March 23, 2018

Puppy Love

Twelve years ago, my friends and family would have called me the least likely person to buy a dog.

On a Sunday afternoon, eleven years and five months ago (and before kids), my husband and I stopped at the mall on the way home from a weekend getaway. We headed toward Old Navy, but passed by a pet store.

Here's a piece of wisdom (and a bit of foreshadowing too): If you pick up the puppy, then you are going home with the puppy.

Nestled among the other shih tzu puppies, I found a 7 week old, 2.5 pound, black and white ball of fluff.

Me to my husband: Can I see the puppy?
My husband to me: You'll have to ask the store person (or something to that effect).

I watched the little puppy running around on the floor, wagging his tail so hard his whole body wiggled.

Me to my husband: Can I pick up the puppy?
My husband to me: You'll have to ask the store person.

Me to my husband: Can I have the puppy?

And the rest is, well, history.

That puppy became our first dog ever, Buddy. We had no idea what we were getting into!

Our spoiled and very loved Mr. B. Did we train him? Or did he train us?

Raising Buddy was good practice for the human children. Buddy didn't sleep through the night or come potty trained. All the books in the world could not have prepared us for the impact of bringing a puppy home on a whim. He ruined the white carpet and ate the baseboards in the rec room. He finished cutting his teeth on the rungs of our dining room chairs. I never even caught him in the act. We built him a "Buddy run" so he could access the backyard from our side door. At one point, he had three beds... plus the one he slept on at night—ours.

We brought him home without a single clue how to raise him. When he cried, I rocked and sang to him. When he refused to walk outside, I picked him up. When he decided he didn't like his raw food diet anymore, we cooked his patties. Then, my husband started making homemade dog food. He's picky—I never knew a dog to be so particular—he walks around puddles and we have to coax him to eat treats—like cheese and peanut butter—that we know he likes. He sniffs the treat almost suspiciously, and we have to touch it to his lips to remind him he likes it.

Buddy was almost two when our first son was born. We brought the baby home from the hospital, put him on the floor, let Buddy smell him, and gave Buddy a toy. The traditional "here's your new sibling and here's your big brother present" that all parents follow. Buddy loves our boys. Now that the kids are a little bigger, Buddy goes to them for affection and even lets them pick him up. Sometimes. The kids don't realize how lucky they are to have a little dog to love and play with.

He grew to the husky 9.5 pounds he is today, but don't be fooled. He packs a lot of personality, not to mention intelligence, in his little self. He recognizes the sound of meat getting chopped on the cutting board and the freezer door opening (where we keep his chicken necks). He's a true creature of habit. When he's ready for bed, he'll "ruff" in the hall outside our bedroom. Our bed is too high for him to get on unassisted.

We know everything about him. He communicates with us clearly. Each bark. Each tail wag. We knew something was wrong before we took him to the vet. Buddy has congestive heart failure. His vet prescribed meds, but his days are numbered. We were told he had 2 years. That was almost a year ago. We even took him to a dog cardiologist who gave him two more months.

It's absolutely heart-breaking to think about losing Buddy. When he has trouble breathing, when he looks at us with those big brown eyes. I can't imagine life without him. No barking at the door bell or the neighbor's dog. No "ruffs" to go outside. No patiently siting by the door waiting for his walk. No sitting in the sunshine on the deck.

Buddy brings us such joy. He is the epitome of unconditional love. We couldn't have picked a better dog. Whether we have a day, a month, or another year... We cherish each moment with our little bear.

March 9, 2018

Reading Down Memory Lane

I love books.

I've spent many happy hours in libraries and bookstores.

I'm guilty of reading "one more chapter" more than once.

You share my love of reading. You know the joy of holding a new book in your hands. The familiar musk from the yellowed pages of an old tome. The crisp pages of a new release. The limitless possibilities that await within every page.

I've had the recent pleasure of sharing some of my childhood favorites with my sons. In the Wayside School books, we met Mrs. Jewls and her students from the 30th floor. We met Peter Hatcher in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing—his brother Fudge—yes, Fudge—and their neighbors Jimmy and Sheila. That led to more books from the Fudge series. After we finish Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Ramona Quimby is ready to join the party. I hope the boys like her as much as Peter...

New favorites await us as well... Louis Sacher's Holes and Small Steps are in our TBR stack. The movie Holes was amazing!

We picked up the five Percy Jackson stories from the last book order. I must confess, I'm enjoying them as much as the kids!

Not every book has been a winner with the boys. The Magician's Nephew was a bit scary, and I couldn't hold their attention with Anne of Green Gables. The boys didn't really get Amelia Bedelia so I reread some of her antics by myself in the children's section of the town library—on a little chair.

It never hurts to try new things, especially stories. I dream of the day we all sit quietly and read—even though a more likely scenario is me reading while the boys —not so quietly—play Minecraft.

What childhood favorites are on your list to revisit or share with your kids?

March 2, 2018

The Ideal Reader

I recently read an article from Writer's Digest "Should You Write for Yourself or for the Reader?"

The author of the post, Kip Langello, created a fictional reader—his ideal reader—to write his novels for. The article raised some really thought-provoking questions. When asked if you should write for yourself or the reader, Mr. Langello asks:

  • Do you want to get published and paid for it?
  • Do you want people to buy and read your book?
If you answered 'yes' to those questions, then ask yourself...
  • Who will read your book?

Art is in the eye of the beholder... Readers have varying, and often unpredictable, tastes in books. Writers are not objective enough to access the appeal of their work to a reader. Mr. Langello created a fictional character to be his ideal reader. He gave her a back story—a husband, a career, a life. He used this fictional character as his personal focus group. Would she like this character / scene / joke? Writing to a specific, albeit fictional, 'person' helped Mr. Langello complete, and successfully sell, his novels.

I always thought I wrote for myself. Although my ultimate goal was to publish, and profit from, my work, I didn't set out to write a book that directly targeted a specific audience. Until I read this article and saw the value in writing for the reader. But not just any reader...

My Ideal Reader

Who is my ideal reader? I always viewed my target audience as women between the ages of 20 to 45 who like romance novels, and fantasy / paranormal in particular, so let's start there.

My ideal reader is a 32 year old woman named Joanna. Joanna is single and works in an office. Nothing out of the ordinary happens in her life so she lives vicariously through romance novels. She believes in true love and happily-ever-afters—she's my ideal reader after all—and while she's waiting to meet "the one", she's not putting her life on hold. Joanna has a close-knit group of friends and an active social life. She loves coffee and weekends spent reading in her pyjamas. Her favorite color is blue. She leases a blue car. Her apartment—converted from a 1800s sea captain's house—has a lot of character. She loves trying new things... her latest venture is a candle making class. Last month, she took a French cooking class.

I wonder if Joanna will like my current work-in-progress...