Tag Archives: family

What keeps you awake at night?

Your parents, the kids, the grandkids?

Leaving town, finding your way in a new town?

Not enough money, what to do with too much money?

Quitting an old job, looking for a new job?

Writing the first chapter, writing the last chapter?

Sending submissions, waiting for a reply, the rejection letters?

Too few clients, too many clients?

Finding your way, losing your way, getting back on track?

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Photo by tdoggogage, Photobucket

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Obligations, sincere apologies, no excuses

The dog ate my homework.

OMG! I’m so sorry!

I’d much rather say it myself – “I’m so sorry. I screwed up.” – in a phone call, in an email, in a Facebook message – than have someone come back to me and say, “You screwed up.”

We’re way past, “The dog ate my homework.” Note: do not make this excuse if you have no dog.

Promises

You make a promise. You keep a promise.

Simple, isn’t it?

When I hear excuses

You may be uttering remarks that are quite different, but I hear, “I messed up but I’m making excuses because I can’t admit I made a mistake.”

Keep a calendar

I keep one calendar for all things. I tell everybody, “Let me check my calendar,” so I don’t over-extend myself.

Family first

I think I have made it fairly clear that my family comes first – before all things. When I make an agreement with a new client, I consider my family obligations, t-ball games, birthdays, special events, and my own personal relax time (yes, I take time to veg out).

Friends, clients, blogging

If I tell a friend, “I will meet you at The Bagel Stop on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.,” then damn straight I’m gonna be there by (probably before) 10:00 a.m.!

If I tell a client, “I will have a full MS edit and an Editor Letter to you by Saturday,” then you can take that to the bank.

If I tell you your guest blog will go live on Monday, I will have your guest blog up that Monday morning.

Fire, blood, hurricane, flood

These are truly the only excuses that work for me. If you are not on fire, bleeding, or in the midst of a hurricane or flood, then lame excuses feel icky. I actually got to use the flood excuse last year, and it still felt like I was letting people down.

Apology

I’ve screwed up mucho. When I realize it, I apologize immediately. I keep it simple and honest.

What lame excuses have you heard? Have you been tempted to make excuses to get out of some event or obligation? What do you do when you realize you are over-extended?

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

Opening photo by Jink Willis. You can find and link to Jink via her website here.

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Filed under Branding & Platform, Editing & Proofreading, Personal Articles, Social Networking

Grandparents’ Camp, by Esther Miller

Carefree days of summer

Remember those long, carefree days of summer filled with trips to the river or lake or ocean? The picnics (complete with ants), roller skating, bike rides, and all the things we did when we were growing up? If you’re a grandparent and retired, consider bringing back the old days for your grandchildren.

Community

Several years ago a few couples in our community decided to invite their grandchildren to come stay with them for a week and planned activities to fill that week with old time fun. Over the years, the group has grown and shrunk, the children have all grown, and some of them are now too old to spend a week doing “kid stuff.”  “Grandparents’ Camp” has gradually become “Grandkids’ Camp.”

Planning meetings

The grandparents have all become good friends and “planning meetings,” several in spring and early summer, usually include dinner and wine and are mere excuses to get together. Our kids have some favorite activities but we try to have at least a couple of new ones each year…thus the necessity for “planning meetings.”

Tubing, fossil hunting, pool party?

We usually hold our camp the week that includes the Fourth of July, so of course a big picnic in the park wherever the fireworks are being held is de rigueur. Other favorite activities include tubing down our lazy river, fossil hunting on a nearby mountain, and at least one pool party, sometimes two. We have visited nearby caverns, a couple of museums, a small zoo, a trout pond, and always have roller skating as a rainy-day fall-back. One night is always pizza night. As older children drop out and younger children finally are old enough to participate, our activities change to accommodate the age range for that year. We have found that having completed kindergarten usually gives the children the social skills and independence needed to enjoy the group.

Oh, the drama!

For several years, there was a lady who ran a drama program for the kids each morning. On Friday the grandchildren would present their musical production for all of us before heading off to the wrap-up pool party and gutter sundae extravaganza. One year one of the grandfathers bought a length of vinyl rain gutter, cut it into short lengths, put caps on both ends of each piece, and let the kids use them to see who could build the most outrageous ice cream sundae. Pictures are taken of each masterpiece before it is devoured.

T-shirts, CDs, DVDs

Each year we have t-shirts made for all of the participants and one of the grandmothers compiles all of our pictures onto a CD (now a DVD) with music. By now, we have a closet full of t-shirts and a fist-full of video memories of summers past. One rainy day last summer, we watched all the CDs in sequence and loved the squeals of laughter as children saw themselves in years past. They decided that they are all cousins now, regardless of blood relationships.

A preview

Before planning an entire week, you may want to try a day over Christmas vacation or spring break with two or three other couples and their grandchildren. You could visit the local zoo or a kids’ museum or skating rink, then have pizza afterwards. Chances are you will find, as we have, that several adults watching a dozen children enjoying an activity is much easier than one adult having to keep track of two or three energetic siblings or cousins.

Benefits

A benefit of our camp that we would never have foreseen is our knowledge of each other’s families. We barely knew each other when we began. Our friendships have developed into year-round relationships and shared interests. Several of us now volunteer at the library, others of us are in Red Hat groups together. When the inevitable grandchildren pictures are passed around, we can do more than make polite comments. These are kids we know!

Nine years

This summer was our ninth year for Grandkids’ Camp. It has taken on the trappings of a family reunion with inside jokes and great memories. For one wonderful week each summer, we’re all family.

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What great activities or events do you plan for your summer-time fun? Camps? Reunions? Block parties?

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Esther Miller

I’m a mother of two and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married almost 40 years. I spent my childhood in the Midwest, and lived in California from high school through retirement. We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.

I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do, but they allowed me to develop skills I never would have gained in the workplace.

Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.

Connect with Esther Miller on Facebook.

Photos from Esther Miller, printed with permission.

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A King, A Giant, And Grandsons, by Rick Wilcox

My Dad was a King

My dad served as a platoon sergeant in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. The 10th is an elite unit trained to spearhead assaults under extremely difficult conditions.  This didn’t add up when I was a little boy, because every time I heard this description of Dad’s unit, all I could think was, “My Dad?  Really?”  My father was the most gentle and humble man I have ever known. While other dads were loud, back-slapping story tellers, my dad was quiet and reserved.  I often tried to get him to tell me war stories but he would not.

Not one.

He would talk about his buddies and how much he thought of them but nothing about battle and nothing about himself.

Near the end of his life, I finally got one tidbit out of him.  All he said was that a man died because of an order he gave, and that he had thought of that man every single day since.  After dad passed away I researched his Army record and was astonished by what I found.  Dad received two Bronze Stars for “acts of heroism and gallantry in the course of enemy combat” along with two Purple Hearts. He never told me about the medals, but in the end, he told me about the private who lost his life on his command.

After the war, General Dwight Eisenhower had this to say –

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and in the sacrifices of his friends.”

The man I knew understood this and quietly taught it to me every day of his life.

He taught me in the wholehearted and unconditional way he loved my mother for 62 years of marriage.

He taught me in his calm and gentle manner that provided the example I would call on every day in my adult life.

He taught me that honor is inseparable from character and gratitude.

***

A Giant of a Man

Life gravitates around defining moments. We all experience them – those suddenly open pages unexpectedly filled with memories rapidly written in indelible ink. As a reader of my page, you know that my oldest son Barry’s dog Bailey was killed by a truck on the highway in front of the ranch a few months ago. Yes, these things happen and they never give you warning. No one is exempt. At their worst, they are painful experiences we tuck away into the attic of our memory.

At the best, they serve us, shape us and teach us.

Character is built over time but defined in moments. Barry is a 32 year old man with his own business, a beautiful family and a heart of gold. He grew up working alongside his grandfather and lived for the days they could put the work down and just go fishing. He was born with a passion for the lakes and woods and loved nothing more than sharing them with a like minded companion. His favorite would ultimately be Bailey – the chocolate Labrador he raised from a pup.

Bailey was a smart dog – that’s for sure, but it never was about her. I watched my son love and teach that dog with patience and expectation. She became the best bird dog I’ve ever known and seemed to share Barry’s passion for the hunt. For ten years she rewarded his nurture and attention with loyalty, joy and companionship.

When Barry’s children came along, I realized more completely how important Bailey truly was. Like all of us, Barry had been shaped by his actions. He easily turned his patient heart to their care and instruction, and my 8 year old granddaughter Kayla and 3 year old grandson Colton are the unspeakable center of his world.

That particular Saturday was simply a perfect spring day at the ranch. By the cool of the evening, the work was done and all of us were winding down. With Colton napping in the house, Barry took the girls blackberry picking and my youngest son Ricky and his friend Michael went across the highway that runs through our property to a pond to shoot anything unlucky enough to move. I stayed in the backyard with a glass of tea to cool down from mowing.

The sound was sickening and unmistakable.

Through the quiet breeze, screeching tires and the thud of impact. My first and instant thought was “Oh my God, where is Colton?” I ran around the house to see a pickup truck sideways in the highway and a man and woman standing by the ditch with their hands gripping their heads in horror. I don’t even remember my body moving from the house to the ditch but what I found there obviously (and even thankfully) was Bailey.

I turned toward the pastures where Barry was picking berries with his mom, wife, and daughter and saw him running at full throttle towards us. I somehow knew he had the same horrific thought, and I called out to him “It’s Bailey.” He slowed his pace.

When he arrived, Bailey was in the throes of death. My screaming granddaughter was also running and getting much closer and I knew she must not see, so I ran to her and stopped her, far away from the highway. Connie had also reached her by now and held her close, rocking her inconsolably in her arms.

I could describe what happened next with noble terms like coupe de grace but the hard fact is my son had to shoot his own dog in a muddy East Texas ditch. He took her on one of our four wheelers to a far corner of the ranch to be buried, which he and the other boys soon did.

Now friends, here is the point of this story.

I saw my son that day.

I saw him shred his leg running through a barbed wire fence when he thought his son might be hurt. I saw him comfort a stranger who had just hit his dog. I saw him mercifully end his own animal’s life. I saw him tenderly kneel before his crying daughter and hold her until she found comfort. I saw him reassure his devastated mother that it was not her fault and that Bailey had broken free from her kennel before. In rapid succession in the heat of trial, I saw Barry put every living thing ahead of himself.

Later that evening we had a little funeral for Bailey in a peaceful spot by the creek where he buried her. He painted her name on a rock and Kayla put some flowers on the grave. We all stood around and remarked how beautiful the place was and how Bailey would have liked it. It was only when I whispered a few words of prayer thanking God for her life did I see my boy allow himself a moment to grieve.

I’ve never loved him so much.

I walked out of those woods with my arms around the shoulder of a giant of a man.

***

Grandsons

One of the greatest miracles of life is that adults produce children.

A greater miracle is that children produce adults.

There’s really nothing more humbling than the realization that a little boy has his eyes fixed on you expecting to learn how to be a man. Young dads have a hard time coming to grips with this because they are trying so hard to grow up themselves. Older dads are better, but they still struggle to understand how to be relevant to a boy at least two generations removed.

Granddads, however, relish it.

A boy is at ease with his grandfather. There’s little pressure to perform satisfactorily or to prove his mettle. In a granddad’s company, the pressure of daily life is removed and conversation is easy. If anything, the relationship is free from any hint of conditional love.

Dads have to raise the sons.

Granddads get to cheer them on.

I have five perfect grandsons, and it never makes my wife happy to hear me say that I’m just one short of a full set of pallbearers. I’m joking of course, but there is some truth in it.

When my last breath expires and it’s finally time to meet Jesus, I want it to be my grandsons who take that last walk with me.

***

Rick Wilcox

Rick Wilcox is a sixth-generation Texan and the lucky father of grown children and seven perfect grandchildren. He also has a wife he doesn’t deserve. An international businessman by day, his muse cajoles him to write, ranch, and roam on an increasingly consumptive basis.

Connect with Rick on Facebook. 

About the ranch 

Founded by my family over 150 years ago in northeast Texas, the ranch is a rich tapestry of eight generations. I walk into a single cemetery and find most of their headstones where decade after decade their remains were placed in solemn ceremony – but they are not there. It’s when I’m working the land or walking through the virgin forest I sense them most.

The story of the ranch is a story of people. Yes, the land is an inextricable song that sings in my soul, but the beating heart of Caney Creek is the people who cherish each other on one holy spot. As I survey the decades I see men and women who were unconditionally devoted to each other, and wholly committed to the bonds of fellowship.

As a man who was adopted at birth, I find great solace in the eclectic weaving of lives. It began with one clan and has now involved many. My own precious family is blended and bound to each other. It extends even to an inner circle of friends who now are closer to me than brothers and sisters – and the bonds we have established in this life are often materially refreshed in the times we spend there.

Caney Creek Ranch is above all an ongoing story of love. Love of Texas. Love of families. Love for each other.

Rick is the one wearing the hat.

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