Stopped II

RDS LifeIsGood shirt from SueBear

Dick in one of the lovely Life Is Good shirts sent by our friend Sue-bear Butler.

I’m pleased that this poem I wrote about Dick has found a home in an online literary journal I’ve long admired—but you have to be 60 or older to submit. I am, and I did. And they accepted it!

Click here and scroll down to see my piece “Stopped” in the special “Life-Changing Moments” section of Persimmon Tree.


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Hello, Faddah

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Roger and Darlene Haag with daughters (from left) Donna and Janis, Orange, California, circa 1965 (photo by Grandpa James Keeley)

Dear Dad,
our father, Roger, who art in heaven:

The little girls in this photo couldn’t understand
why you moved them far from a town called Orange
to a lake called Folsom, pulling them away from

sidewalks begging for roller skates and bikes,
away from Disneyland, to a rural life of poison oak
and no sidewalks and taking the bus to school

and summer heat the likes of which we’d never felt.
But you and Mom taught us to waterski on that lake,
and we learned to avoid the poison oak, spending

hours walking in the state park across the road,
plopped on our bellies in spring grass, surrounded
by wildflowers—blue dicks, shooting stars and lofty

lupine, the artistic Indian paintbrush, and oh,
the poppies that bobbed their happy heads at us,
a different kind of orange, welcoming us home.

Thank you and love,

Jan and Donna
Father’s Day 2019

In memory of Roger E. Haag


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Swimming with ducks

ducks in pool

Under a half slice of lemon moon
on a still-warm summer night,
I slip quietly into the water next
to the ladder—not walking down
the steps as usual.

I often have the pool to myself
in the sultry dark, but tonight
I share the water with two
professional swimmers who don’t
seem to mind a human sculling
and breast stroking her way
down their chlorinated pond.

Male and female, these mallards,
hovering over the top step in the shallow
end, keeping an eye on me as I stop
a respectful distance away—
no flip turns tonight. I forgo
the freestyle and opt for gentler
strokes, watch them bob silently
on my small wake.

Finished, I hoist myself up the ladder,
fetch my towel and watch as first
he, then she, swims down the middle
lane, then hangs a sharp left
to the same ladder, flapping
themselves up on the deck.

They waddle to the wading pool
and hop in, circling, one after the other,
doing their laps in the aqua pond
where I hope they will remain
undisturbed for as long as they
wish to swim.

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Hawaii Jan rocks

Hawaii Jan migrated to California last week for some family milestones (graduations and the like) with her folks in El Dorado Hills. We hadn’t seen her since our unplanned stay on her island of Oahu in January. Among her many kindnesses to us, Jan found us a house to rent for a couple of weeks after Dick’s surgery. That house, though it was in chilly Pearl City, was a godsend—a pu’uhonua o honaunau (place of refuge) where Dick could rest and recover in the care of our dear friends Cora and Connie, who flew from in the mainland to perform that labor of love.

To distinguish us, Dick long ago dubbed us Hawaii Jan (though she, like me, was also born in California) and California Jan. Our fathers (born in the same summer of 1930 with pale blue eyes) both had jobs, houses and families in Long Beach when they took new jobs in the Sacramento area in the mid-’60s. Hawaii Jan’s dad, Skip Shuman, worked as a Sacramento Bee photographer with Dick.

It turned out on this visit that Hawaii Jan was on a tight schedule, and Dick and I were also a bit busy, so when our respective schedules didn’t mesh for a lunch date, we figured we’d see Jan another time. But Skip called Dick and said that it was pretty important that Dick see Jan this trip. I couldn’t join them, but Dick drove up to El Dorado Hills to meet them. And it turns out that Jan had something important to give Dick.


es0060 rds life is good snorkel jake

This is a one-of-a-kind replica of the shirt that was cut off Dick when he collapsed in cardiac arrest Jan. 15. The shirt is no longer made, and a couple of our friends have been scouring websites looking for a replacement. But we figured, oh, well, we got Dick back—that’s most important. And more than one friend sent us other terrific Life Is Good shirts to help make up for the lost one.

But Hawaii Jan makes miracles happen. Not only did she find us a house to rent for two weeks on Oahu (very difficult to do on a week’s notice), but she also brought me, among many other comforts, a big pink sweatshirt blanket that warmed me up in our way-too-cold hospital room where I slept for 12 nights. And, while Dick was still in the hospital, Jan picked me up and took me to, of all places, a local bowling alley for some outstanding local diner food. And she drove me to see the rental house before we went there to help me figure out the area. She also came to Dick’s departure ceremony at the airport before he flew home in February where he was honored as an AED survivor.

In short, Jan Lake is a gem, which we already knew. And we also knew that she has connections in the T-shirt world (she worked for the Hawaii company Crazy Shirts for years, setting up their catalog shoots, and now works for a company buying products for gift shops in Hawaii). But what we didn’t know is that that one of her connections is, as she says, “a local boy, Michael Paz (aka Pazzy).” His company, Project Aloha (, makes T-shirts, caps and other aloha wear. But, Jan told us, he also creates art for Life Is Good.

And because Jan can move mountains, she persuaded Pazzy to make a replica shirt for Dick, which she presented to him on her most recent trip to see her folks.

As you might imagine, there was much exclamation and not a few tears from the man who had his T-shirt and his custom-made camera vest cut off him Jan. 15. He had an extra vest at home, thank goodness, but the shirt, we figured, was irreplaceable.

Not if you know Hawaii Jan, it turns out.

Thank you, Jan Lake and Michael Paz, for this latest act of great kindness. We’ve been touched, once again, by the miracle of love that has surrounded us throughout Dick’s Great Adventure. And now Dick can walk in the world with his newly repaired heart wearing the T-shirt that spelled it out for us the day of his rebirth: Life Is Good.


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Hawaii Jan and California Jan, January 2019 (photo by Dick Schmidt while still in ICU)

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e-JLH RDS Pebble Beach-SML

(Photo by Sue Lester)

Us. Because life is good… especially at the seashore where we celebrated (quite belatedly) Dick’s 76th birthday, which was in February.

After I had to return to Sacramento Feb. 1, Dick celebrated (gently, quietly) as he recovered in a rented house in Honolulu from heart surgery with our two friends, Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, who literally flew to his side to care for him. This past weekend Dick and I happily celebrated together on the other side of the Pacific Ocean with our dear friend Sue Lester at The Sea Ranch on the north edge of Sonoma County.

And we walked the gorgeous bluff-top trail and, when the tide allowed, went down to rain-soaked sand because it was mostly a wet weekend, but then we scampered outside like happy marmots when the sun beamed, soaking it up before the next shower. Then we’d nestle inside (like marmots who prefer being dry) and talk and eat and read and nap.

e-SML deck sun-0468


Sue is (other than my sister) my longest-tenured friend on the planet. We grew up next door to each other next to a lake called Folsom where I followed her through our patch of state park as best friends do. She was always a head taller and a year older (she still is), but now that we’re in our sixth decades, I’ve got lots more gray hair than Sue. We have been fortunate that we found work we love (Sue’s a veterinarian in Nevada City) in places we love. And while we have not raised children, we have cared for innumerable pets and loved ones and houses and plants.

Sue is important in my life because she has been a witness to so much of it. She has parts of the story no one else has, as I have parts of hers. She has also adored my two main men, the one who was born 67 years ago today (hey, Clifford, my dearest companion spirit!) and died in 2001, as well as the one who died and was returned to me in January (Dickie!). She has a master’s in zoology for which she toiled among ocean invertebrates in, among other places, Bermuda, a warm-ocean spot.

This past weekend Sue and Dick and I migrated to the cold ocean of the North Coast, accepting the weather that came at us and over us. Because it’s never too often to be grateful and happy for each day we get to breathe together on the planet.

e-SML peace-0465


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This is not an obituary

This is what I wrote for the final print edition of my students’ newspaper, which landed on newsstands May 9 at Sacramento City College. So proud of the editors and staffers who worked very hard to make the final 24 pages truly beautiful ones.

express cover REDO

You are holding in your hands the last printed Express newspaper at Sacramento City College.

As one of a couple dozen advisers of the paper since its beginnings as The Blotter in 1922, I have to say that this is a bittersweet moment. The paper itself is not ending; in fact, it’s thriving with new content every day of the academic year at But it’s time to bring a close to its monthly existence on newsprint. Beginning in the fall semester the Express will be a completely online publication.

This reminds me of another important moment in the paper’s history, when Ginny McReynolds was hired in 1986 to replace longtime journalism instructor and adviser Jean (“Doc”) Stephens, who was retiring. The story has become part of our history: Jean made no secret of the fact that she didn’t want to have to deal with computers, which were very much becoming a part of newspapers. So it was Ginny who ushered in the first small Macintosh computers into the Express lab, and she and her students set about learning the new technology to put out the paper.

“When I came here in 1986, I was extremely grateful to have been chosen for the job and I was nervous,” recalls Ginny, who is currently associate vice president of instructional services at City College. “My whole first staff of editors had been Jean’s students, and it wasn’t an easy transition for any of us. But, before long, we formed our own team, and Jean was very helpful and supportive of my work.”

Ginny also notes that as the program transitioned to using computers, she had “enormous help from people who actually knew what they were doing. Over the years, all of that has changed a number of times, but it has always been a kind of ‘each one, teach one’ situation. Without very savvy tech-savvy colleagues and students, I would never have been able to facilitate that!”

My journalism colleague Dianne Heimer also oversaw a major technological shift when she advised the paper—creating an online version of the Express as with the new century in 2000. Dianne, who is retiring this month, brought the paper into the digital age.

Randy Ravenstorm in lab

Ravenstorm Labarcon, design adviser, works on the final print issue of the Express.

None of this would have been possible without thousands of dedicated students, who, since 1922, have made up the staffs of The Blotter, the Pony Express and the Express. We have included the names of as many of those former staffers as we could find in our staff box on these pages.

The goal of the journalism department has not changed since the days of the first newspapers on campus: to educate students in the skills and ethics of journalism so that they can continue their educations in the field, if they choose, or go to work as professional communicators. Many have done both. We are proud to point to Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ron Edmonds, who was a photographer on the Express in 1968.

But we are equally proud of young journalists who did outstanding work while reporting and photographing for the Express.

When a student was shot and killed on campus Sept. 3, 2015, Express editor-in-chief Kris Hooks and news editor Vienna Montague immediately went to work. Most of the immediate coverage was put up instantly on the Express’ social media platforms and on our website. Local news outlets were following our reporting that day. Our Express editors put up stories first online and then decide which stories to include in the monthly print editions, from the coverage of the reaction to the death of former City College student Stephon Clark and decision this year not to prosecute the city police officers who shot and killed him.

As we’ve been looking at the end of the printed editions of the Express, I’ve struggled for ways to write about this. One of my former writing students, Dawn Orosco, put it this way in the final stanza of a poetic tribute to print newspapers:

But still, this is not an obituary —
newspapers will never die
They will always be held;
they will always be opened —
forever recycled
in my bank of memory.

old new expresses

Expresses 1981 and 2019 (Photo by Randy Allen)

It’s been a great run on newsprint, and we are grateful for the support of literally thousands of (before 1959) Sacramento Junior College and (after 1959) Sacramento City College students, faculty, staff and administrators who have read (and sometimes railed at) the Express. The paper has been an ongoing practice in democracy and the First Amendment—not without disagreement and challenges—but it has largely succeeded as the voice of students reporting on other students and their college experience.

Here’s to many more years as that student voice, in whatever form of delivery is appropriate to the changing times. In the meantime, the Express will still be going strong each academic year at www.saccityexpress. We hope you’ll continue the journey with us.

Jan Haag and Randy Allen
Express advisers, spring 2019

Randy editors deliver

Photo adviser Randy Allen commemorates the delivery May 9, 2019, of the final print edition of the Express newspaper at Sacramento City College by its staff (from left, Danielle McKinney, Rose Vega, Ravenstorm Labarcon and Luan Nguyen).

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Is a nurse ever really on vacation?


Claudio Alvarado (photo by Charlie Casey/UCD Health)

That’s the great headline on this UC Davis Health story about one of Dick’s saviors, Claudio Alvarado, who sank to his knees beside me on mine seconds after Dick’s collapse in Honolulu Jan. 15.

Claudio—as you may remember if you’ve been following this story—was in line behind us to board Hawaiian Airlines flight 20 bound for Sacramento that day with his partner, Camron Calloway.

“I’m a nurse,” Claudio said to me as I wondered if I should start CPR. I moved aside to let Claudio do what he does professionally as a nurse in the Emergency Department at the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento.

The rest, as they say, is history. (You can read an earlier post about Claudio and Camron here, if you like.)

We are grateful to Charlie Casey, senior public information officer at UCD Health, for interviewing both Dick and Claudio to write this story for the UCDMC community .

I’m also delighted by the fact that as of this summer I can call Claudio a colleague of mine at Sacramento City College where we are both professors. He’s been hired as a full-time nursing professor and starts working with SCC nursing students doing their clinical practice over the summer. In the fall, he’ll teach a full load of classes in addition to his job at UCDMC.

As Dick says of Claudio in this story, “That dude is a hero.”

He so is!

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Before my brain could begin
to process it—you, falling to the airport
floor, pulse fluttering in your neck
until someone rolled you onto your back,
and the fluttering stopped—
Loss opened the shuttered door
in my heart, walked through again,
stood next to me, put his arm
around me, and said, “There, there.”

We stood there, Loss and I,
watching as strangers knelt around
you, a perfect halo of helpers.
Grief showed up, lending his warmth
to our little huddle. “Hey, girl,”
said Grief, old friend that he is.
“Don’t watch—or maybe, do.
It’ll help later.”

Then Hope joined us, nudging me.
“Take a picture, honey,” she whispered.
“If he comes back, he’ll ask
if you got a picture.”

That made me smile; Hope knows
us so well. I extracted myself
from Grief’s gentle arms and said,
“Excuse me,” without explanation,
because Grief understands.

I stepped into the glory of humanity
around you, took out my phone and
snapped an image of you there,
a large man pumping your chest,
a smaller one holding your head,
checking your pulse, another arriving
with a machine, someone placing
pads with wires on your chest.

“You know,” Loss whispered, trying
to prepare me, “this doesn’t always work.”

But Hope grabbed my hand and,
though no one else did, sang out,
“Clear!” a second before one
of the helpers pushed the button.
And suddenly, there you were, pale
blue eyes open, eyelashes fluttering,
the throng around you able to breathe again,
you, back on our side.

“Bye-bye,” Loss said, releasing me.
“For now,” Grief said, already fading.
“There you go,” Hope whispered,
as my life restarted with one


(Also published here. Thanks to Persimmon Tree for including “Stopped” in their special section, “life-changing moments.”)

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He lives!


Faith United Methodist Church (photo/Dick Schmidt)

After retrieving my nametag from the tall usher in the foyer, I quietly opened the door and snuck into the Methodist Church called Faith that Dick and his family have considered theirs for decades.

The pre-service Easter music wafted up to the exposed beams holding up the pitched ceiling, and I was delighted, as I slid into the pew next to Dick and his cousin Ron Saylor, to see a friend of mine sittin’ in at the grand piano. Rachel Kang, a professor of music at Sacramento City College where I also teach, gave me a quick wave, never missing a note.

Though I’m not an official member of Faith United Methodist Church in Sacramento, I pop in periodically with Dick. Easter is one of those special occasions—not just for the religious reasons but because it was Easter 1999 when Dick’s mother attended church there for the last time before she died nine weeks later. Dick’s parents and many of his relatives, including his sister and her family, have been an integral part of the backbone of that church. His mother and sister played organ and piano there; his father sang in the choir and sat on the church board. Dick’s cousins Leonard and Naomi Schmidt have served for decades as lay leaders and shared their musical talents—directing the choir, playing the organ and piano, and (my favorite) leading and performing in the Faith handbell choir.

To sit in Faith church is, I believe, an act of homage and love on Dick’s part, in memory and honor of his family and loved ones, and I’m always honored to be there.

This Easter, though, we also had people to thank—lots of people who had written and called and sent supportive messages after Dick’s cardiac arrest Jan. 15 and subsequent triple bypass in Honolulu in January. From Pastor Barbara Horikoshi-Firebaugh to Ron Saylor to friends like Elaine and Loring Pollock and Sara Zeigler, this would be the first time Dick got to hug some of them since returning from Hawaii.

It was also a chance for us to stand next to Ron, a Methodist minister himself with a lovely singing voice, and listen to him sometimes take up the melody, sometimes come in with a nice harmony. Dick remembers a much younger Ron, fresh from his home in Canada, coming to visit Faith church in 1961 and becoming quite taken with Dick’s cousin Carol, a fine pianist and composer. They later married and had two sons.

Easter is all about resurrection, and though it embarrasses Dick that I keep referring to his, I have to say that sitting next to him in church this Easter brought home the great emotional weight I’ve been carrying since Jan. 15. Especially when we were singing lyrics like the ones in “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”:

Made like him, like him we rise,
Where o’ death is now thy sting?

I felt myself getting teary as I thought of The Resurrection of the man whose ascendance into heaven is the bedrock of the faith of these people of Faith. And then I had only to glance at the man next to me to feel more tears spill as we sang, “He lives! He lives!”

I know Dick is not the first person to come back to life at the hands of compassionate strangers who administered CPR and shocked his heart with a defibrillator. There may have been others like that in church, too. But this is my resurrected one, and when I think of that, I am moved to tears. I hope to be less emotional about it someday, but right now I dissolve while trying to sing, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

Like the son of God, “he walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way,” as the song says.

I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer,
and just the time I need him, he’s always near.

For a few minutes there in an airport in Honolulu, I came face to face with the knowledge that Dick will not always be near. This was not news to me, but I hadn’t experienced it with him. I have lived through the death of a husband and have had literally hundreds of sweet examples of that one returning to me—in sleeping and waking moments—as my companion spirit. But, as I told Dick, although it’s not up to me, I really want to hold his hand of mercy and hear his voice of cheer for as long as possible.

So I did what I usually do in church. When it was time to sing, I clutched a first, a second, then a third tissue as the tears came and my nose ran, and I tried to make a joyful noise with my voice breaking. (It can’t hit high notes very well any more either.)

I held the hymnal given in memory of Dick’s mother, her name just inside the cover, and felt his hand close to mine, and I sang my gratitude—to the heavens, to God and his resurrected Son, to all the saints and companion spirits who helped return my beloved to me, here on earth.

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Heroes in training

•Card from Mark reverse

Card from Mark, 6th grade, Honowai Elementary School, Oahu

We think that Mark, who drew this card that Dick received this week, has a future as a cartoonist. A packet of 20 handwritten, hand-drawn thank you notes from Oahu arrived at Dick’s, Cora’s and Connie’s houses, each unique card made by a sixth grader at Honowai Elementary School in Waipahu. (You may recall that Cora and Connie traveled from their respective homes in Nevada and Colorado to care for Dick after I had to leave Honolulu to return home. They all stayed another two weeks in a house we rented in Pearl City.)

Apparently about 60 keiki (children) were recently trained in CPR and the use of an AED, thanks to donations from Dick, Cora and Connie to Kids4CPR, the nonprofit part of the AED Institute. This is just one of many trainings volunteers with Kids4CPR do all over Hawaii, and, it turns out, these kinds of donations will ensure that the small program continues.

Dick, Cora and Connie knew that their donations would be used to train kids in these lifesaving techniques, but they didn’t know they’d be so richly thanked.

•Card from Gregory

We liked this card from Kenneth, too:

•Card from Kenneth inside

Diana Sellner, program coordinator of Kids4CPR, also sent a note:

“As you know, CPR training for kiddos is so important. The kiddos really enjoy CPR training and soak up the info like sponges. Here are some thank you cards written by students at Honowai Elementary School. This was Honowai’s first time receiving training. They had so much fun that they immediately scheduled for 2020.”

According to a letter that also came from Morgan Hawley, relations manager for Kids4CPR, Inc., “Each year in the U.S., nearly 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside hospitals, and less than 30% will receive CPR from a bystander. Without immediate bystander CPR and defibrillation, a victim’s chance of survival decreases 10% for each minute that passes. The national survival rate from cardiac arrest is less than 10% and potentially even less in Hawaii.”

•Card from Anyiss

This is the essence of what the kids learned: that CPR stands for call (911), push (do chest compressions) and respond (EMS personnel come to help). Kids4CPR’s mission is to improve the cardiac arrest survival rate in Hawaii, Hawley said. By teaching lifesaving CPR and AED use in schools, they hope “to help turn the sudden cardiac arrest (death) statistics upside down.”

The idea is that after training them, like the Honowai keiki in sixth grade, their skills “will be reinforced as they progress through school,” Hawley wrote. “By the time they graduate, we hope to have created a generation of CPR/AED-savvy students who have the confidence and willingness to save a life. Future heroes in training!”

Here’s more that we learned from their website:

• Kids4CPR is a 100% volunteer-run organization. “Teaching children to save a life and be a superhero is what we do best.”

• “A key component of our program is encouraging and inspiring students to go out and teach family and friends, exponentially increasing the number of potential lifesavers in the community. Everyone benefits from children receiving CPR training because of their willingness to share what they learned with others.”

•Card from Nichelle

Pam Foster, the founder of the AED Institute, taught her first kids’ CPR class at Iolani School in 2005. In 2009-2010 Pam met Sharon Maekawa, whose 28-year-old daughter died of a cardiac arrest at the school where she was a teacher. No one there knew CPR, and there was no AED on campus. Together, Pam and Sharon formed Hawaii Heart Foundation, which was renamed Kids4CPR. Since 2010 the organization has trained more than 100,000 kids for free in CPR and the use of AEDs.

“In the last two years,” she says, “the foundation has had growing pains. We have a lot of requests for classes but can only offer about two to three classes per month because the AED Institute is so busy.”

Kids4CPR has struggled to find funding, as well, Pam told us, adding that she’s not sure how long they can continue doing trainings in schools. “The schools do see the importance, but do not want to teach it themselves,” she says. “Who knows what the future holds, but [training kids] is a passion.”

These are kids like Brehannan, whose letter arrived in the package sent to Connie.

“I would like to thank you for teaching me CPR cause when I was little people would ask me what was my dream and I would say help people and save people and you helped me learn what CPR means and what to do when they collapsed or at least something happens and what to be and say. Now that you taught me I can accomplish my younger self dreams so thank you.”


•Card from Mark front

Another keeper from Mark (note the Zooming superhero with AED in hand).

We can’t guarantee great cards like this if you or someone you know donates to Kids4CPR, but if you do, and if you receive gratitude in this form from a bunch of eager sixth graders, tell us about it. It seems like a great gift to us. You can make a tax-deductible donation to Kids4CPR to help them continue this great work and even mention Dick Schmidt, if you like.

He’s kind of a superhero now, too.

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