TikTok Nuggets

I hate to admit this, because I long to be cool, but perhaps… I’m not.  And frankly, I thought, maybe, if parent-cool was on a one-to-ten number line, perhaps I was a seven.  I’m a little too Type A to ever be an eight, but still, compared to other middle agers I know, I felt like my cool factor was above average. 

There have been several moments over the years that have made me ponder my coolness.  A while back when I was dating, a “cool” guy at work told me I needed to stop dressing like a 50-year-old man if I ever wanted to find a woman.  But I was a 50-year-old man, and I scored a pretty fine lady even in dad jeans, a V-neck sweater, and a button down shirt.

But this month, Michelle turned 18.  Two weeks ago to celebrate, Julie and I set up our porch to host a couple of her friends.  When we asked about food, she requested a smorgasbord of chicken nuggets and French fries.  Yes.  Julie and I were each assigned three fast food restaurants.  We were instructed to purchase chicken nuggets, fries and dipping sauce. 

I was timid about requesting too many sauces.  Julie, not so much.  Chic Fil A gave her 30, six of each kind.  She’s a salesperson, not afraid to ask for what she wants. 

We brought them home, masked ourselves and dumped them all on a tray. 

I soon discovered that the food choice had nothing to do with chicken or potatoes.  Apparently, this meal is a TikTok trend. 

Some of you are wondering, what is TikTok?  I’m learning it is a video sharing app.  You take 15 second videos and the world can see them. 

So before wolfing down the nuggets, and drenching them in Polynesian, everything stopped.  Videos were taken.  Videos were retaken.  And only then, did they partake.

I don’t understand the TikTok.  I like TV shows and movies.  And thus the divide:  18 vs. 55. 

All In For the Y!

I’ve been working at the YMCA in Raleigh, NC, for thirty 35 years.  My first job was driving a Y bus into marginalized communities, picking up kids and bringing them in for activities in the gym, swim lessons and a nightly devotion.  The program was called Y Boys, and we certainly had come characters including Budda and Meatball!  It’s been a long time, but I remember my kids well.

This past year I’ve run across two of my former campers.

Sarah, a teacher, has raised three kids of her own.  She told me she didn’t know she was poor until after she left her neighborhood.  Her generation was the first to attend college.  Her brother is an engineer, now living in Texas.  Her sister has a degree and lives up north.  Two of her children are in college, one working on her master’s degree, and one is thriving in high school.

Sarah told me that the Y was her respite.  When the Y bus drove into her neighborhood on Thursday afternoons, you did not want to miss the bus, she said.  She even remembered the boots I wore on a regular basis and several of the devotions I shared!  Who knew they were listening?

I also ran across Albert.  He was working at a restaurant – he came over to me and gave me a huge hug.  We grabbed lunch the next week to catch up.  Every time the Y was open, Albert was there.

Albert wasn’t a lucky as Sarah.  He had been sexually abused by his uncle for years.  His mother suffered from mental illness with no treatment.  Like too many other kids in tough situations, Albert had no idea that what was going on in his house was abnormal.  He just assumed everyone’s experience was similar to his.

He’s in his thirty’s now, and he said to me:  “Coming to the Y was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It was the best time of my life.”

When he told me that, my first though was How sad.  I then thought that perhaps is our sole role for some kids, to provide light in a dark world.  I’m grateful our organization has been able to do that for so long.

Since the mid 80’s, we have expanded our service in marginalized communities to include academic assistance after-school for 1,800 children at 55 different program sites here in the Triangle area.  We run full day summer camp where children get breakfast and lunch, learn to swim and receive an hour of academic remediation each day.  They pay $10/week (if they can).

Today at noon, the YMCA of the Triangle Areas kicks off our 48 Hours of Giving.  If you are in a situation where you might be able to contribute and help me meet my goal of raising $5,000 by Friday at noon, I encourage you to click on the link below.  And if you need assistance from the Y, please let me know.  We are open for ALL, regardless of your ability to pay.

MY GIVING LINK

Oh, and Scotty McCreary, a former Y camper, is holding a concert Thursday at 4 on Facebook for the Y.  Join in if you can.

 

 

Sixty Years Strong

I can’t believe they have been married for sixty years.  I can’t imagine doing ANYTHING consistently for sixty years, except maybe eating.

That’s 21,900 nights together!  10, 950 Jeopardy shows they’ve watched through the years.

I wonder what makes them still like each other.  I asked my mom, what is the secret sauce?  She told me that she wants my dad to be as happy and full as he possibly can be, and he wants the same for her.  Maybe a lesson on selflessness, putting others’ needs before your own.

My dad’s advice?  Never go to bed angry.  I don’t think that’s a problem for them because they hardly ever argue.  Oh, they have differing opinions about things.  My dad makes a mess in the kitchen and cleans it all up when he’s done.  If my mom uses a spoon, she washes it before another utensil comes out of the drawer.  There is no mess in the kitchen – ever.  They had to replace their counter tops because she wiped the marble off.

I think, after sixty years, they’ve just come to accept each other’s flaws.  I probably have more than dad – that may not be so easy for my wife.

All of us likely develop our first impressions on what a marriage should be based on what we see at home.  What I saw as a kid was parents who showed affection for each other – yes, it was gross, but they kissed and hugged and flirted on a regular basis my whole life.  They worked as a team – cooking together, cleaning up together, teaching Sunday School together, hosting parties.  Mom and Dad LOVE to host a party!

They still scheme over what they get each other for Christmas, always trying to surprise the other with some little something special.

They laugh and laugh about the simplest things, like calling out my name as loudly as possible in the middle of K-Mart when I was a very embarrassable teenage boy.  They thought that was hilarious.  It actually wasn’t.

They studied the bible together, teaching Sunday School class at our church.  They read devotional books and prayed with us.  They showed me that a strong marriage is rooted in faith.

They have known each other since before high school.  In fact, my grandparents always told me they were in the same baby room at First Baptist Church in Florence, SC.  They were friends in high school, but never dated.  And then one Christmas, must have been about 1958, when dad was home from college, he randomly called mom to go out to catch up.  The rest is history.

I love their story.  I love them.  I am so thankful they are my parents and am so thankful that they showed me what a really, really good relationship looks like.

Vaccine, Please Lord, Vaccine

The other day, Julie was leaving Raleigh to head back to Charlotte for an in person meeting at work.  As we snacked for breakfast, she said, “What are you going to do today?”

I responded:  “Well, I’m gonna work a little and eat lunch…”, I paused a second, and finished my sentence, “and then, I’m gonna… eat dinner…”

She busted out laughing.  I was totally oblivious.  That was truly all I had planned for the day:  lunch, then dinner.  My life is centered around two mediocre meals that I prepare by myself, at home, in my recently worn out kitchen.

My stove must be exhausted.  My ice maker grunts at me.  I had to buy a new dishwasher.  Because, ALL I do is WORK and EAT.  My internet is even beat.  Today it sputtered and flickered off and on all day.

We are all just so tired.

My mother told me if we didn’t let her out of the house soon she was going to make a break for it.  I fear she will pick up a friend and go Thelma and Louise on us.

You can’t even go outside to walk.  It’s 97 degrees, but the weatherman reminds me daily it actually feels like 106.  RUB IT IN DUDE.  It’s like exercising in the Y sauna.  Unbearable.

I’ve become addicted to the news.  I want to know – and I don’t.  But I can’t turn it off.  I record it so if I miss it at 6:30, I can watch it at 7.  But I never miss it at 6:30 because I’m always home – thinking about what I might eat for dinner.

And to top it off, the political ads have started.  If I see the poor old lady about to get attacked because no one is answering 911, my brain will explode.

I can’t do this ‘til November 3.

Netflix, where oh where art thou new movies?  I don’t want to watch He’s Just Not That Into You.

I record CBS Sunday morning, arguably the best show on TV, and the dad-est show on TV.  In January I had 34 episodes stored.  I have three left.  And they are reruns of reruns.

My PJ pants have a hole in them.  I work at the Y and am running out of t-shirts.  That’s not right.

This whole thing’s not right.  We aren’t supposed to be in our houses this much.  We aren’t supposed to be with our family this much.  We shouldn’t be cooking all of our meals and exercising at home.  My biceps are growing as is my waistline.

Vaccine.  Come on.  Come on BABY.  Inject me!  Gooooooo Maderna!!

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.

The Summer of ’74

Julie always says my childhood sounds like Sandlot.  We weren’t playing baseball, but there are some similarities.  As I described our summer activities to the girls recently, I think they were surprised by the simplicity of our long summer days.

Boy Land and Girl Land were a favorite of our crew.  If we played Boy Land, the guys would chase the girls, catch them and take them to jail where they would have to do anything we instructed them to do.  Our general antics were jumping jacks, eating grass or stepping on a stack of sandspurs.  Much to my father’s dismay, our yard was full of them.  I preferred Girl Land for some odd reason.  Because there were fewer girls on our street than guys, and because we could run faster than they could, they typically couldn’t catch us until we willingly gave in.  Which we always did out of pity and a desire to see what sort of dares they would have us participate in.  It seems that ours were always better – they lacked the creativity that my brother and I brought to the table.

If it was horribly hot or rainy, we would head to the basement of our split level house and play Seven Minutes in Heaven.  One person would be It.  I always resented that the older kids chose It.  I dreamed of the day I’d hold that power.  It never came.  We moved before I aged up.

It would go to the closet and the remainder of the group would use a form of “one potato, two potato, three potato, four…” where we’d all put both fists up while standing in a circle while the group leader counted us out.  My favorite counting rhyme was:  Ink a bink a bottle of ink, cork fell out and you stink.  It was so much faster than One Potato.

The last one standing entered the dark space through the dark brown, louvered, bi-fold doors to meet It.  My favorite It was Tracy McDonnell, a skinny girl who lived on the cul-de-sac with her very strict military father.  Everyday at noon, regardless of what we were doing, she would have to immediately head home to feed her three dogs.  It was like Cinderella and the striking midnight clock.  Apparently Rounder couldn’t wait ‘til 12:08 for his dog chow.  His feeding time was noon.  She was always on restriction.  I don’t know what she did to deserve her ongoing punishments, but I do know we avoided playing at her house whenever possible for fear we’d do something that might get her in trouble.  Her dad was omnipresent.  He knew if one little dust speck was out of place.  She and her sisters always seemed happier when he was in Vietnam.

Tracy would kiss me in the closet – which was very exciting for a nine-year-old boy.  The other Its might shake my hand, pass gas for a good laugh, or smack me in the head if they couldn’t get their bodily functions to work on cue.

When I was It I always wanted to kiss Jennifer Fair, she was beautiful.  But she was also three years older and my brother’s love interest.  Had I kissed her she might have vomited, and my brother might have punished me in his own, cunning way.  My mother did not tolerate fights, not even verbal spars.  But he could get to me, and I knew it.  He was sort of like the mafia boss of Berkshire Road.

My kids are too old for those kinds of activities, but facing a summer where they may not have their typical camp experiences made me think about my dog days.  We had no camp.  The most exciting thing I ever did on summer vacation was get my tonsils outs.  But I wouldn’t change a thing about my experiences.  I can still taste Vienna Sausages and my mom’s cherry Kool-Aid (from a powder pouch) popsicles.

Dang, we had fun!

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?

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.

 

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