Monday, January 31, 2011


Snowpocalypse is coming! We could get 18 inches, which would be the biggest I've ever seen. And there's a lot of opportunity for "that's what she said" jokes!

Anyway, figuring today might be the last opportunity to get out and do some errands before Snowmageddon hits, I took Nathan to get a haircut. His haircut place is in Indiana, and so I decided we might as well hit up my favorite Indiana-based mall while we were across the state line.

After the inflatable playground, the Sticky Glob booth, and Wetzel's Pretzels, Nathan played on the brand-new mall playground. He played for about 15 minutes, and then as we were getting ready to leave, another mom said to me, "I have told your son several times not to grab my daughter. He was doing it several times while you were sitting right there."

Translation: You suck as a parent.

And you guys, maybe it was the weather or my exhaustion or whatever, but I started to cry. I hate being criticized. I especially hate being criticized for my parenting.

I never reprimand strangers' kids. And I certainly don't reprimand other parents. And I know the other mom had to go all Mama Bear and protect her own kid, and I get that, but could she possibly be nicer? I'm just trying to make it through the winter like everybody else here. And yes, I know my kid was being a shit. And I know he deserved to be reprimanded. But give me a break, Lady.

And, and, and ... shut up, that's why.

To console myself, I went and spent $51 on unnecessary items at Bath & Body Works. I'm not gonna lie, that improved things. I bought Island Margarita soap, a Pink Sangria candle, Pink Sangria Wallflowers refills, and a Mango Margarita car air freshener. Because I felt like a drink, and also felt like making my car smell like I had been drinking ... ? Plus I bought various scented toiletries in the following: Apricot, Forever Sunshine, Bali Mango, Fresh Bamboo, Apricot, and Caribbean Salsa. It's like Bath & Body Works figures that as long as a product evokes images of summertime and warm tropical locales, they'll sell a buttload of it to all of us living in cold climates in January. And they would be right.

I also purchased an antibacterial gel with the name "I Love Cake."

(A lot of the stuff was part of some kind of coupon deal, or "buy 2, get one free," or whatever.)

Anyway, so I'm prepared for snOwMG because I have candles and lotions. What? The power could go out, and we could have some kind of emergency skin-dryness situation.

I also have milk and bread.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

I'm gonna have to make this quick. It's already 6:23 and I haven't put up my blog post today. But I wanted to do my SuperIma Sunday Check-In for Leigh Ann's blog.

For those who are just joining us (which is, you know, nobody), the SuperIma Sunday Check-In is when you are supposed to report back about two goals you set for yourself last week: (1) Something you're going to do for yourself, and (2) Something you're going to let slide. Then you are supposed to discuss your new goals for the upcoming week.

My goal for what I was going to do for myself was to finish reading a book. That. Was. Awesome. So many times I was like, "Oh, I should be doing the laundry ... But wait! I set this goal, in print, to read a book, and I must achieve it!" So then I just sat around and read, including three hours of reading while my kid played in a McDonald's playland. The book I finished was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, which was just the kind of book I was in the mood for. Not too heavy, but not too chick-lit-y, either.

My goal for letting something slide was to make three freezer-based meals. I ended up making two freezer-based dinners, and since one of them generated leftovers for lunch, I'm calling it a victory.

Onto my goals for the upcoming week! I loved the book goal, and so I'm keeping it for next week. That counts as the goal for the "do something for myself" category.

I'm going to go and bend the rules for my second goal. I know it's supposed to be something I'm gonna let slide, but I'm sort of out of categories for that. I've done cooking- and laundry-based goals, and those are pretty much the only things I can think of to let slide. (I mean, yes, there's cleaning, but I'm more-or-less letting that slide as it is, unless somebody comes over.) So, my second goal is exercise-based, which I think is more in the "do for myself" category, but it's wholesome enough that I think it can just count as my "letting something slide" goal.

So, the deal on exercise is that I feel like I haven't been doing enough cardio lately. In the dead of winter, it's important to do cardio to boost your crappy, weather-based mood. And, like, as it is right now, I lift weights on Wednesday and Friday, and I do yoga on Thursday, so that's a pretty long run where I'm not doing cardio. I feel crabby and lethargic and anxious when I go that long without doing cardio. I feel like a car that has sat in the garage too long without being driven; at some point I need to get out my crappy exhaust fumes. Or something.

Anyway, so my (fairly lofty) goal is to do cardio six times this week. Given that I didn't go to the gym today, that means I'm out of skips. That means I'm going to have to do the treadmill on the days I go to lift weights with the trainer, and go swimming while in my yoga haze.

And I'm just going to quickly add the caveat that I am off the hook if we get a storm so bad that I can't go to the gym. (I don't really have a lot of home-based exercise equipment.) A storm is predicted that might dump 18 inches of snow on us, which would be the biggest storm I've experienced since we moved, by far. And I'm going to admit that I'm a little bit excited about that.

And on that note, I'm out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Overthinker

How I Managed to Turn My Child's Birthday Party Into a Massive Personal Crisis Over My Social Life

Children's birthday parties are a very popular topic for mom blogs. Usually these blog posts take one of two forms: (1) OMG how did my kid's birthday party get so out of control? or (2) We're not buying into the birthday party hype, and here's how we had a simple birthday party at home.

I, however, have not experienced either of these common blog fodder phenomena when it comes to planning my son's birthday party. I like to do his birthday parties at outside-our-home facilities, and the party packages at these facilities pretty much determine the menu/activities/number of guests, so it's hard for the party to get too out of control.

Instead, I think I may be the only mother in the history of the world to have the problem of not having enough guests to invite. And this problem has led me into a giant internal dialogue about how maybe I'm not a good enough friend, not social enough, not forgiving enough, etc., etc., etc., insert pathetic unpleasant personal quality here.

You might be wondering what the hell Nathan's birthday party has to do with my social life. Well, we all know that the guests at little kids' birthday parties are the children of the parents' friends. And this year I'm wondering if maybe I don't have very many friends left.

Now, let me point out that I have some good friends who are automatically off the list, either because they don't have kids or because they live too far away. So right off the bat my whole OMG I have no friends is a little bit inaccurate. I just don't know if I have enough local mom friends.

Another factor in the invite list is that Nathan has to know/like the kids who we're inviting. I think this is the first year he's had specific preferences about the kids who are coming. In the past, it was all these are your friends and they have come to celebrate your birthday and he just accepted it. But now that he's a big boy of four, he has strong opinions about who can and cannot come to his birthday. So there are a few kids where I know the mom, but for some dumb preschooler reason Nathan doesn't get along with the kid. (Although let me note that sometimes my reason for not getting along with the mom is just as dumb as Nathan's reason for not getting along with the kid.)

Or there are some situations where I know the mom pretty well, but Nathan doesn't know the kid that well. And vice-versa. A couple of the kids he wants to invite are from his school, and I don't know the moms at all, and I wonder if they will feel all awkward at the party. And then there are potential invitees where I'm wondering, will these people be more offended if they don't get invited, or if I invite them and they feel obligated to purchase a gift for a kid they don't know that well?

Let me stop and say that I know I sound like a dumbass right now. Nathan will have fun at his birthday party no matter who comes. It's not a big deal if he doesn't know some kid or even like some kid. He is four and the party is at a fun children's museum. There will be pizza, cake, and presents. It's a guaranteed good time.

But the actual birthday party isn't really the point here. I had to mention the party and all the parameters of the guest list to get to the bottom line of OMG when I look at this list, I feel like I have no friends left. Shouldn't I have a gaggle of mom BFFs who are practically family and wouldn't think of missing my kid's special day?

Instead I'm all, Oh, I don't think that mom likes me. Or, Oh, I haven't talked to her in a few months, maybe she's mad at me. Or, Well, I mean I talk to her at the gym, but does that make her birthday party material? Is it presumptuous to assume So-and-So from Such-and-Such Activity likes us enough to socialize with us on the outside?

I conducted a sort of friend analysis. I thought of all the people who had done some little thing that I interpreted as a personal attack against me. Or, worse, I thought of the people to whom I had done some little thing that they may have interpreted as a personal attack against them. And then it was all Oh crap, I think everybody hates me. I'm a bad friend.

Then I snapped out of it and realized that maybe, just maybe, people's behavior has nothing to do with me. Maybe they have other things going on in their lives that have nothing to do with their attitudes/opinions/behaviors toward me. Maybe I shouldn't write them off just because that one time they didn't return my phone call, or that one time they didn't sit at my table at the library. (What are we, in high school?) And maybe we haven't talked in awhile because it's January and we aren't running into each other at the pool or park like we do in the warmer months. We're all holed up in our houses alone, and before that it was the holidays, and, and, and ...

And also, if you write everybody off based on one little interaction/characteristic, you really won't have any friends. There is not a single person on this planet, not your spouse or your kids or your BFF, who you like everything about. You don't even like everything about yourself. (Or at least, I don't like everything about myself.)

So, I have used this massive bout of party-based overthinking to start a new campaign of reaching out to people. No, we can't go to the park right now, but maybe we can have a playdate at my house and drink some wine. And maybe the other moms are just as shy about reaching out to me as I am about reaching out to them. (And can I just say how awesome Facebook and e-mail are for those of us who are insecure about face-to-face or phone invitations?)

So, in the next few weeks, I'm going to try to schedule every outing with every person where we once vaguely said, "We should get together," but have never really followed up on it. It's going to take awhile to get through the list, because you can only schedule so many gatherings at a time. But already I've scheduled a playdate for people I haven't seen in awhile, and gotten invited to a moms' dinner.

I'm going to forgive and forget, in the hopes that other people afford the same courtesies to me. I'm going to just snap out of it. "It" being my whole dumb, stupid, immature insecurity about making friends. Because, really, when you start to think that everybody in the world hates you, the common denominator is you. And you are the only person you can change.

So I'm going to make some changes.

And I can just hear my mom saying, "Thank the Lord, I finally got through to her."

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm doing NaBloPoMo prompts again today. This is the intro. Now here goes!

1/27: Have you ever had a moment in your life feel like it was pointing toward your destiny, either at the time or when you looked at it in retrospect?

Well, I kind of already wrote about this on Wednesday when it was Katie's birthday and I wrote about how fate brought us together as friends. And I mean, obviously, meeting my husband was the meeting that changed my destiny the most. That was actually a really weird meeting, the kind where you feel that fate must have been involved because it almost didn't happen. So, it was Halloween 1999 and we were at Ashley's birthday/Halloween party. I was dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Bill was dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ashley had this really awesome double-chocolate birthday cake from Costco, which I'm not just mentioning because I like to eat cake. I'm mentioning it because the delicious cake made me very thirsty, and, this being a college party, the most easily-available source of beverages was a keg, though because it was one of Ashley's parties it was actually a keg of some quality kind of beer instead of the typical Nati-Ice (that would be like Old Style for you Chicago folks). Anyway, I got drunk on the good-quality beer. And then I started talking to Bill, although as he remembers it I randomly just left mid-conversation to go to the bathroom. So, charming as I was, he couldn't wait to go out with me later that week when our mutual friend fixed us up on a date (which I had asked her to do). Anyway, we went out ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... we got married and moved to suburban Chicago and had a kid. So my fate was sealed at that college party in 1999, which, I forgot to note, I almost went to with this really lame girl who I would have had to hang out with all night and I probably wouldn't have been drinking that much around her, and anyway, thanks, Commuter Student Debbie for bailing on me because you had to study.

1/26: What are five good reasons to break off a wedding?
1. The bride wants to
2. The groom wants to
3. The wedding dress is destroyed in a fire
4. The cake has that awful synthetic chemical frosting
5. You find out that several of the wedding guests are from your fiance's Dungeons & Dragons club

1/25: What's something you do really well that other people are amazed by?

Well, since I wrote a whole post yesterday about how I hate braggers, I think it would be kind of hypocritical for me to answer this. Instead I'm going to say something that is sort of tangentially related to this prompt, which I meant to say yesterday. It's a shout-out to my friend Sarah. I was gonna say that nobody is better at paying compliments than Sarah. Sarah has told me before that I should own my own bakery, and that I should audition for The Second City. These compliments were based, respectively, on the fact that I made a pie from an America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and on the fact that I wrote a script for a community theater production starring children. So, getting back to the prompt What's something you do really well that other people are amazed by?, I would say that at least one person is amazed by my pie-baking and my comedy.

1/24: What are you shy about? Or, what situations do you find make you shy?

Okay, I know this is what most people would say, but I am shy about meeting new people. It is absolutely, physically impossible for me to introduce myself to people. I can talk to strangers, but I feel like as soon as I say, "Hi, I'm Shannon," that I'm being presumptuous to assume that anybody wants to know me so well as to actually know my name. Of course, this results in awkward situations where you talk to some other mom at the library, and then you run into her at the park, and you get into a conversation wherein you find out all these details of her life, and yet you still don't actually know her name. And then you're secretly whispering to other people to inquire about her name, scanning the library Facebook fan page to see if her picture is on there (and not, for the love of God, like every other person on the library Facebook page who uses a picture of her children as her profile pic), or asking for her e-mail address and hoping it somehow incorporates her name. So, my point is, getting over my shyness over introducing myself would probably solve a lot of problems down the road.

1/21: What are three things you can do to be a better friend to the people in your life?
(1) I don't think I'm a good listener. Sometimes I interrupt people while they're talking. Or my mind wanders when I'm supposed to be listening. (2) I could be more like Sarah and give out compliments more freely, instead of always getting caught up in my stupid jealousy and comparison. (3) I'm not very good at returning phone calls/e-mails sometimes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 'I Am Awesome' Button

I have written before (here, here, and here) about my unfortunate tendency to compare myself to other people.

Now, as a comparer, there is one personality type that I particularly don't mesh well with:

The Bragger.

You know The Bragger. She makes statements like the following:

"My child never [insert undesirable, inappropriate behavior here]."

"My child always [insert totally awesome behavior here]."

"I tell my kids [insert some sort of sage advice pertaining to a subject matter that it never even occurred to you to be concerned about here.]"

The Bragger works out harder than you do, even though she is eight months pregnant and has two broken legs. She would never eat that crap you eat. She's got a full homeschool curriculum going for her five kids under age six. Pretty much every possible thing you think you're bad at, The Bragger is good at.

And she has to tell you about it.

Now, in my heart of hearts, I know that The Bragger's confidence is all a facade. In actuality, The Bragger is more insecure than any of the rest of us, and she brags because she's hoping people will respond with the compliments she so desperately needs.

But to somebody like me who has a very strong tendency to beat herself up, every comment from The Bragger tends to set off this sort of internal negative dialogue in my head. Oh my gosh, she is so much better at this than I am. What's wrong with me that I can't do that? I should have done that a long time ago. Dammit, I've already screwed this up. And not only do I suck at that, I also suck at this, that, and the other. And I'm fat.

And the thing is, it's hard for me to snap out of my own insecurity and fake any kind of enthusiasm when giving The Bragger the compliment she's fishing for. So I was thinking, to help me deal with The Bragger, I would get some buttons that say "I Am Awesome" and carry them around in my purse. And then every time The Bragger starts horn-tooting about some great thing she did, I will just root around in my purse while saying, "Oh my gosh, that's great that your child never had a bottle as a baby, only ate homemade organic baby food, and now doesn't know what a Pop-Tart is. Please allow me to present you with an 'I Am Awesome' button."

Because, really, The Bragger is looking for some kind of recognition. And you're looking for some kind of way to shut The Bragger up. The "I Am Awesome" Button accomplishes both of these goals. Win-win!

I did a Google search, and it turns out there are many varieties of the "I Am Awesome" button for sale. Such as:

Or perhaps you'd like one with a smiley-face:

Maybe you'd like something simple and one-worded:

Maybe something name tag-like:

Or perhaps you know somebody who is so awesome that she's beyond awesome:

Any of these buttons, or several others like them, would be very useful in dealing with that person you know who just needs to shut her pie-hole.

And it's not just for moms! The "I Am Awesome" button can be used with annoying people at work, the gym, at parties ... pretty much anywhere you encounter people who annoy the crap out of you with their incessant boasting!

Order your buttons today! I'm going to!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's G-Money's Birthday!

Katie and me, 2008

It's Katie's birthday! As I've said before, I call her G-Money. (As I've also said before, I have no idea why I call her that.)

Anyway, G-Money and I both have January birthdays, and every year we struggle as to what the year's gift-exchanging policy should be. This year we agreed on no gifts.

So this year, I'm giving her a blog post instead. It's sort of like the traditional gift materials associated with wedding anniversaries: one year is the paper anniversary, twenty-five years is the silver anniversary, etc. Your 28th birthday is the Blog Post Birthday.

For Katie's birthday post, I thought I'd write a post in the style of her blog, where she begins each post with a quote from a book. (My actual post begins below the line.)


"And we might argue that we are not fated to do anything, that we have chosen everything in our lives, that there is no such thing as destiny. And we would be lying."

-- from The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

I'm gonna admit it: I believe in fate. When I was a teenager I believed that every little thing that happened to you was part of some supreme plan, and that personal choice was an illusion because whatever was fated to happen would happen.

In my adult life, I no longer believe that every detail of life is already pre-ordained. I think you have some control over your fate.

But I do believe that fate brings certain people into your life. And I believe that fate brought a lot of you into my life for various reasons. But since it's Katie's birthday I'm going to talk about her.

Fate brought Katie and me together by making us cubicle neighbors in 2005. We both started work at the same company during the same week. Since the company had a lot of employees back then, we could not sit in the same area as our co-workers in our department. We were instead assigned cubicles that were, approximately, a million miles from everybody else. Seriously, like half the people who arrived at my desk would greet me with, "Wow, you really sit far away." Some were legitimately huffing and puffing. Most would call first to make sure I was there before they embarked on the trek. A few of the dumber ones didn't actually know where we sat.

So, we were sitting in this little isolated area, and we bonded over Rainbow Cones at the Taste of Chicago, and salads at Salad Spinners, and, alcohol at, you know, places that served alcohol. Also sometimes we liked to get drunk and wear funny hats.

Then Katie left work to go to graduate school and I left to have a kid, but I always knew we would remain friends. Generally speaking, I don't hold high hopes for lasting relationships with former co-workers. It's like usually what bonded you together was work-related, and when you take that common bond out of the situation (not to mention the convenience of always being together), it's hard to stay in touch.

But what bonded us together wasn't work-related. And that's why I think we were fated to be friends. I hope this is not a big, fat insult to Katie, but we are a lot alike. I think I was fated to have a friend like Katie who gets me. And I think she gets me because, in some ways, she is me.

Katie and I are both world-class worriers. Like, seriously, when I was a kid, teachers would tell my parents, "Well, she's a good student, but she just worries so much."

Katie is the first person I have ever found who can give me a run for my money, worrying-wise.

What I also think makes us friends is that we aren't too alike. Like, I am a boring housewife and mom, whereas she is a city girl with a kick-ass apartment. But I think we can be friends because even if we aren't living the exact same lives, we have commonalities on a deeper level.

(And yes, I have plenty of mom friends, and they are equally as special, but as I said, it's not any of their birthdays.)

So, G-Money is a great friend. She is also the most disciplined, hardest-working person I know. She pushes herself to do new things and go new places. She is dependable and never flaky. She is very supportive. She came to watch me in a 5K, and she came to my show.

She is active in the community, like she has a volunteer gig preparing food for sharks at the Shedd Aquarium. Yes, she is a Shark Wrangler.

She also has a really cute cat:

You guys, that is a cat in a mug

I could go on and on, but in an attempt to make this post of vaguely universal interest, I will say that everybody should have a friend who really gets them.

So I am glad I have Katie as a friend. Now go over and say Happy Birthday to her yourself!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Happiness Project

Remember last week when I did my first post for Leigh's The Happiness Project? It's a blog carnival where you post a picture of something that makes you happy. Well, I'm back this week with two more happy photos!


Photo #1 is actually a photo of me, which is usually not something that makes me happy. I'm usually all oh I look fat, what is wrong with my hair? But I wanted to post a photo from my show, because I wrote about my show in last week's Happiness Project post.

Photo by G-Money

And yes, I think I look fat. And yes, I'm wondering WTF is going on with my hair. But I like this picture because I look happy in it. And I look sort of relaxed and natural up on the stage.

This photo is from the third show. I can assure you that I did not look relaxed at all during the first show. I looked like a deer in the headlights. (And there were major lights shining in my face, so the "headlights" part is more or less literal. The "deer" part ... umm, I hope I'm not so fat that I weigh as much as a deer.)

And now onto completely unrelated Photo #2!

The story behind Photo #2 is as follows: Back in December, I wrote about my love for the corn cake side dish that garnishes every single entree at chain Mexican restaurant El Torito. Well, an alert reader found the corn cake mix at her grocery store and sent me two packages! (Okay, the alert reader was my mom. But she did read about the corn cakes on my blog.) Anyway, so I had to come up with some sort of Mexican entree to make alongside the corn cake mix. Behold:

Enchiladas + refried beans + Uncle Ben's Spanish rice + corn cakes

And yes, I did include one photo where I lamented my fatness and one photo where I showed you a big plate of food. I see the irony, Alanis.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My New "Exercise as a Metaphor for Life" Mantra

Yesterday was treadmill day at the gym. I don't so much like the treadmill, but I can usually tolerate it.

But yesterday? No.

My calves were hurting. Beyond hurting. I attribute this soreness not to any actual exercise activity, but to the pathetic no-support ballet flats I wore during my show. Or maybe to walking on slippery, icy ground.

Or maybe to the fact that I hadn't been on the treadmill in a week. But, you know, probably not that. Probably the shoe thing.

Either way, the result was a workout that was actually hurtful. I had to stop a few times to stretch, and then finally after ten minutes I shut off the treadmill and went over to the stretching area to use the strap-thingy.

After that I went back to see what I could do on the treadmill. And honestly, it was sad. My calves were better, but I just didn't have it in me to run longer than like 90 seconds. I wanted to just quit and call it a day. Which, honestly, is rare for me. It's not like I'm some awesome athlete or anything, but I usually don't think it's worth it to quit once I've gone through the efforts of dragging myself to the gym, dropping off Nathan at the daycare, locking up my stuff, filling up my water bottle, and so on. But yesterday I wanted to quit.

And then I had the thought:

You deserve more credit for doing a little when it's hard than for doing a lot when it's easy.

And suddenly I was motivated by the notion that there was credit at stake. Which is pretty hilarious, since the concept of credit is elusive and dumb and meaningless. Who is giving me this credit? Myself?

Actually, yes, myself. In which case, I'll take it. I'm a lot stingier when it comes to giving myself credit than I am when it comes to giving others credit. Others? They deserve credit for everything. Others work out harder, sleep less, have cleaner houses, and generally have the world much better figured out than I do. So if I'm willing to give myself credit, that's kind of like a huge honor.

Thanks, self.

So, I finished about 45 minutes total (interrupted) on the treadmill, which I'm still getting full credit for because I couldn't have gone longer due to the daycare hours. Thus, I get a lot of credit for doing a little when it was hard. You deserve more credit for doing a little when it's hard than for doing a lot when it's easy is my new mantra.

And, as I'm sure you have guessed from the title of this post, the mantra applies to non-exercise activities as well. You deserve more credit for doing a little when it's hard than for doing a lot when it's easy. And in January it feels like it's hard for a lot of us to get through the day. Who can get motivated during a long series of freezing, gray days? Wouldn't it be easier to just hibernate until spring?

And yet, life must go on. Apparently the small group of perky, not-affected-by-SAD people has set standards that dictate that we must keep going on with school, work, and daily household responsibilities even during the winter. I don't know why we listen to these people, except that there was probably a meeting where the issue of human hibernation was voted on, and only the perky anti-hibernation people showed up to vote because the rest of us were home on our couches.

So today? Whatever it is you did, you deserve a lot of credit.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

So, remember last week I wrote my first post for Leigh Ann's SuperIma Sunday Check-In? To recap, the Sunday Check-In is a time when moms discuss two goals for the week: (1) some responsibility you are going to let slide, and (2) something you are going to do for yourself. The check-in is the place to discuss how you did on last week's goals, and set new goals for the upcoming week.

Well, first off, I want to thank Leigh Ann for the massive shout-out she gave me on her post today. It's always fun to feel like a minor celebrity. Also she made me feel so awesome for my small accomplishments, even though I normally think of myself as an unaccomplished waste of space.

I would also like to note that last week when I did Leigh Ann's check-in, Andrea commented that she wanted to try to set some of the SuperIma goals herself. Now, the thing is, I don't know Leigh Ann or Andrea IRL, and yet somehow we have a sort of chain reaction of support and inspiration going here. And that, I think, is the power of blogging.

Now onto the check-in!

You'll recall that my "letting slide" goal last week was to forget about putting away the laundry. Not surprisingly, I did a great job on that goal! But seriously, it's amazing how giving up on such a dumb little thing could feel so freeing. Like, suddenly I no longer felt like laundry was this Oppressive Force of Doom. I was just all, Yes, I have to wash the clothes, and fold the clothes, but I'm not going to get into a giant inappropriate snit about how the laundry is all piled up in the basement.

My "do for myself" goal of the week was to plan out my schedule in advance, on paper, each day. I set this goal because it was a crazy, hectic week with my show and all, and I wanted to make sure I managed my time well. I knew I would be calmer and happier if I didn't have this constant stream of disorganized Oh crap! I have to do such-and-such! thoughts popping into my head all the time.

Anyway, the whole "writing down my schedule" thing went pretty well until Thursday. Monday through Wednesday I diligently wrote out a detailed schedule for each day. I got tons of stuff done. But I was also exhausted. Thursday things seemed so up-in-the-air with the two shows and the unknowns of exactly how long it would take to smear 2.5 inches of eye makeup on my face, or how long the show would take, that I didn't write out a schedule. By Friday I was kind of falling apart, exhausted from the two Thursday shows and barely hanging in. Friday we had McDonald's for lunch and Taco Bell for dinner. By Saturday the show was over and the last thing I wanted was a plan of any kind for the day.

So I kind of only sort of achieved the schedule-writing goal. I think it was helpful when I did it, but there were days where it felt like it would kill me to be on a strict schedule. I'm still trying to work out the exact level of scheduling rigidity that is beneficial to my mental health. And I could go on and on about this topic, but it's probably not that interesting to anybody besides me.

And now to discuss my goals for this upcoming week ...

I'm not going to be able to let the laundry-putting-away slide again this week. The piles in the basement are starting to be so tall that they're falling over into one big tangled mass of clothing. That's upsetting me. As with the schedule-planning issue, there is an elusive happy medium between "so relaxed it's chaotic" and "such high standards that you go crazy trying to achieve them." Right now the piles of laundry are getting much closer to the "chaotic" end of the continuum. I have to put them away. Dammit.

I think this week's "let slide" is going to be cooking-related. I'm going to try and serve at least three freezer-based meals this week. You know, because I have some Trader Joe's already-prepared things in the freezer, as well as some leftover chili. (And there are probably all kinds of other "hidden treasures" in that disgusting pit of a freezer.)

Onto my goal for what I'm going to do for myself: I am going to finish reading a book! So far in 2011 I have finished one book, and I didn't even really like it. I am in the middle of two other books, neither of which is a novel, so they are the kind of books that are easier to read simultaneously with other books. And I have a new novel that arrived on my Kindle on Thursday that I haven't even looked at. So that is a total of three books that I could possibly finish this week.

And you know what? I might even stop and read in the middle of the day! There are moments in each day where I feel like I can't possibly take care of one more household responsibility, but I feel it feels too lazy to sit on the couch and read a book during those moments. So, instead, I just go on the Internet. Because somehow reading status updates on Facebook feels way more productive than reading an actual, published book ... ?

So, those are my goals for the week: thawing and reading. Please go over to Leigh Ann's blog and say hello to her now!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And for my next trick ...

Yesterday my dad asked me what my next endeavor would be after the show ended. I think he was asking about performing arts endeavors. Truthfully, I'm not sure there will be any more performing arts opportunities that present themselves. I'd like to think I can do stand-up comedy, but I'm not sure I can. It's easy to be funny in writing. People aren't expecting tons of LOL humor in writing, so anything remotely funny is a pleasant surprise.

And in everyday conversation, it's easy to be funny when funny moments come up. Take, for example, the situation where Bill and I saw a fat, red-headed 13(ish)-year-old kid with acne who had ice cream all over his face. We both looked at each other and commented on the quintessential hilarity of a fat, red-headed nerd eating ice cream. And even now, several years later, we can just mention the fat kid in Michigan (BTW it was in Michigan), and we laugh. This is the classic sort of you-had-to-be-there private joke.

But in stand-up comedy, you're starting with a total blank slate, comedically. You're not staring at something funny, and you're not even having a conversation with somebody you can play off of. It's just you, standing there, trying to paint some picture of a funny situation that the audience didn't have to be there for. So, it's not like I can be up there exhausting myself trying to make people laugh about a fat kid in Michigan.

Plus, how many non-seedy opportunities for stand-up comedy present themselves to suburban housewives? And I guess I could try out for more community theater shows, but (a) I'm not so much an actress, and (b) the rest of the cast would be, like, under 12.

So, in the foreseeable future, I don't have any performing gigs coming up. But I do have a new athletic endeavor: the indoor triathlon at my gym!

I'm trying to get into triathlons, because now I can swim and sort of run, so all I need to do is get that biking thing together and I'll have all three. Slight obstacle to becoming a competent biker: I don't own a bike. But with the indoor triathlon, the bike is stationary, and I figure maybe my spin class at the gym will prepare me.

So, here's how the indoor triathlon works: You swim in the pool for 10 minutes, change into dry clothes, ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes, get a 5-minute break if you want to change shoes (I don't), and then run on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Since everybody goes for the same amount of time, participants are ranked according to distance completed.

Anyway, the indoor triathlon is February 26. Katie is going to do it with me. You might recall she's a marathon runner, so she's good at the running part. And I'm a fairly competent swimmer, but suck at the running part.

So, that's the story of my next activity. It's good to have goals.

Show's Over, Baby

So, dangit. I broke my 2011 posting streak by not posting yesterday. I'm just gonna double up today, which isn't really the same as posting every day, but at the end of the year I'll still have 365 posts.

Anyway, the show is over. Here's how I think it went.

Thursday Matinee: Totally sucked. I was so nervous. Almost all of the audience had come in on the senior citizen tour bus, and they didn't get my jokes. Most of them just sat there with a look like, You are insane. Which, I probably was, because I also had a wardrobe malfunction in the form of my strap falling off (turns out, Velcro is not an adequate substitute for sewing), so that really threw me off my game.

Thursday Night: So much better. I was glad to have the first show under my belt. I was way more relaxed Thursday night. Unfortunately there were only 28 people in the audience (matinee had 65), so I felt like I was pretty much performing for nobody.

Friday Night: 100 people in the audience, and I knew 5 of them, so I was so nervous. When I got up on the stage, there were so many more people, so there were more tables. That meant I was a lot closer to them (picture a banquet room at a restaurant, so it's not like I was on any sort of elevated platform). I think I told my jokes okay. I slowed down my delivery a lot more and became more conversational. This also meant I stumbled a lot more because, you know, you sometimes screw up in normal conversation.

And now it's all over, and finally I feel like I have free time to do something besides rewrite the script or go to rehearsal. I'm going to read a book. And I'm going to watch a movie, which, embarrassingly, is a musical (Hairspray), which you think I'd be sick of after rehearsing/performing a show featuring songs from musicals.

I feel like I'm gonna miss the kids in the show. They were so cute. Although one of the older ones is gonna babysit for me. And seriously, asking her for her phone number felt like asking somebody out on a date. I psyched myself up for it and asked her at the very last second, after the last show. Why is it so hard for me to be somebody's employer?

Anyway, I feel like I should have some deeper takeaway from doing this show, but all I can say is that it was so fun and so scary, and I'm glad it's over. The end.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let's go on with the show!

So, today is the show. Two shows, actually. And then one tomorrow.

Last night we had our last dress rehearsal. I don't know if it was the excess caffeine, or the stage fright, or the irritating florescent lights in the park district basement, but I started to have a full-blown panic attack. I have to do this in front of people. These jokes aren't funny! The hair-teasing totally didn't work. My shoes are ugly.

But then I saw the program for the show:

And that is my name, my name on the cover! And oh my gosh, you guys, I know this is just a dumb community theater show, one whose only attendees are going to be family members and friends of performers, but I could not be prouder. In the middle of my monotonous life where all I do is cook meals nobody likes and wipe my kid's butt, I went out and did something different. I stuck my neck out. I took a chance.

I wrote that script.

And I know this isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But I realized something when I went downstairs to scan the program into the computer. I had to use the computer that Bill mostly uses. I noticed up on the screen he had a document open, some kind of publication he had written for a professional journal. It had his name right in the file name, and then again at the top of the page. And it made me realize how often he gets to see his name in print. And I know it's not as often as he would like, and I know it's harder to get published in a professional journal than it is to write a script for a community theater show.

But still, I never get to see my name in print. I never get the glory. How often do we refer to some woman we know through our children as simply "So-and-So's Mom"?

But that program doesn't say "Script by Nathan's Mom." It says "Script by Shannon Ford."

I could have grown complacent in my boring life of housewife schlubbery, simply saying that I'm raising a kid and that's enough. But I didn't. I did something for me.

And I was trying to think of a way to incorporate this situation into Neil Armstrong's famous quote, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But you know what, it's not a small step for me. It might seem like a small step, but really it is a giant leap.

I was gonna get on here and complain about some last-minute cuts that got made to my script. I was gonna ponder whether Tina Fey has to deal with such injustices. I was gonna freak out about how my dress makes me look fat and I have no idea how to do my hair.

I was also gonna tell you that I'm more excited and more nervous than I have been about anything since Nathan's birth. And then I was gonna make one more remark that belittles the caliber of community theater.

But really, to me, this is huge. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that my computer screen is blurry from tears and I have snot dripping down my face right now. That's how proud I am.

I wrote that script.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And in the Formal Wear Competition ...

So, my show is on Thursday.

On Monday, I was informed that my official costume for the show should be an "evening gown." Because, you know, I have a bunch of those lying around.

I mean, the deal is that the show is a salute to Tony winners, and the other emcee and I are supposed to be like presenters on an awards show. You know, like the presenters who are mega-celebs and have stylists who dress them and jewelry companies that loan them stuff?

Fortunately I have my bridesmaid dress from Gracie's wedding, as seen in this post. Finally an opportunity to reuse a bridesmaid dress! And it's strapless and satin and puffy, so it sort of looks like something an awards show presenter might wear. You know, if awards shows presenters shopped at David's Bridal.

Problem #1: Despite the fact that the wedding was only 9 months ago, the dress is already too small for me. I hear celebrities coat their skin in hemorrhoid cream and wrap themselves in cellophane to sweat out the water weight before the big awards shows. Seeing as I need my body to have some water content in order to perform the basic functions of everyday life, it was 0ff to Target to buy off-brand Spanx.

Problem #2: I wanted to add the detachable straps that came with the dress, but I think I threw them away. This would be another example of when it would be useful to be a hoarder. So I went to Joann's to buy some ribbon to make straps, and, under the harsh stage lights, it will probably be glaringly obvious that the ribbon doesn't match the dress perfectly.
Problem #2a: I can't sew. So I bought some stick-on Velcro dots to attach the straps. And,
believe me, that top is so tight nothing's gonna slip out.

Problem #3: Formal dresses look better with high-heeled shoes, but due to comfort and fear-of-tripping issues, I want to wear flats. So I'm wearing some bronze ballet flats I already have in my closet.

Problem #4: How should I wear my hair so it looks appropriately fancy with a formal dress? It's not like I want to go to the salon and pay all kinds of money to have my hair done, especially because I already spent that money on restrictive undergarments. So I found this thing that's sort of like a Bump-It, except when I tried it on I looked so stupid. I think because I didn't tease my hair like the instructions said. What does teasing even mean? Isn't that, like, intentionally introducing tangles into your hair? Why would anybody do that? And can I do it with the little baby comb that came in Nathan's "welcome baby" kit? Because that's the only comb I have. Oh and also, I had to buy hair spray, and I don't think I've used hair spray since the big bangs era of the late 1980s. I scoured the hairspray aisle, and they have some fancy kinds with names like Cray-Z-High that cost like $13.99. I went with old-school Aqua Net for $1.94. It's a tribute to the musical Hairspray, which is featured in the show.

Problem #5: I have no accessories to go with formal wear. So often I'm in stores, seeing big dangling, sparkly earrings and thinking, you know, those just wouldn't really go with my everyday attire. And then today I was in Target (which, surprisingly, is not the place to shop for formal wear), and I couldn't find any earrings that even remotely resembled a wall of diamonds or a chandelier. And I finally found an earring/necklace set, a sort of nice, understated cubic zirconia ensemble, and it was effing $29.99. But by then I was so frazzled, it was like Christmas shopping on Dec. 23. I don't care what it costs, I just want to buy it and get out of here.

Problem #6: I must have been absent the day they taught makeup application at Girl School. Like, eyeliner? Forget it. And what are all these other weird products like eyeshadow base and cheek highlighter? Plus today I thought, for approximately the 15th time in my life, that it might be fun to try to wear red lipstick. Here is the path that all red lipstick takes in my life: Target shelf --> Target cart --> Target bag --> my lips --> garbage. I always want to get that cute, just-licked-a-cherry-popsicle look from red lipstick. Instead I just look like a crazy person.

I think I may have spent more time, money, and effort preparing for this show than I did for my own wedding.

Oh and I'm told for this show, there is going to be an actual red carpet. I'm pretty sure the commentators from E! are going to be there. And I'm sure I'm going to get interviewed during the pre-show:

Ryan Seacrest: Coming down the carpet now, we have Shannon, one of the emcees of tonight's show!
Me: Hey Ryan, I have wanted to punch you ever since you were a DJ back in L.A. on STAR 98.7.
RS: Hahahaha, so are you excited about tonight?
Me: No, seriously, I remember this one particularly disgusting story you told about eating cottage cheese in the men's room.
RS: So, Shannon, who are you wearing tonight?
Me: This is David's Bridal, plus shoes I bought from Target to go with a Halloween costume I wore in 2009. You know, Ryan, the contrast between your teeth and your skin color is disturbingly shocking.
RS: Are you wearing a Bump-It?
Me: No, NO, Ryan, I'll have you know this is a Con-Air Hi-Styles.
RS: Judging from that lipstick, I'll guess you're on a high dose of crazy-person medication.
Me: 30 mg of Prozac, plus 7.5 mg of Deplin. I picked up the prescriptions at Target when I bought the generic Spanx I'm wearing.
RS: You know, that dress doesn't really fit, and those earrings don't look like they cost more than the average American house.
Me: True on both counts.
RS: Well, have a great night!
Me: You're really short.

Although if I'm nicer to Ryan, maybe he'll introduce me to Joel McHale.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Virtual Coffee/The Happiness Project

Hey you guys! Today I am going to do two blog carnivals in one post. As you'll recall from last week, Amy from Lucky Number 13 hosts Virtual Coffee every Tuesday. It's a carnival where you just kind of talk about random things that you might talk about over coffee with a friend.

I'm also doing a Tuesday carnival hosted by Leigh vs. Laundry, which is called The Happiness Project. For this carnival, you post a photo of something that makes you happy. And there is a badge for it:


So, my picture for The Happiness Project is this one:

It's the exuberant Goldfish cracker!

Now, for reference, here is a (less blurry) photo of a regular Goldfish cracker, taken from the Internet:

Notice how the normal Goldfish cracker has that sort of lackluster, close-mouthed half-smile? Whereas my Goldfish is all Hell yeah, life, bring it on!

Or else that Goldfish cracker is saying, "Hey Shannon, please stop eating me and my friends." Because seriously, I bought one of those big cartons of Goldfish, you know, because "my kid" likes them, and isn't buying in bulk more economical? And then my kid ate maybe a small bowlful, dumped another bowlful on my carpet, and that was it. I ate all the rest.

You know the sound of that big carton opening? That quiet shhhh tearing sound? That is the sound of a bad idea.

Also bad ideas: gummi bears, soft pretzels, Trader Joe's letter cookies, homemade bread.

Anyway, since you came here for coffee, I will tell you that this will be the first of many cups of coffee I'll be having today. As I mentioned Sunday, this week I have rehearsals Monday through Wednesday nights, two shows Thursday, and one show Friday. I kind of enjoy feeling like I'm the master of the double-life. Like, Midwest Suburban Housewife Schlub by Day, Stage Star by Night. (I know, I am so lame.) But I am also The Exhausted Person All the Time. I wish I could be one of those energetic, perky people who can just go and go and go. But I expend a lot of energy worrying about things that probably won't happen, so I'm pretty tired by about dinnertime every day.

So I'm relying on coffee to get me through the week. And in my bio for the show, I had to list people who I wanted to thank. Of course I listed my family and friends, but I probably should have also included a shout-out to my BFF Keurig, without whom my performance wouldn't be possible. I love you, K.

So, can I tell you something about the show? It includes the song "Tomorrow" from Annie, which is my favorite musical. And there is this little girl singing it, and she doesn't really know the words, and the show is in three days, and I told the director I'd be happy to put on a red curly wig and sing it.

She laughed.

I wasn't actually joking.

I added that I dressed up as Annie for Halloween when I was four, and that was the year I trick-or-treated for UNICEF, and I saw the Annie movie at the drive-in ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... I'm a crazy person and I'm never gonna get to sing that song.

Oh well, it's better that I don't sing anything, because as it is I am so, so nervous about this show. (Also, minor technicality, but I can.not.sing.) I feel like I sound so funny in my head, and then in real life I rush the lines and sound a total dork. And I don't have to memorize all the lines, but I don't want to be staring down at my notecards the whole time, except when I try to memorize them I get all flustered and then I sound like an idiot.

And yes, I'm a little bit fishing for compliments here.

Goldfishing for compliments.

See how this post comes full-circle?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend Update

Saturday I woke up In A Mood. It just seems like we haven't seen the sun in ever so long, although I think it did make a brief appearance sometime last week. But a few days in a row without sun? That's not normal. That messes with you.

In attempt to boost my mood, I went to the gym to swim. Remember my resolution to swim three times a week? It's going well, thanks for asking.

Except when I got to the pool I had to wait 15 minutes to swim because a kid threw up in the pool during swim lessons and they had to put some kind of disinfectant in the water. I just thought you'd like to know that.

So, I swam 2,300 yards, which is good because this week I added 100 yards each time I went. I thought you'd like to know that, too.

And then I went home and I did just the best thing. I took a nap. And it was like, my kid was watching a movie and I didn't even fully confirm with my husband that he was watching the kid while I took a nap. And really it was only kind of a half-asleep nap, because at some point the kid came in and I turned on a DVD of that effing Caillou. But afterward I was well-rested, which was a good thing because we had plans to leave the house after 4 p.m.

It was my official birthday dinner! But on the way we went to the mall. I'm not used to the mall playground on Saturdays, but it is like the biggest clusterf*ck of insanity you have ever seen. Approximately 75 little screaming balls of pent-up energy, running and climbing in some kind of chaotic swarm. That playground is good birth control, which is probably why they put the Claire's accessories right next to it, so all the little tweens and teens can see their futures if they don't use protection. (Although strangely on the other side of the playground there's a Motherhood Maternity, so it's too late for those poor people.)

So, after the mall we tried to go to dinner at this one brewery place. But they said the wait was 35-45 minutes. I thought we should wait, but Bill said there was no way Nathan would make it. So we made our way south, stopping at three other restaurants, all of which had waits ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes. I thought people were dining out less often. Who are all these people?

Anyway, I finally decided we would go for take-out Mexican at this place with the extremely gringo-ified name of Buenas Nachos. (Although, help me out, Spanish-speaking people. Shouldn't it be Buenos Nachos, with an o? I guess maybe they did that because you would say Buenas Noches, with an a?) Anyway, despite the name, it's actually one of the more authentic Mexican food places in the area.

Also by then I realized we would have been seated at the original place had we just stayed there, so I made my husband admit I was right. That was birthday present enough right there.

But, good dinner at Buenas Nachos, even though I'm not so sure it was una noche buena overall.

Sunday I woke up rarin' to go. I was like, Bring it on, household chores! And first I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. And I kicked that treadmill's ass, wherever a treadmill's ass may be.

Unfortunately it was one of the two Sundays a year when my husband has to go downtown to attend the graduation for the law school where he teaches. So I was on my own with the kid, which was a problem because I had to make a trip to (bum, bum, bum!) the grocery store.

I don't know what it is that makes me hate the grocery store with an all-consuming, burning passion. I like shopping. I like food. But shopping for food is like the most unpleasant chore ever. I hate the stupid meal-planning and list-making. I hate having to make room for the groceries by throwing out stuff I spent good money on at the grocery store the previous week. I hate making all the decisions as to what is most healthful/least expensive. I hate the line and the carrying bags in the house and the putting away, oh God the putting away.

And it's like a gazillion times worse with the kid. Never, not once, has my child been in a phase of his life where he was pleasant at the grocery store. The following is a run-down of my kid's pain-in-the-ass grocery store phases:
  • The Crying Phase (birth to 1 year)
  • The Climbing Out of the Cart Phase (1-2 years)
  • The Fine-You-Can-Just-Walk/Knocking Over Everything on the Shelves Phase (2-3 years), and I swear during this phase on two separate occasions the child knocked over and broke some large, expensive bottle of liquor, and I was so frustrated/embarrassed it was all I could do not to lick the spilled contents off the floor
  • The Disappearing Phase (3-3.5 years), which included the time I was searching for him frantically and another customer told me he had gone out the door and was (gulp) heading for the parking lot (yeah, that was a real Mother of the Year moment there)
  • The Begging for Everything Phase (3.5-15? years), and yes, I know there are probably solutions to this problem, sound parenting practices such as "being firm" or "setting limits," but I have chosen the solution of "complain about it on my blog"
So, Sunday's grocery store trip felt like some kind of athletic event, and I was exhausted when it was over. And I still had to do crap like folding laundry (but not putting it away, remember?) and making dinner and blah, blah, blah, Midwest Suburban Housewife.

And that, folks, is a recap of my oh-so-fascinating weekend.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-In

My blog friend Leigh Ann has a weekly blog carnival called SuperIma Sunday Check-In. Ima means "mom" in Hebrew, so SuperIma = SuperMom. Like all of us, Leigh Ann says that she doesn't feel like a SuperMom, although I would say that anybody who has three kids ages 3 and under is a SuperMom. (And she cooks inexpensive, tasty meals several nights a week, whereas I'm all We're having cereal for dinner.)

Anyway, so Leigh Ann's carnival is about giving yourself a break, and remembering to do something for yourself in the midst of caring for others. To quote her SuperIma Sunday Check-In inaugural edition:

Just tell us what you're going to do for yourself, and maybe what you're going to let slide a little bit.
You deserve it. And I support you.

So, I was going to do this carnival last week, and then I realized it was the kind of thing where you have to plan in advance and set a goal, so I had to set the goal last week and wait until this week to write about it.

And I still think I kind of screwed it up.

The thing is, I think I kind of let things slide all the time. Like, for example, on Friday I could easily have put together some kind of simple dinner or even served leftovers, but instead I picked up Chinese food on the way home from Nathan's ice skating.

And I have gone four days without cleaning up my complete shitstorm of a living room, where, you guys, there is literally a large amount of garbage (like, actual trash) just sitting on the floor.

But, I also think there is a difference between letting things slide and being okay with letting things slide. I think the idea behind Leigh Ann's carnival is accepting that you can't do it all, which is an empowering and healthy attitude. Whereas I let things slide and I beat myself up over it, thinking that I should be able to do it all. I end the day exhausted and mad and frustrated by my general craphole of a house.

So, this week I didn't do well on the "let things slide" part of the challenge. I think, at least for me, I'm not going to be successful at letting things slide until I accept that it's okay to let things slide. I was thinking about what I should let slide for next week, and I got all upset. Allowing myself to leave things in a cluttered state will not be good for my mental health, so I'm not going to set a goal about letting cleaning slide. And I think we're all more relaxed and happier when I plan meals and cook them at home, so I'm not going to set a goal about letting the cooking slide.

But there is one thing I think I beat myself up unnecessarily for. I don't put away the clean laundry. Never, ever, ever. Every single day I say I will put away the laundry, and of course that never happens. I'm more or less on top of washing and folding the laundry, but then I just leave all the clothes in the basement and go down there and grab whatever Nathan and I are going to wear that day. Which, I mean really, is okay. We're always wearing clean clothes. It's not like I go out into the world each day and people say, "Wow, it looks like they are wearing clothes that never made it back into the drawer or closet after being washed."

So this week's "letting slide": putting away the laundry.

As for taking time to do something for myself, my goal for the week was to spend more time outdoors. As I said yesterday, winter and cabin fever will drive you insane.

You know what I think is kind of weird? There is always this sort of aura of comfort and awesomeness surrounding the concept of home. We have sayings like Home Sweet Home and Home is where the heart is. Dorothy wanted to go home, and so did Michael Bublé. Most financial experts will tell you that a home is the best investment you can make. In fact, isn't owning your own home the American dream? There's no place like home.

And yet, in the dead of January, all we can say is, "We have to get out of this house!" I find my home to be the most comforting and frustrating place on the planet. Homes, like the people in them, can be the source of your highest highs and your lowest lows.

So, in an attempt to bring more highs and fewer lows, my goal was to get outdoors a little bit more this week. I did okay on this. Nathan and I went out a couple of times in our snow gear and shoveled/walked around. But I think I would have been happier taking a walk alone. I kind of love the shock of the cold, and the joy of the contrasting warmth when you get back indoors. It would have been nice to go out on a walk alone.

This upcoming week, I'm not going to have the same goal. It's going to be a bit of a crazy, atypical week in our house. I have rehearsals Monday through Wednesday, and then Thursday I have two shows and Friday I have one. It's going to be a crazy week of scrambling to have dinner ready right at 5:00, jumping through hoops to find childcare for Nathan, finding something to wear for this show that doesn't make me look hideously fat, making myself a cat-ears headband ... you know, the usual.

So, because of the craziness of this week, my "do something for myself goal" is actually going to be about time management. I'm going to plan out a schedule for the day in advance, and write it down. Of course I always have a loose schedule based on whatever activities we have for the day, but I tend to get frustrated by the blocks of free time and all the stuff I feel like I should be doing.

So, to sum up:

Let slide: putting away laundry (and being okay with that)
For myself: plan out day's schedule on paper

I know my own particular goals may not be all that interesting to you. But I hope that in writing about them, I have inspired you to think about your own lives, about what you need to do to make yourself happier. So often in life we go along living the frustrating status quo, assuming that this is the way it has to be. And then we step back and say, Why?! Will the house explode or the world come to an end if I don't do x, y, and z?

There are realities in life that you cannot change or control. And working to accept those realities is a whole separate challenge. But there are many, many areas of life where you can make some changes. And I am grateful to Leigh Ann for helping me sit down and start to think about what those changes should be.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Window Decoration

Yes, I already decorated for Valentine's Day. And I know some people hate Valentine's Day. They say it's a dumb Hallmark holiday, one that excludes people who aren't in the throes of some red-hot, passionate relationship. Or they say that it shouldn't take a holiday for somebody to acknowledge his or her significant other.

Well, first of all, some people (coughmencough) need a little bit of a reminder to acknowledge their significant others. Oh, and I know, not your husband. Your husband is a hopeless romantic. Your husband is perfect. Your husband brings you flowers once a week, washes all the dishes without having to be asked, and cares for the children every waking minute that he's not at work. Your husband wishes he could grow breasts and lactate so he could just be that much more helpful around the house.

Oh but anyway, it isn't the forced exchanging of romantic tokens that I like about Valentine's Day. I like Valentine's Day because it brings color into an otherwise bleak season.

I like when you drive through a dark, gray snowstorm to get to Target, and once you get in the store it's all hearts and flowers and pink and red. And chocolate.

So I like Valentine's Day because it brings color back into our lives. And that is why I already decorated my windows.

Also, Nathan loves to put up gel decorations up on the window for every holiday, and Leia loves to pull them down. So, you know, that's cute.

I wish a bunch of cheap gel clings were all it took to make us all feel better about winter, but it's bleak out there:

Photo credit: My husband

The color green is conspicuously missing:

Also taken by husband

The sun shines sometimes, but a few days in a row without sunshine kind of does you in. It's so damn cold and dark.

Today is January 15, which means we have two weeks in January behind us, which means today is the official start of the third week of January. Some years ago I determined that it was the third week of January when people started to get the "Winter Madness" (to borrow a term from 30 Rock).

See, winter is kind of fun and festive during the December holiday season. You know, we have terms like white Christmas and winter wonderland. For those of us living in colder climates, a warm December would be weird.

And then when New Year's hits, it just feels so good to have all the pressure of the holiday season over, and you're just so overcome with the spirit of newness and discipline. This spirit carries you through January for like a week or two. For me personally, my birthday in the second week of January is always good for a little additional January boost.

But by the third week of January, it's like noooooooooo moooooooorrrrrre. We have spent so many days trapped in the house, where I swear to God there are little invisible gnomes who scatter clutter around when we aren't looking. It's just all laundrycleaningexercisedishescookingerrandsfrustrationrepeat.

Plus there's the stir-crazy child. I'm pretty sure there was a time when Saturdays in winter were really nice and warm and cozy, where I just sat around all day and read a book under the covers. But then you add a child to the mix, and there is no sitting or reading or covers. There is holy shit, we have to get this kid out of the house to burn off some energy. Again.

And yes, there are a lot of indoor entertainment options. But they are far away, and also many of them are what I call "big ticket outings." A big ticket outing is like a museum or zoo, the kind of thing where you have to pack a bunch of stuff in advance, drive a long way, possibly pay a lot of money, deal with irritating parking and/or public transit, and then walk around all day until you're exhausted. It's a far cry from the ease of the park and pool in the warmer months.

We have two indoor playground options that are relatively easy: McDonald's and the mall. And how many days in a row can we go to those?

Plus, what winter really makes me want to do is stay home and ... get mad at the clutter. Because it's a pain to find everybody's coats and boots and gloves, and it's a pain to drive anywhere, and, and, and ...

So, I try little remedies. I buy myself lotions that smell pretty. I arrange grocery store flowers in vases. And I put hearts and cupcakes on my windows.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Comparison

Yesterday at yoga the teacher began with the standard yoga instructor admonition about how you should never compare your yoga practice to anybody else's. They all say that.

In the confines of yoga, the idea of not comparing yourself to others makes sense to me. I mean yeah, I am guilty of sneaking a peek at the woman who can stand on her head and fold her body like a pretzel, but even then I usually don't feel horrible about myself compared to her. I'm like, we all have our yoga strengths and weaknesses.

Out in the real world, the one where we wear shoes and the lights are on, I have a harder time trying not to compare myself to others. I mean, it's sort of human nature to draw comparisons between yourself and others. Whether you're trying to figure out how many days a week to work out, when your child should be able to walk, or whether you're earning an adequate salary, you look to the examples set by others so you can have a reference frame. You can only know how you measure up if you look at how other people measure up. People ask, How far do you swim? Is Billy walking yet? How much did they pay for their house? Qualities such as normal, adequate, and right are subjective, and the best way to measure them is to look at examples set by other people. Sometimes comparing yourself to others is necessary.

And sometimes comparing yourself to others can drive you bat-shit insane.

How can she be pregnant with her sixth child when I feel overwhelmed with one? Why does her husband cook dinner every night when my husband doesn't actually know where the kitchen is? Why is she so thin when I'm so fat? How can she work full-time and run a business on the side when I haven't been able to earn a single cent since 2008? How come her kid can read and mine still doesn't know what the letter "A" looks like?

And it gets even worse when you start comparing your emotions to other people's.

If she can do
X and Y and still have the energy to do Z, I am not allowed to be tired just from my dumb day of sitting around blogging. She's dealing with [insert legitimate life problem here] and she seems happier than I am, and I have a really good, easy life and I feel sad.

I am not allowed to feel tired. I am not allowed to feel sad. I am not allowed to feel overwhelmed by my stupid, petty problems. Nobody else feels this way.

But I think of something else the yoga teacher said:

Nobody else is inside your body.

(I guess this statement doesn't work when you're an instructor for prenatal yoga. Or if, you know, one of your students has some kind of parasite. But fetuses and tapeworms aren't really all that judgmental, so I think the whole spirit of "nobody else is inside your body" is still true.)

Nobody else feels the exact same things you feel. Nobody else experiences life the way you do. Things may not affect you the same way they affect other people.

All of this is just more stuff that seems so obvious, and yet our thoughts and actions never seem to reflect an understanding of this most basic principle. People say things like, What does she have to be depressed about? Or, You should be over this by now.

Except, you don't know. You are you, and I am me. And we've never traded places like in the movie Freaky Friday, so you don't feel life the way I feel it. And, of course, I don't know what it feels like to be you, either.

I am not cured of my tendency to compare myself to others. But I try to keep my yoga instructor's words in my mind.

Nobody else is inside your body.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mix of Awesomeness

The other day, in response to this post, my college friend Melyssa (mother of twins and native of Calaveras County, CA, home of the Celebrated Jumping Frogs in the Mark Twain story) asked me about the contents of my playlist called "Mix of Awesomeness." So:

Click on it for a larger view

So, yes, the Mix of Awesomeness is totally random and eclectic, but that's what iPods are for, right? Oh, and there is overlap between this mix and the mix I shared in my other post, including my power song, Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," which Josie commented on. My spin instructor sometimes plays that song when we do a really hard hill at the end, because it's the perfect combination of comforting and motivational. It's the song that gives you a hug and a little kick in the ass at the same time.

In other exercise news, today I began Life Attempt #57 to enjoy yoga. Let me give you a brief history of my yoga experiences, since you asked.

First I did yoga a couple of times at 24-Hour Fitness with my stepdad. Since I only went twice and I was just trying to get a feel for it, I didn't really form an opinion one way or the other about yoga.

My next, longer, attempt at yoga was when I took it with my old teaching partner at the local Senior Center. (No, it wasn't like an old folks' home or anything. It was just like a community center where they held various functions, most of which were, I guess, for seniors. But yoga was open to all ages.) I was 24 at the time and really dealing with my first struggles with depression and anxiety. Everybody said yoga would be great for me, but I just never really got into it. A big part of the problem, if you can call this a "problem," was that I was single at the time and yoga was really cutting into my lying-around-doing-nothing time. Oh, dumb little 24-year-old Shannon, if only you knew. The end relaxation part of the class, which seemed to last forever, felt particularly pointless. Like, why am I lying on the floor of a drafty community center when I could just go home and lie in my bed?

When I got massively shit-slammed with depression after Nathan was born, I thought maybe I would give yoga another try. Since I was faced with the demands of motherhood and working full-time back then, I decided maybe I could squeeze in more time for yoga if I had a DVD I could do at home. I ordered this DVD called Life-Force Yoga to Beat the Blues. It was okay, but a little too spiritual and chanting-based for my taste. I felt dumb sitting in my living room chanting. Even Leia was looking at me funny.

I wasn't motivated to do the yoga DVD at home enough, because I have a hard time working out at home when there's all kinds of other stuff I could be doing at home. So about a year and half ago, I decided to try another yoga class. Unfortunately, the yoga class I chose was at the gym, and so understandably it was a little bit more of an exercise-oriented yoga. Vinyasa yoga, they call it. This yoga was less about relaxation and more about strengthening your core. Generally speaking, I hate all mention of the word core at the gym. And I know that the gym's yoga was a good workout (if the level of sweat it generated was any indication), but I preferred to get my workouts elsewhere. I wanted yoga to be about relaxation. I wanted yoga to be something I looked forward to, not dreaded like some of the other exercise classes I was taking during that same period of my life.

So, anyway, yoga was on hiatus for like a year, and then a couple of weeks ago I decided to give it another shot. I'm still looking for that elusive sense of balance and inner peace that yoga promises. So, I picked a yoga class out of the park district catalog. They offer various forms of yoga, but I picked this one because it coincides with Nathan's preschool and is in the exact same location at the exact same time I drop him off. Oh and also, bonus, it said you had to be at least 30 years old to be in the class, so I knew it would be more of an older crowd.

I know it's too soon to tell, but I think this yoga might be the best of my 57 attempts. (And yes, I know, this is really only like my fifth attempt. I just like the number 57.) The poses were appropriately challenging, and I really, truly felt relaxed at the end. I liked how the instructor didn't talk about the God of This and the Goddess of That, because I have no problem with anybody's religion, but I have enough to worry about trying to stay in the pose without having to worry about whether or not the Goddess of Light is sending a love ray of radiance straight into my heart center. The teacher kept it more on the secular level of let go of what is bothering you, we are all connected kind of stuff. And that relaxation part at the end, the one I couldn't wait to be done with at my old class? I was seriously thinking, please, don't ever let this end.

Ahh, how times have changed.

Lest you think I'm now on some sort of higher spiritual plane, let me share with you that a couple of days ago I got a pedicure just because I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to become One With the Universe at yoga while looking at my hideous toenails. And I took this picture in the car afterward:

Yep, that's snow. I got a pedicure during a snowstorm, because that's how committed I am to toenail upkeep. It's the Snodicure!

Oh, and just to make this post enough of a mix (of awesomeness), I'll just talk about my show here at the end. It's super fun! Except I'm having a hard time with my jokes because the only people watching me at rehearsal are kids, and they don't find me funny. And now I'm feeling insecure and thinking maybe I'm not as funny as I thought I was.

Except I'm one with the universe now and superficial earthly things like comedy don't matter. Or something.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Place to Be!

It's my 33rd birthday. And my 200th blog post.

Now, there are milestone birthdays, e.g. 30, 40, 50, etc. And there are birthdays that grant you special privileges, although there's a pretty big gap between those because it's pretty much "legal drinking age" and then "eligible for senior discount." Anyway, 33 is neither a milestone birthday nor a birthday that grants you a special privilege, so I felt the need to distinguish it somehow by giving it a theme.

I came up with "33: The Place to Be!"

Truthfully, I think every age I have ever been is the place to be. I hope I never get to an age where I'm unhappy about my age and/or ashamed to admit how old I am. I think everybody knows that getting older beats the alternative, so on my birthday I always acknowledge how lucky I am to be alive.

Here is a picture of me on my 33rd birthday. Okay actually it was the day before my birthday, but this is my "birthday picture," you know like how you take your kid to take a picture on his birthday at Picture People and they put him on a block that says how old he is? This is a slightly lower-budget version:

For my birthday a grew another chin. Also that shirt actually says 'Old Navy,' but it seems appropriate that the only part showing says 'OLD.'

Obviously I'm holding up the double-threes because I'm 33, but it kind of reminds me of Nixon, who apparently held up the "V" sign in a lot of pictures, presumably because he was perpetually turning 22.

Nothing says 'Happy Birthday' like Nixon.

So, my birthday plans include: writing this blog post, going to Target to buy diapers (he's only wearing them at night, I swear!), getting my one-cent cookware using the stickers from the grocery store, taking my kid to McDonald's so he can burn off energy at the playland while I read a book, dinner/cake, and then play rehearsal. I think we're going out to dinner this weekend, too.

I made my own cake this year. Before you think this sounds all martyr-ish, the real reason I made it was that I like to make cakes and this seemed like a good excuse to make one. It's red velvet:

Here's the finished product:

We'll be enjoying it with cookie dough ice cream.

Well, I'm off to begin my day of eating crap. And to start enjoying my new life in The Place to Be!