This is Us

Hartford HealthCare might be where we work, but when we asked you about where you find fun, relaxation or deeper meaning in your lives, we were astonished at the variety of hobbies and avocations you pursue in your spare time. Here are a few of those stories, and we’ll have more in upcoming issues of Moments. To share your hobby, email Susan McDonald.

Email Susan McDonald

Dr. George Skarvinko, Pediatrician, Integrated Care Partners

Abstract Painter

How long have you been painting?
My mother had a deep interest in art, and instilled that in me. I’ve been taking regular weekly painting classes for 15 years.

What inspires you as an artist?
I am inspired by the environment — the multitude of things around me. I gravitate to textures, colors, the ocean, shapes and found objects. Many of my works include materials I collect — beach treasures, cloth, bags and interesting textured items, like mesh produce containers.

What is your medium?
I work primarily in acrylic and plaster, but my art contains any combination of the materials I have on hand plus drywall compound.

What made you choose abstract art?
I am drawn by the idea that abstract art isn’t something that has been seen before. Land-scapes, portraits, still life — we see those things as they appear. But abstract art is one-of-a-kind.

How do your young patients relate to your artwork?
It is exciting to see them react to art. They don’t have the “adult experience” and their answers are always honest and revealing. Art is very important for brain development, and a young person’s interaction with art is always fun to witness.

How would you describe your artwork?
I would say it is uplifting. Each piece is a feeling on canvas.

—Brenda Kestenbaum

Photo by Rusty Kimball

Marianne Roth, Medical Assistant, Avon


How did you start knitting?
About 15 years ago, we moved to Connecticut from New Jersey and I had a tough time adjusting. What started as a new hobby changed my life.

How has your craft evolved?
From traveling hours to fiber festivals to finding new places to stash my yarn, knitting has really influenced my life. Five years ago, I started a small knitting group at church to make prayer shawls for nursing home patients. More than 200 shawls later, the eight members still donate pieces every few months. We also donate hats, scarves and mittens to a Hartford soup kitchen.

What do you like most about knitting?
Many studies call knitting therapeutic and I agree. Sitting down to knit was solace when I struggled with anxiety and depression. It allows me to focus on something from start to finish, slowing my heart and head. The concentration knitting takes to remember what row I’m on and what stitch I’m doing leaves little room for outside noise. Knitting is my meditation.

Why is donating these items important to you?
There have been times I feel there is little I can do when hardships arise for those I love. However, in knitting a shawl, I intentionally infuse each stitch with hope, warmth and compassion. There is nothing like receiving a homemade gift.

—Susan McDonald

Photo by Chris Rakoczy

Diane Novitch, Histotechnician, Hartford Hospital

Doll Collector

When did you start collecting dolls?
I started collecting in 1989 after seeing a book in the bookstore about Barbie’s 30th anniversary. In the book, I recognized dolls and outfits that I had as a child, which caused me to rummage through my closet and find a few of them. From there, I discovered doll shows and Ebay and sought to buy perfect, never-removed-from-box (NRFB) and mint-in-box (MIB) examples. Eventually, I started to attend several National Barbie Doll Collector’s Conventions. Today, not only do I collect Barbies, but also other offerings from the major toy manufacturers of the Baby Boomer era such as Ideal, American Character, Effanbee, Madame Alexander and Horsman.

Why do you collect?
My nostalgia for the 1960s and 1970s drives me to collect, plus I love beautiful objects in pristine condition.

What is your favorite(s) in the collection?
I can’t pinpoint one favorite, but I gravitate to Barbie’s modern cousin Francie and her sister Skipper.

How many do you have in all? All sizes?
By now, I estimate I have more than 1,000 dolls and also other toys, such as die-cast vehicles and pull-string Mattel talking toys. I have dolls in sizes up to 30 inches.

Where do you find them?
I find dolls mostly on Ebay and at conventions and other doll shows. Ruby Lane and Etsy are also good for finding items of interest.

How do you display them?
Unfortunately, I don’t have them displayed yet and they are packed away. I periodically enjoy admiring them.

—Susan McDonald

Photo by Chris Rakoczy