Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Who would you rather be, the guy who goes to sleep with a smile on his face, or rage in his heart? Me? I smile, and I sleep well.

He who tries to divide another man’s house is himself standing on a crumbling foundation.

I crack up when I see grown men marking their territory. I thought only dogs and little boys did that.

The problem with insanity is that by virtue of it, you can’t reason with it.

When all the witnesses and facts point to one conclusion, yet the accuser keeps insisting upon another, you’ve got yourself a loser.

What do you think of that South Beach murder-suicide incident? My heart goes out to the deceased little boys and the surviving wife, and I have no pity for the dead husband. Where in the Bible does it say, If your wife stops loving you, kill her and your offspring? Who are these guys who think, If I can’t have her, no one else will, either? Sick monsters, I think.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I got married December 20th at a historic bed & breakfast inn in Savannah, daughters and close family by our side. The inn was decorated in traditional southern Christmas charm; our wedding pictures were taken before the Christmas tree that stood 12 feet tall. I have one of those photos framed and sitting on my dresser. I see it each morning when I get out of bed and reach into the top drawer for my wedding band. This is why living with my wife feels like Christmas everyday.

Kid-bytes

Linley, her friend and I were in the car going home from the pool. Just as we were leaving the parking lot I looked out the window and saw a snake. “Look, a snake,” I said.
“Greg, that’s a stick or something.”
“No Linley, it’s a snake.”
“I think it’s a crack in the concrete.”
“It’s a snake; I’ll show you.” I got out of the car and poked it, and it crawled away.
“You just had to prove to me you were right, didn’t you?” Linley said as I got back behind the wheel.
“Yes, I had to make sure you knew the difference between a snake and a crack.”
“It’s not like I’m going to go around poking my finger in strange cracks,” she said.
There was a moment of awkward silence – then her friend said, “Well I certainly hope not.”

Book Report

I got this email yesterday:

“In your remarks about your Mom, you stated you had a list of things you wanted to do for her one day. Please, please, please, - DO NOT WAIT. Do them today; keep the list and do each thing now, while you can. I, too, had a list of things to do for my Mom one day - she was the lone caretaker for my Dad. Dad died and three months later Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. You see, all the time she was caring for him, she was dying, but no one knew it. She died one year to the day after my Dad. Do what you can today, even if it is a phone call - don't put it off.”

Good advice. Let’s hope we all follow it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A little something different

It has been crazy at our house this week – everyday had a different schedule of each woman. Jill had official teacher days and non-student days, Linley went in late each day and Meagan had half-days. All had something to do afterward (or in some cases, for me to do for them), and none could tell me until the last minute which of their optional plans were going to come into play. Then I have been editing like a mad man to finish a book, making time to take care of the yard, go grocery shopping and then cook. Whew! No wonder I look forward to the end of the evening when I can sit and relax, watch my family and enjoy the fun we share. Like last night:

Our neighbors, Laura and Allison, came by for dinner. We had a chopped Mediterranean salad and a chicken-pistachio-basil bowtie pasta (a little something I whipped up in 30 minutes). The ladies showed up with wine carafe in hand, so we had some vino, too. First all had to admire the pink sparkly feather boa Jill bought for Princess. Then we sat down to eat, adult women on one side of the table, the younguns and I on the other. Meagan announces she is breaking up with her boyfriend and all want to know why. As she explains, each woman at the table had a different less-than-affectionate name for the guy and a plan for revenge or something worse (can’t repeat it – children read this, too). Meagan feels supported and agrees with several opinions from her feminine peers, all of whom said the same thing I said a few days ago, but then I don’t count; it seems I’m a guy. The quote of the evening was mine – “You can’t be walked on if you don’t lie down.”

We had no dessert so Linley decides to provide entertainment. This means moving all the den furniture against the wall, putting in a CD and playing it at “wake the neighbors” volume, and then practicing cheerleading routines, including cartwheels. Laura, wine glass in hand, decides to show us she can still cheer, too. She tried a herky-jerky but it looked more like a seizure. Allison and I looked at each other and wondered how long it would take an ambulance to find my house. Jill proceeds to show us her flag corp routine and I realize I’m not nearly as flexible as I’d like to be. In the midst of it all Meagan gets on the phone and finds a girlfriend to meet her for a “movie” but I’m sure it was just to get one more point-of-view and endorsement for the “I’ll show him” scheme. Soon she and the neighbors left, then Linley panics, remembering something she needs from Target. It’s now 9:15.

We load up, go shopping (Linley gets some cheerleading stuff, Jill gets Princess a bathing suit, and I get to pay for it). As we headed for the car, Jill suddenly panics. She needs two matching potted plants as parting gifts for two friends at work. Off to Home Depot, thank goodness if is still open; it’s nearly 10:00.

We finally get home, rearrange the furniture and clean the dishes, then I collapse on the sofa for a few minutes of news. I see headlights in the drive and realize Meagan has come home. She enters and announces all her friends agree with Allison’s recommendation (her option didn’t involve blood evidence). She kisses me goodnight and climbs the stairs for bed. Linley follows. Jill and I chat a bit, and then she, too, retires. Now it’s just Princess and I left in the den. I’m barefoot and she still in her boa. It wasn’t until then, when the noise was over, all tasks and consultations completed, and the crowd dispersed, that I realized something. That dog can’t even swim.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wicked

Crazy Train (of thought)

The young kids in the neighborhood are trying to raise money for summer already. First they were selling homemade chocolate sauce poured into those little Dixie Cups. I managed to pass on that one. Next they came around with homemade fruit smoothies in a pitcher. I bought one for $2, even though it was melted. It tasted awful. Then they came by with nothing to sell, but wanted to know if I had any extra money to “give away.” I gave ‘em a quarter each and asked them to skip me for the next few days.

Linley was singing a song that included a few Spanish lyrics. I’m not quite sure why she got so annoyed when each time they sang “como se yama” I sang “Come and see my momma.”

Why is AARP sending me membership information?

I now have my summer haircut. It’s about ¾ inches long all round. When Linley walks past she has to touch my head. I feel like the Blarney Stone. Hey, I’m part-Irish.

Marital Bliss

I’m alone as I write this (Tuesday night). I bought tickets for Jill to take herself, her mother and Linley to the Fox Theater to see Wicked. It is both a belated Mother’s Day gift for my mom-in-law and a surprise for Linley. She loves that play and this is the second time I’ve made it happen for her to see it. Just as they were about to pull away from the house she came running in the front door to thank me for giving them a “girls’ night out.” Her smile was priceless and made my night. As I was about to go up the stairs to my office I heard the door open again and this time it was Jill. She wanted to kiss me goodbye one more time. I know Joann is going to come in and hug me goodnight when they return in a few hours, she’s that kind of mom-in-law. It is sweet, having the love of your family, isn’t it?

Kid-bytes

Today is Meagan’s last day of school; tomorrow, Linley’s. You think my schedule was busy during school days? Let the fun begin. Meagan’s yearbook camp (she’s the photographer – chip off the daddy block!), volunteer work, weekends with girlfriends, etc., and Linley’s cheerleading camp, church camps, her girlfriend weekends, and then there is Jill, who doesn’t work during the summer. I may never see the light of day in June and July.

Book Report

After each Mother’s and Father’s Day I get lots of email from people who received one of my books as a gift. I’m delighted with them all, but now and then one really stands out and makes me feel like I have done something really worthwhile. This is the one this year:

“I am the proud father of two sons, ages 5 and 2. Each year I struggle to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift for my wife. This year, one of the gifts I purchased for my sons to give to their mother was WHY A SON NEEDS A MOM. The youngest boy, who hasn’t started kindergarten yet, is just starting to read. I thought it would be great if he would read the book to his mom instead of just letting her read it. I worked with him to assure him he could read this book to Mommy. We practiced and agreed he would present her with the book and read her 5 pages each day.

On Mother’s Day, he took the gift bag to his Mom and asked her to sit with him in a big chair. He pulled out the book and said he wanted to read to her. I left the room so they could be alone, but stayed around the corner to listen. While I could hear my wife begin to “tear up” as our son started to read the wonderful passages, I was equally emotional as I listened to him sounding out the words so perfectly. I do not know if you have heard a child read these passages to their mom or dad, but I can’t imagine the words having more impact than they did that morning in my family room. Thank you for a beautiful book and a memory I will never forget.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Essence

Crazy Train (of thought)

While at the book convention I met two people: one, a Holocaust survivor, the other, a man who says he and his siblings don’t speak to one another. The first man picked up my book Brothers and Sisters and began to cry as he stood there reading it. He lost his brothers and sisters, his mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, too. He was nine years old living in the shadows scavenging for food and trying to evade capture. He grew up alone, until he met his wife and later had children. He is focused on making sure his children understand what they have in each other, for he knows what it is like to lose it. Sometime later the second man picked up the same book and scanned it quickly, then put it down saying his relationship with his siblings is broken and it is too late to fix it. I wish he could have met the first gentleman.

On a lighter note, when walking the sidewalks in DC I was approached by three lovely if not somewhat psychedelic young women. Here we go, I thought, hookers or panhandlers. Neither, it turns out; entrepreneurs instead. They were selling cool silk-screened tee-shirts to raise funds to support their artists’ commune. I bought two, thinking my girls back home would enjoy them. When I said “keep the change,” one of these entrepreneurs kissed my check and said “Thanks, you are helping us in our quest toward world domination!”

Marital Bliss

Last night was a reminder of how much I love my wife. I told you of my sweet and romantic reunion with Jill when I returned home Saturday night. Sunday night was more of the same. But last night was different; it was a typical married life night. We went to bed later than planned, tired and eager to go to sleep. A kiss, a few words, then off to la-la land. Except I had my hand on her hip, and she draped her leg over my leg. Throughout the night, no matter who turned, the other followed, and one never left the other’s touch. This morning there we were, still embraced. That’s bliss.

Kid-bytes

I’m sure you, like me, pray all the time for the health and safety of your children. Then you probably go through your day trouble and carefree, thinking you and your child will live nearly forever. Not so, as we can see from the story above told to me by the Holocaust survivor. Perhaps because that story was so profound to me, meeting that man and sharing in a moment of his pain that is still with him 60+ years later, the news that Meagan has a medical issue to deal with was a hard blow. Nothing serious, but an aspirin and a band-aid won’t help this. We got the news together. I asked the doctor lots of questions, Meagan and I talked about it twice afterward, we went over the options and thought of how it might impact summer plans, and then she went to her room to study for finals. She’s strong. Daddy is saying that prayer again, this time with lots of thanks that the situation is no worse than it is. I am sure that for all practical purposes, Meagan and Linley will outlive me, nevertheless I am now more determined than ever to make the most of every minute I have with my beloved family - Jill, Meagan and Linley.

Book Report

I’m beginning a new series of books about parent-child relationships, and I plan to include stories submitted by people who want to tell me about significant moments in their lives when they felt the real power and depth of their mother or father’s love, or when as a parent they first experienced the moment when they knew they would give their life for their child. The book will be a collection of these recalled moments, compiled and combined with other things I will write about mom-daughter, mom-son, dad-daughter, and dad-son relationships. If you would like to submit such a story, please contact me via the email link on the right margin of my blog, just under my photo. I hope to hear from you.

Monday, May 22, 2006

All aboard!

Crazy Train (of thought)

The book show was a success! I signed over 600 books and made good progress toward securing a few more book contracts. I also got to see the cover art for my two new books coming out this Fall. Exciting!

A sure sign you’re talking to an ego-maniac: They answer your questions about themselves, but won’t ask you any about you.

As Jill and I were hiking up a mountain trail yesterday, we passed three young girls sitting to the side on some rocks, trying to catch their breath, smoking cigarettes. Jill and I went on to the top where we then climbed 425 steps (about 35 stories) to an observation platform in less than 15 minutes. We don’t smoke.

If your momma told you to change your ways, shouldn’t you?

Why is the media on the one hand outraged we are in Iraq, and on the other hand, outraged we aren’t in Durfur?

I received the saddest email from someone who wanted to tell me her daddy was nothing like the dads I describe in the daughter/dad book. It seems he was a drunk and never around when she was young, but now expects her to treat him like he is royalty, just because he was there when she was created. It takes a whole lot more than that to be a father, sir.

Marital Bliss

Separated two nights and days, Jill and I were eager to see each other. I called her three times on the way home from the airport. She was waiting for when I pulled into the garage, standing in the door wearing a little something I bought for her. She had a glass of wine ready, the lights on dim, jazz playing in the background. We sat on the sofa, her legs stretched across my lap, and talked for a half-hour, kissing between sentences. The rest, well that’s private. I will say this, though - I am a very happily married man.

Kid-bytes

The girls begin the return to our home today; we love it but we have to prepare for it. This morning Jill and I savored the quiet, the lack of chaos, the flexibility we enjoy when it is just the two of us. Then we got the calendar out, wrote down all the things each girl has on her schedule, and then our agenda. There were only a few open spaces left, and we are sure they will be filled by Tuesday night when the girls tell us of something else they want to do. It’s like the slow rumble of a freight train. We hear it coming, and when it arrives, it will be deafening.

Book Report


I was too busy to mingle much at the book show, so only saw three celebrities – a vintage game show host whose name I can’t remember right now, Courtney Hansen of Overhaulin’ fame, and Steven Baldwin. Steven was in the greenroom with me but was surrounded by his posse so I didn’t have the chance to say hello, and Courtney shared the autographing space with me. Of course all the guys were salivating over her. And then there was me, which brings me to…

Someone ran up to me screaming “It’s you!” She wanted a book autographed, had her friend take a picture of us together, then she read my name badge. She thought I was someone else. I wonder if she kept the picture.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Good use of time

Crazy Train (of thought)

We had company yesterday and I couldn’t get into the office, which serves as a guest room in a time of need. Sorry I missed you. And alas, I am leaving for DC tomorrow for the book convention, so this is most likely the last post for this week. I’ll be home all week next week, the girls will be here, so I’ll be back to daily posts with rich new material. Thanks for reading!

Jill and I tried to take a power walk last night but along the way we stopped and chatted five times with our neighbors. We also waved at three others who drove by. I love our neighborhood!

Gosh, I am going to be away from home for three days without my sweetie. Our longest separation since getting married. I miss her already.

Bold moves take guts. Sometimes doing nothing is a bold move.

When you take credit for what others have done, how long will it be before you have no others?

When your heart is empty, do you try to fill it, or empty out the heart of others?

Marital Bliss

When Jill wakes me up to tell me she has had a nightmare about someone kidnapping Princess, what am I supposed to do? Celebrate?

Kid-bytes

Jill and I try to keep our girls happy, to give them full lives, lives rich with experiences they will remember for years. Like when we went to NYC just to get frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, when we went to Chicago to see Wicked, when we eat at Mel’s on Sunset Blvd. Like when we go to Boston this summer to see the July 4th fireworks over the harbor. You know, you have so little time with your kids, but what you do with that time, affects a lifetime. What are you doing with your time? Make good use of it. You can’t roll it back and try again.

Book Report

While at the Book Expo of America I get to meet other authors, book sellers, agents and publishers. It is a great networking opportunity. Yet what I enjoy most is meeting the owners of little independent book stores who tell me stories of how customers have been found crying in the isles reading my books. When all you really wanted to do in your life is to help people, it is so gratifying to hear that you have. Thank you Lord, for the honor and opportunity you have bestowed upon me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rich indeed

Crazy Train (of thought)

My favorite song is one Jill sings. It goes “Somebody’s sexy, his name’s Greg.” That’s as far as she’s gotten with her lyrics, but it’s already a hit with me.

I ran across a guy on Amazon who has posted over 200 reviews of books and movies, most of which he gave the worst score, just 1 star. What an empty life he must lead if everything he encounters is so dissatisfying to him.

The family was discussing one of our planned weekend getaways this summer – a trip to Maine. What are the girls most excited about? Eating lobster at McDonalds.

Meagan and Linley walked through the streets of Atlanta arm in arm, zigzagging doing the Monkeys walk. I love watching them have fun together. I’m so glad they have each other.

I stopped for a cup of coffee and noticed the barista had a tattoo that showed through her white blouse. I asked her about it and then told her of mine. She thought it was sweet I have Jill’s name inked on me forever. Before I could say thanks, she turned around and dropped her pants to show me her boyfriend’s name on her buns. Honey, I asked for biscotti, not a moon pie.

Marital Bliss

We took my mother-in-law to dinner last night in celebration of Mom’s Day. There are many things I have gained since marrying Jill, not the least of which is a great set of in-laws. They hug me, tell me they love me, they are kind and generous to my daughter, and they thank me for taking care of Jill. Her father told me once, “Finally someone is taking care of her; I don’t have to worry any more.” That is a heck of a compliment. I love them both. I sent my mother-in-law a card for Mom’s Day, and she called me to tell me how much she appreciated it, ending the call with a sweet “love you a lot.” I am a rich man indeed.

Kid-bytes

It was supposed to be a Mother’s Day event, going downtown to stay in a high-rise hotel and visit the new Georgia Aquarium the next day, but like most things do, our expedition quickly became all about entertaining the girls (which in the end meant Jill got what she wanted, hugs and kisses from happy children). After dinner Friday night we went to the revolving bar at the top of the highest hotel in the western hemisphere, to relax and soak in the view. As we turned toward Turner Field, the Braves game ended and the firework show began. We slowly glided past the whole thing, observing from over 700 feet in the air. What a show; they loved it. Later, in the room and preparing for bed, the girls called. They wanted room service – it seems both had an ice cream craving. I said yes to that and a movie, hung up and kissed Jill goodnight. Just as we were telling one another how happy we were that the girls had had such a good night, my cell rang. It was them. “Yes?” I answered. “You’re an awesome dad,” came the reply. I went to bed smiling and having had a good night, too.

Book Report

Yes, four of my photographs from WHY A SON NEEDS A MOM appeared on Good Morning America during the special about Mother’s Day. It was quite exciting, to say the least. When that segment was over, they went to a live interview with Oprah, who was in the studio and most certainly saw my photos. Is that close enough for me to say Oprah has seen my book? Will I get that call, the one that will lead to my live guest appearance, and then book sales will soar into the stratosphere? It was so close I could almost feel it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Correction

Well, it turns out there was a footnote on the photos giving credit to me and the book. I suppose I was listening more than looking, 'cuz I missed it. Nevertheless, ABC gave me credit, so please disregard my protest in the post below.

Unmentioned but not unmentionable

Crazy Train (of thought)

Well that was a bit disappointing. ABC did open the segment about moms and their sons with four of my photographs, but made no mention of where they came from. I could just scream.

Oprah just said “Don’t waste the roses on the casket; give them to people while they live.” Wonderful.

Another iPOD purchase Linley made: Snitches and Talkers Get Stitches and Walkers. Let’s hope she isn’t too easily influenced by music!

I think I have created a monster – every day this week at least one child has knocked on the door asking me to take their photograph. Is everyone in the neighborhood working on a modeling career?

Remember all those Mother’s Day cards we bought? You should have seen the face on the clerk at the Post Office when I went in to have them stamped. “You gotta lotta mommas,” she said.

I love Paul Simon and right now I’m listening to his new song. He’s singing a line that goes “Who’s going to love you when your looks are gone?” I’d ask, do you want someone who loves you only for your looks?

Hey Caitlyn! You looked great Saturday!

Marital Bliss

Meagan took Linley to school this morning so I could stay behind and watch Good Morning America. This gave me the opportunity to have a few minutes alone with Jill before she went to work, an opportunity to steal a few more kisses, to hold her tight and feel her pressed against me, to see her smile. I cannot get enough of my wife. Thank goodness, she does not tire of my hunger for her. Should she ever, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Kid-bytes

The girls have been great this week. Sometimes a 16 and a 12 year old can slip into believing it’s all about them, the world revolves around their interests and what they think they need. Well not this week. Between my imploding deadlines, Jill’s accident, all the inconvenience of not having a second car, our house was ripe for an outburst. Instead, they have chipped in to help without having to be asked, they have been sweet and affectionate to Jill and I and each other, they have not had a sister-spat, and they have remembered the things I forgot and passed on the opportunity to point out I might have “Alzheimer’s”. All this tells me we are have harmony in our house, that we are continuing and succeeding in our merge to one family, that all is going to be well and perhaps get even better. Like I said in the introduction to WHY WE ARE A FAMILY, “in our house, we have submitted to love’s gravity, and it pulls us closer together, day after day.”

Book Report

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing an excerpt from the book I wrote for my mom, WHY A SON NEEDS A MOM: 100 REASONS:

“I do not know what my mother’s dreams were, what plans she had in mind for herself as she grew up, where she wanted to visit or what she might have become if she had chosen to live her life differently. I am ashamed that I do not know these things because I have never thought to ask, but I also do not know because my mother has never uttered a word of disappointment about the life she has lived. I do not know of her regrets for she does not share them, if they exist, nor does she lament about what her life used to be like or otherwise give off signs of disappointment about what age has taken from her. Perhaps she has just accepted her life for what it is, thinking it is too late to change it. Or, perhaps she is happy with her life for what it has been. It is the latter, I like to think, because I know my mother has enjoyed being a mother, and a grandmother, and a surrogate mother or grandmother to those in need who have been fortunate enough to enter her life. I know this, because she never fails to seize the opportunity to act like a mom, to be there for someone.

I love my mother dearly, and I have a long list of things I want to do for her one day, but most of all I want to tell her “thank you”. I believe that a child, especially a son, can never express enough gratitude for what a mother has done. I know that I cannot, except that I know what I will do to try. I will do what my mother did for me: I will be there when she needs me, no matter what. I love you, Mom.”

Back in a moment

I'm watching Good Morning America today to see how they use my book, WHY A SON NEEDS A MOM. I'll post after 9:00 AM. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sweet Hearts

Crazy Train (of thought)

The name of a song Linley just bought for her iPOD: “There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet.” Oh joy; this is what I get to listen to on the way to school!

Am I really that busy? Let’s see – I’m negotiating a permissions deal with ABC News, finishing the photography for book #16 in my series, finishing the revision of a novel my agent is anxious to get, working on a photo show for my gallery opening in July, arm wrestling with the trucking company’s insurance adjuster, serving as short-order cook in the mornings for my three women, monitoring for hints the dog needs to go outside, interviewing for a new maid, taking care of the details for the surprise Mother’s Day events we have planned for Jill, teaching Meagan how to balance a checkbook, and on and on….

So what’s this about ABC News? This is what I hinted at yesterday – Good Morning America is featuring a special program about mothers and sons for the Mother’s day, hosted by Bill Weir. It will run tomorrow morning and Sunday morning, and will include (drum roll) my photographs from the Why a Son Needs a Mom book! Could this be the big national break that finally gets me in the Top 5 on the New York Times Best-Seller List? My fingers are crossed, how about yours?

Marital Bliss

I tell you, it is the little things that count, that add up, that are remembered for a lifetime. What am I talking about? I make breakfast for the women as they get ready for the day. Jill likes an egg & bacon burrito. I put it on a paper plate so she can take it in the car if she is running late. Today I took a red marker and drew hearts on her plate while the coffee was brewing. She came down stairs just as Linley and I were getting in the car, and I heard her squeal of delight when she found her plate. In spite of my long task list, I will smile all day long knowing I made her happy today, and knowing she will in turn make me happy tonight.

Kid-bytes

Meagan, sweet little bug, saw that I was stressed yesterday evening, and in an effort to help me, surprised me by gassing up my car, washing the dinner dishes and a few other little chores for me while I drove with Jill to the church to pick up Linley. What a honey. Love you darling!

Book Report

I got this note this morning. I love it when the Greg & Jill love story sounds familiar to others, that they find something in common with us, that their own love story is as poignant as ours, and that the book I wrote for Jill is worthy enough to serve as a symbol of the commitment others share:

“Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed the book “Why I Love You.” I was in the store today shopping for something else and I happened to look down and noticed it sitting there. I picked it up and read it cover to cover and loved every bit of it (including the introduction). I bought a copy for my husband who is currently serving in Iraq. I plan on mailing it to him tomorrow and I know he will love it just as much as I do. Every one of those little sayings seemed to fit perfectly with my feelings toward him. Thank you for writing something so simple, yet so beautiful!”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bruised but not broken

Crazy Train (of thought)

Short and sweet today – was an out of control day yesterday and didn’t have much time to write. Jill was in an accident (not her fault, she’s fine, car is a mess) and as you can guess, it was both frightening and time consuming. I’m not sure how much I’ll get to post tomorrow as I plan to spend much of my time on the phone today taking care of insurance, car rental, accident reports, etc. I’ll write what I can, and thanks for your patience and understanding.

Marital Bliss

When I got the call from Jill I dropped everything and raced to the scene, on the phone all the way taking care of what needed to be done. I arrived just as the wrecker was loading the Porsche; it was an ugly mess. I also found the trucker who caused the accident and we exchanged a few words, then I called the trucking company. Let’s just say we reached an understanding and Jill is going to be happy with another new car soon. When we got home I got lots of hugs and thanks and compliments for being her knight in shining armor. You are welcome hon’, but isn’t that the way a good husband is supposed to act? Only a jerk would leave you to handle matters by yourself.

Kid-bytes

Linley was too funny in the middle of all this, telling me if her momma was hurt, she was going to jump out of the Rover with me to slap the trucker right up side the head. Yo, girl, maybe U R gangsta!

Book Report

I got a phone call yesterday (just before Jill called with her bad news) that could greatly change the landscape for my books. So as not to jinx it, I’ll wait until the details are ironed out before making an announcement, but be forewarned, it’s BIG! Stay tuned, the news could break as early as tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Family Matters

Crazy Train (of thought)

An ounce of common sense would tell you not to make claims you can’t support with good evidence.

The problem with telling lies is that after you’ve told them over and over again, you begin to confuse yourself.

I’m always suspicious of those restaurants that want you to pay your tip before you’ve been seated and served.

When you write your next resume, it’s best to make sure you are old enough to have actually accomplished all the stuff you say you did.

Who appointed me spokesperson? Nobody, but someone’s got to say this stuff.

Jill and I went to a Cinco de Mayo party recently and on the way out the door she remarked, “I wish Princess had a sombrero.” That dog has more fashion accessories than I do.

Marital Bliss

Jill, Linley and I went shopping for Mother’s Day cards. We planned to buy three, one each for our mothers, but left with 16 instead. I decided to get one for my mother-in-law, Jill decided to get one for my mom, Linley acted on her own and Meagan’s behalf and selected several for their grandmothers, and the list went on and on. The bill was enough to have taken us all to dinner at a decent restaurant, but I didn’t mind. The exercise assured me of what I thought I already knew, that our marriage was primarily for us, but also it was for everybody. All four of us inherited an extended family; all four of us were welcomed in. I have in-laws I love, my parents have another grandchild, and each child has another set of grandparents as well as new aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sure, we can all agree it is most desirable for first marriages to last, but the reality is many do not. The second best thing we can hope for is in the case of a blended family, that it “blends” really well. I have to say, in our house, we are succeeding on that objective. I thank my wife for taking my family into her heart, and for urging me into the hearts of her family. I thank her for entrusting me with her daughter, and for being the other mother for mine.

Kid-bytes

Meagan went to her first prom Saturday night and I was the appointed photographer at the before-party. There were five young couples (and their parents) there, all decked out and eagerly awaiting the limo. Meagan acted a little embarrassed as I posed and snapped photos, but pleased with me at the same time, happy everyone wanted their picture made. I took a hundred photos and eventually we parents sent our kids off for the big night. Once at home I downloaded the images and scanned them quickly, looking to make sure I had a few good ones. My attention went to one in particular; one I forgot had been taken. Meagan’s mom took it with my camera – it was of my sweet child with her arms wrapped around Jill and I, all three of us grinning wide. It made me smile to see the three of us looking so happy together, and it made me even happier to recall that my ex-wife took the picture, that she, Jill and I could be together enjoying an event in Meagan’s life, and that Meagan could relax and enjoy herself without being stressed out in that situation. It is a gift we all give her, one I know she appreciates. If you are divorced and you aren’t giving the same gift to your child, you should. Put your stuff aside, and take up the stuff that matters to your child.

Book Report

I didn’t intend for this entry to be about divorce and remarriage, but it has taken on that flavor today all by itself. This is an email I received that I thought deserved mention, as it continues with my messages above:

“It isn't very often that I find something that stirs my soul to its very depths and reaches those dark corners of my heart that are nearly untouchable. Your books do just that. ‘Why a Daughter Needs a Mom’ so accurately portrays events, words, and feelings that I can relate to. It was given to me by my soon to be ex-husband. His mother gave him ‘Why a Daughter Needs a Dad,’ and it made an impression on him, a lasting impression. Thank you for reaching a part of him that no one else could. We share in the joy of raising our children, and are trying to stay focused on what is important for them. I love these books and with them will be reminded that being a parent is an awesome responsibility and a wonderful opportunity, to love and be loved unconditionally.”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? If you are still in your first marriage, squeeze it tight and make the best go of it. If you are not, do everything you can to make sure your children are not pawns in a battle. It leaves a scar.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Angel in the passenger seat

Crazy Train (of thought)

It is late Sunday night, it has been a busy weekend, and I am tired, too tired to write something original. So instead I’m including a few excerpts from emails to give you something to read today, and I promise to be more in the game tomorrow…

Just when I was wondering if anyone likes my blog, I get this email: “I have to stop reading your blog at work; it brings me to tears so often. Everyone coming into my office thinks something is wrong, but the tears are because of something poignant you have written. You cause me to pause every time and contemplate the thoughts you have put into my head.”

And then this one: “In the months ahead I will reach the pivotal moment in my life of walking down the aisle with my much loved daughter on her wedding day. I have feared I would not find the right words to express my loving sentiments to her as we celebrate this special day. Then I came across your wonderful book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad. Your gift to me will be my gift to her. Thanks for capturing so well the joy and satisfaction I have felt in doing the most important job I have ever been called to do, being the father of two daughters.” It pleases me so much when I hear other men confess their unabashed affection for their children.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I were returning from the gym yesterday mid-afternoon when she looked at me and said, “It has been too long since we visited your parents. Let’s go take them to dinner.” Not only was she initiating a visit with her in-laws, she was suggesting we go on an unplanned trip that would mean driving two hours each way. We went, my parents were delighted, we chatted about our future on the way back, and I counted yet another reason why I believe I have married the most wonderful woman in the world. She’s beautiful and sexy, too; icing on the cake!

Kid-bytes

I asked you to say a prayer with me for Meagan’s safety as she began driving alone three weeks ago. Clearly some of you have, and an angel was indeed with her Friday night. I won’t go into details because they make me cringe, but she had a little single-car event that left her with two blown out tires and a stomach full of fear. How she maintained control of the car, I don’t know. Why it didn’t flip over, I can’t understand. Was there an angel with her? No one saw it, but nothing else explains how she escaped without a scratch. I’m sure she will be more careful and attentive when she is behind the wheel now, and I pray again a heavenly passenger will be right there with her. Thank you, Lord.

Book Report

I always believed the heart knows nothing nor cares anything about genetics:

“I just wanted to comment on how wonderful I think your book is! My husband recently bought a copy (Why a Daughter Needs a Dad) for his daughter, my stepdaughter. My husband is not her biological father, but he has raised her from birth and is her Dad in every sense of the word. I liked the book so well that I made him go back and get another copy for me to give to my father.”

Did you get that? A wife who admires her husband for loving a child that is not his nor hers, yet the three of them make a loving family. That’s a picture worth ten-thousand words.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday freestyle

Crazy Train (of thought)

I got this sweet note yesterday – “I just want to tell you how much I love reading your blog everyday!!! Thank you for touching my life and giving me inspiration everyday!!” You know what, hon’? It’s my sincere pleasure.

Does the love of your spouse sometimes reduce you to tears of joy? I hope so. It’d be something else we have in common.

Don’t you think if the Hispanic advocates wanted favor with legitimate US citizens, they might think about not referring to us as “you people”?

I’ve had sushi for lunch three times this week. Pretty soon I’ll be able to breath underwater.

I’ve spoken to one of my neighbors four times on the phone and once on the front porch this week. She gave Jill and me a key to her house so we could take in her mail when she is out of town, or so we can raid her wine cellar on Sundays if our inventory comes up short. I told you we live in Mayberry.

I’m moving my business from one bank to another after an event that completely hacked me off. As I sat in the manager’s office listening to her call my new bank to verify a few things, I asked her to tell Courtney, the manager of the new bank, hello for me (I recognized her voice). A little customer service goes a long way, and a little bad customer service will get talked about even longer. Might even show up in the plot of a novel one day.

Marital Bliss

One of the great things about Jill is she is confident in me and trusts me. So much so that she is okay with me spending time with friends of mine I had before she and I met. Thus I was able to have lunch yesterday with someone I have not seen in five years, a woman I once worked with who became a good friend before our paths diverged as we pursued other careers. I know that trust is a gift, I can’t expect it or demand it, I must be worthy of it. I do not want my wife’s heart to ache with hurt and suspicion because I acted in an untrustworthy manner, so I behave like a good husband should. I tell her where I’m going and with whom, answer any and all questions, and never stay longer than I estimated. Like my grandma once told me, “Do nothing to invite suspicion and suspicion won’t follow you around.” You can quote that if you wish.

Kid-bytes

Meagan’s cat of 12 years died yesterday. I’m no cat lover, but I couldn’t help but grieve with her when she called me in tears to tell me about it. I wish she were here so I could’ve wrapped my arms around her.

Book Report

Most of the fan mail I get sounds something like this:

“I've spent the last few weeks with my father. He still takes care of me and it still feels good. Sometimes it's hard to believe that there is someone who gives me so much so unselfishly. He does things to make my life easier and to make me happier without any thought of secondary gain. It's wonderful to be a daughter.”

These sort of notes make me happy. They give me hope that as the years go by, Meagan and Linley’s assessment of me will be more balanced as they mature, that they will no longer think I am square, uncool, out of fashion and other such shortcomings that are of concern to youth.

The very, very few negative emails I receive or comments I find on the web sadden me. Not because a woman does not like my Daughter/Dad book, but because some daughter has not had the love of a father in her life, and that absence left a permanent scar. I’m confident that if you’ve ever met a woman who believes a child doesn’t need a daddy, you’ve met a woman who was not held in her daddy’s lap, who was not tucked in with his goodnight kiss, who suffered some physical or emotional abuse at his hand. Let’s hope that the rest of us out there will have the courage to challenge these men, and if necessary, to kick his ass, to make him be the father he should be. To make sure there is one less child with a broken heart.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Golden Key

Crazy Train (of thought)

Who do you think is more likely to be a Biblical scholar, the guy that read the Bible once or the one who reads it everyday?

The silver key to success is spending enough time on the things you can get paid for rather than the things that you like to do. The golden key to success is figuring out how to get paid for what you like to do.

I found an ATM card hanging out of a cash machine and turned it in to a bank teller. I thought it interesting she was so impressed that I did so. Have we gotten to the point where we expect dishonesty and are surprised when someone does the right thing?

Where is the truth, in the details, or in the moral?

Marital Bliss

Last evening Jill and I invited a neighbor to relax on the front porch with us and watch the sun go down. We shared a bottle of wine and chatted about this and that, exchanging news (ok, gossiping) about others in the ‘hood. To make sure we know who each is talking about, we have given each household a name – there’s the Party House, Rapper House, Football House, Dog House, Disco House, Mystery House, and among others, ours, the Newlywed House. I think it is an appropriate name. Oh, and the prevailing rumor about Jill and I – when the kids are away, the parents are at play! You know, I am 46 years old, I have a few miles behind me and I have learned a few things. One of those things is this – it is better to be transparent in your enthusiasm for your mate than reserved about it. The general public may disagree, but at the end of the day, do you want to go to sleep knowing you offended no one, or that your mate has been reminded once more that you can’t get enough of him/her? In other words, do you want people to say “I think he loves her,” or “He’s so crazy about her.” My friends, your mate prefers the latter. Now go show yours what you’ve been hiding.

Kid-bytes

Meagan went to the gym last night and decided to stop by and pay Jill and me a visit. I still worry about her driving, but I am beginning to realize some of the benefits. Like she can come see me when she wants to, or when she forgets something she meant to take to her mom’s house she can come back and get it rather than me drop everything to take it to her. She’ll even run an errand for me – for $5. Perhaps I taught her too well how to negotiate.

Book Report


The young kids (4 – 8 years old) in the neighborhood all came over after school to receive their copies of the photographs I took the day before. They politely knocked, entered the house and waited quietly in the foyer as I retrieved the photos, and sweetly thanked me as I handed each his/her portrait. They admired their own, then their friends, thanked me again and made their way out the door onto the front porch. Mannerly and orderly, all. Until I shut the door that is. That’s when the hooting and hollering began, when they leapt off the porch and ran across the yard screaming “We’re going to be in a book!” I returned to my office and work feeling rather satisfied. I sat down at my desk and resumed tormenting myself over a revision of a chapter, occasionally looking up at the photos on my wall, faces of family and friends that I took and which have appeared in one of my books, books about people I love. Yes, I have found the golden key.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Southern charm, southern nights

Crazy Train (of thought)

Don’t you hate it when you poot right in the middle of an ab crunch?

I saw a guy’s car in the gym parking lot with a “Blessed” plate on the front bumper. I waved at him and said “I’m blessed, too.” We now speak to each other when we are in the gym at the same time. It’s so easy to make new friends, you just have to be willing to extend your hand.

My agent thinks she can sell my second novel – yahoo!!!

I love it when I’m at a sushi bar and order stuff that impresses the head chef. No rolls for me, I want jelly fish and sea urchin. I’m trying to get him to teach me how to curse in Japanese, but so far, no lessons. Maybe I need to buy him a bit more sake!

Don’t you hate it when you are in the express check out at the grocery, holding two bottles of wine, and you realize the slow woman ahead of you who you were just about to get annoyed with is the preacher’s wife?

Marital Bliss

I had a great entry in mind today, one that I would have written last night (I write a day ahead to get it posted early in the AM), but just as I was about to start typing, Jill came around the corner in little of nothing and said she wanted to “sit and visit.” This is all you get today. At least I thought I could leave you with a mental image rather than post late today. More tomorrow.

Kid-bytes

Jill and I received this email yesterday:

“Last evening as I enjoyed rocking on our screened-in porch, I recalled all the new memories my husband and I had the good fortune of making this past weekend. It was such a delight to meet all our daughter's friends and neighbors, especially the Langs. Now, whenever Allison speaks to us of her "Atlanta times," we will be able to imagine being there with her. Of all those "southern memories" I recall, my favorite has to be the one of your daughter, Linley, trying to teach Bob how to do the "YMCA" dance. When I spotted him doing that dance, my heart couldn't help but smile. Warmth and hugs from your new "northern" friends, Alicia and Bob.”

There are two things about that message that made me happy. First, that someone else enjoyed one of our girls (Linley is quite a dancer). It’s a good feeling knowing you are raising a child others enjoy rather than wish would go away. Second, after only a few hours together, someone would regard us as friends. It was just like the experience when Jill and I met Debbie and Kathy from Texas while vacationing in Savannah. When your heart is in the right place, it doesn’t take much to touch and be touched by other people.

Book Report

All the kids in the neighborhood know I am an author and photographer, and if I take their picture, it will probably show up in a book. Last evening I had an “appointment” with one of the kids down the street to take a photo in the park in the middle of our cul-de-sac. As I was setting up the shot I noticed a small crowd of children forming. Within minutes there were nine kids in line to get their picture taken. I spent the next hour taking photos of little guys and gals making funny faces and posing in the weirdest of ways. It was so much fun. Soon three parents showed up, someone opened a bottle of wine and a pseudo-party emerged. I posed the kids individually, as groups in all combinations, close-up and otherwise. I really got caught up in it. So caught up I didn’t think twice when one of the kids asked if he could take a picture of me. “Sure,” I said, handing over the camera and giving him a crash course on how to use it. Moments later he was holding it up, trying to balance it while I smiled. As I waited patiently for him to press the shutter, I caught a glimpse of another boy with a Star Wars light saber aimed at his head, his shoulders tense with desire to spring into action and take off his target’s head. That was when I realized, oh crap, that little boy is holding my $4500 Big Daddy camera, the one with which I make a living. You should see the look on my face in the photo he took when he finally decided to snap the shot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Apples and grapes

Crazy Train (of thought)

A little something I got from my sister yesterday:

“Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground, the ones that aren't as good, but which are easy. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they're the best. Their lot is to wait for the right man to come along, the one who's brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. On the other hand, men are like a fine wine. They start out as grapes, and then it's up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have with dinner.”

When you think you are the center of the world, you probably fail to see that no one else does.

If you are right all the time, what are you and Saint Peter going to talk about?

Marital Bliss

It seems some of you like the “prepay” concept of an earlier post (see April 26). How about this one: Post-pay.
It means “That was so much more difficult/trying/expensive than I expected, I think I deserve a little something special for a reward.” Be advised that negotiating for after-the-fact compensation is very difficult. For a Post-pay to work you have to be very persuasive or very tempting, maybe both. Jill can pull it off, she’s both!

Kid-bytes

The housekeeper is coming tomorrow so I walked through the kids’ rooms picking stuff off the floor. It seems such a benign task, yet today it was so poignant. In Meagan’s room I found cards I have given her positioned on her desk, pieces of my old artwork she wanted me to hang on her walls, a copy of a CD she had burned for Jill and me, and a picture of the four of us on her bulletin board. In Linley’s room set around her keyboard were things we have given her, kept near at hand, a note Jill had written on her dry-eraser board, and a stack of family photos she had taken with the camera we gave her for Christmas. Little signs of the girls’ connection to Jill and me, signs of their affection for us, signs of being happy in the home we share. It is hectic when they are here, loud, sometimes even stressful, but it is always so much harder when they are not here, when their rooms are silent. Meagan will move on in two years, Linley in six. I hope that time will creep slowly, about as long as it takes wind to smooth a stone.

Book Report

My publisher, editor and I have a deep conviction that the books we produce are important works. Sure, we make a few dollars selling them, but if that is all we were after, we could just mark ‘em up. But no, we price them within reach of the masses, because we want everyone to hear the message – Family Matters – the name of the series. We want people to stop and think about their priorities, to love as openly and as fully as possible, to not let a moment pass without spending it being grateful for the family you have. We get lots of feedback to tell us we are achieving our goal, like this email that came in last night:

“Last Christmas I bought several of your books and gave them as gifts to my children, my 2 brothers and their wives. Everyone that sees them sitting out thinks these books are really great. We all have them sitting out, not tucked away. I have always believed that anybody can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad. I also believe that any positive role model in your children’s lives is a wonderful thing, whether it be a brother, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, or just someone special they have met along the way. I continue to support you and best wishes with future books. There are many people out there who support you and your work.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

Torn or thriving

Crazy Train (of thought)

Mike Luckovich shows us again and again his agenda is more about bashing President Bush than taking a principled stand on the issues. We can tell because the only thing consistent about his position is it is always opposite that of the President.

I was saddened to discover Phil Walden died. He was an underrated musical genius.

There is a big difference between self-confidence and self-importance, yet so many people confuse the two.

Have you ever noticed that the person who always complains about feeling controlled is also the one who is always demanding to get his way?

The beauty of artistic license is that you don’t have to fill out an application or write a check for it, and no one can revoke it.

Someone told me Mid-South Magazine was on the line and wanted to interview me. No, honey, it was Men’s Health magazine.

A fan arranged to meet me through a mutual friend. Just before the meeting my friend told me the fan observed “he adores his wife, but I think he isn’t too crazy about the dog.” I confess - I’m guilt on both counts.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I were having our Sunday evening champagne and suds soak in the garden tub last night, talking about the girls, summer plans, and events of the weekend. We attended a party and had the honor of watching someone propose. Scenes such as those always lead my beautiful wife and me to talk about our own engagement and wedding. It also leads us to discuss our future and how we want things turn out in our senior years. A new wish on my list is I want Jill to still think of me as Alicia thinks of her husband, Bob. She recently purchased my book “Why I Love You: 100 Reasons” and told me her favorite reason is “because you like to sleep like spoons.” “We’ve been together forty-seven years,” she said, “and I can’t sleep unless we’re spooning. He is my soft place to fall.” Does it get any sweeter than that?

Kid-bytes

Well the kids are now in the arms of their other parents. It’s always hard to see them go, but it is the right thing to do, to let them have their other family lives free of guilt, fear of reprisal, or feelings of divided loyalty. Jill and I are not saints, we each probably could’ve handled a few things better than we did, but all in all I think we are doing a good job as step-parents for each others’ child. We certainly try to stay focused on providing love and nurture to our blended family. There is no test per-se to determine if your kid is going to turn out unharmed by divorce, so instead you look for signs of normalcy and hope that it means all is well. In our house I think all is well – it is full of normal. The girls have the same tormented banter all siblings have, and the same good and fun times. Each of us has a bad day once in a while. All of us fall into a pile and hug once in a while. We argue over who gets to pick the movie or restaurant and we plan together for our next vacation. And of great importance, in our house the girls have the freedom and are encouraged to have fun with their other parents; Meagan is spending the week with her mom doing all the things girl do to get ready for her first prom dance and Jill and I will join them for photos later this week, and last night we sent Linley to her Dad an evening early so they could go to a concert by her favorite band. I think the choice for adults is really quite simple, that is, to make their kids feel torn between two families, or give them a thriving life enriched by two families. I hope when the girls reflect back on what kind of home Jill and I chose to give them, they think it was the latter.

Book Report

Sometimes I write articles for various magazines. I’m working on one now I hope will appear in Men’s Health; it is titled “Are You Half the Man You Think You Are?” It’s going to be a multiple choice test about how a man might choose to act when he finds himself in one of many scenarios. It needs some work yet; I’m still trying to come up with the scoring methodology. I’m thinking of a scale that goes from Caveman to Modern Man with a few points in between, but who knows where it will end up. I’ll give you a preview when I have the first draft completed.