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29 Mar

I just want to take a second and say thanks for reading this, whoever you are. Know that I appreciate it. Also know that I would like to meet you in real life someday, if you’re not creepy or anything.

This post is probably going to feel random, because sometimes when I blog, this is my sentiment:
michael scottAnd today is one of those days.

I’m reading Half the Sky right now by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It’s been at the top of my Read this next Google Doc, and I’m a little mad I’ve put it off for so long. It’s easily the most terrifying and encouraging book I’ve read in a long, long time.

Nick and Sheryl have traveled all over the globe and written about the oppression and opportunity of women. It’s nuts to think about ladies just like me in third world countries not some of the simplest freedoms. The best part of the book is all of the success stories woven in to the chapters on death, poverty and lack of education. It gives me hope that people, like me, can make a change.

Seriously, everyone should read it. My description may have made it sound heavy, but it’s quite beautifully written.  It will also make us rethink things like organic pet food and trading in our iPads for iPad 2’s.

On a much, much lighter note. My dad sent me the funniest text the other day.

Me: (telling him something I had been working on went well)

Dad: We had Gwen Stefani.

Me: Huhhhh?

Dad: No Doubt.

Isn’t he a chuckle? I was impressed.

The_20_20_Experience_(Deluxe_Version)And finally, you should treat yo self to a copy of The 20/20 Experience. The album is so life-changing that I’m almost to distracted to participate in real life.

So the three take aways of this post are:

  1. Half the Sky
  2. No Doubt
  3. Justin Timberlake

Happy Easter:)


Whitney Family Book Swap

25 Mar

Last November I birthed a new and wonderful idea. I immediately talked to Julie and Will and they got on board. The first annual Whitney Family Book Swap was born.

For starters, all of us like to read. Some get more done than others, but some (me) have more time than others (Julie and Will). For Christmas we each purchased our favorite book we read in 2012. On Christmas Eve we unwrapped someone else’s book and made the solemn vow to read all of them before Christmas 2013.

What better time to try some new reading material than Christmas break? So here’s what we unwrapped.

book swap

Yes, Julie has brown hair now, and yes, Will is wearing a tuxedo tshirt.

I tackled Redeeming Love while on vacation in Argentina, and I just finished  West of Dodge towards the end of February. I thought this would be a cool way to try new books and something new for us to talk about rather than how crazy our parents are and who is going to change Dad’s diaper when he’s 106. Kidding.

Now, I realize that this blog post was still on my “To Blog List.” Sorry it’s way late. When I run, I blog in my head and sometimes I can’t keep track of things I post here and posts that still live in my noggin.

In October I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and LOVED it! That was my contribution to the swap. Julie really liked it and my mom sorta liked it. Will, feel free to read it over spring break!

Gone Girl is a thriller about a missing woman, narrated by her old diary entires and her husband, the prime suspect. Surprisingly, I hated all the characters by the end, but I still enjoyed the book. Both of the characters had strong voices, but Gillian did a marvelous job weaving them together. There is an element of suspense to the whole read, urging you to finish one more chapter before you go to bed. I judge a book by its negative impact on my sleep. This one was incredible.

Although “Girl” is in the title, I don’t think it’s a super-feminine book. hopefully Will doesn’t either. I picked it to gift because I thought both Julie and Will would get into it. They are both students and I knew it was a page-turner. Also, who doesn’t love a mystery?

Julie’s contribution, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, was a Christian Romance novel. I haven’t read a romance novel in years, so it was defiantly different territory than my current reading list.

Loosely based on the book of Hosea, it follows a prostitute during the gold rush in California. She is saved/kidnapped by a farmer who rescues her from her terrible life and at the same time sort of holds her hostage. The man, who is written to be dreamy (strong yet sensitive) came off a little in your face to me. It was great that he took her out of the brothel, but I’m not sure his approach was the most considerate.

The Book of Hosea is virtually unknown to me, so I enjoyed learning about it and doing some more research. Redeeming Love also opened my eyes to the cycle of prostitution and how hard it was/is for a woman to stop and create a life of her own. Those women have virtually no other life skills and very few people still willing to help them.

Will’s pick, West of Dodge by Louis L’Amour, was a book of short stories by one of the Whitneys’ favorite writers. My dad is a big Louis fan, and we’ve all read a bunch from the shelf in the basement. I was glad to read some short stories instead of a long narrative to switch up my pace. I should do that more often!

The stories were mostly about cowboys and took place in western towns. By the end of the book, they all felt a little repetitive. Good guy defeats bad guy, usually gets a girl. Louis does a wonderful job setting a scene and building suspense. He’s a gifted writer, and I wish I could do those things half as well. A quick, but fun read.

So that’s what I thought of the three books for 2012. Maybe if we start a chant Julie and Will might do guest posts?!?! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!

What was your favorite book of 2012? What book do you wish you could guilt your siblings into reading?

fish fry friday

19 Mar

On Friday I went back to the motherland (St. Louis) to visit my parents, meet up with some friends and dance in the St. Patty’s parade. Friday night for Catholics means one thing: fish fry.

My dad runs the kitchen at our parish’s fish fry, which is hosted by the Men’s Club. He cooks thursday night and all afternoon on Friday preparing to serve the hundreds. When I showed up on Friday afternoon, he sent me home for a baseball hat (hairnets just aren’t my jam). The rest of the night I womanned the to go line.

By the end of the fry, I was ready to sit down (and watch the Tigers lose). I smelled like fish and there was green been juice on my jeans. What a great night.

I forgot how cool it feels to work alongside your mom scooping coleslaw and potato salad. I was reminded of what it felt like to be teased by your dad in front of family friends. And dishing it right back to him.

It was a homecoming to be back in the building I spent 7 hours a day in for nine years. Even though they’ve got a pretty spiffy paint job, it hasn’t changed a bit. I stacked cafeteria chairs and pulled trash, just like old times.

It was fun to spend time in my parent’s world, that used to be my world. They both work the fish fry every Lenten Friday. The friers, the cooks, the scoopers and the ticket takers are all their friends. Dad introduced me to his buddies and I met some of the people who live in our neighborhood.

Working with my parents and other members of the parish reminded me of how much I love being part of that community and made me sad that I can’t spend more time doing stuff like that with them.

Julie, Will and I have been lucky to have grown up with two service-oriented parents who set an example by giving their time and treasure. Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching us to be like you.

I think my family jeweler is a pawn shop

19 Feb

Everyone, I came to a harsh realization.

So for work, I sit on this planning committee for an event. A lot of the other people on this committee are well-off members of this small town’s “society.” We were collecting items to raise money and one lady said she would talk to her jeweler about donating a piece. Another lady said she’d approach her jeweler too.

So, I’m thinking, “Ok, no big deal. I’m 23. I don’t own any fine jewels, so it makes sense that I do not have a jeweler. Someday, I might have a jeweler of my own.”

Naturally, I put off finding a jeweler and starting my collection of precious jewels for a few months. Then I have a conversation with a friend who will remain nameless.

My friend was talking about proposing to his girlfriend. He told me about what she wanted and talking to her family jeweler. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m PUMPED for this friend, the ring and their engagement.

But, hold up. People have family jewelers?

My family does not regularly patronize any shop.  Actually, my mom has some nice jewelry (way to go dad!), but I could not tell you where it came from if you paid me.

from:,%20we%20buy%20guns.jpgThis summer when Julie’s finger swelled up like a sausage and she had to have her class ring cut off (long, long story), my mom took it to a pawn shop. The same pawn shop where she had my Tinkerbell watch fixed. Perhaps the same pawn shop she sold some silver that we never use. And, this  pawn shop is on the Eastside. That’s right, Illinois.

That’s when it dawned on me. Maybe my family jeweler is a pawn shop?!?

Maybe we’re the kind of people who buy things that used to belong to other people (we are). I don’t know if any of us own jewelry that was purchased there, I think it’s mainly fixes. I think…

Quick, Macklemore, write a song about pawnshops and make this cool!

What does this say about me? What does this say about my family? Should Will and Dad work on growing out beards so we can have our own hoosier reality show?

A very Dollhouse Christmas

24 Dec

It’s full-swing family time, but I want to share some Christmas card love since I do not have all of your addresses. Here’s the card from my roommates, the dolls.

I love holiday mail and my family takes it to the extreme! They’ve been pouring in all month. Each year I try to send as many out as I can. I know I can never top my mom’s prowess.

Each year, instead of a letter, my mom crafts an intricate poem about our family happenings. She writes one stanza for each kid and one for her and my dad to share.

stamps on lettersIt’s the talk of the town when it hits mailboxes. My mom always glows when she gets a phone call from a long-lost college friend or fourth cousin who is on the other end of the line raving about her masterpiece.

Here’s a little secret though… since my freshman year of high school (9 years ago) I’ve taken a stab at the family poem. I always give my draft to mom around Thanksgiving. She always gets soooo excited about it and tells me how helpful that is. Then a few weeks later she’ll email me the poem to proofread her “final touches” and I open it up to find… she totally rewrote it.

This year, she emailed me the poem. I cringed as I open it, because I know my poem was probably ripped to shreds. But, no. She used most of my work. Like, at least 75%, which is HUGE for me. After I made a few tiny edits, I sent it back to her. She called me the next day and our conversation went something like this…

Shannon: “It was great, as always!”

Mom: “Thanks, thanks for all your help.”

Shannon: “I was surprised, you actually used a lot of my poem this year. You never do that.”

Mom: “Well after all these years, you’re really improving. It takes a while to get the hang of it.”

Shannon: “Gee thanks, mom.”

Mom: “You should read my first few poems, they were rough.”

So here it is, for your holiday enjoyment (poem copyright of Lynne Whitney).


Merry Christmas family and friends, hope we all survive this fiscal cliff,
No more talk of wasteful spending, it just sends me into a tiff.
Our card 2 big events; Will so handsome upon his graduation,
And all 3 sibs in cousin Jen’s wedding—such a joyous celebration!
2012 so very memorable but the last few months a drastic change,
Years of constant nurturing gone by, leaving me feeling so strange.

This fall our home is way too quiet, no young birds in the roost,
A touch sad to be empty nesters, but our social lives did get a boost.
120 mile drive to Columbia, many Mizzou games we did witness.
I love weekly zumba and yoga classes, in addition to walking for my fitness.
Mark loves reading and hunting, shot a buck and butchered it with care,
Please come over for Scrabble sometime, we’re quite a competitive pair!

Will earned the President’s Leadership Award and graduated from SLUH in May,
So bittersweet to put years of student council, Kairos retreats and wrestling at bay!
He spent spring break on a mission trip laboring in a poor Appalachian community,
And performed a “senior follies” ballet in a tutu—one hilarious opportunity!
Our baby moved to Mizzou in August to continue the Whitney tradition,
Loves college life (girls and soft serve machine); mechanical engineering his ambition.

Julie spent last summer interning for Cerner(a medical IT company) in the Kansas City ‘hood,
Liked her so much, upon graduation, they offered her a job- that is GOOD!
In March journeyed to Ireland for an engineering spring break trip,
Julie also finds time to babysit most weeks, a little boy on each hip.
President of the Mizzou chapter of computer and electrical engineers is she,
For relaxation you can find her in the kitchen on a dessert baking spree.

Shannon’s in her second year at the hospital, puts her writing skills on show,
Her job includes social media, videos and event planning, her talents continue to grow.
Evenings teaches pilates and volunteers at a women’s shelter, busy no doubt,
Attended lots of weddings recently, wouldn’t miss a chance to twist and shout!
This summer started grad school, switched gears to a public health degree,
She’s back to reading school books, little time to be carefree.

May 2013 be lucky, filled with kindness and understanding,
We wish for you good health, peace and happiness, a year less demanding.
We’d really enjoy a visit, please call when you are free.
Biking? Board games? Dinner? We welcome your company!
Lynne, Mark, Shannon, Julie and Will

Have a merry Christmas, or whatever you celebrate, tomorrow! Thank you to all of the people who have to work on Christmas and don’t get to spend the holiday with their families. 

Holiday Happiness

20 Dec


Be happy. It’s like totally easy, right? My friend Erin at Art Social hosts a Be Happy link up every Thursday. So I write about happy and link up to her and so do other peeps out there trying to figure out what the heck happy is and where to find it.

Erin’ s finding happiness in full-time blogging, how lucky and brave! Aren’t we all looking for happiness and intention in our jobs and personal lives? I think there is a special brand of happiness this time of year, but sometimes it’s less simple to keep that in mind.

I wanted to do this right before we launch into full Christmas mode (Holiday mode if Christmas ain’t your thing. Christmas is my thing). Maybe Christmas is an obvious time to be happy, but sometimes it’s extra hard.

There are so many plans and friends to squeeze into a short time. The logistics are overwhelming, but you know what? We’re all together, so who cares where we are or if the drink specials are awesome.

I don’t know about you, but my family gets wrapped up int the holiday hustle. We are going 100 mph to get everything wrapped and loaded in the ole minivan. Cookies need to be baked, salads tossed and cards sent. There are a million things on the list.

We get worked up getting it done. This year, I want to focus more on the happy part of Christmas. More smiling, less worrying.  Singing instead of nagging. A relaxed approach to the overwhelming.

Since we’re all out of the house, this is one of the few times just the five of us can be together, like the olden days (1994-2007).


So lets sit around in jammies singing to Garth Brooks Beyond the Season. We’re going to be late to mass, so don’t freak out. Enjoy the company, read an extra book and remember the two things Christmas is all about: Baby Jesus and fudge.

I’m only happy when I decide to be happy. It’s decided. Cheers.