Tag Archives: incitytimesworcester.org – CECELIA website

Resolving to get healthy in 2022? Include your pets, too!

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

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Jett. He’s 15 but gets his fun runs in daily. When it’s very cold out (below freezing, like today), because he’s geriatric, outdoor time is brief. photo: R.T.

Getting healthy and fit in the new year is an admirable resolution. But while we’re doing downward dogs and cat stretches, what are our dogs and cats doing? More than likely, they’re just waiting — staring at the wall and wishing they could enjoy a little exercise, too.

Staying active is just as important for our animal companions as it is for us, but they don’t have the luxury of going to the gym or out for a walk or run when they feel like it. They depend on us to give them opportunities and encouragement to get moving.

Letting animals become “chonky” isn’t cute or kind. Obesity reduces the length and quality of their lives: Obese cats are at least three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and obese cats and dogs face increased risks of kidney and heart disease, osteoarthritis and many types of cancer, among other serious health problems.

If you have an animal friend who could stand to shed a few pounds, work with your veterinarian to rule out health conditions that may cause weight gain and to create a safe weight-loss plan. This is especially important for cats, who can suffer a life-threatening liver condition called hepatic lipidosis if their calorie intake is reduced too drastically.

If your animals’ current “workout” consists of walking from the couch to the food bowl, it’s time to step it up. For dogs, daily walks are a must. Jaunts around the neighborhood or park are excellent exercise (for the one holding the leash, too!), and they provide pups with much-needed mental stimulation and social outlets. Sniffing the “news” on trees and hydrants and greeting other friendly dogs and humans along the way might be the highlight of their day.

And it’s their walk, so let dogs set the pace (and choose the route, when possible). Be patient while they sniff to their heart’s content, and always use a comfortable nylon harness—not a painful choke or prong collar, which can injure a dog’s necks.

Get your pup’s heart pumping with other fun activities, too, like chasing Frisbees or balls in a fenced area, romping at a dog park or swimming (under your constant supervision). Never confine your dog to a crate, which is terribly cruel psychologically and can cause their muscles to atrophy. If you have to go out to work, give them a good walk (30 minutes or so) before you leave, and let them have the run of the house while you’re away. Puppy-proof if you have mischievous dogs (put fragile or dangerous items out of reach). Leave them plenty of chew toys and arrange for a trusted person to take them for a mid-day walk if you can’t come home on your lunch break.

Getting cats active may take a bit more creativity, but it’s well worth the effort. As PETA president Ingrid Newkirk observes in her new book, 250 Vital Things Your Cat Wants You to Know, “Cats are thoughtful, clever, and innovative. … They need things to play with, to figure out, and to think about, or they will go quietly nuts, just as you would.”

Interactive wand-type toys that you dangle and drag along the floor or furniture are a great way to ensure that kitties get their cardio, as are motorized balls, remote-controlled mice and laser pointers. Paper bags (with the handles removed), cardboard boxes, packing paper and rolled-up balls of foil can also provide hours of free fun and exercise for cats. Aim for at least two 10- to 15-minute play sessions daily, preferably at dawn and dusk, when cats are most active. Keep things interesting by rotating toys weekly and sprinkling them with catnip.

Keeping cats indoors is vital to protecting them from contagious diseases, speeding cars, predators on four legs and two, poisons and countless other dangers. So make your kitties’ home their castle and encourage them to jump, climb, stretch and explore with multistory cat trees, scratching posts, perches and tunnels. They can also enjoy fresh air and outdoor exercise in a securely enclosed “catio” or on a leash with a form-fitting harness, under your watchful eye.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2022 — for you and your animal companions.

❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

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Hurrah for Humans!

By Edith Morgan

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Edith☃️☃️☃️

Are you worried that we real people will soon be replaced by robots? The money grubbers are certainly trying hard to eliminate humans from a lot of jobs. I think it is great that so many repetitive, dull, dangerous and uninspiring jobs are being done now, in factories and on other dangerous and repetitive sites. Robots are strong, can work around the clock, do not get aches and pains, do not get sick or pick up viruses, and do not complain.

But they are incredibiy dumb and unable to handle the simplest questions not already in their limited repertoire. We have all found that out when we are trying to get a simple answer not on the loop and find ourselves having to press 1, 2, 3, or wait – sometimes for quite a while, only to have the robot hang up. It is particularly jarring when you want an answer from your doctor, and can not get through to someone who could immediately give you the information you need.

Any kind of work with humans – be it children, seniors, people who are ill, or who are not yet comfortable with the English language, should not be turned over to a robot, with such limited choices.

I believe that many of us would be happy to pay a little more money if we could be sure to be served or listened to by a real person – the human does not even have to be an expert or a genius, just someone who can respond as a real human does.

I deliberately go to the register or teller where there is a live person, and, as I shop or bank in the same place most ot the time, I get to know the employees and greet them (they greet me too). Sometimes I do have to wait, but do not mind, as waiting in line gives me a chance to observe others I the store, and often I meet neighbors, and we talk.

Have you ever waited in the hospital emergency ward – when you are not either bleeding to death or having a heart attack? The place is packed with all sorts of expensive machinery, dozens of persons running hither and yon, but have you ever tried to get a simple, human need taken care of there? I have been there with someone who, after hours of sitting on a cot, needed to go to the bathroom, and wanted a ”potty chair” by her bedside. Would you believe that there was no one available on the emergency ward and one had to be gotten from another floor? And after eight or more hours of waiting, there was no food to be had, as the cafeteria was closed. Thanks to a kindly nurse, we procured a half sandwich.

When your system is already under duress, why add to it by starving the patients?

But that kind of worker is usually the first to go when they are saving money.

Why are they not getting rid of administration instead?

All the really vital jobs in our society are not the moneymakers: they are in the human services: the low-paying jobs that take care of our children, our elders, our sick.

That is, all those that are really important.

GIMME SOME BREAD!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rosalie, left, and her sis. Photo taken at UMass/Amherst.

Bought this double lp in the 1970s – BREAD, GREATEST HITS – because my beautiful talented cousin Jane bought it and I worshipped Jane – and she worshipped David Gates and BREAD. So she bought her double Bread album and I bought mine, the perfect little mimic/groupie, I was! Jane, a senior at the old Marion High School, seemed to be living the BREAD dream: tall and lithe, with dark hair that flowed down her back, she literally stopped traffic when she walked down the street. I was present during a few honking, near-accidents. Her parents called her their “Polish Princess” and said she was pretty and tall enough – 5 feet, seven inches was the required minimum height – to be a PROFESSIONAL model. Jane was always in love with a dreamy college boy and made a new conquest every week by just smiling at the guy. Even though she was only in high school, the handsome guys at WPI or at the bank she worked at on Saturday’s called her “beautiful” to her face and wilted in the presence of her loveliness. A lot of BREAD songs were about romance and the eternal swoon. I’m certain Jane saw herself in all the BREAD lyrics and melodies. I, on the other hand, had zero boys interested in me, and no guy ever sketched me by lamplight after calculus class.

Back then the music critics despised BREAD, calling the soft rock group as musically interesting as … white bread! A loaf of Wonder! Thankfully, I was too young to listen to critics so, even though my Green Island teen years were ghetto- and poverty-infused, more punk rock than soft rock, I still LOVED Bread. Their music was so heartfelt, so lovelorn, so wistful!! I used to play this album over and over again on my Emerson portable stereo system when I was a teen. Dreaming of boys … and horses … I STILL know all the words to all these BREAD hits! They were all so perfect for the teenaged girl on Lafayette Street, lying on her belly, imagining her own prince coming to rescue her from her old grey three decker and nagging Bapy. … I wondered what was true love? what did sex feel like? would the boy who would see me naked marry me? Would I grow up to be even half as pretty as my cousin Jane who was one of the SEWING STARS of the Winthrop House Girls Club? At the clubhouse, in sewing class, Jane used her Butterick patterns to sew beautiful vests and jackets with LININGS!! I could barely put together a little apron, the beginner’s sewing project I was eternally stuck on at the Girls Club!

One of Jane’s admirers just presented her with a sketch of her that he drew during his break from difficult engineering classes at WPI!! It’s a big portrait in pencil and looks just like Jane’s yearbook picture! Wow! Jane shows me the portrait, which she’s rolled up and secured with a rubber band. Her lips are drawn so voluptuously…I know the top – it’s from one of her maxi-dresses! We’re talking about boys – all Jane’s boys – in Jane’s bedroom. It is tiny but girly with its frilly white curtains and big bottle of Jean Nate Body Splash and bottle of green Herbal Essence shampoo. Jane drinks Nuform Milk to stay trim. I want to be Jane but know it’s hopeless. Still, I’m smart – do very well in school. A surprise to Jane’s parents, my aunt and uncle, who tell me I can get a job at the US post office after I graduate from Burncoat Senior High. Fat chance. My mother, CECELIA, wants me to go to college and write a book. She is singing her own love song to me …

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Rosalie’s mom, left, and Bapy, circa WW II.

*******

This “love” song was written by Gates for his father, who died several years earlier:

https://youtu.be/_21cZe2eO_I

New year, new vegan: Let’s confront the ‘meat paradox’ in 2022

By Rebecca Libauskas

Do you shout, “Cows!” when driving past a field of grazing cows? It’s hard not to smile at the sight of a grassy pasture dotted with bovines. But most of those cows don’t have joyful lives, and none of them are killed “humanely.”

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Let’s not kid ourselves … Photos: PETA

There have even been recorded cases of cows crying — letting out high-pitched moos and shedding tears — before slaughter.

No compassionate person wants to think of these animals being shot in the head, hung upside down and bled out just to be chopped up and eaten on a bun. But it’s important to acknowledge reality and explore our uncomfortable feelings about eating animals. Feelings are like a lighthouse in the fog: They can lead us to the solid ground of truth. So as we enter 2022, let’s look in the mirror and confront the “meat paradox.”

The meat paradox is an internal struggle: People care about animals, yet they pay the meat industry to abuse and kill them. Illustrating this disconnect, a Gallup poll found that about one in three Americans believed animals should be given the same rights as humans. But over 90% of people eat animals. And Americans, in particular, eat more meat per capita than any other country, according to the World Economic Forum.

A recent review paper published in the Social Psychological Bulletin uncovered the mental gymnastics that some meat-eaters perform in order to deal with their cognitive dissonance. The review looked at self-soothing strategies that people use to respond to triggers — things that bring to mind the contradiction of eating meat while caring about animals.

One way they dull their guilty feelings is to pretend that the animals they admire grazing in the field don’t end up on their plates. Processed meat makes it somewhat easier to keep compassion and disgust at bay. Words matter, too: Calling meat “steak” instead of “dead slab of cow” makes it easier to swallow. Someone I know posted on social media that it was hard for her to take the pig she raised from a piglet to be “processed.” She was distancing herself from the truth and shielded her heart from guilt by using the word “processed” instead of calling the procedure what it really is: slaughter.

To appease our consciences, many meat companies falsely label their products “humane.” But no matter how pleasant the packaging may appear, everything taken from animals is a result of cruel exploitation. Most animal-derived foods — including “humane” meat, eggs, milk and cheese — come from farms at which vast numbers of animals are crammed into tightly packed sheds or feedlots to maximize profit. In 2021, a PETA investigator recorded workers punching, throwing and stomping on turkeys at a so-called “humane” farm.

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Inhumane …

Another way we soothe ourselves is to deny that animals feel pain and understand what is happening to them. But animals do feel pain and are aware of what is happening to them. Pigs, for example, are brilliant, sensitive beings who want to live free from suffering. They are terrified by the sights and smells of the slaughterhouse and will scream and fight to save their own lives.

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Pig, abused, dead, at an American factory farm.

Just as mirrors shatter, the illusion can, too, at any time. It only takes a child asking, “Where do chicken nuggets come from?” to make us confront the violent origins of our food. We can learn from children’s innate empathy for animals: In a new study, 70% of children said that it wasn’t OK to eat pigs and cows.

Our “aha” moment can also come from looking into the eyes of the cats or dogs who share our hearts and homes. We know our animal companions are intelligent and have unique personalities and the desire to live. So how can we love and care for one species but kill another? How do we resolve the meat paradox? The answer is clear: Go vegan.

Not only does every vegan spare nearly 200 animals a year, ditching animal-derived “products” also helps mitigate the climate crisis and improves our health. According to the United Nations, a global shift toward vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of the climate crisis. And vegan foods support a healthy body and offer protection against many diseases.

As we begin this new year, let’s all lean into those gut feelings and make a change that will save animals — as well as the planet, our health and our conscience. Let’s align our hearts and minds and go vegan. Are you in?

Jim Coughlin – always in style! Jim’s first column of 2022!

Inauguration of the newly elected members of Worcester’s city council and school committee

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim!🇺🇸

The historic Mechanics Hall on Main Street in Worcester on Monday, January 3, was the scene for the Inauguration of the newly elected members of the city council and school committee from the municipal election that was held on November 3.

The overriding theme of the evening that was mentioned by three of the evening’s speakers which included Massachusetts United States Senator Edward J. Markey and Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg (both of whom appeared on video via a remote broadcast) along with our long-time Mayor Joseph Petty was that the new city council and school committee are the “most diverse” elected bodies in the city’s history.”

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Mayor Joe Petty is enthused about the diversity of our elected officials. File photo: Ron O’Clair

Elected to the city council in November was Thu Nguyen, a first-time candidate Asian American candidate who identified themself as “non binary” to either gender. Joining them on the council is Etel Haxhiaj who won the District 5 Council seat in the wake of Councillor Matt Wally who held this seat for two terms deciding to seek an at-large council seat this election cycle – and losing to Nguyen.

In the District 5 contest Haxhiaj defeated George Stratman, a retired Massachusetts State Trooper 2,585 to 2,206 capturing 53.96 % of the vote to Stratman’s 46.04%. The election of Haxhiaj is historically significant because she is the first Muslim ever elected to the city council.

My memories of the Worcester City Council go back to the early 1970’s when it seemed like forever that the council would only consist of “9 white men.” Then came the city election in 1973 when three women were elected to the council: Barbara J. Sinnott, Mary Scano and Barbara C. Kohin. At the time, it was considered a radical change because prior to this, no woman had never been elected to the city council! And then came the election two years later in 1975 when the voters summarily defeated all three women councillors.

Now, in 2022, the membership of the city council consists of a majority of six women city councillors. Besides newly elected councillors Nyguen and Haxhiaj they are incumbent city councillors Candice “Candy” Mero-Carlson, Kathleen Toomey, Sarai Riveria and Donna Colorio. In addition, Worcester’s Vice Mayor is Colorio who is currently serving her second term as Vice Mayor.

The collective election of Worcester’s three women city councollors came about 13 years after what was called “second wave feminism” of the women’s (liberation) movement that began in 1960. “Wikipedia” tells me that “Second wave feminism was a period of feminism that began in the early 1960’s and lasted for roughly two decades ”

According to my sources, when I was in my 20s, things were not always easy for Worcester’s first women city councillors. To make my point about this is a story involving the city’s legendary former city manager, Francis J. McGrath, who served from 1953 to 1984. There was a meeting of McGrath and the trio of women councillors that made them feel a little uncomfortable serving in city government during this time. It goes like this: shortly after their election in 1973, the women councillors were invited for an informal meeting with the City Manager. What the women councillors were expecting was a discussion about various public policies for the city. However, what the City Manager engaged with them for discussion at the time was about the “domestic side” of City Hall and, unfortunately, what that was about was the draperies and curtains that had adorned the City Manager’s inner office – and NOT about substantial city issues involving city policy.

This story was once relayed by Councillor Sinnott on the floor of the city council when City Manager McGrath was present during a city council meeting!

Unfortunately, the women councillors had to gently speak up to the Manager and tell him that they were there to discuss city issues and not “the size and nature of City Hall’s interior decorating.”

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Go, Thu!

The sum of this story and message particularly for councillors Haxhiaj and Nyguen is to just be aware of what some of your previous women colleagues had to endure back then in order to pave the way for a much easier time that both of you will now have in being taken seriously by your male colleagues.

Another “breakthrough” to validate the point made about Worcester’s “new” city council and school committee being the most diverse in the city’s history was made and underscored by the election at the Inauguration ceremonies for newly elected School Committee member Jermaine Johnson becoming not only the first African American man to ever serve on the Worcester School Committee, but he also made political history when his colleagues on the school committee at the Inauguration ceremonies uniamously chose him to become the first African American Vice Chair of the Worcester School Committee for the next two years. Now that’s progress for the Worcester School Committee to elevate a newly elected member to immediately ascend to the Vice Chairmanship of the school committee immediately after being elected in November.

In a telephone interview after the Inaugural ceremonies, Jackson verified that this was “never done before.”

And perhaps with Mr. Jackson becoming the committee’s Vice Chair it was one way of his colleagues on the school committee sending out the clear and unmistakable message that he will, indeed, be taken seriously as a freshman member of the Worcester School Committee.

Thankfully, Jermaine will be taken seriously by his colleagues on the school committee for the second largest city in Massachusetts when the school committee has its first meeting on January 20.

I can almost guarantee that there will be no insignificant discussions in the future between School Committee Vice Chair Jermaine Jackson and Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. when the time comes, as there was between the newly elected women city councillors and City Manager Francis J. McGrath back in 1973, nearly 50 years ago!

This future scenario when (and not if it happens), will shows that Worcester City Hall has become more diversified in both words and actions for our representatives on the city council and school committee that previously were NOT even elected to either the council or school committee, much less even taken seriously after their election.

Councillor Krystian King, when asked to comment on the new diversity on both the city council and school committee said, “It’s a new beginning on the city council and school committee, and I look forward to an increased diversity of perspective.”

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Councilor King and his daughter. Photo: J.C.

In an interview with Jackson’s mother, Mary Ann Jackson, after she saw her son make political history being Inaugurated as the first African American man ever to serve on a previously all-White European North American membership of the Worcester School Committee she said, “My son has always been a go-getter in putting his mind to accomplishing something. … I am very proud of my son.”

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School Committee Vice Chair Jackson with his mom, Mary Ann, and family. photo: J.C.

And lastly, I cannot forget two other historical elections of note: First, there was the election of Jermoh Kamara as the first immigrant African American woman to the Worcester School Committee that undoubtedly has made many members of Worcester’s growing African American community very proud of her.

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Worcester School Committee member Jermoh Kamara will make her community – and all of Worcester! – proud! photo submitted

Secondly, there was the election of Thu Nguyen as the first Southeast Asian non binary candidate to win a seat on the Worcester City Council.

Everyone in Worcester should be enthusiastically proud of the newest members of both the Worcester City Council and School Committee because they will add their voices and votes to more adequately represent the growing diversity of the body politic at Worcester City Hall.

Edith Morgan – always in style!🎉❄️🎉

The Games We Play

By Edith Morgan

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Edith🎁🎁🎁

It was all the rage this Christmas – and boxes were snapped up quickly. I had not really expected to get a copy, as I stay away from crowds due to OMICRON and generally wait until prices and availability are in my range.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I received a brand new, sealed copy of the Worcesdter Edition of Monopoly. I had been following the controversy about what and who was included in this pay to play Monopoly game. I was curious about the details. All of us have probably played the regular Monopoly at some time in our younger years, but I never thought about why this game and its form.

What do the choices of games tell about a people or its culture? I got to thinking about that when “Trivial Pursuit” swept out nation. Do the games we play really say anything about us?

Games involve considerable time sitting around a table with others. We can learn much about the strategies our opponents use to win the game – winning, after all, is the main idea of most games.

But does it make a difference whether you play checkers, which involves planning ahead a limited set of moves, versus Chess, which can involve planning many and intricate maneuvers, to trap your opponent’s King? And which can involve international contests with world champions?

I imagine by now some university has studied the relationship between a nation’s values and the games played there. What does it say about us that our games are such as “Trivial Pursuit” and “Monopoly”? Is “Trivial Pursuit” a comment on the way many of us spend our lives? And is “Monopoly” a commentary on our brutally acquisitive economic system? Both are partially games of chance but also of strategies to acquire your opponents’ wealth or property.

As children we played simple card games like “Hearts,” Old Maid, Fish, UNO and, even before that, we did interminable “tic-tac-toe” until we always ended up without a winner. Playing games begins so early in a child’s life; many teach them and us adults so much. But it also says something about us, as we develop preferences.

I fear some of that information and the skills in both strategy and socialization are being lost as so many of our children pursue the constant lure of computer games with all their flash and excitement and their constant pursuit of ever higher levels of achievement. Often that “achievement” is the destruction of others.

So, if your life is a “Trivial Pursuit,” how about making a 2022 New Year’s resolution that this year your life will take on more important meaning? And, if you are involved in cut-throat competition, trying to achieve a “Monopoly” in your field, how about working for cooperation and peace in your pursuits?

What’s YOUR game for 2022?

This holiday season, a pocket full of memories!

By Rosalie Tirella

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St. Paul’s at night. Photos: R.T.

The downtown Worcester space that I especially love this time of year is not the Ice Oval or the Hanover Theatre or the lit-to-the-max Worcester Common. It’s a much quieter, simpler space located on Chatham Street. It’s the St. Paul’s quadrangle, bounded by Chatham Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral Rectory and the old St. Paul’s High School. The buildings are set around a grassy yard, all fenced-in, but the wrought iron parameter isn’t forbidding – it’s no higher than my shoulders! The yard has trees, bushes, park benches, a stone walkway and statues of the saints. It is all a lovely anachronism. This is the Worcester of the 1940s, my late mom’s beloved city, home to Italian, Irish, Polish, Lithuanian and Swedish immigrants who lived in our three deckers and aspired to be AMERICAN. It is the movie “set” straight out of the Bing Crosby movie GOING MY WAY: deeply Catholic, august yet approachable, priests walking to their nearby Cathedral, brick buildings with leafy vines clinging to their walls, a green space in the inner-city. The benches, set by the statues of the saints, beckon you to sit awhile, calm down, breathe, be prayerful. This Worcester nook soothes me, makes me smile.

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Old school saint, St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus.

I visited gal pal “Vo” today, director of the church’s elder outreach agency, now located in the old high school. I walked Jett and Lilac today around the saints; Jett peed by the Virgin Mary. He is 15 years old. I am sure the Blessed Mother excused his weak bladder … I had never noticed that Mary and baby Jesus stone – new to me, something I had missed during our previous visits.

The rectory – home to four St. Paul Cathedral priests – is all stately brick and set back from Chatham Street. Across the street sits the old Worcester Girls Trade School (now the revitalized Fanning Building). My late mom Cecelia went to “Girls Trade” – and loved it! A pious Catholic girl, she also must have loved going to class right across the street from the beautiful St. Paul’s quadrangle, just yards away from the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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St. Paul’s rectory, left, and the old St. Paul’s High School, now home to church offices and church food pantry and radio station.

Girls Trade was also right down the street from the back entrance of the iconic Denholms Department Store, and it was a 10-minute walk from the gorgeous Chancery of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester and the WASPY old boys Worcester Club on Elm Street. It was who we were back then – not vulgar or money-grubbing or artisan beer-slurping. But religious, industrious, serious, with good fashion taste! Those few city blocks reflected our early- to mid-20th century values and dreams. The buildings are all beautiful and meant to be permanent, just the way God, education, home/family life were meant to last …

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The old Worcester Girls Trade School is now the revamped Fanning Building

It was a city space for everybody: Catholic church goers, poor Worcester girls like my mom learning a trade so they could cook or sew or keep house for a living. My mother worked for the Bishop of Springfield as a housekeeper/cook during the Great Depression – her pots and pans and housekeeping know-how all sprang from her Girls Trade classes. She was a poor girl when she was a student at Trade, but she could visit the iconic Denholms just like anybody else could. And when my mother started making money from her full-time job at the Bishop’s house, she became quite the fashion plate and visited Denholms whenever visiting Bapy and Jaju in Green Island. Now she was a young woman – and a Denholms patron buying her Elizabeth Arden makeup at the Denholms makeup counter.

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St. Paul’s quadrangle is located right in the middle of downtown Worcester, on Chatham Street.

In the wonderful film GOING MY WAY you see Bing Crosby, as Father O’Mally, walking his church’s quadrangle, which looks a lot like our St. Paul’s… These church quadrants must have been all over the country: a little Catholic church, the “heart,” and all the veins and arteries that pumped life into the community: the little church school building, the church rectory, the nuns’ convent, too … an immigrant’s haven, her touchstone.

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Jett and Lilac sniffing by a few St. Paul’s benches.

In GOING MY WAY you see Father Bing eating supper at the rectory with the old priest he is supposed to prop up … You see the grand old church, hear the youth choir practice for their Christmas Mass concert, you see the rectory’s housekeeper carve the turkey … and it’s my old Worcester, too – St. Mary’s church on Ward Street five decades ago! With its pretty young nuns and strict unsmiling middle-aged nuns, our youth choir, our Polish organist, our church picnics and May processions down Richland Street … a whole world.

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A beautiful stone honoring the birth of Jesus and the Virgin Mary can be found nestled in the middle of the inner-city!

I know the times were racist back then, and smart women like my mom had few career choices … The guys ruled. Catholicism, unlike Jesus, could be unforgiving! Cruel even! But Worcester’s factories were plentiful and hummed, and the old man from Poland who lived on Lafayette Street and only spoke three or four sentences in English was so proud as his son entered Holy Cross college (to become a high school history teacher) and his daughter bought the family’s first ever modern washing machine! America!

Worcester, we must not become indifferent to our homeless neighbors!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

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Thanksgiving Day 2021: Park Ave, Worcester.

WE ARE ALL INTER-CONNECTED! We must care for our homeless because it’s the Christian thing to do – and it’s what COMMUNTIES DO for their neighbors. This scene (below) must NOT be WORCESTER’S NEW NORMAL! We must have empathy. Our political leaders must build more affordable housing. They must connect with Washington DC to GET MORE APT VOUCHERS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVT/HUD. Last time we got 10 vouchers! Ridiculous!! We’re a city of 200,000+!!! The second largest city in New England!! HUD must step up!

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Today: Worcester, heading up Jefferson Street.

Worcester MUST BUILD TINY HOUSES, create unique housing, repurpose train box cars…create tiny home communities! THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, Worcester!

… This afternoon: heading to the Canal District – on Jefferson Street. I took the photo and the tears flowed. Don’t pretend you don’t see this suffering, Worcester! In the richest country on earth! In our beloved city we have people sleeping on sidewalks, in parks, near railroad tracks and by shopping malls. I never saw this much despair as a kid or teen growing up in Green Island – and we were the poorest of the poor! We cannot become numb, indifferent to our neighbors’ suffering! CHANGE, WORCESTER!

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Worcester: Millbury Street lined with homeless folks and their gear, from Kelley Square to Endicott Street.

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Worcester: the Canal District, Green Street, by the bridge: 15 or so homeless folks sleeping, eating, sheltering there every day. WORCESTER NEEDS MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

I left out a glass of oat milk for Santa this Christmas (and vegan cookies, too!)

By Heather Moore

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Drink and cook with oat, almond or soy milk – vegan milks – so cows don’t suffer on factory farms! Especially good if you’re lactose-intolerant!

I didn’t want coal in my Christmas stocking, so this Christmas I offered Santa vegan milk — never cow’s milk!

Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do — to feed their babies. Cows naturally produce only enough milk to meet the needs of their calves, but genetic manipulation and, in some cases, antibiotics and hormones are used to force each cow to make more than 22,000 pounds of milk a year.

On dairy farms, both organic and conventional, female cows are forcibly impregnated every year so that they’ll produce a steady supply of milk for humans. The calves are torn away from their mothers soon after they’re born, which causes both mother and baby extreme distress. Mother cows bellow for their babies for days.

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Most male calves end up in barren feedlots, where they’re fattened and then killed for beef — meat from cows on dairy farms makes up about 20% of the U.S. ground beef market. The calves raised for veal are chained up in small crates and fed a formula that’s low in iron so that they’ll become anemic and their flesh will stay pale. They’re sent to slaughter when they’re only 3 to 18 weeks old.

Female calves are treated as milk machines, like their mothers. Some are forced to spend their lives standing on concrete, and others are confined to crowded lots, where they must live amid their own feces. When they’re too sick or worn out to produce much milk — usually when they’re around 4 or 5 years old — they, too, end up at the slaughterhouse, bloodied and dangling by a hind leg with their throats cut.

Even the Grinch wouldn’t support such cruelty to animals!

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Most coffee shops offer vegan milks for your java!

Vegan milk is delicious, healthy, humane and environmentally friendly, which is important if you’re dreaming of a green holiday season. University of Oxford researchers found that producing a glass of dairy milk results in about three times more greenhouse-gas emissions than vegan milk and consumes nine times as much land. That land is used for pasture and to grow the animals’ feed, which causes them to belch out massive amounts of methane.

If you want to get on Santa’s “nice” list for next year, take it from me: Drink vegan milk! Cook with it, too! As the researchers pointed out, choosing plant milk over cow’s milk is much better for the planet, not to mention for animals – and you! Happy New Year!

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Substitute vegan options for milk, eggs, butter this holiday season!

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It’s a Wonderful Life!

By Rosalie Tirella

We’ve all watched this Christmas classic…some years we’re more attentive than others. This year I am paying very close attention:

The movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was released in 1947 and was directed by the Italian-American great, Frank Capra. It begins with prayers for protagonist George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart. The prayers are whispered to God in the depth of a winter’s night right before Christmas. They’re murmured by George’s wife, whispered by his mother and his long-time friends, blurted out by his distraught little children. They are praying for George’s life. He’s in trouble, he’s done something terribly wrong, he sees no way out of his terrible trap and despairs. …He plans to kill himself – alluding to his life insurance policy, he says, “I’m worth more dead than alive!” – thus throwing away, as the head angel explains, God’s greatest gift: life. His life.

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James Stewart as George Bailey.

Enter “Clarence,” George’s dimwitted guardian angel – wingless, clueless, hanging on to the original copy of Tom Sawyer and extolling Mark Twain’s “new” novel, he’s more goofball than godsend. But as anachronistic as he is, Clarence is the perfect angel for George: he’s as innocent and open to life as a child. He will help George realize IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Plus, it’s the assignment that could earn him his angel wings! Finally! It’s been a few centuries already!

The childhood scenes of this movie are quaint and show that George Bailey is outstanding, even as a little boy. He has a strong moral code, he’s wiser and more sensitive than his friends. He saves his kid brother from drowning in a frozen pond, bravely dives into the frigid waters and loses his hearing in one ear as he rescues his kid brother. In another heart-wrenching scene the young George saves another life when he refuses to deliver the prescription pills that druggist Mr. Gower mistakenly fills with … poison. Mr. Gower has been drinking, upset at the telegram he just received: his son, a soldier in the US Army (it’s pre-World War II ) has just died of influenza. When Gower gets the telephone call that the pills weren’t delivered to the customer by delivery-boy George, an enraged, inebriated, violent Mr. Gower slaps George in the face over and over again. It’s a harrowing, realistic scene: the enraged old man pulling the child into a back room to do the unspeakable: physically abuse him. George, around 12 years old, begs Gower to stop hitting him, his “bad ear” is bleeding. He screams: The pills were poison! “Poison, I tell you!” Gower breaks open a capsule and gingerly places a finger in it and brings a smidgen of the white powder to his tongue to taste. He immediately realizes he put the wrong chemical in the capsule – and George has saved his life (ruined biz, possible jail time for the unintentional death of the customer) – and the customer’s life.

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Mr. Gower realizes he made a big mistake.

George does the noble thing again after his father dies of a stroke. He yearns to go to college, travel, leave his hum drum hometown, Bedford Falls, behind him … but he knows evil banker Mr. Potter will suck up his late dad’s Bailey Building and Loan Company and the tone and future of the entire town will change, for the worst. So George stays in Bedford Falls to shepherd the family business through a crisis. … He does the right thing again.

George’s life isn’t all self-sacrifice. He meets and falls in love with the pretty Mary (Donna Reed) who takes one look at the tall and lanky Stewart, with his beautiful open face and wide toothy smile and … knows … she will marry him, give birth to his children, live with him in love forever and ever in Bedford Falls.

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George and Mary fall in love at the high school dance

The screenplay may sound a bit preachy to you, but the actors and Capra make it all magical. James Stewart exudes warmth and romance and moral stamina. He’s sexy and earthy, too. The mid-20th century American man. Heroic. Beautiful. When he walks Mary home from the high school dance he is flirty and fun – and deeply romantic. My favorite lines of the movie? Spoken by Stewart: You want the moon, Mary? I’ll lasso the moon for you! And you’ll swallow it and moonbeams will shoot out of your face, your hair and your fingertips … Mary and George are looking into each other’s eyes as George speaks his American every man poetry. We feel his dreamscape … You can watch that scene a million times, and every time you’ll be slayed by it.

Stewart was Capra’s (and director Alfred Hitchcock’s) Every Man. In IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE George is you and me. Just regular peeps. He doesn’t go on to do great things, become an astronaut and swim among the stars, become a Carl Sandburg and write Chicago. He doesn’t become a scientist who creates the polio vaccine. He’s rejected by the army because of his bad ear and holds rubber tire drives in town. At one point he declares: “We’re broke!” Yet, like all of us, he’s given the opportunity to carve out a life, a most excellent life consisting of family, friends, community, love of spouse and children. Mundane – but it’s where we meet God!

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George and his father at the supper table

The close up of George’s face when the Building and Loan’s board of directors head tells him: IF YOU LEAVE, GEORGE, THEY’LL VOTE WITH POTTER!!! Heartbreaking! You see, writ large on George’s face, the guilt. The awareness. The entrapment. The responsibility, never ending. George knows his window of opportunity grows smaller by the minute, and yet, as his life becomes more circumscribed, George becomes truly heroic.

Give Capra credit: Everything in Bedford Falls and George’s life is so earthbound, so touching … his chat with his mom when she encourages him to “call on” Mary even though she’s dating the loud mouthed, coarse Sam Wainwright … such a sweet scene, as she points her son in the “right direction” and sends him on his way, with a gentle push, to Mary’s house.

Mary is home from college and waiting for her beloved. But George is balky: she’ll become just another tie that binds, another symbol of his inability to escape Bedford Falls, to realize his dreams of becoming a great architect, traveling the world as a free spirited explorer. But then the phone call happens. Boyfriend Sam Wainwright calls his gal back home (with a blond dame smooching his flabby cheek in Indiana), and Mary tells George to join the conversation about investing in plastics made out of soybeans. As George and Mary share the receiver end of the 1920s telephone, plastics is the last thing on George’s mind! The two young adults are literally face to face over the telephone receiver in a tight closeup but softly focused … dreamy looking. You see George smelling Mary’s hair, staring at her big brown eyes, eating up with his eyes the curve of her forehead, the tip of her nose, the waves of her chestnut hair. His lips long to touch hers! It’s a love scene, not a telephone conversation! Finally, George drops the phone, shakes Mary up and down begging No! No! No! all the while covering her face with passionate kisses – and accepting the inevitable. They marry a few weeks later.

Of course, their honeymoon to Paris and Barcelona is kaput after George takes their honeymoon money and uses it to stop a run on the Bailey Building and Loan. George loses the trip to Europe but saves his late father’s business and dream. It is so cute, the way Stewart and the other good do bees at the building and loan dance around their counter with their last one dollar bill after closing up for the day at 5 p m. On the nose!

Another great Capra scene: Bert and Ernie coordinating George’s ride home to his honeymoon where Mary waits for him, their new old Victorian … The guys singing in the rain, the bit of sleight of hand as Bert’s “tip” is rain water from George’s fedora. They serenade the newlyweds and Ernie smooches Bert. Funny. Sweet.

Some call it Capra-corn. As in corny or cornball. I call it dreaming, art, magical filmmaking … wrapping harsh life in fairy tale to entertain, to point the viewer in the right direction: LIFE. BE OPEN TO YOUR WONDERFUL LIFE.

Of course, the evil Mr. Potter almost ruins it all when he flings George to the nadir of his professional life. Potter keeps – steals – the thousands of dollars George’s distracted Uncle Billy plans to deposit in their bank account but stupidly leaves in Potter’s newspaper. Potter takes the money, George faces disgrace, jail, loss of EVERYTHING. HE WANTS TO ESCAPE HIS LIFE OF TRIAL AND TROUBLES. HE WANTS TO DIVE INTO THE RIVER ON A SNOWY NIGHT HOPING TO LEAVE IT ALL… But then Clarence the angel appears and dives into the river first. Good hearted, noble George rips his coat off and dives in after him to save the hapless little angel …

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The miserable Mr. Potter

Then the film grows darker as a depressed George is led through the Bedford Falls that might have been if he never existed. Uncle Billy is in an asylum, Mary is an old maid, his mom is the rough hewn owner of a decrepit boarding house, the adorable Bedford Falls is an ugly, pornographic POTTERSVILLE.

Stewart is tremendous as a George looking at life without George. It’s frightening. It’s surreal. Not at all corn ball.

But then George declares I WANNA LIVE! TAKE ME BACK, CLARENCE, TAKE ME BACK. I WANT TO SEE MY WIFE AND KIDS, CLARENCE.

And just like that George is dropped back into his all too human Bedford Falls life. HE IS ECSTATIC! HE SHOUTS YAY! as he runs by the old movie house, the old oak tree, Mr. Potter sitting behind his ugly desk in his ugly office. A Wonderful Life, if we stop to think about it!
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George and his beloved Uncle Billy