Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Have You Read-2009? What Do You Hope To Read- 2010?

We did this at the end of the year last year, and so I suppose it shall become the very first regular feature of my very irregular blog.

The Challenge: What have you read this past year? What was your favorite? What was your least favorite? What book would you most recommend to others to read? Also list one or two reading goals for next year. What do you hope to read? Do you hope to read more? Do you hope to read more of a particular type of material?

Even if you haven't read any books- what blogs, news sources, message boards, or magazines have you read?

Either leave your list in the comments or on your own blog with a link in the comments!!

What I've Read 2009:
One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Mr. Ives' Christmas- Oscar Hijuelos
Bridge of San Luis Rey- Thorton Wilder
Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien
Last Night I Dreamed of Peace-
Mister Pip-Lloyd Jones
Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast-Bill Richardson
Robber Bridegroom-Eudora Welty
Between, Georgia- Joshilyn Jackson
Going After Cacciato- Tim O'Brien
Roxanna Slade- Reynolds Price
Steve and Me- Terri Irwin
Fathers and Sons- Ivan Turgenev
The Good Earth- Pearl S Buck
My Mortal Enemy- Willa Cather
The Open Boat and Other Stories- Stephen Crane
Camino Real- Tennessee Williams
The Autobiography of Santa Claus- Jeff Guinn

Favorite: Roxanna Slade Least Favorite: Going After Cacciato. What Everyone Should Read: Mr Ives' Christmas.

Goals For 2010
Mostly I just want to complete the War Through The Generations reading challenge. I want to be realistic in what I am able to do while not sleeping and having a wee baby in the house. Though I think in the next few weeks here, the time has absolutely come for me to read Nabakov. It astounds me often, the big gaps in my reading! Time to ammend at least this one.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 War Through The Generations Reading Challenge

This year's reading challenge? Vietnam War literature!! And unless something more significant (ack!!) than getting pregnant, moving, dealing with flooding problems, and having a new baby happens--I feel very confident that I can read at least six books which have the Vietnam War as a primary or secondary theme. I even already have a list!

Why am I so excited by this particular challenge? I have often joked that if I went to go get a doctorate, that I could-at any given time- write my thesis about Vietnam War literature, since I have read that particular genre so extensively. In my review of The Things They Carried, I speak of feeling a connection with this literature and with the war, since I was a young girl.

I wasn't sure about why that connection exists, but speaking with a good friend of a good friend at a party last week, I think I might have nailed down why this particular literature and era calls to my inner being as it does.(And yes...I of the party!! That's me! Baby in tow and talking about books. *giggles* Thank heavens for my Pee Wee Herman laugh!). As we were speaking about what we were reading, my current read being My Detachment by Tracy Kidder, he asked why I was drawn to Vietnam War literature. He felt that WWII literature was more compelling, because of the singularly horrific organization of evil which was present in the Axis regimes. As I understood it, he felt that such evil being allowed to manifest and exist in such a way was such a puzzle that all humanity could think of it for all of time and still not come to a firm understanding or resolution as to why it happened.

For me, however, while I do not disagree with any of the points he made, Vietnam War literature tugs at my soul and my consciousness in a far more personal way than the abstractions and altruisms of much WWII literature. Thinking about this, my working conclusion is that there is something about how muddled and how completely un-understandable the Vietnam War is in all its facets with which I deeply relate. I think that I connect with the idea of having been sold a bill of goods. Having been born in the 1970's , raised in the 1980's and come into my adulthood in the 1990's, my entire life centered around an illusion of peace and security. The suburban over-achiement myth has left so many of my peers and contemporaries as broken, wounded, essentially empty people. We collectively pretended for decades that there was no grey, when in fact nearly all of life is a muddled, overlapping mess of black and white. We began with firm ammendment of the will, yet ended with a deep, far-reaching purposelessness.

Vietnam War literature primarily focuses on just this dichotomy, the process of going through that confusion and loss of a sense of purpose, it's after effects both short- and long-term, and sometimes the resolution of taking these things and while never making sense of them, using them as a foundation from which to build a new life replete with purpose.. Mostly this is true, because the War itself and the people who lived during the War careened through these phases if not personally, collectively.

It will be interesting to come back to this post and the end of 2010 after reading more and re-examine my thesis. In the meantime, I hope you will consider joining the War Through The Generations Challenge this year! Check back throughout the year for my book reviews!

(PS-Please be patient and gentle with spelling and grammar errors--I have a feeling that most posts will be written just like this one--with a baby in arms, a toddler climbing on my back and shoulders ad interruptions from no less than 3 other people. :) )

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Michael at Christmastime

I cannot believe that Michael is 2 months old! The time has flown by and the first few weeks of his life are a blur. He is still working out the whole digestion-thing, but has made up for that grumpiness by starting to smile quite a bit. I expect another two months will find us with some semblance of a routine and rhythm to our days and nights. While I am trying to be in the present, I do look forward to a little more normalcy.

Christmas so far has been rather busy, so while fun it is also a little exhausting. We got lots of new games for Christmas, which I think deserve their own blog post in the next day or two.

In the meantime have fun perusing my new favorite blog:
My Monkeys And Me

Friday, November 13, 2009

Michael's Second Week

I have had this saved for a month, hoping to add in some text. Obviously I think that's not going to happen--so I'll just put up the pictures! They're in reverse order--so the one at the bottom is from Thursday, the one above is from Friday, then Saturday, Sunday, Monday, & the one at the top is from Tuesday--nearly 2 weeks old.

These are Michael, the first week in November--and some of the people who have loved him from before he was born. Miss Tina is holding him on his first outing--to Jane and Bernadette's gym meet Friday, November 6.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Rest of Michael's First Week

Sunday November 1st, Michael 4 days old

Snuggles with Jane
Our friend Ashley and her son Austin came for a visit Sunday afternoon and brought lots of easy fixin' kid-friendly food.

Monday, November 2- Michael 5 days old

The dads wanted in on the action. The Jasons came with their families to get their newborn baby snuggle on. And dinner found us eating some delicious Hubbard chicken soup.

Tuesday, November 3-Michael 6 days old

With proud (and silly) big brother, Andrew

Tuesday evening, Rachel and Jennifer came over bearing sushi and cans of Coca-cola (an essential part of every Cleaning Club). Pat had stopped at Transmetropolitan earlier when he was out and got us some dessert. It was great to just sit and chat and laugh and take silly pictures involving wax lips-which you can see here. I was really going a little stir crazy and their visit really lifted my spirits!!

Wednesday, November 4- Michael ONE WEEK OLD!!!!
To celebrate his one week birthday, Jennifer came over to do a newborn photo shoot. I will edit in a link or some pics.

Wednesday evening, Lucy got to introduce Michael to her best friend when she, her sisters and Dana, their momma brought us very yummy pizza and salad!! (Sorry we were sleeping on Thursday and missed you!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The kids all had a great Halloween. My husband took them over to Jennifer's house for their annual Halloween bash. You can see more pics of all her awesome decorating and everyone's costumes at her blog. When I was taking pictures before they left Andrew insisted that he was NOT Captain Jack Sparrow, just Andy, and took off his costume. Once he got to the party and saw everyone else dressed up, he gave up his Andy personae for the rest of the night.

Andrew, errr Captain Jack Sparrow, was apparently quite the hit of the party. You can see more of that on Sarah's blog. My little Bernadette loved her costume so very much. She has been enthralled with The Wizard of Oz for well over a year now.
Tim and Jane, in particular were very excited to wear their costumes. Now that Halloween is passed, they both still can be seen from time to time in their costumes. Lucy, I think, liked being Alice from Alice In Wonderland, but most enjoyed hanging out with her friends.

Halloween was also 3 days old for Michael.

Michael's First Week

I will edit this over time as I get more organised and will eventually post a birth story.

Nearly my last day being pregnant. This was taken on Monday afternoon, Michael was born on Wednesday morning.

Michael just a few minutes old. Wednesday, October 28th.

Michael - One day old, Thursday Oct. 29, I think this was the day Sarah and her kids met Michael and Rachel brought her kids to meet Michael. Still trying to hunt down some pictures of that!

I think on 2 days old, Friday October 30th. Jennifer brought her kids to meet Michael. Kids came in costume so I could see!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saving Dinnertime

Before on here, I think I mentioned that my husband brought home a big table from work. We had a round table at which it was nearly impossible for us all to fit. We also only had four chairs, which meant every meal we'd have to pull chairs from all over the house to accomodate the seven of us.

For my birthday a couple weeks ago, my parents gave me the immense gift of 8 new dining chairs from IKEA. The only drawback was that they all had to be assembled. My husband put together a few late at night after the kids were in bed, but the day before my birthday Rachel and Jennifer of Cleaning Club Posse fame assembled the rest of the chairs while I cleaned my counters.

Now every, single time I sit at the table I am surrounded by love. My husband found us a table, my parents bought us the chairs, and my husband and dear beloved friends put together the chairs. I have hated, loathed, resented mealtime and all it's chaotic crappiness--but now when I sit down I fell like I have a little secret, and it makes it all a little better. As well as us all just fitting at the table, and not having chairs which either spin or are too low.

Thank you all for saving dinnertime in our house!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Alrighty---I Think I'm Back

After a long early pregnancy hiatus, I think I am feeling back up to blogging regularly.

Baby news: I am 20 weeks, which means halfway! Woot! The baby is a boy, who will be named Michael Francis. Everything looks good baby-wise. Still not totally sure where I'm having this baby, but the plans are beginning to come into greater focus. I have been feeling pretty good--but much achier than my pregnancy with Andrew. I am hoping to hunt down a chiropractor covered by our insurance over the next week and see if that doesn't help.

Here's baby at about 13 weeks:

And here's my baby bump at 20 weeks (and my VERY dirty mirror!!):

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I don't know...

I don't know what the deal is...I don't know if all of my blood is just drawn down to circulate around baby to help him grow, or if all creative cells of my body rush into my uterus to create a new human being, or if my mind just goes foggy so that I cannot really think about the realities of having another baby. But-I cannot seem to read or write or even be able to take much in the way of pictures.

Yesterday I broke down and quit reading From Here to Eternity, though it is very good, and threw myself into the book Mister Pip. I expect to finish later today, and I'll hopefully review it tomorrow. So much of my life seems to revolve around my reading habits at any given time, or perhaps it is my reading habits which are indicative of the rest of my life. IN any case, when I am not reading, or stagnate in my reading it is a good sign that the inner workings of my life are also in stagnation. So I am going to try to pick a few shorter, easier (for me) to read books and see if I can't jump start both my life and my blog!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Do we Do It?

People often ask me how we do it, how we manage to get by. This week is a good example of how I cook (thank you Jennifer and Rachel for helping me not slack for dinner on Monday!).
  • Monday we had the aforementioned black beans and rice, with a side of spinach.
  • Tuesday we had tacos with a side of refried black beans made from Monday's left overs.
  • Wednesday we had spinach and cheese omelets for breakfast with the leftover spinach from Monday and left over cheese from Tuesday. For dinner we had whole grain noodles with the leftover taco meat for those who wanted meat sauce, and cut up veggies on the side.
  • Tonight we're having baked chicken drumsticks, with a side of rice (left over from Monday) and some broccoli.
  • Tomorrow will be baked honey garlic lime tilapia with the extra lime I have from Monday and some salad with the left over, uncooked spinach and some field greens. For those who eat them we'll have baked potatoes. And most likely a broccoli and cheddar fritatta for breakfast.
  • Saturday I'll make some soup with the left over chicken and cut up veggies from Wednesday (at least the carrots and celery), with stock made from discarded vegetable trimmings.
And that is very reflective of how we eat most weeks. Lunches are usually peanut butter or cheese, crackers or sandwiches and fruit, though when it's on sale lunch meat will sometimes appear. For lunches we will also have soup from Saturdays, or leftovers from during the week. Snacks for us are mostly fruit, nuts, and popcorn. I buy one bag each of potato chips, pretzels, and tortilla chips every other week when I grocery shop and when they're gone they're gone.

I still don't have a good plan for breakfast, but hope to remedy that as I start feeling a little better in the morning.

I forgot to add: the cost...for 6 days of dinner and 2 breakfasts- for us 7: about $40 with organic veggies and brown rice, cage free organic eggs and hormone/antibiotic free ground beef.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cleaning Club

Today was my day to host Cleaning Club. Cleaning Club began as an offer to help wash dishes one play day. It has grown into three women and their collective 11 children (to be 12 late this year) rotating weekly through each other's houses undertaking projects too big, or too overwhelming for one mom to tackle alone. The kids mostly play and help watch the toddlers. The projects, which alone would likely take all day- if not days to accomplish, generally take about an hour to an hour and a half. Then we share the food which we all have, and eat lunch together.

It is such an enormous blessing and gift to me to have these women in my life. When I go to their houses, I get to go home with the satisfying feeling that I have truly helped another woman make her life and the life of her family just a tiny bit better. It feels great to clean other people's stuff, nothing like the drain I feel trying to clean and organize my own space. They also have such a unique set of gifts and talents, which I feel so blessed to get to experience and from which I might benefit and be inspired.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a "Before" picture to show what an inaccessible trash heap, dumping ground our art cabinet had become but here is the end result:

Here's a picture of the inside of each of those green bins:

As we were eating lunch, I had the idea that maybe my friends could help me to get prepared for dinner, as well, since I have been having so much trouble getting my act together enough to actually cook for my family in these early weeks of pregnancy. They chopped peppers and onions and cilantro, while I put on a pot of rice. All I need to do at dinner time is saute the chopped veggies, add the cans of tomatoes and beans, add a little wine and fresh lime juice...and then serve over the rice. If I am feeling motivated enough, I'll make some chipotle cornbread.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sick Day

Blech..I am having a sick day. For the first time this pregnancy I just feel absolutely lousy. I have so much work I both need and want to do, and all I've managed so far is to feed myself at regular intervals. I am not even so sure that it is completely pregnancy related, as I feel like it might be an onslaught of allergies in the warm weather coming on the heels of all of the rain and snow that's been around for the past week and a half.

A couple of the kids and I curled up and watched the most recent version of Cheaper By the Dozen. No- that is not a goal toward which we aspire, but the movie is a good reminder that amidst the chaos, there is an awful lot of joy and deep connections with one it's a good reminder that no matter how bad of a day I am ever could always be harder, always be more chaotic, always be more overwhelming.

What are some of your default feel-good movies? What movies do you reach for to watch when you're having a sick day? What movies help you remember that what you've got in life is oh-so-very-good?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First Things and Living With Eyes Wide Open

It is so hard to remember that for little ones, so much of what we do is something which they are doing for the first time. We went to the zoo yesterday with our friends Michele, Hadley, and Noah. It was just such a wonderful day, filled with perfect weather, very active, alert animals, and really well-behaved, very helpful, non-complaining children. As I was pouring through the photos which I took, I realised that everything we did yesterday was a brand new experience for Andrew. And you can tell- you can see it in his face:
The wonder and awe and sheer joy is totally transparent and totally apparent in his little face. I was left pondering my own face, reflecting that this wonder and awe is something which very rarely crosses my brow. Yet, we are called to be like little children, and I can't help but think that part of that mysterious call is to live with eyes wide open, to not allow ourselves to become dull and jaded.

I think for me, that taking pictures serves this purpose somewhat. Looking for things to photograph has been encouraging me to look- to really look- at things around me. It has been spurring me to search for beauty in the buildings I pass everyday, the debris which collects in our yard, the same spaces I live in day in and day out. However, I would like so much for that exuberance to spill over into all of my life.

Today, I am going to try to look at the world through the eyes of a toddler, living each moment with the fullness of my being, immersed in the sheer joy of living and seeing. I am sure I won't be able to do it ALL day...the details of taking care of everyone intruding, but I am going to make an attempt, even while being asked simultaneously for five different breakfasts.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Last 5 Books

What are your last five books to show up in your house, from the library, from a friend, from the store, or wherever? How did they get to you and why?

1. The Original Scroll of On The Road...which my husband gave me for Valentine's Day prefacing it with "Just to remind you that I really like being married to a crazy person."

2. Norman Mailer's The Naked and The Dead- for the War Through the Generations Challenge (which is killing me, I've been so, so bogged down in From Here To Eternity--I need to seriously head down, power through it and move on with my reading life)

3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos- from my husband, because it was on the bargain table and I had just finished and loved, loved Mr. Ives' Christmas.

4. The Duty of Delight, The Diaries of Dorothy Day...from my husband, who somehow knew I really wanted to read through this despite me never having told him.

5. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones..which I bought after reading a synopsis on a site where you can get free books to review on you blog. This book sounded so fun, but was only available for free to Canadian I bought it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I am so tired

I think God made some horrible mistakes when it comes to pregnancy and birth, beginning with how wiped out and tired first trimester pregnant women feel. I am sure there is some purpose to it- maybe to slow down, to learn to re-evaluate priorities and shift into the "what's really important mode" of conservation of energy. However, it seems like it stands in direct conflict to the needs of taking better care of oneself, things like eating real meals comprised of real, non-microwaveable food, like exercising or at least moving from one or two different spots in the house, like undertaking the exhausting task of showering and getting dressed each day.

I remember when I was pregnant with Andrew, who is now two, and I moved from my first trimester on into my second. It was as though Pauline scales fell off my eyes and I saw just how absolutely gross and disgusting our house looked. Normally I cannot stand anything on the kitchen counter for more than a day, and at week thirteen I awoke to piles upon piles of mysterious things to go through.

Overall I've been feeling pretty darn good so much so that I dread my sonogram a bit, thinking perhaps there is something wrong. But these past few days in the wake of our blizzard, we haven't been outside very much (I am actually, only today, about to leave my house for the first time since Saturday), the kids have all had sniffles, Andrew's nose has turned into a snot-faucet keeping him awake at night, my husband has barely been home and when he has he's had lots of work to do around here, the kids are all full of pent up energy...but until today have been unable to go outside to play. When we didn't have water, I didn't have any way to clean off the mud and muck which our yard has turned into since the snow has begun to melt.

I am in some serious need of some TLC, pampering, child-free time...that is if I could stay awake for it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thank You to Everyone...

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support about my pregnancy. It all still seems a little unreal, but is slowly sinking in.

It has been fun to have a couple kids old enough to look at electron microscope pictures of the earliest stages of pregnancy. They are all being so helpful around the house and concerned with mommy's well being. They were a little nervous about me going roller skating the other night- "Are you sure you ought to skate Mom? After all you are pregnant..." I tried to reassure them that at this point there is no danger to the baby by me doing anything else I would normally do. I thought it was very sweet, though, that they were worried. Yesterday as I was gardening in the rain, Tim, my oldest, repeatedly called out the door to ask if there was anything he might do to help me, as it looked like I was working so hard. It's been endearing to watch them excitedly tell their friends, teachers, and coaches about the baby.

My oldest three kids are most concerned with being present for the birth of their brother or sister. My prayer is that we will be able to make that happen for them. We are in the process of trying to decide the question of where to have the baby. In the interim, I will go for a sonogram either next Friday or the next to ensure that there is only one baby (please God!) and that baby is inside my uterus, and to make sure there's a heartbeat. Because my wonderful OB has given up delivering babies in order to spend more time with his family, right now we are strongly leaning towards a homebirth, but are just unsure about how we will pay for it. If we don't have baby at home, we will most likely use the nurse midwives affiliated with the hospital.

Lucy, the 8 year old, was born at home. It was so peaceful and intimate. We had a great and knowledgeable midwife. However with the next one, Jane, we had to transfer to the hospital because of some placental issues. The next two were also born at the hospital, but I had an OB who was so respectful to my desires not to be touched and was willing to just watch and wait. While my births in the hospital were great, the post-partum time in the hospital has been just awful- the constant coming and going of staff, the fight to keep my baby with me at all times, the discomfort of the bed and lack of room for anyone to stay there with me. It was not a good start to things. And this pregnancy I am all about doing everything I can to ensure a good start to things.

I am trying to put in writing to pass along to my friends a PPD Action Plan, things like setting up meals, cleaning help, warning signs, and ways to help. If any of you reading have any experience with post-partum depression, any input would be greatly appreciated. What things would have been most helpful to you? What time frame did you seem to need the most help? In retrospect what kind of help would you have asked for in advance? I am determined to try to deal with my PPD without medication, as after Andrew I feel like the medication really just compounded my struggles. So any input helping me develop a concrete, in writing, plan would be so greatly appreciated!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


It is so easy for us to get caught up in the mundane details of our lives, all the things we have to do, all of the places we need to be. It is so easy to allow ourselves to be spread so very thin, even with necessary or worthy activities.

I find myself often busy with things, rather than focused on people. The aim of all of our activities is to feed the personhood of ourselves and those around us, to enrich and deepen our lives. But how often do we undertake laundry, or bathroom cleaning, or paid employment, or our hobbies at the cost of those around us, rather than at the service of ourselves and those around us?

I find it far too easy to forget the sacredness of each and every person, and so often seek to make their actions and emotions convenient and serviceable to me. It is far too easy to forget that each person with whom I interact is a human being endowed with innate dignity and a mosaic of his or her own hurts, disappointments, joys, loves and experiences. It is especially easy to forget all of this with my children and my husband, those who I see so often and who are so often inconvenient to me.

My challenge today is to live in namaste, taking a moment before all of my interactions with others-most especially my children- to collect myself, to bow before them figuratively, and recognise my sacredness and their own sacredness. My challenge today is to assess each action I undertake to ensure that it is properly ordered to serve us as a family , a collection of sacred beings; rather than us living at the cost of our work and business. It might not be a way that I am able to live all the time, but I feel like I can start with baby steps and short increments of being more aware of those whose lives have been passed along to me to care for. Want to join me?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

All the Tiny Opportunities For Love That Each Day Brings.

"Although we long to perform grand and magnificent acts of love,
may we still take all the tiny opportunities for love that each day brings."
-from the Prayers and Intercessions of Lauds for Ash Wednesday

I think this defines the challenge of not only my Lent, but also of my life right now. I am someone who has always been drawn to bigness, to grandiosity. It's rather easy for me to love in big ways, to make great sacrifices, to be the underdog up against seemingly unstoppable obstacles. I've always been a scrapper with a propensity for sheer determination.

But the flip side is that small things often get overlooked and neglected. I can be very demanding of the people around me, believing that they, too, ought to be willing to go to the mat for everything; they ought to live big, too. Quite honestly, I also tend to not do a very good job in the moments in between the bigger things. I am prone to laziness and procrastination. I am really rather selfish on a more micro level; though I would do nearly anything for someone I knew who was in need, I often don't feel like stopping my knitting, or reading, or computing to meet a non-urgent request of my children.

With news of another pregnancy, the sudden death of a father and husband of a family with small children, the reconnection with an old friend who has inspired me with her dedication to her children and honesty about her struggles; the past two weeks has actually found me trying to identify and do better with my tiny opportunities presented in which to love more deeply. However, before this morning I didn't really have words to define my focus; it was just sort of a vague jumble of ideas and actions.

I have been trying, I am trying, I shall be trying to live fully in the tininess, making the most of the pauses in between the tempests and mountains. The amazing and transformative aspect for me has been that surrendering some of my selfish focus has not yielded to resentment, but rather to greater satisfaction with my life as a wife and mother. Trying to love the hell out of those tiny moments, has brought greater peace and joy to all of us. And so in true Shannon fashion I will hang on with tenacity to keep trying, to not give up, to live greatly and magnificently in the tiniest of moments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Reason for My Recent Silence

Yes...there is another little one of our brood. I am still rather in shock, since this was not anywhere in our plans. But the children are all very excited, and our friends have already surrounded us with love and support. I have already begun to think and pray about how to deal with my PPD, which has worsened with each subsequent baby, and the main reason we were really thinking that we were "done".

I had an epiphany this morning about the word "encouragement"--when I realised it truly means "giving courage". My friends and other women who I admire so much, being excited and hopeful and telling us how lucky this child is to be born into our family (really?) is giving me courage to surrender into joy and hope.

Since this was not part of our plan at all...I am trying to hold onto the reality that this little being shouldn't have ever come into existence and so he or she is a very, very precious gift. Though things have always looked a little impossible when I've found out I was pregnant.... again, God has truly and always provided. Things have always turned out okay. And so I will not waste one minute worrying about how we will manage, or how we'll all fit in our 2 bedroom house, or how to geometrically arrange the carseats so they'll all fit. It will turn out okay.

So far we're off to a great, if not slightly queasy start. My husband has been just so awesome about it and making right so many things between us which we've messed up with other pregnancies. I am so grateful for yet another chance to heal wounds, which I didn't even know I still carried.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Help- The Worst Hats in Movie History

Let me begin by confessing that I am a great lover of hats. Hats make me very happy; they let me look pulled together on days when showering has been elusive; they add color; they let me do crazy things to my hair, but still have a way to go to a meeting without being ostracized.

But what is up with so many of the hats women are wearing in old films! There are some truly, truly awful hats. Last night watching the 1940 movie Half a Sinner, in which our heroine was wearing this little hat all draped and wrapped in veiling. The veil went down to at least the middle of her back. I couldn't help wondering the whole time how wardrobe came to the decision that enshrouding veil-hat was the very best option. Granted it is a B-movie, but you wouldn't think that they'd be entirely blind.

Something seems to go horribly wrong with hats sometime during the late 1930's and 1940's. I mean just look at these things! Very few are flattering, or even really seem glamourous; they are mostly just monstrous. They are pointy, or very tall, or covered in feathers, or draped in weiling. It is such a curious thing to me that in movies with such strong female leads such as His Girl Friday or The Big Sleep or pretty much any movie in which Jean Arthur appears, inevitably there is an atrocious hat.

Poking around online looking for photos to support my claim, I found it nearly impossible to find stills with any of these hats. I couldn't even find a list of "The Worst Hats in American Film". So help me out--what are some of your least favorite hats from the movies??

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Breakfast- The Evil Meal

My word, I hate breakfast. Perhaps if it didn't need to be taken care of quite so early in the morning, I wouldn't continue to find breakfast such a challenge. Perhaps if we had disposable income to spend on healthy breakfast convenience foods I wouldn't dread the question, "What's for breakfast?" as I do. Perhaps if I didn't loathe sit-down-together family mealtimes as occasions of intense stress, we'd start our day off better.

My first question is, what do people eat for breakfast? There are all kinds of sugar laden cereals, toaster pastries, and yogurts out there, but that all seems far more like dessert than a meal to me. There are eggs, but those are supposed to kill you if you eat them too frequently. There are pancakes and waffles, but other than mornings where we have nowhere to be that just seems like an inordinate amount of work. My most usual breakfast consists of coffee and cottage cheese. One because I must, the other because it is easy and has lots of protein. However that is not something which I can feed my children. One because I am not insane, the other because they just won't eat it.

My second question is, where do people eat breakfast? Our dining table is too small for us. In order for us to eat there, we must squeeze in and pull chairs from all over the house. It is the first step in a long line of many unpleasantries about eating all together. I tend to view family meal time the way I view family rosary- there is a reason that praying the rosary as a family has an indulgence attached to's because it is penance through and through. It is "He's touching me!" and "Sit down, love.....Sit DOWN!" and "Stop whipping her with your rosary." Family mealtime, I figure, is touted as being crucial and important for family togetherness, because those who suffer together are bonded with cement like closeness in shared experience of the darkest of times.

My third question is, if breakfast is the most important meal of the day then why isn't there a better selection of breakfast foods? I know that I feel awful if I don't eat in the morning. All of the 'experts' assure us that a good breakfast in paramount in attentiveness and proper physiology throughout the day. And yet, if this is true, then why are most breakfast choices so incredibly bad for us and centered around carbohydrates?

I am thinking of starting a breakfast revolution in our household, despite the rally call of my pamphleteer children : "That's not breakfast food!" At least a few nights a week I think I will throw something in the crockpot to be ready for morning. It seems to me that we eat kind of backwards. Shouldn't our heartiest , most protein-based meal be first thing in the morning? And our lightest meal be in the evening? Or even, monastery style, have or largest meal at mid-day? I will ponder these things today, cottage cheese in hand. There's got to be a better way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Day....really???

Sorting through the rubble of my email inbox, I realised that we have been inundated by Valentine's Day party offerings. Not counting the party my six year old had at her co-op this week, the running total is at five. Five!! For Valentine's Day?? Really? This far surpasses the Christmas parties or even Halloween celebrations. When did Valentine's Day turn into such a big deal?

As a child I remember Valentine's Day being barely a blip on my kid radar, but of course that was before nearly all children's valentines came with candy attached to them. From my mom we got boxes of little heart candies, nearly half of which were the inedible pink and white ones. I don't even think they made the small heart shaped boxes of chocolates that are everywhere now. Now however, at least judging from the festivities offered, Valentine's Day seems to be the center of the kid year.

I just don't really see the point in being forced to add to the debris of other people's homes. Does anyone do anything with the innumerable cards their children have received? Or do they just add to the guilt we always seem to have about throwing our kids things away, despite the fact that the impersonal message of Barbie or Spiderman means nothing to our children.

What flabbergasts me, is that these offerings are amongst the homeschooling crowd. More often than not, homeschoolers in general tend towards discouraging consumption and commercialization. But in this instance it seems huge numbers of people are suddenly okay with wasting paper and buying things unneeded. Is it just lingering residual guilt about the things our kids don't do because they aren't in school?? Or is this something that people really feel adds to the lives of our children? The one party in which we will participate- where the kids will be making Valentines- I am hoping that the idea of bringing donations for Project Safe takes root, and that some of the focus can be not on what we get, but on what we might give.

Does anyone else feel inundated with Valentine's Day Offerings or pressures??

(An interesting spellcheck aside--Superman is in my spellchecker, but not Spiderman....hmmmm)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Country Morning

Photobucket Album

I keep trying....but I seriously dislike Jane Austen

I know it's almost sacrilege, but I just can't stand her. Well not her, but her writings. Every couple of years I try yet another of her novels, or re-read one which has been pretty much completely forgotten. In the intervening years I try to watch the movie adaptations which are so beloved by nearly anyone with xx chromosomes. I keep trying.....but I each time the result is sour disgust rising up into my throat.

This week I checked out the 1985 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, and watched part of Sense and Sensibility Sunday night on Masterpiece (no longer called Masterpiece Theater much to my chagrin- is nothing sacrosanct!?) . Every fifteen minutes or so of watching , I would realise that my face was tense and taut having once again twisted itself into a snarl.

From the outset, isn't it clear that every girl is going to end up with their relegated man?? And yet the reader or viewer must endure the intervening hours suffering all of the characters speaking their trite and uninteresting words. The reader or viewer must endure truly painful characters like Mrs. Bennet, and their boring pointless lives. The reader or viewer must wait, and wait, and wait for something, anything, to happen. I find after an hour or so of interloping, I just don't care if Eliza marries Mr. Darcy or if they just fell off the cliffs of Dover!!

The characters' lives are just an offense to humanity, so full of ennui and nothing of any value to anyone whatsoever. Even our Austen heroines, lack any truly heroic qualities other than saying "No!" to marriage so forcefully that they end up marrying anyway. Apparently no doesn't always mean no, at least not where Ms. Austen's protagonists are concerned.

I truly wonder if the appeal of Ms. Austen's novels isn't built around a mythology of sorts. The mythology of pretty dresses, and parties, and trying to land a man. In short, though of another time, it seems to be the mythology of the American college experience for young women, which our youth-obsessed culture continues to try to convince us is the best time of our lives. The argument has been made that Ms. Austen is a feminist writer, which just seems completely ludicrous to me. For if that is true, women do not seem to think very highly of their liberation.

People have tried to explain their love of Ms. Austen to me before, hence my continuing to read thinking there must be something I am missing. However I just cannot seem to see what they see. Technically I think she is among the best of the best of English language novelists, how unfortunate for humankind that Ms. Austen chose to use her talent to write about such completely unengaging characters and circumstances.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My heart breaks...

...when I really ponder and am honest about the huge amount of hurts I've inflicted throughout my life. It is true that most of it was done without prescience. It is also true that nearly all of it has been from arms swinging while I was fending off my own hurts. However, the wake of destruction is wide and choppy, and has destroyed even some of the shoreline.

It is such a strange thing, because it's almost like there was another Shannon. I share her experiences and her memories. I share the good qualities plucked from her, and even still some of the shortcomings and defects. I don't know when she left this earth, or if she is just hermiting in a cave somewhere, but I am not her. At least I don't feel like her. Maybe a far removed relation of her, but not her.

And yet, there is this whole path of destruction out there...which I think only now I am beginning to look at, boots on the ground, and realise the vastness of the swath of devastation. And I can only stand immobilized forcing myself to not look away, to not think of it as something detached from me. And it hurts. It hurts deep down to the core of my being, and yet I know that I can only and must just breathe down into that pain and not pull away. Breathe down into the pain of self-realisation, hoping with my entire being that this agony, too, is yielding to new life. Yielding to new life both for me, and for the casualties I left behind.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wake Up Calls, and Sleepwalking

There are those moments in life, often through great tragedy, that offer themselves as wake up calls. There are those events both remote to our lives and intimately enmeshed in our lives which shock us out of the routine humdrum which we, often without knowing it, have settled into. And I wonder can we ever be sustained for more than a little while doing anything other than sleepwalking through our days.

I get so overwhelmed by the amount of picking up that must go on on any given day. I grow weary of the "Repeat" button which seems to have been mashed down and gotten stuck. I often feel like real life is just on the other side of some unseen obstacle, which if I could just make out through the haze I could surmount and conquer. I often am overtaken by abject soul weariness, along with bodily exhaustion. Writing, I am flooded with tears, grieving for the life I waste so much of the time. Crying out, because I can't seem to make out the crossable ford to navigate to where I want to be.

How do we go about being fully alive? How do stave off lives of "quiet desperation"? How do we respond to the beckoning " ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead..."? Is it idealistic folly to believe that this can be done not just for glimpses of time when we are reminded of life's sacredness, but rather for most of our lives?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Camera...

A few of my first photos! I haven't really taken any non-children photos since high school, but boy am I having fun. I can't wait until I really know how to use my camera! And I can't wait until I know how to post photos properly-these are all cut off on the sides! (You can click on them, though, to see the whole thing LOL!)

Here's the clouds from this morning:

Here's Spring coming!:

A mossy step:

Random yard debris--in black and white it looks like art instead of trash:

More trash as art:

And yet more trash:

Twisted Branches:

Fence post, barbed wire and wild grape vines

Sky, branches and flowers

Sky and branches (it reminds me of Eastern art a little)


Chestnut and a swing:

Rocks and a bird house:

Some unraided, dog chewed rope:

More moss:

Tin roof....rusted!