Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

10 December

Wish List Sold Out.Thanks From Aides And Zinnia

by Jon Katz

Thank you for buying out the new Mansion Aides Christmas Wish List in just a few hours. You purchased a score of Christmas toys and gifts and nearly $400 work of Amazon and Visa and Mastercard gift certificates Monday night.

Mellissa, a Mansion aide, and Nancy and Georgianna offered the first thanks this morning, along with Zinnia, who is a joy machine. It seems her therapy work is underway.

Thursday, I plan to get a group photo of as many Mansion aides as possible at the Mansion Christmas Party, they want to thank you for making their Christmas meaningful and joyous.

We’re fixing up a Break Room for them, giving each aide $50 in cash, and purchasing Christmas presents for their children and loved ones. We’ve also bought more than $100 in new LED lights and other decorations for the Christmas tree and Mansion hallways.

This is ninth or tenth Wish List I’ve supported (we supported) for RISSE, The Mansion, and Bishop Maginn High School and every one of them sold out, a testimony to the spirit and staying power of the Army Of Good.

No sunshine soldiers in this army.

I want to be humble, but I believe we are helping to revolutionize non-profit gift giving, using technology and moderation.

The wish lists give some of the power back to where it belongs – people donating their hard-earned money. They are becoming the core of this work, along with the personal support we can provide the students and Mansion residents.

The wish lists enable people to choose the items they want to donate, and the amount they want to spend. The money goes directly to the people who need it, not administrators and middle-men.

This Wish List it will give the hard-pressed Mansion aides support in their lives in a meaningful and important way.  You’ve brought them the spirit of Christmas.

Many of the aides struggle financially, they usually can’t give their children and families the presents they would love to have. This year they can, and thank you, thank you.

On a different scale, I continue to try to fill the holes in the resident’s lives – winter clothes, stamps for Sylvia, books for Tim, prizes for Bingo,  movies for Georgianna and Nancy, puzzles for Peggie and Matt, and shoes, scarves and winter clothes for everybody.

I’m focusing also on Bishop Maginn, and the needs of the refugee students and their families, one young woman from the Middle East came to the school dance Saturday in sleeveless summer clothes, she has no winter clothes.

I plan on bringing her at least $200 so she and Sue Silverstein can go shopping with her for winter clothes. Small acts of great kindness.

We can’t change people’s lives, but we can brighten them up and make them more comfortable.

I’m going to canvas the teachers again to see what they need for the Spring Semester in the way of used textbooks and materials. And we will make certain the kids who need warm shoes this winter will have them.

This week, I’m happy to focus on Christmas. If you wish to support my one-on-one work the refugee students and Mansion residents you can send a contribution via Paypal,, or by check, Jon Katz, Mansion/Refugee Fund, P.O. Box 20, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Thank you all so much. You are a light unto the world, we are fighting back with our own weapons, love, compassion, empathy. And we can bring some joy and hope.


9 December

Gloomy Day

by Jon Katz

I went out onto the highway in front of the farmhouse, and it seemed that life had simply stopped. The sky and the road were devoid of light, color or sound. Even the crows had gone to ground.

The road seemed to sail off into infinity, and I briefly lost my spirit and started to see ghosts from the past whirling around in my head. I picked up books, and then put them down.

I started to feel like an old car, suddenly out of gas, slowly rolling to a stop. I remembered I was standing alone in the middle of the road, a busy highway full of trucks in a deepening fog.

I walked back into the house, drank a cup of Hard Apple Cider, sat down to read, but I couldn’t focus on the pages. I missed the beautiful gardens that Maria plants. Their smell and bright colors. I sat for a while and stared out the window.  I watched Bud and Zinnia play.

I drank more cider.

Up here, the dark days are dark.

9 December

What Dogs Know: An Emotional Day

by Jon Katz

I’m not sure how I would describe today, I guess the best term would be that it was an emotional day, filled with highs and lows.

The exciting news was that the Mansion aides launched their own Amazon Mansion Aides Christmas Wish List on behalf of their children and loved ones. There were 14 items, to begin with, and as I wrote this at 9 p.m., there were three $50 Gift Cards still on the list, that was all that was left.

The gifts are for the children of the aides, and some family members or loved ones who are also needy.  I really wanted the aides to feel recognized and supported.

I thank those who bought the first round of toys and presents, and I thank in advance the four people who will hopefully purchase the remaining items, two Visa gift cards for $54 apiece and two Amazon Gift Cards for $50 each.

These gift cards are for separate people. (If you need the Mansion address for Amazon, it is The Mansion, 11 S.  Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. The phone is 518 677 3771)

I will sleep easy knowing the aides Christmas celebrations will be special this year.  I know $50 is a lot of money, and thank you. We are sprinkling some Christmas mornings with joy and compassion.

They are special people doing special work, and they could use some recognition and support at Christmas. Thanks to you of the Army Of Good, they are getting some.

The earlier part of the day was rough. I found out that two friends are in real trouble, one gravely ill, the other struggling to save a child from a drug addiction that is threatening his life.

A third friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

I admit that all of this bad news got me down, along with a thoroughly miserable day filled with wind, rain, and ice.  In the dark days, I’m broody, to begin with. These stories broke my heart a little.

The heavy snows are melting, the farm is a soggy bog, even the dogs can’t stand to go out. Tomorrow, the cold returns sharply and the bog will turn to ice.

I felt myself slipping into a funk, I was down, and sinking farther into the dark place. The wind came up rattling the windows, chunks of ice and snow keep sliding off the porch and landing on the ground with loud and heavy thumps.

I lay down, put a pillow behind my head,  and put Leonard Cohen’s new album Thanks For The Dance on, turned off the lights.

It was pitch black outside and raining heavily at 4 p.m. I wanted to meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, I needed the calm and the peace, especially on such a gloomy day.

I couldn’t choose a better album.

I closed my eyes and listened to Cohen’s poetic and mystical lyrics, I must have just dozed off, I had been up early this morning and was tired, drained from all of the emotion I was absorbing.

And sorry that people I knew and cared were suffering so much and would almost surely be suffering more for some time. I gave thanks for what I have. Maria came in and kissed me on the forehead and took off my shoes. Then she went to her studio to work.

I was dreamy, but I felt some pressure on my legs, and I opened my eyes and was looking straight into the warm eyes of Zinnia, my new Yellow Labrador puppy.

She had hopped up onto the footstool where I rest my legs when I sleep or meditate. And then climbed up onto my chest, licking my face.

She put her head on my shoulder, wagged her tail a bit and went to sleep. Bud was sleeping in front of the woodstove, he abandons me during cold weather when the stove is warm.

I sensed Zinnia somehow knew I was in need of her, I smiled the minute I saw her and she crawled up to lick my face and gnaw a bit in my nose.  She knows how to be happy.

She just lay there and looked at me.

I don’t know what she knew and sensed, I can’t get into her head and don’t wish to. I took it is as support, and sat in the quiet room thinking how lucky I am, and how hard it is for so many other people.

I felt better almost right away, I couldn’t help but smile when I look at Zinnia, and my smiling broke the spell and the Black Dog skittered off to visit someone else. She has a gift that way.

We lay like that for a half-hour, until the UPS truck backed into the driveway and the dogs all rushed to the door, barking as if some great evil was about to come through the door.

I did get my phone out of my pocket to get a photo (Apple 11 Night Vision option) of this intimate moment,  and I took the photo of my new and loving friend and, I guess, companion.

9 December

The New Amazon Mansion Aides Christmas Wish List

by Jon Katz

I’m excited to report that the new Amazon Mansion Aides Christmas Wish List is up, there are 14 items posted, the list includes gifts the children and family members of the Mansion aides have requested for Christmas.

The aides themselves submitted the items on the list.

As many of you know, these aides work in difficult circumstances for little money, they could use some help in giving their loved ones the presents they want.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to understand that the aides very often struggle to make ends meet, and it is a great gift and pleasure to support them and help them have a special Christmas.

As a rule, they make less money than fast food franchise workers.

I wish I could do more, but this is a great mission for the Army Of Good, it’s right in our wheelhouse, just like the Bishop Maginn Christmas List, which sold out very quickly. We are also supporting the new Mansion Break Room, where the aides can finally go on break for lunch or dinner.

The 14 items on the list range in price from $4.99 to $54.95 and I hope we can get the aides everything they need for their families to have the Christmas they deserve. Our support means they might also purchase a gift for a spouse or parent or needy relative.

They usually spent their own money to buy presents for the residents, especially those with no families nearby.

I have never witnessed so much love and dedication as these people show every day. They make an enormous difference in the lives of the elderly people they care for. It’s hard and draining work. Like the teachers at Bishop Maginn High School,  I consider it an honor to recognize them.

I have also distributed 19 $50 gift certificates to the Mansion for the aides, and those, along with the presents on the wish list, will have an enormous impact on their  Christmas.

The items include A Frozen sticker book, a Disney Frozen Me Reader Electronic Reader and library; a $50 Mastercard Gift Card, a Puzzled Resin Seashell with Blue Lighthouse, a $25 Amazon Gift Card, an L.OL., Surprise Furniture Cozy Coupe, an 11 inch Soft Body Doll for $12.99, a Monster Jam Official Grave Digger Remote Control Monster Truck for $14.99, a $25 Xbox Gift Card for $25, and a Toy Story Fisher-price Imaginext 4 Buzz Lightyear Robot.

If you need the correct shipping address for Amazon, it’s The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. If you need it, the telephone number is 518 677 3711.

The items will be sent there and distributed to the aides. I appreciate the Amazon Wish Lists, which are revolutionizing non-profit-donations. I’ve now introduced the idea to three different institutions, and they have all been successful everyone.

The wish lists shift the power to the donors, not bureaucrats.  You get to choose what you want to buy and spend, and there are no middlemen or administrators to pay.

This, for me, is what Christmas means, giving, not getting. I smile when I think of these kids getting the presents they want.

I know the aides are reluctant to ask for any kind of help, this is a big step for them.

I thank you so much for helping, I know there is great interest in this list out there. It makes me feel so hopeful for our country that there are so many good people waiting to help people in need.

You can see the Aides Amazon Christmas Wish List here.

9 December

Podcast: Zinnia In Bedlam, Vulva Xmas Decorations, Risks

by Jon Katz

In our new podcast, Maria talks about shocked that she got little or no response to her idea for Vulva Christmas decorations, we talk about whether or not we live in a bubble. We talk about creative risks and also talk about the effect Zinnia, our new Lab puppy, has had on life in Bedlam Farm.

Quite a bit, as it happens. Bud is thrilled, Fate’s nose is out of joint, I’m in love.

Please check out the podcast, it’s a powerful new way to share our story offers the most penetrating window yet into life at Bedlam Farm and the way in which Maria and I relate to one another.

Come and listen here.

Email SignupEmail Signup