Exploring Utah with Owen and Max – KGUA radio #14

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For broadcast on August 10, 2020, KGUA radio (Gualala, California) asks writers to free write about in 200 words or less: What is something in front of you that you want to go after, experience, or explore?  What (who) is behind you stopping you from going forward?

Exploring Utah with Owen and Max

Utah map

Moab is near Arches NP

Our grandsons are six and eight.  Hannah and I had big plans to take Max and his older brother Owen to Utah this past April (2020).  In one week’s time, we’d visit four of Utah’s five national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon.  The boys are at an age where they can hike the trails and enjoy the high desert world so different from their home in New England.

We had rented a condo in Moab with a pool and would have the good company of their parents, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip;  he just so happens to have the grilling gene that I was born without.

But out of the blue in March (2020), the coronavirus turned our world and theirs upside down.  There was so much unknown about the exploding pandemic.  So many questions with few palatable answers.  Ergo, we postponed our adventure.

It’s now August.  Time to make plans for April 2021.  But the questions and wonderings remain, answers remain elusive.

Who knows what the world will be like in nine months.  So April 2022 is on the table as a possible year for our adventure.  Hell, they’ll be eight and ten and be able to do even more.

Words – 200

Utah five grandkids

The featured picture has Owen in the red Pi shirt with his brother to his right and his cousins, Brooks in blue and six week old Reese (to Owen’s right) and Charlotte looking on in amazement.

Dan and Homer, the Greek – KGUA radio #13

The KGUA radio prompt for July 27, 2020 asks writer in 200 words or less to respond to this quote from Homer in The OdysseyEach man delights in the work that suits him best.

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Mark Gross, the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Guide, tells us, Let’s go lighter. Happier. Think of a delight. What is your delight? What delights you? What work suits you best, delights you?

A Delightful job

The first job that suited me was teaching fourth graders at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona with Diane and Jean (circa 1974).  We had impossible jobs teaching in an open setting at a brand new school.  Let me remind you about the quote brilliance of the open classroom!

It had no walls.  In this school for 1000 kids, you could literally see from one end of the building to the other.  When our students needed it quiet, other classes were noisy.  When other classes needed it quiet, we disturbed them.  It was insane.

With 33 students per class, we taught all the subjects (reading, spelling, math, sometimes science and social studies) but focused on reading and math since they were the ones the kids took standardized tests for.

Dash Inn

So why the best job, you ask?  Jean and Diane.  As relatively new teachers, we planned together, commiserated and supported each other, and each Friday headed to the Dash Inn on Apache Boulevard for drinks and Mexican food.

Within all this madness, I was not alone.  And for that I thank them dearly.

Words – 182

Where are they know?  Jean died in her early 50s after a 30-year teaching career, six months after she retired!  Diane is hale and healthy living with her hubby in Arizona.

Dan Muses About the Future for KGUA radio #12

KGUA radio’s prompt for July 20, 2021 is making me stretch.  I am free writing in less than 200 words to this quote – Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will.

I had two false starts before this free write worked for me.

The Future

When I was a fourth grade teacher at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, I had a principal who said, “Tomorrow never comes.”  No, he was not a Zen master, in fact, quite traditional.  He paddled kids who misbehaved; this was the 1970s.  Yes, it was the dark ages of school discipline that may still be alive in the Cactus State.

AZ map 2

While teaching then, I would be thinking of getting to the weekend on Wednesdays.  To summer in February.  That’s a recipe for missing many moments.

In a general sense, tomorrow seems filled with potential while today can be ruled by to-dos if I am not careful.   So carpe diem.

Let’s see, what’s on the menu for today: morning pickleball with friends, hanging the laundry outside, paying the Visa bill, kicking back with a glass of wine with Hannah, dining on take-out chicken burritos, then watching the Money Heist on Netflix.

Now that’s a pretty good day.  My streak of good todays has begun.

Words – 164

Know the author of the above quote?

Pumpkin, Big Brother, and Walking Boot – KGUA prompt #10

This week’s writing prompt for the KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour wants writers to grab an old photograph.  You.  A Loved one.  A friend.  A stranger.  A pet.  Someone you pass by.  An acquaintance.  Someone you don’t know in the photo.

How is the person feeling in the photo? (Maybe it’s in the lines of the face. The expression. The posture. You get the idea).

Write this in THIRD PERSON! Third person in this exercise does not have access to the subjects thoughts! It’s all visual description Yes, you can see emotion or imagine it.

DO NOT USE “I” OR “ME” EVEN IF IT IS A PHOTO OF YOURSELF. DO NOT IDENTIFY WHO THE SUBJECT IS.

Since we will not be seeing these actual photos, we will see them, feel them, know them from your writing.

SET THE TIMER. 10 MINUTE FREE WRITE (200 WORDS MAX) DOES NOT INCLUDE THE TIME TO CHOOSE THE PHOTO.

By voice memo from my iPhone, I submitted the Pumpkin story.  I have added the pictures at the end of the entire blog for each of the three drafts so you can first form a picture in your mind from my writing, and then see the inspiration for that writing.

 

Pumpkin

He just won the lottery.  He has the biggest and best pumpkin any kindergartner could pick.  He beams with joy at his selection.  Fact is, at five years old, he is joy.

He woke early knowing today was the field trip to the pumpkin patch out Route Two.  Normally, he sleeps in on school days, but not today.  Today, he gets to be outside.  He’s a fine student but four walls do not hold his enthusiasm for life.

It’s not just the destination but the bus ride with his friends.  Schools have lots of rules, busses have fewer rules.  He can sit where he wants.  He can talk with his best friend and no one else can hear.

At the pumpkin patch, he is on a solo mission, ready to find the biggest pumpkin he can lift.  They are everywhere.  Who knew that ten thousand pumpkins could grow on two acres!   It was never in doubt as his laser focus honed in on the brightest orange pumpkin he had ever seen.

His first grade brother will congratulate him on his choice, and his parents will just smile, knowing they’ve a son who finds such joy in a simple pumpkin.

Words 199

 

Big Brother

His parents are always taking pictures of him.  He’s two, he says cheese with his lips framing his first very white teeth.  He plays his part for the family scrapbook.

Today his parents set him on the heart-shaped pillow above his two-week-old identical twin sisters.  He seems so big, when three weeks ago, he was the baby of the house.  No more, he has been promoted to big brother.

He doesn’t know it yet, but it’s the picture that they will show at the reception hall when he gets married.  People will just smile, and say, aren’t they cute?  And cute they are.  As a 31 year old, he will hug his 29 year old sisters knowing that life is good.  They all have no complaints.

On his perch of the heart-shaped pillow, he’s had just about enough of this posing.  He “mooches” (i.e. kisses) with his sisters, then gently caress their heads.  But there are baskets of blocks to dump, lawns to mow next to daddy, and races to be run around the first floor of his house.

Time is awasting.  He is born to move and groove.  And groove he must.

Words 188

 

Walking Boot

She has taken the next step, literally.  She has moved from crutches to the walking boot.  The five inch scar from her bunion surgery is still wrapped in protective surgical gauze, but she can now maneuver easily from the one step of the deck to the dining room and around the narrow corner from her bed to the bathroom sink.

She knows she’s one week into her six week journey to make her right foot right.  Knowing is one thing, being happy that she can’t walk the local beach with her hubby or play pickleball with her friends is something else.

But these are small potatoes when she thinks about a previous surgery and an even longer rehab for a busted leg after a water skiing accident on an idyllic Maine pond eight years ago.  Then three years ago, she ended up in the ER at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara after falling down a cliff, tearing into her thigh to the bone.

She knows she’ll get through the rehab.  She just didn’t know that she’d be rehabbing one more time.

Ah, the active life she leads.  These are small prices to pay for being on the move.

Words 191

 

Prompt Pictures

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Our grandson Max

 

 

KGUA 13 Brooks with Reese and Charlotte

Our grandson Brooks with his sisters Reese and Charlotte

 

 

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Hannah’s walking boot five days after bunion surgery

Dan Tries His Hand at KGUA Writing Prompt – Again!? #11

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This week’s 200 word maximum writing prompt for the KGUA radio Monday Morning Writer’s Hour for July 13, 2021 is the one word title – Again!?   That’s it. C’est toute!

So, I messed around and have 184 words for you!

Again!? 

She just showed up again.  I thought she was gone, gone for good.  But here she was back wondering if the room above the garage out back was still free.

“It is,” we smiled, “but there is only a hot plate.  The shower works pretty well.

She was just looking to start over.  The details were sketchy.  A lost job.  Roommate issues.  She promised, “I won’t be here long, just til I get back on my feet.”

Over the next two weeks, we rarely saw her.  She had no car but walked the mile into town looking for work.   Since the pandemic in March, Hannaford’s grocery was the one consistent place to find a job.  After her references were checked, she was hired as a cashier for 12 hour shifts on the weekends.

Even so, she still couldn’t afford a place here in this wealthy seacoast community.  She asked if she could just stay in the room above the garage for a little longer, til she found a roommate.

Again, we nodded yes.  You see, she was us some forty years ago in Tempe.

Any questions?

 

 

Granddaughters, Bunions, and Courage – KGUA prompt #9

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This week’s KGUA radio writing prompt comes from the repeated words in last week’s submissions.  The words that kept coming up again and again were: trust, passion, peace, end, love, give, life, free, youth, kindness, nature, faith, walk, time, courage, ammunition, people, conviction, black, drown, and potential.

Mark Gross, the KGUA writing leader, asked us to time our free write for ten minutes, limiting us to 200 words.  We were to edit just for spelling and grammar, and send in the draft.

His directions were similar to what I did with seventh and eighth graders in Kittery, Maine and while leading the Teaching of Writing courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England.  I would have a discussion, read a passage, or come up with a group activity.  From those activities, I would have my students write for ten minutes to see if they found a topic to take through to a final draft in our writing workshop.  Head down and trusting they’d write, I wrote along with my students.

Mark has given me a taste of my own medicine this week, and for that I thank him.  I chose three words below to run with.  The Walk draft aired on the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Hour on June 28, 2020 .

Walk

For the first time in six weeks, Hannah walked with me at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  You see, six weeks ago to the day, Hannah had bunion surgery.  First she was on crutches, then two weeks in a walking boot, and then wrapping her foot with surgical gauze twice a day in a hiking shoe.wa

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Ogunquit beach on the southern coast of Maine

Oh, she could move around the house, then our yard, but walking for more than twenty minutes…well she just didn’t want to risk screwing up the operation.  It turns out she was walking on the side of her foot to protect her big toe.  A no no.

But this morning, we woke at five, stretched, then a little after six drove to the wide sandy beach here on the Atlantic.  Being low tide, we walked where the waves were rolling softly to the shore.  She thought she’d go halfway, but then…distracted by the fog, stepping in and around the pools of salt water, we were thirty minutes down the beach before she knew it, nearly to Wells.

Pumped, she headed back into the wind full speed ahead.  I’ve been listening to podcasts as I walk alone during Hannah’s rehab, but this was much better.  Both the conversation and the silence.

 

Youth

Hannah and I are just back from Ithaca, New York where we met our granddaughters for the first time.  Yes, granddaughters!  Reese and Charlotte are our identical twins.  In this crazy Time of Corona, we didn’t know if we’d even see them for six months or even a year!  But when our son and his wife, a nurse no less, invited us to visit the girls three weeks after their births, we were all in to drive 400 miles to be with them.

CR girls nose to nose

Charlotte and Reese

When we arrived, mom and dad hugged us!  Do you know how long it’s been since we hugged anyone else!  Yeah, you do, it’s three months going on a year!

The girls mold together as they lie in their bassinet, just like they were in the womb.  As I sat on the couch knees folded together, I held Reese as she lay sleeping.  Yeah, they sleep a lot.  Then they cry, then mom feeds them, sometimes at the same time, and then the girls sleep some more.

But after three days, they were looking around more and more, checking out their new world.  I look forward to being a part of their lives for a long time.

 

Courage

I have to admit I never really got the white privilege stuff.  As a kid, I was just a kid.  What did I know?  We did live in Radburn, a privileged part of Fair Lawn I learned later as a young adult, a pretty much all white community in north Jersey.  We did take two family car trips to the West Coast.  I just figured lots of kids did that.

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In tiny print, York is on this map

My goodness, I played tennis!  Is that ever a white man’s sport, even though the Williams Sisters took charge of the women’s game for the last twenty years.

I was just going through life.  Living frugally on a teacher’s salary while Hannah stayed home with the kids.  But then we moved from multi-cultural Arizona to white bread Maine.  As such, there were not many families of color here that I knew.  Without a second thought, our kids went to college, had careers.

Of late, I am aware that my white comfort is compromising the lives of so many fellow Americans of color.  Now is the time to have the courage to admit my privileged status and do my part to even the playing field.

I’m listening.

 

Dan and LeBron James KGUA Prompt #8

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This week’s prompt for radio station KGUA (Gualala, California) asks writers in 200 to 350 words to respond to the question, Who is someone you would like to chat with today? Living, deceased, fictional, mythical or someone in your imagination. Who? Why?

In light of the events in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, I chose LeBron James.  My voice memo of my reading of this prompt was read today during the June 8, 2020 KGUA writer’s hour.

Chatting with LeBron James

LeBron James is not my favorite basketball player.   Steph Curry, Jedi master of the three point shot and the one with the deft touch with the basketball, is.

The current debate whether LeBron is better than Michael Jordan has me favoring LeBron.  And the reason why has nothing to do with basketball.  And that’s why he is the one who I would like to chat with.

LeBron I can't breathe

LeBron has never shied away from speaking up for racial and social justice; his voice is needed again at this tipping point for America.

I would like to know how the murder of George Floyd by a racist Minneapolis cop has affected him and his children.  What does he tell his three children about a country where they are targets because of the color of their skin?

Wondering about his kids makes me think of the line from Martin Luther King jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But We as a country still “have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.”

I’d want to know how I can support racial and social justice from my little outpost in very white Maine.  As one who has been born into privilege, what can I can do to support a more just society?  Though I can empathize with the profiling and the fear of being black in America, I cannot know what that’s like at this time in our troubled history.

I don’t have answers.  I am here to learn from LeBron and others.

I will listen.  And listen some more.  And then I will act.

I bet LeBron knows about Campaign Zero and 8 can’t wait.

Dan Has Some Wise Advice for KGUA #7

Today’s KGUA writing suggestion asks the writer to begin with this prompt or include it within the piece.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since… (realizing limiting this to my father may not be relevant to some, so please use that as a metaphor or in a way it makes sense to you.)

Thankfully, KGUA allows me to color outside the lines.  I share what was read on KGUA on June 1, 2020.

Some Advice from My Younger and More Vulnerable Years

In my younger and more vulnerable years my reading of the Desiderata gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since my college days as a Sun Devil at Arizona State University.

Displayed in the paraphernalia shops along Mill Avenue in Tempe (and by that I mean the shops dealing in supplies for Mary Jane), the Desiderata spoke to my uncertainty of who I was and what I was becoming.  To this day, I still have a framed poster of this nearly one hundred year old wisdom, which mistakenly was thought to have been posted on the front door of an Anglican Church in 17th century England; fact is, the Desiderata is the work of the poet, Max Ehrmann in 1927.

To this day, I know this poem by heart, and even recited it at my sister’s wedding at her request.  Listen to the poetry of its rousing start.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.  Even today, that speaks to the noise all around us from those selling us fear by the bushel.

The poem continues to build with the advice to avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. 

Later it adds the classic line, You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees in the stars.

But the line that spoke to me fifty years ago and continues to live within is Do not distress yourself with imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

As I look back I was a teen and twenty-something who could conger up a world of fear around every corner and see self-doubts with each interaction; I had no idea there was another way than a fear-based life.  In time and with practice, I am now less likely to go to a worst case scenario.

Though by no means fearless, I am now more likely to pause and listen to my inner voice.  It leads me to my truth.

Desi full text

Dan’s Apacheta – The Burden of Winning KGUA #6

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For this week’s writing prompt for KGUA Monday Morning Writers’ Hour, the curators take us south of the border for Apacheta.

Apacheta is an Inca folklore ritual, which translates into “the source of where the flow begins.” Rocks are sacred to the Inca people. Apacheta is the act of placing a burden in a rock and taking it to a summit. Often placed with others by others your stone is left behind with the burden you placed inside of it. Then you go forward. The burden stays behind with the memory of the burden in the rock.  What burden would you place in a rock and leave behind?

The Burden of Winning

I take the rock of winning to the mountaintop and leave it to be weathered, worn, and kicked to the curb.  For too long, my focus on winning has been a yoke that crushes my spirit.

Burden tennis racket

I played Division III college tennis when wood rackets were in vogue and the metal Wilson T-2000 was a breakthrough technology.  I felt the pressure to win which sapped my joy of playing.  Our coach’s stated belief was “If you won, you played well.  If you lost, you played poorly.”

When we lost, as we often did at Oberlin, we would get McDonalds for our meal on the way back to campus.  If we won, as we would regularly do versus Hiram, we got steaks at TJ’s in downtown Wooster.  Any athlete knows the coach’s mantra was usually the polar opposite of reality.  Better players often bring out the best in my play even though I may lose.  Playing a weak player makes me lazy, unchallenged, and complacent.

After college, I gave up tennis.  Set it on a chunk of ice, and let it drift away, never to be seen again.

I became a runner of modest talents, competing against myself since winning any 10K race was out of the question.  I ran for thirty years.  Then my knees said no mas, so rather than returning to tennis, I chose hiking.  Again, winning the hike was not even on the table.  I hike for the comradery and the regular doses of Vitamin N (Nature).

Burden ping pong

Thanks to a friend who is an excellent player and a Zen master of the table, I have learned much while playing weekly ping pong with him for ten years.  Yes, we keep score.  Yes, I know if I’ve won more than I’ve lost.  But when the pressure of winning starts to creep in and define my happiness, I am learning to focus on my small victories within the game.  Getting my serve in all the time.  Tracking the ball when he serves.  Playing loose and aggressive by whipping my topspin backhand crosscourt come rain or shine.

No matter the outcome, we know how lucky we are to be able to just play, and we always end with a cold beer.

A cold beer with a good friend beats winning anytime.

Dan and His Bike Come to an Understanding – KGUA radio #5

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Today’s prompt for the KGUA (radio Gualala, California – 150 miles north of San Francisco) Monday Morning Writer’s Hour is to choose an inanimate object.  Write the story or a story about the object.  POV (point of view) pieces are right up my alley.  Please enjoy.

Bike shed

Le Shed

He’s ignored me for years.  I’m bummed.  I’m more than bummed, I’m pissed off.  Throughout the Maine winter, he leaves me hanging upside down in the far corner of the garage; last year I was hung out to dry in his crappy shed out back where the wind blows through the side boards.  He couldn’t just talk to me, tell me what was up, tell me the truth.  Nooooo, our relationship was just a slow death of neglect.

You see, nine years ago he was dazzled by the gym eight miles down the road in Kittery.  Sure it’s got the sleek elliptical machines and my no account cousin, the stationary recumbent bicycle, which I don’t need to remind you, goes nowhere. 

Bike CPR

Our country road

But neither one of those gets him out among my favorite girl, Mother Nature – to the seaside at York Beach, through the country roads in coastal Maine, nor up and down the mountains of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.  And then without explanation, he dumps me like a bad habit.

But oh, my pretty, have the times ever changed.  In the last two months, he’s come back begging for forgiveness now that the nasty coronavirus has come to town and closed his precious gym.  I know his morning walks get him out, but they don’t give him the heart pumping ride that he craves. 

I don’t have a vindictive spoke in my body.  My demands for reconciliation are modest.  I need 65 pounds of pressure in my tires as I’ve let the air seep out through the winter.  Oh yeah, my chain needs lubing.  One more thing, I need last year’s dirt wiped off my chassis.  

Bike Trek 7500

He needs me, and to tell you the truth, I’m glad to be needed.  I want to get back on the road myself; my goodness I am a road bike. 

So, welcome back, Danny Boy.  I think this is the start, make that a restart, of a beautiful romance.