And Here Is A Post About Music

Hello, my darlings!

I know I’ve been gone for two weeks, but sometimes Adulting isn’t all excellent champagne and choosing your own bedtime and eating dessert first. Sometimes it’s two weeks of one sickness after the other, and Life isn’t even considerate enough to give you a least a day off between them all.  How very dare you, Life. Happens

I think Husband and I are finally better, but this February winter storm business is making it really difficult to tell.

SugarButt, polaroid style

SugarButt, polaroid style

Look at this adorable face I have next to me to make it all better, though! I had a virus last week, so Husband had to keep her away from me…’displeased’ is a mellow adjective to use describe how she felt about that. She’s been glued to my side since. It’s adorable and distracting.

SB, A Snuggle

SB, A Snuggle

I mean, come on. Couldn’t you just!?

To make it up to you (and me!) for being gone, I have wayyy too many posts lined up for this week AND two guests with me for this post!

Katelyn & Tori

Katelyn & Tori

Two other music souls, Katelyn and Tori, are joining me here to talk about MUSIC. I’m so excited about this one, y’all.

You can blame Hozier and Annie Lennox for this post- their mashup at the GRAMMYs gave me chills and got me to thinking about a way I could write a blog about music.

Music is very much a part of my heart and my soul and sometimes, it is the only way I can interpret an emotion or release it. My music tastes are too eclectic to pin down and honestly, even I have no idea what Music Shan is going to want from day to day. All I know is that there is not a single day in my life that does not include music.

The one thing I do know Music Shan always loves? Covers of songs. Always. I’m always keeping an eye for good covers of songs that I can love just as much as the original song (and sometimes more.)

So I called my lovely Katelyn and she, in turn, grabbed her amazing friend Tori, and we decided to create playlists of our favourite covers of songs to share with all of you.

I created each playlist on Soundcloud, but I’m rather new to that site so… let me know if they aren’t working out. They should do, but let me know.

First up… my Dorito!

Katelyn is a recent college graduate and writer from Tennessee. She spent most of her college career learning how to help children of trauma and abuse victims. There is no other person in the world who could have her gorgeous, tender heart AND the ability to meet my sarcasm, quip by quip. I love this girl to absolute pieces. We didn’t make our playlists together, and I was terrified that they would be identical. Not exactly, but they DO both contain Birdy and a rap song that has been transformed into a mischievously funky acoustic number. That’s my girl. (Her cover choice by Sara Bareilles is the only ONLY version of that song I can handle. SORRY NOT SORRY, YALL.)

From Katelyn: “These covers are a mixture of songs I’ve always loved with fun new mixes (“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Boys of Summer”) and songs that made me love the original (“Lilac Wine” and “Black and Gold”) When an artist does a cover of a song, it shows a more personal side of them. I love seeing well-known or favorite artists of mine doing a song that meant something to them. It shows that music impacts the artist just as much as it impacts me.”

Don’t miss the cover of “Sexy and I Know It” from her list- you won’t be sorry…except maybe when you’re accidentally singing it later and someone catches you.

You can find Katelyn’s delightful blog here and on twitter here as @KVCShutterbug!

Next up: Tori

Tori is an art student from Tennessee, whose music recommendations have had me seriously consider proposing to her, which is ridiculous because I am already married AND in love with Natalie Dormer. Stop being so awesome, Tori, gah! You know I’m spoken for! Tori’s playlist is a mix of playful and jazzy, and I love every second of it. There is a particularly good cover of “Why Don’t You Do Right?” by The Carolina Chocolate Drops HERE that I couldn’t find on SoundCloud, but I bought it immediately and you should too.

From Tori: I’ve always been a sucker for a good cover. Of course, the definition of a “good” cover varies from person to person. Do you stick close to the original? Flip it on its head? Either way, someone’s going to get offended. In my opinion, a good cover lies between those two extremes. The song is respectful to its original, to its bearing in the world, but it also allows for a new perspective. Often, that’s a new level of heartbreak. Or longing. Or loving. But the reiteration of lyrics you know and love by someone new just carves them deeper into your heart. Or it may bring you an appreciation to a song you would have never attached to in the first place. Covers allow a song to transcend any individual artist and live on its own in your consciousness. That’s why I love cover songs. These are my favorites, my idea of the cream of the crop. These are the songs that make me feel so strongly about covers in the first place.”

Don’t miss the cover of “Straight Up” from her playlist- Don’t lie to yourself…you know you love singing along to Paula Abdul!

You can find Tori on Twitter as @_OfTheSohoRiots and on Tumblr here.

And now for my choices…

I don’t know what it is about covers that draw me in, as a musician* and as a consumer of music. There is a certain delicate talent, I think, in taking a song, breaking it down and rearranging the bare parts into something more than what you started with.

It could be just a simple rearrangement of the song or a method to draw the lyrics into a brighter spotlight than the original offered. Or maybe it’s how some artists take an upbeat song and switch the key and the tempo until the new creation is a fascinating  and melancholy juxtaposition of itself. Yes. YES. I like it all.

The covers I like don’t necessarily have to be shockingly different. The vinyl in the picture has Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah” and while I adore that song more than ANY other version, Buckley didn’t reinvent the wheel in that studio. I walked down the aisle to The Civil Wars’ cover of “Dance Me To The End of Love” which is technically a “karakoke cover” of the original. There is just a certain spark, some emotion, some secret hidden in the song by the covering artists that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of discovering.

Sometimes it’s the lyrics, sometimes it’s the music, and sometimes it’s the minor key. (It’s always the minor key.)

But I DO take a perverse pleasure in hearing a rap song or bubbly Top 40 pop song turned into a deliciously boozy jazz song that positively melts into your ears makes you want to slink into some speakeasy with pearls and dance the night away. **

Don’t miss the cover of “Bad Moon Rising” on my list- I CANNOT choose a favourite, but that one is something special.

I discovered it while watching Teen Wolf. I love my sister SO MUCH for bearing with me through my binge of the show (from a different hemisphere, no less!) and never once spoiling me on the AWESOME SCENE with AWESOMER MUSIC that was going to BLOW MY MIND IN AWESOMEST WAY. Thanks, Banana. I owe you one.

Cheers! (And many thanks to Katelyn and Tori for sticking with this idea and not shattering completely when I gave them a song limit for the playlist. You girls are too good to me!)

-S.

*In the LOOSEST sense of the term. Literally. The very, VERY LOOSEST. I’m not telling you how long it’s been since I graduated and therefore played an instrument or sang for an audience. I’m not embarrassed, I just don’t do math or count dates very well (or like other humans, apparently) and I don’t want to shock myself. I’m very fragile, you know.

** Lana Del Rey’s cover of “Once Upon A Dream” was too well-known*** for us to add it to these lists, but MAN, DO I LOVE THAT SONG.

***Yes, I KNOW you saw the commercial with “500 Miles” and I DON’T CARE.

And A Study of Opposites

Sometimes, this whole “blogging thing” and “sharing personal stuff” business feels crazy insane to me and other times it feels like the most natural thing in the world. And that mixture of feelings doesn’t stop there. It’s hard and I like it and I’m still hoping that one day, the person who needs these words gets them and that it helps their heart relax.

Because this is about reaching out and connecting finding other like-minded people, even if none of us have a right mind between us.

I’ve been teased and made fun of my whole life about how unique I am and Oh Shannon, you are Just Too Much and one-of-a-kind and what a troublemaker I can be and WATCH OUT WORLD, SHANNON IS HERE. And that’s mostly true. Babies aren’t my thing yet because the world is definitely NOT ready for a Shan AND a Shan 2.0, but really, I know I’m not the most special snowflake to ever have snowflaked before.

(I feel like I should check Urban Dictionary before I use snowflake as verb because yikes. Don’t do it, just in case. Don’t ruin the moment.)

So I’m going to babble on about this Opposite Phenomenon and hope that someone out there needs it and needs to be understood and known and to hear that they aren’t a lonely snowflake, either.

I am hard person to define and explain, and thats putting it lightly. In arguments or debates or deep heart talks, I always end up saying the same thing: there are two Shannons in here and they both agree and disagree. With everything. And the best way I could think of to put that into words is this: A Study of Opposites.

(Super hoping some doctor doesn’t read this and tell me these are all the exact symptoms of multiple personality disorder. I’M JUST THE ONE SHANNON. I just take in too many details about everything and I am too observant for simplicity. (Not you, Pops. You shush.))

ANYWAY. Opposites.

What this means is that I generally like/prefer/feel both sides of any spectrum, equally. This does not mean I’m indecisive. Or that I love compromises or 50/50 splits. No. I am 100% positive that I like/want/need both choices. I want Opposite Things with 100% equal intensity.

That’s the easiest way I can think of to explain it, with choices or preferences, but this phenomenon isn’t limited to just opinions or wants. Pop culture, music, mottos, cars, traditions, technology. ANYTHING. There are a few things in my life that are firmly Just One Way (feminism, drummers, kindness, manners, London, LBGT equal rights, queso, and grammar, among other things) but pretty much everything else is subject to Opposites.

With music, I can be a giant snob OR dance around gleefully to Nelly in my kitchen. I was raised in the church and formally trained in choirs/band from fifth or sixth grade until the day I graduated from college. I know music. I know lyrics. So one Shan is snobby about talent and chords and harmony and pitches and I Knew This Band Before They Were Known. The other Shan recognizes a good beat and how ANY music can get inside your blood and your heart and make you move. Even if that beat is Fergie and the dancing is at a stoplight with your sister.

Music leads me to mention actual dancing. One Shan taught ballroom dancing for a bit in college, took some form of ballet and jazz when she was young, choreographed some cheer dances for her sister’s squad, and can move fairly purposefully to a good beat. The Other Shan has no center of gravity, trips frequently over air, always has at least one injury from clumsiness, and can’t follow a line dance with any type of seriousness.* (How I continued to excel in yoga is beyond me.)

*This may be due to line dancing, and not actual skill. I’m a Texan and I’ll wear boots, but I shan’t Scoot or Boogie. (I will and I HAVE.)

I love jewelry and accessories and killer heels and matching my eyeliner and nail polish to my outfit, but I also have a pair of sweats I stole from Husband and squishy Reef flip-flops that I would wear all day er’ryday, to all the places. ALL THE PLACES.

I want both zero children and allllllll the children because hello, sleeping in is amazing and margaritas are my JAM but also I could NAME OTHER HUMANS and seriously with their cute faces, I can’t even, I need one now, please and thank you.

I love designs that are black and white and sleek and modern and simple, but I also love shabby chic interiors and cozy spaces with squishy cushions and rainbows and too many pictures on the wall.

I think kids should be raised to be independent at very young ages, and I also think I would lock my kid inside my house and never let them out of my sight or walk home from school alone because the world is getting HELLA SCARIER with each passing day.

I think that chivalry (in ALL people/genders) is a thing that should keep happening and keep being important, but I think that nothing in the world that is broken can ever be fixed if we keep teaching men that women are the weaker sex.

I think technology is amazing and wonderful and awe-inspiring and it should be used all the time but I also think we should unplug everything and go have a picnic outside.

I love cuddling and spooning in bed and resting my head on Husband’s shoulder because I fit there just perfectly and I also think that one of these nights, I will smash our bed to pieces if he even breathes on me again because I do NOT ENJOY BODY CONTACT STOP IT.

I think books should be long and detailed, with complex themes and characterization and full of Serious Literature for Deep Thinking. But it is also really amazing to sit down with a fun and fluffy book, just because it makes you smile.

There are more examples, of course. But that’s pretty much the gist of it.

As you can imagine, I’m a bit much to live with. Send all your sweetest vibes to Husband. He going to need them if he crosses to my side of the bed tonight. Again.

Cheers!

-S.

And These Are My Thoughts On Books

I am getting this post in juuuust under the wire for my goal of at least one post a week. Which reminds me, do y’all know who invented goals? No pressure, I just wanna talk to her for a minute.

WHO needs a post that often?? Oh, yes. Someone who wants a blog with actual content, that’s who.

This post idea has been percolating in my head for a LONG TIME. However, I just didn’t recognize it for what it was and decided to ignore it. Have I mentioned that I’m stubborn? Even to myself? It’s a whole thing.

I’ve been knocked to the ground this week by a New Glasses Migraine, which is totally my fault because I bragged about them a lot. A LOT. So, now I’m stuck in a place where I can’t wear my old glasses, I don’t want my new glasses near my face just yet, and the thought of putting in contacts to, you know, SEE things gives me the No!Shivers.

I’m super lucky that migraines don’t cause me nausea or vomiting, like they do my mother and sister. Mine just don’t let my eyes work. I can’t look at things or it hurts. Everywhere. All the time. My dishwasher is currently clean and hanging wide-open because I glanced at the silverware tray and had to go lie down. For a few days.

But now I see where all the Thoughts were trying to lead me, so I ate a samoa or six, had a dance party in the kitchen, laughed at Belafonte and Abdul (I will not apologize for that. Or this. But maybe this?), did some research, and now it is TIME.

SO. It occurred to me sometime late in 2014 that I had been living my life WRONG.

But SHANNON. You are awesome! I know, right?? I am. Thank you! However, I spend most of my life loving one thing VERY FIERCELY and yet somehow, in 2015, a whole quarterish of a century into my life, I have no one to talk to about one of my Fiercest Loves.

Books, y’all. I love books so much, I think it’s a little dangerous.

I spent my childhood immersed in every fictional world I could get my hands on. And I do mean IMMERSED. I didn’t have all the normal punishments as a small child- my parents would sometimes have to limit my access to books or take them away as until the lesson was learned. Stubborn, remember? Who cares if I’m grounded if I can be grounded in A Little House on the Praire? I sure didn’t! It’s hard to reason with a kid who really WANTS to go to their room. (And read about what they’ve done.) I don’t remember the specifics, but I’m positive more than one of my teachers had to send home notes that were something like “Could we maybe find a way to stop Shannon from reading in class? Reading is great, but maybe not so much during the math lesson?”

I used to write pretty consistently as well, but aside from a “novel”* I completed in elementary school, a ton of poetry, and one amazing school project,** becoming an author never even crossed my mind. I didn’t want to WRITE novels. I wanted to READ them. All of them. Every single one on the planet.***

*This novel can only be described as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch fanfiction and I don’t have a thing to say for myself. Bless Young Shannon’s little heart.

**Awesome English project: we wrote a children’s book and my teacher had them PRINTED. I was so excited because I read somewhere that authors don’t write the copy on the back of the books, so I had my sister write my copy and blurbs. So official!

***This is not TECHNICALLY the case anymore. I’ve seen that erotic dinosaur fanfiction exists in the world and my soul is now permanently troubled.

My family is a family of readers, but aside from the bigs (Harry Potter) and some sentimental littles (Trixie Belden) we don’t really read in the same circles. I always try to get my people interested in the books I like, too, but it’s gotten more and more halfhearted over the years. I even named myself the Literary Aunt for my niblings this year and got them some of my childhood faves, hopefully cultivating some family book community down the line. Way down the line, it seems. None of my family or people want to read what I read, much less discuss it or flail about it with me later.

And y’all, I absolutely, positively NEED to flail. I’ve spent a lot of time THINKING so many THOUGHTS about all the BOOKS and I have news for you. There are only so many times you can have a conversation with a brick wall about Richard Campbell Gansey III before the nice men come for you, carrying pretty white jackets.

(I tried talking to my dog about books, but she judges my opinions and kitchen dancing soooo we both knew it couldn’t last. I also have a Husband who experiences pop culture completely opposite of me, so we kind of steer clear of those types of conversations because neither of us wants a sharp kitchen utensil in the thigh.)

((He’s Team Bonnie, you guys. And Anti-Caroline. I just can’t. Don’t make me. I beg you.))

Here, then, is my space for all of my book thoughts. I didn’t start this blog to be a book blog, but I didn’t NOT do that either. Parts of this blog are still going to be used for a Very Specific Purpose, but I’m still working up to that and finding my voice and my courage. In fact, I love a good deal more than books and Very Specific Things, so hopefully I keep this going, and my blog will be full of all the Things I Love: painting, editing, Specifics, nail polishes, reading, pictures, pretty wine labels… I’m down with that.

I’ve been researching quite a few book blogs in the past few weeks, looking into the mechanics of reviews and what I like (detailed honesty about flaws) and dislike (SPOILERS.) What’s weird about this is that I really super hate reading reviews. Too risky for spoilers, in my mind. And yet I want to write them. I don’t know, you figure it out. I’m tired and I have a headache and my dishwasher is out to get me, weren’t you listening?

I have seen a few reviewers use the same template and structure for their reviews, which I think is brilliant. Others just write a bit of an essay, talking about the book. Not into that. Unless I’ve read the books. And then I love it. Did I mention I love talking about thoughts on books? I can’t remember…

I’m trying so hard to take all of this research into my brain in a bird’s-eye view kind of way and to not notice the details, because I want to come up with my own original thing. I do think I will adore reviewing my lovely book favourites and new reads on my tiny blog. I will finally have a space to talk some book talk, so maybe I can stop shoving books at strangers and sobbing or threatening to lock my sister in my basement and read The Raven Boys aloud to her UNTIL SHE GETS IT. (That one I might actually keep doing, on principle. As soon as I get a basement.)

While I figure those things out, as well as what book should be the FIRST OFFICIAL REVIEW,  I’ll tell y’all about my 2015 Reading Challenge.

I’ve never thought about the books I read in a year. At all. I just… read. Voraciously. Stopping only to bask (alone) in the glow of a Great Book, and then on and on and on. Repeat Repeat Repeat Forever.

In December, my friend found this PopSugar Reading Challenge and asked if I’d be interested doing that with her. “Sure,” I thought, “52 books sounds more than doable.” I glanced at the list, it annoyed me for sexist reasons, and I figured I’d pick my own 52 books.

Cool. Done. Totally doable.

*4.35 minutes pass*

Wait, though. Is it? What DID you read last year, Shannon? Was it way more or wayyyy less than 52? Uhhh, Katelyn, hold up…

A couple weeks later, I had a conversation with my dad about books. Well, I say conversation, but it was more like “My Futile Monthly Call To Beg Him To Read The Thief” and then discuss it. 

He mentioned that he was going to slow WAY down on his reading schedule. He reads more than one book at a time, which I think would drive me bonkers, and the amount of books he was reading was becoming a problem. He never really enjoyed the moment while reading or retained the information, because he was already thinking about the next book in his daily queue, all while having a TBR pile that would put a librarian to shame. He wanted to whole-ass ONE book instead of half-assing (fifth-assing?) five books; he wanted to read with a PURPOSE. Then the converastion was just a debate between Ron Swanson and Homer Simpson, but I digress.

I, too, want to read with a purpose and keep track of what I read in a year. One of my resolutions is to branch out in book genres, after all. Plus, I literally have NO CLUE what I can read in a year. Not even kind of. I’ve never counted. And I never remember all the books I’ve read. Only BIG books stick with me. (Those are the books I volley to strangers at Barnes & Noble, sometimes sobbing with Book Emotions. I’m so sorry, Strangers. It will happen again, I’m sure of it.)

So I went back to that stupid PopSugar reading list, dusted off my GoodReads app, and started actually making a Reading Plan. I’ve never done anything like it, so it was weird and odd and fun and a total rabbit-hole of GoodReads recs and Googling the 1988 New York Times Bestseller lists.

2015 Reading Challenge

Are there other lists like this one out there? Probably. But now it’s A Thing and I saw this one first and I’m sticking with (most) of it. I’m taking out four of them, I think, and adding in four of my own: I dislike judging a book solely on its review, my mom AND dad both have favourite books, I won’t choose a book solely based on the gender of the author, I choose not to read horror stories, and if I didn’t finish a book the first time, there was a reason.

I’m not positive what I’m adding to the list yet. So far, Googling the author’s initial book and the year born book have been highly entertaining, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something fun. I’m also keeping the graphic novel on the list, slightly against my better judgement. (I WANT to break into that genre, but I get a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of choices, holy MOLY the multiverse options, and oh-sweet-moses the vernacular that is gibberish to me. Me, the avid reader and intelligent human. With access to Google. And there is still MUCH TO LEARN.)

I’ve already learned a few things about myself during the Purposeful Reading during January and February. I guess “learned” isn’t the right word. “Slowed down enough to pay attention to what I enjoy in novels” is more like it.They aren’t HUGE revelations and I know they are already well-worn book community discussions, but I’m proud of them all the same.

  • I love third person POV the best
  • I love multiple third person POVs even more
  • I enjoy series more than standalone, for depth reasons (Exception? This. Always.)
  • I enjoy series where all characters stay in all books and keep rotating through the POVs MOST OF ALL.
  • I enjoy characters that are not written as boring weaklings just for the express purpose of a Magical and Floaty Character!Reveal later on. Characters can START awesome and then get MORE awesome.
  • I love dramatic irony more than the opposite of dramatic irony because HOW HARD WOULD A DRACO CHAPTER HAVE BEEN FOR PETE’S SAKE I GOT SO TIRED OF HIS SMUG LITTLE FACE AND HARRY’S IDIOCY AND THEREFORE MY IDIOCY SWEET BABY MOTHER OF PEARL IT WAS THE CABINET HARRY THE DAMN CABINET THE WHOLE TI– Sorry. My point stands.

A quick Google and Kindle search tell me that 1) There is no name for “the opposite of dramatic irony.” How unfortunate. I say we make one up. And 2) there has been exactly ONE book that is written in first person AND uses The Opposite Irony, but did NOT make me want to set things on fire.

I just tore through the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer, or the Lunar Chronicles. Guess what? It has ALL OF THESE things I’ve always loved, with a twist! I read it to get it off of my list, expecting to toss it aside snarkfully. I did not, and I’m still thinking about all the things I enjoyed in that series and the happiness that I have that teens and all people have access to themes like that, even weeks later. THIS DOES NOT COUNT AS THE FIRST OFFICIAL REVIEW, BTW. But I am glad I’m being more purposeful in my attention to what I’m reading now, because I think in December, I would would have read the first book, smiled slightly, and forgotten about it as I kept going. So very glad I did not do that. I cannot WAIT for the last installment, Winter.

UPDATE 1: I forgot to mention last night that I apparently really enjoy space operas? I think? I had no idea what a space opera was until a few months ago and I’m not entirely sure I know exactly what they are now but… I’m very into it? This blog said it best in a review of one of my favourite series: “I don’t understand anything that it going on, but I am INTO IT, ANYWAY.” (Check that blog out! I’ve only read a few of the reviews, but the music/book pairing thing is such a fun and novel idea! (Pun obviously VERY MUCH INTENDED.))

The fun (and infuriating) space opera I’m talking about is The Starkillers Cycle by Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas. Maas writes another GREAT series, Throne of Glass, that I can’t even talk about right now because I love it so much. That is a WHOLE OTHER post. Starkillers is infuriating because it’s fun story, written for fun and for fans, at the two authors’ pace. SO amazing and SO AWFUL waiting for the next chapter. (And I’ve only been following along since November… I can only imagine the angst of the first readers.) But authors who love their fans and actively reach out to them? Very into that, too.

I recently read a blurb about a time travel novel and I LOVE time travel almost more than wine and fairytales and queso, so I’m off to gleefully search that list on GoodReads now. So many options when you’re paying attention!!

Alight, I have to literally force myself to stop writing about books now. IT JUST FEELS SO NICE THOUGH. Cheers!

-S.

UPDATE 2: I thought about it overnight I figured I should just ASK: what do y’all think I should pick for my first review? I want it to be a book I already know I love, so no new reads. I want it to be something that maybe a lot of people haven’t heard of… So maybe not Cinder? But I also want it to be a book that is still fresh in my mind, so I’ll either have to reread it soon or pick one that I’ve read rather recently.And I don’t want to choose Throne of Glass because I’m a huge weirdo and I’ve already planned to reread them all before the next book in September.

All of that narrows it down to these choices (basically all the books I keep mentioning anyway): Cinder, The Raven Boys, The Thief (SO daunting!), Timebound, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Winner’s Curse. What do y’all think?

And This Is The New Plan

Alright, y’all. Gratitude and Abundance and The Crafty Memory Jar.

I’ve been toying with the different ways I could explain these words and the jar without seeming morose, and after a while, I just decided to keep it real and blunt. That’s my normal, and the point of this blog was to connect with people, so I’m keeping it that way. I’m know that somewhere out there, someone gets this and could use a hug or a memory jar of their own.

SO- I have the worst luck. If Murphy’s Law could be a corporeal being, it would be me. That doesn’t mean my life is ONLY Bad Luck, but it does seem like I have always drawn the shortest straw. The Shannon Straw, if you will. Example?

  • Customer service: “Oh, Ms Allen. It is SO odd that all of your student paperwork was lost and your graduation plan was calculated incorrectly! That almost NEVER happens! Only once in ten years of digital planning!”
  • Insurance agent: “Oh my goodness, Mrs W.!! Did your windshield seriously get another chip, only a DAY after repairing the last one?? This paperwork is hilarious!”
  • Utility rep: “Ma’am, you were right. The system WAS billing you incorrectly. I can’t even imagine how that happened… a mistake like that is very rare.”
  • Shan, always: “You don’t say. I am shocked that I was the one exception to the rule. SHOCKED, I say.”

Those are a few of the lighter examples and are basically a weekly, if not daily, part of my life. It varies from ridiculous to actually bad, and that’s just how it works with me. My dad always giggles a bit and tells me “That’s life, Shan. Welcome!”

I know that life is life and annoyances and set-backs are part of the ride, but I used to try to plan for the bad things and find a way to avoid the one-in-a-million-chance bad luck that is my second shadow.

That kind of life is AWFUL, y’all. After a while, you start losing sight of the good around you because you’re obsessively anticipating the next bad thing, planning how to fix it, and feeling a grim sense of satisfaction it does happen.

Life IS life and bad things DO happen, but there is a difference between letting the Bad dictate your actions, giving it permission to control your habits, and being okay with the Bad when it happens, learning from it and then letting it go. I want to rid myself of the habits of the former and stick with the latter.

I’m always grateful for what I have, but my logical mind is busy busy busy trying to improve the situation and make a better plan for next time, instead of just enjoying the moment. I am quite terrible at letting things be. VERY terrible, if I’m being honest.

I want to balance my gratitude for the good that DOES happen and remember that I do have abundance in what is made available to me. I want to quit searching for More and Better and to quit obsessing about the Shannon Straw. I have enough. I am enough. I don’t know if this new plan will eliminate my Murphy’s Law Shadow, but I do know I won’t drive myself crazy thinking about it.

(Is there one word that encapsulates the true goal of the above paragraphs? A word that is not “positivity”? If so, let me know!)

To help my little family take note of the Good, I decided to make a 2015 Grateful Memory Jar. Isn’t it lovely??

good jar

2015 Grateful Memories

Full disclosure: the jar looked this perfect for 7.3942 minutes because I am SO GOOD* AT CRAFTS. Now it looks like this and I am going to have to resort to using my neon houndstooth duct tape and making do. It is what it is, folks.

The tape that failed this city.

The tape that failed this city.

I saw this idea on Pinterest a few years ago and I wanted to make it a family tradition from the start, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. It’s here now, though!

Basically, the idea is that you write down all the good or fun or sweet or delightful things that happen during your year, and then on New Year’s Eve, you read through what is in the jar. Husband and I are very excited about this jar and are already looking forward to reading the memories at the end of the year. Not only will it kickstart a good habit, but people are right: time moves SO FAST as you grow up. This will help us remember what happened in the whirlwind.

These are the first three (but not only!) memories I wrote down:

Magic Earrings

Magic Earrings

1.) My mother-in-law got me these earrings for my birthday this year. Well, she got them for my sister-in-law, who then handed them directly to me. And they were actually a Christmas present. Oh, alright! I’ll explain as best I can.

On my very first (maybe second?) Christmas with my in-laws, my MIL told the girls she had gotten us earrings, but in the craziness of the holiday, she lost the tiny packages. This was two or three years ago.

Since then, I’ve seen my SIL wear a pair BEAUTIFUL silver earrings with birds on them. They aren’t my go-to style, but I always admired them. After a while, I realized that, go-to style or not, I wanted a pair. I asked her where she bought them and then immediately started searching. However, the earrings are no longer available. Years had passed, after all!

“I shall love them from afar,” I told myself “and it will be a glorious star-crossed love.”

This year, my SIL and I had a joint birthday celebration, and wouldn’t you know that the first present she opened was that same pair of earrings? In a gorgeous bronze color?? My MIL found the lost earrings while wrapping gifts and forgot that she had already given Sister the silver pair and that the bronze pair was meant for me! (At least, we think so. Years have passed people!)

Voilà! First fun memory! The second is from that same night…

2) For the birthday meal, my MIL made chicken spaghetti. Everyone at the table was enjoying the food, the conversation and the togetherness. Then, my MIL told us that, while making the spice cake dessert and the chicken entrée, she had switched the seasoned salt and the cinnamon, and that we were all actually eating Accidentally Cinnamon Chicken Spaghetti. Now, if she hadn’t said anything, I doubt anyone would have noticed. But as soon as she told us, all we could taste was cinnamon chicken! The dinner was still great and afterward we all had a good time sharing our own stories of kitchen disasters.

Annnnnd  now the third. Possibly my favourite. (So far.)

3) First, you should know that I LOVE giving and planning gifts. It is one of my Things. Quite unabashedly, I know that I am great at it.

I have a DEAR friend, Katelyn, whom I lovingly and nonsensically call Dorito. Katelyn has a brain remarkably similar to mine and we often joke that we have just one soul that has been split between us.

Well, my dearest Katelyn just went through a hard season of life, conquered it like a champ, and is now starting the next chapter. It is a fun chapter, but also tough. So I thought I’d put together a fun little Texas/Birthday/Christmas/Season Conquering care package for her, as a surprise

And then my DEAREST DORITO tried to use our shared brain against me and figure what I was doing. (HOW DARE SHE.) She tried so many times, you guys. Sneaky questions, reverse psychology, Freudian slips, unsubtle hints, logic puzzles… This girl, man. I’m also pretty sure she tried to keep tabs on Santa as a child.**

However, I have the benefit of being sneaky AND a Gift Ninja soooooo… I won this round. Last week, Katelyn got her Surprise!Care Package and absolutely loved it. It was so fun to listen to her shock (don’t mess with the Gift Ninja!) and delight as she opened each silly gift.

Care Package Spoils

Care Package Spoils

I got a fun “gift” out of all of it, as well. Aren’t these long-distance mugs just lovely?

FRIENDSHIP COFFEE, HERE WE COME.

FRIENDSHIP COFFEE, HERE WE COME.

I got them custom-made from this Etsy shop and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. Perfect for long-distance people who share an intense love for coffee and tea! Or any beverage, really. Hot or cold. No one is the boss of your mug. Let’s not limit beverage love, people. Unless you have to. And then that’s a whooooole other post entirely.

WHEW. This was a long one! Thanks for sticking around. Here’s to new plans, conquering bad luck, and new family traditions- Cheers!

-S.

*Bad. SO BAD at crafting.

** I may not have any hard evidence that this is a fact, but she basically put me in an interrogation room to find out what her surprise was. So my gut tells me that Santa had to plan around this one, too.

And This Will Be 2015

YIKES to this past week. NO THANK YOU and YIKES.

I knew I wanted my next post to be about my 2015 goals, so it seems that the universe wanted to test me to make sure that I really, actually meant them. (I do, as it turns out. In future, however, I would appreciate far less sass from you, Universe.)

I’ve never really been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not because I think they are dumb, but because in observing society, I noticed that resolutions were essentially goals that you set with the intent of whining about them later. I find that simply illogical. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and if I want something, I put my stubbornness to work until I got it. Imperfection was never really an option, and the year and the date didn’t matter.

It is also important to my resolution story to note that in the past several years, my people and the crowds they run with started talking about their Word of the Year.

“What is this nonsense?” Past Shannon thought derisively. “Don’t they know that a year is too long for one word to have any hope of keeping up with the changing seasons?”

Thankfully, my people did not shun Past Shannon, but just kept telling me stories of how their word changed their year. How the plan and the intention behind the word was all at once a reminder, a hope to cling to, a help during hard decisions, a choice to be made daily.

I started pondering what Word I would choose if I was a Person Who Chose Words.

(Helpful hint: if you want to be like Past Shannon and snort with mockery at Words, don’t start thinking about Words and Goals. That’s how they get you.)

As all these Words were swirling in my head, threatening to turn me into a Person Who Chooses Words, one of my VERY FAVOURITE AUTHORS, Maggie Stiefvater,* (re)posted her thoughts on resolutions. That post is here and I do recommend reading it. I am head-over-heels in love with Maggie’s novels, but I may love her thoughts on life and smashing the expectations of modern society even more.**

Obviously what happened next is that I spent the rest of December in a somewhat frantic state, trying to pick THE MOST PERFECT WORD EVER (I know… I know.) and the PERFECT RESOLUTIONS (I’m sighing at myself, too. Where do you think Past Shannon*** got it all?) that wouldn’t make me a dirty liar. All of the sneaky Words had abandoned me as soon as their work of converting me into a Word Person was done, those jerks.

I finally chilled on the perfection, a bit, because who says I have to have it written in stone? Who says my year doesn’t start today and from now on, I always choose my word on January 26? NO ONE, THAT’S WHO. I’m the boss of me. M and I already moved New Year’s Eve all over the place, so really, I’m just a troublemaker anyway. I should embrace it.

So here are my resolutions and my word(s) for 2015 because I want to be able to come back here at the end of this year and see how I did.

  1. Start a blog
  2. Read in wider range of genres
  3. Bike 25-30 miles straight
  4. Get new glasses
  5. Take vitamins DAILY. (I MEAN IT, SHANNON. Daily means 365 times. ALL THE DAYS.)
  6. Keep blue in hair year-round
  7. Find one new/crazy dinner recipe per month
  8. Hold Wheel/Chakra-asana for 8 Ujjayi breaths
  9. Paint the pantry
  10. Find a way to recreate The Red Bell Pepper Margarita
  11. See my lovely friend and Dorito with my own actual eyeballs.
  12. Reinstate official date nights
  13. Blog at least once a week.
  14. Make crafty memory jar
  15. Start thinking about the possibility of considering to consider MAYBE planning a vow renewal in the nearish future. Maybe. Possibly.

Since I am 1) currently typing a third post for the third week of this blog’s life while 2) sitting in my NEW GLASSES**** to wear them in, and 3) trying to remember where the duct tape is for the memory jar, all while planning 4) what time to put the leftovers of the new recipe I tried on the stove for dinner tonight, I’d say I am doing well about not lying to myself.

My words this year are Gratitude and Abundance.

I chose two, because I don’t think there is a word for the action of destroying a feeling and habit I have over the next year. However, I think I’ll save the explanation of my words for the next post. The words are slightly tied to my crafty memory jar, which is currently betraying AND mocking me and thus not ready, and the universe doesn’t need anymore temptation, that sassy brat.

(We’ll see who wins the sass battle. It’s not like I don’t have any practice.)

-S.

*Start with THE RAVEN BOYS. Unless you hate boat shoes. No one would blame you. If so, try THE SCORPIO RACES.

** Ronan Lynch tests this theory. Daily.

***Past Shannon was a DOOZY but she did what she could with what she had.

**** I am regretting this choice because who gives up comfortable, worn-in glasses? Oh. I do. Because the new ones are AMAZING, that’s why.

And This Is Us

Hey, all!

I really meant to have something like this in my first post, but like some kind of idiot who was also rushing around doing crazy birthday shenanigans, I thought that publishing that post via the mobile app would be TOTES FINE. It definitely was NOT that.

SO. Formal introduction time. (Remind me to tell you about the time that my sister and I realized that we had never been formally introduced… our minds were BLOWN.)

Husband

Husband

This is Husband. Or M. Or Sweets. Or DUDE SERIOUSLY?! He is darling and kind and wonderful and infuriating and one of the least boring decisions I’ve ever made.

Me

Me

This is me. I have no true nicknames, but also I have just too many nicknames to list. Shan is normally my preferred weapon of choice, as Shannon Elise still makes me think I’ve gotten in some kind of trouble. (Now… I just AM trouble.) If I don’t have my blue streak in my hair, my mind is actively planning the next time I can, I promise you.

SugarButt, absolutely thrilled to be wearing a bow for family pictures.

SugarButt, absolutely thrilled to be wearing a bow for family pictures.

This our dog, Coco Bella. Or SugarButt. Or Coconut. Or Cocomo. Or Bells. Or Dorito Head. Or Oh I KNOW You Did NOT Just Think You Could Get Away With That, Ma’am! There are probably about a hundred more, but I’ll stop. FOR NOW.

I love my dog more than l like most people, and to me, she is just the BEST THING. Technically, she is a rescue dog. My parents found her hiding underneath one of our cars when she was six-ish months old. My dad and I shared custody of her for a while, but when I moved away to get married, I needed her with me. She is currently curled up next to me, pressing as close to me as she can without leaving her bed, while I figure out how to blog and share and decide what to do with the ocean of words rushing around in my head.

Sasha, Elena, Shan, Coco, and Matthew

Sasha, Elena, Shan, Coco, and Matthew

There are two other dogs in my extended family, Sasha and Elena, that live with my parents. I mention them 1) because I ADORE those punks and 2) because my tiny little chihuahua grew up with the huskies, so she thinks she is actually a huge Husky Guard Dog. Bless her little heart. She tries.

Tiny Family

Tiny Family

And that’s my family, so far!

Husband and I have many dreams and wants and plans for the future of our family (Me- more dogs. ALL THE DOGS! AND PONIES! Him- tiny little baseball players and drummers to run around the house. And also dogs.) but right now, this is more than enough.

One really HARD lesson we have learned in our barely two years of marriage is this: Family Begins Before Kids.

We also learned that we were really and truly terrible at treating our own family like that was the truth. There were many hurt feelings and many disagreements and finally we would just break down from the stress and say something like “WHY are we doing this? What is the ACTUAL REASON?”

The answer was that we were both always making decisions based on former habits without thinking about what OUR family needed.

Now, Husband and I are very firm in choosing our own family and building our own structure and our own rules from the ground up, instead of just mindlessly following habits. We try very hard to remember that even now, without kids or dependents, that we are own family unit, not just an addition to the families we came from.

Adulthood and marriage are Hard Things to do, but once you realize that all of the choices are yours, and yours ALONE, to make and screw up… the freedom is breathtaking. And scary as hell.

Cheers, from this tiny (but real!) family.DSC_0532

-S.

And This Is My Story

HELLO!
I’m Shannon. Or Shan. Or ShanShan.

I decided to start an OFFICIAL blog this year and since then, my mind has just been whirring with possibilities and ideas for posts, especially the FIRST POST. Too many ideas, really.

But the bottom line is this: I’ve had the urge and the want to blog for about five years now, but I always held myself back. What would I say? Would anyone care? Would anyone listen? What would the point even be? What would I blog about? Why in the actual world would people read it?

And then my lovely, beautiful friend and therapist told me the best blogs always come from people who have a good story.

OH BOY, DO I HAVE A STORY.

And yet… I still struggled with the importance of my experiences and words and the wisdom I have gained in my 27 years. (It is not a TON of wisdom, granted. But I have a little.) What does my story matter, REALLY, in the long run?

Recently, I’ve learned this:
My voice is important and I have things to say. I used to think my voice didn’t matter, and my hard-earned wisdom was unimportant. “You can’t change anything with simple words,” I thought.)

I was half right. I can’t physically change anyone. But I can help. I can be there for any recent college graduate or newlywed who is going through what I went through. I can listen. And I can use my voice, my important voice, to speak. And if I can help ONE PERSON, just ONE, with this blog or anything else, all of my past struggles and heartbreak will be worth it.

I’ll talk more about my experiences, and my crazy life in later posts. This IS just the start, after all, and it is full of amazing possibilities.

What will this blog be about? Who knows!? Whatever I want! Great recipes I’ve tried, awesome books that touched my soul, TV shows that make me fall of off my couch, our misadventures in making our family our own special brand of Ridiculous… Anything I want, basically.

So here. Here it is, my blog. I do hope my words make you giggle, or make you mad, or make you think. I hope they make you go read a book I love or send me that perfect minor key song I’ve been searching for my whole damn life.

Happy birthday to ME and Happy Actual Birthday to my Blog. Cheers!
-Shan
(Or Dorito. Or Babydoll. Or Sestra.)