Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Painting Are You?

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) by George Seurat

There is a great quote by Danny Kaye that goes, “Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.”

These are great words by a man whose light-hearted approach to life both on and off the stage and screen was as colorful as an Andy Warhol painting. Kaye smiled and laughed, danced and sang, and “slap-sticked” his way through life. A great way to live, if you ask me.

I would like to think of my life as a Georges Seurat painting. Take his painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884). I have always loved this painting and when I saw it in a restaurant recently and it made me think about Danny Kaye’s quote and life being like painting on a canvas. The Seurat painting portrays many people enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in a park. If you stand back and look at it as a single image, it is bright and fun and emits a feeling of life simply being enjoyed.

If you stand back and look at my life, I would say that you would see those same things.

If you look a little more closely at Seurat’s painting, you will see a multitude of contrasts reflected in the picture. Sun and shade, water and land…even the subjects in the painting are different: adults and children, rich and poor, stylish and plain. Yet all of them play off of each other to create a more interesting, grander, overall image.

If you look more closely at myself and my life, you will see the contrasts to my personality, as well. Brightness and despair, strength and weakness, triumph and tribulation, silliness and seriousness, adventure and security, wildness and calm. Yet, like the painting…..they all work together to create a more interesting, grander, overall image.

Motivated by study in optical and color theory, Seurat contrasted miniature dots of colors that, through optical unification, form a single hue in the viewer's eye. He believed that this form of painting, now known as pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brush strokes.

If you were to look very closely at me, you will see my life as a series of millions of dots of colors - those being the influences and experiences that make up the whole of me. And, while some of those dots may be bright and yellow and sunny….some of them are darker – almost black, in fact…. but stand back and take it all in as one larger image, you will see that those individual colors are much more brilliant than a singular colorful brush stroke.

I am complex. My life is complex but as one larger image, it is very beautiful. My canvas is not completely covered with paint yet. But I am workin’ on it.

What painting are you?

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, April 24, 2009

Introducing The Family To Bocce Ball

(This is NOT my family playing Bocce Ball but, most likely, some Italians enjoying the game on a traditional-style court. this photo was taken from the Wikipedia sight. Maybe someday, I will be able to provide my own photo of ME enjoying a game of Bocce Ball IN Italy!)

This past fall, I was fortunate enough to be introduced by some business contemporaries to the game of Bocce Ball. For those of us not counted among the cultured and worldly types, Bocce (or Bocci, or Boccie) is a precision sport belonging to the boules (bowling) sport family, with an origin dating back to the Roman Empire. Developed into its present form in Italy (where it is called Bocce, the plural of the Italian word boccia which means "bowl"), it is played around Europe and also in overseas countries that have received Italian migrants, including Australia, North America and South America.

For Christmas, these business contemporaries sent me my very own Bocce Ball set, which until last night, was being used as a weight (18.6 pounds!) strategically placed in the trunk of my car to give me better driving traction during the Iowa winter months. I figured that since it was the end of April and it was a record-setting 90 degrees yesterday, it was time to pull the set out of the car and introduce it to my family.

Coincidentally, in celebration of April 23 being National Picnic Day, my folks, my sister, my youngest son, Peanut, and I set out for the neighborhood park and enjoyed a picnic supper and an introductory Bocce Ball game. Initially leery of the game, my family entertained me as I read through the rules and provided a visual demonstration of the balls. The jack, or “puck” for lack of a better term, is called the Pallino and is generally smaller than the other player balls, which resemble the size and weight of croquet balls.

Since we did not have a formal court (91’ by 13’) and we did not play on the traditional “oyster shell” bed, we improvised in the grass of the park and did more of a version of “lawn bowling” than an official Bocce Ball game. The end result? A family who now wants me to not only construct our own official Bocce Ball court in my back yard, but the creation of several new fans to the game.

What better way to celebrate National Picnic Day and enjoy springtime in Iowa than to learn a new family sport that can be played by a full range of ages and physical abilities. I see a summer full of Bocce Ball and I am forever grateful to expand both my and my family’s knowledge of global recreational opportunities.

I am curious if any of you have ever played Bocce Ball? Any game tips? Feel free to share. You may post a comment “Anonymously” if you do not want to post one with an ID. I am anxious to hear your feedback….

And don’t forget to take the poll over to the right!! I have extended the poll closing date for another week. Thanks!

Until next Tuesday, I remain…..1SweetMama

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grandma Jane

Tomorrow, a very special lady will be celebrating her 83rd birthday and I just wanted to tell you a little bit about her.

My Grandma Jane was raised on a farm and received formal schooling at “Country School” only until the 8th grade, which was a common practice for girls back in “those days”. She and her sister, Emily, helped out on the family farm. Since there were no sons, I am certain that she and Emily probably did as much work as any male. This is where Grandma Jane gets her work ethic that has been passed through the generations. There is nothing this woman cannot do.

At age 19, she met my Grandpa Bill who was home on leave from the War. They met at the City of Brentwood Carnival and were introduced by the sister of Grandpa Bill’s buddy, Homer (her name was Mildred). Homer was also dating Grandma Jane’s sister, Emily. If I recall the story correctly, it was raining and Bill had offered to buy Jane a lemonade but didn’t have, as it turned out, enough money for both of them so Jane paid the nickel for her own. They didn’t ride any rides that night – just sat around and talked. Jane thought Bill was a cocky soldier and Bill was enamored by this young farm girl who had moved to the “big city”. She had spunk and Bill liked it.

The two were married in 1946 (coincidentally, Homer and Emily were married in 1945) and the wedding reception was held at a local dance pavilion, complete with banjos and fiddles. Sixty years of marriage later, they ended up with two daughters and a son, which ended up producing six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with one on the way.

As a kid, some of my fondest memories include how Grandma Jane was the best back scratcher in the whole world. Sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house were the best as she would read book after book, at my request, until I was nearly asleep. To this day, when I hear her read anything out loud, I am instantly transformed into that seven year old who loved to sleep on the fold out couch at Grandma’s. Grandma Jane also introduced me to braunschweiger sandwiches, which I loved as a kid but cannot stand as an adult.

Grandma Jane and Grandpa Bill moved to the Ice Cream Capital of the World® from our “home city”, a large Metropolitan area, in June of 1999, following their oldest daughter, my mom (with dad and my kid sister, Diana), who had also made the move from that same city to Le Mars a year earlier, to follow their oldest daughter (me). This family exodus occurred nearly 12 years after I had moved here. All of this was in an effort to bring keep some of the family close together and to “get out of the rat race”, as they called it. Family has always been important to Grandma Jane and Grandpa Bill….and this, too, has carried through the generations.

Together with Grandpa Bill, Grandma Jane helped me tremendously by providing all the daycare and transportation from school to activities for both of my boys. They attended every single music concert and were such a rock to both myself and to my children.

Sadly, we lost Grandpa Bill in 2006, but Grandma Jane remains the steadfast matriarch of the family. She works almost full time as a greeter in a large “box store” and loves it because she gets to talk to everyone. At 83, she is often on her feet an entire shift and sometimes she will even work an 8-hour shift.

So much of who I am today is due to her influence and I owe her so much. I hope that on my 83rd birthday, I am able to do HALF the things that Grandma Jane does today. She has never missed a step and is the youngest and most vibrant 83-year old that I know.

Happy Birthday Grandma Jane!

…and if you would like to wish my Grandma Jane a happy birthday, please post a comment. When it asks for your ID, chose the “Anonymous” posting option – you won’t have to sign up for anything! She reads this blog regularly and I think it would be cool if anyone responds with a birthday greeting for her…plus it will be a good exercise for all of us to learn how to post comments within this blog and boost some interaction among the readers.

Until, next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Felt Like I Was A Kid Again!

So there we were….a collection of seven business contemporaries….ending a day of meetings with marketing personnel for the Minnesota Twins (Blue Bunny ice cream is the “Official Ice Cream of the Minnesota Twins”) in a roped off area, within yards of batting practice on the Minnesota Twins baseball field inside of the Metrodome.

In our group, there was a Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs, a Senior Advertising Manager, a Trade Development Director, a Web Designer, an entrepreneur, a Marketing Associate Manager, and an Account Executive.
Yet, for about 45 minutes, we were schoolchildren, completely enamored by the young athletes warming up for the game. Over the course of our time in the “holding pen”, several of the players signed baseballs and chatted with each of us. We grinned silly, little 12-year old grins, thrust out our baseballs and Sharpie pens, and snapped photo after photo. When baseball great, Tony Oliva, stopped by, we whispered “That’s Tony Oliva! That’s Tony Oliva!!” He signed our baseball, too, and chatted about how he loves ice cream.

What is it about baseball that makes us feel like kids again? All of us had stories we shared all day in anticipation of our meeting the team and all of us shared even more stories as we watched the game and, then, wearily regaled play-by-play details as we trudged back to our hotels afterward, agonizing over a heartbreaking loss of the Twins to the Toronto Blue Jays.

But it is baseball. Baseball seems to stir up something in all of us that makes us want to open up and share the stories of, “I remember when…” Baseball impacts our lives from the day we enter our first ballpark and catch Baseball Fever – for which there is no cure.

Being from St. Louis, my stories are mostly of the Cardinals and the old Bush stadium. The Cardinals offered an incentive program where they would send a couple of sets of free tickets if you earned a certain grade point average. Each year, it was a big deal for me to get those tickets. My dad and I would use them and, despite the fact that they were usually in the “nosebleed section”, we still had a great time. Dad would teach me how to score the program book: “K” was a strike out, “BB” was a base-on-balls, and a “DP 6-4-3” was a classic double play on a hit to the shortstop (6) who tosses it to the second baseman (4) who, then throws it to the first baseman (3). Each player on the field is assigned a number, starting with the pitcher (1), then the catcher (2), the first baseman (3) and so on….. I became such an expert at scoring that I scored for my high school boys’ baseball team for two years. Today I am a little rusty but can still keep a pretty mean card.

Those were the days. For me – it was the late 70’s and through the 1980s. The days of Ozzie Smith, Darryl Porter, Tommy Herr, and so many players who stand out in my memory. It was the 1982 and 1987 World Series (coincidentally – it was the Twins that the Cardinals defeated for the title!) and all the excitement surrounding them. What fun!

Sometimes I wonder, as baseball season begins anew, maybe all the world needs these days is a little more baseball. A ‘dog, a beer, a bag full of dry-roasted peanuts and a big ol’ foam finger seems to take the edge off of anybody. The crack of a bat, the “CHARGE” rally cry, and the camaraderie of people pulling together for a common goal seems to be more human than we give it credit. Can you be angry or vengeful or oppressed or evil when you are overlooking nine heroes on a field of green? No – because you are feeling young and innocent – just like a kid.
Until next time, I remain.....1SweetMama

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Help Me To help You!

Photo by digitalgopher, http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalgopher/2170495422/
Okay readers, I need your help. Twice each week, I pour my heart out to you and hope that you are enjoying my posts. I have very much enjoyed this creative outlet and thank you for allowing me to write about my "eternal optimist" opinions and experiences each Tuesday and Friday.

However, I am currently in the process of reviewing this blog and its impact. If I understand correctly, there seems to be several of you out there reading “The Sweet Life”, yet, I don’t know much about you.

In order for me to remain effective in my efforts to provide a fun and informative blog for all of you, I would like to ramp things up a bit by learning a little bit about all of you and encouraging interaction among you. I have reached out to a few of my readers and have discovered that there are several of you who are concerned about the level of difficulty required in order to simply post a comment. I am told that in order to post a comment, you need to sign up for some kind of an id.

When I go through this process through a third party, it does ask you to sign in with an i.d. – Google, Netvibes, OpenID, etc. For readers of “The Sweet Life” who may not understand this process, signing up for an i.d. might seem a little intimidating. Today, I tweaked the settings a bit for comment posting, so I am very curious if someone out there could attempt to post a comment and let me know how it goes. Feel free to send me an email at highfivemarketing@yahoo.com. Comments to this email will be monitored on a regular basis.

So, here is my question and where I really need your help. Over the next few weeks, I will be offering a series of questions via polls and blog posts asking you for input to this blog and the content you are reading.

Together, I want to build a sweet little community of “Sweet Life” readers so that we will be able to have some fun interaction and keep all of you wanting to come back for more. But I can’t help you if you don’t help me.

I really appreciate your support these past seven-and-a-half months but I can’t improve my product if you can’t help me to help you. I want to grow and become more of a user-friendly blog that encourages you to read, pass along, and interact.

Stay tuned for an eventual upgrade of “The Sweet Life” but in order for me to make logical and useful changes, I need your help. Your assignment for the next week is to remember to take the poll (over to the right) and try to post a comment (at the end of my blog posts). Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Eggs Gone Bad and The People Who Provoke Them, Part 2

When last we spoke – I had left you with visions of colored Easter eggs dancing in your heads. The family was just preparing to launch the traditional “Egg Cracking Contest” with the “Ugly Egg Contest” Winner going egg-to-egg with his opponent, my youngest son, Peanut.

“Three-Two-One…Go!” With a sickening “crack-plfth” sound, the two eggs collided in an explosion of semi-cooked egg guts spraying the two opponents and a host of eager onlookers.

Well, we never had THIS issue before…..

In my 30 "ish" years of egg boiling, I had obviously made a slight miscalculation of boiling time in this instance and both batches of eggs had been undercooked to the consistency of those that had been soft-boiled.

Shocked by the scene, we all stared, wide-eyed at the carnage. My first reaction was to stomp off, exclaiming, “Oh, great! I ruined ‘Fake Easter’!”. But my pregnant and hormonal sister in her self-described attempt to “make lemonade” grabbed what was left of the egg and “smooshed” it into Peanut’s hair. He shrieked, then reciprocated.

Of course, not to be left out from the fun - like a scene from Animal House - everyone began to grab the remainder of the colored eggs and began to throw them at each other and smash them into each other’s hair.

About 5 minutes later, with egg dripping from my head and eggshells oozing their way down my back and into my underwear, we were weeping with laughter.

‘Fake Easter’ wasn’t ruined at all – it was salvaged by my sister’s quick thinking followed by everyone’s willingness to clean the whole mess up. Of course, Max the Wonderdog found that egg fights were an ultimate benefit to him, being close enough to the floor to being missed as a target and, yet, be close enough to assist in the clean-up process.

And now, with most of the family being gone this coming weekend and the boys with their dad, P.O.D. will arrive to town and we will celebrate ‘Real Easter’ quietly with church on Sunday followed by a brunch with Grandma S.

Hope your Easter is filled with “eggs-tremely” sweet memories, too.
Until next time, I remain....1SweetMama

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Eggs Gone Bad and the People Who Provoke Them, Part 1

It all started so innocently. Due to plans that will take members of our family away for the Easter weekend, 1SweetMama decided to play “host-ess with the most-est” to the gang and have “Fake Easter” this past Saturday.

It is also important to note that everyone was feeling a little edgy over the weather. Forecasters were predicting the worst snowstorm of the season to begin that evening, culminating in blizzard-like conditions and over a foot of snow overnight. Iowans are pretty hearty folk, but weather events, such as this one, the week before Easter puts us close to the edge.

This year being no different, just a week earlier and in the face of an oncoming weather event, we gathered – my parents, my expectant-sister and her husband, myself and my children, to color Easter eggs and play ping-pong (okay – so the ping pong isn’t as traditional – but it was fun!). In preparation for the event, I boiled two batches of eggs so that they would be ready to go before company arrived.

Our family’s typical pre-Easter activities includes following a 35 – 40 year old tradition of dying Easter eggs on “heirloom rags” (by “heirloom”, I simply mean old bedspreads that Grandma S. had cut up) that have been passed from my grandmother to my mother and, now, to me. As I place the protective cloths over my table, I smile as I see the decades of dye stains on these cloths as they serve as an annual reminder of how this holiday, like many of the others we celebrate, are steeped in participation by my entire family.

Additionally, each year we dye the eggs and conduct the “Ugly Egg Contest” – this is a much coveted honor. Amidst all the beautifully colored and decorated eggs we contribute to the bounty, anyone who so chooses, may offer up one of their eggs for the title of “ugliest”. The winner of the “Ugly Egg Contest” usually has the honor of starting the “Egg-Cracking Contest”, another piece of the traditional Easter festivities that takes place on Easter Sunday. Now, this time-honored tradition is where everyone chooses their “weapon of choice” and goes head-to-head (or egg-to-egg) to see who can inflict the most damage to their opponent’s egg.

My Grandpa S., usually emerged as the Grand Champion Egg-Cracker, every year until he passed a few years ago. It was only a few years before the end of this magnificent man’s life, that he finally confessed his secret….he used his knuckle!! - but made it look like he used his egg! - thereby sparing his egg the impact from the opponent and emerging triumphantly when he inflicted the mortal wound upon the shell of the opposition. He also offered this bit of advice for future Egg-Cracking champions: always let the opponent come at you first. Through a carefully calculated energy/mass equation, he deduced that the aggressor’s egg would always receive the damage from impact. So, when we would shout out the countdown (“Three…Two….One…..go!”), Grandpa (using his secret knuckle strategy) would hold his egg still and emerge every time, triumphantly, as the Egg-Cracking Winner. No one ever figured out this man’s strategy until he chose to offer it up to the family. Now, every year we laugh and regale stories in tribute to Grandpa S. and his legendary egg-cracking proficiencies.

The guests arrived. The coloring commenced. We had a ball. We ate snacks. We played ping pong. Toward the end of the evening, Peanut decided that, since we would not be together for Easter, we should conduct the Egg-Cracking Contest.

Everyone selected their eggs. My brother-in-law, whose egg had been honored with the title, “Ugly Egg Winner” chose to match forces with Peanut.

For the conclusion of “Eggs Gone Bad”, tune in on Friday. Until then, I remain…1SweetMama

Friday, April 3, 2009

1SweetMama's Ode To Caramel - April 5 is National Caramel Day!

Oh, caramel, oh, caramel, your taste is so sweet!
I love all the moments when it is you that I eat.

Drizzled or dropped or something I dip in
I just can’t get enough – your taste gots me trippin’!

You taste great on my oatmeal, my pancakes, and frappes….
With fruits – you’re the best – especially on my "app’s".

In cakes made with leche or with chocolates in boxes
With peanuts, rice krispies, or pecans – you really rocks-es!

Your sweetness is dreamy, your taste is delish
But you taste the best when mixed with ice cream in my dish.

Whether swirled within or swirled atop
Doesn’t matter – I love it – Gimme more caramel! Don’t stop!

So chewy and sweet - no matter how I eat it
The craving has got me – I just can’t defeat it.

As I wrap up my rhyming caramel foray….
I think I’ll have a scoop of Blue Bunny®’s Homemade Turtle Sundae.