Blessed by God

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You know that maybe you’re aging when CBS Sunday Morning is your favorite TV show. 

This morning they had a segment about hunger in the US.  There is a photo from earlier this year with thousands of cars in San Antonio in line waiting for a food distribution center to open.  THOUSANDS.  Thousands of hungry people right here in the US.

Last Tuesday I spent several hours at the YMCA in Garner, North Carolina, helping to distribute boxes of food to people in my community.  They drove up and volunteers loaded a small turkey, hamburger meat, a large casserole and a box of fresh produce into their trunk.

My job that evening was greeter.  As each car drove up, I welcomed them, determined how many folks were in their family and logged the amount of food they would take. 

I arrived at 4:30 PM, the distribution was slated to start at 5.  There were about 30 cars already in line.  For two hours I did not stop – greeting family after family after family.

A few of the folks I met were a bit reticent, seemingly fearful I would ask a ton of questions – maybe auditing who they were picking up for or logging their address.  Some seemed a bit embarrassed to be there.  Understandable.  I might feel the same way if in that position.

The great thing was that we had no questions for them – they just told us how many people they were feeding, and we loaded. 

I worked really hard to put folks at ease asking if they had a good day or if they were feeling well.  I thanked them for stopping by the Y as if they could have chosen to pick free food up from a competitor.

What I noticed is that many of these folks who are concerned about where their next meal might come from seemed joyful.  Not all, but many.  I could see it in their eyes, the way they lit up at my questions or expressed massive gratitude for our work.  A genuine smile, one you can see in the eyes; a belly laugh; or happy kids singing in the backseat. 

When responding to my question, “How are you doing today?” one lady responded, “I am blessed by God.”  She then added, “I just have to keep reminding myself.”

A friend shared with me that they were lamenting about a problem in their life when another friend suggested:  You should go volunteer, help someone else.  (i.e. – take the focus off yourself!)

It is surprising to me that I don’t always readily see how blessed I am by God.  Last week was certainly a good reminder for me.

How! How!

Posted by Danny

Every spring for the past nine years I’ve headed down to Camp Sea Gull with one of my daughters for a Y Indian Princess weekend outing.  DJ and I started going with nine other dads and their daughters in 2003. 

Y Princesses is a father/daughter program for kids in first through third grades.  It’s sort of like scouts – but you can’t do any activity without a dad/kid pair.  You earn patches for service projects, hikes and campouts.  One time we sorted pasta at the food bank – had to wear hair nets.  I didn’t like that. 

Each participant chooses an Indian name.  I was Screamin’ Hambone.  DJ chose Shining Star – booooring.  Stephanie was more compliant – she went with Little Screamin’ Hambone, a name suggested to her by her Big Brave.  Michelle chose T-Bird, a nickname I’ve used for her since she was 2. 

Michelle was my last kid in the program and this was my last trip down highway 70 to camp.  I’ll have to admit when we drove out of the camp gates on Sunday to head home, I sort of had a lump in my throat.

I’m not sure why.  These are not particularly fun weekends.

My first two tribes had some of the snorinest people I’ve ever heard in my life.  I used to take two Tylenol PM, put in ear plugs and hold two pillows around my  head – and I could still hear them.  Cherry Point Air Force Base is right across the Neuse River from camp.  I’d doze off a minute and wake up thinking a F1 Fighter Jet was about to land on the cabin’s devotional table.  I was afraid one of those dudes was going to snort one of the little princesses right up into his nostrils. 

Ten dads in bunk beds – me on the bottom, a 250 pound dude in the bed above with the mattress springs sagging down – inches from my protruding nose.  It’s like sleeping in a medium security penitentiary. 

There was a curtain draping the bathroom “stall”, the floor grittier than the Mojave desert.  The toilet paper like wiping your behind with sandpaper.  I’m still raw from last weekend, and I only went once.

In year two, the organizers of this program bring in a special act called Snakes Alive.  As if pooping behind a paper-thin curtain with 9 elementary aged girls you scarcely know running through the bathroom isn’t enough, they top your experience off with coolers full of reptiles. 

“Which dads out there want to hold the python today?” the handler asks.

Every child raises her hand and begins pointing to her father.  “Pick him!  Pick him!”

My kids knew better. 

“Dad, will you go up?”

“I’d rather sleep in a single bunk with Mr. Brown for three months.  PUT-YOUR-HAND-DOWN-NOW.”

And to top it off, there’s the annual ride down the zip line.

The zip line combines all of my favorite things:  heights, cold water, standing in line, and harnesses strapped around my crotch.  (This video is not of me – but it is at Camp Sea Gull).

I have to be honest though, as much as I complain, I really did enjoy almost every minute I spent in the Y Princess program.  My best friends are the men I’ve spent weekends with – chewing on politics on a freezing cold night by a campfire – melting marshmallow goop dripping on our winter boots.  The individual time I had just driving to and from our outings with my daughters was priceless.  And the memories from Camp Sea Gull…wow!

I’ve heard of a dad who stood up at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner.  He looked his new son-in-law in the eye and pulled out his daughter’s Indian vest.  “Take care of my little princess,” he implored as he passed him the buckskinned garment.  I may just do the same.

How! How!  Big Braves; How! How!

When The Cat Is Away….

POSTED BY JESSE

The mice work on school projects and go to the mall. And need a lot more chauffeuring.

The division of parenting labor in the Tanner household is greatly misrepresented by this here blog (although Danny has been grumbling about how much more than me he’s been writing, so maybe the blog is representative). It is not a 50-50 deal. I wouldn’t even say 60-40. No, if you totaled up the time spent with kids, chores, driving etc. to calculate the total parenting time and then split it between us….I’d say it comes out closer to 80-20. Or 90-10. And then on weekends it goes to about 95-5…or sometimes 99-1.

But there is the occasional weekend when Danny is out of town, like he was this past weekend with Michelle. Here’s a recap of how I held it down with Stephanie and DJ:

Friday night Stephanie had a basketball game. I had to use a picture of her on the bench because I was using my phone’s low tech camera and all the action ones stunk. Sports are not the Tanner family forte (more posts to come on this for sure), but I think she genuinely enjoys team activities and you could tell she had friends on the team. And she got a rebound! She didn’t remember it, but the first shot of the game that went up bricked off the rim, hit the floor, and bounced into her hands. And that, my friends, is a rebound.

Stephanie also has become aware that she’s not wearing cool mesh basketball shorts (I think she payed in pink soffe shorts all last season) and wants to get a pair. I completely respect this, and even tried to find the smallest pair of mesh shorts I had to cinch on her for the game, but she said they were still too big. I need to remind Danny to pick up a pair of black mesh ones for her.

Afterwards we went out to dinner with friends who had a game on the other court at the same time. Bruce actually paid a babysitter to stay with the girls Friday night (because he didn’t want me to give up two weekend nights. as if I got plans.) and was peeved that I was late bringing them back because it meant he was paying the world’s best baby-sitter (she is. I have mentioned her before. we are not giving up her info because we want her as available as possible for when we call. sorry.) to just sit at his house. But you have to go out to dinner on a Friday night after a YMCA basketball game, right? I’m pretty sure it’s required. Besides, the world’s best baby-sitter was holding court with DJ and her friends when we got there. All joking aside, it reminded me how “non-female” Danny and I are (and I mean that in the most biological sense. we’re not macho by any means.). That despite the fact that he is a super-caring and attentive and a doting father, and I can be a decent listening ear at times, neither one of us can hold “girl talk”. Fortunately we have a rotating cast of characters who fall through the house to do some of that. We need to make sure we continue to.

You can knock her hoops game, but the girl can do some WORK. I smell a Sallie.

On Saturday morning DJ had to go sort potatoes for community service hours for a club she’s in, so Stephanie and I worked on her Helen Keller book report timeline project. I am not all that helpful with school projects and it’s not because I take a principled stance against parents who do their kids’ work for them, it’s because I’m lazy and easily bored (but sometimes I do hide behind my “fostering independence” justification).

I am, however, great at suggestions for projects (I’m like a golf caddy for life). I explained how the illustrations didn’t have to be literal interpretations, so for a picture of Helen Keller’s mother dying, we didn’t have to find a picture of Mrs. Keller’s actual coffin, we could merely cut out a picture of a graveyard from a magazine. And I helped make her a little chart to organize which points on the timeline go with which years, and which pictures, and which captions so we could then see what we still needed to collect.

She cut them all out perfectly in, like, 3 minutes. See? I AM fostering independence.

She asked for help in cutting out all the pictures, and I didn’t even have a good basketball game to say I needed to watch. But I was saved by the rubric: 4 points for neat cutting . “I really don’t think I should cut pictures if that’s part of what you’re getting graded on.” Whew, that was close.

I texted a friend that I was working on a Helen Keller biography project. The text I got back: “Are you going to throw in some Helen Keller jokes to show she’s still a cultural icon?” I didn’t have the heart to tell Stephanie that those horribly cruel jokes are the only thing I can recall about the poor woman.

Later that day Stephanie went with Nana (my mom) to get a haircut, and then I took her to a birthday party. She said this birthday party was for one of her BFFLs (best friends for life). There are a lot of things that are different about the way the Tanner girls have grown up and the way I did, but I realized a glaring one this weekend: as a child my closest friends were literally my closest friends (the latter geographically speaking). I could ride my bike, if not walk, to all of their houses in under five minutes. None of the girls’ closest friends live within a 30-minute driving round-trip of them. Score one for public schools, I guess.

The second half of Saturday had only two objectives: finding DJ a dress at the mall, and watching the N.C. State-UNC game. Unfortunately, these events coincided. My only hope in winning out in this conflict was if DJ couldn’t find anyone else to go to the mall with, because she had told me, “I’m not going to the mall with just you.” Well then.

I don’t know if she put out an emergency all call “stuck with UNCLE for mall trip! please help!” text or just got the first person she tried, but she quickly had someone. Darn. Off to the mall we went.

I dropped off and parked and assured them I would try not to be on the same floor, much less the same store, as them. But I got bored after looking at some basketball shoes, so I started cruising some of the stores I thought they were likely to be browsing to see if I could embarrass them. Therefore, at 2:10, the approximate tip time of the Pack-Heels game the, here was my view…

…of H&M. But they weren’t there. I tried J. Crew, too, but gave up when I didn’t see them there. We were supposed to meet up at the food court so I texted with DJ and eventually we did. Honestly? I didn’t mind not being in front of the TV at tip, and I kind of enjoy being the person that makes it possible for DJ to technically be at the mall without any parents. In today’s world of DVR, I’m a lot less up tight about seeing things live (and, really, it was just the State game).

DJ and Kimmy Gibbler entertained themselves when we got back while I watched the game on a slight delay (I was caught up by mid-second half). Side note: the scheme to convert all three girls into full-fledged Carolina fans is going swimmingly. Thank you, Sidney Lowe.

If you bought this dress to wear to Friday night's dance, TAKE IT BACK because DJ's wearing it.

Later DJ and I went to get some yogurt at this place called Freshberry, where you get as much frozen yogurt as you want and can pile on your own toppings. My favorite part about one-on-one time with DJ is how much she is like an adult. You can level with her, gossip with her, she fully understands sarcasm in humor, you don’t have to change the song because it has one bad word in it, we can make fun of Danny, etc.

Then she rode with me to pick up Stephanie and we tried to steal things out of Steph’s party favor bag. I can’t even remember the comment, but Stephanie said something that made me laugh out loud. It also made me realize how close she is to being an “almost adult” like DJ.

I tucked Stephanie in that night and tickled her a lot because I realized that as they become more fun to talk to like grown-ups, the sacrifice is you can’t pick them up as much. By contrast: I stuck my head in DJ’s room (she was doing homework because she had missed some days being sick. what a kid.) and asked her if she needed me to tuck her in. She said “nah”, she’d probably be asleep soon. I said “cool” and fell asleep on the couch watching Saturday Night Live.

Sunday was another busy day for Stephanie: early service and 11:00 church because her group was doing a moment for mission (but someone else gave her a ride down for the early service. THANKS!), then eat lunch and change for basketball practice, followed by another outfit change for cotillion. For lunch I made grilled cheeses with DJ on my back about how they weren’t the way Mae (Danny’s mom) makes them.

After I dropped at cotillion, Danny was back in town, so we resumed our 90/10 ratio. All in all, though, a solid weekend.

Goin’ to the Lodge

Posted by Danny

Hell is not hot.  It is cold.  It is not below us; it is southwest of Raleigh.  It is in Concord, NC.  It is…The Great Wolf Lodge.

I am in a wonderful program run through the YMCA, the Y Princess Program.  It is a father child program that is similar to scouting; however, the father and child are required to participate in all activities together.  We have ten fathers and their daughters and we camp, participate in service projects, and earn patches for our tribal vests.  Each person in the tribe chooses an Indian name.  Mine is Screamin’ Hambone.  Michelle is T. Bird

We are supposed to camp each year to earn a patch.  My fellow fathers decided they did not want to camp this year, probably because last year we camped in the middle of a swamp in Halifax County.  The bathroom, where you slept,  and where you ate, were one in the same.  So someone suggested we go to The Great Wolf Lodge.  It is an indoor water part north of Charlotte.

This is what we do without wives.

It started innocently enough.  We met for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel near the airport.  A nice creamer and syrup pyramid.  We arrived at The Lodge at 1 and I’ve been one big chill bump ever since.  Someone told me it would be warm in the water park.  That person is a liar.  They say the water is heated.   That is a lie.  It’s a bit warmer than lake water in February in Montreal, but I suspect that is only because of the volume of pee from the 13,800 children floating around me in the giant wave pool.

It’s like a swimming flash mob.

There are people here wearing bathing suits that show me things that I don’t want nor need to see.  One woman was wearing the same size bikini as Michelle.  And yet she was the same size as Ethel Merman.  She leaned over and I saw everything from the waist up.  I mean EVERYTHING.  She caught my eye.  I sort of shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “It happens…”  I quickly dove under water which only made me colder – but it seemed my only option at the time.

There is a really neat slide called The Canyon.  You walk up 84 (I counted them) stairs and get on a large raft (sits four).  The 24 second ride is tremendous.  Want to ride again?  No problem.  It’s only 84 steps away.  For some reason I did not feel a need to jog this afternoon.

I did see a really interesting tattoo of The Mona Lisa surrounded by a burning bush.  And the calf it was painted on looked like Popeye’s.

I’m not a nut about crowds.  I am not a nut about standing in line – especially with my shirt off while I’m dripping wet and the air temp is 62 degrees.  I did not like other people’s rafts rubbing up against my body in line.  It made me uncomfortable.  I do not like buffets – too many people breathing on my food.  This is like  a big Golden Corral of water rides. 

They do provide towels and they’re clean.  They use so much bleach that it’s sort of like drying off with a hairbrush.  My friend said the towels have a dual purpose:  they dry you off and act as an exfoliator. 

I act as if I was miserable the entire time and that’s not exactly true.  There are some good points about The Lodge.  It’s reasonably priced and there is a lot to do.  Plus, it’s not far from Raleigh and they serve beer at the pool (I imagine if you drank enough, you’d warm up quite well).  I love this group of guys as I have in all three of my Y Princess tribes.  It’s worth the trip for that.  Michelle had a blast – we were actually the last ones to leave today.  But the best thing about this weekend?  I got to be a big chill bump for thirty hours with one of my favorite people on this earth.  Man, I love that child!

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