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.

 

One-on-one

Last night I got a text message from a co-worker.  She shared that a third grade boy at one of our after-school sites, a kid from a single parent family, lost his mother and sister in a horrible car accident yesterday.  He rode with them to school.  At 6 pm when our program closed, no one came to pick him up.  That was very unusual.  Then the news.  He spent last night in foster care.

He lost his mother and middle school sister and then had to, at least temporarily, go, alone, to a stranger’s house to spend the night.

I don’t know the kid.  I don’t know much about his situation.  Yet my heart aches for him.

This little guy now has to navigate life without the two people who were his foundation.  His world turned upside down.

I’m thinking about what must be going on in his mind today.

Two weekends ago I spent the day at Elon University with Stephanie.  It was Men We Love weekend with her sorority.  It was likely designed for dads but knowing not everyone has a dad, they broadened it to men.

We spent a little time with her crew at school, but mainly we had an almost full day together.  We laughed and laughed.  Talked about her future.  Talked a bit about mine.  Saw the better part of a football game and an acapella concert together.

I cherish the time I get, especially one-on-one, with those I love.  It might be the most meaningful of all.

None of us knows how many more days we have left on this earth.  Man, I want to spend more of it intentionally building connections with those around me.

That’s the important stuff.

A Mouse in the House

Michelle screamed as if she had stumbled upon a headless, dead man on a walk in the woods.  It scared the mess out of me.  But I’ll have to admit, I didn’t stop checking my emails because I figured it was a bug.  It wasn’t, but I was close.

Several weeks ago there were signs of a mouse in the house.  Teeny little mouse poppies on one of the upstairs bathroom counters.  How in the hell a mouse can climb a bathroom cabinet in the middle of a room I’ll never know.  But this one did.  And, signs show that he has been adding Benefiber to his diet.

To solve this problem, I put some of the sticky mouse traps throughout the bathroom.  These traps are like little cell phones but covered in a gooey adhesive.  When the mouse steps on one, he can’t move.  So he sits there until you toss him into the trash can at which time, I assume, he sits until he starves to death.  It is actually very tragic.

He never came back to the bathroom.  So I thought maybe he decided to go to the neighbors which was most fine by me.  They are retired and have plenty of time to chase mice.

But then, Michelle went to DJ’s room last week to steal gum from a pocketbook that was under her bed and discovered that our friend like spearmint.  Who doesn’t, right?

So this time I decided I’d do the more humane thing (oh, and I couldn’t remember where I put the unused sticky traps) so I purchased the traditional snap traps at the store on Sunday.  I assumed they would instantly break his neck.  I forgot about them… until Michelle shrieked.

Tonight she was getting out of the shower and heard a snap.  She was downstairs in .09 seconds.

I got to the room, the lightbulb by the door had blown out.  I stepped into the partially dark room with caution.  I mean, I’m brave and all, but still I don’t need a rodent running up my leg.  As I walked in, I could hear the poor fella hustling around – because his head was snapped in the trap but his bottom and hind legs were still mobile.  He was running around in a circle, with a massive headache I’m sure.

I swept him up with a broom and took him out to the trashcan for his final demise.

Now I’m not a huge animal guy, but I’m struggling here.  I can’t stand to think of this poor little guy, alone, thrashing about with my leftover bean dip and cotton balls with a piece of wood aggressively stapled on his head.

There just has to be a better way.

Exp. 9/14/19

I think the USDA is in bed with the chicken people.

Last weekend we bought chicken for Julie’s son Will.  The next weekend he called to get her recipe for chicken strips.  Julie told him to check the expiration date on the biddy.  It was like five days ago.  She told him he had to buy new meat.

What the heck?  We’re all gonna go broke if we have to toss out every semi-expired breast we purchase.

Most of the time I freeze my meat and pull it out the day before I cook it.  When you freeze, it can last for years!

But seriously, five days past expiration?  It’s gotta still be good.  That is simply a ploy to get you to buy more chicken.  I feel certain Mr. Perdue’s lobbyist is behind all this.

I told Julie Will could just heat those little boogers up a bunch and that the heat would kill the salmonella.  We both assume there is likely some level of disease in a refrigerator in an apartment rented by four, male, juniors in college.  When I was that age and my parents came to move me out of my apartment at NC State University in May, my mom found a small Tupperware container with “tuna salad” she’d sent back with me after Christmas.  It didn’t really look or smell like tuna at that point.  I was surprised she recognized it.  But maybe it was the container she found familiar.

Doesn’t heat kill germs?  We wash our dishes in a dishwasher that gets real hot – which gets our silverware clean!  We eat off of forks in restaurants that have been in any number of mouths.  I think it would be interesting to follow the life of a Golden Corral spoon.  I bet we’ve eaten from the same utensils as our co-workers and neighbors and never even known it.  I bet I’ve shared a spoon with Oprah!  But she doesn’t care – because they killed my germs with…HEAT!

I have mustard that has been part of our family since the 90’s.  It’s still as spicy as the day I brought it home from Treasure City.  And it expired before my second child was born (she’s a sophomore in college).

When I suggested to Julie that maybe heating the meat would kill the germs, she wondered if the USDA hadn’t already thought of that and suggested I call them to share my idea.  I might.

Until I get the chance to give them my thoughts, just cook, cook, cook!  I’m sure it will be just fine.

High Deductible???

Year-of-the-high-deductible-health-plan

I’m cramming!  Cramming in every medical appointment that I can possibly think of.

My work’s fiscal year is October 1.  That is also when our medical insurance renews.  I have a high deductible health plan.  That means I pay out the wazoo until I hit the deductible.  Then I’m golden til the next year.

It works well if your entire family contracts Ebola.  It is less useful for the sniffles.  I had never met my deductible until this year, and I was strategic about it.  I had shoulder surgery on Oct. 4, 2018.  I met my deductible in the first week of the plan year, and I’ve seen every doctor in town since.  I have had major back issues and taken care of them – or at least tried.  I’ve had my shoulder rechecked to ensure all is well.  I tackled my toenail fungus last November, and I’m thankful to report it is gone – WHOOP WHOOP!  I’m sure I picked that up in the Y shower.  YUCK.

I saw a counselor to make sure I was mentally sound – still in question, but it was good to talk some things out.  I had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy and an ultrasound of unspeakable parts, just in case.  I talked to my doctor about my poor sleeping habits, saw a sleep doctor and am on a drug to give me rest.

All this and I have three more weeks to go!

I’m hitting the chiropractor again, getting my ingrown toenail sliced open and perhaps steroids shots in my back.  The only thing I hate worse than physical pain is financial pain.  I gotta get it all in before my plan goes back to ground zero.  October 1, its back to suffering.  I do not plan to go to the doctor again unless I lose a limb – or two.

If I have a prescription, it shall be filled, this month.  I don’t care if I need it or not.  I might get pink eye again… at some point in the future, and there is one refill left on those little drops!  Maybe I have an anti-nausea suppository refill.  I better check.

I may get Botox, pectoral implants and see if they can do a bladder lift by the end of the month.  I don’t even know if that’s possible, but I might as well ask.

I’ve been overlooking issues for years simply because I don’t want to spend so much stinkin’ money on medical care.  I don’t like to go to the doctor, but I also don’t like fungus on my toes.  I’m not going back for some time, so I guess I’ll invest in some heavy duty flip flops.  And fellas at the Y, would you please do the same?  I’m finally clean here!

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5

Julie with #4 at Furman!

#3 at Elon in her new apartment!                          

Julie and I have so many kids I can’t keep up with them all.  I’ve found it is best to just refer to them by birth order.

Two weeks ago, #2, #3 and #4 returned from working at overnight camps for the summer.  With them, they brought enough laundry to fill a school bus. You could smell them driving down the highway.  Whew!

Julie only got #2 for about 48 hours.  #3 and #4 were home for a couple of weeks.

#3 was preparing to move into an on campus apartment at Elon University.  Between her new curtains, bedspread, dishes, pillows, toaster (you get the picture) and her invitation to participate in the NC Debutante Ball, she has been quite the economic drain on the Tanner family this month.  I actually save money when she’s in college – which I find peculiar.

#1 graced us with her presence last weekend for about 18 hours.  Long enough to drop off laundry, pick up her new (used) VW and head to DC to see her boyfriend who spent the summer in Texas.  She returned the next weekend to pick up the laundry she left the previous weekend.  I just wash and fold as instructed.  I prefer to be referred to as Tide-man.

Last Friday, Julie and I drove #4 to Furman University in Greenville, SC, to move her in for her freshman year!  Other than her soon-to-be stepfather (a.k.a. Tide-man) losing her room key, unbelievable, it was a smooth transition.  The key reappeared that night, after we had the locksmith re-key the door on the third floor of Thurman Dorm and after I walked the entire campus no less than five times trying to figure out where I dropped the little booger.

This past Sunday, Julie and I drove #3 to Elon University in Burlington, NC, to move her in for her sophomore year.  #3 called that same night:  “Dad, I just wanted you to know that the new knife you bought for our apartment works great.  I just sliced my finger with it and am headed to the emergency room to have it stitched up.”

#1 texted tonight – “I’ve broken out in hives all over my legs.”

#2 called to make sure #4s drop off went well.  He’s a good man.

Next weekend, #5 and I are headed to Charlotte for Labor Day.  We are volunteering at a community event for Julie’s work.

Then we have the Deb Ball in Raleigh the next week.  We are hopeful #1’s boyfriend will join us from DC.  He’s a really nice guy.  I sort of feel sorry for #3s date.  He’s never met any of us, this could be overwhelming.  He’s just a friend, but still.

We follow Deb weekend with #2 at the Georgia- Arkansas game in Athens (he’s a Bulldog) then Furman parents’ weekend with #4, then Elon parents’ weekend with #3 and then St. Mary’s parents’ weekend with #5.  #5 and I are going to visit three colleges the first week in October and the second weekend in October is #4s Fall Break.  I won’t see her because I’ll be with #3 at Elon for Men We Love weekend with her sorority.  Two weeks later is #2’s Fraternity’s Parents’ weekend in Athens – and we can’t miss that!  They have an open tab at a downtown bar which they tout to encourage parents to attend – also unbelievable.  Fun, but unbelievable.  Last year we went to a dance club and were heckled for being so old.  I’m gonna wear skinny jeans this year to fool them.

Fortunately, all we have in November is a business trip to Vancouver (Julie is going to join me) and Thanksgiving (likely in a couple of cities across NC).

I’m writing like this is stressful – it’s really not.  We’re busy, but we are having the time of our lives with five incredible kids!

Expectant Joy

I went to a guitar playing church in Charlotte last Sunday.  My church here in Raleigh is more pipe than string.  It’s fun to have a little worship diversity every now and then although a bit uncomfortable for a bow-tie, suit wearing stuff like me.

It is interesting that often just the right message or quote or phone call comes when you most need it.  I got it in the sermon last weekend.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s coming – lots of fun fall weekends at various kid’s parents’ weekends.  A getaway with Julie in November.  An impending wedding.  A new house.  I’m not 100% sure what lies ahead, and yet, it is exciting!  All good stuff to look forward to.

But therein is my problem.  I spend way too much time looking forward – not basking in the goodness of today.

The pastor at this church called it “expectant joy.”  We expect it to come at some point in the future.  But what about today?  Is joyful stuff here, and we can’t see it because we are so focused on what might come?  Will we ever really see joy?  Will we ever really enjoy it?  Or will we continue to hope for more?  Will we look forward to tomorrow until tomorrow doesn’t come?

He told the story of a single mom he knows who has four kids.  If you looked at her life from the outside, you’d see a lot of tough.  Finances are tight.  Hard relationships from the past.  Loss.  Illness.  But she exudes happiness.  It seeps from her inner self.  She has discovered that recognizing what you have today and being thankful for your blessings is the way to live.

Maybe that is part of the struggles in our society – spending too much time expecting and not enough time enjoying.

Cat. Cow.

(That is actually not a picture of me.)

I started participating in hot yoga classes back in February after I pulled my back out.  I’ve done it a couple of times a week since.  And yet, there are parts of it I still don’t get.

The instructor implores us to breathe.  But I do that almost all the time, even when I’m not in class.  But it is a major focus for her.  She not only wants us to breathe, but she wants us to breathe loudly.

“Take a deep breath in, totally fill your lungs, all the way through to your pelvis (how do you even do that?).  Now blow it out!  Let your neighbor hear you.”

I don’t like other people’s breathe.  It should be personal.  It’s been all inside you.  Yuck.  Keep it to yourself I say!

One guy came into class late last week and was breathing so loud I thought he was on a ventilator.  Rude.

And some of the positions she puts us in.

Happy Baby pose: Lie on your back.  Pull your legs to your chest and grab your feet.  There is nothing happy about that pose to me.  It is actually Sad Baby pose when I do it.

Down Dog:  Make a “V” with your body.  Feet behind, hands on the ground in front of you.  Stay there for an endless amount of time while the instructor stands tall and watches you suffer.

Gorilla:  Bend over at the waist.  Stand on your hands.  Like literally, put your hands, palm up, on the ground in front of you and then put the soles of your feet on your hands.  The worst part of gorilla is that now your hands smell like your feet for the duration of the class.  For those of us who wear loafers without socks in the summer, it is not a pleasant smell.  Not at all.

We do butterfly, pigeon, dragonfly, frog, and sphinx.  Oh, and don’t forget cat and cow which are actually fairly simple.  The only problem I have with those are that I want to make sounds to accompany the pose.  Meow.  Moooo.  Meow.  Mooo.  She WOULD NOT like that.  So I suffer in silence, listening to my neighbor’s breath.

They also use language that for a non-yogi, is difficult to understand.

After class I ask Julie, “What is Thin Casa Mow?”

“Ah, that’s Vinyasa flow.”

“Well I was close…”

Apparently Vinyasa is a kind of yoga or something.  Flow is a series of yoga moves.

My favorite is when we stand tall, Tree, holding our arms in the air.  That one I excel at.

You’d think I’d like corpse, that’s at the end of class, on the floor.  You lie on your back with your arms out by your sides.  Palms up.  Eyes usually closed.  But it reminds me of being at the doctor’s office.  I’m afraid someone is going to run in and try to take my blood out of my arm veins.  So I keep one eye open – just in case.  I hate it when they take my blood.  I feel so vulnerable.

So I started hot yoga in February because I pulled my back out.  Last week in hot yoga, I pulled my back out.  What the heck?  I can’t win.

You Said What?

I was trying to find a couple of presents for Julie for Christmas. She is way more thoughtful than I.  I knew she’d creatively celebrate me.  She’s just so good at that.  We gave each other a weekend away as our primary gift, but I wanted her to have a few things under the tree to open on the big day.

One of my very stylish daughters asked for a pair of leggings she found online.  I ordered two, one for DJ and one for Julie.  I wrapped Julie’s and put it in her stack of gifts on Christmas morning.  When she opened the present, the name brand of the stretchy wear was prominently printed on the box:  SPANX.

“Oh honey.  I can’t wait to tell my friends that you got me Spanx for Christmas!”

We laughed.  She paused.  “Is there a hidden message here?”

“They’re leggings!!  Just leggings!  Because you’re so fit and do yoga all the time, you fit female you!”

The more I spoke the deeper I dug.

She really wasn’t offended; we all had a great laugh.  Since then, Julie and I have recounted the story and have started a list of things not to say or do when you’re trying to find your mate.  We plan to share these suggestions with our future sons and daughter-in-law.

Number 1:  Don’t give your girlfriend Spanx as a gift.  Ever.

I also learned it is not great when I complain about my weight loss: “Baby, I accidentally lost 4 pounds today.”  Sometimes it happens – well for me.  Apparently not for her, or the other four females in our home, and they really don’t want to hear about my sudden shedding of self.

Number 2:  Don’t tell your girlfriends when you accidentally lose 4 pounds.

I was thinking about what girls shouldn’t say to guys and remembered being at a bar in my early twenties with a buddy of mine.  We were sitting by two attractive women and Andy struck up a conversation with the cute blonde.  She asked if we played any sports.  He said he played football in high school.  Her response?  “But you’re such little men.”

Seriously?  I’m over six feet tall and have been since my sophomore year in high school.  I’m not overweight, but I’m certainly NOT little.  I still take offense at that comment.

Number 3:  Don’t tell a guy he is little – or that any part of him is little for that matter (unless you’re talking about his stomach).

These are lessons we will pass on.  Maybe our kids will have easier communication if we share our past mistakes.

She Did It!

She did it! DJ, my oldest, graduated from The George Washington University with a degree in Media and Public Affairs. If you have a hunkering to hire someone with a degree in Media and Public Affairs, please let me know! After her summer commitments, she will be aggressively seeking full time employment.

We had a great time on graduation weekend in DC. Good dinners, met her favorite professor, spent time getting to know her closest friends and their parents and then… we went to the graduation ceremony.

This event was held on DC’s National Mall, right in front of the Washington Monument.

The idea of it was so exciting! I remember at freshman orientation receiving the pitch, “If your child comes to GW, they will graduation on the National Mall with the Washington Monument in the background and the White House behind you.” So stinkin’ cool, I thought.

It wasn’t cool.  It was in fact, hot. VERY HOT. Like 120 degrees HOT!

We arrived more than an hour in advance to score decent seats. I had planned to wear a suit but thankfully settled on a dress shirt, no jacket. This was concerning to me because I like to dress the part. When I go to the theater, I wear a sports coat. I am sort of appalled at those who walk in with cargo shorts and Reeboks. I know, folks are looking for comfort. But do we all have to be comfortable all the time?

We sat, with the sun on our backs, roasting while we waited for the graduates to arrive. My father wasn’t feeling great that day. He quickly took his program and tucked it in the collar of his shirt to protect his neck from the rays. The woman in front of us had an umbrella. The ushers made her take it down.

Thirty minutes in my dad was leaned over with his head propped on his cane.

“Mom, is dad ok?”

“Oh he’s fine. He just didn’t get enough sleep last night. He’s resting.”

“Or maybe he is having a heat stroke!”

It only took the 2,000 graduates 40 minutes to process through the crowds and up to their seats. I could not find my child. She sat with her best friends, apparently on the other side of the event. One of them, well perhaps all of them, had a bit too much to drink the night before. He wore a t-shirt, dress shirt, sports coat and his polyester robe. As I understand it, by the end he looked as if he had been submerged into Lincoln’s reflecting pool.

We started the ceremony with a row full of Tanners. Mom and dad.  Julie, Stephanie, Michelle and me. An aunt, uncle and their two young children. Julie finally took my parents and the girls back to a small shady area closer to the White House. I though she might knock on the door and ask Melania if they could observe from their covered porch. The aunt and her daughter joined them in the shade. About an hour in we decided it was best to send the grandparents back to the hotel. Michelle and Stephanie eagerly agreed to help Julie with those logistics. The rest of the family was close behind.

I, however, was committed. If the event lasted ten hours, I was determined I would stay. I needed closure.

As I sat in this long aisle of now empty seats, important people spewing advice from the stage, I pondered.

I’d had a tremendous amount of help raising this child. For twelve years we were a normal family. After Lisa died, grandparents, other family and friends jumped in to support. And yet, perhaps I felt the greatest level of responsibility for this little life. With some good things I did through the year, and many times, not so good, this kid had won. She had grown up to be an independent, confident and capable adult. And for that, I am proud!

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