Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 2 of 6)

When I said to Hannah that I was done with our long distance relationship and wanted her to move to Arizona with me, she was all in.  She had already quit her teaching job, for in her mind she knew she was not cut out to be a teacher.  I drove West for Tempe in August of 1971 and she planned to drive out in September.

Knox carwash

When I returned to Arizona that August, under the cloud of being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam War, I took a position at Dan’s Car Wash on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe.  My parents must have been so proud that their son with a college degree was making $1.25 per hour vacuuming the floors at a car wash.

With Hannah’s mid-September departure from New York coming, I quit that job to return East to drive with her to Arizona in her Ford Mustang.  Hannah was even cool back then.  Coincidentally, Dave, a good buddy from high school, was driving from Phoenix to Atlanta at this time and offered to take me the 1800 miles to Georgia.  Though that was not a direct route to Hannah, I then could hitchhike the 700 miles north from Atlanta to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio where Hannah would be staying with her college roommate Sian.

Knox Atlanta map

Arriving in Atlanta about 6P Friday after three days on the road, I found I just couldn’t fall asleep thinking about meeting up with Hannah the next day.  She always had my heart.  Unable to sleep, I thought, What the hell?  Why not just start hitchhiking tonight?

Even though Dave justifiably doubted my sanity, he dropped me off on I-75 north of Atlanta near midnight.  On six lanes of highway in the pitch black with the cars whizzing by at 65 mph, I started walking to an exit for a better chance at a ride.

Knox hitchhiking

Amazingly a car stopped and I jumped into the backseat.  Husband and wife turned and looked at me and he said, We picked you because we thought you were a girl.  My hair was longer, nearly to my shoulders, but not long enough to have a ponytail. Though I disappointed them on my gender, they still drove me some 35 miles north to Cartersville, Georgia.

They were good and decent Southern folk.  At one point, they asked me if I had any money.  Even though I had five dollars at the time, I said I had none.  I had hitchhiked before where drivers expected me to pay for being picked up.  Even though they didn’t seem to have the money, they still gave me $2.50 for breakfast.

Thanking them deeply when they dropped me off, I figured there was no way I was getting a ride in the pouring rain in the middle of the night in this little town.  Spotting an all-night diner, I walked in to wait til dawn.

Tomorrow, learn more about Southern hospitality that came my way.

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 1 of 6)

This is a love story.  It’s been running for 48 years.  Recently Hannah and I had a weekend reunion with four women who graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1970.  Early on in the weekend, Maxine, one of the four, asked how we got together.  And so…

Woo Girls - Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Woo Girls – Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Hannah and I met in the classrooms of the College of Wooster in Ohio and on their tennis courts as first year students in 1966.  We had a torrid year together as sophomores and life was beautiful.  Junior year not so much.  Our ideas about our futures differed.  I transferred to Arizona State University our senior year to major in elementary education after finding little meaning as a political science major at Wooster.  While I graduated from ASU in 1970, Hannah graduated with honors from Wooster and headed back to her ancestral home in Fairport, NY to teach.

Knox Anaheim map

That fall of 1970 she took a job as an elementary physical education teacher near her home while I moved to California to teach Science, Social Studies, and Spanish to fifth and sixth graders in Anaheim.  By the way, I had four years of high school French to prepare me to teach Spanish to my students, among them many Spanish-speaking Chicanos.

As we each began teaching in the fall of 1970, I was dueling with the Selective Service about my strong desire not to serve in the Viet Nam War.  I claimed I was a conscientious objector, the government said, No you are not.  Still communicating cross country with Hannah that fall by letter and the occasional phone call, I quit my teaching job at Christmas and returned to hang out with my college roommates in Tempe, AZ.  There I worked as a bus boy at Sahuaro Hall, a girls’ dorm, at Arizona State.

Know US Army

Once the spring semester of 1971 ended, I returned to New Jersey to convince my local draft board in person that drafting me was a bad idea.  They would have none of it.  After a summer at my childhood home in Fair Lawn, I was heading back to Arizona for the fall of 1971 to wait out the government’s pursuit of my body and soul.

Tempe map

In August before I left for Arizona, I told Hannah that I’d like her to come with me to Arizona.  Enough with our long distance relationship.  At this point we had known each other for four years.  I felt it was high noon in our relationship.

Tomorrow part 2 fills you in on her response.

Dan Grapples with Everything Happens for a Reason (#7)

Reason image 2

A few days ago I skim/read Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon (2007).  It’s your basic self-help stuff.  But there was one line that I’ve heard a hundred times and often doubted that got my attention.

Everything happens for a reason.

I used to think that it meant there’s a Supreme Being in the sky directing the action below.  There is a plan for everyone.  I never bought that.

I do get its corollary – There is a reason everything happens.

That corollary seems pretty Mr. Obvious.  Of course, there is a reason everything happens.  My foot will hurt if I kick a big rock.  We have free will, I believe and we make choices.

But the first statement has an air of metaphysical mystery (i.e., beyond the five senses), a spiritual component that intrigues and draws me in.

What if Everything happens for a reason means that Everything happens for a personal reason?  I may not know the reason why something happens, but in time I may find personal meaning, especially if I look inward.  Could that be?

Reason know what it is

Let me give you an example.

A young father is working two jobs to support his wife and their dream of buying a house on the Seacoast.  One job is where he commutes 100 miles round trip each day to sell real estate north of Boston while the other has him landscaping locally.  One late evening coming back from Boston, he falls asleep while approaching the Hampton Tolls.  He totals his Honda Civic when he crashes into the back of a panel truck.  He has a few bruises and no one else is hurt.

That he fell asleep at the wheel is the reason the accident happened.  That because of the accident he realized that he must quit his real estate job and focus on his landscaping is the personal reason.

By making personal meaning from what happens, does that make Everything happens for a reason?  I think not.  People have free will.  We all make choices.  I don’t believe there is a cosmic plan – predestination.  We can make personal meaning from events in our life.   We can come to the point where make lemonade from lemons from what happens in our lives.

I am back to my original belief There is a reason everything happens.  I am not on board with Everything happens for a reason.

I do know that I Trust life and  Look for the good.

Dan Offers You a Happiness Advantage (#6)

In this scenario, are you lucky or unlucky?  You are in a bank lobby with fifty other people.  A bank robber comes in and fires a shot.  You are hit in the arm and it turns out you are the only one hit.  Lucky or unlucky?

If you say lucky, your reasoning might be that you could have been killed.  If you say unlucky, you might say that going to the hospital with a bullet in your arm is indeed unlucky.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

In this study that Shawn Achor writes about in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, 70% of the people surveyed said that they would be unlucky.  If you make certain assumptions about Wall Street folks, you’ll love this.  More than one Wall Streeter said he was unlucky since out of 50 people, someone else had to be more deserving of the bullet.  Whoa!

The point of this exercise is that whether you say lucky or unlucky, neither is true.  It is just your perspective.  In fact, either answer is a “counterfact,” a hypothetical that we invent to make sense of what happened.  If you choose a positive counterfact, you set in motion a positive mindset that benefits your motivation and performance.  If you can train yourself to see circumstances with positive counterfacts, you are on the road to greater happiness.

Here’s another highlight of the Happiness Advantage.  Soldiers going off to war were told that there were two options when they returned – (1) they’d be normal or (2) they’d have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Over the last generation there has been research that points to a third possibility, a third path – Post-Traumatic Growth or Adversarial Growth.  Good can come out of a struggle with something difficult.  It’s along the lines of obstacles are opportunities that we hear about at our Unity services.

Principle #1 talks of the advantages of finding something to look forward to, committing conscious acts of kindness, and spending money (but Not on Stuff) as ways to enhance your happiness.

Later in the book, he talks about the happiness advantaqge depending on how you look at your work.  Is it a job, a career, or a calling?  If you can reframe your work into a calling, happiness can follow.

SA Ted image

Shawn offers practical, understandable explanations from research that you can use today to enhance your current level of happiness or turn your RAF (male) or RBF (female) into one of happiness.

Shawn has an entertaining 12 minute TED talk to highlight some of his points in the Happiness Advantage.  Click on this link to see it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M


Dan Might Not Be as Inoffensive as You Think (Part 1 of 2)

Do you think your self-image matches what others think of you?  What adjectives do you think others use to describe you?  Take a minute and come up with a few.  I won’t ask you to share them.

I am not sure I love being inoffensive. I am what I am.

I am not sure I love being inoffensive. I am what I am.

Was inoffensive one of them?  Probably not.  It’s a Three Bears descriptor.  Not overly complimentary but not terribly demeaning either.  Just kind of blah.  That said, it is a step up from annoying and obnoxious.

As a kid I thought of myself as shy.  Social situations always put me on guard.  Like our three year old grandson Owen, I’d sit back, survey the situation before I made a move.  I was your classic look-before-you-leap kind of guy.

Going to the 9th grade dance at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Jersey,  I was so nervous.  There was so much self-induced and peer pressure to fit in and be populaire.  I adored girls from afar and saw them as lights beyond my reach.  (Note to teenagers of today – Take a chance.  Getting a no is not the end of the world.  Life has lots of nos.  Once you start speaking up, it’s amazingly how the yeses start acoming.)

Inoffensive Susan Cain

Once at the College of Wooster, Ohio I had the chance to reinvent myself.   My recent reading of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking made me realize I was more an introvert than shy.  I like participating in small groups and really have a lot stay.  I love engaging others.  In fact, Hannah and I were engaged in 1972 after being students at the College of Wooster.

I remember a professor at UNH when writing a recommendation for me when I was seeking a university position described me “as one who gets along with everyone.”  He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such.  Still the foundation of those words may be he’s inoffensive.  He won’t rock the boat.

Inoffensive Obama

Hannah and I know a local whose kids went through high school and played sports when ours did.  He can’t go two minutes without trashing Obama and promoting his favorite Republican du jour (we last “talked” when it was Romney).  I speak up for Obama for I remain proud of my vote for him in 2008 and 2012.  Any child of Jean and Dan Rothermel would do nothing less.

But maybe I wasn’t as forceful as I could be.  He railed on and I took the “slapping” until I could somehow end the conversation and just leave.  I’m just not an in your face kind of guy.  Inoffensive?  Maybe?  Tomorrow I’ll update you with my latest.

Dan, a Philosophy Major Thanks to Pete Carroll (Part 2 of 2)

I have taken the challenge of Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks coach, to write my teaching philosophy in 25 words or less for preservice teachers.  The emboldened words count towards my 25 words.

Relationships – Success in teaching comes from knowing my students, having them feel valued, and supporting them in a belief that they can succeed in the challenging world of teaching.  One way I build relationships at the university level is by having my students respond in writing to our in-class experiences, readings, and their field work.  I then respond individually to each student.  By building relationships, I can inspire them and give them hope that they can succeed.

PC teaching quote 1

Team Building – Classroom teaching of any age students can be lonely.  To recharge, rejuvenate, feel the life affirming energy from another simpatico adult, teachers need to develop colleagues.   I use group teaching projects so my students learn the give and take of team building.

Experiential Learning – The number one problem with classroom learning is that it is for the most part so boring it would make you want to cry.  To that end, I make the lessons I teach based in active experiences.  Rather than talk about the value of the Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting, I model one and then have each student lead a Morning Meeting with a partner to live and feel the experience.

PC field study pic

Field Study – There is so much to learn beyond campus.  My students go out into public school classrooms, participate, and teach with some of our public school’s best teachers.


Demonstrations of Learning – No written tests for Dan.  Written tests can be too much study, test, and forget.  I want my students to show me what they have learned.  They teach a lesson rather than take a test on the elements of a successful lesson.

There it is ten words.  It’s a first shot, but I could take my philosophy to an interview and articulate my vision for successful classroom teaching.

Give it a shot in 25 words or less.  It may be what you are missing.  I’d love to see what you come up with.


Dan, a Philosophy Major Thanks to Pete Carroll (Part 1 of 2) (#5)

PC Win ForeverI am really getting into Pete Carroll’s Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play like a Champion.  Pete is the Super Bowl winning (2014) and losing (2015) coach of the Seattle Seahawks.  Valuing all life’s experiences, not just when things go well, he learns from them and is better for them.  The central premise to Win Forever is that one needs to articulate a philosophy in order to succeed in the workplace.

Without a group of guiding principles as a philosophy, your job, team, group, or mission can be aimless.  Too much seat-of-the-pants decision-making can make success hit or miss.

Win Forever Pyramid

Win Forever Pyramid

Pete’s own philosophy applies to his work place: coaching football players.  Do things better than they have ever been done before.  Respect everyone with great effort and great enthusiasm.  No whining, no complaining, no excuses.  And one of my favorites – Be early.   His pyramid-shaped philosophy continues with the importance of competition, practice, and confidence.  He has lots of crossover points for us all.

He got me thinking of the value of a philosophy would have been for me as a teacher.  As a teacher I had a sense of what I wanted to do.   I trusted my instincts, but I didn’t have the template of a philosophy to refer to that would keep my teaching consistent with my beliefs on a daily basis.

No matter our profession, Pete challenges us to articulate our philosophy in 25 words or less.  Are you with me?  Tomorrow’s blog has my philosophy of classroom learning for preservice teachers; it’s down to 10 words and one is of.  Please post yours on my blog after I take the first step.

Dan, a Diagnosis, and Some Love

Inoperable brain cancer.  The words knock me for a loop.  I had just seen Ron last Friday.  He looked good.  After two months of treatment, he wasn’t chemo/radiation skinny; which probably fooled me into thinking he was doing better than he was.  He smiled; he told his story.  There was no self-pity in his voice.  Nor in hers.

RA Time

I learned that down in Boston he’s been undergoing a couple of months of radiation for glioblastoma, a nasty brain cancer.  Hannah’s brother Doug died of glioblastoma thirteen years ago.   Ted Kennedy, too.   It’s a stage 4 aggressive brain tumor for which there is no cure.  Treatment buys time.

Though Ron and I have seen each other time and again over the years, it’s his wife Wanda who is my connection to the family.  For ten years she and I taught on the same 7th grade team in the Kittery, Maine public schools.  She was the rock and soul of our team of teachers; just a good, decent, and dedicated person and teacher that you would very much want your kids to be around.

Their four boys went to York High School around the time our three kids did.  York can be a small town in the best way.  Looking out for each other.  Feeling connected from one part of town to the other.  Rallying around each other in good times and challenging ones like these.

RA Gofundme

At the bottom of the online article (May 12, 2015 seacoastonline.com) that I read, there was a place to click on GoFundMe.com/averystrong to donate to the family for travel and medical expenses.   After four days of fundraising, 117 folks have already donated.  Hannah and I are lucky to be able to do our part.

The money is the money, and it is needed.  But mainly the 117 donors are saying “I love you, Ron.  I love you, Wanda.  I love you Averys, one and all.  You are not alone.”

Dan, Ping Pong, and Pete Carroll

I gave it away.  I flat out blew it.  It was game point and I smashed the easiest shot I will ever have into the net.  Let me back up and explain what happened.

I’ve played ping pong almost every Thursday with my friend George ever since I retired from teaching four years ago.  One week we bat the ball around at our one-time breakfast room, the next week at the table in his cool basement.    Playing ten or eleven games for an hour or so, we have been pretty evenly matched of late; though some days he wins 8 of 10 and other times I do.

PC ping pong paddles

This past week while playing at his place in Kittery Point, I had a short smash to win the game 21-17; which would have meant we would have split our first six games.  The ball sat up with no spin, two feet above the net waiting for me to blast it into the next room.  I blew the easiest smash I will ever have.  Flat out rocketed it into the bottom of the net.  I had the game and I “gave it away.”  With the score still 20-18 in my favor, I shook off the miss and focused on the fact that I still had two more chances to win.  Despite my focus, I lost those points to knot the match at deuce at 20-20.

Still in the moment, I split the first two points to remain at deuce; and we split the next two as we remain tied.  Then George pulled off two winning shots and took the game.  A sure win was now a loss.  But here’s the cool part.  Even though, I had blown the game, I just played on without any pissing and moaning about an opportunity lost.

Pete Carroll after the Patriot's Malcolm Butler intercepted the Russell Wilson pass on the goal line sealing the Patriot victory

Pete Carroll after the Patriot’s Malcolm Butler intercepted the Russell Wilson pass on the goal line sealing the Patriot victory

Playing evenly in the following games, I eventually won the last two, though George had the upper hand for the day.  And this brings me to Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks (my favorite coach).  Those are  the same Seahawks that “gave away” the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots (my favorite team) because some say of Pete’s play calling.  In the final minute of play, he had the Seahawks pass rather than  use their thought-to-be unstoppable Marshawn Lynch to run the ball in for a touchdown from the one yard line.  To this day, Pete believes he made the right call.

Sports Illustrated for August 3, 2015

Sports Illustrated for August 3, 2015

Pete was skewered for his call.  Mocked.  Lambasted.  Ridiculed.  It has been called the worst coaching decision in Super Bowl history.

But… I learned in Who’s Moved On?  This Guy in this week’s issue (August 3, 2015) of Sports Illustrated that after one morning of lamenting, Pete put the loss behind him.  He used the crushing defeat as a learning experience to lead his team to someplace even better.  When people say that was the “worst possible decision,” Pete says that was the “worst possible outcome.”

How did he move on?  In his own words, You pour everything into your life into something and -it goes right, it goes wrong – it’s you.  It becomes a part of you. I’m not going to ignore it.  I’m going to face it. And when it bubbles up, I’m going to think about it and get on with it. And use it.  Use it!

Last Thursday after putting the easy smash into the net, I called on my inner Pete Carroll to move on.  Thanks coach.

Dan and Hannah Have Different Approaches to their Medical Issues (Part 2 of 2)

Hartford HospitalAfter an MRI and CAT scan, the local Windham Hospital ER docs had no answers and believed I needed to go to Connecticut’s top hospital (Hartford Hospital) an hour away; so I was packed off in an ambulance for the state capital.  While in the ambulance, the fog began to lift. I started talking to the EMT in the back of the ambulance and remembering the names of my Eastern colleagues.  I could focus on words posted inside the ambulance and could read again.

By midnight, the ER docs at Hartford Hospital sent me home saying they weren’t sure what was going on, but I should check in with a neurologist back in Maine.  There, after examining me, Dr. Brown had no answers; he told me that he had seen 10,000 patients and none had symptoms similar to mine.  Feeling fine by Sunday, I returned to teaching the following day in Connecticut.  Over these last 13 years, nothing like that has happened again.

Fast forward to this past week.  In his thoroughness and much to my gratitude, Dr. Thaler takes the time to listen to my story of my “health episode.”  He is just as puzzled about my current condition as Dr. Brown was back in the day.

While checking my vital signs however, Dr. Thaler does find that I have a heart murmur.  Son of a gun.  On a six point scale of heart murmurs, I am between a one and a two.  In the days prior to my visit with Dr. Thaler, I felt great having climbed Moxie Bald in Maine and worked out daily at the gym.  Good catch, Dr. T.

carotid arteryEven though he doesn’t find any explanation for what I was feeling in my neck, he does set up a carotid ultrasound at York Hospital, which I am having tomorrow morning; next week I will have an echocardiogram.  Stay tuned.

Hannah has been very successful with her approach to medical care.  My approach works for me.  Chacun a son gout.  Each to his own.  And a big shout out to Dr. Thaler who found the heart murmur that could have gone undetected for quite some time.