Dan Breathes in New Life Thanks to James Nestor

Author’s note: For this Q & A blog, I am trying to come up with a great interviewer. Rachel Maddow comes right to mind. So, below I am imagining what it would be like to be interviewed by Rachel Maddow. Enjoy.

Rachel Maddow:  Danny Boy, welcome to the Rachel Maddow Show. First off, what gives!   You seem like a new man.  I’ve known you for years. You look different.

Danny Boy:  Damn, after six weeks so glad that you can see it, too!  Sweet! And it was all so simple.  It was literally right there in front of my face.  My beautiful nose!  Rachel, I am now a nose-breathing fool, and I mean that in a good way! 

RM: Right away, I notice your posture is better.  You were definitely slouching more of late.  You and I know that unwanted advice is seen as criticism and since you never asked me to comment about your posture, I never brought up your slouching. Anyway, less slouching is not usually what happens in one’s mid-70s.  Whatsup?

DB:  To get a full breath into my lungs through my nose, I have to stand up straighter.  Whenever I think of nasal breathing throughout the day, I breathe with the 4-4-6-2 technique.  Four seconds inhaling, then four seconds holding my breath, followed by six seconds exhaling, then a final two seconds holding my breath.  I then rinse and repeat, or really just repeat. The more I do it, the more I think to do it. I just have to stand up straighter to fill my lungs. Rachel, it’s so damn calming, too. You probably noticed that Zen-like quality I now embody.

RM: Zen master, I’m much more interested in your nasal breathing and what it holds for my audience. Is it true that slow, deep breaths are a game changer? 

DB: That’s the beauty of 4-4-6-2 that it slows my breathing down as I briefly hold my breath. Let me repeat, I am becoming the Zen Man!

RM: The word on the street is that when you breathe through your nose, the air is purified, heated, and moistened which increases your ability to use oxygen.

DB:  Technically that’s what happens.  Rachel, as you know as a graduate of a Pac-12 University, that results in increased blood flow and gives me more energy, as you can plainly see!  You should see me at the Portsmouth Y or on the pickleball court!

RM:  You are quite the scientist with all this talk of oxygen intake and blood flow. 

DB: Ah shucks, but that’s not exactly the full story. I did marry someone who got an A in Organic Chemistry at the Harvard of the West – Arizona State University, clearly a notch, we can both agree, above your alma mater – Stanford University.  I, on the other hand, just passed Geology 101 with no glory.  Hey, we each play to our strengths.

RM:  What’s this I hear that you taping your mouth each night?

DB:  Bingo!  Hannah and I get eight to nine “free” hours of nasal breathing to build up our lung capacity. I use a ½ inch wide piece of white gauzy tape over my lips.  Our daughter Molly uses simply Scotch Tape, similar to what Hannah uses. Our friend Karen sleeps through the night when she didn’t previously now that she tapes her mouth.

RM: You don’t choke or gag?

DB: No, ma’am.  Not once! Six weeks in and it’s peaceful slumber.  Hannah doesn’t hear my loud night breathing (i.e. snoring) any more nor I hear hers.  Though the sample size is small, I don’t appear to be waking up as much at night. Tuesday past, I slept seven straight hours, got up, and slept for two more. I never did that before.

RM: Since we have established that you are no scientist, how did you learn all this?

DB:  Podcast, my esteemed friend. Here’s my gift to you and your audience.  Our son Will sent us a link to the 10% Happier with Dan Harris podcast where James Nestor, the author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art eloquently spoke of the health benefits of nasal breathing (see below for the link).   From there, I borrowed Breath from the York (Maine) Public Library and read more, which deepened my commitment to a daily nasal breathing practice.

RM: Well, I wouldn’t have believed the change if I hadn’t seen you with my own two eyes.   You are stunning, I must say.

DB: Why thanks. 

RM: I’m kidding.  You are fine, just don’t get too full of yourself, big boy.

Nota Bene: If what I say intrigues you, get some really solid information more than my anecdotal musings by checking out these resources:

Ten Percent Happier podcast with James Nestor.  Click here for that link. 

Head to your library or to Amazon for Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art for his in-depth scientific look at breathing correctly.

On YouTube – 5 Ways to Improve Your Breathing with James Nestor (12 minutes). Click here for that link.

One final thank you to Denny McLoughlin of High Trust Thinking/Leadership for being the source of the quote “Unasked for advice is seen as criticism.”

Dan Doesn’t Get a Tattoo, But…

Let me state for the record, I have never come close to getting some ink in my arm. Never thought twice about a sleeve of tattoos.  Maybe it’s just me, but ink under my skin never seemed like a good idea and besides, it gives me the willies even thinking about it. 

But you might wonder, what would be a second best visible way for me to show my individuality?  You guessed it, a vanity plate.

My current plate is a state of Maine-issued traditional four numbers followed by two letters.  Traditional and institutionally boring!

Now if the last two letters were RF, I’d be all in as I’m a lifetime member of Fed Nation (fans of the tennis champion, Roger Federer).

But my VR?  Vroom, vroom maybe.  Just doesn’t do it for me.

Our friend Karen has a cool vanity plate.

Another local vanity plate

Got to love the self-awareness

So how do I go about picking the right vanity plate for me. 

Mark Gross of KGUA radio in Gualala, California comes immediately to mind.  He has thrown me a lifeline throughout the Covid pandemic and now beyond.  Each week he comes up with a writing prompt that gives me a chance to create and tell my story.  During that time I have written over one hundred of these 200-300 word short stories that I now realize have become my autobiography.  Writing for KGUA has energized me and given me new purpose over the last three years.

So quickly I choose KGUA for my vanity plate.  I have space for three more characters.

Being California-based, KGUA gets me thinking Left Coast.  Let me outline my California credentials for the skeptical.

As 60s child, I loved the Beach Boys.  That certainly checks off one box.  The Mamas and Papas with their anthem “California Dreamin’” spoke to my wanderlust and getting as far west from New Jersey as I could.  My first teaching job as a social studies, science, and Spanish teacher for fifth and sixth graders was at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California.

Having come to the Santa Barbara area for winters since 2014, I am solid sunbird of the Golden State. Each winter I am a regular pickleball player at the Santa Barbara Municipal Tennis and Pickleball courts. And! I have a Carpinteria (CA) library card.

Sterling credentials, you must be thinking!  

The 805 area code for Santa Barbara County is a natural vanity plate selection for me. It connects our lives in Maine to our wintertime home away from home in Carpinteria.

Pretty cool, n’est-ce pas?

Though it took three weeks for my vanity plate to be approved by the state of Maine and three more to be delivered for a $25 annual fee, I now drive in style and you can better believe that I’m California Dreamin’

Dan Wraps Up 2021

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.

Top row – Robyn, Dan, and Max. Next row down – Owen, Hannah, Charlotte, and Will. The row below them – Brooks, Laurel, Reese, and Molly. Then the photographer Tip
The formal portrait – The age of the kids are: Max (7.5), Owen (9.5), Brooks (3.5), and Reese and Charlotte (1.5) All May, June, or July birthdays.

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.

Jack Kornfield

Dan and Can I See Your Supervisor?

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.

My rigid gas permeable lens (aka hard lens)

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.

BTW,

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.)

Dan and Who Gave The Gift to Whom

Before!

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.

Hannah’s Loft sign before

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.

Fran, Hannah, and Steve

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.

Soon to be tucked away for the winter

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.

Dan and Hannah Lose Power – December 2021

Our sweet generator

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. 

Our first floor bedroom is beyond the window to the right.

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. 

Dan and Hannah Take the Alzheimer’s Test

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.

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.

Cool is the rule!

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.

Clink on each link for my TGA story.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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.