Friday, May 28, 2021

Insight: The four phrases everyone in business should know

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

My uncle Ray Rogers owned and operated a successful Texaco marina in the Thousand Islands region of New York state in the 1960s and when I was old enough, I volunteered to spend a few weeks one summer helping him out there.

Most of his work at the marina involved repairing outboard motors as quickly as possible and seeing that supplies of fishing tackle, bait, cold beer, and sandwiches were available for his customers. More than 90 percent of his business arrived by boat at the Rogers Texaco Marina docks in Alexandria Bay.

Uncle Ray was a big man, standing about 6 feet and weighing abut 250 pounds. As the owner of the marina, and his name on the marina sign, it was evident that boating enthusiasts in the Thousand Islands came there to see him, seek his advice about the best places to fish, or to have him listen to a strange new sound that their boat motor was suddenly making.

He commanded everyone’s respect, and he enjoyed sharing a few cold ones at the marina’s outside picnic table after he had closed the shop for the day.

When I first told him that I wanted to learn business skills working for him, Ray was skeptical.

“You’re the type of kid who is better off reading a book,” he told me.

But I persisted and that summer, even though I was only 12, I learned more about business than I ever imagined.

My first task was assigned to me by Ray’s younger brother David, who had me sweeping floors inside the marina office. Then he had me clipping the hedges along the side of the marina property.

The next day I got up early and was excited about going to work with Uncle Ray and learning about his business. Instead, I was handed sandpaper and told to use it on the metal railings leading from the dock to the marina door. Once that was completed, I was instructed to sweep up all the old paint that I had sandpapered off the railings.

After lunch, I was told to put down a tarp under the railings and then handed a paint brush and told to apply several coats of paint to the railings.

By the time that project was finished, I was starting to wonder if perhaps my uncle was right and that maybe I would be better off reading a book.

On “Day Three” of working for my Uncle Ray, I was shown how to work the cash register, make change and process credit card transactions. My uncle took me aside and said that he was impressed that I never grumbled or complained about the past day’s chores. He said he wanted me to work directly with customers from here on out and that meant pumping gas for their boats and taking their payments.

He asked me if I knew the four phrases everyone in business should know. I shrugged my shoulders and told him no.

“Always remember this, no matter where your life may take you,” he said. “The four most important phrases everyone in business should know are ‘Yes, Sir,’ ‘No, Sir,’ ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ and ‘No Ma’am.’”

According to Uncle Ray, as I pumped fuel for the boats, limiting my vocabulary to use those phrases would endear me to the customers of Rogers Texaco Marina and help me down the road if I ever went into business too.

As each customer piloted their boat up to the docks that day, my smile, kindness and willingness to be of service was repaid with generous tips. Even though I was volunteering my time at the marina, Uncle Ray told me I could keep anything I earned in tips.

By the end of that first day of pumping boat fuel, I took home more than $10 in tips and the next day was even better at $15.

By the end of my two-week visit there, I was having fun, made a little money and was not wanting to go home. My Aunt Bernice made me pancakes every morning and Uncle Ray introduced me to all his friends as “his hard-working nephew.”

It’s been 56 years since that summer and Uncle Ray, Aunt Bernice and Ray’s brother David are all gone now, but Ray’s advice to me remains as meaningful today as it was then.

“The four most important phrases everyone in business should know are ‘Yes, Sir,’ ‘No, Sir,’ ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ and ‘No Ma’am.’” <

Andy Young: Emerson (and related subjects) in ascending sentences

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle


It’s me.

Your weekly columnist.

I’m trying something new.

Because, well, why shouldn’t I?

It’s important to keep life interesting.

And everyone should have a stimulating existence.

At least, that’s what I think right now.

Doing the same thing every day would truly stink.

All work and no experimentation would make me awfully dull. And no one needs tedious essayists in their life, do they?

But some weeks don’t yield a whole lot of decent writing fodder.

Sometimes journalists (probably not the right word here) must generate their own inspiration.

That’s why I’m trying to produce a new kind of 600-word column this week.

If you’re averse to change, fret not; there are still exactly 50 dozen words here.

This week’s difference: each sentence will contain exactly one word more than the previous one did.

Which is why this sentence consists of exactly seventeen words, since the previous one contained but sixteen.

This is the 18th sentence so far, so I’ll have a total of 171 words at its conclusion.

My favorite quarterback when I was young was Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts, who wore uniform number 19.

This may not be as easy as I thought, since after this sentence I will still need another 390 words. 

But they’ve all got to fit into another fourteen increasingly lengthy (and potentially confusing) sentences, which isn’t going to be easy.

Some powerful messages can be expressed in just ten simple words, like, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Sometimes only four words, such as, “I have a dream,” can evoke powerful emotions, and inspire otherwise ordinary people to do great things.

Other memorable four-word phrases include, “I am the greatest,” although Muhammad Ali never did specify exactly what it was he was the greatest at.

I wonder if Ali, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Martin Luther King, Jr. ever wrote a sentence as utterly devoid of meaning as this one is?

“A stitch in time saves nine,” and, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” are both familiar and widely recognized idioms.

Semicolons are most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two independent clauses that are closely related in thought; I think I better start using them.

The other option, which would be to construct the sorts of sentences I regularly upbraid my high school English students for, would be equal parts humiliating and hypocritical.

Sentences that contain more than two conjunctions (“and,” “but,” “so,” etc.), include more than two commas, or go on for more than three lines can accurately be called “run-ons.”

I can’t decide if my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is, “The reward of a thing well done is having done it,” or, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”

Wait a minute; he also said, “We aim above the mark to hit the mark,” ”People only see what they are prepared to see,” and, “Every artist was first an amateur.”

In addition, the Boston-born essayist and abolitionist, Harvard-educated lecturer and philosopher, ruggedly individualistic poet and champion of transcendentalism was also quoted (ironically) as saying, “I hate quotations; tell me what you know.”

But how would Emerson have completed a 600-word essay where each sentence contained exactly one word more than the previous one, when he discovered, after 34 sentences, he had five words left over?

I can only hope that the ardent lover of nature, fierce opponent of slavery, and passionate advocate for women’s rights would ultimately have elected to do the same thing I’ve decided to do here.

Yes, this is the end. <

Friday, May 21, 2021

Insight: Resolving some of life’s everyday mysteries

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

It doesn’t take an exceptional mind to contemplate some of the greatest everyday mysteries known to modern man. I’ve been known to ponder such questions and often resort to the great equalizer, Google, in trying to discover answers to questions that may arise as I go about my day.

Some people tend to accept many things at face value, but having a curious reporter’s nature, I’m prone to seeking explanations to simple queries about certain items that crop up in my life daily.

Here’s a sampling of some everyday mysteries I’ve researched recently:

** Why doesn’t the icing melt on Pop Tarts when they are placed in the toaster?

The truth is that the frosting coating on a Pop Tart is made up of highly processed and refined sugar and fat which does melt, but only at a much higher temperature and a longer amount of time than the cycle of a conventional toaster. If left in the toaster long enough, a Pop Tart will burn and crumble before the temperature is substantial enough to melt the icing on it. Kellogg’s sells 19 flavors of Pop Tarts and 17 of them come with icing.

** What causes goosebumps on our skin?

There’s a scientific explanation for this common reflex we all experience at one time or another. Tiny muscles known as arrector pill muscles below the skin’s surface pull the follicles of each hair up as a response from the sympathetic nervous system to stimulus such as cold, fear, or other strong emotional issues. It’s still not known why this reflex was named after geese though.

** Why does Swiss cheese have holes in it? Dog

To make Swiss cheese, cultures of three different types of bacteria are added to warm unpasteurized milk. The bacteria then create curds in the milk mixture which is pressed into wheel-shaped molds and soaked in brine. The brine makes a thick rind on the cheese as it matures. The bacteria erodes away the lactic acid in the cheese mixture, producing carbon dioxide and propionic acid which bubble to the surface and then burst, creating holes in the cheese.

** Why does ice float in water?           

Ice floats in water because the molecules making up the ice are about 9 percent less dense than water. As water freezes into the solid form of ice, the molecules form stable hydrogen bonds which lock them into place. As the molecules lock and do not freely move about, they cannot form as many hydrogen bonds as the water molecules do. This process results in ice molecules not being as close as the liquid water molecules, reducing their density and allowing them to float on the water’s surface.

** Why do paintings of the 19th century French dictator Napoleon depict him with his right hand inside his shirt?

Artists of that era followed custom and painted Napoleon with his hand inside his tunic which was the typical pose for orators and distinguished gentlemen of that time period.

** Who was Granny Smith and why is a kind of apple named after her?

Granny Smith apples take their name from Maria “Granny” Smith, who first discovered the apple seedling growing on her property in Australia in 1868. Although “Granny Smith” died in 1870, her crisp and tart apple caught on with the public and continues to bear her nickname to this very day.

** Why do physicians wear white lab coats instead of some other color?

When a student studying to become a doctor is officially issued a white lab coat, it’s considered as a rite of passage in medical schools. Just a century ago, physicians customarily dressed all in black to reflect the somber and serious nature of their profession. But as the 20th century dawned, physicians had discovered the importance of cleanliness to prevent the spread of disease. White came to symbolize purity and cleanliness and thus white lab coats were adopted as an official garment of doctors.

** Why are hot dogs sold in packages of 10, yet hot dog buns are only sold in packages of eight?

Meat producers standardized national packaging of hot dogs sold in America in the 1940s to packs of 10 and the practice has remained in place until now. Depression-era bakeries established the standard number of hot dog buns placed in packages at eight to fit on baking trays in two sets of four buns each in the early 1950s. The baking and meat producing standards were never aligned and remain much the same today. <

Andy Young: Picking a favorite

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Recently someone asked me if I had a favorite fruit. I thought long and hard about it, assuming she had inquired because she actually wanted a response.

Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest ones to answer. 

My first paying job was at an orchard, which probably explains my longtime affinity for apples. But that begs another question: what’s the best type? Contemporary varieties like MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Macoun, and Pink Lady are all worthy candidates, but Northern Spy, Russet, York Imperial, and Ida Red should all be in the conversation as well. 

Just thinking about apples conjures up the alluring scent that filled our house when one of my mother’s incomparable apple pies was in the oven. I also love apple cider, despite knowing exactly how nasty the specific apples (none of which grade out as “fancy,” or even as “utility”) used to produce it actually are. The only apple I’d ever decline is the deceptively named Red Delicious, a variety that looks like attractive wax fruit, but has the drawback of tasting like it, too. 

Pears were another fruit harvested where I worked. Boscs, Seckels, and D’Anjous all grew there, along with my personal favorite member of the pear family, the Bartlett.

There was also fuzzy fruit at that orchard. As far as I know nothing’s tastier than a freshly plucked, ripe, juicy peach, though preferably one untainted by pesticides. 

But citrus fruits are awfully good, too. Around here the store-bought kind has to suffice but trust me: nothing beats a freshly picked orange. Some years ago, I lived in a Florida house that had an orange tree in the backyard. I’d select a little gem each morning, then drink the sweet juice that gushed out of it with just a slice of its thin outer covering. I’m also quite fond of the orange’s easier-to-peel cousin, the tangerine.

Watermelons are literally and figuratively in a fruit class by themselves. Nothing is more enticing on a hot summer day. The only disappointing thing about this gigantic green treat: modern-day watermelons no longer contain an average of 482 seeds per 10-pound melon, as they did in my boyhood. I sometimes spontaneously weep for the generations of kids who’ve grown up since the advent of seedless watermelon, and thus never knew the joy of participating in a good old-fashioned (albeit spectacularly unsanitary) seed fight.

Fresh pineapple is another delight. The only drawback (for those wishing to purchase their produce from nearby growers) is that it’s hard to imagine, even with global temperatures rising, that Maine-grown pineapple will be available any time in the near future.

Many civilized people dismiss canned fruit, and I’ll admit it’s more than a little unnerving to see a sealed container with an expiration date printed on it that’s clearly five or more years after when the items inside it were harvested.   But I confess: I enjoy sampling canned pears, peaches, apricots, and pineapple every so often. Such products, particularly when chilled or suspended in gelatin, are just a different type of heavenly.

But I haven't even mentioned bananas. Or grapes. Or cherries, plums, nectarines, and cantaloupe. Or berries, be they black, blue, straw, or rasp. Then there are exotic treats like kiwi, pomegranate, and mango. And desiccated fruit is a whole separate sub-category. Dried apricots, dried apples, and dried peaches are all delicacies. As for too-often-ridiculed dried plums, AKA prunes: don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em. In moderation, that is.

How does a fruit aficionado like me best answer that seemingly simple question? Maybe the best response is a direct, succinct, and literal one. 

So do I have a favorite fruit? 

No. <

Friday, May 14, 2021

Insight: Passing of a childhood hero

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

After falling and breaking my left elbow, I wasn’t paying much attention to the news as the month of May began, but as I slowly became aware of the death of one of my favorite childhood actors, I officially count myself as old now.

I grew up in the era of only having three television networks to choose from, the local affiliates of CBS, NBC or ABC. Those were the days of black and white television programs and TV remotes were not yet invented, you actually had to get up from your seat and physically turn the dial to find another show.

Because my hands and clothing were often covered with remnants of Tootsie Roll Pops, strawberry jam or Bazooka bubble gum, I usually parked myself on the floor in front of my parent’s large Sylvania console television to watch my favorite shows after dinner to keep their furniture clean.

Back then, network programming didn’t start until 8 p.m. after the evening news, and a half-hour reserved for local stations. Operating on shoestring budgets, the local stations typically filled the half-hour with syndicated programming consisting of older cancelled network shows or independent fare such as “The Lone Ranger” or game shows like “Truth or Consequences” hosted by Bob Barker long before his gig on daytime TV’s “The Price is Right.”

The 7:30 p.m. TV time slot belonged exclusively to me as my mother would be washing dishes or tending to my younger brother and my father would be doing something out in the garage or in the basement. As I laid on the floor in front of the TV set, I imagined myself traveling through the Old West as a sidekick of the character Johnny Yuma on “The Rebel,” singing on stage with Ricky Nelson on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” or helping Lassie rescue Gramps from a catastrophe on an episode of “Jeff’s Collie.”

But my favorite show airing at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday was “The Rifleman” with Chuck Connors. The show was a western about a widower named Lucas McCain who was raising his young son Mark McCain, portrayed by Johnny Crawford, on a ranch on the outskirts of North Fork, New Mexico. McCain had a special Winchester rifle equipped with a customized mechanism to allow repeated firing by cycling its lever action. 

Each episode was a never-ending parade of bad guys, gunslingers and evil criminals all who had the misfortune to run into the good guy Lucas McCain who zealously stood up for law and order and taught his son Mark the value of honesty, fair play, telling the truth and the meaning of unconditional love. Crawford was just 12 when the show first aired on television and he played Mark McCain for five seasons, also using his popularity with teenage girls as a springboard to a recording contract and a few Top-40 hits such as “Cindy’s Birthday” in 1962. Before landing the job as Mark McCain, Crawford has been a Mouseketeer on the first season of “The Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955.

His popularity grew so much that in the second season of “The Rifleman” in 1959, Crawford was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a dramatic television role. 

For boys who were my age growing up in the early 1960s, Johnny Crawford was firmly cemented into our consciousness as Mark McCain, someone we aspired to be like in our own lives. He could ride a horse, rarely got in trouble, had a great relationship with his dad, possessed good looks and girls swooned over him.

As he got older, Crawford continued to make guest appearances on television and acted in movies, served a stint in the U.S. Army and performed on stage in plays and dinner theater productions. In the early 1990s, he formed the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, a group that specialized in touring and playing vintage Big Band music for older Americans.

I learned on May 1 that Johnny Crawford died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75 on April 29 and felt devastated as yet another cherished part of my youth was gone.

When I occasionally watch old episodes of “The Rifleman” on YouTube now, it leaves me longing for that simpler time and role models I admired like Johnny Crawford.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that many of the lessons and values I learned watching television growing up aren’t necessarily old-fashioned and are as applicable today as they were when I was young. <

Andy Young: Beware the Ides...all of them!

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

“Superstition” is a term that, deservedly or not, is often preceded by the word “silly.”

Few people admit to letting baseless fears impact them, but it’s hard to deny that illogical concerns play a subtle role in the daily existences of even the most level-headed amongst us. It’s hard to estimate the number of otherwise well-adjusted, rational individuals who'll go out of their way to avoid crossing paths with a black cat, purposely walk around (rather than under) ladders, and avoid stepping on a single crack in the sidewalk for fear of being responsible for their mother’s spine fracturing.

Words too can conjure dread groundlessly. A notable example appears in Act I, Scene ii of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when a soothsayer, who the emperor apparently dismisses as a crackpot, advises the title character to “Beware the Ides of March.” That the prophecy still reverberates nearly five centuries later is chiefly because Caesar was subsequently dispatched (and on the date prophesized) by several backstabbing Roman senators.

But today those same five trepidation-inspiring words can also stimulate curiosity in those of us interested in reducing our towering ignorance ever so slightly. Until I looked it up recently, I hadn’t known that the “Ides” of March, May, July, and October were, under the old Roman calendar, the 15th day of each of those months.

One long-ago Roman emperor’s demise isn’t the only reason to fear the Ides of March, though. Nazi troops seized the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939, effectively ending Czechoslovakia’s existence. Exactly two years later a deadly blizzard struck North America’s plains, leaving more than five dozen dead in North Dakota, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. And the citizens of Cilaos, a town on the Indian Ocean island of La RĂ©union, cannot forget the traumatic events of March 15, 1952, the date on which they were inundated with a world record 73.62 inches of rain within a 24-hour period!

But regardless of these and a surprising number of other cataclysmic occurrences which have taken place on that particular date, it seems grossly unfair that March’s Ides has gotten tagged as the lone notorious 15th day of a month. What about the Ides of July? King Richard II of England had John Ball, a leader of the Peasants Revolt, hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 15, 1381. A volcanic eruption killed approximately 500 people in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan on July 15, 1888. And a grave injury was inflicted upon humanity’s collective civility quotient and impulse control on 2006’s Ides of July, when the social media platform “Twitter” was launched.

Historically the Ides of October is no better. Hurricane Hazel devastated North America’s east coast (claiming 95 innocent lives in the process) on that date in 1955. The worst industrial accident in Australian history occurred on October 15, 1970, when a span of the West Gate Bridge collapsed, killing 35 workers. And destructive October 15th earthquakes rocked both Hawaii (in 2006) and the Philippines (seven years later).

Obviously, prudent behavior is a must for this Saturday, the 15th day of the month. Hopefully this year’s Ides of May won’t be as grimly catastrophic as far too many past Ides have been, but why take chances on a date that during this century alone has already claimed the lives of singer-songwriter June Carter Cash (2003), televangelist Jerry Falwell (2007), former Miami Dolphin place kicker Garo Yepremian (2015), and beloved comedian Fred Willard (2020)?

I’m not the least bit superstitious. But I still can’t help wondering if, early on May 15 six years ago, Garo Yepremian unwittingly walked under a ladder. <

Friday, May 7, 2021

Insight: Watch out for misplaced boxes of bobbins

By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

From personal experience, I can tell you that a small wooden box of bobbins can produce significant pain and suffering and leave you shaking your head in astonishment.

To set the scene, Friday, April 30 was my wife Nancy’s birthday. I had a full slate of activities planned to celebrate her special day and after she left for work, the plan was put into motion. I wrapped her gifts, then went and bought her a full bouquet of flowers and a birthday cake.

To be extra nice, I did three loads of laundry, swept all the floors and emptied all the trash cans. As the final load of laundry made its way through the dryer, I took a shower and expected to sit back and wait for her to return home to see what I had accomplished. We were planning on ordering take-out Chinese food and then enjoying the cake with her youngest son who lives nearby.

But a box of bobbins proved to be my undoing. Since it was chilly and rainy that day, I decided to wear a long-sleeve shirt, which I keep in our spare bedroom closet. To see my selection of shirts better, I stepped into the closet and turned on the light in there. I was barefoot as I was in the process of dressing. Suddenly my foot stepped on a wooden box of bobbins and sewing supplies stored on the closet floor by my wife.

Bobbins and sewing thread spools went flying everywhere much to our dog Fancy’s amusement. On the other hand, I was totally startled, slipped, lost my balance and fell backward, taking a hard fall onto the bedroom floor, landing awkwardly on the left elbow.

As I warded off the dog from snatching up the spools and bobbins, I began to feel some severe pain from the fall. But I was able to retrieve many of the small round bobbins, which are aluminum cylinders used by my wife as she operates her sewing machine.

I righted myself and slowly got up from the floor, tossing the bobbins back into the box and closing the closet door. My initial thought was why would anyone store that box on the floor where someone could step on it. However, having lived in this household for quite a few years, I’ve learned questions like that typically go unanswered or come with remarks such as “why not put it there?’

I finished dressing and thought that the pain would soon subside and would eventually go away. It was, in fact, Nancy’s birthday and nothing could spoil our plans for that monumental occasion.

With some difficulty and using strictly my right hand, I retrieved the laundry from the dryer and folded and put away the rest of the clean clothing and towels. I had lunch and then laid on the sofa waiting for her to arrive back home.

As time passed that afternoon, the ache became worse and it got to the point I could not comfortably turn my left arm or extend it without serious pain. The moment she got home, I told her what happened and sheepishly asked if we could put postpone the celebration to Saturday evening.

She agreed and drove me to the Emergency Room at the hospital to find out what was causing my pain. Five hours later, with my left arm encased in a splint and wrapped in gauze and in a sling, the doctor said that based upon my x-rays she thought I had a radial head fracture of my left elbow. She instructed me to rest the arm, told me to put lots of ice on it to reduce the swelling and prescribed morphine for the pain.

Driving home in pouring rain, I apologized to Nancy for ruining her birthday. Both of us were starving from not having eaten for more than eight hours and so we hastily gobbled down sandwiches upon getting back home and went to bed.

Days later, I’m still wearing the sling and although the acute pain has mostly disappeared, I’m still in the splint and sling and can’t get the gauze wrap wet when taking a shower. I have an appointment with an orthopedic specialist later this week and will know more then.

The moral of this story is to always be careful and watch where you step. You never know, a small wooden box of bobbins could prove to be your undoing too.

Bill Diamond: Bold reform needed to protect Maine’s children

By Senator Bill Diamond

Twenty years ago, Maine was shocked by the death of 5-year-old Logan Marr, a little girl who had been placed in state custody and was killed by her foster mother’s abuse and neglect. Logan’s foster mother, Sally Schofield, was a former caseworker for what was then called the Department of Human Services. Schofield duct taped Logan to a high chair using more than 40 feet of tape, wrapping it around her body and face, and the highchair eventually tipped over. Logan died, slowly, of asphyxiation in her foster mother’s basement.

I was deeply affected by Logan’s death, as were many Mainers. How did the ultimate harm come to this child, who had been placed in Schofield’s home by the State to keep her safe? I became convinced that there were systemic problems with how the State handled child welfare cases. Many others felt the same way. The chosen solution at the time was to combine the Department of Human Services with the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, creating what continues to be known as the Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS.

DHHS is a huge bureaucracy, and it oversees everything from the Maine CDC to SNAP benefits, to licensing long-term care facilities and more. It also includes the Office of Child and Family Services, or OCFS, which is responsible for child welfare. Over the years, investigations have continued to identify poor coordination between law enforcement and OCFS. Changes had been made to fix the problems that led to Logan’s death, but those changes would prove insufficient.

A few years ago, over the course of barely two months, tragedy struck again. In December 2017, 4-year-old Kendall Chick was murdered by her grandfather’s girlfriend; DHHS had placed Kendall in that home. In February 2018, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was murdered after months of abuse at the hands of her mother and stepfather. Marissa’s abuse was reported to DHHS, but they did not take adequate steps to get Marissa out of her deadly situation.

I attended these trials and the evidence I heard strengthened my resolve that we are still not doing what we need to do to keep our kids safe. I want to be clear: My concerns about DHHS’s ability to protect children in state care is not a condemnation of the individual caseworkers and others who dedicate their lives and careers to Maine’s children. This work is incredibly difficult and emotionally challenging; it is not a glamorous job. But the evidence tells us that our system is still failing to keep kids safe, even when DHHS is alerted to child abuse or is actively working a case.

Every year, the Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman issues an objective assessment of OCFS’s work. Despite many improvements, the Ombudsman’s most recent report highlights two patterns of failure. First, initial safety assessments are still lacking, including failure to recognize risk to the child when evidence is clear. Second, OCFS often reaches the end of a case, or makes a critical decision about reunification between children and parents, without sufficient information. The result is Maine children continue to be at risk. These problems are structural, rather than the result of individual failings. A structural problem requires a structural solution.

This year, I introduced a bill that would take the Office of Child and Family Services out from under DHHS and make it its own department. I felt by doing this we could give this critical agency the attention and resources it needs. This bill was given due consideration by my colleagues on the Health and Human Services Committee, many of whom did not feel it presented the right solution. I can accept the consensus that this bill wasn’t the right choice, right now. What I can’t accept is more promises that we’ll fix things, while children continue to suffer and even die.

This is not the end of the road for reform. We need bold change to keep Maine’s kids safe, and I will continue to press forward. I’ve heard from people from all over the state who have shared their experiences, and it’s my obligation to do something about it. It’s an obligation we all share to Maine’s most vulnerable: our children.

If you ever have a story to share, or if I can do anything for you or your family, please reach out to me at or call my office at 207-287-1515. <

Andy Young: A simple, perpetual pleasure

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Memorial Day weekend portends the arrival of hordes of visitors that are considered by many to be the lifeblood of our state’s economy. But even for Mainers with no direct connection to the tourism industry, the first day of this month provides an even greater excuse for celebration. 

May Day was originally intended, at least in the northern hemisphere, as justification for festivals heralding the onset of spring, and the more pleasant weather that typically accompanies it. But for me May 1 is much more than that. It’s the day on which I can take the slender, miniature four-sided wooden plank (the one with “January” painted on one of its sides, “February,” on another, “March” on the third face, and “April” on the other) that serves as one-third of the base of my family’s perpetual calendar and move it all the way to the back of the line.

The last thing I do before retiring each night is change the date on that brilliantly simple, simply brilliant six-piece contraption. An utterly uncomplicated yet ingenious device I picked up for under $10 Canadian dollars on a trip to Nova Scotia some years ago, it consists of a small, decorative wooden frame (mine has a frog painted atop it), three tiny, thin, four-sided wooden bars, and two cubes that sit atop them. One of the six-sided blocks features one of the numbers from zero through five on each of its faces; the other’s sides sport zero through two and seven thru nine.

But what about the six? Ahhh, here’s where the ingenuity comes in! The face of the block bearing the numeral 9, when rotated 180 degrees, clearly displays the digit which, at first glance, seems to be missing from the collection.

I liked my fully functioning froggie calendar so much that, on a subsequent trip to New Brunswick, I purchased a second such item, one with a butterfly as its backdrop. It cost even fewer Canadian dollars than my frog-themed calendar had! I immediately put it to work as the official date-proclaimer on my desk at school.

Manipulating the blocks correctly allows the calendar’s operator to always display the correct date. As for the month, well, that’s for the trio of small pieces of lumber to announce. Each has sides on which are printed the names of four months; in addition to the one referenced earlier, the second bar’s four sides bear the words “May,” “June,” “July,” and “August,” while the third is emblazoned with the names of the final quartet of months.

It’s hard to find fault with this simple yet innovative device. Its only real drawback: its user can’t write down appointments on it, as is the case with more traditional, two-dimensional paper calendars. It’s also incumbent upon the owner to remember the year himself or herself, since no rational person should want their simple calendar’s piece count to jump from six to 10.

Operating a perpetual calendar like mine can be challenging for the dull-witted, or for those who are easily frustrated, like the student who tried numerous times, without success, to make the one on my desk read “October 69.” Too bad for him the six and the nine are in reality the very same block.

Few tangible but inanimate objects give me as much pleasure as my perpetual calendar does. That frog is usually the last thing I see before closing my eyes each night, and the butterfly, which served ably at school, will do so again once current COVID-related restrictions on objects that could conceivably spread disease through being touched by coronavirus-tainted hands have been relaxed.  <