Flowers: Twenty-Five years On a Farm

Flowers. The most consistently farmed item here are flowers. My husband, pictured next to me, has a green thumb. But a green thumb is not something you are born with; a green thumb is something that combines one’s love of plants and variation with an environment that is conducive to growing and maintaining plants. A real green thumb involves curiosity about the day-to-day magical evolution of plants and a willingness to dig in the soil to investigate and preserve plants.

Claire and Radames Perez 2019
Claire and Radames Perez 2019

Willing is too passive a verb. One must be pulled to their plantings as a rock star is pulled to the stage. The passion must be there, or else it is a chore. For me gardening is mostly a chore, just this side of drudgery, but I love looking at gardens, reading about gardens, and taking photographs of gardens.

“Gardening is ageless,” my husband read years ago. And he is right. It is a place, where I see little ageism and a coming together of people of all ages in awe of the colors, shapes, and shear wonder of individual plants. Nothing beats a peony in June or a big beefy tomato in August for bringing people together in a positive way.

On this little piece of the earth, each year brings special focuses and dimensions to the garden. One year, we looked in magazines and saw how pretty white plants looked at Twilight. Radames went out and bought many specimens of white plants here are some pictures. I never appreciated the white but when you see the variety of textures and shapes and the contrast against green and different colors, this non-color is beautiful.

Here are some samples.

Twenty-five Years on a Farm

Twenty-five years ago I met my husband, Radames, on this “farm” in upstate New York. I came over for lunch one day and ended up staying. For many years I dreamed of being like Isak Dinesen and writing some dramatic story like Out of Africa. “I had a farm in upstate NY,” I would wistfully state as I described the scene below.

I fancied myself in a tan hat, with sunglasses on, blowing a whistle and leading some group of people on the land to accomplish something. This was one of many fantasies I held when moving to this beautiful place.

My farm fantasies started before I arrived here. When reading Dick and Jane in elementary school, I looked at their farm and thought it might be wonderful to go and gather your own eggs in a basket every day? I thought it must be lovely to have a barn amid the greenery.

In my early 30s, my fantasies of farm life intensified when I started reading Martha Stewart Living magazine. Everything was so organized and beautiful and she did so many neat, crafty things. It was home economics in a magazine and the world of domestic wonder beckoned me off my couch and into the world of doing.

And that is where the fantasy met reality. When I started doing projects around here, I was overwhelmed. Growing up in the suburbs and living in apartments until my mid-thirties, I had never done many physical projects and the closest thing I came to touching the earth was changing the kitty litter pans.

So as the year begins anew, as I find myself hunkered in on this cold winter’s night, I think I will enjoy reflecting in blog posts on this life I have here on the farmstead with my lovely husband.

Dolemite: MIDLIFE CRISIS GONE GOOD…153 words

fun w Illustrator claireaperez

I loved Dolemite! I recommend watching it. First, you see that it is never too late to create or recreate yourself. Dolemite changed his same old, same old comedy routine by trying something different. Visiting with people on the streets, he listened to their stories and found a way to share them and engage his audience.

Dolomite had whispers of self-doubt all his life, but this time, an older man, he conquers them. And in his genius, Dolemite helps others conquer there’s. When people aren’t “buying” into his film project, he assembles a team of diverse people (some down on their luck), assumes success, and exudes success, and it works.

Finally, marketing. Dolemite believed in his film project when no one wanted to show it in a theatre. He found one theatre, created a face to face marketing plan that resulted in a packed theatre. Dolemite is Dynomite! (I couldn’t resist)


#Judy ~ the rainbow waits

Somewhere over the fractured rainbow…art by Claire A. Perez

Last week we watched the tragic story of Judy Garland.  A woman haunted by a childhood of unhealthy caregivers and absent parents.  No adult had her back.  MGM, the studio she worked for, and their needs were more important than Judy’s.  In her youth the studio withheld food and love from her. She learned how not to take care of herself.

To see on the screen in this vivid portrayal of Judy Garland’s adult life, the consequences of the deprived emotional being is to see the collective whole. The results of an unsteady childhood.

Judy was like a character from The Dubliners unable to get out of her own way. Her life was a constant struggle with the demons locked in her nervous system.

At moments throughout the film, the camera pans into the pain and degradation within Judy by showing her pale face and the fear underneath an ever disappearing veil of confidence and beauty.

As good as Rene Zellweger is as Judy, to see the woman’s real emotional dis-ease, I watched a clip from the old Michael Douglas show on which the real Judy appeared.

I felt compassion for this woman who longed for life somewhere over the rainbow. She never could obtain it because no matter how hard the audience clapped, she could not find her center.

The center where we reside is the holiest of places and without a respect and care for that place, Judy, like the walking wounded she represents, fight the hero’s fight until their dying day without the knowledge that their subconcious is feeding them.

It is this knowledge that allows the lucky and the strong to heal in the broken places. The Buddhists have a saying which a college boyfriend used to sign all of his letters, Sanna, the truth is within you.

To see the truth is just the beginning to healing, then there is the work.

Judy lived in a time before new Age enlightenment but perhaps, had she been born decades later Judy may have found the love and connection in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

#Amtrack 3~ In the Colorado Foothills

The Amtrak ride was long to Colorado. But it was fast. For the first time in weeks, my brain and body were still.

In Colorado, I tried to forget that my dog had just died. I tried to be normal. It was nearly impossible. But there was a balm for my soul…walking in a beautiful neighborhood a few times a day and looking at the beautiful, ever changing Colorado sky as it butted up against the Rocky Mountain foothills.

I felt grateful to Amtrak for getting me to Colorado. So very frightened of flying, like many of my traveling compatriots, my trip made possible on the rails.

At the end of a storm one day, I went for a walk. We had just visited a dinosaur trail…literal footprints left by dinosaurs. The thunder and lighting as the sun was disappearing over the foothills brought my dog Macadew to mind.

Gone…just gone…a print in the cosmos may live for centuries and the spirit of living may transcend but the individual soul: where? Cleaving from my heart that day and still, Macadew’s imprint on me felt like the thunder in the sky. Large, booming, covering everything for miles and miles.

And yet beautiful, like the sky with its ever changing majestical blues and clouds and sun dripped angles. Knowing my dog Macadew was beautiful. And yet…

The mistake I made is haunting me so…I am going to ask for all his records and read them. Something I should have been doing all along during his illness. Macadew was my responsibility, I neglected him in regards to questioning his situation and gave it up to the experts. That is on me, not them.

I am pretty sure in the end of my reading, I will be able to make some kind of peace with it all, but until I see what happened, I feel like the picture of rain clouds above. Lost in the mist and fog. I will in the end have no choice but to forgive myself.

As I looked up after the rain storm at the clouds, I thought I saw Macadew’s form…floppy ears, looking away to perhaps his next incarnation.

Soft, graceful, forgiving but so powerful….all that love and might. We take on a lot of responsibility as humans and we are flawed. Dogs though love us no matter what (if we are loving toward them) and in the midst of trying to do it all in the gung ho American way, I think there is a lesson here for me to learn.

In the meantime, I know that for his app 8 years with us, Macadew did love his days. Perhaps that will be the only conclusion I can find peace with.

I cried in the Amtrack station when we left because I knew a hard road awaited us after the next 2 days of travel, a very hard road. And yet, here we are, we get up and we move on.

Soar Macadew, Soar

Once Upon a Time in HoBoken ~ A Quentin Tarantino Production

Dear Mr. Tarantino,

I hear you might be taking it easy for a while. But before you go, I was wondering if you’d listen to my film idea.

So I got this idea for a film. We go back say 50 plus years to the decade we were born and we find lots of signs from the neighborhood down there in Hoboken. We get all the classic car owners to a meetup, maybe we throw in lunch to get them to show up and then we find some random crime. Bank robbery will do, I think you can get a blood bath goin’ on that one. Then we get two has-beens, never gonna make its, to beat some people up and pretend their acting in an off off-broadway play.

Why Quentin, before you know it, we got us a movie. I bet a smart guy like you could write the script up in no time. An actor forgets his lines, goes into his dressing room, throws some shit around, and comes and does the best performance Greta Thunberg’s ten-year-old sister has ever seen.

Oh, I don’t know if Greta Thunberg has a ten-year-old sister but who cares, it’s Hollywood.

Copyright: Claire Perez

Writing The Effective Email

I saw this request in a newspaper: How do you write an effective email? I am writing this in response. I find that when I take the time to write an email using this assertive “formula,” I get projects and answers that address my needs and/or wants and that things move forward, faster.

The most effective emails are usually simple and consist of three parts. First, let me define effective. Effective means I get a response to my need or want, not that I get my need or want. Also, my goal is to keep the relationship in the forefront: I do not want to damage the relationship in the email. The following format is based on an assertiveness script I read about twenty years ago.

First, state in one sentence what happened. Second, state what you think and/or feel about what happened. Finally, state what you think/feel should happen going forward.Below is an example:

Dear Dr. Blue,

Thank you for your referral to the surgeon. Last night we were told about surgery options for our dog’s meniscus tear. I don’t think we will do the surgery as the low ballpark estimate is $3000. I also feel it may be too much for our eight-year-old dog. Going forward, we are going to try a brace, pain medication, and a stair ramp. I hope you will support our decision.  Please advise when you can. Thank you!

Note well: 

The difference between the two words, aggressive and assertive.  Aggressive demands while assertive requests. The above email is assertive, below is an example of an aggressive email. And as the saying goes, you get less with vinegar than you do with honey.

Example of a not so effective email:

Dear Joan,

I really like your boutique. The clothes you import from Italy sure are lovely, and those purses you order on Etsy and stock in your store are very well made.  That is why I am so disappointed in you.  You promised that the outfit I bought was stain resistant.  Well, I spilled Chicken Marsala on myself Saturday night, and I cannot get the stain out of the blouse.  I tried all kinds of things that I found on the web for stain removal.  So it turns out you were wrong.  Since I spent $400 on the outfit with the intent to take it to Europe for my daughter’s wedding, I would like you to refund my money.  I am happy to receive store credit and get something else.  But you were wrong and if you want to keep your store in good standing with my pals, you better help me out here.

I look forward to hearing from you TODAY.

Thank you, Betty

Also note:

The use of I in the first example has the sender taking full responsibility.

The repeated use of you in the second example is blaming the recipient.  The second email is full of extra detail that the store owner may not be interested in or have time for.  The first email is 74 words.  The second email is over twice as long, with 163 words. 

Short, to the point, polite statements of our needs and goals are much more useful than screaming to the recipient through the computer.

M.S. Education, M.S. Communications. My experience includes over twenty years of teaching students from ages fourteen to eighty. It also includes five years as a Communications Assistant for Cornell University’s Department of History.

Memories of Tom — ithacalansing

This is written by Kathy Mapes. A lovely piece about her friend Tom.

Memories of Tom Searching back through my emails for a picture of Tom’s cat Spectacles, I found traces of Tom’s and my history. It’s hard to ever know what goes on in a relationship between two people, even when you’re one of the two people. I ran across a string of emails from […]

Memories of Tom — ithacalansing

Two Popes, Spirit & RULES

Two pope hats set against blue background (sky) with pillowing clouds

Born a Catholic, I believed I was cast into the world a sinner and my goal was to do enough procedures to make it to heaven. For me, being Catholic was about weekly mass, confession, holy days of obligation, and Hail Marys. I believed in God but I never felt him. I was so wrapped up in trying and Hail Marying to be good.

I left the Church but the guilt persists. In a recent contest of wills, I was going to throw myself under a bus at the expense of what was right. It took four people to pull me into the light. The Catholic guilt gets embedded in your nervous system and it is hard to untangle.

Enter the Two Popes, a Netflix movie about talks between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. On Christmas eve we tuned into this film. In a new way, I saw the spiritual side of all these white guys who craft destiny for so many.

The Popes wrestle with the spirit of God and their relationship to him as they converse throughout the film. During part of the film they are in the Sistine Chapel and the camera points to the fights between good and evil, the desires and powers of humans set against a backdrop of blue sky and white billowy clouds rising to the heavens.

The Popes discuss their interface with the politics of their times and how they question their roles as God’s representatives on earth. Pope Francis had abandoned the Jesuits during the Argentine civil unrest. His guilt is almost palpable through the screen. And that is where Pope Benedict points out that Francis did this terrible thing and he saved many people. “Shades of gray,” my old Jewish friend used to say, “shades of gray.” He was trying to get me away from black and white judgments. In the film, Benedict concludes by saying, “After all we are only human.”

As he says this and the camera pans to the images in the Sistine Chapel, there is a relief, an understanding, a freedom comes over the scene. Even the music seems to soar heavenward. A Christmas reminder that we are only human and despite our best intentions, mistakes will be made. But it is no reason to flail yourself, it is an opportunity for growth, compassion, and change.

My whole experience with the Catholic Church may have been better had all those sermons, confessions, and religious ed classes made this message the received one. But instead I stuck to the Rosary, and “Our father who art in heaven” without thinking much about what I was stating.

My husband, also raised Catholic, escaped the guilt early in life. He pointed out to me when this happened. In his teens, one day when he saw a bishop striding down the aisle in his regalia, and he felt a repulsion to that kind of power because the bishop was a mere mortal.

So I leave The Two popes with a question answered. There is a spiritual component of the religion I spent two decades practicing. It’s just that the rules and rituals dominated my experience and now, it is too late to go back. Because I do believe in a woman’s right to choose and I don’t think I want a bunch of rich, white guys laying the law down for how should conduct life.

#Thanksgiving Gratitude

from Ram’s hard work & plant magic to the camera

I focus on the negative. It is not totally my fault. I was raised by Sicilians. I need to learn more about their history but basically, if you are on an island by yourself, always under the threat of invasions, you learn to be hyper-aware and suspicious. This is a simplistic view of my negativity…but the narrative is real.

It’s raining…oh my God, the basement’s going to flood up past the appliance platforms. We won’t be able to use anything in our house. Or will be electrocuted or whatever. Not only that, the pond is going to overflow into the cottage across the drive. There goes our rental.

Gratefully, that sh__ ___ never happens. But other stuff does. The worst stuff…people I know and love die, there they are in the obituaries and I never saw them again. Our friendships ended long ago but as James Taylor sings, “I always thought I’d see you again.”

Then a family member dies. In this case, it was our dog Macadew. A dog is man’s best friend and Macadew is in our heart, and took a slice of it with him into the ether. Our house, me, Ram, and Mobs has not been the same since August when Macadew left us.

And then there is my reality. My love and need for wood fires, quiet, and nature juxtaposed against a longing for a big house full of people: friends and family. The gap of loneliness I feel between the two.

But then I realize I do the best I can to mind the gap and my work is to be grateful. Grateful for the people I have loved and lost and who informed my life with so much wisdom. Grateful for Macadew…no dog has taught me more about patience, illness, love, the need for play, the joy of play, and a strong body overwhelmed by its stronger spirit.

Grateful for a safe trip to a place that opened my mind up to adventure. And to my absolute love of walking. Grateful that I am healthy. That my husband is healthy. That we were with Macadew when he passed and not traveling at that moment. Grateful that I do not worry about food…there was a time when I was so broke that eating an $8 deli sandwich was the biggest treat I had in a month.

Grateful that my family and friends are alive and healthy! Grateful that people come to visit us for dinners and brunches and over night stays. That they say, “We love it here,” and thanks for a “Magical Evening.”

Grateful to be able to be present as much as possible for all of it and to stop waiting for the next invasion. To just let it be and more than that, to be thankful. And where I can, to give back the light of life that has been granted to me through the kindness and love of a universe seeking goodness. Goodness despite…

Moby and Macadew chasing sticks in a nearby pond last year
MACADEW THIS PAST YEAR…not feeling too good but this captures the poignancy of his spirit.

Ghost in the Red Dress at Cornell October 2019


as we continue

the ghost floats through our lives

present and invisible

For Information on the REDress project read the link at the end of this paragraph. Here is a quote “The REDress Project is an extension of an art installation by Canadian artist Jaime Black. The exhibition comments on the high rates of sexual assault and murder among Indigenous women in the United States.”

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