Dan and Homer, the Greek – KGUA radio #13

The KGUA radio prompt for July 27, 2020 asks writer in 200 words or less to respond to this quote from Homer in The OdysseyEach man delights in the work that suits him best.

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Mark Gross, the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Guide, tells us, Let’s go lighter. Happier. Think of a delight. What is your delight? What delights you? What work suits you best, delights you?

A Delightful job

The first job that suited me was teaching fourth graders at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona with Diane and Jean (circa 1974).  We had impossible jobs teaching in an open setting at a brand new school.  Let me remind you about the quote brilliance of the open classroom!

It had no walls.  In this school for 1000 kids, you could literally see from one end of the building to the other.  When our students needed it quiet, other classes were noisy.  When other classes needed it quiet, we disturbed them.  It was insane.

With 33 students per class, we taught all the subjects (reading, spelling, math, sometimes science and social studies) but focused on reading and math since they were the ones the kids took standardized tests for.

Dash Inn

So why the best job, you ask?  Jean and Diane.  As relatively new teachers, we planned together, commiserated and supported each other, and each Friday headed to the Dash Inn on Apache Boulevard for drinks and Mexican food.

Within all this madness, I was not alone.  And for that I thank them dearly.

Words – 182

Where are they know?  Jean died in her early 50s after a 30-year teaching career, six months after she retired!  Diane is hale and healthy living with her hubby in Arizona.

Dan Wonders about this small “t” truth

I dedicate this search for my truth to Lynn Nelson, an English professor of mine at Arizona State University, who with his wife Lorrie became fast friends of Hannah’s and mine during our Arizona Years, 1972-1981.

Lynn truth

Lynn (never Dr. Nelson) spoke of small “t” truths.  As I understand it, those truths are personally true for oneself.  Big “T” truths can be those tenets of the major faiths of the world.

Here’s a small “t” truth that I am workshopping.

When entering a new situation or meeting someone new, I am happier (and less disappointed) if I have realistic expectations rather than positive expectationsWhoa, Dan.  Slow down.  Why not go into a new situation hopeful that it will turn out well?  I am hopeful, realistically hopeful.

Say, I meet a new player on the pickleball court.  Having had countless experiences meeting many people, I am realistic that not everyone I meet will be my cup of tea nor will they find me their cup of joe.  Rather than thinking positively that I will connect with everyone I meet, I am realistic that some relationships lead to connections and some do not.

I’m pleased if the relationship works out but not bummed because my positive expectations haven’t been met.

Lynn Zen

Sounds a little Zen, Dan?

Fact is, you are on to me.  As you can surmise, I’ve taken step one of 10,000 in being a Zen master.

Lynn Han at blood drive

Yesterday, Hannah and I donated blood.  How long the process takes varies widely.  At the Kittery Community Center where the blood drive was held, I had realistic expectations, not the positive attitude that we’ll be necessarily done in the usual 30-45 minutes.  Turns out, it took an hour and fifteen minutes.

Maybe a realistic attitude makes me see that many issues I have our first world problems!

Here’s a final example of realistic expectations having merit for me over positive ones.

Lynn ECSU

As a professor of undergraduates, I taught the intro Exploring Teaching class for students interested in teacher education.  Rather than going into this class with the positive expectation that they all will want to teach, I set a more realistic goal.

I am realistic that teaching is not for everyone.  Even though I give them my all by using interactive lessons, inviting passionate guest speakers, and giving the students experiences in actual classrooms, I am realistic that some of my students are going to pursue further teacher education and others will not.

If students learn after my course that teaching is not for them, the class is a success.  The course is not Loving Teaching but Exploring Teaching.

This is your Zen master signing off.

 

Addendum.  Click here to read more about Lynn’s dynamic work at Arizona State.

Dan Muses About the Future for KGUA radio #12

KGUA radio’s prompt for July 20, 2021 is making me stretch.  I am free writing in less than 200 words to this quote – Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will.

I had two false starts before this free write worked for me.

The Future

When I was a fourth grade teacher at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, I had a principal who said, “Tomorrow never comes.”  No, he was not a Zen master, in fact, quite traditional.  He paddled kids who misbehaved; this was the 1970s.  Yes, it was the dark ages of school discipline that may still be alive in the Cactus State.

AZ map 2

While teaching then, I would be thinking of getting to the weekend on Wednesdays.  To summer in February.  That’s a recipe for missing many moments.

In a general sense, tomorrow seems filled with potential while today can be ruled by to-dos if I am not careful.   So carpe diem.

Let’s see, what’s on the menu for today: morning pickleball with friends, hanging the laundry outside, paying the Visa bill, kicking back with a glass of wine with Hannah, dining on take-out chicken burritos, then watching the Money Heist on Netflix.

Now that’s a pretty good day.  My streak of good todays has begun.

Words – 164

Know the author of the above quote?

Dan and Hannah Get the Marriage Question

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My Ithaca shirt comes to Taughannock Falls in Ithaca, New York

During these Times of Corona, Hannah and I make it a point to avoid crowds.  Hey, we are 72 and reside in the danger zone, age-wise.  Fortunately, we live in Maine, a less populated place to live through a pandemic.

So, it can be no surprise that in the early evening of July 1, 2020, we come with subs and drinks to a distant part of the beach at York Harbor to celebrate our 48th anniversary.

As we sit looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, a mother and her college age daughter pass by.  Earlier when I had passed them on the beach, I had commented about their playing Bananagrams (a free flowing variation of Scrabble that I recommend), which brought a smile of recognition to their faces.

Now, 30 minutes later, the two women pass between us and the incoming tide.  I say to them, Hannah is celebrating her 48th wedding anniversary.  Never knowing what off-the-wall thing I might say to draw attention to myself, Hannah just smiles.

DNH montecito

On a mountainside in Montecito, CA

Mom smiles back and says, What’s your secret?  Hannah and I each have no quick answer but get out that we were just lucky.

After, I think that I want a better answer than that so I can articulate and reflect on the marriage Hannah and I have.

Meeting as first-year students at the College of Wooster, we dated off and on for five years.  In February of 1972, I proposed to her once I got my first real job as a fourth grade teacher at Holdemann Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona.  Married the following July as 24 year olds, we had much learn about being a couple.

So, what’s our secret?

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Pickleball in South Carolina

One, we did get lucky as the stars aligned; for she as an upstate New Yorker and me as a Jersey boy happened to go to the same little liberal arts college in Nowhere, Ohio.  So, good fortune certainly got the ball rolling.

Two, we learned how much we enjoy an evening glass of wine together.

Three, we learned that we love being active together.  Be it hiking the canyons and mountains, walking the beach, biking country roads, or pickleballing.

Four, we don’t shop together.

Five, we are learning that we are not in competition with each other; we don’t need to be better than the other, be it in parenting, generosity, or service to others.  Hannah is Hannah, I am me.

DNH with m and o lime kiln

Omi and Poppa with Max (above) and Owen

Six, we are learning to assume the best about the other’s intentions, comments.

Seven, we learned to kiss each time one of us leaves the house.

Eight, I learned when someone compliments Hannah to me (say about her generosity or sweetness), I never joke or am sarcastic (by saying something like, if you only knew!) but respond with some variation of, You got it.  She’s the real thing.

Nine, Hannah cooks, I do the dishes.

Ten, I’m not sure what this means, but in conversation when Hannah is not around, I never refer to Molly, Robyn, and Will as my kids.  They are always our kids.  I sure as hell didn’t raise them on my own.

CR girls Omi and Poppa with Brooks and girls

Omi and Poppa with Brooks (center) and Reese and Charlotte

Eleven, we’ve learned to let the other one spew without offering advice.  Listening is what the spewer wants more than anything.

Twelve, we agree that we found gold living two winter months in Carpinteria, California.

Thirteen, I hang the laundry while Hannah is the problem solver around the house.

Fourteen, we learned that we both have a common interest in reaching out and making connections with many of the people we meet.  We are relentless.  If we were to have headstones, they would say, They tried.

Fifteen, we learned not to take our good marriage for granted.  We have learned to speak up when we are wondering what the other is thinking or has done.

Sixteen, we agreed that our family was a priority over our careers.  We valued experiences together over things.

This is no recipe for others, just what we do.  As you can see, there was a whole lot learning going on.

Maybe that is the secret.

Dan and Hannah and The Great Cycle Challenge

Our son Will is hitting the road.  Maybe you’d like to support him.  Here’s his note.

This September, I’m riding 300 miles in the Great Cycle Challenge to fight kids’ cancer. I am riding in honor of my sister Robyn, a survivor of childhood leukemia. Appropriately, this challenge falls during her birthday month!
Cancer is the largest killer of children from disease in the United States – 38 kids die every week. 
My challenge will be tough, but it’s nothing compared to what these brave kids face every day of their lives as they battle this terrible disease.  
And so I am taking on this challenge to end childhood cancer and save little lives.
Please consider making a donation to this cause at my fundraising page:
All funds raised will support Children’s Cancer Research Fund to continue their work to develop innovative treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer.
Thank you for your support!
Love, Will

Pumpkin, Big Brother, and Walking Boot – KGUA prompt #10

This week’s writing prompt for the KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour wants writers to grab an old photograph.  You.  A Loved one.  A friend.  A stranger.  A pet.  Someone you pass by.  An acquaintance.  Someone you don’t know in the photo.

How is the person feeling in the photo? (Maybe it’s in the lines of the face. The expression. The posture. You get the idea).

Write this in THIRD PERSON! Third person in this exercise does not have access to the subjects thoughts! It’s all visual description Yes, you can see emotion or imagine it.

DO NOT USE “I” OR “ME” EVEN IF IT IS A PHOTO OF YOURSELF. DO NOT IDENTIFY WHO THE SUBJECT IS.

Since we will not be seeing these actual photos, we will see them, feel them, know them from your writing.

SET THE TIMER. 10 MINUTE FREE WRITE (200 WORDS MAX) DOES NOT INCLUDE THE TIME TO CHOOSE THE PHOTO.

By voice memo from my iPhone, I submitted the Pumpkin story.  I have added the pictures at the end of the entire blog for each of the three drafts so you can first form a picture in your mind from my writing, and then see the inspiration for that writing.

 

Pumpkin

He just won the lottery.  He has the biggest and best pumpkin any kindergartner could pick.  He beams with joy at his selection.  Fact is, at five years old, he is joy.

He woke early knowing today was the field trip to the pumpkin patch out Route Two.  Normally, he sleeps in on school days, but not today.  Today, he gets to be outside.  He’s a fine student but four walls do not hold his enthusiasm for life.

It’s not just the destination but the bus ride with his friends.  Schools have lots of rules, busses have fewer rules.  He can sit where he wants.  He can talk with his best friend and no one else can hear.

At the pumpkin patch, he is on a solo mission, ready to find the biggest pumpkin he can lift.  They are everywhere.  Who knew that ten thousand pumpkins could grow on two acres!   It was never in doubt as his laser focus honed in on the brightest orange pumpkin he had ever seen.

His first grade brother will congratulate him on his choice, and his parents will just smile, knowing they’ve a son who finds such joy in a simple pumpkin.

Words 199

 

Big Brother

His parents are always taking pictures of him.  He’s two, he says cheese with his lips framing his first very white teeth.  He plays his part for the family scrapbook.

Today his parents set him on the heart-shaped pillow above his two-week-old identical twin sisters.  He seems so big, when three weeks ago, he was the baby of the house.  No more, he has been promoted to big brother.

He doesn’t know it yet, but it’s the picture that they will show at the reception hall when he gets married.  People will just smile, and say, aren’t they cute?  And cute they are.  As a 31 year old, he will hug his 29 year old sisters knowing that life is good.  They all have no complaints.

On his perch of the heart-shaped pillow, he’s had just about enough of this posing.  He “mooches” (i.e. kisses) with his sisters, then gently caress their heads.  But there are baskets of blocks to dump, lawns to mow next to daddy, and races to be run around the first floor of his house.

Time is awasting.  He is born to move and groove.  And groove he must.

Words 188

 

Walking Boot

She has taken the next step, literally.  She has moved from crutches to the walking boot.  The five inch scar from her bunion surgery is still wrapped in protective surgical gauze, but she can now maneuver easily from the one step of the deck to the dining room and around the narrow corner from her bed to the bathroom sink.

She knows she’s one week into her six week journey to make her right foot right.  Knowing is one thing, being happy that she can’t walk the local beach with her hubby or play pickleball with her friends is something else.

But these are small potatoes when she thinks about a previous surgery and an even longer rehab for a busted leg after a water skiing accident on an idyllic Maine pond eight years ago.  Then three years ago, she ended up in the ER at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara after falling down a cliff, tearing into her thigh to the bone.

She knows she’ll get through the rehab.  She just didn’t know that she’d be rehabbing one more time.

Ah, the active life she leads.  These are small prices to pay for being on the move.

Words 191

 

Prompt Pictures

KGUA 13 Max and pumpkin

Our grandson Max

 

 

KGUA 13 Brooks with Reese and Charlotte

Our grandson Brooks with his sisters Reese and Charlotte

 

 

KGUA 13 walking boot

Hannah’s walking boot five days after bunion surgery

Dan and Hannah Aren’t Considering Returning to Their Gym, are They!

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Going to the gym!  Are you crazy!  Our local Coastal Fitness gym is one place that I thought I’d never return to during this global pandemic.  Too much sweat, too many heavy breathers, too many spiraling viral air currents, all in close quarters.  How could they protect us?

But our friend Mandy, a thoughtfully cautious sort, had returned to working out there.  But the more she talked about going to the gym, we thought, “It’s summertime; we’ve got the country roads, the beaches, and the outdoor pickleball courts.  Why take a chance?”

And then it rained last Monday!

So we decided to give Coastal Fitness a look to see what they have done to welcome us back in this Time of Corona?

Upon entering through the front doors, Hannah and I in masks each have our temperatures taken by the attendant wearing a mask herself, pointing a thermometer gun at our foreheads.  Though the bathrooms are open, no longer are showers available.

CF Hanna on treadmill

Hannahs atreadmilling

Passing through, we are struck by the heavy clear plastic sheets that hang from the ceiling on three sides of all the exercise equipment: the recumbents, the ellipticals, and the treadmills.  To top it off, only every other piece of equipment is available.

Since there may be five people in the large area this early morning, I take my mask off and return to my favorite elliptical in the back that I haven’t seen since mid-March.  In no time, I catch a rhythm and am channel surfing through ESPN, ESPN2, and the Weather Channel.  Soon finding cable fare repetitive, I plug in my iPhone to listen to my morning podcast of choice, The Daily from the New York Times.

Carefully wiping everything with disinfectant that I touched on the elliptical, I move on to the recumbent.  Thirty minutes of high octane exercise-induced bliss.   I am home, athletically-speaking.

CF D on recumbent

Enclosed in plastic on three sides, I’m pumping away

As an annual dues paying member, I see no need for Coastal Fitness to credit us for the three months they were closed due to the virus.  They have taken a financial hit in the shorts and we don’t want to add to their woes.  Fortunate to have a gym, we want them to stay in business!

Following the arrows out of the back of the building, I am riding high having had the aerobic workout that I just don’t get in my short sprints on the pickleball court or while biking like a 72-year-old on our country roads.

I bet we are safer here than in any local restaurant, hardware, or grocery store.  Yeah, we’ll be back tomorrow; you see, the forecast is for more showers.

Dan Tries His Hand at KGUA Writing Prompt – Again!? #11

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This week’s 200 word maximum writing prompt for the KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour for July 13, 2021 is the one word title – Again!?   That’s it. C’est toute!

So, I messed around and have 184 words for you!

Again!? 

She just showed up again.  I thought she was gone, gone for good.  But here she was back wondering if the room above the garage out back was still free.

“It is,” we smiled, “but there is only a hot plate.  The shower works pretty well.

She was just looking to start over.  The details were sketchy.  A lost job.  Roommate issues.  She promised, “I won’t be here long, just til I get back on my feet.”

Over the next two weeks, we rarely saw her.  She had no car but walked the mile into town looking for work.   Since the pandemic in March, Hannaford’s grocery was the one consistent place to find a job.  After her references were checked, she was hired as a cashier for 12 hour shifts on the weekends.

Even so, she still couldn’t afford a place here in this wealthy seacoast community.  She asked if she could just stay in the room above the garage for a little longer, til she found a roommate.

Again, we nodded yes.  You see, she was us some forty years ago in Tempe.

Any questions?

 

 

Granddaughters, Bunions, and Courage – KGUA prompt #9

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This week’s KGUA radio writing prompt comes from the repeated words in last week’s submissions.  The words that kept coming up again and again were: trust, passion, peace, end, love, give, life, free, youth, kindness, nature, faith, walk, time, courage, ammunition, people, conviction, black, drown, and potential.

Mark Gross, the KGUA writing leader, asked us to time our free write for ten minutes, limiting us to 200 words.  We were to edit just for spelling and grammar, and send in the draft.

His directions were similar to what I did with seventh and eighth graders in Kittery, Maine and while leading the Teaching of Writing courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England.  I would have a discussion, read a passage, or come up with a group activity.  From those activities, I would have my students write for ten minutes to see if they found a topic to take through to a final draft in our writing workshop.  Head down and trusting they’d write, I wrote along with my students.

Mark has given me a taste of my own medicine this week, and for that I thank him.  I chose three words below to run with.  The Walk draft aired on the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Hour on June 28, 2020 .

Walk

For the first time in six weeks, Hannah walked with me at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  You see, six weeks ago to the day, Hannah had bunion surgery.  First she was on crutches, then two weeks in a walking boot, and then wrapping her foot with surgical gauze twice a day in a hiking shoe.wa

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Ogunquit beach on the southern coast of Maine

Oh, she could move around the house, then our yard, but walking for more than twenty minutes…well she just didn’t want to risk screwing up the operation.  It turns out she was walking on the side of her foot to protect her big toe.  A no no.

But this morning, we woke at five, stretched, then a little after six drove to the wide sandy beach here on the Atlantic.  Being low tide, we walked where the waves were rolling softly to the shore.  She thought she’d go halfway, but then…distracted by the fog, stepping in and around the pools of salt water, we were thirty minutes down the beach before she knew it, nearly to Wells.

Pumped, she headed back into the wind full speed ahead.  I’ve been listening to podcasts as I walk alone during Hannah’s rehab, but this was much better.  Both the conversation and the silence.

 

Youth

Hannah and I are just back from Ithaca, New York where we met our granddaughters for the first time.  Yes, granddaughters!  Reese and Charlotte are our identical twins.  In this crazy Time of Corona, we didn’t know if we’d even see them for six months or even a year!  But when our son and his wife, a nurse no less, invited us to visit the girls three weeks after their births, we were all in to drive 400 miles to be with them.

CR girls nose to nose

Charlotte and Reese

When we arrived, mom and dad hugged us!  Do you know how long it’s been since we hugged anyone else!  Yeah, you do, it’s three months going on a year!

The girls mold together as they lie in their bassinet, just like they were in the womb.  As I sat on the couch knees folded together, I held Reese as she lay sleeping.  Yeah, they sleep a lot.  Then they cry, then mom feeds them, sometimes at the same time, and then the girls sleep some more.

But after three days, they were looking around more and more, checking out their new world.  I look forward to being a part of their lives for a long time.

 

Courage

I have to admit I never really got the white privilege stuff.  As a kid, I was just a kid.  What did I know?  We did live in Radburn, a privileged part of Fair Lawn I learned later as a young adult, a pretty much all white community in north Jersey.  We did take two family car trips to the West Coast.  I just figured lots of kids did that.

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In tiny print, York is on this map

My goodness, I played tennis!  Is that ever a white man’s sport, even though the Williams Sisters took charge of the women’s game for the last twenty years.

I was just going through life.  Living frugally on a teacher’s salary while Hannah stayed home with the kids.  But then we moved from multi-cultural Arizona to white bread Maine.  As such, there were not many families of color here that I knew.  Without a second thought, our kids went to college, had careers.

Of late, I am aware that my white comfort is compromising the lives of so many fellow Americans of color.  Now is the time to have the courage to admit my privileged status and do my part to even the playing field.

I’m listening.