Friday, January 31, 2020

Insight: She who works with her hands

By Lorraine Glowczak

Insight reprinted by request

I once met a young woman who is a well-respected and knowledgeable dog trainer. It seems she knew the moment she popped into this world what she would do and be when she grew up. Although, when asked as a child what she would do, she would confidently respond that she wanted to be a zoologist and did, in fact, obtain a degree in Marine Science. But it was the canine variety where she was called and eventually found her true niche.

I remember being asked that same question when I was in the second grade, in 1973. Mrs. Dooley asked all 15 of us what we wanted to do with our “one wild and crazy life.” I panicked. I really didn’t have a clue and I knew I had to think of something fast. I was in the second row, so I had a minute to ponder a career that would impress my peers.

Billy said, “I’m going to be a professional football player.” Vickie was next to answer and then it would be my turn. “I want to be a ballerina,” she said. The pressure was on and I still hadn’t come up with anything unique. I wish I would have simply told the truth and said I didn’t know because, after all, I was only eight years old. But instead, I blurted out, “I want to be a cashier when I grow up.”

Silence. Complete silence from not only Mrs. Dooley but my classmates as well. I was embarrassed. I had no clue why I even said that. The word, “cashier”, must have been on the previous week’s spelling test.

The lesson from this story comes in the form of two questions: Why the silence? Why my shame?
What I didn’t know then is that I would go on to do something, by society’s standards, that might be considered a rung below a cashier. The perception was confirmed about six months after I started my own cleaning business – scrubbing away at residential and commercial properties. While I was proud of being a sole proprietor, I was soon reminded of my seemingly unimportant career path when I arrived home one day. Feeling proud of my entrepreneurial endeavor, the self-satisfaction came to a screeching halt when I heard the message on the answering machine (this was before the popular use of cellphones). The message went something like this:

“Hello Rainy!”, my highly educated friend from an elevated social standing began. “I do realize that cleaning is quite the lucrative business, but – oh Rainy – cleaning for others is so beneath you.”
I knew she saw within me a different potential, but she did not see the value in the service I offered to others – but perhaps more importantly – the service I offered to myself. I was preparing to become a writer.

If you ask anyone who works with their hands, they will tell you that some of their most creative thoughts occur during routine and mundane activities. In fact, according to an online magazine article written in “Psychology Today” by author and medical doctor, Carrie Barron - it was stated: 

“Research has shown that hand activity from knitting to woodworking to growing vegetables or chopping them are useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression. There is value in the routine action…. foster[ing] a flow in the mind that leads to spontaneous, joyful, creative thought.”

In another article, “Lessons I Learned Cleaning Other People’s Homes”, written by Inka Linda Sarvi, captured what I learned for myself in the cleaning business. Sarvi was hired by Zenith Cleaning as a communications and marketing professional, who was also required as part of her position, to clean homes and offices.

She said that every time she finished cleaning a space, she couldn’t deny how peaceful she felt. “I now look forward to how good it feels to get lost in the relaxing rhythm of wiping surfaces and the meditative concentration of focusing fully on one task at a time. The strangest and most fascinating part is how when I clean, I’m constantly struck with new ideas for short stories, poems, songs and paintings, as if my creativity is no longer gated by the constraints of time or assignments.”

She continued by saying that it didn’t make sense to her how cleaning something that inherently makes a space better and helps others is so looked down upon. “It illuminates the truth that the stigma around it is no more than a collective illusion, just one of many other falsehoods that make up the fabric of our society.”

I will admit I’m glad my career in cleaning for others is now behind me, as it is hard physical labor. I pull weeds from my flower garden now to take its place.

What I have learned about physical labor is there is no shame in working with one’s hands. If I ever had an opportunity to return to the past and to my eight-year old self in Mrs. Dooley’s class, I would proudly announce that I would grow up to be a sole proprietor of a cleaning business. I would then quickly add, “I’m going to be an author, too. I promise to give you all a signed copy of my first bestselling novel. As for the other many books on the New York Times best sellers list, you must purchase those on your own. Thank you very much.” And then I would have taken a bow.

I suspect there would be silence as a result of my overly self-assured announcement. But I would be proud that I would one day be working with my hands – not only in cleaning the homes for others to add sparkle to their homes, but in the typing and the sewing together of words that could potentially put a sparkle in others’ lives.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Insight: Thankful for the Blue Rock trap thrower

By Lorraine Glowczak

As a child growing up in small-town Kansas, during the early 1970s, it was a fall time ritual for the area men (and some women who were willing to break the feminine mold) to gather and practice target shooting in preparation for the deer hunting season. The community would congregate in a wheat field next door to the country Catholic Church (of which 90 percent of the hunters attended).

On occasions, I would tag along with my dad and a few of my brothers. Although I never shot the gun, I was always fascinated by the contraption the hunters used to throw the small clay disk, known as Blue Rock (or skeet) as their targets. The device used, simply known as the Blue Rock trap thrower, required someone to physically put the Blue Rock in the trap and then pull back on a lever so the Blue Rock would propel into the air, moving forward at a fast pace. I enjoyed watching that motion for quite a while and would always be amazed at how far that clay disk could travel.

Fast forward 40 years, and the Blue Rock trap thrower has returned from the depths of my childhood memories. Especially now as I commit to my own resolutions, shooting for the stars and living a few of my long-time aspirations. But just as life would have it, many setbacks have already begun to creep in. This has created some self-doubt, fear and, “What if I fail?” questions.

However, despite the failure mindset that slowly meanders into my thoughts, there is also a knowing that I will - and I must - keep moving forward despite it all. And maybe – just maybe – I must take three steps back in order to move five steps forward. Or, much like that old time Blue Rock trap thrower, I am the small clay disk and I must be pulled back (in the form of setbacks) only to gain the momentum I need to propel myself into the air, moving forward at a fast pace, landing somewhere near my dreams that have not yet become a reality.

If you too are experiencing some setbacks in meeting your life goals and dreams, and you also are questioning yourself, I invite you to hang in there with me. Afterall, challenges and hurdles will always exist whether we are living the life we want or not. It has been said the only failure is not taking chances. And, no matter what, there will always be the knowing that both you and I have tried...instead of sitting at home wishing and wondering what if. And that is the ‘what if’ question I hope I never have to ask.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

It is a stark reality that on average, working households in Maine have just $2,500 in retirement account savings. As the current AARP Volunteer State President, a Portland Maine resident, and a former small business owner, I am very interested in changing this situation. 

Our great State of Maine has over 175,000 small businesses who could help provide a mechanism for its employees to begin to save for their own retirement. In our 2020 legislative session, a simple solution to address this growing and critical savings program will be considered. AARP strongly supports LD 594, the Maine Retirement Savings Program, sponsored by Senator Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic).

Under this new law, employers would be able to offer their employees a way to save for retirement through payroll deduction. Employees would be automatically enrolled in this program unless they opted out of it. However, a survey we just released showed that 98 percent of voters in Maine who are working believe it’s important to save for retirement at work. And 84 percent of workers without access to a workplace savings program would take advantage of one if it were available. Over time, even a small contribution can make a big difference.

If you are one of the thousands of Mainers concerned about saving for retirement, please urge your legislators to support LD 594. It’s time for Maine lawmakers to give employees the opportunity to increase their savings and take control of their future.

Pat Pinto,
AARP Maine Volunteer State President

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Insight: Keeping Promises

By Lorraine Glowczak

The snow tumbled inside my high healed shoe as my left foot swung out of the car door and into a plowed snowbank on the side of the street. Although I had lived through five Maine winters at this point, I still couldn’t grasp the concept that one would wear LL Bean Boots while, at the same time, wearing a fancy cocktail dress. I changed my mind about winter shoe fashion on that cold December night. But that was not the only thing that shifted for me that evening.

This incident happened about fifteen years ago, and it was at an annual holiday party among a group of my friends. This gathering had started as a yearly ritual to give my friends and I an excuse to wear the fancy clothing we purchased for weddings and other special occasions but rarely wore again. Plus, it was a way to lighten the dark cold winter months and have fun together.

Once inside the hosts’ warm West End Condo in Portland and after making my rounds of hugs, hellos and jovial small talk, I made a beeline to the bar in the dining room to make myself a festive vodka martini. Once I plopped the last of the three olives into the martini glass, I turned around only to have been captured by the iridescent sky-blue eyes of my friend, Darcy. She was donning a stylish black velvet dress and was sitting elegantly on a barstool across the room. Because walking was difficult for Darcy, her gaze invited me to walk towards her.

“I love your dress” I said as I approached her. She waited for me to draw nearer to speak. The noise of the crowded room only made it more difficult for Darcy to be heard. It had only been two years since her ALS diagnosis, but the disease was already robbing her ability to speak.

We didn’t waste much time on the usual party chatter because when one’s pending death is shrewdly looming in the corners, wasting time feels like a crime. Instead, we discussed one of the most important subjects that made us kindred spirits – writing. The reverence for words fed our souls and where we found a little life of grace.

Darcy’s book, “I Remember Running: The Year I Got Everything I Ever Wanted  - and ALS”, was hot off the press and we discussed her upcoming book tours and the fact that the softcover was already being sold and translated into Japanese. It wasn’t long, however, until she shifted the focus of the conversation to me.

“How is your writing going?” Darcy asked. The truth was - it wasn’t. I pulled out every excuse imaginable to explain where I was in the writing process, or the lack thereof. She always believed in my ability to put pen to paper and this night, she saw the truth through my self-justifications.

“I want you to promise me something,” her smile turned serious and I leaned forward to make sure I heard what I was about to agree to. “I want you to promise me to write in my place when I can no longer do so.” I assured her that I would.

Exactly one year later, as I walked up those same West-End condo steps in my fancy cocktail dress and LL Bean Boots, the promise I had made the previous year became more of a reality. ALS had won the fight with Darcy earlier that morning.

The cocktail party was a somber event. We considered cancelling the get-together, but we knew Darcy would not appreciate it and would want us to party away. To have cancelled would have been to dishonor her. It was, however, our last holiday gathering.

Recently I realized I am not only keeping my promise to Darcy, but I am keeping a promise to myself. Since the age of 11, I wanted to be a full-time writer/author, but believed it wasn’t a smart career move. But much like the LL Bean boots and cocktail dress combo fashion, I have changed my mind.

I turn 55 in September and, although I may have another good 30 years of life ahead of me, there are no guarantees. It is time for me to step up my game and complete the book of essays, write the next great American novel, and to publish on a larger scale. It is for this reason I have chosen to step down as the Editor of The Windham Eagle Newspaper.

But this doesn’t mean you have totally gotten rid of me. I still plan to be a very active staff writer because – well – I profusely love capturing the many amazing stories of the Windham and Raymond communities and meeting the many giving, positive, joyful people who live here. And - I love my Eagle cohorts way too much to say goodbye.

Since I do enjoy eating and do need to pay the bills, I have accepted a part time job that is a bit more flexible and accommodating to a writer’s life. So, you may be seeing me in more than a writer’s capacity around town. I will, however, be continuing in my role as Editor until a replacement has been found and is ready to make it on their own. I’m committed to making the transition as smooth as possible and will be here as long as needed.

But finally - to give an answer to the many times I’ve been asked, if (or should I say when?), I make it to the New York Time’s Best Sellers list, I will be happy to give you my autograph.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Insight – Entering the season of perfect imperfection

By Lorraine Glowczak

The decorations are now packed, hidden away until next year and the holiday gatherings and celebrations are over. We are now back to the demands of our ordinary, everyday life.

For many, there is a certain melancholic letdown after the holidays, and I must admit I am who feels a little bummed when January 2nd rolls around. Facing the long, cold dark winter months ahead as the festive light-filled excitement slides away from us can turn into days of plaintive indifference.

As a result, I tend to rush through the dreary, drab days of winter with my eyes closed, dashing quickly as my mind focuses on the more scenic and colorful times that come with summer. I do this even though I know I’m missing a lot beauty that is hidden in the chill, frost and ice.  

It is during times like these when I try to bounce out of my darkened reverie and borrow a concept attributed to Japanese culture when things are not as neat and pretty as I wish. The term is “wabi sabi” and it is loosely interpreted to mean “perfect imperfection”. It is the mindset that we find beauty in flaws and expand our experience of the magnificence that most often can only be seen with eyes of the heart.

Author, Robyn Griggs Lawrence, in her article, “Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection”
expresses the concept with perfection (no pun intended). “Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.”

Lawrence goes on to point out that having the ability to see beauty in the unpleasantries requires only the imagination. “It doesn’t require money, training, or special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are—without ornamentation. It depends on the ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting.”

So, this morning on my walk, instead of cursing the cold and icy pavement beneath my feet, I attempted Lawrence’s suggestions. Instead of rushing through my daybreak exercise in the normal single-minded fashion, I slowed down to look -REALLY LOOK- around me and was surprised that the author might be correct in her advice.

I saw bird tracks in the snow. I heard the wind. I felt the snowflakes on my exposed skin. “When was the last time I noticed these things?”, I wondered.

It was then that I truly realized I can complain, moan and be displeased about the cold and gloomy days - or I can create and thus see the splendor around me. Either way, I have to get through the letdown of past celebrations and through winter somehow, someway. It might behoove me and those close to me to give the ol’ winter wabi sabi thing a whirl.

Nothing is flawless and nothing last forever, including the holiday letdown most of us feel. And, if I can pick myself up by my blue polka-dotted Bog bootstraps and see the charm around me even the smallest “birdtrack in the snow” sense, then I know I can make it until summer with a bit of joy. That, I think I can handle and is – for me - perfection imperfection!

Windham Public Library will host monthly writing group

Are you a writer? Do you want to be a writer? Are you just starting out or stuck on a project or just looking for a place to write with like-minded people? Starting January 28th, the Windham Public Library will host a writing group. The group will meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is appropriate for all skill levels and genres. The group will be moderated by Jen Dupree, who holds an MFA in Creative writing from USM. Jen will offer writing prompts and tips. There will be time for writing, sharing of goals and project ideas, as well as critiques if so desired by the group. Bring whatever you use to write—pen, pencil, laptop, etc. FMI contact Jen at 892-1908, extension 6.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Insight: Bringing in the new year with 20/20 vision

By Lorraine Glowczak

Already, in the blink of an eye, we are celebrating the new year. For the next month or so, most of us will be trying hard to remember to pen “2020” when writing the date. But perhaps what may be more challenging is executing our resolutions and visions for the year.

January 1st is a perfect time to reset the dial, refocus and begin anew – whether it is to follow our dreams in a big way or to live a healthy, balanced and happy life. Whatever it is, January seems to be the time we tell ourselves that THIS is THE year to make our visions a reality.

However, what at first might seem like an effortless approach in reaching our goals, often turns into stubborn, hurdle jumping projects by the end of February. On top of that, sprinkle in some unexpected curve balls and within six weeks we sometimes have misplaced our dreams and have lost our way. The fact is, nothing goes as perfectly as planned and this is where having 20/20 vision may come in handy while accomplishing our aspirations more realistically.

I recently learned that the well-known eye chart measurement of 20/20 vision does not mean perfect eyesight. 20/20 does not mean perfection. It simply indicates a “normal” standard measurement of visual acuity. According to, “Having good visual acuity means that you see things with clarity at a standard distance. It does not include depth perception, peripheral vision, or color blindness.”

When our standard/normal vision changes and needs adjustment, we often turn to glasses to correct that vision. Glasses work by bending light, so it is in focus on the retina. Much like the retina, we may require a corrective bend with our personal life goals in order to move forward with a bit more understanding and depth.

Depth perception is the ability to see things in three dimensions. American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that our two eyes see an object from slightly different angles and our brain compares and processes the two sets of information to form a single image.

In the case of moving toward our ambitions, life events beyond our control can change the route we travel. As a result, we end up in a landscape that looks nothing like we envisioned, and it can throw us for a loop. But with a little bit of depth perception – and some flexibility – we can see our dreams from different angles, making the image we once had about our dreams sharper and more focused, helping us to become more clear about what is most important and what is no longer needed to reach our goals. Also known as tunnel vision. But we might consider treading lightly here and incorporate a bit of peripheral vision, too.

In an article for Fast Company Magazine, author Adam Steele encourages us not to be too consumed by tunnel vision. He suggests including experiences that often sit on the peripheral edges of our journey and that we find personally meaningful. He states that reading certain books, visiting certain places, and sharing certain experiences with loved ones are all equally valid goals that can help us stay grounded as we stay focused on reaching those bigger goals. And, I will add that including the peripheral daily experiences, we will not be blind to the color and beauty that life affords us and we sometimes miss.

So, when June rolls around in five months and if you feel you have let yourself down by not reaching all you set out to do in 2020, remember that even 20/20 vision isn’t perfect. You don’t need to wait until next January to reset the dial once again. Refocus, begin anew and enjoy the ride.
Happy 2020!

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Important Windham Clothes Closet update!

If you are dropping clothing or items off at the Windham Clothes Closet, please bring them there between 9:00-3:00 Monday through Thursday. Please do not leave them down back behind the building as they will not fare well during inclement weather. If you need to make arrangements to drop items off outside of these times and days call 892-1931.

Thank you for your donations and please let your neighbors know that the clothing there is free, and the hours are Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.

The Windham Clothes Closet

Dear Editor,

Opinion – The U.S. Should not pull out of the Paris Accords

When President Trump announced its intent to pull America out of the Paris Accords of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCCC), the U.S. will abdicate a leadership role in confronting the climate change debate. Our country, along with China and India now account for 40% of the worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use. 

The Paris Agreement is an attempt to slow the growth of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and keep Earth's temperature below a 3.6F increase from pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Otherwise, this science suggests that Earth will reach a “tipping point” at which climate changes are irreversible and no further reductions would slow the onset of climate change. 

Science also tells us that the weather extremes, flooding, prolonged droughts, wildfires, sea level rise will continue throughout the next decades and lead to human suffering through famine, loss of crop habitat, and displaced populations. The drought in Syria (circa 2011) that led to mass migration to Europe was a direct result of a prolonged drought that made agriculture untenable and created a loss of livestock.

While our Sebago Lake region home may be immune to some of these effects of climate change, we ALL, nevertheless, pay a price for these hardships in the form of higher insurance premiums, more expensive food products, snow removal, road maintenance, travel disruption, and disaster relief here and abroad. Our exposure to destructive winter storms and summer heat waves and hurricanes most certainly will continue.  

I urge that you write to President Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Accords in November 2020. The nations of the world are in a war that it started, in the name of progress, and now proliferate with excesses in greenhouse gas emissions. 

On a moral ground, civilizations have a duty to save the planet from the ravages of climate change. Naysayers and those that ignore this problem and think that there will be an ultimate “technology-fix” are sadly misinformed and add nothing to the public discourse: they disfigure Vice President Gore's “inconvenient truth.” in their apathy.

Ray Whittemore