20 July 2017

Sit: The Wolfman Meditates. Anger And Need

By: Jon Katz

Anger And Need

The other  day, I wrote about a meeting I have to attend today out of town. There is a lot of anger in me about this meeting, I am going to defend a friend who has been treated unfairly, in part because of his friendship with me,  and I wrote about "The Wolfman" (one of my favorite movies) inside of me.

I wrote about how I was struggling to deal with the rage this meeting has re-awakened in me, I thought of Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot begging to be locked up when the full moon rose, he knew what he might do. I know what I might do, and I don't wish to do it. All my life, I've struggled with anger and hurt, and I wish to be done with that, to leave it in the past.

The meeting is today and I have been thinking about ways to control this anger and turn it into something productive and meaningful, if positive. I messaged a friend, a healer, and asked for her thoughts. She mentioned the idea of Righteous Anger, a Christian notion I am familiar with.

Righteous Anger is justified, according to Christianity if it reflects anger towards sin, not personal experience,  and also towards what would anger God – avarice, murder, cruelty to the poor.

"Be angry, and yet do not sin;" says the Bible in Ephesians 4:26-27…"do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity."

My meeting is important to me, but yet I do not think original sin or God really enter into it, it is more mundane and  unthinking than that. I do feel my friend has been mistreated and harmed carelessly and thoughtlessly, yet I am intensely uncomfortable feeling that the Wolfman, who used to dwell inside of me, is still holed up in his cave somewhere inside of me.

My friend did have another idea for me, and this struck closer to home. She said that anger comes from a need or needs that are not being met, and if you can figure out what the needs are and be present with them then the anger will no longer be necessary.

I liked considering this meeting in that way in my mind. Rather than using anger and argument and judgment, wouldn't it be better for me to take anger and righteousness out of it – I don't care to experience either so why should I inflict it on someone else? – and simply say what it is I need.

If my needs and my friend's needs cannot be met, then I don't need to rage and rail or pout, I can simply leave the meeting and get on with my life.

Doing good is better than arguing about what is good. Argument accomplishes nothing, as does anger.

So on the way to the meeting, I will think about what I need, and state it simply and honestly, and the rest is in the hands of the fates. I should not be invested in winning or losing, rather in being authentic and clear. And as just as I can be.

I will speak on behalf of my friend and of myself and of the hurt that I have felt, and then listen.

Vengeance is not a test of character, but of weakness. Anger is not the tool of sincerity. I'm not seeking surrender or apology, I would like the Wolfman to stay asleep down there. I want him to "sit" and "stay," just like Gus in the photo.

If I can do that, then this will not be a bad day, but a good day. The anger will have been put to a good purpose.

And I will not be giving the devil an opportunity.

See you later.

Posted in General

Working Dogs: Day Two And Free In The Pasture. Gus Learns To Be A Farm Dog

By: Jon Katz

This morning, I looked up and saw that I had three working dogs keeping an eye on the sheep, Gus, Red and Fate. Maria was inside the stall, cleaning it out and the dogs were making sure the sheep didn't move. Gus is learning how to be a farm dog.

He is cautious and observant, he keeps his distance from the sheep, who are the most unpredictable of our farm animals. It isn't that they mean any harm, they are just prone to bolting and stampeding and Red keeps them away from me, but I don't know if he would keep them away from Gus, red pays almost no attention to the puppy.

I would say the sheep are the greatest danger to Gus, the donkeys seem to want to almost adopt him. Gus hangs back, just enters the Pole Barn a bit. He keeps close to me and Maria, and if we are busy, to Red. He seems to know that is a safe place.

The good farm dogs were all tossed out into the barns early in life, there, they learn how to be alert, keep  escape routes handy and keep an eye on the animals. Gus seems to be learning all of those things, this is his second day out in the pasture off leash, and he seems to be learning what he needs to know.

I still keep a close eye on him, but less and less each day. This is very important to me and to Maria. Gus is not a toy or an ornament for us, we need and expect him to enter our lives, as good dogs do, and learn how to be independent and rational.

The last thing such a cute and small  dog needs is to be protected and treated like a friendly hamster. He needs love and attention, but he also needs to navigate our world, not be protected from it or carried through it. I understand that this is often a difficult issue for pet owners, but anyone who lives on a farm or with farm animals understands it all too well.

The danger does not come from being exposed to the real life of the farm, but being protected from it. Danger comes not from what he knows, but from what he does not know. In a few days, all of the animals will accept Gus as just another animal on the farm. That will be because he knows how to act like one.

Posted in General

Shirley And Robert, Together At The Mansion

By: Jon Katz

Shirley And Robert

Shirley and Robert are the first couple I have come to know at the Mansion. It is rare for couples to come there, most often it is after a spouse or partner has died. I have become quite fond of them.

They came to the Mansion to be together as they enter another chapter of their lives, and I know it is difficult for them. But they are gracious and uncomplaining. At first, they had to be in separate rooms, but last week, they moved into a small apartment upstairs in the building, and they are happy to be together, their love brushes the heart and reminds me why this work is so important.

Shirley is a passionate dog lover and she is just full of joy when she sees Red, and he, as usual, is responding to that attention. I can see she misses having animals in her life, they are such a part of her. Sometimes, her neighbors come to visit them and they talk about their lives together.

Shirley has given me several articles on how to care for older dogs, and she is always eager to see Gus. I told her it was too warm for Gus to come yesterday and she said she understood.

I might try to bring him over to see her today, on my way out of town for a meeting. It is hot upstairs in the Mansion,  and she and Robert came downstairs to be by the fans. You can write to Shirley and Robert c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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I write the other day about me and the Wolfman inside of me, this is the day of that meeting, and I have been working to think about my anger and how I can control it and put it to good use. A friend of mine – she is a healer and a person of great warmth and generosity, wrote me this morning about the idea of "Righteous Anger."

Posted in General
19 July 2017

At The Mansion, Red And Jane. Tale Of Two Books

By: Jon Katz

Red and Jane

Red makes his way through the Mansion by himself sometimes. Today, he stepped over the Mansion cat, Summer and went down the hallway and went into the Activity Room, where Jane was working on one of her drawings. He went over to her and bowed his head so she could reach him easily, he has figured out how to do that.

The scene was a tableau, for me, special. We got Jane an overbed table to roll over her wheelchair so she can draw without bending over.

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Two books in the works, one certain, one tentative.  "Stories From The Mansion" (with a dozen of my photographs) is being assembled now and should be ready in a few weeks. I am also considering an ebook, a photo book called "Getting Gus," with photographs of Gus coming into our lives and some text. Mostly photos. More to come.

Posted in General

The Mansion Report: Large Print, Room Conditioner, Writing Table

By: Jon Katz

Mansion Report

Whenever Red appears in the Mansion hallway, a crowd gathers around him to talk to him, pet him, hold him. Jean, Ellen, Madeline and Alice gathered in a circle  around him, they old me about the letters they receive, the dogs they had, they ask all kinds of questions about Red. How old is he? How many pictures do I have of him? Where did he come from? How was  he trained to be so sweet? Where does he sleep? How much do I love him?  How long will he live?

Often, they ask me the same questions again and again.

I'm starting a new Mansion blog report, regular updates on what I'm doing and what is needed and how your gifts are being received, I want to share as much information with you as I can, to be as open as I can as we continue this wondrous experiment in community and trust, and as our Army Of Good picks up steam.

I want you to know what you are doing with your empathy and generosity. It is wonderful to be associated with so many people whose hearts have not turned to stone.

This afternoon, I visited a couple living at the Mansion, it was nearly 90 degrees outside, and quite humid.It was extremely warm inside of their rooms. I could see they were uncomfortable, they were spending much of their time on the porch and downstairs, in front of fans. The Mansion is not air-conditioned, it is an old and sprawling old mansion, many Medicaid facilities for the elderly do not have air conditioning.

I went online and ordered a Honeywell 10,000 BTU portable room air conditioner for this couple – they have two connected rooms – it cost $385 plus $27.02 in taxes. It will arrive in a couple of days and I had enough money in my Mansion/Refugee account to pay for it. It will make an enormous difference in the lives of this very sweet couple, they are intensely devoted to one another as they enter this final chapter in their lives together.

And they were suffering in the intense heat.

-The Overbed Table for people who read and draw while in wheelchairs arrived today and Maria and I brought it over to the Mansion. We got it for Jane, who draws constantly,  and for the other residents of the Mansion to use while writing letters or working on watercolors. It cost $149 and I had money in the fund to pay for it.

We see many of them struggling to write letters and paint and sketch in their laps, it is awkward and uncomfortable. The table rolls in and out, it is not a part of the wheelchair.

Rachel Barlow, the very gifted and successful Vermont artist, has agreed to teach water color painting classes to the Mansion residents, they are very interested. I've offered to pay her to teach these classes, I'm not sure yet how much that will cost. She will probably try to refuse the payment, but I will insist. I'm thinking of $25 a class, far less than she would normally be worth.

-I bought a two-year subscription to the Mansion for the Readers Digest Large Print Edition in paper. It cost $24.95, and there is money in the fund to pay for it. Mansion Activity Director Julie Smith says it would be invaluable, there are many puzzles, pieces, facts and stories in this publication, it is very popular with the residents.

– I bought six water color kits for the Activity Room, they cost $114. I chose to pay for those.

-Your mystery books for Connie have arrived, and she says she has enough now for  a year. There are several boxes of mysteries waiting for her to read, and some will be distributed among the other residents. They will all be used and read.

Connie's back has spasmed again, she is in much pain again, but it seems treatable and she is working hard to get through it. Your books will be much appreciated, and thanks. She says she has enough.

-There is a large wooden closet in the basement that is now filled with soap, shampoo and body wash. The staff will be talking about this for a very long time, they are shocked and very appreciative. They estimate there is enough of these necessary toiletries to last almost a year. How great, and thank you.

-More than a month ago, we purchased a picnic table and six chairs for several hundred dollars (I don't have the invoice handy) so the residents could picnic and have lunch outdoors. It has been raining almost every day since, but the table made it's debut on July Fourth.

-The Mansion stories have been collected and sent to Abrah Griggs, the artist and illustrator and book designer who is assembling them into both e-book and print forms. I will have some printed up locally and they will be available for sale. The e-book version will be available on Amazon and the print version will be sold either through the Mansion or Battenkill Books, I'm not sure yet. I've provided Abrah with ten of my photographs of the Mansion residents at their story reading. I am paying her $240, she offered to work for less but I'd prefer to pay her what she normally charges and richly deserves.

Summer the former stray cat is recovering from her spaying last week, thanks to your donations. She is lounging regally around the Mansion office and common rooms while she recovers, Red stepped right over her today and she didn't move. She is staying inside until her stitches come out.

-The Mansion staff is out searching for clothes for the two residents who need them. They could not find what they wanted at Wal-Mart, they are looking at area thrift shops. They have $100 to spend, paid out from the fund.

I think that's all for now. I am looking for holes to fill in the lives of the Mansion residents, keeping it simple, small and as inexpensive as possible. Letters and cards and photos matter, you can send them to The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

With small and considered steps, we are making a difference in the lives of these good people, often abandoned by the world around them and made invisible to a society that takes all their money.

Many of you are proposing Amazon gift pages, but that is not appropriate here. The updating and maintenance of the page would be a complex process, not for me and not for the Mansion staff. Outsiders couldn't really know what it is needed, and it isn't something I would care to do. This is working. Let's keep it simple and clear.

After all this, I think we have about $700 left in the Mansion/refugee fund, from which these funds are drawn. If you wish to contribute to this fund – I use it for the refugee kids and the Mansion, you can send donations to my post office box, Bedlam Farm P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. You can also send donations through Paypal Friends and Family, my ID is [email protected]

Please mark all checks or donations as going to the Mansion Residents, or the Refugee Children, so I can make sure the money goes where it is needed. We are doing a lot of good, I believe, and it is better to do good than to argue about doing good, or so I believe. P.S. The donation button at the bottom of each blog post is for the maintenance of the blog, it goes to support my blog and my work.

I love having the Mansion residents line up to read me your letters and show me your photos and cards. Today, they were all walking around with feathers, a member of the Army Of Good send everyone beautiful feathers today.

Posted in General