23 February 2018

The Notecard Revolution That Ate My Post Office Box

By: Jon Katz

The Notecards That Ate Bedlam Farm. Not Gus in the background, he was impressed.

At least I wasn't shocked this morning, I knew what to expect.

Another huge load of notecards came pouring into my Post Office Box and overwhelmed it, spilling over into carts and lockers. It just about filled up the back of my SUV. Maria was busy selling out her potholders on Etsy, so Gus and I did some hauling.

I'm the big man in town at the Post Office today, and it says something that  Wendy, the postal clerk, knew right away that these packages were all headed to the Mansion in one way or another, she's seen this enough times, although not quite ever on this scale.

A local man I didn't know came up to me in the post office parking lot to shake my head. "I love what you are doing" he said, thumped me on the back and walked away. He knew these boxes I was hauling into the car were notecards for the Mansion.

I am just beginning to appreciate the power of my blog, and just how big the enormous hearts of the Army Of Good really are.

I want to say that I am grateful for every one of these note cards, envelopes, and stamps.

First off, they are fascinating, some are vintage and tell the story of America, and of families and lives. Secondly, every one of these cards, no matter how many there are, will be used and appreciated and put to good use, either at the Mansion, and also at hospice and other elder care facilities in the region.

None will go to waste, I promise you that, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this astounding display of American generosity and graciousness and compassion. We are a generous and caring people.

These will make an enormous impact on the lives of the Mansion residents, making it so much more possible for them to communicate with the outside world. I will go there every day with notecards for them and the staff, and store many others in the Mansion basement for future use.

I already got a call from a local hospice and another assisted care facility pleading for a box. They will each get several.

I won't lie, this is a bit overwhelming and it will take me (hopefully with Maria's help) a good while to sort through them. I will not be able to thank each one of your personally (Wendy assured me more are on the way) but I thank you sincerely.

The Army Of Good is transforming many iives, including mine. I am so happy to be able to do this, to take your good will and transfer it directly into the lives and hands of the vulnerable. In these troubling times, I have never felt better, stronger, or more hopeful. I know what the news really is.

I might need to borrow another car tomorrow. This is remarkable, thrilling and humbling. Now, on to the Mansion to see the refugees and residents meet.

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Refugees And Mansion Residents: When Two Worlds Meet, Tears Flow

By: Jon Katz

When Worlds Compete

At first blush, it's harder to imagine two more different groups of people than the RISSE soccer team refugee kids and the residents of the Mansion, a Medicaid assisted care facility in Cambridge, N.Y., where I live.

I have to confess it was my idea to bring these two together, Morgan Jones, the director of the Mansion, loved the idea and so I asked the Round House Bakery if they would cater lunch for 30 residents, eight staffers, eighteen refugee kids and two teachers.

The kids come from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, some don't yet speak English. Almost all are shy. The Mansion residents come mostly from rural farms and small towns and most have never seen a refugee or immigrant, apart from farm workers.

We all feel each will gain something from exposure to the idea, the refugee kids will see a part of America that they never knew existed – there is no equivalent of assisted care in most of their home countries, the elderly die at home with their families.

And the refugee children will see how America deals with aging. It will be especially healthy for the residents to have lunch with these children, they love being around young people and benefit from the stimulation of a new experience.

That's what I'm thinking, anyway, we'll see how it turns out. Ali believes strongly in showing these children as much of America as they can get to see. I agree. And they'll see other people in need of love and nurture. In a sense all of this people share the experience of living outside of the mainstream, and struggling to keep what they know and love.

I believe they have more in common than might first appear obvious.

At ll a.m., I'll go to the Mansion and meet Scott Carrino, who is bring 55 "beautiful sandwiches," he said. The cost will be $435.27. The residents and the refugee kids will eat lunch together, and then the kids will make themselves their own fudge sundaes, courtesy of the Mansion.

If it doesn't rain, they'll come over to Bedlam Farm to watch Red her sheep. (It's supposed to rain.) I hope they get over here to see Red, but if they don't, I'll be happy to give them a couple of bags of interesting books – graphic novels, trivia and puzzle books, stories of the universe, of animals, facts about American history. They'll have plenty to read on the van home.

For me, a special day bringing two of the worlds I love and the Army Of Good supports together and under one roof. If I ever cry, it might be today. it is an intensely emotional experience for me.

I'll have my camera, of course.

This work is supported by your donations If you choose to contribute, you can send your contribution to my post office box, P.O.  Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or to me via Paypal, [email protected]

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RX For Bad News: The RISSE Amazon Wish List

By: Jon Katz

RX The RISSE Amazon Wish List

Note: Amazon may request (one time only) RiSSE's  correct mailing address: If you need it, the address is 715 Morris Street, Albany, N.Y., 12208-2208.

This morning, I woke up and decided to make my own news. I went on RISSE's spanking new Amazon Wish List Gift Page and ordered jigsaw puzzle, a surge protector and a red First Aid Kit, all things the after school program added to the list. It cost about $30 and it felt very good.

This is a simple and very effective way to support refugees and immigrants as they come to America and face a complex and uncertain future. I believe we are a warm and generous and welcoming country, and this is the simplest way I know to support the refugees and immigrants who have come to America seeking a safer and better life for their families.

You simply choose the gift from a list supplied by RISSE, the refugee and immigrant support center in Albany, and Amazon will send it directly to them. Make sure it's going to the right address, 715 Morris St. Albany, N.Y., 12208-2208. Once it's entered the site will remember it.

These kids are amazing – full of life and working hard to overcome the worst kinds of trauma. This list is my morning prescription for dealing with the angry and cruel people of the world.

I have always believed, along with the Army Of Good, that is better to do good than argue about what good is. You can visit the gift page here and support the refugees and immigrants for as little as $7. This is a sacred meditation for me now, the way I start my day as I sit down at the computer. Thanks.  Come and see here.



If Amazon asks for it (one-time only) the RISSE mailing address is:715 Morris St., Albany, N.Y., 12208-2208.

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When Good Witches Gather: Maria’s Schoolhouse Studio

By: Jon Katz

When Good Witches Gather

Maria and her friends Athena and Mandy – I call them the Good Witches – meet every week, either at the Round House Cafe or at one their homes. Unlike men, they make time for their gatherings, they are important to them, and their connection is deep and faithful.

They are always available to listen to one another and support one another, although Maria and I do not talk about what was said or discussed. Sometimes, I see white light coming off of them and I think they cast spells in there. Birds fly backwards, snow swirls, the songbirds sing in tongues, and the heads of angry people spin.

I would not mess with them. Last night, they met in Maria's studio, and when I went out to take the dogs out, the studio was so bright I thought it might be on fire. The sheep baaaahed, the donkeys brayed and the dogs shivered and ran in circles.

I could not even see inside the studio, and I thought I saw a deer fly over head, he had huge antlers. The dogs ran back to the farmhouse, and the howls of coyotes pierced the quiet of the night.

I went into my studio to write, and when I came out a few minutes later, the witches were gone, and the studio had returned to it's normal color.

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Fate And Gus: Bedlam Winter Olympics. 2-2.

By: Jon Katz

The Bedlam Winter Olympics

Each morning this week, we've staged our own version of the Bedlam Winter Olympics with two Gus, two speedy and athletic dogs who love to race one another. We thought Gus would steer clear of the outside in the winter, but it turns out he loves being outside, even in his muzzle.

We have three sweaters for him, but we have only used them three or four times, unless it's windy and in the single digits, Gus seems comfortable and happy outside with the other dogs. Yesterday in the snow, Maria called them down to the bottom of the pasture.

I stand at the top of the pasture. She releases them and I call them and both charge up towards me, racing each other to see who gets to me first. Then we repeat the process.

Yesterday, it was a drawn, Fate 2, and Gus, 2.

We are surprised at how fast Gus runs and how much he loves it. Fate is an incredibly fast dog, she's been clocked at closet to 50 mph while chasing sheep, and Gus has no trouble keeping up with her.

This is great fun for all of us, it's great exercise for the dogs, and despite his megaesophagus, Gus has boundless energy. This is important, because if food is being blocked by the esophagus, the dogs aren't getting enough nutrition and tire easily, and are sluggish.

That is the last word I would use to describe Gus. We're into day three of my new experiment diet. One spit-up, no regurgitations or vomiting. A dramatic improvement over the previous few days. We are on a good track, however long this lasts.

And you cannot watch Gus and Fate tear through the snow and think of Gus as anything but a healthy dog, no matter what his esophagus says.

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