Why blog?

I recently joined a Face Book group that challenges each of us to write 500 words a day for the entire month of January.  On the group page, a woman asked why so many of us blog.  Her question made me stop and ask myself that same question.

Shannon, why do you blog?

I started my blog in 2004 during my lonely infertility treatments.  I had quit my job and had the full time task of becoming pregnant, which sounds suspiciously like I was a professional slut, but I assure you I was not paid therefore could not be considered a professional.

I was lonely and bored because waiting for fertilized eggs to attach to uterine walls will do that to a woman.  My friends were working and my husband was working and my uterus was not, so I had little else to do except write.  My diary morphed into a word document that chronicled months of my boredom and loneliness and obsession with pregnancy tests.

One day, my then-friend-and-now-fiancé Patrick told me I should start a blog.

A what?

(Even though I’ve learned how to decipher the mumble-ese that is Patrick’s speaking, I was certain he said “blog” although I had no idea what that was.)

“It’s short for web log.  It’s like an online journal.”

A Blogger account later, I was on my way under the intelligent and creative URL of www.blogofshannon.blogspot.com.  Please, don’t hate me for my brilliance.  It just comes naturally.

So, I journaled.  Online.  For the entire world to see.  It was fun and freeing and it created in me a sense of community that my loneliness longed for.  It was like passing the hours at work on MSN instant messenger with all of my old co-workers like we used to. Except it was all about me and my dysfunctional uterus.  Doesn’t that sound like fun? No?

Yeah, no.

Creating a blog led me to read other blogs.  I found some crappy ones and some really good ones and as such it led to experimenting with my own writing.  My blog was a happy distraction for me.  There was no pressure.  It was fun.

More conversations with Patrick.  “You know, you can monetize your blog.”

I can what?

“You know, make money.  Have advertisers and sponsors and parlay your blog into something bigger.  You can build an audience and make money doing what you love.”

Wow.  This was really something to ponder.  You mean I could make a living putting my journal online?

This blog thing was becoming a monster in my head.  There were so many options! I could do click-ads or get sponsors or have guest bloggers or try to BE a guest blogger.  I could create my own unique URL and get a cool and snappy layout.  But wait! First there are blogs to read about how to blog better!  Keep your paragraphs short, include pictures with every blog post, be creative, have lots and lots of content and don’t stop writing ever!

And then I was introduced to Google Analytics.

Oh yes, I became a bitch to the numbers.  I thought the only people who read my blog was a few friends and my mother (on occasion).  I had no idea I had 50 READERS!  And don’t get me started about bounce rate and referral links and keywords.

And then, this blog thing wasn’t so fun anymore.

I became conscious of what I was writing.  I started thinking about audience and how to increase my numbers and how to get comments.  I started worrying about images and how to use them on my blog without copyright infringement.  I began thinking about content and stressed myself with blogging frequency.  Content was key! It’s so important to have lots and lots of content!

Writing became forced for me.  I thought too much about each sentence and how I was being portrayed and about the overall feel of my blog.  I agonized that my blog didn’t have a theme; it was instead a blog about nothing.  I just wrote about me and the insignificant happenings in my life (compared to the Grand Scheme, a monster to whom I often compared myself).

When my marriage hit the divorce fan, I repurposed my blog to journaling.  My writing had gotten so much better over the years, and I once again found pleasure in writing.  When I dared to be honest and open, my writing thrived.  It made me feel vulnerable and scared, but the response I received was positive, so I kept going.  Only this time my audience was much bigger, thanks to social media outlets.

After some particularly personal posts, I received some private emails from folks thanking me for my honesty and candor.  They shared their experiences with me, an honor I don’t take for granted, and I found my writing had meaning.

For someone, for even a moment, I made a difference.

Whoa.

But now that my life crisis is over, my writing has returned to the original randomocity it once was, and I’m back to obsessing about content and style and voice and it’s not fun I’m going to stop blogging I have no life this sucks, whaaaa!

This is what makes writing all work and no fun.  I get in my own way and stop the creative throwing up at the fingers that is my gift.  That’s why I vow to myself to post this rambling piece of crap awesome and not worry about how it portrays me stylistically to the leagues of readers I have.

Sarcasm.  It’s what’s for dinner.

But really, I’m just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life that has a passion for words and a compulsion to put them to paper.  I don’t have anything extraordinary to share with the world, I don’t have anything to teach or sell (yet!) but I do enjoy writing crap for people.  My greatest desire with my blog is to get people thinking and talking about a subject.  I think of it as sitting around a campfire sharing stories, only the internet is our campfire and I’m the camp counselor.

Although I was able to parlay my blog into a paying job as a freelance writer (a dream my dear Patrick instilled in me ten years ago), I hope to build a community of friends through my blog to encourage me to continue to do what I love – write.

And one day when I get out of my own way and write a book, I’ll have some folks who’ll actually buy it!

 

 

10. January 2014 by Shandmin
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Did someone hurt you? Thank them.

Crying
Crying

Photo credit: rachel_titiriga

From my archives, a letter I wrote to a friend who’s heart was hurting.

Dry your tears, my Friend.  I am not right beside you but I am with you and I have a story for you.

Yesterday, Patrick and I had one of our talks.  I say, “our talks” because that is what I’ve come to call them over the years.  They are meaningful, they flow and they change a pattern of thought, often in me, that has been limiting or self-destructive.

I have cried every day for six days.  I have sobbed and shook and snotted over the nasty text I received from someone who used to be my friend.  I have questioned and literally shaken my fist at the injustice of life and over the loss of friends through my divorce.

During our lunch break yesterday, I cried to Patrick, imploring him to tell me a way to just let it go!  How could I just forget it, already and move on?  It has been a year and a half and I’m still crying over being misunderstood.  My head was telling me I was being stupid, but my heart was pounding out a completely different message.

I cried and said, “Patrick, please tell me how to get rid of this feeling!  I’m ready to listen.  Just tell me what I need to do.”

He looked at me in his loving way and said, “I don’t know.”

I eventually dried my tears, but they threatened to fall for the rest of the day.  I had pressure behind my eyes and faint smudges from days-old mascara, left as a reminder of the ugliness I felt on the inside.

That evening, we heated up leftovers and shared a bottle of wine.  I hadn’t eaten hardly anything all day (tears tend to wash away my appetite) and I was pretty buzzed half way through my first glass.

Our plates were empty – the remains of roasted potatoes were cold and withered.  My butt was numb from sitting in the kitchen chair for far too long.  I gestured to Patrick to move to the patio, and listened to him as we walked outside while he was mid-sentence.

“Have you ever read the Celestine Prophecy?” he asked me.

“No, but I’ve heard of it.”

“It’s an old new-age book,” he said, laughing at his own joke.

In the book it talks about the universe lining up just so and providing perfect vibrations, sometimes in the form of a conversation.  Sometimes two people can talk, each taking a turn to speak and each taking a turn to listen.  They are not thinking about what they are going to say next.  They actually listen- I mean really hear what’s being said.  Imagine that!  They take turns talking and listening and the conversation moves effortlessly.  It’s like being in the same vibe with someone.  No one is rushing, no one is arguing.  I like to think of it as talking meditation.

Have you ever had one of those conversations?  I have.  A few years ago, my friend and I would meet for happy hour, just her and I, and we would have conversations like that.  The sounds of the bar and the people around us just melted away.  We would be interrupted by the waitress or a person stopping by to say hi, but it didn’t break our rhythm.  Man, those conversations would energize me!  I would feel like my “soul battery” had been recharged after a talk like that! We would laugh and say, “We just solved all the world’s problems!  We should record those!”

We don’t have talks like that anymore.  Something in our relationship changed and now we just seem to get in our own way.  I am sad that those talks are gone, but I’m thankful that they happened.

Anyway, Patrick went on to say that this book claims that every person is brought into your life to serve a purpose.  Each person is here to add value or teach a lesson.  The trick is to see it and be thankful for it.

I agree with this thinking.  I always have.  I can think back over my life and mentally list the people who have had an impact.  So many folks have been angels for me.  So many have helped me and taught me things.

But my view on this is wrong.

See, I like to remember the good that people have brought to my life.  I reminisce on the positive impact someone had on me.  For reasons for this exercise, I only count the times I’ve grown in a positive way from a person or my experience with them.  I have failed to see that even the people who have hurt me, have caused me pain and suffering had value too.  I never count the unfinished business.  I didn’t grow from that.  No way, it still pisses me off!  (You know how I am when it comes to letting things go.)  The only thing I learned from those people is, “I’m not going to get screwed over by you again, Asshole.”

Patrick helped me to see how limiting my view is.

Patrick said that he likes to thank the people who have shit on him.  He says he likes to let that person know, “Hey, thanks for doing that.  You’ve really helped me.  I know you didn’t mean to help me by killing my puppy, but thanks.”

He went on to say that people come and people go, but they all serve a purpose.  The trick is to recognize when that purpose has been fulfilled.  I know in my own experience, I try to hold on to relationships that no longer serve me.  I just can’t stand when a relationship is over!  It hurts and I don’t want to hurt!

Then I realized that relationships are never over, they’re just complete.

I’ve been doing this with my old group of friends.  Trying to hold on to something that has run its course.  The cycle is complete.  Those girls served their purpose and now it’s time to move on.

Life is a crazy ride, huh?  It’s like a giant game of connect the dots.  One choice led you here, where you met person A, who made you think of X and landed you on Land Y.  Then on Land Y you crashed into Person R who knows Person A!  It’s a big mess of lines and dots and chutes and ladders.

Friend, I know you’re lost right now.  (I am, too.  We’re both in the Land of Lost together.  Wait, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to take a left here.)  You’re confused and conflicted and probably thinking it would be great if some handsome old guy in a white suit would appear in your living room and smile knowingly and tell you which path to choose.

I want you to know that you are doing the right thing.  That’s right.  Today, lying on your couch, crying or watching movies or eating a half gallon of organic Publix ice cream is part of your life path.  Every decision you make is the right one.  Every time you feel happy or sad or kick-a-hole-in-the-wall pissed, it is because you did the right thing.  And I know this because it leads you to your next perfect decision that is going to lift you to the sky or pummel you to the ground.  Not every choice is easy, not every action even feels like a choice!  But you’re working in perfect harmony with your world because you are YOU (and no one else is youer than you!)

Trust yourself.  Have one of those amazing conversations with your head and your heart.  When it’s their time to talk, shut the fuck up and listen.  And when it’s your time to talk, say what you mean and call yourself out on your bullshit.

You’ll know what to do.

If you soar, I’ll be watching you and whoopin’ it up from Planet Earth.

If you crash, I’ll be here to help you patch back together.

I’m your friend.  That is my purpose in your life.

03. January 2014 by Shandmin
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Post-Christmas Blues and NYRs

The presents are opened, the company has come and gone, and the cookies have been baked and consumed. Now what?

I have a Christmas hangover that has nothing to do with egg nog. The buildup for this crazy holiday always leaves me feeling empty after it’s over. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a weird empty space and I just wander around wondering what to do with myself.

I’m sort of filled with shame at the gluttonous amounts of food I consumed and the crazy number of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. And despite the fact that every year I say I’m going to eat less and buy less next year, I always do the same thing and always feel this heavy, empty feeling when it’s done.

The beginning of a calendar year doesn’t feel like a start-over for me. In fact, my birthday feels more like a new beginning than the drop of the big ball. But like everyone (or most people) I start thinking about what I want to change, improve or get rid of in the coming year.

In an apparent effort to rid myself of this heaviness, I start thinking about a New Year’s resolution. And quite frankly I’m not sure I even subscribe to the idea of NYRs. I think having a NYR just sets me up for failure. Life is going to happen whether I resolve to make it better or not. I’ll have failures, I’ll have successes. I’ll be determined and I’ll procrastinate. I can even resolve to do nothing, and yet everything will happen.

As per tradition, I’ll vow to become a smaller version of myself. Admittedly, my divorce netted me an equitable distribution of assets and debts, and a very inequitable distribution of fat. I want to become less of a person. Literally. But then I think, “Oh, for the love of God, Shannon. Just be happy with yourself.” And thus the conundrum begins.

How do you draw the line between striving for more, for better, for change and yet still pause long enough to be thankful for what you have? Isn’t the idea of pursuing MORE the very essence of discontent? If I were happy where I am, would I feel so compelled to change?

In years past, I’ve resolved to gain weight; sure the reverse psychology would work. And as luck would have it, it’s the only resolution I’ve ever managed to keep.

So I wander around the house a bit more and cast dirty looks at the Christmas tree that only a week ago looked festive and now looks like a lot of work.

The New Year isn’t enough to drive me to make a year-long commitment. I’m more apt to make a change at the start of a new birth year, because it feels more poignant to “write more blog posts when I’m 39” than “finish that book in 2014.” (Both are goals, desires, wishes, dreams I have for my better future self.)

I think the only reason I contemplate a NYR is to make me forget this fucked-up emptiness I feel from Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be happy! What’s wrong with me? The fact that I feel anything other than yuletide bliss makes me feel like a jerk. Like the ugly love child of the Grinch and Mr. Scrooge.

And because I know I’ll very likely not keep my NYR, I try to make it something easy, or something that won’t cast more guilt and shame my way, as if I need any more of that crap. It’s like giving up beer for Lent. I hate (HATE!) beer, so how hard can that be?

So, I’ve decided this year I resolve the following:

I will wake up every day.

I will go with the flow and try to keep my humor about me.

I will grow a pair of writing balls, FFS, and get over my fear of Writing Suckage. I will wield those writing balls fearlessly and shamelessly and JustWriteOhMyGodShanYou’reKillingMe!

I will live. Every day, I’ll live like it’s NOT my last day, ’cause that shit gets expensive.

And it’ll be great.

30. December 2013 by Shandmin
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For Christina

DSC_0035

Sometimes you meet someone and they just stick.

Six years ago I sat in College Algebra class next to a young girl with big brown eyes.  My seatmate was twelve years my junior but she had a vibrant and mature energy.  Over the next four months, we sat next to each other twice a week and scratched our heads over binomial theorem and the laws of exponents.

Christina was cool.  I liked her.  We worked together to figure out stuff we’d never use again and made College Algebra fun.  At the end of the semester we hugged and exchanged phone numbers and good-luck wishes.

Life happened and we lost touch.  I was a busy mom and Christina was finishing college.

Fast forward six years.

In August, while perusing Face Book I saw Christina’s name on my friend’s wall.  Hey!  I know her!  Christina works with our mutual friend and I thought about the smallness of the world and stuff.

Then my heart stopped.

Christina.  A young mother.  Stage 3 breast cancer.

I began following Christina on Face Book.  I emailed her, “Do you remember me? I’m praying for you,” and she replied back and asked me about my kids.  

Hashtag: Selfless

Hashtag: Amazing

Hashtag: Godpleasesaveher

Christina began chemotherapy and despite how bad she felt, she managed to keep everyone updated.  I check on her every day, if only virtually and I’m so humbled by her resilience.

Two nights ago, Christina posted a picture of herself, with her newly shaven head.  She is beautiful and strong and she moved me to tears.

I sat in silence for a long time staring at her beautiful picture.  I thought of what she is going through and how I couldn’t possibly know how hard it is.  She is a mother to a beautiful little boy and she’s fighting for her life.  Yet in her face I could see the determination of a survivor.

I thought about the guts it took to shave her head.  Of the pure awesomesauce ballsiness she has to give cancer the big middle finger and hold her beautiful bald head high.

I looked up from her picture and said to my boyfriend, “I can grow my hair right now.  She can’t.  It’s not fair and I have to do something.”

So I made an appointment with my favorite hairdresser, Valerie at the Mitchell Wade Salon in Oviedo.

And this, Christina, is for you.

 

 

New Hair 2013

Christina, you are strong and loved and you are not alone.  You got this.  Go kick cancer’s butt ASS!

Love,

Shannon

03. October 2013 by Shandmin
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“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?” – LOTF

"This scratch looks cool but it hurts to get."  ~ Sam

My kids tried to kill each other last night.  In the shower.

Sam and Max are like most boys.  Two years apart in age, they play with the same toys and the same friends.  They conspire together and wrestle in the family room.  They get mad at one another and scream, “You’re so mean!” on a regular basis.  They turn selfish and refuse to share toys and elbow each other when I’m not looking.

They’ve never hurt one another, though.  That is, until last night.

They were in the shower (yes, they’re still young enough to shower together) and I was in the other room.  I heard them laughing and screeching (yes, they’re still young enough to screech).  Sam’s laughter morphed into a cry and my Mom ears knew it was a cry of pain.

I ran into the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain back, a la Psycho, and saw watery blood running down Sam’s chest.  He had a scratch from his collarbone to his stomach.  He was screaming that his face hurt – It burns! It burns!  His face?  I hadn’t noticed his face.  All I could do was stare in disbelief at his chest and at Max, who stared in disbelief at Sam too.

"This scratch looks cool but it hurts to get."  ~ Sam

“This scratch looks cool but it hurts to get.” ~ Sam

“Did you do this?!” I yelled?

Max whimpered.

“Did you DO this?!”  Again.

“Yes, but he scratched me first!”

Action mode.

Boys out of shower.  Inspect Sam.  Clean scratches.  Clean up dog pee because during all this mayhem Emma peed in the kitchen.  Yell.  Threaten severe punishment.  Yell some more.

Hold back tears.

Sam had two raised scratches down both cheeks, like streaks of tears that wouldn’t go away.  Max broke the skin over Sam’s eye, starting at the inside the corner down to his cheek.  Did he scratch Sam’s cornea?  God, I hope not.

What was I supposed to do now?  Never had my kids hurt each other.  Never had they drawn blood.  I couldn’t believe that Max, the happiest kid on Earth could do this to his big brother.  Sam is the one with the temper.  But Max?  No way.  Couldn’t be.

Was I making a bigger deal of this than necessary?  I mean, they’re boys for God’s sake.  They’re bound to fight.  Right?

I’d been in some pretty bad scuffles with my brother as a kid.  Once, he smacked my head so hard he knocked me out of my chair.  I threw the 7-pound cordless phone at him.  Another time he pissed me off so I chucked a pencil at. His. Face.  The lead embedded in his skin under his eye and I’m pretty sure if you look closely you can still see it.  I was a thrower, apparently.

But this was new territory for me.  I’d never dealt with this as a Mom.

The boys dressed in their pajamas, hiccuping sobs as I lectured them.  I made them hug each and not let go.  When they started to pull away, I said, “Keep hugging.”  I made them look at each other the whole time and say, “You are my big brother and I’m sorry for hurting you.”  “You are my little brother and I’m sorry for hurting you.”

Max felt terrible.  He was wailing alone in his room.  I told him to get in bed and that I would not sing to him.  He cried harder.

Twenty minutes passed and I checked on both boys.  Sam was awake, but quiet.  Max looked like he was asleep.  I closed his door behind me and his wailing and incomprehensible talking started again.  I opened his door and asked, “Max, what are you saying?”

He ran into my arms.  “I just want a hug and a kiss.  I can’t sleep unless I get a hug and a kiss.”

I lifted my son into my arms and held him.  He clung to me like a baby chimp.

Before they fell asleep, I talked with each of my boys.

“Don’t ever do anything like this again.  Even though I’m very upset with you, I love you more than anything in this world.”  They both cried and hugged me.

I’m not raising Drama Queens, I swear.  I’m enough Drama Queen for both of them.  Though, I’m surprised at how emotional I feel about this.  My kids hurt each other.  This is a complete Momination.

They’re both grounded.  I’ve banned them from playing with friends and each other.  I want them to know what it feels like to not have each other around, to feel lonely and bored without each other’s company.

How do you handle it when you’re kids physically hurt one another?

29. May 2013 by Shandmin
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A Letter to my Son’s Preschool

Maxwell, Preschool Graduate
Maxwell, Preschool Graduate

Maxwell, Preschool Graduate

Dear Lakeside Teachers,

Five years ago, I drove down the street with a two-year old fussing in his car seat and a baby squirming in my belly.  I was tired.  I was two months away from the birth of my second son, Max and his in-utero energy foretold busier days ahead.  I had been driving all day, scouting preschools for Sam.  I had to find The. Perfect. One. Yes, I was that mom.

Five preschool tours and as many disappointments later, I drove home in a daze.  My head flopped on the headrest and my ears desperately tried to shut out the sounds of my over-tired son.  A few miles from home, a banner caught my eye, “We offer preschool and Kindergarten – Ages 2 and up.”  Two and up?  I swerved my big-brick SUV into the parking lot and promised Sam this would be our last stop.  I met Ms. Marti that day and she gave me a tour.  Lakeside was perfect.  I was sold.

A week later Sam had his first day at Lakeside Fellowship Preschool.  My aching hips and expanding waist welcomed the break, but my heart shattered into a million pieces as I walked my son to class.

It had taken me more than a month to acclimate Sam to child care at the gym, so I was prepared for a full-on meltdown as he entered his classroom for the first time.  His teacher knelt and smiled warmly at Sam and soon he was sitting at a table building a 2-year old masterpiece with Play-Doh.  No tears, no fits, no hesitation.  At least not from Sam.

For the next five years, I took my boys to school convinced that I was sharing the privilege of their company with the teachers and staff at Lakeside.  I was sacrificing precious hours with my sons to send them to school for socializing and some nifty crafts.  Sure, they would learn the alphabet and burn some energy on the playground, but could these educators understand the gift I was giving them?  Did they know how truly special my children are and the love they have to offer?  After five years of sharing my kids with this group of amazing women, I learned that the privilege is all mine.  They are more than educators – they are family.

How do I say thank you?  How do I sum up five years of love and caring in one short letter?  How do I convey my gratitude?  My appreciation?

Thank you for loving my children.  Thank you for giving them a foundation from which they will build their entire education.  Thank you for being so incredibly dedicated to the kids you teach and for being profoundly good at what you do.  Thank you for your support and making us feel like we belong, even as our family dynamic changed.  Thank you for touching our family in ways you’ll never truly know and for sharing the love of God with us all.

Our experience at Lakeside has shaped us as a family.  It’s made me a better parent and made Sam and Max better kids.  I am forever grateful for what you’ve taught us.  I will miss you all and I will never forget you.

Goodbye, Lakeside.

With gratitude,

Shannon

28. May 2013 by Shandmin
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Despicable Me

kids arguind

I’m a jerk.  An opinionated asshole.  I say what I think and offend others easily.  I enjoy a good debate and often elicit arguments for the fun of it.  I take pleasure in discussing an idea, batting for both hemispheres.  Left-brained, right-brained – good dialogue is indifferent.

I want others to call me on my bullshit and offer the same to those who have the displeasure of my company.  I find it impossible to keep my mouth shut when someone tells me something.  I am unable to dispense with a smile and nod (“Oh, that’s nice!”) when presented with an idea I disagree with.  I find that practice to be condescending and think my honest opinion, however unpopular, is far more agreeable than cloaking myself in a veil of duplicity.

I claim that I am non-judgmental only after I’ve assaulted you with what I think, but honestly it doesn’t matter to me which path you choose as long as we can have a friendly debate and think around the entire matter before agreeing to disagree.

I believe in full disclosure.  I’m an information whore.  I want your opinion and to hear what I’ve done wrong so I can amend my ways or defend why I’m right.

I take perverse pleasure in conversation; I am a glutton of gab.  Do not mistake me for a gossip for I will shut that shit down with silent artifice, flinging my disapproval like a shot-put, heavy and solid in its landing.  I will then lash you with the Lady of Grantham glare.

I am known by many and liked by few.  I know this and yet I cannot change.  Restraining my tongue is a skill I do not have.  F-bombs fly from my lips with feral ribaldry, although vulgarity is no substitute for wit.  I do not claim wittiness, but honesty.

I like to think my brashness is the writer in me, that my predilection for controversy makes me interesting, but I think I’m just a jerk.

A contentious stand-alone.

I put the “ass” in assertive.

Surely, I mean no harm.  I value the differences in people and what others can teach me from their point of view.  My opinion on a matter has no bearing on my fondness for you.  I like you even if you don’t agree with my choices and I think our disparities help us grow.  You can do a thing and I can disagree and we can still be friends.  Go ahead, try me.  I double-dog dare you.

So if you find you’re put off by me, please know that I am not trying to offend you.  I leave you with this:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

-          Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

15. March 2013 by Shandmin
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Shooting at a Connecticut elementary school

o-SANDY-HOOK-CONNECTICUT-SCHOOL-SHOOTING-570_thumb.jpg

Shannon Hicks/AP

What the hell is this world coming to? A gunman entered an elementary school in Connecticut this morning, killing 27 people, eighteen of whom were children. Children. Children, ages five to ten were gunned down at their school. This event is so horrific, so sickening I had a visceral reaction when I heard the news. I can still feel the dull pain in my chest.

Who does this? How can a person kill another, particularly an innocent child? A small child who is trusting and naïve and too young to even know to run or how to hide from a psychopath who is trying to hurt them?

I haven’t stopped shaking my head in anger and confusion since I read this horrible news on the internet. This tragedy defies understanding. My mind’s been circling around the thought of the scene, around the horror the children must have felt and the unbelievablity of receiving a phone call telling you your grade-school child has been shot at school. I shake my head as the thoughts swirl, out of grief, denial and with the feeble attempt to rid my mind of the horror that occurred this day.

The shooter is dead, found with a bulletproof vest and four weapons. How immensely unsatisfying. How WRONG that that person was able to choose when and how they died. How unfair that the shooter is no longer living so that they may suffer the way they so deserve! I wish that person were still alive so that the parents of the slain children could beat them to a bloody, pulpy mess. I wish the shooter could be brought from the edges of death, and made to suffer the pains they imposed on so many others, only to have to suffer all over again at the hands of the next set of grieving parents. Maybe this makes me a bad person, to wish this on another human being, but I believe that some things are beyond absolution. Some things are unforgivable.

ARGH!!! I want to scream and cry (more) for those innocent kids. I am so angry and so sickened. I am so sad.

God be with all those affected today.

14. December 2012 by Shannon
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Emma

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Emma was diagnosed with congestive heart failure about a year and a half ago.  She is on Lasix, a diuretic for her heart.  When she was diagnosed, it was mild but it is a progressive disease and causes enlargement of the heart and fluid retention.  She is still an active girl, and I can’t keep her out of the pool when the kids are swimming.

This weekend, she was acting really weird.  She was holding her head at a funny angle, she had a strange look on her doggie face and her breath was horrid.  She was being extra cuddly, too.  On Saturday night, while she was eating, Sam noticed blood; she was bleeding from her mouth.  We took her to the emergency vet and she was given antibiotics for a dental infection.

I followed up with her regular vet yesterday.  I was so thankful that it was “only” a tooth infection that was illin’ her.  The vet gave me bad news, however.

She has advanced dental disease, despite her teeth being cleaned a year and a half ago.  The infection from her gums has gotten into her blood stream and she is too high-risk to undergo general anesthesia for a dental cleaning.  Her heart condition has progressed and the anesthesia could kill her.  She is 15 years old, with a heart condition.

The vet didn’t have any good options for me.  She is continuing her antibiotics for her dental infection, but he is hesitant about surgically cleaning the infection.  He took an X-ray of her heart and it showed increased enlargement.  We’re waiting for her blood test results to make a final decision.

If we can’t do the dental, our only other option is to treat the infection and any other infections that come up due to her bad teeth. New infections are inevitable without cleaning under her gums, so she’ll have to stay on antibiotics until she dies. The vet said there are things we can do to keep her as comfortable as possible.  He said she doesn’t have much time left.

I know my dog is fifteen years old, but hearing that she is dying is not easy.  That seems like a “no duh” statement, but you think I’d be somewhat prepared for her to go.  I’m just not.

I’ve had her since I was 22 years old.  She has seen me through several moves, two marriages and the birth of two babies.  She is the longest relationship I’ve had outside of my immediate family.  She IS my family and it hurts like hell to think she won’t be with me much longer.  When I think back over my adult life, she has always been my one constant.  When I brought her home, she was three pounds.  She was so tiny!  She is my constant companion and I am her person.  I am so very sad.

I am however SO grateful that I have this time to be with her before she goes to doggie heaven.  She has definitely perked up since the weekend, and I think the antibiotics are helping her.  She is *very* happy with her new soft food and if I didn’t tell you she was sick you wouldn’t know it. She is small, but mighty.

I’m keeping her by my side every minute, and giving her extra love.  She is the sweetest thing and I believe it is true that dogs can sense their human’s feelings.  It is as though she is comforting me. 

 

My brother’s dog, Jackson, died a few months ago from cancer.  He was a beautiful golden retriever.  My brother and his family had to put him down because the cancer had ravaged his insides.  His illness happened so quickly.  One week he seemed fine, and the next week he was gone.  He and I talked about a dog’s resilience to pain and how warning signs are there when we’re able to look back and see them.  When Jack died, my brother told his kids, “Jack gave us ten years of happiness, and one day of sadness.  I’ll take it.”  I try to keep that foremost in my mind when the thought of losing Emma becomes too much to bear.

I have had a decade and a half with this special creature.  I am so lucky I had Emma raise me.

11. December 2012 by Shannon
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Fuck Cancer

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Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I love when the weather starts to change and fallen acorns crunch under my shoes. I love my fall decorations bursting colors of orange, red and yellow. The crispness in the air helps me shake loose the mental stagnation that the humid summer brings. I love the smell of pumpkin spice and cinnamon.

I love that the whole world turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month – when pro football players don pink shoes to support the boobs in their life. It is the time when women discuss with candid openness the health of their breasts and how real and how HERE breast cancer is. Everywhere you look, people are wearing pink ribbons or pink shirts. You can’t NOT think about cancer this month, and the collective awareness it brings is changing how we think.

This month I’ve thought often of my dear friend Nancy. She didn’t die of breast cancer, but lung cancer. It has been almost five years since she passed and I miss her every day. A year and a half she fought the hard battle with Chemo and Radiation leading the charge. I found an email I wrote to her a year before she died:

November 22, 2006

Dear Nancy,
I just finished setting the dining room table for tomorrow’s big feast.  I have the turkey thawing on the counter and I’ve written my fifth list of things to do so I don’t forget anything in my holiday haste.  Tomorrow is my Mom’s birthday too.  I have to remember to make her a card.

Stop.  Breathe.  I remember something more important.  You.

I am so thankful for you.  You are such a shining star in my life and you have made me a better person just by being my friend.  I am thankful for the kindness that you’ve taught me through the selfless acts you have shown to others.  I am thankful for your positive attitude even when faced with the greatest adversity.  I am thankful for your realism and your fearlessness for being YOU, no matter what anyone else thinks.  I’m thankful for your simplicity and for making life seem so grand when you have a good book, Pete and some paints.  I’m thankful for your sense of humor and the way you can laugh at yourself, especially when the kitchen light gets the best of you.  I’m thankful for the love you have shown to me and I’m positive I must have done something pretty damn good in my life to deserve you in it.  I’m thankful for your hugs and your warmth.  I’m thankful that you no longer have a tumor in your brain.  I’m thankful for your life.  I’m thankful for your doctors that are making you better.  I’m so very thankful for that wonderful man you have by your side, walking with you and holding you up through this shit storm called cancer.  I am thankful for the love I have for you because it fills me up and renews my faith in the world that there still are good people.  I’m thankful for your strength.  You are so very strong.

I love you so much, Nancy.  I pray for you every day.  I wanted to tell you how very much you mean to me.  You are my heart. Happy Thanksgiving.

Love your friend,
Shannon

Before my friend passed away, I purchased a cross-stitch pattern for her. I worked every free minute so I could frame it and mail to Nancy. I threaded my needle with focus and worked with the determination of someone about to lose a friend. I sewed frantically.

She died before I finished.

After that phone call, I picked myself up and with a tear-stained face I walked to my bedroom. My hands tenderly folded the unfinished piece of fabric and tucked it into my nightstand drawer where it stayed for the next five years.

This month I was rooting through my closet when out of a box fell this old cross-stitch hoop. The hoop was pink and a smile crept up the corners of my mouth.

Nancy.

I put the box away, one cross-stitch pattern lighter and I went to work. I needed to finish this for my friend. And so I did.

Fuck Cancer

This is for you, Nancy.

And this is for my ex-father-in-law, who was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and kicked it’s ass after six months of intensive chemo. He is in remission. Thank you, God.

This is for Aunt Madeline who lost her life to ovarian cancer.

This is for my friend Matt who had melanoma removed from his back and goes to the dermatologist regularly so he can be the best father and husband for his girls.

This is for my grandmother I never met because she lost her life to lung cancer when my Mom was only thirteen.

This is for my grandfather who also lost his life to lung cancer when I was seven.

This is for my friend, Nicole who takes care of her husband who is battling cancer. Her strength is so incredibly admirable.

This is for Stephanie’s mom, Sharon, who lost her life to breast cancer. She used to French braid my hair when I was a kid and she had a beautiful smile.

This is for Ernesto’s mom, Maria, who died of lung cancer last year. She was such an important part of my life, teaching me lessons with her Spanglish and tender eyes.

This is for my brother’s dog, Jackson who died of cancer a few months ago.

This is for my friend, Adam who had surgery for cancer over a year ago. He is cured!

This is for Steve, who died from kidney cancer at age 35.  He is missed dearly by his wife and three children.

This is for the mom at my son’s pre-school who last year had no hair because of chemo. This is for the little fist pump I do when I see her hair growing back and her color returning.

This is for Kelly’s dad, who is gone now but sends cardinals every now and again to say hi.

This is for my childhood friend, Scott, who died in his early twenties from metastatic melanoma. We miss you, truly.

This is for Ted, the bartender at a local restaurant, who has been fighting cancer for the last year and is kicking ass and taking names.

This is for Aunt G, who caught her breast cancer so early she was able to eradicate it with a few rounds of radiation. We’re so thankful for your diligent doctors.

This is for Dennis who just had a melanoma removed. No freckle goes unchecked!

This is for Uncle Greg who is in remission from lymphoma.

This is for Holly and Jim who battled cancer with their daughter and won! (Although it is probably inappropriate for a little girl, the sentiment is still the same. ;) )

This is for everyone I know who has cancer or someone affected by cancer. This is for the people who take care of their sick loved ones, a job that is often overlooked yet harder than hell.

And finally, this is for Nancy’s son who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Henry, you have a part of your mom in you and that is better than any drug or treatment. May you look at this and know how loved you and your mom are. You are going to get through this.

Want to give cancer the big F-U for someone in your life? Feel free to keep it going.

31. October 2012 by Shannon
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