Sunday Post 187: The Nurses In Our Lives

Last Saturday I had the honor of speaking at a nurses’ convention. This was a group of folk, mostly women, who spend 40 hours a week on the oncology ward at local hospitals.  I have a special place in my heart for these people.  They are angels right here on earth.

How in the heck do you do that?  Why in the heck would you do that?

These women are our interpreters.  We had one doc who was just too smart for his own good:

“Ms. Tanner, your epidemioctagal levels are elevated and your pennial nervotian might have to be severed into spinial compatulas.”

I’d be taking notes furiously.  When he left the room, I’d ask Lisa, “You got any idea what he said?”

“No.  You?”


We would then ask our nurse, who was smart, but who could also speak in sentences that English speaking college educated people could understand.

“So he said that her epidemioctagal levels are, ahh, elevated and her pennial nervotian well, he said, it might have to be severed into spinial compatulas.  Is that bad?”

“Oh no.  She’s fine.  I just need to put a band-aid on her toe.”

At the conference, I asked my audience why they did what they did. I shared my admiration.

I told the group, “I couldn’t do what you do.”

One yelled back at me from the audience, “There is NO WAY I could raise three girls on my own!”

“Yea,” I responded, “I’m raising them alone, but I didn’t choose to.  You made a conscientious decision to serve and care for people who are facing the biggest adversity imaginable.”

I’m just too selfish.  I want to do something in life that makes ME happy.  I don’t want to deal with pain and suffering.  I don’t want to face the potential of death day in and day out.

Thank goodness there are some out there who are this selfless.  Those who care more about others than they do themselves.  There are those out there who gain tremendous satisfaction out of serving others, caring for others, making life better for someone in need.

These nurses do this work for people they have never met before.  They take care of us and our kids.  They make us laugh.  They listen to us and believe in us.  And yet, we take them for granted.  We pay them a pittance, and they keep on keeping on.

I don’t suppose at this point in my life I’m going to make a significant career move.  I’m certainly never going to be comfortable sticking someone with a needle or removing a spleen.  But what I can do is spend a little more time being thankful and appreciating those around me who make our lives better.

So thanks to all of you great nurses, oncology and others.  You’re the ones who take our temperatures.  You’re the ones who build relationships with us and who know how hard this is for our families.  You are the ones who treat us like real people, with humor, love and care.

You are angels here on earth.

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 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 168: What is a Mother?

A mother may carry you in her belly for nine months and be the primary caregiver in your life.

Or, a mother may officially belong to your friend but still tell you how special and beautiful you are.

A mother might be a church elder who walks your kids through their church confirmation process.

A mother could be the Aunt who after a long days work takes her nieces to the Food Bank to volunteer to meet their required school service hours.

A mom might be the friend who texts ten days in a row in anticipation of your child’s pathology report.

She could be a housekeeper who quietly goes the extra mile, week after week after week.

A mom might actually be 77 years old and might still pray for her too stressed out son every single day.

Or a grandparent who volunteers in her grandkids’ schools because their mom isn’t around to do it herself.

A mom might be the former art teacher who takes her favorite student to dinner three years after the kid last took her class.

A mom could be the one to tell the single dad that his daughter really needs white jeans to fashionably make it through the summer.

Or, a mom might actually be a dad – a dad who loves his kids as much as any other two parents ever could together.

Sunday Post 130: The Tried and True

I think this is the 6th year for Adult Weekend at Lake Gaston.  There are four couples and me who diss our kids for about 36 hours just to spend time together.  It’s a bit Big Chillish – minus the funeral.

We typically water and jet ski, tube and surf.  This year, however, we primarily talked; we had a lot of catching up to do.  We don’t see each other like we used to.  Although our kids initially brought us together, they’re all moving in different directions.  It just makes it harder to connect quite as often.

Each lake season seems to bring less watersport and more mouth movement.  Only two fo us tubed this year and after only five minutes, we’d about had enough.

“Jon’s gonna jerk my back out if he doesn’t slow down.”

“He’s clearly trying to kill us.”

At one point four out of the five men were asleep in lawn chairs on the dock.  The women looking on, lamenting their future.

It’s sort of pathetic.

But these friendships run deep.  They aren’t built on frequency of visits nor are they reliant on our children’s schedules or desire to hang out with us.  Nah, we’re past that.

We’re not the same politically; we all go to different churches; our career interests are varied.

Sometimes two or three of us get together without the others, and that’s okay too.  Typically one has run into another and the communicate chain continues.

Our love and connection runs deep. They’re the first ones you call if you have something too big to handle on your own.  You know they’ll come through – even if it’s not Lake Gaston time.

I’m fortunate to have this group – they’ve stood by me through some difficult days.  My hope is that everyone has their go to’s – the tried and true, the ones who’ll stand by you even if it’s not the easy thing to do.

It takes work and commitment to grow these connections, but the payoff is incredible.

Sunday Post 106: It’s Not A Choice

Tonight I met with my men’s group – the guys who have also lost their wives to cancer.  There were only four of us.

We all struggle at times and with similar experiences, yet often on different timelines.  For some the holidays were tough.  For others, the wedding anniversary brought it all back – it was the day that no one else really celebrated.  Just their time.  In a way, that made it harder than Christmas.  I get that.

At the end of the meeting, I shared an email a buddy of mine sent me today.  I met him through the play, A Christmas Carol.  He’s a really neat guy and has become a great friend.

He was commenting on a recent post I’d written – the one where I said, “I don’t know how my story ends.”

He wrote:  As I was reading your blog, it struck me. I’m sorry about you losing your wife, but do you realize that if it wasn’t for your loss, we would most likely not know each other?  Would you have tried out for A Christmas Carol if Lisa was still living?

I know how you will finish the book.  For everything that has to die it brings forth life.  You bury a seed so that it can bring forth life.  Your ending will be LC instead of BC … Life after Cancer not just Before Cancer. The key word is Life because you are still living, and look at all of the new sprouts that have come up!

 A friend in the support group said, “It’s not a matter of choosing this new life over the loss of your wife.  It wasn’t a choice.  She died – period.”

The choice comes in what you do after she dies.

I am thankful for the new experiences I’ve had since Lisa’s death.  I am thankful for the new friendships I have made.

I always feel like when good happens that I need to clarify my happiness – “This is great, but I’d rather this not have happened and still have Lisa.”

Well duh.  But it wasn’t a choice.  Therefore enjoy the good, and enjoy guilt free.

Girls’ Weekend (plus Danny!)

Posted by Danny

It’s 10:17 on Saturday night. I am in a king sized bed in the master suite of a beautiful mountain house in  Montreat, NC. USC is beating Notre Dame 24 to 17, it’s the 4th quarter.  On the floor below me are four forty-year-old women.  Asleep.

Lisa’s best girlfriends from high school have an annual girls’ weekend to reconnect and recharge.  Two years ago, they were slated to travel to Boulder, the home of one of the Fab Five.  Lisa’s diagnosis prevented that trip from occurring.  Instead they quickly rearranged their schedules and kidnapped my wife a week or so after we found out she had cancer.  It was important that she had that time with these Steel Magnolias.  It would be her last.  

Each of these women spent time in Raleigh while Lisa was sick.  One is a Nurse Practitioner – she emailed and called throughout Lisa’s illness offering guidance on her medical issues.  Another drove from Charleston one week to give me a break when I just couldn’t push any harder.  Two still stay with me when they’re in Raleigh – cook a meal and coach me on life.

About a year ago, one of the Fab called, “Danny, you know the fall Girls’ Weekend is coming up.”

“Oh, is it that time again?  I imagine it’s going to be hard this year.”

“Yep…that’s why you’re going to join us.”

“I ain’t going to Girls’ Weekend!  There are a couple of things that preclude me from this group.”

“How about if you just come down for one night?”

“I can’t do that.  This is your time to reconnect – without the male influence.”


This is the second year I’ve gone.  

I’ve been on some weekends with my guy friends, but until last year, “Girls’ Weekend” was a mystery.

I sort of had a picture of what might happen here. 

Late night gossiping with lots of wine; a bashing of the husbands; perhaps we’d give each other pedicures; I feared a male stripper might appear.

Boy was I off base.

Instead of gossiping, I found listening ears interested in how I was doing and in-depth advice about raising my girls. And these women know what they’re doing.  They’re the real deal when it comes to parenting.

 There was no bashing of husbands, but four women who are clearly in strong relationships who share mutual respect with their mates. Relationships I can relate to because I had the same.

I think they spa-ed the day before I got here – so we took a nice long hike with beautiful views instead of painting nails.

And unless he’s showing up at midnight, I’ve avoided the male dancer two years in a row.  Although they did try to get me to sing a song from A Christmas Carol to which I responded, “Buy a ticket!”

And at 9 pm, each one started nodding off – perhaps a sign of how hard they work throughout the rest of the year.  Or maybe they’re just getting old.

A friend recently asked how to support someone who has lost a spouse.  I’m not the one to ask; call Lisa’s friends.  Apparently they’ve taken the course.

Sunday Post 31: The Good Ones

It continues to amaze me at the incredible love shown to my family.  It’s been 18 months since Lisa died, folks don’t have to continue to support.  Some still do because they just know it’s hard.

Not only have our closest friends stood beside us, but acquaintances as well.

Lisa’s fingernails were always impeccable and her toenails too.  She spent a lot of time at a nearby “spa” swapping gossip and being pampered.  I was glad.  I appreciated a woman who looked refined.

What I didn’t know was how much it cost!  On Friday when the girls returned from camp, I let them head to Lisa’s nail salon with specific instructions on what they could do.  DJ and Stephanie wanted a pedicure and to get their fingernails painted.  Apparently there is a difference in just painting your nails and a manicure.  I thought that a manicure was painting your nails.  But a manicure, I’ve learned, is painting your nails plus $18 of other stuff.  Michelle had permission for fingernail painting only (she had just done her nails with her Nana the week before).

When they called me to pick them up, I went inside to pay.  The woman at the counter rang up my bill.  I looked at the list of prices on the wall; she’d been generous.  When I asked where to write the tip on the receipt, she said, “No.  No tip from you.  Our treat.” 

She knew Lisa.  She knows my mother-in-law.  She wants to help me raise these girls.  And she’s doing it by giving her time and the time of her employees tip free. 

It really touched me.

And today we went for the bi-annual dance gear roundup.  Apparently you can’t wear toe shoes for years on end.  Those boogers wear out – I’m not sure what happens.  DJ’s shoes look fine to me – they’re pink and pretty and there’s still a piece of wood in the bottom.  But they apparently lose their spring or something.  The lady at the dance store told me most dancers go through two or more pair a year.  I told her we were changing to tap.

After an hour in the store collecting tights for two, several new ballet slippers (you can’t wear toe shoes in regular ballet class – what’s up with that???), jazz shoes, the toes and the lambs wool you stick between your toe and the wood so you don’t mess up your pedicure, we headed to the check out counter.  The woman who owns the store started ringing things up.  She pulled out a toe guard and told DJ how to use it.  “It should keep your toe from hurting so bad honey,” she tossed it in the bag for free.  She also gave us a deal – the full prices I was adding up in my head were not equivalent to the amount charged to my credit card.

I looked at the woman, “You know I couldn’t do this without you.”

“I do,” she smiled.

“If it weren’t for you, my kids would dance naked.”

She nodded.

Why did these two women take an inordinate amount of time with us?  Why did they invest and why did they give us a discount?

I think I know. 

They’re just really, really good people.  They’re doing God’s work in their day-to-day lives.  And I have to tell you, their love for my family makes a difference.  If we’d all just give a little of ourselves, right where we are, the world would be a much better place.

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