Finding Balance

Do you remember walking the balance beam in elementary school? While the beam was only inches off the ground, it was daunting for some, more than others. The students who were able to walk the length of the beam were able to focus on the task at hand and concentrate.

Could genetics be in play, here? It’s possible.

A person’s balance is enhanced by three things: the part of the inner ear called the vestibular system; sensory nerves in your muscles, tendons, and joints; and your eyesight. People with better balance are likely able to coordinate these three things. Balance is likely a combination of genetics and also training.

I’ve never been very good on a skateboard. I also wear glasses, so it’s possible my balancing abilities are negatively impacted by my eyesight.

I was never very good on a skateboard.

I was never very good on a skateboard.

I have part-time work where I spend some of my week with seniors. I’ve become keenly aware that as we age, we are more prone to diseases that affect our vision—like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. Then, there are those that affect our feet and legs, along with vestibular degeneration.

There are other physical issues that are problematic, too.

Are you sitting around all day? Americans are more sedentary than ever. Get up periodically—stand up, move, and stretch. This article is worth reading—with some great tips that I’ve incorporated into my work day. Could you make them part of your daily routine?

I follow the news and try to stay current on what’s happening around me. Sometimes, I have to switch off the idiot box, however. There’s only so much negativity that I can take and without becoming a downer. Actually, I don’t get much of my current events programming via the television. Radio news and the internet can be just as bad. Don’t be an ideological crank.

How adept are you at maintaining some separation from drama and controversy? Probably not as skilled as you ought to be.

Turn off the television, close your laptop, get out of your chair, stand on one leg, and admire something in nature today. That would be a great first step towards bringing some balance into your life.

Another Mill Closes

WCSH-6 ran the following graphic, on Maine’s mill workforce between 1960 and the present. I saw it flash across the screen during their 5:00 a.m. newscast this morning before heading out for my morning swim at the Y.

The graphic and story looks like it was produced by the NBC affiliate in Bangor, WLBZ-2. The feature was a telling one and I grabbed the screenshot, representing the shedding of paper mill jobs, from their website, just so I’d have it.

The demise of papermaking in Maine; 1960-2015. (WCSH-6)

The demise of papermaking in Maine; 1960-2015. (WCSH-6)

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Fall is for Fairs

Maine has a rich history of fairs and festivals celebrating agriculture. The state’s fair season kicks off in July, and wraps up in October. The grand finale of yearly agricultural fairs happens to be the Fryeburg Fair—fitting, since it’s the state’s largest, and the one many consider to be the showcase Ag fair—it runs the first full week in October.

I know that for many, their fair experience favors the heat of mid-summer. For me, I’ve always liked the crispness associated with fall’s arrival. As a result, my fair-going is oriented towards the latter end of the fair calendar. On Saturday, Mary and I were off to the fair.

Now in its 39th year, the three-day Common Ground Country Fair in Unity is considered the state’s pre-eminent fair celebrating organic farming, and a self-reliant rural lifestyle. In many ways, the fair, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)—the fair’s sponsoring organization—were seeded by back-to-landers who descended on the state in the early-1970s.

The Common Ground Fair began with the intent of bringing back the old-time country fair. That means no midway for rides that you’ll find at many other Maine fairs. Also, there’s no horseracing, alcohol sales, and a dearth of booths selling mass-produced trinkets.

Founders began the fair at the Litchfield Fairgrounds with a goal of drawing 10,000 people and finishing with a net of $10,000. They accomplished both goals that first year, back in 1977. Much of that original vision continues, nearly four decades later.

Of course, times change and nothing stays the same. There are those who grouse about the fair having “sold out.” Now, upwards of 60,000 people descend on tiny Unity, Maine over three days. While rural life and local agriculture are still celebrated, the fair is now more of an “event” than ever before. The “hippy,” or counter-cultural flavor, while still present, isn’t as prevalent.

The "official" MOFGA vehicle (note the WERU bumper sticker).

The “official” MOFGA vehicle (note the WERU bumper sticker).

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Papal Edict

I’m going to stay with the topical for this week’s Friday blog selection. Given that the big news this week is centered on the pope’s visit to the U.S., I’m throwing-in with that one for today.

There is the adage that religion and politics are deal-breakers for winning friends and influencing people, or something similar. Yet, both find their way into conversations, and they sure have hijacked our current news cycle. I think there’s a reason behind that, and I’ll spend some space delving into that aspect of “Pope Francis Goes to Washington.”

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

Did you know that Francis is only the fourth pope ever to visit our country? In fact, we were 189-years-old as a nation before Pope Paul VI dropped by in 1965. Since then, it was John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and now, Francis. Actually, Pope John Paul II was a regular visitor, coming back for visits in 1984, 1987, 1993, 1995, and 1999. He always scheduled an audience with the sitting president  when he came calling, too. The presidents visited were Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (twice), and Bill Clinton (three times). Francis is the only pope to ever address the U.S. Congress, however. Continue reading

In Tom We Trust

All anyone needs to know about today’s blog post can be summed up by the following statement and quote: “I love Tommy and you’re right, he’s a WINNER!” That’s from my sister, aka Aunt Tomato, from an email exchange we had about our weekends, when I mentioned the New England Patriots and Tom Brady’s Sunday performance.

I had mentioned to her that I spent Sunday afternoon painting some trim work around the windows of our house. Since it is now football season and I seem to be morphing into a football fan, I decided to tune in the Patriots Radio Network on my portable radio.

Actually, there are only a few reasons why I’ve chosen to follow football again this fall. The Patriots, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. The latter one is probably the biggest one.

Throw, Tommy, throw! Brady completing pass vs. Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Throw, Tommy, throw! Brady completing pass vs. Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

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The Way We Talk

Communication fascinates me. Speaking well delivers advantages to the speaker. Good to great speakers are often in demand.

We are living during a time when the speed of communication has accelerated exponentially. We’re awash in information. Most people are struggling to render heads or tails from the onslaught. Speaking (and writing) clearly about your subject can help diminish confusion.

For the past decade, I’ve been actively engaged in helping to create messaging about a diverse array of topics, from workforce and economic development, to aging in place, and of course, my own publishing ventures. I’ve learned to be intentional about the information I’ve been tasked to develop and disseminate. My experience regularly reminds me about the power of words, and how they’re arranged in order to make points.

Interestingly, just this week, I stumbled across an older article that I remember reading when it initially ran in The New Yorker, back in 2001, 14 years ago. It was about PowerPoint, as a communications tool.

PowerPoint corrupts, and absolute PowerPoint corrupts, absolutely.

PowerPoint corrupts, and absolute PowerPoint corrupts, absolutely.

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Bernie and the Bible

Say what you want about Bernie Sanders, he’s determined to get his message out to a wide swath of Americans, even evangelical Xians. What, you mean that Hillary Clinton isn’t courting the vote of Bible-believing types? The answer would be a resounding, “no!” But I don’t want to talk about Hillary today (or any other day, really).

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

On Monday, the socialist Sanders was on the campus founded by Moral Majority leader, Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s the guy that said this about terrorists and also, Larry Flynt had this to say about Falwell and his mother. I’m not sure how either is related, exactly. I do know that any progressive Democrat campaigning for president must assume that they’re not going to carry the evangelical voting bloc, so most don’t bother to address it, period. So kudos to the socialist, running as a Democrat! Continue reading

Making a Clean Shift

Six weeks ago, I decided to make a change in how I was eating. When you live with another person, it’s helpful when they also validate your choice, and go along with it. Mary and I are both more than six weeks into what we’re calling “clean eating.” Others knowledgeable in our new lifestyle choice might refer to it as paleo.

It really doesn’t matter what you call it. Both of us feel better, have lost weight, and more important—we’ve eliminated so much junk and crap from our diets that it’s hard to believe we didn’t both adopt this earlier.

We’re both active people. Swimming, biking, running all require a good energy source and fuel for our bodies. Add to that the demands of work and the 21st century lifestyle—one that seems intent on killing us all—and changing things up becomes all the more apparent, at least in hindsight. We’re both amazed that it took us so long to get here.

Actually, I’m not unaware of the paleo lifestyle. Both Mary and I know enough people that are living it. Several friends and family members that are into CrossFit have been adherents of paleo. Our sports medicine doctor has hinted to both Mary and I that making dietary changes, especially given some of the inflammation and sports-related issues Mary and I have both been battling, might be a wise choice.

Paleo made a flash on America’s constantly-changing radar of new fads and dietary choices a few years back. Like most everything else, it was gone, and Americans were off searching for their next flavor-of-the-month. Continue reading

Making Time to Slow Down

My mother, Saint Helen of Immaculata, had a saying that I heard ad infinitum growing up—that saying was, “haste makes waste.” I’m not sure where she picked that one up and I’m guessing it wasn’t one I imagined I’d come back to—but I did, especially after acquiring some life experience.

Quality takes time. There are other idioms like, “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” I remember that one being part of St. Helen’s repertoire, also.

I’m finding that the things that have acquired staying power in my own life are things that haven’t happened overnight. Writing, health awareness, cultivating skills that never go out of season, these things take time.

I’ve written about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule. It’s about putting the time in and recognizing there’s a commitment to the long haul.

Unfortunately, much of our culture runs contrary to that. We want fast. We demand convenience. We’re impatient when we don’t win $1,000,000.00 in the lottery.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

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Party Talk

I’m going to a party tonight. The only reason I got invited is because of Miss Mary. I don’t get asked out much at all these days. More often than not, I’m just “Mary’s husband,” or possibly “Mr. B.” I’m okay with that.

With old acquaintances disappeared, I realize it’s probably as good a time as any to add some new names to my black book of contacts. Yeah, let’s make that a goal for the fall and winter—meeting some new people.

Meeting new people inevitably means getting the “what do you do?” treatment. It’s that age-old question all Americans have been socialized to ask. Work and job type still serve as a kind of societal litmus test. Or maybe, it’s just that way with people over a certain age. Do millennials care about anything other than their smartphones and Tinder-type apps? Oh, right—Tinder is so yesterday with these whiz kids and hooking up. Continue reading