riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.

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Dreaming of Zelda

I recently watched the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s about a 1950s housewife and mother who decides to try and make it as a comedian in an extremely male-dominated field. It took me a little time to get into it, but the show’s endearing quality grew on me. And I love its style. Mrs. Maisel’s parents (the Weissmans) live in a beautiful Upper West Side apartment with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting rooms, a fireplace, a grand piano (seriously, their apartment is to die for). My favorite part of their life, however, is their Polish housemaid Zelda.

Zelda does everything – she cooks, cleans, shops, answers the phone, wraps the gifts, hires extra help when needed, and probably more. The only thing she doesn’t do is drive. I’m not sure if she lives with the family, but she’s always there, in the morning to hand them their first cup of coffee and at night to clean up after dinner. She doesn’t say much, but her presence is felt. The more I watched the show, the more I noticed her, and thought about her, and started to wonder what it would be like to have a Zelda.

In my life, I’ve experienced Zelda only fleetingly, and never at full capacity. At some point in my childhood, I remember my mother hired a woman to clean our house every other week. When Kaz was very ill, a friend sent a maid service to help clean our apartment once a week, which was extremely generous and greatly appreciated.

The closest thing to a full Zelda experience was when I went to a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center several years ago. For four blissful weeks, my only responsibility was to clean my clothes (at the local laundromat). Everything else was done for me (and the other residents). My day consisted of walking to the mess hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the rest of the time writing in a private office. It was HEAVEN.

Many art and writing residencies are like this. The whole point is to provide you the time and space to focus solely on your work. It’s such a luxury.

I have a writer friend whose husband does most of the cooking, shopping and cleaning. She used to do these things when he worked, but now he’s retired and they’ve sort of switched roles. She writes all day and comes down for her meals. He takes care of the house. Luckily, he truly enjoys cooking and is very talented. It’s a beautiful thing.

In my house, there is no Zelda, or version of her. There’s only me. Before the pandemic, I had a woman come to clean my house every other week, and a dog walker come twice a week. I was working full-time and would come home on my lunch hour to walk the dog on the other days. Then I was let go. These days, the dog walker comes one afternoon a week (Fridays) and walks Ruby with other dogs, which is good for all three of us.

But if I had the money… you better believe I would hire a Zelda. Maybe more than one – like one for the inside and one for the outside (a gardener). I hope that doesn’t sound terrible – I love my house and know how lucky I am to have it. I just sometimes wish I had some help taking care of it, because everything takes so much time.

I’m fantasizing here… but if I had a Zelda, I wouldn’t have to clean the house, or shop, or do the laundry, or cook every meal, or perform any type of maintenance. I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn, or remember to take out the trash. I could sit in my office all day (writing, of course) and know that meals would be ready when I come down, the house is clean, the dog is walked, the yard is tidy, and absolutely everything is taken care of. What a dream!

This might actually be why I’m working so hard – to be able to hire my very own Zelda one day.

Then again, I can imagine having a Zelda could be a little addictive, and possibly a never-ending cycle.

Like, if I had a lot of money, I would probably get a bigger house, with land, on which I’d put a bigger garden and more animals (I’ve always wanted a horse). Eventually, I might want more than one house, or a house with a guest house. And a pool, and possibly a pond.

Who’s going to take care of all that if not a small army of Zeldas? Can you imagine? It actually sounds like a headache and terribly excessive for one person.

The irony is that, except for certain tasks, I rather enjoy doing most of the chores. I get a strange satisfaction from washing dishes, which I do first thing in the morning. It’s like starting the day with a clean slate and a sense of accomplishment. And I absolutely love to cook. It’s a hobby actually. As is gardening. And of course, you all know how much I love hiking with my dog. So, I don’t know… maybe a part-time Zelda to help with things would be ideal.

Or maybe what I’m really craving is a life partner. Someone to help shoulder the burdens of life, do the chores with, and so many other things.

If you have a Zelda, or partner who helps maintain things and makes life a little easier (btw, I’m not equating a maid with a partner), I hope you realize what a blessing it is. One day, I’ll get there.

In the meantime, I’m fine taking care of myself and my house and my dog on my own.

And to relax in the evenings, I’m re-watching the series Downton Abbey, which is, of course, completely over the top with Zeldas doing everything and then standing silently in the room pretending not to listen to your conversation (weird). But as Chance the gardener (Peter Sellers) said in the moving Being There, “I like to watch.”

Have a great week, everyone!


The Writer’s Pledge

I’ve been wanting to share this with you for some time – it feels fitting to share it now, on the eve of leaving for a writer’s residency. I heard it originally at a seminar given by Brad Schreiber at the writer’s conference I attended in October. Brad is an accomplished writer/teacher/consultant with too many credits to list here, so please go to his website and check him out: www.bradschreiber.com

The seminar he taught was called Adapting Articles & Books for TV and Film, and I’ll blog that info another Friday. Below is the pledge he made us stand and recite with our hands over our hearts before the seminar began:

I am a writer.
I do not need a New York Times bestselling book.
I am a writer.
I do not need a three picture deal.
I am a writer.
I have respect for my craft,
I take responsibility for my own marketing
And if you want me to continue to be a member of this household,
I want some damn quiet around here!

Happy creating! (and more later)


20 Fears to Overcome (by this writer)

1. I will get to Vermont residency in two weeks and not be able to write.

2. I will get to Vermont and not know what to write.

3. I will spend all this time and money for a trip that will yield nothing.

4. I will be laughed at by the other artists for being a fraud because I haven’t been published yet.

5. I won’t be able to handle the cold. Watching TITANIC last night didn’t help.

6. I will sleep too much.

7. I will meet too many interesting people and be distracted.

8. I won’t make any friends.

9. I won’t be able to remember everyone’s names. This will be embarrassing and stressful every time I leave my room.

10. I won’t leave my room.

11. The bed will be uncomfortable (though this might cancel out #6).

12. I will worry about the puppy staying three miles down the road with a surrogate mom, and not be able to write.

13. I will not have enough warm clothing or footwear, causing me to have to go shopping instead of writing.

14. Whatever I do manage to write will be garbage that I could have just as easily written at home.

15. My computer will stop working (I’m considering taking two).

16. I will get lost in the woods and no one will notice because they’re artists on residency.

17. I will get lost in the woods and be found by people who live in the woods.

18. I will get lost in the woods and not be found by anyone and freeze to death.

19. I will not be able to handle driving in the snow and ice.

20. I won’t like the food.


And FYI… (a follow up to Vermont, Buggin’ Out, Mother in Law)

I just found out work has approved my leave of absence request. So, I’m going to Vermont to write for a month at the Vermont Studio Center www.vermontstudiocenter.org and I won’t be unemployed when I get back. Oh, and the puppy’s coming with me. We leave in one week.

I’m so glad the world didn’t end! 🙂


To Vermont or Not to Vermont

This post is a bit of “thinking out loud.” I have a big decision to make based on some recent news.

The good news is I’ve been accepted for a 4-week writer residency at the Vermont Studio Center starting in January. http://www.vermontstudiocenter.org

The bad news is I can’t bring my puppy Ruby. My day job might not grant me a leave of absence. VSC offered me a partial fellow, so it costs money. Boarding/traveling with Ruby will also cost money.  (Regarding travel, I just learned that all the major airlines except United ban Pit Bulls and other “dangerous breeds.” I guess I’ll be flying United if I go.)

To Vermont or not to Vermont, that is the question.

On this morning’s drive to work, I thought of my late husband Kaz, who used to tell me the following when faced with decisions: “Write out the pros and cons, see which list is longer.” I never actually did it though, not literally. I would think in my head of the pros and cons and end up making decisions based on emotion (to good and bad results).

This time I’m going to honor him by taking his advice.

The Pros

  1. I get to write for 4 uninterrupted weeks in Vermont. I could finish my book and/or write something new. I can also continue blogging.
  2. I have wanted to leave my day job for some time, but only if an opportunity presented itself. This might be it. 
  3. VSC is a prestigious institution and would look good on the resume (good for future residency and job applications).
  4. I would meet other writers and artists, connections that could help in the future.
  5. I would get out of LA for a stretch, another thing I’ve been wanting to do.
  6. I would get to see my East Coast family around the holidays and they would get to meet Ruby. (I would board her in Brooklyn across the street from my sister, or in Vermont, 3 miles down the road from the Center.)

The Cons

  1. Going to Vermont would cut into my savings by approximately 15%.
  2. If I don’t get a leave of absence and quit my job, that would be very scary.
  3. Certain family members would give me a hard time about quitting my job (if it comes to that).
  4. Flying with a dog is also risky and scary.
  5. I would have to figure out a lot of logistics (what to do with my apartment, car, dog, etc.) in a short amount of time. That will be stressful.

I’m pressed to think of more cons. Can you? It seems like most of them are fear-based, justifiable fear but fear nonetheless. Maybe it’s a matter of getting over the fear and taking a calculated risk? Would I be crazy for leaving my job? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Btw, when I presented this dilemma to T last night (refer to “Friday Night Frights” for who T is), she lowered her chin and looked at me as if over a pair of invisible glasses. “I don’t even know why you’re questioning it, Niva.  You’re obviously going.”

Gotta love T.