Thursday, June 29, 2006

Number 9!

Crazy Train (of thought)

While driving the back roads I managed to get the wife’s go-cart in the three-digit range on the speed dial before she woke up and had a conniption.

Guess what? WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A DAD is number 9 (Hardcover, Advice) on the New York Times’ Bestseller list next week!

No Jill, that doesn’t mean Princess gets a new dress. And no, she won’t be going to the party. She could use some dental work, though.

I’m in Nashville all day tomorrow to plan the next round of books with my publisher, and am hitting the road very early, so this will be the last entry for this week. See you again on Monday!

We’ve seen Laura for dinner twice this week and have plans for one more evening together. We love our friends!

Marital Bliss

Jill and I spent an evening in one of our favorite spots, the Fryemont Inn in Bryson City, NC. It is a rustic place – no phones, TV, air conditioning or Internet access. You bath in a claw-foot tub and entertain yourself on the rocking chair porch watching the leaves in the Smokey Mountains. It rained our first day, so no hiking or photography, just conversation, reading and napping. On the second day, a dry one, we put the top down and drove through the twisting mountain roads over to another small town for lunch and window shopping. On the way Jill snoozed and I listened to jazz as I enjoyed the wind in my face and absorbed the beauty around me. At one point while paused alongside the road to watch a waterfall, my hand on my wife’s leg, the sun warming me, I recognized John Coltrane coming over the speakers. I was listening to “My Favorite Things” on saxophone. How fitting. I’ll say it again, I’m so blessed. Thank you Father!

Kid-bytes

Linley surprised me with a phone call from the church camp at Panama City Beach. She has decided to sponsor a child in Africa and needed information from me to complete the donor support form. Imagine this – a 12-year old electing to give 1/3 of her allowance to someone in need. I smiled. It is a great sensation when pride comes over you. The kids know Jill and I support several charity and service organizations as well as two churches. They, in turn, do too when and as they can. Good citizens, they are, yes indeed.

Book Report

A recent email I received:

“I wanted to just take a moment to thank you for your book “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad”. I have three beautiful step daughters from my recent marriage. Their father was never really in the picture and more than likely will not be a part of their lives. Although this is sad, it gives me an awesome opportunity to bringing them up as my own, an opportunity which I don’t take lightly. The girls gave me this book for Father’s Day and I have read it with the mindset that God speaks to me and helps me see things through the eyes of a real “Daddy”. This is easier said than done, but I will strive every day to that end. My hope is that someday in the near future they will see me and love me like they would a real Dad. Your book has helped me understand how important my job is and the many reasons those girls need me in their life. I appreciate the time you took to release such a simple yet profound book for Dads everywhere. I will go back and re-read this book a few times a year to remind myself of the opportunity God has given me to make a positive difference in their lives.”

I think we would all agree it is best for children to know and have his/her own father in their lives, but sadly, it isn’t always the case. However, it is wonderful when a man steps up and says “I’ll love and raise those children.” What child is better off with just one adult giving parental love? And when the natural father is around, isn’t it still a good thing for there to be a loving step-father in the picture? Image how rich the life when a child wakes everyday knowing three, even four adults have love and concern in their hearts for him/her.

Monday, June 26, 2006

100% chance of showers

Crazy Train (of thought)

Short and sweet today – about to hit the road…

..but wouldn’t you know it, just as we get the Porsche back and plan a road trip, it rains like cats and dogs.

Should I be disturbed that Jill has just revealed to me her college theme song was “You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party”?

The best thing I learned in church yesterday – God presses down on the prideful, but lifts up the humble.

The family was driving into downtown for lunch when we passed a beautiful church. Meagan remark, “Wow, that’s an amazing church.” Jill answered, “I got married there one time.” It was funny when it was said. What was funnier was when her daughter asked, “To who?”

Linley asked me how one can have a yard sale when they don’t even have a yard.

Meagan wants to know if when she is married and has children, will Jill and I still bring (that means “pay for” in teen talk) everyone along for summer vacation. At least she is planning ahead.

Marital Bliss

Jill is helping me revise my novel, TREES. I’m due to turn it in to a publisher this Friday. I’m trying to up the conflict between the two main characters, hoping to add more drama to the story. Her valuable input sounds something like this:

“There needs to be a dog in this story.”
“I didn’t ask you to make it a dog story, I asked you to suggest how to up the conflict.”
“I know, they have an argument because he doesn’t want the dog to sleep on the bed.”
“Jill, it’s a novel, not an autobiography.”

Kid-bytes

Meagan is in Mexico and Linley is in Panama City Beach. Neither can reach us by phone. It’s going to be a VERY long week for Jill and me. We are glad they enjoy these adventures and that we can make such things happen for them, but wish they would take us along.

Book Report

We are in the foothills of the North Carolina Mountains for the next two days. I’m taking pictures in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest, the setting for the novel, TREES, trying to get a good shot for the book cover. I’ll be back on Wednesday with stories to tell!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gracias

Crazy Train (of thought)

At last, six weeks after the wreck, Jill gets the Porsche back today. We’re going for a ride in the NC mountains for few days next week to celebrate getting it back.

We’ve had no rain for three weeks so I finally decided to leave the cushions on the deck chairs, knowing the rain forecast was for five more dry days. What happens? It rains.

Did you ever think if you shook your computer hard enough, the data would fall off the hard-drive?

I came upon a motorist stranded in the middle of the road during afternoon rush hour traffic. She was trying to push her car off the road while her child steered. Cars were pulling around her, all in a hurry on their way home. I stopped and gave a hand, pushing it nearly a block to a place where we could get it off the road. As I pushed I thought about my fellow man, wondering why no one else would stop and offer help. About that time, tired and sweaty, the car came to an incline and I couldn’t move it any further. There we stood in the middle of the lane, only a few feet from getting out of harm’s way. Just as I thought I would collapse, two Latin gentlemen jumped out of a truck and came to my aid. They asked no questions, just started helping me push it up the hill. When the car was off the road the driver thanked me profusely, and I tried to thank the guys who had helped me, but they had already jumped back into their truck and pulled away. All I could do was wave at them. It was not until after they were out of sight that I remembered how to say thank you in Spanish.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I are in NC hiking the trails and racing the recuperated Porsche through the curves next Monday and Tuesday, so you won’t hear from me again until Wednesday.

Kid-bytes

The girls have been so busy with friends this week; Jill and I have hardly seen them. I guess that is what summer is all about – being a kid and having fun in all its many forms. We are taking them out of town tonight for some family fun at a festival in a small college town (Athens, UGA!), so I’m sure there will be a story or two to tell next week.

Book Report

Guess what?! My book, WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A DAD is number 44 on the USA Today’s list of top selling books. I know, I’m bragging, but wouldn’t you?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

BE AN ADULT

Crazy Train (of thought)

Sorry for the delayed posting this week. We have had company for a few days and that results in not being able to get to the computer – my office also serves as a guest bedroom. It makes it a little difficult to get to the keyboard.

What do the goofballs on reality TV think, that they would actually come off looking good?

To what length would you go to spite someone? Would you embarrass your child, or put him/her in harm’s way. A stupid question, you might ask – who would do such a thing? Unfortunately, I know someone, even two people, who would do such a thing. It’s a sad situation.

You might not want to run for office if the skeletons in your closet are at risk for coming out!

All men should spend less time trying to conquer his neighbor and more time trying to conquer himself, wouldn’t you agree?

I had my father-in-law over for dinner the other night for a belated Father’s Day gift. He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy married to a vegetarian, so he gets very little meat. I cooked him a 3-inch thick NY strip on the grill. You should have seen the smile on his face.

He who nurtures others is amply feed. He who demands he be nurtured soon starves.

Marital Bliss

Jill recently said the most wonderful thing to me. We were listening to someone talk about how she had gotten into a bad marriage, explaining that at the time her then husband seemed to be someone she could “see myself getting married to.” Later Jill told me she understood that statement because she has been in that same frame of mind before, but years and a marriage later, when she met me, her thoughts were, “I couldn’t see myself not being married to you.” At that moment, my feet lifted off the ground. I adore my wife!!! And hon’, I can’t see myself living without you.

Kid-bytes

I received a nasty-gram from someone recently who bought my book Why a Daughter Needs a Dad to give to her estranged husband, hoping to use it to guilt him back into the failing marriage. I assure you, this is not its intended use. She told me how disgusted she was when she read the introduction, disgusted that I could hold myself out to be a good father yet I am a divorced man. I’m sure her wounds are fresh and still quite painful, so I showed her some grace and offered words of encouragement. But to you, I’ll say what was really on my mind. Divorce happens. Would I rather it not? Probably. Can I change the way things are? No. The simple truth is, about half of the marriages today will fail. It is painful, gut wrenching, terribly disappointing, yes. But the end of a life, the end of civil behavior, the last hope one has? No. Life continues on, if you let it. Why am I writing this in the Kid section? Because this woman told me of her plan to make sure her soon-to-be-ex would lose his relationship with his daughter if he went through with the divorce. Let me tell you something, a child is not property. One parent does not own a child more than another, or have preemptive or proprietary rights or the prerogative to disassemble the other parent-child relationship simply because their heart is broken. The bottom line is, BE AN ADULT! Don’t drag your child into your personal battle with your ex. If you do, in the end you will have caused far more damage than you can justify with the little, temporary moments of satisfaction you might feel when you think you’ve won a revenge battle. If you do, in the end you may find you have lost two relationships, not just one.

Book Report

The galley for my next book, Simple Acts, arrived. I review these looking for typos or other errors, then sign off on it so it can be released to a printer. Jill had not seen the photos I sent to my editor to be used in this particular book. You see, she always pushes for me to include a photo Princess, our dog who I don’t find particularly photogenic. Never mind that I have included the mutt in three books already – Jill still thinks with enough exposure she could be a star. All along I have been saying I was finished, done, feed-up with inserting that little turd machine in my masterpieces of literature, but little did she know I was planning to let one more slip in. When the galley arrived I asked Jill to give it the once over. She thumbed through it, then paused on a page and beamed. There she was, Princess, dressed in her evening gown. Some say she was smiling for the camera. I say she had on her customary dumb-as-a-brick-lost-in-the-dark face. Either way, and I mean this, four photo appearances is enough. Until, that is, I do a pet book, I guess.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday, Monday

Crazy Train (of thought)

Books Are Fun, the book seller that travels from school to school, has sold over 300,000 copies of just four of my books! They want me to attend a sales conference in Boca Raton, but it is the same day Meagan has her surgery, so I can’t make it. I was a bit reluctant to tell them so, not wanting to offend. To my delight they understood completely and even remarked, “We understand, a daughter needs her dad!”

I am trying to branch out my photography to fine art images rather than limit myself to the shots I take for the books. I’m having my first one-man show at The Showcase School gallery; I’m displaying 9 images from my walk-about series. Next, the Museum of Modern Art…

A new personal best at the gym – 180 pound chest press, 20 times! Not bad for an “old guy” of 46.

And then, Jill and I power walked around Stone Mountain – 5 miles in 1hour, 20 minutes. That’s a constant 3.8 MPH!

The family and I always get at least one cheesy, tacky photo of us on each road trip. I framed them this weekend and Jill and stood back to admire what we have done. Riding on the speedboat on the harbor in Chicago, standing with the Hulk at the wax museum in NY, the dolphin encounter in the Bahamas, the GA Aquarium, standing before the Beverly Hills sign in LA, and so much more. In this family we play together. This family will stay together.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I were sitting on the porch Saturday morning drinking coffee, reading the paper and waving at the morning joggers passing by. Princess sat in one of the porch chairs, dismissive of the passers-by.
“Look, Princess is guarding the house,” Jill said.
“She’s trying to remember her name,” I said.
“Be nice, her birthday is coming up.”
“I know, I have it on my calendar.”
“I knew you loved her.”
“I’m planning to be out of town that day.”
Sometimes there’s just a limit to how much you can take.

Kid-bytes

Father’s Day here was great! Meagan and I went golfing, to the driving range really, and we looked like a cross between Happy Gilmore and Caddy Shack! She made dinner for me, the first time she has cooked a full-blown meal, and it was great! She even made dessert, a pumpkin pie with caramel ice cream. Linley came home and joined us, and we all sat together to watch a movie. Our fine friends Laura and Allison stopped by with a sweet gift for me, a wonderful cabernet that added a touch of spice to the evening, and all was well. Meagan and I stayed up until around 1:00 before finally climbing the stairs to bed. I love my kid. I love being a dad. I don’t do the job perfectly, but at least I do it with pleasure.

Book Report

Father’s Day email I received yesterday:

“Today is Father’s Day. When I went to bed last night I found a copy of your book on my pillow (Why a Daughter Needs a Dad). In the book a page was marked that said other things including… “to stand with her on the day she marries the man she hopes will be just like her father.”
My daughter is almost 25 and has recently finished her second year as a Kindergarten teacher. She married a fine young man this past October and she is and has been the joy of my life now for a quarter of a century. As I read through the book last night and this morning I had to take a moment to thank you for the words as well as the pictures. I not only could identify with the book, I have lived it! Thanks so much for making my Father’s Day even more special. May God richly bless you on this special day.”

“I purchased your book "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad" for my husband (from our one-year old daughter) for Father's Day. I have only been able to read a few pages so far, because I don't want to soak the pages with tears before he even receives it. You see, my own father passed away suddenly just over a week ago, and your book could have been modeled after him. I am thanking you for sending me a reminder of all the wonderful things that together made him a wonderful dad. I look forward to someday relishing every page.”

“Thank you for doing the book "Why a daughter needs a Dad". I just sent it off to my own dad who has always been there - even though he always thought he was far from perfect. He has always been there for close to 51 years. Thanks for helping me tell him how important that is.”

Friday, June 16, 2006

Irreversible

Crazy Train (of thought)

We were seated at a great table at the end of the restaurant deck, overlooking the Nassau harbor. We were tired from our walk/cab ride and the shopping in the straw market, and all looked forward to good fried seafood, the kind on a heaping platter served with cole slaw and fries. And what are fries without ketchup? When our food arrived Meagan reached for the bottle, who knows how long it had been sitting in the sun, and shook it good before opening it. Suddenly I heard a small explosion, like a mortar discharging, and felt slime on my face and forearms. I looked down at my chest and saw red goo everywhere. “I’ve been hit,” I yelled, and looked up to see that Meagan had fermented ketchup dripping from her hair. It took us about 20 minutes to get cleaned up and an hour for all of us to stop laughing.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I spent lots of time in Atlantis sitting outside in the gentle rain at the pool, protected by canopy chairs, reading and holding hands. Our marriage will last forever because we do one very important thing – we spend time together, doing things together. I don’t go fishing or hunting, leaving her to go shopping or to play cards with the neighborhood women. I don’t watch TV unless she is alongside me, and she doesn’t go visit her parents without me. It is togetherness that helps us grow more in love. Separation to pursue one’s own interests fosters distance, and we’ll have none of that. Yes, our marriage will last forever. That’s why “Irreversible” is engraved inside our wedding bands.

Kid-bytes

The girls have been asking me what I want for Father’s Day, and have suggested I get such things as an iPOD, clothes, camera accessories, a massage, or a fine bottle of wine. I appreciate their thoughtfulness but have declined all these suggestions. Instead, I want their time. This Sunday, when they return to our home, I’m having a dinner prepared by Meagan’s hand, and we all will enjoy it on the patio where we will just talk. We’ll talk about our recent vacation, our trip to Boston next month, our favorite things about each other, and what we like about being a family. We did this at Thanksgiving, and we stayed up until nearly 1:30 sharing from the heart. Yes, that’s all I want. Their time, and the wonderful memories I’ll be left with.

Book Report

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s Part IV and the last installment of the daily excerpt from the introduction of my book, WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD. This book has been on the New York Times Best-Seller list and USA Today’s Top 100 list. I hope you have enjoyed reading the introduction:

On my mantle, next to a high school portrait of my mom and amid many photographs of my daughter, sits a picture of my dad and me in the front yard of my parents’ first house. He is squatting down, his arms wrapped around me as I stand between his knees. Sometimes as I reflect on what is important to me, I stand before this mantle and look at those photographs, realizing how blessed I am to have these loving parents and this wonderful child. As I think of the difficult years of my youth, I think that perhaps I owe my parents, especially my dad, an apology, but know that they would wave me off and accuse me of being silly. I think of things I would like to do for them, and I look forward to each time I hurry my daughter into the car and make a trip to the home I left so many years ago. I am eager to get there, to kiss Mom, and to sit on the front porch and talk with my dad.

Now having come full circle as a son who once worshipped, then disfavored, and now deeply admires his dad, and being a father trying my best to parent but finding myself always second guessing my abilities, I wonder if my teenage daughter will ever look at me with dancing eyes again. I think the role of being a dad is the greatest challenge and the highest reward a man can have. Reflecting on my dad and me, I know my child and I will have a wonderful, loving and long-lasting relationship because my dad and I have one. I know that in the end I will be satisfied with my performance as a dad because my dad showed me how to do it. And I can believe that I have been a good son because my dad tells me so. I love you, Dad, I do. And I am proud to be your son.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Knock-Knock

More from the Bahamas

In Nassau we were walking to a joint on the marina Jill had picked out for lunch. It seems we had walked for half-hour when the girls started to complain about the distance. She kept holding up the map and saying “it’s just right ahead, it’s not far,” and would hold up her fingers separated about half-an-inch to show us how much further on the map. After another 15 minutes I asked to look at the map. Turns out ¼ inch equals half a mile. I hailed a taxi.

Talk about high technology. We were sitting in the jet on the runway waiting for take-off when we heard what sounded like a knock on door at the tail section. This continued for several minutes before a passenger yelled out “Somebody’s at the door.” Sure enough, there was.

The girls got a glimpse of something not to do. As we waiting for the bus to take us to the airport, another tour bus pulled up – it was from the Booze Cruise. A twenty-something girl had to be lifted off by a friend and a few good Samaritans, and a porter loaded her onto a luggage cart to take her to her room. She was hurling all along the way. Yep, excess is ugly. Not only can it kill you, it can make you look like an arse.

If you are your own biggest fan, you’ve probably got issues Doctor Phil could spend a week on.

Doesn’t a Hummer look like a big Tonka toy?

Marital Bliss

I wrote a book called Love Signs: Hundreds of Ways to Show What is in Your Heart. It is dedicated to Jill, Meagan and Linley, and its premise is love should be demonstrated to give evidence to what one means when telling someone “I love you.” As we were leaving Atlantis last week we boarded a tour bus to go back to the Nassau airport. As we sat down I noticed the driver had posted a typed page on each window of the bus, each page listing bits of advice and wisdom to entertain the riders as we sat. I looked around reading them and then one caught my eye. It was titled “50 Ways to Stay Married.” As I read it I realized it was taken from my Love Signs book. I pointed it out to Jill and we smiled, knowing that our relationship is wonderful, wonderful enough that strangers would use it as an example to help convey their own thoughts. Here’s a few from the book and that list:

1. When you have had a fight, be the first to make peace. It won’t kill you.
2. Never mock or make fun of each other.
3. Try not to be the center of attention. Share the spotlight.
4. Strive to give more to the relationship than anything else in your life.
5. Be patient when you think you know what needs to be done but he hasn’t figured it out yet.
6. Overlook the mess she made if she was only trying to help you in the first place.
7. Share the good news with each other first.
8. Avoid withholding the bad news. It’s best to just get it out and get it over with.
9. Give her heart-shaped candy on the anniversary of your first date.
10. On the anniversary of your first date, give him that same lingering good-night kiss he hasn’t forgotten.


Kid-bytes

We don’t have the girls right now; they are in their other homes. As I’ve said before, Jill and I both miss them when they are gone – the house is calmer, quieter, our scheduled more flexible, but our lives less entertaining. Can’t wait for them to get back!

Book Report

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s Part III of the daily excerpt from the introduction of my book, WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD:

Today, with more years and a few hundred thousand miles under my feet, I have come to see my father very differently. Now being a father having my own conflict with an emerging teenager and experiencing for myself the stresses and challenges I must have presented in my youth, I smile when I realize my daughter and I are playing out the same debates and negotiations my father and I once did. Now, wiser, I know it was not that I was misunderstood or controlled, but that I lacked the life experience to know what risks I was taking, the judgment to get myself out of trouble before a permanent scar might be made, and the understanding that it was possible something bad could happen to me. Today I know my dad was protecting me from what I could not see, and simply trying to save himself from the gut wrenching fear of allowing his child to let go of his hand.

A dad has the responsibility of providing for his family. Sometimes the difficulties of that task go unrecognized and without gratitude. Now having that responsibility for myself -and for only one child, I might add - I look back in amazement at what my dad did. He sometimes worked two jobs to support his family; he pushed himself beyond his education to acquire the skills necessary for a better career; and he never bought things for himself before he did for his children. We ate well, dressed warmly, received gifts, and went on vacations. Even today he continues to extend help to his adult children when he sees it might be needed. I have called him in the middle of the night and he has come to me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Yachting

Trip Report

While the girls and I shopped the straw market and I coached them in their negotiation skills, I got a little hungry. Always wanting to try the local ethnic flavors, I asked the vendors where I could find some curried goat. All pointed me to a “lady down the street.” After a few minutes of searching, we found her, selling food out of the trunk of her car. I passed.

Each day we walked the marina to look at the yachts that docked overnight. Intrigued by the interesting names, we decided to daydream about our personal yacht and what we would name them: Me = Writer’s Retreat, Meagan = Born to be Wild, Linley = The Annihilator, and Jill (who can guess?) = Princesses’ Nautical Palace.

We took the girls parasailing. Well, actually, I took them and Jill came along to pray for their safety. I was whooping and hollering and Jill kept saying “Oh my God!” as they went higher and higher aloft. Catching on the mom was terrified, the boat captain decided to have a little fun and suddenly shouted “Oh my God!” to which Jill replied “She’s falling out!” I tipped the guy to slow down and let the parachute descend far enough to dip the girls into the water, then yank them up into the air again. They loved it, and Jill nearly threw me overboard.

Marital Bliss

We planned to connect in Miami on the way back with enough time between flights to go to South Beach for dinner. Turns out my ex and her boyfriend were vacationing there, so we all agreed to meet for dinner (we’re adults and big enough to do that kind of thing). We were diverted due to the storms and landed elsewhere, so I had Meagan call her mom to tell her we wouldn’t make it to the restaurant. She kindly asked if there was anything she could do to help us out. I replied, “Yes, find Princess a good home.” To which Jill opened the SkyMall magazine and showed me a $1200 portable doghouse she thought we just had to have. I passed on that, too.

Kid-bytes

I promised Linley we would go snorkeling while at Atlantis. Because of rain and other events, we were down to the last hour of the last day and had not yet gone when she reminded me of my promise. One thing I won’t do is break a promise to either of the girls, so we ran to the lagoon, rented gear, and dove in. Within minutes we were in 15 feet of water and among schools of the most beautiful fish you’ve ever seen outside of an aquarium. Jill and I followed Linley around as she led the way; all were having a blast. The smile on her face when we emerged on shore an hour later was worth the rush, the last minute stress, and the price of admission in multiples.

Book Report

How do I know its going to be a good year? Yesterday at Wal-Mart I searched for my Father’s Day books, WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A DAD and WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD. You see, at Mother’s Day they stocked the mothers’ version of these books, two shelves deep and two books across. Not finding the same arrangement this time, I turned to leave the book department, disappointed and long-faced, only to run into a center isle display of the books in question, three shelves deep and five books across. Now that’s a natural buzz!

Here’s Part II of the daily excerpt from the introduction of my book, WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD:

As I became a teenager our relationship began to change. Like most young people, I considered myself misunderstood and overtly controlled. I wanted to wear the “in” clothes and stay out late with my friends, shirking my chores and other responsibilities. My demonstrations of rebellion irritated my dad like a pesky splinter under a fingernail. Both being strong willed, my dad and I clashed often. My stormy coming-of-age years were difficult for both of us. At times our disputes were stormy enough that I questioned our love for one another, and I wondered what happened to the man who had shown me how to fish. When I left home I promised myself I would not be like him when I became a man, and most certainly not when I became a father.

By the time I entered graduate school my dad and I had come to a peaceful co-existence. We were different, but we could get along. We would not talk much, but we would not argue either. The emotion between us was warm, but not embracing. I could thank him for the money he would slip into my pocket when he thought I wasn’t looking and for welcoming me as I came home now and then for one of Mom’s soothing Sunday meals. He could tell me he was proud of what I had accomplished. Our relationship was not what it had been, but it was such that I could love him again. “This will be okay,” I thought to myself. I did not imagine then that years later we would find ourselves sharing a deep bond, that I would feel intensely for him, and that I would be giving my dad credit for helping to shape me into the man I would become.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Church Ladies

Trip Report and such…

To borrow from Jeff Foxworthy – I believe self-righteous people actually worship themselves. I believe men who blame others for their own folly are in reality spoiled little boys. I believe, in the end, everyone gets what they earned, whether or not they knew they were working for it.

While sitting on the runway in West Palm Beach (we were supposed to land in Miami) Jill occupied herself reading the SkyMall magazine, looking for Father’s Day gift ideas she said. Why then, did everything she showed me seem to be a gift for Princess. No Jill, I don’t want a doggie stroller.

A large troop of Boy Scouts boarded the plane and had to pass us to find their seat; we were sitting in first class. Meagan and Linley watched as each pass, grading them on their “hotness.” The troop leader overheard one of the girls remark about how she liked a guy in uniform. He offered to have them come up front and model. I didn’t realize runway strutting would get you a merit badge.

We had to have a meal in the airport Chili’s and Linley ordered chicken fajitas. She’s hungry, I thought. Her plate arrived, piled high with sautéed onions and peppers, refried beans, guac and sour cream, and of course, chicken and tortillas. She pushed everything aside and only ate the chicken. When I inquired, she explained she ordered fajitas because she liked chicken cooked on that little “sizzling pan thingie.” That’s my Linley!

I downloaded all the photos last night -733 of them; 5 gig of memory. You might say I’m a shutter bug.

One of the highlights of the trip was the dinner where the entertainment was a limbo dancer. He got each girl on stage to dance under the flaming pole of to balance fire pots in their hands or on their feet. Jill hyperventilated and I took pictures. Hey girls, no playing with fire in the house.

Marital Bliss

This was a kids’ vacation; we adults did little for ourselves, choosing to enjoy watching whatever gave the girls pleasure. Perhaps the exception was the sunset catamaran cruise in the bay. We were on the water nearly three hours, Jill and I at the bow with the wind in our faces, watching the sun go down as the huge cruise ships left Nassau and disappeared over the horizon. A glass of wine, Bob Marley in the background, a selection of cheese and lots of cuddling, all accompanied by the gentle rocking of the waves. The girls slept on deck as Jill and I stole a kiss now and then and shared with one another why we are happy to be married. Life is good. And she enjoyed it so much more than the wild bucking ride on the banana boat.

Family Moments

On the way down to Paradise Island we got separated in the Miami airport – I had to stay behind and fly later because of a checked bag fiasco. My little ladies were reluctant to go on without me and called out words of love and blew kisses as they readied to board the plane. They kept turning back to look at me and shout “We’ll miss you” and other words of affection as they waited in line. A large group of black church ladies were also going to Nassau, and from the conversation, I could see it was to gamble. They watched my family departure scene and thereafter, when I was alone in the airport waiting for the next flight, they took turns looking over their shoulders and calling out “I love you Daddy!” and blowing me kisses. It made my wait so much more enjoyable!

Book Report

In honor of the upcoming Father’s Day celebration, each day for the rest of this week I will give you an excerpt from the introduction to WHY A SON NEEDS A DAD, the book I wrote for and dedicated to my father, Jacobs E. Lang. I hope you enjoy:

I am the first-born child of a household that included five children before my dad was thirty years old. Ours was the house that never seemed to sleep, with constant activity swirling around it and within it, and one that seemed nearly to bust at the edges as the children who called it home continued to grow. My dad worked hard to provide for his family, but also made time to be with his children, both together and one-on-one. He made sure the tree house we built ourselves was sturdy and safe, that my soapbox racer would indeed cross the finish line, and that once big enough to see over the steering wheel, each child, sitting in his lap, got a chance to drive through the neighborhood in their choice of the station wagon or the old pickup truck.

I have many heartwarming memories from my youth: my dad showing me how to hit a curve ball in the front yard; working with Dad on a Boy Scout project to earn a coveted merit badge; handing him his tools as he tinkered with the car or improved the house on a Sunday afternoon. My dad loved to fish. I remember being awakened by him before sunrise on a Saturday morning, and whispering to not awaken my younger siblings, we slipped outside together to go fishing. Standing at the water’s edge we sometimes talked. Other times we were both content just to listen to the morning sounds. In these early years of my life, my dad was my hero.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Detour

Crazy Train (of thought)

Hey Friends! We’re all back! I’m writing this at 10:30 Sunday night so it will be short (we encountered a wonderful detour this evening and I didn’t get to the PC when planned; more later) and sweet with a few trip highlights:

It rained several days at Paradise Island so to entertain ourselves Linley and I played dodge ball in the hotel room. We didn’t break anything, although Jill was sure we were about to fall over the balcony.

Quotes of the week – while at dinner one evening at a fine dining spot Meagan raised her arms and asked, “Do I need to shave my pits?” and her shrieks of joy when her checked baggage finally arrived 18 hours after we did – “I have shoes!!!”

The “Gucci” handbag we bought for Jill at the straw market has a small flaw. You can barely see the “I” in Gucci, so we now call it her “Gucc” bag.

After watching so many breast surgeries walk by at the pool, the girls and I agreed that if you must get one, at least make sure it is not larger than your head.

Truth be told – Laura can do an awesome Hurkey and a to-the-floor split to boot.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I are best friends. We enrich each others lives; we care for and take care of each other. We could be alone for weeks at a time and never grow tired of one another. But we also value the rewards of good friendship with others and seek to make friends as often as we can - which brings me to Laura and Allison, our detour this evening.

Sometimes you meet people that you are happy to know for the time you have together, but then you move on as life dictates. Other times you meet people you must have in your lives no matter what. Laura and Allison are these kind of people. We cannot visit with them for just a few minutes. Every fly-by turns into four to six delightful hours of laughter and fun, sharing and caring, and of course, goodnight hugs for all. Tonight it was supposed to be a return of the Tupperware encounter, but it became a glass of wine, a dinner out, and finally a walk the dogs through the neighborhood stroll, all the time laughing so hard you could cry. We love and trust these ladies; we look out for each other. It’s a good thing because in the middle of the stroll, Jill admitted she intended to train Princess to care for me if I were ever bedridden or on a ventilator. Allison, you are healthcare power of attorney #2 and Laura, you are #3. I expect both of you will vote together and overrule Jill in the event of my untimely need for life support.

Kid-bytes

Jill and I had just returned home from taking Linley to her Dad’s and were pulling out of the driveway again when Meagan drove up at the end of her errands run. We chatted through our open car windows for a while, and then Jill and I drove off as Meagan pulled into the driveway. I glanced up in the rearview mirror and saw Meagan hanging out of her car window waving for me to come back. I backed up to see what was wrong, expecting her to tell me she needed money or wanted Jill to do her laundry. When I got near enough for her to hear me I asked, “What is it?” She smiled and replied, “I just wanted to tell you again that I love you.” I’m a happy Daddy.

Book Report

I don’t get much in the way of professional critics reviewing my books, but with reader mail like this, who cares?

“I just purchased you're book for my Dad as a gift for Father’s Day and as I stood in the store tears started to come down my face. I was so moved by what I was reading. Thank you for putting into words what I couldn't. Beautiful! Happy Father's Day!”

Monday, June 05, 2006

On the road again

Crazy Train (of thought)

At a party the other night I stepped outside to use my cell phone. Someone happened to walk up just as I was hanging up, when I said “I love you.” This person says, “Busted you! Does Jill know you have a lover?” I smiled confidently and turned the phone so she could see who I had dialed. It was my brother.

Jill and I were at the table reading Sunday’s paper and thinking of where we wanted to go this summer on a weekend junket. “San Diego!” she suddenly blurted out, holding up the Travel section for me to see. You guessed it – she was reading an article about an upcoming National Chihuahua Race.

What’s the best use of left over fajitas? Reheated on an open-face tortilla with a poached egg on top. Darn good breakfast, but go easy on the beans.

We are leaving soon after I post this for our trip to Paradise Island in the Bahamas! The girls are jacked up and I have 50 bags (theirs) to load in the car. Updates this week may be few as I’ll be loving life at the Atlantis Resort, but if I can, I’ll post news of our fun. Back to regular business next week, June 12th.

Marital Bliss

When Jill isn’t happy, I sing to her. I’m not sure what she enjoys most, the sentiment or my terrible singing voice. Anyway, this is my favorite “Jill” song (go ahead, sing along with me):

I've got sunshine
On a cloudy day.
When it's cold outside,
I've got the month of May.
Well, I guess you'll say
What can make me feel this way? My girl.
Talkin' 'bout my girl.
I've got so much honey
The bees envy me.
I've got a sweeter song
Than the birds in the trees.
Well, I guess you'll say
What can make me feel this way? My girl.
Talkin' 'bout my girl.
I don't need no money,
Fortune or fame.
I've got all the riches, baby,
One man can claim.
Well, I guess you'll say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl.Talkin' 'bout my girl.
Talkin' bout my girl.
I've got sushine on cloudy day
With my girl.
I've even got the month of May
With my girl.

Kid-bytes

Meagan confesses to having 16 pairs of shoes packed for the trip. Linley has two and three pairs of shorts. You can easily tell who is more into boys than the other.

Book Report

My newest book is perhaps my favorite – it is written for both Meagan and Linley and tells them of my love and devotion to them. It is meant to be a book they can look back on and remember good times in our family, a book they can look to for inspiration when Jill and I are not around anymore, maybe even a book that can serve as guide for them when raising their own children. With a book so personal, I wondered if anyone else will connect with it. I got an answer to that question with this email:

“Today I read your book “Life Maps: Simple Directions for Finding Your Way” and I can honestly tell you it changed my life. I am going through a very rough time lately and have been having dangerous thoughts. However, something in your book told me to hold on to what I have and enjoy it. It is truly an inspiring book.”

I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to go to sleep knowing that, even if indirectly, I did something good for someone that day.

And, Betsy Flagler mentioned my book “Why a Son Needs a Dad” in her syndicated column, Parent-to-Parent. Thanks Betsy!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Calamari

Crazy Train (of thought)

I was able to introduce a friend and aspiring author to my agent recently, and now she has the chance to show her book proposal. Good luck, Laura!

I FREAKIN’ HATE AUTOMATED ATTENDENTS!

While having Thai food last night I overheard the waitress recommend the calamari to the diners at the table behind Jill and I. “Isn’t that an internal organ?” someone asked? I don’t understand Thai, but based on the chatter and laughter that came from the kitchen shortly thereafter, the staff thought it was funny, too.

I had a conversation with a good man today, someone who legally immigrated from Peru. He spent six years trying to become a citizen – he started a small business, he is a tax payer. He does not abuse the system; he shared with me how he is working two jobs to pay off an $18,000 medical bill. Now that’s the kind of people we want coming into our country, wouldn’t you agree?

Marital Bliss

Jill woke up this morning and told me I am an awesome husband (I love my wife), a wonderful stepfather (it’s my goal), and a superb adoptive dad for Princess (she had me in the palm of her hand until she got to that part).

Kid-bytes

Our new housekeepers started today and I was giving them a tour of the place. While in Meagan’s room I surveyed her desk and bulletin board. There she had photos, notes and cards I have given her, including the birthday card I wrote for Blue Mountain Arts that she inspired:

This is a special day
not only for you
but for me, too.
It is the day you entered my life,
the day you fulfilled one of
my dearest dreams,
the day you made me
a loving parent.

Your life is my dearest treasure,
your happiness is my goal,
and your love is my
sweet reward.
I love you, I do,
and on your birthday,
I wish you the same joy
that you have brought to me.

Happy birthday!

Book Report

Based on my current signed projects, I’ll crank out five books this year. Whew!

As you know, I take the photographs for my books. I usually use family and friends for models, and occasionally strangers I happen to meet. When I select friends to pose I choose someone who has done a favor for me or is important to Jill and me in some way. I recently saw the cover to my newest book (coming out this Fall) “Why We Are Friends,” and it features a friend of ours, a realtor. She really fought for us to get this house, the one Jill loved above all others in a neighborhood she has wanted to live in for years. It was the least I could do for you, Susan, after how much you did for me to help make my wife happy. Thanks again!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Geography

Crazy Train (of thought)

Should I admit to Jill and I sleeping until 7:30-8:00 in this first week of summer vacation?

One of the kids in the ‘hood came by to try to sell me a used snowboard. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want it; she thought I might go somewhere it snows one day. She suggested Poland.

I filled up yesterday and then drove off not realizing I had not closed the gas cap. Moments later while at a stop light, I saw a woman in my mirror running toward the car. She closed the cap and then ran back to her car. I waved at her and she smiled back at me as she waved. It is these little, simple acts that make you believe in the goodness of others, isn’t it?

If you don’t want to be fodder, don’t stand in front of the pen, er, cannon.

Marital Bliss

You know how much I love my beautiful wife, Jill. When I wrote the book “Why I Love You: 100 Reasons,” I included this statement: “When I reach for you, you move closer.” It may not sound like much at first, but really think about it. When you live with someone that wants your attention, your love and affection, who never tires of your desire, who never rejects you, you are living a blessed life. Today I heard a preacher on the radio say, “True love is an act of will, not simply a good feeling.” I must be doubly blessed – my love for Jill is not just an exercise of will, it is also a compelling urge. I simply cannot get enough of her; I cannot help but reach for her whenever she is near.

Kid-bytes

Jill, Linley and I were in the car when I noticed it was 96 degrees outside. “I can’t wait to go to New England,” Jill said. “It’s so much cooler.”
“Wait, I thought we were going to Boston and Maine,” Linley said.
“We are,” I said.
“I thought New England was in Canada,” Linley said, confused.
“That’s Newfoundland,” Jill said.
“Oh, I thought that was in France,” Linley said.

Book Report

I received this email yesterday:

“I recently moved out of my parents’ home, into my very own apartment. It was a scary move at first, a decision that I made for myself, after graduating college, and began a career. I was given a copy of your book "Why a Daughter Needs a Mom" by my own mother last night. I was truly touched by the points that you made throughout this book, and I simply wanted to write you an email to say "thank you" for giving my Mom and I this piece of writing to share with each other. I have learned now, being on my own, all these wonderful things that my Mom has taught me, and how much I genuinely STILL need her. I wish you and your family all the happiness and health that this world has to offer.”