20 Cans of Tuna

can of tuna

Sometimes it is difficult to be my child.

Last Sunday I was working hard to be ready for our afternoon activities and for the first day of school which was Monday.  We had two covered dish dinner events – one for the girls’ mother/daughter charity club and one at church.

Lisa and DJ began participating in the National Charity League five years ago.  There are meetings, socials, and service projects, and mandatory expectations for participation.  When Lisa died, Aunt Sallie stepped up and filled the mother piece of the duo.  When Stephanie aged in, she joined too.

The kickoff picnic required a salad for the covered dish meal and canned goods to be donated to a local nonprofit.

Because I had to bring an entree to the church picnic that followed the NCL dinner, I decided to knock out a slew of ham biscuits.  I made about 50.

That morning I ran by the grocery store to purchase supplies to create my sowbelly delights and at the same time purchased 20 cans of food.  I was thoughtful enough to purchase tuna because the cans were small, easier for my delicate daughters to tote from car to picnic shelter.  I was on my A game.

At 4, I shipped DJ and Stephanie off to NCL and shortly thereafter made my way to church.  They showed up at 6 for their second dinner of the day.

As soon as Stephanie got out of the car, she ran up to me.

“Dad!  Guess what?”

“What baby?”

“Well, we walked up to the NCL picnic and went to put our Food Lion bags full of canned goods on the table with everyone elses’ stuff.”


“Everyone else was standing there with Target bags full of shampoo and toothbrushes.  Do you know why?”


“Because we weren’t supposed to bring canned goods!  We were supposed to bring toiletries.  Do you know how embarrassing it is to show up with TUNA when everyone else has Colgate??”

“What did you do?”

“DJ said to just put the bags down quickly and walk away.  It was humiliating!”

“Well I would imagine that if someone needs toiletries, they likely also need canned goods.”

“At our next meeting we are taking all of the stuff we brought and putting it in bags for the people in need.  I guess the bags will include toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, Q-tips and TUNA!”

She sort of grunted and walked away.

The beautiful thing about DJ is that she didn’t even bring it up to me.  She’s used to this sort of stuff.  No need to get bent out of shape.  With me as her father, it just is what it is.


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

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Laundry with a Twist


It was a tough afternoon.  We rolled in on Sunday after being on vacation.  The kids missed the first week of school.  Frantic, I started working to put the pieces of the puzzle together to get us set for the rest of the day and for Monday:  unloading the car, uniforms out, trip to the gro, lunches packed, 2 side dishes for the girls’ afternoon service club meeting, dessert and a main dish for the church youth kickoff at six.  Does every event in our life have to kick off today?  Did the NC Legislature pass a bill that requires every function in the state to hold a covered dish dinner?  McCrory did give those protesters a plate of cookies.

I knew if I didn’t do DJ’s laundry she’d be heading to her first day of school in the buff.  No one wants to start their junior year naked –plus she’s already pulling into the parking lot in a 1997 Subaru wagon.  She keeps reminding me that she and the “new” car were born in the same year.

I logically argued:  “Do you really want to be the girl who drives up to school right after her 16th birthday with a brand new car?  Everyone hates her.”

Without a blink she responded, “Yea.  Yea I do.  I want to be her. ”

I opened the vacation cooler, there were several bottles of beer left from Happy Hour – oh the sweet memories of last week.  I tossed them on top of the clothes for the trip to the basement fridge, the Lunchables were hogging the ice box upstairs.  I unloaded the beer and put the basket of whites in the queue.

When DJ walked in the house, I told her to go switch her laundry.

“The darks need to go into the dryer.  The whites are in the basket at the bottom of the stairs.”

She did as I asked, apprently hurling them in the machine in one big clump.

Fifteen minutes before leaving for church, I went downstairs to switch the last load.

As I pulled out the whites, I heard clanking.  Hmmm, wonder what she left in her pockets this time…

I was shocked when I grabbed a handful of bras and came back with a bloody thumb.  What in the heck was she packin,’ a switchblade?

Upon further investigation, I found remnants of a bottle of beer.  Man, you left a bottle in the laundry basket you moron!

I shook each item out over the empty laundry basket, shards of glass plopping out of socks, undies and my kid’s white tees.

I can hear the conversations facing me this week:

“Dad, something’s sticking in my butt when I sit.”

“Baby it’s just a little Stella Artois.  It takes a while to develop a feel for it.”

“Dad, I feel like I’m wrapped in Tyvek insulation.”

“You’ll be warmer that way.  No sweater needed this winter.”

“Dad, the Headmaster called me into the office.  She said it had been reported that I smelled like I’d been drinking.”

“What’d you tell her?”

“I told her that most parents put fabric softener in their laundry for a fresh clean smell but that my dad tosses in a bottle of beer.  That’s right, the beer and the BOTTLE  – “

“Would you believe I got the idea from Heloise Conquors Stinks and Stains?”

She didn’t.

I thought I was going to scar my kids emotionally.  Looks like I might actually scar my kids from the glass that’s embedded in  their clothes.

Could happen to anyone… right?

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.

Sunday Post 124: On-the-job Training

This is it.  We got up early so we could beat the line at the Jacksonville, NC, DMV.  DJ turned 16 while we were no vacation, and we couldn’t wait two more days to get back to Raleigh.  So, this morning we drove 45 minutes to the nearest town to see if she could take the test that will push her toward total independence.

The kid in line before us slinked out of the glass room with his head down low.

“I failed,” he told his dad.  “The guy said I drove 33 in a 55 mile per hour zone.  I actually went too slow.”

Dear God above, please let DJ go too slow too.  Please, please.

I assume He can perform miracles, but DJ driving slowly may even be beyond His capabilities.

She returned from the road test with a Cheshire Cat grin on her face.  I knew my fate.

When we returned to the beach house, she announced she would be driving her sisters to lunch in Surf City, 20 minutes away.

“I’m hungry too,” I pleaded.

“We’ll bring you some back.”

My parting words were:  “I want all of my children back here, in one piece!”

“I’m with her,” Stephanie assured me.  “She won’t do anything crazy with me in the car.”

I didn’t feel any better.

Now they are gone, and I am here – alone.  I put my phone by my chair and turned the sound up high, just in case they need me.

Damn, this is sort of scary.  I think she’s a pretty cautious driver, but she’s young and inexperienced.  Oh, and the woman in line behind us at the DMV who was excited she was finally getting the breathalizer off her ignition is presumable back on the road this afternoon.

I can’t help but ponder the hours we’ve spent in my car together.  There were the Barney years in the minivan.  I could sing every word to every one of that purple dinosaur’s tunes.  There was the first time she weighed enough to sit in the front seat.  And three years ago when I was thrown into the role of primary carpooler for the Tanner family.

Although a relief to know I’ll no longer speed through town working to pick up all three girls at the exact same hour, I surely will miss our conversations.  We’ve wept, shared our dreams and yelled at the top of our voices in that car.  But mainly, we’ve laughed – laughed and laughed and laughed.

Somehow those gray leather seats bring out the best in us.  The ability to divulge our inner most thoughts made so much easier when sitting side-by-side.  I think it’s the lack of eye contact.

This whole growing up stuff is going to take some getting used to.  I fear that DJ isn’t the only one in this house who is figuring out how to become an adult.  There’s a 47-year-old who’s also getting some on-the-job grown up training right now.

Dad to the Princial’s Office


I got in trouble at school on Thursday.  I thought I was going to get sent to the principal’s office.  I deserved it though.  Didn’t do my homework correctly.

This is the story of my life, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me.  Why can’t I get this stuff right?

It started with the permission slips for Michelle’s fourth grade school trip to the beach.  There were several.  The problem was that you had to open the school newsletter, read the school newsletter, and then open Michelle’s teacher’s newsletter, at the bottom of the original newsletter, to find the link to find the forms to print them out to fill them out to send them back to school.  Once I had the link, I had to find the school website.  Once on the website, I had to open my personal excel spreadsheet that contains all of my passwords and user names so that I could indeed log in to find and print the forms.

Oh, my excel spreadsheet is password protected, by me (sneaky huh?).  If I ever forget the password to my password spreadsheet, I’m up “sheet” creek.

Michelle announced at dinner one night that she was the only kid in her class who had not turned in the forms and that they were overdue.  I wonder how that makes her feel?  Probably not too good.

“I didn’t see them in your Friday folder.”

“They weren’t in my Friday folder.  You have to print them out yourself, they’re on the school  website.”

I’m sure most parents have the login to their child’s school website memorized.  Mine is up there in the ole steel trap, along with my work login, my blog login, my personal email logins, DJ’s school’s login, my Orbitz and American Airlines logins, my Zappos logins, the login and password to stop my mail when we go on vacation and the login to two bank accounts and two investment accounts.  Not to mention my retirement account login, the HR login for work which is a separate software, the login info for the kids’ service club, the foul weather login for youth basketball in the winter, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram so I can make sure my kids aren’t posting inappropriate photos of themselves or cyber bullying.

So I got the paperwork turned in but forgot to have Michelle sign the behavior agreement form, which we had gone over, in detail, on our way home from dance one evening.  Apparently you did not have to sit or sleep with your trip “buddy” but you did have to know where they were at any given time.

When we arrived at school at 5:45 AM, I walked up to the school nurse to give her Michelle’s allergy pill.  I had already turned in the “official” typed up form that I easily found on the school website, well, once I got logged on.

“Hello nurse.  I have Michelle’s medicine right here.”  I was so proud of myself.  The pill was in a zip lock bag with the name of the medication, dosage, along with instructions for dispersing the pill and my signature.  I’d even written her name on the biggie with a black Sharpie marker.

“Mr. Tanner, can you read?” Nurse asked in a kind yet firm tone.

“Why yes.  In fact, I can write too!”

“It clearly stated on the medical form that you needed to have a doctor’s signature for any medication.”

“It’s over the counter.”  I had her!!!

“Signature for ALL medications, even over the counter.  It says so clearly on the form.”

“Geeze.  Even over the counter?”

“Yes.  And, the pill is supposed to be in the original container Mr. Tanner.”

“Not a zip lock bag?”


“But it has her name on it, with a black Sharpie PERMANENT marker.”  We aren’t talking Crayola here.

“No, Mr. Tanner.”


I should have just taped the pill to her chest.  It was tiny.  They would have thought it was a button.

From now on, I’m going to do better.  I’m going to read every word of every newsletter, web site, email and document from all schools, teachers, camps, church leaders, piano teachers, dance instructors, basketball coaches, Service Club leaders, theater personnel, doctors or nurses, afterschool counselors, singing group coordinators, friend’s moms and the Gap.  I’m going to have to quit my job, but I’m going to read them all.

Sunday Post 107: Breaking the Slump

Ever get in a slump?  I know a few folks who just live there.

I have an acquaintance who is always weary.  Every time I see him he shrugs his shoulders.  He’s out of breath.  Tired.  Unable to take what life has handed him.

I know another who is always frustrated.  Someone is always out to get him – his wife, his boss, the government – in his mind, he just can’t get a break.

I can relate.  I’ve gone through a couple of years of rut.  In my mind, it wasn’t my fault that I was miserable.  It was God’s fault.  It was the doctor’s fault.  I was tired, had too much to do.  In my mind, my grumpiness was justified.

The problem was, it was chronic.  For a period of time, I was really, really unenjoyable to be around.

Some would say I’m still that way at times, and they’re probably right.  But I think I’ve at least figured out that my outlook on life is my responsibility.  What happens to me happens to me.  Sometimes it feels like a lot, but I’m not carrying any greater burden than a ton of other people who are walking around with a smile on their face.

Everyone has their battles.  Some you outwardly see.  Some are masked from the world – but they are there.

Over the past six months, something has changed within me.  I think I realized that I was allowing the world to get me down.  People were getting on my nerves.  I was impatient, and I was self-centered.

I also realized that this frustration with life and negative attitude was affecting me more than it was anyone else.  Others would laugh at my sarcasm, feel sorry for the widower and then, they would go enjoy their lives.  I was the one who had to live with my miserable self day in and day out, and that was painful.

I’m not quite sure how one reframes life.  It’s almost like trying to stop smoking.  It’s a difficult thing to do.  I’d say step 1 is to realize that you are unhappy or cynical.  Step 2 is to want to make a change.  Step 3 might be to realize the good that is in your life.  And step 4?  Make a move – do something that helps you reframe.

The world has thrown me some curve balls.  I don’t want to get hit and writhe on the ground.  I want to take what was thrown and knock a homer.

More Questions for Dad

This Christmas season has brought about more questions than answers.  One would think that with time I’d be more up to speed on girls, teens, and young ladies.  But the longer I live without a woman as my guide, the more I just do not understand.


*Why do you need regular bras and sports bras?  Is it not like boxers or briefs?  Make up your mind and stick to it girls!  They don’t even play sports –

*And what’s up with the ones that just stick to your bosom?  It’s peel and stick – like a “To/From” tag on your Christmas present.  What good does that do?  How can that help?  Why do we need those?

*Any why do they wear out so quickly?  I was told recently that two bras in this house “died.”  Should we have a service?  Are they just pulling my strings?  I have boxers I’ve worn for twenty years.  They may sag a bit, but who cares?  That just makes them more comfortable.  No one sees them but me.  A nd that’d better be the case for them too!

*When should a girl be allowed to wear mascara?  Stephanie and Michelle put some on when they got dressed in their costumes for the play.  It must have been Maybelline’s “new volume” brand cause they looked like a tarantula had been emblazoned on their eyelids.

*That same night I learned that soap will not remove mascara and that turpentine hurts when it gets in your eyes.  That’s what I use when stuff won’t come off.  Is there a chisel to remove that stuff?

*Why is it that I can’t get the girls to press their clothes and yet they’ll spend hours on end ironing their hair?  Yes!  They iron their hair.  Not with like an ironing board – its with a $100 mechanism that cooks stuff on both sides – sort of like a waffle maker but without the little sqaures.  I’m tempted to use it for grilled cheese sandwiches.

*And the one with the curls desperately wants hers straight.  And the one with the straight hair is looking for curly.  Why didn’t God just give them what they wanted from the get go?  Some cruel joke.

*Someone recently gave me the name of a woman to see if the girls had “skincare” needs.  Their skin looks alright to me, I specifically looked.  I mean, I buy them soap and Target brand lotion – what more is there to the care of their skin?  I guess I could buy cucumbers – I think Mommy Dearest used them on her eyes.  Maybe they need a mud mask.  I have dirt in the storage room…hum.  I fear my inaction is gonna cause wrinkles or those brown spots my grandma had when Mary Kay was washed off.

*They all want their own stuff, why can’t they just share?  Do we really need more than one brush?  I remember Lisa freaked out when I ran out of deodorant and began using hers.  I sort of liked it – thought of her every time I raised my arms.  This must be related.  I think its selfish.

I just don’t want to screw up; I don’t want to do anything wrong.  And sometimes I think they’re just yanking my chain.  There are so many things I just don’t understand.

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.

Overload or Dementia?

I may be losing my mind.  I’m actually a bit scared.

I was driving up St. Mary’s Street recently and passed by one of DJ’s best friend’s house.  I looked at the house and could picture the girl who lived there, but her name escaped me.  I couldn’t come up with it – a kid that my daughter hangs out with a lot!  A kid I really like!

I glanced in the back seat at Michelle – “What’s the girl’s name that is DJ’s best friend at school?” I inquired in a panic.

“Kimmey?”, she asked as if I had just fallen out of a tree.

“Yea.  Yea.  Kimmey.”

She frowned.  I sped up.

Three days later, as I was trying to fall asleep, it popped in my head, You don’t know your pin number.  The four digit code I’d had since I was 16 was gone, lost in a cerebral brain fart.  I thought I’d remembered it and dozed on off.  The next day I realized I had not remembered.  I drove up to the ATM and punched in a series of four digits.  I was denied my cash.

I punched in a different code.  The machine scoffed. 

Time three and time four were no better.  I called the 800 number on the back of my debit card.  Apparently no one, including myself, knew that number.  It’s encoded in the strip on the card.  I held the card to my forehead – to no avail.  I was about to lose something that brought me much comfort.  It was like I had forgotten my child’s birthday.

What in the heck is going on?  Do I have a brain tumor?  Is early onslaught Alzheimer’s headed my way?  Hardening of the arteries?  A nervous breakdown?  I got no idea.

A friend suggested that maybe I was on overload.  Can that cause you to forget things that should be embedded into your brain?

I’ve been out-of-town some portion of every weekend since late May.  On Saturday, we got home at 11:30 pm from a great overnight at the lake.  On Sunday I taught Sunday School, mowed, edged, and blew the yard, cleaned out the gutters and swept off the roof, rode bikes with Michelle, took two to the pool, helped a friend move a table, shopped for groceries, cooked dinner for the extended family, knocked out four loads of clothes for the four-week summer camper, addressed six thank you notes for DJ and wrote two blog posts.  I snuggled with my girls and put them to bed.  Finally, I sat down and drank a beer.

As I was falling asleep, I remembered my pin. 

I guess I’m suffering from brain delay.  It’s all still in there, just going to take a few days to pull it out.

The Date

Posted by Danny

It’s our first Winter Formal at St. Mary’s School, and it has been two of the most stressful months of my life.

Being an all girls school, some random guy isn’t going to invite you to the dance.  Someone asked me if DJ was going to a Sadie Hawkins Dance – I told her “Every dance at St. Mary’s is a Sadie Hawkins Dance.”

Normally, that would be a good thing.  I fully supported DJ’s decision to attend an all female institution – and my enthusiasm was in part sparked by the lack of testosterone cruising the campus.  Who needs that headache?  I was breaking girls hearts left and right at that age!  I thought myself sort of a young Don Juan, although I’m not sure any of the girls felt the same.

But in this case, I was wishing there were a couple of dudes on campus to take the pressure off me to find her a date.  Well, I didn’t really find her a date.  But I sure did feel the pressure. 

In October I started probing about who she might ask to the big event.  I pulled out last year’s school annual – when she wasn’t at home.  I earmarked several fellas I felt came from good stock and committed their names to memory.

DJ did not ask for suggestions, but I felt compelled to offer a few. 

I suggested the boy with great hair.  He’s like Bieber! I’ll kill to have that mane. Apparently, good hair was not enough.

With no nibble on “Hugh Grant,” I suggested another cute kid from her eighth grade class. 

Apparently he moved to Canada.  I wonder how I missed that.  No problem, we could fly him in I offered.

I also suggested a nice kid we see on our annual trip to West Virginia.  He lives in DC.

It didn’t take long for DJ to inform me that she wasn’t inviting a guy who had to be UPS’d to Raleigh.  I was shocked at her lack of appreciation for my input.  I had put hours of thought into my suggestions.

Each night as DJ calmly ate her dinner, I casually tossed out names: 

“I’m sure that boy on last year’s basketball team would put on a shirt with sleeves for a dance.  Certainly he owns a pair of dress shoes.”

“No one has to know you’re related by blood.  Just tell them you vacation together.”

“The kid who won the science fair last year is bound to grow up and invent something.  You’re doing well in biology.  You could talk to him about that.”

“I know you don’t know him, I don’t either.  But his father is hilarious. And he’s grown this year.”

“I was chubby in middle school too and look how I turned out.”

I suggested boys from church, sons of my friends, and the cream of the crop from our neighborhood, summer camp and beyond.  She was unfazed by my growing angst.

And then one day, as dinner began, she quietly announced, “I have a date to the Winter Formal.”  And…it wasn’t anyone I had proposed.

And that was that.  She didn’t need my suggestions.  She didn’t need airfare.  DJ had it all under control.

I often get accused of “freaking out” by Jesse and the kids, and I regularly dispute their claim.  But I wonder, just wonder, if this could be what they’re talking about.

Sunday Post 48: The Circle of Grief

Posted by Danny

Last Sunday night I was tired when I hit the bed about 1 am. I think that I’ve actually been handling this second holiday season fairly well; but not that night.

As I crawled in my bed, I had the urge to hold something Lisa. That usually means her squishy pillow, the one filled with feathers. She loved that thing – used it every night and often took it with us on trips.

I held on to it like I would the handles on a roller coaster. Every fiber of my being was aching to hold her. Even my toes missed Lisa.

I prayed hard – “Lord, let this be a dream. It just can’t be real. When I wake up, let her be here. She won’t believe this nightmare. It’s feels so real but maybe I’m just imagining she’s gone.”  All this absurd thinking, and I’m almost 2 years out from my loss.

On Monday morning, she wasn’t there. Fortunately, my intense longing had passed.

And that, for those who have not experienced it, is grief. You handle it one day, and the next you can’t.

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