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Fresh food, hard work for authentic Mexican cuisine

By Nathan Tsukroff

GORHAM – Giving customers their choice of only fresh ingredients, coupled with hard work, brought authentic Mexican food to Gorham almost a year ago.

Juan Sanchez and his wife, Ilse Fernandez, opened Azul Tequila at 29 School Street in Gorham in February, 2020, just a couple of blocks from the center of town and across the street from the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine.

German Hernandez, the manager of the Azul Tequila restaurant on School Street in Gorham, delivers meals to Ralph Hernandez. The restaurant serves food made only from fresh products and offers a menu of genuine Mexican foods. (Tsukroff photo)

“My husband had always wanted to open kind of like a Chipotle-style restaurant, where people can choose the ingredients. So that was kind of the idea behind this restaurant,” Fernandez said. “We have always worked with fresh ingredients, nothing is frozen. Everything is made fresh!”

They had to lock the front doors in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. And reopened just a few weeks later for personal take-out service or direct delivery by DoorDash. Now, customers can come into the restaurant to pickup an order at the counter, have their order brought to their car at the curb, or get orders delivered to them at home.

Sanchez opened El Rodeo on Western Avenue in South Portland in 2013 with help from silent partners. That restaurant is running strong, and the couple opened a second El Rodeo in Brunswick last November.

Sanchez is “kind of the soul of the restaurants, both El Rodeo and Azul Tequila,” Fernandez said. “All of the recipes are his.”

He started working in the restaurant business as a teenager in Virginia, Fernandez said. “He started from the bottom, from being the dishwasher, then learning the kitchen and learning how to cook.” 

Sanchez moved with his family to Ohio and eventually the two met in Columbus, Ohio, where he had “just taken over a restaurant” as the manager, Fernandez said. By the time Sanchez left that restaurant, he had doubled the income with his hard work and because “he always tries to bring something new to people. He tries to make the food better, always!”  

 Much like an artist works on a canvas, Sanchez works on the offerings at their restaurants. “We go to Mexico and we try different restaurants and he goes and he tries different foods, and he’ll say, ‘This one has these spices and this sauce has this’,” she said. “His palette is very sensitive!”

   The father-in-law of Sanchez’s brother wanted to open a restaurant in South Portland, and invited Sanchez to run the restaurant.

“South Portland has kept us really busy, because the restaurant is pretty big and we always try to make things better,” Fernandez said. Along with the restaurant, they soon opened a food truck. “At first, me and my husband were waking up at six o’clock in the morning to get a spot in South Portland in downtown to park the truck. And it was little bit crazy at first, but once people got to know the food truck, it was a more simplified menu of burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salad bowls.”

Luis “Lalo” Edwardo Galvan prepares steak fajitas in the kitchen of Azul Tequila, a restaurant on School Street in Gorham that serves authentic Mexican food for pick-up, delivery, or sit-down service. (Tsukroff photo)

People started calling them for private events, but they have not had a lot of business this past year, due to the pandemic, Fernandez said. They were able to get a spot at the Rock Row music venue on Westbrook Arterial in Westbrook for concerts and other live events, although those events also disappeared due to the pandemic.

Like restaurants throughout the area, moving to online ordering and delivery by DoorDash has helped them to retain business at Azul Tequila and El Rodeo, Fernandez said.

Azul Tequila had limited outdoor seating on the front patio area during the warmer months, and can seat guests indoors with appropriate social-distancing. “We have been trying to do everything by the rules,” to keep their guests safe, she said. They placed UV air filter machines in the seating areas to helped purify the air indoors.

The pandemic has led to a redistribution of staff members in order to keep them busy, Fernandez said. “We have a lot of families that depend on us” for work. Staff were given work in the kitchens or taking phone orders. German Hernandez had been a waiter at El Rodeo in South Portland before the pandemic, and is now the manager in Gorham.

Fernandez said she met her husband when she went to work at his restaurant for a month before her classes started at Ohio State. She eventually graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, but said she has not worked in that field because “when we opened South Portland, we were just so busy!”

“Some of the skills I learned at engineering have been put to use” with work on the online menus and with company bookkeeping, she said.

Fernandez was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and came to the U.S. with her parents about 20 years ago. She and Sanchez visit family there yearly, and feature ceramic dishes from Jalisco on the walls of their restaurants. The ceramics of Jalisco have a history that extends far back to the pre-Hispanic period.

Because the restaurants use only fresh products for their food, they don’t have the large freezers often found in other restaurants. In fact, the large freezer at the South Portland location was turned into a storage room, Fernandez said.

Fish and chips tacos from Azul Tequila on School Street in Gorham. Three beer batter haddock tacos tapped with roasted corn salsa and drizzled with chipotle aioli, served with corn tortilla chips and a medium-spice coleslaw. (Tsukroff photo)

At Azul Tequila, Hernandez has created a haddock taco dish for Lent, with Chipotle spices that add flavor but don’t overpower the delicate taste of the fish.

Online orders can be placed at  orderazultequila.com.

Honoring Dr. King

Guest Column

by Saskia Lippy, MD

PORTLAND, OR – Today our American family dysfunction is on display for all the world to see.  As a keeper of secrets, my work as a psychiatrist and healer told me that our culture was sick long ago. 

The stories I have heard of grandfathers, brothers, fathers, lovers, priests who rape and abuse and then manage to coerce into keeping it secret have long ago ceased to shock me.  I help my patients, both women and men, come to terms with the families that were not able to protect them, who actually harmed them, and then in some cases even told them that they were the “crazy ones.”  The same thing is happening to us now.

Saskia Hostetler Lippy, MD, is a psychiatrist and community activist in practice in downtown Portland, OR. (Photo courtesy of PeaceVoice)

But we are not crazy, our eyes do not deceive us.  What the white supremacists now threatening the national security of our nation have in common with the ghosts in my office is toxic masculinity.  This hyper-aggressive, violent version of manhood will be countered in the coming days with an even more aggressive show of force.  There is likely to be armed conflict in our streets.   We must stand by and watch, fearful and afraid.   Or is there another alternative?

If we are to teach our children, and their children and the children of the 7th generation to love, we must teach them how to stop the cycle of secrets.  

This past week I had the honor of being a mental health advocate for the girlfriend of a young man shot in our community by police while in mental health crisis.  She was able to do something remarkable.   At his vigil, she was able to forgive the officer who shot him, to have empathy for him, to see that he too was hurting.  It was a feat of incredible humanity; one we do not often glimpse.

As we face the flood of darkness coming our way, I am reminded that sometimes the ways of our world are inexplicable.  Take this small miracle, a true story. 

 Our friend, the late Rabbi Harold White, esteemed Professor of Judaic studies at Georgetown University, had come to visit my husband and me while we were on the East Coast at a family reunion.  As we were introducing him to our extended family, my daughter was tugging at me, poking, insistent that she be introduced first.  I was annoyed.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Rabbi”, I said, “I am so sorry, but she has something to ask you”, as I pointed to a very impatient little girl.

To my horror, my then seven-year-old daughter said, “Rabbi, are you a wise man?”  There was nervous laughter.  

“Yes, I believe that I am”, he replied.

 “Then how do you know that God exists?” she asked.

Harold was delighted at the question.  His eyes crinkled with joy as he held forth about the story of Noah, the ark, the storm that destroyed the earth, the saving of the animals, and finally of the rainbow telling Noah that the danger had passed. 

Precisely as he finished saying, “And that is how you know that God exists.  Whenever you see a rainbow, it is God’s promise to you that He will never destroy the earth again,” someone yelled  “Rainbow!”

A rainbow had appeared – not just one rainbow, but two.  As we all piled outside,  shrieking and howling with awe, I stood back with the Rabbi.  

I said, “Does this happen to you often?”

He smiled and said knowingly, “Oh, yes.”

I tell you this story today because the rainbow may or may not be a sign from God, depending on your belief, but on this dark day for us as a society it is also aspirational, a symbol of the society we have yet to build.  A society in which all have a place, a society in which hate does not win over love. 

As we honor the late Dr. King this year, I urge you to do so in your actions.  Together, we must finish the work that Dr. King started to rebuild our society more equitably, so that all can flourish and so that the hate that has rooted within our American family can find some peace.

As we face the flood of darkness together in the coming days, hold out your light.  Hurry–our time on Earth is short–but the blink of an eye.  This truth cannot come fast enough for those suffering with COVID, for the Native elders being lost.  I am so sorry aunties that we have failed you so.

It is as the great Gandhi observed, “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.  If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.  On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have at the beginning.”      

I know we can finish the work of Dr. King, together.  We must if we are to survive this terrible hate. The choice lies within each of our hearts. 

Saskia Hostetler Lippy, MD, is a psychiatrist and community activist in practice in downtown Portland, OR, and has been volunteering to provide psychological first aid to those involved in the Portland protest movement and is a field monitor for the TRUST network.

Auburn Winter Festival 2021

From City of Auburn

Auburn’s 2021 Winter Festival will take place Jan. 29-31.

WinterFest will look a little different this year, with COVID restrictions and crowd size limitations. But winter in Auburn is still AMAZING!

The City of Auburn urges you and your family to GET OUTSIDE and enjoy the magic of winter.

Sledding, hiking, skating, snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing…. The City of Auburn will soon publish a list and map featuring lots of ways to get out and enjoy winter in Auburn.

In the meantime, if an organization or business is planning to offer a fun, safe winter activity, let the City of Auburn know, and they will help promote it!

Visit https://arcg.is/PfSOK to register a WinterFest event.

Auburn’s Storywalk: ‘Memories’

From City of Auburn

AUBURN – The City of Auburn recently announced the Riverwalk Storywalk for January 2021, “Memories”, which embraces the new year by featuring a collection of photos that celebrate and depict “A Fresh Start” and a “Blank Canvas.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to take a stroll along Auburn’s beautiful Riverwalk to enjoy the scenery along the Androscoggin, as well as the Storywalk presentation.

Ideas for future Storywalk displays should be submitted to Sabrina Best, Auburn Recreation Director at SBest@auburnmaine.gov or 333-6611.

Grant to fund Dempsey Center telehealth

From Dempsey Center

PORTLAND & LEWISTON – Dempsey Center, a renowned provider of cancer support services in Lewiston and South Portland Maine, has received a $100,000 grant award from Jane’s Trust, a charitable foundation located in Boston, MA.

The funding will make possible Dempsey Center’s Maine Cancer Support Telehealth Program, a new initiative to bring holistic cancer support to rural populations in Maine.

“I’m pleased to announce that our first partnering organization will be the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center in Ellsworth, which has been serving people affected by a cancer diagnosis since 2004,” said Wendy Tardif, Executive Director of the Dempsey Center.

“Through this partnership, residents of Hancock and Washington counties will have access to expanded educational programming and specialized cancer support services to complement what is already offered at the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center,” she said.

Michael Reisman, Executive Director of the Beth C. Wright Center, said, “Especially during a pandemic, telehealth programming is the best way to serve our clients. They will have real-time access to Dempsey Center professionals who deliver nutrition classes, fitness and movement workshops, and other complementary therapies.” 

As with all Dempsey Center and Beth C. Wright services, the Maine Cancer Support Telehealth Program will provide the services at no cost to clients.

Dempsey Center telehealth services address the most common negative side effects of cancer and its treatment: fatigue, pain, depression, sleep issues, isolation, and loss of appetite. Cancer wellness and support services are increasingly included in medical treatment protocols.

According to the CDC, a sense of well-being is associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning, speedier recovery, and increased longevity.

Telecommunications equipment purchased under this program will allow for full, two-way communication between cancer support professionals in Lewiston and clients at rural cancer support sites and vice versa, beginning with the Beth C. Wright Center in Ellsworth. Long-term plans include an additional three cancer support sites in Maine.

The Dempsey Center makes helps people manage the impact of cancer. With locations in South Portland, Lewiston, and now through a third, virtual center, Dempsey Connects, Dempsey Center services help individuals and families maintain physical and emotional wellness as they deal with a cancer diagnosis. Understanding that cancer impacts the whole family, the Dempsey Center provides specialized services for children, teens and their families. All services are provided at no cost.

Since September of 2004, the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center has been serving Hancock and Washington Counties by offering hope, knowledge, compassion and support to cancer patients, their families, caregivers and friends through all stages of the cancer journey.  The Center engages and connects members of the community while providing a source of information, educational programs and social services. All services are provided at no cost.

SeniorsPlus very busy during pandemic

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – The COVID-19 pandemic has phones “ringing off the hook” at SeniorsPlus in Lewiston.

Phone calls to the agency are half-again higher under the pandemic than they were a year ago, jumping from 120,000 a year previously to about 196,000 calls this past year.

SeniorsPlus is the designated Area Agency on Aging for Western Maine, and works to enrich the lives of older people and adults with disabilities. The agency’s goal is to assist adults to remain at home safely for as long as possible.

 Much of the agency’s work is concentrated on community services for older and disabled adults in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties, but SeniorsPlus is also tasked with providing care coordination for adults all across Maine under a contract with the state.

“That’s why our call volume is so high,” Betsy Sawyer-Manter, President and CEO, said. “People are calling a lot . . . I don’t know if it’s because of the pandemic.” Calls are often direct-dial to one of the 125 staff members, rather than a central switchboard, so callers don’t have to deal with menus.

John Piper mixes beans into chili for Meals on Wheels at the Robert D. Ouellette Kitchen operated by SeniorsPlus in Lewiston. (Tsukroff photo)

Calls to the main phone number for SeniorsPlus are returned as quickly as possible by staff, but a return call may not be until the following day, Sawyer-Manter said. Clients will often call back multiple times if they don’t reach someone in person, increasing the perceived volume of calls.

“People are calling for a variety of reasons. Right now, the two hot topics are, ‘Where’s my stimulus payment?’, and ‘Where am I going to get the vaccine?’, she said. “So some of our calls are sort of driven by the news cycle.”

SeniorsPlus just finished assisting older adults with the Medicare open enrollment, which led to a lot of phone calls. And the agency continues to help adults with questions about Medicare throughout the year, Sawyer-Manter said.

SeniorsPlus has four main phone numbers for adults to call for different topics. “So somebody can call about Medicare. We have a Medicare hotline. So people leave their messages there, and we have somebody who’s an expert in Medicare call them back,” she said. “Same thing with our education center,” for people who questions about educational offerings from SeniorsPlus, which are now virtual.

Meals on Wheels is another major program administered by SeniorsPlus in the three-country area. The staff at Meals on Wheels’ Roger D. Ouellette Kitchen off the Alfred Plourde Parkway on the east side of Lewiston serves upwards of 1200 meals a day.

Meals had been delivered daily in the past, with a delivery of multiple meals on Thursday or Friday to carry the recipient through the weekend.

Doris Gorey assembles lunches for Meals on Wheels at the Robert D. Ouellette Kitchen operated by SeniorsPlus in Lewiston. (Tsukroff photo)

 Adults who want to find out if they are eligible for Meals on Wheels can call the hotline for answers, Sawyer-Manter said.

“We have a lot of people who are looking for Meals on Wheels,” she said. “Food insecurity seems to be a real issue right now.” SeniorsPlus has some flexibility during the pandemic under the CARES Act to provide meals for adults who might not have qualified previously. Meals on Wheels was traditionally for people over 60 who did not have the ability to make meals for themselves or to acquire meals, such as someone disabled or homebound.

“The intent of Meals of Wheels is to give people who are qualified, one third of their daily recommended dietary requirements for an adult,” Sawyer-Manter said. “So they get one meal a day. Sometimes we deliver extra meals and they eat more than one a day, but typically, it’s one a day.”

With funds from the CARES Act, SeniorsPlus has expanded delivery of meals during the pandemic. Adults of any age who may not be able to leave their home to shop for food because of their medical needs or conditions may now qualify for the meals. “So we’ve been able to open the program up to more people as a result of that funding,” she said.

 Funding for this expanded program was provided when the CARES Act was first put into place, and Sawyer-Manter said she believes SeniorsPlus has enough money left to allow delivery of these meals through “late-winter or early-spring.”

Part of the impact from the pandemic means that meal deliveries may not be face-to-face. Meals may be left on a doorstep or on the porch, and the delivery person doesn’t get to chat with the person receiving the meals as they have in the past. To make up for this lost interaction, SeniorsPlus volunteers call the adults receiving the meals at least once a week to check on their well-being.

David Goyette of New Gloucester delivers meals to Barbara Gayton of Sabattus for her to and her disabled husband, as part of the Meals on Wheels program administered by SeniorsPlus. (Tsukroff Photo)

Homecare

SeniorsPlus holds a contract with the State of Maine to run the homebased-care program for adults who aren’t eligible for other government assistance such as Mainecare (Maine’s version of Medicaid), but still need homecare, Sawyer-Manter said. They might need help with such “activities of daily living” as bathing, dressing, help with toileting, or cooking.

This is homecare, not healthcare, she said. “All of these things that maybe you and I take for granted – we can put on our own clothes, we can take our own shower – these are people who need assistance with that, so they don’t end up in a nursing home. They want to live at home, and with a little bit assistance, they can stay at home.”

SeniorsPlus pays providers to hire personal-care workers who provide the homecare for adults across Maine, Sawyer-Manter said. “We coordinate all their care,” by authorizing the providers to go into a home and choosing how many hours of homecare will be provided. The provider then hires the homecare worker and is paid by the State of Maine through SeniorsPlus.

“We monitor the work as well . . . whatever they need for services, we are the coordinating agency,” she said.

Homebased-care is a state-funded program. For adults who qualify for Mainecare, SeniorsPlus may coordinate care, but payment comes directly from Mainecare.

Other Programs

Besides the Meals on Wheels and homebased-care programs, “We do a lot around cargegiver support. So we help people who are caring for a loved one, particularly people who have Alzheimer’s or another dementia,” Sawyer-Manter said. “We support them through one-on-one support, support groups,” and respite care.

For respite care, although with a limited amount of money available, SeniorsPlus is able to provide some money for people caring for another family member to occasionally hire temporary help and take some personal time. “Say you were taking care of your mother with dementia, and you needed to go to the doctor and get some errands done. You might arrange for once a week to have someone come in that’s going to stay with your mother, supervise her care, so that you can get out and do your own thing,” she said.

As more people in Maine are caring for aging family members, this is becoming more of a need, she said.

SeniorsPlus also helps adults in Maine with a program called Money Minders, a program that helps people manage their finances. The agency has volunteers that trained and insured to work one-on-one with adults who may need help with balancing their checkbook, may have Parkinson’s Disease and have trouble writing, or might never have needed to handle finances until their spouse died.

The volunteers will help make sure bills are paid and checkbooks are balanced, Sawyer-Manter said. And they also review the bank accounts to ensure the adult is not being taken advantage of by another family member or someone outside the household.

This is a very popular program, Sawyer-Manter said, and more volunteers are needed.

And SeniorsPlus is also the go-to agency for older adults with questions about fuel assistance, help with rent, and other issues, she said. “We do a lot of just information and assistance. That’s probably the biggest number of calls we get, is simply answering peoples’ questions” and help them to find needed resources.

 At this point in the pandemic, the majority of phone calls to SeniorsPlus is about Meals on Wheels, people looking for caregiver support, questions about heating assistance, and questions about stimulus checks and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Loss of volunteers

Providing these services has been a challenge under pandemic conditions with the loss of almost all their volunteers. SeniorsPlus had help from some 575 volunteers at the start of last year and now has only about 45. Many agencies had to pull out of volunteering, and many of the volunteers were concerned about their personal health, Sawyer-Manter said.

Now, instead of providing support services and classes in-person at it’s Lewiston office, SeniorsPlus offers virtual classes and support groups.

“We offer a Zoom-101 class once a month,” to teach people how to get online and participate.

Some of the volunteers were adults with intellectual disabilities who helped deliver Meals on Wheels as part of they own care programs. “It was part of their living in the community, giving back to the community,” Sawyer-Manter said. While these volunteers are often high-risk themselves and had to stop volunteering under the pandemic, “we hope to resume that, once things are safe.”

A hybrid future

Going forward, Saywer-Manter sees her agency offering services in a hybrid of both in-person and online methods.

Even after pandemic restrictions are eased, “I think we’ve learned that it’s probably going to be the use of technology combined with in-person” services, she said. “A lot of our clients are just itching to get back to the Education Center and their support groups.”

“We want human contact. We’re social animals. What we’ve found is that a lot of people who can’t get out – if they’ve got broadband (internet connection) we can get to them!”

SeniorsPlus is open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and can be reached at 800-427-1241 or 207-795-4010, or by email at info@seniorsplus.org.

A life-changing weight loss for Steep Falls woman

By Nathan Tsukroff

STEEP FALLS – Losing weight has been life-changing for Tammy Snow of Steep Falls, ME.

She lost over 63 pounds in 13 months, and was named the TOPS Maine Queen for 2019. She continues to share her story with others to inspire them to make changes in their own lives.

“Little did I know how this group would change my life,” Snow said. She originally joined the group, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, in 2006.

TOPS is a non-profit weight loss program, similar to Weight Watchers. The group has been around since 1948 and has about 200,000 members in 10,000 chapters around the world. The chapters have weekly meetings where members are weighed-in and share their success stories.

After a disability caused her to lose her job, she became inactive and dropped out of the program in 2014. “I basically sat in a recliner all day and ate mindlessly without exercising,” she said. “I lost my ability to move around without joint pain.” She was also diagnosed with low-thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

Tammy Snow of Steep Falls with her husband, Bill. Snow weighed 263 pounds in this photograph. A similar photograph with her father from 2018 was a wakeup call that set her on a journey that has seen her lose over 73 pounds since then. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Snow)

Snow had worked as a phlebotomist at a research lab in Windham, drawing blood from animals at the lab.

 She rejoined her local chapter of TOPS in 2016, and has not missed a weekly meeting since then, she said. “Meetings are an important part of the TOPS program. The friendships are supportive, and the meetings informative. It was a positive approach to weight loss that kept me motivated to keep going.”

Snow said that rejoining TOPS set her on a “journey of health and fitness and wellness.”

 In 2018, “I realized that my friends and family were moving on, and that my life was not in the right place. I was missing out on the good things.” A picture of Snow and her father that year showed her at 263 pounds, the “heaviest I’ve ever been in my life,” was her wakeup call, she said.

“I realized I needed to buckle down and regain what I had lost. Something inside me clicked, and I was engaged!” Snow said.  “I was learning tough love, and I wanted to make change for the good.”

Snow said 2018 was also the year that the TOPS group revised its health magazine called My Day One, which taught her portion control and how to eat a balanced meal. “This would be the tool that would set me on my path.” The magazine is given to new members when they join the group.

A recent portrait of Tammy Snow of Steep Falls, who lost more than 73 pounds over two years with support from the TOPS weight loss program. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Snow)

The revision included visual tools and examples. “I am a visual learner, and everything just clicked,” she said. “I could visually see what a portion was supposed to look like, what a meal was supposed to look like. And, of course, I was motivated to learn the program.”

She attended her first state recognition in 2018. “I heard a lot of inspiring stories of others” at the event at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. While still only halfway to her goal, “I left inspired . . . eager to continue my journey of health and wellness and fitness.”

Snow changed her diet and now eats “a lot of low-fat, low-salt, low-sodium and low-carb food”  and drinks “plenty of water,” she said. Her daily diet is about 1200 to 1500 calories.

She has been married for 35 years to her husband, Bill, who “has been my rock,” she said. Her 31-year-old son, Billy, and 29-year-old daughter, Lauren, also “have been so supportive,” she said.

Lauren rides horses, and encouraged her mother to get back in the saddle after years of being inactive, Snow said.

She had the highest weight loss in Maine in 2019, and has continued to lose weight for a total of over 73 pounds to date. “I’m back! I’m me again!” she said.

Lies and intolerance the root of D.C. attack

Guest Column

By Sen. Nate Libby

The events of Wednesday, Jan. 6, during which a mob of people violently stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., have rattled our country. Watching footage and reading accounts of what happened evokes a variety of emotions in people: Anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear. It has also led to a lot of questions, the biggest one being: How did all this happen?

The events of that day are unsettling and ugly. As investigations continue, we’re getting a more complete picture of exactly what happened in the Capitol. Details from the attack are revealing a more disturbing reality than what we initially saw from live footage.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 21, the City of Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Libby)

The people who stormed the Capitol Building did so because they were convinced a fair and open election was fraudulent. They were told this, over and over, despite multiple recounts and dozens of failed court cases. These people were so convinced of this lie, they decided their only course of action was to commit an act of insurrection. In the process, they destroyed property, terrorized everyday staff, and assaulted police. Five people have died as a result of this attack, including a Capitol Police officer.

Our country was built on the promise of free speech, fair elections and open government. The right to protest does not include smashing windows or beating police officers. The right to petition the government for change does not include forcefully taking over Senate and House chambers to halt the process of democracy. The right to question information does not include carving “murder the media” into the door of a federal building.

As we all try to process our own thoughts and feelings, various leaders have spoken up to offer words of wisdom and comfort. As strange as it might sound, the words of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have stuck with me. He shared a story of growing up in Austria after the end of World War II. His father and neighbors suffered greatly knowing what terrible things they’d been led into doing, one step at a time. Their guilt and shame pained them just as much as their shrapnel wounds. The former governor explained, “It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.”

Five families are now in mourning. Countless others are grappling with the fact that their spouse, parent, child, cousin, aunt or uncle is facing felony changes and the likelihood of years in prison. The foundations of our democracy were shaken and lives have been ruined – all because of lies and intolerance.

There is a way forward. Healing the deep divisions in our country will take time and serious effort. It will involve both holding accountable those who are responsible for the Capitol attack, and taking stock of our own lives to make sure we’re really listening to and respecting each other. I love Maine and I love our country. I know we are equal to this task, and that we can live up to the high ideals this nation was founded upon.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 21, which comprises the City of Lewiston.

A New Year’s Message from Bishop Deeley

Letter to the Editor

For many of us, the changing of the calendar this year will be very welcome.

Bishop Deeley of the Portland Diocese. (Photo courtesy of Portland
Diocese)

All the same, I would be remiss if I did not give thanks for the gifts of 2020. It was a year which will be remembered for a pandemic, tragedy, and division, but the gift was in the response of service and sacrifice by many people that sustained us through a difficult time and, ultimately, set us on a path to recovery.

I think of the dedicated commitment shown by our clergy, parish staffs, and volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure our churches and our many important ministries such as food pantries and soup kitchens would carry on.

I think of the devotion to duty of medical personnel, first responders, storekeepers and supermarket workers, school teachers, cleaning personnel, transport workers and others who have kept our communities operating and safe. These are the people who brought blessing to the year. They met the moment generously by answering the call given to each of us: to share God’s love and mercy with those we encounter to preserve the common good.

I think of the sacrifices of parishioners and community members, many in uncertain financial situations, who continued to offer needed assistance to the Church, recognizing the importance of our common mission and the support in hope it offers to so many people in so many ways. The courage, perseverance, and faith we see in the acts of these people are things to carry with us into the new year.

So as we enter into 2021 on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, who better to guide us? We can learn a great deal from Mary, a woman who knew that only in prayer and in conversation with the God who had asked her to be the mother of his child, would she be able to be faithful to what she had been called. We are told in the Gospel that “she kept all these things in her heart.” We would do well to follow her. In her heart was where she would meet God, and seek his will for her as she carried out her mission to be the Mother of God. As the new year begins, let us resolve to enter it mindful of the good we have received. Like Mary, in humble prayer, let us ask God to guide us in witnessing to the Good News of Jesus in our world seeking the good in others, and striving where we can to help make the lives of others better.

God is with us. That is our hope; that is what we celebrate at Christmas.

As the calendar changes, may this truth rest in your hearts bringing you peace and blessing.

Bishop Robert P.
Deeley, J.C.D
Bishop of the Diocese
of Portland, ME

First baby of 2021

At Central Maine Medical Center

From CMMC

LEWISTON – Jan. 1, 2021 – Carter Edward-Lee Miles of Winthrop is the first baby born at Central Maine Medical Center in 2021.

Carter is the son of Megan Stimson and Dylan Miles. He was born at 12:49 p.m. Friday, weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches.  He is the couple’s first child.

Carter Edward-Lee Miles of Winthrop was born at 12:49 p.m. on Friday, becoming the first baby born at Central Maine Medical Center in 2021. (Photo courtesy of CMMC)

“He is absolutely adorable,” said Heather Wilcox, of Winthrop, Carter’s maternal grandmother.  “He’s perfect. He’s just a sweet as can be.”

Carter’s paternal grandmother couldn’t agree more.

“I swear I haven’t ever seen a more beautiful baby,” Nicolette Geary Bond, of, Laconia N.H., exclaimed over the phone after seeing photos of her grandson.

Central Maine Medical Center located in Lewiston, is a Level II Trauma Center serving Androscoggin County and the surrounding region. CMMC’s “Centers of Excellence” include the Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute, the Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Neonatal Intermediate Care Unit, and a Trauma Services Program. CMMC is also the southern Maine base for LifeFlight of Maine, the state’s only medical helicopter service. Supported by the latest technologies, CMMC’s skilled professionals provide care with compassion, kindness, and understanding.

Learn more at: www.cmmc.org.


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