Dan and Doing What Scares Him – KGUA radio free write #39

For the March 8, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write based on an article in Outside magazine about Doing the Thing That Scares You The Most. 

Certainly, I have a fear of small planes and helicopters. Who wouldn’t?  It’s the crashing that scares me.

Bears.  Something about being pawed and clawed to death by Smoky the Bear just doesn’t sit right with me.

Growling, unleashed dogs scare me too.  Bite me once, shame on you.  Bite me twice, shame on me.

Traveling outside of the US and Canada is not on my to-do list.  I read just enough to be scared.

Hannah surveys the climb ahead

Confrontation?  Lord no.  Dealing with the aggressive and loud leaves me looking for the nearest exit.

But what I am most scared of is climbing Angel’s Landing with our young grandsons, Owen and Max.

Do you know about this hike in Zion National Park in southern Utah?  To reach the perch at Angel’s Landing, over the last half mile, hikers must hold on to thick, mountainside chains with the valley floor fifteen hundred feet below.  After twice backing down from summiting Angel’s Landing, six years ago Hannah and I hung on for dear life as we slowly made our way to the tiny landing area.

But take Owen and Max?  No way.  That responsibility scares me. 

Now here’s a compromise.  What if I would be their Sherpa to guide the boys and their parents (who have already successfully made this climb) along to the mountaintop.   Ultimate responsibility would fall on their parents.   Oooo, that’s an unfortunate verb. Still, that sounds like a plan.  Zion National Park, here we come.

Words – 233

Images of our climbs to Angel’s Landing (2015 & 2016)

The trail begins to Angel’s Landing
The easy part

First encounter with the chains

Chains up close and personal
The Holy Grail
Atop looking down the Virgin River Valley
Proof that we made it

Descending

Don’t look down!

Holding on tight

Dan and Hannah Take Another Crack at Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing – It looks daunting from below.

Presence is not about winning.  It’s about approaching your biggest challenges without dread, executing them without anxiety, and leaving them without regret.  – Amy Cuddy, TED superstar

Amy has thrown down the gauntlet.

We love us some Angel’s Landing hiking.  In fact, it is our #1 all-time hike.  Grabbing on to chains 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley floor last year, I had an Outward Bound experience that challenged my own limiting, self-defining behavior.   Last year, I hiked to the 25’x25’ perch of Angel’s Landing hanging on for dear life, throttling the chains, and squeezing any joy out of the experience.   Today we are back to see if I can enjoy this thrill ride.

Angel's chains above the valley floor

Angel’s chains above the valley floor

Flying from Boston to Las Vegas in the last week of February, Hannah and I have six hours snuggled into our Jet Blue seats.  Speaking of air travel, I will not use the airlines as my punching bag.  People belly ache about the cramped seating, extra charges for bags, and the few chocolate chip cookies or pretzels they throw our way.  True, true, and true.

Zion National Park in southern Utah

Zion National Park in southern Utah

But …  today, we leave Maine at 530A for the Boston airport for our 10A Jet Blue flight.  Six hours later we are in renting a car in Las Vegas for our three hour drive to Springdale, Utah.

Voila, we are at Zion National Park 16 hours after leaving home on Chases Pond Road.  Where would we be if we were driving?  Let me see, maybe western Pennsylvania?  Maybe the Buckeye State?  And still with three or four or five days of driving ahead!  Thank you Jet Blue, Delta, and Southwest.

The red sandstone trail to the summit begins

The red sandstone trail to the summit begins

Preparing to hike to Angel’s Landing this morning, we wake early due to the two hour time change from Maine.  After a little meditating to calm the soul for the challenge ahead, we walk the quiet predawn streets of Springdale bundled up against the 32F morning chill before our breakfast at Wildcat Willies.

A wily friend at Wildcat Willies

A wily friend at Wildcat Willies

By staying at the Bumbleberry Inn ($61 per night for a couple of seniors here in the off-season), we get a full breakfast at Wildcat Willies as part of the deal.  It’s a triple egg omelet with home fries and sour dough bread for $9.95 each.  With coffee and tea, our bill is $25+, all included in our $61 per night motel charge.   We royally tip our upbeat and attentive waitress Anahi and then head down route 9 to Zion National Park not two miles away.

The Angel's Landing perch itself

The Angel’s Landing perch itself

From November to March 15, private cars have access to all parts of the park, especially the popular Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which goes to the Zion Lodge and the trailheads of the major hikes.  Other times of the year, visitors and hikers are shuttled to the various Zion venues.  Being here in late February unimpeded, we cruise into the park but never talk about our hike ahead to Angel’s Landing.

In 1995, clueless as parents, we took our 8, 10, and 12 year old kids on this trail.  In 2006, I got to the brink of the chains and turned back.  Then in 2009, I didn’t even think about trying Angel’s Landing seemed so daunting.

The canyon to her left

The canyon to her left

But then last year (2015), I got the courage to try Angel’s Landing with Hannah.  By the way, Hannah was always up for this hike.   Last year I choked the chains with both hands as I leaned in at a 75 degree angle to the mountainside wondering what the hell I was doing, muttering to myself; gripped by fear, I never looked down and went hand over fist until…until I made it to the rocky top and felt like the king of the world.  (See the categories on the left side of the blog, click on Utah to see about this triumph on Angel’s Landing last year.)

The switchbacks leading to the staging area for the final half mile assault to Angel's Landing

The switchbacks leading to the staging area for the final half mile assault to Angel’s Landing

Today my goal is to enjoy, not just endure, the hike to Angel’s Landing; leave behind the fear, trepidation, and self-doubt of last year.  Still with a kernel of wondering how I would do on this climb, neither of us bring up the subject as we ride into the park.

Paved red sandstone path to the summit

Paved red sandstone path to the summit

The trail to the summit of Angel’s Landing is paved with red stone quarried from the nearby hillsides.  With few on the trail this Wednesday late in February before the season begins, we continue to sidestep the conversation about the chain-hanging part of the hike.

AL 2H H on sandstone steps of trail

The trail climbs steadily and the switchbacks make the climb comfortably doable.  Soon the switchbacks get steeper, and we take off our sweatshirts and long sleeve tee shirts to accommodate our rising body temperatures.

Hannah Banana with her costumed namesake on the trail

Hannah Banana with her costumed namesake on the trail

After two miles of hiking over 40 minutes we arrive at the staging area where all the hikers make the decision whether to go on or this is quite enough thank you.  By a pine tree just off the trail, we stow most of our clothes and fanny packs to prepare for summiting of Angel’s Landing.  Surprisingly, all I feel is excitement of the possibility that this will be a fantastic experience.

The chains begin

The chains begin.  It’s a long way down.

Rather than choking the chains with two hands, I grab with one hand and balance with the other.  Of course, I never look to the canyon floor below, but there is a growing confidence that this is my day to release my quasi-fear of heights.  If it was a debilitating fear, I would never have even started, and I empathize for those with such fear.

Here are 7 seconds more video of the trail

With Hannah in the lead, I follow closely.  Stopping to take pictures and videos this time, I start to think this is so cool!  It is really not the big deal that I made it out to be in the past and am cruising along.  Last year, I didn’t want Hannah to even talk to me while we were holding on to the chains; I needed every ounce of attention to move forward.

Seated in the same position on the trail but shot from a slightly different angle

Seated in the same position on the trail but shot from a slightly different angle

Warned of ice on the trail, we see that it has been sanded and is between stones and easy to navigate.  This time I can be the chivalrous one to allow others to pass back down the mountain as I wait, not worried about what’s ahead.  To all the ones returning from Angel’s Landing, I congratulate them on a job well done.  It could be that they just may have conquered a fear and this will be one of the highlights of their year.  Nay, their life!

Success!

Success!

There are no chains over the last 200 yards as we walk easily on the wide sandstone ridge to the 25’x25’ rectangle of Angel’s Landing.  Only five others are there to witness my personal triumph.   Taking pictures from every angle, I shoot this video to commemorate the moment.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but the hike was a joy without end, amen.  I’d do it again tomorrow!  I have been able to take it in all the beauty of this spectacular aerie 1500’ above the canyon floor.

Descending

Descending

The half mile return to where our clothes and fanny packs are stowed is a celebration as we are now passing folks choking the chain themselves, with the same fear of heights I once had.  To everyone we meet, I do not joke but congratulate them on their success so far.  Nearly all say thank you for they may be in the challenge of their lives.

AL 6 H against sandstone wall

Hundreds make this hike every day. Why not me?  Why not you?   Hundreds more get to the staging area and say they just don’t want to go any further.   As the trail sign says, Your safety is your responsibility.  I have been on both sides on this mountain of fear and applaud everyone who steps up and congratulate all those who step back.  Know thyself.

So with this victory, what lies ahead for me?   The cables of Picacho Peak near Tucson, Arizona with its 1500′ of elevation gain over two miles that we will hike this coming Monday.   It’s another mountain I’ve tried and stepped back from eight years ago.

Two for two?

 

AL Molly and Tip

And by the way,  one month later our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip climbed Angel’s Landing.

 

Mother and Son

Twenty-four years ago our son Will and Hannah had a moment, among many moments they’ve had.  It was the summer of his ninth year when we as a family were in the midst of six week cross country camping and hiking trip to the American West.

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing

Arriving at the Visitor Center at Zion National Park looking for a family hiking recommendation, we talked to a young ranger who immediately suggested Angel’s Landing.  What did we know?  We certainly didn’t know that hikers held on to chains on a mountainside 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley.

While our daughter Robyn had enough of the hike, completing 80% of it, Hannah, and I naively continued on along the mountainside with Molly and Will.  Soon our daughter Molly and I were in the lead while Hannah held back with Will.  Angel’s Landing is a daunting climb at any age, and certainly for an eight year old.

AL 3A chains behind us

At that time and in those circumstances, Will was cautious, similar to what I imagine his nephew Owen might be like.  But Will pressed on with Hannah at his side.

Stung by a cactus needle, Will now added pain to his trepidation.  Still Hannah hung with him, fully planning to sacrifice reaching the 25’x25’ perch of Angel’s Landing herself to be with him.  But those of you who know Hannah know that it would be no sacrifice for Hannah to miss the summit.  Her focus was Will and any choices of hers were made in love.

Hannah and Will Ithaca College

Eventually, together Will and Hannah joined Molly and me on that Zion promontory.  But today thinking back to that mountaintop in Utah, I believe Will felt it then and feels it often Hannah’s unspoken commitment to him and faith in him born from many such moments.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park, Utah

OP map of area useIt’s a simple hour drive from St. George, Utah along Route 9 east to Zion National Park. Zion has been a favorite of the Rothermels for a good long time. When Molly, Robyn, and Will were young, we as a family drove here to hike to Angel’s Landing and tube the Virgin River. Hannah and I have returned twice more to hike the red rock mountains of Zion, an easy three hours from McCarron Airport in Las Vegas.

Late afternoon from our second story deck at the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale, Utah

Late afternoon from our second story deck at the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale, Utah

Arriving at the gateway to Zion in Springdale by 1030A in late February, we pull into the Bumbleberry Inn parking lot to see about a room. In the off-season, we find that they have a sweet deal for $58 with 10% off for breakfast at Wildcat Willies. Bonanza! The room is large with a king size bed, fridge, microwave, and a second story deck that looks out into the mountains of Zion National Park.

Then Hannah wants to push it!  She wonders if they take AARP. I can’t believe it. We have a burning deal and she wants more. I say, if you want to ask, go ahead, but I won’t. Fearless, she does and gets us an additional 10% off for being AARP members plus finds out the hot breakfast at Wildcat Willies is free. That’s my girl.

OB1 Zion NP signA mere mile from the entrance to Zion, I dress for a cooler day with jeans and sporting a VCU/Richmond long sleeve tee shirt. Listed at eight miles roundtrip with a suggested hiking time of six hours, the Observation Point Trail is one of the macho hikes of the park. With an elevation gain of 2100+ feet, the trail is described as strenuous with long drop offs; it can be deep in snow as it was last weekend.

OB1 trail sign warningOff season in February, the park is nicely devoid of the masses that swarm here from April through October. During this peak season, visitors must park at the visitor center or in the town of Springdale itself and take a shuttle down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive where the trailheads of the major hikes and the Zion Lodge are. Today unencumbered, we drive along the Virgin River and onto the Scenic Drive. Our Toyota Yaris thermometer says it’s 48 degrees at 11A.

The trail to Observation Point begins

The trail to Observation Point begins

The trailhead for the Observation Point Trail is at Weeping Rock. With parking for no more than 15 cars, I see the towering mountain and am reminded that steep drop offs aren’t my thing. On the plus side, our daughter Molly, who hiked this very trail the week before with her hubby Tip, said this trail did not have the fear factor of Angel’s Landing (i.e., the need to cling to chains on the mountainside 1500 feet above the canyon floor). For me, her endorsement was the tipping point to make this climb.

Climbing higher to Observation Point

Climbing higher to Observation Point

At the outset, the trail is wide enough for us two to walk side by side as we immediately begin breathing heavily on the switchbacks up the cliffside.   Whenever I can, I hike closest to the mountainside. Hannah, like is she is on highways, is just fine hiking down the middle of the trail.

VCU Ram in his mountainous element

VCU Ram in his mountainous element

Three miles of the Observation Point Trail are paved over the Navajo Sandstone rock of the cliffside trail. Today chunks of pavement have washed away, but in general the hiking is easy on the feet as we take to the soul saving switchbacks.

The switchbacks of Observation Point trail

The switchbacks of Observation Point Trail

Quickly we are above the trailhead parking lot with the zig zags of the switchbacks beneath us. The sand sagebrush and hackberry trees of the lower elevations give way to spiny and barrel cacti and scrub brush. Drop offs are one hundred to five hundred feet or more. As we climb, the sun soon starts to emerge from the relentless overcast. We hike mostly in the shade of the cooler north facing mountain sides.

Heading to Echo Canyon

Heading to Echo Canyon

The trail heads through rock narrows where it appears workers long ago carved out passage ways through the sandstone to make these walking paths. After heading into the interior through Echo Canyon, we emerge to see the entire canyon floor of the Virgin River. At these times, I lean towards the mountainside of the trail. I never look down or step near the edge. Mama didn’t raise no fool.   But never do I feel the anxiousness that I once did grabbing mountainside chains on Zion’s sister macho hike – Angel’s Landing.

Some hour and twenty five minutes in to the hike, the trail levels off and we are in a high desert mountain of scrub brush. It seems odd to be walking on the level atop the mountain. As we pass the snow on the trailside, the trail turns muddy from last weekend’s melting snow. Then voila. After an hour and three quarters, we summit. A fellow hiker takes an Instagram picture of us that I successfully transmit to family and friends from this outpost in southwest Utah.

OB4C final assaultLunching on pb&j at the summit of 6500 feet, we start to chill down as we overlook the valley. The wind has picked up and coal black clouds are moving in, though there was no forecast of rain.  By the way, our ponchos are in our suitcase back at the Bumbleberry Inn.

OB5 H descending

Having made the climb, I am now less fearful, though still most respectful, of the drop-offs. Oh, I bend to the mountainside when I can, but the cliffs are no longer on my mind. Twenty minutes into our descent the first snowflakes fall. Picking up the pace, we feel the ping of raindrops ten minutes later. With a purposeful descent, we see the clouds roll further down the valley and the precipitation stops.

OB1A  falling rock sign

Today my sense of accomplishment climbing two thousand feet above the valley floor to Observation Point trumps my acrophobia. It’s way cool having done this climb. If you have a strong fear of heights, this is not the trail for you. If your fear is a healthy respect, then this trail is doable and not really dangerous at all.

Angel's Landing from the Observation Point trail

Angel’s Landing in the distance from the Observation Point Trail

As we descend, I am starting to rethink my decision to never climb Angel’s Landing again. I summited it once with our  family back in 1992. During our last two visits to Zion, I wanted no part of the last half mile of that trail with its chains 1500 feet above the canyon floor. Maybe, it’s time to rethink that absolute position?

OB  Angel's Landing chains

Some of the chains of Angel’s Landing high above the Virgin River valley floor

After hiking to Observation Point today, I have opened the door and peeked in to the possibility of climbing Angel’s Landing tomorrow.   Though no one cares if do or don’t climb Angel’s Landing, this VCU Ram might be ready to take the plunge.  Wrong image.  Climb every mountain.

PS  The preview picture of Hannah high above the Virgin River Valley on the Observation Point Trail is the best picture I have ever taken.

Dan and Hannah Welcome a Daughter to the Family

For your reading pleasure I have the toast I gave Will and Laurel at the rehearsal dinner at the Tommy J West Club at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.  I planned a multi-media event for the 70 people in attendance by having pictures that went along with my text flashed on the 12 TVs there at the venue.  After the toast, there is Hannah’s poem for these two New England kids.  Finally, there is a short video from the wedding of the mother and son dance.

Hannah and I are pleased to be here to celebrate Will and Laurel’s marriage.

Blue Line Club above the hockey rink at Merrimack College, MA

Blue Line Club above the hockey rink at Merrimack College, MA

I want to tell you about the first time we met Laurel. A few years back, Hannah and I were at a Merrimack College hockey game in the Blue Line Club above the ice rink between the first and second periods. Will mentioned that he had someone he’d like us to meet. As you might have guessed, that was Laurel, who was with her good friend Lisa. We chatted briefly, enjoyed her company, and said our good-byes as the second period was about to begin. I thought, They have only known each other for a few weeks and he’s introducing her to us. That’s not his usual MO. That’s pretty cool.

During the break between the second and third period, Hannah and I returned to the Blue Line Club and just hung out. And then all of a sudden Laurel and Lisa reappeared. Laurel said, Lisa and I have to leave now, but before we go, I wanted to say I enjoyed meeting you two. I thought whoa. Here is a young woman with social graces and courage. She could have gracefully exited the building without a good bye, but she made the extra effort to connect with us. That was very cool.

Wedding Pyramid

Will and his five roommates at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont

Now Will. No jokes. He is just a positive life force. As a son, he is the one who built us a fire pit, re-shingled our shed roof, mows our lawn when he’s home, and annually includes us when his St. Mike’s roommates come to our house each summer.

Well, you may not know this, but when Will was eight, he and his sisters [Robyn was 10 and Molly 12] traveled with us as a family to camp and hike in the American West, including Zion National Park in Utah.

AL2A AL from the start of the trailAt the visitor center at Zion, we asked the young ranger for a family hike. She said, Angel’s Landing. We had no idea what it was and thought, Great. Let’s go.

Lower trail to Angel's Landing

Lower trail to Angel’s Landing

The first two miles of the trail are steadily rising switchbacks that take us high above the valley floor. There are no guardrails; this part of the trail is six feet wide, not dangerous, and very popular. And then as we approached the mountain ridge, we noticed people sitting around. We wondered what’s up.

Well, what was up, was that to continue for the last half mile of the trail we had to grab on to chains secured in the side of the mountain 1500 feet above the canyon floor. At the end is Angel’s Landing, a 20’x20’ postage stamp perch. At this point, I was thinking, the ranger said it was a family hike so it must be okay.

Looking back at the chains and then to the valley below

Looking back at the chains and then to the valley below

Wise beyond her years, Robyn wanted no part of this last section of the trek and hung back. The rest of us carried on, grabbing the chains and doing our best to never look down. As I moved forward together with Molly, – Hannah and Will teamed up about twenty feet behind us.

The first chains to Angel's Landing

The first chains to Angel’s Landing

We’d grab the chains for 50 feet or so and creep along the mountainside. Then there would be a flatter area to rest and regroup. I could tell that this was not Will’s idea of a good time. There was good reason to wonder what the hell we were doing as parents. People could die if they fell from this trail. Kids are supposed to be able to trust their parents. It passed through my mind that Hannah and I were not going to be candidates for Parents of the Year any time soon.

Ascending the trail to Angel's Landing

Ascending the trail to Angel’s Landing

Whatever doubts Will had about completing this hike were tempered by his little brother desire to do what his big sister Molly did. We asked him if he wanted to go back with Mom. And whatever he felt, he said he didn’t want to go back. So we all pressed on.

The Virgin River Valley from the trail to Angel's Landing

The Virgin River Valley from the trail to Angel’s Landing

And then what seemed on the surface to be bad fortune, was, in fact, the Universe opening a beautiful window of opportunity. While climbing over this desert terrain, Will got a bunch of cactus spines in his hand. He now had the perfect excuse, the safety net, to go back with Hannah and not lose face. Once Hannah removed the cactus, Will was all in for going on to Angel’s Landing. And damn if he didn’t make it.

Virgin River Valley from Angel's Landing

Virgin River Valley from Angel’s Landing

Well, we all made it to Angel’s Landing. There were 20 others there to celebrate with us on this tiny perch above the Virgin River Valley. As a young kid, Will showed some of the toughness and resolve that has served him well from Maine to Vermont to Massachusetts to here in Virginia.

And thanks to Will and Laurel we have a fabulous weekend to celebrate the marriage of two fantastic young people.

To celebrate their marriage, Hannah has written a poem for the new couple.

My Wish for You

Could it be this day is here?  Here we all are, some from far, some from near.

A Portugese babe and a Will with a Way are the reasons we’re gathered together today.

“Match.Magic?!” Well… Match ’em.com.  In less than a month – things were moving along.

Halftime at Merrimack hockey we met, a girl from the Cape; our hearts were beset…

…beset with affection, for it became clear: J. Will was the happiest, we’d seen him in years.

A boy from the Maine land – “the Way Life Should Be.”

A girl from the Cape – was it destined to be?

The parents all met for a Crane BBQ; Will set the fire and it burned the night through!

Ken gave his blessing – and handed to Will, his second-born daughter, nurse at Beth Israel.

Sandy, she fed us and made us feel glad that Will had picked Laurel, her sis, mom, and dad.

Things kept on changing: Laurel, then Brian moved in.  A new job in Virginia – what to do then?

Take the leap, make the drive, rent a house, get a dog;

a new job for Laurel, make new friends, say “thank God.”

All this in 2 years – 10 years’ worth it might seem;

and now here we go – on to more hopes & dreams.

but first, a big thank you to VCU friends, and St. Michael’s brothers: the love will not end.

Now New York is calling: “Come try us next!”  We wish for and hope that again they’ll be blessed

with new friends, more family, yes challenges, too; together, united, they’ll see it all through.

Together, with all of us gathered around, your life will be rich – and Good will abound.

So my wish for you, is that always you know:

Home’s where you make it. wherever you go.

 Hannah Rothermel      April 24, 2015

Hannah and Will dancing the mother/son dance in the Barn at the Vintager B&B in Quinton, Virginia to “My Wish for You” by Rascal Flatts.

Dan Fills You in on 50 Things You Might Not Know About Hannah

She chooses to park in the distant reaches of parking lots to get more exercise.

She loves a glass of wine each night. Truth be told, her wine standards are quite low and she enjoys whatever is set in front of her.  Just no white Zinfandel.

As a kid she loved going with her dad on house calls.  It’s when her love for the elderly was born.

She is a homebody. She is also a damn good sport about my itch to travel.

On the Cabot Trail

On the Cabot Trail

She is done with long distance biking.  After 175 miles on the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island and 190 miles on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she says no mas.  I have to agree.

Years ago she and I had friends for Christmas dinner at our house in Tempe, Arizona on a day that was 85 degrees!

On Sunday mornings before we had kids and the city woke up, she and I would run six miles on the canal paths in Phoenix, breakfast at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, and go to the swap meet at the nearby Greyhound Park.

Max and Owen

Max and Owen

She wondered if she would be a good grandmother.  Let me tell you, she is an All-Star Omi to Owen and Max.

As a hairdresser, she sometimes does the hair of the recently deceased at Pelkey’s Funeral Home in Kittery, Maine.  She thinks of it as a sacred moment-shared.

She writes every morning.  Letters, postcards, emails.  She takes after her mother Elizabeth in that way.

When Owen or Max needs to have his diaper changed, she is the first to volunteer.

0722121648At the age of 63 she broke her left leg water skiing.  She taught water skiing as a teenager at a girls summer camp.

She took a full time job with health benefits as the activities director at the Homestead Nursing Home in Kittery so I could be a full time PhD student at the University of New Hampshire.

She is a past champion of our family Fantasy Football League.

She has a Masters in Health Education from Arizona State University.

Mrs. ClausShe dresses up as Mrs. Claus each Holiday season as part of troupe of actors who delight the residents at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home in Kittery.

At a party she swallowed a hard-boiled egg whole to win a team-eating contest .

With Los Ninos of Santa Barbara, CA, she and I went to the garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico to provide food and clothing to the families that live there.

She is the fifth of seven children of Elizabeth and John Kraai. (pronounced “cry”)

Of her six siblings, she was closest to her brother Doug, the fourth child.  His death in 2002 left a hole in her heart.

HS 2 Chick bfastHer favorite breakfast out is biscuits and gravy.

At home she has oatmeal every morning.

She has had spasmodic dysphonia for thirteen years.

She does not like cut flowers as a gift, unless they are from a funeral home.

She stopped chewing her nails when as a college girl she waitressed and thought customers would not want food served by a “nail biter.”

One of Hannah's never fail mouse traps

One of Hannah’s never-fail mouse traps

In our family she is the one who sets mouse traps and marks her nightly successes with a black mark on the side of the trap.

Her first year out of college she taught physical education at Thornell Road Elementary School in Pittsford, New York.

Her feet are always cold.  On all but five days per year, she wears double wool socks.

Hairdressers-in-training at the Portsmouth (NH) Beauty School are required to complete 1500 hours and as such graduate at random times throughout the year.  She wrote and read a poem for each of the 35 girls when they graduated.

She never needed or wanted a clothes dryer during the ten years we lived in Tempe, Arizona.  By the time we finished hanging the laundry on our backyard umbrella clothes line, the first clothes hung were dry.

Surprisingly, being a hairdresser, she never uses a blow dryer herself.

Allan JacksonShe likes her country music. Alan Jackson and Vince Gill are two of her favorites.

Her mother-in-law Jean called her a keeper when I first brought her home to Fair Lawn, NJ.   My mom added, Don’t be a fool and let her go.  Mama knows best.

When living in Tempe, Arizona, she would pick oranges and grapefruit off our backyard trees for breakfast.

She likes to solve problems (not the mathematical kind, but the practical, around-the-house kind).

She taught two sections of Intro to Health Education as a graduate assistant at ASU.

College of WoosterFreshman year at the College of Wooster, she and I were in the same French and Sociology classes.

When our son Will was a preschooler, she and he would sing along with the country music singers on the car radio.

She and I were all ready to move from Arizona to Montana in the late 1970s.  Then came Molly.

She plays Happy Birthday on the harmonica when birthdays come around.

For years she led a ten week training for people wanting to become hospice volunteers.  She is the former president of Hospice of York.

She once bought a banjo, left it at a repair shop in Tempe, AZ for 18 months, and needed her friend Ralph to rescue it.  And he did!

Southwest AirlinesOn our honeymoon in 1972 we drove from New York to Arizona in seven days so I could begin grad school at Arizona State. By Albuquerque I was ready to put her on a plane to Phoenix, and she was equally “thrilled” with me.

Twenty years later we had a second honeymoon at the Fun Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

She hopes Owen is left handed to join her in that family club.

She was a physical education major at the College of Wooster.

Similar to Hannah's 1970 Mustang

Similar to Hannah’s 1970 Mustang

Her first car was a dark green, two door 1967 Mustang.

She cries easily when she’s happy.

She drank tea one morning before the Nubble Light 10K here in York, Maine and ended up in the hospital due to dehydration. She was on pace for a sub-40 minute 10K.

She whistles. Who does that? Well, her Dad did.

One of her favorite movies is Love Actually.  Mine is The Graduate, but this isn’t about me.

She is a big fan of John Lennon, George Harrison, and David Kraai, our musical nephew.

Every Thursday you will find her cutting hair at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home.

She was a varsity tennis player at the College of Wooster, Ohio.  She dabbled at field hockey and gymnastics there.

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park

When our children and I wanted no part of clinging to mountainside chains 1500 feet above the canyon floor on the way to Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, she was raring to go.

She is all she seems and more.