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?