Dan and His Example of Resilience – KGUA #60

For the September 13, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Resilience: What’s Your Definition or Example of?”

Resilience personified

What if your voice was silenced? 

Imagine that you couldn’t be heard in a group.

Imagine that you couldn’t read to your grandchildren for more than five minutes.

Imagine being tired of not being heard so that you just choose to listen.

Imagine needing your spouse to finish your stories when speaking with others.

Imagine having to repeat everything.

Imagine playing pickleball or any sport and not being able to communicate with your partner or teammates.

Imagine people routinely saying to you when you speak, “What? Say that again.

Imagine when talking on the phone your voice sounds crackly to others.

Imagine you can’t speak up enough to talk to a friend across a room?

Imagine your humorous quip at just the right moment can’t be heard.

It’s not hard to imagine that you might just want to stay home and hide.

But Hannah hasn’t.

Twenty years ago Hannah found herself unable to project her voice and had trouble speaking words that started with an H or an S.  Diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, of which there is no cure, she has chosen to stay engaged with her world.

This voice disorder causes involuntary spasms in the muscles of her voice box or larynx, which in turn causes her voice to break and have a tight, strained or strangled sound. 

She works through reading with her grandsons.  She finishes more and more of her stories, albeit the shortened version.  She makes the phone calls when she must, though she prefers texting and emailing.

Still she can’t be heard in a group and appreciates her friends and family who give her the time to tell what’s on her mind.

As her husband, I have been witness to twenty years of her resilience personified. 

Words – 293

Dan Has A Pearl of Wisdom for His Grandchildren – KGUA #59

For the August 30, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What pearl of wisdom do you have for us?

Front row from left to right – Owen (9), Max (7), Brooks (3) Back row – Charlotte (1) and her identical twin sister Reese (1) or Reese and Charlotte

My pearl is for our grandchildren, Owen, Max, Brooks, Reese, and Charlotte,

It comes from Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier.

I’ll begin with a truth about your parents that you might not know. 

I’ve seen your parents in action.  They’re good, I mean really good.  They are involved parents and love being your mom and dad.  Truth be told, they are exhausted by nightfall.  But it’s a good exhausted!

They are doing what they can so others will want to be around you. They want you to be thoughtful, confident without being arrogant; that you also listen and think of others.  They want to instill in you a passion for life and being responsible stewards of our planet. 

Notice I said nothing about your grades or your SAT scores.  Rather, they encourage you to ask questions and regularly they validate your feelings.  I told you they are good.

Fess Parker, the Davy Crockett of my youth

They are pretty cool, but they don’t get it right all the time.  Who does?  Certainly not your grandparents.  You’ll disagree with them on a regular basis.  But cut them some slack; bless their hearts, they are knocking themselves out for you.

Here’s a biggie.  They don’t expect or want you to be perfect.  They aren’t.  They get that messing up is part of being a kid; fact is, it’s also a part of being an adult.  They want you to learn to own your mistakes not make excuses.  A sincere “I’m sorry” goes along way.  Take your lumps and the consequences without whining.  Despite how much fun a good whine can be.

So, no need to be perfect; swing for the fences and know that truth of Davy Crockett’s words – Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.    

Words – 257

Dan and What His World Looks Like – KGUA #58

For the August 23, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Does My World Look Like? (today? tomorrow? right now? in the future?)

For me, it all depends on the day.

Catch me on an August Sunday, my world looks beautiful.  Every two weeks at dawn on the course in Amesbury, Mass, I golf nine holes with our daughter Molly.  We don’t keep score and do hit extra balls when our first shots are not satisfactory.  We always follow up with eggs, homefries, multi-grain toast, and coffee at the Morning Buzz.

Catch me on a Monday, well my world is beautiful, too.  It’s a ping pong day with my buddy George.  Playing weekly for ten years, he wins some, I win some.  Supporting each other’s good shots with Wows and Whoas, we have a beer after our sweat-filled ninety minutes whacking the little white ball.

Fran and Hannah

Catch me on an early summer Wednesday, check off beautiful again.  Hannah and I ride bikes on our quiet country coastal roads at dawn to avoid the tourist traffic.  Riding side-by-side, we talk and then go single file when the occasional car passes by.  And all of a sudden, we are pulling into our driveway fourteen miles later.

Catch me on a Thursday, my world remains bee-you-tee-full.  Pickleballing with our friends, Fran and Steve, we have partners rather than opponents who don’t take themselves too seriously.  It’s just fun, then we all retire to our front deck for mid-day brewskis and buttery, store-bought popcorn.

My life is not always beautiful, but beautiful is what I remember about this past week. 

Dan and My Great Expectations – KGUA #57

For the August 16, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What are my Great Expectations for the coming year?

First, let me get this off my chest.  As a 9th grader at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey in 1963, my classmates and I were assigned the reading (by that I mean torture) of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  That and other classics sent me down a road of disliking, nay loathing, to read, and only reading enough to pass the test.

I was a study, test, and forget guy.  Only after college did I learn the joy of reading.  Why you ask?  I got to choose what I wanted to read.  What a concept!  Choice is fundamental to learning to read, and more important, learning to love to read.  Our grandson Owen is proving the wisdom of that strategy.

Whoa, that was a hundred word digression when I only have 250 words total to play with this morning for KGUA.  Let’s get back on track.

My great expectations, well you know, I don’t live in the world of specific expectations.  Sure, I expect the good.  But the good can come in many forms, especially in ways I have no way of knowing.

I remain open to finding the good in whatever happens.  So here are some likes/hopes, not expectations.

I’d like the vast majority of Americans to get vaccinated so we all are safer.

I’d like continued good health for my family, my friends, the KGUA family, and, sure, myself.

I’d like there to be 2%, just 2%, less division in our country.  I’d like the trend of our discourse to be more listening and less debating.

Let’s call it a day.  Expectations they are not, but to quote John Lennon, I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.

Words – 276

Dan and Where He Gets His Strength – KGUA #56

Mt Major in New Hampshire with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background circa 2021

For the August 9, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Where we get our strength?

To say that my wife of 49 years, Hannah Banana, is the source of my strength seems so cliché, so trite, so “of course you are going to say that.” But my dears, it’s true blue through and through.

In the late 1960s at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself, something worth pursuing and learning more about.  As for me, I saw a personable, so much fun, and very good looking, athletic young woman.

Looking back, we were two insecure kids who fortunately matured at a similar pace (we met at 19 and married at 24 with a few breaks along the way).  We were two rough pieces of coal that with tender care could become, dare I say, even diamonds.

Taughannock Falls in New York circa 2020

Growing up with two highly visible fathers who loomed over of their communities (hers the family doctor for the entire village in upstate New York and mine the high school principal right in town in north Jersey), we knew that to spread our wings, in fact to learn that we had wings at all, we had to get away.  In fact, 2500 miles away to Arizona turned out to be just the landing spot in our search for the monarch butterflies we could be.

Through the years, we leaned on each other as we grew individually and together – when her brother Doug died in his mid-fifties of brain cancer, when I wondered if teaching was really a lifetime career for me.

Arm in arm, we’ve become a pretty good team.

Words – 260

Dan and What He Has Learned Over the Last Year and What He Will Take Forward – KGUA #55

2017 at Nevada Falls

For the July 12, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What have you learned/experienced from the past year and a half that you will carry into the future?

I am carrying the transformative belief to Expect the Good into the future.  As you might guess, it’s a journey as I am in the process of being it on a daily basis. Perhaps, I’m currently in the teenage phase of my development.

You might be thinking, slow down Sparky!  What’s this good you are seeing that’s coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Well, let me explain. 

Certainly, 600K dying, serious health issues for many others, jobs lost, lives disrupted cannot be ignored.  But I am zeroing in on the microlevel of my life, my intentions, my daily practice.  Expecting the Good is my upside look at the downside of the pandemic. 

So, Danny Boy, what if things don’t turn out quote Good.  Stuff happens, you know.

True.  Then I go to part B!   Find the Good

September 2017 with our friends Mary Lynne and Wayne Boardman at the Nevada Falls

For example, take our upcoming September trip to Yosemite National Park.  Hannah and I are fired up and expecting a great day of hiking to the Nevada Falls high above the Yosemite Valley floor.  Even so, we are well aware that it could rain, why it could even snow at that elevation in late summer.  Wildfires could close the park.  Stuff happens. 

If we don’t get to the top, we’ll find some other good that day.  My goodness we are in the Sierras of California.  It can’t be too hard to find some good! 

Expecting the good has me anticipating really cool possibilities on a daily basis.  And then, if it’s not the good I expected, I become more resourceful to find some good.

Words – 241

Post script 2021 – In addition to our Seniors Pass that gives us access to all national parks, this year we need a reservation to be allowed into Yosemite National Park for three days. Easy to procure, the $2 reservation has immediate benefits in that online reviews suggest that the park experience is more manageable and enjoyable without the mobs of touristos we experienced in September 2017.

Dan and His Choice for the Next National Holiday for KGUA radio #54

For the June 28, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What Would You Make a National Holiday? Why?

Though I applaud my colleague and friend, David Stoloff’s choice of a National Voting Day, my choice is a National Holiday to celebrate Native Americans.  We as a country have done as much damage to Native Americans as we have to African-Americans.

Trail of Tears

I submit that we honor our first Americans by acknowledging the Trail of Tears.  The Trail of Tears was the government sponsored pogrom in the 1830s and 1840s to banish the Cherokee and other tribes from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to parched lands west of the Mississippi River.

Now this is where I come in.

After aimlessly going through the motions as a political science major at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I transferred to Arizona State University in 1969 to major in education with the idea of teaching on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona.  Within two weeks, I realized that the Native Americans in my Intro class were not really thrilled with having one more well-intentioned white boy come to teach their children. 

So, I changed course that eventually led me to teach a diverse group of kids (Chicano, Anglo, and African-American) in first Anaheim, California and next in Phoenix, Arizona.  Ironically, there in Arizona during the 1970s, I also taught Yaqui Indian kids from the Guadalupe neighborhood in Tempe. 

Who knew there was already such a day in the works? Not me.

I was woefully unprepared to give my students a nuanced approach to American history.  My lack of knowledge of the stories, the trauma, and the genocide of Native Americans was predictable given my own education. 

I believe a National Holiday honoring Native Americans would begin a conversation and greater understanding of our First Americans.

 Words – 258


Dan and A Pre-pandemic Mask – KGUA #52

For the June 14, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, now that we are taking off our masks, we are asked to freewrite on What MASK have you worn or do you still wear? 

Dan’s Mask

If it weren’t for masks, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I still wear the I like to think I know what the hell I am doing mask.  As a high schooler, my mask got me through being nervous before a tennis match, a big test, or especially when giving a speech.  Fake it till you make it.

Mask-wearing served me well when I first I interviewed to be a university professor.  Let me explain. 

Having burned out after twenty plus years teaching in public schools, I enrolled at the University of New Hampshire to earn the golden ticket (a PhD) to teach at the university level.

After three years of graduate classes, oral and written exams, and writing and defending my dissertation, I needed a job.  Hannah had been doing the heavy lifting of full-time work as an activities coordinator at a local nursing home.

At my interview at Eastern Connecticut State University, among other things, I was asked if I could teach the secondary education methods class in Language Arts and Reading. 

Mask firmly in place and eager for a tenure-track position, I said absolutely.  Though I had never taught high school English, I had successfully taught high school English teachers in a UNH Summer Writing Program.

But behind my mask was a philosophy of teaching that would serve me well no matter what I taught: one, I taught experientially (that is, having students have experiences that replicate what they would do in the classroom), two, focused on building relationships with students, three, developed a classroom community of learners, and four, participated with my students and learned with them.

Fact is, it all worked out pretty well at Eastern, and my mask got me in the door.

Words – 284

Dan and Being Proud – KGUA #53

Rockin’ Robyn

For the Summer Solstice June 21, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What has someone else done that made you proud of them? Here’s a chance to tell them or tell them again- and let everyone know.

Our Robyn turns 40 later this summer.  Let me tell you, she’s had an eventful life.

At nearly four, she complained of aches in her knees and elbows when I would swing her around in the front yard.  She’d wake up 6 or 7 times a night.  Three months later we learned she had leukemia.  That’s blood cancer for the uninitiated, like I was back in 1985.

US Army soldier Robyn

Tough kid, she came out the other side after two years of chemo and radiation spindly but determined.

Artistic at heart, Robyn found the routines of regular public school a challenge.  Persevering, she did what she had to do to make it through the education gauntlet. Eventually, she earned her B.A. in criminal justice.

In an extended family of accomplished siblings, nieces, and nephews, she chose a most difficult path – joining the US Army as a soldier.  After 15 months in Afghanistan at the height of that nasty war, she came home ready to take her place in society.

Her heart remains with kids who have life-threatening illnesses like she had.  Each year she volunteers in Florida to support the work of Give Kids the World, an organization that provides Disney World activities for families so they can get away from their daily lives of hospitals and treatments for five beautiful days.

As her dad, I’ve had my positive moments and ones where I didn’t quite get it.  Through it all, we stayed connected; I am so damned proud of the young woman she is today.

Words – 242

Dan and A Love Letter to Himself – KGUA #51

For the June 7, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite A LOVE LETTER TO YOURSELF.

Dear 2021 Dan,

Let’s start really superficially.  Damn, you look good for 73.  Still got your hair, albeit gray on gray.  That’s something since your Dad and brother Richard lost theirs long ago.  Your contacts make you like two/three years younger.  You did rock the nerd look with those horn-rimmed glasses in high school.

You came through the pandemic without getting Covid-19 when 33 million in the United States did.  Lucky or prudent?  Who knows?  I’m guessing a little of both.

Sweet choice in spouses, Danny Boy.  Who could have guessed you’d still be having the time of your life with Hannah Banana when you fell hard for her as a nineteen-year-old at the College of Wooster in Ohio.  At the time, your mother said, “Don’t be a fool and lose her.”

Three cheers for having the guts to transfer in your senior year from the cocoon of college in Ohio to head to the Wild West of Arizona State.  And then have the adventurous spirit to move further west to Anaheim, California for your first teaching job.  As a super shy teenager, I didn’t know you had it in you. Your adventurous spirit lives on.

Let’s be clear, you’ve been quite lucky.  Your parents, being reasonably athletic, modestly smart, semi-amiable in your own inoffensive way.  And, you are bright enough to know you didn’t do this on your own.

Stay humble, my friend.

Dan, the Elder