Dan: What He is Thinking About Today. – KGUA #64

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. 

It’s been another good day. 

Words – 264

Dan and Hannah, the Delta Variant, and the Wildfires in California – September 2021

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.

Yosemite NP is to the south of the Caldor Fire

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!

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 His Bathroom Scale

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.

My bathroom scale forgotten in my closet

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 Dew every 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.

Five less than what?  I have no idea.

 

Dan on Hannah’s Frog Wall – Update July 2021

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.

Bill and Claudia with Hannah
Frog Wall in Santa Barbara, California

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.

Our friend Paul working on the Frog Wall

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.

Dan and the Serendipity of his Broken-down Mower

I am not mechanical to put it generously.  I usually just give up when anything mechanical/technology doesn’t work immediately.  Our new once-working, now not-working printer is a case in point.  But today it’s about our lawnmower.

Last year, we had our mower service at the local Eliot Small Engine Repair for $144.88.  With a short grass cutting season in 2020, I used the mower maybe seven, eight times.  As recommended, I ran the mower to remove all the gas from the engine and then stored it in our shed for the winter.

Gassed up for the first cutting of the spring, our mower works just fine cutting the grass in our backyard this May.  You see we only cut a portion of your yard since we have a meadow of daisies and black-eyed Susans by our driveway that I don’t mowing until August when the flowers go to seed.

Just before Memorial Day, I start up the mower again, make a couple of passes on the backyard, and then it chugs a couple of times and stops stone cold.  Today, I wait, pull the starter cord again and again, and nothing.

As you might imagine, I am at a loss what to do.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I know that since today we are playing pickleball with our friend Fran, a mechanical wizard, I can bring the mower to him for a look-see.

And this is where good fortune smiles for the first time.  Fran is great.  He gets right to it, taking off the engine cover, blowing out all the dust, cleaning the air filter, and diagnosing that I likely have a dirty carburetor.  Now I know what I’m dealing with.

Even so, our backyard with foot high grass still needs a mowing badly.  With no mower, I text our neighbor Laurie to see if I can borrow theirs.  Soon, her hubby Shawn cleans up their mower, fills it with gas, and brings their self-propelling motor over.  Good fortune numero dos. 

After mowing our backyard, I am still left with a mower that won’t work.  I call Eliot Small Engine to learn that if I can take out the carburetor (yeah right, like that’s going to happen!), they can clean it for me.  If not, I’ll have to put my mower in the queue which means it’ll be six weeks before they can get to it.

Not wanting to wait that long, into our laptop, I type in “lawn mower repair.”  I find that Spectrum Small Engine Repair is just up the road in Wells.  I call, they say they can look at it, and it’ll take maybe a week, maybe less.  Good fortune #3. 

Told that I’ll see mowers in the front yard, I arrive with mowers strewn everywhere on this residential third acre lot.  I park, eventually find Nick, who couldn’t be more agreeable and accommodating. 

I have my third delightful human interaction, none of which I would have had without my beautiful broken-down mower.

Dan and Hannah and Their Friend Milt

It was just three years ago that a neighbor called and said Milt needs a fourth for pickleball at his private court.  Soon, Milt, who didn’t know me from Adam, welcomed me to his place with open arms. 

The next day they needed another player so Hannah came along.  Taken with Hannah’s spunk and power, Milt had us back again and again.  To his credit, Milt in his 80s wanted to learn the game not just whack the ball as hard as he could.  Still quite the athlete (Milt was once a scratch golfer), he worked on his soft game and his serve. 

You see, Milt and his wife Carolyn live in northern Virginia.  Each summer around Memorial Day they come to their place in Maine, which happens to be just five miles from our home in York.

To welcome them back this first Friday in June, 2021, I dial Milt’s number.  No answer.  No surprise as Milt has been working remotely ever since the pandemic grabbed the country and world by the throat.  I try Carolyn’s number and she also does not pick up.  Still not out of the ordinary.  Carolyn has a full life here in Maine, too.

I then text their son Rick, to see if they are even in Maine.  In minutes, Rick replies, Hi Dan, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Milt passed away last week.  Family in mourning.  Thanks and give my best to Hannah.

Stunned does not do justice to this news.  Disbelieving!  Incredulous!  I could empty the thesaurus describing how much I was blown away.  When Hannah and I last saw Milt this past September on the pickleball court, he looked great, full of pep, and talkative as ever. 

Many was the time that Carolyn came to watch us all play.  From her courtside vantage point, she kept score, complemented good shots, and sassily commented on what Milt should have done better.  In time, Carolyn learned that Hannah cut hair in people’s homes.  Soon Hannah became their barber and hair stylist.

Milt always said, Come and play anytime you want, and we did.  And despite his many business interests, Milt was often able to get away for an hour to play with us.  Upbeat, complementary to others, and sometimes tough on himself, he was always a joy to be around. 

The last time we saw him, we parked just twenty feet from his driveway so we wouldn’t block any cars coming and going.  He gently admonished me, What are you doing parking on the side road.  You’re friends of mine, park up front by the house.  And so we did.

Rest in peace, my friend. 

Click here for the obituary of this amazing, generous man. 

Images

Top – Milt Peterson

Middle – Our friend Fran with Hannah at Milt’s pickleball court

Bottom – Our friends Alan (red) and Genny (yellow) at the court with Hannah serving, Milt in the distance

Dan and Hannah and the Single Best Exercise

Who knew when you opened this blog on this first day of March 2021, you would learn something so valuable as the best exercise going? Hannah and I have tried so many activities, indoor and out. Running, water skiing (Hannah), tennis, golf (Dan), pickleball, working out at the gym, hiking, and good ole walking. But hold on, we have the numero uno exercise for you!

Hiking?

Hannah hiking the trails with Max, Owen, Molly, and Tip in North Andover, Massachusetts

Pickleball?

Hannah with our friend Fran anticipating the return during a pickleball game in York Harbor, Maine

Walking?

Walking the coastline near Pemaquid Point, Maine

Bicycling?

Bicycling with our son Will on the beach in Carpinteria, California

Working out at the gym?

Hannah making the scene at Coastal Fitness in Kittery, Maine

Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a leading researcher in the field of endurance exercise thinks brisk walking is far and away the single best exercise.

The five most beneficial exercises from the women and men at the Harvard Medical School are swimming, Tai Chi, strength training, walking, and Kegels.

I don’t disagree. But for me: (drum roll) The Best Exercise is the exercise that you will do!

Come and join us! It’s nearly Spring!

Dan and Hannah and A Groundhog Day Nor’easter 2021

Lying in bed in the still very dark, I hear a loud noise coming up the driveway.  Checking my Fitbit I see that it’s 430A.  I know immediately what’s up.

York is in the lower left in pink on NBC Channel 6 weather out of Portland

You see, Hannah and I had gone to bed last night knowing that 6-12” of snow with sustained winds of 25+ mph was coming to town.  I knew that tomorrow was going to be a stay-at-home day because shoveling out our 150′ driveway would take all day. 

From around the edges of the shade in our first floor bedroom, I see the lights of Nolan’s truck.  The scraping of our driveway is sweet music to my ears.  Falling back asleep after Nolan pushes aside the 14” of snow, I know we have a clear path from our garage out to Chases Pond Road. 

What a gift Nolan, a high school friend of our son Will, has given us.  Often Nolan comes to our rescue when the big storms slam York.  Similar to many others in our small town on the coast of Maine, he looks out for us.

Our place early morning after Nolan’s plowing

As dawn breaks, instead of having to shovel and shovel some more on our driveway, I head out to make a path to our propane exhaust vent, clear the front door, begin a path to our generator and propane tanks, and skim an inch of snow off the driveway.  My mind is already thinking, We can go to the gym!  Thank you, Nolan!

Shoveling the berm of snow at the end of the driveway, I see the occasional pickup truck with a plow.  Returning inside, I sip my coffee and feast on one of Hannah’s tantalizing biscuits in my new La-Z-Boy in front of SportsCenter. 

An hour later I head back out to complete the path to the generator, begin to shovel our front deck, and snow rake our roof when I notice something amiss at the end of our driveway.  The snowplow has snapped the posted of our mailing box and left it for dead.

Dead as a doornail

This has happened four or five times in the nearly 40 years we’ve lived on our country road.  In the past, the town claims that such accidents are the price of doing business and there is nothing they will do.  But I see before me a golden opportunity to network for solutions. 

Texting a variety of folks, I hear from our son Will, pickleball friends Norm and Fran, and my ping pong buddy George about repair possibilities.  It makes my day being able to connect with my peeps.

Making a comeback

So we have our first win/win/win of the season. First a snowplow surprise from a guy we’ve known since second grade, then a splintered mailbox as an opening for friendship connections, and third we got to the gym – all on the morning of February 2nd when the nor’easter came to town. 

Two days later.  In a team effort, Hannah and I slather on copious amounts of wood glue, cram the two splintered posts together, wrap the joint with high test duct tape, and support the union with a board from our shed.  Let the healing begin.


The lonely post
A team effort

Dan’s “Not My Finest Moment” with a Twist

The low tire pressure light flashed on the dashboard of my Prius.  (I know, I know. Using the word “Prius” sounds so pretentious. I just want to be more descriptive than merely saying “car.”). Clearly, Prius owning, I had to have voted for Biden and Harris, which I did.

Ergo, late afternoon while driving to our Covid Pod friend Karen’s place in the Hah-Bah (by that I mean York Harbor, Maine), Hannah and I stop at the Mobil station to get air in my tires, deflated by winter’s cold.  Much to my chagrin, a BMW owner (not that there is anything wrong with that), is taking his sweet time trying to figure out the recommended tire pressure for his tires by, get this, looking for the numbers on his front tires in the near dark of late December. 

Late afternoon at the Mobil station at York Corners just days after our snowy visit

We decide to return after an afternoon with Karen of walking in the aforementioned Hah-bah, drinking white wine, munching on apps, and later playing cribbage. 

When we leave near 7P, a crusty inch of snow covers my Prius.   Hopefully, Hannah suggests that we fill the tires in the light of day tomorrow.  Stubbornly, I am of another mind.  Laser focused, I am determined to fill my tires despite the snow and dark.  You can already see that this isn’t going to end well.

At the Mobil station, air pressure service is no longer free and requires a credit card.  Hannah quietly and gently brings up that we can do this in the light of day when it is not snowing tomorrow.  I demur.  You can see that I am not a reasonable human being.

High tech tire calibration

Kneeling on the snowy pavement, upper 20s, bare-handed to attach the hose to my front left tire valve, I ask Hannah to flash her iPhone so I can find the tire valve itself.  She can’t be pleased, but I avoid eye contact since I only have four minutes to fill all my tires. 

Kneeling again in the pavement snow and my fingers chilling, I quickly go to each tire before my four minutes is up.  Hannah is not smiling, and metaphorically shaking her head.   Driving home, I see the low tire pressure light stays on.  Damn, foiled again.

No longer snow covered as it was that night

So what have I learned?  Well, one, I need to go back to the Mobil station tomorrow. Two, filling tires on a snowy night in the dark is probably not my finest moment.  But here’s the twist. 

My humanity is reaffirmed.  It’s a moment when I balance the real good decisions I make with this clunker.  My occasional screw-up reaffirms that I am not perfect, which I never was anyway.

Wouldn’t you say that makes me all the more lovable?  Perfect is never endearing. And now you know that you don’t have to go ten for ten with me either.