Tag Archives: holidays

Memorial Day 2016

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!

Thomas William Parsons

A dismal day for parades and celebrations, but perhaps in another way ironically appropriate. Certainly those we remember faced far greater difficulties than we do as we face this day. Let us remember…

Memorial Day

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year—maybe not!

frustrated_at_my_desk_400_clr_8478It may seem counter-intuitive, but for many people the holiday season is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. There are many reasons why a person might experience the “holiday blues” and it’s an especially difficult time of the year for those who suffer from clinical depression. Feeling “down” during the holidays can be especially trying because there’s the sense that everyone else is feeling merry.

Regular readers know that I’ve spent the past year becoming gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health First Aid Specialist for both youth and adults. I did this in a large part so I could offer the training required to bring folks into compliance with the recent law (LD 609) that requires all Maine school employees to receive basic suicide prevention education.*

One of the things I learned during my training was that Facebook has a system in place that allows users to report posts that reflect bullying or the potential for self-harm. This was, it seemed to me, a fairly well-kept secret. I intend to include it in any training I offer and, hopefully, “spread the word.”

So this morning, I decided to “vet” the process before I shared it with you. I have good news and bad news. The good news is most social media platforms have taken suicide prevent seriously. The bad news is that, true to form, Facebook has changed the methodology several times since introducing it several years ago. While it’s still relatively easy to report, it’s not exactly intuitive.

If you see a post that raises some concerns (examples would be hopelessness, despair, obsessive thoughts about death) on Facebook, you may click the down arrow at the top right of that post. Next click on the drop down menu “report photo (or post).” On the next drop down, click “I think it shouldn’t be…” On the next drop down, click “Something else.” This will finally take you to the option of reporting the potential for self-harm. These steps “worked” as of this morning, December 2, 2015.

Personally, I think it should be easier. Frankly, I also have some concerns about whether or not it truly generates action. On unrelated issues I’ve found Facebook less than responsive. Supposedly a “team of experts” will immediately take action and reach out to the poster with an offer to chat, resources, etc.

I’d therefore encourage anyone who sees a post that creates concern to reach out personally with an offer to talk and listen, encouraging the poster to call a hotline. This might sound scary, but compassion and caring are all that are required to intervene—you do not have to be an “expert.”

An important resource is the Facebook Help Center—the link is https://www.facebook.com/help/594991777257121/ and it’s worth visiting before you need it. This link should take you directly to the safety resources page covering suicide prevention, bullying, etc.

Another resource can be found at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/online.aspx where you’ll find links to methods for other social media such as Twitter, YouTube, etc.

Information and course dates will be posted soon. The two-hour program is designed to raise awareness about suicide risk factors and warning signs and to provide information on what steps to take if suicide is suspected. While focused on students and youth, the information and skills learned are appropriate for use with anyone who might be feeling suicidal, no matter what their age.

Hotline Numbers

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Happy Holiday Wishes!

Again this year, I have watched the debates rage regarding what phrases we should use when greeting each other. It is interesting that folks enter the debate from so many different perspectives. Some are worried about political correctness, some worried about theological implications, some worried about the social aspect.

But words are ultimately just words. We can, of course, talk about connotations and entomology, but ultimately it is the listener who gives meaning to what is read and said. So please understand, my choice of headline is not a political, theological, or social commentary. The reality is there are at least two holidays approaching–Christmas (with it’s many variations) and New Year’s Day. Therefore, it would seem wishing folks “happy holidays” is fairly accurate from a communications perspective–unless you choose to see it some other way.

And my headline choice doesn’t mean you can’t have a “Merry Christmas” (or some version of it). There are no hidden agendas or meanings in my greeting of choice. Well, maybe there is one.

Of late, as a society we are placing an extremely high value on diversity–one reason the “Happy Holidays” greeting is gaining in popularity. But when we obsess on encouraging diversity we omit half of the formula. Diversity requires tolerance.

A seasonal example might be found in snowflakes. Supposedly there are no two alike–how’s that for diversity?! When they bond together they create beauty and, in some cases, inconvenience and danger. But they don’t fight about it. There aren’t “bad” snowflakes and “good” snowflakes. There are just snowflakes. What can we learn from those snowflakes? What can we accomplish when we bond together in spite of our differences?

Perhaps the hidden meaning in this wish is that you enjoy the diversity and experience the tolerance that our unique design requires. We are, after all, just people trying to make our way through life as happily (or merrily) as possible. Let’s enjoy the trip!

snowflake_custom_card

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This is important…

Bethanie and I preparing for Memorial Day

Bethanie and I preparing for Memorial Day

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

L. M. Montgomery

For me, Memorial Day is always a day of reflection and tradition. Unfortunately, one tradition has been lost because of distance. And yet it has not been lost because of memory.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories center on this day. I remember multiple trips to the cemetery with my father. We would retrieve the flag holder from his father’s grave for wire brushing and a fresh coat of paint before the new flags were placed. I felt a special sense of pride that Grandfather had two flags–British and American, although I didn’t fully understand why at the time.

Of course there was grass to trim and flowers to plant. We also had to go to the Legion Hall because there were rifles to clean and ready. Dad led the honor guard and he strove for perfection. To this day, I long to hear “one shot” when the volley is fired. And after all these years, I consider myself fortunate that I can still remember those days when the whole town turned out to follow the parade. I wish we still did that.

Dad served in the Navy, stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. I believe he strove for perfection because it a way of honoring and remembering those who didn’t come home. In the too few years he and I had together he taught me many things. On Memorial Day I learned “This is important.”

I was five when my Dad was laid to rest next to his father. When old enough I accepted the responsibility for maintaining the family plot. For a while I was able to share it with my daughter Bethanie.

Abbot Memorial Day 2012

Abbot Memorial Day 2012 “This is important.”

Time has passed. Life has happened. And while I miss actually making those preparations I am pleased they are not lost.

Today is a day for remembering and there is much to remember. I’ll be at our town parade. Most of these parades get a little shorter every year. The news reports that one town in Massachusetts will not have a parade, “There aren’t enough veterans.” But in my mind I’ll see an endless line of veterans marching. They are not lost. I’ll probably get a lump in my throat when taps are played.  But I’ll smile when I remember that the term “taps”   originates from the Dutch term taptoe, meaning “close the beer taps and send the troops back to camp.”

Remembering and reflecting does not have to be about loss. “Nothing is ever really lost as long as we remember it.”

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

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It’s that time of year!

The holidays are a great time to say “thank you!” I’ve enjoyed your confidence and friendship this past year and it is satisfying to know that a lot of people have achieved success as a result of our work together. As we near the start of a new year, this is also a great time to look back and ahead with an annual update.

You’ll recall last year I announced my intention to increase the emphasis on the training and education aspects of my work. I also announced that I would be substitute teaching kindergarten through grade six at Piscataquis Community Elementary School.

A few weeks ago a fourth grader came to “my” classroom to visit after a day of subbing. In the course of chatting he informed me that “pre-k and kindergarten” were the best years of his life. When I asked why he replied “Because there wasn’t really that much I had to do…” I managed not to chuckle.

I suppose it could be considered cool that at nine or ten years old (going on forty) he’s figured out what’s important to him, but I really want to tell him “the best is yet to come.” At least that’s been true for me—while my life has been good, I can’t recall a period of time that was more fun and more satisfying than these years I am now living.

A big achievement this past year was the release of my book, Small People—Big Brains: stories about simplicity, exploration and wonder. In the obligatory about the author section, I noted, “I’ve effectively started a new career as a substitute elementary school teacher. The kids haven’t run out of things to teach me. They may be small people, but they really do have big brains.”

In support of the book and my future direction, this year I created “Abbot Village Press,” with the idea that we’ll be “Maine’s number one publisher in Maine’s number one town” by publishing books and blogs with purpose. Several publishing projects come to mind and I suspect there will be a volume two of Small People—Big Brains. Perhaps I should issue a warning: “I’m a writer. Anything you do or say may be used in a future article or book.”

I have, of course, continued to offer real estate courses in association with the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate. Class enrollments continue to climb. This may well reflect a growing confidence in the future of real estate. While it’s not a focus, I also continue my affiliation with Mallett Real Estate and work with select clients on a somewhat limited basis. Do not hesitate to contact me if you are going to be involved in a real estate transaction as a buyer or seller.

This past fall, the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative invited me to develop and teach one day classes for others who want to substitute teach! The class was offered in Milo and Guilford and we will be repeating it in January in Dover Foxcroft and Dexter. RSU 19 Adult Education (Nokomis) has asked me to offer several courses. I’m also having a lot of fun helping out with the Piscataquis Secondary School Pirate Specials Program designed to connect middle and high school kids with community resources and individuals who will help them explore career options.

One of the stories that didn’t make it into the book happened a few years ago when a second grader became exasperated with me and said, “Mr. Boomsma, you need to focus.” It helps if you picture her with hands on the sides of her face mimicking the blinders horses wear. At the time, I thought I was very busy. She rightly recognized I wasn’t busy. I just wasn’t doing such a good job of handling multiple priorities. (You can read the entire story on this site.)

Unfortunately, I’ve lost a cartoon I had that showed a fish climbing out of a lake and saying to an animal standing on the shore, “Outta my way, pal. I’m evolving.” I’d like to think that while these are some very good years, the best is yet to come. I’m evolving!

Thanks for your confidence and support. Have a meaningful holiday and a new year filled with health, happiness, and prosperity — make these the best years of your life! Evolve!

Merry Christmas,
Signature

(aka “Mr. Boomsma”)

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