September, 2010

Peter Shumlin: the Best Choice for Women, and Vermont


Vermont Woman newspaper endorses Democratic candidate Peter Shumlin for governor and urges our readers to turn out at the polls tomorrow – the race is too close and the stakes too high to sit this out.

People who grumble that there is “no difference” between the major party candidates are doing themselves and their community a grave disservice. In the race for governor especially, there are vast distinctions between Brian Dubie’s and Peter Shumlin’s stand on the issues, as well as their potential to be effective leaders for Vermont as we face particularly challenging years ahead.


As Vermont’s newspaper dedicated to the issues, concerns, and perspectives of women, we point first to the candidates’ stated position on reproductive health rights, and track record to date – because, we appreciate all that stems from this fundamental issue for the well-being of women and their families.


Peter Shumlin has been a consistent and unequivocal voice for the rights of women, and can be trusted to uphold Vermont’s pro-choice traditions. Whereas, Brian Dubie – unless speaking to his friends of Right to Life Vermont – has tried to evade the question with his continual campaign mantra of just being all about creating jobs. He claims that as governor he would have no agenda against Roe v. Wade, as it is the “established law of the land”. Even if he is sincere in his claim that he wouldn’t actively strive to interfere in the current rights of women vis a vis their reproductive health, there exist too many potential threats that can erode our rights. Decisions relating to parental notification, provisions for abortion amidst health care reform, access to contraception – issues related to the realities of life arise whether they are a candidate’s priority or not.


We need to be confident what a candidate will do as governor if and when a bill comes to his desk for signing. On the issue of reproductive rights, we can be sure that it is Peter Shumlin who is least likely of the two candidates to interfere in this fundamental health issue for women.


Beyond this specific issue, Vermont is going to need strong, effective, innovative leadership in the coming months – and Shumlin has proven himself on all fronts during his tenure in the Legislature, particularly as leader of the Senate.

He has earned the endorsement of the Burlington Free Press, whose editorial board wrote: “Shumlin will bring his experience gained in the Senate helping to build state budgets in an environment of reduced revenues to work with the Legislature on solutions that are fair to Vermonters.”


Brian Dubie is an affable person and undoubtedly wants the best for Vermont. However, considering Peter Shumlin’s experience as both a small business owner as well as a tested and proven, effective political leader – it is Shumlin who is the far superior candidate, the person most capable to lead Vermont at this time.

We urge our readers to cast their vote for Peter Shumlin for governor.


Trailblazers of Organics –
Orb Weaver Farm Cultivating Success

“Creative farming – that’s how we’ve managed to survive.” So explained Marian Pollack in response to how she and partner Marjorie Susman were making a go of it on Orb Weaver Farm.


It was the spring of 1985, and the two women were reflecting on their progress to date for a feature article in the first incarnation of Vermont Woman, entitled “Back to the Land and Making it Pay.” At that point, they were in their early 30s, and celebrating five years in business, already with their share of woeful tales of lessons learned and successes earned.


These days, we’re quite used to hearing ubiquitous agricultural concepts and catchphrases such as “organic” and “Fresh Network”, “sustainable” and “grass-fed” – and specialty cheeses are all the rage now in the Green Mountain State. This was not the case in the 80s when Pollack and Susman first moved to Vermont. They have proven to be ahead of the curve from the inception of their farm operation, pioneering in all-things organic. Their idealistic philosophy of farming – from how their dairy herd is treated to the raising of produce – has been accompanied by savvy business acumen characterized by diversification.


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Marjorie Susman and Marian Pollack

Planting Seeds of Global Peace
Dr. Nina Meyerhof & Children of the Earth


When I first heard of peace activist Dr. Nina Meyerhof through a mutual friend, I soon wondered why I hadn’t before. After meeting Meyerhof for an interview in between her many travels, I understood. Her self-described “Johnny Appleseed” method of global peace efforts – moving about, planting seeds, too busy to publicize her many accomplishments – has made her less of a household name than colleagues like Jane Goodall or Deepak Chopra. Her efforts toward the cause of peace are no less remarkable, however.


Raised in Vermont and Switzerland, Meyerhof is an international educator, speaker, writer, peace activist, and founder of the South Burlington-based Children of the Earth (COE). COE is a non-profit United Nations-recognized NGO whose mission is to inspire young people to become peace builders. She is also a founder of the Vermont Peace Academy, a non-profit organization that promotes the teaching, learning and practice of peace through education in nonviolent communication, diversity, cross-culture understanding, and leadership.


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Nina Meyerhof

Dubie – Dubie – Who?


With the gubernatorial primary race almost behind us as we go to press, many Vermonters are suffering from election fatigue, perhaps a little overstuffed from the multitude of appetizers available to choose from on August 24. But soon we’ll know what the specific options are for the main course on November 2.


Or will we? True – we know that one of the options will be the Republican candidate, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie. But after all this time it is frustratingly difficult to obtain a complete understanding of the ingredients that would inform his objectives as governor, were he to win the general election. Most campaigning politicians can be faulted for their ubiquity – but Dubie has stayed clear of any debating opportunities thus far.


And just this week, he released his jobs plan, “Pure Vermont: Blueprint for Job Growth and Economic Expansion.” Alas, immediately following presentation of this long-awaited window-onto-a-future-with-Dubie, another campaign stop was scheduled – and so the Lt. Governor had to scurry off after spending just over ten minutes with the Vermont press corps. From all reports it seems that he had an eager audience, quite prepared to have an engaged discussion about the material. It was not to be though. Off he went.

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Margaret Michniewicz

U.S. Navy Sailor of the Year Cassandra Foote – Hails from Vergennes, Vermont


When Cassandra Foote, 27, graduated from high school and enlisted in the Navy in June 2001, she had never even seen the ocean. The Vergennes native has embarked on what is already a distinguished career – and this year has received an historic honor from the U.S. Navy and for women. For the first time in its history, all four recipients of the 2009 Sailor of the Year (representing four realms of the Navy) are women, and Foote is among them.


Foote joined the Navy on June 11, 2001. Following Recruit Training in Great Lakes, IL she completed Electronic Warfare “A” school in Pensacola, FL. Her first assignment was to USS Winston Churchill. Petty Officer Foote transferred to Norfolk, VA from May 2003-June 2004. In 2003 she moved on to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for the next three years. She then reported on board CID Corry Station where she became an instructor in cryptology.


Her awards include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal with one Bronze Star, National Defense Medal, GWOT Expeditionary Medal, GWOT Service Medal, and Rifle Marksman ribbon. She is qualified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist and Master Training Specialist.

Petty Officer Foote has one son, named Adyson.

She spoke with Vermont Woman by phone from her station in Pensacola, FL.


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Cassandra Foote

Fluid Dynamics – Incontinence Doesn’t Have to Continue


Some things are meant to be leaked. Like the secret start date of a great sale at the best shoe store in town, the web address for amazing Tiffany and Vuitton knock-offs, and the real salary range of that job you’re applying for. Urine, however… now that’s another story. If we are to believe the TV and magazine ads, all aging and post-partum women have Detrol and a good absorbent incontinence pad in the future. Jane Kaufman, physical therapist and owner of Phoenix Physical Therapy of South Burlington, knows otherwise. She and her colleagues make a difference in women’s lives every day.


In a calming and private office space, Kaufman’s practice offers a non-surgical, non-medication reliant alternative for treating stress incontinence, pelvic prolapse, overactive bladder, and pain with intercourse – in other words, many of the responses of a pelvic floor to childbirth, aging, and injury. Their treatments are not limited to women. Men often have similar issues following surgeries or treatments, but Kaufman’s passion is women’s health.


What causes stress and urge incontinence? Aerobic exercise, lifestyle patterns such as daily caffeine intake (coffee, while soothing nerves, irritates bladders), birthing multiple or large babies, decreasing estrogen levels brought on by aging, illness or surgeries, or genetic predisposition – any, or all, of these can add up to a dreaded “ooops!” moment.


As a general physical therapist, Kaufman recognized a treatment breakthrough ten years ago when she saw the next wave in pelvic floor treatments known as Surface EMG Biofeedback. According to Kaufman, this is “a non-surgical approach which enables women to learn to strengthen pelvic muscles and regain control of their bladder and their lives.” Pointing out that women often take leakage for granted, begin wearing pads and sharing knowing looks while laughing too hard during a movie, Kaufman and her partners know that leakage can be reversed, not endured. With a referral from a physician, Kaufman teaches women to relax and strengthen their muscles while watching their contractions on a computerized screen. There is, it seems, a right way and a wrong way to do Kegel exercises. With education and awareness of how pelvic muscles work, women practice individualized exercise programs between treatment visits.


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Jane Kaufman

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Kids4Peace Vermont Envisions a Better Future for the Middle East


In spring 2009, Diane Nancekivell found herself sitting in Jerusalem looking at pictures of a green summertime in Vermont, in a scrapbook put together by a middle-school-aged Muslim girl. The photos and memorabilia were labeled in both Arabic and English.


“She was showing it to us and her younger brothers were hanging over her, looking at the pictures with us, and that to me said so much,” Nancekivell recalls. The retired Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey who is now affiliated with the Burlington Episcopal Cathedral and serves as president of Kids4Peace Vermont, Nancekivell had been yearning for just such moments—in which the hope that the seed of peace (planted in the 11-13-year-old Muslim, Christian, and Jewish children from Palestine and Israel who join together for a two-week summer camp in Vermont each year) may thrive and grow in the rocky soil of Middle Eastern relations.


Vermont Episcopal Bishop Thomas Ely, a founder of the Vermont chapter of Kids4Peace, attributes the success of the program to the families who make it happen. Nancekivell believes the courage of the parents who send their children to Kids4Peace is the fuel that can set peace alight.


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Christian, Jewish, and Muslim children unite

The Family Reunion

We have all been there. The family reunion date is set. The cousins are coming from all directions – Missouri, Texas, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and (horrors!) that commie liberal state, Vermont. The weather is forecasted to be glorious. Perfect for a picnic.


But… it poured. So, for the first time ever, we sat at a large dining room table. Now, at first this may not sound too bad. But here’s the rub: perfect weather means freedom to wander, safe from confrontation, always an easy escape. That’s the genius of a picnic style reunion.


Plan B forced us to a structured formal setting. The table seating meant we had to really talk. And therein lies the challenge of getting along.

Topics off the table (and everyone instinctively knew this) included:


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Publisher Sue Gillis