Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da BATMAN!

As a young kid in Hickory, NC, one of my favorite things to do was to toss a cape on my back and run around the back yard singing “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da BATMAN.”  Bruce Wayne had it all – a house with secret passageways, a girlfriend named “Cat Woman,” a cool black sports car, a spotlight that shined his own signature image over Gotham City and… a CAPE.  Who cares about the rest of the stuff when you have a kick-ass cape draped around your shoulders?  It just reeks of fierceness.

Apparently, my brother and I also liked the cowboys.  I remember the caps that came with the guns.  You had to position them just so on the hammer-spring.  And if you did, POP!  The noise would startle any girl in the neighborhood and all adults over the age of 30.

cowboys

Recently, Julie pointed out my obsession with dress up.

It started when I pulled out my personal cape, made by my friends after one of the productions of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol which the girls and I have performed in for the past few years.

“Honey, that’s really nice.  Do you actually wear it out of the house?”

We then looked up appropriate places to wear a cape.  I think a fashion runway in London is likely the most appropriate.  I’m just ahead of my time.

When I was chosen to be a Celebrity Father Chef at my kids’ schools’ annual pancake breakfast, we were given a chef’s jacket and hat to identify us in the worthy role we had attained.  After all patrons had been served, I headed out to the dining room with my loaded Chinet.

cook

“Honey, do you want me to hold onto your hat while you eat?” Julie asked.

“Nah.  I sort of like it.  It’s very tall.”

At Halloween I convinced my children to dress up like nerds with me for Trunk-or-Treat.  We made kids answer math problems in exchange for candy.  I sent Julie that picture as well and tried to convince her that the nerdy guys were actually the best catches.  I think she bought it… I guess time will tell.  She did suggest that maybe one day I could have a dress up closet.  Man, would that be great or what???

nerd

There’s just something about donning an outfit that is typically not fitting.  It lets you be something you’re not.

Hmmm.  Maybe more people “dress up” than you think.  You don’t have to have a cape to hide who you really are.  I know a ton of folks who look one way on the outside but are something totally opposite on the inside.  Sometimes the outside is less pretty than the inside.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes the disguise is to protect from others looking in.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be accepted for who God created us to be?  I mean, He knows what’s under the hat.  If he’s OK with it, why aren’t we?

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Applying for Financial Aid…oh my lord

kitchen

I thought, what the heck?  I have two girls going to, likely, private universities next year and one in a private high school, so why not respond to the University of Richmond’s prompt to complete financial aid information for the 18-19 school year?  What could it hurt?  I may not qualify – perhaps you’re supposed to spend 67% of your income on education.  My choice, I realize, but why not apply?

I started this process at 2 PM.  It is now 8:40, and the cuss words that have come out of my mouth have ensured I will not go to heaven.  There is no possible way at this point.  I crossed the line.

After figuring out how to log in – to let you know my level of frustration, the final password I used in FAFSA was HolYsHit123%.  After six other attempts, I was DONE.

When my inappropriate password would not work to “electronically sign” the document after hours of entering my deepest darkest financial secrets, I called Brenda who works for our US Government.  “Mr. Tanner, I cannot talk with you.  This is your daughter’s account.  I must talk with her.”

“Listen Brenda, who in the hell do you think sired this child???  Me.  And furthermore, I AM FULLY FUNDING HER COLLEGE EXPERIENCE!  You gonna talk to me!”

“No Mr. Tanner.  I CANNOT talk to YOU.”

“Did Donald Trump tell you not to talk to me?”

“No.  He did not.”

Hypothetically, if my college bound child was not at home, I would call her little sister into the kitchen to talk to Brenda.  But that is probably illegal, and I would never break the law.

When my daughter came downstairs, I put Brenda on the speakerphone.  She was slurring like a drunk sailor, which I could understand because I’d been arguing to her for 30 minutes at this point, so I was coaching Stephanie as Brenda gave her instructions.

“Mr. Tanner.  You cannot speak.  This call is between your daughter and me!”

“SHE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND YOU.  I WAS INTERPRETING.”

“You were talking to me,” Brenda snarled.

“I was not, you…”

Michelle, I mean Stephanie, put her hand on my shoulder.  “Dad, I’ve got this.”

After checking our emails for the fourteen messages Ms. Brenda had to send us to reclaim our just formed usernames and passwords, we finally got the frickin’ document signed.

Then… as if FAFSA wasn’t enough punishment for not being wealthy, I had to sign into the College Board website, required by three of our prospective universities, to regurgitate the EXACT same information to them.  LITERALLY – THE EXACT INFORMATION ENTERED ON THE FAFSA form.  And… one of the universities also wants a copy of my tax return and my W-2 sent to them, because uploading them for FAFSA and the College Board web site isn’t enough.  That ain’t nothing but lazy.

They also sent a nurse over to get a stool sample and asked for the receipt from the hamburger I ate at Hardees on Raeford Road in Fayetteville, NC, on July 16, 1974.

My daughters can’t balance a checkbook.  Can they really be expected to complete an in-depth form about their father’s financial status?

If I was a kid without significant parental support having to complete this process alone, I would say: Screw college!  It is simply not worth it.  

Which is very sad to me.

P.S.  I am very thankful and appreciative that there is financial assistance for those who need it.  But dang people, we gotta do better than this.

 

122 Degrees? Let’s Do Yoga!

upward dog

Upward Dog, nice

The only reason I agreed to accompany my girlfriend, Julie, and her daughter to HOT yoga was so I could write a blog about it.  I mean seriously… forty people crammed in a room stretching in unnatural ways with the temperature set at 122 degrees.  Who does this willingly?

As I entered the room, it was like a yoga parking lot.  Our spaces were preset so as to maximize floor capacity.  I was sandwiched between Julie and her daughter in row three of five.  In front of me were two women.  One, I quickly found out, could do a full, unassisted headstand – it was not required by the instructor but this was part of her warm up routine – showoff.  The other lady was so flexible I fully believe she could have stuck her head in her own behind.

The room smelled like the inside of a cow and that was before the class began.  Two days later the scent of the armpits surrounding me is affixed firmly in my nostrils.

It was apparent I was the newbie.  The other men in the class wore yoga clothes.  Dry fit shirts that absorb the sweat and shorts with Lycra underneath.  One very fit 30ish year old guy removed his shirt immediately upon entering.   I was not so confident.

I wore an old, holy, Camp Sea Gull shirt.  My boxers dangled below my shorts.  When our instructor, Spandexi, said “Chatturanga” (which is apparently a pose), I looked around for Mexican appetizers.

Apparently this particular studio is owned by a guy named Tanner Houseman (or some cool name like that).  He was not present at our class on Saturday but there were full framed posters of him lining the stairwell.  He was simply wearing yoga pants while doing head stands and other yogi moves.

If I looked like Tanner Houseman, I too would have full sized posters of my half naked self lining my stairwell.  In fact, they’d also be lining my den and bathroom walls, the conference room at work, and I might even wrap myself around my 2007 Acura MDX like a city bus ad.  His arms have greater circumference than my chest.

Julie’s daughter asked where the staircase in the lobby led.  I told her it’s where they store the bodies of those who didn’t make it through the class.

As the end of our sweatful adventure neared it’s end, my classmates and I lay on our backs on our mats.  As I thanked God for sparing my life, I felt a cold cloth draped over my eyes.  I lifted up an edge to make sure that the instructor had placed one on others’ heads as well.  I was fearful she had noticed that I was about to go down and had singled me out.  She had not.  We were all being cared for by our teacher.  She was quite a lovely woman.

After the room cooled to a comfortable 95, we sat with our legs folded.  I felt like the Dali Lama.  Spandexci had us rest our arms, palms up, in front of us and invited us to chant “Ummmmm.”  I pondered participating but simply could not.  I feared I could not control what might come out of my mouth at that moment if I was verbal.  I held my lips tight and continued my prayer that this purgatory would soon come to an end.

It did.  And I am now innerly fumigated.

I HATE Grass

I have to move to an apartment in downtown Raleigh.  I cannot live through another growing season.

When we moved into this house, the lawn was lush… fertile fescue for days.  Walking through the yard was like walking on a Persian rug; like Rapunzel’s hair between your toes.

Not today.  Now it is like walking through an emptied bag of tortilla chips.

Back in the day I looked forward to the fall.  I’d rent an aerator.  It weighed 8,000 pounds.  My neighbor and I would unload it in the driveway.  I’d turn it on, and it would drag my 175 pound self in circles, little dirt clogs galore.

In 2017, I pay to have it done.  A group of men three times my size show up and within 20 minutes, the job is complete.  All I have to do is water.

Sounds easy, huh?

I do not have a sprinkler system.  I have hoses in the backyard and hoses in the front yard.  Everywhere a new hose connects, the water spews out like Aphrodite’s fountain.  I have a rather large yard.  It takes four shifts of each sprinkler to wet the full quarter acre.  Within a week, my yard is a mud hole.

I had to buy slip on Sketchers to keep from ruining my tennis shoes.  Sketchers?  Seriously?  My MOM wears Sketchers.  “Well, I just found this cute little pair of slip on Sketchers at the Rack Room.  They are sooo comfortable.”

You know it is bad when you and your mother are wearing the same kind of shoes.

I turn the sprinklers on, one in front and one in back, come inside and set the stove timer for 45 minutes.  I then head out to reposition the hoses.  Because I WORK, most of my sprinkling is at night.  Darkness just adds to the mystique.

Invariably, I get soaked.  I suppose I could turn them off before I move them, but that seems like an awful lot of work.  Instead, I get in a starting track pose, watch the sprinkler head rhythm (holding my iPhone in my mouth for light), count to three, and run toward the head.   It’s like sneaking up on a king cobra.  With the water leaking from all orifices, I never win!

Yesterday I shoved the plastic gadget in the ground and watched long enough to make sure the water was headed in the right direction.  When I returned 45 minutes later, the sprinkler had fallen over.  Water was shooting straight in the air and most of the seed that was intended to get wet was dry as a bone.  I cursed the Home Depot and started that round again.

They say you should water in the early morning.  That would mean I’d have to wake up at 5:00 AM to ensure the job gets done.  I could take soap and save on shower time.

And one more thing… how is it that on Monday the sprinkler sprinkles in long straight spurts and on Tuesday, the same dag gone head is spewing in vast short circles.  It’s like Danny DeVito and Lurch.  I don’t understand.  It should be consistent.  No one touches it in the off days.  At least I don’t think they do… hmmm.

This is dangerous work.  I have fallen due to slick conditions, been attacked by an enormous bush that someone should have trimmed, and been shot in the eyeball with a stream of dirty water.  Thus, this time next year, I’m headed to the concrete jungle.  Downtown Raleigh, here I come!

The Cleanse

30-day-doterra-cleanse-foods

I’m not really sure how it came about.  We went to the beach for Labor Day, and on the way home, I was suddenly told our family was doing the 30 Day Cleanse.  Like we stopped at Bojangles for lunch – a chicken biscuit, fries and a Coke, consumption for a normal human, and as we talked among the group at the table, Stephanie, Michelle, their two friends and Julie, my girlfriend, a decision was made that we were going to starve ourselves for a month.  How does that happen?  Bojangles to beets.  Good lord!

Michelle and her friend Kimmey were driving this train.  Kimmey used to be a vegetarian so the idea of colon restoration was taking her back to her 7th grade roots.

I don’t know much about cleansing.  What I do know is that several people I work with have gone through the process, and it can be ugly.  Dark rings around the eyes, grumbling stomachs at the staff meeting, and the temporary personality of Cinderella’s stepmother.  Very lovely people, turned evil.

“Hey Bob.  You wanna grab a beer after work?”

“I CAN’T you JERK!  Remember…  I’M ON A CLEANSE!  You trying to KILL me?”

“Geeze.  I forgot.  I forgot.”

I was told that sugars, grains, dairy and legumes could be having a negative impact on my health and fitness without me even realizing it.  And in fact, if legumes are having a negative impact on me, I do not know it.  Primarily because I don’t know what a legume is.  I was then assured that if I cut out carbs, peanuts, dairy, fried foods, beans, sugar, alcohol and everything else except meat, vegetables and fruit, that I would feel better, my skin would glow, my colon would work more efficiently, my pancreas would feel lighter, I’d have no acne, my joints would repair, and I’d develop the strength of a gorilla.  As Julie read more from the satanic magazine article that offered this self-help option, she reiterated that I could have all the vinegar I desired.

“Well.  That changes everything.”

This 30 day cleanse was guaranteed to change my emotional relationship with food.  I realize I have an emotional relationship with my mom.  I did not know that the green bean and I were that close.

I wasn’t necessarily opposed to eating more healthy, but this technique seemed extreme. I suggested that we actually spread the thirty days out – not do them all at once.  My thought was since Chic Fil A is closed on Sundays we should cleanse on the day of rest for thirty weeks.

I was voted down by the girls.  For some reason, the purge must be consecutive.

So we tried.

Monday was our last day of normalcy.  I ate all of the cookie dough in the fridge and finished a bottle of wine.  We went to the grocery store and strategically avoided the snack and cereal isles.  The cashier giggled as he rang us up.  He’s seen me before.  This was not normal.  I’m sure he was amused by the eggplant, brussel sprouts and and lack of legumes.

I hate it when I purchase produce at the store that is so odd the salesperson has to ask me what it is.  I feel so snobbish.  I’m sure he’s thinking, “Why can’t he just each Iceberg lettuce like a normal guy.”

On Wednesday we decided to introduce beans and dairy back into our diet.  I feel certain our diet didn’t even notice it had been missing.

On Thursday, Stephanie texted me, “I’m starving.  I’m done.” Bring on the Cheez-Its!

On Friday, Michelle admitted she had eaten crackers for lunch.  I admitted I had done the same the night before.  I had no choice.  It was a work event, and I was so hungry my colon was about to eat my light pancreas.  The only food at the reception was crackers and cheese.  What’s a guy to do?  The cracker guilt was killing me.

Pizza this weekend shot the cleanse to hell.  After 4 1/2 days of mildly expurgating my innards, my skin looks the same, my colon is unchanged and my pancreas feels as heavy as ever.  But I’m happy – I’m just really happy.

Good news:  we are all committed to eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting our milkshake intake.  Perhaps our cleanse worked after all.

 

No Purex for Them

They came home today.  The two oldest, DJ and Stephanie, returned from ten weeks away working at summer camp.

Not only did they come home, their clothes came home.  14 loads thus far – and counting.

I’m used to the laundry.  I kinda like it.  It signals the end of summer and a return to normalcy.

And yet, I am perplexed.

There was a laundry facility at camp for staff.  I know for sure that my girls used the washer and dryer provided for two reasons:

Frist, they told me.

Second, I unpacked Tide from both of their laundry bags.

Yes.  TIDE!  As in Tide’s in, dirt’s out.

How is it that my kids are using Tide and I am washing with Purex?  Not that there’s anything wrong with Purex, but man, would I like to smell like Tide when I walk down the halls at work.  But no, my ongoing cost savings strategy requires that I settle for the least expensive suds on the shelf.  And yet, my kids don’t!  And the worst part of it is, they charge THEIR Tide to MY credit card!!

I’m smelling like 13 cents a wash, and they’re walking around with a $.78 cent aroma.

It does not make sense.  The dad should be the one splurging.  They are not even 21 years old.  They don’t have steady employment.  I fill up their cars with gas.  I use generic toilet paper so I can afford their school tuition (and sometimes it hurts).  But they are ordering sodas with their dinners (while I drink water), Ubering (while I walk), and washing their clothes with Top-Shelf detergent.

I bet the college dorm room has Charmin!

Geeze.  I wish I was my child.  I’d live a more lucrative life!

 

The NC Coast

Aniver and Annie

I did manage to bury two teenagers last week!

We went to the beach last week.  I wasn’t able to stay for the entire time – I had to commute to work a day or two.  Those drives gave me ample time to reflect on trips of years gone by.

When I was a kid, a member of my dad’s church allowed us to use their beach house in North Litchfield, SC, for a week each summer.  Man – were those some great trips.

I remember my parent’s had a sedan, not nearly enough room for them, my brother, me, and two friends.  For years we took the Mozena boys on our annual vacation.  Greg was Chad’s age and Steven was mine.  We traded cars with their parents.  Sid and Jerry drove a massive blue station wagon.  Jerry had built a huge wooden blue box that sat on the top of the car strapped onto the roof rack.  There was a seat in the back that faced the opposite direction.  My brother and I fought over who got to sit there.  I don’t remember who won – if I know my mom, she determined the exact mileage for the trip and made a stop precisely at mid-point to switch riders.  The woman is FAIR.

One year we took several other families with us for the week.  This house had a massive picnic table in the kitchen with two long, wooden benches on either side.  The group convened for a card game called Spoons which required you to sometimes dive for the utensil once someone put together a winning hand.  For some reason, my young teenage self showed up for the game in a bathrobe.  Just a bathrobe.  When I dove across the table to grab my spoon for the win, the robe flew up, and I presented my entire lower being to not only my family but also to Mr. and Mrs. Benner and their teenage daughter.  Thankfully I was successful at nabbing the spoon else my exhibitionism would have been in vain.

I have long passed the days of required sandcastle building and burying children in the sand.  I watched my brother and sister-in-laws work their asses off this week entertaining on the strand.  I drank beer and read having the occasional grown up conversation with Michelle and her friend.  I sort of miss the digging.  For years, my carved out living rooms with dug out sofas were quite the place to chill on Topsail Island.

One of my favorite memories is the night my entire family went on an evening walk to catch sand crabs.  We used buckets and nets as well as frisbees to capture the critters.  As we walked down the dark beach, I picked up wet sticks and made it a point to sneak up behind my mom and tickle her ankles.  She would jump a mile EVERY SINGLE TIME I touched her.

It just never gets old to scare grandma!

This year was quiet.  Only Michelle was able to come for the full week.  DJ dropped in for about 24 hours and Stephanie couldn’t leave her job at Camp Seafarer.

I hope that one day we can all reconvene to begin to form new traditions and memories.  I wouldn’t trade anything for that time with the family.

Late. Again.

bus

I was literally looking down the snout of my long nose at the poor parents who would not have their acts together this year.  I mean, I generally run late, but I have NEVER held up a bus for a school trip.

Last year it was a friend of Michelle’s.  I can’t remember where they were going.  Maybe to spend the night on the battleship in Wilmington.  The charter bus was packed and no Kimmy Gibbler.  All the kids were on, waiting.  I texted her mom.  Are you guys awake.  You know the bus leaves at 6:30.  It was 6:34.

She sent back and expletive – not for me, for herself.  I let them know she was running a bit late.

I had compassion, but I’ll have to say that on occasion when I get it right, I am so very proud.  I sort of relished in her misery.  I was actually THE parent with HER phone number who got to text and tell her they were late… because I, in fact, was on time!!  I seldom get to do that.  It was quite a treat.

I despise the parents who always get it right.  Their kids are on time.  They don’t forget things.  Their registration form is already in and they had their doctor sign the medical form.  More than once Nurse Huber has scolded me in the halls of St. Timothy’s for my lack of compliance.  I deserved it.  There are just so many rules.  I do not like rules.

Anyway, we were driving up Six Forks Road listening to my new favorite song, Sunday Candy by Chance the Rapper, headed to school for the eighth grade trip to Washington, DC.  I do like to drive up to school blasting new tunes.  Michelle, Stephanie and DJ keep me up to speed on musical trends.

I felt good.  It was 6:25.  The parking lot was less than 2 minutes away.  We could park, grab her bags and walk up the steps to the drop off spot and still be on time.  Score!

As I was waiting to turn off the four lane road into the shopping center parking lot, my phone rang.  It was an unfamiliar number.  It took a second to register.

Son-of-a-&*%#$.

I didn’t answer, but I knew.  I screwed up.

We parked quickly, grab the bags and scurried up the steps.  And there they were – every stinkin’ eighth grader on the bus, and worst of all, many of the parents, standing there wondering why the kids had not yet driven away.

As Michelle and I took the walk of shame, they got their answer.

I couldn’t think of another reason that those parents would stand around outside of the bus except to harass the last person.  The bags were packed, their kids were aboard.  The windows on the bus were tinted so they weren’t gonna wave goodbye.  No, they stood there to find out who the sorry last parent was going to be.  And it was me.

I kissed my kid on the forehead, tossed her bag toward the open luggage chamber at the bottom of the mammoth vehicle, and quickly walked toward my car.  I did not make eye contact with the other, more timely, adults.

The thing I’m most embarrassed about is that I, on my way that morning, seriously thought to myself: I wonder which family is going to hold up the bus this year.  I sort of chuckled to myself as I considered the others who are as disorganized as me.  It won’t be you buddy.  You’re actually early.  You’re such a good dad.

I was congratulating myself on Ridge Road and then got the phone call one street over.  Two exits down the beltline can make all the difference in the world.

 

Not from around here…

I was in San Diego last week for a conference.  It’s a really cool place – with really cool people.

I thought I was kinda cool.  After going there, I discovered I am not.  I am so, so not.

I also thought I was fairly open-minded, accepting of others and new ideas.  But maybe not so much either.

On Friday night, I went out in the Gaslamp neighborhood.  This borough sort of reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  There was lots to see and do.  Skimpy clothes.  Lots of body art.  Piercings galore.  I’m good with all that.  I actually find it interesting to observe different kinds of people.

What I didn’t expect was a female bathroom attendant in the men’s john!

I walked into a fairly small area, a couple of guys in line before me, and there she was – tending the sink.  I don’t remember what she looked like or what she was wearing.  I tried hard to look the other way.  I did recognize that she was doing a great job of attending.  She’d pump the soap right into your hand and have a drying towel ready when you finished rinsing.  Her counter was full of essentials: hair gel, lotions, cologne.  She even offered a plethora of tobacco products for your liking.

When I approached the urinal, a young dude on my right and she on my left, I thought to myself you ain’t in Raleigh anymore.  Her phone rang, she answered.  The line of full bladders was growing outside the door.

I tried to concentrate for I really needed to go.  But I couldn’t.  There was simply too much for this simpleton.  I walked out as full as I’d entered.

I don’t want to be the person who gets stuck, who can’t accept the progressions of the world.  I could end up having a daughter who decides to build a career in the bathroom service industry.  I don’t want to thwart anyone’s potential.  And I hate this was bothersome to me.  But indeed it was!

My father accepted women Deacons in our church, and he was not raised with that mentality.  Perhaps I too will warm up to this idea.

Longing for Gray

Tampon

I raise money for a living.  I work at a large YMCA in the development office.  Currently we are working on a $117,000,000 campaign which will allows us to build five new YMCAs, renovate several existing Ys and camps, send tens of thousands of children to programs who otherwise could not afford to attend and grow our endowment.  Most people don’t like to ask folks for money.  I got over that about a decade ago.  I just really believe in the work that we do.

I often drive prospective donors around in my car to take them to programs or show them construction sites.  I drive a 2007 Acura MDX.  It’s a nice car that I’ve kept well maintained.  But it is old.  Each time I have an appointment, I try to remember to tidy up my vehicle wanting to make a good impression.

Recently, I pulled up to our downtown Y facility to pick up a couple I had never met.  They were older, a bit reserved.  I had forgotten to tidy.

I opened the car door for the wife and as she climbed in the back of my car, I noticed a number of tampons, in very colorful wrapping, dispersed across the seat and floor.

I dived in before her explaining my situation: “I am a widower and have three teenage daughters…” who apparently want me to get fired!

It used to be Cherrios I’d find strewn about my vehicle.  My how times change.

I don’t get this.  Do they just grab a handful and dash out of the house as if they’re taking mints from the checkout counter at Denny’s?  What good are they to them in the car floor?  Why not in a backpack or purse?

Why are they packaged in the most vivid colors available?  Neon green, yellow and pink.  You can’t miss them.  They glow in the dark.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked to hold a stash in my pocket at an event.  I’ve reached for my keys before and had a tampon explosion – dropping them on the floor and having to scurry around to clean up my mess.  At least they’re easy to find.

 

 

I wish women had pockets.  I wish cars had built in hygiene storage compartments.  I wish tampons came in plain, gray packages.