Category Archives: Uncategorized

Love & peace for 2017

Dear Readers,

It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here.

Been dealing with lots of health stuff, and so much has happened here and around the country and world. There’s been way too much collective grief, hurt, disappointment, anger, and harm done to children and innocents everywhere. Aleppo, Syria alone makes me question humanity, makes me wonder (again and again) if mercy is only for some and not all. It seems so.

All the pain in the world, in all the corners where lives were cut short, or were ruined, families torn apart, or obliterated. Like no one learns from history and our species
seems hell bent on self and planet destruction.

The many stars, artists, thinkers, humans who left us.

The election.

In the midst of this, and everyone’s individual private or public life battles, people go on and live. Remarkably, people continue working,  laughing, making art, pushing forward. We all do what we have to do to get by, and there’s no way through it but through it. Which sucks a lot of the time. And this year has been difficult for many, and these are extraordinary times. Lots of WTF?! Seriously?! And now what?!

I don’t know about you, but I could do with a minimum three-month long hibernation right about now.

holidays2016

My hopes and wishes for the New Year include love and peace, clean water, fresh air, good food, safety, freedom, justice, more kindness, an end to cruelty of all kinds,  for science and facts to (eventually, and before its entirely too late)  win the day, and for the wildlife creatures and seas and skies to keep on and keep on while we each find our own ways to keep going, be with those we love, and resist  and organize peacefully so we can work to get our democracy back for everyone.

Love,

Elana

 

It is only a matter of time

Dear Readers,

It was only a matter of time before we started seeing increasing racist, bigoted, hateful and aggressive behavior and violence at Trump rallies as his hate speech has always seemed to me that he was  inciting to violence. Comparisons to the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany have been inevitable.

Last night, an escalation. Brave people in Chicago shut down a Trump rally. On display, exposed for all to see was racism and hatred but also a large number of protesters who put their bodies and lives on the line to oppose and protest Trump and everything he stands for.

At the beginning of March, a peaceful student from the University of Louisville, Shiya Nwanguma, was assaulted by a terrifying crowd filled with racist haters. It could have been a scene from long ago. I found this photo on Shaun King’s Facebook page; a side by side image that speaks volumes. On one side, a student walking through a crowd during attempts to integrate a school in Little Rock, AK, and on the right, an image from the Trump rally. As if time stood still.

Found on Shaun King's Facebook page. Credit to Shaun King and any associated copyrights
Found on Shaun King’s Facebook page. Credit to Shaun King and any associated copyrights

You can read all about this here via Shaun King.

I was deeply disturbed watching the footage of this young women as she made her way through this crowd, pushed, poked, verbally and physically assaulted because of the color of her skin. I was so angry and sad, I couldn’t find the words. Instead, I sat down to draw and paint.

The man in the red hat is Matthew Heimbach who participated in the assault (you can see him quite clearly on camera).  He’s a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party and is a known white supremacist. The woman at the center is University of Louisville student, Shiya Nwanguma.

Trump has been quoted as saying, “Get them out of here.”

It is long past time to get him out of here.

This is my protest:

"Amerikkka" by Elana Halberstadt 2016
“Amerikkka” by Elana Halberstadt 2016

With love and peace,

Elana

“Hands up, don’t shoot”

Dear Readers,

It is the one year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, age 18, in Ferguson, MO.

I made this shortly after I learned about the incident and posted about it here.

Don't Shoot!
Don’t Shoot!

And there have been so many horrific deaths since.

It feels never ending.

Sending love.

Elana

Ringo Good Cat Angel with Fur

Dear Readers,

Ringo has been gone now a little over 26 hours. I just cleaned out her litter box and completely broke down crying. The house is empty without her.

One of the first pics of Ringo, May 1999.
One of the first pics of Ringo, May 1999 at 5 weeks old.

Our announcement about Ringo to friends and family,
written yesterday 10/1/2014:

January 2006 at age 7, photo by Ari Halberstadt
January 2006 at age 7, photo by Ari Halberstadt

Ringo Halberstadt Turits Good Cat

Born, exact date unknown, March 1999
Joined Andy & Elana on May 2, 1999
Died Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our Dear Sweet Angel Cat, Ringo left this planet at around 10:30 am this morning. 
She was 15 years and 7 months old.

Ringo was born in Hoboken, NJ and rescued by Eileen “Honey” O’Leary. We were truly blessed to have luck put us right there to pass by a friend, who called us over and said, “Guys, you’ve got to come see these kittens!” Andy and I found her there when she was approximately five weeks old. We brought her home and she became an essential part of our family. We have loved Ringo every day since and she has loved us.

Ringo died peacefully and with us holding her paws and touching her beautiful fur. 
The last things she saw were our faces and hands. The last words she heard were 
“We love you. You are a good cat. Thank you, Ringo.”

We talked about arriving at the Rainbow Bridge. We envisioned for her an open field with wildflowers, bugs and butterflies to catch, and a sunny spot of sun for her to be in always.

Grace and Peace to Our Beloved, Ringo, our Love Angel Cat of Destiny and Healing Paws. We miss you dearly, terribly, and we are heartbroken. But we’re also immensely relieved that you are free of pain. Your infinite, kind spirit and soul are already working in mysterious ways to help us through.

Yesterday Max said: “Ringo’s work here is done. She has achieved all her life goals. So now, she can rest.”

This afternoon, after we told him the news, he looked up to the sky and waved, “Hi Ringo.” And then he said, “She will meet up with all the other cats. There’s a cloud where all the cats and animals you knew are playing together. No more pain and running free like when she was a kitten.”

All Goodness and Love.

The last pic I took of Ringo at 12:27am on Oct. 1, 2014, her last night's sleep at home on the purple couch.
The last pic I took of Ringo at 12:27am on Oct. 1, 2014, age 15 years and 7months  for her last night’s sleep at home on the purple couch. (The black spot on her left hind leg is where the extra sweetness went in when she was made.) 

In the final hours all the things we do with love

Dear Readers,

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support by readers here. Many of you have sent me personal messages and  emails and all are so greatly appreciated. Thank you.

9/29/14
9/29/14

It’s harder the before part, isn’t it? When you know the end is inevitable, but yet, you watch looking to find glimmers. Oh, Ringo walked to her bowl. She’s still making it to her litter box. Oh, and she ate a bit more! She’s purring. After a few days of her withdrawing to under the table, resting and sleeping mostly, not sleeping on our bed, not jumping up on my desk to lounge on top of my laptop and help me…

After days of not, this morning Ringo jumped back up to my desk and sat in her usual spots. On the right side, behind the laptop, on top, on my lap, over my shoulder, and then circle back again to look out window at birds. She meowed and asked me to pick her up and I held her, Ringo Lite, so  airy and fragile, and she did that thing she does, nestling into my neck, hugging and purring. We sat like that for a while, while I cried and cried. I wasn’t sure I’d get to experience that one more time. But she came and gave that moment to me. One more time on my desk, inspired.

I thanked her out loud for being here with us for so long, and all her goodness. I thanked her for being there and helping us through tragedies and health problems and happy days and holidays, and boring nothing happens days, every day. I thanked her. I cried into her fur and she just purred. “What a good cat. What a good, good cat, you are. Thank you, Ringo. “

Then she got down and I thought, OK, she has given me her love for 15.5 years, a third of our lives. I have given everything I could to her. I’m lucky.

pic from 9/16/14 but she did this today, too
pic from 9/16/14 but she did this today, too

A little bit on how we found her is in this below:

Exhibit curated by Holly Metz, Cover -An Exhibition at the Hoboken Historical Museum, 2004
Exhibit curated by Holly Metz, Cover -An Exhibition at the Hoboken Historical Museum, 2004
The bit about Ringo starts on this page
The bit about Ringo starts on this page
And the rest is on this page
And the rest is on this page

This painting (sorry for not such great photo of it):

Ringo, 2001 by EH
Ringo, 2001 by EH

was inspired by this photo:

August, 2001 by EH
August, 2001 by EH

Today, Ringo enjoyed chicken and kugel (she can be such a little Jewish cat) cut up into the tiniest of pieces and heated up in the microwave. It’s hard for her to eat. It’s almost time.

Here we are with TableCat in September 2010 during Rosh Hashana.

September 2010
September 2010

When we first got her, she also couldn’t eat. So small, at 5 weeks and abandoned without her mommy cat,  we went to a vet and tried everything, used a dropper, but for days she seemed to not eat enough. On Mother’s Day morning, 1999, maybe a week after we found her, I was eating a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. Suddenly, Super Tiny Ringo jumped with all four paws into the bowl and starting chomping down. I let her (and got myself another bowl), but then I made her little cracker type things using the cereal as a base and smearing on baby cat food. She gobbled it up, eating from my hands. She’s been a great eater ever since and she grew into a whole cat.

Vintage Ringo Collection
Vintage Ringo Collection

In recent years, she’s been finicky with food, but that was fine, but really, she’s eaten very well her whole life, enjoying plenty of delicious home food courtesy of Andy’s amazing cooking skills. Now, at the end, she can’t eat enough to sustain. It is  almost time, soon, before she knows hunger, before it hurts too much, her pain meds keeping her comfortable for now.

M said, “Her work is done. She has achieved all her life’s goals. Now its time for her to rest.”

But denial along with that, “At least she doesn’t have cancer. She’ll be here, probably two more months. I’ll have one more birthday with Ringo.”

I had to tell him the truth. “Yes, Ringo does have cancer. She is going to die soon, but we don’t know exactly when. She won’t be here for your birthday. I’m so sorry.”

Watching him let that sink in was hard. His face fell. He bit his lip. I could see he was holding back tears. He gets it and doesn’t get it. We talk of the Rainbow Bridge. I told him whatever he feels is OK. I told him all feelings are OK. I said, “Let’s talk about FutureCat. Let’s eat more ice cream.”

I check on Ringo, watching her breathe. Making sure. I look around the house at all the spots where she has always been. The windows. The couch. The table. My desk. The beds. The hall. The litter box. Under things. There is fur in the screen of the window. There is fur.  More windows. She’s still so present and here. I’m already sad at the thought of her absence. All the above, but without Ringo in the picture. All the drawings I have made over the years which include her. There’s that empty space, the negative space, where she won’t be.

I cry a lot. I keep it together for when M is home. He’s so sensitive, we need to be careful, what we say, how we say it. But we still need and want to be honest and tell him the truth. We keep searching for ways to be as gentle as possible, knowing that while he often seems older than his years,  he’s also younger in other ways. All those feelings of loss and grief are certainly hard enough for an adult to process. I don’t think there’s any one right way or wrong way. We know our M and we make decisions that we feel are best for him, for us. So far, it is a mix but it is also calm and peaceful and is also a thing our family is going through together, each in our own different ways, and there really is no way out of it, just through it.

"Through the storm" made after Superstorm Sandy  in December 2012.
“Through the storm” made after Superstorm Sandy in December 2012.

This morning, M made some video of Ringo. He pet her head. He talked about names for his next Future Kitten.  He listed for me all the reasons why rescuing a cat is best, why we’ll get one from a shelter, why we won’t buy a cat from a store. M gets it.  He’s a real  cat person now. I’m glad for that.

I’m pulling out albums and looking through pictures and scanning and the time is going by too fast and it isn’t  just Ringo, but all the STUFF that has happened in the past chunk of time, 15.5 years, all rushing by. Little blips of images, memories, deaths, losses, snapshots of happy days and nights and all the days in between. Like a blur  going inward and backwards, but holding on to the pieces of the moment. I need to remember to eat. There is fur in corners and on steps and on my desk and on the window sill and —- and I like it that way.

Cat lovers know how special these creatures are. Ringo has been a muse for me. She heard me when I talked about trouble and when I triumphed. I have received and received. Grateful.

detail from illustration 2012
detail from illustration 2012

A silly ditty we had and rhymes…oh, there are so many silly songs and memories and things we have said:

“Ringo, bingo, bango, bongo, cat would eat a mango. ”

“Who’s good? Ringo’s good.”

“Ringo, Cat of Excellence!”

“Ringo, Cat of Destiny and Density.”

“Ringo, Cat of Constant Furrinness and Love.”

“Ringo, Healing Paws.”

Ringo is  a state of mind and an attitude. Ringo is pure love. We got to have pure love for 15.5 years.

How lucky is that?! Wildly, incredibly lucky to have Ringo in our life. All joy and love covered in fur. All goodness and peace. Our Beautiful Ringo, Angel Cat.

Ringo is made of StarStuff.

With love,

Elana

from Creative Systems Thinking
from Creative Systems Thinking

 

 

On having to start saying goodbye

Dear Readers,

Yesterday we took our cat, Ringo to the vet as I had suspected something was very wrong. She had started hiding in the closet, lost weight, had a strange smell in her mouth. As soon as I realized, I made an appointment to see the vet.
We learned she is very sick and will die soon.

We’re going to keep her comfortable (pain med and antibiotics from vet have been given) while we have to decide the inevitable — when.
It’s hard to accept. And already I have the dropsies and the bumping into things from the grief which has started. That time- is- sped- up- and- slowed- down simultaneously feeling where you notice everything, but then you want to please, lay down and sleep in cotton, and the sun is too bright, although warm and good with fall leaves turning and falling. Such a beautiful time of year this is.

Ringo is getting delicious brisket and long spells sitting in the window catching sun.
Heavy hearts but M already talking about our next kitty and that he’s quite sure Ringo will be going to the rainbow bridge and the rainbow is the entry point to cat heaven.

detail from a painting by Elana Halberstadt, 2014
detail from a painting by Elana Halberstadt, 2014

M said, “Maybe she will meet up with her brothers and sisters.” I said, “Maybe she’ll meet Pounce who left us in 2003. Or Banana in 1977.”  I know Andy would also think of Schnapsie, his childhood family dog. All of the animals who we love(d) who love(d) us every day and then leave us, always too soon. We’re with Ringo more than 15 years.

Such goodness and all the love as we’re being extra kind to Ringo as much as we can and to ourselves because this will be Ms first death experience. We always joked that she’s his  big sister.
And we have to help him say goodbye. Or maybe he will help us.

Transitions are hard for M. But, I don’t know anyone for whom death is an easy thing. If death is the ultimate transition, I think what an incredible opportunity to show him how we love our furry family member at the very end of her life. How we can say goodbye in a way that is only for love. Ms ability to see past this to a new, future kitten is hopeful.

It’s hard. I’m numb sometimes.  It’s the news you never want to get. Most likely cancer. Denial pops up. It could just be an infection in her mouth and then the antibiotics will clear it up, and she’ll be fine. No, that’s not what the vet said. But we say that because it feels better to hold on to that shred of hope for another day. I’ll be calling the vet tomorrow and we’ll go over everything again. I’ll ask him which types of cancer he thinks it is. I’ll ask him to tell me again what he suggests will be best for her to not suffer.  Tell me the options again.

I started documenting the end and writing in my head and I realize that’s just my coping mechanism. How to turn these feelings into pictures or find a place outside my head to put the feelings to contain them and make sense of things. Tears just roll and roll.

photo_1-18

Then I see something funny  and start looking for more funny  and I find it, and then there’s folding and  sorting piles of laundry. Then sorting and more piles of old papers and magazines and junk mail. Recycle, shred, keep. Contain. Put away. Do something that has immediate results, something I can control. Laundry, piles, or to go outside and smell the freshly cut grass by Andy. Watch M run in the circles of the grass. Try to save the orange mums  that were decimated by a critter overnight. Whoever did the damage left the purple ones alone, but now I want to bring them off the stoop, too. Those flowers make me happy.

photo_2-21

If I can make something that will last after Ringo is gone, even if I never look at it again,
maybe that’s just my way through.

photo_3-14

Of course we’ll be ok. With so many disasters and true hardships in the world, this is a personal story, nothing more or less. Just about our cat, Ringo, and things related to that, which feels like everything. She’s one I turn to for a hug and snuggle when the world feels too much to bear.  When the news is too grim and gory, Ringo is the balm of comfort.  Always perfect love. Makes everything better, makes it all tolerable somehow. Life’s moments of difficulty, eased by her presence. All the celebrations made sweeter with her here. Every day for over 15 years and counting.

This is what we’re going through now, and so I think about that; how one goes through this — losing a beloved animal friend. It doesn’t matter how many times you may have experienced this, it is never easy. Each time you go through it, it is new. Each animal has a unique soul.

So, you just go through it, however way you do. Knowing there’s no way to stop how much it hurts. No way to measure the love. No means by which to show gratitude sufficiently to the creature that is our Ringo, such a good cat. She has lived a life better than many humans. Most certainly better than so many animals. She has only known love. She has only given love. Every day since May 2, 1999 when we found her at 5 weeks old, so tiny she fit into the palms of our hands and measured 5″tall.

Pizza saves the day. Sweet treats, ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles (or Jimmies as we said in Boston, MA when I was little). Andy made us a fabulous dessert and is cooking again, and I’m peeling tiny clementines by the handful in between cake and coffee with cream. Because sometimes I have no appetite at all, and other times, I can’t stop eating every morsel of comfort food put in front of me and with plenty of water to drink.

Sitting on a chair next to the window holding Ringo and listening to birds and kids playing outside. Then I watch her enjoy sitting in the window, sniffing at the air.

watching birds 9/27/14
watching birds 9/27/14
nice air in the window 9/27/14
nice air in the window 9/27/14

I took pictures of her on the sunny spot on the floor in the dining room and her whiskers are lit up shiny in the sun, on the floor with crumbs and bits of fur and all the imperfections. You can see she is thin and that the floor is worn and needs to be swept.

photo_4-10
shiny whiskers

The kind doctor who hugged me and gave a wad of tissues while I absorbed hearing the news and the options and accepting but not being able to say yet, yes, we will do this or that, because we just found out, she most likely has cancer, an aggressive kind, and it is untreatable. To find out for certain would require surgery and a biopsy, and then  she would not be able to be helped anyway. Doing this procedure  would confirm the  vet’s most likely opinion which he formed from a thorough visual exam, tests, the symptoms. The procedure would accurately name and type it.   We will not put her through that. She’s over 15 and she’s been living a wonderful life. It’s been a good run. Her time is coming, even though we’ve told her repeatedly that she must live forever.

With the vet’s help, we’ll keep her comfortable, giving her days with treats, open windows, and love. Not unlike any of her regular, pre-sick  days.

The vet said, “We’ll take it day by day.” He has promised me that we can hold her or her paws when it’s time for the rainbow bridge which will be soon.
Too soon.

All love,

Elana