Monday, November 23, 2009

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

If you have the 12 days of Halloween, and you have the 12 days of Christmas, you should also have the 12 days of Thanksgiving. Just think if for 12 days you "acted" your gratitude. I am grateful for... and then tell that person, thank someone, pass it forward... you get the idea and it's only for 12 days so that's pretty easy. You can't tell anyone you are doing it or it doesn't count. It's not too late to start because it is still the week of Thanksgiving - go for it. It is really fun.

I kinda like her take on the Pilgrim costume for Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mark's Christmas Book

“A Bell for Adano”
My Christmas shopping went from park, to neutral and is now revved up to first gear. I don’t know if it’s all the negative economy news or what, but this year I had trouble getting out of the garage – until it snowed. That really jump-started my engine! As you might suspect, everyone in our family gets a new book for Christmas. The book I found for Mark is one that he will absolutely love. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 so it’s very well-written. It is set in Italy and has a cast of great characters. I admit to being more of a plot reader but Mark loves stories filled with unforgettable people. And “A Bell for Adano” by John Hersey is packed with colorful characters you hate to say goodbye to at the end of a book.

Major Joppolo has been assigned to preside over the small Sicilian village of Adano at the end of World War II. He is an Italian-American from the Bronx whose parents came from Florence. A far-from-perfect man, he tries to administer justice to the long oppressed villagers and treat them with fairness and compassion. Although “Mister Major” is the authority figure, he is soon loved as much as he is respected.

His supporting cast of characters includes a few American soldiers who represent the good and bad in occupation forces. The author says in his forward: “There were probably not any really bad men …but there were some stupid ones. You see, the theories about administering occupied territories all turned out to be just theories…” One sub plot involves a general issuing the ridiculous order that carts must stay off the roadways when his car is stopped by one. After shooting the poor cart man’s mule, he sends out his decree. Major Joppolo soon countermands it as the villagers cannot get food or water without the carts! All through the book the report of the countermanded orders travels from post to post as army clerks try to misdirect it away from the general by hiding it under stacks of paperwork or by even sending it in the mail pouch to Algiers.

The most unforgettable characters are of course the villagers of Adano. Some are somewhat stereotypical portraits but they are all entertaining and thought provoking. When the old mayor stumbles back into town after he hid in the nearby hills as his town was invaded, a crowd of townspeople gathers to jeer at him. The cruel mayor had ruled with an iron fist for nine corruption filled years. Major Joppolo sentences him to come every morning for repentance. Each day he must admit publicly to the various crimes of fines unjustly levied, false imprisonment and worse as the people mock him.

Major Joppolo’s crowning achievement was to be finding a bell for Adano. When he first arrived, town officials listed the many needs for the people. They were starving, they had lost family members but what was even more devastating was the loss of their beloved bell. The bell told them when to eat, when to pray, when to marry. Adano’s bell had been confiscated by the Fascists at the beginning of the war and sent to a munitions factory to be melted down to make cannons. Joppolo represents what one good, humble man can do under pressure. A best seller as soon as it was published in the 1940’s; it is still a great book filled with the richness of humanity and valuable lessons for all generations.

*Don't worry, Mark doesn't read this very often. Thanks Alyssa for finding this book and knowing dad would love it (I did too).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Painting the Gigantic Family Room Before and after

Terrible pictures I know, before and almost after but the velvet curtains are not floor length yet or de-wrinkled, the art is not above the piano, but you get the idea. Mark was quite the super painter painting next to the ceiling on those multi-story walls.I can tell you they won't change again!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Historical Fiction Family Style

My poor family - since I write for the newspaper they have a lot of "public exposure". Hey, write about what you know best? Anyway the editor loved this and said she cried at the end. Hmmm, I didn't. I was smiling. Mark wanted me to publish a correction since he is thinks he is portrayed incorrectly. If it was him, not saying it was, he would be busy putting 2 antique tables together from storage, setting up chairs etc. not watching football. I was trying to make it universal - something everyone could relate to...are you in here? HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving Day Feast of Family Memories
This year, like many families we’ll all sit down to an enormous feast. Assembled around the long dining room table extended by a couple of tipsy card tables, we will enjoy traditional favorites served up with a few Martha Stewart creations. We must have Uncle Mark’s marshmallow topped yams, Nate’s ribbon jello, Tyfani’s rolls and Alyssa’s chocolate raspberry pie. There’s too much turkey, too many side dishes and way too many pies. Well, no you can’t have too many pies on Thanksgiving. According to Chris it is absolutely the best holiday because it is all about food. He may have missed some of those great teaching moments in his early years.

As we go around the group seated at the table, each expresses something they are grateful for during 2009. The memories are often related to the age of the speaker. Grandma is tearful as she thanks everyone for coming and being together as a family again this year. Of course, some of her emotion might be related to her exhaustion caused by cleaning and cooking all week – but she really does love this eclectic crew assembled before her. Grandpa, who is not tired out by cooking and cleaning, is also happy to see everyone come over to watch football with him and eat and then nap while watching more football. He tenderly expresses his gratitude for the kindness of family members in helping each other. Building a shed together, fixing a car, tiling a bathroom, raking leaves, providing transportation and babysitting are on the long list of loving acts of family service he is grateful for.

The next generation, the moms and the dads, the aunts and the uncles, tell each other how grateful they are to be brothers and sisters in an eternal family. This can change back and forth throughout the year, but on Thanksgiving Feast Day they feel a little kinder and more forgiving of those siblings that drive them crazy like no one else can. The rule about no politics at the Thanksgiving table also helps keep the love alive through the rest of the meal.

Our singles set, or the twenty-somethings, are grateful that everyone is recycling more and trying to save the planet. They appreciate the opportunity to get an education, own a car and hope to be able to find a job – soon. Teenagers mumble under their breath “this is dumb, we do it every year…” but manage to come up with sincere expressions of gratitude that astonish their entire family. They are grateful to their parents for all their love and support. Wow, record and cherish that moment. Finally from the kid’s table, the little ones entertain everyone with their one-liners. “I gwateful for my brover Dawson not hit me.” “I thankful I getting for my Chrithmas a Wii and a Nintendo and a Play Station and a…” And the best one-liner of all, spoken with arms extended wide: “I love you everybody!”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

BookLook Review of a sappy sweet book

Some book club members used to get annoyed at me because I was critical of the sappy sweet books. Now I can tell even more people how much they annoy me by publishing it in the newspaper- and I know it is just a matter of personal taste.

“Sundays at Tiffany’s”

It’s that time of year when the sap starts to run. When I was young it was a fun treat to see the taps on the Maple trees with their tin buckets hanging below and anticipate the sweetness produced after it has been boiled down. In Canada maple is the national flavour (Canadian spelling of course). We love our maple syrup, our maple sugar candy our maple fudge…you get the picture. I read a book this week that would qualify as sappy and syrupy but not maple flavored or delicious.

Author James Patterson writes two types of books apparently - the thrilling murder mystery and the sappy fairytale. I stopped reading his mystery books awhile back, and after just one taste of his romantic fiction, he is off my list for good. He also couldn’t come up with the unbelievable plot or characters without help. Gabrielle Charbonnet was his assistant author. Her name is printed so far away from his and in such tiny print that I almost missed it. She may ok with it now that the book is published and it is so bad it won’t do anything to help her career.

The beginning of the book is the best part. Eight year old Jane is a precocious only child dining with her imaginary friend Michael while her famous neglectful mother sits across the restaurant with a business client. This is a great premise, and the reader wonders what will happen to Jane as the story progresses. Will love conquer all? Will the girl get the man of her dreams? Can the poor little rich girl buy happiness and the love of her mother? If it sounds too predictable and too unbelievable that’s because it is. Since there is so little plot I don’t dare even write a paragraph to sum it up. I was hoping for “City of Angels” or at least “Velveteen Rabbit” but instead it was just a collection of stereotypes struggling to escape from a soap opera.

One of the best things about this book is that it is short – but too bad it isn’t short and sweet. The aftertaste of artificial flavoring just about ruined my day. Sometimes you read a book that just isn’t your taste and “Sundays at Tiffany’s” is way too sweet for me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can you pass this quiz?

One of my responsibilities (and honors) is to serve my community as the vice president of the Springville Museum of Art Board of Trustees. It is an elected position, but you have to get talked into even running first. This happens when Dr. Vern Swanson (museum director)calls you into his office and lies to you. OK, that is a bit overly dramatic but he certainly down plays the level of commitment until you are voted on the board and begin serving. I love the museum and am happy to contribute what I can which is a lot less than those with a. money or b. influence or c. actual artistic ability. One of my assignments is to present board training at 6 am. to a group of 14 somnolent attendees. I of course subject them to my irreverent humor but only for 5 min. Here is the "end of the year quiz" at our annual retreat.

THE BIG MUSEUM BOARD TRAINING (or 5 min. x 4 min. = 20 min.)
September, October, November, December combined

Pretest (if you reviewed this year’s 5 min. training lectures you know this!)
1. Board meeting is held at 6 a.m. once a month because?
a. Vern never sleeps so he needs company in the wee hours.
b. We like to get up in the dark and try to drive down in our sleep.
c. It is the best time to assure attendance of board members.

2. How do I serve as an ambassador of the museum to the community?
a. Wear a badge at all public functions I attend including church.
b. Ride on a float in the Art City Days parade and wrist wave.
c. Talk to those I know or come in contact with in positive ways.

3. What is the membership program and my responsibility?
a. Stand on the corner wearing a large wooden sandwich board.
b. Start a new network marketing scheme for memberships.
c. Make sure my membership is current at the level I choose.

4. What are my responsibilities to support museum objectives and goals?
a. Either produce a painting to donate or buy one every year.
b. Go door to door fund raising with frozen cookie dough.
c. Help by serving on committees, attending functions etc.

The picture is one of the paintings from the current Spiritual show - come and see it along with the amazing Victorian show upstairs!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gabe the Babe Turns Two

Gabe playing on the deck with "Moon Sand" while the party is set up inside. Dad (Jon) is using the birthday/Halloween decorating scheme which is balloons and green spider webs.

Two boys setting up (playing with) Gabe's surprise.

Gabe with his cool new train set - at the party and before the 4 hour set up at home.

Gabe pouting when the gift he just opened is taken away because he has more to open - that's right folks he is 2 now and has feelings and opinions!

Gabe and Big Papa (grandpa) and the train birthday cake

Marie & Mariel: "We're pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen - how did this happen?!" Mariel is stirring her yummy turkey chili.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween is for Kids?

The trick or treat group - Tyfani is a chicken farmer (she claims that chicken fat makes your hair shiny?), Dawson and Roman are chickens, Haydon is a "woof what eats chickens" Gabe is a shark and Gabe's cousin Jake is a mad scientist. We asked Jake if he had anything at all to do with the genetically altered chicken standing next to him.

Mike and Tyfani and family (Jon in the background) at the Tracy Aviary Trick or Treat. It was a great way to start the celebration with a live bird show featuring cool vultures (including the King Vulture) and owls that wooted loudly, and crows and other birds. Then we even got candy at tables placed around the park.

Gabe is a shark - complete with back fin. He wasn't so sure that grandma had made a good choice but once the older cousins were ready to trick or treat so was he. I think he objected to seeing his cute face in the teeth of a giant shark when he looked in the mirror.

It all started with Dawson wanting to be a chicken. Then Tyfani thought if ya' make one chicken costume you might as well make two, so baby Roman got a match. Haydon, well he insisted that he wanted to be a "black woof what eats chickens". That kid keeps us all laughing!