Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Reindeer Tale

My phone rang at 7:30 in the morning, just moments after I had sent Jill off to school with her homemade breakfast and lunch, hot coffee, a love note, and a pre-heated car. Laura was on the line. “She’s here,” she said.
“Already,” I asked, thinking I had another hour before this fated moment was to come.
“She starts early.”
“How long will this take?”
“Beauty takes time,” my friend responded.
I looked down at Princess. In some cases, a lifetime, I thought. “I’ll be right there.”

I slipped on some jeans and a sweat shirt, looked into the mirror and saw that my hair was pointing due east with authority. I grabbed a baseball cap and thought no one would notice it as I shoved the errant strands under it and out of sight. I called the dog and made my way to the front door where the leash is kept on a coat hook. As I reached for it I heard Princess shift into reverse, her nails trying desperately to obtain some traction on the hardwood floor. She was running 90 miles an hour and getting no where. I reached down and scooped her up. She looked at me with terror in her eyes as if to beg me not to drop her off on the side of a desolate road. I held her against my chest with one hand and managed to clip the leash onto her collar with the other. Just as the clip snapped closed she peed on me. I suddenly remembered a long dirt road in south Georgia that ended in a swamp, but I wasn’t sure I could get there and back before Jill returned home. Another time, I decided. “You get to live another day,” I said to the dog as I washed my hands.

As we walked down the street toward Laura’s house Princess kept trying to pull me along. Doing my best Caesar impersonation I kept tugging at the leash and making a “tissstt” sound, but we’re talking about a stupid dog here and she thought I was asking her to mark the territory along our way. Four houses down the street and a dozen squats later, I knocked on Laura’s door.

“You’ve got bed hair,” she said as she greeted me.
“And overnight face,” I said, hoping my own self-deprecating humor would help me to explain the urine stain on my chest. Fortunately, Laura didn’t see it. “Is she ready? Is she excited?” she asked, scratching the dog behind her ears.
“You know you’re killing me,” I remarked.
“Her outfit is here!” Laura exclaimed, jumping up and down clapping her hands. "Allison picked it out for her. It's so special!"

I looked up and the dog groomer came around the corner and introduced herself. Then she spied Princess. As a long and screeching “Ahhhhhaaawwwwwww” began to roll off her tongue my head began to spin. I thought I was going to puke.
“Do you want me to do anything special with her?” she asked as she took the dog from me.
“Slit her throat.”
“It’s just an act,” Laura chimed in. “He really loves her.”
“I love my wife and my tolerance of this dog proves it,” I retorted.
“Really,” the groomer insisted,” what do you want me to do to her?”
“Can you make her look like another dog? One I could get attached to?” Laura punched me on the arm. “Bathe her really well so she can get on the furniture,” she said.
“Huh?” the groomer inquired. I could tell by the way she had turned away from me and was now glancing at me over her shoulder that she wasn’t taking to me.
“He won’t let her on their furniture,” Laura explained.
“She stinks,” I defended myself.
“He’s a mean man,” the groomer said without shame or reservation just before she kissed Princess in the mouth.
“Here,” Laura said, shoving a reindeer costume into my hands and turning me toward the door. “You’d better get out of here before she calls the Humane Society. Be sweet and dress Princess before Jill gets home.”
“Bah humbug,” I growled as I was escorted to the front porch.

Hours later, and much too soon for me, the groomer delivered a trimmed and washed dog. As the mutt sat at my feet looking up at me, waiting for a compliment I think, I saw that she looked nothing like a new dog and everything like herself. Except for the Christmas bows tied to her ears. “You’re killing me,” I said as I looked out my window and at Laura’s front door. I swear I could hear her laughing. I sat the reindeer costume on the breakfast table, determined not to get sucked into this plot to humanize what is in reality a freak of nature.

Jill arrived home as I was cooking dinner. She came inside, said hello and half kissed me with one of those Frenchie cheek kisses meant for dignitaries you’d rather spit on. She was distracted, I told myself, trying not to be hurt. It was only later, when I was getting undressed and pulling my sweatshirt over my head, that I realized the brush off might have been because I carried with me the faint odor of dog urine.

“She’s beautiful!” Jill said repeatedly, jumping up and down clapping her hands (this seems to be a common trait among the women I love), sending herself and the dog into a frenzy that looked to me like it might end with them both rolling around in embrace on the floor. “It’s a reindeer!” my smart, cultured and dignified wife (I need to reassure myself once in a while) yelled as she pulled the costume from the bag and held it up for the dog to see.
“Looks like a torture corset,” I said.
“She’s Rudolf!” Jill shrieked as she finished dressing the dog.

Princess just stood there, unsure what to do, her head weighted down by the oversized antlers over her ears and the big brass bells hanging from around her neck.
“It’s going to choke her,” I said. I hope, I thought.
“I have to take a picture,” Jill said. As she rummaged through her briefcase looking for her camera, the dog looked at me and for one moment she seemed to be asking me for help. We connected; even she realized she looked ridiculous and wanted to escape. I grinned and let the moment pass.

Jill plopped down on the floor in front of her dog, focused and snapped a picture. The flash went off and blinded the dog. She stumbled backwards and ran into the cabinets, making her big brass bells jingle all the way. Jill was thrilled. I noticed how the little reindeer booties made the mutt walk in a goose step.

After dinner we left the dog in her costume as we went to visit a neighbor and enjoy some holiday libations. During the visit Jill talked endlessly about how wonderful the dog looked, how glad she is Laura and Allison understand dog love and work together to counter my bad attitude about allowing Princess on the furniture and giving her a clothing budget.

Soon we headed home and I was hoping for an evening of holiday romance as I unlocked the front door. I gave my wife the look of loving lust and winked at her; she screamed in a horrific panic. I followed her gaze into the house and saw the dog lying on her side in the middle of the floor. “Oh my God!” my wife shouted so many times I couldn’t count them all. “She’s choked to death!” God answers prayers, I thought, but before I could whisper “thanks,” the dog moved; her bells jingled. Jill cried with relief.

The dog tried to approach and console her momma, but it took her a while to get to her feet, her head so over-weighted. As she struggled to march down the hall Jill dropped to her knees, reached out with desperate hands and called her dog, who goose stepped toward her, jingling with every deliberate step. I left them there and went on to do something important.

After what seemed like an hour Jill put the dog to bed and then climbed into our own. I reached for her, my own holiday plans still in mind. “I’m emotionally exhausted,” my wife said. “What if she’d died?” I almost said something about how happy that would make me, but I was sure it would ruin my chances of seeing my agenda come to fruition. I remained silent.

“I can’t get that vision of her lying motionless on the floor out of my head,” Jill mumbled as she fell to sleep. I lay there looking at the ceiling, trying to remember when Jill and I were dating if she told me about this dog. Eventually, I too became sleepy. As I finally began to drift off, I thought I heard a reindeer on the roof. Or was it down the hall?

Laura, Allison – you’re killing me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Call a Specialist!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Three times yesterday Princess yakked up something that resembled alien fetuses; twice on a suede pillow and once on the Persian rug, near where she wipes her bottom when she thinks I’m not looking. Jill asked me to call in a specialist. I did – a taxidermist.

The way the temperature is fluctuating around here it very well could be the first Christmas I’ve ever spent in shorts and flip-flops. I think I’ll have a Margarita with my fruitcake.

I love taking photos for my books; it has been a great way to meet very interesting people and make a few new friends. This year I’ve received Christmas cards from many families that have been included in one of the books. It’s so much fun to see how the children have grown in a year. Speaking of photos, included with this post is the shot we used on our family Christmas card.

Marital Bliss

Last night I sat with Jill as she watched a TV show about a man with two wives who now wanted a third – all under the same roof. He said he doesn’t believe in monogamy; he thinks pluralism is a more natural way to live. He is enlightened, he claimed. I thought he was self-abusive.


Linley wants to have a friend over this afternoon but doesn’t know how she’d get here, how she’d get home, how long she can stay or where she lives. I guess youth doesn’t yet understand the necessity of details. She also wants me to take her to the grocery to buy a sheet cake. I’ve said “no” at least 100 times in the last 15 minutes. I think she’s going for 200.

Book Report

I got a Google alert that someone posted a comment on their blog about one of my books. I was delighted when I found it. Look and see why:

“I received this book "Why A Son Needs A Mom" from my Mom today. Let me tell you it is awesome little book. Every one of those hundred reasons make you think about the time you have spent and will spend with them. It is truly wonderful. I believe the best part however is not actually the book itself, but was printed in the TO..FROM page in the very front. It reads:
To: My Best Achievement...From: I Love You, Mom. I have to tell you, I am a bit of a emotional man when it comes to things like that. She doesn't know it yet and probably never will unless she reads this note, but I had to excuse myself from the room to take a minute to let it set in and let my eyes dry up. She has been my driving force through life and continues to show me everyday what it takes to be truly happy and the things that really matter in life.

Now I realize some of us may not have the ideal relationship with one or both of the people who helped create us, but I believe everyone has a person or people that change there lives forever and help us through out our journey through life. For this I think everyone has that one person there are most grateful for in their life. I can tell you with out a doubt, that person for me is my Mom.”

…and then I received this email…

“I don't typically write to people regarding books. I was shopping today and found a book you authored; "Why a Son Needs a Mom". I purchased it for my Son (22) who is in the Army and will be leaving for Iraq for his first 12 month tour of duty the beginning of January 2007. I was going to write him a letter to take with him, but wasn't sure what to say. Your book has helped me say just the right words; I plan on writing in the pages of the book special things that have happened during his life. I intend on adding a "new" last page. A son needs a Mom to come home to! I cannot thank you enough for writing the words that seem to fit this occasion so perfectly.”

I am blessed in so many ways, not the least of which is having a job that allows you to get great email like this from total strangers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Quickie

Crazy Train (of thought)

Wow, it’s hard to believe it has been so long since I posted on the blog. Life catches up with you, doesn’t it? Well the good news is I finished the new Mom book that was due this week and now I can relax as we slide into Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, all the shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, the lights all work and the cards are in the mail. We have five social events this week alone and thank goodness Princess isn’t invited to any of them. I just realized that mutt looks like the Grinch.

Marital Bliss

How do I know my marriage is blissful? Because every day I wake up happy to be with the one with whom I’m with, and am even more so every night when I lie down beside her to go to sleep. Thank you, Jill.

Book Report

Just a quick note to tell you what’s happening with the “In Praise of Dad” book proposal. I have not yet sold the book but did receive great feedback as well as a few requests to tweak it and resubmit. That’s good news; it means several publishers liked the idea but wanted to put their own spin on it. So I am working on those revisions and my agent will resubmit the proposal in January. Thanks again to all for your help on this project and continued support of my work!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Under Water

I'm working furiously to finish the books before Christmas, so am unable to write for the blog right now. Please be patient; will post again after the deadline passes and I get my head above water! In the meantime, here are a few photos from the new books for you to enjoy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Have a Great Weekend!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Urgent things are seldom important. Important things are seldom urgent.

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

You can’t be a beacon if your light doesn’t shine.

Driving home after dropping Linley off at school I saw two Hispanic women on the side of the road with a flat tire. I pulled over to help, but before I could get to them, they jumped into the truck and locked the doors. I tried to explain I was only there to help, but they wouldn’t budge. It saddened me, really. I don’t blame them, though. In Atlanta, it’s hard to tell whom you can trust.

I led a campaign to have stop stripes painted at our stop signs and to replace the stop signs with larger ones that has better reflectivity. People run the stops all the time and I am worried one of the kids in the ‘hood is going to be flattened. We now have stop stripes and the new signs are coming soon. Last night as I was putting finishing touches on our Christmas tree I found a handmade ornament someone had hung. It said, “Greg Lang, Safety Officer. Beware.”

Marital Bliss

If my wife really wants me to surprise her for Christmas, why do I find ads with items circled taped to my monitor?


As you may have read in the past, Jill and I each spend an evening alone with our own daughter. We usually end up going out to dinner and maybe do a little shopping. Last night was the night for this event. To my surprise, rather than go out, Meagan wanted to invite three friends over to have dinner with me in our home. I made them creamy chicken and rice soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was lots of fun. After dinner I discovered they had purchased gifts for their other girlfriends and wanted me to help wrap them. I agreed, and then discovered they had shopped for thongs at Victoria’s Secret. Now I have known the girls who are to receive these gifts since they were five years old. I just couldn’t bring myself to touch those things.

Book Report

I am so swamped! As you can imaging this is one of the worst times to find models to pose for my book projects. Either it is too cold, too dark, or everyone is too busy shopping and decorating. As a result, I am on the phone all day trying to work out appointments or actually driving to Egypt to see someone who could make time to pose. So sorry for the short posts this week, but it will change. And, oh, by the way – I got the column with the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Not quite sure how I’m going to handle this blog since I don’t want to write two posts each day, but we’ll see. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


My family is a blended one; my wife and I each brought a child with us when we joined together in marriage. In the beginning we had our share of concerns about combining our families; after all, each child had lived all their lives as an only child.

My wife and I braced ourselves on the day we all moved into the new house together. We hoped for the best and prayed we had not just boarded a train destined to run off the tracks and into a dark, murky swamp.

To no one’s surprise both girls had their own expectations, which they expressed without reservation, about how this new family would operate. We worked through debates about which parent-child traditions would remain in effect or be replaced, who would get the larger bedroom and which extended family events we would attend during the holidays.

Sure, we went through an adjustment period, when at one time or another each daughter cried tears of frustration about something the other had done or said. But my wife and I stood firm, united and expecting our children to embrace our newly blended family. We were determined not to be two families under one roof.

A pivotal step we took toward successfully blending our family was to establish new traditions that were ours collectively rather than a hodge-podge of “mine” and “yours.”

Today we have a variety of traditions that help define our family. Whether it is beginning each road trip with a stop at the same fast-food joint, singing our family song when we’re having fun or grabbing a latté on the way to church, we do things that all of us look forward to, things we each equally enjoy.

Friends often remark about how well we have blended and established our new family. This is complimentary, but also worrisome. With the prevalence of divorce today, I’m sure we are not the only blended family our friends have ever met. Are all the others not doing so well? I cannot believe that is the case. If you are a successfully blended family, please share your story; tell me how you did it. Others in your shoes of yesterday will thank you tomorrow.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dog Fan

I asked my wife to help me revise a novel. I’m trying to up the conflict between the two main characters, hoping to add more drama to the love story. Our conversation went something like this:

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

Herein lies the only reason we are not a perfect match for each other. I think dogs are animals; my wife thinks they are darling children that just happen to have an overabundance of body hair.

On her desk she keeps several photographs. There is a black and white one of the girls in a plain brown frame, a black and white one of me in an even more boring black frame, and then a life-size color portrait of Princess in a large pink frame adorned with a silver crown on top. My wife is what I call an extreme dog fan.

The other day, after returning home from a difficult workout at the gym, I decided to soak in the tub. I had almost fallen asleep when I heard something bumping across the tile bathroom floor. I looked over and saw Princess dragging a hair dryer toward me. When I told my wife her dog tried to kill me, her first concern was whether the pup had strained herself pulling the hairdryer.

Once when watching a Dog Whisperer episode about a pooch named Prada whose owner was convinced the dog was depressed so she sent it to a pet therapist and a pet acupuncturist, my wife exclaimed “Do you see how much she loves her dog?” I wonder what the woman’s husband thought when he saw that episode.

To be fair, the extreme dog fan phenomenon is not limited to women. I know a guy with a Saint Bernard the size of a horse that rides in the front seat of his Lexus, and then there is a friend who takes his pet to a special school. One that gives dogs swimming lessons.

As you might guess, I am not an extreme dog fan. Please tell me I am not the only one. Does your dog eat Kibbles or foie gras? Sleep on the floor or on your finest sheets?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Sample Column

Who's Weird?

I am accused by my family of being a bit weird. They think my desire for order goes a little too far. I think they just don’t appreciate symmetry.

You see, I shelve books by their size. The big ones are lined up against one another and the little ones rest on their sides in a stack. It’s the best use of space. I don’t alphabetize items in the pantry but I do put the large things toward the back of the shelf so you can see the little things up front. I load the dishwasher because I can get more in it than everyone else. Everyone else thinks I’m obsessed with putting the plates and glasses together in the rack with their mates rather than mix them up.

My long sleeve shirts hang on one side of the closet, short sleeves on the other. My ties are organized by color. That way I can get dressed in the dark. When I push a chair back to the table, I always put the legs in the same spot on the rug. It minimizes divots.

Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit weird. But I’m not alone.

My wife refreshes her lip gloss after every conversation. She buys seasonal clothing for her homely mutt, she puts things down where she last used them (even when it obviously doesn’t go there; drives me crazy!), and she parks her little two-seater car on an angle, using three-quarters of our two car garage. Like I said, she doesn’t appreciate symmetry.

Our oldest child won’t purchase the top item of anything in a store. She removes it, grabs the second one and puts aside the one “that everyone else has touched and sneezed on.” She thinks the “Sell by” date on food means the day after that you will die if you eat it.

Our youngest child takes the wontons out of wonton soup but won’t order just a bowl of broth. She thinks cleaning her room means making sure there is nothing in front of a window she can’t jump over in case of fire. She fills the tub twice for a bath, once for bathing, once for rinsing.

Okay, so everyone in our house is a bit weird. But I’m sure we are not alone. Who’s a bit weird in your house, and why?