Mentally Struck By Lightning

I awoke on the couch during a thunderstorm the other night.  Lately I can’t seem to make it to bed before I close my eyes, so this has become an unfortunate habit of late; minus the thunderstorm.  This was the first thunderstorm we’ve had this spring and it reminded me of a new fear that my mind created only last summer.

One morning, on Preston and Steve on Philadelphia’s WMMR morning show, their topic was related to people being struck by lightning.  A conversation like this likely resulted from a news story about a survival or death from such an event.  Regardless, callers quickly filled the airwaves with personal accounts of being struck by lightning or what they’ve heard it’s like, etc.

I’m quite familiar with lightning; my Dad is a Weather Channel junkie.  Though most people, before smart phones and the internet, would turn on the twenty-four hour weather broadcast to get a quick update, Dad would watch for what felt like hours.  Either he was hoping something would change or he missed his calling as a forecaster.  It reminded me of when people would constantly open the refrigerator, hoping something of interest would appear out the air, even though the stock was thoroughly evaluated five minutes prior.  Anyway, the Weather Channel fascination was before they had weather related shows to fill time as well, so imagine boring and looped information.  Needless to say though, lightning was the grand-daddy of weather events for Dad.

Mom called Dad “Ben Franklin” because despite his knowledge about impending thunderstorms, whether the notification came from the Weather Channel or from the cracks of thunder out the window, Dad was also a compulsive pool skimmer.  There’s Dad again, walking the rim of the pool with the metal poled skimmer, making sure there aren’t pine needles congregating on the surface.  Though we eventually got him to stop doing this prior to it killing him, his favorite spot during a thunderstorm is on the patio, watching or snoozing on the lounge chair, in a nice accessible metal patio.

So the fear I had of thunderstorms, was only for my Dad.  I never feared that I would be struck; until last summer.  Preston and Steve brought up how victims of strikes would feel Continue reading

Grandmom’s Spoons Are Better Than Yours

When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat?  If you’re lucky, you did.  Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations.  I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions.  More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get.  I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.

I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family.  I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food.  I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked.  I trusted their ways, even when I was picky.  I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful.  Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.

To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time.  My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional.  I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles.  True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.

The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target.  They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last.  The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix.  The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer.  My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue.  And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.

These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway.  The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff.  I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be.  We used to make stuff.  These things are so simple, but make life so easy.  I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.

I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash.  (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.)  I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental.  I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons.  So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band?  I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.

Living Through News

We wake up each morning to news stories that really make you think.  Today was a mix of banned bake sales, solar flares, thwarted bomb plots and cheating politicians.  Some of these are new and some are not, still they can capture our attention.

I often wonder if the world is safe or if freedom will ever truly be realized again.  I won’t go into politics because that spells disaster and I’m not necessarily looking for a debate, but I simply fear for the future at times.  But I think generations through time did this as well.  Haven’t you read classic literature that ponders and fears over changes in society?

I don’t want to live in fear.  I see bomb plots uncovered, only to recognize how advanced terrorism is, and how my family is very much their target, because we are all American.

I want to believe that if I have kids, that I can teach them healthy eating habits and still bake a pie to raise money for a carnival.

I know to never trust a politician.  If you think they are dishonest going in, there is less room for disappointment.  Hell, I think our mayor even looks slimey.

Solar flares that can knock out power grids.  Well, I don’t doubt that these sort of events have happened over time, but with our advancements, life is just more complicated as we try to make it easier.  I want to live knowing that I can survive without my computer or my cell phone if I had to.  If I had to live off my land or have a community of smart and innovative people, I’d like to think we could get by the way people did for thousands of years before us.  Still I know some people who would cry if they lost their phone charger.

I’m a news addict.  I read all I can and I listen to all I can, from all different sources and opinionated perspectives.  I like to form my own judgments and perspectives while I put faith where I know it counts; in myself and the people I can count on.  No, we aren’t perfect, but I know they have my back and I have theirs.  I can’t trust anyone else in the world to care for me.

Photo Books = Frustration + Mom’s Tears

I know I love my Mom because I spent over five hours creating a photo book for her tonight.

These hours, I might add, are after I uploaded pictures a year ago and created the formatting a year before that. Four hours to place pictures and over analyze who she might want to see in the book and who might provoke her to make an “ew” face.

It is done. If only my email confirmation will come, so I can review the totally overpriced gift that she totally deserves. I’m a good person; even if I promised her a photo book of our wedding four years ago; even if she asks where it is about every two to three months. I just stopped answering her about it because I dreaded the tedious task. I know, it sounds terribly selfish, but I’ve done very heartfelt things in the meantime to make her feel loved and I’ve brought tears of joy several times. I would buy almost anything to not have to create this book.  It’s not even a difficult thing to do, it’s just time consuming to get it right.  Maybe I try to hard to make things perfect, once I finally get around to working on them.

In the middle of my upload tonight, the program froze. I walked into the bedroom and woke my husband, (yes, another selfish move) and asked that he keep me calm and tell me I’m a good person before I went ballistic and threw the computer across the room. I tend not to be violent in nature but I despise when things don’t work like they are supposed to. So clearly I’m prepared for being patient in life. It’s just gadgets; I don’t have patience for flawed technology that costs me a fortune.

Needless to say, I’m 98% uploaded, even though the company already took my money.

I’m expecting tears of joy when this arrives to her door. I’m praying for tears of joy but I’ll likely get a “well, it’s about time” speech. I’m hoping for happiness and I hope she knows she was worth each agonizing second because I know she’s put herself in excruciating situations hundreds of times for her kids.

And with that; thank God that is done. My job as a daughter is done here; till her birthday next month.

If only I were the kind of person who gave giftcards.  My gifts may be late, but I have really good intentions and put a lot of sincerity into them.  They are just very very late.

Photo courtesy of Paul Avery Design.

Why Motorcyclists Are Awesome

Do you know anyone who rides a motorcycle?  I mean, a real motorcycle, not a crotch-rocket or moped, no offense.  I’m talking about an American, loud piped, chromed beauty on two wheels.  I grew up riding on the back of my Dad’s bike, starting a lot younger than I should have and I still get a smile when I hear the pipes roar down the road.

There was something calming about the vibration of the motor and the wind against my face.  I used to fall asleep as a child on the back of the bike, which looking back seems pretty dangerous.  On more than one occasion, Dad felt dead weight on the back and had to pull over to secure me to the seat.  Actually, that is really dangerous, isn’t it?  No wonder my Grandmoms hated seeing me pull up on the back of the bike with that big goofy helmet and my little jean Harley jacket.

Bikers are more than meets the eye.  The do more than rock a leather vest and chaps, which no one else can do.  Maybe a cowboy can do chaps, but I’m tempted to believe they come from the same breed of people; gruff and strong.  From my experience, they come from blue collar background and are down and dirty guys.  Whether the biker you know lives the biker lifestyle or a corporate CEO turned biker on the weekends, they all seem to get along in a roadside bar because they have the bond of the open road.  It’s evident in the way they wave to each other as they pass.  I know I don’t wave to other Ford drivers.

Some of the scariest looking guys I’ve ever met were bikers, and they were also the kindest.  We rode with firemen, military, police officers and men who worked with their hands.  They had long beards, beer bellies and were long overdue on their haircuts.  They remember your name and your story no matter how much time passed.  They’re the guys you meet up with on Sunday morning at a diner and ride through the afternoon with.  They are lifelong friends who will help stop your oil leak and tow you to get your tire fixed.  Some have tattoos, some don’t.  A real rider never wears sneakers and shorts, but long pants and boots, no matter what the weather.  They know how to pack light and be prepared for anything that lies ahead.

They maneuver around people who don’t know how to share the road and with people who don’t see them, while stabilizing hundreds of pounds of metal on two wheels.  They are the first to stop and help you.  They support their friends and all of their causes, and will remember fallen friends in the form of embroidered patches and charity rides or events to support your family.  They talk like sailors amongst friends, but treat a lady like a lady, with respect.  They are sons, brothers, fathers and husbands.  They relish old stories and they aren’t afraid to cry when it comes to reflecting on something important to them either.

I certainly don’t mean to leave the women who ride out.  I’m actually related to some fine female bikers and proud of the way they handle themselves and the road without intimidation, in a predominately male atmosphere.  At this point, I just don’t trust my balance to join them and I’ll stick to the back for now.  Maybe one day…

My opinions here are based on my twenty-plus years of experience with motorcyclists I’ve known amongst my Dad’s various groups, as well as my father-in-law’s. There are always exceptions to everything, in addition to a slutty half naked biker rally girl for each kind of rider I’ve described to you today.   Just never judge a book by its cover, like I almost did with the random Hells Angel who saved me from getting crushed at a concert.  The guy picked me up like I was a feather.  Never imagined a man that frightening looking could’ve been so graceful, and in a mosh pit.

Vroom vroom…the open road is calling.

Photo courtesy of the Rapid City Journal.

“Oh, you have plenty of time” And Other Lies

I thought I’d be something more successful by now.  I’ve mentioned this before but bear with me, I’ve got a different point today.  I’m not unsuccessful; I’m just not what I want to be, professionally and maybe a little personally.  I’ll be twenty-nine soon, and not that it’s the end of the world and not that I’ll have a little “almost thirty” or “twenty-nine forever” crisis but damn it, I can if I want to.

When I was in high school all my teachers from math to gym said I would be the next Katie Couric.  That’s when Katie was unstoppable and on the Today Show.  That is also when I respected the Today Show and before Kathie Lee had anything to do with it, and before I started to see through major media outlets.  I never felt like my supporters were blowing smoke up my rear and I felt like I had such a bright future.  I had talent and I had zero fear to stop me from getting where I wanted to be.  I also had a psychic who told me I’d work for the BBC.  Well, reality took over and I was too levelheaded to take a career with so much risk.  Fine, I’m ok with that because it’s not like I tried and didn’t succeed.  I just didn’t try.  Eck, not much better.

I also thought I’d be a mom by now, and more than to just my pug.  It’s pretty common for my generation that I’m not one at this age, and most of my friends aren’t moms yet but by the end of the year I’ll have been married five years, so the clock seems a little different to me.  I’m not waiting to meet Mr. Right.  I already found him.  “Oh, you have plenty of time” they say.  “Why are you rushing things?  There’s so much life ahead of you.”  Really?  Do these particular people, who are almost everyone, by the way, really believe that there is always plenty of time?  Did they not just tell me how fast time goes and how they can’t believe this, that or the other never happened or happened too fast?  Don’t lie to me, Continue reading

Marriage: Better Than the Wedding

With the first anniversary of Will and Kate’s Royal wedding just behind us, I started thinking about our own wedding.

Ugh.

Here is the vital information to gather from this post:  I’m happier with my marriage than I am with our wedding.  I’m learning to be ok with this because ultimately, that is all that matters.  Yet there is evidence that remains, in the form of wedding pictures and they haunt me.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still have buried resentments and hostile feelings about the wedding and the time leading up to it as well.  There were lovely people who took part and wonderful moments that I’ll never forget, but there were also selfish people and such petty behavior that can really put a damper on what is supposed to be the happiest day in one’s life.

First of all, I’m glad to say that wasn’t the happiest day of my life and I’ve had many outstanding days since, but unfortunately this one costs a lot and creates a hassle for so many people.  If I could do it all again, I wouldn’t; not that way anyway.  The thought of having a wedding makes me squeamish.  If I could, I’d have eloped or I’d have paid for our parents to join us far away or even not far away.  I would have said “screw you” to every nitwit who made our lives difficult and would have taken more time to be grateful for the people who took their love for us and the joy of our wedding more seriously.

I would have taken more responsibility to recognize who matters and who doesn’t, and acted accordingly.  And I would’ve moved the wedding from the west coast to the east coast so my Grandmom could’ve been there.

If you’re reading this and you’ve yet to be married, I cannot stress enough; do what you both want.  We did but it wasn’t easy.  Do not try to people-please and do not let people spoil the moments that mean something to you.  Do not let them take anything precious from a moment that sincere people are happy to spend with you.

And do not let the Church cram your Dad’s girlfriend into the pew next to your Mom, where she can’t get pictures and enjoy a good view of her only daughter’s nuptials.

Though I’m sure it doesn’t sound like it, I have gotten over quite a bit of my aggression and I’ve learned to forgive but I just simply won’t forget.  I realize the “what ifs” and regrets are pointless.  I’ve even developed relationships with the people who hurt me and I’m able to look past what I consider to be their mistakes because in the end, regardless of what that one day meant, we are happy and no one can take that away from us.

Gee Shan, thanks for delving that all up.  Try to push out the memory of children throwing Bibles in the Church while their parents laughed because they are “cute”, as the Church planner and your family gaped in horror.  Forget the bullying when our decisions didn’t meet the expectations of others.

By the way, if you have a choice, and you should because you’re paying for it, for God’s sake, make a “do not play” list.  Unless you really enjoy the Chicken Dance or the Macarena, do yourself that favor.  That was one of the best moves we made; that and getting out of the country for a couple weeks after the wedding.  Those days…were some of the best days of my life.

Am I What My Parents Expected?

We spent the afternoon celebrating my Dad’s birthday yesterday and while my husband and I grilled dinner and we all enjoyed a few beers, I thought to myself; Is that what my Dad pictured when they brought their little girl home from the hospital?

The Philadelphia Flyers advanced to their second series in the playoffs and as we yelled and threw ourselves out of our chairs with rants aimed at the TV, I couldn’t help but think about his expectations. Did he intend to have a sports-loving daughter, who can yell passionately (and at times like a sailor) at hockey players that will never be listening? Did he think about having weekly hangouts with her at the local brewery, where they’d hang out like pals and try the new nitro on tap?

Probably not.

But I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl and this was bound to happen. Having profound love and respect for my parents, as well as my heritage, I think I’ve adapted so many things from my Mom and my Dad. I just think no one expected the outcome to be such a 50/50 split. I go to tea rooms with my Mom and eat finger sandwiches but ended up marrying a man that I’ve taught the fundamentals of sports to. I know it’s trendy and annoying to hear a girl say they are a “guy’s girl” or “one of the boys”. I used to say that. I don’t know what I am now, except that I’m Shannon. I love sports, beer and rock as much as (some times more than) any guys I know. I also love cheesy romance books or movies.

Sometimes being a mix of what society considers being boyish and girlish can be frustrating though. I’ll never look like the girls who look like they stepped out of a salon or a Mac store because I’ll always be a little rough around the edges. 
Continue reading

Simple Things That Make Me Happy

I feel like my posts tend to alternate between longing (teetering on whiney) and dorky ideas.  I don’t do this on purpose, but maybe writing down things that bother me are effective enough that the following day I can look past them, at least temporarily, to see the beauty and pleasure in other things.

I sat here smiling as my pug and my husband snore next to me; (I mean, no honey, you don’t snore). I thought about how lucky I am to find joy in simple things. In no particular order, these are things that make me happy.  I welcome what simple things make you happy; there is always room to add to the list.

  • Tea, in a teacup with saucer and perfectly sweetened.  On a regular day, I drink tea unsweetened at work, just throwing a tea bag into the cleanest mug I have within reach.  (It just feels that way, don’t worry, I wash them.)  I’ve tried to perfect a perfect pot of tea; I can’t seem to do it like my Mom does, and so I make mine by the cup.  I go in phases with what type I’m in the mood for and lately rooibos wins.  Still, I wish I gave myself a moment to sit down and absorb just a moment of sunlight and a few minutes to drink tea each morning.  At the very least, I take a moment to think about the little sayings on my tea bags.  I started to save them at my desk because they are generally uplifting and every corporate cubicle can use random positivity.  Geez, now I sound like a hoarding Pollyanna.
  • Hot buttered toast and dipping it in hot chocolate.  Mmm.  I think I’m hungry.  Maybe I’m missing my Mom.  She’d make this for me when I was little, because her Mom did the same.  It came up in conversation before she passed that my Great-Grandmom used to get this when she was a kid from her Mom too.  I suppose it’s a traditional treat then.  The hot chocolate must be hot and so must the bread, and it should be white bread.  If you’re going to do this, you might as well go all out and use the soft white bread.  One day without wheat bread won’t kill you, but it might be the real butter that I suggest you use.  I know I’ve missed the boat to suggest this part, but it is particularly good on a colder morning. We still have some of these left.

Early morning. Though I have my favorites, Oscar prefers oatmeal.

  • Hanging clothes on the line.  Laundry chores are annoying but necessary.  I think this makes me happy because it has to be a beautiful day for this chore to be feasible, and that itself is a reason to smile. There is just something calming about pinning sheets up in a gentle breeze on a warm and sunny day.  Just don’t step in dog poo while you trek through the yard, it certainly takes away from the calming experience. Continue reading

Hockey and Sweeping; Two Completely Separate Topics

That was close.  Technically I skipped two calendar days of posting, but it is still Thursday night to me, ha ha!  I, as always, have old fashioned excuses that consist of classics like “disheartened Philadelphia Fan Syndrome” and “I helped with yard work so I’m tired” disease.  If you don’t want to hear my sports rant, skip to paragraph three.

Wednesday night was just pathetic, in every sort of way.  From my recent re-blogged post, you know that as a Philadelphia fan, “we” as fans are a part of the team; except when “we” are losing.  It instantly turns to “they” with sailor-like language and rampant anger.  I start to exclaim things that I normally wouldn’t say in the presence of my Dad.  After the loss, “we” returns in the form of continued anger, hostile questioning of play and heartbreak with fellow players, I mean, fans.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Wednesday night, I mean last night, was Game 4, the mother of all games; when your team is about to sweep anyway.  Now you get my title, the Flyers were up 3-0 in the series and only needed to win this game to take “us” to the next round.  There we were, going to put it to Sidney Crosby (I will omit the name calling I’d like to use) and take the series at home from the Penguins; there we were, losing 10-3.  In hockey.  High scores like this are ridiculous.  This whole series has been back to back amazing shots on goal and poor goal tending.  That night, there was not so much scoring on our end and just terrible goal tending.  If any actual Flyer players read this…venture back to my Pep talk post I did on Tuesday and get out there with some enthusiasm and take this home tomorrow or “we” will be extremely upset.  So after the game, my house was silent and I couldn’t stop shaking my head back in forth in disgust to steadily keep any blogging thoughts in my head.  Terrible.  But tomorrow is a new day and Game 5.

Tonight I helped my husband in the yard. I’m glad to because it’s my house too and I do enjoy helping him.  It also makes eating some ice cream on a beautiful spring evening feel justified.  Continue reading