Pop Quiz: Which Mouse has ADHD?

By Henry David Abraham MD

If you harbored any doubt that ADHD is real, take a look at the time-lapsed photo below. It comes from Duke University where they are trying to define ADHD on a molecular level. The mouse in the left test-tube is normal. The one in the middle is missing a certain gene. The one in the right tube is missing a pair of those genes. The blurred image tells the story. Hyperactivity is for real, at least in mice.

But if you or your child has suffered from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder you don’t need evidence from a lab. The classroom tells the story well enough. The ADHD child is the one who can’t keep his seat, who runs and climbs at the wrong times, who can’t wait his turn or keep from talking. A more subtle form is found in the kid who can’t pay attention, can’t organize, is forgetful, distractible, and forever losing things. This is the inattentive type of ADHD. Kids with poor attention have trouble reading. Kids with hyperactivity have trouble listening. Some kids have both types.

We even know where it comes from, sort of. Genes have been identified. Smoking in pregnancy increases the chances a baby will have ADHD. Even Tylenol in pregnancy increases the odds somewhat. The problem is that there is no simple test that clinches the diagnosis. It’s more a matter of a consensus between parents, teachers and doctors that seals the deal. Knock one of those out of the discussion, and you open the door to years of error.

Consider a short list of some of the other problems that can cause hyperactivity without ever being ADHD: learning disabilities, autism, mood disorders, drug abuse, caffeine, thyroid disease, asthma medication, to say nothing of a new sibling, new school, divorce, or death of a parent or grandparent. If there is one take home lesson, it’s that diagnosis should drive treatment, not the other way around.

When people agree on the diagnosis, treatment should follow two principles. The first is to create a state in the child of what AJ Martin calls “academic buoyancy.” That’s when a student develops the capacity to overcome setbacks that are typical of ordinary life at school. In severe cases medication is nearly always essential, since a strictly behavioral program is not likely to succeed alone. But behavioral steps in class and at home are essential. These children are not simply going to be cured by a pill. Needed as well are getting classroom accommodations, building classroom citizenship, making and keeping friends, and seeking schoolhouse victories in class and after school.

This brings up a second principle. Treatment must protect the children from us- the swarm of well-meaning parents, teachers, counselors and doctors who all want to do something about this whirling dervish of a child. Too often an overly aggressive treatment plan labels the child as trouble, a poor learner, not normal. The result is stigma, social isolation, and the continual drumbeat of inadequacy that the child hears and comes to believe. It’s not that you should do nothing. But whatever is done has to be done carefully. Note that on the average, symptoms diminish by about 50% every 5 years between the ages of 10 and 25. It’s fair to ask if a child’s problems are likely to disappear by adulthood, why treat in the first place? Because they may not, and without treatment she is in for a childhood surrounded by handwringing adults. This is not good for anyone.

What about the child with mild or moderate ADHD? They look OK for the most part, like the mouse in test-tube 2, but they still stand out by being inattentive rather than hyperactive, girls rather than boys. They are also annoying, irritable, friendless, indifferent to school work, anxious, or depressed. They may be helped by classroom accommodations, tutoring in tough subjects, and a little more parental involvement. Medications may be an option if behavioral approaches don’t do the job.

Medication is a big stick, and there are risks as well as benefits. Medications for the most part are stimulants. They are abusable, addictive, and with unpleasant side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and weight loss. In large doses they cause paranoia and psychosis. On tests and papers they can result in blithering. Worse, in a Dutch study of heroin addicts, fully one quarter of them had ADHD. And among ADHD patients, the risk for drug abuse was increased seven times.

So why has the sales of stimulants for ADHD quintupled in the last ten years? The answer is vividly described by Alan Schwarz’s recent piece in the New York Times, “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.” The sale of stimulant drugs is big business. Shire, the world’s biggest producer of ADHD drugs, just recorded some of its highest profits, largely based on sales of its stimulant Vyvanse. Shire even supports an on-line six question self-quiz to tell you if you suffer from their favorite disease. Nearly half the people who took the quiz for the Times were classified as possible ADHD cases. (Trouble wrapping up a project? Sounds serious. Call your doctor!) Stimulants have a ready market among desperate parents, hurried doctors, and students willing to divert their drug supply to friends who want to pull an all-nighter. The medications also have a thriving after-market among addicts. Heroin may have killed Philip Seymour Hoffman, but stimulants helped. A reporter for Al Jazeera asked me recently if normal college kids should use stimulants to enhance their school performance. Brave new world, that has such questions in it.

 

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

Dr. Henry David Abraham is a psychiatrist in Lexington, MA. He is the author of several books on drug education, including What’s a Parent to Do: Straight Talk on Drugs and Alcohol, and the e-book for teens, The No Nonsense Book on Drugs and Alcohol, available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

 

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New Academy Of Creative Arts Opens in Burlington

 

Dr. Joshi with students (l to r) Aryan, Sara, Naveen, Anaya, Tanvi, Shrihan and Arth.

Dr. Joshi with students (l to r) Aryan, Sara, Naveen, Anaya, Tanvi, Shrihan and Arth.

Many Lexington residents may recognize Dr. Java Joshi (and her stunning artwork) from the numerous Lexington arts events that she has participated in over the years from her successful exhibit at the Cary Memorial Library to Lexington Open Studios where she has served on the organizing committee and as an exhibitor.

Three years ago Joshi formed Joshi Creative Arts in Lexington to share her passion for the creative arts with children through teaching art to children from 3 to 18 years of age. Now she is taking her dream to the next level with the launch of the Academy of Creative Arts which will offer classes in art, jewelry design and dance. The inaugural event for this new Academy was held on January 9th in Joshi’s Burlington studio.

“The vision for our Academy is to provide an atmosphere where creativity is encouraged and fostered,” Dr. Joshi says. “We hope that the Academy of Creative Arts will become an institution of choice for any and all kinds of creative and performing arts.”

At the opening event, Dr. Joshi was surrounded by her students and their beautiful artwork. Joined by her husband Hetel, Joshi radiated excitement for this new endeavor.

Born in India, Java earned a Masters in Fine Arts and Ph.D. in Drawing & Painting from India. Java also graduated from the Arts Institute of Atlanta with a degree in Multimedia and Web Design.

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Children’s Artwork from the new Academy of Creative Arts in Burlington                             

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Teaching Staff
Dr. Java Joshi-Art Instruction
Java (center) holds a PhD in Drawing and Painting from India and a Masters in Multimedia & Web Design from the Art Institute of Atlanta.
Irit Kaphzan Hamami-Jewelry Design
Irit (left) came to the U.S. fifteen years ago and taught Jewish Studies, but he passion for jewelry design grew until she decided to pursue it full time eight years ago. Since then she has exhibited her work in Lexington and Concord Open Studios. She hopes to combine her love of teaching and jewelry design in her classes.
Judith Ann Cooper-Observational Painting for Adults
Judith (right) taught in the Gloucester Public Schools for 29 years. She holds a BFA from BU in painting and education. Judith enjoys creating art from many different mediums.
Mona Mitra-Kathak Dance & Bollywood Fusion
(missing from the photo)
Mona is a classically trained dancer, with a “Vishared in Kathak with is one of the traditional Indian dances. She has been teaching Kathak and Bollywood Fusion in Boston since 2010.

logo

Call – 612.888.ARTS (2787) | Email: info@academyofcreativearts.com

Address: 128 Wheeler Road, Burlington MA 01803

www.academyofcreativearts.com

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LHS Students Recognized in Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards

Forty Nine students from the Lexington Public Schools were recognized for their artistic excellence in the 2014 Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards.

Student artwork from grades 7-12 were selected by their schools, and many received Honorable Mentions, Silver Keys or Gold Keys. Of the 49 students whose works were selected, 29 Honorable Mentions, 9 Silver Keys and 20 Gold Keys were awarded. Gold Key Winners will be on display at Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014.

Following the close of the Massachusetts Regional exhibit, the selected Gold Key award winners from each national region will have their art works reviewed by a blue ribbon panel of judges at the National level in March. The National Jury will select “Gold Medal” National winners and call in their artwork to be exhibited in New York City during June. The National student awards ceremony will be held at Carnegie Hall in mid- June. Selected students will receive an invitation to this National event.

Raindrops-Emma Kaftan-Luckerman, grade 12

Raindrops
Emma Kaftan-Luckerman
Grade 12

A Meaningful Embrace_Colby Yee, grade 12, Gold Key

A Meaningful Embrace
Colby Yee
Grade 12

 

Convex Concave-  Elana Super, grade 12

Convex Concave
Elana Super
Grade 12

 Gold Key Winners will be on display at

Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014

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Saying Goodbye to Estabrook School

Principals 2

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

By Laurie Atwater

The mood was nostalgic as alumni and families took one last opportunity to stroll the halls of Estabrook School before its official closing on February 14th. The new building, which will open to students on February 24, is just a building, waiting for the memories of generations to come. The old Estabrook almost burst with the energy of 52 years’ of memories on Friday night as alumni, students, parents, teachers and friends reminisced and said goodbye.

Greeted by Principal Sandy Strach, folks grabbed from an abundant supply of Sharpies and searched for the perfect spot to sign their names. Was it the Library, the front office, the entrance of a very special classroom where they would leave their final tribute? According to principal Strach, it has been a “very sentimental time” for her and her fellow educators and administrators. “People have come from all over to say goodbye,” Strach said. “Alumni, teachers—it has been a multi-generational event with families that have attended the school for decades.” Indeed, the 52 year old structure has seen a lot of history.

Visitor and alumnus John Murphy who attended Estabrook from 1966-1971 recalled the day when his older brother along with all the other children were called into the auditorium and informed that President Kennedy had been assassinated. In fact, Murphy had memories every time he turned a corner and wistfully recalled that they were allowed to ride their bikes to school when he attended Estabrook. Estabrook has also become much more diverse over its 52 years. In his tribute next to the door to his 2nd grade classroom, Murphy scrawled a reference to how his class had voted for Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in 1968.

Parents from many different cultures walked the halls with their children and took pictures. Fifth grade student Nicholas Tringale who is currently in Miss Silberman’s class and will transition to the new school, signed the wall with his mom Beverly who attended Estabrook from 1969-1975. Nicholas has mixed feelings about leaving his old school and his shiny green lockers! Nicholas will be happy to hear that all of the usable items from Estabrook will be re-purposed around the district where they are needed including the lockers. Several items will be contributed to the Lexington Historical Society: mid-century modern chairs and the original sign. Unfortunately, the much-loved mural was not able to be preserved, but it was photographed professionally and that photograph will be lovingly displayed as part of a special exhibit in the new school.

Back in the lobby, Principal Strach greeted family after family and at one point has a circle of Estabrook teachers around her with over 100 years in combined teaching time! Susan Orenstein taught Kindergarten, Elaine Hooper taught both 2nd and 3rd grade, Joan Pirrello taught grade 3 and Renée Sack taught 4th and 5th grade. Among them Len Swanton who went on to work with Carol Pilarski (who also attended) in the main office and has “great memories of this school.”

Principal Strach was not surprised by the outpouring of love for the school. “It doesn’t matter what decade they attended,” she said, “the ‘intangible’ at Estabrook is how much they were loved.” She describes it as “love balanced with progressive learning.” That is the quality that she is determined to foster in the new school as well. Principal Strach is excited that the new building is full of community spaces. “We’ve kept that as a priority.”

Strach is inspired by the rich history of Estabrook School and referred me to her speech at the groundbreaking for a little Estabrook education which I will share with you here:

Fifty-one years ago, when Estabrook School first opened its doors, it was famously known as the first team teaching school in the nation. For decades thereafter, professionals in education, research and architecture traveled worldwide to see the renowned Estabrook School in action. The school’s

progressive instructional vision, inspired by Harvard University and Lexington educators, was

complemented by an open and flexible architectural design. Cooperative learning, flexible multi-age learning groups and teacher leadership were the instructional cornerstones of the 1961 Estabrook School. These advanced best practices were not readily apparent in mainstream education until the 1990’s.

 

Excerpted from Principal Sandy Strach’s speech at the groundbreaking for the new Estabrook school

 

According to Strach the new school is designed to push the progressive learning model into the future while maintaining the vision of the past. The building itself will become a teaching tool as a LEED Silver building, it will be a living example to the students of environmental responsibility and stewardship. From the sustainable gardening practices and ecology education through the Big Backyard to a LEEDS Silver Curriculum created around the question: What makes Estabrook a green school?, Strach hopes to send informed citizens into the world. “By the time they graduate,” she says, “they will appreciate the evolution of ‘Green’ and can take it forward into the world.”

It’s part of what makes Estabrook such a special place Strach said—the “ecology” of the school where one person effects the other—the school itself is a metaphor for the community it holds so dear.

 

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Sister City Fundraiser – French A Faire!

 

French A Faire
 FA_14Lexingtonians turned out to attend the fifth annual A French A Faire at the Lexington Depot building. Featuring French entertainment, wine, cheese, pâté, bread, chocolate and other tastings, French A Faire celebrates Lexington’s sister city relationship with Antony France.
The Tourism Committee is the official sponsor of the event as a part of LASCA (Lexington-Antony Sister City Association). This year Dawn McKenna and Kerry Brandin of the Tourism committee appointed Maureen Poole and Sandra Gasbarro to chair French A Faire. With about twelve volunteers, they pulled together another successful celebration!A French A Faire features a lively auction called by Paul O’Shaughnessy. This year the proceeds from the auction will be directed toward the completion of Antony Park on Massachusetts Avenue.The auction theme was “A Date with…” and featured special hosted experiences donated by Peter Kelley, The Liberty Ride, French Consul Fabien Fieschi, Heather Campion and Dan Fenn, Trisha Perez Kennealy, Brenda Nishimura, Paul O’Shaughnessy and Bill Poole, Tony Galaitsis, Chef Raymond Ost of Sandrine’s Bistro, and artist Dominique Boutaud.Attendees were pleased to greet Fabien Fieschi, the Consul General of France, Swiss Consul Dr. Felix Moesner and Haitian Consul Minister Marjorie Alexandre Brunahe.Lexington’s relationship with Antony, France dates back over 30 years and includes the Minute Men, artist community, school exchanges, and many friendships. Many Lexingtonians have traveled to Antony to enjoy the annual Wine and Cheese Festival there and Antonians have enjoyed Lexington hospitality most recently during the 300th celebration.To learn more about becoming a part of LASCA, visit the Town of Lexington Tourism Committee on the town website.

 

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Big Lex a BIG success!

By Mollie Garberg

 

Big LexThe fast falling snow over the Martin Luther King weekend didn’t phase Nikhil Basutkar, one of the 1073 debaters who had come from across the country for the Lexington Winter Invitational Debate Tournament or ‘Big Lex’ hosted by the Lexington Debate Team. Instead, he posted a picture of himself standing in it on Twitter captioned “Debating in the snow. #BigLex #Boston #PFD”

PFD refers to public forum debate, one of the three types of debates held at the tournament. Students at the tournament were prepared for Lincoln-Douglas and policy debates as well. Though none of the Lexington debaters competed, they spent countless hours organizing and volunteering as hosts to pull off the event which is their largest fundraiser of the year. Lexington parent volunteers pitched in too, doing everything from acting as greeters to cooking for the judges to housing 350 visiting debaters.

Visiting coaches and judges stayed at local hotels, and Whitson’s, the food service provider for the Lexington Public Schools, catered the event and provided nutritious meals for all the participants. Event Chairs Jean Birnberg and Sue Wilner said that local businesses were especially helpful and donated food, beverages and other services to help make the event successful. Some of the businesses that contributed were Wilson Farms, Taipei Gourmet, Prime Roast Beef, Royal India Bistro, Lexx, Neillios, Ruyi Restaurant, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

But the event was more than just a fundraiser for the team. Debate benefits Lexington students in many ways according to Sara Sanchez, Lexington high school’s debate teacher and program head. “Our society has a long history of celebrating great oratory and the presentation of ideas, which debate teaches kids to activate. Tournaments and competition provide a unique cumulative education experience that cannot be duplicated by tests/activities in the classroom. On an interpersonal level, it allows kids to challenge themselves academically in an innovative, head to head competition where their arguments are heard, evaluated and taken seriously by adults and educators who dedicate time to give them personalized feedback,” says Sanchez.

If you’d like to learn more and help support Lexington Debate, go www.lexdebate.org for more information.

 

Mollie Garberg is a Lexington resident, debate parent and volunteer.

 

 

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A farewell to Dr. Michael Fiveash and Mme. Karen Girondel

Michael Fiveash and Karen Girondel

Mme. Girondel was a new graduate when she was hired to teach Middle School French in Lexington. “For me, my 20’s were heaven. I started teaching right out of school. I was very lucky. Clarke was a brand new school. All the foreign languages shared a central space. Collaboration is what that school was all about. We learned from the veterans,” she says.

Gigi taught at Clarke until 1984 when she was brought over to the high school to reinvigorate the French 4 classes. “I had never taught French 4, so I just did what I did at Clarke.” French 4 became a very popular class.French 4, French Literature, everything Mme. Girondel taught became popular.

She also revived the french exhange program. Lexington’s connection with Antony, France began at Clarke because a fellow teacher had a friend who taught middle school there. Mme. Girondel brought that connection to the high school and created a very successful exchange program with Antony that continues today and has led to a sister city relationship between the two towns.

Dr. Fiveash had a little more worldly experience before landing at LHS. He spent four years lecturing at Boston University after college. To make ends meet he unloaded trucks, did some sweeping up and tutored. Then a call came from the Lexington schools. “The previous Latin teacher walked out on a Friday and never came back. My intention was to be here a year or two. I fell in love with the school and with teaching high school. By the end of that first year I felt it was something I could do and could get better at.”

Once he gets on this topic, Dr. Fiveash’s passion for teaching at LHS flows easily. “I loved the connection with kids. It was very different from college. I was a young father, I had a one year old. I felt the same thing here. What the Town of Lexington wanted me to do was teach these kids what I love and be a parent/protector.”

Left, Michael Fiveash and Karen Girondel have anchored the Bee Linguists for years.

Their connection with these kids continues long after graduation. You have to know that at any point during a conversation with Gigi and Doc recent alumni will arrive at the door, soaking in the familiar sights of the room that served as “home” for many of them during their years at LHS. Both teachers believe in the importance of this space. Dr. Fiveash notes, “When you walk in, you want to get a sense of what goes on there.”  Mme. Girondel adds, “Rooms are so important to how we connect with kids.” Apparently, the students agree. Julie Doherty graduated in 2010 and says, “I’m sure every student who has ever had her remembers learning the subjunctive from Gigi’s Star Wars poster on the wall, which says Que la force soit avec toi,or May the force be with you. Mme. Girondel would be happy to hear that, as she does admit to a particular weakness for that part of speech. When she throws up her hands with a shrug and says, “I just love the subjunctive,” you can understand why her kids love learning it, too.

And, to these rooms, and these teachers, the students return. Dan Choi, Class of 2005 says, “There was this change in the culture at LHS when we came in. I think that’s why I liked coming here. It was old school. The way the history of LHS had been.”

The approach might be old school, but these two are on the cutting edge of teaching technology. Back in Apple II days Dr. Fiveash found a script that would generate random sentences, something that’s very important when you’re teaching a language that no one has spoken for a few thousand years. Then he got the kids involved. “Kids are great natural teachers, especially when teaching technology. They love teaching their elders.” he says. “They love the inverted nature of it.”

Technology has come a long way since then. Through an LEF grant Dr. Fiveash and Mme. Girondel now have high tech “white boards”  in their classrooms. Michaela Shtilman-Minkin thinks, “He’s one of the funniest and most sarcastic people I’ve ever known.” So it’s not a surprise to hear him say, “Two of the oldest teachers in the school got the most cutting edge technology! There’s a little irony there.”

His passion for teaching can’t be contained at this point in our interview. He jumps up and turns on the system, gliding into an impromptu Latin lesson that leaves me wondering, Where do I sign up?

Michael Fiveash gives an impromptu demonstration using the Smart Board

Dr. Fiveash and Mme. Girondel see this new technology as an exciting opportunity for the future. “If we can’t teach kids,” Mme. Girondel says, “we’d like to teach teachers how to use this amazing technology.”  Dr. Fiveash completes the vision, “The part we’re interested in is the pedagogy. Subjects that really lend themselves to large group instruction.” But the future has to wait.  “It’s distracting, all the stuff that’s going on,” he says,  “but we both feel like we have to end this the right way.”

In the last few weeks of school they’ve focused on teaching and spent time catching up with returning students. Recently they were immersed in the affection of 150 fellow teachers, students, alumni and parents at a surprise party organized completely by the kids.

And it all comes back to the kids. Ting Ting Shiue and Dan Choi, Class of  ’05, stop by the classroom to reconnect with their teacher. In their conversation Ting Ting tells them she now realizes, “It wasn’t about the text or the material, it was about a lot more than that. A lot of the things I took away from the class influence the way I think about what I want to do.”  Dan Choi adds, “Obviously, we didn’t understand it at all then, but now we do. You didn’t just teach language and art. You taught us how to live life.”

That is the theme that you hear over and over again from students. That is the legacy that Dr. Michael Fiveash and Karen Girondel leave the students of Lexington High School.

Farewell to Dr. Michael Fiveash and Mme. Karen Girondel.

 

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A Personal Connection~Learning About Life Through Little League

Coaches

Little League Coaches

By Hank Manz

Even with some of the fields still brown and even with the nights still cold, it is now a very important time of year. Spring? Well, sure, but more important than that. I am speaking of something that surpasses everything else because it is time to start playing baseball.

I don’t mean just watching baseball. Sure, that can be important, too, but not as important as actually playing the game.

There are other sports that people might like, but there is nothing quite like a warm summer night, a well-oiled glove, a hat that fits perfectly, and a bunch of players who can’t hit my knuckleball. OK—that last is getting harder to come by, but even with three out of four, there is nothing with which to compare it.

I was a very small kid with no arm, but one summer in Police Athletic League baseball I ran into a coach who had a couple of the fingers on his throwing hand in a recent war. All he could throw was a knuckleball which was perfect for a player who would never be able to throw faster than 65 mph, even in college.

That knuckleball, along with an ability to scratch out singles with men on base, and a Vern Law signature model glove earned me a spot on several teams over the years. More than 50 years later I still have the glove. Oh, there have been love affairs with flashier models now and again, but I have always returned to that Law Trap-Eze glove. I once buried an almost new glove at a field in Cambridge after committing five errors including one that lost the game for my team.

The non-wood bats gave me a boost about the time my hitting was starting to really sag, but my first home run would not come until I was just past my 40th birthday when the perfect pitch and the best swing ever came together in my first round-tripper. It broke a window in a passing T-bus, but the driver just shrugged it off as did the police officer whose cruiser windshield I cracked when I fouled one off later in the game.

So it was inevitable that one day I would take my then only eligible child to Little League registration. After signing up we waited for the coach to call to tell us what team she was going to be on, but instead a smooth-talking league organizer came by to tell me that an awful lot of kids were going to be disappointed if I couldn’t sign up as a manager, the baseball equivalent of a head coach. It seems they were short of volunteers and really needed someone with my experience, etc., etc. Later, when I became a league organizer, I would use that line more times than I care to count.

I stuck with Little League, eventually joined the board of directors, and ended up as a league organizer. But I also stuck with coaching.

That somehow led to running for Town Meeting although I still do not fully understand exactly how that came about. And that led to running for Selectman.

I finally gave up Little League, but then concentrated on youth hockey and Boy Scouts. About four years into the transition I realized that what I had learned as a Little League organizer fit right into both hockey and Scouts. Hmmmmm.

One day, a light dawned. What I had learned in Little League also fit into town government and a lot of other endeavors. Everything I had learned about life appears to have been learned in Little League. Wow!

One of the first things I learned was that you can make all the rules you want, but if they fail to pass by a huge majority, nobody will follow them.

Use all your players. The day will come when you will be thankful that you spent all your time on that kid who just couldn’t seem to catch the ball because he will make a brilliant catch late in a tournament game which will more than make up for all the ones he dropped.

While we are on that subject, you will spend 75% of your time coaching 25% of your players. If you are a good coach, it will be the lowest 25% and not the highest 25%. The highest 25% are probably better players than you were anyway.

Of course you shouldn’t cheat, but don’t even cut corners. You may be following the letter of the law, but someday the fact that you didn’t pay attention to the spirit of the rules will come back to haunt you.

Try not to relive your past glories through your team. Most of the kids are just looking to have some fun while they figure out that they don’t really want to play ball for their life work. To be honest, your past glories probably weren’t perfect, either. No need for your players to know that.

Keep in mind that there will be failures. With a lifetime batting average of .210 that means I failed close to 4 out of every 5 times at bat. You are surprised I know my lifetime batting average? It doesn’t hurt to keep track so long as you don’t beat anybody else over the head with it.

Winning it all can be exciting, but pizza after you have spent the season in the cellar, but then knocked off the #1 seed in the tournament tastes really good … even when you get knocked out by the #12 seed two nights later. Live for the moment and don’t always concentrate on the big picture.

Try to see the humor in what is going on. My Little League team once won a game when the opposing coach yelled at his pitcher “Just throw strikes.” The pitcher looked over at me and smiled, then started to laugh so hard that he couldn’t get anything even close to the plate. That pitcher is now 28 years old and we both still chuckle about that game. I mean what did his coach think he was trying to do?

Don’t take advantage. It is, after all, only a game. With three players on base, the opposing catcher was hit so hard by a pitch that he fell down in front of the plate screaming. Technically, the team at bat could have sent all the runners home and won the game, but both coaches immediately called time and instructed the spectators to stop yelling. As one coach put it “Winning by stepping over a screaming child is not my style.”

There is so much more, but I will leave you with this thought. We all know healthy snacks are good for you, but while players may like them, nobody really adores them so now and then break out the licorice ropes and Hershey bars. The players will sing your praises and who knows—the resulting sugar high may win you a game.

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Undiscovered Lexington ~ Group Links Conservation Lands for the Community to Enjoy!

These are just a couple of the beautiful spots to explore in Lexington. Just wait for the spring and check out the Citizens of Lexington Conservation Walks here:   https://colonialtimesmagazine.com/citizens-of-lexington-spring-conservation-walks/

 

Click on the image of the map below to link to a PDF of the Pilot Route.

Pilot Route

http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/ACROSSLexingtonPilotRouteMapOctober_15_2012.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

 

By Laurie Atwater

 

I grew up with woods behind my house and I knew every inch of it! I spent all day having adventures in those woods—walking, reading, exploring, catching frogs and building forts. It held endless fascination for me right through the sixth grade when we moved across town and got new woods and a walking path thanks to the Rails to Trails program. I can’t imagine my life without that experience in nature.

Today I long for the piney woods, the smells of the meadow, the rich soil of my grandfather’s garden and the wind off the lake more than anything. The other day I took my coffee to Minuteman National Park and began a difficult tipsy walk along the crusty snow to the Hartwell Tavern and left to the rock wall bordering the pasture where I sat down for some quiet. One lady laughed asking me if I was out for a walk or a coffee break! I told her it was a therapeutic experience—I needed a dose of nature.

I recently sat with Rick Abrams and Keith Ohmart of the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee to discuss their new project ACROSS (Accessing Conservation Land, Recreation Areas Open Spaces, Schools and Streets) Lexington. “You know,” Abrams says, “not many kids these days have the opportunity to get lost in nature.” But in Lexington, thanks to the efforts of Rick and the other members of the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee, Lexingtonians will get to know the many natural resources around town and be able to get out into nature—adults and children alike—with more ease.

Rick mentions several studies conducted at the University of Michigan by professors Rachel and Stephen Kaplan which show that walking in nature, living close to nature and viewing pictures of nature had positive benefits among diverse populations. The couple has theorized that modern life is full of “sustained attention” which is exhausting. Being in nature allows attention to wander and be captured by images of beauty and gives the brain time to recover. It’s called Attention Restoration Therapy (ART) and it occurs only in nature. A walk in the city does not have the same effect.

a71ce03ae7a0be49f07db110.L Recent books by Richard Louv, The Nature Principal and his previous book The Last Child in the Woods—Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder , describe the effect of our plugged-in lifestyle on our “denatured” children. Today’s kids don’t often have the experience that I had growing up, or that early residents of Lexington had before open space gave way to big houses. This lack of nature in our lives—this “nature deprivation deficit” as author Richard Louv calls it, may be just as damaging to our children as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Research at the University of Rochester in 2010 by investigators Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan revealed that time in nature not only recharges our imagination and relaxes our bodies, but it reorients our values. In an article in Scientific American , entitled The Moral Call of the Wild , social psychologist Wesley Shultz discusses this research in conjunction with changing American values and concludes that our ever-increasing distance from nature “could drive large-scale shifts in societal values.” Beyond its mood elevating effects, it seems that nature might also increase our desire to connect with our communities and decrease externalized values like the desire for fame or wealth. “As their results show, Shultz writes, “experiences with strictly built environments lead to life aspirations that are more self-focused.”

LEXINGTON’S OPEN SPACE

This story has two real heroes: the Lexington Conservation Committee and the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee. One Committee is relatively new and the other has been working since 1963 when according to the Town website “Town Meeting voted to accept the Conservation Act (M.G.L. Chapter 40 51 and s. 8c), which had been passed by the Massachusetts legislature to promote and protect open space in the Commonwealth. The Commission’s responsibilities were expanded to include administration and enforcement of wetlands protection when the Wetlands Protection Act (M.G.L. 131 Section 40) was created.”

This move corresponded with the boom in the development of inner ring suburbs between 1950 and 1960 (fueled by the highway system) and the rapid development of open space that accompanied the expansion into formerly rural cities and towns.

In 1951 Lexington became connected to Route 128 and the population began to swell. Lexington was a farming community rife with fields, meadows, woods and waterways that remained untouched until this rapid flight from the inner cities to the suburbs by a middle class yearning for yards and gardens.

According to Dick Kollen in his great book Lexington- from Liberty’s Birthplace to Progressive Suburb:  “While Lexingtonians applauded the benefits of Route 128’s construction…town leaders grew wary that excessive population growth would transform the town’s landscape and character.” (Page 145)

Indeed, the movement began in Lexington to acquire and protect Lexington’s open space for the generations to come and we are all the beneficiaries of this forward-thinking effort that continues today.  As large parcels of family farmland come up for sale, the town of Lexington has been there to preserve parts of it for future Lexingtonians to enjoy.  This preservation of  land will protect Lexington from the over-developed appearance of many of its neighbors.

 

“Sit here for a while on the stone wall (ever mindful of the poison ivy), and let your gaze and your thughts wander to the Chiesa barn in the far distance. Such peace and solitude on a warm afternoon or evening is a therapeutic interlude and a refreshing restorative … If you tell me that you have better things to do than sit on a lichen-covered stone wall at the edge of a hay field, watching the timothy rippling in the wind, I shall reply that materialism has overtaken and subdued you. Our children’s children shall be poorer without these peaceful acres to enjoy.”
-S. Lawrence Whipple. “Peaceful Acres’ Preservation Urged,” The Lexington Minuteman, May 25, 1985. Excerpted from Lexington Through the Years, S. Lawrence Whipple, Edited by S. Levi Doran.

 

ACROSS LEXINGTON

Fast forward to today and the next step in this continuum has been undertaken—the committee seeks to increase Lexingtonians’ awareness of these great open spaces and to promote its use for passive recreation and alternate transportation around town. Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart and Eileen Entin comprise the ACROSS Lexington Task Force of the Greenways Corridor Committee (GCC). They have been charged by the Selectmen with the responsibility to identify existing pathways through conservation land and existing streets in town and to link them into coherent routes for pedestrians or bikers.

“We really have two goals,” Abrams says, “to get people walking in nature and to see this as an alternative form of transportation around town.”

Ohmart points out, “One of the key parts of this is that we are using existing infrastructure—either sidewalks or streets or trails that are already there in our conservation land. There’s very little in the way of new trails that need to be constructed. We’re not out there blazing trails where there was nothing before.”

Initially the committee simply wanted to connect the green spaces in town—playing fields and open spaces like Great Meadow, but they soon expanded their vision. “We realized that there are connections in town from neighborhoods to the town center and to the schools that would encourage people to leave their cars behind,” Ohmart says.

Making Lexington more walkable is the ultimate goal. “If we can get more kids, parents and elders out of their cars, walking to school, walking to the town center—that will make the community more sustainable,” says Abrams.

The Pilot Route was completed on October 15th and is 5.5 miles in length. The route starts in the town center and takes a walker through 4 conservation areas—Lower Vinebrook, Willard’s Woods, Chiesa Farm, and Parker Meadow—ending up back on the Minuteman bikeway.

Since the Pilot Route was opened they have received positive feedback and they want to hear from more Lexingtonians. “We are a committee that wants feedback,” Abrams laughs. The more people that test out the route the more they hear.

 

The Board of Selectmen have established the Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Fund
to support the trail network by creating new directional and interpretive signage, electronic and/or print maps, and web/software development to incorporate current technologies. The mailing address for donations
(Write- Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund on the memo line of the check) is:
Board of Selectmen
ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund
Town of Lexington
1625 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA 02420

 

In the end, the goal of the committee is to link forty miles of streets and open spaces to traverse the entire town in many directions and link us with our center, the schools and other points of interest in Lexington. The Greenway Corridor Committee is hoping to complete the additional work over the next three years.

“The town of Lexington found some money to purchase the signage and some poles,” according to Abrams. But, he stresses, the majority of the small markers are affixed to existing structures—a telephone pole or a tree—and few posts have had to be added. All of the work has been completed by volunteers from the Conservation Stewards and the Greenways Corridor Committee.

THE PILOT ROUTE

An initial group of about thirty enthusiastic walkers initiated inaugurated the route. They broke up in small groups to explore the 5.5 miles of Lexington. “It was amazing,” Abrams says. “All of these people were avid walkers, but they always walked the same old routes. There was constant surprise among the walkers—they never knew these spaces existed in Lexington!” Throughout the walk people were amazed at the amount of time they could go without seeing a house. What we’re doing is helping everyone in town figure it out for themselves following the signage.”

This is really the point of ACROSS Lexington. Many of the spaces are hidden from the street and marked only by a modest trailhead. It is very easy to travel through town and never know about the 1,300 plus acres of town-owned conservation land.

MY ADVENTURE

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My adventure on Hathaway Road from left to right-the trailhead facing the street, the trail facing in, the ducks fishing for dinner!

Based on my conversation with Rick and Keith, I went looking for a trailhead on Hathaway Road (off Adams Street) and drove all the way to the end of that dead end street without finding it. As I was turning around, I stopped to ask a boy in his driveway playing if he knew where the trail was. He didn’t even know! Driving out I noticed an opening to my left and there it was—only a few houses from where the boy was playing!

I got out of the car and walked a short distance into the woods. Just a few feet into the woods I came upon a beautiful little stream complete with pairs of ducks fishing for dinner! What fun I had watching their “bottoms up” diving and paddling around! Rick says that just about every neighborhood in Lexington “has one or more of these areas of open space to explore.”

Next up—Chiesa Farm. I am ashamed to say that I have always loved driving by—and I used to love watching the horses—but I hadn’t even noticed that an opening had been established from the street and you can easily walk up over the hill toward the beautiful rock wall and the benches. On my way up the hill I meet Randy Kinard and David Parker with their dogs Parker (a Westie named for Captain John Parker) and Theo that David proudly called a mutt. Both men were used to walking the dogs in this spot and loved to let them go off leash for a little freedom and fun. When I tell them what I was up to, they were highly complementary of the new ACROSS Lexington markers. “You know you’re going to end up somewhere,” Randy says and both guys feel that the guidance will encourage more to venture forth without being afraid of getting lost!

Chiesa Farm is a busy place on a Saturday and soon I am chatting with Jim and his son Luke who were very familiar with the various open spaces around—Lower Vinebrook, Parker Meadow and of course, Chiesa Farm. Both were ruddy from a good walk. Luke went to Diamond Middle School and used to walk through the field on his way home from school. Then there was the goat lady who was out walking with her very small herd of 5 or 6 goats! I make my way through the second gate and am rewarded with a beautiful view of yet another pasture. A little bit of heaven right in Lexington. And, I recall that Larry Whipple wrote of this very spot—he loved it so much.

There are many beautiful places to explore in Lexington and now thanks to ACROSS Lexington you can venture out for a lovely walk that will invigorate and revitalize you, boost your creativity and land you right back in Lexington Center for a bite to eat, or a latte with friends.

Try it and then get in touch with any of the ACROSS Lexington folks—they’d love to hear from you!

 

CT_Story_End

 

 

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Change Comes to My Part of the World

I live on a street of small Capes. There have been some expansions and renovations over the years, including one house that added a full second story before we moved there 27 years ago. Two houses at the very end of our long street became large, new, houses some time ago. Some people call them the Guard Houses because they sit at the end like sentinels.

Hank and House

Hank and House

The streets on either side of us started to go large long ago. The little house in back of us disappeared one afternoon. My son came down from a three hour nap and said “Where’s the house?” It had gone from house to hole in the ground in such a short time. He would later refer to the replacement as “The Plywood Overcast” because it blocked the sun at some point during the day. And there is the house nearby we refer to as “The Cliff” because it sits on a rise, with a sort of blank back side to us, looming over the neighborhood.

We’ve gotten used to those and the other large houses on the adjacent streets to the point that we no longer notice them much. Our own house is a standard post-war Cape with the back porch converted to a family room long ago. The Guard Houses are starting to blend into the neighborhood as well, but the Red House, which sits at the exit to the local elementary school and which replaced a small house some years ago, continues to look VERY BIG and VERY RED. It is also, unfortunately, very empty. Perhaps not everybody wants a really big house.

Houses have sold on our street now and then, but always to buyers who were looking for something they could renovate rather than rebuild. But then the elderly owner of a house in roughly the middle of the block moved away and a For Sale sign went up. We hoped that renovation would be the case with this one, but it appeared to be in poor shape and a tour inside did not encourage us. This one had gone beyond the fixer-upper stage.

The local newspaper brought us the bad news that the house had sold for quite a bit more than the asking price after at least 35 prospective buyers lined up. Well, bad in the sense that a large house was going to be in our future, but encouraging in another. When the time comes for my wife and me to sell our own Cape, we will probably realize more of a profit than we had planned for.

The SOLD sign went up followed by a more ominous sign—one for a surveyor. I spoke to the crew who told me that they were also doing work to place the foundation and that the planned house “would not be small.” I felt especially bad for the families who live on either side and across the street because all of those houses are nicely cared for and the new house will probably be out of scale with them.

The trees on the property came down soon after the surveyor left, big trees which had been there since the house was built more than fifty years ago. The last to go was a large, leaning, pine which sat squarely on the property line. Here I differ with some. If I were building a new house, no matter what size, on a small lot like the ones in my neighborhood, I would probably take a hard look at the life expectancy of the trees on my property. Like all of us, trees have a lifetime which is not forever. Unfortunately, most of the trees on my block were planted at the same time and now all are becoming elderly and at least some need to be replaced. The storm in October of 2011 and the hurricane this past year did some pruning with several of my neighbors taking a hint from Nature and engaging tree services to do even more, post-storm, trimming. We have all been looking at our trees with a tougher, but more worried, eye. We value them, but we also do not want to lose a roof. Taking down a mature tree on a small lot with houses all around it can be an expensive undertaking. Taking down a tree in the front yard can be difficult, but taking down one in a small backyard can make a huge dent in one’s wallet..

I wasn’t surprised when the neighbors who shared the pine tree with the empty house elected to let it go. And I will probably do some more pruning of the big maple in my backyard and the apple trees in my front yard to keep the walkways clear and allow some sun to get to the garden along with keeping branches laden with snow from scraping off shingles in the winter.

Looking back, the fact that an early snowstorm brought down the tree in our front yard four days after we moved in many years ago, was probably a good thing. It turned out that the trunk had extensive rot so the two apple trees replaced whatever was there before. Diversity is only rarely bad and that includes age and type of tree.

When we moved here all those years ago, we were the couple with the youngest kids. Then our kids became the oldest kids, but other families moved in with young children. Now our children are past college and working and the children who replaced them are being replaced by other children. We are sort of in our third, or maybe fourth, generation of children on the block which is really a healthy sign.

Of course houses have a life cycle just like people and just like trees. Our block lasted longer than many, but now it appears we are about to get a middle-of-the-block big house. I just hope they don’t put up big fences to match the big house. So far, the yards on our side of the street are only lightly fenced which seems to make us into more of a neighborhood. In an earlier column I wrote that while I know most of the people who live near me, I know almost nobody who lives in a house with a big fence.

It was inevitable that a house would be replaced just as someday all of them on my block will be replaced along with all of the inhabitants. We don’t live in a static world. But I wish it could have remained semi-static just a bit longer … At least until we sell ours at some point down the road …

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