13 October

Pray For This Vacation Lord, “Because I Love Him And He is My Friend”

by Jon Katz
Pray For This Vacation, Lord.

I went to see Art today, he was sitting in his new recliner and loving it. We talked about a number things. He is just back from the hospital where he had to have his heart checked out, he has trouble sleeping at night.

He has spent almost all of his money – about $200 – on sweatshirts and T-shirts with quotes from the Bible, some of them controversial, even offensive, to some people. “I’m not ordinary,” he said, “I have to do this. I know you understand.”

I said I did and I didn’t but that wasn’t relevant. He doesn’t need my permission to wear his T-shirts any more than I need his to write my blog. The shirts arrive in two weeks, and he expects some people will not like them.

Art told me that I was his best friend now, everyone else is gone, and this surprised me.  He also said he hoped I would be open to the things that God wanted me to know, he wanted me to be saved.

I said I was grateful and humbled, but he needed to understand that I am a volunteer there to help him, not to be saved. I didn’t wish to discuss my faith with him, or my religious beliefs, I didn’t think it would be productive.  I said he probably knew that I had very different beliefs than he did, and he probably also knew that I was just as willful as he is, and I would never be open to being saved by someone else.

Being saved in his way would be offensive and hurtful to me, I said. I hoped he understood that, because it wouldn’t change. If I needed to be saved, I would do it myself.

He took this in, and then dropped the subject. He asked when I was going away – he heard I was going on vacation. I said I was going to New Mexico this Sunday for a week, and he asked he if could pray with me for a safe and successful  vacation. I said I would be grateful for that.

Dear Lord,” he said, “please take care of my friend Jon and his wife as they set out across the country for their vacation. Please keep him safe in flight and as they travel and explore. Please watch over him, Lord, he has a big heart and he cares for people.  Please grant him the rest and peace he deserves and needs. I love him, Lord. Please bring him back to us soon.”

I want to cry as I write this, as I wanted to cry when I heard it. I wish I had recorded it and captured the feeling  and warmth that can come out of Art at times like this.

I  did not cry, that would not have been appropriate.

I made a note to recover myself and move along, and we talked about his new glasses which raise hope that he can read once more, for the first time in years. He says he wants Bible stories, and I am already searching for some.

There is a closeness between Art and myself, although we could hardly be more different if we came from different planets. I think at the core, everything he says and does comes from a passionate desire to save the souls, in his own way, it comes from a place of great love, even though my idea of faith is tolerance and acceptance and empathy, not judgment.

I sense he also has a big heart and cares for people. We just have different ideas about what that means.

As I left, he clasped my hand, and I said I wished him peace and  safety as well while i was gone. I meant it, too. Art could use some peace and safety, his road was long and hard.

This is a gap we will never bridge, but the closeness is already there, and I feel it also. I will keep my boundaries, Art and I can be fond of one another, but we cannot be close friends.

That would upend the work I do and the way in which I need do to it. That would cross a boundary. To help people, you need to stand apart from them to see things clearly.

But his prayer had power for me, and I felt it.

I can’t judge other people or tell them what to do, I don’t believe people will go to Hell for having lifestyles that are different from mine. To me, that is the Jesus heart.

But there we are, I was overwhelmed by this loving and generous prayer for my safety and for Maria’s.

If you wish to write Art, the address is as follows: The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

13 October

At The Mansion: A Jesus Heart Can Break Sometimes

by Jon Katz
Sometimes It Hurts To Breathe: Bob lost Shirley this week.

I’ve been doing therapy work a long time, and one lesson I learned early that when there is trouble, nobody calls the volunteer. That is fitting, really, because his or her work is done, and everyone else had an awful lot of work to do.

I can’t count the times I’ve shown up to find people I have come to know, even to love, gone.

Nobody ever calls the volunteer. They are just too busy. And there are urgent things to do.

I was only away from the Mansion for a day and a half – I ran a poetry workshop just yesterday but didn’t have extra time. When I came in this morning, I found out that Shirley, who adored Red, and had been married to Bob for 65 years, had died in a nursing home 10 miles from the Mansion.

But it felt like I had been gone for months.

I saw a crowd in the great room, and asked Brittany in the office what was going on. She said Shirley had died and a memorial service was being held by her husband Robert, a sweet man and good friend. I actually came looking for him, I was bringing him the first copy of his new subscription to Builder Magazine, the one magazine he said he wanted to read.

I hugged him and he introduced me to his relatives: “this is the fellow I’ve been telling you about” he said, “he writes books and has a great dog and he comes here to help us out.” That would be an okay inscription on my tombstone.

Bob is an old-fashioned stoic, he rarely shows emotion. But his eyes told the story.

Remarkable Red took one look at the crowd, swiveled and plunged right in, making a beeline for Bob and some saddened relatives of Shirley. Red knows need when he sees it, and doesn’t need to be told what to do. There was need everywhere, he was soon surrounded by people hugging, petting and touching him.

Bob is ever gracious, and always thinks of others, not himself.

He apologized for not coming to our Open House as he planned, but he knew Shirley was close to the end and he wanted to be there. They had been married for 65 years, and he had moved with her into the Mansion to stay with her.

Now, he is sick as well, deciding whether or not to under go a grueling regiment of medication. He came on the boat ride to Lake George, and even danced once. Shirley was already in the nursing home.

As I made my rounds, there were more discoveries. Connie had been taken to the hospital again, further complications with her spine, and she had just  returned to the Mansion. I stopped in briefly to see her. She was exhausted and in great pain, her head was on her chest, I let her sleep.

I found Art in his room sitting comfortably in his new reclining chair. He said he had just returned from the hospital, there were some concerns about his heart. He was getting a mask to help him breathe more easily and sleep through the night. He wasn’t afraid, he said, it was God’s will, one way or the other.

I told him I was going to New Mexico Sunday and would be gone for a week. He asked if he could pray for my vacation, and I said sure. His son has not called him yet, I will call him again over the weekend and try to see what’s happening. I can’t and won’t pressure him, it’s  up to him to call if he wants to, not if he doesn’t.

We prayed together, more later.

I went to check on Bill, but he was sleeping and said he was in a bad mood and felt miserable. He didn’t want to talk. I have some books for him I think he will like, they are by the gay author Armistead Maupin, a chronicler of life in San Francisco in the 1970’s, he wrote the best-selling series called Tales Of The City.

I backed out of the room. I’ll bring them back later. I think I didn’t have the right head to talk to Bill, and that’s important to know.

On my way out of the Mansion, a resident stopped me in the hall. She said she is unable to walk and might have to go to a nursing home. She said she loved the Mansion and wanted to stay there, and could I intervene and ask the administrators to keep her where she was. She grabbed my and said she was desperate and frightened.

Could I help? I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t. Mansion residents must be mobile to live there, residents who cannot take care of their basic needs and be mobile require enormous amounts of time and energy from the staff. The Mansion doesn’t have the staff to provide that level of care, nor would the regulators permit it.

Nursing Home is  fraught term among the residents. Nursing homes are places people often go and most often don’t return. They are often, although not always,  the next stop in the journey with only one end. People work hard not to go to them.

My work is centered around boundaries, and I respect boundaries immensely, without them, I couldn’t do this work at all, or do it well. I told her that I knew the administrators to be loving and conscientious and my role was not to question them or second guess them or interfere or try to influence any of their decisions.

She pleaded with me to intervene.

It was just not up to me to interfere with a medical and administrative decision like that. I have no idea where this person should or shouldn’t be. It would be unprofessional for me to get involved in a decision like that.

I said I would pass along the conversation, but that was the boundary. Beyond that, it was not my place to go. She grabbed my hand and kissed it, and I won’t say that wasn’t wrenching,  but I am very clear about the boundaries of my work. I am a volunteer, I help when I can.

Period.

My heart ached for all of them today, they are all courageous in their own way, sometimes battles are just too uphill to climb. And life tells it’s own story, the moving finger writes, and having write, moves on…

Sometimes it is hard to breathe in this work, sorrow and loss are just too close, you can breathe them in.

Bob and Shirley adored one another, he sacrificed much of his life to come to the Mansion and be with her, and now he faces some serious challenges alone. He wants to go to the car races downstate with me when I get back, I would like that.

Connie has been in severe pain for some weeks and months now, and although she is back and forth to the hospital again and again,  she is struggling. Perhaps you could think of her, she is a formidable and brave person. Maria and I will go and see her again with Red Saturday, before we leave for New Mexico.

She had a wonderful  year thanks to the Army Of Good, the knitting work she did gave her life form and purpose, and made her very happy. So do your letters, perhaps there is another chapter or more in Connie’s life.

I will write separately about my talk with Art. It was intense and emotional.

I know what this work is about, and I know that life goes in one direction at the Mansion, nobody comes out to return to the lives they loved. The staff accepts this idea, and I have been doing this long enough to know this is the truth. But their faces were long today too, and when I saw Maria, she asked me right away what was wrong, I seemed flat, down.

Sometimes, I said, it’s just heard to breathe. It’s good we’re going to New Mexico.

I left the Mansion with a heavy heart, and I could see the staff was drained as well.

I told DorLisa that I had prayed with Art, and he wanted to save my soul. She said I had a Jesus heart, and that meant a lot to me.

DorLisa is a healer, she knows what to say.

If you wish to write to Bob or Art or Connie or DorLisa or any of the Mansion residents, they would be pleased to hear from you. The address is 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816,

13 October

The Army Of Good Hat. A Neat Way To Donate

by Jon Katz
A New Way To Donate

Georgia artist Kay Nohe sent us a box of hats and scarves, she wants us to sell them (see above)  and donate all of the proceeds to the Army of Good and it’s work with refugees, immigrants and elderly people in assisted care.

Send a donation, and we’ll ship you a hat or scarf. We have a  small box full.

We love the idea, I will use it to raise money for some refugee and Mansion projects where help is need – outings in particular.

We when we get back from New Mexico on the 26th of October, we’ll write more about this. I’m thinking we’ll sell this hats for a minimum donation of $25 (you can give more) surely. We won’t be around to process the money and ship the hats and scarves.

It’s a nice way to donate, we will both jump on it when we get home. I love the hats, thanks Kay.

If you don’t want or nee a hat, you can also donate to the Mansion and Refugee Fund while we are away. You can send a donation for this work to me at P.O. Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or directly to my Paypal account, jon@bedlamfarm.com.

You can also donate to my work on the blog and the farm by supporting my work through voluntary one-time donations or by inexpensive subscriptions that can be cancelled at any time.  The donation (bottom of the page) or voluntary payments support the blog and photography and make it possible.

You can also see the new photo-for-sale gallery here. And thanks for supporting my work.

Please don’t send any money for the hats now, they are likely to get lost in the rush.  We’ll be in touch. Thanks Kay.

13 October

Our New Spiralizer

by Jon Katz
Spiralizing

A friend told us about her Spiralizer, she says she makes spaghetti and noodles out of vegetables and potatoes. I loved the name right away.

The Spiralizer sounds like one of those “fantastic” kitchen gadgets you see sold from ads on cable channels after midnight.

It cost $39, is made out of cheap plastic, and works like a charm. The Spiralizer is a devious and crafty little tool, it turns fresh vegetables into noodles, basically.

I ordered it immediately from Amazon, and it arrived two days ago. Even I could put it together, all I have to do is choose the blades which decide how thin or thick the “noodles” are or how much they spiral, and insert them. It is almost impossible to mess up.

We put one  large zucchini from our garden into The Spiralizer – I love the name – and then twisted the wheel and we had broccoli spaghetti. You can saute it or bake it, I threw some virgin olive oil in a pain and sauteed  the veggie pasta for two minutes.

I put some parmesan cheese on it and drained it and we both loved it. It tastes fresh and looked just like pasta. This is going to work out, a way to eat fresh vegetables make it look like something else.

13 October

Imagination: The Creative Spark, The Holy Spirit

by Jon Katz
Imagination

The Kabbalah says that the fierce power of imagination is believed to be a gift from God. Joined with the grandeur of the mind, fueled by the creative spark, the potency of ethical depth, and the natural sense of the divine, imagination thus becomes an instrument of the holy spirit.

(The new Bedlam Farm photos-for-sale gallery is now up on the blog. The photos there (including this one) are for sale.)

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