D is for Daddy

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Me and my Daddy.

Not every man merits the name Daddy, but it’s a term of endearment my father deserves. I called him Daddy when I was a child, but soon switched to plan ole Dad once I hit my teens. It wasn’t until recently that I reverted back to calling him Daddy. It came automatic even though at times I feel we have traded roles. C. Wayne Greenlee was the “go-to” man when any of us kids found ourselves in a rough spot. If he couldn’t fix things for us he had earned the money to pay someone who could.

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My daughter Miranda showing her “Papa Wayne” how to be gangster.

He grew up poor on a farm where his family barely scraped a living. He was outgoing, friendly, worked hard and loved to play football. He played at Breckenridge High School (two time Texas All State team and Texas Football 3A Champions) in small town Breckenridge, Texas. Receiving a football scholarship, he went on to play offensive and defensive tackle and earned a degree in Geology from The University of Oklahoma. His 1955-56 team won back-to-back national championships, and their record for 47 consecutive wins still stands unmatched today among college teams. After graduation, he and my mother struggled financially for many years. Before he became a Petroleum Landman, he worked three jobs as an oil scout, gas station attendant, and high school football referee while my mother raised us three kids.

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My Daddy and Mommy: Wayne and Dixie. It wouldn’t be Christmas without another OU sweater.

His perseverance and hard work paid off. After we kids had grown and moved out, he went out on his own and became an independent Petroleum Landman. He is the true definition of a self-made man. He came from nothing, climbed to the top–stumbling a few times along the way–and did what he set out to do: to become financially independent while working at a career he loved. He always said the oil and gas business was a lot like gambling. He thrived on it and, at times, got lucky. Many people bash the oil and gas industry, but they don’t realize it’s not all about the big corporations. There are good, decent, honest men out there like my father who sometimes pay their dues working for corporate America but eventually head off on their own.

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The Orange Bowl: where my Daddy’s team won a national championship. It wasn’t until many years later that the university offered these legends their championship rings.

As for the personal side of my father, I know you would fall in love with him once you met him. Always looking on the positive side of life, he is the most generous and laid back man I know with a sense of humor that is endearing. I’m proud to call him my Daddy.

He has taken excellent care of his family. Now at the age of 80, he is slowly coming to terms with the fact that it’s his family, his children, who need to return the favor. He is determined to take care of his wife of 60 years, my mother, who, after several falls leading to head injuries which doctors blame on a series of mini-strokes, has been diagnosed with dementia (possibly Alzheimer’s, but the jury’s still out on that one). His role as caretaker is taking its toll. What can we do, but help him hold onto his dignity and independence for as long as possible?

momanddad.phpSo now when I go see my parents I have to speak a little louder and repeat myself often. And when I hug him goodbye I always say, “I love you, Daddy.” I’m not even sure if he notices that I’ve resumed my childhood term. I should have never stopped using it. “Daddy” doesn’t sound childish to me anymore. It sounds beautiful . . . like true love.

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C is for Courage

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we will fall!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.

–Guillaume Apollinaire’

C is for Courage. The ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, or uncertainty. Ernest Hemingway referred to it as “grace under pressure.” There are days when it takes a tremendous amount of composure to face the present. The past may be poking and prodding at your back while the future is screaming in your ear, “Take action!”

Philosophers through the ages have professed that dying is easy; it’s living that’s difficult. This is especially true if your life isn’t going as planned, and you’re stumped about what action to take. It seems that the older you get, the more courage you need. You have less time to waste and feel pressured to find and/or fulfill whatever dreams you may have once envisioned. You may have to accept that dreams from your youth will never be obtained and have the determination to create new ones.

No one goes through life unscathed by some sort of crisis, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Sorrow is a part of the human condition. But with courage you can do more than survive misfortune–you can learn and grow from it. You may begin questioning every belief and notion you have staked your life on. Were you living a lie? Were you a fool? If you are unafraid to look deeply and answer honestly, you might find a comforting message: you were doing the best that you could at the time or you would have done otherwise. Stop beating yourself up. By letting go of fear and regret, you let go of the past. By embracing the present, you give yourself a gift: a chance to heal and an opportunity to be your authentic self.

A little bravery is necessary to overcome everyday problems. You must face reality, the here and now, even when feeling inadequate and uncertain. Take time to reflect on what is important in your life, and afterwards, surrender and concentrate on your breathing, being mindful of each inhalation and exhalation. All you have is this very moment. Savor it, looking only for the good. It is there. It may be hidden deep within the folds of your consciousness, but it’s still there. Keep looking. Never stop.

We are constantly evolving, moving from what is to what could be. If we are fearless and receptive to ourselves and to others, we become responsive to the process and transcend all the spheres of existence. With our eyes open, we are free to fly, to choose new paths, to let go of any negative energy and embrace the positive as it occurs.

Courage allows us the choice to appreciate the true beauty called life.

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B is for Beauty

B is for Beauty. Its definition numerous. It surrounds us in nature if we open our eyes and truly see. But what makes humans beautiful? Remember the old cliche? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In the marketing world, a beautiful person is a sleek, young man or woman with air-brushed skin and the bone structure of a marbled statue chiseled to perfection. In society as a whole, youth is the epitome of beauty. I would have to agree; I looked better when I was young (sure miss those days). But we need to broaden our view and look beyond the physical for beauty transcends appearances.

Have you ever met certain people and upon first introductions nothing about their looks made you take notice, but after becoming acquainted you found yourself attracted to them? Their beauty springs from a well within them: their attitude, demeanor, and personality.

These traits can be honed as we grow. Like a fine wine, we should become better with age. If we don’t let life’s disappointments drag us down into a mire of negativity, we can shine with an inner beauty that has more to do with our philosophy about life. It radiates through what we say–for our words have an impact on the universe–and how we act and what we create.

I once read that the greatest gift we can give to others is being a role model, by setting a good example. When stripped to our essence, our beauty is more about our wisdom and the love we share. True beauty emanates from the eyes of the beholden.

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A is for Aging

Back in March I mentioned the April A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a post every day except Sundays starting with the letter A and ending with Z. I knew then I couldn’t write 26 posts in one month. So I’m challenging myself to use the alphabet to motivate my next 26 posts. Of course, this may take more than a year or two. Who knows. So here it goes:

  A is for aging. It’s something we all go through if we don’t die young. We notice it more readily in someone we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s amazing to run into an old high school friend after twenty or thirty years. We think, “God, he’s aged.” Then wonder if he thought the same about us.

What I find mysterious is how it sneaks up on you. The inward aches, pains, creaks, and groans grow on you. But the outward appearances? You don’t realize something’s different until it has changed drastically. While doing yoga a few years ago, I remember glancing at my legs as I performed a downward dog. The skin on my thighs hung loose around my knees. Did that happen overnight? What happened to the muscles residing there? I never heard them say good-bye. And I didn’t notice my jowls or turkey neck until looking at photographs taken during Christmas shortly after I turned fifty. How long had those been there? Why didn’t someone warn me? I used to pluck stray gray hairs poking from my head until one morning there were too many. If I continued plucking I would go bald. Did I cause the gray to multiply? Was the old saying true that if you pluck one gray many more follow?

Bette Davis once said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” Boy, was she right. No matter how resilient you think you are, the signs of aging are shocking when you gaze in the mirror and find them staring back at you. Worse still, it’s knowing you can’t do some of the things you used to take for granted, like squatting down and being able to get back up, or opening a jar of jelly, or reading fine print.

Harder still, is watching loved ones go through it first, especially your parents. To watch my father, a once tall, strong, football player, shrink in skin that bruises easily, his hearing aid not doing its job. and see my mother, once a beautiful cheerleader, shuffle her feet as she walks, forgetting what day it is, brings tears to my eyes. I cry every time I leave their house, knowing their time here is limited. Where did the time go? How did old age get here so fast? I have to keep slapping myself, saying, “Stop crying. They’re not dead yet. Cherish what time is left.”

I guess I’m crying for what’s been lost: my childhood, my youth, the days when I could go to Mom and Dad for answers, to fix things. I cry because I’m helpless to stop time, and I’m frightened. I’m afraid of what’s next. I can’t imagine my life without my parents. I know, people survive the loss of their parents all the time. Some even survive the loss of a child. But how do they do it? What is their secret? Maybe I’m just a big baby. But I’m also scared of what old age will do to me. Will I lose my memory? I’m pretty forgetful as it is.  My mother used to joke about the saying, “Live long enough to become a problem to your children.” Seems only fair especially after putting both of my parents through hell during my teen years. Will I become a burden? I don’t want to do that to my daughters. Watching your parents fade away is painful enough.

All I can do is plan ahead. I’m weeding though junk, especially papers, trying to organize documents, so when the time comes my kids will be able to find what’s important and have less of a mess to sort through. In the meantime, I’m trying to control my emotions. If I allow sad thoughts to consume me I become crippled, paralyzed with pain, no longer living in the present, wasting what precious time remains. I need to hold on to the memories and release the sorrow, and relish each moment I have with the ones I love.

To keep me in a positive frame of mind, I post affirmations throughout my house. Two on my bathroom mirror remind me: “Don’t wait for a crisis to discover what is important in your life” and “Be thankful for the past, have courage for the present, and faith for the future.”

A is not only for aging, but also for affirmations. Affirm what’s good in your life, everyday, for you never know when it is your last.

What are your thoughts on aging? How do you deal with your own mortality or that of a loved one?

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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From A to Z

If you’re interested in joining the A to Z Challenge, check out Damyanti’s blog Daily (w)rite. She’s a co-host to the A to Z Challenge.

I considered the Challenge, but knew I couldn’t write about twenty six subjects in less than a month, a year maybe, but never a month. I’m lucky if I blog every three months as it is. The motivation is gone. Where it went is beyond me. I should have named this blog Brain Fart instead of Brainstorm. I’d go ahead and change it, but I’m not sure how to do it. Who knows, maybe it’s too late. What can I say? I’m still technically-challenged (though I did finally buy a smart phone and am slowly learning how to use it). My brain doesn’t function the way it did when I was younger. It’s slowing down. Yours will too one day. Enjoy its brilliance while it lasts.

I’ve read so many different people’s ideas on what a blog should be. Most people pick a topic and stick with it. Not me. I’m random. And I don’t care if others say that’s not the way to do it. I don’t want to write about writing all the time. Plenty of other writers do that already. The subject is well-covered; I don’t have anything else to add. Besides, I’m still learning. I’m no expert. I’m an expert of nothing.

Even though I’m not joining the A to Z challenge I think I’ll try the basic concept. I need to blog more just to keep it from dying. My next post—and I have no idea when it will be, not that you’re holding your breath or anything—will be about something that starts with an A.

If anyone even reads this post, if you have any ideas please feel free to share. I need all the help I can get.

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March 22, 2014 · 8:46 pm

When to Cut and Run

No, my blog isn’t dead. At least, not yet. I haven’t written in quite some time. My excuses are many.

First, it’s the holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that jazz. I know, I know, I haven’t written since April, I think, so I can’t use the holidays as an excuse. But I do sincerely wish everyone all the best and a happier New Year.

I have been writing, just nothing worth sharing yet. I’ve started on three short stories, none of which have a decent beginning or ending. I used to write short stories all the time, many years ago, but they kept growing longer and longer. That’s why I switched to writing novels. But it seems I need to publish more short stories in order to sell myself as a novelist. Frustrating.

I’m editing my thesis novel Daughter of the Bride (again) and have been for what seems like a very long time. Well, since graduating in June. It would be helpful if I trusted my own instinct, but I don’t. I hired an editor who made many valuable suggestions. I didn’t use all her ideas, but most. So I added and deleted scenes and wound up with over 95,000 words. I asked my writer friend Marla to read it. She had some great advice, too, some of which helped me remove scenes my editor had already advised cutting, but I had stubbornly refused. Now, after struggling with what many writers call “killing my darlings,” I’m deleting more scenes. I’m searching for overused words, too, which is enough to drive anyone crazy.  {Little side note of trivia: the lesser-known Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the term “Murder your darlings” in his 1914 lecture “On Style” (slate.com)}.

The following is a sampling of words and the number of times they appear in my manuscript:

was-733, were-199, when-180, adter-115, once-72, while-102

turned-91, stood-65,went-37, moved-39, seemed-30, appeared-30,

looked-178, glanced-75, stared-58, gazed-29, watched-62, peeked-15,

peered-19, squinted-7,just-81, well-53, oh-46, sighed-39, shrugged-23.

I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you with numbers. But you get the idea. I could go on and on with the word search and count, too, and drive myself insane! Or in my case, further insane. It’s addicting, playing with words, finding ways to replace them with something better. What I want to know is when do you stop the searching and thumbing through the thesaurus? How many times do you have to use a word before it is considered overused?

I’m down to a little over 82,000 words. I wonder. Is it time cut some more or run for the insane asylum? What would you do?

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