You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.
Pema Chodron, born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown, July 14, 1936, is an AmericanTibetan Buddist. She is an ordained nun, has written several dozen books and audiobooks, and is principal teacher at the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, just minutes from the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.
Yes, that Cabot Trail that Hannah and I biked and survived in 2014. Biking those 190 miles over four days with mountain grades up to 16% was the hardest physical test we have had in 74 years of living well. Click here for the first of four parts about that epic test of woman and man!
You do know that Medicare is not free, don’t you? Every Medicare recipient pays $148.50 per month that is either taken directly from their monthly Social Security checks (Seniors beware, it goes to $170.10 per month in 2022!) or has recipients pay that amount quarterly by check.
Seniors then can choose a Supplemental Plan which costs on average $200 more per month; it allows them to choose any doctor, specialist, or hospital they want.
Then there is an Advantage Plan that we have chosen where we pay $0 more per month. We do have to stay in network for our doctors, specialists, and hospitals. That is indeed little sacrifice for us living in southern Maine where our network is extensive with convenient health care and in Boston, if necessary.
Our United Healthcare Advantage Plan also gives us incentives to stay healthy. Besides not charging for the following services, they pay us $15 to get an annual physical, $5 for a flu shot, $10 per month if we accumulate at least 7500 steps in ten days per month. Hannah is paid $25 for osteoporosis bone density test.
In addition, United Healthcare will give us a $50 Visa gift card annually if we have a 45-minute Health Call by a nurse practitioner, either in person or online. Just ten days ago, Hannah and I had a virtual house call, primarily to get the $50 gift card since we get annual physicals from our primary care physicians, well, annually.
For today’s video House Call, Viji, the delightful nurse practitioner, asks us lifestyle and health related questions such as about our medications, hospitalizations, vaccinations, hearing, sleep, peeing, and alcohol and tobacco use.
Then she asks me to remember three unrelated items – pineapple, playground, and red. She says she’ll ask me to repeat these later. Throughout the next ten minutes as she asks me other questions, I am constantly repeating these three items to myself . I know this game because I have been down that road before.
You see, in 2002, I got real fuzzy when teaching an afternoon class at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. As class began, I couldn’t see the names in the class roster clearly; I had trouble speaking and couldn’t remember my students’ names at all. Eventually, I was taken to the local Windham Hospital by the Department Chair, David Stoloff, to see what the hell was going on.
There I had a Cat Scan and an MRI. Neither test revealed the reason for my loss of memory nor my inability to speak and read. Unable to figure out what was wrong with me, the doctors sent me off to the Big Dogs at the Hartford Hospital in the state capital. In the ambulance on the 60-minute ride, things started to clear; I could form words and follow what the EMT was saying.
Once at the Hartford Hospital it was apparent after two hours of observation that I was okay. But they wouldn’t let me leave until I could repeat three unrelated words ten minutes later. Probably because I was fine, I knew what was going on and repeated the words to myself and passed the test on my first attempt.
And so, too, this afternoon, I repeat pineapple, playground, and red to ViJi on the video call.
And then she has one more little test for me. She asks me to draw a clock and put the time at 235P (which happened to be the time of this Wednesday afternoon House Call.) I draw the circle, put in all twelve numbers as well a both the short and long hands. Once I show it to her, she mentions Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty doing this.
Phew! Good for another year!
In three weeks time for participating in this 45-minute House Call, my Medicare provider, United Healthcare, will send me a $50 Visa Gift Card which will pay for 2/3 of my new Merrell Moab hiking shoes.
In 2002, the incident in Connecticut that I described above was tentatively diagnosed as Transient Global Amnesia.
Fifteen years later, it happened again. I couldn’t speak, read, and remember shit. My symptoms lasted for three hours and then I was fine. Since June of 2017 it hasn’t happened again.
If you wonder about Transient Global Amnesia, I wrote a series of blogs to describe what happened to me and the testing and care I received in 2017.
Clink on each link for my TGA story.
Life is in a constant state of change. And so are we. To get upset by things is to wrongly assume that they will last. To kick ourselves or blame others is grabbing at the wind. To resent change is to wrongly assume that you have a choice in the matter.
Everything is change. Embrace that. Flow with It.
Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman in The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.
Hannah and I read the one page meditations from the Daily Stoic each morning. We rarely miss a day.
Capital S Stoicism is different from lower case s stoicism. While stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint, Stoicism asserts that virtue (meaning self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom) is happiness.
By the way, the two other inspirational readings we do each morning are from the Unity’s Daily Word and Twelve Moons of the Year by Hal Borland.
What would you like your legacy to be?
A good and decent friend? An ally to those out of the mainstream? A courageous sort speaks to me? A career in service to others rings a bell for all you teachers? A happy extended family who lived lives of purpose – whoa, that would be impressive?
Well, one part of Deb and Warren Taylor’s legacy is Warren’s Woods, the forested twenty-two acres they donated to the York Land Trust as a conservation easement. Thanks to D and W, the public gets to enjoy this one-mile trail just across Corn Swamp from our house on Chases Pond Road.
Let me set the scene how we discovered this trail. Hannah and I are in the midst of quarantining after getting a Covid test at the York Hospital Clinic on Route One. You see, we had close contact with our son-in-law Tip who has a sore throat and headaches. You see, earlier he was in close contact with his brother-in-law who contracted Covid.
In the interim while we wait for the results, Hannah and I are looking for just-the-two-of-us outdoor activities on this mid-October Saturday. A bike ride in and around the rural Fall Mill Road near our home fits the bill. As part of that mellow ride on Sunrise Terrace, Hannah spots a permanent display that we soon realize is at the trailhead through Warren’s Woods.
Learning that we’d have a one-mile hike through the woods between Scituate and Chases Pond Roads, we decide to return later this afternoon to explore this trail.
Around 4 PM, we bike the two and a half miles to the trailhead.
With the leaves turning burnt browns, mellow yellows, and rust reds, we follow the white blazes within sight of distant neighborhood houses. Every so often we look around for the next white blaze, but in time we always find the trail.
Let the pictures below take you on our counterclockwise circumambulation of this loop trail.
Within 30 minutes we are passing Tominy Pond back to the trailhead.
A simple 15 minute bike road home has us celebrating this little trail right under our very noses. Come hike it with us.
PS As we expected, our Covid test results showed that we were negative for the coronavirus.
The same answer to most of life’s questions is: whatever is best for the kids.
Scott Galloway, NYU professor (who doesn’t accept a salary because of the millions he made as an entrepreneur) and author of The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning
I first learned of Scott Galloway on my favorite podcast, The Ryen Russillo Podcast.
For the November 22, 2021 (The day President John Kennedy was shot 58 years ago when I was a sophomore at Fair Lawn (NJ) High School.) KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: Do we define people (or ourselves) by their mistakes? See where it takes you.
Danny Boy, sit down. We need to talk. About your quote mistakes. Have you done any of the following?
Judging others? Yeah, I guess so.
Judging yourself harshly? Ouch.
Too hasty in making decisions? Definitely.
Lacking courage when courage is called for? You got me.
Not wanting to bother others? Yes, indeed.
Worrying what others think? Guilty as charged.
Could have been a better parent? Husband? Sib? Yes, yes, and yes.
We get the picture. You are far from perfect. But Danny Boy, who do you think you are, the Lone Ranger!
You were a kid. You were younger than today. You were on a journey of a lifetime – to find out who you are. None of these were mistakes. They were opportunities to gain experience and develop. For heaven’s sakes, lighten up.
Mistakes are lessons in life, oh aged one. No need to regret. Learn, heal, and move forward.
Your quote mistakes do not define you. They brought you to the beautiful place where you are today. You might even consider thanking them.
Words – 175
Hannah and I have come to central New York to spend Halloween weekend with our grandkids and their parents. Our goal whenever we visit is to babysit Brooks, Reesie, and Charli while Will and Laurel can get away for a few hours. Giving Hannah and me such time away was the best gift my parents ever gave us.
Stopping in Lee, Massachusetts for a break in the 390-mile drive from York to Ithaca, we treat ourselves to a mid-day walk, cups of McDonald’s coffee and bran muffins we brought from home. Our Strava app to the left records it all.
Arriving just before dinner time, we are quickly welcomed by our identical twin granddaughters, Charli and Reesie, and their big brother Brooks. While Hannah reads to three and a half year old Brooks, the 17-month-old girls use me as a climbing wall. I couldn’t be happier.
Good fortune further smiles on us as our daughter Robyn comes down from Syracuse for the day. She easily mixes with the grandkids and teaches her parents a thing or two about playing cards.
Later in the afternoon, Hannah and I with Robyn drive ten minutes into town to the Cascadilla Falls. Heavy rains the previous Tuesday have made the falls the place to be. See the pictures below.
And by the way, the next day is Halloween and all three kids take part in the holiday street celebration.
Finally Brooks with his Omi …
…and Reesie (top) and Charli enjoying dinner
The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed – to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.
Parker Palmer (b. 1939)
Parker is an author and founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.
The Center for Courage and Renewal helps folks “rejoin soul and role.” Their personal and professional development programs teach skills for deeper listening, wholehearted decision-making, exploring your vocation, and building trustworthy relationships.
For the November 15, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: Write about a car memory?
My First Car
Nowadays it seems that kids from the suburbs have cars in high school, and certainly when they go off to college. Back in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s that was not the case for me. I walked a mile to Fair Lawn High with my guys. In college, I had no need for a car as I took classes and played on the tennis team at the small, residential College of Wooster in Ohio.
But once I signed a contract to teach social studies, science, and Spanish to fifth and sixth graders in Anaheim, California (I had never taken a course in Spanish!), I needed a car.
The Volkswagen Bug (often referred to as a Beetle) spoke to me. That summer of 1970, I purchased a used 1968 Bug for $1800 through the newspaper.
It wasn’t a month later that my brother Richard and I headed out for a 3000-mile trek across country for my first teaching job. Though my Bug was quite a bit less cool than Ford Mustangs of the day, it got me around. At the time, gas cost 24.9 cents per gallon. Truly, to go another twenty miles, I once pulled up to the pump with a quarter.
A year later, leaving my VW in Arizona, I drove east with a friend in his car from Tempe to Atlanta, Georgia, then hitchhiked north to pick up Hannah in Ohio. Along the way I was jailed in Knoxville but eventually arrived to drive with Hannah back to Arizona to see where our four-year on again, off again relationship might go.
We drove west in, get this, Hannah’s Mustang. Yes, I eventually married someone who was far cooler than I ever was.
Words – 279
If you are semi- or three quarter-intrigued by my time in the Knoxville City Jail in the South in 1971, I wrote a six-part series about the experience. Click on each part below for the full story.