Join the merry dancing…

Bruce Waltz

So this is the third year the girls and I have tried out for Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  It’s a spoof on Dickens complete with musical vignettes; plays to around 30,000 people each December.  This is the 39th anniversary of this hilarious but meaningful production.

This would be the third year that I nearly vomited as I sang my one minute solo to audition.  This would be the third year that one of my kids nearly had a breakdown on the way to the theater.  Interestingly, this would be the third year we got in!  Oh, and Uncle Jesse is joining us for the 2013 season.

All three of my girls have very good voices.  All three can dance.  There is but one in the family who is deficient in these two areas:  me.

Now I can carry a tune, but I won’t likely be one of the 30 on stage who are selected to have a personal mic stuck to their forehead.  But who gives a hang?  I understand the tape they attach it with leaves a rash on your skin.  Plus, there are hanging mics all over stage picking up my tenor sort of like an FBI bug.

I was sad to learn that every man in the triangle area of North Carolina who can march to a beat was busy for the month of December.  I discovered this fact when I was cast as a dancer for the Act II Fezziwig Broadway dance number.  Usually in this scene I’m positioned on a bridge and told to sing while tossing around an empty pewter beer mug, which I do quite well.  I guess through the years they have been overwhelmed by my grace on stage.

And the worst part of it?  DJ is my dance partner.

The first night I felt like I was on Dancing with the Stars.  She was the instructor.  And she was mean!

“Daad.  I told you to stiffen your arms.  I should be able to hit your hand without you moving (and then, she hauled off and knocked the hell out of my open palm).”


“Arms?  At this point I’d just like to be moving in the same general direction as the others on the stage!  If everyone else is going right, I’d like to as well.”

“Move your legs faster!”  “You’ve got to remember this part!”  Is there cement in your shoes?”  “Move, dad, move!”  “Ahh.  How did I end up with you?”

At one point the men have to run across the stage and hoist ourselves up into the air – arms straight up, both legs off the floor, one behind the other.  Immediately after, we rush back across the stage and repeat the Lords a Leaping.

The first night I looked like Donald Duck impersonating Mikhail Baryshnikov.

In another segment, the guys have to fake left, spin out in the opposite direction into a 360 (arms in the air), fake right and spin back around to the left.  When I get through I feel like I’ve been on the Tilt a Whirl.  But that’s not all.  We then have to jump up, legs and arms outstretched like a big X as if we were performing at the German beer joint in Busch Gardens.

My daughter keeps stressing the small things, “Dad, turn your palms in,” she firmly reminds as she yanks my outstretched hands.

“Why do they need to turn in like that?  People don’t walk around with their palms in the air turned inward.  It’s not natural.  Are you planning to read them and tell me my fortune?”

The other night I had a nightmare.  We were all on stage, and I was dancing my heart out, but the lyrics to the song had changed.  Instead of “Join the merry dancing, in the fire light,” the cast belted out, “Did that dude fall off the stage, into the orchestra pit…”

I awoke as I was falling, the tuba right below me.

The next day I told DJ she had to give me a break.  We’ve only practiced twice and she’s expecting Gene Kelly.  She’s been taking dance for 14 years, of course it’s easy for her.  I’m the oldest person in the number, by about two decades, and I’ve never had a structured dance lesson in my life!  I asked her if she’d thought she could come to the Y and run an effective board meeting for the next day.  I think not!

Don’t let this keep you from the play.  As DJ reminded me, it’s only a 2 minute song.  Besides, I will learn it or die trying.  I love a good challenge.

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids

Sunday Post 119: Fear of the Greatest Joy

A friend of mine is up and moving her family to Nashville this summer.  She has a great job opportunity and has thought about this major decision for quite some time now.  She’s making the leap!  Significant and difficult change.  Scary.  I really respect her for taking the plunge.

I don’t like to plunge.  I find it more comfortable to sit on the side of the pool.  It’s warmer.  It’s comfortable.  I know what it feels like outside of the water.  What if I jump in and it’s too cold?  What if it’s too deep?  What if I get water in my ear?  If I don’t like it and have to get back out and dry back off.  It’s much, much easier to stay on the deck.

I wonder if some of my fears have been magnified since Lisa died.  I guess that’s normal.  Once you go through a tragedy, there are going to be scars.  But I think there is potential to lose out on life if I don’t figure out a way to put my suit on and dive on in.  

I fear loss.  What if I get too close to someone and they leave or die?  I’m scared to death I’m going to lose again.  I’m not sure I could weather that storm.  It’s too painful.  I can’t face it.

The sad thing is that the greatest joy of my life came from a deep, deep dive:  finding Lisa.  As bad as it hurt to lose her, I’d go through it all again for a single day together. 

There are a lot of things to be scared of – it could be loss, it could be change, it could be putting yourself in a new social situation – my grief counselor once told me to take Salsa lessons (I didn’t).  Maybe it’s a job, leaving the comfort of something miserable.  It could be going back to school, moving to a different city, or trying out for A Christmas Carol!

A lot of us have faced hard things; might be time to tackle another one.  Could be missing out on another greatest joy.   

Sunday Post 103: Happy Times

Being in the play A Christmas Carol does a lot of good for me in many ways.  When you spend 75 days listening to the lines of a grumpy old man whose only life’s focus is money, it begins to sink in.

Toward the end of the play Scrooge says, “I was just remembering my happy times.  They seem so very far away.”

I wonder how many people there are in the world who share that same sentiment.

There have certainly been times over the past couple of years when I felt like life just didn’t seem to be worth living without Lisa.  But life is big.

Perhaps I won’t ever find love like I had with her, maybe that is behind me.

But as I look at those around me, I’m beginning to realize that few of us live with every aspect of our existence exactly where we want it to be.  Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to find other areas of my life that are really very good, even without my wife.

I can’t say: I lost my wife therefore all of my happy times seem far away.  No, I lost out big time, and it stinks!  Now I must create new happy times.

I can wallow in lost dreams or I can rearrange them – I can make new ones.  I’m going to try to do the latter.

A son at last

Many years ago I was on a staff retreat in the mountains. The topic of the retreat had to do with developing your personal mission statement. For one of the activities, we were required to find a place and sit, in total silence, alone for an hour. All we could do was think.

For an extrovert and someone who is a bit hyperactive, that was quite a challenge.

I went out on the front porch of this old inn where we were staying and plopped myself in a most comfortable rocking chair. I do like to rock – sort of puts me in a trance. As I looked out toward the enormous purple mountain in front of me, thoughts seemed to easily swim in and out of my head.

At one point, I had a fairly vivid vision – it was that I would have a son.

My vision must have been a bit too many brussel sprouts ’cause it did not come true……until last week.

When we returned to the car after our first fitting for costumes in A Christmas Carol, Stephanie was snickering and Michelle was pouting.

“I didn’t get a long cape this year nor did I get a top hat. Quite disappointing.  I’m the bobby.”

“Yeah dad, but you get to carry the night stick! That’s pretty cool.”

“You’re right about that, plus I have a badge on my helmet! Did you guys like your costumes?”

Stephanie quickly chirped in, “I looove mine! Michelle, tell dad about your costume…”

“You just love it don’t you?” Michelle replied. “I’m a boy. A stinkin’ boy. All they do is burp and fart.” Her voice was getting louder, like Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners, “What do I know about being a boy?”


Me with my daughters and son.

“Just embrace it Michelle. The mark of a true actor is being able to play any part, especially one of the opposite sex.”

My argument wasn’t helping.

Two days later I made a huge mistake.

Michelle came down to breakfast about to jump out of her skin.

“Why are you so excited?”

“Today is the day we find out who gets to play Mary in the Christmas pageant at school! I mean, I don’t really care if I get it or not, I just want to know.”

“Ahh, I’m a little worried honey.”

“About what dad?”

“Well, I’m afraid Mr. Farmer may have found out about the part you’re playing in A Christmas Carol. I think he might cast you as Joseph.”

As Stephanie nearly choked on her cereal in laughter, Michelle reared her fist back and smacked me in the stomach.

“How’s that for a boy?”

The punch was delivered in jest – well, sort of – it had some gass. But I guess I deserved it.

Michelle has actually accepted her new role. One of her good friends is also a boy so they’ve created a secret boy handshake, and they hit each other in the shoulder and stuff.

I will say when the photographer took her picture for the play poster, he found me after the shooting. “You may want to toughen that boy up a bit! He sits just like a girl!”

I think I have my work cut out for me.

Sunday Post 97: The First Noel

Those of you who attend church on Christmas Eve know the feeling.  The choir gets in position, all decked out in their deep red robes.  Half of the members are pretty dang old, but boy can they sing.

There are Christmas trees in the front of the sanctuary, the lights a bit brighter on this particular night.  There are members of folks’ families you haven’t seen for years, and they all look better than they did the last time you saw them.

It’s not about your new dress that day or the bow tie you pulled out.  And the kids are on their best behavior realizing a trip from Santa Claus is too close to take chances.

When the organ starts, you immediately recognize the song –

The first Noel, the angels did say – was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.

It sends a little chill down my spine each and every time.

The girls and I got into Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol again this year.  In mid-October, we began singing that very song.  As many times as I’ve heard it, and as many times as I’ve sung it – about 600 last year during rehearsals and performances, it still moves me.  It brings a peace to my soul.  It makes me think that everyone in the room, and really everyone in my town and country, are all on the same page.  No, we don’t all believe the same thing – we don’t all agree on politics, but each December, we stop.  We are respectful and thoughtful; we are thankful.

For me, that feeling lasts longer than the one Sunday our choir director decides to work it into the service.  For me, it starts in mid October – at the first rehearsal, with the first note.

I think everyone needs to be in a Christmas play.  I also think we should work to put aside our differences in November and January and perhaps in July too.

Merle Norman…

I wasn’t privy to the decisions about ear-piercing when Lisa was alive.  No, she was the one who made that decision.

Although she was Presbyterian and believed in baptism at birth, that was not her view on pierced ears.  There would not be a Tanner kid with piercings until at least a decade of their life had passed.  She thought it made them look too grown up.

When she was nine, DJ nagged her mom for a year for the lobe holes until finally, Lisa and her gaggle of women friends decided that ten was in and the countdown began.

I’m not sure how these moms came about that decision, but they unveiled their calendar as if they were the Misses Manners of preteen etiquette.  Not only did they determine the appropriate age for piercing, they also informed all involved as to the appropriate age for a Facebook page (12) and the point when a cell phone was needed (the start of middle school).  No one dared ask for an exception.  The Mother Mafia had spoken.  I believe they actually signed a treaty with one another and apparently a full on embargo would be imposed on anyone straying from the agreement.

When it was time for DJ to get her ears punctured, Lisa drove her to Crabtree Valley Mall and met another mother/daughter pair at the entrance to Merle Norman.  That is where Lisa had her ears pierced approximately 25 years prior.

DJ desperately wanted to wear earrings, but she also desperately did not want a hole punched in her ear.  She apparently sat on the piercing stool three times, chickening out as Merle approached with the lobe stapler.  Finally, Merle had had enough and kicked her out of the store.  DJ then threw the most massive temper tantrum my wife had ever seen right at the main entrance to Belk.  Lisa literally carried our ten-year old to the car and locked the doors because DJ threatened to jump out of the minivan and run back into the mall.

Stephanie’s journey toward earring mecca was very different.  She turned ten four months after Lisa died.  She reminded me that DJ got her ears pierced at age ten and asked if she could too.

I actually thought it was a law in Raleigh, and I didn’t want to break the treaty – so the two of us hit the mall quickly.  It was four months after Lisa’s death.

Sweet Stephanie was so excited!  Her father was so very, very sad.  As she patiently waited looking at her barren lobes for the last time in their handheld mirror, I fought back tears.  It was one of the first milestones I had tackled by myself.  What father takes his daughter, alone, to have her ears pierced?

I suggested the silver balls; her mother only wore silver.  She agreed.  There were tears that June night, but not from the kid.

Well today it was Michelle’s turn.  I had avoided the subject because I knew the costumer in A Christmas Carol frowned upon jewelry in the play.

“There were no piercings in 19th century England!” she announced last year as a warning to those who were bejeweled.

But when one of her best friend’s moms inquired about a joint trip to see Merle, I just couldn’t turn her down.   It’s sort of a rite of passage – one that can’t be denied.  So now my baby girl has her ears pierced.

I’m beginning to see something different in my daughters.  No longer are they 100% kid.  Now I see glimpses of young women.

I wish Lisa could see what I see – the slight changes coming month by month by month.

I will take it all in for her.

I’ll Make A Man Out Of You

I almost talked myself out of trying out for Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol this year.  Although it is a ton of fun, it’s a whole lot of work too.  It takes some people years to learn to waltz like I did last year.

I’ll have to say that I got caught up in my kids’ full and utter excitement about the potential of performing again.  But more than being on stage, reconnecting with their play buddies.

My hesitancy began with my incredible fear of being judged.  If they would have just mailed me an invitation inviting me to rejoin the cast, the decision would have been much easier.  But no, they make you work for it.

Each of us had to prepare a solo to sing in front of a friendly, yet ominous, panel of judges.  Michelle and Stephanie went with Disney favorties, Zip-a-dee-do-dah from The Jungle Book and Part of that World from The Little Mermaid.  DJ sang a hymn she learned last spring when a group of former cast members gathered to perform at a rest home.

I pondered a plethora of melodies.  Perhaps I’d go with an Elvis tune – maybe a thrust of the pelvis would sway the mainly female judging panel.  Johnny Cash is a favorite, but I don’t own a black shirt, and I wasn’t investing in clothing without assurance that I was going to be chosen.  I considered I’m Bad by Micheal Jackson, but I couldn’t figure out what he said after “I’m bad, I’m bad.”  Is it jamone?  What does that mean, jamone?  That doesn’t make sense – “I’m bad, I’m bad, jamone…”

No, I needed something I could clearly enunciate.  The choral director of the play is all about articulation – something about wanting the audience to be able to understand what we’re singing.  Clearly the King of Pop did not study under her.

Finally, after much strife, I landed on a favorite from Mulan.  It’s another Disney movie about a Chinese woman who is supposed to get married and honor her family by having babies and staying at home.  Instead she dresses up like a man and goes to war – oh, and incidentally, she saves the entire country.  The song is entitled I’ll Make a Man Out of You, and the commander of Mulan’s army sang it when he cast his eyes on his pathetic new recruits.

Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Huns.

Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?

You’re the saddest bunch I ever met,

But you can bet before we’re through,

I’ll make a man out of you.

I can’t quite figure out why that song resonated with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade a daughter for a son.  Nah, I’m very happy with an all female Tanner cast.  But, there are times, you know, that I might want them to act a bit more like a man.  A little dose of suck it up.

So we sang.  No one cried at tryouts like last year.  No one passed out.  There was no vomit, although I was so nervous it wasn’t past the realm of possibility.

They video the tryouts, wouldn’t that have been a nice thing to catch on tape?  I wonder where that video is…

I believe we all did fairly well.  And like last year, I was by far the least talented in our clan.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

The Count Danny Tanner

Posted by Danny

I recently shared that I really, really like my cape and top hat from the play.  I sort of feel like I should be chanting da-da-da-da da-da-da-da  da-da-da-da da-da-da-da Bat Man as I wander around back stage.  I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to bring these incredible clothing items back into vogue. 

The more time I spend in my 19th century clothing, the more desire I have to be a Count.

Someone at work told me you could buy a title – I looked on line and apparently for $49.99 I could be a Scottish Laird or Lord.  But I’d prefer Count – or maybe a Baron.

I’m not really into biting anyone’s neck, and I get quiezy at the sight of blood, but Dracula was pretty cool.  As I walked through the halls of work today panomiming to my friends how I foreboding I could be in a cape, a lady I work with suggested I was less Count Dracula and more Count Chocula. 

I don’t think it would go over very well for me to walk into my Rotary Club meeting wearing a cape and top hat this winter.  And it probably wouldn’t help me move up the corporate ladder to don a cloak to a board meeting.  But when I hit the New York Times best seller list and blow this cookie stand, no holes barred.  You’ll see me at Barnes and Nobles at the book  signing table in full regalia.   

I bet 90% of men out there would enjoy wearing a cape.  Let’s ban together and bring them back!  Not surprising, Jesse already has one (seriously).  All we need is about 50 prominate guys in the Triangle Area to take the plunge and we’re there!  Hit me back if you’re in –

What are you wearing? L’Oreal

Posted by Danny

I’ve started wearing makeup – well, at least for our play performances. 

Apparently when you’re in a nearly Broadway musical, you wear makeup – regardless of your sex.  On Friday, DJ reminded me we had to provide our own, so we headed to Target to peruse the cosmetics aisle.

DJ was concerned with the modes of makeup we would need and with getting the correct color.  I was looking at the price. 

“How about this stuff for you?  It is on sale.”

“That is called base.  As you can see, it is for someone with very dark skin.  Is my skin that color?”

“But it’s a really good price.”

“We don’t even need base.”  She reached for pencils.

“We are applying makeup, not writing a thesis paper.  Why are you buying pencils?”

“They aren’t regular pencils dad.  They are eye liner.”

I had two problems with this liner deal.  First, I always have dark circles around my eyes.  Why would I want to draw more?  Second, I am not comfortable sticking pointed objects in close proximity to my cornea.  My mother raised me to believe that most things had the potential to poke my eye out.  Apparently a bible with a soft back would likely puncture my eyeball if I continued to run through the halls of my church.  Imagine what this sharpened stick could do.  My mother would not approve of this.

But DJ said we had to have it – and I found one for a dollar, so I succumbed.

The rouge reminded me of my grandmother.  I remember sitting on her bed while she put her makeup on before she headed to work.  She was a full-figured woman – in a Marilyn Monroe sort of way – and would sit in front of her mirror in her slip applying pink stuff all over her face.  And she smelled so very good.  It brought a warm moment, right there on aisle 5.

Our final purchase was lipstick. 

When we arrived for our first A Christmas Carol performance on Saturday evening, my oldest daughter offered to paint my face. 

When she finished the rouge, I looked like Truly Scrumptious on the music box in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I wiped much of it off on my sleeve.

She then pulled out the pencil, her instructions made me nervous:  “You need to be very still or you’re going to get hurt.”

“You’re going to poke my eye out aren’t you?”

“If you don’t chill, I might.”

She is her mother’s daughter.

I put the lipstick on myself.  I’d seen my mother rub her lips together to ensure an even spread – works.  But when I looked in the mirror, most of it was on my teeth.  I thought I’d pretty much aimed for my chops.  But somehow, I’d smudged pink on every bicuspid and incisor in sight.

I think I’ve said this before – but I am really, really glad I’m a man.

Who’s a Waltzer?

Posted by Danny

Ever since I found out I was “chosen” (I think I was the only guy on stage left not doing anything at the time) to waltz in A Christmas Carol, I have touted to DJ that “I am a waltzer.”  She has disputed my claim – actually saying that she would not admit I was a waltzer until she saw me actually pull it off in front of an audience in full regalia.

Well that, in my opinion, happened on Saturday.  I couldn’t wait to share the pic.

So DJ – what you got to say now?  Your dad is a waltzer!

Hope to see you at the play later this week or next.

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