Word Number One – Prosperity

For those of you that haven’t read my last post, I have chosen five words to focus on this year instead of resolutions.  The first of those words is prosperity.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  We all want prosperity don’t we?  We all see things in the world we want.  Why does it seem to come so much more naturally to some people?  My husband Chris is one of those people.  He dropped out of college after three years and went to work at a factory so he could build a race car.  He then went to work at an equipment rental company a couple of years before we got married.  He started out as what they called the “Wash boy.”  Within about three and a half years he had made outside salesman.  He makes about three times what I made at my highest paying accounting job.  I’m the one with the college degree.  I’m the one that always obsessed about grades, and yet Chris has always excelled far above me.  A fact that has often left me wondering why.

Despite Chris’s stellar income, It always feels like money is tight.  For years I attributed this to Chris’s love of man toys.  You know, cars, performance parts, expensive trucks despite having a company truck, a big house etc, etc. etc.  Chris’s attitude towards money has always been to just get what you want and if you need more money than you go make more.  I attribute this to his growing up in a financially comfortable environment.  His parents weren’t rich, but they were never lacking for anything.  They didn’t worry about tires going flat or furnaces going out.

I, did not grow up in such an environment.  When I was five we lived in a crude shelter that my father made out of plywood that I’m pretty sure he “borrowed” from the job-sites he worked on.  We had no running water and our only source of electricity was an extension cord running from my grandparents single-wide next door.  I was too young at the time to realize how poor we were, but by age nine, I had started worrying about money.  It’s no wonder that I have issues in this area.

I used to attribute our tight finances to the fact that Chris spends too much.  Lately, I’ve been wondering if I have it wrong.  I can’t believe I just put that in writing.  Thank God Chris doesn’t read my blog.  I can promise you I would never live that one down.  Seriously though, I’ve been questioning some of my beliefs and my belief that responsibility for our money issue belonged on Chris’s shoulders was a strong one.  But now I’m thinking it’s possible that it may be mine.  What if the fact that I always approach our finances from a lack mentality has something to do with it?  Every time we get a little extra, I tend to spend it on things the kids are going to need, but don’t necessarily need yet.  I’m afraid we won’t have the money when they do need it.  I always approach paying the bills from a place of fear.

When the twins started kindergarten last fall Chris wanted me to go back to work and yet I’m still home.  I want to make money doing what I love and I don’t love accounting.  Fear again.  There are other jobs out there that don’t require accounting, but I told myself I can’t have any of them because I lack the experience, the education etc.  The truth is I look at the world as if the possibility of failure lurks around every corner.  I spent months setting up a membership site and as of yet not one person has joined.  It’s not that it couldn’t be an awesome space for writers to come together.  I have trouble with the ask.  I have trouble feeling worthy of the ask.  It’s only fifteen dollars a month.  Most people spend more on Starbucks.  I definitely spend more on Starbucks.  After a week of being snowed in, a Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato would be really good right about now.  In spite of this fact, it’s still hard.  This is a big thing I’m going to have to defeat in order to bring the prosperity I desire.

Brooke Castillo talks about how people worry about money because they believe that it comes from outside of themselves when actually it comes from within.  The first time I heard her say it, it scared the shit out of me.  I knew that it meant actually going out and showing up in the world and putting myself out there.  I’m going to be honest.  Just the idea makes me want to curl up in the fetal position on my office floor and hide.

If you don’t have customers, it’s because you need to ask people to be your customers and not get discouraged when people say no.  That is the wisdom I am faced with.  Sounds terrible doesn’t it.  It’s really just a matter of math.  If you ask 100 people to be your customers, about 10% will say yes and 90% will say no.  I haven’t personally asked one person.  I’ve ran Facebook ads that didn’t work and then promptly gave up.  I know I’m not the only one.  Just a tiny taste of rejection is enough to send most people running.  The primal fears kick in.  If I do the math, I need about 150 people to say yes.  That means I would have to ask 1500 people.  Holy shit.  That sounds excruciating.  I’m going to have to do it anyway if I want this year to be different.

So here’s what I’ve been doing in January. I’m running a Kickstarter campaign and I’ve reached out to someone about ghostwriting a book.  I’m also in the process of re-branding my other book. I knew at the time I first put it out that the title wasn’t right for the book.  I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I ignored it.  It’s almost like I wanted to fail.  My brain wanted to prove it to myself that my lack of worth was well founded.  I refuse to do it anymore.  I’m developing an actual marketing campaign and I’m going to reach out to influencers before I relaunch my book.  I’m going to do it right this time instead of the proverbial pissing in the wind that felt much safer last year.

If you too have been living in fear, it’s time to stop.  Otherwise we are going to wake up in a nursing home one day and wish we had done things differently.  I don’t want the regrets so I have to conquer the fears.  Don’t wait friends.  We only get this one chance.  I want to finish my book, Stealing The Amber Room this year.  I’d like to go to Europe to do research.  I’d like to write a bunch more books and go on trips doing research for those.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  I’d like to ghostwrite books for people about topics that interest me and I’d like to make a bunch of awesome writer friends on my membership site.  That’s the goal.  That’s why I chose prosperity.

What do you want today and what’s holding you back?  What will you choose?

 

The First Chapter of Stealing The Amber Room

History is full of lies. Washington chopped down the cherry tree. Columbus discovered America. The Amber Room disappeared, all fabrications woven into the tapestry of time.

 

A constant knocking startled him awake from his mid-morning nap, and he struggled out of his chair with an arthritic groan.

“I am comink, that’s enough already,” he choked out in a still-hoarse, sleepy voice, but the mystery visitor didn’t hear. The knocking thus continued until he opened the front door, squinting into the sunlight. It was Tim, the scrawny teenager that lived next door and mowed his grass every Saturday.

“I paiden you already.”

“Vat is not why I am here,” Tim said, mocking his accent.

“You sound like Dracula. I am not from Romania.”

“I vant to suck your blood,” Tim said with a smile. This kid is such zee smart ass.

“What is it you vant… I mean want?” He corrected himself and shot Tim a look that said Don’t even.

“I’m supposed to interview an old person for school. Remember?”

“Of course I remember,” he lied. “And we prefer zee term, senior citizen.” In spite of all the teasing, he liked the kid. He was a good boy. Kept his nose clean. Good with his studies. Never missed a Saturday as long as the yard was dry. “And What’s with the constant knockink? You’re not five anymore.”

“I was afraid you were sleeping again.”

“I am older than dirt. Of course, I was napping. I’m practicink for when I’m dead.”

“Geez. What’s with you today?”

“Nothing. Come in. Come in.” He moved out of the way, and Tim breezed in like he owned the place, just like he’d been doing since Tim was ten and moved in next door with his mother. Tim went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.

“You want a soda?” Tim called to him.

“No. I want to go back to my nap,” the old man grumbled, but secretly he was glad for the company. Tim ignored his standard grouchy old man response and walked in carrying two cans of Dr. Pepper.

“You’re going to need this to keep you awake.” The old man took the can and set it down on a coaster next to his favorite chair without argument.

“Let’s get zis over,” the old man said, taking a sip. It burned. Truth be told he had never acquired a taste for American soft drinks. He only bought them for the kid because his mother wouldn’t let him have them.

Tim plopped down on the couch next to old man’s chair.

“I hope you have an interesting story to tell. This paper is a big part of my grade. I need something good. Jackson Parks is interviewing a retired CEO from some big software company. His senior citizen used to date a supermodel.”

“Bah, supermodels. That’s not so interesting. My story is much better.” Tim raised an eyebrow at him like he always did when he suspected the old man of fibbing.

“I tell zee truth. My life has been more interesting than most.”

“How much of this interesting life can you remember?” Tim smirked. The old man mocked offense.

“I am going to be as you say, straight with you,” the old man said. Tim rolled his eyes and sat back. “A person’s memory is a funny thing. I forget a lot these days. I admit it to you. I can not remember names, and I lose things: keys, wallet, car.” At this, Tim shot him a look of shocked concern and the old man put up a hand to silence him. “You think I should be in a retirement home?”

“I think you should get a cell phone and give me your number,” Tim said, taking a big swig of Dr. Pepper.

“Perhaps,” the old man said with a shrug. “Anyway, I may not remember much these days, but zee early days of the war are still vivid in my mind.” He took a long, bony finger and tapped his temple.

“Wait,” Tim said. “You were in a war? Which one? Was it World War I or World War II?”

“I’m not old enough for zee Great War, and even I’m not old enough to have fought in World War II. Those people are all dead, but I lived it. I was a child in zee war.”

“Well,” said Tim looking a little crestfallen. “I suppose that’s something.”

“That’s somethink, says Mr. Smartypants.” Tim crossed his arms ready for a lecture. “Shouldn’t you be taking notes or somethink.”

“I’ve got it all right up here,” said Tim, tapping his temple with mock exaggeration.

The old man threw his hands in the air and took a deep breath.

“Ugh. You are hopeless. I will just begin. Zee day my father left is vibrant in my memory. Like your face in front of me now. He looked handsome in his crisp new Red Army uniform. It was tan with a red collar and black piping. I felt so much pride.” The old man balled his wrinkled hands and patted his chest with all the bravado he could muster. “My father seemed such a man to me, but he was only twenty-four. In my simple understanding, I thought he would return in few days after shooting at some hill or other in a kind of grown-up game. How could Hitler’s army win against a country so vast and full of brave young men?”

“Wait. Who was the Red Army? What country are we talking about?”

“Ugh, zis is going to take forever if you keep with the interrupting. I was born in Russia.”

“Then how is your last name Meyer. And isn’t that a German accent?”

“Yes.”

“How does a Russian end up with a German name?”

“Shuten up and listen and I will tell you.”

“Sorry, geez. Why are old people so cranky?”

“On that day,” the old man continued, “I didn’t hug my father at zee train station because I wanted to be more like a man. I saluted him instead, and he smiled at me and winked the way he always did when I had done something to make him proud. Then his smile faded, and he dropped down on his knees and kissed both my cheeks and squeezed me so tight I think my breath would leaven me and I was so surprised I forgot all about being a man and put my arms around him and buried my head on his chest like a tiny boy. I can still remember the smell his uniform and the sound of his voice saying, Take care of your mother, and I can see him waving from the train until it blurred into zee distance. It was the last time I saw him. I don’t know where he died. I just know he did.”

The old man heard Tim suck in his breath and he thought he saw Tim’s lower lip quiver for a split second.

“I thought your dad was an antique dealer from Albuquerque.”

“That was zee man who raised me, and he wasn’t originally from Albuquerque,” the old man said with a conspiratorial wink. “Now, you could say my mother died of a broken heart, a mere six months later, but starvation played its part. She gave me everything we had and lay dying as people evacuated zee city, too weak to move. She urged me, begged for me to go and follow zee crowd in the hope that someone would bestow kindness on an orphan and take me to safety, but I lingered all day by her side and found myself left behind.” A tear burned the old man’s cheek. He could still picture her lying on that thin mattress on the floor of their old brick krushchyovka so long ago. Tim didn’t say a word.

“I walked out into zee street. The Bakeries were empty, zee hat shops, and even zee butchers. As I walked on, I found so many places burnt. I felt hopeless, and I think to myself I am going to die. I wanted to go back to my mother, but I was afraid to upset her if she was still alive, and I feared to see her if she was not. So I tell myself, let her think I lived. Let her be happy in this, and I sat down in the snow and started to cry. As I sat there with my head on my knees, a dog walked up and licked me on the ear. I looked up into his soft brown eyes, and I swear they were almost human in their intelligence. He appeared healthy despite the starvation everywhere. The dog’s tail wagged with delight at finding a friend, and I say to myself, maybe this is a good sign. He nudged my face, and behind him, I could see the Catherine Palace standing like a beacon in zee distance. Sometimes, I think God himself sent the dog to me. I named him Dozor. In Russian, that means to watch over, and he lived up to zee name many times.” The old man gently patted his chest with his hand.

“You believe God sent you a dog?”

“God has done much bigger things than zis. Why not send me a dog? Why won’t you believe in God?”

Tim looked down at his shoes like he was still ten instead of seventeen. “I dunno. If he’s up there, why didn’t he save my dad?” The old man reached out and patted Tim’s arm.

“I do not pretend to know the will of God, but if you listen to my story, by zee end maybe it will be easier to believe.”

“Why does it matter to you so much for me to believe?”

“Because I can’t go to my grave in peace knowing that the obnoxious boy next door will not get to see me again one day to disrupt my death as much as he did mine life.”

Tim smiled a wry smile.

“Anyway, back to my story, my heart felt full at having such happy company, and I decided zee Palace was the safest place. I set my mind to going there. I do not know why looking back. It seems an odd thing to do. I just had this intuition I needed to go there. I’d spent my whole childhood living in zee shadow of this place and yet I had never seen the inside, so I stood up and marched through the snow with determination. It didn’t look like so far to go, but it took me at least an hour to get there. When I reached zee gate, it stood wide open almost as if to invite me inside, so Dozor and I walked right onto the grounds. It was beautiful. I could scarcely take it all in. It reminded me of stories my Granddad Zharkov used to tell about the summer he spent as a guard there.”

“I opened zee front door and then, Dozor and I slipped inside. A few embers still burned in zee grand fireplace. Beauty was everywhere. The furniture was like nothing I’d ever seen. We’d found an oasis, so Dozor and I made it our home. We found some old forgotten jars in an abandoned fruit cellar, and that sustained us until the Nazis invaded and pillaged the land like locusts: it was on this day that zee famed Amber Room was dismantled and taken away.”

“Amber Room? How do you steal a room,” Tim interjected.

“It was a series of wall panels made of Amber. They filled the room with mirrors and chandeliers, and zee result was breathtaking. I still remember its magnificience and the flood upon the senses the first time that I lay eyes on it. Men hailed it as zee eighth wonder of the world. It had a mystical element, the kind you attribute to unicorns and fairies if such things existed.”

“If it was the eighth wonder of the world, how come I’ve never heard of it?” Tim asked leaning in with interest.

“Because the schools these days don’t teach you about zee really significant things,” the old man said. Tim nodded in agreement.

“The world is still a scary place my friend. The Nazis have been replaced with Isis and terrorism. The world needs all zee beauty one can find, so I will tell you a story I have never told another living soul. It is a story I intended to take to my grave, but I will share it with you because you need to hear it, and it will be a much better story than any CEO dating zee supermodels.” Tim cracked a smile.

“For it all to make sense, I need to go back to zee beginning. It all started in the winter of 1938, what would later be termed “That Fateful Year.” It’s the story of a great treasure, yes, but it’s also the story of love and sacrifice in the face of incredible odds.”