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This weeks theme is HOME

Home.  Home is powerful.  I feel blessed to have a home, a safe, warm comfortable home.  Blessed, Privledged, yes!  I feel gratitude for the position in this world that I was born into.  I feel hopeful that the work I do in the world helps those who are not as fortunate, or comfortable as me to have a better life – a better home.  More comfort, more voice, less worry, and struggle.

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This is my home:

My hubby, two not-so-little girls and I live in the place where I landed with my birth family as immigrants when I was just three years old.  It is the place where Chris spent his summers as far back as he can remember.  As a matter of fact, my husband and I met that first summer we spent in the USA.  It was 1969.  He was 5 and I was 3, he and his family lived next door to the friends we stayed with until the house where we settled was ready, a few towns over, down in the valley.  Of course, it wasn’t love-at-first-sight, when we re-met as adults we were great friends for 10 years before we even dated.  Our love story is pretty beautiful and tidbits will be sprinkled throughout my posts here and there but for now we revert back to our topic. 

Home. 

It takes me a while to settle into a new place to live.  The best parts of my life have been filled with a solid connection to place.  The houses where I have felt comforted and relaxed are those where I’ve spent the most time, time enough for them to become home.  We currently live in the house where my husband and his family spent their summers.  The property was in his family for a few generations as a summer place.  About 20 years ago my super talented and able man, added a second half to the once tiny cabin and winterized the building into the coziest home in the all the woods near and far.  Cool in summer and toasty warm in the bitter cold.  I love our little house – even though our soon to be teenage daughters share a room and we have one closet – in the whole house.

 view from the tree house.

view from the tree house.

A few years ago we bought a house two doors down our dirt road.  The elderly childless couple that had lived there had both passed away and their house was sitting empty. Chris popped in to check on it one day and found it in a terrible state of water damage with mold and falling sheetrock.  We were able to buy it for a song!  We gutted it, down to the studs, cleared out dumpsters full of damage and reconfigured the layout to meet our needs: Separate bedrooms for the girls, a single floor suite for Omi, (Chris’ mom who might, one day, decide she would like help with her daily chores) an office for Chris, closets, lots of closets, a mudroom, and a great big dining table in a sun-splashed great room so we can have dinner parties!  Outside, outside is heaven.  Birds sing, bears lumber, nesting hawks whistle, baby owls learn to hoot, kids sing, dogs fetch, water babbles.  Along the south wall, there is to be the most amazing deck overlooking a house-less valley with views into the next county.  There will be a raised-bed garden with herbs, vegetables, and cutting-flowers, a fire pit, and meadow below.  There IS a treehouse!  Wait til you hear about the treehouse (first post on Thursday this week!)

Oh, Tribe, these are just the highlights!

For the first time in our lives we are planning, renovating, tricking out, a house for ourselves.  We have started from scratch and will make it just the way we want as a place to call home for what might be forever! 

After years of making home furnishings and designing spaces for my product, while making-do with what others have set forth as far as home design goes it is exciting to be in a place where we can indulge in creation.   My husband is a licensed building contractor and master plumber.  He is inspired by fuel conservation and high-efficiency homes.  Using environmentally kind, handmade and recycled furnishings, fixtures, and materials is the launch pad for home-design.  We will incorporate lots of my wares in the mix including Potholder Rugs, Blankets, and new furniture pieces coming together in the studio. Deciding upon every last detail is a lot of research and work and we both love it!  High design meets environmentalism, researching, weighing attributes to make choices we can get behind is a lot of work and it is so inspiring and lovely to have this project to bring us together as a couple while learning all manner of interesting enviromentalisms along the path.  I hope you join us as the project moves forward.  I’ll be posting weekly updates here with all sorts of information and details about every step of the way.  Are you in a renovation process, or dream of being there?  Maybe you are a designer or newly-wed looking for handmade or recycled elements to add to your living space or maybe you are just interested in learning about our process, Check-in here on Thursdays for weekly progress reports.

In the meantime, we are having a picnic dinner tonight down at the ‘other’ house.  If you want to join us on your very own picnic, check out the amazing array of picnic blankets in the shop now.  Enter THISWEEK at check out to get a whopping 25% off your purchase.  Now till Sunday evening at 7pm Massachusetts time.

And to that we toast a wonderful summer filled with achieving your biggest goals and enjoying the company along your path.

 

 

 

Jewish Geography

Tonight I went to see a show with traditional Irish dance and song. There was storytelling in between: hardships, love of country, war, leaving home and settling in a new place. It got me thinking about my ancestors. No matter where you are from the common thread we all share is the varied history of race, religion, love, and persecution.

I am not Irish, not one drop, much to my dismay, but I was able to identify with the stories because they reminded me of stories I heard from my elder family members. The dance was more in line with Russian folk dancing and the Hora. The language, instead of Gaelic was Yiddish. The stories of persecution were the same, hate based on religion.

I come from a long line of proud Jews, although my grandfather on my father’s side did change his name at the young age of 13, so he made not have been so proud of flaunting his Jewish identity or perhaps just felt the need to hide it. I don’t think he really wanted to hide it though because it was still a Jewish name! He went from Moses Rogovin (way Jewish) to William Rogoff (kinda but definitely Jewish). Like going from Orthodox to Conservative. He was born on the lower east side of NY, 13 Essex Street. His dad, Jacob, emigrated from Russia.  My dad loved to tell us stories about going into the city for pickles, knishes, books, and yarmulkes. When I got married he felt it was really important to go to Essex Street to the guy that has been making yarmulkes forever rather than order them in New Jersey

My grandfather on my mother’s side was an immigrant. He came from Poland. At the age of 13 he was sent off to Prague to go to yeshiva, he was to study to become a rabbi. Little did his parents know that he was skipping school to find odd jobs to save a little money to get a boat to America.  He and a friend traveled across Europe trading bread and sugar to get to Spain. He was 16. They found a boat that was going to South America so they took it. He ended up living in Argentina for 3 years and Brazil for 3 years, saving money so he could get to North America. He learned Spanish and Portuguese; he already spoke Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Slovak. He arrived at Ellis Island in 1921 with 6 languages under his belt, but not English. He was very learned for a guy that didn’t finish his schooling and had no issue with learning another or two. He lived in New York, where quite a few years later met his wife, Lillian Rand- who turned out to be his first cousin, that he had never met before. Makes for an interesting family tree: my mother is my cousin, my brother is my cousin, mutation in cells makes cancer an easy target. Of course, the good totally outweighs the bad, they were the best grandparents in the world.

My grandfather, Leo, was driven, as one could gather from his plight from Europe after WWI. He and Lilly married and moved to New Jersey. Newark. The Weequahic section.  The Jewish section. He ended up opening a dry goods store in the Italian section of Newark. You guessed it- he picked up Italian (already fluent in English) and was fluent with the neighborhood, especially all the old widows that came in to buy their black dressed that they had to wear every day. His store carried all sorts of dry goods -sheets, towels, clothing.  The store was eponymously named Leo’s Dry Goods and was so incredibly cool. Dark worn wood, an old cash register with fancy keys and piles as high as the tall ceiling, stacked with work pants, floral sheets, housecoats (remember those?). Everything was made from natural materials because there wasn’t anything but natural materials.

His incredible story is what inspired me to name my business in honor of him. Handmade goods constructed with attention to detail, of natural materials. Leo’s Dry Goods, there isn’t a green awning with white letters hanging over a window anymore, but there still is the passion and drive for quality and success. Inspired by my heritage, proud to represent a part of my family’s history.

Travel Preparations

My son and I have the fortuitous luck, one could say, luck of the Irish. We are prepping for a trip to Ireland in which he and I will be adventuring with one of my oldest friends, college roommate and lover of textiles and her two daughters. It's gonna be "deadly craic."  Lots of fun. 

 She has 3 eggs

She has 3 eggs

This week is about getting things in order with work, the garden, the chickens and ducks and the feral pea hen sitting on her eggs in our front yard. It used to be I would prepare meals for my husband and leave them in the freezer, but that is now on the back burner, actually, not any burner. He is on his own. First in line is work. I have a few items to make, material to cut and give my studio assistant all she needs to take with her so she can get some work done at her house while we are gone. Second, makes sure the water line is hooked up to the well and a timer so the garden doesn't wilt while away. My husband has a work trip up in Wyoming for part of the time we are away and will take the dogs, since there is great hiking and mountain biking up there, so no need to worry about that. The ducks and chicks will be cared for by the neighbors when Rodrigo is away, and since the pea hen is always on her own with the rest of the peacock clan, she will have to make do. I do leave her feed and water where she is nesting, but have to bring it in at night as to not attract predators. 

I am a pretty casual traveler, packing last minute, but collecting the necessities gradually before I go. Unorganized, yet at the same time, I know where everything is: on the kitchen table in a heap. 2 passports, travel adapters, reading material, embroidery floss and hoops. 

When traveling with Joaquin, I definitely take more care to have things in order. I have checked our flights, the car rental, passport expiration dates. 

 The Burren. A magical place with a dark history. 

The Burren. A magical place with a dark history. 

I have fallen in love with Ireland. I went last year and was completely smitten, enchanted by the Emerald Isle.  While getting tea at the local cafe this morning I ran into a friend. We were chatting about summer plans and I told him Joaquin and I were taking off for Ireland on Saturday. He asked, "Why Ireland?" I responded, "To get in touch with my Irish roots." We laughed, because I am the farthest thing from Irish in my DNA.  

But in  my HEART, I am definitely part Irish. 

 

 A coincidence, I think not. 

A coincidence, I think not. 

 

Sláinte...

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Travel Plans

Travel Plans for me involve taking care of the things that would have been done at home in the time I am away.  A week from today my daughters and I will be heading to Ireland for a little more than a week. We plan to spend time with my sweet and 99 year old auntie who needs a little loving and homemade soup.  She is our last living relative of her generation and might have surpassed her siblings in longevity, as she never had kids!  I say this in jest but really – I mean there is so much stress involved in parenting!  And, there is so much stress involved in managing care for a childless auntie who lives across the ocean.  Thankfully my cousins are able to take that on without much need for my input.  I like to lend my support as often as I can.

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Back to my travel plans, this week Ben, my eldest (25) will be admitted to Children’s’ Hospital in Boston for a night or two so the cardiology team there can switch out one of his life-supporting meds.  The one he has been on for the last few years needs to be changed to keep Ben’s liver and kidney function happening.

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You see, Ben has been dealing with a pretty precarious heart condition called Cardio-Myopathy for his whole life.  He was diagnosed at 2 and a half at which time his life expectancy was deemed to be 4.  It is kind of hard for me to share much about his health issues.  It seems that most people respond to my sharing with deep sadness and fear which makes me want to keep it all to myself.  So, just know, part of what I’ll be doing this week to make our travel plans happen on Sunday is sitting with my sweet son, while he undergoes what is likely to be a smooth change.  Smooth, but not without risks that most would not choose - and, well, we didn’t choose them either but they are ours.  Send strength to Ben and a prayer for a calm, smooth, successful transition.

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Went strawberry picking yesterday in the hot sunshine.  Picked 25 lbs for the freezer (and smoothies all year) Oh and there will be strawberry shortcake for dinner tonight.  Harvesting had to happen before we head across the pond.  There is such a tiny window for the perfect strawberries in our climate.  By the time we return home that window will be closed.

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OK. Now to plan for garden watering, and dog walking; Feeling grateful that my amazing team at the Crispinaffrench has solid abilities to hold things in balance while I adventure. 

Staying the Course

I’m a dreamer--not because my nationality is being questioned at the border, or I stare out windows at clouds instead of doing my work, but because I love to look for possibilities that may not be obvious and I get excited about what those possibilities may present. For the past couple of years, I've been dreaming about buildings.  It's always fun when my ideas are met with collaboration and enthusiasm and there is already a momentum of current behind it, providing me an outlet to serve an effort.  For the past couple of years I've been dreaming about buildings-- a lot.  And lately I find myself the one establishing the current and this can be personally challenging for me.  Sometimes these ideas do not fit the “norm” or pose the path of least resistance.  Sometimes sharing these visions evokes an amused chuckle, or gets me a pat on the head with a “What a great idea!  Good luck with that!” and in some cases the uncomfortable shuffling of feet and averted eyes.   

 Architect, Chris Alley created this rendering of this addition to Wasson Hall, a building on the "State Complex" severely damaged by the flood.  Reimagining it into an arts center was a SUPER fun possibility to dream on!  

Architect, Chris Alley created this rendering of this addition to Wasson Hall, a building on the "State Complex" severely damaged by the flood.  Reimagining it into an arts center was a SUPER fun possibility to dream on!  

 Wasson Hall, a sweet building with a TON of potential.  Currently it still stands empty in this raw, post-flood state.  

Wasson Hall, a sweet building with a TON of potential.  Currently it still stands empty in this raw, post-flood state.  

 

Since 2011, staying the course has been hard for me.  Before that I was clearly dedicated (maybe even too much so) to pursuing a path that I wanted and gave me joy, despite its trials.  But because of events that happened starting in 2011 (Hello, Life!), my best-laid plans had to change and shift. I was determined to make use of myself in these new circumstances and saw within the events an opportunity to reclaim a dream that I had held since childhood—having an art center in my hometown. I had attempted this before, but in those ventures, clearly the town was not ready to understand the value an arts center offers a community, or they didn’t want their taxes to go up any more, or it was just the classic example of New Englanders resistant to change.  I could respect these concerns, as I held them all myself, but I also had a career of working in the arts and experiencing the tremendous subtle and not-so-subtle benefits that the arts offer individuals, communities, and economies. And our town, after being swept away in the course of Tropical Storm Irene, desperately needed all those things.  This was the time if there ever was going to be one.  

 

 This building, also on the State Complex, was another historical site we looked at.  They used it as a staging platform while renovating what they kept of the State Complex, and then tore it down later.  We tried to see if we could save it by moving the metal trusses which were designed much like those in Grange Central Station.  The State decided to crush them rather than let us give them new life.  Sigh....

This building, also on the State Complex, was another historical site we looked at.  They used it as a staging platform while renovating what they kept of the State Complex, and then tore it down later.  We tried to see if we could save it by moving the metal trusses which were designed much like those in Grange Central Station.  The State decided to crush them rather than let us give them new life.  Sigh....

So I launched a renewed effort and showed up at every possible meeting.  Despite the open attitudes, there was tremendous resistance. There were supporters, to be sure, but I soon learned that my job was first one of education to inform and advocate to the public, as well as for me to operate in this new theatrical arena—small town politics.  It wasn’t until many months later that the Deputy Under Secretary of the USDA toured through town politely listening to the FEMA recovery projects from the leaders that were present (mostly infrastructure upgrades) that my elevator pitch received a jolt of validity.  He became animated in his approval of “projects like these!” and people started to really listen.   

 Our dear friend Dan helping to fill the dumpster in the first round of demos at the Grange Hall.   Those bathrooms had to go!  

Our dear friend Dan helping to fill the dumpster in the first round of demos at the Grange Hall.   Those bathrooms had to go!  

I searched for a place for this center relentlessly.  It was my vision to have it downtown in the reconstructed flood zone, but flood mitigation and insurance alone rendered the art center completely unsustainable.  I looked farther afield, but it eventually came to us. Doing play readings at the local Grange Hall for years had introduced us to those taking care of the building.  We had even suggested at one point to rewire the whole building in exchange for guaranteed time in the building to produce our productions (the lights we wanted to plug in would have burned this humble but wonderful building to the ground).  That arrangement didn’t suit them, but I believe it planted a seed that one of the Grange members watered in their conversation of dissolution.  They came to us with the opportunity to steward the building to keep it in public use.  It needed every upgrade you could imagine, but we couldn’t say no to this unexpected gift.  It didn’t look like what we thought it would in 2011, but all the core elements are present in this bourgeoning project.  One day I would love the full vision, but for now staying the course on this dream takes on its current chapter.    To be continued…

 Our awesome neighbor Matt and my husband (also awesome) standing in "the cellar" contemplating their next dismantling strategy of what's left of the second floor.  On the right is the front door with the sun beaming in, on the left the door to the gallery/dining/classroom/intimate performance space.  This 3 story hollow will be (respectively going up) the lower lobby, the upper lobby (or Front Of House), and at some point in the future, our lighting booth (I just can't stop dreaming!)

Our awesome neighbor Matt and my husband (also awesome) standing in "the cellar" contemplating their next dismantling strategy of what's left of the second floor.  On the right is the front door with the sun beaming in, on the left the door to the gallery/dining/classroom/intimate performance space.  This 3 story hollow will be (respectively going up) the lower lobby, the upper lobby (or Front Of House), and at some point in the future, our lighting booth (I just can't stop dreaming!)

Staying the Course

Perseverance with a side of branching off

I can be quite a scatterbrain.  I have no doubt that is the scientific term doctors from my generation used when referring to ADHD or ADD.  Brain science hadn’t gotten that far yet, I guess.  Staying the course has always been a challenge on a small scale. The larger picture was much more doable. As an adult in my late forties and early fifties, quite a few people have said to me, “You have ADHD, have you ever gotten tested?” There were two sides to that coin for me:  I made it this far and am perfectly fine and well, if it is a problem why not do something about it.  I found that it was really more of a problem for other people. And that’s their problem!

Whether reading an article in the paper, schoolwork, grabbing a garden tool, even making dinner, distractions or random thoughts pop up and I can turn down another path quickly. My husband likes to say (jokingly) “SQUIRREL” when that happens which I find to be funny, and gets me back on track.  It happens the most when just having conversations, though. I will just go off on a tangent and most likely I end up forgetting what the original thought was.

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Back to my original thought-staying the course on a larger scale. Being self employed my whole life has been a joy. I am blessed that I have been able to support myself doing what I love, which is making things, first murals, later textiles. Lately, I find that I have not been delegating my time properly, though.  I am trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle including being a good mom and partner, work full time, find the right education for my son, who has auditory processing delay, and socialize with friends, and… a biggie,  deal with menopause. The socializing with friends sounds easy, but always comes last and is probably one of the most important elements in one’s life. One of my friends once referred to me as a “shut-in” when I began my business, Leo’s Dry Goods. That made me laugh and reminded of the program on Sundays, Mass for Shut Ins. I think it came on after Davey and Goliath.

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I have been changing my business to accommodate my needs- FINALLY!

This has been a game changer. I used to try to do tons of markets: craft, handmade, makers’, farmers’, etc. It needed to be done to get my name and product out there. I started getting wholesale accounts and online and local retail, which is really what I wanted.  I started feeling guilty, like I was supposed to do all the markets, even though I didn’t want to anymore. I felt like I owed the market people my business. I thought that if I wasn’t at them, people wouldn’t remember my work. I was running myself ragged, especially around the holiday time.  I took a step back, realized that I had to do what was right for me, for my business, for my family.

I made a conscious decision. Time to scale back the markets. It was like a revelation. I was able to focus more on delegating my time properly and getting my work done. I still fall behind a bit- I have a large order to deliver to a local account that should have been delivered last week.  Having said that, I must stop rambling and get on the sewing machine. But first, a jog out at the Eagle Trail.  

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