May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Paws of Fury

"You will play with me, even if I have to SIT on your FACE!"

"Oh, yeah? Two can play at this game, buddy. How ya' like me now?"

The Four Paws of the Apocalypse, finally at rest. Briefly.

Google fun times

I love Google's animation today honoring dance legend Martha Graham.

Every time they have one of these, I think how much fun it'd be to work on the team that dreams these up.

Go check it out -- the above is the end product, but the actual animation is much cooler.

May 10, 2011

Back in the vacation backyard

It's true: We were on vacation. Thanks for not telling any burglars. (Although in the future, if you do, please also tell them that our really mean, bloodthirsty dogs are still at home, guarding the premesis. And that we've recently trained them to use shotguns. Well, not the puppy -- he can only handle a .38.)

BUT YES. We just returned from vacation. (Oh, sad vacation end times!) And most of the time, when we take a vacation, it's either a "stay-cation" (ugh -- hate that stupid "word") during which I try to convince T that weeding the flowerbeds is NOT relaxing, or we head to Florida. Specifically, Sarasota, land of white sandy beaches and my family's vacation house.

Growing up, my grandparents owned a house in Sarasota (along with approximately 1 bajillion* of our relatives) and lived here from right-after-Thanksgiving to right-after-Easter with a quick trip back to Ohio for Christmas. For us, this meant fall breaks on the beach, and hunting for melting Easter candy around the orange trees in the backyard. Back then, it was such a sleepy tourist town that my cousins and I were allowed to walk or bike the two miles to the beach by ourselves, which was SUPER cool.

The neighborhood today looks COMPLETELY different. The formerly two-lane roads are now six- to eight-lane monstrosities, and I'd no sooner allow a child to take off for the beach unattended than let them leap off the Empire State Building, but it's still a nice, slightly-less-sleepy little neighborhood. My grandparents still winter there, but since my parents now own the house, the rest of the family uses it for super-cheap, super-relaxing vacations.

Since we go there at least once, maybe twice, each year, there are certain highlights we like to hit. The beach, obviously. Walt's Fish Market, where you can get ridiculously amazing seafood on paper plates, surrounded by kitschy sea decor. Mote Aquarium. And Smuggler's Cove, where I kick T's butt at putt-putt on the regular, and you can feed meaty treats to the baby alligators chilling in their lagoon.

But one of our favorite things, maybe even more than the beach and the running around, is just chilling in the backyard. It's nothing special: Just a little patio, some grass that never really grows and a cracked shuffleboard court. But there's something so tranquil about it. It's surrounded by the fruit trees and tropical plants my grandparents so lovingly planted and cultivated over the last 25+ years.

And you know what? Shuffleboard is kind of awesome. Especially when you make up your own rules.

*Estimates may be grossly exaggerated

Here's where I admit that I really don't have a point to this post, and this very wordy diatribe was supposed to be a short, simple lead-in to a photo montage of our beloved Florida backyard. Since I've robbed myself of any logical and/or smooth transition, I'll now just are the photos! Yay!


Tropical Plant of Some Unknown Variety
(Now may be a good time to tell you that, while I enjoy them,
I know absolutely nothing about plants.)

Cool-looking Palm Tree Offshoots
(The larger tree wasn't quite as cool-looking, so it didn't make the cut.)

Tiny Green Oranges!
(They're tiny! And green! I guess they're greens at this point, vs. oranges?
Whatever. They're adorable.)

Medium-sized Palm Tree
(Not as cute as the tiny offshoots above, not as impressive as the big mama palm tree below.
I call this one "Meh.")

(The awesomeness cannot be denied.)

Mango Tree! With Mangos!
(It took us forever to figure out what kind of tree this was. Also, I hate mangos. Also, I think it may be spelled "mangoes," but that makes me think of "man toes," and therefore I don't spell it that way. Because, ew. And also I'm too lazy to look it up.)

Awesome Spiny Cactus
(It's ridiculous how much I love this cactus.)

Aloe Plant!
(So handy when you come home from the beach all sunburny! Except, as it turns out, raw aloe smells like B.O. Did everyone know this but me? It's seriously gross.)

And finally, Big Mama Palm Tree
(It pains me that I can't get a shot of her without the power lines. Stupid electricity.)

May 9, 2011

Mother's Day flashbacks

When I was about 12 years old, my father and my brother and I did the unthinkable.

We forgot about Mother’s Day.

I suppose, if we’re really looking to assign blame here, my father’s the one to logically throw under the proverbial bus. I was only 12, after all, and in the throes of a typical self-involved, melodramatic adolescence, and my brother, at age 4, was just really excited about his bike and the cat. Dad, as the adult, should have remembered. (Sorry, Dad.)

But regardless of whose fault it was, all of us ended up in the same horrifying boat:

We made my mother cry.

Even now, more than 20 years later, I still want to climb into my closet and hide just thinking about it.

My mother never asks for anything for herself. I know everyone always says that, but it’s really true. And I don’t mean that in some kind of martyred “Oh, no, REALLY – I don’t need anything. No, REALLY (sniffle, sniffle)” kind of way. If my mom wants something for herself, she’ll get it, but she doesn’t get off on guilt-tripping us for imagined slights. She is her own woman, which is one of the things I love most about her.

But I imagine even the most independent of women like to be acknowledged now and then.

Maybe it was the respective phases of life we were all embroiled in at the time: Me in my aforementioned self-involved adolescence, obsessed (against all reason) with New Kids on the Block and talking on the phone with my friends and going on hayrides with boys who may or may not want to hold hands while pointedly not talking to one another. My brother with his diminishing dependence on my mother and insistence that he COULD SO ride a dirtbike, despite being only four. My father with his growing business that demanded his attention days, nights and sometimes weekends.

It’s safe to say we were all a little self-involved at this point.

When the morning came and went with no acknowledgement from her selfish family, my mother held back tears during church, begrudgingly ate the lunch we haphazardly slung together in a desperate attempt to redeem ourselves and then after a muted fight with my father, told us all she wanted to be alone for a little while.

We all retreated to our rooms, mortified, leaving her to clean up the kitchen.

I’ve seen some great discussions this week (on Twitter and also on this fantastic blog) about Mother’s Day, and what it means to different mothers, and the expectations therein. Do you make your mother queen for a day? Card and a phone call? Gifts? Breakfast in bed? Pats on the back? If you’re a mother, do you celebrate with just you and your family, or do you include your mother and the MIL and the grandmas and OMG where does it all end? I’m a mother to two dogs: Does that count?

All those years ago, I think my mother would have been satisfied with an extra hug and a kiss, and a “Happy Mother’s Day” followed by a heartfelt “I love you.” Maybe a card would’ve been nice. But just the act of acknowledging the absolutely ESSENTIAL role she played in our lives, just one day out of the entire year, was all she really wanted.

I remember being in my room, feeling horrible and guilt-stricken, listening to my mother sniffle in the kitchen (which happened to be right underneath my room). My room was a loft that, at that time, had no enclosing wall or door – it was open to the living room below, with only a railing separating the two areas.

I picked up a little notebook I had lying around and wrote my mother an apology. I have no idea what it said exactly, but if I had to guess, I’m sure it was something eloquent like, “Dear Mom, I am really really really really really really totally sorry that we forgot about Mother’s Day. You are awesome and I love you. And I’m really really really really totally glad you’re my mom. Love, Shannon. PS: It was totally Scotty’s fault.”

Then I folded it into a little paper airplane and, lying on my stomach near the railing, just above the kitchen, I threw it into the kitchen where my mother was still loading the dishwasher.

It fluttered down and hit the floor, but since my mother’s back was turned, the only one who noticed it was the cat, who just sniffed and batted at it disinterestedly before leaving the room. I wasn’t about to let my good deed go unappreciated (see? Selfish!), so I made a “Pssst! PSSSSSSSSST!!!” noise until she got the hint, turned around and saw the note. She read it quietly, then folded it up and put it in her pocket and stood there for a minute, staring into space.

I crept downstairs and went to give her a hug; she hugged me back, but her heart wasn’t quite in it yet.

She, of course, got over our family faux pas – I’m not even sure if she remembers this at all, actually. But I know for a fact that none of us have forgotten about Mother’s Day since then.

This year, I sent her a card that’s arriving late. I called, but didn’t visit – we were traveling, exhausted (see? Still selfish) and didn’t make the trip up.

So today, just a little late, I picked up my electronic pen and notebook and started to write.

Some things never change.

Mom, even though I didn’t forget about Mother’s Day, I’m really really really really totally sorry I didn’t get to spend it with you. You are awesome, and I love you. PS: I’m still trying to figure out a way to blame it on Scott. I’ll keep you posted.

May 3, 2011

Hello there, sunshine.

May 1, 2011

On (The Day After) Her Birthday: 20 Reasons My Mom is Ultra Fabulous

T and I have a running joke with my mom.

Every April 30, we tell her, “It’s a very special day today!” and when she laughs and gives us a little embarrassed smile, we say, “That’s right! It’s Murray’s birthday! YAY!!”

This usually earns us an eyeroll and a smack.

Well, it IS Murray’s birthday. (My baby is 8! How did this happen? And how did he get so fat?!)

But, more importantly, today is yesterday was my mama’s birthday. (We were traveling and didn't have Internet service yesterday... It still counts!)

Back in January, I wrote a post about how ridiculously awesome my dad is. (The answer: RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME.) I just want to make it clear: This post is not just so the two of them can be even-stevens on the daughter love. The below list of reasons why my mom is so completely fabulous is simply because she IS THAT FABULOUS. And if you don’t believe me, you’ve clearly never met my mother.

  1. She’s gorgeous. She has big, dark eyes, naturally wavy hair, an amazing smile. My entire life, people have either assumed she was my younger sister, or, at the very least, insisted there’s NO WAY she could possibly have a child my age. And since she had me when she was 28, not 14, that’s saying something. The woman is beautiful. And the best part is: She has no idea.
  2. She never knows the words to songs but she always sings along. “Then I saw her face! Now I’m a believer, I couldn’t dum dum dah-dah TRIED! Na-na-na-na face! Na-na-na believer!” (Oh, Mom – you know I speak the truth.)
  3. She has passion. You know that part of the Bible about God wanting you to be hot or cold, but never lukewarm? My mother has got this NAILED. She holds tightly to her beliefs, whether they’re related to her faith or her fervent desire for James Durbin to win American Idol. (“He has overcome SO MUCH, Shannon!” “I know, Mom.”) For those of us with her in our corner, this is supremely reassuring. It’s also one of the things I admire most about her.
  4. She loves Steven Tyler. She sees past the ridiculous hair and hobo-chic clothing and thinly-veiled pickup lines and sees the REAL Steven. “I don’t know why, I just really like him!” I don’t know either, Mom, but it is awesome.
  5. She has the best laugh, ever. EVER. She is the only person I know who can make me laugh until I cry without even saying anything remotely funny. We will catch each other’s eye and start laughing just because, then forget why we’re laughing and start laughing at each other laughing, until we’re both puddles of tears and goo and mascara, and my father and T are left looking at each other, bewildered. We can’t explain it. And we certainly can’t control it. Nor would we ever want to.
  6. She is the consummate compassionate nurse. Before she retired a few years ago, she spent the majority of her nursing career caring for the elderly in nursing and retirement homes. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her in action, and the way she listens and offers a gentle touch and reassurance is, frankly, humbling. I told her a story recently about a nurse who, as I was having a semi-painful procedure done, simply reached out and touched my shoulder. It brought tears to her eyes. “That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do,” she said. “That’s what nursing is all about.” If only there were more nurses out there like my mom, eh?
  7. She cries at the drop of a hat. Good stuff, bad stuff and everything in between – my mom is an emotional gal. And, guess what? I’m exactly the same way. Together, we will buy stock in waterproof eye makeup and Kleenex. And then we will rule the world! Right after we stop crying.
  8. She makes the world’s best lasagna. Maybe you think YOUR mother makes the best lasagna. You are wrong. Homemade, from-scratch sauce, NO ricotta cheese (yecchhh), heavy on the mozzarella. Mmmmmm…
  9. She still thinks my father is cute. I mean, how adorable is that? I will be laughing at something my dad said/did/wore, and she’ll laugh fondly and say, “Isn’t he cute? He’s cute. Definitely cute.” It’s totally cute.
  10. She is a Nana with a capital “N.” Since the moment my niece was born, my mother has been RIGHT there, soaking up each and every moment of her new Nana role. True, I think she’d encase Cadence in head-to-toe foam rubber if she thought my brother would let her (she’s a weeeee bit overprotective). But the role fits her like a glove. She was just always meant to be a Nana.
  11. She is feisty and fiercely independent. She always wanted a career and went after what was important to her. After taking a break to be home with us for awhile, she fulfilled her dream of owning her own gift shop and then went on to finish her career as a highly-respected nurse. More than anyone else in my life, she has always instilled in me that I can do anything, and I don’t need to depend on anyone else to take care of me.
  12. She thinks the word “fart” is vulgar. There’s something so great about still being able to shock your mother when you’re 33 and a little gassy.
  13. She knows what she wants, and what she doesn’t want. My mother is not your crafty, let’s-bake-some-bread kind of mother, and she makes no apologies for this. She’ll never let herself be guilted into doing something she doesn’t want to do. She’ll smile, laugh, then say, “Nope. I don’t want to. Not doing it.” End of discussion. There’s something so great about that.
  14. She’s an amazing friend. She either read the book or saw the movie Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and began calling her group of girlfriends her “Ya-Yas.” This group of women, all in their late 50s and early 60s, go out to dinner, have sleepovers, help each other through unimaginable heartache and are right there when one of them needs a hand. When one of their number was recently laid up with a chronic illness, my mother and her fellow Ya-Yas stormed her house and just hung out in her bedroom, telling stories, playing with her dogs and giving line dancing demonstrations. (No, really.) I have my own set of Ya-Yas, and I love – LOVE – that this is something we have in common.
  15. She is still my biggest cheerleader. When I was growing up, she came to every volleyball game and then, when I came to my senses and realized an athlete was precisely what I was NOT, she came to every play and every concert. When I was asked to speak at my alma mater recently, she squealed and then said excitedly, “Can we come watch you?”
  16. She is trustworthy. For starters, she’s the only person in the entire world I would trust to pick out clothes for me, even though our styles are quite different. And while she loves a good dish session, she is a locked vault if you ask her to keep a secret.
  17. She can laugh at herself. A few weeks ago she told me about an article she read that said by the time you turn 35, you’re already as much like your mother as you ever will be. “So you have two more years to go,” she said, eyes twinkling. “What do you think it’s going to be next? Haha!”
  18. She loves the Cleveland Indians. About 20 years ago, after previously showing very little interest in sports, period, she suddenly developed a fierce and undying passion and loyalty for the baseball team. I’d come home from school and the game would be on TV in the family room and on the radio in every other room in the house so she could go from room to room without missing a play. She jumped at the chance to get season tickets a few years ago and, although she’s generous with them when others want to see a game, she’ll also make the 1 ½ hour trip to Cleveland by herself multiple times a week, just because “It’s fun, and I like it.”
  19. She’s loud. Ask T: She has an uncanny knack for making my phone-voice volume raise about 10,000 decibels whenever she calls. Sometimes we just yell things for no reason, because it makes us laugh. I love it.
  20. She will never, ever stop being my mommy. I'm 33, and she still worries. When I told her about a recent harrowing tale of traveling for work, she said, “Oh, I wish I could have known so I could’ve prayed for you! But I’m kind of glad I didn’t know, so I didn’t have to worry, either.”

She calls me for no reason other than to ask how things are, and to talk about American Idol.

She gives the best, tightest hugs that make me feel so very safe and loved.

She takes out stitches and gives medical advice at midnight and cries with me and laughs with me and tells me “You can do it!”

Mom, you know you’re fabulous. But I don’t know if you know just HOW fabulous you are. And somehow, that makes me love you even more.

Happy birthday! Oooh, I love you!

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