Where did the hovercraft go?

hovercraft

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?

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.

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

umbrella
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.

“Thank you, I’ll just have an orange.”

oranges

Dr. Goldman:  “I think you should go gluten-free for two weeks.  See if it helps.”

Me:  “What can you eat if you’re gluten-free?”

Dr. Goldman:  “Oh, there are lots of things you can eat without gluten.”

That is a lie.  If you go gluten-free, you can only eat oranges.

I returned home, hungry.  I opened the snack drawer.

Wheat thins?  Nope.

Goldfish?  Nope.

Cheese-Its?  Nah.

Maybe I’ll order Chinese tonight – oh no, soy sauce has gluten too.

FRICKIN’ SOY SAUCE HAS GLUTEN.  How can soy sauce be made out of wheat?  It’s insane.

Finally, I purchased some items to make my two week food adventure a possibility.  The new spaghetti noodles looked fine in the package.  When I poured them out of the pot, they had grown.  Not length wise, but in width.  They were bloated – like the woman in the Midol commercial.  And gray – talk about unappetizing.  I felt like I was eating the stuff from Beauty and the Beast, “Try the gray stuff, it’s delicious!”  No, no it’s not.  I’ll just have the sauce which I’m not even sure is g. free.  But I didn’t check because I’d already lost 3 pounds and it was only day two.

I bought some crackers, made from brown rice.  You can’t make crackers out of rice.  I put one in my mouth.  Tasted like a crispy paper towel or an old man’s toenail.

I dipped it in pimento cheese – added jalapenos to cover the yuck.  But I just kept thinking about my grandfather’s feet.  Un.

I haven’t had a beer in 10 days.  I can’t eat lunch meat, my mid day staple.  Bread?  Forget about it.

Went to get dessert with a friend one night last week – bread pudding?  Double chocolate brownie?  Peanut Butter pie?

Nah, I’ll just have nilla ice cream thank you.

I feel like I’m four years old.

I think I’ll just have an orange.  Bought two bags of them.  At least I’ll have my daily allowance of vitamin C.

Sunday Post 160: They’re Getting Older

It’s interesting to watch your parents get old.  I imagine my kids feel the same way.

One of my “second” moms growing up died recently.  It broke my heart.  Doesn’t seem like so long ago when we were vacationing together at Litchfield beach – playing cards, sitting by the pool, eating dinner at that humongous picnic table.

One year when in my teens, we were playing a huge game of Spoons.  It is a card game where you work to get four of a kind.  There are one fewer spoons scattered on the table than there are players.  The first person getting all four of one card quietly grabs a spoon and then, anyone can snatch one.  The player left without a spoon is the loser.

On this particular day I was rushed out of the bathroom and threw on a robe – just a robe – don’t ask me why.  Being relatively competitive, I jumped across the table to grab the only utensil left.  My robe flew above my waist exposing all of what should have been private to my mom, my friends and my mom’s friends.  Yes, I inadvertently showed my mother’s friends my business in order to win a card game.

Sweet moment – well sort of – gone by.

When do your parents stop caring for you and you start caring for them?

I’m not there yet with my folks, but when their friends get down, it makes me think.

My dad’s heart is now a stent farm.  My mom is well save her hip issues, massive allergies, swallowing problems, her teeny bladder - hmmm, maybe she isn’t well.

As much as they’ve done for me, the payback should be tremendous.

But, if I know them, there will be a limit to what they’ll allow my brother and me to do.

Whatever their issues, I’m game.  Yeah, I guess it is a responsibility and a duty to help, but that’s not why I’ll be there.  I’ll be there because I love them.  I’ll be there because they’ve been there for me.

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

Headed to Wadi Halfa

Wadi Halfa

I used to think it was nuts that old people moved to Florida for the winter.  Move for the tax relief – I might consider it.  But leave my friends, my life, just because of the weather?  Insane.

But I swear, the older I get the colder I get.

My mom wears a wool sweater, mid day, on the beach in July.  We have never been anywhere that she didn’t remind every family member to bring a sweater.

“Mom, we are going to a hot yoga class!  We don’t need outerwear!”

“You’d better grab a sweater.  They have air conditioning in the lobby.”

The only time I’ve ever seen her hot was in her forties when she was going through “the change.”  We’d come home and she’d be dusting the house in her bra.  My dad said she’d go to sleep in flannels bundled up in a quilt and in the morning she’d be on top of the covers in her skivvies.

I got her cold down pat but none of the warmth.

At work I recently changed offices with the guy next door because he had the thermostat.  It would register warm and cut off.  I had icicles made of snot dangling from my nose.  He was sweating bullets.  But he’s young – just 40.

I used to sleep in boxers only – no shirt, no sheet – winter, spring, summer or fall.  Last night I wore flannel pants and surrounded myself with six pillows to help hold the heat in.  I considered a toboggan but was too cold to get out of bed to fetch one.

If I didn’t have seat warmers in my car, I’d take a taxi to work.  I assume it would already be heated up by the time he got to my house.

My feet could cool the heat rods at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant.

Sometimes I get in the car on a hot summer day and don’t turn the air conditioning on until I simply can’t breathe anymore.  It’s the only time my bones really feel toasty.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  If it is old age, I’m unimpressed.  As I approach 50 my body is changing, rapidly.  I may just skip Florida and head straight to Wadi Halfa, Sudan.  It’s the hottest place on earth – I looked it up.

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 159: Damn Grandma

I had a fairly important meeting on Tuesday morning and had to be at work before 8.  That same day Michelle had an early morning review session for her impending history test.

An early morning meeting for me means the girls have to get to school about 20 minutes early.  Which also means I get them stirring at 6:30 versus the typical 7 AM wake up call.

Stephanie was not happy!

“I’m soooo tired!  Why do we have to go in early today?  This is sooo annoying!”

“Stephanie, I believe it was just last week when you requested to go to school early to DECOARTE YOUR FRIEND’S LOCKER FOR HER BIRTHDAY!!!”  (my emphasis was on the stark difference between a critical work meeting and educational review session versus daisy stickers on a girlfriend’s locker door!)

My frustration did not make the matter any better.

On Friday, as Michelle and I were driving to the Y for our 7 PM basketball game, it dawned on me that I had neglected to purchase snacks, which is, mind you, an extremely important part of YMCA basketball.  Not an issue except I am one of the team coaches.

“Michelle, I’m gonna drop you off.  Run inside and tell Coach David I’ll be there ten minutes late.”

As I skidded through the neighborhood that was between me and my Goldfish, a little old lady driving a Buick Lesabre pulled in front of me.  She clearly was not on her way to coach a basketball team.  And in fact, I believe she was getting a two-day start on her drive to Sunday church.  Because at the rate she was going, it would take her that long to drive anywhere in town!

I went ballistic!  Of course, she couldn’t hear me, I was screaming in my car with my windows rolled up.

“DAMN IT GRANDMA!  MOVE IT!  DON’T YOU KNOW I’M A SINGLE FATHER TRYING TO GET TO MY KID’S BASKETBALL GAME?  GET OUT OF MY WAY LADY!!”

When I’m on the road and in a hurry, there is always a really good reason.  When someone else speeds by me, they are a jerk.

My double standard is ludacris.

How can I logically give myself a pass on my inane sense of urgency but be critical of others who are doing the same thing?  How can Stephanie get on me for interrupting her sleep when she did the same to me five days before?

That’s what we do.  We give ourselves a pass for the stuff that we do wrong.  There is a perfectly logical reason.  But when someone else screws up, man are they stupid.

I bet God wishes I wouldn’t yell at little old ladies.

UNC or USC?

USC

For 16 years I’ve dreaded the day my kids go to college.  How in the heck did the junior year get here so quickly?

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to grow up, and I want them to experience the world.  I just want to be there when they do so.

I do think that God prepares you.  DJ isn’t really home that much anymore.  It’s more rare for her to actually make the family dinner than to not.  And, frankly, there are times she’s just not as much fun to be around as she used to be.  She barely snuggles anymore, she gets most angry when tickled and don’t even try blowing her stomach.

Regardless, I want her to find a school that she absolutely loves.  And if it is Meredith College, three blocks from our house, SUPER!  I could drop her off on the way to work – wouldn’t that be fun?

And, if she decides to go somewhere that is a six-hour drive, so be it (I ain’t taking her anywhere further than that).

Two weekends ago, DJ and I went on a weekend long college tour, just the two of us.  It was really nice to have some time with her alone.

We hit Chic Fil A three times – once we saw the sign and had a hunkering for a shake.  It was Saturday night at 9, and that meant we had two hours or we’d be done for the weekend.  I mean, I’m all about the Sabbath, but seriously, couldn’t they just open at like 1 when everyone is through with church?

We pulled off the interstate and realized it was a 3.8 mile drive to the cookies and cream.  There ought to be a law against that – more than 1/2 a mile and it should not be on official FOOD signage.

We toured four schools:  Clemson, Furman, South Carolina and UNC.

I asked our student guide what I thought were fairly good questions:

“Are all of the dorms same-sex facilities?  She’d be more comfortable with all girls.”

“Could you expound on the Honors curriculum?”

“Now, where is the Presbyterian Student Center?”  It bothered me that one of the guides did not know.

“Is there a curfew?”

I pointed out the amenities of each school to my daughter:

“DJ, look, they have brocoli in the lunch room!”

“There is a YMCA right near the campus.”

“I don’t think you’ll even need a car here.”

“The teachers seem so nice.”

It was difficult to get a real read on what she liked.  I think she wants to surprise me.

She didn’t seem very impressed with the brocoli and honors courses.  But I did see her pupils expand when she drove by USC’s frat court.

I don’t think Meredith has a frat court – that could be a problem.

Sunday Post 158: A Precarious Balance

I was at lunch today with some of Lisa’s girlfriends.  They check in on me periodically to make sure I’m not totally screwing up.  And lord knows, I need the help!

We started talking about kids and how easy it is to get frustrated with them.  It seems like they’re always mucking something up:  forgetting their homework, making a mess, being unappreciate, talking back when we ask them to do something.  Un, I do not like that one.

It also seems like we’re always on their butts.  That has to get old – for the parents who used to be enamored with your every move, to now harp on you incessantly, pointing out everything you’re not doing right.

Clearly, some of the corrections are necessary.  Without them, kids end up running a muck and that makes for disaster.  I’ve written about families where the kids are in charge – and it ain’t pretty.

But I wonder, as a parent, if I do enough to encourage my daughters, letting them know that I do notice the good, that I am proud of them – that my love is unconditional.

At night, I sometimes share with them all of the things I think are great about them.  Since it is something we do at least once a month, Stephanie will sometimes prompt me, “Dad, tell me again 15 things you like about me.”

“That is so easy baby!”  I then proceed to quickly spout off what makes her so dag-gone special to me.

Every day I remind them, verbally, that I love them.  I work to compliment them when I think they look especially pretty (although in my eyes, they always look especially pretty), reminding them that if no one else thinks they’re beautiful, one guy does.

DJ is 16 and doesn’t particularly love a bunch of mushy stuff.  But I tell her too.  And I’ll still be telling her when she’s 50, and I’m 82.

Her room looks like an atom bomb went off in it.  Drives me nuts.  I shut the door.  Leave her shoes in the den?  I’ll complain.  But I’m not going to nag about the little stuff.  I had the upstairs doors replaced last year and so looking at the back side of hers is quite pleasant.  She’s making good grades, she’s pretty respectful, she has learned to communicate her whereabouts well – those are the things I’m most concerned about.

If they cross the line on important issues, there will be repercussions.  But I’m working hard not to sweat the small stuff.

I don’t want them to remember their time with me as combative.  I want them to remember that I love them.  I want them to remember the things I think they’re really good at.

Every night I go into their rooms individually, and we pray.  And each night I ask God to help them make good decisions.  I’m half way talking to God and half way talking to them.  If you’ve heard that prayer 3,695 times as a kid, perhaps when some significant decision comes your way, you’ll think before you do something really stupid.

It’s all about balance – love and acceptance on one side and boundaries on the other.

I hope I can manuever that precarious position cause it’s really hard to do.

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