TMI, perhaps?


Some of you may see this photo and already know what it means. I’m prepping for my first colonoscopy, which means for the next 3 hours I’m drinking 48 ounces of Gatorade mixed with a bottle (a bottle!!) of ClearLax. And then another bottle and 48 ounces more tomorrow morning. The amount of ClearLax seems almost dangerous! It’s absurd! The only perk is that I get to use my giant sugar skull mug that tends to be too big most of the time. In this case, it’s perfect.

The primary reason I’m posting this is because this process makes me think of my dad. I’m doing this ten years earlier than most because of his diagnosis when he was 53. He had a tumor so large, it blocked his ability to evacuate. The doctor couldn’t even complete the colonoscopy because she couldn’t get past the tumor. They speculated it could have been growing for 10 years or more.

Now, as a 40-year-old woman, I look back and wonder how in the hell someone can live with that kind of discomfort for so long? When I spoke with him about it later, he admitted to the telltale symptoms, but simply brushed them off. Blood in the stool? Hemorrhoids. Inability to defecate completely? Constipation (which could also explain the bloating).

I look back at pictures just prior to his diagnosis and he looks swollen. But not in a way that looks ill, if that makes sense. He had always been a big guy, overweight. The quality of his gut (which has always been there, and had always been firm) seemed to change…it was broader, and maybe flabbier? But his spirit was no different. He was always easy going and funny. One of my favorite pictures of him is when Spence and I surprised him with a birthday cake during his visit to Florida. He was all smiles. He had a great time during that trip. But, god, he must have felt awful if he wasn’t able to evacuate his bowels completely, and if he hadn’t been able to for some time. He was diagnosed a year later.

One of the first things he said to me after he had surgery and started on chemo was that he hadn’t felt so good in years. In hindsight, that makes me so sad…that he lived in discomfort for so long.


I hate the days when nothing seems to fit. Nothing looks good. I feel fat and ugly. I curse the fact that weight doesn’t just melt off me. And why can’t I be three inches taller? And if not taller, why can’t my neck be longer? And why do I act like my eating habits aren’t my own? Why do I know the “right” things to eat yet eat the “wrong” things too often? And why do I always start with the best of intentions, but end the day grabbing for anything delicious. And how did I develop such a disordered approach to eating and weight? And how can I still feel happy in spite of wanting to be taller and more beautiful? And at what age will I stop caring about western standards of beauty? And why is it some days I want to look as offbeat and unusual as possible, but then I pass a traditional beauty and my self confidence sinks? When will that initial confidence I had–before leaving the house/before remembering the beauty–take root deep in my core and be unshakeable in the face of anything that comes my way? How long will I have to fake it until I make it? My grandmother gained weight gradually throughout her life and was always perfectly happy with herself. I take after my grandmother in myriad ways and maybe this way as well? How is it I can see the forward momentum of weight gain, yet act like I have no control over it? Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t show up in my refridgerator by magic, though I wish they did. Why don’t I have more discipline? 

But my body works. 

But I’m healthy. 

But I’m healthy. 

And for that, I’m happy. 

Even while…even while…


I often think about living life intentionally, and how to do that better. To not let time pass by unnoticed, but to be aware that, Hey, this could be my last day on earth. Would I do anything differently?

Of course this question has to be thought of in the realm of reality. If I knew I had only a week or so to live, of course I would cash in my 401k and hit the road, taking Spence and the dogs along for the ride. (I’d like to think that’s what I would do. But who knows?)

But our daily lives are made up of much smaller decisions and all these small decisions add up to the entirety of our lives. And it is within these smaller, quieter decisions that I try to live intentionally. Am I being as kind as I’d liked to be? Am I exploring as much as I wish to be? Am I meeting new people? Am I trying new things?  Beauty is everywhere. Interesting people doing cool things are everywhere.

Honestly, I’m happy to say the only thing I would change in my life is that I don’t travel abroad as much as I’d like. There are so many things I’d like to see. However, if that’s the only change I’d make, I’d say things are going well.  Seth Godin once said, “Instead of wondering when our next vacation is we should set up a life we don’t need to escape from.” I’m grateful to feel I’ve reached this point, especially with work. I look forward to going in.  That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to my next vacation and seeing my mom! I can’t wait! But it feels like one more perk on top of many. And for that, and so many other things, I’m grateful.

On smiles and seriousness 

You know, life is too short to not let people know you see them. That you are passing each other in this moment on earth and you see them going by. I try to say hi to people I pass if it’s just the two of us going by. Not as easy if there are people everywhere, but I still try to look and smile. When I see someone wearing something I like I always try to tell them. I’ve been complimented on my clothes in unexpected places and it always boosts my confidence a bit. Everyone could use a bit of a lift.

I fuckin’ love to laugh, and I do it often. I can laugh out of nervousness, which gets annoying and I’m trying to tamp that down. I don’t know what makes a marriage work, but I know mine is assisted by the fact that my husband is hilarious in unexpected ways and I’m often near tears during conversations. The same thing often happened with a colleague at my old job when I would visit him for a conversation and he would make an observation that left me in tears. It’s the best feeling. I’ve experienced this with most of my favorite people. I know a lot of funny people, I guess, or I’m easily amused. Maybe both.

My default game face to moving through the world is smiling. It’s not an effective game face, but I can’t help it. My mom has an old picture of me…this is the 1970s when pictures weren’t taken every 30 seconds…and I’m climbing up the front steps at our house and I’m looking up at her smiling. I must have been two or three. She tells me she loves that photo because it looked like I was conquering obstacles with a smile on my face…like this is how I would go through the world. Smiling and working my way up. I love that.

When I visited my mom once for a week, she had been feeling down…perhaps she had been sick at the time from chemotherapy…but she told me I was like a “big ball of sunshine” when I came in, which made me laugh (of course). When I visited my old colleagues during my last trip to Illinios, one of them came out of the office and said “I heard the laugh and thought, ‘That sounded like Shannon.'” I reunited with a friend on Facebook and a picture I shared of myself made him comment, “I can still hear your laugh all these years later.” I’m so pleased to know that people remember me for laughing.

And Yet.

I feel like I know myself pretty damn well by now. If you ask me to describe myself I can.

And Yet.

I can’t help but wonder if this default to kindness and laughter is viewed sometimes as weakness or silliness or a lack of smarts…the bumbling, laughing fool.

When I think of public figures I admire, they do not come off as overly friendly. Often they do not seem friendly at all. They come off as bad asses ready to do the job. Intimidating.  They are taken seriously because otherwise shit is going down. I LOVE that.

I met someone recently who I get to see in action a bit, and she is funny and nice, but in an understated way, and, most importantly for her role, she does not take shit and she will get to the point of something right now if someone seems to be missing the point. It’s fantastic to watch. And I find myself wanting to be more like that…after 40 years of life in the same skin, knowing who I am innately, I still wish to be different. To be more serious. To be less smiley. To be intimidating. To be taken seriously.

That’s not to say I’m not taken seriously, but perhaps my joviality makes it easier to question my knowledge? Is being too friendly a detriment to being a good leader?

Last thought, I photographed a guy yesterday, just a head shot. He didn’t smile at all and he looked like such a crank in the photos. Angry. I thought to myself, Should I ask him to smile? It’s clear that’s not his default. I finally did and he smiled a bit and then the awkwardness made him smile more, and he said he’s not much of a smiler. Then when we were looking through the photos he said, oh, the smiling photos look better. And I thought, No shit. Everyone looks better with even just a little bit of a smile on their face.

Bitching and Moaning

The entire family is together again but I’m not a fan of our rental home.

I have only myself to blame because I chose it; I clearly have problems conceptualizing space because I thought there would be plenty of room for our stuff. There isn’t. One room is nothing but boxes. Our guest room is half-filled with boxes. We have walls lined with book boxes because there isn’t anywhere to put them if we unpacked them, and we’re already looking to buy our own house, so we may as well keep the stuff packed.

The house is actually cute from the outside. It would require a bit of updating to bring it up to our standards…even opening the washer and dryer is a hassle because the doors bump against the radiator cover. It’s death by a thousand cuts, as the saying goes. The roof is not going to collapse, but when it rains we find out a window leaks, and when we open the cabinets under the sink, we find a random puddle of water but cannot locate the source, and when we flip a switch a light may or may not come on, and when we turn on the dishwasher, we find the soap cartridge doesn’t open, and when we close a door, it may or may not stay shut…just a bunch of stupid little things that make us crazy.

But at least we’re together again and we have a roof over our head. A leaky, old roof.