Boosting Maine’s Immunity Against COVID-19

     The FDA approved a COVID-19 booster for adults 18 years old and over. High cases have been affecting Maine this winter season. With the variant Omicron of great concern, the importance of a booster is critical. The hope of the booster is that it’ll be as effective as the first doses. Mike Allen, of Waterville, stated his thoughts on the effectiveness of the booster, “All I know is that the numbers have dropped significantly since the vaccine came out.” 

The Augusta State Armory hosted a free COVID-19 booster clinic.

     Another concern is the side effects of the boosters and if they are like the first dose. Alexa Querry, of Portland, shared information about her side effects after receiving the COVID-19 booster. Alexa is a first grade teacher and received her vaccine through the school she works for. “I slept fine the first night and had a sore arm for sure. I think I had a swollen lymph node even. The second night, almost 36 hours after, I had chills and shakes. By the next morning I was just fine!” 

     There has been a high demand for COVID-19 boosters across the country, not just in Maine. Some pop-up clinics are helping local pharmacies keep up with the demand.  The Maine CDC and National Guard set up a clinic this week at the Augusta Armory from Dec. 7 to 11. Allen luckily didn’t have to wait long for his booster.  “I did not have a hard time. My work provided it.”

     With the high number of cases, people are raising questions about COVID-19 prevention. Alexa’s spouse, Bill Querry, shared his thoughts on the matter. Bill said, “I think with proper masking, distancing and vaccines, we can hope to return to a more normal life.” 

Where Two Pandemic Puppies Are Today and How They’re Managing Anxiety

The holiday season for many is a time to give and receive gifts. For some this year, the gift may be in the form of a four-legged friend. Adopting and surprising family with a puppy this year may be on some people’s holiday agenda. But for others this season will be a time to reflect on the growing pains the COVID-19 pandemic gave their pups.

At the start of the pandemic, many individual routines shifted. Heather MacKay, who worked in insurance at the time, was doing a desk share pre-pandemic. “I was hoping to start working from home prior to the pandemic,” she says. “And then the pandemic happened, and everyone immediately went home.”  According to PEW Research Center, Heather’s transition was similar to the transition of 71 percent of employed Americans.

Months before COVID-19 sent Heather home to work remotely, she and

Phoenix on her paw-rents boat when she was a puppy.

her partner had begun having conversations about adopting a Great Dane puppy. “Our friends have Great Danes,” she explains. “The breeder they use down south had a co-breeder that was having puppies. It just happened to be at the perfect time.” Phoenix Storm, the Great Dane puppy, was born in February 2020. Eight weeks later, Heather’s breeder drove Phoenix from Alabama to her new home in Maine. Working from home, Heather was able to be with her puppy all the time. “I would take her out and make sure that she was eating,” she says. “There was a lot of education involved as well. I was juggling that.” Heather says she began to see Phoenix’ fondness of having her around. “I noticed she was very attached,” she says. “I believe regardless of the pandemic that would have happened, especially working from home.”

 

 

Phoenix at school, towering over her classmates now.

Aware that puppies need socialization, Heather began looking for outlets for Phoenix. At four months old and 65 pounds, Phoenix began attending school.  “We decided to start her in school/daycare,” she says, “so that she could play and be a dog during the day with natural surroundings and socialization.” Heather added that she brought Phoenix to visit with family members during the worse parts of the pandemic and socially distanced for Phoenix to still get socialization. “She was around chickens, too,” she laughs. “And other dogs and cats.”

Winter in Maine as Gardeners

     Maine’s landscape is rich with beautiful gardens, state parks, farms, greenhouses and nurseries. For the plant lover, there’s inspiration everywhere. Whether that be picking wild blueberries along a hiking trail, visiting the gorgeous coastal landscapes or visiting botanical gardens throughout the state, there are plenty of opportunities for Mainers to connect with the natural world. Maine winters can be long and tough. Knowing that the beauty of spring, summer and fall will come make it all worth it to a plant lover here. 

     For property owners such as Sharon and Denis Suzor, using resources offered to gardeners online and through organizations throughout the state helped them immensely to learn how to garden in all four seasons.  Winter is a great time for them to step away from the manual labor in the garden and focus on education. Denis Suzor is a farmer with a knack for vegetable gardening. He and his wife, Sharon Suzor, own a small property in Naples, Maine. Sharon Suzor enjoys flower gardening, as well as caring for houseplants.  In the past 15 years of owning property here, they’ve learnt a lot about how to survive the winter as gardeners. 

     When discussing the issues they faced when gardening in Maine, the first struggle they spoke about was the long winters. Sharon said, “For someone who loves to garden outside and plant annual flowers, winter can be so dreary.” She learnt how to care for houseplants to combat the gray, dark winters. “Bringing nature in has helped. I currently have 32 plants and no plans of stopping,” she giggled. 

A holly shrub on Denis and Sharon’s property in Naples, Maine, adding winter interest to their gardens. Captured by Deanna Suzor, November 2021.

     Denis, who has farm animals as well as a large vegetable garden, also spoke about the tough winter. “Pipes and hoses freeze. The animals’ watering tanks freeze. Branches get heavy with snow and can become a hazard. Trees and shrubs can get damaged. There’s a lot of work going into the winter. But I’ve found ways to be prepared.” He shared

his strategies. “Burlap wrapping the shrubs helps. As well as doing a hard fall pruning and making sure all dead branches are cleaned.” Although winter can be hard, Denis said, “We love the four seasons here. We pay attention to the structure of plants and the colors of the bark and berries.”

 

Save a Warrior: 75 Hours

     The rising rate of veteran suicide is a topic that creates a lot of buzz in the news. The Office of Veterans Affairs (VA) has numerous programs to combat the issue. The problem is that its programs don’t work for many veterans. Save A Warrior (SAW), based out of Ohio, is dedicated to changing this narrative. The SAW program, founded in 2012, is at the front of the fight against suicide. To date, over 1400 men and women have gone through the program.

     SAW provides a 75-hour program. From start to finish, it is designed to turn the perspective of trauma upside down. It is different. What does that mean? It means that for 75 continuous hours participants are immersed in the program. They give control of their lives to someone else. All applicants walk in voluntarily, looking for a new way to deal with their trauma (demons). If they stay, and if they allow themselves to begin to heal, they walk out with a chance.

Save A Warrior. (July 2021) [Picture of Cohort 0142 on Day Three, Completion photo, it shows the transformation 75 hours can make when dedicated men and women come together to make a difference in their lives.]
     Recently, SAW received a grant from Disabled American Veterans (DAV). It is building a National Center of Excellence for PTS(d) in Ohio. The new facility is slated to open in 2022. It will be the site of all future cohorts in Ohio, as well as host meetings and classes for staff and board members.

     So…what exactly happens at a SAW cohort? Why does the SAW program work, when the VA often doesn’t? It works because staff members keep love part of the equation. They keep humanity at the forefront of the work they are doing. And it shows in their results.

    Joe Ariza, cohort 084, said, “Day Zero—a participant arrives for their cohort. They meet the people that they will spend the next 75 hours with and get one last chance to back out. This is it. It’s the real deal. If they stay, everything changes. A cohort photo is taken. It shows a ‘before’ that highlights the hopelessness in the eyes of the participants.

Happy Holidays From Gentile Hall!

     The Holidays are approaching fast, and Gentile Hall has the perfect gift ideas for your family and friends.  You can purchase a Gentile Hall gift certificate for the perfect stocking stuffer for your loved ones!  Also, don’t forget about our store in the Campus Center.  They have some wonderful gift ideas for family and friends.  Another perfect stocking stuffer is a Starbucks gift card.  Starbucks is located in the Campus Center as well.  

     Students, faculty, and staff, I will be starting my No Gain Challenge on November 22.  I will have the first weigh-in on Monday, November 22, at 7:30 a.m. at Gentile Hall.  We will do weekly weigh-ins through the holidays.  The goal of this challenge is to maintain your weight during the holiday season.  It will end after the New Year.  Send me an email if you are interested at keli.marston@maine.edu.

     Students who are interested in participating in intramurals please check with Jonathon Bowman for details at jonathon.bowman@maine.edu.

     Students, faculty, and staff, don’t forget about all the rentals we have in Gentile Hall.  Once we get a lot of snow, it’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy winter activities.  We have snowshoes and cross country skis, boots, and poles.  For any questions concerning our rentals, you can stop by our front desk or email Dick Gardiner at richard.gardiner@maine.edu for more information!

     If you enjoy downhill skiing we have Big Rock Mountain in Mars Hill and Quoggy Jo out toward Fort Fairfield.  For those who love cross country skiing and snowshoeing, check out the Nordic Heritage Center and Aroostook State Park.  They both have wonderful trails to enjoy! If skiing is not your thing, then check out the forum in Presque Isle for ice skating.  Make sure you bring your student ID card for a discounted rate.  They have skate rentals available if you do not have skates.

     Make sure everyone checks out our website at umpi.edu/gentile-hall for any changes in our facility hours during the holidays. 

Gingerbread Cookie Protein Shake

½ scoop vanilla protein powder

½ scoop chocolate protein powder

½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

½ cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp cloves

1 TBSP molasses

Place all ingredients in a blender and then serve.

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part II

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part I

   “Oh,” he said he remembers saying. “This really isn’t a good place to be.”

     The First Nights

     “We went to the reception center at Bien Hoa,” Rod said. “All they had was tents and they didn’t have sandbag walls on the outsides of these tents or anything. They were still working on that. But they had double-decker bunks.” He began to try to settle in for the night and make the best with what he had. “That night,” he said, “they had blown up the ammo dump down the road and that concussion had just about thrown me off the bunk onto the ground.”

Rod cleaning his weapon while on active duty in Vietnam.

      “We didn’t know what the hell to do,” Rod explained.  “We didn’t have bunkers, we didn’t have holes, we didn’t have any place to get into. So we just kind of stayed low because there was sort of a sand wall.” The concussion of the blast was startling enough, but the weary feelings regarding the unknown felt worse. “They weren’t right around us per se,” he said. “But we didn’t— it was the unknown. I had no weapon, no ammunition. All we had was, ‘Holy shit, where the hell are we?’”  

     “Anyways, I got through it,” he said, shrugging. “The next day, I was able to get a hold of the unit I was going to. I called them up and said listen here, they blew this place up the other night, I don’t have a gun, I got nothing. You guys got to come down here and get me or I’m going to grab a plane and go home.” Rod said he was not joking. “They came down that afternoon,” he said, “on the third day, with the chopper, and picked me and two other guys up and took us to the fire base.”

     His Darkest Day

     “Our base camp,” Rod said, “Blackhorse base camp was named Blackhorse base camp because of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment. The 11th Armored Calve is known as the Blackhorse Regiment. My unit, the 27th Engineers, helped build that base camp. At some point in there, after I had been in there for a little bit, Colonel Patton, the regimental commander for the 11th Armored Calve…. Colonel Patton was also the son of General Patton, World War II history. But he was regimental commander and he decided that we were going to start pulling a lot more ambush patrols around base.” Rod shifted in his chair. “My unit was going to be one of the ones participating,” he said, dully. “I took out the first ambush patrol for the battalion and trained. Then we started pulling pretty regular ambush patrols.”

     Rod was 20 years old by the time he was moved from that company to another, continuing to lead ambush patrols. Ambush patrols were a disruption tactic used by American soldiers with the objective to find the enemy and prevent them from attacking first. “I was with a company that had a young guy that kept asking me about going on patrols,” he said. “He wanted to go on patrols. He was 17 years old. I kept denying, turning it down.”

Wait! Before Tossing Excess or Leftover Halloween Candy, Consider This

     Growing up, a tradition my siblings and I shared was emptying our Halloween bags after a night of trick-or-treating to sort. We called this the great candy trade. We’d bargain with one another, making deals trading Whoppers for Reece’s and Tootsie-Pops for Hershey bars. At the end of the trade, we’d be left with the candies no one liked. Mom would take the extras and put it in a communal bowl for anyone welcomed into the house to take. Eventually though, that bowl would find its way to the garbage.

Consider calling about donations before tossing out your candy!

     But is there a better place for unwanted candy to go, rather than the trash? Here are some options to consider before throwing precious treats away. 

  1. The Ronald McDonald House: The Ronald McDonald House is a nonprofit family and children’s charity dedicated to supporting families with sick children in their time of need. The foundation has many locations and welcomes donations, especially Halloween candy to give to families who may miss out on regular festivities during trying times. Call your local Ronald McDonald House to ask if your local location is accepting donations of candy!
  2. Local Nursing Homes: No matter how old a person is, candy is candy, and we all have a sweet tooth from time to time. If you’re unsure of what to do with you excess candy, call your local nursing home to see if it’s accepting donations!
  3. Freeze It: Unopened candy will stay fresh and ready to pull out and munch on anytime. To avoid a disorganized mess, try a gallon-size zipper plastic bag!
  4. Operation Shoebox: Operation Shoebox is a great way to give back to and support our troops deployed overseas and returning home. The organization is always in need of candy and accepts any and all kinds of candy, as it can be sent at any time. It tries to include a bag of candy in every package it sends. To learn more or request a box, visit: https://www.operationshoebox.com/2020/11/03/halloween-candy/ 

Editor’s Letter

Dear folks,

Hello and welcome back! I hope everyone had a nice summer break and feels ready to take on all that this next semester has in store. Over the summer, I enjoyed my down time but could not have felt more ready for classes to start back up. If you do not know me personally, I am the type of person who likes the structure classes give me.

What a hot summer we had. The cold weather really snuck up on us. Down here in southern Maine, the leaves have just started to turn within the last few weeks. Alas, I am still sporting my Birkenstocks.

As always, I hope that everyone is doing well and I look forward to writing to you again soon!

Abi Davis, editor.

Bye for now,

 

Abi Davis

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part I

A photo snapped of Rod in the field somewhere in Vietnam.

On January 1, 1967, New York Times headlines buzzed with coverage of a deadly war raging thousands of miles away in Vietnam. By February, journalists hustled to be the first to break news of the quickly deepening tensions surrounding the Vietnam War: “2,000 in Capital Protest War: Clergy and Laymen March in Front of White House.”

Across the country, civilians everywhere were beginning to see the true effects the war was having. Rod MacKay was not oblivious to what was happening around him. “The Vietnam War was starting to become more noticeable, and a lot of stuff was going on,” he said. A young man from small-town life in Maine, Rod was a bright 18-year-old. His family had moved several years earlier to southern California. “Several friends and I had been talking about it one day,” he said. “We knew a lot of people had been drafted and we just had a few drinks one night and decided we were all going to enlist. So, that’s what we did.”

Rod knew the next step was going to be a tough one: telling his family. “First I had to decide to go home and tell my folks I had enlisted, because they had no clue. Which was…,” he laughed. “That was an experience. My mother was very upset. My father looked at me and he was a bit upset, too.” Both of Rod’s parents had served in World War II. “My mother, the lieutenant nurse, and my father the sergeant,” he said. “So, they knew what could possibly happen.”

Rod’s sister Shari, standing with framed photos of her brothers Rod (left) and Craig (right).

Rod’s parents were not the only ones horrified that he had enlisted. His younger sister, Shari, shared in their fear. “It broke my heart because I had heard dad’s stories,” she said. “And everything in the news that was going on at the time—the idea that he would be over there putting himself in such danger—and I know that because of the position that he had. He would be in frontlines and stuff like that, clearing areas in the jungle. Doing all these things that he did, it just terrified me.” Though scared for her brother, Shari knew there was no stopping him. “I knew my brother,” she said. “I knew he wasn’t just there to be some idiot. He was doing what he thought was right for his country.”

Full Capacity Concerts Are Back as Covid Numbers Are Rising Again

Indoor summer concerts are back. It seems like every day an artist announces a new tour. Harry Styles recently announced the continuation of the U.S. leg of his world tour, rescheduled from last year due to Covid-19. So far, he has announced only the U.S. portion of the tour though. In most of the rest of the world, full capacity concerts are not a thing again yet.

Across the country, everyone from Lady Gaga to Maroon 5 to Bruno Mars is booking multi-city tours.  According to data platform PredictHQ, ticket sales are booming. The predicted revenue for June is $1.6 billion.  People are excited to attend events again, and bands are excited to perform.

At the same time, Covid cases are steadily creeping back up in every state, mostly because of the Delta variant. Most states have no mask mandates in place and Covid protocols vary from venue to venue.  During a recent White House briefing, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that this is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

In Las Vegas, there have been huge crowds since shows have returned and the mask mandate has dropped. Las Vegas has seen its highest rate of new Covid cases since February. The Southern Nevada Health District advised that everyone wear masks again. But it has no authority to enforce it.

Phyliss Jenkins attended the first full-capacity event at the

Phyliss Jenkins attends a Bruno Mars concert.

MGM Grand Garden Arena since before the lockdown. She saw two shows that weekend, Dave Chappelle and Bruno Mars. She says that at one show they did offer masks, but it was more of a swag gift. At the other, they did not. In both crowds, few people wore masks at any time. But still, she’s excited. “I would say personally, on a scale of 1-10, I’m about a 12. Not only personally, having not been anywhere for over a year, but to be going to two concerts. That even in a normal year would be exciting. So, I’m really, really, excited,” she said. But she is also worried about coronavirus. “I am still concerned about it…throughout both of the shows and going through the casinos, because you don’t have to wear masks. But I still had my mask on throughout both shows.”