July 19, 2018

Chester Resident Margaret Wilson Honored as a Member of 2018 Class of 60 Over 60

Margaret Wilson of Chester was recently named a member of the 2018 Class of 60 Over 60.

CHESTER — Chester resident Margaret Wilson was recently honored as a member of the 2018 Class of Connecticut’s 60 Over 60. She was celebrated at a reception and ceremony at Duncaster, the Hartford area’s first LifeCare community.  Over 200 people, including family, friends and admirers of the honorees celebrated her accomplishments. The event was sponsored by The University of Hartford’s The Hartt School whose students also provided the music throughout the event.

“We were so honored that almost all of the members of this year’s class were able to attend,” said Duncaster CEO Michael O’Brien.  “We are pleased that, for the second year, we had the honor of showcasing some of the state’s most influential individuals who are age 60 or better.  We are overwhelmed with the contributions each member of the Class of 2018 has made to the world; the people they touch every day and their families.”

“It is truly a pleasure to nominate Margaret Wilson for this recognition. Margaret is Vice President/President-elect of the Resident Board of Masonicare at Chester Village. A woman of many interests and gifts, she unselfishly shares them with the community-at-large,” so begins the nomination of Margaret Wilson by Masonicare’s Executive Director, Annie Hoefferle.

For the past 20 years, Margaret has served as treasurer of the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, which is a state-local compact dedicated to the protection of the 30-mile Lower Connecticut River Valley. She also serves on the town of Chester’s Conservation Commission, is a monthly volunteer at the YMCA’s Camp Hazen in Chester and authors a weekly “Envirotrips” column.

After her retirement, Margaret continued to volunteer on nature and environmental projects at Chester Elementary School where she was a substitute teacher. Her retirement also allowed her to attain her Master Gardener status through UCONN.

Her nominator enthusiastically concludes, “With her passion for the environment and continued love of learning and serving, Margaret is truly deserving of this recognition.”

The search for 60 individuals began in January.  Nominations came in from across Connecticut from people who wanted to honor those who had contributed to their businesses, the arts scene, the local and international nonprofit community and their families.  They were selected by a panel of judges that included three members of the first class of Connecticut’s 60 Over 60: Molly Gavin, President of Connecticut Community Care, Inc.; Kathleen Miller Murphy, Board Member, Simsbury Library and Terry Borjeson, State of Connecticut, Pardons and Paroles Board Member.

The search for the 2019 Class of Connecticut’s 60 Over 60 will begin in January.

For profiles of the members of the 2018 Class of 60 Over 60, go to: duncaster.org/60-over-60-winners.

Editor’s Note:  Duncaster, the Hartford area’s first LifeCare community, is located minutes from West Hartford and Simsbury in Bloomfield CT.  This boutique Life Plan Community sits on 94 acres.  While catering to the active and engaged in independent living neighborhoods, Duncaster also offers options for those seeking assisted living, memory care, long-term care and rehab services (all private) in intimate settings. Duncaster was voted the Best Retirement Community by readers of Hartford Magazine and the Connecticut Law Tribune.  Residents have a role in governance and sit on the board – a rare distinction. For more information, visit http://www.Duncaster.org or call (860) 380-5005.

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Middlesex Hospital Opens Renovated Essex Facility

Middlesex Hospital leaders celebrate the opening of the renovated Shoreline Medical Center. From left to right, Lori Pascarelli, Manager of Occupational Medicine, Jackie Calamari, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Matthew Lundquist, Chief of Occupational Medicine, David Giuffrida, Vice President of Operations, Brian Taber, Physical Rehabilitation Director, Donna Stroneski, Vice President of Human Resources and Robin Copperthwaite, Rehabilitation Supervisor.

ESSEX — Middlesex Hospital has opened its renovated building at 252 Westbrook Road in Essex.

The building was once home to the Shoreline Medical Center, which moved to 252 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook in 2014. On July 10, Middlesex Hospital’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department and its Physical Rehabilitation Department began seeing patients at the renovated facility.

The Physical Rehabilitation Department, which includes the Hospital’s physical and occupational therapy programs, has several offices located throughout Middlesex County. The department’s office at 192 Westbrook Road in Essex is now closed due to the department’s move to the renovated space.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine also moved from 192 Westbrook Road. As such, Middlesex Hospital no longer has any offices located at that address.

When it renovated 252 Westbrook Road, Middlesex installed new exterior wall framing, insulation, siding and a new roof. The inside of the building was rebuilt and includes a new HVAC system, ceiling, lighting, flooring and finishes. By doing this work, Middlesex invested in its facility, in the services it offers and in the Essex community.

“We are so excited to open this renovated facility,” says Middlesex President and CEO Vincent G. Capece, Jr. “This building will give our Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Physical Rehabilitation departments a new home. It will give them the space and resources to continue doing what they do best—caring for our community.”

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Letter to the Editor: Vote for Chester Library to Win Prestigious CT Treasure Award

To the Editor:

With all the differing opinions about whether or not the town of Chester needs a new 8,000 square foot, $7.4 million library, or if a library of this magnitude can be sustained or utilized to its fullest capacity by Chester’s 4,245 residents, one thing is for sure – the Chester Library is a true Connecticut treasure. It has been recognized as such by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIACT) who has nominated the Chester Library for their prestigious Connecticut Treasures Award.

Our library was chosen to represent Middlesex County and we are in great company! Other nominees include New Haven County: Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven; Fairfield County: Pequot Library, Fairfield; Hartford County: Kent Memorial Library, Suffield; Litchfield County: Hotchkiss Memorial Library, Sharon; New London County: Public Library of New London, New London; Tolland County: George Maxwell Memorial Library; and Windham County: North Woodstock Public Library, North Woodstock.

The voting process is a People’s Choice format, and the voting period is from July 9th through the 20th, so please vote for our Middlesex County Connecticut Treasure, the Chester Library, at: https://aiact.org/vote-2018-connecticut-treasures.

Sincerely,

Caryn B. Davis,
Chester.

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Enjoy ‘Music on the Riverboat’ Featuring ‘Basically Blues,’ Friday

‘Music on the Riverboat’ will be held on the Becky Thatcher, pictured above.

Enjoy live music while sailing down the Connecticut River during a gorgeous sunset at Essex Steam Train’s annual summer concert series, Music on the Riverboat. Offering four nights of music on the Becky Thatcher riverboat on select Fridays this summer, this is a fun and unique live music series offering the opportunity to dance the night away in front of a beautiful, natural backdrop.

Pick your favorite act from the schedule or attend all four!

  • July 20 features Basically Blues
  • Aug. 17 is a returning favorite, Rock Solid Alibi
  • the series closes out on Sept. 14, with Seat of our Pants.

Features of the cruise include:

  • Board the train at Essex Station at 6 p.m. for a 6:15 p.m. departure
  • Two-hour cruise down the Connecticut River aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat
  • Bands perform between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Train returns to Essex Station approximately 9 p.m.
  • Food and beverage service are available at the fully stocked bar (No BYOB permitted)
  • Due to the time of day and duration of the cruise, Music on the Riverboat is not recommended for children under 10.
  • $45 per person

The Essex Steam Train is located at 1 Railroad Ave., Essex.  For more information, visit the Essex Steam Train website or contact Pam Amodio at 860.767.0103 or pamodio@essexsteamtrain.com

To reserve tickets, visit this link.

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Tell Me More! Tell Me More! See ‘Grease’ at the Ivoryton Playhouse Through July 29

Danny, played by Johnny Newcomb, and  Sandy (Kimberley Immanuel) are the leads in ‘Grease’ at Ivoryton Playhouse.  Both are members of Equity. Photograph by Anne Hudson.

IVORYTON — Dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and take a trip to a simpler time as Danny and Sandy fall in love all over again at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Opening on July 5, and running through July 29, Grease, by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey,  features all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including “You’re The One That I Want”, “Grease Is The Word”, “Summer Nights”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, “Greased Lightnin’” and many more.

Here is Rydell High’s senior class of 1959: duck-tailed, hot-rodding “Burger Palace Boys” and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking “Pink Ladies” in bobby sox and pedal pushers, evoking the look and sound of the 1950s in this rollicking musical.

Head “greaser” Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their “Summer Nights” as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through such songs as “Greased Lightnin’,” “It’s Raining on Prom Night,” “Alone at the Drive-In Movie” recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation.

The Burger Palace Boys comprising (Kenickie, (Natale Pirrotta*), Roger (Taylor Morrow), Danny (Johnny Newcomb*), Doody (Luke Linsteadt*) and Sonny (Max Weinstein) play a key  role in ‘Grease.’ * denotes member of Equity. Photograph by Anne Hudson.

Grease‘ opened Off-Broadway at the Eden Theatre on Feb. 14, 1972 but was deemed eligible for the 1972 Tony Awards, and received seven Tony Award nominations. The 1994 revival also garnered Tony nominations and the show went on to a successful national tour, featuring local hero Micky Dolenz as Vince Fontaine.

The movie that we all know and love opened 40 years ago and it is a testament to the music and the iconic characters that ‘Grease‘ is still the word today.

The best part of this quintessentially American high school story (aside from the music, of course) is what Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickie, Frenchy and the rest of the Rydell High gang taught us – that the people who really care about you will stay by your side no matter how different you are from one another, and support you just the same whether you’re a pom-pom-wielding goody-two-shoes, a leather-touting T-Bird or a starry-eyed, pink-haired aspiring beautician, who drops out of school months before graduation.

So throw your mittens around your kittens and hand jive the night away with the show that’ll make you want to stand up and shout, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom!

This production stars Johnny Newcomb* as Danny Zuko and Kimberley Immanuel* as Sandy. Johnny made his Broadway debut in The Last Ship and was part of the national tour of American Idiot. He was last seen in Ivoryton as Roger in Rent. This season’s audience may remember Kimberley for her luminous performance as Luisa in The Fantasticks

Other cast members that may be familiar to Ivoryton audiences are Alyssa V. Gomez* (Rizzo), Amy Buckley (Miss Lynch), Cory Candelet (Eugene), Jonny Cortes (Johnny Casino), Taylor Lloyd (Marty), Alexa Racioppi (Patty Simcox) Max Weinstein (Sonny) Amanda Lupacchino, Andee Buccheri, and Nathan Russo. Making their Ivoryton debut are Katelyn Bowman (Frenchy) Lawrence Cummings* (Vince Fontaine/Teen Angel), Luke Linsteadt* (Doody), Taylor Morrow (Roger), Natale Pirrotta* (Kenickie), Shalani Taylor (Cha-Cha), Audrey Wilson (Jan), Jamaal Fields-Green, Jared Starkey and Clementine Wurzbach

The production is directed and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood and musical directed by Michael Morris, with set design by Daniel Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Elizabeth Saylor Cippolina.

Grease opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on July 5 and runs through July 29, 2018. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, July 7, 14 and 28 at 2pm.

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org 

Group rates are available by calling the box office for information. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

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Lyme-Old Lyme Lions Hosts Classic Car Show During Old Lyme’s Midsummer Festival, July 28

This year’s Classic Car Show sponsored by the Lyme-Old Lyme Lions will be held on the grounds of the Bee and Thistle Inn on Saturday, July 28.

The Lyme-Old Lyme Lions Classic Car Show will be held on Saturday, July 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the grounds of the Bee & Thistle Inn, Lyme St, Old Lyme, next to the Florence Griswold Museum, between I-95 Exits 70 and 71.

There will be 14 classes shown as well as a ‘People’s Choice’ award.

Admission is $5 for spectators and $10 for show car registration (includes admission for driver and one passenger).  

The Lions will serve their usual fare, including bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and fries.  All proceeds benefit Lions charities.

To pre-register your car for the event, visit the Car Show Registration at this link. Your $10 registration fee is not due til the day of the show.

The Car Show is now part of the Old Lyme Midsummer Festival, where you will find art exhibitions, music and dance, family fun, and wonderful artisan cheeses and breads.

Directions: From the north, take I-95, exit 71, right onto Four Mile River Road, left onto Route 1 South, which becomes Lyme Street.  You will find the Bee & Thistle Inn on your right. From the south, take I-95, exit 70, go left onto Route 156, take a right onto Halls Road, then a left onto Lyme Street (Route 1, Boston Post Road). the Bee & Thistle Inn will be on your left.

Rain Date: Sunday, July 29.
 
Car owners: arrive by 9 a.m. Flea Market vendors: set up before 9 a.m. 

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Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Offers Saturday Night Sunset Cruises

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers Sunset Cruises aboard the Becky Thatcher every Saturday.

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is offering summertime leisure aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat with Saturday Night Sunset Cruises down the Connecticut River.

Every Saturday evening through Aug. 25, at 6 p.m., guests will enjoy 360-degree views Connecticut’s storybook countryside. For $30 per person, enjoy this sunset riverboat trip from the boat’s dock in Deep River to the Baldwin Bridge and back again – a twilight trip, which includes a 15-minute diesel locomotive ride from Essex Station to the Deep River boat launch, a two-hour cruise on the Connecticut River, and a return train ride.

  • Board the train at Essex Station at 6 p.m. for a 6:15 p.m. departure
  • Two-hour cruise down the Connecticut River on the Becky Thatcher riverboat
  • 9 p.m. return to Essex Station
  • Food and beverage service is available on board at the Snack Bar (no BYOB)
  • Due to the timing and duration of the cruise, the Sunset Cruise is not recommended to children under the age of 10.

The train will return passengers back to Essex Station after enjoying a wonderful sunset experience.

Space is limited.  Visit http://essexsteamtrain.com to purchase your tickets.

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Local Organizations Host Summer Program to Provide Food for Families in Need

TRI-TOWN — Tri-Town Youth Services, Deep River Public Library and Deep River, Chester and Essex Social Service Departments are working together to help local families in need over the summer.  No child should go hungry, and yet many children, who receive free and reduced lunches during the school year, are left without the nutrition they need in the summer.

Beginning Thursday, July 12, families can visit the Deep River Public Library’s Children’s Garden, on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to receive a bag of nutritious food.  Arts and crafts will also be available for the children.

The program sponsors are looking for volunteer help and food donations, especially easy-to-carry, kid-friendly, nutritious lunch and snack items.

Contact Tri-Town Youth Services at 860-526-3600 for more information or to sign up to help.

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Community Music School Launches Summer Rock Camp, July 30-Aug. 3

CENTERBROOK – Community Music School (CMS) has announced the launch of a new summer initiative, Summer Rock Camp.  This new program takes place at Community Music School’s main campus at 90 Main Street in Centerbrook and runs for a weeklong session July 30 through August 3 from 9 am to 12 pm each day. Designed for intermediate to advanced students aged 12 and up who play guitar, bass, drums, woodwinds, brass, or voice.

Directed by CMS Guitar Instructor John Birt, Summer Rock Camp will help students explore popular music on a variety of instruments. Students will gain experience putting together an ensemble and learn how to prepare for a performance.

All instruments are welcome, as well as all styles of music such as classic rock, country, pop, blues, and more.  The camp will end in a live performance at the Centerbrook Meeting House for family and friends on Aug. 3 at 1 pm.

Tuition for this camp is $225 and scholarships are available for families with a financial need.

For additional information and to register, visit www.community-music-school.org/summer or call 860-767-0026.

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 35 year tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities. CMS programs cultivate musical ability and creativity and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.

Learn more at www.community-music-school.org or call (860)767-0026.

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Acton Public Library Hosts Joe Cadena Concert, July 28

Joe Cadena, aka East Chicago Joe, performs at Acton Library, July 28

OLD SAYBROOK — Joe Cadena (aka East Chicago Joe), is a vocalist and guitarist from East Chicago, Indiana. Joe’s career has spanned almost 50 years. During that time, his appreciation for the Great American Songbook (and all things Sinatra & Bennett ) has grown to a deep and abiding love for this music.

Cadena performs the classics, but he does so in his own entertaining and engaging way. Whether it’s Bobby Darin, Sinatra, Bennett, Dino or the many other artists whose songs he performs, Cadena will always leave you with a smile on your face!

This event takes place on Saturday, July 28, from 3 to 4 p.m. It is free and open to all. Registration is strongly suggested as seating is limited. Register at actonlibrary.org or by calling 860-395-3184.

If you have any questions, call the library at 860-395-3184 during service hours of: Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit actonlibrary.org.

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“Brilliant,” Essex Art Association’s Summer Exhibition, on View Through July 21

‘Mom’s Basket’ by Steven Wells is one of the signature paintings of the artist’s solo show in the Gantner Gallery at the Essex Art Association.

ESSEX — The July show at the Essex Art Association (EAA) is an Open Exhibition and welcomes all area artists to submit up to two pieces of artwork for display. This type of show offers the public a viewing experience with a wide spectrum of subjects, styles and mediums.

The show is juried for awards only, with the EAA distributing $1800 in nine categories. In addition, one artist will be awarded a solo exhibit in the EAA Gantner Gallery during the 2019 gallery season. 

The exhibit’s opening reception is Friday, June 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. The show runs June 30  through July 21. The EAA Gallery is located at 10 North Main Street, Essex, CT. Gallery hours are 1-5 pm daily, closed Tuesdays. For more information visit essexartassociation.com or call 860-767-8996.

The exhibit theme “Brilliant” invites artists to share their most ingenious and insightful artwork reflecting expressions of dynamic composition, luminous color or any personal inspiration.

The Gantner Gallery exhibit, “Perspective of Portland, My Home Town,” features the work of Steven Wells of Portland, Conn. Wells has enjoyed portraying familiar and unique perspectives in and around his home town the better part of his life.  This Paier College of Art student, after teaching art classes on and off for a few years, set aside his passion for watercolors to create with a different medium, hammer and nail, having been a professional building contractor for over 40 years.

Throughout his time designing, renovating, and creating homes in and around Portland, Wells never truly “put down the brush” as he would use the winter months to pick up where he left off, pursuing what he enjoys most, which is painting.

His profound ability to capture the essence of life and nature was undoubtedly nurtured by his mother Lois, a tremendous watercolorist of her own. They loved to share creative moments while they worked on their latest pieces.  

Becoming a member of the Essex Art Association and participating in their exhibitions has been a welcoming experience and allowed him to share, through his eyes, the artist behind the hammer.

Exhibition juror, Douglas Deveny is an abstract expressionist who attended the Art Institute of Atlanta and Savannah College of Art and Design. He graduated with a B.S. in Art Education from Southern Connecticut State University – Summa Cum Laude.

Deveny says, “My work is non-objective. I like to explore the complexity in simplicity by use of texture and color. I am intrigued by the beauty of deteriorated surfaces, happenstance and patina. Each painting incorporates a variety of techniques and countless layers of acrylic and mixed media, with a constant accumulation and reduction of materials, until each piece finds its own end.”

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Essex Library Receives $20,000 Gift

The Friends of Essex Library recently presented Library Director Richard Conroy with a $20,000 check.

ESSEX — The Friends of the Essex Library presented a $20,000 check to library Director Richard Conroy at their Annual Meeting held on June 13.  This generous gift was made possible thanks to the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers who put in countless hours organizing book sales, and working on highly successful fund raisers such as the “Festival of Dinner Parties” held in the fall of 2017 and recent tour of “Our Friends Gardens.” 

“Quite simply, the Library could not offer the level of services we provide if it weren’t for the vital financial support we receive from our Friends” said Conroy, who marveled at how vibrant the organization has become over the past few years.  He offered special thanks to outgoing Friends President Jo Kelly for being “the sparkplug” that has kept the group on task during her tenure.  He also mentioned that he looked forward to working with incoming President Suzy Baird. 

In addition to their usual fall and spring book sales the Friends are hard at work planning upcoming fund-raising events such as a Swallow Cruise in September, and Library Mini-Golf in January.  To learn more about the Friends, or how to become one, visit their webpage at: www.youressexlibrary.org/friends/.

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Deep River Congregational Rummage Sale Seeks Donations

DEEP RIVER — The Annual Rummage sale will be held inside at the Deep River Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a Preview Sale on Friday, Aug. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.  
The church is seeking donations for the event beginning June 1.   The following items cannot be accepted:  large furniture, TVs and large appliances, car seats, cribs, books, clothing, shoes, VHS tapes or items that are in disrepair.  
Contact Cathy Smith for more information  at 860-767-1354 or smithcathleen@sbcglobal.net, or Kris, in the church office at 860-526-5045 or office.drcc@snet.net.
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Joint Summer Worship Services Planned Between Ivoryton, Essex Congregational Churches

Combined summer worship services between the Ivoryton Congregational Church and the First Congregational Church in Essex will be held through the summer at the First Congregational Church in Essex at 6 Methodist Hill, Essex at 9 a.m. in the sanctuary.

The joint services will continue through Sept. 9.

All are welcome.

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Letter From Paris: Exhibition Explores Work of American Female Artist in Male World of French Impressionism

Nicole Prévost Logan

“Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was the most French of all American artists,” said art historian Jerome Coignard.  She was the only woman – along with Berthe Morisot – to be recognized by the Impressionist movement and therefore permitted to show her works in their annual Salons. 

A rare photograph of Mary Cassatt — supposedly the only photograph for which she ever posed.

For 40 years she developed a personal and artistic friendship with Edgar Degas, which was somewhat surprising considering Degas was well known for his misogyny.  Her long association with the famous art merchant Paul Durand Ruel, especially after he opened a gallery on Madison Avenue, increased the exposure of impressionism in the US.

The Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris is currently holding a retrospective exhibition of monographs by Mary Cassatt titled, ‘An American Impressionist in Paris.’  It is a long overdue recognition of an artist whose works are found mostly in the US, but who is better known in France.  Jacquemart-André is one of the most elegant art galleries in Paris.  It was built in the 1860s as one of the townhouses of the imperial aristocracy in the “plaine Monceau” (an area of Paris in the 17th arrondissement.)

The property is slightly set back from Boulevard Haussmann, and on the upper level, opens up onto a vast courtyard under the watchful eyes of two stone lions.  The magnificent residence, with its eclectic furniture, boiseries (wood wall paneling), fireplaces and Gobelins tapestries, used to attract thousands of guests from the high society.

In the West Wing of the Metroplitan Museum in New York, paintings by Cassatt are hung in a gallery exclusively reserved for the works of other women.  Cassatt might have been upset by this apparent patronization by critics and art historians toward domestic scenes created by women.  She might have deemed it unfair because painters like Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) or Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) are famous for their paintings inspired by the intimacy of the home. 

Art historian Guillaume Morel comments that the many mother and child scenes painted by Cassatt were, in fact, more feminist than it appears at first.  He writes that she may have found herself endowed with a mission to represent scenes to which men did not have access.  Her “maternity scenes” effectively propelled her into modernism.

La Loge (The Theatre Box) by Mary Cassatt.

At the turn of the 20th century, women were tied to their homes, seemingly leading an indolent existence limited to feminine activities, primarily the care of small children.  They almost never ventured onto the public place – like a café, race track or a prostitute’s haunt.  The subject in “La Loge (The theater box)” (1878) is a departure from this tradition: a self-assured woman is by herself looking through her opera-glasses, and apparently unconcerned by the male spectator staring at her from another balcony.

Even in France, the obstacles inflicted on women artists were enormous: they were neither allowed in the Ecole des Beaux Arts nor were naked models permitted in their art classes.  Women could not copy the grands maitres (Old Masters) in museums like the Louvre.

The special talent of Cassatt was to have overcome these obstacles by taking advantage of her place in the privileged class, traveling extensively and establishing contacts with members of the artistic elite such as Isabella Stewart Gardner (Boston), Alfred Atmore Pope (Connecticut) or Henry Walters (Baltimore.)

From a very young age, she rebelled against the formal teaching offered in the few fine art institutions open to women.  She hated the idea of learning her craft through the use of castings and copies.  She showed an intrepid personality when she told her father she wanted to pursue her artistic education in Europe.  Her father admonished her, saying, “I would rather see you dead.”

And her response to her father’s threat?  She went anyway.

Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh into a well-to-do family.  Her father was an investment banker and her mother was educated in a school created by a former chambermaid of Marie Antoinette.  At the age of seven, she sailed for the first time to Europe with her family.  David McCullough, in his superb book titled The Greater Journey, published in 2011, describes the luxury steamers carrying less than 300 privileged passengers, who could afford the crossing in comfortable accommodations in an “interior richly embellished with satin wood, gilded ceilings … and indoor plumbing.”

The co-curator of the present exhibit held in Paris,  Nancy Mowell Mathews, rejects the expression “woman Impressionist.”  She comments, “Mary Cassatt did not paint differently from other Impressionists.  What she had in common with them was her taste for rough sketches, the unfinished feel of strokes and her daring cadrages (framing of the subject) mostly used in photography or  cinematography.”

‘The little girl in the blue armchair’ was painted in 1878 by Mary Cassatt.

Cassatt’s models – mostly members of her family – do not pose in a stilted attitude, but appear relaxed and natural.  In “The little girl in a blue armchair” (1878), the little girl is literally sprawling on a big, shapeless, overstuffed blue armchair.  And so is the small boy looking at us in the painting called, “Woman sitting with a child in her arms. 

‘The Cup of Tea’ is a classic Impressionist work by Mary Cassatt.

“The Cup of Tea “(1880) is an unsurpassed exercise in Impressionist virtuosity.  Fast brush strokes  and the rejection of details are sufficient to render volumes.   The dramatic contrast between the fluffy, pink dress and the black of the solid armchair creates a strong composition.  In 1879, Cassatt was officially accepted in the Impressionist Salon.  The two following decades marked the summit of her career. 

Although Cassatt painted mostly in oils and pastels, Degas had also detected her exceptional talent as both draughtsman and engraver.  Her eaux-fortes (etchings) constitute a large part of her works, while “La Toilette” and “The letter ” (both dated 1891) show signs of japonism.  The engraving process with a pointe-sèche (dry point) is a painstaking and dangerous process since acid is used.

She was the friend of the most influential American feminists and joined their movement for equality, which had started in the US in 1840.  Toward the end of her life, she increasingly devoted her time to counseling American art collectors.  Among them was her close friend Lousine Hvenmeyer, wife of wealthy sugar baron, who owned more than 2,000 Impressionist works. 

After spending 60 years in France, she died in her estate, the Chateau de Beaufresnes in Le Mesnil Théribus, north west of Paris, although interestingly, she never took French nationality.

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Letter to the Editor: State Rep., Now State Senate Candidate, Ziobron Reviews Recent Activities

To the Editor:

The 2018 legislative session is now behind us. A bipartisan budget was passed that reflects the difficult realities facing Connecticut. This budget begins to address our future in a more realistic and balanced
fashion. We need to stay this course, now more than ever.

This was my sixth legislative session. I’m hopeful that we will continue to bring forward fiscally conservative budget-balancing efforts in the next session and beyond. We cannot revert to the business as usual mindset that has plagued Hartford for decades.  As we transition from spring to summer, my attention is naturally
shifting to my campaign to serve the 12 towns of the 33rd District.

Here’s a recap of recent activities:

Over the last few weeks, I made a point to meet with individuals and businesses in the southern portion of the district, including Essex, Clinton, Westbrook and Old Saybrook. In addition, I have also met with voters at budget referendums in East Hampton, Old Saybrook, Clinton and Portland. The expressed voter concerns — which I share —center on controlling the cost of living and making our state more competitive. I was pleased to hear strong support for my work towards balancing our state budget, reducing wasteful spending and fighting against unnecessary tax increases.

I also visited with the great folks at Petzold’s Marine Center in Portland and joined State Rep. Christie Carpino during office hours at Quarry Ridge Golf Course. Key topics included cutting government red tape and concern about the effort to place tolls on our state highways. I rounded out this tour by highlighting the Airline Trail system with events in Colchester and East Hampton.

For more campaign information please visit my campaign website melissaziobron.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sincerely,

Melissa Ziobron,
State Representative 34th District
East Haddam, East Hampton, Colchester.

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Essex Garden Club Awards Scholarships to Area Students

ESSEX — The Essex Garden Club recently awarded college scholarships to three area students, as follows:

  • Elizabeth Beckman of Ivoryton, a 2018 graduate of Valley Regional High School, will attend the University of New Hampshire to study Environmental Law and Conservation. 
  • Annie Brown of Essex, who attends the University of Vermont, is pursuing a major in Elementary Education with a minor in Environmental Studies.
  • Daniel Taylor of Ivoryton attends Vassar College, where he is majoring in Biology.

The Garden Club is also proud to provide “camperships” to help young children from Essex, Ivoryton and Centerbrook attend local nature camps. This year, funds were given to the Essex Parks and Recreation Summer Program for 25 children to attend their nature and science sessions.  Additional funding was given to the Bushy Hill Nature Center to enable four students to attend their day camp.

The Essex Garden Club sincerely thanks all who support the annual May Market. This is the club’s only fundraising event and the proceeds enable the Club to offer these scholarships each year.

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Ziobron Endorsed Unanimously by Republicans as Candidate for 33rd State Senate District

AREAWIDE — State Representative Melissa Ziobron (R-34) was the unanimous choice for more than 40 Republican delegates at a nominating convention. Delegates from 12 towns gathered at East Haddam’s Old Town Hall on May 14 and enthusiastically endorsed Ziobron for the position.

Nominating Ziobron was current State Senator Art Linares, Jr. (R-33) of Westbrook.

“Melissa has been an incredibly effective representative, both in Hartford and in her district; I am honored to place her name into nomination,” said Linares.

Linda Grzeika of Colchester seconded Linares’s motion, stating that she resides in a part of Colchester not located in Ziobron’s district.

“I’m thrilled that she will finally represent all of Colchester as our state senator,” said Grzeika.

In her acceptance speech, Representative Ziobron promised that she would be a tireless campaigner.

“All of you are going to see a lot of me over the next seven months,” stated Ziobron. “I love the Connecticut River Valley and the shoreline and I can’t wait to be your voice in Hartford.”

Ziobron currently represents the towns of Colchester, East Haddam, and East Hampton. She is currently serving her third, two-year term in the State Legislature.

Linares was first elected in 2010; he is seeking the Republican nomination for state treasurer.

The 33rd District encompasses the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook (part), Portland, and Westbrook.

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Deep River Congregational Church Invites Vendors to Their August Flea Market

DEEP RIVER — The Annual Flea Market will be held at the Deep River Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The Market will be held on the church lawn and on Marvin Field, located on Rte. 154, just as you enter Deep River from the South.  
Spaces are 20 x 20 foot and are available for $30 and can be reserved by contacting Kris in the church office at 860-526-5045 or office.drcc@snet.net as soon as possible since the 80 spaces go quickly.   
Registration forms and a map of the spaces can also be found on our web site, www.deeprivercc.org.
 
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Sing for Joy! Cappella Cantorum Hosts Vocal Camp in Old Saybrook, July 23-27

AREAWIDE — Bring the joy of singing to your summer by attending Cappella Cantorum’s Summer Vocal Camp July 23 to July 27 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Great Hammock Road in Old Saybrook.

Founder of the Salt Marsh Opera and Cappella’s music director Simon Holt and nationally known tenor Brian Cheney will lead instructive sessions on improving singing skills and how to sing in a choral environment.

Physical therapist Bonnie Brenneman will talk on strengthening diaphragm muscles to improve breathing.

Each evening will consist of two workshops – one in vocal production and one in music theory. A short concert will be given by participants at the end of the week. Camp will be limited to 100 singers. Anyone interested in improving their singing from high school students to adults are encouraged to come and perfect their art.

The church is air conditioned. Cost will be $85. For more information or to register, visit CappellaCantorum.org. or e-mail wrspearrin@yahoo.com.

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Acton Public Library Offers Teen Summer Reading Program

Attention readers in Grades 6 to 12!

Join Acton Public Library’s Teen Summer Reading Program by registering with Wandoo Reader on our Library website, to track each book you read this summer. For every book you read, you will have a chance to enter an online weekly raffle for a $10 gift card. And remember, audiobooks count as reading too.

The Summer Reading Program runs from June 15 through August 4.  You can register through the library’s website at actonlibrary.org. This program is free and open to all.

A special program for teens, Snakes of Connecticut, will take place on Wednesday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. Riverside Reptiles is bringing eight live snakes that are native to Connecticut. Learn about all 14 species of snakes that reside in our state through an informative Powerpoint presentation. Then meet eight indigenous snakes, including the Northern Copperhead.

This program is only open to teens, young adults, adults or serious students in grade 6 and above only, and is not open to children. Register at actonlibrary.org or by calling 860-395-3184.

This program is generously sponsored by the Friends of Acton Public Library.

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Showcase Your Collection at Deep River Public Library

DEEP RIVER — Do you have a collection that you’d like to show off? Consider booking space at the Deep River Public Library to showcase your collection for the community to enjoy.

The Deep River Library has two display cases of varying size.  The library is always looking for more collections to display. If you have one to share, call or drop by the library to schedule a date to display your collection!

For more information,  visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on our monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 12:30 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm.

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‘Run for Something’ Endorses Matt Pugliese for Connecticut General Assembly

Matt Pugliese

Matt Pugliese has received the endorsement of Run for Something (RfS), the groundbreaking organization that recruits and supports strong voices in the next generation of progressive leadership.

“I am excited and honored to be endorsed by Run for Something. Hearing about the work that was being done by this organization to help encourage candidates to step forward was a motivating force in my own decision to run for office. I want to work to make a difference in our community.  This is a crucial moment in our state and our nation. I’m proud to be among the candidates stepping forward,” said Pugliese.

“RFS endorses candidates on two major criteria: heart and hustle. That’s what defines viability to us,” said Ross Morales Rocketto, RFS co founder. “These are candidates who are going to work hard to run grassroots, community-led campaigns. We are a critical time in history and the momentum these candidates generate will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

A selection of statistics from RfS are:

  • 40 first or second time candidates endorsed this month
  • RFS has endorsed 409 candidates total, from 45 states. 256 candidates have upcoming elections.
  • Campaign budgets range from $3000 to $300,000
  • Win numbers range from 645 to 100,000 votes

The endorsement process includes an extensive internal review with background check, staff interview and insight from local state experts.

Amanda Litman and Ross Morales Rocketto launched RfS on Jan. 20, 2017 with a premise to help young diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build a bench for the future. RfS aims to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates by helping them with seed money, organization building, and access to trainings needed to be successful. So far, about 18,000 young people from across the country have signed up as candidates and gained access to RfS resources.

Run for Something recruits and supports talented, young people who advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench.

Matt Pugliese is running for State Representative in the 23rd District.  Pugliese is a non-profit theatre arts administrator and Chair of the Old Saybrook Economic Development Commission.  He holds his Masters in Public Administration from UCONN and lives in Old Saybrook with his wife and their two daughters. Learn more at mattpugliesect.com and at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at mattpugliesect.

For more information, visit www.runforsomething.net

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Major Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition on View in Old Lyme

Looking across Gilbert Boro’s Sculpture Grounds towards his own Studio 80, the sculptures shown in the photo are all by Boro himself.

OLD LYME — Gilbert Boro, owner and curator of Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme, will host Summer Sculpture Showcase 2018: An Exhibition of Unique Landscape Sculptures on his property in the center of this historic town. Boro’s towering studio is also on the beautiful four-and-a-half acre landscaped grounds, as well as his home.

Featuring 20 works by both established, nationally renowned sculptors, as well as fresh new faces, the summer-long show opens June 4. A meet-the-artist opening reception is set for Saturday, June 9 from 5 to 7 p.m., which will feature a live jazz band and a performance by David Dorfman Dance. There is no charge for admission and all are welcome.

Competition to exhibit was keen, with 120 submissions from around the country. Entries were evaluated for concept, execution, creative process, artistry, and how it would fit in the landscape. Boro, a nationally acclaimed sculptor in his own right, hosts this annual show to provide a venue for both young and mid-career sculptors to showcase their work to a diverse audience.

Boro also holds a firm conviction that art and viewer should be interactive. His Sculpture Grounds are an environment where viewers are not only permitted – but encouraged – to touch sculptures. “I really think that three-dimensional art should be handled, touched, pushed, and experienced in three dimensions,” he says. “It’s the only way you can understand it.”

The exhibitors accepted for the Summer Sculpture Showcase embrace this concept. Acclaimed exhibitor artists from Connecticut, the northeast region, and around the country are represented in the show.

‘Lustration’ by Sarah Haviland is one of the features works in Summer Sculpture Showcase 2018.

New York sculptor Sarah Haviland, who received a Fulbright Award to study in Taiwan this fall, had two pieces selected: Lustration, a contemplative female figure of aqua resin and mirrors, and Seraphim Mirror, a butterfly-shaped wall hanging created with galvanized mesh, resin, and a mirror. Haviland’s abstract work explores female identity and is exhibited both nationally and internationally.

Aether by Andreas von Huene is on display at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds.

Miguel Castillo Hernao, a native of Colombia, evolved to sculpting after university studies in literature and philosophy. Hernao explores geometry, color and repetitive forms in his works composed of stone, wood, metal and plexiglass. His seven-foot tall entry, Composition #28, is formed of painted riveted aluminum.

Chicago artist Ruth Aizuss Migdal’s bold and striking Radiate, standing more than eight feet tall, also plays with female forms and is composed of patinated bronze gilded with gold leaf.

Connecticut-based artists include Deborah Hornbake, whose Running Man is a fusion of wood, pipe, copper tubing, wire and stones; Eric Camiel, who has works in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and The Library of Congress, and whose film work has received numerous Emmy and Academy Award nominations, will have his aluminum sculpture, Sail Dream, on display; and Denis Folz’s monumental 11- foot steel sculpture, Feathered Resting Spot.

Boro is committed to supporting and exhibiting promising new artists. This year he presents Shelli Weiler as the featured indoor artist, with her photography exhibit titled Intimate Exchange. Weiler, a native of Scarsdale, NY, is studying photography at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Her photography explores the deep hidden character of people through ground-breaking and provocative poses and settings. Boro is presenting her work in the small, freestanding ESB Gallery, created in honor of his late wife, Emily.

Situated halfway between Boston and New York, Summer Sculpture Showcase 2018 is set on Boro’s four-and-a-half acre estate in the heart of Old Lyme’s historic village. In addition to special exhibits, the permanent display consists of approximately 100 works strategically placed around the park-like grounds.

Now in its 14th year, the Sculpture Grounds host more than 5,000 visitors a year. Visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic to the cafe. The grounds are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, year-round, admission is free, and touching the sculptures is encouraged.

The show runs through Oct. 26 and is curated by Gilbert Boro, and Exhibitions Coordinator and photographer, Christina Goldberg.

For more information about Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, visit www.sculpturegrounds.com. The David Dorfman Dance group performs and holds workshops around the country and will be in residence at Conn College in New London June 6-11.

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Talking Transportation: Connecticut: Love It or Leave It

The recent debate over tolling our highways should remind us of just how divided our state has become.  Not red vs. blue and not even just upstate vs. downstate.  The real divide is between those who commute by car vs. those who take mass transit.

I’ve written for years about the fact that riders on Metro-North pay the highest commuter rail fares in the US, and those fares will only keep going up.  Most rail riders have little choice, especially if headed to New York City.  What are they going to do … drive?

Yet every time the fares go up … and they have increased 55 percent since 2002 … ridership goes up as well.  Why?  Because conditions on the highways keep getting worse and worse.

But those who chose to drive, or must because there’s no viable mass transit option, seem literally to hate rail commuters.  I think it’s jealousy.  During the tolls debate, the venom was dripping and one Tweet in particular hit home.

“Just because your commute (by train) is so expensive doesn’t mean mine (by car) should be too (because of tolling),” read the post.

The driver had clearly missed the point.  We aren’t looking for tolls to subsidize rail fares, just to get motorists to pay for the upkeep of their roads and bridges before we have another Mianus River Bridge collapse, which we will.

But it gets worse.

The anti-toll forces now sound like Howard Beale, the deranged newsman from the movie “Network” who was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”   Doubtless, much of this is directed at Governor Malloy who enjoys (suffers from?) the lowest popularity rating in the history of polling.  Sure, the economy of our state is in bad shape.   But Malloy didn’t create this economic mess.  He just inherited it and mishandled it.

And it will get far worse, whoever succeeds Malloy in the fall.  The solutions will be few and all will be painful.  Forestalling tolls and gasoline taxes today won’t stop the bridges from rotting.

But this opposition to tolls or modest gasoline tax increases to pay for roads has now been taken to a maniacal pitch predicting that “everyone is leaving the state,” conditions are so bad.   That’s fine with me.

I was recently at our town dump and saw a young man unloading a bunch of items.  “My parents are moving,” he told me.  “Everyone is leaving Connecticut!” he exclaimed.

“Really?”, I asked.

“It’s all Malloy’s fault,” he said, sounding like a Pied Piper leading a caravan down I-95 to some Promised Land.

I asked him one question:  “Did your parents sell their house?”   “Sure,” he said.  “And at a profit over what they paid for it.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess not everyone is leaving.  Your folks are moving out and someone else is moving in.”  Someone who wants to live here.

To those who hate it so much living in Connecticut, I extend an invitation:  please leave.  Enjoy your low-tax destination.  And don’t forget to pay those highway tolls as you drive down I-95 through NY, NJ, etc.

But enough already with the “I hate Connecticut” mantra.  Some of us actually like living here.  And losing ‘the haters” will only mean fewer cars on our roadways.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Needleman Applauds State Aid to Essex for Valley Shore Emergency Communications

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman stands with Paul Fazzino, President of Valley Shore Emergency Response after the announcement was made.

ESSEX — After years of planning and local town coordination, the Valley Shore Emergency Communications received critical state funding to upgrade emergency communications for numerous towns in the region. 

The State Bond Commission approved $1.25 million in grant-in-aid to the Town of Essex on behalf of the Valley Shore Emergency Communications, Inc. The funding will be used for upgrades to the outdated emergency radio dispatch system serving 11 towns. The upgrades will interconnect all member towns and allow coordination with adjoining systems to allow for better communication for police, fire and ambulances.

“I want to thank the tremendous work of the various public safety departments to make today a reality,” said Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman. “Throughout this process we worked together to bring our local emergency communications into the 21st century. This new funding will strengthen the safety of our towns and allow our public safety employees to better serve our communities.”

Valley Shore Emergency Communications serves the towns of Chester, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Middlefield, Old Lyme, and Westbrook. 

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Family Wellness: New Beginnings

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth.  Every year in New England nature reminds us of this.  Crocuses emerge, the landscape turns from brown to green and many animals have their babies: foxes, otters and black bears, just to name a few. 

I look fondly back on my grandmother’s stories about lambing season in Ireland.  Human babies are born year round, of course, but my thoughts went this month from lambs to human babies. 

Not only is birth the start of a new life but it is the start of a new (or newly reconfigured) family.  It is often a time of unimaginable joy, but it is also a time of stress.  Stress is defined as, “… bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.”

Few could argue that a new baby alters an existent equilibrium in ways that are delightful and challenging at the same time.  A new member (in this case tiny and cute) affects the family identity in that constellation in a whole array of ways: emotionally, physically, socially and economically.  All the resources, whether few or many, need to be allocated differently.

Just as adolescence has been described as the transition from childhood to adulthood, the transition to motherhood has been called “matrescence” by anthropologists — for more information, visit this link.  A similar term for the transition to fatherhood does not exist as far as I know, though it has received attention in both academic and popular circles and the media, with online forums such as fathersforum.com. Similarly some attention has been given to the transition to grandparenthood and “older-sibling-hood.”  (I am waiting for an especially gifted and precocious 3-year-old to blog about the challenges of losing attention to a tiny usurper in the house.)

Societies and cultures around the world have different constructs that help or hinder the development of a new family.  These constructs range from policies (paid parental leave) to the practical matters (village and neighborhood folks bringing food to the new family). 

Looking at and understanding how we can support families in transition at this stage of the family life cycle and the stressors that they face (stress being a challenge to equilibrium, not positive or negative) can only be a good thing.

Betsy Groth

Betsy Groth is an APRN, PMHS – BC and a pediatric nurse practitioner with advanced certification in pediatric mental health.

She is a counselor, mental health educator and parent coach in Old Lyme and writes a monthly column for us on ‘Family Wellness.’

For more information about Betsy and her work, visit Betsy’s website at betsygroth.com

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Palm Unanimously Chosen as Democratic Candidate for 36th District

Democratic Town Committee chairs and delegates for Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam gather for a photo after unanimously endorsing Christine Palm (center, in marine blue) as their candidate for the 36th District.

CHESTER — Christine Palm has won the unanimous endorsement of delegates in the four towns comprising the 36th General Assembly District: Chester, Essex, Deep River and Haddam. The Democrat running for state representative accepted the nomination at her convention, held May 16 in the Brainerd Memorial Library, Haddam.

Palm has also received the endorsement of U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney, who represents the Second Congressional District.

“I’ve known Christine my whole life, and I can’t think of anyone better prepared to lead,” Courtney said. “I can’t say emphatically enough how excited I am about her candidacy and I really hope the citizens of those four great communities come out strongly and support her, because the minute she’s elected and sworn into office, she’ll become one of the leaders in the General Assembly, which is so important to our state, especially now.”

Palm, who is running on a platform that includes economic security for working families, healthcare for all, safeguards for older adults, and environmental protection, thanked the delegates for their unity.

“Democrats in our four beautiful towns have really pulled together this year and I’m grateful for their faith in me and their desire to see meaningful, lasting change at the Capitol,” Palm said, continuing, “These are perilous times for democracy, as policies out of Washington continue to erode families’ wellbeing, imperil the safety of our school children, and roll back environmental protections that have been in place for decades.”

Palm explained, “I’ll fight for policies that enhance the safety and security of all our citizens, not just those in the one percent of the income bracket. This is an enlightened region where people hold sensible economic policies and compassion for our less fortunate neighbors in equal regard, and they know these are not mutually exclusive ideals.”

Palm owns a small business — Sexual Harassment Prevention, LLC, which gives trainings to the corporate, academic and non-profit workplace. She has 10 years’ experience in government as women’s policy analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children and Seniors, and communications director for its predecessor agency, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. She is a former newspaper reporter and high school teacher.

In the upcoming November election, Palm will challenge incumbent State Representative Bob Siegrist (R), who is running for a second term.

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Norm Needleman Wins Democratic Nomination for 33rd District Sate Senate Seat

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman.

AREAWIDE — Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman has been nominated as the Democratic Party State Senate candidate for the 33rd District. 

Delegates from Democratic Town Committees in the 12 towns comprising the 33rd District met on Monday, May 21, at the Gelston House in East Haddam to select a candidate. Needleman was nominated by acclimation on the first ballot. 

Needleman accepted the nomination, and defined his approach to addressing issues facing towns in the district: “We need a state senator who has the temperament, the credibility, and the experience to rise above partisan bickering and generate the ideas that solve problems. Over the years, I have fostered consensus-building that gets things get done in the real world. Job creation, balanced budgets, low taxes, treating people fairly and infrastructure improvements define my accomplishments as an elected official.”

He continued: “I’m not here to advance my political career, or to lay the groundwork for higher office. I can’t be bought by any organization or special interest. I will be a state senator driven by the desire to do the right thing for the people and towns in our district, and I will do the hard work necessary to address the deep and abiding problems in our state.”

In placing Needleman’s name for nomination, Michelle Gilman, a resident of Colchester, said: “I have learned a lot about Norm in the years we have collaborated on the issues facing our towns’ families. I know that he will be the advocate and partner we so badly need in the state senate. I know that he will fight for investments in education and investments in our communities. I know that he will make certain that the towns in our district get their fair share from Hartford. And just as important, I know he will lead across party lines to address the challenges facing our state.”

Needleman’s nomination was seconded by two prominent Democrats from the district: Emily Bjornberg, 2014 nominee for the 33rd State Senate Seat, and Stacia Libby, four-term Selectman in Essex.

commented, “When no one is watching, Norm is a quiet friend to myriad marginalized folks within his community. He quietly provides meals and housing. He quietly provides jobs and friendship. He quietly, yet unapologetically, fights for the humanity of his fellow man. He is a pillar of his community without being a boast and he is a successful driver of the local economy without being a brag.”

Libby, who has worked as an elected official alongside Needleman for eight years, noted, “What I have learned about Norm pales when compared to what I’ve learned from Norm. He taught me through his actions what it means to be a true leader. Norm is compassionate, intelligent and diplomatic. He listens. He considers all sides and viewpoints. Then he seeks solutions that are fair, balanced and in the best interest of our community.”

Needleman has 20 years of public service experience in Essex, including four terms as First Selectman. During his tenure as First Selectman, he led economic development initiatives that made Essex home to over 700 businesses. He balanced budgets and made infrastructure improvements while maintaining one of the lowest property tax rates in the state.

Needleman is the founder and CEO of Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing company employing 150 people, located in Essex. His two sons co-manage the company with him.  He lives in Essex with his partner, Jacqueline Hubbard, Executive Director of the Ivoryton Playhouse.

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

For further information, contact Campaign Manager Ed Tedeschi at et@edted.com or (917) 734-9460.

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Carney Receives Republican Nomination for Re-Election to the 23rd District

Celebrating Devin Carney’s unanimous endorsement as Republican candidate for the 23rd District are, from left to right, Cathy Carter, Dave Evers, Dan Montano, Carney, and Jackie Miano.

OLD SAYBROOK — State Representative Devin Carney received the unanimous endorsement of the Republican delegates representing Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and coastal Westbrook at the 23rd District convention on Wednesday, May 16. The convention was held at the Teresa Mulvey Municipal Building in Westbrook.

“It is truly an honor to be nominated for a third term by the Republicans of the 23rd District,” said Carney. “I have worked incredibly hard over the past four years as State Representative and always put the people of the district first. In these past two terms, I have advocated for small businesses and small towns, opposed massive tax increases, and worked across the aisle in order to achieve the best legislative results for the people of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. Connecticut still faces significant budgetary hurdles, so I plan on continuing to work to stabilize government finances while helping  to create an economic environment that provides opportunity for all.”

Carney was nominated by Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna.

“As First Selectman of Old Saybrook, I often interact with the state legislature on issues that affect small towns and I always know I can count on Devin,” Fortuna said. “In these past four years, Devin has always stood up for his municipalities by supporting local education, pushing back against unnecessary unfunded mandates, and opposing legislation that would negatively affect the quality of life in shoreline Connecticut.”

In only his second term, Carney was named the highest ranked House Republican of the Transportation Committee where he has advocated for roadway improvements, local public transportation, and highway safety. In addition, he used that role to campaign against the Federal Railroad Administration’s NEC Future plan bypass, which would have devastated Southeastern Connecticut.

“Serving in leadership on the Transportation Committee has given me the unique opportunity to fight for local transportation concerns, including Shore Line East and 9-Town Transit, and also to call attention to issues that affect the region such as I-95 safety and the FRA’s NEC Future proposal,” added Carney.

Carney also serves on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and the Environment Committee. Last year, Carney was recognized by the Connecticut Counseling Association with their “Legislative Service Award” for his work in support of licensed professional counselors and for supporting efforts to curb elder abuse and to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.

Carney also co-founded the legislature’s bipartisan Young Legislators Caucus and the bipartisan Clean Energy Caucus. Carney is active in many community organizations including serving on the Board of Trustees at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, on the Board of Saye Brook Village senior housing, and as a member of both the Old Saybrook and Lyme-Old Lyme Chambers of Commerce.

“As the next phase of the election begins, I look forward to discussing my accomplishments and bringing my message of fiscal stability and economic growth to each and every doorstep in the 23rd District,” said Carney.

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Essex Announces Mill Rate Reduction for Fiscal Year 2018-2019

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman. (File photo)

ESSEX – First Selectman Norman Needleman has announced that Essex taxpayers will notice a reduction in the tax bills they receive in June.  With the unanimous approval of the proposed town budget at Town meeting on Monday, May 14, the Essex Board of Finance took up the task of setting the mill rate.  First Selectman Needleman carried a message from the Board of Selectmen recommending the board of finance consider a mill rate reduction.

Several favorable factors enabled the board of finance to consider the mill rate reduction.  These include the growth in the Town’s grand list, the passage of the State budget, a reduction of the Town’s cost share of Region 4 education budget, as well as a reduction at Essex Elementary School, and the Town’s strong fund balance position.  The board of finance voted to reduce the mill rate from the current rate of 21.96 mills for fiscal year 2017-2018 to 21.85 mills for fiscal year 2018-2019.  This represents a reduction of 0.11 mills or -0.5 percent.

“This is a responsible budget and one that I am very proud of. Essex is a vibrant and welcoming community and I am pleased we were able to lower the mill rate while maintaining the exceptional level of Town services that our residents expect and deserve,” said Needleman.

Copies of approved budgets are available on the Finance Department page of the town website at this link.

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Pugliese Accepts Democratic Nomination for 23rd District, Will Challenge Carney in November Election

Last Wednesday, delegates from the 23rd District unanimously nominated Matt Pugliese (fourth from right) as the Democratic candidate for the 23rd State House District. Photo by Janis Esty.

OLD SAYBROOK — On Wednesday, May 16, at a convention held in Old Saybrook at the Vicky Duffy Pavilion, Matt Pugliese accepted the Democratic nomination to represent the 23rd House District in the upcoming November election. The District includes Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and the southern portion of Westbrook.

Matt Pugliese

Pugliese, a non-profit arts executive, announced his candidacy in early March. He is challenging incumbent Devin Carney-R, who is running for a third term.

He was formally nominated by Karen Brodeur, a member of the Old Saybrook Board of Education.  In her remarks, Brodeur said, “Matt has experience as a business leader, as a community leader, as a civic volunteer, and as a caring husband and father. Matt is focused, disciplined, hard-worker.  He is an empathetic listener.  Matt cares about his family and he cares about his community.”

In accepting the nomination, Pugliese said, “I’m a Democrat. I’ve always believed that the Democratic party valued everyone, especially those didn’t have a voice. I will represent everyone in our community. I believe in communication, in compromise and consensus building. That is the style of leadership and the values I promise to bring to Hartford.”

State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd)

Pugliese, the Executive Producer and Managing Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre, serves as the Chair of Old Saybrook’s Economic Development Commission.  He holds his BA in Theatre and his Masters in Public Administration, both from UConn.

Pugliese’s formal nomination drew praise and remarks from others in attendance including Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal and Mary Stone from Lyme, who was herself a candidate for the 23rd District in 2014. The delegates in attendance unanimously voted to select Pugliese as the candidate.

Pugliese, who is participating in the public funding option in the Citizen’s Election Program, announced that he had raised the required funds to qualify.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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Essex Joins Sustainable CT

ESSEX — On May 3, the Essex Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to join Sustainable CT, an exciting new initiative to support the environmental resiliency of Connecticut’s cities and towns. The statewide initiative, created by towns for towns, includes a detailed menu of sustainability best practices, tools and resources, peer learning, and recognition.

Over the past 15 years Essex has made great strides in reducing the energy consumption and carbon footprint of its residences and municipal buildings.  This is an ideal time to focus on improving the environmental outlook of Essex in other areas.

A newly named Sustainable Essex Committee, formerly Essex Citizens for Clean Energy, will focus on strategies to balance environmental protection, economic development, and social objectives to meet the needs of today without compromising the quality of life for future generations. 

“It’s important to continue efforts toward greater sustainability, not only for the potential grant opportunities, but also because we need to be good stewards of the incredible environment we are surrounded by so that future generations can enjoy all that this community has the potential to offer,” said First Selectman  Norm  Needleman.

The Sustainable CT initiative involves nine categories that towns need to improve upon and earn points toward becoming certified as a sustainable municipality, which opens the door to receiving grants for further improvements. There is no cost to participate and communities will voluntarily select actions that meet their unique, local character and long-term vision. 

The initiative was developed under the leadership of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University in partnership with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.  Three Connecticut philanthropies – The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Hampshire Foundation, and the Common Sense Fund – have supported the program’s development and launch.

“We are thrilled that Essex has passed a resolution to join Sustainable CT. The program builds on many current success stories in our communities to create and support more great places to live, work, and play,” said Lynn Stoddard, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy.  “We are looking forward to working with the Town as they pursue Sustainable CT certification.”

For more information on Sustainable CT, visit the program’s website at www.sustainablect.org.

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Chester Synagogue Hosts Photo Exhibit by CT Valley Camera Club Through July 27

The CT Valley Camera Club exhibit organizers gather for a photo, from left to right, C. Peter Chow, Mary Fiorelli, and Michael Newborg.

CHESTER — Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) in Chester presents a juried selection of photographs by members of the Connecticut Valley Camera Club (CVCC) in the CBSRZ Art Gallery through Friday, July 27. The exhibition highlights the work of many of the Club’s approximately 50 members, whose occupations and ages vary greatly demonstrating the diversity present within the Club.

The CVCC, which was founded in 2002, has a simple mission — to give its members the opportunity to become better photographers. The ways that the Club achieves this objective include offering a variety of presentations and workshops to help members expand their technical and creative skills. During these popular events, members explore such areas as photographic techniques, computer processing, artistic interpretation and commercial applications, often under the tutelage of a professional photographer.

The CVCC welcomes new members at any time. Meetings are generally held on the first Monday of the month at the Lymes’ Senior Center in Old Lyme.

For more information about the CVCC, visit the club’s website at ctvalleycameraclub.smugmug.com . Meeting dates, speakers and their topics, and other notices are also published on the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CTValleyCamer aClubPage.

The CBSRZ Art Gallery can be viewed Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at CBSRZ, 55 E. Kings Highway, Chester, CT. For more information about the Art Gallery and special events visit www.cbsrz.org/engage/events/art-exhibits/ or call the CBSRZ office at 860-526-8920,

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Letter to the Editor: Thanks to Donors from Essex Garden Club’s ‘May Market’ Silent Auction Committee

To the Editor:

On Saturday May 12th in Town Park the Essex Garden Club held its 66th May Market. The Silent Auction Committee of May Market would like to thank our area merchants, friends, and artists for the incredible generosity they showed in supporting this year’s Silent Auction. They are:

Abby’s Place Restaurant, Acer Gardens, Ashleigh’s Garden, Bartlett Tree Experts, Blue Hound Cookery & Taproom, Bob’s Centerbrook Package Store, Connecticut River Museum, Cooper & Smith, Copper Beech Inn, Ron Cozzolino, De Paula Jewelers, Earth and Fire Art Studio, Essex Chocolatier and Coffee Bar, Essex Winter Series, Goodspeed Musicals, Haystacks, Ivoryton Playhouse, Wendy and John Madsen, Charlotte Meyer Design, Melanie Carr Gallery, Al Moncovich, Musical Masterworks, New Earth Acupuncture, Olive Oyl’s, Patricia Spratt for the Home, Perfect Pear, Eve Potts, Savour Café & Bakery, Saybrook Country Barn, Scotch Plains Tavern, 1738 Farm, That’s the Spirit Shoppe, The Essex, The Valley Railroad Company, Gay Thorn, Truffle Shots, Weekend Kitchen, and Weltner’s Antiques and Art.

With thanks to them all.

Sincerely,

Dawn Boulanger, Genie Devine, Barbara Hall, Marily MacKinnon
The Essex Garden Club May Market Silent Auction Committee

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Town of Essex Conducts State Mandated Real Estate Revaluation

ESSEX – The Town of Essex has begun the state mandated revaluation project. Connecticut law requires municipalities to conduct a general revaluation at least once every five years. The revaluation will be effective with the Oct. 1, 2018 Grand List. Vision Government Solutions has been awarded the contract to assist the Town with the process.

If your property sold within the last year a representative from Vision will be visiting your property in the near future. Each employee of Vision will carry proper identification and a letter of introduction. Their vehicles have also been registered with the Essex Police Department.

Homeowners, be advised that the Vision employees will request access to your home to ensure accuracy of the information. While the assessor encourages you to allow access, you are not required to do so. As always, do not let anyone into your home without the proper identification.

If you are unsure, you may contact the Assessor’s Office at 860-767-4340 x124 or the Essex Police Department at 860-767-1054 for verification.

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VRHS Students Present a Custom-Made Equipment Box for the Town of Essex Fire Marshal Vehicle

Valley regional High School students who worked on the project are from left to right: Jared Hart, Josh Donahue, Quinn Kobe, Marcus SantaMaria, Andrew Persico, Ben Rosenberg, Chris Donohue, David Uphold, Cayla Sperzel, and Sam Wollschleager.

ESSEX — First Selectman Norm Needleman and Fire Marshal John Planas would like to give special thanks to the Valley Regional High School Students who worked to fabricate a custom-made wooden equipment box for the Fire Marshal vehicle.

On Monday, April 30, the students presented to the Town of Essex the equipment box for the vehicle. The box was designed to contain and organize a wide variety of the necessary tools, protective clothing, and supplies that the Fire Marshal needs to perform tasks such as routine inspections to emergency assistance.

This photo shows the custom-made box in situ in the Fire Marshal’s vehicle.

This project was a collaborative effort of the Town of Essex and Valley Regional High School students and faculty.

Norman gave special thanks to the students, their teacher JL Kopcha, Principal Mike Barile, and Superintendent Dr. Ruth Levy.   He noted that this was an excellent example of the practical benefits of the school’s vocational curriculum and active citizenship to support critical Town functions.

Students in photograph, from left to right, are:  Jared Hart, Josh Donahue, Quinn Kobe, Marcus SantaMaria, Andrew Persico, Ben Rosenberg, Chris Donohue, David Uphold, Cayla Sperzel, and Sam Wollschleager

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Letter to the Editor: American Legion Post #97 Appeals for Donations to Repair Chester War Memorial

To the Editor:

Sitting proudly on Rte. 154 entering Chester are Chester’s War Memorials. Dedicated in 1939, the World War I memorial features a granite doughboy figure atop a monument listing local veterans.  In 2004, American Legion Post #97 unveiled an elegant granite monument honoring Chester residents who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and post-Vietnam conflicts.

They shall grow not old, as we are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

You only need to visit other towns in Connecticut to see what a dignified and stately memorial this is for the size of Chester.

Over the years maintenance and minor repairs have been funded by the Town of Chester, volunteers and American Legion Post #97. But 14 years have taken their toll on our Memorial.  Post #97 members have identified some issues that need to be addressed – most importantly is the fence on the front perimeter of the memorial.    The pressure treated wooden fence is rotting away and needs to be replaced.   Plans are to use granite posts and black chain which will be less susceptible to the weather.  

We are asking the help of our residents and friends to donate towards the replacement of the fence and ensure the memorial remain a proud focal point. Any contribution, however small, will be welcome. Donors may request to be added to a donor list that will be published in the local paper at the conclusion of our project.

This memorial at the entrance to Chester holds an honored position and completing these repairs will ensure it remains so for many years.

Our goal is $6,000 for the new fence at the Chester’s War Memorial. If more funds are donated then what covers the price of supplies and installation of the fence, we will use those funds to repair the flagpoles.  Your donations may be made out to American Legion Post #97 and mailed to PO Box 122, Chester, CT 06412.  All donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

American Legion Post #97

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9 Town Transit Faces Bus Cuts, Fare Increases; Encourages Public to Voice Their Opinions

AREAWIDE — 9 Town Transit (9TT) is preparing for a 15 percent reduction of state funding beginning July 1, 2018 with a proposal of service cuts and fare increases.  The agency says the reductions are due to the failure of revenue into the state’s Special Transportation Fund to keep up with expenses.

Under the proposal, bus fares would rise from $1.75 to $2 on bus routes and to $4 on Dial-A-Ride.  This would be the second fare increase in 18 months.

The agency is also proposing multiple service reductions.  They include:

  • Elimination of the senior fare subsidy, which would result in seniors paying a fare on all services for the first time in 37 years.
  • Reducing service on Rte. 2 Riverside, which provides service between Chester and Old Saybrook, by eight hours per weekday.
  • Elimination of all Saturday service.
  • Reducing service on Rte. 1 Shoreline Shuttle by three hours per day (7:30 a.m. trip leaving Old Saybrook, 9 a.m. leaving Madison).

 

Written statements concerning the proposal may be submitted either at the hearing, by email to info@estuarytransit.org or mail.

9 Town Transit is encouraging transit users and supporters to let their state representative and senator know how important 9 Town Transit, Shoreline East or other public transit services are to them.

More information about the possible service reductions and ways to help prevent the funding cuts can be found at www.9towntransit.com/fundtransit.

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Reynolds’ Subaru Donates $30,000 to Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center

Pictured above at the check donation ceremony are (from left to right) Joe Altavilla, District Sales Manager, Subaru of New England; Devin Carney, Connecticut State Representative (R-23rd); Kathryn Wayland, Reynolds’ Subaru; Hayden Reynolds, Reynolds’ Subaru; Laura Martino, Middlesex Hospital; Melissa Ziobron, Connecticut State Representative (R-34th); and Justin Drew, Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center.

 

WESTBROOK — Reynolds’ Subaru in Lyme has donated $30,000 to Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center’s new Westbrook location. The generous donation will ensure that cancer patients have access to the best possible treatments and care team.

Reynolds’ donation was made following the conclusion of Subaru of America Inc.’s Share the Love campaign. Reynolds’ Subaru and the Reynolds’ family, however, have been supportive of Middlesex Hospital for many years.

“As a local business, we feel it is important to give back to our community,” says Hayden Reynolds. “We believe that having medical care on the shoreline makes it easier for our customers, neighbors and family members to get the care they need. The Cancer Center is a great addition to what Middlesex already offers on the shoreline, and we are so pleased to help the Hospital’s efforts.”

Justin Drew, director of the Cancer Center, is very grateful for the support. “We are humbled by the generosity of Reynolds’ Subaru,” he says. “Their support means that Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center patients can access life-saving cancer treatment closer to home, and we thank them for sharing their love with us.”

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Thatchbed Island Ospreys Return

Webcam image of the nesting ospreys at Thatchbed Island.

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust’s Thatchbed Island property is once again hosting returning Ospreys. Having wintered in the warmer climates of Central and South America, the arrival of Ospreys towards the end of March is the clearest indication that Spring is on its way.

The Essex Land Trust’s OspreyCam has not been operational for the past two seasons due to battery and camera problems. With these problems now resolved, the Trust took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the camera to digital quality. This Thatchbed Platform has been hosting a nesting pair since 2003 and has successfully reared numerous fledglings.

I see you! A osprey looks up at the camera from his — or is it her –nest?

Ospreys continue to make a remarkable comeback after having practically disappeared from our coastal region in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2017, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Osprey Nation Citizen Science Program monitored 540 nest sites throughout the state. Of these sites, there were 394 active nests and 607 total fledglings observed in the state. 

Ospreys are now occupying new nesting sites that are further inland than their historical range along the Connecticut coast.

The Middlesex County Community Foundation/Riverview Cemetery generously funded the initial installation of the Essex Land Trust OspreyCam. The live streaming of the Essex Land Trust OspreyCam is made possible by the generous support of Essex Savings Bank

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Letter From Paris: The (Rail) Battle That Macron Must Win 

Nicole Prévost Logan

France is going through the labor pains of implementing a variety of overdue structural reforms if France is to be brought into the 21st century.  President Emmanuel Macron has tackled this objective at a dizzying speed since his election on May 7, 2017.  The pace of change was so fast that the opposition appeared unable to react until Macron turned to the reform of the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français.) 

Now that process is developing into a major crisis.  Other groups  – university students,  Air France personnel, hospital staff,  garbage collectors, violent clashes at the Notre Dame des Landes “zad” (zone à defenre), etc. – joined the movement.  To overcome the spread of the social discontent  will be the first and decisive test for the French president. 

When the government announced a restructuring of the SNCF , which involved the status of the railroad workers or cheminots, dealing with the unsustainable debt, introducing competition, and the overall modernization of the rail network – the reaction of the unions was immediate and massive.

On March 18, four trade unions – CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail), UNSA (Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes), RAIL-SUD and CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail) – announced  an innovative and deadly form of strikes: work stops for two days, then trains run for three days.  This schedule will be repeated for a total of 36 days during a period of three months until the end of June … longer if necessary. 

The platform at the Gare de Lyon in Paris on April 3, showing the rail strike’s devastating effect.

The French are bracing themselves for this monster strike, which will be hard for millions of working people, mainly commuters.  The specter of the 1995 strike, which paralyzed France for one month, looms over the country.  The collateral cost of a widespread strike is astronomical with the loss of work days; hotels and restaurants losing more than 30 percent of their profits; and factories momentarily having to close down and lay off employees, and the like.

Facing the angry unions was Minister of Transports Elizabeth Borne, who is a petite, remarkably qualified 57-year-old woman.  A product of the top elite school Polytechnique, part of the socialist government of Lionel Jospin, former head of the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) and of the SNCF strategy from 2002 to 2005. Technocrat rather than politician, Borne knows everything, but communication is not her forte

The 150,000 cheminots occupy a special place in France and are at the heart of the nation’s DNA. This is why the government’s efforts to bring reforms have met resistance violence the like of which it may not have anticipated.  The aura surrounding  the cheminots has been significantly fed in popular culture by a couple of films. 

In Jean Renoir’s “La Bête Humaine”, 1938, Jean Gabin portrays a cheminot. He looks quite dashing as he leans out of the steam engine wearing goggles, his face smeared with black dust.  Sustained by a bottle of wine he shares with his jolly co-worker, his exhausting job is to feed the “beast” with coal in the deafening noise of an inferno while breathing  poisonous fumes. The indelible image of this hero inspired the population’s respect for the hard work of the cheminots. 

Jean Gabin as a cheminot in ‘La Bête Humaine,’ 1938.

The other film, which contributed to the collective adulation of the French for their cheminots, is La Bataille du Rail, 1946, played by non-professional actors.  It shows their courage against the Nazi occupants in provoking the derailment of many German trains.

The cheminots are fiercely attached to their special status including retiring at as early an age 52 with a very generous package of  guaranteed employment for life and free transport tickets for the extended family. The government is trying to be reassuring, saying that the changes will only concern the railroad workers hired in the future.  The cheminots will also benefit from a “social backpack” whereby they can take their special status with them in case of transfer to another job.

The SNCF is badly in the red: its debt of over 50 billion Euros increases by three billion every year and the infrastructure is in dire need of investment.  Although showing some signs of disfunction – trains are often late,  major break downs such as the ones which occurred last fall when the Gare Saint Lazare and Gare Montparnasse left passengers stranded for hours – the rail system is still one of the best in Europe.  The French people do not realize what an expensive luxury it is to have such a public transport system.  But this luxury comes at a price: its operation cost is 30 percent higher than the one of other European railroads.    

The cheminots have a visceral fear of the word” privatization.”  The government has repeatedly said that there will be no privatization.  The state will remain the sole share holder and the only change will be that, in the future, the SNCF will be run as a private company, according to directives approved by the European Council in 2001.

The opponents to reforms spread unfounded horror stories about the introduction of competition and problems it caused in other countries.  Besides, the SNCF’s structure, as a public company created in 1937, had already entered that process over the years.  Freight was privatized in 2003.  International lines – like Eurostar (to England) and Thalys (to Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany) – are run independently from the SNCF.   The Italian company Thello runs night trains between Paris and Venice.  All Trains à Grande Vitesse (TGV — high-speed train) tracks are scheduled to be shared with foreign companies by 2020, according to the guidelines approved by the European Union (EU) members.

Criticisms have been expressed about the overbuilding of TGV lines at a high cost and at the expense of other lines.  The announcement of  suppression of small lines provoked an outcry from public opinion well-orchestrated by the unions.  The dense network of TER (Transport Express Regional) and inter-city trains dates back to the days after WWII.  It was a time when half the French population lived and worked in the country versus less than only 4 percent today.  Each village wanted its gare (railroad station.)  Obviously, the time has come to adapt the network to the population’s current needs.  Since 2002, the small lines are the responsibility of the 12 “regions.”

Emmanuel Macron is dealing with the most challenging issue of his presidency to date.

With the one-year mark of his mandate approaching, Macron felt it was timely to take stock of  what has been accomplished to date by his government.  His first talk took place on Thursday, April 12, during the midday news.  The president was sitting on a tiny chair in an elementary classroom in Normandy.  In a relaxed atmosphere, the president answered the questions French people – including retirees – were asking regarding the erosion of their purchasing power.

Many people expected fireworks during the second event on the evening of Sunday, April 15.  The fireworks duly happened. 

Two journalists – Edwy Plenel from Mediapart and Jean-Jacques Bourdin, from RMC (Radio Monte-Carlo ) wanted only one thing: to tear Macron to pieces.  Interrupting him from the start, their questions were bundled with disinformation.  Insults and accusations flew.  Plenel went as far as saying, “Mr. President, you only won the election by default and your program was supported by just a handful of people.”  Bourdin treated the president as a criminal — as  he frequently does in respect of the person he is interviewing, bullying them into  a “Yes or No” answer.  When the exchange touched on the veil worn by Moslem women, both journalists blasted Macron for totally opposite reasons.

Macron’s performance was superb.  He kept his cool and managed not only to answer the questions at length, but also to explain the rationale for his policy.  Among all the information he disclosed, one was crucial — starting in 2010, the state will gradually take over the huge debt of the SNCF.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Family Wellness: Does Mindfulness Work for Families?

“Mindfulness” is certainly trending these days.  Books and workshops are in abundance, aimed at children, adults and families.

For some, the concept provokes rolling of the eyes, for others, curiosity, others still, an eagerness to share how helpful the practice has been for them. Perhaps in some it may provoke an urge to purchase new yoga pants and scented candles.

I believe it definitely has practical applications for healthy and happy relationships in families. Think of it as a “health habit.”

Let’s first define the term: 

“The quality of being conscious or aware of something,” and,  “A mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, as a therapeutic technique.”

Generally, I see mindfulness as being able to identify feelings (sometimes uncomfortable ones.)  Being able to hold these feelings helps us to act — or not act — in a healthy way.

Here are some examples of mindful parenting at different developmental stages:

  • CeeCee is  2-months-old and has been fussy since three weeks of age. This makes her parents anxious, maybe even a little angry. CeeCee is thriving and healthy. By practicing mindfulness, her parents are more able to accept their own feelings as “normal” and know that these feelings do not mean that they do not love her. They look forward to CeeCee having her own fussy baby in the decades to come, so that they can reminisce with her.
  • Ben is 3-years-old and cries when he is dropped off at preschool. At family parties, he attaches himself like Velcro to his mother’s leg and will not engage with anyone of any age.  His mother acknowledges and respects her own feelings that go back and forth between embarrassment, irritation, and too- deep sympathy for Ben in this horribly scary world.  Thus her calm, measured responses to him end up making him “braver;” they do not feed into his erroneous belief about the terrible danger at a family party, and do not make him feel like a “bad boy” for being shy.
  • Sara, 10-years-old, did not make the A team in soccer this year. Before she expresses any feelings around this, her parents check in on their own feelings of disappointment and anger at the coach and they restrain themselves from immediately calling the coach. Later over dinner Sara states, “I was not really one of the best players and I like the girls on the B team a lot.”
  • Nick, age 16, is enraged with his parents that he cannot have a house party unsupervised by his parents.  His parents are considering the following responses:   1) “What are you, crazy, you little jerk?” 2) “We are so sorry you are angry with us, so we’ve changed our minds” and/or 3) “It is all our fault we raised you to even consider such a request.”  They realize all these feelings are “OK” and it is also ok for Nick to be mad. It is not their job to make him “OK” with their decision right now. They shrug, acknowledge his disappointment and move on, feeling good about their family and themselves, knowing that Nick is a good kid. Perhaps they will process this at a later time.

Mindfulness has applications across the lifespan.  Young children tend to be “in the moment,” often joyful, which is a tenet of mindfulness, but they may have trouble with handling feelings that might be perceived as less positive.  Young children can learn to “stand next to” feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment and fear, and then move on.  The elderly, sometimes looking at the past, are perhaps a bit frightened about the future.  A practice of mindfulness can be a comfort to them at their stage of growth.

Hanna Rosin, in a humorous piece in Slate, wonders if the concept of mindful parenting just identifies another way for parents to fail (e.g., I forgot to bake for the bake sale AND I forgot to be mindful with the kids yesterday.)  She raises a valid point in a funny and engaging way.  But I believe that, in the long run, a bit of this practice in family life will do the opposite; it will relieve pressure on kids and parents, and perhaps grandparents as well.

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Madison Senior Men’s Tennis Club Welcomes New Members of Any Skill Level From All Along Shoreline

Dan Janiak and Will Tuthill confirm it was a pleasure to play.   All photos by Peter Pearce.

“Sometimes you’re looking to play perfect tennis but it’s not going to happen all the time and you have to accept it.”   Andy Murray, professional tennis champion

AREAWIDE — For the men of the Madison Senior Men’s Tennis Organization, the tennis is far from perfect – but that’s not the point. Oh, they may step onto the court feeling sure that today, for just once, it’s all going to come together. But the reality of slower reflexes and an aging body’s aches and pains quickly snaps them back to reality.  The players all accept their shortcomings and can even joke about them; it’s the camaraderie that matters.

For men 60 years or older, the Madison Senior Men’s Tennis group is a great retirement activity and a perfect way to spend two to three mornings a week.  You’ll get exercise, competition, laughter, friendship, caring, and more.

Dave Cassano puts away a volley.

But you don’t have to be retired …

Some players adjust their work schedules to fit in tennis. Along the way, you just may be stimulated by seeing guys in their 80s who can still get around the court and hit winners. As player Greg Fahey said, “I happen to be one of the younger members of the group … all of the members are an inspiration in both physical and mental condition … in the spirit they demonstrate and the example they provide.”

The league is now recruiting new players for both the upcoming summer season as well as next winter’s. There’s no need to worry about your skill level. As octogenarian Tom Dolan told one player who was feeling dejected by his poor play, “Don’t worry about it. Think about the alternative; you could be horizontal.”

Art Paquette hits a forehand while his partner John Kraska watches the play closely.

Players range from beginners to seasoned veterans and span in age from 60 to 88. The league’s steering committee divides them into three groups based on ability, the goal being to slot players into the level in which they are likely to find comfortable, enjoyable play. A wide geographic area is represented, stretching from Hamden and New Haven up to Cromwell and down to Old Lyme.

Matches are all doubles, with partners being agreed upon by the foursome at the start of the match. You will be in a different foursome every match. With the emphasis on recreation and friendship, no standings are kept.

Matches are scheduled year-round, with the summer season running from May through early October and the winter season from October through April. Summer season is outdoors at public and private courts in the Madison/Guilford area; winter season is played indoors at the Madison Racquet and Swim Club. You may choose to play one, two or three days a week.

Article author Tom Soboleski runs down a forehand.

Madison Seniors Tennis is now in its 21st year. It began when a small group of friends, led by John Sadek and Joe Pegnataro of Madison, began playing at Pegnataro’s home court. It now includes more than 70 men and all scheduling is administered through a web-based program.

Whether you’re a high-skilled player or just a beginner, Madison Senior Mens Tennis will happily and comfortably welcome you. “Best thing I’ve ever done,” said Peter Lemley. “I find more often than not, when a player scores a great point, not only his partner, but his opponents will cheer.”  Besides the aforementioned benefits, your ego may get a boost as well. As tennis great John McEnroe has said, “The older I get, the better I used to be.”

If interested in joining, or if you have any questions, the organization can be contacted:

  • By text message or call to: Chris Hill at 203.641.7100, or John Sadek at 203.245.1261

More information is also available on the league’s website at https://sites.google.com/site/mseniortennis/home

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Needleman Announces Support For Initiatives To Promote Tourism

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, who is also a candidate for the 33rd District State Senate seat.

ESSEX — Norm Needleman, Essex First Selectman and candidate for the State Senate for the 33rd District, today announced 3his support for new initiatives to promote tourism in Connecticut.

Needleman said: “The most recent data shows that tourism delivers $14.7 billion in annual revenue to the state, and supports 120,000 sector jobs. Every dollar invested in promoting tourism returns three dollars in revenue.

“That’s why I support the initiatives developed by The Connecticut Tourism Coalition. The proposed initiatives are common sense ideas that will enhance our tourism presence, which is key to building revenue:

  1. Create of a 15 member volunteer Tourism Advisory Committee, whose role will be to recommend strategies to the Office of Tourism for maximizing use of tourism funds.
  2. Appoint a Director of Tourism, a new position reporting directly to the governor
  3. Commit 3 percent of all taxable lodging revenue as a sustainable source of tourism funding
  4. Reopen visitor centers, using public or private funds

Needleman continued: “Connecticut is blessed with a wealth of historical, entertainment, lodging and recreation options. It makes sense for us to revitalize and sustain support for tourism. That investment will yield significant financial returns, and make our state more competitive with states that border us.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

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Bill to Study State Employee Compensation Moves to Senate

State Senator Art Linares

AREAWIDE — State Senator Art Linares announced that the legislature’s Appropriations Committee has approved a bill he requested to study the long-term financial impact of state employees’ and elected officials’ pay and benefit compensation on the state. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“Connecticut has been in a state of fiscal crisis for the last several years with budget deficit after budget deficit. This is despite the two largest tax increases in the state’s history,” Sen. Linares said. “We have to look at the state’s fixed costs and why they have gotten so far out of control.”

Sen. Linares said a review of state employee and elected officials compensation could examine ways to save money when the current state employee contract ends in 2027.

“I believe one area that should be considered is capping pension payout at $100,000 a year. The number of retirees receiving pension payments in excess of $100,000 has been growing at an unsustainable rate,” he said. “What do we tell the rank-and-file employees receiving smaller pensions when the pension fund is drained by retirees receiving six-figure payments? We have to make sure the pension plan stays solvent for all retirees.”

Currently, more than 1,400 retirees collect annual pensions in excess of $100,000, Sen. Linares said. The highest paid retiree received more than $300,000 a year.

“Retirement payouts like this were unheard of in the private sector even before most businesses moved away from pensions. Now employees and employers contribute to 401K-type plans,” he said. “We also have to remember that pensions are not the only form of retirement income state retirees receive. They contributed to and can collect Social Security.”

Sen. Linares said he also believes the lowering the expected return on investment in the fund from 8percent to 6 percent should be considered. The 10-year return for the 41 largest state pension funds was 6.59 percent.

“State employees, like their private sector counterparts, work hard to earn the paychecks they receive. We need to ensure that each of them receives the retirement funding they earn, by making sure the pension fund does not run dry due to the excessive pensions of a few,” he said. “I believe a comprehensive review of benefits that includes a $100,000 cap on pensions after 2027 will do that.”

Sen. Linares represents the communities of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

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Chester Girl Scout Honored With President’s Volunteer Service Award, Certificate of Excellence

Chester resident Juliette Linares has been honored for exemplary service in her community 

CHESTER – Juliette Linares of Chester, a local Girl Scout, has been honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a Certificate of Excellence from The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Presented annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors young people across America for outstanding volunteer service. Certificates of excellence are granted to the top 10 percent of all Prudential Spirit of Community Award applicants in each state and the District of Columbia.

President’s Volunteer Service Awards recognize Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

Juliette, from Chester, Connecticut, has been in Girl Scouting for 13 years and has spent her career as a Girl Scout giving back to her community. She was chosen to represent local Girl Scouts on the Girl Scouts of Connecticut Board of Directors as Girl Board Member, where she speaks on issues affecting Girl Scouts throughout the state.

Since she was young, Juliette has used funds generated from selling Girl Scout Cookies for community service projects, including volunteering with a local inner-city elementary school. She began conducting book drives and shared 100 stories with 100 kindergarten students and gifted each child the shared book.

Juliette’s community service experience paved the path towards earning her Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Nationally, only 6 percent of Girl Scouts earn this prestigious honor. Girls must complete 80-100 hours of community service to earn this award. Juliette’s Gold Award Project, Dinner & A Book was a literary celebration addressing the importance of literacy among young children.

Juliette started in 2014, writing a proposal, composing a budget, and fundraising, and 148 hours of planning time later, Juliette hosted an evening where she advocated for literacy. Her program will continue to run after she graduates high school.

“We are extremely proud of Juliette for receiving these incredible honors and for all that she has accomplished in Girl Scouting,” said CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut Mary Barneby. “I look forward to following her future endeavors and witnessing her continue to make our world a better place.”

Girl Scouts of Connecticut are more than 41,000 members strong – over 27,500 girls and nearly 14,000 adults – who believe that every girl can change the world.

They are part of a sisterhood of 2.6 million strong around the globe—1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe in the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ to change the world. Their journey began more than 100 years ago with the original G.I.R.L., Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low. On March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia, she organized the very first Girl Scout troop, and every year since, her vision and legacy are honored, building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

Girl Scouts of America are the preeminent leadership development organization for girls … and with programs from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure, and success.

To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit gsofct.org.

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Letter From Paris: Macron & Merkel: Can This Power “Couple” Lead Europe?

Nicole Prévost Logan

On Sept. 26, 2017, Emmanuel Macron chose the Sorbonne University to develop his grand vision for Europe.  In that seminal speech he was urging his perceived partner German Chancellor Angela Merkel to join him in tackling the lofty goals of European reforms, speeding up the integration of the Eurozone through the creation of a parliament, a ministry of finances, and its own budget.   

Macron proposed to strengthen the common market and reduce the economic inequalities through the  harmonization of taxes, creation of a minimum wage, and reform of the “detached workers” system, which leads to employment of migrant workers at cheaper rates than would likely be available locally — a practice known as “social dumping.”  His approach is based on several principles: a Europe protected by well-managed  external borders and a strong defense; the opening of Europe to free trade, but with due regard for reciprocity, and solidarity among the European Union (EU) members regarding the treatment of refugees.

After an interminable six months, the “Great Coalition” between German Conservatives and Social Democrats has made it possible for Angela Merkel to start her fourth mandate. Barely a few hours after her confirmation as Chancellor on Friday, March 16, she met with French President Macron accompanied by several ministers.  The speed with which she came to Paris shows how important it was for those two heads of state to get to work. 

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Unfortunately, the geopolitical environment allowing them to be the driving force of a dynamic Europe has shifted and even deteriorated during that long waiting period and their task has become more difficult. Merkel is politically weaker.  The continent is now fragmented and the resistance from newly-created groups within the EU has become more aggressive.  Macron will have to downgrade his proposals and make adjustments.

The political context in which Merkel starts her fourth mandate is quite different from the one existing in 2013.  Only 52 percent of the population supported the new chancellor in 2017 versus 73 percent in the earlier elections.  Compared to the consensus Merkel was able to maintain previously, it is harder now for her to keep the lid over dissenting opinions.

Even though they are part of the “Great Coalition,” several ministers stand in disagreement with the chancellor, including Olaf Scholz (social democrat or SPD), vice-chancellor and minister of finances, who believes in tightening the budget; Horst Seehofer  (head of the conservative Christian Social Union or CSU in Bavaria), who was given the  “super ministry” of the interior, who intends to be harsher toward the immigration policy in the name of the reactivated concept of “heimat” (homeland); Jens Spahn, 37, minister of health (Christian democratic union, CDU or Merkel’s own party), who is also a critic of Merkel’s policy on migrants, and Andrea Nahles, leader of SPD in the Bundestag, wants to rush through social reforms in favor of the workers. 

Even more difficult for Merkel will be the meteoric growth of the far right party (Alternative for Germany or AfD).  In  2013 it did not have enough votes to have representatives  in the Bundestag.  To-day AfD holds 92 seats out of 709.   At a recent news cast on the ARTE channel, the violent tone of a AfD member at the Bundestag was incredible.

The “Countries of the North” (as they are now called) — Ireland, Iceland, along with the Scandinavian and Baltic states, as well as the Netherlands — believe in a strict budget and are inflexible about financial and monetary discipline. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of TheNetherlands, speaking for the North countries , declared, “We have to adhere to the Maestrich criteria,” namely to keep the public deficit under 3 percent of the Domestic Gross Product.  On March 27, for the first time in 10 years, France saw her deficit fall down to 2.6 percent.  This was a significant accomplishment:  France is now a credible member of the “club.” 

The North countries ask that Italian and Greek banks clean up their toxic debts.  A “mutualization” of the debt (particularly of Greece’s sovereign debt) and financial transfers are a red line conservative parties from Germany or Holland are not willing to cross.  Like Macron and Merkel, however, Rutte sets as a priority a European Stability Mechanism (EMS) and a European Monetary Fund .

The recent Italian elections on March 8 were a blow for moderate centrists like Matteo Renzi, and the victory of two extremist, anti-system and xenophobe parties: the Five Stars (M5S) at the far left, and The League at the far right.  Italy joins now the eurosceptic countries like Austria and the Visegrad group (the former Iron Curtain countries of Eastern Europe.)  All these countries oppose the Macron/Merkel policies on trade, finances, democratic values and attitude toward the migrants.

Given this overview of the political landscape of Europe, it seems that the strategy of Macron and Merkel will be to start from the areas of agreement – passage toward Brexit, defense against terrorism, and protection against excessive Chinese investments in the name of the “Silk Road.”

The reactions of other EU members toward Macron’s “jupiterian” style and desire to reform are ambivalent.  In a March 20 interview published by Le Monde, Xavier Bettel  prime minister of Luxembourg said that a “directorate Paris-Berlin is out of the question, but added”  France and Europe are lucky to have him. Even if we do not agree with all his proposals, they are most welcome.” 

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Needleman Supports Legislation to End False Advertising by Limited Service Pregnancy Centers

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

ESSEX — Essex First Selectman and businessman Norm Needleman submitted testimony Monday, March 26, to the Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly in support of a bill to require limited service pregnancy centers to end deceptive advertising practices.

Needleman submitted testimony in support of Senate Bill 5416, An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices Of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers. In his testimony, Needleman stated his reason for supporting the bill: ”Every other business in our state and in our nation is held accountable for false advertising practices. Limited service pregnancy centers should not be exempt from the rule of law that requires all businesses to be truthful in advertising and promotion.”

His testimony identified the advertising practices the legislation seeks to end: “By law, women can seek and obtain the medical services they desire relative to their pregnancies. It is patently deceptive to use advertising to lure these women into centers that do not provide the services they are seeking. Limited service pregnancy centers should not be permitted to engage in these false and deceptive advertising practices.”

Needleman went on to point out that the legislation does not impact the operation of limited service pregnancy centers: “It is important to note that the legislation does not in any way impact the services these centers actually provide, nor does it in any way impede their operation. They are free to continue delivering services they believe are appropriate.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

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Family Wellness: Screens, Media and Family Life

How invasive is technology in our lives?  Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

The idea for this column came from a LymeLine.com reader, but there is also a general clamor for information about this topic that I am privy to in my work with families.

Anna and Rosalie Shalom were the picture of old school, imaginative play in their West Orange, New Jersey, home. The two, 5 and almost 3, labored in harmony at their task, preparing an elaborate pretend dinner to be served at the tiny table in their playroom. They set out play plates. They loaded them up with wooden fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. They sat down, ready to dig in. Ah, but first: they whipped out their pretend cell phones to make sure that no pressing pretend calls or texts required their attention. Their parents cringed. Where had they learned that? (See this article published in Time magazine about raising the screen generation)

Well, Anna and Rosalie aren’t in any imminent danger, but we probably understand why this was cringe-worthy for their parents.  I did observe real imminent danger posed by cell phone use just the other day – a young person almost struck by a car while crossing a busy Boston street, chatting on her phone.  (Coincidentally, I was on my way to a conference where topics around children’s phone, screen and media use abounded.)

So how have screens, phones and media affected family life?

Let’s start with a little context to this question.  According to The Moment, a time tracking app with nearly 5 million users, the average person spends four hours per day interacting with his or her cell phone.  The amount of time children 8-years-old and younger spend on phones or tablets had increased 10 fold between 2012 and 2017, according to a study by Common Sense, which also found that in 2017, 42 percent of kids in the same age group had their own mobile device, up from only 1 percent in 2011. I have to admit to shock and knee jerk dismay at these numbers.  It should be noted that TV usage still predominates for young people’s consumption of media. 

I think we all can think of many ways technology has made our lives easer.  What in the world did we do in the past when our car broke down on the road?  When Junior did not know what time play practice finished up?  When grandmother fell?

Media and technology are here to stay.  So what concerns do families have about media use?  Or “problematic media use,” as many psychologists have termed media use that interferes with “RL” (real life)? 

Real life includes when toddlers learn to play with each other (there is some evidence that excessive screen time results in decreased social and emotional development in young children).  Real life also includes the development of closeness and trust, learning logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving and creativity (see this story published in the Wall Street Journal about how cell phones hi-jack our minds).  Real life includes separating from parents during freshman orientation (see this article published in the New York Times about the mental health of college freshmen). 

So yes, there is evidence that excessive media use and dependency can interfere with “RL.”  But there still remains much research to do into the “who, what, when, why and how much” questions concerning family media use and screen time.

So what are we families to do while we wait for more research?  Families need to self-monitor as best they by can looking at their media usage and real (family) life.  Commonsensemedia.org may provide some help for us, as perhaps can Anya Kamenetz’s new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life.

I tend to be a bit of a technophobe, but will end on a positive note:  My son, a “digital native,” and my elderly mother bonded over his expertise in technology and her fear and ignorance of all things digital – enhancing both their “RLs” and strengthening their relationship.

Betsy Groth

Betsy Groth is an APRN, PMHS – BC and a pediatric nurse practitioner with advanced certification in pediatric mental health.

She is a counselor, mental health educator and parent coach in Old Lyme and writes a monthly column for us on ‘Family Wellness.’

For more information about Betsy and her work, visit Betsy’s website at betsygroth.com

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