For the May 17, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite about what we have learned about ourselves during the pandemic. I give you my Top Ten!
10. I’ve learned that when I think I’ve hit a home run in life, I remember that as white guy I was born on second base.
9. I’ve relearned how much I love my Fitbit tracker. My Fitbit encourages me to continue to be the crazed exerciser that I’ve been ever since my days as a grad student working in the Human Performance Lab at Arizona State University.
8. I have relearned the timeless wisdom of Don Miguel Ruiz in Four Agreements that two of the keys to happiness are to make no assumptions and to not take anything personally.
7. I have learned that a margarita or two is just fine, but more is asking for trouble.
6. Rather than immediately react emotionally when I’m challenged by life coming at me, I’ve learned to take a breath and think about the truth of the situation for me. Giving myself advice in the third person helps (e.g., Dan, you know that…).
5. I’ve learned the importance of having a knife at every meal to cut my food up to avoid said food from lodging in my throat. I am not far from a steady diet of mush, oatmeal, and apple sauce.
4. I’ve learned that my longstanding passion for pickleball has been refocused. I love playing the soft game with opponents who see the game as a cooperative venture to challenge all players rather than a competitive battle where winning is all that matters. Also, I like to play pickleball not slamball.
3. I have relearned how fortunate I am to have good health and ample resources to really enjoy retirement.
2. I have learned that a beer with friends after ping pong and pickleball makes the experience a royal flush.
1. I am reminded that I have a traveler’s heart. I look forward to California’s sunshine and blue skies in the months ahead.
For the March 22, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about the day we learned of the Covid-19 pandemic last March.
The First Time the Pandemic got Real
Something felt different as Hannah and I settled into our Jet Blue flight from Los Angeles to Boston on March 4, 2020. Surprisingly, this popular non-stop coast-to-coast flight was only 85% full; and for the first time, I saw four or five people wearing masks. I didn’t think much of it; maybe this pandemic is just all hype and will have little more effect than the seasonal flu.
Eight days later, having bought tickets for the Banff Film Festival at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire months ago, Hannah and I still felt reasonably safe, though packed tightly, with 600 others for these short indie films.
Coming home that Thursday night, I paused and wondered about our upcoming trip to the national parks of Utah with our daughter Molly’s family just five weeks away. I’m still feeling hopeful.
The next morning, I was taken aback by the news that Molly’s Lexington, Mass school district was shutting down for two weeks. Maybe I had underestimated the pandemic’s reach and intensity.
Over the weekend on a FaceTime call, Molly figuratively grabbed us by the lapels and said it’s time for you two to take this seriously. By that she meant, stop going to the gym, which we reluctantly did.
Within days, we postponed our family trip to the Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I had no idea that it would be two years (2022) before we’d all be ready to go again.
Funny how paying it forward works. Let me explain.
The best gift, bar none, Hannah and I ever received as parents was when someone would take our young kids so we could get away for some “us” time. League leaders in this category were my mom and dad. Regularly, they would settle into our house in York, Maine with Molly, Robyn, and Will while Hannah and I would take two nights going up the coast to Camden.
With the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, Hannah and I have a chance to pay it forward with our daughter Molly’s family. Our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6), have been remote schooling and hanging with their parents going on 12 months.
Now that Hannah and I are two weeks past our second Pfizer vaccine for Covid, we are set to have the boys for our famous 24 Hours of Owen and Max. Molly and her hubby Tip get to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
The first weekend in March is still winter in Maine. Highs this Saturday are in the upper 20s; though the sunshine adds a few degrees, the wind takes away a few more.
The Home Depot Kids’ Workshop has been cancelled, the York Public Library is not an option. Basically it’s the great outdoors.
Taking the boys to the mailbox, Hannah turns toward the icy pond in our front yard. The boys have their plastic sleds and we all have struck outdoor gold.
After an early lunch, we pile into our Prius for George Derby’s place on the Atlantic where we hunt for sea glass, explore the rocky coastline, and get nicely surprised by George just returning from clamming.
Just north of George’s place is the Fort McClary State Park for further exploring and a short trail hike.
After three hours outside, we all return to our Chases Pond Road place. The boys settled in with a Netflix movie, Bigfoot Family, while I go to the York House of Pizza for dinner. Then Hannah and I have a glass of wine to toast our extended family.
After their large pepperoni pizza and our mushroom, we play cards, Sevens and Sh-theed. Bedtime by 730P leaves us all ready for a good night’s sleep.
Next morning, Hannah makes omelets-to-order. Max choses cheese while and Owen opts for onion.
Twenty fours after I picked up the boys, I return them to their pop.
It was one of the best 24 hours of the entire winter! As you can see, paying it forward has multiple winners!
By the way, when asked to rate Bigfoot Family from one to ten (ten being high), no surprise that the children of a math educator (their mom Molly) would rate the movie a 9.7 (Owen) and 9.9 (Max).
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.
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!
Eight days after getting our appointment for a Covid vaccine, we have a simple 40-minute drive from our home in York up the Maine Turnpike, then heading inland to Southern Maine Health Care in Sanford, Maine.
Earlier in the week we had learned from a good friend of her vaccination experience. After the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I had a heavy arm and headache along with a metallic taste for about 30 hours.
After the second dose, my experience was magnified with chills, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. After two days, I was feeling great!
Whoa! This may not be a walk in the park I had hoped for, but bring it on.
After a morning of light snow on the last Thursday in January, we arrive at the Goodall Medical Office Building in plenty of time for our early afternoon appointments.
Confirming that we are in good health, we complete the necessary paper work in a waiting room just off a larger room with curtained-off medical bays where the shots will be given. A little before one, a scheduler asks if anyone is done with their paperwork. I raise my hand as she says endearingly, Come with me honey.
Seated in a treatment room with the RN Anita, I strip off sweatshirt and long sleeve tee. Putting me at ease, she asks me which arm I would like to use. Knowing there could be a reaction, I opt for the left since I need my right hand for the remote for Sports Center. Though Hannah said she didn’t even know that the needle went in, I feel a slight sensation that wouldn’t even get to one on the 1 to 10 pain scale.
And that is it. She signs my card which notes the Pfizer vaccine and I am led to another waiting room for the fifteen minute observation period.
Without symptoms, as it is with Hannah, we shoot the breeze with the scheduling nurse who let’s us know that her mom is still behind 40,000 other Mainers for the vaccine. The center schedules eight vaccinations every 15 minutes and does 240 vaccinations each and every day as one of the many locations providing this service. Earlier, we had learned that there are 193,000 Mainers over 70 ready for vaccinations. I don’t hear of many people refusing the vaccinations now that they are here.
As we leave the clinic, I’m walking on air. It feels like Christmas. We just hit the daily double. With the Pfizer vaccine, we only wait three weeks for our second dose.
Driving to Moody Beach to celebrate, we walk the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean at 32F under threatening skies, We know this is the time to walk since tomorrow morning the wind chill on the coast of Maine will be -9F.
On Friday morning, my upper left arm is tender similar to what I felt with my Shingles shots but no big deal. I found it mildly uncomfortable to roll over onto my left arm in the night. That said, I am able to do my morning stretches, lift my small weights, and later workout at the gym.
This Saturday morning (January 30, 2021) before I post this blog, I have no side effects but one.
I am workshopping a new mantra – Expect the Good. Let me show you what that looks like.
While waiting for the run-off to the two Senate races in Georgia, I expected the good that during the nine weeks between the presidential election and the run-off the two Democrat candidates would win. This time it was one for the good guys. But if it hadn’t been, then I’d find the good in what happened.
At the last minute Hannah and I chose not to go to California this winter. After inquiring about a refund for our two month rental, we waited for eleven days expecting the good. If that didn’t happen, then we’d find the good in what did happen.
In both cases, I spent no time fretting and coming up with worst case scenarios. Whatever the results, I enjoyed the time being upbeat by expecting the good.
Then on January 18, 2021 our valiant Governor Janet Mills decided that those over 70 would be placed in the 1b category for getting the Covid vaccine (1a was frontline health care workers and those in nursing homes).
As septuagenarians, Hannah and I began calling MaineHealth Services for an appointment again and again. We heard either, There are no more vaccines for today, try again tomorrow or the phone call was immediately disconnected on their end. News reports of limited Covid vaccines and none in the US stockpile made it uncertain when we would get a vaccine.
But…we expected the good, be that that good would come in January, February, March, or April.
After calling Tuesday, we got little encouragement and the same routine. Emailing our primary care physician about when they would let us know when vaccines would be available for us 70 year olds, I learned from the nurse it may be February at the earliest in York.
In the meantime, we made a deal with our friend Howie that if we heard anything about vaccine sign-ups, we would let him know, and he would do the same. Our friend Bob sent us another phone number to try. Our friend Corky told us to be persistent.
Come Wednesday, we phone early and heard for the first time, leave your number and we’ll return your call in the order it was received. Hmmm. That sounds good.
With our iPhones on loud, we went to the gym on that Inauguration Day to pedal and watch the inspiring Biden/Harris festivities. Twenty minutes in, Hannah gets a call, dismounts the elliptical, confirms her availability, and has a Covid vaccine appointment eight days hence. Just like that!
Handing me her phone, she says, they want to set up an appointment for you, too! Hallelujah. In short order I, too, am scheduled for a Covid vaccination next week.
Part II – Today (January 28, 2021) we head off to Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine for our Covid vaccination. Details of the experience and our reactions to the vaccination will be posted this Saturday.
For the January 25, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to write on this powerful statement – “I Have a Dream.” Dreaming sets an intention. With an intention, purposeful action can/must follow.
Of late, our York Public Library has a sign out front, “Good riddance 2020. Welcome 2021.” That just rubs me the wrong way.
I will never say anything bad about 2020 because it was the year our identical twin granddaughters, Reese and Charlotte, were born. They are healthy, flap and smile in their bouncy seats, and have two loving parents.
I have a dream that by the time the girls can vote there will be a woman president of these United States – for the second time!
I have dream at 90 that I will go to their high school graduation where they are not at the top of the class nor the best athlete but are known for standing up for what is right. Instead of independence, they seek interdependence with their community and their world.
That said, I wouldn’t mind if one of them went to the Harvard of the West, Arizona State University, and became part of the solution for climate change.
I have a dream that they will come to their grandparent’s place in Maine, play cribbage with us, whack the pickleball around, and sit on our front deck having a conversation about their dreams.
Today (January 16, 2021) was the day Hannah and I were to fly to California for our two months in Carpinteria. We did not go. Let me explain.
On the last day of 2020 we were hiking with our extended family. Good times, masks, social distancing, the works. The following day one of them started having a headache, sore throat, temp of 100F, and body ache. Sure, it could be Covid, but this family took every precaution. It didn’t seem possible. But damn if he didn’t have Covid. And the kicker is, he has no idea where it came from!
Consulting the Covid nurse at York Hospital, she thought that it was unlikely that we had Covid since we were outdoors and not in “close contact” (i.e. being within six feet for 15 minutes). Even so, she recommended that we self-quarantine for ten days. Better safe than sorry.
Jet Blue didn’t want us to fly anyway if we had any such contact for 14 days. So we pushed back our January 9, 2021 departure by one week to today.
Self-quarantining was a bummer, but still very doable. Gone was our Covid pod with Karen on Sundays, daily going to the gym that we have been doing regularly since June, weekly ping pong with George, going into any building (e.g. grocery shopping), and Hannah cutting hair. Inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice. Our neighbor Laurie shopped for us.
On the morning of January 8, 2021 as Hannah and I lay in bed, I asked her if she felt safe flying to California. She did, but it was the Covid crises in California that concerned her.
Currently in Santa Barbara County, there are 2,895 active cases in this third and worst wave of the virus; compared to just 241 during the peak of the first wave last spring and 444 in the summer surge. The virulent, more contagious British variant of the original Covid also has been found in California.
Since December 7, 2020, southern California has been under a Shelter at Home order by Governor Newsom. Though California would rather not have us, we were technically good to go since we were staying for two months and could quarantine for fourteen days at our rented house.
Though we are very healthy, quite the rule-followers when it comes to Covid protocols, and have ten months of being Covid-free under our belts, Hannah didn’t want to further stress the health care system with our presence. We are not invulnerable.
With that major medical concern real, I began thinking that my memory of winters past in Carpinteria might be muddling my thinking of what Carpinteria 2021 would be like during a Covid winter.
We’d be pretty isolated with no pickleball connections (3-4 times per week in previous winters), no Unity of Santa Barbara connections, no Santa Barbara International Film Festivals, no movie theaters on rainy days, no community events at the local Alcazar Theater, limited time with our friends, Kim, Nancy, Claudia, and Bill since indoor gatherings, evenings, and parties are out.
True it would be sunny and warmer there for beach walking, Cruiser biking, and into the mountains hiking. But the health risk to us and others eclipsed the lure of warm weather this year.
We’ve been sitting with our decision for eight days, and it still feels like the right thing to do.
And wouldn’t Hannah’s brother Doug (1946-2002) and my college roommate Big Steve (1950-2011) love to be “stuck” in Maine for the winter? Hannah and I turn to gratitude at this time. AND… (drum roll)
… we are still celebrating the election of two Democratic senators from Georgia and a new president in four days. I’ve already begun planning a California national park tour to celebrate my 75th birthday in September of 2021 once we and much of the country have been vaccinated. It seems vaccines will be available within two weeks in Maine for us 70+ year olds.
Here’s a first draft of national park itinerary. We’d fly into LAX, spend three days in Santa Barbara, then head to Sequoia National Park, later to Yosemite…
California here we come, eventually.
PS Though we had non-refundable tickets, Jet Blue has given us credit for them that we can use to schedule another flight in the coming year. The VRBO owner of our two month rental refunded our entire payment.
A friend from Santa Barbara who thinks our decision not to to come to Santa Barbara a wise one and a reader of this blog, sent out this news today from the Edhat newsletter of Santa Barbara. For the bad news, Santa Barbara County is now the worst county in California in terms of COVID-19 spread. This means, according to our data, a person with COVID-19 is likely to infect more people in our county as opposed to other counties. This is directly related to behavior and people not following the guidelines. Do not gather with anyone outside your household, wear a mask, and keep at least six-feet away from others.