Monday, December 15, 2008

A Reindeer Tale

In the spirit of giving this Christmas season, I am donating all my spare time to the ministries and charities in our community I support. As such, I won't be writing again until January, 2009. Please endulge me and allow me to post a true story I wrote for my wife and two dear friends a few years ago:

A Reindeer Tale

My phone rang at 7:30 in the morning, just moments after I 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 a pair of 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 as I shoved the errant strands underneath 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 nowhere. 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 the Dog Whisperer 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?” Laura asked, scratching the dog behind her ears.
“You know you’re killing me,” I remarked.
“Her outfit is here!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down clapping her hands. “Allison picked it out, it’s so special!”

I looked up as 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,” I responded without hesitation.
“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 a shine 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 Humane 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 little mutt. 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 horrified 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, and hopeful.

“I can’t get that vision of her lying motionless on the floor out of my head,” Jill mumbled as she started to fall sleep.
I lay there looking at the ceiling, trying to remember when Jill and I were dating if she told me about her obsession with 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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

100 Dollar Bill

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):

One Hundred Dollar Bill

Caroline was no less concerned about her appearance than all the other girls in middle school, each hoping to catch the admiring eye of the popular boys in class. For sometime she had pestered her parents about getting contacts, complaining that her large-framed glasses made her look like a nerdy bookworm or even worse. Mom had been the holdout on the switch – she was afraid Caroline was too young to effectively take care of contacts. But Caroline had a history of proving herself to be a responsible child and after many demonstrations of carefully following instructions from school and around the house, Mom finally gave in.

Although Caroline did take care of her eyes and contacts just as the optometrist had instructed, a year later she still found herself frustrated on occasional mornings when the eye drops stubbornly refused to land in the right place or the contact didn’t fit exactly the way it was supposed to. When she couldn’t take the frustration any longer, she packed up her contact supplies and trotted into her mother’s bathroom.

One morning while standing over the sink brushing her teeth, Mom looked up and saw Caroline entering the room. Noting this was happening every now and then and wanting her own space and privacy to get ready in her own bathroom, mom asked “Why do you bring all your contact stuff into my bathroom to put them in?”

“For some reason,” Caroline explained, leaning toward the mirror with a contact balanced on her fingertip, “it’s easier to get them in when I’m standing next to you.”
"Well then, I guess maybe I'm your lucky penny!" Mom chuckled, deciding to indulge her daughter’s presence in the bathroom one more time.

Just as the contact fell perfectly into place, Caroline replied, "No, you're more like my hundred dollar bill."Thereafter, Caroline was always welcome in Mom’s bathroom.


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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Momma's Ways

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):

Easter Tradition

Easter was a big event in Sara’s household. In addition to working for days to prepare the festive Easter Sunday meal and dying dozens and dozens of hardboiled eggs to hide in the yard, she made sure each of her daughters had a new Easter outfit to wear to the sunrise service. And not an outfit selected from the store racks, but a fine garment she had fashioned by hand. In a family with eleven children there wasn’t a lot of extra money but creativity and craftsmanship in sewing was found in abundance. Each year, Sara sewed feverishly in between household tasks and often late into the night for weeks to get her girls’ Easter dresses finished on time.

One year Sara wanted to make sure her daughter Adeline had an especially pretty dress to wear. Adeline had grown so much and the little girl dresses with lace and frills were no longer suitable. Sara found the perfect dress pattern and set about making the dress. However, being the mother of so many children, she could barely keep up with the day to day tasks of preparing meals and doing laundry for her brood.

No matter how hard Sarah tried to squeeze in a few stitches every day, Adeline’s dress was still unfinished on the morning of the event. Determined not to disappoint Adeline, she sewed fast and furiously in an attempt to finish the dresses before it was time to go. Frustrated and in a hurry, she ran the sharp sewing machine needle right through her thumb. Adeline looked on in horror and begged her mom to stop sewing. “I don’t have to have a new dress this Easter,” she said.

Sarah paid no attention to Adeline, quickly wrapped her thumb and continued sewing, finishing the dress just as dad hollered for all to climb into the cars (they needed two, of course).

Adeline stepped into church proud of her new dress; proud because she had witnessed first hand the love and sacrifice that went into making it, not to mention a drop of blood or two. Years later, trying to be like her mother and wanting her children to make a good impression, she made Easter outfits for her own daughters, too.

On one hectic Easter morning, Adeline hurried into church, the very one she attended as a child, panting and frazzled. A fellow member of the congregation observed the bustle of well dressed children and remarked he never understood all the trouble women go to over Easter. A second gentleman overheard the comment and turned to Adeline, smiling. “Your mother once said, ‘I dress my children in new outfits because I want them to experience the new beginning that only Easter can bring us.’”

The meaning of the tradition, a new Easter dress each year, changed for Adeline that Sunday morning. Grateful that man had remembered her mother’s words and passed them on, she gave a smile of longing. She wished her mother was alive to see that her daughter had finally come to understand that Easter was never about the pretty new outfits or impressing others, but instead, about spiritual renewal.

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Like Momma Taught Me

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):

Mother’s Recipe

Vanessa watched her pot attentively, wanting the olive oil to be hot but not smoking before adding the onion, green bell peppers and celery, the Creole Holy Trinity. When she dumped the vegetables in the pot they sizzled instantly and an aromatic vapor filled the room. As Vanessa stirred the mixture her thoughts turned to her mother, the chef and teacher who had taught her how to make Gumbo.

It was in the kitchen where Vanessa had learned to make the perfect roux, corn bread and biscuits, how long to let okra boil before it became slimy, when to take shrimp off the heat (as soon as they start to turn pink and not a whisper longer) and which vegetables were best in every season of the year.

Cooking was her mother’s favorite task, it was her love, and it had become Vanessa’s passion as well. She cherished the time she spent in the kitchen with her mother snapping green beans or whisking eggs for a meringue. Even scrubbing pots was fun; the task didn’t matter. Just being Mom’s Sous Chef put Vanessa on top of the world.

It was also in the kitchen where Vanessa learned that her mother preferred to prepare slow cooked meals. It gave them the chance to spend more time together than microwavable meals or stovetop hamburgers would afford. During all those long conversations they had while waiting for a stew to thicken or root vegetables to roast in the oven, Vanessa learned more than just her mom’s favorite recipes. She learned of her French and African ancestry, what it meant to be Creole, fear God and love him with all your heart at the same time, to put your family first and, last but not least, to believe in yourself.

Looking into the pot and seeing the onions had turned tender and translucent, Vanessa added garlic, a pinch of salt and gave the pepper mill a few good twists. Taste as you go, she remembered her mom’s words and dipped a spoon in to get a sample. Just right. And then she remembered the day when her mom had called her into the kitchen and announced it was time for the student to prepare a meal for the chef, but without assistance. Mom wanted Gumbo, the very recipe Vanessa followed from memory on this day.

The test came in the late spring of her senior year of high school amid making plans to leave home that summer to attend college. As Vanessa cooked with the occasional word of reassurance from mom, and once a little cough with a subtle shake of the head in disagreement about how much file’ powder to use, there was talk of independence, new experiences, temptations, and taking care not to lose your way. Mom put her spoon down when she spoke of the added responsibility that comes with adulthood, and gave Vanessa her blessing, saying she believed her daughter was prepared for them all.

It was in the kitchen were Vanessa learned the differences between living as a young girl under momma’s watchful eye, and going into the world as a young woman to build a life of her own. It was in the kitchen where mom had masterfully provided her daughter with more than a recipe for Gumbo, but also a recipe for living.


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