18 January

Reading My Monologue To Madeline At The Mansion

by Jon Katz

When Maria and I were finished calling our regular Friday night Bingo game – only a handful of residents remain at the Mansion, their wing was not affected by the water damage in the other parts of the building – I asked Madeline and the other residents if I could read my monologue for acting class – The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot – them and get their feedback.

My assignment in my acting class is to read this work often and work on my voice and emotion, to feel the work as read as read the work. I’m working on it, I thought I did  really well with Maria last night.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read it with as much feeling and emotion as I have been doing, I didn’t want to come on too strong to people who were already emotional and challenged by what was happening to them.  And the troubles of the man reading the poem were a trifle compared to the men and women I was reading to.

Madeline is a Mansion resident, she is 93 years old and a former actor and singer in New York singer, she loves the theater and she said she would be glad to hear my monologue.

I also want to read the monologue in front of as many audiences as I can to get used to the idea of opening up to strangers.

It sound flat to me, and without the emotion I have been working to put into it, but still, it was a special moment for me and I think the residents and staff enjoyed it as well. It was definitely something different for them, but the poem deals with many of the issues in their lives and they were paying close attention.

I loved the feedback Madeline gave me. Come and see and listen for yourself. The Mansion is a very special place for me, and it was meaningful to read this piece to them. They listened, which is a lot.

18 January

The Outings Project: The Mansion. Practical Good In The Real World

by Jon Katz

The return of the Mansion residents has been delayed for two more weeks as the repair and restoration project continues. The new date is February 1, hard news for the staff and the residents.

This afternoon, I went to the Mansion and proposed a series of outings for the residents who remain in the Mansion and those who have been evacuated to the Danforth Adult Care Center. My idea is that we take two to four residents out at a time for lunch or a drive for a cup of coffee, just to let them get outside.

The residents love to be taken outside, and love to eat out, they rarely get a lot of variety in their food, there are too many health and other restraints. I’d come by, with Maria if she can come, and we’ll pick some of the people up who need to get out.

It’s not a simple thing. The families have to be notified and given permission. There have to be at least two aides of there is more than one person. So it takes a lot of planning and schedule shifting and permission collecting, these are the parts I can’t do.

What I can do is plan the outings and drive them there and back (some will need wheelchair and walker help), and I ‘ll be happy to do that. Maria suggested that we also plan some tea parties, have tea and bring cakes and cookies and  talk to people who want to talk. The Mansion staff was enthusiastic about the idea and they will meet on Monday to try to figure out how to help me do it.

I’d like to do five to ten outings over the next two weeks, the give the residents something to look forward to, to get them outside and stimulated by a different environment, to ease their boredom and fear, and  to give them something to look forward to.

I went to call the Bingo game at the Mansion tonight with Maria – there are only six or seven residents left in the Mansion for now, and I brought puzzles, games, books, and some paper trains and crafts. They need these things more than ever, they were grateful for the 10 DVD’s I brought them yesterday.

These displaced elderly people are struggling with their new circumstance, often depressed and disoriented. I think this is the time give them some hope and joy and connection in their lives. The time for them to go home is coming, not quite here.

This is the critical part, coming up I could use some help with outings, if you care to contribute  you can do so via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com or by check, Jon Katz, Mansion Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. You can also donate easily by using major credit cards by clicking on the Support The Army Of Good button at the bottom of each post.

I thank you and the Mansion residents thank you. Small donations are as welcome as larger ones.

18 January

Dog Of Entitlement (Little Bastard)

by Jon Katz

I got an e-mail from Sarah in Newton, Mass., this morning, she sent me a photo of her dog, a nine-year-old Boston Terrier she calls “Little Bastard.”

Why the unusual name, I asked? Because Nancy said, even though she loves him, “that is what he is?”

He chews things in the house, terrorizes her German Shepherd, steals food from the mouth of her Golden Retriever, hards all of the toys and treats and sits on whatever furniture he pleases, not matter what anybody says.

“We just started calling him Little Bastard,” she added, and it stuck. “He can be sweet and adorable, but he can also be a monster. He feels he is entitled to anything in the world that he wants.”

Hmm, it did have a familiar ring to it. I like to call Bud the same thing I called Gus – “the Little King,” but Sarah has wider connotations. This afternoon, Budd suddenly took off into the farm where two terror-stricken chickens cams rushing out, indignant and alarmed.

Bud acts as if he was given title to the dogs, the farm, the donkeys and sheep, and me. There is nothing on the farm, from every treat to the other dog’s food to every sofa and chair in the house , but Bud does not believe to be his entitlement. Everything is his.

Even chickens and barn cats.

“You Little Bastard!,” I found myself shouting, “get away from them.” Bud started at me for a moment, sniffed around in a circle, picked up something off of the ground, and then turned around and trotted slowly to me.

“What?” he seemed to be saying.

If the shoe fits…

18 January

Breakfast At The Wooden Soldier, Fairhaven, Vt.

by Jon Katz

Maria and I went to Brandon, Vt. Friday morning, to the Vermont Knitting Mill to pick up her newest batch of yarn, this time all in beautiful colors, all dyed. She was dazzled and delighted. She will put them up for sale on her Etsy Shop sometime over the weekend, you can check on her blog for details.

On the way to Brandon, we stopped at one of our favorite places, the Wooden Soldiers Diner in Fairhaven, Vt. I’ve really never had a more delicious breakfast – an egg sandwich (english muffin), two strips of bacon, home fries.

The atmosphere in the Wooden Soldier is right out of Norman Rockwell. Policemen at one booth, young couple at another, old men gossiping at the counter. Patricia runs a classic diner as well as can be done.

 

18 January

New Challenge: Helping The Mansion Residents

by Jon Katz

The  repairs on the Mansion Assisted Care facility continue, but it became apparent yesterday that it will take at least two more weeks before the resident who were evacuated can all return. The new issue is state-mandated tests to make sure that any mold arising from the water damage is gone.

The tests for that take at least a week to take and measure.  They will interrupt the work needed to ready all of the rooms.

The residents wing has been sealed off – masks only – until this work is completed. There is no evidence of any serious mold levels in the building, but the tests are to make sure. The regulators just seem to want more and more.

The rest of the repair work is progressing rapidly, but this new delay – the new target date for the Mansion to get back to normal is February 1, just about 14 days away. This could have a devastating impact on the residents and the staff. It will also put great pressure on the families who are temporarily caring for their mothers and sisters and sons.

I feel this is a significant challenge for me and for the work we are doing to help the residents during this very difficult period. They are very unhappy at the different places they are staying while this work goes on.

This is an equally difficult time for the families who are suddenly having to care for them, for the Mansion staff, whose work has been disrupted, and above all, for the residents themselves, some of who are clearly depressed and disoriented.

The Danforth Adult Care Center is a perfectly good place, but it’s not the Mansion, the residents are eager to get home and struggling to keep themselves occupied. The staff is also struggling to keep their spirits up, and to keep them engaged.

The handful of residents still in residence at the Mansion are also struggling with disrupted routines, boredom and anxiety. They need attention also, the staff is stretched thin trying to care for their scattered charges. This is painful stuff for caregivers, as many of you know.

We have moved aggressively to try to help the residents. Daily visits, puzzles DVD’s, flowers, dog therapy, photo books, paper crafts. They have been successful.

I think the task for me – and hopefully, with your help – is to get creative and step up this level of support. This is the critical time. The work is progressing, it will all get done, the residents will get back, but I think we have to think of some new ways to help them.

I see a lot of depression among the displaced residents, and it could deepen.

I have some ideas. One is daily readings, the residents love to be read too. Another is a version of a tea party –  daily gatherings of healthy snacks and tea to break up the day, talk about their frustrations and fears, give them a chance to see Red and Bud, perhaps do some readings or puzzles together.

I think more flowers will help – they love the color the flowers bring to their rooms. We got a DVD player and are supplying movies. I think it might be useful to organize some small outings – perhaps lunches out of the building, or some rides outside of their facility.

Seeing different things other than bare walls will help.

This will cost some money, I raised more than $1,000 a couple of weeks ago, and I have about $600 left,  but I think I will need more to do some of these things. I like the tea party idea and the idea to take the out on some short outings, just so they can get outside and see some of the outside world.

Flowers and some carefully chosen dolls and stuffed animals can also help, they keep the residents company and trigger their nurturing instincts.

If you can help – small amounts are as appreciated as large ones.

These next weeks are the hump we need to get over, I think. I am sure we can get to the other side, the staff is committed to helping the residents get through this. But I’d like to help the staff as well, they are drained and stressed by this turmoil and change, and by the helplessness they feel. They could use some help as well.

None of these ideas are expensive, but they will cost some money.

If you can or wish to help, it would be welcome. You can contribute via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com. You can contribute by check: Jon Katz, Mansion Fund, P.O.  Box 205,  Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Thanks, hope is my own faith, and courage for me is the ability to persevere and hope and find joy in the face of challenge. I will persevere, and the residents need help, now more than ever.

I am grateful for your support.

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