Posted in Community, Community Events, Community History on May 7th, 2013
Enjoy history? Perhaps you like learning about wars that helped shape our nation? Then check out Worcester Historical Museum on four Saturdays in May and June.
A fantastic reading and discussion series called Making Sense of the American Civil War will be featured. The event is hosted by Worcester Historical Museum, provided in partnership with Worcester Public Library, and John Anderson, Associate Professor of History Emeritus of the College of the Holy Cross, will head the talks.
Is there more to know?
Yes, the informative, four-part historical series is free and will examine the multifaceted nature of the Civil War. Additionally, discussions will touch upon Worcester’s historical and individual connections to the period. Mainly, explorations will focus on three esteemed Civil War publications.
1) “March” by Geraldine Brooks
2) “Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam” by James McPherson
3) “America’s War,” an anthology edited by Edward L. Ayers
The respective dates, times, and topics to be covered are as follows:
- Saturday, May 18. Imaging the Civil War, 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
- Saturday, June 1. Making Sense of Shiloh, 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
- Saturday, June 15. The Shape of War, 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
- Saturday, June 29. War and Freedom, 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.
Okay, if you think this sounds like an engaging way to spend a couple of hours on a leisurely Saturday, then sign up. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited to 50. For additional information, call Worcester Historical Museum at 508-753-8278. If you’re all set to register, go to http://www.worcesterhistory.org/civil-war-discussion/ and fill out the form.
And a little about Worcester Historical Museum (a.k.a., WHM)?
Impressively, WHM is the only institution in the area devoted to local history. In fact, the museum boasts a research library, archive section with scores of documents, and remarkable artifacts collection. Moreover, the captivating gems in WHM span from colonial times to 20th century and include writings from abolitionist Abbey Kelley Foster, as well as Civil War dairies and letters.
Where is WHM?
It’s located at 30 Elm Street in culturally, artistically, academically, and historically rich Worcester.
A final thought? If you go, be sure to bring a notebook!
Posted in Health & Wellness on April 24th, 2013
Happy people always seem, well, happy. A chilly night is romantic, the rain feels refreshing, and the glass is half full.
Still, not all of us have innately cheery temperaments or can be optimistic in seemingly unpleasant settings, but there are ways we can all capitalize on happiness. Here are some thoughts.
- Reconcile conflict. Unresolved problems have an uncanny way of resurfacing. And, when they do, they hover like a dark cloud. So, when possible, settle a conflict in the best way you know and move on (even if it means forgiving someone in your mind). Your sleep will feel sounder and each day will look brighter.
- Surround yourself with uplifting artifacts. If apple-scented candles, sports memorabilia, fresh-cut flowers, religious symbols, weather instruments, beautifully-framed photos, picturesque artwork, trendy trinkets, historical novels, peace lilies, (or the like) fill you with joy, keep them nearby: you have every right to feel blissful.
- Forego grudges. We’ve heard it said that when we hold on to grudges, they hurt us more than the individual/s we are cross with. Well, it’s true. Thus, free yourself of negative thoughts. Some great ways to accomplish this? Exercise, meditation, and/or prayer.
- Smile. Smiles are contagious in a good way. Can you remember an occasion when the surroundings seemed gloomy and a stranger’s smile changed everything? Well, you have the power to transform others, as well. Actually, smiles make everyone look beautiful!
- Be grateful. We occasionally expend energy wishing for the things we don’t have instead of being grateful for the things we do have. And, as we do this, uneasiness looms. Consequently, appreciate your blessings. This does not mean you should not dream, just realize that dreams are meant to make you feel good, not bad.
- Block media messages. The media thinks they know better than we do what will bring us pleasure. They suggest the latest purse, most recent electronic device, classiest car, biggest house, coziest sheets, trendiest coat, etc., is a surefire pathway to gratification. While purchases sometimes produce temporary satisfaction, it’s often gifts like a child’s laughter, loved one’s embrace, and inner peace that bestows enduring happiness.
Happiness is not elusive or reserved only for the young. On the contrary, it is real and available to every person at every age. Therefore, be confident that you are entitled to as much happiness as your heart will allow, and this wonderful sentiment will follow you almost anywhere you go.
Posted in Health & Wellness on April 9th, 2013
We humans rely on our senses to function in the world. They guide us to our destination, allow us to appreciate the wonders in creation, help protect us from danger, and the list goes on.
Regrettably, our senses can become compromised, especially as the years pass on. For example, smells may dull, eyesight might not be as crisp, and even taste buds can alter.
One sense that particularly has the ability to weaken is hearing. Words that once were clear could sound muffled, background noise might be indistinguishable, and even loud voices can seem different. Hearing loss is usually grouped into two broad categories: sensorineural and conductive. Sensorineural loss takes place when the inner ear (or nerve) experiences some type of damage. Conductive loss occurs when sound waves do not travel properly to the inner ear.
It’s important to point out, nonetheless, that hearing loss can occur at any age. Let’s look at some of the more common causes.
- Congenital defects. There are multiple reasons why a person could be born with a predisposition towards diminished hearing. The situation can be rooted in genetic factors, birth defects, infections, viruses, etc.
- Illness. Childhood illnesses, like scarlet fever, measles, and meningitis, might result in hearing impairment. Sometimes the loss is reversible, other times it is not.
- Injury. Injuries or trauma to the head and/or ears can negatively impact hearing: swimming accidents, scuba diving mishaps, sports collisions, loud fireworks, blasting noises, and explosions are a few examples. Remember George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life”? His plunge into the icy water to save his brother Harry left him deaf in his left ear.
- Age-related. It’s estimated that over 40% of men and women age 75 have some measure of diminished hearing; the problem tends to be more common in males. Sometimes something as simple as earwax can be to blame; once the wax is removed, the problem resolves. Other causes, like presbycusis, (cumulative ear changes rooted in other illnesses or reasons), might not be as simple to address.
Naturally, a physician should evaluate individuals who suspect they are becoming hard of hearing. If the circumstances warrant, an audiologist (hearing specialist) will be recommended.
Regrettably, a number of people, especially seniors, periodically shut themselves off from social situations because they cannot fully understand what is being said and feel embarrassed asking people to continually repeat themselves. Yet, in a number of cases, hearing loss can be stopped or greatly improved (e.g., hearing aid). Remarkably, there is even an electronic device available that can reverse deafness in certain individuals. It’s called a cochlear implant, and this incredible discovery has opened up a fascinating world to many people.
For additional information regarding hearing loss, go to http://www.hear-it.org/.
Posted in Community Events on March 25th, 2013
The Worcester Organ Concerts Series will delight audiences of all ages in an exciting lunchtime event on April 10. The feature performer, Marcel Sanders, has won the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) scholarship not once but twice. Accompanying this highly accomplished musician will be the Youth Ensemble of New England under the esteemed direction of Dr. Connie Rittenhouse Drexler.
Where is the concert to take place? It will be held at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main Street, Worcester, MA.
For those of you who do not know, Mechanics Hall is fashioned in a Renaissance Revivalist style. The Worcester County Mechanics Association built the Hall in 1857, and the Association still maintains ownership today. The building was renovated in 1977 and is considered one of the finest concert sites in North America. Perhaps even more impressive, it ranks as a distinguished venue even when including European locations.
Prior to renovation, Mechanics Hall was in considerable need of repair. Because of this, it fell out of favor as a revered hall and began hosting sporting events like boxing and wrestling. When the structure became in jeopardy of sale, the Worcester Heritage Society intervened. Impressively, many community loyalists combined their efforts, and approximately $5,000,000 was raised. Providentially, the necessary repairs and updates were made, and Mechanics Hall regained its rightful place as a top-notch facility. In fact, the magnificent acoustics in the building has attracted legendary and local talent, alike.
The Great Hall within Mechanics Hall houses a fantastic organ (Hook Organ). This beloved instrument is the oldest unaltered four-keyboard pipe organ in the Western Hemisphere. The 52 stops, 3,504 pipes beauty, restored in 1982, has been the center of concert and television recordings. In fact, there is a recording studio right in the building! Mechanics Hall was even the backdrop for a video featuring Michael Crawford. The incomparable Michael Crawford was the first West End and Broadway “Phantom of the Opera.”
And the lunchtime event on April 10?
There will be cabaret-style seating, and concert-goers can bring a lunch or buy one at the Hall (while they last). Admission is free, and the concert begins at noon.
Yes, free. Goodness, enjoy!
Posted in Financial Advice on March 11th, 2013
At one time, the majority of individuals who took advantage of professionally prepared financial plans were ones with extremely healthy bank accounts. Today, that is no longer the situation.
The reason? Some people realize that without a financial plan, they have little knowledge as to where their finances are heading. With one, they have a firmer grasp concerning their monetary future (and the types of things they need to do to stay on course). By and large, financial plans make perfect financial sense.
So, will everyone’s plan look same?
No. There are many variables that go in to organizing a well-prepared financial plan. Here are some of the types of questions that will need to be answered.
- What are your financial goals? This is a pivotal question and often shapes the way the plan is devised.
- What kind of retirement lifestyle are you seeking? For example, do you want a pricey home in a gated community? Perhaps you plan to stay in your current home or apartment?
- Do your resources match your desires? Some individuals have pie-in-the-sky dreams, but they do not have the money to back them up.
- Are you willing to take on risk for the potential of a higher return? For instance, certain people are willing to risk losing a chunk of their investment if it means the opportunity for impressive growth is attainable.
- Do you wish to focus on relatively secure investments? A number of investors are adverse to risk and seek out more secure growth opportunities (albeit the returns are likely to be lower).
- Are you living beyond your paycheck and/or bank account? Sometimes unforeseen events can cause people to borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Others have champagne taste with an apple cider wallet.
- How much money can you realistically afford to invest? Sometimes individuals believe they have more money than they do. On the other hand, others have impressive resources but are not fully capitalizing on what is available.
- Do you want to diversify investments? Certified Financial Planners generally assert that diversification minimizes risk, but that is something you and your financial advisor should decide.
- Are you appropriately insured? The right amount of insurance protects your loved ones from unforeseen events.
- Could you be saving more than you do? Some individuals spend more than they should (when they could be tucking additional monies away).
- Who will get your investments? Many investors have a clear idea where they would like their money to go when they pass on: it is important to make these wishes known.
Naturally, a financial plan cannot put money into investments without available capital, but it can help you wisely chart the money you do have.
For additional information about financial planning, contact an experienced Certified Financial Planner (CFP). For a list of licensed planners in your area, go to www.cfp.net.
Posted in Health & Wellness on February 19th, 2013
Over 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease. In fact, this illness is the Number One Killer of men and women in the United States. Sadly, when coupled with deaths from stroke, the yearly numbers climb to over 900,000. Most people would agree that these figures are much too high.
In honor of Heart Disease Month, let’s look at some symptoms to watch out for.
- Chest pain or pressure. You should seek immediate medical attention if you feel discomfort or pain in your chest. Naturally, there could be other causes for the distress, but a physician should be the one to assess the situation.
- Achiness or pain in the arm and/or shoulder area. A number of individuals believe chest pain must be present if a heart attack is occurring; this is not necessarily the case. Some people, particularly women, do not get typical heart disease symptoms.
- Back, neck or jaw pain. This is another lesser-known symptom of heart disease. Still, it should never be dismissed. Therefore, it is vital to have shoulder, arm, back, neck, and/or jaw pain evaluated by a doctor.
- Feeling faint, weak, woozy, or wobbly. Lightheaded, weakness, confusion, or unsteadiness may be a symptom of heart disease: see your doctor immediately if any of these signs are taking place.
- Breathing troubles. A fair number of conditions could be responsible for shortness of breath, but they all warrant immediate attention.
Heart disease is a disrupting disease. Fortunately, there are measures everyone can take to reduce the risks. Let’s look at some important steps.
- Do not smoke. There is nothing positive that can come from smoking. Conversely, there are many negatives. If you smoke, make every effort to quit: your body will greatly thank you.
- Choose healthy foods. What goes into our bodies truly matters; healthy selections are important to a healthy heart. Whole foods, high fiber options, and diets low in saturated fat are good choices.
- Stay at a reasonable weight. Too much of a good thing is not good. Even if you consume a healthy diet, do not overeat. Overweight individuals are typically at higher risk for certain illnesses, including heart disease.
- Regularly exercise. There are not enough positive things to be said about exercise. It burns calories, enhances the metabolism, builds muscle, is good for the heart, and so much more. Still, be sure to get doctor approval before beginning an exercise program.
- Limit alcohol intake. Moderate red wine intake is indicated to be beneficial for some people. Nonetheless, excess consumption, whether it is wine, beer, or another kind of alcoholic drink, is undoubtedly unhealthy.
There will be times when someone commits to healthy lifestyle changes and neglects to fully follow through. However, do not let that stop the commitment: less can be okay.
For example, if you pledged to exercise three to four times a week but only do it once or twice a week, then do it once or twice. Naturally, the original commitment is preferred, but the doable plan is better than nothing at all.
In honor of Heart Disease Month and every other month throughout the year, let’s work to fight this illness!
Posted in Financial Advice on February 7th, 2013
There is little doubt that 401(k) Plans are the way to go if you hope to have a comfortable retirement. Social Security benefits, once a retirement surety, seem to be wading in uncertain waters. Pensions, another one-time given for retirees, are swimming in similar waters. Fortunately, 401(k) Plans, which sometimes offer a matching contribution by the employer, are helping to make the monetary outlook of retirement look relatively secure again.
Even so, some people think of a 401(k) Plan as money in the bank that can be taken out at will. In theory, these people are right. Yet, taking money out before the designated time could have negative implications. Let’s look at four more-than-valid reasons why borrowing against your 401(k) is not a good idea.
1) You may not be able to put additional monies into the program until the loan is paid back.Some plans stipulate you cannot add any additional monies until the loan is repaid. Even if your employer does not have this requirement, it is still unwise because the money is in there for retirement purposes.
2) Penalty if you are not yet 59½ and cannot afford to pay the loan back when you leave your employer. If you are not at least 59½ years of age and leave a job expectedly or unexpectedly, you typically must repay the loan, oftentimes within 60 days. If you cannot afford to pay the loan back, then you will likely incur a 10% penalty.
3) Loan amount will be added as a type of income on your taxes. If you cannot pay a 401(k) loan back when you leave your job, then you may be considered in default of the loan and be required to add the amount you received as a type of income on your tax return for that year. For example, if you earned $80,000 in 2012 and are in default of a $50,000 401(k) loan, then your taxable income for 2012 could be at least $130,000 (before deductions).
4) Jeopardizing your monetary future. If you take a portion of your 401(k) money out and do not repay it, it will not be there to work for you in retirement. Retirement may seem like a long distance down the road, but chances are you will rely on that money when you are no longer working.
Okay, if there are unpleasant consequences associated with 401(k) loans, why do some people want them?
In short, they need the money. Common reasons individuals turn to this type of loan are hardship situations, the purchasing of a new home, and college tuition for the children. Still, if the loan is repaid in a timely manner, there may be few if any repercussions: actually, the interest rate on 401(k) loans tends to be appealing. Nevertheless, if repayment fails to happen, the ramifications become only too real.
For greater clarity on this topic, talk to your benefits/human resources department or a trusted financial advisor.
Posted in Community, Community Events, Community History, Holidays on January 28th, 2013
The City of Worcester is known for many remarkable things, but how many people know it was home to the Mother of the American Valentine?
The Mother of the American Valentine? Yes, and her name is Esther Howland. Here are some interesting facts about this fascinating woman.
- Esther Howland was born in 1828 and passed away in 1904.
- Her ancestry can be traced back to the Pilgrims.
- The family home was located at 16 Summer Street in Worcester.
- Her father owned and ran a large stationery (and book) store in Worcester.
- Ms. Howland graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847.
- She received a delightfully decorated English Valentine from one of her dad’s colleagues and believed she could create a similar product in America.
- She persuaded her father to order lace and other materials for the project and designed assorted card samples.
- Her brother brought the samples with him on his business-marketing excursion, and he returned with $5,000 worth of advanced sales orders.
- Ms. Howland enlisted friends to help out (via assembly-line) with the great demand, and her visionary Valentine Cards became a huge success.
- This innovative gal was not only a shrewd businesswoman but also an accomplished artist.
- Esther Howland is not the first individual in American history to draft the American Valentine. However, she did thrust the lacey, romantic Valentine card into unchartered waters, and the product became a type of American icon.
- Because of Ms. Howland’s impressive ingenuity, the recognition of Valentine’s Day spread from East Coast to West.
- Ms. Howland sold her business to George Whitney in 1881. Many of her cards remained alive in Mr. Whitney’s patterns.
- Even though Esther Howland became famous because of an industry that marketed love, she never married.
- Upon her death in 1904, a news piece deemed her “The Mother of the American Valentine.”
So how can you get more of Esther Howland? Well, visit Old Sturbridge Village on February 9-10. It is there you will learn the mesmerizing narrative of Valentines in America. In addition, an in-depth session about chocolate making and the history of chocolate will be on hand to delight. For additional information (such as times, cost, and WOO discounts), go to www.osv.org.
Valentine cards and chocolate? Wow, what a sweet combination!
Posted in New Year's Resolutions, New Years on January 9th, 2013
Wow, 2013 has arrived, and many of us are thrilled it is here. That certainly does not suggest that 2012 was unpleasant; it unquestionably had delightful times. Nonetheless, like its predecessors, it seemed to have uncertainty woven about in spots.
How can we better prepare the present year to be a landscape for happiness? Here are a few suggestions.
- Live your convictions. When we wear the principles we hold dear, we become an amazing example to others. Some people repeatedly talk about what they believe, but not everyone enjoys listening. To paraphrase a popular quote, “Demonstrate the values important to you; and, when necessary, use words.”
- Never fail to realize you are teaching. Most of us do not have teaching degrees, but that does not mean we are not teachers. We impart lessons every day by what we do, what we say, and how we say it. For example, when we smile generously or regularly act in a kindly manner, we give other individuals a jolt of cheer. Consciously (or unconsciously), the people we touch in the classroom of life often use the lesson to uplift others. Think of it as a good type of infection.
- Lighten up. Yes, life can be serious, and there are undoubtedly occasions our demeanor should reflect the situation. Even so, many of us miss opportunities to be lighthearted because we settle into a somber pattern. And, the longer we exhibit this type of manner, the more difficult it becomes to change. So, chuckle at nothing, tell harmless jokes, rejoice in the moment, add humor to tension, and celebrate in your head. Remarkably, even stress will seem lighter.
- Begin. Numerous men and women put off desired ambitions for a rainy day. Yet, even when the rains fall, the goals remain on hold. Therefore, commit to begin, and do not allow fear to hinder the way. Yes, there might be individuals who are smarter or possess a greater degree of talent, but that should never be a deterrent. After all, you may have a unique spin on the undertaking that is independent to you. And, remember, the audience you attract may not be the one you hoped would take notice, but it will likely be the one who can benefit from your efforts.
A New Year is upon us, and there are so many good times to create. So, let’s make 2013 a period that will live pleasurably in our hearts.
Posted in Community, Community Events, Holidays, New Years on December 20th, 2012
What began in 1981 and has delighted Central Massachusetts residents ever since? First Night Worcester, of course!
First Night Worcester is a nonprofit organization dedicated to community sharing by providing diverse art forms to the Worcester area. In fact, the many artistic and cultural offerings serve to keep people of all ages engaged throughout the afternoon and evening.
How is First Night Worcester funded? Multiple organizations partner together to help make this electrifying experience possible.
Is there a central meeting place? Yes, City Hall Plaza. In fact, a heated tent with food and music will be available. And, this year, skating at the new Worcester Oval Common will also be an option (think smaller, less hectic New York City).
In addition to the many activities and talent on hand, a tribute to Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray will commence in front of Worcester City Hall at 7 P.M. Following a procession through area streets, Mr. Murray, a Worcester native and former mayor, will be recognized at City Hall Plaza for his numerous contributions to the city. Two fireworks displays serve to further exhilarate a stimulating evening.
Will everyone be admitted to First Night Worcester? Yes, everyone with a First Night Button. Buttons are on sale for $7 and can be purchased beforehand at places like CVS Pharmacy, DCU Center Box Office, Mechanics Hall, and Price Chopper Supermarkets. A complete list of locations and additional First Night information can be accessed by going to www.firstnightworcester.org. Fortunately, if you show up on New Year’s Eve without a button, you can buy one at the door for $10.
Besides scheduled events like face painting, magic shows, laser shows, and synchronized swimming, Worcester’s own multi-talented native, Alicia Witt (film actress, stage performer, songwriter, singer), will perform at Mechanics Hall at 10 p.m. Ms. Witt leaves audiences riveted with her amazing piano ability and bold yet melodic voice. Tickets to the concert range from $15 to $35. And, if you buy one, the price includes a complimentary First Night Button.
Yes, 2012 is coming to an end, but a fantastic evening is sure to send this year out in grand style.
First Night Worcester? You’ll love it!