Dan and Hannah See the Face of God on Easter

Dan, are you and Hannah home?  And if so, could I stop by and have a few minutes?

That’s unusual.  We can go weeks without dealing with our neighbor who wrote this text.  Wondering if anything is wrong, I respond, We are in Pennsylvania.  Be home manana.  Once home, we don’t hear from him and I pretty much forget about it.

Then, on Easter morning I get the exact same text.  Though Hannah and I are just heading for a mid-day walk at the Ogunquit (Maine) beach, I text back, Now is a good time.

Our neighbor is the classic good guy.  When we needed a hide-a-bed sofa removed from an upstairs room, he and his son come right over and moved it for us.  He always greets us warmly when Hannah and I walk the neighborhood.  He is a devout Christian who truly lives his faith.

Rainbow our driveway

Waiting on our driveway, we see him approach.  He says, How are you?  I mention that we are just back from seeing our grandson in New York.  He smiles, and then breaks down in tears.  Whoa!

Hannah and I both step forward and give him a group hug; he cries and doesn’t say anything.  Hannah wonders if someone died.  I wonder is he getting a divorce.  Does a child or grandchild have cancer?

Composing himself, he says, I think you know how much my faith means to me.  I try to be a good neighbor.  It’s been on my heart that I’ve wanted to say this to you.  We continue to hug and listen and wonder.   He pauses, head down, composing himself.

He looks up and continues with a smile, I think you know we come from different political perspectives.  I should say so.

Rainbow flag

So, is this about the rainbow flag we have flying on the busy road in front of our house.  Does he want us to take it down?  My mind races further thinking that that’s going to be a problem.  Our rainbow flag is a symbol of our support for our LGBT sisters and brothers, who are our friends and yes, in our family.

Composing himself again, he says, You two were there when I needed you last fall. I want you to know how much that meant to me.  While he was recovering, we brought soup and biscuits to his family; sat with him as we listened to his story of how it all happened.  While he was recuperating, we gave him bread.

We continue to hug, and then he relaxes and seems at peace.  I just wanted to let you know how much you mean to me.  We smile at each other as he says, You know, I’m there if you need me.  As he always has.

And then as soon as he came, he’s gone – walking back down our driveway.

I look to Hannah and say to her, we’ve just seen the face of God.  This is what Rev Rich Knight meant when he said, When you see acts of kindness and acts of love, (similar to what our neighbor just delivered to us), you see the face of God.

So glad we were home when God walked down our driveway this Easter morning.

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding at Rattlesnake Canyon in California

Rattle SB map

Hiking with our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, our grandsons, Owen (kindergarten), and Max (pre-school) has become a family tradition for Hannah and me when they come to California.  Choosing the four mile round-trip Rattlesnake Trail, we have what is referred to online as the most popular hike in Santa Barbara.  Traveling a mere 12 miles from our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria on The 101 north, we pull into the city of Santa Barbara Skofield Park.  A hopeful sign of the times greets us.

Rattle 1AA Omi and Owen at trailhead with sign

Rattle 1 Rawdings at the trailhead

Not two hundred yards away, we begin our trek by crossing the canyon stream.  Today, Tip calmly steps on stones 2/3 of the way across the creek, turns back with his hand reaching for first Owen, then Max, followed by Molly, Hannah, and me.

Rattle 1 Family R and H on trail

Tip, Molly, Owen, Hollywood Max, and Omi on the trail

Maybe half a mile into the hike, the trail diverges – to the right along the mountainside, to the left back to towards the river.  I swear that when Hannah and I were here two years ago that we hiked this trail to the right.  Click here for that blog.  My memory?  It’s not batting 1.000.

Rattle 2BB D and family on trail

Max, Tip, Owen, Omi, and Poppa on the tree shaded trail

Not my shiniest moment.  Climbing up and away from the luxury homes of Santa Barbara, we are soon walking single file on the steep mountain-side – Owen with his Omi and Max with me skipping along the trail.  As the trail narrows and falls away sharply to the creek, Hannah and I turn to the first team, their parents, to take over and guide them along the trail.  Later, three athletic women call this the “technical” path to the meadow on the Rattlesnake Trail.  My bad.

Rattle 2C another excellent family on trail

The Family Rawding far from New England

Eventually crossing back over the creek with Tip’s reassuring support, we reconnect with the original (and by that, I mean reasonable) trail, which is a gentler climb towards the mountain meadow.  A good hour and 45 minutes after we started we arrive at the meadow beneath the towering Santa Ynez Mountains.

Rattle 3A we six at meadow end point

Returning by way of the advertised main trail, we pass the mini-waterfalls (and by that, I mean tumbling cascade) during the rainiest winter in eight years.  On the main trail back, we do have two more water crossings.  At the second, Tip again confidently steps ¾ of the way into the creek, first lifts Max, then hoists Owen over to the other side.  Molly follows without aid as does Hannah.

Being a tad less agile than these athletic women, I reach down for the creek boulders to lower my center of gravity to steady myself.  At that point, Tip reaches for my hand to support me mid-creek.  As I’m about to step to the dry side, Owen reaches out his hand to get me to dry land.

Rattle 4A mini-falls on way back

Hannah sees it all and tears up.  Like father, like son.






More pictures from the Rattlesnake Trail

RAttle 2AA O and P with O and M

Poppa, Owen, Max, and Omi on the trail where we never see a rattlesnake

Rattle 3 Nooshawk photo meadow

Rattlesnake Trail Meadow

Rattle 4B hail

On our descent, hail rained down on us all

Rattle 4 H on trail coming back

Rattle 4BB Molly and Max

Molly and Max with the Channel Islands of the Pacific Ocean in the background

Rattle 4CC Omi and fam on trail

Hannah – always pumped


Rattle 4AA Molly and Tip

Molly and Tip

Dan and Hannah Make California Memories with Owen and Max

Vent family rawding with O and P

Tip, Max, Molly, Poppa, Owen, and Omi at the beach in Carpinteria.  Yes, it was incredibly windy.

Heading West during their February school vacation week, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (kindergarten) and Max (pre-school) are coming to California for some R and R and some O and P (i.e. Omi and Poppa).  Hannah and I are pumped to ride the rails with our grandsons.  If it sounds like we are hobo wanna-bes, you just might be right as we do have wanderlust in our souls.

Staying in a rented house in Carpinteria a mere mile from the train station, Hannah and I have planned a twenty-mile train ride for the four of us to Ventura with its beachfront promenade, sandy beaches, and unexpected in-town adventure.

Vent map of train route

Carpinteria is 85 miles north of Los Angeles

Once the Amtrak Surfliner pulls into the Carp station, we climb the steps to the second deck where the comfortable window seats are.  With others buried in their phones and laptops, we four have the good fortune to get oceanside views.  Paralleling the six-lane 101 highway, we are traveling slower than the mid-morning traffic.  Rolling along between the mountains to our left and the multi-million dollar beachfront homes to our right, we have begun another adventure with our guys.

Vent 1AA train receipt

Vent 1B O and O on the train

Owen and his Omi looking out to the Pacific

Vent 1C M on train

Max checking out tides with the Channel Islands in the distance

Vent 1 H the drama queen

Yours and my favorite drama queen

Vent 1A P and M

Max ready for some crazy eights with his Poppa

Vent 1D boys holding their ears at train

The horns of the train are indeed LOUD!

Once in Ventura, we disembark at the County Fairgrounds, which is just a parking lot away from the Pacific Ocean.  Soon, we are strolling down the wide beachfront sidewalk among the President’s Day crowd enjoying another sunny day in Paradise.

Vent 2 on beach with surfer

With ocean temps near 60F every surfer wears a wetsuit

Vent 2A M on promenade

The Ventura Promenade with the Ventura Pier in the distance

Walking ¾ of mile towards the Ventura Pier, we hit sandy beach gold for two kids who have come from New England’s snow and temps in the 20s .  They race to the water’s edge, then run back before the incoming tide washes up over their feet.

Vent 2B M at beach

Vent 2C M at beach

Max with Owen in the distance

Vent 2D M at beach again

Just before lunch time, we head into downtown Ventura to meet up with our fish taco and pickleball friends, Bruce and Anneli.  They are our fish taco friends for last year they invited us out for lunch al fresco at Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in downtown Ventura.  Click here for that blog.

Today, they surprise us with gingerbread cookies at the upstairs loft of their architectural firm.  Check ‘em out.

Vent 3 cookies with Anneli

Max, Owen, and Anneli

Vent 3A cookies with Bruce

Max, Bruce, and Owen

Max looks at one with the number 12 and immediately says, Tom Brady!  In addition to a pickleball player, there are two more challenging identifications needed.  The boys say lizard for one, but Bruce nudges them and says, It’s a little more than that.  He gives them “amphibian” as a clue.  Owen nails it “gecko.”

Vent 3B O and M with hot chocolate

Anneli wonders if they know the other gingerbread figure.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Max blurts out, The Eiffel Tower.  As impressed with our grandchildren as we are, they offer the boys hot chocolate.  Oh, they have one more thing for us: 30 minutes of Calilfornia love for us New Englanders.

Vent 3D six of us

Spending two winter months in California, Hannah and I are beginning to create a community of folks, like Anneli and Bruce, that is making Carpinteria a home away from home.  It’s the latest chapter in our journey – where we find good people again and again.

Vent map from york to carp

Sounds like a great road trip, but we flew from Boston to Los Angeles


Dan and Hannah Play Tournament Pickleball Part 3 of 3

Click here for part 1 and Click here for part 2 to set the stage for this concluding blog.

Starting the first of our final three games of the tournament, we are up against the powerhouse Ellen and Mark duo.  We know Ellen from our weekly game in Westbrook.  She’s effervescent while he’s immediately likable with an easy-going manner.  As strong players, they are versed in the winning strategy for mixed doubles pickleball.  Ah, but we are up to the challenge with our third shot drops, reasonably reliable forehands, bountiful good luck, and Hannah’s lobs.  In our best match of the evening, we prevail in a tight one.

PBT Leesa and H with grid

Leesa and Hannah 

With our fifth win, Hannah and I are looking at being in the money.  I mean, literally, being in the money.  Each player paid $10 to play tonight with the winning team splitting $80, second place divvying up $60, and third dividing $40.  We are now looking at the possibility of a third place finish as we have only lost to Carolee and Tim and have yet to play the still undefeated, odds-on favorite team of Patty and Steve.

Up next are the athletic pair of Shannon and Gordie.  Shannon is a racquet ball player of the first order and Gordie is reliable and affable.  Being our seventh game after three hours of play at 9P, Hannah and I are riding high.  Shannon and Gordie wake us up as they knock us down a peg or two by taking charge immediately; all of sudden they are serving for the match at 14-8.

While Hannah and I figure what the hell, we’ve had a helluva run this evening, we do work our way back to 14-10, and finally down just 14-13, my serve.  Usually steady Eddy with my serve, I hit my serve long to lose the chance to tie!  My bad.  Perhaps, we are not meant to win.  Now Shannon and Gordie each have a serve to win the game.  Holding them scoreless, we quickly run off three points to win 16-14 in a comeback most would agree that is comparable to the Patriots 28-3 return from the dead to defeat the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

PBT group shot

Back row from left to right – Dan, Brandon, Norm, Steve, Mick, Carolee, and Tim  Middle row – Ellen, Mark, and Allen  Front row – Leesa, Erin, Carly, Janet, Shannon, Patty, and Hannah  (Not pictured – Gordie)

Third place is ours, no matter what happens v. Steve and Patty, our final opponent.  We are 6-1, and they are 7-0.  As savvy tournament-tested players, they have a winning strategy as well as our powerful players.   We make them only slightly uncomfortable and we fall quietly 15-7.

Having only two losses, Hannah and I are looking at a sweet third place pay day.  And then…

…we see Norm and Leesa still on the court v. Carolee and Tim, the team that crushed us.  Learning that Norm and Leesa are up 14-12, I am not surprised that any team with Norm has a chance.  After giving up a 13th point, they close out the match 15-13.

PBT h with winnings

Sixty big ones!

Immediately, I do the math [i.e. we are now second at 6-2 as Carolee and Tim have fallen to 5-3].  No lie, it was cool to win.   We are all humble on the outside and about to shit on the inside.

So what did I learn:

  1. Social pickleball works for me.  How can you beat the combination with delectable hors d’oeurvres with non-stop pickleball?
  2. Round robin play is my idea of a good time.  No waiting.  My pickleball-induced ADHD is satisfied with lots of play – eight games in nearly four hours.
  3. Even social tournament pickleball is about targeting the weaker player.  That’s life.  There were times I played the role of the coat rack.  There’s no crying in baseball or pickleball.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
  4. Bangers bang.  I could (and often do) look at the bangers banging as an opportunity to improve my soft game.  I’m still not a fan of banger-topia!
  5. We were so damn lucky tonight to come in second.  (1), we could have easily lost our first game [we won 15-13 after being behind], (2) and we could have easily lost our second game v. the top player, Norm and Leesa, and (3) we could have easily lost the game we were down 14-8 to Gordie and Shannon.  And then, (4), even if we squeak out W’s in all those games, we still needed Leesa and Norm to beat the team that beat us.  We were the long shot that left the ball with the silver slipper.

Dan and Hannah Decide to Play Tournament Pickleball Part 2 of 3

Click here for part 1 to set the stage for today’s blog.

Driving north on the Maine Turnpike on a rainy March Friday afternoon, I wonder what lies ahead for the first pickleball tournament Hannah and I will have ever played.  The uncertainty leaves me unsettled.  Will it be bangers galore; will people even hit the ball to me; and as team, how will Hannah and I react to tournament pressure?

PBT court with norm

Two of the courts at the Jordan Small Middle School gym

Arriving at the gym of the Jordan Small Middle School in Raymond, Maine, Hannah and I see four courts lined in the basketball gym; players are already warming up.  Leesa, the tournament organizer, has brought together nine mixed doubles teams in a round robin format, which means Hannah and I will get lots of play.

Hannah and I draw the spunky young couple (nearly 50 years our junior) Carly and Brandon for our first game to fifteen, win by two.  Being a first game, we four are all just getting our sea legs – hitting some winners and then knocking shots wildly out-of-bounds.  The lead goes back and forth, but soon Hannah and I find ourselves down 13-11.  Clearly, this is a game we could have won.  Through no fault of our own, we win the final four points in a game that could have gone either way.  I turn the self-absorption meter down just a little!

PBT D Norm and Janet

Norm, Janet, and the dude with a Fitbit

Still feeling the self-imposed pressure to play respectably, I come to the court with Hannah for our second game matched up v. Norm and Leesa.  Where we regularly play in Saco, Norm is at the top of the food chain.  He’s tough with all the shots.  She’s athletic.  Game on.

Feeling more comfortable with the gym’s indoor lighting, the closeness of the curtain dividing the courts, and remembering that everyone is thinking about themselves anyway, Hannah and I take a 5-3 lead, which surprises me no end.  Going on a run of six points after they tie the score at six, we are soon up 12-6.   It dawns on me that we could actually win against the best player in the gym.  I had figured this was going to be a designated L for us.  In a huge upset in my mind, we run out the game at 15-10.   Two wins.  I relax just a little more.

PBT Leesa and H with grid

Leesa with Hannah

Taking on the upbeat pair of Allen and Erin, we have a relaxing, easy going, and fun game where they hit the ball to me on a regular basis; we come away with a W.

Game four proves that we are not quite the hot shots that we are starting to think we are.  Carolee and Tim are formidable as the reality of competitive mixed doubles emerges.  Our opponents’ power, solid play, and tactics takes us down convincingly 15-6.  We are burnt toast left on the side of the plate.  With strong teams ahead, I can see us comfortably settling into the middle of the pack.  That turns down the pressure.

Next, we match up v. our pickleball friends from Saco, Mick and Janet.  Just good folks, they play a spirited game, hit some shots that leave us agape with their artistry, but we prevail.  With our fourth win, we are the surprise of the tournament (at least in my delusional mind).

Part 3 describes the final three games which concludes this three-part series on Saturday.