From Tracie

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Heart Tattoos

Yesterday one of my friends got a super cute tattoo, and posted pictures on Facebook this morning. I added it to my mental list of tattoos. (I could probably hashtag that list #TattooGoals.) I love tattoos. I love it when people share their tattoo pictures, and even more when they share the stories behind them.

This one spoke to me because it was about knitting. I am a knitter.

I mean, I can knit. I taught myself how to knit. I really loved it. Then I hit a knitting wall, both in ability and financially (yarn is expensive, y'all, if you want to buy the good stuff). But I still think of myself as a knitter. I still believe that one day I will pull out those needles and create beautiful things. When I'm in the craft store, I stare at yarn and needles with hungry eyes. Here's the thing, though, I'm not a knitter right now. And I certainly wouldn't get a ball of yarn tattooed on myself right now. The timing doesn't make sense.

This story perfectly sums up why I don't have a tattoo. I think too far in the future. I put every tattoo idea to the "do I want this on my skin FOREVER?" test. It's not a bad test, really. There are a lot of people out there who have tattoos they don't love anymore. But my test is administered in such a way that nothing will ever pass.

I thought about this as I was looking at that super cute yarn tattoo today, and the caption that said something about this being tattoo #5 and now it was time to start thinking about #6. And I finally entertained the thought that maybe it doesn't matter if a tattoo is the perfect fit for every day of the rest of your life.

What if a tattoo was just a snapshot of your life right then — in that moment — the life for which you aren't promised a tomorrow? The life for which forever isn't a reality, anyway. A reminder outside of my head of who I was exactly in a moment in time. A scar, as it were, that illustrated something perfectly. Something that changed me inside, changing me on the outside, too.

These are the tattoos that exist on my heart, even if they never made it to my skin...(starting with the first time I remember thinking about a tattoo)...

When I was 11, I would have gotten a butterfly tattooed on my hand, on the back of my left hand, right by my thumb. I see it sometimes, now, when I stare at my hand really hard.

When I was 12, I was obsessed with always. Always. It was doodled on every school folder and book cover. (I used to write this word on the upper palm of my left hand — sometimes artsy, sometimes longingly, sometimes desperately — and at 12 I really did think I would make it a permanent mark when I was old enough.)

When I was 14, my friends and I spent months writing "BORN AGAIN" on our inner arms with permanent markers. Thick, dark lines. BORN on my right arm. AGAIN on my left. We would refresh them as they faded. It was the closest thing to permanent in a year where nothing was the same.

That summer, I would have tattooed green stars. Dainty, but strong. And a pair of converse with an orange ribbon.

When I was 15, I would have tattooed fire. Consuming fire and Hebrew words.

When I was 16, it would have been all about snippets. Bible verses. Song lyrics. Quotes from books. I was buttoned up and covered up. No one would have seen these words, but they were beautiful and written in green, a small purple triangle surrounding every mention of God.

I also would have added the word "Beloved" to the upper palm of my right hand.

When I was 17, it would have been a fake tribal tattoo, and I fear it would have happened on my lower back. What can I say, I'm being honest with you. It was the end of the 90's, every girl was doing it, and by this time I would have thrown the careful "do I want this forever" test right out of the window.

When I was 19, I would have tattooed a wedding ring. Beautiful, scrolly, and adorned with a heart and a cross.

When I was 20, I earned a c-section scar. If that isn't a heart tattoo forcing its way out onto the skin, I don't know what is. But it wouldn't have hurt to engrave a date right over my heart to go with it.

When I was 21, I would have tattooed Survivor on my left foot. This is the path I walk. This is something that will be truly true for the rest of my life.

When I was 26, I would have gotten a knitting tattoo that would have inspired anyone who saw it to pick up a pair of needles and start purling. Okay, it might not have been THAT awesome. But it would have been pretty awesome. I am a knitter, after all.

When I was 27, I would have tattooed an entire picture around my upper left arm. A VW bus parked under a tree heavy with yellow flowers. The bus would have had the words "Yellow Joy Machine" painted on the side.

I also would have added "Love" to one of my wrists. The right one, on the top of my arm. Like a bracelet. With a small star at the end. *To Write Love On Her Arms

When I was 28, I would have tattooed "Choose Joy" written in Sarah's handwriting. It would have fit perfectly on my right foot.

When I was 29, I would have tattooed a classic cassette tape. The handwritten title would have read simply "Misty."

I also would have added the word "Hope" to my right shoulder.

When I was 30, I would have made an update to my Always tattoo. This is the year I read Harry Potter for the first time. When I reached the moment where Snape said, "Always" I held the book close to my heart, and thought, "That's my word." It was a big moment for me. I pay extra close attention to every Snape-inspired Always tattoo.

I would have also added a semicolon to the outside of my right hand, matching up with the butterfly on my left. *Project Semicolon

When I was 33 (that's this year), I would tattoo another picture, this time around my upper right arm. A periwinkle car parked in the dessert by a prickly pear cactus. The cactus pads are turning purple. Three blooms would be visible, reaching up towards the sun setting behind mountains in the background.


It's been a while since I've written here. A combination of a busy work life, a huge change in my personal life, and the darkness and light that both hold back words in different ways. 

My family moved to Arizona in April, after living in Orlando for nine years. It's a move that took a long time (much longer than anticipated — we had headed down to Orlando in a black SUV for a two week trip and visit to Disney World on the way to Arizona, and got stuck). It's a move that was an answer to many thousands of prayers. The desert has welcomed me back home. 

Arizona Desert

Also, we have a hedgehog now. 

His name is Li'l Sebastian P. Merrywinkle. Sometimes, he wears a hat. 

hedgehog wearing hat

Have you looked at hedgehog tattoos? 
They are almost as cute as the real thing. Especially the bookish ones.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Kiesling Siren

It blinks at me.

Like a warning.

Like a soundless siren.

Bink. Blink. Blink.

Taunting me.

Screaming at me.

I dream about it at night.

The endless blinking, calling out to me.

This thin little line.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Like an I without the serifs.

Like an I who wants to write - who wants me to write - but can not without my help.

This I is me.

I want words. I want to put words together in beautiful lines.

We are in this together - I and the blinking I.

Maybe it is Kiesling's voice that calls out to me in the night?

"Hello. The blinking line is your friend. Why have you not written today?"

Make it move. Give it words. Allow it to work and help you.

The faster you type, the less it blinks.

Don't give it that chance unless you must.

Type your words.

Type without thinking.

Without backing down.

Without editing.

Hit publish before it can blink again.

Only then can you conquer Kiesling's line.

Only then can you turn off the siren and quiet your mind.

Only then can you write again.

*Thank you Charles A Kiesling, for inventing the blinking cursor. 
It is both friend and foe to writers everywhere.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chicken Bacon Flatbread

Football is great. I'll be watching the big game next week for sure, but I have to admit there is one part of game day I love more than than the game — the food. I'm all about game day food. Sliders, nachos, pizza, potato skins, chicken wings, chips and dips. I love it ALL. So the big question in my house is, what are we eating for the big game? And the answer is, Chicken Bacon Flatbread. Yes!

This post has been sponsored by Naturally Fresh®.

Chicken Bacon Flatbread | With great fresh ingredients, spicy sriracha and classic ranch, this flatbread is a perfect dinner recipe.

Chicken Bacon Flatbread

This recipe is combines everything I need in my life: the flavors are great, the preparation is simple, and it's actually better-for-you than most of the food I eat. Look at these great, fresh ingredients.

Chicken Bacon Flatbread Ingredients

Chicken Bacon Flatbread Ingredients:
  • 2 pieces of flatbread or naan
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup roasted red pepper strips
  • 1⁄2 red onion, sliced
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1⁄2 avocado, diced
  • 1⁄4 cup sriracha
  • 1⁄2 cup Naturally Fresh® Classic Ranch
Chicken Bacon Flatbread | With great fresh ingredients, spicy sriracha and classic ranch, this flatbread is a perfect dinner recipe.

Let’s Make It

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook and then dice your chicken into small chunks.

Brush flatbread pieces lightly with olive oil.

Spread 1⁄4 cup ranch onto flatbreads.

Top with 1⁄4 cup mozzarella cheese.

Add chicken, red pepper strips, and onion. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake in your oven for 10­-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and melted. Remove flatbreads from oven and add cilantro and avocado. Top with sriracha to taste and add the remaining ranch.

Chicken Bacon Flatbread | With great fresh ingredients, spicy sriracha and classic ranch, this flatbread is a perfect dinner recipe.

Thomas discovered sriracha a few months ago, and since then, it's been appearing everywhere! Sriracha is yummy, but even though I like the taste, the spice is a bit much for me.

The secret to making this flatbread recipe something we can both love is using creamy Classic Ranch made with Naturally Fresh’s® own buttermilk. You'll find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, because it doesn't have any artificial flavors or preservatives. Thomas adds extra sriracha to his flatbread, and I add extra Classic Ranch. It's a beautiful thing.

Chicken Bacon Flatbread | With great fresh ingredients, spicy sriracha and classic ranch, this flatbread is a perfect dinner recipe.

There you have it. The perfect food for game day (or any day, really). If you are having people over for the game, you can have everyone make their own flatbread so they get exactly what they like. So fun. I think we are going to try the Naturally Fresh® Bleu Cheese next time we make this. It has chunks of aged bleu cheese mixed in with the buttermilk, and that sounds amazing.

To take your game day snacking to the next level, check out the Naturally Fresh® Facebook page and website where they share lots of yummy recipes.

What will you be eating while you watch the big game?

*This post has been sponsored by Naturally Fresh®, but all opinions (and deep love of game day food) are my own.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Root Canal In Paris

At the Barnes & Noble by my house, there is someone who really loves Paris, because there is at least one table that always has Paris-themed books on it no matter what the season or greater theme for the display. During a recent trip, I wrote down a couple of titles I wanted to check out at the library, and then promptly forgot about them.

Last week I had to have a root canal. The night before, I went online to check out a couple of books from the library, and remembered those Paris titles. I was too lazy to actually get out of bed and find the piece of paper in my purse all the way on the other side of the room, so I mostly searched for books with Paris in the title. I found Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes and recognized it from the B&N table, even though I don't think it was one of the titles I wrote down. I downloaded it with plans to spend the next afternoon happily reading after my trip to the dentist.

There's something you have to know. Dental anesthesia doesn't work for me. I've had cavities filled, and a couple of teeth pulled, and while the outside of my face will get annoyingly numb, the inside of the tooth, the nerve, my jaw have no numbness at all, and I feel every bit of the procedure. My new dentist was dismissive of my warning (probably only one step away from using the words "hysterical girl") and assured me the endodontist was a master with anesthesia.

I didn't believe this, mind you, but I allowed myself to be hopeful that it wouldn't be much worse than a filling. As I settled into the chair before my root canal, I repeated this warning for the endodontist and his assistant. He wasn't nearly as dismissive as the dentist, but he was confident he would be able to achieve full numbness for me. He was wrong. And I can now assure you that a root canal essentially without anesthesia is much worse than a filling. It is worse than 27 hours of labor. It is no good at all.

The endodontist was great. He was very nice throughout the entire two and a half hours it took to complete the root canal. He even found the fourth canal which is tricky. And he probably apologized at least 84 times, both horrified and fascinated by my lack of numbness. I have now become his special story "there has only been ONE patient in my whole career whom I could not anesthetize" for dental cocktail parties or nervous patients. I may take small solace in that - once the pain of the root canal fades away.

When I finally arrived home that afternoon, I was in much pain and didn't want the noise of the television. I was also quite hungry, but completely unable to chew. It was then I picked up Lunch In Paris to try to distract my mind. Probably not smart timing, it being a book with both lunch and recipes in the title, but I was thinking of it as a light Parisian romance.

Lunch In Paris Book Cover

Lunch In Paris is a memoir about Elizabeth Bard's marriage and life in France - but really it is a cookbook and an accounting of every amazing meal she has eaten. In an early chapter she describes a pavé au poivre:
"It was not a particularly impressive plate - a hunk of meat, fat fried potatoes piled carelessly to one side. But something happened as I sliced the first bite - no resistance, none at all. The knife slid through the meat; the thinnest layer of crusty brown opening to reveal a pulpy red heart. I watched as the pink juices puddled into the buttery pepper sauce...I must have uttered an audible gasp of pleasure"
I took four ibuprofen and a nap after reading that chapter, and I dreamed about that steak. And then I continued to dream about that steak for the rest of the week while I was unable to chew and only eating Kraft Mac & Cheese.

While this isn't the most inspiring memoir I've ever read (and my favorite memoir of an American woman moving to France will always be A Lady In France) it is enjoyable and full of some of the best food descriptions I've ever read. And even though I know it won't happen, Bard makes me want to go into a kitchen and try to cook with her recipes. That's worth something. Just don't try to read it after a major dental procedure like I did.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

That Time Dr. Seuss, America, and Super Heroes Stopped Me From Working At The Library

Recently I needed a quiet space with great internet to record a video conference for work. I couldn't do it at home or a coffee shop (too much noise) so I came up with the brilliant idea to use my local library. My library is great for things like this - they have special quiet rooms you can reserve ahead of time, and even a couple you can claim in the moment if no one else is using them. They even have an area where people can use a 3D printer, record albums, or use special photography equipment. Surely my library would be the perfect answer.

The day arrived. Thomas dropped me and Katarina off at the library when the doors opened at 9am. It was going to be a great day.

I noticed a large amount of Dr. Seuss themed decorations as we walked through the library. Large banners, balloon sculptures, baskets with workbooks and signs about reading and writing. Being a lover of Dr. Seuss, I was excited, even pausing long enough to take a couple of pictures with the balloons. "This is the best library day EVER" I thought.

Dr Seuss Reading Event Balloons At The Library

One of the librarians told me they were having a Dr. Seuss extravaganza, and were bussing in over 100 kids for a fun rock concert to kick off a summer writing challenge.

The writer inside of me was very excited. The person who needed to work was a little concerned at the words "fun rock concert" but how loud could it be, really. I mean, it is a library, right? I confirmed that they would be finished with the event before my video conference was going to start, and didn't worry about it.

Katarina and I settled in the YA section - she to look at books, me to work.

The band arrived for sound check. They loudly sang a song about germs and toilet seats.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 came by to wave and give us high fives. They came back a few minutes later and brought us a balloon.

As the kids started arriving, I admitted to myself that this event was going to be very loud. I quickly started looking for a quiet space to make a few necessary phone calls. Since the concert was in the main library, I found the children's section deserted and set up under the watchful eye of a magical lizard wizard. Katarina and I hung out there until the rock band finished their concert. Only small strains of germ songs filtered through the phone.

The Magical Lizard Of Oz Sculpture At The Orange County Library, Orlando, Florida

After lunch we moved to my reserved quiet room to settle in for the video conference. I connected with my partner, and everything was great for about one minute - until his town started their monthly tornado warning drill. I've never lived anywhere were they had tornado warning sirens, and I always wondered if they would really be loud enough to wake someone up. I can now say with confidence that those things will wake you up. It was LOUD. The whole process took about 15 minutes. We waited and laughed at the absurdity of the noise interrupting our recording session, and I told him about the Dr Seuss extravaganza he had missed that morning.

When the siren ended, it was time to get down to work. Three minutes in I heard music and then singing. "Do you hear that sound?" I asked, hoping the microphone wasn't picking it up.

"I am starting to feel a little patriotic. Is that America The Beautiful?" he responded.

"Yes. I think there are a couple of teenagers watching a video on the computers near the quiet room. We will wait it out for just a minute. The song is almost finished." But a song from Oh Brother Where Art Thou started almost immediately after that one ended, even thought the teenagers had walked away, and the computer screen was blank.

"Excuse me for just a minute while I go investigate this noise. I can't believe a librarian hasn't shut it down already." I left my quiet room and the music got louder as I walked around the corner to find a choir set up in the center of the library. They were preforming a history of America through song, complete with vintage costumes, to a crowd of about 65 people and what looked like professional videographers and a news crew. This couldn't really be happening.

I sprinted to the information desk and asked if there was an unclaimed quiet room on one of the other floors. They found one room that hadn't been claimed for the day. I quickly went back to my computer, told my partner to give me a few minutes to move, and started packing up all of our stuff. Katarina and I ran up three flights of stairs and collapsed in the new quiet room. I turned on the computer, to find that this room was in what seemed to be an internet black hole. I got enough of a connection to pull up the video conference and confirm that there was no way this was going to work. I needed to be downstairs where the internet connection was stronger.

Trying to salvage this long-planned recording, I sent Katarina downstairs to ask the information desk how long the choir performance was going to last. She arrived back at the quiet room to tell me they were gone. "Totally gone. The signs have been taken down, there is no sound equipment or costumed singers. Even the film crews have disappeared. It is like they were never there."

"Give me five more minutes to move back downstairs and we will make this happen," I told my very patient partner.

We repacked our stuff, ran down three flights of stairs, and headed towards our original quiet room. As I turned the corner, one of the librarians stopped me. "I saw y'all run out of here when the choir came. Sorry about all the noise. I know you are trying to work today, so I thought I would catch you before you go back there, to let you know that we have a Super Hero party scheduled to start in seven minutes, and it is being held right outside the quiet rooms."

Dejected I walked into the quiet room, fired up the computer, connected to my video conference and shared the latest update. The super heroes were on their way and there would be no quiet in the library that day. To which my video partner replied, "Super hero party? What kind of library is this? I've never been in such a loud library in my whole life."

"I know. They need one of those stereotypical old lady librarians with a bun and little glasses to come out here and shush everyone."

I rescheduled our conference with a promise to secure a recording location that was less of a circus and called Thomas to pick us up. I was officially giving up on the library. While I waited, I stopped by the information desk one last time to ask about all of the events that day, "Is this normal?"

"We have a pretty busy schedule during the summer. Here is a calendar with all of our events for the next two months. You might want to check it out before setting up work time here." with that he handed me a thick schedule of events with pages full of descriptions of reading programs, robot camps, community events, kids activities, author interviews, movie screenings, science presentations, art shows, computer classes, and more.

I'm torn between being angry at my library for being a loud circus when I needed it, and being so very excited that I have the best library long as you aren't looking for a quiet space to study or work during the summer months.