Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lonely Diner

This is one of my favorite images from London - raw and grainy, an authentic capture of how it must feel to dine alone while watching, perhaps with envy, the cheerful interaction between others just a few tables away.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

London Images




I'm finally getting around to looking at the shots from London. These are just a few; others will follow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Colder than a naked butt on a brass bench...

It is 19 degrees with an 8 degree windchill outside right now!!!

AJC update – as it turns out, my recent commitment to write for the local newspaper will not require too much time, so this blog will live on in its own right. Please keep checking back for more news about my wife, kids, damn dog and other events that get twisted in my mind and come out as a short story.

Anonymous is the pen name of the cowardly.

Generally, a “hissy fit” is considered childish conduct and the phrase is usually reserved for divas and spoiled children. We rarely use the expression about men because it comes from the word hysteria (a psychological illness), which is derived from hustera, the Latin word for womb. Back in the day it was believed that women had mental problems because of troubled wombs (thank God medicine has advanced). Is that to say then that when a man is having a hissy fit, he actually has a bad case of cramps?

A reader posted this comment to my blog in response to my opinion about step-children I shared with you last week. I thank him for his post and thought you might see his wisdom as clearly as I did:

“In my own experience, when my step-father introduces me as "his son," it gives me a profound sense of acceptance. Not as in he has ‘ownership’ of me, but as in, there are much more important things than making sure everyone understands the technicalities. There's nothing quite like a parent who communicates in tone, word, and deed, ‘You are dearly loved.’"

And while I’m at it, here are a few other comments that have recently appeared in my mailbox:

“I just had to write and tell you how much I enjoyed your book (Why a Son Needs a Mom) and how insightful it is. I have 4 boys ranging in the age of 18 to 9. My oldest was just accepted into college and will soon be off on his own. This book is the perfect graduation present that just might not make it to graduation. With all of the emotional traumas of Sr. yr. of high school, I may give it to him early. With that same thought in mind, it is the very reason I purchased 4 copies, one for each son. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words, which is sometimes difficult, no less saying it so beautifully, as you did. I certainly know this will pull a heart string or two.”

“I am recently divorced, and was given your book (Why a Daughter Needs a Dad) by my daughter this past Christmas. Thank you for this wonderful collection of wisdom. My daughter will be going off to college this August; I have been dreaded it, first because of the divorce, and second because we have not had the closest relationship as of late. The book however, is one of the best presents I have ever received. I know my daughter well enough to know that she probably read every page before giving this to me, so I cannot tell you how pleased I was to receive it. Thanks for giving me hope that the relationship is on the mend.”

Nothing like reasoned validation to offset the few nasty-grams I get from the embittered. I’m going to have a great week; how about you?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Encore

I’ve posted this once before but it is one of those thoughts that deserve repeating from time to time:

My new marriage produced a blended family; Jill and I each brought a child from another marriage. We had our share of concerns about combining our families; after all, each child had already lived all their lives as an only child. Both girls had their own expectations, which they expressed without reservation, about what parent-child traditions would remain in place or be replaced, who would get the bigger bedroom or the final say in sibling disputes. Jill 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 and murky swamp.

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 Jill and I stood firm, united and expecting our children to work it out for the benefit of our newly blended family. We were determined not to be two families under one roof.

This family philosophy of mine required me to think carefully about how I was going to conduct myself as a step-father. I could have looked at that role two ways. One way is “She’s not my daughter, so I’ll do only what is essential for her.” That’s not going to happen; that’s not how I’m made. The other way is “She’s not of my blood, but she is the child of the woman I love, thus I love her as my own child.” That is the stance I chose.

Step-parent, like adoptive parent or foster parent, is a legal term that defines rights and privileges under the law, not terms and conditions of the heart. It does not limit the role and responsibility I have as an adult who has a young one living under my watchful eye. I care for, provide for, plan for and attend to the needs of both girls under our roof in equal measure. One will not be treated as a lesser than simply because I did not participate in giving life to her. I will not fail to do for her what she needs and what she might ask of me. There is no bloodline that divides my assets, nor my love.

This is what a blended family is all about - one family, one roof, one love that binds. With this position I am not advocating to negate the broken marriage or family that produced the child, but I am saying there is no good reason to diminish the step-family simply because it came later. Likewise, there is no reason to introduce the girls as “my child, her child” rather than “our children” unless I am either: 1) attempting to clarify under necessary conditions who is the legal guardian for which child, or 2) trying to keep an arm’s length distance between me and the child my wife gave birth to. I assure you all, the latter will never happen. That is why in our wedding vows we pledged to take each other’s child as our own.

To those who don’t get this, I’m sorry. Sorry not that my position might cause you angst, but sorry that your heart isn’t big enough and your mind not enlightened enough to understand that in this case the word “our” isn’t about possession or progeny, but is instead about a loving collective, a home, and a family. In our house we get it, and that’s all that matters to me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm cheesy?

Book Report

Here is an article about the books that appeared in my hometown newspaper recently:

Gregory E. Lang may be one of the cheeriest - or cheesiest - authors around. His books are, on first (and second) glance, easy-read, picture-packed inspirationals rife with chirpy one-liners. Lines like, "We are friends because ... you always have a hug waiting for me," or, "because ... we both like chocolate sauce on our pistachio ice cream."

And yet as the pages of heartfelt chestnuts pile up (usually one per page accompanied on the facing page by a photograph), Lang's books somehow become something deeper than that. They make a connection.

Think of them as another person's high-school yearbook, one with enough broadly appealing signings, greetings and well-wishings to earn it space on your bookshelf.

Combined, all 15 of Lang's aphorism-laden works have reached more than 2 million readers. His first book, "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad," which hit stores in 2002, and a few subsequent titles, including "Why a Daughter Needs a Mom" and "Why a Son Needs a Dad," have been New York Times best-sellers.

Lang, 46, grew up in Lizella, graduated from Mercer University and now lives north of Atlanta. He has a doctorate in child and family development, and for two decades he worked in the health-care industry, with stints in brain-injury rehabilitation and marriage and family therapy. So Lang's background is serious enough, even if what he does now as a full-time writer comes off a touch syrupy.

"It all depends on your perspective, because I will get e-mails that will say, 'You must be the greatest husband,' or, 'Your children must be extremely happy,' and things like that. Then occasionally I'll find a post on the Internet where somebody'll say, 'This is the sappiest book I've ever read,' " Lang says. "I really believe that it all has to do with your level of comfort in being transparent about how you feel."

His debut book, inspired by his love for his daughter after his first marriage ended in divorce, was about four years in the making. Publishers repeatedly rejected his idea, but when it finally caught on, book buyers took notice. Within months of its printing in 2002, "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad" was on the advice-book best-seller list.

So how does a father's outpouring translate to widespread appeal?

"The hard part is to figure out how to commercialize that without losing the heart that you put into it," Lang says. "In my case, I think I just tapped into something. Daughters are dad's princesses and daughters think of themselves as daddy's little girl, so there was a natural emotional reaction already out there for me to try to hang a book project on."

At first he figured he'd stop at one book, thinking, "I have one child, I wrote her a book. Now what do I do?" Then Lang thought, "Well, you know, I am a son, so let me kind of look over my shoulder and write it from that perspective." That led to "Why a Son Needs a Dad."

Subsequent books in the series - all but three of which feature photographs he has taken - were inspired by other relationships, those involving both loved ones and lovers.

"Other people, they're comfortable being stoic and they'd rather not say 'I love you' out loud and in public," Lang says. "They want to save it because they think doing so makes it special when they say it. I'm just the opposite. I think the more often I say it the more special it is."
He says his books are "more than cocktail talk."

They're pretty much common sense meets "I care about you ... and here's why." "I have a very deep satisfaction that it's good work," Lang says. "I'm not just hawking a picture-coffee-table book."

Lang says many books in the advice/self-help genre are a bit heavy to the average reader. "They're kind of like, 'You're a dummy, so let me give you some instructions on what you're supposed to do.' They're almost like owner's manuals on teaching men how to deal with their children," Lang says.

He thinks his books appeal to emotions. They focus on love, forgiveness, duty and faith. "They don't go down the psychology, self-help kind of format," Lang says. "They go more toward, 'How do I appeal to your sensibilities and motivate you to rise up to the responsibility that you've got?'"

And his readers respond. About a week ago, a reader e-mailed him about his book "Why a Son Needs a Mom."

"It was my favorite gift this year," the reader, a woman in Oklahoma, wrote. "I have two sons whom I adore. I found in your book encouragement, comfort and validation. ... Not only did this book validate my practices, it was a gentle reminder to do some of the things I have neglected." Lang says, "I get a lot of correspondence from people that say, 'That's my dad and I,' or, 'That's the way I feel about my wife.' ... I've had people say that they've put photographs of themselves inside one of the books and then placed it in a coffin with somebody."

Lang says he has learned a lot about himself as well, his philosophy, his concerns. "All of us out there have hearts and some of them might be a little more sheltered than others," he says, "but at the end of the day we wish to be connected to somebody in some way."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

AA Batteries

Crazy Train (of thought)

You cannot hide what you believe, or don’t believe. Your actions will always give away the secrets of your heart.

Guilt is concerned with the past. Worry is concerned about the future. Contentment enjoys the present.

Marital Bliss

My sweet wife thinks her dog needs a global tracking device. I offered to install one and reached for a pair of scissors, a couple of AA batteries and an old walkie-talkie. For some reason she didn’t find this gesture too funny. What I find funny is that she thinks I would actually go look for the dog if it were to become lost … or mysteriously misplaced.

Book Report

My new gig writing for the local (Gwinnett) section of the AJC is about to begin. I’m not quite sure what will happen with this blog since I don’t want to write two posts at the same time, but I do know the AJC won’t allow me to use certain words I favor or write satirical commentary, so maybe this blog will be the place for what would otherwise be disallowed commentary. Anyway, I had to write a bio, so here it is for your review:

Gregory E. Lang, husband and father, is third-generation Georgian who grew up in Macon but has made Gwinnett his home over the past 20 years. Answering to “Greg,” he lives in Duluth with his wife, two daughters and a dog that is the bane of his existence. A graduate from Mercer University and the University of Georgia where he obtained a Ph.D., he spent twenty-plus years in the healthcare industry before embarking on his second career as an author and photographer. His series of inspirational books about family relationships have sold over 2.5 million copies, several of which have appeared on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. His 17th title debuts this Spring.

Once a road warrior in the corporate world and now a guy who works over the garage and wears flip-flops nearly year round, he writes several hours a day about family, friendship and romantic love. “Somehow I manage to get a few words on paper in between getting the wife and girls off to school (his wife is a Gwinnett County teacher), grocery shopping and cooking meals, dropping off the dry cleaning, and of course, taking care of that gastro-intestinally challenged dust mop my wife calls ‘Princess.’ My life has changed so much in the last few years; if I were any more domestic I think I’d have PMS.”

His quest to become an author began in 1998 when he wrote a book for his daughter, who is now sixteen. Over the next four years the book was rejected sixty-two times before he found a publisher who also wanted to see it in print. That book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad: One Hundred Reasons, became a reality in 2002 and he has been writing every since. “I’ve seen much in my lifetime; those events are the fabric with which my stories about love, faith, forgiveness and duty are woven. Real life is such great material; I write about what I see, hear, and experience with my family, friends and neighbors. I hope the blog will be something others can relate to, whether they see themselves having the same joys and challenges with marriage, childrearing, and aging, or just share my distaste for scooping dog poop.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Angels Asleep on the Floor

Crazy Train (of thought)

There’s a big difference between giving advice and lending a hand.

The person who pays an ounce of principle for a pound of popularity gets badly cheated.

So I had lunch with my long-lost-but-found-again friend, Brandie. It was wonderful, stepping back in time to the 6th grade when we first met, recalling memories that were once thought lost forever, finding out that some things don’t change (thank goodness), finding out that you really can pick up where you left off, and discovering that true friendship can indeed be as unconditional as true love.

While doing some painting in Meagan’s room I discovered she has purchased a new photo frame to add to the growing collection on her dresser. The best part of the discovery was to find a photo of the two of us in that new frame.

Linley’s birthday party was a huge success, once you discount the sticky spilled cola, gritty potato chip crumbs, cake icing smears on the furniture, a horridly permeating burnt popcorn smell, balloons popping in the middle of the night, one stopped up toilet, girl shrieks that could break crystal, and finding half-eaten PB&J sandwiches, pop tarts and granola bars all over the house the next morning as I tip-toed on my way to get the paper through the maze of 18 little angels asleep on the floor.

Marital Bliss

Jill recently asked me how many pounds of gas her car would hold. Later that same evening she told me sex is God’s gift to us. She is the smartest woman I know.

Kid-bytes

I took Meagan and one of her girlfriends to Athens for a tour of UGA last week, including a look at the freshmen women’s dorm (No, Meagan, the coed dorm is out of the question). You should have seen their faces when they realized the closet was a reach-in, not a walk-in, and the bathrooms are shared, not private! And if that wasn’t enough to tell me they really do live a charmed life, you should have heard me laughing in the lobby when the girlfriend pointed to a posted list of restaurants that deliver and exclaimed, “Cool, room service!”

Book Report

istock.com has selected me as the “Artist of the Week” and put this comment about my photography on their homepage – “Wicked multiplicity could sum up Greg's work but it's much more than that - delectable, however, is pretty accurate.” Now that was a flattering and welcomed surprise to find in the early AM as I sat down to work! Thanks istock guys!

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Good Man

Crazy Train (of thought)

A great quote I read recently: “Much of the struggle in life comes not from actual circumstances we encounter, but from our overactive imaginations. I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.”

It’s hard to pick yourself up off the floor if you don’t have the desire to stand tall.

Book Report

This is an excerpt from the new Dad book scheduled for release this Spring:

“Now well into my midlife I am evermore thankful for my dad, especially when as a parent myself, I think about what is required of a father to set into place the building blocks that will support and nurture a family for a lifetime. It is with this book I hope I begin to take account of and adequately thank my father for doing all he could to make sure I had the opportunities I wanted, as well as those he hoped for me and my siblings. He labored hard to create those opportunities and provide for his family, sometimes even holding two jobs to make it all happen. At one time I thought he worked too much; now I realize he worked as much as he could so that we would never do without.

My dad complimented me one day for making time for my family, for making sure my work did not take over my life and cause me to be an absent dad. He then told me he could recall only one weekend in his childhood that his father spent in recreation with him. That was the moment I regretted I ever thought he wasn’t around as much as I wished he had been. That was the moment when I finally saw how much time he had given his children in spite of the long hours he spent doing what was necessary to support his family.”

My Dad is a good man.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Trust

Crazy Train (of thought)

The discipline of desire is the background of character.

You can’t fill an empty bucket from a dry well.

Ugh, it’s tax day; I’ve got to put a chuck of cash in the mail to meet the quarterly filing deadline. Let there be more fiscal conservatives in government – PLEASE!

Who said it is winter? We sat on the front porch in shorts and chatted and supped with the neighbors several times in the last week, and this past Saturday I drove around all day with the top down.

My hometown paper ran an article and a few pictures about me and my books this last Sunday. I called my mom and asked her how it looked. She said I was showing my age. Ouch!

Marital Bliss

An essential ingredient to making a successful marriage is trust. Whether you give trust freely or wait for one to prove they are worthy, we all want to trust the person we love. In turn, to be trusted is to have a responsibility, that is, to remain trustworthy. Once one finds he or she is trusted, the next step is not to get a pass to go hog wild and betray what has been instilled in you. It is a cycle – one trusts, another is trusted who then strives to be more trustworthy, and the first then trusts even more. Jill and I have figured this out. Have you?

Book Report

Brandie Leaptrot-Haywood is back in my life. My best, dear friend from the sixth grade into my mid-twenties got in touch with me the other day. Now we are planning a lunch or better, having her come here for dinner to my family. When I wrote the Friends book I mentioned the experience of having people in your life who you can never forget …

“Some friends are the kind of people you are happy to spend time with, with whom you exchange pleasantries and share stories and events of your life, but who have a place in your life only along a particular period in time. This period may be long or short, marked by fun and laughter or a common pain and struggle, yet it proved to be the bond on which a friendship grew. These times are important to you, memorable for the special circumstances that emerged and made that person a friend to you. Even though your lives may have taken different paths, this person, this friend, remains a lasting memory in your heart and mind.”

I wrote that with Brandie I mind. And now, a gift has come to me. I get to have my friend with me for a second period of time. I’ve seized this opportunity (with Jill’s blessing), this chance to change my friend from a long-lasting fond memory to a new experience that will dwell in a place of honor in my memories of my adult life.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Potpourri

Crazy Train (of thought)

Devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing.

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention!

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Attitude, not circumstances, makes the real difference in life.

The most disappointed people in the world are those who get what is coming to them.

A skeptic is a person who, when he sees the handwriting on the wall, claims it is a forgery.

Swallowing angry words before you say them is better than having to eat them afterwards.

A diamond is a chunk of coal that responded well under pressure.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I are coming up on the 3rd anniversary of our first date. We’re celebrating with an evening out this weekend at one of my favorite restaurants, and are spending all weekend together having fun. Of course everyone understands celebrating a wedding anniversary, but most look at me a bit bewildered when I say we are celebrating the “date-iversary.” Why not, I ask. That date was the event that changed my life.

Kid-bytes

Linley’s 13th birthday party is on the horizon. We let the kids throw big parties. That usually means there will be 20+ in the house for cake, making all kinds of noise until 11PM, and then hopefully as few as 3 but more likely as many as 12 will spend the night. These are the times I realize how badly we need a basement, for now I have to tip-toe over and around all those teenage bodies sprawled out on the floor to get to the coffee maker in the morning and then let the dog out for a morning potty. To Princess these events are like heaven delivered to her doorstep – a butt-sniffer’s potpourri.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Excerpt:

I think the new Thank You, Mom book is about to go to press. I thought I'd give you a sample today to tempt you to buy it (hey, it's how I feed my kids!) when it hits the shelves in March. I hope you enjoy...

"There are, I think, a few universal hallmarks of a good parent: unconditional love, unfailing support, endless affection and concern. These are the hallmarks of my mother. These are the characteristics that distinguish her in my heart and mind. These are the reason why I love her so much.

Although now older and less spry, her eyes and smile still offer reassurance and evidence of pride whenever she looks at me, as does the gentle touch she gives while listening intently to whatever it is I want to get off my chest. Her laughter still warms; so does her heartfelt embrace or “How are you?” that welcomes me each time we meet or talk on the phone. She would still drop everything to come to my aid were it needed, or cook a meal for me if I were to ask for it.

Even though I now say the things my mother has done for me are countless and I attempt with this book to express my gratitude for them all and give her this praise, the truth is I rarely showed appreciation for what she did for me when I was young. I simply did not say “thank you” when I should have. Maybe I was na├»ve, oblivious to the tasks and challenges of parenting, or just thought I was entitled to good treatment, but no matter what the excuse or belated confession, the fact remains my mother did what she did with little reward at the time. Albeit late and thankfully before I have regrets I never told her, the time for her reward has come."

Scroll down to see a few photos from this book and it's companion, Thank You, Dad (available in April).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pause and reflect...

Who knows why she did it, all that matters is that she did. As I was working at my desk the other day I heard a noise downstairs; it was Meagan coming home from school. Moments later there was a tug at the back of my chair. I looked over my shoulder and there she was smiling at me. She turned my chair around and sat on my lap, resting her head on my shoulder, her face buried in the crook of my neck – just like she did in the old days, when she was just a little darling in pigtails wanting all the affection I could muster. As I pulled her closer to my chest I remembered a sad day in my life when she had told me she was then too grown to continue this daddy-daughter ritual. It was then, that moment in my chair, interrupted from my work but richly rewarded with love, that I realized one of the mercies of God is that sometimes things which once went away, come back again.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Off to the races!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Short and sweet today - lots of phone interviews -

Complaining not only makes your feel negative, but it spreads your negativity to others. Even an unpleasant or disappointing situation can become positive when you have a good attitude and speak uplifting words.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Jill, Meagan and I were wat5ching the news when they did a segment on eye surgery. Meagan grossed out and started talking about the kind of medical conditions or procedures that make her nauseous. She asked Jill which, if any, disturbed her. My wife’s answer? “Beheadings.” I’ll say.

A wise man once told me that because we live longer, it takes longer to grow up.

Speaking of the elderly, here’s a tip. It’s probably best not to discuss your discharge in the waiting room if you can’t tell that you’re yelling when you’re talking.

I guess the notoriety I give Laura and Allison isn’t enough; they had me walk down to their house to retrieve a Christmas gift. It was only after I arrived that I realized it was a purse for Princess. Oh, the shame, me carrying a furry pink purse embroidered “Princess” down the street in broad daylight.

Book Report

Hooray! I’ve heard the proof for the newest book, “Thank You, Mom: 100 Reasons Why I am Grateful for You,” will arrive on my doorstep tomorrow. I can’t wait to see it. Then perhaps six weeks later, the actual printed book will arrive, and shortly thereafter, appear in stores. Way cool! Abundant thanks to you all who have supported me over the last five years since my first book was released!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Ever experienced inadvertent consequences, like making your child carry her own luggage upstairs, only to later find scuff marks and dings on the walls all the way up the staircase?

I had a great Christmas but am glad it is over for many reasons, not the least of which is the Asian guy is no longer at the front door of Target singing “Fa-ra-rarara-ra-ra-ra-ra!” at the top of his lungs.

Why do the cashiers insist on putting Kroger stickers on large items in my cart when there are no sticker police at the door to make sure I’m not stealing anything?

You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.

Jill and I got up to go to the bathroom at the same time while on an international flight recently. When I got to the toilet I looked over my shoulder and my wife was no where to be seen. I went back to our section of the plane and found her, sprawled out in the aisle, her foot caught in the earphone wire that I had hung on my armrest. For some reason I got into trouble for this.

After untangling herself and visiting the loo, Jill commenced to reading a British tabloid. After some time she looked at me and confessed to reading the paper with a British accent.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I spent our third honeymoon in London during the week between Christmas and New Years Day. We walked 8-10 miles a day, ate a different cuisine at each lunch and dinner meal, saw as many sights as we could pack into a day, shopped for our daughters, found my books in a bookstore, took hundreds of photos for my portfolio, had foamy warm beer in a back alley pub, learned some British slang, meet quite a few interesting people, laughed too loudly at hilarious British sit-coms, enjoyed wine in our room each night before falling asleep, and only argued once (whether to get breakfast at Starbucks (again) or a quant little French patisserie). We had a great time; we were reminded of why we enjoy each other so much, why we are married, why we are inseparable. I love my wife.

Kid-bytes

While we were away Meagan stayed at the house alone, her first time doing so, her first time having to take care of everything for her herself by herself. She made a few mistakes, like oversleeping and getting to work late, but all in all she managed quite well. My little girl is growing up; hard to believe, sometimes hard to accept. I guess all dads nearly always see their daughters as little darlings in pigtails.

Book Report

One of the joys of Christmas for me is the email I receive from those who received one of my books as a present, like these:

“One of the gifts I got for Christmas was the book Why a Daughter Needs a Dad. I started reading it and became a babbling brook of tears as I thought of my beautiful little girl.”

…and…

“Thank you so much for putting into words that what I have had in my heart all of my life and had never been able to articulate. My daughter, now 43 and a wonderful woman, gave it to me this Christmas and I will treasure it forever. She not only gave me your writings, she notated many of the experiences with those of our own while she was growing up. I guess it is the true expression of our success as a dad when your children are able to thank you for the life you gave them.”