Lemonade out of Lemons

The girls and I recently became hooked on a new TV show on NBC called This Is Us.  Although my kids can watch a 12 episode series in a weekend’s time, I don’t often have the inclination to sit that still that long.  But, there is something different about this show.

One storyline is set in the 70’s and 80’s and is about a family with three kids.  There is a parallel storyline set today that follows the children as grownups.

I am particularly drawn to two characters in the series.  My first attraction is to the father of the three kids, Jack Pearson.  He has his flaws, but he is an incredible man.  He brings life and fun into the family.  He is wonderfully sensitive, crying multiple times in the very first show.  He just wants things to be OK for his kids and for his wife to be genuinely happy.  It is refreshing to watch how he invests in others.

There is also a 70-year-old man, Dr. Nathan Katowski the wife’s obstetrician, who is also a regular on the show.  He is a widower and sort of mentors Jack.

I want to see pieces of each of these men in me.

At one point, the young father and his wife lose a baby in delivery.  This is the advice that the seasoned Dr. Katowski gives to Jack:

I’d like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me, talking a younger man’s ear off explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. 

I think when you go through tough times, folks are more prone to sharing their setbacks with you.  Perhaps they feel that you can understand.

I’ve recently had acquaintances lose loved ones – children, parents, spouses.  I know of those who have lost their jobs.  I’ve spent time with a widower who has six children under the age of 12.  I am amazed at how many rediscover good out of really nasty situation.

If for no other reason, as a young widower, I was propelled to drive forward for my kids’ sakes.  I couldn’t bear for them to live in a house with a father who was paralyzed by grief.  In the end, I was the one who benefited.  I found happy.

I hurt so bad seven years ago (this week marks the anniversary).  I was messed up.  And yet, today, I can’t imagine there are that many out there with more blessings than me.

 

Healing does not mean forgetting.  For me it is figuring out how to put grief in its appropriate place.

Writing makes you ponder things that perhaps you wouldn’t otherwise.  I think about my legacy often – what I want to be remembered for when I’m gone from this earth.  I think it’s important to me for my kids to look back and say, “Man did dad make some good lemonade.”  Like the pink kind with real slices of lemon floating on the top, in a really nice pitcher with grandma ice cubes.

How fortunate I am to be sipping again.

George Washington’s Coming Hoooome…

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This past weekend we went to DC to see DJ. I am glad she is there and not in Bunnlevel, NC. It is a very nice place to visit.

On Saturday, we went to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. I actually learned some things while there.

Did you know that Martha Washington was a young widow with two children when George came into the picture? I had forgotten that fact. He had no biological kids. Interesting.

I think Mount Vernon was a really cool place to live. It sits on the Potomac River with a great view of the water. There is a huge porch and a huge lawn that leads down to the sandy bank. There is also more goose poop in his yard than you could ever imagine. I didn’t see one goose, but I ABSOLUTELY know they live nearby. Must have been out dining at El Rodeo (or El Runnio as one of my family members refers to it) for lunch when we were there. Something is stirring up their gastric systems.

The tour guides said that ahh, can’t remember exactly, but about half of the stuff in the house was original, the other half period pieces they had just collected.

The banister leading to the second floor was installed by Washington – and I touched it. Got his DNA all over my right hand.

They showed a replica of a wagon that was similar to one he owned. Well, maybe not a wagon. It was like a hard dining room chair glued onto a piece of plywood and attached to large wheels. A horse then pulled the apparatus which may have been how he got back and forth to DC. There wasn’t even a seatbelt. My ass would have been on the ground. Head all bashed up on a rock and smeared with goose poo no doubt.

I like cars.

He had his own blacksmith shop on the grounds. How cool is that? Need a horseshoe? No problem. Need an iron poker? Comin’ up. There was actually a dude there cooking up a spoke for a fence while we stood there watching. Unbelievable.  I need a blacksmith shop in my backyard.

They had a fake Martha Washington there. Well, actually she was real, a real person; she just wasn’t the original Martha. She was in a room all dressed up with big white hair talking like she was actually living in the 18th Century. She had a bottle of cologne that she let us smell. She said it was the kind that George wore. It was nice. Probably came in handy since his bathroom was up the street from the house.

Oh, and they had a dung hut, but we didn’t go see it. I’m not 100% sure what a dung hut is, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work, live or sleep in one.

All in all it was a lovely day. I highly encourage a visit. You may learn something, and you’ll get to see the bed that old George died on. A bit morbid but really kinda fascinating.

Joy

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I got a weird and wonderful call this week.

The area code was 910.  I recognized it because it is the same as my parents’.  On my phone screen the word Fayetteville popped up. Most people would not get excited by that word.  My hometown does not have the most exciting nor stellar reputation.  But for me, when I imagine that city, I just get all warm and tingly inside.

The voicemail was jumbled and cut off a few seconds into the call.  But I could clearly make out the name, and I surely recognized the voice.

“Danny, this is Joy from Fayetteville.  I saw a picture of you on Facebook and…”

Joy!

Joy was the pianist and a youth leader at my church when I was growing up.  Although old to us at the time, she was probably early thirties, she was so stinkin’ cool.  She was one of few adults who let my friends and me call her by her first name:  Joy.  How fitting.  She brought a ton of it to me.

In many ways, I was an insecure teen, not quite sure what to think of myself or my place in the world.  I did not peak in high school – that is an understatement – I didn’t even slightly ascend.  But Joy and Doug and Kim and Mike and Mr. Lundy and Mrs. Byrd and Miss Patty hurled themselves into my life with the full intent of helping me to discover all that I had that was good.  I’m sure it was a chore – like finding a pineapple tree growing in the Alaskan Tundra.

It didn’t seem to bother them that I was imperfect.  Sometimes I cussed.  Once I led the brigade of boys on a youth retreat in a full on mooning convention.  We pulled our pants down every single time a girl in our group walked by and even mooned passersby from the church bus windows.  These adults showed me love and compassion and how to invest in the lives of those around you.

Because of my work at the YMCA, I often read articles on how to insure that children grow up with a strong self-esteem and the ability to be productive members of society.  Having adults outside of your family who care about you is a key factor in accomplishing those goals.

I am thankful for Joy and for my church that poured into me for so many years.  I am thankful for the adults who have done the same for my kids.

Now, it’s my turn.

 

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

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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

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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.

Better With Age

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The snow in Raleigh this past week was a bit disappointing.  There was a smidge covering a solid layer of sleet.  You can’t make a snowman out of sleet.

In year’s past, Lisa and I worked hard on these days to keep the girls from climbing the walls: snow angels, sledding, hot chocolate and tons of soaking wet laundry.  We were exhausted by their bedtime.

All of my kids were home last weekend, and there we were – with no plans and no strong desire to venture out.  Thus the beauty of their ages: 19, 16 and 14.  We are beginning to enjoy the same sorts of things.

My youngest and I sipped a hot cup-o-joe together.  I remember similar imbibes with my grandmother at her white, speckled linoleum kitchen table.  Michelle nearly used an entire bag of sugar to get the brown liquid drinkable, but I started that way too.

Stephanie and I went On Demand and began watching a new TV show on NBC, This Is Us.  We are nearly caught up on the first season, something we can enjoy all semester.  What a pleasant change from Barney.

DJ is spending a lot of time working out right now, so I introduced her to Tony Horton, the 50-year-old hunk who leads P-90X.  I happen to own a collection of his exercise CD’s.  We did the shoulder and arm video.  She hates Tony as much as I do and agrees with me that he has a major crush on Dreya who exercises on the mat next to him throughout the video.

“Clearly something is going on between them.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too.”

On Saturday night, we played Trivial Pursuit.  But knowing we aren’t the smartest family on the block, we decided to change it up a bit.  We reassigned the color categories and made up questions of our own.  You landed on Brown?  The topic was Family, and your team had to answer a question that the opposite team made up like:  In which city was each of your grandparents born?  Or, where did your mother attend middle school?

Pink was questions about church.  Yellow about the camp they attend.  Orange was school.  Green miscellaneous.

It took us three hours to determine a winner, but man did we have fun.  Oh, we learned a lot about each other as well.  That’s not a game we could have played five years ago.

Sometimes I lament the aging of my kids.  I wish they were younger, that I had more time with them.  I long to carry them in my arms from the car to the house, their little noggins nestled between my neck and my shoulder.

That was a sweet age.  But you know, this is too.  I imagine in ten years I will enjoy them even more.

Perhaps it is not the stage they are going through that strengthens my delight.  Perhaps it is the depth of our relationship that makes each year more precious to me.

Home Again, Home Again Zip-pa-di-da

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She came in on a train direct from Union Station.  It was Friday night, the week before Christmas.  I was so joyful.  DJ, my college sophomore, was returning for an entire month!

I was committed to our performance in the Christmas Carol play so her grandmother picked her up.  DJ was in a hurry because she had agreed to bar tend at a neighbor’s Christmas party for cash.  I’m so proud – my daughter, a barmaid.

I was amazed that she got her suitcase into the house.  It was the size of a pirate chest, but heavier.  She dropped it in the kitchen, its innards spilled out under the bar – she apparently had a quick change.

I called my buddy Jack to see if he could help me get the Samsonite up to her bedroom.  He couldn’t come over until the next day.  So when she got home, we broke the contents up into four laundry baskets and then carried the almost empty case up on its own.  My grandmother always said, “You can eat an elephant in small pieces.”

I do love my girl.

She had plans on Saturday night and spent Sunday night with high school friends.

Tuesday she went to the beach with the same high school friends.  She returned Wednesday night.  We ate dessert together.  Quality time.

On Thursday she returned to the coast to meet a dude from college for dinner, the one she just spent an entire semester with.

“Honey, do you think you’ll be able to stop by the house to receive your gifts on Christmas day?”  I was just wondering if I should perhaps mail them to a friend’s house.  She assured me she was free for the entire day.

I love that child.

I enjoy the memories of times gone by when she visits:

  • her bedroom floor unfindable due to the mound of clothes
  • arguments over earrings borrowed from siblings
  • bras and socks on the kitchen counter

Memories – beautiful memories.

Oh, and when she’s here, three drivers get to share two cars!  I love sharing.  She loves getting up in the morning to drop me off in the work carpool line.  She even packs my lunch (just kidding).

“I’ll pick you up at 5:30 dad.  Be waiting for me in the lobby of your building because I have dinner plans at 6.”

Before break she called home and said, “Dad, I’m a little worried about being home for a full month for Christmas.”

Worried?  What’s there to worry about?  This is heaven on earth.

Merry Christmas!

A Bitmoji Christmas Card – xmas-card-2016-front

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(Card designed by DJ Tanner.)

A Single Parent Morning

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Do you see a battery here?

It was one of those days that being a single parent hurts.

It was 7:20: Stephanie had an exam at 8.  I was about to take Michelle to school.  The older headed out the door in a rush to meet a friend for some final cramming.

7:21 AM:  “Dad, my car won’t start!  HELP!”

Indeed, we had a dead battery.  I was buttoning my white, starched, dress shirt but my flannels and bedroom shoes were still on my bottom half.  I grabbed my keys knowing I’d be late to work.

7:22 AM:  I texted my co-worker informing her of my likely tardiness.

7:25.15 AM:  The gas is nearly out indicator light came on.

7:25.30.16 AM:  I cursed.

7:36 AM:  Stephanie jumped out of the car rushing to her exam.

Me:  “Can you find a ride home from school?”

Her:  “Probably.”

Me:  “If so, pick your sister up at 3:15, assuming I get the car started.  If not, hang tight.  I’ll pick you up at some point before bedtime!”

7:40 AM:  Me:  “Michelle.  Someone will pick you up after school today.  Keep your phone on.  If Stephanie or I can’t get there by 3:30, go to Panera.”

Michelle:  “I don’t have any money.”

Me:  “Neither do I – check the ashtray.”

Michelle:  “There’s only $1.63.”

Me:  “Give them our home phone number, I think we have enough Panera points for a free pastry.  Drink water if you can’t find another quarter.  I think  drink is like $2.”

Michelle:  “What can you get as a free pastry?”

Me:  “I think anything in the glass case.  Pick the most expensive thing.”

Michelle:  “What if I don’t like it?”

Me:  “Get it anyway.  We want to maximize our purchasing power.”

7:56 AM:  Dropped Michelle at school.

7:59 AM:  Arrived at the gas station.

8:01 AM:  Man in a pickup truck eyeballed my choice of clothing.

Get at me dude!

8:30 AM:  I open the hood on Stephanie’s car, a Mini-Cooper.

8:47:  I finally find the battery.  It is hidden in the back corner of the engine, in a small black plastic case.  What the heck???

8:35 AM:  Jump start; car starts.

10:12 AM:  My cell phone rings, I’m at work, it’s my neighbor.

Me:  “Charlie, what’s up?  Is everything OK?”

Charlie:  “Well, your house alarm is going off.  I have the police here.  I think your housekeeper set it off.”

Me:  “Officer.  She is my housekeeper.  I was supposed to leave the alarm off.  You see, the battery died, I had to get gas in my pajamas with my dress shirt on, my kid was gonna have to go to Panera unsupervised…”

Officer:  “Mr. Tanner.  Just go back to work.  It’s all good.”

Me:  “Thank you sir.”