80 Years Young

A poem written about Mae and Granddaddy by the youngest grandkid.

Jean and Wayne

Haven’t changed a lick!

80 years ago…

Sounds like a very long time, but in my parent’s eyes, I think it has gone by rather quickly.

Both of them complete their eighth decade this year so the fam gathered in the mountains for a brief weekend celebration over Easter.  My brother and I figured what they would most enjoy is time together.  We were right.

We visited, shopped a little, ate a lot and played games each night.  Michelle had everyone in the family email her one fact that no one else know about them.  She then took a candy kiss and one family member’s truth typed out and packed them neatly inside an Easter egg which she hid.  After the hunt, one egg per person, we went around the circle trying to figure out which fact fit which family member.

We’ve been together for a long, long time, and yet, we learned stuff we had not known before.  Who knew my dad drove cross country with a group of guys in college?  My nephew’s uvula is shaped like a snakes tongue.  I didn’t look but the girls did.  And my sister-in-law once ate over 30 baby aspirin – she was a kid and really liked the way they tasted.  Come to think of it, they were quite tasty.

I was proud that Michelle masterminded that activity and carried it out all on her own.

This weekend we also took the opportunity for each child and grandchild to write a note to the patriarch and matriarch sharing what they most remember and appreciate about these two special people.  We shared thoughts on Saturday night through laughter and tears.  An experience that was wonderfully meaningful for each of us.

I’m glad we took the time now to enjoy their company and to tell my folks how we feel about them.  It was a very special way to honor the ones who have meant so much.

The Gut

A dear friend of mine just resigned from the YMCA where we have worked together for thirty years.  She got an awesome opportunity to work with a former co-worker at the Y in Richmond.  Her kids are both in college, and it just seemed like a great opportunity for her to start anew.  She basically lived in Raleigh her entire life and most of her career, although in different positions, has been in one organization.  Gutsy move.

Big decisions are daunting for me.  I play out scenario after scenario – what if…

I recently went through a significant one with Michelle on high school choice.  That one was not mine to make, but I did hold some responsibility for coaching.

Stephanie is beginning to ponder colleges.  Another biggie.  Where you go to college will set the compass for the rest of your life:  where you live, your future spouse, your kids – all of those things ride on ONE significant decision.

Through the years, I’ve had opportunities to apply for other jobs similar to my friend.  I’ve considered selling my house and downsizing.  Occasionally I get the bug to pick up and leave the comfort of Raleigh, where I’ve spent the past 33 years, just to try something new.  But my roots are so very deep.

I have another friend who has had job after job.  She has lived in at least four cities in North Carolina, in Minnesota, and Colorado.  She has gone to various higher education institutions to chase her dreams.  And, she has always made new friends and adapted well.

I once saw a movie called Sliding Door.  The movie highlights Helen’s life.  She gets fired from her job and heads to the subway for home.  In one scenario, she catches the train and finds her boyfriend cheating on her in their apartment.  In another scenario, she misses the train and has no idea what he did.  The movie follows these two parallel lives.  And the outcome at the end is remarkably different, simply because of one train ride.

I suppose the lesson here is that any decision we make, big or small, can drastically change the course of our lives.  Lisa’s sister met her husband at a bar one night years ago.  Had she stayed at home to watch Grey’s Anatomy, who knows?

I asked my friend how she decided to make the move – what pushed her to jump.  Her reply?  “My gut.”

She simply felt it was the right thing to do at the right time.

Although I’m not happy with her for leaving, I’m pretty sure she’s made the right decision.  A little prayer and the following of your “gut” can lead you to some pretty incredible things.

 

 

Stephanie, the Pickle Farmer

college visit photo

Another junior, another week of college tours!  Whoa baby.

What a great way to spend one-on-one time with your kid.  A car, a dad, a daughter and 947 miles of walking around college campuses.

The first one was interesting.  It declined from there.

Things I rediscovered about universities and making that all important, life-changing decision:

  • Every school has a blue light emergency system. This is pointed out at all of the schools for parents who are scared to death that their kid is going to be attacked walking across campus at 2 AM.  I am one of those parents.  I like the blue light stations.
  • For a high school junior female on tour, the cuter the male guide, the higher the satisfaction with the college. At Furman, half of the tour was given on long purple golf carts.  Stephanie and I had been near the back of the walking portion of the tour led by a cute, peppy female co-ed.  When the staff member pointed us toward the golf carts for the remainder of our visit, a blonde stud muffin with a million dollar smile stepped out of the driver’s side inviting us to embark.  Stephanie knocked over two other girls, three moms and a grandmother to sit on the row behind Sven.  I glared at her.  “I’m really interested in this college” she defended.  I should arrange for the cuter guides to meet us at the cheaper schools.  Seriously?  We can’t make a decision on where to attend college based on the hotness factor of the dude leading the tour!  That is NOT a good measuring stick.
  • At each school, the first question prospective students are asked is “What are you considering for your major?” Stephanie is undecided although she has some interest in psychology.  I suggested she share her potential major.  She did not.  She didn’t want to commit.  I told her it didn’t matter what she said on tour, that it was not binding – that they would not force her to become a child psychologist simply because she mentioned it in April of her junior year in high school.  As we drove down the highway, we saw a sign for Mt. Olive College (we did not tour there).  But since Mt. Olive is famous for pickles, I suggested when asked about her future vocation at the next stop she say, “I am considering becoming a pickle farmer.”  We wondered how that would go over at Wake Forest.
  • I was aware that most higher learning establishments housed a Starbucks. I was unaware that the most frequently asked question by students on a college tour was, “Do you have a Chic Fil A?”  I do not know why that surprised me.  When DJ went to college in Washington, DC, she picked up jogging as a hobby.  That was shocking since she absolutely HATES to run.  But then, I realized, she was not running for exercise or endorphin pleasure.  She was running to catch the Chic Fil A food truck.  There are no stores near campus so she had an ap on her phone that tracked the vehicle’s whereabouts.  If within three miles of her dorm, she would don the running gear and high tail it to chicken.  By the way, all but one of the universities we visited had a Chic Fil A.  So don’t panic.  One is near.

This is not my last child nor my last week of tours.  Although a bit boring and repetitive, I would not trade this time with my kids for anything.  What an incredible way to get uninterrupted time with someone you love.

An Ode to Nowak

 

Roses are red,

Homework is a bore,

Why do my kids wait to put the massive poetry project together

 the night before?

 

She knew it was coming,

and I did too.

Her sisters made the same mistake,

The night ends with boo – hoo.

 

Due in three weeks,

 she wrote hard for the first.

Then set it aside,

Oh Lord, we’ll be cursed.

 

I got back to the house

at 10 PM from a meeting,

the project was due in 10 hours,

was even too late for some cheating.

 

She wrote haiku, a couplet,

free verse and a sonnet,

Dad, get the glue out and the hole punch,

Although late, I was on it!

 

The writing was easy,

Putting it together was not.

A nice binder, and drawings,

The presentation, a lot.

 

With colored pencils, and crayons

And glue and some tape,

She worked and she worked,

Michelle was up really late.

 

And me, well I watched.

I coached from the side,

And picked up little round papers

from the hole punch til I thought I would die.

 

This is my last child

to learn from Mr. Nowak.

He has motivated my daughters

And taught them Shakespearean clack.

 

 

PHOTO = $100

You can’t do this.  It is illegal!!!  It is unfair.  Re-dic-u-lous!!!

This is the SECOND time that I have received a SPEEDING ticket when visiting DJ in DC.  Yeah.  Bad me for speeding, huh?  WRONG!

They don’t have police up there.  They just put a camera out and take a picture of you and tell you that you owe $100 without any dag gone proof that you have sped.

39 in a 25 zone they say.  Yeah.  Well prove it sucka!  I could take a picture of your damn car driving down the street too and SAY that YOU’RE speeding.  But I got no proof.

What are their policemen doing?  EATING DOUGHNUTS?

Get the cream filled, chocolate covered puff out of your mouth and get to work!  If you want to give me a ticket because I’m speeding, fine.  Do it like a man.  Follow me.  Turn on your stinkin’ BLUE LIGHT, walk up to my window and write out the ticket in cursive!

In Raleigh, our officers will track your butt down, with a vehicle, and give you a citation.  That is fair.  This is NOT.  They can’t even put points on your license for this infraction because it is stupid.  The insurance companies won’t believe them.

I am employed by the YMCA.  I can’t take a picture of someone I perceive to be out of shape, send them the pic, and charge them for a membership.  I have to work for it.  I have to advertise, give them a tour, and convince them that our services would make a difference in their life.

What the heck?

More! More! More!

I’m selfish. I want to help the world, but I’m just too lazy or too greedy to do it.

On Friday night, I was at a fundraiser. It was for an international group that helps people in need.

The video they shared to kick the night off would rip your heart out. I had to drink another glass of really nice wine to absorb it all.

This man shared a letter from a kid he supports somewhere in Africa. The girl had written a thank you note for the man’s support but shared her concern about her father. Apparently he had to wait to work in his field until after several others in the community had finished their work. He didn’t own his own ox or plow. He borrowed. Therefore, he was the last to plant.  She feared for the family’s livelihood for the next twelve months if he didn’t get his dirt turned soon.

My kids are worried about a lot of things.  But they aren’t worried about whether they’ll have a roof over their heads or food to eat.

Just tonight I put a big helping of shrimp linguini in the fridge because I made entirely too much. We don’t eat leftovers, but I continue to save them because I can’t handle the guilt of throwing perfectly good food away. The Tupperware will sit there until next weekend. I’ll feel fine tossing it out then because no one would want to eat it at that point, not even really hungry folk.

Do you know how much it cost to buy the girl’s father an ox and a plow?  $300.  And there would likely be enough left to purchase a donkey too. I have suits that cost that much.  Several of them.

I also spend that much at Costco sometimes because I get carried away. I need to buy extra shrimp and linguini so my icebox won’t be empty.

This is a nutty world.

What if we could get our extra linguini to Africa by Tuesday? Wouldn’t that be nice?

The problem is that I’m much more comfortable giving my leftovers. That’s easy.

I took a car full of stuff to Goodwill today because I was through with it. And, I get a tax write off. But what if I gave more up front to combat the zany inequities in our world? Heck, in our city.

I probably won’t do that. Instead I’ll buy more stuff and complain about paying taxes – which sometimes do help people in need. More for me!!  More, more, more.

 

Nuggets from Dad

My mother enjoys sharing helpful little nuggets for life with my brother and me.

This week she forwarded an email that explained how to give yourself CPR in the event you have a heart attack alone.  For those who might find themselves in that situation, apparently you cough like a mad dog.

She has also warned of the foods most likely to contain Salmonella (her favorite bacteria): eggs and chicken; places where snakes might hide in your yard (near heavy shrubbery and near water); and the distance your fecal matter can travel if you flush the toilet with the lid open (2.7 miles).

Because I am becoming my mother, I now pass my own nuggets to my children.

Last week I saw a TV special on the growing use of heroin by teenagers.  Therefore, I sent a group text to my daughters:

I just watched a news segment on heroin use.  They said to tell your kids not to use.  It is bad.  It will kill you.  It makes your skin and teeth nasty which doesn’t even matter if you’re dead.  So stop using heroin if you are and don’t start if you aren’t.

Now I am fairly certain that none of them are on drugs, but I gotta bring the issue up regardless, huh?

These were the follow up texts I received from my children:

Stephanie:  I just threw out my stash and I’m already having withdrawals

DJ:  I’m too addicted I can’t stop

Michelle:  Dad I’m having trouble getting the needle in my vein.  Can you come upstairs and help?

Me:  You guys, this is serious!

They say to talk about issues with your kids from the get go.  So I do.  Sex, drugs, eating disorders, alcohol use – all are fair game.  I’m pretty certain that none of my dad warnings will do much good.  But, my hope is that it will open the doors of conversation, allowing us to be open and discuss whatever comes to mind – even the stuff that is a bit uncomfortable.

 

The Ninja Masseur

I don’t often get massages.  It is a rare treat.  I once got one in Hawaii.  It was a Lomi Lomi massage.  The woman straddled me on the table.  I nearly had a heart attack.  I thought she was going to murder me.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get another.  It was 80 minutes long – also unusual for me.  I’m more used to the hour-long.

This quiet, sort of timid masseur greeted me and escorted me to the room.  It was there he asked me a plethora of questions before I was instructed to “disrobe to my level of comfort” and crawl on the table.

I discovered why this place encouraged an 80 minuter.  It is because he took 20 minutes asking me questions.

“Do you have any medical issues I should be aware of?”

“Is the music choice OK?”

“Is the volume level to your liking?”

“Is the sun bothering your eyes?”

“Do you want the fan on?”

“Do you want me to open the blind?”

“Is the head of the table tilted to your liking?  Is the foot of the table tilted to your liking?”

DUDE!  My liking is for you to rub my back like you’re doing laundry on the prairie!  STOP ASKING QUESTIONS AND GET TO WORK!

“One more question:  Do you want lilac oil, orange blossom oil or oregano oil?”

“Well I don’t want to smell like a pizza, and I don’t want to fall asleep.  I’ll take the orange.”

Maybe it was cilantro – I can’t remember.  But it was something I’ve cooked with before.

So this tiny man started my massage with me on my back.  He took his little fingers and left his prints all across my forehead.  It was like when my kids made fingerprint Easter Bunnies in preschool.

He then began rubbing my ear lobes.  He spent a seemingly inordinate amount of time messing with my ears.  At one point he gently grabbed the inner cartilage and held down toward the bed.  I tried to raise my head.  I could not.  He had me pinned.  It was an incredibly weird sensation – a 175 pound man being held down by his ears.

It wasn’t long after that I discovered this librarian looking fella could have snapped my head off like a ninja.  Some guys don’t like a rub down from another man.  This is strictly business for me.  If the hands are strong, I don’t care if Jack the Ripper is in charge.

He dug down on the knots in my back with force.  He put my stress to shame.  He belittled my tight little muscles.

He asked me if I wanted my stomach massaged.  I asked if it was included.  I didn’t want to pay extra.  He assured me it was.  Then by all means.  My stomach works really hard.  It deserves some attention.

I was a little concerned that the lint in my bellybutton would mix with the orange oil and create some interesting yarn – but what the heck,  it came with the package.

When I turned onto my stomach half way through the glorious experience, he hung a strap under my nose.

“This is frankincense,” he explained.

Me and the baby Jesus. 

“I prefer myrrh.  JK!”

I don’t think he heard me.

Thankfully he left the sheet on my behind when he went to work on my gluts.  He balled up his fist and beat my butt like a toddler to a table when didn’t get what he wanted for dinner.

I’d seen that in the movies, but I hadn’t been spanked since I was a kid.  Sort of surprised me.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole experience was when he hit the small gong at the end of my session.  Doing.  He warned me that when I heard that sound, our time together was complete.

He thanked me for my patronage and swiftly left the room.  Another ninja move.

I sat up on my bruised tail and sipped my raspberry water.

What a lovely day it has been, I thought.

UBER

uber

When DJ went to college, I told her I would pay for four things:

  1. Her tuition, room and board
  2. Her books
  3. Her transportation
  4. A set amount of spending money each semester

Numbers 1, 2 and 4 have worked out well.  Perhaps I should gave given a bit more clarity around number 3.

What I meant by “I will cover your transportation” was that I would get her back and forth from school.  It’s a 4.5 hour drive one way.  Sometimes I drop her off or pick her up.  Sometimes she flies.  And sometimes she takes the train.  Yes.  I cover those expenses.  I want her to come home – often.  So I’ll pay.

I also figured, up in DC, that she might buy a Metro card to ride the train to Target or to, I don’t know, Mount Vernon.  I am happy to cover that OCCASIONAL expense.

She took our initial conversation in a different direction…

The UBER direction.

Apparently my credit card is attached to her Uber account, and I just received the bill.

In one month, she charged 18 Uber rides.  She also charged seven “car shares” and one $14 Metro ride.  I don’t even know what a “car share” is.  What I do know is that one shared a car to Maryland on November 17 for $35.75 and another shared a ride back on November 18 for $28.88.  Who in the heck was she spending the night with in a different state?  She says it was a Camp Seafarer reunion.  Yada, yada, yada.  I don’t care if she was spending the night with the Pope… he needs to pick her up from campus in his large white window filled bus.

I asked her, “Are you taking Uber across campus to class?  You can’t do that!  You must walk!  That’s part of the college experience.”

She told me she once went to the zoo, and it was educational.

“Well what about the other 17 rides?”

“Dad, there are two charges for every one destination.  You ride there AND back.”

She did have a point.

She then explained that it could have been worse.  She has often been using UberPOOL which sticks you in a car with complete strangers allowing you to split the cost.  In fact, she forwarded me an email she received from email@uber.com.  It said, and I quote,

WOW!  You’re pretty savvy.  By choosing to ride UberPOOL, you saved $95.55 in 2016.  

She should have forwarded that to me because she didn’t save anything by using UberPOOL.  Cause she didn’t pay for Uber.  I DID!!  We had over $180 worth of transportation charges in the month of November.  AHHHH.

I didn’t know I was going to have to include Uber in my monthly expenditures.  Jimini Christmas!  These girls are slowly breaking me into little, bitty pieces.  I’m a shell of the man I used to be.

 

My Banana Clip

banana-clip

It was a Wednesday morning about 10.  I had an hour to kill before I had to be at my next meeting.  I have not shaved the beard I grew in November for the play we were in.  Two people at work told me they like it.  That’s all the encouragement I need!  My cheeks will never feel the stroke of a razor again.

The problem was my hair was getting a bit squirrely too.  A friend walked into the coffee shop where I was meeting with a co-worker and said I looked like the Unibomber.  Now, this dude shaves from his adam’s apple to the nape of his neck so he clearly prefers the bowling ball look, but I knew he had a point.

I drove across the street to a Wing Cuts or Great Chops or whatever the $12.95 hairdo place was located.  To my dismay, it was closed.  Like, out of business closed, so I needed another option.  Alas, I remembered that there was a shop of some sort beside the fast food Japanese restaurant the girls and I frequent right around the corner.  Maybe I’d be able to smell the Teryaki Chicken while in the chair.

When I drove up, I was a bit intimidated.  It looked more like a salon than a Sports Clips.  It was called E.A. Wells Hair Design.  Fancy schmancy!  I wasn’t sure they would take me cause I wasn’t sure I had enough on the top of my head to design anything.  But Abbey greeted me with such enthusiasm, I figured I’d give it a go.

She escorted me to the back of the shop and sat me in a chair which was attached to a sink.  It reclined and at the top had a scoop cut out of the ceramic where you rested your neck.  My head just dangled about in the burgundy bowl.

Homegirl scrubbed my scalp like I was her dog.  She’d put some product of some sort on my head and just go to town.  She’d rinse and repeat.  She did that like four times.  My head must have been way, way dirty.  And she didn’t even get my clothes wet!

Man did it feel good.  I was gonna ask her to marry me, I mean the stuff she was doing was very personal.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could just hire her to wash my hair on a daily basis.  Do people do that?

She asked me how I wanted my hair cut.  I told her the regular way.

She told me she was going to give me some style.

I’m not sure if she did.  But it was a nice haircut.  The only problem is that my bangs, the hair in the front, are really, really long.  This morning, on the way to church, I had to put them in a small banana clip to try to get my hair to dry in the away position rather than in my right eyeball.  As I walked down Morgan Street from the parking deck on our way to the sanctuary, I realized I had not removed the fastener from my head.  Stephanie was walking beside me, and we were having a conversation.

“Did you not realize the clip was still in my hair?” I asked.

“Yeah.  I sort of did,” she responded.

Did she just not put together that I don’t typically wear my hair in a partial ponytail or did she actually want me to walk into church looking like a 1980’s sorority girl?

Regardless, I now have a style, and I think I’ll go back because it was only $9 more than Supercuts.  And because Abbey has magic fingers.