One in the bed and the little one said…

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For me, there was one grandparent that stole my heart.  Oh, I loved them all.  One granddad took us to get a Slurpee every time we came to town – that was cool.  But this one, we called her Idee, was something else.  Her real name was Ivy but my brother couldn’t say that.  His inability to speak correctly stuck.  She was forever our Idee.

There is something about the grandparent who drops everything when you came to town, but the best part about Idee was she could relate to us.  I distinctly remember just laying on her bed while she got dressed.  She “put on her face” each morning while talking to me about life.  Who would have thought that a seventy-year-old woman could give a 12-year-old advice?  She could.  And I hung on her every word.

When I went to her house to spend the night as a kid, she would pile blankets on the living room floor and my brother and I, along with Idee and Papa, would sleep there.  Before midnight, she would ship my granddad back to the bedroom ’cause his snoring sounded like a freight train.  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why she was so anxious to not stay the night in her bedroom.

When we arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving last Wednesday, it dawned on me that the day beds in their playroom had four mattresses stored underneath.  For some reason, my holidays with Idee popped into my brain.

“Girls, we’re sleeping on the floor tonight!  Four in a row.”

“But dad, there are lots of beds in this house,” my maturing college sophomore explained to me.

“That, is not the point.”

We retired at around 11, but sleep did not come until much later.

We sang, “There were four in the bed and the little on said, ‘roll over, roll over,’ and one rolled over and one fell out when she hit the floor you could hear her shout.”  And as we rolled across the mattresses, one would hit the floor.

Michelle told us the story of Danny the Ogre.  He wouldn’t let his children drink sodas at restaurants.

We recanted songs that we sang at bedtime when they were young, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tired and true…”

We named my future grand kids (Obediah, Boaz, Sheamus, Isabella, Minnie), and I chose a granddad name.

We laughed til it hurt, gossiped about most folks we know, and learned the moves to Juju on that beat.

Several days later, I’m still tired.  Although, it was certainly worth it.

More Parades

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Lisa’s sister, my niece, Michelle, Stephanie and me on parade day

You know what this world needs?  More parades!

For years Lisa and I took our girls down to her father’s office on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for the annual Christmas Parade.  He would provide the essentials:  doughnuts, hot chocolate, coffee, a parking space and a bathroom.  Our kids would be PUMPED, ready to kick off the holiday season.

When the girls and I began participating in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol play five years ago, our parade routine changed.  We were no longer spectators, we were full on participants.  We don our costumes and walk the two-mile route encouraging the onlookers to ignore Scrooge who is shouting through a bullhorn to the crowd:

“Go home!  Christmas has been cancelled this year.  We’re going to have two Halloweens instead!”

The adults laugh and often respond with “Humbug!”  Some of the kids get fairly angry at the notion emphatically communicating with a man who is rolling down the street in a robe with a Christmas ghost at his side.  “WE ARE NOT CANCELLING CHRISMAS MR. SCROOGE!”

Although this is my sixth year in the parade, I noticed something different this go round.  Perhaps it is the political climate that made me more in tune.

What I saw were people, lots of different people, sitting together, laughing together, smiling together.  A man twice my age with a different color of skin responded to my hat tip and “Merry Christmas” with a hat tip of his own.  A girl in a wheelchair had a smile on her face that showed every tooth in her head.  Kids from 2 to 14 held out their hands for a parade high-five.  Groups of unrelated people came together to yell, “Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge!” in unison. There were carefree smiles for miles.

My heart aches when I watch the news.  I sometimes feel as if our problems are so deep seated that there is no way we can ever mend.  But last Saturday, I had hope.  I saw laughter, and joy, and happiness and unity, and it did my soul good.

My prayer for my family, my city, state and country is a perpetual parade.  May we all recognize our blessing this week and bestow grace upon each other.

Forgiveness

I grew up across the street from a kid who had a difficult life.  I think his parents, although loving, were pretty hard on him.  They were considerably older than most parents with kids our age.

He was always a bit overweight which was also a struggle.  He spent a great deal of time at our house.

We always enjoyed having him around along with the other 8 – 10 kids who spent the summer camped out in our garage.

Our neighbor went to prison 16 years ago for allegedly committing a serious crime.  I’ve written him through the years.  In September, he was released.  Seems like good news for him, huh?

I’m not so sure.

You see, when you do bad stuff, society doesn’t forgive easily.  In some cases, it is understandable.  We have to draw boundaries.  And yet, it is painful for folks to be isolated, regardless of the circumstances.

The cool thing about being a person of faith is that you can rest assured that whatever your offense, it’s OK.  There is no punishment, no prison time, no ostracization – it’s easy.

I, on the other hand, have a tougher time forgiving and moving on.  I still remember Eric Thompkins tripping me on the patio at school in the 9th grade in front of EVERYONE – totally humiliating!  God has forgiven him for that, me, no so much.

My former neighbor’s struggle with reentry to society has given me perspective on second chances.  When you see it up close, it makes you reexamine your own feelings on forgiveness.

The Bath Bomb

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I don’t care to work anywhere that your uniform consists of a black apron.  That attire should be reserved for chambermaids.

Last weekend I took Michelle to Crabtree Valley Mall to purchase birthday gifts for two of her turning 14-year-old friends.  She was determine to buy them a bath ball.  I was unfamiliar with this item.

When we arrived at Raleigh’s shopping Mecca, she escorted me to a new store called Lush.  Actually “store” is generous.  It’s more like a walkin closet.  Although it is on the second floor of the mall, I could smell it from the bottom of the escalator.

As we approached, my olfactory senses went into overdrive… lime, lilac, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, mint – my nostrils were perplexed.  So much to take in.

In this 10′ x 10′ box, I vied for space with sixty eighth grade girls who swarmed the face mask display like an active bee hive.  The bath balls were beautifully displayed in the back corner.

“Dad, aren’t they cute?  They look like a big bird’s egg.”

“Or a Martian turd.”

Apparently these chalk like bombers explode when you toss them into water.  The smells and bubbles embracing your naked body like a 20,000 thread count bed sheet.

We purchased four of the $8 ovals and headed to checkout.  Over by the soaps, a male employee in black regalia, washed a woman’s arm with a white cloth in a stainless steel bowl filled with water – 59 of us watched.  It was a bit like Jesus washing the disciples feet, yet different.

Thank you, but I’ll bathe in the privacy of my own home.

I’m wondering why anyone would want to walk around smelling like peach schnapps.

This is all so natural to Michelle.  This is all so odd to me.

Vulnerability

Wholehearted:  Complete sincerity and commitment

Ted Talks are intriguing to me.  These 20 minute online videos have some of the most incredible, thoughtful people from around the world just sharing ideas.   I’ve heard some good ones over the past few years and recently came upon Brene Brown’s talk: The Power of Vulnerability.

In essence, Brene’s theory suggests that people who are wholehearted are so because they are authentically vulnerable.

Hmm.  Interesting.  I had never considered vulnerability a positive attribute.  In fact, to me that word always reeked of weakness.  And yet, after Lisa died, there I was – naked to the world, exposed.  It is difficult to hide behind a mask when your young wife is dead, and you’re weeping at dinner parties.  I had been caught.  I could not hide or pretend that nothing was wrong.  Clearly something was.  I could either admit it or fake it.  The only problem was that in my case, if I tried to pretend, all would know I was living a lie; especially my kids.

Brene says that in order to connect, you have to be seen – really seen.  How many people are willing to open up their curtain?  To let others in?

We drive around in nice cars to give the air of financial security.  We dress the right way.  We join the right clubs.  We post our happiest photos on Facebook and then fall apart when the flash is off.  We walk in the party with our spouse on our arm fully knowing our marriage is falling apart.  And we aren’t even willing to be open with those we most closely care about.

Sometimes I’m criticized for sharing too much.  That’s fair, especially when it comes to bathroom etiquette.  Yet, I’m fairly certain that my healing has come from my inability to squash my pain.  I saw a counselor for four years.  Friends, loved ones, my kids and strangers have had to listen to my struggles.  Their willingness to do so has been medicinal – their acceptance of me, their willingness to love me despite all of the anger and sadness and ugliness within, has given me an ability to fully be honest with myself.

I see my children, to a great extent, opening up to the world. Having compassion for others who are very different from them.  Supporting those around them in need.  Hurting for those going through hard times, and, perhaps most importantly, being comfortable with who they are.  Beautiful, smart young women who don’t have a mom.

Their vulnerability is giving them the courage to be and accept who they are.  As Brene puts it, they feel that they are worthy of love and belonging just as they are.

This was not a trait I had intended on teaching my daughters.  I wasn’t always that happy with who I was.  It’s all about perspective.  I’m not sure that Danny Tanner has really changed that much from the 1978, 13-year-old, Hillcrest Middle Schooler.  What has changed is my perspective, realization and acceptance of who I am.

Thankfully my girls are learning these lessons much earlier in life.

On The Run

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13.1 miles, only 13.1 more to go!

In 1992, a group of friends decided it would be a good idea to run a marathon.  They also thought it would be a good idea for me to run a marathon with them.

This was pre-marriage, pre-kids.  I could do anything I wanted to do.

I wanted to go to New York with my friends.  I didn’t particularly want to run a marathon.  But I did.  Very slowly.

I was a casual runner, maybe two or three miles a couple of times a week to keep my heart in shape and my shape intact.  In high school I ran cross country.  One day Coach Hodges made us run from Terry Sanford Senior High School to the Moose Club which was a block from my house.  Instead I just ran home and got my mom, after watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island and eating a cherry Poptart, to drop me off on Pincrest Drive near the back parking lot of the school.  I splashed water on my forehead and sprinted toward the track.  The coach was impressed with my time that day, as she should have been.  I’d never run such a distance so quickly.  I didn’t feel too bad because we picked up Maxwell Ruppe on the way back.  Had we not done this, I think we both might still be running.

In August, DJ informed me that we were running a marathon together.  “Dad, it’s a fundraiser for camp.  We just have to raise $2,000 to help send kids to camp who otherwise could not afford to be there.  It’s called Run-A-Kid-To-Camp.”

“Couldn’t we just drive them?” I asked.  “Do you realize that a marathon is 26.2 miles and that you have never run more than the length of our backyard in your life?”

DJ assured me she could do it.  To prepare us, we went to the expert on marathon running for dummies, my brother-in-law Matt.  In a former life, he trained out of shape people to race.

He set us up with a training calendar and told us we should:

  • But new tennis shoes to avoid ruining our hips, knees and shins
  • Get this gel to eat so that we don’t go into antiepileptic shock and die
  • Purchase appropriate run wear so that we don’t get bloody nipples

After he got through with me, I was even more convinced this was a horrible idea for a fifty year old with achy knees and a very sensitive chest.

But I have a problem.  It’s I Want To Do Anything That Will Give Me Time With My Daughters syndrome.  Plus, it angers me to think that I can’t do what I was able to do when I was 25.

So here I am, training for a marathon.

Because DJ is not in town, we encourage each other over text.  She does not like to run, so when I started this adventure, I fully expected her to pooze within the first few weeks.  She has not.  In fact, the weekend our schedule demanded a 10 mile run, she sent me a photo with the Washington Monument in the background with a big fat grin on her face.  The next day I sent her a text after each mile I ran… 1, 2, 3…  By the end, I had to call 911 for a stretcher to reenter my house.

“Dad, you have run much more than I have.  I don’t understand why I this ten miles was so difficult for you.  You’re falling apart.”

“I’ll tell you why… 32.”

“32?”

“Yes.  There is a 32 year age span between you and me!  My knees are 32 years older than your knees.  My hips are also 32 years older than your hips.  My heart is 32 years older than yours is.  That is the difference!  I AM OLD!”

But there is one thing to be thankful for – thus far my nipples are fine.

ooops Dad

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On Tuesday I received this text from DJ, my oldest daughter, who is away at college:

So I brought this dress for our next two sorority events and I accidentally put it on your credit card

I’m wondering how that happened…

Did the card fall out of her wallet and accidentally get lodged in the chip reader???

You accidentally spill your lemonade.  You accidentally break a vase, like when Greg and Peter Brady tossed the basketball inside the house and then didn’t tell their mom because Peter was afraid she wouldn’t let him go on his first camping trip with the guys.  That’s an accident!

DJ emphasized in a follow-up conversation that she could wear the dress TWICE!  I don’t understand how that is connected to the inadvertent charge.

And besides, is wearing a garment two times supposed to make me feel better?  I buy a suit and wear it weekly for decades.  My $500 purchase averages out to about 48 cents per wear.  Her $150 dress?  $75 each time she puts in on.  What’s up with that?

She told me not to worry about the charge, that we could discuss it when she is home for fall break.  That’s called a stall tactic.  She knows I’ll be so glad to see her in two weeks that I’ll forgive her “mistake” and pay for the frickin’ frock.

I’m such a pushover.

No More Frozen Foods For Me!

I may NEVER go to the grocery store again.

Did you know that for $4.95, the Harris Teeter will allow you to pick out your grocifery needs ONLINE, and they will do the shopping for you?  Hallelujah!  Praise to the gods of innovation and technology.  Why would any of us ever, ever, ever, ever step foot back in frozen foods?

The grocery store is cold!

One can never find cornstarch!

My basket always has a bum wheel that clacks throughout the store!  And people glare at me as if I am responsible for grocery cart maintenance.

When I run into friends at the store, they always seem a bit judgy about my choice of foods – I can see it in their eyes.  YES WE DO eat sugary cereals and Cheese Nips.  You got a problem with that Miss Organic Produce, Boxed Wine Drinker?  I see what’s in your cart too…

I sat in my bed in boxers, no shirt, last weekend and clicked my way through canned goods, fresh fruit and the store bakery.  And on Tuesday, at 5, I pulled up to the HT, not exiting my car, and pressed a little button:

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This is your personal shopper, can I get your name please?

 Tanner, Danny Tanner.

 I’ll be right out with your order.

Why thank you.

I then checked email on my phone while my PS retrieved my goods from the walk in fridge.

As I sat there, I scoffed at the pitiful folks passing by my car headed to and fro parking spots afar.

College dude making a beer run…

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You should be studying!!!

Hee-hee-hee.

Soccer player, clearly exhausted after practice…

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You should be resting!!!

Ba ha!

Older folks who shouldn’t have to be hauling out these heavy bags…

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Shouldn’t you be a Happy Hour?

Tisk, tisk, tisk…

And you?  There are criminals at large!

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Man, oh man…

When my PS brought out the goods, she thoughtfully explained that they were out of chicken flavored Rice O Roni so she made the decision to substitute with Uncle Bens.

“Excellent choice!  I would have done the same.”  It’s as if we are twins from a different mother.

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When I shared my new found glory, some friends questioned if I selected produce.  As if I didn’t trust PS with those sorts of decisions.

CHECK OUT THESE PEPPERS… I couldn’t have chosen better myself.

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Alcohol?  No problem.  She swiped my credit card on a handheld device and checked my I.D. in the parking lot.

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Now, if I can figure out a way to get someone to put these items in my cabinets, I’ll be golden.

Ninety-six Percent

I was at a concert last Friday night – it was an event for work.  I was excited when I ran into an old friend.  He knew Lisa.

I asked how he was doing.  He said, “96% great!  4% could be better.”  He teared up.  “Your experience taught me that can change at any given moment.”

I had some times where finding 4% good was a struggle.

My former boss gave me a journal the day after Lisa was diagnosed with cancer.  He told me to write down blessing that we found throughout the ordeal.  He had a son who had struggled with major health issues early in life.  He and his wife found value in listing the good things.

Lisa and I looked.  The good was very hard to see; in fact, I’m not sure there was any.

Now that I’m on the other side – much closer to a 96/4 good to bad ratio, you’d think I would spend my time focused on the 96%.  All too often, I zero in on the 4, looking for ways to get to 100.  The sad thing is that if I spend all my 96/4 time focused on the 4, I get no reprieve.  Surely I’ll have more times when the bad is the dominate percentage.  How awful to spend the really good times frustrated on the small things that aren’t going my way.

That 92.3 grade in English is not quite an A.  But it is damn near close!  Perhaps I shouldn’t remind my kid that she missed a 4.0 GPA by only .7 points.  She likely already knows.  Instead, we should have a party to celebrate that high B!

I have one zit.  But dag gone, the rest of my face looks pretty handsome if I do say so myself!

I don’t make as much money as that other dude at work (the one I clearly outperform), but I have a job I love, and I have plenty.

I want my kids to relish in the 96%.  I should too.  Life is so very good so much of the time.  To heck with the bad.  There isn’t really enough to waste time on.

Finding the Parking Lot

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I woke her up at 7 AM which was the usual time.  At 7:35, I walked to the bottom of the staircase to give instructions for the afternoon before I left the house.

“Stephanie, please pick Michelle up from school at 5:15.  I’ll be home at 6.”

I heard a scramble.  She had to be at school by 8 and her feet had not yet hit the ground.  She grumbled that she would indeed pick up her sister as instructed.

As I got in my car, I received a text message.

Dad, I don’t know how to get to the parking lot at school.

This was her first day driving alone to school.  This was the first time she had to find her parking space.

I texted back, Didn’t you ride with DJ to school your entire freshman year?  Didn’t you park in that lot for 180 consecutive school days???

The three questions marks that followed my words would come back to haunt me.  They clearly sent the message that I thought she was directionally deficient.  Which she is.  But I didn’t need to remind her at 7:38 AM when she was clearly having a worse than average morning.

She called.  “You are so mean to me!”

“I’m sorry.  I just thought after being at St. Mary’s School for girls for three years, you would know how to get to the parking lot.”

The for girls was unnecessary.  It was like my dad calling me by my first, middle and last name when I was in trouble as a child.  I could have just as easily said school or St. Mary’s.  The for girls was my way of sharing my exasperation that she wasn’t attentive enough to be able to master this seemingly simple task on her own.  Perhaps it was even a dig at women in general, my connotation being that all were directionally inferior to men.

Although I know that not to be true, my youngest daughter perhaps has better directional intuition than I, I did spend the first 18 years of my life with a woman who could hardly find her way out of our driveway.

At one point my mother was driving by herself down I-95 to her parents’ house in Florence, SC, 85 miles due south of Fayetteville, NC, where we had lived for ten years at the time.  She had made the trek with my father monthly for that decade; a minimum of 120 trips.  Likely many more.

In Lumberton, she got off of I-95 south to go to the restroom.  She then got back on I-95 north to complete her trip south.  Forty-five minutes later she was shocked to see road signs welcoming her to the City of Dogwoods.  Yes, she was back in Fayetteville.

There was also the time she drove back from Florence and missed Fayetteville altogether realizing her mistake around Benson, a good 45 minutes north.

I told Stephanie to call me once she got to Hillsborough Street.  That I would try to talk her to the back entrance of the school.  It was a difficult conversation.

“Stephanie, the school is on a square block.  You simply have to follow the streets around it to get to the back.”

She needed more.

“I’m on Hawthorne Street.  How do I get there from here?”

“I don’t know.  I am unfamiliar with Hawthorne Street.  What do you see around you?”

“Houses.”

“That is unhelpful.  Do you see any other streets?”

“There is one here called… Beneful or something like that…”

“Beneful?  That’s the powder I put in my juice to stay regular.  Just drive toward the school!  You’re bound to find it.”

And she did, making it to class on time.

I need to watch my words and my tone.  But dag gone, sometimes I just can’t think like they do.