Dan and Hannah Have an Angel

When we shop together, Hannah and I can be impatient, not with each other, but with the process of shopping; and not just for the little stuff – I’m talking houses and cars!  We know we should do more research, but… we wouldn’t argue with ones who think that we jump to purchasing decisions way too quickly without a whole lot of forethought.  Even so, that impulsive strategy can work.  Case in point.

March snow 1

Our home in York for the last 36 years

We looked at one house when we moved to New England from Arizona in 1982.  We got lucky as we are still loving our home with all its quirks 36 years later.

Point two.  Just planning to look to see what my 100K mile Hyundai Elantra could get in trade, two hours later, we had bought a shiny new Toyota Prius.  It remains a sweet ride two years later.

Amana our fridge

Gleaming Maytag fridge

On the other hand, one spring Sunday we were checking out State Street Discount for a refrigerator.  A gleaming silver model Maytag with a five-year protection plan caught our eye and blinded us.  Within 45 minutes, it was ours.  It hasn’t been great.  Sure, our milk and beer are cold and the peas stay frozen, but we have dealt with four repairs in five years, fortunately covered by that warranty; all luck that we didn’t deserve.

Lately, our LG high-end, bought-without-much-thought washing machine is giving us trouble.  With its high tech digital display, it electronically counts down from the auto-sensing to the final spin.  But with eight minutes left, the digital display rebounds to 15 minutes in an endless rinse and spin cycle.  As a stop gap measure, we turn off both the machine and the water coming through the hoses.  Then we punch in spin only and our wash becomes passably dry.  It’s not exactly what we paid the big bucks for.

Amana mr appliance

Unfortunately, we did not buy the protection plan for what is now only a three-year-old washing machine!  With no choice, we call our reliable Mr. Appliance repair guy, who has previously done warranty work on our sad refrigerator.

It turns out the technology is not the issue; the washer drum is out of balance and the repair is north of $500.   Even so, it turns out the $95 service call is money well-spent.

Of course, the technician advises us not to put any money into this old machine.  And second, he suggests we buy a basic machine and get rid out of it when it dies, which in this day and age often means just five to eight years, or sometimes three!

Breaking our usual big box store shopping routine (Best Buy, Lowe’s, Target, and Home Depot are in our Seacoast area), weAmana best buy are now 21st century shoppers.  Never leaving the house, I go online looking for a basic name-brand washing machine.  It turns out Best Buy and Home Depot have the same Amana machine for just under $300.  We can get a five-year protection plan for either $75 (Best Buy) or $99 (Home Depot).  We pass on the $30 installation fee since all we have to do is hook up the hoses.  Both places will cart our old machine away for $15 American.  We opt for Best Buy since they won’t charge a delivery fee and the Geek Squad will deal with any problems.

As promised, four days later a 24’ truck arrives in the four-hour afternoon window with two men of muscle.  Angel comes in to see how tight the passage is to our laundry room.  We have already taken the bolts out of the door hinges and also removed the door itself to our laundry room nook.

Amana washer

Our no frills Amana washer

Then Angel returns with his compadre, to lift the old machine up easily with heavy canvas straps as if it were a toaster, and cart it to the waiting truck.  Using the same straps, they bring in the new machine with no digital readouts but dials from the 1950s; this retro look delights me no end.

In less than 15 minutes, the machine is in place for us to hook up the hoses when Angel says, since you have been so nice, I’ll hook up the hoses for you.

amana goes around 5

 

Is that a line?   I like to think not.  If we are honest with ourselves, we are typically decent and appreciative to the people we meet.  We subscribe to the belief that what goes around comes around.  We are, indeed, grateful for the good that comes into our lives and we often show it.

Angel assesses us correctly and takes an extra sixty seconds to help us out by tightening the hoses to our new washer.  Sending him and his buddy off with Hannah’s Monster cookies, we thank Angel for being, well, an angel.

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Dan and his Letterman Jacket

COW death cleaning

Of late, Hannah has been into “death cleaning.”  It’s a Swedish concept for seniors to get rid of all the crap that they have accumulated over the years, so their children don’t have to do it when dear ole mom and dad cash in their chips.  By the way, she has renamed it as “deep cleaning.”

During the process, Hannah asks if I still want my College of Wooster letterman’s jacket that she thinks is in the upstairs bedroom closet.  Turns out we gave it away a while back, but its significance is not lost on me during an impressionable time in my life.  Let me explain.

I hated the College of Wooster, which I entered as a freshman in the fall of 1966.

COW map of Woo better

In no particular order, I hated the cold, damp, rainy, snowy, windy Ohio weather from September through May; as an aimless kid, without a clue what the hell I was doing in college, I floundered; the pointlessness and dead-ended-ness of majoring in political science didn’t inspire me; I was a passive receptacle in my lecture-oriented classes, obediently taking notes and barfing them back on the tests; I was just a 20 year old going through the motions because that’s what this son of college grads did; all the while listening to so much Mamas and Papas that my head and soul were filled with California Dreamin’ and escape from the Buckeye State.

COW COW name

Every spring, I wanted to transfer, and finally did, to Arizona State University after my junior year.

To clarify, this situation is all on me.  I wasn’t mature enough to make the necessary choices and just wallowed in blaming the institution and my circumstances.  That said, I did have my moments at Woo.

COW tennis team 1968

College of Wooster tennis team, spring 1968

Of the three best things that happened to me at the College of Wooster, being a part of the tennis team was #2.  I loved being one of the guys.  And that’s the connection to my letterman’s jacket.

When I was applying to colleges as a high school senior, my sole criteria for a school was whether I could make the tennis team.  Tennis was my claim to high school fame and I wanted to continue to serve and volley in college.  Back in the day, the College of Wooster was a small school (Division III now) of 1500 students.   Making the tennis team seemed plausible.

Turns out I was selected for the team.  As one of three freshmen to make the team that had six singles and three doubles teams, I played #4 singles.  I fashioned more wins than losses that first year, but mostly I loved just belonging.

COW tennis 1967

College of Wooster tennis team, spring of 1967 (my freshmen year)

With another freshman, Larry Lindberg (#3), I played the backhand side of the #1 doubles team.  The top teams (Dennison, Wittenberg, and Oberlin) beat us like an old rug, but we held our own v. Muskingum, Baldwin-Wallace, and Hiram.

Our team had training meals before matches in the basement of Kenarden Hall.  Always steak, with a side of potatoes, peas, and rolls with honey.  In the spring of 1967, carbo loading was not a thing yet.

COW TJs

On away matches, we ate early at Wooster, then traveled to another campus in the Ohio Athletic Conference and bonded in the three-seater station wagon the college provided.

Our coach, the Dutchman, Al Van Wie, had a peculiar bit of post-match behavioral modification for us.  If we won, which he associated with us playing well, we went out to for a nice meal at TJs in downtown Wooster.  If we lost, we got fast food burgers.

As athletes around the world know, better players can often bring out the best in one’s game, though one still might lose.  And often we as a team played better v. Dennison or Oberlin and played down to the weaker teams like Hiram.  Still, that calculation was lost on the Dutchman and the pattern of post-match meals never changed.

COW letterman jacket

Letterman jacket similar to my College of Wooster one

At the end of the year at the tennis awards ceremony, any player making the team for the first time and playing more than half the matches, which I had, would earn a black with tan leather sleeve letterman’s jacket, similar to what the football and basketball players wore.

Back in the day, this was about as cool as it got.  Once I had my letterman’s jacket, I was so damn proud but never so delusional that chicks would be flocking my way.

Throughout all the moves I’ve made around the country to Arizona to California back to Arizona, then to New Hampshire and to our current home in Maine, I always kept my Wooster letterman’s jacket.  It never really fit and within years of earning it became out of style.  Even so the accomplishment of earning it meant so much that I couldn’t let it go.

So, College of Wooster wasn’t all bad.  By the way, you might be wondering what were #1 and #3 of the best things about my three dismal years there in Ohio.

COW Mule 2

Jim Francis, my college roommate and high school history teacher who was Idaho Teacher of the Year in 1997!  Yeah Mule!

#3 was my college roommate during my sophomore and junior years, Jim Francis (Mule).  As my best friend during those Ohio years, he taught me a valuable lesson in life that I live to this day.

When I would come back from a date with Hannah Kraai, a drop dead beautiful women’s tennis player, with cookies or brownies that she had made for me, I would just keep them to myself, though I shared a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet with Mule.

COW campaign ad

Successfully elected to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2017

Soon, he had enough of my crap and said how it’d be nice if I shared them with him.  I honestly didn’t think about sharing them with him.  I was so embarrassed; I appreciate his courage to challenge me.

That was the moment that I began my evolution from a scarcity mentality (one of fear of the future so hoarding is necessary) to an abundance mentality (life is filled with good and the more you give the more you get).

By the way, he, too, transferred out of Wooster after our junior year.  First to the University of Utah (he as an Idaho boy), and then for the second semester of our senior year to Arizona State where we were roommates again.

Numero uno?  The one and only Hannah Kraai Rothermel.  We dated strongly during our sophomore year, broke up during our junior year; after which I left for the sunshine of the Grand Canyon State with a broken heart.  After our 1970 graduation, I taught social studies, science, and Spanish in Anaheim, California while she taught elementary physical education in Pittsford, New York, within a few miles of her childhood home of Fairport.

COW Sphinx 1969

Hannah, lower left, as a member of the Sphinx local sorority (c. 1968)

Fortunately, in the fall of 1971, she moved to Arizona to see if we had any magic left.  Turns out we did, and we married on July 1, 1972.

And for that reason, I have a very warm spot for the College of Wooster.

 

Dan is Just a Little Less Self-righteous of Late

Our neighborhood in suburban/rural southern Maine is plagued by leaf blowers.  Let me unload the thesaurus with more appropriate verbs: afflicted, inundated, and overwhelmed.  Without fail, each fall the leaf blowing horde descends on Chases Pond Road, polluting the air with their mechanical blowhards.  For hours!  Their mission?  And they have chosen to accept it, is to blow every last leaf into the next century!  No surprise, it’s always guys.  I’m just saying.

Try sitting outside on our front deck reading the Times (I am not a barbarian.) during this cacophony!  Incessantly high-pitched, these disturbers of the peace mess with our country road calm.  Winter snows are a sweet relief to this disharmony.

Leaf pond

Our front yard facing the vernal pond, 98% free of oak leaves

As an alternative to such mayhem, for the 36 years that Hannah and I have lived on our acre and a half lot on Chases Pond Road, we’ve raked leaves – a tradition as American as apple pie and thinking the other political party is the devil.

It’s a known fact that this country was built on the shoulders of the good people who raked their lawns!  Our home is in the center of a one-time forest with 70’ red and white oaks and beech trees.  When our kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, were young, they had leaves aplenty for jumping in and splashing about.  A Norman Rockwell childhood to say the least!

Now that the kids have left the nest, Hannah and I, at the spring-like age of 70, continue to rake yellow and brown leaves by the millions.  Damn proud of being American leaf rakers, we buy into the notion that motion is lotion.

Leaf fire pit yard

Our backyard with our fire pit to the left with just a few scraggly leaves

Throughout the month of November, we rake for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.  Not insanely obsessed, we take it slow.  The beauty of our lot in the woods is that we don’t bag a single leaf.  We can just rake our leaves into the woods for nature’s composting.  But…

Lately my right elbow has been acting up after just five minutes of raking.  Over the last three years as a pickleball player, I have been sidelined by bouts of tendinitis.  Ergo, over the last year, 45 to 60 minutes of daily stretching has literally got me back in the game; I don’t want to mess with the joy and athletic challenge I find on the pickleball court.   Today, after five minutes of raking, I say no mas.

Leaf before backyard

Our backyard with winter’s last snow among a sea of leaves that need to be removed

Still, this cruel April we have masses of leaves that we just didn’t get to last fall emerging from the snow.  These soggy leaves will smother our grassy, mossy lawn that grows every type of weed and dandelion known to woman and man.  To rake or not to rake?  That is the question.

As Hannah and I sit over wine one evening in early April, I am ready to introduce the L word – leaf blower.

No reason you might have guessed this about me, but I hate lawn machines.  We do have a lawn mower, but that is serviced by Eldredge Lumber every two years when it just won’t start because of my neglect.  We have no snow blower.  Things just go wrong with machines and I can’t fix them.  Truth be told, I don’t want to even try.

Leaf blower itself

The mighty leaf blower that has tamed our side yard.

But it is time to consider a leaf blower.  A leaf blower!  God, forgive me!  We can buy one, but it seems so wasteful for everyone in the neighborhood to have a leaf blower.  What about a community leaf blower?  We Americans pride ourselves on our independence.  What about our interdependence?  What about waste?  What about the survival of the planet?  All important questions, but I digress.

Though we live within a neighborhood of 25 homes on half acre lots, we are not close socially at all.  A few greetings when we pass, but nothing like the neighborhoods of the good folks in Ithaca, New York.

So, it seems that we’ll just suck it up and buy our own leaf blower.  And then, I realize that our son-in-law Tip has a leaf blower.  Maybe we can rent it or pay for the gas or something to share it.

Texting that suggestion to him, I quickly get his response, what’s ours is yours.  What a guy!  I know Tip hit the lottery marrying our daughter Molly, but she hit a home run herself with Tip.

Leaf D with leaf blower

Dan, who makes oak leaves pay

Tip drops off his leaf blower and I blow leaves and try to ignore my contribution to noise pollution (quite the interior rhyme!).  You see, nowadays I’m just a little less self-righteous when I hear the cacophony of leaf blowers.  A love affair?  Not yet, but we are becoming fast friends.

As I sit out on our front deck with this week’s Sports Illustrated, I hear the sound of a neighbor’s leaf blower, smile, and think, he must have a little tendinitis and needs to use his leaf blower.

You see, I no longer reside in the “Leaf Blower Judgment Zone.”

Leaf H with leaf blower

Hannah shows the pachysandra in her rock garden who’s the boss

 

 

 

Leaf H with leaf blower better