15 May 2017

Our Home Bit By Bit, Becoming Ours.

Bit By Bit

We have lived in our new farm for nearly four years, and bit by bit, we are making it our own. I have no gift for restoration or handywork, Maria does, and our friend Jay Bridge, the engineer turned carpenter and King of odd jobs, certainly does.

He has already patched the roof, replaced the rotting wood on the front porch, made storm windows for our very cold bedroom, helped to tile the bathroom, fixed the gutters, repaired frozen pipes, helped install the frost-free water line to the barn.

Today, he replaced the rotting and disintegrating storm door on the back of the house, it blew open repeatedly and let in the wind and rain. It was also an eyesore.

Maria has come up with many of the creative ideas for the restoration of our old and somewhat neglected farmhouse, the previous owner, the much loved Florence Walrath, could not do much in her later years, she lived to be 104. The inside of the house was closed up, drab and a bit forlorn.

We have put a new floor in the 1950's kitchen, built the Frieda Kahlo bathroom, stripped and painted the living room and dining room walls, painted the exterior, patched up the slate roof, planed a lot of trees and shrubs and rebuilt the old gardens and added some new ones.

The bit-by-bit approach fits our budget and style, it has been a joy to make the farmhouse, a beautiful old thing built around 1800, our own. Jay's new door will help. Maria and I reverse gender roles all the time, I wouldn't know how to use a hammer or a drill, but we love working together, and I take orders pretty well.

There is another fringe benefit to this door, Fate cannot push it open with her nose, as she did with the old one many times.

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At The Mansion, A New Resident? Probably Not.

At The Mansion, A New Resident

Red stopped and stared at an empty rocking chair with a cushion on it, and I was startled to see this beautiful little cat staring back at us. On the door of the Mansion was a note cautioning people not to let the cat inside, as some of the residents might be allergic.

The cat has decided she wants to live in the Mansion, but it is not clear if that is possible. There was a lot of talk about it inside, from the residents. She has slipped in once or twice (or who knows how many times?) and I have it on good authority she has been taken to a local vet for examination and shots.

There are rumors that she might be pregnant, which would make it impossible for her to remain there. I also have it on good authority and from reliable sources that she snuck into the Mansion on a recent rainy night and ended up sleeping in the bed of one of the residents there.

No one is absolutely certain how she gets in, but I know from our barn cats that I often walk into the house on cold or rainy days and find them sleeping near the wood stove. Nobody sees them come, only when they leave.

The cat was wise in choosing the resident she chose. Mum is the word. Cats are smart about the homes they choose, this one picked a good place to adopt. The staff at the Mansion are insane about animals and she will have a good  home whether she makes it inside the Mansion or not, there are a lot of people already watching over her, making sure she is fed and safe.

I think the residents would love having her there, but it can't work if she is going to have kittens, or if any of the residents have any allergic reactions to her, or might. They do not take any chances with people's health there.

One of the residents suggested we take the cat to the farm, but that won't happen. We are full up, in animals, and in life. Having been through this experience with Flo, I wouldn't bet against her finding a way to live in or around the Mansion, and if she couldn't do that, she will end up in a good home.

Red was not faxed at all by her, he gave her a passing glance and then moved on. She vanished into the bushes.

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Red’s Return To Life And Work

Red's Return

I brought Red back to the Mansion this afternoon to come with me and see how Connie's new air conditioner was working. He always stops at the Mansion Office to greet two of his many lady friends, Mandy and Kelly were very happy to see him and much relieved that he is recovering.

I like to call myself Red's driver around town, and it is the truth.

I thought it was important for him to make an appearance, it was certainly important to the staff and residents that he made an appearance. Connie scolded me for bringing him out, but was nearly in tears from relief at seeing him. She is a former nurse, so she gave me a lecture about rest.

We retreated, he was not there for long, but I was glad he showed up.

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Connie’s Is Back At Work, See What You Did

Connie's Back At Work, Thanks To You

Thanks to the new air conditioner many of you helped to purchase, Connie was able to return to work yesterday and made a cap for hospital patients in dialysis treatment. She said the first night the Honeywell was on, she nearly froze to death, but then figured out how to lower the controls, and since them, she has been comfortable and able to work.

The Mansion is not air conditioned, and as the temperature rose, Connie, who has breathing and heart problems, had to stop her knitting. She looked pale and was exhausted, she had to struggle for the right amount of oxygen to breathe comfortably. The air conditioner was installed on Friday, and she is surrounded again by baskets of yarn.

She has a lot of plans. It was wonderful to see Connie so energetic, she told Red not to listen to me, but to rest, and she told Maria to keep me in line, which is not really a problem for her. Connie and I love to joke with each other, she has a quick smile and a rich sense of humor.

She wasted no time returning to her knitting, which she loves. We talked about Mother's Day at the Mansion, and there was a celebration there. I didn't think to help that celebration, I wasn't sure if would have been welcome, but it would have been, I think.

There are so many mothers there.

It was so great to see her knitting again, she was struggling to till those warm days, and tomorrow and the next few days will be in the 80's, she will need every bit of that Honeywell portable conditioner, which also works as a humidifier. Connie's room is on the warm side of the Mansion, the sun is on it almost all day.

I am giving Red much rest, I know he will do whatever is asked of him, but I have been persuaded not to rush things, it will take weeks, even a month or so, for him to return to normal and with his full energy. I have been appointed Protector Of Red's Energy, and he is still weak and tired.

But I needed to let the people at the Mansion see him, however briefly, they were very concerned about him.

Red was so happy to see Connie, he rushed down the hallway to her room and ran right up to her, she scolded him to rest and take it easy, we only stayed for a couple of minutes, and then we left. I kept him out of the activity room today, I need to be strong about resting him.

I am so proud to be a part of Connie's saved summer. In so many ways, it was such a small thing to do, in so many ways, it was a big thing to do. I am happy to be associated with people who would care enough about this worthy woman to want to help her in this way. I appreciate your faith in what I write.

Thanks, this was the best money ever spent. I am pleased to be able to show you what you have done in photos.

I wanted to cry seeing her sitting there with her knitting needles, firing away. And thanks again for the wonderful yarn you have sent her, and the beautiful cards and letters that continue to come to her. You can write Connie c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

You can write the other residents who wish to receive your letters at the same address. Their first names are Bruce, Allan, Sylvie, Jean, John Z, Tim, Ben, John R., Alanna, Peggie, Ellen, Joan, Brenda, Connie, Alice, Madeline, Mary, Barbara, William, Brother Peter, Diane, Helen, Jane, Dottie, Anita, Richard, Gerry Charlotte, Arthur, and George.

(Peggie is a whiz at jigsaw puzzles, Jane is working hard to study and learn art.)

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More Good: Saturday Summer Refugee Kids Fund

The Saturday Summer Fund

Time to get back to doing some good, and I have a great cause ready for people to consider, if they are able.

Every Saturday, RISSE , the refugee and immigrant support center in Albany, plans to organzie a summer outing for refugee children, including the feisty members of the RISSE soccer team. These kids are working hard to adapt themselves to America, but need organized activities on the weekends, especially in the Summer.

Ali has been organizing Saturday events, and paying for it himself. I'd like to help him out and help these children in a very direct and meaningful way. Their parents are working hard in their transition to America, and often have little or no extra money.

Each Saturday this summer, Ali is planning an excursion to a different place – beaches, state parks, picnics and barbecues, birthday parties and games. Many of these kids have nothing else to do on weekends, and are still making their way in America. Ali (his full name is Amjad Abdalla Mohammed), their teacher and fierce advocate, says he is eager to keep these kids of the streets, where there sometimes is trouble.

And he want them to have some fun, which is also something they need.

The children love him and they love one another, and are forming strong bonds of friendship and community. They are also learning about the other faces America through its parks and public spaces and beaches and pools. Ali is always teaching them – about courtesy, watching out for one another, homework and language. He is also the coach of the soccer team, shown above.

He loves America, he tells them, it is a good place, America is better than it sometimes seems right now.

Hopefully, one of the visits will be to our farm.

Another will be to the Great Escape Adventure Park in Lake George in July, made possible by the generous contribution of Kimberly, one of the readers of my books and blog. RISSE has not yet set up a special donations page for the kids, but the summer program can't really wait,  so I am temporarily collecting this money and giving Ali what he needs to do this important work.

I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these children, they are quite wonderful, and no threat to America. Many have endured awful atrocities and suffering, and Ali is supporting them in every possible way. It costs $70 for transportation, food, gas and other necessities for each Saturday.

I am seeking to raise this money on a monthly basis. Through your donations, I already have enough for the next two Saturdays, $140. I am seeking donations for June and then, July and August, one month at time. For June, I'm seeking to raise $280. The same for July and August.

For the summer, I'm looking to raise $780.

I believe this is to be an essential experience for these children, one that can alter lives, and I am  eager to support Ali, an angel doing the greatest work – giving children love, hope and experience. America is a wonderful place, but a difficult place for many of these children, especially now – they come from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Some of the horrors their families have experienced are hard to hear, let along repeat.

When I was last at RISSE, one of the children came up to me and took my hand and hugged me. "Thank you, sir, for helping us," he said.

We are, I believe, showing them the true heart and soul of America, we are a generous and welcoming people, some of us have formed an Army Of Good and are eager to do good rather than argue about what good is. For me, the refugee and immigration experience are part of my blood and soul.

If you are interested in helping, you can donate in any amount in two ways: one is by writing a check to  the Saturday Children's Fund, c/o Bedlam Farm, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. The other is by sending donations through Paypal's Friends and Family option to me, jon@bedlamfarm.Please mark checks and contributions to The Saturday Children's Fund so that I can keep track of donations and account for them.

Every penny will go precisely where it is supposed to go.

This will shape and support the summers of these children, when school is out and many cannot afford the cost of camps or day care programs. They need to get out of the city and into the wider world of America.  Ali is a wonderful guide for them. Thanks for considering this.

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