News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Walking in the city

The Boston Globe did an article on walkable neighborhoods last week with a link to walkscore.com, a website that will calculate the ‘walkability’ of your neighborhood.  You don’t have to fill in a survey!  Just enter your address and they will figure out your score.  Of course, the system is not infallible, it just gives an approximation of how walkable your community is based on the proximity of businesses, schools, libraries, etc.; the highest score goes to those neighborhoods where you could actually conduct most of your daily business without needing a car.   My neighborhood in the Highlands only scored 43 out of 100, and while I walk a lot, I have to agree that it’s not prime walking territory. 

Speaking of walking, the McAuliffe Elementary School is participating in “Walking Wednesdays” this year, with their first walk to school event today!   I helped out with this effort at the Lincoln School last year; it was a lot of fun and a great way for families to walk together with teachers and administrators.  Walking Wednesdays is part of the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program which is a collaboration between State and Federal departments of transportation.  Good luck McAuliffe staff, students and volunteers – enjoy your walks!

posted in Education, Healthy Living | 6 Comments

I’m a believer!

Did you know that May is National Bike Month? In Massachusetts we also have “Bay State Bike Week” (May 12-18) which tries to get folks to rethink their daily transportation choices and opt for two wheels instead of four.  In can be a challenge to bike in city traffic, but if you follow the rules and clearly signal your intentions, it can be safe and rewarding. Of course, a dedicated bike path would be a boon!

It feels like more than 10 years since I first heard about the proposed Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, a multi-use trail for bikers, walkers and skaters that is slated to run from Lowell to Framingham. I was excited, but excitement waned as the years went by, and I really didn’t believe recent reports from friends that work on Phase I (Lowell to Westford) of the trail had finally begun.  I had pretty much decided that I would be too old to ride a bike by the time the trail was finished, but last week, while biking to the Chelmsford library, I saw for myself — the old railroad tracks were gone and the brush cut back to create a swath through the woods – this was on Golden Cove Road where the trail crosses on its way to Chelmsford Center. Checking the website, I saw that the groundbreaking was last October. I totally missed that, and am feeling like a slug for never joining the volunteers and activists who have perservered to make this a reality.  But it’s not too late to get on board, I just sent a donation (you can join for $10, or $25 for a family membership).  The May meeting is on trail beautification and will be held on May 14, 6:30 pm, at the Byam School in Chelmsford, and will include a guided bird walk. 

posted in City Life, Environment, Healthy Living, In the News, Local Groups | 7 Comments

Join the fight against breast cancer

If you’re like me, you probably know several women who have battled breast cancer. I have seen up close how this disease has wreaked havoc in the lives of dear friends and family members, from young mothers in their thirties to women in their seventies and all ages in between. Yet today, thousands of Massachusetts women are not getting the breast screening services they need because of access and funding gaps in our healthcare system. This Friday, April 11, starting at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the State House, the Massachusetts Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure invites you to attend a legislative luncheon and policy forum on closing the gap in care, featuring former State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien, Senator Dianne Wilkerson, and Dr. Jane Mendez, as well as breast cancer survivors, advocates, community leaders, and healthcare providers.

While Massachusetts has made strides in ensuring healthcare for all, important work remains. You can get involved and add your voice to others in support of making sure all women have an equal chance at beating breast cancer: Attend the luncheon (ok, perhaps not feasible for most of us), but you can easily send an email to state legislative leaders as a show of support…and even connect to your Congressional representatives with information provided here. (Hey, we’re not asking you to walk 20 miles or write a check, although that could be arranged!)

posted in Healthy Living, In the News, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Younger next year?

Today we celebrate my eldest child’s 15th birthday. I can tell you, those years went by quickly and they continue to pick up speed the older I get. My son is now taller than me and apparently smarter since he has an answer for everything. Anyway, it got me thinking about aging and an intriguing radio show I heard on the topic the other day. They were interviewing co-authors, Dr. Harry Lodge and Chris Crowley, about their book Younger Next Year. I haven’t read the book, but what interested me was the notion of a difference between body age and actual age that we control. It reminded me of when I was 25 and went to a podiatrist about foot pain. He told me I had the feet of a middle-aged woman (horrific to hear at the time, now not so much) and sold me a pair of $500 orthotics, which I wore diligently until one broke. I’m not sure my feet got younger because they looked the same in flip flops… But my point is, we know the biological clock ticks for all, and that the impact of those years varies for each of us. For some, like my friend Jayne who has active aunts in their late 90s, there is a genetic predisposition to live long and be healthy. Yet, according to these guys, each of us has the potential to make our bodies younger through a combination of cardio exercise, weight training, diet, and attitude—easy to say, difficult to do. Still, the concept is empowering. As I see the sands of my own life running down, it’s helpful to think I can make my body younger. Okay, so I’m not going to get my 25-year-old body back, but check with me next year (maybe I’ll be 39 indefinitely). For now, I’m off to the gym!

posted in Healthy Living, Just life | 0 Comments

Words of wisdom

With the election over, it seemed like a good time to clean out a desk drawer, and this is what I found:

“Life is too Short to be Little” 

My favorite quotation is the sentence above, written by Disraeli.  It has helped through many a painful experience.  Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget.  Perhaps someone we helped has proved ungrateful…or someone we believed to be a friend has spoken ill of us…some reward we thought we deserved has been denied us.  we feel such disappointments so strongly that we can no longer work or sleep.  But isn’t that absurd?  Here we are on this earth, with only a few more decades to live, and we lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody.  No, let us devote our life to worthwhile actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings.  For life is too short to be little. 

-Author unknown 

posted in Healthy Living | 2 Comments

Eating locally

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma (see book review), I am more aware of the social, ethical and personal consequences of our eating choices as well as the value of eating locally.  There is a benefit in supporting local farmers and getting better tasting food, but it is not always the most economically viable choice, as the Globe article “The Localvore’s Dilemma“ points out.  Today, I drove up to Parlee Farm for their fresh strawberries, blueberries, corn and peaches.  I did spend more on gas than I would have if I purchased those items at the more convenient supermarket; but how many times does a supermarket peach disappoint or the berries get moldy within a day? Still, the choice is not as simple as it might seem, especially if one is trying to eat locally in New England in January. (I’m planning to read Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, next to see how her family survives that challenge).  Still, Pollan brings many more factors to bear on the problem that the article mentions.  For instance, there are the ethics of the way big-factory farms treat animals; especially egg-laying hens, and the anti-biotics that have to be pumped into livestock to keep them from falling ill because of their crowded and unsanitary living conditions.  All in all, this is a fascinating topic that is getting more and more attention; whether our eating habits can be changed for the better remains to be seen.

posted in Books, Healthy Living | 0 Comments

On the farm

My mother often refers to someone she likes particularly well as ‘a peach.’ Now that I’ve discovered the joy of a fresh local peach, I can see why the usage came about to describe someone rare and special and always welcome.  The peaches, blueberries, corn and tomatoes, among other things, are now being picked at Parlee Farm in Tyngsboro.  You can buy from their store or save money and get more of a farm experience by picking your own.  They also have home-made baked goods (people seem to like the apple cider doughnuts that do smell heavenly), ice cream and an animal-petting area.  Families with young children, daycares, and elementary school groups by the busload come to enjoy a day at the farm. Occasionally I treat myself to a bouquet of their fresh flowers:




posted in City Life, Healthy Living | 0 Comments

Partnerships for a healthy summer

Healthy Summer 2007 is a “private-public partnership providing educational programs, healthy meals and fun activities each summer for Lowell’s Youth.”  They’ve been around since 1996, but this year they have an excellent brochure that was mailed out listing everything there is to do in Lowell in the summer, from pool schedules to free lunches to concerts. They also had a fun kick-off party on Tuesday at the JFK Civic Center with food, face painting, crafts and a D.J.   We all know that private-public partnerships are one of Lowell’s strengths, but there is always the fear that services are overlapping, that groups aren’t talking to one another. The Healthy Summer brochure puts those fears to rest. You can see that the Lowell School Department, the Pollard Library, Community Teamwork (CTI), Lowell Parks & Rec, Girls Inc., the YMCA, the YWCA, the Boys & Girls Club, the Girl Scouts, and many of Lowell’s museums are on the same page, literally.   Budget cuts have forced the school department to continually whittle away at its after-school and summer programs, with a bare minimum remaining.  But this brochure shows us that some of our non-profits are taking up the slack and providing meaningful and fun experiences for Lowell’s youth population this summer.  In addition, free breakfasts and lunches for young people are being provided at many different locations across the city through CTI and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.  For more information, contact Allison Carroll, Coordinator of Youth Services at 978-970-3342.

posted in Healthy Living, Youth | 0 Comments

More about GLHA and Walking Wednesdays

I’m glad the Lowell Sun gave a thumbs up to the Lincoln School staff, students and volunteers who turned out in great numbers last week for the first ‘Walking Wednesday.’  They correctly point out that poor nutrition and lack of exercise are having an impact on children’s health. I have lately been hearing a chilling prediction from health experts that there is now, for the first time in this country and this century, a greater chance that parents will begin outliving their children because of these unhealthy habits.  more »

posted in Healthy Living | 0 Comments

Obstacles to walking

Back in the 1960s about 48% of students walked or rode bikes to school, now the number is closer to 15%. Why? Well, in Lowell we have school choice, so that within a zone there are probably a certain number of students who live too far from their chosen school to walk.  However, I drove my child back and forth to middle school and we live less than 2 miles away. I know many parents who do the same, many of whom live even closer to the school than I do. Lack of sidewalks and crossing guards, and sidewalks that are covered with snow and ice in the winter make walking a risky business for young children. Part of the thinking behind the Safe Routes to School initiative and the Lincoln School’s Walking Wednesday program is to highlight some of these obstacles. On Wednesday’s walk, we ran into a prime example of one of the difficulties that walkers face.

Van on sidewalk squeezes students:

posted in Healthy Living | 0 Comments

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