Trying New Things Is Brave

I took my son to story-time at the library today, which is something new for us, and I swear to God, I learn more from him than he ever learns from me when we try something new.

First of all, my kiddo is a master-negotiator. The moment I mentioned going to the library, he began to negotiate his way O U T of having to go.

“Mom,” he began, “There are too many people at the library and we have to wear pants, it’s better to stay home and maybe we can play in the back yard with trucks. Oh, do you think there are trucks in the back yard?”

There he stood, wearing dinosaur undies and an already-stained black t-shirt, trying to trick me into checking for toys in the backyard instead of packing up for our adventure. He didn’t want to go to the library and see new people, he likes it at home where he can do as he pleases. Same, child, same.

“Sweet babe,” I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the library? We’re going to a new part of the library to do circle time! And read a book! And sing songs! Doesn’t that sound fun? Why don’t we try going for a little bit, and if you aren’t having fun we can leave?” Notice how I put it up to him, as if he has the choice? This was perhaps a mistake. He sensed weakness.

“No! No! No!” he screamed, punctuating each “No” with a foot stomp. “I don’t want to go to the library,” he said, and then, as if remembering who he was speaking to, he took a deep, calming breath and exhaled, changed his tone and tilted his head up to look me in the eye. “Mama, you have to be quiet at the library, and you cannot run.”

What an adorable creature I’ve created. This was more than a statement of fact. That brilliant kid was using all the tools and words he had in his repertoire to communicate to me the reason he didn’t want to go to the library: he had some mid-morning energy he wanted to run and scream out, and quiet library rules weren’t going to cut it. But, I knew something my babe did not know, and that was that the library would use a separate room for story time, where little kids would be free to run and sing and dance undisturbed. I persevered by assuring him I understood about his energy needs and promising that this new program at the library would do the trick, or we’d come right home and play with trucks. Then, I stuck a tablet in his hands and out the door we went.

When we got to the library we headed for the story time room, where some other mamas, dadas, and bubbas sat waiting to begin. I pulled up a spot of carpet near enough to the reading action but not too close to anyone else, and patted the ground to get boo to sit. He didn’t sit. Instead, he counted the lily pad squares that littered the floor in front of the story time chair because clearly that’s what they were for. I smiled at the other parents but mostly avoided eye contact, not really knowing what to do. Since this was the story time room, and I wasn’t too sure of the rules, it embarrassed me that my kid was the only one making any noise. Satisfied that he had counted everything in sight, he made his way over to me and asked for a snack.

“Um,” I hesitated. “Actually babe, I’m not sure if we can eat snacks in here. Let’s wait a bit.”

“Here’s a snack!” He announced, pulling a granola bar out of my bag. “Mom, let’s just eat it.”

I looked around and saw a few amused faces just as the story time leader walked in, giving a loud hello to the room. I took the opportunity to open the snack. The leader settled into her chair and explained what was about to happen, looking at the excited children before her. She didn’t even flinch when she saw my kiddo eating his snack, so I took that as a sign that we were in the clear. Story time got underway and my kid mostly ignored everything. He smiled at the song singing for a moment then yelled at the crowd singing along that they needed to shush, since it’s the library. During the reading of the first book (one we’ve read a million times at home), he loudly and confidently recited the words along with the leader, to my embarrassment (again). It was then that I began to realize that he felt much more comfortable being in public than I felt.

After two books and three songs, the story time leader announced that it was time to make an Easter basket craft! I hadn’t known there would be an art activity, so I was pretty excited. We made our way to the arts and crafts table and grabbed a chair. Bubs commandeered the bin of crayons and seized a big, purple stick of glue with which to color. I explained he had grabbed glue and offered a crayon instead. He did a few scribbles and then exclaimed gleefully how much he wanted to play with the glue. Why not, I thought, and we set to gluing his Easter basket craft together. He giggled, I giggled, and then, the Easter bunny burst through the door to greet the children.

I thought my boy would cry, or run screaming in the opposite direction, but cry he did not. Instead, he ran directly up to the Easter bunny and poked him on the nose, like he does to our cats at home. I froze for a moment and thought about if I needed to correct my child’s curiosity, but the Easter bunny simply mimed laughter and allowed my boy to give him a big hug. I must have had the sappiest mom-grin on my face.

Easter bunny love

We left shortly after the Easter bunny made his appearance, and as we walked to the car I remarked, “Hey buddy, you seemed like you had fun at the library today. It was really brave of you to try something new.”

“You too, mama,” came the surprising reply. “That was a new library for booboo and a new library for mama!”

Wow, I thought. He was right. We both tried something new today; he as a courageous little kid learning what his world is all about, and me as a mom, toting along a loud and head-strong toddler, and trying to relearn what this world is all about. We both tried something new, we both navigated how to be in the moment, and we both settled in and enjoyed the experience. How very brave of us both.

I’m Awkward and Going In Public Is Dumb

One sunny and beautiful morning I found myself utterly kid-less! My husband had taken our three year old on a little nature hike, so I was free to do whatever I liked. F-you, pile of laundry, I thought, and headed out for some relaxing tunes, comfy chairs, and fancy coffee. I walked into my friendly, neighborhood coffee shop and immediately made a beeline for the back room. I had to pee, you see, and that’s where the bathrooms were located. The ladies’ was occupied so I pulled up a chair and set up my laptop and crossed my legs to keep from leaking.

I sat there for quite a while before I began to wonder if the bathroom might actually be unoccupied, the door simply closed but not locked. I thought about standing up to check, but 1) I hadn’t been siting there long enough for it to seem like I rushed to the back room to find a good spot to sit and not because I was about to explode, which was embarrassing, and 2) what if there was someone in there who was – oh, I don’t know – blowing their ass out because they drank too much coffee, and by my knocking on their door they’d have to confirm they were in there and had been for quite a while, which would be super embarrassing for them. I continued to sit and my mind began to shift focus.

A dude sitting nearby was doing a lot of coughing and sniffling. He was working on his laptop and in full concentration mode, but his damn nose was leaking. He kept coughing into his right hand then wiping the droplet of wet snot from the tip of his nose with his left sleeve. I wanted to get up and grab him a tissue, and perhaps kindly suggest that he and everyone else around him would be more comfortable if he went home, but my crossed leg had started to go numb and I knew I’d have to uncross it and live through pins and needles to be able to walk, and that then my bladder would make itself known again, so instead I kept sitting.

Another man came into the backroom and sat at a table across from sniffling guy. He plugged his laptop into the wall and typed for a minute, then got up and went to the restroom. I hated him.

A woman came to the back room and went straight for the bathroom door, the bitch. Boldly, she tried the handle, which was locked. Aha! I thought, So there is someone in there! Sensing the need to establish myself as first in line, I blurted out a quick Someone’s in there and blew my just-sitting-here cover. The lady nodded and murmured an ohokthanks kinda thing, and I felt satisfied that I’d be next to pee.

In the front room, a barista called out a drink that was ready and two people stood to claim it. A nonfat honey latte with extra foam. Two idiots (I wouldn’t normally call people idiots over their choice of drink because you gotta do you, but they became bigger idiots the longer I sat there trying to ignore the ocean inside my bladder) had actually ordered the same drink, hadn’t noticed each other, and were now trying to determine if another nonfat honey latte with extra foam was being prepared and, if so, what the wait time would be on that. The more unfortunate of the two patrons deferred, satisfied that he would be able to get his grubby hands on that sweet nectar soon enough.

A woman entered the coffee house with a toddler and a baby carrier, and I marveled at her bravery.

Finally, the ladies’ room door swung open. A middle aged dame of some size stood in the doorway, making no attempt to hide her discomfort. She puffed out her cheeks, pursed her lips to exhale, and rubbed her substantial tummy. Then, she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, rocked back for a little momentum, and lurched forward, and when she did so, she moved out of the door frame and allowed the stench of whatever she did in there to waft through the backroom. Sniffles guy was immune, as his nostrils were clearly an exit-only orifice at this point. Pees-freely man took in a short, sharp breath then brought a clenched fist to his face. Bold lady muttered something like ewgodareyoukidding then promptly stood and went into the mens’ restroom, that brilliant bitch. In the front room, the barista called out another nonfat honey latte with extra foam and Unfortunate Patron finally got his drink. Supermom had managed to order a beverage and was now alternating between coloring with her toddler and cooing at her baby. And I continued to sit.

Then came a text from my husband: Fun hike! Headed home now. I took a mouth breath and nodded my head. Me time had ended and I would be needed at home. But first, I had to, had to, had to pee. I uncrossed my legs and shook the tingly one as the pins and needles worked themselves out. I sucked in my stomach to clench my pelvic floor so I wouldn’t pee myself and stood up, gathering my things. I shouldered my bag and took a few steps in the direction of the women’s restroom – just in time to watch Supermom usher her babies towards the potty. Ew, stinky. Breathe through your mouth, she said, and looked up to make eye contact with me. She paused for a moment. Oh… she said. I smiled. That’s alright, go ahead. I have one at home, I told her, crying on the inside. Embarrassed, I sat back down and buried myself in my phone. I text my husband: Yay! Any pics? See you soon. I took a selfie to document the moment. I tapped my foot and scrolled Instagram. I looked at the cute hiking photo my husband sent me. I willed my bladder to expand and swallow me whole.

Then, I looked up just in time to make awkward eye contact with Sniffles guy as he sneezed a snot rocket. I gave him a sympathetic half smile and looked away. Pees-freely man gave me a slight wave. My eyes narrowed quizzically and he leaned forward in his seat to quietly ask if I had the wifi password. He’d apparently been pretending to use his laptop and had finally plucked up the courage to ask someone. Supermom and company piled out of the bathroom and I immediately stood. Sorry, she offered, her cheeks flushed. One look at the bathroom and I understood what she meant. The toilet paper was gone, the sink was wet, and the toilet was clogged. C L O G G E D. I glanced towards the front room in time to watch Supermom escort her family the heck outta there. Jesus, said Bold lady, who had emerged from the men’s room and was now taking in the mess in ladies’. Just use that one, she offered, laughing breezily. I hated her, but as she walked towards the front to make her departure, she dragged a tiny bit of toilet paper stuck to her shoe along for the ride.

F-it, I thought. I stepped into the mens’, closed the door, dropped trou, and peed for approximately 45 minutes, wondering the entire time why I ever leave the house. I thought about the weirdos I had just encountered during my one hour alone outside of the house, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I have never felt more judgmental and more dumb all in the same moment, I thought. I guess we’re truly all a little awkward. With that epiphany, I wiped, flushed, and left, promising to be a little kinder to myself and to others the next time I’m out and about.

Motivational Monday

I clicked on a YouTube video today. The title was “Tony Robbins: How to Develop WINNING ATTITUDE | Motivational Video.” When I clicked play, an ad started. The ad was a survey asking me my sex & age range; it’s purpose was to help the YouTube algorithm select more relevant ad content for me. Who doesn’t want more relevant ads? So I read the options, which were as follows.

  • Female
  • Male
  • 18-24
  • 25-34
  • 35-44
  • 45-54
  • Other
  • Or, prefer not to say

I feel like that’s not super fair. First of all, YouTube, does ad content stop after age 54? That’s ageist AF. Secondly, I don’t see how content meant for women aged 44 is relevant for me as a 35 year old. In fact, some days I feel like I have the maturity and self confidence of a mere girl, early-20s tops, and maybe I want to see that new trendy cosmetic ad to feel better. I’m a millenial, dammit, I can’t be pigeon-holed or generalized.

I took an angry sip of my latte and grabbed my iphone to scroll Instagram. That’s when I saw the following brilliance, screen captured and posted by Oprah Magazine:

Today’s Mantra: You are not too old and it is not too late. 💫— Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) April 10, 2019

Reese, you beautiful sunshine dream. Thank you, mama, for being a beacon of kindness, for sharing your bright and shiny motivation. Even though I find your opportunistic drive and your cheery disposition a bit too salesy and inauthentic at times (your 30 years in show biz are showing), I believe you truly care. I also like to imagine that you were sitting in your Hollywood mansion in need of a pep talk yourself, and so tweeted that affirmation out to the world to motivate the masses and your own tired mama body. So I’ll take that love and say thank you.

I’m not too old & neither are you. It’s not too late. Let’s go, girl.

On Choosing a Baby Name

I’m pregnant with my second child, and from the moment our baby’s sex was revealed, my husband and I have have been bombarded with baby name ideas from strangers and acquaintances alike. Mostly of the suggestions we’ve received have been unsolicited and weird, but the sheer joy with which strangers heave their favorite names at us points to one fact: people love babies.

WHY WOULDN’T THEY (baby #1 pictured)

I get it. All of your hopes for a bright future, stunted for yourself if not dashed altogether as you age ever closer toward inevitable doom, can be loving transferred onto a precious new soul whose potential can’t yet begin to be quantified! So you’d better give that baby a damn good name, Shawna. But the choices are vast and there’s that whole other person who is (hopefully) a part of the baby making equation, so gets a say in what you name the kid, and that requires compromise. I don’t know man, picking a baby name is hard. Might as well laugh about it. So I made a video and we did.

Bug Murderer

There were a lot of firsts at my house today. We broke 90 degrees in my part of the world for the first time this year, and though it was breezy, the heat was sweltering. My son is an outdoor kid, and despite the heat, today was no different. So, to the backyard we went. After about 2.5 seconds back there, I could no longer stand it and made an executive decision to overturn the last dregs of the sandbox and fill it with water instead. “I’ll buy more sand next week,” I thought. Et voila, first mini paddling pool of the year. My joy in that moment was almost immediately squashed when my gleeful toddler mischievously plunked a tiny pill bug into the basin I’d created without even a second thought. It plopped, opened, and sank to the bottom, where it drowned, then floated back to the top. And with that, we had baby’s first bug murder.

Splashing like crazy!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the mental health and emotional well-being of my son. Before you praise me, please note my perfectly selfish reasoning for this worry: everything bad that happens in a person’s life is always the parents’ fault, and I don’t want to (1) raise a kid who grows up to hate/leave me, or (2) raise a monster. (I exaggerate, but Charles Manson wouldn’t have become Charles Manson had he not been born to a 16 year old alcoholic mother turned ex-convict who married random dudes and stashed her child with relatives and at boarding school, neglecting his emotional needs at every turn.) Yes, of course, once we reach adulthood our lives become our own responsibilities, but personality disorders are born of childhood hardships, guys. True privilege in life comes from having an emotionally supportive and kind upbringing, and all ills begin with emotional deprivation. So you can imagine my shame, horror, and embarrassment when I saw just what was tumbling in slow motion from chubby toddler hand to the crisp, watery grave below. I’m raising a murderer.

It’s my fault not his, because he asked first. I’ll set the scene.

There I sat watching my 3 year-old happily scrape tiny mounds of sandbox sand from the pavement into his hand to fill his toy dump truck. He’d roll the truck 3 feet away then dump the sand out only to begin again. It was simple play but entertaining enough. I, however, was bored. And hot. And restless.

Soon enough, kiddo grew tired of having to scrape sand off the ground so headed to the sand box, which, I had noted the day before, was grody.

“Ah, ah, ah babe, hold on please. The sand box is dirty, dirty,” I said, the repetition of my words communicating just how filthy the box must have been. My boy paused long enough for me to get up and go to him, which was long enough for genius to spark.

“I know!” I said, “Let me get the hose and we’ll fill this with water to splash instead. Does that sound fun?”

No answer, but it didn’t matter: uhhh yeah that sounded fun.

I promptly dumped the box and sprayed it out, dragged it within leg-distance of where I planned to sit, and filled it with water from the tap. Ahhhh, delightful.

Kiddo jumped in and began to stomp. Water splashed everywhere, and it was grand. He giggled, I giggled. We were having a great time.

“Momma, come stomp,” he said. I hoisted myself out of my chair to oblige, but he jumped out of the pool and ran to his dump truck with a better idea, so I turned to sit back down.

“Momma, I’mma throw dis in dere,” came a tiny voice from behind. I lowered myself into my chair and, once placed, focused on my kid’s tiny, clenched fist. I wondered for a second what was in there, then remembered the sand he had been mounding not 10 minutes before.

“Uhh, I don’t…” I started to say, before reconsidering. Who cares if he throws sand in the tub, I thought. “Sure babe. Go for it.”

The joy on my boy’s face when given the go ahead was infectious. He was so delighted that I was elated for him. I’ve never seen such glee on my son’s face before; his chubby cheeks dimpled so hard I thought they’d crease permanently. I laughed, my eyes crinkling with pride. And then he opened his hand.

I was confused for a split second when no sand fell, but as he turned his wrist to pour out the contents of his palm, my stomach jumped into my throat.

NOOOOOOOOOOO, thought my brain.

“Wai–” said my mouth.

Thunk, went the bug.

And that was that.

Here I’ll note that my child is three and hasn’t the cognitive awareness to understand that the little roly-poly he found might not be suited for water play. There was no malicious intent, and all concern for emotional and mental well being is my own, and in fact, exaggerated for comedic effect. But still, I can’t help but think of damn Darla from Finding Nemo, with her stupid headgear and wicked grin.

But, I swallowed my feelings about the incident and gave my cutie a hug. “Was that silly, babe?” I asked kindly.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“I bet it was” I enthused, “You know what, boo? Bugs actually don’t really like water. They hide when it rains so they don’t get too wet,” I informed him, adding that maybe he can play with his bug friends in the grass, which would be fun for everyone. He nodded, seeming to understand. I gave him one more squeeze, then let him go, hoping that my words actually sunk in. He ran back to his dump truck, grabbing a fistful of actual sand this time, and I fished the half-open insect out of the pool. He ran back and paused, looking at me expectantly.

“Go ahead,” I chuckled, then watched once again with pride as my joyful boy dumped a handful of sand into the water, then splashed in after it. Not a bug murderer, I thought, just a teachable moment. Satisfied, I stood to stomp along with my boy.

I’m A Mom, Right?

I ask because sometimes I feel like I’m still in an epidural haze, only without the fun high feeling. I read an anonymous quote about giving birth recently, which said something to the effect of, “Every mother leaves her body during childbirth and travels to the stars to collect her baby’s soul to return to the world together.” Holy hell if that’s not a version of what I experienced with the birth of my son. I was present during labor, but I was also on some other plane of consciousness thanks to my best friend the epi, and I came back to the present moment just in time to feel my skin stretch so hard I thought my {REDACTED} would rip off. It all snapped right back together, thank God, and then some alien beings in scrubs handed me a very squished-up, smudged-with-something-whiteish baby, and I was in love. It was wild.

Me and babe, 2015

Motherhood has changed quite a bit from those first dazed moments. I’m now mom to a sweet and lively toddler, and while some days are still a bit fuzzy, they usually carry the bright and cheery sense of presence demanded by my son’s delightful and constant pursuit of J O Y. Still, one mainstay holds over from the newborn stage, and that is this: every now and then I snap to the present moment and I ask myself “what the hell am I doing?”

I thought it the second they handed me that babe, and I think it once every day or so. Just yesterday I realized that my kiddo is 3 and a half years old and has an entire mouth full of teeth, and that he has had all of those puppies for a full year and a half, yet he’s never been to the dentist for a cleaning. What the hell am I doing?

The word imposter comes to mind. Who am I to claim to be this mom person? When I talk to other young moms (haha I just referred to myself as young) in the neighborhood, or mom-types I see at the play ground or trampoline park or grocery store, etc., they all seem so much more mom than me. They do the errandy things, like the dentist. They get their kid signed up for soccer, they make it a point to do community Easter egg hunts and potlucks, and most importantly, they seem S O L I D in their decision making. Meanwhile, I’m over here handing my non-dentist going tyke his second popsicle of the day. What the hell am I doing?

I like to tell myself a story any time I start to feel like this. I’ll tell it now.

There was once a brand new mom named Shawna who gave birth to the most handsome and squishiest boy in all the land. She and her husband, John, were head-over-heels in love with their little guy, but unfortunately, the baby showed no signs of giving any shits about them and so absolutely would not sleep. As new parents are wont to do, Mom and Dad tried everything the internet suggested to get that baby to rest: they shushed, they bounced, they patted… they bribed with promises of jewels and money…. but baby would not sleep. Shawna felt powerless and, let’s face it, victimized. Family, acquaintances, and strangers had all accosted her with un-asked-for parenting advice, yet not one had thought to mention this shit.

About eight weeks in to baby’s life, John had to go out of town for a 4-day work trip, which Shawna had been dreading. She and John had long-ago worked out a shift system for dealing with the baby’s nighttime wakefulness: Mom would take the first four hours, then Dad would take the next four hours, and Mom would get up for the day with baby at about 6 am so Dad could catch a little more rest before he had to head to work. But with Dad out of town for a work trip, Shawna would have to find the strength to handle the whole day and the whole night by herself. What the hell am I doing?

Night number one went like this: bounce baby to sleep (45 minutes). Attempt to lay baby down without waking; wake baby. Bounce baby back to sleep (15 minutes). Lay baby down successfully. Lay self down in bed, confirm it is only 7pm. Grab phone and scroll through Pinterest trying to feel human; pin adorable toddler outfits and home decor, wonder if the baby will ever sleep through the night. At 8:15, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Decide it’s time to turn in for the night, settle in to bed. At 9:30, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 11 pm, baby wakes. Marvel at the fact that baby slept for a full hour and thirty minutes! Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 12:18 am, baby wakes. Curse the night, feed baby. Continue this pattern until 6 am, when baby wakes for the day and Mom zombies herself into an upright, semi-conscious state.

As she poured herself about a gallon of coffee, Shawna suddenly snapped into a state of hyper-awareness with the following thought: I have no idea what the hell I am doing, but oh my God, I am doing it! She had survived the night, the baby had survived the night, and everything was O-freaking-K. In that sweet moment of triumph, fatigued to the bone and dirty with dried milk and baby vomit, Shawna felt a sudden, monumental connection to all of the mothers who had ever been and all those who would ever be. Motherhood is a contingency; it’s both universal and inexplicably personal. Countless women had stood in Shawna’s spot before, feeling her same triumph, while millions of others had escaped that particular trial only to experience something completely different but equally difficult. Such was motherhood. And every single one of those women, including Shawna, could call themselves Mom.

Community Easter egg hunts or not, yes I am a mom. The other women I see who seem to have it more together than I do – they’re just experiencing a different version of the journey. They are mothers in the best way they can muster to be. I am my own version. And even on the hazy days, everything is OK.

Suck on that, imposter syndrome, I have a pediatric dental office to contact.

Said toddler with said teeth.

Want to Hear a Funny Story?

This is not motherhood-related, but it is Shawna-related. You ready? Because this A C T U A L L Y happened to me in college. Here we go!

Once upon a time, long ago, in a far-off land called Chico, CA, a girl named Shawna was away at college and bored. You see, Shawna didn’t particularly like school and hadn’t really wanted to go to college. In fact, she would have preferred to head to Hollywood to hit the pavement as a wannabe actress but, as Shawna would later often lament, her mother had unceremoniously forbidden it, informing Shawna that she would be on her own financially if she chose to pursue her lifelong dreams of movie stardom right out of high school. Having no knowledge of finances and no means of supporting herself, Shawna did as she was told and packed her bags, shipping off to the furthest state school she could find (and thereby infuriating her mother, an unintentional but hilarious bonus).

Shawna tried. She went to class, she pledged a sorority, she went out to parties and got drunk, she made out with boys. She really tried. But her acting class was child’s play, and she got a giant cold sore on her lip from the stress of being away from home, so day after day, as she headed back to her dorm room, she found herself both disinterested in school and increasingly unenthusiastic about being there. In an effort to escape her reality for a short while, Shawna began chatting with old high school classmates on AIM, and then, when no one was online, with random chatroom weirdos, and that’s how she met her internet boyfriend.

Shawna and arckpj29 were quickly smitten. They were intimate bedfellows, exchanging graphic, personal details about themselves – like that she had blonde hair and he, brown. He asked the name of the sorority she was pledging (Pi Beta Phi) and she asked the name of the sushi restaurant where he waited tables (RB Sushi in Poway). They exchanged photos and each told the other how “cute” they were. They talked about their lives – how he loved surfing and snowboarding but he didn’t get to the beach or the mountains as often as he liked, and how she was going to be a famous actress and resented the hell out of being required to first attend college and get a degree, but would be smart and use this time to get into “Hollywood shape.” Sometimes Shawna found arckpj29 annoying and weird, like the time he sent her a music demo that was clearly not his and asked for her opinion as if it was. Still, there was something delightful about escaping reality to chat with a mystery man from sunny Southern California, so she let his oddities be.

Months later, when back home for winter break, Shawna hatched a plan with her sisters to take a day trip to Poway, CA. She would go to arckpj29’s restaurant, and meet her internet boyfriend in person! Shawna dressed in her most obvious, pink Pi Beta Phi sweatshirt and wore her blonde hair down. She endured merciless teasing from her sisters for the full hour and twenty minutes of driving it took to find RB Sushi, a tiny, bland cafe in a tiny, bland strip mall. And as Shawna exited the car to head towards the restaurant, she felt a pit begin to form way down deep in her stomach.

“Oh God,” Shawna thought, “I don’t think I want to do this.”

“Should we just ask for a table?” asked Sister #1.

“Yeah, alright,” agreed Shawna.

“I have to shit,” whispered Sister #2.

“Fuck me, please do not shit in there,” gasped Shawna.

As they entered the restaurant, Shawna scanned the scene and immediately spotted a bus boy who looked familiar. But that couldn’t be him! Sure, he had brown hair, but he looked to be about 110 pounds and was 7 or 8 inches shorter than the 6 feet arckpj29 had claimed to be. Just then he looked up from his bus bin and locked eyes with Shawna. A quizzical expression crossed his eyes and he began to smile. Shawna turned bright red in the face, turned away and threw her blonde hair up into the world’s quickest messy bun, then folded her arms tightly across the Greek letters on her chest.

“Is that him?” Sister #1 giggled.

“Shut up,” replied Shawna.

“Oh my God, is that really him?” asked Sister #2.

“Shh, shut up,” said Shawna.

“OK, they’re all looking, are we getting a table?” Sister #1 asked.

“No fucking way, ” Shawna seethed.

“I have to shit,” Sister #2 whispered.

“DO. NOT. SHIT in here,” Shawna spat through gritted teeth.

“Let’s just go to the bathroom and then go,” suggested Sister #1.

“Please no, can we just…” a pathetic Shawna started to beg, before realizing both her stupid fucking sisters were already speed walking towards the bathroom at the rear of the restaurant. Preferring to be lit aflame and burned alive in that moment rather than stand there alone, Shawna shuffled after her sisters.

The three girls piled in to the single stall bathroom, where both of Shawna’s sisters immediately burst into uncontrollable and LOUD laughter.

“Oh my God, was that really him??” Sister #1 asked.

“That was totally him, he looked embarrassed,” Sister #2 offered.

“Shh, I don’t know, please just shut up. They might be able to hear us. Hurry the fuck up and let’s go.” Shawna begged.

The pooping sister pinched it off, wiped, and flushed… but the log did not go down.

“Umm, guys?” she said.

Shawna took one look at the perfect poo encircling the toilet bowl and all the feeling drained out of her body through her butt.

“What do we do?” Sister #1 asked.

“Leave,” pooping sister laughed.

“We can’t leave, he’s gonna think it’s mine,” Shawna croaked.

“Well, the longer we’re in here the more obvious it’s going to be that one or all of us is shitting,” pooping sister said.

“That’s true. We really should just leave,” Sister #1 suggested.

Dizzy now, Shawna weighed her options and quickly realized there were none. “OK,” she said, “but run.”

And with that, the three sisters flung open the bathroom door, averted their eyes, and hurried out of the restaurant and into the car. Shawna sunk down into her seat, feeling sick and mortified. She leaned against the car door for comfort while her sisters laughed. They were home an hour and 20 minutes later, and Shawna bolted into the house, logged onto AIM and blocked arckpj29 before the car was even in park. Shawna felt utter humiliation when recalling that incident for some time after. It may have been months, or even years, before Shawna finally decided to forgive her sisters for their humiliating behavior at RB Sushi. Once she did, she tucked the whole embarrassing incident away in her mind F O R E V E R, never to be spoken of again. And then one day she decided to recount it all for her blog. Still, kinder than her kin, she never named the pooping sister.

The end.

I Hurt My Back (Or, Hello)

It’s not the most convenient thing in the world when you have a lively three year old bounding with energy, but I throw my back out once every 3-4 months or so and I have done for about 10 years. My back is even out right now! Why, you ask? While that question is simple, the answer is not, because my back pain has an awkward origin and its persistence, several causes. But I’ll try my best. Storytime!

Flat on my back, heating pad on high, stiff and wearing a 7-year-old, ratty t-shirt.

Once upon a time, there was a slightly-pudgy, 20-something lady who really liked to feel attractive, but because of the aforementioned pudgy-ness, often did not. This young lady – let’s call her Shawna – had a very cute, popular boyfriend – let’s call him John – who always seemed both to like her immensely and to also be a little bit disinterested in her company, except when it came to sex. Shawna, being quite discerning, noticed that John’s incredible presence and focus during sex fed her desire to feel attractive, and, inevitably, she observed her enthusiasm grow with each more frequent and exuberant encounter. And so, a symbiotic sexual relationship was formed.

One day, fueled by her confidence in John’s favor and some as-of-yet unexplored attention-seeking tendency, Shawna got the bright idea to choreograph a sexy strip tease for the couple’s three-year anniversary, complete with costume. “Double bonus”, Shawna thought. “Not being a dancer, I’ll have to practice the dance like crazy to get it right. All those hours spent dancing are bound to un-pudge me a little. Then I’ll R E A L L Y feel attractive!” This strip tease idea was ticking all the boxes.

And true to her word, practice like crazy she did! Because Shawna and John often worked opposite hours, she as a bartender for a chain restaurant and he as a front desk supervisor for a chain hotel, Shawna found herself with several hours every day to experiment with moving her body to sexy music. She dipped it low and brought it up slow. She bent and snapped. She Naomi Campbell walked. And she felt really damn attractive. One day, however, Shawna felt that she needed to up the ante – and if she was really being honest, the caloric burn – in her dance practice. It was on that fateful day that Shawna decided to practice her dance wearing her performance heels. (See an example of Shawna’s performance heels below.)

Intimidating, I know.

It should be noted that Shawna had never worn such things before and she certainly hasn’t worn them since. For God’s sake, Shawna’s a mom now.

However, being an artistic soul, Shawna felt there was true value in practicing as she would perform, and so hoisted those sexy stripper boots up over her knees. Goddamn, she looked good, if a little wobbly. Shawna strutted around, she steeled her nerves and her ankles and practiced a few controlled hip dips. Feeling confident that she could probably handle her dance, especially if she purposefully restricted her movements while she got a feel for the heels, Shawna started her music and stuck out her tits. (Shawna could still say things like Goddamn and tits back then, she wasn’t a mom yet.)

The first 16 counts were just basically the entrance, so Shawna was good there: she just had to take a step every two counts to walk forward seductively and on beat. Easy. For the next 8 counts, Shawna had to bend her knees and swing her hips left and right four times. Fairly easy. Then, Shawna had to take the following 8 counts to slowly lower herself into a closed-kneed squat, pop her knees open and lean forward on her hands, then, finally, pop her booty into the air with straight legs, and hold for a sexy, here’s my ass, stripper-like maneuver. (Probably. Shawna had never actually seen a real-life stripper.) N O T E A S Y. (See an example of this move below.)

This, but hands on ground & wearing stripper boots. Please note this is not me. This is bazillionaire Russell Simmons livin’ his best life.

That move had previously made Shawna feel ultra-sexy, but today, when the toe pad of her heels (which were fashion heels, not dance heels, and so had exactly zero tread) hit the plush carpeting of her apartment bedroom floor, her foot slipped, and Shawna felt only the intense, searing pain of some random, very angry muscle in her low back being ripped in unnatural ways. She cried out in pain and prayed to God that her roommates didn’t hear and come-a-knockin’. Defeated and immobile, Shawna crumpled to the floor and, with great pain, rolled onto her back, where she stayed for several moments.

“What just happened???” Shawna wondered, upset as she’s ever been. “Did I not warm up enough??” (No.) “Did I not stretch enough??” (No, fool.) “Should I have gone slower or waited longer to try this dance in heels??” (Duh.) “It’s OK,” a miserable Shawna consoled herself, “It’s just an injury. I can recover. I’ll rest today and stretch tomorrow. I can apply ice and heat, I can sit in a hot tub, I can even go get a massage. There are still several weeks before our anniversary. This is fixable.”

She didn’t do any of that. She rested, yes, but only kind of, because she also attempted to sit up and stretch every 45 minutes “just to see.” She didn’t ice or heat her injury because she was a lazy idiot. She didn’t sit in a hot tub. She didn’t stretch in subsequent days because it hurt and, again, she was an idiot. After a few weeks the pain subsided and the muscle stiffened, and when it came time to perform her dance, Shawna did, with some added choreography that allowed her to remove those stupid-ass boots about two seconds in. Sadly, she could tell her moves were hindered, and somewhat jerky to boot, but John was very kind and watched the entire awkward fiasco unfold with diligent patience and hardly any embarrassment registering on his handsome face.

A grainy photo from that fateful anniversary. We dressed the part of Horse Derby enthusiasts and bet on some races.

Did you guess that I am the Shawna in that story? I am. That happened 10 years ago, and for 10 years I’ve continued to neglect my health and physical fitness, likely for some psychological or emotional reason I have yet to discover, so I aggravate my back injury on the reg. Seriously, I’m still way stiff in my low back so if I arch too hard or sit slumped for too long, I re-injure myself. If I exercise too hard or lift too heavy an object, like my kid, I re-injure myself. If I stand for too long, or sit for too long, or stretch the wrong way, I re-injure myself.

I tell myself I’m totally fine. I was athletic when I was a kid, I’m totally fine, I used to play sports, my back is fine, I’m in OK shape, everything is F I N E, guys. Three years ago, after I gave birth to my son, I told my husband, John (same dude), that my spine felt inexplicably like a bobble-head doll, meaning that my trunk muscles felt so weak and my center of gravity, so suddenly shifted, that my spine felt wobbly at the point where my waist dipped in, as if a spring was balancing the top half of my torso, jiggling it like a bobble-head doll with each step I took. I was a brand-new first-time-mom, so had neither the time nor the wherewithal to take any purposeful action to correct my bobble-headed situation, and I’m now three years postpartum, pregnant with my second child, laid up with back pain, and wondering what I can do to care for and heal my decade-old injury.

So, I’m walking and stretching. I’m currently clocking 2 miles a day about 4-5 days a week and enjoying some slow & stretchy prenatal yoga with Jo Tatsula at YogaGlo. I could probably walk more than that, in all honesty, but I’m trying to be smart about this. I’m 18 weeks along now, and my goal is to increase my stamina and flexibility throughout my pregnancy, working up to walking 5 miles a day, every day, and limbering up with stretchy prenatal yoga along the way. It’s a feat, that’s for sure. But I figure if I can endure the same painful injury flair ups F O R T E N Y E A R S then I can surely handle nine months of walking.

Oh, and hi, by the way! Nice to meet you, dear reader, and welcome to my blog. I’m Shawna, and I love telling stories, so this space is dedicated to just that: stories from my life, usually told with some comedic flair because life is short and you gotta laugh, man. I’m a mom, a wife, an actor, a creator, and a lover of personal development. Thank you for being here, and I promise we’ll talk again soon. (Like, hopefully tomorrow, but #momlife so we’ll see.)



Solid Foods Can Suck It

Baby bubba is about a week shy of 9 months old and has 3 million teeth now. So, why am I riddled with anxiety every single time a chunk of food any denser than liquid slips past his lips?? HE’S NEVER HAD THAT BEFORE, I scream at hubs as he spoons a tiny bite of baked sweet potato into bubs’ little mouth. I watch, sweating, willing the food particles down the right pipe. Bubba grins and laughs, and I smack Husband on the back of the head (in my mind) for being hilarious because BUB COULD CHOKE IF HE’S LAUGHING AND SWALLOWING.

OK, I am exaggerating, but only a little. WHY DOES HE HAVE TO EAT SOLID FOODS?? Whyyy can’t we stick to a nutrient-rich liquid diet until about 7 years old?

I’m sorry for all the yelling. And, I realize I’m being ridiculous. He’s such a big little boy, he’s growing and hitting these milestones, and plus – humans were totally meant to eat food, so obviously I’ve known it’s all just a matter of time, that this food thing would happen, that he’d be chomping down on pears at some point, that bagel bites were in his future. But what I did not know was that I would go crazy as bubs attempted to gum some corn, or peas, or chunks of carrot (cooked, obvs), or bits of avocado, or segments of banana, or pretty much anything else  that’s easily considered a good “starting solid” for babies the world over. I did not realize I’d be terrified at every meal time, running through my baby CPR and choking knowledge in my head, mentally check-listing my emergency plan should it come to that.

I did not know I would feel insane 3 times a day, everyday.

This sucks. And clearly I’m a first time mom. CLEARLY.

But it’s cool, I bought this mesh thing that brilliantly breaks up anything bubs is gnawing on into teeny tiny particles. It makes me feel slightly better and is only a tiny bit disgusting, mess-wise. (Really only slightly better. Sometimes my mind still plays tricks on me as to how big the teeny particles are and I run over and scoop out bubba’s mouth just in case. I really am terrified of him choking. Gah! Stop with the anxiety, brain!)


It’s so fun to watch this squirmy, adorable little babe grow and develop. He changes so much, seemingly by the day! But this is one developmental milestone I really wish I could pump the brakes on. Sigh.


4th of July

I have a baby now! I have a little family! That means I can begin to pass down fun holiday traditions to my little man, like dressing in ridiculous patterns of red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July!


But, in the mid morning hours of this year’s Fourth, I began to feel like the rest of the world was on snooze mode or something. I wasn’t positive what was going on, but it felt like no one was as excited about this celebration as I was – not even my sister, who lives close by and typically loves holiday traditions. Maybe it was something I was putting out there, but it seemed like no one really cared that I want to be all fun & holiday-y.

This is an ongoing trend that I’ve noticed since having my baby… My world seems suddenly so much more important, my everyday actions, more impactful – to me. I want experiences to matter, and I want them to matter to other people just as much. But oddly, no one else seems to care.

I was fully prepared for an incredibly fun, joyous, memorable holiday this year! I had the coordinated digs, the accessories, the location. Everything was in place for maximum fun-sposure. But the neighbors we had coordinated with didn’t come outside when planned. Since we’re new to the neighborhood, I felt dumb knocking on doors and sending threatening text messages (in a fun way) telling people to get their butts outside and have fun with me.

My sister didn’t come over when she said she would. Since the neighbors weren’t out yet, and it was about to be bubs’ nap time, I felt dumb calling 8 more times to reprimand sister dearest for being late and to insist that she drop everything she was doing to hightail it over to my place immediately! But I wanted to! Didn’t she know; didn’t they ALL know that this was my baby’s FIRST FOURTH OF JULY!?!?!


Why did no one care? I cared so much.

That’s when I started to take it personally. I’m not proud but, staring into my little bubs’ eyes, watching him marvel at festive pinwheels whirling in the wind, I realized no one else in the world loved him like his Dada and I did, and that understanding made me really, really sad. I tagged Dad in and excused myself to the bathroom, I sat down to pee, and I straight-up sobbed on the toilet. My shoulders heaved, my chest constricted, my squishy mama tummy shook – I was on the edge of hysterics.

HOW could this be? How could it be that no one I knew cared about me enough to care about my boy in the way he ought to be cared for?

Oh, it was heartbreaking.

Hubs heard me crying. He softly rapped on the bathroom door, and when I emerged with tear-stained cheeks he hugged me warmly. I told him what was wrong, and he looked at me with empathy. Those are hard things to feel on a happy day, he said.

YES. They are. He got it, like he always gets it. Man, that felt good.

Just then my sister and all of her clan burst through the door, full of merriment and Americana and love. I watched as my sister scooped my precious little boy up into her arms, cooing and zerbering and nuzzling him close. His chubby little hands swiped her glasses before she could think twice. I laughed at the joy of it all; I laughed at the love. Because, yes, though she was a little later than expected, the love was certainly there.

We went outside, where the neighbors had begun to set up. We were greeted with smiles and food and drinks. We played volleyball. We picnicked. We laughed a lot. The more we enjoyed ourselves, the more I realized the traumatic emotions from the early part of my day were self-imposed.  And finally, as I sat watching fireworks among friends and loved ones, I realized just how much I had to celebrate.