Friday, May 17, 2019

Insight: The Minister of Loneliness

By Lorraine Glowczak

It wasn’t until I became involved in area age-friendly communities, that I was made aware of the very serious issue of social isolation and loneliness among the older population. But I had no idea the extent of this problem until I attended last Friday’s Institute for Integrative Aging program launch at Saint Joseph’s College (on front page).

“It [loneliness] is proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” stated Mark Robinson in a January 17, 2018 New York Times Article. Robinson is the chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity working with older people.

Social isolation and loneliness are so critical in Britain, that the Prime Minster recently appointed a Minster of Loneliness to their cabinet. Although it is true that social isolation and loneliness are challenges faced in the United Kingdom does not negate the fact that we are experiencing the same issues right here in the Lakes Region.

We are a rural area and, adding in the long cold winter months, it is easy for all us to retreat - especially the aging population. These individuals frequently live alone and, if they do have family, they often live in other states.

So, what steps can we take as a community to alleviate this problem? We’ll – luckily – Windham and Raymond areas are hosts to amazing people and organizations who strive to be there for one another. As such, below are organizations that provide activities for individuals who desire more social connections:

Lakes Region Senior Center at Little Falls Activity Center, 40 Acorn Street in Gorham
Age-friendly Raymond, Raymond Arts Alliance, Raymond Village Library and Raymond Village Community Church collaborate on a multitude of events. Call the library at: 207-655-4283
Windham Parks and Recreation. Phone: Call 892-1905
Saint Joseph’s College SilverSneakers®. Call 893-6627
Windham Public Library. Call 892-1908

There are also free weekly Monday Meals provided by area churches and organizations which can be found in our events calendar every week.

But what about those individuals who are physically, or otherwise, unable to leave their home to join in on the above mention activities.

Easily accessible transportation is a problem here in the Lakes Region and it is an issue we need to address. Much like the U.K.’s Minster of Loneliness whose directive is to confront the challenge and take action – we, too, can act as ministers of the Lakes Region, working together to find a way to solve this transportation challenge. In a recent interview with Peter Nielsen who heads the Institute of Integrative Aging at Saint Joseph’s, he mentioned this is a situation they are working diligently on.

Perhaps we can join in and collaborate with them to help solve this problem.

Although the term “minister” is often associated with religion and clergy – to minister can also mean to “care”, to “comfort”, and to “support”. Let’s all be ministers of loneliness to our community in the best ways we know how.

We each can visit someone we know who is home bound – or better yet, give them a ride. As I write and encourage you to do this, I often tell myself that I’m “too busy” to do this very thing. So, if you are “too busy”, too – let’s make a pact and do our best to be one of the many minsters of loneliness in the Lakes Region.


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

WORDS FROM THE PAST

“Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition.  It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.  It is a condition that comes from a lack of effective leadership either in the legislative branch or the executive branch of our government.  That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.  I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism.  I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured with eloquence.  I speak simply and briefly in a hope that my words will be taken to heart.  Mr. President, I speak as a Republican.  I speak as a woman.   I speak as a United States Senator.  I speak as an American”

Those words uttered by one of our late, great US Senators, Margaret Chase Smith on June 1, 1950 on the Senate floor.  Her words, I believe, sum up the state of governing today, particularly at the national level.  Not much has changed in sixty-nine years.  “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”  And repeat it we have.

Smith goes on, “I think that it is high time the United States Senate and its members do some real soul searching and to weigh our consciences as to the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America and to the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privilege.”  Voters need to do the same thing.

Senator Smith goes on to say: “As a United States Senator I am not proud of the way the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved chargers have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges which have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle. As an American, I am shocked at the way republicans and democrats alike are playing directly into the design of confuse, divide, and conquer.”

I challenge all elected officials from our city and town halls, our statehouses, the White House, the People’s House to visit:  
http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/SmithDeclaration.pdf.  Read Senator Smith’s entire speech, then do some serious reflection to see where you fit.  You might find some wisdom in her words.

We must bring the discussion home. Home, to the founding of our country. Home, to remember the reason so many of our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, aunts and uncles died, so that we may live in freedom.  Freedom from government overreach.  Freedom to say what our beliefs are without fearing retribution.   We must if our Republic is to survive.

Jeffrey M. Pierce, Windham


Dear Editor,

This has been a bad year in Augusta. Rights are being removed at a dizzying pace. First Amendment, Religious Freedom and Parental Rights are attacked almost daily. Yes, elections matter. The winners get to set the committee members, agendas and schedules. The winners get to blast forward. This majority is blasting forward even when "the people" say stop. There is good news. I have seen a large increase in citizens getting involved. I also see them staying involved as they are not listened to. 

More good news? Raymond/Gray representative Susan Austin is on your side. Case in point, the LD 1025 Conversion Therapy bill. This bill alleges that minors are being tortured to change their gender.

In looking into this, it turns out there has never been a complaint in Maine history of this happening. Further, the proponents of the bill added "talk" into the category of torture. Thus, if a confused teenager is not sure of their sexual direction, this law would say a counselor, therapist would have to remain neutral. For parents reading this, how did that work out on any issue your kids struggle with - you staying neutral? So, a young child who thinks they might want to take strong medications and even remove body parts to stop the confusion would not be able to get any advice from professionals. 

In the discussions there were many examples of science thrown out for debate. One of the only verified notations was that many kids are confused as teens as to their gender and 80% of them return to their birthright by age 25. One women (who thought she was a man for most of her life) spoke about the pain she now suffers from having surgeries at a young age. Rep. Austin knew all these facts and that there was no record of complaint. She still acted to create a bill that would end the idea of a practice of conversion therapy before it even started. However, she understood the value of professionals and was not seeking to make cultural change so her bill simply stopped what you and I would see as torture. Her bill was the only bill that would stop conversion therapy, if it ever did occur. The majority froze her bill and just passed LD 1025 which takes away many rights and offers our children as sacrifices to a cultural revolution. My kids are adults, I am ok. I do feel for a society without hope, that is so open to destroy life at any level. I live in Raymond but Rep. Austin is not my representative. I admire representative Austin's faith, core values and respect for life. This would be a great time for you to get involved before we lose more rights.

Mike McClellan
Raymond, Maine


Friday, May 10, 2019

Insight: Imprinted memories of ordinary days

By Lorraine Glowczak

It was a cold sunny day in early January 2012 as I was running down Commercial Street in Portland to catch the ferry to Peak’s Island to meet with my writing group. As I was enjoying the winter’s early Saturday morning sun, my cell phone rang. It was my mom. 

Living 1500 miles apart from each other, talking on the phone was a constant habit. “Hey Mom,” I
began and then told her that I would not be able to talk long. It was a short call and I can’t remember everything we discussed but there is one thing she said that has been etched into my memory.

“Things aren’t good,” she said as we were about to end our call. Confused, I asked if it had to do with my brother and sister-in-law whom she was living with at the time. She was vague in answering my question, so I knew someone was in the room with her. “Are they sitting right there?” She confirmed they were. I had to purchase my ferry ticket, so we ended our conversation.

It was the last “normal” phone call we had. A few days later, on January 12, she was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It had already spread to her lymph nodes and there were two golf ball sized tumors in her lungs. As soon as I could, I flew home to Kansas to be with her and my four brothers as we took care of her and said our goodbyes. She passed away 12 days later on January 24.

For those whose lives are nearing the end, it is often said that the things remembered most fondly are the ordinary and everyday events spent with the special people in our lives. Oddly, these seemingly mundane life experiences escape us in the moment, but after our loved ones pass – it’s those things that we recall with great depth.

For me and my mother, those moments include peonies, Big Macs and margaritas.

Peonies

My mother adored the big pastel colored peonies so much that she planted what seemed like a dozen bushes surrounding our house. During those early summer months when the flower was in full bloom, I would come home to one light pink blossom in a blue vase (that I now have) on the dining room table. The sweet floral scent that filled the air would always stop me in my tracks. That memory will forever be ingrained in my mind. 

Big Macs

I’m a sort of a food snob these days, but during my teenage years when I was a back-sliding vegetarian, once a week my mom would treat herself and me to a Big Mac after grocery shopping. We often would laugh and talk – about what – I don’t remember. But the memory of us together in an ordinary moment, rest gently in my heart (as probably the fat from those Big Macs I ate.)

Margaritas

As I grew into adulthood, we gave up the Big Mac’s and switched to margaritas (on the rocks with salt.) But that is the only thing that changed. We still laughed and talked – about what – I don’t know. But I remember it as if it were yesterday.

For Mother’s Day celebration this year, I wish you all mundane moments with your own moms this Sunday – so that you too can have imprinted memories of ordinary days of a well lived life with those you love. 

Happy Mother’s Day!


Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor,

As a three-year breast cancer survivor, I recently testified in support of the bi-partisan group of bills which address prescription drug affordability and accessibility.

Due to various side effects, there is only one drug I can tolerate that treats my specific type of cancer and I need to take it for at least five years. It started out at $789 a month. I am on year three and it’s down to $365 a month which is $12.19 per pill.  I know people in this same drug class group who are getting the same medication, same dose and everything, for $30 a month. 

My friends in other countries on the same drug cannot believe the prices we have to pay.  I’m not complaining – I’m glad I am able to afford the medication – but we need a better control system so all of us can afford these drugs that we need in order to stay healthy.  In some cases, these drugs are literally keeping us alive.

The truth is, at the end of the day we all pay, even if we have insurance. As the cost of the drugs go up, insurance pays more and eventually so do the patients by way of additional co-pays and higher premiums and deductibles. 

Pharmaceutical companies won’t help us. So, I turn to our state legislators, to stand up for Mainers everywhere and to fight these terrible costs that in some cases cost us our lives. We shouldn’t be choosing between cutting our pills in half and going without food. You know and I know that thousands of Mainers are doing just that. It is time to stop the prescription drug price-gouging and demand a better way to keep these necessary medications within reach. Please pass these bills and let’s make this difference together.

Mary Ann Cumming


Friday, May 3, 2019

Insight: Hope and the moon


By Lorraine Glowczak

“If we have the capability and intelligence to land on the moon, how come we haven’t found a cure for (fill in the blank)?”

I often hear that question posed in references to cancer, ALS or other incurable diseases. I must admit; I wonder about that, too as we enter the month of May which is brain cancer and ALS awareness month. (Be sure to read Julie Brown’s article on page 7).

In the past year, I have either known or been aware of at least three people who passed away from brain cancer (all under the age of 35) and had one very close friend whose life was taken at the age of 36 from ALS. Although I haven’t physically been affected by these issues, I have watched them unfold and feel utterly helpless…..and sometimes, hopeless.

I know there have been positive strides to cure these horrible diseases, but for those of us who have witnessed loved ones lose their lives, the advances are not coming fast enough.

So, I’m curious – after billions of funds raised and many years of research, why hasn’t there been a cure for one or more of these dreadful maladies?

After doing a bit of research - the long and short of it is– cancer and other diseases are very complex beasts. According to the World Wide Cancer Research Center website, “Cancer is an evolving disease. Over time in every patient, cancer cells undergo a myriad of molecular and genetic changes. These changes shift what the cancer cells look like and how they behave. It makes them more resilient, more aggressive….

And, it seems that studying the mechanisms of ALS are much like studying cancer. It’s a constantly moving target and the mysteries of the human body are as vast as space itself. But should we let the unpredictable nature of cancer cells and ALS tarnish our hope for a future cure despite the odds?

There are some advances that, although are not cures, offer some optimism. For cancer there is:  genomic medicine, immunotherapy and the emerging field of cancer stem cells. For ALS there is Radicava and BrainStorm’s treatment program. And, perhaps just importantly – hope is always available to us if we so choose. Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all…”

With hope, we can meet the challenges. With hope we gain an inner strength we did not know was possible. With hope, we can take more thoughtful actions. Where there is hope – there is life. And, it is conceivable that with the collective hope from all of us who have gathered under the darkness of the incurables – we can shoot for the moon – landing among the stars that will lead to a cure. 

Someday. Somehow.


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Thousands of Mainers take prescription drugs, and many struggle to afford them. I am one of those people.  My only source of income is my Social Security and that barely covers my monthly expenses.

I am a retired nurse.  I know how the healthcare system works. Despite research and multiple conversations with my doctors about any available alternatives, I can barely afford the life-saving medications I need.  I have several chronic diseases that affect my lungs and my liver.  Sometimes I have to skip doses which causes terrible side effects.

The other side effect is my quality of life.  The cost of these drugs is so high that I have to ration my food.  I cannot visit my own children who live out of state because I cannot afford the trip.  I am only 72 years old and this is not how I imagined my “golden years” would be.  Yet, I know there are many other people who are far worse off than I am.

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than any other country in the world. The Pharma executives don’t care at all that the cost of their drugs is ruining people’s lives. They care about their profits.  Sometimes it feels like they are trying to weed us out.

It’s time to make our voices heard.  I went to Augusta on April 17th to testify before the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services regarding a package of bills to address Rx drug cost and accessibility.  Please, call your state legislators.  Call your members of Congress.  If you are as outraged as I am by the cost of prescription drugs, please speak up now.  We need our representatives to take a stand and we need Pharma to take responsibility.

Ellen Harris-Howard


Dear Editor,
In researching and trying to understand the proposed CMP transmission line that would bring electricity to the people of Massachusetts, and lower greenhouse gas emissions, I came across some facts I was not aware of or hadn’t considered.  The corridor would fragment what is now, the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America. It would cross 724 lakes, ponds, and wetlands and the chemical spraying necessary to maintain the corridor would impact each and every one of them. Roads associated with the project would cross 184 streams in the heart of the last stronghold of wild brook trout in the United States.  

The corridor also not only destroys habitat for wildlife and jeopardizes water, it endangers Maine’s renewable energy future.  New renewable projects that would provide real, provable greenhouse gas benefits would not be able to hook up to the grid due to congestion from Hydro-Quebec electricity imports.  

Despite its massive marketing campaign, CMP has not provided any evidence that its transmission corridor will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather, is it possible that this project may simply allow Hydro-Quebec to shift sales from existing customers to a more lucrative market in Massachusetts?  Maine does not have to make these inordinate sacrifices for the sole benefit of the State of Massachusetts, a State with far more wealth and resources to develop their energy solutions than Maine. The CMP transmission corridor is the largest proposed industrial project in Maine in decades. It has the capability to harm Maine’s clean water, its wildlife, its tourism workers, and its clean energy future. 

Mainers will gain nothing from this project but a spoiled environment upon which their economy, vitally depends.  It is truly, ultimately, a detrimental project for the State of Maine.  Please make your opinion known at NECEC.DEP@maine.gov and Governor@maine.gov.

Mary-Therese Duffy
Raymond


Dear Editor,

About eight years ago, my family purchased a home in North Windham, ME. It is a family home, and grandparents, parents and grandchildren enjoy the pleasures of the Maine environment. We boat, hike, ski and bicycle together whenever we are able.

My husband and I are exceedingly interested in fitness and exercise. Cycling the Sebago to the Sea Trail in Windham has been a primary source of pleasure for all of us. This past week, a note was placed on our car window at the South Windham Post Office notifying us that we are no longer able to use the Post Office parking lot because, “ drivers who use that lot and have dogs, do not pick up after their pets on the Trail.”  We had a bike rack on our car, but definitely did not have a dog along with us.

I am perplexed and dismayed by a Federal Office painting everyone with such a broad brush and eliminating a service due to others’ disregard for the common courtesy.  The streets in Windham are dangerous for cycling. The Sebago Trail is a wonderful way to ensure the safety of all ages by using a facility that removes the possibility of a very serious accident on very busy roads and highways. Yes, dog waste is a problem everywhere, and signs should be posted along the trail to remind walkers and bikers of this nuisance and esthetic displeasure.  However, to remove convenient parking to eliminate this problem is not the solution.  What it does is to punish the innocent for a crime they did not commit.  Honestly, at that Post Office, we have never seen more than three or four cars at any time.  

People who live along the trail enter from various entrances that bisect the trail in many different locations.  They do not have to drive anywhere, it is just a convenient location for entry.

I hope the Post Office reconsiders this harsh edict.  It puts obstacles in the path of Windham residents. The use of this trail which took many years to build and is not yet finished is a wonderful asset to all who love the outdoors.  Let’s support the right of all neighbors to use this trail, while at the same time respecting the rights and wishes of others.

Respectfully,
Carole Davis, Windham, ME





Friday, April 26, 2019

Insight: The viper’s tail


By Lorraine Glowczak

For someone who is profoundly fearful of snakes, I am also incredibly fascinated by them and know more about the spine-chilling serpents than I’d prefer.

Recently, I learned that there are some snakes, such as vipers and adders, who use a technique that entices their prey, drawing them near for a quick catch. I watched a video that captured a viper in action who had changed the appearance of his tail into a plump spider walking along a rock. I don’t know if it was a sparrow, swallow, black bird or crow that dove down to eat her spider look-a-like lunch, but she was in for a surprise to discover that it was she who was the tasty snack.
Credit: reptiles4all/shutterstock

This clever skill used by vipers and adders is called caudal luring. And - if we are not careful…..life’s version of caudal luring can play a role in our own lives, causing us to take a detour on our personal goals, and thus, preventing us from diving fully into living our dreams.

If we are lucky – we may only get side-tracked for just a bit. This is not so bad because it creates an opportunity to learn from the experience and continue forward with more awareness. For the most part, this is real life and it’s okay to fumble. I think they call it humanhood.

However, if we are not paying attention, the lure of life’s many requests – whether they be family, work and community demands or paying our monthly bills – may consume (or eat) us, and thus stop us in our tracks, causing us to lose our way indefinitely.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have three goals, when combined, feel like one dream destination. They are:

1)     Working together with our team of writers, layout editor, ad manager, staff and publisher, I am determined to create this small-town news source, The Windham Eagle, as an award-winning Maine newspaper that is locally owned with no ties to a publishing conglomerate. I know – it is a lofty goal. But before you might scoff, I invite you to talk to my family and friends who have witnessed my journey thus far.

2)     To be an author who is published in mainstream media. Afterall, one would presume that it would add a bit of credibility in order to obtain goal number one.

3)     Travel, travel and travel. And….more travel. Besides offering stress reduction, lowering the risk of depression and boosting happiness, studies have indicated that travel increases creativity. And thus – an important contribution to goals two and three.

At the beginning of the year, I was very clear about these three goals. As we enter into the last week of April, the first quarter of 2019, I have been forced to re-evaluate my journey. In just four short months, I have had more than one close call with that viper’s tail.

I share this with you because I want to help you live your dreams and goals fully, warning you that there are objects out there that may appear as stepping stones toward your destination – but, in fact, may capture and devour you. I also share this story as a form of accountability on my own part.

So, the next time we run into each other, feel free to ask, “Any close calls with the viper’s tail, lately?”