Dad!!! You’re SO old!!

Happy Birthday Danny Tanner! You are officially very elderly. That’s right folks – it’s the big 5-0. This is DJ Tanner reporting from Washington, DC. Since I will not be home to celebrate the milestone of my father being alive for half a century and since I am a broke college student that didn’t want to pay for shipping, I decided to give the gift of some kind words for all the world to see in this surprise blog post. Even though you may not understand every single inside joke, without further ado, I give you “50 Things We Love About Dad,” with much love from Michelle, Stephanie, and DJ Tanner. (Don’t be fooled, some of these pictures are old, so he looks younger).

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We love…

1.  His unique bowtie collection and his overall sense of style (even though we bash it occasionally). We love the bowtie thing, because he taught us how to tie them…and that’s how we get all of the cute boys.

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2. His stash of gum and sweet tarts in the car (that we all know he LOVES to share).

3. His funny voices/accents.

4. His ability to do something hilarious on command that oftentimes ends with one of his children wetting their pants.

5. His inability to naturally smile in pictures unless his children are tickling his chin.ry=400 me&dad

6. His knowledge of the daddy handbook. (Example: “excerpt from page 834, Daddy’s may tickle their daughters, but they may not tickle back.”)

7. His devotion to constantly remind us that “he loves us the mostest.”

8. His goober reading glasses that make him look at least 73.

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9. His lap for sitting.

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10. His motherlike actions – including, but not limited to, knowing the most recent girl fashion, understanding the need for manicures and eyebrow waxing, and the instinct to leave us alone at that time of the month.

11. His obsession with Chick-Fil-A, making it so that every road trip consists of at least three stops to our second home (Chick-fil-A that is).

12. His love handles, even though we know he hates them..

13. And his dedication to P90X because of them.


14. His cheap spending habits. (Not sure which sister came up with this one, but it was not DJ).

15. His dedication to color coding his shirts in his closet.


16. His willingness to play “Don’t come in my kitchen,” even when he has had a long day and when his children probably should have grown out of wanting to play this family game.

17. His ever growing pig collection.


18. His pajamas – including his scrubs, his holey underwear, and his beloved slippers.

19. His commitment to his yard.

20.His addiction to the “Candy Crush” iPhone game.

21. His ability to edit college essays and election speeches.

22. His instinct to cheer us up with his crazy humor when we are stressed over a silly assignment.

23. His patience with technology. He’s not very good at it yet, but he tries. Remember that one time he deleted everything on his phone?

24. His tradition of writing us crazy poems in our lunch boxes or camp mailboxes. Here is an excerpt from a really long poem for when I went to college.

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25. His cooking. Well…not really, but we like to watch him think that he can cook fish and then watch him order Chinese food (our favorite) when it doesn’t work out.

26. His taste in music – he has taught us some oldies which we have fallen in love with.

27. His bravery when allowing each child to have 10 friends over all in one night.

28. His patience when all 30 of these kids stay up all night, or insist on cooking pancakes at 4 in the morning (true story).

29. His faith.

30. His back pocket from which he can always pull out old YMCA skits and ideas.


31. His dancing skills. Specifically his waltzing in “A Christmas Carol” and his shagging.

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32. His love for his mom’s chocolate cake and the fact that he can eat the whole bowl of extra icing in one sitting.

33. His inability to drop us off at summer camp or college without crying paired with his ability to pretend like he isn’t crying, by putting on sunglasses.

34. His “blonde” hair.

35. His determination to teach us how to ride a bike back in the day.

36. His dedication to making sure we all have dates for all of our all girl school dances.

37. His team spirit.

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38. His insistence on taking family pictures when nobody else wants to.

39. His Christmas card making skills.

40. His ability to take a joke. Remember when we froze your underwear? Hid your slippers? Short-sheeted your bed?

41. His love for crab hunting at the beach.


42. His skill for making our lunches look like “faces” on the plate, and his actions as we pretend to eat each body part. (Example: you eat the ears made of carrots, Dad can’t hear anymore!)

43. His book and his blog. We also like being the cover of his book.

44. His three cups of coffee in the morning and his dump afterwards. I’m not sure where any of us would be without this daily routine.

45. His interest in being involved in our schools. We like that he knows what’s going on and that he occasionally helps out on a committee or two.

46. His confidence when having the “…now what kind of tampons did you want” conversation on the phone in the middle of Target.

47. His second silly verse to “Sanctuary” that he made up and taught all three of us. Seriously, ask us and we will sing you a completely made up verse, synchronized.

48. His constant need to keep the house tidy.


50!! Ep nom duppi duppi.

Rainbow Vomit

I love conversations with my daughters.  You just never know what they might say or what we might do.

On Saturday night, DJ called at midnight from Thurston Hall at The George Washington University.

“Hey dad.  What you doing?”

” I’m out at a dance club with all of my fifty year old friends doing jello shots!!  WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING???  I’M IN BED!!”  I thought I should clarify, just in case.

I was so excited to hear her voice, the next hour of sharing was as if it was 10 AM (my peak time of day).

On Thursday I went to put Stephanie to bed, and she lamented that I was leaving town for the weekend with several of my buddies.  I was actually happy that she didn’t want me to leave even though had I been at home she would have essentially ignored. me.

She then pulled up her iPhone, and we spent the next 45 minutes vomiting rainbows:

It was awesome.

On the way to school last Wednesday morning, Michelle shared a fascinating piece of information.

“Dad, I heard that school is having to change the sweatshirt design.”

“Really?  I like the old one.  Why are they doing that?”

“Well, you know that the letters on the sleeve spell Titans?”


“So, when you pull your sleeves up, the A and the N disappear.”


“And… the S moves up!”

And in a whispered voice she dropped the bomb, “And you know what that spells!”

At least her Wordly Wise spelling lessons are sinking in.

I do enjoy my kids.

DC, here she comes!


Whew! It’s over. I dropped DJ off at college in a city with a population of 658,893. Well, now 894.

DC, full of vagrants, drug dealers, secret service agents, spies, politicians, eager boys who don’t have a curfew and DJ.  It does not help to know that Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner also frequent the place.

I live in anticipation of a phone call, a text, a photo posted on Snapchat, a Facebook pic – give me anything!!  A crumb child, a crumb…

The drop off was less dramatic than the anticipation of the drop off. I was fearful the drive up would be five hours of angst. Well, it sort of was, but it was all traffic related. I actually discovered, at a friend’s suggestion, an app called Waze. When the traffic gets bad, a lovely voice comes over your phone and directs you to leave the highway. You then meander through side roads and neighborhoods, passing grandma’s house with the pumpkin patch, fenced in warehouses with parking lots full of toilets, and strip bars featuring the likes of Honey Berkshire. You also get to pick your handle. I’m Sheamus Ninja (I always wanted to be called Sheamus and a ninja is just cool).

Lisa’s parents accompanied us which was very helpful and a good distraction.

On Saturday, we drove to F Street which was blocked off for thru traffic. I parallel parked and was accosted by an eager upper classman. She gave me a ticket that marked the time I arrived, 12:21 PM, and the time I was expected to pull away from the coveted curb, 12:36 PM. We had exactly 15 minutes to unload DJ’s life. The only thing she didn’t take to college was a single sock with a blown out toe and her sisters. Every other item she had accumulated since birth was in my automobile.

Pops sat on the curb with the stacks and stacks of plastic bins, suitcases, lamps, and hangered clothes we had unloaded while Nana and a handsome co-ed move-in volunteer rolled a large cardboard cart to the elevator line. I began to haul the remainder of the items up the seven flights of stairs to the corner room created for two but housing four.

It took Nana 45 minutes to get on the elevator, and by the time she arrived at the room, she shared that Daniel, her new-found friend, roomed with a kid from Raleigh. She also shared that he wanted to get into the Business School but that “C” he had in calculus was holding him back. She learned of his lineage, his dating history, the average number of times he consumed alcohol his Freshman year, his preference of boxers, and the sororities with the worst reputations. Had she stayed at GW three more hours I feel certain DJ would have met all 1,200 students housed in her dorm.

After bed making, closet cramming, shoe storage constructing and picture hanging, the time had come. All of her roommates had left the room. I asked if she wanted us to wait for them to return. She said, “No. You can go.”

I went out to the hall, took a deep breath and pulled my sunglasses out of my pocket to cover my about to be watered up eyes. Everyone got a good laugh when I walked back in the room.  No one could 100% tell that my eyes were pooled with tears, although the fam knows me well enough to assume.

When I got to the car, just Michelle and me, I started convulsing. DJ had warned her, “You’ll be with dad alone. When (not if) he starts crying, it’s your responsibility to cheer him up. Don’t play any sappy music. Talk in that goofy voice that cracks him up.”

She tried her best but to no avail. I just had to get it out.

There’s something terribly difficult about sending your kid to college for the first time.  For me, it’s less about my fear for them and more about the end of something so incredibly wonderful.

Thus far, I have enjoyed each stage of my children’s lives as much, if not more, than the stage before. I’m going to hold onto that.

Letting Go

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Next week I drop my oldest kid off at college.  How did it come to this?

I mean, I assumed she’d grow up, this should not be a surprise.  But damn Sam – I’ll be fifty this month, and she is gone.  In my mind, I am thirty-two, and she should be going to kindergarten.

She still has blonde curly hair, just like the day she entered this world.

At first glimpse, I thought Lisa had birthed a Smurf.  Her head was cone shaped, and her skin was blue.

“What’s wrong with our baby?,” I asked the nurse.  “She’s the color of Gatorade.  And her head is a triangle.”

“She’ll get her color,” the nurse assured me.  “She is the first through the birth canal.  She’s a pioneer!  Her head will smooth out.”

I was thankful I had an older brother.

I used to carry her on my shoulders.  I can’t do that anymore without risk of paralysis.

I read to her every night and most often we had a tickle party.

“Daaaaddy.  Will you tickle me?” she’d ask.

The moment I’d start she’d curl up into a ball and implore me to stop.

Even when she was older I’d pray with her each night, and we’d argue about who loved each other more.

“I love you the mostest!”

“No!  I love YOU the mostest!”

In high school, she danced like a champ, the most graceful girl on the stage.  I worked hard not to miss the special moments in her life, particularly over the past five years.  I wanted to be there since her mother couldn’t be.  I hope that one day I’ll have the opportunity to recount DJ’s life for the woman I most loved.

I was at a funeral last month for a man who was about a decade older than me.  His two daughters spoke at the service.  They both gushed about the father who had raised them.  As one shared memories of how he had parented, she said, and then he gave me wings, the greatest gift he could have given.

In theory, it doesn’t seem that hard.  She has to do all the work, all I have to do is let go.

And yet, what a scary thing to do.

We LOVE Capon Springs, and this is why…

For me, it’s been 24 years since I first joined the annual Kostopolis family vacation to Capon Springs, WV.  For Lisa’s mom, it’s been 63 Years.  This is what we love the most:


Hamburgers, grilled ham, steak and hot dogs! Mmmm.

Hamburgers, grilled ham, steak and hot dogs!

And Bacon!

And Bacon!

Getting OUT of the spring fed swimming pool.



DJ and I scaring the high school kids as they walk back from the hay ride in pitch dark.

Imagine that jumping out at you at 10 PM on the 7th fairway -

Imagine that jumping out at you at 10 PM on the 7th fairway –

The dream of winning a jar of Pearl’s applebutter in the mixed doubles shuffleboard tournament.

pops and Bailey (2)

DJ and her partner, Pops (made it to the third round, whoop whoop)

Thriller, led by Uncle Jesse.

Tuesday night dance -

Tuesday night dance –


Talent Galore!

(now that’s what an uncle is suppose to do with his niece)

Bringing home the goods at Wednesday BINGO night!

Who won BINGO? That's me, that's me!

Who won BINGO? That’s me, that’s me!

Double Dessert, mmmmm.

with extra whipped cream...

with extra whipped cream…

Happy hour.

EVERY evening.

EVERY evening.

But the best…

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

Priorities, Priorities

Waiting on a ride!

Waiting on a ride!

I’d made the decision.  It was a good one.  I passed it by a number of people.

It’s Capon Springs time.  Our family’s third week in August trek to West Virginia to hang with family and dear friends.  I’ve been every year since I proposed to a Katsopolis child in 1993.  It’s the dowry that keeps on giving.

When I was a kid, we had summer.  Months and months of summer.  Nowadays, summer is short and teacher workdays are plentiful.

Since Stephanie’s school began on Monday, and since she is taking AP Bio and four honors classes, it was her year to fly to Capon a few days late.  I’d checked the school schedule and although Monday seemed to be more of an introductory day, Tuesday – Friday were full on academics.  She’d get two days behind her and fly into Dulles late Wednesday night where I’d meet her and transport her to her favorite spot on earth.

I don’t think that everyone understands my children’s love for this place.  Yesterday Michelle asked me if I would rather give up our house or give up our week at Capon Springs.  I choose to keep the house.  She was undecided but leaning toward the family reunion.  I mean I love this place, but we’re here 7 days a year.  The other 348 we are in our house.

Michelle, DJ and I left at 11 AM on Sunday after dropping Stephanie off at school for orientation.  At 1:45, 30 miles north of Richmond, we received the text.

Dad, I could have flown out early on Wednesday.  Classes end at noon.  Same on Tuesday.  Afternoons are meetings about time management and stuff.

I recalled that in early August when I received the school schedule, I was told it was tentative, but I had to commit to the flight.

I couldn’t believe I’d made the choice to leave my kid out of this critically important slice of her life for two half days of class.

I pulled over and texted my parents who were in charge of Stephanie for the first half of the week.

You in the mood for a Sunday afternoon drive?

 Sure.  Why?

We’re coming to get her.

 While they packed the car and headed north, Lisa’s dad left the Capon golf course to pick up DJ and Michelle.  They threatened to kill me if I made them ride all the way back to North Carolina.

I dropped them off with Pops an hour north in Warrenton, Virginia, and turned my car around.

Heavy traffic, a major detour, a nearly empty tank of gas and a lower back that hurt like hell could not deter.  I’d messed up.  I’d made a short sighted decision.  I had to consider priorities.

When I pulled up to the Main House Sunday night and began unpacking our bags at 11:30 PM, twelve and a half hours after I’d left Raleigh,  one of Michelle’s friends asked why I went back home.

“I forgot something.”

“What’d you forget, Mr. Tanner?”

“My middle child.”

Breeze and Coffee, mmmmmm…

annie in mini

I’m almost 50.  It’s about time for a mid-life crisis.  I mean, the likelihood that I’ll live to 100 is slim to none.  I’m actually behind.

I can’t have an affair, I’m not married.

I really can’t grow a goatee; work won’t allow me to come in scruffy.

I can’t quit my job.  I got kids to support.  Plus, I really like what I do.

Sometimes I don’t get a haircut for six or eight weeks.  That’s me rebelling.  Whoa.

But this week, I sort of got to sow some oats.

DJ traded cars with me on Sunday so she could bring all of her stuff home from summer camp, and she left me with her convertible mini cooper.  Whoop- whoop!

I whipped around town without regard to anyone who might be watching.  I sang, I grooved, the breeze was inspiring.

Michelle was less enthusiastic.  She  and I have differing opinions of the appropriate use of a convertible.  My philosophy is:  It’s a convertible, the top goes down.  Period.

The other day I was driving her to cross-country practice at 7:15 in the morning.  It was beee-u-ti-ful outside, 68 degrees, sunny, a slight breeze.  Naturally, the first thing I did when I got in the car after putting my large jug of coffee in the cup holder, was to press the button that starts the process of opening the roof.

“Dad, what are you doing?”

“I don’t understand your question.”

“Don’t open the roof.”

“But this is a convertible.”

“I just braided my hair, and I don’t want to get all smelly.”

“I thought I was taking you to cross-country, not the debutante ball.  The roof is coming off!”


“You are about to run around a lake for an hour.  I think this is the least of your grooming concerns.”

If it was 95 or 32 degrees outside, I might have considered her request.  But it wasn’t.

Besides, when the roof is all shut up, I sort of feel like I’m riding around in a beer can, dark and cramped.

I’ll have to admit, after spinning around in the mini, I do smell a bit musty when I get to work.  And, my hair sort of resembles Phyllis Diller’s, but it is so worth it.

There is something about breeze that brings me to life.  It makes me want to sing loudly, to flail my arms in the wind, to laugh, to take deep breaths.  Add coffee on top of that… mmm, a slice of heaven right on the I-440 beltline.

Be Loved

Homeless Sign

What touched me most was that Wednesday, the day our mission trip with the middle school youth from my church led us to the Be Loved House.  The day before, I got to run the cardboard crusher at the Food Bank.  It was cool.  Really cool.  Tossing out the 50 lb. bags of potatoes into the enormous dumpster, not so cool.  I don’t dig puss oozing spuds.

Two days before, we pulled weeds at a day care center and sorted clothes for a Veteran’s shelter.  Both were jobs that needed to be done, but neither allowed me to interact to a great extent with those we were trying to serve.

But Wednesday, we pulled up to an old house near the heart of downtown.  The white picket fence in front of the dilapidated home was in fairly good shape.  There was a hand spray painted sign that read:  Black Lives Matter.  The cozy front yard had tables with chairs arranged in groups of four or five.

The kids headed in the front door walking through the porch which was set up as a clothes closet for folks who struggle with homelessness.  They didn’t even seem to notice the transgender person having a conversation with a dude in blue jeans at one of the tables.  But I did.  She, like everyone who walked in that house that day, would be loved.  Because in their opinion, if God can love them, they can surely work hard to love others.

I say folks who struggle with homelessness because Amy, the caretaker of the Be Loved House, informed us that they were people first.  I’m not referred to as a Love Handles Person.  I’m just a person who struggles with love handles.

After Amy explained to us that her family intentionally moved into poverty to try to minister to folks who might need them, we walked across the street to the Senior Center with baskets full of vegetables and breads.  Each Wednesday, they give it all away for free.

The kids had the mini farmer’s market under control, so I took it upon myself to sit with the old folks and listen to their stories.  One 98-year-old told me he liked to dance.  So Michelle and her friends came to his table, and we cranked up some bluegrass on the iPhone.  He wasn’t kidding!

I then spent about 20 minutes talking to a woman who was disenfranchised from her entire family.  She was divorced.  Her children and sister didn’t talk to her – she hadn’t seen them in a decade.  Her parents were dead.  She was sitting by herself.  It might be that I am her best friend.

I did take the time to have a conversation with Dee Dee, the woman who was transgender.  Surprisingly, we talked about arthritis.  She just had surgery on her neck.  I have a bit in my thumb joint.  I’m guessing that’s not the only thing we have in common.

On Sundays, Amy washes clothes for folks in the community.  They just drop them off at her house.  I hadn’t thought about not being able to walk to my basement and wash my stuff any time I darn well please.

Queen Mother was a beautiful African-American woman who led singing at our bible study that day.  She lives in the Be Loved House too.  Her personality was big.  She preached to us a bit.  One of the kids asked her if some people thought she was nuts.  She said, “I’m nuts for Jesus!”  Michelle wrote that quote on her fingers with a Sharpie.

When we passed out popsicles at the park, the two women I met encouraged me to let my daughters know how much I love them.  Maybe their father didn’t.  I will heed their advice.  I can’t get over the open sore one had on her nose.

We were told, although it was technically illegal, that folks who looked like us could get away with standing on the lawn under the tree at the large bank in town.  We could also take a nap in the park.  But if we were perhaps black, or unshaven, or in worn clothes, we’d be encouraged to move along.

The kids had to map out a bus route for a hypothetical man named Mike who lived outside of the city because he couldn’t afford the rent in town.  He had to be at McDonald’s by 6 AM to make the biscuits and his $7.50 per hour.  Unfortunately, the bus didn’t start running until 6.  Not sure what I’d do if I was in his situation, maybe stay home and draw unemployment.  Good thing that’s hypothetical.

It’s hard to raise three kids alone.  It’s harder with an annual salary of $15,600.

You know what I missed the most when I was sleeping on the floor of a church building for five nights?  Ice.  I couldn’t readily have ice in my drinks.


I missed ice.

These women on the streets didn’t have tampons, they didn’t have a place to pee, they carried their belongings, ALL of them, on their backs.  And I missed ice.  I’m ashamed of myself.

There is a lot of mental illness out there.  Some of the folks I met probably take advantage of the system.

Had I been born under different circumstances, maybe I would too.

Whippin’ and Nae-naein’ Asheville Style


Although I don’t fully remember, I think I agreed on my own accord, with no significant pressure.  No arm twisting, no gun at my head.

Last week, for five nights, I chaperoned a middle school mission trip to Asheville, NC.  There were 11 kids, our youth director, a cool 19-year-old intern, and me.

We stayed at First Presbyterian Church downtown with two other youth groups.  We walked 75 stairs to the fourth floor Sunday School room which was our home base for the duration of the trip.  We weren’t allowed to use the elevator.  They said it was cantankerous.  I suspect they wisely just didn’t want 45 twelve-year-olds pressing the stop button between floors two and three or calling the grocery store from the emergency wall phone asking if they had Prince Charles in a can.

I’ll have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this trek.  Although I worked with these kids throughout the school year on Sunday nights, it has been about three decades since I traveled with pubescents.

Each night, after we’d spent the day working at various nonprofits throughout Buncombe County, we had two hours of debrief activities with the five college interns who ran the program.

Yep.  We sat on laminated tile squares in the church’s Fellowship Hall for hours.  The squares were clearly glued to concrete because when we finally stood up, my butt bones ached like they’d been beaten by a beam of steel.

Now I love Jesus, but if you’re gonna talk to me about Him for that long, I need a cushion.  If I go back next year, I’m wearing biker shorts.

At one point I stood up and got a sniff of my hands.  I’d forgotten the smell of classroom tile floor.  If gray had an odor, this would be it.

My air mattress was comfy enough but occasionally little bubbles would float up and give me a startle.  It was like a kernel of corn had unpredictably popped on an unexpected point on my body.  At 12:15 AM, my left shin.  1:13, the outer side of my right bicep.  3:06?  My aching hip.

Although I left with a great appreciation for a lot of things, while there, I was most thankful for Tylenol PM.  It wasn’t a deep sleep, but that and the 3’ x 3’ floor fan by my head were my saving graces.

I have never in my life seen so many cheese balls eaten within a six-day period of time.  They were everywhere – crunched into the laminate, under air mattresses, and ebedded between some unbrushed-brace-filled mouths.  One kid even used the orange powder to paint eye-shadow on her friend.

By Tuesday evening, the boys’ room smelled like a dumpster:  sweat, farts, worn out boy tennis shoes, sour towels.  I felt like I was sleeping inside a very large jock strap.  I walked into the girls’ room, and there was a faint waft of roses hovering over their Lilly Pulitzer pulled up comforters.

I think I was pretty cool for a 50-year-old father.  I mean, I whipped and nae naed (for you nerds out there, it’s a new dance).

One night we walked through a Labyrinth.  We were told to be quiet and pray for someone who wasn’t like us.

I prayed for the kids.  They are no longer like me.  But they’re a sharp group, anxious to serve.

They have a lot of choices ahead.  My hope is that they have wisdom and that the time we spend with them today has meaning tomorrow.

A Silver Lining

Family Circle 052614 0426

I do miss my kids when they are away for extended periods.  The oldest two are at Camp Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina; DJ for the whole summer, Stephanie for a month.  But what a great opportunity for Michelle and me!

I don’t think I realize how critically important it is to have that one-on-one time with my kids.  When you are shoved in a car together, just the two of you, for hours on end, you sing, you laugh, you talk!

Four times in the last year DJ and I have taken college tours, just the two of us.  We found a school, which was our ultimate goal, but we also began to build our impending adult relationship.

We nearly got trapped in an elevator; one trip we hit Chic Fil A four times in one day, we discovered Aloft Hotels and a mutual love of sushi.

i enjoyed a week with Stephanie when Michelle was at camp.  We ate out every, single night.  We took three walks around the neighborhood, she even advised me on the redecoration of the guest bedroom.  She has a good eye.

And now, it’s me and the little one.

How valuable it is.

I bet there are others in my life I should spend a bit of one-on-one with –


Nieces and nephews

My brother

Uncle Jesse (remember him?)

Friends who mean so much

Sometimes I hesitate because of time.  But generally, it’s laziness on my part.  A lack of motivation to take the time to make that call.

It’s difficult to build and maintain a relationship when you don’t make them a priority.  Perhaps I’ll work on that.



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