CBS, Here We Come!

eggo tyson nuggets

Several years ago the girls and I ate dinner at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey downtown.  Mmmm.    They fry up this incredible hen and plop it on a homemade waffle, a little honey drizzled randomly over the bird.  A couple of weeks later, as I struggled with supper options, it hit me:  I could replicate Ashley Christensen’s (Beasley owner) entrée.  I already had the ingredients in the freezer.

I pulled out four Eggo’s and opened a bag of Tyson nuggets, a little Mrs. Buttersworth, and swala!, dinner was served.

I believe that may be how we were discovered.  She heard about my cooking prowess.

Last Thursday, I got a call around 5 PM.  The conversation went something like this:

“This is Jessica from the Rachael Ray Show.  Is this Danny Tanner from The Real Full House blog, the one who wrote the book Laughter, Tears and Braids?”

I assumed Uncle Jesse was punking me, but I chose to play along.

“This is Danny.”  Rachael must need some help in the kitchen, I thought to myself.  Probably working on chicken and waffles.

“I’d like to talk with you about your family.  If you’re interested, we would like to consider flying you and your girls up to be on the show.”

Well, I’ll have to see if I can fit you in between Ellen and dinner at the White house.  I’m receiving a Metal of Honor for my literary genius.

“We are finding that our male viewership is increasing.  We are working on segments that appeal to that audience.”

“So, this isn’t Jesse?”

“Jesse who?”

I didn’t get too excited.  I still wasn’t convinced this wasn’t some sort of elaborate hoax, and we’d had some odd offers before that didn’t pan out.  Three groups have talked to us about reality TV shows.  When I express that I’m not about to have open season in my living room with no editorial control, the conversations tend to wane.  A documentary on pushing through tough times I’d be interested in; the Raleigh version of Honey Boo Boo, not so much.

We’re supposed to fly out today.  I’m not exactly sure what will happen – I think they’re doing some videos of our family on Wednesday and the actual show will be taped on Thursday.  It could be a 15 second snippet with us pointed to in the audience, sort of like Funniest Home Videos, or perhaps we’ll get to sit at the kitchen table and sip on a cup-o-joe with the star.  Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to teach her how to make chicken and waffles.  Talk about a ratings bump!

46

Bailey Ham 3

Lisa would have turned 46 on Monday.  The girls and I have chosen not to spend a ton of time remembering mom on the anniversary of her death, but rather to more officially celebrate her life on her birthday.  The casual remembrance typically includes Diet Dr. Pepper, Kanki Japanese Steak House and happy memories.  I don’t love Dr. Pepper, but on April 18, I drink.  I don’t love the Skanky Kanki (my nickname for the establishment), but on April 18, I eat.

We laugh and talk about her on a regular basis, so this isn’t a particularly difficult or odd time for us.  It is, however, a time to stop and reflect.  To answer questions.  For me, a responsibility to ensure her legacy lives on.

On Sunday I was invited to speak to an adult Sunday School class at my church on how to support those dealing with difficult situations.  Prepping to teach, I pulled out a stack of cards I received when Lisa died.  Although cathartic, and perhaps important at times, not necessarily a happy way to begin a fresh weekend.  Looking back, it is sort of amazing how you tend to forget the intensity of the pain experienced during that time.  It’s also shocking how quickly you can revisit the emotions with a small reminder.

One friend wrote this quote in the card she sent two months after Lisa died:

“The fullness of a person’s life is measured not in years, but in how he lived … there are rare people in this world who engage life at a different level – a deeper level than the rest of us.”

Although I’m sure that quote gets tossed around at many funerals for folks who die before 60, and although I believe it to be true, I wonder what really constitutes engaging in life at a different and deeper level.  As I poured through the notes near the top of my stack, there were a few that struck me.

“It sounds trite to say she was ‘unique,’ but she really was.  She was driven but not overbearing; she was kind but not patronizing; she was firm but compassionate.”

“(Lisa) has inspired me to be a better mom, friend, volunteer, Christian and worker because of how she lived her life.”

“Was there anyone in Raleigh she didn’t know?”

“One of my favorite memories of you and Lisa was when I visited the Y on one of my days off.  I will never forget walking up and seeing you and Lisa on the roof … I still wonder how the two camp directors were able to pull off tanning for an entire day and still get paid for it.  Who was in charge of camp?  You and Lisa were a great team!”

“She was such a force of nature.”

“I was a friend of your mom’s in college.  She was one of the first smiling faces I saw at our sorority.  From that moment on, she made me feel welcome and included.  As you know, that’s just how she was with everyone… making you feel comfortable.”

“My lasting image of her is seated on the Capon Springs stage, surrounded by all of the Capon kids, leading them in song.”

“She was an extraordinary person – someone who I remember trying to emulate as a teenager.”

“She was such a natural leader and full of such positive energy!!”

I believe that Lisa did engage life at a different level.  I don’t think she tried, I just think it was natural for her.

It doesn’t come as easily for me.  But I do think that her death has pushed me to intentionally and strategically work to live more boldly.

I do not want someone to spout out some quote at my funeral simply to fill up a 15 minute homily.  With Lisa, the remembrances were true, sincere; all who knew her could nod enthusiastically.  I’m learning later in life, but I think that losing Lisa has given my daughters the gift of living at a deeper level much earlier.  To watch them is as their mom is a beautiful thing.

How big is your mouth?

spoons

I have noticed that females like small spoons. I’m not sure why. You can’t get enough food in your mouth with them. I want a mamba-jamba spoon. Big enough to expedite the eating process and enough to get a nice chunk of flavor on my tongue.

Years ago when a friend got engaged he and his fiancé went to Belk to pick out their china and flatware patterns. Rumor has it he actually put the spoons from several patterns in his mouth to make sure they could deliver. My man!  It’s an important decision, one you’ll live with daily for life!  You wouldn’t buy pants without trying them on. It is unusual that we don’t all put our silverware in our mouths before purchasing.

When I serve my homemade crockpot veggie soup to the girls, I put the larger of our two spoon options by their bowls. Do they appreciate my desire to fill them up? Nah. They complain!

“We aren’t mules, dad.  Give us normal spoons.”

“Based on my experience, you all have rather large mouths. I chose your flatware accordingly.”

“Why don’t you just use the ladle dad?  Or turn the pot right up to your mouth?”

“When I eat vegetable soup I want a plethora of tastes entering all at once.  With your spoon you solely get a carrot.  Then a pea.  Perhaps eventually a potato. That is not how God intended it.  Plus, I eat a lot, and my arm gets tired after a while. This cuts down on the number of trips to my lips.”

I’m trying to help them. To teach them the right way to do things in life. But you just can’t reason with these people. It’s fruitless.

If they want to dwindle their lives away daintily protracting one crumb at a time, so be it. It’s just not worth the fight.

 

 

 

 

When In Doubt, Get Checked Out!

Ham Family

Eric was sick around the same time as Lisa.  He was younger, early 30’s, married.  He grew up in Raleigh but lived in California, and he was hilarious!  I never met him but reading his CaringBridge page was funnier than a night at Goodnight’s Comedy Club.

Brian was an athlete, a swimmer and a real outdoorsman.  He was a doctor, my doctor.  Not an ounce of fat on his body.  He was serious and cared more about his patients than other physicians I’ve met.  When you were in his office, he was with you.  One-hundred percent focused on your needs for as long as it took.  Cool wife, two teenage sons.

I grew up with Angie, she was in my older brother’s class at Terry Sanford Senior High School, Go Bulldogs!  She was a cheerleader, not only in school but in life.  She worked at PSNC, the place that keeps the residents of Raleigh warm for the winter.  Ironically, she read my book not long before her own diagnosis of colon cancer.

And there was Lisa.  My wife.  Mother of three, just shy of 40.

All died.  All of colon cancer.  The oldest was 52.

Current recommendations don’t call for colon cancer screening until you’re 50 unless you have a family history of the disease.  But while rates of colon cancer are decreasing for older people, the are actually climbing for the younger generation.  And while rates increase, young folks are less likely to be diagnosed until the cancer has progressed.

http://www.wral.com/colorectal-cancer-a-growing-problem-in-young-people/15597972/

Colon cancer can respond well to treatment if caught early.

Younger people think and are often told by their doctor that they aren’t susceptible to this disease.

Younger people put off getting stomach problems checked out assuming it’s a reaction to food or stress.

Many are active which can cause hemorrhoids.  They attribute blood in their stool to a sore butt from running or biking.

And who wants to have a colonoscopy?  I’ve done it.  It was not fabulous.  I drank sixteen gallons of white syrup and 45 minutes into my feast, I ran to the bathroom like I was headed into a Black Friday sale.  It was awful.  But once I was cleaned out, the procedure actually wasn’t that bad.  And there was something sort of invigorating about imploding my innards.  I felt fresh and new.

Not every stomach ache is colon cancer.  But if ongoing, check it out.  If you just don’t feel right down there, you know your body, check it out.  If you have blood in your stool, RUN to the doctor’s office.  And don’t let them tell you it’s nothing.  Press for answers!

When in doubt, get checked out!

What’s Hangin’?

DJ had spring break two weeks ago, Michelle was off last week, and Stephanie is off this week.  This schedule does not lend itself to much meaningful family time.  But we are getting our money’s worth out of Netflix!

Last Tuesday, to entertain Michelle, her grandmother took her to a YMCA yoga class.  That evening over dinner, I asked about her experienced.

“Oh my Gosh!  You’re NOT going to BELIEVE what happened.”

She was clearly appalled.

“Do tell,” I insisted.  As If I had a choice.

“Well, I was in the middle of my cat pose in Nana’s yoga class, and this old man walked in.”

“Yea.”  I could only imagine what happened next.

“And he squatted down right in front of me.”

“And?”

“And, well, his… ah… his, you know…”

“No.  I have no idea what you’re trying to say.  Just spit it out.”  She was flustered.

“Well, his, his BALLS fell out of his short-shorts!  Right in the middle of class.  During the CAT pose!”

As if it would have been more acceptable during Downward Dog.

“He had clearly just come from the pool because he was wearing his bathing suit, which did NOT have a lining, and it was WAY too short for him, and at one point I think he knew he was dangling because he tried to cover himself with a towel but it didn’t work, and it was disgusting!  I almost threw up.”

I myself have seen those same balls, I’m sure, in the Y locker room.

I think there’s an age for men, maybe 75, 76, where you a) stop buying new clothes that are appropriate for the times and your body type and b) you just don’t give a rats behind who sees your business.

Lisa and I went to St. Bart’s for our honeymoon.  It’s an island in the French West Indies.

Neither of us spoke French.  In fact, Sunday – Thursday I drove the wrong way down a one way street  into the town of Gustavia each day until a native cursed me out waving his hands up and down as we nearly ran into him.

“Connard!!  Americain stupide!!”

Because we couldn’t read any of the signs on the island, we were quite surprised to discover that our mid-week beach excursion was clothing optional.

We drove our rented jeep up to the parking area and sauntered out to the sand.  There was no one in sight, so we set up shop.  We were dressed.  I pulled out some Goldfish and a John Grisham novel when much to our surprise an older gentleman and his wife walked up in front of us, opened up their beach chairs, and promptly pulled down their pants.

Yes, like Michelle’s experience, his business was right in my line of sight.

I leaned over to my wife, “If we’re gonna stay here, I’m gonna need a drink.”

“Or a blindfold,” she quipped.

This is not the vision I had of a nude beach.  I was expecting Baywatch sans bikinis.  NOT The Golden Girls and their dates.

There should be a penalty for nudity after a certain age.  And I include myself in the “certain age” category.  At this point, no one wants to see me nude in a fully lit place.

There becomes a point in one’s life that more clothes are better than less.  There are no exceptions.  It’s just a hard and fast rule.

If you’re over 30, maybe 35 for some, you’ve hit that point.  Cover it up!

Firm or Squishy?

Beauty Rest

If it’s over 8 it’s time to replace.

I don’t buy it, the mattress industry’s insistence that my bed will double in weight over that period of time because it is full of skin, sweat, and dust mites.

Oh, they got me thinking no doubt.  After envisioning their claims, I sort of want to change my mattress as I change my underwear: daily.  I wake up feeling the dust mites running across my ankles, my skin falling off as if I were a snake.

It wasn’t an advertisement though that motivated me to visit the Mattress Firm.  It was my daughter.  I moved DJ’s stuff to Stephanie’s smaller bedroom the week after my oldest left home for college.  When she returned to Raleigh for the first time last fall, my older, taller kid nearly fell off her sister’s former cot.  Her feet were entangled in the footboard, her butt was spilling off the sides.

An upgrade for her meant an upgrade for me!  I’d flip and rotate my mattress and move my old bed upstairs.  She’d be happy, and I’d be sleeping like a champ!

I sort of exceeded the 8 year limit.  My dad gave Lisa and me a new bed as a wedding present in 1993.  It was a good model.

I loved it.  I might never had made a change had extenuating circumstances not propelled a move.  You could make a Madame Tussaud wax figure of Danny Tanner from the imprint of my body on my Serta Sleeper.  The knots of my elbows.  The dimples of my fanny.  The contour of my large triceps.  So snuggly.  I feel all tingly just thinking about it.

This was a big decision.  I knew I wouldn’t buy another until 2038.  I wanted to take my time, to consider the feel of each of my options.  I dressed comfortably for my shopping trip: sweats, my favorite boxers and a holey t-shirt.

“Can I help you sir?” the sales guy asked.  He had lots of hair and the suit I’d worn in high school.

“I’m looking for a mattress,” duh.  “I’m just gonna try a few out.”

He stood up and escorted me to the Tempur-Pedic.  I lay down.

“I can tell by your face you’re not a Tempur kinda man.”  His disdain was obvious.

“It swallowed me like Jonah’s whale,” I pleaded.  “It’s like I reentered the wound.”

He headed toward the back of the store where the cheaper beds were kept.  His commission was getting smaller.

“Here, try this one.”

I lay on a stiffer model.

“Feels like the Beltline.”

He quickly moved to the next.

I wanted to take my time, to relax.  To simulate a real night.

I curled up in a ball.

He explained the coils.

I turned to my stomach.

He shared that the cover was hand sewn right here in America.

I flipped on my back.

He expounded on the generous warranty.  “It’s guaranteed for ten years.”

“Then why do I have to replace in eight?”

He didn’t have an answer.

With him watching me writhe around, I could not concentrate.  I needed quiet.

“Sir, could you give me a minute?  I need to relax.”

“Oh certainly.”

He backed up a step and stopped talking.  Although he closed his mouth, I could feel his eyes zeroed in on me.

I’d stand to move to the next, and he’d rebegin the inquisition.

“How’d that feel?  Was it comfortable?  Too hard?  Too soft?  Just right?”

I looked around for the three bears.

Within 20 minutes I’d made my decision.  Not necessarily because it was the right one, but because I was exhausted.  I simply couldn’t get any rest in that place.

It is taking some adjustment to get used to my new digs.  I miss my mite friends and the smell of dead skin.  I no longer sink in.  My body hovers over the springs, my neck now falls at a 45 degree angle on my pillow below.  I’ve had a crick for two weeks.

And DJ, home from spring break?  Oh, she’s sleeping like a champ.

Mundane to Marvelous

This week’s Sunday School lesson was on happiness.  We talked about a lot of things, but one piece of the happiness puzzle seems to be contentment – making the most of your circumstances.

I think I see that in my oldest kid.  On Friday she was headed home for spring break.  That afternoon we were driving to Fayetteville, NC, to see my parents.  I’m sure my daughter might rather spend this time with friends in Cancun sipping boat drinks at the swim up bar.  But she had to make a choice, and a summer trip to Africa won.  Her father does not pay for these extravagances, and her bank account is only so deep.

I got a text at 9:38 AM.

I’m at the airport.  I haven’t driven in months.  Let’s take my car to Fayetteville.  It’ll be fun!

I knew what that meant.  Her grandfather handed down his Mini Cooper to DJ last May.  It is the size of a large bathtub.  It is tight for two people.  But four?

We packed light and all climbed in.  Our playlist from Spotify was pumping out of the speakers and the convertible top was down.

By the time we hit Garner, ten minutes outside Raleigh, I felt as if I had been visited by Hurricane Hazel.  My cerebral cortex had dried out from the pounding wind whipping through the orifices in my head.  And yet, we laughed, smiled and sang our way to the big metropolis we fondly call Fayettenam.

mini cooper

As we sat around grandpa’s den, DJ began taking family videos.  Like her father, she finds humor in the mundane.

The more she encouraged, the stupider we acted.

On Sunday, we went to church.  I taught a class and at 11 met the girls to head to the sanctuary.

“Dad, I have an idea,” DJ shared.

Here is comes, I thought to myself.

“What if we skipped church,”

Coulda called that one

“Grab some coffee,”

Now you’re talking

“And go ride the Carousel at Pullen Park.”

Not surprisingly, the sisters approved.

“Why would we do that?” I asked.

“Why wouldn’t we?” she questioned.

carosel

So off we went, church clothes and all, to ride a gyrating meerkat.

At school in DC, she does the same thing.

Camp Seafarer in the summer?  She’s cookin’ stuff up!

She doesn’t find happiness, she makes it.  She takes her circumstance, whatever it may be, and turns it into something good.  An afternoon in Fayetteville, NC, with a goofy 50-year-old father and a granddad who just had  bypass surgery?  Not a downer; an opportunity.  A chance to to embarrass your dad on Instagram.

She got the optimism and daring of her mother paired with the silliness of her dad.  Amazing when tossed together.

 

I Love You, I’m Proud of You

Both of my  grandparents on the Tanner side had bypass surgery.  Last week was my dad’s turn.

He had a bit of chest pressure, and after multiple stents, figured he’d better get it checked out.  The ambulance picked him up at 5 AM.  Mom followed in her car, but only after she got her makeup on.

It is disconcerting to see your parent, or really anyone you love, go through such a procedure.  It’s scary.  Even with modern medicine and a really good doctor, there are risks with an almost 80 year old having extensive surgery.  My dad knew that.

He knew it enough that last week he made it a point to tell each of his children and each of his grandchildren that he loved them and was proud of them.  Covering his bases, just in case.

My dad actually does a pretty good job of letting all of us know just how thankful he is for his children on a regular basis.  He gets a bit emotional before the dinner prayer at family events because he is so proud of the group of heirs that now surround him.

So for us, it wasn’t an earth shattering moment to hear his words of affirmation.  They are fairly normal in the Tanner household.

I think I’ve done the same for my kids.  I just love them simply because they are mine.  I see wonderful in them that they can’t even fathom yet.  Although I tell them, they don’t yet realize how special they are.

If something happens to me, I don’t want my girls to have to guess about my feelings for them.  I want them to be 100% confident that I loved them, that I respected them, and that I was proud of them – no matter what.

I think growing up with that safety net gave me a peace that enabled me to be myself, not working to prove something to the world.  I always felt that I was a pretty cool person.  May not have been outside of the family, but within those walls, I was made to believe I was a rock star.

Not every kid has that level of acceptance.  Although ideal, maybe it doesn’t have to come from a parent.  Perhaps I have an ability to show love and acceptance to other kids through my interactions and encouragement at church or the mall or at my kids’ schools.

My dad seems to be doing well.  I am thankful for his acceptance and hope to pass that on to others who need it.

I Made a Strapless Bra!

strapless bra

I turned a regular bra into a strapless model.  Not intentionally.  The stinkin’ straps fell off in the wash.  I mean, I went to pull a load of laundry out of the machine and this cantankerous garment had wrapped all around itself and around its peers.  I put 25 small articles of clothing in and pulled out one.  One large knotted up blob.

As I pulled the pieces apart, I realized that the bra was the culprit.  Who knew its strap was 108 inches long?  In the end, it had ripped apart and put the strangle hold around the yoga pants and the St. Mary’s t-shirts.  Poor things.

At the bottom of the machine, I found a half-moon shaped, curved piece of metal.  It looked like a piece of my car engine.

How the heck did that get in there?  “Girls, have you been messing with the carburetor?”

In fact, it wasn’t the carburetor at all.  It was a piece of the bra.  Who knew there was metal?  I always thought they were made of silk and girlie stuff.  Nah, they are reinforced up under the lace with the same thing they use to make grocery baskets.  Mr. T couldn’t bend it.

A told a lady at work about my problem with intimates.  The next day she brought me a bra bag.  She told me to wash them separately.

Like who does that?  With three daughters, that could be 12, 15 bras a week.  Imagine?  I’m gonna have to quit my job.  I can’t do 15 loads of laundry every few days just because this finicky underpant doesn’t get along well with others!

Imagine, dig them out of the laundry basket, put one in the zip lock mesh bag, wash it, dry it, repeat – 14 more time.  Consider what they’d say at my funeral:

Well, he didn’t do much for our community, but his girls always had clean bras.

My boxers love their friends.  Nothing makes them happier then to go swimming with buddies.  They’re so easy.  You can wash them with jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, dress shirts, socks, dish towels – it doesn’t matter!  Hot, cold, warm!  Dry til your heart is content.  And they last for decades.

Why can’t they be more like a guy’s clothing?

If I was a bra, I’d be thankful I had a good job and stop being so picky.

 

 

Six and Counting

bruce and Lisa

It’s beautiful to remember the happy.

Six years ago today, our wife, mother, daughter, and friend died.  I want all who knew her, especially my girls, to remember the good stuff.  And there was plenty!

Her fingernails were impeccable.  She used gel.  It coats your fingers with some fake substitute for your claws, and it costs a fortune.  She argued that they last “forever.”  I don’t know what forever she was referring to, but in my book a couple of weeks does not constitute a lifetime.

One time the two of us cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought the neck bone stuffed in the turkey’s cavity was his penis.  She didn’t know any better either.  We burned everything, except dessert which was grossly under-cooked.  Cheesecake soup anyone?  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

She was a sale shopper.  Problem was that she’d buy a blouse at a “great price” with no matching bottom.  When she died, I found countless items of clothing with the tags still on.  I’m sure she would have worn them, eventually.

She gave our girls wings.  When we dropped DJ off at four week camp for the first time, my daughter teared up.  I ran to the car to get the heck out of Dodge.  Lisa, on the other hand, gave her words of encouragement and distracted her with new friends.  “I am nurture,” I explained to my wife on our way home.  “You, you give them courage.”  I had done my job, she had done hers.

Fortunately, all got some of her bravery genes.

She insisted on matching dresses for the kids when they were younger.  In one Christmas photo, when DJ was about 9, she stood behind Santa in a dress that made her look like a prairie child.  It didn’t matter.  The whole family blended so well.

She once stood me up on an early date in our courtship.  I was so stinkin’ mad.  But apparently not mad enough.

We spent our first weekend together hiking on Grandfather Mountain, I flossed at the apex.  And she still married me.

Our honeymoon got cancelled on the night of our wedding because American Airlines pilots went on strike.  I’ll never forgive those greedy mongrels.

She once bought a rug for DJ’s bedroom that cost so much she never divulged what she paid.  To this day I do not know.

She built relationships with everyone she came in contact with.  She was as close to our babysitters as she was to her college roommates.  Her hair dresser was a confidante.  Those at work called on her to approach their boss, because he loved her to death.

She enjoyed a bit of gossip and was the last person to walk out of the church on any given Sunday morning, because she was talking.

She was a leader in our community and could organize a thousand high school kids, a Junior League Committee or a kitchen drawer with ease.  But she seldom lifted a finger until the day before a deadline.

I fell in love with her on a canoe at Camp Seafarer.  She got to me.  There was just something about that Lisa Tanner that I couldn’t shake.

I am thankful for the years we had.  I am thankful for these beautiful memories.

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