Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.


Dan and Hannah Explore Ojai, California with an Assist from Penny

Unity of SB

Rev Larry of Unity of Santa Barbara speaking on Collateral Beauty

When we travel, the hikes are cool, the scenery beautiful, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But the best part are the people; whether here in California or elsewhere in the United States.

During our stay on the Central Coast of California, pickleball has been ideal for meeting people in Ventura and Santa Barbara; in addition, becoming a part of the Unity of Santa Barbara connects us with kindred spirits.

Mitch with take out


To build further connections, I have a brilliant idea for your consideration.  My best friend from my childhood in Fair Lawn, NJ was Mitch Kaplan.  We played Radburn Rec basketball as sixth graders together, took the buses and subways to Yankees games across the Hudson River into the Bronx, played dice baseball, had our hearts broken by the young women in high school, and even played on the high school tennis team together.

Mitch above waist shot


While I moved away to live in California, Arizona, and then eventually Maine for 35 years, Mitch returned to our childhood home in Radburn (section of Fair Lawn) after earning his BA from Antioch College in Ohio and his MFA at NYU.  Despite the distance, we stayed in touch; in part thanks to my frequent visits to see my mom and dad, who for many years still lived across the park from Mitch and Penny’s house.  Which brings me to Penny.

Mitch skiing

Mitch on the slopes, an athletic passion I did not share

Meeting in California, Mitch and Penny later married in Yellow Springs, Ohio with Mitch in a Boston Bruin jersey.  The cliché fits – he walked to the beat of his own drum and orchestra.  As we each approached retirement (he from a successful career as a writer and me after a run as a school and college teacher), golfing together loomed big in our future.

And then, damn it; he died from leukemia and its treatment.  He was 61.  That’s now more than eight years and counting of double bogeys and three putt greens we missed.

Ojai map

Carpinteria is ten miles south of Santa Barbara on the coast

After he passed, I kept in touch with his wife Penny who remained near to their two kids in the East.  Having grown up in Fillmore, CA, Penny came to mind when Hannah and I began traveling to California in winter; I soon realized how close Fillmore was to our month-long condo in Carpinteria.

Ojai 2 D and H with Emma and Theresa at Cafe Emporium

Dan, Hannah, Emma, and Theresa at the Cafe Emporium, Ojai

So, here’s where the brilliance comes in.  (I think you’ll soon see that I’ve checked that box.)  I asked Penny if she had any old (as in dear) friends in Fillmore that might like to have a cup of coffee with Hannah and me when we explore the town for a day.  It turns out she has a high school friend in nearby Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) and sends me Emma’s email address.

Ojai 2B foursome at Libbey Bowl

At the in-town, just off the main street, Libbey Park

I email Emma, who responds enthusiastically that they are early risers and would love to have breakfast with us this early February Friday.  Encouraged to try the Ojai Café Emporium just off the main drag in Ojai, Hannah and I meet Emma and Theresa in a nook of the cafe.  Filling us in why they like living in Ojai, they tell us of their joy in walking to town to get coffee, the pleasure of being away from the cold of New Mexico, and their love of the temperate climate.

After learning their backstory, I mention, in response to their question about mine, that my first teaching job was in Anaheim, 35 miles south of Los Angeles; it was a short-lived job because the US military was clamoring for a piece of me.  Suddenly, I find myself opening up to two women I just met about the fact that I was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War years.

That said, the government didn’t quite see eye to eye with my self-assessment.  Let me explain how I dealt with our difference of opinion.

Ojai draft lottery

After graduating from Arizona State in 1970, I lost my student deferment; in addition, the Selective Service was no longer giving deferments for teaching positions like mine in Anaheim; I was reclassified 1-A.  That was the first year of the draft lottery, which it turns out I lost in a big way.  Out of 365 dates in the year, my December 27 birthday was chosen #78.  Since everyone from #1 to #195 was to be drafted, my goose was cooked.

Ojai conscientious objector

In the summer of 1970, I informed the Selective Service I would not serve because I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.  Basically, my local draft board said, no you are not; you are not a Mennonite or Amish, and anyway you need to be against all war.

Having the right to appeal, I petitioned the New Jersey State Selective Service Board to hear my case.  Fortunately for me, government bureaucracies can work slowly; it took them 10 months into 1971 to decide unanimously (5-0) that I was not a c.o. in their minds.  There is a federal appeal but only if the state board is divided.  So, I waited as an eligible and vulnerable 1-A.

Ojai make love not war

Going to Canada was not an option for me.  Too cold and too faraway.  My resolve was strong that I would never shoot a weapon.  And I waited.  Out of the blue in early 1972, I was reclassified 1-H.  That meant that every 1-A had to be drafted before I would be drafted at all.  Essentially, that meant I would not be drafted.  I never got an explanation why I was reclassified, and I never asked.

With my future noticeably brighter, I got a full-time teaching job in Tempe, AZ in February 1972, proposed to Hannah later that month, and after five years of off and on dating, we were married on July 1, 1972 in East Penfield, NY, at her father’s Christmas tree farm.

Thank you, Ojai ladies, for asking.

After breakfast in Ojai, we walked the in-town Ojai Valley Trail, a former railroad paved for bicyclists, runners, and walkers.  The mountain trails around Ojai have been off limits due to the decimated hillsides caused by the burning brush and trees of the Thomas Fire two months before.

Ojai 3 H on Ojai Valley Trail

On the paved Ojai Valley Trail, which goes all the way to Ventura on the coast

Randomly as we walk the Ojai Valley Trail, I stop what seem to me to be welcoming faces and ask why they like living in Ojai.

The first, a dental hygienist raises her arms out, and beams, the weather.  But she, too, has a story to tell about the Thomas Fire.  After the first flames could be seen in the mountains, all four roads out of Ojai were closed, sealing the town off from the outside.  Scary was her word since she and the other townspeople didn’t know if the fire would come down to their valley to destroy their homes as it had for whole neighborhoods in Ventura the day before.

Ojai 3D OVT

Ojai Valley Trail

Another thirty-something, says she likes the small-town nature (7,400 residents) and the climate.  A gentleman in his 80s adds that he appreciates that the town council wants to keep Ojai the way it is, they don’t have an expansionist mentality.  He agrees it is expensive to live here.  A lower end house in town can go for $600,000.  Ouch, California real estate.

With four miles of in-town trail walking in the books at near 80F, Hannah and I return to 63F Carpinteria 20 miles back to the coast, pleased that my checked box idea produced such dividends.









Dan and Hannah Mix Pickleball with Chinese Foot Massage

There are big T truths (e.g. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) and there are small t truths (e.g. one’s personal beliefs).  I have two of my small t truths for you.

Don’t wait for friendship.  Though introverts by nature, Hannah and I roam beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to meet others wherever we go.  Relationships and friendships are possible.

Chinese Yes

Importance of saying yes.  Previously, I would do a cost/benefit analysis in my mind for new activities.  Worth my time?  Would I really like it?  Today, I generally make no calculations, and just say Yes, and sort out the details later.  Let me explain.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo

Today, Hannah and I swim past our comfort zone into the deep end and drive 18 miles south from Carpinteria to the pickleball courts of Ventura to a place where we do not know a soul.  There, Leonard, the pickleball ambassador, greets us.  Ambassadors our usually genial, welcoming, and supportive, and Leonard is certainly all that.  Then, John steps up, introduces himself, and gets us into a game.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers

Throughout the morning, I pickle on the outdoor courts at De Anza Middle School with the guys, among them Bruce, Leonard, Jessie, Rodrigo, Jim, and Mark while Hannah slices and dices with some excellent women players.

Chinese image of loungers

Ready for action at Bamboo Creek Spa

As the morning of play wraps up, Mark says, some of us go to Ojai for lunch and then get a Chinese foot message.  Would you two like to join us?

That would be a quick Yes.

Jump forward to our final outdoor pickleball Saturday during our California month of February away from home.  As exclusively indoor pickleball players back in Maine, we learn of the challenges of playing in the open air.  Rain in the drought-stricken Central Coast is not one of the issues.  In this winter “rainy” season, we have had barely a tenth of an inch of rain the entire month.

Chinese windy palm trees

The winds of California under blue skies

Wind and sun are another matter.  Always checking my Weather Channel app for the wind speeds, I have learned that five to ten mph is fine for outdoor play, with little effect on my game.  Above 10 mph gets tricky and 20 mph is insane.  Being in California, we have the ever-present blue skies.  On one hand that makes for excellent tans for the New Englanders; on the other, hitting lobs into the sun becomes a roll of the dice.

Today, with the wind picking up throughout the morning, games become less about skill and more about dealing with the elements.  Players with the wind must temper their shots while those against the wind must muster all their power to get the pickleball (like a wiffle ball) over the net.  The comradery and sunshine trump the wind, as play wraps up for another Saturday.

Chinese 2B Mark and Lynne at BL

Lynne and Mark at Bonnie Lu’s

Looking to mix the pairs for our drive to Ojai, I suggest to Mark that he drive with me and Hannah drive with Mark’s wife, Lynne.  Just another stepping out of the comfort zone moment for us introverts.  For the twenty-minute drive, which turns into forty because of roadside power line repair, Mark and I learn of our north Jersey connection (he Hohokus and me Fair Lawn [I know it’s I instead of me, but I don’t like the sound and flow of I.) and learn of each other’s families and past working lives (both public school employees, he a business manager and me a teacher).

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Pre-foot massage lunch at down home Bonnie Lu’s

Once in Ojai, we dine on the king-size sandwiches at Bonnie Lu’s and leave with half our BLT and Rueben for tomorrow’s lunch.

Properly nourished, we four head to the Bamboo Creek Spa in a store front just off the main drag in Ojai.  Learning that there is no talking during the massage, we also only whisper in the waiting area, which makes us three deal with life on Hannah’s terms (she with the hushed voice).

Filling out the registration, we sign-in with our first name, select the service wanted (i.e. foot massage), and decide from 1 to 7 how much hand pressure we prefer on our feet.  Being a first timer and soft, I opt for 3.

Chinese 3 H massage

Hannah mellowing out at Bamboo Creek Spa

First, Hannah and Lynne are taken to a side room, as I trail behind with my ever-present iPhone.  My blog does not wait.  Being as little annoying as possible, I snap and retreat to the waiting area to, well, wait and whisper with Mark.

Mark and I are soon taken to the front room and seated in adjustable lounge chairs with remotes.  In front of each of us are two-foot square ottomans; soon a towel is draped over the lower half of our bodies.  Removing my sandals and socks, I wait.  (nota bene – may I remind you that my socks have played two hours of pickleball)

Chinese 3D D zoned out massage

Soon, a bathroom size waste basket is brought out with warm herbal water in a plastic bag.  The foot soak begins my 30-minute massage ($21 per session seems like quite the bargain).  The theory is that massaging reflex points in the feet restores natural energy flow.  While Mark, a veteran of the foot massage, zones out, a woman approaches to dry my soaking feet and wrap each one in a towel.  She then squirts soothing oil into her hands and let the massaging begin.

Chinese 3C workng on my feet

My masseuse

After two hours of pickleball and a reasonably big lunch, I am ready to nod off, but I have a stronger need to see what she does.  Ever the photo journalist, I take pictures of the masseuse in action.

At times when she is working the sole of my foot, my foot involuntarily spasms as she goes from the front pad of my foot to the arch.  Ever the pro, she senses my tic and continues gently.

Fifteen minutes on the left foot and then fifteen on the right.  Delightfully refreshing, the massage has Hannah feeling that her sensitive and aching feet have never felt better.  Thankful and mellow, we tip our masseuses.

Chinese 3E D and H in waiting area

The look of foot massage mellow

Walking back to our cars with Mark and Lynne, I appreciate the new experience; the feeling of being among new friends made this one of the highlights of our month in February.

Our best experiences are always about the people, which happen more often when we head to the deep end and simply say yes.



Dan and Hannah Come to Ventura, California for Pickleball Magic

Every so often, Hannah and I talk about the words we’ll put on our tombstones.  It’s not a heavy at all, in fact, ironic and light.  Truth be told, upon cashing in our chips, we will donate our bodies to the Medical School at the University of New England (Maine); ergo, there will be no headstone.  Still, we think what words would capture our legacy.  Recently, Hannah’s latest thought is There.

BA he tried

For me, my latest is He Tried.  Let me explain.

Since coming to California, Hannah and I have been transitioning from a focus on hiking to one on pickleball; as we turn 70, we are focusing on growing relationships over the physical challenges of climbing mountains and hiking to waterfalls.  When hiking, it’s just the two of us, with the occasional brief conversation with others along the way.

On the other hand, pickleball opens doors for new relationships.  At new pickleball venues, we have two to three hours of playing, talking between games, and finding out what we have in common, athletically and individually.  Longtime readers of this blog know of the magic we had in north Georgia with the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.  That association led us a pickleball club party and overnights with two couples in their homes.  Click here for that blog.

BA ventura map better

Last year during our February month in California, we played afternoon pickleball in Santa Barbara.   Though we made no connections, I reached out and gave it a shot.  Though I came up empty, one could reasonably say, He Tried.

But this year in addition to pickling in Santa Barbara, we are branching out by playing in Ventura (18 miles south of Carpinteria on The 101) Saturdays on the outdoor pickleball courts at the De Anza Middle School.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers with the Mainers

Arriving in Ventura on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we have a mix of men and women, mostly seniors.  Hannah and I eventually find our level, she with the women and me with the guys.  As indoor players, we are learning to adjust to the wind as well as hitting overheads with the sun in our eyes.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo on the Ventura pickleball courts

Encouraged and sensing a good vibe, Hannah and I return the following Saturday for more play.  After our two hours, we sit in collapsible patio chairs, shooting the breeze with the other players.

BA 2 ventura pickleball design

Pickleballers Bruce and Anneli with the club logo

As Hannah and I walk from the courts, I spot Bruce and mention how much I enjoy his dinking soft game (i.e. hitting short shots just over the net) and thank him for welcoming us.  Exchanging business cards, we go our separate ways.  Later on the ride home after mentioning my conversation with Bruce, Hannah mentions her play with his wife Anneli, with the summation, She’s good.

With Bruce’s business card in hand and only two and a half weeks left in our stay in Carpinteria, I shoot off an email to add substance to my legacy of He Tried.

Hey Bruce and Anneli, 

Thanks for you all including Hannah and me in your Saturday pickleball games.  It’s been a treat.  We wonder if you and Anneli would like to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the coming week or two at our condo in Carpinteria or we’d drive to your place.   Just a thought, no pressure.  Look forward to pickleball again this Saturday.   Dan

(The next day, we get this email from Bruce.)

BA 1 at Snapper Jacks counter

Anneli, Bruce, and Hannah at the Snapper Jack’s counter

Hello Dan and Hannah,

 It is very nice to have you two playing with us while you are visiting California.  We would enjoy an off-court visit. Will your schedule allow a lunch time visit next week?  Since you offered to come to Ventura, perhaps a stop at our office next week followed by a walk into downtown Ventura? We have several preferred spots for fish or steak tacos if you like.   Bruce

It’s always easier staying home, sitting on the couch reading, watching television, or wasting time on the computer or smart phone; there’s no risk.  Ah, but there’s often little reward.  I want more than being homebound and gagged and give it a shot.  Hence, He Tried.

Ten days later, driving down The 101 right on the Pacific Ocean to Ventura, we meet Bruce and Anneli at their office.  Intrigued by his career as an architect, I find his explanation of the houses and businesses he designs fascinating.  Fortunately he has Anneli to run the show as the business manager.  In addition, Bruce volunteers to teach 3rd graders architecture (i.e. perspective drawing).

BA 1A Snapper Jack's sign

Having recommended fish tacos for lunch, Bruce and Anneli walk with us to Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack a few blocks away on Main Street.  Rocking at 1P, Snapper Jack’s is where we’ll have our very first fish tacos.  As you know, when in Rome…

Following Bruce’s lead, I order one soft corn and one crispy flour fish taco with a side of rice and refried beans with tortilla chips to boot.  Already, I am thinking we must bring our grandsons, Owen and Max, here when they visit next year.

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Al fresco in February with Bruce, Anneli, Dan, and Hannah.

Similar to our walk and talk in twos to Snapper Jack’s, the conversation over lunch flows easily as they are both interested in us as well as share their interesting, active lives.  A cliché works here.  Two hours fly and it’s like we have new old friends.  It’s magic.

Returning to their office, as they do have jobs, we hug good-bye, and part as Bruce says, Thanks for reaching out.  He gets it.  He appreciates the effort.  It’s always worth trying, especially if I am going to earn my epitaph He Tried.

BA 3B H on pier

Hannah a way out on the Ventura Pier

Taking Ash Avenue to the walkway across The 101 to the Ventura Pier and Ventura Promenade at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Beach, we see a lone female surfer, head to toe in a wet suit.  On a windy afternoon, we walk out the pier and celebrate another sunny day during the “rainy” winter season in southern California.

BA 4A D on ventura promenade

Palm-lined waterfront Ventura Promenade

Taking the stairs down off the pier, we have a wide waterfront walkway along the Pacific Ocean with the Ventura Fairgrounds to our landward side.  With the wind up, we are still comfortable in shorts knowing in two weeks winter is going to slap us in the face.  March is still real winter in Maine.

I wonder, were the fish tacos really that good?  Or was it the company while eating the fish tacos the reason why they tasted so good?  I’d go with door number two.

As a long-time believer in Davy Crockett’s Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you, I am content with my epitaph, He tried.

Dan and Hannah Celebrate a Mini-Reunion of the FLHS Class of 1966 in California

It all began quite innocently.  And then yours truly, not knowing the intricacies of Facebook, made a social faux pas.  But a faux pas that morphed into fabulosity.  Let me explain.

Roz Thomas fire 2

While planning for our February on the Central Coast of California with Hannah, I read online about the Thomas Fire which burned nearly 300,000 acres in the mountains above Santa Barbara and Carpinteria and leveled entire neighborhoods in Ventura.  With these wildfires raging mere miles from our soon-to-be VRBO condo in Carpinteria, I notice that Gerry Moss, a childhood friend from the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, posted that his sister’s Ventura house burned to the ground.

Though we ran in different circles, Gerry and I grew up in idyllic Radburn in the 1950s and 1960s – cul de sac living where ever street ended at a park.  We were part of the same rec program as well as attended Radburn School together at the far end of the park.

Roz Thomas fire 2

So, when I heard about the devastation of his sister’s house, I thought, what if Hannah and I take his sister and hubby out for breakfast when we are in California?  A modest gesture to be sure, but modest gestures are usually worth making.  I didn’t know them at all, but I knew Gerry and so I reached out to him.

Roz D and Gerry Moss

Dan and Gerry

This is where my naivete about Facebook comes in.  I didn’t have Gerry’s email, so I contacted him directly through the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1966 Facebook page.  Little did I know that that meant I would be contacting everyone in the FLHS group.  Unaware of Facebook messaging, I appreciated Gerry gently letting me know of that option and suggesting that we use it to communicate privately.  My bad, but then my good.

As it turns out, Gerry and his wife Irene were coming to support his sister Ruthann and her hubby Jerry during five days in February when we would be nearby in Carpinteria.  He suggested we get together.  Then it gets even better.

Roz 1 five of us with cake

Linda, Dan, Roz, Gerry, and Paul with our 70th Birthday Cake

Smiling on me, the reunion gods brought my breakfast invitation intentions to classmate Roz, who lives in the area, and Linda from Seattle, who would be traveling to the area with her hubby Rich.  Roz offered her place as a mini-reunion venue and contacted others to join us.  Fortunately, my high school tennis teammate, Paul, arranged to come.

Roz cropped sweatshirt


With five members of the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1996 set to meet, Hannah and I drive south on The 101 through Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo to Roz and her husband Jeff’s place in Westlake Village.  As I drive, I wonder if any of these other four felt like they were a part of the in crowd?  As is well-documented, I was three or four orbits out from the in crowd and spiraling into some black hole of the galaxy.

Roz class reunion

Having last seen this group six plus years ago at our 45th class reunion, I felt the outsider then, since I hadn’t seen any of these classmates, well, for 45 years.  But it was Roz and Linda who came to my rescue and supported me in feeling like I belonged.  I was the principal’s son, had stuck to my small group of friends during my high school years, and was an introvert, not rocking in the confidence department.  Linda and Roz, probably didn’t know at the time how much their kindness meant to me that night; you see what I mean about the power of small gestures?

Having had such a good time at the 45th Reunion, I was primed for our 50th.  And then I wasn’t.  Though I had purchased the $125 ticket, I bailed at the last minute.  My high school buddies weren’t going.  My closest friend had died, others were in parts unknown, estranged from anything Fair Lawn, and others didn’t survive the hallucinogens of the Sixties.  What would it matter if I went?  Who would care?  I stayed home.


Mom (51) and Dad (56) circa 1972.  Any resemblance with me and my dad?

Today provided a little chance for redemption as I stepped out of my comfort zone.   Greeting me at her door, Roz says, You look like your father.  Whoa, no one has ever said that to me.  She adds, He had a rounder face, but you look like your father.  Not five minutes later, unaware what Roz had said, Gerry says the same thing.  Really?  I had no idea.

Roz D and Roz

Dan and Roz.  We were partners at our high school graduation

As to the in-crowd question?  None of us felt we were.  If you weren’t a female cheerleader, student council or class president, or a big time male athlete, you had a hard time breaking into the in-crowd.  Amazingly, there were no high school team sports for girls in the mid-1960s in north Jersey).  Membership in the in crowd seems insignificant now.

Roz D and Paul

Varsity Tennis Players, Dan and Paul

Talking with my tennis teammate Paul, I relived what was one of the best parts of my high school days – the varsity tennis team.  The camaradery with teammates gave me the feeling of belonging.   In addition, my small group of friends were the best; but my high school classes were often lectures with little student-to-student interaction.  With my dad as principal, I felt constrained, feeling like always had to be on my best behavior.  Obedience became my default persona; it took years to shed that facade.

Roz Paul, Linda, and Dan

Paul, Linda, and Dan

Getting together with my classmates today, reminds me now how I felt then that I was always competing.  I competed for grades (No Einstein, I graduated 61 out of 596 from high school); I competed on the social scene for high school girlfriends and come up empty; I competed on the tennis team to be #1, but almost always felt nervous on match days.  I didn’t have as much fun as I could have.  Years later, as a senior at Arizona State, thanks to my guys, I began to loosen the shackles of other people’s expectations.

I could have used a little Lao-Tzu back in the day.

Be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete.
– Lao Tzu

Roz five of us with sweatshirt
One more time.  Dan, Gerry, Roz, Linda, and Paul

Today, I am rarely competing with anyone.  I hike with Hannah, where we don’t  compete; we both finish at the same time!  I am recreational pickleball player and avoid tournament play.

Today, I am loving being with these classmates and their spouses on a day that will be one of my favorites in California.  Mostly at peace, I am just so damn happy for their successes and their good fortune in love and life.

Thank you, Roz, Gerry, Paul, and Linda.  Til we meet again.

And by the way, I am ready for our 55th class reunion.  Really!  I am not kidding.

Dan and Hannah Return to Goleta Beach after Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. – James Taylor

Montecito Thomas fire

Along The 101

It was the most violent rain in 200 years, following the biggest wildfire in state history, on the heels of the most dehydrating and devastating drought in modern county history. The Thomas Fire left the top few inches of the front-country slopes baked and seared into a fine, crumbly powder. The sustained heat cooked the chaparral, coaxing from it a waxy liquid that oozed onto the soil and functioned like a sheet of glass. The rains struck with biblical fury. Six-tenths of an inch in five minutes. Imagine a downhill demolition derby with 10,000 John Deere tractors dive-bombing Montecito, disking the hillsides as they go.  – Dr. Ed Keller, professor of geology, UCSB.

Whoa.  Nothing like a geologist to put the recent natural disaster in California’s Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties into perspective.  Before Hannah and I came to Carpinteria on the Pacific coast for the month of February, I’d been reading about the Thomas Fire and the deadly mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

Let me back up and set the scene.

In December of 2017, wildfires blasted the vegetation (mostly very dry brush from years of drought) on the mountainsides above Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara.  Two of our favorite hiking canyons, San Ysidro and Romero, were closed since the trees of these steep ravines were burned to the roots.  The fire was so intense it burned the organic matter in the soil, leaving pulverized dust, providing no stability for a firm trail foundation.

Montecito House

Montecito Mud and Debris

And then it got worse.   On January 9, 2018 heavy rain fell on these hillsides into these same canyons causing mud and debris flows that washed away and knocked houses off their foundations; it sent car size boulders onto the main north/south highgway (The 101), closing it in both directions for nearly two weeks.

As the clean-up continues, our hiking options have narrowed, but we do have an old reliable hike – a mellow cliff walk from Goleta Beach State Park along the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Alas, this area, far from the fires and mud flows, has been compromised as well.  Let me explain.

GB 1 Montecito Mud on Goleta Beach

Montecito Mud comes to Goleta Beach.  UCSB buildings in the background.  Cliff trail in the distance.

Driving 20 miles north from our VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) condo in Carpinteria, we wonder if we will even have access to the parking lot at Goleta Beach State Park.  Over the last month, dump truck after dump truck (100 loads per day) bring the mud (not debris) from the January mudslides.  Though examined for non-mud materials, there is enough bacteria in the mud that swimming and surfing is currently not allowed in the area.

GB 2A cliffs with warning sign

Cliff walk harborside near UCSB

Once the pungent, tree-burned, dark mud is dumped on the beach and pushed out into the low tide areas by bull dozers, the high tides start to work their magic.  Within 24 hours, the tide has washed the mud out to sea, leaving the sandy elements of the muddy soil to replenish the beach itself.

GB 2B H with warning sign

It turns out we are able to park at Goleta Beach, though we and the rest of the public are barred by yellow police tape from walking within 400’ of the mud dumping zone.  Taking to the UCSB bike trail towards campus, we skirt the beach and head for the fenced off cliff trail on the edge of campus.   As expected, there are no surfers off the UCSB point as we weave by the marine technology lab.

GB 3B more pacific cliffs bueno

Cliff walk facing the Pacific Ocean

Climbing stairs to the vista above the Pacific, we see school kids who have come for a nature field trip.  Just two are listening to the guide, and the rest act middle school bored, so wanting to check their phones.  Passing to their inland side, I appreciate that leading field trips with middle schoolers is in my distant past.  When I retired from 41 years of teaching seven years ago, I never looked back.  Greener pastures, hikable trails, and pickleball courts awaited.   Previously we have come to these bluffs on weekends, so it is not surprising to see fewer walkers, students or visitors on the trail.  Click here for our 2016 cliff hike and here for our 2017 hike.

GB 3A pacific cliffs with D

Bomber at the Pacific

Returning by way of the lagoon and then through campus, we see that UCSB students are living the dream, sitting on the student union lawn facing the Pacific in shorts soaking in the sun.  By the way, tuition and fees in 2017-2018 for California residents are $14,409, for out-of-staters it’s $42,423.  Room and board for each of the 24,000+ students is $16, 218.  At this highly competitive public university, the high school GPA averages are roughly 4.10 (they take a slew of AP classes, I’m guessing) and SATs are 600-750.

At the change of classes near 1P, kids on cruisers (one speed bikes) and skate boards, male and female, glide to class on specially marked trails to separate them from the walkers.

Carp 2B D by mud on Carp Beach

Mud comes to the Carpinteria Beach

Returning to Carpinteria for an evening walk on the beach, we see the same pungent dark mud that we saw earlier at Goleta Beach State Park.  Within 100’ of the mud spread, we start to smell a pungent, burnt wood odor; it is overpowering.  Whereas, in Goleta Beach there are no domiciles within a half mile of the dumping, here in Carpinteria the oceanfront condos have the nasty mud lapping near their walls.  To quote the kids, gag me with a spoon.  Check out the video below of the dumping process.

Heading for our condo, we find the town roads are covered with the sheen of dark red mud.  Street sweepers go up and down the streets constantly keeping the dust down and sweeping up the surface mud.

Swimming and surfing here at the Carpinteria Beach is also verboten and will stay so for more than a month.  Like others, we occasionally walk the beach mornings and evenings, but we do not mess with the bacteria-infested mud.  All is not perfect in paradise.  But it is still paradise.

Dan and Hannah Find Their Small Town Dream in California


Carp 4 sunset

Sunset at Carpinteria above the harbor seal rookery

Since forever, I’ve wanted to live in a small town.  I dreamed I’d be connected to our neighbors and the community at large.  As Hannah and I both turn 70, we’d like to find a town that is both small and warm in winter, so we can be active outside each and every day.   And let me tell you, we struck gold in California.  Let me backtrack to take you on the journey that led us to this small town of warmth on the Pacific Ocean.

Harry and Hazel in Radburn

My grandpa Harry and grandma Hazel on my mother’s side in front of our house in Radburn.  Circa 1960.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hannah and I both grew up in the suburbs that had a small-town feel (she near Rochester, NY and me ten miles from the Big Apple).

In the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, NJ where I grew up, there were six houses to an acre, all on cul-de-sacs backed up to a park.  In the Erie Canal town of Fairport, NY, Hannah as the daughter of the town doctor, was known by everyone.  We had small towns in our blood from the beginning.

When first married, Hannah and I bought a home in Tempe, Arizona, the home of Arizona State University.  But we lived on streets where people kept to themselves, often staying indoors much of the time because of the heat.  (Though it’s a “dry” heat, it’s like living in an oven.)  We’d put Molly, then later Robyn in a stroller going up and down La Jolla Drive and never see another person.  This was a dead end in our hunt for a small town.

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our driveway on Chases Pond Road in winter

In 1982, we got serious about our small town holy grail.  Moving from Arizona to seek the romantic notion of small town living in New England, we settled in the “small town” of York on the southern Maine coast.

But…we bought a house out a country road, some 2.5 miles from the center of town.  Too far to walk to town, we drove to the center of town to find the First Parish Church, the church cemetery from the 1600s, a Cumberland Farms, the York Historial Society complex of buildings, a few insurance businesses, and the York Public Library.  That’s about it.

Come 5P, the town rolls up the sidewalks for the night.  There’s no town green, no restaurants, no park, no community center.  In my mind, York is a small town in name only.

Though we still live in York, I have never given up my search for that small town.  Why even in the early 1990s, we made an offer on a house in Brunswick, Maine, primarily because of its small-town feel.  For many reasons, we backed away from that decision.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

After the January 2018 mud and debris flows on The 101 in Montecito

And then in 2014, we started to come to California in winter, first for two weeks, then a month.  California has it all!  True there are earthquakes, wildfires, climate change-caused droughts, and mud and debris flows, but it also has progressive politics, towns where everyone can feel safe, and the warmth that allows us to hike, walk, and pickle outside in winter.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Hannah at Carpinteria Beach

Then in 2017, we took our grandsons, Owen and Max, to the beach south of Santa Barbara and hit the mother lode of small towns in winter – Carpinteria.

So, what is it about Carpinteria that made this small town so appealing in winter?

First, let’s be real, it’s temperate winter climate allows us to exercise outside in shorts day in and day out.

Carp map of carp

Carpinteria, ten miles south of Santa Barbara

Second, it’s location.  The town of 14,000 residents is tucked between the coastal San Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, a stretch of maybe three miles wide.  There’s little room to expand, which will keep the small in this small town for years to come.

Carp 4A small house

Modest size beach house in Carpinteria

Third, we are not smothered by traffic.  True, The 101 highway away from our beach side of town is California-clogged for much of the morning and evening commute.  But tucked between Carpinteria Avenue and the beach are nine quiet streets with modest size houses (probably less than a 1000 square feet) on streets for us to walk and for couples and kids to bike on their cruisers (one speed bikes conducive to this level terrain and the hard sandy beaches).

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seal Rookery off the Coastal View Trail in Carpinteria

Fourth, there are out-of-the-way trails to walk.  To the north of the downtown is the Carpinteria Marsh Trail.  In the opposite direction past the boardwalks through the sand dunes of Carpinteria State Park, there is the Coastal View Trail to the Harbor Seal Rookery.

Carp 3 Alcazar

The Alcazar where we watched Super Bowl LII with one hundred other townsfolk

Fifth, we can walk everywhere.  It is less than a half mile to restaurants, the Alcazar Theater where we watched the Super Bowl with one hundred other townsfolks, Albertson’s, the local grocery store, the post office, Chinese takeout at Uncle Chen’s and a Subway and Taco Bell for something quick.  The library is two-tenths of mile from our rented winter condo.  And it deserves an ordinal (a number in a sequence like 1st, 2nd,..) to itself.

Carp 3A Library

Small town Carpinteria Library

Sixth, at the Carpinteria Public Library, we ask about getting a library card.  It’s free, even though we are not residents!  Its similar to the no cost emergency services (i.e., ambulances) in the county.  Last year, Hannah was transported by ambulance after her 25’ fall from the San Ysidro Trail to the local Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for emergency surgery.  When the EMTs were working to save her leg, we learned there is no charge for the county ambulance service.  Here in the Republic of California, services are often provided for all its citizens.

PB H and D and Nancy

Pickleball on the Santa Barbara Muncipal Courts

Seventh, it’s not in the middle of nowhere.  Ten miles to our north in Santa Barbara, we have our Unity of Santa Barbara spiritual community, the Municipal Tennis Courts for pickleball, the Santa Barbara Zoo for visits by our grandsons, Owen and Max, and Trader Joe’s.  Ten miles further is the University of California, Santa Barbara bordering Goleta Beach State Park with its two-mile cliff walk.

Carp 2A H by Carp State Beach sign first day

Eighth, the beach.  Each sunny afternoon Hannah takes her beach chair and reading material to enjoy the delights of Ole Sol. Evenings we can walk the hard-packed sand.

It’s not everyone’s cup of joe, but its the small town in winter that works for us.

Dan and Hannah Love California

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our January driveway on Chases Pond Road

Up at 3A, I check my tablet computer to learn our 735A Delta flight from Boston to Los Angeles is on time.  I then notice on the Weather Channel that 1-3″ of snow is predicted here on the coast of Maine and it is to start at 3A.  Looking outside, no snow is falling.  Hmmm.  When our friend Adele arrives at 4A to drive us to Logan Airport, there is still no snow.  On the 60 mile, one hour ride south, only once at Logan Airport does light snow fall.  No big deal.

Arriving at Logan, we are on schedule for a six hour flight to depart at 735A.  Cozied into the airport, I notice nothing of the weather outside as I am distracted by Delta’s free Starbucks coffee and my Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin.  Finally, as we walk down the runway I see that there is some serious snow falling.  It’s early in the travel day, we should be fine.

Carp 1 deicing in boston

Hannah captures our plane being de-iced

We are not fine.  Two and a half hours later, we take off after the mandatory de-icing.  Take all the time you need to de-ice.  I want to arrive in LA without incident.

The six hour flight goes quickly thanks in part to the satisfaction of getting a free breakfast and the excellent Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone.

Arriving later than expected at LAX, we still are off before 2P in our Avis rent-a-car on The 405 and soon to The 101 through urban Los Angeles to Carpinteria some 80 miles up the coast.  LA Traffic?  Not bad on a Tuesday at 2P.  That said, the twelve lane highway is full of cars, but Hannah and I cruise north in the HOV lane.  The car thermometer reads 85F.  It was 23F in York early this morning.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Within 100′ of the Pacific Ocean

Arriving Carpinteria by 330P, we unpack and head to the Carpinteria State Beach five blocks away.  It’s 73F and we are reminded of our love of the Golden State.

Montecito disneyland

On Halloween 1970 all the teachers at my Patrick Henry Elementary School were required on a school day to march with the kids supervising them in a parade.

Fact is, I have had a thing for California for a long time.  I took my first teaching job in the Golden State in 1970.  Right out of Arizona State University as an elementary education major, I was drawn to sunny, though smoggy southern California.  The Anaheim City Schools (35 miles south of Los Angeles) offered me a job as a social studies, science, and Spanish teacher of 5th and 6th graders at $7200 per year.  I took the job, despite never having had a single course in Spanish.

Later that year, I moved back to Arizona to start the first ten years of Hannah’s and my married life.  Then, it was 35 years and counting in Maine raising a family and trying to get our acts together.

But it was our one-time York, now California friends, Tree and Scott, who planted the seed four years ago that brought us back to the Golden State.  Over coffee and blueberry muffins at the local Roast and Crumb, Tree mentioned that they loved Maine; but too much of the winter they found running and walking outside a cold, dismal proposition.

Montecito map thomas fire

Santa Barbara is 100 miles north of Los Angeles

It was a Tom Edison moment for me.  That was exactly my first frustration with Maine winters.  Literally, within three days of that December morning, I had made January reservations for a flight to LAX (Los Angeles Airport) for two weeks of hiking up the coast of California.  For every winter since that 2014, we have returned to the Golden State.

SB Pickleball Feb 1

The wildfires came to just the other side of those near mountains.

It’s win/win.  The first win is being in the temperate winter climate of the Santa Barbara area of California.  This February 70s are predicted every day for our first two weeks.  Walking by the beach or before the town wakes up every morning before breakfast in shorts!   Hiking the canyon trails in the nearby San Ynez Mountains in shorts!  Playing pickleball in Santa Barbara outdoors in shorts!  Well, as you might have guessed, that’s the long and short of it.

Montecito snow in Maine

Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine

The second win is we are not in Maine in the winter.  Maine is home and always will be.  But during a recent two-week period, we had brutal subzero cold with a major snowstorm thrown in for good measure; this was by far the bitterest stretch of weather we’ve had during our years on the coast of Maine.  Not a day over 20F and many days well below zero.  Three thousand miles away, Southern California looks mighty good.

Montecito Thomas fire

Thomas Fire with The 101 highway in the foreground

Despite being paradise, the Santa Barbara area has had some tough patches of late.  First, in December 2017, the Thomas Fire (named for the 358 student Thomas Aquinas College near Ventura) burned nearly 300,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

Four lane 101 highway

Then a monster rain storm on January 9, 2018 sent massive mud and debris flows down the recently denuded coastal mountains and hillsides.  Montecito, a Santa Barbara suburb, was the epicenter of this disaster where 21 died and hundreds of home destroyed.  The major four lane highway (The 101) through the area was closed in both directions for nearly two weeks due to car size boulders, tons of soupy muck, uprooted trees, oceans of mud, and abandoned vehicles in the highway.  Usually, The 101 carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast daily.

Montecito House

Mudslide of boulders in Montecito

Hannah heard from our good friend in Santa Barbara in mid-January before we left.

Hello dear Hannah,

I’ve just been thinking about you and Dan and your upcoming visit.  I thought that I should touch base and just be sure that you have a sense of what things are like here after the recent rains.  Highway 101 is closed indefinitely and blessed Montecito looks like a tsunami went through. 

Montecito Mud the 101

Mud and debris inundate The 101

I do not want to discourage you from coming in any way, but think you should be aware that conditions are not good.  Currently a large section of Montecito has been evacuated again so that they can get equipment in there to clean things up.  They also are continuing searching for folks who are still missing.  All restaurants and food facilities in Montecito and Summerland are closed, due to contaminated water. 

Sending lots of love.  

We were not discouraged.  California here we are!

And one more thing.  I love California because of its overwhelming support of President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; as well as in the Presidential Election of 2016, Hilary Clinton received 7,362,490 votes and the current president just 3,916,209.  I am among my peeps.

Check out these pictures in the days immediately following the deluge and especially the before and after pictures from the Montecito mudslides and debris flows

Montecito 101 FWY

Montecito mud house


montecito side street with pole down

Montecito truck

Before and after

Montecito 101 before

montecito 101 after

Before and after

Montecito butterfly beach before

Before and after

Montecito hot springs before

Before and after

Montecito olive mill at danielson before

Click here to read why another Californian for 30 years who came from Colorado loves him some California despite its wildfires, mud and debris flows, and earthquakes.  It’s an engaging read.

Dan and Hannah On Planting Seeds

Dealing with the current times can be overwhelming, sometimes scary, certainly threatening for some.  I feel I may have an undiagnosed low grade case of the blues ever since the presidential election of 2016.  With a self-proclaimed very stable genius of a chief executive, global climate deniers, terrorism, California wildfires and mudslides, it’s easy to get into a funk.

seeds wildfire

The coastal California hills are alive with the sound of crackling fires

But what good does that do?  Curling up in a fetal position solves little.  Triangulating our complaints has little merit.  So, Hannah and I have some thoughts for you to consider.  Here goes.

My first reaction to the upheaval of the past year might be seen as not really very mature, but I think mildly effective.  You decide.  My knee jerk reaction to the presidential election of 2016 was for Hannah and me to give to organizations that the president had targeted for dismantling or compromising.  Ergo, we gave to Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Maine Public Radio, a Santa Barbara Muslim community for rebuilding it’s mosque, and the Nature Conservancy.  That’s fine, but hardly the proactive strategy we are looking for to address our hopes going forward.

seeds planned parenthood

As young marrieds in Tempe, Arizona in the 1970s, even then we knew we couldn’t save the world, but thanks to Hannah’s lead, we knew that we could give it a shot to make a difference in the lives of one person at a time.

seeds jj watt

Ellen DeGeneres donates a cool mil to the efforts of Houston Texan’s JJ Watt to raise money for hurricane victims in Houston

The Hurricanes of the late summer of 2017 gave us a starting point.  The trio of destruction, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, grabbed the nation’s and our attention, then shook it like a ragdoll, and for weeks and months turned the lives of so many upside down.  It was just the impetus for us to donate to family and friends in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico to have them find someone or sometwo who could use a small financial shot in the arm.  We were just getting started.

seeds prayer

Let me take a little side trip for a thought or two about praying, since politicians often speak that they are praying for the victims.  I am all for praying.  I pray.  But praying for victims of natural or man-made disasters is just a start for me.  Praying focuses my attention.  Then there is the companion need for action.  Where do the relief supplies, rebuilding, and ongoing support come from?  One place is for individuals moved by the reports of  the catastrophic damage.  Another significant player is the spiritual community, the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, that rally to support their/our communities.  They are all planting seeds!  For me, prayer and action go hand in hand.

seeds planting seeds

That leads us to the idea of a Planting Seeds.  Leaving the big programs of world health and access to education for all to Bill and Melinda Gates and others, we’ve begun with two recent efforts.

seeds support PR

Puerto Rico

First, at our kids’ suggestion, we all (New York and Maine Rothermels and Massachusetts Rawdings) are using our resources to support American citizens in Puerto Rico this holiday season.  Thanks to our friend Elsa whom we met through our longtime Virginia friend, Amelia, we learned of the good work of Puerto Rico United;  rather than giving Christmas presents, we gave the money to the ongoing relief effort in the Caribbean .

Elsa responded in part:   Thank you again to the whole family for being so thoughtful and generous to my island.  I hope one day you are all able to enjoy a hike in the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System (El Yunque National Forest).  It was devastated, but it is already coming back to its green beauty.  They are working very hard to rehabilitate the zone, so it can be open to the public again.

Second, Hannah and I have contacted ministers we know, here and away, to direct our donations to those in need.

Our note to them follows.

Dear (clergy),

Can you do us a favor?  Do you know a single mom, a single dad, a couple, or a family that could us some financial support this holiday season?    Love and peace, Dan and Hannah

One emails back, Hey, thanks for the check! I promise to put it to good use! That’s very kind and generous of you! There’s a family in our church that’s really struggling. House repairs piling up. The church just replaced their hot water heater after finding out they’ve been without hot water since the beginning of summer. Three children, two of whom are special needs. Real worker-bees with very kind hearts. Your gift will truly be a blessing to them!!! Thank You!!

Another checks in, Your wonderful generosity has finally found a grateful recipient.  Our Youth Director recently told me of a single Mom who attends from time to time that is in need of financial help.  She was so thrilled to hear of this gift and I just now put it into cash with a card to her.  Thank you so much, for reaching out across the miles to be a special blessing.  Namaste.

A third response, Thank you, so much, for the generous gift. There is a single woman with small kids that comes to me several times a year for help. She is just the person that came to mind, and so I will pass your gift on to her. Sometimes she comes for help for rent or utilities, but sometimes at Christmas she comes because she has nothing to give her kids. Lord have mercy!

Finally, Thank you for your gift!!! We have so many people in this area – many in our church – who will be moved to tears with your gift.  Whether it goes for food or heat or gifts for their kids.  Your kindness will (and is!) so appreciated.

seeds mugs

Look closely at these mugs

It doesn’t have to be much, $5 is a start.  Let’s have coffee and explore what we can do together.  I’m buying.

Plant seeds.  We need more conversation than debate.


Dan and Hannah Rock 24 Hours with Owen and Max

You probably never met my grandmother (my mom’s mom) – Hazel Hilliard Archer.  Let me introduce you to her.  You see, Hazel started a tradition that Hannah and I carry on 70 years later.   Let me explain.

Hazel use this one

Our grandma, Hazel

Living on Breading Avenue up from the Ohio River in Ben Avon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hazel and my grandfather (Harry) raised four kids; my mom being the second of the quartet.  When I was born during a 26” snowstorm in late 1947, my parents lived in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, some 400 miles from Hazel and Harry.

Hazel and Harry classic

Grandpa (Harry) and Grandma (Hazel)

At the time, mothers routinely spent two weeks in the hospital after delivering their child.  But that day, some two years after WW II ended, I, as a preemie, was making things a little more complicated.  After those two weeks, I still wasn’t gaining weight, in fact, losing it.  At that point, my parents and my grandmother (who had come to New Jersey for support) said we are taking Danny home.  Immediately I began to thrive.  Literally, Hazel saved my life.

Harry and Hazel in Radburn

Harry and Hazel in front of our childhood home on Bolton Place in Fair Lawn

Fast forward eight plus years, grandma came to our family home in Jersey to take care of my brother Richard, sister Patty, and me for six weeks while our parents took an ocean liner across the Pond and traveled throughout Europe.  I can’t imagine it was a piece of cake dealing with a three, six, and eight-year-old in someone else’s house for a triple fortnight, but Hazel came through in the clutch.

Harry Hazel Mom

Harry, Hazel, and Mom in our front yard

My mother (Jean Archer) followed in her mom’s footsteps.  Annually, she and Dad would take care of our three kids (Molly, Robyn, and Will) for a long weekend so Hannah and I could get away to Camden, Maine.  Those with young kids know there is no better gift than time alone with their spouse during the child rearing years.

24 m and t

Tip and Molly, parents of Owen and Max

So, fast forward to 2017.  After a late November Saturday morning breakfast with the entire Family Rawding at our place, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip leave for their day while Hannah and I have ourselves a golden 24 hours with Owen and Max.

In ways, Hannah and I are like Farmers Insurance – we have learned a thing or two in the five years we’ve been grandparents to preschoolers.  One is that we need breaks ourselves when we are the one-day de facto parents of our grandsons.  Two is that we are the grandparents of no naps.  We want these boys to fall asleep at 7P.  After 11 hours of togetherness, we need some Dan-and-Hannah-ness.  That means a glass of wine in front of our gas fireplace.

24 honeydew melon

Owen with his Omi cutting up honey dew melon

Just after Owen awakes (he’s our early bird), he and Hannah cut up honey dew melon.  Playing with our wooden train set and a variety of Hess trucks, Owen and Max have come to expect adventures when they come to Omi and Poppa’s.  While I take charge of the morning adventures, Hannah takes the afternoon.

Just before 10A, I get the boys in their car seats and head for adventure #1, the Kittery Community Center and its elevated track above the basketball court.

As we enter the town facility, Karate Kids are going through their moves as they progress towards the coveted Black Belt on the basketball court itself.  Watching intently, Owen and Max press themselves to the glass window, aware that their local cousins are also into ka-rah-tay.  I milk the karate watching for as long as possible, knowing every minute away gives Hannah more time on her own.

24 on the track

Owen (in front) and Max running the track at the Kittery Community Center

Soon Owen asks to go up to the track where the two boys can’t get enough of running on the hard rubber oval.  After twenty minutes of steady Usain Bolt-ing it, Owen and Max are unaware that the KCC’s custodian has come over to me to say that the track is for walking, not running.  My bad.

24 george with boys

George with our grandsons Max (to the right) and Owen

Out the door, we head three miles north on coastal route 103 to the home of my ping pong buddy, George Derby for adventure #2.  Last summer, George invited us to his place so Owen and Max could find sea glass.  Looking for an excuse to extend our morning, I drive to George’s place to see if he is home so the boys can thank him for the sea glass they found.

24 geo helping boys find sea glass

Hunting for sea glass with George Derby

Upon arrival with George in his driveway, I roll down the car windows, which cues Owen and Max to bellow, THANK YOU FOR THE SEA GLASS.   With George’s encouragement, we return to the shoreline to look again for more sea glass this late fall day.  Thanks to the Seacoast’s top sea glass finder (George!), the boys hit the jackpot.

24 O and M with Poppa and buoy

Max and Owen with their Poppa and the buoy

Finding white and green sea glass for Owen and Max, George lets us know that blue is the rarest of sea glassi on the coast of Maine.  In addition, thanks to a recent 60 mph wind and rain storm, a lobster buoy washed up on his shore.  Generously, George gives it to the boys.

Already noon, we head for adventure #3, the York Public Library, where Owen and Max rush downstairs to the wooden train sets.   Later, with the boys snuggled up to me, I read A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems.  It’s a fun read for kids and adults alike.  (Also consider another Mo Willems book, I Really Like Slop, about the further adventures of Gerald, the elephant, and Piggy.)

Soon home to Chases Pond Road well after 1P, I have given Hannah 3+ hours and me the morning of my dreams.  After lunch, Owen and Max play with the Hess Trucks and with the miniatures in Hannah’s shadow box, but never, never a nap.

24 Frostys

Afternoon Frosty’s at Wendy’s

By 245P, Hannah is out for her adventures with the boys.  First, to Wendy’s in Portsmouth, NH for Frosty’s with gift certificates from the boys’ Auntie Robyn.  This trip is followed by an hour playing on the living room carpet at our friend Mandy’s place in Kittery.

24 Mandy with Owen and Max

Mandy between Owen and Max

After dinner of meatballs, corn, and crunchy flakes in blackberry yogurt, we read to them, but only briefly because…the grandparents of no naps have done it again.  The boys are fried and asleep by 7P.  Hannah and I are living the dream having grandsons in the area.  That said, we are in bed by 815P!

Nota Bene – Thanks to my sister Patty and cousin Eileen for the pictures of Hazel and Harry



Since that November day, Hannah and I have had a December as well as a January 24 hours with Owen and Max.  I bring you pictures from those days together.

In December 2017:

24 Dec Ginger bread houses at HD

Building gingerbread houses at Home Depot

24 Dec Owen pottery

Owen apottery making at Ocean Fire Pottery in York, Maine

In January 2018:

24 Jan max at HD

Max pumped about his block calendar

24 Jan at HD block calendars

Back at Home Depot making block calendars

24 Jan at Wendy's

Who wouldn’t want Frosty’s at Wendy’s on a -18F wind chill January morning!

24 Jan Owen and Omi and Monster cookies

Owen and Omi making Monster Cookies






Dan and Hannah, Stem Cells and Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia

KM map of atlanta

Nine days ago, in late October 2017, Hannah and I flew to Atlanta from Boston (900 miles) for an experimental procedure of stem cell injections for Hannah, a long shot attempt to make her voice stronger after 15 years of spasmodic dysphonia.  After landing in the Peach State, she called Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior Healthcare, to let her know that we were on our way to the clinic at Sandy Springs, GA for Hannah’s 1P appointment.

Uber-apologetic, Julie told Hannah that her stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida, had not arrived as promised that day.  Alas, we had no appointment.  But we had Julie.

She set up another appointment for today (a Thursday) and had the stem cell bank cover our flight, lodging, car rental, and gas expenses for our return trip.  With a free afternoon that Tuesday past, we hiked up and around Stone Mountain to the east of Atlanta.   Click here for the link to last week’s blog about that hike.

KM Superior Healthcare sign

Fast forward nine days.  Driving in the predawn dark from home on the coast of Maine, we have few others on the road down I-95, then route 1 to Boston.  Soon, we are in the air on our non-stop 620A Jet Blue flight to Atlanta.

Upon arrival, Hannah’s text to Julie confirms that Hannah’s stem cells are indeed ready and waiting for her at another Superior Healthcare clinic in Canton, GA, 50 miles north of the airport in Atlanta.

Arriving 25 minutes early for Hannah’s 1130A appointment, we see Julie in scrubs coming out of another procedure; she spots us, flashes her light-up-the-room smile, and says with joy, It’s déjà vu.  Do you feel like you’ve just been here?  We are home.

KM 1B Hannah's x-rays

X-rays of Hannah’s knees

Over the next hour and a half, Hannah has the intrathecal injection of stem cells into her spine, and later two more in her knees.  On a computer screen, we see x-rays of both of Hannah’s knees (to the right); the top picture is from her first (May 2017) stem cell injection and the bottom x-ray was taken today (November 2017).  The increased space between her knee and tibia shows the growth of cartilage due to the stem cells.  Do note the titanium screws still doing their job below her knee; these were inserted after a water skiing accident five years ago.

KM 1A Dan's x-rays 2

X-rays of Dan’s knees (bottom x-ray from May and the top in November)

Since I had had stem cell injections in both knees as well that May day, Julie x-rays my knees to check the growth of cartilage.  Since my cartilage wasn’t as far gone as Hannah’s, my growth hasn’t been as great.  Even so, I am feeling nimbler on the pickleball court five months later.  Julie notes the improved tracking of my right patella (knee cap).

KM 1C Han and Julie

Hannah and Julie

For relationship-focused individuals like Hannah and me, the personal touch by medical professionals matters greatly.  Eighteen months ago, Hannah had voice rehabilitation training in Tampa with a woman with whom Hannah just didn’t connect, and ultimately didn’t believe in.  Julie connects.  We know there are no guarantees that stem cells will strengthen Hannah’s voice, but we believe in Julie and the possibilities.

KM 2 H at start of trail

With an entire 75F afternoon to ourselves, we opt to hike at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, just north of Atlanta.  Two years ago, we hiked here in the rain when we came to Georgia to hike our 14th and final Appalachian Trail state.  Click here for the blog to our first climb of Kennesaw Mountain in the rain as well as some background of the Civil War battle that took place here.

KM 4B H atop little KM

Finding the last parking spot at 2P on a Thursday, we talk to the ranger about the six-mile Kennesaw Mountain Loop Trail.  With 600’ of elevation to Big Kennesaw Mountain, we climb it, descend, and then climb Little Kennesaw Mountain.  From there, it’s some four miles of mostly downhill back to the Visitor Center.

KM 4B D and H at little KM cannon

It’s déjà vu for us as we remember the rocky climbs, the views south to Atlanta, and the Civil War cannons still in place.  By the way, it took 100 men to drag these cannons up the rocky slopes.

As we hike, we step on, over, and around sharp angled rocks on the up and down mountain trail.  Surprised by the many fellow hikers on a midweek afternoon, we can see the appeal of this forest oasis in the midst of suburban Atlanta that stretches as far as the eye can see.

KM 5 D on rocky trail

Approaching the half-way point, we have a country fire road of soft dirt beneath the forest canopy for our return to the trailhead.  Passing hikers making the nearly six-mile loop in the other direction, we see young women and men running the hilly, undulating trail.  Dan and Hannah, circa 1992!

KM 5A H on fire road home

Two and a quarter hours after leaving the trailhead, we complete the 5.8 miles of the Kennesaw Mountain Loop Trail.  Pleased with this bonus afternoon of hiking thanks to the snafu of nine days ago, we are not surprised that our 30-mile late afternoon drive to our Quality Inn through Atlanta is congested; it’s not Washington, DC commuter crazy, but we do slow drive between 20 to 30 mph.

Toasting our overnight adventure to the South, we treat ourselves to a fine merlot, but… Hannah can’t finish her glass of wine as the Lidocaine painkiller from the afternoon injection is wearing off and the Tylenol has yet to kick in.  Overnight, sleep for Hannah comes but mostly goes.

KM quality inn

After a mostly sleepless night for Hannah, we leave the Quality Inn in our rental car at 520A for our 7A Jet Blue flight back to Boston; we have no idea that we have forgotten one of our carry-ons.   And now I have, a what would you do question.

KM enterprise

Dropping off our Nissan Sentra at the Enterprise location about 530A, we get checked out, and then realize that we’d left our cooler bag of food back at the Quality Inn three miles away.

Mentioning this to the attendant, he asks when our flight is, and concludes that we can make it back to our Quality Inn in ten minutes, and be back for our early morning flight.  At the Quality Inn, I jump out, get the bag, and Paul (Hannah learns his name through her engaging front seat conversation with him) takes us directly to the Jet Blue Terminal; we save time by not taking the Sky Train from the Rental Car Center.  We easily make our flight.

You tell me, what do we tip him?  $5? (a muffin and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts)  $10?  (enough to take a friend to Dunkin’ Donuts)  $100 (just blow him out of the water and give him a story to tell forever).  What do you think?   Decide and then scroll down for our decision.

KM 2A D on trail

Trail up Kennesaw Mountain


KM KM map

We hiked the trail marked in red from the Visitor Center.  The elevation of the trail is represented across the bottom of the map.


The right tip for us is $20.  (Though the blow-him-out-of-the-water tip is gaining traction for future such events).

We thank Paul for something he didn’t have to do but smilingly did.  Southern hospitality in action!  Once home, I see is an additional $7 charge on our Enterprise bill.  Considering the gas and Paul’s time, it seems like a bargain.

A few days later that charge is wiped from our credit card statement.  We love us some Enterprise!

KM tipping