Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Tri-ing for a Cure

A little more than a year ago, my cousin Stephanie completed active treatment for breast cancer. Now, just one week from today (on Sunday, July 17th), she’ll participate as a survivor in Tri for a Cure, a triathlon fundraiser put on by the Maine Cancer Foundation. Despite my love of words, I can’t find the ones to adequately express how proud I am of her strength, how inspired I am by her willingness to openly share her journey, and how much admiration I feel for the person she is.

To support Stephanie in reaching her fundraising goal of $2,000 and the Maine Cancer Foundation in their important work, I encourage you to visit Steph’s page. The Maine Cancer Foundation leads a state-wide effort to foster and grow the most promising and effective cancer-fighting efforts available to the people of Maine. Personally, I appreciate that their goals reflect prevention practices as well as improving patient outcomes and increasing screenings.

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Steph with her husband, Justo, and their two boys

Beyond Tri for a Cure, Stephanie is putting her entrepreneurial spirit, personal journey, and master’s degree in expressive arts therapy to work supporting those who have experienced or are experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury through Creative Transformations. Through sessions and workshops, Creative Transformations gives patients and survivors the tools to help process their emotional experience, supporting healing of mind, body, spirit, and self. I highly recommend visiting her website, following her blog, and contacting her if you feel so inclined – just by following her recent posts, I’ve gained new insights about myself and become more aware of how our experiences shape us.

Recent statistics show 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer in their lifetime. It is an unfortunate truth that we all know someone who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis, and I’ve come to believe there are many important ways to heal that go beyond medical procedures and the physical body. Our mental and spiritual selves need attention, love, and support, as well. Through artistic expression, our emotions come to life through action – physically translating what we can’t put into words, whether that translation is on canvas, paper, clay, or another surface. Creative Transformations supports the holistic approach to healing that truly enables patients to become survivors in every sense of the word.

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Bringing Back Books? Yes, Please!

The phrase, ‘look for a book and look behind it,’ was frequently employed in my childhood home to describe my bookworm tendencies; I have vivid memories of being caught devouring novels in math class (apologies, Mr. Caulfield); and to this day, if I’m deep in a story, people can say my name repeatedly and receive no response (particularly annoying to my husband, I believe). I love to read – it’s like a mini-vacation just for me, every evening, and even though I now have a Kindle, there is simply nothing like reading a book in print. The entire sensory experience is different – from the way my eyes process the written word, to the tactile experience of feeling and turning pages, to the crisp smell reminiscent of wood and forest.

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So while we may indeed be seeing the end of the big bookstore, I’m thrilled that both new and established independent bookstores are finding success. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend reading this article from the Press Herald about independent bookstores in and around Portland, Maine: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/06/new-bookstore-opening-in-portland/

In conjunction with some statistics about childhood education I heard on the radio last week, this article inspired this post about bringing back the book. People may ask why, and how, these small, independent stores can be successful. Borders failed, despite their vast selection; Barnes & Noble struggles despite offering coffee and wifi – so how do the little guys do it?

First, as with all buying trends, this one too will change, but at the moment, we’re seeing a shift away from big box stores and rock bottom prices to a willingness to spend more for a great experience and support of local businesses (#buylocal, anyone?). I’d further speculate that like small tech startups, small bookstores can be more nimble than big stores with massive inventory. This agility enables them to respond more quickly to what their audience wants to read than a large, impersonal chain – which brings me to my second point: it is actually possible for them to know and learn what that audience wants (and no, I don’t mean by spending big bucks on big data analysis). This is the natural result of owners and team members being personally engaged in their communities and with their customers. These people know each other. They eat at the same restaurants, enjoy the same craft breweries, attend the same churches, etc etc.

From the expanding Gottwals Books here in Middle Georgia to Print, Longfellow Books, Sherman’s, and Letterpress Books in Maine (all referenced in the above article) – not to mention a charming, secondhand bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina that I can no longer remember the name of – these stores are listening and responding to what their communities need, and reaping the benefits.They may not be able to offer every book by every author that every patron wants, but the independent bookstore compensates for this with knowledgeable service and personal attention: if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, chances are they can help you find something similar – or possibly even better.

But to go beyond market influences and great customer service for a moment – the following summarizes just a snippet of what I heard on the radio recently:

  • Children comprehend and retain more of what they read from a printed book than an e-book (a big deal when you think about the fact that education is what gives us the power to change our lives)
  • People who read on screen take on average 10 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who read print – and are more likely to experience poor quality sleep (sleep is such an important part of your mental and physical health, and we are already too sleep-deprived as a nation)
  • The tactile and visual experience of turning pages and comprehending reading progress plays a role in both enjoyment and retention, and increases likelihood (in textbooks) of completing intermediate assessments of material

So I’m saying ‘hurrah’ to these independent bookstores, and good luck. Let’s bring back the books. Books have given me so many valuable adventures. They have broadened my horizons, provided escape, entertained and challenged me. Perhaps best of all, I can never read and experience one the same way twice. I’m constantly changing and growing, so the stories do, too.