Next?

Every year since 1987, Super Bowl MVP winners are asked in a commercial:

What are you going to do next?

They always respond with great exuberance:Disney

I’m going to Disney World.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_going_to_Disney_World!

At the closing of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit – a 2-year community-based art project – everyone asked me:

What are you going to do next?

I replied:

Recover.

Recover

  • return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
  • recuperate, get better, convalesce, regain one’s strength, get stronger, get back on one’s feet 

In October, the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit closed.

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/04/exhibition-at-maine-jewish-museum-examines-portland-immigration-then-and-now/

In November, my Mom died. **

In December, I returned to Maryland. firehousesnow

In January, ‘snowzilla’ led to a decision to paint the firehouse walls.01 snow

In February, I fell.

Scaffolding

I fell 12’ from scaffolding.

I broke my ankle.

Foot

 

In’ valid

  • Latin in (not) + validus (strong) = weak
  • Suffering from disease or disability

 

 

I live in one of the least accessible places you can imagine. There are 17 steps from my front door to my living space. There are 3 more steps to the kitchen; 7 more to the bedroom in the loft. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1272771?preview

I would be bed-ridden with my leg elevated above my heart for 6 weeks. I would spend most of my time establishing my own version of the intricate systems I had created for my Mom when she broke her hip.

I used a computer chair with wheels to transfer in and out of bed. I set up an “ accessible” kitchen. I borrowed a mini fridge into which multiple Tupperware containers appeared daily. (The empties eventually made their way back to their original owners.)Tupperware

I devised a job chart (remember I was a 1st grade teacher) listing a variety of tasks – laundry, transport, library, dishes, boredom reduction. Friends signed up for a shift. I will be forever grateful for their continuous support.

I would eventually go to Physical Therapy twice a week for several months.

I slept – a lot.

I watched Netflix – a lot.

I celebrated my birthday – not so much.

I did not make art.

Inva’lid

  • Being without foundation or force in fact, truth or force

There is a legacy of making art while bed ridden.

http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/art-2/artists-bed/

Renior continued to paint while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis so crippling that his son applied the paint to the brush and placed it in Renoir’s hand. http://www.openculture.com/2012/07/astonishing_film_of_arthritic_impressionist_painter_pierre-auguste_renoir_1915.html

Kahlo in bedFrida Kahlo spent 9 months in bed after an accident in which her bus collided with a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. During her confinement, she created a series of works referencing her accident and recovery. Kahlo art

Henri Matisse turned to cut outs when a chronic illness made painting too difficult. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/carving-into-color-matisses-stunning-cut-outs/

foto_cutoutThe cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” Moreover, experimentation with cut-outs offered Matisse innumerable opportunities to fashion a new, aesthetically pleasing environment: http://www.henri-matisse.net/cut_outs.html

When a young Henri Matisse asked Renoir why he kept painting [ in chronic pain], Renoir is said to have replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

Learn

My hat

If you are not making art,  are you still an artist?

I had spent the greater part of 2 years creating the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit. And now, I was spending most of the day staring at the walls, re-arranging my pillows and planning for the next action I would take – retrieving an object, transferring to the chair, brushing my teeth. I allowed myself 2 hours a day to be depressed.

I do not make art.

I learn.

I learn how long a bone takes to heal.

I learn how to depend on friends.

I learn how to be humble.

I learn how to be patient.

I learn how to be grateful.

I learn that chicken soup is not just a Jewish thing.

Recover

  • find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost).
  • retrieve, regain (possession of), get back, recoup, reclaim, repossess, redeem, recuperate, find (again), track down 

My art career started with the death of my Dad. In his last few months of life, he encouraged us to live our dreams – – and not wait. He had hoped to spend his retirement painting. He died at age 61.

My return to Maine and Peaks Island was to sculpt a granite memorial on the 20th anniversary of his death and to film a documentary of the process. https://vimeo.com/29998120

My mother visited my exhibit just before she died. She wove on the Journey Loom, wrote comments on the chalkboard, viewed the aprons and Abraham’s  tent. As a result of many falls and several broken bones, she was confined to a walker. Our visit to the Maine Jewish Museum two years before had led to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths and 43% of those are from ladders. After my friends elicit a promise that I will never climb scaffolding again, they then ask:

What are you going to do next?

Just to recover physically will not be enough. I need to reclaim my life – my artist life. I need to learn to walk again on the stone path. I am not sure about what that will require, but I know one thing for sure:

I know, I’m not going to Disney World!

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso

 

**Caroline Borofski Israelson

Community activist and long time Munjoy Hill resident.

In the 1960’s when the East End Beach was closed due to pollution, Munjoy Hill (PTA) mothers marched on City Hall demanding a swimming pool be provided for their children. Leading the march was Caroline Israelson.

Caroline Israelson passed away, November 22, 2015. She was born on March 20, 1929 the daughter of Joseph Borofski and Elizabeth (Levinsky) Borofski.

An ardent Democrat, her first foray into the world of politics and community activism was when she wrote to President Roosevelt requesting a photo with his signature. In support of the war effort, she joined others of her generation and collected scrap metal for recycling.

Caroline bequeathed a ‘Legacy of Values’ to her children. She lived by two principles:

Tikkun Olam – a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or ‘mend the world.’

and

The Golden Rule to treat others fairly and respectfully no matter race, religion, sexual orientation (or during the 1960’s, length of hair.)

A lifetime resident of Munjoy Hill, she adhered to an ‘open door’ policy at her Moody St. home. Anyone in need of food, shelter, coffee, conversation or counseling was welcomed at her table – day or night – whether the dishes were done or the floors washed or the laundry put away.

Throughout her life, she continued to serve the community. As an organizer and advocate – politically and socially – she sought to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She was one of the first members of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP and attended the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfasts.

She was also a member of the Anti- Defamation League, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith, National Council of Jewish Women, Etz Chaim and Bet Ha’am Synagogues.

Caroline volunteered at St. Paul’s Soup kitchen and served on the board of Serenity House. She worked with young children as a volunteer for Head Start and as a mentor at the Juvenile Youth Detention Center.

As a Notary Pubic, Justice of the Peace, Caroline performed many marriages in her Moody St. living room.

At the People Regional Opportunity Program (PROP) she worked to keep youth safe by improving recreation opportunities, advocated for affordable safe housing, and food access.

She never lived more than a mile from the corner of Moody and Munjoy Streets. After her move to Bayview Apartments, she remained political – participating in resident meetings, registering voters and monitoring at polling stations. Although her bid for a seat on the City Council ( ‘Go with Experience” ) was unsuccessful, her mentorship and endorsement was sought by first timers seeking elected office.

A tireless campaigner, she supported efforts to elect the first African American President. She had hoped to witness the election of a woman President and reminds everyone to vote in 2016.

Until her health declined in recent years, Caroline (wearing one of her colorful bandanas) was a familiar figure to East End residents . Her daily walk along the Eastern Promenade culminated in a cup of coffee – regular, cream, 2 sugars and donut – at the Hilltop Café. On her return loop, there were brief stops to pet a cat or two along the way. She continued her neighborhood forays even using a walker.

She became a die hard Red Sox fan while attending Red Sox games at Fenway when dating her husband, Leon. They saw Ted Williams play.

Caroline was sure if she were the manager, she could make them win the World Series and finally got her wish in 2003 with the arrival of Pedro, Manny and Pappi.

Known for her sense of humor as well as her sense of adventure – including a solo trip to Australia at the age of 60 – she took bus trips throughout New England with Anne Jordan and other friends….

She never stopped learning and growing. She was an early adopter of yoga and reflexology and practitioner of (TM) meditation. As a Member of Codependents Anonymous, Caroline believed in the healing power of counseling. She was often asked by neighbors to include prayers for a job or health during her Shabbat candle lighting ritual.

Caroline made her home wherever she lived. In declining health, she accepted her move to Southridge Assisted Living in Biddeford with both grace and grumbling. There she became a beloved member of that community – staff and residents alike.

She treated everyone with respect and valued her friends as much as family. Caroline cherished her life-long friend Margaret Carter that she met in kindergarten.

She was one of the first participants in a study of the use of Lithium for Bi-polar disorder. Founding member of the Polar Bears –that offered support to many individuals suffering from bi-polar disorder and depression.

Pre-deceased by her husband Leon of almost 40 years and her sister Sylvia Glantz, she will be missed by her family and friends especially the Margaret and Robert Carter Family.

Family: Jo Israelson, Union Bridge Maryland, Katherine Scott of Palo Alto California, Lynne Israelson Mason and husband David of Newburyport Mass, Michael Israelson and his wife Norma of Westbrook, Maine. Her grand children, Christine Henry, New York City, Emily and Elizabeth Scott of Palo Alto CA, Rachael Israelson and Michael Israelson of Westbrook and her nephews and nieces Joseph Glantz of Bridgton, Faith Glantz and Sasha Morelli of Portland.

Service to be held Tuesday November 24 at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. South Portland, Maine 10:30 am followed by interment Temple Beth El cemetery, Portland 04103.

Temple Beth El Memorial Park

Following the interment, A Celebration of Caroline’s Life and luncheon will be held at Bet Ha’am beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. All are welcome. Please bring a canned food item to be donated to local food banks in her name.

Tuesday evening from 6 pm – 8 pm, friends are encouraged to come with stories and stay for coffee at Becky’s Diner, Commercial St. Just say you are a “Friend of Caroline’s “.

In honor of Caroline’s unique fashion sense, the wearing of bandanas and/or Red Sox regalia is encouraged.

In lieu of flowers and cards, donations can be made to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org , Portland Chapter of the NAACP or the charity of your choice.

 

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Moving Forward

Endemic:

characteristic of a particular place, or among a particular group

Sharing:

We are now a world community. We can share with the entire planet – even those in space – 24/7 – with just a  “click” or “tap” or our voice.  First, we shared documents then music files and then our thoughts on any number of subjects. Now we post photos and videos and intimate details of our daily lives – sometimes to our own detriment.

But, to some, this shared world is not new – it is a way of life born from necessity and continued as a cultural norm. For some, sharing is endemic to the geography of their lives. Islanders have always lived in a sharing community .

If you live on Peaks Island, Maine, you learn to share from the time you learn to walk. When you are trudging through snow or carrying groceries, running to make the boat, someone will offer you a ride. You can call a friend to check on the dog if you are unexpectedly delayed. Don’t have the tool you need, ask at the Peaks Café.

There is an island listserve that announces art openings, school events, thanks you’s, lost dogs, found glasses, rides needed or offered or the start of a cancer support group. Recently, a friend needed a high chair for a visiting niece and within 15 minutes received 14 responses – including delivery and a story of the chair’s history.

During the past year, I was a recipient of the islanders culture of sharing, as we continued the search for a place for my mom. When I needed information about various nursing homes and assisted living facilities, islanders shared their experiences, penned reviews, supplied contact names and emotional support. When I needed home care providers, high school friends offered names of caretakers they had used or even offered to come themselves.

When I needed a car – everyday for a week – to visit the rehab center in the morning and nursing homes and assisted living places in the afternoons, people I knew (and some I didn’t) entrusted me with their vehicle. No one asked about my driving record or insurance. Each person trusted that should anything untoward occur – I would behave as a member of the sharing community and act responsibly.

However, I did have to learn the island system for locating a car in the parking garage. You have to denote whether it is parked  “Inside/outside” – the specific entrance on a numbered level – and whether you can see the whale wall or the restaurant.

 Sharing My Home:

 Respite:

Time out, break, recess, pause, hiatus, suspension, rest period, relief,

Many of my friends are caring for a parent or relative or spouse.

  • One is providing hospice care to her mom as she approaches the end of life:
  • Another is monitoring the care of her aunt and dad located in another state:
  • Another is alternating with her other siblings the home care of her parent.

Many of us do not live next door to our parents or even in the same state. We do not have lives that allow us to stay home to care for another. The Portland Press Herald paper ran a series called: Challenge of our Age. A woman was featured in an article about a woman who left her job and became the full time caretaker of her mother who had been diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. She acted out of love; she had no regrets; but she was exhausted – depleted.

http://specialprojects.pressherald.com/aging/part-2-liz-havu/

What caregivers have in common is the need for respite.

Throughout the past few years, I have left my home and studio for longer and longer periods of time to help care for my mom. While in Maine, friends provide housing and support. They give me a key and keep the porch light on. They make up the bed and leave dinner. There are no expectations (Well, sometimes the dog wants petting or letting out …)

I now provide respite care for my friends traveling up and down the coast. I leave the key, clean sheets on the bed, soup in the fridge, and if I am there, emotional sustenance.

I have even developed a ritual with one friend who returns often.

We eat a healthy, home cooked dinner. We then head to the local restaurant to procure 2 pieces of cake: chocolate with peanut butter frosting and carrot with cream cheese frosting. We go so often that the waitress points us to the cooler and lets us select our own pieces. We take our cake home and return the empty plate on the next visit.

Sharing the Fear:

My mom watches the news religiously. Monsoons in the Phillipines, tornadoes in the Midwest, floods in Colorado – 1000’s are left homeless. Even with all the assurances from our family to the contrary, she is afraid of becoming homeless. Her anxiety prevents her from sleeping.

Each time I visit, she asks:

  • What is going to happen to me?
  • Where will I live?

Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, in an interview many years ago when asked her greatest fear, she replied:

  • I am afraid of becoming a bag lady.

She echoes the refrain I hear from friends as we grow older. Many of us are single or have no children. The fear of being homeless resides deep in the recesses of my own mind.

I never realized how brave my mom is. She learned to use a walker after recovering from her broken hip. She agreed to in-home assistance with cooking, cleaning and meds after her broken pelvis. She endured weeks of rehab after her broken arm. After months on waiting lists, she will be moving to an assisted living facility that is 23 minutes and 18.1 miles from her home. It was a difficult decision made easier by the fact that there was only one bed in one facility that was available.

I am uniquely qualified to help with the transition. I have been a professional clutter buster and personal organizer for 20 years. (Actually, according to my mom, I started young. I was bounced out of nursery school for rearranging the cots during recess. In my defense, they probably needed it.) http://jotheclutterbuster.com/modules/publisher/item.php?itemid=53

Mom taught us to share with others – no matter how little we had.

She will decide what she wants to take with her to the assisted living place. She will offer items to friends and family who have made specific requests.Tchotkes

We will go through her apartment and identify items to be given to homeless shelters. We found an organization that accepts furniture to give to families that were previously homeless.Truck full

I will store the photographs until a later time when we can sort and label. Then I will scan them and make disks for everyone.

I am in awe of her willingness to focus on the sharing and not the loss.

 

Sharing the Heart:

I will arrive in Maine on the Solstice. The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.

winter-solstice_10792_990x742

During the darkest months, I stay in bed later in the morning. On Sunday mornings, before going to Quaker Meeting, I listen to “On Being” hosted by Krista Tippett. (In my opinion she runs neck and neck with Terry Gross as an insightful interviewer.) During her program entitled: Contemplating Mortality Tippett interviewed Ira Byock MD, a palliative care specialist. In his book: Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life,  he distinguishes between the concept of the good death and actually dying “well”  – whole. www.onbeing.org/program/transcript/4655

He offers 11 words that he feels are important to maintaining or repairing relationships to use during any transition:

  • Please forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • Thank you
  • I love you

My siblings and I have worked hard to coordinate the process. The last time we had to work on something together was my father’s funeral – 25 years ago. The process has been exhausting – for everyone. Completing applications, copying and scanning documents, submitting paper work and re-submitting the same paperwork, researching and visiting facilities, filling out more forms, waiting lists, telephone calls, doctor visits and interviews. Amidst communication breakdowns and misunderstandings, text messages, emails, phone calls – we attempt to preserve relationships and find a way to care for my mother.

In an interview, Jane Gross author of Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents –and Ourselves and the blog: The New Old Age, talked about her state of being “between guilt an exhaustion” as she and her brother made decisions about the care of their mom. She emphasized the need for “family repair” as a result of the process. http://www.amazon.com/Bittersweet-Season-Caring-Parents-Ourselves-ebook/dp/B004DEPII8

I am hoping, after my mom is settled in her new “home”, that we can share these 11 words with each other.

Sharing the Future:

With the current technology, we are so used to being able to predict: weather, traffic, up-coming events. We are always looking towards the future. We are under a delusion that predicting means knowing the outcome.

Almost a year ago to the day, I was starting a public art work: creating a legacy – occupying a permanent space. https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/next-steps-on-the-stone-path/

Once the piece was installed, I realized how in between my mom and I were in our lives:

The Space Between *:

Between the end of a project and the path to a new artwork.

Between my home in Maryland and remaining in Maine.

Between caring for myself and caring for another.

 

Between living independently and being dependent on others.

Between the familiar and the unknown.

Between continuing or stopping.

 

Between present and absent

Between then and now

Between breath and no breath

 

We are no longer in the space between. We are now moving forward.

* https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/the-space-between/