Thursday, December 20, 2007
The giving of time.
Saying what is meant,
And hearing what is said.
Lingering kisses that pause but a moment,
Then begin again.
Becoming one, and
Whispered requests for more.
Eyes that reassure,
Warm smiles well placed.
Waiting until the last minute.
I love you.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It was also a big news day for Linley. She has been attending a camp for a number of years and has wanted for some tome to be a counselor in training. She was accepted, too! Although we will miss her while she is gone for a full month this summer, we know she will be happy helping the other little campers.
I received another update on the book the other day. The designers have made a few last minute changes that are wonderful. It seems ready to jump off the shelf and into a dad or daughter’s waiting hands. We are now inside of 2 months before it is in print, and 11 weeks from seeing it on store shelves.
The photography show went very well (photos coming soon). I believe a second piece will sell this week and three gallery owners asked me to follow up with them. Is there a real future for me as an artist as well? I certainly hope so; we’ll see.
Other than a Christmas message I plan to post at the end of the week, this is the last post for 2007. Between the parties, family visits, helping the kids study for final exams and plans I have for Jill (our third anniversary is this Thursday!), I will be too busy to blog. But stay tuned – 2008 will be a year of exciting news and writing!
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
"A book about giving thanks to parents would not be complete with also giving thanks to my Heavenly Father. I confess, I sometimes succumb to human nature and think to myself it was my research, talent and perseverance that resulted in my success as an author. The truth is, however, years ago I was lost and in despair, and I had not an ounce of experience in creative writing. One evening in a prayer I asked for help and then did my best to go forward with hope. Soon certain events began to transpire - like a friend telling me of a successful little book that eventually inspired me to write; my introduction to Janet Lankford-Moran, the photographer who helped me complete my first book; meeting Ron Pitkin, my publisher, who coincidentally but not known to me until later, was the publisher of the successful little book that got me started in the first place; and then there are all those events in my life that have been the fabric with which my stories about love, faith, forgiveness and duty are woven. And now my book about thanks, the only one that has closed with a testimonial such as this, is in your hands. Coincidence? Serendipity? Chance? I think not. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Thank you God."
It is the season of Thanksgiving and Praise. Go now into your day and don't waste a moment of it, nor pass up an opportunity to let your voice of gratitude be heard.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
“I just stumbled across your book while searching amazon.com Briefly, are your writing basically in support of the natural family, 2 biological parents, etc?”
“I am writing in support of loving, nurturing families, irrespective of their composition. Blended families and families created by adoption are as genuine a family as those created by two parents who have not divorced, in my opinion.”
“Do you mean regardless of sex or number of parents?”
“What is the objective of your questions?”
“Well, I'm not trying to challenge you or anything. I know my question comes across that way, but I guess I'm interested in your idea of what is the best form of family, if any? Initially when I saw the titles of your books, it sounded like books about what my children need from both their mother and father, and I figured I'd best be emailing you to ask. I'm reading up on this whole issue myself. And, I'm a psych student.”
“I think the best form of family is one that is loving and nurturing to the mind, heart and soul of the child. It is great, even desirable, when that occurs in an intact family of origin, but it often does not. Thus, if step-parents, adoptive parents, or gay parents can provide that love and nurture, it is a fine family in my mind. It is better to be a loved and wanted child in a non-traditional home than an unloved or neglected child in a traditional home.”
“I think I agree with what you're saying, but if I may ask to clarify. Are you saying that the best form is the non-incestuous man and woman for life marriage is the best family form for children, but if such isn't available, others are good too, if they are loving and nurturing? In other words, putting children preferably in a family form closest to the natural family as we can is best, if it is available?”
“You are attempting to pigeon-hole me so let me be clear. The ideal form of a family is one in which neither spouse is unfaithful (wives cheat, too), the man-woman marriage remains happily intact and they are cooperatively raising children in a loving, nurturing environment. I say ideal, not best, because this family form is historically accepted and as such faces less obstacles and scorn from those who judge others. Yet this form of family is less prevalent, leaving us with the question of what is the “best” family environment for the children who have little say in the decisions adults make. You and I can exchange moral or theoretical arguments all day long, but in the end, the best family is the one a child can point back to and say “They (or even he/she; a single-parent home is still a family, I believe) are my loving parents and that was my happy childhood home.” Who am I, or you, or anyone else, to disagree with that child just because one parent may not be a biological parent, or both parents may be of the same sex? Or one is black, or Hindu?
Rather than think about “putting” children in a certain kind of home, why not think about how to help those people succeed who endeavor to give a family experience and home to a child?”
“I apologize. I didn't mean to pigeon-hole you. I was hoping to cut to the thrust of your idea just to get hold of the basics.What I meant by ‘putting,’ was, if a child can't be in their biological home for whatever reason, we would put them somewhere else sometimes. I didn't mean to degrade those who would want to give a child a loving home. I agree, love and nurture is very important. I wasn't envisioning an exchange of views, but since we've kind of ended up here, I guess we diverge on the questions of what is best for a child. Love and nurture, or a specific family from that also provides love and nurture.”
“Please share your opinion on the questions you have asked.”
“Well, I'm swaying towards the natural family as the most optimum, but I don't know that there's good research to show that non-traditional family forms are worse off -- Maybe they are just as good. I don't know. As I understand it, most of the research on non-traditional family forms are from families where there is a divorce, or death which is obviously going to contribute to negative outcomes for whoever is involved. I also think a lot of the research is politicized by whoever is quoting from it, so I feel at the moment, I should hold off from a definitive opinion.”
“Yes, most research is conducted to prove a point, often one that was pre-determined, rather than to find an answer. It is a human weakness – to see only what we are looking for.”
"Yes. I hope to rise above it."
Friday, December 07, 2007
Family stories also all too often survive only in memory, and as such, slowly fade away. I would like to capture important family stories while they are still fresh in the hearts and minds of those who tell them. I want to give longevity to stories about family, love and faith that can inspire others for years, even generations, to come.
If you have an inspirational story to share, one you think others will enjoy and perhaps learn an important life lesson from, please tell it to me. I am interested in stories about:
Father – Daughter relationships
Father – Son relationships
Mother – Daughter relationships
Mother – Son relationships
Falling in Love
Lasting Love (wisdom of older couples)
Lessons taught by Grandparents
You may submit stories through my website: www.gregoryelang.com
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Then yesterday I received a bound sample of the book, the kind you might do yourself at Kinko’s, one that is intended to give the sales team an idea of what the final product will be. Jill sat down to review it and right away found a few more spelling errors, which sent me into a flurry to get notes to the editor in CA before she left her office. Fortunately, a proofreader had also caught the mistakes and made the changes. I’m in good hands.
The girls are beginning to get curious about the book and want to know what stories I’ve told about them, but I won’t answer, wanting to give them a copy of the actual book before too much is revealed. The sales team samples are hidden away and I’m hoping as the girls snoop around to see what Santa has in store for them (and they will), they won’t find the book. There’s no doubt each will take an exception to how she is represented in at least one story and I want to forestall that grief for as long as possible.
I also received my contract from the Speakers Bureau that has begun to represent me. I once gave speeches quite often in a different industry, but never as a motivational author. My knees are shaking a bit but I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m also grateful another door has opened for me.
A magazine was just released which included a review of two books I wrote for Cumberland House. If I can get permission, I'll post a copy here for you.
The photography show opens next Friday! Can't wait; I'll post photos of the event on Dec. 17th. Hey, I've already sold a piece!
…sorry for the free association, I am in a hurry but wanted to get an update out… gotta go….
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Monday, December 03, 2007
I was shopping in Target this evening and came across your book. As I flipped through the pages, I was immediately pulled in and tears began to fill my eyes as I thought of my own father. I had to buy the book, because I didn't want to be standing in the middle of Target crying like a baby.
Anyway, I brought the book home and read it from cover to cover. At first, I thought I would make it to the end without any tears, but sure enough they came. I soon realized that even though my father was absent from my life in so many ways, he left me with so much more than I realized.
My dad taught me how a lady should be treated, he taught me how to treat others and he taught me how a father acts when he really loves his children! I am so grateful to my father for all of this and I am grateful for you and your beautiful book, "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad".
It is the stories you tell me that help me find my way through the maze that dads sometimes find themselves lost within.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The things I’m grateful for:
1. I’ve finished our Christmas shopping!
2. The “I love you” text messages Meagan sends to me.
3. The sounds of Christmas carols coming through the walls of Linley’s bedroom.
4. Meagan falling asleep on my shoulder while watching TV.
5. Linley’s excitement when I give her waffles for breakfast.
6. The old crayon scrawled notes of affection from Meagan I found in a drawer while searching for a spare key.
7. The beautiful vision of Jill wrapped in a towel just out of the shower.
8. The privilege of being the man to stand there and watch her get ready each morning.
9. Hearing the girls ask for “family time.”
10. The invitation to vacation next summer with our neighbors.
11. Having the freedom to shuttle the girls to and fro and attend to their errands.
12. Our good health.
13. The look of surprise in Linley’s eyes when she realizes I actually have a brain.
14. Meagan’s pride in me when she hears someone talk about one of my books.
15. The way Jill says “I love my husband” every day when she comes home from work.
16. The ten minutes of bliss when I hold her close under the covers just after hitting the snooze button.
17. The companionship of our friends and neighbors.
18. My extended family, both by blood and marriage.
19. Reunions with old friends once thought lost.
20. The realization, and honor, that someone is counting on me.
21. When Meagan embraces me and admits to having some fear of leaving home.
22. Linley calling on my opinion when she is sick or injured and screaming for my rescue when she finds a bug in her room.
23. A photo of Meagan in my wallet, one taken when she graduated from Pre-K.
24. The ability to put a check in the mail for causes or charities we believe in.
25. The email I get from fans who over the years have shared their stories with me.
26. The opportunity to live another day in this blessed life of mine.
Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This is a recent composite I completed to showcase my beautiful wife. I’ve surrounded Jill with images of things she loves or often thinks about. For example, there is a map element symbolizing her love of travel, and the street-level view of the Gastonian Inn in Savannah where we got married. She walked through that front door on our wedding day and changed my life. The trees and babbling brook are in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest in NC, a beautiful, serene setting and one of her favorite places to hike. The hibiscus bloom is often used in Eastern religious art as a symbol of devotion and worship. I am devoted to her and worship the ground she walks on. The white picket fences represents our happy home and marriage. The Lily-of-the-Nile bulbs are said to be the flower of happiness. She is my lily and more.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I saw a small bruise on Noah’s forehead and remembered that he, just recently having learned how to walk, stumbled the evening before and fell to the ground. I ran my fingers through his hair and asked him about his boo-boo. He smiled at me and put his finger to his nose, remembering the game we had played the day before. He loves to mimic others.
My uncle explained to me Noah’s medication causes him to bruise easily and then showed me the mark on the little boy’s arm. Noah, realizing we were inspecting his war wounds, grabbed his shirt and pulled it up over his head to show off his chest. The scars of open heart surgery ran across his pale, delicate skin.
That was when I remembered hearing Noah’s mom praise her own mother last week as we sat with a small gathering of cousins tailgating before a football game. She said she couldn’t imagine being able to care for Noah without the help of her mom. I shared this praise with my aunt on this morning, and she spoke of what a blessing it is to her to be able to look after her grandchild.
As I returned to my room with coffee for Jill and me, I thought of Rosemary’s thankfulness for her mother’s help and my aunt’s thankfulness to God for receiving the gift of another grandchild. I thought of this little boy who would grow up with those scars and knew that one day he would be thankful for his mother’s love and support, and the efforts she put into getting him to the right heart surgeon. Just then I was thankful for the skill of that surgeon, the man who gave my family more joyful time together, who saved us from loss and sorrow.
That was when it occurred to me how many people were links in the chain of events that led to repairing Noah’s heart. Someone taught that surgeon how to do what he did. Someone helped that surgeon to get into medical school. His mom helped him study while a child, laying the foundation for the education he would later pursue. Someone taught her how to be a good mom. A dad was there, too, doing what he had to to help pay for his son’s education, a paternal role that his dad had taught him, I’m sure.
I haven’t even mentioned the nurses who cared for Noah while he was in recovery, the minister who stopped by to pray with Rosemary, the neighbors who brought food or the friends and family who made sure Rosemary’s older child wasn’t forgotten during the time that Noah lived at the hospital. I can’t even comprehend how many unknown people were behind each gesture any one of these known people made on behalf of Noah.
I just know that our good deeds are the result of those thoughtful things others have done for us, and our good deeds are the cause of what good deeds our beneficiaries will one day do for someone else. We are all links in the chain of events of life. The good, or the bad, you commit today goes on forever. Only you can decide what your legacy will be.
I took this picture of Rosemary, Noah and Hunter. As I focused through the lens, I thought of how I would leave Thanksgiving this year not only thankful for the food and fellowship I enjoyed, but for the renewed awareness of how we all touch each other. Thank you, Noah. Thank you, God.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Just for fun I put up a new blog, one devoted to photography. Here's a link:
Enjoy your health, your family and your time off. Now go out and hug somebody, and be thankful!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Come not to mourn but rather to rejoice!
My newfound freedom gives my soul its choice.
in Autumn, find the brightest Maple tree;
Enjoy its splendor - it could well be me!
An ice clothed bush aglow in Winter's Sun--
This could be me, now God and I are one.
A gold fringed cloud -- a spray of Sea--a flower
A weeping Willow tree--A summer shower--
The sound of music in a night winds sigh--
A Bluebird winging freely toward the sky.
Don't mourn! I am not dead, How could I be?
When now I am All things --Eternally!
To My Children with love.
A brief book update - all the misspellings have been found and corrected, clarity added where necessary, more apt story titles chosen, and the cover has been designed (it is beautiful!). It is headed to the designer for page layout, then to press. Eleven weeks from now, the first copies should begin rolling off the conveyor. Can't wait! Thanks to you all for helping give life to this idea.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
“Death is nothing at all…I have only slipped into the next room…I am I, and you are you…whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way, which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, and pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it ever was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow in it. Life means all that it ever meant…Why should I be out mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.” - Unknown
Friday, November 09, 2007
As these early years passed and she continued to grow, other milestones approached and new tasks required mastery. Some I could just demonstrate for her, like how to tie her shoes, buckle her seatbelt, and use the microwave oven. Others required a bit of practice and explanation, as when she wanted to make her own scrambled eggs, shuffle a deck of cards, and later, use a computer. As my daughter grew up and became more independent and less willing to turn to me for what she wanted and needed, I began to feel the sting of loss. Too soon it seemed I was no longer needed to read her to sleep, walk her to class, or help her with her homework. All too quickly she entered her preteen and then teenage years. I knew other milestones were ahead and new life tasks would challenge her, but by now she had begun to turn more often to her mother for guidance, and I struggled to find a place in her life.
One afternoon while visiting my parents, who live on a remote country road, Meagan and I went for a drive. She was at the wheel. She had been driving in open fields for two years by then, an activity meant to give her as much driving experience as possible before she set out by herself, without Dad by her side to make sure she was safe. On this day I unexpectedly found myself requesting that my young driver turn off the familiar road and onto an unfamiliar one——and then another and another.
Soon she had driven much farther than she ever had before. She was frightened when she first pulled into traffic but smiled eagerly at the same time. She listened intently as I gave instructions and advice, following my directions without complaint or rebuttal. She beamed at me when I praised her as she skillfully negotiated the roadway. Under my tutelage she was learning something new. It reminded me of earlier times. I knew something she wanted to know, and she needed my help to master it; she needed me.
I decided that afternoon that driving was the bridge I needed to reach out to my daughter again, to have the occasion to spend time with her in the way that I missed, having fun together, laughing large, and teaching her something that would prepare her for the day when she would set out on her own. For the next three years we practiced driving every chance we got——driving in the rain, after sunset, practicing parking and hard braking, and learning how to intuit other drivers’ moves. I helped her study for the learner’s permit test. I was with her when she took it, and tried to calm her nerves as we waited for her results. A great sense of accomplishment came over me when she proudly held her permit up for me to see, and in that moment I was where I wanted to be, in her favor, basking in the warmth of her smile.
Meagan now drives nearly every time we get in the car. It was on one of our first extended drives that the need arose for teaching her about road maps. We were taking my eleven-year-old stepdaughter, Linley, to summer camp, and I did not know the way. I spread a state map out on the dining room table and proceeded with Meagan at my side to find a route. We began by looking up our destination in the index, then followed the grid lines to pinpoint it on the map. Once located, we surveyed the various roads we could take from our home to that tiny dot. We settled on a route that included city streets, interstate highways, two-lane mountain roads, and finally a winding dirt road. We chose an alternate route for coming back, one that would wind through the countryside, taking us through little town after little town and eventually home. Meagan was excited; it would be the longest time she had ever been behind the wheel.
The morning of our departure arrived. The girls and I rose early and had breakfast at a local diner before heading toward the mountains. Linley got some extra sleep in the backseat while I navigated for Meagan. For the next three hours she and I followed the directions we had written down. I helped her recognize the landmarks we were looking for, coached her on keeping up with the distance between turns, and taught her that even-numbered interstates ran east-west while odd-numbered ones ran north-south. Suddenly she asked me what to do if she ever got lost. I reminded her of her cell phone, and then opened the glove box to show her the road maps I keep tucked away in there.
The three of us embraced before leaving Linley at camp, and then Meagan and I set out on our return route home. We listened to music, drove with the windows down, had lunch at a roadside barbeque joint, and stopped to shop at an old country store, complete with a few old men in overalls sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch. We were having fun. Once back on the road we encountered a detour and had to refer to our map again. We selected a new route for the last leg home and continued on our journey.
As Meagan drove she remarked once more that she worried about becoming lost, that she needed to practice using a map. I realized then that I had less than a year to teach my child all I wanted her to know before she became fully licensed and able to drive off without me alongside to help her find her way. I imagined her going into the world alone, driving to her first job, leaving for college, going on road trips with friends between semesters, hoping she would not lose her way. I thought of all the things I wanted to warn her about, the things I wanted to make sure she could handle, and the many other life tasks she would need to master on her own one day.
As I looked out of the car window, the old sting of loss and worry about her eventual departure came back to me. I know I have to let my child go. I cannot keep her under my wing, not that she would she let me. Yet I asked myself, how do I let my daughter go before I am certain she is ready for what she will face? How do I prepare my stepdaughter, Linley? I thought of Meagan’s fear of becoming lost and my own fear of her losing her way. I suddenly wanted to write down some directions for driving, even for living, and stuff them into the folds of the maps in the glove box. I smiled as I imagined her pulling off the road one day to refer to a map, unfolding it and my hand-scribbled notes falling into her lap. “Don’t drive too fast,” “Follow at a safe distance,” “Keep a diary,” “Laugh often,” and “Come home now and then,” they would say.
In that moment the idea of this book came to me. Better a book than random notes in the glove box, I thought, because she could keep a book at her desk, on her nightstand, in her briefcase, or anywhere else close at hand, ready and waiting for her when she wants to reminisce about what we have done together, when she wants to know how much I care about her, or when she needs a hug and I am not near enough to give it to her.
And so here it is, this book that might have been notes tucked away in a road map, a collection of fatherly advice and directions for living a wonderful life, offered with love to my little girls. Meagan, I hope you will read it when you get lost, when you just want to reassure yourself of where you are going, and when you miss me. And Linley, put your shoes on; we are going for a drive. You take the wheel.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
"On my mantelpiece rests an aging photograph of my mother that was taken as she was about to graduate from high school, a few short years before she chose to alter her life and become a mother. She was beautiful then, with hair that fell upon her shoulders, big eyes that reassured, and a smile that warmed. I am told she was energetic, vivacious, and popular back then, when she was young and had only herself to be concerned about. This photograph is my favorite picture of my mother, and although it has yellowed and faded, it has been lovingly displayed wherever I have lived, and serves to remind me of the nest from which I flew, the home my mother kept for my four siblings and me and the bosom to which I always return, one of unconditional love and acceptance.
My memories of childhood include the many things my mother did to make sure my siblings and I were well cared for and happy. Every day began with a hot breakfast, often including biscuits made from scratch, lunchboxes were filled with what we each liked to eat, and dinner always included someone's favorite food. With a family so large, cooking consumed much of her time. My passion for cooking and belief that it is a sincere gesture of love can be traced back to my mother and the way she never failed to bake a birthday cake of choice, bring soup to the child sick in bed, alter recipes to suit our tastes, and make the house smell like the approaching season or holiday. But our mother did far more than cook for us to let us know she loved us.
She made clothes for us, tended to our scrapes and cuts, drove us to our respective after school activities and cheered for us, sought out obscure but coveted gifts for Christmas, helped with difficult homework assignments, wiped tears away and endured tantrums, all the while making sure not a child was overlooked, doing or giving whatever each needed, as though she had nothing more important to do. My mother helped me negotiate my conflicts with my dad, she taught me to ride a bicycle, balance a checkbook, sew on a button, check a turkey to make sure it was done, change a diaper, treat a cold, and years later, how to determine what my own infant needed when she cried. My mother did many other things for me that taken one at a time may seem inconsequential, but when taken all together, made me who I am. She also did things for me that others are unaware of, and knowing her, I am confident I am not alone in that privilege. But still, our mother did far more than these kinds of everyday maternal tasks to let us know she loved us.
Each son eventually presented our parents with a unique set of challenges, and my mother was unfailing in her ability to deal with what came. If she was ever disappointed in either of us, any sign of it was overshadowed by her actions. One son got into trouble, and my mother was there to help find a different path. One fell onto hard times, and my mother was there to help ease the burden until times got better. Another could not see beyond a broken heart, and my mother was there to offer comfort and bring hope. One child became sick, and my mother was there to provide care. Our mother has loved us collectively, but also individually in a way that expresses to each of us, in the way that only a mother can express, that she is, and shall remain, there for us, no matter what. Gone from her nest but never from her heart, fully grown but always her beloved son or little girl, each can call upon her still, and she will come. It is this, her unwavering devotion, her tireless effort to help, her unshakeable faith in our goodness, her absolute belief in our worth, that let us know then and lets us know now, that we are loved.
I am the first of five children, and over the forty-plus years since my birth I have seen much change about my mother, and I have seen much remain the same. Although now much older than the young woman in the photograph I treasure, her eyes still offer reassurance to whomever she gazes upon, as does the gentle touch she gives while listening intently to whatever one shares with her. Her smile still warms, as does her laughter and the heartfelt embrace all have come to expect when coming upon her. I still receive birthday cards, enjoy a favorite meal when I go home, and hear from her the applause and affirmations that tell me she is proud of my accomplishments. Now walking more slowly, her hands less able than they once were, her health requiring more and more concessions from her, she struggles at times to keep up with her former pace. Yet, in spite of these changes, she always manages to be there when needed.
I do not know what my mother’s dreams were, what plans she had in mind for herself as she grew up, where she wanted to visit or what she might have become if she had chosen to live her life differently. I am ashamed that I do not know these things because I have never thought to ask, but I also do not know because my mother has never uttered a word of disappointment about the life she has lived. I do not know of her regrets for she does not share them, if they exist, nor does she lament about what her life used to be like or otherwise give off signs of disappointment about what age has taken from her. Perhaps she has just accepted her life for what it is, thinking it is too late to change it. Or, perhaps she is happy with her life for what it has been. It is the latter, I like to think, because I know my mother has enjoyed being a mother, and a grandmother, and a surrogate mother or grandmother to those in need who have been fortunate enough to enter her life. I know this, because she never fails to seize the opportunity to act like a mom, to be there for someone.
I love my mother dearly, and I have a long list of things I want to do for her one day, but most of all I want to tell her “thank you”. I believe that a child, especially a son, can never express enough gratitude for what a mother has done. I know that I cannot, except that I know what I will do to try. I will do what my mother did for me: I will be there when she needs me, no matter what. I love you, Mom."
Have a great day, and in addition to that daily hug, go kiss somebody.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I enjoy a close relationship with my daughter, Meagan Katherine, albeit one that has changed remarkably as she has matured into a young teenager. Once my constant companion, my playful partner in crime, my most adoring audience, my child has become less enchanted with me as she has entered the initial phases of becoming a woman. Gone are the days of holding hands in public, kissing on the lips, and waking up to find that she had slipped beneath my bedcovers sometime during the night. These treasured gestures of affection are now replaced with brief and discrete touches, perhaps just our checks being pressed together for only a moment, small talk, her need for privacy, and the occasional impatient admonishment, “Dad, I am not your little girl anymore.”
Sometimes I struggle with feelings of loss, and sometimes I cannot resist the impulse to implore that my daughter confide in me, to tell me what thoughts occupy her mind and what feelings beat in her heart. Sometimes I hang my head and worry that something has happened to us, that we will never again be as close to one another as we once were. Sometimes I fret that I cannot understand what my child needs, why she acts as she does, and I cannot figure out what it is I should do for her. These thoughts occur to me when I am alone and my judgment is clouded by my sorrow. Thank God for moments of clarity, when I realize and then tell myself that these changes that perplex me are what should be expected, and what should be supported, if indeed I intend for my child to become the strong, independent woman I hope for. It is then that I accept without reluctance the fact that a dad cannot be everything to his daughter. It is then that I remember so clearly that she needs her mother, too.
Becky, my ex-wife, and I have been divorced nearly ten years, and we share joint custody of our daughter. Meagan lives for a time with me, and then her mom, and back to me. Becky and I live only a few miles apart. We have keys to each other’s home, we talk on the telephone often, share meals together now and then, negotiate agreements about enforcing household rules or extending new privileges, resolve disputes about what we might do differently in our relationship with our only child, and help each other in the care of our beloved daughter. Long ago we agreed that while we did become ex-spouses, we will never become ex-parents. It is as parents that our partnership lives on, and it is as parents that we overcome our own issues with one another to find a way to do what is best for Meagan. It is in that role, as my partner in parenting, that Becky has been most valuable to me, especially as I learn to accept that my daughter is, most certainly, not a little girl anymore.
As my relationship with Meagan has changed, so too has her relationship with her mother. Now her most trusted confidant, Meagan enjoys lengthy and enthusiastic telephone conversations with her mother discussing boys, girlfriend spats, celebrity news, or the latest reality television show. Now her fashion consultant, Meagan and her mom shop for hours, get their hair and nails done, and agree that when a girl packs her bags, she must include an abundant selection of shoes. Now her preferred safe harbor, Meagan turns to her mother for consolation, protection and understanding. As a woman, it is Becky who can comprehend what I cannot. As a mom, it is Becky who can give what I cannot. I admit that I look upon their relationship with an occasional twinge of jealousy, but also always with deep joy and satisfaction that it is what it has become. Their relationship is not only good for them, but for me as well. It is after a late night telephone call from Becky to explain to me what I could not yet see, or to comfort me about my parental insecurity that stings like a bee in my throat, that I am thankful that she is the mother of my child.
A daughter needs a mom for many reasons, and by the very nature of the differences between men and women, some of these reasons may never be clear to me, but that does not negate their vital importance in a girl’s life. Daughters need moms to help them to understand what is happening to their bodies, how to make sound decisions regarding boys, how to care for herself, how to care for her children, and how to care for her marriage. Daughters need moms because they understand that sometimes tears come for no reason, that bad moods may mean simply nothing at all, that chocolate is a necessity, that being silly is fun, and that everything does not have to be practical or in accordance with a schedule. Daughters need moms because dads cannot be everything for them. Daughters need moms to help them grow into the wonderful women they have the potential of becoming. Daughters need moms because without them, daughters will have less in their lives than they deserve.
I am not a mother, nor am I a daughter, and therefore in the minds of some perhaps ill equipped to write this book. However, I am an astute observer, and I am a member of a family. My family, comprised of a dad, a mom, and a child, is not unlike many, if not most other families. It includes laughter and tears, hugs and arguments, surprises and disappointments, giving and taking, and sacrifices and rewards. Although she lives in two houses, Meagan still has one family because her mother and I parent her together, love her together, and compromise with one another on her behalf. It is in gratitude to Becky for helping me to give Meagan a sense of family that I wrote this book.
It is with this book that I hope to give other daughters and moms cause for celebrating what is unique and special about their relationship. With this book I hope that the story of Becky and I will stir other ex-spouses to rally around their children and embrace the role they share as parents, and in doing so, to give their children a family experience, even if in two homes. With this book I reassure Meagan that I understand, accept and encourage her as she grows into a woman and reaches beyond me for that which she needs. And with this book, I say to Becky, thank you. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful gift, our child. Thank you for being such a great mom, giving to Meagan what I cannot. And thank you for continuing as my partner, giving me friendship when I need it most.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
"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 treehouse 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.
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.
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.
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."
Thats enough for today. Now go out and hug somebody!
Monday, November 05, 2007
During this weekend I signed over 600 autographs, set back 18 clocks, worked tirelessly to dissuade Linley from begging me to become the Team Mom of her cheer team, and then Jill and I kept baby Rylee overnight while her mom and dad attended a HS reunion. Jill calls her Rylee-roo and I've decided that means Rylee Rooster because she wakes up at 5 AM. As I took my turn sitting in the rocker, feeding and burping Roo, I was reminded of days past with Meagan. I sent my first final draft to my publisher six years ago this month. Here is the introduction to Why a Daughter Needs a Dad:
"I was born into a loving family. My family is the kind that embraces you, nurtures you and loves you immeasurably. For me the most anticipated event of the year is our reunion at Thanksgiving, a tradition with a thirty-year history. I look forward to the sound of the greetings, the warmth of hugs and firm handshakes, the comfort of kisses and familiar smells, and the retelling of stories of a Thanksgiving past, all of which rush toward me as I first set foot in at the front door. This love I receive has shaped the love I give, and it is evident at its best in my relationship with my daughter.
I have known from a very early age that I wanted to be a father, and particularly the father of a daughter. I’m not sure that I really know why, but I have been certain that I would be blessed with a girl child. My heart has always melted when I held little baby girls or grew envious when I watched them as toddlers crawling into their father’s laps to cuddle. I’ve been touched while listening to women speak fondly of their fathers and moved by the grief of women who have lost their fathers. The love shared between a daughter and a father seemed to me to certainly be special, and was something I wanted very much to experience for myself.
When my wife told me she was pregnant I was overjoyed and quick to believe that the baby would indeed be a girl. Throughout the pregnancy I spoke of the baby as “her” or “she,” never as “it.” When I saw the first sonogram I could tell that our baby was a girl. Even though the doctor said it was too early to tell, I was convinced and thereafter believed my hopes and dreams about fatherhood were coming true.
I was in the delivery room when she arrived. The first person she looked at was me. I was smitten instantly.
After the delivery an exhausted mother slept while Meagan Katherine and I bounded. She slept on my shoulder; her face nestled under my chin. We spent her first night in the world together, asleep in a big recliner. Today, nearly twelve years later, Meagan still lays her head on my shoulder and turns her face into my neck. I still pull her close and make sure no harm comes to her.
Over the years Meagan and I have done much together. We have daddy-daughter dates, she travels with me, and we play together, learn new things together and do sweet things for one another now and then. Sometimes we sit on my bed and look through the contents of the “Meagan Box,” a cardboard box overstuffed with pictures, her artwork, keepsakes and notes we have written to each other. In that box resides the reassuring evidence of our close relationship. Her mother and I divorced years ago and Meagan lives with me half time. During the weeks that she is with her mother, I go to that box often. For a long time I have wanted to capture those memories and put them together in some form to give to Meagan, to reassure her that when we are not together, that I think of her and I love her.
With the same certainty that I had about having a daughter, I have also been certain that the relationship Meagan and I have would be a changing one. I knew, and people told me, that one day she would be a little less affectionate, more interested in friends, less entertained by me, and that she might perhaps even find me embarrassing. It has surely come to pass. Now when I take her to school, she kisses me good-bye, and never on the lips, before we leave the house. I may not listen to my music from the moment the car enters school territory. I am to keep both hands on the wheel, my gaze fixed straight ahead. I should wave just at other parents, and only if they wave first. If I must say, “I love you”, it is to be nearly whispered, and never if the car door is open. Sometimes I go to the Meagan Box to reassure myself.
When I first began this book I intended to create a different kind of “how to” book, a book daughters could give to their fathers to tell them what they wanted from them. I sat and thought of the things my daughter and I have done together. I remembered what my father had done with my sister, and my uncles with my cousins. I asked Meagan for some ideas. Then I wrote it all down. The first time I read what I had written I saw a list of what a daughter might ask her father to do for her (just as I had planned). The second time I read it I saw a list of all that I hope to do for my daughter. The third time I read it I saw myself telling Meagan that she would change but never outgrow me. When I read it the fourth time, I knew I was holding the Meagan Box.
I did not know Janet Moran when I began this book. I literally randomly picked her out of the newspaper where she appeared in an article about a local art college. I sent her my manuscript and asked her to work with me. We met one afternoon to talk business. During this meeting she told me her personal story. She was raised by her single father beginning in her early childhood. She shared with me that she could see herself and her father in much of the manuscript. I knew then that we had to complete this book together. I did not have to tell Janet what I wanted the photographs to convey. She knew herself, perhaps even better than me.
With this book Janet and I hope to inspire new fathers and experienced fathers to embrace the important role they have in their daughters’ lives, and give them the love, nurture and support they seek, and to enjoy that which is reciprocated in kind. With this book I tell my child how very irreplaceably important she is to me. With this book I comfort and reassure myself that I will always have the pleasure and honor of being in her life. I love you Meagan Katherine."
May this be a hugfest day for you!
Friday, November 02, 2007
A Boa and a Chihuahua
I have a few hobbies: photography, cooking, collecting books and writing. The girls either tease me mercilessly or glare furiously when having to deal with me when I’m in one of my hobby modes. If they see me holding a camera they might run to their rooms or break out in their best Paris Hilton parody poses. They roll their eyes if I should suggest stopping by the kitchen gadget store and have been know to throw grapes at me while I stand in the produce section trying to select the perfect stalk of lemongrass or handful of morel mushrooms.
It drives them both crazy when I detain them while I browse in bookstores or get in their way of the television as I rearrange the bookshelves to make room for my latest book; the one I might not have the chance to read for years. As an author of books, a blog, the occasional magazine article and now and then a poem for Jill, I take lots of notes about what I see and hear. To that end, I carry a small pocket-sized spiral notebook with me everywhere I go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them groan, “Here he goes again,” as I’ve reached for that notebook in the middle of dinner, at church or even while driving down the road. You just can’t control when genius strikes.
One day I opened my notebook only to find Linley’s handwriting. Thinking she had written me a note, I smiled. Then I read it. “Hi, I’m Gregory Eugene Lang. I can be cool sometimes but mostly I’m a boring guy. I need 2 add some excitement n2 my life!”
They are convinced I have too many hobbies. I received a letter from a daughter that decidedly tells me otherwise:
“My father's hobby is having hobbies. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. In fact, I think I would say that my father's hobby has mutated in the last few years into buying things on e-bay for his hobbies.
Lest you think I'm criticizing, I want to say that all of this was quite fun for us as children. Not everyone gets to use beaver skins to cover their playhouse on rainy days. I remember many happy times with Dad, learning about black powder rifles, fishing, camping, doing beadwork, and playing with the lumber he bought for projects that never materialized. He was a boy scout as a youth, and those man-of-the-woods hobbies have always interested him. When he became a preacher he also worked with our churches' boy's program, which involved many camp-outs and Frontier-man type events. When I was little we shot bow and arrows, threw tomahawks and knives, and even helped him tan hides; all in our backyard. Yes, the neighbors thought we were loony. We had one neighbor who rushed his kids inside when we started throwing tomahawks. We were dangerous people, apparently.
When Dad was in his archery phase, the house was littered with bowstrings, shooting gloves, extra strings, whatever. He even made his own arrows once, which means feathers, sticks, metal for arrowheads, and a fletching kit. He also made his own outfit for the Buck skinner stuff he did, so we had bead looms, beads, leather, and a tackle-box full of leather-working tools.
There was also all the black powder rifle paraphernalia. I knew how to load and shoot a black powder rifle before I had the slightest clue what to do with a basketball. Dad even had a gunpowder bag made of deer skin and a real powder horn. I thought all of this was normal as a child. As some might say about me, it explains a lot.
And of course there was fishing. My father had over a dozen fishing poles and tackle boxes full of spinners, bait, flies, and lures. He's really into fly-fishing right now, so I'm surprised he doesn't have tie flying kits out on the table. He probably does. It's not that he goes out to buy all these things either. It's just that when something is on clearance, he gets it.There's also back-packing and camping, and all the gear that would go with that. Whenever I or my friends want to go camping, we know who to ask for a stove, lantern, water purifier, or a survival kit. This stuff fills a set of shelves in the basement.
When Dad finds a new food he likes, he does it right. Take Turkish coffee for instance. My mother now has an entire shelf in her kitchen full of tiny Turkish coffee makers, little cups and all the other things required for this tiny, yet apparently very complicated, drink.
Let’s talk about rice. There's a bamboo rice steamer up in the cabinet, an automatic rice cooker and the coolest little chopstick sets with special rests and dipping bowls.Have I mentioned the books? Oh my, the books. My father cannot pass up a library sale, and his books reflect his various interests. When we were teenagers and had begun to realize how unique my father was, we would read through the titles on the shelves and stand in awe at the variety. His office is full of all sorts of reference books and such, and he shops for antique books on e-bay.I haven't listed all of Dad's interests. Not by a long shot. There are houseboat plans, lighthouses, airplanes, and the list could go on and on.
It’s only fair to add, though, that Dad has passed his hobby jumping and mini-obsessions on to me. When I'm interested in something, I head to a bookstore and get books about it; I go to the library and research it; I go to a store and buy the gear. I get those looks from my husband, the kind Mom gave Dad. Oh well; everybody's got to have a hobby.”
I’ve given both girls cameras which they carry with them everywhere they go. If the truth be told, they probably take more photographs than I do, albeit usually of themselves or each other posing like Paris. They might have gotten the photography hobby from me, but I swear they’ve never seen me with a boa and a Chihuahua.
Have a great weekend! Now go out and hug somebody!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
This is the last story deleted from the final draft and the last story I can share from the soon to be finished Daddy's Little Girl book project. All other stories are reserved for the print edition to be released in February 2008. The following story has been posted before on this blog in various stages of development; this is the final version that was submitted to my editor. It contains a few details I gathered in an email interview before finally submitting the manuscript back in September. It was originally called "Ella's Shoe."
Sometimes just spending time together is all that matters.
"A couple of my neighbors are fanatical Alabama football fans. Every weekend during the fall they are either on the road attending a game or have a few equally enthusiastic fans yelling along with them at the TV in their living room. On one such weekend my wife and I were invited over to meet their visiting relatives. As I entered the living room I saw Kristin, our neighbor, her sister and dad huddled together on the sofa, pom-poms in hands, eyes glued to the screen.
To the best of my recall, Meagan has never watched a football game on TV. She attends her high school football games for the sole purpose of watching some guy she has a crush on wear tight pants. Yet as we talk about the various colleges she might attend, she quickly rules out any that do not have a football team. I just don’t understand the passion some have for college sports.
But Nina understands.
She told me of a winter in 1975 when she and her dad were on their way to visit a close friend, Miss Ella Shoe. Although she was just barely five years old then, a trip to Ella’s place was a familiar event for Nina.
After a traditional stop at a coffee shop for beignets and café au lait, the daddy-daughter pair made their way to Miss Shoe’s house, singing “Frère Jacques” and “Alouette” in French, no less, in between traffic lights. Miss Shoe’s was the most exciting house the little girl had ever seen in her short life. It was tall, round, and smelled of popcorn, roasted peanuts, and bubble-gum. Everyone entering the house were dressed in purple and gold, and like Nina, other little girls carried their own purple and gold pom-poms.
Although the surroundings could be overwhelming, Nina knew she was safe with her dad, who, she imagined then, was taller and stronger than everyone else in the house. That’s why she wasn’t afraid when the two-legged tiger came over and patted her on the head.
She may not have understood what was happening on the court below, but she did know she was supposed to cheer for the people who wore the purple and gold uniforms. They were, after all, Miss Ella’s children. When she and her dad weren’t cheering, they shared popcorn and soda and took turns looking through their binoculars for the faces of family and friends in the crowd.
After the game, Dad scooped up a tired Nina and carried her to the car where she slept during drive home, dreaming of being a cheerleader and dancing with Mike the Tiger.
Years later, Nina, ever the fan, graduated from LSU. Her dad still lives in Louisiana and she visits him whenever she can. Should she arrive during basketball season they go see a game, stopping on the way at the same coffee shop for beignets and café au lait. Of all her LSU sports memorabilia, her favorite items are the old ticket stubs from when she and her dad sat in those seats on Row L, Section M19. That is where her first memories of fun with dad were made."
Point of interest - Kristin sat with Jill and I on our porch last night to hand out candy. She's looking forward to this weekend; it seems Alabama is facing LSU in a must see game. She'll be there!
Update: Later today I am sending the corrected copy edited version of the book to the copy editor. From her hands it will go to the designers who will layout the pages and create the cover. I'll get a copy of that to review and sign off on, and then the books goes into final production. If all goes well, the book should be a tangible reality in three months and one week: February 6th. Can't wait!
To answer a question I've received a few times - the names in the stories posted on this blog are the actual names of the story-teller. The names in the book are pseudonyms, used to protect the privacy of all parties associated with any one story. Even though only a few of you asked for anonymity, we came to believe it was best for all after realizing potentially a million books will go into circulation. Just how many times do you want to be stopped on the way to the bathroom by someone shouting across the restaurant, "Hey Greg, I read about that time when you were on TV with a booger hanging out of your nose!"
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
One Friday evening Lisa’s dad announced he was going into the forest the next morning in search of morel mushrooms. Planning to begin college soon and hoping to spend as much time with her dad as she could before leaving home, she asked to go along. Delighted by her request, he welcomed her company.
The next day and long before sunrise, dad slipped into Lisa’s room and awakened her. It was important that they be in the forest early, he explained, before other gourmands got there first and picked all of the best mushrooms.
She got ready as quickly as she could and, still half-asleep, stumbled toward the car. On their way to the planned breakfast stop, she looked out her window and saw the sun cresting the horizon, a sight she rarely had the opportunity to enjoy. It gave her a great feeling. It signaled a wonderful day lay ahead. After talking over a hearty country breakfast, they arrived at the forest and trekked in under the canopy of trees in search of mushrooms.
Hours later, they hadn't found a single one. Disappointed, they turned around to walk out of the woods and back to the car. The hike had grown tiresome so the pair decided to stop and rest for a while. Dad chose a log to sit on, one at the top of a hill with a view of a lush meadow below. Birds sang overhead and blades of grass danced in the cool breeze. Dad and daughter sat quietly, unaware of how much time was passing, simply enjoying the natural beauty and sounds that surrounded them.
Lisa breathed in the fresh air. The sun shone through the branches overhead and onto her face. She felt blessed, in a rush to do nothing but sit, and be alone with her dad.
She looked at him and he smiled at her. His eyes reassured her that he loved her and cherished her companionship. He reached out and scratched her back, blew a kiss toward her, and winked. It was, Lisa was convinced, a moment God had given them to enjoy. As the sunrise had predicted earlier that morning, it was indeed a wonderful day.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Darla’s dad is an avid sports fan; she remembers sitting on his lap while watching a sporting event of one kind or another on TV. He didn’t mind her constant questions throughout the game and patiently explained to her the rules of basketball, baseball, football, and boxing. Maybe it was because of her enthusiasm for the competition, or maybe she simply enjoyed the shouting and excitement of their daddy-daughter time, but one thing was certain – Darla loved all things related to sports, especially if it meant spending time with her dad.
During the early 1970's girls didn’t have the opportunity to play sports on little league teams. However, Darla’s dad was a baseball and football coach and, not wanting to leave his daughter out of the very games she had learned while sitting in his lap, he let her practice with his teams. He didn’t show her any favoritism, though. He praised her when she played well and gave her constructive criticism when she made a mistake. He even took her of the field a time or two, just like he did to the boys on his teams.
Darla never missed a practice.
Even though she knew her dad could not let her go onto the field during an actual game, it didn’t matter much to her. She didn’t have to be on the field to fully realize the degree of self-confidence her dad had helped her to build. Besides, she knew that she was one of his best players; he had told her so and that was all the proof she needed.
It was all the proof she needed because to Darla, being able to practice with the boys’ team was more than just evidence of her dad’s willingness to break from convention. It was a simple act of love that demonstrated the depth of their friendship, and the lengths to which he would go to help her enjoy her passions.
Today Darla has five boys of her own. She plays hard and often with them; she knows just what they like to do. Her dad had taught her well.
Monday, October 29, 2007
So swamped today; a brief story and then off to the races:
A dad will let his little girl sit in his lap and cry in his arms whenever she wants to.
Shelley’s heart was broken after a painful break-up with her longtime boyfriend. Her dad, a man who usually remained emotionally distant from those who reached for him, just held his daughter in his lap and let her cry on his shoulder. She was wet with tears, red-faced and sniffling, but he never let her go. This time, he did not try to escape.
He sat with Shelley as she blew her nose again and again and cried her eyes out. It must have seemed like an eternity, but her dad stayed there in the chair with her, his willing presence giving her more comfort than any words ever could.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Natalie and her younger sister, Nancy, loved bedtime, that special time when their dad would cuddle with his little girls and tell them stories while they used his belly for a pillow. Their favorite story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Each time their dad told that story, he told a different version. Instead of three bowls of porridge, there might be three steaks or three taco platters. Instead of three arm chairs, there might be three Lazy Boy recliners, each with its own TV. He also added extra stops for Goldilocks throughout the house. Sometimes she went to the bathroom and made the toilet overflow or used the bears' toothbrushes. Another time, in her attempt to escape, Goldilocks jumped out the window, landed on a motorcycle and rode off into the sunset.
Natalie and Nancy’s dad did more than perform for his daughters as he read to them, he made it an event. Whenever he read Natalie’s favorite book, Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti, he not only spoke in a different voice for each character, he also made heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.
But if the truth were to be told, Natalie and Nancy’s favorite thing about story time was what happened when their dad finished reading. That was when he tucked them in, kissed them goodnight, and told them of how much he loved his two little girls.
It always made Natalie feel loved when dad read to her, and as she got older, it made him happy that she still wanted him to read to her. For him, too, it was a sign of being loved.
When Natalie went to college it was the first time she had been so far away from her parents. One evening, feeling homesick, she called home.
Dad, detecting sadness in her voice as soon as he answered her call, began to read Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti over the phone, including making “yummy” noises as if he were also eating a plate of spaghetti. As always, it was a special moment with dad that put a smile back on Natalie’s face. It left her feeling as if she had just been tucked in for a good night of sleep.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A daughter can return home to Dad whenever she wants to.
Lorinda was her father’s fourth child and the most difficult to manage of his children; she had a terrible rebellious streak, always sassy and defiant to the nth degree. Whether it was ignoring homework or feigning sickness to get out of her household responsibilities, Lorinda did what she could to spend more time with her friends, especially those her father didn’t approve of.
Dad was the vessel of reason and wisdom in their home, and Lorinda fought him at every turn. She either ignored his advice or appeased him with a cursory agreement that she never intended to live up to. By the time she became a high school senior she had grown tired of being dishonest with her parents. Deciding to be all the more defiant, she left home to live with friends, much to her parents’ considerable heartache and disappointment.
However, she wasn't gone long. One week later her dad came to her and admitted that while in his frustration he has wished he could just sit back and let her make her own mistakes, he couldn’t bring himself to let her go, especially when it was so obvious to him that she was headed for trouble. He couldn't give up on his daughter, and he begged her to listen to his concerns and come back home with him.
Lorinda, still defiant, declined his request. For a few hours.
Later that evening, feeling the need for a little support and compassion, she looked around for the friends she thought she could count on. No one was there for her; her friends turned out not to be friends at all. In the loneliness of that moment she realized her parents were the people who loved her more and wanted only what they thought was best for her.
Remembering her dad’s pleas and the look of worry in his eyes, she decided to go home though was apprehensive about how she would be greeted once she got there.
Her dad met her at the door with a smile and open arms. He embraced his daughter, told her he loved her, and then carried on as though nothing had happened. On that day, Lorinda’s life began to return to normal, and her relationship with her father began to turn sweeter. For the first time she understood that he had never tried to oppress her; he simply wanted to protect her from her own naïve judgment.
Today, nearly twenty years later, Lorinda knows that if she ever needed to, she can still go home to her dad, and he would welcome her once more with open arms. Her judgment is much better, too, thanks to her dad, the mentor she has emulated since that day when she came home.
A book update:
I received the copyedit version of the book yesterday. Believe me; it has plenty of red-line in it, but rightly so. I’ve never won an award for correct spelling or use of punctuation. I have to read it through, deciding whether to agree or not with each edit, make a few requested revisions, and answer some questions to help the Copy Editor decide if certain sentences or paragraphs are written well enough to remain in the book.
It’s funny how the editing process has evolved. I once labored so hard to write a paragraph, I did everything possible to save each word, even when an Editor said it was awful. I ended up restating the same idea but with synonyms, hoping it read better. Today I just hit delete and start over. Better to be fresh than regurgitated, I’ve learned.
Anyway, I shed a few tears in Linley’s orthodontist’s waiting room while I read the quotes (they are wonderful!) and replayed memories of my conversations with you as I read back over a few of your stories. I’m very happy with this book; I hope you will be, too.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
“My father is a Christian man of few words, but he has taught many lessons in the way he has chosen to live his life. He is a husband of 48 years. He is a father of 5, a grandfather of 16, and great grandfather of 2. He is a father-in-law to 5. He is loved and respected by all.
I could talk about the penny candy he brought home every Friday after getting off work, or him playing a joke on one of us to make us laugh, or even him willing to risk his life to teach me to drive, but more important I would like to share the lessons in life that I hope to pass on to my children one day.
He taught me that on my journey through life things will not always go the way I plan, but I do have a choice on how I deal with what comes my way. With God’s strength, positive thinking, and character you can make it through. Lesson learned, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
He worked to support his family, sometimes 2 jobs and on occasion three. I don’t recall, him being home sick from work, although I do recall him being sick on occasion. Never heard him complain about going to work. He believed if you are hired to do a job, than you give the employer an honest days work. Lesson learned, that a man’s word and deed is the man/woman.
He believed in family and unconditional love. This did not mean if you made a mistake he would bail you out, it meant he was there to love you, and guide you, and walk with you, and if needed loan you money. Lesson learned, that in order to learn from our mistakes we must understand and accept the consequences that come with the mistake. Then we will grow and become stronger.
As I grow older, I realize more each year the treasure I have accumulated over the years in life is not what I wear, not the car I drive, or the house I live in, but the relationships that have been built by working together, sharing in each other’s triumphs and being there for those we love during their disappointments and struggles.
He would not say he is a great man, but that is not how I see him. My dad, though not rich in material possession, has given me more than I could ever repay.
My Dad is James Edward Johnson, and I love him and respect him dearly.”
Today’s photo is another from my fine art photography efforts of late. This one is called “In the Shadows of the Valley.” I was selected to hang five images, including this one, in a show called “Out of the South” at the Atlanta Photography Group gallery from Dec. 12 – Feb. 1 2008. Eight photographers were selected from over sixty who submitted portfolios; Diana Edkins of the Aperture Foundation in New York, was the juror. This is how I described my work:
“As an author, I love stories, particularly Southern fiction. Each photograph in the “Southern Allegories” series is a montage of images that represent a spiritual or emotionally provocative idea relevant to the Southern experience. Each is titled with either a Flannery O’Conner or Biblical reference, alluding to a story represented by the photograph but not revealing it entirely. The viewer is invited to find abstract symbols in each image and complete the story to his own liking. Each image in this series is a multi-layered digital composite created from found vintage photographs that have been scanned and original photographs taken with Holga and digital cameras.”
This is my first opportunity to participate in a major show. I’m excited!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Dads are daughters’ teachers of the rewards of giving.
Amy enjoys many memories of the things her dad has done. When she was young he would lie on the floor and let her walk on his back, making it “crack.” Some days he bit the air trying to get a mouthful of “witch’s claws,” the Bugles she wore on her fingers and waved in his face. When she was a teen he spent hours trying to teach her how to pitch a softball. He cried at her wedding, and again, but more profusely, when his grandson was born.
But the memory she treasures most is something he did yet has attempted to hide. He doesn't talk about the fourteen inch bright red scar that starts just below his left nipple and crosses over his belly. It is a scar he has borne for nearly ten years.Her father, Dan, was the second born in a line up of seven boys. All the brothers played hockey, but her dad was the most talented and well known for his skill on the ice. So dedicated to the sport, during hockey season he and his brothers packed down the snow in their back yard and practiced skating on their makeshift rink.Even as an adult, the sport was still a large part of Dan’s life. Amy remembers many weekends getting bundled up against the Pittsburg cold to go outside and watch her dad play hockey. When in high school, Amy learned of her dad’s brother’s kidney disease, a condition he had dealt with for years but which had suddenly worsened. He was placed on a kidney transplant waiting list and began to take steroids to keep his body from shutting down. Even though the brothers were somewhat estranged, Dan volunteered to be tested to see if he were a donor candidate. They were a near perfect match.
His brother told him to carefully consider the possible consequences of becoming a donor, but Dan ignored the suggestion. His mind was made up, his brother needed his help. A few hours later, the surgery was scheduled.
The surgery was a success and Amy stayed home with her dad for a few days after he was released from the hospital. He recovered quickly and by summer’s end, when his daughter was preparing to leave home to attend college, he was back in tip-top shape.Living in the college dorm was Amy’s first time being so far removed from her family. To comfort herself when lonely she called home to hear about familiar household routines. One day in late fall, when avid hockey players were usually on the ice nearly everyday, it occurred to her that no one had mentioned her dad's hockey games.
Her mother quietly told her that her dad wasn't playing anymore. Now that he had only one kidney, he wasn't supposed to play contact sports. An injury could be life-threatening. Amy asked if he knew of that limitation before he agreed to the operation.
“It was the first thing the doctors told him,” her mom said.
Her father had not only willingly given away a part of his body; he also forfeited an important aspect of his life for the benefit of someone else. With his decision to donate a kidney, he showed all just how much one can do for family and someone you love. Inspired by her dad’s example, Amy has since become an organ donor, and now more than ever, understands the rewards of giving unselfishly, from the heart.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Andrew, father of two year old Grace, enjoys taking his little girl on a date now and then. They usually walk to a nearby restaurant, holding hands and laughing at things the other has said during the day. Grace, energetic and excited, calls back for her dad to hurry and catch up as she skips down the sidewalk.
Upon arriving at the restaurant Grace makes a beeline to the pastry case and tries to decide what she will have for dessert. One evening she selected a blueberry tart. It was the last one and Andrew asked the waitress to bring it to their table if Grace finished her meal.
As she ate Grace couldn’t help but to look at the pastry case from time to time. She managed to slurp down the last bite of pasta as the dishes were taken from the table, and again she looked toward the pastry case. When the tart finally arrived, her eyes grew as big as saucers when it was placed before her. “It’s all yours,” her dad said, “I’m full.” He knew she could eat every bite by herself, and she did.
While she licked sugar crystals from her fingers, Andrew paid the bill. On the walk home, Grace happily skipped ahead again and dad ran to keep up with her. Back at home, they stood together at the sink and brushed their teeth, laughing as they made faces at each other in the mirror. When bedtime came, dad read to his daughter from one of her favorite books. She tried to stay awake, but with a full belly and tired legs, soon drifted off to sleep in his arms.
It was a date that will be remembered for years to come. What dad could forget it?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Meagan got her first acceptance letter from a college yesterday. Oh my Lord, my heart stopped. Where has my little girl gone? I knew the day of departure was coming, and I thought I was ready, but I’ve found out - I’m not.
Dads help daughters to savor the simple pleasures life has to offer.
Although his family was decidedly lower-middle class in urban Detroit during the 1960's, Alvin made sure his daughter, Jeannine, felt rich while growing up. Through his example, he showed her how to enjoy and appreciate what others took for granted. Even if it was something as simple as eating a bag of steaming hot, roasted peanuts while sitting in the bleachers watching a baseball game, to Alvin, those were the best peanuts he had ever eaten, on the best day of his life at the best baseball game he had ever seen, especially when his little girl was sitting there right alongside him.
Jeannine saw that her dad showed the same enthusiasm whether he was fishing in an old row boat on a hot summer afternoon, taking his first bite of a newly discovered candy bar, or breathing in the aroma of homemade stew. In her dad’s opinion, the glass was always at least half-full.
Jeannine watched as her friends and acquaintances came to believe they had to have material possessions in order to be happy. She also saw how easily those people became bored with what things they acquired, and, eventually, with their lives. They failed to appreciate all the small, though never insignificant, things she had been taught to recognize and savor.
As her friends became more disenchanted with how their lives were turning out, Jeannine only grew more aware of and thankful for how rich and abundant her life had become. She knew a bag of roasted peanuts was so much more than a simple snack; it was another of the many wonderful, little things life had offered her to enjoy, just as her dad had taught her to do.