Bumble Me

Being a parent makes you a sentimental sap. At least it makes me one. My oldest is now a teenager and my youngest is rapidly approaching the age of sulky dissatisfaction. I’ve watched as my kids have transformed from adorable, sweet toddlers to brooding, eye-rolling teenagers who’d rather spend time alone in their rooms than be stuck in a common living space with their parents. It’s enough to make me long for the days when they needed us every minute. Eh, maybe not.

Nevertheless, my wife and I do reminisce about when our kids were younger quite frequently nowadays. I guess that’s our way of dealing with our kids growing up. Each of our kids had memorable, cute moments and tendencies that have become part of our family lore like my son’s infectious and hilarious toddler laugh, his rendition of “Elephants Have Winkles” (not a misspelling; that’s how he said it as a toddler), my daughter’s refusal to accept an answer (“Let’s go look,” she’d say when we told her we didn’t have something like a snack in the refrigerator), and her hyper-excited reaction when she’d hear the Dora the Explorer theme come on the TV. When I think about these things, I get all warm inside and smile the biggest smile. These moments, they make me happy beyond belief.

I have so many beautiful things like this that make my life full, but perhaps one of my favorites comes from when my daughter was a toddler. I’ve always woken up early in the morning. I like to get up and relax and take my time in the mornings. When my daughter came along, she became a morning person with me. Suddenly, my quiet alone-time in the mornings included this excitable little girl with wild hair. We’d have breakfast together, and then, she’d want to watch Dora the Explorer. I’d turn on the TV for her and she’d want to be wrapped in a blanket as she watched the show. I’d gladly oblige telling her that I’d bundle her up so that she’d be comfortable. This became a regular thing, but because she couldn’t quite say “bundle” or her toddler mind heard something else, she’d ask me to “bumble” her. Every single morning she’d ask this and sometimes at other points during the day when she wanted to be wrapped up. I’d just smile at her request and make an animated effort to ensure she was tightly wrapped in her blanket. She’d laugh and smile and my heart would just burst. That little girl.

Had she been wise in the ways of the world and the weaknesses of dads, she would have asked for a pony and a nice car in those moments. She would have them without question for nothing weakens the resolve of a father like the sweet smile and happiness of his toddler daughter. Now, when she rolls her eyes at me or stomps off to her room mumbling something about how I’m just a stupid, old man, I think back to those sweet moments when she used to say “Bumble me, daddy!” She hates it when I tell this story or when I ask her (jokingly) if she wants to be “bumbled.” I do it because it’s my way of reliving a treasured moment from her childhood, but secretly, when no one’s in the room with me but the dogs, I bumble the dogs. They seem happy (or spoiled), but it’s just not the same.

My Writing Buddy

Every morning during the week, my wristband buzzes at 4:30 AM. It’s a subtle vibration that wakes me and (hopefully) doesn’t disturb my wife as much as an actual alarm clock wailing into the darkness. I slide out of bed and shuffle downstairs to my own personal altar, otherwise known as the spot where we keep the coffee maker. It is there that I pour myself a cup of the elixir of the gods to help me wake up fully and become alert  and coherent enough to actually type words onto a virtual page.

After half an hour spent eating breakfast and checking in on my day job to make sure the world isn’t ending, I settle in to my writing chair and focus on whatever it is I am working on at that time. The moment I sit in the chair it becomes like a cone of silence and focus and I usually do nothing else for the next hour. This has been my routine for almost six years now. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

A few months ago, we added a new member to our family, a beautiful Boston Terrier puppy named Luna. She joined our already well-established Boston Terrier named Pearl. Although she was an older puppy when we got her at seven months old, she still requires the requisite attention that puppies need to get trained and familiar with her new home, and given that I’m the first one up in my household every morning, it made sense for me to take care of her first thing to get her into her routine. Just as I have my morning regimen, she needed hers, but little did I realize that she’d become part of mine so quickly.

Luna’s indoctrination into our family added more steps to my routine in the quiet, early morning hours, but I didn’t mind. As is obvious, no one wants to be up at 4:30 AM in the morning, much less converse with or engage with me on any level approaching civility. I like the alone time personally, but in the end, it is lonely and having this little pup with me has brightened my mornings without disturbing my need to be productive.

For her part Luna has accepted the routine as her own as well. She knows she will go outside the moment we get downstairs. She eats her breakfast while I eat mine, and once she’s done she curls up in my writing chair to warm it up for me (after she spends a few minutes beating the hapless blanket into an acceptable position). When I’m ready to join her, we usually jockey for position in the chair, but since I weigh much more than she does, I win that battle until she wedges herself against my leg and takes the first of her many naps for the day (I’m definitely coming back as a pampered pooch in my next life).

So now I have a writing buddy. I’m positive this makes me a better writer, not because she’s particularly good at edits, word suggestions, or plot analysis, but because she keeps me company and makes my writing environment all the more enjoyable. Getting in the mood to write requires a certain level of relaxation (try writing effectively when you’re tense, stressed, or uncomfortable), and there’s nothing more relaxing for a dog lover than having your dog by your side. Sometimes, when I’m struggling to figure out what to write next, I stop and pet the soft fur on her back. Like magic, I find my momentum again. That’s what writing buddies do. They help you get past the mental blocks. That and coffee.20180110_104716894_iOS

Welcome to a New Year

I usually take the last couple of weeks of the year off from writing, primarily because I’m busy with other things and the year-end holidays disrupt my usual routine, but I also think it helps to take a creative break to refresh my senses. Although I’m on a break, I’m still thinking of ideas, but I’m not in my chair every morning clacking away on my laptop pounding ideas into coherent stories. Instead, I’m just relaxing or doing other things while I give my mind a break.

I think it helps because I usually feel much more excited about beginning or continuing work once I put myself back in my chair after New Year’s Day. Even something I enjoy can be a slog sometimes, especially when I’m stuck on a particular project or story line. The past year was no different. I spent the entirety of the year working on Into the Caldera as it morphed from one perspective to another. I’ve been working on the novel for a year and a half, and I’m on major revision number three. I think I’m on the right path now, and I hope to finish it in the first half of 2018.

As with every new year since I got serious about being a writer in 2012, I’ve set goals for this year. I like to keep my goals simple to stay focused, so this year, my goals are as follows:

  • Take one class or seminar to improve my writing
  • Finish Into the Caldera
  • Find an agent to take on my book

Finishing Caldera is a holdover from 2017 as it has taken much longer and had many more twists and turns than I had expected at this point last year. Despite the trials and tribulations with that novel, I’ve learned a lot in the process. My biggest accomplishment from 2017 was completing The Fifth Semester program, which taught me a lot about what it takes to write compelling fiction. I think it’s important to move forward every year, and 2017 certainly gave me that. Now, I hope the lessons learned last year provide a springboard for a successful 2018.