30 Day Writing Challenge

Day 1: Write for 15 minutes

Yesterday, after I finally got all of this set up, I was tired.  I had, technically, written for 15 minutes and so, in my fashion, I quit.  In my defense, I had one of the hardest days I'd had in a long time yesterday.  At 8:30am, Dave had to have his wisdom teeth removed.  At 7:50am, ten minutes before we needed to leave, the Bug got tired.  So we called Lindsey to come sit with her and I drove Dave down Vista Hermosa to the dentist.  I left him there as the doctor said it would be an hour and a half.  The Bug woke up in time to go back and pick him up and we all traipsed home.  The rest of the day was spent taking care of my two 'babies.'  It was not easy.  The Bug was grumpy, Dave was in pain.  The Mommy had to make baby food, only to find that the avocados (which the Bug loves) weren't ripe enough, nor were the bananas.  I ran out to buy more avocados and steamed some carrots and decided to wait on the bananas until today.  The Bug was mad, the Mommy was stressed and, again, Dave was in pain.  I didn't get to eat lunch or take a shower until 2pm.  Then my friend KLE came over so we could be crafty and I made a shopping cart cover.

Martha Stewart would be proud.  Homemade baby food, a shopping cart cover, all the diaper changes, all the ice pack changes, jello and pudding delivery service, bath time/bed time and finally, sleep.  

I did my best, but I'll tell you what- it was exhausting!  By 9:45pm, I could barely keep my eyes open.   But honestly, I feel like I accomplished something... well, many things.

And today looks much more promising.  The patient seems to be out of the ICU- well, he's off the couch and is playing with the baby so that's helpful.  I'm going to make some cheesecake brownies to take to a bbq in a bit and stop by the vivero (if it's open) to get some some herbs to plant this afternoon (cheesecake brownies and planters courtesy of Pinterest).  No more wasted weekends for this girl.  I've found my crafty side... and I finally understand why my cousin felt the need to go to Walmart every day with her young son... you just need something to do.

Day 2:  Start your story with this: She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled.

She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled.  The man next to her in the subway smiled too, seeing her absolute happiness and pretending he felt the same way that he imagined she felt.  There was such tenderness in her fingers as she touched her left coat pocket that he wondered what was in there and was just about to ask when the train came whirling down the tunnel and screeched to a halt in front of them.  They went their separate ways, the man to one end of the train and the girl to the other.  

As he grabbed onto the last hand rail nearest the door, the old man continued to smile at the beauty of the young lady's smile.  She seemed so content and so, well, happy.  He was the exact opposite.  He had been at the same job for thirty-seven years, a job he was good at, but did not particularly like.  His wife had been begging him to take a cruise with her for the last ten years and he always managed to put it off, not because of the money, as his wife imagined, but because he hated the idea of asking his much-younger boss for the time off.  He wanted to retire.  He wanted to be a cliche and move to Florida and play golf and wear silly hats.  He wanted to be happy.  But he didn't have the guts.  

During the twenty minute ride to his stop, he imagined all the things that the young lady could have had in her pocket.  She had gotten off at the very next stop or he would have, he convinced himself, walked down and asked her what was in her pocket.  He first thought it might be a locket with a picture of a lover or child in it but then decided that she would've been wearing it and then decided that women probably did not wear lockets much anymore.  Then he wondered if it was a ticket to someplace exotic and beautiful.  He decided it wasn't because the way she touched her jacket was so loving, almost a caress, and it did not convey the excitement of a trip.  He asked himself if he thought she was the type of woman who might do something so brazen as to ask a man for his hand in marriage and could, in fact, be carrying an engagement ring in her pocket.  Or, he thought, deciding he was quite open-minded and twenty-first century, perhaps she was proposing to a girlfriend.  He felt proud that this thought did not make him cringe.

Before he knew it, the train had reached his stop.  He walked the three blocks home to the apartment he shared with his wife.  He spent the entire night entertaining ideas of what could have been in the young girl's pocket.  His wife noticed his distracted nature and, instead of being frustrated with his lack of attention, was almost pleased not to have to listen to him rattle on about his job and how much he disliked it.  

As they crawled into bed that night, him on the right side and her on the left, the old man decided that the girl had been carrying a love letter from her boyfriend- she was too young for a husband.  It was the only explanation he could come up with.  He fell asleep content and satisfied, as though he had solved a great mystery and resolved to write his own wife a love letter the next day, in the hopes of making her smile again the way the young lady had smiled in the subway.  

Day 3:  Make a list: The 10 worst things that could happen on your way to work

In no particular order... 

1. A flat tire
2. Being car jacked
3. Getting in an accident
4. Running out of gas 
5. Suddenly forgetting how to get to school
6. Getting a call from the nanny because something is wrong with the baby (this would be one of the worst things ever, no matter when it happened)
7. Realizing I left my phone at home
8. Being pulled over by one of the black-uniformed cops
9. A flash flood
10. An earthquake

**Can you tell I live somewhere dangerous?  All of these are, unfortunately, possibilities.**

Day 4:  Ralph

Ralphing is something I learned from a dear friend in college.  She told me just to grab a pen and paper and go at it.  It's just stream-of-consciousness writing, but it's a lot more fun to say "I'm gonna ralph!"

Last night I had a dream about my mother.  There was a store and Dave and I were running and I can't remember why but then suddenly I was talking to her on the phone and I knew she was dead and I knew that it was a miracle.  She told me about the people she had met in Heaven and that everyone smoked pot.  I don't smoke pot, but it sounds like a pretty chilled out place to me.  It's weird that I more sad now that she's gone.  I guess it's suddenly started really hitting me that I'll never say "Momma" again and have anyone answer me.  Oops, making myself cry so we'll go somewhere else instead.  Where to, I'm not sure.  Maybe a new country.  Maybe a new room.  It's hard to do this with screaming middle school children in the next room, randomly 'singing' the theme song from... something.  I can't place my finger on it.  But I know it and you would too if I bummed it for you like they're doing.  The last time I ralphed was on a yoga retreat before I had Rory.  There was a donkey.  This is not really going the way I want it to and I'm thinking it has something to do with the fact that I'm typing it at school rather than writing it the quiet of some room in my house.  I'd rather be home but we have professional development.  I can guarantee that I will not be developed, professionally or otherwise, today.  I might sneak out.

Day 5:  Write a story about resignation with a widower as the main character and a wallet as the key object.  Set your story in a ski lodge.

She wasn't sure why she'd come.  Maybe because the tickets had already been paid for, maybe just to get away from all the sad faces.  Especially John's mother- if she tried to hug her, to comfort her one more time, Elizabeth thought she might scream.  So she left and went on their honeymoon alone.  They should've been married a week ago.

Elizabeth had been at the ski lodge for three nights.  The clerk looked at her funny when she checked into the honeymoon suite alone but she didn't care- it wasn't his business.  She didn't care that the entire staff was whispering about the quiet lady in room 604 who hadn't come out of her room since she'd arrived but kept ordering bottles of Vodka and orange juice brought up.  She didn't care that they all assumed she'd been left at the alter.  And she really didn't care that they thought it was too bad, because she was so pretty.

On her fourth day, she made a decision.  Elizabeth put on her snow suit and the hat she'd knitted for John.  She smiled a sad smile that it fit her so well- he always joked that he wasn't sure if he had a small head or she had a big one.  She grabbed his wallet, the one he'd begged and begged for, the one she had finally gotten for him as a wedding gift, the one he'd loved so much that he picked her up and twirled her around the room when she gave it to him a month early because she was afraid he was going to buy it for himself.  He hadn't let that wallet out of his sight since he got it.  Elizabeth cleaned it out the day the hospital gave it back to her.  Now all that was in it was one of their engagement pictures and a note that Elizabeth had written that morning.

Elizabeth walked past the curious receptionist and out the front door of the lodge.  She walked down the path that led to the frozen lake, past the couple lacing up their ice skates. She walked for thirty minutes around the edge of the lake until the tree cover was so thick that it was dark and there was very little snow on the ground.  She found a rotting, hollow log and, after kissing the wallet, she slipped it inside.  Then Elizabeth walked back to her room, packed her bags, checked out, and went home.

It would be eleven years before anyone found the wallet.  A young skier on vacation with his family and desperate for a forbidden cigarette inadvertently followed Elizabeth's path around the lake and into the dark woods.  Finding the rotten log and thinking he was far enough in not to get caught, he sat down.  The log, having been dead for some years before Elizabeth found it was now completely rotten and when young Jacob put his full weight on it, it collapsed.  As he pushed himself up, cursing, the felt the smooth cover of plastic.  Elizabeth had put the wallet in a baggie to protect it from the elements.  

Jacob got excited, hoping to find money inside the wallet or perhaps he'd be offered a reward for its' return- it was clearly a nice wallet.  Instead of money, however, he found a picture of a smiling couple, an older couple in their forties at least.  And he found Elizabeth's note.  When he showed it to his mother later, she couldn't stop crying.  Even Jacob had felt the threat of tears when he read Elizabeth's words out there by the frozen lake.

My dearest John-

I cannot believe that your not being here is all my fault.  If I had not bought you this wallet, you would not have left it at the restaurant that night.  You would not have gone back to get it, driving a little too fast to get there before they closed.  You would not have been so preoccupied with the wallet so as to miss seeing the stop sign.  

I have accepted that this is my fault.  I have also, selfishly, accepted that you were probably my last chance to get married.  We were not perfect for one another, but I did love you in the best way I could.  And I think you loved me in the same way.  We had fun.  We laughed.  But I never felt that overwhelming craziness for you.  Nor did you feel it for me.  And that's okay.  We would've made it work.

But now you're gone.  And I will grow older alone, as I thought I would before you.  You gave me hope that I would have someone to look after and to look after me through the rest of my life.  That hope died with you on the operating table.  I know that you were it for me and now you are gone.  And it is my fault.

I am leaving your wallet here in Colorado, at our honeymoon ski lodge.  I came up here to escape the sad faces of our friends and family.  I came up here to leave the cause of your being gone behind me.  At least the physical part.  I will always know that me buying that wallet lead to your death.  If I had not bought it, or just given it to you on our wedding day, you would be here.  We would be starting our life together, for better or for worse.  

I did love you.  I do love you.  I will probably always love you, in my way.  After I leave this, I am going home to pack up your things and return my house to being 'my' house.  It will be as if you never happened to me.  And right now, I can't decide if that's better or worse.

Goodbye my dear John.  Rest in peace.

Day 6:  A 150 word profile of someone named Margaret Mallory

Margaret Mallory is 23 years old.  She just graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a major in visual arts.  Her specialty is pottery.  Margaret Mallory, who always goes by Margaret Mallory even though she secretly hates her name, is always covered in clay and paint.  She realized the other day that she only has one shirt in her whole wardrobe that is not stained.  Margaret Mallory wants to open her own studio one day, hopefully in Savannah.  She grew up in Jasper, Georgia and graduated with a class of 27 people, most of whom she’d known her whole life.  Savannah, even four years later, is new and exciting and wonderful and Margaret Mallory knows she will never go home.  Her brown hair is always in a ponytail and her vibrant blue eyes are masked behind wide-rimmed black glasses.  She thinks she looks cool.  Her boyfriend thinks otherwise.

Day 7:  What stirs you?

What stirs me?  What a great question!  So many things, in both the positive and the negative.  I can get quite worked up about political and social issues- gay rights being one of them.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why the government gets to have any say in who gets married and who doesn't.  What does it matter?  And I certainly can't understand those who are so adamantly opposed to it- how does it affect you anymore than me being married to my husband affects you?  It doesn't.  I can definitely get on a soap box about that.  Education, educational reform, the treatment of teachers by politicians and teachers- these are other button-pushers for me.  Funding for the arts, not shockingly, can me quite animated.  All of these topics make me want to argue, even if someone agrees with me.

As for the positive (does that say something about me that I started with the negative?), I am stirred by my daughter.  I have loved every minute that I have watched her grow and I can't wait for all the things we will do together as she gets bigger.  This also makes me think of my own mother which, especially lately, seems to stir up a hefty amount of emotion in me.  I am stirred by the life I live and the people I know- all the beauty of all the wonderful friends I have made around the world and the beauty of the places I have been able to travel and will hopefully travel to.  I am stirred by love and friendship and kindness and forgiveness.  
Day 8: Free write for 5 minutes, beginning with the sentence “Behind her, the noise escalated…”

Behind her, the noise escalated.  She couldn't believe she was leaving just as the headliners were coming on.  She'd been waiting for this concert for three months and these were the best seats she'd ever had- third row, center.  They'd bought cowboy boots and hats, had t-shirts printed with their names and the name of the band, and had been tailgating since 3:00pm.  She felt too old to be behaving like this, but it had been such a fun and needed afternoon.  Now, just as the band came on, the band she'd loved since she heard their first album, she was leaving.

Then again, she wasn't expecting to see him there.  And certainly not with his arms around someone else.  Yes, she had been the one to leave.  She had decided it wasn't working out and she wanted to see if there was something else, something better out there.  It didn't mean that the break-up hadn't been painful for her as well.  He really was an amazing guy.  She just didn't feel that spark when she was with him.  It wasn't anyone's fault.  It's just how it was.

But seeing him with that girl- a girl who was clearly a hussy- it actually hurt.  Having him stand two rows back and be so engrossed in the hussy that he didn't even notice her, that hurt more.  She didn't want to be that girl- the one who went back when she realized what she'd lost... but she was starting to think she'd realized what she lost.

Day 9: Create a story based on this personification- love hesitates.

There was something about her, walking slowly to her door, that made him keep watching her.  He was late for work, again, because they had spent the night together and, instead of letting her call a cab, he'd offered to drop her off at home, thirty minutes out of his way.  And of course they had not been able to get up and get out the door on time.  And now, almost an hour late for work already, he stayed parked outside of her front door, watching the green dress swish around her legs as she climbed the four steps.  As she put her key in the door, she turned and saw he was still sitting there.  She gave a surprised wave and ducked her head into the house, both in embarrassment and joy.  He was still there when she shut the door and she raised her hand one last time.  His heart leapt.  Her heart leapt.  They both stayed still, her at the door, him in the car, for another few seconds with a secretive smile on each of their faces, each hesitant for the day to begin without the other nearby.

Day 10: Write for 30 minutes

I'm not going to lie, I might not be able to write for 30 minutes.  The truth is, I got behind this weekend.  I'll play the part of one of my students and say it wasn't my fault, but of course it was.  However, life did get in the way, just a bit.  Saturday, I meant to sit down and do day 8.  In fact, I did sit down and start but I couldn't find my words.  There were a lot of distractions and I was having a hard time focusing my thoughts.  It didn't help that Saturday started off with a bit of a kafuffle.  Well, not kafuffle so much as a down-right pain in the mouth.  My poor husband has really had the worst luck since our little lady bug was born.  Four weeks after we brought her home, he broke his arm and was in a cast for the next six weeks.  Barely six weeks after the cast came off, I'm pretty sure he broke his foot, though he never went to the doctor to confirm or deny this.  And now, a few weeks into school, he ends up having to have his wisdom teeth out.  Then he gets an infection.  

He wasn't feeling great on Friday and, by bed time, was in so much pain that he couldn't sleep.  His dentist had gone out of town for the Guatemalan Independence Day holiday.  I called him and he said just to take some pain killers and keep rinsing with salt water until Monday.  By Saturday morning, husband was in so much pain it was hurting me.  So we called around until our amazing vice-principal was able to help us find another dentist who was not only in town, but also open.  It took us a while to find the office because there is a shocking lack of street signs in Guate City, but we did and the dentist pulled us right in.  He said Dave had an infection, prescribed some antibiotics, showed me the grody hole, and we were on our way.  Dave spent most of the rest of Saturday going in and out of pain.  Sunday was better, though it was still coming and going.  I was able to leave the house and get the dogs out to doggy play date again (FINALLY), and do a little grocery shopping and printing of pictures so I could catch up on the baby book.  In between all of that, I was taking care of Dave and the lady bug.

I am exhausted.  I know Dave is too and I know he's not intentionally getting hurt but it's hard taking care of two babies.  Especially when one is so much more demanding than the other (I'll leave you to decide which one I mean :-)).  

So, needless to say, I didn't get to my writing this weekend.  And I missed it.  I really did.  I was supposed to free write for day 8 but I really had to think of what a story would be about that started with that prompt.  

Ughh.  Segue.  And not a good one.  There is so much noise outside my house right now that it's distracting.  There is a family with two young children who live across the street and they are out there now with their nanny, screaming in their little kid voices.  There's also a small yappy dog running around with them.  I really want to play the part of the old man in the neighborhood and run out with my cane, shushing them and telling everyone to stay out of my yard.  The baby is sleeping- she didn't sleep well today because she was rudely awaken by a 5.8 earthquake this afternoon- and I'd really like her to stay asleep.  I also feel bad being grumpy towards the kids and the nanny because they're some of the few people in the neighborhood who say hello regularly.  And if the lady bug was bigger, I'd probably want her to go out and play with them.  But right now, I want her to sleep.

Okay, I'm done for today.  I did just write for 20 minutes on this and I did day 8 and 9 as well, so technically, I wrote for 30 minutes.  I feel justified.  Now I'm going to make some lemon cream cheese bars because I actually found lemons in this country.  Mmmm, lemons!

Day 11: Why would a pastry chef refuse to move to another town? 
(I have been talking to this pastry chef for 15 minutes, encouraging her to move because it would really make my life easier.  For the life of me, I don't know why she won't move!)

After visiting the town, which looked perfect on paper, the pastry chef realized that the beautiful-looking river that ran right past the shop door,  was actually a polluted, brown mess.  The stench from the river completely camouflaged the delicious smells that the chef relied on to bring in her costumers.  There was no way she could live there and compete with that smell.
Day 12: Mildred Allerd and Lee Robinovitz meet on a lake and one is pretending to be someone else.  Write their story.

Mildred sat on the dock, dangling her legs in the water.  The sun was strong and she felt a bit of a burn on the top of her head, but there was a crispness to the air, promising autumn was on the way.   She sighed as she raised one leg, then the other, letting the water drip off her toes, forming ring after beautiful, never-ending ring.  Lately, it seemed like nothing was going right in her life.  The job she thought she loved was becoming more of a burden than a joy.  It was harder and harder to get up each morning and put on that happy face.  The home she had always felt comfortable and warm in was starting to feel cold and confining.  Her friends all seemed to be getting married and having babies and she wanted that, just not yet.  At the same time, she was way past the bar scene.  She preferred dinner parties to clubs, but no one invites the single girl to a dinner party.  Mostly, she just felt lost.  She was ready for a change, a complete do-over.  Mildred wanted a new home, a new life, a new job.  And especially a new name.  She wanted to be someone else, someone with goals and passions.  She wanted to smile again.

Lee Robinovitz was a 30-something year old preacher.  His congregation was in a small town in rural Ohio and he loved it there, but once a year, he took two weeks off to drive to the small lake in Ontario’s cottage country to regroup and refocus.  Usually, the two weeks were a time of introspection and a rededication of his faith, which never wavered, but sometimes tripped over the small bumps in his life.  The year Lee lost his mother and then his sister within several months of each other, one to cancer, the other to a strange mistake in the delivery room, he spent a month at the cabin. 

Lee had thoughts like any other man, but he felt weak and wicked when he had thoughts about women, even though they were not dirty thoughts, but thoughts of love, marriage, children.  He prayed for the strength to accept that he may live his life alone and that it was God’s will.  He prayed for his life’s joy to come from the word of God, not the desire for human touch.  He was not pathetic, he was not sad in his life, but he was lonely.

That evening, his first at the lake, he walked out to the dock at the marina.  Most of the boaters and fishermen had gone in for the day and he usually had the place to himself at this time of the day.  Tonight, though, there was a woman sitting at the edge, a beautiful woman, watching the water drip from her legs.  He watched her for several minutes, wondering if he should go back to his cabin or simply sit down.  Instead of praying about it, which he would normally do, he took a breath and continued down the dock towards her.  Mildred turned as she heard him approach and was startled by the attractiveness of the man walking towards her.

“May I sit with you?” he asked.

“Sure,” she replied, scooting over a bit to make room for him.

“I’m Lee.”

“I’m… Sara.”  And with that, the change she wanted, began.

Day 13: Ralph

And go.  I've got 15 minutes before I have to be outside for recess duty and I've decided that I really don't like ralphing on the computer because it means that if I mess up I have to stop and fix it.  It slows my train of thought.  I might take the other 'ralph' off this challenge and replace it with something else because these are definitely not as theraputic as my normal ralphs.  I'm gonna try though. 

Suddenly it seems as if there is so much to be done.  Before lady bug, I came home and sat all night, happily, on the couch, watching TV, knitting, doing nothing.  Now, all of a sudden I feel this great urge to do many many things- crafty things, projects, etc.  I want to make everything, even things I don't know how to make.  I want a home instead of a house, even in our turbulent ever-changing lifestyle.  Why didn't I have these urges before when I the time to do them?  Now, if I work on a project, I feel selfish for not being with my lady bug or husband.  Last night, I needed to make her food before some of the fruits and veggies went off, and before she ran out, and I ended up spending most of the night in the kitchen while she played with her daddy.  Her lovely little smile was so happy every time I poked my head out to check on them, it made me want to play.  But the kiddo needed food made so I made it.  I'm working on a sweater for DH (darling husband) and I really want to finish it but I feel guilty working on it until after the lady bug goes to bed.  So I only get a few rows done each night.  But I also want to make her something for Christmas and I need to get started on it because I have no idea how long it'll take me to finish.  

When she was a little tiny lady bug, one day I 'complained' that I would never get anything done if the only place she would sleep was in my arms.  Someone told me to cherish that because it was going to be over soon, so I did.  And it was.  And I would almost pay to have her fall asleep in my arms again.  So I must remember that.  There will be time for crafts and projects later.  Now, I will spend time with my lady bug and DH.  And if I need to stay up later to craft, then I will stay up later to craft.

Day 14: Write from the point of view of a stack of paper a few inches from the shredder.  

I am not going to follow today's topic.  Today would have been my mother's 59th birthday.  It feels strange because, in the past few months, it has really started to hit me that she's gone.  I won't see her again.  I won't call anyone Momma again.  If I'm being honest, and I am, I think it's taken this long to hit because there was a tiny bit of relief after she passed.  I love my Momma but God help her, she was drama.  There was a release, an easy release in letting her go, knowing she was happy and at peace.  For me, the relief came from not trying to hide how much I saw my dad or not having to worry about hurting her feelings unintentionally.  It has been easier.

But now, I miss my Mommy.  For all her crazy, for all her drama, she was a good woman.  She did what she could with what she had.  Andrea and I turned out alright- not perfect, but pretty good.  And enough time has passed that I can start to remember the good things.  It's hard, I won't lie.  There are things that I'm already doing or planning to do with the lady bug that I wonder if my mom ever did with me.  There are things I know she didn't do, memories we failed to make.  And that makes me sad.  For both of us.  I feel her now, usually in the lady bug's room at night.  I know she and Mimi are watching over my little girl, loving her as much as I do.  But I have asked her not to do anything creepy if she's in there.  So far, she has obliged :)
The lady bug will know a perfect Beba.  I will tell her stories of her fiery, red-headed grandmother and it'll have to do.  And for me, I will have some memories.  I will work to replace the more irritating ones with happier ones.  And I suppose I'll cry. 
Day 15:  Use these words in a story- priest, ring, garden, and magnifying glass.

The priest sat down on the bench and sighed.  The church garden was beautiful this time of the year, but he just couldn't enjoy it today.  He had spent the last two hours crawling through the flower beds on his hands and knees, looking for his grandmother's wedding ring.  The ceremony was starting in less than an hour and he had to find it.  

When his brother had introduced him to Charlotte two years ago, he liked her immediately.  She was pretty, kind, funny, and charming.  And clearly totally smitten with his brother.  They seemed absolutely perfect for one another so when Charles came to him last year to say he was asking her to marry him, Steven was ecstatic.  Then Charles asked if Steven would mind if he gave Charlotte their grandmother's wedding ring to serve as her band.  Knowing he would never need it himself, having taken a vow of celibacy, Steven was more than happy for the ring to be passed on to someone as wonderful as Charlotte.

Charles had asked Steven to not only officiate, but also to serve as best man.  The two brothers were as close as brothers could be so it was natural for Steven to play both roles.  And now, an hour before the ceremony, Steven had failed in the second biggest job of the day- holding on to the ring.  He knew he had it when he was praying in his room and then he walked out into the garden with his lunch to enjoy the beautiful day.  When he got back to his room to shower and begin to get ready, he noticed the ring was not in his pocket and he had been looking for it ever since.  

Desperate, he grabbed his magnifying glass and headed back into the garden.  He traced his steps from the door to the bench, combing through every blade of grass, pushing aside every flower.  He didn't know what Charles would do if he had to tell him he'd lost the ring.  He did know that their mother would break down, as the ring was one of the only things she had left of Nana's.

After another twenty minutes of searching, Steven knew it was hopeless.  The ring could not be in the garden and he had carefully combed every inch of the church.  He sat on the bench and hung his head, wondering how to tell his mother and his brother.  At that moment, he heard something ping on the concrete next to him and looked up to see the ring bouncing into the grass.   Looking up further, he saw a tiny sparrow flying off into the distance.  

When he told the story later to his mother and brother, when they could all laugh about it, he guessed that the bird had picked it up thinking he could use it in his nest and the decided he couldn't.  As to why he brought it back to the place he took it from, Steven could only imagine and thank God. 

Day 16:  Write a 250 description of a character named Seth Allary, a 23 year old male who is fearful of disapproval and has a strong need to please others

Seth Allary has never been popular.  He tried hard, but could not ever master ‘cool’, either in his look or his attitude.  It did not help that his mother dressed him in corduroys that were too short for his long legs and sweaters with patterns and pictures on them.  It also did not help that she grounded him and sometimes hit him if he disappointed her, which he seemed to do often.  He found that if he kept her happy, if he tried to keep everyone happy, he was happier.  Seth is that guy that you don’t notice until you need something and he knows it.  People have introduced themselves to him several times at work functions, but he never tells them that they’ve met before.  Once, he met the same woman twice in ten minutes and she had no idea.  He didn’t want to hurt her feelings by pointing it out, so he acted like it was the first time again.  And when she asked him to help her with the copier the following Monday at work, and again introduced herself to him, he smiled politely and told her his name.  Again.  And then he fixed the copier for her. 

Day 17: My old room was…

My old room… this could go many ways.  My old room in Shanghai?  That was the most recent ‘old’ room.  Or do we take it back to Central Church, my first ‘old’ room?  Or Fern Creek Drive- my longest ‘old’ room?  I guess Fern Creek would be the best ‘old’ room because I was in it for 10 years.  It had a pink/rose carpet that was more of a mauve by the time I left home.  The walls were white and I had my own vanity IN my room!  It was so awesome.  It was really a big room and I loved to move the furniture around every couple of months.  The closet went back the length of the longest bedroom wall and I would hide back there sometimes and pretend it was a fort.  But it was hot so I never hung out too long back there.  When we first moved in, I couldn’t put anything on the walls.  Then, when my love for NKOTB began to blossom, my parents let me put up posters and I covered every inch with pictures of Joey Joe McIntyre- even the ceiling!  There was always a bookshelf and a desk, even though it was broken, and an old dresser.  The mirror on the dresser was so old that you could barely see into it.  I didn’t have a TV or computer in my room until college and that’s about the first time that boys were allowed in my room, too.  I think CP was the first boy, besides Jon, who could come in my room.

The carpet in the hallway was blue and my sister was not allowed to step a toe over the blue/pink border.  My room was a sanctuary.  I was sad when they turned it into an office.  I’m even sadder that I’ll never be able to see it again. 

Day 18: Write a story with this plot- mailed Valentine card never arrives

The truth is, if the Valentine card had arrived, everything would've been different.  Paul sent it, it is true.  But because it never arrived, the whole relationship changed.  Leslie thought that Paul was not only forgetful and probably not as in love with her as he claimed, but he was also a liar.  Clearly if he'd sent a card, it would've arrived.  The US Postal service is not that unreliable.  Then Leslie began to doubt everything about their relationship.  She didn't know if she could trust Paul anymore- I mean, if he would lie about something as insignificant as a Valentine, what else was he lying about?  Where was he really when she called him last night and he didn't answer.  He said his phone had died and he didn't notice- what a lame excuse!  He was obviously with someone else.  Probably his ex-girlfriend.  Leslie never did buy that the broke up because he wanted to get married and she didn't.  What type of woman doesn't want to get married?  He probably never sent her a Valentine either!  

And poor Paul- all he could do was swear he sent it and accept it when Leslie dumped him.  He really did like her; he thought she might be the one.  He was going to propose next month. 
Day 19: List 9 reasons to call off a wedding

1. Someone was cheating on someone
2. The bride is in love with someone else
3. The groom is gay
4. They're only getting married because it's the 'next step'
5. None of the brides friends like the groom (or vice versa)
6. There is just too much baggage
7. A significant death in the family the day before the wedding
8. The groom doesn't show up
9. The bride or groom has a drinking/drug problem
Day 20: Write for 45 minutes

In 45 minutes it will be 3:00pm and time for professional development.  I'm not even sure what we're doing today, to be honest.  I bet it's grades so I bet I can just sit in here and catch up on my writing and other nonsense, since I've already done my grades.  There are a bunch of kids failing drama this year.  I figured out how to grade so that the points actually mean something and it really has affected them.  What am I talking about?  Well, last year, the kids got a participation grade out of five every week.  It was worth 40% of their grade.  But really, a 5 doesn't really affect anything.  Neither does a one.  So this year, it's the same percentage but it's out of 200 points.  That's a game changer.  And I've made their tests and performances count more.  So... there are a lot more kids failing.  I'm not sure if the parents will come see me about it- most of them probably aren't that concerned with their kid failing drama.  And the ones who would be concerned are the ones who aren't failing.  That's been true everywhere I've ever taught.

And let's talk about that.  Dave and I are planning to recruit this year.  The process for recruiting in the international world is as follows: 

1. Somewhere around September/October (if not before), you decide you want to look for a new school, so you update your resume, ask for references, and sign up to a job fair.  Then, if you're my husband, you check the websites every day to see if there are new jobs.

2.  In October/November, you start sending out resumes to schools that have jobs listed for you.  Before that, you get fussed at by your husband a lot for not having your resume finished or for not wanting to send your resume to a school that doesn't actually have a job for both of you/one that you want/a country you don't want to live in, etc.

3.  In November/December, you tell your present school that you might or might not be coming back.  This is usually met with hard feelings, despite this happening every year.

4.  Stress about getting a new job over Christmas break.  Possibly set up Skype interviews.  Book your flight and hotel for the fairs, which you're secretly hoping you won't need but now you've paid for them so you hope you will.

5. In January/February, you go to the fairs if you don't have a job yet.  And hopefully you do get a job.

 That is a bare-bones description.  There is a lot more to it- mostly the researching part.  Do I want to go here, could I live there, what is that a picture of?  How long is the flight, how much does it cost to get home?  This year, though, it's really important to me to get back into choir.  I really, really miss it.  I miss singing and conducting and picking out music and making it come alive.  I even miss playing the piano, as bad as I am at it.  I miss concerts.  I don't know if I'll find a choir job this year.  So far, there's nothing, but it's early.  A lot of international schools are too small for a choir teacher- they want a band/choir teacher and I can't teach band.  I could do drama/choir and that is sometimes offered.  I like teaching drama, but I really want to get back into my passion.  Hmm, I guess I might have a passion.

This did not take me 45 minutes.  But my fingers hurt now and I have to go to the bathroom.  I might come back and write some more later.  I still have to do Day 21... obviously I got a little behind this weekend.  I didn't mean to, but I don't think I sat down all weekend and I can admit that it slipped my mind until Sunday night.  I feel so busy when I get home- I want to soak up every minute of my time with the lady bug but there are so many other things to be done as well.  No wonder I'm so exhausted at the end of the night and I have help!!  I have a nanny who does all the big cleaning during the week- I'm only responsible for the dishes at night and I don't even really have to do those because she'll do them the next morning... but I can't stand to wake up to a dirty kitchen.  I also think it's more important for her to watch my kid so I like to get the dishes done, or at least most of them.  I have to cook dinner.  Dave will help some nights but he doesn't like recipes so if he's not making something he already knows how to make, I cook.  Then there's baby food making- not every night, but some.  Okay... now that I'm typing this out, I have no idea what I spend my time doing.  I only know that I am so tired at the end of the day, I feel like I never sit down, and I feel like I don't get enough time with the kiddo.  What the heck do I do???
Now I really have to go to the bathroom.
Day 21: Use this cliché anywhere in your story: burn the midnight oil

 Luca looked at the clock and groaned.  It was 4:25am and he was not even half-way finished with his paper.  Talk about burning the midnight oil, he thought and sighed and got back to work.  The paper was due tomorrow- an in-depth study on where the saying "burning the midnight oil" had originated.  Luca would like to think it was ironic, but he knew that it was really just another case of his own battle with procrastination.  Procrastination always seemed to win.  He'd known about the paper for three weeks but had kept putting it off because there was always something better to do.  Now, it was the night, well, the morning, before the paper was due and he was in trouble.

He thought about not going to class, but since there were only 10 of them in the literature class, the professor had a tendency to bring the class to the sick person, just to make sure you weren't faking.  Then, even if he could pull off looking and sounding sick, he'd still have to turn in the paper.  There really wasn't anything else to do but finish.  Every time he put this pressure on himself, he swore he wouldn't procrastinate the next time.  And every time he had a paper or test, he procrastinated again.  

He looked at the clock again.  It was 5:12am.  Where had the last 45 minutes gone?  He hadn't even written another sentence!  He slapped himself in the face a few times, pinched his arm and did 15 jumping jacks to wake himself up.  Then he placed his hands on the keyboard and started typing.

Day 22: What personality traits do you feel you convey to people the first time you meet them?

The first time I meet people, I think I come off as snobby.  It's not snobbery though, it's shyness.  But there is an art-form to shyness and I don't think I've mastered it.  So yeah, I probably come off like a brat.  But after that, after I've had a chance to get to know someone and definitely after getting past the small-talk phase, I hope that I convey warmth, kindness and humor with a little insecurity thrown in there for good measure.  
Day 23: What are your top 5 Christmas movies and why?

1. A Christmas Story- this is just the best Christmas movie of all time.  It has a pink fluffy rabbit costume, a bully that I was afraid of as a child, dogs, swearing and electric sex.  How can this not be number one?
2. Love Actually- I love how all the stories intertwine.  I love how everyone finds love and mostly I love Hugh Grant dancing around the house as the prime minister.
3. The Holiday- I don't know why.  This is a cheesy rom/com but I love it.  I think it's because of the coziness of the English cottage.  And Jack Black not acting like an idiot.
4. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (cartoon version)- because you have to.
5. Rudolph (claymation)- This one and Frosty just remind me of my childhood Christmas Eve's- the ones that seemed to go on and on, as thought Christmas was never going to get here.
Day 24: Ralph

It is too dang loud in here for this.  No one said ralphing had to be long.  I want an office or a room all to myself where silence is part of my day.  That's all.  Thank you and good night. 

Day 25:  Think about the 3 or 4 times you were really in need- physically or emotionally.  Who were the people who helped you out?

Jennifer, Marissa, Rachel, Andrea, Kendra, Dave... All of them have been there for me in some way or another.  They are the best friends I could ask for.  I could not make it through this life without them by my side.  That is a true story.
Day 26: What job would you never take?

What a tough question because truly, there a lot of jobs I wouldn't want- trash collector, tax collector, policeman, anything in food or retail (been there, done that...), etc.  But "NEVER" is a strong word and this question has me thinking, "Is this a choice between feeding my family and taking a job," because then I would do anything.  Or is it just a job I would hate to have?  Anything involving math, science or criminals would not be up my alley.  But wait, that's not true.  I would love to be on a show like Mythbusters and that's all science and math.  So strike that.  I really don't know.  
Day 27:  Describe what a beautiful view is to you.

There are so many beautiful views that I've seen in my life.  One of my favorite views right now is when I get home from school and that little lady bug smiles and squeals like I'm the best thing SHE'S ever seen.  It's pretty amazing to see her face light up and she hits herself in her tummy and, starting last week, begins to crawl towards me.  It melts my heart every day.

But then there are the sunsets.  Georgia and Guatemala provide some amazing sunsets and I love seeing them.  This summer, I experienced a few sunrises with the lady bug and those were spectacular as well.  

I guess though, when I read the question, the first answer that came to my mind was the view from our hotel at Lake Atitlan.  The volcanoes were rising majestically across the lake in the early morning sun.  The light was reflecting off the lake so you couldn't see how dirty it was- it just shimmered and sparkled.  It was quiet and beautiful and it would've only been more perfect if I'd had a cup of coffee to enjoy it with.
Day 28:  List 15 things you love to do with your family

1.  Read bedtime stories to the lady bug
2.  Travel and see new sights
3.  Play on the floor mat in our living room
4.  Cook dinner together
5.  Watch TV and movies
6.  Crawl on the floor
7.  Go for walks
8.  Snuggle
9.  Go out to eat
10.  Go shopping
11.  Play on the swing set
12.  Sort of watch football
13.  Play Wii
14.  Play with the puppies
15. Gossip 

Day 29:  Recall and write about a funny childhood incident

The day was sunny and warm enough, though I can't recall exactly when it was.  I remember jackets but I can't be sure.  I had spent the night, or possibly weekend, with my cousin Daniel and we had just arrived at Mimi's for the kid exchange.  My cousin Sean lived next door and, just as we pulled up and got out of the car, I saw him dash into the house.  Or at least I thought I did.  Daniel and I ran into the house, calling his name and searching everywhere for him.  I'm sure if I went back now, the house would seem quite small, but at the time, it provided many, many hiding opportunities for a small boy.  After what seemed like hours of searching, we decided to divide and conquer.  We thought maybe he was just running around a corner each time we were about to find him.  I went out the front door and Daniel headed out the back.  Almost as soon as I was outside, I heard a cat up in one of the tall pine trees in Mimi's front yard.  But Mimi didn't have a cat.  I looked up and there was Sean, sitting on a branch, smiling mischievously.

I quickly scampered up the tree as we heard Daniel coming around the corner of the house, calling for us.  We stifled our laughter for a few seconds, watching him search for both cousins now.  Then, Sean meowed.  Daniel looked around.  Sean meowed again.  Daniel flipped around, looking over his shoulder.  So Sean barked.  Loudly.  Daniel finally looked up, saw us hanging out in the trees and clambered up to join us.  We all laughed about and it's one of those memories that we will probably tell our kids.
Day 30:  Write for an hour 

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