Friday, March 29, 2019

Insight: The acumen of Atticus

By Lorraine Glowczak

What is it that makes Atticus Finch, the character played by Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird” so admirable? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I really can’t stand that Finch character - he adds nothing to the story.”?

image: Universal Studios
For those who have read the book (or watched the film), we are aware of the wisdom Atticus imparts to, not only his children, but to all of Maycomb, Alabama. Among the many lessons learned, he teaches all of us to consider another’s point of view, exhibit moral courage, and that hate doesn’t serve a purpose. He imparts his knowledge, not only in words but in his actions. As Calpurnia told Scout and Jem, Atticus was “the same in his house as he is on the streets.”

We cheer Atticus when he stands up for an innocent man despite how he and his family are treated as a result, we want to fight for him when Bob Ewell spits in his face, and we adore this single parent’s ability to be loving, and yet firm, with his children. If we admire Finch so much, why don’t we emulate and incorporate his wisdom into our own lives more?

I, for one, don’t do a very good job at following the acumen of Atticus. I can write about my admiration of wise and thoughtful actions of people around the world all day long, but to live it – that’s whole other can of worms (and yes, mockingbirds eat worms).

If I look at other areas of my life where I might do a better job at the imitation of others, I realize that, as a younger writer, I did my best to mimic the routines and writing habits of successful authors. I always create a room/space based upon the advice of Virginia Wolfe, I write when I feel like it or not as advised by Khaled Hosseini and – per Stephen King – I don’t obsess over perfect grammar.

Although I’m far from the success of these famous authors, I have come a long way by emulating their habits and advice. I may not write for the New York Times (yet) – but I do write for The Windham Eagle newspaper and have at least one or two fans! That’s more than when I started!

Seeing how emulating my favorite authors propelled me into my own world of writing, what would happen if I incorporated the wisdom of Atticus Finch into my life with small steps. What if, every time I feel a little fear about something I believe is important, I exercise the muscle of courage – and step into it. What’s the harm in trying?

I suspect mimicking Atticus will never be easy – but as he said, “You’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway.”

Editorial poem

Fourteen-year-old Masha Yurkevich, an eighth-grade student at Windham Middle School, has submitted the following poem. May her positive perspective and wisdom inspire you to live a life of meaning and peace.

If I will...
By Masha Yurkevich

If I will have wrinkles,
let them be from too much smiling.

If I will have bad vision,
let it be from looking at good for too much.

If I will be starved,
let it be from me feeding all you the good I've had.

If I will have broken bones,
let them be broken because I have taken the pain that would've gone to you.

If I will be weak,
let me be weak from being too strong.

When I will die,
let me die because I have done enough good here.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Insight: Band-aid on the heart

By Lorraine Glowczak

I recently read a story about a singer/songwriter who, after a very painful breakup from her long-time love, wore a band-aid over her heart as a symbol of her grief. Although the story itself had no impact on me, the words, “band-aid on the heart” certainly grabbed my attention and has stayed with me all week.

When I can’t seem to break free from the grip of certain thoughts and they remain in my awareness longer that I’d prefer, I know I need to brace myself because something is coming next that will require me to step out of my comfort zone or to confront a certain situation. That something was in an email that arrived the other day.

“Hi Lorraine,” the email began. “I understand you folks want to keep things positive and thank goodness, someone has to in Windham. Just so you understand that everything is not so great for many of us in Windham right now…..”

It’s true. If you are a faithful reader, you are very aware that The Windham Eagle is a positive and solution-based newspaper. And, if you know me, for better or worse, I “ooze with passion and enthusiasm” (as another email to me stated).

I struggle with these truths about myself because there is the perception that I may be denying the terrible realities that exists in this world. The fact is, I do understand that there are many hardships, disagreements, strife and adversities that people experience, including yours truly. To ignore these realities is disrespectful; not only to the individual, but to the situation. In our attempt to focus on the solutions part of the equation, it provides an opportunity to find ways to overcome our problems, and thus an opportunity to learn and grow.

It is our hope that our readers notice our efforts to provide resolutions. To some, it may appear as if we are only placing a band-aid over the difficult circumstances. But that’s not how I choose to see it.

I am aware that we cannot completely avoid negative or cynical thoughts, but in seeking out those stories that deliver constructive solutions, it also provides a bit of hope amid the chaos and pain. For example, how can one not experience hopefulness after reading the article about Dr. Kathryn Loukas (see front page.) She tells the story about the life changing experience she had while working with young children who had spinal cord injuries and were skiers – who instead of feeling sorry for themselves, chose determination, grit and a life of joy.

And speaking of joy – the rest of the story about the singer/songwriter is that a man noticed the band-aid she was wearing. Admiring her vulnerability, he wanted to get to know her. That man is now her husband and they have two children.

I suspect that things are not always perfect for Ms. Singer/Songwriter in her happily ever after story, but in finding a little creative “band-aid on the heart” solution to a painful situation, things did change for the better – at least for a while and to our knowledge.

So, if providing a solution is a band-aid – perhaps then, a band-aid is what we need to heal after all.

Letter to the Editor: A plea from local teacher to elected officials

An Open Letter to the Elected Officials of the United States of America
By Rachel Bell, Teacher, Windham, Maine

Mr. President and Members of Congress,

I am writing to you today as one voice for teachers united with and concerned for our students and our community. I have a request…a favor if you will…or maybe, at this point, it’s become a plea.
I am a fifth-grade teacher and we are currently studying about our amazing country and how the government works. We are learning about the Constitution, what elected officials are, why they are elected (to represent and protect us everyday people) and checks and balances (making sure no one branch’s power gets too great). We also work (tirelessly) every day to help the students we love become the best people they can be. We strive to help them grow to be compassionate human beings, respectful of others and themselves, and to spread kindness and tolerance to people they meet.

I am finding it to be a daunting task these days…

My students ask questions. They ask hard questions and they ask honest questions. They ask why those we elected into office don’t always think about what is best for us…We The People. They ask why those we elected into office aren’t always empathetic or kind or respectful to each other or to We The People. In a Zero-Tolerance for Bullying environment, that our school is, they ask why is it ok that the people running our country bully others when we are trying to teach them that is not ok. They want to know why the people who run our country argue with each other in ways that are hurtful and not working together to problem solve when we are trying to teach them successful ways to express our feelings while also listening and respecting the feelings of others…and then coming together to compromise.

I do not have all the answers to these impossible, yet necessary, questions they ask…

So, today, I have a request of you Mr. President and Members of Congress…because these small, beautiful young people are watching you. They are watching you carefully and, as we all know, one of the most powerful learning tools is modeling.

You are not modeling what our young generation needs…

I respectfully and sincerely ask you to stop. Please. Just. Stop.

I ask you to look inside yourself and look at those around you, whom we have put our trust and faith in…and ask yourself the questions that the students would ask if you were face to face with them in a classroom.  

“Am I doing right by the generations to come?”
“Was I respectful and used kind words, not hurtful ones?”
“Was I kind and did I help someone today?”
“At the end of the day, am I proud of the person I was that day?”

These, and many other questions are necessary when you are looking into the faces of children who admire you, who trust you and who look to you for guidance and modeling.

I was called to teaching. It is not a “job” for me but, rather, it is a way of life. I wake up every day and think about the kind of person I want to be and the kind of people I hope my students will be. I try my best…each and every single day…to model respect, kindness and compassion. I see my colleagues doing the same thing…each and every single day. We love our students, like our own children and we feel we are constantly swimming upstream.

We need your help…

We need you to also strive to be the best people YOU ALL can be. We need you to model respect, kindness and compassion…every day…even when you have to restrain yourself, when you are frustrated beyond belief, when you are angry. When you just want to think about your own best interests that is the time when you MOST need to think about theirs...

…and put yourselves aside to do what’s right and good and decent.

So, today I ask you…no, I plead to you. Please make We The People proud of the people in whom we trust to do what’s right, to protect us, to represent us, to have our best interests at heart.

Please help us do right by the young minds…and hearts…that are looking to YOU to be the very embodiment of all the things we hold so dear when we think about humanity.

Be Kind. Be respectful. Be compassionate.

Rachel Bell
Teacher, Grade 5
Manchester School
Windham, Maine

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 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

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, 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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