It wasn't until Tracy from Dandelion Mama sent me her picks for the Write-Away Contest that I had a chance to check in with her and learn of the tragedy that hit her family that weekend.
I've ached for her--their family has had a tough year--and I don't know that there is much I could say to show how sorry I am for their loss. I spoke with Tracy yesterday and enjoyed taking a break from unloading groceries and folding laundry to hear her voice and send support first hand.
I know you'll enjoy Dandelion Mama as much as I have, Tracy is amazingly creative. I gasped in amazement at the piano she refinished and I think her paintings are beautiful. She has her own Etsy shop where she has sold her work and besides all this she writes with depth and thoughtfulness. I could go on and on--she's one of the very first bloggers to give me any notice so I'm very loyal.
Here are some of the questions I asked her, I'm keeping them in her own words because I couldn't improve on what she's written:
You've written some thoughtful posts about your struggles with motherhood—have you resolved any of these issues?
I've learned to be kinder and more forgiving towards myself. When I was a new mama, like so many new mamas, I tried to be perfect, to not make the same "mistakes" my mom made. Time has made me much more compassionate towards my own mother, and I have learned I can't even come close to perfect. I do my best, have a laugh, sometimes a cry, and call it a day.
How do you deal with the pressures of motherhood? Do you deal with them?
I write. Honestly, that's why I blog. It keeps me sane and keeps the thoughts from acting like wild bats in the belfry. Writing is cathartic, and after a well written and expressed post, it feels like my head is a vast, empty, clean, white room. Anyone with small kids knows what a treat that idea is . . . I also like to eat fine cheese.
You have so many creative things you like to do—where does blogging fall in the priorities?
Blogging is pretty high in the priorities--I mean, if Mama ain't sane, ain't no one happy--or some platitude like that, right?
How does your family feel about your blog? Immediate and extended? Do they read?
Well, my husband thinks it's fantastic and encourages me in any way I need to express myself. He's fabulous. My kids love love love to read back stories I've written about them--and maybe that will change when they are older, but for now, they think it's keen. My extended family is a little different. I have been, um, "forbidden" to write about my mom and I'm careful with my siblings and privacy. All of my mom's friends read though, as do my cousins and other family members.
Do you think blogging helped you face some of the things that have hit your family this past year?
Oh yes. Oh, yes yes yes. Our family has been knocked around this year, and blogging has been my outlet for keeping perspective, keeping calm and holding on to the big picture. It's also a tremendous source of friendship and support. People email me, send me cards and kind words and even good-mail. I can honestly feel the prayers holding me up--it's almost like a life raft, and I can see the roiling, rolling whitewater all around the boat, but I am buoyed and safe in spite of it all.
How does your family (husband especially) feel about your posts about personal struggles you or your family face?
My husband thinks I censure myself too much, if you can believe that. He knows what writing does for me, and when I leave out things for privacy or, more often, for family reasons, he gets disgruntled at my family for insisting I edit. Honesty is incredibly important; I try very hard to present things as they are and if I cannot be honest, I just don't even tackle a subject.
Have you had a chance to meet many other bloggers in real life?
Yes, I have, and so far, it has been a universal success. I have met probably twenty other bloggers over the last three years, and it's been a wonderful experience. When you meet people who already know so much about you, it creates an open environment that really fosters friendship. These people already know my quirks and idiosyncrasies and they like me anyway--I don't have to be careful. It's fabulous.
There are so many women who deal with things such as you've had to face this year: struggles in motherhood, unemployment, death, etc. Have you learned anything that might help anyone else facing similar trials?
Oh golly. I'm muddling through just like everyone. This year has been a doozy, though. I hope, when all is said and done, I have some pearls of wisdom to share. At this point, still in the thick of it, I just keep trying to breathe and not panic. I do know now that we are all much stronger than we understand. I have learned that where you think your breaking point is, you are probably wrong. I have learned prayers are real, tangible things. I have learned my mustard seed is a big sprawling sapling now . . .
You seem to have quite a few interests, what is your educational background/training? Did you write before blogging?
My background is actually in the visual/fine arts. I attended CalArts in southern California, and I attended the Art Institute of Seattle, with majors in illustration and graphic design. Before kids, I worked as an art director and copy-writer for a company in Palo Alto, California. My work required that I travel to toy shows in Europe. Yeah, I know!! How cool is that?! As far as writing- I've always kept a journal of sorts, and loved writing in college, but I really didn't start writing seriously until I began the blog. Painting pictures of thoughts and emotions with my words gives me immense satisfaction.
What is your next project?
Ha! Next ten projects? To get my husband a job! There are two commissioned paintings I am currently working on. I have committed to making a custom diaper bag in an auction for Nie Nie today. Tomorrow is my oldest son's seventh birthday, I'm making him a Bionicle cake and I have no idea how yet. I have two new textile designs I'm working on, and several orders in the hopper that I'm lagging on.
Let's see . . . I've just been asked to be the Visiting Teaching Coordinator for my church congregation. School starts next week and Beanie is starting his therapy for Aspergers. At a garage sale last week, I found a Louis XVI writing desk and I'm refinishing and stripping it right now (the fumes are creeping under the garage door), Abby needs some fall dresses, soccer starts tonight, I have no idea what's for dinner and my husband is taking a nap upstairs while the boys watch a Tom and Jerry Netflix DVD. And Abby want a Popsicle.
Do you have things that you'd still like to learn?
Goodness yes! I want to speak fluent German. I want to be able to throw pottery on a wheel. I want to learn Chinese calligraphy. I want to learn to like exercise and stop eating when I'm stressed. I want to write a book, and illustrate a children's book. I want an art gallery someday. I want a restaurant and to write a cookbook. I want a cheese shop and a bookstore and the type of home where the door is always open and everyone is made welcome. I want to be a better friend and a more compassionate human being. I hope to be the kind of mother my children will always trust.
Biggest pet peeve about blogging?
Drive-by commentators. Don't say anything in print that you wouldn't say in person. Manners are always appropriate.
If you have an empty afternoon what would you most like to do?
Oh . . . sigh. I adore being alone. I would probably make something.
Any advice for new bloggers?
Edit. Edit. Edit. Reading good writing makes you a better writer. Be honest. Express yourself. Enjoy yourself.
And if you happen to wander back here after visiting Dandelion Mama, here are a few other links that have caught my eye this week:
Sherri at Unexpected Bliss writes a sobering post about internet addiction and her son--not only is brave for writing it, she's a great parent to handle the situation as she did.
Robin at Pensieve has a poetry writing contest running next week. I'm trying to decide if I'm brave enough to dust off a poem and send it in--maybe anonymously?
Amanda at Kiddio.com has some fun and creative ideas for kid meals--no hints, you'll have to peek at it to see for yourself.
Amber at Crazy Bloggin' Canuck (I don't know if I've given the full account of time at BlogHer that shows just how crazy she really is but it's in her archives. I'll just leave it you to ferret it out) well she has a thoughtful post on career v. family. I've been thinking about this a lot lately so it hit home with me.
Mindbites.com is hosting a video contest to judge the best instructional video for parenting or child care. Some nice cash prizes are going out to the winners and the entry page will be available next Wednesday.
And since I'm being rather serious today I'll end with a mention of the efforts to help Stephanie and Christian Nielsen who were in a plane crash August 16th in Arizona. Both she and her husband are recovering from severe burns and are in need of your prayers and support. There are silent auctions going on all over the place to help the family, Design Mom has a list of them.
Sponsored by Oaki at Outdoor Adventure Kid Company--Gear for kids who live outside.
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