30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 20

20. Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is

I like my playlist. It’s… eclectic. I like it so much I’m going to list the first 5 songs instead. ‘Cause I’m a rebel. I’ve added YouTube links so you can enjoy too!

  1. Celebrate the Riot” by Dubioza Kolektiv. This is a Bosnian group that plays an interesting mixture of rock, reggae, and punk. When I visited Sarajevo a few years ago, my guide told me about them. You can download their albums for free! They mostly sing in English, but I enjoy trying to understand the occasional Bosnian words too.
  2. Autrefois” by Pink Martini.  For some reason, I especially enjoy listening to music in other languages, and Pink Martini does songs in several. This particular song makes me feel like I should be sitting in a Parisian bar feeling angsty.
  3. Natrag U Garažu” by Psihomodo Pop. This band is Croatian and plays pop punk. I discovered them during one of my stays in Zagreb. I think it might be about somebody getting drunk in a garage, but I’m not very confident in that translation.
  4. Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. I am a terrible singer, but when I’m alone I like to sing along with this one. Also on my playlist, I have Me First and the Gimme Gimmes singing the same song. Faster.
  5. “Lovely Loretta” by Chris Isaak. Chris Isaak is from Stockton, just up the road from me. I’ve seen him in concert twice–he does a great show. When I was walking out of the second concert, I hear some guy say to his wife, “He does Johnny Cash better than Johnny Cash.” He also does a mean Ray Orbison and Elvis, and I love his Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.

I’m surprised no versions of “Hallelujah” came up. I have four. I think my favorite is Rufus Wainwright’s.

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 19

19. Five fears that you have

Pull your chair right up to my couch now. Ready?

  1. Heights. But only if they’re over water and there’s no barrier between me and the drop. The flimsiest barrier will do to make me feel better. And yes, I realize that if you’re going to fall, probably better into water than onto solid ground. But there you go.
  2. Enclosed spaces. I’m mildly claustrophobic. This means that on crowded airplanes I’m really going to want an aisle seat. I discovered years ago that it also means I can’t snorkel. Putting that mask over my eyes and nose freaks me out, even though I’m aware I can breathe perfectly well through my mouth.
  3. Failure. Not little failures, because we all have those. Sometimes daily. I’m afraid of trying hard at something and having it bomb spectacularly.
  4. Lack of control. Because I am the world’s biggest control freak.
  5. My kids being unhappy adults. I don’t particularly care what my girls do for a living when they grow up. I don’t care whom they love. I just want them to lead healthy, happy lives. Simple, right?

One thing almost everyone else is afraid of but I’m not? Public speaking. I got rid of that fear by joining the speech team in high school, and I’ve spent the past 23 years speaking in front of groups on an almost daily basis. I’m really comfortable with it. Now if I had to sing? That would be a different story.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 18

18. Your favorite color and why

I guess cobalt blue is my favorite color. I own a lot of cobalt glass, and I like the way light shines through it. I find it relaxing but not boring. I wear some blue, too, because it complements my eyes (*bats eyelashes*). But when it comes to clothing, I actually gravitate more to black and dark red. Don’t know why. My punk streak, maybe.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 17

17. A quote you try to live by

Does “Do your fucking job?” count?

Okay, then. Here’s one I take to heart:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

       –Mark Twain

If you know me at all, you know I love to travel. I could list about a million reasons why, but one big guiding force is a desire to see a different viewpoint. Travel helps us not only to see new things, but to see old ones through fresh eyes. We gain new perspective. We see that our way isn’t the only way and isn’t necessarily the best way. We meet those people over there, and they become not a stereotype, but rather living, breathing human beings with whom we share many more commonalities than differences. Even when there are differences, we can appreciate them. I love how Italians dress nicely for even basic shopping and sound like they’re arguing even when they’re not. How Croatians abhor lines and rarely smile at strangers, but will treat you like long-last family as soon as you get to know them a little. How Scots flock outdoors at the slightest hint of sunshine. How New Yorkers are convinced the live in the center of the universe and Midwesterners can’t imagine why people would live anywhere else.

Travel also erases out prejudices about ourselves. We learn what we can tolerate, what we’re truly capable of.

And travel delights us with surprises large and small.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 16

16. Bullet your entire day.

My days vary depending on the day of the week and time of year. I don’t teach on Mondays, so here’s my schedule for today.

  • Wake up.
  • Think of plot ideas while showering.
  • Go downstairs. Have espresso and a banana while reading email, etc.
  • Go to work.
  • Deal with 10,000 problems.
  • Have meeting with someone I’d rather not.
  • Deal with more problems.
  • Go home for late lunch.
  • Email and social media.
  • Greet kids when they get home. Point them toward homework.
  • Listen to audiobook (Spook Squad!) while I do my daily walk.
  • Tell students I won’t round 78.3% up to a B.
  • Grade stray term papers.
  • Watch husband make dinner. Eat with family.
  • Convince husband or kid to go for evening walk.
  • More email and social media, plus various small work tasks.
  • Write (sequel to Love Can’t Conquer)
  • Eat dessert (this is important)
  • Go to bed
  • Think of 30 things I absolutely must do in the morning. Write them down (I keep a notepad by the bed).
  • Sleep.

You’ll notice there’s not a lot of housework going on in that list, plus I don’t watch TV.

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 15

15. Three pet peeves

Only three? Well, okay.

Number three: Signs with misspellings or grammatical errors. I know, this is petty of me. But it annoys me. During a recent trip to Vegas, I saw an entire line of parking spots with signs reserving them for service vehichles. Not just one misspelling here, but an entire row of them. And when I went to the opera the other day–as one does–the subtitles twice read it’s when they should have read its. Shudder.

Number two: Travelers who complain when everything’s not exactly like it is back home. I was once stuck with one of these people for a week while I was in Hungary and the Czech Republic. The rest of us came close to throwing him off a moving train. If you love everything at home so much, great. Stay there. The rest of us are delighted to explore the world’s diversity, even when it means we encounter things that are less than perfect.

Number one–drumroll please: People who don’t do their fucking job. I don’t care what that job is. College student. Fast food worker (yes, I was once one of those). Member of Congress. Whatever it is you have responsibility for doing, do it. Preferably, do it well. Don’t leave the rest of the world to pick up your mess.

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 14

14. Your life in 7 years

This one is easy. Within 7 years, I want to be retired (early!) from my day job. I plan to spend my time traveling and writing full time. My husband plans to retire by then too. If we’re lucky, the older kid will have graduated college (she’s a high school junior now) and the younger, currently in 7th grade, will be halfway through.

I’d like to move by then, too. After far too many years of living in small towns and suburbs, I want to live somewhere I don’t have to get in my car to do things. I want shops, restaurants, and coffee houses within easy walking distance. I also want to live a lot closer to a major airport. Portland, Oregon is my first choice of where to move to. My family’s there, plus it’s a great city.

I’m fairly prolific and peripatetic now. Imagine what I could accomplish without an Evil Day Job!

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 13

13. Your commute to and from work/school/etc.

I have an extremely short commute: 2 miles, door to door. I could easily walk it, except I’m often carrying papers, books, etc. Plus it gets hot here and I’d rather not arrive at work all sweaty. So I do my walk after I drive home.

Sometimes I wish my commute was a little longer, because that’s when I listen to NPR. For the past 10 years–until just about a month ago–my homeward commute was actually longer because I had to pick the kids up from their schools. Their schools are over 2 miles from home and we have no bus service here. By the time I got to the schools, endured the awful traffic from other parents, waited, and drove home, over an hour would elapse. Ugh. Nowadays, though, the older kid is driving. She picks the younger one up on her way home. I’m gifted with an extra hour per day!

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 12

12. Two words/phrases that make you laugh

Speed humps. These go a by a variety of names. I grew up calling them “speed bumps.” Around here, though, the signs all say “speed hump,” which always makes me laugh. Because, apparently, I am 12.

“Thank you for your patience.” This one happens when you’ve been on hold for a while–often because you’re trying to get the party on the other end of the phone to fix something they’ve messed up. And of course I never actually am patient, and probably neither is anyone else who hears that.

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 11

11. Your current relationship; if single, discuss that too

I’m afraid my response to this is really boring.

I met my husband in high school. I was 15 and he was about to turn 17. I’d asked another boy to the Sadie Hawkins dance but he’d already said yes to someone else. But my cousin knew this guy and suggested him.

We moved in together during my sophomore year in college and got married about a week after I graduated. He supported me through college and grad school. When I got a professor job, I supported him through college.

We were married 11 years before we had our first kid. Then we had another.

Our 28th anniversary is next month.

See? Boring.