3 April 2017

At The Mansion, They Ask: “Will They Forget Us?”

"Will They Forget Us?"

At the Mansion Assisted Care Facility, where they think of all you benefactors as mysterious and miraculous angels, someone asks me almost every day "will you forget us? Will they forget us?"

It's a difficult question for me to answer.

I don't know most of you, I have never met most of you or spoken with most of you, or even heard from most of you, I don't know what your energy and interest and resources are like, I don't know what your commitment or attention span to this work is, and it is not my business, it is yours to decide for yourselves.

Sometimes, they ask me "who sent us this? Who wrote this letter? Who are they? What are they like? I don't know, I say, I don't know who they are, I know there are good people out there, and they care about you.

You have already done much more than anyone else ever has for these people, and they are mystified and perhaps afraid it will go away, all of these letters and messages and photos and cards, this feeling of being known and cared for outside of the walls of the Mansion, an especially loving place.

You mean so much to them,  you are mystical fairies and angels, they can hardly believe it, and most of the residents are not used to being cared for so much. Many have been forgotten, they expect it. They constantly share your letters and messages, save them by their bedsides, share them with each other, keep them in boxes.

I have a history of burning out from things like this, I had to leave hospice work for several years because I overdid it, saw too many people, watched too many people die, I had to stop for awhile. I've learned to be more careful. One of the residents wants me to be a private tutor, I said no, it's too much, I don't  have time, I will just have to walk away.

So I pace myself, limit myself, and yet this work with the Mansion is different.

They feel like my family now, I have come to know and love many of them, they share their ups and downs with me (one of the residents told me she had a crush on one of the new male residents, but he had rejected her, she was crushed. Life goes on, everywhere.)

I cannot imagine withdrawing from them with Red, forgetting them, walking away. I try to limit the things I ask  people for, or the things that cost a lot of money. When Connie's computer failed, I urged people not to try to replace it, it was too much, and someone sent the perfect gift, a Kindle Fire. I hope this was not too much for them, I worry about it.

I try and confine our support to messages and letters, the most effective and meaningful gifts to the residents, a feeling of being known.

Your support on holidays are so important now, the gifts and bags and cards for Easter are beginning to come in, I brought  bags of Easter gifts over to the Mansion today, was sent by a wonderful woman in New York City who sends bags on every holiday, and whose letter writing groups sends the most wonderful letters. A middle school class in New Jersey sends much loved messages every month or so. So do people from all over the country, names I don't know.

I think focusing on the holidays makes sense, and cards and letters and photos are the most important thing.  There are natural breaks in between.

But I can't make any promises to the Mansion residents, I just don't know if people will forget them and I say so.

For my part, I will not walk away from these people or forget them. i couldn't live with myself if I did that, and I will take care to pace myself and to set boundaries and make good and hard choices about what it is I can do and what it is I can't do. I've learned about boundaries.

As for you, follow your own hearts. I hope no one ever feels any kind of pressure to hang in here. You are doing much good.  You are, of course, free to walk away at any time, no one is keeping score. You have your own lives, resources and people to consider. It is not for me to pressure anyone. I'm staying with it.

But we have done something special here, especially now. It means a lot to me also.

"It's the long haul for me, " I told Peggie, who gave me a big hug. "I won't forget you."

If you wish to write to the Mansion residents, here is the current list of residents who have agreed to receive your letters and messages: Jane, Charlotte, Allan, Sylvie, Jean G. John Z., John R.,  Alanna M., Peggie, Ellen, Joan, Brenda, Connie, Alice Madeline, Mary, Barbara, William, Brother Peter, Diane D., Helen, Jean, Tim, Gerry, Dennis, Anita, Richard.


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The Mansion Art Show: A Celebration Of Spirit

A Celebration Of Spirit

Work for the Mansion Art Show Is Underway, I see it as a celebration of he human spirit.

Thanks to your generous donations of supplies – brushes, paint, patterns, books, pencils, matted frames, paper and other materials, everyone at the mansion has what they need to make art for the Art Show, to be held in the Great Room of the Mansion at the end of the month. These five works are the first efforts by the residents to make their own art in their own way.

I'm excited about this, this is an affirmation of the creative spark, at any age, it is a powerful force within us, I think, and the residents are into it. I went by today to take a look and to bring them the very last thing they had asked for: a stamp pad. They are set now.

The Activity Room is crammed with the wonderful supplies you bought them and sent them, I can't thank you enough they are immensely grateful. There are a lot of choices for the residents to make about their art.

This has engaged almost all of the residents, it is exciting to come in there and see everybody hunched over the table with their pencils and brushes, creating away, excited and engaged. You have done a lot of good. More later. If you wish to write to the residents of the Mansion, you can do so at this address: The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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“Talking To Animals:” Look What UPS Brought, Hot Off The Press

Author's Copy

Publishing has changed almost beyond recognition, but there is one perk that publishers still concede to writers, that is two copies of a new book fresh off the printing press. "Talking To Animals: How You Can Understand Animals And They Can Understand You," is my 25th or 26th book, depending on how you count them.

it is always exciting to hold a new book with my name on it. Maria is insisting on taking me out to dinner. I think before that, I'll take a long walk and let it settle in.

"Talking To Animals" will be published by Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster, and is available for sale on March 5. By contract, I get my first copy about a month earlier, and then another box of books after pub date.

There are no more grand national book tours for me or most authors, but I do get to do some readings around the Northeast and will do a lot of promotion online, and especially on Facebook and other social media, where books are promoted now.

My first reading will be at Battenkill Books on May 2, at 7 p.m. I'll be at Northshire Books in Manchester, Vt. early in June. I'm also speaking at the Connecticut Library Association meeting near Mystic, Conn. on May 4.  I'll post the other appearances as they are firmed up.

The book is smallish, not a long read. But it's full of stories and ideas.

It recounts my lifetime experiences with learning how to communicate with animals and also learning to listen to them.  I talk about my experiences with visualization, emotion and body language.

There are a lot of new anecdotes about that, going back to my early childhood. It also focuses on my feeling that we need a wiser and more mystical understanding of animals than now exists, and I use the story of the New York Carriage Horses to help me make that point.

I'm currently working on my book after that, "Lessons Of Bedlam Farm," and that is turning out to be a rich and uplifting writing experience. It will be published sometime next year. This is my first book in two years, since "Saving Simon," it feels very good to me.

Much of my writing now is on my blog, and I love that nearly as much as book writing, it fits me. But in my heart, I will always see myself as a book writer.

If you wish to pre-order "Talking To Animals," I will sign and personalize every copy bought at Battenkill Books, my local and wonderful independent bookstore. The first 1,000 people who pre-order the book will also receive a classy and custom-designed dog-themed tote bag featuring a dog and the words "stay, sit," and "read." It is all cotton, sturdy and quite classy.

There are more than 500 pre-orders as of now, there are plenty of tote-bags left. I hope to pass 1,000 and order some more. I'm proud of the book, I think it is revealing, honest and timely, and best of all, it is already controversial. Bark Magazine refused to even read the galley.

This, I have learned, is where I belong. So here we go again. I am blessed many times over, I have wanted to be a book writer ever since I wanted to be anything, and am so privileged to be one. Come along for the ride of you wish, Connie Brooks at Battenkill takes Paypal and major credit cards.

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Donkeys At The Gate.Queens Again.

Donkeys At The Gate

The donkeys seem different with Chloe gone, every animal coming and going changes the unspoken but seen dynamic of animals on a farm. Chloe was a big and strong creature, she was especially dominant around food issues, and she was very restless around the gate, where we showed up with hay.

The donkeys, diplomatic and savvy animals, always backed off when she was around, and if we tried to give them a carrot or apple, Chloe always charged in and pushed them back. It was always a bit tense around the gate and donkeys don't look for trouble, unless it is with another donkey.

Chloe has been gone for several days, and the donkeys have settled down. They take their time eating – with Chloe they rushed it a bit – and they are the undisputed leaders now that Chloe is gone. It is calm at the gate, calm enough for me to take their photo together as they greeted me to their pasture. They reign once more.

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There is that very sweet and powerful moment when the sun first comes up over the hills behind the farmhouse, and I always try to be outside for that, because the light is very beautiful and there is magic when the sun first touches the ground and seems to light up the earth. Spring is just beginning to assert itself.

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