All In For the Y!

I’ve been working at the YMCA in Raleigh, NC, for thirty 35 years.  My first job was driving a Y bus into marginalized communities, picking up kids and bringing them in for activities in the gym, swim lessons and a nightly devotion.  The program was called Y Boys, and we certainly had come characters including Budda and Meatball!  It’s been a long time, but I remember my kids well.

This past year I’ve run across two of my former campers.

Sarah, a teacher, has raised three kids of her own.  She told me she didn’t know she was poor until after she left her neighborhood.  Her generation was the first to attend college.  Her brother is an engineer, now living in Texas.  Her sister has a degree and lives up north.  Two of her children are in college, one working on her master’s degree, and one is thriving in high school.

Sarah told me that the Y was her respite.  When the Y bus drove into her neighborhood on Thursday afternoons, you did not want to miss the bus, she said.  She even remembered the boots I wore on a regular basis and several of the devotions I shared!  Who knew they were listening?

I also ran across Albert.  He was working at a restaurant – he came over to me and gave me a huge hug.  We grabbed lunch the next week to catch up.  Every time the Y was open, Albert was there.

Albert wasn’t a lucky as Sarah.  He had been sexually abused by his uncle for years.  His mother suffered from mental illness with no treatment.  Like too many other kids in tough situations, Albert had no idea that what was going on in his house was abnormal.  He just assumed everyone’s experience was similar to his.

He’s in his thirty’s now, and he said to me:  “Coming to the Y was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It was the best time of my life.”

When he told me that, my first though was How sad.  I then thought that perhaps is our sole role for some kids, to provide light in a dark world.  I’m grateful our organization has been able to do that for so long.

Since the mid 80’s, we have expanded our service in marginalized communities to include academic assistance after-school for 1,800 children at 55 different program sites here in the Triangle area.  We run full day summer camp where children get breakfast and lunch, learn to swim and receive an hour of academic remediation each day.  They pay $10/week (if they can).

Today at noon, the YMCA of the Triangle Areas kicks off our 48 Hours of Giving.  If you are in a situation where you might be able to contribute and help me meet my goal of raising $5,000 by Friday at noon, I encourage you to click on the link below.  And if you need assistance from the Y, please let me know.  We are open for ALL, regardless of your ability to pay.

MY GIVING LINK

Oh, and Scotty McCreary, a former Y camper, is holding a concert Thursday at 4 on Facebook for the Y.  Join in if you can.

 

 

Found the Marketplace

It’s just full.  So, so full.  My house.  Brimming.  You can’t walk into the attic.  The basement storage room is storaged out.  There’s a pathway to get to the old kitchen cabinet filled with… NAILS.  Nails and nails all kinds of nails, big ones, skinny ones, sharp ones too.  Why do I have so many nails?  Because I build a lot of stuff?  No.  That’s not the reason.  I honestly don’t know.  I haven’t nailed anything in sixteen years.  But there are thousands of them.

Julie had a friend who got rid of some stuff on Facebook Marketplace.  So I figured, what the heck!  It’s a pandemic.  What else I got to do?  I’ll try it.

I pulled out the old stuff, jammed in closets and hidden in giant Tupperware.  Julie took the pictures and created each item’s description:  Antique Tray with Pair Artistry (i.e. old tray with kid Decoupoge); four sturdy stools for a great painting project!  I think someone already painted a couple of them – so this would actually be a re-painting project.

But people love my junk.  I sold two Pier 1 vases from 1985 for like $30!  I bet they didn’t cost $30 dollars three decades ago when I bought them.  Ap-pre-ci-a-tion!

One annoying guy had me hold an old cabinet for 48 hours and then didn’t show to pick it up!  I was irked!  I lost THREE other buyers in the process.

I had these really old dusty topiaries that had been cluttering the fireplace hearth for twenty years.  Leftovers from a school auction.  I bet I had 35 people after them.  One woman hit me up and immediately drove to my house to get them.  I blew the dust off before she arrived.

I put the item on the porch; they leave the cash under the front door mat.  I fear the neighbors think I’m dealing drugs.  Lots of strangers at my front door.  They drive up, grab their stash, leave the money, and poof, they’re gone!  I haven’t met one of them in person.  I sort of like it that way.  Feels like a mafia deal:

“You want the goods?”

“Yea.”

“$45?”

“Yea.”

“Pick ‘em up on Bellwood Drive.  5 PM?  On the porch, over by the fern.”

“Got it.”

Other than cleaning out, which sort of feels like a household enema, the thing I like the most about this project is the moollah!  I once had a yard sale, stuff in the carport for days.  I sold $170 worth and hauled three minvans full of leftovers to Goodwill.  Last weekend I made $370 on about six items.  My phone dings when someone inquires on Marketplace.  It’s the sound of cash!

I’m cleaning out baby!  I’m ready to go!  Anywhere, actually.  Please…  Anywhere…

Sixty Years Strong

I can’t believe they have been married for sixty years.  I can’t imagine doing ANYTHING consistently for sixty years, except maybe eating.

That’s 21,900 nights together!  10, 950 Jeopardy shows they’ve watched through the years.

I wonder what makes them still like each other.  I asked my mom, what is the secret sauce?  She told me that she wants my dad to be as happy and full as he possibly can be, and he wants the same for her.  Maybe a lesson on selflessness, putting others’ needs before your own.

My dad’s advice?  Never go to bed angry.  I don’t think that’s a problem for them because they hardly ever argue.  Oh, they have differing opinions about things.  My dad makes a mess in the kitchen and cleans it all up when he’s done.  If my mom uses a spoon, she washes it before another utensil comes out of the drawer.  There is no mess in the kitchen – ever.  They had to replace their counter tops because she wiped the marble off.

I think, after sixty years, they’ve just come to accept each other’s flaws.  I probably have more than dad – that may not be so easy for my wife.

All of us likely develop our first impressions on what a marriage should be based on what we see at home.  What I saw as a kid was parents who showed affection for each other – yes, it was gross, but they kissed and hugged and flirted on a regular basis my whole life.  They worked as a team – cooking together, cleaning up together, teaching Sunday School together, hosting parties.  Mom and Dad LOVE to host a party!

They still scheme over what they get each other for Christmas, always trying to surprise the other with some little something special.

They laugh and laugh about the simplest things, like calling out my name as loudly as possible in the middle of K-Mart when I was a very embarrassable teenage boy.  They thought that was hilarious.  It actually wasn’t.

They studied the bible together, teaching Sunday School class at our church.  They read devotional books and prayed with us.  They showed me that a strong marriage is rooted in faith.

They have known each other since before high school.  In fact, my grandparents always told me they were in the same baby room at First Baptist Church in Florence, SC.  They were friends in high school, but never dated.  And then one Christmas, must have been about 1958, when dad was home from college, he randomly called mom to go out to catch up.  The rest is history.

I love their story.  I love them.  I am so thankful they are my parents and am so thankful that they showed me what a really, really good relationship looks like.

Vaccine, Please Lord, Vaccine

The other day, Julie was leaving Raleigh to head back to Charlotte for an in person meeting at work.  As we snacked for breakfast, she said, “What are you going to do today?”

I responded:  “Well, I’m gonna work a little and eat lunch…”, I paused a second, and finished my sentence, “and then, I’m gonna… eat dinner…”

She busted out laughing.  I was totally oblivious.  That was truly all I had planned for the day:  lunch, then dinner.  My life is centered around two mediocre meals that I prepare by myself, at home, in my recently worn out kitchen.

My stove must be exhausted.  My ice maker grunts at me.  I had to buy a new dishwasher.  Because, ALL I do is WORK and EAT.  My internet is even beat.  Today it sputtered and flickered off and on all day.

We are all just so tired.

My mother told me if we didn’t let her out of the house soon she was going to make a break for it.  I fear she will pick up a friend and go Thelma and Louise on us.

You can’t even go outside to walk.  It’s 97 degrees, but the weatherman reminds me daily it actually feels like 106.  RUB IT IN DUDE.  It’s like exercising in the Y sauna.  Unbearable.

I’ve become addicted to the news.  I want to know – and I don’t.  But I can’t turn it off.  I record it so if I miss it at 6:30, I can watch it at 7.  But I never miss it at 6:30 because I’m always home – thinking about what I might eat for dinner.

And to top it off, the political ads have started.  If I see the poor old lady about to get attacked because no one is answering 911, my brain will explode.

I can’t do this ‘til November 3.

Netflix, where oh where art thou new movies?  I don’t want to watch He’s Just Not That Into You.

I record CBS Sunday morning, arguably the best show on TV, and the dad-est show on TV.  In January I had 34 episodes stored.  I have three left.  And they are reruns of reruns.

My PJ pants have a hole in them.  I work at the Y and am running out of t-shirts.  That’s not right.

This whole thing’s not right.  We aren’t supposed to be in our houses this much.  We aren’t supposed to be with our family this much.  We shouldn’t be cooking all of our meals and exercising at home.  My biceps are growing as is my waistline.

Vaccine.  Come on.  Come on BABY.  Inject me!  Gooooooo Maderna!!

Oh To Sleep…

I’ve not slept well the past decade.  I don’t know why.  I’ve tried everything imaginable to help.

I turn the TV off early.  I read.  I don’t drink caffeine after 2 PM.  I limit alcohol.  I take Melatonin.  I’ve tried Chamomile Tea.

Julie heard from a friend that hypnosis helped her battle insomnia.

Why not try?  I thought.   I got nothing to lose.  Well, except for $75 which is what the recording cost me.

The hypnotist told me it could take 21 days to feel the effect, I’m on day six.  The recording is a full 25 minutes.  I listen.  When she is finished, I take my Ambien and Melatonin cocktail and eventually conk out.

The first night of “hypnosis” was odd.  I did actually feel a bit like I was in a trance.  My arms and legs were heavy – my body felt asleep.  But my mind knew exactly what was going on.

My hypnotist actually snapped her fingers and told me every time she snapped and said the word sleep that I would fall more deeply into her trance.

I did not listen to the recording prior to my first try so I was a bit anxious.  As I tried to relax, I considered what she might make me do if I fully went under.

What if she instructs me to disrobe and run down the street in flip flops?  What would my neighbors think?  I wondered.

Why would she do that?  I argued with my awake mind.

People have done crazier things.  I warned myself.

According to this woman, who puts me to bed each night, sleeping is MY RIGHT!  She told me when I was a baby I slept in light and dark, in quiet or in noise.  I guess she’s right, but you’d have to ask my mom to be sure.

She has me walking down staircases, staring up at my own eyebrows, and intentionally relaxing my forehead muscles.  I didn’t even know I had those.

As soon as she tells me to relax, invariably something on my being starts to itch.  Not like a tiny itch, like a baboon at the zoo itch.  And yet, I’m afraid she’s gonna be mad at me if I scratch.  So I lay there – arms and legs heavy as tree trunks, armpit itching like crazy and my mind trying to figure out if I need to relax my knee caps or dig into my underarm.

The other night Julie and I were staying at a friend’s mountain house.  She agreed to listen to the recording with me.  In approximately 15 seconds she was out cold.  That is exasperating.  At one point I talked to her.  She did not respond.  The next morning she said she could hear me but that her psyche told her it was inappropriate to talk.  Her psyche was probably right.  Besides, she was long gone by then.

I am hopeful this will eventually work for me.  Julie tells me I just need to let the force take over.  I will try.  But I’m not going to like it.

COVID Lessons

I have discovered a couple things during COVID.  First, I believe my head is crooked.  I never knew that before.

Early on in this crisis, I ordered a stack of cloth facemasks with elastic that goes over each ear.  I put the device on my head, working diligently to protect my aging self from this deadly disease.  As I walked through the Food Lion, my left ear began to ache on the produce aisle, which is at the very front of the store.  I turned my mask around, thinking that perhaps one side had a shorter piece of elastic.  By bacon and bologna, I had to stop to take a mask break.  The pain was excruciating.  I rested my cartilage and breathed away from the meat.  By the empty toilet paper section, I gave up.  The mask was off.

I assumed it was a faulty item.  When I got home, I tried another.  Again, the backside of my left ear ached like heck.  After multiple masks and multiple tries, there was no other explanation.  I believe my left ear is absolutely positioned further back on my head than the right thus pulling more aggressively and causing pain.  I even tried to measure.  I picked a spot in the middle of my nose and with a tape measure tried to determine the distance between my nostril connector to the front of each ear.  And then, I decided, that perhaps my nose slanted to the left.  I think I need plastic surgery.  Nothing is even.

I prefer the soft masks to the more molded ones.  Those make me look like a resident of Whoville.

I now wear a bandana.

The second thing I’ve learned is that some people are NOT good at social distancing.  My mother and fiancé included.  83-year-old Jean is apparently walking laps at the church instead of her typical haunt, Cross Creek Mall.  Rumor has it, she has been seen hugging men in the lobby – even on weekdays.   Julie, the woman I love, also hugged a friend in downtown Charlotte Saturday and stood in the middle of a very large group of people to hear/see the guest speaker at a good sized event.  I was interested too but could hear just fine from the back – she kept edging up.

“You’re too close to people!” I implored.

“I can’t see,” she explained.

“We are in a pandemic!  Seeing is less important than usual!”

Additionally, the top of her facemask is typically below her bottom lip.  She might as well put on a necklace.  It would do as much good and might likely compliment her outfit more.

What am I going to do with these people in my life?

I am ready to go back – back to normal.  School.  Work.  Bars.  Restaurants. The ability to see my girlfriend’s entire face.  A visit with my parents.  A sassy teenager with too many social plans.  The SAT.  Vacation.  Security at the airport.  Plenty of toilet paper and chicken.  Hot yoga with people sweating all in my space.  Church.  The dentist.  Running late for work and 5:00 traffic.  ALL of these things I miss!  And I miss many of you too.

In Sunday School last week, a friend shared a story.  She is White.  Her son has a very close friend who is Black.  One day, the friend’s mother asked if she had talked with her son about how to respond if he was stopped by a police officer.  My friend said, “No.  I’ve never thought about that.”  The woman said, “You should do that.  Now!”

My friend had never thought about talking with her White son about how to act if he was stopped by a police officer because she didn’t have to.  It’s simply not an issue for her son.  It’s not an issue for me.

I don’t fully understand what my Black friends and colleagues face on a daily basis.  It wasn’t until five years ago that I really began to understand that my life, simply because of the color of my skin, is easier.  At work, staff were encouraged to attend Racial Equity Institute.  I was eager to learn. To say the lessons were eye opening would be an understatement.  For hundreds of years there have been benefits to being white.  We set up the club.  We made the rules, and the rules are in our favor.  When Social Security was passed in 1935, guess who was ineligible for benefits?  Agricultural workers and domestic employees.  Who held most of these jobs?  Black people.

These policies (and individual bigotry) have led us to today.  If you start a Monopoly game two hours after everyone else, the rules may be the same, but the other players have already amassed the wealth.  It is virtually impossible to catch up.

I was out of town last weekend, but my three daughters joined their aunt and uncle at protests in downtown Raleigh.   They are deeply distraught by the murder of George Floyd – who could watch the video and not be?  I share their disgust, but for years have not done all that I should to push for change.

What can I do?  I don’t really know.  Racial Equity Institute was a start.  Maybe reading.  Understanding.  Protesting.  Supporting changes at my place of employment and at my kids’ schools.  Oh, and perhaps most importantly, I can vote individuals into office who will influence change.

This can’t happen again.

 

The Summer of ’74

Julie always says my childhood sounds like Sandlot.  We weren’t playing baseball, but there are some similarities.  As I described our summer activities to the girls recently, I think they were surprised by the simplicity of our long summer days.

Boy Land and Girl Land were a favorite of our crew.  If we played Boy Land, the guys would chase the girls, catch them and take them to jail where they would have to do anything we instructed them to do.  Our general antics were jumping jacks, eating grass or stepping on a stack of sandspurs.  Much to my father’s dismay, our yard was full of them.  I preferred Girl Land for some odd reason.  Because there were fewer girls on our street than guys, and because we could run faster than they could, they typically couldn’t catch us until we willingly gave in.  Which we always did out of pity and a desire to see what sort of dares they would have us participate in.  It seems that ours were always better – they lacked the creativity that my brother and I brought to the table.

If it was horribly hot or rainy, we would head to the basement of our split level house and play Seven Minutes in Heaven.  One person would be It.  I always resented that the older kids chose It.  I dreamed of the day I’d hold that power.  It never came.  We moved before I aged up.

It would go to the closet and the remainder of the group would use a form of “one potato, two potato, three potato, four…” where we’d all put both fists up while standing in a circle while the group leader counted us out.  My favorite counting rhyme was:  Ink a bink a bottle of ink, cork fell out and you stink.  It was so much faster than One Potato.

The last one standing entered the dark space through the dark brown, louvered, bi-fold doors to meet It.  My favorite It was Tracy McDonnell, a skinny girl who lived on the cul-de-sac with her very strict military father.  Everyday at noon, regardless of what we were doing, she would have to immediately head home to feed her three dogs.  It was like Cinderella and the striking midnight clock.  Apparently Rounder couldn’t wait ‘til 12:08 for his dog chow.  His feeding time was noon.  She was always on restriction.  I don’t know what she did to deserve her ongoing punishments, but I do know we avoided playing at her house whenever possible for fear we’d do something that might get her in trouble.  Her dad was omnipresent.  He knew if one little dust speck was out of place.  She and her sisters always seemed happier when he was in Vietnam.

Tracy would kiss me in the closet – which was very exciting for a nine-year-old boy.  The other Its might shake my hand, pass gas for a good laugh, or smack me in the head if they couldn’t get their bodily functions to work on cue.

When I was It I always wanted to kiss Jennifer Fair, she was beautiful.  But she was also three years older and my brother’s love interest.  Had I kissed her she might have vomited, and my brother might have punished me in his own, cunning way.  My mother did not tolerate fights, not even verbal spars.  But he could get to me, and I knew it.  He was sort of like the mafia boss of Berkshire Road.

My kids are too old for those kinds of activities, but facing a summer where they may not have their typical camp experiences made me think about my dog days.  We had no camp.  The most exciting thing I ever did on summer vacation was get my tonsils outs.  But I wouldn’t change a thing about my experiences.  I can still taste Vienna Sausages and my mom’s cherry Kool-Aid (from a powder pouch) popsicles.

Dang, we had fun!

A Letter to Myself

DJ and I were talking recently about the insanity that we’ve seen over the past 11 years.  She asked, “If someone had told you what would happen over the past decade, would you have believed it?”

It made me wonder.  What if 54-year-old Danny Tanner could write a letter to 44-year-old Danny Tanner?  What would I say to that naive guy?

May 13, 2020

Dear Danny,

I am you exactly eleven years from now.  It’s May, 2009, where you are, and you’re about to experience one of the best summers of your life!  You have four trips planned:  Yellowstone National Park, the beach, the lake, and your annual trip to West Virginia.  Enjoy every second because when you return, the wheels are gonna come off your bus.

You are about to face the saddest, most difficult time of your life.  Lisa, your incredible wife, will die before this time next year.  The devastation of this loss with change you, your children, and your entire family forever.

You will be pushed beyond your comfort zone in ways you never imagined.  You will tackle things that you thought you’d never have to or never be capable of.  With the support of family and friends, you will move forward.

You will:

  • Raise three incredible girls who will be independent and strong
  • Perform for eight years to sold out crowds at the Duke Energy Center and the Durham Performing Arts Center in the play A Christmas Carol
  • Start a blog (you’ll find out what that is in a year or two) and write a book (I know that’s hard to believe)
  • Pack up and drop off your two oldest kids at college and cry like a baby on your ride home
  • Watch your girls grow in ways you could never imagine

Oh, and in seven years, you will fall in love again, deeply, with a woman who compliments you in amazing ways.  She will love you to death and will give you renewed hope for the future.  To make it a bit more complicated, she lives in Charlotte, NC.  You’re going to spend a lot of time on interstate 85.

Some people you love dearly will struggle with you moving forward.  That will be hard.  Some of the relationships you rely on most deeply now will fade, but new ones will blossom.

A pandemic will break out throughout the world and DJ and Stephanie will move back home – just when you’ve adjusted to being at home with one kid.  You won’t be allowed to leave your house for months and when you do, you will wear a surgical mask even to go buy beer!

You’re gonna come out OK, Danny, a bit bruised and battered, but better in many ways.  I want you to know that because there will be times you won’t think you will.

And by the way, Donald Trump is the President…

My best,

Danny

Proverbs 15:30

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.  Proverbs 15:30

Julie works for an organization in Charlotte, Share Charlotte, that brings the nonprofit community together with individuals and corporations.  If you want to make a donation, go to their website and you will find the nonprofit that strikes your fancy.  If you want to volunteer with teenaged boys who occasionally drive their parents crazy, just click those filters and opportunities abound.

As part of Do Good Week, their push for volunteerism, each staff member picked a charity to volunteer for.  As is typically the case, Julie, the Pied Piper, enlisted the whole fam to help.  She chose to feed 100 homeless folks at a local shelter.

We shopped for food, set up an assembly line, and bagged sandwiches, fruit, chips and homemade, well slice-and-bake, cookies to go.  Then four of us delivered the goods.

Our Zoom Sunday School lesson today was based on Proverbs 15:30.  But what in the heck can you do to lift others’ spirits when you can hardly leave your house?

As I thought about it – maybe a lot.

Perhaps you pay your housekeeper even if she isn’t coming to clean.  Or maybe you call that single friend you know is at home alone.  Notes, texts.  Checking on great aunt Lou-Lou.  Even getting takeout from a restaurant that is no doubt struggling to survive this shut down would be helpful.  I’d actually appreciate it, if you’re able, to keep paying your monthly dues to the Y!  Consider it a donation.

There are boundless ways to give, even from your favorite armchair.  There are infinite ways to spread good news to those in need.

In conjunction with several other nonprofits in the area, our Y in southeast Raleigh, a marginalized community, opened a one day food pantry.  Hundreds and hundreds of cars lined up filled with individuals and families who need help.  People are hurting.  People are hungry, like actually hungry.  I can’t even imagine being worried about providing food to my family.  These people live in our communities.  They are our neighbors.

Now is NOT the time to pull back – to be cautious with your time, effort and money.  Now IS the time to step it up.

As I slapped ham and cheese on endless pieces of white bread, Julie looked at me and said, “Now is the time for us to take our eyes off ourselves.”  Sometimes that’s hard to do when your own salary has been cut and your kids are eating you out of house and home.  And yet, isn’t that exactly what we should be doing in this increasingly fragile time?

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