The Names I Call Myself

IMG_20171127_184131893I’m a little under the weather today so I’m having a lazy day. And a lazy day at the end of November can mean only one thing – a Hallmark Christmas movie.

At the risk of spoiling what is a riveting, nail biting film, this one is about a fledgling writer at a writer’s convention. Of course, the movie has a meet cute, a budding romance briefly derailed, a plot twist that no one but the characters couldn’t see coming, and the requisite happy ending.

In the movie, the writer struggles with calling herself a writer. She feels as if she has to earn the title. I know that struggle well. Sitting in my favorite chair thinking about the character’s, and my own, struggle, I came to a realization. I may have a given name, but I go by many, many other names.

  • Shannon – This is the name I was born with and the one most people know me by.
  • Daughter – I’m the first born in my family and the only daughter. My parents had no idea what they unleashed upon the world the day I was born.
  • Sister – I have one little brother. He’s called me many names over the years, but this is the one fit for polite company.
  • Brown – 25 years ago I took on this name and I have never regretted it. At times, I have done the name proud; at others, not so much. But Mr. Brown is stuck with me either way.
  • Mom – I remember the day my daughter was born my mom leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Now you know how much I love you.” She was right. It was in that moment that I finally understood how much a mother loves her children. The birth of my son two years later taught me that the addition of each child increases your capacity to love exponentially.
  • Shay – Those closest to me call me by this name. It’s been my nickname since I was young. I gave it to myself because it seemed like everyone else I knew had one and I was jealous. My parents obliged my little bit of insanity and the name stuck. (It’s definitely better than the long names I used to give myself. I have several books from my childhood inscribed with extended monikers. The silliest of which includes Dorothy, Cinderella and Rapunzel. All in one inscription.)
  • Miss Shannon – I have loved and cared for many children over the years. Some are the children of my friends, some came to me for after school care, some are kids I met at church, and some are friends of my children. I’ve never been one for formality, so I happily embraced this distinctly Southern way to show respect to an elder.
  • Auntie Shay Shay – This one is a little more recent. It was given to me by a dear friend when her youngest was born and it’s kind of stuck. The little ones in my life tend to call me this.
  • Friend – I am blessed beyond measure in the friendship realm. I only hope that I can be half as good at being a friend to others as my friends are to me.
  • Counselor – Much to my bewilderment, and at their own risk, people seek out my counsel. Considering my sanity is frequently questioned, this one never ceases to amuse me.
  • Crazy Lady – See above and ask Mr. Brown about my bad days if you need more explanation.
  • Writer – I’m still not convinced this one fits, but seeing as I’ve begun to spend a fair amount of my time writing these days, I guess it’s time. I hope someday to upgrade to Author, but until then, I’ll settle for writer.
  • Redeemed – I have done nothing to deserve redemption, yet it was freely given. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I am proud to claim this title.

I’ve come to understand that this list of names is incomplete. And as long as I live, it will remain so. As new challenges arise, I’ll earn new names. But for today, I’m happy with my list.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear my chair, my dog, my blanket, a cup of tea and another movie calling me…

The Little Cake That Could


Once upon a time, in an oven far, far away, there was a bundt cake happily baking away. This little cake was excitedly looking forward to the joy he would bring to those that consumed him. He had been told he would be moist, sweet and buttery.

The cake had been assembled with care; his batter fluffy and a gorgeous shade of yellow. His creator had lovingly spread him into a well-buttered and floured bundt pan. As he began to feel the warmth reach his core, he knew that his outer skin would be light and crunchy by the time he was finished baking. His baker had also told him that he was so delicious on his own, he didn’t need any frosting. Perhaps a few pieces of fruit for decoration, but he was the true star of the show.

After what seemed like forever the little cake heard the oven timer buzzing. “Oh, it’s time! I’m done!” he yelled from inside the oven. As if he had been heard, he felt a gust of cool air as he was lifted out of the oven and set upon a rack to cool before being ready to assume his perch on the porcelain cake plate he saw in the center of the kitchen island.

Somewhat impatiently the cake waited for the timer to count down. Finally, he heard it buzz and before he could utter a word, he felt himself lifted up and turned over onto the cake plate. Still feeling the warmth of his metal bed, he was anticipating his impending freedom. Gently his baker began to lift the bundt pan off of his outer layer. Just when the cake thought he would be free, he felt a little air on his outer edges, but then a little air in his middle as well. He felt like he had lost a few pieces of himself, wasn’t worried by it at all. The feeling was odd, but not painful. Much like a person feels when the top layer of a blister is peeled off a heel.

The cake heard the baker gasp. “She must be marveling at my beauty!” Prepared to be greeted with applause, the cake was dismayed when all he heard were muffled tears.

“I don’t know what I did wrong. I followed the directions to a T,” he heard the baker say. Puzzled by this statement, the cake looked around for a mirror. Finding his reflection in the microwave oven, he was so startled by what he saw that he almost jumped off the cake plate. “Oh no! I’m ghastly! My skin is all splotchy and half of my golden, crispy crust is still in the pan.

The little cake was ashamed. How could he be so ugly? He had been assured he would be the best cake the world had ever seen. And now, here he was, looking like a leper. His skin clinging to the cake pan, mocking him.

Just as he felt all was lost, he heard the man that lived with the baker come into the kitchen. He watched as the man picked a piece of his crust out of the pan and took a bite. As the man chewed, he saw a smile begin at the edges of his eyes and then grow to include his entire face. “Honey, that’s the best cake you’ve ever baked.”

“How could it be? It’s so…so…ugly. It looks like a cake that suffers from leprosy. I’ll never be able to put this on the Thanksgiving dessert table,” the baker declared.

“Good! Then I don’t have to share it. Here, try it. You’ll see. It’s incredible.”

Tentatively the baker peeled a piece of the cake’s crust from the pan and popped it in her mouth. She was immediately glad she had done so. The crust was crispy and buttery and the small piece of inner cake that had clung to the piece of crust was moist and delicious. It was the best thing she had ever eaten in her life.

Smiling at the man, the baker now beamed with pride. “It’s not much to look at, but that’s a dang good cake!”

The little bundt cake could not believe what he was hearing. He had been afraid he was hideous and worthless. Doomed to a life in the trash bin, not filling tummies with joy. A wave of relief washed over him as he knew he was a masterpiece, destined to bring joy to many. Or at least the two people in the kitchen with him.

Little did the cake know at the time, but his recipe would be passed down from generation to generation. And for those adventurous enough to look past the name of his recipe, his descendants would bring joy, satiating sweet tooths, for years to come.

And I can assure you dear reader, if you’re brave enough to look past the surface of this cake, you will be rewarded. Mightily.

Leper Cake (Golden Pound Cake)

3 cups sugar

1½ cups butter, softened

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

5 eggs

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the mixture taking turns with the milk. Beat I the vanilla and lemon juice.

Pour into a VERY well buttered & floured bundt pan. Place in a COLD oven turn it on to 325° and bake for 1½ hours.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan and continue to cool completely on a wire rack.

It is very common for the cake to stick in the pan, thus the name.






Bar Brawls and Bucket Lists


So I kicked a guy in a honky tonk on Saturday night and it made me think about my bucket list.

Perhaps I should back up a little bit and explain.

Thanks to a good friend, I fulfilled a long-held desire Saturday night; I got see the incomparable Willie Nelson in concert at Billy Bob’s. It was actually my first visit to Billy Bob’s as well. Hard to believe that I’ve lived in the DFW area for a quarter century without setting foot in the iconic bar, but alas it is the truth. I chock that up to not being a fan of most country music.

Before I go on, I must take a minute to rave about Mr. Wilson. The concert was incredible. At the ripe old age of 84, he is still selling out shows, playing late into the night and wowing crowds. I have always admired his talent and the years have seemingly done nothing to diminish them. The speed at which he continues to play and the energy he brings to the stage are admirable. He fed off the exuberance of the crowd and had us all singing along with him. There’s a reason he’s a legend.  (On a side note, I think someone needs to look into his ability to escape the rigors of aging. Willie seems to have found the fountain of youth in a hot boxed tour bus.)

Now, back to our regularly scheduled story.

We had general admission tickets to Willie’s show on Saturday. Knowing we didn’t have seats, we made sure to be in the showroom early to secure a good view. We managed to find a decent spot, and were pleasantly surprised to find the people in front of us very friendly and community minded. We took turns holding each other’s spots as people made runs to the bathroom and the bar, etc.

Just a few minutes before Willie went on is when the trouble started. A group of college aged dude bros arrived and stood behind us. All would have been well if they had been happy with their spot, but they were not. Slowly they began pushing their way up into the crowd. As they approached our domain, I decided to hold my ground. I firmly planted my feet, in a wide stance that would have made any manspreader proud, and did not move. The tallest of the bunch seemed to view my positioning as a challenge. The first time he pushed up against me, I just gave him the evil eye and then returned my attention to the stage. This only emboldened him. Over the course of the next half an hour, he moved closer and closer to me until there was no daylight between the left side of my body and his right side. The final straw came when he tried to push my foot over. So I kicked him. A few times. I may be old, but I was fast enough to get my foot back in place before he could invade my territory. He eventually gave up and moved his foot away from mine. In short, I won.

The behavior of that guy and his friends is one of the rudest things I’ve ever witnessed. And it had my blood boiling. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve been more tempted in my life to take a punch at somebody as I was then. My friends had to talk me down a couple of times, but in the end, I didn’t want to miss my chance to see Willie. And, even in Texas, if you start a bar brawl, you get kicked out. Alas, it was that desire to fight someone that inspired me to add an item to my already full bucket list – Get in a bar fight. (But only if I can be like a hero in a Hollywood movie that starts the fight, but suffers no real consequences. Maybe a baby shiner or bruised cheek. Nothing permanent and no jail time, of course.)

In the end, I was able to both check off a Bucket List item, and expand said list. I view that as a win-win, because the moment we stop trying to enjoy life and expand our horizons, is the moment life becomes meaningless.




God Bless Alaska State Troopers


My girl child is working on a project for one of her classes. As part of it, she has to interview someone from a very specific cultural subset. Before the interview is conducted, she must view some type of media related to the culture. Seeing as I’m from what some people refer to as a different world, Alaska, she chose to interview me.

In preparation for the interview we watched several episodes of the show Alaska State Troopers. Needless to say, this has been an incredibly entertaining endeavor. In case you’ve never watched this show, let me share a few of the things we’ve watched.

  • Officers set-up a fake moose to see if hunters will shoot at it from the road way. They do.
  • A man calls in a suspicious vehicle blocking a roadway. The caller was afraid to approach the driver because he “had a bad feeling.” When the trooper finds the truck, the driver, obviously an old timer that’s quite inebriated, asks the trooper if he is going to arrest him. Upon inquiring as to why he should be arrested the man responds, “because I’m breaking every law there is to break.” He then assumes the position remarking that he’s “a pro.” The man admitted that he hadn’t had a driver’s license in 30 years. In preparation for taking him in, the officer searched the man’s vehicle and found a flask. “Is there anything left in there?” the old timer asked, obviously expecting one last swig before being hauled off to the slammer.
  • A man in the midst of being arrested says that jail is his house because “God made jail.” It must be noted that he was pulled over in a car that had the entire roof cut off, no hood, and a toboggan strapped to the car with a blond doll attached to it named “La Gorda.” “That’s my ex-wife.” The trooper refers to the car as an “Alaska convertible.”
  • There’s only one K-9 unit in Fairbanks. The narrator says he’s, “very popular.” Probably doesn’t hurt that he’s kinda cute too.
  • They have prohibition in some Alaskan towns. One bottle of vodka, bought in Anchorage for $50, sells for $400 in one of those towns.
  • Every year there is an influx of prostitutes into Alaska from the lower 48 when it’s time for the Permanent Dividend checks to be issued to Alaskan residents. Turns out even ladies of the evening are migratory.

All of this was in one episode of the show. I’d love to tell you that the scenarios I’ve listed were fiction, or even exaggerated for the cameras, however I can’t. Because honestly, I have some stories of my own that rival a few of those found on Alaska State Troopers. What can I say? Alaska is chock full of larger than life characters.

So if you decide to visit Alaska, don’t forget to plan time to check out the wildlife. Animal AND human.