In reviewing my first draft of my (first?) novel, I have found the word “bloom” used as a verb several times. You might wonder why I don’t remember writing it so often, but other writers might tell you that they, too, review their words as if reading a work penned by someone else. They feel unfamiliar, yet of me. When I see the sentence “An answer blooms in her mind: a chance to say goodbye,” I am surprised to see that word again, but I also think of course. Because that’s how a feeling happens to me, or a slow realization.
It’s been a busy weekend, with sports, an epic sleepover, and at last a long lovely hike for me. It’s been raining or overbooked for me the last few weekends, and I started getting itchy to get back out on the trail. (I still haven’t tackled The Lady yet, but as soon as I do I will post about it.) When I got home today I took an epic nap, thanks to House Hunters Renovation, which always puts me to sleep before the couple tours the third house. I highly recommend it as a sleep aid.
When I woke up I had fresh energy. My plan was to clean out the pantry and cabinets and inventory our food supply so I could shop intelligently and come up with some meal ideas for the week. My body’s plan was to procrastinate instead, so I wound up pulling all the items off the bulletin board in my office.
I had years of photos, bits of paper with ideas scrawled on them, the phone number of the concierge at the hotel where we stayed near the volcano in Costa Rica, lists of books to read and TV shows to watch…
And this prayer.
Prayer for a Merciful Home
You open your heart to us with unconditional love and devotion. Help us to follow your example of mercy.
May our home provide a warm and welcoming space for all who enter our door.
May we strive each day to ask for and extend forgiveness with generous and open hearts.
May the words we say be ones of kindness and respect.
And may we listen twice as much as we speak, ever willing to remain open to one another.
Enfold our home in your merciful love.
In your sacred name, we pray.
When I pray, it’s usually a wordless plea for help, or I am in church reciting words along with everyone else, not thinking about what they mean. But this prayer was handed out to the families at our children’s religious class one Sunday. I don’t even remember how long ago. Its simplicity touched me in a way that the Bible’s prayers, translated from ancient languages and re-translated and changed every so often, never have.
I put it aside with the photos and keepsakes. I separated out the items I could toss. I put the prayer in that pile, but the words grabbed me again. I’d like to live this way. I typed them here because this website has lasted longer than most scraps of paper I’ve ever squirreled away.
The bulletin board is mostly clear now, waiting for new bits and memories to fill it up. And once I hit “publish” here, I’ll be done procrastinating. Thanks for joining me.
Yesterday I learned that the word tresoro means “treasure” in Spanish. I immediately thought of this photo:
The red checkered seal and the yellow horse were made when I was in grammar school, just for me, by my friend’s mom. Liz Chatfield was incredibly colorful and creative (I’m sure she still is!) and their house was a wonder to me at that young age, full of adventure. She had a store at one time called Serendipity. I remember not knowing what that word meant, and looking it up so I would know.
Like many of us, I went through my stuffed animal phase, when my bed was covered with them. Eventually I got rid of them all…or so I thought. These two showed up in a box in the mail a few weeks ago, along with a note from my mother saying she found them in a closet she was cleaning.
I gave the seal and horse the place of honor on my current bed. The seal has since received a different, somewhat dubious honor: when the cat tries to wake us up early in the morning, I search around for something to throw in her direction, and this seal is perfect size and weight to scare her without hurting her.
Thank you for the lifelong treasures, Liz. And Mom.
Okay, sorry to alarm you. I’m not dead yet. I just feel kind of bad for this blog, House of Prince, because I’ve been working on my taxes today.
What does that even mean? I know you’re asking yourself that question. Or maybe you asked yourself Why am I even reading this?and you clicked away already. Fair enough.
My point is that my two websites, this one and Agoura Hills Mom, pulled in less money last calendar year than in the days before marketing through a blog was a thing. I’m not ashamed of it. The reason is obvious: I took a full time out of the home job at the end of 2016 and last year was the first full tax year during which I was a W2 employee. I didn’t have time to hustle for the freelance gigs, and many of the ones that came my way from word of mouth were hard to fit into my schedule.
It makes me a little bit sad, but on the other hand, I’ve made room in my life to make more money and focus my creative pursuits on my novel. I’m enjoying blogging in this space, flexing my writing muscle and allowing my voice to evolve. Agoura Hills Mom is evolving too. She doesn’t really know who she is right now, as evidenced by her recent silence. Since she is the other part of my personality, I can tell you she’s been working on her taxes today, and looking glumly out the window wishing the sun would come out and dry the trails so she can go for a hike.
When that happens, you should check her blog out, because her pictures of Southern California after a rain will probably be very pretty.
Anyway, if you’ve been playing along with this blog since its beginning, or for any length of time at all, you’ll know that it started out as a journal of my first pregnancy, then grew into one of the first honest-to-goodness “mommy blogs,” then I don’t know what, and most recently it’s been my outlet for writing exercises. For several years in there, I was making respectable money with ads, sponsored posts, and freelance projects for other sites. I reviewed the decline of the income I pulled in through my writing and blogging work with a bit of sadness.
The trajectories of women who started “mom blogs” around the same time I did have been interesting to watch. They published books, or their blogs evolved into online magazines, or they started blogger to brand agencies, or they branched out into other media, or they quit blogging altogether. I know several women who have sold their successful blogs to new owners. Many of these women employ other people, support their families, and are very public figures on social and other media.
I’m blending back into the world of regular people. It feels weird. But also okay and good.
So. Not dead yet. Just reincarnated, I guess.
Her greatest wish was to have a best friend. Someone she liked, who made her laugh, who brought her joy. To be included. To have someone to save a cookie for. A buddy for the bus ride to the field trip.
Her best friend would hand deliver a birthday party invitation instead of sending hers in the mail or putting it in her lunch cubby at school. There would be a party to look forward to. Her mom would take her to the department store toy section to pick out a gift. She would pick the perfect thing because she knew her best friend so well.
They spent so much time together at each other’s houses after school, of course, and had sleepovers on the weekends. At her house, they played songs and made up dances and dressed up her baby sister in her clothes and hats and put makeup on her, the baby laughing and squealing and posing eagerly for pictures. They tried to teach the baby how to walk in her mom’s high heels. She fell down, bouncing really, because babies are closer to the ground.
At her best friend’s house, the sun filtered through the stained glass window in the back room, making colored patterns on the carpet. The cat slept in one patch and the girls played in another, with Barbies and toy horses. They made up elaborate story lines and adventures for them. They hid the toys from each other, playing “hot and cold.” They stacked old cardboard bricks as high as the staircase would allow them to be tall.
At her best friend’s birthday party, she would wear a white dress with a pink sash at the waist tied around the back. She would help her friend’s mother bring out the cake, and tell the other kids where to find the bathroom.
The gift she brought would be her best friend’s favorite, because it would be just right.
Image by jesuislesien on deviant art
I was a child when Video Games became a thing. The Christmas when my parents got us an Atari 2600 has become a mythical time in our lives. I remember bleary dry eyes and joystick thumb from playing until we dropped.
Even with advent of the screen, we played outside all the time. I had a bike with a banana seat. I had Barbies and coloring books and Simon and dolls and Colorforms.
But my all time favorite toy to play with was the game Connect Four. Maybe it was the power of commercials in the 70’s, but I will never forget the commercial for Connect Four. “Pretty sneaky, sis…” I played this with my brother, and I’m sure I wanted him to say that line. Maybe he even did.
My kids have the small travel version of this game, so the plasticky kerthunk of the checker dropping into its space on the grid isn’t quite the same , but the game play itself is just as I remember it. For many years I’ve had to hold myself back from beating them at it, but now that they are older, they beat me fair and square. Funny how life works. Pretty sneaky, indeed.
When I was 24 I moved from New Haven to Pasadena. I packed everything I wanted to bring with me into a bunch of big boxes and shipped them via UPS to the site of my new unseen apartment on Cordova Street, blocks from Colorado, a mile from CalTech. It would have been romantic and adventurous to say that I hitchhiked across the country, or jumped on a boxcar on a moving train, or tested public transportation by riding buses and subways across the states. But I didn’t. I packed up my Honda Accord and stuck my mom in the car and off we went, on an epic mother-daughter road trip, stopping along the way to visit family and friends.
I didn’t have much to aim for when I made this move. I just wanted to do it. True to self, though, I had lined up a job. I didn’t just come out here with only a dream, job-hunting and waitressing while I tried to define what that meant. I had done the research and interviewing ahead of time, and accepted the most responsible boring job you can possibly conjure up in your mind: insurance broker underwriter. I wasn’t even really an underwriter. I prepared the paperwork and steps for people applying for very large amounts of life insurance. I worked in an office and had a direct report who would scold me if I showed up even 2 minutes late.
But! I lived in Los Angeles! I made friends with other women at the office, and I made friends with my roommate’s friends, and I made friends at bars and in the acting class I eventually signed up for (because Los Angeles).
Lisa was my roommate. She was the best.
Of course I got bored working at an insurance company. So when a woman in my acting class told me about a job as a production assistant at a small company a billion miles away through LA traffic in Santa Monica, making 1/3 less in salary than I was making at the time, I went for it.
So then I had to move because traffic, and my Pasadena roommate moved to D.C. I picked a shitty apartment under the stairs behind what was then a Lucky grocery store. But it was rent controlled, 10 blocks from the beach, and 12 blocks from work.
I felt like a tourist on a very long vacation. I drove wherever the party was, even if the party was watching a movie at a girlfriend’s apartment with a glass of wine, even if the apartment was in Orange County. I went on dates and had a few short-term boyfriends. One of my old flames from back home called me out of the blue. He wanted to try again, so he hopped in his car and drove across the country to see me. He wanted to take me back to New Haven and marry me. I swooned—it was the biggest romantic gesture I had ever experienced. What if that had worked? What if I had gotten into his car and returned with him?
What if I had been too scared to even entertain the idea of moving in the first place?
What if I had stayed at the insurance company, gotten my broker’s license, and become an agent?
For that matter, what if I had actually been a good actress and gotten a role?
The view from now, looking back over the peaks and valleys of the years ago, looks so dramatic. But as I sit here remembering, my body is filled with the same sensations I felt during each one of those turning points. Adrenaline. A sense of purpose. The knowledge that my life hangs in the balance. I can go this way, or I can go that way.
We all do it every day, just not as…large. Do I wash my hands after using the bathroom or do I just rinse and flick? Can that tiny decision mean the difference between a healthy week ahead or a raging case of the flu? You don’t realize how small choices can have big effects in your life until afterwards.
But those big decisions, the ones that climb up into your face like a cat on a keyboard, you can’t ignore those. You’ll remember them for the rest of your life. They are what makes you.
Do you have a happy place? A place you imagine when the yoga teacher tells you to close your eyes and empty your mind of all thoughts? I know, that’s breaking the rules. You’re supposed to empty your mind, not fill it with an image, but it helps me to imagine my happy place as a palate cleanser. It’s a bridge between the junk of the day that’s cluttering my mind, and the empty echo chamber that I’m supposed to have when practicing yoga.
Then again, you’re not supposed to judge yourself during yoga, so I can do what I want. So there.
A happy place is one that you imagine when you are stressed out, or you can’t fall asleep, or you are waiting in a very long line at the bank and you’re getting really annoyed because your lunch break is over soon. Not that anyone really pays attention to what time you left and what time you get bank. You’re a professional, after all, and your coworkers and leaders trust you to get your work done well and efficiently. But still.
A happy place is also a popular selfie location in Los Angeles, apparently.
So what does your happy place look like?
My happy place is the small stretch of coastline pictured above, a section of Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. The specific time is late afternoon. The warm breeze ruffles the leaves of the tropical plants and trees that cast dappled shadows over the white sand. I lay in a comfy lounge chair with a cold gin and tonic sweating on the table next to me, a good book placed face down next to it. I’m not reading at the moment, but I have been, and I will continue in a bit. I can get up off this chair and stroll casually to the water which is the same temperature as my body and clear blue so that I can see all the way down to my toes and beyond them to the sandy bottom of the ocean. Or I can hop up off the chair and run at the water like a child, jumping or diving in at full speed.
I can do whatever I want to, because it’s my happy place. And just like in yoga, there’s no judging.
Once upon a time, I had the perfect writer’s day.
My alarm woke me up at 5:45 AM in the middle of a dream. Or I woke naturally when the sun glinted off the mirror and into my eyes. Or the cat stood in the doorway and meowed like the world was ending.
I turned my head and coffee was waiting for me, perfectly mixed with coconut milk creamer in my favorite mug. Or I went downstairs in my cozy pajamas and poured myself a cup from the waiting pot.
I sat at the kitchen table with my notebook and the perfect pen. It was a freebie from a local tutoring center. Just a dumb free pen, but its ink flows across the notebook in perfect smooth synchronicity with the rhythm of my hand. Today it struggled to keep up with the speed of the words my brain wanted it to write.
Everyone else in my house woke up, got ready for the day, left. I stayed in my pajamas, the ones that are comfortable and stylish. I wandered up to my office, where the view looks out over the mountains. I sat at my computer and ignored my email. Instead I fired up Scrivener and my eyeballs landed right where I left off yesterday.
Because I was working on my novel.
The story played in my head like a movie and I typed as fast as I could to capture this mental magic with computer magic. I made myself laugh and cry. I took breaks to fold laundry, go for a walk, meet a friend for lunch. We talked about writing and how horrible and wonderful it is. Or I hiked in nature. I posted a #hikingselfie on instagram and it got 30 likes in the first minute of its life.
I went home and poured a glass of wine. It was noon somewhere.
I read what I wrote today and I was pleased. I wrote some more. I hit 1,000 words for the day and pushed my chair back from desk with a big hell yeah.
The family came home and we played and we talked and we ate dinner. They cleaned up while I went to a yoga class. I ran into a girlfriend who is also a writer and we talked about how horrible and wonderful writing is. I talked to a new person who said something about connecting your wings together across the back of your heart that I swore to remember so I could work it into a story someday.
I guess I just did.
Back at home I took a shower and got into some more comfortable yet stylish pajamas and I snuggled up in bed with a good book. This book made me jealous of the author’s seemingly effortless skill with dialogue and I made a mental note to try something like that in my manuscript tomorrow and my brain was so pleasantly tired that I put the book down, set my alarm, and reached over to switch off the light.
And I lived happily ever after.
Raise your hand if you, like me, still don’t understand what Bitcoin is.
I tried to read “Bitcoin For Dummies,” or a version of it that I found on the internet. In fact, it was something like Blockchain for Dummies because Blockchain is apparently the thing that makes Bitcoins?
I imagine Bitcoin to be like Monopoly money. It’s not real, exactly, but somehow it’s worth like a million dollars per share. (Well, not today since the stock market experienced its biggest dip of all time or something terrible like that.)
I am not a stupid person, but I have failed to wrap my mind around this fake money. People have explained it to me as currency that is generated by code.
I know someone who set up a fake website that generates Bitcoin every time someone watches one of the top ten most current YouTube Live streams.
So, it’s like Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold out of hay. It’s fairy tale money. It was over $8,000 per share until today, when it went all the way down to $6,260.
But I still don’t get it.
As a freelance writer I was assigned articles about plenty of things I didn’t quite understand, like the MLB delay of game rules, mergers and acquisitions, or how to parent a toddler. I could Google the heck out of those things or experiment on my own babies, or call smart people I know who do know about those things and get them to explain them to me. Then I could write a reasonably well-informed and readable article. Some of my articles about things I didn’t previously understand were even fairly popular.
I am very happy that I don’t have an assignment to write about Bitcoin because the topic just makes me feel stupider by the second.
So why I am I writing about it at all?
That’s a really good question. I’m going to stop now and leave The Matrix to take a walk in the real world.
If it’s even the real world at all…
It's been a busy weekend, with sports, an epic sleepover, and at last a long lovely hike for me. It's been raining or overbooked for me the last few weekends, and I started getting itchy to get back out on the trail. (I still haven't tackled The Lady yet, but as soon as I do I will post about it.) When I got home today I took an epic nap, thanks to House Hunters Renovation, which always puts me to … [Read More...]
Yesterday I learned that the word tresoro means "treasure" in Spanish. I immediately thought of this photo: The red checkered seal and the yellow horse were made when I was in grammar school, just for me, by my friend's mom. Liz Chatfield was incredibly colorful and creative (I'm sure she still is!) and their house was a wonder to me at that young age, full of adventure. She had a … [Read More...]
Okay, sorry to alarm you. I'm not dead yet. I just feel kind of bad for this blog, House of Prince, because I've been working on my taxes today.What does that even mean? I know you're asking yourself that question. Or maybe you asked yourself Why am I even reading this?and you clicked away already. Fair enough.My point is that my two websites, this one and Agoura Hills Mom, pulled in less … [Read More...]
Her greatest wish was to have a best friend. Someone she liked, who made her laugh, who brought her joy. To be included. To have someone to save a cookie for. A buddy for the bus ride to the field trip.Her best friend would hand deliver a birthday party invitation instead of sending hers in the mail or putting it in her lunch cubby at school. There would be a party to look forward to. Her mom … [Read More...]
I was a child when Video Games became a thing. The Christmas when my parents got us an Atari 2600 has become a mythical time in our lives. I remember bleary dry eyes and joystick thumb from playing until we dropped.Even with advent of the screen, we played outside all the time. I had a bike with a banana seat. I had Barbies and coloring books and Simon and dolls and Colorforms.But my all … [Read More...]