Hannah and I are again big winners in 2021. Our three kids, Will, Robyn, and Molly continue to delight. Molly’s hubby Tip and Will’s wife Laurel shine. Our five grandkids, Reese, Charlotte, Brooks, Max, and Owen add light to our lives. We all got together at Will’s home in Ithaca, New York this past Thanksgiving.
My mom made Christmas stockings for all three of our kids. Mom (1921-2014) had a great run (92 years!) and we all are better for having known her and been encouraged by her.
This Christmas season our daughter Robyn, visiting will from New York, and I continued our holiday tradition of going to a movie, this time fully-masked. We were blown away with how terrific the Spielberg remake of West Side Story was. I loved the original (1961), but this one was just as fantastic. Later in the week, Hannah will continue another tradition with Robyn – mother/daughter going out for Chinese food.
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
I wear hard contact lens. I have forever, well, since the summer of 1969 just before I transferred to Arizona State University from the College of Wooster in Ohio. I thought it would help me with the chicks. By the way, it didn’t.
Nearing birthday 74, lately I have noticed that the vision in my right eye has been blurry for the first two to four hours of the day. And then things clear up. This has been going on for some six weeks.
Finally fed up, I make an appointment this Friday past with the lens tech at Kittery Eye on the Route One Bypass in, well, Kittery.
Punctual to a fault, I arrive early for my 9 AM appointment. Taken on time, I explain the situation to Judy, the lens tech. First thing, I am pleased to see is that she takes my disreputable lens case (and by that I mean not the cleanest thing) and offers me a new one.
Removing my contacts, I am delighted that her look suggests that “I’ve got this.” She says, Let me clean them. In five minutes, she comes back and says encouragingly, I found a large deposit of proteins on the center of your right lens that I am working to remove. I’m thrilled.
Keeping me updated, she returns, ever upbeat, with news that in trying to remove the protein deposit it has spread out over my lens, but she’ll keep working on it.
A few minutes after that she returns and smiles in triumph that she has removed the protein deposit. She then hands me another new lens case, a new bottle of cleaning/soaking solution as well as the recommendation to purchase a solution online that will deep clean my lens to reduce the protein build up. One helluva trifecta.
As I come out of the cleaning session with Judy, I am on top of the world. You know the feeling when you are dealing with someone who makes you feel special. I pass the two receptionists and ask, Is your supervisor around? Immediately, their smiles sag, worried looks cross their faces. This is usually not a question that ends well. She is in the back, one responds.
Seeing their expressions, I then say, Tell you what. I don’t need to see her, but would you tell her that Judy, the lens tech, was fabulous. She made my day.
They stop hyperventilating and smile back.
So, why do so many of us expect the worst with that question (Is your supervisor around?) or some variation of that?
I get it that most times when people want to see the supervisor it is because of a problemo, often a big one. Who takes the time to complement another for a job well done when bitching about others is an artform in modern American society? That’s got to change.
So, how to avoid expecting the worst in such situations? Intentionally workshopping a new response by resisting the impulse to fear the worst; try expecting the good. Of course, that takes a ton of practice to develop such a new habit.
I know that is asking a lot, but in time it just might work.
When I was teaching at the U, and by that I mean the University of New England, I would periodically say to a student, I want to see you after class when I had good news for them. I knew that request was loaded when they didn’t know was up and might quite likely fill them with dread. To allay those fears and not ruin the rest of class for them, I would add, It’s all good.
By the way, when I had to have a challenging conversation with a student, I mentioned that fact to them at the end of class and dealt with them on how I could support them with the issue I had (e.g. being late to class). (Thank you, Denny McLoughlin for that insight to support positive change rather than just point out the problem and dole out consequences.)
First, what does an British owl say? The answer is at the end of this posting.
This summer of 2021 our friend Steve said your sign could use an upgrade. He was right on. We’d had our Hannah’s Loft sign up since Hannah began her five-year run as a Bed & Breakfast Innkeeper (1987-1991) for the two rooms we have above our garage. That’s 34 years of summer’s sun blasts and winter’s cold, wind, and salt.
In addition to being a solid guy and a key member of our pickleball pod, Steve is an artiste. We couldn’t be happier that he was going to spruce up our sign. Teaming up with our buddy Fran, mechanically inclined and an equally valuable member of our pickleball pod, who handled the hardware, Steve put us in business.
Two weeks later in late August, Steve returns the sign with gold-leaf flourishes around the corners and a sparking new paint job. He does suggest that we remove the sign for the winter to keep it out of the elements. We are just two miles from the briny coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
So that brings us to this past Monday (December 13, 2021) when the afternoon temperature rose to a balmy 42F; a perfect afternoon to take down the sign. Retrieving our eight-foot step ladder from the shed, I climb up as Hannah braces the ladder. It is soon quite apparent that I am just not strong enough to lift the heavy sign off its hinges.
Hannah and I discuss our options. Our son-in-law Tip could do this in his sleep. Unfortunately, he lives an hour away and won’t be in York for two more weeks.
The very next day as I return from walking in town, I think about our neighbor across the street, an affable, always willing-to-help kind of guy. Indeed younger and stronger than I.
I pause and think I will, in an act of friendship, give him the gift of helping me out. You might be thinking he’s helping you out, how is that a gift for him, Danny Boy! Think about it. Most people love helping others. Removing the sign might take two minutes and it would really help this 73-year-old.
So I do. I walk across the street, knock on his door, and ask him if he could help me to take down the sign. He said sure. Bracing him on our step ladder, I see him simply lift the sign off its hinges no problemo, and hand it to me. He is beaming; I am beaming.
Certainly he has given me a gift by helping out when I needed it, but I think my gift to him is just as important – the gift of letting him help. I do appreciate our neighbors who let me help them.
Are you buying my interpretation of gift giving?
And by the way, British owl says, “Whom, Whom.” Thank you, Ted Lasso.
With the forecast for heavy winds overnight along the coast of Maine this first week in December, Hannah and I learn The Weather Channel has posted gale warnings.
As we head to bed, we hear the wind and don’t think much of it as we have these strong winds from time to time at our home in York. Then at 1 AM our back-up generator kicks on as our Generac 10K goes to work automatically, ten seconds after the power goes out.
That’s the good news, the less good news is that the generator is just outside our bedroom window. And it’s loud.
Within fifteen minutes I grab my pillow and retreat to an upstairs bedroom for the night.
Come morning, the power is still out. I jump into action.
Texting our-across-the-street neighbor, I ask if she needs a shower before she heads off to teach. Ecstatic, she says she’ll be over once she slips out of her warm bed in her cold cold house.
She has no idea how thrilled I am to help. Ain’t it the truth that people loving helping others out! It’s similar to when I am out biking on our country roads and a car stops for directions, I love being able to help.
After she comes and goes, I text two more neighbors to see if they too need a shower, hoping like hell they do. Alas, they are doing fine and don’t need one…yet! Still, I have planted a small seed of connection in our neighborhood of twenty some houses.
My glow lasts all morning being the one to help our neighbor on this day when the power went out!
PS By ten AM the power is back.
PPS Automatic generators provide us with such peace of mind in northern New England when ice storms, strong winds, and heavy wet snows are in the forecast.
You do know that Medicare is not free, don’t you? Every Medicare recipient pays $148.50 per month that is either taken directly from their monthly Social Security checks (Seniors beware, it goes to $170.10 per month in 2022!) or has recipients pay that amount quarterly by check.
Seniors then can choose a Supplemental Plan which costs on average $200 more per month; it allows them to choose any doctor, specialist, or hospital they want.
Then there is an Advantage Plan that we have chosen where we pay $0 more per month. We do have to stay in network for our doctors, specialists, and hospitals. That is indeed little sacrifice for us living in southern Maine where our network is extensive with convenient health care and in Boston, if necessary.
Our United Healthcare Advantage Plan also gives us incentives to stay healthy. Besides not charging for the following services, they pay us $15 to get an annual physical, $5 for a flu shot, $10 per month if we accumulate at least 7500 steps in ten days per month. Hannah is paid $25 for osteoporosis bone density test.
In addition, United Healthcare will give us a $50 Visa gift card annually if we have a 45-minute Health Call by a nurse practitioner, either in person or online. Just ten days ago, Hannah and I had a virtual house call, primarily to get the $50 gift card since we get annual physicals from our primary care physicians, well, annually.
For today’s video House Call, Viji, the delightful nurse practitioner, asks us lifestyle and health related questions such as about our medications, hospitalizations, vaccinations, hearing, sleep, peeing, and alcohol and tobacco use.
Then she asks me to remember three unrelated items – pineapple, playground, and red. She says she’ll ask me to repeat these later. Throughout the next ten minutes as she asks me other questions, I am constantly repeating these three items to myself . I know this game because I have been down that road before.
You see, in 2002, I got real fuzzy when teaching an afternoon class at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. As class began, I couldn’t see the names in the class roster clearly; I had trouble speaking and couldn’t remember my students’ names at all. Eventually, I was taken to the local Windham Hospital by the Department Chair, David Stoloff, to see what the hell was going on.
There I had a Cat Scan and an MRI. Neither test revealed the reason for my loss of memory nor my inability to speak and read. Unable to figure out what was wrong with me, the doctors sent me off to the Big Dogs at the Hartford Hospital in the state capital. In the ambulance on the 60-minute ride, things started to clear; I could form words and follow what the EMT was saying.
Once at the Hartford Hospital it was apparent after two hours of observation that I was okay. But they wouldn’t let me leave until I could repeat three unrelated words ten minutes later. Probably because I was fine, I knew what was going on and repeated the words to myself and passed the test on my first attempt.
And so, too, this afternoon, I repeat pineapple, playground, and red to ViJi on the video call.
And then she has one more little test for me. She asks me to draw a clock and put the time at 235P (which happened to be the time of this Wednesday afternoon House Call.) I draw the circle, put in all twelve numbers as well a both the short and long hands. Once I show it to her, she mentions Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty doing this.
Phew! Good for another year!
In three weeks time for participating in this 45-minute House Call, my Medicare provider, United Healthcare, will send me a $50 Visa Gift Card which will pay for 2/3 of my new Merrell Moab hiking shoes.
In 2002, the incident in Connecticut that I described above was tentatively diagnosed as Transient Global Amnesia.
Fifteen years later, it happened again. I couldn’t speak, read, and remember shit. My symptoms lasted for three hours and then I was fine. Since June of 2017 it hasn’t happened again.
If you wonder about Transient Global Amnesia, I wrote a series of blogs to describe what happened to me and the testing and care I received in 2017.
For the October 11, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: What are You Thinking About Today? What’s On Your Mind?
First is how sore my left arm feels after getting my Pfizer booster shot yesterday afternoon. The pain woke me up in the middle of the night. But as we all know, no pain, no gain.
Second, how energizing it is to consolidate and jettison. This morning Hannah and I got up a little after 5 AM fired up to clear off the shelves in our upstairs bedroom for Hannah’s books and to clean out le junque under our ping pong table.
You see, we have lived in the same house for the past 39 years. We still have our children’s middle and high school yearbooks, their photo albums, a bread machine, classic indestructible books for toddlers, CDs, and tables that we picked up on the roadside. All things others could be using. This morning we set out an end table by the side of our country road with a “Free” sign. It was gone by noon.
Third, on a subject that might be just a bit too much information for some, I am beginning to train my bladder. Yes, the B word. It seems it’s possible to teach an old bladder new tricks. Kegels for men are a thing. My other excellent strategies are for those who really give a sh*t. Contact me. I’m your B man.
Fourth is the importance to have fun each day, but also to have activities that are “so fun.” A recent ”so fun” time was a chili dinner with our friends, Scott and Tree, at their place before they began their trek home to California.
Yesterday morning (September 1, 2021) Hannah and I were preparing for our Saturday departure to LAX for two weeks of friends and hiking in California. I’d just set up pickleball with our Santa Barbara friends, Bill and Claudia, while the confirmation of our Air B&B lodging in Mariposa, at the gateway to Yosemite National Park, had arrived.
Yesterday afternoon everything changed. The straws of not traveling to California became too many. (Sort of straw vote!) The Delta Variant of Covid and the wildfires outweighed the excitement of our Golden State fortnight adventure.
Straw One, so much had changed since I made our Delta Airlines reservations in March of 2021. The vaccine was readily available and returning to our active lives, sooner than later, seemed like a given. First the Delta Variant, and then the wildfires.
Straw Two, Tuesday we learned that all national forests were to be closed in California so that meant hiking into the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara was out.
Straw Three, already the Caldor Fire blocked our drive from Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe; ten thousand people have been evacuated from the area.
Straw Four, with the wildfires still out of control, we were looking at the possibility of Yosemite closing, having to hike with masks, and breathing intolerable smoke.
Straw Five, the realization that getting to the McArthur Burney Falls in northern California may be impossible and if we did, we’d likely see a trickle of water due to the historic twenty year drought in the West.
Straw Six, vaccinated folks like us are getting Covid, which was an unknown development this past March.
There was just too much hanging over our heads to make it the 75th birthday national parks vacation that I was hoping for. True, I’m just 73, but you get the point. Covid has made many of us wanting to travel now before the next pandemic or climate catastrophe. Yes, climate change is real.
So how much money did we lose?
We don’t pay for our 15-day $1276 Enterprise rental car until we actually get the car. Cancelled with no charge.
All the motels we signed up for allow us to cancel until the last day or two. No charge.
The $315 two-night Air B&B in Mariposa for our September 9 and 10 stay had a full refund policy if we cancelled by September 4. No charge.
Delta gave us e-credit for our plane tickets that we can use on another Delta flight if we make reservations by December 31, 2022.
Money was never the issue, the possibility of hiking with masks, breathing nasty wildfire smoke and closed trails were ultimately the key straws that has us postpone our two weeks in California.
California, we are not giving up on you! Winter 2022!
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.
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.
Reading Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott about dealing with her fluctuating weight got me thinking about my uneasy relationship with my bathroom scale.
I haven’t weighed myself in four years, give or take. Truly before that, I was living with a muddled mind that I have to monitor diligently my weight to be fit and healthy. Turns out I was wrong.
Over these past four years, I was certainly weighed every time I went to my Prime Care Physician; after, I didn’t ask and they didn’t tell me what I weighed.
The opposite of love is the bathroom scale. – Anne Lamott
You know, that by avoiding my bathroom scale, I haven’t ballooned to 185 or more. I’ve been 170-ish throughout the four years.
During our Arizona years, I have been north of 185. You see, to hydrate in the desert heat (that being my rationalization), I would have a two-liter Mountain Dewevery day. Who knew I was asking for trouble!
Oh, did I ever diet. I was a headcase about it. I’d pick some arbitrary number, like 155, and weigh in every Monday morning. Weekends were not pretty knowing the weigh-in loomed. Sunday I would basically fast hoping to hit the number.
Joy knew no bounds if I was 155 or lower! Bummed and depressed doesn’t begin to describe if I was over! And then it gets worse if I didn’t make weight. I’d semi-fast and then weigh in on Tuesday. If I still didn’t make weight, I’d hemi-demi-semi fast for a Wednesday weigh in.
Truth be told, I looked like hell being so skinny. I never really could see myself how scrawny I was.
It was a never ending cycle focusing on making weight. I was living the dreary life of a wrestler or MMA fighter. And it was all so arbitrary. When shooting for 155 became such a battle, I relaxed to make 160 my goal. Nothing changed in my compulsive need to be affirmed by my weight.
To again quote Anne Lamott,
Science proves again and again that all diets work briefly, and pretty much all work the same, with initial and exhilarating weight loss, then plateau, then weight gain and shame. The weight we lose almost always finds its way back home and it invariable brings friends.
And then, I decided – this is crazy. No mas. I figured that if I’ll eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and be social, then I’ll be okay. I won’t deny myself dessert or an evening glass of wine. I am not spending my many last days in a culinary quasi-monastery. So far, so good.
I was surprised a month ago at my annual physical, Dr. Coppins of Kittery Family Practice noted that I had lost five pounds during the past Covid year. I had no idea.
On March 1, 2020, we had no idea what was coming down the Covid Pike. That afternoon three days before Hannah and I were set to fly home to Maine, friends from Santa Barbara, Bill and Claudia, had us for lunch. After, they showed us the Frog Wall of Santa Barbara.
Immediately that got Hannah thinking of our own Frog Wall in York. We cleared the land adjacent to our property along Chases Pond Road, finding rocks aplenty for the Frog Wall.
Our Italian stone mason friend Paul got us going with an initial plan.
From there Hannah got to work.
Enjoy the 57 second video from July 16, 2021 of York’s granddaughter Frog Wall to Santa Barbara’s Big Mama Frog Wall.