15 December 2017

Ruth Struts Her Stuff. Best Photo Of The Year

By: Jon Katz

Ruth Struts Her Stuff

I asked Ruth if it was okay to write about her story, and she said sure. She dazzled everyone at the Mansion today by strutting her new outfit, much of it collected at fine Thrift Stores in the area where I live. She came to the Mansion with little, and it took some time to figure out what she needed, wanted and could use.

I know how to shop for things I never knew how to shop for, and I am liking it very much.

Ruth was very happy today, and very proud and everyone at the Mansion oohed and aahed at the new look.  She walked down her own runway beaming like a Hollywood star at the Academy Awards.

She came to the Mansion with very little and is not getting herself together. She is having fun, and was quite proud of herself today. "Look at me," she said.

Indeed.  I love this photo, it might be my favorite of 2017, but that is saying a lot. Thanks to the Army Of Good for making it possible for me to do that, you have hearts of gold. I think this is what Christmas is about.

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Precious Moment: Joan Sees Spring

By: Jon Katz

Joan Sees Spring

Sometimes, there are simply wondrous moments at the Mansion, I walked into one today. Joan is one of the dearest Mansion residents, and also one of the most creative. She has severe memory issues, but her creativity is powerful and present.

She paints beautifully – I have one of her paintings on my wall – and tells the most wonderful stories and writes some lovely poems. Joan has had a hard life – she lost a daughter years ago.

Her sweetness is undiminished.

Whenever I see her, she gives me the warmest hug and usually a kiss on my cheek. I love Joan, sometimes she sees Red and sometimes not. Today, she did. "He is such a gentleman," she told me, smiling proudly.

Sometimes, she drifts off into her own world. Today, I came up to her as she was standing at a Mansion window looking out at the bitter cold and snow-covered ground. I asked her what she was seeking and she pointed out through the window and to the sky.

"It's spring," she said, speaking softly. "I see the birds up in those trees, and the flowers across the drive, and the wind is warm and feels good," she said. "I told them Spring was coming, but…you know, you know."

What?,I asked. "You can hear them singing now, just before dark…" She paused to trace something in the window.

I realized at that moment that Joan can summon the Spring if she wishes, and smell the flowers and feel the warm and sunny breeze on her cheeks.

"You remind me of a flower," I said, and she does. "My, my…" she said, smiling.

There are some hard moments at the Mansion, the are some magical ones. I love to talk to Joan, I am learning how to to it.

Joan is a poet, I think her mind is sometimes a poem, and I thanked her for showing me the Spring. "Oh, it's all right, " she said, "it's really okay." I know it is, I said. Thanks.

Joan cannot respond to most of her mail, but she does like to see them and have them read to her. You can write her at the Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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The Darning Ritual. Reflections On Waste And Need

By: Jon Katz

The Darning Ritual

I love living on an old farm, even though I am no farmer. I couldn't survive the life of my great friend Ed Gulley (we are brothers of different mothers, as he likes to say), who is a real farmer and whose daily workload would strike me down in a day or so.

I have never darned a sock, I hate to think of how many socks I have thrown away. Maria has only bought one pair of socks in he decade or so that we have been together that I know of, and I often think of how wasteful so much of our culture is.

Every day or so, she takes out one of the needles that always seems to be at hand, and darns her socks, they always seem to tear at the heel. I think that sock darning must have been the norm in the kinds of farmhouses where we now live.

For people like me, who has lived in cities much of his life, it is a nearly extinct ritual, even for my friends and relatives who are no wealthy.

Maria has the gift of being frugal without being small or desperate. She can afford to buy socks, but she chooses not to, she doesn't need to through perfectly good socks away. Karl Marx said that the effect of capitalism is to get people to buy things, only 10 per cent of which they actually need. , and when I think about it, this is very clearly true.

And he didn't even imagine how capitalism is laying waste to the earth. The sock darning is a daily reminder to me to consider how I live and what I buy and do. It is changing me, and so is my work with the refugees and the Mansion residents, where the need is so great and waste seems so thoughtless and selfish to me.

I am not ready to darn my socks yet, but I'm giving it some thought. There is a lot of wisdom in the way people used to live.

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The Mansion: Letters, Clothes, Refugees, Chocolate, Horses

By: Jon Katz

Small Things, Big Things

Letters are supposed to be a thing of the past, but no one has told the Army of Good. Today, I came into the Mansion just as Julie Smith, the nearly overwhelmed Activities Director, had begun passing out todays' letters from all over the country to the Mansion residents.

I was startled and asked Julie what this pile on a table next to her desk was. "Oh," she said, shrugging her shoulders, "that's just the rest of today's mail I'm about to distribute to the resident's rooms."

Julie, who is getting married Saturday (best wishes, Julie), just smiled,"oh, it's like that on most days,"she said. When the mail comes in, Julie has to walk up and down three flights of stairs to deliver it to all of the residents.

"There are some very nice people out there," she said. People at the Mansion keep telling me that the AOG of changed the place. It was already loving and compassionate, but Medicaid facilities for the elderly are not well-funded, and there is often no extra money for the little things, for the holes in people's live that open up when they are at the edge of life and can no longer care for themselves.

For people with a lot of money, there are plenty of perks and frills in assisted care, bigger staffs, more money for outings and trips, more visitors and comforts. My idea is not to change the reality of life, but to fill some of these small holes, to let people know they are cared for and remembered, and thought of.

The air conditioners and reclining chairs have made a huge difference, but nothing has brightened lives and lifted spirits more than your letters and messages and cards and photos. They remind the good people who live here and the heroic people who work here that they are honored and not forgotten, that they matter.

I wanted you to see these good letters. They cost very little, they mean a great deal.

This week, I am continuing my clothing drive at the Mansion, there seems to be more need than I originally thought. I'm out buying underwear, bras, sweaters, pants, sweatpants, socks, slippers and robes.

These are not expensive items, I'm heading out to some Thrift Shops Saturday, I have found shops where I can buy most things of good quality, and only need to go online for the undergarments and some special fittings.

If you care to contribute to this project, you can send a donation to me at P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, you can also contribute via PayPal, [email protected] Please mark any donations to the "Mansion/Refugee Fund" or to one or the other. Thanks.

I'm happy to report that on January 3, our New Year's Pizza lunch at the Mansion, the RISSE refugee soccer team is coming to have lunch at the Mansion to visit and speak to the residents. I'm providing the pizza, they Mansion is preparing a make-your-own hot fudge sundae for the kids.

(Due to the cold, the sleigh ride was postponed to December 26, the day after Christmas, we're riding down Main Street, the Country Gals Cafe has offered to serve up some hot chocolate as we go by.)

It's wonderful for me to help bring these two disparate but very connected elements of my life and the Army of Good together in one place. A quite wonderful way to start 2018.

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Robin In The Cold

By: Jon Katz

Robin In The Cold

It's freezing in Brooklyn, Emma send me this photo of Robin all trussed up on her walk to day care. I think she may be ready for a visit to the far North. But we are planning to visit her in January, I think I'm coming with a sack of books. Rumor is she loves reading, just like her mother.

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