Quality of Life 22/04/14

The right Recipe

The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation has granted accreditation to the New Hampshire Food Bank’s Recipe for Success – Culinary Job Training Program. According to a press release, it’s the first culinary training program in New Hampshire to receive this distinction, and only the eighth in the country. The program helps people with financial hardships learn new skills so they can be more self-sufficient and ultimately find employment in the food service industry. Recipe for Success provides more than 500 meals per day to five Boys & Girls Clubs in the surrounding areas and produces meals in bulk to be frozen for use by 31 other agencies, the release said.

Score: +1

Comment: “With this accreditation, we will be able to increase our program’s marketability, while ensuring participants are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to seek employment in the food service industry,” Bradley Labarre, the Recipe for Success executive chef and program manager, said in the release.

Financially literate

New Hampshire is the fifth most financially literate state in the country, according to WalletHub’s 2022’s Most & Least Financially Literate States report. The report analyzed financial-education programs and consumer habits, according to a press release. The Granite State came in first for WalletHub’s WalletLiteracy Survey score and for financial knowledge and education. It also has the lowest share of unbanked households, and it ranked eighth for percentage of adults who compare credit cards before applying and 12th for the percentage of adults who only pay the minimum on credit cards, the report said.

Score: +1

Comment: The only other state to make the Top 10 was Maine, which ranked seventh. Nebraska, Utah, Virginia and Colorado beat out New Hampshire for the Top 4 spots.

Humanitarian efforts

The New Hampshire business and nonprofit community has banded together to create the Ukraine Relief Fund. According to a press release, the fund launched last week, and 100 percent of donations will be directed to relief efforts in Ukraine through a partnership between Granite United Way and the Walesa Institute. “This effort showcases how New Hampshire often uniquely addresses things,” Patrick Tufts, president and CEO of Granite United Way, said in the release. “While we recognize that no single entity can solve one of the world’s most complex issues, we do know that together we can create true impact.”

Score: +1

Comment: Donations for the New Hampshire Ukraine Relief Fund can be made at graniteuw.org or by texting NH4UKRAINE to 41444. There will also be a collection drive for specific items that are immediately needed, Thursday, April 14, through Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at the DEKA warehouse at 540 Commercial St. in Manchester. Common Man restaurants throughout the state will also serve as drop-off locations now through April 17. Visit graniteuw.org for a list of needed items.

Pay attention!

From 2014 through 2020, there have been 42 fatal crashes with distraction or inattention as the primary cause, and in 2020 distracted driving accounted for as much as 30 percent of all crashes throughout the state, according to the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the state is taking the opportunity to remind residents that distracted driving, including the use of electronic devices, is dangerous and illegal.

Score: -1

Comment: New Hampshire law prohibits the use of “any hand-held mobile electronic device capable of providing voice or data communication” while driving or stopped in traffic (the emphasis is for those of us who might think red-light texting is OK…).

QOL score: 69

Net change: +2

QOL this week: 71

What’s affecting your Quality of Life here in New Hampshire? Let us know at news@hippopress.com.

C’s earn playoff 2-seed

The NBA regular season is a wrap and the playoffs come your way starting Sunday for the Celtics, likely vs. Brooklyn, pending the result of Tuesday’s play-in game with Cleveland that happened after this column was filed.

Thanks to having Kevin Durant, most feel it will be the Nets. Which has a lot of people making a big deal about having to play them so early. But if they are as formidable as most think (besides me), sooner or later you usually see them, so who cares if it’s in Round 1, 2 or 3? Though admittedly it would’ve been preferable to have Rob Williams on board when/if he’s able to come back from knee surgery.

The sooner or later theory eluded Bucks Coach Mike Budenholzer, however; he took the chicken’s way out by tanking on Sunday to set up a more favorable match-up with the fading Bulls, a move that could turn out to be a strategic blunder if they face the C’s in Round 2, as it gift-wrapped the second seed and home court advantage that came with it to his opponent. On the plus side, however, the chicken’s way out does eliminate the prospect of having to face both Boston and New Jersey, er, Brooklyn, because one will knock off the other. Of course it’s also bulletin board material, because it says chicken man Budenholzer thinks the Nets are gonna win, so they’ll get home court anyway.

So now Celtics Nation has another person to hate sports in the 2022 playoffs, which will (likely) be focused on dastardly Kyrie Irving in Round 1 and chicken man in Round 2 if they get that far. Though Cleveland upsetting NJ, er, Brooklyn would unravel that plan faster than the Brian Flores lawsuit vs. the NFL deep-sixed Tom Brady’s alleged plot to stab folks in Tampa Bay in the back via a QB coup to install himself as the guy under center in Miami.

So boo to Kyrie. Boo to the new NBA chicken man. And if true, boo especially to the increasingly duplicitous Brady. But I digress on that one.

With all that laid out, here are some more Celtics and non-Celtics playoff thoughts.

Bravo for Ime Udoka for going for the win on Sunday vs. Memphis to get home court in Round 2 over an easier Round 1 match-up. Then again he didn’t have much of a choice, ’cause if they tanked and Philly won (which they did) they would have fallen to the 4-seed. That would have meant a series vs. Toronto, where the allegedly unvaxxed Jaylen Brown would have missed all the games in Canada.

I’m taking Toronto over Philly, by the way, for two reasons. The Sixers’ valuable sixth man Matisse Thybulle is unvaxxed, so he can’t play north of the border. Plus while he whines more during games than anyone beside Bills coach Sean McDermott, Nick Nurse is a much better game coach than Doc Rivers, who has eight first-round knock-outs in 22 years.

I’ve also got Memphis coming out of the West, because I like their team D, which leads the NBA in steals and blocked shots, relentless offensive rebounding, and given his own unimpressive playoff history, I see Ja Morant winning head to head over Chris Paul.

Aside from the fact his head isn’t square, am I the only one who thinks Nikola Jokic is a dead ringer for Rocky Balboa’s nemesis Ivan Drago?

Joke of the Week: A priest walks into a bar — no, that’s not it. It was the talk show guy somewhere who asked after Kyrie’s recent 60-point game if he and KD were the greatest 1-2 punch in NBA history.

Cut to the laugh track.

Guess he missed KI not even being named to ESPN’s recent Top 75 Players List. On that list alone were Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe, Stockton and Malone, Bird and McHale, West and Baylor, Magic and Kareem, Kareem and Oscar, Oscar and Jerry Lucas, Cousy and Russell, Havlicek and Cowens, LeBron and Dwayne Wade or AD, Wilt and his next-door neighbor, let alone Hal Greer or Billy Cunningham. Heck, he’s not even in KD’s best two 1-2 punches with Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook.

So yank that guy’s press pass because he’s a historical doofus and basketball nitwit.

In 2009 we heard KG would be back for the playoffs. Ditto in 2011 with Shaq and it was the same for Bill Walton in 1987. None made it back. So they have to carry on as if Lob it to Rob is not coming back until they see him in a game.

Also, no hero ball. This guy’s legs are his game, so they should err on the side of caution no matter what.

Here’s my pick for Round 1 depending on who the Celtics play.

Cleveland vs. Boston: Tougher than you think. I love Darius Garland and rookie Evan Mobley. But if their center Jared Allen’s broken finger isn’t OK to go, his loss is more damaging to them than Lob it to Rob is to Boston. C’s in five.

Brooklyn vs. Boston: KD is one of the few guys who can win a series on his own. So beware of him. Kyrie will do what he always does — have two games where most will say, “Wow, that guy is good.” Three more will be routine low in the 20’s games where he’ll get killed on D, and he’ll totally choke in two more. So the series comes down to this: Tatum has to play Durant even and Jaylen has to be better than Kyrie. I’ll bet on JB and the Celtics far superior team defense. C’s in six.

Likable Celtics cheerleader Brian Scalabrine has said several times of late, Tatum is a Top 10 player. But sorry, he can’t be considered that until he dominates in the playoffs.

So the chance to make that statement is at hand.


Completing the story

NH author edits posthumous memoir of addiction

Seacoast-based author, editor and writing coach Jeff Deck discussed his latest project, We Got This, Kids: A real-time and raw glimpse of alcoholism, depression, and loss during a search for more sunrises.

What is your literary background?

I collaborate with writers to help them get their books done. Though my new service is focused on fantasy novels, I’ve worked with authors of both fiction and nonfiction. My own works include several novels, a nonfiction book called The Great Typo Hunt that I co-wrote with Benjamin D. Herson and holiday romances under a pen name.

What is We Got This, Kids about?

We Got This, Kids is the story of one ordinary person, Andy Marsjanik, and his lifelong struggle with addiction, recovery and depression. It’s based on the half-finished memoir that Andy left behind when he died by suicide and filled in with the voices of those closest to him, his family and friends. Andy wanted to live —he makes that very clear in his writing — but he lived and worked alone and undertook his struggles alone, and, during a temporary low point, he made a decision he couldn’t take back.

How did you first hear of Andy’s story?

A friend connected me with Andy’s sister, Amy Marsjanik Law, just a couple of months after Andy died. Amy was living in Newmarket at the time, and we were able to meet in person; this was shortly before the pandemic. She was intensely grieving, but had a powerful determination to carry on her brother’s story, as well as his mission to help people going through similar struggles.

What compelled you to take on this project?

Normally, fiction projects call to me the strongest, both in terms of collaboration with clients and for my own work, but when I started reading the document that Andy had left behind, I could immediately see two things that drew me in: first, his sharp, acidly humorous voice reminded me of George Carlin or Dennis Miller in his prime and absolutely needed to be shared with the world, and, second, this was someone describing his mental health and addiction battles in real time, which I thought could be of immense help to others.

What was the process like?

Collaborating with Amy to honor Andy’s words was the heart of the process for this book. Amy saw her brother’s original vision and knew how to bring it to fruition, as well as whose other voices would be necessary to bring into the story. I did my best to preserve what Andy had written, tweaking only for clarity and organization, moving fragments around to best convey the picture that Andy had originally intended. To minimize my intrusion into this family and their story, I saw my primary role as an editor rather than a co-author or ghostwriter. That also literally became my ‘character’ in the book — ‘The Editor,’ who steps into the footnotes to explain and elucidate the many obscure references that Andy included. The Editor also comments on any significant additions, deletions or rearrangements of the text in the footnotes to make the process we went through as transparent as possible. I interviewed Amy and other family members and friends not just to fill in the pieces that Andy never got to write, but to show the resonance of his life on the people around him. Everyone speaks in the first person, as close to their original words when I talked with them as possible, and mirroring Andy’s intimate narrative.

How does Andy’s writing connect with you personally?

I could feel his heart directly communicating with mine through his words. He’s blunt and funny and painfully self-aware. That’s the power of his writing and why it’s an incredible loss that we won’t get to see any more books from him. Andy is speaking in minute detail about his own experience as one individual working as a real-estate appraiser in upstate New York, but his struggles are universal. I’ve felt the darkness of depression, too, though, thankfully, to a much lesser degree, and my own life has been affected by a close relative in the grip of alcoholism.

In what way do you believe this book could help people?

It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t had to deal with mental health issues or addiction, either themselves or in the case of a loved one. Unfortunately, these struggles are nearly universal now, but most of the memoirs about these issues that are published today are from a celebrity’s point of view. I think people need the opportunity to see themselves reflected in a story of addiction, recovery and profound mental trials. Andy wasn’t famous or wealthy; he was an extraordinary person, but he was living an ordinary life much like so many other Americans, so when an average person picks up We Got This, Kids and recognizes themselves in Andy, my hope and Amy’s hope is that they immediately seek out the help they need. Remember that Andy’s action during that terrible night came from temporary desperation, but its consequences were irreversible. We Got This, Kids urges its readers to hold on for the next sunrise, and the one after that too.

Angie Sykeny

We Got This, Kids is currently available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Featured photo: We Got This, Kids. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 22/04/14

Covid-19 update As of April 4 As of April 11
Total cases statewide 303,010 304,365
Total current infections statewide 1,033 1,544
Total deaths statewide 2,452 2,459
New cases 829 (March 29 to April 4) 1,355 (April 5 to April 11)
Current infections: Hillsborough County 281 (as of Thurs., March 31) 421
Current infections: Merrimack County 87 (as of Thurs., March 31) 112
Current infections: Rockingham County 218 (as of Thurs., March 31) 284
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Covid-19 news

State health officials reported 108 new cases of Covid-19 on April 11. The state averaged 200 new cases per day over the most recent seven-day period, a 49 percent increase compared to the week before. As of April 11 there were 10 people being treated for Covid in hospitals statewide.

New commission

Gov. Chris Sununu has signed an Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking. According to a press release, the commission was a recommendation from the Task Force on Domestic Violence Cases in the New Hampshire Judicial Branch. It had previously stopped meeting in 2013. “We must keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable,” Sununu said in the release. “Combatting and preventing domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking remains a priority for my administration and I am looking forward to working with this group so that we can develop, support and implement initiatives that address the needs of victims and survivors.” The Commission consists of members of the state’s justice department, health and human services, law enforcement and other departments and organizations.

New laws

Gov. Chris Sununu signed seven bills into law on April 11. Among them are HB 1441, establishing a commission to organize the observance of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; HB 589, requiring workers’ compensation to cover prophylactic treatment for critical exposure; and HB 102, establishing a commission to “study worldwide combined reporting method for unitary businesses under the business profits tax, and relative to the treatment of water or sewerage disposal utilities under the business profits tax.”

Youth literacy

The New Hampshire Department of Education has launched the Leaning Into Literacy initiative to help children advance their reading skills. According to a press release, the Granite State ranks high among students in the country for reading proficiency on the Nation’s Report Card, but there are still about 51 percent of fourth-grade students in the state who are not reading proficiently. “Encouraging children to have a healthy passion for reading will help them excel in school, support other areas of their learning and set them up for future success,” Frank Edelblut, commissioner of education, said in the release. “Strong literacy skills are vital for children, and are skills that are applicable throughout their entire lifetimes.” NHDOE’s Division of Learner Support is looking for proposals for capacity building literacy training for adults engaged in raising, working with or teaching New Hampshire children to be successful readers, including parents, guardians, certified educators, literacy coaches, curriculum coordinators, school administrators and reading and writing specialists. The trainings would aim to increase capacity for providing and overseeing reading instruction and structured literacy based on the science of how children learn to read. “A primary goal of the Leaning Into Literacy initiative is to train 4,500 individuals in the first year and 4,500 more individuals in the second year to help expand literacy training and boost the level of literacy support throughout the Granite State,” Edelblut said.

Child advocate

Cassandra Sanchez is the state’s new child advocate, replacing Moira O’Neill, who served as the state’s first ever child advocate since the Office of the Child Advocate began operating in January 2018. According to a press release, Sanchez comes from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as a supervisor in the Kinship unit. “The strategic planning process we undertook this past year with focus groups and stakeholder interviews taught us one important lesson,” O’Neill said in the release. “The Office belongs to the community. Their views and hopes for what the Office will achieve are aligned with statutory intent. They have identified strengths, articulated areas for improvement and agreed upon priorities. Cassandra Sanchez will be greeted with an exceptional staff and a committed, guiding and expectant constituency.”

Good Friday

The Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire’s Digital Mission will offer a walking Stations of the Cross in Manchester on Good Friday, April 15. According to a press release, the Stations of the Cross was created for pilgrims to Jerusalem to relive the suffering of Jesus Christ from his condemnation to his crucifixion and burial. The Manchester adaptation was created by Rev. Deacon Chris Potter, who is also a Manchester school board member. He will lead a procession to 14 stations representing suffering in the Manchester community and hope for its future, the release said. The event will begin at Grace Episcopal Church (106 Lowell St., Manchester) at 3 p.m., with the first stop at International Institute of New England (“Jesus is condemned”) and the last stop at Hartnett Lot (“Jesus is laid in the tomb”). Other stops include Central High School, Veterans Park and City Hall.

The owners of Woods Without Gile in Wilmot have been named New Hampshire’s 2022 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. According to a press release, Ann and Marc Davis’s working forest implements the four pillars of the Tree Farm program: wood, water, wildlife and recreation. It is open to the public for cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, snowshoeing and more, the release said.

New England activists held a Healing Ceremony at the Merrimack Station in Bow, the last coal plant in the region. According to a press release, nine activists decorated the fence with flowers and posters and performed the “Elm Dance,” a Latvian ceremony originally created for the healing of Chernobyl. The activists are a part of the No Coal No Gas campaign to close the Merrimack Station, the release said.

The University of New Hampshire at Manchester has a new scholarship for students enrolled in its psychology and neuropsychology programs, with awards up to $5,000 annually for full-time students. According to a press release, the university has partnered with Network4Health to provide the scholarship, an effort to address the workforce shortage in behavioral health fields that has “become increasingly dire.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2020 and 2030 the number of behavioral health jobs will increase by 23 percent, the release said.

The wrong crib for this baby

by Jeff Rapsis

All politics is local — and our region’s inability to bring passenger rail back to Manchester, Nashua and the rest of the Merrimack Valley is a good example of that.

However, this old saying might offer the key to finally making progress, even as state lawmakers in Concord are maneuvering to ban using state money on the long-stalled project.

How? I think the issue is that in New Hampshire, as in most places in America, public transit projects such as this naturally fall to a state’s transportation department to plan and oversee.

But in the Granite State, a majority of residents feel they’ll see no real benefits from Manchester and Nashua joining Boston’s commuter rail network. Hence the opposition and inaction, even though civic officials in Manchester and Nashua, the state’s two largest cities, have pushed it for decades.

What to do? I think it’s time for leaders in the Merrimack Valley to recognize that the state DOT is simply the wrong crib for this baby. A majority of the state (and hence the Legislature, which funds the state DOT) will simply never be convinced to make the investment.

So instead, a group of civic leaders from Concord south to Nashua should band together and craft a plan to fund it on their own.

This would require the creation of an entity similar to a tax increment financing district, but on a larger scale. It might function like a regional planning agency, but with the power to propose and implement taxes or other funding mechanisms (subject to voter approval) to raise revenue for restarting and operating passenger rail.

It wouldn’t be easy. But the Merrimack Valley is the most heavily populated area of New Hampshire, home to 561,000 of the state’s 1.3 million residents. It boasts the state’s largest concentration of business activity.

Surely this area on its own could generate the estimated $300 million all-in investment needed to extend passenger rail north from Lowell, Mass., and the annual subsidy of about $13 million.

In return, we’d reap the benefits of improved access to Boston, the region’s economic hub.

And here’s an idea to start you thinking: Why not impose a $5 fee on anyone boarding a Boston Express Bus to Logan Airport, with the revenue earmarked for passenger rail?

Jeff Rapsis, a Bedford resident, is Associate Publisher and a co-founder of the Hippo.

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