From Tracie

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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Is My Fight Song

I've been meaning to write something for Dean and Courtney's That's What She Said link up for weeks now, and today I'm actually sitting down to do it. The prompt is a line from Rachel Platten's Fight Song...

This Is My Fight Song

If I was to get very literal with you (the real meaning of literal - not the new ridiculous meaning where "literally" somehow means not literal at all), I would say my fight song for many years has been Be Wise, Be Strong, Be You. It is the song I put on repeat when I write hard things. It is the song I have sung, clung to, screamed, written out on paper when there were no other words, cried with, danced to, and shouted...
"If they shut one door then you open another
There's no telling where you'll go from here
And if they take your spirit keep your soul under cover
Make your path and just stay in the clear
So be wise, be strong, be you
There's nothing that you can't do."
- Be Wise, Be Strong, Be You - Cee Cee Michaela
I have a playlist on Spotify named "Tracie's Power Music" that is all of my fight songs. It is one of the few playlists I've taken the time to cultivate - only really great songs that are full of heart words make the cut. Songs that weave a mantle of strength around me.
"'Cause I have been where you are before
And I have felt the pain of losing who you are
And I have died so many times, but I am still alive
This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
- I Belive - Christina Perri
What is my fight song in less literal terms? What is it that helps me to take back my life, to make me all right, to turn up my power, and make me strong? Words. Writing. This space.
"Nothing's gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle 'neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave."
- Brave - Sara Bareilles
If writing online is a poem that builds an incredible portrait of what it is like to be alive now - then this really is my fight song. Even thought this is the piece of me that I give to the world, it is also the piece I keep very much for myself.
"But you've gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along."
- Make Your Own Kind Of Music - Mama Cass
In writing, I can be truly and honestly me in ways that aren't always so easy out there in daily conversation. I can take the time to be thoughtful. I can take chances and take flight.
"Get up and go
Take a chance and be strong
Or you could spend your whole life holding on
Don't look back; just go
Take a breath, move along
Or you could spend your whole life holding on."
- Go - Boys Like Girls
And maybe, on occasion, I can write the things that are in your heart, too.

Just like any good fight song.

What is your fight song? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Keep Your Kids On Track For A Safe Summer

Tracking Pixel My childhood summer days were comprised of hours of reading punctuated by bike rides and occasional adventures in the woods. When I was little, there were a lot of safety rules my mom taught me over and over again - only jump in the water feet first, look both ways before crossing a street (preferably while holding the hand of an adult), don't talk to strangers, no playing or gathering blackberries near the train tracks, sit on your butt while sliding down a slide, mind the warning flags at the beach, and absolutely stay away from the half burnt down house in the woods.

Now that I'm the mom, it is my job to share those safety rules with Katarina. And I'm not off the hook because she is in her tween years. I only have to think back to the time I thought it would be a good idea to jump off of my friend's roof when I was 12 years old to remind myself that tweens and teens need safety rules, too.

That is why I am excited to work with Shriners Hospitals for Children® this summer to help promote their On Track For A Safe Summer Campaign. Because parents need all the help and support they can get as they teach their kids about safety.

Shriners Hospitals For Children Safe Summer Event

National Safety Month

June has been designated National Safety Month. It is the start of summer - or what public health and medical professionals in the United States call "trauma season," because serious injuries and unintentional deaths increase dramatically among children during these months. Scary.

Shriners Hospitals For Children Logo
Katarina and I recently attended a safe summer event at Shriners Hospitals for Children® in Tampa. It was pretty awesome. The kids and their parents were taken on a journey through several safety stations to learn important tips. I'm going to share some of my favorites with you today, so you can help your kids get on track for a safe summer.

Safe Summer Tip: Wear Sunscreen EVERY Time You Go Outside
I'm all about sunscreen now that I'm an adult, but kids just want to run outside and play as fast as they can. I remember those years of not caring about sunscreen, and I remember the second degree burns I got after I spent nine hours at the beach without any sunscreen when I was a teenager. Ouch! As you might guess, I took Katarina straight to the sunscreen station to reinforce the lessons I've been teaching her since she was little.

Shriners Hospitals for Children® knows what kids like. They made the stations both informative and fun, as you can see in the picture of Katarina getting ready to go outside. She has her shoes, hat, and sunscreen and is all ready to go!

Safe Summer Tip: Life Jackets Are NOT One Size Fits All
Water safety is a huge deal - especially when you live in Florida with beaches and pools all around. Did you know that life jackets aren't one size fits all? Everyone (kids and adults) should wear a life jacket that is Coast Guard approved and fits snug anytime they are boating or participating in water sports.

Always wear Coast Guard approved life jackets when you participate in water sports.

A few important things kids need to know about water safety:
  • Kids should always have an adult with them if they are going to get in the water, even if the water is shallow.
  • Kids should always jump in the water feet first the first time until they know how deep it really is.
  • Kids should never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into an above-ground pool. 

Learning about water safety at Shriners Hospital For Children. Kids should never play in the water without an adult present.

Safe Summer Tip: Marshmallows Belong In Fires - Kids Don't!
I love s'mores, probably more than most people, but as great as it is to gather around a campfire and roast marshmallows to a perfect golden brown, you need to be safe while you do it. Kids should never start fires or be left by themselves to roast marshmallows or cook on a grill. You always need a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby when you are going to start even a small fire.

Learning about fire safety and planning for a safe summer at Shriners Hospital For Children. Always have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water with you if you are going to build a fire.

Safe Summer Tip: Playgrounds Are MORE Fun With Rules
Rules? Yes, rules! They are very important for playgrounds especially, because every year emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries according to The Centers for Disease Control.

A few basic playground rules to keep summer fun and injury-free:
  1. No pushing or shoving on the playground!
  2. Never go down the slide head first! Always slide down feet first, one kid at a time.
  3. No standing on the swings! Swing sitting down, and wait for the swing to slow down before you get off. 
  4. Play at playgrounds with shock-absorbing material. 
  5. Wear shoes when you play outside to prevent cuts and other injuries - and don't forget that sunscreen we talked about earlier! 
Remember all of these tips, and share them with your kids, and you will be on track for a safe summer! For more safety tips and activity pages for your kids, visit the Shriners Hospitals for Children® website.

Summer Safety with Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Florida

No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. While Shriners Hospitals for Children® hopes to help reduce the risks of accidents and prevent injuries this summer, they are available to help if a child gets hurt. Their staff provides expert surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, and burns, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. They will even send someone to pick up a child for appointments if the family has transportation issues that prevent them from getting to the hospital.

What is the most important safety rule you taught your kids? 

*This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Shriners Hospitals for Children®. All opinions, love of s'mores, and stories about unsafe choices in my teen years are my own. Much thanks to Deb Pope Photography for sharing her pictures from the On Track For A Safe Summer event. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Flash In The Can

Because sometimes you need a little flash fiction....

Flash In The Can

More berries. More veggies. More tomatoes.

The work never ends.

She leans over the hot stove, stirring her many pots.

Canning season they call it. She remembers her grandmother saying that. Although everything she made was going into a jar, and not a can, so that name seemed wrong. But jarring season didn't sound so great, either.

She was building quite the collection of filled jars. They filled the shelves in the basement nicely.

Jars of preserves lined up on a shelf

There was a time when all these things could be bought in a store. She went to one of those when she was very little, walking hand in hand with her mother down long aisles with tall shelves. Her mouth watered just thinking about the little chocolate cakes they bought that day.

But it has been many years since a store was a reality. Not since the storms.

Many things had changed.

And now it is can or facing starving in the long winter months that will surely come soon.

She stirs her pots and whispers gratitude that this abandoned farmhouse had so many jars in the basement when she moved in three years ago.

She is so intent on her work that she doesn't even notice the flash of light reflected in her vegetable stew from the lightning outside, or the smell of rain on its way.

Storms are brewing.

.....what do you think happens next?