Saturday, April 18, 2020

Causes and treatment of ear infections in pets

By Andrine Belliveau DVM

In the spring and summer, one of the most common questions veterinarians are asked is “Why did my pet get an ear infection again?” Unfortunately, recurrent ear infections are one of the most common health issues in dogs. The ear is made up of 3 parts – the outer, middle, and inner ear. Usually an ear infection refers to an infection of the outer canal. Occasionally, a severe outer ear infection can rupture the eardrum and cause a middle ear infection.  All ears have low levels of yeast and bacteria in them normally – they are organisms that help “clean up” any debris that makes its way into the ear.

When the bacterial or yeast population suddenly increases, an infection is the result.

We can see recurrent ear infections for a number of reasons. Dogs that like to swim tend to collect a lot of water in their ears. If this is not cleaned/dried out regularly, it provides a perfect environment for organisms to grow. Dogs with hair in their ears (e.g. poodles) tend to collect too much debris. The hair does not allow debris to escape easily, providing too much food for the organisms in the ear and resulting in an infection. An easy prevention for this type of infection is to have your dog’s ears “plucked” when they are groomed to remove the excess hair. most common cause of recurrent ear infections is allergies. Studies have shown that approximately 25% of dog with allergies show only recurrent ear infections as a sign. Dogs and cats can have food allergies, or environmental allergies such as dust mites and pollen. If allergies are suspected as an underlying cause to your pet’s ear infection, we may talk to you about allergy testing, diet trials (to see if we have an allergy to a particular ingredient), or medication to manage the allergies long term.

In cats, a very common cause of ear infections is the ear mite.  Although many dog owners suspect mites, this is actually a relatively uncommon cause of infection in dogs. The key to treatment for ear mites to treat all affected pets in the house at once – otherwise it will continue to cycle through the household.

An ear infection can be diagnosed with a physical examination at the vet. We often will perform cytology with ear swabs to see if the cause is mostly bacterial, mostly yeast, or both, so we are able to select the right type of medication to treat the infection.

Although ear infections cannot always be prevented, the frequency of infections in problem pets (dogs that swim, or pets with allergies) can often be decreased by cleaning the ears frequently.  There are a number of ear cleaners for specific issues – such as yeast overgrowth. To treat an infection, pets will be sent home with once or twice daily topical medications or receive an in-hospital “pack” treatment for a dog that is difficult to medicate at home. 

Participation in local issues can make a difference for your community and your own success

By Lorraine Glowczak

What do State Representatives, a President of the local Chamber of Commerce, a Town Councilor and a Recreation Director have in common? They all volunteered and were active in community issues they deemed important. Additionally, it was those very experiences that propelled them forward to the successful life they are currently living.

Zack Conley was just 22 years old when he was elected as the President by the board members of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “It was just a little over a year ago when I became a Financial Representative at Modern Woodman and I was advised to become a part of the chamber as a way to succeed in my business. I joined the chamber, met many successful movers and shakers and not only has my business taken off, but so has my networking with others and meeting so many amazing people who have contributed to my success,” explained Conley in an interview in October, 2018.  Now here he is, two years later and still going strong. His business continues to blossom, and he remains the youngest chamber President in Maine today.

It is a well-known fact that active participation in local issues and volunteering your time enriches the life of others, while at the same time deepens your own experiences. Volunteering counteracts anxiety and depression, creates a certain level of happiness, provides a sense of purpose, and builds self-confidence. Also, getting involved helps one succeed personally with their goals and careers. In fact, there are a multitude of examples right here among us in the Raymond and Windham communities. We reached out to some other local “movers and shakers” to share their stories with us including Raymond’s new Parks and Recreation Director, Joseph (Joe) Crocker.

Crocker began his career quite by accident. Fifteen years ago, he volunteered as a basketball travel coach for the Saco Recreation Department. “I enjoyed that experience so much that I came back and worked as a Camp Counselor during the summer months while in college working on my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science,” he said. “The experience opened the door for me and it seemed things snowballed from there.”

Crocker eventually obtained his master’s degree in business administration for Parks and Recreation Management. He continued to volunteer in various compacities while working in a variety of positions in his chosen field. His latest volunteering efforts included being a part of assisting a newly established committee for the Windham Parks and Recreation’s work on a possible new recreation building. “Public service and being involved can lead to so many opportunities…. opportunities you would never imagine. Fifteen years ago, I never once thought I would be where I am today.”

Public service is what prompted Jarrod Maxfield to become involved in the community and his story is an example of the unexpected aspects of volunteering. Currently a Chair and Councilman for the Town of Windham, Maxfield began his career in politics as a result of streetlights. “In 2012 or 2013, there was a concern about the number of streetlights that would be turned off due to cost and energy efficiency,” Maxfield began. “This was a controversial issue and I had my own concerns about it, so I decided to join and volunteer with the town appointed Energy Conservation Committee. I wanted to be involved in something that I believed was important.”

It was never Maxfield’s intention to enter politics at that point; he simply wanted to advocate and support an effort he believed crucial. Much like Crocker’s experience, things just snowballed from there, and he decided to run for an empty seat on the Town Council and won.

“I never once thought that when I sat on the Energy Conservation Committee recommending to the Council to install cost effective and energy efficient LED streetlights that I would be the one who would actually vote and approve that very recommendation as a newly elected member of the Council.”

The Town of Windham’s streets are now lined with LED streetlamps, saving the town money and making a positive impact on the environmental footprint.

If one is actively pursuing politics as a career option, read on about State Representatives Jess Fay, Patrick Corey and Mark Bryant sharing their stories on how civic participation and volunteerism played a role in their current positions.

Rep. Bryant of Windham, who came from a civically active and politically diverse family of three sisters, six brothers and two parents, saw firsthand how active participation in community efforts make a difference in the lives of others and self. “My father was the Head Selectmen of the Town of Canton and was the town’s Fire Chief while my mother was active in religious efforts, teaching at a Christian school in Livermore,” he said. While a junior in high school, Bryant attended the American Legion’s Auxiliary Boys State and got to see how government works.

“Having the experiences I had while growing up, I learned you have to make do with what you have and that there are needs to be addressed and getting involved is one way to help others and make a difference,” he began. “Also, since my immediate family consists of a mixture of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, I learned that diverse opinions can be expressed with love and support.”

Although Bryant has been, and continues to be involved in many civic duties, it was his role as a committee member of the group who worked to combine the Windham Fire and EMS departments into one unit, which was controversial at the time, that propelled him into running for the role of state representative. “The experiences I had on this committee gave me the perspective as to ‘why’ I wanted to run for office.”

The perspective of ‘why’ to run for office also played a role for Windham’s Rep. Patrick Corey. “My initial interest in town growth and the importance of open spaces inspired me to become involved in these issues,” Corey stated. “I eventually was elected as a board member of the Windham Land Trust [eventually merged with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust] so I could advocate for matters concerning proper development. But the thought of taking advocacy and gaining a voice on the state level didn’t occur to me until I saw the challenges faced in my role as a board member of the Falmouth Rod and Gun Club.”

Corey explained some municipalities were creating ordinances making it impossible for rod and gun clubs across the state to operate, taking away a long-standing Maine tradition. “This experience created in me a passion to advocate for issues that are important to Maine and its way of life,” he said. “Civic participation also gave me the skill and knowledge to successfully advocate for legislation on these and many issues that have been passed and are successful.”

Rep. Jess Fay of Raymond came to her role in politics indirectly as a result of her active participation in the community. “To volunteer was to step outside my comfort zone,” she said. Fay volunteered as a board member at the Raymond Village Library. “There were times that we as board members faced a certain amount of difficulties, but what I didn’t know at the time – it was these very challenges that gave me the confidence to take my voice and advocacy to the next level. I learned that you have to step outside of your comfort zone to let your voice be heard and make a difference in issues that matter for many individuals.”

Although Fay has succeeded as a two-term state representative, which requires more personal discomfort than average, she admits that she still tries new things that she has never done before and to discover what she is good at doing...or not. “I recently volunteered to help build a new trail at the Raymond Community Forest,” she said. “I had never built anything like that before but found that people were very helpful in showing me what to do.”

Knowing your skills, accomplishments, interests and values is the foundation of career success and active participation in local matters is a good way to learn more about yourself and your potential to grow and develop – and find yourself in a career you love.

And, as Fay points out, volunteering can also help you learn what does not work for you. “I have discovered that I’m not the best trail builder in the world.”

No matter what your career aspirations or goals are, it has been proven over and over again that volunteering and civic participation makes a difference in everyone’s life – including your own. If it is happiness or self-improvement you are longing for or if it is your goal to be the next U.S. President – a step into volunteerism is a humble but important one to take for personal success. It’s a win-win situation. Consider volunteering for an organization or issue that is important for you today. Who knows what adventure you will have as a result.

Friday, April 17, 2020

WHS senior learns from Capstone Project that giving blood is safe during the COVID-19

Grace Soares
By Lanet Hane, Director of Community Connections

The doors of our schools may be locked, but our students are still learning and growing in powerful ways; they are also finding meaningful methods to give back to the community.

Grace Soares, a Windham High School senior, is using this time to continue encouraging people to give blood. She says “the need is incredibly high right now, particularly because drives have been cancelled and fewer people are willing to come out to donation centers given everything going on in the country. Maine’s donations are down, but the need isn’t.”

Grace chose to do her Senior Capstone Project on the Red Cross and was proactive enough in her shadowing and interviewing to complete most of her project before schools shut their doors and people were forced inside.

Grace has been volunteering with the Red Cross since she was 16 and saw the Senior Project as a chance to learn more about blood and the blood giving process overall. She jumped through the necessary hoops with Red Cross at the corporate level and gained permission to go beyond the normal scope of her volunteer work to conduct interviews as well.

The interviews with volunteers were one of the most meaningful parts of the project for Grace. They were able to speak to a number of common questions asked from people who are considering donation, including how safe it is in the middle of our pandemic; “Giving blood is a very safe process and the centers do a fantastic job of ensuring the comfort and safety of anyone generous enough to give. If you are healthy and looking for a way to support our community, giving blood is such a need!”

More information about giving blood is available at
A few of the common questions asked about giving blood:

Does it hurt? Volunteers say not really; the actual portion of giving blood is about 5 minutes and
fairly painless.

How long does it take? About 45 minutes for whole blood, closer to two hours for power reds. If you want to speed up the process, you can get the Red Cross Rapid Pass app on your phone that allows you to read all the paperwork beforehand.

What if I have COVID-19 and don’t know it yet? Can I pass it on? No. While a number of screenings for all sorts of things are done at the site, all blood collected goes through additional screenings after collection.

How can I make sure it goes well? Volunteers say to have a snack before you go, and drink plenty of water the night before and right before you donate blood as this helps ensure you have big veins.

Virtual Spirit Week brings cheer to Raymond Elementary School students

By Briana Bizier

Sage Bizier with her whale
For the children of Windham and Raymond, this past Monday marked four full weeks since they had last set foot in their classroom. This unfortunate anniversary was especially poignant given last week’s announcement that all classes at RSU 14 would remain on-line through the end of this school year.

“When we waved to the students as the buses left on [March] 12th, we truly did not believe we would not be returning on the following Monday,” Elisabeth Peavey, the Assistant Principal of Raymond Elementary School, wrote in an email to parents. “This has been an emotional, challenging, and life-altering experience for all families, staff, students, and community members.”

Like thousands of schools across the world, the teachers and staff members at Raymond Elementary School have been forced to make a sudden transition to teaching on-line in order to practice social distancing and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that is disrupting nearly every facet of our everyday lives.

This shift to distance learning is challenging at all levels. Teachers have had to adapt lesson plans with only a few week’s notice, students have had to navigate a dizzying array of new technology, and some parents (like me) have found themselves suddenly forced with long division problems for the first time in thirty years. It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious.

In addition to helping facilitate student learning through a computer screen, faculty and staff also face the challenge of creating a sense of community while students and their teachers are under stay-at-home orders.

With April break approaching, Raymond Elementary School decided to celebrate their Spirit Week virtually. Monday, Costume Day, opened with a bang. Kindergarten teacher Erin Simoneau wore her wedding dress as she welcomed a class of superheroes and Disney princesses to their digital morning meeting.

“I was Bumblebee,” kindergartener Ian Bizier told me, explaining his costume as one of the Transformers (who are a team of anthropomorphic robot cars, for those of you who are not currently living with elementary school age children). “My friend Jack was Bumblebee too,” Ian continued. “It was pretty cool.”

Fourth grade teacher Susan Brackett wore a skeleton mask to her class’s on-line meeting, and she welcomed a special guest: music teacher Patricia Gordon who, while dressed as a superhero, led the class through a silly song about donuts.

“Virtual Spirit Week made me feel closer to my friends,” said Sage Bizier, my Raymond Elementary School insider, “even during this time when we’re all apart.”

On Tuesday, Ms. Brackett’s fourth grade class had a special virtual visit from school counselor Martha Stone, who encouraged the students to share both what had been difficult during their month of distance learning and what they had enjoyed. After each student had a chance to share their concerns about missing friends or how awkward it felt to have Mom as a teacher, the entire class joined a virtual dance party from their kitchens and living rooms to celebrate Dance Day.

Wednesday’s Stuffed Animal Day gave fourth grader Sage a rare opportunity that she wouldn’t have had during regular school. “I can bring Willy to my meeting,” Sage explained, dragging her largest stuffed shark down the staircase from her bedroom. “He’s way too big to fit on the school bus.”

Thanks to creative thinking and flexibility from the faculty and staff at Raymond Elementary School, parents and children alike learned this week that it is possible to maintain a sense of school spirit and community even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Before the memory fades: Recalling those carefree days at the sucker hole

By Walter Lunt

In the summer of 1956, eight-year-old Tom Millett lived on a small farm with his parents, three brothers and a sister on Highland Cliff Road in Windham. “It was a different time,” he remembers, “we had garden chores in the morning, but after that, the day was ours. Our parents didn’t worry if we disappeared for the rest of the day.”

Artwork by Jerry Black of Arrowhead Art
For the most part, the boys could be trusted to stay in the neighborhood and to stay out of trouble. They would ride bicycles, fish, build forts in the woods, play basketball in the barn or baseball in a nearby field where chicken wire fencing served as a suitable backstop.

Those were the lazy, hazy days of summer sun and fun for kids in the 50s. There were no play dates or organized sports. Decisions regarding what to do and where to go originated from imaginative and inventive young minds. Ideas ranged from the familiar and usual to the foolish and amusing.

One hot afternoon found Tom, his older brother Lineous and friend Dennis (from ‘up the road’) exploring Colley Wright Brook on the east side of River Road across from the Men’s Reformatory (now Windham Correctional Center). In the 1950s it was known as Reformatory Field, a cow pasture fenced and maintained by supervised inmates at the minimum-security prison. Dennis came up with an idea: why not dam the brook and make a swimming hole?

The boys chose a site on the brook that happened to be one of their favorite fishing spots: the ‘sucker hole,’ a narrow spot in the stream that had created a small impoundment. Working through the afternoon, they bridged the banks with rocks and sticks all the way from the muddy bottom up to near chin high. Near the top, they inserted several four-inch sections of PVC pipe that would drain off the overflow and prevent run-off from wiping away the top of the dam. Finished, the boys went home to wait for their new swim hole to fill up.

The following day dawned hazy and hot. After chores, the Millett brothers met Dennis at the sucker hole, which had swelled to an area of 10 by 15 feet, and chest high deep.

Because it was hidden from traffic on River Road by a road-side berm and by bushes that lined the brook, and preferring to keep their clothes dry, the boys stripped naked and jumped in.

For the rest of that summer and the next, the sucker hole would be their private skinny-dipping pond, deep enough for shallow diving. It had cool, crystal clear water until busy feet stirred up the muddy bottom. And, if at this point dear reader, you’re wondering about blood suckers, the answer is yes, they were present.

“We’d swim, get out, pick them off, and jump in again. Didn’t bother us,” said Tom.

The private sucker hole, tucked away in a swale behind berms and bushes was the cool and fun respite for the trio of boys for two long, hot summers.

Only once was their secret, shall we say, exposed.

One afternoon, as the boys frolicked and freewheeled in the sucker hole, a man appeared carrying, according to Tom, “…what appeared to be surveying equipment.”  He carried on small talk with the three boys, then sat down to eat his lunch.

“He told us we should get out of the water because his helper would be joining him.” The trio dismissed the warning, not really caring whether another guy joined the group or not.

A few minutes later, the man’s helper appeared and was told that the swimmers were skinny dipping. The helper, a young woman, smiled broadly and sat to eat her lunch, too.

The boys ceased their water sports and stared at the visitors who were munching their mid-day meal and staring back. The swimmer’s inactivity caused the water to clear up. “So,” said Tom, “we had to kick up mud to cloud the swim hole.”

Eventually, the surveyors (or whoever they were) finished eating, picked up their gear and moved on, smiling and waving.

Tom says he laughs when he thinks back on the incident. And to this day still likes to tell the story.  <

Volunteers come together statewide to provide masks to healthcare workers

By Matt Pascarella

‘Sewing Masks for Maine’ is a volunteer organization that are creating masks specifically for healthcare providers. Within 15 days of the group forming, they had already delivered almost 2,000 masks to healthcare facilities. ‘Sewing Masks for Maine’ has a network of roughly 1,500 people from every county in the state, including volunteers from Windham who wish to remain anonymous. The group formed after seeing hospitals around the country requesting cloth face masks to extend the life of their N95 respirators.

The masks do not protect from COVID-19 and are not considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). However, in speaking with Kristen Peters, the group’s Public Relations person, while adequate PPE is obviously preferred, the fabric masks can be used over the N95 respirators to extend their life. The masks can be washed, sterilized and reused to give clinical masks an extra layer of protection.

A group of six lead volunteers organized and built a structure designed to connect health care organizations and home sewers as efficiently as possible, while providing quality control and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The group has received over 8,000 mask requests so far and the group is making 150-200 masks a day. The sewers are using socially distant, touch-free drop off locations to get completed masks to the group’s coordinators. There are 38 drop off locations across the state.

The masks are made of 100% quilting cotton fabric and sewing elastic. Each mask is quality checked before it is delivered. Things are moving very fast. Peters estimates that roughly 2,500 masks have been made, with most of those made already delivered.

“We feel that no healthcare worker should be on the frontlines without adequate protection,” said Peters. “If our masks can help in some way, we want to fill that need; healthcare workers are people who will be caring for us if we get sick – we want to care for them too.”

Peters goes on to add “We’ve been hearing from recipients who are incredibly moved by these masks; to know that people are being so generous with their time and talent. It sounds like it’s been a morale boost for people who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.”

Currently, there are a few Windham and Raymond residents who have joined in on the effort. If you’re interested in helping, would like to request a mask(s), or want to know more about ‘Sewing Masks for Maine,’ visit their website at:

Book Review: “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

This is a book about friendship, in a way. But, it’s also about children who catch on fire. It’s smart and laugh-out-loud funny and sweet and tender.

Lillian is a middle-aged screw-up. She lives at home and works in dead-end jobs she hates. And then Madison calls. And Lillian can’t say no to Madison, even though at first she doesn’t know she’s saying yes to caring for twins who sometimes catch themselves and everything around them on fire. Lillian saved Madison from a ruined reputation once and so she does it again, because Madison can’t have her self-combusting stepchildren ruin the chances of her powerful husband becoming Secretary of State.

So, Lillian takes over the care of ten-year-old twins Bessie and Roland and she’s unexpectedly good at it. And she loves them. And we love her for loving them. And they’re all weird together, which feels real.

What happens next isn’t completely unexpected, but it doesn’t matter. The book is brilliant in the blasé tone Lillian uses to narrate, in Wilson’s perfect observations and dead-pan sentences, in the subtle yearning everyone in this book has. This is a fast read that will, at times, catch you by surprise. 

Much like fire itself. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Windham Food Pantry open by appointment during COVID-19 crisis

By Elizabeth Richards

With school closures and non-essential businesses shutting down food insecurity can become a much bigger issue in the community.  The Windham Food Panty is a resource that can help.

“The Windham Food Pantry is making every effort to ensure that residents are receiving enough food to help them during this difficult time,” says Colette Gagnon, Social Services Administrative Assistant for the Town of Windham.  Gagnon runs both the Windham Food Pantry and the Windham Clothes Closet.

Of particular concern, Gagnon says, are individuals and families that have suddenly found themselves without the means to buy food and non-food products. 

The food pantry generally serves about 300 people per month, but Gagnon says there’s been a rise in demand due to the current situation.  “I’m getting a lot of new people who are reaching out,” she says.  “They’ve lost their jobs and so they’re reaching out to get food. And we’re here to help, in any way we can.”

The food pantry, located at 377 Gray Road in Windham, is open by appointment only at this time.  Gagnon said they are serving one person at a time due to the requirements for social distancing.  “We’re being very, very cautious about that,” she said.

Donations are being accepted, also by appointment.  There is a specific need for donations of toilet paper, tissues, soups and canned goods.

People in need of an appointment, or anyone wishing to make a donation to the food pantry, can call 207-891-1931 Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Cyber safety tips when working from home

By Lori Sussman

Cybercrime has been growing with the increased use of connected technology. Recent events only confirm what we know. We all need to be vigilant when conducting business over the Internet. Hackers are using our coronavirus fears to make their spear-phishing and misinformation campaign more effective. As coronavirus infections surges, hackers are weaponizing information about the COVID-19 virus. They intend to spread malware and disinformation, according to security researchers and the State Department. The US intelligence agencies are showing examples where Russian actors, linked with Moscow through "state proxy websites," have been using "swarms of online, false personas" to spread misinformation about the new coronavirus.

Here are some tips to help you navigate cyberspace safely:

1.   Keep all software up to date.
Turn on automatic system updates for your device.
Make sure your desktop web browser uses automatic security updates.
Keep your web browser plugins like Flash, Java, etc. updated.

2.   Use antivirus (AV) software and keep it up to date. Use antivirus software from trusted vendors and only run one AV tool on your device.

3.   Use firewalls and other home security systems and solutions. A firewall helps screen out hackers, viruses, and other malicious activity that occurs over the Internet and determines what traffic can enter your device.
Windows and Mac OS X comes with firewalls (Windows Firewall and Mac Firewall).
Your router should also have a built-in firewall to prevent attacks on your network.

4.   Use strong passwords and consider a password manager tool.
Adopt user-friendly phrase-like passwords but have at least eight characters and a maximum length of 64 characters.

Don't use the same password twice.

The password should contain at least one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, one number, and four symbols but not the following &%#@_.

Choose something easy to remember and never leave a password hint out in the open or make it publicly available for hackers to see.

Reset your password when you forget it. But, change it once per year as a good practice.

5.   Use Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a service that adds additional layers of security to the standard password method of online identification. Many platforms commonly used like Facebook offer this option.

6.   Learn about Phishing Scams. Everyone needs to be very suspicious of emails, phone calls, and flyers. In a phishing scheme attempt, the attacker poses as someone or something the sender is not to trick the recipient into divulging credentials, clicking a malicious link, or opening an attachment that infects the user's system with malware, trojan, or zero-day vulnerability exploit.

These schemes often lead to a ransomware attack. 90% of ransomware attacks originate from phishing attempts. A few crucial cyber safety tips to remember about phishing schemes include:
Most importantly – don't open an email from people you don't know!

Know which links are safe and which are not – hover over a link to discover where it wants to direct you.

Be suspicious of the emails sent to you in general – look and see where it came from and if there are grammatical errors

Malicious links can come from friends with infected computers. So, be extra careful!

7.   Protect Your Sensitive Personal Identifiable Information (PII). PII is any information that can be used by a cybercriminal to identify or locate you. PII includes information such as name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, Social Security Number, IP address, location details, pet names, or any other physical or digital identity data. In the new "always-on" world of social media, you should be very cautious about the information you include online.

8.   Use Your Mobile Devices Securely. Your mobile device is now a target of more than 1.5 million new incidents of mobile malware. Some quick tips for mobile device security:
Create a complex mobile passcode – not your birthdate or bank PIN

Install apps from trusted sources

Keep your device updated – hackers use vulnerabilities in unpatched older operating systems
Avoid sending PII or sensitive information over text messages or email

Use Find my iPhone or the Android Device Manager to prevent loss or theft
Perform regular mobile backups using iCloud or enabling backup & sync from Android

9.   Backup Your Data Regularly. Follow a simple rule called the 3-2-1 backup rule, where you keep three copies of your data on two different types of media (local and external hard drive) and one copy in an off-site location (cloud storage).

10.   Review Your Online Accounts & Credit Reports Regularly for Changes. With recent events, it's more important than ever for you to safeguard your online accounts and monitor your credit reports. A credit freeze is the most effective way for you to protect your personal credit information from cybercriminals right now. Essentially, it allows you to lock your credit and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only you will know. You can then use this PIN when you need to apply for credit.

Science and math in the kitchen

Sage and Ian Bizier making "real bread"
By Briana Bizier

The past few weeks have been full of new experiences for many of us. Parents in the Windham and Raymond area found themselves at home with their children after all RSU14 schools closed due to concerns about spreading the COVID-19 virus. Many of us also had a sudden crash-course in telecommuting as we attempted to work from home. And many local grocery stores’ shelves were shockingly empty. For me, this meant I came home from the store last week without bread for the first time in my life.

I’d made two loaves of molasses oatmeal bread over the weekend, but my two little food critics kept asking for “real bread.” So, on Monday I pulled out my twenty-year-old copy of Fannie Farmer’s cookbook and found a recipe for basic white bread. Then I called my children into the kitchen to help.

Like many other parents across the world, I spent last week trying to carefully curate an enriching educational experience for my two children while my husband and I simultaneously struggled to adjust to working from home. And, like many other parents across the world, I’ve discovered that it’s actually impossible to serve as a replacement kindergarten and fourth-grade teacher. The Bizier family has learned many things over the past week, and one of our most humbling lessons has been how incredibly valuable elementary school teachers truly are.

Yet we’ve also discovered that education can take many forms. As I called the children into our sunny kitchen to make bread together, I realized how much science and math underlies even the simplest recipe. When we added a packet of yeast to warm water and watched for bubbles, I asked if my children knew yeast was alive.

“Whoa,” said my five-year-old Ian, staring at the yeast with newfound interest. “You mean those are animals?”

A quick Google search while the yeast proofed reveled that yeast are actually fungi, in the same broad category as mushrooms and mold. The yeast we use for baking bread eats sugar and then produces carbon dioxide gas, which is then trapped as tiny bubbles in the bread dough, making the bread rise.

“That is pretty cool,” my nine-year-old daughter Sage admitted.

Once the yeast and warm water mixture had begun to bubble in its small bowl, we started mixing the dough. I read the recipe aloud while Sage measured the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl and Ian mixed the ingredients. When she couldn’t find a measuring cup for three cups of flour, Sage decided to add six half-cups of flour instead, proving once and for all that an understanding of fractions is an important life skill. Ian helped me count out tablespoons of sugar, and the kids argued over who would be the first to knead the dough. They ended up kneading the dough together, although somehow that still wasn’t enough to stop the argument.

An hour later, I called the children back into the kitchen to witness how big the bread dough had grown through the yeast’s enthusiastic sugar consumption.

“The yeast did all that?” Sage asked as she pressed the elastic surface of the newly-risen bread dough.

“Well, with a little help from you kids,” I answered.

As we moved the dough into loaf pans to rise once again under a damp tea towel, I thought about the crash course we’d just had in practical math, science, and culinary arts. It wasn’t the lesson I’d designed for the day, but it was still a learning experience. And, as we all adjust to the current reality of living during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s remember that educational opportunities come in all forms.

If you have older children, my husband Dr. Bizier, the Honors and Advanced Placement chemistry teacher at Windham High School, has a website featuring “Chemistry of Cooking” projects completed by his students. Your student will need an RSU14 email address to log in to the site, where they can peruse PowerPoint presentations about everything from the chemistry of chocolate chip cookies to how to make the perfect Reuben sandwich. You can find the website here:

In case you’d like to try making “real” white bread yourself, here’s the recipe from “Fanny Farmer”:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup hot milk
1 cup hot water
1 package dry yeast
6 cups of white flour, approximately

Mix the oil or butter, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the hot milk and hot water, then let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl or cup, mix the package of yeast and 1/4 cup warm water and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve. Add the dissolved yeast and 3 cups of flour to the butter, water, and milk mixture; beat until well blended. Add another 2 cups of flour, mix, and turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead for a minute or two, then let rest for 10 minutes. Adding just enough of the remaining flour so the dough is not sticky, resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (no need to fight, there’s plenty of dough to go around). Put the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk. Gently punch down and shape into two loaves. Place in greased loaf pans, cover, and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 425. Bake bread for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 30 minutes more. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.