28 January 2015

Hot tea and other blunders

I realized today I make a consistently American request. I've lived in Europe for the better part of 10 years on and off. My significant other and I joke about being Euro trash but really we are contented expats who still like "Home" too.

But while I know I shouldn't care, I pride myself on often blending in. I like to eat like the locals and go places like locals etc. So how after so many years did I realize I keep ordering incorrectly on airplanes?

I ask for hot tea. Every time. Now, my US compatriots are possibly saying, "Yeah, so?" While my British friends are laughing at me. 

In the US, we have lovely BREWED ice tea. (I am an admitted tea-sob.) This is real tea (nothing powdered please) brewed mostly hot, but there are new cold brews, then it's served on ice. In the south this comes with a bucket of sugar in it. I don't like my tea sweet though. So in the US, it's not uncommon to hear an order like, "I'll have an sweet ice tea." 

I am a habitual daily hot tea drinker because I like it and I don't drink coffee. So I must specify what I want. I realized in Europe there is only (where I frequent) tea that is hot, no need to specify. There is a product in a can called "Nestea" and it is dreadful and bears no resemblance to tea in my snobby opinion,  but there are lots of people who love it. It is very sweet but it still does not taste like USA southern sweet tea. 

All of that to realize that I always say "hot tea" and that always marks me as -- not from around here. I don't care necessarily but to suddenly notice after so many years is interesting, like discovering a birthmark you didn't know about.

Now that I think about it, I was at a conference and I remember one of my British friends sort of mocking my "hot tea" request with a raised questioning eyebrow. I loftily pointed out the US custom of icing it. 

I think the same friend felt my using hot water from the faucet (the tap!) to fill my water bottle in hotels was also a faux paus of social norms. 

Clearly I will always carry my uncouthness with me as I drink my hot tea and snuggle my mediocrelly warm water bottle, but I'm having fun and trying not to be cold. Next flight I will try with all my might to order. Tea. Just tea and see what happens.

15 January 2015

Discipline versus Desire

As a writer, I wrestle with these two ideas. A lot. I suppose everyone does in some aspect of their lives. It's like a constant catch-22 of wanting something but not wanting to do it. I hear running may be like that too but I wouldn't know. (snicker)

It's a constant ebb and flow. Things have to get done in life, right? Doctor's visits, groceries. So those are things you just do because you do, because you have to for living normally. Sometimes you do the normal things without really thinking about it and other times, you drag yourself kicking and screaming. Maybe you desire to eat so your discipline yourself to go to the grocery store.

With writing, I desire to tell a story. The stories just aren't as much fun roaming around in my head as when other people get to share in them. Stories are for sharing even though I immensely enjoy creating them in my head. So yes, I desire to get another book out to keep the inkling of writing career moving forward despite my day job.

But the application of the seat of the pant to the chair in order to type in a computer is another matter altogether. It is a discipline by all definitions. One must practice to improve and make progress! If I can muster the discipline to do it, I nearly always enjoy myself. I become lost in the story like I'm watching a movie.

Sometimes you hit a snag in the story and that makes it slower. Sitting and picking at it is the only way for me to unravel. This usually looks like me sitting at the computer scrolling, reading, and staring off into space.

I have seasons where I get in a grove and I walk in the house and sit down and write without thinking. Like some of those grocery runs that just occur without pain. But other times I like the idea of sitting to write but I don't get there without huge disciplinary effort of myself. I don't think books can get written on desire alone. I think all of them, if they are going to be good or decent, are going to require seasons of serious sitting, hammering, and red ink days.

It's the marriage of discipline and desire where things get produced out of love. There's another intersection where things get produced a lot too -- that is where discipline and the need to eat meet and we go to work for ourselves or someone else. Sometimes writing is in both those places.

One trick I use on myself when I'm resisting the big project, like I am now, is I promise myself just one hour. Only sit here for one hour and work on this, the promise goes, then you'll feel productive and get to do something else too. It works remarkably well for me. If you only do it one hour at a time though, you've got to do it regularly. Of course, the writing recommendation is to write every day. Sometime my life is like that and sometimes it isn't.

I heard a phrase and it's so true. I LOVE having written!

13 January 2015

Books read in 2014

Again, I didn't read as much as I'd like, nor write as much as I wish this last year. I did re-engage with audio books thanks to my brother's recommendation of Steve Martin's memoir. I also read more nonfiction than usual which you may recall is not my favorite and often slows me down. That being said, The Gift of Fear was fascinating and I wish I could articulate even a smidge of Fast Thinking Slow Thinking. Perhaps you too will find something new to try. 

1. Six Years, harlan corben, New England, ****
2. Gift of Fear, gavin de becker, nonfiction ****
3. The torah codes, ezra barany, N ca and israel, **
4. A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd, WWI, ****
5. Board Member Orientation, the concise guide, Michael Batts, nonfiction
6. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, **** nonfiction WWII
7. Maltese Falcon, dashiel hammett, 1950s CA, ****
8. Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman, Baltimore, ***
9. The Attack,  Yasmina Khandra, Israel, Palestine, **
10. Chasing the Storm, Martin Molsted, Germany, greece, Russia, Cyprus ****
11. Be mine, Rick Mofina, **, san Francisco
12. Paradise of thieves' gk chesterton, italy, short story
13. Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett, medieval UK***
14. Wings, Juliet Kincaid, fairytale mystery (beta read) ****
15. Where'd you go, Bernadette, Marie Semple, Seattle ****
16. Born standing up, Steve Martin, autobiog, ****
17. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson, Kansas and Iowa 1950ish, ****, not mystery, Pulitzer Prize winner 2005
18. A test of Wills, Charles Todd, after WW I in UK, ****
19. Bossypants, Tina Fey, biography,***
20. A Butterfly Forest,  Tom Lowe, Florida Ocala FoRest **
21. Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King, novella, *****
22. I feel bad about my neck, Nora Ephron, memoir, ****
23. Private, James Patterson & Maxine Paetro, LA/CA, ***
24. Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, Daniel Kahneman, Psychology 
25. Healing thru Humor, Joke book, Charles Hunter
26.  Let's Pretend This Never Happened, a mostly true memoir, Jenny Lawson, **** hilarious but rough. Don't read this with your mom, unless she swears a lot. 
27. Monkeewrench, PJ Tracy, st. paul, mn, ***
28. In the bleak midwinter, Julia spencer-Fleming, upper NY small town, ****
29. Hurt people hurt people, Sandra Wilson, psychology nonfiction ***
30. Citizen insane, Karen Cantwell, USA, ***.5