Here and Now

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Several months ago I wrote a post where I opined on my existence in liminal time, the space between time, poised on the threshold of one thing and another as I helped care for my mom and witness her failing health. (That post can be found here.) Since then her health has continued to deteriorate and I have slipped further down the rabbit hole.

Until recently I would grab several days a week there in New Jersey, every other week and then weekly. My work days were largely uninterrupted and I would spend mornings, lunch and evenings with mom and her caregivers and cats. While it wasn’t home, which remains intact in Manhattan, but it was a home away from home and while I wrote more recently (here) about how wearing the transfer was there was some chance to get rest there.

Mom’s cat Beau who has been taking the changes lately very to heart and is a very worried kitty.

Mom’s health took a serious turn for the worse recently and we are in a period I can I describe as pretty brutal. Our days and nights are punctuated by the sound of the oxygen machine and the television, always on CNN – mom’s choice!

As we slip into this phase I feel the full weight of her care, her finances and the care of the cats and house, shifting over to my shoulders and frankly I stagger under it. Work is wedged between the coming and going of docs and various tradesmen – delivering and picking up. Understandably, mom is fretful and needs attention and reassurance. I am grateful for the flexibility of my co-workers and their concern during these days as the period drags on longer and longer.

Nights are especially long there and the late nurse coming on, mom’s wakefulness, and even cats chasing each other keep me awake even if worrying about taxes, money, work and a myriad of other things don’t crowd in. No sleeping pills there in case I am needed. Instead the television stays on, a quiet buzz of mostly home renovation television, all night long – a soothing loop of eager home buyers viewing house after house. I wake periodically and hopefully fall back asleep.

View at the start of an early morning rainy run this week.

In the morning I wake to make the first of two pots of coffee as more and more people find their way to the house for various reasons. Oddly my coffee has become somewhat legendary – made with an old fashioned percolating pot I am a one person influencer of the younger generation as now they all want to learn how I make it. I occasionally wake to find one of the young night shift folks attempting it on her own to various results. I give out tips and tricks.

Plying them with coffee is the least I can do after I know they have had a hard night and most of them will go onto day jobs, not to mention kids at home who need to go to school and who stayed with a grandparent or someone else overnight. For them this night shift represents a financial edge to get ahead, but recently it has become more grueling. Therefore the day starts very early there.

Wintery view from a run this week.

I do my best to rally the troops of Team Butler any way I can with treats, stories and conversation – trying to make sure they have everything they need and enough help. Still, we lose folks along the way and it is hard to find replacements. If nothing else exhaustion and exposure leads to picking up a cold, the flu of even Covid, which takes them out for a period of time.

I like them all although I suppose I have favorites. Each brings a different sensibility to her work (yes, they are all women) and a shift with any one or combination of two is somewhat unique. The pair of sisters, one who lights up the house with her cheerfulness and the other very calming, the older woman who is wonderful but quite deaf – the very tall young woman who travels quite a distance to get to and from us each day for whom; this is her first job of this kind.

Mom clearly has favorites and makes little secret of her preferences – to some degree this has not changed. She was always a pretty easy read with folks and has only become more outspoken.

Stormy, mom’s last rescue, allows me a bit closer these days but still won’t let me pet her.

A good friend walks over for an early cup of coffee and sometimes brings a breakfast of French toast, hot cross buns or other treats. She brings flowers for mom and sings for her in the afternoons. Suzanne is also kind enough to get me out of the house every day for a bit so that I can back off, even if it is only to buy groceries or grab a sandwich.

And of course I run. Time and energy are dictating shorter runs, but I get 3-4 miles in most mornings, weather permitting. I find it hard to get out the door and start, but once in motion my body responds to habit and command and I feel better for it. (I wrote about that good habit here last week.)

Milty, the eldest statesmen of cats in the house, is a grumpy fellow who complains liberally. He has a crush on one of the nurses and the friend who comes to fix our electronic devices, Larry.

There will be good things I know I will remember. The other night mom’s favorite caregiver stayed over to cover for her daughter who had done a very hard shift the night before. She is the person in charge of all the other nurses and aides and is truly everyone’s favorite. I declared it a pj party and made avocado toast on everything bagel halves for all. I will need to lose weight when this is all over.

Although there are cats aplenty, we all applaud when a stray we feed shows up for a meal. I have christened him Hobo and I am pretty sure we are only one of several places he stops on a never ending quest for food. Hobo days are considered special and the news that he came and went spreads throughout the ranks of the subsequent shifts.

Hobo, our wandering dinner guest, gobbling 3 cans of food early yesterday morning for a second appearance in two days.

Last night I landed back in Manhattan for 48 hours after more than a week there. The city seemed slightly out of focus with inebriated St. Pat’s Day celebrants wandering the streets. Now I am slowly absorbing the facts of my own home again – things left undone as I rushed out the door last week. I am so happy to see Kim and the cats are getting lots of attention to make up for my absence. (Cookie was the first to forgive my transgressions, but Blackie caught up later in the evening. He deigned to sleep with me last night.)

It was hard to leave mom and now it will be hard to depart from here tomorrow. These are the days of not looking too far ahead and just getting done what needs to be, making decisions as they arise and, with the help of everyone around me, doing the best I can do.

And the Season to be Jolly Continues…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a red velvet jacket, trimmed with a bit of black silk braid, that is probably a good decade (or even more) older than me. My guess is that it made its appearance on the scene in the late forties or early fifties. It is short and hits me just above my hips. It is a boxy cut so there is never a question if it will fit during and waxing and waining of weight. Mercifully the moths seem disinterested in it.

Since it is such an elder statesman of a jacket (showing some wear on the pile around the elbows) I only take it out for a few holiday runs a year, but without question it is a fan favorite and I always get so many compliments on it. Needless to say it dozed quietly in my closet over the pandemic years, and last year was a very abbreviated festive season with my mom in the hospital up to Thanksgiving and then with the time I stayed there. (A post from that time can be found here.)

Self-portrait in Christmas bulb on my run in New Jersey earlier this week. The NJ suburbs, as above, exude more holiday spirit.

So this year was the first in many years that I pulled it out again to wear yesterday, paired with high-waisted navy trousers and a silver (yes, silver – hotsy-totsy!) silk tank top. I have long found that dressing the part will get you part of the way to feeling it and I needed to pull out all the stops to find some ho, ho, ho this year for a dinner after work.

My evening out was preceded by a very long, frankly arduous and frustrating day at the office. As I alluded to in my post last week (it can be found here) fundraising is reaching a fevered pitch by this time in the calendar year. Some large events and important proposals have been layered on top of the usual frenzy truly making my head spin to the point of migraine meltdown early in the week. Yesterday I was sweating out the final version of a document right up until I had to leave to head over to a holiday dinner at our jazz club.

The evening was a mix of people I know and a few I did not, although even those I didn’t know only had a degree of separation really. I was a guest last night and so while I can never entirely stop my work brain when I am in our venues, the evening was not mine to run and fret over. Drinks and fried food eased us into the evening, always a good start.

Marilyn Maye performing at Dizzy’s Club last night.

The set featured Marilyn Maye. For those who do not know her, Marilyn is a 94 year young jazz and cabaret singer who is still belting out standards and last night with a sprinkling of holiday classics. Marilyn had her start as a truly tiny tot in talent shows in her native Kansas. Over time she moved from Wichita to Kansas City, and then later to the big time in Chicago where she began a long recording and successful performing career.

Evidently dinner club cabaret eventually gave way to more stage and theater work, and although I have seen her in our other, larger halls, she seems most wonderfully at home in the club atmosphere. In her sparkling sequin jacket, trousers and decked out in glimmering earrings and bracelets, she is every inch a dinner club diva.

As I settled into the music, my phone tucked away for the evening (although I did sneak this photo), which is rare for me because often when I am at a dinner in the evening I am working and need to be available to the staff who are also working. Last night as a guest I was able to focus entirely on the music.

The enthusiasm of these decorations inspired me to make my run past it so I could get a photo.

The love songs lulled me into musing over my own good fortune to have found Kim (as they always do) and that put me in a good frame of mind. By the time she got to some holiday music (a medley with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town among them) my harden, cold, Grinchy little heart had melted. Somehow even as it was unfolding I knew it was an evening that I will remember and look back on – just a very special moment in time which will stay with me. Thank you Marilyn!

Opening

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As most of our readers know, I work for a well known performing arts organization and you may remember that last year I missed our opening weekend, pushed late into November to avoid inevitably Covid related early fall issues. My mom landed in the hospital and needing to be with her trumped even our long-awaited post pandemic opening. So for me, although I attended concerts later in the season last year, this was my first opening weekend since the fall of 2019. While it lacked the heavy emotion of last year, last night was more than suitably festive and, despite masks still dotting our landscape, came close to feeling like at least the return to a new normal. There was a real joy in the room.

For me it also marked the launching of many colleagues who joined the organization recently and wonderful to see them each fully assume their new roles. (I have written some about the interview process and the overall state of the office here and here.) Like the slow forward movement of a mighty ship, the gears slowly turned and it was something close to full speed ahead by the end of the evening. For my folks the weeks and months of getting to know the organization and about our supporters was like the musicians and their hours or practice and rehearsal.

Birthday cake for mom earlier this week. I started the week working from New Jersey so I could be there for a small, but festive birthday celebration. Being able to work from there periodically is a post-pandemic blessing.

An evening like this is marked with a certain expected stress and mishap as is the nature of our business. Tickets gone missing (and a supply chain issue with ticket stock having made us crazy), introductions needing to be organized and executed, catering issues. (Last night a vegan sandwich made with beets appeared – which oddly looked remarkably like corn beef. They were enormous – and well, made with beets. Ultimately we had them quartered which made them more approachable and in the end they were surprisingly good.)

I was endlessly pleased to see my folks embrace their new roles, talking with guests, moving the reception along seamlessly. Our fundraising work bounces back and forth between the administrative and in person, a delicate dance really between the two. It is a a miracle when it all meshes into a successful evening like last night and fascinating to see the new people embrace their roles, each in a different and singular way. The trained singer who came to us to be back in this milieu taking obvious pleasure in the music and in meeting the musicians, the talented and personable young man who has taken a flyer on working for an arts organization for a totally different experience finding his voice. Our events manager fully in charge and in his glory after a few spring trail runs.

Mixed in of course remains a core group of hard working and great long-standing colleagues who have stayed through it all and helped introduce the new people to their roles while continuing to keep things afloat, as we have for months and really years now. It was a moment to glimpse the future and how a new team will work together and for all the bumpy starts see how the road ahead will shape up. It is just the start of the season, but I return with a new sense of swing to my step.

Viral

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So in the week that was, Deitch Studio finally fell prey to Covid. Not surprisingly, despite being an avid mask wearer and careful in general, I of course was the one who brought it home. Our return to office has had me in most days in the prior week or so, traveling on the subway and all – although in reality I have been matriculating through the world for a long time for work. The office, our club for dinner, breakfast meetings, lunches with donors.

Mom had it a few weeks back despite our extraordinary efforts to protect her. With her existing health problems that was very scary. She was sick and sicker at various times and I am grateful that she pulled through and now even her cough has receded. I am also deeply grateful to her caretakers who stayed throughout despite personal risk to them and their families.

Anyway, when we least expected it I woke up with full-on symptoms after a day in the office and an evening out for work. I tested negative, but began isolating. I was six days from a dinner for 85 people, our first of its kind since January of ’20. Of course in a one-room apartment there really isn’t much isolating to do, let’s be honest.

We’ve all heard varying levels of sickness from friends and family. I would say for me day one was more or less like being hit by a two by four. Blinding headache, sore throat, laryngitis and a deep rattling cough developed nicely through Day One. I didn’t test positive until the evening of Day Three. As others have said, it was strange to see a positive test after literally years of negative ones. It was definitive too, not a wishy washy second line but a dark one.

The good news is that I progressed rapidly toward better daily. That Friday night I missed the last concert of our season and the festive closing receptions which my staff executed nicely. They sent photos.

This machine beeped loudly the whole time I was there. Battery seemed to be dying.

On Monday morning, Day Four, I called both my GP and my rheumatologist (I have written a bit about my psoriatic arthritis and exercising in spite of it and that post can be found here) and true to form, the rheumatologist got back to me within the hour. He had me off to the ER for a monoclonal infusion immediately. (My GP was to get back to me around 5:30 PM. Not sure she agreed with the decision of the other doc, but seemed to have the sense to realize that arguing about it now was too late.)

I ate something and grabbed an extra layer of clothing despite the heat. We all know that any trip to the ER is not fast and once in their clutches you stay and will wait what seems to be endlessly before being spit back out. (And they keep it freezing cold – is that really to kill germs as someone suggested?) I was there almost exactly a year ago when I broke two fingers running. (A post about that misadventure can be found here.) Kim walked me over the ten or so blocks; I felt up to it and figured even with a mask on and an open window no one had it coming to them to have me in their cab.

As expected, folks keep a healthy distance from you in a hospital when you tell them you are Covid positive. (The admitting guard put on gloves to take my paperwork from me.) However, the doc who saw me cheerfully informed me that he had just gotten over it so feared my germs not. I was quickly approved for the infusion and sent to wait in a closet room which was at least twice as big as the tiny one I sat in for four hours with my hand, but they were storing furniture in this one. Kim went off to work some once I was ingested by the bowels of Lenox Hill Hospital.

My room doubled as storage. If the bed had been a tad more tempting I might have napped a bit but ick.

I sat with a port in my arm, waiting, while sitting in on two seating meetings for the dinner and helping to make some plans for it to happen without me, while I continued to sit in my closet. Some of you have read of my staffing woes and in addition to an entirely depleted staff those on the job are entirely new and have never seen an event in our hall. (A post can be found here.) There was no question about going to the dinner, even if I was better I would still be contagious. Other guests were dropping out, staff too, as the virus eddied around; my boss went down with it within days of me.

While I was sick and working from home I read an article in the NYT discussing how the sick day has disappeared and also how stupid it is to keep working while you are sick. I had time to ponder that, but I was leaving my colleagues in enough of a lurch by not being able to be there for this dinner. The least I could do is what I could manage from home, the seating and all the preliminary work could be done. (In addition my beloved Executive Assistant fell and broke her kneecap this week! Definitely worse.) Eventually my meetings ended, read my e-book for awhile, I got the infusion, was observed for another hour and eventually sent home.

I continued to improve over the next days although there was no dramatic change from the infusion that I could tell. By Wednesday I might have gone to the dinner if it wasn’t Covid, although that probably would have been a mistake, but I was feeling that much better. The dinner went off without a hitch and thanks to the miracle of cell phones and real time video it was almost like being there, even allowing me to double check seating and sight lines for our guests.

On of the snaps of the set up for the dinner last Wednesday. We used Facetime and stand-ins to do last minute seating.

Thursday allowed me to collapse a bit, although I tuned in for some follow up from the evening before, sent some emails to guests who had texted or emailed their well wishes for my recovery. I sent love and thanks to my colleagues for carrying it all off so brilliantly.

I had lost much of my sense of taste and smell by then. Then Kim began coughing and round two began. He had the good sense to test positive immediately. We spent yesterday trying to reach his doc even though he also seemed to improve. In the absence of his doctor getting back to him and it being Saturday we are wandering over to Urgent Care later today.

I am eyeing the good weather and wondering if I might try my first run as well. New running shoes showed up yesterday.

Tempting, right?

There is a lot of divisiveness around this illness, the vaccines etc. I can only say both that I was extremely grateful during the worst of this that I had gotten vaccinated and gotten the booster. (I wouldn’t have gotten the booster if it hadn’t been required for work to be really honest.) Man, I don’t want to think about this being that much worse than it was. The first wave of it must have been truly horrifying, but for me it wasn’t reduced to a few days of a common cold either.

Weirdly there is a lot of guilt attached to Covid. Who gave it to me? Who did I end up giving it to during a contagious period without symptoms? Just plain disappointment at getting it after avoiding it so long. It’s all wrong headed, but I still felt that way. Also, I found it oddly depressing as well. I almost wonder if it is a chemical aspect of the illness, an overwhelming sort of hopelessness and despair in the first few days. Others have agreed. I mention it in case others experience it.

For now that is our tale of illness and hopefully now recovery. With any luck, this will be the last you hear about it and we can be back to photos, toys or maybe a nice new jewelry acquisition starting tomorrow.

Time

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I took read my post from last Memorial Day weekend. I was in New Jersey for a concert for work. Despite being in a tent the extraordinary downpour had largely soaked us all and it had essentially been a cold and sodden mess. As it was still one of the first times I was hearing live music I more or less forgave the weather. It was also one of the first times I was seeing my mom as during the first year of the pandemic I treaded softly in the pre-vaccine, no home test days of last spring.

I had however returned to New York via ferry, somewhat exhausted from my exertions both physically and emotionally. I got up tired on Monday morning, Memorial Day, went running, fell and broke two fingers. (I wrote about it here and here.)

It was chillier, unlike this weekend which has already turned warm enough that I am puzzling through had to stay hydrated during my runs in the growing heat and humidity. I was still wearing my heavy sweatshirt when I fell – I was grateful that I thought to take it off so it didn’t need to be cut off once the huge bandage was on my hand.

Recent morning NYC run views of the East River.

Of course I thought about this while running yesterday – giving the lumpy sidewalk where I fell a jaundiced look as I went by. Falling kept me off of running for a few months. When I stopped I was running about three miles I think and it took me awhile to get back to that distance, especially since it was full on summer heat by then. The ring finger on my left hand is still recalcitrant and I think I will need to break down and have my wedding band refitted to that finger as I think that finger and the knuckle is permanently enlarged. (I had been told the swelling could take up to a year to go down.)

Cast one of three, the Urgent Care version.

Given time I run six miles now, some days cutting it short to get to an early meeting. I tend to think that is where I am topping out, at least for now, as it is hard to find the time to run longer than that four or five times a week. (Then again, it never occurred to me that I would be running that far either so who knows?)

I will focus on getting a bit faster for awhile. I have never had the urge to run fast actually which is good as I know I never will. I have a short stride for a tall person and I have always been more interested in distance, the long haul. However, I am very slow so I can pick up the pace a bit. Not killing my middle aged self in the heat is a bigger problem though and for the summer mornings I cannot get out as early as I should I need to be careful. Investigating what and how much to drink when.

The suburban version of my run which usually starts here and then heads into the wooded area at the top of this post.

Mom has had some health issues and since Thanksgiving I make more regular and longer trips to stay with her in New Jersey, vaccinated now and endlessly tested. Although I am a devoted homebody and miss Kim and the kitties, I enjoy the time with her too. (A few of the posts I have written about my time there can be found here and here and one on running in Jersey here.) Whichever place I am in I find hard to leave. It is just the way I am. Running while I am there is one of the things that grounds me though. I am a person who responds well to routine and set about creating them wherever I am.

My buddy Cash in a recent photo on a trip. Penny below, one green eye and one blue! She’s already grown since this!

One of my routines is that since Christmas I have treated myself to coming and going to Jersey via @rideswithcash, a dog and driver duo based in Monmouth County. This has allowed me to come and go at odd hours which fit into my work schedule better and generally saves some wear and tear on me. Jeff is lovely and great about making time for me. The mainstay of his business is folks going to and from the airports, although I guess there are other needs like mine too. The bonus is of course having Cash, his lovely Australian Shepard, sitting with me along for the ride. Petting that beautiful pup has soothed me through some otherwise stressful trips as I fret about mom or work.

Miss Penny has one blue eye and one green one! She’s already grown since this pic.

This spring Cash was joined by a sibling sis – Penny! Well, of course fluffy Penny is about as cute as anything could be. She flirts and plays and chews and is generally adorable. I am not sure Cash has totally bought into Penny yet, but I am sure he will over time. I haven’t made a trip with both of them yet so we’ll see about that, maybe as early as this evening.

Meanwhile, a year has brought us through an intact if somewhat abbreviated concert season at work. We will be wrapping with a final concert and surrounding events in a few weeks. Variants come and (sort of) go and attendance at events waxes and wanes accordingly although ticket sales for concerts has remained strong.

From a recent evening of Venezuelan jazz recently at Dizzy’s.

Our offices officially went to a three day in-office schedule in April. Although we try to bring everyone in on Wednesdays so we can plan meetings, it still feels very empty most days. We are still rebuilding staff which is a slow process and of course other days people might be out or taking vacation days before the end of our fiscal year. Rebooting what was our office culture is hard and I can only imagine that we need to embrace what a new version will be. We are impatient, but only time will help puzzle through that.

I wrote recently about the interviewing I have been doing recently for a myriad of open positions. (That post can be found here.) I wish I could report that the positions are all filled, but not yet to date. A newly fully staffed team will be a large step forward in creating a new work paradigm. In the short term however the interviewing process is like having another job.

A tiny Stormy here. Hopefully I will have a sighting long enough to get a new photo this weekend.

For those of you who were following the story of Stormy, the kitten mom found in her backyard a few months ago, I have news to report. (Her rescue origin post can be found here.) After gaining a bit of strength and familiarity with the house, Stormy left her lofty perch in a large dog cage where she was protected from the hustle and bustle of other kits and has joined the kitty pack in the house.

On my recent trips she has hidden herself entirely during the day and I have at best only caught a glimpse of her at times. However, she has a distinctive meow and I hear her when the lights go off at night, leading a feline rampage through the small house, up and down the stairs, skidding on the bathroom rug at the top before heading back down.

Gus in Stormy’s bed, waiting to see when she’ll be back.

Stormy’s special partner in crime is another adoptee from the backyard, a gentleman puss named Gus. Gus, who looks a bit like he is made from spare parts, has made no secret of the fact that he is quite smitten with Stormy and follows her around devotedly although her hiding even eludes him at times and I will find him waiting for her to emerge.

Well, the big news is that my mom woke up the other night to find Stormy curled up on her lap! She did not stay for pets although she evidently acknowledged mom before hopping down. It is a rather remarkable step however. I often wonder how she can be such a friendly cat, clearly used to being handled when we found her so very small and starving. Did someone have her and lose her? Put her out? We’ll never know her story, but despite my initial reticence about keeping her I am of course glad we did.

Hobo Kitty, the outdoor feline denizen of the Butler household.

So, after those updates and bits of reflection I am off for that run (early) and then packing to head to New Jersey for a few days. I have promised to get the new gas grill working and some other daughterly duties. For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram, see you from Jersey!

Worn

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As we emerge from our Covid cocoons this spring and tip toe into the next stage of what I think of as the new normal, sartorial issues start to take front and center. I have alluded to it in past posts, but it is starting to take on a greater sense of urgency.

I always dressed for work in an office, at the Metropolitan Museum that ran more to jackets, skirts and suits and at my current position over time it evolved more into dresses and a series of nice trousers and jackets. However, like everyone over the past two years my wardrobe has consisted largely of track pants or leggings with a rotation of a few tops, a sweater or two and a large selection of tanks and t-shirts to wear under them. (A heavy sweatshirt, as below, has been added to the roster for running, but I try my best not to sport it on camera. I wrote about it in a running post here.)

It’s me! Several years ago now, shortly after leaving the Met.

As I whittled away at my pandemic weight (first I gained, then I lost and then lost some more), I added one or two items to wear to in-person meetings as those occasionally started to dot my calendar, event, an in-person lunch or meeting. A dress, a pair of nice trousers and a pair of jeans that fit were acquired over time. A leather jacket and favorite one with a snakeskin print (shown above) found their way back into the rotation from the world before, but not most articles have not found their way back, leaving me to ponder if I need to clear my closet of all but this handful of items I currently wear. Or instead will more items start to emerge back into consciousness as such?

Don’t know why I took this recently. It was after losing my sunglasses so I had run in my regular ones.

Moths took care of a swath of clothing – the past two years turned out to be a moth breeding extravaganza in our apartment. However even after having eliminated what the moths munched and what was impossibly large there is a fair amount of clothing which is slowing aging, no longer worn in the closet and drawers. This week is our annual gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Kim will sport a new tux for the first time (sadly the moths consumed a vintage one he used to wear, however he too has lost weight and I think it would have been big on him anyway) and I will wear a dress I purchased several years ago and have only managed to wear twice before the long hiatus.

My office in a random photo from May of ’19.

The week after, my office will begin a three day in and two optionally from home hybrid model. I will need to get into a new routine for time in New Jersey with my mother which has occupied my mind more than the question of what I wear to the office now. However, that question is starting to creep up on me even this week as I plan for in-person seating sessions (hundreds need to be seated for the concert and then dinner, seating is a week long affair) at the office and some visits with out of town folks.

A major off-camera addition to my running wardrobe.

I’m not saying I cannot rise to the occasion. I seem to have regained the skill of applying make-up (that actually took some practice) and I have more or less tamed my Rapunzel length locks (shown above, I’ve had gray hair since I was thirty years old and wrote about it here) back into an acceptable version of me. However, the question of what I wear nags at me. After all, it is a primary statement about our identity we confront the world with and what I wear will, to come degree, set the tone for how folks will be attired in the office.

Starting at the bottom, I can safely say my feet don’t want to be in anything but sneakers now (Nike running shoes optimally, but am willing to make occasional concessions for nicer looking ones or for the waterproof pair shown at top) for more than truly nominal periods of time. I have arthritis in my feet (two surgeries so far) and I have always had to be careful, no heels, but a series of expensive (mostly Italian) oxfords and pushing the envelop occasionally to something a bit more daring for evening. My feet are just over it all though. I think the nice shoes will largely disappear with one or two exceptions. Several pairs have spent the past two years in a drawer at my office.

At the moment this is it – the shoe of choice.

Then there is jewelry. I actually bought a lot of it during the pandemic, developing a bit of a passion for British items from the teens purchased from a vendor or two residing in the British countryside. (Posts about those acquisitions can be found here and here.) So pins aplenty now, but rings pose a problem. Necklaces make occasional appearances on Zoom and have never disappeared entirely.

A very favorite horse cameo ring.

After breaking two fingers running last Memorial Day (yep, can read about that misadventure here) my left hand will no longer allow for my wedding band, nor any of a number of rings I wore on it. I may have to break down and have the band made larger (I was told that the swelling could take up to a year to settle so I have not yet), but thus far that finger still resists having a ring on it at all. I, who on any given day would have worn four or five rings (yes, several on each hand – I love rings and only regretted that there isn’t more hand real estate for them), have barely sported one for more than a few hours. I have not worn a bracelet in more than two years, the bangles which adorned my right hand have been languishing on my dresser.

So the question of who exactly emerges forth from the chrysalis and into the world on my behalf hangs in the air. Am I the make-up free, hair up, jeans sporting pandemic Pam, or will I slowly find a path back to a pre-pandemic world of routine hair trimming and manicures? Or is there a new middle ground? The question hangs in the air, along with a closet full of clothes, waiting for a decision about their future.

Time

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I found myself thinking about time during a particularly hard won five mile run yesterday at lunchtime here in Manhattan. It seems my body is more willing to do my bidding in the early mornings and by late morning and early afternoon it balks some at the request. Luckily this is where habit kicks in though and after working the kinks out I’m good until some point at about mile four where I have to apply some discipline to make it through. The fifth mile was added recently and time doesn’t always allow for it, so I am still negotiating it each time.

Being a fairly compulsive gatherer of data I have recently started using an app (Strava) to record distance. My phone was somewhat mercurial in its recording of distance, same exact run different reads, but now I get not only distance, but speed and performance such as tracking time on inclines. It’s a bit dangerous to start feeding me this sort of information because I immediately become competitive with myself and have an urge to go faster and further.

Recent Strava read from a run.

I have written before about the fact that I run slowly (some of those running posts can be found here and here), but even in the realm of slow jogging I find myself increasing my speed incrementally now that I see it. So I am thinking about time in various ways while I run, either in small literal ways or in a larger sense. Seasonal change happens in almost daily increments as demanded by the weather, always reminding me that regardless of what I think time marches forward inexorably.

Winter ’20 view from Carl Schurz Park during my first winter running.

I maintain a photo journal of my runs on Instagram (mostly posted as stories and can be found on the four or so days a week I run @deitchstudio) and those snapshots remain on my phone to remind me of the seasons of my runs over the last eighteen months since I started in November of ’20. Running in the cold gives way to spring and then the heat of summer and back again to fleece leggings. I am excited to see the progress of the magnolia and cherry trees in New Jersey as spring burgeons and when I am back this week.

East River view spring of ’21.

Time and the perception of it passing is somewhat subjective in my opinion. Certain activities elongate time, not stopping but slowing. Meditation, printing photos, lifting weights and now running are among the activities that produce this effect for me. My work days, always crazy busy, tend to speed time up in a reversal. I have always needed to find activities to balance that frenetic work energy lest I just burn out completely.

Time with my mother in New Jersey passes at a different pace too. I find myself examining that time which also slows it down. Morning coffee with her is a good time and I savor it. Running in her suburban neighborhood takes on a somewhat magical quality and the same five miles seems more epic there than my trot up and down my also beloved East River at home.

Magnolia tree near mom’s which inspired the purchase of one for her yard.

Meanwhile, I have just passed the five year anniversary of my current job. Like everyone else, I have conducted the past two years during the pandemic and am now in a liminal phase of partial re-entry as we commence year three. I have frequently said that I learned more about my job (fundraising for a performing arts organization) during the past two years than I learned in the previous three decades. That is an exaggeration of course and it is the first thirty years that made success (defined in large part as survival) possible. I have drawn on experience, but also the leadership that I worked with and learned from in my nascent decades working at the Metropolitan Museum. (I wrote about my time there and my departure here.)

Me at Dizzy’s post Gala in ’18! Wearing the same dress this year!

As I prepare to usher my somewhat tattered troop into a new work world with weekly time back in an office, I am reminded that despite an illusion otherwise, time has not stood still. The roadmap of our work remains intact, another annual Gala (the first in-person in two years) is on the immediate horizon. However, the issues we face for interaction together, such as mask and vaccination protocol, possible infection and negotiating our in-person time and space together are entirely new and I don’t begin to know how to answer all their questions. We are all older and we have spent the past two years intensively together and yet very much apart. So I stand on the threshold of my fifth year entirely unclear about what it will bring, but time will tell.

Travel?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was very much in denial that it would happen, but when this week rolled around I found myself packing to head off on my first (albeit very brief) business trip to Chicago. My denial that it would happen (a west coast trip was canceled earlier this year as were similar events) of course did not enhance the experience as I deferred my decisions about packing and appointments until the last minute. (I have written about my pre-Covid business travel several times including here and here.)

I have always found packing for out of town events difficult. Each region has its own sensibility and trying to strike the right note and feel appropriate is stressful. In California, I sport too much black and am not beautifully causal enough, in the Midwest I tend to be under dressed or too professional and not festive enough. Add two years of not doing any of this, weight gained and weight lost, and a closet which in some ways is a frozen time capsule of winter of ’20 and you have packing stress.

Brrr! Icy water views on my run.

It also came to my attention that my hair (which has been somewhat defiantly gray since my 30’s which I wrote about in a post here) had meandered down well past my shoulders and perhaps this was not the most professional look. These days I generally loop it up into a clip or with a hair tie and don’t think about it most days except when it annoys me by falling down during my run.

So with just a few days to go I dropped a haircut appointment on top of an ambitious schedule, although the person I have long been devoted to wasn’t able to take me. At his suggestion I saw someone else in his salon. Brianna did a splendid job and was the first person other than David Smith to cut my hair in more than two decades. (David owns the salon now, Smith and Morgan, and he did stop by to see progress on the big snip.) I am grateful to both for helping to transform me back to a more business-like version of myself on short notice.

I have always enjoyed this view of the rail yard between the Art Institute buildings.

That done an evening outfit was then considered and devised out of the decaying edifice which is my closet. At long last a peacock patterned silk blouse, a long-standing favorite of many years, emerged from the depths of my closet along with a favorite leather blazer and the new pair of dress trousers I am sporting this post-diet season.

Among jewelry I chose two rings from my favorite stash of ones I used to wear daily, a giant bee and a turquoise one that looks like a robin’s egg perched on my hand. They both always cheer me up to see. I have rarely worn rings during our long at-home period and breaking two fingers on my left hand has shuffled my ring wearing (actually dieting does too) when I do and left me somewhat bereft without my wedding band on that hand. (I was told the swelling could take up to a year to go down so I have not attempted to alter it yet.)

Where it started to go a bit wrong was deciding that I wouldn’t take my roller suitcase and instead use the weekend bag I take to my mom’s in New Jersey these days. My fear of wrestling it into the overheads on the plane and having to fight about it all was more than I could withstand considering.

Sunrise reflected in the windows of the Art Institute.

My laptop of several years, which has been valiantly pressed into daily service in a way it was not purchased for, suddenly began to threaten that it may not be properly charging anymore. I purchased a keyboard for my iPad instead and decided I would bring it instead, cementing my decision that I didn’t need the larger bag. This was a mistake which I was to have much time to rue as I attempted to carry it on a mini-marathon gauntlet which is La Guardia airport and the equivalent of several city blocks between where my cab left me and the terminal. Part of this was through a construction site which was wet and muddy and well, long. The suitcase grew heavy, never again I swore.

Like many before me I will confess that my packing skills were sadly wanting for lack of use – my forays to NJ to stay with my mother in no way prepared me for packing to fly for a business trip. I found myself in Chicago with an entirely dried out old mascara and no shampoo. I almost forgot to put my liquids in a bag, but no one actually seems to care about that anymore? Worst of all, I didn’t pack anything to read! While I planned to work most of the time I didn’t pack or download a book for the trip whereas I usually include several – just in case. I purchased a trashy novel at La Guardia which sufficed for the most part, but gosh, what was I thinking?

Sun fighting to come out over the lake.

Of course there is the mask part of this. A colleague in DC who has small children and a husband who travels frequently for work had made a study of the best and most comfortable masks. I was endlessly grateful to Lesley for both reminding me to think about it (comfort and safety for long periods of wearing) and for giving me a link where I was able to purchase them. Every restaurant in Chicago told me, as they checked my vaccination status, that this and the mask mandate are to be lifted next week.

The interior of the magnificent bar at the Palmer House Hotel.

Ironically Chicago was the last business trip I took in February of 2020 (I wrote about an earlier leg of that trip here) and I stayed at the same hotel, the historic Palmer House a few blocks from the Art Institute. I found the hotel still beautiful, but in a somewhat reduced circumstance with no room service and restaurants closed, occupancy felt low. At my arrival time of 8:30 at night I was barely in time to grab a quick sandwich at the bar. (There was a Grab & Go take out with some sad food and no one to pay – truly grab and go I remarked to a fellow traveler who spontaneously revealed that he hadn’t been out of his house in two years. I assume he meant travel?) My room was clean, but no cleaning staff in evidence which was fine for me, but unusual.

The long rabbit warren hallways are decorated with photo portraits of generations of musicians and actors. I made a point of remembering a soft right at Frank Sinatra, past George Burns and then a hard left at Louie Armstrong.

View as I left my hotel, Palmer House, early on Thursday morning.

After some debate and planning I left the hotel just after sunrise for a run along the lake. I am used to cold runs along the water (and through the woods at mom’s), but even sporting my fleece tights and down liner the Chicago wind was a shock.

The stunning beauty of the waterfront made up for it and it is clearly a favorite with runners there. It is broader and larger than my East River Esplanade at home by far and there were fewer runners than at home and notably no dog walkers, too windy and cold for them I guess, and perhaps they prefer the nearby park. Although frankly I have never seen another city with as much dog walking activity and romping as Manhattan.

One of several beautiful and unidentified buildings viewed on my run.

The Beaux Arts buildings dot this horizon in one direction, the more contemporary skyline in the other. A Ferris Wheel in the distance, by what appeared to be a cruise ship made me think of a young adult novel I read years ago about the history of the Ferris Wheel and its origins at the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Kim had suggested it called, The Great Wheel, was written and beautifully illustrated by Robert Lawson in 1957. I highly recommend it for all ages. Cakes of ice floated around, ducks took them in stride.

However, the Chicago wind did its job during my four miles and I returned to the hotel to find my face flaming red with windburn! I had, as I always do, put a layer of moisturizer and sunscreen on before my run, but that only appeared to have made it worse. I have never seen it so red!

Ducks at the dock at the Chicago Yacht Club.

Meanwhile, breakfast with a former Met colleague, now at the Art Institute, helped cheer and ground me later that morning. Then I dug into work, held a staff meeting from my hotel room after purchasing something to calm the skin on my face, thank you Neutragena and Target. I made it through the remainder of the day and evening largely without mishap, although running an event out of town for the fist time in years could be the subject of its own post about muscle memory. Snow! Cancellations! Guest of honor still on the road in the snow! Seating changes! Young musicians who forgot the stand for their keyboard! Cocktails and several courses of food later the evening wrapped.

Day two too slippery for a run – or even to walk at times.

A not insubstantial amount of snow overnight sadly meant no run on morning two – which I regret because I wanted a better look at the Ferris Wheel, alas. However, I rose early, packed, crammed three meetings, breakfast, coffee and lunch into the first part of the day (Board member download from night before, former staffer and long ago colleague – no cabs around so all via Uber which was also an atrophied muscle) and visited with a colleague who had just arrived. I see Georgina so rarely in person these days that an in-person visit with her was almost as rare as seeing my Chicago folks.

Before long it was time to pick up my very weighty bag, throw it over my shoulders and head back to the airport, home again to Kim and the kitties!

January

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This past week I went on a particularly long run in New Jersey, more than four miles. The weather was an agreeable 35 degrees and my morning of meetings started late enough that despite being a bit cold I took the opportunity to explore a bit.

Discovered the local police station nearby recently.

When I first started running there I was afraid of getting lost as I didn’t know the area and there are a lot of dead end streets and cul de sacs to get lost in. It took awhile for me to get the lay of the land and understand where my mom’s house is in relation to a few large roads that will always put me back on course eventually, making it almost impossible to actually get lost I now know. (I have written about running in New Jersey before and one of those posts is here. One of my early posts about teaching myself to run can be found here.)

Wooded area where I run. Looks more wild than it is – there are the backs of houses within sight.

I have written a bit about this area which exists in my mind these days as a sort of ideal small town with more ball fields and playgrounds than I can count. Communal basketball hoops adorn many of the dead end streets and it is easy to imagine a spring and summer rife with kids playing there. It has become my other reality or parallel universe now that a spend more time with my mom at her house.

There is a charming middle school at the end of my mother’s block, Knollwood it is called, and each morning when I run there I see kids in various states of readiness migrating toward it to start their day. They come on bikes or walk, alone or a few together, sometimes running or pedaling hard as it gets later. Cars and buses are dropping them off on the other side, but that isn’t usually what I see from the side of the school I approach.

The houses here range from new build large and obviously affluent, to bungalow and Cape Cod small, like my mom’s. They indicate a fair amount of disparity in wealth I think as I run by them, but somehow they manage to knit together a community, homes almost universally cheerfully neat and tidy looking.

If I head further in one direction I know that beyond the woods where I start these runs that the homes will grow larger and further apart in the town where I grew up. As I go in the other direction the homes get smaller and closer together and older. This area forms a literal meeting point of three towns and each has a different flavor.

The suburban street near mom.

As I survey my surroundings (to an unlikely soundtrack of Billie Holiday which I am stuck on for no identifiable reason), I ponder how mindfulness can be uncomfortable and how sometimes forcing yourself to be in the moment is so much harder and more painful than escaping it. For me and with my personal history January is the most terrible of months, stinking with the memory of illness and death. Accepting that and not trying to escape it is hard. Despite a determined brand of personal optimism, I tend to skirt the beginning of each year warily, more just getting through it than embracing it as a new beginning.

This year has its own challenges and this week packed a wallop of January-ness my way along with some sodden snowy rain. The anniversary of my sister’s death, two more resignations at work, spending time (mostly reliving the past) with my mom who is not well – it has been a rocky road and I will be glad when the 31st passes, hopefully gently, into February. A tsunami of these issues clamor for attention in my brain and only the gentle repetitious pounding of my sneaker clad feet can help me unsnarl these thorny thoughts.

Flowers in memory of my sister Loren, brought by a friend earlier this week.

As I make my way over, up and through this neighborhood I think about it. The word liminal keeps looming in my mind so I examine it. Liminal, the space between things, the moment on a threshold. We all are existing in that liminal space right now as we try to figure out what the world is going to look like, needing to let go of what was and embrace this unknown next thing. That space is a bit of a respite from the drive forward, but you know you are going to have to take the plunge so there is little comfort in that perch, like standing above icy water before diving in. By its nature it is an uncomfortable place to be.

I think I understand the desire to leave for a new job and to assign all that was bad about the past two years to what employed your hours during that time. I can see that a new job might be a fresh new page to draw on and a way to reinvent yourself and push into the new world. So I try not to resent the further dwindling of my work team and the demands it will make on me and the remaining folks, but I admit it is hard.

One of the endless playing fields I run through on my NJ mornings.

My own style however is to dig my heels in and have a real look at myself, marshal my reserves, retrench. It is only by facing what is hard that we can actually resolve it. One of my expressions is the only way through is through – a self-evident but annoying truth. I see signs of reluctance in myself that I need to square off, face and resolve. I remind myself that there is a steeliness I can call on when needed and it is called for now. I use it and add on that extra mile.

Planning

Pam Pictorama Post: It is pre-dawn here and a soft rain is occasionally ticking against the window. Despite a late night at work (Big Band Holiday concert) I woke early and chafed a bit at my self-imposed rule that I won’t run in the dark as part of me wanted nothing more than a slow run through the park at 6:00 am. It sorts out my brain like nothing else and in an effortless way I will never really understand, but am grateful for when I can employ it. However, instead, I sit down and write and think maybe that run will come later.

Recently in the process of interviewing someone, I was asked about my own plans for the future, where I expect to be in five years. I laughed to myself and thought, after the last more than twenty months of the pandemic, how can anyone actually ask me what I think I will be doing in five years? I sure as heck didn’t think I would be doing what I have been for the last twenty or more months with a basis of operations from our one room here at Deitch Studio, but the question has gnawed at me a bit.

Big Band Holiday concert last night.

I was reminded of when I graduated from college. I formulated a very specific plan which roughly involved getting a job cooking in a very good restaurant here in New York City, applying to graduate school for painting and then using that restaurant experience to land a good job and work my way through said graduate program, probably somewhere in the mid-West like Iowa, and then most likely teaching art and trying to sell my own work. (Yes, I had a lot of energy then!)

I achieved the first step on the ladder and landed the job in a restaurant cooking with a rising young chef star, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I won’t go down the tributary of my cooking career for now, but only note that it ended abruptly with a fall down a flight of stairs which put me out of commission for that kind of physical work. Over time painting gave way to photography and these days this blog is most of the creativity I employ on a regular basis.

The Met one recent morning as I walked to Columbus Circle for work.

After the fall, so to speak, I took a job in the bookstore at the Metropolitan Museum. I was eventually hired out of the bookstore into the administrative offices and, for the most part, stayed there contentedly for the better part of the next thirty years. (I wrote about this on my departure from the Met about four years ago and that post can be found here.) I had never imagined working at the Met and I had never considered (or remotely thought about) fundraising as a career. And once firmly and happily ensconced at the Met I never imagined leaving.

I have tried to make considered choices and planned my career with some thought however. I developed a broad base of skills (such as annual giving, events) and ultimately specialized deeply in the areas that most people avoided – tax consequences of gifts, charitable estate planning and back office operations for example. (My best single piece of advice to people starting out is always raise your hand for the job no one wants – that and for goodness sake, dress appropriately for any interview.)

A holiday Matt Wilson Tree-O at Dizzy’s Club earlier this week.

I embraced the opportunity to manage staff over time and took on overseeing a fair amount of hiring and on-boarding and compensation for that office. However, I always deeply enjoyed working with the individuals who supported the work of the museum and at least half my time was always devoted to that.

I had assumed I would retire from the Met. My decision to leave and run an office for a performing arts organization in many ways surprised no one more than me and it was a huge shift that left me reeling at first. However, the skills I had built up working at the museum have served me well.

Meanwhile, I think we can all safely say none of us expected the world to shift the way it did in March of 2020. It has been exhausting and exhilarating in turns. I feel as if I have grown decades of professional experience crammed into the past two years, approaching my work with a new efficiency as well as renewed urgency. I have often said that from that perspective I wouldn’t have missed it, but much like falling down that flight of stairs all those years ago, the path I thought I was on certainly veered wildly in another direction. We see a lot of folks making radical life changes as a result of the pandemic – changing where they live, where and how they work.

Big Band Holiday last night.

Recent months have allowed a return to seeing some of our supporters and friends in person. Last night was my first in the hall for a concert (I wrote about planning for and then missing our opening concerts in November in a post here), although I have been in our club venue on many evenings. A shift in staffing has meant that I am spending more time with folks and welcoming them in person. It is nice to be doing more of that again.

I have yet to respond to the question about where I expect to be in five years – neither to the person who asked nor in my own mind. I consider it for a bit this morning as the misty morning finally comes to light out the window.