Category Archives: Maine Life

In the Air There’s a Spirit of… Panic?

I have to tell a little story on myself if only because it is, in retrospect, a bit funny. The experience also serves as evidence of the mind’s ability to process information quickly. Quickly is not the same as accurately.

I was shopping in Staples. Office supply stores are a personal weakness and I often allow myself some wandering time by rationalizing that there’s probably something I need that I’m going to forget. I was near the front of the store, noting there was already some Christmas spirit in the air.

Noticing things is important. I’ve always prided myself on being “situationally aware” — a skill that’s helped me avoid trouble on more than one occasion. In addition to the Christmas spirit, I noticed another shopper  standing about six feet away. She seemed distracted and was gazing about the area.

Suddenly a dot of light appeared in the center of her chest. Just as quickly it disappeared. But in what must have been a second or two I saw it re-appear, moving from the left back to the center of her chest. It was like a scene in a movie.

For a split second I considered yelling, “Gun!” and tackling her to the floor.

Except there was no gun.

A quick look around yielded no shooter but did reveal more dots, some on me. And they weren’t just red. Some were green!

So it turns out there was actually a laser light attached to the ceiling of the store. Similar to the disco balls that were popular a few years ago, it was rotating and sending random dots of red and green light throughout the front of the store’s featured gift area. The intent was, of course, to contribute to the holiday spirit and not to create momentary panic for those familiar with laser gun sights.silhouette-114436_1280

Since I try to find lessons in life events, I’ve replayed this several times in my mind. But instead of finding a moral in the story I tend to get chuckling over the prospect of how it might have turned out if I had reacted by leaping forward and tackling my fellow shopper. I’m sure it would have frightened her at first. So one version of the story has us both getting back up laughing.  But another considers the panic that could have resulted, not to mention someone deciding I needed a psychological evaluation.

We think of  “situational awareness” as being attuned to our environment–sensitive to what is taking place around us. But it also includes a need to be aware of how we are responding to the events and conditions going on around us. Overreacting may be as dangerous as not noticing.

 

New Course Available Soon!

Substitute teacher class “alumni,” school employees and volunteers take note!

Maine is ranked fourteenth in the United States for deaths by suicide. Suicide in Maine occurs 7-9 times more often than homicide. The State averages 196 deaths by suicide each year; in 2009 alone, 2,800 high school students and 4,000 adults attempted suicide while 6,700 high school students and 27,000 adults considered suicide.

In part for those reasons, the Maine Legislature passed LD 609 several years ago. The bill, simply stated, requires every employee of all school systems to receive one to two hours of Suicide Awareness Training.  “Every employee” means anyone who receives a paycheck and includes substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians—in fact, it is strongly recommended school volunteers receive the training as well. The training must follow research-based national guidelines.

For the past year, I have been working towards and am now fully qualified to conduct this training. I have completed the NAMI Adult Mental Health First Aid Specialist Training, Youth First Aid Provider Training, Gatekeeper Training, and Train the Trainer training—more than was required to qualify. I did so in part for the very same reasons the Maine Legislature enacted this requirement.

From 2007 through 2011 there were 116 youth (under age 25) suicides in Maine. Of those, 49 were between the ages of 10 and 19. During my training, I learned that the youngest confirmed suicide in Maine last year was an eight-year-old girl—that is almost unimaginable to most people. Those of us who work and play with these kids have a special opportunity to prevent these tragedies.

Hotline NumbersThe workshop will last about two hours and is truly designed for anyone—not just school employees–although the focus will be on youth. The first step in suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of risk factors. The program will also provide an understanding of basic prevention strategies and help attendees become more confident in the some of the basic steps they can take to assist others who may be troubled. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Attendees will also receive printed resources and information. Training is offered in conjunction with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine.

PVAEC (Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative) has already agreed to sponsor the workshop during the winter/spring semester. The program will likely be offered in other adult education programs throughout the area. (Check back for dates!) Also, if any schools or organizations are interested in a program at your location, please let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Suicide Prevention is up to all of us.

Your Chance to Help…

puzzle_pieces_community_400_clr_6966“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

–Dorothy Day

This page is meant to provide information and an opportunity for those who would like to provide some financial support to the Ginn/Gebo children. If you know of additional opportunities or needs that should be posted here, please let me know. Please share the link to this page so those who want to help these kids can!

A GoFundMe Account has been established called Gebo Children’s School Fund. “We all know the cost of raising children today and though the children’s’ lives will never be the same without their mother… friends want to be sure both children can grow up as normally as possible and have the opportunity for a good life and a future education.  Please help make that happen.”

An account to benefit the kids has also been established at Maine Highlands Credit Union.

One major local fundraiser is the 61 Day Raffle–many prizes have been donated. Tickets are $5 and can be ordered by mail.  Continue reading Your Chance to Help…

What’s in the gift you give?

How much of you is in your gift?
How much of you is in your gift?

For a few months last spring, you might have seen me sporting one of those bracelets made from rubber bands. They are rather colorful and were quite the rage for a while. I came by mine as a gift from a fourth grader. There was no occasion and very little fanfare. It seemed like she just wanted me to have it for no other reason than that. I wore it constantly for a few months. Unfortunately, ultraviolet light does a number on rubber bands and it ultimately disintegrated.

Not so the handmade envelope that is pinned to the bulletin board in the kitchen. It was a gift from a kindergartener following an indoor recess due to rain. I guess her idea of a “good time” was making something for Mr. Boomsma. I suspect she had some help with the envelope, but the drawing rolled up inside is clearly her own work. It is festooned with flowers and stick figures beneath a bright sun.

I am hesitant to attempt an explanation of what makes these gifts special, but a word that comes to mind is “sharing.” We most often associate the word “giving” with gifts. But I suspect the best gifts include an element of sharing.  How different it would be to be handed something with the explanation, “I  want to share this with you.”  Neither gift was what one might consider costly–and neither child was forced to line up in front of a store for hours to get the best deal. Perhaps even better, they didn’t need to compete with other children over limited quantities to capture my gifts. Yet how I treasure these simple gifts. There is much to be said for giving (sharing) of oneself.

Angila Peters shares much of herself on her blog called “Detached from Logic.” She encourages us to abandon logic so we can “just be who you are.” In what must surely be a strange irony, much of what she proposes is, in fact, quite logical. You have got to read a recent post called American Girl versus Third World Girl. “Black Friday” may be over, but it’s not too late–you should read this before you buy one more Christmas present. I’d like to tell you more, but I’m afraid of being called a spoiler. I will tell you that I think she’s really onto something.  You just may find yourself re-thinking some of your Christmas list purchases.

As a bit of an eclectic, I’m not given to having favorites. If I was, one of my favorite tunes would be “Simple Gifts.” I love the tune for its simplicity. It was written in Maine by Joseph Brackett in 1848. It’s actually considered a Shaker dance song, but could be a Christmas Carol. Brackett also wrote simple lyrics:

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Simple gifts, simple tune, simple lyrics and yet so much think about. “Just be who you are”–a simple gift we can give ourselves so we find ourselves “in the place just right.” And how simple it can be to share ourselves “in the valley of love and delight.”

An unknown writer added several verses:

Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all
Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls
And with it we will truly believe
Tis better to give than it is to receive.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Raising Voices and Lifting Spirits

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Lifting their voices in celebration. (Photo from 2013 Concert)

Note that due to hazardous travelling conditions, there is no school today (December 10) for S.A.D. 4 and the Winter Concert is postponed until Monday, December 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the PCESS Gym!

In what has become an annual community tradition, Piscataquis Community Elementary students from kindergarten through grade six will raise their voices and instruments for parents and friends at their annual winter concert on Wednesday, December 10  Monday, December 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the Piscataquis Community Secondary School Gymnasium. Under the direction of music teacher Michelle Briggs and physical education teacher Sheryl Allen, the program involves over 300 students and serves up a wide diversity of talent and entertainment. Everyone works hard to produce a program that includes something for everyone, young and old.

Classes offer creative presentations that often go beyond the expected and the Sixth Grade Band makes their debut. “We pack a lot of talent into a one hour show,” notes Briggs. “The kids work hard, but we also have fun. The kids really enjoy performing for the community.” Briggs also hinted that there will be a special closing to this year’s show in the form of a specially choreographed piece featuring fourth graders. Students and attendees are encouraged to wear “fun festive accessories such as ties, hats and hair pieces” to contribute to the spirit of celebration.

PCES (12)SM
Lifting their drawings as well as their voices. (Photo from 2013 Concert.)

One local resident who rarely misses a concert points out, “These are the kinds of events that put the ‘community’ in Piscataquis Community Elementary School. They are today’s version of a ‘Norman Rockwell Moment’ – a picture perfect evening of friends and neighbors gathering together for simple and traditional pleasure.”

The snow date for the concert is Monday, December 15. Updates and additional information will be available on the M.S.A.D. 4 website and Facebook Page. There will be an audio live stream available on the district website for those who cannot attend.