Better With Age

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The snow in Raleigh this past week was a bit disappointing.  There was a smidge covering a solid layer of sleet.  You can’t make a snowman out of sleet.

In year’s past, Lisa and I worked hard on these days to keep the girls from climbing the walls: snow angels, sledding, hot chocolate and tons of soaking wet laundry.  We were exhausted by their bedtime.

All of my kids were home last weekend, and there we were – with no plans and no strong desire to venture out.  Thus the beauty of their ages: 19, 16 and 14.  We are beginning to enjoy the same sorts of things.

My youngest and I sipped a hot cup-o-joe together.  I remember similar imbibes with my grandmother at her white, speckled linoleum kitchen table.  Michelle nearly used an entire bag of sugar to get the brown liquid drinkable, but I started that way too.

Stephanie and I went On Demand and began watching a new TV show on NBC, This Is Us.  We are nearly caught up on the first season, something we can enjoy all semester.  What a pleasant change from Barney.

DJ is spending a lot of time working out right now, so I introduced her to Tony Horton, the 50-year-old hunk who leads P-90X.  I happen to own a collection of his exercise CD’s.  We did the shoulder and arm video.  She hates Tony as much as I do and agrees with me that he has a major crush on Dreya who exercises on the mat next to him throughout the video.

“Clearly something is going on between them.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too.”

On Saturday night, we played Trivial Pursuit.  But knowing we aren’t the smartest family on the block, we decided to change it up a bit.  We reassigned the color categories and made up questions of our own.  You landed on Brown?  The topic was Family, and your team had to answer a question that the opposite team made up like:  In which city was each of your grandparents born?  Or, where did your mother attend middle school?

Pink was questions about church.  Yellow about the camp they attend.  Orange was school.  Green miscellaneous.

It took us three hours to determine a winner, but man did we have fun.  Oh, we learned a lot about each other as well.  That’s not a game we could have played five years ago.

Sometimes I lament the aging of my kids.  I wish they were younger, that I had more time with them.  I long to carry them in my arms from the car to the house, their little noggins nestled between my neck and my shoulder.

That was a sweet age.  But you know, this is too.  I imagine in ten years I will enjoy them even more.

Perhaps it is not the stage they are going through that strengthens my delight.  Perhaps it is the depth of our relationship that makes each year more precious to me.

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

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She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.

Merry Christmas!

A Bitmoji Christmas Card – xmas-card-2016-front

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(Card designed by DJ Tanner.)

A Single Parent Morning

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Do you see a battery here?

It was one of those days that being a single parent hurts.

It was 7:20: Stephanie had an exam at 8.  I was about to take Michelle to school.  The older headed out the door in a rush to meet a friend for some final cramming.

7:21 AM:  “Dad, my car won’t start!  HELP!”

Indeed, we had a dead battery.  I was buttoning my white, starched, dress shirt but my flannels and bedroom shoes were still on my bottom half.  I grabbed my keys knowing I’d be late to work.

7:22 AM:  I texted my co-worker informing her of my likely tardiness.

7:25.15 AM:  The gas is nearly out indicator light came on.

7:25.30.16 AM:  I cursed.

7:36 AM:  Stephanie jumped out of the car rushing to her exam.

Me:  “Can you find a ride home from school?”

Her:  “Probably.”

Me:  “If so, pick your sister up at 3:15, assuming I get the car started.  If not, hang tight.  I’ll pick you up at some point before bedtime!”

7:40 AM:  Me:  “Michelle.  Someone will pick you up after school today.  Keep your phone on.  If Stephanie or I can’t get there by 3:30, go to Panera.”

Michelle:  “I don’t have any money.”

Me:  “Neither do I – check the ashtray.”

Michelle:  “There’s only $1.63.”

Me:  “Give them our home phone number, I think we have enough Panera points for a free pastry.  Drink water if you can’t find another quarter.  I think  drink is like $2.”

Michelle:  “What can you get as a free pastry?”

Me:  “I think anything in the glass case.  Pick the most expensive thing.”

Michelle:  “What if I don’t like it?”

Me:  “Get it anyway.  We want to maximize our purchasing power.”

7:56 AM:  Dropped Michelle at school.

7:59 AM:  Arrived at the gas station.

8:01 AM:  Man in a pickup truck eyeballed my choice of clothing.

Get at me dude!

8:30 AM:  I open the hood on Stephanie’s car, a Mini-Cooper.

8:47:  I finally find the battery.  It is hidden in the back corner of the engine, in a small black plastic case.  What the heck???

8:35 AM:  Jump start; car starts.

10:12 AM:  My cell phone rings, I’m at work, it’s my neighbor.

Me:  “Charlie, what’s up?  Is everything OK?”

Charlie:  “Well, your house alarm is going off.  I have the police here.  I think your housekeeper set it off.”

Me:  “Officer.  She is my housekeeper.  I was supposed to leave the alarm off.  You see, the battery died, I had to get gas in my pajamas with my dress shirt on, my kid was gonna have to go to Panera unsupervised…”

Officer:  “Mr. Tanner.  Just go back to work.  It’s all good.”

Me:  “Thank you sir.”

Hands-on Giving

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I fully buy into Christmas being about giving.

As a kid, Christmas presents were a big, big deal.  My parents went over the top with Santa followed by gifts from them.  In addition, my brother and I were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family.  They ensured that any potential gaps in our want list were fully covered.

My parents also didn’t buy us anything the other 11 months of the year.  December not only brought in the toys we desired, but it also stocked us up on socks and underwear for the year, a leisure suit for church and shoes.

In November, we looked like we’d just stepped out of the play Oliver Twist.  Our pants too short, and we had holes in our drawers.    January 1, it appeared as if Daddy Warbucks was kin.  We were looking great again!

But now, I have the ability to buy what I need, when I need it.  I’m not rich, but if my tennis shoes are worn, I pretty much have the capacity to replace them winter, spring, summer or fall.  Thus, this time of year has shifted for me.  Unlike my youthful self I am appreciative, but unmotivated by what awaits me under the tree.  A coffee cup with my kid’s art on the side is more exciting to me than a Brooks Brothers’ suit.  It’s all about maturity and perspective.

I do, however, really, really want others to appreciate what I have chosen for them.  And it saddens me to think of those who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday with the same vigor as we do.

For years I have adopted a family from the YMCA’s Angel Tree.  Our organization works to help bring Christmas to thousands of underserved kids who participate in our programs.  With my busy work schedule and the play I’m in with the girls, I became overwhelmed this year.  I was stretched in so many directions.  Therefore, I made the choice to give money to my church for those in need rather than to take a name off the tree and go on a shopping spree for a specific child.

That decision hasn’t ruined the season for me, but I’ll have to say that I regret simply giving a check.  I truly miss the excitement of picking out cool stuff for someone specific.  Each year, the girls and I would get so excited about a cool pair of jeans and a hat for our unknown three-year-old boy.  Finding the Thomas the Train playset he requested filled my cup.  With no boys in my house, I was pumped to pick out little dude tennis shoes and boy toys.

I took the easy way out this year.  I checked the ”helping others’ box” on my Christmas list with absolutely no effort on my part.  And it is just not the same.

Certainly the money I give will be helpful, maybe more so.  But there is a difference in giving to fulfill a quota and being fully invested in the process.

I give checks to several nonprofits throughout the year understanding that they must have my support to do their work and don’t bat an eye.  But at Christmas, I feel compelled to do more.  I won’t make this choice next year.

Killing Time by the Tanner Girls

This is how my kids spend the day after Thanksgiving while I pick out the Christmas tree!  Although you only see one in the video, I can assure you, all are involved.

We hope your holiday was grand!

The Tanner Family

One in the bed and the little one said…

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For me, there was one grandparent that stole my heart.  Oh, I loved them all.  One granddad took us to get a Slurpee every time we came to town – that was cool.  But this one, we called her Idee, was something else.  Her real name was Ivy but my brother couldn’t say that.  His inability to speak correctly stuck.  She was forever our Idee.

There is something about the grandparent who drops everything when you came to town, but the best part about Idee was she could relate to us.  I distinctly remember just lying on her bed while she got dressed.  She “put on her face” each morning while talking to me about life.  Who would have thought that a seventy-year-old woman could give a 12-year-old advice?  She could.  And I hung on her every word.

When I went to her house to spend the night as a kid, she would pile blankets on the living room floor and my brother and I, along with Idee and Papa, would sleep there.  Before midnight, she would ship my granddad back to the bedroom ’cause his snoring sounded like a freight train.  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why she was so anxious to not stay the night in her bedroom.

When we arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving last Wednesday, it dawned on me that the day beds in their playroom had four mattresses stored underneath.  For some reason, my holidays with Idee popped into my brain.

“Girls, we’re sleeping on the floor tonight!  Four in a row.”

“But dad, there are lots of beds in this house,” my maturing college sophomore explained to me.

“That, is not the point.”

We retired at around 11, but sleep did not come until much later.

We sang, “There were four in the bed and the little on said, ‘roll over, roll over,’ and one rolled over and one fell out when she hit the floor you could hear her shout.”  And as we rolled across the mattresses, one would hit the floor.

Michelle told us the story of Danny the Ogre.  He wouldn’t let his children drink sodas at restaurants.

We recanted songs that we sang at bedtime when they were young, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tired and true…”

We named my future grand kids (Obediah, Boaz, Sheamus, Isabella, Minnie), and I chose a granddad name.

We laughed til it hurt, gossiped about most folks we know, and learned the moves to Juju on that beat.

Several days later, I’m still tired.  Although, it was certainly worth it.

More Parades

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Lisa’s sister, my niece, Michelle, Stephanie and me on parade day

You know what this world needs?  More parades!

For years Lisa and I took our girls down to her father’s office on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for the annual Christmas Parade.  He would provide the essentials:  doughnuts, hot chocolate, coffee, a parking space and a bathroom.  Our kids would be PUMPED, ready to kick off the holiday season.

When the girls and I began participating in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol play five years ago, our parade routine changed.  We were no longer spectators, we were full on participants.  We don our costumes and walk the two-mile route encouraging the onlookers to ignore Scrooge who is shouting through a bullhorn to the crowd:

“Go home!  Christmas has been cancelled this year.  We’re going to have two Halloweens instead!”

The adults laugh and often respond with “Humbug!”  Some of the kids get fairly angry at the notion emphatically communicating with a man who is rolling down the street in a robe with a Christmas ghost at his side.  “WE ARE NOT CANCELLING CHRISMAS MR. SCROOGE!”

Although this is my sixth year in the parade, I noticed something different this go round.  Perhaps it is the political climate that made me more in tune.

What I saw were people, lots of different people, sitting together, laughing together, smiling together.  A man twice my age with a different color of skin responded to my hat tip and “Merry Christmas” with a hat tip of his own.  A girl in a wheelchair had a smile on her face that showed every tooth in her head.  Kids from 2 to 14 held out their hands for a parade high-five.  Groups of unrelated people came together to yell, “Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge!” in unison. There were carefree smiles for miles.

My heart aches when I watch the news.  I sometimes feel as if our problems are so deep seated that there is no way we can ever mend.  But last Saturday, I had hope.  I saw laughter, and joy, and happiness and unity, and it did my soul good.

My prayer for my family, my city, state and country is a perpetual parade.  May we all recognize our blessing this week and bestow grace upon each other.

Forgiveness

I grew up across the street from a kid who had a difficult life.  I think his parents, although loving, were pretty hard on him.  They were considerably older than most parents with kids our age.

He was always a bit overweight which was also a struggle.  He spent a great deal of time at our house.

We always enjoyed having him around along with the other 8 – 10 kids who spent the summer camped out in our garage.

Our neighbor went to prison 16 years ago for allegedly committing a serious crime.  I’ve written him through the years.  In September, he was released.  Seems like good news for him, huh?

I’m not so sure.

You see, when you do bad stuff, society doesn’t forgive easily.  In some cases, it is understandable.  We have to draw boundaries.  And yet, it is painful for folks to be isolated, regardless of the circumstances.

The cool thing about being a person of faith is that you can rest assured that whatever your offense, it’s OK.  There is no punishment, no prison time, no ostracization – it’s easy.

I, on the other hand, have a tougher time forgiving and moving on.  I still remember Eric Thompkins tripping me on the patio at school in the 9th grade in front of EVERYONE – totally humiliating!  God has forgiven him for that, me, no so much.

My former neighbor’s struggle with reentry to society has given me perspective on second chances.  When you see it up close, it makes you reexamine your own feelings on forgiveness.

The Bath Bomb

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I don’t care to work anywhere that your uniform consists of a black apron.  That attire should be reserved for chambermaids.

Last weekend I took Michelle to Crabtree Valley Mall to purchase birthday gifts for two of her turning 14-year-old friends.  She was determine to buy them a bath ball.  I was unfamiliar with this item.

When we arrived at Raleigh’s shopping Mecca, she escorted me to a new store called Lush.  Actually “store” is generous.  It’s more like a walkin closet.  Although it is on the second floor of the mall, I could smell it from the bottom of the escalator.

As we approached, my olfactory senses went into overdrive… lime, lilac, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, mint – my nostrils were perplexed.  So much to take in.

In this 10′ x 10′ box, I vied for space with sixty eighth grade girls who swarmed the face mask display like an active bee hive.  The bath balls were beautifully displayed in the back corner.

“Dad, aren’t they cute?  They look like a big bird’s egg.”

“Or a Martian turd.”

Apparently these chalk like bombers explode when you toss them into water.  The smells and bubbles embracing your naked body like a 20,000 thread count bed sheet.

We purchased four of the $8 ovals and headed to checkout.  Over by the soaps, a male employee in black regalia, washed a woman’s arm with a white cloth in a stainless steel bowl filled with water – 59 of us watched.  It was a bit like Jesus washing the disciples feet, yet different.

Thank you, but I’ll bathe in the privacy of my own home.

I’m wondering why anyone would want to walk around smelling like peach schnapps.

This is all so natural to Michelle.  This is all so odd to me.