Archives for August 2011

Senator Ken Donnelly

Welcome summer! As New Englanders, we know these few short months of good weather will be gone as quickly as they came and it is important to get outside and enjoy it while you can. There’s nothing better than spending these warm days with family and friends, enjoying a host of activities Massachusetts and our neighboring states have to offer. I recently took part in the New England Walk for Burn Awareness at Castle Island. I took my 6 yearold grandson with me and we had a wonderful time. It was an easy two mile walk around the castle with beautiful views of the water and the city skyline. With all the work that has been done recently to clean up Boston Harbor, the Castle Island beaches are the perfect place to enjoy a beach day without having to travel very far. After our walk, we stopped at Sullivan’s, the long standing “snack bar” on the island, where we enjoyed a lobster roll and some French fries. It was a lovely day trip that was also easily accessible.

Another favorite escape of mine is the White Mountains in New Hampshire. With over 100 miles of trails, there is something for everyone to experience. One of my favorite hikes is the hike to Zealand Falls. The Zealand Trail is rated as an easy to moderate hike, and after a quick 2.5 miles, you arrive at the majestic falls. The trail is smooth and flat, lending itself to hikers of all ages. In fact, I was able to take my then 5 and 3 year-old grandsons on this trail last summer and they enjoyed every minute of the walk. The White Mountains are less than a two hour drive from the Boston metro area, and once you arrive you feel like you’ve been transported to a different world. With all the trees, streams, and lakes, the trails in the White Mountains offers a cool relief from the heat of the city.

But one of the best destinations in my opinion is right here in our own backyards, the beautiful Minuteman National Park. We all know the park, most noted for housing the Lexington Green, but don’t forget the multitude of other attractions there. Take advantage of The Battle Road Trail, a five mile biking and walking trail that runs throughout the park. A trip to the North Bridge where you can hear about the opening battle of the American Revolution and experience first-hand accounts of the battlefield is also not to be missed. Having gone back to Minuteman National Park a handful of times, I realize it’s a place I never tire of. I encourage you and your families to set aside time this summer to enjoy these, and the many other

attractions our state and its neighbors have to offer. For a full list of activities in Massachusetts visit www.massvacation.com. And while organizing and going on group outings is a wonderful way to spend your summer vacation, don’t overlook the simple joys of relaxing at

your home, reading a great book, and taking in these warm days with friends and family. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a wonderful summer.

 

Senator Donnelly represents the Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts State Senate. He currently serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. If you would like to contact Senator Donnelly or his staff, they can be reached at their State House office by calling 617- 722-1432.

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Word Of The Day: Toastmasters

By Heather Aveson  |  “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” This quote has been attributed to Woodrow Wilson, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. It may be that they all uttered some variation on a common theme.

Lexington Toastmasters Club newest club member, Liam Walsh shares the sentiment with me as he prepares his first speech, a slender 4 – 6 minutes. The local club is celebrating 25 years of helping its members improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

“Toastmasters changed my life. They really did. Put me on the stage. I don’t know what I would have done without that positive boost.”   ~ Chris Matthews on Toastmasters

Chris Mattews is a well-known author and journalist who hosts MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and The Chris Matthews Show.

Lexington Toastmasters Board of Directors: Left to right Peter Ash, Sargent-at-Arms; Victoria Ngo-Phat, Treasurer; Bhavana Laad, President; Mary Roberts, VP PR; Robert Isenberg, VP Education. Missing: Duncan Stewart, VP Membership, and Sue McKittrick, Secretary.

We all know how to talk, but can we speak? Can we persuade, communicate, impassion, inspire? Some are born with a gift for public speaking, but most have to work at it. And some are truly paralyzed by the prospect of standing in front of a crowd. Many can remember “oral reports” in school and the terrible fear of getting up in front of the class.

In today’s competitive work climate it can be argued that speaking persuasively is more important than ever whether you are selling yourself in a job interview or presenting your ideas to clients or colleagues.

Toastmasters International began in the basement of a California YMCA in 1924 when Ralph Smedley realized that many of the young graduates with whom he worked could use “training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings.” He styled it after a social club to suggest a comfortable, pleasant atmosphere that would attract members. It was originally a “men only” group until it was expanded in the early 70s to include the huge numbers of women entering the labor market.

Toastmasters International now has more with 12,500 clubs with over 260,000 members in 113 countries. Smedley’s original 15-project manual Basic Training for Toastmasters still serves as the backbone of the club’s skill building. Toastmasters has many famous members including Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball, Debbie Fields Rose founder of Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Carl Dixon, Rock Musician, former lead singer for The Guess Who, Peter Coors of Coors Brewing Company, actor Tim Allen and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock in Star Trek.

The Lexington Toastmasters Club began as a corporate club in the D.W. Heath publishing arm of Raytheon Corporation in 1986. Lexington resident Arthur Fox was a member of the original club when it was known as the ISBN club. “It was called the ISBN club because of it was run by a publishing company and it stands for International Standard Book Number, but we also called it, “I Speak Better Now.” When D.W. Heath was sold and moved in the 1990’s the club was left behind. Members, including Fox, adopted it and brought it to Lexington center, first meeting upstairs in the Visitor’s Center and then renting space at various churches. Eventually they found a permanent home in the conference room of Cambridge Saving Bank where they meet weekly.

Arthur Fox remembers trying to keep the club going through tough times. “Toastmasters Clubs go through a lot of transformations. At some point this club fell into decline when we only had twelve members and maybe only four came. You have to be very careful about electing officers. Success really depends on them.” The club is in great health now with a strong slate of officers and approximately forty members. Between twenty and thirty members show up to any given meeting.

“Public speaking is like any sport. When you have honed your public speaking skills to a certain point, if you don’t continue to do it, work at it, it starts slipping.”
~ Arthur Fox, Lexington Toastmasters member

Meetings follow a specific agenda that offer both structure and flexibility. incoming President Sue McKittrick says, “The structure takes you through the things you’re supposed to learn.” The flexibility comes from subject matter and the ad lib section of the meetings, the Joke or Thought of the Day and Table Talkers, which are topics put out to the group for short spontaneous discussion by the group. Sue continues, “Table Talkers are great. Everyone participates in every meeting and it leads into other topics.”

For new member Karen Georgio “Table Talkers almost feel like better preparation for real life. You have to come up with something right on the spot.”

A spontaneous discussion may appeal to Karen right now because she just gave one of the most difficult speeches for most members, The Icebreaker

This is the first presentation by new members. They are given 4 -6 minutes to introduce themselves to the group. Education is central to Toastmasters and so new members are paired up with a mentor to prepare for their Icebreaker.Longtime member and Lexington resident Robert Isenberg, has been the group’s unofficial mentor for years and is now the Vice President of Education. He mentored Karen as she prepared for this first speech. “I was on a business trip to California so I had all this time on the plane. I wrote an entire speech that I tossed. Then I had time to write another one.” Although she got most of the way there, Robert’s input brought the speech where she wanted it to be. “That last twenty percent of tweaking made a huge difference.”

How does she feel now that it’s over? “It was the last week of school, I was crazy busy. I couldn’t psycho obsess about it. If I had spent too much time worrying about it I don’t think it would have come off as well as it did.”

The group’s newest member, Liam Walsh, is preparing his Icebreaker for the fall. Liam was a member of the Glendale, Arizona club in the mid-90’s. Liam says back then he concentrated on self-improvement and practicing public speaking. This time he looks at it as more of a hobby, “I always wanted to go back. It was a lot of fun. Watching somebody improve is a lot of fun.” As an accountant Liam says, “I never really sat down and wrote a speech. I just talked about numbers.” He’s not sharing what he’ll talk about during his Icebreaker, but he will share the process that helps Make the Butterflies Fly in Formation, as the Toastmasters Manual puts it. “I would do a speech in the car on a tape recorder. I’d practice it over and over to get to time. I was surprised at how much I improved. The process really worked for me.”

Getting over the fear of speaking and improving communication and leadership skills is at the heart of Toastmasters. Arthur Fox says, “Public speaking must arouse a really primal kind of reaction. It doesn’t have to be that scary. Basically the process desensitizes you to the fear by giving you the tools.” The simple learning-by-doing method has helped millions of men and women become more confident in front of an audience.

Speaking publicly in your native language is scary enough for most of us, but the Lexington Toastmasters attracts a lot of foreign speakers looking to improve their communication skills as well. Arthur Fox is thrilled. “The influx of foreign speakers is one of the flavors that we have. I think it’s remarkable when you’re learning to make the quantum step from just talking during a conversation to speaking publicly.” Their subjects bring a new dimension to the club as well. “Their stories are fascinating stories. One of our members had escaped the war in the Balkan States, another person in the club went through the Khmer Rouge.”

Members find their way to Toastmasters in many ways. Sue McKittrick followed the path of many others. “I was starting my own business and thinking about how to grow a business. One thing I wanted to do was speak publicly. It’s been very good. Speeches are short. I’ve learned to speak in small snippets. It’s helped me build routines. Because of what I’ve learned I’ve gotten some speaking engagements. It’s helped me build credibility.” Karen Georgio felt a similar tug in starting her new business. “I didn’t want to get all my ducks in a row and then realize, ‘Oh, yeah. I have to present this,’ I absorb a lot just being there. I start to listen differently.”

Some members join when they take a new job and know they will be called upon to present or when they lose a job and want more confidence putting themselves out there, others join to improve a specific skill or work their way through the speaking and leadership process and then leave. No matter how long members stay the group builds a special connection. Arthur Fox notes, “You build an intimacy in a safe, structured environment. Topics are often very close to the person. So you learn a lot about people’s lives. You feel like you know them on a level that you wouldn’t in another organization.” Liam Walsh sees the Icebreaker as the first step in opening up. “It’s an opportunity for people to get to know you a bit. Talking about yourself is the easiest subject you can pick.” And Karen Georgio appreciates connecting with members, “I feel like I’ve found a group of very interesting people—a real cross-section that I wouldn’t have been exposed to. You get to know people by what they chose to talk about.”

Lexington Toastmasters sees about a ten percent turnover in membership every year. For Arthur Fox and other long time members there’s a real benefit to putting your skills on the line year after year. “Public speaking is like any sport. When you have honed your public speaking skills to a certain point, if you don’t continue to do it, work at it, it starts slipping.”

 

Lexington Toastmasters Club meets Thursdays at noon in the basement of Cambridge Savings Bank on Massachusetts Ave. in Lexington center. For more information on the club, contact Mary Roberts at 617-653-0370.

For fun, log on to some Toastmasters Podcasts at: http://www.toastmasters.org/Members/MemberExperience/ToastmastersPodcast/Podcastsfrom2010.aspx

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Celebrating Memorial Day

By State Senator Ken Donnelly

I was honored to have been a part of Lexington’s Memorial Day Ceremonies a few weekends ago. After listening to the speakers and watching such a great showing of community and patriotism, I was inspired to expand on the remarks I shared that morning. For me, it is crucial that we remember and honor those we have lost defending our nation through out the year, not just on Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a time to reflect and remember those we have lost while serving our country. It isalso a time to thank the friends and families of these brave men and women for their sacrifice of losing a loved one, so other friends and families may continue to hold their loved ones close. And, it is a time to acknowledge the immense debt of gratitude we owe to all the service men and women of our armed forces. It is a credit to our nation that we have a day set aside every year to honor and memorialize our fallen troops. Each year on Memorial Day, towns and cities across the country gather at ceremonies just like this one. We watch parades, listen to speakers, and take time to reflect on the sacrifices others have made for us. But Memorial Day is one day.

Our task should be to honor the fallen, not just on this day, but throughout the year. We must hold dear those freedoms so bravely fought for and be strong stewards of our democracy and founding principles so that their sacrifice is not in vain.

As Americans, we are afforded freedoms we sometimes take forgranted but are for many around the world, a mere hope, waiting to take hold: freedom of speech, freedom to follow our own spiritual path, freedom to determine our own destinies. The men and women of the military have fought on foreign soil so that we still enjoy those freedoms

here at home. In return for their sacrifice and for these basic freedoms, we have the responsibility to continue the work that was started by our founding fathers so many years ago to “form a more perfect union.” We honor the service men and women we have lost, when we strive to better that union in our everyday lives. When we serve our communities. When we put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes, take the time to understand and help them with the obstacles they might be facing. When we perform our civic duties. And when we come together to focus on our common goals for the common good – when we focus on what brings us together rather than what drives us apart. These values are what keep our communities and our country strong. These values are worth fighting for. So let us continue to personify the values we know strengthen our great nation. And let us never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by our brave men and women of our military when we go about our lives, every day, here in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. We owe so much to them.

 

Senator Donnelly represents the Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts State Senate. He currently serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. If you would like to contact Senator Donnelly or his staff, they can be reached at their State House office by calling 617-722-1432.

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Ahead of the Curve

By E. Ashley Rooney  |  Koren Stembridge, the new Cary Memorial Library director, has been in her position since late March. As part of the interview process, the Search Committee asked the candidates for the position to put on a 15-minute presentation about the future of libraries. Koren worked from the strategic plan for the library developed in 2009 to see the themes that were important to the citizens of Lexington. She quickly identified these themes: programs, materials, community, technology, and schools/children.

The Cary Memorial Library staff from left to right: Ruth Lynn, Children’s Department Head, Cynthia Johnson, Reference Department Head, Kathy Quinlan, Assistant Library Director, Koren Stembridge, Library Director and Peggy Bateson, Circulation Department.

Last year, the Cary Library ranked 6th of 370 libraries in direct circulation (only Boston, Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, and Worcester were higher). Cary was the top circulating library in its population grouping (25,000 – 50,000 residents). Children’s items make up about 4 percent of our overall circulation.

At the Cary Memorial Library Foundation’s annual meeting, she commented on these categories. ” Last year, the Cary Library circulated over 804,000 items.

 Circulation has been steadily increasing and is on pace to increase again this year. If the average cost of those items borrowed were $12.00, it would have cost Lexington residents nearly 10 million dollars to buy what they borrowed. ”

Lexington residents are avid readers; we actually borrowed more than 91,000 items from other libraries last year for use by our residents (we loaned 54,000 items to other libraries for their use). The Circulation Department moves approximately 2 tons of materials in/out each week in these transfers to and from other libraries. Although some gurus point out that the traditional role of the library as a repository for books will disappear in the next decade, it has assumed a new role with the expansion of technology. At Cary, the downloads of eBooks grew by 50% between January and March of this year and by this fall, Koren expects that this service will be compatible with our Kindles.

“Clearly, the field of librarianship has always been tied to technology and the way we catalog, retrieve, and share our information with our patrons has evolved over time, ” Koren remarked. “What has changed for us is that in the past, we had a technology that we controlled and used as a tool for delivering information. As we move forward, we’re going to see new technologies, and we’ll have to figure out how to incorporate them into a construct that works for us. “

Koren stressed that in doing so we will have to deal with issues of privacy, security, copyright, intellectual freedom, and freedom of access. She also spoke about the quality of our youth services and the importance of maintaining a balance between technology and books that inspire their imaginations and build their literacy skills.

Cary is a meeting place, a community gathering spot, and a suburban hangout.

It has become a space where we meet and interact. Its programs are a fundamental and growing component of its task. Koren foresees that its future programming will fall into three general categories:

• Library sponsored – programs developed and presented by our talented staff

• Library as venue – programs offered to the public at the library by outside groups

• Partnerships – programs that are developed by one or more entities that utilize the strengths of both in order to add value to the library.

This is the bulk of the work I did at the Boston Public Library where we had extensive partnerships with the public schools, local museums, and local organizations. This will be a growth area for the Cary Library as we build new relationships with individuals and groups who have access to wonderful programming that could be offered here at the library.”

Jeanne Krieger, the incoming president of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, points out, “The work of the Foundation and the Friends makes the difference between Cary being a good library and a truly great library. It supports 40% of the adult material budget. Contributions from Lexington residents and firms augment programming and sustain the collection, turning Cary Library into a vibrant community center.”

Koren’s eyes sparkled, as she pointed out that the Foundation’s contribution to the materials budget and its willingness to fund initiatives that help us explore these technologies, and take some risks will make the difference in keeping the Cary Library ahead of the curve.

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Take a Booker to the Beach

By Judy Buswick  |  Would fiction from the list of Booker Prize winners be good summer reading for Lexingtonians? And who won this year’s award? My goal was to find the answers.

The prestigious Booker Prize for writers of English-language fiction is given by a different judging panel each year to either an established author or a first-time novelist chosen as the writer of the year’s best-fiction title in the British Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. Begun in 1969, the prize was originally dubbed the Booker-McConnell Prize, after its sponsoring company, but the title was commonly shortened to “the Booker Prize” or just “the Booker.” Though prize money was originally £21,000 (or $33,628 in today’s currency), in 2002 the administration of the prize transferred to the Booker Prize Foundation, an independent charity, when the Man Group investment firm joined in sponsoring the award.  Renaming it “the Man Booker Prize for Fiction,” the foundation increased the annual award to £50,000 (or $80,067) with literary excellence still its sole focus. Needless to say, writers cherish this award, since the winners are typically assured international fame and success. Even those merely nominated for the Booker receive a certain distinction and respect in the book trade for being considered for this most important literary prize in the English-speaking world.

The Booker Prize Foundation appoints an advisory committee of “an author, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson.” This committee then selects a judging panel “from amongst leading literary critics, writers, academics and notable public figures” to review submissions. From the following abbreviated list of winners, Lexington readers may find an author or title yet to be read, or for viewing on DVD :

South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer won the Booker in 1974 for “The Conservationist,” a novel exploring apartheid through the Zulu culture and a wealthy white South African farmer buries an unidentified corpse found on his property and seeks to conserve peace and apartheid. Gordimer also won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Iris Murdoch of Ireland won the 1978 Booker for her nineteenth novel “The Sea, the Sea,” which recounts an aging playwright’s obsession with a romance from his youth, as he begins to write his memoir. Egotism and selfishness abound.

In 1981 India’s Salman Rushdie won for his novel of historical fiction Midnight’s Children about India’s transition to independence from British colonialism. When the Booker had its 40th Anniversary in 2008, an award was created as “The Best of the Booker;” Rushdie’s “Midnight Children” won this unique award. Then in 1993, another special award was created as “The Booker of Bookers Prize” for the best novel to win in the first twenty-five years of the list. This same Rushdie novel won yet again.

Australia’s Thomas Keneally won in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark about a German businessman who saved thousands of Polish Jews during the Holocaust by putting them to work in his factory. The movie version directed by Steven Spielberg was dubbed “Schindler’s List,” as was the US edition of the book. Later it was re-issued under that name in the Commonwealth countries.  Actors Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, and Caroline Goodall appeared in the film which won seven Academy Awards.

Britain’s Anita Brookner won for Hotel du Lac in 1984, telling of observations made by a romance novelist who goes to Lake Geneva to recuperate from lost love. The book was made into an award winning BBC TV play.

1985 was a good year for New Zealand’s Keri Hulme who had trouble finding a publisher but then won the Booker for her first novel The Bone People, an unusual love story filled with violence and fear that mixes Maori myth with Biblical characters. Three fiercely unique people, one an autistic orphan, conjure up the heritage and landscape of New Zealand as their lives are figuratively stripped to the bone.

Another winning novel made into a movie was the 1988 Booker Oscar and Lucinda by Australia’s Peter Carey. A young Anglican priest and an Australian heiress, both with gambling addictions, set out to deliver a glass church to an outback community. Ralph Finnes and Cate Blanchette played the lead roles. The book was considered (or shortlisted) for The Best of the Booker in 2008.

Originally from Japan but also a British citizen, Kazuo Ishiguro won in 1989 for his historical novel titled “The Remains of the Day,” recounting the loyalty and near love-affair of an butler in an upper class household in pre-World War II England. The film adaptation starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeve, and Huge Grant was nominated for eight Academy Awards.   

Jumping a few years to 2000, we find Canada’s Margaret Atwood on the list for “The Blind Assassin,” a complex story of two sisters spanning the twentieth century. A story-within-the-story unfolds and leaves the reader to learn which sister actually wrote of an extramarital affair.

Another Canadian and a first time author, Yann Martel won in 2002 for “Life of Pi,” a fantasy adventure novel depicting the endurance of an Indian boy’s 227-day sea voyage in a small boat with a Bengal tiger.

 Kiran Desai from India won the 2006 prize for her novel set in an Indian mountain village along the Nepal border, The Inheritance of Loss. Both the grandfather Judge educated in England and his teenage granddaughter live under the cloud of multiculturalism and the threat of political terrorism.

 Hilary Mantel from Britain won the 2009 award for Wolf Hall depicting the tumultuous court of King Henry VIII through the eyes of the low-born Thomas Cromwell.  The story mixes real history and descriptive fiction.

In case you found yourself grumbling that no American authors were on the Booker list, I have good news to share. Introduced only in the last seven years, The Man Booker International Prize has been established to highlight “one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In seeking out literary excellence the judges consider a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.” A prize of £60,000 ($98,378) “is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language,” explains a Booker Foundation judge. There is no nationality requirement.

In 2005 the first Man Booker International Prize went to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare (several times nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Literature), next to Nigeran writer Chinua Achebe in 2007 (Now at Brown University, he is best known for his novel Things Fall Apart.), and in 2009 to Canadian Alice Munro (a short-story writer frequently on the Nobel Prize list).

Then, in May 2011 an American writer born in New Jersey who has stimulated and provoked readers for more than 50 years was honored with the Prize. Philip Roth received the Man Booker International Prize for his body of work, including Portnoy’s Complaint (1959), a Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral (1997) part of a trilogy, and The Human Stain (2000). The Chair of the Booker judging panel Rick Gekoski wrote that Roth “has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, but has also reanimated fiction.”

Roth’s most recent, short novel “Nemesis” (2010) is set in 1944 during a polio epidemic which ravages a Newark community, where twenty-three year old Bucky is a kind-hearted playground director but plagued by guilt. He struggles against the disease, his personal safety, and his ineligibility for the military — played against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Gekoski noted that Nemesis is “as fresh, memorable, and alive with feeling as anything [Roth] has written.” That said, Carmen Callil withdrew as one of the three judges, in protest over Roth as the 2011 winner.    

Booker Prize titles represent quality writing; and as Ion Trewin, Administrator of the Man Booker Prizes, has explained, “Whether you judge the prize by numbers of books sold, the number of films it has helped generate or the way it has opened our eyes to a range and quality of writing that might otherwise have been ignored,” the aim of the Bookers has been met.

But we still do not know who won this year’s Man Booker Prize. Those authors under consideration will be announced on September 6, 2011, and the winner will be named on October 16th. You may want to check the Man Booker Website to see the shortlist and make your own guess before the announcement.

Though summer reading is often “fluff,” taking a Booker title along for company may make for invigorating reading — either as an ebook or paper copy. See how many Booker Prize winners you may have already read or see what’s available electronically by visiting:  http://www.book-review-circle.com/Book-Review-Booker-Prize-Winning-Novels.html .

 

 

A non-fiction writer, Judy Buswick has never been in contention for a Booker!  She is the author of “Slate of Hand: Stone for Fine Art and Folk Art” (Trafford Publishing, 2007) and is working on a biography of Massachusetts quilter Sally Palmer Field. Contact her at jt.buswick@verizon.net.

 

 

 

 

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