Friday, September 28, 2007

Meek are the Children



THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: It is good to remember that the tea kettle, although up to its neck in hot water, continues to sing.

Yesterday was my lovely Jill’s B-Day; she is now twenty-one-twenty.

No word from the Editor on Daddy’s Little Girl as of yet.

Another story (unedited):

“From the first memories I can remember, my dad was always there. My dad worked hard and made a good living so my mom could stay home with us kids, but my dad was always around as well. Dad was at all of the baseball and softball games, PTA Meetings, Parent/Teacher Conferences, Special events at school, etc. I can’t remember much my father didn’t do with us. From teaching us how to do things to doing them with us, he was by our side. Dad set an example of work ethic for us that said work is important and do your best, but never leave out family time as this is the most important thing in life. I remember well calling my father in his office at work while needing help with a math problem while in high school and my dad helping me over the phone to do my homework so that I could complete it and not have it hanging over my head later in the evening. Not all can do this as my dad could, but you can certainly find ways to let your children know that they matter and that what they have to say and need is important to you. Dad was what I liked to call my number one cheerleader. When I said I can’t, dad would say Can’t never could and then encourage me and help me figure out how I could do it. He raised me to be very independent and be able to take care of things so as to not be dependant on anyone for doing everything for me, but all the while teaching me how to do whatever the task at hand was.

When I was 10, my father fell and broke his leg in 4 places. He had a cast on from Toe to upper thigh. He was bed ridden for approximately 10 weeks. This just happened to happen around the start of summer. It was awesome for me, because my dad was home most of the summer. I spent more time in my parents’ bed that summer than I don’t know where else. My dad and I watched TV together, we played scrabble, and we just talked. It was a 10 year olds dream come true to have dad at home all summer since he usually was at work during the day. I am sure I wished he were gone a few times and we didn’t get to take a family vacation we had been planning before that, but it was still one of the best summers I can remember.”

Jeanine liked yesterday’s photo so much I decided to post another one. This one is called “Meek are the Children.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Each came as his name was called.


Another recent story (unedited):

“My dad was (& is) such a wonderful father in so many ways that its hard to narrow down a favorite memory. I would have to say that one of the things I enjoyed most was our “Father/Daughter dates” that my dad initiated when I first started high school. I was going through a slightly rebellious time in life (as most teenage girls seem to do) and my parents were always supportive and loving despite my behavior. My dad was determined to stay on top of how I was doing (as well as continuously show his love) so in addition to other things, he started our lunch dates. He would pick me up from school during my lunch hour and take me to a restaurant of my choice and basically allow us to have some one on one father daughter time. We would use those times to catch up on the latest and just enjoy each others company. We had those dates several times a month over the course of my high school years and with the help of my dad’s devotion, I managed to stay on the straight & narrow & pull out of the rebellious stage that could have led me down a different path in life. I will always cherish those “dates” and appreciate my dad for being such an important part of my life.

On a different note, I am now the proud mother of a little girl (with another on the way) and its so great to watch my husband show the type of love & attention to our daughter that I received growing up. It’s a nice & refreshing feeling to know that my daughters will be able to look back on their own father/daughter times and have many happy memories like I do. My husband is serving in the Army and is getting ready for his second deployment to Iraq, which will cause him to miss the birth of our 2nd daughter as well as so many precious moments with our girls. However I must say that I have watched him show so much love and dedication to our daughter in the few months he’s actually been able to spend with her and I know that when he’s able to be a constant part of their lives, he’s going to be just as good a dad to them as my father was (& is) to me!!”

And now in response to Richard:

I’ve always been artistically preoccupied, dating back to elementary school. I majored in Art and Biology while an undergrad, hoping to become a medical illustrator, but eventually chose a different career path. I worked my way through college as a jewelry designer and have nearly always carried a camera with me, taking photos everywhere I go. Writing came much later; I didn’t write until 1998. Now that I am a full-time author, I have time to return to my artistic roots; these photos are just an exploration, my attempt to find my vision if you will. I’ll continue to write but will also pursue photography to see where that will take me.

Today’s photo is an example of what is in my portfolio, a body of work I am submitting to a show about southern photography. This pic comes from a series that are sort of Flannery O’Conner inspired, just good country people fearing God. I call it, “Each came as his name was called.” This photo is a combination of vintage photos I’ve digitized, and photos I’ve taken with both film and digital cameras. Enjoy.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One More Chance

This just in from Renee:

“My relationship with my dad was a special one; he was one of my best friends, along with my mom. Growing up he taught me many thing, but most of all the love he had for people. He gave up his bed so he could help other get back on their feet.

One of my special memories of my dad is when I got hurt playing baseball with my brothers.

We were in our back yard, playing baseball with a basketball. My older brother throws the ball to me and I went to hit the ball and the bat fell back and hit me on the side of the head. I went inside and told my dad I was bleeding. I could see the color in his face turn white; he grabbed a towel and put me in the car. I remember the ride like it was yesterday, he was running ever red light, running over curbs, and going way over the speed limit. While he kept telling me I was going to be ok, patting my leg. I noticed we were not going to the hospital, but going to my mom work. He had to ask her if I needed to go to the doctor. She told him yes. He took me to the doctor, and while they sewed me up, he held my hand the whole time. I found out later, that my dad had a week stomach and got sick very easy.

I realized that day, no matter what I could count on my dad to be there for me.

I had a lot of good memories of my dad; my dad was taken away from me in ‘99 of a sudden heart attack. Even though I did tell him I loved him the night before he passed away, I wish I could have one more chance to make sure he know how much he means to me and my family. He didn’t get a chance to see my kids, but every day I can see him in their eyes.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Friendship

This story was sent to me by Ali, from Canada, I think:

“According to my dad, the greatest life lesson is friendship. Not truth or honesty or the golden rule or anything else that the majority of people think is the most sacred, but friendship. That’s not to say those others aren’t extremely important as well, but a great friendship is actually built on those lessons.

As far back as I can remember my Dad has reiterated to me the importance of friendship. The first time I can actually remember him seriously talking to me about it I was about 8 years old. He described to me how it’s important to have friends, because those relationships are gifts, and a good friend will always be there for you. Young as I was, he described it to me in such a way that I knew that it was a big deal.

He told me that friends are one of life’s greatest gifts, and that they should always be treated as you yourself would like to be treated. He said that there are people in life that you have to be willing to go out of your way for, and that those people will be there for you should you need them, just as you must be there for them. At the end of that first conversation, I remember him talking about Monica, my best friend. “Monica is one of the good ones babe, friends like that don’t come along very often,” and I knew, then and there, that he was right.

My dad has a hard time putting into words what it means for him to have the friendships that he does. In fact, when we were talking about this whole thing, he was choked up and unable to look me in the eye or find the right words to explain it. But the lesson of friendship has been proven to me time and again, through events that have taken place in both of our lives.

When his mother was losing her battle with cancer, his best friend showed up at the hospital without being asked, and was actually in the room with my parents when my grandma took her last breath. Many others would have shied away from a situation like that, but my dad’s friend knew that he needed him, so was there no questions asked.

More recently in my life, it has come to light that I may not be able to carry a child. After some thought, my best friend has offered to carry a baby for me, should it be decided upon that my body just can’t do it. For me, there is no greater gift; it’s like her offering part of her life for me.

But the reverse is also true, if she were to call me tomorrow, and for whatever reason needed me, I would be on a plane in a heartbeat, because when she needs me, I go, just as my dad would for any one of his friends.

The older I get, the more I understand why my dad feels so strongly about his friendships, and chose to instill that same importance in me. Your family should always be there, but your friendships have chosen you. For whatever reason, you were brought together with someone, it’s inexplicable, but it should be treasured. As much as I wish that my dad could be with me throughout my entire life, I know that when he is gone, my best friend will be here beside me, like he always said she would be.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Happy Monday

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The bridge you burn now may be the one you later have to cross.

I received this e-mail yesterday. It isn’t here to plug my book, but to illustrate how powerful a dad-daughter relationship can be:

“I was in the store today when your book caught my eye; the title alone prompted me to put it in the cart without even glancing inside.


When I got home I read the back, the introduction, and then every word. With tears streaming down my face I reached the page with your contact information and had to send you a note to thank you. Thank you for putting into words every reason why I need, and love, my dad. When you wrote that the 'relationship between father and daughter almost defies description' you couldn't be closer to the truth. But you have captured the very essence of my own relationship with my father and I know when he reads this he too, will have tears in his eyes.


The 'odd' thing is that I am adopted; I know my birth family but that doesn't take away from the fact that my adopted mom and dad are, and always will be, my mom and dad. In fact, when my birth sister contacted me and I began to know my birth family, it only drew my parents and me closer; a feat I didn't think possible. So you see, Mr. Lang, your words have an even stronger meaning to my dad and I. We've always been close but as the years go by, and we both get older, we both openly express how we feel and the love, respect and admiration I feel for him is overwhelming at times.”

…and there is this story…

“Growing up was would I say a mixed up experience for me, I was an asthmatic patient the only one out of 7 of my sisters. And my mum never ever seemed to be around, she liked to believe she lived with us but she was always 6 hours away, coming home only for Christmas or something.

My dad was always there, he was my hero, my mother, father, friend, nanny, brother just everything and he still is. He always told me how beautiful I was and intelligent, I always felt perfect. My experiences are just too many but I’ll settle for this one.

I must say I was kind of a stubborn child and wanted to have and actually had things my way 99% of the time. Once I was going back to boarding school, my dad gave me what I considered a ridiculous amount of money, I just couldn’t take it, it was too small for me and my taste. So I was trying to object, he threw it at me, I felt my dad had done the worse thing ever, so I left the money on the ground of his room and went straight to my friend’s house who’s driver dropped us in school, our school was 3 hours away. Next morning at 8am my dad was in my school very worried and of course with the exact amount of money I had demanded! Note I said demanded because now I know how unreasonable and selfish I was.

Looking back now I realise how selfless my dad was, he loved us all unconditionally, it wasn’t the money. It was the fact that he felt he had hurt me. He put everything on hold, woke up real early to be at my school. Living in a country where female children were not to be “invested in”, he still single handily raised me and my 7 sisters, we lacked nothing. He never got himself anything new nor cared, he just lived for us all and our happiness. Even when we started to get our first pay cheques, he insisted we use the money wisely, he didn’t want any of it, and we should get all the things he couldn’t get for us.

I love my dad very much, He’s a lawyer and so am I, am married now and all grown up but I secretly believe that no man can measure up to him. He was and still is my hero.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, September 21, 2007

When is a daisy just a daisy?


I'm in the photo studio all day; no writing. Here are two samples of my work, the red daisies are just for fun, the yellow daisy is my new interest in digital art. I plan to do a series of work that are derivitive of early modern art pieces. This one was inspired by Magritte. I call it "High Above the Wading Pool."
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Tribute

Today’s photo is of my wife, Jill, and her dad, Johnny, taken on our front porch (we treat it like an outdoor living room). They are laughing because Jill had just caught her dad looking over at her cards.

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers

This story is from Ginny:

“DeVere Lathers was my dad. He was a man of relatively few words; his were kind, sometimes witty, firm yet gentle. They were always memorable, words that communicated love and reminded me again and again how much he valued me.

As a child, I loved to sit close to him in church on Sunday mornings. His arm would be stretched out behind me on the back of the pew. If I got fidgety, he would gently tap my shoulder, look down at me, and nod once reminding me to be still. I would be still. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

While in college, I worked during the summers, but my dad did not want me to work during the school year. He worked 12 hour days, running his small grocery store, and I know paying tuition was a sacrifice, but he said, “Sis, you’ve got your whole life to work, you need to pay attention to your studies now”. I studied hard. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

With my wedding scheduled exactly one month after my college graduation, I was so touched to find a check from him in my parents’ graduation card. I told him he shouldn’t have done that, with the expense of the wedding, and I’ll never forget his words, ‘If I can’t do it for you, Sis, who can I do it for?’ I was overwhelmed. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

On my wedding day, I stood with my dad, my arm in his, waiting to begin our walk down the aisle. He leaned toward me, and said, ‘Sis, try to take long strides so I don’t lose my balance.’ He was nervous and so was I! We smiled. We were there for each other. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

I love to garden and one of my greatest joys was showing him my latest garden projects. Dad would look proud, smile, and say, ‘my land, Sis, I don’t know how you do it,’ I told him I loved to play in the dirt. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

A couple of years ago cancer appeared and surgery followed. As he lay in his hospital bed, in pain and groggy from anesthesia, Dad opened his eyes, smiled faintly and said to me, ‘I love you more than you know.’ My heart ached. I felt loved, valued, treasured.

We said our final good-bye six weeks later. I will always feel loved, valued, treasured.”

Isn’t that what all dads should leave their daughters with, the feeling of being loved that goes beyond his physical presence? I hope I accomplish that.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Tribute

This is the Sheppards, former neighbors who have, unfortunately, moved away. This photo was taken for Daddy's Little Girl. Look closely and notice what Kayla and Alanna are doing with their fingers.


In honor of my Uncle Mike, who recently suffered a stroke and is undergoing rehabilitation, I am posting the introduction to my recently released book, Why I Still Love You. He was the inspiration for this story:

A little more than a year ago my wife, Jill, and I sat back with members of my family in a crowded room and watched a man and a woman dance. He, agile and with deft feet, did most of the dancing. She, weakened by a long-term illness, smiled as he swirled around her. He held her hand to keep her steady and looked at her with love in his eyes, yet watching her closely for signs of fatigue. They were my aunt and uncle; it was their 50th wedding anniversary.


Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary Jean met in church at a youth fellowship event. They were each other’s first date; they had been each other’s only companion since that evening so long ago. Theirs was the longest romantic history of any couple I’ve ever known, except for my parents, who met over fifty-eight years ago.

As Jill and I watched my aunt and uncle dance, we were touched by the evidence of their enduring love, and yet somewhat saddened by a realization. We have been married only a few years; our union, a subsequent marriage for each of us, occurred when we were well into our midlife. We wish we had met sooner, fearing as we do that though we plan to spend the rest of our lives together, that time will be, indeed, too short. We will never see a 50th anniversary.


I tried to reassure my wife that evening by promising her I would make sure we packed as many wonderful experiences and romantic memories as we could into the time we would be given. I was confident in my promise because I have had good teachers to show me how to care for and nurture a lasting marriage.

In addition to my aunt and uncle and my parents, I have many other relatives who have also enjoyed long-lasting marriages. It is from my older relatives that I have learned spouses should always let their partner know he/she is irresistible, to never stop courting and flirting with one another, to reciprocate every gesture of affection and act of kindness shown to you, and always attempt to steal a kiss when it is least expected, no matter who may be watching. It was when watching my older married relatives interact that I have tried to discover the secrets of having a lasting marriage.

I think everyone has an older-generation couple in their family they look to as role models. We think of these people as role models because we see what we think are prefect or near-perfect marriages. We do not really know what their troubles might have been during their many years together, but we know that no matter what they were, the relationship endured the challenges they faced; the couple survived intact. Somehow they figured out what to do to overcome differences and stay focused on the love shared rather than the frustration or hurt that might have occurred. I wanted to know how to do that, too.

Perhaps, I think, one of the secrets of a lasting marriage is to understand that no matter how much you might love someone, your relationship will not be perfect. It will be tested, sometimes more than once. Love involves risk, hard work and compromises, even sometimes tears, but with the understanding that such difficulties will arise, they can be offset by the goodwill and good memories that have been intentionally created in advance.

An additional secret, and one which I hope will become common wisdom, is to also understand that to conquer the test is to reach a deeper, more enduring connection that helps the relationship to survive, if not thrive. More love is the reward for remaining persistent and diligent in protecting and preserving the relationship.

Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary Jean’s relationship thrived. I do not know of what difficulties they faced, but I am certain whatever they might have been, none were so great that any were remembered on the dance floor during that evening of celebration of their marriage. Nor were they a year later during one winter night when my aunt died at home.

That night her oldest son, another cousin and I, the first three grandchildren of our clan, stood at the foot of their bed and watched as my uncle held the body of his wife of fifty-one years. He stroked her hair, sang love songs to her, proclaimed her to be his best friend, and said to us, “I’m so glad she can finally rest.”

In the thirty minutes my cousins and I stood there bearing witness to this remarkable display of unselfish love, I learned what I now think is the real secret of lasting marriage. My uncle’s thoughts were not of the pain of his great loss, but of the absence of her pain, that which had gripped her for so long. In his heart, in his life, she came first.

And so it is. The secret to having a lasting marriage is that in all matters of life, the spouse comes first. It is the best, indeed the only, evidence which demonstrates, “You are more important to me than I am.” That is unselfish love. When both spouses abide by this moral, there is no fracture that could threaten the marriage, no obstacle that cannot be overcome, no limit to the love that can enjoyed.

I left the house that early morning carrying with me a new perspective on committing yourself to someone in marriage. When I next laid eyes on Jill, I saw her differently. I held her differently. I loved her differently – I loved her more, and I pledged then not to waste an opportunity to tell and show her, “I love you more than myself.”

I first set out to write this book to celebrate long-term, committed, romantic relationships, to create a gift for a couple who wanted to tell each other “I’m still so in love with you; I would marry you again tomorrow!” For them, I hope these pages resonate familiar and are shared together with a laugh and a smile.

I also wrote this book for couples who will weather storms, be it because of specific events or the personal and relationship changes that might occur during a lifetime. For them, I hope this book might be the perfect gift for one to communicate to the other that they want the relationship to endure. May these words and photos inspire them to embrace their romantic history and recommit to one another with hope and optimism.

Finally, I sat down to finish this book soon after having the privilege to witness the passing of my aunt. I conclude it now with a renewed promise to my wife: Jill, you come first in my life and in my heart. To give evidence of that promise, I will make sure that in the last day we spend together, you will know not only why I loved you in the beginning, but why I continued to love you till then.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Driving Lessons

When I took this photo Sunday I was reminded of the introduction of my book, "Life Maps." Here's an excerpt:

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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Loose Analogy


At one time I was in the healthcare business. Specifically, I worked in mental health and brain injury rehabilitation for most of that 22 year career. Behavior Modification Therapy was a frequently used intervention in both fields, so sometimes the terminology of that methodology leaks into my vocabulary.

For instance, the book Daddy’s Little Girl has been completed and submitted to my Editor, thus I am in a phase known as the Post-Reinforcement Pause. The goal has been achieved, and pleased with myself for having done it, I’m relaxing. It’s quite like having a cigarette after sex.

For the record, I don’t smoke, but I thought you might get the picture quicker this way than after laboring through a paragraph of psychobabble.

So I’m taking it easy as I wait for my Editor to review the book and give her feedback. While I wait, I daydream of finally cracking into the Top 5 on the New York Times’ Best-seller List. I’m tracked in the Hardcover Advice category, which only lists the top five books. I’ve never risen above the #6 spot, so when I mention I’m a NYT best-seller, most people say, “Nu-uh.”

I’m telling you, by the time you explain the Top 5 thing and move on to explaining how to click the link that says “Complete List,” folks have moved down the buffet line toward the Swedish Meatballs.

I also daydream of being interviewed on Fox and Friends by Alisyn Camerota, Rebecca Gomez or Jane Skinner. At present I’m practicing my “maintain eye contact” technique as I fear my wife seeing me admiring their legs and other noteworthy attributes a bit too much on national TV.

And of course the girls are already hitting me up for an increase in their allowance and Jill wants to buy more clothes for her smelly dog. It seems she thinks Oprah will want Princess in the audience during my onstage appearance.

And then I wonder, what if I don’t get into the Top 5, or Fox or Oprah?

It’s about that time when I slip into a mood one might call “fraught with anxiety,” but which is more commonly called “flippin’ out” where I come from.


Let’s go back to the guy with the cigarette. For a moment he’s thinking, “I’m a stud!” But then he questions himself, “Did I do OK?” and before he gets an answer, he bolts from the bed and jumps out a window.

What if my Editor hates it? Are my pronouns and gerunds used correctly? Did I say “really” and “nevertheless” too often? Did I interchange “as” and “while” when I should have? How many of those damn infinitives did I split!? Oh, woe is I!

Worse, what if she just doesn’t like the stories, the details of your lives that you entrusted with me? What if I let YOU down?

So now ends the pleasure and relaxation of the Post-Reinforcement Pause. I’ve swung fully into Acute Anticipation Anxiety, Severe. I won’t sleep until I hear, “You did great.” Until then, should it come, I can only wait and bite my nails.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Daddy-Daughter Dates

Meagan and I went to dinner one evening not long ago on a daddy-daughter date. Our conversation went something like this:

“Good, that hot waiter is here.”
“Is that why you picked this restaurant?”
“Do you think he notices me?”
“How can he not, you’re prancing around for him.”
“I’m going to tell him I want to have his children.”
“Tell him before we order, maybe we’ll get extra calamari.”
“How much are you going to spend on my birthday?”
“I don’t have to think about that for another two months.”
“Well I do, I need to pick stuff out.”
“You don’t think I can pick out something?”
“You have no fashion sense. By the way, what are you wearing to the parents’ reception at school tomorrow?”
“I thought I would just stay in my pajamas.”
“Freak.”
“Just write your phone number on the table. If he’s interested, he‘ll call.”
“I just farted. Do you think he heard me?”

Oh my, how conversation has changed over the years. I can remember when these dates almost always involved a kids’ meal and climbing through tubes suspended from the ceiling or swooshing down sliding boards. As she grew up our dates became visits to one of those ceramic shops where you paint plain pottery and then come back later to pick up your pink and yellow coffee mug covered with sea gulls and smiley faces that is supposed to sit prominently on your office desk.

As she grew older still, we finally began going to movies I could actually enjoy, and after that we turned to racing go-carts, bowling and putt-putt. I loved those dates. My friends often praised me for setting aside an evening each week to spend with my daughter, as if it were some sacrifice on my part that I needed reinforcement for in order to continue doing it. That was hardly the case, for me and other dads I’ve come to know.

One dad has three daughters attending the same school as Meagan. He has a date night with each daughter in her own turn, making sure she gets to do with him what will entertain her the most. With the oldest they catch a movie and then grab a Starbucks coffee afterward. With his middle child he goes camping when he can. When he can’t, they take a hike through some nearby woods and talk about the things going on in her life. With his youngest, he goes fishing and uses catching fish as an exercise in learning to be patient.

I also know of a dad Joel who once while walking with his daughter through a department store found himself standing in the ladies hat section. He grabbed a hat and put it on his head. His daughter Jennifer started to giggle, which only urged him on. “Put on another one daddy," she pleaded, so he did, and then another and another. When he eventually realized they were being watched by a disapproving clerk, he returned the hats to their places and then escorted his daughter to lunch.

Daddy-daughters dates: time well spent, time to be remembered for years to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Done!!!

Whew! I had just finished another proof read when I heard from my Editor; she needed the manuscript as soon as I could get it in in order to make the deadline for a new launch date. The book, Daddy's Little Girl, is now coming out in February instead of April. Good news for me except that it narrows the window for making changes in the event she wants a rewrite of any kind. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

Here's the details of the final draft:

43,387 words
252 double spaced pages
87 stories
87 proverbs
56 photographs
23 touching quotes taken from your correspondence with me

I've seen a mock-up of the book and it looks great! I haven't seen the cover design yet, but I'm hopeful one of my photos will be used for that purpose.

I want to thank all the fathers and daughters who told me heartwarming, poignant and sometimes difficulty stories about their daddy-daughter relationship. Without their willingness to share the details of their lives, this book could not have been written. Every story told to me did not make it into the final draft, but every story helped me tremendously in each word I wrote. Furthermore, my life is richer now because of the relationships I’ve made with those who so generously and patiently dealt with me probing into their lives. I hope to take you all up on your offers to stop by for dinner. And if you are ever in Duluth, please have a seat on the porch with me. I’m sure there is plenty we could talk about.

I also want to thank my family, friends and neighbors who stayed patient with me as I posed, reposed, and posed them again in a vain effort to capture the perfect photographs to illustrate this book. Thank you all for being the faces to accompany my words.

Somebody please call Oprah!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Closing In

HarperOne asked me to write a paragraph explaining why I wrote Daddy's Little Girl, and to answer a few trivia questions, all to help their marketing and sales people understand who I am. This is what I wrote:

"My reasons for writing Daddy’s Little Girl are twofold. Firstly, my daughter Meagan is now a high school senior preparing to enter college. Nearly every day we are reminded that in just over a year she will not only leave home, but our community as well. For her, this book is a reflection on the times we’ve spent together since I wrote Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, and a reminder that though she may leave the nest, she can never leave my heart. Secondly, my step-daughter, Linley, has now lived nearly three years with me and is embracing a new kind of daddy-daughter relationship, one that can be had with a step-dad. For her, this book is a promise that she can have as much of me as she wants; in these stories I hope she sees just how much that can be. "

1. Name the two people—living or dead—you would most like to invite to dinner at your house. What would you discuss?

Benjamin Franklin and Pablo Picasso. They both changed the way people look at the world. I’d like to know what was on their minds when they began to realize the impact and reach of their labors.

2. Of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth) which one is the hardest for you to resist?

Gluttony – I’m a fool for foie gras, traditional Japanese sushi, Shiraz, and my wife.

3. If you could live in another time and place, where and when would that be?

In Independence Hall, in Philadelphia in 1776. What it must have been like to change the world with the simple signing of your name.

4. Who is your oldest friend?

If you mean oldest in duration, then my cousin, Jeff, who is ten days older than me. We began life living next door to one another. If “oldest” is as in old fart, then my dad, who is 70. We share the same birthday.

5. What are you reading right now?

Nine Questions. Oh, I meant 101 Best Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad.

6. What is your favorite book of all time?

I don’t have a favorite book. I love the Allman Brothers, though.

7. What do you consider to be your first piece of writing?

My dissertation, wherein I concluded women are more powerful in relationships than men. Just the other night while watching Dr. Phil (my wife’s decision) Jill said:
“You’re the head of our household.”
“I don’t rule over you,” I responded.
“Exactly,” she said, “that’s why I let you be in charge.”
See what I mean?

8. What were some of the challenges or surprises in writing this book?

It is the first book where I’ve worked with other people’s material rather than write my own, which in the past has been largely autobiographical content.

9. What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

It gives me the opportunity to be at home with the girls after school and all summer. Of course sometimes that’s a pain in the butt, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

3.5 days to go

The reading went well over the weekend; discovered some errors that I'm working to correct now. The draft I'm submitting on Friday will be around 43,000 words with 55 photos. Sorry about no post yesterday; had a tire explosion that wreaked havoc on the day and left me with no time to write. That also explains the brevity and delay today.

What to do with this blog when the book is finished? If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

8 days and counting down...

Today’s photo is one of Meagan and me taken for the book. She’d just gotten her hair cut, almost a foot removed, and donated it to Locks of Love. What a great daughter! And dear Lord, I need a nose job!

Another repeat to help me save time and stay focused on the manuscript:

I’ve been asked more than once what it’s like living in a house full of girls; even the dog is a female. Let me give you a taste of what I go through:

“How does deja-vu work?” Meagan asked.
“It’s a neurological glitch, when the right and left hemispheres are not synchronized when encoding a memory,” I explained.
“What?” Linley asked as Meagan rolled her eyes at me.
“Memories are stored on both sides of your brain. Do you know what the part of the brain that connects the hemispheres is called?”
“Juicy stuff!” Meagan said.
The badulla,” Jill interjected.
I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s the corpus callosum. It connects the hemispheres and coordinates the transfer of….”
“I prefer to think it’s magical,” Jill said.
“Yes, it’s magical!” Linley shrieked.
“You’re such a freak, Dad,” Meagan said, shaking her head.

I took the family to Statesboro, Georgia one weekend to visit the campus of Georgia Southern University, one of the candidate colleges on Meagan’s list. I really don’t want her to be four hours away from home but wasn’t sure how to say that without being the overbearing dad she sometimes accuses me of. As I was pondering a mini-speech, she was looking out the window as we drove though the sleepy little southern town that offered little to a metropolitan kind of girl. “Where in the world would I get my nails done,” she asked. I knew then I no longer needed to worry.

Linley had a minor medical emergency that required a visit to the ER. During the check-in process she was asked if she had any allergies. She does, to horse and cat hair. They actually put that information on a wrist band and made her wear it. We marched down the hall reassured they would not accidentally bring a horse into the room.

As we were led into the only available room we discovered it was a psychiatric emergency holding room, one with almost nothing on the walls, restraints on the bed, a locking door that could not be opened from inside the room, and a surveillance camera. As she sat on the bed and looked out into the ER she asked me why everyone stared at her.

It was field day at school that day and the kids are encouraged to wear weird outfits; today she looked like a homeless Pippi Longstockings – make-up, hair, torn stockings and all. I reached down and pulled the sheets up over her legs, but the pigtails, uber-rosy checks and fake freckles still gave away the severity of her current manic episode.

Soon we learned she needed to have blood drawn. Linley hates needles, so I tried to distract her by restraining myself to the bed. Just then the fire alarm went off – no not really but I’m an author with my eyes open for inspiration for my next great scene and for a moment I imagined myself running down the hallway with a bed attached to my leg, chasing after Pippi Longstockings, both of us followed closely by a Himalayan cat riding a horse.

But Jill did turn the corner just then and asked me what in the heck I was doing. For some reason she didn’t accept my answer, “Nothing.”

Meagan called me one morning just before school was to begin to tell me she had forgotten to take her medicine. I reassured her it was noting to worry about, but to no avail; she was nearly frantic. Finally she whimpered, “I don’t want to die.”
“No, honey, I don’t want you to, either,” I said, “but they are just vitamins.

On another day Meagan was pestering me to get her oil changed even though she has hardly driven her car 1500 miles since the last change. “The sticker says to change it by 6/6/06,” she explained. “That’s just a marketing ploy,” I said, “ignore it.”
“I can’t ignore,” she pushed back; “it’s the mark of the beast.”

We had a bit of a lecture around the dinner table one night about which hip-hop songs Jill and I wanted the girls to erase from their iPODs. Of course they protested loudly and Linley kept insisting I used to listen to suggestive and corrupt songs when I was a teenager. I challenged her to give me an example.
“Wasting Away in Margaritaville,” she said without a moment of hesitation.

Meagan’s computer died and I had a new one made for her specific needs. As I told her of its disk space and RAM, processing speed, bundled software and the automated backup and recovery feature, she had only one question for me: “Is it pretty?”

I’m serious about eating right and I hate sugar for breakfast. One morning as I was taking Linley, who has been quite sick with a cold, to school, she asked me to stop at a fast-food joint for breakfast. I suggested she get an egg biscuit but she wanted two cinnamon buns instead. Wanting to cheer her up, I agreed. As she gobbled them down she managed to tell me, “When I am a parent, I won’t dare let my kids eat like this.”

One week when Meagan was with her mom I called her several time only to get her voicemail. She didn’t return my calls. Wanting badly to talk with her I decided to send a text message that I thought would surely get her attention. I hit send and in less than five minutes she was on the line with me. My message? “What size shoes do you wear?”

Girls … how could I laugh without them?

There will be no blog post tomorrow. I’m spending the day sitting around a table with ten other people to read through the book, looking for weaknesses and errors. Getting close to the end!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

9 days left!

This post is a rerun. I'm working hours a day now, tormenting myself over word selection and semicolons, and am taking the easy way out on the blog until the final draft is completed. This is my end of the year Christmas story from 2006. Enjoy!

A Reindeer Tale

My phone rang at 7:30 in the morning, just moments after I had sent Jill off to school with her homemade breakfast and lunch, hot coffee, a love note, and a pre-heated car. Laura was on the line. “She’s here,” she said.


“Already,” I asked, thinking I had another hour before this fated moment was to come.


“She starts early.”


“How long will this take?”


“Beauty takes time,” my friend responded.


I looked down at Princess. In some cases, a lifetime, I thought. “I’ll be right there.”

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

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

“You’ve got bed hair,” she said as she greeted me.


“And overnight face,” I said, hoping my own self-deprecating humor would help me to explain the urine stain on my chest. Fortunately, Laura didn’t see it. “Is she ready? Is she excited?” she asked, scratching the dog behind her ears.


“You know you’re killing me,” I remarked.


“Her outfit is here!” Laura exclaimed, jumping up and down clapping her hands. “Allison picked it out, it’s so special!”

I looked up and the dog groomer came around the corner and introduced herself. Then she spied Princess. As a long and screeching “Ahhhhhaaawwwwwww” began to roll off her tongue my head began to spin. I thought I was going to puke.


“Do you want me to do anything special with her?” she asked as she took the dog from me.
“Slit her throat.”


“It’s just an act,” Laura chimed in. “He really loves her.”


“I love my wife and my tolerance of this dog proves it,” I retorted.


“Really,” the groomer insisted,” what do you want me to do to her?”


“Can you make her look like another dog? One I could get attached to?” Laura punched me on the arm. “Bath her really well so she can get on the furniture,” she said.


“Huh?” the groomer inquired. I could tell by the way she had turned away from me and was now glancing at me over her shoulder that she wasn’t taking to me.


“He won’t let her on their furniture,” Laura explained.


“She stinks,” I defended myself.


“He’s a mean man,” the groomer said without shame or reservation just before she kissed Princess.


“Here,” Laura said, shoving a reindeer costume into my hands and turning me toward the door. “You’d better get out of here before she calls the Human Society. Be sweet and dress Princess before Jill gets home.”


“Bah humbug,” I growled as I was escorted to the porch.

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

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

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


“Looks like a torture corset,” I said.


“She’s Rudolf!” Jill shrieked as she finished dressing the dog.

Princess just stood there, unsure what to do, her head weighted down by the oversized antlers over her ears and the big brass bells hanging from around her neck.


“It’s going to choke her,” I said. I hope, I thought.


“I have to take a picture,” Jill said. As she rummaged through her briefcase looking for her camera, the dog looked at me and for one moment she seemed to be asking me for help. We connected; even she realized she looked ridiculous and wanted to escape. I grinned and let the moment pass.

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

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

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


God answers prayers, I thought, but before I could whisper “thanks,” the dog moved; her bells jingled. Jill cried with relief.

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

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

“I can’t get that vision of her lying motionless on the floor out of my head,” Jill mumbled as she fell to sleep.


I lay there looking at the ceiling, trying to remember when Jill and I were dating if she told me about this dog. Eventually, I too became sleepy. As I finally began to drift off, I thought I heard a reindeer on the roof.

Laura, Allison – you’re killing me.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

10 days 'til deadline!

It is crunch time; will only be posting photos for the next two weeks so I can stay focused on the manuscript. Thanks for your emails with words of encouragement !