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.

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!

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.

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!

 

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.

DSC_0860

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.

DSC_0855

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.

DSC_0880

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

photo

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!

Family Circle 052614 0462

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!

  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 8,374 other followers

  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,374 other followers