Category Archives: Transitions

Count Your Blessings While You May

Last week, in the late evening quiet of Wednesday night, I finished the final print run of our 2024 Copperman’s Day print. This year’s print is inspired by a lovely concert recorded for the CBC on December 2, 1993, at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto, featuring vocalists Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkins, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Siberry, and Victoria Williams in an ensemble setting accompanied by Tim Ray on piano. The concert recording takes its name from the opening song: “Count Your Blessings,” which is something we try our best to remember to do. There are days, of course, when we forget this simple act, but coming back to counting our blessings is always the goal.

Copperman’s Day, for us, is an extension of the Christmas season, falling as it does on the First Monday after Epiphany, and Christmas 2023 was a Christmas where we keenly felt the absence of Haden, the Convivio Shopcat. She’d been with us since Labor Day Weekend, 2005, and on the 15th of September, 2023, we had to say our goodbyes. All these weeks and months later, we still miss her terribly. 18 years is a long time, and yet still not long enough. “Count your blessings” were words that went along with Haden. We appreciated every moment we had with her, and Christmas this year has been a bit, or a lot, melancholy, without her striped orange presence. She seemed to love Christmas as much as we do: she loved the tree, she loved perching atop the presents, and she even seemed to love the music (except, perhaps, the CD of Scandinavian and Siberian music we play each Midwinter solstice night… the stomping and whooping would make Haden’s ears twitch a lot and we could often discern a bit of a scowl on her face as the music filled her house).

The “Count Your Blessings” CD was one she liked, and so it felt only right to make this our Copperman’s Day print. The song was written by Edith Temple and Richard Morgan in 1946, and these are the particular lyrics by Edith Temple that pull at the heartstrings each time I hear them:

Count your blessings while you may, For we are here, with little time to stay.

We’ve dedicated this year’s print to our beloved little pal, Haden, who would visit me each time I printed in the print shop, just to see what was going on, or to let me know it was time to eat, as was the case here, when she came to visit me whilst I printed the Copperman’s Day print for 2023:

More than once, she’d get into the ink on the press: sometimes subtly––like, we’d look at her and think, “She looks different today,” and then one of us would realize there was a faint streak of darkness on her orange fur, where, in hindsight, she had obviously passed a little too closely to the inked rollers (inked most likely with black) while I was not in attendance at the press. And then there was the time I was printing a project that required magenta ink, and I had cleaned everything just so at the end of the day and followed all post-press procedures to the T… except for one thing: I had failed to secure the lid firmly on the can of Van Son Rubber Base ink. It was during the overnight hours when Haden often did her explorations of the house, and that night, she managed to tip over the can of ink and the lid fell off and I awoke the next morning to a mostly magenta cat and to a trail of magenta kitty paw prints in every room of the house. This particular adventure required a trip to the emergency vet but all is well that ends well, right? Still to this day, ten years later, I find wisps of magenta on the maple doors of the kitchen cabinets, on the terra cotta tiles in the pantry, on the old oak floor boards in the living room. But now, every one of those magenta marks is a blessing I count, a reminder of our pal who has left a huge hole in our hearts with her absence.

As for Copperman’s Day: it is an old Dutch printer’s holiday, falling on the First Monday after Epiphany each January. It was traditional on this day for printers’ apprentices in the Netherlands to receive the day off to work on their own projects––usually small printed keepsakes that they’d sell for a copper.

And as for Seth and me: we do the best we can each day. Christmas was just not the same without Haden. I know she wouldn’t want it this way, but there was much less music in the house, and what little there was was very contemplative. Lots of piano (Jacqueline Schwab), lots of nuns (The Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles), and not a whole lot of Revels. We just didn’t have it in us. And just once: Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkins, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Siberry, and Victoria Williams, accompanied by Tim Ray on piano, singing “Count Your Blessings.”

N.B.: Clicking on each photo in this post makes the images larger (which is the case with all Convivio Book of Days chapters), so you may get a better view.


You’ll find this newest Copperman’s Day print and all our Copperman’s Day prints now at our our online catalog when you CLICK HERE. Order 5 or more of any of our mini prints (Copperman’s Day prints, B Mine Valentines, and our famous Keep Lake Worth Quirky prints) and use the code COPPERMAN when you check out; we’ll take $5 off your order to help balance out our flat rate domestic shipping charge of $9.50.

If you’re doing more serious shopping (and we do have lots to offer if you are), you may instead use discount code LOVEHANDMADE to save $10 on your $85 purchase, plus get free domestic shipping, too. That’s a total savings of $19.50. Spend less than $85 and our flat rate shipping fee of $9.50 applies. Newest arrivals: Letterpress printed Valentine cards in the Valentine section, and check our Specialty Foods section for some incredibly delicious chocolate we found from Iceland, including a particularly Icelandic blend of milk chocolate and licorice. If you love both these things, well… Icelanders long ago discovered that covering black licorice in milk chocolate, then dusting the result in licorice powder, is just amazing. (Trust me: we’re on our third bag so far.)  CLICK HERE to shop; you know we appreciate your support immensely. (We count you amongst our blessings, too.)


Count Your Blessings

This chapter of the Convivio Book of Days comes with a soundtrack. So, before you even begin reading the essay, I’d suggest you click on the following link and then click play. What you’ll hear is the music of Marin Marais: a collection recorded by Hille Perl & Lee Santana in 2004, called Pour la Violle et le Théorbe. The music is important. So go on: click, then click play, and then come back to the essay.

Good? Ok, then. Here we go:

And so it is autumn. The sunlight is again streaming through the glass front door, and this, for 18 years, has been a favorite thing of Haden’s, our ginger tabby affectionately known to so many of you as “Haden the Convivio Shop Cat.” Dappled sunlight began to stream in through the glass window since the month began, a hint of things to come, and there she’d be each day: paws pressed up against the glass, in as much of the sunlight as she could squeeze herself into. That streaming sunlight gets stronger with each passing day each autumn with the best of it coming always in November, and by then, she’d sometimes get positively drunk on the stuff, on her back, paws akimbo, or on her side, sunning one flank or the other, her orange striped coat glowing in that sunlight with such radiance. And her utter and complete joy in that warmth would make us glow with warmth, too: to see such complete enjoyment: such a thing of wonder.

It is a little more than a week now that Seth and I are without her. 18 years old, going on 19, and she was doing wonderfully but was having a tougher time of it since Labor Day, which is when we celebrated 18 years together, the day she chose to adopt us. Seth and I, Labor Day Weekend 2005: We drove to Safe Harbor Shelter in Jupiter with the idea that we’d seek out an old lazy male cat to maybe bring home with us. A cat set in his ways, mellow, a bit tired. Instead, this feisty young tomboy cat with orange stripes decided we should all be together. And she was absolutely right. She was resting in a hammock made from a bandana strung up in a cage, where she was bunking with a few other cats, and when the attendant fetched her and put her in Seth’s arms, she set about climbing up his chest. She was about 6 months old and they called her Cheyenne, which didn’t seem at all a proper name for her. We took her home and didn’t quite know what to call her, but soon decided to name her after the mango tree in our backyard. Orange mangoes, orange cat: the choice felt right. We called her Haden from then on, though we probably called her Kitty even more than we called her Haden, especially in these later years.

Here’s another item on the list of things Haden loved: the music of French composer Marin Marais, which you are listening to right now. Seth’s twin sister had been living with us for a little while when we brought Haden home. Sarah had moved here from California in August, and we brought Haden home with us on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, and then on Sunday, Sarah’s husband arrived, along with their two dogs: an Australian Shepherd called Buddy and Buddy’s pal Zoey, who always reminded me of George Rodrigue’s blue dog paintings. The timing wasn’t so great for temporary canine guests, but we decided to put Haden in the print shop and close up the glass door that led to it from the kitchen pantry. She knew there were dogs about, and she spent a lot of time that day sleeping in the space between two stacked wooden type cabinets.

To help put her at ease, I thought some gentle music would be a good idea. And so I put a fairly new CD from my collection on continuous repeat for the entire day: the very same music you are listening to now. From then on, this was Haden’s music. I don’t know if cats generally have favorite pieces of music, but I do think Haden did, and I feel like she knew this music was hers.

Eventually that Sunday, the two dogs and the cat regarded each other through the closed glass door. Kitty paws would eventually swipe under the door from one room to the other. By nightfall, we opened the door. Haden was extremely territorial and never liked seeing other cats around her home, but dogs she seemed to like. Buddy and Zoey became her pals, though Zoey never liked to look at Haden directly; she usually gave Haden a sideways glance and always seemed a bit intimidated by that cat.

Oh but she was the sweetest kitty. She had a bit of a reputation at the vet’s office, and she was not one you’d call “cuddly.” Haden was feisty all her years, independent, wanting to be near you but not smothered by your attention. She had the best personality. We’d go to bed each night and that’s when she’d begin hunting her little stuffed animals, her favorite (again, another favorite thing) being one we call “Cat in the Hat.” She’d pick him up in her mouth and carry him around the house, making loud kitty hunting noises, announcing her triumph. Overnight guests always needed to be warned that there would be kitty hunting going on as they slept: don’t be alarmed. When our home was broken into several years ago, we installed cameras throughout the property, including two inside the house, and thank God for the break-in: thanks to those cameras we have hours of entertaining footage of Haden hunting Cat in the Hat, making those wild kitty hunting noises. What we didn’t know until the cameras were installed: She did this not just when we went to bed, but each and every time we’d leave the house. Sometimes even when just one of us would leave: one of us would drive off, the hunting noises would begin, getting louder and louder, and then she’d walk into the room where you were and see you there and abruptly end the noise, spitting Cat in the Hat out of her mouth, onto the floor, before walking away nonchalantly.

Towards the end, I thought we’d have a couple of weeks to ponder how things would go, but in the overnight hours of the 15th of September, she suddenly seemed to have had enough of this world. She was very tired, her breathing labored. Friday morning, she spent a little time where the sunlight would be at the front door, then on her side on the wood floor, and then she made her way up to a perch she had claimed as her own: a chair, temporarily on its side. The chair was meant to be given away but she loved it there on its side. There was a blanket on the chair that was also meant to be given away. She burrowed into the blanket. The hospice vet came at 11, and the three of us were there with her, petting her as she slept calmly. Just being with her. The vet, who was so very kind, explained what would happen, and Seth & I, we allowed it to happen. Haden’s passage was so peaceful, so beautiful, and so very sad. She was at home, another thing she loved, and we were with her, and Cat in the Hat was with her, and the music of Marin Marais was in the air to ease her. She had, I think, all the things she loved around her: her home, her cat, her music, her family. And so she gently left this world.

Nothing is the same since she is gone. We miss her terribly and we always will. We have her music, and we have each other. But gosh, I do miss snuzzling into her orange stripes. She smelled so good, and I miss that. And I miss how wonderfully fuzzy she was, and her lovely personality. There was no better cat for us.

One week later, last Friday, we received word from her vet that Haden’s ashes had been delivered, and so we went. Haden’s ashes are in a lovely wooden box, engraved with her name and with her paw print. We cried some more, with the staff, and we played with their two office cats, Sebastian and Richard, as we cried, and with the new puppy that Chris, who cared for Haden since the beginning, had just gotten. After a long while, Seth and I collected ourselves and the little wooden box and left. I started the car and looked at the clock: 11:40. The same exact time she had died a week prior. All the things that had transpired over the course of her passage: I’ve come to feel like she directed it all. From the place on the perch where she chose to be, to us all being together, to the delivery of the ashes. Her way of saying, It’s ok. All is well. I think of that sweet ginger kitty and I count my blessings.

This Saturday, Seth & I will be installing an ofrenda, dedicated to Haden, at Hatch 1121, our local community arts center where Lake Worth’s Dia de Los Muertos festival will take place on Saturday, October 28. If you come to the festival, be sure to come see us in the courtyard, and be sure to view our kitty’s ofrenda inside the gallery. And always count your blessings. Be kind and thankful for all the ones you love: the time we have together is never long enough, is it?


Happy Jack Ass Day

My sister and I never knew Grandpa Cutrone, my dad’s father, but we knew how he felt about Father’s Day, because the greeting he devised for the day was carried on by all his children, by Dad and by all the aunts and uncles in our lives that were Dad’s brothers and sisters. You’d say, “Happy Father’s Day,” and they’d say, “Happy Jack Ass Day!” It was Grandpa Cutrone’s way of saying Mother’s Day was important; Father’s Day, not so much. His way, and Dad’s way, of deflecting attention: Honor your Mother, and don’t shine a spotlight on me.

And now it is Father’s Day again. I spent Saturday, yesterday, working with Paul Moxon and a small group of eager students taking apart a Vandercook 4 proof press at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, cleaning it thoroughly, replacing worn parts, putting it all back together. Paul and I have done this before, to this very same press, and the last time we worked on it was six years ago, just a few weeks after I’d lost my dad. Metal, grease, WD-40, springs and moving parts, the weight of motor oil: these are the things I associate with Dad. He was an auto mechanic by trade, a Doctor of Motors, he’d sometimes say, and I was always in awe of his knowledge of the things of the mechanical world. I place Paul Moxon in the same camp. When I work with Paul, it reminds me of working side-by-side with my dad. He’s even got the same good shock of wavy salt & pepper hair on his head, just like Dad had.

Paul had us going from 8 in the morning until past 6 at night. He suggested we get a beer after, but I was beat. I took a raincheck, drove home and fell sound asleep. I thought I’d skip writing about Father’s Day this year, but when I woke up, I remembered about Jack Ass Day. I thought of Dad, I thought of the grandfather I never knew, I thought of Paul and that gleaming press, built in 1950, sitting in the printshop, raring to go. And then I found this story about Jack Ass Day that I wrote a couple of years after Dad died. It made me smile to read it, so I am sharing it with you again, just like Dad shared his stories with me again and again.

Dad loved to tell stories, and he’d tell them over and over, like you were hearing them for the very first time. That used to bug me a bit, when I had less patience, but eventually I came to love that about him, like he knew he wouldn’t be around to tell the stories forever, so I came to look at it as instruction: Remember this. You’ll have to tell this story for me one day. And so sometimes I repeat stories, too. And so this next part of today’s chapter of the Convivio Book of Days is a reprint of the Father’s Day post I wrote in 2018, the year after my dad died, because the fact is days like this are not easy for us all… sometimes we have to face loss and grief and a whole host of things, especially on a day like this, a day like Father’s Day. So… here’s my story, again, about my dad, who was a bit like a rock star to me, but perhaps most especially when he’d walk into a place and call himself by another name. It’s a good story. Ok, then. Here we go:


I couldn’t tell you why, but my dad had a pseudonym that he used for things like dinner reservations or those occasions when you’d get to a restaurant and have to wait for a table. “It’ll be about 20 minutes. Name please?” “Monte,” he’d say, sometimes adding on, “John Monte.” Where the name came from I have no idea, and why he needed it is anyone’s guess, too. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that “Cutrone” is sometimes not an easy name for folks to say or spell here in the States, so that might be the reason, or it may have had something to do with a calculated disassociation from a more infamous John Cutrone, a Mafioso in Brooklyn who met his untimely end in 1976. Whatever the reason, like an actor or sports star attempting to throw off the paparazzi so he could just have a quiet meal, it was accepted fact that when we went to a restaurant, my dad, the auto mechanic from Valley Stream, was John Monte.

I think about that sometimes when I make dinner reservations or call in to order a pizza. I half expect the name “Monte” to come out of my mouth someday, as I become more and more like my dad as the years pass. A good example: telephones. I hate calling people on the phone and I greet incoming calls with suspicion. This was my dad, too. To this day, my mom calls people up, just to chat. Dad, on the other hand, would announce whenever the phone would ring, “I’m not home.” Back then phones had no caller ID; they just rang and you picked up the receiver and said hello and if it was you who picked up the phone and if the person at the other end of the phone line asked for Mr. Cutrone and if you caved, if you said, “Hold on a minute,” and motioned to him, Dad would glare at you and then after he got off the phone he’d give you hell. No one ever just called to chat with Dad; they called because they wanted him to help them do something, like fix a roof or move a wall, or because their car battery was dead. It’s no wonder he disliked the phone.

Dad worked up until he was almost 90. We worked at the same university, and sometimes I’d call his extension, usually because I needed something, and sometimes just to say hello. I’d dial 7-2295, and if he didn’t pick up in two rings, I knew he wasn’t at his desk. But when he did pick up, he’d answer with a somewhat singsongy hello, where the first syllable went up as the second syllable went lower. And then I’d say hello, and then he’d say what he always said when we were at work: “Hi guy.” He never said this at home, just at work. It’s what he said to all the guys who worked with him, and at work, I was just one of the guys, which I liked. The guys who worked with him thought he was in his 60s, maybe 70s. He certainly did not look like he was 89. It was probably a decade or two that Dad would tell his fellow workers, if they asked how old he was, that he was 65. Sometimes that’s just how Dad was. He’d tell you what he thought you wanted to hear. That he was 65. That he felt fine. That his name was John Monte.

It’s our second Father’s Day without him. Days like Father’s Day are never easy when your dad is no longer here to wish a happy Father’s Day to. But we’ll gather all the same, my mom and my sister and Seth and me, and we will eat together. At the table, I will sit in Dad’s seat, because this is what I do now. I’ve done it since the day he died, and it felt odd then, and sometimes still does, but I know I am meant to sit there, and that I am meant to remind everyone that whenever we wished Dad a happy Father’s Day he’d always reply, “You mean Jack Ass Day,” and we will laugh. His father, Grandpa Cutrone, taught him that, and all my uncles said it, too. This year will be not as bad as the year before. Each year, some measure of sadness is replaced by a greater measure of… not sadness.

In Italy, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 19th of March: St. Joseph’s Day, and there is something particularly beautiful about that, as we celebrate that day a saint who cared for his family, protected them, provided for them, taught his son good, practical things. It is a perfectly logical day to celebrate all fathers, those we were given and those we have chosen. It certainly was the model that my dad followed. Perhaps if we celebrated on that day, too, when we wished Dad a happy Father’s Day, he would have simply said, “Thank you.”

Top photo: Grandma & Grandpa Cutrone with their youngest, Francis, my Uncle Frank. Grandpa Cutrone was, as far as I know, the originator of the term Jack Ass Day (unless it came from one of his many brothers or uncles). Bottom photo: The Cutrone Kids, all of whom grew up saying, “Happy Jack Ass Day,” too. Clockwise from the tallest: Uncle Al, Aunt Mary, Dad with his hands on his hips, Uncle Frank in the arms of Uncle Dick. Both photos were taken at Bergen Beach in Brooklyn, circa 1932.