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Greg Bardsley

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fatherhood

My sweet consolation

One of the things about earning coin during the day, writing crime fic at night and being a family man throughout is that you don’t get to read nearly as much as you’d like.

My consolation? I have some scary-talented buds sending me some of the best crime fic around.

Case in point, I have been thoroughly enjoying Tony Black’s latest sensation, Truth Lies Bleeding. If you haven’t read Black yet, do yourself a favor and check out this novel by the talented U.K. prose stylist, who once again has managed to suck me in with a story that appeals to the mind and heart. With Truth Lies Bleeding, Black introduces us to yet another fascinating and fully evolved character, Edinburgh Investigator Rob Brennan, who is dealing with demons on many fronts, not the least of which is a ruthless killer who’s left a mutilated corpse in a back-alley dumpster. The police procedural element of the book is captivating, and the emotional connection to Brennan is nearly immediate. Top-shelf material from Black — again.

Also just “in”: My e-book copy of Matthew McBride’s breakout first novel, Frank Sinatra in a Blender, which I admit to taking a peek at last night despite the fact I’m in the middle of other books. I mean, with a title like that, how could I not take a peek? Regardless, I was laughing out loud within minutes and can tell that I will thoroughly enjoy that morsel.

Meanwhile, had the pleasure of reading some underground prose (for now, at least) by the prolific and powerfully voiced Kieran Shea – learn that name. … And Crimefactory just came out with a sick new issue with crate of great pieces by Eric Beetner, Jedidiah Ayres, Tony Black, the Nerd of Noir, Nigel Bird and Mike Sheeter. … Oh, and there’s some seriously discounted, tart transgressive fic by Anthony Neil Smith over at Herman’s Greasy Spoon.

And finally, was thrilled to see an excerpt of my recently completed novel appear in the legendary Plots with Guns. If you like your Crazy Larry and your Calhoun, be sure to check out The Frequency, To Which He Must Attend.

Each night, a fight

I don’t post here like I used to. Lots of reasons for that, but basically it all boils down to the fact I’m freaking busy.

Work. Family. Friends. Household duties.

And when I do have time — at night, when everyone is finally asleep — I work on my fiction projects. With one project, it’s in my agent’s hands. With the other project, a new novel, I have more to write. But I’m making progress nightly, and gaining speed.

To get here, I’ve sacrificed a lot of couch-vegetation, blogging cycles, Facebook cruising and sleep. I’m not the only one, to say the least. For an authentic look at the realities of  trying write novels in the face of 21st Century life, you really should check out the gut-wrenching blog post by the talented and well-reviewed Irish crime author Declan Burke, and the responses from authors facing similar challenges.

My own challenge is to keep the energy. When I’m halfway fresh, I’m dying to get to the writing. Then the remainder of the day takes another chunk of flesh out of me. When the day is nearly over and I actually have my personal time, I need to coach myself to the computer.

Self-talk.

Get your lazy ass off the couch, Greg. Turn the fricking TV off, now.

No, don’t look at that book; walk to the computer. Now.

Don’t wander into the kitchen, and don’t you dare check your email.

This is your time.

Tomorrow you’ll regret this lost opportunity.

Sure, you’re exhausted, but who isn’t?

“Mommy mommy, I’m tired. I can’t write. Waa-waa-waa.”

That’s my internal dialogue, at least.

Most days I make it to the computer, and once I’m there, I have a blast, get a little closer to creating something that might turn out kinda cool, something that might have a little something to say about life in a fun way. We’ll see. It’s all a huge gamble, but I guess I have to take it — as if I had any say in the matter.

Tomorrow night, another fight.

They won’t let him be ‘him’

My poor son, Jack.

He says to me,  “No one is letting me be me.”

His eyes beg for sympathy, his lower lip eases out. He asks for a hug, and I open my arms with a heavy heart — my 8-year-old is hurting, and he needs me.

“What’s going on?”

“No one’s letting me be me.”

“Okay, but tell me more?”

“Like mom. … Tonight. … Not letting me …” Jack burries his face into my chest and mumbles, “pick my nose.”

“Jack. That was at the dinner table. You can’t pick your nose at the dinner table.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not having this conversation with you. If you need to pick your nose, go to the bathroom. Nose-picking at the dinner table will always get you in the dog house. Always. And it would be a disaster on a date.”

We hug a little more, and then I ask, “Who else is not letting you be you?”

He tells me about school. Apparently, some of the rules and procedures and curricula don’t jive with my expressive, language-oriented, naturalist son.

Math? Don’t even go there.

Penmanship? The banal work of simpletons who obviously don’t care about more important things, like how volcanos happen or how the White Oaks Elementary “bug club” might someday undermine the world’s insecticide companies.

He says, “I wish school had just two subjects: talking and reading.”

I nod in concession. That would be nice. I must admit.

Greg’s Friends Doing Amazing Things — J.P. Gallagher

imgBio_JPBack in October of 2008, I blogged about J.P. Gallagher, a friend of mine who’d just learned he had stomach cancer.

It was a scary time. So many questions no one could answer. Was the cancer spreading? Would it respond to radiation and chemo? How would he and his wife  accommodate the birth of their third child just weeks after the docs would take out J.P.’s stomach? Life would change, for sure, but what would it look like, and how would they live it?

Well, I have good news. J.P. kicked the shit out of that cancer.

The past 20 months threw just about everything they could at J.P. and his family. Those 20 months gave, and they took away. A daughter was born. New friendships were made. Just weeks after J.P.’s surgery, his father died — later, his sister passed away, too. But the world kept spinning, and J.P. and his family kept fighting, and living.

Now, there’s nothing serendipitous about cancer. I know that. But there is something remarkable how a variety of circumstances came together to create something truly amazing out of something that had been downright awful.

Part of it was the fact J.P. always had a passion for the non-profit sector — he’d been elected chairman of the board for at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC): Southwest, and he’d earned an MBA with concentrations in marketing and public/non-profit management. Another part of it was the fact that, through his treatment, J.P. had gotten to know some of the world’s leaders in gastric cancer research, and that he just happened to work for a company that made the computers needed to assist with that research.

Toss in the fact that, back in October ’08, his wife Cindy insisted he see a doctor about a swallowing problem and that, had he not gone, he’d likely be dead today, and you start to wonder if this is where J.P. is supposed to be — back in the saddle of life, full of energy, surviving cancer and starting The Gastric Cander Fund, which aims to do nothing short of finding a cure for the disease. With J.P.’s vision as well as the help of his employer, NetApp, the foundation aims to provide one lucky research group everything it would need — the money, the computers, the medical collaboration — to find the root cause of gastric cancer.

Pretty fricking cool.

And if you’re wondering how in the hell J.P. ever found the time and energy (let alone the vision) to start something like this while fighting for his life and mourning the loss of loved ones, on top of everything else, I don’t have an answer.

In October 2008, I asked you to pray for J.P. and his people. Today, I ‘m asking you to learn more about his new foundation, and to consider helping.

I’m thinking about a friend, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

NOTE: This marks the beginning of what I hope will be an occasional series in which I tell you about friends doing some pretty cool things.

And these are the things we say

“Honey,” she says, “I was sprawled out on the floor from exhaustion today, and I was looking at the ceiling, and I was thinking, we should’ve painted it a ligher shade.”

Later, I say sweetly, “I think it might be because of the fact I got two hours of sleep last night, but my vision is blurring and I can’t see colors. Would you mind showing me which piece of paper is yellow? Dylan needs a yellow piece of paper.”

“Oh, of course,” Nancy says, fighting off a smile.

Later, she says, “Honey, maybe it’s because I never fell back asleep aftrer taking care of Dylan’s wet bed at 1 a.m, but I’m losing my equilibrium whenever I walk. Do we have a cane around here?”

And so it goes.

Later, I say, lispy and slurred, “Honey, what’s my middle name again? I’m drawing a blank.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, it may have something to do with the fact I’ve haven’t slept in 36 hours, but I can’t remember my middle name.”

And so it goes.

“Honey, I was passed out on the floor today, and the boys were running around me and racing Hot Wheels over my legs, and when I came to I think I saw a plate of mac-n-cheese under the couch.  I think it’s from that movie night Jack had last month. Would you mind getting that?”

And so it goes.

Someday we’ll get more sleep. I hope it’s before the boys leave for college.

Sunday …

Sunday morning. Heavy lidded. Half asleep. The sound of little feet padding into the bedroom. Open an eye. Dylan’s light-brown hair, a few strands sticking out in various directions. He throws his three stuffed animals — Goggy, Trotty and Dragon — onto the bed and climbs up. I pull him toward me. The boys had been gone for the better part of a week. I open an eye again. His giant almond eyes are looking at me, happy. He snuggles closer. We hug, Goggy, Trotty and Dragon smushed between us. I doze in and out, open an eye now and then. Big almond eyes looking at me. Quiet contentment. I pull him closer, and he sighs, happy.

Open an eye. Blond hair sticking up everywhere. Jack. Crawling up the bed, to the other side. In a moment, I have both of my boys in my arms. Totally silent and calm. No fighting or feces-centric insults. Is this real? A cruel trick of the mind? We lay there for a good half an hour, completely silent.

Could it get any better? Yes, it could. “Mommy” could be here. …

Sunday evening at SJC. Southwest flight 3843 from Burbank. Dylan and Jack sitting eagerly. Jack has picked out purple tulips, Dylan deep-orange sun flowers. Dylan grasps his bouquet with both hands, holding it out, looking down the aisle, past the security point. Finally, they see Mommy and bolt toward her, people parting for them. I guide our little group hug to a nearby bench seat.

Sure, we had our first family fight within 20 minutes, but that’s beside the point. Bliss is like a sunset — a brief, sweet and beautiful moment, gone in a minute. Until the next time.

The grandaddy of all loose teeth

My 6-year-old Jack has a loose tooth. It is the granddaddy of all loose teeth.

What happened was, the first of his two front teeth fell out. That was last weekend. Apparently, the new vacancy gave his other front loose tooth space to wander. And wander it has. In the past few days, the tooth has dropped down more, slid right at a 45-degree angle and eased out against his upper lip.

The result: When he smiles, Jack looks like a 97-year-old backwoods moonshiner.

His friends love it. His mother can barely look at it. His desk neighbor in first-grade squealed in shock, then announced that his mouth looks like it belongs to a jackolantern (perfect analogy!). He’s having quite a lot of fun with it and makes a variety of truly funny faces, including a goofy Mona Lisa smile in which the loose tooth is the only one you see.

Every time Jack loses a baby tooth, the Tooth Fairy reaches under his pillow in the middle of the night, leaves a coin and puts the tooth with the others — in a secure, far-out-of-reach container. Sometimes I pick up that container and jiggle the teeth, marveling at how tiny they are, and at how big my first baby boy has become. Looking at them, I can almost smell the baby powder, hear the “gaga’s” and feel the baby fat that is long gone.

Call me crazy, but I’ll be just a little sad to see this latest tooth go.

Love for thy raspberry

My 3-year-old Dylan loves to blow raspberries. He’s pretty good at it.

Usually it’s a slow and gentle raspberry — the tongue is fat and wet, the lower lip is stuck out, the chin is jutted out, the eyes are calm. When he blows one of these beauties, I feel like laughing because it’s hilarious to be with someone who uses the raspberry quite seriously.

If his brother Jack antagonizes him, Dylan blows him a raspberry.

If he can’t get a toy to work properly, he blows a raspberry at it.

If he earns a time-out during dinner, we send him to the nearby garage. He knows it’s useless to resist because that will only bring on worse consequences. So he saunters to the door, opens it, steps into the garage, looks at us one last time, and gives us a raspberry. Then he shuts the door, nice and gentle.

Now he’s realizing that his raspberries are making people laugh, so he’s blowing them like there’s no tomorrow. And he can fly into a raspberry frenzy at any time, any place.

Case in point ….

The other day I tell Nancy that I’ll take the boys to the grocery store. She looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“When was the last time you’ve spent thirty minutes in a grocery store with both boys?” she asks.

“Why?”

She’s still looking at me like I’m crazy, and she’s fighting off a smile. “You sure you wanna do that?

Thirty minutes later, at Lunardi’s, the boys are whizzing up and down the aisles, each with his own little “Customer In Training” shopping cart. It sounds like a dozen Roman chariots are approaching my backside, and my skin goes cold. I turn and whisper-yell for them to slow down. A yuppie holding an enormous latte gives us a long, blank stare. An elderly couple passes us, their eyes twinkling at the boys.

In the produce section I’m fingering through avocados when Dylan backs into his “training” cart, which in turn eases into a tower of vinegar bottles. The sound of clanking glass gets my attention, and Jack laughs and hollers, “Whoa.”

“Dylan,” I yell. “Freeze.”

I can feel people watching us. My skin goes cold again.

“Okay,” I whisper-yell. “That’s it. No more cart.”

“Fine,” Dylan says, and marches off toward the bananas, blowing a raspberry with every happy stomp, pumping his arms like he’s pulling on train whistles, encouraged by the howls of his older brother. A woman in a giant denim skirt looks down at him as he raspberry-stomps past her, his brows furrowed in mock earnest, and continues toward the apples and peaches.

I have a full cart of groceries. This cart of groceries has been hard-earned. I am not going to abandon this cart of groceries, I won’t leave this store in defeat. I grab the items out of Dylan’s cart, throw them into mine, corral the boys and high-tail it to the checkout area, whispering to myself, “We’re out of here.”

At home, Nancy fakes innocence. “How did it go?” she asks, heavy on the calm motherly tone.

We look over at Dylan as he raspberry-stomps through the kitchen. Only now he’s inserting fart noises between each raspberry. Jack is still laughing.

“Yeah … Well … It looks like it was a relaxing experience for you,” Nancy deadpans, and she squeezes my forearm. “I’m happy for you.”

I swear it: I’ll never so much as crack a grin at another one of Dylan’s raspberries.

Some things never get old

Some things in life never get old. For males, it’s bathroom humor.

I will admit it. I’m not immune to the stuff. It can still make me laugh. It can make me laugh hard. And if all the bathroom-humor-oriented movies, books, stories and web sites out there are any indication, I am not the only adult with this weakness.

But now I have two sons. And there are times when, as their father, I really shouldn’t be laughing and pointing and nodding and even tearing up at their potty humor (namely, when at the dinner table or in public). But sometimes it’s damn tough, and I find myself forcing a straight face as I tell them to cut that out, you don’t talk about poo-poo sandwiches at the dinner table. And there are times when even my wife fails to keep from laughing at what our 3-year-old son Dylan has come up with.

Which, of course, causes Dylan to beam with pride — fortified by the laughter of his audience — as he resolves to dive deeper into his potty-humor repertoire.

For Dylan these days, songs, monologues, jokes and games centered around “poo and privates,” as he calls his subject matter, never lose their luster. He just can’t get enough. Case in point: This weekend, the boys were wondering how many days have passed since they’ve been born. I worked out the math, and they were fascinated. Then Jack wondered how many days have passed since “prehistoric bugs” roamed the earth and even offered his best guess: “Three million, two hundred, fourteen-thousand, twenty-five trillion and seventy-two katrillion days.”

I turned to Dylan. “And what’s your guess?”

Dylan takes a deep breath. “I think its been two-four-ten pee-pee-pillion, one diarrhea-rillion and one poo-poo-pillion days.”

I stared at him and bit my lip, fighting the urge to grin, thinking, Ah, to be three again.

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