Books…

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Books… One of my most favoritest things in the world. Curling up with a good book has always been one of my most favoritest things to do. (Yes, I am aware that I just used a made-up word twice.  I feel that if I keep validating it by using it, then perhaps I can make it a word… like “ain’t”.)  For a while I really wanted one of those nooks or kindles… until I realized that I would hardly use it. Because part of what I love so much is the experience of reading a book.  Literally turning pages. The smell of a brand new book, or the smell of a really old one. Not to mention that any book, regardless of it’s cover, is a thing of beauty to me.

I have books stashed all over my house, and use them to decorate quite a bit as there is almost nothing prettier than a book, but the built-in bookshelf in my living room has to be my favorite display space.  Just looking at it makes me happy.  It holds some of my favorite books, some that I thought I would share with you… in no particular order…

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein – “Inside everybody’s nose, there lives a sharp-toothed snail.” These are the first two lines of my favorite Shel Silverstein poem.  A poem that I recite to my three-year old when I catch her picking her nose…   I have read this book, and other Silverstein books over and over (The Giving Tree gets me every time) from the time I was in elementary school.  Every time we had to memorize a poem for school, I picked one of his because I had almost all of them memorized anyway.  Now that I have kids, it’s a book I can share with them.  It’s always such a cool thing to be able to share something from your childhood with your own children.

2. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – My grandparents had a ton of the “classics” at their house.  Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Heidi… I read them all multiple times.  But my favorite was always Alice. I would take this book to my favorite tree in their yard, climb up to the nook that fit me just right, and spend the whole day up in the tree reading. Imagining myself as Alice. She has always been, and will always remain, one of my favorite literary characters…

3. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins – Yes, I know I am following up one of the most beloved children’s classics with a piece of pop-culture… But… This book was so good. As a series, I felt like it lost it’s luster towards the end, but the first book was wonderful.  I have never in my life so badly wanted to live in a post-apocalyptic society where I had to fight for my life in a death match.  In my opinion, a good book takes you to a different place.  It makes you feel as if you are a part of the story.  I read this book cover to cover because I felt like I was Katniss – and when it was over, I was a little sad I had to come back to reality.  That’s a mark of a good book…

4. Hard Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World – Haruki Murakami – Murakami is one of my all-time favorite authors. Hard Boiled was the first book of his that I ever read, and I instantly fell in love with it – from the opening lines, describing something as simple as an elevator with such clarity and mystery… you just have to know where that elevator is going. I have yet to read a book of his that I didn’t love, and I’ve read just about all of them.  Perhaps it’s because each book feels like just another adventure of the same character, or perhaps because in his books the most ordinary people and places are turned into the most beautiful and interesting…

5. Cabinet of Natural Curiosities – Albertus Seba – Not all books are made to be read.  Some are meant to be appreciated for their true beauty.  I’m a big fan of coffee table books, and this one is the granddaddy of them all. Seba’s illustrations from the 1700’s of marine life, insects, and creatures from his own imagination are absolutely beautiful.  The colors, the detail, the time that you can tell he put into each and every one, hundreds of them… I coveted the book for years before finally getting my own copy when Taschen re-released it (therefore making it much more affordable), and it might just be one of the things I would try to save if my house were on fire…

6. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut – Vonnegut fans might shoot me for saying this but, I’m really not a huge Vonnegut fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read just about all of his books, it’s like a rite of passage for anyone who likes to consider themselves a true “reader”, but I’ve never really loved a Vonnegut book… with the exception of this one. I loved this one, and it’s the book that helped me to gain a true appreciation for Vonnegut’s other books. However, I’m realizing as I’m reviewing my list that there’s a bit of a theme with my favorites, many of them involve the world ending in some form or fashion.  (Imagine that – the crazy zombie lady having an obsession with the world ending…)

7. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card – I have my brother to thank for this one. Despite the fact that I am a die-hard Star Wars fan, the sci-fi genre was never one I had really gotten into… But my brother who also loves books the way that I do (and reads way more than me) gave me this to read.  And I fucking loved it.  It was amazing. It turned me on to other authors that I otherwise would have missed, like Isaac Asimov. So – thanks again bro, for that one…

8. Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King – This may be my all-time favorite book… ever.  In middle school I was a Stephen King and Dean Koontz junkie.  I read anything and everything by the two of them, but I think Stephen always had a slight edge with me.  By college I had moved on to other authors and hardly read books by either of them anymore, but something about this book made me pick it up…  This is so cheesy, but the book just called to me – “Read Me”…  I sat in the book store and read the first four or five chapters, took it home, read some more, went to class with the book in my backpack, read some more – I couldn’t put it down.  It was so unlike anything else Stephen King had written, yet so Stephen King at the same time.  I wish I had the words to describe how good this book is… How much it meant to me… All I can say is – “Read It”… In fact, it may just be time for a re-read for me, too.

So – there’s my eclectic, yet not-so-eclectic list.  By no means is this a full list of favorites – just a small sampling.  I’m always looking for a good read, so please share if you’ve got one…

-Shan

Pardon me, but have you seen my dharma?

Since my last post, I just kind of lost my inspiration to write for a little bit.  There were a lot of things I was thinking about writing about, but none of them felt just right.  Have you ever gone shopping, and you keep trying on item after item and nothing seems to fit just right?  I am a firm believer that if something doesn’t fit you right (or can’t be tailored to fit you), then you shouldn’t buy it.  So it was like that – I would begin to write and nothing just felt… right.

Today my husband sent me this to read.  I encourage everyone to click-through and take a look yourself, but just make sure you come back.  To paraphrase, what Pete was talking about was “dharma”, your life’s work, or mission if you will.  For the first time in days, something just felt right to write about.

“It is better to perform your dharma poorly than someone else’s dharma well.”***

I’ve written a lot about my recent decision to stay at home with my children after 12 years of being a career gal, and the wide range of emotions it’s sparked in me.  The truth is, that while I am elated, I’m also sad.  I’ve become very emotionally invested in my work.  In my coworkers and the friendships I have made.  So it’s tough to leave it behind.  But the reason why I left is simply because, I wasn’t on my dharma, I was on someone else’s. I was chasing a mission that wasn’t mine.  And, I know it sounds dramatic, but it was destroying me.

After reading the post, I started thinking… “What is my dharma? What is my life’s mission?”  Truth is, I’m not really sure, which is OK. But I do feel the strong need to find it. So I figured I’d start here, “If money were no object, what would I do with my life?”

What would you do with yours?

-Shan

***While I did know what dharma was (from the show Dharma & Greg – remember that show?  I thought she had a cool name so I looked it up… I’m big into names and their meanings… anywhoo) before today, I didn’t really know it’s origins.  It’s quite interesting – I suggest googling or binging or whatever your search engine of choice-ing it. There’s probably even a TED talk about it…

Please Excuse Me While I Scream For a Moment

In an earlier post I mentioned it has been a very up & down week.  I wrote this in response to my week, decided not to post it, and then changed my mind. I figure it’s me being honest about my feelings, so if you don’t like those “feelings-y” type of posts, then you might want to skip this one.  The rest of you, feel free to read on, I hope you like it.

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I often find myself wishing that it was socially acceptable to just start screaming.  Well, perhaps the term “often” is too much.  But I have found myself thinking about it more than once.

There’s a scene in a movie I love, 500 Days of Summer, in which Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel (who I have a major girl crush on, btw – well, it’s not so much that I have a crush on her as want to be her.  Her hair, her voice, her clothes… anyway, bunny trail) are in a public park and they play a game.  One of them says the word “penis” in a whisper.  Then the next one says it a little louder.  They take turns saying it louder and louder until Zooey’s character shouts “PENIS!!!”  It’s kind of like that.  Except I don’t want to shout “penis”…  “fuck”, maybe.

Sometimes I just want to throw something.  Kick a hole in the wall.  Punch something.  But I’m afraid people would think I was loco if, say, I just walked into my office, and started throwing shit.

Right now you’re probably thinking, “This girl has some anger issues.” And perhaps I do, in the sense that I have pent-up anger that I suppress because I feel that it’s not socially acceptable to just start throwing a tantrum.

All of us have experienced being in a store, and there is a little kid throwing an all out tantrum.  Crying, screaming, and throwing themselves on the floor.   And what do you do?  If you’re a parent usually your first thought is, “Thank God that’s not my child,” and then you judge the poor parents.  Even if it’s just a little.  You judge them.  You start critiquing their parenting, and also think “they need to shut that kid up”.

From a very early age we are taught to suppress our emotions.  Taught to suppress our anger.  Taught to suppress our sadness. Taught even to suppress our happiness in some cases.  How stupid is that? I’m completely guilty of teaching my children the same thing.  And, late the other night as I was driving way too fast and listening to music way too loud in order to deal with my own anger and frustration I just started wondering… Why was I suppressing it?

So I did it.  I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of my truck, and just screamed.  I felt incredibly stupid and self-conscious at first, but before I knew it I was screaming as loud as I could.  Call it my Garden State moment, I guess.  Luckily it was after midnight, the highway was mostly deserted and I was in the middle of nowhere, so no one reported the crazy lady screaming on the side of the road.    It’s probably not the safest, nor smartest thing I’ve ever done.  But it helped.  After that I realized that my “anger plan” to drive 2 1/2 hours to the closest beach probably wasn’t the best laid plan, so I turned back around and headed home. (Although I do still want to go to the beach.  I probably should have, hell, I was already a little over half way there.)

Now, I’m not proposing that we all get Tourette’s and just start randomly screaming and shouting obscenities.  Hell, I’m not really sure what I’m proposing to be honest.  Truth be told I just felt inspired to write about it, because in writing about it I’m admitting that I’m angry.  I’m admitting that I’m sad. I’m admitting even, that I am happy, too. I’m admitting that I have feelings, and I’m tired of suppressing them.

I have no idea how to end this but… scream if you have to.

-Shan

H54F – A day late…

I’m always late.  Just the charm of me… But, here goes!  Linking up with Lauren at From My Grey Desk.

1. On Sunday I got to spend some QT with this guy

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2. Our dog in men’s shoes, why not?

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3. Valentine’s Day was this week, which meant I got to wear this outfit. Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday to dress for, fashion wise. (I look ridiculous in this photo but… look at the purse.  It was my anniversary gift and I have now formed a very unhealthy love for an inanimate object.)

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4. Speaking of Valentine’s Day,  I got an awesome card from my bestie.  I think she knows me…

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5. Last night my littlest one was feeling snuggly.  I live for moments like these…

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This past week was quite interesting, to put it lightly, with a lot of odd highs and lows.  I’m hoping for a little more normalcy next week!

-Shan

Feeling Like “Me”

For the past few months, maybe even years, I’ve been living under a haze.  And this haze was hiding the real me; from my friends, from my family, even from myself. 

 In the past, I’d be in the front row of the tallest, scariest roller coaster. You couldn’t keep me from jumping off the cliffs at the lake.  My Dad once gave me the gift of getting to ride in a NASCAR car going 200 miles per hour, and while it was awesome, my next question was, “When can I drive it?” 

Under this haze, I found that I became this slow-lane driving, NPR listening (although there is really nothing wrong with NPR, they have good programming), non-roller coaster riding person that I just didn’t recognize anymore.  But for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m beginning to feel like “me” once again.

I’m starting slow…  I’ve re-found the joy of blaring my music so loud that I can’t hear well for the first 30 minutes after getting out of my car, and I’m finding my way back to the fast lane (which, when you drive a bus-like vehicle with a grill guard, people will get out of your way).  My 15 minute drive to work is becoming fun again.

This morning I actually hopped out of bed.  Literally.  Hopped.  Was it because I couldn’t wait to get to work?  Hell no.  I just was excited to start my day and see what it held in store for me. 

Much of this has come since I made the decision to begin a new career as a Mommy, a decision that I am very proud of myself for making.  And now, it’s ridiculous to me that I was letting my career keep me in this haze.  Work wasn’t to blame.  I was, for not having my priorities straight.  I’m the one that made the decision to let work take over my personal life.  I’m the one that said, “Sure, I’ll have that conference call on my way in to work.” I’m finally taking the initiative to sort my priorities out.  And it feels good. I realize now that beginning this little blog was the inner me, screaming to get out.  It’s time I started listening, and practicing what I preach.

I know that I’ll have to still continue with being responsible, I am a Mom after all, and I will still be working on projects here and there (‘cuz I still gots to make money) but that doesn’t mean that the carefree me has to disappear entirely.  In fact, I pledge to not let it.  I’m quite enjoying this old me.

 -Shan

 PS – For those of you who have followed me along in this journey, I can’t promise that this is the last introspective post I’ll make, but thanks for putting up with me as I’ve been looking for myself.

 PPS – Another reason to be happy – today I’m wearing the dress I graduated college in (a classic black dress never goes out of style), and not only am I thrilled that I can actually wear it (because I couldn’t there for a while), I daresay I may even look better in it now than I did then… nice…

“One hell of a woman…”

My grandparents have lived in the same house all of my life.  A wonderful, magical house situated in the middle of two and a half acres with mature oak trees… Even though some of it’s former glory has faded, it’s a place that I still find magical even now that I’m in my 30s, and when I watch my own two little ones swing on the back porch swing or play hide and seek in the yard I’m instantly reminded of doing those same things with my own sister, and it feels like home.

Today I went to that same house to visit my grandfather – I call him Paw.   I hadn’t seen him in a while, and this morning for work I was about 10 minutes away so I decided to go pay him a visit once I was off. When I was younger, it was Paw who introduced me to John Wayne, and much like the characters John Wayne played, Paw seemed six feet tall and bullet-proof to me.  But Paw did always have a weakness, his love for my grandmother, Gammy.  Gammy was one tough lady, but was also incredibly chic, my grandfather always used to say that Gammy was “one hell of a woman”.  They were married for 64 years.

Gammy passed away two years ago after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Losing someone you love is always crappy.  But Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. Not just to the person who has it which I can’t even fathom what that would be like, not knowing who you or the people around you are, but for the people who love them.  I remember the first time Gammy walked right past me, her oldest grandchild, like I was a complete stranger – I still remember the shock and hurt I felt. After that I tried to distance myself from it as much as possible, I just couldn’t deal with it – what the disease did to her.  Unfortunately, I now regret not seeing enough of my Gammy before she passed.  But my mother, and my Paw, were there until the end.  In the end, my grandmother didn’t remember anyone.  Anyone, that is, except for Paw.

Paw has had it rough the past two years, health wise, but in true John Wayne style doesn’t like to show the pain that his arthritis causes him, nor the pain of losing his life-long love.  But, perhaps today I caught him by surprise, his “#1” granddaughter dropping by unexpectedly…

For four hours we talked.  I talked to him about what was going on in my world, and he gave me some good grandfatherly advice. Then he told me the same old stories that I’ve heard countless times but he gets such a kick out of telling them that I listen anyway, and finally, he started talking about Gammy.  About how they started dating when he came home from the war, how they married, how she supported him through college and when he refused to turn in a final assignment because of an argument with the professor, she did the assignment for him, got a B, and Paw was able to graduate. He told me stories of their travels (he was in international construction) and how she stayed in Texas and built for them the house that they have lived in my whole life when he was out of the country for work.  That she always called him her “Boy Toy”, since he was younger than her.

Then he looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and asked me in almost a whisper, “Why is it, Shannon?  Why is it that after two damn years, I can’t get over losing that woman? What kind of woman does that to a man?”  I thought for a moment, and with tears running down my own face answered, “One hell of a woman.”

– Shan

Plans…

When I was in college, I had a plan:

– I was going to graduate with my degree in Economics and find some high-paying ‘Economic-y’ type job.

– I was going to get married, and have a fabulous wedding.

– I was going to buy a fancy house in the suburbs with my husband (with the income from my high-paying ‘economic-y’ job, natch).

– I was going to have three kids; two girls and a boy.

– I was going to live happily ever after.

But life had a different plan for me.

I graduated with my degree and quickly realized that there really aren’t a lot of high paying ‘economic-y’ type jobs out there, so I settled for an entry-level position at a great company.  That as luck would have it, I loved.  But, it didn’t pay shit.  I did get married to a wonderful man (and we had a fabulous, kick-ass wedding).  Who, also had dreams of his own and a degree that was hard to find work in… and therefore a job that didn’t pay shit.  But, we were happy and as time went on we moved, built better-paying careers in a new city, bought the house (although not the fancy house in the suburbs – but something much more befitting of us, I heart our house), and had two kids.  Two beautiful little girls.

Moments that I count among the happiest in my lifetime:

5. Childhood summers at the lake (I realize that this is a collection of moments vs. one particular moment but go with me here).

4. Graduating from Texas A&M University with my whole family including my grandfather, the original Aggie of the family, in attendance and beaming with pride.

3. One drunken night in Dallas with my BFF.  She knows which night I’m talking about – damn that was fun.  I am also pretty sure it led to the worst hangover I’ve ever had.  (Second favorite drunken night with my BFF; in college, when we decided to pay one of her old friends a visit.) (Third favorite drunken night, my bachelorette party.) (Fourth favorite, her bachelorette party.)  Sorry – I digress…  We went to college together and were roommates.  That equals lots of drunken nights*.

2. Marrying my wonderful husband, the absolute love of my life.

1. Becoming a parent (Sophia).  And then becoming a parent again (Stella). Not only has becoming a parent been the two happiest moments in my life, they have also been the most terrifying.  All of a sudden, you have this tiny little person 100% dependent upon you and in the moment of holding them for the first time you realize that you have never felt a love as strong, or a desire to provide for and protect anything like you feel at that moment for your child.  It’s absolutely life altering. Which brings me back to the plan…

Prior to parenthood, I would say I had a desire to succeed – mostly because I’m responsible and have always been pretty competitive.  After becoming a parent however, I was driven to succeed.  To make more money to provide for my family.  To provide for my children.  And, I formed new plans that were solely centered around the advancement of my career.  However, as smart as I like to think I am, in all my planning I forgot to look up and realize that I was missing out on my life and precious moments with the ones I so desperately feel the need to provide for. I have a friend who likes to quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”  You know that it took me like four times hearing him quote Lennon before it hit me square in the face that I was missing out?  Four times.

Forgive me if this post is all over the place.  Since making a certain decision I’ve had those nagging feelings and the thoughts of my old self creeping back in and to be honest, it’s been wigging me out – self-doubt is one hell of a vicious bitch.

So what I keep repeating to myself is this…  At the end of the day, my leaving my employer is going to result in what? A tiny, little, insignificant blip on their radar.  The work will continue, and someone else will fill my shoes.  But if I stay, I may continue to miss out on life with my husband and kids.  And that’s a big, fucking blip.  A blip I don’t intend to let happen.  I do, after all, still hope to live happily ever after.

-Shan

PS – This post is dedicated to Dan the Man.  Who is a way better friend than he gives himself credit for, and who also happens to have posted the most comments in this post, which also makes him the winner.  Congratulations, Dan.  And, thank you.

*One should always drink responsibly.