriatric set starring Gene Hackman and Dame Judy Dench.

There's no use thinking for yourselves, Hollywood. I see now what can come of it. Just go back over there, stay pretty, and keep churning out those Twilight movies.

:)

August 10, 2010

And now for something completely shallow...


My hair looks absolutely nothing like this.

Well, unless it counts that my hair is long, dark and wavy.

(In truth, I only chose this picture because I think the model's expression is HILARIOUS. She either looks completely void of thought, or just really, really hungry. I'm going to say it's a little from Column A, a little from Column B...) (Also, I'm pretty sure that's a wig.)

So. Anyway.

Aside from a brief, year-long flirtation with a short, stacked, highlighted-beyond-all-reason bob shortly after I got married in 2002, my hair has been basically the same since 1993.

Long. Dark brown. All one length or with LONG layers (I could never pull off The Rachel).

In short: B.O.R.I.N.G.

But when I actually do try something new, like cutting it all off or dyeing it orange (the latter of which was unintentional, and has scared me away from those "no need to make an appointment we are always here and have sometimes sketchy qualifications" salons), I hate it.

If it's too short or too layered, I can't pull it back, which infuriates me. 99 percent of the time, I just want my hair out of my face. And it requires too much styling, whereas I'm from the school of "throw some product in my hair, scrunch and leave."

If it's some wonky color (read: orange; and I'm talking traffic-cone orange), I feel like it clashes with everything I wear, and it just doesn't feel like me.

Which is why I always end up...here.

Long, dark and wavy.

At this point in my life, I'm feeling OK about embracing my hair the way *I* feel comfortable with it. I'm into long, dark and wavy.

But the "long" part...well, it's getting out of hand. When it gets this long (halfway down my back), I shed like CRAZY. And it's becoming a problem.

Places I have found one or more strands of my hair JUST today:
  1. Under my mousepad
  2. In my pocket
  3. Woven between the keys of my keyboard
  4. In my dog's mouth
  5. At the bottom of my lunch bag
  6. Tangled in my husband's beard
  7. Hanging from a lamp
  8. Wound around my necklace
  9. (I'm not even counting the carpet, my clothes or the shower drain. EW.)
So I'm thinking it's time to do some chopping. And I need opinions. And possibly links to photos. (Note: I would LOVE to do Locks of Love or something similar, but my hair breaks off at a certain point, and I'd have to literally shave my head to get the required number of inches. I know I probably should do it anyway, but I work in a professional office and...yeah.)

Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Cut off about 4 inches
  • Choppy layers, possibly longer in the front, but still long enough in the back that I can pull it back (the idea of an asymmetrical cut appeals to me, but I'm not sure if I can pull off something super weird, and again: I don't want anything that needs a lot of styling)
  • Shorter layers right by my face (not really bangs, but kind of)

Thoughts? Advice? Cautionary tales? Cautionary photos?

Bring it.

August 9, 2010

Pupdate: If rollercoasters were peppered with occasional bouts of snuggling

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that my dogs are my babies.

T and I adore them. We talk to them as if they're people. Assign them real or imagined personality traits. Make up songs about how fat they are.

Dress them up for our own amusement.



As I mentioned about a month ago, we got some news about the babiest of our babies, Bubba, that pretty much rocked us. And not in a good way.

During the week preceding the Fourth of July, we found a little lump under his chin. A few days later, we found another, much larger one on his collarbone. And we started to get scared.

Our vet was out of town for the holiday weekend, so we took him to our backup vet. In the waiting room, Bubba was the only dog who felt he had to sit on the bench next to me instead of on the floor with the other dogs, drawing smiles from the other owners in the room. Personally, I felt this was completely appropriate -- he's family, not just a "pet." (And when he got scared -- by a smaller dog -- and climbed his 80-pound self into my lap, I didn't mind a bit.)

The backup vet felt the lumps, stood up slowly and looked at me. Her face confirmed my fears.

"Lymphoma. Let's get him started on Prednisone right away."

Tears. Instantly. Bubba sniffed the bottom of her examining table, oblivious, and looked up at me, all "Uh, Mom, can we go home now? It's time for my mid-mid-late-morning nap. Thankssomuchlet'sgo."

On the vet's advice, we waited an interminable WEEK to get tests done by our own vet.

Tests? Done.
Results? Positive for lymphoma.
Next step? Decide if we want to do chemo.

We battled and battled and battled over this one.

It would mean three trips to Columbus each week for 6-8 weeks, one hour each way, but we could make that work. It was expensive, but cost wasn't the issue.

Was it worth putting our baby through all that? Feeling sick, stressful car rides, getting poked and prodded...and not understanding that he's going through all this stress and pain and sickness...for his own good?

We read everything we could find online, trying to find success stories (there weren't many). We asked our friends who have dogs, my friends at the dog shelter, our parents, our neighbors -- we wanted every opinion we could find.

Finally, we asked our vet.

(I can't tell you how much we think of and value our vet. Unlike a lot of "country" vets, he doesn't treat all animals like faceless livestock. He definitely knows his stuff, but he'll still get down on the floor and play with a dog like a little boy. That's the kind of person I want taking care of my baby.)

After discussing what it would entail, T finally just asked, "If this was your dog, would you do it?"

He answered instantly. "No. I'd just try to love on him as much as possible and enjoy him with the time you have left."


Bubba enjoying one of his favorite things:
sleeping on his brother (in our bed)


How much time do we have left?

The simple answer is: We don't know.

When we had the above conversation with the vet, he laid it out for us:

  • We'll keep him on steroids and antibiotics indefinitely.
  • If he responds to the medication, he could go into a temporary remission and stay with us for another 2-3 months. Maybe up to 6 months, but probably not.
  • If he doesn't respond to the medication...we could lose him anytime.

For the past month, we've been going on this way. Meds every 12 hours. Healthy appetite. Days-long stretches of lethargy and sad-face punctuated with short bursts of playfulness, after which he's exhausted. Looooooong snuggle sessions.

Oh, how I love that he's a snuggler.

We settled into a routine. We could almost forget for stretches of time.

Then, this weekend, he threw up everything he tried to eat for 36 hours. Even the special boiled-meat-and-rice concoction that always settles their tummies.

We were panic-stricken. We thought we were ready for this.

We aren't. Now I don't think we ever really will be.

Thankfully, he started being able to keep food down again yesterday, and seems to be back to his new/normal routine. But we know now, for sure, that an awful, horrible decision is coming, however many weeks or months in the future.

When the time comes, I'm just praying I'm unselfish enough to make it.

August 4, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: I love living in the country


(It's not a double rainbow, but I think it's still beautiful.)

August 3, 2010

Now she's THIS MANY.

Today is a very special day.

Today, my niece Cadence turns 2.

She's such a big girl.

So smart.

Drawing with Papa.


So beautiful.


Will you LOOK at those EYES?


So ornery.


Trying on "Unca Tommy's" shoes for oh, maybe the billionth time that day.


Oh, baby girl. You were the happiest of surprises to our little family! I pretty much live to make you laugh, and I love that you love to dance and watch the same Tinkerbell DVD over and over and over and over, and I REALLY love how you've taken my little brother and made him into a daddy.

Happy birthday, little one. Aunt Shan loves you into a million, billion pieces!

August 2, 2010

Snack or decoupage?

So, I've been hearing for months that this stuff is the sh-t. Double the protein, tastes fabulous, fat-free without using aspartame for sweetening, SO good for you...

I'm not much of a yogurt eater to begin with, so I'm super late to this particular party, but I snagged some at K. Roger over the weekend and brought it in my lunch today.

And I don't know if it's because I had such high expectations, or because ate it after eating a garlicky Lean Cuisine pizza, or because I got the honey-vanilla flavor instead of a fruit flavor but...

I am underwhelmed.

OK, let's call it like it is: I HATE this stuff.

I forced myself to eat more than half of it, just out of principle (because I paid almost $2 for the 6-oz container), but then I had to stop.

I've tried to narrow down what I don't like about it:
  1. The texture is weird. It's thicker than normal yogurt and kind of...gritty, almost.
  2. The taste is not lovely. Again, this may be unique to the honey-vanilla flavor. I do have its strawberry sister sitting in my fridge at home. But it just feels kind of...heavy and tasteless. Sort of like eating unflavored Jell-O.
  3. It sort of has the consistency of old-school classroom paste.
  4. I just don't like it.
So now I need your opinions.

Do you like the Greek yogs? Think it stinks? Feel as though it's better suited for craft projects than afternoon snacky times?

I need to know that I'm not crazy and/or if I maybe got a bad batch and should give it another shot.

Nothing says "summer" like a birthday!


The happiest of birthdays to my lovely, magnificent friend Running Chatter!

In addition to launching a fabulous, engaging blog last month, she also somehow has time to be a devoted wife and mother, an empathetic counselor and a wonderful friend. I feel extremely fortunate to call her one of "my girls." :)

Happy, happy birthday, S! I'm so glad you're my friend, and I love you to pieces. :)
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