Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da BATMAN!

As a young kid in Hickory, NC, one of my favorite things to do was to toss a cape on my back and run around the back yard singing “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da BATMAN.”  Bruce Wayne had it all – a house with secret passageways, a girlfriend named “Cat Woman,” a cool black sports car, a spotlight that shined his own signature image over Gotham City and… a CAPE.  Who cares about the rest of the stuff when you have a kick-ass cape draped around your shoulders?  It just reeks of fierceness.

Apparently, my brother and I also liked the cowboys.  I remember the caps that came with the guns.  You had to position them just so on the hammer-spring.  And if you did, POP!  The noise would startle any girl in the neighborhood and all adults over the age of 30.

cowboys

Recently, Julie pointed out my obsession with dress up.

It started when I pulled out my personal cape, made by my friends after one of the productions of Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol which the girls and I have performed in for the past few years.

“Honey, that’s really nice.  Do you actually wear it out of the house?”

We then looked up appropriate places to wear a cape.  I think a fashion runway in London is likely the most appropriate.  I’m just ahead of my time.

When I was chosen to be a Celebrity Father Chef at my kids’ schools’ annual pancake breakfast, we were given a chef’s jacket and hat to identify us in the worthy role we had attained.  After all patrons had been served, I headed out to the dining room with my loaded Chinet.

cook

“Honey, do you want me to hold onto your hat while you eat?” Julie asked.

“Nah.  I sort of like it.  It’s very tall.”

At Halloween I convinced my children to dress up like nerds with me for Trunk-or-Treat.  We made kids answer math problems in exchange for candy.  I sent Julie that picture as well and tried to convince her that the nerdy guys were actually the best catches.  I think she bought it… I guess time will tell.  She did suggest that maybe one day I could have a dress up closet.  Man, would that be great or what???

nerd

There’s just something about donning an outfit that is typically not fitting.  It lets you be something you’re not.

Hmmm.  Maybe more people “dress up” than you think.  You don’t have to have a cape to hide who you really are.  I know a ton of folks who look one way on the outside but are something totally opposite on the inside.  Sometimes the outside is less pretty than the inside.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes the disguise is to protect from others looking in.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be accepted for who God created us to be?  I mean, He knows what’s under the hat.  If he’s OK with it, why aren’t we?

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Others or yourself?

My dad is a great teacher.  He is very involved in his church and is constantly leading classes on raising kids (not sure if he has credibility there), marriage (he nailed that), communication, and other life stuff.  Recently he sent me the book The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley.  Dad’s using it for a class right now.

I’ve meandered through the book over the past month, and one of the big ah-hah’s for me has less to do about relationships and more to do with self.

Dr.  Smalley suggests that happiness comes from within.  He quotes Abraham Lincoln who said, “I reckon that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Smalley goes on to say that a relationship with another flawed human being will not make you happy.  He asks, “Do two unhappy people normally form a happy couple?”  The answer is no.

I’m no expert on resilience or tackling hard issues.  I just did what I had to do.  But one thing I did realize through my grief was that I couldn’t live in a state of unending sadness.  I remember my counselor telling me in an early session after Lisa died that it would be three to five years before I would feel normal again – and that’s if I worked hard.  My response to her was, “That is unacceptable.”  I could not stay in that state.  I had to get out.

I was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends, including three incredible kids, who injected joy and purpose into my life on a daily basis.  Although I was mad at God, I also had my faith.  I knew there was something more than we see here on this earth.  I clearly didn’t escape on my own.  But there was something in me that drove me to seek more.  That internal drive gave me my life back.

It wasn’t easy.  There were times that I actually felt guilty about being happy.  I had feelings of betrayal when I enjoyed life.  But I kept thinking, my kids deserve a happy dadThey’re going to face other significant obstacles in their life, and they need to see that there can be happiness after tragedy.  It was an example I had to set for them.  And that drove me to get better.

I worked diligently to get my grief out – like sweating out a fever.  I looked for ways to give back to help others in my situation.  I leaned on Uncle Jesse and followed his lead of reinserting zaniness into our house.  I leaned into my grief while simultaneously running in the opposite direction.

This strategy of aggressively facing my grief while looking for ways to combat it worked.  It gave me the ability to develop new friendships, to have the courage to try new things and find new passions, and to enter into an incredible relationship with Julie, my girlfriend, who I truly, truly love.  I can’t imagine my life today had I taken the alternate route.

Movement forward doesn’t come from others, although they can help.  It comes from within.  It comes from perseverance and an internal rejection of sadness or anger or resentment or whatever other negative emotion that festers inside us.

Those who know me would not describe me as an over the top optimistic dude.  I’m naturally sarcastic and can be a bit Chicken Littleish, one eye always watching for the sky to fall.  But those who look beyond the facade, they see more.  I saw an old friend in downtown Raleigh recently.  She looked me up and down and said, “I can tell you’re happy.”  How refreshing to be described that way.

I am grateful I had it in me to declare war on grief.  It’s a battle worth fighting.

122 Degrees? Let’s Do Yoga!

upward dog

Upward Dog, nice

The only reason I agreed to accompany my girlfriend, Julie, and her daughter to HOT yoga was so I could write a blog about it.  I mean seriously… forty people crammed in a room stretching in unnatural ways with the temperature set at 122 degrees.  Who does this willingly?

As I entered the room, it was like a yoga parking lot.  Our spaces were preset so as to maximize floor capacity.  I was sandwiched between Julie and her daughter in row three of five.  In front of me were two women.  One, I quickly found out, could do a full, unassisted headstand – it was not required by the instructor but this was part of her warm up routine – showoff.  The other lady was so flexible I fully believe she could have stuck her head in her own behind.

The room smelled like the inside of a cow and that was before the class began.  Two days later the scent of the armpits surrounding me is affixed firmly in my nostrils.

It was apparent I was the newbie.  The other men in the class wore yoga clothes.  Dry fit shirts that absorb the sweat and shorts with Lycra underneath.  One very fit 30ish year old guy removed his shirt immediately upon entering.   I was not so confident.

I wore an old, holy, Camp Sea Gull shirt.  My boxers dangled below my shorts.  When our instructor, Spandexi, said “Chatturanga” (which is apparently a pose), I looked around for Mexican appetizers.

Apparently this particular studio is owned by a guy named Tanner Houseman (or some cool name like that).  He was not present at our class on Saturday but there were full framed posters of him lining the stairwell.  He was simply wearing yoga pants while doing head stands and other yogi moves.

If I looked like Tanner Houseman, I too would have full sized posters of my half naked self lining my stairwell.  In fact, they’d also be lining my den and bathroom walls, the conference room at work, and I might even wrap myself around my 2007 Acura MDX like a city bus ad.  His arms have greater circumference than my chest.

Julie’s daughter asked where the staircase in the lobby led.  I told her it’s where they store the bodies of those who didn’t make it through the class.

As the end of our sweatful adventure neared it’s end, my classmates and I lay on our backs on our mats.  As I thanked God for sparing my life, I felt a cold cloth draped over my eyes.  I lifted up an edge to make sure that the instructor had placed one on others’ heads as well.  I was fearful she had noticed that I was about to go down and had singled me out.  She had not.  We were all being cared for by our teacher.  She was quite a lovely woman.

After the room cooled to a comfortable 95, we sat with our legs folded.  I felt like the Dali Lama.  Spandexci had us rest our arms, palms up, in front of us and invited us to chant “Ummmmm.”  I pondered participating but simply could not.  I feared I could not control what might come out of my mouth at that moment if I was verbal.  I held my lips tight and continued my prayer that this purgatory would soon come to an end.

It did.  And I am now innerly fumigated.

I HATE Grass

I have to move to an apartment in downtown Raleigh.  I cannot live through another growing season.

When we moved into this house, the lawn was lush… fertile fescue for days.  Walking through the yard was like walking on a Persian rug; like Rapunzel’s hair between your toes.

Not today.  Now it is like walking through an emptied bag of tortilla chips.

Back in the day I looked forward to the fall.  I’d rent an aerator.  It weighed 8,000 pounds.  My neighbor and I would unload it in the driveway.  I’d turn it on, and it would drag my 175 pound self in circles, little dirt clogs galore.

In 2017, I pay to have it done.  A group of men three times my size show up and within 20 minutes, the job is complete.  All I have to do is water.

Sounds easy, huh?

I do not have a sprinkler system.  I have hoses in the backyard and hoses in the front yard.  Everywhere a new hose connects, the water spews out like Aphrodite’s fountain.  I have a rather large yard.  It takes four shifts of each sprinkler to wet the full quarter acre.  Within a week, my yard is a mud hole.

I had to buy slip on Sketchers to keep from ruining my tennis shoes.  Sketchers?  Seriously?  My MOM wears Sketchers.  “Well, I just found this cute little pair of slip on Sketchers at the Rack Room.  They are sooo comfortable.”

You know it is bad when you and your mother are wearing the same kind of shoes.

I turn the sprinklers on, one in front and one in back, come inside and set the stove timer for 45 minutes.  I then head out to reposition the hoses.  Because I WORK, most of my sprinkling is at night.  Darkness just adds to the mystique.

Invariably, I get soaked.  I suppose I could turn them off before I move them, but that seems like an awful lot of work.  Instead, I get in a starting track pose, watch the sprinkler head rhythm (holding my iPhone in my mouth for light), count to three, and run toward the head.   It’s like sneaking up on a king cobra.  With the water leaking from all orifices, I never win!

Yesterday I shoved the plastic gadget in the ground and watched long enough to make sure the water was headed in the right direction.  When I returned 45 minutes later, the sprinkler had fallen over.  Water was shooting straight in the air and most of the seed that was intended to get wet was dry as a bone.  I cursed the Home Depot and started that round again.

They say you should water in the early morning.  That would mean I’d have to wake up at 5:00 AM to ensure the job gets done.  I could take soap and save on shower time.

And one more thing… how is it that on Monday the sprinkler sprinkles in long straight spurts and on Tuesday, the same dag gone head is spewing in vast short circles.  It’s like Danny DeVito and Lurch.  I don’t understand.  It should be consistent.  No one touches it in the off days.  At least I don’t think they do… hmmm.

This is dangerous work.  I have fallen due to slick conditions, been attacked by an enormous bush that someone should have trimmed, and been shot in the eyeball with a stream of dirty water.  Thus, this time next year, I’m headed to the concrete jungle.  Downtown Raleigh, here I come!

The Cleanse

30-day-doterra-cleanse-foods

I’m not really sure how it came about.  We went to the beach for Labor Day, and on the way home, I was suddenly told our family was doing the 30 Day Cleanse.  Like we stopped at Bojangles for lunch – a chicken biscuit, fries and a Coke, consumption for a normal human, and as we talked among the group at the table, Stephanie, Michelle, their two friends and Julie, my girlfriend, a decision was made that we were going to starve ourselves for a month.  How does that happen?  Bojangles to beets.  Good lord!

Michelle and her friend Kimmey were driving this train.  Kimmey used to be a vegetarian so the idea of colon restoration was taking her back to her 7th grade roots.

I don’t know much about cleansing.  What I do know is that several people I work with have gone through the process, and it can be ugly.  Dark rings around the eyes, grumbling stomachs at the staff meeting, and the temporary personality of Cinderella’s stepmother.  Very lovely people, turned evil.

“Hey Bob.  You wanna grab a beer after work?”

“I CAN’T you JERK!  Remember…  I’M ON A CLEANSE!  You trying to KILL me?”

“Geeze.  I forgot.  I forgot.”

I was told that sugars, grains, dairy and legumes could be having a negative impact on my health and fitness without me even realizing it.  And in fact, if legumes are having a negative impact on me, I do not know it.  Primarily because I don’t know what a legume is.  I was then assured that if I cut out carbs, peanuts, dairy, fried foods, beans, sugar, alcohol and everything else except meat, vegetables and fruit, that I would feel better, my skin would glow, my colon would work more efficiently, my pancreas would feel lighter, I’d have no acne, my joints would repair, and I’d develop the strength of a gorilla.  As Julie read more from the satanic magazine article that offered this self-help option, she reiterated that I could have all the vinegar I desired.

“Well.  That changes everything.”

This 30 day cleanse was guaranteed to change my emotional relationship with food.  I realize I have an emotional relationship with my mom.  I did not know that the green bean and I were that close.

I wasn’t necessarily opposed to eating more healthy, but this technique seemed extreme. I suggested that we actually spread the thirty days out – not do them all at once.  My thought was since Chic Fil A is closed on Sundays we should cleanse on the day of rest for thirty weeks.

I was voted down by the girls.  For some reason, the purge must be consecutive.

So we tried.

Monday was our last day of normalcy.  I ate all of the cookie dough in the fridge and finished a bottle of wine.  We went to the grocery store and strategically avoided the snack and cereal isles.  The cashier giggled as he rang us up.  He’s seen me before.  This was not normal.  I’m sure he was amused by the eggplant, brussel sprouts and and lack of legumes.

I hate it when I purchase produce at the store that is so odd the salesperson has to ask me what it is.  I feel so snobbish.  I’m sure he’s thinking, “Why can’t he just each Iceberg lettuce like a normal guy.”

On Wednesday we decided to introduce beans and dairy back into our diet.  I feel certain our diet didn’t even notice it had been missing.

On Thursday, Stephanie texted me, “I’m starving.  I’m done.” Bring on the Cheez-Its!

On Friday, Michelle admitted she had eaten crackers for lunch.  I admitted I had done the same the night before.  I had no choice.  It was a work event, and I was so hungry my colon was about to eat my light pancreas.  The only food at the reception was crackers and cheese.  What’s a guy to do?  The cracker guilt was killing me.

Pizza this weekend shot the cleanse to hell.  After 4 1/2 days of mildly expurgating my innards, my skin looks the same, my colon is unchanged and my pancreas feels as heavy as ever.  But I’m happy – I’m just really happy.

Good news:  we are all committed to eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting our milkshake intake.  Perhaps our cleanse worked after all.

 

Words, A Generous Gift

bathroom pic

Lisa did a good thing right before she died.  She wrote a very simple card to me telling me she loved me and that I had done all that I could for her.  She essentially said, “No guilt Danny.  No guilt.”  She told me to move forward in my life – to remarry.  Her exact words were, “You’re not good by yourself.”  Yeah.  She knew.

What a generous things for her to do.  Selfless.  Not surprising.

I have no guilt.  I have no angst about moving forward with my girlfriend, Julie.  I don’t know if I would have without the final check off, mybe so.  But it surely is nice not to question.

In a way, those who know they are going to die have an advantage.  If they choose, they can get their affairs straight.  They can share how much they love their friends and family.  They can help alleviate any feelings of guilt.  They can plan with their loved ones.

One would think that someone like me would fully be prepared to die.  I’m not scared to die, sometimes it is actually more scary to live in this world than to ponder death.  But I don’t think I’ve done a great job of planning for what could come.

Do my kids know that I absolutely adore them?  And not in a general sort of I love you way.  Do they know why I love them, individually?  Do they know what I think is most wonderful about each of them?

At some point over the past year or two, my parents wrote a letter to me just to let me know they are proud of me.  It’s framed in my bathroom (my favorite room in the house).

Do those I work with understand their importance in my life?  How they’ve stretched me and made me grow?

Am I vocal enough with Julie about my feelings for her?  Danny Tanner is not always easy to love.  I come with a lot.  I am thankful she’s in for the long haul.

Have I thoughtfully thanked all those who stood by me in my darkest times?  The ones who tossed my up on their shoulders and carried me when I couldn’t walk myself.

Oh, they’ll get their reward in heaven, but wouldn’t it be nice if I took the time now to let them know that I haven’t forgotten – that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

I hope I don’t die tomorrow.  I am not prepared.

 

No Purex for Them

They came home today.  The two oldest, DJ and Stephanie, returned from ten weeks away working at summer camp.

Not only did they come home, their clothes came home.  14 loads thus far – and counting.

I’m used to the laundry.  I kinda like it.  It signals the end of summer and a return to normalcy.

And yet, I am perplexed.

There was a laundry facility at camp for staff.  I know for sure that my girls used the washer and dryer provided for two reasons:

Frist, they told me.

Second, I unpacked Tide from both of their laundry bags.

Yes.  TIDE!  As in Tide’s in, dirt’s out.

How is it that my kids are using Tide and I am washing with Purex?  Not that there’s anything wrong with Purex, but man, would I like to smell like Tide when I walk down the halls at work.  But no, my ongoing cost savings strategy requires that I settle for the least expensive suds on the shelf.  And yet, my kids don’t!  And the worst part of it is, they charge THEIR Tide to MY credit card!!

I’m smelling like 13 cents a wash, and they’re walking around with a $.78 cent aroma.

It does not make sense.  The dad should be the one splurging.  They are not even 21 years old.  They don’t have steady employment.  I fill up their cars with gas.  I use generic toilet paper so I can afford their school tuition (and sometimes it hurts).  But they are ordering sodas with their dinners (while I drink water), Ubering (while I walk), and washing their clothes with Top-Shelf detergent.

I bet the college dorm room has Charmin!

Geeze.  I wish I was my child.  I’d live a more lucrative life!

 

The NC Coast

Aniver and Annie

I did manage to bury two teenagers last week!

We went to the beach last week.  I wasn’t able to stay for the entire time – I had to commute to work a day or two.  Those drives gave me ample time to reflect on trips of years gone by.

When I was a kid, a member of my dad’s church allowed us to use their beach house in North Litchfield, SC, for a week each summer.  Man – were those some great trips.

I remember my parent’s had a sedan, not nearly enough room for them, my brother, me, and two friends.  For years we took the Mozena boys on our annual vacation.  Greg was Chad’s age and Steven was mine.  We traded cars with their parents.  Sid and Jerry drove a massive blue station wagon.  Jerry had built a huge wooden blue box that sat on the top of the car strapped onto the roof rack.  There was a seat in the back that faced the opposite direction.  My brother and I fought over who got to sit there.  I don’t remember who won – if I know my mom, she determined the exact mileage for the trip and made a stop precisely at mid-point to switch riders.  The woman is FAIR.

One year we took several other families with us for the week.  This house had a massive picnic table in the kitchen with two long, wooden benches on either side.  The group convened for a card game called Spoons which required you to sometimes dive for the utensil once someone put together a winning hand.  For some reason, my young teenage self showed up for the game in a bathrobe.  Just a bathrobe.  When I dove across the table to grab my spoon for the win, the robe flew up, and I presented my entire lower being to not only my family but also to Mr. and Mrs. Benner and their teenage daughter.  Thankfully I was successful at nabbing the spoon else my exhibitionism would have been in vain.

I have long passed the days of required sandcastle building and burying children in the sand.  I watched my brother and sister-in-laws work their asses off this week entertaining on the strand.  I drank beer and read having the occasional grown up conversation with Michelle and her friend.  I sort of miss the digging.  For years, my carved out living rooms with dug out sofas were quite the place to chill on Topsail Island.

One of my favorite memories is the night my entire family went on an evening walk to catch sand crabs.  We used buckets and nets as well as frisbees to capture the critters.  As we walked down the dark beach, I picked up wet sticks and made it a point to sneak up behind my mom and tickle her ankles.  She would jump a mile EVERY SINGLE TIME I touched her.

It just never gets old to scare grandma!

This year was quiet.  Only Michelle was able to come for the full week.  DJ dropped in for about 24 hours and Stephanie couldn’t leave her job at Camp Seafarer.

I hope that one day we can all reconvene to begin to form new traditions and memories.  I wouldn’t trade anything for that time with the family.

The Kid Sabbatical

They left me.  Yep.  All three of my girls trekked down to Camp Seafarer for a full five weeks.  Today I pick up Michelle, and I am so, so happy.

When Lisa died seven years ago, in addition to drowning in grief, I developed a fear of being alone.  The thought of staying in our house without other human beings consumed me.  I worked to stagger kid sleepovers so that all wouldn’t be gone at once.  I did the same with overnight camp, picking one up before sending the next.  I was paralyzed by the mere thought of quiet.

When I turned 50, I assumed I was complete.  I am happy, understand my strengths and limitations and am comfortable with who I have become.  What I didn’t expect was more self-growth.  I thought my insides were pretty set – sort of like the gray hair – there was no reversing what had developed; it is what it is.

What I have discovered over the past month is that, even as an aging dude, I’m ever changing, ever growing, ever maturing.  Yeah, I have REALLY missed my kids over the past 36 days (not that I was counting) but this time apart has allotted me time to rejuvenate and to focus on areas of my life that I’ve somewhat neglected.

This past month I’ve been able to focus on my relationship with my girlfriend, Julie.  she doesn’t live in Raleigh so the ability to head to Charlotte or on vacation together has given us the chance to pull back the curtain a bit.  I’ve discovered she’s cooler than I had imagined.  And best of all, after getting to know me even more, she’s still taking my calls!

I’ve exercised, slept hard, read and watched my backlog of DVR’d CBS Sunday Morning shows (man am I old).  I’ve eaten dinner with a number of my buddies, visited my parents twice, and I even got a massage.

I’ve surprised myself this year.  Even at AARP age, there’s still hope to tweak my many imperfections and to face down my fears.  It isn’t over!

I have a long way to go, but it’s nice to know it’s not too late for improvement.

Packing Up

Full of shoes… FULL!

In May, I drove to Washington to pick up my eldest daughter from college.  DJ lives in a sorority house.  Go Alpha Delta Pi.  I’ve been trying to figure out their secret handshake, ‘cause I’m sure they have one, but she is mums on the sorority rituals.  I think they sacrifice chickens at night in their basement – but I’m not exactly sure.  Anyway, as I entered her room, I was simply amazed at how she packs, or doesn’t.

Well, she sort of does.  Like stuff is shoved in various toting devices, but when I arrived, there seemed to be very little rhyme or reason to the organization of her belongings.

A laundry bag might contain some laundry (perhaps clean, perhaps dirty – only a sniff could tell), a can of beans, shampoo, a desk lamp and a broom.  Her comforter ripped off her unkempt bed and carried by hand.  She did put her shoes in a 3’ x 3’ x 4’ plastic container.  There were thirty five pair, and it weighed 700 pounds.

I pulled my back out trying to get her suitcase upstairs when we returned to Raleigh.  It was crammed to the brim.

I am amazed at the amount of stuff that two girls can fit into a 10’ x 10’ room.  I’ll have to say they utilized their space very, very well.  Under the bed, check.  Over the closet, check.  Hanging from the rafters, check.  And amazingly, DJ knew where each item lived.

If on display, you could fill a Walmart Superstore with items from their shared space.  It took two medium sized SUVs to get my child’s possessions back to North Carolina.  It actually expanded over an eight month period of time because when we dropped off in August, it took but one vehicle.

I remember my mom and dad coming to pack me up after one particularly rancid set of roommates.  We were living in an apartment, and they drew the short stick with the other parents.

My dad spent the day in the bathtub trying to Clorox the black ring my roommate and I had created over an eight month period of time.  It’s amazing what comes off your body.  It’s amazing what happens when you don’t clean something for two-thirds of the year.

My mother found a Tupperware container as she worked on cleaning our fridge.  She recognized it – it was red with a white lid.  However, the contents were unrecognizable due to the thick layer of green mold encasing the months old tuna salad she’d sent back with me at Christmastime.  Close to penicillin.  YUCK.  What were my roommates and I thinking?  And yet, I turned out alright in the areas of cleanliness and tidiness.  In fact, I’m quite a stickler when it comes to my house.

Perhaps there is hope too for my daughters.  I think that there is a household organizational gene that does not quite fully develop until after graduation from college.  At least that is my hope.