A Silver Lining

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I do miss my kids when they are away for extended periods.  The oldest two are at Camp Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina; DJ for the whole summer, Stephanie for a month.  But what a great opportunity for Michelle and me!

I don’t think I realize how critically important it is to have that one-on-one time with my kids.  When you are shoved in a car together, just the two of you, for hours on end, you sing, you laugh, you talk!

Four times in the last year DJ and I have taken college tours, just the two of us.  We found a school, which was our ultimate goal, but we also began to build our impending adult relationship.

We nearly got trapped in an elevator; one trip we hit Chic Fil A four times in one day, we discovered Aloft Hotels and a mutual love of sushi.

i enjoyed a week with Stephanie when Michelle was at camp.  We ate out every, single night.  We took three walks around the neighborhood, she even advised me on the redecoration of the guest bedroom.  She has a good eye.

And now, it’s me and the little one.

How valuable it is.

I bet there are others in my life I should spend a bit of one-on-one with –

Co-workers

Nieces and nephews

My brother

Uncle Jesse (remember him?)

Friends who mean so much

Sometimes I hesitate because of time.  But generally, it’s laziness on my part.  A lack of motivation to take the time to make that call.

It’s difficult to build and maintain a relationship when you don’t make them a priority.  Perhaps I’ll work on that.

 

Top Ten Things I Learned on Sp

Miami Family

Number 10:  Don’t make spring break plans with a 17-year-old.

So, DJ had spring break plans well in advance of spring break.  But then they feel apart, or they seemingly fell apart.  So she reluctantly agreed to go with her sisters and me to Miami.  And then the day AFTER I booked the plane tickets, three weeks before spring break, her plans resolitified.  Errr.  Naturally, she worked it out so she could do both as she is the master of not missing anything.  Especially things that are free for her.

Number 9:  There’s lots of fanny in the City of Miami.  (How do you try that little booger on at the store?  Do you just buy it and hope it fits?  Or do you actually put it on and return it to the rack if it isn’t flattering? By the way, it isn’t flattering.)

butt

Number 8:  All three of my daughters can change into a bikini without ever being naked.  It’s like Houdini.

Number 7:  Sometimes it’s the kids who tell the parent to turn off the TV.  We didn’t turn it on once on the trip, and we put our phones in the middle of the table when eating out; both suggestions from my children.

Number 6:  It is conceivable to go broke buying virgin daiquiris.

Number 5:  A nice Jacuzzi in a hotel room is a lot more fun with your wife than your kids.

Number 4:  Some people put their bathing suits through their paper shredder.  I’m not sure why.

shredded

Number 3:  When you have a family text message, watch out what you write, especially if Michelle is in your family.

Text from dad while riding in the front seat of a taxi to his daughters in the backseat:

This cab driver has the coolest name I’ve ever heard, Axel Bucheaux.

Loudly from Michelle:  “Who the heck is Ax-L Boo-shocks?”

Number 2:  Some Speedos should not be worn by some men.

Number 1:  Three days away with your kids is INCREDIBLE!

One More Thing I’m Bad At

I sort of thought I was beyond the point where I was going to find things I was bad at as a “mom.”  I mean, it is clear that fashion for teenage females is not a strength.  Navigating and understanding the girls’ friendships is also a struggle for me.  The list of things that my wife could do better with raising daughters would be about the same length as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Unfortunately, last week, we discovered another.

Two months ago I received an email informing me that I needed to send five photos to be included in the end of year slide show for the mother/daughter charity league that DJ has been a member of since she was in 7th grade.  Aunt Sallie has been the stand in mom for the past few years.

The deadline for submitting the photos was January 5.  So, on January 4th I began digging through Shutterfly and Facebook to find pics that I felt would be appropriate representations of DJ’s life and interests.

This was my thinking:

Pic #1:  Lisa and DJ, for it is a mother/daughter club and they did start it together.

Bailey Ham 3

Pic #2:  DJ and Aunt Sallie, for Sallie is her stand in mom for the National Charity League.

Bailey Ham 4

Pic #3:  DJ and me, for I have received the 29,652 emails about this club for the past five years and I deserve some credit.  I know this one is a bit unconventional, but I felt it captured our relationship fairly well.

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Pic #4:  DJ sailing at Camp Seafarer – sailing is cool; she loves camp; lots of girls in NCL go to camp.

Bailey sailing 2

Pic #5:  DJ, in full costume at our annual performance of A Christmas Carol – which has been a huge part of our lives for the past four years.

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While I was at it, I ordered some photos for my photo album.

When they arrived, I proudly displayed them on the coffee table.  Smart dad!  Ordered photos so all can remember their childhood!  What a Lisa thing to do.

I was quite dismayed when my daughters began informing me how much they hated some of the pictures I had ordered.

“Oooo.  That is a horrible photo of me.  You ARE NOT framing that one!”

“But I LOVE that picture.  You look so cute.”

DJ nearly had a stroke when she saw the photo from A Christmas Carol in her Chimney Sweep getup.

“Dad, where did this come from?  It’s terrible.”

“Well I like it.  In fact, it is one of the photos I sent in for the NCL slide show.  It is one of my favorites.”

STOP THE BUS.

I’m sure parents of teenaged girls can imagine the next ten minutes in our house.  I was berated.  The pic was forwarded to friends who confirmed that I was an idiot and inept at choosing senior slide show pictures.  I was informed that DJ was taking over the next deadline, the yearbook ad, which also called for photograph selection and the crafting of a public message.

She then discovered that I had sent the sailing pic which was apparently a selfie.  I had no idea that you were not to send selfies in for senior slide shows.  I looked back at the original email, and that was not outlined as a guideline for photo selection.

She went as far as to text the Christmas Carol picture to one of her stand in moms with this message:

Dad sent this picture in for a senior slide show.  This is why I need a mother!

Had there been a fifty year old woman at the house that night, I believe she would have made me get married on the spot simply to insure there would be someone else to help guide me through the next four months.

I will say that one of her sweet friends told her that although she totally agreed with DJ about the picture, she could sort of see why a father might think it was a sweet picture of his daughter.

Go Kimmy!

I also informed DJ that the difference between her mother and me was that I would send in new slides and ask to delete the ones she did not like.  Had Lisa incorrectly chosen, she would have told DJ to suck it up and go to her room.

I wish I had more chutzpah.

PS: DJ did give me permission to put these photos on my blog because “only old people read it.”

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

I love some Michael Coors

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It’s that time of year again.  Time to find the costume for the Winter Formal.  It’s in two weeks.  Both DJ and Stephanie have dates, which is no easy feat at an all girls’ school.  Appropriate clothing may be a more difficult challenge this year.

I took Stephanie to six dress stores last weekend.  If it had arm and neck holes, we tried it on.  Salesclerks give me the oddest stares.  I know they wonder why this dude is the sole adult with teenaged girls in their boutique.  I want to wear a sign across my chest:  Wife died, shut your pie hole.  Instead I try to act like I know what I’m doing, like Clinton from What Not To Wear:

“Texture…nice.”

“Shuuuut-Up!”

“Fit IS everything.”

“A line, much better than the B line.”

After a frustrating Saturday, I sent DJ on the prowl.  Within 30 minutes of their departure, I got a text with a pic of THE dress.  I thought Stephanie had it on backwards because the zipper was in the front.  Why would you need a zipper in the front?  It’s not a jacket.  You ain’t gonna need to get it off in a hurry!

Whatever…

This weekend we tackled shoes.  I took her to a store I thought was called DWI – but it’s actually DSW.  There were so many shoes there it upset my stomach.  I was overwhelmed.  I felt dizzy.  I didn’t know where to start.

I felt like a bird; I headed for sparkly shoes.  That’s what she used to like.

“Dad.  I haven’t worn sparkling shoes since I dressed up like Snow White, Halloween of 2004.”

Although she told me, I kept being drawn to shoes with jewels on them.

“Dad – DO NOT PICK OUT ONE MORE SHINY SHOE!  I AM NOT WEARING SEQUINS TO THE DANCE, especially on my feet!”

I pulled boxes off the shelf,she tried them on.  I then took pictures and sent them to DJ.

She responded to my first text:  “Put them back now!  They actually made me throw up a little bit.”

They weren’t that bad.

We finally settled on two pair, both returnable, both by Michael Coors.  I liked that cause he makes beer too.

When we got them home, I was told one pair looked like a 50-year-old lady and the other like a Hay Street prostitute.

“Well she must be good because these puppies were expensive.”

The crazy thing is that when DJ returned from her first dance at St. Mary’s School, I asked her if her feet hurt.  Her response?  “Oh no.  We took them off the minute we walked in the door.”

I’m gonna send her behind in bedroom slippers.  Shiny bedroom slippers.

Giggling with God

First pres

Last week in church we got the giggles – three of us – Michelle, Stephanie and me.  Someone up front struck the funny bone, and we got tickled.  This is not an uncommon occurrence for our family.  It is genetic; we got it from my mother.

Funerals and weddings were the worst with her.

At one matrimonial service the pianist was also the organist.  The problem was that the organ and piano were on opposite side of the church.  This musician also had a very noisy dress.  When she walked, it swooshed.  Four times during the service she paraded in front of the lectern, in front of the huge flower arrangement, and in front of the bride and groom, to change instruments.

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh – swoosh – swoosh

It was the loudest piece of clothing I’d ever heard.  The more she swooshed, the more we snickered.

At a distant cousins wedding I became tickled when the Kimball organ was turned on.  Boom da da boom da da boom boom boom…

It was just like walking through the mall.  After the beat began, the “organist” began tapping out the melody of Here Comes the Bride.

Boom da da boom da da boom – here comes the bride, all dressed in white, sweetly serene in the soft glowing light… (bet you didn’t know the third line, huh?)

As if that wasn’t enough, I had overheard my parents trying to recall the mother of the bride – “I’m not sure I know her.  What does she look like?” my dad asked my grandmother.

“She’s blonde, medium build…”

“Mmmm…”

“You know, she has one green eye and one brown one.”

“Oh, yes!” Something about her description resonated.

As if the ongoing syncopation wasn’t enough, when the bride’s mother headed down the aisle, I caught a glance of her multi-colored irises.  I was done.

These days I find two different eyes sort of cool, intriguing.  In my adolescence, it just got me tickled.  I’d never seen that before.

My grandmother glared at me like I’d stood up nude on the pew.  That made my mom snicker, and then it was all over.

I left the church for the remainder of the service.  Grandmother Tanner expressed her dismay the minute she was released from the ceremony (as if I didn’t already know she was made).

The giggles can be brought about by something very small.  One Sunday I might break out with the Korean verse of the hymn printed at the bottom of the page.  One of us might turn to the wrong hymn and the innocent bystander belts out a wrong word or two before they realize the joke.  A couple of Sundays there was a stench in the pew – it smelled like a dead animal.  As various family members began sniffing around and looking at each other as if to say, “Is it you?,” the laughter began.

When DJ was an infant, we took her to the 7 PM Christmas Eve service.  When the soloist hit the high note in O Holy Night, our baby screamed out seemingly trying to match the operatic singer.  It ruined the moment which I felt bad about.  But I laughed until we finally just went home.

Once it starts, it is difficult to control.

Last week, to control my silliness, I grabbed the bible and began reading the Psalms.  They are not funny… at all.  I scowled at the kids who looked at me like I was Benedict Arnold.

Sometimes I worry that God gets a little annoyed at our Sunday morning antics.  But then I figure He saw the same thing we did.  He’s probably laughing along with us.

Sunday Post 179: The Freight Train of Life

It makes me sad that I don’t love summer anymore. It used to be my favorite time of the year.

In 2009, in the three months that preceded Lisa’s diagnosis of cancer, we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, our weeklong annual getaway to Topsail Island, a couples only weekend trip to Lake Gaston with our best friends and our August jaunt to West Virginia. The day after Christmas, 2008, I began looking forward to summer. Each day brought me closer to the excitement of time with family, a clear calendar and 4 pm Happy Hour.

It hasn’t been the same since.

Although I still enjoy the beach, DJ’s absence is noticeable. She’s employed – how inconvenient. I figure Stephanie will be in the same boat two years from now.

Clearly, DJ’s not the only one missing from our June capers.

Since Lisa’s death, I’ve fared well when busy. Without dance carpool, homework and laundry for four, I find myself re-edging a border that has already been edged. No wonder Mr. Royster’s yard in Glendale Acres, my childhood neighborhood, looked so good.  He was childless and had nothing better to do.

I realize that much of what I’m experiencing has nothing to do with the loss of my wife. My kids would still grow up and get jobs with or without their mom in the picture. The pressure of carpools would lighten with additional drivers in the house. When you’re 16, you tend to get annoyed at waiting for dad to get around to doing your laundry – when you need an article of clothing, you wash it yourself.

Maybe this is why folks end up having a midlife crisis. They can’t seem to figure out how to handle the changes so they remake themselves in an unsavory way.

It’s clear I’m not going to cheat on my wife, I don’t have one. And a sports car is out of the question – I don’t have the money, and it won’t seat three children and their pack of pals.

If you look at a life’s calendar, these changes occur over a long period of time. But at times, they seem more like a freight train.

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

56? 108?

Mae at Xmas

She don’t look bad – for her age.

Tomorrow will be my mother’s birthday, we don’t know how old she is.

We estimate she’s somewhere between 56 and 108.

My dad says that she rounds to the nearest five-year increment. She was 40 from age 38 to 43 at which time she turned 45 for another six years.

She says she doesn’t mind if we know her age. She just can’t tell us – because she isn’t sure.

I asked my dad if he had her birth certificate. He said back then they just carved your name and birthdate on a tree in the yard. Perhaps someone jotted her birthday with a quill in a family bible somewhere. Who knows? My great-grandmother had ten kids so we have no idea where the official book might be.

As we had this discussion, my father informed me that I had about one year before I would receive my AARP card. His friend then told me that membership entitled me to free sodas at the Taco Bell. I hope I don’t end up in the doughnut hole, I anticipate being on a number of meds in the future. Both of my parents have pill boxes the size of a love seat.

“It’s not medicine. It’s just supplements. We don’t have any medical issues.”

Not unless you count: sciatica, adult acne, heart stents, eyelid “enhancements”, cataracts, deafness, back and joint issues, one bum leg, a bum hip, asthma, worsening allergies, wrinkles, hair loss and insomnia.

Fortunately, they’re still pretty hip. They text, Facebook, own iPhones and iPads, dance, know how to scan photos into the computer, and come to Raleigh to drive my kids around town at least two times per month.

I guess that’s not bad for 108 (or nearabouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headed to Wadi Halfa

Wadi Halfa

I used to think it was nuts that old people moved to Florida for the winter.  Move for the tax relief – I might consider it.  But leave my friends, my life, just because of the weather?  Insane.

But I swear, the older I get the colder I get.

My mom wears a wool sweater, mid day, on the beach in July.  We have never been anywhere that she didn’t remind every family member to bring a sweater.

“Mom, we are going to a hot yoga class!  We don’t need outerwear!”

“You’d better grab a sweater.  They have air conditioning in the lobby.”

The only time I’ve ever seen her hot was in her forties when she was going through “the change.”  We’d come home and she’d be dusting the house in her bra.  My dad said she’d go to sleep in flannels bundled up in a quilt and in the morning she’d be on top of the covers in her skivvies.

I got her cold down pat but none of the warmth.

At work I recently changed offices with the guy next door because he had the thermostat.  It would register warm and cut off.  I had icicles made of snot dangling from my nose.  He was sweating bullets.  But he’s young – just 40.

I used to sleep in boxers only – no shirt, no sheet – winter, spring, summer or fall.  Last night I wore flannel pants and surrounded myself with six pillows to help hold the heat in.  I considered a toboggan but was too cold to get out of bed to fetch one.

If I didn’t have seat warmers in my car, I’d take a taxi to work.  I assume it would already be heated up by the time he got to my house.

My feet could cool the heat rods at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant.

Sometimes I get in the car on a hot summer day and don’t turn the air conditioning on until I simply can’t breathe anymore.  It’s the only time my bones really feel toasty.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  If it is old age, I’m unimpressed.  As I approach 50 my body is changing, rapidly.  I may just skip Florida and head straight to Wadi Halfa, Sudan.  It’s the hottest place on earth – I looked it up.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

Another Year, Another Wrinkle

I’ve got a birthday this week.  I turn 47.  And yet I don’t feel a day over 46.

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what in the hell happened?

Since when did my hair turn white?  Not only on my sideburns and around my temples, but the stuff is taking over my chest.  Out with the brown, in with the gray!

It’s like old man kudzu.  And I’m not excited about where it might appear next.

The older I get, the more grooming I do.  As if showering and shaving isn’t enough every day, I now have to hunt for rogue hair all about my being.

Oh there’s a thatch growing out of my nostril.  A pompom of fuzz protruding from my ear canal.  And the one, only one, standing fully erect right on the top of my left shoulder-blade.

My eyebrows remind me of the fringe on my grandma’s handmade afghans.  I could serve spinach dip out of the crevices in my forehead.  Not only do I need glasses to read the menu at a restaurant, I also can’t see my food without them.  Imagine my surprise when the blurry “carrots” I bit into turned out to be rutabaga.  YUCK.

My grandfather, Woodrow, had a forehead the size of Montana.  And as Spurgeon, the other, added years to his life, his ears expanded like a Magic Towel wash cloth.  What a future.

I pee all the time, and there’s a 3″ x 3″ patch of skin on my back that’s as dry as a bone.  “Oooooo Dad!  What is that?  Scabies?”

“No!  It’s not scabies!!  It’s dry skin – it’s called eczema.”

“You need to get that checked out.  It’s gross.”

My girls are outstanding at pointing out all my flaws.

“You’re belly is jiggly!”  “You have warts on your feet.”  “I didn’t know you could get pimples at such an old age.”

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to develop a strong self-esteem before I had girls nearing the teenage years.

They haven’t discovered the vein that’s popping out around my right ankle although they relish the opportunity to discuss the volume of lint that collects in my bellybutton.  “Pull it out dad, I need a new scarf for winter.”

Where does that stuff come from and why is it in my navel?  I feel like a dryer.

I’m like an old house that needs major repairs.  I’m just not sure I could recoup the investment.

It’s Goin’ Down At Panera

I’ve been working out with a friend’s P90X video for several months now.  It was a sequel to curling cans of baked beans.

I promised my buddy that I’d return her videos in May, but I really like them and it cost $130 for a new set!  I was heading back toward the vegetable cans last week when Jesse drove up in new wheels.

“Where’d you get it?” I asked.

“Craig’s list.”

“You bought a truck on Craig’s list?”

“Yea.” 

He said it as if my question was stupid.  Although, come to think of it, I asked it as if he were stupid.

I thought it absurd to make a significant purchase from a stranger on-line, until I started talking to other people in my life.  Many of them had made significant purchases with Craig.

So I figured what the heck, if Jesse can buy an automobile on Craig’s list, certainly I can find my video set there too.

It felt sort of creepy, like the clearance rack at K-Mart.  But when I searched for my prerecorded calisthenics routine, I found that A LOT of people in the Triangle region either aren’t meeting their health and wellness goals or got a little tipsy and made a bad decision on QVC.  The prices varied – usually cheaper in the outlying towns – $55 in Fuquay Varina (probably don’t have a DVD player); $50 in Knightdale (may not have a TV).  I found one in Raleigh for $60, brand new, an unopened package.  The seller only accepted inquiry calls – no emails.

I felt like I was doing a drug deal. 

My palms became sweaty as I punched in his number.  A Jersey shore accent answered, “Yo.”

“Do you still have the goods?”

“Yeah.”

“$60?”

“Cash.”

‘Your house?”

“No bro!  Panera, North Hills, Wednesday, 4:45. I’ll be wearing a black shirt.”

Naturally.

“I’ll be in a bow tie…”

“What?”

“Nothin’… ah, dude.”

Panera?  Clearly he was trying to take advantage of me.  He didn’t want me to know where he lived.  I knew he was a scam artist.  All of the on-line wheeler dealers are.

I got there early, the cash in my front pocket.  I was tired.  I’d tossed and turned the night before.  What if he dupes me?  What if I get home and the “brand new, unopened P90X package” is really a Richard Simmons’ Party Off The Pounds VCR tape? 

Would it be insulting if I asked him to open the box before I gave him the money?  Would he pull a switch blade if I offended him?  Wasn’t there a Craig’s List killer?  What if this dude had some crazy infatuation with men who wear bow ties? 

I wiped my brow with my M & M cookie napkin. 

Now I smell sweet.  This is bad.  I’m leaving.

As I stood to move toward the door, my phone rang. 

“I’m by the counter,” he quietly offered.

I could see him.  He looked normal, and small.  He clearly hadn’t removed the contents and used them.

“I see you.”

“Well OK.  Are you going to come up here?”

“Oh, yea.”

I hung up and headed toward a table in the front of the resturant. 

He handed me the package.   It looked legit.

I pulled the money out of my pocket and sat it on the table in front of us, tucking the edge under the salt shaker.

“Can I open it?”

“Go ahead.  It’s all there.”

I didn’t remove each CD, but I did dig down deep enough to see the case and a nifty nutritional pamphlet I hadn’t even expected.

“You should have used these,” I suggested, “It’s a great workout.”

“I don’t exercise.  Kills my back.”

He sifted through the wad of cash.

“All three Jacksons – right there like I promised.”  I can’t believe he didn’t trust me. 

I picked up my box, crinkling up the plastic wrapping in my other hand.  “I guess we both got what we wanted.”

“Yeah.”  He nodded an grab the door handle.

And with that, my dealer disappeared into the maze of cars in the parking lot. 

I headed home – and inserted three of the CD’s to make sure they weren’t home videos of Jersey boy’s family.

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