Monday, August 30, 2010

A New Book Review

Over the weekend I found (thanks to Google Alerts!) this great review of my second book, and wanted to share:

This isn’t so much a classical book as it is 100 affirmations for fathers to ponder and even for sons to remember. It’s a fresh reminder at a time when the divorce rate is simply out of control and fathers are being marginalized in the lives of their children in the aftermath, often against their will and best efforts.

Gregory Lang’s effort reminds us all of the critically important roles fathers play in their sons’ lives at a time when some are glorifying “single motherhood by choice.” More than that - all of their children’s lives, son or daughter, are so affected by the sentiments that are chronicled in this book. Sadly, today more than ever, children are being raised in fatherless homes or in custodial situations that relegate fathers to very limited parenting-child interaction by order of family courts.

These thoughts are shown in both simple and more complex issues, for example:

o A son needs a dad who can be playful and silly
o A son needs a dad who can help him face his challenges with confidence
o A son needs a dad to nurture his independence

The formula that Gregory Lang has provided in such a simplistic format is quite powerful. Even in our busy daily lives, one can expect to sit down with this book, a book that isn’t a very long read, and expect to be left pondering many of the 100 areas that Lang chooses to include in this work. Maybe we’ll be thinking about our own fathers and grandfathers. Maybe we’ll be thinking about our children’s futures and how they’ll end up. They range from items that remind you let your guard down and have some carefree fun with your kids - to the benefits of hard work, doing things on your own with your own two hands, to learning to respect others and ways to gain respect yourself. It’s a checklist for bringing up boys in the way that will give them all the tools necessary to be bright, smart, caring, loving, and considerate adults and fathers in their own right. It won’t tell you how to get it done, but it certainly will remind you what needs to get done.

I highly recommend this book for fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters alike. It’s one that should be sitting out there on the coffee table or on the end of your work desk. When you need a break from the day-to-day mundane tasks, it’s a perfect distraction that will refresh your mind and leave you with a smile on your face. The accompanying photography by Janet Lankford-Moran provides a stunning compliment.

What prompted me to write this review was a little reminder of my own. I was going to grab some chocolate chip cookies for snack tonight and found that DW had pilfered what was left earlier in the day. This prompted me to make an ice cream run.

I headed out to the van for the snack acquisition and as I opened the driver’s side door, there was book opened on my seat. It was Why a Son Needs a Dad (100 Reasons). It was open to the page that read:

A son needs a dad who is willing to make sacrifices for his family.

I turned around and asked my son, “Was this your message for me?”

He replied with that proud grin that only a child can offer, “Yeah, Dad. I love you.”

I responded as the lump started to push on my throat, “Yeah, well I love you guys both with everything I got. I really appreciate the message, son.”

He continued, “Yeah, well, I just wanted to let you know that we both know you guys make a lot of sacrifices to keep us with you and take care of us and stay in our lives and stuff. And I just wanted to let you know that.”

I thanked him again and off we rolled to ice creamy goodness. Unbeknownst to me, my son had picked that book off of the book shelf today and read it. He put it on the driver’s seat of the van sometime this afternoon without ever knowing when I would be having to take a drive. Lucky for him, his timing was impeccable and it resulted in an extra scoop for the both of them. After all, sometimes a son needs a dad to show him that flattery will sometimes get you an extra scoop of ice cream!

The original review may be found at Book Review: Why a Son Needs a Dad (100 Reasons)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Play Footsie Under the Table

Play Footsie Under the Table is my new book which is being released in November. It will be available in most major bookstores and online. For your pre-release reading pleasure, here is its introduction:

Being in love is not a steady emotional state that some are fortunate enough to find ourselves in; it is a dynamic emotional state that requires a continuous series of actions that any of us can take if we want to preserve a romantic relationship. It is not enough to believe that the love one feels for another is just understood, it must be made clear and obvious. Love simply must be expressed if it is to known by its recipient, and if it is to flourish in reciprocated abundance between two people.

Most often we express our love through language, as in simply saying, “I love you.” Other times we express our love through the written word, as when penning love poems or sweet notes to one another. And then there is love expressed in gestures, as in those things that we do for one another to give shape to and evidence of the true passions of our hearts. The words, “I love you,” whether spoken or written, are a profound statement. When coupled with an embrace, walking hand in hand, stealing a kiss, sharing a romantic nuzzle, or a hundred other tender, giving gestures, these words are elevated to an experience, a lasting memory, a delicate, reflective moment of proof, a love sign, that demonstrates you care for me and I care for you in a way that words alone cannot. This book is about showing love signs, those priceless moments we can create that allows our loved ones to think to themselves, “I know that I am loved.”

I could probably rest assured that my wife will love me always and stay with me no matter how little I might do to show her that she is the love of my life. However, because she is the love of my life, I am driven by the desire to reassure her that I love her. I know that it makes her happy when I do, and she then loves me even more in return. So everyday I do something to show her that I care about her. Sometimes it is a simple gesture, like waking her with a kiss after I have made the coffee the way she likes it. Sometimes it is not so simple, like searching for hours for the perfect gift or writing a poem to hide in her purse for her to find sometime later. These daily gestures aren’t necessary to keep her in love with me because I know that her love is in reality a gift to me, not a reward for my good conduct. However, I also know that if romantic love is left unattended, it will not come to its full potential. Thus, I make such a gesture everyday; I show her a love sign whenever I can. I want to make it as obvious as possible to her that I love her as much as I do, because I want her to love me as much as she can in return.

We each brought a daughter into our marriage. As they approach their teenage years and become interested in and vulnerable to boys, I worry about how to prepare them for the thrills, trials and tribulations of relationships they will face without causing them unnecessary alarm. I want them to enjoy dating, but I want them to be appropriately cautious and selective about whom they give their hearts to. I want them to have deliriously happy, lasting marriages. I want them to never shed a tear over broken promises and dashed hopes. I want them to never know loneliness and despair.

When I have these thoughts, I remember how I learned about romantic love watching my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and others close to me who had a way of relating that was unmistakable in its meaning, that an intense love was shared, enjoyed, and reciprocated. These memories further compel me to be unfailing in my efforts to show Jill that I love her, for I know that I am also teaching the girls a valuable life lesson, that is, what true love looks like. It is an almost daunting responsibility, but also an honorable one that I, we, fully embrace.

So in the end, this book is itself a love sign, another way for me to show Jill that I love her. It is a reminder to me to never take her for granted, to never assume that all is well just because it has been heretofore, to always be attentive to her, to always nurture the love we share so that it comes to full bloom. This book is also a way for me to help our daughters to set appropriately high expectations about how they should be treated, and hopefully to tell them what they should look for, in truth what they should wait for, before they give their priceless hearts to someone, and how to then show those fortunate young men that they are loved in return.

I do not profess to be an expert on relationships, but I do make claim to having the gift of artful expression, and a desire to help others when and where I can. So rather than give advice, I’ll end by simply expressing my hope. I hope that you will take this book and use it in the way that I meant for you to. That is, to go and show someone the love that dwells in your heart, and to do so everyday.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Life of a Book

As much as I'd like to have written a book that one might consider timeless, I haven't quite yetachieved that goal. Although my first book is still on shelves and selling well nearly nine years after its debut, another title is reaching its sunset. Life Maps will be retired in the coming months. The good news is that it will be rereleased as a new and revised edition next Spring, so although I'm a bit sad, I'm also delighted the content will get a second chance under a new cover and marketing plan. For your enjoyment, I'm posting the original introduction to Life Maps: Simple Directions for Finding Your Way:

Over the years I have had the delight of watching my daughter, Meagan Katherine, reach many milestones. I will never forget the first time she called me “Daddy,” her first steps, and when she became potty trained. Her words “I can do it” were spoken with insistence; she wanted the chance to accomplish by herself whatever the task at hand. I was thrilled to see my little girl growing up, yet also happy that she still wanted to hold my hand, ride on my back, and give me kisses.

As these early years passed and she continued to grow, other milestones approached and new tasks required mastery. Some I could just demonstrate for her, like how to tie her shoes, buckle her seatbelt, and use the microwave oven. Others required a bit of practice and explanation, as when she wanted to make her own scrambled eggs, shuffle a deck of cards, and later, use a computer. As my daughter grew up and became more independent and less willing to turn to me for what she wanted and needed, I began to feel the sting of loss. Too soon it seemed I was no longer needed to read her to sleep, walk her to class, or help her with her homework. All too quickly she entered her preteen and then teenage years. I knew other milestones were ahead and new life tasks would challenge her, but by now she had begun to turn more often to her mother for guidance, and I struggled to find a place in her life.

One afternoon while visiting my parents, who live on a remote country road, Meagan and I went for a drive. She was at the wheel. She had been driving in open fields for two years by then, an activity meant to give her as much driving experience as possible before she set out by herself, without Dad by her side to make sure she was safe. On this day I unexpectedly found myself requesting that my young driver turn off the familiar road and onto an unfamiliar one——and then another and another.

Soon she had driven much farther than she ever had before. She was frightened when she first pulled into traffic but smiled eagerly at the same time. She listened intently as I gave instructions and advice, following my directions without complaint or rebuttal. She beamed at me when I praised her as she skillfully negotiated the roadway. Under my tutelage she was learning something new. It reminded me of earlier times. I knew something she wanted to know, and she needed my help to master it; she needed me.

I decided that afternoon that driving was the bridge I needed to reach out to my daughter again, to have the occasion to spend time with her in the way that I missed, having fun together, laughing large, and teaching her something that would prepare her for the day when she would set out on her own. For the next three years we practiced driving every chance we got——driving in the rain, after sunset, practicing parking and hard braking, and learning how to intuit other drivers’ moves. I helped her study for the learner’s permit test. I was with her when she took it, and tried to calm her nerves as we waited for her results. A great sense of accomplishment came over me when she proudly held her permit up for me to see, and in that moment I was where I wanted to be, in her favor, basking in the warmth of her smile.

Meagan now drives nearly every time we get in the car. It was on one of our first extended drives that the need arose for teaching her about road maps. We were taking my eleven-year-old stepdaughter, Linley, to summer camp, and I did not know the way. I spread a state map out on the dining room table and proceeded with Meagan at my side to find a route. We began by looking up our destination in the index, then followed the grid lines to pinpoint it on the map. Once located, we surveyed the various roads we could take from our home to that tiny dot. We settled on a route that included city streets, interstate highways, two-lane mountain roads, and finally a winding dirt road. We chose an alternate route for coming back, one that would wind through the countryside, taking us through little town after little town and eventually home. Meagan was excited; it would be the longest time she had ever been behind the wheel.

The morning of our departure arrived. The girls and I rose early and had breakfast at a local diner before heading toward the mountains. Linley got some extra sleep in the backseat while I navigated for Meagan. For the next three hours she and I followed the directions we had written down. I helped her recognize the landmarks we were looking for, coached her on keeping up with the distance between turns, and taught her that even-numbered interstates ran east-west while odd-numbered ones ran north-south. Suddenly she asked me what to do if she ever got lost. I reminded her of her cell phone, and then opened the glove box to show her the road maps I keep tucked away in there.

The three of us embraced before leaving Linley at camp, and then Meagan and I set out on our return route home. We listened to music, drove with the windows down, had lunch at a roadside barbeque joint, and stopped to shop at an old country store, complete with a few old men in overalls sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch. We were having fun. Once back on the road we encountered a detour and had to refer to our map again. We selected a new route for the last leg home and continued on our journey.

As Meagan drove she remarked once more that she worried about becoming lost, that she needed to practice using a map. I realized then that I had less than a year to teach my child all I wanted her to know before she became fully licensed and able to drive off without me alongside to help her find her way. I imagined her going into the world alone, driving to her first job, leaving for college, going on road trips with friends between semesters, hoping she would not lose her way. I thought of all the things I wanted to warn her about, the things I wanted to make sure she could handle, and the many other life tasks she would need to master on her own one day.

As I looked out of the car window, the old sting of loss and worry about her eventual departure came back to me. I know I have to let my child go. I cannot keep her under my wing, not that she would she let me. Yet I asked myself, how do I let my daughter go before I am certain she is ready for what she will face? How do I prepare my stepdaughter, Linley? I thought of Meagan’s fear of becoming lost and my own fear of her losing her way. I suddenly wanted to write down some directions for driving, even for living, and stuff them into the folds of the maps in the glove box. I smiled as I imagined her pulling off the road one day to refer to a map, unfolding it and my hand-scribbled notes falling into her lap. “Don’t drive too fast,” “Follow at a safe distance,” “Keep a diary,” “Laugh often,” and “Come home now and then,” they would say.

In that moment the idea of this book came to me. Better a book than random notes in the glove box, I thought, because she could keep a book at her desk, on her nightstand, in her briefcase, or anywhere else close at hand, ready and waiting for her when she wants to reminisce about what we have done together, when she wants to know how much I care about her, or when she needs a hug and I am not near enough to give it to her.

And so here it is, this book that might have been notes tucked away in a road map, a collection of fatherly advice and directions for living a wonderful life, offered with love to my little girls. Meagan, I hope you will read it when you get lost, when you just want to reassure yourself of where you are going, and when you miss me. And Linley, put your shoes on; we are going for a drive. You take the wheel.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bible Study Prayer

Father, let me hear the Word clearly that I might understand it. Let not my understanding be dulled by my sinful nature, and soften my heart that I might act faithfully in accordance with what I have heard. Amen.