Sunday, February 23, 2014

Insight - Sometimes you should believe what you read - By Michelle Libby

The Farmer’s Almanac was right. The editors said there would be a long snowy winter and although it’s only February, don’t you feel the winter has been a long one and snowy? 
The snowbanks are piled high, too high to see over or around when pulling out of driveways and side streets. The weather teams aren’t sure how to address the storms. Is it this storm or the one coming tomorrow? 
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track on social media. 

I’ve seen more and more pictures of sunny beaches and tropical sunsets on Facebook inter-dispersed with the holy cow it’s going to snow again comments. 

There really is nothing we can do about the snow but live with it and be thankful that we live in a place with four seasons and very few hurricanes, tornadoes and other national disasters. 

Our town crews are doing a good job keeping up with the storms, often times working around the clock to make sure that the citizens can get to work on time. Thanks for that. 

I was having a conversation with another avid Olympics watcher who commented that why were we having the Olympics in a place where it’s raining, not snowing, even in the mountains. Maine would be the perfect location for an Olympic venue. Can’t you see the boom to the economy? The mascot could be the Olympic lobster and the opening ceremonies could be at the newly remodeled Cumberland County Civic Center. But, I digress.

It’s winter white out there. Drive safe when you have to be out and stay home if you can when it’s snowing.
And, as far as The Farmer’s Almanac, I’m going to grab my copy and see what it says about this upcoming summer. Either way, I predict brisk sales of the almanac for next year.

-         Michelle Libby

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Insight - The Olympic Dream - By Michelle Libby

Who doesn’t love the Olympics? What’s not to love? National pride, athletics at its best, the world pausing to watch and Mother Nature providing challenging conditions for the athletes, it’s the melting pot for world peace. 
Be it the winter or summer games, I love to watch people compete for gold for themselves and their countries. I love to cheer for Mainers first, Americans second, Canadians third and then whoever sounds appealing after that. I also root for Lithuania because of my heritage, though they only have a handful of athletes. 

What can we learn from the Olympics? 

1.      Pack for all weather, even in the winter. At some of the finish lines it’s 50 degrees and I can tell you that 50 would feel pretty balmy after the -5 this morning in Windham.
2.      Cheer for someone. The games are much better if you have someone to root for, even if it’s not an American.
3.      Share the Olympics with your children and tell them about how much work and dedication it takes for the athletes to compete at that level. (As an aside. I spoke to a parent at a swim meet recently and asked how far off our best swimmers are from Olympic times. He laughed and said minutes. That’s a long time when the difference between first and second places can be one-one hundredths of a second.) So we think our high school athletes are fast…
4.      Build memories for your family around the Olympic Games. The Summer Olympics in 1996 was the year my daughter was born and I used to watch some of the more obscure events at 2 a.m. while feeding her. Twelve years ago, I watched the opening ceremonies with a group of my friends at my surprise birthday party. You can’t all be as lucky as me to have opening ceremonies on your birthday or have an infant to keep you company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a bobsled run using tubes instead of a BMW custom built sled. Or have times races on a frozen pond.

The Olympics only last two weeks, so don’t miss out on the fun or the history of the games. Like the trivia question…which is the first nation to lead the parade of nations at the opening ceremony? 

I have yet to make it to an Olympic event, but I can wait and I’m sure someday I’ll get there. 

Go America!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Insight - Teenagers have their perks - By Michelle Libby

In the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to spend a little time with younger children. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in homework, college applications, grades, dates, work to remember what it was like when my children were younger, a lot younger. 
A great group of first graders.

Two weeks ago, Cub Scout Pack 805’s tiger scouts came to The Windham Eagle to visit and see how a newspaper is created. Since most of it is done on the computers, it’s not as exciting for first graders. So, I drew pictures of the process. 

Needless to say, it didn’t go well for my pictures. (The staff around here told me it wouldn’t.) The boys were excited and loud and moving them through the building was a bit like trying to keep water in a balloon without it bursting. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, just not teenagers. 

Oh. My. Goodness. Did I just say something was better than a teenager? Yup. 

I remember fondly my now teenage daughter dancing at church whenever the organ played. I remember my son waiting for the eating part or the parade during the service. They were so cute. On Sunday, I watched one mom run up and down the aisles chasing her toddler. Who knew church was such a workout? Then another mom whisked her child out the back with the kid shrieking at the top of her lungs. I couldn’t suppress the giggle that escaped from me. When my children were that small, I worried about disturbing the other parishioners too, but there was one minister who always made a point to say, “I love to hear the voices of our youth. That’s the spirit of God moving in them.” That’s why it never bothers me when children are children. 

I’m just glad I’m not the one chasing them or saying “shhh”. 

Teenagers can be a pain sometimes. All ages have their own challenges from infants who don’t sleep to young adults who still need their parents to help them when choosing a new car or choosing a college.
Letting children explore their world or test their voices is the way parents are creating people who will grow up to be interested in the world, engaged in activities and will make a difference in our society. 

Go parents.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Remembering Challenger - By Michelle Libby

Twenty-eight years ago I was given an assignment in my eighth grade history class. Write a report about an explorer. This was the time when I was starting to find my writer voice. I had written a time travel story for English class and had been published in the local newspaper. I wasn’t going to do the same old same old. Instead I chose to write about space pioneer Christa McAuliffe, who known as the first teacher in space. It was a program where a teacher would train with the astronauts and go into space on the spaceship Challenger. From space she would teach millions of children from video feed. It was revolutionary and exciting for everyone, especially her family and students in New Hampshire.
I wrote my report and sparked the imagination of my teacher Ellen Quagliaroli who decided that we would write a proclamation and send it to McAuliffe. We added a small sheet of paper with all of our names signed on it and asked if she could take it into space with her. We sent it off in the mail and waited.  

It was a clear day when the shuttle Challenger was ready to take off. There were many people watching the live launch on television. I was not one of them. It seems, I am never supposed to see tragedies on TV as they happen. A student ran into our classroom and told us that the Challenger had exploded. We watched the replay of the launch over and over again. It looked like fireworks, like it was supposed to happen that way, until we realized exactly what had happened. That tragic day will forever be marked in my life.  

The following day a newspaper reporter came to my school to interview students and to see how we were coping with the tragic news. During lunch my teacher called three of us students into the hallway outside the lunch room. The reporter was there. The teacher was holding a large envelope. I opened it with shaky hands, after all it was my report that got us following this event. Inside was a signed picture of Christa McAuliffe and a letter explaining why she couldn’t take our paper into space and how pleased she was that we were learning from her. 

“It’s eerie how she got our letter, wrote back and now she’s not here,” I said. It was to be the quote heard around the country. Eerie became a buzz word and once the story hit the newsstands life became a crazy whirlwind of activity. The following day the AP wire picked up the story and relatives of mine started calling the house. Reporters called the house. I have copies of the story from Tampa to Texas. There was no way to know how many letters McAuliffe sent out like this. 

At school all of the major local news stations arrived with cameras wanting to interview me and my classmates. Then CBS News landed a helicopter on the soccer field at the school. After interview after interview (one with Gale King, BFF to Oprah), things started to settle down. That night I was on the national news with Dan Rather. I said something. My name wasn’t mentioned, but within a minute of it airing family friends from Mars Hill, Maine called my parents to say they had just seen me on the evening news. 

Maybe that’s where my love of journalism comes from. Connecting people near and far through a story. The original documents were framed and put in what is now, the New England Air Museum. It was a tragic time, but also an exciting time for an eighth grader who only wanted to write a good report on an explorer.