Sep 20, 2011

I need a new game plan, 'cuz what I'm doing ain't workin'

Not long after Griffin turned one, our day care provider mentioned that she had never seen a child hit the Terrible Twos so early in life. I laughed about it. Sure, he was an independent kid very early on, but really? The Terrible Twos? Then reality hit. Griffin was perpetually in two states: 1) Mr. Noodle (every limb would go limp and it was virtually impossible to move him) or 2) The Two-by-Four (he would flex his entire body so getting him into a car seat was like a professional wrestling match). Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a bit. Oh, he did these things, but he was also a sweet, cuddly, loving little boy.

I started taking the approach that we weren't dealing with the Terrible Twos, but the Trying Twos. Perhaps if I changed up the language a bit, it might change my outlook and response to his behavior. It worked. I was able to recognize (most of the time) what triggered these tantrums. We learned that when he was getting tired, he would have a meltdown. Instead of flipping out and yelling at him, I would empathize with him and say something along the lines of, "I know how difficult it can be when you're really tired and can't fall asleep. I get cranky, too." I told myself that it wasn't his fault that he was cranky/tired/hungry and wasn't fully able to express himself verbally. Sometimes the only way he can tell us he's feeling this way is by acting out.

Then people started warning me that the Twos might be bad, but watch out for those Threes. Seriously? I thought we'd made our way through the worst of it. Could it really be worse?

In short, yes. At least for us.

I don't know what to do anymore. Most of the time Griffin is a happy and silly boy who loves to give hugs and shows concern if someone gets hurt or is sad. However, when it gets to bedtime, look out. It's like the devil comes out. He puts up a bit of a struggle for his father, but will eventually go to sleep. For me, it's a battle royale every single night. He throws things. He swats. He kicks. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this because it sounds like I'm raising a complete brat. I have tried just about everything imaginable. Be firm. Don't let him push the boundaries. Stick to your guns. I've tried taking away privileges. I've tried talking in a soothing voice. I've tried getting down to his level and explaining things to him.

So what am I doing wrong? Am I doing anything right? I feel like a parental failure most nights. I go to bed exhausted and tense. I wake up with headaches.

This too shall pass, right? But what do I do in the meantime? How do we deal with this so we don't raise a bratty, bossy, and abusive child?

Sep 6, 2011

I can do better than that

The other day I finished reading a book on my Kindle and thought to myself, I can do better than that! It didn't stem from overconfidence, because that is the last word anyone would use to describe me. No, it came from that tiny part of my soul, the one hidden very deep inside. It's the bitter and envious part that I try to keep hidden, but on occasions such as this, pop up uninvited.

I don't like to admit to those thoughts and feelings. Inadequate. Envious. Frustrated. They make me feel ugly. The truth is that book that I read? It wasn't horrible. It just wasn't what I typically read. The framework was all there, but I was looking for a little more depth or some unexpected twists and turns.

So I finished the book feeling less than satisfied and a whole lotta' cranky because that book had been published. Maybe it was just my mood at that time, but I let the cranky seep in and take over. I can write better than that, I kept thinking and eventually saying out loud.

Finally, after soaking in the cranky for an hour or so, a little voice popped in my head and said So do it. I thought about those words for a minute and decided that instead of complaining about a so-so book that got published, I could sit down and prove my point. Instead of wasting time and energy and emotions, I could transfer all of that into my writing. If I can think I can writer better than that, then do it.

Feeling inadequate sucks. So does envy. It's not about comparing myself to another writer...especially one who has an agent and is published. It's about focusing on my writing. It's about learning about the craft and honing my skills. I can take those feelings and instead of dwelling on them, I can use them to push myself toward my goal.

Easier said than done, but it's a start...

Aug 30, 2011

It's that time again

Another NaNoWriMo is looming ahead. The thought of sitting down and writing another novel under such a tight deadline makes me giddy. Weird, I know, but it's exciting and fun to see everyone race to the finish line.

You're probably thinking, "But Tracy, you already wrote two NaNo novels and did nothing with them." That's true. Well, it's somewhat true. Novel #1 is currently sitting on my desk in a file folder. I never went back and revised it mainly because by the time I actually finished it, we were approaching the 2010 NaNo. As for Novel #2, I'm editing right now. I decided that going through the editing process would be a great lesson for me. So far, that has been the case. It's filled with plot holes, characters that basically fall off the face of the earth, and an overall sense of "why should I care about these people?" Definitely not good. However, as I make my way through edits, I can see where I went wrong and how to make it better. So far I've completely cut a character from the manuscript and as crazy as this sounds, I'm changing a major part of the plot.

I wanted to be done by the end of September so I could have October to brainstorm for 2011 NaNo, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. As for Novel #3, I've got a hint of an idea. Actually, it's more like a single character. She's been floating around in my head for a while now and I know she's got quite a story to tell. I just need some quiet time to flesh it out.

I saw a NaNoWriMo countdown and it looks like we're a little over 60 days away from starting. I really do encourage everyone to try it...even if you don't aspire to be a published author. You can say you wrote a novel, even if you never show it to anyone and it sits on your desk collecting dust.

Jul 22, 2011


Dear Griffin,

Today you are three years old. By the time you're old enough to read these birthday letters I've written, you will know how much I hate cliches (and you also will know exactly what cliche means). But I have to use one now: I don't know where the time went. Wasn't it just yesterday that we brought you home from the hospital? Or when you curled into a little ball on Daddy's chest and napped? What happened to all that time? Some days I want it back. I want those early mornings and long days when it was just the two of us while I was still on maternity leave. I want the long walks that calmed your colic. I want to hear your squeaky little noises warning me you were about to wake up.

Yes, all those things were wonderful and sweet (even when they really weren't), but now we have a happy, willful, and independent little boy. Each day you say something that makes me laugh. Each day I discover something new about you, like the fact that you would pass up every meal just so you could have something sweet (just like Daddy). Or that no one is allowed to help you - or even ask if you need help - unless you tell us (just like your Mommy). You are curious about the world you live in and are not shy about asking questions. Where did da sun go, Mommy? Why's thunder so loud? How do I get up on a cloud?

Your curiosity and wonderment over the littlest things makes me see life through your eyes and appreciate the world so much more. I forgot how beautiful the moon was until you pointed it out to me. I forgot how how good the rain feels until you suggested we run around in it. And I forgot how relaxing it is to sit on the front porch eating a popsicle until we did that together. As silly as it seems, I feel like I should thank you for that. For making me stop the chaos. For making me take the time to see all the beauty in the world that you see. For making me enjoy all the little things - the sound of the ice cream truck, a cloudless sky, a single Hershey Kiss.

In your first birthday letter I told you that I wanted so much for you in life. I still do. I want you to continue to be curious about the world. Never stop asking questions. Never stop learning. As much as you are loved, I want you to give that love back to others - not just family and friends, but those in need. I want you to be sure to not let fear rule your life. Most importantly, I want you to know that you will always matter (your thoughts, your opinions, your feelings). We will always listen. We will always care. We will always love.

Hold your own
Know your name
Go your own way
And everything will be fine.
~Jason Mraz~

You are loved.
You are sweetness.


Jul 12, 2011


When I was a little girl, I loved visiting my grandparents' house because they had an amazing vegetable garden. The funny thing is that back then, I wasn't all that interested in eating those vegetables, but was amazed at how someone could start with a tiny seed, add some water, sunlight, and TLC, and grow bright, red tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. During my visits, I watched my grandfather pluck the cucumbers from the garden and lay them out on the counter, while my grandma worked her magic in the kitchen.

Ever since we moved into our current house a little over six years ago, I've wanted to plant a vegetable garden. We even had the perfect spot in the corner of our backyard, just begging to be transformed. I put it off while Griffin was a baby - just too much work. But this past spring I made the commitment. I pulled weeds and turned over the soil. I spent my Mother's Day buying seedlings - tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, basil, and strawberries. Together, Griffin and I planted our garden. We stepped back and I crossed my fingers. I can grow anything in a pot on my deck, but could I keep alive a real backyard vegetable garden? I could only hope.

The quick answer is yes. Our garden is thriving and growing each day. We just picked our first cherry tomato and everyday Griffin asks when we can pick all the other vegetables. Soon, baby. Soon.

While our garden was simply intended as a way to grow our own vegetables - cut back on expenses, eat fresh, try new recipes - it has provided us with so much more. Griffin has been learning about science and the lifecycle of plants. He is interested in eating the vegetables and fruits we are growing. But most importantly, he takes pride in his work - standing alone in the garden with me as I picked weeds, he opened his arms wide and said, "My garden makes me happy."

And as for me? Well, I've spent a lot of time during the past year in a major funk. OK, so it has been more than a major funk, but you get the idea. Lots of sadness. Lots of worry. Our garden has given me a place to work off those emotions (it's darn hard work in that garden!). I've committed to something and followed through with it. I started with nothing but a six-by-six square foot section of grass and overgrown weeds and brought it to life.

It has given me a purpose outside of my regular life as a wife, mother, and employee. That might sound silly to some of you, but when you feel the way I've felt for the past year, it means the world. Each day that I watch it grow, I feel myself grow - farther away from the tears and the worry. I am learning to leave them behind.

My garden makes me happy...

Jul 9, 2011

All he has left

My grandpa has the gentlest soul I've ever known. I've never heard him raise his voice. Never seen him angry. He believes in forgiveness and second chances. He knows that no matter how hard of a life he had growing up, someone else's life was even harder.

He is a veteran of World War II. He battled cancer. He fought back after a series of strokes. If there is one thing people who meet my grandfather say about him it's this: He's got a fighting spirit. He's a tough cookie. If anyone can get through this, it's him.

My grandpa turned 95-years old in March. It was one year after the strokes. He is now in a wheelchair at all times. But that same energy and personality shone through when he piped up and said to the family, "So who's ready for 96?" We all raised our hands and he smiled and said, "I'll be here."

This past week has been tough for my grandpa - he had an infection which turned out to be MRSA. He's been seeing a lot of doctors and taking all kinds of medications. When my dad visited him the other day at his assisted living center, my grandpa said, "They've finally broken my spirit."

I cried when I heard that he said those words. I cried because I don't ever want to hear anyone say that - especially my grandpa. And I cried because I'm afraid that's all he has left. I understand that he's 95 years old. I know that he has had a good, long life. But he's still my grandpa. Everyone who knows him, and even those who only know him through the stories I tell, knows that his spirit is what has carried him through these years - growing up as a first generation American, serving the nation in war, losing the love of his life after 54 years of marriage, fighting cancer, etc.

It's difficult to see someone's body deteriorating, but it's almost worse to see someone's spirit dissolve because it is our spirit that sustains us.

Love you, Grampa.

May 12, 2011

My struggle to become a person

It has been one month since I last posted something here. That's sad. It's not for lack of having something to say because, well, I always have something to say. I could give the standard excuses - I've been buried under a pile of grants for the last six weeks, Griffin has been sick twice since we saw the pulmonologist, and I've been working on projects around the house (and outside if you include our garden).

The real problem is that everything I write is about ME. I mean, that's the whole point of a blog, right? It's my opinion. My perspective. My ideas. That gets boring after a while...even for me and it's my own life we're talking about. How many times can I write "Griffin was back at the doctor today," or "I planned on writing, but that grant sucked the life right out of me."? I feel like that's all I've got right now.

A couple of months ago I wrote about the pressure wanna-be writers have with trying to work on their own writing while establishing a presence online. I decided that I wanted to focus on my writing - learning more about the craft and completing and revising another novel - because that's what was going to make me a better writer. I'm not at the point where this can be a writing blog. And I don't really want it to be one. Ever.

I started this blog on the eve of my 33rd birthday as a way to write as often as possible...about anything I wanted to write about. I liked that. I enjoyed writing about our vacations and books that I read. I loved sharing a family recipe and my always-evolving photography skills. I want and a need a place to talk about my family, my struggles, and my ambitions. But there's that pressure to focus on writing. There's the pressure to know lots of other bloggers who share the same dream. The pressure to be part of "that group." If I comment on a blog, I'm worried that someone will check my blog and see that I last posted about Griffin's visit to Iowa City. That's not what a fellow writer wants to read about. But it's still my life.

Because I've felt so caught in the middle, I've avoided my blog completely. Not the best solution, and definitely not intentional, but that's what happened.

Here's what I wrote in my very first post back on January 18, 2006:

"Quite a number of years ago - almost 20 to be exact - my father gave me a book as a gift. It's by Hugh Prather, and it's called Notes to Myself: My struggle to become a person. If I could steal that title without getting in trouble, I would. That seems to be the theme of my journals. Despite being 24-hours shy of turning 33, and having finished graduate school and found a 'real' job, I still feel like I struggle to become a person. I don't think that's a bad thing."

So maybe that's it - I don't have to change my blog to be something I'm not. Maybe I just continue to write about my journey. My journey as a person, who just happens to be a wife, mother, grant writer, and fiction writer.

Every moment that I am centered in the future, I suffer a temporary loss of this life.
~Hugh Prather

Apr 13, 2011


Me and melancholy...we're old friends. In fact, we're so close that he decided to stop by for a visit this week. It had been a while, so I let him in.

Here's the strange thing. Usually this feeling hits me at the end of summer. I'm not sure what it is about that time of year, but it always happens. Maybe it's the end of long days and the end of the freedom to walk outside in bare feet. As soon as I see that first red leaf fall from our tree, I know it's over and the mourning sets in. I mentally start preparing myself for the short days, the bundling up we need to do to go outside, and the claustrophobia that sometimes sets in from being stuck inside. Yep, at that first sign of summer coming to an end I try to soak it all up. I want to spend every moment outside. Playing. Eating. Watching all the activity in my neighborhood. I start to miss it all before it's even gone.

So why am I feeling this way when summer hasn't even started? The tulips haven't even opened and most of the trees are still bare, yet I feel this way. Maybe it's because I know how quickly time passes. I hate to use a cliche (but I'm just so good at it!), but it does pass in the blink of an eye.

There's such an ease to our summer "schedule," and I use that word hesitantly as there really isn't a schedule as much as there's some routine. School lets out and Duncan is free to stay up late and watch movies with Patrick. Yes, I still have to get up early for work and get Griffin off to day care, but when I leave I can put everything behind me. I go home and play outside with Griffin. We mess around in the garden. We go for walks.

Every year I vow to not only make the most of the summer, but to be mindful of it, to hold onto it and soak it up. Unfortunately, I always seem to come to this conclusion at the end of summer, when there's not much left to hold onto.

Not this year. This year is going to be different.

This morning, when Griffin woke up, I went into his room. He smiled at me, and then he looked at his windows and said, "Mommy, the sun is up!" It was if he was seeing it for the first time. If only I could bottle that innocence and enthusiasm. I can't quite do that, but I can see life through his eyes a little more often, and that's what I hope to do this time around.

I know Mr. Melancholy will still make his annual visit at the end of summer. That's never going to change, but I don't think I'll regret letting time slip by too fast.

Apr 12, 2011

Bacterial what?

I haven't been avoiding writing about Griffin's appointment in Iowa City. It's just that on the morning of the appointment, he tried his hand at irony and woke up with a cold and a cough. What can I say, he's quite advanced for his age...

So yeah, he had a horrible cold...and then the coughing started...and then a horribly infected ear. Any free time I had (which is usually zero), was spent administering ear drops, antibiotics, and breathing treatments. This makes 16 ear infections and 17 bronchial infections. But who's counting?  I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

The appointment went well considering how long we waited - and I'm not complaining. I was thrilled we were able to get an appointment so quickly. It's just that an hour in the waiting area plus an hour in the exam room plus an almost 90 minute appointment meant that Griffin was at the end of his rope by the time we were leaving.

The doctor was wonderful (and incredibly patient). He asked us questions about the patterns of Griffin's infections. How do we know he's getting sick? What does it sound like when he coughs? When do we know he needs to see a doctor? I told the doctor that sometimes Griffin "whistled" when I picked him up or when he stood really close to me. Then there are the "rattles" in his chest and vibrations that I feel in his back when he sits on my lap. I told the doctor that Griffin has had one official cold in his life - when he was three months old. Every other sniffle/cough/sneeze has ended up in his lungs. Fast. He can go from an occasional cough to a deep, violent, turn-his-face-red cough in just a few hours.

We were told we've got two different issues to deal with: 1) asthma and 2) bacterial endobronchitis. The asthma diagnosis came as no surprise as he's been treated for asthma symptoms since he was four months old. It's just official now. As for the second diagnosis, I had never heard of this before and I'm sure the doctor could see my face twist in confusion and concern. Honestly? I still don't know a whole bunch about it, but I can explain it like this: Griffin always has bacteria in his system and it settles in his airways waiting for any little sign of infection. When he does get a cold, that bacteria kicks into overdrive and he goes from sorta-sick to we-need-to-take-him-to-the-ER sick.

The doctor started him on preventative antibiotics three times a week for the next three to four months, which is when we are scheduled to go back to the hospital.

There were so many questions I wanted to ask. Will he ever outgrow this? What are the long-term implications of this? Is there any chance he's damaged his lungs from all these infections? Is it too late to do anything about that? Of course I thought about all of this on our way home. I'm still absorbing everything and trying to learn more about this {FYI - don't Google "bacterial endobronchitis" - it'll only freak you out like it did me}. I plan to call the doctor later this week and ask all of my questions.

So despite an official diagnosis, the world is feeling a little more topsy-turvy than I expected. I don't like topsy-turvy. I like calmness. I also like a healthy, smiling Griffin. I hope this new treatment works and we get him back. We've sure missed him.

Mar 29, 2011

The big time

I started writing again. Before anyone gets excited about that, let me clarify. Last night, I sat down with my laptop and wrote about 100 words. But it felt good. I miss having that creative outlet in my life, because right now, I need an outlet.

Next Thursday we're taking Griffin to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital for an appointment with a pediatric pulmonologist. In all honesty, we should have done this months ago. Maybe even years ago? And yes, I know he is only two-and-a-half, but this kid's lungs have been giving him trouble since he was only four months old. We waited because everyone told us that it's because he's in day care, and under three years old, and that the winter months are tough on little ones. It made sense. But then he got pneumonia just before his first birthday. And then just six short months later, he developed double pneumonia. In between those months were bouts of bronchitis. In fact, by the time he was 18 months old, he'd battled bronchitis about 12 times.

At that time, Griffin was prescribed daily breathing treatments and "rescue" treatments as needed. When he got really bad, he was on oral steroids, too. I don't think Griffin knows life without the whirring sound of his nebulizer.

It has been a rough winter for him with illnesses - ears (four infections in four months even after tubes surgery), bronchitis, colds, fevers, etc. Then came early February and we found ourselves rushing to the ER again with a listless little boy with a cough and a fever of almost 106. Diagnosis: Pneumonia. Again. That made three times in 18 months. And if that wasn't enough, he developed an ear infection just one week later, and then another bout of bronchitis just one week after that. That was it. We'd had enough and Griffin definitely had enough. We brought up the idea of seeing a specialist, but we were told that they most likely wouldn't do anything different from his current treatment plan. We mentioned it to Griffin's allergist, but she sort of said the same thing. Were we overreacting?

Last week Griffin developed strep throat. A week later he developed a cold/cough/bronchial infection. And now? Another ear infection. I did some research and found out that our current health insurance does not require us to have a referral to see a specialist. I picked up the phone and called the Children's Hospital. Our appointment is set for April 7th and I have never been so excited to see a doctor. Maybe, after additional testing, we will find out that this is how Griffin is and we should stay on the same treatment plan. But maybe we can get some answers, or even tweak his meds just a bit so they're more effective.

Griffin hasn't been healthy for more than two weeks in a row since early October. I miss happy Griffin. I miss his smiles and silly questions. He doesn't smile so much anymore and that makes me so unbelievably sad. I'm not expecting a miracle from this appointment. It could turn out that there is nothing more we can do. A little peace of mind would be nice, though. Peace of mind and a big 'ol smile from my Griffin.

The smile that I miss
(September 2010)

Mar 16, 2011

Treading water

It has been one month since I last posted on my blog. To be honest, it's not that I haven't had time. I haven't had much to say. What's the point of reading this if all you're going to see is a series of complaints? Yes, lately my life has been stressful and frustrating. Whose life isn't? We all experience ups and downs in life. I'm no different. I took a long break during my most recent down. Not a real break, but just a break from my blog. It was one more stress I didn't need. Instead, I took that time to focus on just surviving. Getting by. Taking care of the basics in my life.

There is a lot of pressure to do it all - work a full-time job, take care of your family, stay on top of bills, etc. Then there's that little matter of actually taking care of yourself. What? You mean it's okay to take time to take a walk (alone)? To read a book (not one with pictures)? To browse the aisles at Target (and not have to explain to a two-year-old why you won't be visiting the toy department)? So that's what I've been doing lately. Reading. Enjoying the weather - taking walks, getting ready for our garden, sitting on our porch doing nothing else. You know what? It feels good.

My boss and I had a serious conversation this time last year. It was the first time I told her, or anyone outside of my family, that Patrick was unemployed and we were struggling. After telling her how the whole situation had been weighing on me, and how the stress of keeping everything (and everyone) together was overwhelming, she said to me, "Sometimes all we can do is tread water." In other words, all you need to do to survive is stay afloat. No fancy moves, just keep your head above water. That's exactly what I've been doing this past month. The pressure is still there. I feel it all the time, but the difference is that I can weigh what is truly important. Sometimes the laundry sits longer than I would like. Other times, I don't cook and we have sandwiches for dinner. Writing has fallen down my list of priorities. Instead, I choose to sit in my living room with Griffin, watching him squeal as I blow bubbles.

There is comfort in letting go of the pressure - letting go of the excess. I'm not trying to keep up with anyone else. I'm just trying to do what I need to do to get by. I'm treading water, and that's okay.

Sometimes good enough is all we can do. And when you think about it, what's wrong with that?

Feb 17, 2011


The past few months have been trying. Exhausting. Frustrating. And I swear, I don't want to complain, but seriously people, I'm ready to throw in the towel.

I knew going into parenthood that times would be challenging. I don't think anyone who intends to become a parent goes into it thinking life with a new baby is going to be like the inside of the Pottery Barn Kids catalogue. Because if it was, I would have signed up years ago. No, I went into this knowing there would be sleep deprivation and illnesses and even the trying toddler phase. Anyone who knows me knows how ill Griffin has been since October (not even counting everything he's had since birth). I'm not even going to list the illnesses because 1) there are too many and 2) I don't want to relive any of those moments.

OK, so kids get sick. I know that. They are constantly sticking their hands in their mouths and they have yet to master the whole cough-into-your-elbow thing. It's going to happen. But so often? And so severely at times? Griffin got tubes put into his ears in July. He did well for a few months, but then BAM. He's had four infections since mid-November. Four. One of which lasted three weeks.

Exactly how bad is it? Our pharmacist knows me by sight. And when Patrick picks up Griffin's medication, she tells him, "Tell Tracy I said hi." No joke. This has happened more than once.

A number of months ago, I spoke with my doctor about the stress in my life - some of it out of my control and other stress that I allow to take over. It turns out that I wasn't taking care of myself very well. Not so much physically, but emotionally. I was doing for everyone else, but not for myself. I wasn't reading or writing. I was eating junky foods and not exercising. I wasn't laughing. When I left her office I came up with a game plan. I joined Weight Watchers and began eating better and losing weight. I started going back to the library once a week by myself and slowly browsed the shelves. I started writing again and completed another NaNoWriMo. I even managed to get back into crocheting - this time I started making something for myself.

And then Griffin got sick. And got sick again. And again. I was forced to miss work. My anxiety level skyrocketed. I missed two Weight Watcher meetings in a row (one because I was in the hospital with Griffin and the next because he passed his illness onto me). I've been reading the same chapter of a book for the last month. That sweater I was making for myself? Still not done. I don't even want to bring up the novel I'm trying to finish.

Is some of this out of my hands? Yes. I wasn't going to leave my son in the hospital with a fever of 106 so I could go to Weight Watchers. I slept when I could (and believe me, I tried to sleep), but Griffin's coughing fits kept me awake. So yes, there were things I could not control. However, I am very aware that I could have done something to counteract the stress and anxiety. Sleep deprivation and a bad case of bronchitis didn't have to keep me from making poor dietary choices (OK, maybe that one Friday when I couldn't get out of bed, but all the other days I could have done better).

The bottom line is that I've been derailed...and maybe I derailed myself a bit. I'm going to go back to Weight Watchers tonight knowing full well that I've probably gained something fierce. It's a starting over point. A getting back on track point. Not just with Weight Watchers, but with being good to myself again. Reading. Writing. Planning our garden for the coming Spring. And laughing. I've really missed laughing. I can't wait to do that again.

Feb 15, 2011

Taking a step back

I hate that my blog has become all about writing. I started this five years ago as a way to log the rather boring details of my life - not for anyone other than myself. I was a journal-keeper. I have stacks upon stacks of notebooks logging the boring details of my life going all the way back to my first years as a teenager. Life got busy and the writing slowed and then eventually stopped. Blogging was a way for me to get back into that habit of writing and tracking all that was going on in my life (even if it was interesting to no one but me).

I wrote about my family, my hobbies, my travels, and my passions. Along the way, I rediscovered my love of writing fiction.While I mentioned it frequently, I never did anything about it. By chance, I met someone who also loved writing. She might have loved it more than me. Or perhaps she expressed it more than me because the love was there, but over the years I just pushed it down. It was just another unrealistic dream.

But here's the thing. It's not unrealistic. I always say, If you don't go in, you can't find out. So a couple of years ago I decided to go in so I could find out. I completed NaNoWriMo in 2009 and subsequently completed my first novel. I'm working on completing Novel #2. I began reading published author/writer blogs and trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could from those with more experience. I've never admitted it, but all that did was make me aware of exactly how much more I needed to learn. I felt defeated and insecure. Not ready to throw in the towel (because you can't get rid of me that easily), but definitely discouraged. Definitely feeling left behind.

Until I read this post by author Jody Hedlund. A light went on! She goes on to say:

"But newer writers today have the pulse of the writing industry at their fingertips. And while there are an incredible number of benefits to being intimately connected to the industry, young writers may also be feeling undue pressure to do too much too quickly. And once under the pressure, they may soon find the love and joy of writing zapped from them.

I think newer writers, those close to the beginning of their writing journeys, need to take the pressure off themselves. And they need to give their creativity and love of the writing process time to develop."
I feel as though I'm in a mad rush to win a marathon. I need to slow down. I need to pace myself. I need to reignite that passion for writing that I've lost along the way. So I am taking a step back - no more reading so many writer blogs, no more trying to keep up with others, no more unnecessary pressure on myself. I just need to get back to the basics. Just write.

Feb 11, 2011

On hold

I knew that keeping up with my daily word count was going to be a challenge, but I thought I was going to be up against my own motivation, work deadlines, family obligations, and love of a good night of sleep. I never thought I'd have to put everything on hold while I tended to a two-year old with pneumonia and a temperature of 106. Griffin was home from day care for over a week and all my time and energy went to giving him tons of different medications, going on follow-up doctor's appointments, keeping him cool and calm (not an easy task), and trying to catch up on my own sleep.

To make matters worse, as soon as he was well enough to go back to day care, I got sick. Really sick. I developed a cold which quickly turned into a bad case of bronchitis. Being an asthmatic, I'm used to bronchitis, but this one is a real doozy.

While I hoped to be done with the first draft of this novel by the end of March, it's looking more like sometime in April. How do I feel about being so far behind? To quote Griffin, who uttered this phrase to me while we were in the ER waiting for his lab results, "I no happy."

I do have a lot of catching up to do, but what really matters is that Griffin got over the pneumonia and is just about back to his regular, crazy self.

Feb 8, 2011

New look and an update

For all three of you out there who actually read this blog, you're thinking to yourselves, "Tracy, why are you changing the look of this blog...again?" Or perhaps you're not asking yourselves that question and I'm just paranoid that people think I can never make up my mind (OK, I confess...I'm a horrible decision maker, but that's not why I changed my blog).

The truth is I got bored and I didn't feel like the layout really expressed who I am and where I'm headed as a writer or wannabe-writer (or whatever the heck I am). I like the look of this layout and I was able to tweak it just a bit (who knew I could figure out HTML?).

As for the goals I posted a few weeks ago, I am working on finishing Novel #2. I was all excited when I developed my word count goal. I even use a nifty little Excel spreadsheet to automatically track everything - even the anticipated finish date. However, last week Griffin developed a horrible case of pneumonia (along with a temperature of almost 106). Yeah, that pretty much derailed my word count for last week. Instead of writing 5000 words that week, I managed to get in about 3900. Not bad considering, but still a bit disappointing.

So here's to a new week and a fresh start...

Jan 30, 2011

Mama needs a new pair of shoes

When I started Weight Watchers a few months ago, I promised that when I lost 10 pounds I would treat myself to a new pair of walking/running/cross training shoes (apparently the term "gym shoes" is outdated and reveals how old I really am). I can't even tell you how old my other shoes are, but they're pretty old. And ugly. I've wanted a new pair for a while, but with Patrick unemployed for such a long time, I wouldn't even dare think about buying anything that we didn't really need.

Fast forward a few months - Patrick has a new job and I've lost 12 pounds! So last night after our belated birthday dinner, we went to the store and I get these:

I wanted to wear them home. I didn't, but I really wanted to...

I had no idea that a new pair of shoes would motivate me to get moving. I sure hope these shoes help me lose a few more pounds.

Jan 26, 2011

Baby steps


You know that saying "Go big or go home"? It annoys me. I understand why people say it, and sure, it has its moments when it probably motivates people - most likely athletes - but it's not always the right outlook. In my last post I listed my writing goals for 2011. When I came up with that list, I did a lot of soul searching: What do I want to accomplish this year with regard to writing? What is feasible for me to accomplish based on full-time work and family obligations (and not just obligations, but things I really enjoy and want to do with my family)? What are some things I can do to get outside my comfort zone?

Here's the thing - I didn't want to write these outrageous goals only to set myself up for failure. I needed to choose things that I thought I could accomplish, yet things that will help me stretch as a writer. For me, "going big" isn't really an option at this point in my life. That's not to say I'm not going to give 100 percent when I do write, just that I need to get some success under my belt. I need to start small and plug away.

My biggest struggle right now is finding time to write. The issue is that I need to MAKE time to write. But when? As much as I'm a morning person, writing first thing in the morning doesn't work for me. I'm constantly checking the clock to see when I need to hop in the shower, or seeing what time I need to wake Griffin up and prepare myself for our morning battle (he's a late sleeper). During NaNo I wrote everyday during my lunch break. The only problem is that I do enjoy having some social time with my coworkers. I already sit in my own office, isolated from everyone, so having lunch with friends is a nice treat for me. I do my best not to write when I'm with Griffin because he deserves my attention, which makes after work a bad time to write. You get the picture. I ended up writing during my "leftover" time. Not productive. I started thinking why I was able to win NaNo two years in a row. I cranked out almost 1700 words everyday for 30 days. That's when I realized that it wasn't about the amount of time I spent writing. I was focused on word count. So I've decided that if word count worked in November, it can work now. I've been toying with some word count goals, and I think trying to write 800 words per day Monday through Friday is very doable, and then writing 1000 words either Saturday or Sunday (or a combination of the two). That would be 5000 words per week. There's always room for flexibility, but I'm going to try this for a couple of weeks and see how it works.

Going big isn't the only way to win. Some people, like me, need to set smaller goals and chip away at them. Success feeds on itself and I'm much more likely to forge ahead. And let's not forget that other saying: "Slow and steady wins the race."

Jan 9, 2011

2011 Goals

Well, we're over one week into the new year, which makes this post kinda' late. Eh. We had lots going on around here. Holiday traveling, head colds, the stress of returning to work, and prepping for a job interview (which I did not get, but I'm okay).

Just before the holidays I found another writing blog that challenged writers to adopt some goals for the new year. I've had some of these goals in my head for the past few months, but this is the first time I'm putting them into writing. That makes them more real, creating a pounding in my chest I haven't felt since I went into labor and knew that at some point I was going to have to push a human being out of my body. Let's just say I was a little bit panicky.

I've tweaked a couple of the goals, namely having an agent by the end of the year, because I know my writing isn't ready. Here are my goals for 2011:

  1. Commit to finishing one book by the end of 2011 - my goal is to finish my current WIP (The Weight of My World) and write one more novel by December 31, 2011.
  2. Start a fresh writer's notebook on January 1, 2011 - I've got my new notebook and already started using it!
  3. By January 31, 2011, prepare three one-sheets for other possible books you want to write - I'm pushing this back to February 28, 2011 seeing that it's a crazy month for me at work (but I do have a number of decent ideas I brainstormed and added to my writer's notebook).
  4. Identify and read at least three books on writing by December 31, 2011 - I don't have to look very far, as my bookshelf is filled with writing books and I've already started one that I got for Christmas.
  5. Identify at least one writer's conference you will attend in 2011 - need to do some serious looking into this.
  6. Secure an agent by January 19, 2013. Why this date? That's the day I turn 40 years old (gulp). It seemed like a good goal that gave me enough time to get another couple of novels under my belt. I know I have a lot to learn and I don't want to rush the process too much. I know that rejection is a major part of writing, but there's no need to send out my work until I think it's ready. Right now, it's definitely not.
Over the past year, I've made some writing friends and have some potential critique partners (another reason not to submit to an agent anytime soon - need to get constructive criticism back from others). I'm looking to develop these relationships over the year.

So there you have it, my writing goals for the next year. It will be interesting to see how things pan out and what I can report back this time next year.

Happy Writing!

Jan 3, 2011

So here's the deal...

I have a job interview tomorrow morning. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. I haven't had a job interview in almost eight years. In fact, this is only the second job I've applied for in the past eight years. Here's the really sad and pathetic part: As soon as I got a call that they wanted me to come in for an interview, I panicked. Not just panicked, but got a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had over one week to think about it and prepare, but even now, less than 24 hours from the interview, I still get that sinking feeling.

Why? Because I don't feel prepared. Because it has been so long since I've interviewed. Because I'm rusty. And because I'm so afraid of making a fool of myself. Maybe I'll stammer or trail off in mid-thought. Or worse, maybe I won't even know how to answer a question. I've tried everything to calm myself down. I've told myself that I'm not desperate for this job because I already have one. I've tried telling myself that as much as they're interviewing me, this is a two-way street and I have questions for them. I've even gone so far as to think If I make a total fool of myself, I'll never have to see these people again. Trust me, it's not working. The only good thing is that I caught a nasty head cold - stuffy nose, sniffles, headache, cough, and an ear ache. Why is this such good news, you ask. Because it just might be what I need to get through the interview. Maybe my red nose, lack of sleep and energy, and my throbbing ear will give me just a hint of an I-don't-care attitude. It's almost like something to fall back on if I really do screw up. Blame it on the head cold. It's a cop out, I know, but seriously, I just want to be able to go in there and sound intelligent enough that they don't cut the interview short and tell me to leave.

I pray that the interview leans more toward the conversational side than me sitting on the opposite side of the table being grilled by all of these people (another reason to panic - a group interview). Ugh. I'm sick just thinking about it. All I can do is prepare and hope for the best. Oh...and do my best not to sneeze or cough.