REAL DADS: Not Just One Sunday in June

Dad Naas Scan 2

It’s Father’s Day. Time for a card or two. A new tie. Maybe breakfast in bed or a nice dinner out. But have you noticed? There’s something off-kilter about a culture that spends 364 days a year belittling dear old dad, then turns around to “honor” him on one Sunday in June.

Sadly, we live in a time and place where dads are often viewed or portrayed as: 1) Bumbling oafs who can’t tie their shoes without written instructions; 2) Insensitive clods and boorish louts or; 3) Invisible and irrelevant. Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter. Or jelly. Or bread.

What Does It Mean?

There’s a fair amount of confusion about what constitutes a “real dad.” Some equate dadness with volume, brute force, or beer bellies. They think the dude who sires a string of children and then disappears without a trace makes the yahoo a “father.” Or “dad” is the lunkhead who throws his weight around because there’s plenty of it. There’s a word for these kinds of guys. And it’s not “dad.” (Since this is a G-rated blog, you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.)

Real Dads

Real Dads can be hard to find these days. There are plenty of fakes. Just turn on the TV. But the Real Deal is still around. And often unsung.

A Real Dad is decent, hard-working, and upstanding. A Real Dad takes his family, job, and responsibilities seriously. He gets outside himself to benefit others. A Real Dad puts his family first. Even when it’s “inconvenient.” Sometimes especially when it’s inconvenient.

Faucets, Flicks and Foregoing

Real Dads fix leaky faucets. Hang pictures or wall paper (without killing anyone). Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest the street. Endure chick flicks without complaint. A Real Dad may toil long hours in a thankless job to keep a roof over his family’s heads and put food on the table. Forego Monday Night Football to cheer a child’s Little League game. Put up a tent in the rain. Do dishes. Clean up dog barf. Teach junior how to slide into second without breaking anything. Stay home with the kids so Mom can have lunch out with the ladies.

Go Get Them

Real Dads take 1:00 a.m. phone calls in the middle of a sleep-over – come get me Daddy, I’m scared – and break every land-speed record on the books in the process. They attend daughter’s tea parties, scrunch their knees into their chins in those made-for-kindergartener chairs. Down gallons of pretend tea and wear those funny little party hats like they’re dining with royalty. Because they know they are.

Real Dads may not always know how to express themselves. They may have a hard time finding the words to tell the wife and kids how much they mean to him. So they do instead of say, speaking the language of self-sacrifice, service and grace.

Real Dads

  • Don coat and tie and conduct somber graveside services for dead gold fish and neon tetras.
  • Remove their hats, hold ’em over their heart and sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air as their eyes mist.
  • Burn Christmas Eve and the wee hours of December 25 assembling brand new purple Schwinns.
  • Open those stupid pickle jar lids.
  • Spend an entire afternoon traipsing from store to store in the mall with the wife or kids, pretending they’re having a great time.
  • Say Yes when they can and No when they should.
  • Have arms that embrace, shield and protect. Their shoulders are big enough to ride, cry on, and hide behind.
  • Pray. And teach their kids to pray.
  • Are never quite thanked enough.

Real Dads cement a protective wall around the fam as no one else can. Real Dads stand on that wall, often alone, and patrol. Real Dads put any lurking menace or stalking evil on notice with, “Not on my watch. You’ll have to come through me first, and I’m here for keeps.”

With Dad at Neff

How do I know? Because my dad was a Real Dad. And not just on one Sunday in June.

***

This post was previously published on June 16, 2013.

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Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One

If you’re on Goodreads, you probably know the average Reading Challenge for 2018 is about 51 books in 12 months. I read 136 books in 92 days for last summer’s adult reading program with the library. So what was a realistic but stretch-worthy goal for 12 months?

I set my goal at 200 books for the year. I was cruising along pretty well, picking up steam. The “brass ring” was in sight – six months early.

Until today.

Let me explain. First the not so good news. Followed by the good news and some reading highlights thus far.

The Not-so-Good News:

I was closing in on my target goal of 200 books. I went to my Goodreads account today to add a few more completed titles to bring my total to 181. Suddenly, my reading progress vanished. Gone. Poof!

Has this happened to you?

Because not a single title entered over the past five-plus months remains in my Reading Challenge. Zip. Zero. Nada. I know the site was having trouble cataloging dates and updates. But zeroing out 181 books just like that?!

Well I’ll be et fer a tater.

I can’t possibly recreate the entire list from memory. (Yes, I reported the matter to Goodreads. No solution yet.)

The Good News:

Of course I’m discouraged. Not to mention a wee bit miffed. But I’m still reading. And while it’s not exactly cheery to have five+ months of titles wiped out due to “technical difficulties,” I’m going to keep reading. In fact, I’m aiming for another target. Think of it as Reading Challenge 2.0:

200 additional titles by the end of the year.

How does that sound? (Good thing I took a few screen shots awhile back, eh?)

Meanwhile, from some prior notes I jotted down, here are some highlights from my Reading Challenge 2018 (before The Great Poofery struck):

Most Whimsical or Disarmingly Charming:

What-the-Dickens, by Gregory Maguire.

A natural disaster, three kids, a 21 y.o. Language Arts cousin/babysitter. Skibbereens and a flying thing nsmed “Pepper” with lots of sass. Teeth. What’s not to love?

The Faerieground series, by Beth Bracken and Kay Fraser.

Twelve quick, enchanting reads about BFFs Soli and Lucy. One is far more than she seems at first glance, esp, when soneone’s made a wish inside the Willow Forest!

Most Interesting Biogs or Autobiogs:

New York to Paris – Charles A. Lindbergh.

Flying by instruments-only through fog at 1,500nft. over the Mid-Atlantic? Ay! Yi! Yi! Also white caps, porpoises, and “Which way is Ireland?”, the London-Paris runway and the Eiffel Tower.

Man O’ War – Walter Farley

Gripping Historical fiction about one of the greatest Thoroughbred champions to ever set hooves on a race track.

Creepiest

Look For Me By Moonlight.

Forget the silver stakes and garlic. Find an artist friend with a cliffside workshop and a hot stove! And whatever you do, don’t fall for some sweet-talking “30 something” dude in black who comes to stay at your Dad’d rustic, isolated inn in thd dead of winter!

172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

After yeats of budget cuts and stalled space exploration, NASA is going back to the moon, this time with three teens aboard. Once they hit the lunar surface, everything goes sideways. And astronauts start dying. Will Mia, Midori or Antoine ever see earth again?

Most Intriguing or Surprising

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson

Hauntingly poignant and powerful, this intriguing story explores family relationships, bio/medical ethics, how far a parent might go to save a loved one, and what it means to be “human.” Earned a rare five-star rating from me.

Fairest – Marissa Meyer

A taut, compelling tale dripping with palace intrigue, rivalry and jealousy, misplaced love, blind ambition and utter corruption. Masterfully crafted. Couldn’t put it down!

Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundlin.

Finally. A “romance”” novel that isn’t a romp through the local garbage dump.

This uplifting, engaging story offers solid characters who are both winsome and flawed. They’re wholesome without being sappy. The clever “whodunit” plot has perfect pacing while the love story deftly combines faith, hope, tenacity, and integrity. Superb historical fiction plus plenty of surprising plot twists to keep you guessing!

Old Faves:

Just about anything by Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, and Scott O’Dell.

Note About My Reviews: I hold to the axiom: “The repeated use of profanity is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Hence, no book that uses same gets high marks from me. Ever. Far as I’m concerned, if an author can’t express him/herself without “turning the air blue,” then s/he is a lousy, lazy author. Period.

Now. Back to square one. And a new Reading Challenge.

How’s yours coming?

Holding Hands: What I’ve Learned in 35 Years of Marriage

Snuggle Bunny and I celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this week. Where did the time go? More importantly, in an era in which a double nano-second constitutes a “long-term relationship,” how did we make it thirty-five years?

First off, we’re waaay too young to be that old.

Second, it hasn’t always been easy. Marriage is hard work. It’s the union of two imperfect, self-centered, hard-headed people with feet of clay. Throw in some job losses and “down-sizing.” Too much month at the end of the money. Four kids. Health issues. A couple cross-country moves. Misunderstandings, the untimely loss of loved ones (three parents in just over a year), and the usual trials and tribulations of life, and you’re in for some major stress.

How have we kept it together for 35 years? Here are some key ingredients, suggestions, and lessons learned over 35 years:

  • Make Jesus Christ the center of your heart, home, and marriage. Like this. Sung at our wedding in May 1983. It still rings true today:

  • Pray for your spouse daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muffed this over 35 years. But I keep trying. You can, too. Incidentally, the person whose heart will be most changed when you pray for your spouse is yours. (Don’t ask how I know that.)
  • Cultivate a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Develop your “funny bone” and exercise it often. Look for things to laugh about. If you can’t find any, I might lend you some of mine. If you ask real nice.
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Another thing you can’t do on your own. It takes Jesus. Trust me on this one.
  • Learn and use those three little words: “I was wrong.”
  • Give your spouse room to grow, stretch, and learn. Allow them the freedom to fail. When they do, be the first person to pick them up, dust them off, and cheer them on to the next endeavor or adventure. Be your spouse’s #1 fan.
  • Show an interest in and participate in your spouse’s hobbies and interests if at all possible. Is he a football, baseball, or basketball fan? Into NASCAR? Boating, hiking, fishing, camping? A history buff? What kind of books or music does she like? What’s her favorite cuisine, color, movie, style, or get-away spot? How does your spouse like to spend his or her down time?

Snuggle Bunny and I love the Great Outdoors. We’ve spent more time around a campfire singeing perfectly good marshmallows than I can shake a charred stick at. We’ve also hiked millions of miles over most of the western U.S. and quite a few Eastern Seaboard states, too. (Well, okay. Maybe not a million. It just feels that way.) The idea here is to adventure together. Savvy?

Also (throwin’ these in for free):

  • An ounce of Hershey’s is worth a pound of cure.
  • Flowers. Don’t ask me to explain this.
  • Honesty is the best policy. (Don’t confuse this with undue harshness or acting like a jerk. Tell the truth. In love.) Also, be trustworthy.
  • Love without commitment only goes so far. Like, around the block. Commitment lasts forever. Don’t confuse the two.

  • Snuggle Bunny and I have worked hard to implement and maintain what has been derisively dubbed The Pence Rule. By people who don’t get it. Like, whenever possible, we avoid being alone with someone else’s spouse or a member of the opposite sex. It’s called protecting our marriage pro-actively. It works. For 35 years. And counting.
  • Don’t take each other for granted. Ever.
  • Say “I love you” every day. Find creative ways to express your love and appreciation for your spouse in ways that’ll speak to their heart. (Did I mention Hershey’s?)
  • Realize that marriage vows are vows, not suggestions.

07 May 1983

On an eighty-degree evening in southern California in 1983, Snuggle Bunny and I promised to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health….” We’ve seen plenty of all of the above. But we made solemn vows “to have and to hold… until death do us part.”

Not just when things are going great. When it’s all moonlight and roses, champagne and fireworks. Because guess what? The last couple to “live happily ever after” was Snow White and Prince Charming. You’re neither. There will be times when your spouse seems as attractive as an overcooked cabbage. As prickly as a porcupine. Is galactically irritating. Selfish. An insensitive clod.

Well, guess what again? So are you. So get over it. Choose to honor your marriage commitment and hold fast to your vows. Even when you don’t “feel” like it. Maybe especially when you don’t feel like it.

If you need professional help, get it. Remember #2. Also remember that you have an Enemy. The Thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That includes your marriage. Be on guard. Be prepared to fight for your spouse and your marriage. Take the gloves off and do it!! Like this:

Finally:

  • I still have a lot to learn.
  • If I live a thousand years, it still won’t be enough to deserve the good man who gently won my heart so many years ago. And still has it. Hey, Babe. This one’s for you. Happy Anniversary!

One day, far away, you gently won my heart
And one night, by candlelight, we made a vow to never part
And then it seemed just like a dream
When wide eyed, side by side
We faced the future holding hands…

Everyone’s favorite pup, Kimber the Magnificent, returns next time. Stay tuned!

Thirty Years & a Tassel Toss: What One Non-Writing Prof Taught Me About Writing

Biola Sign 4

“I can’t believe it’s been over three decades!” she quipped, blue eyes dancing. “Didn’t we just graduate last year?”

Looking backwards quick enough to generate dual whiplash, my friend and I peeled back thirty+ years in a single bound, recalling cafeteria food, favorite chapels, best profs, dumbest assignments (yes, I confess), a championship basketball team, dorm life, concerts, and The Dreaded Finals Week like they were… well… last week.

Later, I thought about all the people I met during my college career. Those years generated countless friendships, fond memories and shining moments as well as a few “speed bumps” and disappointments. Funny, isn’t it, how the down times seem to fade into irrelevance and the good times loom large as time marches on?

Another Recollection

“You won’t remember much from the academic part of this class” I recall Dr. George Nishida, Sociology Prof Extraordinaire, saying one bright fall morning. “You won’t remember today’s lecture or this week’s assignment or Friday’s exam after you’re graduated and gone,” he smiled, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. “What you’ll remember is the people. The best part about your college career will be the people you shared it with. What matters is the relationships.”

Only People Can Do That

This was before the Internet. Before Facebook. Smart phones. Or email. (I know, I know. I’m a dinosaur.)

But you know what? Technology can’t offer the kind of insight Dr. George did. The Internet doesn’t connect those dots. Social media can’t take the place of lunch in the cafeteria. Cramming with a classmate to pass Dr. Mitchell’s Old Testament 1 final. Or stringing popcorn garlands and sipping hot chocolate with “Dr. George” and his family at their annual Christmas open house.

Only people can do that.

Let Me Ask

So let me ask: if your web site, blog and social media accounts gave up the ghost tomorrow, would it matter? A fair amount of pulled-out hair would doubtless ensue, but would a technology crash – like a computer crash – totally destroy all of your relationships?

My blog and other outlets have given me the chance to meet and interact with some really cool people. I’ve gotten to know and learn from some awesome fellow travelers. I’ve grown to appreciate each one, especially those who are generous enough to leave a quick comment or respond with a sentence or two in response to my latest post.

But here’s the thing: although it may have helped establish those relationships, technology isn’t at the heart of those relationships. People are.

Bottom line: If you’re Facebooking or tweeting or blogging to ignite that kind of connection, great. Just don’t stop there. Kick it up a notch or two. Likewise, if you’re using social media just to boost your numbers, increase your stats or as a head trip, you’re pretty much missing the point.

Not Exactly

Long-term isolation isn’t exactly a writer’s best friend. You can’t spend all day, every day staring at a computer screen, checking your email every five minutes or logging status updates ten times a day and expect to develop as a writer. To do that, you need people. Other writers. Their creativity, energy, and yes, productive critiques and “utches.”

I get some of my best ideas by bouncing them off other people. I’m inspired, encouraged, challenged and uplifted by connecting with other writers. By “connecting” I mean face-to-face if possible. Grabbing a latte, a book review, writer’s group or a luscious slice of raspberry white chocolate anything together. When distance or other factors makes this impossible, how ’bout a personal phone call, card, letter or email – as opposed to the blanket list-y stuff?

Only Another Person

Technology is a great tool. But it will never take the place of a living, breathing human being. Because you can’t have a “relationship” with an electronic gadget. Only another person can offer that.

Dr. George’s words still ring true. I have no idea what the answer to question #10 was on my final exam for his class. But some thirty years down the road, I’m still in touch with many with whom I once shared a college campus. Shared experiences can become shared lives. And sometimes shared lives become lifetimes, lasting far beyond – and meaning much more – than final exams and a tassel toss.

***

How Hiking Makes Me a Better Writer

Some combinations are no-brainers: Peanut butter and jelly. Whine and cheese. Politicians and… Okay. Let’s not go there.

When it comes to writing, however, I discovered a connection that is easily overlooked: writing and hiking. That’s right. Hiking. Think of hiking as Walking With Attitude. In The Great Outdoors. Under achingly blue skies. In soft mountain meadows marinated in wildflowers. In forests so dense and quiet, you can almost hear the trees grow.

I’ve been hiking since the sixties (I’m way too young to be that old. So don’t tell anyone). But I recently realized that some of my best ideas, inspiration, and peak productivity are connected with an outdoor sport I’ve been doing pretty much all my life: hiking.

Here are eight ways hiking makes me a better writer:

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Reader’s Choice

The ball is ready to drop and PAWpourri is ready to ring in a New Year. Before we start tossing the confetti, let’s take a quick look back at our top posts and most popular topics of 2017.

The Top 5 PAWpourri posts of 2017 were, in descending order:

It’s your turn to weigh in. Which post was your favorite? Vote in the poll below. You can vote for more than one post, but you may only vote once. All votes are confidential. The poll will be open for one week.

Storytime and 1600+ Kinds of Beautiful  

Moms are a Special Kind of someone. Silent and strong. Mouthy and mushy. 1600+ kinds of beautiful. 

I know this is so because Mom says so.

Moms are sometimes sentimental. Like the other day. Mom, The Kid and me were walking home from the library. All of a sudden Mom gets all misty-eyed. Something about Fridays and Storytime at the library.

 “Do you remember how we used to walk over to the library every week for Storytime when you were a little kid?” she says to my brother. He’s the youngest. I have three other brothers older than him. “How did you get to be 18 so fast?”she asks.

The Kid smiles and says, “One day at a time.” 

They’re both lugging home a bag full of books. YA books. Adventure books. Science fiction/fantasy books. Biographies. Historical fiction. Authors like Kristin Cashore. Rick Yancey. Laini Taylor. Rick Riordan. Max Lucado.

I’m investigating recent evidence of a Lhasa Apso. They’re taking in the ‘fall colors.’ Tip-toeing down Memory Lane. Seems like 20 years of kids and weekly Storytimes at the library is a lot of ground to cover.

“I remember when you kind of lost interest in Storytime,” Mom says to The Kid. 

Still looking for that Lhasa Apso. Wait. Is that pizza I smell? With sausage?

“You were around six years old” recalls Mom.  “You wanted longer stories with more words. You wanted to roam the library shelves and select books yourself.”

“I still do” says The Kid. 

Besides the library, Mom read aloud to my bros every day. For at least an hour. More if it was a good story. Like Treasure Island. Swiss Family Robinson. The  Three Musketeers. The Count of Monte Cristo. A Tale of Two Cities or The Last of the Mohicans. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Make Way for Ducklings.

The whole family was practically on a first name basis with Jim Trelease.  Rarely went anywhere without his Read Aloud Handbook. Serious PAwesome!

I know this is so because a Mom says it is. That, and our house is crammed with books. All. Over. The. Place.

Anyway, The Kid still visits the library regularly. He loves that place. He loves books and reading. Maybe there’s something to this Storytime thing? And 1601 kinds of beautiful?

Do I smell pepperoni? 

Visit our sister site at: Hiker Babe. Making the most of your trail miles, one step at a time.

A Writer’s Best Friend

Writing is hard work, not magic. It begins with deciding why you are writing and whom you are writing for. What is your intent? What do you want the reader to get out of it? What do you want to get out of it. It’s also about making a serious time commitment and getting the project done.”

– Suze Orman, finance editor and author.

Serious time commitment.  Getting the project done.  Talk about a couple of freckle-rattlin’ phrases!

Are there times when those words taste like vinegar to you too?  But they’re true, huh?  I think of it this way: A writer’s best friend isn’t the Internet.  It’s not a short-cut, a quick fix or even a thesaurus.    (This following gem of galatic insight will work a lot better if you can scare up a drum roll in your head.  Ready?  Okay.)  A writer’s best friend is – drum roll, please: Restlessness.

Huh? 

That’s right.  Restlessness.  Let me explain.

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Why You Need to Work at Rest

tropical-relaxation

I know, I know. “I don’t have time to rest or schedule any down time” you insist. “I’ve got too much to do!” You are TOO BUSY to take a break. Type A Attila the Hun personalities can raise your hands now. You know who you are. And you need to change. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who have to live and work with you. Here’s why, first for the writer and then for everyone else (you know, normal people who aren’t busily cranking out the next Great American Novel):

For the writer, overwork or a stressed-out mind often manifests itself in The Dreaded Writer’s Block. So listen up. Hitting the block wall may be your mind’s way of saying, “Give it a rest. Take a break. Recharge. Disconnect. Let the creative juices have a chance to rejuvenate.” They will return if you resist the urge to run them ragged. Promise.

For non-writers in a culture that worships workaholics and Attila the Hun types and doles out brownie points based on exhaustion and 24/7 work skeds, lighten up. That’s right. Get a grip. That old adage about, “I’d rather burn out than rust out”? Well, whoop-de-doo. Because you know what? Either way, you’re out. So listen up again.

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Are You Doing The One Thing A Writer Can NEVER Do?

Public domain

Public domain

I visited a favorite haunt the other day, the local library.  Prowling the stacks, I noticed that an author I enjoyed immensely a couple summers ago has cranked out several new titles, sequels in a series.  I selected one. Opened it. Started reading.  Talk about painful. That puppy made my teeth ache.  I couldn’t believe the author I so admired had slid so far down the readability-o-meter.

I thought, “Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I don’t get it.  Maybe I’m missing something here?”

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