Dan Demystifies the Colonoscopy Experience   Part 3 of 4

Recap from parts I and II – At the last minute before my scheduled colonoscopy, I was informed that my preferred gastroenterologist did not accept my Aetna Medicare Advantage plan.  I found an alternative doctor but wondered if he is as good.  I also wondered if my current Medicare Advantage health insurance would serve me in a health crises of major proportions.  Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

colon SMHCG

Four days before my colonoscopy (a Monday) – The colon prep instructions from Southern Maine Health Care Gastroenterology have not arrived.  It’s not a big deal since I have the previous instructions from Atlantic Digestive Specialists.  Basically, until my colonoscopy exam this Friday, I am to avoid corn, popcorn, foods with seeds, nuts, and raw vegetables

My usual air popcorn will be put on hold (Hannah never thinks eating that “cardboard” popcorn is palatable anyway.) and I’ll be breakfasting on the blandest of oatmeals since I must forego my blueberries, raisins, almonds, walnuts, and a trio of seeds – flax, sunflower, and chia.  Somehow, I’ll survive quite nicely.  You might be thinking, Dan you are my hero!  Or not.

colon picture of intestines

As Friday approaches, I think that my excellent previous exams of my colon do not preclude the possibility of less encouraging results this time.  People do get colon cancer and are in for the fight of their lives.  That said, it must count for something that I have had three clean results from previous colonoscopies when I was 50, 55, and 60.  Five years ago, I had a few polyps removed but such that it didn’t concern my gastroenterologist enough, so I was cleared to wait five years for my next exam.

Typically, colonoscopies are done every ten years, as Hannah has hers, if there is no family history (which I have since my dad, brother, and sister have had polyps) or previous polyps (which I have had).

I’m not worried, overly concerned, nor supremely confident either.  I look forward to finding out the state of my colon and then dealing with whatever happens.  Worrying about tomorrow steals the joy from today – Barbara Camerson

Three days before (Tuesday) – Not having food with seeds or nuts is really cramping my style.  My daily oatmeal is just mush without my fruit, nuts, and seeds.  I can’t lunch on my usual everything bagel either.  Then, there’s no afternoon popcorn.  Wa-wa-wa.  I just thought someone might care.  I am now aware no one does, and obviously life is pretty good if these are my issues.

colon doc john thompson

Dr. John Thompson

Two days before (Wednesday) – As my gastroenterologist Dr. John Thompson is new to me, I check him out online.  I learn he is 64 and has been in practice for 37 years.  I like experience when someone is probing with a scope through my large intestines.  He has board certifications in gastroenterology and internal medicine.  That checks two more boxes.  He completed a fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine, Gastroenterology.  I am always over-impressed with Ivy League schooling.  So that is a plus.

Day of Fasting the day before (Thursday) – I sleep poorly but am looking forward to the day of fasting to move this process forward.  (You see what I did!)  Let me remind you my colonoscopy prep begins in earnest at 2P today when I begin my first eight ounces of the GoLytely concoction.

colon golytely instructions

While in California, I had heard that the nasty taste of the GoLytely mix can be mitigated if I drink the liquid through a straw.  I’ll give it a shot, but I may just resort to chugging the eight ounces to get it over with.

Today’s diet includes black coffee and lime jello.  But the real action begins at 2P.  Literally!  (more colonoscopy humor).  The brew has been in the fridge overnight because that makes the drink more palatable cold.

Surprisingly, I’m not hungry after an early morning workout at Coastal Fitness gym.  Usually, breakfast is my favorite meal.  I love my bowl of fruit, often cantaloupe, sliced pears, tangerines, and pineapple.  That’s followed by two/thirds of a cup of oatmeal with nuts, seeds, and fruit.  Followed by a Hannah’s biscuit or two with decafe.  It’s true amore!

colon GoLytely jog

Ouch

But I know downing four liters of GoLytely this afternoon and evening is not going to be a piece of cake, perhaps more like a sonic boom.

In Part 4, my colonoscopy drama concludes with a play by play of the magic GoLytely and then the surgical operation itself.  Polyps?

 

 

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Dan Demystifies the Colonoscopy Experience   Part 2 of 4

Recap of Part I – Five days before my colonoscopy exam, my Medicare insurance coverage has been denied.  I fortunately find an alternative gastroenterologist up the road in Kennebunk, Maine, but he needs my files faxed to them before he can operate.  Click here for Part 1.

The very next day after the denial of coverage (Friday).  I get a call from Southern Maine Health Care Gastroenterology (SMHCG) saying that my colonoscopy files have been faxed to their offices already!  What could have taken five days, takes one!  I’d be scum if I don’t call Kelly at Atlantic Digestive Specialists to thank her for expediting the delivery of my files.  Today, I am not scum.

Donna at SMHCG sets me up for a colonoscopy appointment for the very next Friday, in just seven days, only three days later than my original appointment!  I have been psyching up for nearly two months for one of the most preventable-of-cancer screenings – the colonoscopy.  Truth to be told, I am looking to get the damn thing over.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you win unexpectedly.

Six days before the newly scheduled appointment (a Saturday) With this reset, I have time to think about the Aetna Medicare Advantage health insurance Hannah and I have.

colon aetna medicare

We have had two separate Medicare plans since we turned 65.  From 2013-2015 we had a high end AARP Medicare supplemental plan.  To save money because we have been quite healthy, we opted in 2016 for the Aetna Medicare Advantage plan, which we currently have.

Fact is, there are some sweet benefits to Medicare Advantage insurance.  We pay no monthly premium.  None.  We get a dental and optometry stipend for yearly check-ups.  We pay $5 for a doctor’s visit and $35 for a specialist within network.  Sounds pretty good, n’est-ce pas?

colon how medicare works

With this Aetna plan, Hannah paid $150 out of $4500 in bills from the ER at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital after her fall off the San Ysidro Trail one year ago.  I paid something like $175 of my $14,000 bill from my overnight at York Hospital and subsequent myriad of tests after my recent episode of Transient Global Amnesia.

We cannot pay more than $6000 each for health care in any one calendar year.  And, let me remind you, we pay zero per month to Aetna.

colon social security

Let’s be clear, our Medicare is not free.  Everyone, no matter whether they have a supplemental plan or an advantage plan, pays the federal government something like $140 per month.  If you are on Social Security, as we are, that money is taken directly out of your monthly Social Security check.

There are limitations to a Medicare Advantage plan.  Though our primary care physicians at Kittery Family Practice and the local York Hospital are in-network, we have found that not all local specialists are in-network.  Two and a half years ago with Aetna Medicare Advantage, I found that the dermatologist I had previously used under a regular Medicare supplemental plan would not take my Aetna coverage.  Fortunately, another physician in her office at Northeast Dermatology did and successfully removed a small growth on my cheek.

colon SMHCG

Two days ago, I was informed that my preferred gastroenterologist did not take my Aetna Medicare coverage.  I found an in-network replacement here locally at Southern Maine Health Care Gastroenterology.  Is SMHCG as good as the doctor I wanted and that had been recommended by a trusted friend?

There is a more expensive alternative to Aetna Medicare Advantage – a Medicare supplemental plan.  This year the AARP Universal Healthcare Supplemental plan would cost us each $225 per month.  That’s more than $5400 for Hannah and me per year whereas Aetna Advantage is zero per month.

colon medicare supplemental

With a top end Medicare Supplemental plan like we had from 2013-2015, we did not need referrals from our primary care physician for specialists.  Basically, every health care provider loved seeing us coming.  I don’t remember a co-pay.  Our Plan F for supplemental insurance was the gold standard.  My previous colonoscopy with a doctor of my choosing was covered without a second thought or additional expense in 2013.

But here’s the bigger question as Hannah and I turn 70, how good would our coverage with Aetna Medicare Advantage be if we had something really serious – say a heart attack, cancer, something we don’t even know that might be going on in our bodies?  Would we be denied top medical providers that are available to others with a Medicare supplemental plan?

A young friend of ours had a breast cancer diagnosis.  She had the choice of Mass General or Dana Farber Cancer Institute, both world class hospitals in Boston, from which to choose for her cancer treatment.  Would I have such an option if I had a similar serious diagnosis?

Calling our Aetna customer service representative, I learn we would not have the choice of either of those hospitals.  Local is not worse, but why would I limit my options when elite hospitals are sixty miles away in Boston?

colon mass general

So, Hannah and I must decide, while we are currently quite healthy, if the extra expense of a Medicare supplemental plan is worth the additional $5400 cost per year.  If necessary, I would want the choice between Mass General and Dana Farber.  Wouldn’t you, if you could afford it?

Part 3 details my mindset and preparation as the colonoscopy draws nigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Have an Angel

When we shop together, Hannah and I can be impatient, not with each other, but with the process of shopping; and not just for the little stuff – I’m talking houses and cars!  We know we should do more research, but… we wouldn’t argue with ones who think that we jump to purchasing decisions way too quickly without a whole lot of forethought.  Even so, that impulsive strategy can work.  Case in point.

March snow 1

Our home in York for the last 36 years

We looked at one house when we moved to New England from Arizona in 1982.  We got lucky as we are still loving our home with all its quirks 36 years later.

Point two.  Just planning to look to see what my 100K mile Hyundai Elantra could get in trade, two hours later, we had bought a shiny new Toyota Prius.  It remains a sweet ride two years later.

Amana our fridge

Gleaming Maytag fridge

On the other hand, one spring Sunday we were checking out State Street Discount for a refrigerator.  A gleaming silver model Maytag with a five-year protection plan caught our eye and blinded us.  Within 45 minutes, it was ours.  It hasn’t been great.  Sure, our milk and beer are cold and the peas stay frozen, but we have dealt with four repairs in five years, fortunately covered by that warranty; all luck that we didn’t deserve.

Lately, our LG high-end, bought-without-much-thought washing machine is giving us trouble.  With its high tech digital display, it electronically counts down from the auto-sensing to the final spin.  But with eight minutes left, the digital display rebounds to 15 minutes in an endless rinse and spin cycle.  As a stop gap measure, we turn off both the machine and the water coming through the hoses.  Then we punch in spin only and our wash becomes passably dry.  It’s not exactly what we paid the big bucks for.

Amana mr appliance

Unfortunately, we did not buy the protection plan for what is now only a three-year-old washing machine!  With no choice, we call our reliable Mr. Appliance repair guy, who has previously done warranty work on our sad refrigerator.

It turns out the technology is not the issue; the washer drum is out of balance and the repair is north of $500.   Even so, it turns out the $95 service call is money well-spent.

Of course, the technician advises us not to put any money into this old machine.  And second, he suggests we buy a basic machine and get rid out of it when it dies, which in this day and age often means just five to eight years, or sometimes three!

Breaking our usual big box store shopping routine (Best Buy, Lowe’s, Target, and Home Depot are in our Seacoast area), weAmana best buy are now 21st century shoppers.  Never leaving the house, I go online looking for a basic name-brand washing machine.  It turns out Best Buy and Home Depot have the same Amana machine for just under $300.  We can get a five-year protection plan for either $75 (Best Buy) or $99 (Home Depot).  We pass on the $30 installation fee since all we have to do is hook up the hoses.  Both places will cart our old machine away for $15 American.  We opt for Best Buy since they won’t charge a delivery fee and the Geek Squad will deal with any problems.

As promised, four days later a 24’ truck arrives in the four-hour afternoon window with two men of muscle.  Angel comes in to see how tight the passage is to our laundry room.  We have already taken the bolts out of the door hinges and also removed the door itself to our laundry room nook.

Amana washer

Our no frills Amana washer

Then Angel returns with his compadre, to lift the old machine up easily with heavy canvas straps as if it were a toaster, and cart it to the waiting truck.  Using the same straps, they bring in the new machine with no digital readouts but dials from the 1950s; this retro look delights me no end.

In less than 15 minutes, the machine is in place for us to hook up the hoses when Angel says, since you have been so nice, I’ll hook up the hoses for you.

amana goes around 5

 

Is that a line?   I like to think not.  If we are honest with ourselves, we are typically decent and appreciative to the people we meet.  We subscribe to the belief that what goes around comes around.  We are, indeed, grateful for the good that comes into our lives and we often show it.

Angel assesses us correctly and takes an extra sixty seconds to help us out by tightening the hoses to our new washer.  Sending him and his buddy off with Hannah’s Monster cookies, we thank Angel for being, well, an angel.

Dan and his Letterman Jacket

COW death cleaning

Of late, Hannah has been into “death cleaning.”  It’s a Swedish concept for seniors to get rid of all the crap that they have accumulated over the years, so their children don’t have to do it when dear ole mom and dad cash in their chips.  By the way, she has renamed it as “deep cleaning.”

During the process, Hannah asks if I still want my College of Wooster letterman’s jacket that she thinks is in the upstairs bedroom closet.  Turns out we gave it away a while back, but its significance is not lost on me during an impressionable time in my life.  Let me explain.

I hated the College of Wooster, which I entered as a freshman in the fall of 1966.

COW map of Woo better

In no particular order, I hated the cold, damp, rainy, snowy, windy Ohio weather from September through May; as an aimless kid, without a clue what the hell I was doing in college, I floundered; the pointlessness and dead-ended-ness of majoring in political science didn’t inspire me; I was a passive receptacle in my lecture-oriented classes, obediently taking notes and barfing them back on the tests; I was just a 20 year old going through the motions because that’s what this son of college grads did; all the while listening to so much Mamas and Papas that my head and soul were filled with California Dreamin’ and escape from the Buckeye State.

COW COW name

Every spring, I wanted to transfer, and finally did, to Arizona State University after my junior year.

To clarify, this situation is all on me.  I wasn’t mature enough to make the necessary choices and just wallowed in blaming the institution and my circumstances.  That said, I did have my moments at Woo.

COW tennis team 1968

College of Wooster tennis team, spring 1968

Of the three best things that happened to me at the College of Wooster, being a part of the tennis team was #2.  I loved being one of the guys.  And that’s the connection to my letterman’s jacket.

When I was applying to colleges as a high school senior, my sole criteria for a school was whether I could make the tennis team.  Tennis was my claim to high school fame and I wanted to continue to serve and volley in college.  Back in the day, the College of Wooster was a small school (Division III now) of 1500 students.   Making the tennis team seemed plausible.

Turns out I was selected for the team.  As one of three freshmen to make the team that had six singles and three doubles teams, I played #4 singles.  I fashioned more wins than losses that first year, but mostly I loved just belonging.

COW tennis 1967

College of Wooster tennis team, spring of 1967 (my freshmen year)

With another freshman, Larry Lindberg (#3), I played the backhand side of the #1 doubles team.  The top teams (Dennison, Wittenberg, and Oberlin) beat us like an old rug, but we held our own v. Muskingum, Baldwin-Wallace, and Hiram.

Our team had training meals before matches in the basement of Kenarden Hall.  Always steak, with a side of potatoes, peas, and rolls with honey.  In the spring of 1967, carbo loading was not a thing yet.

COW TJs

On away matches, we ate early at Wooster, then traveled to another campus in the Ohio Athletic Conference and bonded in the three-seater station wagon the college provided.

Our coach, the Dutchman, Al Van Wie, had a peculiar bit of post-match behavioral modification for us.  If we won, which he associated with us playing well, we went out to for a nice meal at TJs in downtown Wooster.  If we lost, we got fast food burgers.

As athletes around the world know, better players can often bring out the best in one’s game, though one still might lose.  And often we as a team played better v. Dennison or Oberlin and played down to the weaker teams like Hiram.  Still, that calculation was lost on the Dutchman and the pattern of post-match meals never changed.

COW letterman jacket

Letterman jacket similar to my College of Wooster one

At the end of the year at the tennis awards ceremony, any player making the team for the first time and playing more than half the matches, which I had, would earn a black with tan leather sleeve letterman’s jacket, similar to what the football and basketball players wore.

Back in the day, this was about as cool as it got.  Once I had my letterman’s jacket, I was so damn proud but never so delusional that chicks would be flocking my way.

Throughout all the moves I’ve made around the country to Arizona to California back to Arizona, then to New Hampshire and to our current home in Maine, I always kept my Wooster letterman’s jacket.  It never really fit and within years of earning it became out of style.  Even so the accomplishment of earning it meant so much that I couldn’t let it go.

So, College of Wooster wasn’t all bad.  By the way, you might be wondering what were #1 and #3 of the best things about my three dismal years there in Ohio.

COW Mule 2

Jim Francis, my college roommate and high school history teacher who was Idaho Teacher of the Year in 1997!  Yeah Mule!

#3 was my college roommate during my sophomore and junior years, Jim Francis (Mule).  As my best friend during those Ohio years, he taught me a valuable lesson in life that I live to this day.

When I would come back from a date with Hannah Kraai, a drop dead beautiful women’s tennis player, with cookies or brownies that she had made for me, I would just keep them to myself, though I shared a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet with Mule.

COW campaign ad

Successfully elected to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2017

Soon, he had enough of my crap and said how it’d be nice if I shared them with him.  I honestly didn’t think about sharing them with him.  I was so embarrassed; I appreciate his courage to challenge me.

That was the moment that I began my evolution from a scarcity mentality (one of fear of the future so hoarding is necessary) to an abundance mentality (life is filled with good and the more you give the more you get).

By the way, he, too, transferred out of Wooster after our junior year.  First to the University of Utah (he as an Idaho boy), and then for the second semester of our senior year to Arizona State where we were roommates again.

Numero uno?  The one and only Hannah Kraai Rothermel.  We dated strongly during our sophomore year, broke up during our junior year; after which I left for the sunshine of the Grand Canyon State with a broken heart.  After our 1970 graduation, I taught social studies, science, and Spanish in Anaheim, California while she taught elementary physical education in Pittsford, New York, within a few miles of her childhood home of Fairport.

COW Sphinx 1969

Hannah, lower left, as a member of the Sphinx local sorority (c. 1968)

Fortunately, in the fall of 1971, she moved to Arizona to see if we had any magic left.  Turns out we did, and we married on July 1, 1972.

And for that reason, I have a very warm spot for the College of Wooster.

 

Dan is Just a Little Less Self-righteous of Late

Our neighborhood in suburban/rural southern Maine is plagued by leaf blowers.  Let me unload the thesaurus with more appropriate verbs: afflicted, inundated, and overwhelmed.  Without fail, each fall the leaf blowing horde descends on Chases Pond Road, polluting the air with their mechanical blowhards.  For hours!  Their mission?  And they have chosen to accept it, is to blow every last leaf into the next century!  No surprise, it’s always guys.  I’m just saying.

Try sitting outside on our front deck reading the Times (I am not a barbarian.) during this cacophony!  Incessantly high-pitched, these disturbers of the peace mess with our country road calm.  Winter snows are a sweet relief to this disharmony.

Leaf pond

Our front yard facing the vernal pond, 98% free of oak leaves

As an alternative to such mayhem, for the 36 years that Hannah and I have lived on our acre and a half lot on Chases Pond Road, we’ve raked leaves – a tradition as American as apple pie and thinking the other political party is the devil.

It’s a known fact that this country was built on the shoulders of the good people who raked their lawns!  Our home is in the center of a one-time forest with 70’ red and white oaks and beech trees.  When our kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, were young, they had leaves aplenty for jumping in and splashing about.  A Norman Rockwell childhood to say the least!

Now that the kids have left the nest, Hannah and I, at the spring-like age of 70, continue to rake yellow and brown leaves by the millions.  Damn proud of being American leaf rakers, we buy into the notion that motion is lotion.

Leaf fire pit yard

Our backyard with our fire pit to the left with just a few scraggly leaves

Throughout the month of November, we rake for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.  Not insanely obsessed, we take it slow.  The beauty of our lot in the woods is that we don’t bag a single leaf.  We can just rake our leaves into the woods for nature’s composting.  But…

Lately my right elbow has been acting up after just five minutes of raking.  Over the last three years as a pickleball player, I have been sidelined by bouts of tendinitis.  Ergo, over the last year, 45 to 60 minutes of daily stretching has literally got me back in the game; I don’t want to mess with the joy and athletic challenge I find on the pickleball court.   Today, after five minutes of raking, I say no mas.

Leaf before backyard

Our backyard with winter’s last snow among a sea of leaves that need to be removed

Still, this cruel April we have masses of leaves that we just didn’t get to last fall emerging from the snow.  These soggy leaves will smother our grassy, mossy lawn that grows every type of weed and dandelion known to woman and man.  To rake or not to rake?  That is the question.

As Hannah and I sit over wine one evening in early April, I am ready to introduce the L word – leaf blower.

No reason you might have guessed this about me, but I hate lawn machines.  We do have a lawn mower, but that is serviced by Eldredge Lumber every two years when it just won’t start because of my neglect.  We have no snow blower.  Things just go wrong with machines and I can’t fix them.  Truth be told, I don’t want to even try.

Leaf blower itself

The mighty leaf blower that has tamed our side yard.

But it is time to consider a leaf blower.  A leaf blower!  God, forgive me!  We can buy one, but it seems so wasteful for everyone in the neighborhood to have a leaf blower.  What about a community leaf blower?  We Americans pride ourselves on our independence.  What about our interdependence?  What about waste?  What about the survival of the planet?  All important questions, but I digress.

Though we live within a neighborhood of 25 homes on half acre lots, we are not close socially at all.  A few greetings when we pass, but nothing like the neighborhoods of the good folks in Ithaca, New York.

So, it seems that we’ll just suck it up and buy our own leaf blower.  And then, I realize that our son-in-law Tip has a leaf blower.  Maybe we can rent it or pay for the gas or something to share it.

Texting that suggestion to him, I quickly get his response, what’s ours is yours.  What a guy!  I know Tip hit the lottery marrying our daughter Molly, but she hit a home run herself with Tip.

Leaf D with leaf blower

Dan, who makes oak leaves pay

Tip drops off his leaf blower and I blow leaves and try to ignore my contribution to noise pollution (quite the interior rhyme!).  You see, nowadays I’m just a little less self-righteous when I hear the cacophony of leaf blowers.  A love affair?  Not yet, but we are becoming fast friends.

As I sit out on our front deck with this week’s Sports Illustrated, I hear the sound of a neighbor’s leaf blower, smile, and think, he must have a little tendinitis and needs to use his leaf blower.

You see, I no longer reside in the “Leaf Blower Judgment Zone.”

Leaf H with leaf blower

Hannah shows the pachysandra in her rock garden who’s the boss

 

 

 

Leaf H with leaf blower better

Dan at the March for Our Lives Gun Law Rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Over coffee at Lil’s in Kittery, Maine this morning, my friend Steve mentions that he is going to the anti-gun rally in Portsmouth this afternoon.

Concerned about another horrific mass killing, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (40 miles north of Miami) five weeks ago, I decide I want to be counted as one of many who stands against the proliferation of guns in American society.

Of late, I have been hopeful that this will be the time in history when students everywhere (as well as their parents and many of us Americans) will seize the opportunity to bring about sensible gun laws.  These students will no longer wait for the adults, who have failed them, to get it right.

Are you as stunned as I am that the mass murder of first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT more than five years ago didn’t spur action for sensible gun laws?  I remain appalled.

Time cover for 4.2.18

But maybe this time is different.  Now high school students across the country are making their voices heard.  Parkland students are on the cover of the Time magazine that arrived at our home today under the headline of Enough.  Perhaps, it finally is Enough!

I remain hopeful that 2018 will be like 1968 when protesters took to the streets against the War in Viet Nam, which led to its end.

M 8

I am so sick of politicians who, after a school shooting tragedy, say our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.  And then nothing is done.  It’s time for action.

At least, we can all vote this November.

Has this latest gun violence in schools motivated millennials (18-35) to register and vote in November?  In recent elections, millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.  You see what that got us in 2016.

Will this year be different?  I remain hopeful.  It happened in 1968.

Below are some signs from the March for Our Lives in Portsmouth, NY on March 24, 2018.

 

 

 

M 1

 

 

 

M 6

 

 

M 5

 

 

 

M 3

 

L 1

Sign held by high school student

 

L 2

 

 

M 9

 

M 10

 

M 12

 

M 13

 

M 14

Owen and Max, this is for you!

 

M 15

 

M 16

 

M 18

 

M 19

 

 

L 3

 

M 21

 

M 22

 

M 23

21st Century Weapons  18th century laws

Dan and Hannah On Planting Seeds

Dealing with the current times can be overwhelming, sometimes scary, certainly threatening for some.  I feel I may have an undiagnosed low grade case of the blues ever since the presidential election of 2016.  With a self-proclaimed very stable genius of a chief executive, global climate deniers, terrorism, California wildfires and mudslides, it’s easy to get into a funk.

seeds wildfire

The coastal California hills are alive with the sound of crackling fires

But what good does that do?  Curling up in a fetal position solves little.  Triangulating our complaints has little merit.  So, Hannah and I have some thoughts for you to consider.  Here goes.

My first reaction to the upheaval of the past year might be seen as not really very mature, but I think mildly effective.  You decide.  My knee jerk reaction to the presidential election of 2016 was for Hannah and me to give to organizations that the president had targeted for dismantling or compromising.  Ergo, we gave to Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Maine Public Radio, a Santa Barbara Muslim community for rebuilding it’s mosque, and the Nature Conservancy.  That’s fine, but hardly the proactive strategy we are looking for to address our hopes going forward.

seeds planned parenthood

As young marrieds in Tempe, Arizona in the 1970s, even then we knew we couldn’t save the world, but thanks to Hannah’s lead, we knew that we could give it a shot to make a difference in the lives of one person at a time.

seeds jj watt

Ellen DeGeneres donates a cool mil to the efforts of Houston Texan’s JJ Watt to raise money for hurricane victims in Houston

The Hurricanes of the late summer of 2017 gave us a starting point.  The trio of destruction, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, grabbed the nation’s and our attention, then shook it like a ragdoll, and for weeks and months turned the lives of so many upside down.  It was just the impetus for us to donate to family and friends in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico to have them find someone or sometwo who could use a small financial shot in the arm.  We were just getting started.

seeds prayer

Let me take a little side trip for a thought or two about praying, since politicians often speak that they are praying for the victims.  I am all for praying.  I pray.  But praying for victims of natural or man-made disasters is just a start for me.  Praying focuses my attention.  Then there is the companion need for action.  Where do the relief supplies, rebuilding, and ongoing support come from?  One place is for individuals moved by the reports of  the catastrophic damage.  Another significant player is the spiritual community, the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, that rally to support their/our communities.  They are all planting seeds!  For me, prayer and action go hand in hand.

seeds planting seeds

That leads us to the idea of a Planting Seeds.  Leaving the big programs of world health and access to education for all to Bill and Melinda Gates and others, we’ve begun with two recent efforts.

seeds support PR

Puerto Rico

First, at our kids’ suggestion, we all (New York and Maine Rothermels and Massachusetts Rawdings) are using our resources to support American citizens in Puerto Rico this holiday season.  Thanks to our friend Elsa whom we met through our longtime Virginia friend, Amelia, we learned of the good work of Puerto Rico United;  rather than giving Christmas presents, we gave the money to the ongoing relief effort in the Caribbean .

Elsa responded in part:   Thank you again to the whole family for being so thoughtful and generous to my island.  I hope one day you are all able to enjoy a hike in the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System (El Yunque National Forest).  It was devastated, but it is already coming back to its green beauty.  They are working very hard to rehabilitate the zone, so it can be open to the public again.

Second, Hannah and I have contacted ministers we know, here and away, to direct our donations to those in need.

Our note to them follows.

Dear (clergy),

Can you do us a favor?  Do you know a single mom, a single dad, a couple, or a family that could us some financial support this holiday season?    Love and peace, Dan and Hannah

One emails back, Hey, thanks for the check! I promise to put it to good use! That’s very kind and generous of you! There’s a family in our church that’s really struggling. House repairs piling up. The church just replaced their hot water heater after finding out they’ve been without hot water since the beginning of summer. Three children, two of whom are special needs. Real worker-bees with very kind hearts. Your gift will truly be a blessing to them!!! Thank You!!

Another checks in, Your wonderful generosity has finally found a grateful recipient.  Our Youth Director recently told me of a single Mom who attends from time to time that is in need of financial help.  She was so thrilled to hear of this gift and I just now put it into cash with a card to her.  Thank you so much, for reaching out across the miles to be a special blessing.  Namaste.

A third response, Thank you, so much, for the generous gift. There is a single woman with small kids that comes to me several times a year for help. She is just the person that came to mind, and so I will pass your gift on to her. Sometimes she comes for help for rent or utilities, but sometimes at Christmas she comes because she has nothing to give her kids. Lord have mercy!

Finally, Thank you for your gift!!! We have so many people in this area – many in our church – who will be moved to tears with your gift.  Whether it goes for food or heat or gifts for their kids.  Your kindness will (and is!) so appreciated.

seeds mugs

Look closely at these mugs

It doesn’t have to be much, $5 is a start.  Let’s have coffee and explore what we can do together.  I’m buying.

Plant seeds.  We need more conversation than debate.

 

Dan and Hannah Rock 24 Hours with Owen and Max

You probably never met my grandmother (my mom’s mom) – Hazel Hilliard Archer.  Let me introduce you to her.  You see, Hazel started a tradition that Hannah and I carry on 70 years later.   Let me explain.

Hazel use this one

Our grandma, Hazel

Living on Breading Avenue up from the Ohio River in Ben Avon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hazel and my grandfather (Harry) raised four kids; my mom being the second of the quartet.  When I was born during a 26” snowstorm in late 1947, my parents lived in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, some 400 miles from Hazel and Harry.

Hazel and Harry classic

Grandpa (Harry) and Grandma (Hazel)

At the time, mothers routinely spent two weeks in the hospital after delivering their child.  But that day, some two years after WW II ended, I, as a preemie, was making things a little more complicated.  After those two weeks, I still wasn’t gaining weight, in fact, losing it.  At that point, my parents and my grandmother (who had come to New Jersey for support) said we are taking Danny home.  Immediately I began to thrive.  Literally, Hazel saved my life.

Harry and Hazel in Radburn

Harry and Hazel in front of our childhood home on Bolton Place in Fair Lawn

Fast forward eight plus years, grandma came to our family home in Jersey to take care of my brother Richard, sister Patty, and me for six weeks while our parents took an ocean liner across the Pond and traveled throughout Europe.  I can’t imagine it was a piece of cake dealing with a three, six, and eight-year-old in someone else’s house for a triple fortnight, but Hazel came through in the clutch.

Harry Hazel Mom

Harry, Hazel, and Mom in our front yard

My mother (Jean Archer) followed in her mom’s footsteps.  Annually, she and Dad would take care of our three kids (Molly, Robyn, and Will) for a long weekend so Hannah and I could get away to Camden, Maine.  Those with young kids know there is no better gift than time alone with their spouse during the child rearing years.

24 m and t

Tip and Molly, parents of Owen and Max

So, fast forward to 2017.  After a late November Saturday morning breakfast with the entire Family Rawding at our place, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip leave for their day while Hannah and I have ourselves a golden 24 hours with Owen and Max.

In ways, Hannah and I are like Farmers Insurance – we have learned a thing or two in the five years we’ve been grandparents to preschoolers.  One is that we need breaks ourselves when we are the one-day de facto parents of our grandsons.  Two is that we are the grandparents of no naps.  We want these boys to fall asleep at 7P.  After 11 hours of togetherness, we need some Dan-and-Hannah-ness.  That means a glass of wine in front of our gas fireplace.

24 honeydew melon

Owen with his Omi cutting up honey dew melon

Just after Owen awakes (he’s our early bird), he and Hannah cut up honey dew melon.  Playing with our wooden train set and a variety of Hess trucks, Owen and Max have come to expect adventures when they come to Omi and Poppa’s.  While I take charge of the morning adventures, Hannah takes the afternoon.

Just before 10A, I get the boys in their car seats and head for adventure #1, the Kittery Community Center and its elevated track above the basketball court.

As we enter the town facility, Karate Kids are going through their moves as they progress towards the coveted Black Belt on the basketball court itself.  Watching intently, Owen and Max press themselves to the glass window, aware that their local cousins are also into ka-rah-tay.  I milk the karate watching for as long as possible, knowing every minute away gives Hannah more time on her own.

24 on the track

Owen (in front) and Max running the track at the Kittery Community Center

Soon Owen asks to go up to the track where the two boys can’t get enough of running on the hard rubber oval.  After twenty minutes of steady Usain Bolt-ing it, Owen and Max are unaware that the KCC’s custodian has come over to me to say that the track is for walking, not running.  My bad.

24 george with boys

George with our grandsons Max (to the right) and Owen

Out the door, we head three miles north on coastal route 103 to the home of my ping pong buddy, George Derby for adventure #2.  Last summer, George invited us to his place so Owen and Max could find sea glass.  Looking for an excuse to extend our morning, I drive to George’s place to see if he is home so the boys can thank him for the sea glass they found.

24 geo helping boys find sea glass

Hunting for sea glass with George Derby

Upon arrival with George in his driveway, I roll down the car windows, which cues Owen and Max to bellow, THANK YOU FOR THE SEA GLASS.   With George’s encouragement, we return to the shoreline to look again for more sea glass this late fall day.  Thanks to the Seacoast’s top sea glass finder (George!), the boys hit the jackpot.

24 O and M with Poppa and buoy

Max and Owen with their Poppa and the buoy

Finding white and green sea glass for Owen and Max, George lets us know that blue is the rarest of sea glassi on the coast of Maine.  In addition, thanks to a recent 60 mph wind and rain storm, a lobster buoy washed up on his shore.  Generously, George gives it to the boys.

Already noon, we head for adventure #3, the York Public Library, where Owen and Max rush downstairs to the wooden train sets.   Later, with the boys snuggled up to me, I read A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems.  It’s a fun read for kids and adults alike.  (Also consider another Mo Willems book, I Really Like Slop, about the further adventures of Gerald, the elephant, and Piggy.)

Soon home to Chases Pond Road well after 1P, I have given Hannah 3+ hours and me the morning of my dreams.  After lunch, Owen and Max play with the Hess Trucks and with the miniatures in Hannah’s shadow box, but never, never a nap.

24 Frostys

Afternoon Frosty’s at Wendy’s

By 245P, Hannah is out for her adventures with the boys.  First, to Wendy’s in Portsmouth, NH for Frosty’s with gift certificates from the boys’ Auntie Robyn.  This trip is followed by an hour playing on the living room carpet at our friend Mandy’s place in Kittery.

24 Mandy with Owen and Max

Mandy between Owen and Max

After dinner of meatballs, corn, and crunchy flakes in blackberry yogurt, we read to them, but only briefly because…the grandparents of no naps have done it again.  The boys are fried and asleep by 7P.  Hannah and I are living the dream having grandsons in the area.  That said, we are in bed by 815P!

Nota Bene – Thanks to my sister Patty and cousin Eileen for the pictures of Hazel and Harry

 

 

Since that November day, Hannah and I have had a December as well as a January 24 hours with Owen and Max.  I bring you pictures from those days together.

In December 2017:

24 Dec Ginger bread houses at HD

Building gingerbread houses at Home Depot

24 Dec Owen pottery

Owen apottery making at Ocean Fire Pottery in York, Maine

In January 2018:

24 Jan max at HD

Max pumped about his block calendar

24 Jan at HD block calendars

Back at Home Depot making block calendars

24 Jan at Wendy's

Who wouldn’t want Frosty’s at Wendy’s on a -18F wind chill January morning!

24 Jan Owen and Omi and Monster cookies

Owen and Omi making Monster Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Are Thrown a Curve, Rebound to Hike Stone Mountain, Georgia

St map of sandy

Up at 4A on this Tuesday in late October 2017, Hannah and I are flying 900 miles southwest from Boston to Atlanta for Hannah’s stem cell injections; it’s an experimental procedure to see if stem cells will improve the quality of Hannah’s voice, diminished for the last 15 years with spasmodic dysphonia.  Hannah has a 1P appointment at Superior Healthcare in Sandy Springs, 25 miles north of Atlanta.

Our Delta flight from Logan Airport is delayed by federal regulations that require the flight attendants to have enough downtime between flights.  Our attendants arrived late last night, so our flight leaves 30 minutes late this morning.

Landing in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Georgia’s capital later than we expect, Hannah calls Julie, the nurse practitioner at Superior, to let her know that we are on our way.  Hearing their conversation in the next seat, I gather that Houston, we have a problem.

St superior healthcare

It seems that earlier in the morning the UPS truck arrived at Superior Healthcare without Hannah’s own stem cells, which are frozen and stored in a stem cell bank in Florida.  Though ordered by Julie for today’s procedure, they are nowhere to be found.   The long and short of it is that Hannah will not be getting her stem cell injection today.  Julie apologizes and does her best to make things right.

Having already paid for a flight for each of us, our hotel room, and our rental car, Hannah and I have an angel looking out for us.  It’s Julie to the rescue as she reschedules Hannah’s appointment for next Thursday; the stem cell bank will pick up all our expenses for our return to Atlanta.

Even so, how is a guy and a gal to feel about this snafu 900 miles from home?  Clearly, it was not the outcome we wanted.  St anger

Angry?  What does that get us?  We all know that anger just poisons the angry one.

Disappointed?  Not even.  Life happens.  Punches are thrown.  This is a love tap.  A first world problem.  Today, we’ll rock and roll with this beautiful sunny day in Georgia!

No, the snafu turns out to be one helluva opportunity.  We have sunshine for our hike at Stone Mountain, to the east of Atlanta.  We always have a choice how to deal with the unexpected.

Stone Mountain has a checkered past.  It’s the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, the heinous racist organization that terrorized blacks, Jews, and gays in the South with lynchings and daily fear and dread.

St 4A Generals better

Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Also, upon Stone Mountain is the bas relief of two prominent Confederate Civil War generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.  In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, jr. spoke of the importance to let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.  Clearly a pointed reference for those who passed 8th grade history class.

St 1 h at sign

Stone Mountain Park has its own exit off four lane Route 78.  For $15, we have the run of the park to hike on a gorgeous southern afternoon.  Parking near the trailheads is plentiful as we boot up for the one mile Walk Up Trail to the top of Stone Mountain.  Though three hundred yards of paved road begin the trail, we soon turn 90 degrees left to climb bare stone to the top.

St 1B D on stony slab up

Stepping up and over stone ledges, I have never seen a trail like this one – a rising all-stone path to the top of the mountain.  Even on this mid-week day, the trail is happy with people but not swarming as it must be on spring and fall weekends.

Climbing steadily, we have a workout that most can do; that said, it’s no walk in the park.  Near the top there is a double railing for climbing a particularly steep section of the trail.  Welcoming the assistance, we see twenty-something athletes using the trail for an afternoon workout.

St 2 H near hand rails

The double railing above Hannah on the way to the top of Stone Mountain of Georgia

Atop Stone Mountain, the wind picks up, but the sunshine and joy of the climb warms us up and down.  Spotting the Sky Tram that floats visitors to the summit, we make a pit stop at the lodge’s rest rooms; across the lobby, there’s a snack shop, worthy of any Regal Cinema in America, selling sugar products; and then even more sugar if you like.

St 3A D on Cherokee

The white blaze of the Cherokee Trail

After a half hour of climbing to the top, the descent is easy-peezy.

Arriving back at the trailhead an hour after our start, we turn right for the orange blaze Connecting Trail that soon hooks us up with the Cherokee Trail that circles the mountain.  It’s a delightful dirt trail within hailing distance of an active railroad under the canopy of deciduous trees.

St 4B H with Generals good too

Confederate Memorial carvings, 400′ above the ground and nearly 200′ wide  (A Confederate Mount Rushmore?)

Within twenty minutes, we are at the base of the Confederate Heroes in all their glory on the flat vertical side of Stone Mountain.  What’s a Yankee to make of all this?

I don’t doubt the sincerity of these men, but I can’t but wonder how misguided was their defense of slavery (euphemistically referred to as the Peculiar Institution); it seems so transparently bogus to claim that the South was fighting for states’ rights in the Civil War.

Were the Southernors rebels or traitors?   Inflammatory nouns serve little purpose.  They divide rather than unite in this time when bullying and name-calling are the order of the day from the Oval Office.

So how do we unite?  One possibility is that we start by not seeing the other side as the devil.  We do the Stephen Covey thing (the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

We listen.  We approach them with love in our hearts, not retaliatory invective.   We believe that good will win out.  And we don’t lose faith.

Later, over wine and cheese and crackers at our Comfort Inn and Suites near the Atlanta airport, Hannah and I toast our unexpected glorious day and thank the turn of events for making it so.

Dan and Hannah and 93 Words for 2017

This year, mend a quarrel.

Seek out a forgotten friend.

Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust.

Write a letter.

 

Give a soft answer.

Encourage youth.

Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.

Keep a promise.

 

Forgo a grudge.

Forgive an enemy.

Apologize.

Try to understand.

 

Examine your demands on others.

Think first of someone else.

Be kind.

Be gentle.

Laugh a little more.

Express your gratitude.

Welcome a stranger.

Gladden the heart of a child.

Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.

Speak your love and then speak it again.

 

Howard W. Hunter