Friday, June 15, 2007

Last dance

I’m approaching my one-year anniversary. On Father’s Day (June 19, 2006), I wrote my first blog for The Telegraph.

I had already written just about every other kind of story for the newspaper – sports, features, editorials and even taken a few photographs. Just last week, I celebrated my ninth anniversary as metro columnist. By this time next year, I will have written my 2,000th column for the Local/State page.

But blogging began as a venture into this brave, new world wide web.

I’m still finding a lot of folks don’t know what a "blog" is or what it’s all about. I find myself explaining it even to those who have computers. While the blogosphere has become its own culture of sharing thoughts and information, not everyone is tuned it. Not yet, anyway.

There aren’t a lot of rules when it comes to blogging, so anything goes. It’s a medium that appears to be defining itself as it goes along. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. But I will say this: It is changing the face of journalism.

Anyway, I made a verbal agreement to blog for a period of one year. Now, that time has reached the end of the line. And I’m going to move on to other writing projects.

Four columns and five blogs a week has been quite a load for me – more than 200 columns and 265 blogs. As many of you know, I also do between 75 and 100 speaking engagements a year, so I stay pretty busy.

I tried to make my blogs read like mini-columns. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn’t. But with a blog to write every day – they don’t call it “Daily Gris” for nothing – we had a joke around my house: If anything happened, no matter how obscure or trivial, we all chimed: “It’s a blog!”

It has been a lot of work. For the most part, it has been fun, too.

Thanks for being loyal readers. You can still read my columns at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A father's greatest gift

Ed, Jake and Grant at St. George Island, summer 2006

In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, here is a column I published on June 20, 2004. It is called “A Father’s Greatest Gift Is His Children.’’

Dear Ed, Grant and Jake:

No, this isn't going to be another lecture. I'm not glaring at you over the top of my glasses.

I'm not going to ride your tail and remind you it's time for a haircut or to tuck in your shirt.

This is a thank-you note from a father to his three sons.

Thanks, guys.

Last week, another writer asked me to describe how I felt when I published my first book in 1997.

"I picked it up, held it in my arms and cried,'' I said. "It was likebecoming a father for the first time.''

Of all my life experiences, there has been no greater joy than my children.

I don't expect you to fully understand that now. One day, when you become fathers, I hope you will.

I remember each of those trips to the hospital to bring you into the world. Once, our car raced through the dark streets at 2 a.m. with your mother's contractions getting closer together. In the delivery room, I realized it's possible to be exhilarated and terrified at the same time.

In Lamaze classes, we had learned how expectant mothers should breathe.

Fathers could use some breathing lessons, too.

Those childbirth classes also emphasized the importance of having a "focal point" during the delivery.

Since the moment each of you arrived, you have been our focal point.

You've probably heard other men talking about the day they became fathers. The stork showed up. Cigars were passed around. Tears were dabbed at the windows of the hospital nursery.

But birth is only the opening act on the stage of happiness. "Proud father" is a permanent badge.

Fatherhood does not come with an instruction manual. There is no toll-free number to call for technical support, as there is with computers and lawn mowers.

Much of it is trial and error. OK, I'll admit sometimes it has been your trial and my error. But, for the most part, father knows best.

Don't ever forget it.

Parenting brings its share of splinters. There have been days when you got on my last nerve. You have sent my blood pressure higher than the Dow Jones average. At times, I've wanted to pull out my hair with one hand and wring your neck with the other.

But the rewards have been a trip to bountiful. I've popped so many buttons, I should keep a needle and thread with me at all times.

On a wall at home there are three framed sets of footprints. I can no longer keep pace with those feet. They won't stay still. You're off to theater camp. Or a job. Or a concert in Indiana. Or to Europe with a girlfriend.

I guess my job has become to throw down the anchor and be here when you return to port.

If there has been a character trait that has been constant in your lives, it is that you never forget to tell people you love them. You tell me every time you hang up the phone or walk out the door.

That's why, as my own father says, every day is Father's Day.

You are my greatest gift.

Love, Dad.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lost in space

We had people to make us things
We had people to sell us those things
We didn't have enough room for those things
We build lots of self storage.
-- Jimmy Buffett, from "If It All Falls Down"

Five years ago, we bought a house with a three-car garage. Above the garage was a huge attic.
In the third garage, which we cleverly began calling the “Third Garage,” there was more shelf space than in all the other houses we’ve owned combined.
“We’ve got all the space we’ll ever need,’’ we said, gleefully. (We love to say things gleefully.)
And then. …
The stuff piled up.
It filled the rafters across the attic.
It filled every shelf in the Third Garage.
It piled up on the floor and spread across the double-car garage like diabolical kudzu vines.
And then it got into the house. First the closets, then in available rooms.
It all proves my theory that the amount of stuff you own will expand to fill up the space you have.
In April, we had to rent space in a storage shed.
The creatures from out-of-space.
They got us. Don't let them get you.