The Vagina Monologues

When you take your three year old daughter to a routine trip to the library and she decides to act a fool and run screaming in and out of the torrid romance novel aisles and you snatch her up quickly while the mean librarian gives you the stink eye for your terrible parenting skills and the entire ESL class in the conference room with the door open trying to figure out how the English word for eggplant actually means a weird little purple vegetable is watching this little scene desperate for some entertainment and you crush her a little too hard onto your hip out of embarrassment and she begins to throw her head back and scream,

“YOU’RE HURTING MY VAGINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Wine over Water and Other Transgressions

Social media is at it again with its irrational monikers of the “you can do it all” bit that apparently is getting old only to me.  I’ve slowly pulled myself out of the reading blogosphere of mamas I respect, but who perhaps unwittingly, propagate the nefarious notion that women can and are expected to meet every standard ever created.

I want to be one of those people who makes their bed in the morning.  I do.  I really do.  Trouble is, I can’t really find my bed most of the time under the laundry piles and counting bears and disney princesses hiding with their bony hands underneath the sheets.  No “ten minute frenzy” at the end of the day is going to eliminate Mount Vesuvius.  Believe me.

I want to be the woman with the shiny bathroom sparkling with homemade, all natural products instead of the woman who has to call out to guests on their way up the stairs to please wash their hands in the tub, there’s a clog in our sink that we can’t seem to locate or dislodge.

I’d love to post an instagram of my leather-bound Bible perfectly fanned out over my autumnal tablecloth with a few falling dahlia leaves fluttering over my Irish Breakfast Tea with clever statuses like, “Just having breakfast with the King” , but I’m actually too busy trying to convince my kid that if she doesn’t take at least two bites of egg before I drop her off at school she will pass out on the playground and will be unable to enter a Disney store for up to year, as per their no- fainting policy.  This is affective.

I want to be the woman who prefers water with lemon over a nice Cote du Rhone and who doesn’t gag at the idea of drinking a green smoothie for breakfast.

I do.

And yet.

Then I remember that the woman who made her bed in the morning would have been screwed an hour later after she fell back into it to watch Gilmore Girl reruns after she dropped her kid off to school.

That the reason my bathroom sink is PERPETUALLY clogged is because everyone and their mother comes over for dinner.  And brings friends.  And children.  And sometimes small animals.

My time spent with the Lord is in the car these days, crying along to a sermon on a podcast, sticking my fingers in my eyes to keep them open after ten p.m. if it’s Rich’s night for Ellie duty- oh because my kid still doesn’t sleep, you see.  It’s only been 3.5 years.  My mom said I was 5 before things turned around for me during the night.  Only a year and a half more of dreadful insomnia, night terrors, paranoia and separation anxiety.  Hand clap.

And there is nothing wrong with green smoothies.  Truly.  I just find it much more pleasant to keep the greens on my plate and out of my glass.

I will not feel guilty because I say shit sometimes (or a lot), that my kid told me she showed her undies to her classmates because they have a cool bunny on them and I snorted in laughter (and then explained why it’s best not to show people your unders) or because I will on many occasion(s) choose a novel over picking up my living room.  Hell, finding my living room.

Nope, this is not one of those holier-than-thou posts about how I choose time with my family and time for myself because that’s what will be worth it in the end blah blah blah.  It’s just me being real with you.  I don’t choose the “right” thing all the time.  I don’t.  Sometimes it’s purposeful and sometimes its not.  Sometimes I run around like a mad woman cleaning things from top to bottom, roasting chickens and mashing potatoes for dinner and sometimes I hide under my covers, hire a housekeeper and order a pizza.  Or two.

We can’t do it all because it “all” means different things to each of us.  The only thing that is the same is that there is grace for us all.

Even when we repeatedly choose the wine over water.

Every. Time.

Sunday Night

Something weird is happening to me.

I sat down to pay my bills this afternoon and accomplished the task without any creeping feelings of despair, hopelessness, or feeling forgotten.

We did not come into money; no wealthy Aunt we were unaware we had passed away in the night leaving an ungainly inheritance in our names absolving us of financial worries.  I’ve just been actively praying that it is rooted in my heart the One to whom all the money in all the universe belongs, including mine.  HE HAS ME COVERED.  I believed it today.  It may have been the first time the knowledge in my head aligned with my heart on the matter.  After a steady stream of 15 years filled with financial anxiety, this is more than a step.  It’s a breaking down, and a breaking through.

I have begun to read differently; particularly the Bible.  I am literary, and verbal.  Duh.  The dialogue is the meat.  The good stuff.  I will skip pages of setting descriptions to get to what the people are saying about the matter.  But lately, to my horror, I have been sincerely uninterested in what people have to SAY and rather, am gravitating toward who people ARE.  I am re-reading the Sermon on the Mount and all that leads up to it and instead of scanning for red letters I find myself getting lost in the non-details, as it were.  “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers….” (Matt. 4:18)  Jesus was walking.  Walking by the water.  He didn’t have to walk down by the water.  Did being by the water give him peace? Did he seek it out? Go out of his way to walk on the edge of it, the surging life of it all. Is that why he uses the phrase, “living water”?  Did he ever swim in it? Is that why? It was so hot during the day and Galilee’s terrain incredibly rocky, did he need to feel the nearness of the relief it provided?

He walked.

I can’t get past these two words.  Two words I have blown by for the last 16 years of being a believer.

Something weird is happening to me.

If those examples aren’t proof enough, I almost adopted a dog this weekend.  I know.  those who know me are gasping for breath.  I love all animals- as long as they stay far away from my house.  I don’t ever want the hassle of dog breath, dog poop, dog drool, dog hair, and the list goes on.  I am not a dog lover.  I don’t even have empathy for the lost or discarded ones.  I know, you hate me now.  I’m just telling the truth.

And then this stupid little graying scottish terrier takes a liking to my kid during an adoption day and all bets are off.  He’s old. decrepit even.  He has ear infections from being out on the street.  They’re guessing he has arthritis because he can’t walk for too long.  He has a chunk missing out of his ear and a sad, pathetic little expression as the volunteer explained to my child that he probably won’t walk over and say hello to her as she wanted.  He’s friendly, but doesn’t approach people.  Until he walked over to my daughter and laid down at her feet and she said, “Oh Mama, look.  He needs me.”

Damn.

He looks like Don Notts with fur.  He needs a walking stick and a sweater.  He’ll probably need dialysis in a year and I’ll end up shelling out more cash for this geriatric animal than I do for El’s education.

His name is Harold for crying out loud.

I took home the application and watched the volunteer fight back emotion as she handed me the paperwork.  We thought no one would ever love him, she said.

Damn these people are good.

So that’s my life right now, on this Sunday night.  Paying bills and not crying about the ones that I can’t pay, reading words like Jesus walked and crying about that for reasons I have yet to have a rational answer to while filling out an application for a dog that is OLDER THAN SIN.

I told you something weird was happening to me.

Decorated

“Mama, how come you have decorations all over your belly?”

I was getting ready to go out to dinner with a few friends as my daughter sat on my bed.  Sat being a negotiable word, as she was really doing forward rolls and trying to stand on her head while I was trying not to have a panic attack each time she landed a bit too close to the edge.  It was as I was changing into the decided outfit of the evening when she sprung this interesting question on me.  There, standing on her head in the middle of her bed, my daughter used language to describe a physical attribute I’ve abhorred and then ignored since she was born.

I have not hidden my distain for women who refer to their stretch marks as, “tiger stripes” or “love marks” or anything else that masks what I thought they really were: ugly.  I was not embarrassed or put off by them by any means, I earned them carrying a child I love, after all.  But I was not a supporter of it’s glorification.  Nothing disturbs me more than people calling truly ugly things beautiful.  It feels like a deeply offensive falsification.  They are certainly marks of strife, of courage, of pain, of care, but not of beauty, certainly. And that was fine with me.  As long as we’re not calling it something it’s not.

“Mama, how come you have decorations all over your belly?”

She said decorations.  As in, streamers and cardboard cut-outs and helium balloons.  Decorations are sometimes cheesy, sometimes not even beautiful, but always, always signs of joyful celebration.

I thought long and hard before I opened my mouth.  I didn’t want to say something filled with rhetoric just to have something to say.  I explained, rather matter-of-factly, that as my body stretched to accommodate the one growing inside of it-her- it was permanently marked with the effort.

“I decorated you?,” she asked.

“Yes, love.  You decorated me.”

I will now, never explain it any other way.

Let Them Eat Cake

I had a slight argument with my daughter today.

“It’s your parents anniversary today, kiddo.”

“No it’s not.”

“Actually, yes it is.  October 22.”

“No it’s not.  We don’t have cake.”

To my three year old, nothing is worth celebrating unless it comes with cake and ice cream.  And possibly streamers and balloons.  It’s so linear to her- an anniversary is a celebration, celebrations have cake.  We have no cake, hence, I must be sorely mistaken.  It couldn’t possibly be our anniversary.

I’ve ruminated on her observation this afternoon.  Our anniversary has fallen during the week, and as such and due to the season we’re in with a small child in the mix, celebrations have looked an awful lot just like every other day.  We say well wishes, joke about taking pictures in the rain all those years ago, how we were the first people to leave our own wedding reception and move on to the steaming of broccoli (the only green vegetable our kid will eat) settle in on the couch and proceed to follow every other day protocol: run downs of the day, dishes in the dishwasher, lunches in lunch boxes, brushing teeth, trying not to fall asleep in the living room during Ink Master reruns.

But something about El’s refusal to accept what today signifies snapped me to attention.  Hey.  We’ve been together for ten years.  Married for nine.  That’s actually, in the grand scheme of things and the world around us, an accomplishment worthy of celebration.  We have committed, for better and worse (and we’ve had plenty of both) ourselves to the other for nearly a decade.  That’s more than double our kid’s ENTIRE LIFE.

We were going to just put our anniversary on hold until the weekend when things aren’t so rushed and tiresome.  We were going to just kind of sail through it, and not overlook it necessarily, but give it a gentle nod instead of a song and dance.  But I dug out some pillar candles and polished the holders.  I put on a dress I just had dry cleaned and let my kid go nuts with some handcrafted decorations to hang in the dining room.  I even put lipstick on before grabbing my keys.

“Come on, El, we gotta go to the store to get some champagne and a cake.”

“That’s a great idea, Mama.  Now’s it’s a real Anni-bur-sorry.”

Indeed.

Anniversary

Sometimes we forget how good we have it and sometimes the goodness overwhelms us.

Sometimes it seems we’ve done nothing but sacrifice and sometimes it seems our path was paved while others were left to forge their own way through the wilderness.

There are times we are resentful of how much we work, how much time is spent outside of our home to make our ends meet and then, there are times of great joy and tears of thankfulness for opportunities of employment while others wait and search.

There have been times this past year where we thought we were hungry but were really just entitled and snobbish, and times when we were actually hungry and grateful that we knew, at least, the hunger will end and there will be a paycheck and a hope.

There were times when our hearts stopped believing in God’s faithfulness so our heads and the litany of promises kept had to sustain us, and there were times when our heads couldn’t make sense of Christ’s character so our hearts had to step in and take over.

There were times we wept and ached for another child and times we stepped back and watched our blonde headed wonder and marvel at how lucky we are to have her.

There were times we threw things at the walls of this house for being an albatross around our necks, tethering us here in it’s depreciation and condition and times we’ve kissed the floor in gratitude for how it has served us- and others.

There have been times we watched each other’s eyes pool with tears of brokenness for a friend and times of rolls of laughter.

There were times we’ve pinched our extra middles in exasperation and grumbled about the growing older, and times when we’ve laughed at the knowledge that it doesn’t make us any less beautiful to each other, and we’re all that really matters, right?

There have been times we’ve built one another up in love and times we’ve teared each other down with words.

There have been times spent on our knees in contrition and in praise.

There are times we saw glimpses of who were nine years ago, and times we saw who we are now and were content with the changing.

It never gets easier, but it always get better.

Happy nine years of marriage, to us.

Reclassified

Somewhere along the line, we have classified things.  We are either the creative type or the scientific type.  Math or English.  Athletic or musical.  These ways of categorizing both polarizes and instills a sense of belonging : these are my people, those are not.  It can work both ways, but for me lately as I’ve been exploring what my designated (self imposed) categories are, I’ve discovered that I have used them as excuses to maintain my comfort zone.

Case in point.

I’ve toyed with the idea of taking a Barre 3 class for just about forever.  I’m at the point in my life where just eating a few kale leaves every now and then isn’t really doing anything to maintain an optimal weight.  Mores the pity.  What happens to your metabolism when you turn 30?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I need to be moving…….something thats not just walking to and from the train station anymore.  Barre 3 seemed, well, fun.  A little dance a little yoga a little pilates. Something to instill a little lean, a little grace, a little emphasis on how the body moves and how beautiful it could be.  But, I can’t walk without tripping over imaginary objects.  I get out of breath bending down to tie my kids shoes.  I’m so glad I was never in a situation in which I had to walk the straight line because I can’t even do it sober.  My sister-in-law tried to teach me to ride a bike and we both ended up on the ground- me from falling, her from laughing.  Dancer is NOT my category.  So I’ve written it off.

It’s one thing to have gifts and talents and use them appropriately.  We should hone our craft, polish our skills in the areas in which we are gifted.  It’s good and right and biblical to do that. We honor Christ when do that- put ourselves out there with the gifts he LOANED us because He expected us to use them. But it’s all the other stuff we’re not so great at that helps us grow.  Isn’t humility part of the deal? Part of me would like to think that I’ve been humbled enough in the past few years, I don’t need to make an ass of myself in front of a dancers mirror and twenty other well toned SAHMs, thank you very much.  But I don’t want to swim in the kiddy pool for the rest of my life.

What have you not done because it didn’t fit in your “category”? Let’s not forget that the only classification we have that’s right and true is to be a son or daughter of the King.  Everything else is fair game.

Lactose Intolerant Intolerance

As my three year old would say, “I was havin’ a day.”

As in, everything I touched blew up, every word spoken was misinterpreted, every shoe lace was untied; you get the idea.  Nothing went right.  I was feeling rather sorry for myself, to be honest.  As I wandered around the upper east side to kill some time before my tutoring session, I walked past a homeless artist trying to sell some of his wares for food.  As like most Americans, I didn’t have any cash on me so I thought, in order to turn this day around, in order to make this not about me, I will use the money I allotted for my lunch and buy him a meal.

I always ALWAYS feel awkward giving people a meal.  I hate when people hand me a tissue when I’m crying.  Until I got used to his chivalry, I would always refuse Rich’s offer of his coat when I was cold. I don’t like to take help, but, I’ve never been so hungry I’d consider scavenging through trashcans.  So, I sucked it up, bought a ham and cheese sandwich and a banana and trudged back outside to say hi and hand over the goods.  And it went like this.

“Hey, I know you’re hungry ( pointing to sign that says, I’m HUNGRY) so I got you a sandwich.”

Hand over sandwich and fruit.

Man sniffs fruit, takes sandwich apart to reveal the interior.

“I don’t like cheese.”

Tries to hand sandwich, MY sandwich, the one I can’t eat now because he mauled it, back to me.

I’m sorry????????  What???????? Did you just take my lunch, the one that I was going to eat, roll it over in your hands, sniff it, and declare it was inedible because it has CHEESE on it?

Does your sign not say HUNGRY?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Did I miss the fine print where it displays your dietary restrictions?

I smiled, told him to pick it off, and walked away.

And it haunted me the rest of the day.

How often do I throw out the meat with the cheese?

How often do I miss out on nourishment, because of something that insignificantly offends my preferences?

How many times have I overlooked an opportunity for growth because it didn’t come in the package I was looking for?

I’m so glad Christ is not intolerant of my intolerance, as I am of homeless men and their lunch orders.

Next time, I’ll bring PB and J.

If he tells me about a nut allergy, though, I’m out.

The Shannon Family Table (Literally)

Dear Concerned Neighbor/Woman walking her dog/Anyone else within earshot of my house,

I’d like to assure you that my daughter is well.  She is not undergoing various strains of Chinese torture.  She is not being mauled by wild coyotes.  No one is picking off her toenails one by one with pliers.  She is simply appalled by the abhorrent, three little piece pile of sweet potato on her plate.  She is convinced they will kill her.  I calmly discouraged the thought but she would not be deterred.  There will be no eating of those terrifying little orange things tonight.  And thus, she was whisked off to her room to think about what it means to not have dessert.  In her room filled with toys.  With the lights on.  And a chalkboard wall.  Not to be confused with Riker’s Island.  Which is where she thinks she is.  And now, where the entire neighborhood thinks I exiled her to as she is shouting out of her open window:

“My Mama HATES ME!!!!! Why is it wrong to not like sweet potatoes?????? I CANT EAT THEM!!!!! I STILL WANT DESSERT!”

And my personal favorite:

“I’m just a little girl!”

There are two houses for sale on our street.  This show’s for free every night at 6, folks.  Tomorrow night’s spinach.  Get ‘em while she’s hot.

My Month Without Facebook

Alright, so it may be cheating a little, but this is preemptive post.  I am still completely off of Facebook until October but I actually couldn’t wait to tell you how it went, er, is still going.

I had been feeling, overloaded.  Too much noise, too much time wasted, just too much.  It seems I barely had time to check up with my husband to see how he’s doing- I didn’t need to be spending time reading other people’s statuses.  So, I got rid of it.  And something weird happened.

I didn’t miss it.

And I started getting excited about all the other crap in my life I didn’t need, either.  The poor VETS have been to my house three times in two weeks to pick up the stuff I’m cleaning out of my basement.  We’re on a first name basis.  They know where the coffee machine is.  I’ve even let go of books, people.  Books.  And clothes.  Like, all of them.  All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with the less is more, last shall be first and I gave everything away.  Literally.  Almost everything.

And then I paired down my shopping list as I thought of all the people in the world and what they eat, or don’t have to eat, daily.  And I stopped just, “popping in” to Whole Foods for $45,880.00 worth of one fillet of fish and a piece of cheese and cooked what we had (which means my husband ate meatballs made out of eggplant this week, see earlier post).

I started thinking about all the time I freed up by not checking social media and started reading my Bible.  And other stuff.  Like, really good stuff.  And praying.  Not like I usually do with ceremony and a list and a system : Thanksgiving, Petition, Praise and started just TALKING.  Like we were pals.  I am 31.  It took me a while to catch on that this was what Jesus was talking about.

I started crying about orphans and widows and the lost and the hungry and I gave more clothes and food away.  I can’t walk through Penn Station without crying anymore, and though I pretty much fit in with everyone else, this gives me little comfort.  I’m there twice a day, three times a week.  That’s a lot of crying, folks.

I began getting rid of other apps on my phone and started cleaning the windows in the kitchen and began thanking Jesus for weird things like bees and polar bears and headbands for little girls.

In short, I became a raving lunatic.  And then I read Jen Hatmaker’s Seven on the train on the way home in one sitting and cried all over again how she stole my idea and put it in a book way before I ever thought about it but I’m so glad she did and then I cried all over again.

One month fasting from social media and I have become a tree-hugging, Bible-reading, broken people loving maniac looking to adopt/take home/love on/feed delicious meals every man/woman/child in a 5 foot radius.

I’m not going to promise I’ll never go back to it, but man has life been good without it.

P.S. I’m sure some of you who were directed to this blog via Facebook are like, “Um, what is she talking about?????”  To clarify: the blog is automatically published to Facebook, my fast has been to stay away from the Facebook page itself.  Even though the blog has posted, I have only done so through the blog’s site and have not visited the Facebook page since the last day of August.