My space

I miss my office.

No, not the office I left 19 months ago to become a work-at-home writer and stay-at-home dad. Not that office, a now-alien landscape of cubicles and neckties. I miss my home office.

It's still where it always was, in a narrow garage-turned-studio behind my house. I can look out the window and see it from here. But my computer and I have been exiled into the house itself, and things just aren’t the same.

One reason we bought this old house a decade ago was because of the studio. I needed a separate space, one with some privacy for the desperate hair-tearing that is writing, one where I could be as messy as necessary without the clutter spilling over into areas seen by visitors.

It's a cozy space, as I remember. Ten feet wide by 30 feet long with a bathroom and closet in one end. The previous owners put ugly carpet on the floor and Sheetrock (but woefully little insulation) on the walls, cut a big window in one side and added an air conditioner and a heater.

From the moment I saw it, I knew it was right for me.

I've added my own touches over the years. Shelves for my reference books. A big work table made of a door stretched over two file cabinets. An ancient sofa and a wonderful old wooden swivel chair. A boom box on a shelf next to a collection of blues CDs. Everything within reach, everything ready whenever inspiration strikes.Then the house guests arrived.

They're wonderful people, these houseguests. Their two boys get along swimmingly with our two boys. The whole family's moving back to Albuquerque, and it'll be a joy to have them nearby. But they needed a place to stay during weeks of frantic house-hunting, and we offered them the studio. My computer and I trooped into the house for the duration. We relocated some bookcases in the bedroom, erected a jiggly card table and set up the computer and the printer so I could still work while the house guests made the studio their own.

It’s been a revelation. I didn't know how lucky I was, having the studio. Lots of people have their home offices right in the house, tucked into a corner or spread all over the dining table. I don't see how they get any work done.

Household noises suddenly become major distractions. It's hard to concentrate on writing when you can hear water running somewhere in the house and a child's devilish laughter. My kids, who always knock when they come to the studio, think nothing of barging into the bedroom when I'm working, asking the usual six dozen questions, always culminating with, "When do I get a turn on the computer?"

And heaven forbid they enter when I'm taking a break, playing computer Solitaire or something. They take one look at the screen and, in their most strident J'accuse! tones, shout, "You’re not working!"

Sheesh, it's like having a boss again.

Not that the boys care whether I'm getting any work done. Quite the opposite. They're only interested getting their turn on the magical machine. Our house is filled night and day with the bleeps and bloops of computer games.

I was washing the dishes the other day, humming happily to myself, when I realized the tune was the theme song from "Lego Island."

The kids are getting more time on the computer than ever before, and familiarity breeds boldness. Now, I never know what I'll find when I sit down to work. They change the screensavers and the wallpaper and various settings. It's a wonder I can find a thing.

One change was good, though. I had my screensaver set to scroll giant red letters across a black screen whenever I let the computer languish. The motivational message? "GET BUSY!!!!!" Not the sort of message you want in your bedroom, the last thing you see before going to sleep at night.

Now the screensaver is a shifting blob, changing colors like a kaliedoscope. I find it kind of soothing.

But I still miss my office.

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