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Valentine’s Day 2021 Has Come and Gone

I baked heart shaped cookies and sent a package off to my family in North Carolina. There isn’t a box big enough to send all the love and hugs I want to give them. I haven’t been with them since Christmas 2019. That seems like a lifetime ago.

How do we stay connected?

So, how do we stay connected with those we love in this time of social distancing and pandemic guidelines? Many of us have used Zoom or other video chat platforms to connect with family and friends. I send notes and treats to family. The phone is always an option.

An evening with another couple around the fire pit is fun. A year ago, I would not have thought to ask someone over for s’mores and hot chocolate at 20 degrees. But now, I ask and they come. We dig out our warm layers, put toe warmers in our boots, and come. We yearn for human connections.

Reconnecting with friends

A few months ago I reflected in this column on this question of what can I do to connect. I ended up challenging myself to reconnect with some college friends. One of them had an anniversary in December. So I sent her an email wishing her happy anniversary. She responded right away and I asked if we could set up a time for a phone chat. We talked for over an hour. Turns out there was quite a bit to say. Having taken the first brave step, I reached out to my college roommate on her birthday, sending her a text to which she responded right away and a wonderful conversation followed. I decided to text my friend Pat and tell her I was making her soup recipe and thinking about her. The next day we set a time to chat.  Hmm. There might be something to this song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

I realize that in the busyness of life, some of my onetime close friendships had fallen by the wayside. We live in different parts of the country, time with our immediate family and work and life consume us. But reconnecting with these friends seems to fill a gap. These are women who remember me when I was still figuring out myself. They were part of my journey, and I was part of their journey.

In some ways social media allows us to ‘connect’ with so many from our past and present. But it is an impersonal connection. I can see your photos, see what you had for lunch, and see that you had a dream vacation somewhere around the equator. But I don’t know you anymore. I only see what you choose to make public.

We all need connections. Babies need a back and forth interaction with others. They smile, you smile back. You make a funny face, they try to imitate you. Back and forth- you are connecting with each other. This actually develops connections within the baby’s brain. Every interaction is building a connection in their brain. Hugs and cuddles, reading, talking about the weather, the airplane, the applesauce.

Connecting with others through our programs

I conclude that whether we are big or small humans, connections are key to our well-being. The River Center has many different ways for you to connect with others. Participate in a weekly parenting group, attend an evening presentation on a topic that interests you, have your taxes done by our volunteers, or volunteer.

If you are a parent, we have weekly parenting groups. If you are a new parent, we have a group for new moms/ parents and their babies. Another group for parents/ caregivers and their toddlers. We have groups on Zoom and limited groups in socially distanced formats. We have presentations and discussions from experts on Zoom in the evenings. Coming up we have the first monthly session of Mindful Moment for Women on February 17 at 6:30.  On February 18 at 7:00 we begin the series Community Resources Spotlight, this month featuring The River Center and MAPS Counselling Service, a chance to find out what our organizations do in our community. If you are the parent of a child with special needs and would like to connect with other parents, See the ABLE, not the Label is for you. This group begins on February 25 at 6:30. We will be showing the film, The Mask You Live In from February 19 through the 28, a film about raising boys. Whether you join a weekly parenting group or attend an evening presentation, you will meet others that are on a similar journey. You have an opportunity to make connections- and these programs are all at no cost to you.

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center is here for you, your family, your neighbors and our community.

Margaret Nelson, Executive Director

Understanding Each Other

I see more and more the need for me to have more empathy and understanding of others. I find that it is a hard thing to do. I have an easier time understanding you if you think like me, if you have a similar background to me, if you speak my language. The reality is, that no one else comes from the same perspective as I do. I am unique as are you. My husband doesn’t think like me, my daughters don’t think like me, and my sons-in-law are still struggling to figure out how I think. Sometimes I don’t even understand myself!

So, is it any surprise that living in community can sometimes be messy, difficult, and uncomfortable? Recent news both local and national illustrate this point. We see the issues from our own perspective which is arrived at from the information sources we access and from the lens of our education, region, economics, friends, family, and more.

I have been listening to Dan Rather’s book, What Unites Us. A phrase he used caught my attention: “empathy builds community.” I was interested in this idea since, as an organization, The River Center has identified empathy as one of our core values.

It seemed that a good place to start exploring this idea of empathy was to look up the meaning. The American Heritage Dictionary tells us that empathy is “The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.”

How can I identify with another? How can I understand? How can I be empathetic? For me, step one is acknowledging that your perspective, experience and motivations are different than mine and step two is for me to be curious to find out more. Can I ask you questions about your thinking? Can we have a friendly conversation so that I can understand better what you are thinking? Can I lay aside my assumptions and truly listen to what you have to say?

I think of how I see empathy displayed in the staff and volunteers at The River Center. There is an effort at understanding the reality of life of the individuals and families of our community. Not everyone’s family looks the same. Not everyone’s finances are the same. A couple is struggling to connect with their teenager. A new mom is overtired, unsure, and alone. A twenty-something needs their tax return completed and doesn’t know where to start. A concerned neighbor calls because they are concerned about the well-being of their elderly friend. We seek to encourage, support, and help families move forward in the best way for them. For each individual and family this looks different, but the goal is the same. To strengthen the individuals and families of our region.

I am talking to myself when I say I want to be more understanding, more empathetic toward others. Perhaps Dan Rather is on to something. Empathy may help us build better community.

No matter who you are, what your place in life, there is something for you at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. Parenting education and support for parents and caregivers, help sorting through personal finances or getting your tax return completed, connection to community resources for yourself, your family or your neighbors. Perhaps you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer? We can help you with that as well. Contact us at 924-6800,

What can I do? Finding new ways to celebrate the holidays

I am realizing that it is pretty depressing to think about all the things I cannot do/ should not do during this pandemic holiday. It is easy to get down in the dumps bemoaning the holiday gatherings that aren’t happening.

So, I had a little talk with myself the other day. We decided that instead of thinking of all the things I am not doing this holiday, I am going to focus on the things I can do. This decision does force me to put on my creative brain. I am thinking about new ways to connect with family, friends, and the community. When celebrating holidays that are filled with tradition, that can be challenging, to say the least.

So consider yourself challenged. How can you join me in thinking about new, fun and meaningful ways to celebrate? We might even start some new traditions this year!

I received an email early in December asking if I would consider baking cookies to share. Count me in! I love to bake my traditional cookies, but fear the consequences if Dave and I try to consume them all ourselves. What a great idea to bake and share.

Our family met together via Zoom Thanksgiving morning. Six children ages six years to one month, seven adults, in four homes. It was great. Full of chaos for sure. But wonderful to see everyone at the same time. I am hoping that we can open our family gifts together using video chat as well. I have to admit that I really don’t mind the three old grabbing the phone and giving me the tour of the floor. What joy to hold Gramma in your hand and hear her voice and laughter! More laughter- that is one of my goals.

Many folks are taking this time to reconnect with friends from the distant past. It is amazing who you can find searching the world-wide web. This just might be the year for a phone call or a note to catch up. I haven’t sent out Christmas cards in years. Too busy I say. But I might send a few this year. They might be a little late. But I am thinking this is a good year for connecting with loved ones through whatever means I can manage.

Our communities are getting creative as well. Downtown Peterborough featured Santa in a snow globe during the first weekend of December. An out-of-the-box (so to speak) solution to bring Santa and children together. The Children and the Arts committee created a wonderland of lit lanterns. Santa greeted big and little folks in Jaffrey in the snowstorm.

Instead of our annual staff and board holiday gathering, The River Center staff are having a make- your-own center piece workshop via Zoom. We will have a fun time working on our project together and have something beautiful for our homes in the end. And yes, there will be plenty of laughter!

And I want to mention all those behind the scenes folks who quietly and generously buy gifts for those who need a little holiday boost this year and every year. They shop for specific requests, bring wrapping paper and bows, add little extras to give a smile, provide grocery cards to help with festive foods, and through their generosity bring joy to many homes in our community. Thank you to Tina Kriebel who coordinates this effort each year on behalf of The River Center and all the volunteers who she calls on to make it happen.

If the holidays have got you down and you are wondering how to deal all things that are not happening this year, please join Jill Morgan on the topic of Building Holiday Resilience on Tuesday, December 22, 7:00-8:00 PM via Zoom.  To register and receive the link for this program, go to Virtual Programs.

From all of us at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center, we wish you a joyous holiday!

Margaret Nelson, Executive Director

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center


Grateful Once Again

Each day we lose more daylight hours and the temperature is on a steady decline. The COVID numbers are rising as are our fuel bills. We look at the calendar and wonder what the holidays will look like this year? Will we be able to see Uncle Charlie or cuddle the new baby?

I am determined to be grateful once again.  Let me tell why I am grateful and encouraged. Let me tell you about bulbs and babies and other amazing things.

Grateful for the Important Milestones 

Let me tell you about The River Center. Some of you know that ten years ago, the Boards of two organizations, The Family Center of Greater Peterborough and The River Center Community Resource Center, decided to merge and become The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. For a decade this organization has been focused on strengthening the individuals and families of this region.

The members of our Advisory Council were asked how they first become acquainted with The River Center. Some told of being young parents in the 1990’s and attending parenting classes with Bonnie Harris at the Parent Guidance Center. Others told of connecting with parents through The Family Center. Others had stories of Families and Communities Together. All these organizations are part of the history of The River Center. Stretching beyond these ten years, the mission of supporting parents in our region has effected many parents, grandparents, caregivers for three decades. I am grateful to Bonnie Harris for having the inspiration, the knowledge, and the drive to create a parenting resource for all parents and caregivers back in 1990. And I am grateful that Bonnie is still facilitating parenting classes and supporting parents through The River Center, her column in the Monadnock Ledger Transcript, her podcast, and Connective Parenting.

Grateful for the People that Make It Happen

I am grateful for the staff of The River Center. For Shannon, Nisa, Sue, Nicole, Kelli, Mackenzie, Mandy, and Bonnie. These dedicated and talented women make the programs and services of The River Center happen. Parenting classes, groups for little ones, one on one parenting support, kinship support, babysitting classes, groups for teens, money coaching, tax preparation, referral to needed resources, crafts for kids. They have accepted the challenges of COVID and adapted these programs and services to continue to serve and support families and individuals. Drive through taxes, Zoom groups, socially distanced meet-ups in the park, video chats, meeting over the phone, film discussions via Zoom. The response to the challenges of COVID have always been how do we do this, never that we can’t do this.

I am grateful for the Board of The River Center. Steve, Laura, Mandy, Amy, Sue, Kristen, Paddy and Doug. They share their expertise, their wisdom, and take their responsibility for this organization seriously. They are supportive and engaged and a pleasure to work for and with. Thank you all for your committed volunteer work on behalf of staff, volunteers and participants of The River Center.

Grateful for YOU

I am grateful for the spring bulbs my husband planted this fall. I am grateful for my new granddaughter and look forward to the time when I will be able to hold her. I am grateful for internet service (!!). I am grateful for this community’s support of The River Center. Your financial support of The River Center enables us to support our community. Thank you!

Margaret Nelson, Executive Director, The River Center Family and Community Resource Center 924-6800

Challenging Times

Challenging Times

Love our community graffiti


I have to admit, I am feeling stretched and challenged. And I sense I am not alone. COVID. Back-to-school. Masks. Race. Remote learning. Social Distancing. Equity. Personal rights. CDC. White. Black. Vulnerable. Internet access.

It’s August. I long to be thinking about swimming and vacations and iced tea.

I hear parents asking what will school look like this fall for my children? Should we send them back in person? Should they ride the bus? What if we have no choice because of work and childcare issues? Can we really do remote learning? What about their need for playing with friends? What if our internet access is too unpredictable or nonexistent? I hear the questions and concerns voiced by parents. I see the work that the school districts have poured into figuring out plans for the students and staff. Each district handling it differently, carefully, thoughtfully. For many parents this is a difficult and stressful decision.

The issues of race, equity and inclusion are heartbreaking, longstanding, and need to be addressed. I had the privilege- yes, I said privilege- of being invited by the NH Endowment for Health to be part of an Equity Cohort last fall. This cohort, facilitated by NH Listens, consisted of 20+ white women leaders in family and early childhood development and education from all over New Hampshire. NH Listens facilitators led us through a thoughtful process of examining our own perspectives and biases, a window into other perspectives, and a challenge to effect change starting with ourselves and our organizations.

I have spent the last year reflecting on my world view and seeking to broaden this view. My world view is limited by my experience, education, geography, relationships, and race. My first step in broadening my view is to recognize that my own view is limited. It is, after all, my view. It is not your view. Once I realize that my own view is limited, I challenge myself to become more curious and to seek to find out how others experience the world.

How do I explore how others experience the world? I started by looking at some of the books on race offered by the New Hampshire Public Library app, Libby. (I just discovered this treasure this year- wow!). Even though I got really uncomfortable and felt bad in the middle of the book I determined to read it through to the end. I can’t broaden my perspective if I shut down the input.

In the cohort we were encouraged to continue the conversation about race. It is terrifying to a conflict adverse person such as myself. I almost assuredly will stick my foot in my mouth or offend someone. But I am determined to try.

And then there is COVID. It is still alive and well unfortunately. And we are all making personal decisions concerning how we carry on with our lives. To mask or not to mask. To gather or not to gather. COVID has left us judging our neighbors, fearful, tired.

I don’t have any answers to any of these issues: schools, race, COVID. But I have this to offer: The core values of The River Center Family and Community Resource Center are respect, connections, empathy, and excellence. We are here to support you, your family, your neighbors, our community to the best of our ability. Are you anxious about what this school year will look like for your children? You are not alone. We will be hosting a discussion for parents and caregivers in the next few weeks. Come. Are you a grandparent or relative caring for children? We can help you navigate resources. Have you lost your job or experienced reduced household income due to the effects of COVID? We can offer you individual money coaching to figure out this new financial reality and connect you to community resources.

Are you wondering whether The River Center is really for everyone in our community? Yes. The River Center is inclusive and welcoming to anyone. Are you a parent? Grandparent? Caregiver? The River Center offers individual and group support and parent education opportunities. Are you a community member in need of assistance or trying to help a neighbor? We can connect you with the services and resources you need. Are you looking for a way to give back to your community, to help your neighbors, to do something positive? The River Center has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities – from preparing tax returns to helping with our wood bank.

I am challenged by much of what 2020 has brought. But I am determined to judge less, smile more, and welcome you to connect with The River Center for support for you and your family. We are not alone.

Margaret Nelson

Executive Director

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center      

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