Dan Goes 0 for 10, Then Hits Gold (Well $20!)

There is no way to sugar coat it.  0 for 10 is pretty bad.   Let me explain.

20 larry stewart

Inspired by Larry Stewart, I had a plan for my 70th Birthday Road Trip to California National Parks to give $20 away every day.  Larry made a purposeful life by giving small amounts of cash away on a regular basis.  It all began in a diner when Larry, down on his luck, was given a free meal.  Years later in 1979, he saw a carhop, in need, and gave her a $20 tip when 50 cents was a big deal.  Click here for his full story.

Alas, Dan is not Larry, and that’s a good thing.  Dan is Dan and Larry was Larry (He died at the age 58 in 2007).  But Dan has his moments.  On this road trip, I just haven’t made giving $20 away a frontal lobe priority; I got caught up in our traveling, driving, hiking, pickleballing, new towns, and new people.  Blah, blah, blah.  What I now realize is that I needed to create a “to do” list each day with giving $20 away in bold letters.  But it’s a vacation; who makes out a “to-do” list on their vacation?

20 subway

On our third night in Three Rivers, California at the gateway to Sequoia National Park, Hannah and I did something cool.  After hiking to the Marble Falls (Click here for the link to that hiking blog.), we chatted up Patty, the manager at the Subway in Three Rivers late in the afternoon.  Her story touched us, including her upcoming marriage to the love of her life.  Once home, we sent her some wedding dollars.  That’s certainly a positive, but that was not technically part of my plan.  Ten days into our road trip, I still had not given one single Jackson away.

20 fortuna barn

Hannah in red playing pickleball at the roller skating rink in Fortuna, California

Waking in Eureka and then morning pickleballing in Fortuna, CA, 20 miles to the south, on our last full day in California, Hannah and I head south on The 101 towards the Good Nite Inn in Rohnert Park, just five miles south of Santa Rosa, California.  The same Santa Rosa that ten days later was devastated by wild fires wiping out whole communities and killing some 250 people.

20 mendocino map

Eureka is to the north in Humboldt County and Santa Rosa is to the south in Sonoma County


As Hannah drives south on this section of The 101, often referred to as the Redwood Highway, from Humboldt County through Mendocino County, we make a pitstop in Laytonville.

As Hannah pulls our rented Hyundai Accent into a shaded parking spot, she doesn’t see a man with dirty-blond, shoulder length hair sitting on the curb, cooling his jets on this 93F late September Wednesday.

Seated on the passenger side, I clearly see the man with a sweatshirt that says Bamboozled, a week’s growth of beard, ragged jeans, and perhaps his worldly possessions in a bag to his side; all the time with a dog as sidekick.

Opening my passenger side door, I say, Sorry for getting so close.  He smiles disarmingly and nods that’s not a problem.

Once in the Chevron Quick Mart, I realize that I can raise my .000 batting average of giving to .091 with a little timely generosity.

20 $20

Grabbing a $20 bill from my wallet, I return to the car before Hannah does, wondering what to say to the man, maybe my age, to maintain his dignity.

Inspired at the last minute, I walk over to him and say, Could you find a good use for $20?

He said he could, smiled, and the moment was over that quickly.  Soon, Hannah returns and we are heading south on The 101 towards our overnight just north of San Francisco.

20 wayne dyer 1

Hitting a robust .091, I am not in line for the Hall of Fame of Giving.   But I’ll give the final word to a man who likely is – Wayne Dyer.  Click here for his full four-paragraph blog on giving.  (Thank you Mitch Sakofs for reintroducing him into my life back in 2002).

Reduce what’s in excess in your life and then offer it where it can be utilized.  Begin with your stuff: clothing, furniture, tools, equipment, radios, cameras, or anything that you have too much of.  Don’t sell it; rather, give it away (if you can afford to).  Don’t ask for recognition for charitable acts—simply behave in harmony with the Tao by reducing your surplus.

Look for opportunities to fill the empty spaces in other people’s lives with money; things; or loving energy in the form of kindness, compassion, joy, and forgiveness. 


Dan’s Day 28 of 29 Gifts – Owen’s Blue Ball

Day 28 Owen blue ball 1

At 16 months our grandson Owen motors around his apartment, climbing on tables and couches with a wide smile of joy.  Lately, chucking utility balls around the living room has been his thing.

My gift is a new blue utility ball for Owen.  The joy is first in the opening.

Day 28 Owen bb 2

Day 28 Owen bb 3

Day 28 Owen bb 4

Day 28 Owen bb 5

Day 28 Owen bb 6

Now that the unwrapping is complete, let Owen show you what happens next.  Here’s Owen………….

Dan’s Day 24 of 29 Gifts – Dad’s 97th

Owen with his great grandmother

Owen with his great grandmother

Dad would have been 97 today.  My gift is a letter to Mom inspired by a conversation with our friend Corky.

What I learned from Corky is to infuse my conversation with Mom with references to how she and Dad influenced our life in a positive way.  For example, I’ll mention in my note to Mom how Hannah and I value our time together and learned from Dad’s and her example.  Hannah and I sit by a fire many evenings with a glass of wine as Mom and Dad did at Bolton Place in Fair Lawn, NJ.

Day 24 fireplace scene

Dad taught us kids tennis, a sport for a lifetime.  We saw them play bridge with their friends.  Now we get together with our kids and friends to play a 21st century variation of bridge: Mormon Bridge.  Hannah and I took our kids cross country as my parents did with my siblings and me.  Mom and Dad live on in us, and my gift is to let Mom know that – in writing, in a letter that she can read over and over again.

The Family Rothermel (brother Richard, sister Patty, Dad, Mom, and me)

The Family Rothermel (brother Richard, sister Patty, Dad, Mom, and me)

Dan’s Day 23 of 29 Gifts – 50 years ago today

Day 23 FLHS

For those of us over 60, November 22, 1963 was the most earth shaking day of our young lives.  It was the day Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  Whereas the younger generation (and older) all remember where they were when the planes attacked the World Trade Center in New York (I was getting ready to teach a class at Eastern Connecticut State University), those of us over 60 will never forget where we were on that fateful day in November fifty years ago.

Day 23 JFK quote

I was in Dave Pooley’s tenth grade biology class at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey when the chemistry teacher, George Steinmetz, came across the hall to tell Mr. Pooley that the president had been shot.  At that moment we didn’t know if he had died.  As a newspaper boy, I had to wait for the afternoon edition of the Bergen Record til nearly 530P (when the newspapers were usually ready for me at 3P) with the news of Kennedy’s death.  I delivered the papers in a fog.

Day 23 MCAHV

So on this 23rd day of my 29 Gifts I want to find something to commemorate this auspicious anniversary.  What is Kennedy known for?  Civil rights?  Peace?  Justice?   And then it’s clear.  I’ll donate to prevent gun violence here in Maine.  Online, I find Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.  In John Kennedy’s name and in my father’s memory, my gift today is a donation to prevent gun violence in Maine.

Dan’s Day 22 of 29 Gifts – Surrogates

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandson Owen live in Virginia.  Molly and Tip are local kids, having grown up on the Seacoast (southwestern Maine and the entire 13 mile seacoast of New Hampshire).  Virginia has the temperate winter climate that we Mainers can only dream of.  When it snows (they’ve had four inches in the Arlington, VA/DC area in the last two years), it melts the next day.  December snow in Maine rears its ugly head (okay I’m not a skier.) through March.

Dan and Hannah's picnic table

Dan and Hannah’s picnic table

The down side of living in Virginia is that it’s 550 miles away when big events happen.  Tip’s Aunt Pat died this past week.  The Virginia Family Rawding is unable to come so Hannah and I are their surrogates.  Woody Allen says that 90% of life is just showing up.  And showing up for calling hours in Portsmouth is what we do.

Day 10 90% quote

A popular woman, Aunt Pat has the line snaking out the front door of the funeral home in Portsmouth, NH even after two hours of visiting hours.  It’s important that Tip, his folks, and sister know that we are forever a part of their extended family.  Family shows up.  We hug, we meet Aunt Pat’s family, and just remind them by our mere presence “they are not alone.”

Day 22 you are not alone

Dan’s Day 21 of 29 Gifts – Owen’s second Christmas

Leeward Landing Thrift Store

Leeward Landing Thrift Store

In our family Hannah is the primo ballerina Christmas shopper.  But this December I am stepping up to the plate for our grandson Owen.   Today I am off to Leeward Landing with visions of Christmas plums for Owen dancing in my head.

Day 21 Scrabble for juniors

Immediately I find a gift that connects me with Owen and his mother Molly.  Forever, Molly and I have played Scrabble every time she’s home in York.  When we play, the reward for winning the game of Scrabble is that the other one has to keep score for the next game.  Let me tell you, that is quite the incentive for both of us.  Though Owen is a bit young at 17 months old for this version of Scrabble , we’ll have a game to play together for years to come.

Then it’s books.  How could I resist a book with his grandmother’s name in the title?

Day 21 Nana 3

The Little Bear series by Else Holmlund Minarik were some of our favorite read-aloud books to our kids.  From one generation to another.

Day 21 Little Bear

What parent isn’t ready for some potty training?

Day 21 No more diapers for ducky

A gift that keeps on giving.

Dan’s Day 20 of 29 Gifts – LeBron James

Day 9 racketeer

For me, I seek continuity in my relationships.  Today, I repeat an earlier gift by calling my friend Vin in Massachusetts and read five more chapters from The Racketeer by John Grisham over the phone.

Day 16 - iPhone 5

One hallmark of our friendship is its regularity and consistency.  Often in the past, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we would get together at his house at 3P to read; first catching up on our days and then settling in with a good book.

LeBron James

LeBron James

After all the years reading side by side, it’s weird reading aloud over the phone in an empty house .  Then I think of the King, LeBron James.  LeBron.  He feels that he owes the basketball crowd his best effort every night.  He reasons correctly that since there are people who have come to see him play for the first time, he “owes” them his best.  So I sit at 162 Chases Pond Road as the late fall sun falls behind our many oak trees and give it my all.  It’s the least a friend can do.  Le Bron would agree.

Dan’s Day 18 of 29 Gifts – Pounding the Mac and Cheese

Day 18 Sturbridge village

Our church has embraced the New England Colonial tradition of welcoming a new pastor by “pounding.”  In colonial times, the pounding tradition had the community fill the larder of the new pastor’s family with provisions in pound sizes: a pound of flour, sugar, salt, or butter.  Our Associate Pastor is coming from the Midwest with young daughters and this is a way for the congregation to set them up with a full kitchen as they begin their lives as Mainers.

Leaf from the pounding "tree"

Leaf from the pounding “tree”

As I enter the parish hall, I notice the “pounding tree.”  Paper leaves of various items hang from a makeshift tree.  I am immediately drawn to the “Mac and cheese.”  What kids wouldn’t love that!  I bet we can get a serious box of mac and cheese for the family.

Day 18 Mac and Cheese

We can all be generous individually.  What a church can do is geometrically increase the giving.  This December our young family’s kitchen will be filled with a month’s worth of love.

Dan’s Dan 15 of 29 Gifts – Ping pong

Day 15 ping pong paddle on table

Thursdays at 4P are ping pong afternoons for me with our friend George (to-the-South).  Ever since my retirement more than two years ago, he and I have been regulars batting the ping pong ball back and forth.   Today, Hannah and I mix it up and our gift is to invite our friend Jim to play doubles with us and George.

Day 15 Solar system

Recently Jim’s wife died.  When someone dies, naturally there is a flurry of interest and concern over the first few weeks.  And then a month later, there’s a little less and so on.  Close friends and family do not lose touch, but those on the next “orbit from the sun” of relationships often move on.  Though we are “Saturn” friends, Hannah and I continue to want to stay connected with Jim.

Day 15 popcorn and beer

Those in long term excellent marriages like Jim’s get used to the daily intertwined-ness of spousal lives.  Hannah is in the next room now doing her thing while I draft this blog entry in the backroom.  But I know she’s there and there is much comfort knowing that we will have a glass of wine together this evening.  When two minus one leaves just a single one, it leaves a hole; often a very big hole.  As we play this afternoon, we laugh as we lunge for the ball past our partners.   We laugh some more.  Some ping pong, some laughter, some popcorn, and a beer with Jim are today’s gifts.  We’ll do this again soon.

Dan’s Day 11 of 29 Gifts – Morning at Hannaford’s Super Market

Hannah and I lie in bed talking about our day ahead.  It’s after 7A before we are up and moving about on this Sunday morning; typically we breakfast with the Sunday New York Times.  Though today, I’ll be off to church for the 930A service.  Hannah will stay home and so my first gift of the day presents itself.  (Yes, pun intended.)

Day 11 New York Times

It’s more efficient, saves gas, and is environmentally sound if I get the newspaper while I am in town going to church two and half miles from home.  On the other hand, if I do, Hannah will not have it for her breakfast reading or all morning since I am going to stay after the service to participate in the all church meeting to see whether the congregation calls Rachel to be our new Associate Pastor.  With a minimum of fanfare just before 720A, I slip out the back door and drive in town for the Sunday Times.

Day 11 cinnamon bun

While at Hannaford’s I double my gift giving pleasure and get Hannah a sticky gooey cinnamon roll.  Those of you who really know Hannah know she loves her sickly sweet treats.

BTW.  This morning our church unanimously called Rachel to be our Associate Pastor.