October 29, 2010

Poor, little, sad, homemade clown

My mother has a lot of amazing qualities.

She has the endless compassion and gentle touch that make her an amazing nurse; she gives the most FABulous hugs; and she can make me laugh until I cry like no one else on earth.

What she is most decidedly not, however, is a crafter and a seamstress. And, coupled with the fact that she and my father weren't super-fans of Halloween in the first place...

...when it came time to dress up for Halloween, I was pretty much on my own.

Which is how I ended up looking like this:


Believe it or not, this actually took some coordination. In Sunday School the week before, my best friend, P, and I discovered we were wearing the same purple dress. One of us said something like, "Hey, what if we both wore them on Halloween and went as...two...girls...wearing the same dress?"

Throw in some horrendous blue eyeshadow circa 1984 and some purple spray-on hair coloring we found at the grocery store, and we were in business.

(Believe it or not -- and I certainly can't -- we actually won second prize in our elementary school's costume contest that year. I think the official name of this costume was "Twin Dolls." Looking at it now, I'm calling it "From Sunday School to Trollopdom in Three Easy Steps.")

And then, there was the year of the saddest homemade clown ever in and of the world, ever ever ever:

As you're squinting at this awful picture (sorry), take a good look at the hair. NOT A WIG. That's my own hair, once again with the spray-on hair coloring, teased out to hay-sus and Aqua-Netted to within an inch of its life. Also please note the lack of a traditional clown nose. My parents apparently did spring for some face paint this year, but the squishy red nose was just too much, it seems.

And my costume? A clown-themed nightgown (that I already owned) and, not pictured, my father's boots. I was also carrying a balloon on a stick, apparently. I have no idea what's happening with that.

OK. So. Am I scarred forever because my mother didn't make me a Pretty, Pretty Princess dress or let me be a witch (I wasn't allowed to be anything evil-y) or help me come up with something really creative like this one brother-sister duo at my school, who once came as toothpaste and a toothbrush?

I won't pretend I didn't kind of long for some of those things. At the time.

But now, I'm kind of glad my parents left me to my own devices. It's made me into a person who always thinks, "Hm...could I make that myself? Let me see what I have lying around the house" instead of just running out and buying something new.

See, Mom? You weren't slacking in the Halloween department; you were teaching me to be resourceful!

OK, one last picture, before I leave you all to trick-or-treat with your little ones and/or gussy it up for your adult-themed Halloween bashes. I was really hoping to find the awful picture of my brother and me dressed up as a Hawaiian (me) and a tourist (him) -- once again wearing our own clothes -- but alas, it has failed to surface.

So you're just going to have to be contented with this picture of me from the time I worked in a haunted house as "The Electric Chair Victim." Once again, my powers of resourcefulness at work, I correctly deduced that electric chair victims aren't dress-up kind of folk. It's much more likely that they'd be wearing a black turtleneck and jeans.

And from the look on my face, it's apparently tiring, soul-sucking work, too:


(Double-kudos to my mom for cutting off the top of my head. At least those all-important knees made the cut. I love you, Mom!)

Happy Halloween! :)

October 28, 2010

Mostly Wordless Thursday: PUMPKINS

('Cause I just couldn't get it together for Wednesday. Don't you judge me!)

This weekend, my bestie B and I busted out the steak knives (we'd have nothing of those much safer pumpkin carving kits that don't even have pointy ends -- bah!) and carved us up some bad boys, fresh from our neighbors' garden.

And yes, it's true that I A) broke one of said steak knives, and B) nearly decapitated my best friend in the process. But all that matters is that we ended up with some wicked-cool Jack-o'lanterns (or however you punctuate that word).

Yay!


October 26, 2010

Fever dreams


So, since Sunday afternoon, I've been sick.

Not so sick that I'm unable to eat or writhing on the floor in agony or anything like that. Just a bad cold, a serious sore throat and a low-grade fever.

But the latter was enough to make sleep the last few nights an extremely interesting adventure.

Sunday night, they were mostly funny. Some former co-workers showed up in a beat-up minivan to take me to lunch. I realized as I climbed in that I was only wearing my bathrobe.

In most dreams like this, where I find myself in my underwear or otherwise under-dressed, I usually try to hide or cover myself with something. In this one, when one of my former colleagues questioned my attire, I said something like, "Listen, some of us interpret Casual Fridays differently than others. Deal with it, {Former Co-worker}." At which point she burst into tears.

Apparently, fevers make me sassy and kind of mean-spirited.

Then, last night, my subconscious decided I'd had enough of the funny.

Bubba and I were playing in a huge, green meadow, surrounded by lush, forested hills. Despite his lack of opposable thumbs, he was picking up chalk and drawing things on a piece of paper, and I congratulated him for being the world's most brilliant dog (naturally).

The weather was much like it's been the past week in Ohio: Sunny, warm, windy, with just a touch of something extra in the air to remind you that it IS fall, even if it's 80 degrees outside.

It was beautiful. We were playing. We were happy.

Then, from the edges of the woods, we saw them creeping slowly. First one, then a whole pack of them, in all shapes and sizes.

Wolves.

Some gray, some black, some pure white. Some small, some towering over my head.

All creeping toward us, all focused hungrily on my little dog, who hadn't seen them yet, who was still happily playing in front of me.

I grabbed him up in my arms like a baby (proving that this was, indeed a dream; in real life he weighs more than 90 pounds) and held my arm out in front of him. Somehow I knew the wolves wouldn't bite me; they couldn't get near him if I was blocking the way.

But they kept advancing. And their eyes were hungry.

And I looked down at the shivering dog in my arms. And his fur had gone completely white with fear.

A woman appeared at the edge of the woods, carrying a shepherd's crook. I called to her, asking her to call off the wolves. She did, and they left reluctantly.

But as she approached us, I saw that she was crying.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It isn't forever." And then she walked back into the woods.

Some dreams don't need professional analysis.

I really wish I could forget this one.

P.S.: The image at the top of this post came up when I Google-imaged "fever dreams." It's pretty close to what the woods looked like in mine. Freaky.

October 22, 2010

World-weary...and three feet tall


The scene: Thursday evening, Family Dollar, standing in line, waiting to purchase shower curtain liner.

In front of me, a grandmother is waiting to purchase a few miscellaneous items while wrangling two grandchildren: a bespectacled boy around 8 years old and a girl around 6.

The girl is bouncing up and down, touching everything within reach, prompting Grandma to grasp wildly for and then hold the little one's hands at her sides.

At this point the girl, although restrained, continues to bounce up and down, up and down, up and down and chant loudly -- while her brother faces bravely forward.



Bouncy: We're going to Grandma's! We're going to Grandma's! Grandma's! Grandma's! GrandmaGrandmaGrandmaGrandma! GrammagrammagrammagrAAAAAAAAAMMMMAAAAA--"

Grandma: (trying and failing to clap one hand over Bouncy's perpetually moving mouth, but still kind of laughing, because, obnoxious or not, the girl is adorable) Oh, my God, you are LOUD.

Older Brother: (over his shoulder, with a world-weary roll of his eyes) Welcome to my world, Grandma. Welcome. To my world.

**********


As a fellow older sibling, I wanted to hug the little guy. Hug him, pat him on the back, and reassure him that...it's just going to be like this for the rest of his life, so he might as well get used to it.

:)

Sidenote: As Grandma was paying for their purchases, Older Brother was trying in vain to justify adding a bag of chips to the pile. "Sometimes I wake up really early in the morning, like 5:00, and I just NEED Doritos."

I sort of wanted to adopt him on the spot.

October 21, 2010

For shame, Starbucks marketing department

This morning, I noticed this fine little slogan on my Starbucks napkin:


Disclaimer: I'm certain I'm not the only one who's noticed this (I've had this particular napkin in my desk drawer for at least two months, for starters), but I just noticed it now, so I'm commenting on it now, so there.

Anyway.

"Less napkins"? Erm, no.

"Less waste," sure. "Less water," absolutely. "Less apples"? No.

FEWER. Fewer apples, fewer napkins, fewer grammarians bleeding from the eyeballs.

I realize the phrase is "less is more," which may make it seem like "less" is always the opposite of "more," and I also realize this is an extremely common mistake for English-speakers.

But if your job involves putting words on things for public consumption, be it articles or marketing copy or the warning on the side of a bottle of Drano, you should know the rules. And if you don't, you should make damn sure you run your copy by someone who does.

I write for a living, so I have to make it a point to try to learn and KNOW these rules. Do I know them all? Uh, absolutely not. But I use the resources at my disposal (fellow writers and editors, stylebooks, the ENTIRE INTERNET) to check myself lest I wreck myself (I physically could not stop myself from writing that).

And if something of mine is published with a mistake like this, particularly as it relates to my job (as opposed to, say, this blog; heh), I consider that a big, fat fail on my part as a writer/marketer/communicator.

All this to say: HAND-SLAP, Starbucks marketing department! Shame, shame, I know your name.*

*Please tell me you also said this as a child. Along with "Liar, liar, pants on fire, sitting on a telephone wire." Holy crap, kids' rhymes make absolutely no sense.

October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: True Love


October 19, 2010

Photo Flashback Tuesday

I was digging around in old photo albums (OK, boxes with random photos -- I'm not organized enough for albums) this weekend, and I found this:


A few observations about this picture:
  1. Who was in charge of my hair on this day? Apparently "Rat's Nesty Braids, Plus Barrettes" was a viable 'do back in 1980. And I rocked it.
  2. Please note my expression of "Um, yes, may I help you? Genius at work here. Very busy. Shoo." According to my mother, this expression surfaced often. (And probably still does.)
  3. I was apparently a very trust-worthy three-year-old, since I was left to my own devices with not just the cookie cutters but the 50-pound, solid-wood rolling pin. Clearly a future executive at work.
  4. Check out that *awesome* '70s wallpaper! Go, Grandma!

To continue the photo flashback goodness, I promise to share a picture of a costume from my youth sometime during the week before Halloween. Be assured, it'll be incredibly embarrassing -- my costumes were always awful. :)

(Bonus points to anyone who shares their own photo flashbacks this week. Don't make me stand alone in Humiliation Corner.)

October 18, 2010

Ideas, ideas for the writer...


I haven't talked about it for awhile, but for the past year, I've been writing some children's books.

Five of the ones I've written so far are based on some characters my dad invented when I was a little girl: Three animal friends who learn about friendship and lying and all kinds of other things while gallivanting around a barnyard somewhere in the countryside. And while I'm figuring out what to do with those, I've decided to keep writing.

This time, I'm tackling sleep. Or the lack thereof.

The little boy in my story refuses to sleep because he doesn't want to miss all the cool things he imagines the grown-ups are doing. He does practically anything to avoid bedtime so he can make sure no one's having too much fun without him.

Here's where I need your help...

All you parents, aunts/uncles, big brothers/sisters out there: What do the kids in your lives do to avoid going to bed? Drinks of water, trips to the bathroom, checking for monsters...

I'd love any and all ideas, even if you just make them up. :)

October 15, 2010

I miss you already, vacation.

And now, a brief lament...

My vacation is drawing to a close. And I find myself actually grieving the loss of this time.

It has been so wonderful, so relaxing, so freeing to simply take each day as it comes without worrying about all the responsibility of work.

Hanging out with my girlfriends (the relaxing effect of hours of talking cannot be overstated).

Playing cards with our neighbors:

(Kim is hiding from our dogs' noxious farts; it's a constant problem in this house. But the girls MOPPED the FLOOR with the boys, which made all the stinkiness well worth it.)

But best of all, spending time with the boys (one of whom is behind the camera here):


I'm really going to miss this vacation come Monday morning, when I return to my cubicle and hear the loud talkers in the next aisle and jump on that first conference call and (ugh) wade through two weeks' worth of missed e-mail.

But the truth is...I need to work. Not just because we need money to live: I need to have that in my life, that connection to work I am passionate about -- outside my home.

I like my job. I like the people I work with. It's a wonderful, flexible, mostly-stimulating (and sometimes frustrating) job that, ultimately, I am extremely fortunate to have.

So although I am grieving the end of these LOVELY two weeks...I wouldn't make this a permanent vacation, even if I could.

Have a great weekend. I intend to make the most of what's left of my "freedom." :)

October 14, 2010

Celebrity Smackdown: Brett Favre Edition



Dear Brett Favre,

As recently as last week, the image above would've evoked a hearty "Well, hello there, howdyado?" from me, followed by some awkward winking and possibly throat-growling.

Whenever your Wrangler ad came on the ol' telly, I made everyone stop talking so I could gawk at your grizzly hotness in perfect silence.

When T tried repeatedly to dissuade my adoration by reminding me that you are a grandfather, I told him to shut it. I would totally have brought you tea and wrapped you in an afghan and rubbed your bunions.


The fact that you were married and, by all appearances, a devoted family man, made you even more attractive. You stood by your wife through her battle with cancer. You're actually involved with your kids (and, OK, grandkids). And something-football-quarterback-records-blah blah blah.

All awesome.

And then, I found out you're being accused of parading your weiner around like a show dog at the Westminster.

By a myriad of women, some of them married, and all of them NOT YOUR WIFE.

And there's always the possibility that those women are lying. But if we've learned anything at all from President Clinton and Tiger Woods, it's that where there's a Paula Zahn, there's usually also a Monica Lewinsky waiting to throw a stained dress at you, and where there's a reality show contestant with incriminating voicemails, there's also a Perkin's waitress waiting to "take your order," if you get what I'm saying.

So today, Brett, I'm officially breaking up with you.

You're no longer my Sunday afternoon boyfriend.

While I'll never deny that you rock the crap out of a pair of jeans...you really need to learn how to keep them on. I'm saying.

Now quit all your boo-hooing and go get some help, instead of buying your wife a giant diamond like everyone else in this situation seems to.


All the best (you stinky, stinky cheater),

Shannon

October 13, 2010

Stop trying to pretend you know me

At some point during in Advertising 101, they must preach it from the pulpit loud and long: If you want to get someone's attention, hit 'em where they live. Go local.

It makes sense. As Big Brother-y as it can feel at times, I sort of like that sites I visit on a regular basis know my preferences well enough to recommend things I'd like. And while it doesn't always follow that ALL people from a certain region will be interested in the same things, it makes more sense to show me, an Ohioan, an ad for a leaf-blower than, say, alligator repellent.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea if there is such a thing as alligator repellent. It sounds sort of fake, like snipe hunting.)

But when did companies start simply inserting the name of your town or state in every ad, regardless of whether or not it makes sense?




Really? Did she? Is that mom even from Ohio? Or does her face also appear next to the Nebraska and Vermont ads? Because she and her cute little baby are just part of a stock photo suite, and that probably isn't even her kid, because she looks about 12?

(And why the ridiculously-specific (and yet devoid of a comma) dollar amount?)

And I hate the ones that mention the specific town even more:

"A woman from {Your Hometown} discovered the secret to better abs -- with NO WORKING OUT!"

"A {Your Hometown} father discovered the cure for chlamydia -- right in his backyard!"

Hm. Really? Our town is a teeny village surrounded by almost nothing but farmland and trees. You're telling me I could be shopping at Kroger next to the woman who figured out how to get a six-pack without exercise? Someone figured out how to use dandelions to cure venereal disease? Because that's all that's growing in backyards around here.

Advertisers: Stop trying to bond with me. I see through your little charade, and I remain unimpressed.

(Oh, and I don't have chlamydia. Just in case you were worried.)

October 12, 2010

All I have back there are some stray Cheerios and a flyswatter


A family in Buffalo had the above painting hanging out behind their couch for 30 years, then pulled it out and did some research on it. Turns out it could be a Michelangelo original worth $300 mil.


It had been hanging on the wall, until one of the kids knocked it down with a tennis ball in the '70s.

Why don't I ever find anything cool when I clean behind the couch? I don't even find any pennies; I'm pretty sure Murray eats them.

(Relax, he doesn't eat pennies. He only eats dimes. He's a high-roller.)

(I'm wondering what it says about me that, when T was telling me about this story and said, "Guess what this family found behind their couch after 30 years?", my first thought was "A dead missing relative?" I'm thinking it's time I stop watching Hoarders.)

October 8, 2010

As Week One draws to a close...

...just thought I'd clue you in to what the majority of my activity this week, the first week of my vacation, has amounted to:




Mmmmm...recliner...

(And give it up for supporting breast cancer research, even while napping. Multi-tasking -- woot! Also: That shirt is more than 10 years old. I'm thrifty.)

Have a great weekend, y'all.

October 7, 2010

My crafty coming-out

I can't draw.

I took piano lessons for 11 years and I still can't manage to play with two hands unless I make up the left-hand part myself.

And I'm pretty sure a career in bomb-diffusing is NOT in my future.

Hand-eye coordination? I don't have it. In spades.

So it makes no sense that I would be a crafter, because most crafty activities (knitting, crocheting, carving, jewelry-making, etc.) require some part of your brain to connect with your hands. And as my childhood piano teacher will tell you, that just ain't in the cards (sorry, Jan).

And yet, I have this:


An entire closetful of tried and mostly-succeeded-in but nearly-always-abandoned crafting efforts.

See that sewing machine in there? A gift from my lovely mother-in-law. Never been used. Don't know how to work it. There's a whole bagful of beading supplies, slightly used. 500 skeins of yarn, because I can't pass a yarn display without buying some, but I also can't manage to finish a project before I either get busy and don't have time to finish it or get distracted and just move on to something else.

Because I have the attention span of a gnat.

This vacation, I was determined to finish something.

I have two current projects. The first is a knitted blanket for my niece's new baby brother (although not my nephew). When my niece was born, I made her this blanket:




Which quickly became her must-have-or-won't-sleep-a-wink-GIMME-BLANKET blanket:


Her mama asked if I'd make one just like it, in blues, for her new baby boy. Here's what I have so far:


Considering it took me at least six months to make the first one, I think I'm doing pretty well so far. But there's no way I'm finishing it in the next week and a half because...I don't want to spend my entire vacation knitting.

I was, however, determined to finish project #2.

A few months, back, I spotted a lonely denim jacket on a clearance rack at the mall. Marked down to $5. Five dollars?! Is it made of asbestos? Why the disdain for this lovely specimen. Upon closer inspection, I saw the problem:



Rhinestone buttons. HUGE, gawdy, sparkly, no-need-for-lightbulbs-cuz-we-got-these-here rhinestones. In every place you'd put a button and in some places you just shouldn't. Perfect for boot-scootin'. Not so perfect for Ms. WP.

But: five dollars.

So I plunked down Mr. Lincoln and started scouring craft stores for appropriate substitutes. And you know what I discovered? Craft stores A) charge too much for buttons and B) have a really crappy selection. Plan B: I went to Goodwill, found an old jacket with some cute, wooden buttons, paid three dollars for it, cut off the buttons and, voila!



The new jacket didn't have quite enough buttons for the transplant, so I foraged in my own tiny button collection and added these to the pockets:



I think it came out super-cute!

And, more importantly, it's done. :)

October 6, 2010

Late-edition Wordless Wednesday: Photo! Of! Mystery!


More tomorrow...

October 5, 2010

A love letter

Dear T,

It really started nine years ago today, not eight.

You called me at work the day before and said, "Let's go out to dinner tomorrow night." I didn't suspect a thing until you said, "Why don't you choose someplace nice and make a reservation?" instead of "I'm thinking Casa Fiesta."

I was totally on to you.

But you still managed to surprise me.

We've just finished getting dressed, we're standing in our bedroom in our stocking feet...and you get down on the floor.

I immediately think you dropped something. Or threw out your back.

But then you look back up at me and fish something out of your pocket. And you take my hand. And you look into my eyes. And you say wonderful, beautiful words just for me. You ask me a question in that inimitable, boyish way you have. And I forget what to do, because I'm just so happy, and I can't stop looking at your handsome face, so sincere, and yet just a glint of that ornery streak I love so much. And I realize you're looking at me expectantly... Oh! Yes. YES! Yes, I will; of course I will.

Yes.

That might have been the first AND the last time we ate off of a table with a white tablecloth.

Until exactly one year later.

When we did this:



Eight years have gone by so quickly! We've made a lot of mistakes.

But this certainly wasn't one of them:



T, you are the best thing in my life. The best decision I ever made. The most generous person I know. The silliest (with your made-up songs for every situation), the most serious (about football, and the people you love), the most supportive (could.not.make.it.through.one.day.without.you), the smartest (every day you floor me), the most passionate (about me, and our future, and our families, and what you know is right...and football).

And the kindest. Watching the gentle way you care for our sick little one... I can't even talk about it.

I always knew I was capable of taking care of myself, of making it on my own, of going it alone.

But you found a way to let me keep that part of myself and somehow still be my missing piece. The love of my life. My true partner in every sense of the word.

The man who still gives me butterflies every time he calls me "Bunny."

And the man who still makes me laugh by singing songs about my butt, and manages not to roll his eyes when I call today our "Shan-iversary" every.single.year.

The two kids in that picture up there? Wow, could we tell them some stories. They have NO idea about that one thing, for example. And holy cow, that other thing is going to surprise the sh-- out of them.

And even though they knew they'd end up here, still in love, eight years later?

They had no idea it would feel this amazing.

Just think of what we'll have to look back on eight years from now! Probably even that one thing we've been talking about. And in fifty years? We'll definitely have done that other thing by then.

I can't wait.

I love you forever, no matter what.

S

October 4, 2010

"Off"



Last night, before I went to bed, I did something amazing.

It's something I hardly ever do. It's usually reserved for special occasions, like the night before Christmas, or New Year's Eve. Or an unusally uneventful weekend.

I turned off my alarm clock.

Ordinarily this would be extremely ill-advised for a Sunday night.

But as it happens...

...I'M ON VACATION.

For the next 14 days, there will be no more alarm clocks.

No deadlines.

No commute.

No conference calls.

No to-do list.

No bedtime.

It's like summer vacation for old people.

Since we canceled our trip to the Gulf Coast to avoid leaving our ailing furry one, I find myself staring down the barrel of two weeks' worth of staycation-ery good times.

Sleeping in. Reading good books. Catching up on e-mail that has nothing to do with corporate interests. Watching the entire last season of The Office on Netflix instant streaming. Finishing everything on my DVR, even that one old movie I've been saving for three months until I had time to really sit down and enjoy it. Reading blogs and actually having three minutes to spare to comment on the author's inspiring (or just plain hilarious) reflections.

Sitting at my computer and realizing that whatever writing I do will be just for me.

A massage.

A trip to the zoo to see whatever animals are still braving the brisk Ohio weather.

A day or two with my best girlfriends.

A very special day tomorrow that I'll write about...tomorrow.

And, most importantly, days and days and days of uninterrupted hang time with my three favorite boys, two of whom are snoring on the couch next to me as I write this.

As you can see from this picture...



...we're all really excited about it.
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