Out and About in New York’s Central Park

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Travel

By Joan Scobey

My mom read her morning paper on a park bench that was “adopted” by the Madoff family (yes, that family). My own daily park route takes me past William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott on the Literary Walk. Two guys on bass and guitar, usually strumming “Sweet Georgia Brown,” stand by the statue of the beloved husky Balto, whose dogsled team carried antitoxin through a blizzard to halt a diphtheria epidemic; invariably, a kid is sitting on its back being photographed.

Practically everyone in New York has a favorite spot in the park. Joggers love the track around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (she ran there frequently). For birders, it’s the dense foliage of the Ramble. Pug owners congregate at Pug Hill.

In fact, a roster of famous New Yorkers introduce their own pet places, marked with small green signs and identifying numbers, to passersby via cell phone. Dial 646-862-0997 plus that number to hear Alec Baldwin talk about playing ball at the Great Lawn (16#), John McEnroe at the Tennis Courts (37#) and Yoko Ono at Strawberry Fields (36#), celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

I recently met Doug Blonsky, the president and administrator of the Central Park Conservancy, at the Loeb Boathouse, the park’s idyllic lakeside restaurant, for a park tour. His megawatt enthusiasm stokes the park engines.

We headed north along the East Drive, and a few minutes later he slowed in front of a bronze panther crouching on a boulder.

“The park is full of marvelous animal sculptures, even though most people only know Balto,” he said. “I love this one — it’s called ‘Still Hunt.'”

We walked past the reservoir and into the park’s northern reaches to one of its crowning glories: the Conservatory Garden at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. It’s actually three floral landscapes in distinct styles — Italian, English and French — in continuous bloom from early spring through late October. The six-acre gardens and filigreed wrought-iron Vanderbilt Gate are beloved backdrops for wedding ceremonies and photographs, as are several other bucolic spots around the park (permits required for both). Every month of the year something is blooming somewhere; a park bloom schedule notes where and when.

Just north of the garden we slipped into a time warp of American history. This rugged terrain is where the Brits camped out during the American Revolution, monitoring George Washington in nearby Harlem, and almost 40 years later the Americans rebuilt their fortifications in the War of 1812. McGown’s Pass, Fort Clinton and Nutter’s Battery were all defenses against the British, who never did invade the area. The stone shell of Block House No.1, near 110th Street, is the only remnant left.

The craggy landscape overlooks the Harlem Meer, once a swamp and now a tranquil lake for fishing. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, one of four activity centers, provides free poles, unbarbed hooks, and bait for catch-and-release fishing.

“Our three other centers also lend game equipment,” Blonsky said. “At Belvedere Castle we give out a backpack with binoculars and bird guides for self-guided birding in the Ramble. At the North Meadow Recreation Center it’s bats, balls and other sports equipment for play around North Meadow fields. And at the Chess and Checkers House, game pieces for the 24 game-board tables.”

Looping south on the West Drive the landscape opens up to wide meadows, with dozens of ball fields. Blonsky stopped at a particularly barren stretch.

“This used to be dense forest before a freak storm last August roared across the park, uprooting more than 500 trees,” he said. “The devastation was brutal, but we’re looking on it as an opportunity to clear out some long-neglected tree stands and make meadows for people to picnic and new habitats for bird life.”

Most of the downed trees have been turned into mountains of wood chips for mulch, but one huge fallen trunk is still there as a reminder of the park’s worst day.

Most people know the park best for its public events — the Shakespeare Festival in summer, New Year’s Eve fireworks and midnight run, the Great Lawn performances of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera — but creating a place for small pleasures is exactly what its two designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, had in mind when they won the 1858 design competition to turn 843 city acres of swamps and rocky schist into the first public park built in America. Their vision, as Olmstead put it, was to create “long spaces that you could dream away in” and provide separate spaces for walkers, horseback riders, birders, ball players, picnickers and cars. Their solution was a brilliantly interlocking design: They sank through-traffic transverses below ground (and eye) level and discreetly set 36 distinctively designed bridges across ponds and lakes and over the drives and bridle paths that loop around the park.

This Greensward Plan was a monumental effort that took 15 years and more than $14 million (roughly $200 million today). To begin with, Olmstead and Vaux had to relocated 1,600 residents who were living in several small villages; move nearly 5 million cubic yards of stone, earth and topsoil; and transport flocks of sheep upstate from the Sheep Meadow (lest they be used for food by Depression-era New Yorkers).

Today Central Park is the model for urban parks worldwide and a National Historic Landmark since 1963. Its lakes and woodlands, gardens and trails, rocky schists and dense rambles are the heart of the city and, with 30 million visitors a year, New York’s second most popular attraction after Times Square.

It is run by the Central Park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization that provides 85 percent of Central Park’s $27 million annual operating budget; the rest comes from the city. The stats are staggering: 250 acres of lawns, ball fields and playgrounds; 150 acres of lakes and streams; 69 miles of roads and paths; 6,000 trees, including 1,700 prized and endangered American elms — not to mention monuments, bridges and buildings.

All this is in the care of 250 staff and a few thousand volunteers. It’s no surprise that volunteering is one of the ingenious ways the park solicits support. You can endow a tree ($5,000), donate daffodils or tulips ($1 per bulb) or work (35 gardeners help the Conservatory Garden staff of five).

A favorite way is to adopt one of the 9,000 benches ($7,500). Their bronze plaques tell moving tales of love and loss: “Michelle, Will you marry me? Love, John” and “To My Knight in Shining Armor; the Love of My Life, Mouse.”

Central Park is the front yard for half a million people who live within a 10-minute walk. Some days it seems every one of them is there, usually with a dog or a camera. And it isn’t long before someone asks me to take their picture by a tree — or astride Balto.

“Seeing Central Park” is the official map for all the walks and sights, the location of cafe/snack bars and restrooms. Pick it up at a kiosk or visitor center near main park entrances, or visit www.centralparaknyc.org.
Loeb Boathouse serves American food every day at lunch or weekend brunch, and at dinner from April through November. Its casual cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., winter to 4:30 p.m.

Kids (and adults, too) who visit Central Park in New York love to have their pictures taken on Balto, the beloved husky whose dogsled team brought needed medicine through a blizzard.

Clowns and jugglers are among entertainers who enchant kids every weekend at New York’s Central Park.

Bethesda Fountain overlooks the lake and the Loeb Boathouse, Central Park’s only formal restaurant.

Joan Scobey is a freelance travel writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

How To Keep Your Strength Training Routine Fresh

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness

The evidence supporting strength training, and exercise in general, is so compelling that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do muscle-strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Ideally, this should be combined with at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous) aerobic activity per week, as well as balance and flexibility exercises. “Strength and Power Training: A guide for adults of all ages, a newly updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School,” offers the following tips—and more—for varying your routine, cranking up the challenge, and making strength training a lifelong endeavor.

• Try new equipment. Substitute one type of equipment for another. For example, work out with machines instead of free weights one day a week, or switch from one brand of machine to another. Or try exercises using a medicine ball, resistance bands, or resistance tubing.

• Change your pace. Vary your intensity—do one hard, one medium, and one lighter workout in cycles of seven to 10 days. This is a form of periodization, an exercise strategy that can enhance strength gains, help sidestep plateaus, and avoid overtraining while allowing more time for the body to heal after being thoroughly taxed. Because it can be difficult to put together a good periodization strategy, it’s essential to work with an exercise professional to come up with an effective plan that’s tailored to your needs.

• Work out with a friend when you can. If your friend is careful about good form, too, this can be a way to help reinforce good habits. Some gyms have a buddy board to help members find workout partners.

• Work with a trainer. Pay for a session or two with a certified personal trainer who can help you develop a well-rounded new routine.

From Harvard’s Strength and Power Training Special Health Report — available for $18 from Harvard Health Publications (www.health.harvard.edu), the publishing division of Harvard Medical School. Order it online at www.health.harvard.edu/SPT or by calling 877–649–9457 (toll-free).

Founder of Funky Door Yoga Coming to Vermont

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness

West meets East June 18-20 when the founder of the highly successful Funky Door Yoga in Berkeley, CA, presents a weekend yoga retreat in Pittsfield.

The weekend’s celebrity teacher is Lynn Whitlow who, said Liz Cotter, weekend event coordinator, “founded one of the most unique and successful yoga studios in the world. “

The Vermont Wellness and Yoga Retreat hosted by Bikram Yoga Pittsfield and Peak Camps (www.peakcamps.com) begins with a Bikram Yoga master’s class and organic dinner with Whitlow at 6 p.m.
“The full weekend of yoga, seminar, massage, great food, entertainment and more continues through 5 p.m. on Sunday. The hope is that people will have plenty of time to make it back to the city refreshed, re-energized and ready to take on the new week!” said Cotter.

The full weekend retreat fee of $365 includes yoga classes, seminar and posture clinics, mid day refreshments and Friday and Saturday dinners. There are day rates and special rates available for Bikram Yoga teachers and Vermonters. Nearby lodging is available at an extra fee.

Whitlow, director of Bikram Yoga Lake County, is on the faculty of Bikram’s teacher training and is sought out by students, teachers and studio owners who wish to mentor with her. She has served as a judge for the International Yoga Competition and has studied extensively with Bikram and Rajashree. She has owned and operated six world-renowned yoga studios.

Activities in addition to Yoga and classes include hiking trails in the Green Mountain National Forest that surrounds Pittsfield.

For registration information call or email Liz Cotter at (802) 282-9800; email lizriverside@gmail.com. For details please see www.vtyogaretreats.com or www.peakcamps.com. For lodging information please see www.ameefarm.com.

The Recycle Cycle

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Home & Garden

By Shawn Dell Joyce, CNS

We Americans produce over four pounds of garbage per person each day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This adds up to 29 pounds per week and 1,600 pounds a year. What happens to all that trash?

Most garbage haulers dump the garbage at a transfer station. Recyclables are sorted mainly by hand, on a conveyer belt. Plastics, particularly numbers 1-7, are crushed and baled by a “Wall-e” type machine that produces perfect cubes. These cubes are sold on the commodities market for about 60 cents per pound. This plastic is reprocessed using high temperatures that burn off most food particles and paper labels.

Glass is more difficult to recycle, and there is little call for it on the commodities markets. Industry is switching to lighter packaging to save money on shipping costs and replacing glass bottles with plastic. Most recycling facilities actually have to pay an average of $25 per ton to ship glass to a reprocessing facility.

Aluminum is one of the most recycled items in the garbage, with about 35 percent of all cans on the market living a second or third life. “It takes about 12 ounces of energy to make a single 12 ounce can,” notes recycling facility manager Bill Cutler. “Never, ever throw one away!”

Polystyrene foam is considered a contaminant in most recycling facilities as it often winds up in garbage but cannot be recycled. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the bulk clogging up our landfills, nor is disposable diapers. The bulk in most landfills is paper, especially newspapers that could be recycled.

This little-known fact was discovered by an archaeologist who excavates landfills. William L. Rathje, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, dug up three landfills in Arizona, California and Illinois. His team discovered newspapers from the late 1970s that were still readable, green grass clippings, a T-bone steak with lean and fat and five hot dogs, all fairly fresh.

Rathje exposed the fact that organic matter doesn’t really biodegrade in landfill conditions. “Well-designed and well-managed landfills, in particular, seem to be far more apt to preserve their contents for posterity than to transform them into humus or mulch,” says Rathje. “They are not vast composters; rather, they are vast mummifiers.”

A byproduct of landfills is methane and carbon dioxide gases, which contribute to climate change. These gases could be used to generate electricity or heat, instead. There are 400 landfill gas energy projects scattered across the United State.

“It’s too late to do anything about reducing waste by the time it gets to the landfill,” notes Cutler, who diverted over 5,000 pounds of recyclables from the waste stream last year. “We need to let go of the disposable mentality,” he notes. “If you don’t absolutely need it, don’t buy it!”

Want to reduce your household waste?
• Compost! Separate organic materials like leaves, grass clippings, vegetables peels and scraps, and keep them in a composter or pile in the back yard.
• Precycle! Purchase items with the least amount of packaging. Buy items that can be recycled, like Tom’s toothpaste, the only toothpaste tube that can be recycled.
• Guerrilla Recycle! Take apart the layers of pet food bags and discard the plastic inner liner. Over a pound of paper can be recycled from one pet food bag! And, if you have a lot of old stuff to clear out of your home and can’t afford the time and effort to recycle everything, call a service such as 1-800-GOTJUNK to do it for you. For a fee, the company will clear out anything and everything you no longer want, and will recycle as much of it as possible. Aaron Fastman, manager of the 1-800-GOTJUNK in Williston, Vermont, says that they are unique in that many other “haulers” don’t recycle. “We do all the donating and recycling for you, and we know what items various places will accept.” Locally, Fastman says the company recycles/donates to organizations including ReSource, CSWD, GoodWill, the Salvation Army, Environmental Depot, Lund Family Center, Howard Center, and the Refugee Resettlement Program.
• Skip the juice box! Items in packaging that combines paper with metal or plastic like juice boxes, milk cartons, paper bags lined with foil or bubble wrap mailers are all unrecyclable.
• Skip the disposables! Use real cups, plates and napkins at your next party, and wash them instead. If it is a large party, budget for a cleaning service or find a caterer who uses real dishes. Fastman believes we are living in one of the best states for recycling awareness. “In Vermont, recycling is really on people’s minds.”

Start Building Your Future With a Financial Strategy For Today

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Money

By Chandra Orr, CNS

If you were building the home of your dreams, you wouldn’t run down to the local hardware store and stock up on nails, drywall and wiring, dump it all in a pile and see what you can make.

Yet that’s just how many Americans go about saving for their golden years.

“If you are building a home, first you work with an architect to dream up the masterpiece. Then you go out and buy the products to achieve that goal. It shouldn’t be any different with your finances,” said retirement planning specialist Gary Ott, spokesperson for AXA Advisors, LLC.

Much like designing your dream home, designing your retirement starts with a sound strategy. You need to know what’s truly important to you, enlist the help of an “architect” and consider what you can afford today, not 10 or 20 years from now, Ott said.

“You need to develop a strategy first,” he explained. “The specific products are the last part of the plan.”
Think of the retirement savings and investments as the tools and supplies. They are merely a means to an end — a way to make the money you need to live the retirement of your dreams.

“The numbers part, the data part, is easy,” he said. “The hard part is the emotional side. What do you love? What’s the most important thing for you in retirement? Most people get hung up on the numbers and forget about the emotional side.”

Maybe you want to travel overseas. Maybe having a new car every few years is more important. Perhaps you’d rather rest easy knowing your home is paid in full. The key is painting a picture of your ideal retirement. Only then can you move forward.

FIND A financial ‘ARCHITECT’
As with building a dream home, you will require a little outside assistance when planning for your golden years.

Seek financial professionals with training, credentials and certification in retirement planning. Ask friends and family for referrals, and above all else, make sure the chemistry is right. If your planner seems more concerned with selling products than discussing your future goals, priorities and concerns, keep looking.

“You need to feel comfortable with your retirement planner,” Ott said. “You’re going to be working with this person on a long-term basis, so get to know each other. During the first meeting they should be identifying your priorities and concerns and determining what type of retirement planning would be beneficial to you and your family.”

Once you find a match, expect to attend several meetings before you ever part with your hard-earned cash.
During the data-gathering phase, your retirement planner will review your financial inventory and work with you to design your ideal retirement. Expect to provide detailed information on everything from your income and assets to a copy of your current will and life insurance policy.

Be prepared to supply copies of recent pay stubs, tax returns and Social Security statements, as well as information on employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, currently held mutual funds and stocks and any outstanding debts. You will also be asked to complete a detailed expense worksheet to get an accurate picture of how much you earn and where the money goes.

As with that dream home, what you can afford today will have a big impact on the final outcome.

“You want to be sure that what you start today you can continue tomorrow,” Ott explained. “Like a New Year’s resolution, many people are too aggressive in the beginning. You need to identify what actually fits your current lifestyle so you don’t start and stop saving for retirement.

Retirement investments offer bigger payoffs when you keep up with them. By adding a little each year, over the course of several decades, you’ll come out far richer than someone who takes the on-again, off-again approach to investing.“If you take a look at how much you having coming in and going out, adjust for taxes and inflation then see what you have left over to invest, your retirement strategy will be significantly more accurate,” Ott said.

Finding the Perfect Insurance Policy — and Agent — For You

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Money

By Lesley Sauls, CNS

Asking for an explanation of insurance is a bit like opening Pandora’s proverbial box. Insurance exists to cover almost any situation, and there are plenty of agents and companies who are prepared to sell it to you.

But how do you know what you really need? How can someone without hands-on experience navigate the vocabulary and fine print that accompanies any insurance policy?

The first step is to understand the structure that supports the insurance industry. There are hundreds of insurance companies to choose from, but the person you find when you flip through the phone book is only their agent.

Some companies, like State Farm, Allstate and American Family, have agents called “direct writers” who sell only their company’s policies. However, some of those are expanding to represent other carriers that are carefully screened by the parent company.

Other insurance companies sell their policies through “independent” agents. Instead of having a symbiotic relationship with one company, these agents deal with many companies to find good rates and policies for their clients.

Ken Mullen, an agent for State Farm Insurance, recommends doing a little comparison shopping before selecting an insurance company.

“Call local body shops and contractors to see which company they would like to work with,” Mullen said. “There is no substitute for the research [consumers] do about the products [they] need to buy, even insurance,”

Standard and Poor’s has assessed the financial integrity of insurance companies for 37 years and is an excellent place to check a company’s ability to meet financial obligations. If there is a catastrophe in your area, you want to be sure your insurance company will be able to meet its commitments. Check out the site at standardandpoors.com.

Some companies like GEICO and Progressive sell insurance policies directly to consumers on the Internet.  A savvy shopper might select exactly the right kind of insurance, but most people need help understanding what is necessary and available. When your house burns down or your child is in an accident, you might regret having missed out on policies that an agent could easily have helped you find.

“If you have anything of value, including yourself, you need insurance,” said John Killey, an independent insurance agent. “But insurance is complicated.”

A good agent can help you succeed in your search. The decisions you reach together on how to insure you, your family and your property will be as individual as you are, so you want to choose someone who will understand you and have the best ability to weave your safety net. To find this person, do some research and ask for referrals. You can find information about particular agencies by calling your state’s Insurance Department. Contact information can be found at naic.org.

Once you have settled on an agency, actually go to the office and meet the staff. “People buy the agent, they don’t buy the insurance company,” said Killey.

Mullen agreed. “You are depending on someone to help you set up coverage that will deter a financial crisis should there be a loss due to accidents, weather, injury or death,” he said. “These events are important enough to take the time to get to know the agent and staff personally.”

Trust your intuition. See how you feel about the agent with whom you’ll be dealing. Then ask some questions that will help you assess the agent’s capability to meet your needs.

• What are the agent’s credentials? With which professional organizations is he affiliated? Does he pursue continuing education?

• Does this agent represent all types of insurance? Can he/she handle all of your insurance needs, or will you need to choose other agents for specific policies?

• How long has the agent been in the business? An agent with experience can more easily evaluate your needs and match you up with the best policies.

• How accessible is this agent in case of an emergency? Does he/she have access to e-mail or a cell phone? Do they have office hours that are compatible with your needs?

• How will quoted rates change after a claim? Perhaps an attractive premium will not remain so attractive after a speeding ticket or fire.

Finally, bear in mind that the most expensive insurance policy isn’t necessarily the best. When you find an agent you trust, let him or her determine the right policy for you.

“With a good plan, the benefits outweigh the expenses,” Killey said.

And with a good agent comes a good plan .

Casual Spring Looks for Work

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Blogs

By Sharon Mosley

When spring fever starts to sweep through your office building, chances are that your prescription will be to throw all fashion caution out the window and get comfy in your cropped jeans and tunic tops. But before you get too carried away with dreaming about tiptoeing through the tulips in your flip-flops, there are plenty of ways to look professional and still loosen up a bit.

“With business casual, you have the freedom to be a little more stylish and a lot less conservative,” says Jill Martin, TV personality, style expert and author of “Fashion For Dummies” (Wiley, 2010). Of course, what you wear to work depends on the particular business environment in which you are employed. However, Martin believes that “business casual” may be one of the most common forms of dress these days.

“Instead of the traditional business suits,” she says, “you can wear pants, blouses, skirts and dresses. These selections make business casual more comfortable and give you the opportunity to inject some more of your personal style.”

Still, it can get complicated. Waking up every morning and putting on a suit requires much less thinking — pulling on an entire outfit that is comfortable, but not sloppy is a whole other matter.

“If you’re the slightest bit confused about what to wear as far as business casual goes, take a cue from the men in your office,” advises Martin. “If they’re wearing khakis and polo shirts, you can use that standard, even though you don’t want to wear exactly that. Your goal is to distinguish yourself in a way that makes you look both stylish and feminine.”

She suggests wearing sharp wool gabardine slacks or Capri linen pants with a fitted shirt in a soft pastel, instead of the traditional polo that a man would wear.

“Don’t forget a great pair of shoes,” adds Martin. “Ballet flats are always chic yet comfortable.”

The more options you have when you get dressed for work this spring, the better. But putting them all together is the trick. Here are some more tips from Martin on how not to be a fashion dummy:

• Keep a few items in your office to throw on when you need to. Perhaps a cardigan in a neutral color and/or a scarf.
• Keep a perfect pair of black pumps and a perfect pair of black flats at work. “You’ll be glad you have the flats if your feet are killing you, and if last minute plans come up, you can dress up your outfit with the black heels.”
• Even if your workplace doesn’t require you to dress formally, show up decked out from time to time. “It helps people see you in a different light, which never hurts,” says Martin. “And when people ask why the change, just say with confidence, ‘I felt like getting dressed up today.’”
•  Don’t go overboard. “You can be playful,” admits Martin, “but make sure it doesn’t turn from playful to too sexy.” Wearing a tight skirt that keeps riding up during a business meeting is not something you want to worry about or to be a distraction to your clients.
• Are shorts ever OK? “The easiest answer is a simple no,” says Martin. “Even if the policy is ‘anything goes,’ you must remember to always dress appropriately.” But in the most casual of offices, long, tailored shorts paired with a blouse or sweater set and heels can be casual yet chic,.• How about jeans? If the dress code at your office is on the “creative” casual side, then jeans are often the “go-to” item, says Martin. “Some jeans scream casual, while others can be chic and appropriate.” She suggests sticking to a pair of nicely fitted, dark denim jeans paired with a sophisticated blouse or sweater set.

Forget the jeans with the holes in the knees. Just remember, she adds, “make sure you have a few great pairs of heels and at least one fabulous work tote to pull an outfit together and make you look ‘done.’”

•  Accessories can also be a way to relieve spring fever at the office. “Aside from wearing more comfortable clothing,” says Martin, “business casual dress is an opportunity to wear clothes with more flair. A scarf, earrings and a nice pair of sandals can totally transform your work look. Accessories can be a quick fix when trying to make an outfit pop.”
•  And last but not least, there’s one universal rule of dressing in any business setting, says Martin. “It’s always better to be a little overdressed than underdressed. You can never go wrong if you follow this advice. In fact, people will end up looking to you to set the standard.”

Advisor, Counselor and Healer Eases Life’s Transitions

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Aging Parents

By Phyl Newbeck

Jeannie Lynch of South Burlington hopes people can distinguish between her “left brain” job and her “right brain” calling. By day, the trim, 47-year-old professional runs the Key 4 Women program at Key Bank in Williston. But every Wednesday night, she devotes her intuitive energies to guiding those seeking assistance with life’s transitions, free of charge.

Lynch prefers not to put a label on her right brain activities, but accepts “healer” as the closest to conveying the work she performs. Her calling started with a tragedy. On January 20, 2005, Lynch’s eight-year-old daughter Ila was killed in a car accident. A month later, Lynch pulled herself together enough to stop in at work to see her coworkers. Checking her e-mail she saw a message regarding the yet-to-be launched Key 4 Women program asking who would replace her as the program’s Vermont representative. As Lynch tells it, her daughter’s spirit coursed through her arms and propelled her fingers to the keyboard to respond that she would be back at work to take charge of the program. Speaking of Ila, Lynch said, “my daughter drew the line in the sand. She was so clear what my mission had to be.”

The first person to contact Lynch for her healing work was the mother of Sam Cohn, a Richmond teenager struck and killed by a car while on vacation in Florida. Lynch said Cohn’s mother kept track of how many times she heard Lynch’s name mentioned and by the thirteenth time, she decided to give her a call. Lynch is convinced that the grief she has experienced in her own life –the death of two children and several boyfriends – prepared her to help others. “I went through all these key lessons,” she said. “I felt it was my goal to teach.”
According to Lynch, being happy is both a choice and a skill. She has faith that she has the capability to get people through their grief. “I believe I am intuitive enough to get the words to help them through,” she said, noting that it is impossible to compartmentalize grief as those who counsel the seven stages would suggest. After two years of helping the grieving, focusing initially on mothers who had lost children, Lynch expanded her practice to include those in any kind of transition, be it a relationship, a family issue or a job. Even though she generally sees each individual only once so as to encourage them to find their own strength and power from within, Lynch is booked through next January. Although she takes great pains to separate her job and her calling, she does pray that she will continue to be successful in her work at Key Bank so that she can continue to help people for free. She estimates she has held almost 500 two-hour sessions with individuals from all walks of life. Her goal for 2010 is to help people realize they have their own gifts and don’t need her at all. “It would be great if nobody needed my work,” she said.

Lynch’s day job as the Vermont representative for the Key 4 Women program is also the result of a leap of faith on her part. Her 20-year job at Grand Union had come to an end due to cutbacks so Lynch impulsively went to visit Key Bank, which held her mortgage. “I’ve got 20 years cash management experience,” she recalls telling the bank manager. “I’m going to be paying you back somehow, so you might as well hire me.”

He did, and despite her lack of a college degree, Lynch has spent the last 20 years in banking. As the Key 4 Women representative, her job is to support women in business. “I meet people when the idea is in their head,” she said, “and I help get it to the table.”

In addition to assisting start-ups, Lynch helps existing businesses grow, and aids those who are nearing retirement in figuring out their next step. Pulling out an enormous tray of business cards, Lynch explains how she is able to create a network of people, introducing her clients to others who can provide assistance. “I’m the connector,” she said.

Lynch invites visitors to a room in her home filled with a mural of the outdoors and a ceiling painted to look like the sky. A portrait of her daughter is part of the artwork. “I’m only as successful as the people I’ve helped,” she says. This maxim is true for both facets of Lynch’s existence, since her job is based on the success she helps others create in the business world.

When people visit Lynch she feels as though she has the ability to see and hear what their guides and spirits want for them. “I call it ‘close to the veil’,” she said. It is then her job to determine what people need to have filtered from their thoughts, including limiting beliefs or past situations that didn’t honor them. Lynch uses herself as an example. “I used to believe that everything I love, I lose and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said. When Ila died, Lynch initially thought this just proved her theory, but soon the loss of her daughter taught her that she had been so concerned with death that she had been afraid to live. Instead, Lynch now believes that “everything you love lives on.”

Further, she believes that everything that happens has a purpose. “That’s an innate truth,” she said, “and the way I feel about that innate truth is what changes my experience.”

Despite the tragedy in her life, Lynch describes herself as “very much at peace.”  Her life is built around “believing, trusting and receiving.”

Lynch describes heaven as a place of acceptance and hell as a place of resistance. “My life is heavenly,” she said. “I accept everything that comes my way with open arms.”

Notch Above Tours Awarded Partnership in Travel Alliance Partners

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Business

Notch Above Tours, a Vermont-owned, full-service tour company based in Colchester, has announced its appointment in Travel Alliance Partners.

Travel Alliance Partners, LLC is a partner-owned organization of the 37 premier tour operators in the United States and Canada. “We are honored to be a partner in this premier travel organization,” said Notch Above Vice President Gwendy Lauritzen. “Our affiliation with this highly regarded alliance will open Vermont’s doors to a host of new travelers; both groups and individuals alike. We will now have tour operators from all over the United States and Canada selling Vermont vacations. The potential for Vermont to increase market share in the vacation destination market is boundless.”

Notch Above Tours operates out of offices in Colchester.

Vermont Breweries Win Three Medals At World Beer Cup

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Business

The Brewers Association recently announced the winners of the World Beer Cup 2010, a global beer competition that evaluates beers from around the world and recognizes the most outstanding beers being produced in the world. The Association singled out three Vermont breweries for excellence.

The Alchemist Pub & Brewery of Waterbury received a Gold medal in the Gluten-Free Beer category for their Celia Saison. Celia Saison is a Belgian-inspired gluten-free Saison made with sorghum, orange peel, coriander, and Amarillo hops.

Harpoon Brewery of Windsor, Vermont and Boston was awarded the Silver medal in the American Style Wheat Beer with Yeast category for the flagship of their UFO brands, UFO Hefeweizen.

UFO Hefeweizen is a cloudy golden color with a dense, frothy head, and the aroma has a faint but clear citrus-like character. UFO has a soft mouth-feel and a refreshing, light body. The wheat malts and subtle hopping give the beer a mild, delicate flavor.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids of Warren won a Bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for Maple Tripple. Maple Tripple is enticing, rich and complex, and defies easy description. This ‘once-a-year beer’ is brewed only during sugaring season with 100 percent maple sap from Fayston with no water added – just barley, hops, and ale yeast.

The World Beer Cup 2010 winners were selected by an international panel of 179 beer judges from 27 countries. An impressive field of 3,401 entries from 642 breweries in 44 countries made up the competition. More than 3,800 breweries in 100 countries were invited to compete.

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