A hidden message

Maine_Capitol_Building_ba9aaba7950196e822e4_1My friend Alan Caron has some sage advice that each and every newly elected member of the Maine Legislature should read.

Alan’s column regulary appears in the Portland Press Herald, and an excerpt of his latest piece  ( Last election had a hidden message for Maine’s leaders) can be found here:

“Given the many challenges Maine faces today, nothing is more critical to our future than a nonpartisan, commonsense economic plan.

We’re a small state with limited dollars that’s in bad need of new economic energy. We spend more on government, as a percentage of our incomes, than just about any other rural state in America.”

If you want to read the full piece, you can find it here.

A New Look at Warning Labels…..

By Dennis King

warningI love those warning labels that manufacturers feel they need to put on their products.   I purchased a sun visor once and the warning label said “Do not put in windshield while driving”  Silica gel packets get the traditional “Do not Eat” printed on them.  I saw a kid’s Superman Costume that warned the wearer “Wearing this will not give you the ability to fly”

I love to laugh at these silly warnings and wonder who the poor soul was that made them put these things in place.  Who was the guy that set up his gas grill in the dining room?  Who was the person that decided to dry his or her hair while relaxing in the bathtub?  Who grabbed the wrong end of the chainsaw ?  Who put the Silica Gel on his salad to make it crunchy?  Warning labels can be very funny.

There are many warning labels that surround us every day.  I live in a somewhat remote neighborhood in the rural countryside outside of Nashville.  Last week a city worker stuck a sign at the edge of our front yard out by the road.  It reads “Please Drive Slowly…We Love our Children”  Apparently a child from my neighborhood was struck by a car prompting the new warning sign.  There are signs everywhere.  I remember the song “Signs” that was a big hit decades ago.  It lamented all the signs that we have put up  “Do This Don’t Do that…Can’t you read the signs?”

It is easy to become oblivious to some of these signs as we plow through our daily lives.  We try to do good things and to make it through without messing up.

Today I happened upon a document that after I read and re-read sort of hit me as a warning label. It was clear and concise.

It was written by a man who at one time carried the burden of our nation on his shoulders and is considered to be the greatest of our leaders.

When King George the 3rd of England asked Benjamin West what this leader would do after the Revolutionary War was won he said “He will return to his farm…”  Of him King George responded  “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world”  Of course I am talking about George Washington, The Father of our Country.    The document I came across is something many of us have heard about but I wonder how many of us have actually read.  I never have read it until today.  I have not fully grasped it yet.  I will probably read it again and again for a long time to fully understand what is in it.

Hot-Surface-Equipment-Warning-Labels-67947-baIt is George Washington’s Farewell Address and it is a warning label written to a young nation that had dedicated itself to liberty and self-reliance.  It warns us of things that could happen if we strayed from the  course.  I think in many ways we have not heeded the warning label and gone in a different often destructive course.  Below is a brief excerpt that I found

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

There are lots of warnings like this.

Some I wholeheartedly agree with, some made me say “How Dare you Mr President” and then after thinking about them…I had nothing to say.     There are “Warning Labels” written by great men and women in the past and the present.  Common folks who are full of wisdom and know human nature.  They are not afraid of the Divine that is so desperately needed today and that is so disparaged today.  I challenge you to read Washington’s Farewell Address and see how those words were written for today’s America, just as they were written for our earliest days.


Just another new kid in town

Nate Wadsworth

Nate Wadsworth

Last week, I introduced two new legislators who are both Democrats from Biddeford.This week, we take a trip to the other side of the political aisle and the town of Cornish to meet Nathan Wadsworth, a young man who has been an acquaintance of mine for almost a decade. Nathan’s father, Jack, owns and operates Wasdsworth Woodlands, a family owned and operated company. I first met Nate and his dad while working various stints in the Natural Resources Building at the Fryeburg Fair year.

Now, the younger Wadsworth will be spending much of his time in Augusta as yet another rookie legislator.

He was gracious enough to answer my short survey about his hopes and goals for the next legislative session.

What are your top three priorities as a freshman legislator?

1) Vote for our economy first, especially any legislation affecting jobs, growth and taxes

2) be visible with my new constituents by attending functions in my five towns.

3) figure out how I can help best.

What is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?

Currently, our economy is the biggest issue facing [the state]. The governor has brought us back from the abyss but there is still a lot more work to do.

What, if anything, can the Legislature do about it?

The legislature can do a lot about this issue with bills focused around tax relief, energy policy and job growth.

Do you support limiting the number of bills that a legislator can submit during a session?
I’m new to the process here so I’m not sure if the number of bills need to be limited. I do know if someone has 30 bills they internalize those costs by trying to promote all of them and it would be a difficult job. If were still in session in July then I will probably say there should be a limit.

How important will bipartanship be during the upcoming session?

Cooperation is going to be everything with a very evenly divided legislature. I have libertarian leanings so I should be able to find common ground with the other side of the aisle.


The view from here……..

Tennessee%20signI was born in Dallas. Texas.  When I was four years old my family moved up to Augusta, Maine.

My mother was from “The County”  and she was a VA nurse.  The only VA hospital in Maine was at Togus so we settled in the Capitol City.   I was a 1982 Cony Graduate (Go Rams !) but when I was 30 years old my wife and I decided to sell the house and move down to Nashville Tennessee.  Being a songwriter, I was excited to go after my dream.

As a husband and father I would not even entertain the idea of re-locating unless I had a decent job.  The job offer came pretty quickly so in a short period of time we were living in a condo in the suburbs of Nashville.  It was exciting and scary at the same time, getting to know the new city we would call home.

Actually Nashville is pretty much a big old friendly hick town.  Ask Randy Seaver, he used to live here a long time ago.   Don’t worry Randy, I am not calling you a “big old friendly hick” but that was the Nashville our family encountered back in 1994.

When one moves from one state to another, one must consider the basics of relocating.  You need to switch insurance companies,  find a local bank,  get the car registered and inspected.  You need to get a new driver’s license.  You need to get set up with all the utilities, phone, electric, water.

My wife and I were used to doing it the Maine way.  We expected to pay Maine prices and we set our budget accordingly.  I remember when I got my car registered the year before, I paid the registration fee and the excise tax.  I think if was somewhere between three and four-hundred dollars.  The fancier car you drove, the higher the excise tax.  But before you could get that registration you had to take it to the mechanic and get it inspected.  (I remember one time my mechanic had the hardest time adjusting my headlights.  Apparently they were “Off” a little bit.  He had me turn the lights on in his garage.  If these headlights weren’t shining in just the right spot, it would not pass inspection and I would not be able to get it registered.)

I remember coveting that little square sticker that he would place inside my windshield right near the rear view mirror.  Sometimes my car would not pass inspection.  I was the father of two so my money was pretty tight.  I would have to pay the mechanic the money to fix whatever was wrong.

Whatever money I had set aside for a rainy day was depleted pretty quickly when that happened.

So when we moved to Nashville, my wife and I set aside four hundred dollars to register the car. I remember the day very well.  We went down to the local DMV to get instructions.  I wanted to know the steps it would take to get this task done.  After the long wait (all DMV’s are the same, sorry to say) I asked the nice lady on steps to register the car.  I asked her where the inspection places were located.

She just stared at me.  I asked again.  She said “Honey…you can take your car to any mechanic to get it inspected.  Are you having trouble with your car?”

“No” I explained “In Maine before you get your car registered you have to have it inspected”

“Honey” she said “We don’t do that here…That will be fifty dollars.”

“But what about the excise tax?  In Maine we have to…”

“Honey-Pie” she interrupted with a wink and a smile “We don’t do that here..That will be fifty dollars”

“Honey-Pot” she said “you can drive a Lamborghini or a Gremlin,  the fee is 50 bucks”

She took my old Maine Registration and handed me a Tennessee Registration,and gave me one plate for the back of the car.  (No front one needed in Tennessee) The cops won’t get you comin’ but they sure will get you goin’…

Needless to say we had an extra $350.00 to spend on the local economy that next couple of weeks.

That was my first experience in the difference between Maine and my new home state.  The next one was when I got my first paycheck.  “What ?? No state income tax??  What kind of a state are they running here? ”  But that is another story.

We were only freshmen

Democrats in Maine and across the country took a drubbing during last week’s elections, but there were a few bright spots, including the city of Biddeford, where State Senator David Dutremble easily fended off a challenge by Republican James Booth; and where two political newcomers held their party’s seats in the Maine Legislature.

In fairness, it’s not especially hard for Democrats to win elections in Biddeford.

In the western part of the city, voters overwhelming chose Ryan Fecteau over Republican Debbie Davis to represent them in the House of Representatives, holding the seat that is currently occupied by Democrat Paulette Beaudoin, who was barred from running again by term limits.

And Democrat Martin Grohman easily won a three-way race in the central part of the city to hold onto the seat that is now held by Megan Rochelo.

Fecteau and Grohman will both be sworn into office in December, joining several other freshman legislators from both sides of the political aisle.

We asked Fecteau and Grohman to tell us about their priorities. The following are their un-edited e-mail responses.

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

1. Focusing on ways to encourage and support the return of young people to Maine and also retain those that are still living here/going to school here.
2. Pulling Maine out of nearly dead last (currently 49th) as it concerns homes heated by natural gas (only 4 percent of Maine households) – careful attention to seniors who are especially vulnerable of fluctuating energy costs.
3. Pushing to fund education at 55 percent as mandated by voters. Currently, the failure to meet this mandate pushes the burden to the hyper-local level: property tax payers.
What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
Losing young people and families to neighboring states. Thus losing a skilled work force (in turn deterring businesses from locating here), future entrepreneurs, innovators, and a means to expanding the tax base.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
We must set ourselves from neighboring states by providing incentive to move to Maine. Whether it be a program to assist in paying off student loan debt or creating /funding incubators for the creation of start-ups, the programs must be aggressively advertised across the country. Young people are burdened by student loan debt, they are mobile, and they are looking for opportunities!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
I am not sure. Have not experienced or heard of any troubles with the number of bills introduced. The length of the legislative session is obviously a tight window for presenting and passing legislation; it would seem understandable for there to be a density of legislation despite the number of legislators. More focused on legislation that will positively impact people.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
It will be critical. Folks did not cast votes on Tuesday for gridlock; they voted their frustrations. They want results. A do-nothing legislature, gridlocked by partisanship, will not deliver the results that people are looking for. We need legislative leadership from both parties who are willing to work together for the best interests of Mainers.

Martin Grohman

Marin Grohman

Marin Grohman

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

Probably just to do the best job I can to represent Biddeford well.  Residents are interested in property tax relief, road and bridge infrastructure, and education.  And of course I’m a business guy – I want to see businesses grow, careers grow.

What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
I’m really interested in expanding access to health care.  Let’s think about a hypothetical parent, a single parent, mother of four, let’s call her Linda Smith.  Now if we cut her off of health care, you might think we’ve saved the State money.  But if she shows up at the ER, one of her kids shows up at the ER, we’re all going to pay for that one way or the other.  And in a world of epidemics and communicable viruses like Ebola, I don’t think having sick people without access to health care is going to work.  Plus, denying access to health care for ideological reasons just doesn’t make business sense to me – as I said, I’m a business guy.  Anyone in the health care business will tell you getting ahead of the problem saves money.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
Man, I have no idea!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
Probably not – I’d have to study it.  I think coming up with rules and regulations in reaction to a single case or a moment in time tends to cause problems.  But I’m willing to listen.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
Look, I’m new.  I’m a rookie.  I’ve served on a lot of boards, done some fairly high level stuff, national, international.  But I’ll have to learn the ropes.  That said, I kind of doubt I’ll just cast every vote along party lines, and hopefully my colleagues will value my viewpoint as I value theirs.

We are losing our minds and thoughts to television…

252035_1867707010505_5421630_nBy Dawn Carey

Where to begin?  So many ideas and thoughts, but so many mundane , superficial things to do.  What happened to contemplating the universe, life, love, truth, God, Us, nature?  Great thinkers, such as Plato, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Copernicus, Galileo, Buddha, Jesus, and others, did it long ago.  What has happened to our minds?  What has happened to our inquisitiveness?

Standing at my door, one night, I was dismayed to observe that three different houses, in my viewing range, had that eerie, vacant glow emitting through their windows from the screen of televisions.  It was chilling to think that these people were being bombarded with images from those screens before they drifted off to sleep; only to wake up and spend eight hours (or more) of their day to pay for the cable bill, in order to put themselves to sleep the next night with more mindless images, in order to continue that very cycle the next evening.

We don’t “think” anymore.  We leave that up to government, students, clergy, television producers, pundits, advertisers, Wall Street, Wal-Mart, and all of the others.  We don’t think because we don’t have time to think.  We don’t think, maybe, because we don’t WANT to.  We have been convinced that others (mentioned above) are doing that for us.  We are too tired from working to buy all of those falsely created “necessities” that we are bombarded with, via media, day-in and day-out.

Even our “needs” have been artificially created.  Do some research.  Yeah, right… maybe if you had the time.  ;)  Ask the fathers of propaganda (Lippman and Bernays, for instance) about the “manufacture of consent”.  Maybe someone could create a television show about it… we MIGHT be willing to make time for a quick show.

When do we sit around and just bask, or contemplate ANYTHING?  Maybe for an instant, between catching up with family, watching the game, cooking dinner, or picking up the house.

I can’t speak for others, but it feels as though every minute is spend worrying about the next moment.  What IS living in the “now”?  When do we have time to THINK?  Does anybody wonder about anything anymore?

Take Five

LePageMy wife, Governor Paul Lepage, Bill Nemitz, a charity auction and the in-patient psychiatric unit at Maine Medical Center.

How did these random things become connected last week, causing a bit of a stir on my Facebook page last night?

Let’s start at the top.

Last week, just days before the election, Governor Paul LePage joked that Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz should be placed on a “suicide watch,” speculating that he was going to win his re-election bid and his nemesis might jump off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge as a result.

Boom! Instant controversy. Once again, the governor found himself in familiar territory with his foot in his mouth.

The governor’s critics (Democrats) went wild, talking about how insensitive the governor is to issues regarding mental illness.

Reportedly, some people who have lost loved ones to suicide were also  angry and upset about the remarks.

Other folks (Republicans) said the governor was joking and the comment was no big deal, pointing out that many in society make lighthearted jokes on similar topics.

Stop and think if you have ever said “I’m going crazy.” “That is a crazy idea.” “That guy is a nut job.” Have you ever laughed when hearing a joke about hearing voices? Late night talk show hosts had plenty of fodder more than a decade ago when actress Margot Kidder was found partially clothed, hiding in the bushes of an LA suburb.

The subject of mental illness makes us nervous. We laugh about it as a relief valve for our own anxiety and fear. But can you take it too far?

Who’s saying what

My wife  has multiple sclerosis. It is a progressive illness with no cure. She often makes jokes about her illness, speculating about when she will need a wheelchair and telling me we will need to completely renovate our home to accommodate her decreasing mobility. She laughs about these very real topics, appearing on the surface light-hearted.

Her jokes about MS really bother me. They trigger a rush of feelings and incredible anxiety. I know that her jokes are just part of her coping methods, but still I cringe when she talks about putting “bling” on her cane.

When Laura jokes about her MS, I try to give her a pass because she has MS, not me. It is her coping strategy.

It’s sort of like the “N” word. An African-American man can use that word in public without recrimination and make jokes about its connotation and meaning.

If I did the same thing, I could possibly lose my job, certainly many friends.

Society draws a line. If you got it, you can talk about it. Otherwise, keep your trap shut.

Unless it’s Hollywood or the media , and then all bets are off, especially when it comes to mental illness.

In the days following the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, “Nightly newscasts reported “no known motive” and focused on the gunman’s anger, sense of isolation, and preoccupation with violent revenge. No one who read or saw the coverage would learn what a psychotic break looks like, nor that the vast majority of people with mental disorders are not violent. This kind of contextual information is conspicuously missing from major newspapers and TV,” wrote Richard Friedman in “Media and Madness,” an article published in the June 23, 2008 issue of The American Prospect.

Friedman goes on to explain that “Hollywood has benefited from a long-standing and lurid fascination with psychiatric illness,” referencing movies such as Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Fatal Attraction.

According to Friedman, “exaggerated characters like these may help make “average” people feel safer by displacing the threat of violence to a well-defined group.”

Since the 2011 Tucson shootings, I have been an out-of-the-closet consumer of mental health services. I have testified before the legislature, published an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald, spoken at community forums.

My mission is to show, in a tangible way, that mental illness is generally not scary and more often than not impacts everyday people: your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors and even your social media contacts.

My life-long struggle with mental illness is not particularly funny, but I do make jokes about it. Have you ever tried to eat a chicken cutlet with a spork? (They don’t give you silverware on the psychiatric unit. )

Did you know that nine out of 10 psychiatric units have aquariums? Fish, apparently, relieve anxiety and stress.

I make these jokes and others when speaking publicly because humor helps break down communication barriers.

I got in trouble

p6On Friday evening, Laura and I attended the Biddeford-Saco Chamber’s annual holiday auction and dinner. By pure coincidence, my bidding paddle was labeled P-6,  the abbreviation of Maine Medical Center’s in-patient psychiatric unit (located on the sixth floor of the Pavilion wing.) I held up the photo and had Laura take a shot of me and my label.

I posted that picture on Facebook.

Some people thought it was funny. Other people did not, questioning why I could joke about mental illness but Gov. LePage could not.

The tricky thing about humor is its intent.

For the record, I chuckled when LePage said Nemitz should be placed on a suicide watch. The two men have been battling for four years, and frankly, I’m not sure who hates who more.

But either way, I think humor is okay, so long as its intent is somewhat calculated and not malicious in nature.

As someone with severe and chronic mental health issues, it’s not up to me or anyone else to tell you what you can joke about. All I ask is that you think about the consequences and lighten up just a tiny bit.


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