Cary Memorial Library Presents Dr. Nick Trout, Author of Ever by My Side

Dr. Nick Trout

Cary Memorial Library Presents Dr. Nick Trout, Author of Ever by My Side

Thursday, October 13, at 7:00 p.m. in the Large Meeting Room

Dr. Trout, who has been described as the “modern day James Herriot” is a staff surgeon at Angell Animal Medical Center.  He has shared his experiences in the world of veterinary medicine in two previous bestselling books, Love Is the Best Medicine and Tell Me Where It Hurts.

In his new book, Ever by My Side, Dr. Trout turns the lens inward to offer a funny, moving, and intimate look at the profound lessons he has learned from the pets in his own life.   Dr. Trout has been described as a wonderful speaker whose stories portray the power of animals to offer a lifetime of consolation, guidance, and abiding affection.

Nick Trout graduated from veterinary school at the University of Cambridge in 1989. He is a Diplomate of the American and European Colleges of Veterinary Surgeons.  In addition to his popular books, Dr. Trout is also a contributing columnist for The Bark, a magazine for doglovers, and Prevention magazine.  For more information about Dr Trout and his books, go to

This is one event you won’t want to miss!  Space is limited, so come early to get a  great seat!

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The Work and Collections of Marjorie and Joseph Weerts

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Partners for ACCESS hosts From Uganda With Love

Dr Janice Levine and Dr Robert Kalyesubula.

October 22nd at 8:00 pm and will be a gala evening of food, music, games and prizes. The Lexington Depot.

“It’s amazing what can happen when you open your mind and lead with your heart.  The universe, in gratitude, rewards you with possibilities you never could have conceived.”


Those words of wisdom come from Lexington Psychologist Janice Levine. Wisdom that grew from a unique experience she had at last year’s Connecting for Change (C4C) event sponsored by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education as a part of the Vancouver Peace Summit.

Connecting for Change (C4C) was a three-day gathering of business, social sector, and philanthropic leaders to learn from each other about how they could create cross-sector collaborations to address pressing issues around the world. Representing MedWish International, Dr Levine was attending C4C on what she calls a “hunch”.


Her hunch paid off. At one of the C4C sessions, she met a doctor from Uganda, Robert Kalyesubula who was completing a Nephrology Fellowship at Yale Medical School, and learned about his efforts to develop a community based medical center that offered treatment to people living with HIV-AIDS, orphans, and vulnerable individuals in the Nakaseke District where he grew up.


An orphan himself, Dr. Kalyesubula devoted his life to giving back to the community that supported him, and was eager to connect with others who could help him find ways to develop their resources. If you’re familiar with MedWish International, you can understand why this pairing could be a fruitful one. MedWish donates medical supplies to individuals and organizations dedicated to providing care that directly lessens the burden of suffering people in under served areas.


Dr. Levine was so impressed with the inspiring work that Dr. Kalyesubula (known to his friends as “Dr. Robert”) had done to grow his community and enhance the lives of children and adults alike, that she decided to work with Dr. Robert to help grow the ACCESS program. When she returned to Boston, she convened a Board of professional physicians, health care workers, attorneys and students to help procure and send medical supplies to Nakaseke, and provide a range of resources needed to develop a fully sustainable community center.”


Through Dr Levine and Dr Kalyesubula’s C4C encounter, MedWish put together a container of donated medical supplies to be sent to Uganda. From here another “C4Cer”, Mary Tidlund, applied to the project what Dr Levine calls “her Midas touch” and arranged for the container to be shipped to the East African country. “Eighty-one villages and up to 40,000 people will benefit from the supplies,” she says.


The whole C4C experience has given Dr Levine a new concept of the prerequisites for change. “I know now that it’s not about credentials or qualifications,” she says. “But rather about daring to dream and putting faith in the possible.”

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The Myth of a Post Racial America

By Laurie Atwater  |     Here in Lexington we are lucky to have the opportunity to live among great thinkers and to have them invite their friends to town! That’s why the Cary Lecture Series will be hosting a Gwen Ifill and Mark Warren on the same stage this week. It turns out that they were students together in Springfield, Massachusetts along with Bob Halperin who is a Cary Lecture committee member and director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. It’s a great opportunity for this trio to reunite and for Lexingtonians to hear Warren and Ifill speak on The Myth of a Post Racial America.

Gwen Ifill is the best-selling author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. She is moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for The PBS NewsHour.

 Mark Warren is a sociologist at Harvard and has spent his career studying and writing about social justice and the revitalization of American democratic and community life. He is the author of Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice and Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy.

 I talked to Professor Warren right after the abysmal poverty rates were released showing that black Americans have been very hard hit by this recession with black poverty at almost three times that of white families and almost fifty percent of all black children growing up in poverty.

 “That’s an unbelievable figure,” he states as we talk by phone. “All Americans are being hard-hit by what’s going on with the economy, but the problem of black poverty and black unemployment points to persistent racial inequality,” he says.

 What interests him and what he has spent a lot of time studying is the intersection between whites and blacks and the ways in which they can work together across the color line and social class on issues of social justice.

 “The problem of black poverty or black unemployment is not just a problem for black America,” he says. “It’s a problem our whole society. We are not going to be a strong society when 50 percent of black children grow up in poverty. There’s lots of different ways that this is important for white people. Too often I think white people approach this from a “helping” perspective: helping black people. But it’s in our own-self interest to have a well-educated and productive work force in this country.”

 In his work, Warren has interviewed many white people from different walks of life who have become involved in issues around racial inequality. Most of them had a seminal experience that shaped their thoughts and feelings about racial injustice. From dramatic stories right out of the sixties to the more subtle observations of young people today, his book illustrates the ways in which white people can be shaken out of complacency and into action by events or people.

 Relationships are key. “Understanding and caring come, at least in part through relationships,” he states. “That’s why I think the community level is so important for this work. We need more places [for people to interact], so this is a tough message. Our segregation reinforces our differences. Personal relationships can be powerful; this is a profound way that people come to understand the world and the experiences of people of color.”

 I ask Warren how people can take steps in their own lives to become involved. “There are types of ways that we can try to connect to each other’s lives. Faith communities are often interested in bringing people together across different faith traditions and communities.”

 Does he think that there is an “empathy deficit” in the country right now. He responds: “When times are tough as they are right now,” Warren says, “people tend to hunker down and take care of their own; stop worrying about other people because they feel under threat. But we can also understand that we’re all in this together and we need to find resources together. This is an economic issue, but it’s also a moral issue. What kind of society do we want to live in; all of us together, not just black people? It’s a long-term issue. Doing the kind of research I do, I don’t have an answer for this, and in a way that’s not surprising since it’s been going on for three hundred years!” he says.

 Does he see fatigue among middle class whites who may live among middle class black families and feel that everything is just fine with black America; especially since we have a black President?

 “Well, we have made progress,” he says and that’s important to acknowledge. We should recognize this and ask ourselves what profound things still remain in our society. We did change in the sixties and seventies. We had a social movement that galvanized the conscience of people all across the country; not just African Americans. It was during that era that there was a lot of progress in education and affirmative action and many of the successful black people are younger beneficiaries of those struggles, including Obama. But there’s enough information out there about how difficult things are right now, so it’s a little self-serving to think that it’s all behind us.”

 How might a person attending his lecture get involved; what would he recommend? “Try to work within a group or institution where you’re already involved: your church, your school, or another organization that you care about. Working within your own circle of influence and with your own relationships is important. Find other like-minded people.”

 In his work he had discovered that white people can’t do this alone. “You really have to form groups not to isolate yourselves, but to have the support and encouragement of a community and to hopefully find ways to reach across racial lines so we can work on some of the issues we are trying to get at in our larger society. What does a community look like where people know how to work together and respect each other? That’s what we want for our larger society. That may mean taking a step outside your comfort zone,” he says.

 I comment that stepping into a multi- racial group can be stressful for many who are simply afraid that they will say the wrong thing or inadvertently offend someone. “This is a hard one,” Warren says. “We all have been raised in a racist society and often segregated societies and it’s not surprising at all that we may have beliefs that reflect our backgrounds. We don’t want to defend that, but on the other hand we don’t want to be crippled by it. A woman I interviewed had a great way of putting it; she said “a lot of white people are afraid of making the same mistake once!” Despite difficulties, Warren says “Most of the white people I’ve interviewed for my book really want these different types of relationships “they value these experiences in their lives.”

 On an upbeat note, Warren does a lot of work with colleges students. “Students today are more concerned about their economic future than they were a few years ago,” he explains. “So many students are very concerned about issues of injustice around race and poverty.” Warren serves on the board of the Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard, a student-run organization for social justice. “We have eighteen hundred members,” he says proudly.

Read more about Mark Warrens research and books at

 The second Cary Lecture of the 2011-12 season The Myth of a Post Racial America will take place on Saturday, October 22, at 8 p.m. at Cary Hall, 1605 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington. Both authors will have books available for purchase at the lecture.

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Volley For Molly


Third Annual “Volley for Molly” Tournament to raise money for Ovarian Cancer

Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, a national organization dedicated to research, patient support programs and raising awareness of ovarian cancer, has rejoined forces for a third year with Lexington High School for “Volley for Molly,” a high school volleyball tournament fundraiser during September in memory of their former student, Molly Eisenberg. Molly passed away in October 2009 from ovarian cancer at age 19, although her spirit lives on through this event.

Volley for Molly is 4-9:30 p.m. Friday; Sept. 30, 2011 at the Ralph Lord Gymnasium at Lexington High School, 251 Waltham St., Lexington, MA. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the night of the event. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information please visit or

In 2009 and in recognition of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, Lexington High School hosted Volley for Molly in honor of their friend and star player Molly Eisenberg. Led by her previous volleyball coach, Jane Bergin, who remains volleyball coach at the school, this event raised almost $15,000 for ovarian cancer research, awareness and patient programs. Molly was able to view that first event, which drew more than 1,000 people, through a live internet feed. In 2010, a year after Molly passed away, the event raised an overwhelming $24,000.

Molly’s story is both tragic and inspiring. One week into college, Molly was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though she had numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, she lost her courageous battle on October 21, 2009. In her online guestbook found at www.ovationsforthecureorg, former Massachusetts state representative Stephen Doran describes a loss felt by many:

“The world lost a most extraordinary young woman today,” Doran said. “Molly died the way she lived, with spirit and energy and humor and grace, and in so doing, taught us many important lessons about life, about family and friends, about community and caring, about sports and sportsmanship, about giving, and caring, and sharing, and about the importance of looking out for one another. And about never giving up. She has left a permanent legacy.

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Curb Your Enthusiasm

By Heather Aveson  |

“Everybody knew for a couple of years it was coming. But I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” says Tony Mitri, owner of the Gulf Service Center of Lexington struggling to be heard over the rumble of machinery and gazing back at his banks of empty pumps. It’s another day in what Diane Garabedian of Prime Roast Beef and Seafood now refers to as ‘a war zone’. “The situation seems to be that they just came in and blew everything up.” Business owners, shoppers and commuters are all feeling frustrated by the major road construction at the intersection of Rte. 2A (Marrett Road) and Waltham Street.

LEFT: Construction trucks, debris and barriers discourage motorists and shoppers from visiting the shops at Marrett Square.

On paper the project warrants just a three line description by the Mass Department of Transportation. But at ground zero it’s a different story. The project has involved everything from digging up the street to replace drainage systems and add new signal components to removing and relocating utility poles and all the wiring associated with them in addition to all the work at street level. From one merchant’s point of view “it’s just been chaos.”

When construction began this spring the extent of the project took everyone by surprise. Even the Lexington DPW didn’t seem to understand its scope. A web page set up to answer questions about the project estimated “there will be 3 – 4 construction workers and 3 pieces of equipment on site. More or larger equipment may be brought in for specific portions of the work.” But, business owners have not been kept up to date and interruptions have been extensive due to the large numbers of workers, equipment and debris blocking the intersection and individual businesses during the busiest part of the day. And that’s led to a lot of frustration. Sal Serio of Nature’s Way Cleaners sees his customers making major adjustments, but at least they’re still coming. “I’m doing OK. My core customers have told me they’ve switched their times to come. The 8am people come at 4pm. I’m fortunate; my customers have been really loyal to me – through thick and thin. I appreciate that.” But at Prime Roast Beef and Seafood the Garabedians’ customers can’t be as flexible. “When 65% of your business is lunch, you can’t work around it. We get people who call and before they place an order they ask, Is that mess still going on? If you have half an hour for lunch and you’re going to be stuck in traffic for forty minutes you’re going to go somewhere else.” Bruegger’s Bagels is also feeling the squeeze. With customers stopping in for a morning bagel or light lunch they’re customers have to battle the busiest part of the construction day. Bruegger’s Manager, Edwin Urena has watched their sales fall approximately 25% a week over last year.

RIGHT: Road widening has left utility poles stranded in the pavement. One of the final steps in the project will be the relocation of all poles and services.

Anneli Mynttinen of Lexington has braved the chaos to drop off dry cleaning at Nature’s Way, “I try to avoid this area. I cut down the side streets. I still frequent the stores when I can. I’m just surprised that it’s everywhere in town.” And that just adds to the frustration. Selectman Peter Kelley has been following the project closely since its inception more than a decade ago. “Part of the frustration is that there are other road projects going on at the same time, like the resurfacing of Marrett Road from Mass Ave. That’s a separate contract with a different contractor. On the projects that the town is more directly involved with, we try to arrange for work to be done at times when there are fewer cars on the road, But because this is a state contract, managing the day-to-day activity is pretty much out of our hands. However, I can tell you that Lexington DPW officials are encouraging the contractor to move the project along as swiftly as possible.”

Ed Sullivan of Tricon Sports feels the clock is ticking, “Has it impacted us, yes maybe to a lesser degree than some of the other businesses. But if they don’t get this done pretty quickly we’ll really be impacted because high school sports start up in the next week or so. We draw from all around and once they go somewhere else, it’s hard to get people to come back.” For other merchants even the temporary loss of business is having a devastating effect. “They’re doing this project at our expense. We’ve been here less than a year, this is the last thing we need. It creates a domino effect,” says Garabedian. He’s already had to cut back his employees hours. Tony Mitri at the Gulf Station is worried about his employees as well. “The people who work for me – they’ve been working for me a long time. I can’t lay them off just because it’s slow. Who’s going to help me.” With the pumps and repair bays empty his guys try to stay busy improving the station’s curb able by cleaning up the planter around their sign. It’s a heartening juxtaposition amidst the ravaged landscape that surrounds them.

Communication Breakdown

Merchants feel left out of the information loop. Although the DPW website states that, ‘MassDOT will contact businesses a day in advance if a staging area will cause any interruptions on the property,’ business owners say that’s just not happening. Communication becomes even more complicated because the project has been contracted out to a private firm, J. Tropeano of North Andover, through the state bidding process. Though some official communication may be going on between the state, the contractor and the landlords, the information isn’t getting to the business owners. It’s unclear where the breakdown is occurring, but the merchants are paying the price. This breakdown may merit review by the town before embarking on future large scale projects. In the meantime, merchants rely on gossip and word of mouth rather than official channels for updates. Ed Sullivan has heard several rumors about drainage issues slowing the project down and that’s how he gets all his information. “No representatives come in to update us – the only updates we get are secondhand.” And staging areas and interruptions have been hampering business since the project began. Sal Serio worries about his neighbors, “There’s been no contact with the state. They’ve paid attention to the traffic flow. But access to certain places, like Gino’s and the UPS store has been blocked for five weeks. The Marrett Square merchants, already pinched for parking, sometimes find themselves barricaded in their own shops. Diane Garabedian looks out her front window at the oversized machinery and piles of rubble in front of his shop. “The other day they were parking here, had their trucks here. They completely blocked off the area at lunch time. That’s 65% of our business gone.” And that’s what scares a lot of these merchants the most. Tony Mitri echoes his Tricon Sports neighbor concerns. No matter how well the newly configured intersection works he knows, “When people change their habits it hard to get them to come back.”

Businesses are doing their best to keep customers coming during construction so they won’t have to woo them back later. Tricon Sports still has its tempting racks out front, Crushed Grapes held a wine tasting over the weekend and Prime Roast Beef is offering more lunch specials than usual. Supporting the businesses now is an investment in the future, just as everyone hopes the reconfigured intersection will be. Francesca Pfrommer of Lexington continues to make her way through the construction to patronize Nature’s Way. She takes a long range view of the chaos. “The inconvenience is about upgrading the infrastructure. I have children who go to Clarke and they walk. For a while I would go through town to avoid this area but they have their own set of stuff. So – just grin and bear it.” Selectman Peter Kelley is also looking forward but is committed to helping merchants now, “The good news is the project is nearing completion and now that the pavement is down, it’s a bit easier to travel through that intersection and I highly encourage everyone to support those businesses that have been affected by the construction.”

The Grand Plan

The Grand Plan

The 1.8 million dollar project has been in the works for years, actually for more than a decade. Rich Nangle of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation points out that this project is not unusual in that way. It’s actually typical. A project has to reach several milestones before getting funded and moving on to the construction phase. At a Massachusetts Highway Department community design meeting in June 2006, Design Consultant John Bechard said he first got the project in 1997. According to the Bechard the intersection was listed on the Top 1000 (most dangerous intersections) for several years. He cited antiquated signal systems for both cars and pedestrians, the wide open nature of the intersection, and the lack of sidewalks and curb cuts as major deficiencies of the intersection.

The project proceeded in fits and starts for several years and by the 2006 Community Meeting it had reached the twenty-five percent design benchmark. There were still the seventy-five percent and one hundred percent designs to get through. After that a project gets in line to enter the TIP, or Transportation Improvement Program which funds projects and gets them on a schedule.

The overall design met with widespread community approval at the meeting. The intersection’s central location between Lexington High School and Clarke Middle School as well as within walking distance of Bridge Elementary made pedestrian safety a major issue for community members. The Highway Department agreed and cited improved pedestrian safety along with better traffic flow as the top priorities for the intersection..

The final design features widened roads on both approaches of Marrett Road and the northbound or Lexington Center bound approach of Waltham Street to accommodate left turn lanes, new traffic signals will be mast mounted making them more visible and will include protected turn phases for the Marrett Road westbound and Waltham Street northbound approaches. These are all designed to improve traffic flow and cut down on wait times for signal phases. New pedestrian signals will conform with current safety standards and include an exclusive pedestrian phase. Concrete sidewalks with curb cuts and wheelchair ramps will also improve pedestrian safety. In addition, the traffic island in front of Dunkin Donuts will be removed and the corner built out and landscaped. Entrances to businesses along Marrett Rd. will be clearly delineated adding to the safety of both moving traffic and those entering and exiting the roadway.

After contacting the agencies and contractor involved in the project it became clear I wasn’t going to get an official response either. But through word of mouth, it looks like construction should be wrapping around the end of October. A bit sooner than originally planned. In the meantime, frequent your favorite local merchants, or even drop in on a new one, in the area and remember Nature’s Way customer Francesca Pfrommer’s philosophy, “If you can take the bigger view it’s actually going to improve the area. Just take a deep breath.” And support your neighborhood merchants.

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Word Of The Day: Toastmasters

By Heather Aveson  |  “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” This quote has been attributed to Woodrow Wilson, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. It may be that they all uttered some variation on a common theme.

Lexington Toastmasters Club newest club member, Liam Walsh shares the sentiment with me as he prepares his first speech, a slender 4 – 6 minutes. The local club is celebrating 25 years of helping its members improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

“Toastmasters changed my life. They really did. Put me on the stage. I don’t know what I would have done without that positive boost.”   ~ Chris Matthews on Toastmasters

Chris Mattews is a well-known author and journalist who hosts MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and The Chris Matthews Show.

Lexington Toastmasters Board of Directors: Left to right Peter Ash, Sargent-at-Arms; Victoria Ngo-Phat, Treasurer; Bhavana Laad, President; Mary Roberts, VP PR; Robert Isenberg, VP Education. Missing: Duncan Stewart, VP Membership, and Sue McKittrick, Secretary.

We all know how to talk, but can we speak? Can we persuade, communicate, impassion, inspire? Some are born with a gift for public speaking, but most have to work at it. And some are truly paralyzed by the prospect of standing in front of a crowd. Many can remember “oral reports” in school and the terrible fear of getting up in front of the class.

In today’s competitive work climate it can be argued that speaking persuasively is more important than ever whether you are selling yourself in a job interview or presenting your ideas to clients or colleagues.

Toastmasters International began in the basement of a California YMCA in 1924 when Ralph Smedley realized that many of the young graduates with whom he worked could use “training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings.” He styled it after a social club to suggest a comfortable, pleasant atmosphere that would attract members. It was originally a “men only” group until it was expanded in the early 70s to include the huge numbers of women entering the labor market.

Toastmasters International now has more with 12,500 clubs with over 260,000 members in 113 countries. Smedley’s original 15-project manual Basic Training for Toastmasters still serves as the backbone of the club’s skill building. Toastmasters has many famous members including Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball, Debbie Fields Rose founder of Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Carl Dixon, Rock Musician, former lead singer for The Guess Who, Peter Coors of Coors Brewing Company, actor Tim Allen and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock in Star Trek.

The Lexington Toastmasters Club began as a corporate club in the D.W. Heath publishing arm of Raytheon Corporation in 1986. Lexington resident Arthur Fox was a member of the original club when it was known as the ISBN club. “It was called the ISBN club because of it was run by a publishing company and it stands for International Standard Book Number, but we also called it, “I Speak Better Now.” When D.W. Heath was sold and moved in the 1990’s the club was left behind. Members, including Fox, adopted it and brought it to Lexington center, first meeting upstairs in the Visitor’s Center and then renting space at various churches. Eventually they found a permanent home in the conference room of Cambridge Saving Bank where they meet weekly.

Arthur Fox remembers trying to keep the club going through tough times. “Toastmasters Clubs go through a lot of transformations. At some point this club fell into decline when we only had twelve members and maybe only four came. You have to be very careful about electing officers. Success really depends on them.” The club is in great health now with a strong slate of officers and approximately forty members. Between twenty and thirty members show up to any given meeting.

“Public speaking is like any sport. When you have honed your public speaking skills to a certain point, if you don’t continue to do it, work at it, it starts slipping.”
~ Arthur Fox, Lexington Toastmasters member

Meetings follow a specific agenda that offer both structure and flexibility. incoming President Sue McKittrick says, “The structure takes you through the things you’re supposed to learn.” The flexibility comes from subject matter and the ad lib section of the meetings, the Joke or Thought of the Day and Table Talkers, which are topics put out to the group for short spontaneous discussion by the group. Sue continues, “Table Talkers are great. Everyone participates in every meeting and it leads into other topics.”

For new member Karen Georgio “Table Talkers almost feel like better preparation for real life. You have to come up with something right on the spot.”

A spontaneous discussion may appeal to Karen right now because she just gave one of the most difficult speeches for most members, The Icebreaker

This is the first presentation by new members. They are given 4 -6 minutes to introduce themselves to the group. Education is central to Toastmasters and so new members are paired up with a mentor to prepare for their Icebreaker.Longtime member and Lexington resident Robert Isenberg, has been the group’s unofficial mentor for years and is now the Vice President of Education. He mentored Karen as she prepared for this first speech. “I was on a business trip to California so I had all this time on the plane. I wrote an entire speech that I tossed. Then I had time to write another one.” Although she got most of the way there, Robert’s input brought the speech where she wanted it to be. “That last twenty percent of tweaking made a huge difference.”

How does she feel now that it’s over? “It was the last week of school, I was crazy busy. I couldn’t psycho obsess about it. If I had spent too much time worrying about it I don’t think it would have come off as well as it did.”

The group’s newest member, Liam Walsh, is preparing his Icebreaker for the fall. Liam was a member of the Glendale, Arizona club in the mid-90’s. Liam says back then he concentrated on self-improvement and practicing public speaking. This time he looks at it as more of a hobby, “I always wanted to go back. It was a lot of fun. Watching somebody improve is a lot of fun.” As an accountant Liam says, “I never really sat down and wrote a speech. I just talked about numbers.” He’s not sharing what he’ll talk about during his Icebreaker, but he will share the process that helps Make the Butterflies Fly in Formation, as the Toastmasters Manual puts it. “I would do a speech in the car on a tape recorder. I’d practice it over and over to get to time. I was surprised at how much I improved. The process really worked for me.”

Getting over the fear of speaking and improving communication and leadership skills is at the heart of Toastmasters. Arthur Fox says, “Public speaking must arouse a really primal kind of reaction. It doesn’t have to be that scary. Basically the process desensitizes you to the fear by giving you the tools.” The simple learning-by-doing method has helped millions of men and women become more confident in front of an audience.

Speaking publicly in your native language is scary enough for most of us, but the Lexington Toastmasters attracts a lot of foreign speakers looking to improve their communication skills as well. Arthur Fox is thrilled. “The influx of foreign speakers is one of the flavors that we have. I think it’s remarkable when you’re learning to make the quantum step from just talking during a conversation to speaking publicly.” Their subjects bring a new dimension to the club as well. “Their stories are fascinating stories. One of our members had escaped the war in the Balkan States, another person in the club went through the Khmer Rouge.”

Members find their way to Toastmasters in many ways. Sue McKittrick followed the path of many others. “I was starting my own business and thinking about how to grow a business. One thing I wanted to do was speak publicly. It’s been very good. Speeches are short. I’ve learned to speak in small snippets. It’s helped me build routines. Because of what I’ve learned I’ve gotten some speaking engagements. It’s helped me build credibility.” Karen Georgio felt a similar tug in starting her new business. “I didn’t want to get all my ducks in a row and then realize, ‘Oh, yeah. I have to present this,’ I absorb a lot just being there. I start to listen differently.”

Some members join when they take a new job and know they will be called upon to present or when they lose a job and want more confidence putting themselves out there, others join to improve a specific skill or work their way through the speaking and leadership process and then leave. No matter how long members stay the group builds a special connection. Arthur Fox notes, “You build an intimacy in a safe, structured environment. Topics are often very close to the person. So you learn a lot about people’s lives. You feel like you know them on a level that you wouldn’t in another organization.” Liam Walsh sees the Icebreaker as the first step in opening up. “It’s an opportunity for people to get to know you a bit. Talking about yourself is the easiest subject you can pick.” And Karen Georgio appreciates connecting with members, “I feel like I’ve found a group of very interesting people—a real cross-section that I wouldn’t have been exposed to. You get to know people by what they chose to talk about.”

Lexington Toastmasters sees about a ten percent turnover in membership every year. For Arthur Fox and other long time members there’s a real benefit to putting your skills on the line year after year. “Public speaking is like any sport. When you have honed your public speaking skills to a certain point, if you don’t continue to do it, work at it, it starts slipping.”


Lexington Toastmasters Club meets Thursdays at noon in the basement of Cambridge Savings Bank on Massachusetts Ave. in Lexington center. For more information on the club, contact Mary Roberts at 617-653-0370.

For fun, log on to some Toastmasters Podcasts at:

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Celebrating Memorial Day

By State Senator Ken Donnelly

I was honored to have been a part of Lexington’s Memorial Day Ceremonies a few weekends ago. After listening to the speakers and watching such a great showing of community and patriotism, I was inspired to expand on the remarks I shared that morning. For me, it is crucial that we remember and honor those we have lost defending our nation through out the year, not just on Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a time to reflect and remember those we have lost while serving our country. It isalso a time to thank the friends and families of these brave men and women for their sacrifice of losing a loved one, so other friends and families may continue to hold their loved ones close. And, it is a time to acknowledge the immense debt of gratitude we owe to all the service men and women of our armed forces. It is a credit to our nation that we have a day set aside every year to honor and memorialize our fallen troops. Each year on Memorial Day, towns and cities across the country gather at ceremonies just like this one. We watch parades, listen to speakers, and take time to reflect on the sacrifices others have made for us. But Memorial Day is one day.

Our task should be to honor the fallen, not just on this day, but throughout the year. We must hold dear those freedoms so bravely fought for and be strong stewards of our democracy and founding principles so that their sacrifice is not in vain.

As Americans, we are afforded freedoms we sometimes take forgranted but are for many around the world, a mere hope, waiting to take hold: freedom of speech, freedom to follow our own spiritual path, freedom to determine our own destinies. The men and women of the military have fought on foreign soil so that we still enjoy those freedoms

here at home. In return for their sacrifice and for these basic freedoms, we have the responsibility to continue the work that was started by our founding fathers so many years ago to “form a more perfect union.” We honor the service men and women we have lost, when we strive to better that union in our everyday lives. When we serve our communities. When we put ourselves in our neighbors’ shoes, take the time to understand and help them with the obstacles they might be facing. When we perform our civic duties. And when we come together to focus on our common goals for the common good – when we focus on what brings us together rather than what drives us apart. These values are what keep our communities and our country strong. These values are worth fighting for. So let us continue to personify the values we know strengthen our great nation. And let us never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by our brave men and women of our military when we go about our lives, every day, here in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. We owe so much to them.


Senator Donnelly represents the Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts State Senate. He currently serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. If you would like to contact Senator Donnelly or his staff, they can be reached at their State House office by calling 617-722-1432.

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Take a Booker to the Beach

By Judy Buswick  |  Would fiction from the list of Booker Prize winners be good summer reading for Lexingtonians? And who won this year’s award? My goal was to find the answers.

The prestigious Booker Prize for writers of English-language fiction is given by a different judging panel each year to either an established author or a first-time novelist chosen as the writer of the year’s best-fiction title in the British Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. Begun in 1969, the prize was originally dubbed the Booker-McConnell Prize, after its sponsoring company, but the title was commonly shortened to “the Booker Prize” or just “the Booker.” Though prize money was originally £21,000 (or $33,628 in today’s currency), in 2002 the administration of the prize transferred to the Booker Prize Foundation, an independent charity, when the Man Group investment firm joined in sponsoring the award.  Renaming it “the Man Booker Prize for Fiction,” the foundation increased the annual award to £50,000 (or $80,067) with literary excellence still its sole focus. Needless to say, writers cherish this award, since the winners are typically assured international fame and success. Even those merely nominated for the Booker receive a certain distinction and respect in the book trade for being considered for this most important literary prize in the English-speaking world.

The Booker Prize Foundation appoints an advisory committee of “an author, two publishers, a literary agent, a bookseller, a librarian, and a chairperson.” This committee then selects a judging panel “from amongst leading literary critics, writers, academics and notable public figures” to review submissions. From the following abbreviated list of winners, Lexington readers may find an author or title yet to be read, or for viewing on DVD :

South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer won the Booker in 1974 for “The Conservationist,” a novel exploring apartheid through the Zulu culture and a wealthy white South African farmer buries an unidentified corpse found on his property and seeks to conserve peace and apartheid. Gordimer also won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Iris Murdoch of Ireland won the 1978 Booker for her nineteenth novel “The Sea, the Sea,” which recounts an aging playwright’s obsession with a romance from his youth, as he begins to write his memoir. Egotism and selfishness abound.

In 1981 India’s Salman Rushdie won for his novel of historical fiction Midnight’s Children about India’s transition to independence from British colonialism. When the Booker had its 40th Anniversary in 2008, an award was created as “The Best of the Booker;” Rushdie’s “Midnight Children” won this unique award. Then in 1993, another special award was created as “The Booker of Bookers Prize” for the best novel to win in the first twenty-five years of the list. This same Rushdie novel won yet again.

Australia’s Thomas Keneally won in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark about a German businessman who saved thousands of Polish Jews during the Holocaust by putting them to work in his factory. The movie version directed by Steven Spielberg was dubbed “Schindler’s List,” as was the US edition of the book. Later it was re-issued under that name in the Commonwealth countries.  Actors Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, and Caroline Goodall appeared in the film which won seven Academy Awards.

Britain’s Anita Brookner won for Hotel du Lac in 1984, telling of observations made by a romance novelist who goes to Lake Geneva to recuperate from lost love. The book was made into an award winning BBC TV play.

1985 was a good year for New Zealand’s Keri Hulme who had trouble finding a publisher but then won the Booker for her first novel The Bone People, an unusual love story filled with violence and fear that mixes Maori myth with Biblical characters. Three fiercely unique people, one an autistic orphan, conjure up the heritage and landscape of New Zealand as their lives are figuratively stripped to the bone.

Another winning novel made into a movie was the 1988 Booker Oscar and Lucinda by Australia’s Peter Carey. A young Anglican priest and an Australian heiress, both with gambling addictions, set out to deliver a glass church to an outback community. Ralph Finnes and Cate Blanchette played the lead roles. The book was considered (or shortlisted) for The Best of the Booker in 2008.

Originally from Japan but also a British citizen, Kazuo Ishiguro won in 1989 for his historical novel titled “The Remains of the Day,” recounting the loyalty and near love-affair of an butler in an upper class household in pre-World War II England. The film adaptation starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeve, and Huge Grant was nominated for eight Academy Awards.   

Jumping a few years to 2000, we find Canada’s Margaret Atwood on the list for “The Blind Assassin,” a complex story of two sisters spanning the twentieth century. A story-within-the-story unfolds and leaves the reader to learn which sister actually wrote of an extramarital affair.

Another Canadian and a first time author, Yann Martel won in 2002 for “Life of Pi,” a fantasy adventure novel depicting the endurance of an Indian boy’s 227-day sea voyage in a small boat with a Bengal tiger.

 Kiran Desai from India won the 2006 prize for her novel set in an Indian mountain village along the Nepal border, The Inheritance of Loss. Both the grandfather Judge educated in England and his teenage granddaughter live under the cloud of multiculturalism and the threat of political terrorism.

 Hilary Mantel from Britain won the 2009 award for Wolf Hall depicting the tumultuous court of King Henry VIII through the eyes of the low-born Thomas Cromwell.  The story mixes real history and descriptive fiction.

In case you found yourself grumbling that no American authors were on the Booker list, I have good news to share. Introduced only in the last seven years, The Man Booker International Prize has been established to highlight “one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In seeking out literary excellence the judges consider a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.” A prize of £60,000 ($98,378) “is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language,” explains a Booker Foundation judge. There is no nationality requirement.

In 2005 the first Man Booker International Prize went to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare (several times nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Literature), next to Nigeran writer Chinua Achebe in 2007 (Now at Brown University, he is best known for his novel Things Fall Apart.), and in 2009 to Canadian Alice Munro (a short-story writer frequently on the Nobel Prize list).

Then, in May 2011 an American writer born in New Jersey who has stimulated and provoked readers for more than 50 years was honored with the Prize. Philip Roth received the Man Booker International Prize for his body of work, including Portnoy’s Complaint (1959), a Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral (1997) part of a trilogy, and The Human Stain (2000). The Chair of the Booker judging panel Rick Gekoski wrote that Roth “has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, but has also reanimated fiction.”

Roth’s most recent, short novel “Nemesis” (2010) is set in 1944 during a polio epidemic which ravages a Newark community, where twenty-three year old Bucky is a kind-hearted playground director but plagued by guilt. He struggles against the disease, his personal safety, and his ineligibility for the military — played against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Gekoski noted that Nemesis is “as fresh, memorable, and alive with feeling as anything [Roth] has written.” That said, Carmen Callil withdrew as one of the three judges, in protest over Roth as the 2011 winner.    

Booker Prize titles represent quality writing; and as Ion Trewin, Administrator of the Man Booker Prizes, has explained, “Whether you judge the prize by numbers of books sold, the number of films it has helped generate or the way it has opened our eyes to a range and quality of writing that might otherwise have been ignored,” the aim of the Bookers has been met.

But we still do not know who won this year’s Man Booker Prize. Those authors under consideration will be announced on September 6, 2011, and the winner will be named on October 16th. You may want to check the Man Booker Website to see the shortlist and make your own guess before the announcement.

Though summer reading is often “fluff,” taking a Booker title along for company may make for invigorating reading — either as an ebook or paper copy. See how many Booker Prize winners you may have already read or see what’s available electronically by visiting: .



A non-fiction writer, Judy Buswick has never been in contention for a Booker!  She is the author of “Slate of Hand: Stone for Fine Art and Folk Art” (Trafford Publishing, 2007) and is working on a biography of Massachusetts quilter Sally Palmer Field. Contact her at





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The Stanley Cup Comes to Lexington!

The Stanley Cup at Waxy O’Connors in Lexington!

Photos by Jim Shaw

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