The Best Gift Deb Rachel’s Ever Received

Where I write is different for every project and every mood. I’m writing this post in the cafe/bakery down the block from my house, a place I’ve adopted as an office since leaving my 9-to-5 job in June. But coming here means changing out of pajamas, which sometimes seems an insurmountable task. So on those days I work from home, lately from our kitchen/dining room (they are one) table.

I thought about writing this post about my newly acquired “office,” with its Beatles soundtrack and free wi-fi and to-die-for olive oil granola. But then I wouldn’t be able to show off my most favorite possession, and the truth is I could never write a book here.

The coffee shop is for emails and research and blog posts and magazine articles. It’s my replacement for the water-cooler banter of coworkers. Sometimes when I work from home I forget to turn on the lights. It’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s depressing. That’s when I come to the cafe, to join the living, breathing, productive members of society. Currently, in the upstairs area where I’m sitting,  there are two men on business calls and four women meeting about the local food-and-fashion market they run. (See, I’m a regular! I know my “colleagues.”)

But to write my book, I needed quiet and concentration (and easy access to my fridge), so I turned our second bedroom into my office. This picture makes it look clean, because I went on a Labor Day spring cleaning binge, and computer-less, because at the time my laptop was in the bedroom. But you get the idea. During memoir-writing days, I had a Mac laptop and Roget’s thesaurus permanently stationed front and center.

But the point of this picture is to show off the big red wall hanging above my desk. My favorite gift ever. Screw jewelry.

If it’s too small to make out, let me explain: It’s a canvas reprint, stretched out on a wooden frame, of the cover of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” single.

Get it? Get it? ‘Cause I’m a paperback writer! (MWF Seeking BFF is being published as a trade paperback original.) My husband got this for me for our first anniversary and I’m in love with it. It makes me feel all writerly, and when I’m stuck in one of those writer’s block who-even-cares-or-wants-to-read-about-my-life-and-my-friends-or-lack-thereof rut, I find myself just staring at it in a trance. The husband did good.

Other desk accessories of note: My nameplate from my old job. I’m thinking of hanging it right outside the door to our second bedroom, as if the room is actually my official office. I’ve never had my own office (cube dweller all the way!) so maybe this would make me feel important? There’s also a ballerina picture over on the right, because I’m convinced I wore a tutu and pointe shoes in my previous life.  Two pics: one of me and the husband, the other of my old work BFFs (another way for me to feel like I’m in an actual workplace). And a small print of an Andy Warhol quote: “Everybody must have a fantasy.”

Basically a bunch of stuff to get the creative juices flowing. Which works sometimes. Other times I drop everything and turn on Drop Dead Diva.

Oh, and who are we kidding? I don’t sit in that chair. It’s pretty, but when it’s time to hunker down, I trade it for a chair with a back. Practicality above all else!

Not to be all braggy, but isn’t that gift awesome? What’s the most unexpected and fabulous gift you’ve ever received?

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38 thoughts on “The Best Gift Deb Rachel’s Ever Received

  1. That IS an fantastically awesome gift! Paperback Writer is (of course) my all-time favorite Beatles song. You have an extremely thoughtful husband. 🙂

    I need quiet to write my books, too, so home is best for me. When the house is empty, I invite my characters in, and we have a party in my head. If I’m lucky, the good parts spill out onto the computer screen.

    But (as you note), the drawback is that sometimes I look up and realize it’s almost noon and I’m still hanging out in my PJs.

    • Er, try to imagine I wrote “a” instead of “an” there. Sheesh. *heads to kitchen for more caffeine*

      • Thanks Linda. I guess I’ll keep him…

        As much as I usually find it to be a downer, sometimes it’s nice to look up at noon and still be in PJs, don’t you think? For every week I want to be among the living, there’s a day I think “I’m a writer. It’s not the most lucrative job, or most social job. I don’t get a fancy office. But at least I can wear my pajamas all day.” Sometimes.

        We’ve got to take the perks where we can get them!

        • True. It does feel positively decadent sometimes, and we do have to take our perks where we can get them. Lord knows I haven’t gotten the pool boy I thought surely would come with selling my books. Or the pool, for that matter. Dang. I should’ve read the small print… 😉

  2. Your husband did well!
    My sweet, little, Chinese mother-in-law, ten years before she died, gave me a string of perfectly matched pearls that was a gift to her from my father-in-law on their wedding day.
    A few years later, she gave me most of her most valued pieces of jewelry, so I’m afraid I can’t say, “Screw jewelry.”
    I hardly ever wear jewelry, but the fact that she chose me to receive hers is priceless to me. She lived to be 101. I miss her.

    • That is a lovely story, Gayle. I’m not a huge fan of jewelry myself, but I do have a few sentimental pieces that came from family members that I absolutely treasure.

    • Gayle, that’s lovely. Sounds like your mother-in-law was really special. And how lucky that she loved you so much as well!

      As for jewelry, don’t get me wrong–I’ll accept it from my husband in all forms–but it’s the truly thoughtful gifts, like this picture, or your pearls, that really stick with me.

  3. Oh man, your husband did great! Now can we hear a little more about this olive oil granola? I’m looking for a drool cup while I wait…

    The best gift I ever got would have be the year’s membership to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo from my husband (then-boyfriend). Little did I know his master plan was that in a few months from then he was going to ask me to marry him in the Australian Bird Aviary (our favorite spot). I still keep the membership card in my purse. (I REALLY wanted to bring the kookaburra home as my memento, but he wasn’t having any of it.)

    • Erika, the one thing very wrong with my husband is that he doesn’t like the olive oil granola! What kind of crazy person feels that way. It’s delish. I’ll take you some when you come visit Molly and me.(hint, hint)

      That Zoo story is AMAZING. I love zoos (which is weird, because I’m not an animal person. At least not a domestic pet person.) And it’s just silly he wouldn’t let you have the kookaburra. Come on now.

      • Hmm, promises of olive oil granola. Methinks Chicago may indeed be the logical mid-way point for our Dream Deb Get-together. (Is it me, or does that sound like one of those packages you could bid or pass on at the end of The Price Is Right?)

        • Chicago also has sweet potato fries with goat cheese fondue (at Uncommon Ground) that are DEFINITELY worth the trip! Rachel, have you experienced them? If not, we might have to take a field trip…

  4. I also intentionally have different places for different types of writing, and often leave the house just for a little human interaction. I like the variety of working in different places.

    I love that your husband bought you that art! He’s so supportive.

    • Thanks Eleanor!

      I think different writing calls for different settings. It’s just as sometimes I can listen to music while I write and sometimes (mostly) I can’t. The act of writing itself is so different from project to project, it only makes sense that the space where it happens differs too. At least, that’s my take.

      And, oh, human interaction. It can’t be underestimated.

  5. That is an amazingly thoughtful gift, Rachel! Congratulations on picking a keeper. I have also been blessed with a keeper who has bought me some wonderful gifts over the years (including an Alphasmart for me to write on), but honestly, the best gift is his gift of support and leaving me to write for hours and hours at a time without complaint. Oh and the puppy! Yes, maybe I’ll change my answer to PUPPY!

    • It’s true. The support of the partners to hole up and write or, in my case, spend a year making friends with everyone but him, is pretty priceless.

      But a puppy is good too!

  6. Love that print. What a fabulous gift!

    I have a friend who collects vintage fountain pens and fancy pencils, and once gave me a vintage (fancy) pencil with the original leads. I don’t use it too often, but I love that he gave it to me – even more so because I’m a writer.

  7. I mentioned one of my favorite gifts from my husband in yesterday’s post – a waterproof notebook! I use it all the time in the bath. But the best gift he’s given me is his belief in me and in my writing. It never wavers.

  8. Best gift ever — when I was still pretty new to L.A. and an aspiring everything, my immediate superior at my day job (writer’s assistant on a Saturday morning kids’ show) cut out a full page tribute in Variety from Kermit the Frog to someone else, had my name engraved on a plaque and covered the original name with it, then framed the whole magilla and had it mounted over my desk when I came in to work on my birthday. Spectacular!

  9. Best gift ever? When I was a dirty rotten surfing scoundrel living on Maui a coworker gave a bible.
    It gathered dust for years and years then one day I cracked it open. That was quite a day.

    Nice desk!

    • I like that story, Greg. You never know when something will come in handy…

      And thanks re: the desk. I love it. Speaking of presents, it was a hand-me-down gift from my mother-in-law.

  10. Best gift ever? Hubby found the star chart for the first time we said, “I love you” to each other, (under the stars, of course). Then he hired an artist to come in and paint iridescent stars on our bedroom ceiling. You can’t see them during the day or when the lights are on (and they can’t be photographed) but every night we sleep under the same night sky as where our love was first acknowledged.

      • Oh, Was it a contest? LOL. Yep. It took two tries, but I learned from the first one and found my keeper a decade ago. I could tell you some of the other things he’s done, but it would only make you sick. K

    • Thanks Jen! I do love it. It was a hand-me-down “lady’s desk” from my mother in law, and it feels old-fashioned and writerly somehow…..

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