Monday, July 31, 2006

A dog's tale

Crazy Train (of thought)

I was at Laura’s house visiting the other day when Jill called on my cell. Just as I answered it, Laura yelled, “Get in that bed!” It took me a minute to make sure Jill understood Laura was talking to her naughty dog.

Jill goes back to work today. She is excited about setting up her classroom and preparing for her students. I’m bracing myself for the grief I’m sure to feel when I don’t have her with me all day for the next 10 months.

Every week it seems Jill gives me a new nickname. Right now it’s Studley McStudster. Yeah, I know, she has poor vision, but it’s the thought that counts.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I walked seven miles the other day, hand in hand every step of the way. We are doing whatever it takes to stay healthy and fit. We didn’t meet one another until we were halfway through our lives, so we are now doing all we can to make sure we live long enough to see a 30th anniversary. I’m so glad we are the couple thinking “How wonderful it is to know I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you,” rather than “I’m not sure I can make it another year with you.” I wish everyone could have the kind of love Jill and I share.

Kid-bytes

Linley is back in the nest and Meagan will be home tomorrow. Linley’s cheerleading camp begins today, my brother is arriving today for three days, Meagan has a few babysitting jobs and then friends coming over near the end of the week, Jill has dinner plans for taking the family out a few last times before school begins, I have to go to the school to purchase Linley’s books, Meagan needs me to work on her computer, and on and on and on and on. I hear a dull roar in the distance, and it is getting louder and louder!

Book Report

The time has come to begin writing another book. I have been very blessed as a writer and have just completed my 14th and 15th books. These two new selections will be introduced this Fall and are known as “Why We Are Friends” from the Family Matters series and “Simple Acts: Creating Happiness for Yourself and Those You Love” from the Simple Suggestions series. I hope you get a chance to see them.

The new book is for the Simple Suggestions series. It will be a gift book celebrating romantic love and will include sentimental loving statements that affirm intimate relationships and photographs of couples in romantic settings. And like my other two books on this subject, “Why I Love You” and “Love Signs,” this book will be dedicated to my wonderful wife, Jill, keeper of my heart.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Short 'n Sweet

Crazy Train (of thought)

Jill and I ate Ethiopian food the other day – they do a great job with vegetables, especially collards. Only problem is, collards make me gassy. It’s a good thing we have a convertible.

Later in the evening we were watching a show about corrective surgery and saw a segment where a child with a deformed skull underwent an operation. They peeled back his face, removed the skull, sawed it into different pieces, and flipped them around and put it back together. He healed and now has a normal head. I looked down at Princess, our smashed faced part Pug, part Pekinese special needs child. “I’ll be right back,” I said. “Where are you going?” Jill asked. “To get my hack saw,” I answered. The wife and dog were gone when I came back in from the garage.

Speaking of dogs, while in NYC I saw a pet clinic that offered dog massages. Reckon how they get a dog to lie down on a table? Do they burn dog bone incense?

Sometimes I have a lapse in judgment, like today when I went outside early in the AM to get my paper dressed only in boxers. Wouldn’t you know it; three neighbors stopped me for a pre-dawn conversation.

Jill has a problem with depth perception and her car has a very sloping hood. She has been asking me since she got it to hang a tennis ball from the garage ceiling to help her know when to stop pulling up to the wall. I’ve been lazy about it and haven’t done it. The other day I borrowed the go-kart and took it for a spin, and when I returned home, I proceeded into the garage and ran right into the wall. There now hangs an orange dinosaur from the ceiling. When it rests its rear on the windshield, stop.

Marital Bliss

Jill spent last night in a resort 30 miles from home with 22 other school teachers in a planning conference for the new school year. From her phone calls I knew she was disappointed we would not be kissing one another goodnight. At 10:30 I got in the SUV and drove up there, called her and asked her what she was doing. “Wishing I were with you,” she said. “Then come outside,” I responded. We spent nearly an hour together acting like teenagers in love, and then I drove home, leaving my wife with a smile on her face. Take a hint, gentlemen: Do the things other wives wish their husbands would do, not the things other wives are glad their husbands don’t do.

Kid-bytes

You know you are raising your kids right when they walk through the den while you are watching the news and say “Fox News rocks!”

Book Report

No book news today.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ponder This

Crazy Train (of thought)

Don’t you hate it when you see that you have misspelled something in an email? It’s worse when after you find your mistake, you remember you’re an author.

It’s so dang dry in GA my koi are getting sunburned.

I got hungry at the LaGuardia airport and went looking for a sandwich. I asked a waitress if they had any; I didn’t see a menu. “Yes, two,” she said. “A whole turkey sandwich for $7.99 and a half turkey sandwich for $5.99.” I guess it costs a lot to pay the guy to cut one sandwich in half.

While sipping coffee in a diner in NYC I met two gals from Texas. It seems I always run into women from Texas. They are rather easy to spot – big blonde hair, big ya-yas, and big diamonds. Not to be mean, though, because the truth is they are also among the nicest people you could run into. I love Texas, and all my friends from Texas.

Do you know how you talk really loud when you ware wearing headphones? When boarding the plane on the return leg home I was walking behind a couple, all headed toward our seats. They both were rather short; she was wearing an iPOD with earbuds on. She sat down and he struggled to get her overstuffed bag into the overhead bin. She looked up and shouted, “If you’re too short to reach it, I’ll get someone who can.” Poor guy – the laughter was deafening.

You know you are riding with a rookie when the cabbie gets lost in Queens and then asks you how to get to the airport.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I were discussing when to go to dinner last night:

“When would you like to go to dinner, my hunk of love?” she asked.
“Whenever it pleases you, my sweet.”
“No, when it pleases you. You are the King of this household, whatever you say goes.”
“Why isn’t it always like that?”
That’s the last thing I remember about that.

Kid-bytes

Sometimes what lifts your heart is something so small no one notices – except you - that it means so much to you. I had such an experience Tuesday night. I was late getting home due to airport delays in Atlanta (isn’t that always the case!) and had asked Jill and Meagan to go to bed rather than wait up for me. Both insisted they would nothing of the kind and then did wait for me. When I came in the front door Meagan looked from her perch on the sofa and called out “Daddy!!!,” lept up and scurried down the hall in a half-dance half-somersault kind if jig and jumped into my arms, giving me a big kiss on the check, where she has planted her smooches in the past years. I was delighted to have the affection and to receive such an enthusiastic greeting from someone that has stopped kissing me on the lips. Oh, but wait. Today I took her to the airport; she’s flying to Canada to meet her mother. Along the way we talked about everything under the sun, especially as it related to her turning 18 in less than two years and leaving for college, leaving the lap of indulgence at home. At the airport I got her bag out of the SUV and sent her off to check herself in, a task she was determined to master on her own, certain she would need to know how to do it by herself one day. I hugged her and said my good-bye, and then she (drum roll) kissed me on my lips!!!!! Ask me how happy I am and I’m sure I can’t find words descriptive enough!

Book Report

Each book does not sell as well as the other nor does each appear on a best-seller list, but I am happy with every one because each in its own way touches someone in a manner unique but meaningful to that reader. Such was the email I recently received:

“Yesterday I received a copy of your book Why I Chose you from my 9 year old adopted son. Your book made me laugh and cry. As a mother of 4 adopted children, your book brought some many "truth" and "memories" on why I adopted my children, plus a few others I have thought about over the years. Of course the tears came when I read what my son had written in the book: "I got this book because I love you Mom". Thank you for writing about our story.”

I’m having a really good week! Except for that losing consciousness part.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hall Pass

I'm too tired to spit. Was up 21.5 hours yesterday on a roundtrip to NYC. I got over 300 photos so it was well woth it, but nonetheless, the brain needs more recharging. See you tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Family Follies

Crazy Train (of thought)

I posted this Monday night because I am leaving early and will be in NYC all day on Tuesday on a photo shoot. Enjoy!

As we were driving to FL the girls had a rather lively discussion in the car with Linley’s companion going on and on about her boyfriend and their break-ups and make-ups. When asked if she had ever had a boyfriend, Linley answered with something to the effect of why would a 12 year old be tied down dating in the first place? I chirped in, “Yeah, why limit yourself to one boy when you could be going around kissing all the boys.” “Exactly,” Linley responded, sending Jill into a convulsion that included spewing mocha frappuccino onto the dashboard.

Sometimes I’m just plain evil. I convinced Meagan’s friend that fish sticks are made from stick fish and the time zone changed when crossing the GA border into FL – it is set back 15 minutes to allow a little more time for all the old people driving around down there.

Linley claims she hears voices. We tried to explain to her it was her conscience, but she kept insisting she didn’t have one.

Speaking of not having a conscience, one of my cousins told the story of how she and some gangster buddies broke into the administration building at college and stole the Honor Code plaque off the wall and then hung it over their sofa. They toasted it each time they did a shooter. That’s my motto – if you’re going to drink, don’t lie about it!

Linley also informed us she wants to name her daughter Nova Scotia and her son, Finland, but she’s going to call him Tater.

Spending nearly 1,000 miles in a car and three days at a destination where it is hotter than Hell’s kitchen and you inevitably get sand in your crack, is a vacation ripe for a little parent-child conflict. Meagan and I had such a tiff. Yet she has a forgiving and loving heart; she doesn’t stay mad at me for too long. Just last night she sent me a text-message that said “I love you more than infinity.” I wanted to drop every thing and go kiss her.

I got some great photos for my next book while at the beach. I love carrying my camera around, it always rouses curiosity. For instance, last night I was in Atlanta walking the streets after dark with colleagues learning how to take night photos. People in cars kept stopping to ask what we were doing. We soon tired of answering that we were in a photography class, so we began to say we were paparazzi stalking a celebrity. It didn’t take long for the same cars to be seen driving around and around the block, everyone inside craning their necks looking up into hotel windows.

Marital Bliss

This is an excerpt from a real conversation a Bubba wearing a NASCAR hat tried to have with one of my cousins while wading in the ocean:

“Hey,” he said, swaggering up beside her.
“Hi, how are you?”
“Good. You married?”
“Yes, I’m married. And you?”
“Me too, but she likes my cousin. My wife says I need to find me a special friend.”
“I’m sorry to hear about that.”
“You got any friends?”
“Yes, plenty of very good friends.”
“Need a special one?”
“Not really, I’m married.”
“Who’s she?” he asked, pointing to another cousin of mine.
“My cousin.”
“She married?”
“No.”
“She need any friends?”
“No.”
“She probably don’t like the track anyway.”
“Probably not.”
“OK, bye.”
“Bye.”

Poor guy. I think he should move away from his cousin.

Kid-bytes

So when we were in Jacksonville with all the cousins we made time to go to the tracks to bet on the dogs. I’d never done it before and had no idea how, but the girls were all excited so we made the best of it in spite of our ignorance. For example, when viewing the dogs to determine which to bet on, I asked the handlers which one was a Pisces, which liked sushi, and I asked if I could see their teeth. That strategy didn’t seem to work too well so we next went to a survey of their unmentionables. We decided large bells were not good because they got in the way of running, but a large clapper was probably all right. That didn’t make much money either (there’s probably a moral in there but I’ll save it for another time). Finally the girls decided to choose their dog based on which wore the prettiest outfit, and somehow that worked. It worked once and Meagan’s friend won $20 bucks. I guess Meagan is right, fashion is everything.

Book Report

I made a promise in a prayer that if I found success as a writer I would be as charitable as possible and support numerous service-oriented causes. There is an organization in Atlanta that supports medically fragile foster children called the Dream House. It is currently undertaking a fund raising effort that involves selling bricks that are to be inscribed with a message from the donor. The bricks will be placed along a handicapped accessible path called The Walk of Dreams. Jill and I donated a meaningful sum. Remembering my prayer and being immeasurably grateful for the blessings that have come to me and my family, I wanted our brick engraved with something other than our name, something that honored our blessings. The brick we purchased will say “The Lord is our Shephard.” I hope it will come to mean something to those that one day will stroll along the Walk of Dreams. Thank you, my readers. Your support of my books makes these gestures possible.

Short Story

Some things are so funny they must be shared...it is said this question and answer actually appeared on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most students answered the question using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant thereof. One student, however, wrote the following:

“First, we must know how the mass of Hell is changing over time, or in other words, the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. We can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, consider the different religions that exist in the world today. Most religions believe if you are not a member of that particular religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one religion and people do not belong to morethan one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives us two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa, Cheerleader Captain and Class Valedictorian) during my Freshman year that, ‘it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you’, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night and again this morning, then number 2 must be true, Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.”

An urban legend maybe, but funny all the same.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stand back ....

I’m on a roll…

Crazy Train (of thought)

The girls daydream that I will become a millionaire and then buy everyone the car of their dreams. Linley has asked for a Porsche Camero. Honey, I can get one of those for you right now from any redneck junkyard.

Yesterday I was standing in line at check-out behind a very agitated man who wanted to return a radar detector. His reason? He had gotten a speeding ticket. There’s just no accounting for stupid, is there?

Ever met a man who has PMS? Apparently they exist. Poor things. I wonder if they have man breasts, too?

My neighbor is an NFL player; he is very large and impressively strong. We happen to go to the same gym. Reckon why he laughed when I asked if he needed me to spot him?

Head On! Apply directly to the forehead! Head On! Apply directly to the forehead! I hate that commercial! Head on, smack that producer directly in the forehead!

I know my body so well I can always tell when I’m losing weight. It’s when I’m starving!

When one claims to be a better Christian than another, I wonder, how is he going to prove it?

Sometimes it never occurs to you that two things can go well together until you get introduced to it, like a soft poached egg over left over pizza for breakfast, or pineapple in balsamic vinegar reduction for dessert. I encountered such a combination yesterday after I bought a new CD. It was Johnny Cash singing the Gordon Lightfoot song, “If You Could Read My Mind.” I don’t know if it was because of how raw and spare he recorded it, or because these were among the last words he sang, but the song brought tears to my eyes. I hit Repeat three times.

The day a man begins to treat his wife like chattel is the day he proves he does not deserve her (and sooner than that, I bet her Daddy knew all along his son-in-law was undeserving).

Marital Bliss

We do not take Princess on trips with us (I had to put my foot down somewhere); she stays with my in-laws. We always take them to dinner afterward, Jill says as a “reward.” I always thought of it as their compensation due for pain and suffering. I’m sure I owe them money still. Speaking of rewards, I think Jill owes me a little something for not yet giving in to the temptation to rid myself of that dog. Honey…! Back rub, please!

Kid-bytes

We are on the road for only two nights, and I asked the girls to pack light – we are taking two additional companions so there will be six in the SUV and less room for baggage. They listened so well I had to go out and purchase a cargo rack that fits on the trailer hitch. Perhaps if I just stopped carrying their bags like a mule and made them drag them for themselves, they’d pack less. Then again, one of them is sure to smack me in the head trying to get a suitcase in the overhead compartment. What’s better, a sore back or a head injury?

Book Report

I hope this post was entertaining enough to last you for a few days. We are leaving shortly to go to Florida for the rest of the week; I have several models scheduled for photo shoots on the beach for a book coming out next Spring, and a book signing to attend in Jacksonville. We are also seeing several members of our family who are meeting us there to share in the fun, and we are stopping along the way on the return leg to see my parents. Whew, lots of miles, lots of hugs; looking forward to all of it! I hope you have a nice week, and see you again on Monday!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another one in the can

Crazy Train (of thought)

Will these campaign ads ever stop! It’s so silly, “He’s fat,” “I’m a better Christian,” “I was once poor,” “free healthcare,” “better roads,” and similar attempts to convince Georgians who to vote for. I hate pandering and the folks who peddle it. Have you ever stopped to wonder why someone would spend all that money on a campaign to get a job that pays so little? Sounds like a hidden agenda to me.

The blind date Jill and I set up for two friends has turned into a meaningful match. I love good Karma.

Those who stoop down low rather than stand high usually end up with a little dog squeeze on their faces.

When you know someone who is evil you are never surprised at how low a black heart can sink into the mire.

Last night my fortune cookie predicted a windfall is coming my way soon. For once I get one I hope will come true!

Ever notice how those who think “we” should be doing more to help those without the self-respect to help themselves want to do it with “your” money?

Marital Bliss

Jill starts teaching in her first classroom in two weeks, ending a 2-month vacation we have shared together. It has been wonderful having her near me all day; we’ve had so much fun and enjoyed so much freedom. As I think about this upcoming change in our daily routine, I’m not sure what I dread more, getting up at 6:30 AM again, going without her for ten hours a day, or for those same ten hours, having all the responsibility for that little pucking dust mop she calls a dog. The love is strong, Jill, the love is strong!

Kid-bytes

Meagan is at a “camp” learning how to assemble a high school yearbook. She is on the photography staff (taking after her Daddy). I called last night just before 11:00 to chat, but she was too busy working with her group to select a theme for the yearbook. I suggested a few, “Putting the Squeeze on Mom and Dad,” “Living on a Gravy Train,” “The Last Years (of Carefree Living)” and “Making Up and Making Out,” but she didn’t seem to like any of my ideas.

Book Report

Well, I did it – finally finished the latest book. Due out this Fall, Why We Are Friends is about friendship, those casual and deeply significant. As you might guess, it is dedicated to my best friend, Jill. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

"What makes someone a best friend varies, I think, for each of us. For some a best friend can only be a same sex-companion, but for others a best friend can be either gender or any age. Some would claim a sibling, a spouse or even a parent as their best friend. What is so unique about the best friend relationship is that there are no universal criteria for it; it is simply a matter of personal choice, whether that choice is obvious or not. No two best friends are just like any other two. In fact there may be nothing in common about best friends, but no matter, because no one you claim as your best friend can be proven otherwise."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Technical difficulties

Don't you hate it when your computer craps out? Mine did as I was composing a post for today; lost it all. I'll be back online tomorrow and Wednesday, then out of town until next week. We're going to the beach for an extended family get-together, so I'm sure to have tales to share when we return.

To the young person who posted a comment, the happiness book is called Simple Acts and will be in stores in September. I hope things work out between you and your friend!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good Morning!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Jill and chatted about the GA gubernatorial election debate and a particular question about which television star best portrays your personality. I chose Alton Brown of Good Eats and Jill chose the combination of Lisa Kudrow and Paula Dean. That’s my wife - an animal freak and lover of all things that include a pound of butter.

One of the girls was a little gassy during our flight to Boston. When playfully scolded, she answered, “Altitude makes me fart.”

When you want to keep what you’ve got, it’s best not to keep thinking about what you used to have. Regret has a way of overshadowing gratitude.

It’s true, history is written by the winners. That’s why the tales of the losers sound so very stupid.

The girls keep telling me I’m pretty fly for a white guy. If anyone knows what that means, please tell me. Jill calls me “Stud Pants.” Please don’t call me about that one, I’ve already figured it out.

Marital Bliss

Jill was the only one in our house without a digital camera, so I bought her one yesterday. She has already taken five-thousand pictures of Princess and one unflattering one of me in, shall we say, nothing. Oh my, what have I done?

Kid-bytes

This is the week Meagan is with her mother, an alternating weekly schedule we have had almost thirteen years. I saw her Monday for most of the day and have talked with her each day as is my custom. She called this morning and asked me to stop by to visit her for lunch, explaining, “I haven’t seen you in so long.” Music to my ears, it was.

Book Report

I’m working hard to finish book #16 this week, thus I haven’t had much time for blogging. Thanks for your understanding of my other obligations, and for reading my musings.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Giving back

Crazy Train (of thought)

Thanks for helping me and my family help others. Years ago, in a prayer for the success of my books, I committed to charitable giving as often as possible. In addition to the charities we now support, Jill and I set up a college scholarship fund yesterday for graduate students studying Child and Family Development at The University of Georgia. I’ll never have the resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, but I sure like following their example. I’m able to give because of your support for my books, so kudos to you, too! Yea us!

We stopped in the Arcadia National Forest in Maine to look out at the bay – Bar Harbor below, Nova Scotia on the horizon, the Atlantic to our right. Jill and I marveled. I looked over my shoulder, certain the girls were as impressed as we were. I spotted Meagan sending a text-message from her phone and Linley holding the portable DVD player, taking care not to miss a single scene in Moulin Rouge. Kids…

…but later we did have fun at late night candlepin bowling, taking turns in the tree swing, playing badminton on the lawn overlooking the ocean, and eating just-out-of-the-ocean lobster on the fisherman’s pier, juice and drawn butter dripping down our arms. You should have seen the waitress when I asked her to show the kids how to crack lobster, explaining that since we were from the south, we were accustomed to eating “coon and ‘possum.”

Take a note: Skip ordering chicken teriyaki when the menu says it is served with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. It’s a clue the chef has never eaten in Chinatown.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I believe in giving back. We were introduced by a friend who thought we might like one another, and look what happened. In return, we have two friends who did not know each other, but who we thought might get along well, so last weekend we arranged a dinner introduction. Now they seem to be interested in one another and Jill and I are both happy for them and pleased we returned a favor in the name of love. When you’re happy, don’t you feel like sharing it?

Kid-bytes

Jill and I know our blended family is coming together quite nicely when, after we rented all three rooms on the top floor of the B&B in Bar Harbor on our last night in Maine, the sisters decided to sleep together rather than apart. Thinking about that made me realize there had not been one girl spat between them in spite of a mad rush at the airport and hours in the car, and more than once they had held hands to run across the street. We would be selfish to ask for a better experience putting two formerly only children together and asking them to share everything. My cup runneth over.

Book Report

I received this wonderful poem the other day and thought I would share it with you:

“I just wanted to thank you for your book Why a Daughter Needs a Dad: 100 Reasons. Today is the anniversary of my dad's passing away 14 years ago. I was fortunate to have a good relationship with my Dad. As a thank you for writing such a great book I wanted to share a poem that I wrote about my Dad:

Gone Too Soon by Mary Lehnard

You held my hand and walked with me
Stayed up late and talked to me
Supported me and laughed with me
Teased me and joked with me
Taught me not to take life so seriously
Taught me to trust myself & act naturally
And that a woman can be all she wants to be
You shared my dreams and inspired me
You promised you'd be there for me
You weren't supposed to go from me
I wasn't ready for you to leave me
Saying good-bye was so hard for me
You took away my security
You broke my heart when you left me
But now I can feel you protecting me
Watching out and loving me
I know you didn't abandon me
You showed me strength and dignity
You showed me how to live life gracefully
You showed me who I want to be
No one could be as proud as me
To know that you loved me, Daddy.

Thank you again and please keep writing these wonderful books!”

Thank you, Mary, for allowing me to share your poem!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back in the South

Crazy Train (of thought)

First of all, thank you to all of you who asked about Meagan yesterday. Her surgery went fine and we even found reasons to laugh before and after. She’s going to be on an aftercare plan for a few weeks, then back to normal. Thanks again for the prayers, too!

As you know, we were in New England last week enjoying fireworks in Boston on the 4th and lobster in Maine until Friday. There are many stories to tell this week, and here’s a sampling:

While in the Men’s room in an outdoor market in Boston I saw a blind man trying to find his way out of the bathroom. It was obvious he needed help – he ran into the wall and was carrying a cane, but no one offered to help. Until I did, that is. “Take my arm, sir, and I will lead you out,” I offered. I then couched him when to turn and led him up the steps to the street. As I waited with him for his wife to find him, he said, “You’re not from Boston, are you?” I’m not sure what gave that away, my accent or my manners.

We had a blast floating in a small sailboat on the Charles River, listening to the Boston Pops, watching the 30-minute fireworks show, and singing along to the surprise guests, Aerosmith. All we had to do during the four hour event was keep the boat balanced. It only nearly tipped over a dozen times.

We discovered there are more Dunkin Donuts shops than dirt in Massachusetts, and in Maine I mistook a few mosquitoes for buzzards or condors.

Marital Bliss

When at a bed & breakfast in Booth Bay, Maine, Linley discovered she left something essential for living in the rental car. I went outside to get it for her. Standing on the street, I looked up at the house and saw that all our windows were open in our rooms on the second and third floor; I could hear the girls’ laughter and Jill’s TV show. Suddenly realizing I have always wanted to be an American Idol, I started to sing “You Light Up My Life.” Soon Jill came to our window to listen and she called out, “I love my husband,” when I finished. One of the girls yelled, “You are such a dork.”

Kid-bytes

Kids say and do the funniest things, such as…

“Let’s stop in every state we pass through, because you can’t say you’ve been there until you bought something or peed there.”

When we exited the plane at Logan and found ourselves looking out over the Boston Harbor – “Can we go see the Statue of Liberty?” and later, when touring the Paul Revere House – “Look, the Liberty Bell!”

When listening to the Boston Pops play Stars and Stripes Forever I looked over at the girls, only to find them using every available body part to see who could make the loudest fart noises.

Don’t ask me, but they couldn’t get enough of something called moose poop for dessert.

Book Report

I recently received a note from a reader who recently gave my book Brothers and Sisters to her sibling. It included this inscription:

"Many people have called you their brother over your lifetime: people that we grew up with in Macon, Rangers you served with in the Army, as well as people you formed special bonds with on overseas assignments while covering the war. I'll gladly share them with you as long as you remember one very important thing. You did not become a brother until the day I was born and for that you will always be my brother first and foremost. I would not be the same person without you in my life."

Brothers and sisters – there is no other relationship quite like it, is there?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy B-Day USA

Crazy Train (of thought)

Words I’d love to hear:

1. My doctor – “You can eat all you want because you’ll never gain another pound.”
2. My banker – “I’m sorry, Mr. Lang, you need to use our special deposit slips. These don’t have enough spaces for all those zeros.”
3. A wedding planner – “May I introduce Greg and Jill Lang, celebrating their 50th anniversary!”
4. A surprise phone call – “Mr. Lang, this is People Magazine calling. You’ve been selected as one of our 50 most beautiful people.”
5. Rene Russo – “And the Oscar for Best Screenplay goes to … Gregory E. Lang!” and then she kisses me as she presents the Oscar.
6. My literary agent – “I’ve auctioned your book. It brought in a million dollar advance.”
7. My art agent – “The Museum of Modern Art wants to purchase twenty of your photos for their permanent collection.”
8. Dr. Phil – “What do you think I should do, Greg?”
9. Oprah – “This is the book of the decade.”
10. Our vet – “Princess has gone to little puppy Heaven.”

Our new neighbor has a bike fitted with a dog basket. She’s now Jill’s new best friend, too.

Laura and Allison asked Jill and me if we would take them in the Rover to pick up some large framed photos that wouldn’t fit in their car trunk. Of course I was happy to oblige. Imagine my surprise when we got there and the darn things were as big as a king-size mattress. The whole scenario was hilarious, trying to get the photos home (they were beautiful, BTW) complete with a pushy old woman in an elevator and a free-for-all in the parking lot trying to wedge everyone and everything into the SUV. They then took us to lunch for sushi, tapas and a great wine – the only thing better was the life stories shared and laughter that followed. The Pup and The Bird are great companions!!!

Taken from an actual conversation:

#1 “We need to get going; we have to finish our walk before it gets dark.”
#2 “Why’s that? You going to turn into a pumpkin?”
#1 “She,” #1 pointing to #3, “is afraid of frogs.”
#3 “They might jump out and get me!”
#4 “I have the same fear!”
#2 “You’re afraid of frogs?”
#4 “One might accidentally jump into my mouth while I’m screaming.”
#1 “You watched horror films as a child, didn’t you?”

Marital Bliss

Sometimes Jill wakes up first, other times I do, but either way, we stay in repose and wait for the other to wake up and then a morning kiss is shared. It is the best way to start a day; I’m then in a great mood all day long. When a day begins with such sweet affection, it doesn’t even bother me when Jill sometimes jumps out of bed and does the Rocky dance, screaming “The young girl is up, and the old man is still down.”

Kid-bytes

We are leaving this morning for our trip to Boston, another leg of our journey, our plan to give the girls memorable experiences before they leave home. If you watch the Boston Pops playing during the fireworks, you might see us on the pier watching the whole show. I’ll be the happy man with a beautiful wife and two great kids; and wearing a red shirt and Georgia Bulldogs cap. Check in again July 10th for an update!

Book Report

My favorite thing about being published is getting fan mail, like this one:

“This year for Mother's Day I received your book, ‘Why a Son Needs a Mom,’ from my son. The gesture touched me deeply. You see, this year was the year my son made plans to move into his own apartment, thus, the sentiments he wrote on the covers of the book when he gave them to me are priceless--and, I believe the words of the book encouraged his prose, since I received a poem written by him as well. He is a reservist in the WV Air National Guard and has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Finding your book as my present for this past Mother's Day was all the more touching as he was home again, safe and sound. As my son starts a new chapter in his life, I can only hope that one day he will have the joy of experiencing what parenthood is all about. This book rests on my table in the living room - each Sunday morning I take a few quiet moments and read the words you wrote and once again feel the overwhelming joy of being called a "mom."

Each one moves me differently, each one is priceless. I love them all.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Remembering Grandmomma

Crazy Train (of thought)

Why do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescription medications while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front?

Politics: a word derived from the Latin word, 'poli' which means 'many' and 'tics' a species of 'bloodsucking creatures'. Appropriate, huh?

Why do the drive-up ATM machines have Braille lettering?

Why is "abbreviated" such a long word?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Why does cold water make a woman’s breast look better, but a man’s – never mind.

I was looking at Meagan’s photos posted to her online photo album and saw one of the sunset taken on our sunset cruise while we in the Bahamas earlier this month. She captioned it, “How can you not believe in God when you see something like this?” My thoughts, exactly.

Marital Bliss

A recent conversation between my beautiful but excessively-devoted-to-her-dog wife and I:

“I can’t believe Princess snapped at Mario (our housekeeper).”
“I think we should send her to the gas chamber for attempted assault. Clearly she’s a vicious mutt, a liability.”
“I’ll just deduct $100 from her birthday party budget.”
“So in other words, she now owes us $100?”

Book Report

I wrote the book “Why I Love Grandma” in memory of my grandmother, Annie Ruth Lambert Brown, who died of breast cancer on May 7, 1973. My cousins, Marie Brown and Amy Brown Zinszer are walking 60 miles in San Diego this fall as participants in a Breast Cancer fund-raiser. Jill and I are donating to each of them. I clicked on Amy’s website to check on her progress toward reaching her donation goal and unexpectedly found a photo of my grandmother, smiling at me. I cried then, later when I showed it to Jill, and even now as I post this to my blog. It is a profound privilege to have loved someone so much, and to have felt their love in return, that memories of the last time you saw that someone can touch you so deeply, 33 years later.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to that book:

“Thanksgiving is a reunion holiday for my family. It is a time when three generations converge on one house to laugh, play, talk, sing, and share a few enormous meals together. Biscuits as big as your fist with butter and homemade preserves for breakfast, and turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, bowls and bowls of vegetables, and cakes and pies for dinner, all made from my beloved late grandmother’s recipes, serve the seventy or so people who have come together to celebrate.

Although there are members of my family who never met my grandmother, or were so young at the time of her loss that they have no memories to call upon, everyone knows who she was. Each of her four daughters resembles her in their own way, and their children in turn also carry features that someone can point to and say, “Those are Grandmomma’s eyes” or “That’s Grandmomma’s smile.” As the great grandchildren who never knew her savor the sweet taste of a dessert made from a recipe handed down over four generations, they are told about Grandmomma. As the newest cooks in the family learn to make cornbread dressing and giblet gravy from scratch, they hear of how Grandmomma used to make it in the early morning, and of how the smell greeted all as they arrived at her house for a holiday meal.

Grandmomma was a short, plump woman with a face that always bore a smile. She wore horn-rimmed glasses and piled her silver hair high on her head, and nearly always had an apron tied around her waist. There were warm hugs upon greeting and departure, goodnight kisses for the lucky ones who got to spend the night, and a comforting hand on the shoulder of the one who walked next to her into church.

Grandmomma indulged her many grandchildren. I remember my cousin and me sitting at her feet, eating boiled peanuts she had just taken off the stove, as she watched the Lawrence Welk Show. Whether it was homemade peach ice cream, strawberry and rhubarb cobbler, or her famous Texas Pecan cake, there was always a dessert in the house to look forward to after the dinner dishes were cleared from the table. On warm summer afternoons we sat on the front porch and shelled peas or shucked corn and listened to her as she told us about her early days, our grandfather, and our parents.

With each year something about our Thanksgiving tradition changes just a little. Those who were once children make the right of passage and move to sit at the adult tables. A new leader emerges within the youngest generation and rallies the cousins together in mischief. A son now helps the father; a daughter now hustles in the kitchen while the mother rests. A grandfather, the religious beacon in the family, passes the torch to a grandson who offers a prayer before eating. As we witness these changes take place, these signs that our family is ever evolving, someone inevitably says, “I wish Grandmomma could be here to see this.” We mean this, of course, in the temporal sense, because we know that she is still with us — in our hearts, every day.”