Friday, July 13, 2018

Insight: Everything happens by Lorraine Glowczak

"Hello everyone,” the email began. “I won’t be able to make it to tonight’s meeting. We received word from my brother that today might be the day and I want to spend time with my family.”

The email, sent to a board of directors of which I am a member, was referring to the individual’s 24-year-old nephew who is in the process of taking his last breaths. He was diagnosed with brain cancer six months ago.

The news comes on the cusp of my reading the book, “Everything Happens for a Reason – and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler. Bowler is a cancer survivor and an Assistant Professor of Duke Divinity School.

Although I am one to hop on the think-positive-train wholeheartedly, I have always hesitated when “everything happens for a reason” is uttered. I believe, without a doubt, we have some control over what happens in our lives and we most likely have control over our responses. But is it safe to say that EVERYTHING happens for a reason?

I think it is possible that some things just happen and when they are unfair, confusing and painful we tend to apply human reason to make sense of it all. This, in and of itself, really bears no issue. 

If one believes that absolutely everything happens for a reason, fair enough. But it can become an issue, when one is certain of a specific viewpoint. It has the tendency to create judgment and make us overly certain of our personal truths which seem to give us the freedom to apply the “reason” philosophy on everyone - in every situation.

In the midst of painful experiences, such as cancer and other unbearables, this certainty can cause greater harm, pain and damage to those who are already suffering.

Bowler shares some of her thoughts on how people responded to her cancer. “My [email] inbox is full of strangers giving reasons. People offer them like wildflowers picked along the way…they want me to know, without a doubt, that there is hidden logic to this seeming chaos. (p. 112).

Bowler states the hardest lessons come from the “solutions people” who tell her that attitude is everything and it determines one’s destiny. “I am immediately worn out by the tyranny of prescriptive joy,” she said.

I’m not offering what each person should do or believe. I can’t. Because no one owns the copyright on truth. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps we should not make assumptions in certain circumstances where the lines of reason are fuzzy. Especially for those already facing horrendous situations. What good is it to be right in such instances if it only wears down an already weary and broken person?

In terms of whether there is a reason for everything or not is not as important as the awareness that what we say, can and does have a great impact on others.

So, let’s just agree that either everything happens for a reason or everything happens for a reason and enjoy our perceptions while being mindful of others.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Insight: Freedom, Independence and Unity by Lorraine Glowczak

When this edition of the Windham Eagle newspaper hits the newsstands on Thursday and arrives in mailboxes on Friday, the Fourth of July celebrations will be behind us. Or will it?

In my observation, what I find amazing about this holiday is that we celebrate in unison, despite our differences. Now almost 240 years after the first celebration, the enthusiasm around the birth of American independence is just as strong as ever. Granted, it may be different than the first days of merriment, it is the one holiday that most people all over the nation celebrate together and have since its inception.

It’s true that we no longer hold mock funerals of King George III to symbolize our freedom from the monarchy as in the early years, but we do celebrate in one or more of the following ways: parades, patriotic music, backyard barbecues and picnics, swimming, boating, kayaking, laying on the beach and, last but certainly not least, enjoying the fireworks that light up the evening skies.

The gathering together as American citizens to celebrate in this way, whether we agree with the politics of the country or not, is an important foundation for another type of independence. The independence and freedom to exist in alignment with our perception of a life well lived.

John Adams, who assisted Thomas Jefferson in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, was no different. He worked closely with five other individuals (including Jefferson) to draft a formal document to justify the separation from England. Despite his deep-seated views, he worked with others to meet a common goal for the common good.

But Adams has been referred to as a radical in various ways. It is said that he believed the correct date to celebrate Independence Day was July 2nd - because that is the date the Continental Congress voted in favor of the resolution for independence. It didn’t matter to Adams that the resolution was formally adopted two days later, on July 4th.

To remain genuine to his personal viewpoint, it is reported that Adams refused invitations to attend or celebrate 4th of July events as a form of protest. How’s that for showing your independence on Independence Day?

The fact is – Independence Day can be celebrated every day and in our own ways. Is it easy to live together individually, celebrating it all? Well – maybe not easy but it’s possible and it can be done. How?

If we remember that we all warrant freedom and independence, no matter what – then I think we could celebrate each other uniquely, together in unity, and the freedom that comes with both every day. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” (Lincoln).

I think we all deserve it, don’t you?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Insight: The ocean and the forest by Lorraine Glowczak

"Bringing Unity to the Community” is the Windham Summerfest motto. The Summerfest Committee and all others who worked tirelessly in creating a fun and successful community event, did an incredible job making all the parts come together this past weekend. Kudos to you all. 

I imagine; however, there were some challenges along the way and it wasn’t as easy as they made it appear.

There is no denying that words like civility, teamwork and unity are becoming tattered and worn with overuse and I suspect many of us are becoming tattered and worn by trying to bring those words to our lives through actions.

Participating with others while working toward the same goal is a thorny task that challenges even the best among us. This creates the question: Is there an effortless way to collaborate with others without too many puncture wounds for all involved?

I wish I could offer a thought provoking answer. Not only would it help solve many of today’s issues in civility, but I would have the next best-selling self-help book on the shelves today.  

What I can pose is one tiny little perspective that may help ease some pain of challenging interactions.

One of my favorite spots to visit when I first moved to Maine was Mackworth Island. One day while exploring, I took a moment to sit on a beach on one side of the island to enjoy the incredible view. All I saw was rolling waves, boulders in the water and the Portland skyline. Ready to head back, I turned around to walk toward the path on the inside of the Island and was struck by the beauty of the tall pines, trees and flowering bushes. It dawned on me that by just turning around in a 90-degree angle, I had a completely different viewpoint.

What I had observed that day was Mackworth Island provided two opposing truths. One truth was the ocean, the other truth - the forest. 

Imagine if there were two different people and they had their backs to one another. The individual facing the ocean could say, “Wow! Look at all the water! Isn’t it beautiful?” The other person might possibly respond, “You’re nuts and you’re wrong. There is no water at all.”

They both would be right. They could argue back and forth or discover that the ocean and the forest both exists. If they choose to learn from each other, their world will expand to include both perceptions of nature. If they continue to disagree and hold steadfast to their viewpoints, their understanding of the world will remain small – and boring.

The next time we all work together, perhaps we can remember this analogy or something similar, and the efforts of teamwork may not seem so painful. It may also expand our view of the world and make us a bit more interesting.

If this week’s Insight makes your next collaborative effort go more smoothly and work with betters with others, let me know. I have always wanted to be a best-selling author!

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

AARP Maine and our more than 230,000 members would like to extend our congratulations and best wishes to all the candidates running in the general election in November.

We would also like to remind everyone that November is not that far away. By far, the biggest and most robust voting bloc in the state is that of Mainers over the age of 50. The issues impacting older Mainers are of particular importance here in Maine, the oldest state in the country. Whether it’s the cost of living in retirement, access to housing that’s affordable or staying connected to friends and family, AARP Maine is advocating on these issues.

At the national level, nothing is more important to our members than protecting the Social Security and Medicare benefits we have worked all our lives to earn. In Maine, we expect the next legislature will be asked to deal with health care costs and access (especially for those aged 50-64), prescription drug pricing, and transparency about how pricing is established. We also look forward to following the election by celebrating November as the first-ever Maine Family Caregivers Month and raising awareness about the needs and challenges of 178,000 Maine family caregivers.

It’s a loaded agenda, and we welcome the participation of all who would serve in elected office. 
At the same time, AARP’s “Be The Difference. Vote. campaign encourages all Mainers to make their voices heard. Help us send a strong message to candidates and politicians this election by visiting and adding your name. What are the issues of concern to you and to your family?  Every vote counts, and together, we can hold politicians accountable regarding the issues that matter.

Rich Livingston
AARP Maine Volunteer State President

Friday, June 22, 2018

Insight: A summer of wonder by Lorraine Glowczak

"Remember when we were kids and summers lasted forever,” Frank, my husband asked with nostalgia as we floated in our kayaks on the lake this past Sunday. It was the perfect lazy summer day in all its cloudless blue-sky glory and that’s when summer officially began for me.

Technically, summer officially begins on Thursday, June 21st - the longest day of the year. It is the one day the sun dilly-dallies because it thinks it has forever. And, that feeling of “forever” is what summers were like when I was a child. It seems that feeling is also true for others.

But then we grow up and summers speed by in a matter of seconds. Why is that? Why does summer seem to go faster as we grow older? There are many theories that explain the perception of time and why it appears to travel more quickly as we progress in years. The online magazine, “Scientific American” offers one thought on the issue, “…our brains encode new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.”

The article further explains that from childhood to early adulthood, we experience new and exciting adventures for the first time and we learn many new skills. When we become adults, we crowd our lives with busy routine and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.

So, I have decided to do an experiment this summer and act like a kid with the hopes that the summer might appear to last a little bit longer.

I know it may seem like an oxymoron, but I have already “scheduled” free time in my calendar. As a child, I experienced a lot of free time – and in fact, I even had a few moments of boredom. But this is when I discovered ants carrying objects bigger than their bodies, heard the call of a whip-poor-will for the first time and realized there was this thing called the Milky Way - and it wasn’t a chocolate bar.

On days when boredom seized me, I hopped on my bike with friends and we explored the surrounding wheat fields, back country roads and streams. It was fascinating to see firsthand the main ingredient for bread or discover how snakes slither across the road and to see tadpoles before they became frogs. I had no plans, I just showed up.

So, wish me luck with my experiment to slow summertime down and grab the childlike wonder of my youth. I will do my best to make the familiar, unfamiliar again and to rediscover my surroundings, as if I am seeing them for the first time. If you want to join me in this effort, please do.

Perhaps we can rediscover together all the amazing ways our small-town communities are alive – by just showing up without expectations. If you are up to it – join me in one of the bounce houses this Saturday at the 2018 Windham Summerfest. I’ll race you.

Editorial essays by two sixth-grade students

Below you will find essays written by two sixth-grade students from Windham Middles School. These essays were a part of their Project-based learning on water pollution.

Essay One
Ensuring our water is clean
By Jaida Narvaez

Did you know that only one quart of gasoline or oil can contaminate up to 250,000 gallons of water? In the state of Maine, we need to keep our water clean, because before we know it, we might not have any at all!

Before you worry about running out of clean water, remember that after you read this essay, you will be educated with this topic. And if you are willing to, you can help stop water pollution!
Some things we will talk about in this writing piece are; natural pollutants, human activities that lead to polluting and ways you can help prevent pollution.

Natural Pollutants:
These are pollutants that are caused by substances of a natural origin. Although they are natural, they still pollute our water and cause serious problems. Natural pollutants, such as soil are mostly carried into the water from runoff. As stated earlier, these pollutants can cause serious problems like algae growth, decreased clarity, and warm water. You might think warm water is a good thing, but it actually means that the water has less oxygen in it. When water has a very low oxygen level, some low tolerant animals in the water might die. This is a problem because eventually, some aquatic animals could go extinct.

Human Impacts:
As you probably know, humans can pollute the water too. Sometimes, we pollute without even knowing it! Next, we will talk about some of the things you might have done that could lead to polluting our water. Not picking up your pet’s waste. Besides just being gross, this will lead to much bigger problems in our water. When it rains, runoff will carry your dog’s waste to the water. As a result, the water will be turbid, and have low oxygen levels. Furthermore, when oil from your boat ends up in the water, along with oil from other boats, it destroys the insulating ability of fur bearing mammals. These animals would include sea otters and birds. Lastly for this paragraph, is fertilizers and pesticides. You might not think twice before adding fertilizer to your lawn to get healthy, luscious, green, grass. But if you don’t apply it correctly, you could pollute your nearest body of water. When runoff carries your fertilizer into the water, the nutrients from this chemical makes a rapid growth in algae in the water. As we learned earlier, when too much algae is in the water, it makes the water lose oxygen, which affects aquatic life.

You might feel hopeless after hearing about all the pollutants, but thankfully, there are solutions! For example, one solution would be rain gardens. Rain gardens are bowl-shaped gardens that are designed specifically to capture and filter runoff from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces. They collect water and allow it to sink, slowly, into the ground. Not only does it look good, but it is also a great way to reduce the amount of polluted runoff that flows into the water! Another solution would be an infiltration trench. These are basically trenches filled with gravel/crushed stone that collect runoff and filter the pollution out of it, making it cleaner for when it reaches our water. Lastly, you could try vegetated buffers. These are trees, shrubs, and other plants that catch polluted runoff before it reaches our water. Try some of these solutions, and you can help reduce pollution, save aquatic life, and keep our water clean!

Humans, nature, and animals all contribute to pollution, but now that you know these solutions, you can do your part to help reduce the amount of pollution that reaches our water! So next time that you apply fertilizer to your plants, leave your dog’s waste on the ground, let your boat leak oil, or see construction sites getting soil in the water, remember that all those things pollute our water. But you, can stop it. You can make a difference!

Essay Two
Fresh water pollution in Maine
By Joley Graden

3.4 million people die from waterborne diseases every day. Can you imagine not being able to turn on a faucet with clean water in it? Just imagine yourself going to your sink, turning on the faucet and filling a glass cup with fresh cold icy water. Because of untreated dirty unhealthy water, a child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related disease. In my opinion this is heartbreaking!  Luckily, we as Mainers don't have these kind of issues . . . yet. That’s why we need to treat our freshwater with care if we don't want to have these issues. Some other things you will learn about are what natural pollutants are and human impacts. Also you will learn solutions to these issues.

Natural Pollutants:
Natural pollution and human pollution are both bad but natural pollutants are the worst for our freshwater. Some examples of natural pollutants are soil, and animal waste. Soil is the number one pollutant in Maine because there's tons of it!  Soil: adds nutrients to the water which can cause algae blooms to grow which causes plants not to get nutrients because the algae is blocking their sunlight. Also, the animals can't get the food they need. In addition, when an algae bloom occurs, it makes the water turbid; makes water cloudy and the dissolved oxygen levels decrease; dissolved oxygen which is harmful to aquatic life. However, If the sediments were to get into a fish’s gills this would not just affect the fish, this would affect the consumers as well. People could end up getting sick with a waterborne illness. This is just some of the many effects of natural pollutants.     
Human Impact:
In my opinion human impact is the worst of all of them. I say this because most of the time you can choose whether to pollute the water or pick it up and dispose of it properly. Specifically, some human pollutants are car oil, fertilizers, herbicides, road salt and sand, litter, pesticides, car soap, factory waste, etc. Do you wash your car? Have you ever thought where the soaps go into? Well they all runoff into the closest water body (Watershed) and pollute the water; instead you could stop the pollution, so it doesn't affect the environment. Same with fertilizers if you don't apply them properly they can affect your watershed. Like for an example if you put down fertilizer when it’s going to rain the next day. There are many ways to solve these problems the question is will you take the time to solve them?

Now that you know some ways we harm our environment here are some ways to save it. On the other hand, using BMPs (best management practices) help reduce runoff and pollution. Some BMPs are vegetated buffers, rain barrels, rain gardens, infiltration trenches, and dry wells, etc. Some situations where you could use these solutions are when you have eroded spots on your lawn you could cover those spots with buffers to keep the soil/dirt from running off into the water. Another scenario is if you were washing your car on your paved driveway all of the soap and chemicals would runoff because of the pervious pavement but if you washed your car on the grass you would give the soaps time to infiltrate (soak into the ground) into the ground so it wouldn't harm are water bodies. When water goes into the atmosphere it does the same things as ground and plants. In a similar fashion, it takes the pollutants away so it’s not harming are water or the environment.

In closing, as we saw earlier freshwater pollution is a big problem in Maine and other places around the world. You can stop human impact by disposing of things the right way like clean up road salt and sand in your driveway (use a broom). However, you can stop natural pollutants by using BMPs to reduce runoff. BMPs are very important to stop pollution, and I recommend using them if you have these sorts of problems. According to Brian Tracy, “There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking. If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

Insight: Voice of the familiar by Lorraine Glowczak

"Does my voice sound too twangy?” That’s the question I asked fellow writers last week in a writer’s group I attend monthly. As an author, I am always concerned about my writer’s voice, but this time - it was my actual speaking voice that had me apprehensive.

Two weeks ago, I attended a creative, non-fiction essay workshop in Belfast and someone from that group invited me to publish my work on a community radio station in the Downeast and Midcoast areas. I accepted the invitation but admitted to my new friend that I still speak with a Kansas inflection and may not be able to pull off that “NPR” tone. She assured me that all would be fine. “The way you speak is what will add to the depth of your stories,” she said.

My writing group friends echoed her sentiment. Despite their encouragement, I was still not convinced. To help soothe my concerns, the group recorded me as I read one of my essays. Their feedback? I didn’t sound anything like myself. “You start out in your natural speaking voice but then changed to a softer, less impassioned version of you.” I was instructed to go home and listen to the recording.

I did as they recommended and was surprised to discover that what they believed wasn’t my voice, I believed was and it is exactly how I hear myself. As a result of this discovery, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about individuality; the way we express our unique style and how we play that out within our communities.

 Most of us wish to be liberated individuals, not succumbing to the “sheeple” way of life. However, we also don’t want to disassociate ourselves completely from the family and friends that complete us and are a part of something greater than ourselves.

I think the same is true of language and the way we speak. For example, for me to be a part of something greater, I spoke with an intonation and dialect as others around me. Not only did I speak that way to be a part of a whole, but as I learned during my days of linguistic study - I did that to be understood in an agreed upon language. This is true for everyone, not only for me.

So, in a sense - our voices and our language belong to everyone. It’s not just ours alone and it offers a bit of the familiar. This familiarity provides the springboard into our individuality - our unique voice.

The same can be said of my “NPR” radio voice, or the lack there of. The listeners of that community radio station turn on that program to hear the familiar. That doesn’t mean I should change my speaking voice but I might be careful to speak so I can be understood. I should do my best to refrain from speaking “tin” when I mean “ten” or “buuuuuk” when I mean “book”.

So, if you happen to ever be in a quandary over your individual voice (written, spoken or otherwise), I hope my little predicament and my little discovery helps you in some way.