With a carbon positive house in The Maze, Peter and Pam Kane set the standard in Massachusetts for energy efficiency. They also open their doors to exchange students on a regular basis. Their story is our cover feature for the month of July.
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By Tom Leyden
Photo By: Rick Bern Photography
"I think it helps make the world a better place."
With that statement, ten words that seem so simple on the surface, Peter Kane encapsulated what motivates him, and his wife Pam, to live the way they do, make the choices they make and influence people in a manner that's life-changing.
Specifically, Peter was referencing why he and Pam are dedicated to hosting exchange students on a regular basis. This year, Pranali Pendhari from Mumbai, India enrolled as a junior at Westwood High School while living with the Kanes in a house that can only be described as extraordinary.
Extraordinary not because of its size or curb appeal, but due to the fact the Kane's home, tucked among hundreds of others in The Maze, is one of the most energy efficient homes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Read that again and let it sink in.
Peter and Pam have lived in a number of homes since moving to Westwood in 1980, each more efficient than the one before.
"It's my passion. I teach sustainability. I teach climate change. I teach natural resources," said Peter, who has taught at the Norfolk County Agricultural School for the last eight years, typically riding his bike back and forth to work each day. "I'm constantly thinking about it, and I don't think Pam quite shares that passion. But she goes along."
"It's not that bad," said Pam, a customer service representative at Haskell Insurance Agency.
"Occasionally I'm like, okay, we do enough. We don't have to worry about that. We can do this once in a while."
It's a playful banter as Pam and Peter sit around the kitchen table with Pranali and Lexi, the family dog, between them.
Peter worked as a mechanical engineer for 37 years before shifting his focus to education, earning a Master's Degree and starting a new journey in the classroom.
"I do think climate change is a huge issue that we've got to address," said Peter. "We're not exactly suffering in this house. It's a very comfortable house. We have an electric car, which we actually prefer, at least I do, over a gas car. It's not like we're sacrificing. I look around at houses that are being built and it's awful. They're so wasteful, and putting in fossil fuel-fired furnaces and hot water heaters. It's gotta stop. We have to stop burning fossil fuels."
Absorbing the passion in Peter's raspy voice, you understand why committing to "making the world a better place" is so ingrained in the Kane's DNA.
The house on Ellis Street, which they built in 2011, was constructed from the ground up to utilize the sun's energy, starting with the orientation. It faces south for optimum passive solar gain in winter and maximum output from the solar electric and solar hot water panels on the roof. Super insulation and triple glazed windows minimize heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. In the basement, there's a 320-gallon storage tank of water that ultimately provides radiant floor heat and hot water instead of a conventional oil or gas-fired space heating system and water heater.
It's not enough to say the Kane's home is net-zero. It's net-positive, including heat and hot water - a level not seen in many other homes across the United States. Not only do they never pay utility bills (gas, electric, heat, hot water), Eversource actually owes Peter and Pam $4000, a check they'll never receive, but a credit they could sell to other residents who utilize Eversource electricity.
"I think the best way to affect change is to educate kids," said Peter. "Hopefully, they'll influence their parents."
Both Pam and Peter are influenced by their children, and the many exchange students they've hosted over the years. Julia, their daughter, graduated from Westwood High School in 2009. She now lives in Oakland, CA working for Outward Bound and also as a freelance journalist. Julia was recently named one of the Top Ten Veterans in Journalism by the Military Veterans in Journalism organization.
Steven, who graduated from Westwood High in 2013, live in Los Angeles and is a Senior Motion Graphics Designer for Apple. The first few seconds of Rihanna's Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show featured Steven's motion graphic design.
Pranali is the sixth exchange student to live with the Kanes. A bright and engaging student, Pranali was identified by the Indian government as a "future leader of India" and hand-picked to spend a year in the United States as part of the AFS Intercultural Program. The cover shoot and interview for this story were two of the final things Pranali did in Westwood before returning to India in early June.
She had an action-packed 10 months.
"I was on the cheerleading team for fall and winter," said Pranali. "I joined school council and I joined a club called LTRE, 'Let's Talk About Race and Culture.' I was also in the chorus."
Pranali returned to Mumbai in June and will begin her pursuit of a career in hotel management this year.
"I enjoyed my time, and I definitely liked this house," said Pranali. "I'm so sad leaving. I don't want to go, really, but I have to. I have learned a lot about climate change from Dad, just sitting at the table talking about it. I've done a lot of projects for math class and physics class and he helped me with that."
You may have noticed how Pranali referred to Peter.
"She calls us 'Mom' and 'Dad,'" said Pam. "Most of our exchange students call us Pam and Pete, but she wanted to call us 'Mom' and "Dad.' That's what she was comfortable with. That's fine. Now we're used to it."
The Kane's willingness to open their home extends far beyond what they do with exchange students. Every year, Peter welcomes his students from Norfolk Aggie to the home to give them a tutorial on how he built such an energy efficient domain. They get an up-close look at all the features that contribute to the home's energy efficiency.
The biggest laugh we had while chatting around the table was when I asked Pete what his students thought of the tour.
"They like the dog and they like the chocolate chip cookies Pam cooks," he said as we all erupted in laughter. "A few kids... a couple kids will say, 'This is a cool house,' but I don't they truly appreciate the the energy aspects because they don't pay the electric bills."
Well... neither do the Kanes. They just go about their lives trying to make the world a better place, in more ways than one.
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Learn more about the people and businesses in Westwood as Tom Leyden hosts a series of one-on-one conversations.
By Tom Leyden
The sun is out and a light breeze is blowing as we walk the neighborhood, warming up for a one-on-one training session while chatting about life, business and the opportunity for growth. Rachel Milbury is a busy woman – trainer, realtor, behavioral therapist, Mom. Putting the pieces of this complicated puzzle together keeps Rachel active and engaged, two characteristics that appropriately describe her personality.
Rachel, a Westwood resident since 2013, is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach and creator of “The Milbury Method,” a comprehensive approach to health and wellness that combines vital components of exercise, diet and behavior to transform a person’s mindset and physical fitness.
“I would say I got started because of my own experience of getting overweight and learning how to lose weight,” said Rachel. “That’s my expertise. I learned how to count my calories, consider portion sizes and exercise efficiently in order to lose weight. I personally lost 40 pounds back in college. After I had children, I started CrossFit and that’s really where I found my passion and got into really good shape. I started coaching CrossFit and then I had people looking for individual coaching. That’s when I started doing personal training and created ‘The Milbury Method.’”
Since May, I’ve been working with Rachel to tone up, being more conscious about what I eat and striving to create a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle. Her approach is comprehensive and customized to each client she works with. During workouts, Rachel is calm and assertive, challenging you to push your physical limits. As you cool down, she goes over a checklist of what you ate in the last week and what adjustments you made to your diet, with tips on how to sharpen your focus moving forward.
“You have to start with the basics and teach people how to cut out certain things,” said Rachel. “I don't like to say cut out all sweets or all sugar or all carbs ever - everything is in moderation. But making small changes to your diet and nutrition is smart. People become more aware of what kind of things you shouldn't be doing. Maybe cut out a couple beers each week, try to cut down on those things and try to cut out some of the candy and sweets. As you get more comfortable with that, maybe you want to go up a level and want to start getting specific about how many grams of protein you're eating each day. Maybe eventually you'll want to weigh it and measure it and log it, but maybe not. Sometimes the basics are good enough for some people. Others want more intense coaching and get very specific with their nutrition. I just do my best to try to encourage.”
When Rachel is not working with fitness and nutrition clients, she’s helping people buy and sell homes as a Realtor.
“I started working with Berkshire Hathaway back in January,” said Rachel. “I found they provided a lot of training, education and support. We meet usually once or twice a week and get all the market updates. I have to market myself, which is something I'm not super comfortable with - putting myself out there and making real estate videos and things like that, so that’s on the horizon, but I’m just working on building up my community and contact list and getting myself out there as much as I can.”
The crossover is natural between the personal connections Rachel makes through fitness training and the personal connections so important to success in real estate.
Rachel’s three children, Dawson, Delaney and Rylan, range in age from 12-16, which keeps her constantly on her toes and in her car. Many of us can relate. She also regularly works with a neurodiverse child as a behavioral therapist.
“I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work,” said Rachel. “I’m working with a five-year-old, helping him learn how to communicate better, how to get along socially, how to do academic things like counting. He’s amazing and it’s really fun and rewarding.”
When you look at Rachel’s ad in Westwood Living, you get an understanding of her approach to life – finding balance and investing in yourself to be a better person.
“My strength is working with people, giving one-on-one individualized attention and consultations,” said Rachel. “I love the real estate field right now, helping people find the right house or sell their own house and giving solid, individualized attention to them. It starts with relationships.”
Listen to my full conversation with Rachel by visiting the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon and YouTube.
Rachel with her three children, Rylan, Dawson and Delaney.
By Tom Leyden
Erica Resha is a 2005 graduate of Westwood High School and the owner of Fitish Activewear. She and I had the opportunity to catch up at The Muffin House.
Take me back to growing up here - What it was like going through the school system, what you remember about being a kid in Westwood?
So, I just remember begging my parents to drop me off at Chili's and then going to the movies. That was my big memory - and now that is Legacy Place, so things have definitely changed. We grew up over by Bubbling Brook. Really, really fun. I have two siblings. We grew up there with my parents - then Thurston Middle School, Westwood High School. I was part of the group that went undefeated for a while for girls basketball. I played basketball, ran cross country. I graduated from Westwood and then went to BC, so stayed local most of my life.
Take me, if you would, to the moment where you said, 'You know, I'm into fashion, and I'm into clothing and I'm into trying to make a living in that world.'
So it's actually pretty crazy. I was pre-law at Boston College. I wanted to be a lawyer - loved to read. I have a dorky side for sure. Then the economy crashed and law school applications went up 250%. The Wall Street Journal released an article in 2009, the year I was leaving BC, reporting 90% of college grads were graduating unemployed. So everyone was going to school because they couldn't get a job. I had worked for my dad in his home decor, home linens, curtains, blankets, pillows, business all throughout college, so I got an interview with a company in fashion and I went there. Then, I started a food blog.
While I was spontaneously cooking, teaching, educating there I was working with a gym on a “Healthy meals that still taste good,” type of spin.
The more fit I got, the more people had something to say about what I ate. Like, “You don't eat the doughnut you post. You don’t eat that pasta dish.” So, I said everything, in moderation, is very real for me. Balance is the point of the company that I started and that's how it started. Fitish was kind of born out of that.
Fitish Activewear has really taken Instagram by storm. You hit it at just the right time. How has that basically defined the way you do business?
Yeah, it's everything. It is the way to do it. I have an Etsy shop and I can see that 92% of my sales through Etsy are driven through Instagram - they give you that fact. It is my end-all be-all. I do a lot of markets and Pop-Ups and of course that's amazing, but you're in front of people. The merchandise can sell itself, but I think Instagram is it for me and I'm the older end of that, right? So now it's TikTok.
Are you finding that you are going to shift more to TikTok or is that just going to augment what you're already doing successfully on Instagram?
Well, if anyone from Westwood wants to be a summer intern, they can come run my TikTok because it is hard to learn it.
So I've watched the growth of Fitish since you basically started, I think. From my estimation - correct me if I'm wrong – you started with clothing, but there was a moment where you're like, “Wow, jewelry would work.” You took that turn into jewelry and how did that change your business model?
It changed everything. You’re right, when I launched it was 100% clothing - activewear with cute quotes like, “We prefer Donuts Over Dumbbells or Pizza Over Pilates.” Things like that. Then I would go to the gym and see people’s necks would be green or I’d see tarnished jewelry, so I felt I could fit a need. We launched about a year and a half ago, waterproof jewelry – sweat-proof, tarnish free, hypoallergenic. It exploded. I mean, it really is what put us on the map. I would say now it’s 60/40 jewelry.
Isn't it also hard to balance what is inherently a desire for you to have great customer service, and a personal touch? As you get more and more sales, how do you keep up with that?
I always joke that I'm team no sleep. It's difficult.
Yeah. You can't sleep, right?
A perfect example - I landed from Los Angeles last night at 6pm and I had about 10 orders to pack as soon as I got home, so it's hard. It's definitely hard, but I think I'm willing to do hard for something that I love.
So, advice that you might give to kids who are following your footsteps? Kids who live in Westwood now who are in high school, who feel the pressure? This town is lovely, but there is a lot of pressure associated with it. You know, the whole “Perfect Westwood,” everyone goes to college - that's not necessarily the case. What sort of advice do you give to kids based on what you've learned?
Well, I think one of the things I don't share often, which people who hear this say, “You definitely should.” I started Fitish with $500.
My parents, one year for Christmas gave us $500- go buy what you want, right? I said, “I'm going to start a company. I'm going to see what I can do with $500.”
I started with a mug and it said the word Fitish. It said the definition was “Likes to work out, but prefers donuts over dumbbells.” I sold a couple, some of them shattered when I shipped them. You learn fast, right? I sold them and then I bought a few shirts with the same definitions. And then I bought a few things that didn't say cute things. I bought true activewear that I want to wear when I work out - so think Lululemon quality, but affordable prices. It just kept going and then it funded itself.
So the thing I would say is, “You have enough!” Whatever you have is enough to start. And if you have an idea, keep it close to your chest. When I launched jewelry, I told no one. You have an idea and there's a reason you have it. Don't get me wrong - you have to do your research. I've done a ton of research. I've made a ton of mistakes. You have enough doubt for 10 people, so as soon as you start telling people and they poke holes, it becomes bigger. Your doubt becomes bigger than your idea.
So when are we going to see a Pop-Up here?
I know – a hometown Pop-Up. Actually, someone asked me to collaborate with them for Westwood Day, so we might be here in the near future.
For more, listen to my conversation with Erica on the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon and YouTube.
The Westwood 16U Select Softball Team unleashed a barrage of offense, spraying 72 hits around the field over the course of six games en route to winning the Battle N' The Burg championship in Fitchburg, MA. Westwood put the finishing touches on a dominant weekend with a 12-1 win over the North County Spark in Sunday's final.
Addy Keaveney was the tone-setter on the mound and at the plate for Westwood throughout the tournament, striking out 29 batters in 18 innings while pounding 11 hits in 18 at-bats, including three doubles, three triples and two home runs. Keaveney scored more runs, individually (13), than Westwood allowed all weekend as a team (11).
The hitting was contagious and spread throughout the Westwood lineup. Every player on the roster compiled video-game numbers, with the team batting .542 after being one-hit in a weekend-opening loss in pool play.
Mary Stronach was equally effective both pitching and hitting, striking out 19 batters in 14 innings while raking 10 hits across six games at the plate. Alaina Martin caught five games in the intense heat and consistently delivered, erasing runners on the bases and knocking in five runs on seven hits.
Amelia O'Neill, Dahlia Leyden, Kate McLeish, Sasha Marino, Abby Johnson, Livy Leyden, Mia Poles and Jordan Sabatino all contributed offensively throughout the weekend, and the entire lineup got hits in the championship game.
Highlights included Poles coming up big on her birthday with four hits and an outstanding throw out from left field, Marino pounding two doubles and driving in three runs in the final, Livy Leyden ending the semifinal with a run-scoring double and Dahlia Leyden ending the final by fielding a hot shot to first base. Johnson and Sabatino were flawless in the field.
Of note, after the outstanding weekend in Fitchburg, this group of players improved to 58-25 dating back to 2020.
By Tom Leyden
Not every topic we discuss, or task we tackle in life is fun and entertaining. Some of the most vital decisions we make require focus, serious attention, and strategic thought. When we travel out of our comfort zone, it's vital to feel safe by surrounding ourselves with a team of experts who know the answers, are trained to teach, and are dedicated to serving you with care. Tiffany O'Connell and her team at the O'Connell Law certainly qualify in each of those categories.
Planning your estate should be at the top of your list, but if you haven't done so yet, you're not alone. In her book, "Do You Have A Plan? How to Avoid Leaving a Mess," Tiffany details her top observation from more than three decades of working in this complex field.
"I've observed that people fear having the necessary conversations that deal with illness, incapacity or death, delaying or never dealing with them," she writes. "I've seen it happen too often that because a person did not meet with me in time, a mess was left for their loved ones to deal with. I genuinely feel that the person would not have wanted to leave such chaos, yet a nightmare was left to deal with because of their inaction."
After graduating from Boston College, Tiffany pursued her J.D. from the New England School of Law, graduating in 1994. She is considered to be among the top Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys in New England and frequently lectures on the topic of Alzheimer's and dementia as well as Trusts and Estates. Her attention to detail sets her apart, and so does her sense of humor.
The O'Connell Law's marketing campaign humanizes the topic of estate planning, connecting sentiment with emotion and reason, painting a picture of what "could be" based on the decisions you make (or don't make) today. The tongue-in-cheek approach is intentional because breaking that barrier of fear is critical as she and her team open the eyes of potential clients.
"It's not just a Will and or a Trust," said Tiffany. "It's also having a Power of Attorney in place so that if someone needs to handle financial stuff in your name, someone can do it when it's needed. And what about health decisions? So many people think, 'Oh, an estate plan is just for when I've died.' No, an estate plan is also for when you're living, for when you just can't take care of things, whether it's the financial, Power of Attorney or Trust, or health decisions, which in Massachusetts, we call a healthcare proxy. So those documents are crucial, not just for you, but for your loved ones."
What draws someone to a career in Estate Planning and Elder Law? Tiffany's path to this complex field was paved during her time in the U.S. Army, serving as a Reserve in the JAG Corps.
"I always tell people I was mightier with the pen than the sword, but it was really, truly my honor," said Tiffany of her time in the military. "I never served overseas, but I did serve a two-year period of active duty in Washington DC. My role was to represent disabled soldiers as they were going through the disability process at the Walter Reed Hospital. It was such an honorable position, at times a very sad position, but it was just so wonderful trying to help these soldiers. It was through that experience that I found out I loved estate planning because talking with the soldiers and realizing, oh my gosh, this is about people, this is about values, this is about helping people, that I realized estate planning was for me."
The sense of order gleaned from Tiffany's time in D.C. has translated into the way O'Connell Law functions each day. The staff's efficiency is apparent in every communication, along with attention to detail.
Cathy, a client who has worked with the O'Connell Law team, said, "The entire staff --support, legal assistants, attorneys-- is personable, supportive, and efficient. They were welcoming, caring, knowledgeable, and professional, providing excellent guidance and expertise. The process and fees were explained to me in advance, so I knew what to expect. Calls and meetings were scheduled in a timely manner with a quick turnaround on replying to emails and answering questions. I couldn't be happier being their client and look forward to a long relationship with them!"
Listen to my full conversation with Tiffany by visiting the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon, and YouTube. Learn more at oconnelllawgroup.com
By Derek Field
Field Martial Arts Academy
Hello everyone! Spring is in the air, and with it comes warmer weather, greener trees, and a new round of spring sports! Whether this is a child’s first attempt at whichever activity they choose, or if they are a “veteran” of the sport at hand, there is bound to be a time when your child experiences the desire to quit. Why does this happen, and what can we possibly do about it?
First of all, quitting can be a good thing. Whether it's baseball, soccer, dance, or martial arts, if a child truly does not want to continue with their sport of choice, or if it is negatively impacting their health or grades, it is a sign of strength to speak up and express their feelings.
However, more often than not the desire to quit comes from experiencing some type of difficulty, stress, or failure all of which are vitally important parts of the learning process. If a child gives in to the urge to quit, it can become easier and easier to quit and soon the desire to give up will appear anytime there is some type of difficulty.
So when our kid says “I quit," what do we do? Lets understand some reasons why kids want to quit:
- They are not progressing as quickly as they want to, or perhaps not at all
- The feeling of disappointing teammates or coaches
- The perception that they are not good at it, especially in comparison to others
- Their best efforts are still not getting them to where they want to be
- A friend quit, so they want to as well
- They have experienced some kind of defeat (lost a game, fell during a routine, failed a belt test, etc.)
How can we help our children avoid or deal with this feeling, even when it feels like their mind is made up and they want out? Well, the earlier you can communicate to them the potential challenges they will face, the better…especially if it is before any commitments are made. Help them understand what they need to do to break through the learning curve, and manage their expectations. We don’t want to dissuade them from trying, but it is wise let them know what difficulties lie ahead. We also want to make sure they understand that even though some difficulty is almost guaranteed, it is not impossible to overcome!
As a parent, it is important to remember that we must remain empathetic to our child when they hit this point. Avoid showing frustration, and instead try to get to the root of the issue.
Some questions that could give some insight are: “You were really excited to do this at first, what changed?”, “Are you disappointed with how you are doing?”, “Is someone hurting you, physically or emotionally?”, and “Would you like to play the same sport/activity, but on a different team/somewhere else?”
In martial arts, we talk about the importance of perseverance all the time. Not giving up in the face of difficulty is a core tenet that we believe is critical to install in all of us, and especially in our kids. I have seen many students get to the point of wanting to quit, and do just that. I have also had many break through that point, and go on to be their best! If you feel like your child does indeed need to stick by their sport, remind them of the commitment made by them and you (buying equipment, signing up for a season/term, etc) and that they at least have to finish what they signed up for. If after they still want to quit or do something else, they at least fulfilled their commitment.
If we, as parents and coaches, can show empathy and belief in our children, and help guide them through challenges, difficulties, and defeats, we are setting them up for future success. They will have learned that if they want to achieve something, as difficult as it may be, quitting is not how to reach that goal. Work hard, and come out smiling on the other side!
Until next time.
Learn more about Derek Field and Field Martial Arts by listening to our full conversation on the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher and YouTube
By Tom Leyden
Jackie MacMullan is a Hall of Fame sports journalist who retired in 2021 after more than 40 years covering sports, representing The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and ESPN over the course of her career. Jackie graduated from Westwood High School in 1978. I chatted with her to reflect on her time in Westwood and how it molded her life and career.
What are your memories of growing up here in Westwood?
My best friends in the world are from Westwood. I have eight women I'm still friends with, we're called the "YaYas." I'm 62 years old and I travel the world with them. They're my oldest and best friends. Westwood is really important to me. It was a great place to grow up. We had a great neighborhood. I grew up on Stanford Drive - played street hockey every day with all the boys in the neighborhood. I was in the marching band, so I used to march in the parade right down High Street.
Take me back to the days when you were in high school because you were a bit of a stand-out athlete.
I wouldn't call myself a standout. I was afraid to try out for the basketball team. I showed up for tryouts my freshman year, I looked in the door, lost my nerve and said, "I'll do it next year." Then my sophomore year, I was on the varsity field hockey team. I was a track athlete. I looked in the door again and I just didn't have the courage to do it, but I liked to be around Kathy Delaney-Smith because I thought she was such a powerful, independent woman that was getting things done. I was very drawn to her and I remember sitting in her office and listening.
She said, "I went down to the junior high today. I saw your sister, Suzie, play. At least I'll get one MacMullan to play for me."
I'm a junior in high school at this point. I said, "Oh, well I'll play."
Then she looked at me with this horrified look on her face and I said, "Oh, it's too late. It's too late."
She had no idea that I wanted to play. She didn't know. So she said, "Well, just come to the gym. Come just before school."
She worked with me so that I could make the team. I really had never played. So I was on the JV as a junior, but once I started playing, I didn't stop playing until I had neck surgery later in life. She moved me up to the varsity for the state tournament and I actually played a lot in the state tournament that year. And then my senior year, we went to the state championship and lost by a point at the buzzer. Oh - and then the next year, my sister's team won it all.
No kidding. Do you remember who you lost to?
Of course I do. Drury. 42-41. I missed the last shot - a turnaround jump shot, rolled halfway down and out. Got the rebound, thought I was gonna go to the line to win it, and they called me for an offensive foul. I remember it very well.
Oh, I can imagine why you would. But it was clear in what I read about you, that you had the bug early to shift your focus to the journalistic side and the writing side. Where did you catch that bug?
My parents were voracious readers. My dad loved newspapers. He was a New York City native. He was a traveling salesman. So he'd come home from his travels and I'd read the New York Post and the New York Daily News and the Boston Herald. There were a lot of newspapers in our house. My dad loved sports. but he had a rule in our house. You couldn't read the sports section until you read the rest of the paper first. That was my dad's rule. It was a good rule. So I was curious about newspapers. I was interested in them.
When I was in high school, the girls teams were amazing. I wasn't even playing at this point. I hadn't even tried out yet, but everybody was great and every time I picked up The Daily Transcript, I don't even know if that exists anymore, they were always writing about the boys. So I was like, "What is this about?
I was really annoyed by it and my dad said, "Well, all you do is complain about it. Why don't you do something about it?"
So he stood right next to me and I called Mr. Wall, the sports editor and I said, "I just wonder why you don't cover the girls?"
He said, "Oh, I, I don't have anybody. It's just me. You want to do it?"
I said, "Well, I'm 15, you know?"
He said, "If it stinks, I won't print it."
So I had a sports column in high school. I wrote for The Daily Transcript. Sometimes I was writing about my field hockey team and if I had a goal, I wondered if I was supposed to put in there that I had a goal? It was kind of weird, you know, but I only wrote about girls. I would not write about the boys, only the girls. I only wrote about the girls. One of my friends, her name was Sandy Friedl, she was a swimmer and she broke two school records for boys and for girls.She was amazing. So I wrote about her. It was a lot of fun.
Well, times have changed. And you've been such a major part of that change, not just locally, but nationally. I don't even know if you could encapsulate it or summarize it in a short amount of time because so much has changed, but I guess what are you most proud of that has changed in the many years since you embarked on your career?
Well, I think now when a woman walks in to cover an athletic event and nobody really even blinks. For many, many years I would cover colleges and then later, I got to do the pros. Nine times out of 10, I was the only woman there. I was very fortunate. There was another young woman who was my age who's now old like me, Karen Guregian from the Boston Herald. She's fantastic - a terrific reporter, terrific person, but she was a hockey writer and I was more of a basketball writer, although we would both be there for the Red Sox World Series games and we'd both be there for the Patriots' Super Bowls. I always enjoyed that because, I suppose technically Karen and I were competitors, but we were great friends and she was a great support to me. I hope I was the same to her, but we were the exception, not the rule. The last 20, or I would even say 25 years of my career, I was never the only woman, but in the beginning I was always the only woman and it's lonely and it's intimidating and it's difficult.
You just referenced your retirement. I'm not alone in wondering what you are doing. What's keeping you busy?
Yeah, I have so much fun. We moved to the New Hampshire Sea Coast, so I put my kayak on these little wheels and I go across the street and I get out in the ocean and sea kayak a little bit. I took up pickleball just long enough to wreck my back. We've got a great garden out back. We live behind a marsh, so I've become a complete bird nerd. It's really fun to learn about all the birds and we do a ton of traveling because our daughter lives in Colorado and our son's in New York City, so we spend a lot of time hanging out with them, which is really fun.
I go to the library every week, and my only homework for myself is to read one book a week. To be honest, it's easy. I've been waiting years to have the time to relax and read. So I've really, really enjoyed it. I'm reading all the Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction novels from current all the way back. Then when I'm done with that, I'll do the same thing with the non-fiction. So it's fun.
Last one... you referenced your experience growing up in Westwood, but what's your understanding of what Westwood is now, after all of the years since you made it your home?
I don't go there very often. I have a couple of friends that live there. One of my "YaYas" still lives there. I purposely don't go by my old house because I did that once and they had made some changes. They had cut down my dad's dogwood tree and that upset me, so why put myself through that? But I'm very proud to be from there. It's a place that very much shaped my life. There's no question about it. Some of my biggest disappointments were there. Some of my greatest successes were there. And certainly the relationships that I fostered there are lifelong ones. It's a lifelong commitment, this Westwood thing.
Jackie wrote for The Daily Transcript when she was a student at Westwood High School
By Tom Leyden
Sitting across from PJ Vande Rydt and Bill Crabtree, I immediately felt an energy and excitement for what they do each day. Both men are born coaches, dedicated to improving the skills and improving the lives of the student-athletes they work with every day. The fact two Westwood guys have built a football program that's churning out successful college players on a regular basis is remarkable. The resume speaks for itself.
Just last season, four players who went through the Mass Elite program played in the College Football Playoff. Zak Zinter and Greg Crippen were two anchors on the Michigan offensive line, while Kalel Mullings made a series of big plays in the Wolverines win over Ohio State in November. Meanwhile, Xavier Truss has continued to enjoy success at Georgia and played a significant role in the Bulldogs back to back national championships.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had that part planned," said Crabtree through a big smile and laugh. "PJ and I knew that was gonna happen, we planned that up. Remember that PJ?"
Getting serious for a moment, Vande Rydt recalled, "That clinic when we saw Zac for the first time, we looked at each other and saw his footwork and was like, 'Oh my God, I've never seen anyone with footwork at that level before,' you know? He ended up going to BB&N, received numerous offers, and there he is today at Michigan. a potential first round draft pick. Billy's been the catalyst behind that lineman clinic, and it's grown every single year."
Crabtree coached at Westwood High School from 1983-89, while Vande Rydt was head coach of the Westwood middle school program from from 2008-2015 before taking over as head coach of Xaverian's middle school program seven years ago.
With Mass Elite's success has come growth. When young players and their parents see an established track record, it's no surprise the Mass Elite clinics fill up fast. Not only do you learn, but you're seen by the most influential eyeballs in high school and college football.
"When we first started we had one camp, and this year, we'll have 11 camps," said Vande Rydt. "Our big one is in June - it's a three day camp. That's our oldest one. We do have public high school coaches with us coaching, but it's mostly private school coaches. It's definitely unique because we have more than 30 high school head coaches, so it's not only a great technique and fundamental camp, it's also a recruiting clinic for some of these kids.
"And I know some of the public school coaches probably won't like me saying that, but these kids are going to find their way regardless, right? We just give them a tool. We've had great success with that over the years."
"When we started this, we didn't plan it to be what it has turned into," said Crabtree. "We're about technique and fundamentals, but we have become a bit of a pathway to the private schools such as BB&N and St. Sebastian's, Milton Academy, Xaverian, Dexter. Although we don't push it, if players want our help and advice or to do recommendations or connect them with a coach, we do that. We do a lot more than bring kids in for a three-hour clinic. We're still in touch with all of our kids, so it's a lot more than just the football."
Before the clinics became such a success, PJ and Bill raised the bar by forming an All-Star team of middle schoolers to represent Massachusetts on the national stage. The first team, led by former Purdue quarterback Austin Burton, finished fourth in the country at the FBU National Championship in San Antonio. That success opened eyes around the US, with scouts and college coaches paying more attention to what's happening in Massachusetts.
"Our former players, like Preston Zinter, who has enrolled early at Notre Dame to play football, always like to come back and be part of the camps," said Vande Rydt. "When he comes home, he talks to the kids So they love coming back. It's great for them. They want to give back what they had when they were younger."
As the tree of success grows, the branches reach further and further, but the essence of Mass Elite's mission remains the same. Stick to the fundamentals. Network. Empower. Encourage.
You can learn more about Mass Elite Football by listening to our conversation on the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon and YouTube. Visit www.masselitefootball.com for all the information you need to sign up for one of their clinics, including the three-day camp at Xaverian scheduled for June 23-25.
By Tom Leyden
When you know, you know. The first time I met Mike Tinsley, I just knew he was a "people person." Mike, along with his wife, Bianca, introduced themselves to me at the Westwood Living Fall Social at Casa Loca Cantina and we immediately bonded. I could tell right away Mike and Bianca were sincere and thoughtful and truly interested in meeting people from their hometown of Westwood.
Just a few days later, Mike and I met at the library and he signed on as the presenting sponsor of the "Tinsley Team Standout Student of the Month" program, focused on recognizing students from Westwood who have achieved great things. The fact Mike hopped on that opportunity spoke to his commitment to Westwood, to families and to enriching our community by investing in something positive and empowering.
Each month, Mike honors the students on his own website, liveinwestwood.com.
"I'm excited to be a sponsor," said Mike. "It's a great way for me to get initiated into the community a little bit, get my face out there, get my name out there and we're happy to be that sponsor."
While The Tinsley Team has a great ring to it, Mike's individual group is one cog in a wheel. Along with his partner, Nick Reynolds, Mike is a managing partner of Longwood Residential.
"That's the overarching brokerage office," said Mike about Longwood. "We've been open since 2011 doing business, helping people buy and sell all around Greater Boston. I've got the Tinsley Team, he's got the Reynolds Group. Nick lives in Medford. He focuses more on the north side of the city, but The Tinsley Team, we focus more towards this side of the city."
Westwood residents for almost three years, Mike and Bianca work together and like many, moved here with the public school system in mind.
"Prior to this, we lived in Dedham, not far, so we were always familiar with the general area," said Mike. "I have a business partner who lives in Westwood. He's a huge cheerleader for the town, and he was always telling me all the great things that go on here. My son was approaching school-age, and we had that in mind as we were house-hunting. This was a perfect fit and we've enjoyed it so far, it's been good."
The real estate market has been interesting to watch over the last 18 months. Limited inventory has at times put a stranglehold on property movement and interest rates have risen, but Mike has learned a great deal about patience and perspective over the course of his career.
"When the interest rates go up, yes, it's kind of a bummer because your monthly payment on whatever you end up buying is going to be a little bit higher, but it means decreased competition," he said. "This is something that, for the past few years, everyone's been complaining about. You probably know, the last few years have been marked by really competitive situations, things going over asking price, multiple offers. Well, now that the interest rates have ticked up, it's not as bad as it was a year and a half ago.
"So for an investor, the idea is you're gonna pay a little bit more for a multi-family that you've purchased because of the increased interest rate, but you're competing against less buyers. You might actually have a chance to land a great property that otherwise you wouldn't have been able to land. Rents are very high around the city, so you're gonna be collecting good rents in whatever property you buy, and then, of course, interest rates go up and down. So you land a great property, maybe interest rates drop later this year, maybe they drop next year, you refinance. Now you've got the best of both worlds."
The way Mike talks about real estate is the way a coach talks about his or her sport. You can tell in a coach's tone and tenor how knowledgeable he or she is about the profession. It's a confidence that makes his clients feel at ease.
"He is so professional, down-to-earth and trustworthy," said Westwood resident Liah Malley. "We felt immediately comfortable with him and confident that he would guide us through the home-buying process with patience, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. He certainly surpassed all of our expectations and found us our dream home."
As we sat around Mike's kitchen table, we finished our conversation by talking about some key lessons Mike might want to pass on to people who don't follow the real estate market as closely as he does.
"I think people can kind of overthink and try to "time" the market," said Mike. "Listen, you're never gonna time the market perfectly. No one at the end of the day really knows. So more than that, I always encourage people, whatever makes sense for your situation. Let's talk about your budget. What can you afford comfortably? What town makes sense for your situation? What size home makes sense for your situation? Do you need a fence because you have a dog? Do you need to be close to the train station because you need to get to work every day in Back Bay? Whatever it is, let's focus on what makes sense for your situation and let's make that happen. The timing, it is what it is."
Good advice from a guy who will tell you what's what with confidence and a friendly delivery.
Listen to more of my conversation with Mike on the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Sticher, Spotify, Amazon and YouTube. Contact Mike by calling 508-769-2544.
Mike and Bianca Tinsley with their children, Conrad, Dorothy and Josephine
By Tom Leyden
Dining at Casa Loca Cantina can best be described as a sensory experience. When you walk through the door, you see the smiles on the staff as you're greeted by a high-energy soundtrack. As you wait for a table or maybe for your drink at the bar, you soak in the scents of Mexican cuisine, a sizzling fajita goes by on its way to a table, the smell of enchiladas with rice and beans wafts through the air.
If you're like me, you eagerly await a margarita, Raspberry in my case, and when you get it, the taste is perfect, and there's a reason for that.
"Margaritas, of course, are the staple and we do it a little uniquely," said Brittany Tucker, the Regional General Manager for Wellesley Restaurant Group who runs the day-to-day operations at Casa Loca
"Our standard margaritas that are on the menu are draft margaritas. We batch those daily, fresh, we make our sours mix from scratch. We then add the liquors to it, mix it, and it goes into our draft system so that every margarita is poured exactly the same in the exact same proportions every single time. The consistency and the quality are fantastic. People who haven't experienced it before can be a little skeptical, and then they taste them and they say, 'Oh my gosh, this is fantastic.' I was here last week and I'll be here next week and it will taste exactly the same, which is the key to it."
The key to Casa Loca's success has been a commitment to quality and freshness.
"We don't have a microwave on the line. We don't do that," said Tucker.
Instead, the focus is on fresh.
"Our guacamole is sensational," said Tucker. "People rave about it. You can taste the freshness in a guacamole when it's made that way, right from the avocados. We're a fusion restaurant, right? We are Mexican-inspired and we definitely have some traditional dishes, but some of the items we do with our own flair. Street corn, in a lot of Mexican restaurants, is served on the cob. Ours is off the cob and it's made as a saute with cotija cheese. Insane. It's rich and flavorful and filling."
A key to any restaurant's success is becoming involved with the community, and Casa Loca has done that since opening on University Avenue. Not only did Casa Loca host the first-ever Westwood Living Social in October, the team has also supported many local charities and fundraisers as a way of giving back to residents.
"We're always happy to partner with anybody in the community because we want to be a part of the community and have a reputation of being involved and not just a restaurant that happens to be in Westwood," said Tucker. "We want to be a Westwood restaurant."
Back to the sensory experience. We've covered what you see and what you hear, what you smell and what you taste, but only one thing completes the sensory cycle - that's the opportunity to feel your food, which is unique to Mexican cuisine like Tacos and Fajitas.
Taco Tuesdays are a hit because you are able to order tacos a la carte - as many as you like.
"It's a good time. The music is fun. The vibe is nice. It's a great after work spot, and especially on a Taco Tuesday," said Tucker.
Hear more of my conversation with Brittany on the Westwood Living Podcast Network, available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon and YouTube.