Monthly Archives: May 2009

Does a Smart Car Make You Smarter?

The official car of the Democrat Party?

The official car of the Democrat Party?

Is it true that the Smart car is the official car of the Democrat Party in this area and the Invisible car is the official car of the Republican Party?

A Smart car with an Obama/Biden bumper sticker would surely indicate the most gifted among us.  These extra smart folks are still in the love-is-blind stage with Barack Obama.  If you offer them anything negative, they call out the previous president.  How can they go wrong with such a smart strategy?

I’d like to see Obama gift wrap a couple of those Smart cars and send them to the leaders of Iran and North Korea.  Those two need to smarten up.  Only dummies would threaten their neighborhoods with missiles and rockets the way they do. 

Some supporters of Obama probably believe that a drive or two in a Smart car, while listening to one of Obama’s “follow-me-wherever-it-is-I’m-going” speeches, would cause those temporarily bad leaders to realize how “unsmartly” they have been acting and lead them to change for the better. 

Dare I suggest that the President’s words may not change the threatening behavior of Iran and North Korea?  Does he have a Plan B in him?  I’m not sure.  So far we’ve heard words and watched our money past/present/future used as solutions.  Even a person who doesn’t have a Smart car realizes that both of those approaches have serious limitations.

Every President inherits problems from the previous administration.  Part of the reason they are elected is because they convince us that they can make things better. 

I beg the Obama apologists in our midst to detail how he has made this country, or this world, a better place because of what he’s done so far.  Maybe one of the 100-days, sign-holding, Obama lovers could enlighten me.

Obviously owning a Smart car doesn’t make you smart and maybe, just maybe, sporting an Obama/Biden bumper sticker will carry the same stigma in the months ahead.

( Sent out as a letter-to-the-editor on May 29, 2009.  Appeared in the Newburyport Daily News on June 4, 2009.  )

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Newburyport High School Senior Athletes

Lindsay Cullen and Thayer Adsit - Newburyport High seniors

Lindsay Cullen and Thayer Adsit - Newburyport High seniors

Seniors Lindsay Cullen and Taylor Adsit have had active sports careers at Newburyport High School.

Lindsay has run track year round since she was a sophomore.  “I started doing track as a fun thing,” she explained to me.  “I started out sprinting because that was what my friends were doing.  When I switched to running distance I found I liked it a lot.”

For Thayer the constant was soccer.  “I started playing soccer when I was five and have played ever since all through high school,” he said. “I had older brothers already playing soccer.  I got into track in middle school and through Hershey’s Track and Field program.”

Thayer was very positive about participating in high school athletics.  “I like sports because they really clear my mind,” he said.  “Academics and sports work well together for me.”

Lindsay explained that in order to run competitively for Newburyport High she had to make some tough choices.  “I started dancing when I was three and ski racing (at Bretton Woods) when I was six.  There just wasn’t time to continue with them and run track in high school and keep up with the academics, so I gave up dancing and ski racing.”

Lindsay informed me that the school schedule helps her to stay organized academically.  “Classes are every other day so planning is easier.”

Both have excelled in the classroom with a minimum of parental involvement.  “I tend to push myself quite hard to get things done,” said Lindsay.  “My mom knows I can do the work and if I need help she’s there.”

“My parents are very hands off,” said Thayer.  “They don’t put pressure on me. 

Neither student admitted to using any sort of planner.  “My plans are all in my head,” Thayer laughed, “but it is important not to procrastinate.  That keeps everything fresh and things don’t pile up because you’ve forgotten something.”

The weekends were important for Lindsay.  “That’s when I think about the week ahead.  If there is a track meet coming up I know that I will have to get more schoolwork done the night before the meet.  It’s just planning ahead and making choices.”

Both have made college choices.  “I will be attending Bates (note the sweatshirt in the picture) because of my interest in liberal arts,” said Lindsay.  “It is a Division 3 school and I expect to continue running cross country and track and field.  I have already met the coach.”

Thayer is going to go to Cornell.  “I’m really into engineering,” he said, “and Cornell is one of the top engineering schools in the country. 

Thayer is realistic about his chances of competing athletically at a Division 1 school. “Soccer is out and it will be very hard to get on their track team.  I plan to run year round and try intramural soccer and maybe some new sport.”

Both turned down the idea of becoming sports officials but coaching was a different story.  “I have thought about coaching track although I haven’t been in it that long, “said Lindsay.  “I will be helping in the Hershey program this summer and that involves some assistant coaching.  That should give me a better idea about whether I would like it or not.”

“I think that coaching soccer would be really cool,” said Thayer.  “I have been too busy to actually do it yet but it is a great way to extend playing soccer.  All of the soccer coaches I’ve had, played with us and had a great time.”

Both students have an idea of what they will be doing when their college schooling is over.  “I think that I will be doing mechanical engineering,” said Thayer.  “

“I think that I’ll be doing something connected to education,” said Lindsay.  “I want to be a teacher.”

Lindsay and Thayer figured out how to succeed in the classroom and in athletics at Newburyport High School.  That “figuring out” ability should enable them to do very well in college as a result.

( This article appeared in The Town Common on May 27, 2009. )

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Ipswich/Essex Summer Bus Shuttle Is a Bargain

Pricey place to visit on summer weekends - bus shuttle is a financial alternative.

Pricey place to visit on summer weekends - bus shuttle is a financial alternative.

Crane Beach is no secret in the summer.  Pick a hot weekend day from June 20th – September 7th  to visit that beach and you’ll join a vehicle caravan on Argilla Road in Ipswich.

$22 later you have a parking place, if there are any available. 

The high price and the possibility of not even being able to get on the beach would suggest that other ways to get to Crane’s should be considered by non-residents (Ipswich residents get in on a sticker.).

One of the under-known alternatives is the Ipswich/Essex Explorer.  This is a weekend/holiday bus shuttle that ties in with the commuter rail service from Boston. 

I spoke with Bill Nelson (manager of the Visitor’s Center in Ipswich) about the bus service.  “It is one of those things that not too many people know about but should,” he said.

There is no question that the price is right – $5.  The way it works is that when the train from Boston arrives in Ipswich during weekends and holidays between June 20th and September 7th, a Cape Ann Transportation Bus is there waiting.

The 35-seat bus, with room for beach paraphernalia, has a schedule that not only includes Crane Beach, but also Russell Orchard, and sites in Essex such as Woodman’s, just to mention some of its stops. 

The bus doesn’t stay at these sites.  It drops off passengers at the site of their choice.  Obviously, it is important to know when the bus is scheduled to return.

The Crane Beach part of the trip is especially attractive.  The $5 paid at the Ipswich train station gets you onto Crane Beach.  But what if the parking lot is full and cars are being detoured back at Northgate Road?  Not a problem. The shuttle bus is still allowed to drive in and discharge passengers.

There are first-time visitors who arrive in Ipswich via train and think that they will walk to Crane Beach the same way they walk from the Manchester train station to Singing Beach.  “Crane Beach is six miles from the train station,” explained Bill Nelson, “and a taxi will cost close to $25.  This all makes the bus shuttle very appealing.”

The Ipswich/Essex Explorer bus shuttle is in its fourth year.  “It came about as part of a CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant,” Bob Ryan recalled.  “The idea was to promote less car use by providing travel alternatives for groups of people, many coming out from Boston.” 

Bob added that, “We’ve been running a similar service in Rockport since 1994.”

Bill Nelson explained that some people drive their cars to the Ipswich station and wait for the bus.  “There is no fee to park in the Ipswich lot because the town owns it.  Other people drive toward Crane Beach, find out it is full, and then come back to the station and wait for the bus.”

A check of the MBTA website shows when the commuter trains arrive in Ipswich from Boston from June 20th – September 7th on holidays and weekends.  Whenever that train arrives in Ipswich from Boston, the bus shuttle will be there. 

Bill told me that any questions about the shuttle service can be answered at the Ipswich Visitor’s Center.  “After Memorial Day we are open seven days a week from 9-5.”  Their phone number is (978-356-8540).

Bob Ryan was very positive about Ipswich/Essex shuttle.  He did, however, mention one very significant concern.  “We don’t know what the state will do about the transportation deficit,” he said.  “One of the suggestions is to eliminate the commuter rail on the weekends.  Obviously, if that happens the Ipswich/Essex Explorer bus shuttle won’t be operating.”

The next fiscal year starts on July 1st so decisions about the commuter rail service will be made soon.  Many potential summertime Ipswich/Essex tourists are hoping that a bargain like the bus shuttle continues to operate when state budget matters are settled.

( Appeared in The Town Common on May 20th )

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A Garden Club Blooms in Rowley

The baton is passed, or is it the rake and shovel?

There is now an active garden club headquartered in Rowley – The Great Marsh Garden Club.

“The Rowley Garden Club hadn’t been active for years,” explained active gardener and one of the club’s leaders, Jill Sczepanski, to me in an interview near the Rowley Cemetery.  What could be done? 

In August of 2007, Jill met with several other interested gardeners and decided to organize a garden club.  “We had talked about doing it for several years,” she recalled.

And organize they did.  “The five of us became the Board of Directors,” she recalled.  “We created structure so that our garden club would last.”

The group chose, “Great Marsh,” for their club name because they didn’t want interested gardeners to think that membership was limited to Rowley residents.

Several in the original group had garden club experience.  Based on that experience an early decision they agreed on was to become part of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, as opposed to being loosely organized.

“Once you have been organized for a year you can become a member of that federation and that’s what we’ve done,” said Jill.  “They are very helpful. They sent someone to give us ideas on the best ways to undertake civic projects and work with public officials.”

Star Memorial Garden in the making at Rowley Cemetery.

Star Memorial Garden in the making at Rowley Cemetery.

Currently underway is the club’s first civic project – restoring the Star Memorial Garden in the Rowley Cemetery.  This garden honors those who have served our country.  Several club members have already prepared the soil and reshaped the star outline.  “We will be adding annuals of red, white, and blue that will be in place when the Memorial Day parade ends in the cemetery later this month,” she promised. 

Jill said that she hoped that future fundraising would enable the club to, “carve out the area outside the star into a patio where four granite tree benches can be placed so that people can come and sit.”

The club meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30PM from September-June in the Rowley Library. 

The original five organizers have grown quickly to thirty-five members in less than two years.  “We are pleased to have five men among the membership,” said Jill.  “Most clubs don’t have any men.”

There are no restrictions on those wishing to join.  “We already have within the club a variety of gardening backgrounds,” she explained.  “Our goals are to learn more about gardening and do community service.”

Jill can be contacted at 978-948-7800 or at for more information about the club, including the details for becoming a member. 

An important part of the Great Marsh Garden Club is raising money.  “You can’t do civic projects without it,” added Jill. 

On April 7th, the club hosted a fundraiser featuring radio gardening host Paul Parent.  “He was a great draw and people came from as far away as Andover,” Jill reported.

The next fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday (May 23rd) at Market Basket in Rowley.  It is the spring plant sale and it will run from 8AM-2PM.  “We will have a great selection of perennials for sale that were donated by club members as well as annuals,” said Jill.

Jill assured me that the number of projects they might do are numerous but she added that they need to be selective in the ones they choose.  “Starting the projects is the easier part. More difficult is handling the maintenance, especially in the summer when many are on vacation.”

Jill said that the club recognizes the need to align their activities with the wishes of the townspeople of Rowley. “Some residents have told us that they want to get back to the town center as a gathering place.  We have some ideas in that direction for the town common.”

Armed with commendable intentions and structure, it is easy to understand why the Great Marsh Garden Club is, and will continue to be, an asset to Rowley.  Consider joining.

( This story appeared in The Town Common on May 13, 2009. )

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Georgetown Softball Team Has Bright Future

2009 Georgetown softball team

2009 Georgetown softball team

April 13th was not an area holiday as far as I know but word is that there was plenty of celebrating on the Georgetown High School softball field that day.

The celebration at that spot was not a surprise when you learn that on that particular afternoon the Georgetown girls’ team ended a lengthy losing streak (dating back over two years) as they hammered visiting Rockport 14-1.

The Royals endured a winless (0-16) 2008-09 season with a team that included several eighth graders and no seniors.  “It was tough,” was how 2nd year coach Julie Lamoly explained it to me before practice on April 27th. 

But that winless team has gotten a year older and much better as three wins (at press time) will attest to.  “That Rockport win was a great motivator,” said Coach Lamoly.  “The kids knew that it was the starting point of better days.”

The team followed their first win with a similar result against Manchester-Essex.  This time the slaughter/mercy rule went into effect against an opponent.  “It was another hurdle for us to get over,” explained the 6th grade language arts teacher.  “We were the ones in the past who were usually getting slaughtered.”

Even in their losses so far (five at press time) this season, the team has been competitive.  “We had 2-1 losses to both Amesbury and Newburyport,” she said.  “In the Newburyport game we had the bases loaded three times and didn’t score.”

The obvious question is, “What has caused the turnaround?” 

Coaching is certainly a part of it.  Most winless teams do not get together for another season unless they see, or someone convinces them of, a brighter future.  “I took on coaching the team because I thought that I could be a motivator and an encourager,” said Coach Lamoly.  “I figured that this was part of the help they needed and I believed that this could be a good team.”

Sophomore ace Sarah Erlandson prepares to let one fly.

Sophomore ace Sarah Erlandson prepares to let one fly.

Overly optimistic about the future?  Probably not.  You don’t have to attend many softball games to realize that pitching is a huge factor in a team’s chances.  The Royals are blessed now, and in the future, to have the Erlandson sisters – sophomore Sarah on the varsity and 8th grader Jane on the JVs.  These girls take their pitching seriously and are already quite good at it.

Sarah told me that she started playing softball in the Georgetown town leagues in the 3rd grade and thought it would be “fun” to pitch.  “I had no idea what I was doing as far as pitching goes,” she recalled.  She has come a long way since then. 

She said that attending Amesbury softball coach Chris Perry’s summer camp has helped. 

Also aiding her development has been spending an hour in Woburn on Saturdays getting pitching instructions from Bob Mahoney.  “Two of his daughters pitched at Woburn High and in college and he knows a lot about pitching,” she said.  “We always have something to work on.”

One of the things that Sarah is working on is a curve.  “I throw mostly fastballs and changeups now,” she said.  So far, those two pitches have gotten her numerous double-digit strikeout games, including fifteen in the April 13th win against Rockport.  Mastering another pitch should add to the strikeout totals.

“Sarah is an up-and-coming star in this league,” bragged Coach Lamoly.  “She has good speed and she has really worked on her accuracy.  I think she’s the best pitcher we’ve seen when she’s accurate.”

Because there is no Division 4 in softball, Georgetown will not be able to qualify for the state tournament the way the Georgetown girls’ basketball team did via the Sullivan Rule.  They will need to defeat some of the larger schools in the CAL to make it.

“Some big things are going to be happening with Georgetown softball over the new few seasons,” was Coach Lamoly’s insight into the future for her Royals.  No question the longsuffering supporters of Georgetown softball will enjoy watching that future unfold.

( This story appeared in The Town Common on May 5th. )

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Lord, Make Me An Instrument

An answered prayer brings a garden new life.

An answered prayer brings a garden new life.

(May 5, 2009) God proved to me recently that He has a sense of humor.

This past week I reread a chapter in a book entitled, “Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To,” by Anthony DeStefano.  The title of the chapter I reread was, “Why Should I Get Involved?”

To quote the author, “What is this prayer that generates such an immediate and surefire response from God?  Basically, it’s simply a request: “Please, Lord, make me an instrument to carry out some important mission of mercy for you.”  In other words, “Please use me to help someone in need.”

Further along in the chapter the author adds, “Mark my words, after you say this prayer, someone in need is going to practically show up on your doorstep – and he or she is going to be in dire straits.” 

Also further: “Are you beginning to see why this prayer always works?  It ties into the very essence of God’s being, which is love.  If we pray for God to use us as an instrument to help someone else, we are really praying to be God-like.”

Then the reassuring part: “If God sends you someone to assist, he is also going to give you the time, the resources, and the wherewithal to do it…………..No matter what your personal situation, when the moment comes to help someone in need, you will be given all the wisdom and means necessary to be successful.  Of that you should have no doubt.”

I couldn’t think of any reason for not praying – “Lord, make me an instrument,” – to see what would happen.  Therefore, on Saturday (May 2nd), I started using that prayer.

The next morning, my wife and I were walking home from coffee on the Merrimac River, and  passed through the Bartlet Mall.  One of the landmarks there is a large statue of George Washington surrounded by an enclosed garden measuring about 4’ wide. 

It caught our attention that the perennials (sedum) in the surrounding garden needed serious care and the area was still full of leaves from last fall. 

I finished the walk home and suddenly realized that God has just presented me with a place to be an instrument.  That “someone” in need was…………..George Washington!

I told me wife about my realization and together we agreed to do what we could to clean that garden up.  We committed the details to God.

I knew that we couldn’t just go over there and start cleaning around the statue because it’s part of the mall.  I thought that maybe the garden’s care belonged to some individual or individuals and they hadn’t done the job yet.

We ventured down to Newburyport Town Hall on Monday morning to find answers.  It didn’t take long to figure out that no one was responsible for that garden and that the condition it was in was likely to continue.   Believe me, there were some surprised and pleased  folks at City Hall when we offered to clean up that garden.  In one office, we were offered cookies!

We left city hall with permission from the mayor (John Moak) to do the cleaning.

We walked by the statue again on the way home to gauge the tools we’d need.

Last night (Monday), we were at the statue for 2+ hours clipping, pulling, and raking.  The major perennial we found was sedum.  The dead stalks hadn’t been cut back and they, and the deep leaves, overwhelmed the plants.  Our clearing work opened up the plants to daylight and they should bloom eventually.

This morning (Tuesday) we trucked close to ten large plastic bags of leaves/debris over to the Newburyport compost site.

I can’t help but smile when I think of how God answered my prayer.  The “someone” in need was George Washington and God knew that my wife and I had the time, energy, and  tools to be of help.  We acquired a few aches from our labors but it was still exciting to be involved the way we were.

All glory to Him.  Do I hear laughing? 

Anyone else want to give that, “Lord, make me an instrument,” prayer a try??  We know from experience that He will answer it.

(June 12, 2009) The call was urgent and the need was immediate. 

And I didn’t reflect back to the, “Lord, make me an instrument,” prayer until after the fact.  I actually hadn’t prayed that specific prayer for a number of weeks. 

The needs were food and funds.  God doesn’t send you into situations that are beyond what you have.

We wrestled with the specifics and then headed to where the need was. 

We met the need anonymously but we knew that we would be found out.

Important for us was to be willing.  We had at our disposal what the person needed. 

God made us an instrument and we thank Him.

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