It’s Christmas Carol Time… Again

I think I'm singing on key...

I think I’m singing on key…

This is our fourth year performing in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol and after being cast as a dancer last year, I had a pretty strong inkling that my talents were fully exposed.  I assumed I would, from this day forward, dance on stage.  In fact, I was fairly certain that talent scouts from other shows would be after me and frankly, I have no more time to perform.  I was saving it all for the fortieth anniversary show of Charles Dickens’ play right here in Raleigh, NC.  I wanted to please my hometown constituents.

Much to my surprise, not only did other talent scouts not call, but I was not asked to shake my legs this year in our annual Christmas performance.  Oh, I’m in the big numbers with all of the other townspeople, but the second act party scene with leaps, jumps and herkies, will not highlight my abilities as was the case last year.

I was deflated.  I sulked for days after receiving the news.

I complained to the girls, “How could this be?  How could they not see my talent with movement?  I mean look at these jazz hands!!”

DJ reminded me, “YOU CANNOT DANCE!  You don’t even march correctly! Didn’t you learn that in preschool?”

“Have you seen me shag?” I protested.

“Did they shag in the 18th century?  Do you remember how long it took to teach you Shuffle/Ball/Change?”

“That’s a VERY complicated step!”

I guess they decided they wanted to focus on my vocals, or perhaps my acting abilities.

We are reminded to act like it’s cold in the play, it is set in December.  And I shiver like a pro!

I mean, I can sort of understand that perhaps they wanted to give others a chance to shine.  And, well, maybe I am better with all of my focus on shivering.  That’s really important.  Sets the entire tone for the show.

I won’t be in the second act dance number this year, but DJ will.

Bailey ACC 2014 2

In fact, after three years of trying out to be a dancer, she has been cast in five big show stoppers.  In one she’s wearing an outfit that is actually a bit revealing.  Thankfully she has a feather fan that covers most of her business.

I estimate that I’ve spent $26,000 on ballet and jazz lessons over the past 18 years for that child.  Incidentally, that is the average cost of a wedding in America.  I should have just taught her myself.

But I guess the investment has actually paid off.  She’s knocking it out on the dance floor this year.

I would strongly suggest that you come to see her.  This is the 40th year of the production, big things are in store.  And you might even catch me bustin’ some moves in a few of the big numbers.  I’ve been practicing!

40th Anniversary of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol

Sunday Post 194: Another One Down

I’ve attended two funerals for young parents since Lisa died.  One was last week.

In both cases I sat on the front row of the church balcony.  I headed up there assuming there would be fewer people around in the event I become a blubbering idiot.  I have a bird’s eye view of those beneath who are struggling with their grief.

Yesterday I sat and watched another father on the front row, his daughter and son beside him.  And I return to that day.

It’s weird what you remember.  I was wearing my light gray suit.  I saw a former employee who I had not seen for years in the hall as we entered the sanctuary.  I grabbed her hand.  Another guy I work with was standing under the stained glass window half way down the aisle.  He had given up his seat for an elderly woman.

I remember Michelle on one side of me, Stephanie on the other.  I could touch DJ with my hand if I put my arm on the pew around my middle daughter.  I felt it was important for them to feel my presence, physically and emotionally, since their mother seemed so far away.  I enfolded the other two up under my arms, crutches to keep me upright.

We sang four hymns because Lisa loved music.  She used to say, “You don’t need to talk at my funeral, just sing.”  We did both.

I stared at the cross hung above the choir’s heads, What a mess you have made. I thought to myself.

There was no talk of the beauty of God’s plan.  We didn’t pick bible verses that would make it all seem planned.  We just  sat and ached, every single one of us.  Our minister hurt too.

Over and over and over I wondered how this could be.  It just could not be true.  I felt like I was at a movie watching someone else in pain, and yet clearly it belonged to me.

It broke my heart to see that father last Friday.  I didn’t hurt for me – I’m through the worst of it.  But to think of what he has to face: the fear, the loneliness, the open wound in his heart.  As a fellow human being, I simply ached for him.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could share the pain, if I could relieve him for two hours each week?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  It’s his journey to walk.  We can stand by his side, we can help hold him up, but he and only he has to take the steps.  One     at      a      time.

Resistant to Change

iphone

I have become resistant to change. I may find this scarier than change itself.

I remember my grandparents getting stuck in their ways. One granddad refused to wear pants with pleats. You could not find a nonpleated pair in town so he had his suits hand tailored.

I’m the opposite. I love my pleats! They’re roomy and comfortable. I can fit my phone, a kid’s phone, wallet, business cards, keys and my glasses in orifices around the circumference of my hips and still have room to spare. Nonpleats are in and yet, I hate ‘em.

My other granddad didn’t want to watch anything on TV but Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy reruns. My grandmother would enter the room and yell, “Spurgeon! Turn the channel. The kids don’t want to see that junk!”

“Oh Ivy, they love it!”

It wasn’t that bad, but I wouldn’t say we loved it. I too find a Seinfeld episode much more invigorating than Dog with a Blog, my youngest kid’s favorite.

But it wasn’t TV last week that let me know I was stuck. It was my recurring fear of technological updates.

I received an email from Bart, he takes care of all mobile phones at the Y. His message was upbeat: New iPhones have arrived! Come by my office to pick yours up!

As others jumped from their desks to rush his office, I reached for my trashcan. A wave of nausea came over me.

There are people who spend nights in tents for the glory of owning a new technological apparatus. For me, this announcement means weeks, perhaps even months, of strife: new tool bars, Candy Crush and Taylor Swift mysteriously missing, my Outlook calendar organized in list fashion versus boxed calendar day. It was almost more than I could take.

I don’t want a new phone. I just want my old one to hold a charge for more than three hours.

At 4 PM I meandered to Barts’s side of the building. I paced in front of the IT department’s door. A fellow employee popped out from the office kitchen.

“Danny, you need something?”

“Ahhh…”

“It’s the phone isn’t it?”

My brow furrowed, I confessed: “I’m frightened. You know what happened the last time we had an upgrade.”

“You’ve got to let that go. We were able to recover most of the data on the server.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and guided me inside.

Bart was on his way out but slowly walked through the steps to back up my old information in the clouds. Apparently I was not utilizing this atmospheric support.

I took my old dandy back to my desk and plugged it into my computer. I clicked on iTunes and began the process of updating my 5S. I’d never done that before. At some point it asked me to enter a password. I punched in four numbers that were meaningful to me. I thought I was perhaps unlocking something that had been set up before.

When I was finished, I unplugged my 5 ready to access it for the last time. What I realized was that I had actually locked myself out.

I panicked. Oh Lord, please help me.

I was flustered. I went to YouTube and clicked on a video entitled Removing a Password from your iPhone 5.

I clicked play and began to follow the instructions of the hipster who was narrating the show.

“Plug your iPhone up to your computer.”

“Press the power button at the top of your phone while also pressing the control button at the bottom of your phone.”

I listened intently doing exactly as he instructed.

My phone was responding just as the one on the screen.

About half way through his demo, he said, “This will fully clear all contents from your phone, and you’ll be ready to start from scratch.”

Say what, say what? From scratch? I don’t want to start from scratch. I’m not even in the clouds yet!

And like that, all of my contents – my songs and my photos, my apps and my Outlook, the history of text messages, and all my saved messages were gone – for good. I felt like I’d been sucker punched.

Sometimes you get to an age that Andy Griffith is OK. I like pleats. Seinfeld is funny. And a working phone, with all of your stuff, is sometimes more appealing than a new one.

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

Sunday Post 193: Confucius Say

Last Wednesday I picked Michelle up from dance at 6:05pm, right after work.  We had another event at 7 so we were in a hurry.  Typical.

Michelle was standing outside of the studio when I pulled up.  She climbed in the car and looked me over, “Dad.  You have dark circles under your eyes.  You need to get some sleep!”

“Yeah.  I’m tired.  Late nights this week; early mornings.  It was a tough day.”

My first question when she gets in the car is always, How was your day?  On Wednesday, she beat me to the conversation starter.

“Tell me about it.  What made your day bad?”

“Well, if you really want to know,”

“I do.”

“I had an early meeting.  I hate early meetings.”

“Those are hard for you aren’t they dad?  It’s cause you go to bed too late.”

“Not by choice.  Anyway, I had to speak to a group of about 75 people at lunch today in Durham.  I was on a panel with three other folks talking about work/life balance.  It took me an hour to get there, find a parking place and get to the building.  And then, I spoke for five minutes.  They did table breakout groups after we each introduced ourselves.  An hour to get there, speak for five minutes, and then an hour to get back!”

“What else happened?”

“Then I had a meeting from 2:30 – 3:30 with these other two guys.  And one of them showed up at 2.  And then both of them stayed until after 4!  It took all afternoon!  And now I’ve got 80 emails I have to check tonight when we get home at 9:30!  Oh, and I spilled coffee on my shirt this morning.  It was just a bad day.  I have a headache.”

“Dad, did anything good happen today?”

“Mmmm…I didn’t get shot.”

“Dad!  I want you to think of ten good things that happened today.  Come on.  Think of something.”

I swear.  I’m gonna have to do this. Think     of      something.

“Well, Robyn who sits across from me at work came back to the office today.  She’d been on vacation.  And she’s fun!”

“That’s one!”  She seemed excited.  “And you just made it through that yellow stoplight!  That’s two.”

“Oh, and this woman who knew Uncle Matt came up to me after the meeting in Durham and gave me a big hug.  She said that she really connected with what I said.”

“See dad, in five minutes you made a difference.  You helped her, and then she made you feel good too.”

“Yeah.  It was nice of her to say that.”

“Dad, look at the sky.  I love the fall.  It’s my favorite time of the year.”

I looked up.  The pinks and purples were peering out from behind the clouds.  It was beautiful.

“Dad.  Did you eat today?”

“Yea.”

“You know, there are people right here in Raleigh who don’t have food.  That was a good thing that happened to you today.”

Good lord.  I’ve used those very words on her.  How dare her toss them back in my face! 

At least she’s listening.

“Ok.  Ok.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah.  Every day has some good in it.”

It’s like I’m raising Confucius.

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

48 Hours

Problematic suitcase

Michelle is going on a two night trip to the mountains with school.  She will be gone approximately 48 hours which, coincidentally, is the same amount of time it took us to pack.

It went like this:

“I have nothing to wear on this trip!”

“You have three dressers and a closet full of clothes.”

“But none of it is right for this trip.”

“You are going to the mountains for school.  You wear yoga pants, t-shirts and a coat!  You have all of said items.”

She looked at me as if I could not possibly understand what was going on in that little mind.  Her look was warranted.

She began digging in her middle drawer and pulled out a pair of black pants made of stretchy material.  “I’ll wear these  on the way down.  Actually, could you check the weather?”

“By all means Vera Wang.  It’s going to be 65 tomorrow, 63 on Thursday with possible rain and only 47 on Friday.”

“Then should I wear these pants instead?”  She held up a different pair of black stretchy pants.

They are both black; they are both long.  They are twins.  How can one override the other?

“Those appear to be much more appropriate for the climate.”

“I’m going to try them on.”

“Don’t you wear those often?”

“Yes.”

“Then why are you trying them on?”

“I need to see how they look with my tennis shoes.”

“I bet they look the same way that they did last Saturday when you wore them with your tennis shoes.”

She ignored me.  She then pulled out multiple white t-shirts as possible matches for her black pants.  I would have chosen the one on the top.

She then repeated the process with her jeans, a pair of crop yoga pants and a pair of leggings.  When done, she put one pair back on with her sweatshirt and a rain jacket.

“AHHHH,” she grumbled.

“What’s wrong now?”

“This stupid coat does not match my tennis shoes.”

“Actually, blue and pink go well together.”

“No.  They don’t.  And look, when I zip it I look fat.”

“You have two t-shirts and a sweatshirt under it.  Jimmy Walker would look plump in that getup.”

“Who?”

We then went to the attic to pick out a suitcase.  The Vera Bradley bag in her closet would not work.  She was afraid she was going to have to carry it too far.

“I want the one with the wheels.  The one with the pink polka dots.”

“It will certainly match your rain coat.  But I’m not sure about your tennis shoes.”

“Your suitcase does not have to match your tennis shoes.  You’re being ridiculous.”

“Oh.  I’m being ridiculous?”

“Yes.  And weird.  And don’t write about this!!”  She brushed her hair back with her hand, “I’m tired of being famous.”

I don’t think she was serious.  Well, about the last part.

Sunday Post 192: So Embarrassing

halloween

I know that at times I embarrass my children, but usually it’s intentional.  Nothing makes me happier than to walk out of the house with a teenaged daughter wearing black socks with my tennis shoes.  Yeah, in some circles that’s in…but only if the socks have the Nike swoosh on the side.  I got my swooshless socks from Walmart.

I revel in their pleas for parental normalness.  My office elevator has had rails on the back wall and mirrors from ceiling to floor.  When a kid and I enter, I prop both feet on the rail and break out in song!  “Dad, you’re so weird!  Stop singing Prince in the elevator!  Someone’s gonna come in here!”

It’s actually very cool.  You can see your performance from a bird’s eye view if you keep your eyes lifted up.

But the embarrassment is on my terms.  Not theirs.

On Halloween, I worked to get home at a decent hour.  DJ and Stephanie had an event at their school so I was prepared to trick or treat with Michelle.  I knew that my door to door days were waning, but I thought I had at least one more year.

As she put on her costume, I readied myself.  I put on a sweater, jeans and made a sign for our candy dish on an index card:  Please take one or two, we’ll be home shortly.  I taped it to a long pencil and stuck it in the middle of the M&Ms and Starburst Fruit Chews.

I put a can of beer in a koozie and called up to my 12-year-old Oreo, “You ready to go?”

She came downstairs and eyeballed the situation.  She was clear in her words, “It’s a little embarrassing to have your dad trick or treat with you.  I mean, I’m old enough to go by myself.  Ellen is only 11, and her Mr. Young said she could go with me – alone.”

Unfortunately there was no one around to remove the dagger that had been pierced through my heart.  I stood there, bleeding, pondering my options.  I knew it was time to let go.

“You got your cell phone?”

“Yes.”

“Dellwood Drive and Elvin Court ONLY.  If you want to go further, I’ll come meet you.”

“Thanks dad!”  She gave me a hug.

As she walked away, I yelled, “Be home by 8.”

I slowly walked into the kitchen and removed the help yourself sign.

It’s more fun to watch your kids grow up with your spouse. Fortunately Jesse dropped by and chatted while Michelle galavanted across the neighborhood. I wonder if they’ll be home for Christmas.

Kay and Thom

tillis and hagan

Thom and Kay are killing me. If I see one more commercial with one candidate bashing another I’m gonna go out of my mind.

Apparently Thom Tillis hates education. He also hates teachers, the elderly and immigrants.

Kay Hagan seemingly has made millions off of the government stimulus package which she voted for – which surprises me because, according to Thom, she is constantly missing meetings and votes because she is always at campaign fundraisers.

Thom says that Kay won’t work with the Republicans.  She says that she was voted the most nonpartisan Senator.  Both of those statement cannot be true.

The other day my friend’s nine-year-old son asked:  “Who are you voting for dad?”

His father responded, “Well, I’m not sure yet.  Probably Kay Hagan.  I think I like her better.”

His son then shared, “You know, you can’t trust Thom Tillis.”

A nine-year-old has deduced that Thom Tillis cannot be trusted!

Why do we fall for it?  Aren’t we smarter than this?

They come on TV, a beautiful setting, its sunny outside.  They introduce themselves and admit that they are responsible for the contents of the message.  And then…

It turns to black and white.  Their opponent has their mouth half-open chomping down on a piece of fried chicken.  Their skin is washed out.  In bold the big letters and numbers start:

96% – the number of times Kay Hagan has voted with Obama, displayed beside the damning figure the most atrocious photo of the duo embracing.  Are Kay and Barack really THAT close?  Are they often standing arm in arm?  I wonder if they go camping together?

$495,000,000 – the amount of money Thom Tillis has taken straight from our school children.  Camera pans in on big-eyed orphans adding with an abacus because there is no money for a calculator. Or a pencil for that matter. By the way, he also hates kids.

And we believe them!  We allow these 20 second blips to color our thoughts about who will be RUNNING our country.  And the biggest problem is, I can’t figure out where to find the truth!  The newspaper is biased, the news stations are biased and the commercials are about as reliable as my 2003 gas-powered edger.

I give up!

And they wonder why folks don’t exercise their right to vote.  Geeze.

Sunday Post 191: My Eulogy

Last week I did my first eulogy.  Do you do a eulogy?  Say a eulogy?  I guess you eulogize someone.

I was honored to be asked by an elderly lady who attended my church and who was an avid exerciser at the Y.  She called me a month or so ago and explained that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer.  She felt like her time was limited.  She was making plans.

Sarah told me I was a good man and that certainly I could think of something good to say about her.  She was right.  It was easy to think of wonderful things about my friend.

It’s a huge responsibility to speak at someone’s funeral.  The opportunity only comes around once.  It is the single time that folks will outwardly, in front of your friends and family, talk about what you’ve meant to this world.

As I thought about Sarah last week, I also thought about the end of my life.  When it’s all said and done, what would I want someone to say about me?

I really spent some time thinking about this and have decided there are about five things I hope someone will remember when they give that 10 minute synopsis of my life.

1) He made us laugh.

2) He was a really, really good father.

3) He made a difference in this world (and be able to support that statement with several specific examples).

4) He lived his faith through his actions.

5)  He loved people – he loved all people, and it showed.

When I look through this list, there are a couple I think I’ll knock out of the park.  There are a few, though, where I’m currently coming up short.  That means I have to accept that I’m probably going to fail or I’m going to have to make some changes now.

Suppose I lived my life with those five goals in mind.  What if I considered my daily actions determining if what I was doing was moving me toward those goals or away from them?

Perhaps a little focus today, will ensure a more interesting and thoughtful message upon my demise.

Biff’s Biceps

university_banner

I applied to one college.

I did not visit multiple institutions.  I took the SAT once.  We didn’t even have the ACT that I can recall or any other test that required a number 2 pencil and an interruption of much needed Saturday morning teenager’s sleep.

Maybe I wrote an essay.  If I did, it wasn’t a big deal.  It was one.  Perhaps my dad proofed it.  But that was about all.

These days I truly think it would be less work to be confirmed to the Supreme Court than to get into an institution of higher learning.

Over the years, many dandy tools have been created to help you figure out which college might be a good fit.  You can go to a web site and look at a scattergram showing you little colored dots on a graph that tell you the average high school GPA of those who applied to get into each college.  The green dots got in, the red ones did not and the blue ones got in but went somewhere else.

It was one of these web sites that unveiled that the average GPA for the University of North Carolina is 4.58.

So to be clear, you can have straight A’s, a 4.0 average, and you ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT get into one of our state’s largest institutions of higher learning.  Unless, of course, you play football.

I have encouraged DJ to join the city league.  Certainly she could be a kicker.  She says that’s ridiculous, that shoulder pads are out.

My standards are not that high for DJ’s college choice.  There are two criteria:  She has to get accepted and I have to be able to pay for it.

Thus far in our quest for the right secondary educational fit,we have:

Taken the SAT twice

Taken one prep course for the SAT

Taken the ACT twice

Visited 11 institutions

Completed the common app (which most colleges don’t take)

Had 17 arguments

And she has written six essays which I have proofed.  There are many more to go.

Why is there a common application if more than half of the schools she is applying to refuse to accept it?

At NC State, which does not accept the common app, you have to enter your top ten extracurricular activities and explain them in 25 characters or less.  For UNC, you have up to 150 characters to share the same exact information.  Errrr.

Although DJ has done the lions share of the work, at times we will sit together, two computers open, trying to enter info onto one application by interpolating info from another application.  Working to add or pair down the 62 characters to 22 characters because some bozo decided not to use the common app.

At times we get a little punchy, and I’ll start answering questions like this:

Question:  Discuss any obstacle and/or hardships you have encountered and how you dealt with them.

Our Answer:  I was a breech baby.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  My toes were above my ears and the umbilical cord was wrapped around my chest.  I tried to turn but I simply could not.  I could hear the doctor going nuts!  I pressed on the lining of my mother’s uterus and bravely shimmied down the birth canal.  It was the most difficult day of my life.

There are some schools that really want DJ to attend.  I am not familiar with Mercer, but I feel like we have a special relationship.  They email me daily.  Right now they are, one by one, sending me the top 15 reasons to attend their school.  We’re on number 6.  I can’t wait to see what 5 will be.

I do fear that DJ might decide to go to a school for the wrong reasons.  A few weeks ago we toured the University of South Carolina.  When we got back into the car after walking around the campus for an hour and half I asked, “What did you like the most?”

She said, “The tour guide was HOT!”

All of this work, and she may make her choice based on Biff’s biceps.  Heck, the local community college has hot guys.  Think we’ll go there next week.

 

 

Sunday Post 190: Haters

A couple of weeks ago a fellow blogger left me a comment.  She wrote, “Your writing is tired.  I used to enjoy reading your stuff but not anymore.  You should stop writing.”

OUCH!  That one hurt.

I mean, she didn’t disagree with my take on things, she didn’t tell me she hated a particular post, she told me to stop writing.

Her comment made me think a bit about how I share criticism.  I know I am pretty outspoken and share my opinions freely, but I also think I’m pretty good at making sure I give feedback that’s constructive rather than just smashing folks.

I kept my niece and nephew for the day recently.  She is three, he is five.  They’re great kids!  He is, however, the loudest person I’ve ever met.  If there is an item in the house that might possibly resemble a drum in any way, shape or form, he will beat it.  Like, he’ll be the mess out of it.

His sister, my god-daughter, is a cute, sweet little one.  She’ll look at you with those beautiful big eyes, give you a huge hug, and then go hit her brother in the head with a stainless steel bowl.

It was then that I sort of lost my temper, cause she’d done it before just a few minutes earlier.  I do love kids.  I also love them to do what I tell them to do.  When she didn’t, she got the raised voice and a little time out.

When her five minutes were over, I pulled her into my lap and I said, “You know, I LOVE YOU!  But I don’t like it when you hit your brother.  It hurts him, you can’t do that.”  We hugged and headed to the den to play a sweet game of Monkey’s In A Barrel.

As I was talking with Kinsey after her infraction, two of my kids yelled down from upstairs, “Dad – we’ve heard that before!  You always told us you loved us after you yelled at us for doing something wrong.”

It’s not that I think you should hold back from expressing frustration or dolling out criticism.  But I work to make sure the person I’m criticising knows it’s their specific action that is causing me strife, not their whole self.

That being said, perhaps my fellow blogger was not saying she didn’t like me.  Perhaps she was just telling me my entire repertoire of writing is lacking.  That it’s only my writing that stinks.

If I the goal of my blog was to please her, I’d quit.  But it’s not.  I just enjoy writing – it’s a hobby like knitting.  I’m sure not all sweaters turn out perfect.

And by the way lady, it’s free.  You no likie?  Read something else.
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

 

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