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Shannon Hawley is a singer-songwriter and poet based in Shelburne, Vermont. She just released her first full-length studio album, “A Different Kind of Progress,” a five-year project she finished on the exact day her second daughter was born. Shannon is hosting an album release party on Saturday, June 20 at Study Hall in Burlington, Vermont.


I recently sat down with her (more like followed her around) at our home in the middle of the day, which is pretty much the only free time we could find. Did I mention we have a two-year-old and a newborn?

Connect with Shannon on Facebook

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What are some of your earliest musical memories and creative influences?

My father had severe dyslexia, so he didn’t read bedtime stories. But he was a really charismatic storyteller so he would basically animate adventure tales for my four younger sisters and me. Some of the stories I remember were about a Pegasus taking him for rides out of his bedroom window at night, and about mermaids saving him from circling sharks in the ocean. He was a surfer, and I grew up by the ocean, so there were lots of ocean-related tales.

My Mom was and is always singing. She can make a song out of anything. It’s amazing to watch kids watch her make up songs. She also has all of these sayings and quotes on wooden signs all over her house, which always reminded me of the power of words. It still does actually. 

Do you think artists get their creative instincts from their parents, or in reaction to their parents?

I think it’s both. In social work school, a professor said something I’ve always remembered. He said that “we dance on the perimeters of our parents’ nightmares.” I like to think I am evolving what my parents started creatively, and I also think their life circumstances made me realize how important it is to use my voice.

My Dad actually lost his voice as a symptom of a malignant brain tumor, and it was heartbreaking that he couldn’t tell us his stories anymore. He died when I was 11 years old. About 8 years ago, my Mom almost lost her voice when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 throat cancer. She has been cancer-free for about five years now and still singing lots of songs to her grandchildren.

Even though I have struggled with terrible stage fright and at times am conflicted about pursuing artistic endeavors, I cannot ignore the lessons of my parents to find and use my own unique voice. In many ways, it’s an amazing gift that they’ve given me.

You finished your album the day your second child was born. First, that’s crazy.  Second, how do those two very different creative acts compare in your experience?

It is wonderful – the album and my little girl are like twins (without all the diapers for my album, of course). The gestation period of this album took a lot longer than nine months. It took almost five years, and really longer when you think about what is really in a song and how long it takes to find its shape.

For me, songs are such a mash-up of my whole childhood and my whole life. The creation of a song can come from such seemingly random moments or thoughts or ideas. Then, the editing process is sort of a distillation. You kind of chisel away at what the song is really about. For me at least, the songs take a long time to write.

How do you stay creative as a parent?

How do you not? Parents have to be creative. You are in the creative trenches as a parent every day, every hour, every moment. It’s in the everyday multitasking – how to get a toddler to eat a healthy lunch, how to leave the playground without a meltdown, how to get them to go to bed on time – those are incredibly creative moments. 

But that’s one kind of creativity. To keep that part of myself where I am able to express creativity in different ways, like through songs, can be a challenge. 

I no longer have the luxury of waiting for the perfect time or perfect amount of time to do something, because there’s never a lot of time. While I’m talking to you, I’m breastfeeding and just finished changing a diaper. I’ve booked some of my gigs with a sleeping kid on my chest.

Having so little time reminds me to be open to trying new things. I recently took a memoir class at the Writers’ Barn in Shelburne, Vermont, and I did a Touch Drawing with Jennie Kristl of JourneyWorks. All of those things are important – writing in my journal even – because they all help me keep my creative personal life alive.

Rhetorical question – why don’t you write children’s songs? I mean, why don’t you try to integrate your parenthood with your creativity more?

Well, I hope some of these songs are family friendly! I can only write and pursue the questions that are truly in my heart. I love children’s songs that have integrity and that honor how bright and beautiful children are – like Mr. Chris does – Chris Dorman.

They are not easier to write in any way, and maybe I will write songs that will resonate with children more in the future, but as for what I have already written, I was just trying to be honest. As Rilke says, I was trying to “live the questions,” and to explore what I was drawn to.

One of the questions I was thinking about was about how much you can create your own world. The title track, “a different kind of progress’ is about falling in love, how scary it is to show your true self to someone else, but also how important it is to be vulnerable and how much it can heal a person. To me, that seems like a kind of progress that doesn’t get talked about since it happens in our private lives. But in many ways, it is the most important progress or “work” a person can do. I think parenthood and raising a family is another “different kind of progress.”

How is this album different from your previous work?

I used to write more traditional folk songs – stories about peoples’ lives. But when these songs started taking shape, it was right after taking care of my Mom during her treatment for throat cancer, and I didn’t want to write about cancer. I didn’t want to write about any other complicated human problem either. That’s why I started to write about the natural world – how it’s so beautiful in its order – especially after the messiness and disorder and insecurity of cancer.

To very loosely paraphrase something Anais Nin said, I was trying “to be free by transcending reality with imagination.” Really, I was delving deep into my own hopes and fears about what it means to create, to love, to be alive in this crazy world.

In many ways, you’re just beginning your music career. Why now? What is it about being a parent that seems to have enabled you in some ways?

The best part about being a parent is that I can’t get completely caught up in my own anxiety at all. There’s no time to. My fears of failing or people not liking my music – there’s just no time for that.

I’ve found it easier to collaborate recently too, even on the album art with [Vermont artist] Hllary Ann Love Glass, and with [multi-instrumentalist] Matt LaRocca. Those kinds of collaborations haven’t always come to me very easily for some reason.

Being a mom makes me want to pursue music and creativity even more. It makes me feel good and alive. It also makes me want that for my daughters – for them to follow what they’re passionate about. Following my creative bent is even more important than ever in that way. I’m learning how important it is to practice what I preach.

Do you see your kids being creative at all yet?

I see it all the time in my two-and-a-half year old, Maya. It’s a natural thing for kids to make up songs, about what they’re learning about and what they hear. She definitely does that. But being a songwriter makes it so fun to see her singing. It’s a good reminder to play and sing with her and not take myself so seriously.

And just hearing little Rumi, my newborn, doing her cooing call and response, you just remember how much we can communicate with our voices – not even with words, but just our voices. It’s amazing.

What’s your musical mission, and who are your influences?

It’s to continue to find and use my own unique voice, and to help others do the same. It’s really to open people’s hearts and inspire them to find their own unique voice.

My biggest influences are people who have really taken the time to know and accept themselves, and to be brave by doing the thing that makes them feel alive.

In terms of musical influences, I was listening to lots of Tom Waits when writing my album. He’s such a great songwriter, but he also uses sound as a tool to convey a story or a mood. Also, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday – all those beautiful old jazz singers.

And the whole album is also inspired by poets – Rumi, Rilke, Tagore, Mary Oliver. They’re completely wise. They’re not saying anything flippant. They have real reverence.

It’s not just poets and songwriters – I love strong women like Cheryl Strayed and Miranda July – people who are brave and doing their own brand of creative work inspire me a lot, people who are willing to confront their fears and then be vulnerable enough to share what they’ve learned. 

I think everyone gravitates towards their hopes and their fears, but if you really try to pay attention and figure out the differences between them, something beautiful can come out of it.

Sounds a lot like parenthood. Thanks for your time! Where can people find out more about you and your music?

My pleasure. Check out www.shannonhawley.com to hear my music and to find out where and when to check out a live performance.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

Going through infertility let me know that there are some things in life that I just can't control. For someone who already has a hard time relinquishing control in life (call me a bit of a control nut!), entering the world of IVF was not only hard physically and mentally, but it also was incredibly difficult because it showed me things about myself that were at odds with this journey.

I realized how much I had needed to be in control of my life, how much I took for granted that my life path most often "always worked out" the way I imagined it would and I also realized how impatient I was.

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IVF treatment strips away a lot of yourself. You are forced to give up control and forced to wait….a lot. In our case, both my husband and I had potential issues and the two of us pulled away from the rest of our friends whose sperm romantically found their partner's ripe egg and impregnated them the old fashioned way.

While we were undergoing a lot of things physically and emotionally in a dark, isolating world of blood labs, doctor's offices and at many times, what seemed like barbaric tests. Something made me very "hush-hush" about it and I'm usually a wide-open book about everything. I guess you could say I was ashamed, I felt like it was a weakness or a flaw.

I only opened up about our struggle with fertility when I, finally, had a successful pregnancy and realized that once you go into the world of IVF there's no turning back. I was now an "IVF person." I became really passionate about the world of infertility especially once I started talking to others who went through it. This was one of the things that I felt now defined me, I had an "infertility journey," I was a #ttcsister, and because of IVF, I became a mom.

I embraced it and became proud of it. I launched my business by sharing my infertility story and it was so much a part of who I was. It motivated me to start to form an in-person community of women, pregnant, trying to conceive, or already moms based on my struggles with motherhood... before they even started! All while pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter.

Then a year and a half later I accidentally got pregnant.

The truth is, I never went back on birth control after having our baby because I didn't want to go through getting off of it again. Some people might not be able to relate to thinking you can't get pregnant on your own. They can't imagine the idea that you and your husband's test results indicate that the likelihood of pregnancy without IVF is basically zero.

But somehow, one of my husband's sperm in the millions of sperms that were morphologically corrupt found its way to my egg at the perfect time. The interesting part is that one of the most prominent thoughts I had when this happened was that I now felt like an imposter. How could I just get knocked up?!

I was helping and advocating for infertility and it was actually approaching National Infertility Awareness Week. I spent several weeks hiding just like I did during my last pregnancy.

Then, one day at work, I felt so sick from morning sickness and I couldn't tell anyone why. I went into the bathroom and just cried. Not just because of how debilitating the sickness was, but because of how alone I felt. Here I was trying to bring moms together yet I was isolating myself.

I was experiencing every IVF veteran's dream and I wasn't happy. I was feeling badly, torn, upset and just irrationally guilty and I needed support. I picked myself up, walked out of that bathroom and told every one of my colleagues at work "I'm pregnant, by mistake, and I need help."

The truth is, I've realized that just because I dodged IVF and some of those hardships this time around and truly feel like I was given the biggest stroke of luck, it doesn't change what I went through to get my first daughter. It also doesn't change my passion for advocacy in infertility and fighting with all my might for motherhood.

Life

Can you believe it's already time to start decorating for the holidays? And this year, Target is making it easier than ever to create inviting holiday spaces that are still neat, organized and clutter-free. Whether your style is whimsical, traditional or rustic, there are plenty of neutral creams, frosty whites and touches of evergreen that will take you through the holidays and well into the new year with style.

This holiday also marks the 3-year anniversary of the launch of Joanna Gaines' Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. The collection features nearly 300 new pieces from gifting and décor to entertaining. Oh, and this season they have faux Christmas trees!

Ready to create your own modern winter wonderland at home? Grab our favorite minimalist piece:

Joy wire Christmas wreath

Joy wire Christmas wreath

The word "Joy" isn't a holiday classic for nothing—it's sure to bring lots of smiles and laughs to any home. And when it's atop the garland in this festive wreath, it's an instant pick-me-up. Plus, for an extra twist: This comes pre-strung with white LED bulbs for a little light to brighten dark spaces.

$45

Mini cable-knit stocking

Mini cable-knit stocking

This stocking brings simplistic holiday cheer to just about any living space. This mini size is perfect for little ones or if you just want stockings that don't take up too much space.

$4

Faux white pine garland

Faux white pine garland

Bring the outdoors indoors with a garland that can be framed around your door. Or add holiday spirit to your table runner with a garland centerpiece. We love how realistic this one looks for such an affordable price.

$24.99

Whitewash advent calendar

Whitewash advent calendar

Let's be honest, advent calendars are nice, but some have gone a bit overboard in how complicated they are. But not this one. The cutout shape of a tree features rows of numbers, while a roaming wreath moves the countdown along. Simple, yet chic.

$20

Round tree skirt

Round tree skirt

No tree is complete without a beautiful tree skirt. This striped one is a must-have for a farmhouse-inspired atmosphere. Even better if you want a splash of rustic charm that matches your other holiday décor.

$39.99

Mini marquee star wall sign

Mini marquee star wall sign

Brighten up your living room with this attention-grabbing statement piece. Hang the star sign on your entryway wall to help welcome guests, or place it on your mantel, shelf or end table alongside other accents to add touches of holiday cheer in a minimalist way.

$8

Ceramic house decorative figurine

Ceramic house decorative figurine

This tiny house with windows, door and a chimney lends realistic, whimsical appeal, but the solid ceramic design allows it to be used from season to season. Place a small light inside to light up your mantle when standard candles won't suffice.

$8

Wood garland

Wood garland

Sometimes less is more! Upgrade your staircase or tree with this simplistic wooded garland. Pair with fresh cedar and grapevine twigs to create a striking focal point on your home.

$12.99

Joy wall decor

Joy wall decor

Create holiday cheer in a small way by adding holiday wall art that sparks a bit of joy.

For a refined look, the decor offers a hardwood frame and the sawtooth back allows for easy display on tiny spaces that need a touch of holiday spirit.

$9.99

Stocking holder

Stocking holder

Minimalists will rejoice for this multi-tasking stocking holder—acting as both festive signage and a holder for multiple stockings. It's simple, charming and will look great on your mantle for years to come.

$29.99
Holiday Shopping Guides

Madison Vining, mama of six, recently posted an honest message that went viral on Instagram. In it she described how we can't really have the full picture of someone's life just by what they post on social media. It's little fragments of their life, which probably leave out the really good moments when people decide to put the phone down to be present, and also the really bad moments they don't want documented.

The post, which has almost 12,000 likes and hundreds of comments, received a lot of praise from other parents thanking her for hitting the nail on the head.

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The post reads:

"Instagram stories. Let's talk.

If someone uses the maximum amount of stories allowed in a day (all the teeny tiny dots) guess what? All together, it totals less than an hour of their 24-hour day. Does that surprise you? It's true. It's a peek of 1/24th of their day. Furthermore, it's probably the calmest parts. After all, when was the last time you got into a fight with your husband and thought "Hang on, let me insta-story this!" or had your hands full of screaming babies and thought "Hang on... let me try and hold a phone, too!"

I really want to challenge you.

Before you look at her life and become jealous: you likely did not see her raise her voice as she struggled through schoolwork with her kids, or her picking up trash after the dog ripped it up and dragged it all over the driveway, or her doctor give her a terrifying diagnosis, or her son's preschool teacher call and say he's been a problem... Again. Or her crying because she hates her body and hasn't felt like herself in so long. Or her going to bed each day feeling guilty and like she didn't do enough for everyone. Or her husband being out of work. Or her dad who walked out on her as a kid and it still hurts. Or her burning dinner and yelling a swear word in front of her kids.

Yeah, you don't see all the bad.

But you know what? Before you look at her life and become critical, know that you didn't see her singing worship music and taking extra time as she changed her baby's diaper. You didn't see her driving all the way to recycle center when the trash would have been easier. You didn't see her close her laptop, close her eyes, and stop to pray for someone she doesn't know. You didn't see her tell her daughter, "Just keep killing them with kindness, baby" as she sobbed in her arms about a bully. You didn't see her give up "me time" to prioritize date night with her husband. You didn't see her take her oldest to lunch. You didn't see her anonymous donation.

You don't see a lot of the beautiful things that happen in her life and in her heart, because they're sacred and the first thought that pops into her mind isn't, "I should grab my phone right now."

You don't see it all. Be kind to one another."

Thank you for saying what many think, mama.

Life

Do you feel it?

That little spark ✨ in the air that only comes around this time of year is starting to buzz and pop around us. There's nothing quite like the joy and excitement that comes with counting down to the holidays—especially with your kids who think last Christmas was forever ago.

And what better way to count down to Christmas than with an Advent calendar? We've rounded up our favorites that you can use year after year, mama.

House advent calendar

It's perfectly neutral to go with any type of holiday decor, but is made to bring a spark of magic and fun as your kids rush each morning to find out what's inside the tiny drawers.

$55.30

Advent calendar wreath

This has to be the most unique advent calendar we've ever seen. We love everything about it: The simple metal hoop, the greenery and the 24 kraft boxes that can be filled with goodies for both adults and kids. It's so pretty, we might even leave it up past Christmas!

$35

Countdown to Christmas advent calendar

We love that you can fill this one with your own treats that can change as your kids grow. And it doesn't have to be sweets. It can be filled with stickers, little toys, handmade goodies and more.

$38

Modern farmhouse Christmas countdown

No treats required for this simple, beautiful sign.

$34.95

Metal advent calendar

This sleek metal sign comes with 25 small muslin bags and 30 cards you can tuck into each one. The cards have an activity or kind gesture you and your kids can do to celebrate the season.

$40

Ernie and Irene llama advent calendar

Add a touch of whimsy and coziness with this sweet calendar featuring a knit llama.

$128

DIY advent calendar kit

For the crafty mamas in the group, this sweet kit has everything you and your family need to create your advent calendar together. Once you've assembled all the houses, you can fill it with whatever treats your family will love.

$36

Customizable advent calendar

This sweet and modern fabric calendar can be customized with your family name or cherished holiday phrase. It also comes with a set of 24 activity cards you can pop into each pocket.

$107

Clever Creations traditional wooden Christmas advent calendar

Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Christmas Advent Calendar

This beautiful calendar is a showpiece. It lights up to create a cozy and festive scene.

$43

Light-up stacking house glitter advent calendar

Enjoy a tower of pre-lit cottages that will light up your home each day leading up to Christmas.

$149

My Kindness advent calendar

My Kindness Advent Calendar

The holidays are all about giving—and that doesn't stop with just material items. We can give in the form of kindness every single day, and this calendar helps us do just that.

$75

Blue and gray Christmas socks advent calendar garland

We love the twist on a traditional calendar with this sweet garland of 24 stockings.

$29.69

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