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.

In Sunday School last week, a friend shared a story.  She is White.  Her son has a very close friend who is Black.  One day, the friend’s mother asked if she had talked with her son about how to respond if he was stopped by a police officer.  My friend said, “No.  I’ve never thought about that.”  The woman said, “You should do that.  Now!”

My friend had never thought about talking with her White son about how to act if he was stopped by a police officer because she didn’t have to.  It’s simply not an issue for her son.  It’s not an issue for me.

I don’t fully understand what my Black friends and colleagues face on a daily basis.  It wasn’t until five years ago that I really began to understand that my life, simply because of the color of my skin, is easier.  At work, staff were encouraged to attend Racial Equity Institute.  I was eager to learn. To say the lessons were eye opening would be an understatement.  For hundreds of years there have been benefits to being white.  We set up the club.  We made the rules, and the rules are in our favor.  When Social Security was passed in 1935, guess who was ineligible for benefits?  Agricultural workers and domestic employees.  Who held most of these jobs?  Black people.

These policies (and individual bigotry) have led us to today.  If you start a Monopoly game two hours after everyone else, the rules may be the same, but the other players have already amassed the wealth.  It is virtually impossible to catch up.

I was out of town last weekend, but my three daughters joined their aunt and uncle at protests in downtown Raleigh.   They are deeply distraught by the murder of George Floyd – who could watch the video and not be?  I share their disgust, but for years have not done all that I should to push for change.

What can I do?  I don’t really know.  Racial Equity Institute was a start.  Maybe reading.  Understanding.  Protesting.  Supporting changes at my place of employment and at my kids’ schools.  Oh, and perhaps most importantly, I can vote individuals into office who will influence change.

This can’t happen again.

 

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

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.

 

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.

Second Chance

This was the tenth Thanksgiving without Lisa.  I realized it on Wednesday as the girls and I drove to my parents’ house in Fayetteville.

That first year was unbearable.  I told my dad we could not eat at the dining room table.  I could not fathom sitting there without her by my side.  When we arrived, he had indeed set that table.  I refused to sit so the entire family picked up plates and resettled in the kitchen – some at the table, some at the bar.

Even butterbeans reminded me of her.

I don’t like to revisit the pain.  It’s a dark place for me.

What I’m most thankful for this year is second chances.  I’m thankful that I was able to move again after years of paralysis.

Not everyone gets that chance.  Some don’t have the good fortune of accepting the loss and having the strength to find their new selves.  Some can’t get over the hurt, the betrayal the world cast on them.  Some aren’t able to find what I have – genuine happiness in a new partner.

My girls too have found happy again.  They are thriving, each in their own way.  Perhaps the greatest gift I can give them is to be solid myself.  I hope that my example of pulling out of the hole, of giving new life a chance, will enable them, regardless of what they face in their futures, the ability to dig out themselves.

I don’t take my second chance for granted.  I thank God for the people who have been put in my life – the ones who tossed me ropes and ladders and flotation devices not so long ago.  I thank God for bringing Julie into my life at the exact right time – at a time when she and I were both ready to take a leap from tough to happiness.

It’s not easy.  Sometimes grief is more comfortable.  It can be very secure – you know your role.  You don’t have to move.  Sitting is much easier than running.

But had Julie and I not trusted again, had we not been willing to leap, I can’t imagine what life might be.

I hate I went through loss.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I am thankful I jumped.  It was the second hardest – and yet, the most exhilarating of my life.

 

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