Friday, March 15, 2019

Insight: Living the dream


By Lorraine Glowczak

“Lorraine, it has been so much fun to see where life has taken you these last few years!” is a message I received in an email recently.

I do have to say, it has been quite the adventure. It was a little over three years ago when I was writing about my new beekeeping adventure for The Windham Eagle newspaper and was assigned, on the spur of the moment, to cover an author speaking event.

“This is exactly what I want to do, and I am going to find a way to do this full time,” I said to myself when I walked out of the Raymond Village Library after interviewing the well-known Maine author and her fans.

That night it became very clear to me that I was going to live my dream and become a full-time writer.

Somedays, I have to pinch myself because – here I am - doing exactly what I had hoped for on that slightly rainy evening. I am now living my dream.

There are also days when I don’t have to pinch myself, because I have discovered that living your dream also provides moments where you feel like you ran smack dab into a Mack truck. There is a price for everything and, dang it, nothing is easy all the time. I somehow missed that portion of the lesson in “Reach for the Stars class 101”.

What I didn’t expect in becoming a full time writer is that I would also take on the role of a managing editor (which is a surprise bonus, one I thoroughly enjoy) and that role would then lead me to other roles which would lead me to roles I didn’t even know existed – thus, challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone. Additionally, there are moments I don’t know if I’m coming or going and if I’m doing everything right.

I have discovered when you fully live your dreams you also enter a territory that will often seem demanding, scary and daring. But I have been taken on many unexpected adventures and have grown so much in the process. In these three years:

* I’ve gained courage and it continues to grow.
* Despite my busyness, I oddly have more time to serve others and the community. As a result….
* It leaves little time for my own “problems” and I leave every situation better able to see things differently.
* Things that seemed impossible for me before now seem attainable.
* What once irritated me about others, no longer consumes my thoughts.
* Magic seems to happen more – people are there at the right time, a gift is given when I least expect it, and when I think my calendar is filled to the max, things miraculously open up.

So yes, I am living my dream. And although there are some struggles and a bit of chaos that come with it, I see the gift for what it is.

It is true that there is more I hope for. I want to travel more, for one. And, secondly – I have a dream that one day, not too far in the future, someone will live their own dream fully because they walked out of a small-town library, after having interviewed me – a well-known Maine author.

Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor,

Thousands of Mainers take prescription drugs. For many, prescription drugs represent the only defense they have against crippling pain. For others, prescription medications are a lifeline in their fight against serious conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes  Americans pay the highest prices in the world for their prescription drugs, and the ill effects cannot be overstated.

In February, seven pharmaceutical company CEOs testified before the US Senate Finance Committee. They deftly shifted blame to the “system” and failed to answer important questions such as why Americans pay the highest prices in the world for their prescription drugs. They all agreed that their companies spend more on advertising and administration than they do on research and drug development. One CEO couldn’t answer why some medications cost 40% less in other countries than here in the United States.  It is time for Congress to push for real answers, and to insist upon long-term solutions.

AARP’s Public Policy Institute periodically publishes reports which examine prescription drug pricing trends. The latest report, “Rx Price Watch Report: Trends in Retail Prices of Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans: 2017 Year-End Update,” revealed a startling fact: The retail prices of some of the most popular medications older Americans take to treat everything from diabetes to high blood pressure to asthma increased by an average of 8.4 percent in 2017. This rate of increase is four times the rate of inflation.

However, some medication prices have risen at a much steeper rate. AARP’s study found, for example, that in 2017, the retail price of the popular brand-name drug Lyrica, which is used to treat fibromyalgia, increased by 19.3 percent; the price of Benicar, a widely used medicine for high blood pressure, increased by 17.8 percent. 

If you currently have health insurance coverage, you may be one of the lucky ones who only has a co-pay for your medications. However, the enormous increase in drug costs ultimately affects you in the form of higher insurance deductibles and premiums. At the end of the day, we all pay.

The truth is that drug companies make billions in profits from older adults and hardworking Americans each year. No one should have to choose between food and medicine, but some Mainers are doing just that. 

In recent weeks, Mainers have shared stories with AARP Maine about their struggles to pay for their medications. A husband in Lyman counts on his life-saving EpiPen to be effective even though it expired three years ago. He cannot afford the $425 to replace it. A 72-year old retired nurse in Lebanon rations her meals and sometimes cuts the doses of the drugs she needs to treat her lung and liver disease. A 62-year old in Ellsworth spends almost ten percent of his income on multiple drugs to treat his heart condition. Sadly, these are just three of thousands of examples of Mainers whose lives depend on medications they simply cannot afford.

Several Maine legislators have introduced bills to confront the issue.  Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) has introduced multiple bills (LR 972, LR 973 and LR 1463) which focus on improved access through safe drug importation, and affordability through the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to broadly examine drug pricing. Senator Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic) has introduced LR 786 which requires greater disclosure of drug production, research, advertising and development costs.

The tens of billions of dollars drug companies spend on advertising each year is shameful and results in drugs being more expensive. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. As Maine leaders start to address this critical issue, we urge Congress to do the same. Please visit action.aarp.org/rx to learn more about AARP’s Rx advocacy work and to make your voice heard.

The time has come for Congress to take action against the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications. Drug companies must be kept from overcharging older Mainers and their families for the medications they need to stay healthy. People of all ages depend on prescription medications, and unfair prices are putting them out of reach. Congress and state governments must come together to pass bipartisan legislation to lower prescription medication prices now. It’s time to Stop Rx Greed.

Dr. Lori K. Parham
AARP Maine State Director
Portland


Friday, March 8, 2019

Insight: Bend like bamboo


By Lorraine Glowczak

There were many things I learned with my adventure to the State House last week as I visited with a few of our local delegates, shadowing them to discover what a typical day is like for a legislator (read page 8). I went with a set plan and agenda in mind regarding the exact times and location I would meet each of them. But that all changed the moment I walked into the door. I quickly discovered that if there is one personality trait required of a legislator, that would be the ability to be adaptable and accommodating.

It seems every plan we made, we had to shift and adjust our well-thought out schedule, multiple times in what seemed like a matter of seconds. Rep. Jessica Fay referred to this constantly changing schedule as the “pinball effect.”

Although adaptability during legislative sessions happen at a quick pace, there is a little flexibility required in everyday life. For every set agenda or focus goal, there is always something that is thrown in our way, interrupting our concentration and requiring us to adjust our sails.

When this happens, we can either become frustrated and disappointed by the unexpected disturbances – or alter our course and - as a friend once said to me, “bend like bamboo.”

Here in North American where the largest number of oak tree species can be found, the acorn and oak tree analogy (acorn inside holds the seed of a mighty oak tree potential) is what we use to remind us that we all have great potential within us. Many Asian countries, where bamboo profusely grows, have their own comparison tale. 

Author, Garr Reynolds, explains the bamboo analogy the best:

“One of the most impressive things about the bamboo in the forest is how they sway with even the slightest breeze. This gentle swaying movement with the wind is a symbol of humility. Their bodies are hard and firm and yet sway gently in the breeze while their trunks stay rooted firmly in the ground below. Their foundation is solid even though they move and sway harmoniously with the wind, never fighting against it. In time, even the strongest wind tires itself out, but the bamboo remains standing tall and still. A bend-but-don't-break or go-with-the-natural-flow attitude is one of the secrets for success whether we're talking about bamboo trees, answering tough questions in a Q&A session, or just dealing with the everyday vagaries of life.”

Flexibility is not the only thing that impresses me about bamboo. It has great versatility as well. Besides wood and paper products, bamboo is used in clothing, can be made into wine, eaten as food, used in steering wheels, bikes, helmets, in medicine, and much more. It’s amazing to me that with this level of adaptability, how much is offered and available.

Maybe the next time life throws you or I another curve ball, we can imagine that we are bamboo swaying in the wind. And if that doesn’t work and frustration persists, we could imagine to be in a giant tilted pinball machine. You laugh, but – who knows – maybe machine is tilted in our favor.

Guest editorial


The following article submission was originally published in The Bridgton News. It was requested by a member of the local American Legion to reprint this article as an informative piece regarding an often misconception faced by those who park in handicapped spots. Author, Kelly Ela has also given us permission to reprint.

The Boots
By Kelly Ela

Last week while I exited my car at our local grocery store, I was confronted by a gentleman who gruffly asked if that was my car. With a puzzled look I answered yes. The man continued on to say, “well I saw the disabled veteran plate and wondered what’s wrong with you. You seem to look just fine to me. I don’t understand why young people like you (get to be) considered disabled.”

It was at that point I decided it was vital to share something that’s been on my mind for years. I, like
many veterans, struggle to deal with a disease that is slowly killing me on the inside. It doesn’t matter how fine I look on the outside. The pure ignorance of humanity can take a big toll on some of us. We aren’t always the strong Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen we used to be.

I ignored the man and dragged my tall, proud, grotesquely scarred, PTSD engulfed, medication filled, bullet hole healed, blood clot ridden, body with barely functioning kidneys and lungs that happens to be short of a few organs, into the store, so that I could feed my family with three small children waiting at home.  That, my friends, is why I have a disabled Veteran plate.
This is what inspired me to write, “The boots”.

ATTENN HUTTTT!!!! You step off that bus to the screams and spit blaring from the mouth of the drill instructors and it is at that point, life as you know it just changed.  As the days in hell progress, you are all issued a pair of tall black boots.

These boots will quickly become your lifeline and you will never leave without them. You will lace them, shine them, learn how to march diligently and precisely in them. When they get dirty you will clean them and proudly shine them again. You will stand for hours and hours in them. You will do pushups until you puke in them. You will eat in them, you will sleep in them, you will sweat and bleed on them, you will make friends for life in them. They will get wet and give you blisters that make you cringe, but you will keep on marching proudly in them. You will train hard and learn to defend yourself and America in them.

They will protect your feet as you carry your weapons, bags and fatigued bodies across the mountains, deserts, oceans and more. These are the same boots peeking out from under the white cotton cloth of a soldier just killed in the battlefield. The same boots standing atop a makeshift memorial holding the rifle and dog tags of our sister who just paid the ultimate sacrifice. These are the boots of a United States Veteran.

All of us wore these boots and stood proudly taking the same oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America under the Red White and Blue of Old Glory. There is no person more proud than a Veteran wearing those tall black boots.

As each of us moved through our military careers, we traveled the world. We saw the beauty world had to offer. We saw the terror and awful sights the world also offered. Those boots stood witness with us. As we fell, they fell, as we advanced, they advanced.

When we deployed, those boots deployed with us; we never left without our boots. We left our husbands and wives, our children, and friends. Over and over we left to stand the endless watch of freedom wearing those tall black boots.

As time progressed, each of us were ordered down a different path. Some of us injured on the outside and lost or maimed our limbs. Some of us injured our backs and necks. Some of us burned unrecognizable, while some of us received mental injuries. All while wearing the same boots as our brothers and sisters.

Some of us were unknowingly exposed to agents and poisons resulting in cancer, and diseases with no cure, all while wearing those boots.

Some of us received injuries so great, that those boots had to be put on a shelf below a flag, never to be worn again.

The one thing that stands true is those black boots were worn by every United States Veteran, fighting to defend our country. It doesn’t matter what branch of service. It doesn’t matter if they were on the feet of a man or a woman, young or old. At one point they were laced up and cared for with pride like no other.

Our disabilities may all be different and not always seen on the outside. They were all acquired performing the same mission, while wearing those same tall black boots.

So next time you go to judge that disabled veteran that looks “fine” on the outside, take a moment to look at his or her feet and remember. At one time, he or she strapped up those boots for your freedom and is now paying the price with no regret. God Bless America.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Insight: Peace through Tinku

By Lorraine Glowczak

Life is cyclical - or at least that is what they tell me. “Lorraine, this is happened before, it will happen again, and it will get better,” a local wise man told me this fall when we were discussing the political climate we are witnessing today, both nationally and locally. This conversation occurred last fall and the Pollyanna side of me was hoping the pendulum would have started swinging the other way by now. But I guess, “the arch of justice is long….” (stated by another wise man, Martin Luther King Jr.)

Unless you have completely warded off media, you most likely know that hostilities among our leaders still exists.

I make no judgement of our leaders (well- for the most part) because I could not maintain a peaceful manner during a public and political dispute in which I felt attacked. It is good that we have different perspectives. It is admirable to stand up for what we believe in, despite how others may perceive us and the kick back one gets for speaking a personal truth. Without this, it wouldn’t be freedom and it wouldn’t be democracy. I do hope people continue to speak their truth, no matter how difficult it is. But, at times, it just can be so darn frustrating to have a civil conversation with others who do not see eye to eye.

It’s possible that the frustration we all experience is one of the contributing factors to the conflicts we see among our leaders. Although I wish we could all get along a little better - who can blame our leaders for feeling frustrated? I certainly can’t throw stones. (Analogy taken from another wise man.)
So, how can we all – in the midst of all our individual truths – not allow frustration to consume us and, in doing so, approach things in a more peaceful manner. I must admit, I do not have the answers.   
But I wonder if a Bolivian Aymara tradition known as “Tinku", may provide insight for us. According to Boliviamarka.com, Tinku “began as a form of ritualistic combat. In the language of Aymara it means, ‘physical attack’.”

I learned about the Tinku ritual during a personal Netflix ritual this past Sunday. In one of the episodes of “The Story of Us,” hosted by Morgan Freeman, Tinku was introduced. In that series, I learned brawls in this festival are considered a means of releasing frustration and anger between the separate communities who hold differing opinions. Once the festival is completed, the communities with different perspectives return into a civil working group with the goal of accomplishing things with the good of all in mind.

What if we did that here in our own community? We could do our own Tinku Festival. For three days, we could say and do all those things that a peaceful society would deem inappropriate. We could all yell at those who disagree with us, while dancing and banging drums to get out all our frustrations. We could say things that usually prohibits us from working together. Of course, there would be no physical violence, and no one would be hurt. A bell would ring to signify the end of the festival, and we’d all sit down together and have a feast – agreeing that, despite our differences, we would work together for the common good and commit to peaceful solutions for the next year, knowing we would have an opportunity  to “tell it like it is” from our own opinions at the next festival.

In this Netflix episode, Freeman spoke to Rwandan President, Paul Kagame. In a conversation about the current political and social divide we all experience worldwide, Freeman asked Kagame if he thought revenge and justice were two different things. Kagame replied. “They are different. Revenge may be justified. But it is not justice. Justice allows the disagreeable parties to get along. While revenge allows more revenge and creates a vicious cycle.”

Perhaps there is one cyclical life experience we can do without. War has been around since we’ve had to share resources such as land, water, food.  I don’t think the end of war is eminent. But what we have learned is that we must get better at making peace,” Freeman said, ending the episode.
And I will add that a fun three-day annual Tinku Festival, where acting like nincompoops is acceptable, might provide the peace needed in order to get things done in a civil manner. At least for one year. Just a thought.



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Friday, February 22, 2019

Insight: Bravery and the convertible

By Lorraine Glowczak

It is happening again. Last time it was a quote that stayed with me for weeks, this time it is a word. The term, “bravery”, has been whipping past me the last two weeks as if it’s driving a 1940s Triumph Roadster convertible, donning sunglasses and smiling with not a care in the world. Bravery, it seems, can come in many forms and arrive in odd and surprising ways.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes bravery as: “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty the quality or state of being brave; courage.”

Sometimes bravery means following your instincts, knowing that if you don’t do it – you’ll regret it - even when there is a possibility of failure. You take the chance anyway.

Holden Willard (see front page) is an example of boldly following your instinct. Author, Steven Kotler, describes this form of courage as “decision making in the face of uncertainty” bravery. Willard exemplifies what some, if not most of us wish we could do and be in life – to live our life doing exactly what we love, despite the ambiguity that comes with it.

As a full time studio artist/painter, Holden chooses to listen to that quiet voice instead of the noisy advice of others. Although he may face a certain level of insecurity and difficulty as a result, he has the mental strength to do what he feels called to do.

There is another type of bravery that comes in the form of unsuspecting circumstances such as homelessness, poverty and food insecurity. (insert Link) Kotler refers to this courage as “stamina”. Although the author focuses in on physical stamina; emotional strength and determination take the shape of bravery as well. To face the unknowns of shelter and food not only requires true grit but a level of resilience and perseverance, despite humiliation, to get to the other side.

The fact is, it takes bravery and courage to live. Period. And, if you are alive and reading this, I applaud you. You are making it and deserve the most beautiful things life has to offer.

And for those who are brave enough to courageously dive a little further - kudos to you. I image that when death knocks on your doors, there will be no regrets. And instead of following that light to the end of the tunnel, you may just hop into the front seat of a Triumph Roadster convertible, donning sunglasses and driving off into the sunset while waving behind you, grateful that danger, fear and difficulty isn’t what controlled your decisions or choices. That, in fact, you loved being alive.