Letters to the Editor
Strong reactions, more to do
To the Editor:
The MVTimes coverage of MySpace elicited strong reactions in our community. Young people have talked among themselves and expressed their views through letters to the editor. Adults in the community have been struggling to understand the many different aspects of MySpace. It is a resource and positive aspect of the lives of our young people, and carries with it some disturbing information and risks.
We on the Youth Task Force are interested in fostering communication and mutual understanding within our community - supporting the strengths and lives of our young people, and of our Island families. We would like to think out loud about some of the different facets of MySpace and hope to encourage further conversation between young people and the community as a whole.
Conversations with high school students who have MySpace pages have yielded the following information. MySpace is a fun and interesting way to connect and interact with current friends, here on MV, and all over the world. It can be a way to make new friends. It is a vehicle for self-expression, and for learning more about others, through exchange of messages, photographs, images, and music. Through a multi-sensory, electronic format, MySpace users can send and read messages, look at photographs and artwork, and listen to music, popular or original, all at the same time.
There are many young people who describe their engagement with MySpace as enjoyable, low to no risk, private, and benign. Some of the information presented in the newspaper coverage offered a different perspective, which was disturbing for many in the community. Young people have spoken of skewed coverage, and trust violated by the Island press - during research for the story, and through publication of slightly altered photos of Island teens, and page entries featuring personal content about sexual activity and substance use. However painfully, the press coverage underlined the illusion of privacy given the wide availability of Internet access. Some of the page contents - the sexualized images, particularly of girls, and emphasis on substance use - were upsetting to many parents.
Why are parents surprised and upset by this? Pick up any popular magazine and find similar sexualized images. Turn on the TV, and at any time find both advertising and programming presenting the same kinds of images. To some degree, our young people are simply "speaking the language of our culture."
In a similar vein, it may be that it is more difficult for the adult community to understand the appeal and importance of MySpace to our young people because of differences in comfort level with electronic media. This generation of young people has a level of sophistication and familiarity with electronic communication and expression which is unparalleled. Many adults came to computer skills later in life, and went through their teen years using the telephone to communicate, the turntable to listen to music, and the instamatic for photographs. Many parents can tell tales of their own "adventures" as teens at a different time in our culture; it isn't always easy to understand today's context.
Some of the MySpace pages reflect not only our young people's engagement with substance use, but may be an outgrowth of the Island's involvement with drinking and drug use.
It is in the nature of teen life to try new things, even if rules are being broken. It might be worthwhile to initiate more discussion about healthy risk taking, in contrast to lifestyles which can become habitual and destructive.
We know young people need more positive attention and support from both families and the community. We also know it is not uncommon for young people to break the rules. The MySpace pages suggest that some young people may be on their own in ways which may ultimately threaten their safety and well-being - this deserves our attention.
Some of the information presented in recent press coverage is upsetting. There was positive information which was not presented. As a community of parents and adults, our new knowledge offers the opportunity to pay closer attention to our young people, and to learn more about their lives. They need to be valued, supported, challenged, held responsible, and heard. We also have the opportunity to notice ourselves as a community of adults and parents - to consider the ways we currently interact with our young people, to look at our own behavior, and to consider the examples we set.
Eric Adams, Judy Crawford, Cindy Doyle, Jane Dreeben, Bill Jones, Mike Joyce, Brian Mackey and Paddy Moore
Youth Task Force
Change after a
To the editor:
At the end of March, the Shiretown Inn was sold, along with my adjacent house at 30 Simpson's Lane. The properties will now be taken in new directions by the purchaser, 44 North Water Street Realty Trust. We wish the new owner well, and we are confident that his efforts will prove beneficial to the community as a whole.
Our family owned the Shiretown Inn for more than a quarter of a century. It was a source of great joy to my husband, Gene Strimling, for whom the Island and this little piece of it were paradise. Toward the end of his life, our daughter Sharon Strimling Florio assumed responsibility for the inn. She and her husband Mick, in a true labor of love, took every step imaginable to beautify and improve the property and ensure that it would be a credit to the community. Our children Jon and Nicole Strimling and Andrea Strimling and Tsering Ngodup, although they live off-Island, worked on the project as well, contributing their time and imagination to our efforts. Judy Rogers, the Shiretown innkeeper, was a key member of our team in transforming and managing the inn, and she always had the best interests of our guests and the broader community in mind.
We all imagined and hoped that the Shiretown Inn would remain with our family for a long time. With Gene's passing, however, it was no longer possible to retain the inn. The property now is in new hands. Things change, even the coastline of the Island itself. We live with impermanence in all aspects of our lives, and we are thankful for our many wonderful years in Edgartown with the Shiretown Inn.
We all want to express our appreciation to the guests who have stayed at the inn, our dear friends and staff who worked there, the trades people who were so important to the maintenance of the inn, the members of town boards who helped us in so many ways as they worked to ensure the best for the town, and the residents and merchants in the Martha's Vineyard community, whose lives intersected with ours every day. We will always be grateful for this precious chapter in our lives.
With gratitude and best wishes from my family and myself,
the good news
To the Editor:
The liberal, left-biased news media, TV stations, and press are once again only focusing on the negative aspects of Iraq. Reporters in Iraq should go out of the green zone with their body armor and armed escorts in order to find some good news. Instead, I keep seeing quotes like this one, "In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption." I can't understand why the liberal media keep quoting Anthony Zinni, retired commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command, in charge of all American troops in the Middle East, the same job held by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf before him, and Gen. Tommy Franks after. Maybe the liberal media should do stories on Easter egg hunts in Iraq this weekend instead.
To the Editor:
Have you ever dreamt that you were back in school, and that your coat and books were in your locker, but you didn't know where your locker was or you didn't have the key or the combination to the lock? Have you dreamt that you were on your way to the final exam of a course, but you never attended class or read the books? That can be how it feels to get a diagnosis of a serious illness. That's when it's time to call Hospice.
This year Hospice of Martha's Vineyard celebrates its 25th anniversary. The board of directors is holding onto the vision of the founders of our Island's hospice and is offering all services free of charge. The Hospice here has chosen to remain independent of insurance reimbursements, which allows them to be free of Medicare restrictions, as well.
The hospice nurse can accompany you to the doctor's office and can help you understand your options for treatment. She can help you explain to the doctor how you feel about your choices. Hospice counselors can help the family cope with the challenges of a serious illness. Volunteers can do errands, take you for rides, drive you to and from island medical appointments, make meals, read or chat with you.
Some people contact Hospice at the end of their lives. The nurses hardly get to know them and their families, but are able to help alleviate pain and anguish. Some of the hospice volunteers sit vigil for patients so that the families can get some rest. And sometimes, patients start out with hospice early in their disease progression, become stabilized, and are discharged with the understanding that Hospice nurses, counselors and volunteers will be there for them whenever they need them in the future.
Some patients are short-term, some are long-term. They live at home, with a relative, or at a nursing home. Some are summer visitors, others are year-rounders. Some love having volunteers come and sit with them while their caregivers get some respite; other families don't need that extra support.
Hospice works in coordination and cooperation with the Island's visiting nurses agencies, VNS and VNA; acute care and Windemere at the hospital; Elder Services; Henrietta Brewer House and Long Hill; physicians; clergy, and other people involved in the support and care of people with advanced illness. The many organizations bring skills that complement each other, all to the benefit of the family.
So, if you or anyone close to you is having that dreadful feeling of being alone and overwhelmed in the face of a diagnosis of a serious illness, Hospice of Martha's Vineyard is one resource that could be of immense assistance. Their nurses, counselors, and volunteers can integrate your care and offer hope, comfort, and compassion. Their number is 508-693-0189.
To the Editor:
As the world keeps turning out new days, dropping the previous days into a box of so many others, past significance becoming currently insignificant, sometimes it serves us well to keep a thing or two out of the box. We live in a world that only refers to the past, but rarely does it try to actually touch and feel the past. Today and tomorrow now guide us, what happened to yesterday?
In the children's critical care ICU, family and friends, Dan, Mike, Rosie, Kara, Ma and Pa, her mother Linda and I, as well as countless others, constantly surrounded her bedside. Naomi Lynn McCarron was not one that got a lot of alone time in her last days. People from everywhere came to see her. And when they came, there was a lot of activity surrounding her. In her hospital room, some were praying, both silently and out loud, some were singing a song Dan wrote just for Nay, and some were joking around with her to help her feel better. In spite of the extreme pain she was in, and the fact that she was torn between not wanting people to look at her because she felt she wasn't pretty anymore, she managed the occasional smile, only letting it peek through every once in a while.
As that night got late, the friends and family left the hospital to get the long overdue rest they craved so much but were all too afraid to admit in the presence of someone going through what she was going through. Everybody knew she was going to die soon, and everybody had a sense that if they could just stay awake forever, she wouldn't die. Nobody wanted to miss a second of what was left of her all too short and unfinished life.
When everybody left the hospital late that night, I was her sole roommate for the evening. A nurse brought in a chair for me to sit in if I felt the need. It was tough to sleep; the night had a bunch of ups and downs, breathing difficulties and machine alarms going off. I stood by her bedside most of the night. Through everything, she held on and things calmed down at about 4 am.
I finally decided, as she was drifting off to sleep, to take advantage of the chair in the corner opposite her hospital bed, the one the nurse brought in earlier. As I sat across the hospital room, looking at her, punctured with numerous lines and IV's everywhere in her tiny body, I felt myself starting to relax, sink down into the most uncomfortable yet comfortable chair in the world. I looked at her I couldn't help notice how damn beautiful she is. I don't think I have ever seen a more beautiful girl, although being her father I may be considered biased. Her cancer couldn't take her pretty face away from me. I tried to lock in every moment as if it were the last, looking at her as if I was trying to make a map of her face permanently tattooed into my brain. The thought of rest with eyes closed seemed an unavoidable but necessary task at some point, and I started to drift. As I started to doze off, my head dipping and my eyelids succumbing to the 50-pound weights hanging off each of them, she woke up and started to talk to me.
She asked me if she could go home, to the Island. Through most of her treatments, she was so frustrated that she had to go off-Island for everything. She just wanted to be home. After she asked her question I said, "that's the plan, baby," and she asked again, as if I was pulling her leg. So, I repeated myself, and she smiled, and stared at me with her beautiful, perfect dolls eyes. She had the prettiest eyes, so warm, so real, and so innocently honest. What she asked me next stays with me to this day. She looked at me, with all seriousness, and asked me if she was going to die. Since her mother and I knew she was not going to make it, we hadn't really agreed on how to approach the answer if the question was asked. We just kind of tiptoed around it, keeping her spirits up, and making her feel like there was a chance. But, she knew she wasn't going to make it, and so did I. So, after taking a deep breath, I simply said, "Yes, I'm so sorry, baby." It about killed me.
She cried hard, her mouth gaping wide with silent weeps, hot tears flowing down her cheeks. I got up out of the chair and walked over to her bedside, held her hand and kissed her about a billion times. I didn't know what else to do. I laid my next to her, cried with her, stroking her arm, whispering in her ear. "I love you, Nay." We spent the next couple of hours talking a bunch, I even sang "Sweet Baby Nay" to her (James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, only "Nay"). We talked about her cousin Robert, and she wondered if people would forget her and him.
She told me she wasn't so much afraid of dying as she was of being forgotten. I told her that was impossible, who could forget Nay. I promised her she would never be forgotten. That really seemed to comfort her, and after a while I looked up at her and she had fallen asleep.
Naomi died a few days later, on Easter Sunday, at home on the Island, where she always wanted to be, surrounded by so many friends and family. The night before she died, her mom and I laid in the bed with her, talking to her, telling her how proud we were of her, and that she was our hero. And we were so very proud of her. We still are. Proud of her courage in the face of cancer, proud of her definite mark she left of herself on the Island community, and most of all, proud of her for having such a tight grip on every heart and soul of every person she touched. How many of us can say that? I know I can't.
Today, every person that knows me knows about Nay, from my racing friends to business colleagues and the like. I talk about her often, every chance I get, it seems. It keeps her alive for me, in my heart. Sometimes I even make people uncomfortable, some telling me I should move on, put her behind me, and even others think that maybe I could benefit from therapy. Well, maybe they're right, or maybe, just maybe, they don't know that I made a promise to a 14-year-old girl, late one night in a hospital, a couple of years ago, while she lay waiting to die. I promised her that she would never be forgotten. And I have made it my purpose on this earth.
I don't think she is afraid or alone, wherever she is. I think she is with her cousin Robert and her grandfather "Pa." I feel her around me from time to time, when things smell sweeter, and sounds ring softer. I think she sometimes listens to us when we pray, heals us when we cry, and sometimes takes on our pains, like she did when she was alive. How could anyone ever forget someone as extraordinary as Nay, put memories of her in a box of assorted memories? For me, she never went away really, she's still here with us in a way. I believe she just went to be with God, hold the hands of other angels, and watch and protect the ones she left behind on the Island. I remember yesterday. I remember Nay.
No to the campus plan
To the Editor:
Are we the town of Oak Bluffs or the University of Oak Bluffs? Almost all New England towns have their town hall at the center of town, and this includes municipal services.
Why not put the spirit of our town back where it belongs, adding a visitor center to the original site.
Revive and keep our town center vital and alive.
Vote no to "campus" plans.
Making educated citizens
To the Editor:
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control...the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." Consequently, public education, in part, is based on this principle which is imperative to the experiment in self-government we call the United States.
Each spring, a select group of upperclassmen at MVRHS travels to our nation's capital to participate in the Close Up program; this program's central function is to teach future citizens the rights and responsibilities that accompany democracy and republicanism.
On behalf of this year's delegation, I wish to thank the Island for their continued support in this endeavor. Each time you buy a lobster roll at Tivoli Day, purchase a cupcake at the Artisans' Fair or make a contribution, you're not only sending a student to Washington, D.C., you are helping to create an informed citizenry right here on the Island. Through seminars, lectures and debates, our students learn that the political process is more than attacking your enemy; it's creating solutions through compromise. Most importantly, however, they learn that we are much more than the polarized labels "red" and "blue." We are individuals who share many of the same aspirations and goals for ourselves, our children, and our nation.
In particular, we'd like to thank the Portuguese-American Club, Cash-n-Carry, the M.V. Harley Riders, Stop and Shop, Sharky's Cantina, the Vineyard Golf Club, the Locker Room and the local banks for their stellar and perennial support of us. Please recognize that when you patronize our local establishments, you're helping to fund not just Close Up, but many worthwhile activities.
MVRHS/Close Up Adviser
To the Editor:
The all-Island reading specialists thank fire Chief Manny Estrella and the West Tisbury Fire Department for the use of the fire station for an important professional workshop for teachers on Feb. 22 and 23. Finding a meeting space for us can be a challenge and the fire station proved to be the perfect facility for this type of inservice.
The Island schools, with the support of all-Island curriculum committee and special services director Dan Seklecki, presented a workshop for all teachers grades 2 -10 in the instruction of academic writing. The instructor was Ardas Grene, literacy coach from Tucson, Arizona. The two days were well attended by many teachers from across the Vineyard and would not have been possible without the use of this great location.
Kudos to the West Tisbury Fire Department.
Ellie Bates, Madi Coutts, Deb Dunn, Marcy Klapper, Natalie Krauthamer, Deb Mello, Lex Mercier, Karin Nelson, Gina Patti, Barbara Reynolds, and Celeste Wilcoxson
Doing it ourselves
To the Editor:
With great anticipation I turned to Nis Kildegaard's story on the Island Community Chorus (M.V. Times, March 30). What?! No photos of choristers in their skivvies? No prominent faces barely concealed by empty wine bottles? What a letdown!
Overcoming my disappointment, I read on. When I got to the end, I thought, "Well written, and great PR for the chorus - but something's missing." The contributor's note at the end of the piece did not mention that Mr. Kildegaard not only sings in the Island Community Chorus, he belongs to its board of directors. Perhaps more important, he joined the chorus fairly recently - too recently to see all the ghosts.
At a rehearsal last fall, with much hooplah being made of the tenth anniversary, those of us who'd been around since "the beginning" were asked to raise our hands. I raised mine. I was shocked by how few of us remained. That's part of the Island Community Chorus story: where did we all go? Some have left the Island, for all the usual reasons. Some grew tired of the repertoire rut: you'd hardly guess from the usual Island Community Chorus concert that there's choral music out there that isn't Christian or European or written by men. For some it was the size: who knows or cares if you show up or not?
I'm not a musician, but I need music in my life. I hung on, and on, and on. Last fall the chorus was given a significant no-strings-attached grant by an off-island admirer. In two seconds I thought of a dozen uses for the money: bring back the annual performance of Messiah that was part of the Christmas tradition for so many Islanders but was way too lowbrow for the current chorus directorship? make it possible for especially talented and dedicated singers to take classes and become proficient soloists? The possibilities were myriad, but they chose instead to hire a brass band - a pickup ensemble of off-Island pros. I survived till the first dress rehearsal, then I bailed. This was no longer about the chorus, or about the community, or about the Island. I needed music, but I didn't need this.
Strange but true: sometimes you need to slam a door shut before the other doors open. In early January I saw a notice in the Martha's Vineyard Times: Steve Maxner was offering a 10-week course in beginning folk guitar - for free. I signed up. The course ended the last week of March. Not only did I survive, I can hardly believe how much I've learned. The other thing I wanted to do was to sing with other people. Roberta Kirn just started offering a biweekly group-singing workshop, emphasizing music from the African American tradition. I signed up for that too. We can see each other's faces as we sing. Every person's voice matters. I didn't think this existed any more on Martha's Vineyard, but it does. I'm so glad I was wrong.
Music isn't a spectator sport. This Island, with its long tradition of "musicales," of sisters and brothers doing it for ourselves, knows it. I'm not sure the Island Community Chorus does.
Susanna J. Sturgis
Thank you for caring
To the Editor:
My name is Magda Ramirez, and I am from Guatemala. Last Thursday at the Wharf N.O.W. sponsored a benefit to help fund the new family care clinic I am building in the rural mountains of Guatemala. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched by the people that came out in support. I don't have words to express my gratitude.
I had a speech prepared to give that night in order to paint a picture and let people why it is essential to have a family care clinic to support families. But instead of sharing what I know, I myself was overcome with sadness and pain for my people I have temporarily left behind.
Yet, there was also joy in my tears as I looked out into more than 100 people's faces that came to this event. There is so much to say about my country, but even more to do. I want to thank the community of Martha's Vineyard for helping. Especially, I want to thank the talented musicians, poets, and dancers who performed and shared their passions with us all, as well as Tom Dresser for his heartfelt article and the women of NOW to give me the space to talk and even to cry. For those who are interested in learning more about my work and interested in helping, please contact me by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I would like to submit the speech I had prepared so that I can be heard clearly.
For women around the world, March [Women's History Month] reminds us that not too long ago, women didn't have the opportunity to talk about politics, health care and many other issues facing us all. There have been many brave women throughout history. We must continue with their work and not forget them. Because if we forget our history, we will lose our present and our future.
My country has 14 million inhabitants and belongs to Central America. We have suffered civil war for 30 years. We are part of the countries in development which means that 56 percent of the population is poor, and 45 percent of our population cannot read. Guatemala is one of two countries in all of Latin America where women have less access to health care attention than any other country. Therefore, Guatemala has the highest mortality among women and children.
This is why I am in the process of building another clinic in Guatemala. In my experience in the rural areas I realize the need of people, and is not just about economic resources, it is about learning how we can use these resources; it is also about learning to be a person who has rights, voice, passion and dreams.
In Guatemala, women work hard and provide their families with care, nourishment and love, yet they suffer violence in many ways. The last year, we had near to 400 women who were victims of violent deaths and this year the atrocities continue.
But statistics are not what matters. What matters is finding the solutions. That is the essence, stop the indifference of what is happening to women. This will make a little difference. This is my concern, and if you want it can be your concern too.
I don't think that Guatemala has anything different to deserve special attention compared to other countries that have similar situations. I am concerned because I grew up there and I am completely sure that Guatemala can be better. We can't wait for the traditional process in the world for change to come and wait 200 years. Rather, we can start to do something about it now; we can sit down, stand up, talk, and build our own future.
I can tell you that in the rural areas of Guatemala we are hundreds of years behind, so I definitely refuse to wait that long. I personally prefer actions, and I was working there for some years. I can't forget where I come from and who I am, so I decided that I should continue with this commitment.
The work that I have already done must continue, and I can' t do it by myself. I need help, so I am here asking for your help. I would like to show you the things that I have seen and experienced since I started to go out into the mountains as a student, a volunteer and as a doctor. I would like to share these experiences with all of you because this is what has motivated me to do the things I have done for my people. My motivation is my country and its struggles. I believe that one day in Guatemala our women and children can smile without fear or have hunger. I believe that teaching to learn is the solution, medicine is not at all just about treatment. It is about learning to care for yourself and teaching others to do it. Medicine is about integrity, mind, spirit, body, environment, and culture.
Thank you for caring.
To the Editor:
From all of Sharon Rzemien's family back home, we just want to say a big thank-you to all who worked so very hard to make the benefit an amazing success. Everyone put their hearts and souls into it and welcomed all of us with open arms. We appreciate all that you have done, and we can see why Sharon loves calling Oak Bluffs her home.
Sandy and Arthur Roy (Sharon's dad)
Just don't kill them
To the Editor:
The town of Oak Bluffs has missed a wonderful opportunity to be the first in the nation to sponsor a catch and release shark tournament. Competition was held in early March from the Oceanside Marina in Key West, Florida, for a precedent-setting, nationally televised event on ESPN.
Martha's Vineyard has a longstanding tradition of being a community that is dedicated to the preservation of its natural environment. The annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament aggressively undermines this widely held Island value. The technology is available and in place to run the shark contest as a catch and release tournament (see: madfinsharkseries.com for rules and more information).
Changing the shark tournament to an all catch and release contest not only has the advantage of being more environmentally responsible but maintains and possibly increases the economic benefit to the town of Oak Bluffs. The public relations opportunities are endless.
The position of the Island organization called Save Our Sharks is to support the business and fishing community as well as our diminishing shark population. Fish and have fun, "just don't kill them."
M.V. residents who wish to be part of Save Our Sharks are encouraged to call Steve at 508-696-7248.