Daddy Stories


It's great to be a dad.

It’s great to be a dad.

Two weeks ago I got an email from the mother of one of the kids on my Y basketball team. The season was over so I was surprised to hear from her. I thought maybe she was going to report that her daughter had been recruited to play in the WNBA, and she was going to credit me for her advancement. That was not the case.

Instead, she asked me if I would coproduce a local show with her the week of Fathers’ Day. When she told me what it was about, I jumped at the chance.

Lisa Ogburn is a documentarian and works to bring communities together through the art of storytelling. In June, the plan is to gather 12 folks to each share a story about fatherhood. The story can be read or just told. It can be about your father or about being a father.

I was telling Michelle about this venture and asked her what her favorite father or grandfather story was. She was quick to recount.

“Do you remember the time we met Aunt Sallie and Uncle Matt in the airport on the way to the Grand Canyon?”


“Remember we were waiting on their plane – they weren’t married yet.”

“I remember.”

“And do you remember what Pops said?”

“No. Not really.”

“He said, ‘I wonder where Sallie and Mark are?’”

My father-in-law actually called his daughter’s boyfriend by the wrong name, Mark, not Matt.

That might not seem so odd but they’d been dating quite a while at this point and in fact when they did show up at our gate to take the last leg of our flight out west, Sallie walked up and immediately lifted her ring finger. The night before, “Mark” had asked her to marry him.

Now in some families there might have been some sense that we keep our mouths shut and not share this faux pas with the new kid on the block for fear of instant alienation. However, with Uncle Jesse and me in the mix, keeping quiet was not even considered.

“Sallie, we’re so excited for you and Mark!”


“Yeah, that’s what Pops told us his name was…”

With big bear hugs we embraced ‘Mark’ and told him how excited we were that he was joining the family. I informed him that Pops had never called me by the wrong name but I was certain there was no hidden meaning in his mistake.

We then proceeded to call him Mark for the duration of the excursion. The name has stuck and on our next whole family vacation, we even gave the other family members aliases just to ease Mark’s pain.

Jesse- Duckie
Danny- Wood
Lisa- Virginia
DJ- Lizzy B.
Stephanie- Pokie
Michelle- Brookie
Nana- Eleanor
Pops- Santa Claus
Aunt Sallie- Shush It (cause she kept telling us to be quiet)

If you have a story that you’d like to submit for for our Fathers’ Day production, or if you might want to attend to hear these tales, visit Liisa Ogburn’s website. The event will be held at Peace College on June 10th. Hope you can join us!

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


Sunday Post 165: A Second Chance to Live

I was at a conference last week in San Antonio. It was for YMCA staff and volunteers who raise money as part of their job. We do a lot of that – most Y’s use the support to help kids in need attend Y camp and tutor programs.

This year, we had a keynote speaker who really made me do some thinking. Her name is Amanda Lindhout, and she if the Founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation. Unfortunately, she landed in a position of remarkable philanthropy not because of something good. No, she was actually kidnapped when in Somalia to photograph a refugee camp. She was held by teenage terrorists for over 400 days in horrible conditions while enduring significant torture.

Her Canadian parents worked for a year to raise the $1.5 M ransom to free their daughter. She finally returned home – but not as the person who had left 14 months prior.

I suppose in this situation, most people would have holed up, filled with anger and fear. Amanda didn’t do that. Instead, she realized she could be bitter and resentful or, she could look at life another way. She spent countless hours thinking about her captors. She came to the conclusion that their actions were driven out of desperation – out of a lack of hope and opportunity in a country that is bombarded with war.

Her response was to start anew. So, she started a foundation that would support the people of Somalia, bringing them food, education, and hope. Instead of hatred, she found hope and love.

On my trip I also heard of another woman who had lost her husband many years ago. Her children are grown. She has nothing left. She is alone.  She is still struggling with sadness and questions.

What gives some the strength to move forward while others are unable to put their life back together after trauma?

It’s Easter. Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins or whether you don’t, there has to be a lesson in the story shared throughout the New Testament. Jesus was hung on a cross and killed, and his sacrifice, his horrific death, brought about peace and hope for people for centuries.

Whether the Son of God or the victim of violence – whether suffering extreme personal loss or the fear of death, we ultimately all have two ways to respond. We can crawl under a rock and quit. Or, we can get help and work toward a new beginning – one that perhaps does more good than our first one.

Where did the hovercraft go?


How sweet it would be to vacation without any concern for money.  In my life, we rely on grandparents for the really big stuff.  And if they don’t come through, it’s ugly.

Lisa once told me she wasn’t going to spend thousands of dollars going to Disney World and then spend the whole week listening to me moan about every Diet Coke she ordered.
I don’t think I really moaned.  I was just thinking about sending the kids to college.

“So, you gonna order another Diet Coke?” or would you prefer we send DJ to college?

This past trip, we lucked up. My brother-in-law, Matt, has a cousin who works in the park.  She hooked us up!  A MAJOR discount for ahhh, well, extended family.  Very extended.  I mean, didn’t we all come from Adam and Eve?

It was nice because we got the meal plan – so your drink came with it (no worry about the extra Diet Cokes.)  And my kids knew better than to ask for add ons.  Two square meals a day and a snack – that’s what was included, so that’s what we ate.

I’ve always enjoyed the mouse, but I think this year they’re sort of slipping a bit.

As we were driving in, one of the thousands of buses that transports the hoards had wrecked. Thankfully, we weren’t on that bus, but the crash did divert our course. We had to drive through a back lot to get to the main road which led to our hotel.

It was a mess back there:  Tilt-A-Whirl parts, a broken down bus, stacks of wood, chain link fence – looked like the back gate at the NC State Fair.  The place where the Pig Racers camp for the week.

I don’t want to see that.  It’s like your grandma’s underwear.  You know she’s got ‘em but you certainly don’t want to see them.

The Monorail was “Out of Order” three times during our short stay.  Heck, that’s the main reason I go.  It’s the closest I’ll ever get to riding in a hovercraft like in Star Wars.  And by day 3, one of the trains had disappeared.  I could tell because they’re color coded, and a new one was puddling around the circle.  It rides on a huge concrete track!  How did they move it? Where did it go?  Did it break and fall off in the lagoon?

I think some funky stuff happens at that place once the park closes.  Mickey Mouse walking around naked and stuff.

On the bottom side of the monorail track at the Transportation Center in the Magic Kingdom, a permanent sign that read, “DANGER, HIGH VOLTAGE,” had been replaced with a large sign that looked like it had been printed on a bubble jet.

I did that once at the Y and got in trouble. My sign read, “Please don’t spit in the shower.” A member asked me to put it up, and I was trying to be customer friendly.  Apparently some mannerless dude had hocked one right there beneath the Kohler Medallion 5-Sprayer showerhead.

Finally, the afternoon we headed to the airport, we walked outside of our hotel to wait for the airport shuttle and right in front of us was an enormous puddle of vomit. Probably too much Diet Coke followed by the Tilt-A-Whirl.

At any rate, the chunkiness sat there for the entire duration of our wait, like 20 minutes. People were nearly walking through it.

Now don’t get me wrong, customer service in central Florida still outshines the majority of other places I go on a weekly basis, and the grounds and facilities are very nice. Most importantly, we had a fantastic time. I was just surprised to see these few blemishes.

Perhaps I’m just getting cynical. Or, maybe they knew I was sliding in without paying full fare. You get what you pay for, huh?

Sunday Post 164: We’re strangers, yet not

About eight months ago we started taking the highway as our primary route to Michelle and Stephanie’s school.  Before that we had followed Lisa’s lead – the back way.

She lived in Raleigh her entire life and avoided the Beltline as if driving on it would give her smallpox.  To her credit, you do pass two schools on your way to I-440.  But to my credit, if we are on time, we hit it right between the middle school drop off and the elementary school drop off – and we save about 2 minutes.  In my world, that’s a lot of time.

It didn’t take but a few days for us to notice her, the little old lady who walks Ridge Road every single morning at the very time we head out.  I think I was the first to call her out.

“Girls, look at that sweet old lady, the one in the pink sweat suit.  She exercises every single morning.  I love her!”

“Dad, she has a fanny pack!”  Michelle wasn’t about to let that fashion faux pas go unnoticed.

“I think it’s cute,” Stephanie added.

This woman in the silky pink sweat suit with the black fanny pack hitched over her jacket at the very epicenter of her body became a part of our daily routine.

We’d wave to her, although she never noticed.  We talked about what we thought she was going to do that day, “Maybe she’s gonna go shopping for a new sweat suit.”

“Nah.  I think she’s gonna catch up on her favorite show, Honey Boo Boo.”

“Dad, can we meet her some day?”  Stephanie requested.

“Perhaps this summer we can take a morning walk and try.”

I’ve been so impressed with her commitment.  She appears to be in better shape than I.

But the past two weeks, she hasn’t been walking.  I’m not sure what’s going on.  We’re pretty concerned about her.  Is she visiting her daughter in Iowa?  Could she be sick?  Did she move?  Worse?

Last fall I went to the dry cleaners and the woman there asked me why she hadn’t seen my wife in a while.  I had to break the news to her.  I could tell it shook her up.

My life is full of folks like that.  People that make up my community and yet I don’t know much of anything about them.

There’s the rough-looking dude who runs the register at the drugstore.  He’ll talk your ear off.

There’s a woman who bags at the Harris Teeter.  She has one grown daughter, and she grew up in Fayetteville, my hometown.  I’ve “known” her for years.  There’s the sixty year old woman with beautiful, straight white hair.  We’ve been smiling at each other as we both jogged Ridge Road since DJ was in a stroller.  There’s another woman who walks in our neighborhood.  She has two leg braces.  One day she stopped me in my yard and told me that our house was her favorite on the street.

We live all around these people.  They live all around us.  We rely on each other for constancy.  We miss their presence when they’re not where they’re supposed to be.  And yet, we don’t take the time to learn their name or a thing about them.

Maybe we’re too busy.  Maybe we’re lazy.  But I folks who do more than I do to call folks by name – to engage in a brief conversation, to show some appreciation for the small role they play in our lives.

We’re strangers and yet not.



Bra Issues, Again

Victoria's Secret

We’re having bra problems again.

It’s prom weekend, and DJ found a pretty bright pinkish dress at a fairly reasonable price. I was excited that I wasn’t going to have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.

But there was one hitch. The back of the dress had some holes in it which made it difficult to brassiere-ize, and she is not one who can go without.

I learned last year that they make these bras that aren’t really a bra at all. They’re like a bumper sticker that you put on your boobs. And…they cost $53!!!

I offered other more reasonable options:

“If you’re not going to get a real bra, couldn’t we rig something up? We could buy those face masks that doctors wear and tie them together. A pack of 25 for only $4.99 – and you’d be set for dances well into your sophomore year of college.”

She didn’t like that idea.

“I could fold my Dr. Scholl’s inserts, not these – I’d buy ones that haven’t yet been used, and hot glue them in a cupish sort of position.”

She just doesn’t have vision.

“Your sister can make incredible stuff out of Duct tape…”

We were getting nowhere. So I succumbed. We headed to Victoria’s Secret. The secret is they charge you $53 for a large band-aid.

After going to two of their franchises to find the right size, we got it home and she tried it on. And the damn thing fell right off. It was like making a jock strap out of a dish towel and attaching it to your body with Scotch tape. Sir Isaac Newton could have told us that wasn’t going to work. Nothing just cannot hold up something. And to make it worse, the sales clerk at the classified undergarment store told us if we removed the tape we could not return the bumper sticker.

Well we’ll see about that! I’m gonna go in and if they give me a hard time I am going to find the most endowed employee and insist that she go put that dag gone thing on and prove to me it can hold those items in place! It’s defective. It simply DOES NOT WORK.

And tomorow, I may have to buy a new prom dress. But that will probably be cheaper than the bra!




Sunday Post 163: Deja Vu

The last time we went to Disney was in 2009.  It was December.  Lisa had been diagnosed and was between her radiation treatments and surgery.  The day we returned to Raleigh we had a pre-op appointment.  It was an abrupt change – Mickey Mouse to Dr. Tyler.  Happy – Fear.  Bright – Gray.  Warm – Cold.

We went again two weeks ago – Lisa’s family sort of has a tradition that all 5 year olds must experience Disney.  It’s like being a 19-year-old, male, Morman.  You turn 19, you take the pilgrimage.

Lisa went with her grandparents when she was 5; her sister Sallie did the same.  I assume Jesse also went as a kid.

This year, we had to take my nephew Sam, for he turned 5.

We booked our meals in advance and one night agreed to eat at the Japanese Steak House at Epcot.  As usual, about half way through dinner, I had to go to the bathroom.

I walked in and it looked very familiar.  I’ve been here before.

Yeah, I had been there.  I peed in that bathroom in 2009 when Lisa was fighting for her life.

I looked at the red walls, and it hit me.  I remembered that the last time I was there I thought to myself, I wonder if she’ll be alive the next time I’m in this bathroom.

It took four years, but I had my answer.

Because she had been so sick and because her cancer was advanced, I had the wherewithal to consider the possibility of returning to this special place without her.  It made me want to make the most out of that week.  To run out of the bathroom and sit by her.  To snuggle up next to her when we got back to our hotel room.  To be the one to sit by her on The Tower of Terror – to experience her scream for perhaps the very last time.

I don’t think I want to wonder on a regular basis whether I’ll return to a particular venue with or without a particular family member.  That would not be healthy.

What I would like to do is to spent my time here in Raleigh the same way I did at Disney in 2009.  Savoring a dinner with a friend.  Scratching the back of my kid who is awaiting my touch.  Hanging on to my 5 foot mom a little longer when she gives me a hug.

We just don’t know if we’ll be returning – to anything.  Maximize today.


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



I Don’t Give a Spit About Your Bracket

Some have asked me, “What happened to Uncle Jesse?”

He’s still in Raleigh and in and out of the house a couple of times a month.   On the occasional Saturday morning, he’ll call and ask to speak to one of the girls.

“Dad, can I go to lunch with Uncle Jesse?”

That’s code for:  We’re gonna hit the Kanki Japanese Steak House.

I’m cool with him taking them there.  Although I like the food, it does a number on my innards.  And, I always leave the place smelling like deep-fried chicken.  Instead of a night out with dinner and a movie, when Kanki is involved, it has to be dinner and a shower.

“Hey you guys, let’s meet at Kanki for dinner and then hit the Y for a group shower?”

Jesse also continues to be the producer for the Dave Glenn Show on 99.9 FM.  It’s your “statewide home for sports talk.”  Jesse pulls in all the cool music, lines up the interviews, mans the phones,and  holds down the Facebook and Twitter accounts.  He knows more about sports than I know about eyebrow waxing, and that’s a lot.

On the side, Jesse makes these interesting videos and uses them on different venues through the sports and media worlds (what I’m really saying here is I don’t know why he makes these videos or what he does with them).

The other day he popped by and he and Michelle came up with this ditty.  In NC, NCAA basketball is HUGE, even for a non-sports fanatic like me.  Enjoy the music!

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

Sunday Post 162: Face to Face with Cruella

We Just got back from Disney World - went there for DJ’s spring break. Of course you probably already know that.  Based on the crowds I’m assuming you were there too.
Not only do I get a kick out of all the attractions in the parks, I was also quite amused by watching all the other suckers spending $5 on an 8 oz soda.
One thing that really struck me on this trip was the lack of happiness I saw in some of the families I encountered. I’ve heard that this mouse mecca is the happiest place on earth.  Apparently that is not the case for all.
In the Orlando airport I saw one family with four boys.  They should have stopped with one. The mother went absolutely nuts on two of her kids as they were approaching the Disney Magical Express, the bus that transports you to this Orlandon Garden of Eden.
“Stop asking questions,” she snipped!  “I’ve had it with you all!”  Her tone was ferocious.
I glanced at her poor husband. He looked like she’d had him for lunch a couple of times too. I wanted to go take up for the fellas, pondering what I might say.
“Yo, yo cranky pants.  What do you think your kids are going to remember about this vacation?  That the Disney character their mother most resembles is Ursula from The Little Mermaid!”
I refrained.  I’m not sure why.
Another woman entered a different bus with her three-year oldish son.  They sat down a few rows behind me.
“Where’s your jacket?” she asked alarmed, her voice loud enough for us all to clearly hear.
There was silence, and then his tears began.
“I gave you the jacket at the hotel!”  Her voice was getting louder. “You left it!  You left it!”  He was sobbing by now and Cruella was fit to be tied.  Then, then it came out…
“You’re an idiot!  You can’t keep up with anything. I should leave you here!”
I was floored. The boy couldn’t have been four years old.  She had anounced to the boy and to about 50 strangers that he was stupid.  How humiliating.  I wish he could have realized that he was not the one we all thought was below average intelligence.
I fully understand getting frustrated with your kids. At Disney Michelle asked me 67,000 times what we were doing next.
“Well baby. I think we may eat a sandwich and then take a bathroom break. Will that work for you?”
I did get a bit tired of outlining our every move. But homegirl was excited!  She wanted to know the plan. And when I’d be ready to limit her questions to 25 per hour, I thought, one day you’re gonna miss these inquiries. Oh, and I also thought, I’m glad I’m not an elementary school teacher.
Yea, kids are frustrating – they can drive you nuts at times. But good grief, we brought them into this world. It’s our job to answer those questions, to help them learn how to keep up with their coat and to love the heck out of them even when they don’t.


photo (2)




It starts.  The damn beeps start.

And I can’t figure out which alarm has the dead battery.  It’s like I’m in the Twilight Zone.  Like someone’s gas lighting me.

I stand under the one in my bedroom.  The noise is so loud, it’s got to be coming from close by.

Nothing.  I’m there for two, three minutes, although it feels like an hour.  Nothing.  Crickets.

I go back to the bed.  Lay down.  Shut my eyes.   I start to relax.  Visions of sugar plums and crap like that.



I take the alarm in my bedroom down.

How do you get this damn battery out of here?  You sac-o-wheat.  I can’t get it out!  Good lord.  It’s childproof.  I could break into the Alamo more easily than this.  Where’s the frickin’ screw driver?

Back to bed.  I’m so dang tired.

Mmmm.  It’s cold.  My teeth are chattering.



I wish I had a gun.  I’d blow every stinkin’ one of them off of the ceiling. 

I begin picturing myself, Bruce Willis style, machine gun out, blasting the plaster off of my ceiling.  Oh, oh how good it feels.

As I stand, quietly, under the one in the kitchen, I glance at the clock on the stove.  The green neon lights are bright because the rest of the house is pitch black.

It’s 4:13 AM, and I am in my underwear standing in the middle of the kitchen waiting for a beep!  This is un-believable.

I hear it again.

The dining room!  Ahh.

I grab a chair and yank the damn thing down.  I remove the batteries and set it on the kitchen counter.

Finally.  Peace.

I head back to bed and set the empty alarm on my bedside table.

It’s 4:26.

I’m so, so tired.


There’s no battery in here and it’s still beeping!  How can that be?  It has become a living being!  You son-of-a-.

I turn off the burglar alarm and stomp to the back door.  It’s got to be 20 degrees out here.  I walk out on the porch and heave it as far as I possibly can.

“Beep all you want you good for nothing piece of crap.”  I wonder if the neighbors can hear.

I lay back down.  It’s 4:44.  I have breakfast meeting starting in 2 and a half hours.

I turn over on my sleeping side, my comfy pillow between my knees to keep them from knocking together.


Sunday Post 160: Got My Umbrella, I’m Ready for Rain

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. We explored the topic of children who have a parent with cancer. We spoke and answered questions in front of about 1,000 oncologists.
One of our main points was to help them understand their necessary role in helping the entire family cope with cancer. Helping them understand how important it is for them to be honest without taking away hope, preparing parents for all potential outcomes – even death.
I work at the YMCA, and we don’t even like to tell people we canceled a Zumba class. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to tell a family that mom or dad could die.
And yet, what a gift they give when they allow us to prepare.
I wish every family would have the tough conversations before they face a true tragedy. It is much easier to prepare for death when there is no reason to believe you’re going to die.
One of the panelists likened this planning to taking an umbrella with you on a cloudy day. Your hair looks nice, you’re wearing suede shoes – you hope it doesn’t rain.  But if it does, wouldn’t you be glad you took the umbrella?
If everyone would answer a few simple questions before something critical happened, they would be much more ready for the rain.  Or in our case, the monsoon.
1)  Do you have adequate life insurance?  If one spouse died, would the other be financially secure?
2)  What is most important in the culture of your family?   For me, and I hope Lisa, although we never discussed it, our family must have:  honesty/transparency, kindness to self and others, and humor.

If someone else ends up raising my kids, those are the three most important things I want them to live by.  Besides faith, which is understood in our family, that is what I want their foundation to be built on.

3)  Does each spouse understand the role of the other?  Can the father log onto the school website and does he know how to plan a birthday party?  Does the mother have the ability or resources to do the taxes.  Those examples may seem sexist, but I chose them based solely on my family’s experience.

Yeah, oncologists have a responsibility to be open and forthcoming with patients. But not all of us will die from cancer.  We may get hit by a bus. We may outlive our children.

Now that I know it can pour on a bright and sunny day, I ain’t leaving home without my rain gear.

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