Dan Returns to Junior High on the Pickleball Court

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For the sixth year running, Hannah and I have come to the Central California Coast to take a bite out of winter.  Returning to the Santa Barbara area, we have come to hike its mountains, walk its bluff trails, renew friendships, lunch in the sun, write and rewrite, and play lots of pickleball.

sbp 2 d in action

Working on my third shot drop

On our first Tuesday of the new year, Hannah and I venture to the pickleball courts in Santa Barbara to see three players needing a fourth.  I offer to Hannah, Why don’t you play here?  I’ll warm up on the far court, where I see three others.

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Hannah always at the ready

As I approach, one woman immediately asks, What’s your rating?  I am naked, blindsided by her question.  I expected to just hit a few balls as I did two days ago in Ventura and establish my pickleball street cred.  With no pretense nor subtlety, she lays it right out with her underlying message, Are you worthy?

Similar to my days at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Fair Lawn, NJ, I feel exposed and vulnerable.  Will I measure up?  Am I good enough?  As a teenager, the answers were no and no back in 1962 .  Will today be any different?

Ratings in pickleball determine the pecking order of the sport.  Beginners are 1.0 to 2.5.  Intermediate players are 3.0.  The 3.5 rating gets us invited to the pickleball courts for advanced play at the Westbrook Community Center in Maine.  And 4.0 is cool, not as amazing as the 4.5s and 5.0s.

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One of the many 4.0 faces at Santa Barbara Pickleball

I say to her, 4.0, without choking or looking at my feet.  She is appeased but only slightly.  She wonders about tournament play and I nod 4.0. This is a modern day version of the junior high lunch room, where the cool kids determine who makes the grade.

Having stumbled on to the 4.0/4.5 courts in Santa Barbara, I team up with Paula v the killer team of Betsy and Jim.  Distracted by self-doubts on this outdoor court (I play indoors most of the year in Maine), I am having my feet put to the fire right away.

My first shots float over the net and fall at their feet.  I exhale and realize that they are not 4.5s who would eat me for lunch.  But they are good.  The game is both subtle with third shot drops and dinks as well as slams when any of us leave the ball just a little too high.

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Former tennis champion and another face of 4.0 in Santa Barbara

Down 4 to 1 in a game to 11, I hear Good shot Dan when I angle the ball out of our opponents reach at the net.  Soon it’s 6-4 our favor as my soft game of drop shots and dinks proves successful more often than not.  I’m starting to feel like I belong as I my serve, though not powerful, is consistent and my short game mostly on target.

Unbelievably to me, we win 11-8.  At the net, we knock paddles in appreciation of a good game; they smile and nod at the newbie.  As we walk off, Betsy adds with a smile, You belong.

Mon dieu, it’s not Junior High Part II!

 

 

PS  Two days later, I match up with a bevy of 4.5s and feel what’s it like to be chewed up, spit out, and picked clean.

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Dan Eschews Safe Travels for …

Just two FYIs before I begin this posting.  One, I am now streamlining my blogs to make them one-pagers (one page long).  Two, I work on my leads and I thought “eschews” might grab your attention because of its novelty.  Oui?  And now back to our regularly scheduled mini-blog.

Hannah and I have escaped to Carpinteria, California, just south of Santa Barbara to take a big bite out of winter.  Not surprisingly, when we talk of our getaway with family, friends, and fellow pickleballers, they have, to a person, been positive and encouraging.  As you can see, we surround ourselves with good folks.

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Often, they conclude their good wishes by saying some variation of safe travels or take care.  They are endearing send-offs, much appreciated blessings.  But…it does have a cautious undertone.  Be vigilant. Safety first.

I am looking for an alternative that speaks of my wish for adventure when I send people off with my good wishes.  Focusing on possibilities, not what could go wrong, is my intent.

Go forth and multiply doesn’t quite capture my intent.  Godspeed probably worked back in the day.  I am looking for something that millennials won’t WTF me.

Farewell sounds too final.  Good luck could be appropriate on occasion.  But I’m looking for an all service variation of See you later alligator.

safe 3 bon voyage

I’ve been workshopping the old Roy Rogers Show sendoff of Happy Trails.  It’s fine, but it’s not quite there for me.

I could get my head around Bon voyage, especially since I took four years of French at Fair Lawn High School (NJ) and that together Hannah and I endured French 101 at the College of Wooster (OH).

safe 4 vaya con dios

Another linguistic fav is Vaya con dios (Go with god). Like French, Spanish is a lyrical language.  Though the religious overtones may give pause to others, I think that we are all children of God and it, too, feels like a blessing.

At this moment, Bon voyage and Vaya con dios are neck and neck.  How ’bout you?  Please comment in the space below.

Dan at 71! Part 7 Finale

71 unity

After many years of not knowing and not believing, I now believe in God, but… it’s not in the traditional sense.   Let me explain.

I grew up Lutheran (Dad’s choice, Mom was raised Methodist), Hannah and I briefly attended a Quaker Meeting, gave the Universalist-Unitarian Church a shot as well as attended the local Congregational church all to develop a sense of community.  For the last five years, Hannah and I are Unity folks.  Based in the example of Jesus, Unity draws on the wisdom of all the world’s great religions (i.e. Hindu, Islam, Native Americans, Christianity, etc.).  God is within me and you.

Hannah and I will not be buried or cremated when we cash in our chips.  We are donating our bodies to the med school at the University of New England.

71 d and h in ojai

I married the girl of my dreams – one Hannah Banana.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Judge not.  Everyone is dealing with something.

 

Dan at 71! Part 6

I am a front-running, fair weather fan of the first order.  For 17 years I have been riding high with the Tom Brady New England Patriots.  When they turn mediocre (and Tommy’s looking less terrific of late), I will drop them like a bad habit.  I have no shame.

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My favorite team of late is the UConn women’s basketball team that has won eleven national championships, a gazillion games while losing almost none.  I came to love them when I taught at Eastern Connecticut State, eight miles from the UConn campus in Storrs, during the Diana Taurasi years. Once Coach Geno Auriemma retires (he’s 64), things are not looking too good for them or me.

My online game of choice is Lexulous (a variation of Scrabble with eight tiles, not seven, for a greater chance of bingos (i.e. seven letter bonus words).  Thank you, Molly, Bill, and Clarissa.

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I love this thought on worrying.  Love is not the same as worry.  Worry blankets your loved ones with your fears.  You are imagining the worst for them.  Love holds a vision of what’s best for them.

Karen Carpenter sings like a songbird.

Dan at 71! Part 5

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I ended my career in education with my dream job.  As a university professor in Education Departments (Eastern Connecticut State and the University of New England), I got to advise, mentor, and experientially teach (i.e. by giving my students experiences similar to what they would do as teachers).

It turned out to be a very good job but not without its challenges.  Teaching at the university didn’t have the “team” feel I was looking for.  We profs were all independent contractors who had to be sure we published, not perished and had excellent student evaluations.

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My favorite observation from my years at the university.  What’s the difference between a terrorist and a tenured professor?   You can negotiate with a terrorist.

That said, being a prof saved me.  After 20+ years as a classroom teacher in public schools, at the age of 48 I didn’t have the energy or the “want to” to keep up with the demands of middle school students.  Teaching middle schoolers is a young person’s game.

My best job?  At least in the top five was being an instructor in the Summer Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire in 1996 and 1997.  Thank you, Tom Newkirk, for trusting in me.

Dan at 71! Part 4

Where have electric tooth brushes been all my life!  I have spent a lifetime of carelessly brushing, for at most thirty seconds.  That has all changed with the Oral B electric tooth brush!  It’s two minutes each morning and each evening.  A full two minutes!  Run, don’t walk to get a $37 electric tooth brush.

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And let me suggest a Water Pik water flosser.  You wouldn’t believe all the crap in my mouth, bits and shreds of food, that this baby washes out.  I am literally a new man!

Meditating is the best.  Fifteen minutes each morning.   I know, I know that I’m retired, but do I ever wish I had made time to meditate regularly.  We meditate within an hour of getting up.  Relaxed and mellow, I’m ready for the day.  By the way, and this can’t surprise you, Hannah and I were into Transcendental Meditation by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1970s.

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When I meditate, I am not concentrating hard; I let my mind wander and bring it back by focusing on my breath, in and out.

On January 16, 2019, Hannah and I will have been married 17,000 days.  Whoa.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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…

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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