Dan at 71! Part 3

71 ASU

Twice my mom and dad took my sibs and me cross-country as kids.  I learned that the world beyond Fair Lawn, NJ was not to be feared, indeed held such potential for adventure.  Their quiet assent when I wanted to transfer from the College of Wooster in Ohio to the Wild West (i.e. Arizona State University) as a college junior changed my life.  That decision to transfer was the ton of bricks on my head that made me realize that I could choose to do really cool things with my life.

As my parents did, Hannah and I sit each evening with a glass of wine, either in warm weather on our front deck or in cold by our fireplace.  Of late, my wine of choice is a Robert Mondavi cabernet sauvignon aged in bourbon barrels.

This saying has evolved my thinking about challenges, issues, and problems one hundred eighty degrees!  A full 180!  I don’t have to do things, I get to do them.   For example, when we traveled west for my 70th birthday trip in September of 2017, we ran into snow in the Sierras that blocked the mountain pass to Lake Tahoe where we were to hike and play pickleball.  I could look at the situation as something to be bummed that I have to deal with OR (drum roll!) I can see it as something I get to deal with.  Life, shit, and snow happens.  It’s a fact.  That reality is not going to change.  Why not see this change in plans as an opportunity for a new adventure rather than feeling sorry for myself because our original plans fell through?

The state of Maine slogan is The way life should be.   That’s all well and good from April through October, but…  I am not a fan of the soul-draining cold and standard time dark of November through March.  The King and Queen of desperately cold months (January and February) punishes me with cabin fever isolation, piles of snow, and roads of iciness.  Ergo, we escape to coastal southern California which allows us to be active outdoors in ways we can’t in Maine.

My favorite knock knock joke.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  To.   To who?  Actually, it’s to whom.

Dan at 71! Part 2

As a one-time public school teacher and university prof of the language arts, I thought my primary responsibility was not merely to teach my students to write, read, and speak; it was to give them hope.  When teaching seventh graders back in the day, I wasn’t preparing them for eighth grade.  I was preparing them for life.

71 tempe to york

Here’s one of the ten best things Hannah and I have ever done.  In the dead of winter of 1982, we moved with our two daughters (Robyn four months and Molly a little over two) sight unseen to New England without a job, without a place to live, but with the belief that a small town in New England was where we wanted to be a family.   We landed in York, Maine at the end of the rainbow.

71 grandsons

Brooks (5 months), Owen (6), and Max (4)

Do it now.  My good health is not guaranteed.  At some point, Hannah and I won’t be able to travel or pickle with friends.  Ergo, I dig every hike on the trail, every third shot drop on the pickleball court, wintering in California, and being a part of our kids’ and grandsons’ lives.

Most mornings, I stretch for thirty minutes, meditate for fifteen more, and end with fifteen minutes of journaling.  I’ve grown to love all three.

I recommend stem cells for aching knees.  Nineteen months ago, I had injections in both knees.  Now my knees don’t creak, and I move around the pickleball court like a sixty-year-old Roger Federer-wannabe.

Dan at 71! Part 1

You might reasonably be thinking, “Dan, what gives with all this self-promotion?  You seem the quiet sort; a touch of introversion.   And yet, here you are posting about your quote wisdom and your quote insights.  Hasn’t posting 482 blogs got you enough attention?  

71 the number

I gotta be me.  The points below are not all earth shaking (see number one) but they let you in to my life as I turn 71 today.  Let the self-promotion begin:

If I seem healthy enough, it may be because I feast on a big bowl of oatmeal everyone morning.  Listen to this line-up of all-star ingredients: blueberries, raisins, walnuts, almonds, protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon!

Once a hardcore leaf-raker of the gazillion oak and beech leaves that fall in our yard each autumn, I find now that my shoulder aches within 10 minutes once I begin raking.  Mama didn’t raise no fool.  Not wanting to mess with my pickleballing, I do appreciate the leaf blowing our son-in-law Tip does for us.

After a childhood of playing tennis, dabbling at golf, thirty years of running twenty-five miles per week with Hannah, there’s a new sheriff (i.e. game) in town.  Over the last three years, pickleball is now my sport of choice.

That said, weekly games of ping pong with my buddy George Derby highlight my Tuesdays.

71 happiness image

And to end part one, I think there is a lot of wisdom in the poster dental hygienist Denise Tousignant posts on the ceiling above the chair where she cleans teeth.  It lists 20 ways to happiness.  I don’t remember a single one except the last.  Choose your spouse well, 95% of your happiness is based in that one decision.

And that’s it for today.  I’ll post five new gems in two days.

Dan and Hannah and A Cool Yule Story

In a recent AARP magazine, I read about a giving tradition that Marlo Thomas and her husband Phil Donahue practiced with their grandchildren.  She is the outreach director for St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, one of the world’s leading pediatric cancer research centers.  She has thought about how to develop a generous heart.

The couple gave each of their grandchildren $40 and told them to give it away.  They’d take time figuring out what really mattered to them,” she recalls. “It showed that money isn’t just something you spend on yourself.  It grew their gratitude.  That’s what you’re trying to do with children: grow their spirit.”

DD rawding family

Max, Molly, Owen, and Tip

So, considering inflation, we gave our grandsons Owen (6) and Max (4) fifty dollars to give away.  We wrote a check to their mom, our daughter Molly, and knew if anything was going to happen it was because Molly and her hubby Tip would come up with something.  And did they ever!

Arriving on the Wednesday before Christmas to look after our grandsons, Hannah and I see that Max has an envelope for his library yoga teacher.  The poetic note said…

DD poem

Similar to the envelope given to the library yoga teacher

The boys gave envelopes with two $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards enclosed to Owen and Max’s teachers, the mail lady, a guy at Trader Joe’s that is always friendly and kind, both story time librarians, and the boys’ babysitter.

It’s just brilliant.  So, thank you Molly, Tip, Marlo, and Phil for planting these seeds

Dan and Hannah Come to To Kill A Mockingbird Country in Alabama

Mon map me to ak

Hannah and I have done some wild trips in our day.  With five bicycles and all our camping gear on top of our GMC Vandura, with our three kids, we drove 4500 miles from York, Maine to Fairbanks, Alaska in six days.  On another trip, with our family on a mission to eventually visit all 50 states, we drove from Maine to Florida by way of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to pick up those three states.  Not exactly point A to point B!

Mon 2CCA D with TKAM book cover

Today, we will complete another of these “wouldn’t it be cool to do” trips to the home of Harper Lee in Monroeville in southern Alabama.  This past summer, my fanboy devotion to To Kill A Mockingbird resurfaced.  I saw the movie again, read the book for the first time, watched DVDs, and read both the backstory and multiple commentaries on the book itself.





Mon 6 Mel's Ice Cream where Lee house was

Mel’s on the sacred ground where the one and only Harper Lee spent her childhood


Mon 6 foundation of Capote house

All that remains of Truman Capote’s aunt’s place where TC spent his summers hanging out with Harper Lee

Having spent the overnight off I-65 north of Mobile at a Sleep Inn and Suites in Evergreen, we tool 30 miles west along route 84 to the county seat of Monroe County.  Entering the downtown, we pass Mel’s, which was where Harper Lee’s home once stood.  Next door is just a brick wall of the one-time home of Truman Capote, a neighbor and childhood friend of Harper Lee.


Arriving in the town square, we have the iconic To Kill A Mockingbird courthouse before us.  The one-way street around this quintessential Southern town center transported me back to the 1930s of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Check out this video.

Inside the courthouse we paid $5 to tour the museum which includes a second floor with the courtroom and a third floor balcony where the African-Americans sat during the courtroom drama.  Two Hollywood-quality videos below show the courtroom.

Mon 2A Han and Flo

A retired English teacher, Flo Sanderson, a volunteer docent, welcomed us and spent fifteen minutes giving us the backstory to this building and the relationship of Harper Lee to her hometown.  Harper sent most of her life in New York City and returned to Monroeville to winter.  She kept to herself during these visits home and the townsfolk were very protective of Harper’s privacy.

I asked Flo what do today’s townsfolk think of Harper?  She said that they are appreciative of the business that comes from the “cottage industry” related to To Kill A Mockingbird tourism.


The informative first floor displays and charts are pleasing to the eye.  The highlight of the visit is going to the courtroom that was replicated in minute detail on a Hollywood sound stage.  I asked Flo why there were 24 chairs where the jury would be (you’ll see them in the video)?  She said, sometimes there were grand jury trials which required more than twelve jurors.

I end with two videos from the second floor courtroom and the third floor balcony.


Tolerance or Compassion?

Karen Armstrong writes in the Unity Magazine (Jan/Feb 2019),

Compassion symbol

       Tolerant is a word we should expunge from our vocabulary.  “To tolerate” means to put up with something.  It’s the language of the victor. Compassion is better because it puts you on the same level as others.  The truth is we simply can’t live without each other.

What do you think?  Your thoughts can inform us all.  Please comment in the space below.   Dan

Dan and Hannah at Molly’s Math Night with Owen and Max

Math 1 Molly leading


A teacher for seventeen years, Molly is the oldest of our three kids.  While years ago I saw her teach algebra to eighth graders at Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, Hannah has never seen her teach.  But that is all about to change.

A text arrives from Molly inviting us to her Parent’s Math Night in late November at Fiske Elementary in Lexington, Massachusetts.  As a math specialist working with teachers and kids during the day, tonight Molly will lead a workshop on teaching parents how to support their kids when it comes to learning and loving math.

Math 1A H and O working on math

Owen and his Omi at Math Night

My takeaways from our night at Fiske:

One, it was really cool that Molly asked us to come.

Two, always looking to have adventures with our grandsons, we made it an event by taking Owen (6) and Max (4) along for the evening.

Three, no matter what she does, Molly’s energetic and passionate.  Tonight, she is articulate, composed, and well-organized.

Four, she made an excellent choice to make it a night for parents and kids.  That saves parents the hassle of finding babysitters.

Math 1B 5 principles


Five, Molly included other teachers in the presentation for over one hundred.  Being a part of a team helps teachers beat the isolation and exhaustion that the teaching life can be.

Math We Believe


Six, throughout the night, the team of teachers, reinforced key points of what they believe about the teaching of math.  In addition, they encouraged parents to never say “I can’t do math.”

Seven, here and there, Molly and the teachers would talk for only two to three minutes.  To keep us all engaged, they had chunks of time for parents to listen to their kids as the kids noticed and wondered about the math questions and puzzles that they were given.

Eight, parenthetically (we were the oldest ones there.).  It felt like we fit right in.  You’d enjoy living in our delusional world.

Math 1C Carol Dweck

Stanford University’s Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Nine, there were a couple of pertinent and articulate TED talk videos (2-5 minutes [referenced below]) and Carol Dweck references.  As such, the evening was thoughtful and never dragged.  See Carol’s wisdom to the left.

Ten, there were five raffles of math-related games, a math book, and math puzzles.

Math games

Raffle prizes

Eleven, the night was scheduled to go from 615-730P.  Wisely, the night ended five minutes early.  Students (and parents) of all ages love getting out early.

Twelve, Hannah and I loved the post-presentation clean-up party.  Many parents joined us in folding up chairs, placing them on chair carriers, and breaking down tables to be stacked at the end of the gym.

Owen and Max got to participate and by osmosis saw what people do to support one other.  It takes a village to clean up a gym.

Thirteen, I end with a video clip of Molly’s intro to the parents and kids.



Here are the links to the two superb videos that were showed: Dan Finkel and Annie Fetter).

Dan and Hannah Come to Montgomery, Alabama for Delayed Justice

“Ah, sweet justice!”  Not so fast.  Fact is, justice is not always so even-handed in these United States, here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  There is justice for whites and the quasi-justice for others.  Hannah and I have been fortunate leading a privileged life in America over our 70 years.  I suspect being white had a little something, or make that a lot something, to do with it.

civil map of mont 3

I have no idea what it must be like to be marginalized, threatened, and living in fear because of the color of my skin, be it black or brown; especially with threatening tweets descending like warning shots across the bow from the highest office in the land.

Let me back up and tell you how we found ourselves thinking about justice during our visit to Montgomery – the one-time poster child of cities for racial injustice.

Planning to visit Monroeville in southern Alabama, the home of Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Hannah read in Time magazine of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama’s capital city, Montgomery, which would be on our way to Monroeville.  The memorial is dedicated to the 4400 African-Americans lynched, almost entirely in the American South.

Civil rosa parks

Montgomery has a history!  You may remember or have read about the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-1950s sparked by Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, who was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white man.  After a year long boycott, segregated buses were ruled unconstitutional; but full-fledged justice remains elusive for many non-whites.   

Hannah and I have come to bear witness to these abhorrent times.

On our way to the Peace and Justice memorial this mid-October Thursday, we stop first at the nearby Civil Rights Memorial Center in downtown Montgomery honoring 44 victims of racial hatred and injustice.

Civil 2B Heather Heyer

Since the Civil Rights Memorial Center charges only $2 per person, it allows most everyone access to the displays and stories of these victims of injustice.  In fact, it is so up-to-date that it includes a photo memorial to Heather Heyer, murdered by a domestic white nationalist terrorist in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017.

We watch a short film about the courageous lives of these martyrs.  The Memorial words and pictures below begin to tell their story.




Civil 1B Maya Lin explanation

Maya Lin, the architect of the Vietnam Memorial, designed the Civil Rights Memorial


Civil 2 pictures of racism oppression


Civil 4 Wall of Tolerance

Hannah and I add our names to the Wall of Tolerance at the Civil Rights Memorial


Civil 3A D on wall



Civil 3C H with H on video wall


Walking ¾ of a mile in clean, uncluttered, friendly downtown Montgomery with the Alabama Capital as a backdrop, we come upon the National Memorial for Peace and Justice with its vertical black stone monuments to those lynched in America’s recent past.  Again, priced reasonably at $5 per person, this memorial recounts another sordid chapter in America’s troubled racial history.  The images below give you a peek into the power of this memorial.

Civil 4AA first one


Civil 4C explanation of memorial


Civil 4D more explanation


Civil 4G more explanation


Civil 4B chained black men


Civil 4A black hands of drowning men


Civil 4E slabs

There is a vertical stone for each county in the South and some in the North where lynchings occurred.


Civil 4F slabs close up

Listing of the eleven lynchings in Little River County in Arkansas


So, has this visit to Montgomery changed me?  Time well tell.  Today, on a personal level, I reaffirm that I will treat everyone I meet with love.  The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.  – Brian Tracy 

Further, Hannah and I voted in the mid-term elections of 2018; we donated to my childhood friend Tom Hallock’s Multiplier to support fifteen hotly contest house races (That seems to have worked as the Democrats thankfully flipped the House.).  Further, we donated to the campaigns of Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Andrew Gillum in Florida.

I will meditate further to learn what is mine to do.  Stay tuned.