Sequins and Syringes


If asked to describe me, I think the words most people would say would be determined, calm, thoughtful, colorfully eclectic, energetic, a great mama, a good listener, a great multi tasker, a workaholic and a bit of a thrift and vintage store fashionista. My husband would also add stubborn to this list… But if asked to describe myself RIGHT NOW, here’s what I would say: exhausted, trying to enjoy the little moments but failing much of the time, a bit over scheduled, afraid to just say no to any other projects, and yes still stubborn, energetic, unique, colorful, and determined and DEFINETLY a thrift and vintage store fashionista! I actually sometimes think my unspoken family motto is “Don’t mess with a Strom, we get sh#@ done”!


But what happens if I admit that while I appreciate every moment, and person, and twist of fate, and bit of luck, and hour of hard work, and devastating phone call that got me to this point, it can’t cover up forever that that I think I need a break every now and then and that I don’t always have the answers and sometimes I just want to allow myself to break down.    That maybe all those blogs and therapists are books are correct and it IS important to take care of yourself as well as others. This is soooooo hard for me. What happens if I actually take a few moments to write some stories down, talk about the funny moments and the sad ones and attempt to stop my brain from running on overdrive at all hours of the day and night?

I don’t know that my story is any more unique than anyone else’s, but it’s my story and it begins to explain how I got to this point, so here’s a bit of background.

I grew up on a tiny island off of Seattle, I basically lived the Stranger Things lifestyle (minus the freaky upside down world and disappearing kids). You know, the kind of life you could when you were a kid in the mid 70s and early 80s: you went outside after you did all your chores and played Little House on the Prairie in the woods until it was dinner time; then you sat down with your whole family at 5:30 on the dot and ate some sort of homemade casserole. I ran screaming as far away from the island as I could the second I graduated from high school and off to the corn fields of Illinois and Knox College. There I stumbled into the world of theatre and costuming totally by accident and suddenly found my people. After a few years of grad school in Connecticut I headed back to the west coast and to the sunshine and plastic surgery filled concrete boulevards of Los Angeles. I (while wearing my 90s platform shoes and carrying my old school Thomas guide and my beeper) dug into that city and learned to love it the way you can when you are 25: KCRW music, the sunshine, the fashion, and the friends I soon made. Those mid 20s something women, who were also newly out of school and figuring out who they were and what they wanted from this big bad world, they were my tribe and we got each other through the bad days.

Now I’m married to a boy from high school, no we didn’t date in high school ( thank god, high school nerd right here with THE WORST 80s hair), we ran into each other 12 years out of school and hit it off. We live in my grandparents 1920s farmhouse back on that same tiny island off of Seattle (literally up the driveway from where I grew up).   He actually cleans the toilets and separates the laundry correctly before washing it without me even asking,  I totally scored! We have worked hard, been mostly fortunate and really have nothing we should complain about.  I still work in theatre and am the costume director at a theatre that produces all musicals all the time. It is not a job for the faint of heart or those that need frequent naps. I tell myself on a regular basis that 40 hour work weeks are overrated.  The adrenaline driven workaholic in me loves it (most of the time).   I mean, I get paid to shop, I put fake clothes on fake people, I try to keep the drama on the stage and I have an amazing team of craftspeople and designers to work with daily, what could be better?

And then…there’s Zoe. My 9 year old little mini me who has a soul full of sunshine, rainbows and pop music and is a bit of an adrenaline junkie herself (oops, wonder where she got that from).   She is at times exactly like me and at times so unlike me and I’m so proud of her for it ( that fearlessness in front of a crowd: that DID NOT come from me). She is THE most amazing and determined human I know; and she doesn’t even know it. If you asked the doctors 9 years ago, she shouldn’t even be here. Given a 25% chance of survival at birth, she has beat the odds again and again and has done it while doing a song and dance in her glitter hip-hop sneakers. I’ll get into more of this in subsequent posts, but for now, all you need to know is that she was born with a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, spent the first 3 months of her life in the NICU, was tube fed until she was two, walked at two and a half, has pretty much been to every department at Seattle Childrens Hospital and is now worth somewhere around $6,000,000 ( I mean she’s actually priceless of course, but the insurance companies would value her somewhere around there). She can wrestle her 02 cannula around like an alligator, thinks of her permanently placed central line and medically attached pump as her conjoined twins, and says the words Pulmonary Hypertension and Remodulin better than she can the words spaghetti and meatballs. She has more hospital paperwork and medical binders than there are old school encyclopedias and she has an IEP the length of the Declaration of Independence AND she doesn’t let any of this stop her . Yeah, she’s kinda the best thing ever!

Between Zoe, my job, my husband, an eclectically and lovingly decorated farm house, a million loads of laundry, a 3 hour commute, a sick obsession with baking too many carbohydrates on a day off and an inability to sit still and actually relax, I’m finding myself a little lonely and a little at a loss these days and a lot less brave and feisty than my old 20 something self used to be. My stubbornness? That hasn’t gone anywhere, sigh.

Sure, I love being super mom and super boss and super employee and super multi-tasker, and super shopper, I am a Leo after all.  But what happens when all those things collide and all of a sudden you realize that what you really want is a super nap,  an afternoon with your girlfriends, and an hour to yourself.

I thought that maybe sharing a few of my thoughts and stories, fashion finds and baking fails, medical traumas and school project disasters, working mama guilts and triumphs might help me navigate this crazy journey I’m on, and just maybe it helps other mamas not feel so alone or overwhelmed in this crazy life.

This blog might be right up your alley and relatable if your 2nd grader pretend plays to be “The Boss” with a calendar, a phone, and a sharpie and talks about having to catch a ferry  and orders you around while wearing a sparkly costume. This blog might be for you if you’ve ever had an actor ask you what shampoo you use because your hair smells good and all you can do is look at them blankly, because that good smell is the chlorhexidine in the shampoo on the wall mounted dispenser of the hospital shower and you haven’t been home in 3 weeks are wearing the same outfit for the 3rd day in a row. And maybe this blog is for you if you, like, me, wouldn’t trade a freaking moment of any of this life for anything in the world, but you also would never be caught dead in public in pajama pants  and you know the power a sparkly vintage jacket and a great pair of dark jeans can have on a crappy day when you just can’t take another thing going wrong. And maybe this blog is for you if you too have discovered you’re happily in your mid 40s but you wonder where that brave girl who lived in LA and traveled the world all by herself disappeared to and you find yourself trying to wrap your head around the fact that is actually OK and healthy to cry every now and then and the world won’t fall apart if you do.

So here goes, welcome to my sequin and syringe filled life and those that make it sing.

P.S. have I mentioned my life is crazy busy, so patience please as I figure out this blogging thing and try to actually fit it into my schedule…


XO- Shannin