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The Local POV: Vermont

I’ve been following @mkramer ever since she visited America’s Test Kitchen at the end of her stint as  Fresh Air’s social media strategist. I admire her energy, drive, and curiosity. Her blog posts are useful and inspiring—and she’s got a great sense of humor. She recently announced a project where she is going to “be a local” in 52 places over the course of the year.  As she writes, “I’m going to read/watch the news, listen to the radio, follow people on social media, and talk to people from Vermont all week long.” That’s right, this first week is Vermont. She says, “I think we’ll learn and share a lot together.” I agree.

And even better, she’s invited her followers to participate by sending 7 questions to someone they know from each place. These crowdsourced answers will become part of her project. How cool is that? (You can participate, too, by signing up through her newsletter.)

VERMONT January 14, 2015

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Cheryl Redmond, and I’m a freelance editor and writer. I live in southern Vermont in a town of about 2,000 people, near Brattleboro.

2. How do you get your local news?

Mostly by talking to people—at the country store, church, library, or town office. Brattleboro has two newspapers and they both have a website, so I read them online or pick up a paper at the co-op. And our middle-school kids publish a paper that includes news specific to our town.

3. A significant percentage of people in Vermont don’t have high speed internet. If you don’t have high speed internet or know someone who doesn’t, how do you/they get their news?

You don’t need a high-speed connection to get news from the Internet. We have DSL and I subscribe to the New York Times online. I also regularly visit websites of other major news outlets.

4. What story are you following locally that more people should know about?

Act 46 is a bill to consolidate school districts in Vermont. Ostensibly, consolidation would mean saving money and improving education, and the bill is being promoted by giving tax breaks to towns that vote in favor of it. But there are many potential downsides, the ultimate one being that small towns could lose their schools altogether. For many, many small rural towns, the school is their hub, their community center (we hold our annual Town Meeting in our school gymnasium). So consolidation is a step away from the kind of independent, self-governing way of life that Vermont is known for, and I wish more people were aware of this.

5. What’s the worst thing about the news?

I guess the worst thing about a lot of news sources is the lack of in-depth information–they’re designed for browsing and skimming, so you learn the least little bit about a wide variety of things. And so many of them borrow from others, so it can be hard to find original content that’s responsibly reported.

6. What’s the best thing about living in Vermont?

Vermont is full of people who mind their own business but are always willing to help. It’s like a throwback to an earlier time, but with less sexism and racism. People don’t lock their doors, farm stands run on the honor system, nude swimming is tolerated, and idealism is encouraged.

7. Do you have any favorite local foods or dishes?

Every March, all over Vermont, churches and volunteer fire departments and Granges hold sugar-on-snow suppers. The menu is always the same and always ends with pitchers of hot, cooked-down maple syrup. You get your own bowl of snow, pour the syrup over it, and then you twirl the hardened syrup onto your fork and eat it like taffy. Chase it with a dill pickle and a homemade doughnut and repeat. Even better? At our Grange, after the last seating while everyone is cleaning up, a guy named Walter takes the leftover cooked syrup and makes maple-pecan fudge and shares it with all the workers. It’s delicious, and I don’t think you can get that anywhere else.

Thanks, Cheryl! Stay tuned, I’ll link to what Mel discovers through her crowdsourcing.


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Make It Happen—with Help


At the start of 2015, my friend Alice and I decided to do a life audit with a group of friends. I know—it may sound silly, but doing this exercise identified areas in my life that I wanted to improve on. Some were things I was just plain sick of griping about: I’m a homebody and love to entertain, but was embarrassed by my home’s grad-school decor. Other challenges had emerged more recently and were troubling: Management struggles at work were stressing me out and I wasn’t feeling as fired up about a field (cookbook editing) I’d loved working in for years. I had several important presentations to give at work, yet my anxiety over public speaking was thwarting my preparation efforts. I didn’t know where to start. To charge ahead, I realized I needed to call in some experts. First up, my house.

My husband and I have never had the time (or facility) to create a calm, uncluttered environment. I had read Marie Kondo’s great book a few months before, which led me to consult Ann,  an affordable design consultant. Ann also happens to be a referral from my friend Alice. (Alice is a great source for experts.) Ann helped us replace our too-large hand-me-down furniture with more space-appropriate pieces. She also encouraged us to use color—we hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out, but everything in our house was brown or gray. Not anymore. 

dining room

The pictures over the buffet are repurposed from an old calendar.

With our house under control, I turned to Sue, a career counselor to tackle those management challenges I was experiencing at work. As part of the process, she also asked me to share my career goals—large and small. It was a difficult conversation as I struggled with my answers. I realized that at some point I had stopped taking charge of my career and was letting my job take charge of me. No wonder why I wasn’t feeling passionate about work. Sue encouraged me to think about how I could take back control, even if that meant leaving my job. I didn’t think I’d have the time to do the research, but once I started, the exercise turned out to be fascinating and soon revealed opportunities to which I had never given serious thought.

As I was working with Sue, I also began meeting with Patricia, a Boston College drama professor, who gave me the tools and strategies I needed to make more effective presentations at work (and quiet my nerves). Have you ever done the Wonder Woman Pose? It may look ridiculous, but it works. Patricia also gave me terrific feedback that honed the content of my presentations—something I hadn’t expected. Working with Patricia turned out to be a blast and gave me the confidence to believe I could make the career leap I’d been mulling over with Sue.

I’d be taking some short-term financial risks in taking on this new job, so I naturally turned to Bruce, our long-time financial advisor. Bruce understands we’re living a life, not a balance sheet. This sensibility came in handy when he dissuaded me from taking on freelance editorial work. He asked me how I could commit 100% to my new venture if my head were stuck in my ‘old life.’  Or, as he said, “You’ll always be making nickels when you need to be making dollars.” His thoughtful counsel and guidance were invaluable and boosted my courage to leave cookbook editing to take on my new job as a literary agent.


A bonus of changing jobs—no more driving. I take a short ride on the T and a walk across the Public Garden.

The week or so after I started, I signed up for an online course with Sam, a self-care consultant. A new job and all that comes with it were certainly exciting, but also stress-inducing. Sam’s daily prompts and her very helpful one-on-one coaching session helped me think about ways to keep that stress in check through exercise and meditation. She also reminded me to take time to do things I enjoy (reading, baking). I admit that I’ve been spotty in my meditation practice, but I’m always glad when I take the time (just 10 minutes!) to do it.     

I also bought a Fitbit, recommended by my friend Steph who swears by it. Steph didn’t just recommend an activity tracker. She also suggested I create this site and sat down to help get me started. 

Are experts expensive? Not always. You may be surprised to learn that many use a sliding scale based on your salary. And my design consultant Ann was a career changer who was looking for clients to build her portfolio, thus she charged accordingly. Over the course of the year, I’ve learned that experts don’t just have expertise in a particular area, they also offer a fresh, uninhibited point of view. A friend may be reluctant to tell you that your presentation doesn’t start out on the right note or the paint color you’re considering is washed out.

What’s next? I’ve enrolled in an improv course to help me feel more comfortable at the conferences and workshops I’ll be attending in the next year. I’m curious to see what this expert in spontaneity will have to teach me.

A note on my experts: While these are the people I hired to help me this past year, I was also surrounded by experts in my social circle—you know who you are—and I thank you.

Ann Hatton, Hatton Interiors

Sue Motulsky, Career Journeys

Patricia Riggin, Assistant Theater Professor, Boston College

Bruce Werner, Financial Advisor, Ameriprise

Samantha Tackeff, Secrets of Self Care