Monthly Archives: August 2011

My Office…

Or “The Room Formerly Known as Amanda’s”

I always said I’d never have an office.  Namely because our house is small and all the rooms were occupied.  I’ve never had one, and probably wouldn’t know what to do with a real one.

I have one at work, but I’m not talking about that kind of office.  I’m talking about a writer’s office.  An author’s office. 

  (yeah that’s not mine…)

 Ever since I started seriously writing, ten years ago, I’ve written in chairs, beds, on the floor, in the car, and most recently in my living room recliner.  I had little tables set up on the side of the recliner, and it actually worked pretty well.  Except for that pesky front door business.  And the high traffic access.  And the fact that I couldn’t tack anything anywhere, all my notes had to be contained in a little basket, which for me is out of sight out of mind. 

And I wanted a whiteboard.  So bad I almost couldn’t stand it.

Now, I’m not the type of writer that can have a nice office with a window and pretty stuff.  I’ll spend too much time looking at the pretty stuff.  I can’t even sit in the backyard…I get too invested in the birds and squirrels.  I need barebones.

So I got to thinking about the room my daughter vacated to move into the bigger room my son vacated when he moved out.  It’s tiny, it’s boring, and we had it full of “stuff”.  Yanno…it’s THAT room.  The one where you hide everything that doesn’t have a place, and shut the door.

I spent an evening staring at it, moving some of the “stuff” around.  I cleared off the little twin bed along the back wall, arranged some small bookshelves that were in there, brought in one of my little tables to put next to it.  And had a brainstorm.  Went to Office Depot.

Bought a whiteboard!!  *squee!!*

Put the whiteboard at the foot of the little twin bed.  So as I’m sitting at the head, I’m looking at my board with all its notes and wondrous information.  My laptop can stay up.  The copy of my cover is tacked on the wall.  Little notes are taped to the bookshelf next to me.  Various writing “things” on the shelves. 

It’s not neat and pretty.  In fact, looking at this photo I’m like wondering if I should even post it to give you this visual…but it’s comfortable so it’s me.  I’m tucked away behind the “stuff”.  I’ve never written at a desk.  So I’m still on a bed, still kind of rigged together.  But it’s the barebones I need because shiny objects come in easy form to me.  But voila!!  An office…I have one.  And it has a door.

And a whiteboard!

(did I mention that?)

Writers…where do you write?  Where do you read?  What’s a special space you’ve created for yourself?

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Raising Boys and Girls

Over the weekend I was able to spend some quality one on one time with kids—each had a sleepover leaving the other all to me (and my husband, but this isn’t about him!J).  And with each child of mine—one daughter, one son—I noticed our time together went quite differently.

Raising boys is NOT the same as raising girls, despite what my college self thought. Okay, what my college self argued, rallied against and completely refused to accept, even well into her twenties! Forget the fact that my best girlfriend was having children and speaking from actual experience—oh, no. That wasn’t enough to sway me from my position. I was a double psychology major.  I knew that boys and girls were different because of socialization. You remember the old nature vs. nurture debate, don’t you?

Yes, well, I’m here to tell you boys and girls are born different. They come spitting out of their mother’s body with a unique set of features and I would say, a unique disposition as well. And for those of you speculating, yes, I do believe in astrology. When Aries stop leading the charge and Sagittarius stop proving to be the life of the party, I’ll reconsider. Until then, I’m going with it!

With time, I’ve come to see our personalities as a mix of nature-nurture.  My daughter wants to bake and talk.  She wants her hair combed with your fingers.  She wants to know if her outfit looks all right. My son doesn’t care what he’s wearing or that it’s covered in wrinkles or mud. He wants to ride his bike fast, catch air over dirt mounds—with me watching of course. He does enjoy an audience. (Now is that his Leo moon or the boy himself? Not sure.)

But my son likes to talk—something I tell him the girls are gonna love! While he could care less about girls he does like to gab, gab, gab and usually about things he “knows” all about.  He informs me of facts and figures, stats and stunts. He tells me how much air he caught, how it’s higher than anyone else, ever. In addition to “knowing” things, I’ve noticed that boys like to be the best at everything, too.

But he’s a lover. (Of course he is—he’s a Scorpio!) At night he wants to snuggle with his mom. He wants me to lie down beside him as he puts his head to pillow and if I would, sleep with him all night long. While it sounds excessive, it’s a far cry less than he used to want, stealing through the house at night, slipping into our bed, tucking himself safe and secure between his father and I.

My daughter rarely made this trek.  And while she wants you to play with her hair at night, she wants her space. A good thing, because our bed isn’t big enough for the four of us! 

Though at times I wish it were…  I’m a snuggler and would much rather cuddle with my children than sleep a full eight hours alone.  As to raising boys and girls, I love that my kids are unique and distinct. Slow and soft makes a nice ride through life while fast and hard keeps it thrilling!  How about you?

Monte Rio, California

I just returned from ten days in Monte Rio, California, for our family summer vacation.  Monte Rio is a small town (population 1,150) located next to Guerneville, near the Napa Valley.  In years past we’d spend a couple of nights away because that  was all we could afford.  Then last year we discovered that our friend’s mother rents out her house on the Russian River in Monte Rio, for an extraordinarily low price.  We grabbed the opportunity and stayed there in 2010 for seven days.  This year we rented it for ten days. What’s confusing to me is this:  Why, just when you’re starting to relax and getting that “ahhh” feeling, is the vacation over?  Now I’m wondering whether we’ll have to take a month off to finally release our minds and bodies of the daily stressors we bring with us.

Is living in suburbia causing this stress?  Should we move to a rural area with limited internet access and fewer job opportunities to eradicate the constant BUZZ infiltrating our lives every minute of every day?  I don’t know the answer, but it’s a question that’s really bothering me…causing me more stress.

I’d wake up every morning in Monte Rio and listen to the birds singing in the trees outside the array of windows facing the backyard, no sounds of cars or motorcycles drowned out nature’s cacophony.  A thick blanket of fog weaved through the wall of trees surrounding the back deck.  I’d tip-toe downstairs, my invisible footsteps muffled in the thick carpet covering the stairs, pull aside the sliding glass door leading to the back deck, and step outside into the cool 60 degree morning. Between the trees rimming the yard, not more than forty feet away, the very lazy Russian River flowed by, its surface smattered with tiny sparkles from the morning rays of the sun.

One morning I was in the kayak in the middle of the river, just staring at the water ahead of me, and realized the scenery on the river’s surface mirrored exactly the surrounding habitat I’d been enjoying while paddling down the river.  I’d seen pictures like that but had never experienced it before.  It was breathtaking.

Is it possible to feel this same relaxation back at home?  Is it possible to recapture that “ahhh” feeling while sitting on the couch with my laptop?  I think if I was in Monte Rio right now I wouldn’t be experiencing the writer’s block that has stood like a wall in front of my face each time I sit down to write my next book.  So, should I surround my work area with pictures of the Russian River? Frankly, I don’t think that’s gonna cut it.  Is it possible to regain that peace at home?  Suggestions anyone?

Are You A Hugger Or A Lugger?

Pssst.

Yeah, I’m talking to you over there. You look like a lugger. Front of the room with the rest of us luggers. There’s safety in numbers, you know.

As for the rest of you, I can tell you’re all huggers by the hugfest in the corner. Well, you’re making us luggers twitchy and nervous, so if you could keep your arms to yourself and have a seat, we’ll get started. I’ll wait.

Okay, everyone settled?

My childhood was filled with Sunday family gatherings on the farm. I remember handshakes and ruffles of the hair and chasing after my brother and my four older male cousins. I have no memory of family hugfests or lack of them. In fact, I have no memory of hugs at all.

Sprint forward a few years to my dating years where hugs were a natural part of the dating game. He hugged. I hugged. Maybe we did more but we’re not here to discuss those activities today.

Then I met my future husband. There was nothing unusual about his dating practices, no forewarning that things were about to get very ugly, very fast. We dated, got engaged and even on our wedding day, a happy occasion with everyone hugging everyone else, I failed to foresee the torture about to be inflicted on me.  

Alas, I was such a naive young bride. Didn’t know how to separate the white laundry from the red or how to cook a roast. But I digress….

After the wedding, things really started to spiral out of control. We’d visit my husband’s family and friends and they’d greet us with hugs on arrival, hugs on departure, and it seemed, hugs every spare moment in-between.

Yeah, by now you can clearly see that I’m a lugger, not a hugger. I’d rather lug in suitcases or groceries and avoid all the huggy-touchy-feely stuff. Over the years, I’ve learned to plan ahead, coming though the door last, making sure I’m busy with kids or shoes or maybe just checking out a corner of the entryway till the hugs are past and people have moved on. Of course, there are more hugs on departure but I’m ready for that, too. If I can beat my husband to the door, I can be halfway to the car before the hugs start.

But life has a funny way of showing us the important things we’re missing out on. When my parents revealed a past secret and expected a backlash of condemnation, we headed to see them to give them our support. My husband, with his hugfest tendencies, insisted they needed a hug to let them know everything was going to be okay. His suggestion seemed kind of crazy. Just because his family got so much joy out of hugging didn’t mean it would have the same affect on my family. Nevertheless, desperate times call for desperate measures and I decided to heed his advice.

We walked in the door of my parents’ house and I held out my arms. My mom clung to me. My dad clung even harder. Suddenly I understood. The act of the hug didn’t really have anything to do with me. It was all about what I could give in that single moment of physical connection. It was all about showing someone else affection and how much they meant to me.

I admit I’m still a lugger for about fifty percent of the time. But the other fifty percent, I join in and become part of the hugfest, whether it be family or friends or co-workers. Today I can hug them all.

So, are you a hugger or a lugger? What about the other people in your life and how do you deal with those on the opposite side of the fence?

Lessons From High School

One of my very best friends moved to Texas last week (lucky, lucky Texas) and it got me to thinking about when I was a kid and we moved every few years. My dad worked for IBM, affectionately known as I’ve Been Moved.  When my dad announced we were moving again—right before I started high school—I made the brilliant decision not to make friends as a form of protest and self-protection. Why make friends when I was just going to have to leave them in a few years? Guess what. My parents still live in the same house where I went to high school, so my ingenious plan wasn’t quite so ingenious after all.

What my plan did, however, was instill a sense of invisibility into me that’s never left. Let me explain. You know how people always say that the high school years are the best years of your life? Well, I think that sentiment comes from the fact that the high school years are capable of making a huge impression on your life, the kind of impression that sticks and that you carry with you forever.

Just last night my husband and I attended his high school reunion and I know those years hold a very special place in his heart. He was a happy, confident, popular guy in high school and those words describe his life today. If someone from high school had to describe me back then, they probably wouldn’t know what to say other than shy and quiet. I don’t think my friends today would describe me using those terms.

My decision to make myself invisible during high school had huge consequences in my life and still shapes the things I do today. I didn’t sleep through high school; I just didn’t participate. While I wasn’t participating, I learned a whole lot about human behavior because I was observing. To this day, I’ll often choose to sit back and let life go on around me while I observe and take note.

Do these observations on everyday life make it into my books? Absolutely. Does this mean if I could go back and change my high school behavior, I would choose not to because my observation skills greatly enhance my writing? What a silly question! I can’t go back and change anything!

What about you? What behaviors from high school do you carry around with you today? I’d love to know.

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