Dec 18, 2010

Right before my eyes

In my nearly 38 years on this Earth, there have only been two times when my life flashed before my eyes.

When I was 16 years old, my mother and I were involved in a horrible car crash. After coming to, I found myself gasping for air, my lungs working overtime trying to get a full breath. I frantically struggled with my seat belt trying to free myself. That's when it happened. These images of my life, more like snippets, flashed in my mind. It wasn't like I saw pictures of Christmases past or my first day of kindergarten. They were flashes of what could have been - I'd never had a boyfriend, never been asked to a school dance, never gone to college. In a few short seconds I thought So this is it. This is how it's going to end. On a beautiful, sunny September morning. Sitting next to my mother. A patch of blood seeping through the leg of my brand new jeans. My red backpack, stuffed to the gills, sitting at my feet.

Turns out that seat belts like to lock when you're in a crash. The gasping I was doing was because the wind was knocked out of me as the seat belt locked and I was thrown forward. After a minute or so my breathing returned to normal and my thoughts went from Oh my God, I'm dying to I'm going to be late for my French test. Oh how the mind works at a time like that.

The second time my life flashed before my eyes? Last night. During what should have been a fun night at the mall doing some Christmas shopping, Griffin managed to take off and get lost. We were only going to be there for a little while, just long enough for me to buy something for my Grandma at JC Penney and then off to see Santa. We forgot the stroller and when we saw that it cost $5 to rent one at the mall, Patrick decided we'd take turns holding Griffin since we wouldn't be there very long.

As I paid for my Grandma's gift, Patrick came around the corner and said, "Griffin's gone." The funny thing was that I didn't panic. Griffin's a fast little bugger and as soon as we stepped inside the mall, he took off running through the shoe department. I assumed he was just hiding nearby, but the look on Patrick's face told a much different story.

Patrick went in one direction and I went in the other. We shouted for him. We ran. We looked underneath tables and in between aisles. No Griffin, but I still wasn't panicked. It wasn't until I heard a voice on the intercom call for a "Code Adam" that my breath caught in my throat. I looked down and in my hands I was clutching Griffin's winter coat, his little fleece hat still nestled in his sleeve. I ran faster.

We got paged to one of the registers where I was immediately put on the phone with security. They asked me to describe Griffin. I wanted to tell them that he was the sweetest little boy who loved fire trucks and frosted cookies, but that's not what they were looking for. The call went out over the intercom and my sweet little boy was reduced to a few measly descriptions: Griffin Moore. Two-and-a-half years old. Short blond hair. Khaki pants. Red shirt. I dropped the phone and ran.

It was then when  it hit me. For the past couple of minutes I just assumed he was hiding or that he'd run right past me. I envisioned seeing him and scooping him up in my arms. People are good, right? We had complete strangers running through the mall helping us look for him. Someone would see him and come find us. But that's not always the case. That's when I let my mind wander off a bit. That's when those could have beens flashed in my mind. He never got to sit on Santa's lap. He never had his first day of school. He never got to play with the red fire truck that we got him for Christmas. And me? What if I never saw him again?

Just as I was headed up the escalator, I saw Patrick out of the corner of my eye. He was holding a smiling Griffin. As I approached them, Griffin held out his arms, smiled at me, and said, "Mommy up!" And just like that it was over.

No tears were shed until I sat down to write this. In fact, once Griffin was safe and asleep in his race car bed, Patrick and I sat on the couch watching TV. Without even turning to me, he said, "I can't believe we lost our child at the mall." My first instinct was to laugh - just my habit of using humor and sarcasm to cover up some of the panic. We joked about it for a second because, let's face it, Griffin was sound asleep upstairs and all was right with the world. But then Patrick said it again a few minutes later and then again. And again. It sank in and I eventually crept upstairs and looked in on Griffin as he slept.

Just like that, he disappeared, and just like that, we found him. We were lucky. We know that. I will hug Griffin just a little bit tighter when he wakes up this morning...and every day from now on.

Dec 3, 2010

The best laid plans of moms and sons...

I'm going to get this out of the way early - I sent Griffin to day care this morning without any breakfast. Please don't tell me what an awful mother I am because I've already told myself that at least 100 times today...and it's only 2 PM.

Here's the deal. Griffin usually gets breakfast at day care. It's a really good breakfast, too. Believe me, my stomach starts growling as soon as I walk in the front door of our provider's house. Breakfast casseroles. Eggs. Biscuits and gravy. Pancakes with real blueberries. The kid's got it good. The only problem is that we need to be there by 7:15 AM so she can serve breakfast and get some of the older kids off to school. I have no problem with that, but someone does (think short, cute, and blond curly hair).

Griffin is not a morning person. He's also not someone who likes to be rushed, which is exactly what I have to do Monday through Friday in order to get him to day care in time for breakfast. He's still sleepy and rubs his eyes and swats at anyone who comes near him with clothing. I swear he can spot a pair of jeans from across the room. It's a struggle to get him dressed, and once he's dressed, it's a struggle to get out the door.

Today I decided that I would feed him breakfast myself and get him to day care by 7:45 AM. Sounded like a good plan. It was a good plan, but we all know about the best laid plans. Griffin and I had a battle royale. When I finally got him in the car (I practically had to sit on top of him to buckle him in), I tried to get him to eat something on our drive to day care. He had a sippy cup of milk, a banana, a small bag of Goldfish crackers, and a few broken pieces of a raspberry Poptart (the breakfast of champions, I know, but it was food). He had a few crackers, but that was it. He was really tired and when that happens, he doesn't want anything.

We got to our provider's house and she was already loading kids in the van. I handed him over and she got him in his seat. I got back to my car, pulled away, and felt a heaviness in my chest I haven't felt since the day I went back to work after my maternity leave. Guilt. How could I have sent my son without any breakfast? I know what you're all thinking. But Tracy, you tried. You had Poptarts and Goldfish. You did the best you could. But that's the funny thing about guilt. It never feels like you did good enough. There's always something more you could have done. I'm not sure what that "something" is, but I feel it.

Of course he can survive without breakfast, but the real question is how am I going to survive if I keep feeling this kind of guilt?

Addendum: This post makes Griffin sound like a whiny brat. He's not. He just inherited my stubborn streak and Patrick's short fuse (lethal combo). Lord help us all if he inherits my passive-aggressiveness and ability to hold a grudge for an abnormal amount of time.

Nov 30, 2010

All over but the shoutin'

NaNoWriMo 2010 will come to an end this evening. I plan to be snuggled in my warm bed with my blanket pulled up to my ears. Another win under my NaNo belt.

I noticed a number of differences between this year and last year:

1. I love this story so much more than last year's story. I should really say that I was in love with last year's idea more than the end product, which is probably a direct result of my lack of novel writing experience. What I had in my head did not come through on paper. It was disappointing, but then again, it was my first novel. It was my starting point. Someday I would love to bring those characters back to life.

2. I had no idea where to start with this novel. Last year I had the opening sentence in my head ready to go when I opened my eyes on November 1st. This year, not so much. I sat at my laptop and stared at the blank screen for about ten minutes before I typed the first word.

3. I struggled more this year with pacing.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Not every single detail needs to be written into the story, which is what was happening last year. My main character works in a diner, but we don't need to know every tiny detail of her workday, or what happens on her way home from work (unless it pertains to the plot or subplot). Who cares that she couldn't find a decent radio station or that she ate a bag of M&Ms because she hadn't had time for lunch? I ran into that problem last year and I made an effort this time around. I think it paid off.

4. I'm learning! I could tell about one week in that I had learned quite a lot between last year and this year. Like last year, I wrote this story in third person. I toyed with the idea of first person, but I realized a few days before NaNo started that I wouldn't be able to tell the story I wanted by sticking with my main character's POV. I'm glad I made the switch because I was able to write from two different POVs and also had the chance to write from the perspective of a sympathetic antagonist. Who knew I could write so well as an ex-con? I was also more aware of switching POVs. It's tempting to switch in mid-scene, but I was careful not to head-hop.

5. I still have lots more to learn. This is only my second novel (and I never fully revised the first one). I'm a beginner, but I'm okay with that status. For now. I hope that with each one I will learn more and grow as a writer.

6. NaNo has its pros and cons. The biggest pro? Getting in the habit of writing every day. I'm a sucker for a serious deadline, so that's why this works for me. Without the deadline? I flounder. I hope to keep up a decent pace so I can finish by my birthday (mid-January). The other pro is that NaNo lets me squash my inner critic. She is a boisterous gal, but I've learned to keep her in check. As for the cons, NaNo does focus on quantity over quality. Now that doesn't mean that I typed away without thinking of plot or character motivation. There were days when I wanted to write, but knew that I needed to sit and think for an hour or so. Sometimes I stopped in mid-scene because as I wrote I thought, "My main character would never do that!" So yes, there is a somewhat haphazard approach to writing. I've learned that while I'm not a total plotter/planner, I also can't completely make things up on the spot. I need to do plenty of prep work and research (how I love my research!) and I need direction.

As happy as I am to be done with NaNo, there's a little part of me that will miss the frenzied pace of writing. I'll miss word count checks. And more than anything, I will miss having something to call my own - this little (or not-so-little) challenge. Just me against my evil inner critic...and I won!

Nov 15, 2010

New math

Math was never my strong subject. I don't need to say anything other than that. However, I found this great web site. This is the kind of math I can handle:

That's all for today. Patrick starts his new job today and is heading to Portland for a week of training and orientation. I'm past the halfway mark for NaNo and I hope I can stay on track while I'm the only parent at home.

Nov 8, 2010

The weight of my world

We're eight days into NaNoWriMo and I'm still a tad behind in my word count. I'm not too concerned - I caught up a lot during the weekend. In the meantime, I pasted what I've written so far into Wordle to see what my novel looks like. Obviously my characters' names are what I use most, but otherwise here's what it looks like:

I didn't realize I used the word "just" so often. My characters use it a lot when they're talking. Does that count? Is it better to use that word when a character says, "I just want you to understand me" versus the narrator saying "He was just too young to understand the difference."

Eh. I'm still only 11,500 words in. I'm sure this will look different when I'm done. OK, I hope it looks different when I'm done.

Oct 25, 2010

Not how I planned things

NaNo begins one week from today. I was really excited to jump into this crazy month of writing and meeting deadlines. Did you notice I said "was"? Deep down, I am still excited, but this past week has thrown me for a loop and NaNo has dropped down my list of priorities.

Griffin was sick last week and of course he passed it on to me. I bounced back pretty quickly, but I didn't do any NaNo prep work over the weekend like I had planned. Then he got sick again. It was just a runny nose and cough, but just a few days later we find ourselves waiting on lab results to determine whether or not he has Pertussis (aka Whooping Cough). It has been a rough week with trying to get myself healthy again and worrying about Griffin. He already has a history of asthma (plus two bouts of pneumonia in just six months), so I'm hypersensitive to his coughing/breathing, and these coughing attacks are scary. He can't catch his breath, his face turns red, he gags and sometimes vomits. I hear him wheezing and feel his back rattle. It scares me. I dread the evenings because he gets so much worse. I can't sleep. You'd think that would be the perfect time to sit with my note cards and my laptop and work on my new NaNo idea, but I can't seem to do that. I can't focus. I listen for his coughs. I check on him during the night to make sure he's still breathing.

I don't know what the rest of this week will bring. Right now Griffin can't go back to day care. It's going to be about five days before we get the lab results - that pretty much brings us to Monday (assuming that the lab doesn't work on weekends). Last year I found out that the first day of NaNo was the most important. Getting a good word count in on that first day was crucial. I'm not sure what's going to happen. Most importantly, I want Griffin to get better. As much as I want to be successful at NaNo this year, I just can't seem to make myself care about it right now.

Oct 21, 2010

I want to remember...

  • How, at two-years old, you have more energy that anyone I know.
  • The way your face lights up when you see Daddy or Duncan walk in the room.
  • Your non-stop curiosity about life.
  • How you open up the cereal cabinet and carry a box over to us while giggling.
  • Your smooth skin.
  • The mass of curls that adorn your head like a little crown.
  • You playing in the sandbox by yourself, indifferent to everything else around you.
  • Chasing you through the backyard.
  • The way you want to snuggle on my lap every morning when you first wake up and every night just before bed.
  • Listening to your sweet voice try out new words each day. I wish I could bottle your voice and save it for the days when it becomes as deep as Duncan's voice. I could open the bottle and listen to you say things like, "Wha' happen?," "Wha' sat noise?," and "The moon go night-night."
  • The fact that you still want me to hold you by saying, "Mommy up!"
  • Your budding sense of humor.
  • How sometimes, when you're really tired, you still fall asleep on me.
I know that the days and weeks slip by so fast, but I never thought the years would do the same. Sometimes I watch you and wish I could stop time for just a bit. I think about grabbing my camera, but I know that no matter how amazing the picture is, it will never live up to the actual moment I try to capture.

Don't grow up too fast, OK?

Oct 19, 2010

A breakthrough in the nick of time

Last week Patrick and I were talking about the upcoming NaNoWriMo. I've had this story idea in my head for a little while and thought I'd try it out on him and see what he thought. The first problem I ran into is that I hadn't really come up with a nice, concise description of the plot. Instead, I went in circles, trying to describe my main characters and what was going to happen. Yikes. He started asking me all kinds of questions I wasn't prepared to answer. I planned to delve deeper into my characters' lives and begin outlining the plot last week, but things were crazy with work and Duncan being sick. And honestly? Every time I sat down with my notecards in front of me, my mind wandered off in a different direction. It's not that I'm not interested in this story. That couldn't be further from the truth. I'm tired and stressed and I have this annoying little habit where I just want to get down to business and while I know I need to plan and prepare, I just hate it.

So here's the question that Patrick asked that stopped me in my tracks: Why should I care about her? What makes her unique? Gulp. I didn't know what to say, so I got angry and left the room. Once I calmed down, I really thought about it and started to take a look at my main character (as well as the other characters) and tried to get to know her better. I found an exercise in one of my writing books that has you conduct an interview with your characters. You know what? It helped. I also realized that I was making her too sympathetic. That's not a bad thing, but I didn't want her to fall victim to her upbringing, so while she's had a tough life, she is a fighter.

Through this whole process I also came up with an ending that I was not prepared to write. I didn't see it coming, but I think it works. It also will be a challenge to write, but I'm looking forward to it.

We're down to less than two weeks and I really need to get in gear. I feel much better about this than I did a week ago, and I definitely feel more prepared than I did last year.

If anyone is interested, there's still time to sign up {nudge, nudge}.

Oct 12, 2010

Well, hello there...

{Photo courtesy of Joy the Baker}

Where have you been my whole life?

{I know these don't fit into my new, healthy lifestyle...but I can still bake for the boys, right? And I'm sure they won't mind me staring and drooling while they indulge.}

Oct 8, 2010

Thirty days (and nights) of literary abandon

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for the start of NaNoWriMo 2010 (that's partly due to the fact that if I do try to explain, I will sound like the biggest writer nerd out there). I love it. All of it. The pressure. The word counts. The fellow participants who offer support and advice. The rainy weekends when I can curl up on the comfy chair and write until my eyes are tired and my fingers ache.

I've had an incredibly busy month or so at work, and while I have a great idea for a story, I really need to take the rest of this month to do some research and plotting. I have settled on a very tentative title: The Weight of My World. I'm not sure if that will change, but I felt like I needed something before I start writing in a few weeks. I like it, though. It fits.

I will do my best to cross the 50,000 word mark by the 30-day deadline, and I am shooting for completing the entire draft by the end of January.

Only 24 more days.

Oct 5, 2010

Life at a standstill

I'm tired of this blog. Actually, I'm tired of not having anything to say. Anyone who knows me personally probably got a big laugh out of that last sentence since I rarely stop talking...aside from when I'm sleeping, and even then, my brain is in overdrive. I have weird, vivid dreams and I remember all the details. Sometimes I wish I could slow down, or just empty out my brain and start fresh.

What I really meant to say was that I have nothing exciting to report. I avoid my blog because how many more times do I want to write that Patrick is unemployed? And how many more times do you want to read that? But the truth is that this is my life and it's what is on my mind. I never started this blog to entertain anyone else. I don't write here to have an audience. It was a place to document what was going on in my life. A place to vent.

So here it is. My rant. Unemployment ran out last Thursday. It was a shock as they had previously told Patrick he had one more round to go (another 12 weeks). Apparently the person who told him that was wrong. I wonder why she still has a job after making a huge error like that. Hmm...maybe Patrick could take her place. I'm over the shock. It's time for reality. And our reality is that we're pretty much screwed. We already have Griffin on state-funded health insurance (he's been on that since March and we are utterly grateful for that - there's no way we could have had his surgery or gotten his epi-pens or been able to pay for all of his doctor's appointments and medicine). I've tried looking into help with child care, but we don't qualify since Patrick is unemployed. Griffin desperately needs to stay in day care for two reasons: 1) He thrives there; those are his friends and his second family; he has learned so much from Christina and has had so many wonderful experiences there, and 2) Patrick needs to be able to go on job interviews and apply for other jobs. Taking a two-year old on a job interview is not going to make things better.

We just were accepted into a loan modification program which is supposed to help us keep our home. However, the day we signed the paperwork and found the money to pay for the first month, we found out about the loss of unemployment. The bottom line is we can't afford the mortgage - even with the lower interest rate. Right now I'm waiting for them to send me a request for income verification. I hope they're able to help us, but I'm doubtful.

I'm going on and on about this and I never intended to do that when I sat down to write. It's no one else's problem but ours. A few weeks ago I didn't think things could get any worse. And then they did. I truly hope this is rock bottom. Something has to give. Sooner or later Patrick has to get a job. Things have to get better...right?

Sep 20, 2010

Learning to let go

Laptop computer with yellow legal pad, pen and books Royalty Free Stock Photo

I have a major problem. Well, it isn't a major problem, but it's one that I'd much rather focus on instead of everything else that I've been dealing with lately.

Do I take the time and energy to edit and revise my finished novel - one that I'm not going to do anything with other than consider it practice, or do I forge ahead and continue with my research and basic plotting of my next novel? Here's the dilemma: I acknowledge and understand the importance of rewrites. No one writes a perfect first draft. I know this from my career as a grant writer. I used to pressure myself to write the perfect first draft, but inevitably, no matter how long I held onto that grant and tweaked and searched for just the right words, my boss would return it covered in red pen. I learned to write a draft and get it to her as soon as possible, because no matter what, I'd have to revise. I understand that it's also part of the learning curve when it comes to writing fiction. It's an important step and I need to learn how to do it. Right now, I have no clue how to tackle this thing. Parts of it are utter garbage, while other sections are beautifully descriptive. I know where the gaps are and I know that it's going to take a lot of work to make it something I would let someone read (even my sister or husband). I don't mind doing the work, but I'd really like to start Novel #2 to coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo 2010 - November 1st, and there's no way I can revise my first novel and get myself prepared for the second novel in a little over four weeks.

I don't want to abandon this novel because I'm proud, not necessarily of what is written on all those pages, but because I actually did it. I do believe that the idea I have for the second novel is much stronger. I think the characters are better developed and overall I think the plot is more interesting. Maybe I should just look at the first novel as practice. An experiment. An example of my persistence and drive. Maybe I should put it away and focus on the second novel. I toy with the idea of doing both - revising for the next couple of weeks and then researching/plotting the second half of October, but I don't think my brain can handle it. I feel rushed and that is coming through in the revision process. Sure I can edit all the grammar and move around a few sections, but I haven't really delved into the true revisions - making my characters stronger, adding or cutting subplots, ramping up the conflict, etc. That not only takes time, it takes thought. It takes focus and concentration, and I don't feel like I'm willing to give that right now. I think I'd rather take that energy and put it into a better idea.

I really feel like I'm skipping a step in the novel-writing process. Kind of like I'm collecting my $200 without crossing Go. I feel as though other writers will look at me and say, "You can't move on to a second novel when you really haven't finished the first." I also feel a little sad to be giving up on this novel. I like it, but I don't love it. With everything going on in our lives right now, I don't feel like I have the time and energy to spend on something I don't feel passionate about.  Maybe someday I'll go back to it, but I think that the more I write - the more experience I get and more I learn about the craft - I won't feel so bad about letting it go.

So here's to a new idea and the next novel.

Sep 17, 2010

Too tired and too stressed to think of a clever title

So I haven't blogged in a while. It's been over seven days, but who's counting? Here's the truth. I could come here every day, or even every other day, and write something. Anything. But I don't want to force myself to do that when I don't have anything to say, and I definitely don't want to make anyone come here every day and read whatever nonsense I write because I didn't really have anything to say. But isn't that exactly what I'm doing right now? Eh. Whatever.

Here are some very valid reasons (in my humble opinion) for my recent blogging hiatus:

I work for a non-profit child care agency that helps low- and moderate-income families with their child care. I write grants and do all the PR and craft an annual fundraising plan and coordinate special events. This year is our 40th anniversary and we are not only hosting a celebration, we were kind of pushed into launching an endowment campaign. Basically, we are trying to raise about $1 million. Needless to say I've been swamped. The event is in less than two weeks and I've encountered almost daily migraines. Blogging is being put on the back burner until life returns to normal.

We have a teenager and a toddler at home. Need I say more? Yes? OK, well did you know that in the state of Iowa, you only have to be 14 to get a driver's permit? Duncan will hit that magic age in about four weeks. Add to that the fact that Griffin has been battling his asthma issues and we've been battling him with his tantrums. Really Griffin? You seriously need to wear pants when you leave the house. Wearing a shirt and a diaper is not negotiable.

I'll keep this one short and sweet. Patrick is still unemployed. We're living off of my non-profit salary, unemployment, and our tax refund. Being depressed and being at home with another depressed person is, well, it's depressing.

See the previous categories for an explanation.

My blogging will continue to be sporadic, at least until this huge special event is behind me. Only another couple of weeks and hopefully I will be back with more positive things to talk about - like NaNoWriMo, a description of the painful process of editing the first draft of a novel, and of course a discussion of our Halloween 2010 plans (you didn't think we wouldn't come up with another great family costume idea, did you?).

Edited to add: No one really reads this, so I have no idea who I think I'm talking to in this post.

Sep 7, 2010

Book Review - More Than It Hurts You

More Than It Hurts YouMore Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss

I'm not sure how I feel about this book just yet. First, it's a tough topic (muchausen by proxy) and deals with an 8-month old baby who is gravely ill. Not easy to read about when you have a little one at home. Second, the writing is a bit choppy at times. I have issues with reading things that don't flow. Third, I don't know how I feel about the main characters. The father is not all that sympathetic. In fact, he lets his wife make all the decisions...and she's more concerned about what the docs think of her than she is about her baby. How can I read this book if I don't like anyone (aside from the baby)? I'm going to give it a few more chapters.

View all my reviews

Aug 31, 2010

62 Days

Summer is over. Yeah, I know there are still 20-some-odd days left of it in September, but let's be real. There are red leaves on the tree outside my house, football is about to officially start, and my family has been chattering about going apple picking. Summer is over.

That means we're just that much closer to the start of NaNoWriMo 2010, and I couldn't be happier. I'm not looking forward to the shorter days or not being able to play outside with Griffin after work, but I have been longing for those chilly days on the weekend when I can snuggle with my laptop and put onto paper (er, computer screen) what only existed in my head before that. Creating characters, flawed and broken, yet resilient. Describing in detail places I've visited or have longed to see in person. Plot twists and turns. It's all so exciting and it's only 62 days away.

It's not like I don't write any other time of the year, but there's something about that contest. The pressure to write every day. The camaraderie with other writers who understand the frustration and the love/hate relationship with writing under such a tough deadline. And then there's my favorite part - the freedom from perfection. The goal is to just write. Don't worry about finding the perfect word. Forget about how cheesy or awkward something sounds. It's a first draft. Because of NaNo, I successfully silenced my inner critic, and believe me, that was no small task.

Last year was my first NaNoWriMo...and I won (which just means I reached the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. I didn't really win anything, although I did get an awesome certificate that I proudly hang in my office at work). From that experience, I came away with a half-completed novel that I eventually finished in July. I am slowly working on revisions and hope to have those completed before November 1st so I can start NaNo with a clean slate and new ideas. I do have an idea, by the way, and I'm really excited about it.

So I have a lot to do in the next 62 days - revisions on my first story, basic plotting of my new idea (I've already started that), and a name. I seriously need a name. I cannot, in good conscience, start NaNo with a novel called "Untitled." That's not going to cut it.

I encourage everyone who enjoys writing even the slightest bit to sign up for NaNo this year. I'll even be your NaNo buddy (if that's not an incentive, I don't know what is).

Happy writing!

Aug 26, 2010

Where do we go from here?

Patrick didn't get the job. We didn't even talk about it last night. Neither of us brought it up in conversation - it was much easier to ponder the Cubs' fate next season, or why Griffin likes to throw things when he's tired. I used to obsessively think about things. I could ruminate on one topic for days on end until I was exhausted. I guess I still do that at times, but for the most part, I just do my best not to think about certain things. This is a good example. When I called and told my mom, she started to ask questions. What did they say to him? Do you think he wanted too much money? I simply told her I didn't want to talk about it anymore. It was the truth - my brain was already on overload and I couldn't think. I didn't want to think.

But here I am talking about it, right? The original reason I started this blog over four years ago was to journal my thoughts. I gave up on the pen and paper journal years ago, and thought this would be a good substitute. So I feel that I can comfortably blurt out anything I want to say without forcing anyone to listen to be feel sorry for myself. If you don't want to hear about you, you just stop reading.

I really thought Patrick was going to get that job. It seemed too good to be true - type of work, location, salary and benefits, etc. I could get all philosophical and talk about how there's something better out there for him. The Perfect Job. I could say there's a good reason why he didn't get this job. But you know what? I don't think those things. If there is a good reason, I'd really like to know what it is. And the perfect job? I don't think that exists. In fact, I don't see an end to this anytime soon.

Patrick sold one of his prized possessions the other day so he could bring home some money. It made me sad to watch him sell it. Here I go feeling sorry for myself when there are thousands of people in our same situation. But guess what? This is my life. I'm sure in a few days this will all pass and we'll be right back where we were before. Struggling, but healthy and happy.

Aug 25, 2010


I'm anxious. Anxious and sick. Patrick got a call yesterday about the job he interviewed for a few weeks ago. It was his second interview and it was down to him and one other candidate. They told him it would be a few weeks before they decided anything, so we weren't too worried. OK, I'm lying. I was freaking out. Why? Because November will mark one year that Patrick has been unemployed. One year. It has been scary, frustrating, humbling, and migraine-inducing.

They called and left a message asking him to call back. He did, but had to leave a message. So the waiting continues. We assume he'll know their decision today. My gut tells me he didn't get the job, but I don't know if that's really my gut, or if it's a defense mechanism so if he doesn't get it I can say, "I knew it."

I know I'm putting entirely too much weight on this one job, but when you're closing in on a full year of one paycheck and unemployment, it's that much more important.

Aug 23, 2010

When every day was perfect and you knew it would last forever

Tonight I went back in time almost 20 years. Back to college and back to my first love.

In June 2008 our basement was affected by the floods. It wasn't horrible, but it caused enough damage that Patrick had to pull up the carpet and rip out cabinets. Things were packed into boxes and placed in overhead cabinets and in the garage - anywhere we could find empty space. One month later Griffin was born and everything changed. The carpet and cabinets were reinstalled, but no one really had time to go through those boxes. This afternoon I pulled out a box labelled "Books" and found spiral bound copies of my master's thesis, various school papers, and a composition book. The second I saw the cover of it, I knew what it was. I hadn't opened it in years, and the spine cracked when I did. What I found transported me back to a time in my life when responsibilities were few and my emotions were high.

I've kept journals since I was 14 years old, but this book was different. It was filled with handwritten letters that I never sent to my very first love. When I wrote them, I never intended to send them to him. It was just my way of dealing with all of my emotions.

I started reading them and I couldn't stop:

October 5, 1992

I often think about that one night last year - almost one year ago to be exact. We went for a walk to the park. It seemed like we were there forever. We went on the swings and I jumped off and you chased me. That old man walking his dog stopped us to say how beautiful the night was. We laid down in the grass and talked for hours. I remember how infinite the universe seemed. I felt like I was floating, hovering over the world. We talked until the sky turned the blue that falls somewhere between night and day.

That was 18 years ago. He and I don't speak anymore. We had a weird fight on the phone a number of years ago - a misunderstanding, I guess. I was too proud to call him and he was too scared to call me. So we never spoke after that.

He was the first person I sat and talked with for hours on end. He was the standard on which I judged all other relationships. He was my best friend for so many years. Sometimes, like tonight, I miss him.

Aug 18, 2010

The first time in my life I ever quoted Tom Petty

The waiting is the hardest part.

It is. And it has been for months now. I'm a bit reluctant to even post this because now that I've linked my blog to Facebook, anyone that I'm friends with (and let's face it, most of those people aren't really friends as much as they are acquaintances or ex-boyfriends or people that I was just dying to know how they turned out after our awkward phases in junior high). My point is that any one of those people can now read this - the blog that I started years ago as a way to replace my personal journal. So you might ask, "But Tracy, why on earth would you make public all of your private thoughts?" The simple answer is - I never thought anyone would ever read this. However, I have written and posted things that I do want people to read. So I battle with how much I really want people to know. At this point in my life, it doesn't really matter anymore because I just don't care what acquaintances from high school and college think about me. I so wish I felt that way back then.

Having said all that, some of my real friends know how rough things have been lately in my household. We went from a two-income, financially stable family to a single-income, financially unstable family. To put it in perspective, I work for a local non-profit as a grant writer/fund raiser. For those of you who can't read between the lines, non-profit = I'm not rolling in dough. I have a steady paycheck and I do OK, but we have a mortgage and day care and utilities and food and oh-my-god-if-Griffin-needs-one-more-round-of-antibiotics-or-inhalers-I'm going-to scream. The bottom line is we owe more than we make.

I am grateful that Patrick is getting unemployment each week, and even more grateful that while it must be a total blow to his ego to have to file an unemployment claim each week, he does it for all of us. We went about two months on just my paycheck and it was very difficult. One of the things that upsets me so much is that we are quickly approaching the one-year mark for him being without a full-time job. I bite my tongue all the time so I don't add any additional stress to his life by mentioning that I'm the only one with a job. But it's true. I am solely financially responsible for my family and my non-profit paycheck doesn't cut it. We're ridiculously behind in our mortgage and I get calls ever day from debt collectors. And it's not like Patrick hasn't been trying. He is waiting to hear back from a local company about a recent interview - it was a second interview, in fact. Any day now we should hear whether he got the position or if the other candidate got it. I'm so anxious about it because right now he doesn't have any other interviews lined up.

And I'm not just saying this because I'm his wife, but I can't imagine someone passing him up. He's smart, loyal, easy to get along with (unless you live with him, and then the abundance of coffee mugs that clutter the counter will drive you batty). Sometimes when I tell people that my husband is unemployed, they look at me a little strange, especially when I say it has been well over six months. Why can't he find a job? What's wrong with him? Is he not looking hard enough? There's nothing wrong with him and he is looking. He's either overqualified (no one wants to hire a guy with his MBA who is really looking for a more permanent, better-paying job) or he's underqualified (he doesn't have the exact experience they're looking for).

I'm not even sure why I engaged in this rant. I'm stressed and overworked and I'm looking at some freelance writing jobs to help bring in more money, which only means that I am going to be even more overworked and stressed.

In the meantime, we just have to wait and see if Patrick gets this job.

Oh Tom, however did you get to be so wise?

Aug 11, 2010

You're still here, but I already miss you

In case you didn't know, it's August. It's August 11th to be exact. Duncan started eighth grade today and on my way into work, I found a tiny, red leaf on the sidewalk. What happened to summer? Wasn't it just yesterday that Duncan went to the end-of-the-school-year party? Didn't we just sit in the bed of the pickup watching the Fourth of July parade?

This happens every year, and every year when the leaves start to change color and the temperature begins to drop, I vow that the next summer I won't let it slip away so fast. I vowed the same thing this past winter. Every night I drove home from work, the sun long gone and the tree branches like crooked fingers in the sky, and longed for warm days and green grass beneath my feet. This summer, I told myself, I'm going to enjoy every day. And here we are, August 11th, and I'm once again wondering what happened.

I did take a week of vacation just after Griffin's birthday so we could spend some time together. We ran errands, played in the pool, and went to the zoo. I tried my hardest to soak it all in. While Griffin played in his sandbox, I sat on the porch and closed my eyes, knowing that I would never get that moment back. The neighborhood was silent. The only sound was Griffin's laughter. That was wonderful, but it wasn't enough. Those days slipped by so quickly, and before I knew it, I was picking out my clothes for the next work day.

I envisioned sitting on our porch late at night, taking in the summer breeze and pointing out the constellations to Griffin. He loves being outdoors, and he loves to point into the sky and shout, "The moon, mommy!" But we never did that. I wanted to eat dinner in the screened-in porch at the back of our house. Griffin and Duncan could chase each other in the backyard and we could enjoy our meal while listening to the crickets or the distant buzz of a lawnmower. But we didn't do that, either.

On my drive to work this morning, I noticed how green and full the trees were. How come I never notice that until the leaves are about to change?

But there's still time. There's still time to show Griffin the stars and eat dinner outside. There's still warm nights to take walks and watch Griffin chase after bubbles.

There's still time.

Aug 9, 2010

Total Copout (aka Picture Overload)

I'm swamped. At work. At home. Things are just crazy, so that's my excuse for not actually writing a post, but only posting pictures. Besides, I'm really behind in downloading all of my pictures. So here you go. Enjoy:

Aug 2, 2010

A little hard to admit

* photo courtesy of flickr

During my pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. That rocked my world and my diet. Up to that point I had been eating rather well - fruits and vegetables, very little sweets, lots of water. Thanks to non-stop nausea from weeks 7 through 15, I didn't even gain my first pound until I was halfway into the pregnancy. It was only a few weeks later, when I finally got my appetite back, that I found out about the diabetes. Everything I wanted to eat was off limits. I only ended up gaining 16 pounds by the time I had Griffin. I'll be the first to admit that when I found out I was pregnant I worried about gaining too much weight. I know I shouldn't have been thinking about that, but I did, and I know I'm not alone. I was 35 years old, so my body was different from what it was ten years earlier.

I was happy that I only gained the 16 pounds (and I ate a healthy diabetic diet), and I was even happier when I got home from the hospital and saw that I lost all but three pounds. I ended up losing all the weight in about 5 days and eventually lost another 7 just by walking a colicky baby throughout the neighborhood three times a day. I was finally below my pre-pregnancy weight (I was not happy with where I started when I got pregnant). I kept it off for a while, mostly because of all the walking and the stress of a newborn.

Something happened along the way. I don't even know when it was, but the weight slowly started to come back. I think I can start to trace it back to when Patrick's dad was in the hospital and then in hospice. I was home alone with Griffin, who was 6 months old at the time. He was having trouble sleeping (I swear he could sense the stress in our house), and was waking up every 45-60 minutes. I barely slept. When I'd visit my father-in-law at hospice, someone would inevitably offer to run down to the cafeteria and pick up coffee for everyone. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I'd ask for a Coke. I never drink pop before 12 PM. I never have, but I did then. I kept pushing it earlier and earlier, and before I knew it, I was drinking pop at 10:30 AM. My point is I started drinking lots of pop back then. Everything kind of spiraled out of control after that. It seemed like everyone was depressed and under a lot of stress. I was tired and depressed and didn't feel like exercising. Just a lot of bad habits.

So here I am, two years after giving birth and I actually weigh two pounds less than I did when I was nine months pregnant. Seriously. Two pounds less than being nine months pregnant. Gross.

I know it doesn't really look like it (I can hide it well), but it's very obvious to me. I'm uncomfortable and depressed about it. So I'm finally trying to take control of the situation. I have never been on a diet in my life, aside from the diabetic diet. I did great with that, but I had a really good reason to stick with it. I need to eat better (and less) and I need to get back to exercising. It sounds so simple, but I know it won't be.

So wish me luck!

Two pounds less than full-term pregnancy weight {shudder}.

Jul 23, 2010

A night like this

I took my completed rough draft and pasted it into Wordle to see what words I most often used. Obviously, the names of my main characters were the most used, so I'm not worried. But like? Just? Know? Yikes, I need to edit big time.

Wordle: A night like this

Jul 22, 2010


Dear Griffin,

Today is your second birthday. I know it sounds trite to say this, but it's true - I can't believe how fast the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday I was still on maternity leave and you and I would take long walks every morning. You would sleep and I would talk to you like you could understand me. And now? You do understand me. OK, you understand some of what I say to you, but I know you get it.

So much has happened in the past year. Some good - walking, running, talking in mini-sentences. And some not so good - double pneumonia, ear infections, and a sprinkle of temper tantrums. The one thing I have learned this year is that there is never a dull moment as a parent. For someone who is most definitely not a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal, I am slowly learning to do just that (if your father read this he'd say that I have a long way to go!). The point is I'm getting there. Just as much as we are teaching you things like don't kick the cat or the Cubs are the best baseball team ever, you teach us on a daily basis. For example, I've learned that you like to walk upstairs to bed on your own instead of being carried because it gives you a sense of control and independence. I've learned that it's OK and normal that you call me and many other women in your life Mommy. It's not that you don't love me, but that you are capable of loving others.

There are so many things I want to say to you, but I'm afraid everything is going to be a jumbled mess. Like you have no idea how I love the feel of your hair on my cheek when I snuggle with you before bed. Or how I love picking you up from day care after a day at the pool. I always tell you that you smell like a day at the beach. You have the sweetest profile I have ever seen - that little button nose of yours makes me smile and want to squeeze you all day. I love when you giggle while watching Curious George - you never know I'm watching you, but I can see you start to smile and then laugh. I am happy when I hear you laugh. I never wanted to be Mommy. I always preferred Mama for some reason, and that's what you called me up until a couple of months ago. Now when you see me walk in the door, you smile and say, "Hey Mommy!" and it makes me melt. I love your little toddler legs and arms and I tell you that all the time. They're smooth and soft and I squeeze them as much as I can because I know that if two years have gone by this quickly, before I know it you're going to be headed to high school. I love how whenever I say I have an "owie," you lean in to kiss it. I still love the look of your diaper-butt. I like watching you run around in your pajamas. I love how you say "Yummy!" when you eat dinner. You have the silliest laugh (you always have) and it is contagious. I love when I hold you and you pat me on the back. I think it's another way you say "I Love You."

So it was a jumbled mess, but that's OK.

You have been in our lives for two years now, and every day is something new. Thank you for teaching me to go with the flow. Thank you for making me laugh with a simple giggle. Thank you for helping me put things into perspective.

I'm proud to be your mom.


Jul 13, 2010


We finally had Griffin's appointment with the ENT last Friday. They conducted a number of hearing tests and then we got to meet with the doctor. Overall it was a quick appointment. Both of Griffin's ears were filled with fluid, which no one was surprised to learn. The doctor left the decision up to us as to whether or not to do the tubes surgery. I told him I wished he could give us a clear yes or no. He said, "If you want me to give you reasons why you shouldn't go through with the tubes, I can't really think of any." With that, we scheduled a date for his procedure. July 21. Yes, I know that is the day before Griffin's 2nd birthday, but the doctor said he will be all better by the next day.

Once we were on our way back home, I turned to Patrick and said, "Ten bucks this kid gets an ear infection in the next two weeks."

Yesterday afternoon I picked up another round of antibiotics for Griffin. Yep, another ear infection.

Is it wrong that I'm looking forward to him getting his tubes? I mean, I'm going to be nervous and worried about him, but everyone I've talked to has told me the tubes can make a huge difference. I want that for him. I know how hard it is on him having all these infections and the constant medicine. I want him to be his silly, playful self.

Despite the ear infection - and another visit to the doctor - things worked out pretty well for Griffin. The doctor gave him a chocolate chip cookie. Griffin smiled, took the cookie, and then said, "Nice doctor."

Jun 29, 2010


There are very few things I need to do before I die. I've always wanted to see Paris - after six years of studying French, I feel like I should go there and speak the language. Too bad that fear of flying gets in the way. I've already gotten married and had children, so I can cross those off my list.

Then there's writing a novel. That one has been on my list for years, but work and life always seem to get in the way. When I signed up to compete in NaNoWriMo last year, I felt like it was my chance to reach my goal. At the end of November I had written over 53,000 words and was only a little over halfway to my goal. The holidays were just around the corner and I stopped writing. I had half of a novel written and very little motivation to finish it.

As time slipped by, I found myself wishing I could just finish the book. What was getting in my way? It turns out it was me. I was watching TV when I could have been writing. I was reading other people's books when I should have been writing mine. So I set a deadline for myself. July 22nd. It's Griffin's second birthday. What better deadline to set for myself? As crazy as it sounds, I want to do this for him. Even though he won't understand it, I want to be an example of perseverance, hard work, and moxie.

I'm only a few weeks away from my deadline and I've written over 85,000 words. I've done my best to write every day, but it doesn't always happen. The most important thing is that I'm still on track to make the deadline.

Someday I'll tell Griffin about what I did. I hope I make him proud.


When I first started a blog back in 2006, I used Blogger. It was free and easy and I had no complaints. After a couple of years, I started to feel limited by Blogger - there didn't seem to be enough widgets and I craved more creative freedom. Wordpress gave me that freedom. I really enjoyed it and it felt like a step up from Blogger. Of course, nothing is perfect, and I soon discovered that WordPress had it's limitations as well. I read a lot of blogs and often make comments. Most of those blogs I follow are on Blogger and when I go to leave a comment I have to go through a frustrating process. It's annoying (and makes me sound incredibly lazy), but all I want to do is leave a comment. Is that too much to ask for?

So I'm back to Blogger, and you know what? They've made a lot of changes and improvements.

It's good to be home.

Jun 25, 2010


I love summer. I love the long days and being able to go outside without having to bundle up. I love sitting on our porch at night enjoying the weather and the sounds of our neighborhood (kids laughing and playing, the ice cream truck, people mowing their lawns).

Griffin loves summer, too. In fact, he loves it so much I can barely get him back in the house for dinner. He loves running in the grass in his bare feet and playing in his little pool. I don't think he cares what he's doing as long as he's outside.

We went outside this morning so I could take him to day care. He immediately ran up to his little bike and sat on it and started saying, "!" over and over. It was so sweet. I watched him for a while, wishing I didn't have to go to work, wishing I could stay home with him and play outside. It's days like this, these gorgeous summer days, when I get frustrated with work. I love what I do, but let's face it, if  I didn't have to work I wouldn't. Well, maybe something part-time just to keep my mind fresh. I feel like I miss out on so much with Griffin. I realize it on weekends when I don't have to be anywhere. We snuggle on the couch and watch Curious George. I make him pancakes and we sit together at the kitchen table just eating and talking. I love those times with him - the everyday moments.

I have no idea why I'm going on and on about this. I guess it was one of those difficult mornings where I wanted so badly to stay home with him and play and giggle. I do have a whole week of vacation scheduled for the end of July. I'm really looking forward to doing all those little things with my Griffin.

Jun 21, 2010

Always have to steal my kisses from you

Griffin is a cuddly kid. As a baby, he loved to snuggle on Patrick's chest or snuzzle his little face in the crook of my neck. Pure sweetness. As he got older, and mobile, those snuggling moments have come in the form of just before or after sleep. He's ready for sleep or still a bit groggy after waking up, which means his little arms and legs that are usually moving non-stop are just too tired and he needs to sit still. I love sitting on the couch with him on my lap. His muscles start to relax and his body grows heavier. Sleep is not far off.

Despite his snuggly nature, Griffin won't kiss me. Oh sure, there have been those rare moments when I bribe him with a graham cracker or a Hershey kiss, but never when I just ask for one. It used to break my heart, but then it became a running joke in our house, and then it just broke my heart again.

Yesterday, on Father's Day of all days, Griffin was giving out kisses for free. We sat on our front porch and I leaned in close to him and said, "Can you give mommy a smooch?" And he leaned in and kissed me on the lips. All day, anytime I asked for a kiss, he gave me one. I even leaned in to tell him to give his daddy a smooch and he kissed me first, then ran over to Patrick to give him one.

Who knows if that will continue, or if yesterday was just a fluke, but I'll take what I can get.

Jun 11, 2010

Right now

  • I'm waiting for the painkillers to kick in so my migraine will go away.

  • I'm eating Goldfish crackers because the meds leave a funny taste in my mouth.

  • I'm daydreaming instead of working.

  • I'm grateful for Patrick taking Griffin into day care this morning - my head was hurting too much to deal with the daily battle of getting Griffin dressed and out the door.

  • I'm happy that it's Friday - looking forward to playing with Griffin this weekend.

  • I'm proud that I've been keeping up with my writing goal.

  • I'm determined that I will finish this first draft by Griffin's birthday (July 22) - only 21,969 more words.

  • I'm disgusted with the Chicago Cubs, yet I feel compelled to watch each game.

  • I hope my boss approves my request for a week of vacation at the end of July so I can play with Griffin and prepare for his 2nd b-day party

  • I'm grateful for our state-issued health insurance for Griffin. It has saved us hundreds of dollars so far...maybe even thousands once Griffin gets his ear surgery. In all honesty, based on our income, we pay NO premium, NO co-pay, and all of his generic meds are free. I can't say enough how absolutely grateful I am to the state of Iowa.

May 21, 2010

Round three

Griffin developed a nasty ear infection at the very end of April (including a temp of 103). After ten days on amoxicillin, he continued to rub at his ear and be completely irritable. OK, so some of his behavior is also due to the fact that he is just about to turn two years old. We took him back to the doctor on Monday and the ear infection never cleared up, so he was placed on a ten-day dose of Augmentin. Now, just four full days into that treatment, he starts rubbing his ear again and whining. Today we start round three of antibiotics. This time it's Omnicef. At his appointment on Monday, the doctor said that if this doesn't clear up quickly, or if he still has fluid in his ears at his two-year check-up, we'll be referred to an ENT and he'll have to have tubes placed in his ears.

At this point, he's had about eight ear infections. The majority of those have come in the past ten months. As much as I don't want him to have to go through the surgery (and yes, I'm very aware that it only takes 15-20 minutes, but it's still surgery and he's my baby), I'm ready. Ear infections in toddlers are way worse than teething.

So, yeah, I pretty much went from being swamped at work to being swamped at home - let's not even mention the fact that in the past few weeks Patrick has travelled to Charlotte, NC twice (he's there now) and Colorado Springs. I'm not sleeping much and it's taking its toll on me.

I hope round three of antibiotics works. For Griffin's sake and for mine.

May 6, 2010


I hate to keep saying this, but I have been swamped the past month. I've written more grants than I care to remember, we're in the midst of celebrating our agency's 40th anniversary (which includes a huge special event and fundraising), and like usual this time of year, we have our annual golf event.

The golf event is on Monday and that day can't get here soon enough. It's the build-up to that day that just about kills me each year. Imagine planning a wedding for 200 people every year, but without the fancy dress, dancing, and cake.

I'm looking forward to blogging more once the event is over.

Apr 16, 2010

Those three little words

No, not "I love you," but rather "Mama, ball rolling." OK, so in Griffin's toddler-talk it sounds more like, "Mama, baw row-ee," but we know what he means. He even points to the ball as it rolls down the driveway.

It might not seem momentous to anyone else, but this officially marks Griffin's first 3-word sentence. I'm a proud Mama.

Apr 8, 2010

Spring Time

"Sweet springtime is my time is your time is our time for springtime is love time and viva sweet love."

~ ee cummings

Apr 6, 2010

The post where I want to bury my head under the covers and pretend none of this is really happening

Life has been tough lately. OK, so that makes me sound melodramatic and incredibly ungrateful for the fact that I have a job and a healthy family. I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but things really have been tough.

No news on the job front for Patrick. We did get an extension on our unemployment benefits, so now instead of having them run out in mid-March, we have until early June. I think we might be eligible for another extension, but we're hoping Patrick is employed by then.

I continue to be amazed at how extensive the effects of unemployment can be on a family. I am overwhelmed with being the only one bringing home a paycheck. Don't we all have those days when wejust want to tell our boss we quit? We don't really do it, but the fact that we could is enough to sustain us for another few weeks. I am swamped at work - too many deadlines and not enough time or energy. The fact that I can't just up and quit my job (even though I wouldn't really do that) is suffocating. There is such an enormous amount of pressure on me to stay employed (let's not even discuss the Illinois budget and the fact that I work for a non-profit that is expecting to see major cuts).

But that's not the only effect. There's this constant biting of my tongue that I must engage in so I don't say something angry or spiteful toward Patrick. I don't blame him for his situation (although I do go over and over in my head all the ways he could have circumvented this situation), but there are times when I want to say something to him. Something like, "Since you don't have a job, would it hurt you to run the vacuum/wash some pots and pans/fold the laundry/fix the window in Griffin's room/etc.?" It's such a delicate balance of being supportive and not going over the deep end myself because I take on all the responsibility.

I know that being unemployed is having an effect on Patrick. I can see it in his face and in the way he sits and in his voice. I feel for him. I know he feels a sense of responsibility to our family and he's doing everything in his power to help. It's hard to watch and it's even harder to walk on eggshells each and every day.

We have gotten to the point where we are accepting help from places we never imagined. We're still waiting to hear if Griffin will be covered through the state of Iowa for his health insurance. There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be completed/submitted and I think we might finally know something by next week. For now, we can't afford his medication, but because I work for a social service agency, I've been pointed in the right direction to a couple of places that might be able to help us out with the cost of his epi-pen. We tried to apply for assistance from WIC so we can pay for some groceries for Griffin (milk, bread, juice, peanut butter, etc.), but we make just a bit too much to qualify.

I told Patrick the other day that he and I have both been in denial about our situation. We have been living on one paycheck and unemployment for almost one year. We have drained our savings. We have borrowed from both of our families. We cannot pay for our mortgage, credit card debt (even just the monthly minimums), utilities, groceries, and day care. We owe more than we make each month, but somehow we've "gotten by." Some people get paid, some don't. But it has caught up with us.

I always felt like we weren't as bad off as some other people. But I don't think that's the case anymore. We are the people who don't make enough to get by each month, but make just a few too many dollars to get help. I finally told Patrick that we need to get help wherever we can and in whatever form - food pantry for some of the basics, local agencies for Griffin's medication and help with our utility bill (so that doesn't get shut-off), the home retention program through our mortgage company (we're already in a trial period), etc. Whenever I think about this I feel as though I'm taking help away from someone else. Maybe things aren't as bad as I think. Then I look at my checkbook and the stack of unpaid bills. I see that the mortgage company has sent yet another letter threatening to take our home. I receive another phone call from a debt collector. Add all of those up and we deserve the help as much as the next person.

I don't think Patrick wants to think we're at this point. I believe he still thinks we're going to be OK the way things are. We're not. He keeps saying that once he gets a job "everything is going to be OK." Eventually, yes, but not right away. We're going to have to work our way out of this pit.

So for now, I am the one who calls for help. I will be the one to go to the local church and get some free food. I will be the one to wait and see if we qualify for Medicaid for Griffin. I will be the one who apologizes every time a bill is late. I will be the one who begs for a little bit more time to find money to pay our mortgage. Just another burden added on my shoulders.

Mar 16, 2010

Still chugging along

I'm still writing my novel. I just wanted to  say that - I haven't mentioned it in a while. With everything going on lately (see the last few posts), it has fallen on my list of priorities, which pretty much sucks when you realize that it's one of the few things that I have for myself (because as much as I love to cook, when it becomes a have to instead of a want to, all the fun is sucked right out of it).

My problem is that I get the urge to write at the worst possible times - like when I'm rocking Griffin, or while sitting in my 3-hour management meetings, or when it's 11:30 PM and I have to be up at 5 AM and I know I need to sleep. Ack! It's frustrating.

I need a new deadline to keep me motivated. I miss NaNo and all the excitement and pressure of trying to write almost 2,000 per day. I thought about trying to trick myself into writing like that again, but I'm way too smart to fall for it. Oh well, I guess I'll just keep plugging away at it little by little...

Mar 11, 2010

Seeing shadows

Our day care provider sent me this picture of Griffin. She took it today at Rocket Park:

I love this picture. I love that I can see the back of his neck - the soft neck that I kiss every chance I get. I love the swirl of blond hair on the back of his head.  I love that I can see him giggling. I love that he is in mid-run, heading for the slides or swings. I love that he does everything - including playing - with so much passion and gusto. I love that Spring is just around the corner, and then Summer, which means that this is only the first of many visits to the park. Most of all, though, I love him. I love everything that makes him Griffin - his sweet little face, the way he says "puppy," how he dances when he hears music, the inflection in his voice as he tries to ask me "Where'd it go?," the way he giggles when someone hands him a chocolate chip cookie. Little Baby Griffin is growing up, but will always be my baby.

Mar 9, 2010

Three more months

I'm back again after another long blogging hiatus. Things have been hectic. Griffin got really sick again, this time with a case of double pneumonia. Poor baby missed an entire week of day care. Normally, Patrick and I would check our schedules and see who could stay home what day and then we'd just take turns taking a day off from work. Here's the thing...something I have been avoiding writing about because, well, it's embarrassing. We couldn't take turns this time because only one of us is employed right now. That person is me.

I'm not even going to go on and on about why this is the case. Let's just say the economy is to blame. Patrick has been collecting unemployment since July 2009. And before anyone jumps to any conclusions, Patrick has not been searching for a job that whole time. The unemployment benefits were supposed to be a temporary solution while his company got back on their feet. He made the decision a couple of months ago to actively search for a job, which he has been doing all day and all night since December. Also, I don't want to hear about how he should have thought more about his family when he started on unemployment and looked for a job back then, because I've had the discussion with him numerous times. He was being loyal and didn't want to leave them in a bind. Patrick's a good guy, but look where that got him.

And to top it all off, we lost our health insurance at the end of February. I signed Patrick and myself up on my work plan, which means we're down another $265 per month. If I signed up the whole family, I would have paid $530 per month - we just couldn't afford that. So, I signed the boys up for HAWK-I services that are offered through the State of Iowa for uninsured children whose family meets specific income limits. Say what you want about Iowa, but they know how to take care of their children. The most we would pay for their health insurance would be $40 per month.

Patrick's had some interviews and there is a really good job that's basically waiting for him, but the position won't open until summer. He's going back to bartending, which I dread, but we don't have many options at this point. His unemployment runs out in three months. Three months. That's it. We are way behind in our mortgage (I get to field those calls just about every day). We can't afford to pay it now with my salary and his unemployment checks. But in three months, we'll only have my salary...and I work for a non-profit. You do the math.

Feb 21, 2010

Missing in action

Just as I vowed to post more often (like I used to do), everything came crashing in on me. Griffin got over his bout of bronchitis and finally got all the steroids out of his system only to get sick again last week. Another case of bronchitis, but this time it wasn't responding to his antibiotics. When I picked him up out of his crib on MOnday morning, he was hot to the touch. I felt the heat from his skin burn through his pajamas and even through my pants. His temp was 103 and he was miserable.

After a trip to the ER and another chest x-ray, the doctor came in and told me it was double pneumonia. We had to pick up a really strong antibiotic, rotate Tylenol and Motrin every three hours for the next 48 hours, and give him lots of liquids (he stopped eating and lost over a whole pound).

I've been swamped at work and have some major deadlines hanging over my head. Patrick agreed to watch Griffin for the rest of the week so I could go to work, but early on Tuesday morning, Patrick complained of a sore throat. Let me preface this part of the story by telling you that Patrick never complains about feeling sick and he rarely goes to the doctor. When he called me around 12 PM and said he was going to the doctor, I just about fell off my chair. The doctor diagnosed him with influenza and started him on Tamiflu. Patrick had a temperature of 102 for the next couple of days and I wasn't able to go to work. I couldn't leave Patrick, who couldn't get out of bed, to take care of Griffin, who had pneumonia.

By Wednesday night I was sick again (I had a cold last week). I developed a horrible sore throat, cough, and headache. I ended up with a sinus infection, a bronchial infection, and a flare-up of my asthma. So now I'm using the nebulizer, have antibiotics, and am on Prednisone.

Long story short, I missed a shit-load of work and I spent my weekend writing grants. Thankfully, my parents are wonderful and came to visit this weekend to help us get back on our feet. They bought us some groceries and helped sanitize our house.

Summer can't get here soon enough...

Feb 2, 2010

The past couple of weeks

I haven't posted in a while, and I feel really bad about that. It's not that so many people read this and are dying to know what's going on in my life that makes me feel so bad about slacking off. It's more that I have had so many different things I want to write about, but haven't had the time or haven't made the time. All of a sudden two weeks have gone by and I haven't written anything.

First things first, my grandpa is doing OK after that fall. Apparently he hit his head on a table. He didn't need any stitches, but did have to have a tetanus shot. He ended up falling again just two days later. These incidents made me think about a post I want to write about him - I just need to make the time to sit down and do it.

I celebrated my 37th birthday a couple of weeks ago. My family came up to celebrate and on my actual birthday, we went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (Los Agaves). Griffin ate his first churro and somewhere Patrick has a picture of me wearing a giant sombrero that the waiter put on my head when everyone sang to me. I'm sure it will come in handy if he ever wants to blackmail me someday.

Griffin was sick again last week. Another bout of bronchitis, plus two ear infections. The steroids made him a complete maniac. No naps. Lots of aggression. Definitely a rough week for all of us. I did try to find the humor in the situation byfilming him in one of his steroid-induced frenzies. Enjoy (and know that I'm going to do my best to post more often):

Jan 22, 2010


It's almost 10 PM on Friday night. Our night has consisted of greasy Chinese food and cleaning out the basement, a project that was supposed to be completed before Griffin was born (for those who don't know me, he's now 18 months old).

Yes, it's 10 PM and we're cleaning. Well, Patrick and Duncan are throwing out junk and moving furniture around in the basement and I'm cleaning. Nervous energy, I guess. You see, I got a phone call from my mom about 4 hours ago. She and my dad got a call from the assisted living center where my grandpa lives. She said he fell and hit his head. The paramedics were taking him to the hospital. That was 4 hours ago, and I still haven't heard from her.

I feel awful because when the phone rang tonight, I was on the couch with Griffin comfortably lounging on my lap. We were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and I was daydreaming about the greasy Chinese food we were going to have for dinner and about the prospect of possibly getting a good night sleep, so I didn't answer the phone. In my defense, I didn't know who was calling. If only I had picked up, I could at least have spoken to my mom. When I tried calling her back, her cell phone had been turned off.

So all I can do is wait. I might try calling her in a few minutes. It's very typical of my mom to have good news and then not call because a) she's relieved she got good news and b) she doesn't wat to disturb anyone (like I'd even be able to go to sleep).

I hope everything is OK. I bought my grandpa a thank you card the other day because he always gives me some cash to help pay for all my migraine medicine. I haven't sent it yet. Another thing I regret doing. Hopefully the news will be good and I can pop the card in the mail tomorrow.

Jan 20, 2010


[caption id="attachment_1158" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="Me about 35 years ago."][/caption]

Yesterday was my 37th birthday, and to quote my mom, "How the hell did I get to be 37?" (although my mom used the number 60 when she said this a handful of years ago). Seriously though, how did I get to be 37? Wasn't it just last year when I turned 30 and then moved out here to be with Patrick? Wasn't it only a couple of years ago when I was starting college and mooning over the brooding poet in my literary studies class as he discussed the deeper meaning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? (true story - he actually said in class, "I don't see this as a love story, but a story about the absence of love." I was smitten).

In all honesty, I'm OK with being 37. I once had a boyfriend who told me that while I was chronologically 19, emotionally I was 40.  I always thought that my life would make more sense the closer I got to that age. Now that I think about it, it has. I mean, I'm still struggling with balancing everything - family, work, my own interests and dreams. But I have learned to let things go, to not worry about things I can't control. I'm trying to live in the present and enjoy what I have instead of think about and obsess over what I want, because chances are, I'm not going to get those things. Besides, what I have is pretty darn good.

Jan 7, 2010

It's January 7th and that means...

- I totally forgot to write a New Year's post. Honestly, I was on vacation from work and being near a laptop made me think too much of writing grants and all the piles of work that were sitting on my desk just waiting for me. I didn't feel like posting anything.

- Today marks the 11th anniversary of my aunt and uncle's house fire. It seems like just yesterday that he died. It's even harder to believe that she 's gone now, too.

- I have a lot that I need to post about - the holidays, my new medication, writing, and the weirdo ear infection I had last week. Seriously, my ear was messed up for over a week...while I was on vacation. It sucked.

Because I haven't posted anything in a while, I need to ease back into it. So here's a total cop-out. It's a video I took just a couple of hours ago. It's Griffin being, well, being Griffin. There's really no other way to explain it. Just do me one favor - don't look at or comment on or even judge me for the condition of our family room. I'm chalking it up to fatigue, total vacation laziness, and the weirdo ear infection. Just watch Griffin and enjoy...