Dan and Hannah Welcome You to Walk Their Hometown – York, Maine  Part 1

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Hannah and I now live 20 miles south of Kennebunk on the Maine coast

How in the world did you two residents of Arizona ever end up in Maine?  I mean, really.  You were living in Arizona, the real Sunshine State!   Did you have any idea what winters were like in New England?   What part of roof-raking the snow off your house did you not get?  What were you smoking?  What made you do it?   Well, my Uncle Jimmy had a lot to do with it.  Let me explain.

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Hannah and I lived just to the west of Mesa in Tempe for ten years

Since Hannah grew up in the sub-arctic cold of Rochester, New York and I not ten miles from Manhattan in New Jersey, we were iron filings to the magnetic pull of the warmth of Arizona.  Married young at 24, we figured, What the hell!  Why not Arizona!  Soon, we had the easy peezy life of shorts and sandals.  We even had a 40′ pool at our first house, not a mile from the campus of The Arizona State University.  I could play 18 holes of golf for $3 in the summer.  True it was always north of 100F on the course.

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My Uncle Jimmy with his bride, my Aunt Marian

And then fate and Uncle Jimmy stepped.  It was October, 1980 when we returned East for my brother Richard’s wedding.   There, my Uncle Jimmy, the planter of seeds, said, When are you guys coming back East?

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Such kids!

We immediately dismissed that idea as crazy talk.  Move to the cold Northeast?   During our ten years in the 70s in the Cactus State, there was a soothing laid-back California vibe to the Valley of the Sun that suited us.  We had tans year-round.  We could bike everywhere.  True, smog, that Los Angeles could be proud of, blanketed the valley most days, and the traffic that was a Debbie Downer.

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But the sun-drenched life wasn’t the only reason we were in Arizona.  You see, we each came from families with high profile fathers in the small communities where we grew up.  Hannah’s dad was the village doctor while mine was the high school principal.  Since everyone knew our families, Hannah and I were less Hannah and Dan, but more the doctor’s daughter and the principal’s kid.  No one’s fault, we had good lives…but as introverts, we had a hard time figuring out who the hell we were.

And then Uncle Jimmy got us thinking.  Our daughter Molly was 14 months at the time; then when our second daughter Robyn came less than a year later, the pull of family in the Northeast grew stronger and stronger.

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York Harbor, Maine in November

We thought, What about New England?   Each being from the Northeast, we had a romantic notion of living in small town New England, raising a family, becoming part of the community.   So we picked up and moved in the dead of winter to a duplex in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   We had no jobs, but an innocent faith that this was the right move.

Then on a sunny day in May, 1982, we drove eight miles north to the seaside town of York, Maine.  Pedaling with Molly and Robyn in bike seats, we fell in love with all the green, the towering trees, the ocean, the small-town feel.  Equally smitten by the first house we looked out, we bought a post and beam home on a wooded acre and a half lot of oaks and beeches; a far cry from our fenced-in ¼ acre house lot in Arizona. (Full disclosure, our first Arizona house did have a grapefruit, orange, and lemon tree in our backyard!)

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Hannah on the trail in Steedman Woods

Now scroll forward 34+ years and we still call York home.  This mid-November Sunday, we are looking for a little exercise before an early sunset in our still small town.  Our walk of choice takes us into the village to the empty parking lot of the York Golf and Tennis Club just off the York River.  (In golf and tennis season, parking can be found in York Village itself near the iconic First Parish Congregational Church.)

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Steedman Woods

Within a hundred feet of the York River, the walk begins down a country lane off Lindsay Road.   To our right are the shoreline estates, to our left we approach the tidal Barrell’s Mill Pond, once the site of an 18th century lumber mill.

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At the entrance to the forest trails, there is a sign that welcomes us to Steedman Woods, now owned and maintained by the Old York Historical Society.  The trail is easy to navigate and goes in a circle with water views all around.

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Trail above Barrell’s Mill Pond

As we enter the Woods, we have a choice of two trails – the mellow one of wood chips to our right that skirts the York River or behind door #2 – the rocky, hilly trail to the left above the Barrell’s Mill Pond that we choose. Either trail leads to the Wiggly Bridge, known locally as the shortest suspension bridge in the world.  Once over the Wiggly Bridge, we continue on to the 300-yard man-made causeway leading to York Harbor itself.

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Hannah at the Wiggly Bridge with the causeway beyond.  The York River to her left.

At this point we take the right on the sidewalk over the tidal York River on Route 103 with the lobster boats of York Harbor to our left, the expansive river leading inland for miles to our right.

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York Harbor from the Route 103 bridge with the Fisherman’s Walk to the upper left

Taking the side road at the marina to the left, we have the wide causeway all to ourselves on a crisp, fall day (i.e., 40s).   At the end of the road is the now shuttered Dockside Restaurant and boat storage area.  Exploring the boat yard and the Dockside lawns on our walk approaching 30 minutes, we soon double back.  At this point, we have three choices.

Choice #1 – Go back the way we came over the York River, back down the causeway to the Wiggly Bridge and through the Steedman Woods.

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Hannah on the causeway to the Wiggly Bridge

Choice #2 – Cross back over the York River bridge and turn instead to the right onto the Fisherman’s Walk paralleling York Harbor on to the Atlantic Ocean.  From there, a rocky path starts at the York Harbor Beach heading north along the coast on the Cliff Walk high above the Atlantic.  Click here for the Cliff Walk blog.

Choice #3 – Continue across the York River Bridge to the first left, Barrell Lane, for a walk that takes us through the miniscule York Village.  Turn left at the , 18th century cemetery onto Lindsay Road, which gets us back to our vehicle.

Let us know when you are coming to this “walk in the park,” and we’d love to join you.  Oh, and one more thing.  Thank you, Jimmy!

Part II of walking trails/hikes in York will come once the snow melts in spring.

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Dan Turns 69 Today!

Each morning I write a page of gratitudes in my journal.  Most of the time my gratitudes are just a list; sometimes I add a little meat of explanation.  I keep it simple, shoot for five.

For my 69th Birthday Blog, I have a list of a few of my gratitudes of 2016 that keep coming up again and again.   They are no specific order, except the first.

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Hannah!  It all starts with the decision we made to make a life together back in 1972.  You know her as sweet and thoughtful and fun. True, true, and true.  She is as genuine as she seems.

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Owen (4.5) and Max (2.5)

Our grandsons Owen and Max bring such joy and life to our lives.  Our five kids, Molly and Tip, Robyn, and Will and Laurel are special, as are yours.

Traveling and its surprises – In the past year, Hannah and I have climbed Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park , walked the bluffs of the California Coast, hiked in Mount Rainier National Park, and this fall traveled to Georgia where we found a community of pickleballers.

Good health to stay as active as I can be for as long as I can – at the local gym, on the trails, and on the pickleball courts.

Ice packs for “after being active”

Old friends from a million years ago

New friends from around the corner and the country

Living in a small town on the coast of Maine.

The wherewithall to travel and share it

Half-priced nachos and margaritas at Ruby’s with friends

Chelmsford Tuesdays with Owen and Max afternoons and Molly and Tip evenings

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Ping pong George with me at the Jimmy Fund Walk

Ping pong Thursdays with George Derby

Greater faith and trust.

Drafting, editing, revising, and posting my blog on Saturdays (344 blogs and counting).

Pickleball three times per week – it provides me with the gift of both sport and camaraderie.

Evening wine with Hannah on our deck in warm weather and in front of the fire in cold.

And there it is.

I’m one fortunate dude.

Dan and Hannah and the 21st Century Wedding Present

You just might be thinking, Dan my Man, it’s about time you come up with a really good idea for me.  You’ve a rep for the occasional brilliance.  I’m sure I’m not the first to say it, but you’ve been slacking of late.  Danny Boy, what do you got for me?

Fair enough.  Glad you asked.  Do I ever have gold for you and it relates to wedding presents.

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Question #1.  What’s an appropriate wedding present?  Many couples let folks know what they want through Pinterest or the Knot or some registry.   It makes a heckuva lot more sense than the getting of some random “thing” that sits in the closet for years until you have the self-confidence/frustration to pitch or donate it.

That said, am I the only one who thinks such registry wedding gifts can have the feel of a transaction?  Oooooo, getting a little heavy, Dan!   I suspect your reaction to that statement/question ranges from “Whoa, lighten up” to “Do I hear an Amen!”

Question #2.  What is the point of a wedding anyway?   Answer #2.  It’s a celebration of the commitment of two people to each other.  It’s not Christmas.  It’s not your birthday.

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Our daughter Molly and the father of our grandsons, Tip

It quite frankly can be another of the best day of your lives.  For me, our daughter’s and son’s weddings were the two of the top ten days in my entire life.  A wedding is not about the presents; it’s the moment of celebration that can lead to many other equally amazing moments together.  It’s about building a life, and maybe a family, together.   But it sure seems like presents and weddings have got tangled up in a web of mistaken good intentions.

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Laurel and our son Will in Virginia

That said, wedding presents are a fact of life.  I participate every time we are invited to a wedding.  I am not rebel when it comes to nuptial gift giving.  There are some fabulous wedding gifts  such as scuba diving on the honeymoon, a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, a picture of a time together, and a million other excellent ones.

But for the first time, I am rethinking my past gifts of money, choosing off the registry, or most often, just letting Hannah do it.

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Well today, I have the Chicago Cubs of Good Ideas for you – giving the gift of time together.

So, here’s the situation, my sister Patty’s kid, Tara, is getting married to a fabulous guy in Anthony Trifiletti.  Tara is around the age of our three kids (30s), so she is one whom we will see at family gatherings and perhaps other times, especially since they live in New England.

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Portland Harbor Hotel

Given that Anthony proposed to Tara at the Portland Harbor Hotel (Maine), Hannah and I thought our wedding present would be to give them a night at said hotel sometime in the coming year.  To spice up our wedding gift card, Hannah drove to Portland to lunch with a friend, took pictures of the hotel that day, got prints, and included two of the prints in our wedding present envelope.

 

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Tara and Anthony on their wedding day in Cohasset, Massachusetts

But here’s the cool “time together” part of the gift.  Knowing that Anthony and Tara would pass within a mile and a half of our house on their way to Portland, we invite them to stop in for a glass of wine.  My thinking is that our gift is laying the foundation of a lifetime connection for us with Tara and Anthony; we’d have some time for just the four of us, not just a transaction.  Cool, n’est-ce pas?

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Well, to our surprise, a mere two weeks after the wedding, Tara emailed that they are going to use our hotel gift the very next weekend and they would love to stop by.  It turns out they’d be passing through York around noon that Veterans Day Friday; so coffee, rather than vino, becomes the appropriate drink of choice.  Not wanting Tara and Anthony to think that they’d have to stay for too long, we have in mind 30 minutes for their stopover.

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Tara and Anthony in our side yard on Veterans Day

Arriving at noon, Tara and Anthony talk with us over coffee, connect like old family friends, and we all have a terrific hour together, or at least that’s how I read it.  Taking this picture to the right before they leave, we have a reminder of a relationship that is now deeper than it would have been had we given them a traditional wedding present.  As Jerry Seinfeld says, Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Though we think we came through with really appropriate traditional presents for our nephews Jon and Brian and our niece Anna when they married, we invite them for coffee, biscuits, and fruit when they are next in town!

PS  In response to this blog, a friend wrote: (the bride) sent a list of gifts you could buy them on their honeymoon trip to Europe.  (i.e., a night at an Inn, a pub visit, a bus excursion etc.   But since the idea didn’t come from me – I felt used – no “me” in the gift.)

PSS  After reading the original blog, my mother’s college roommate, Amy Core emailed, I have never been comfortable with bridal showers, inviting strangers to come with presents. My help has consisted with entertaining the bridal family with informal brunch before the wedding. I did that for your parents at Shannopin Country Club. The Archer parents were too busy at home preparing the reception, but others were there and out of the way.

My roommate Jean Archer was in the South Pacific with the Red Cross.  She had just resigned and was coming home to be married to Dan Rothermel who had limited Navy leave. Her mother, sister Marian and I arranged the wedding for two days after her return. The bride wore the same size in our college days even to shoe size. She knew what my wedding dress looked like and that it would fit. Marian and I chose the attendants gowns and made our own hats to match and except for a light snow the December wedding in Ben Avon went off without a hitch.

Neither of the Core or Rothermel daughters wore our wedding gown.  At your mother’s suggestion it was given to the Zelienople Historical Society for their costume collection. It was purchased at Boggs and Buhl and now is stored at the Buhl House, Main Street, Zelienople (PA) and has been shown a number of times.

 

Dan and Hannah and Their Connection to the Viral Obituary of the Year Part 2 of 2

Going to the party to Celebrate the Life of Chris Connors didn’t quite work out the way we had hoped.  Yes, we did get to the York Harbor Inn, but, no, we never did get to hug Emily, my former student and his widow.  That said, though we lingered for just 15 minutes among the 500 party-goers, our time there was a success.  I’ll explain.

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Playful to the end, the family had this sign at the lobby entrance of the York Harbor Inn that evening.  The next day’s York Weekly reported that in the bathroom of their house was a roll of Osama bin Laden toilet paper.  (Chris’s brother had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.)

His younger brother said, He would say, ‘You should be bold. You should be real.’ And that’s the way he lived his life.

On the plus side, we signed the guest book and left our condolence card inviting Emily for coffee once things settled down in January.   It’s a way for us introverts to connect with the family.

Thanks to Part I of the blog, we heard from our friend, Pastor Rich. Thanks for your message about Chris. I married Chris and Emily at the Harbor Beach!!!!!  I will never forget it.  We all stood on the beach, with stanchions in the sand creating an aisle. Emily and the bridesmaids walked down from their home, past the Reading Room and down the Cliff Walk to join us. It was simply elegant and Inspiring. Chris called the scene, “God’s Great Cathedral.”  Please give Emily a hug for me! 

So, we have our hugs and Rich’s hug to deliver in January.  I can’t wait.  In the end our evening was quite a success.   You see, as Woody Allen says,

Ninety per cent of life is just showing up.

Dan and Hannah and Their Connection to the Viral Obituary of the Year (Part 1 of 2)

Perhaps you have seen the online obituary of York (Maine) resident Chris Connors, a man who lived a full, full life.  As locals for the last 35 years, Hannah and I never knew him but do have connection to the Connors family that I will fill you in on later.

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If you haven’t read the obituary of Chris Connors (67), here are excerpts.  I can’t give you the whole obituary because it is no longer on Legacy.com.  The website says, We’re sorry, but this page is not available.  The error has been reported to our site, and our best people are investigating.   Hmmm.  I’m guessing the website crashed because of so many hits.

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier.  Ladies’ man, game slayer, and outlaw, Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here.  Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers.  The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority, and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could.

Chris enjoyed cross dressing, a well-made fire, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter. His regrets were few, but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from an unmemorable convenience store in the summer of 1986.

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As much as people knew hanging out with him would end in a night in jail or a killer screwdriver hangover, he was the type of man that people would drive 16 hours at the drop of a dime to come see. He lived 1000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life; he grabbed it by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor.

At the age of 26, he hoped to circumnavigate the world but spent 40 hours on a life raft off the coast of Panama; in 1974 he started the Quincy Rugby Club; in his 30s, he was stabbed in New York while saving a woman who was being mugged; and at 64, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest.

Most people thought he was crazy for swimming in the ocean in January; for being a skinny Irish Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts; for dressing up as a priest and then proceeding to get into a fight at a Jewish deli.  Many gawked at his start of a career on Wall Street without a financial background – but instead with an intelligent, impish smile, love for the spoken word, irreverent sense of humor, and stunning blue eyes that could make anyone fall in love with him.

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Sailor at heart

Throughout his life, he was an accomplished hunter and birth control device tester (with some failures, notably Caitlin Connors, 33; Chris Connors, 11; and Liam Connors, 8).  He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important – the simplicity of living a life with those you love.  Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine.

Written by his daughter Caitlin and cousin Liz Connors, Caitlin told the Boston Globe that they knew the obituary had to do him justice, writing every story they could remember and more after a few drinks.

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A Celebration of Life in memory of Connors will be held Dec. 19 during Happy Hour at the York Harbor Inn.  Those looking to pay tribute for Connors are asked to pay the open bar tab or donate to Connors’ water safety fund... (Already $10,000 has been raised!)

From the York Weekly    Click here for the full article.

…YORK, Maine – When Caitlin Connors sat in front of a fire last weekend, to write her father’s obituary, she followed his instructions to make it funny, but didn’t anticipate it would be shared globally.

The obituary for Chris Connors, with the headline “Irishman dies from stubbornness, whiskey,” has been “shared and shared” through social media, his daughter said. Before Barstool Sports, Boston Magazine, Men’s Health and the Boston Globe made stories about the tribute she wrote for her dad, Connors said his family was expecting 150 to 200 friends to attend a celebration of his life Monday at the York Harbor Inn.

“Now that it’s viral,” she said, the family plans to contact the York Police Department for a security detail. The obituary was published on Seacoastonline, in the Portsmouth Herald and the York Weekly.

“He would’ve loved it,” said Connors’ widow, Emily Connors. “He would’ve laughed.  He’s definitely looking down at us.”

When he was on hospice, a friend of the family, who is just as crazy, was bikini-clad when she would help administer his medication,” Caitlin Connors said.

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His wife Emily, the mother of young Chris and Liam, was a student of mine in teacher education at the University of New England.  Simply, for three semesters it was clear that she was the kind of person you would like your own kids to have as a teacher.   Since then, we see her upbeat self about town and at our gym in Kittery.  I had no idea what life must have been like living with Chris.

As reported above, there is a celebration of Chris’s life at the York Harbor Inn, just a few miles from our house.  Hannah and I are going to stop by later today.  Not for a drink in a crowded bar or to tell stories about Chris (whom we never met), but to give Emily a hug.  If that doesn’t happen and I’m not sure it will given the publicity around the “viral obituary,” we have an envelope for her with an invitation for coffee at a local café, the Crumb, here in town come January, when the circus dies down.

Part II of this blog will be the story of us going to the York Harbor Inn today at 4P.

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But this obituary does raise questions for us all, have we lived life fully?  What amazing things are we going to make happen in our lives in the coming year?  Three years?  What choices are we going to make to create the most of our lives?

Perhaps some clarity will begin to emerge for me tomorrow at the York Harbor Inn overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Dan and Hannah Tithe – Theme and Variation

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Wayne and Nancy Turley are longtime friends from the ten years we lived in Arizona (c. 1970s).  Wayne was an instructor of Hannah’s during her flirtation with counselor education at the Harvard of the West, The Arizona State University.  While a student of Wayne’s in the spring semester, Hannah invited the two of them to dinner at our first home in Tempe.  And a lifetime friendship was born.

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I bring up these two dear souls as they are the first Mormons we ever knew.  Growing up in New York State (Hannah) and Jersey (Dan), we did not know a single Mormon.  Moving to Arizona changed all that and the universe introduced us to Nancy and Wayne.  (By the way, Arizona has the third most Mormons of any state.  Any idea which states are the Top Two.   Okay, Utah is a no brainer as #1.  #2?  See the answer at the end of this blog.)

As Mormons, Nancy and Wayne give 10% of their income (tithing) to the church.   But here’s the cool part, they feel blessed to tithe.  In their own words,

I always feel grateful to pay my tithing.  I also feel it is a connection to God that is strengthened each time I willingly do this.  I am also happy to think that my money will help someone or somewhere else in some small way–and that helps me feel a love and concern for others even if I don’t know them.

Many churches encourage tithing.  Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance describes tithing as returning some of your wealth to the Spirit.  Tithing, which goes back to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, allows us to express our gratitude with action.

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The mechanics of tithing involve taking one tenth of all the money you receive – from earnings, gifts, or interest/dividends – and regularly donating it to the church, temple, mosque, or other spiritual organization of your choice.

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And as an aside, if you don’t know Simple Abundance, go to Amazon before you finish reading this blog and order copies for all the women in your life.  It is a daybook of comfort and joy for every day of the year to inspire and blow you away with its wisdom and common sense.  Sarah is brilliant!  Hannah reads it daily and has gone through it completely seven times in the last 15 years.   Click here for a summary of Simple Abundance.

Back to tithing.   One recent Sunday morning, Hannah and I listened to Edwene Gaines speak of the four spiritual principles of prosperity.   Prosperity is far more than wealth.  It includes being happy, having good health and satisfying relationships.  Click here to learn more about the four spiritual laws of prosperity.

Number one on her list is tithing.   What a concept!  One’s prosperity comes by giving!   Though typically tithing is giving to support a certain house of worship, Hannah and I have a variation on that theme.

Looking at our income, we came up with a number to give away each month.  So, our “tithing” is to find two organizations or people or families to give our monthly donations to.

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This past August, we gave to Give Kids the World, which provides a weeklong, cost-free vacation in Central Florida to those families with a child with a life-threatening illness.  Our family was a recipient of the generosity of Give Kids The World back in 1988.  Click here for the GKTW website.

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The other half of August’s tithing was to the Jimmy Fund, an organization that raises money for the care of patients with cancer and research into cures for that disease.  This past September I raised $2380 for the Jimmy Fund as a 10K walker.   Click here for my blog of that experience.

On our recent travels to the Northwest, we met a wonderful woman on our trip to Mount Rainier.   Only later, as we began to communicate by email, we learned that she had a grandchild with cancer.  One of our September tithing gifts was sent to her to buy groceries and gas money.   How cool is that… for us!

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Recently Hannah saw a My Breast Cancer Support fundraiser where we workout at Coastal Fitness in Kittery, Maine.   One of our October tithes stays local.  Having three loving presences in our lives who are breast cancer survivors, we know that each received a card letting them know Hannah and I have them in our hearts.  Our tithing deepens our connection with those three women.  Click here for more information on My Breast Cancer Support.

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Another local group gets our other October tithe, End 68 Hours of Hunger, which addresses the roughly 68 hours of hunger that some school kids experience between the free lunch at school on Friday and the free breakfast Monday morning.  Click here to learn more about End 68 Hours of Hunger.

This December we donated to the St. Thomas More Food Pantry of the Roman Catholic Church in Durham, NH.  In light of the recent election with the Republicans about to control all three branches of government and hellbent on defunding Planned Parenthood, we supported this women’s health organization this month.  Click here for more information about Planned Parenthood.

You know, Nancy and Wayne nailed it.  Tithing is a blessing and our lives, and we are the richer for it.  As ones who are very fortunate, we can’t sit idly by.

Top states with Mormons – 1. Utah and 2. Idaho

Dan and Hannah on Nutrition, Fitness, and Smart Choices

You know, you just might be making healthier choices than you realize.  Then again, maybe you are ready to change a few of your choices to be happier and healthier.

Below are three lists that focus on the choices you can make as far as your daily living, eating habits, and lifestyle choices.  Hannah and I didn’t come up with these lists, but we find that they ring true based on our experience.

The AARP Bulletin (December 2016) surveyed doctors on what they feel are the best habits for healthy living. Here we go.

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Daily Living: The everyday lifestyle adjustments most important for greater health:

Take a daily 30-minute walk

Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night

Spend time each day with a friend or loved one

Reduce your consumption of junk food

Cut back on refined carbs (white bread, pasta, white rice)

Which do you think was the choice of every doctor surveyed?  (Answer below)

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Eating Habits: Harmful eating habits most important to change to improve your long-term health:

Drinking soda at most meals and for snacks

Eating several fast-food restaurant meals each week

Eating two or fewer servings of vegetables each day

Bingeing on pizza, hot wings, nachos, or other “social foods” a few times per week

Eating ice cream, cake, doughnuts, or other sweets everyday

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Lifestyle Choices: Lifestyle habits or patterns most harmful to a person’s long-term health:

Smoking cigarettes

Not exercising

Feeling perpetually lonely or socially isolated

Ignoring health problems or symptoms

Taking painkillers every day

Being angry, worried, or stressed more often than feeling happy.

 

I am reminded how important it is to choose to be active and make the effort to build a social network.  Of course, the occasional happy hour at Ruby’s in York, Maine with half price margaritas and nachos is not to be missed.

 

The only “Daily Living” choice selected by every doctor surveyed: Take a daily 30-minute walk.

Dan and Hannah Love Them Some 24 Hours of Owen and Max

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A Family of Pirates – Molly and Tip behind Owen and Max for Halloween 2016

Ever since our daughter Molly’s family moved from Virginia to Massachusetts, Hannah and I are living the grandparents’ dream.  Just an hour away, the Family Rawding is our Tuesday destination.  Many the afternoon, we take our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (2.5) to Edwards Beach in warm weather or to the Loch Ness Fun Center in winter.

Then, after nighttime reading and tucking them in, we have an evening with Molly and Tip; first a glass of wine, then a sweet meal that Hannah prepares for us all as the good conversation flows.

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Max at the York Hospital aquarium

But on occasion, we love us some 24 hours with just Owen and Max at our place on the coast of Maine.  Molly and Tip get 24 hours to be “off” to do some house painting, set up dinner with friends, have an uninterrupted night’s sleep, wake when they want, and then go out for bagels.

We arrange for this first weekend of November to be such a 24 hours of Owen and Max.   At noon this Saturday, I drive 30 miles to a mid-point Dunkin Donuts on I-495 where Molly meets me with Owen and Max buckled into their car seats.  She takes our car while I drive north in theirs for “adventures” with the boys.

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Owen and Max at the York Public Library train set

Now, Hannah and I aren’t as young as we used to be, but who is?  Do I hear an Amen?  But in the years since we have been Omi and Poppa, we have learned a thing or two about grandparenting.  You see, in the past when we had the boys for 24 hours, Hannah and I would do everything together with them:  Go to the library, go to the gym, go to the York Beach playground, and hang around the living room while the boys played.  ALL TOGETHER.   Individually, Hannah and I never had a chance to catch our breath.

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Ah, but no more.   Today, while Hannah is home having some peace and quiet, it is just I who picks up the boys and heads directly to the York Public Library.   There, the boys play with the trains and trucks; Owen asks me to read him a story.   Today, I read a trio of books, including one of my all-time favorites, Sheep in the Jeep!!   If you have preschool kids or grandkids or know someone who does, run, don’t walk, to borrow Sheep in the Jeep from your local library!

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Under the ocean at York Hospital

From there I take them across the street to York Hospital.  If you don’t know York Hospital, make a beeline for it as soon as you can (i.e., before you actually need it).  In addition to preparing world class tuna paninis in their café open to all town residents and visitors, they have submarine and hot air balloon rides on site.   You see, the elevators are decorated to look like the insides of these two rides.

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In addition, fantastic aquariums in both the front and emergency room lobbies have “Nemo” fish, as Owen calls them.   They each select a mini-muffin, that they willingly wait to eat until they are buckled into their booster car seats.

Three hours after picking up Owen and Max, I pass them off to Hannah.  Rested, she is all in as the boys race the hot wheels on our driveway, swat and kick balls, fly kites from the deck, snack on honey dew melon.  And then it’s the leaves!

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While I am chilling inside, Hannah rakes a pile of brown oak leaves for splashing, jumping, and kicking about.   After, Hannah pulls the boys in our grandkids’ wagon to see a neighbor’s free range chickens before the sun goes down.

Once inside, the boys scarf popcorn a la Poppa, then enter into imaginary worlds of trains and trucks in our living room.  For dinner, they feast on tortellini, cold peas in yogurt, and meat balls – all the while, in the loving embrace of their Omi and Poppa.

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Max sawing logs

You see, our goal is to have Owen And Max be so active throughout the day that they immediately fall asleep at bedtime.   No naps for these guys when they are with us.   You see, Hannah and I want/need to have a little evening time for ourselves to recuperate in front of our gas fireplace with a glass of wine. We are not superheroes.  Twenty-four hours with Owen and Max is consuming.  It’s 24/7, well, 24.

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Owen fast asleep

At bedtime, while I read the pop-up book, Beach Bugs in one room to Max, Hannah reads Owen’s favorite, Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street.  By 715P Max is snuggled in and sawing logs.  Owen, too, soon crashes.  Mission accomplished!

Tip for grandfathers everywhere.  Don’t let grandmothers get away with changing all the diapers.  For the first six months after Owen was born, I let Hannah change the diapers when we traveled to Virginia to be with the Family Rawding.   But oh, was I ever the loser!  We pops miss the full experience of our grandchildren if we don’t participate in the messiness of diaper changing.   When we change diapers, we become card-carrying members of the Grandpas Union, not just potted plants.   Kids see that we have some of the talents of their grandmothers.

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And tonight having the diaper changing skill comes in handy when two-year old Max cries out in the darkness, a little past midnight.  Slipping out of bed, I let Hannah sleep as I quickly change Max’s diaper and talk him back to sleep.

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Mornings are mellow.  Breakfast at Omi and Poppa’s continues to be the healthy fare that the boys are used to at home: cantaloupe and honey dew melon, then scrambled eggs.  While sitting on his Omi’s lap, Max takes bites of her oatmeal while Owen and I share our love for complex carbohydrates, by sharing Hannah’s toasted homemade bread with a dab of honey.

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Later it’s ping pong, then baths in the kitchen sink.   By 1115A we are packing them up for the Dunkin Donuts, where we made the exchange 24 hours before.   Owen falls asleep during the 35-minute car ride while Max listens to kids’ songs on the car CD player with me.

Indeed, we are living the dream.  And then, when I get home, the boys now with their youthful parents, I take one sweet nap!

PS  The Truth.  Let’s give credit where credit is due. Hannah and I may be fine grandparents, but it’s the intentional and loving parenting of Molly and Tip that make Owen and Max delights to be around.  The boys’ sweetness does not just happen by chance.  At a very young age, the boys are learning to be responsible and empathetic with social skills that will serve them a lifetime.  New parents, buy Molly and Tip coffee and bagels out and spend some quality time with them.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Raven Cliff Falls in northern Georgia

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Hannah on the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Court

Here’s a riddle for you.  What’s the best way to prepare for three hours of hiking in the Georgia woods?  Damn, you’re on to my trick question.  There’s no best way.  Each hiker and hike is different.  But did Hannah and I ever get our prep right today!

First, we warm up with a couple hours of early morning pickleball with our amigos and amigas at the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.   Then, we fuel up with a big breakfast at the Huddle House in Cleveland, Georgia, thanks to an invitation from three of our sister and brother pickleballers.

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Yonah Mountain Pickleball Players, Linda, Laurie, and Paul with Hannah and Dan

Today, we have set the bar really low to see actual water coming from the head of the waterfalls at Raven Cliff Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains this first week of October.   You see, four days ago, in Laurel Falls 120 miles to the northwest in eastern Tennessee, we hiked along a mostly dry riverbed to what is usually an 80’ falls; not a trickle fell that day.

The Southeast as well as we in the Northeast and those of you in California and, well, most of the Sahara and Serengeti, are suffering through some serious drought at this time. Click here for the link to the Laurel Falls blog.

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Amped after pickleball and breakfast togetherness, we head a mere seven miles out of Bavarian-themed Helen, GA along the small rural road of route 17/75 to an even smaller alternate 75, to finally the curvy mountain road of route 348 to the trailhead.  Easy to find, the trail is one of many in the area for which we get excellent directions and maps at the Helen Welcome/Visitor Center in town.

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When we ask the local pickleball/hikers what’s your favorite waterfall hike in the area, the unanimous answer is the five-mile roundtrip to Raven Cliff Falls.

Upon arrival at the Raven Cliff Falls Trail, we enter the forest path that parallels Dodd Creek for the next two miles.  Bubbling and gurgling, and dare I say flowing, Dodd Creek is a welcome lift to our spirits that, maybe, just maybe, waterfalls await.

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The trail along Dodd Creek begins

On this riverside trail into the Wildlife Management Area of White County, we gently rise in elevation towards the waterfalls.  Fact is, it feels like we are on level ground most of the way.  As a popular trail,we have many fellow hikers on this Thursday afternoon in the upper 70s.

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A couple from Wisconsin snap our trailside picture

With spectacularmini-waterfalls and cascades along much of the waterway, we hike under the forest canopy with blue sky above, while below us, swimming holes dot Dodd Creek.  The sun-dappled trail is a delight for us hikers, but makes it tough getting the lighting right for us modestly-skilled photographers.

After an hour of an easy going trail of dirt with few rocks, we arrive at the fortress wall of Raven Cliffs.  Tucked in a mountain granite fracture, the Raven Falls are so dark that it is nearly impossible to get a clear picture in this cavern-like setting.  Deciding not to climb further to the head of the falls, which is very rocky, very rooted, and quite vertical, we have the glamour and glory of the falls with its tumbling water here at the base.

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Dan and Han at the modest middle falls

At the middle of the three destination falls, there are hikers of all abilities loving life and picnicking.  The fact is the drought of 2016 has taken its toll on these falls as well.  Though there’s just enough water to splash over our hiking boots, we find that the tranquility of the forest makes up for the lack of waterfallian drama.

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Our best falls along Dodd Creek

Heading back to the trailhead an hour way, it seems Dodd Creek itself is where the action is.  With rivulets coming down the mountain, the main river has more splashing and sparkling water than the falls itself.  Hiking down to the river, we get our best waterfalls picture of the day and, in fact, on our entire weeklong Tennessee/North Carolina/Georgia hiking adventure.

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Dodd Creek in the fall.  Can’t wait to see it in the spring!

No doubt, we’ll come back in the spring when Dodd Creek roars and Raven Cliff Falls thunders; for that coincides with our return to the South after a winter in New England to play with our Yonah Mountain pickleball family.