Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Care and Feeding of Writers

Since we're smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I thought nothing could be more appropriate than to hear from the other side of the fence - our poor spouse/significant other/partner in crime who has to live with us (and our Muses!)all year long and then try to figure out what to give a creative type for a holiday gift. So I asked my long-suffering (nearly 11 years now) husband to give us his point of view. Here's what he said:

Hello all, Navy Guy here. My lovely wife asked me to write a blog on the “Care and Feeding of Authors” for her web site. I thought this was particularly ambitious of her, given that my writing is almost entirely restricted to generating various Navy memoranda, reports, and instructions. Not what you might call inspiring in any setting. Also, I’m not particularly funny. This fact has been related to me on several occasions, by our children (in the direct manner that most children have) accompanied by the usual eye-rolling, and deep sighs of pity for my lameness. The dogs still find me mildly entertaining, although it is usually dependent on the presence of a squeaky toy, or some other sort of treat. Unfortunately for you, I have no grown-up squeaky toys or treats, so toss back those pre-emptive Tylenol tablets, crack open your favorite beverage (something alcoholic may help) and here we go!

The Christmas season is one of the most wonderful, and potentially lethal, times of year. Choosing the right gift for your writer is, need I say it, very important. The kids are easy. You follow a simple checklist: Seen on TV? Check. Makes noise, lights, puddles, or other debris? Check. Requires AA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries (not included of course) and stock in the Duracell company? Check.
It’s easy!
Not so the Writer.

To be fair, I am quite possibly the worst gift buyer ever. I provide the following transcript of a real conversation which occurred in our kitchen the other day as proof:

Navy Guy (NG): “Hey sweety, you know how you were saying that your computer is acting too slow, and how that’s been aggravating you so much?”

Alesia: “Mmm Hmm” (Distractedly working on something else)

NG: “Well, I was thinking that for one of your Christmas presents, I would get you a
memory upgrade for your computer so that it would work faster!”

Alesia: “…………” (Staring at NG)

NG: Sweet Jesus! I’ve stepped on a landmine!

Alesia: “…………..” (Still staring)

NG: Stay calm, you might lose a foot, maybe the whole leg, but we can survive this! STAY CALM MAN!!

Alesia: “ Umm, No.”

NG: “Right, right! What was I thinking?! That would be a totally lame and inappropriate gift!”

Children: (Shaking their heads in disbelief and resignation.) We can’t believe we are related to him. We never saw anything about computer memory on TV. I’ll bet it doesn’t even have batteries. Poor daddy.

Dogs: I wonder if there is bacon with that.

So, you see, I am already working at a distinct (perhaps mental) disadvantage. There are many hazards on the way to finding the right gift for your romance writer. We have already seen the “Lame Electronic Gift” (there is a caveat in this category for the “impossibly-small-yet-totally-cool-gadget” gift such as the newest micro-mini MP3 player, cel phone, or digital camera) but there are other, even deadlier land mines out there. Anything that is eminently practical is not what we are looking for: Towel sets (boom!), Kitchen appliances (Boom!), Exercise equipment (KA-BOOM!!) all should be avoided.

Well then, if you are like me, you are asking yourself “Holy Mackerel! What’s left?” Well, you can’t just ask:

NG: “Hey honey, what would you like for Christmas this year?”

Alesia: “I would think that after ten and a half years of marriage and two children you would know by now!”

NG: “Well of course I do sweety! I was just checking to make sure I didn’t forget anything!” Curses! Foiled again!

This is when you must tap into the depths of the writer’s mindset. As the spouse of a writer, you are her soul-mate; the muscle-bound, yet strangely free of body hair man on the white horse on the front of those books, who swept her off her feet all those years ago. And, as her soul-mate, you just intuitively and psychically know what it is she wants for Christmas. Sadly, in my case, this psychic connection has been quite effectively filtered out by brain damage caused by an infatuation with electronics, an Electrical Engineering degree, and 20 years of military life. But all is not lost. There are a few sure-fire gifts that can’t go wrong:

Automobiles. More specifically red convertibles. Always a winner.
Adornments. Designer jewelry, designer clothes, designer shoes, expensive perfumes. All very effective.
Spa Treatments. A big winner for me last year, underappreciated writer-moms love to be pampered.

Any of these things, either individually, or in combination, are very good ideas.

The best thing of all, after a long, arduous, shopping season, is that no matter how lame the gifts may be, she will still love you. After all, you are soul-mates! Merry Christmas! And may your New Year with your writers be filled with many wonderful contracts and no writer's block! (See, I AM learning . . .)
Judd, aka Mr. Alesia


gailbarrett said...

Just about two hours ago while we were out walking, my husband suggested buying me more computer memory (he is retired Coast Guard -- do you think it is a military thing?).

Anonymous said...


Thanks, Alesia and Judd (aka Navy Guy) for a great post.


Tawny said...

LOL - I hate to admit it after reading that, but my wish list included small electronics. What can I say, I'm addicted.

Of course, a weekend of interuption-free writing time, hourly backrubs and a never empty glass of tea would rock too.

JoAnn Ross said...

LOL and huge thanks to Navy Guy. We have many years on you, but my Sweetie can still be clueless and may hold a prize for worst gift the year he got me an electric screwdriver. When I asked him how on earth he'd thought of that, he said it was because he knew I'd been hanging lots of pictures, which involved mollies (which require screwdrivers), so this would make the job easier. I pointed out that we'd been in our new house six months and ALL THE PICTURES WERE HUNG!!!

A few years ago, he discovered 1) a helpful jeweler and 2) surprised us both with the fact that he actually has very good (albeit expensive) taste in jewelry. This made shopping easy for him for a while. But since I spend most of my time at home writing, I really don't need any more sparklies.

This year, I went through all my scrapbook catalogs and websites which have wish lists and marked stuff I'd like. (Then gave him strict instructions that he was not to buy everything, but to surprise me with a little bit of this and that)

Given that was a couple months ago, I've totally forgotten what I marked, so whatever gifts he chooses will be a big surprise and -- here's the biggest surprise! -- something I actually want.

Mostly, I asked him to give what he would've spent on jeweley to one of the charities that comes out of my checking account every month, the USO Operation Phone Home program which provides phone cards to deployed troops. That's what I asked my grown kid to do instead of spending money for a present, too. They both followed my instructions last year; hopefully they will this year, as well. Btw, hijacking Alesia's blog for a moment, there's an urgent need for cards and although I can't seem to fit the entire URL in this little box, people can donate at
then, click on the link on the lefthand side to the phone home program. I was talking with a soldier at JFK earlier this month (hard to miss a young woman in cammies with a stuffed purple Barney sticking out of her pack) whose husband is serving in Afghanistan and she was going home from Iraq for two weeks to visit with a two year old daughter she's afraid won't remember her. She said she really loves those cards because she can talk to her baby.

We are now returning you to your regularly scheduled blog. :)

Cathy said...

Since I already have a "family" gift of a Kitchen Aid appliance sitting under the tree for my christmas present????? I can totally relate. A no, this was never on any list I might have casually left lying around. But you do get awarded points for noticing that you are so not done shopping You have a keeper there, Alesia.

Alesia said...

Judd just emailed me from the ship and wanted to say this:

Gail: Clearly you have a wise husband.

Faye: Thank you!

Tawny: Small electronics and backrubs are on my list too - please tell Alesia!

JoAnn: Thank you very much. The USO Operation Phone Home program and all the cards and letters are so important to our troops who are deployed. I know when I was over there, I really looked forward to those packages from home.

Cathy: What a great gift! Explain to Alesia that the Henckels paring knife that just came in the mail is a great family gift, too, so she doesn't chase me around the house with it when I get home (hopefully before Christmas).

Everybody: thanks for letting me visit your blog.

gailbarrett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gailbarrett said...

No, JoAnn - my husband wins the worst-ever gift award for the year he bought me vacuum cleaner bags for Valentine's Day (I kid you not). Fortunately for him we were already married at that point, because that would have been the end . And he has given me some very nice gifts in the 27 years since then, so I can't complain too much.

JoAnn Ross said...

Gail -- okay. You win. And I know my husband will be happy to hand over his worst gift crown. LOL

Alesia said...

Vac. cleaner bags??? Suddenly, the computer memory is looking better and better . . .

Nancy Herkness said...

Hey, one year I got a funnel for Christmas! Fortunately, DH added a laptop computer to the present pile so he lived to see another Christmas.

Navy Guy, you're a lot funnier than your children think you are. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog and your final list of acceptable gifts couldn't be more on-target (must be because you're in the Navy).

Nancy Morse said...

Okay, Navy Guy, here's Shopping 101 for the Christmas-present-challenged spouse. It all comes down to those two very important words - Pay Attention. If she's like most other women (I'm speaking as one here, so I think I should know), I'll bet she's dropped a gazillion hints. It's your duty to pay attention and decipher those little verbal meanderings which, on the surface, may sound like nothing, but beneath that carefully laid facade, what she's really screaming is "THIS IS WHAT I WANT!" You don't learn how to do this overnight. It takes a lot of training. You're married only 10 years? Give it another 10. My husband's been in training for 39 years and damn if he doesn't almost have the hang of it.

Michele Dunaway said...

Okay, my guy and I go the opposite. We don't exchange gifts at all. Instead, we do time alone. Since he works nights and I work days, Saturday nights are the only time we have in common--that is if one of us isn't working and if I can get a sitter (if not, not really "alone" time). So once my kids go to the ex, he'll come down and stay for a few days.

So we don't swap gifts. Life's much easier that way. Instead, we do little surprises throughout the year. Like once he took me to KC for the weekend. Once, when I had two house payments (when my house failed to close and I'd already moved), he gave me $400 totally unexpected just because he didn't want me to forgo the Christmas tree and decoration (which I was planning on doing in an effort to save money).

So we don't celebrate holidays. Haven't for 5 1/2 years. That way no pressure on remembering birthdays or the right Christmas present (or did we spend the right amount?). Instead, we do just little things we find for each other along the way (like I just got him an autographed book and DVD--Bill Carter's Miss Sarejevo at an auction I was at because he's into documentary films).

Now if only my children were so simple.


Anonymous said...

Loved the post, but what's wrong with giving memory for Christmas? (Spoken by a woman who asked for a home network upgrade. Yea!)