Let’s honor… who and what?

A Normandy Cemetery

Memorial Day–a day that triggers different thoughts and feelings. Also, a day that, hopefully, gives us pause and at least some moments of reflection. For a while this year, I thought an added feature would be a day of argument.

There are some folks who want to clarify the purposes of holidays–they are most noticeable on social media, often posted as a meme (a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea). I saw one this morning suggesting we should understand there are three related holidays:

  1. Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) to pay tribute to those serving.
  2. Memorial Day (fourth Monday in May) to pay tribute to who died in active military service.
  3. Veterans’ Day (November 11) to pay tribute to those have served in the Armed Forces.

So it becomes arguable that there are three different days for three different populations. And the minute something becomes arguable, folks on Facebook are on it.

I value accuracy, but I’m not joining the debate.

I heard a conversation during which one person pointed out that Memorial Day was not a day to thank those currently serving. His listener replied, “Is it possible to thank those who have served or are serving too much?”

I don’t think so.

As a child, I remember visiting my Grandfather’s grave with my Dad this time of year. There were actually several trips involved as the flag holder was cleaned and painted, the stone cleaned, flowers planted… and we were often not alone as others performed similar tasks in anticipation of parades and visits to honor and remember. No one pointed out that Grandfather did not die in active military service and then suggest it was not appropriate to honor him on Memorial Day. I’m not sure if it was because the memories were fresher or because we just didn’t argue so much back then.

George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Perhaps that is where we might stand this Memorial Day, recognizing and honoring the lives of those who served and died, who served and lived, and those who are serving are lives to be honored and not forgotten.

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.

Don’t Panic: Get the Facts…

Today at school, I was asked about “Blue Whale” — an alleged social media phenomena that is supposedly “going viral” and encouraging teens to commit suicide. Since I am teaching a Suicide Prevention Workshop tonight I thought I’d better do some quick checking in case it comes up.

One thing for certain, the media is having a field day with it. Many of the headlines and claims in the articles being published turn out to be “unproven.”  There is general agreement an “ap” (game) originated in Russia that encourages “vulnerable” teens to engage in a series of tasks (like cutting) and allegedly ends with them taking their own life.  The word “vulnerable” is very important in that sentence.

A game will not “cause” someone to commit suicide. Certainly, a game such as this is cause for concern, but it is not cause for panic. There actually have been no conclusive links between suicides and the game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–they are known for their accurate reporting, right?

What can happen is that a person already having suicidal thoughts may find a game or group that they perceive shares their thoughts and feelings. The roots of those thoughts and feelings are not caused by joining a group or playing a game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–known for their accuracy!

The energy that will be spent warning people about this “Blue Whale” would be better spent developing a basic understanding of suicide and it’s prevention. Most of the workshops I offer are free and are research-based. We need to understand and focus on protective factors and the fundamental causes. Personally, I believe early intervention is going to be the key to correcting this public health crisis.  When we understand the risk factors and triggers we can recognize the need.

The techniques covered in the workshop are basic and relatively simple. Perhaps not quite as simple as clicking “share” on Facebook, but they are about sharing.

One of the better “fact checking” sites is here, but you might be better served to research the facts regarding suicide and how you can help prevent it. The life you save may belong to someone you love.

Maine Public Offers Workshop for High School Writers

Maine Public and the Maine Writing Project are offering a free two-week workshop for young writers to hone their skills, called Raise Your Voice Workshop. The workshop will provide a forum for seasoned writers and teachers to share their experiences with the students. Participating students will develop writing and multimedia that will be featured on the Raise Your Voice! Web page. It also may be aired on Maine Public Radio. The program will take place from July 24-August 4 at three locations including Baxter Academy for Science and Technology in Portland, Thomas College in Waterville and the University of Maine in Orono from 8:30 AM to Noon each day. To apply, go to mainepublic.org under the Education tab, or contact Education Program Coordinator Dave Boardman at RaiseYourVoice@mainepublic.org or call 423-6934.

Just How Busy Are You, Really?

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

David Allen

Well, that quote got my attention! The article it was in was about productivity–something that’s been weighing on my mind during what is traditionally one of my busiest months of the year. The article also mentioned a recent article in The Atlantic  suggesting that being busy may have become a status symbol.

I’m chuckling at the thought I currently have lots of status.

In a more serious vein, let’s go back to the quote. I think it, like most good quotes, gives rise to a number of thoughts and considerations.

I’ve always believed that there really aren’t time management problems–there are priority issues. Too often we are not conscious of what is getting our attention. I recently emailed someone for some fairly simple information I needed. When I didn’t get a reply, I emailed again. This time I received a fairly lengthy explanation for his failure to reply–he explained that he is extremely busy. What I found most interesting about his reply was that he could have given me the information in the amount of time it took for him to explain how busy he was, but he didn’t. Isn’t that interesting? I can accept that my needs may not be a priority, but I’d like a little honesty.

I think his failure to provide had less to do with how busy he was and more to do with him judging my need didn’t make it to his priority list.

Some time management/productivity gurus suggest managing energy rather than time. I’ve found that’s a great way to justify procrastination. “I don’t have the energy right now, so I’ll do something else.” For that matter, it works the same with time. “I don’t have enough time to do that (even though it’s really important) so I’ll wait until…” It’s certainly not hard to find reasons not to do things!Notice, though, procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying the shifting our priorities.

Notice that procrastination is still about priorities. All we’re really doing is justifying shifting our priorities. That may be okay, but let’s recognize and admit that we’re doing it. We can at least be honest with ourselves.

When we’re less than honest with ourselves–that’s when we end up giving things more attention than they deserve. Anyone who’s ever tried to have an important or urgent conversation with someone who is constantly checking their smartphone and answering text messages knows exactly what I mean. And that’s just an example.

What does have your attention? Is that what’s important to you?

How busy are you, really?

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!