Each weekend, I go to Mr. Mike’s convenience store on Route One in York, Maine for the Sunday New York Times. A favorite section of ours is Sunday Styles. Within it, there is the Modern Love essay, a personal narrative about love, loss, and redemption. Their words, not mine.
In 2018, the Times added a 100-word mini called Tiny Love Stories. Tell Us Your Love Story. Just Keep It Really Short. We’re looking for all the emotion that’s fit to print — in no more than 100 words.
I thought I’d try my hand at one.
We had the time of our lives sophomore year. As juniors, we broke up; she needed time and space, I left for Arizona with my broken heart. A couple of years later she came west, we married, eventually to return east to raise a family. In retirement we spent winters in California. All set to go again this Covid year, we learned that California was under a Stay-at-Home order. Technically, we could have gone if we quarantined, but Hannah didn’t want to go. I did. It was my Covid valentine for her.
Words – 92
I submitted my Tiny Love Story to the Times earlier this week. They asked for pictures so I included these two. I’ll keep you updated.
Click here to read past Tiny Love Stories. Click here for the guidelines for the Tiny Love Stories.
Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.
Nathan Rutstein, co-founded Institutes for the Healing of Racism
This quote leads off chapter two in Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (2020) by Emmanuel Acho, a powerful new book that I am reading. I first saw Emmanuel Acho on ESPN where he was a contributor to sports conversations. Recently he was interviewed by Brene Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast. Click here for that thoughtful interview.
For the February 22, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to freewrite about our Rules for Using Social Media.
Rule #1 – Social Media is not for everyone.
At my dad’s memorial service in 2011, a number of my Fair Lawn High School (NJ) classmates come to pay their respects – to my dad and their high school principal. Since it just so happens that our 45th class reunion is in the fall, I make plans to go.
Ah, but that means signing into Facebook to get the class reunion updates.
Seduced (by that I mean in the figurative sense) by the connections with high school classmates, I jump into the deep end of the Facebook pool.
Enjoying myself at our reunion, I keep in touch with Shiffy, Doc, and Roz. And then along comes Instagram.
Traveling throughout California and the West as Hannah and I do, Instagram becomes my “go to” place to post photos of our adventures.
After a while, my commitment to social media falters. It seems to me that my posts are just bragging about how wonderful Hannah and I are and what amazing places we’ve been to. Over time I am not making the connections with others on social media that I thought I would. Not much later, I start to barf at my own self-promotion.
So I delete my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
More than three years in, I am doing just fine.
Rule #2 – The same as rule #1. Social media is not for everyone, especially Dan.
As members of the 70+ roll out in Maine, Hannah and I got our ticket punched for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks ago.
That first dose opens the door to resuming the weekly Covid pod with our daughter Molly’s family that has been on hiatus since November.
Since fall, one day is pretty much indistinguishable from the next; often each day seems like a Saturday and every evening as a Friday night during the November to March winter in Maine. Settling into the indoor life during this global pandemic, I typically (and by that I mean every day), with Hannah, stretch, lift light weights, breakfast on oatmeal, workout at the gym, nap, walk the beach, drink wine in front of the fire, and dine with Netflix. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Dreaming of other possibilities once we are fully vaccinated gets me through winter’s dark and cold. A trip to New York to see our daughter Robyn who we haven’t seen in over a year, then traveling to see our identical twin granddaughters and their big brother for the first time since last summer.
Hiking Mount Major with our grandson Max and later climbing Mount Monadnock with his big brother Owen, traveling to California for a national park hiking tour in September, and celebrating the lives in-person of my Aunt Ilene (101) and my Uncle Bill (88).
Though February has been stormier and colder than January, it will take a massive nor’easter to keep us from driving to the Covid clinic in Sanford thirty miles away for our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
On Thursday, February 18, 2021, with not a flake or an icy patch, we drive inland to the Southern Maine Health Care clinic. Checked in, we quickly complete the paperwork to acknowledge that we’ve been healthy since our last vaccination. Literally within 10 minutes we are lifting our sleeves for our second Pfizer vaccination as among the first 6% of American adults to receive both does.
After waiting fifteen minutes to be observed for immediate reactions, we then head to Wells Beach to walk to the breakwater. Maybe the activity is the reason that five hours later we are still feeling no symptoms. Just like my brother Richard who got his second Pfizer shot in New York State, I feel no more soreness in my upper left arm than the first time. The day after I am not so spunky and take it easy while Hannah is just fine. Two days I ready to rock and roll.
Until our son Will’s family feels comfortable with us coming to New York to see our grandkids, not a whole lot will change. We’ll still go the gym and mask up as they require. Fully masked, I’ll pick up chicken burritos take-out at Loco Coco’s in Kittery; we are not even close to happy hour margaritas and nachos at Ruby’s in York. We would play indoor pickleball in Westbrook if and when they open up.
But still I can dream! California here we come, just not until late summer!
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go, There you are.
Kabat-Zinn is an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
For the February 15, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are given this quote from George Washington – It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. What is a bad excuse you have overheard, been given, or, well, maybe even offered up yourself?
I’m going to make a hard left from our first president’s quote to think about a no excuse life.
You see, after three years in political science, I switched majors to elementary education. After graduation, I lasted just fourteen weeks teaching fifth and sixth graders at Patrick Henry School in Anaheim, California. I wondered about my place in teaching.
A year later, wanting to upgrade from my job as a bus boy, I gave teaching another shot at Holdeman Elementary in Tempe, Arizona. Still, unsure and uneasy, three years in, I took a leave of absence to attend Arizona State to clear my head.
Returning to teach sixth graders, I had class meetings and organized teachers dealing with burn-out. Alas, after three years, burned-out myself, I escaped back to ASU to earn a Master’s in exercise physiology.
Still hoping to find my home in the education game, I moved with Hannah from Arizona to Maine to teach middle schoolers in a more collaborative setting with teams of teachers. Reasonably well-received, I still yearned for something more.
Taking a sabbatical at the U (that is the University of New Hampshire), I had a taste of that something more, working with undergrads and non-traditional students in teacher education.
Though I did return to middle schoolers for two years, I knew I had no more excuses at the age of 48 to do what was in my heart since my twenties. Eager to teach at the university level, I enrolled in a PhD program in order to have the necessary sheepskin to make that dream come true.
Can’t you just feel George and Martha smiling down on me?
For the February 8, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, I am asked to imagine that giant box has been delivered to our front step with my name on it. What’s inside and what happens when I open it?
The UPS truck is pulling away when I open our front door to see a giant box on the doorstep. Cutting the the packing tape, I find a tire tube from a pick-up truck, song lyrics, and a beer can.
You see, after a tumultuous junior year at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I transferred to Arizona State for my senior year. As a Jersey boy, I didn’t know a soul. I did meet a few guys over ping pong in the lounge at our Irish Hall dorm as well as when going for meals to Manzanita Hall, the girls’ dorm.
On weekends that September in 1969, all the Arizona kids would leave for their local homes and high school friends, leaving just a few of us in the dorm. Bonding as out-of-staters (Rich and Art both from Jersey, too, Steve from Virginia, and Nobes from Michigan), we were always looking for things to do. Over burritos at the Dash Inn near campus in Tempe, we hatched a plan to go tubing down the Salt River 20 miles out of town.
With the temps going north of 100 degrees, we loaded up the large tire tubes and a case of Coors Light in Steve’s Ford Falcon and Art’s Austin-Healey roadster.
Developing a comradery fueled by multiple brewskis, we floated down the cooling Salt River on a desert afternoon, eventually belting out La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Allons, enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé.
Our friendship has lasted a lifetime. Today, I inflate the tube, grab a beer, and hum a Parisian melody to myself of days gone by. A bon sante, mes amis.
Words – 274
Click here for a stirring YouTube rendition of La Marseillaise with closed caption in French and a translation in English. (five minutes)
Click here for a film clip of Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart where La Marseillaise carries the day in Rick’s Café. (three minutes)
In French IV with Madame Anastassoff at Fair Lawn Senior High School (NJ), we learned and sang the Marseillaise in class. Little did I know that just four years later that song would exuberantly come to life in the desert of Arizona.
Hannah turns 73 today. Here are thirteen highlights of the Life of Hannah.
One, she’s been a tremendous support to her younger sister Leni who moved to Maine just over a year ago.
Two, she is the reason we wisely didn’t go to California this winter. Until she helped me see the light, I was blinded by the vision of warm California. We also wouldn’t have been vaccinated if we had been in the Golden State.
Three, birthdays are her favorite holidays – yours and hers.
Four, she’s been going to our local gym six days per week during the global pandemic, rocking the elliptical and rowing machines.
Five, there isn’t a morning that goes by when Hannah isn’t writing a letter, mostly birthday cards, to someone. She also writes for the KGUA radio (Gualala, California) Writer’s Hour. And she does it all with her left hand!
Six, she continues to demonstrate such courage facing her Spasmodic Dysphonia speech condition. She recently wrote a piece for KGUA. Here is an excerpt.
I would love to make phone calls without my husband’s help. I’d love to be able to sing more than four notes in a row. I’d love to read to our grandkids without hyperventilating. I’d love not to have to think ahead to avoid certain words that cause my vocal cords to close down or open up too much. I’d love to be able to call the score in pickleball.
I’d love to talk across the road to a neighbor, not just wave hello. I’d like order at the deli without being asked to repeat myself every time. I’d love to be able to use inflection in my sentences rather than use all my energy just to get the words out – and often still not be heard or understood. And masks – much as I believe in them – have just made matters worse.
Seven, almost daily for lunch she toasts an everything bagel that she lets cool, then lightly butters for the full experience.
Eight, she never misses a morning with oatmeal sprinkled with chia, sunflower, and flax seeds, walnuts, protein powder, and cinnamon.
Nine, in 2020, Hannah had two successful bunion surgeries (May and September) which has her fired up for the outdoor pickleball season come April.
Ten, in the past year, she has loved these series on Netflix: Money Heist, Madame Secretary, Imposters, and Virgin River.
Eleven, she would not choose to travel as much we do, but she puts her whole self into it when we do hit the road.
Twelve, we’ll have been married 49 years this July 1, 2021.
Thirteen, for her 74thbirthday, next year she will resume the tradition of breakfast out at the Summerland Beach Café near Santa Barbara with friends Nancy and Duncan.
A post script: click here to read the one paragraph addendum to Tuesday’s blog on the snow plows manhandling of our mailbox.
Lying in bed in the still very dark, I hear a loud noise coming up the driveway. Checking my Fitbit I see that it’s 430A. I know immediately what’s up.
You see, Hannah and I had gone to bed last night knowing that 6-12” of snow with sustained winds of 25+ mph was coming to town. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a stay-at-home day because shoveling out our 150′ driveway would take all day.
From around the edges of the shade in our first floor bedroom, I see the lights of Nolan’s truck. The scraping of our driveway is sweet music to my ears. Falling back asleep after Nolan pushes aside the 14” of snow, I know we have a clear path from our garage out to Chases Pond Road.
What a gift Nolan, a high school friend of our son Will, has given us. Often Nolan comes to our rescue when the big storms slam York. Similar to many others in our small town on the coast of Maine, he looks out for us.
As dawn breaks, instead of having to shovel and shovel some more on our driveway, I head out to make a path to our propane exhaust vent, clear the front door, begin a path to our generator and propane tanks, and skim an inch of snow off the driveway. My mind is already thinking, We can go to the gym! Thank you, Nolan!
Shoveling the berm of snow at the end of the driveway, I see the occasional pickup truck with a plow. Returning inside, I sip my coffee and feast on one of Hannah’s tantalizing biscuits in my new La-Z-Boy in front of SportsCenter.
An hour later I head back out to complete the path to the generator, begin to shovel our front deck, and snow rake our roof when I notice something amiss at the end of our driveway. The snowplow has snapped the posted of our mailing box and left it for dead.
This has happened four or five times in the nearly 40 years we’ve lived on our country road. In the past, the town claims that such accidents are the price of doing business and there is nothing they will do. But I see before me a golden opportunity to network for solutions.
Texting a variety of folks, I hear from our son Will, pickleball friends Norm and Fran, and my ping pong buddy George about repair possibilities. It makes my day being able to connect with my peeps.
So we have our first win/win/win of the season. First a snowplow surprise from a guy we’ve known since second grade, then a splintered mailbox as an opening for friendship connections, and third we got to the gym – all on the morning of February 2nd when the nor’easter came to town.
Two days later. In a team effort, Hannah and I slather on copious amounts of wood glue, cram the two splintered posts together, wrap the joint with high test duct tape, and support the union with a board from our shed. Let the healing begin.