Parking? At Target? At Christmas???

parking jam

I found myself in the undesirable position of shopping on December 23.  It made me so stinking mad!

Discount the long lines at the register, the lack of percentage off on any item that I desired, and my inability to make a purchasing decision; I was already miserable because I could hardly get into the parking lot.

I started at North Hills Mall, a relatively new outdoor complex.  On the back corner is a Target.  I spend $118 there each week of my life.

I don’t know why, but every time I go, the sales clerk informs me that the total is $118.  Target is so sophisticated that I scan my card and sign that I agree to the purchase before the employee even finishes scanning my items, so I can’t back out of it.  Whatever the total, I’ve committed, I’m in.  And it is usually $118.

I believe that a polite regular customer like me should be able to call in advance and reserve a parking place near the front.  I mean, I’m there on a rainy Tuesday in February at 8:30 PM when no one else in the world is thinking about giving them $118.  Shouldn’t they stand by me two days before Christmas when I’m at my most vulnerable purchasing moment?

“Hello.  This is Danny Tanner, #118.  I’m tired, frustrated and in a hurry.”

“We’ll have your spot coned off.  Pull up right beside the basket return on row 2.”

It doesn’t have to be THE closest space, just top 20.

You’d think they’d offer that service.  But no.  I’m out there scrapping for an 8 foot by 12 foot space just like every other Tom, Dick and Harry – those damn dudes who haven’t graced the Target since last December.  It’s like the once a year church goers.  Where were you in July when the baby Jesus was 7 months old?

On the 23rd, I had to park six miles away from the front entrance.  Even the spots reserved for “Parents with Children” were taken.  I am a parent, and I have children.  None of them were with me, but I was gonna park there anyway – nope, it was minivan city, not an opening to be found.

In the parking deck, there were three great spots.  I approached all thinking I’d won the jackpot only to discover the sorry putz parked next door had crossed the painted line so far that there was no way to squeeze my mid-sized SUV in the space.  I was livid!  It is a time like this that I would like to put my car in park, get out and rake my house key down the entire driver’s side of the asphalt bogart’s vehicle.

And what is up with the “C” spaces.  Compact cars get priority?  I tried parking in one of those at Crabtree Valley but we all had to climb out the back hatch of the car.  That ain’t cool, especially if you’re on a date.

Oh, and what about the always open reserved spots for plug-in cars?  There is a 1 to 2,456 electric car to reserved electric car parking space ratio in the City of Raleigh.  I would love to park my car, hook it up to a gas pump, and come back in an hour with a free full tank.  What is up with that?

I finally found a space, well sort of.  It was half a space right beside the curb and the mulched evergreen border.  I parked two wheels on concrete and two on the greenery.  I have that same plant by my driveway, and you can’t kill it.  DJ backs over it daily and the stuff is a hearty as the day before she turned 16.

It ended up being fine, because I hadn’t jogged that morning.  I got my three miles in, did not commit vandalism and purchased everyone’s favorite candy.

Next year I’m gonna start shopping in February.  Anyone know the shelf life of Snickers?


Merry Christmas To All!

IMG_0191 (2)

For some reason, the kids and I feel compelled to do something out of the ordinary for our Christmas card.  Hope your day is grand.


Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

The Horizontal Christmas Tree

xmas tree horizontal

It’s never, ever, ever good when you get that urgent Christmas tree catastrophe call.

Text last Monday:  The Christmas tree fell.  Come home now.

I’ve received that communique twice in my life.

I like pretty big Christmas trees; we have two.  This year, the small one has about an 8″ diameter trunk.  I screwed the supports into the booger with the same vigor I used to bolt my tires onto my car.  I mean business!  I actually use pliers to twist the metal in – sap oozes down my fingers.  When I was finished, the jessie was standing as straight as Miss Alabama in the Miss American contest.

I evened out the ornaments and gave it a little shake to make sure it was secure.

It stood for days – and then, ker-plunk!

Special ornaments were busted and Fraser fir needles were scattered around like germs from a sneeze.  I’m gonna be vacuuming those dudes up in July.

Why can’t they make a tree stand that can hold a durn tree up?  Would you make Tupperware that couldn’t hold soup???

As if getting the lights to stay on isn’t enough of a challenge, we have to deal with this too!  You can’t buy a Christmas tree stand that is big and sturdy enough to ensure verticality.  Would we try to balance the Statue of Liberty on a thimble?  I think not!  Target, Walmart, Home Depot – HELP US!

xmas tree horizontal 2

I lifted the thing back up, rehung the lights that once lay on the top of the tree but had moved to its waist, and tied her with bobbed wire onto two separate door handles.  If it comes down again, the door frame to my front porch is coming with it, and I’m gonna take it directly to the street – lights, ornaments, garland and all!


Sunday Post 198: Unpacking Memories

I put them in the attic early each January.  I wrap them up carefully because they are so incredibly special.  I store them in boxes eleven months of the year, and then, right after Thanksgiving, the kids and I unpack these holiday memories.

There are so many.  There is the mule ornament from our Grand Canyon vacation.  Her mother surprised us with a donkey dive into the vast hole.

The guide proudly announced, “We’ve never had a mule fall into the canyon.”

Although I was grateful to hear this good news, even the thought of dropping 6,000 feet while clinging onto the mane of a donkey threw me into a full-on panic attack.

I told Lisa, “My ass ain’t gettin’ on that ass.”

I wasn’t a virgin, and this was not Bethlehem.

When Lisa returned, her legs permanently bowed and her derriere scabbed over, it was difficult not to say, “I told you so.”

As she walked toward the shower, I let a little “hee-haw” slip from my mouth.

She flipped me the bird.

I laugh each year when I think of that day.

Usually, memories strike like a slow sink drip.  At Christmas, they pour out like a fire hose.

Cards from old friends who have long moved on.

Those hymns we sing but once each year.

The annual Christmas pageant, the one she directed ten years ago.

Those cookies I work to recreate with limited success.

It’s not just Lisa.  I seem to remember my grandparents more at this time of year – Grandmother Tanner’s seven layer cake, an annual Thanksgiving tromp through the woods with my granddad.

The beautiful thing is that the girls and I now have new memories that have been created:  the late night Christmas Eve service which we couldn’t do when they were younger, the creation of some sort of wonky Christmas card picture, big colored lights on the tree which were outlawed before.

Even though they can be painful, I’m thankful I have fond memories.  I just wish they’d come a little bit slower at this time of year.

Sunday Post 150: Teach Them Well

You always try to teach your kids good stuff.  Sometimes I think I focus more on making sure that they know the proper way to use me and I in a sentence than to ensure that they understand the importance of loving their neighbor.

On Christmas, I worry about the same thing.  I know of families who forego presents and instead take a mission trip.  Others choose to make a significant contribution to a charity or serve lunch at a shelter on Christmas day.  We just eat like hogs and give each other an exorbitant number of presents, many of which we don’t really need.

I think my parents realize how we indulge on this day and that we really should have a different sort of focus.  So each year, after we’ve opened our presents and before we stuff our faces, they sit the family down at the dinner table.  As our stomachs rumble and the smell of turkey wafts through the air, we pause to listen.

Being a minister, my dad has always been able to share a sermonette off the cuff.  And that’s exactly what he does.

In front of your plate you’ll see an envelope with your name on it.  Your mother and I have decided to support several charities across the world in your honor.  There are a ton of folks out there who don’t have the ability to give a single gift at Christmas.  There are many who don’t have food to eat, and yet, look at us.  I’d like for you to read your card to the family.

Each of us, from age 11 to 75, reads and shares the story of someone in need throughout the world and how my parents have chosen to support them.

They aren’t sharing this information to say look what we’ve done.  They’re sharing the information to help teach the next generation that it isn’t all about us.  They share to teach us and remind us that we are incredibly fortunate and that we should be thankful.

It’s not a guilt trip – my mom and dad would be the first to tell you they indulge their children and grandchildren as much as any other proud grandparents.  But they take their job of passing down their passion for loving their neighbors to those who will soon follow in their footsteps.

I guess one day I’m going to be the one holding that torch.  I should start now – pretty big shoes to fill.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Card 2013


The Tanners

Sunday Post 148: Christians Unite

Aren’t we supposed to be on the same side?

I grow so weary of Christians attacking each other.  I grow so weary of disagreements on issues driving us to question each other’s commitment to Christ and in some cases leading us to question someone else’s faith altogether.

How could we possibly determine whether someone is a Christian simply because of his political affiliation?  How could we imply that we love God more because we stand on one side of a single issue?

Yeah, there are those who believe that it’s not possible to lead a Christlike life if you’re not exuberant about paying significant taxes to support those who haven’t been born with as many earthly blessings as you.  And, there are those who condemn someone to hell if they support gay marriage or the pro-choice agenda.

I get it!  I have passionate views as well.  But I wouldn’t question someone’s personal relationship with Christ because they don’t fully agree with Danny Tanner’s social and political views.  I might argue with them; I might wonder why they believe what they do; but that’s as far as I’d go.

I don’t like Fettuccini Alfredo.  Does that mean I don’t like Italian food?  It does not!  I just don’t particularly like that white goopy sauce.  Do I think you’re ignorant because you do?  No.  I think you have different taste buds.  If I’m splitting dinner with you, I’m going to try to pursuade you to order something else.  But I won’t question your commitment to the Italian food cause.

An athiest who reads this blog once commented that if every Christian talked about their faith as I do that maybe she’d be more interested in learning more.  That made me feel pretty good!

I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day.  How could someone who doesn’t believe in God have any interest whatsoever in learning more while watching us condemn each other?  It is so NOT what Christ would do.

Let’s celebrate Christmas by doing what He would want us to do.  Go find a Christian you don’t agree with – and give him a hug, and begin acting out your faith with those who are actually on your side.  Once we get that down, we can reach out to those who have no understanding at all.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and BraidsAmazon 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 145: Scrooge

For those of you who have seen Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol, you might most remember the hilarity of the show.  He is a very funny man, and his Scrooge is like no other.

When I first joined the cast, my assumption was that our primary focus would be on humor, and that is clearly important.  However, what means the most to me and perhaps to most who see the show is the very serious message that is played out in the last scene.

As a cast we are reminded countless times that the play is about helping folks discover or rediscover the true Christmas spirit.

Each year, when we first run the finale, it knocks me in the gut.  The lump hits my throat and the ba-humbug I may have brought into the theater is quickly subdued.

So what is Christmas really about?

For me, I think it’s become less about what I get and more about the joy of those around me.  It is those spiritual moments I experience when the church choir sings while the trumpets blare.  It’s the quiet of the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  It’s watching mean old Scrooge break down in tears as he struggles to sing the words to The First Noel.

It’s the memory of Christmases of years gone by – my grandmother’s seven layer chocolate cake, acting out the Christmas story with my parents and brother when we were oh so young, Lisa’s affection for pig ornaments, and the first year without her –  Jesse served whiskey after the girls went to bed, a thoughtful gesture on a very tough night.

I pray that we can all find that inner peace – ignoring the annoyances, focusing on the beauty of the season.

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids or at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

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 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.

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