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:

Meat!

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.

Brrrrr.

Brrrrr.

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 –

IMG_0767

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.”

Sunday Post 184: Six Days Each Year

RC-mainhouse-featured1 (1)

How can you feel close to people you only see six full days each year? It’s weird. And yet, that’s what you feel with those you meet annually at our August vacation in Capon Springs, WV.

Lisa’s mom was six or eight the first time she visited. They haven’t missed a week since.

I imagine my mother-in-law eating at the same table we eat at now. Her mom and dad younger than I. She likely had dark hair, maybe braids. Now her hair is short and white as my undershirt.

I wish I could string together a video with clips of each trip from years gone by.

The first time I came was in 1993. It was unprecedented because Lisa and I were already engaged. The potential suitors weren’t fully accepted until all tenured aunts, uncles and family friends approved. It was like a debutante, a coming out of sorts.

If the other guests liked you on your first Capon visit, it was a done deal. But many came through never to return again.

Capon is nestled right across the Virginia border near Wardensville. The most direct route takes you down a dirt road and over a mountain.

The first time I went Lisa was driving. We left Raleigh at 5 PM on a Friday. Neither of us had enough vacation time to go earlier in the week – we were mid twenties and new to our careers.

As we wound through the Virginia hills, service road signs discreetly displayed their names: Route 652, Route 664, Route 665. When Lisa pulled onto the gravel and we began to traverse the hill in the pitch black night I wondered if I had been duped. Was she taking me up Route 666 to dismember me? Was this some sick family ritual? Could they cover me with chicken blood and burn me at a stake?  How many other guys had she left in these woods?

There are informal initiations, like being pushed in the spring fed swimming pool (the temperature remains consistent – hovering around 70 degrees Farenheit). But there was no blood, no dismemberment. Just folks that I’d see six days each year.

These same folks drove hours to attend our wedding, and naturally they returned to Raleigh to support in our time of crisis.

We have no idea what we’re like in real life. We don’t see each other on a daily basis. In many cases we don’t understand each other’s career. You may be known as the best team captain in the annual Tuesday golf tournament or the guy who plays the banjo on the porch all day. Maybe your family is the one that enters four pairs in the Shuffle Board Tournament but never gets past the first round (I know that family well).

We may not have ever visited outside of August in West Virginia. But there is a tie, a connection, a closeness.

Life sort of stops this week. And then your return to reality until the next year where you pick up exactly where you left off… on the front porch of the main house at Capon Springs.

 

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

Sunday Post 133: If I could give her a gift

It’s difficult to understand this place, Capon Springs, WV , until you visit yourself.  It’s a small “resort,” nestled right across the Virginia border not too far from Winchester.

Capon has been a getaway for DC politicos for over a hundred years.  It’s less than a two-hour drive from the Capital.

Lisa’s mother started going to Capon with her parents when she was in elementary school.  They met family and friends there the third full week in August, and over sixty years later, we still do the same.

It’s quaint and unique.  Steeped in tradition, very little has changed since I first arrived in 1993.

There is a spring fed pool that stays at a cool 68 degrees.  Some call it refreshing; I call it sterilizing.  Heat it?  Absurd!  It’s always been that way.

BINGO is on Wednesday night.  This year someone suggested we move that event from the traditional venue, The Meeting House, to the covered pavilion on the golf course.  You would have thought someone suggested we dig up the golf course.  All of the kids sit on The Meeting House stage during this annual event.  Michelle said she would boycott BINGO if it moved.

“I like sitting on the stage!  There is no stage at the pavillion.  I’m NOT going if they move it!!”

The same families come to Capon year after year.  Some are blood relatives; some may as well be.

It’s often the place where you get your first kiss.  Curfew’s at 11, but if you’re between the ages of 16 and 25, it’s tradition to break it.

If you grew up coming to this place, it’s like magic.  For Jesse, Lisa’s sister Sallie and for my kids, it’s the best week of the year.   There aren’t words to describe the excitement, the buildup for this reunion.

We spent several weeks exchanging family emails about our entry into the Friday night talent show this year.  Although there isn’t a winner, you want your family to show well.  Stephanie turned 13 in June – that means she was finally eligible for the mixed doubles shuffleboard tournament.  I was her proud partner, we made it to the second round!

To get to Capon from the east, you drive over a dirt mountain road.  In our family, tradition calls for John Denver’s “Almost Heaven, West Virginia,” to be playing on the iPod the moment your tires hit gravel.

The first time Lisa brought me we were engaged.  We left Raleigh after work on a Friday night and hit the mountain at around midnight.  As the car eased over the hill and winded around the curves in the pitch dark, I wondered if perhaps this woman I loved was taking me somewhere to torture and kill me.

“Where in the hell are we going?  This is like a scene from a horror movie.”

As we rounded the final corner of the three-mile Capon driveway, small 19th century buildings began to appear – and a calm fell over my body.  That relaxed state doesn’t leave until you depart.

There is no cell phone service at Capon.   Only one building has internet access.  You’re essentially unplugged for seven whole days.

Although I’ve grown to love this place, it was part of Lisa’s DNA.  I feel so guilty that I get to go, and she doesn’t.  I really enjoy the week, but she adored it.

If I could give her a gift, if I could share one thing with her, I’d give her my spot in the Capon week.  I gladly stay at home and let her return, once each year, to the place she loved so much.

She should be there, not me.

Book Update:  Laughter, Tears and Braids

Several of you found my book, Laughter, Tears and Braids on Amazon last week.  We took it down because I found five typos.  It’s going back up to be released on September 11.  If you’re brave enough to order a copy, consider doing so on the 11th.  My publisher says big sales on the first day will help in the world of Amazon rankings.  More to come next weekend, including a link.

Good Food

We just returned from the annual Katsopolis family and friend reunion at Capon Springs, West Virginia.  Capon is a modest resort nestled in the corner of West Virginia about an hour and a half from DC.  Lisa’s mother has been going to Capon the third week in August since she was seven years old.

There are many highlights of the week including golf and tennis, a mixed doubles shuffleboard tournament, a spring fed pool (a chilly 68 degrees) and a relatively new addition, their spa.  However, the most favorite activity, as voted on by the Third Week in Capon guests, is EATING!

The food is served family style with eggs cooked to your specific liking every morning.  For the past few years I’ve tried to order them seven different ways – one for each day of the week.

Friday night brings the Talent Show.  Our branch of the Katsopolis family shows well most years, but Uncle Jesse made sure we had a stellar performance this summer.  For those who listen to pop radio, see if you recognize the tune…

Lyrics:

Hey hey hey

Hey hey hey

Hey hey hey

Hey hey hey

We don’t come here, for the golf and tennis

We just come here for what we put in us

Maybe I’ll have some corn, maybe I’ll have some beans

Maybe I’ll have some more of everything

Soon as I smell the rolls, can’t wait to masticate you

One week to eat it all, as much as you are able

They bring more to your table

You don’t need no apron

When you come to Capon

That’s why we can’t wait for…

GOOD FOOD

You know we want it

You know we want it

You know we want it

GOOD FOOD

The plastics classy

Making me gassy

It’s adding inches to my waist line

You know we want it

You know we want it

You know we want it

GOOD FOOD

Ain’t getting thinner

I’m still a winner

What time is dinner?

Freshly sliced tomatoes

Creamy mashed potatoes

It’s a food tornado

PUT THE BIGGEST PIECE ON MY PLATE

I feel so lucky

Cause I’m so hungry

What rhymes with hungry?

Sunday Post 110: What counts the most

Xmas at Disney, Ham Family

It may not be the big things in life that you’re most remembered for.  Three years ago today, my wife died peacefully at Duke Medical Center.  Last night, I asked the kids what they most remembered about mom.

It wasn’t her leadership in the community or the fact that she spearheaded the effort to build their new school.  It wasn’t her accomplishments at the Jr. League or the vision she shared on the church building committee.  What they remembered most were the small things.

“Mom always wanted to shop at Harold’s at the mall.  As soon as she was finished shopping, she’d take us to the candy store right by the escalators.  I looked forward to that every time!”

Sweet memories.  Sweet,  sweet memories.

She drank diet Dr. Pepper.  Her fingernails were impeccable.  Once she got addicted to Afrin – wouldn’t leave the house without it!

She’d only listen to one type of music at a time – winter often brought country, the summer was pop.  You didn’t even think about changing the Christmas station from November 1st on.

She was a stickler for tradition – chili and cornbread on Christmas Eve and the song “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” as we drove over the mountain to our August getaway at Capon Springs.

One of the things that they miss the most is her back scratches.  “Dad, you don’t have fingernails.  Mom scratched.  You give a nub rub.”

Instead of trying to change the world, maybe I should just grow my fingernails out and take more visits to the candy store.  In the end, maybe that’s what counts the most.

Sunday Post 32: Not sittin’ on the Porch

Posted by Danny

Mr. Stucky is my 89-year-old next door neighbor.  I saw him in the yard on Saturday.

“You know Bruce, it’s ashamed that neighbors don’t visit any more.  I feel like I haven’t seen you for a year.”

I put down my jug of weed killer, a little concerned that our conversation might get in the way of my Yard of the Month prospects.

“I wouldn’t recognize your girls,” he continued, “I haven’t seen them in quite a while.  Back in the day, neighbors spent time together.  They checked on each other.  They knew what was going on in each other’s lives.  That’s just not the case anymore.”

He was right.  We are seldom outside or on our porch anymore.  Why would we be?  We have a wii, i Phones, i Touches, and 1,500 TV channels to choose from.  During the school year there are dance classes, lacrosse games, piano practices and basketball try outs.  Sit on the porch?  Yeah right.

That’s the nice thing about our August vacation at Capon Springs.  There are porches galore and rocking chairs for days.  Happy Hour starts at 5 p.m. every day, come one, call all!  We share about the day’s activities, who played well at golf – and who didn’t.  We discuss politics and occasionally share a bit of Capon gossip. 

Before breakfast a group gathers to chat.  After dinner we sit in a large family room to play games or just to reminisce.

It’s amazing that I might feel closer to a group of people I only see seven days a year than to some who cross my path on a weekly basis.

So I’m gonna work harder to visit and get to know those around me.  I’m going to strive to spend less time on my grass and more time checking on Mr. Stucky.  And I’m going to do a better job of listening to my elders.  He’s a pretty wise man.

Stranded on I 95

Posted by Danny

This post is dedicated to my daughters who I’ve cracked on mercilously through the years for inconvenient bathroom stops.

I was trapped!  Heading down I-95 North to West Virginia, it was 9 pm and I was alone.  The kids rode with the grandparents earlier that day.  I was ready for the six-hour drive, my  i Phone newly filled with 1,900 of my favorite songs.  Kenny Chesney keeping me company.

I knew the urge to tinkle was coming, but I didn’t realize the traffic that was in front of me.  Nor did I understand the lack of exits between Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va.  I was in a hurry.  I’d heard bad things about stopping at rest areas at night, besides, the next one was 43 miles away.  There seemed to be no other option. 

I eyeballed my McDonald’s cup.  Yep, I still had the lid.

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be while in transit.  Moving, while moving, is nearly impossible.

I drank the last bit of Diet Coke and strategically placed my fountain drink holder.  Stop , then go – there were brake lights everywhere.  I glanced at the cars around me.  It was dark, the semi driver next to me couldn’t possibly see.  I’m sure he’s done the same thing, he drives for a living!

Almost…then a horn.  I’d forgotten to press the gas and was lagging behind the car ahead of me.  I sped up, my bladder contracted.

Think about something relaxing.  A day on the beach – not helping!  I don’t do that on the beach.  Picture the bathroom – yellow walls, a window, a tan tile floor.  Whew… relief.

Oh no, the cup is filling yet I’m not empty.  Can I stop mid stream?   

Brake!

Oh man. 

No wonder girls pee in their pants.  Sometimes there just isn’t a better option.

Home Sweet Capon

Posted by Danny

This is one of the most interesting weeks of the year for our family.  It’s Capon Springs week!

Lisa’s mother has been going to Capon Springs, WV, the third full week of August for sixty years.  Many of the same families return year after year to this sacred ground where nothing changes.

Each morning at Capon you awaken for flag raising at 8.  The 200 guest gather round as the tape recording of  a mezzo soprano belts out the Star Spangled Banner. 

All meals are served family style – you want eggs?  No problem.  They make them any way you ask.

The nine-hole golf course has a beautiful view of the West Virginia mountains.  The spring fed pool is kept at a chilly 68 degrees.  They call it refreshing; I call it sterilizing! 

BINGO is Wednesday night.  When the caller yells “B 4,” the crowd responds in unison “and after” as they have done at least since I started going in 1993.

There is a one mile fun run, croquet, ping-pong and a mixed doubles shuffle board tournament.  The final game is played on the last night of the week with a huge crowd of spectators.  Lisa and Jesse were always partners.  They made it to the finals one year but lost.  Lisa said she didn’t mind because the runner-up got homemade cookies as their prize.  The winner had to endure a jar of apple butter.

It takes a while to grow in to Capon.  Perhaps it’s because any prospective spouse is required to be approved by an unknown committee of old-time Caponeers.  I was sweating like a pig my first long weekend at the place, fearful that I’d get nixed – it didn’t help that there’s no air conditioning (or TV, or internet, or cell phone service). 

My kids love the place.  They roam with little supervision – it just seems safe.  There aren’t locks on the doors.  You purchase snacks on the honor system. 

I liken it to the resort (I use that term loosely) in Dirty Dancing, just a bit more primitive.

This week is bitter-sweet for me.  Two years ago at Capon was when Lisa’s stomach started to really bother her.  In fact, we made a doctor’s appointment for her from their pay phone.  The call that began the end.

Lisa loved Capon more than any other place on this planet.  And because she loved it, I love it too.

If you ever need to find me the third full week of August, you’ll know where to look.  I’ll likely be on the fifth fairway of the Capon Springs golf course looking for my ball in the rough.

Memorial Day, A Few Months Early

POSTED BY JESSE

I promise you, this is a blog about two well-meaning but often clueless guys trying to raise three wide-eyed girls in the wake of their mother passing away at too young an age. It is not a blog about a grief-stricken family. The latter, though meaningful and heartfelt, does not seem like a blog I would be interested in following for very long. The former is full of funny tales and moments that make you think, and, hopefully, would be a blog folks would find to be an interesting read.

But it’s “remembering week”, so that’s what we’re doing.

I speak for myself here, but yesterday (yes, February 24th was the date she died) was really not a difficult day for me. Maybe it’s because we were always on the go, flying up to Boston and running around town most of the day. Maybe it’s because we’re away from the house. Maybe it’s because–due to the approaching anniversary and some other stuff–I had a miserable week last week and didn’t have enough left in me to stay sufficiently glum.

But whatever the reason, I did not feel the harrowing sadness I did a year ago, and that I have felt at times this past year, and feared I might experience yesterday. Whereas I appreciated every single word, note, comment, and letter I received a year ago (even the ones I was never diligent enough to respond to) and read and re-read most of them multiple times, yesterday I kind of got annoyed as the texts, emails, calls, and facebook messages rolled in–like I was getting reminders that I should be feeling worse than I was. (note to friends: yes, I just irreverantly dismissed all of your good intentions. I am that jerk. But what can I do? That’s how I felt. I still advocate friends reaching out to friends, I promise!)

Which brings me to the multiple rememberances that have gone up to honor Lisa. Much like the generous gifts that were given in her memory to First Presbyterian Church and St. Timothy’s (and the $20,000+ that was given to cancer research through St. Timothy’s Spring Sprint), the physical memorials are a beatiful tribute to her legacy. But after yesterday, I wonder: will I look at these memorials and be happy and nostalgic? Or sad and annoyed? Will they bring joy in rememberance of a life well lived or anger at a life cut short? Of course, the memorials are not FOR me. They are for her, and Danny, and their girls, and my family, and all those who knew and have heard and will hear about Lisa. So I can get over myself. But I do wonder.

Regardless, they are beautiful and touching and despite my terrible introduction, I hope you enjoy seeing them. I hope I do, as well.

At St. Timothy’s, the front playground was dedicated to Lisa’s memory, marked by a plaque and a statue of two children on a bench reading (the picture at the top of the post is the writing on the bench). At DJ’s urging, Danny and the girls tied a balloon to one of the children in the statue before we left for Boston. Someone was also thoughtful enough to attach one on St. Timothy’s famous “Balloon Day”, one of Lisa’s favorite days of the year.

 

At First Presbyterian, an incredibly constructed, hand-made wooden music stand was dedicated to Lisa’s memory. The story, I believe, is that well before Lisa died the maker was moved to build the music stand, but wasn’t quite sure why. Then Lisa, a long-time director of the Children’s Choirs, passed away, and he realized (and I don’t want to speak for anyone here, but this is how it has been told to me) that the stand had been divinely inspired, his actions and hands guided by God. It is magnificent enough in its construction that I would find it difficult to disagree.

The engraving reads:

Lisa’s commitment to First Presbyterian Church was evident through her deep level of involvement. Lisa loved music and shared that love through her service as Co-Director of the Children’s Choir.

Dedicated in Memory of Lisa by the Choirs of First Presbyterian Church.

Designed and created with loving care by Hilliard Green, Jr.

 

At our family vacation spot, Capon Springs, WV, they have been going through some major building improvements. Our family opted to dedicate a new fireplace in the main house to Lisa. We picked the fireplace because it is the centerpiece of what was probably Lisa’s favorite activity at Capon: sitting around the main house living room, chatting with friends, catching up (read: gossiping!), playing group games, having sing-a-longs, and generally just loving life with good friends. After some good family brainstorming, my mom came up with “Sing Songs, Share Stories” for the inscription–it’s perfect. (note to Caponaires: the stone may not look exactly like this when you arrive in August).