Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mad Monster Party!

Pal Rick Goldschmidt has penned his newest, heavily illustrated, fun for the whole family book, as he continues to research the rich Rankin Bass cartoon history!
This time, all about the classic "Mad Monster Party"!
Check it out at-

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rest In Peace Mom.

I got to give a talk at my Mom's service, and half winged it, but I thought I'd write it down now, and fine tune it over the next week or so.
Multiple folks had things to say, and it really covered all aspects of her life, so it was a nice

Here's mine-

Tips on good parenting I learned from my Mother.

One reason I'm sure that I ended up as an artist was her belief that being creative was just a normal aspect of life. Mom was a graduate of one of the Instruction by Mail school's of art and almost went in the direction of having a career as a fashion designer.
I'm pretty sure my birth was the cause of the career interruption.
As a kid, that excitement for art was always around. We always had art supplies in the lower kitchen drawers, including the most treasured of all, the coveted 64 color Crayola box set with the built in sharpener.
Museum trips were the norm and gallery openings were a fun family night out. Some are still happily seared in my brain, including a show titled, "Feel It" where one of the many amazing aspects was that hundreds closely hung 6 inch wide strips of felt dangled from the ceiling ending shin high. You had to literally make swimming motions to reach the artwork on the walls.
Unless you were 7 and could just bend down to see all the art lovers ankles.
My time was spent grabbing legs that I was pretty sure were my mom's, but judging by the lack of familiarity of the shocked screams, I think I missed most of the time.
My curious sister ended my mischievous fun by also figuring out the bending over trick and shouting, "It's Mitchell!"
She was always involved in our projects. At school, the other kids looked at my art assignments and dismissed them immediately, "You didn't draw that, your Mom did it!"
She helped, but I swear I drew 'em myself! This included her assistance with 3 by 4' chart of the rise and fall of the dinosaurs that was my PS 24 talent show entry. She helped me with the art, suggesting I lightly pencil in the art of dozens of dinosaurs first (while carefully eyeballing all my dinosaur books), and then would go over it in maker when doing the actual presentation, hopefully giving the illusion I was creating this masterpiece straight out of my head. She also made suggestions with the writing, including the insertion of jokes. When describing the Stegosaurus's spiked tail, she suggested saying, "When he got in a fight, his opponents were sure to get the point!". I was greeted with the sound of crickets. From then on I wrote my own jokes.
She also had us team up on her projects, including her vision of a mannequin covered in shattered marbles. We spent many afternoons figuring out how to crack 'em, heating them up in the oven, then dropping 'em in cold water to see if they'd shatter was one try, but I think we settled on the simpler putting them in bags and hitting 'em with a hammer. The "putting in a bag" first improvement came after smashing them without a bag which resulted in never finding the pieces again.
We ended up with a child sized mannequin coated in shooters, peewees and cat's eyes.. I wish we still had it!
We sat up every week at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market where mom would sell her handmade fabric animals. Our contribution was to fill them with the cotton stuffing. Her helpers were rewarded with exotic eggrolls for lunch.
I remember her painting a small square table top while attending an art class. The art consisted of 4 colorful pop art breasts, one pointing to each corner. She let the more prudish members of the group just believe it was a butterfly.
She moved more into abstract art where the painting implement of choice was filling a table spoon with paint and then flinging the colors at the canvas. Being a smarty pants I'd focus on the fact that it only took about three minutes to make. She's say, "Yes (followed by a meaningful pause) ...but it took months of mentally planning!"
That was a good answer.
The lesson I took is that at least half of being an artist is coming up with a good line of bull.
It wasn't all art.
Other tips I'm passing along include giving your kids surprise days off from school. Mom would just announce that everyone needs a break every once in awhile. We'd get to stay in our PJ's, or get tickets to University movie showings from An American in Paris to an Idi Amin documentary, go for long walks or, if it the weather was right, day long cross country skiing excursions. It wasn't just plowing through the snow, it became storybook adventure. We were assigned very Von Trappesque names, like Martina and Rupert, and the storyline usually involved being lost and starving while escaping from some close pursuing peril.
Reassuring hot chocolate was provided as soon as we got back home.
Not everything was fun and games, being a good parent means giving your kids responsibilities. Once a week Annie and I were in charge of making supper. My speciality was fish sticks, pop tarts and a candy bar. That selection never varied over the years. Why would it?
But we all worked together Saturdays for the traditional Pizza Night. Needing the dough, slicing the pepperoni, etc, with the homemade results enjoyed while watching the Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore show. The after dinner entertainment would be hilarious off off off Broadway plays performed by dressed up cats Daisy Miller and Sebastian in Annie's doll outfits. We would take our audience places on one side of the bed while the cat puppeteer sat on the floor holding the cats up on top of the bed as they went through their adventures. I don't remember the exact storylines of the plays we enjoyed (I'm pretty sure the themes were similar to our skiing exploits), but I do remember they all ended before everything was resolved. When the cats had enough and saw their chance to wiggle away, the made a run for safety under a large piece of furniture. And stayed there until they thought the acting danger had passed.
So, one of Mom's many legacies would be the thrill and joy of being a parent, something you don't always realize until you have your own. She passed along that excitement to my sister and myself, and I'm sure our kids will inherit it and pass it along to their children.
But there was an even more important lesson. We carried on the pizza night tradition whenever mom/GrammieO visited me, Leo and Kieran in Chicago. We ordered a delicious deep dish pepperoni, spinach and sliced tomato. A pizza so special, in other words expensive, that I only bought it when she was in town. It became know as "GrammieO" pizza. As we watched tv and ate in the living room, whenever anyone got up to run to the kitchen for another slice, she would hold up her wine glass and go, "Just a little more please!"
That tradition is still carried on today.
Because of my Mother, my wine glass is always filled to the brim.

Dianne O'Connell, a resident of Boston, ageless, passed away October 23rd 2012 at Brigham and Woman's Hospital after a battle with cervical cancer.
Born in upstate New York to proud parents Mary and Richard Berry. She grew up in beautiful Fairfield, Maine until graduating from Lawrence High School.
Married to Robert O'Connell, later divorced, but first they were quite pleased to produce two children, Mitch and Anne-Catharine. 
A planned career as a fashion designer was interrupted by being a fantastic new mom, but later managed to juggle both when pursuing a different career path, earning her B.A. at the University of Michigan, her M.A. and Ph. D. at the University of Colorado in Clinical Psychology and also did post-doctoral studies at New York University.
She put these skills to work at Pitney Bowes in Connecticut, Hay Group, Harris Corporation and American Express in New York and, most recently, Fidelity Investments in Boston.
Also, her service outside human resources was also very important to her. She was on the board of Good Will-Hinckley home for boys and girls, an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and WomenHeart, (support for women living with heart disease) giving talks, seminars and counseling. She also enjoyed volunteering with the Back Bay Neighborhood Association.
Survived by her children and her grandchildren, Rich, Emma and Alice Polini, and Leo and Kieran O'Connell. Also survived by much extended family and many friends whose lives were also quite enriched by having known her.
A memorial service is at 5pm Saturday, November 3rd 2012 at the chapel of the Arlington Street Church located at the corner of Arlington and Boylston Street in Boston. Reception to follow. Entrance via Boylston Street.