Sunday, November 30, 2008

Forever Sunshine

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

This story did not make the last cut of Mom’s Little Angel, but I want to post it for you as a good example of what is in the final draft of the upcoming book (Feb. 2009):

Ray of Sunshine

Doris, eighty-five years old, had been showing signs of dementia for years. Yet, even though she had forgotten how many grandchildren she had or that she owned a cat, she refused to believe she had memory problems. When it was obvious to her family something needed to be done, Doris’ daughters began to take turns staying with their mother even though she protested that she didn’t need the help.

For Debbie, not having lived in such close quarters with her mother for years and not accustomed to caring for a grown woman who surprisingly needed so much supervision, this living situation became a challenge rather quickly. She missed being with her husband and became exhausted constantly cleaning the house, doing laundry and going grocery shopping for a mother who was often bitter about receiving the help.

Among other things, the women constantly disagreed about the temperature in the house; Doris wanted the heater turned on even though it was mid-summer in San Antonio. She wouldn’t consider wrapping herself in a blanket for warmth and could never understand why her daughter complained about temperature.

Tired of the growing conflict and craving her familiar routines, Debbie wanted to go home but knew she could not leave her mother alone. She needed to be there to make sure Doris ate as well as she should, took the correct medicines at the right times, didn’t wander from the house or burn down the place while trying to cook a meal in the middle of the night.

To make the best of her situation, Debbie made a point each day of finding something in her circumstance to be thankful about. At first it was sleeping in her old bedroom again, and then having a meal in the kitchen at the table where she had sat with her family years ago. There were the quiet hours spent watching television in the living room with a view into the backyard where she had played so many afternoons in days gone by, and of course having all the family photographs nearby to look through once more.

But what Debbie discovered she was most thankful for came in the wee hours of the morning, when Doris had finally tired and would agree it was time to go to bed. For it was then when the sometimes stubborn old woman became the dear loving mother who led Debbie to her old bed, tucked her in and gave her a goodnight kiss before retiring to bed herself.

It was then Doris always remembered to say, “I love you, my little ray of sunshine,” before turning off the light.

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thought for the Day

Document your disappointments in the sand, and your blessings in stone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's most important...

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

I received this great note yesterday from someone who has a number of my books:

“What gets me through these very difficult times is my faith and family. Life's priorities are God, Family, and Work, respectively. Your books are a good reminder of what's most important, God and the family unit. My belief in this regard has become even stronger recently, my God and family mean everything to me.”

And here’s another piece I wrote recently for www.greatdad.com:

“It seems that in spite of all the differences there may be between the fathers and daughters of the world, be he a doctor or craftsman, she a student or lawyer, early or late in life, religious or not, wealthy or not, dads and daughters are very much alike in the manner in which they relate to one another.

Dads put their daughters before their own interests, striving to create special moments and lasting memories for her, protecting her from harm and disappointment, always seeking to spend quality time together, always praying never to let her down. Daughters anticipate daddy coming home, eager to show him a new trick, a report card, or request his counsel on a matter of concern. As much as daughters enjoy being a daddy’s girl, dads enjoy having one to dote on.

Daughters enjoy their dads always being available to her and never tiring of her need for his attention and affection. Daughters crawl into their daddies’ lap to hug and kiss him before resting her head on his chest, sometimes asking him to sing their favorite song. Dads never forget those moments when he could hold his daughter in his arms, and is always ready to sing to her, even if over the telephone.

Dads find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in their important role in their daughters’ lives. They do not shy away from the unfamiliar girl stuff, the hard tasks of parenting, nor their daughters’ tears or demonstrations of independence and revolt. Dads stand ready to help whenever the need arises, even if in the darkest hours of the night. Daughters never forget those moments when her dad proved once more that he was indeed the hero who would never let her down.

Daughters look to dads for help with school projects, his applause during her performances or events, to be a friend when she is lonely, and to help her out of sticky situations. Daughters give their dads an affection he cannot find anywhere else, and a love he will cherish to the end of his last day.”

A note on the new book proposals: HarperOne is going to wait to see how #2 does before moving ahead with #3. That makes sense to me, although I’d rather have heard they were going to option one of the proposals. Such is the writing life – books are published for profit, not fun, and a writer needs to understand that clearly if he/she is going to survive the contest. SO here’s to the success of #2, Mom’s Little Angel (wine glass held high in the air)!

And on my novel TREES – still searching for its eventual home, but the faith is strong: it shall see print one day!

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just Good Sense

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

I’m not usually a fan of billboards but it is time to make an exception. I saw this great billboard several times as Jill and I drove the highways last weekend - a dad asleep on a couch with his toddler daughter asleep on his chest, her cheek placed over his heart. The message: Have you been a daddy today? Wonderful!

Daddies never stop thinking about their daughters, and daughters never stop thinking about their dads. Daughters young and mature share a common desire for the company and comfort of their fathers. They want their daddies to take care of them, in different ways, perhaps, but to offer their fatherly love and comfort nonetheless. Daddies live to give that love and comfort to their little girls.

From my front porch I’ve watched dads walking the streets of the neighborhood with an infant asleep on his back, or running while pushing a stroller, complete with a child yelling, “Faster, faster, Daddy!” I’ve watched dads and children play Wiffle Ball, dive onto a water slide, and climb trees, all from the comfort of my wicker chair.

There are more young girls living in the homes in my neighborhood than there are boys; the dads I observe are more often enjoying those activities with their daughters than with sons. My daughters are among the oldest children who live nearby, and now and then a dad asks me for fresh ideas about what to do with his daughter when she grows up and tires of climbing trees.

“Take her to get a pedicure, and get one yourself,” I often say.

My recommendation is universally met with a little shock and a lot of disbelief.

“That’s women’s stuff,” is the most common response I hear.

“Precisely,” I say.

My point in suggesting a pedicure is simple. Little girls want to do everything little boys do, which plays right into dads’ hands. However, teen girls want to do what young women do, which nearly never makes sense to grown men.

I’ve had many a pedicure (please, no polish). I let the girls do my hair before we go out, help me select clothes and shoes, and give me a fashion make-over once in a while (once I inadvertently went to work wearing a pair of stick-on earrings, so be careful). I take them shopping, an excruciating experience for me because we cannot purchase anything until we have visited at least fifty stores, but I tag along with them without complaint. It makes them happy, which in turn, delights me as well.

Dads should understand the importance of making children feel special in ways that are meaningful to them. I know a father who has triplets; two daughters and a son. One can understand why the parents of multiples might elect to host only one birthday party, but that’s not how he does it. Each child plans their own party, and then he facilitates all three, one after the other on three different weekends. Each child gets to be his special person of the day. Believe me, they love it; I’ve seen their faces.

So, as you can see, being a good parent isn’t rocket science; it’s just good sense. Have you been a daddy, a good mom, today?

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Say It Loud

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

I got this email the other day:

“As an elementary school teacher I try to find new ways to reach my young students. Here in our area we have a lot of young boys and girls who live in single parent homes. My role as a teacher has rapidly expanded from classroom teacher to: a dad, nurse, nurturer, counselor, nutritionist, social worker and too many more to list!! I couldn't have made it through the last two years had it not been for your books. I just want to thank you for all of your excellent work; it has not gone unnoticed or unused.”

And it made my day, too.

Here’s my most recent column for www.greatdad.com:

While signing autographs one day I noticed a man lingering nearby after he purchased my book about fathers and sons. “Is that your daughter?” he finally asked, pointing to the book I had written for my daughter.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Do you let her know you love her?” he asked.

“Of course,” I answered, surprised by his question.

“Good,” he said. “Too many men aren’t comfortable saying that, especially to boys.” He smiled and walked away.

I remembered then a friend who once told me about his father, a man of few words.

My friend is a huge sports fan, largely because it was through sports that he spent time with his dad. Yet, as time passed, he and his father stopped attending games as often as they once did. “Dad wasn't much of a talker,” he confided; “and we began to lose touch with each other.”

One day he and his new bride hosted a brunch for their families at a sports bar decorated with memorabilia. “At one point I looked at my dad,” he said, “and he pointed to a picture on the wall and smiled. It was of the old stadium where he and I used to go see ballgames.”

“All these years I thought I was the only one who held those memories sacred, but in that moment I knew my dad did, too. I promised myself then I would never let a day go by that I don’t tell my children how much I love them.”

I glanced across the bookstore and saw the man who had asked me if I told my daughter I loved her. He pushed the door open and with his free hand on his son’s shoulder, led him outside. I smiled, confident that that child, too, heard “I love you” often, if not everyday.

Although boys and girls may be different, they are identical in their need for love and acceptance. Say “I love you” as often as you can.

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Restoration & Adjustment

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and learn more about my published works and photography.

Now on to today’s post~

Jill and I had a great, restorative time in the NC mountains where we hiked eleven miles (once on a trail with a sign that warned of “aggressive bears”), exhausted ourselves in the process, slept eleven hours Saturday night and woke up to a view of snow in the mountains Sunday morning. We stayed at the Fryemont Inn, one of our favorite places and the setting I used for inspiration to create the old inn called The Poplar Inn in my novel TREES.

Some good news about “Mom’s Little Angel,” the publication date has been moved up to February in order to take advantage of promotional opportunities at a few major retailers during the Easter and Mother’s Day seasons. I’m chatting with my editor tomorrow afternoon so will be sure to post other news about the book on Wednesday morning.

This review of my book “Why a Son Needs a Mom” comes from the blog Punky Monkey, written by a mom I know only as Tena:

This is by far my favorite book about the bond between mother and sons. In fact I own two copies. I got them when I had "M", one from the boys, and one from a dear friend. It captures it all so beautifully, without going over the top. Thought I would share some of my favorite ones that hit close to my heart:

“A Son Needs A Mom to teach him that all people are worthy of respect". Seems so simple huh? Yet, in today's world it seems to be a trait missing in so many people. It's up to us as parents to instill this value into our babies at young ages. Step it up folks!

“A Son Needs A Mom to remind him to say his prayers". "D" is an old pro at his prayers now; still melts my heart every night to hear him say what he is thankful for, and then ask the Lord to "Rock his world." Can you just imagine hearing your 6 year old say that? "J" still needs a little help with his prayers, but he has the best little voice when you hear him say "Amen". Times like these melt away the bad spots of the day.

"A Son Needs a Mom who understands that what he needs from her changes as he grows older". I will be the first to admit that I have had a hard time with this one, especially when it comes to "D". There used to be a time when I was his Number One, when spending his afternoons with me, playing and reading were all he ever needed. Now he has learned about time alone, boy stuff (that he thinks I don't get) and his friends, and I have been pushed to the sidelines. I try to be okay with it; each day I put on my uniform, ready to resume my spot on the field when he is ready to have me back. Maybe I need to realize that it's just as important to be his Number One fan from an admiring distance, than to be in the mix of it.

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

Into the Woods We Go

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

It is official – my book sales have reached another Milestone – 3 million books (shipped to retail stores)!

I’ve seen the first pass pages of Mom’s Little Angel, including all the book design features and layout of the pages. It looks great! Now on to the next phase, the last step before heading to the printer. I’m excited about it; most of my other books feature Meagan prominently (I’ve been writing about her the longest), then Jill, and then Linley. This book, however, features Jill and Linley as main characters, along with Joann, my mother-in-law. I hope they are pleased with the end result.

No word yet on the four non-fiction and one fiction ideas I’ve floated past my editor, but I remain hopeful she will want to acquire at least one of them.

News on the Volunteer front: I’ve been touched deeply recently with the desire to serve, and so have joined the Global Outreach Ministry at our church. I’ll be working on efforts to improve the conditions of orphanages in under-developed countries, and ease the challenges of international adoption for families here in Atlanta. Exciting stuff; important stuff.

Just finished reading “Lord of the Flies” and tried to remember why it was my favorite book as a pre-teen. Came up blank. But now I’m reading “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.” Can’t put it down! It and the “Bright Forever” are shaping up to be examples of where I want my writing style to go, with a little Capote, Irving, Updike and Harper Lee tossed in for a truly robust reading experience.

Jill and I are off to Bryson City, NC and the Fryemont Inn this weekend to enjoy a few days in a rustic setting (no TV, Internet or phone in the rooms, claw-footed bathtubs and similar accoutrements from days gone by), long hikes in the deep woods, and a chance to take photos at the Joyce Kilmer National Forest, all pivotal settings in my novel TREES. I hope to get a shot suitable for the book cover.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Clacky McSnackins

Clacky McSnackins, a 25 year old parent to a 2 year old son, is in active duty with the U.S. Air Force and lives in Anchorage Alaska. This is his review, posted on Helium.com, of my book “Why a Son Needs a Dad”:

Concept
This book goes through all of the great things about being a father. Not just the good times, but the hard times, and the life lessons as well. It offers a large number of pictures and after each are pithy statements. For example: a picture of a son and dad playing soccer together on the first page, and on the next page it says “A son needs a dad to teach him to be a gracious winner, as well as a gracious loser.”

The book is pretty much a focus on what it says is a boy's very first hero, his father.

Personal Thoughts One of the greatest events that has ever happened in my life has been the creation of my son. Without my child, I don't know what I would do. He has meant everything in the world to me. I love my wife with all of my heart, but having someone that is a piece of you, is truly amazing, and there are no words that can fully describe the way that a father feels for his first son. I know that he's going to be a little demon, but I know that I am going to love him, laugh with him, and help him throughout his life.

To see a book that really goes to show that special bond between a father and a son, that is unlike any other relationship on earth, is truly special to me. I see a lot of myself and my own son, even though he is still quite young, in the pictures that they display throughout the book. The moments that I have shared with Jordan, although they are stupid to anyone that hasn't had the opportunity and I truly stress the word 'opportunity' to have children of their own, are truly amazing.

While I know that I don't have any of the memories that are in the book yet, as Jordan is barely even born, I look at the book and think about what great times we are going to have together as he grows older. I imagine all of the trouble he is going to get himself into and how I'm going to have to stick up for him when he is in trouble with mommy (when I say stick up, I mean I'm just going to sit there and shut-up, mommy wins). I think about how great of a relationship we are going to have together and of all the memories that we will share and who knows, maybe we'll have our own book, just like this one.

Overview The book is filled with loads of different pictures of father's and son's interacting with one another. From playing soccer, to fishing, to just hanging out, they definitely capture the relationships between father and son perfectly. I don't think there's a single interaction that could be better than the ones depicted in the book.

The best thing about the book is rather than just being a picture book, it is filled with wisdom that we fill our children with and inspiring phrases that make you feel so much pride about being a father and having a son.

I can't think of a better gift for any father than this book. It truly does summarize what it means to be a father and to have a son, especially a son as your very first child.

Thanks McSnackins!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honorable Mention

Roseann Keegan, a freelance writer, wrote this article mentioning my first book for RGJ.com. I think it’s great and wanted to share it with you:

When our daughter was a baby, my husband would say there were two people in her life: "Mommy" (me) and "Not the Mommy" (him). I would explain that nursing mothers have an unfair advantage since babies depend on us for food. My husband was not assured.

Five years later, I didn't realize how comfortable I'd become in my self-perceived superstar role. My husband has always been a capable parent, even from the beginning, and present in every sense of the word. But somewhere along the way I started to believe there were many things only a mother could do, in addition to lactating.

My bubble burst abruptly one night.

"Tomorrow, I get to be a 'mommy helper' at school," I chirped to my kindergartener.

My daughter thought for a moment. "When does Dad get to be a daddy helper?" she asked. "He has not had a turn."

I was glad she was embracing the kindergarten concept of taking turns, but I was sad that I was going to have to share. I love my weekly visits to the classroom: learning the kids' names, hearing their funny stories ("Mrs. Keegan, this one time, my dog bit me because he thought I was food, and then another time ...) and watching my own daughter navigate the day.

But I knew it wasn't fair to hog the experience, as much as I wanted to. And my husband was thrilled to have been asked.

Still, I worried: would he do OK? I mean, there's craft glue and cutting out letters and playing alphabet bingo and story time -- it's a lot for a first-timer. But he went to college and has a grasp on the basics, so I guess he'll be OK. Plus, he is a photographer and deals with brides so he knows how to handle someone who needs a nap really badly.

So, I sighed. It was time to let go and let dad have a turn.

When the fateful morning arrived, I held onto my daughter's backpack with a Kung Fu death grip as we said goodbye. After "Not the Mommy" pried the pink bag from my hands and they left, I walked into the empty house.

Now what? My son was down early for his morning nap, exhausted from waking me up at one-hour intervals the night before. (See? I totally earn this pedestal thing.)

But instead of relishing the quiet, the house seemed eerie. I admit that in my most frazzled moments of parenthood I have fantasized about the kids being older, a little more self-sufficient. Europe would be nice this time of year, I've thought. But now I was alone and I hated it.

I sat quietly at my computer and thought. This is good, this asking daddy to be involved. I've always told my husband that the father-daughter relationship is one of the most important relationships our daughter will ever have. That can't flourish if I don't share.

Five years ago, when we were expecting our daughter, I bought my husband a book called, "Why a Daughter Needs a Dad."

I am gently reminded that our daughter doesn't just need her mom to be present; she needs her father in a starring role, too. So I have to step aside, take a cue from the kindergartener and wait my turn.

I bet there are military wives and single moms who would forfeit every day in kindergarten just to have the option.

My husband's turn seemed to go well. As expected, he had some funny stories to share when he got home. While the kids were working on numbers, he asked them to guess his age. "I think you are 88, maybe even 100!" one girl exclaimed.

My daughter was eager to tell me about her day at school with Dad. Then she asked if I would play one of her favorite games, veterinarian.

As a bonus, she promoted me to the role of nurse, instead of my usual role of wounded domestic animal. And once again, I enjoyed taking my turn.

Thank you Roseann for sharing your insights about dads, and for the mention of my book!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peas in a Pod

During this most recent weekend Linley spent the night in Athens with Meagan, getting her first taste of what life is like at the University of Georgia. They went shopping, dined at a student favorite cafĂ©, attended a gathering at a fraternity house, mulled around downtown among the bohemians, stayed up late painting their nails when back in the dorm, and maybe a few things they didn’t bother to tell me about.

Jill and I were delighted: our girls were acting like sisters. Linley told of when they were introduced as sisters and others commented that they look nothing alike, no explanation for their physical dissimilarity was given. For them, our girls, the “step-” modifier has fallen into uselessness. I couldn’t be happier with how they have take important places in each others lives, and will still have each other long after Jill and I are gone.

I am reminded of a post I wrote two years ago and want to share it again:

As we all sat on the front porch to enjoy the last warm days of autumn, Meagan turned to Jill and said, “Hey, you’ve been my step-mom almost two years now.” It’s true, just under two years have gone by since the day my life took a surprise turn in the road and headed down the aisle into matrimony.

Once a confirmed bachelor who vehemently vowed to never remarry, I had lunch with a high school friend in early 2004. She brought along a friend of hers, a beautiful woman named Jill. I fell in love with her within an hour. We wed that December and each brought a daughter into our marriage.

Jill and I had our share of concerns about combining our families; after all, each child had already lived all their lives as a doted on 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. My wife and I braced ourselves on the day we all moved into the new house together. We hoped for the best and prayed we had not just boarded a train destined to run off the tracks and into a dark 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.

Now in retrospect, I could not have asked for a better experience putting our families together. I have only to think about scenes on our front porch or from our family vacations to find evidence our girls have indeed become siblings; not just two girls peacefully coexisting, but living together as sisters.

This summer while on vacation we rented three rooms at the bed and breakfast inn where we stayed. We did this to make sure the girls had their space and privacy, so they could take a break from each other if need be. Much to our surprise, they decided to sleep together in one bed rather than apart in their own rooms.

When I hugged them goodnight I realized there had not been one spat between them in spite of a mad rush at the airport, my annoyance when Jill, the navigator, got us lost, and all those hours spent in the car driving from Boston to our destination in upper Maine. I pictured them as they held hands to run across the street earlier in the day and when they shared ice cream on a park bench. In that moment I knew Jill and I were succeeding in giving the girls something special they had not had before - each other. We knew that by bringing them together through our marriage we were giving them a richer context for personal growth; we were better preparing them for their adult lives.

While each daughter retains many of her previous “only child” habits, they have also formed new ones, “sisterly” ones. They advise each other on what to wear, share their shoes, shop and get their nails done together, consult one another on boyfriend matters, keep secrets for one another, and laugh out loud as they make fun of the adults they must endure.

These moments reassure me that Jill and I are teaching the girls a valuable life lesson, that is, what a loving family looks and feels like. If there were only one thing we could do for the girls it would be to serve as the models for what marriage and family they will want for themselves one day.

So as we sat on our front porch together, planning weekends, holidays and future vacations, the sisters entertained themselves by making fun of each others’ habits, debating about which would end up a super model, and arguing with me about their need for a new suitcase just for shoes. Jill and I smiled at one another, delighted with what we have accomplished.

Just the other day Meagan told me she looked forward to the day she would become an aunt, a role not long ago she thought she would never get to play, a role that Linley makes possible for her, and vise-versa.

Yes, our home shelters one united family. Praise God for all good that comes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This and That from the Past

Forgiveness is to give love when it seems there is no reason to do so.

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling our joy and dividing our grief.

The bridge you burn now may be the one you later have to cross.

We stopped in the Arcadia National Forest in Maine to climb to the top of a rock formation and look out over the bay – there was the city of Bar Harbor below, Nova Scotia on the horizon, and the Atlantic Ocean for as far as you could see. Jill and I marveled. I looked over my shoulder, certain I would see that the girls were as impressed with the view as we were. I spotted Meagan busy sending a text-message from her phone and Linley holding the portable DVD player, taking care not to miss a single scene of Moulin Rouge.

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.

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.

This morning I studied my hands as my fingertips moved slowly across the keyboard, waiting to warm up and become limber again. Dry, wrinkled and cracked, a ragged cuticle and the knuckles red and rough. Years digging in the dirt, bending gold and silver, sculpting clay, wrapped around a wrench or hammer, wiping baby bottoms, shelling peas, scrubbing potatoes and peeling rutabagas, clipping on necklaces, pulling out splinters and putting on Band-Aids, rubbing tired eyes, clasped in prayer at night, touching my wife’s beautiful face. I should take better care of them.

Girls and their excitement about bedding, it escapes my comprehension. But the best part was the five hours we spent alone in the car talking about everything under the sun. I’m grateful for such times, when I get to be dad, friend and advisor, not just disciplinarian and Daddy Warbucks. Oh I complain but you know as well as I do how much I am going to miss the times when she hugs and kisses me, smiles with sparkling eyes and tells me I’m handsome just before asking for a $20.

Why does it upset the girls so much if when I agree enthusiastically with a point they’ve made I shout “Boomshockalocka!”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Woe is I

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 Mom’s Little Angel 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!

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, “We love your book.” Until then, should those words come, I can only wait nervously, biting my nails.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Best of 2007, Part II

Meagan and I were sharing some daddy-daughter time on the couch the other night watching one of her programs when I turned to her and said, “I can’t believe you will be leaving for college in just over a year.”
“I know,” she said, then added, “I’m scared.”
“Why would you be scared?”
“I’m such a baby.”
“And whose fault is that?”
That was when she reached out and smacked me on the back of the head. “What were you thinking?” she asked.
I wonder myself sometimes.

I took Meagan to school yesterday, the first time since she got her car and license 13 months ago. Nothing has changed: she was still late for the time of departure; ate breakfast in the car, leaving crumbs everywhere; insisted on listening to her music instead of my talk radio; put on her makeup during most of the ride, leaving smudges on the mirrored visor; snapped at me a few times because apparently I was “asking too many questions”; and warned me to behave myself as I pulled onto the campus parking lot. Then she said “I love you” and kissed me as she got out of the car. Thankfully, nothing has changed.

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 info on a wrist band and made her wear it. Whew, I was reassured then 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 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 wear weird outfits; today she looked like a homeless Pippi Longstockings. Soon we learned she needed to have blood drawn and she 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 for a moment I imagined this as a scene on Seinfeld – me trying to run from the room with a bed attached to my leg.

Jill asked me to go to Moe’s Southwest Grill to pick up a meal she could take to work the next day. She wanted a Naked Home Wrecker to go (a burrito in a bowl instead of the wrap). I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.