ALICE

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I first met Alice when I was about 10 years old.  She’s a South Carolina ghost, and the stories of her left me many sleepless nights.

She lived in the mid 1800s at her family’s seaside home at Murrell’s Inlet.  While on vacation in the 1970s, my family happened on her home place, the Hermitage, and an older gentleman, a family descendent, invited us in for a tour and shared her story.  Apparently Alice fell in love with a dude that her brother disapproved of.  She left home for school and married the outsider.  When she returned to the Hermitage, she wore her wedding ring around her neck to conceal her disobedience.  When she became sick with scarlet fever, the ring was discovered.  Her angry brother grabbed the ring and tossed it into the marsh surrounding their home.  She died shortly after.  Her family was so mad that the only thing they put on her gravestone was her first name:  ALICE.

The story I remember is that if you run around her grave 14 times backwards, lie down, and truly believe, she will appear.

So being in the area for Labor Day, I felt obligated to take Stephanie and Michelle to see her.  We were so busy throughout the day that we didn’t get the chance to visit her until Sunday night.

We pulled up to the cemetery at 10:30.  PM.  The wrought ironed gate had a sign that said OPEN FROM 8 AM TIL DARK.  It was dark, so I interpreted that we were within the rules.

As I walked toward the back of the graveyard, Stephanie pulled on my left arm while Michelle pulled on the right both leaning toward the parking lot with full force.  I felt like a mule pulling a wagon.  My body leaned forward dragging them toward our destination.  Although their body language said otherwise, I could tell they wanted to be there.  I had not physically put them in the car.  They came on their own accord.

As we passed the small stone church, a huge spotlight shone in my eyes.

I’ll have to admit it startled me.  I thought someone was standing there with a lantern.    Regaining my composure, I broke away from the girls long enough to figure out where Alice lay.  I called them over when I found her.

There were rings and some money on the slab of marble that defined her resting spot.  Others had been there to pay their respects.

I was hopeful.  I believed.  I ran around, backwards, fourteen times.  I settled on my back hopeful she’d make an appearance.  The girls huddled nearby expecting my next move.

I worked hard to be still long enough to build up a decent level of anticipation.  And then, with the energy of a five-year old, I leapt up, arms high in the air, screaming like a little girl, “There she is!!  On the fence!  Run!  Run!”

My long legs passed them before we got to the gate.  I bolted across the two lane road to the car, jumped in and locked the doors.

As they beat on the car windows I regained my composure, in short time opening the doors.  I assured them I had not intentionally locked them out.  “I just got worked up.”  Wise, they did not buy my story; any of it.

As we drove home I finished the tale.

“Alice follows those who visit.  When all are asleep, she pulls on the fingers of all the girls looking for her wedding band.

Whew.  Tonight I’m very thankful that I’m a boy.”

The Sandspurs

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This coming Saturday is a busy day for the Tanners.

At around 4 AM, I drop DJ off at the Raleigh-Durham airport.  She’s going to Durbin, South Africa, with her aunt.  A once in a lifetime experience that she will experience… at age 19.

At 9, I pick Michelle up from Camp Kanata, an overnight camp where she will have spent the week with one of her best friends.  She was stoked when I dropped her off last Sunday.

At 3, I drop Stephanie off for four weeks at Camp Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina where she will be a Camper in Leadership Training.

It’s good to be my kids.

When I was younger, often the highlight of a summer day was earning a nickel when my brother bet me I wouldn’t stick my tongue in the sand hole in our backyard.  You could rake that dirt off with about three scrapes from your Incisors.  Well worth it when the ice cream truck came musically down Berkshire Road.

My backyard could be Africa, if I wanted it to.  It could also be sleep away camp or a spaceship or a battlefield.  All we needed was a hole, which my dad dug for us in the back corner of the back yard.  Six of seven of us could fit into it at once.

The principal’s kid lived behind us on the other side of the fence from our fort.  We didn’t like the principal.  We didn’t like his kid either.  My mother, the preacher’s wife, encouraged us to be nice to him, to include him in our group.  We didn’t much listen to her suggestion.  I’m certain it was my brother’s fault.

Today, kids don’t have to pretend.  They’re doing the real stuff!

They don’t even have to deal with sandspurs.  Where did those boogers go?  If you would have pulled all the sandspurs out of my dad’s yard when I was a kid, you’d have been left with a really nice rock collection.  That’s all there was.  Dirt, rock and sandspurs.  They hurt like hell May to mid-June, but come Summer Solstice, our feet were so tough, we could have walked to Africa, barefoot.

We didn’t go to overnight camp.  We didn’t sail or canoe or shoot archery.  Well, we did have a bow with arrows that had a rubber end.  We shot them at each other’s butts.  They seldom stuck, but boy was it exciting when they did.

I’m sure there were camps back when I was a kid.  I saw the movie Meatballs.  Maybe I didn’t go because I wouldn’t leave my mother’s side.  I didn’t want to go to half-day bible school without her and my dad was the minister at the church.  I wasn’t really homesick; she was just a really good mom.

I’m glad my kids are able to do some really cool stuff in the summer.  I’m glad they are having experiences I didn’t have at their age.  I just doesn’t seem fair that I’m at home, working, while they are gallivanting around the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empire Strikes Back

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The Donald Trump Team

Our family plays a great game on vacation.  We learned it a year or two ago from friends when at our August jaunt to Capon Springs.  It’s called Empire.

We played at the beach last week.  The beautiful thing about the game is that it can be played by my 5-year-old niece and by Lisa’s 70 something-year-old uncle who suffers from Parkinson’s.

It takes no equipment, simply 8 or 10 or however many people.

Each player chooses the name of a famous person and secretly shares it with the game leader who collects all of the names and reads the list aloud to the group.  The players then guess who chose each name.

This last round, I chose Iggy Azalea.  I don’t really know her, in fact I had to Google to determine if she was actually a she.  But that was part of my strategy.  I figured no one would believe I could have come up with her name, because I am not that cool.

Unfortunately, Michelle saw right through me and by about the eighth round had figured out my strategy.  Because she guessed my famous person, I joined her “Empire.”  We were both now Scarlett Johansson, the name she put on the list.

Jesse outwardly celebrated as he had success.  My seven-year-old nephew was the first to fall to him at which time the two showed little class as they guessed six or seven more players in fairly short order.  Their hoots, shouts and victory dances were darkened when Michelle insisted that they were Donald Trump.  She was correct, and Jesse’s Empire fell to us.

Aunt Sallie was short lived as Strawberry Shortcake.   Nana chose Florence Nightingale which was also fairly obvious.  If played enough, it becomes clear that the older generation often leans toward historical figures, the middle generation tries to stump with the most unobvious choice and the youngsters go with someone they know, like Aladdin, a tried and true Disney character.

The game is part luck, part strategy.  While playing at Capon last year, I quickly guessed Uncle Jesse’s character, and then the two of us immediately figured out Aunt Sallie and Uncle Matt.  Other players suggested we were in cahoots prior to the start of the game.  In truth, we just knew each other well enough to make some fairly strong deductions.

As my kids age, I hope we will keep the spirit of inter-generational connections alive.  I don’t want to be an old person sitting alone on the beach.  I want to be in the mix with all.

A group activity is a great way to make that happen!

California, Here I Come!

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If it wasn’t going to break in half due to a massive earthquake, I would move to San Diego.  I just spent three days there for a meeting and man, is it a cool place!

I first noticed the difference at the airport.  I take people watching very seriously when in public places.  And the people I watched in California were all beautiful!  The women AND the men!  I saw very few who were overweight.  Folks were walking around the airport with skateboards in tow and muscles bulging.

I swear that the Dali Lama and Shirley McLean were on my flight from LA.  “Shirley” looked to be a healthy seventy-something-year-old.  She sat in an airport chair wearing culottes with her legs tucked up under her behind.  She was more limber than my 13-year-old daughter.  Although she had a bit of dangly skin on the underside of her arms, and who doesn’t at that age, her biceps looked as if they could easily hold the weight of her body in an upside down split on a balance beam.

These Californians dressed casually, had unusually bright colors of hair, and seemed to enjoy open toed shoes.  There weren’t a lot of wing tips strolling around LAX, it was FLIP FLOP haven.

The lush plantings all along the 15 minute drive to my hotel were beautiful.  While it was a balmy 95 degrees at home, we ate outdoors each evening with a slight breeze and a refreshing temperature of 70.

I will admit, the local newscast took some getting used to.  One reporter shared that a man had been shot by his car while meditating on the side of the road.  Thankfully, he was going to be OK.  I wonder why he stopped his car on a seemingly busy highway for quiet and relaxation.  Perhaps the traffic was stressing him out.

I haven’t seen that many people mediate on the Raleigh Beltline, but I might try it.

The weather woman for the morning broadcast wore a short, puffy, bright pink skirt.  Her black blouse was fitted – VERY fitted (and there was a lot to fit.)  I sort of felt like Katy Perry was delivering the five day forecast.  Oh, and I swear she was wearing medium length black socks with her high heels.   It was early, and they only showed her feet once.  Maybe that was just a dream.  High heels and socks?  That’s not something you see at the Fayetteville mall much less on the news in North Carolina.

I return next year for a conference, and I think I’ll stay a while.  Just breathing their air makes me feel all tingly inside.

Rachael Ray Airs Wednesday

Rachael Ray is pictured during the production of "The Rachael Ray Show" in New York on Thursday, March 28, 2016. Photo: David M. Russell/Rachael Ray Show ©2016 King World Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Rachael Ray is pictured during the production of “The Rachael Ray Show” in New York on Thursday, March 28, 2016.  Photo: David M. Russell/Rachael Ray Show  ©2016 King World Productions. All Rights Reserved.

I thought that perhaps they would mention my book, or perhaps help pub up my blog.  Or at a minimum have us help Rachael in the kitchen.  I mean, I can cook chicken nuggets and frozen waffles.

Nah – none of that stuff happened.

But… we did have a great time!

It has been a dream of mine to have a dude in a black suit greet me at the bottom of the airport escalator with my name on a sign:

“Mr. Tanner?  I’m here to transport you to your destination.  May I get your bags?”

I mean who are these people who are so important they don’t have to schlep through luggage and go stand in the taxi line hopeful not to get the one that smells like mothballs or old Chinese food?

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Let me tell you… those people are us!

Well, close to us.  Like he wasn’t waiting at the escalator, he was outside.  But he did have a nondescript black sedan, and it did have our name on the side, and he did already know where we were going, because we were very important people, critical to the Rachael Ray Show’s success for the day.

When we arrived at the studio, we were taken to our dressing room.  It had our name outside the door and a bathroom.  And a sign that said hold down the handle when you flush (and not a tacky, hand-written job, it was classy!)  Felt just like home.

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They ordered pizza and salad for us (Rachael was interviewing one of the Shark Tank guys so she couldn’t cook) and then interviewed us for a video they were working on to be aired the following day when we taped the show, IN FRONT OF A LIVE (not dead) audience.

At one point, we could hear Ms. Ray outside our door…

It was VERY exciting.

During my interview on the first day, she was talking in the hall, and we had to pause because of the background noise.  Yes, Rachael’s actual, real voice was wreaking havoc on my press time!  I just couldn’t work under those conditions.

That night Rachael’s kind staff hooked us up with two nice rooms at the Hilton on W 26th street.  We put our clothes in one and all slept in the other.

On the second day they sequestered us in a conference room and prepped us for what Rachael might ask.  We were poised, calm, ready for our big break!

We were escorted to makeup where the beauticians did the girls’ hair and applied a bit of makeup.  I went too but there wasn’t much she could do.  She did tell me I had nice hair and then she sponged some stuff under my eyes to hide the bags.  I felt like Boy George.

They kept us in a stairwell and as our taped interview began to air, they rushed us through sound check and trekked us through the set to Ms. Ray’s couch.  I sat right next to her.  She patted my knee to relax me.

When the video ended, all cameras turned to us…

Rachael has a new line of furniture, and we were sitting on her brand new couch!  My tush was actually one of the first tushes to touch that fabric.  Eee-yowza.

She then turned to us, asked where Uncle Jesse was, and I shared that he was working.  She asked the kids two or three questions and then… we had a huge surprise!  DJ Tanner, the real DJ Tanner Candace Cameron-Bure, came out from behind the set!  My girls almost peed their pants which would have been a mess, especially on the new couch.

At the commercial break, they snapped our pic with our two new besties, and then we got to visit with Candace who was extremely gracious.  She even invited us to come out to LA to see them tape their new show, Fuller House.  I gave her my card.  She hasn’t called yet, but we are hopeful.

The show actually airs tomorrow on ABC.  We weren’t on there long so you’ll have to watch quickly.

It was a fabulous experience for my girls and for me.  And the staff at the Rachael Ray Show were really incredible.  Warm, welcoming, professional – what a great experience for our family.

RR Girls Interview

 

 

 

Mundane to Marvelous

This week’s Sunday School lesson was on happiness.  We talked about a lot of things, but one piece of the happiness puzzle seems to be contentment – making the most of your circumstances.

I think I see that in my oldest kid.  On Friday she was headed home for spring break.  That afternoon we were driving to Fayetteville, NC, to see my parents.  I’m sure my daughter might rather spend this time with friends in Cancun sipping boat drinks at the swim up bar.  But she had to make a choice, and a summer trip to Africa won.  Her father does not pay for these extravagances, and her bank account is only so deep.

I got a text at 9:38 AM.

I’m at the airport.  I haven’t driven in months.  Let’s take my car to Fayetteville.  It’ll be fun!

I knew what that meant.  Her grandfather handed down his Mini Cooper to DJ last May.  It is the size of a large bathtub.  It is tight for two people.  But four?

We packed light and all climbed in.  Our playlist from Spotify was pumping out of the speakers and the convertible top was down.

By the time we hit Garner, ten minutes outside Raleigh, I felt as if I had been visited by Hurricane Hazel.  My cerebral cortex had dried out from the pounding wind whipping through the orifices in my head.  And yet, we laughed, smiled and sang our way to the big metropolis we fondly call Fayettenam.

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As we sat around grandpa’s den, DJ began taking family videos.  Like her father, she finds humor in the mundane.

The more she encouraged, the stupider we acted.

On Sunday, we went to church.  I taught a class and at 11 met the girls to head to the sanctuary.

“Dad, I have an idea,” DJ shared.

Here is comes, I thought to myself.

“What if we skipped church,”

Coulda called that one

“Grab some coffee,”

Now you’re talking

“And go ride the Carousel at Pullen Park.”

Not surprisingly, the sisters approved.

“Why would we do that?” I asked.

“Why wouldn’t we?” she questioned.

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So off we went, church clothes and all, to ride a gyrating meerkat.

At school in DC, she does the same thing.

Camp Seafarer in the summer?  She’s cookin’ stuff up!

She doesn’t find happiness, she makes it.  She takes her circumstance, whatever it may be, and turns it into something good.  An afternoon in Fayetteville, NC, with a goofy 50-year-old father and a granddad who just had  bypass surgery?  Not a downer; an opportunity.  A chance to to embarrass your dad on Instagram.

She got the optimism and daring of her mother paired with the silliness of her dad.  Amazing when tossed together.

 

Tinkle Twins at Disney World

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All three girls, my parents and I went to the bathroom at approximately 11:15 AM on January 1 before we pulled out of the driveway for our eight hour junket to Florida.  Before noon, we had stopped once for a bathroom break.  DJ had a sick stomach, and the man I had admired for years for the size of his bladder had taken this opportunity, “just in case.”  Not only did we stop for him in the Tar Heel state, we also visited rest stops in the Palmetto State, the Peach State and the Sunshine State.

I had embarked on a five day journey where the focus of our trip would not be on which attractions we would see at Walt Disney World, but on where we could find the closest bathroom.

My mother’s bladder is the size of a garden pea.  They say I have my father’s nose and jaw line.  I have my mom’s eyes and urological functions.

For years on vacation my mother and I would plead for stops while my older brother and father would roll their eyes, with bladders the size of camels’ humps.  My, my, how the tables have turned.

It did not matter who in the family needed to relieve themselves, my dad joined right in.  I suggested he owed my mother and me an apology for years of urination ridicule.  He blamed old age and refused to atone for the past.

When we booked the trip, I expected my mother to go…and go…and go.  That was no surprise.  What I’d forgotten is the length of time each visit would take.  My daughters explained that when their grandmother approaches an unfamiliar potty, she meticulously wipes it down.  She then wraps the seat, double ply, with toilet paper to ensure that her epidermis does not touch the unknown surface.

Because she is cold natured, she wears a sweater in July mid-day on the beach, imagine the layers of clothing that had to be removed in January in order to proceed with elimination.

I’m not sure what she was wearing on the bottom, but on the top she had a camisole, a t-shirt, a shirt, a sweater, a vest and a white Pillsbury Dough Boyish puffy coat.  Children approached her at the Magic Kingdom asking for her autograph.  They thought she was a character.

To enter Disney World, you hold your Magic Band, a Fit-Bit type bracelet, up to a monitor and then scan your fingerprint to gain admittance into the park.  Time and again, my mother’s Magic Band would work, but the monitor could not detect her fingerprint.  My dad said it is because she washed them off.  The final ritual of her bathroom experience is a full scrub down of any potentially exposed areas of her body.  I have never seen it, but I think she washes her hands, legs and sometimes her hair (depending upon the overall cleanliness of the stall) after each visit.  If you washed your hands 27 times a day, 432,525 days in a row, you would be devoid fingerprints too.

It actually worked fine because the girls and I could wait in line AND ride the more adventurous attractions in about the same amount of time it took her to go to the restroom.

We actually had a lovely vacation, and, we visited bathrooms from around the world.

Lights, Camera, Action

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I guess that other families do this too but perhaps we are an anomaly.  If they don’t, perhaps they should.

The smallest, stupidest, things can bring our simple minds so much joy.

Last week when visiting DJ in DC, we discovered that our reading light, when turned the right way, was equivalent to a Broadway Show spotlight.  A Tanner just can’t resist the limelight, even if there is but an audience of three!

This is our rudimentary work.  We call it A Night at the Hamilton, the name of our hotel.

 

 

Priorities, Priorities

Waiting on a ride!

Waiting on a ride!

I’d made the decision.  It was a good one.  I passed it by a number of people.

It’s Capon Springs time.  Our family’s third week in August trek to West Virginia to hang with family and dear friends.  I’ve been every year since I proposed to a Katsopolis child in 1993.  It’s the dowry that keeps on giving.

When I was a kid, we had summer.  Months and months of summer.  Nowadays, summer is short and teacher workdays are plentiful.

Since Stephanie’s school began on Monday, and since she is taking AP Bio and four honors classes, it was her year to fly to Capon a few days late.  I’d checked the school schedule and although Monday seemed to be more of an introductory day, Tuesday – Friday were full on academics.  She’d get two days behind her and fly into Dulles late Wednesday night where I’d meet her and transport her to her favorite spot on earth.

I don’t think that everyone understands my children’s love for this place.  Yesterday Michelle asked me if I would rather give up our house or give up our week at Capon Springs.  I choose to keep the house.  She was undecided but leaning toward the family reunion.  I mean I love this place, but we’re here 7 days a year.  The other 348 we are in our house.

Michelle, DJ and I left at 11 AM on Sunday after dropping Stephanie off at school for orientation.  At 1:45, 30 miles north of Richmond, we received the text.

Dad, I could have flown out early on Wednesday.  Classes end at noon.  Same on Tuesday.  Afternoons are meetings about time management and stuff.

I recalled that in early August when I received the school schedule, I was told it was tentative, but I had to commit to the flight.

I couldn’t believe I’d made the choice to leave my kid out of this critically important slice of her life for two half days of class.

I pulled over and texted my parents who were in charge of Stephanie for the first half of the week.

You in the mood for a Sunday afternoon drive?

 Sure.  Why?

We’re coming to get her.

 While they packed the car and headed north, Lisa’s dad left the Capon golf course to pick up DJ and Michelle.  They threatened to kill me if I made them ride all the way back to North Carolina.

I dropped them off with Pops an hour north in Warrenton, Virginia, and turned my car around.

Heavy traffic, a major detour, a nearly empty tank of gas and a lower back that hurt like hell could not deter.  I’d messed up.  I’d made a short sighted decision.  I had to consider priorities.

When I pulled up to the Main House Sunday night and began unpacking our bags at 11:30 PM, twelve and a half hours after I’d left Raleigh,  one of Michelle’s friends asked why I went back home.

“I forgot something.”

“What’d you forget, Mr. Tanner?”

“My middle child.”

Where did the hovercraft go?

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How sweet it would be to vacation without any concern for money.  In my life, we rely on grandparents for the really big stuff.  And if they don’t come through, it’s ugly.

Lisa once told me she wasn’t going to spend thousands of dollars going to Disney World and then spend the whole week listening to me moan about every Diet Coke she ordered.
I don’t think I really moaned.  I was just thinking about sending the kids to college.

“So, you gonna order another Diet Coke?” or would you prefer we send DJ to college?

This past trip, we lucked up. My brother-in-law, Matt, has a cousin who works in the park.  She hooked us up!  A MAJOR discount for ahhh, well, extended family.  Very extended.  I mean, didn’t we all come from Adam and Eve?

It was nice because we got the meal plan – so your drink came with it (no worry about the extra Diet Cokes.)  And my kids knew better than to ask for add ons.  Two square meals a day and a snack – that’s what was included, so that’s what we ate.

I’ve always enjoyed the mouse, but I think this year they’re sort of slipping a bit.

As we were driving in, one of the thousands of buses that transports the hoards had wrecked. Thankfully, we weren’t on that bus, but the crash did divert our course. We had to drive through a back lot to get to the main road which led to our hotel.

It was a mess back there:  Tilt-A-Whirl parts, a broken down bus, stacks of wood, chain link fence – looked like the back gate at the NC State Fair.  The place where the Pig Racers camp for the week.

I don’t want to see that.  It’s like your grandma’s underwear.  You know she’s got ‘em but you certainly don’t want to see them.

The Monorail was “Out of Order” three times during our short stay.  Heck, that’s the main reason I go.  It’s the closest I’ll ever get to riding in a hovercraft like in Star Wars.  And by day 3, one of the trains had disappeared.  I could tell because they’re color coded, and a new one was puddling around the circle.  It rides on a huge concrete track!  How did they move it? Where did it go?  Did it break and fall off in the lagoon?

I think some funky stuff happens at that place once the park closes.  Mickey Mouse walking around naked and stuff.

On the bottom side of the monorail track at the Transportation Center in the Magic Kingdom, a permanent sign that read, “DANGER, HIGH VOLTAGE,” had been replaced with a large sign that looked like it had been printed on a bubble jet.

I did that once at the Y and got in trouble. My sign read, “Please don’t spit in the shower.” A member asked me to put it up, and I was trying to be customer friendly.  Apparently some mannerless dude had hocked one right there beneath the Kohler Medallion 5-Sprayer showerhead.

Finally, the afternoon we headed to the airport, we walked outside of our hotel to wait for the airport shuttle and right in front of us was an enormous puddle of vomit. Probably too much Diet Coke followed by the Tilt-A-Whirl.

At any rate, the chunkiness sat there for the entire duration of our wait, like 20 minutes. People were nearly walking through it.

Now don’t get me wrong, customer service in central Florida still outshines the majority of other places I go on a weekly basis, and the grounds and facilities are very nice. Most importantly, we had a fantastic time. I was just surprised to see these few blemishes.

Perhaps I’m just getting cynical. Or, maybe they knew I was sliding in without paying full fare. You get what you pay for, huh?