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Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

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All I do is shoot random things that catch my eye, but now when gathering them together, I note a bit of a theme. Ripening. It’s only mid-August, but when you see acorns and pine cones developing, you know autumn is coming.

The first photo is of a footbridge in Concord, where the invasive Purple Loosestrife is starting to take over the swampy area along the Mill Brook. Then there is the herb garden behind the Unitarian Universalist church and the sexton’s bonsai trees.

Those pictures are followed by a progression of grapes and by the pine cones and acorns. Next comes a landscaping business with an unusual name (for a landscape business), a midsummer sidewalk sale, and a local hero being used to promote an antiques shop.

I wonder if the landscaper chose the company name after hearing that potential clients were frustrated about other businesses not communicating. That can be an issue, and not just with landscapers. I appreciate that workers may get overwhelmed by demand in certain seasons, but customers do value having someone answer the phone or explain why it was impossible to come on the day originally scheduled.

Recently my husband saw a handyman’s truck with “We show up” in giant letters on the side. He told the handyman he liked the sign. “So do our clients,” the man responded.

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Art: Finneas Avery Roels, high school student
The theme for the Arlington, Mass., banner competition this spring was Trees.

One day back in June, when I happened to be in Arlington, Mass., I was struck by some delightful banners hanging from lamp posts. I decided to see what I could discover about them. Turns out, the designs were created by kids.

From the website Your Arlington, I learned that the “youth banner initiative aims to promote and encourage development in the visual arts and to provide an opportunity for youth to participate in temporary public art projects in Arlington. The effort is geared to young people in grades 6 through 12 (and the equivalent home-school level).

“Funding is provided by the Gracie James Foundation in memory of James, who was a beloved, artistically talented Arlington High School student. The program invites teens to submit designs relating to a specific theme to be digitally reproduced on vinyl banners which are then hung on light poles along Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center.”

This year’s theme was Trees, and three designs were chosen to hang in town. The one above is by Finneas Avery Roels of Arlington High School.

But, oh, dear, I thought. What happened to Gracie, whose foundation provided the support? Alas, those answers were in an obit.

“Gracie Christine James, beloved daughter of Chris Bobel, James Lundy and Thomas Hartl, all of Arlington, Massachusetts, died on October 20, 2010, of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three days earlier. She had just turned 17 years old.

“Gracie Christine James was born on September 29, 1993, in Whitewater, Wisconsin where she lived until moving to New Orleans just before her fourth birthday. After her father and mother separated in 1998, Chris and Gracie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where they lived until relocating to Arlington, Massachusetts, with Thomas in 2001.

“Gracie’s father, James, moved to Arlington in 2006. Until this fall, Gracie had been a student at Arlington High School. In mid-August, Gracie began attending a boarding school in Hurricane, Utah. On the morning of Sunday, October 20th, Gracie and fifteen other girls and school staff were enroute to a full day excursion in Arches Natural Park when the staff driver of their SUV lost control and the vehicle rolled over outside of Sevier, Utah. …

“Gracie was an unusually creative, intuitive, affectionate and sensitive young woman with a shy smile, beautiful eyes and a deep, feeling soul. She was an accomplished figure skater, an avid reader and a budding artist who created evocative and vibrant abstract works in soft pastels. But her main passion was writing. A brilliant and imaginative writer of both short and longer fiction and poetry, she aspired to a career in professional writing.

“Gracie’s gifts for caring, compassion and emotional connection touched everyone she met as shown by the outpouring of grief and support expressed by her peers at both her current and former schools. The day after her death, grieving students at Arlington High School wore green, symbolizing peace and honoring her memory. …

“The family invites donations in lieu of flowers to the newly established ‘Gracie James Foundation,’ which will focus on closing the gaps in systems of support for local teens. Donations can be sent to 76 Paul Revere Road, Arlington, MA 02476.”

Life is precious, Guys. I do like to think that at least people are reminded of the life of this young girl as they make art for the competition or, like me, drive by during the months that the banners are displayed.

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These photos are mostly mine, taken over the last month in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But the adorable baby owls were captured by one of my brothers in his Wisconsin backyard. All the bird lovers in my family were envious of his owls.

In Massachusetts, I was especially drawn to flowers against fences, including my own Black-eyed Susans. Success at last! I’ve been trying to grown more native species for some time now.

In Rhode Island, I enjoyed looking at second-hand shops, art galleries, and unexpected decorations like this hydrangea-covered tank.

John got a permit for a fire on the beach so the kids could make s’mores, and Erik broke up logs for it by jumping on them.

The painted rock offered words of wisdom for protecting the environment, including turtles.

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Photo: NBC Boston
Project Home Again helps low-income families get on their feet again with furniture from donors such as movie companies finished with their stage sets.

I love writing about experiments that someone has thought up to help people in need. Usually the initiatives blossom and flourish, like the one I will tell you about today. But now is as good a time as any to admit that occasionally an experiment fails (consider one I wrote about helping displaced miners learn coding). I guess, for me, the bottom line is that you have to risk failure in order to move forward. No successes without failures.

In Lawrence and Andover, Mass., success seems to follow each new effort that Project Home Again tries out.

As Judith Kogan reported at WGBH, “When a film is made, sets are built and decorated to make a story seem real. And now in Massachusetts, when filming is done, those sets are having real-life impact, empowering people trying to rebuild their lives to design their own homes, free of charge. …

” ‘Say we’re decorating a dining room,’ explained Melissa Cooperman, a set decorator and buyer for films and commercials shot in Massachusetts. ‘We’ll need a table, we’ll need chairs, carpet, dishes, glasses, artwork for the wall, lighting, curtains, and window treatments.’

“When a film wraps, the producer needs to decide what to do with the accumulated stuff, often an abundance of home goods.

“Cooperman worked on the 2014 television mini-series ‘Olive Kitteridge,’ which was shot on the North Shore and Cape Ann. It had a fully-furnished house and apartment, and fully-stocked drug store.

“ ‘They said they wanted to donate everything,’ Cooperman recalled. …

“Project Home Again gets goods to where they’re most needed and wanted, partnering with about 400 social workers, founder and president Nancy Kanell said.”

Social workers ” ‘go to their clients’ homes with a checklist of everything that we stock. And they sit down with their clients and they go room by room, and decide what they need to make them feel comfortable,’ Kanell said. …

“Project Home Again serves refugees, veterans, people transitioning from halfway houses, and survivors of domestic violence.

“ ‘When they come here,’ Kanell said of the abuse survivors, ‘we roll out the red carpet.’ … Kanell remembers one particular survivor: ‘She came on a day we were closed because she was very afraid of her own shadow at that point. And she just wanted beige. She said she didn’t like color, didn’t deserve color.’

“Kanell and Cooperman found her a green chair.

“ ‘A green that people would be either very drawn to or very opposed to having in their home,’ Kanell recalled. ‘But there was something about it she liked. She sat down on it.’ …

“Kanell and Cooperman started pulling colorful rugs and a colorful table to go with the chair. …

“ ‘She was uncomfortable with it, but you could see she was starting to like it. And I made a deal with her that she could take it home, and if she didn’t like the color, I’d come and pick it up, and she could get all beige things. We even had colorful pots and pans for her! And she called about two weeks later. She said she and her son were so happy they were living in a colorful world, and it changed their outlook.’

“Project Home Again hasn’t just been changing lives. It’s changed the industry as well. Many set decorators now have Nancy Kanell on speed dial so they can get rid of their stuff as quickly as possible.” More here.

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My first glimpses of snowdrops and crocus blooms in 2019 may not look like much as photographs, but if you’ve ever lived where winter temperatures go below zero, you know what the first flowers mean to everyone in the Northeast. Hooray! Celebration time!

The other joy is the quality of the sunlight, which I have tried to capture a little here. All these Massachusetts rambles feature the welcome, warming sun.

The Paddington Bear birdhouse is from the bookshop collection that I wrote about here. The chimney against the brilliant blue sky is atop the Colonial Inn. The little stone by the Main Streets Café flower box says, “Start each day with a grateful heart.”

The meditative circle of stones on a bench was outside Emerson Hospital’s wellness center, which includes meditation in many of its classes.

Shadows from objects in a window caught my eye on my way down the stairs. The garage door is a favorite photography subject for me, probably because of the light. The cardinal and the bird feeder make me think of the wonderful children’s biography of artist Horace Pippin called A Splash of Red — a reference to one of the self-taught artist’s signature touches. My older granddaughter likes looking for the splashes of red in the book.

The last photo is of a quiet street in early morning light.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Dean Kaplan and Sarah Heintz chatted in the apartment they share in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Empty nesters are faced with a challenge: they hate to leave their home, but maybe it would be practical to get a smaller, cheaper place with more people around and less snow shoveling in winter. Meanwhile, grad students have a different conundrum: their university may be in a high-rent area, but they don’t have much money.

Idea!

Dugan Arnett at the Boston Globe describes one creative solution that is working out for both empty-nesters and young adults.

“After living with more than a dozen different roommates in his young life, most of them strangers, Dean Kaplan is well-versed in the particulars of those first meetings — the short introductions, the perfunctory pleasantries, and then the quick getting on with life. …

“In late August, though, as he stood on the front porch of a sizable multistory house in Cambridge ready to meet his newest roommate, he found himself uncharacteristically nervous and eager to make a good first impression.

“Of all the roommates he’d had in the previous few years, Sarah Heintz would be the first septuagenarian. In fact, Kaplan, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Heintz, a 77-year-old whose grown daughter now lives across town, are part of an experiment in connecting young people in need of cheap rent with older residents who wouldn’t mind a little extra companionship and an occasional hand around the house.

“The notion is driven by the Boston area’s housing crisis, which has propelled rents through the stratosphere [while] some 90,000 spare bedrooms are going unused in the homes of aging empty-nesters.

“That got a pair of MIT urban-planning graduate students thinking: Those rooms might be valuable to young people, especially students. And they might also provide a way for older people, who increasingly are living alone, to stay in their homes as they age.

“ ‘They get helped around the house, doing everyday sorts of things — walking the dogs, going grocery shopping, technology tutoring, and feeling that they can help a young person get started in their life,’ said one of the students, Noelle Marcus.

“To match these odd couples, Marcus and classmate Rachel Goor last year launched a startup called Nesterly, which works roughly on the principles of a dating app, with searchable online profiles and features that help work out details of a lease. …

“That day in August when Kaplan showed up on Heintz’s porch, he came with his mother and some luggage stuffed with clothes. Heintz invited them in and gave them a tour.

“At first glance, they would seem an unlikely pairing. … But as Heintz led Kaplan and his mother through the house, his nerves started to ease.

“ ‘The walls are covered in books,’ Kaplan said later. ‘And that made me feel at home immediately.’ …

“Under the terms of their lease agreement, rent is $800 a month (about half the cost of apartments Kaplan had been looking at before the arrangement with Heintz), knocked down to $700 if he devotes eight hours each month to helping Heintz with a range of chores.

“But even without that incentive, they said, they’ve discovered they like doing favors for one another. He helps in the garden and gives her a hand logging into her e-mail account; she offers him rides to Market Basket and recently taught him the proper way to gut a fish.” Read more here.

I love this idea, but I just have to say one thing. There are plenty of septuagenarians who don’t need help logging on to their email accounts. It’s a lazy journalistic assumption that is really starting to grate.

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Photo: William Raynard/Essex County Sheriff’s Department
From left, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger and department director of food services Kathy Lawrence meet with program director Kate Benashski, Carlos Zagada, and Josiel Cabrera from Haven From Hunger on the farm at the Essex County Pre-Release Center in Lawrence.

Most of my posts about people helping people must seem like a drop in the bucket to readers: the problems of this world are so enormous. But I like to think about what can be accomplished by, say, one person whose better nature is released by a program like the one for ex-offenders described here. And I like to think of the way many such efforts can accumulate to improve the world.

Morgan Hughes writes at the Boston Globe, “Drive around the back of the Essex County Pre-release and Re-Entry center in Lawrence, and you’ll find 6 acres of pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and gourds.

“Inmates at the center run the farm, which yields about 50,000 pounds of produce each season to feed others who are incarcerated and the wider community. Located just behind Interstate 495, the farm is fertile ground for personal growth.

“ ‘We’re giving jobs to the inmates, we use the crops, but it’s also an opportunity to give back to the community,’ Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said.

“At the moment, the farm has about seven inmates who volunteer to plant, maintain, and harvest the produce. They feed not only the roughly 200 inmates at the pre-release center, but those at the Middleton House of Correction and Women in Transition, a women’s pre-release center in Salisbury.

“The facility purchases meals from a third-party food vendor, but the kitchen incorporates the fresh produce into the menu whenever possible.

“ ‘They live there, so they can really see the fruits of their labor,’ Coppinger said.

“About 30,000 pounds go to food pantries and homeless shelters in the Merrimack Valley and throughout the North Shore, said Kathy Lawrence, director of food services for the sheriff’s department. …

“She said, ‘What we can do sometimes is either incorporate [our produce] into the menu and serve it in addition to what’s being prepared, or we can substitute in ratatouille instead of giving them frozen green beans.’

“But even when the harvest is over and the ground begins to freeze, these hyperlocal vegetables are used throughout the year, Lawrence said. Bell and Italian peppers are frozen to use in casserole dishes. The butternut squash is also kept in the freezer and saved for special holiday meals.

“Heather Bonanno-Baker is manager of both Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen and the farm at the pre-release center. She took over duties from her father, who helped inmates run the farm for at least 15 years.

“She said she teaches inmates how to plant and water the crops, manage pests, and harvest at the end of the season. She shows them what a vegetable looks like when it’s ready to be picked, and how to wash it before it goes to a kitchen.

“ ‘I’m big into teaching the public about agriculture, growing your own food, and where it comes from,’ Bonanno-Baker said. …

“When Lawrence collected some feedback from the farm workers, she said some common themes were ‘a sense of pride in what they’ve grown’ and feeling rewarded to be able to give back to the community. One told her: ‘Hard work leads to positive results.’

“Lawrence teaches ServSafe to inmates working in the kitchen, a certification in food safety necessary for many jobs in the food industry. Coppinger said working on the farm provides another skill they could use to find a job when they are released.

“ ‘From the minute you arrive at intake in Middleton, to when you are about to be released at the pre-release center is trying to get them in better shape to get out of here and not come back,’ he said.

‘I always like to say, “Thanks for coming, but don’t come back.” ‘

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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