They came. They went.

Our cups are tired.

Since December 3, we have had between one and five young adult children home. The youngest, and last one to leave after the holidays, departed on Sunday. And they used more cups a day than a small European country.

I was amazed to go upstairs and find two, three, sometimes four cups, perhaps a bowl or a couple of plates, coffee mugs and silverware distributed on shelves, nightstands, bathroom cabinets and dressers in room after room after room. The dishwasher ran without ceasing. It is tired too.

I was told that one day Stephanie, my middle daughter, put a bowl and spoon in the hallway by her bedroom door. The oldest, DJ, asked, “Why did you put that out there?” Stephanie replied, “Watch. It’ll disappear.” She told her sister she had been keeping track and that you could leave anything you wanted to go downstairs outside the door and someone (presumably me or my wife!!) would whisk it away… just like room service at the Hyatt. Actually, maybe better because we aren’t understaffed. Although the Hyatt pays better unless you include fringe benefits like the endless love and appreciation bestowed upon us by our kids which is PRICE-LESS!

Last Sunday I told Michelle she needed to have her stuff together so that I could drive her back to UNC right after church. We loaded the car and headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items she needed to start the year off right. When we got to the Food Lion, she realized she had forgotten something at home.

“Give me the list. I’ll do the shopping while you go back home,” I said with a slight bit of irritation in my voice.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” she asked.

“Because I want get home so I can sit in my boxers and watch 60 Minutes like a normal old man!” It’s been a month since Lesley Stahl and I have had time together. I miss her!

Actually, I LOVE our kids. They bring energy, fun, excitement, warmth and happy noise to our home.

And actually, I love January, my wife and Lesley Stahl.

Now we rest up for May!

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Wee Little Time in Scotland

As I write, I’m on a plane back to Raleigh from Scotland where we visited my stepdaughter who is a junior at the University of Edinburgh or Uni as they call it. These are my top learnings from my week abroad:

  1. Haggis seems to be a breakfast food although there are Haggis rolls you can purchase in nice little shops throughout the Kingdom. When I asked waiters or locals what Haggis was, the answer was unclear. These two words were themes in the description: bloody and intestine. I did not eat Haggis.
  2. Everything is smaller in Scotland – the cars, the bags of potatoes (and you’d think they have a lot of those being next door to Ireland), even the rolls of toilet paper pale in comparison to a Costco lot. I like big! I am a glutton.
  3. They don’t use top sheets. One night I pulled the sheet back and after sticking to the rubber mattress pad for hours discovered they had neglected to proffer both fitted and flat bedding! I though it was a mistake until I went to the second, third and fourth hotels and discovered a pattern. The upside? Wet the bed and you’re in great shape.
  4. Their birds are stupid. You know when you’re approaching birds in the road in America in a vehicle, they fly away? They don’t in the Highlands of Scotland. I’ll leave it at that – twice.
  5. I knew they drove on the wrong side of the road, what I didn’t know was the difference in lingo around driving. Duel carriageway ahead… many parents pushing strollers before us? No! Just two lanes coming up on the motorway (highway). Slow Lorries next two miles… girls with the same name meandering by the road? Nah. Mac trucks going up a mountain. And lord only knows what the speed limit was. They had speed cameras for days but seldom shared their expectations about how fast you could go. I fear the rental car company is going to be receiving some bad news in the next couple of weeks from the Highlands Motorway Patrol.
  6. Perhaps the most disconcerting thing I discovered is that in every restaurant, store or hotel we stayed in, the light switch for the bathroom was on the wall OUTSIDE of the bathroom. Julie was surprised several times when she entered and shortly after the small room went dark. I could not resist. I pondered flipping the loo switch in a coffee shop when a stranger entered near our table. I decided against that prank, but boy was it tempting. I wish we had the feature at work.

We had a grand time in Europe cooking a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for 15 of Lizzie’s closet friends and hiking Arthur’s Seat on a brisk yet sunny afternoon. The whole fam is returning in March. I’ll be better prepared for the differences next time.

Paper Plate Awards

About three weeks ago I visited our YMCA’s Camp GRACE along with 15 volunteers who help raise money for the Y’s Annual Campaign. Funds raised help support programs for folks who need us but without help might not have the opportunity to participate.

The Y runs GRACE at three sites in the Triangle. This camp is for children with Autism or other Pervasive Development Disorders.

While at camp I was thrown back to fifth grade. I was a student at Glendale Acres Elementary School in Fayetteville, NC, and Mrs. Buie was my homeroom teacher. Once she made me write 100 times: I will not forget my homework. It seemed unfair to me because I realized I left my math at home and had my mom bring it to the school before class started. Somehow she found out I had a special delivery and punishment ensued. I thought I should actually receive extra credit for problem solving. She was hardnosed and didn’t see it that way.

I was not a particularly cool kid. I know that’s hard to believe!

I was an above average student but not stellar. I wasn’t particularly good at anything. I wasn’t athletic. When Scotty Cannon, who had hair on his chest by 3rd grade, threw the dodgeball, I simply ran off the court. If he hit you, you could have the word Spaulding emblazoned on your abdomen for two weeks. Back then we didn’t play with cushiony balls. No, we played with balls made out of two inch rubber, hard as a mound of hard clay!

But during the last week of school that year, I walked into the awards assembly. I was likely disengaged assuming smarty pants Lindsay Merron or cool boy Joey Brennan would rake in most of the acknowledgement. To my surprise, when the principal, Mr. Lawson, called out the winner of the final and most prestigious honor, the Citizenship Award, my name was called out!

I walked up to the stage like Jack Nicholson – cool as a cucumber.

What a great feeling – ME, Danny Tanner, the most citizenshippy out of 500 students! And, as I recall, the trophy was HUGE – bigger than any other.

As the YMCA Director walked us around Camp GRACE, she described their Friday Paper Plate Awards Assembly. At the end of each week, parents are invited in and staff present each camper with a decorated Paper Plate Award that recognizes something they’ve done well over the past five days. Perhaps it is Best Swimmer or Friendliest Camper.

Two things routinely happen at this assembly – the children go nuts for themselves and for each other, and parents weep.

Imagine seeing your child, who maybe has never been recognized for being the best at something, being lauded for his accomplishments. It is powerful stuff.

That’s what the Y does, day in and day out. It provides children, teens and adults opportunities to feel good.

TODAY is the YMCA’s Day of Giving, and my goal is to raise $5,000. Consider a gift that will help over 20,000 people who need a place to fit in, fit in.

GIVE NOW

Good Luck!

It’s like someone saying: There is a coin at my house. It is worth $1,400. It could be in the yard, the house, the engine of the lawnmower, the attic, basement or garage. Maybe even in the car.  I’m not going to tell you what it looks like… good luck!

In May, UNC informed me that I owed $1,400 for health insurance for Michelle for the Spring semester that had just ended. Apparently if you don’t have insurance, you are required to purchase theirs. I said, “No, I don’t owe you. We didn’t use your insurance.”  They told me, “You didn’t click the Waive Insurance Button so you do owe us.” I said, “I would like a face-to-face meeting with Chancellor Guskiewicz to discuss this matter.”

I feel like they’re playing dirty pool. They automatically charge you $1,400 for about three months of health insurance on your semester invoice (which is about $400 more than I pay through work for five kids!). If you don’t review the invoice line by line, you don’t even know there is an insurance charge! You can opt out of it, if you find the coin (well the Waive Insurance Button).

It’s like Netflix saying we’re gonna charge you $2,800/year to watch Seinfeld unless you opt out (even if you don’t watch Seinfeld). Oh, and good luck opting out – it ain’t easy.

Apparently I checked the box for the fall semester likely assuming it was for the year. I deducted the $1,400 from my payment for spring semester after reviewing my invoice but I didn’t click the box. They shared that they sent me email reminders monthly that I owed them money, but when the Cashier went back to check, she could tell they had not been opened. Probably a firewall issue on my part (not their fault).

They sent me directions on how to waive for the upcoming semester. I had to log into two different sites, find two user names and passwords, and navigate approximately six screens to find the magic button which was a popping light gray you had to scroll to at the bottom of the page. Oh yeah, then I had to log into my insurance web site, download proof she was covered and upload it for UNC.

They did not let me meet with the Chancellor. However, I wrote a formal letter of protest, they checked to see that we did not ever use the insurance and realized the emails had not been open so they credited the account. I received a strong reprimand and a warning they would never credit my account for anything again in my lifetime regardless of my story.

Oh – I can assure you they won’t have to. I’ll be clicking the button!

Imagine how many people are out there paying for stuff they have no idea they are paying for! Imagine those who don’t fight it like I do? Imagine if you can’t easily navigate technology (well apparently that is me), you’re screwed!

Taking advantage of the masses. I don’t like it.

A Couple of Car “Incidents”

Trivia Question:  How many Tanners have had some sort of vehicle accident/incident in the past six months? 

Answer:  Five.  Five out of seven. God bless you State Farm and kudos to Lizzie our only offspring who hasn’t. I hate to take away from her glory, but she has been in Scotland without a car for five of six of those months so I’m not sure we should spend too much time praising her. I am grateful nonetheless.

Accident 1: NOT AT FAULT. Will was smashed in a parking deck by a fellow shopper, perhaps an aggressive one, near Christmas. I get that. Some poor soul trying to knock out the Santa gifts for the kids, stressed out all the while working to avoid COVID, ran smack into him. His car was out of commission for months.

Incident 2: NOT AT FAULT – sort of. Stephanie parked her car across the street from our house. There is a beautiful wooded view from our front door, a huge draw for my spouse who is nuts about nature. Sadly, that nature, in the form of a huge tree limb, fell on top of the Civic and smashed in the roof and back window. There were shards of glass for days.

Accident 3: AT FAULT. Michelle “slightly bumped into” someone at a stoplight near downtown Raleigh. She was just trying to pull up a bit, and there was a car in the way. Fortunately she knew her victim so they had a nice catch up while exchanging insurance cards.

Incident 4:  NOT AT FAULT – I guess. DJ parked her car and when she returned the driver’s side mirror was dangling from the door. Not sure what happened – perhaps an angry gang of teens that hate Volkswagens and had a baseball bat handy??? Who knows? The mirror is dead. When she called the insurance company to report, she shared her name with the agent. She asked if he needed her address – he said “no.” I have your sister’s claim open as we speak – I can just get the info from that.” It is NOT GOOD when your insurance rep has your address memorized.

Accident 5:  AT FAULT – sort of?? Julie rear ended a guy at a stoplight. The light was about to turn green. He should have done a better job of anticipating. Everyone knows green comes right after red.

Everyone is A-OK which is what matters. It is unlikely, however, I will get a safe driving rebate this year.

Tanners Hauling Service, Open for Business

We don’t own a house – just a very expensive storage unit. With five young adult kids coming and going, Tanner’s Hauling Service is having a banner year. So is my chiropractor.

In March, Julie and I went to DC to move DJ into a new apartment. The brownstone she was in, built in the 1800’s, needed… let’s call it… attention. Or perhaps a bundle of dynamite and a lit torch.

The leaks in the roof made for a moist bed after a strong rain. The rat that ate through the wiring in her car moved too – from the driveway to the walls of her house. Remember Ratatouille?  Using the commode and using the plunger were one and the same – nothing went down without effort.

Now she lives in a sweet abode in an apartment building on 16th street. Her new parking deck appears to be rodentless, a major plus!

Rat free living in DC!

In early May I headed over to UNC to move Michelle out of her dorm room for the summer. She was on the sixth floor. One of the elevators was out of commission – that left one working. Seemed like most of the 2,000 students packed into this 1970’s era hotel-like structure were also moving that day.  I took the outdoor stairwell – 13 times. How can one person fit that much stuff in a teeny-tiny room? She has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. SEVEN pairs of white sneakers. Geeze.

Julie and I began Stephanie’s move out from Elon early. Over a matter of months we’d pass through Burlington heading back and forth to Charlotte, fill the car with stuff and dump it all in the garage once we got home.  Six SUV loads did the job. We finished on graduation day with dishes, toiletries, linens and the remainder of HER white sneakers – Imelda, Sr., also has a problem.

An hour before the final load!

Will, the son, moved himself from Charlottesville to Raleigh two weeks ago. He was in a one year fellows program living with a family, and he only owns one pair of shoes. Easy! Until we hauled his belongings and a good portion of our attic to Charlotte last weekend. He moved in with three guys who rent a townhome in the young people’s part of town who happened to have an open bedroom. His new friends have lived there a couple of years which incidentally appears to be the last time the bathrooms were cleaned. This time we hired a couple of guys to help – my vertebrae could take no more.

Will’s Move – Movers in tow!

Child 4, Lizzie, came home from Scotland a few weeks ago. No big move for her. Just a duffle bag the size of Delaware and a massive pack up to head west for the summer.  Easy peasy!

I’ve enjoyed spending time with our kids over the past month and toting their belonging across America. Now we can focus on my parents who later this month are packing up the house they’ve lived in for 21 years to move to a retirement community. This time my brother will help. He has a strong back.  Oh, and a truck!

My Elon Graduate!

When she was born, she was a beauty.  Dark hair, dark eyes, looked like a miniature Sophia Loren.

She sucked her middle two fingers for her first four years.  She was sweet as sugar and stubborn as a mule.  One May afternoon, at about age 6, she refused to dance in her end of year ballet recital because she accidently stood in the wrong spot when the performance began.  Her teacher nicely corrected her, easing her into a different spot on the floor.  She fell apart, ran out of the room and refused to reenter. 

Now I am not a pushover. After great understanding and sensitivity, I ordered her, with my strongest tone and pointed finger, to get her tiny behind back on stage.

She looked at me with defiance.  “NO!!”

“I am your father, get back in there!” I demanded.

“NO!!  NO!!”

Her mother left that conflict to me.  I guess she figured if my tough self couldn’t persuade her to return, it was a worthless battle to fight. 

We got pizza instead.

And now, after probably 50 dance and piano recitals, nearly straight A’s in high school and college, and extracurriculars galore, child 2, my Stephanie, is graduating from Elon University.

It seems just like yesterday that I dropped her off as a freshman and Julie had to nearly use a crowbar to pry us apart on the sidewalk of Williamson Street near her first dorm.  I cried to Mebane and then bucked up for the duration of her college years.

I’m so proud of her.

She is smart as a whip, cares about social justice, has interned at a program for folks who are struggling with physical or sexual abuse, has wonderful friends and, like her mother, can organize a clowder of cats.

I think she’s going to spend next year in New Orleans doing service work through the Presbyterian Church.  What a cool kid she is!

Wedding Bells Ringing

Michelle did say to the person who inquired about what caught my eye that she thought that when we were together we sure did laugh a lot.  Laughter is underrated.  Enjoying who you’re with is underrated.  Love… well, that’s maybe underrated too. 

In less than two weeks, I will be married!  I can’t wait to get gold around Mr. Ring Finger.  Been a long time.  It actually might take some getting used to.

This wedding is no surprise.  Last week was the fourth anniversary of our engagement.  We don’t like to rush things around here!  All the kids are in college or beyond, both of our houses have sold, and we are ready to be together full time.

It is strange to marry at age 56.  There aren’t wedding jitters; no baby’s breath in braidesmaids’ hair; no drunken bachelor party for me; no parents to pay for the festivities.  Its actually simpler.  Find a woman you love, propose, when the right time comes… get hitched.

Someone recently asked Michelle what Julie had that caught my eye.  We laughed at her response, which was essentially: I don’t know anything about old people falling in love, you’re gonna need to ask him. 

It’s not easy to sell a house you’ve lived in for thirty years.  It isn’t easy to combine your household belongings and toss out the rusty meat fork you’ve been accustomed to because your soon-to-be spouse thinks it might give her lock jaw.  It’s not easy to merge Christmas traditions and pare back your ornaments or learn to share your kitchen again.  One day recently Julie was giving me input on how to make mashed potatoes.  I was a bit annoyed – as if I didn’t know.  She said, “Well, I’ve been queen of my kitchen for the past ten years.”  I responded, “And I’ve been king of mine!”

When it comes down to it, the meat fork doesn’t matter.  I’m finding that hers is just as good and doesn’t leave flecks of Teflon in the ground turkey.  She actually does make better mashed potatoes than I but my Christmas tree light stringing strategies far exceed hers.

What really matters is – do we love and enjoy each other?  And the answer to that is yes.

We have a lot of kids… but they are growing up and living their own lives.  Who will we be left with?  Each other. 

When you find the right one, whether you’re 22 or 56, being together is well worth the adjustments that have to be made.  When your heart speaks, it is easy to listen.

Chainsaw Massacre

There’s something about a chain saw.

Julie has an electric one.  I also have one but never put the chain on the saw.  It just seemed like so much work.  And I didn’t really have use for it at my old house.

But now…

There is some sort of medium sized tree/bush in our new back yard.  One limb was dead as a doornail.  It was about three times the width of my arm (I have fairly small arms).  It’s been bothering me since we bought the house in April.  So last weekend, I decided it was time.  Time to amputate the limb.

I removed Julie’s chainsaw from the cardboard box.  I plugged it in. 

I like my fingers and have great respect for things that might remove them.  So I was cautious.  I’m not a reckless guy.  I don’t shoot stuff.  I don’t punch stuff.  I don’t chase snakes – if I see one, I run.  But dang, when I saw the teeth of this electric beast, when I began to chop, it was invigorating!

Julie suggested I wait to tackle the limb at a time when she was home to help.  Ppppfh.  What could she do to help?, I thought.

It wasn’t really planned.  I was just working in the yard and the tree yelled out at me, “REMOVE THE BRANCH.  DO IT NOW.”  I couldn’t not respond.

Julie was at the grocery store when I started.  She returned before I finished.  She came outside.

“Honey, I can help.  I don’t want it to fall on the house.”

It WON’T fall on the house!  Ridiculous assumption.

“I’ll be right back.  Let me unload the cold items.”

Nice thought.  What was I going to do?  Just stand there and wait for her to return at some undetermined time?  Ppppfh… no.  I was so close to completion. 

My training in physics suggested the branch would fall away from the house.  My intent – the slant at which I was sawing – clearly would lead to a safe landing. 

As it fell over the porch, bending the handle of our built in gas grill, I was stunned. 

Well that didn’t go as planned.

Julie came running.

“You just couldn’t wait could you?”

“It didn’t hit the house!” I responded, as if it had fallen exactly where I had intended.

VICTORY! – well, sort of.

I don’t know what it is about a guy and his chain saw.  It’s an incredible feeling to cut, to tame the wild.  A rush of sorts.  And really, who has time to wait for the groceries to be unloaded?  It’s just not reasonable. 

Tough Day with the TSA

It was a tough day at the Tampa airport.  I flew in last week on a Monday, and all went well.  Fortunately I was booked on Delta – American and Southwest seemed to be struggling at the time.  Security is where I was snagged on the flight home on Wednesday. 

First I got the leg pat down.  Not intrusive – in fact my muscles were tight from 48 hours of sitting in a conference room discussing how to best raise money for the Y.  I was sort of hopeful he’d press a little harder on my hamstrings – but there was a line behind me so I didn’t ask for more.

But then, my bag.  The woman studying the x-ray stopped when my Samsonite conveyed through.  She shipped it to the exit ramp and another TSA agent took it back to the entrance for a rescan.  Again, a pause. 

Of course, I pondered – was my bag unattended?  Could someone working at the hotel have stashed cocaine in the sock pocket?  If contraband was found, would I talk or immediately contact an attorney?  I hate jail.  Well, I only went once when I was a Royal Ambassador at the Baptist Church in the 4th grade.  I think the field trip was a deterrent tactic.  As I walked in an inmate threw a half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich at me while heckling about my uniform.  Apparently he didn’t like the yellow neck scarf required by the church. 

The strategy worked.  I didn’t not want to go back.

The airport staffer zeroed in on a portion of my doc bag.  She pointed to two items.  I was informed the search was on.

Although it wasn’t a big deal, I was a bit uncomfortable with her digging around the boxer briefs I’d worn on the treadmill the day before and the t-shirt with the armpit stains.  I’m sure they will wash out – but what if she thought they were permanent?  Embarrassing.

  What could they be looking for, I wondered. 

I did carry a pair of scissors when I travel.  At my age, ear and nose hairs can sprout out overnight like a fast forward video of a Chia Pet.  I swear I try to keep close track.  I also swear facial hair can grow six inches overnight.  There is no possible way they can hide under a magnified mirror tonight and simply appear the next morning without some miraculous intervention – perhaps an ear hair fairy or Miracle Grow for follicles.

My grandad had dark hair all over the outside (and inside) of his ears.  I wondered why he didn’t pluck.  Sadly, as your unwanted hair increases, your vision decreases.  Eventually I’m guessing, you just don’t give a damn.

She dug through – eyeballing my Ambien – and found nothing.  The scissors were black and matched my  bag.  I strategically placed them under my deodorant and hair gel.  Although, this is conjecture, I think maybe it was my 1992 Gillette Zero razor that caught their eye.  Little do they know, it couldn’t cut butter.

I’m grateful we have folks who keep us safe on airplanes – I’m sure it’s a difficult job.  I thanked the agent for her work.  How nice it would be to live in a world that didn’t require airport security. 

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