Friday, June 28, 2019

Insight: Living like salmon

By Lorraine Glowczak

The living room was in disarray as we were moving old furniture out and new furniture in. Once my husband and I returned order to the room, I noticed a small, delicate folded piece of paper with various shades of purple laying haphazardly on the coffee table. The thin paper, made of a cotton-like material, had a vague familiarity. I picked it up to unfold it – and as I did – memories fell out.

Image from Institute of Creative Research
That small piece of artwork was a homemade note from a friend. It simply said in silver ink, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” followed by her signature. Somehow, that note had slipped deep into the creases of the old sofa – and just as mysteriously, slipped out and back into my life. As it did, I remembered my promise to her. This December will mark 14 years that ALS took my friend’s life at the age of 36.

The promise occurred on a cold December evening at a Christmas party. She was two years into her ALS diagnosis and had just published her book. There were many things we had in common, and writing was among them. One conversation that evening centered around all things writing. We first talked about her new book, but she quickly shifted the conversation to me.

“How is your writing going,” she asked. I wasn’t doing much to reach my own publishing goals at the time and I don’t remember the answer I gave her. Through my response, I suspect she saw the truth in my lack of dedication and said: “I want you to promise me something.” I leaned forward to capture her words as ALS was beginning to rob her of her speech. It had already taken away her ability to type with her hands – she used her eyes through technological advances to finish the final edits of her book. “I want you to write in my place when I can no longer do so.” I promised her I would.

And that is the reason why I’m here as a managing editor and writer for The Windham Eagle newspaper as a step along that promised journey.

I have mentioned in previous Insights that it is my goal to also publish in mainstream media. But some days it feels like swimming upstream. For every instance I try, a hurdle is placed in my way. I jump over that successfully, only to be met with another, taller hurdle.

“Are these challenges suggesting that I go in another direction or is reaching my goal like salmon swimming upstream and I need to continue, despite it all,” I recently asked a new friend. Her response: “One way to help you determine the answer to that,” the wise beyond her years 30-year-old advised, “is to ask yourself whether or not you’d regret it if you didn’t proceed.” I had my answer. I will continue jumping the hurdles to published writing on a national level until I can no longer do so.

What I have discovered is that sometimes living like salmon is a part of life. Author Julia James had this to say about the subject: “When we think of salmon swimming upstream back to their place of birth or the thousands of miles birds travel to migrate, we see them as enormous undertakings. 

However, I wonder if it is even possible for healthy salmon to choose not to return to the river that is their spawning grounds? Could a healthy migratory bird think ‘hmmm, maybe I’ll just stay put this winter here in Canada, rather than flying all the way to Mexico’? It is natural for the salmon to swim upstream. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but this energy is expended in a manner that maximizes life fulfillment.”

In addition to living the life of my dreams – for me, swimming upstream is keeping a promise. In this particular circumstance, I will live like salmon.

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I would like to say kudos to the organizers, staff and sponsors of this year’s Windham Summerfest held last Saturday at the Windham High School. It is a pleasure to see the fruits of many labors come to fruition and the growing number of participants who come to take advantage of this iconic festival. Many new additions were evident and obvious making this yet another growing success. The weather wasn’t half bad either. Again, hats off to all who made this possible.

Stephen Signor

Dear Editor,

On behalf of our 230,000 members statewide, AARP Maine applauds our state legislators and Governor Mills for passing a strong package of bills to make prescription drugs more affordable and more accessible in Maine.  Thousands of Mainers take prescription medications.  For many, there is no alternative to alleviate crippling pain or manage chronic illnesses.  For others, prescription drugs literally keep them alive.  This legislative package could not come soon enough.

As a proudly non-partisan organization, AARP Maine thanks our state legislature for working together for the people of Maine and taking a stand against Rx greed. Senate President Troy Jackson, Senator Eloise Vitelli, Senator Heather Sanborn and Senator Bob Foley deserve special thanks for their leadership on this important issue. Our elected leaders clearly recognized that prescription drug price gouging is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. They decided to put people before profits.

Many Mainers were instrumental in bringing this important legislation to the attention of their elected leaders. Advocates from across the state testified in Augusta and followed up with their legislators back home. Heartbreaking stories of Mainers struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of their medications became the heart of the campaign. AARP Maine thanks each one of you for your courage and conviction. You made it possible for this critical legislation to become a reality.

Maine is once again leading the way, but we need Congress to follow that lead.  Members of Congress must come together to pass bipartisan legislation to lower Rx prices across the country.  The pharmaceutical industry has made it clear that they intend to fight hard, but we must fight harder.  While we celebrate our win in Maine, we must keep the momentum going in Washington. Now it’s time to urge Maine’s Congressional delegation to Stop Rx Greed.

Patricia Pinto

Friday, June 21, 2019

Student of the Week: Sarah Penna

Sarah Penna, a fifth-grade student at Jordan-Small Middle School, is The Windham Eagle’s Student of the Week.

Sarah demonstrates consistent effort in the classroom,” stated her teacher. “She always has a positive attitude and a smile on her face. She is a great friend to many of her peers.  She enjoys science class and studying rock and minerals. Sarah is a focused and helpful student.”
In her free time, Sarah likes to hang out with her friends, go swimming, play softball, soccer, and basketball.  She also likes to read Minecraft books. She has two dogs, one cat, one parrot, two geese, and five chickens! When Sarah grows up, she plans on being a veterinarian or a zoologist.

Insight: The hubbub of work-life balance

By Lorraine Glowczak

The path was muddy after the rainstorm which made peddling the tandem bike difficult. But that mud-covered trail wasn’t the most problematic – it was the fact that the bicycle built for two was actually a bike built for about 20 of us. I was doing everything I could, steering the whole group and keep us moving forward. I began to lose balance, tipping the bike over, but I woke up from the dream before we all fell to the ground.

It was the third dream I had that week where I was attempting to ride a bike – but always losing my balance just prior to waking up. After the third dream it was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps I wasn’t doing so well at balancing the work/play dynamic.

Obviously, I’m not the only one who tries to find their equilibrium in this somewhat busy adventure we call life. It seems to be such an issue these days that the term “work-life balance” is a too often used buzzword. I, for one, feel more overwhelmed by the expectation to live a “balanced” life more the fact that I happily go about my daily living – which is often out of balance.

According to an online Forbes magazine article, entitled, “Work-Life Balance: Is It Real, Or Is It Simply Buzz?” Dawn Ferguson, an entrepreneur had this to say:

It's not a balance, it's a measurement of priority: “The thought of ‘work-life balance’ is a phrase that is different to each and every individual. Being that no two people consider the balance of each to be the same, each must measure what priorities for work and life stand out the most. Dividing time appropriately to one's needs, instead of to a balancing scale, is more realistic.”

Another entrepreneur stated that ‘Balance Doesn't Mean Equal’. “The two [words] aren't equal and rarely will be. Sometimes work is the No. 1, and life takes a back seat. That isn't unreasonable or unexpected, as long as you are aware of and planning for it. Don't allow work to take over if it isn't truly necessary.”

In another article written by Jessica Lutz, the author suggests that balance isn’t quite the right word we are looking for to maintain a certain level of management in a life that organically proceeds as it sees fits.

Balance isn’t the right word. Some [have] suggested alternative ideas: work-life integration, work-life harmony, and work-life blend. Rather than trying to balance all things all the time, it’s something much more fluid. Some weeks you feel like you’re present in all areas of your life, and other weeks you feel pulled strongly in one direction. Eventually, things level out before it begins again. The idea of balance is an unattainable standard that results in an almost constant feeling of failure.

So, if you also find yourself overwhelmed by the hubbub of “work-life balance” – may my own little discovery help you and free you to live life in your own way. And on a day you feel particularly stressed, go on a bike ride with me. You might want to bring your own bike, however. Tandem biking doesn’t seem to be my thing.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Insight: The magic of encouragement

By Lorraine Glowczak

Farmers’ markets are not only the perfect place to purchase locally grown fresh foods, but they are a wonderful spot to buy charming crafts and eclectic gifts. A couple of Saturday’s ago while at the Windham Farmers’ Market, I couldn’t resist purchasing five birdhouses a vendor had made from used decorative tins, two of which were from the whimsical artwork of the greeting card and calendar illustrator, Mary Engelbreit.

Although I had been an enormous fan of Engelbreit’s quirky creations 30 years ago, I had lost track of her and I wondered what she was up to these days. I discovered she is still popular as ever and that her business has grown to over $23 million a year. How did a graphic artist become such as success? Although I’m sure hard work paid off, I think it is possible the story she describes below had something to do with it:

"My mother and father were always very supportive of anything my sister and I wanted to do. When I was about 11 years old, I decided I needed a studio. My mother cleaned out a linen closet and my father put a table and chair in there for me and voila! I had a studio! Since my parents seemed to value what I was doing enough to go to all this trouble, I took it very seriously and worked non-stop. At first, I would copy my favorite illustrations from the old books my mother read to us each night, but slowly I developed my own style.”

And develop her own style she did. It’s amazing what a little support from others can accomplish. In fact, I can see it happening in my life today as a small-town newspaper editor and writer.

I must admit, from time to time, I feel like I fail our readers. It is my passion to capture every story that comes our way, but with limited time, resources and the inability to be in multiple places at the same time, there a few pieces that slip through the cracks. When this happens, I feel discouraged.

But this is where an Englebreiht-like tale swoops in and saves the day. We receive so much encouragement and support from our readers. Often, I’m told that our hard work and effort is appreciated and does not go unnoticed. On the occasion when the work feels daunting, our readers’ words of encouragement always transform my perception and the hurdles do not seem so overwhelming.

According to an online Psychology Today article written by Julie J. Exline Ph.D, she explains why: “When we ‘en-courage,’ it’s as though we actually infuse courage into another person. Encouragement can provide people with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal. The whole emotional tone of a tough situation can be transformed through encouragement. Somehow things seem a little brighter.”

She reminds us that we can't live on a steady diet of praise, alone. In order to improve, we need some awareness of our weaknesses and mistakes, too. But a little support can go a long way.

So, this is an official thank you to all our readers for supporting us here at The Windham Eagle. Your cheerful words infuse within me the courage to keep moving forward and to continue doing what I love so well. When you speak your gentle praises – it’s as if by magic, things seem to fall into place and feel a little brighter.

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I wanted to thank Senator Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland), for demonstrating tremendous leadership recently in supporting LD 211, “An Act to Open Maine’s Primaries.” While the measure ultimately did not gain enough votes to pass, it’s important for us to recognize that Sen. Diamond once again showed that he represents ALL of his constituents, not just those who share his party affiliation.

LD 211 would have allowed unenrolled voters (commonly referred to as “independents”) to vote in the taxpayer funded primary elections. Thirty-five percent of Maine voters are unenrolled and under current Maine law are not permitted to vote in the primary elections, elections that decide 70% of state legislative races.

With 80% support from Maine voters, it’s clear that eventually unenrolled voters will be allowed to vote in primary elections, just as it happens in 36 other states around the country.  
Thank you to Sen. Diamond for being on the right side of this issue!

Matt Caston

Dear Editor,

Ranked Choice Voting is used in every federal primary and general election in Maine except for the presidential election. The Maine Legislature is considering a bill, LD 1083, that would remedy this and align Maine’s election law with the intent of voters.

LD 1083, commonly called “the Ranked Choice Voting for President bill,” would adopt RCV for the presidential general election and for any new presidential primary that is created and funded by the Maine Legislature.

Twice in two years Maine voters have rejected the old pick-one, first-past-the-post voting system and replaced it with Ranked Choice Voting. In November 2016, Maine voters adopted Ranked Choice Voting by the second largest initiative vote of the people in Maine’s history. In June 2018, Maine voters protected Ranked Choice Voting by a widening 8-point margin.

We are one state. We should have a uniform voting system. That system should be the one that is supported by a growing majority of Maine voters, Ranked Choice Voting, and not one that is opposed by a majority of voters, the old pick-one, first-past-the-post voting system.

LD 1083, introduced by Senate President Troy Jackson, proposes a simple expansion of Maine’s existing RCV voting system that worked well in 2018. 

I encourage my former legislative colleagues to vote in favor of LD 1083. Ranked Choice Voting is simple, fair, and easy, and we need it in the 2020 presidential primary and general election.

Jane Pringle

Friday, June 7, 2019

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

My family and I have a lifelong habit of working to keep our communities clean, including picking up roadside litter annually and on frequent walks in our neighborhoods. I'd like to offer some tips on how others can assist in our efforts:

a.      Don't throw litter out your car window - how easy is that?  Isn't it nicer to drive down roads without litter? And be aware how much of the food and drink and cigarette containers and scratch tickets you're tempted to toss out is easily recyclable plastic and paper.
b.     Cover your trash and recycling when you put it out for pickup by your town or other pickup service. That keeps out crows and dogs who will scatter trash everywhere, and it prevents the wind from blowing the lighter items out.
c.      After your weekly trash and recycling service, scan the area for the items that got away, and take them indoors for next week. And give your neighbors a hand by picking up their scraps too; they may not be as capable and observant as you are.
d.     If you're out walking, carry a bag to pick up trash when the mood suits you. But if you aren't equipped to pick up trash, leave it where it lies and one of us will get it; it's probably stable where it is. Please don't move it and put sand, rocks, etc. in it to weight it down for others to pick up, because that just makes the trash a heavy mess to handle and makes items less recyclable.
e.      Smokers and Vapers: Most cigarette butts contain fiberglass filters that do not rot but make a widespread fibrous mess. Vaping devices produce a variety of plastic-and-metal throwaway pieces that are rapidly covering our sidewalks and streets, especially in urban areas.  In dry conditions the hot butts have caused many large fires in Maine and elsewhere. Please dispose of them properly, and the rest of us will appreciate it.
f.      Consider the health of wild animals and your neighbors' pets. Please do not leave bones and other items by the roadside that will attract animals. To you they may seem like a welcome treat, but they attract the animals into the traffic, and can turn even a well-behaved dog on a leash into a vicious fighting beast. Bones can break into shards that will hurt or choke some dogs.

David H. Brown

Insight: Advice to graduates from a wanderer

By Lorraine Glowczak

As graduation ceremonies are in full swing and the excitement of new beginnings is in the air, I want to do my part to offer sound and wise advice for those starting out in the world and getting ready to burst into unfamiliar territory where adventure abounds.

It seems I may not be the only one who is eager to do so – look at the advice others have given in this week’s “On the Spot” question (found in our hard copy edition). I thought I’d join in and give my two cents a whirl.

My first instinct is to shout from the mountain top with enthusiasm, “Follow your dreams” or “Reach for the stars,” or even “Live your passion, blissfully – forever and ever!”

Although I do tend to believe in the concept of living the vision one has for themselves, following a dream or passion is not always easy, not always blissful. Passion isn’t permanent and dreams shift and change. As a result, offering such hopeful (and perhaps frivolous) advice would prove to be beneficial for no one – especially the young.

When I graduated from high school in 1984, I was determined to follow my dreams and passions. The only problem was, I didn’t know what they were. Although I was writing at the time and would offhandedly say I was going to write the “great American novel”, I did not necessarily see a future in it in terms of a career. Believing that one needed to live passionately in order to be fulfilled and successful, my obsession in self-discovery led me on a very bumpy and winding road. I tried many things and experiences in hopes that it would inspire passion and a dream for me to follow. Somehow, I did “find myself”, but in order to do so I had to let go of expectations I had of what a dream or passion was for me.

What I finally discovered was that no matter what I chose to do, it was those moments when I hoped I made some sort of positive impact -either through volunteering or just being a sounding board for a friend, that I realized where my happiness – and passion – flourished. Interestingly, once I made that discovery – writing as career took off.

Ben Horowitz, a businessperson and a bestselling author stated it best in his commencement address to the graduating class of 2015 at Columbia University. Instead of following your passion “…follow your contribution. Find the thing you’re great at and put that into the world. Contribute to others and help the world be better—that is the thing to follow.”

So, if I may, dear graduates – the one piece of advice I would like to share with you is: What ever path you choose to take, sprinkle in moments of giving back in the way that fits your personality. Making an impact and contributing to something or someone bigger than yourself is where you will find some – if not a lot – of passion and happiness. Now go and make your dent in the world.