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.

 

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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

Dan and Hannah Are Thrown a Curve, Rebound to Hike Stone Mountain, Georgia

St map of sandy

Up at 4A on this Tuesday in late October 2017, Hannah and I are flying 900 miles southwest from Boston to Atlanta for Hannah’s stem cell injections; it’s an experimental procedure to see if stem cells will improve the quality of Hannah’s voice, diminished for the last 15 years with spasmodic dysphonia.  Hannah has a 1P appointment at Superior Healthcare in Sandy Springs, 25 miles north of Atlanta.

Our Delta flight from Logan Airport is delayed by federal regulations that require the flight attendants to have enough downtime between flights.  Our attendants arrived late last night, so our flight leaves 30 minutes late this morning.

Landing in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Georgia’s capital later than we expect, Hannah calls Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior, to let her know that we are on our way.  Hearing their conversation in the next seat, I gather that Houston, we have a problem.

St superior healthcare

It seems that earlier in the morning the UPS truck arrived at Superior Healthcare without Hannah’s own stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida.  Though ordered by Julie for today’s procedure, they are nowhere to be found.   The long and short of it is that Hannah will not be getting her stem cell injection today.  Julie apologizes and does her best to make things right.

Having already paid for a flight for each of us, our hotel room, and our rental car, Hannah and I have an angel looking out for us.  It’s Julie to the rescue as she reschedules Hannah’s appointment for next Thursday; the stem cell bank will pick up all our expenses for our return to Atlanta.

Even so, how is a guy and a gal to feel about this snafu 900 miles from home?  Clearly, it was not the outcome we wanted.  St anger

Angry?  What does that get us?  We all know that anger just poisons the angry one.

Disappointed?  Not even.  Life happens.  Punches are thrown.  This is a love tap.  A first world problem.  Today, we’ll rock and roll with this beautiful sunny day in Georgia!

No, the snafu turns out to be one helluva opportunity.  We have sunshine for our hike at Stone Mountain, to the east of Atlanta.  We always have a choice how to deal with the unexpected.

Stone Mountain has a checkered past.  It’s the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, the heinous racist organization that terrorized blacks, Jews, and gays in the South with lynchings and daily fear and dread.

St 4A Generals better

Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Also, upon Stone Mountain is the bas relief of two prominent Confederate Civil War generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.  In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, jr. spoke of the importance to let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.  Clearly a pointed reference for those who passed 8th grade history class.

St 1 h at sign

Stone Mountain Park has its own exit off four lane Route 78.  For $15, we have the run of the park to hike on a gorgeous southern afternoon.  Parking near the trailheads is plentiful as we boot up for the one mile Walk Up Trail to the top of Stone Mountain.  Though three hundred yards of paved road begin the trail, we soon turn 90 degrees left to climb bare stone to the top.

St 1B D on stony slab up

Stepping up and over stone ledges, I have never seen a trail like this one – a rising all-stone path to the top of the mountain.  Even on this mid-week day, the trail is happy with people but not swarming as it must be on spring and fall weekends.

Climbing steadily, we have a workout that most can do; that said, it’s no walk in the park.  Near the top there is a double railing for climbing a particularly steep section of the trail.  Welcoming the assistance, we see twenty-something athletes using the trail for an afternoon workout.

St 2 H near hand rails

The double railing above Hannah on the way to the top of Stone Mountain of Georgia

Atop Stone Mountain, the wind picks up, but the sunshine and joy of the climb warms us up and down.  Spotting the Sky Tram that floats visitors to the summit, we make a pit stop at the lodge’s rest rooms; across the lobby, there’s a snack shop, worthy of any Regal Cinema in America, selling sugar products; and then even more sugar if you like.

St 3A D on Cherokee

The white blaze of the Cherokee Trail

After a half hour of climbing to the top, the descent is easy-peezy.

Arriving back at the trailhead an hour after our start, we turn right for the orange blaze Connecting Trail that soon hooks us up with the Cherokee Trail that circles the mountain.  It’s a delightful dirt trail within hailing distance of an active railroad under the canopy of deciduous trees.

St 4B H with Generals good too

Confederate Memorial carvings, 400′ above the ground and nearly 200′ wide  (A Confederate Mount Rushmore?)

Within twenty minutes, we are at the base of the Confederate Heroes in all their glory on the flat vertical side of Stone Mountain.  What’s a Yankee to make of all this?

I don’t doubt the sincerity of these men, but I can’t but wonder how misguided was their defense of slavery (euphemistically referred to as the Peculiar Institution); it seems so transparently bogus to claim that the South was fighting for states’ rights in the Civil War.

Were the Southernors rebels or traitors?   Inflammatory nouns serve little purpose.  They divide rather than unite in this time when bullying and name-calling are the order of the day from the Oval Office.

So how do we unite?  One possibility is that we start by not seeing the other side as the devil.  We do the Stephen Covey thing (the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

We listen.  We approach them with love in our hearts, not retaliatory invective.   We believe that good will win out.  And we don’t lose faith.

Later, over wine and cheese and crackers at our Comfort Inn and Suites near the Atlanta airport, Hannah and I toast our unexpected glorious day and thank the turn of events for making it so.