The pandemic is not over (I have pretty strong views on that, which most people don't want to hear, so I've made it a separate topic that you can ignore, see right column). However, the bank account is empty so I'm back to cleaning houses, with my N95 on. And I enjoy it a lot, actually. I now assist about 6 families (and my father) with cleaning, organizing and downsizing. I named my personal assistance business "Help in a Handbasket." This summer, I hope to re-open my alternative healing practice, Inner Fire Works, which I had to give up when we left Europe. Remodeling has been slow going, but I do have a space now for working with essential oils, flower remedies, energy healing, and so forth. May omicron pass swiftly. (Yes, the website needs a translation into English).
My volunteer activities are focused around the wonderful community of Brooktondale, NY. I am a member of the board of the Brooktondale Community Center (as my mother and my father both were, before me). I write and edit the monthly Old Mill newsletter, which appears in both paper and digital format. I am an admin for the local listserv, and serve on the board of the local Brookton Cemetery. In 2021, I became co-manager of the Brooktondale Farmers Market (and drafted Paulus to be the Grill Master) and although it was a lot of work, Saturdays at the Farmers Market were some of my best memories of the year. This coming summer, I am organizing both the Farmers Market and a summer concert series with local musicians playing under the new pavilions at the Brooktondale Community Center.
The BCC programming committee was featured in a recent article in Tompkins Weekly.
Brooktondale and Caroline are going through some tough times right now. It makes my heart ache. In a nutshell, families that have been in this area for hundreds of years are facing an economy that is very hard on farmers. They are angry and feel like the Town government is not supporting them, especially now that the Town is looking at passing some kind of Zoning regulation. Families that are "newcomers" to the area (like my family, only here for 60 years or so) think that maybe some land use planning would be smart, so that dumps and BitCoin mines and other undesirable enterprises don't move into this area and spoil it. We newcomers don't know much about farms or farming, or why the mere mention of Zoning makes farmers see red... and generally we are intimidated by all the NO ZONING signs and the angry demonstrations.
Net result? Angry farmers are yelling at the Town Board, but the Town Board was elected by the town residents who are majority Democratic and pro-environment. I am confident that no one with a NO ZONING agenda will win any Town election in the coming years. So the only way the farming community is going to get its needs met is through dialogue, but it's hard to have dialogue when No-Zoners are angry and the newcomers and Zoning-Curious are hiding in their homes. If we could just have a bit of dialogue, I think we could work out our differences quite easily. No one wants to see our Town become a suburb of Ithaca or a weekend luxury destination for the super-rich from New York City. I think the newcomers would be happy to find ways to support farmers so they can survive and thrive. But it begins with talking, and listening, and assuming positive intent, and being kind. I'm trying to do my part by joining the new Caroline Agriculture Committee and by writing about what I learn under "Being Kind."
I have a particular passion for the environment and green energy. I followed the training to become an Energy Navigator for the county, and then accepted a local position as the coordinator of Brighten Up Caroline. My task (which was thrown into disarray by the pandemic) was to arrange for every household in the Town of Caroline to receive up to 12 free LED lightbulbs and a guidebook for how to make their homes more green. That project ended in 2021 (not as gracefully as I would have liked, but it ended). Closer to home, I am enjoying my garden. I did my first home canning last year, in my own dream kitchen, where I'm also making kombucha and jun and growing my own sprouted seeds.
Finally, I have found myself (despite having a strong distaste for it on many levels) deeply involved in politics. The world can and should be a better place, for people and animals and nature, but it won't ever be better if average citizens don't get involved. I became a Bernie delegate in 2016, helped found the Tompkins County Progressives and the New York Progressive Action Network, am currently the chair of the Caroline Democrats, and was elected to the New York State Democratic Committee. After working for a number of progressive candidates who lost their races, I'm happy to say that I got to be part of Anna Kelles' winning campaign for NY Assembly in 2020. I am actively supporting the New York Health Act through a local organization called Finger Lakes for NY Health. (Anna is doing much more, but I can only dream of being as energetic and effective as she is.)
This year (although I have a strong distaste for the ungodly hours that campaigns require from both staff and volunteers) I am working locally to help six progressive candidates get elected: Jumaane Williams for Governor, Ana Maria Archila for Lt. Gov., Josh Riley for Congress, Lea Webb for State Senate, Anna Kelles for State Assembly, and myself for State Democratic Committee. I am unopposed for that last seat, so thankfully I won't have to work any more to get elected, but I hope to put some time into thinking about how I can DO something with that office. I've spent four years in the job and it's been a frustrating experience because Gov. Cuomo was not interested in giving any power to the State Party. If there is one thing that makes me crazy it's being told, "everything's fine, there's nothing to do here, just run along" when the problems are everywhere and obvious. Read more under my political writings.