Karen the Zombie

With Halloween coming up, and The Walking Dead returning (although I’ve actually never watched it, too scared) I thought I’d take a little break from Plain Jane (she’ll be back next week), and that a zombie story would be appropriate. Enjoy…

-Shan

Karen shook herself out of her daze and struggled to get up. She had taken a shot to the chest from a shotgun at almost point-blank range. “That stupid fucker,” she thought to herself.  As she hoisted herself up off the pavement she saw that her two daughters had taken care of the redneck asshole who had shot her.  Her youngest was slyly gnawing on a finger she had torn off, but the oldest was patiently waiting.  Isabella was like that, always so obedient and polite.

“Go ahead babies,” Karen told her daughters. They exchanged grins and dug into their meal. The redneck asshole, who wasn’t completely dead yet, started screaming in pain. Usually Karen would finish their prey off before digging in (she saw no need for them to suffer), but this guy had nearly killed her, which would have left her two babies orphaned. Pissed off, she figured he could stand to suffer a little. He didn’t look like he had been all that great of a human being anyway – tattoos of swastikas, confederate flags and other racist symbols clearly displaying his overall ignorance dotted what was left of his arms.

She looked around, lifted her nose and took a deep breath in, smelling no signs of other humans, or zombies for that matter. She cocked her head, listening for any sign of either… The redneck asshole abruptly stopped screaming. Olivia was greedily scarfing down the still-beating heart she had just pulled out of his chest. “Olivia,” Karen said in her best Stern Mommy voice, “Share that with your sister.” Olivia frowned, tore a chunk off and half-heartedly handed it to her older sister.  She had been hoping to eat the whole thing herself; the heart was her favorite part.

Karen listened and sniffed the air once more for good measure. The coast appeared to be clear.  She reached down and tore one of his legs off, then sat down to enjoy her meal.

It had been six months since the outbreak.  No one really knew exactly how it started, or how the virus that had affected 70% of the human population turning them into what could best be described as zombies had become airborne, but the first reports had come out of Texas. From there it spread quickly into the surrounding states and Mexico, after that communications and utilities had began to go dark. That is, until the zombie population took them over and brought them back up on-line.

As a human, Karen had actually been what her friends jokingly referred to as “a crazy zombie lady” and had taken measures against a possible zombie outbreak, but she was no match for the virus.  One minute she was fine and dandy, the next, she and her whole family were zombies. But not the kind she had expected.

They could still speak, still feel emotion, and still “function” for all intents and purposes as a human.  With the large exceptions being of course, they were no longer human, and the craving for living flesh. Her senses had become heightened, she was stronger, and they all found that they could move with surprising speed and agility.  Especially her kiddos, they could move lightening quick, and combined with their four years of gymnastics training they were incredibly lethal, but Karen had to remind them to be cautious. A shot to the head and they would be done for.

By now most of the zombie population had moved into the cities, which was where the best human hunting still was, plenty of pockets of the unaffected were holed up in them, however Karen still preferred the suburbs. Her friends had tried to convince her to move with them, especially with her husband Bill gone (he had gone hunting two months ago and hadn’t returned) but Karen felt safer in her own home. She also held out hope that Bill would come back.

Karen’s phone rang. She reached into her back pocket to grab it; it was her best friend, Anne. The picture that popped up on the screen was a selfie of the two of them on the beach, margaritas in hand, at their last annual girl’s weekend. How times had changed… “Hey you!” Anne said cheerfully before Karen even said a word, “Just calling to check in on you and the girls!” “We’re just finishing dinner,” Karen replied. “Remember that hermit-y neo nazi who lived on Shadywood?” “Oh, he was such an asshole! How’s he taste?” Anne asked as if Karen and the kids had just tried a new restaurant.  “Good. He took care of himself, that’s for sure. Hardly any fat on him. I took a shot from him, he ruined one of my favorite shirts, that f-u-c-k-e-r (she spelled it out since her kids were close by). The girls finished him off, though.” Karen laughed like getting shot was no big deal. There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment before Anne spoke. “Kar, I really wish you would move to the city with us, we got a great apartment with a view of Town Lake, the girls would love it. It has plenty of room for you guys and a pool and everything. At the very least you should come visit for a while – you could take a break from eating so many house pets…” Anne trailed off, trying to make a joke of her own (she did have a point, the remaining house pets were the most abundant food source in the suburbs). “I’ll think about it, OK,” Karen said, hoping she sounded somewhat convincing. “Look, I gotta go, it’s getting late and the girls need baths, they’re a mess. I’ll call you later, give my love to Fred and the boys.” They hung up, and Karen munched on the last bits of flesh still hanging from the bone before breaking it open to suck out the marrow. She turned and looked at her two little girls, who were doing the same with what remained of the redneck asshole. That shot had been too close, she thought with a shudder.  She had been careless…

“Mommy,” said Olivia, breaking Karen’s train of thought, “can we have dessert tonight?” Karen looked around, sniffed the air and listened.  Her girls did the same.  Isabella spoke up, “I smell a cat. Can we go after it? Please, Mom?” Karen smiled and gave in. “One cat. But then it’s home, baths and bed, got it? And be careful!” “Yay!” the girls shouted in unison and took off running in the direction the smell had come from.  Karen smiled to herself, feeling proud of her two littles, they were such good girls… “If only Bill were here to see them,” she thought to herself.

She took one last look at the carcass beside her, looking to see if the girls had left anything tasty behind. Something caught her eye then, something shiny, glinting in the light of the setting sun.  It was a ring. It must have fallen off when Olivia tore the redneck asshole’s finger off… She picked it up and with dawning horror realized, it was Bill’s. His wedding ring.

She heard the girls returning and quickly wiped away the tears that had started to fall down her face. “We saved you some, Mom!” Isabella called out. “Yeah,” said Olivia proudly, “Bella wanted to eat it all but I told her we should share.” “That’s very sweet of you, girls,” said Karen, quickly pocketing the ring. Isabella eyed her mother carefully. “Is everything OK, Mom?” “Yeah baby, everything is fine.” Karen mustered a smile and grabbed their little hands in her own. “Come on my little ladies, time to get home.”

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The Best Mommy Ever

I can’t believe it’s already September. I mean really, where did this year go? I really thought that by adopting a new lifestyle that time would move slower, life would be less harried… But nope. Seems that there isn’t much you can do to slow down time.

It’s been eight months since I made the decision to leave my full-time job. A decision I made because I was unhappy and had grown ashamed of the person I had become.  An absentee everything – mother, wife, sister, friend… Work got 90% of my attention. Which I resented. Which in turn meant that I wasn’t the best employee and boss that I had the potential to be – how could I be if I was angry all the time?

Like many, I’m addicted to Pinterest. I’ll spend hours pinning all these cute little crafts, DIY projects and recipes – confident in my ability to execute them with ease even though my cooking skills are mediocre at best, I’m not nearly as crafty as I like to think I am and even though I have a sewing machine I’ve never actually sewn anything. I admit that at first my approach towards full-time motherhood was the same as I take towards those projects – totally oblivious of what I am actually getting myself into. I had all these visions of having a completely clean house, clean kids and healthy, homemade dinners every night. Of taking my kids on daily trips to the park for play dates, me gossiping with the other moms while we push our kiddos on the swings. Of hitting the gym every day… and never did it cross my mind that I would actually miss the career I thought I loathed.

It didn’t take me long to realize how hard my new “job” was. How much I had loved my old job. Even though I had been 110% sure I was doing the right thing for myself and my family, doubt crept in.

I started taking a good hard look at myself, trying to figure out why I am the way I am. How I had become a person I didn’t really like or care for. How I had let myself fall so out of touch with my loved ones, my children, especially. It depressed me that my husband knew them better than me. That it was him that they went to when they were upset or hurt, that it was him they went to with their problems or silly secrets, that it was him they would snuggle up to on the couch. It depressed me that I was jealous of him for it. It depressed me that my friends didn’t call me for dinner or lunch dates anymore, and that my once daily interactions with my BFF had become limited to a text or email every few weeks or so. It depressed me that my siblings had grown closer without me, and that I was now the last to know what was going on in each of their worlds when I used to be the first.

Mostly, it depressed me that I had done this to myself – that my situation was no one’s fault but my own. And it depressed me that it was something that was so hard to undo. And, to be completely honest, it depressed me that I wasn’t instantly good at all the things I wanted so desperately to be good at. On top of that I found myself getting angry again – angry at myself. I fell into a mean case of the summertime blues.

Luckily, my birthday is in July. I say luckily, because it gave me an excuse to do something I had always wanted to do. I wrote about turning 35 with a skydive, and how it’s funny that it took something as extreme as skydiving to help kick me out of my funk… But it worked. I’m not saying that I don’t still struggle with depression or doubt, but that day was also the beginning of me looking at things a little differently. Or trying to, anyway.

This year has been an exercise in learning to forgive myself for the past four years of disconnect from my family and friends. Of realizing that I can’t be instantly good at motherhood, wifehood, sisterhood, friendship-hood… That like all things worth having they require work and effort.  Of learning to lower the bar just a little and setting realistic expectations. Sometimes celebrating the small stuff.  Learning to let go of the anger I wore as armor. Accepting that life is not ever going to be perfect, but that you can have perfect moments.

I’m continuing to work on becoming the me I know I can be, Shan 2.0.  I know my journey has probably been a doozy for those closest to me, dealing with Happy Shan one minute and Sad/Angry Shan the next, so I’d like to say thank you to those people. Thanks for sticking by me, listening to my rants and sometimes calling me on my bullshit when I relapse or start to feel sorry for myself. Thanks for supporting me as I seek to find balance in both my work and personal life. Of those whom I’m speaking,  you know who you are and I hope you know how much I love you and how important each of you are to me.

The other week I made quinoa for my family, which my husband politely ate even though it really wasn’t that good (I’ve since learned from a foodie friend at one of those long overdue dinner dates that the secret to quinoa is to add citrus). Stella, my youngest, looked up from her plate and said, “Mommy, you aren’t a very good cooker. Can I have a pop tart?” Ordinarily, my first reaction would have been to tell her to be nice and eat it all anyway, and then sulk and stew over how my family didn’t appreciate the dinner I had made for them and hell even though it wasn’t that good they should eat it and keep their mouths shut. But this time, I gave in. She happily skipped to the pantry to get her pop tart, and then came and hugged me tight and said, “I love you mommy. You’re the best mommy ever.”

There’s nothing quite like the honesty of a 4-year-old to help you see how silly you’ve been acting. I still can’t cook worth a damn, and yes, my child ate sugar for dinner instead of a healthy meal, but for a brief shining moment, she thought I was the best mommy ever. Score.

Last Call for Alcohol…

I’ve always felt younger than my 34 (almost 35, eesh) years.  Blame it on my sense of humor, love of all things Disney, whatever… But there are always going to be those moments that make you feel your age; the first time a kid who is maybe 5 years younger than you calls you “ma’am”, the first time you don’t get carded, when you’ve been playing on the floor with your kids and your knees pop when you get up, or when you find out that the bar you spent your most formidable college years in, is closing after almost 20 years of operation.

Fitzwilly’s. It was a Northgate institution. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas A&M tradition (and A&M is steeped in tradition), Northgate was essentially the first social center of tiny College Station, Tx.  Situated at the north entrance of A&M, it quickly earned the moniker “Northgate”. Over time it became the place where students could go to get good food and good beer with good friends – and is still that way today.  I’ve never met a fellow Aggie who didn’t have a good Northgate story (or two or three).  Everyone had their own favorite haunt along Northgate, the Dixie Chicken, Dudley’s… But mine… Mine was Fitzwilly’s.

Perhaps I should say ours was Fitzwilly’s.  My best friend and I.  We were originally regulars at the Dixie Chicken, but moved over to Fitzwilly’s for a change of scenery.  Namely, scenery in the form of the bartender/bar back who she had the hots for and who she was pretty sure was into her, too.  Lured by the promise of cheap(er) beer I left our usual pool table at the Chicken and moved over to the larger digs… and promptly fell in love.  Luckily, she and said bartender began dating (and are now married) so the drinks stayed cheap and our new hangout was born.

As you all know I love to make me a list so I thought I’d share some of my favorite Fitzwilly’s memories:

5. Halloween – I can’t remember the year, but we got it into our heads that we would go as Charlie’s Angels.  We recruited a third friend (who ended up bailing on us) and spent the afternoon running through the one mall in town to try to piece together outfits.  We ended up looking pretty cute if I do say so myself, but my allergies were killing me so wearing my contacts was a no-go.  My glasses ruined the outfit so I compromised and left one contact in.  I pretty much spent the evening winking at everyone so I could see.  The more I drank, the more I winked. So much so that my BFF began calling me her “cycloptic” friend.

4. I don’t always know when to keep my big mouth shut.  I have a quick temper and tend to mouth off and then realize that was my outer monologue vs. inner monologue and have to talk my way out of what I just said.  I had to talk my way out of a lot of fights in that bar.  Mostly in the restroom.  I don’t know what it was about me and that restroom, but every time I went to pee it was an event…

3. The crowd.  Unlike many of it’s fellow bars along Northgate, Fitzwilly’s attracted a rather diverse crowd. One night a rather unusual man set his sights on me.  What made this man distinctive aside from his apparent homelessness and insanity was that he had no legs. Instead of a wheelchair, he had this little skateboard looking contraption that his dog would pull him around on.  He smiled at me, so I complimented him on his dog (the dog was a beautiful chocolate lab), and he instantly took to me.  I spent the rest of the night with the man following me around and continuously trying to grab my hand so that he could “give me some of his power”.  He finally left me alone after I let him hold my hand for 10 minutes so that he could “transfer the power” to me. I didn’t get any power or powers… that I know of, but I promptly washed (with a pound of soap and the hottest water I could stand) my hand.

2. The BFF was a better pool player than me, but I wasn’t too shabby.  We would line a string of quarters on the table, signifying that the table was ours and we intended to play all night, but every now and then some dudes would come over, lay their own quarters down and say something like “play you for the table” thinking that us pitiful females couldn’t possibly hold our own against them, a challenge which we always accepted.  If we felt hospitable, and they were cool, we would play a game or two and then just share the table.  If we didn’t, we would run the table and then send the fellas packing.  In all the times we did that, we only lost a table once.  We were pool sharks, I’m telling you.

1. I’m reserving this for May 10th.  Final call at the bar I basically called home for two years.  The BFF and her man will be there, as I’m sure will be many others who called Fitzwilly’s “their” bar…  I’m hoping we can eat some good food, drink some cold beer, play a little pool, reminisce, make some new memories and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get into an almost fight in the bathroom.  You know, for old time’s sake…

It was always a place I knew I could go back to.  That it was still there after so many years, when new bars would open and close along Northgate, was always comforting to me.  So I’m sad to see it go.  But I’m excited to go back for final call and raise a glass to the place that played host to so many great memories and where I forged some lasting friendships.

Fitzwilly’s… I’ll miss you.

-Shan

Gammy (Also known as “the one I’ve been wanting to post for two days now but it’s been hard to write…”)


Thursday was a strange day. I woke up just thinking about my grandmother, Gammy, who passed away two years ago on Good Friday. All morning she just lingered with me… Eating breakfast, taking a shower, dropping off the girls Gammy continued to weigh heavily on my mind. So I decided that despite the fact I had lots of errands to run, I needed to go see her. Visit her. Which is big. I haven’t been to visit her since her burial. I’ve always intended to. But I’ve always avoided it…
One reason is that cemeteries have always creeped me out. My family has never been the kind to “go visit” our loved ones once they pass… Gammy herself even liked to tell us not to step on anyone, or breathe too deeply in a cemetery because we might inhale a lost spirit. (I think Gammy had a sick sense of humor…) But, as I felt so compelled to go, I sucked up my fears and went.
Of course I got there and promptly got lost. I didn’t realize how big the cemetery was… It was an adventure in itself just finding her grave.  Once I found it I just stared at it for a while. It all looked so different than the last time I was there…
Then I sat, right there. Crisscross applesauce. On top of my grandmother. (With my zombie phobia you can understand what a huge deal that was for me. I could even imagine her bursting from the ground to tell me to get up off of her and sit like a lady.)
I arranged her flowers… Yellow roses. Both Gammy and I always had an affinity for yellow roses. Well,I think she did, anyway. It’s what my Paw always gave her for their anniversaries. It’s what they gave me when I had my first child. It’s what was on top of her casket and what we each dropped onto it as it was being lowered into the ground… But come to think of it I don’t think I ever actually heard her say she liked them… How would that be for irony if she really never liked them in the first place?
Then I just started talking. Out loud, to my dead grandmother. I talked about what was going on, the girls, my husband, my friends, work, my mom… I told her about everything. It was like verbal diarrhea. As I was talking, it all just hit me. This flood of Gammy memories hit me like I had just been punched right in my chest and I started bawling like a baby. It was the first good cry I’ve ever had over my grandmother passing. I’d held it in for almost two years.
I had forgotten…
I had forgotten how I would sit at the bar in their kitchen while she ironed Paw’s clothes and just talk to her for hours. I would tell her all the latest gossip, about boys I liked, fights with friends. She would always weigh in with her opinion… The women in my family like to have their opinions heard.
The women in my family also love to shop. It’s in our blood. Gammy used to take me shopping every year for my birthday. And I knew I was going to get something good. She’d let me pick out one outfit, sometimes two, and if she approved she’d get them for me. Afterwards we’d get ice cream.
Gammy loved ice cream. Vanilla ice cream in particular. She had the most meticulous and systematic way to eat an ice cream cone, it would take her forever…
I had suppressed all of these memories and so many more for so long. For two years I have felt so guilty for not being there for her and my grandfather and my mom when it was roughest… For not having said goodbye to Gammy properly… I had just buried it all so deep and it all came out in this huge flood of emotion. Then I looked down and realized that during all of that… I had been twiddling my thumbs.
Gammy always twiddled her thumbs. She had tiny hands but fat little thumbs that bent backwards at an odd angle… and I have the same thumbs… She would always joke with me that we could never play the piano with thumbs like ours. It almost felt like she was there which freaked me out because I didn’t want to inhale her… And made me feel strangely comforted at the same time. That she had been listening, and in some way making sure she was heard in return…
I dusted myself off, and promised to come back… A promise that this time, I’ll keep.
-Shan

A Tale of Two Shans

There are two Shans.

Shan #1 is the Shan I am out in public, the Shan that tries to be well-dressed, charming and funny. The Shan that always has a clean house and clean kids who are dressed adorably in coordinating outfits. That’s not to say that the public me is any less “me”. Don’t get me wrong, Shan #1 is still quite goofy, thinks the word “balls” is funny and has a potty mouth, but it’s filtered.  Slightly, anyway.

Then there’s Shan #2. Ha – I crack myself up every time I say #2, it’s immature I know, but I just can’t help it… but this is what I am talking about… Shan #2 is the unfiltered Shan, my inner monologue, if you will.  The one that thinks poop humor is the best, is slightly messy, happiest in tshirts and jeans and who’s mouth would offend even the most hardened sailor. The “me” that a very select few have had the opportunity to meet and get to know… Because there are things about myself that I like to keep private. (So I put them in a blog.  Makes perfect sense, right?)

I hate clutter.  Hate it.  It drives me insane.  And I freak out if people ever see my house looking anything but clean and organized.  I have made people wait outside until I have had a chance to quickly clean up before letting them in. I try really hard to keep my house clean – which I know my husband and kids find highly annoying. Just don’t open any closet doors… Or drawers.  Because it’s like Sanford & Son in there.  Every now and then I will clean them out and organize everything, but they’re back to their previous state within days.  If you ever come to my house and feel the need to open a closet door and something falls on you… well, you can’t say you weren’t warned. (There are two exceptions to this – my closet and my underwear/sock drawer.  I keep these extremely organized and I’m quite obsessive about it.)

My two favorite words in the english language: cock sucker & mother fucker. I like to use them together.  Maybe it’s the way they rhyme, I don’t know… Try saying it.  (Brief pause here for you to try it…) Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue? (Writer’s note: I am aware that those words are actually both phrases and therefore I should change the previous wording to read “my two favorite phrases” but I’m too lazy to go back and fix it and would rather expend more energy and time into explaining the fact that I realize my previous header needs correcting instead of just taking the two seconds necessary to fix it.)

As I alluded to in the previous paragraph – I don’t like people to know that I’m inherently lazy, even though my brain never stops – at any given moment I’m thinking of at least 20 different things and often change topics all together for no reason when talking… or writing.  I also feel the need to defend everything.  Or maybe defend is the wrong word…  It’s more like explain everything.  Everything I said, everything I did and why I did it.  I’m sure it drives people crazy…

OK – I’m about to go way TMI on everyone here and talk briefly about my bodily functions.  If you want you can skip this paragraph and go to the next…  I can’t go to Target without having to take a shit.  It’s crazy.  I have been this way for as long as I can remember. I walk into Target, and immediately my body is like, “It’s poop time!”.  I find it quite interesting.  What is it about Target of all places that causes my body to have this reaction?  Even weirder… I know for a fact I am not the only person whom this strange phenomena effects.  Others have told me that they are affected in the same manner.  Is it something in the air in Target? A chemical that Target puts in their extremely delicious, cost-efficient popcorn?  What is it?

I like to eat raw ramen noodles over the kitchen sink (because they are messy).  I will only do this in complete privacy because I think it’s gross (but it’s sooooo good).

I’m a big Star Wars nerd. I will watch Star Wars (Episodes IV – VI) whenever I come across them while channel surfing.  A couple Halloween’s ago I dressed as Leia for work (the costume was chosen for me) and I pretended like it wasn’t fucking awesome.  But it was. I even got to carry a blaster.  It was an Imperial blaster which a fellow SWN (Star Wars Nerd) pointed out was incorrect. But – I was dressed as New Hope Leia – in the white, with the buns.  The blaster she used in that movie was Luke’s, which was when he was disguised as a Storm Trooper, so therefore the Imperial blaster was the correct one to carry for the costume. I did not tell the fellow SWN this as I usually try to filter some of my nerddom in public. (Shan #2 is waaaay nerdier.) I think I just shrugged my shoulders and in my inner monologue said, “and you call yourself a Star Wars fan…”

-Shan

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

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.