Christmas cards

Much of my writing time this month has been taken up by Christmas cards. While many holiday preparation tasks have been retired, evolved, or relegated to others over the years, I continue to make writing and sending cards one of my top priorities.

Perhaps due to absorbing the etiquette of my childhood, I still sign and address cards the old-fashioned way – by hand. On some cards, I also write notes. For the few to whom I write longer letters, I do resort to writing on the computer and printing out the enclosures.

Because I have a long-standing tendon problem with my writing arm, I have to pace myself, spreading the task over ten days or so to keep my arm functional. I take the time to choose a card that I think fits the recipient, and sign the card according to if the person knows me or my husband better, with the more familiar person’s name first. I even choose the postage stamp that I think the recipient will like – Madonna stamps for those who are more religiously observant and secular stamps for those who are more cultural observers of Christmas or who are non-Christians to whom I am sending New Year’s wishes.

This is sounding perhaps a bit obsessive, but it is important to me to connect to friends and family at this time of year, even if we can seldom, if ever, meet in person. My list has friends going back to our teen years, college friends, neighbors and former neighbors, friends from our adult decades, and relatives, only some of whom send cards to us, but all of whom it is important to me to reach out to at this time, to let them know that I am thinking of them and wishing them well.

This year was especially poignant for me as I needed to start a new Christmas address book after using my former one for ten years. As I copied addresses into my new book, I paused over the names of those I have lost, not just the elder generation who had passed away but also a couple of friends closer to my age. It reminds me that there is no guarantee that my recipients will be here next Christmas – or that I will be. 

So, I will make the time, as long as I am able, to connect at this time of year and to send wishes of peace and love.

I wish a wonderful Christmas to those who observe it and peace, contentment, and love in 2014 to all!

my latest missive to Gov. Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am a voter who lives in Vestal on the PA border. I am very concerned about the public health impacts of gas drilling, infrastructure, usage, and waste disposal.

Dr. Shah is currently conducting a review of the DEC’s work for the SGEIS, but that is not adequate for the immensely complicated issue at hand, especially with so much scientific research ongoing.

Please halt the fatally flawed health review and SGEIS process and initiate a Public Health Impact Assessment, conducted with transparency and public input according to national/international standards.

Please include in that a study of impacts that are already occurring in New York, such as air pollution from PA operations, waste dumping/disposal in NY, road spreading of wastewater, and impacts on ground and surface water, especially regarding hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptors, which have been found in numerous studies to be elevated near drilling and waste processing activities.

The Southern Tier is making progress through our Regional Economic Development Council and other initiatives, but we need to be seen as an area that is a healthy place to live. The threat of drilling occurring under the current flawed SGEIS process is very real to us and a high priority in deciding for whom to vote. I want to remain in the area for decades to come, but will leave the state if I or my family’s health is jeopardized by proximity to gas drilling, processing, and transport activities.

I know that you are committed to following the science on this issue. I have researched and read extensively about it and know that the science is increasingly documenting many negative health and environmental impacts. The only reasonable, scientifically valid choice is to permanently ban all aspects of unconventional fossil fuel processes, including waste disposal, from the state.

I would appreciate hearing from you regarding your thoughts on this issue which is vital to so many NYers, both the voting public and those who are still too young to vote.

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey

Comment on Forbes fracking piece

Re-posting a comment I made to this Forbes piece:  www.forbes.com/sites/lorensteffy/2013/11/29/new-yorks-fracking-hypocrisy-underscores-energy-illiteracy/?fb_action_ids=10201093779532116&fb_action_types=forbessocial%3Acomment&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

It’s a lot more complicated than Mr. Steffy lets on in this piece. I live in the Southern Tier of NY right along the PA border and know that the vast majority of the Marcellus and the Utica in NY is too shallow, too thin, and/or thermally overmature to drill with the current prices for methane. (For more information, view the recordings of a recent panel at Cornell: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJ4sBXNT-ETp0aZilXGWBikMJgNoTeW2K ) Most of the drilling now is in wet gas areas, as the liquid hydrocarbons are drawing higher prices than the dry gas (methane), which is what is in NY and northern tier PA.

Many rural folks who have wells nearby do not benefit from the methane. Most of their homes do not use natural gas and are not on distribution lines for it. The low price of methane does not benefit them but it does drive down any royalties they may get.

NYC folks who are converting to natural gas heat instead of oil are benefitting by lowered costs at the moment, although if large-scale LNG exports begin, domestic prices are sure to rise.

Meanwhile, both rural and urban folks are suffering the effects of climate change, which is caused by ALL fossil fuels. Unconventional fossil fuel extraction, processing, transport, and use are all implicated in methane emissions, which adds to the carbon footprint.

Instead of building out all the infrastructure needed to support unconventional fossil fuel drilling and use, we should build renewable energy infrastructure. It is technologically possible to go to renewable sources without a fracking “bridge”. Read more about a plan to do this in NY and elsewhere here: http://thesolutionsproject.org/

Philomena

Today I went to see Philomena at an early Saturday showing with only three other people in the theater. The setting matched the intimacy of the film.

Spoiler alert:  While I won’t reveal the entire plot, don’t read further if you plan to see the film and don’t want to know any of the crucial details beforehand.

Judi Dench’s performance in the title role is outstanding. It must be difficult to play a role based on a real, still-living person, but I found her portrayal of Philomena to be compelling and relatable. Philomena’s long-standing pain and guilt, enforced by the Church, society, and her lived experience, were palpable and made her indecision about how far to take the search for her son and his loved ones understandable.

What was most meaningful to me was the contrast between those who had hardened their hearts and were mired in being judgmental and unforgiving and Philomena, who was open to love and so was able to forgive those who took her son away from her and kept her from finding him in this life. Her ability to show mercy enabled her to find peace. That she was able to know that her son had loved her and Ireland and had searched for her as she had for him felt like it was not only a comfort but also a reward from God for her steadfast love.

Philomena, whose name can be translated as “powerful love,” was the one who taught us about God, mercy, family bonds, love, and forgiveness.

Indian Pudding for Thanksgiving

National Indian Pudding Day was November 13. NPR did a piece about it:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/13/244983031/its-national-indian-pudding-day-heres-why-you-should-celebrate.

I had not previously realized that there was such a thing as a National Day for this purpose, but, as a New England native, I was certainly a fan of Indian pudding. We make a recipe that came to us from my husband’s Great-Aunt Gert. We aren’t sure from whom she received the recipe, but we know it is an old one.

I made it earlier this fall when I went out to visit my college roommate and her husband in Colorado. They had never had it before but enjoyed it. Today, we made a batch to have as part of our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We like to make it the day before serving, as the molasses flavor intensifies after it has set for a day in the refrigerator and is then re-heated to serve with vanilla ice cream. Besides, given that the pudding needs to bake for two hours, it is impractical to do it along with the turkey, dressing, baked squash with apple, and onions that also are vying for oven space.

Here is (at least the first draft of) my poem in honor of Indian Pudding:

Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding

The recipe calls for butter the size of an egg,
Conjuring the image of scooping butter
From the crock in the creamery,
Instead of slicing a few tablespoons
From a stick of Land ‘o Lakes.

Simple and New-England-frugal,
no spices are required,
That expense unnecessary
Due to the wonders of molasses,
Slow-baked and intensified.

The summer corn
Stored as meal and
The fresh milk from the cows
Meld to warm us in the chill of Thanksgiving,
Honoring our New England roots.

typhoon lessons

I have been following the horrible impacts of typhoon Haiyan on The Philippines. I was moved by Yeb Sano’s speech and action at the UN climate talks in Poland. http://ecowatch.com/2013/11/11/philippines-typhoon-global-warming-warsaw-climate-talks/  When will we wake up to the extreme danger that climate change has on our planet and all its inhabitants and take the swift and strong actions we need to keep the earth (at least mostly) hospitable?

Will Haiyan, in the wake of wildfires, floods, droughts, glacial melt, heat waves, and record storms of all types across the globe finally be the motivator to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels? We have already delayed much longer than the science indicated was wise and we can’t undo the damage we have already inflicted on the atmosphere, but we must stop our dependence on fossil fuels if we are to have any hope of averting runaway greenhouse impacts, with massive melting of permafrost and methane hydrate release from the oceans.

I have been trying to do my part by opposing unconventional fossil fuel extraction, promoting efficiency, and supporting renewable energy technology, but, even with many others following the same path, we have been unable to affect change quickly enough. In the aftermath of Haiyan, I find myself thinking within a Catholic social justice framework:  about social sin, about care of creation, about the dignity of human life in community, about the responsibility I – and each of us – have to care for others and the earth.

I haven’t figured out yet how much more I can do. I pray that enough people will come together to finally move public policy in the direction necessary to save the planet before it is too late. While we need to preserve the earth for future generations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we also need to act for present generations.

 

 

Lesson (re)learned

I am a member of the New Yorkers Against Fracking online rapid response team, as well as being on several other list-servs on the topic of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. My main mode of service to the cause is through commenting on articles and blogs, often using links to scientific findings to fight misinformation.

The topic is very contentious, both in my local area, unfracked Broome County NY along the fracked PA border, and inter/nationally. Especially in our local press comments, I am frequently accused of fear-mongering, or called a liar or stupid or similar, or asked personal questions in a hostile manner. I do not name-call in return, but often defend myself with documenting links to the facts that back up my commenting. I will not answer personal questions, which sometimes leads to badgering. I try not to let it bother me, but it does, especially when the commenter is local, as I use my real name and photo so these people could recognize me when I am out at a rally and several of them have a track record of harassing fracktivists in public.

Earlier this week, I spent way too much time in a back and forth commenting battle with someone who decided to branch out from my support of a local PA woman who leads citizen tours of local wellpads, compressor stations, and affected households to making all kinds of assumptions/accusations about my support of every other thought this woman has ever expressed. I patiently tried to explain that this woman had not been accused of any wrongdoing and I was not going to condemn her – which really set him off and led to a string of his questioning my judgment and my own values. It got ugly quickly and he was throwing around Hitler and cannibalism and child molestation, among other unsavory topics. And all these comments were landing in my inbox because they were through disqus. I realized I had to disengage and I wrote to the online publication in which the article appeared, asking them to remove my original comment and the string of replies. Then, I posted to my Facebook timeline about it to help calm down and my friends came to the rescue to support me. It’s now several days later and the comments have stopped, although I haven’t checked to see if our commenting has been deleted from the site. I’m still feeling a bit insecure because, while I know this person lives in my area, I’m not sure who it is, as he wasn’t using his real name. It’s known that several of the very vocal drilling proponents comment under multiple names, so it could very well be someone that I have seen disrupting local press conferences and rallies.

So now I am trying to get my equilibrium back with my commenting and trying to find the line between clearing up misinterpretations and “feeding the trolls.” It really bugs me not to clear up unfounded accusations, half-truths, and lies; I know that I won’t convince the person lobbing the attacks, but I want other readers to have access to accurate information. But I need a rest for now. I am continuing to comment, but not responding to replies. I’m actually trying not to even look at replies, by not posting to Facebook – which is the responding mechanism for Gannett papers, supposedly to keep things civil – or subscribing to follow posts. I should probably update my disqus preferences so that I don’t get emails from replies from them, either.

I’ll go this way for a while, or maybe permanently, if I have really (re)learned my lesson.

 

Red Sox – World Series Champions!

I grew up in rural Massachusetts and the Boston Red Sox have always been my team, so, of course, I was personally happy to see them win the World Series last night.

But this year, the story goes beyond sports and stats and the worst-to-first mythos. It’s about pulling together and teamwork and healing and strength and honoring what is really important in our communal life.

I appreciate the Red Sox working together as a team and supporting each other on the field and playing as a team instead of individual stars, even when that meant growing scruffy beards as means of solidarity.

What was more important was their effort to live “Boston Strong” after the Boston Marathon bombings. The Red Sox players and organization have a long history of charitable work and community involvement. Even as a kid, I appreciated their support of the Jimmy Fund, fighting childhood cancers, work which has been on-going for decades. In the wake of bombings, the Red Sox did whatever they could to honor the first responders and medical teams who worked so hard to save lives and bring healing. They supported the injured in their recoveries and welcomed them to Fenway as they were able to be out and about again. Game days gave everyone in the Boston area a respite from the day-to-day slog of recovery, whether in person at Fenway, or on TV or radio. And they reclaimed the name “Boston” for the whole country, so that today the first thing that comes to mind is Boston Red Sox – World Series Champions, not Boston bombings.

Thanks, Red Sox, for giving Boston a reason to celebrate. You and the city are truly Boston Strong.