Bitch

Is there a magical age you reach in life where the unwarranted advice about how to live your life stops?

I’m almost 27, paid my way through college, moved out at 18, lived in several states and has never been or asked to be bailed out financially by my parents or anyone else for that matter. Thanks, I think I’ve got it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve smashed my face into the wall of life plenty of times but I eventually figure it out–problem solve.

Who else feels like the constant input from inside and outside sources does more damage than good? Not to say advice isn’t given without good intentions, but damn. If it were socially acceptable to scream SHUT IT as an adult, without being labeled as an immature jackass, I think I’d spend most my time screaming it.

When does advice become detrimental to the person receiving it? We all know there’s no such thing as a perfect person, but hotdog do people forget so easily.

I hate being corrected, but there is a time and place when it needs to happen. For example: I’m going into a meeting with a person from a big magazine and two seconds prior to that meeting I mispronounce the big wig’s last name. Yes, correct me.

I’m talking in a casual conversation around people I’m comfortable with and I switch up words, mistakenly, but you know I know what I meant and instead of allowing the conversation to continue, you interrupt to correct me.

Expect a donkey punch to your crack. Or at least know I’m imagining the event of giving you a swift kick in the ass. 

When did it become acceptable for a strong and independent woman to relish in the compliment of being a bitch?  Yes, there are exceptions.

(1) You are called one by a friend(s) you’ve known long enough that it won’t annoy you. I have two friends I wouldn’t immediately want to knock in the nose if they in passing called me a bitch, but I’ve also known them for 5+ years and have been through life moments with them. They are also the only two people I call friends. They’re my exception. 

Call me old fashion, but the word bitch means we’re about to fight.

(2) You call yourself a bitch in front of others and it sparks the conversation. I’m not going to flip my shit when I brought up the adjective myself. 

These are the only exceptions I can fathom allowing the word bitch to be used. Yet, I find myself being described as a bitch by all who come in contact with me.

But why? I couldn’t tell you. My only insight to the matter is because I don’t frolic in a flowerbed, chasing rainbows and walking around with a plastic smile 24/7.

I like football, getting sweaty and have a fondness for the swear word, fuck.

That must be it, I like the word fuck so I can’t be described as sweet. Silly Shannon, fuck is for bitches! 

Know it alls and one uppers. Aren’t you tired of trying to keep up? How do you suck wind in-between always rocking a messy bun as well and explaining the difference between mundane topics nobody asked for you to explain?

Do you just pass out at night exhausted from trying to keep up, or lay in bed thinking of scenarios you can respond to the next day…

How come when good people do asinine events, said asinine event is washed away because they’re a good person and didn’t mean it. But when somebody like me, cough bitch, does something stupid or insensitive, I’m expected to apologize.

Alex, I’ll take life is unfair [no shit] for $500.

How many readers assume I’m bashing my keys into oblivion while I write this? And envisioning my face red with anger while steam comes out of all orifices on my face.

Live your own life people, stop pointing at the human currently feeling like she’s living in a fish bowl.

Currently: [[wanting tamales]] [[watching dateline]]  & [[wondering if this post could be made into a standup routine]]

 

 

 

 

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference 2015

This was my why not me moment.

Somewhere in March I received an email asking how much my words were worth. Intrigued, I actually read one of the zillions of emails sent by the university, daily. It was informing students about a nonfiction conference in Grapevine, Texas. You could submit work and if selected, attend workshops with editors, authors and professionals in the literary world.

These selections would also be in the running for cash prizes. As a broke, almost graduated, ever-since-I-was-young-wannabe-writer and student, I submitted a personal essay, why not me. And I was chosen for selection! I was floored, I finally threw out my insecurities and dove in head first and it paid off!

The conference was this past weekend. I don’t think I have the words to craft a proper gauge on how I felt. You know when Hagrid tells Harry, ur a wizard -arry, and Harry begins to understand he won’t have to spend all his time with the Dursleys? Or, when Harry rides his broom for the first time and finds out his father was also a decorated seeker? Or … well I could keep the Harry Potter metaphors going all night … you get it.

The conference was more than just a learning experience. I felt like a grew as a person who loves words and reading/writing stories. Here are a few of the speakers from the lectures I enjoyed the most:

1. Anne Fadiman speaking about her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall DownHer keynote speech left me feeling full. She emerged herself into a unfamiliar world of Hmong refugees struggling with new life in California. “I believe in accidents, without them I never would’ve wrote my book.”

Happy accidents, this resonated with me. I need to embrace all the humps because those are what put me in the right places at the right time, like this literary conference. 

2.  Dan Barry and Kassie Bracken speaking about merging the two worlds of journalists and photographers. The importance of collaborating with professionals to tell a compelling story.

“Writing about people of poverty like victims is a mistake. It’s not fair to them as an individual.”

I think it’s easy to feel sorrow for those who aren’t as well off as an “average” human being. But it’s not just about their monthly income, it’s about the story and how people of poverty survive. 

3. The panel discussion with Caleb Hannan, S.I. Rosenbaum and Hanna Rosin. Hannan wrote an article about “Dr. V” and her magic putter. The outcome was tragic as the subject committed suicide during the interviews. His candid testimony led us to believe if you feel like something bad is going to happen, then you need to have an open discussion with your editor and vise-versa.

I personally believed he had balls to talks openly and honest about his mis-steps and answering the questions from his panel-mates. You can read the article here, and the letter from the editor here. And Rosenbaum’s after the fact article here.

4. George Getschow’s lecture about the importance of place in a narrative. “I’m always surprised to read an article that misses the importance of place.” Place is like a secondary character and it needs to be just as important as character development. These are the dimensions of place, as explained by Mr. Getschow:

  1. The History- Research it and find out what makes your place tick.
  2. Economy- How does the place survive. Is it an oil, ranching or low income?
  3. What do people wear? What do they eat? How do they communicate?
  4. Weather- It influences peoples mood for the day and how they dress. Using weather can reveal character.
  5. Gestures- How do people greet each other?
  6. Superstitions- paying attention to local legends or tales?
  7. Sights & Sounds

As I sat in a dimly lit lush ballroom with desserts on top of clean white soft linens, tempting guests to eat their cake before dinner, the winners for the top personal essays and reported narratives were announced. The top three in each category were awarded cash prizes, and the top ten would be published in the literary journal Ten Spurs.

There’s no better way to say this then, I WON! My name is called after the 8-minute mark in the video below and I get on stage after the 9-minute mark. A professor of mine called my name as I walked by to get on stage and I tackled her into a hug. “I didn’t know you submitted a piece! I’m so proud of you!”

There is no better feeling than hitting a home run. Now that I know how it feels I want to do it again, over and over again as many times possible. This was the perfect way to kick me off into the professional world and end my stay with the University of North Texas, Mayborn School of Journalism.

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It’s a cliche to say, “follow your dreams,” but it’s true. Many times I was red-inked, felt like a poor writer and told I’d never make any money as an author. My personal dialogue said the same thing. I finally told the voices the shut-it and jumped off the high dive.

It was a rough road. I felt exposed and unsure if I propelled my story with the correct words. I cried reliving certain slices of my life. In the end it all happened the way it was supposed to, why not me. 

This conference also added readings to my already to tall stack of books. This list is more for me so I won’t forget, but If you’re looking for something new to read, all the better!

It’s My Birthday !!

The month of May has always been my favorite. You embrace the warm sun because for most of us everything has been in hibernation and it’s not too hot yet. The flowers, trees, weeds and bugs begin their rebirth and the constant sneezing reminds you of the life that is growing. May is the signal for the beginning of summer and the end of a school year.

It’s my favorite month because it’s also my birthday month.

I am 26-years old today and six days ago I graduated from The University of North Texas with my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a focus in Public Relations. I’m the master at strategic communications. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend before my birthday. I had too much fun if that’s even possible.

My mother flew out from Florida, whom I haven’t seen in over two years. I forgot how much I missed seeing her. We spent mornings sitting outside sipping coffee and talking about family, the future and everything else in between. I forgot how nice it was to have a face-to-face conversation, instead of only hearing a voice on the other end of the phone.

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My in-laws flew out from California as well to see me graduate. The two of them have treated me like a daughter of their own since the moment I met them years ago. I’m lucky. The weekend was already a hit and how could it get any better?

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If walking across the stage was my high for the night I would’ve been satisfied. It doesn’t get any better hearing your name called as a recipient of a degree. I didn’t trip as I walked across the stage to received my diploma, but with so many eyes watching I was bound to do something Shannon like. I lost my graduation cap midway across the stage after I tried to give a hug to a professor. Oops.

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When the ceremony ended and I found my family, my husband had a bigger surprise in store and everyone was in on it.

YES, WE WERE ALL GOING TO THE DAVE MATTHEW’S CONCERT IN DALLAS. No matter what state I’ve lived in Matt and I have always made it to the Dave concert every year. I hadn’t been to a concert with my mom for several years and it was the first Dave experience for in the in-laws. Family booze and good music, that’s all you need in life.

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I am 26-years-old today and six days ago I graduated from college. The first three years of my higher education journey began in Jacksonville, Florida. I was working full-time as a waitress paying my way through junior college, slowly. In those days I thought I would be a elementary school teacher. I wanted to me somebody’s Miss. Honey.

Yesterday I got the best present I could’ve ever received. I was offered a job doing media relations. The best part? I will be PAID to do it, the biggest fear every graduate has — will I ever be paid to do anything? Life for me and my little family has changed so much in the past five years. It’s insane to think about where I’ll be in another five.

The month of May has been a month of growth and learning. I grew a year older today but I’ve jumped mentally and emotionally in age as well. I kept my mantra “why not me” singing in the back of my head and its pushed me into being a better professional. A year ago I wouldn’t of wanted to do half of the social interactions, business meetings or networking opportunities the University presented. The attitude change and confidence boost I gave myself made a worlds difference.

I’m ready to dive into the deep end of adulthood and play with the big kids in careers. This next chapter in life may be the scariest one yet, but no matter how scared shitless I may or may not be I’m ready.

Hello world, I’m ready to kick some professional ass.

Holy Tornado

I like to portray myself as a very strong, brave and stubborn individual, but when it comes to spring in Texas I am the biggest baby in the world. The weather in North Texas is insane, and that’s putting it mildly (unlike its summers). In the winter temperatures drop cool enough to produce snow. In the summer it bakes you like a chocolate chip cookie. Who even knows when fall begins.

The harsh changes in temperatures makes it the perfect breeding grounds for tornadoes. The sky turns into a swampy black color and the clouds droop lower to the ground. The whole experience with a tornado is intense. Last April I went through my first tornado drill, this past Sunday I got to practice again, alone.

I used to sit outside and watch the storms roll in when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. I would hang out in the garage with my pops and count the number of lightening strikes. It rained everyday in the spring and summer at almost the exact time in the afternoon. I loved it. The thunder and heavy rain could put me to sleep like a baby being rocked.

In Texas I stay huddled under the covers if there is even a slight risk of a storm headed my way. I don’t play with tornadoes. My buddy and meteorologist, Rick Mitchell from NBC5-DFW had told me all week to stay weather aware and I did. My husband was up in Washington State for the weekend and I knew if anything happened I wanted to know about it first. I checked Twitter and kept the news on all day every day.

On Mother’s Day I spent an hour crammed underneath a mattress in my closet with my two pups. The sirens went off as I was digging through old photos. I was sitting on my bedroom floor trying to find the best oldie of my mom to post on Instagram for the holiday. I needed a break from studying and obsessing over the weather.

It’s pretty funny (now) that I spent days paying attention to the weather and nothing severe happened. I took a 15 minutes break to catch my breath and BAM holy tornado. I swear nothing is eerier than sitting around waiting for something to happen while the sirens are going off. It’s the fight or flight response except it gets sawed in half. You have to fight, you can’t run, you just wait.

It took a few seconds for the siren to register as the tornado alarm. I remember thinking, no that has to be an ambulance or firetruck off in the distance. Your brain really does try to protect you from emotional trauma.

A year ago I spent some more quality time with my closet, but last year it had my husband in it with me. I wasn’t upset or afraid. He checked the weather apps while I browsed through Twitter, both trying to get more information on where the tornado/funnel cloud/storm was headed. I wasn’t bawling my eyes out. I was just there and kind of numb.

This year I was alone. After I realized my brain wasn’t playing tricks on me I dashed towards my closet. I had made it a bunker the night before in preparation for Saturday night’s weather that would continue into Sunday.

One dog followed me straight into the closet. She was watching me like we were playing a new game. The other dog went under the bed and I couldn’t convince her to come out by cooing her name or bribing her with treats. I had to get underneath the bed and drag her to the closet. It’s a pretty crappy feeling when you have to drag anything anywhere.

I wrangled all of us into our makeshift bunker within a matter of two minutes. The heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Have you ever felt so terrified that you thought you were going to puke? I thought haven been through one tornado last year I’d feel some kind of confidence. NOPE. After 15 minutes passed trying to convince my dogs we were going to be okay, I sent out text messages.

“Sirens going off”

My husband had no signal and my mother was at work, but hallelujah my in-laws called me immediately. My mother-in-law asked about school and finals to help distract me from my current situation. My father-in-law searched online for updates on the storm. They couldn’t be in the closet next to me but having them through the phone was more than enough. I wasn’t alone.

It’s funny, I want to be strong, tough and handle things on my own 24/7. My first thoughts after I was situated was MOMMY! Ironic this happened on Mother’s Day, no? I don’t care how old you are, you are never to old to still want your mom and if you’re lucky enough, after you get married you get another one. Thank God for Moms. Happy belated Mother’s Day!

The Denton Tornado

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Farewell Joni

There’s a scary reality that all living things face – death and its finality.

At night, when you nestle your head into that pillow or each morning when you pull out of the driveway, it never feels like it may be the last time you do it. You expect to see your home again, wake up from your slumber and return to doing the same routine things you do every day, the same way you have for years.

It’s never intended to be the very last time you grab your keys, slip underneath the covers or check the rearview mirror while leaving.

I got a frantic phone call this morning, in the wee hours before the sun was up. I usually go into work at 7 a.m. so I was shocked to see “Worrrrrrrrkkkkkkk” popping up on my phone. My immediate thought is “Sheet, I’m late!”

“Hey – it’s Wayne, there’s an emergency. I don’t have any openers and I’ve tried calling the other 7o’clock servers but have gotten no answer. I need you to come in early, I’ll explain then, please, I’m sorry for waking you up, but I need you.”

While I was still not sure if I was dreaming or not, I mumbled “of course.” I rolled out of bed and stumbled through the dark halls trying to find the back door. My dogs knew I was up and expected me to let them out and then feed them. I cursed whoever it was that caused me to be woken early.

My shoes were the last thing I needed to find and as I searched I began to register the voice of my frantic, breathless and somewhat desperate tone of voice my manager had so early in the morning. I tend to go straight to worse case scenario, a trait I swore I wouldn’t receive from my mother, and I hardly will say them out-loud.

Although I wouldn’t say it or let myself to think it, I had a horrible feeling and knew something bad had happened. The thought sat in the back of my mind, hiding somewhere behind my eyes, holding its breath waiting for someone to confirm its truth.

Finally, I made it to the front door of my workplace. As I stumbled into into the building, I realized I looked like I had indeed just rolled out of bed. My apron was untied and hanging from my neck, my shirt was buttoned but I missed one, in one hand my belt and the other a grapefruit.

My fear got the best of me as I headed towards the back of the restaurant and into the kitchen. Who wasn’t here? What’s going on?

“Oh, thank God,” I said. ” I thought something happened to you. Where’s Joni?”

“She called in, she went out last night with some friends to celebrate it being Friday. I think she had a little too much fun.”

Well, damn. I got a breathless manager calling me in early to cover, sounding frantic and encouraging my worrisome-self to imagine the worst. I had began to thought they had gotten into an accident that morning. They drive together some mornings and in Texas the highways aren’t lit through the long patches between cities, anything can jump out and derail you.

As I knocked on the office door to get my manager to swipe me in for duty, I looked into his eyes to see if they would deceive his calm demeanor. “Help me set up the store,” he said. “I’ll tell you later, just please help me.”

I stumbled down the server isle, into the refrigerator walk-in and around and back through dry storage. I gathered containers for ice and lemons, sugar to sweeten the tea and labels for the perishable items. All awhile imagining the conversation I would have with Joni the next day at work.

“Joni bologna, you know you got me in here two hours early because of your old partying bee-hind.”

I imagined what she would say also.

“I know that’s not you talkin’ to me like that! I know you know you can kiss my A double S!”

We’d laugh and she’d probably reach out to smack my butt. I’d respond with my usual, “harder” and the normal banter between us would ensue the rest of the day.

Before I knew it, my fellow opener, friend and co-worker was being called into the office. “I’ll speak to you next.”

I made myself busy for a few minutes, pouring myself a cup of coffee and stirring the right amount of sugars so It would make the color a nice caramel shade. I starred at the office window wondering if I should peek in, knowing I would know what was occurring the second I saw her face.

I peered into the window and saw tears streaming down her face and still I didn’t believe it.

It’s my turn now and as I walk into the office I crack a joke about how hot it is. “Yes Wayne, it’s hotter than Hades in here, can’t you just enjoy the cooler winter months temperatures?” With his back to me, he replies with a smart mouth joke. In the same second, he turns and looks at me with a look that can only described as regret. What ever he had to tell me, he didn’t want to.

“Joni’s sister called me this morning, there was an accident last night-early this morning and we’re not entirely sure what happened.”  He paused for a bit and then said, “she didn’t make it.”

I sat there bewildered with the truth finally showing its ugly face. I picked at the laminated calendar on the desk and fidgeted in the wheeled chair for what seemed like forever before I could simply say, “okay.”

I got up, headed towards the door and said I’d watch out for my fellow co-worker. They were close friends. I opened the door and went straight for my friend, gave her a hug and told her it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t of prevented it.

I was a shoulder for each co-worker today, for anybody who wanted it. My shoulder was soaked with tears as they shuddered in my arms while bellowing out their sorrow and sadness. All I could do was stand there, they needed a shoulder and I wanted to be that rock for them.

I can’t remember a time in the long 8-years of serving that the back of house was silent. There was no obscenities being thrown around, or jokes being told. The grill cooks weren’t screaming for servers or vise versa. Nobody knew what to say to each other. They came into work that morning to do a job, and there were plenty of guests that needed our attention.

I came home and went to my rock, my husband. While I laid on the couch voiceless, he let me. After a substantial amount of time, he reached for my hand and asked if I would go outside with him. When I couldn’t find the words, he just nodded and said, “I know.”

Life is such a beautiful thing and it’s a shame when somebody has to die to remind you. There won’t be anymore tomorrows for my friend Joni, so make the best out of yours while you still can. Life is beautiful and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I will miss your cackles every weekend that accompanied your crude banter. You always talked about how much you missed your mom, at least we can all find comfort in knowing you’re finally with her again. Rest in peace.