Gently Green What I Love Please Join Me
Gently Green

The City of Valentines

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There’s a saying on the island, that “all roads lead to Nantucket.” For me and for my husband, Frank, that’s mostly true. But out of the blue, life presented us with a detour to Cleveland.

As they say, life can turn on a dime.

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It was only a little over two weeks ago that Frank pulled me aside and quietly dropped a bomb into our lives. “My EKG and stress test weren’t good,” he said. “Will you take me for an angiogram tomorrow morning?”

And so it began. No warnings, no symptoms, just a routine check up. How could we not have known that something significant was wrong? We eat carefully, all organic, few fats. We are not overweight. We exercise. We meditate. We are happy. And still, the verdict comes: “You need open-heart surgery, a multiple by-pass.”

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We weren’t sure where to turn, but there were caring medical professionals talking to us about our options. We did some research. We asked questions. Loving, concerned friends told us about their experiences. It was all so bewildering. We were in the middle of a whirlwind.

A measure of calm returned when we spoke to our friend from Nantucket, Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove. President and CEO of the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic since 2004, he made everything simple. “Come to Cleveland,” he told us. “We do 4,500 bypasses a year. We’ll make all the arrangements for you. We have a hotel attached to the clinic by a skywalk.”

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And then, the magic words: “This is a low-risk surgery.”

What really convinced me, however, was when Toby said, “Trudy, I want you to know that once your husband has the surgery, he will have a normal life expectancy.” That was worth its weight in gold. We chose Cleveland Clinic, and before we knew it, we were on our way.

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The weather in the northeast took a turn for the worse just as we arrived at the airport in New York for our flight to Cleveland, but a series of serendipitous events began that day. All through the process, I felt the gentle nudge of good fortune, and perhaps, something more than that. Friends, family, co-workers, clients, peers and acquaintances were praying for Frank, cheering us, sending poems and notes and emails with encouragement and stories of other successful bypass operations.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, when we arrived at Cleveland airport and our driver, Mustapha, also seemed to have a deeper wisdom to share with us.  He showed us pictures of the many people who had had successful operations going home. How reassuring.

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The Cleveland Clinic campus is huge, stretching for 14 city blocks, with 44 buildings on 167 acres of land. The Miller Pavilion is an architectural masterpiece, designed by the Columbus architectural offices of NBBJ, and home to the Heart and Vascular Institute.

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Outside the Miller Pavilion, also known as the J Building, is a wonderful fountain, designed by American landscape architect Peter Walker. Flat on top with a sheet of water three feet high, the moving water never stops, changing colors constantly. Electric heaters keep it from ever freezing, no matter what the weather.

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People travel here from every state in the nation and 133 countries to seek the very best medical care.

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The Cleveland Clinic has 4,500 beds throughout all their medical centers, with 1,400 in Cleveland. More than 3,200 physicians and scientists guide the groundbreaking work, with 35,000 people employed nationwide. Each of the Clinic’s employees we met had a warm touch and a seemingly uncanny knowledge of what to say and do to help us through our journey.

The City of Valentines   cleveland clinic 9 687x515The Clinic is also home to more than  3,500 modern and contemporary art pieces, creating an awe-inspiring experience; the feeling is more like being in a world-class art museum than a hospital. Every where we look, our eyes, and hearts, are lifted.

It’s the work of the Cleveland Clinic’s Arts and Medical Institute, with the mission of integrating the visual arts, music, performing arts and research to promote healing. The Institute is based on the belief that fine art comforts, elevates the spirit and affirms life and hope.

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The suspended artwork shown above, Blue Berg, is by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, a 30-foot sculpture of an iceberg in the Labrador Sea, made out of aluminum tubing. Visitors commonly believe the sculpture to be whatever body part they are there to take care of: a kidney, a tooth, a heart, according to Joanne Cohen, executive director and curator of the Arts and Medicine Institute Arts Program.

The photo below is Cleveland Soul, a sculpture by Jaume Plensa.

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As Frank underwent tests for two full days to assess his fitness for surgery, I had time to walk the halls and gaze at the beautiful art all around me. One of the most moving experiences was walking through an underground tunnel to the pharmacy. Softly changing lights in pastel shades of blue, green and pink illuminate the walls, making the passage almost ethereal.

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Everywhere, the architects and designers have given thought to the experience. The walls undulate and curve.

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Below is a video projection by Jennifer Steinkamp, an image titled Mike Kelly. Designed to reflect the seasons and the changing color of leaves, Ms. Cohen describes the tree as a whirling dervish that brings movement and nature into the static lobby space. By bringing the landscape in, the piece connects patients and visitors to life outside the clinic.

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I was glad to see that the Clinic has a wellness store that stocks only eco-friendly products!

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When the two days of tests were complete (and Frank passed with flying colors), the surgery was scheduled for early the following morning.

We were due to check in at five a.m. By five thirty, they came to take Frank. Everyone involved in his care was also involved in mine, it seemed. I was given a binder with explanations of what to expect, spaces for notes and places to slide physicians’ business cards in for safekeeping. Someone placed a beeper on a cord around my neck, and instructed me that it would beep when the major surgery had begun.

So far that morning I’d managed to be brave, but all at once, I was alone.

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I wasn’t only alone. I was upset. I was angry. I cried for the first time since the bomb was dropped.

But this is the Cleveland Clinic. Not only do they have the world’s top surgeons, most highly skilled and trained physicians, the most effective nursing staff, and cutting-edge treatments, they have compassion. I found myself surrounded by three kind and caring women, Antoinette, Monica, and Manya, who run the family lounge of the hotel, where they comfort new families every week.

Deeply spiritual people, these three beautiful women embraced me and prayed with me. “Only think of good things,” Manya instructed me. Later, Jeanne Murphy, Toby’s invaluable executive liaison, found me in the family reception area for patients undergoing cardiac surgery. What a relief.

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I wasn’t the only one treated with warmth and concern. All around me were other families, receiving the same kind of loving outreach. Although it seemed at times that I was on a very advanced foreign planet, I made friends with others going through similar experiences. I learned so much.

It’s been two weeks since the surgery, and it’s been a tough road. Recovery has ups and downs, but I’ve stayed by Frank’s side and in spite of the fear, the pain, and the set-backs, he’s getting better every day. Although I wouldn’t want to go through this again, our time here in Cleveland has brought us closer together. That’s the silver lining.

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We’ve had so much help. Dr. Toby Cosgrove and Jeanne Murphy made this happen. Jeanne has been by our side from the very beginning. Frank’s surgical team was fifteen strong, led by Dr. Edward Soltesz, all taking care of my guy.

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Thank you to all of you who kept the office humming: Price, Nicole, Sondy, Randi, Cheryl, and Lisa. Thank you to the lifesavers who kept the home fires burning: my dad, Bob, and Anna, Henry, Gordon, Anna Mae, Danutia. A special thank you to Nick and Emily, who were here by our sides. It meant the world to have you here.

This journey isn’t over, by a long shot. There’s rehab and more recovery. There will be continued adjustments as Frank regains his strength. Our carefully monitored diets will become even more Mediterranean, more heart health-centric. It’s been a journey of the heart, from start to finish.

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The first stage will end on Valentine’s Day, when we say goodbye to the Cleveland Clinic and fly back home to Connecticut. The significance of that day is not lost on us. We cherish every moment we have together, and the people who have given us a part of themselves, to strengthen us along the way.

Now that the worse is behind us, I think of all the other lucky hearts helped here, and all the lives saved. I think of all the other people who will go on living, with their quality of life undiminished, thanks to the team of heroes at the Cleveland Clinic.

Because of its location on Lake Erie, Cleveland is often thought of as the city on the lake. It is also the city of healing, the city of love, the city of friendship. For me and for Frank,  Cleveland will forever be our city of Valentines.

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Please Join Me

The Winter Antiques Show

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It’s no secret that I love antiques. Old furniture and objets d’art hold the secrets of our past, as well as reverence for our future: they are the ultimate in green! By reusing and respecting heirloom furniture, china, jewelry, paintings and ephemera, we help to preserve antiquity and the earth.

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That’s why one of my favorite destinations is an antiques show, where the number of exhibitors and antique experts gathered together under one roof offers a fabulous opportunity to browse, learn and buy. I love collections. A group of similar items, whether antique scrimshaw or Chinese Export porcelain can add a conversational sizzle to any room. I often begin a collection for my clients when I select something special to accessorize a space; they often delight me (and themselves) by falling in love with the fun pursuit of other examples of their treasure.

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From now through February 1st, you can enjoy some of the world’s finest antiques and meet some of the most respected antique experts and dealers in New York City at the Winter Antiques Show. Held at the Park Avenue Armory, at 67th Street and Park Avenue, a $25 admission fee brings you face to face with 73 exceptional exhibitors. One third of them are specialists in Americana; the rest feature English, European and Asian fine and decorative arts.

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It’s for a good cause, too: the show is a fundraiser for East Side House Settlement, a community resource in the South Bronx, offering education and technology as gateways out of poverty. Friday, January 30th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. is Expert Eye Evening, when exhibitors will share tips on collecting works from antiquity to Midcentury modern while you enjoy wine tastings and discussion.

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If you go, please be sure to visit with Peter Pap, of Peter Pap Oriental Rugs. Peter has been dealing in oriental rugs for more than 35 years, and is recognized internationally as a foremost authority on antique oriental rugs, carpets, and tribal weavings. His website offers a section called Learn, which offers information on the history of rugs, how to choose a rug, and more. There’s nothing like learning from an expert!

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What I Love

Every Room Has a Beginning

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Have you ever walked into a room and wondered where to begin? Interior designers face this question all the time. There’s always a starting point, a moment of inspiration. It may be the window with the stunning view and the way the sunlight slants into the room, or a family heirloom or painting that helps define colors and style.

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In this case, the entire house we’d first designed and completed in 1995 was picked up and moved across Nantucket Island. Erosion on Sconset Bluff had caused the home to be moved from its precarious position first in 2008, and again only a few years later.

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When the house was carefully set down again in its new location facing Nantucket Harbor, it was time to take a new look at the Edwardian-era home. The owners still loved what we created almost 20 years earlier, but wanted an updated version, while still retaining their favorite pieces from the original design. As part of the design process, my team and I began with detailed scaled drawings that showed our concept of the space.

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In the living room, the owners loved the custom rug in their favorite colors, with a floral pattern reminiscent of their beloved gardens. The decision to keep the rug I designed in 1994 set the stage for everything that followed. Besides the “green” ideal of re-using existing pieces, it is so rewarding when a client loves what you created so much that they want to keep the feel of the original design from years ago.

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Renderings are particularly helpful with long-distance clients. A board was sent to the owners detailing the fabrics, the carpet runners and the faux paint wall treatments. The colors were updated. Celestial blue and white blended with soft touches of buttery yellow would make the home as inviting as a summer sky. The designs, though traditional, were clean lined and reflected the simpler tastes of the 21st century.

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Fabrics for the living room were sent for approval, along with the design for window treatment. An up-to-date tailored valance with panels replaced the floral English country house look. Both panels and valance were accented with a custom trim we created from a striped fabric.

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We also retained most of the original furnishings, which were reupholstered with new fabrics. The chairs were redone in indoor/outdoor fabric, with cording and tape trim for a touch of detail.

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Options for additional pieces of furniture were proposed for the living room. From the pieces submitted, the clients chose two conversation groups and a game table area to be placed by the windows.

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An artist created the unique wall treatment, with stenciled shells accenting important architectural features. The shell pattern related the home to the harbor and the sea beyond. The Blue Willow patterned fabric on the sofa pillows recalled Nantucket history and the days when sea captains brought back gifts of Chinese Export porcelain.

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In just ten months, we managed a comprehensive house redesign, incorporating favorite pieces from the original home and seamlessly blending them into a sophisticated, 21st century style for an expanding family of parents, grown children, new in-laws, and grandchildren. From a two- to three-month planning and selection phase to a six- to seven-month ordering and implementation phase, we completely redesigned a house with four floors and seven bedrooms.

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It was an amazing amount of work in a short time frame, but the clients were happy with every single detail of their new home, and so were we.

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