Aug 4, 2013

Writer's Block

Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down...

OK, not really, but you've got that theme song stuck in your head right now, don't you? You're welcome.

This actually is the story (or maybe just a quick post) of how one of the things I love the most has taken a backseat to life. And believe me, I'm fully aware that no one reading this has ever asked themselves, "What the hell has happened to Tracy's writing? Did she ever finish that last novel?" In a nutshell those answers are nothing and no. So if someone asks me how many novels I've written (and for the record no one has ever asked me that question), I get the pleasure of giving the stupid answer of "three and a half." Gah! That half really screws with me.

For as long as I can remember, writing was how I dealt with the thoughts swirling through my brain every second of every day. It was how I worked through my emotions. It was how I got to escape from reality - whether it was boring or just too overwhelming. But now? I can't write. Part of the issue is that I don't have time. I swear, if a single person tells me that in order to be a successful writer I need to make the time to write, I will have to kick you in the shins. Seriously, come a little closer.

There are 24 hours in a day. I work eight of those. If I'm lucky, I sleep six. When I have Griffin, I'm cooking, bathing, entertaining, reading, monitoring, building Legos, and snuggling. Somewhere in there I'm supposed to be cleaning and doing laundry. I spend time on the phone with debt collectors, negotiating payment plans and promising them that they will get paid. Someday. I deal with banks and credit card companies and even Medicaid. I fill out paperwork on what seems like a daily basis. And then there's the little matter of getting my house ready to sell and finding another place to live.

Oh...and I worry. A lot.

In the beginning I tried to write. I tried to schedule it in, but grew frustrated when the words wouldn't come. My mind wandered to the stack of bills on my desk or the list of phone calls I needed to make the next morning. In the last few months I've decided to put my writing on hold until life settled down. Considering how long I've been in this mess, I have no idea when I will start again. But I will, and that's what matters to me. The ideas are there. In fact, I still walk around with my notebook in my purse, jotting down plot ideas, character traits, or bits and pieces of awkward conversations I've overheard.

Letting go of that pressure is one of the best things I could have done.

I will write again. And when I do...look out because I've lived through more in the last 18 months than many people do in a lifetime.

Jul 22, 2013


Dear Griffin,

Today you are five (that is something like 1,760 days in case you were wondering…and I know you are). I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to wrap my brain around that number. For me, I can’t believe we made it through the colic, the nighttime feedings, the tantrums, the teething, and late night visits to the emergency room (technically we still make those visits). And for you, well, for you five means you get to go to kindergarten – that place where you get recess twice a day.

Yep, in a flash you’ve turned into the most sensitive and quirky kid I’ve ever known. Sometimes I wish I could crawl inside that head of yours to see how it works, to see how you see the world…to experience life like everything is new. The smallest things make you squeal in amazement – the first firefly of the summer, the distant sound of the ice cream truck making its way through the neighborhood, the first green tomato growing in our garden. Life is here for your enjoyment, and by God, you’re going to do just that. From the moment you were born, I’ve said you were an all-or-nothing kid. Five years later and I stand by that statement.

You make life more enjoyable, which is an incredibly selfish thing for me to say, but it’s the truth. I got more pleasure from watching you enjoy Disney World than I would have had I been there by myself. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on your face as you watched the fireworks light up the sky over the castle. And then there was that hug you gave me after I asked you if you liked it.

You have taken all of your medical issues in stride, charming everyone you come in contact with when we go to the University of Iowa for your appointments – from the nurses to the valets. The techs were so impressed with how still you were during your chest x-rays, you walked out of there with six stickers. You see those visits as an adventure, a chance to break away from the everyday routine. I am trying to learn from you.

Sometimes I wish I could tell you just how much you mean to me. How you brightened my darkest days…after even darker nights. Maybe someday I will share that with you, but not until you are older. You shouldn’t have to carry that burden now. You already worry too much about me as it is.

I love watching you get older – finding things that interest you (penguins, cats, the solar system, and volcanoes) and asking important questions (Where does the sun go at night? What do penguins like to eat? Are there any volcanoes in Iowa?). But there are times when I wish you could stay just how you are today, with those still toddleresque soft arms and legs and your penchant for sitting on my lap when we read together. The way you hug me when you’re sleepy and say, “Mama’s soft” and stroke my hair. I find myself watching you when you don’t know it, trying to soak in every single moment. Your giggle. Your voice. Your mispronounced words.

Don’t get bigger. Stay like this.

But you won’t. You can’t. I know that deep down. But for now I will cling to our nighttime routine: Off go your bedroom lights and on goes your favorite “sleepy” music. And then, in the soft glow of your nightlight, you whisper to me, “Hold me tight, Mama.”

And I do.

Happy birthday, Griffin. You’re my favorite person in the whole wide world.


Feb 12, 2013

Coming Clean

I believe this is the record for the longest gap between blog posts. I'm not proud of it. I used to write weekly...maybe even more often. It drove me nuts that I wasn't writing and I actually felt guilty for such a long hiatus. Who was I kidding? It's not like anyone was waiting to read what I had to say about parenthood, work, and the stress of balancing all of that while trying to someday possibly reach my dream of becoming a published author. It was when I let go of that self-imposed guilt that I discovered that I really did have something to say.

You know the whole elephant-in-the-room phenomenon? That's pretty much what has been going on over here on my end. The more I tried to avoid what was going on, the more excuses I found not to blog. When you try your hardest to ignore something so enormous you end up becoming paralyzed. Frozen. Completely blank.

So 2012 sucked. From the first day to the very last. As Griffin likes to say, "I'm not even kidding about this." From a severely sprained ankle to a skin cancer diagnosis and surgery. From the death of my dear, sweet grandfather to the near death of my marriage. The year drained me. It robbed me. It took my soul. You know that feeling when you coast into the gas station on fumes? That was me. All the time.

I didn't want to talk about it - especially the marriage part. I  was ashamed, embarrassed, confused, and frustrated. I still am, actually, but it just depends on the day. It consumed me, though, and all those other things I already mentioned simply piled on top of that and pushed me down lower and lower. A wise person once told me that sometimes we all just need to tread water. I couldn't even do that. It seemed like every time I was able to break the surface, something stronger than me pushed me back under...and held me there.

Sometimes I feel as though I lost an entire year of my life. Physical therapy, biopsies, doctors' appointments, futile attempts at marriage counseling. I was out-of-control. A puppet. But as the year came to a close, I realized that I did have control over some things in my life, and that it was just a matter of knowing what those things were. I cannot control whether or not I develop additional skin cancers (though I would love to be able to control that!), but I can do my best to prevent them and continue to see my doctor every few months for checks. However, I can control whether or not I let all of this consume me. I could stay paralyzed, watching life pass me by, but that means missing out on everything that I love - Griffin, my family, my passion for writing, pursuing my dream of publication, etc.

Everything that happened last year will always be a part of me...a part of my history, but it is a conscious decision not to let them define me. That's the tricky part. It is so easy fall into the victim mentality. By no means have I conquered that. There are many days when I let myself stew in some sadness. Sometimes it's just what we need to do. But I have learned when to get back to life, when to suck it up and move on.

I have no idea what is going to happen this year. People tell me I have nowhere to go but up, but in all honesty, that makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel like I'm just waiting for the next shoe to drop. In the meantime, though, I will continue to be a parent (a pretty darn good one, too), a maybe-wife, a friend, and as always...a writer.