Sunday Post 177: Do You Have Enough?

I was fortunate. I had life insurance on Lisa. It wasn’t a ton, but it is enough.  If invested correctly, it can make a dent in college and perhaps there will be some left for my retirement. I’m banking on the stock market!

Four years before Lisa died, our insurance agent came to our house to review our policies. At the time, I had four times more insurance on me than on Lisa. He ran numbers for us. We had our blood tests.

I decided to increase my insurance four fold and was considering doing the same for my wife. But when it came down to it, I simply doubled hers. You know why? ‘Cause it was going to cost $350 more per year.

Yep. I could have double the money I have now if I’d have spent $1,400 over a four-year period of time. That’s less than $1 per day.

This seems sort of crass for me to share about my finances. Maybe sounds like I am thinking about the wrong things. Let me assure you, THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT I WOULD NOT TRADE TO HAVE MY WIFE BACK. I’d give the shirt off my back and the shirts off my kids’ backs to have her sitting by me right now. But I can’t.  And there is one thing that my insurance agent said to me that I can’t seem to shake.

When I went to complete the paperwork to get the insurance check, I mentioned my lack of vision for the future in deciding not to increase the amount of insurance I had on Lisa more than I had. My agent responded, “Danny, you gotta understand, you have more insurance on your wife than 90% of guys your age. You likely have more on her than most guys have on themselves. You actually made really good decisions.”

So if he is right, 90% of you are grossly underinsured. If something happened to your spouse, you’d be up the creek. If something happened to you, your family would likely struggle financially.

I have friends with two or three kids and a $50 or $100K insurance policy. I’m telling you, that ain’t gonna educate your kids, and it certainly isn’t going to support your family for the long haul.

It sounds like I work for the insurance industry. I don’t. I’m not getting a kickback! But I want folks to think about the future. I want folks to think about their family if something happens to them or to their spouse.

It’s hard enough to lose a loved one. Imagine doing it while wondering if you can keep your house or educate your kids. Don’t put yourself, don’t put your family, in that position.

Dead Crab Walkin’

coenobitaclypeata2

It’s true, I don’t love animals.  I’d like to.  I try.  And then some dog ends up humping my leg, and I land right back where I was before – one who does not love animals.

They’re cute to look at – sort of like someone else’s baby.

“Oooo.  He’s so frickin’ cuuute!”

Then he poops.  And he’s not as cute.  And he smells like my grandfather after dinner at El Rodeo.

But as much as I am not an animal fanatic, I wish them no harm.  If someone else is feeding them and brushing them and paying their vet bills, I’m good.  I am perfectly happy to sit by dogs at the outside cafe tables at my local pub.  Who doesn’t like to have their crotch sniffed while they eat dinner?  Count me in!

That being said, I think I killed our Hermit crab.

I have tried to blame someone else in the family, but I am the responsible adult.  I must admit my error.

He, I’d call him by name but I don’t think he had one, was 13 months old.  As I washed out his dookie filled aquarium, I have wished him dead.  I actually let him crawl around the kitchen counter in the hopes that he would fall to his death.  He didn’t.  He just sat and watched me scrub.

We left him without food and water when we went to the beach in June.  He’s upstairs – out of site, out of mind.  He survived that 7 day fast. Two weeks later we left again.  But this time, I thought of him.  I filled a bowl with H2O and planted his sponge right in the middle.  When we returned, I think he’d gained weight.

But the next two weeks were busy.  Kids were out of town.  Michelle went to camp.  I seldom went upstairs – there was no reason.

When I returned from dropping Stephanie at overnight camp today, I took some of her excess stuff back up to her room.  When I walked into the bathroom, I spotted him.  He was hanging out of his shell.  He had crawled up to the sponge.  It was dryer than the Atacama Desert.  His little claw was perched, open, pointing toward his usual water source.

I haven’t called for an autopsy, but I feel certain the cause of death was dehydration.

I can’t blame DJ.  It wasn’t her crab, and she’s been at camp all summer.  I emailed Stephanie tonight – I called her a crab murderer.  She’s been living upstairs.  I know he belonged to Michelle, but for goodness sake.  If you walked by a starving Hermit crab, wouldn’t you respond?  Wouldn’t you take the time to soak the sponge?

She can’t be blamed.  She got her braces off this week.  He lived in the bathroom, and the times she was in there she was looking in the mirror, enamored with her beautiful new mouth.

And Michelle?  Yes, she should have reminded meto water him in her absence.  But who can think of crabs when there are decisions to make about what to wear to the camp dance?

So, that leaves me.  I am the one.  I killed him.

I feel so guilty.

 

 

Sunday Post 176: Forgive and Forget

Maybe I’ve always held a grudge.

As a child as fairly nondescript. I didn’t excel at much of anything. I wasn’t popular. At the same time, I wasn’t overly weird – didn’t really stand out for good or for bad.

I was bullied on occasion, but I think I was more fearful of being bullied than I was actually bullied. In the few instances where someone did pick on me, I simply worked to avoid the bullier. I’d change my lunch table or take a different path home from school. But I never forgot. To this day I can recount the handful of times someone messed with me – the hour of day I was approached and the exact words that were said.

My children, on the other hand, seem to forgive and move on. It’s actually a quite honorable trait.

Several years ago, I invited a group of eight girls to go the mall to select outfits for the upcoming school dance. The posse paraded around Crabtree Valley, poking in and out of stores and critiquing each other’s choices. The next week, one of the girls sent an email out to the group asking if they wanted to dress for the dance at her house. Well, she sent an email out to six of the kids. She didn’t send one to my daughter and one other. She explained it was because her mom said she could only invite six.

Maybe they could only fit that many in their car and their phone was on the fritz so they couldn’t ask another parent to help drive the group to the school. Or perhaps they were planning a formal dinner and only had seating for six at their dining room table. It could be that six was their lucky number! Maybe including seven or eight would have put a curse on the family. Perhaps they had an older house with electrical issues and they feared two more curling irons would have started a fire. All great reasons to exclude my child.

I certainly understand that not every kid can be invited to every party. And had I not just taken this Queen Bee to the mall myself TO PURCHASE AN OUTFIT FOR SAID DANCE, it wouldn’t have bothered me that my kid wasn’t invited.

Interestingly, my daughter was not fazed. She said, “It’s OK dad, we’ll just invite a group here for dinner.”

I, on the other hand, wanted to go punch her mother in the nose.

My kid is so forgiving, I am not. It’s been several years and I still hold the grudge. I see the kid and turn up my nose. My daughter says, “Dad, she’s not so bad. I sort of like her.”

I want to tell her to stay away from the creep.

Maybe my girls are right. Maybe the thing to do isn’t to just avoid those who do you ill will. I guess forgiving, forgetting and starting over is the better thing to do.

I’m an elder at my church which I guess would somehow make it seem like I should be the one driving the forgiveness train. But sometimes I’m taught more from my kids than I’m teaching.

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 175: Wierd Little Family

On Wednesday I had a church meeting after work. It put me late getting home. I rolled in about 8.

I’d promised the girls we’d go out to dinner so we hit the Mexican restaurant closest to our house.

We returned home at 9:39, about to puke we’d eaten so many chips.

“Girls, I think I need to jog or I’m gonna be sick. You want to join me?”

“Dad, it’s 9:30!”

“Yeah, but you guys can sleep in tomorrow. Let’s jog to the playground.”

Michelle jumped on board quickly and Stephanie, who hates to run, acquiesced to my request likely because she didn’t want to sit at home by herself that late.

We jogged about half a mile down Ridge Road to the Lacy Elementary School playground. The girls hit the jungle gym while I took a few laps around the paved track. When I finished, we all lay down on the grass and looked up at the stars.

We live in the middle of town, there were lights around, but the sky was clear. Stephanie was the first to spot the Little Dipper. She pointed up.

We talked about the brightest stars in the sky.

“I think that one is mom, beaming down on us.”

We sat a few more minutes. Michelle crawled up into a contraption I call The Spinning Mushroom. As she spun she said, “I love our family. Not everyone would do this.”

What beautiful words for my ears.

At 4 PM that same day a guy interviewed me for a book he is writing about grief. He asked me about our family, before Lisa’s death and after. I shared that I thought we were a weird little group, that it wouldn’t be unusual to find us having a fight with wet sponges in the kitchen or having a theme for a typical weekday dinner. I think we have special, but in a fairly unconventional way.

I think there are a number of families like ours, not quite the norm but pretty darn cool. There are also many families who struggle, unable to find joy because of dysfunction, impatience with each other, or laziness.

I’m thankful that my kids see our family as unique. I’m glad we’ve moved from a grief-stricken quartet to the family Michelle “just loves!”

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

 

 

Ricky Raccoon

raccoon

Lisa and I bought a house built in 1955 for the charm. Her grandmother thought we were nuts.

“You could get something new for the same price,” she told us.

“Yeah, but we love this location, and this house has character!”

Tutu was right! It seems like every stinkin’ week lately I’m tossing money into the black hole of charm. DJ’s shower cost $310 to fix! I put it off, the teeny drip, until it eventually mirrored Niagara Falls even though the handle was fully turned off.

And now my air conditioner is on the fritz. That ought to be an easy $7,000 fix!

I bet in 1955 they didn’t have to worry about that, cause there was no a/c back then.  My spoiled kids.   I told them we were going to spend the summer pretending we lived in the 50′s, like in the movie Grease.

“It’s gonna be fun!  Grandma’s making you a Poodle Skirt, and I bought a big jar of vaseline to slick my hair back!  Oh, and no air conditioning…”

You’d have thought I told them we were spending the summer camping in Death Valley.

As if the air conditioning wasn’t enough, two weeks ago when we had a torrential downpour, water was flowing through the roof. Just dribbling in like a fountain. It ruined a rug and bits of the ceiling, on the first and second floors, are now crumbling onto the floor.

Your ceiling on your floor is NOT a good thing.

I climbed my non-handy-man, scared of heights behind up on the top of my house to see if I could figure out where the water might be coming from. It wasn’t difficult to find the hole. There was a 2 foot by 2 foot shingleless circle dug out right above the indoor rain spot.

After consulting with my buddy, a roofer, it was determined that the likely culprit was a raccoon.

I’d always wondered what Jethro Bodine from The Beverly Hillbillies was referring to when he used the word varmint. Now I know.

My buddy fixed my roof, and I have the rug ready to go to the heavy-duty rug cleaner shop because the $99 I spent on Stanley Steamer was like wiping a paper towel across a nuclear spill. It did nothing.

Five days after the roof was fixed, it rained again. And guess what? It leaked again. So, I climbed back out of the window and shimmied back up the roof, and burned the hell out of the palms of my hands because shingles are 320 degrees Celsius at 4PM in North Carolina in the summer. And guess what? The damn varmint had revisited, digging another hole in the lid of my house.

I HATE THIS ANIMAL. I am not a violent person, but the fantasies I’ve had about how I could hurt this creature are disturbing. PETA could press charges simply for my thoughts.

Now, I’ve paid critter control to come out and set a trap on top of my house to try to capture this evil monster.

Why does he want to come in my house? Is it my cooking?

By the time it’s all said and done, I will have spent over a thousand dollars simply because Ricky Raccoon has a shingles fetish.

If Critter Boy can’t catch him, I’m buying a shotgun and night vision goggles. I’m getting his ass, one way or another.

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 174: On the Edge of Yikes

A couple of weeks ago I heard this guy, Bob Goff, speak at a YMCA training. He wrote the book Love Does.

He made several  strong points.  One that has really made me think was: Live on the edge of “yikes.”

He had us think of a time when we yelled, “yikes!” He wanted us to think about what we were doing at the time and how it made us feel.

It took me a while to think about a time when I had a yikes sort of feeling. I think my life is essentially yikesless. Especially yikes that I intentionally seek out.

Being a widower, being a single father, a job my boss tossed my way are all disconcerting, but none were chosen.  I was yikesed. I didn’t choose it.

He said to consciously seek it. To put yourself out there even when it makes you feel nervous. Help others, even when it’s uncomfortable. Take a risk, with career or relationships or your faith.

Get out there. Find your yikes!

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 173: A Little White Lie

The other day in the car, Stephanie turned to me with a very serious look on her face and asked, “Have you ever told a lie?”

That’s a loaded question, especially with her eleven year old sister in the back seat.

“Mmmm.”  I needed to buy some time.

“Yeah. I’m sure I have.” The fact of the matter was I knew I had but I didn’t want to be that confident, like I’d done it that morning. Wanted it to seem like I couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific any time in the recent past.

I thought my guilty plea would end the conversation – I was wrong.

“When?”

She acted like it was once. Sort of like when I got my appendix removed.

I honestly couldn’t think of a recent fib so I had to reach back to come up with something. The one that popped into my head was one I was sure they could relate to.

Well, you see, in high school I hated PE class. I hated changing clothes in front of the other guys, and I particularly hated the weeks we spent doing gymnastics. We were required to walk on the balance beam, and I could not. We had to jump the horse and my legs did not split in a horizontal fashion.

But what was even worse was climbing the rope in the gym. It was hanging from a rafter and we had to shimmy up the thing like Tarzan.

Joey Brenier could do it. Hank Downing could do it. Sam McNally could do it. I could not.

One February morning, I happened to walk by the gym early during first period. I’d been anticipating Rope Day for a few weeks, but I glanced in the gym and there was our 95 year old gym teacher, Miss Cherry, holding the bottom of the rope while the fellas were doing all they could to hoist themselves up the fibrous vine.

When I hit the gym third period, I skipped the locker room and headed straight to the bleachers. Miss Cherry was pacing the gym floor, waiting for her plebes.

“Tanner,” she always called us by our last names with her deep southern drawl, “why aren’t you dressed out?”

I couldn’t tell the truth – well Miss Cherry, I hate climbing the rope so I’m taking the day off. No.  I instead I lied. Without flinching and without explanation, I reported: “I forgot my gym clothes. Just give me a zero for today.”

“Tanner.”

“Yes m’am?”

“Let’s go check your locker.”

Oh snap.

I knew if I opened my locker it was likely that I hadn’t forgotten my PE clothes at all. It was quite likely they were on the top shelf, and I had simply overlooked them.

I don’t know why I didn’t just confess that I’d lied while we were still in the gym. I guess I’d hoped that perhaps a hoodlum had broken into my locker and stolen my t-shirt and shorts between my arrival at school that morning and third period. Unfortunately for me, that was not the case.

I opened the door.

“Just like I thought Tanner. Get dressed. We have a rope to climb.”

The girls enjoyed my story, and I explained that lying sometimes did not pay off. Then I asked them if they had ever lied.

Without missing a beat, Michelle lit up, “Well, I did tell you I loved you.”

She giggled.

Stephanie tossed her thoughts in, “Awwwkward.”

I hope they learn from my mistakes. But it is likely they’ll have to go through their own Miss Cherry debacle to truly learn their lesson.

If I had to do it again, I wish I hadn’t lied. I wish I would have just left the gym shorts at home that day.

56? 108?

Mae at Xmas

She don’t look bad – for her age.

Tomorrow will be my mother’s birthday, we don’t know how old she is.

We estimate she’s somewhere between 56 and 108.

My dad says that she rounds to the nearest five-year increment. She was 40 from age 38 to 43 at which time she turned 45 for another six years.

She says she doesn’t mind if we know her age. She just can’t tell us – because she isn’t sure.

I asked my dad if he had her birth certificate. He said back then they just carved your name and birthdate on a tree in the yard. Perhaps someone jotted her birthday with a quill in a family bible somewhere. Who knows? My great-grandmother had ten kids so we have no idea where the official book might be.

As we had this discussion, my father informed me that I had about one year before I would receive my AARP card. His friend then told me that membership entitled me to free sodas at the Taco Bell. I hope I don’t end up in the doughnut hole, I anticipate being on a number of meds in the future. Both of my parents have pill boxes the size of a love seat.

“It’s not medicine. It’s just supplements. We don’t have any medical issues.”

Not unless you count: sciatica, adult acne, heart stents, eyelid “enhancements”, cataracts, deafness, back and joint issues, one bum leg, a bum hip, asthma, worsening allergies, wrinkles, hair loss and insomnia.

Fortunately, they’re still pretty hip. They text, Facebook, own iPhones and iPads, dance, know how to scan photos into the computer, and come to Raleigh to drive my kids around town at least two times per month.

I guess that’s not bad for 108 (or nearabouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Post 173: Becoming a Real Father

The second week of DJ’s life, I defined my role as a father.

I came home from work at around 6 pm. The house seemed empty but I knew Lisa was home. Her car was there, and she really hadn’t been out much since the birth.

I made my way to the second floor of the house and found my wife vigorously rocking the new kid. DJ was tightly bound in the blanket we’d received from the hospital. She was crying with all of her itty bitty might.

“Why’s she crying?” It was an innocent question.

“I don’t know,” my wife snarled. She’s been like this since you left at 7:30 AM. She stressed the AM.

I thought I knew how to respond, “I’ll take over. I’ll put her to bed.”

That wasn’t what she was looking for.

As both bodies swayed back and forth, a deep voice boomed from my wife’s body, “I am her mother. I will make her sleep.”

Her look frightened me. The thought, she might kill our child tonight, ran through my brain.

Another thought quickly followed, she might also kill me.

Some dads might take charge in a moment like this, demanding that his spouse take a break explaining that perhaps she’d had enough. I, however, slowly backed out of the room, my eyes on her – ready to run if need be.

I went downstairs and put the phone in my hand. I put my thumb on the 9 in the event I needed help.

I then grabbed some peanuts and a beer and turned on the Nightly News.

Sure, I cared. We’d worked too hard over the past ten months not to have the opportunity to try to raise this new addition to our family. Plus, deep down I didn’t really think Lisa would hurt our child.  It was at this point, however, that I decided my wife knew more than I did in the parenting department and that she should be the one to lead in this arena.

I would support as directed, and mow the lawn.

It wasn’t until Lisa died that I found out what I had been missing. Instead of just hanging with my kids, I was thrust into full care provider. And that responsibility changed my life.

No longer is work my number one priority. It’s important to me, very important to me; but my girls come first. Period.  I now know what they’re doing, and I’m driving them all over town. I didn’t know that chauffeuring was the primary key to garnering information. Toss ‘em in the back seat, and they chirp like little birds.

Oh what I was missing. Oh what I have gained. The depth of my connection with my girls is so much more significant than it ever was before. I wonder how many other parents are missing out because they’re consciously choosing to take a back seat.

Take it from me, the front seat is better.

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

A Father’s Hair-Braiding Miracle

I was asked to write a blog on miracles for Guidepost magazine.  I’ve shared it below.

A Father’s Hair-Braiding Miracle

(Contributed by Danny Tanner)

I didn’t believe in miracles. How could I? My 39-year-old wife was dying from cancer. We had an army passionately praying for Lisa’s full recovery, but God’s lack of response led me to believe miracles were a farce. In fact, his refusal to respond to my pleas made me fully question his existence.

After her death, I thought God had deserted me.

The last day my wife was conscious, I told her that if it was time for her to go, she could. I promised her I would take care of our girls. However, I was fully unprepared to follow through on that commitment.

Lisa was the CEO of our house. I didn’t know the difference between tights and hose. I couldn’t tell an espadrille from a flip-flop. I didn’t even know how to log onto the school website. She handled it all. I was weak and lost.

A few weeks after Lisa’s funeral, I was at my parents’ house, struggling to get out of bed. Not even a snuggle from my youngest gave me motivation. Later that afternoon, my mom pulled me aside and said, “You can do this, Danny. You have to do this.”

She was right. My mom’s words reminded me that I had promised my wife that I would step up. I told her not to worry, that I would raise our girls.

I’m not sure what it was, but a spirit inside me was ignited that day. As I drove home, I actually felt strong, a feeling I had not experienced since Lisa’s diagnosis. It didn’t remove my grief. It did, however, motivate me to be the father I was destined to grow into.

Not long after, I found my youngest daughter, seven at the time, standing in front of the bathroom mirror sobbing.

“What’s wrong, Michelle?” I inquired.

“I can’t braid my hair!”

“Can I help?”

“No. You can’t! You don’t know anything about hair! You hardly have any.”

“I bet I can do it,” I said with confidence.

I called my middle daughter to the bathroom.

“Stephanie, show me how to braid her hair.”

“I’ll just do it Dad.” She was clearly annoyed.

“No. I want to learn.”

Stephanie proceeded to show me how to separate three strands and weave them back and forth. I took the helm. The first three attempts left lumps at various points on her head. But the fourth time, I got it right! My first official hairdo was a small plait on the right side of my first grader’s head, just enough to keep her hair out of her eyes during YMCA basketball practice.

I followed my success by looking upward and having a quiet conversation with my wife. I did it! Just like you!

This was a small win, but it began to build my confidence. Next I baked homemade cookies for Stephanie’s school birthday party and even tackled my first sleepover–18 girls in all! I took the girls shopping for bathing suits and volunteered in their classrooms.

It didn’t come easy, but it was as if somehow Lisa’s strengths were gradually being passed on to me. I was filling the role of both mother and father.

As I look back on the past few years, I am amazed. Not at myself. No. I am amazed at God’s miracle. He took an inept man and gave him strength beyond imagination. I thought he had deserted me, but he’d been there all along.

He turned me into the father I’d promised my wife I would be.

You can read more about Danny’s journey as a father in his book Laughter, Tears and Braids or on his blog The Real Full House.

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