Oh To Sleep…

I’ve not slept well the past decade.  I don’t know why.  I’ve tried everything imaginable to help.

I turn the TV off early.  I read.  I don’t drink caffeine after 2 PM.  I limit alcohol.  I take Melatonin.  I’ve tried Chamomile Tea.

Julie heard from a friend that hypnosis helped her battle insomnia.

Why not try?  I thought.   I got nothing to lose.  Well, except for $75 which is what the recording cost me.

The hypnotist told me it could take 21 days to feel the effect, I’m on day six.  The recording is a full 25 minutes.  I listen.  When she is finished, I take my Ambien and Melatonin cocktail and eventually conk out.

The first night of “hypnosis” was odd.  I did actually feel a bit like I was in a trance.  My arms and legs were heavy – my body felt asleep.  But my mind knew exactly what was going on.

My hypnotist actually snapped her fingers and told me every time she snapped and said the word sleep that I would fall more deeply into her trance.

I did not listen to the recording prior to my first try so I was a bit anxious.  As I tried to relax, I considered what she might make me do if I fully went under.

What if she instructs me to disrobe and run down the street in flip flops?  What would my neighbors think?  I wondered.

Why would she do that?  I argued with my awake mind.

People have done crazier things.  I warned myself.

According to this woman, who puts me to bed each night, sleeping is MY RIGHT!  She told me when I was a baby I slept in light and dark, in quiet or in noise.  I guess she’s right, but you’d have to ask my mom to be sure.

She has me walking down staircases, staring up at my own eyebrows, and intentionally relaxing my forehead muscles.  I didn’t even know I had those.

As soon as she tells me to relax, invariably something on my being starts to itch.  Not like a tiny itch, like a baboon at the zoo itch.  And yet, I’m afraid she’s gonna be mad at me if I scratch.  So I lay there – arms and legs heavy as tree trunks, armpit itching like crazy and my mind trying to figure out if I need to relax my knee caps or dig into my underarm.

The other night Julie and I were staying at a friend’s mountain house.  She agreed to listen to the recording with me.  In approximately 15 seconds she was out cold.  That is exasperating.  At one point I talked to her.  She did not respond.  The next morning she said she could hear me but that her psyche told her it was inappropriate to talk.  Her psyche was probably right.  Besides, she was long gone by then.

I am hopeful this will eventually work for me.  Julie tells me I just need to let the force take over.  I will try.  But I’m not going to like it.

COVID Lessons

I have discovered a couple things during COVID.  First, I believe my head is crooked.  I never knew that before.

Early on in this crisis, I ordered a stack of cloth facemasks with elastic that goes over each ear.  I put the device on my head, working diligently to protect my aging self from this deadly disease.  As I walked through the Food Lion, my left ear began to ache on the produce aisle, which is at the very front of the store.  I turned my mask around, thinking that perhaps one side had a shorter piece of elastic.  By bacon and bologna, I had to stop to take a mask break.  The pain was excruciating.  I rested my cartilage and breathed away from the meat.  By the empty toilet paper section, I gave up.  The mask was off.

I assumed it was a faulty item.  When I got home, I tried another.  Again, the backside of my left ear ached like heck.  After multiple masks and multiple tries, there was no other explanation.  I believe my left ear is absolutely positioned further back on my head than the right thus pulling more aggressively and causing pain.  I even tried to measure.  I picked a spot in the middle of my nose and with a tape measure tried to determine the distance between my nostril connector to the front of each ear.  And then, I decided, that perhaps my nose slanted to the left.  I think I need plastic surgery.  Nothing is even.

I prefer the soft masks to the more molded ones.  Those make me look like a resident of Whoville.

I now wear a bandana.

The second thing I’ve learned is that some people are NOT good at social distancing.  My mother and fiancé included.  83-year-old Jean is apparently walking laps at the church instead of her typical haunt, Cross Creek Mall.  Rumor has it, she has been seen hugging men in the lobby – even on weekdays.   Julie, the woman I love, also hugged a friend in downtown Charlotte Saturday and stood in the middle of a very large group of people to hear/see the guest speaker at a good sized event.  I was interested too but could hear just fine from the back – she kept edging up.

“You’re too close to people!” I implored.

“I can’t see,” she explained.

“We are in a pandemic!  Seeing is less important than usual!”

Additionally, the top of her facemask is typically below her bottom lip.  She might as well put on a necklace.  It would do as much good and might likely compliment her outfit more.

What am I going to do with these people in my life?

I am ready to go back – back to normal.  School.  Work.  Bars.  Restaurants. The ability to see my girlfriend’s entire face.  A visit with my parents.  A sassy teenager with too many social plans.  The SAT.  Vacation.  Security at the airport.  Plenty of toilet paper and chicken.  Hot yoga with people sweating all in my space.  Church.  The dentist.  Running late for work and 5:00 traffic.  ALL of these things I miss!  And I miss many of you too.

A Letter to Myself

DJ and I were talking recently about the insanity that we’ve seen over the past 11 years.  She asked, “If someone had told you what would happen over the past decade, would you have believed it?”

It made me wonder.  What if 54-year-old Danny Tanner could write a letter to 44-year-old Danny Tanner?  What would I say to that naive guy?

May 13, 2020

Dear Danny,

I am you exactly eleven years from now.  It’s May, 2009, where you are, and you’re about to experience one of the best summers of your life!  You have four trips planned:  Yellowstone National Park, the beach, the lake, and your annual trip to West Virginia.  Enjoy every second because when you return, the wheels are gonna come off your bus.

You are about to face the saddest, most difficult time of your life.  Lisa, your incredible wife, will die before this time next year.  The devastation of this loss with change you, your children, and your entire family forever.

You will be pushed beyond your comfort zone in ways you never imagined.  You will tackle things that you thought you’d never have to or never be capable of.  With the support of family and friends, you will move forward.

You will:

  • Raise three incredible girls who will be independent and strong
  • Perform for eight years to sold out crowds at the Duke Energy Center and the Durham Performing Arts Center in the play A Christmas Carol
  • Start a blog (you’ll find out what that is in a year or two) and write a book (I know that’s hard to believe)
  • Pack up and drop off your two oldest kids at college and cry like a baby on your ride home
  • Watch your girls grow in ways you could never imagine

Oh, and in seven years, you will fall in love again, deeply, with a woman who compliments you in amazing ways.  She will love you to death and will give you renewed hope for the future.  To make it a bit more complicated, she lives in Charlotte, NC.  You’re going to spend a lot of time on interstate 85.

Some people you love dearly will struggle with you moving forward.  That will be hard.  Some of the relationships you rely on most deeply now will fade, but new ones will blossom.

A pandemic will break out throughout the world and DJ and Stephanie will move back home – just when you’ve adjusted to being at home with one kid.  You won’t be allowed to leave your house for months and when you do, you will wear a surgical mask even to go buy beer!

You’re gonna come out OK, Danny, a bit bruised and battered, but better in many ways.  I want you to know that because there will be times you won’t think you will.

And by the way, Donald Trump is the President…

My best,

Danny

Proverbs 15:30

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.  Proverbs 15:30

Julie works for an organization in Charlotte, Share Charlotte, that brings the nonprofit community together with individuals and corporations.  If you want to make a donation, go to their website and you will find the nonprofit that strikes your fancy.  If you want to volunteer with teenaged boys who occasionally drive their parents crazy, just click those filters and opportunities abound.

As part of Do Good Week, their push for volunteerism, each staff member picked a charity to volunteer for.  As is typically the case, Julie, the Pied Piper, enlisted the whole fam to help.  She chose to feed 100 homeless folks at a local shelter.

We shopped for food, set up an assembly line, and bagged sandwiches, fruit, chips and homemade, well slice-and-bake, cookies to go.  Then four of us delivered the goods.

Our Zoom Sunday School lesson today was based on Proverbs 15:30.  But what in the heck can you do to lift others’ spirits when you can hardly leave your house?

As I thought about it – maybe a lot.

Perhaps you pay your housekeeper even if she isn’t coming to clean.  Or maybe you call that single friend you know is at home alone.  Notes, texts.  Checking on great aunt Lou-Lou.  Even getting takeout from a restaurant that is no doubt struggling to survive this shut down would be helpful.  I’d actually appreciate it, if you’re able, to keep paying your monthly dues to the Y!  Consider it a donation.

There are boundless ways to give, even from your favorite armchair.  There are infinite ways to spread good news to those in need.

In conjunction with several other nonprofits in the area, our Y in southeast Raleigh, a marginalized community, opened a one day food pantry.  Hundreds and hundreds of cars lined up filled with individuals and families who need help.  People are hurting.  People are hungry, like actually hungry.  I can’t even imagine being worried about providing food to my family.  These people live in our communities.  They are our neighbors.

Now is NOT the time to pull back – to be cautious with your time, effort and money.  Now IS the time to step it up.

As I slapped ham and cheese on endless pieces of white bread, Julie looked at me and said, “Now is the time for us to take our eyes off ourselves.”  Sometimes that’s hard to do when your own salary has been cut and your kids are eating you out of house and home.  And yet, isn’t that exactly what we should be doing in this increasingly fragile time?

Pandemic sequestration brings about funny things.  These are my top ten thus far:

10)  At day 14, two weeks after Julie’s son returned from Spain, and after not leaving the house for 42 meals, Julie and her daughter were in the kitchen:

Lizzie:  “If I even detect a meatball being made in this kitchen, I’m outta here.  I need fried food.  Fast.”

9)  On day 8 after going to the drive through laundry mat:

Julie:  “Will, what took you so long?”

Will:  “I took the long way – it burned an extra 15 minutes of this day.”

8)  I learned a new dance:

It’s called Savage… cause I am.

7)  I’ve given up on my middle child’s education.  This is a quote I heard this week with imposed homeschooling:

DJ:  “Stephanie, this is the worst economy since the 1984.”

Stephanie:  “AKA The Great Depression.”

Oh lord.  Didn’t I pay for an American History course?

6)  I’ve given up on my youngest child’s education.  This is another quote I heard this week with more imposed homeschooling:

Michelle:  “Did you know that Abraham Lincoln died in a pandemic?”

Me:  “I don’t know how a lot of presidents died, but I am certain Abraham Lincoln did not die in a pandemic.”

She did correct herself and told me that it was actually President Polk.  She told me he died of diarrhea.  Which I looked up to be sure, and it is true.

5)  Julie texted her hairdresser and sent a photo of an online hair highlight kit.

Julie:  Could I use this?

Hairdresser:  Hi love, no don’t.  You could make a big mess with this.  Wait.

4)  Lunch on day 20…

Julie:  “Stephanie, are you having a good day.”

Stephanie:  Just nods her head – NO – and keeps eating her sandwich.

3)  Zoom meeting in the master bedroom with me; zoom meeting in the den with Julie; zoom meeting in the dining room with DJ; Michelle taking her high school dance class on zoom upstairs in her bedroom – the chandelier bouncing up and down.

2)  Last Sunday morning we called my mom.  She didn’t answer.  We then called my dad.  He picked up.

Me:  “Where is mom.”

Dad:  “She’s right here.”

Me:  “Why didn’t she pick up?”

Dad:  “She didn’t have her makeup on.”

We then called Julie’s mom.  She didn’t answer.  We then called Julie’s dad.  He picked up.

Julie:  “Where is mom.”

Her dad:  “She’s right here.”

Julie:  “Why didn’t she pick up?”

Her dad:  “She hasn’t brushed her hair, and she was afraid Danny would be there with you.”

1)  Bocce ball tourney and picnic – each family member had to bring something to the table with food already in the house:

Julie:  Tuna salad

Stephanie:  Leftover pasta from Wednesday and a frozen pasta dish she brought back from her college dorm

Michelle:   Homemade lemon bars

DJ:  A charcuterie board – with all kinds of great stuff

Danny:  Julia Child’s homemade white bread with butter (only 8 hours to make)

Mmmmmmm –

Stephanie may not know when The Great Depression occurred, but she’s dang good at Bocce!  She won the tourney!

 

 

Where is God?

This won’t be the first time I’ve wondered why God doesn’t step in to fix the situation at hand.  I’ve wondered when I’ve seen mass shootings that seem so needless.  I’ve wondered with terrorist activities.  I’ve wondered when those among us die at an early age or when I’ve seen, in my work at the Y, a child who has been physically or emotionally abused.  Does He not see the suffering?  How can He not act, not do something to get His world back in order?

If I were God, certainly I would immediately knock Corona to its knees.  Or, perhaps step in early on and not allow it to happen in the first place.  Where the heck is He?

As I sit in my five bedroom, 3800 square foot house, my most recent vacation still dancing in my mind; my children in private schools; my refrigerator so full I can hardly get the door closed; my twenty rolls of toilet paper scattered throughout my many bathrooms; my healthy children sleeping late with the ability to begin their online classes this week; my beautiful fiancé safe and sound at her home in Charlotte; I scoff at myself for even questioning why I’ve been thrown a curve ball this week.  Seriously, I am complaining about anything?  It’s ridiculous.

I don’t believe that God punishes us, but if He was a God who did that, He would certainly have reason.  Look what we’ve done to our earth?  This quarantine has given God’s creation a chance to rebound from the incessant wear and tear we put upon it.  He might want me to stop dreaming about more and to be satisfied and thankful for all that He has already given me.  Who knows?  He might take all of this, and make something better than we could ever imagine.

But I don’t think that God is intentionally trying to teach us lessons by creating hard times.  No, I think that the world just happens, and God picks up the pieces, supports us, often through our friends and neighbors, and puts us back together.

I’ve seen this story before.  I’ve experienced really hard times and come out stronger for it.  With time and patience, if you watch closely, you might see His hand at work again.

 

Moo

I’m sure Southwest Airlines is a great airline.  In fact, when I got stuck in Chicago a few weeks ago, they got my behind back to warmer weather.  Chicago is colder than a seal’s butt-cheek with wind that can freeze the wax in your ears.  The day I was flying out from a conference, the low was slated to get to -2.  That is NOT a typo.  -2.  If you look at a number line, that would be two dots to the left of zero.

Delta must be a warm weather airline, ‘cause they weren’t moving.  My original flight was delayed, multiple times.  I panicked.  I was afraid I might die if I didn’t get out of that climate.  I had to thaw the hair on my chest with a blow dryer every time I got back into my hotel room after walking several blocks from the conference location.

When I got to the airport that Thursday afternoon I remembered why I never fly on the discounted carrier:  the pre-flight corrals.  I was number 47 in the B group.

On Southwest, there are no seat assignments.  When you get to the gate, you get in line.  It is first come, first serve.  I was the 147th person to get on the plane.  It was clear I was going to be in a middle seat.  I could not pay for an upgrade.  It was what it was.

I mooed and got in line.

As I entered the plane, I saw an empty seat on the front row.  I didn’t look at the passengers flanking seat 1B.  I just went for it.  I figured extra leg room and the assurance no one could recline in my lap might make up for the shoulder squeeze.

As I sat, I realized the guy at the window was a big man.  His arm dwarfed mine.  He was leaning on the window working to give me my rightful real estate.  But he couldn’t.  His barrel chest and triceps spilled over like the top of a mushroom from its stem.

Its two hours I thought to myself, and I’ll soon be warm.

The plane backed out of its parking space, waiting for de-icing.  My buddy immediately fell asleep.

He was holding his right wrist with his left hand.  As he dozed, his left hand would relax and fall in my lap.  He would jerk and reassume his original position.  And then, he would repeat this action.  Hand on wrist, doze, flop on me, jerk.  I began counting.  He finally repositioned after 27 cycles.

At one point in the flight, my neighbor tossed up both of his hands and legs and began leaning in my direction.  The flight attendant, the woman beside me and I jerked with surprise.  I thought he was having a seizure.  I shook his shoulder, “Are you alright?  Are you alright?” I aggressively asked.

He awoke.  “Bad dream.  I thought I was falling.”

His head immediately fell back on the window.  He went right back to sleep.

This was not Southwest Airlines fault.  He was just a sleeper which in and of itself makes me mad because I long to snooze on demand.

As late as I booked my flight, I guess it is likely I would have ended up in the middle even with an assigned seat.  But I do much, much prefer to have some control of my fate.  Unassigned is not for me.

 

The Isle of Man

It is so embarrassing that EVERY attorney in town knows that I got a speeding ticket last week.  I got the ticket and within two days, I received FOURTEEN letters from attorneys offering to help me.  I think I am going to call one of them because it really is not fair that I received this TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLAR fine and blot on my reputation.  I didn’t even mean to speed that day!

I was just minding my own business, listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany, my book on Audible which is like 62 hours long.  I wasn’t even in a hurry, which is very unusual.

Imagine my surprise when this overeager officer, obviously trying to make his end of month quota, flew up behind me.  I was startled!  I looked for an accident around me and pulled over quickly to get out of his way.  And then… he did NOT go around me to help someone in distress, but instead eased in behind me.

I was floored.  Was I in a school zone?  Actually, I may have been.  But it was only 2:13 PM so I knew school wasn’t out yet.

I immediately pulled my YMCA name-tag out of my pocket and laid it on the console, just so he would know I am a nice person (in general, Y people are nice).  I rolled down my window and before I could inquire about why he pulled me over, he said, “Is there a reason that you were going 57 in a 45?”  I wanted to say, “57 is my favorite number.”  Instead, I said, “No.  I didn’t realize I was going 57 in a 45.”  And then I wanted to say, “Why don’t you go catch a criminal or help an old lady cross the street and not bother me?  I am a good person who just doesn’t always pay attention to speed limit signs.”  But I refrained again.  He took my license and walked away.

I have been pulled six other times and only received two tickets, so I was hopeful he would just give me a warning.  On time I really do think my Y shirt got me off because we talked about the officer’s child being in Y after-school.  Another time Lisa was nursing which was very distracting to the officer.  He was so uncomfortable with the whole situation, he just let me go.  When I got pulled speeding more recently in a school zone, for some reason the guy gave me a pass.  I think it is because Michelle was in the car, and I teared up.   Mercy, I just want mercy!  What was this guy’s problem?

Thanks to him, I am going to have to pay a ton of money, and I just drove to the mountains of North Carolina never exceeding five miles over the speed limit.  It took forever, and I felt like such a dweeb.  EVERYONE was passing me.

I don’t even like speed limits.  They are stupid.

I am moving to the Isle of Man off the coast of the United Kingdom.  It is the ONLY country with absolutely no speed limit.  I looked it up on Google.  And it seems like a lovely place.

adjust when necessary

My niece is getting married in March, and I get to be co-marrier with my dad.  He’s an ordained minister, spent several years in seminary to achieve that status.  I went online, filled out a form, and got a certificate saying I’m ordained!  I don’t know why he spent all that time and money.  I also married my friends Stan and Charlotte.  To be honest, I’m not sure they are really married.  Like who online has the authority to ordain me?  Probably some dude sitting in his boxers on his couch who has enough smarts to build a self-ordain web site for gullible people like Charlotte, Stan and me.

At any rate, I’m trying to figure out what to say to my niece and soon to be nephew at the alter.  I think most of my advice should occur BEFORE they get to the church.

The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of married people don’t really like each other.  What the heck?  Most folks spend a great deal of time with their spouse.  You should like him!  I’m guessing you did at one point.  And if you don’t, you should do something about it.

I am a huge believer in counseling.  When things get tough, work on it.  Communicate.  Get some help.

I guess I’ll tell my niece to enjoy every minute with her guy, and when things get tough, and they will, do something about it.

Kobe Bryant died his week.  It could have been you or me.  Life is too short to spend time mad.  Life is too short to spend time with someone you don’t like.  Choose well, adjust as necessary.

The Race Grows Sweeter in the Final Lap

There is a show on Amazon Prime called Modern Love.  It tells all sorts of stories about love – dating, marriage, adoption, young love and the episode we watched last night was about love between two older adults.

It starts with a road race.  A seventy year old woman has her eye on this distinguished, very slow running, soft-spoken gentleman.  She finishes the race before him but waits at the finish line to engage this man she’s had her eye on for some time.

At their first dinner together, Margo tells Ken, I have respect for your 35 year marriage and your sweet wife Betty, but I think you might have room in your heart for me.

He did.

It’s funny to think about folks in their 70’s having crushes and starting over.  But not being as far from that decade as I’d like, it is less surprising than it might have been ten years.  Julie and I are Margo and Ken, minus a few years.

The connection between them is sweet… and funny… and electric.  They sit in bed snuggled tightly together at night.  They read together, have afternoon drinks in their garden, run, go to parties – eyeing across the room – clearly more interested in each other than anyone else.

It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize there are two story lines in this show.  One is the building of their relationship.  The other is Margo dealing with the loss of her new lover.  It isn’t clear how much time they had together, but this touching love story wasn’t a long one.  It was, however, maybe the most powerful of the series.

As Julie and I sat in the den watching our TV, the tears just flowed.  As Margo shared at Ken’s funeral:

Old love is different – it’s more realistic. We had already been through many ups and  downs in life.  We had learned to compromise, survived loss and mistakes.  Yes, old love is different, and yet it is also the same.  Ken and I did everything that young people do – fell in love, traveled, planted a garden, remodeled a house.  He called me sweetheart and on nights when were out a party, we came home after and sat on the rim of the bathtub, flossing our teeth, and gossiping about the evening.  Every time we passed each other in the house, Ken made it a point to stop and kiss me or squeeze my shoulder or grab my hand (maybe because he was afraid he might lose one he loved again; I get that).  He and I often told each other we are so lucky. 

Young love, even for old people, can be surprisingly bountiful.

Margo’s words rang true for us.  We have had our own ups and downs.  We have loved before.  We have had hope.  We have lost.  We have grown.  Our life maturity has led us to an honest, real, and different sort of connection.

Many couples meet later in life.  I think many also reinvent their relationship as time goes by.  My hope is that all have the opportunity to experience mature, honest love.  It takes a lot to get there:  pain, suffering, loss, and a few hard knocks.  But if you’re open and willing, if you pour in, you might receive in beautiful ways.

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