Category Archives: Maine Life

Mr. Boomsma’s Brag Book

When I started my own consulting business many years ago, a colleague and mentor encouraged me to start what he called a “God Shelf.” It could, of course, be called a “trophy case” or “wall of fame.” As I recall, his explanation was, in part, “You’re going to need to learn to treasure the awards and certificates you receive. Since you’re working for yourself, you’ll probably won’t get ’employee of the month’ awards from your company.”

He was right–and I’ll never forget the story he told of an award he received in the mail. He made it into an event by going out to dinner with his wife and having her present it to him over coffee.

Maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I do think we should enjoy the recognition we receive.

As many know, in addition to substitute teaching, I volunteer at our elementary school with the kids. A few years ago I agreed to assume responsibility for publishing the yearbook through my little publishing company, Abbot Village Press.

A lot of folks express surprise that an elementary school has a yearbook, but we think it makes sense. In a way, it’s the kids’ brag book. It helps create a sense of community and school spirit. We involve the kids in its design and production with things like a contest for the cover design. We even have a yearbook team of sixth graders.

But truth be told, my primary motivation is that it provides another excuse for me to work, play, and learn with the kids.

At the end of the school year, the kids always surprise me with some sort of recognition. Last year I was presented with a basketful of thank-you notes–one from just about every kid at school (nearly 300), kindergarten through sixth grade. What makes them really cool is they are personal. Each kid tried to find something specific to thank me for–and I can tell you that in many cases they appreciate things I don’t remember doing! The basket sits next to my desk and if I’m ever feeling discouraged or down, I grab a few and re-read them.

This year’s surprise was an extra page in the yearbook, designed by the yearbook team with the help of Mrs. Daniels, our art teacher and my “partner” in getting the yearbook published. I’ve shared the page with a few friends–they’ve encouraged me to make it public.

Thanks, kids… for another page in my brag book and for being so much fun to work, play, and learn with.

Substance Abuse Text Helpline Available

The following information is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, Representative of Maine District 119.


The Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with 2-1-1 Maine and the United Ways of Maine, recently unveiled a new texting service in an effort to facilitate communications for those seeking access to opioid treatment services.

When you text your zip code to 898-211, a Maine-based information specialist will be notified that a new transaction has been received.  The person requesting assistance will receive an automated “Thank you for contacting 2-1-1” response and can immediately begin their dialogue with the trained and friendly specialist.

Initially, the text line will be available from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.  If an individual is in need of assistance outside of those hours, they will receive a text response encouraging them to dial 2-1-1 and speak with an information specialist.  DHHS launched the 24/7 Opiate Helpline in April of 2016 through a contract with 2-1-1 Maine with a focus on pregnant women and young mothers seeking treatment.

In a recent study, Millennials expressed more interest in texting compared to calls, because texting is a less invasive form of communication.

This will also help address a concern voiced by some seeking treatment—the stigma attached to substance use disorder.  With the attention surrounding the opioid epidemic facing our state, many people are intimidated by the idea of participating in an open dialogue about their treatment needs over the phone.

Providing this service furthers the Department’s efforts to offer a more comprehensive, accessible approach for those seeking treatment.

2-1-1 Maine is a free resource providing an easy confidential way to connect people to information about thousands of health and human services around Maine.  2-1-1 Maine is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone and online, and available via text from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.  People can access information and resources in their area by dialing 2-1-1 and talking with a trained and friendly specialist, by texting their ZIP code to 898-211, or by searching the online directory at www.211maine.org.

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…