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

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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!

 

Happy Bday Little One

It’s Michelle’s 12th birthday, and she wanted to blow it out.  I’m guessing there aren’t that many 15 girl sleepovers left in me – but, as long as they’re willing to come to my house, I’ll have ‘em!

The girls and I got home around 5:10 on Friday.  The crew started showing up at 5:30.

Michelle was having 9 friends over.  Of course, that meant that Stephanie needed a couple as well which is fine with me.  The older ones sort of disappear for the most part and occasionally step in to help entertain the youngers.  I just check on them to make sure they haven’t smuggled in boys or started a fire.

At 5:50 Michelle ran out on the front porch.  I was under the carport with Stephanie trying diligently to hook my laptop up to a borrowed projector so that we could watch Netflix on the side of the house.  You know, bigger is better.

“Dad, can we open presents now?”

“Noooo.   You still have two friends who haven’t arrived!  We’re gonna do that later tonight.”

“But we’re bored.”

“Bored?  Bored?  Good lord child, they’ve only been here 20 minutes!”  This was clearly going to be the longest night of my life.

“What should we do?”

“Pretend.”

She looked at me as if she had never heard the word.

“Do you know what we did for my 12th birthday?” She braced herself for the “Walk Two Miles to School in the Snow” story, birthday style.

“Your grandparents blindfolded us, spun us in a circle and had us stick a tack into the sketch of a donkey which was hung on our paneled basement wall.  And you know what?”

“What?”

“We were thankful we had a basement with paneling that was soft enough a tack could penetrate it!”

“You’re the weirdest person I know.”  She ran inside with her iPhone in hand.

I’m a cheap sort of birthday dad.  I did spring for pizza – but not the restaurant kind.  I bought small circular crusts and let the kids make their own.  They at least acted like it was fun.

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We then headed out to the carport.  That’s when DJ drove up.

My oldest daughter looked at me.  “Dad.  You look tired.  Let’s project some music videos on the wall.  We’ll have a dance party.  Take a break.  I got the next 15 minutes.”

A quarter of an hour.  She is so thoughtful.

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The movie was a hit until it started pouring down rain about ¾ of the way through.  We grabbed all of our stuff and headed toward the basement door.  As the girls ran in, a snake the size of an earthworm squirmed passed the door.

From the noise that came out of the mouths of these children, I thought one had run into a chainsaw in motion.

The snake is probably in Montana by now.  Their screams no doubt scared the hell out of him.  He was slithering as fast as a serpent can slither.  I feel certain he will NEVER return.

At 10:30 we ate cake – well, sort of.  I rolled out cookie dough and etched a little pic of the kid ($3.69).  I figured after pizza and popcorn some fancy store-bought sugarfest would not be necessary.

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Look, if you’re gonna dress your children in Jack Rogers’ sandals, you gotta save somewhere.

Around midnight DJ came home from her adventures with friends, and she helped me settle the crew down.  I went to my room and began to doze off when I heard the back door open and a booming voice echo through the den.

“Happy Birthday Michelle!!”

Hayes at bday

The laughter and screeches began again.  Uncle Jesse had arrived.  He pulled out the family guitar and began strumming as he held court with the nine preteens.

His work was complete at around 1 AM.  He did the job of an uncle.  Rile them up and get out-of-the-way.

No stiches, no tears, no vomiting or fist fights.  Asleep before 2.  I’d say that it was a pretty good night.

Sunday Post 188: Good Day

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I remember getting my first Izod shirt for a birthday.  I coveted the alligator!  I picked out the color in advance – burgundy with a green crocodile.  When September 29th rolled around, I tore open the package.  I looked so stinkin’ cool!  Sam McDade had NOTHIN’ on me when I pulled out that shirt.  I think I wore it every Wednesday.

I didn’t really care about anything else.  Cake was irrelevant.  Those celebrating with me?  Not as important as that left chest emblem.

I was 15, and t was ALL Izod for me.

Last week I turned 49.  I didn’t get a shirt, but what  I did get was so much more.

Michelle painted a jar with blue and red polka dots and filled it with my favorite candy:  peanut M & Ms.  She taped a small glittered card on the side:  For my sweet and nutty dad!  Buying those boogers must have put her in the poor house.  Interesting way for a kid to spend her savings.

Stephanie took time on my birthday eve to short sheet my bed.  I understand she was intent on an effective stunt.  It clearly took her a while, because there wasn’t a wrinkle in the covers when I crawled in at midnight.  Although I didn’t find it very amusing at the end of my day I was tired.  But when I awoke the next morning, I decided it was probably a fairly appropriate way to celebrate her father.

My mom made me my favorite birthday cake – it’s enormous!  Chocolate, fudge-like icing as thick as a slice of bread.  When her baking career is over, my years of eating that cake are done.  There isn’t anyone else in this world who can or would make that thing for me.  It’s an eight hour process.  I think she must love me.

My mother-in-law picked out a six pack of my favorite wines.  She told me I was getting to the age that gifts should be consumable!  That’ll last me a while.  Took more thought than an Izod ever could.

Oh, and my oldest, DJ, she came through too.   She texted everyone in the family and asked them their favorite song.  She then made a compilation CD.  We took a college tour the day after she gave it to me.  On our way down I-95, we listened to the 15 tunes, and I guessed the family member who chose each one.

It was a thoughtful and hilarious gift.  John Denver was represented as was Outcast.  From Frozen to Blue Grass to “We Need a Little Christmas,” my mom’s favorite holiday tune, there was a wide range of genres represented.  I’ll listen to that CD until it simply won’t play anymore.

DJ added my current favorite song in the mix and it appropriately represents last Monday, Good Day by Nappy Roots:

Hope yours is as meaningful as mine was this year.  Can’t wait til 50!

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 Want Full Custody!

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Sometimes my little angels, well, aren’t.  The problem is, I seldom know when these sweet little people I am raising are going to turn on me.

Yesterday when I asked, “How was your day?,” I was taken down an elaborate journey through the halls of St. Timothy’s School.  It was beautiful.  I learned about friendships, the lunch menu, assignments and teacher personalities.

Today I asked the same question.  I was cut off at the pass in a very terse tone, “I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Is everything OK?”

“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!”

What happened?  I thought we were friends.  I thought you were daddy’s girl!

Last week I was asked to help with homework.  We laughed while we worked on the memorization for the history quiz, making up nutty phrases to cue her mind:  “Bangladesh” – “I can’t remember Bangladesh.”  We ran to the kitchen and pull out a plastic plate, slamming it on the counter, “Bang The Dish!  Bangladesh!”

Tonight I walk in, the computer is open, the tears are flowing.

“What’s wrong?  I thought you didn’t have much homework.”

“THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!  AND THEN I DISCOVERED THE FOUR MATH PROBLEMS WE HAD TO DO.  WE’VE NEVER DONE THIS KIND OF PROBLEM BEFORE!  I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!!!”

“Your teacher said as long as you attempted to do the math homework you’d get credit.  Just try.”

“BUT I D-O-N-‘T K-N-O-W   H-O-W  TO DO IT!  YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!  GO AWAY!”

Go away?  I’m just trying to be helpful!

What makes these beautiful little beings, often dressed in pink, transform from Snow White to Jafar?  How is it that the same simple question on Monday can elicit such a polar opposite answer on Tuesday?

Sometimes I feel like I have three sets of twins.  There’s a good one and a ornery one.  They look identical, and yet they pop in and out of my house interchangeably without me knowing.

Is there another family with three girls that might be keeping my children’s twins?  Are you in on this?  Are you gas lighting me?  Stop it!  I want the good twins back – and not just 75% of the time.  I want full custody!

Sunday Post 187: The Nurses In Our Lives

Last Saturday I had the honor of speaking at a nurses’ convention. This was a group of folk, mostly women, who spend 40 hours a week on the oncology ward at local hospitals.  I have a special place in my heart for these people.  They are angels right here on earth.

How in the heck do you do that?  Why in the heck would you do that?

These women are our interpreters.  We had one doc who was just too smart for his own good:

“Ms. Tanner, your epidemioctagal levels are elevated and your pennial nervotian might have to be severed into spinial compatulas.”

I’d be taking notes furiously.  When he left the room, I’d ask Lisa, “You got any idea what he said?”

“No.  You?”

“Nah.”

We would then ask our nurse, who was smart, but who could also speak in sentences that English speaking college educated people could understand.

“So he said that her epidemioctagal levels are, ahh, elevated and her pennial nervotian well, he said, it might have to be severed into spinial compatulas.  Is that bad?”

“Oh no.  She’s fine.  I just need to put a band-aid on her toe.”

At the conference, I asked my audience why they did what they did. I shared my admiration.

I told the group, “I couldn’t do what you do.”

One yelled back at me from the audience, “There is NO WAY I could raise three girls on my own!”

“Yea,” I responded, “I’m raising them alone, but I didn’t choose to.  You made a conscientious decision to serve and care for people who are facing the biggest adversity imaginable.”

I’m just too selfish.  I want to do something in life that makes ME happy.  I don’t want to deal with pain and suffering.  I don’t want to face the potential of death day in and day out.

Thank goodness there are some out there who are this selfless.  Those who care more about others than they do themselves.  There are those out there who gain tremendous satisfaction out of serving others, caring for others, making life better for someone in need.

These nurses do this work for people they have never met before.  They take care of us and our kids.  They make us laugh.  They listen to us and believe in us.  And yet, we take them for granted.  We pay them a pittance, and they keep on keeping on.

I don’t suppose at this point in my life I’m going to make a significant career move.  I’m certainly never going to be comfortable sticking someone with a needle or removing a spleen.  But what I can do is spend a little more time being thankful and appreciating those around me who make our lives better.

So thanks to all of you great nurses, oncology and others.  You’re the ones who take our temperatures.  You’re the ones who build relationships with us and who know how hard this is for our families.  You are the ones who treat us like real people, with humor, love and care.

You are angels here on earth.

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 186: A Little Perspective

The other night, one of my younger kids was studying history.  I walked into the living room, and she looked up at me and asked, “Dad, are we the good guys or the bad guys?”

“Like our family?”

“No.  Our country.”

Sometimes kids ask really great questions.

I’ve never seriously thought about reasonable people truly thinking of the United States as the bad guys.  Sure terrorists think that, but not regular folk.  We’re for democracy.  We follow the rules.  We support people throughout the world who are in need, those who are being mistreated.  We send aid to hungry people!

My kid’s comment made me spend a little bit of time thinking about other’s perceptions.  There are some people in the world who get on my nerves, but it has never occurred to me that I could be the person that is the get on the nerver!

Some people dress weird, and speak with funny accents.  You don’t think there’s a possibility that someone could possibly think that my bow ties are too showy or mock me at their dinner table?

Oh my gosh, what if I’m not right all the time?  Perhaps my way of dealing with the problems at work or with the kids is sometimes the wrong way.

Nah.  No way that could be the case.

 

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
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!

Why You Got To Be So Rude?

There is a fairly new pop song that the radio stations play endlessly right now.  It’s called Rude, and it’s about a young man who goes to ask his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage.

It starts like this:

Saturday morning jumped out of bed
And put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet
All the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old-fashioned man, yeah

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?
Say yes, say yes ’cause I need to know

In the music video, the father shakes his head and apparently says, “Nah, you ain’t marrying my daughter.”

You say I’ll never get your blessing ’til the day I die
Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is ‘No’

The young man then asks the dad, Why you got to be so rude?

Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to a similar conversation with Lisa’s father.  I’m not sure if it’s still an expectation in other parts of the country to ask a girl’s father for her hand in marriage, but in the south, it is.  At least in my circles.

So, I, being raised in a respectable family, knew what I had to do when I made the decision to take the plunge.  I called my father-in-law to be ,who I didn’t know very well, and asked him to go to lunch.  I admit I was a bit frightened.  It was a really awkward situation.  I was sitting there with a dude I didn’t really know, basically asking if I could defrock his daughter, spend Christmas with him, and go on his family vacations for the rest of his life.  All over a burger and fries.

I didn’t even know what to call this person.  He hadn’t told me I could marry his daughter yet so “dad” would have been presumptuous.  And, it seemed a bit formal to call my likely father-in-law Mr. Katsopolis – I’d likely see him in his underwear before the year was over.  But David or Dave was out of the question.  He was my elder, more than two decades my senior.

I don’t think I addressed him by name that day.  In fact, I don’t think I addressed him by name until there were grandchildren, at which time he became Pops, a comfortable name for all.

After small talk, he isn’t much of a small talker, and some awkward silence, I finally popped the question letting him know that I was planning to pop the question.

“Ahh, I think I’m gonna ask Lisa to marry me.  You OK with that?”  There was no going back now…

I was pretty sure he liked me but she was young, 23, and I was five years her senior.  I knew there was a possibility that he would beg me off for a while.  Surprisingly his response was rapid:

“Son, you don’t know what a burden you’re taking off of me.”

I gulped.  Were there things about my future wife that I didn’t yet know?  Did she have multiple personalities?  Financial baggage?  Perhaps an anger disorder?  Why was he so relieved?

As my mind raced working to figure out what I’d missed, Mr. Katsopolis gazed into nowhere, and as if his brain and mouth were one, his thoughts became audible:  “Her sister is going to be harder to place.”

If believe he picked up the check and bounced out of the restaurant as if he had just sold me a car without an engine.

I’m not sure how I’ll respond when some serious suitor comes to call for one of my girls, and I’ll have to admit I’ve wondered which of my daughters will be the most “difficult to place.”

Will I play hard to get with the fellas, or jump at the first offer?  DJ recently taped me singing my own version of Rude.  

I hope it doesn’t come to this!

Sunday Post 185: Too Much Too Soon

I likely made the wrong decision.  I guess that’s not all that unusual, and I don’t think it is a decision that will make much difference in life down the road.  But, nonetheless, I wish I’d had better options.

In the Tanner household, at the end of fifth grade it has been a right of passage to get your first cell phone.  With child 1 and child 2, both having June birthdays, it was their gift.  A flip phone, used solely for text, photos and phone calls.

With DJ, Lisa cut her left arm and exchanged blood with the other mothers in her friend group.  They pressed their wounds together and vowed not to get smart phones until the inital end of fifth grade, two-year Verizon contract expired.  At the time, it cost us $10 per month to add this additional phone line to our growing technological household inventory.

When Stephanie came along, I followed the path originally set out by her mother.  Although child 2 specifically requested an iPhone, I stood strong.

“But dad, ALL of my friends have one…”

We went through the list of ALL of her friends.  As I suspected, it was a lie.  Not everyone had a smart phone.  In fact, most did not.

As I entered the Verizon store last week with my final daughter, my plan was solid.  She did not need a data plan.  She was too young.  It mattered not that I had confirmed three of her very best friends did indeed have one.  For crying out loud, my 17-year-old is driving a car her same age.  I am not a parent who falls for the Everyone Has argument.  Plenty of people I know have a beach house, and my butt is thankful I have a father-in-law generous enough to rent a place for the family one week each July.

As we neared the phone shop, a nice young man with a pull over hoodie and pants anchored around his hips met us at the door.  His iPad in tow, he began crunching numbers.

“Mr. Tanner.  If you add a flip phone with unlimited text and calls, it will cost you $30 per month.”

“$30?  I thought it was $10.”

“Nah.”

That was his answer.  Nah.

“Well what does it cost to add a smart phone?”

“Let’s see.  You have plenty of data that is unused each month, so we could add an iPhone for $40.”

“A month?”

“Yeah.”

I mean, he couldda said, Yes sir.

So for $10 bucks we get the Caddilac instead of the Pinto… hummm.

I pondered.  Am I spoiling my kid?  Am I exposing her to stuff too early?  Is she going to watch videos all day and flunk out of school?  Will she become homeless?  Addicted to crack cocaine?

When we arrived home with the gadget neither of us had expected to return with, I broke the news to her sisters.

“It was en economic decision,” I argued.  I then reminded Stephanie of the unusually expensive boots I’d purchased her last winter because they were slightly on sale and were so stinkin’ cute.  “DJ didn’t get a pair of shoes that nice until she was in 10th grade and going to a school dance!”

DJ muttered an expletive and told me that I might as well have given my final daughter away.  “Don’t complain to me when she ignores you or won’t talk to you at dinner.  You might as well have shipped her off to college!”

I think that may be an overreaction, although I did have to ask Michelle to put her phone away during the worship service at church last Sunday.  She wasn’t texting, she was just rubbing it across her face, like you would do with someone’s hand as they departed this life for the next.

The frustrating thing is that had I not lost my wife to cancer, I wouldn’t even be making these decisions.  I would have been informed and could have chosen to support the decision or participated in the nonviolent resistance.  Either way, I would have basically been off the hook.

There are so many questions surrounding this decision:

  • Why did I cave?
  • Am I allowing my preteen to grow up too fast?
  • Why do young salespeople answer questions like they’re sending a text message?
  • Why don’t sisters want each other to have good stuff?
  • Why do I have to make all the decisions?

I have some pondering to do.

 

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
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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