Friday, February 26, 2010

What if he's not so big...?


People love the underdog, or in this case, the underpig. Maybe that’s why Charlotte’s Web —a really strange story—is also a beloved one.
If you haven’t read it, or seen the movie versions, (my favorite is the animated musical made in the 1970’s), I’ll give you a brief synopsis: A farm girl, Fern, begs her father not to kill the runt the sow’s litter and is granted her request. Though she loves little Wilbur, she quickly realizes he can’t be a house pet especially when her father sells him to her uncle who is named Zuckerman. The story was written when tough love was the only love.

At Zuckerman’s farm, Wilbur learns he can talk and makes friends with an uncommonly smart spider named Charlotte. This friendship immediately eclipses Wilbur’s relationship with Fern, maybe because this spider speaks pig and Fern doesn’t. Not sure but Fern's fading from the story has always bothered me.

Because he has learned to talk, Wilbur overhears the awful fact that Zuckerman is going to slaughter him for bacon and pork chops. He has hysterics and faints. This is because Wilbur is sensitve and he loves life. Charlotte devises a plan to save Wilbur. At night, into her web she weaves the words beginning with the proclamation: Some Pig.

Some spider
Everyone who reads it believes the message! My favorite line is when visitors come to read the message in the spider web are raving about how special Wilbur is, Mrs. Zuckerman comments, that maybe the spider is the special one. Oddly this idea is never discussed further or mentioned again by the humans.
So we have a story about the friendship between a spider who writes and a pig who faints. That’s weird. Another important character is Templeton the gluttonous rat.
These three animals are not the kind to which people feel a sentimental attraction.  Lots of brave people dislike or even fear spiders. And for good reason, they creep and bite; their family includes black widows and the brown recluse. Anyone who has walked, face first, into a spider web has a certain mixture within them of revulsion and respect.

Pigs have questionable appeal also. They’ve been known to roll in the mud and they make that unpleasant grunting sound. I once had a neighbor who decorated her entire kitchen in pig d├ęcor. I found it a wee bit claustrophobic.  And rats? Even though the rat in the story is not a "good guy" he's still there being pretty ratty.
These children once loved Charlotte's Web

In the animated musical, the songs are bad, but so catchy! My children watched the movie probably a million times and now my grandchildren like it. My husband has been singing the song that celebrates the moment when Wilbur learns to talk, “Isn’t it great that I articulate? Isn’t it grand that you can understand?” The song stuck like a spider web in his brain until the Oympic theme song drove it out. All the songs are that way, once in your head, in forever.

If I write, “There must be something more to us than…” the tune will pop into your mind.

The book includes original poetry. Charlotte —the all purpose spider— sings a lullabye to the anxious Wilbur,”Rest from care, my one and only, deep in the dung and the dark.” Okay, I guess singing about dung would comfort a pig, but that just reinforces my point that this is all a little weird.

Getting back to the story we find that every time the enthusiasm about Wilbur’s special qualities ebbs, Charlotte weaves a new word into her web and when Wilbur stands under it, this quality is attributed to him. This ends up saving his life, but costing Charlotte hers.

Now these children love Charlotte's Web.

That’s right. The special, smart spider dies in the end. Not only that, but Wilbur, hysterical, whining and dare I say it? selfish to the end, begs her to accompany him to the county fair so she can write one more convincing news flash about the worthwhile quality of his life. And she goes—even though she has to make an egg sack and lay 411 eggs! She finishes her work, weaves a final message claiming that Wilbur is Humble because he’s unassuming and “close to the earth,” and dies.

How can this sad, weird, clumsy story be so loved?

1. It’s loved because it tells the truth. Though the characters take on the animal cloaks of the fable form, it speaks to us about ourselves. The story demonstrates something we all know—people want to live; however clumsy and selfish and unworthy they are, they love life just as passionately as they hate death. But living life teaches that all eventually die. It's a story about truth because that sadness, that inevitabilty is the antagonist against whom all the characters strive with their particular strengths. Fern, Wilbur and Charlotte walk us through a spectrum of human feelings about this beautiful, desirable life ending in death.

2. The story’s weirdness elevates it from a trite regurgitation to an original comment on a familiar problem. Wilbur is common, “low to the ground” as Charlotte notes, typical in his selfish lust for life, sympathetic because he was destined to die and saved from it. The fear and repulsion people might naturally feel about spiders makes Charlotte’s heroism and her weird affection for a pig intriguing. Who can explain friendship anyway? Who can say why we love those we love? Who can say what hidden talents might fill another’s life with joy? This story shows that in its characters.

Books on a library shelf... joy!

3. I heard a sermon when I was 28 that suggested the things you say about people who trust you, the qualities you ascribe to people, influence what they become. This can work both ways. But in Wilbur’s case he seems to absorb the qualities Charlotte proclaims are his own in the banners she weaves for him. Charlotte sees, in the unexplainable power of her friendship, the potential, the beauty in Wilbur. If he had been the most noble, the strongest, her vision and ability to see that hidden gold would not have been as meaningful. Seeing past the humble shell of people's faults to their radiant qualities is a mysterious and wonderful part of friendship and love.

 My favorite song in the animated film is sung when a marching band celebrates Wilbur’s greatness, using Charlotte’s creative descriptions from him This comes, ironically, after he’s proclaimed to be humble. They sing, “Zuckerman’s famous pig... fine swine wish he were mine… What if he’s not so big? He’s some terrific, radiant, humble...pig!” This idea reminds us of Wilbur’s humble, hopeless beginning. We love the ones that have no chance. That’s because some of us find that we are that way, too.

4. The final truth the book shows us is that people believe what they read. Charlotte's role in the life she loves is to proclaim the truth though she stays unseen in the shadows. There's something real and beautiful and touching about this role in life, I think. Everyone, including me, loves the last line of the book: “It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” The story is beloved because in its quirky, original way, it celebrates two wonderful things in the life we love and know will eventually end— the mysterious workings of friendship and the creative description of it.



Write and tell me what you think…

Thursday, February 25, 2010

italk you, ulisten me

It's time for another poem by the great American poet, William Carlos Williams. (Remember when I posted that startling, human poem Danse Russe?) He liked to express his ideas in concrete images or in other words, "no ideas but in things" as far as imaginative literature goes. I admire William Carlos Williams because he was both a brilliant poet and a successful, dedicated physician. And though he wrote good, serious poems, I love his light hearted ones.
English teacher legend claims that Williams left this poem in a note he stuck to the refrigerator for his wife to find. It's funny and charming, straightforward and doesn't require "knowing the code" to enjoy it.

This is Just To Say
                by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten                                       
the plums                                                  
that were in                                        
the icebox                                          

and which                                        
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Other poets have written imitations of this poem to mock it or celebrate it. Can't decide which. Here are some by Kenneth Koch.  They have a slightly darker tone.

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

1
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

2
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

3
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

4
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!


Speaking of doctors, I wrote this using the same form.

This is Just To Say
                 by L. Nebbia

I have stolen
the itouch
that was in
your hand

and which
you were reading
during
my entire appointment.

Forgive me.
I wanted
to google
your medical license.

or

This is Just To Say More
       by L. Nebbia

I have stomped
on the iphone
that pinged
during class

and which you
were using
to snap pictures
of your polished nails.

Forgive me
I was jealous
for Dylan Thomas'
childhood in Wales.



Anybody feel like writing a poem? Post it in comments!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adventures and Nostalgia

Can you guess what this boy is doing with the pine cone?

The snow is melting, really shrinking lower and lower, but we still have drifts in our backyard and so today while Jack was napping, Joey and I went out to fill the bird feeders and see what fun we could find.

Joey filled the bird feeders all by himself.  I stood the feeder in the pail of seed and he scooped the seed up and poured it in. "I didn't spill a drop!" he said. And he didn't.

On the way to hang the bird feeders, we stopped by the base of the tree so that Joey could see the incredibly hollow insides. 
We followed the trunk to the tangle of branches and found our way inside of them. Once the bird feeders were in place, Joey grasped the imaginative possibilties.

"Let's make this our snow cave!" he said.
We gathered pine needles to make our rug

The bird feeder was our lantern.
The lower log was to serve as Joey's bed. 

The big log was the sofa. Behind it Joey said we should put the fireplace.


Next we gathered twigs to feed our "Fire." And he spent quite a bit of time chipping off bits of bark he called sparks.

Joey found this branch and declared that it was a stick with marshmallows on.  He "roasted" them on our "fire."

And blew carefully on them to cool them...
He pretended to eat them saying, "when we're done with these marshmallows, there's lots more growing all over this snow cave!

Our feet frozen, our tummy's full as they could be of imaginary marshmallows, Joey found a secret way out.



When Jack awoke, he preferred revisiting his long lost childhood!  He got himself in, very pleased with himself.
In Clare's exersaucer, he tried every single toy.
And when he wanted, he climbed right out and went back to playing cars.





Monday, February 22, 2010

The Full Value

"...to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with." Mark Twain

I have the nicest friends in the entire world. One group of friends was given the name "The Homies" by an overly smart teenage boy years ago. We used to work together at Annapolis Area Christian School and found we had even more in common than teaching and a love for kids and our faith and snow days. Yet we have different strengths and have helped each other in important and everyday ways.

The Homies love to do things together. If there's an occaision, we all love to help the hostess make it wonderful. We discovered this one year while putting on a reception for a concert one of us was conducting. The concert was breathtaking, and we had great fun planning, cooking and making the reception happen. 


I have lots of inspiring and funny stories to tell about The Homies because they've been there for me in my most joyful and my saddest moments. They've listened, counseled and stood beside me. I admire and cherish each one.
cooking together
Most recently two of The Homies, Wendy and Janice, hosted a swap party. Wendy taught art at AACS and Janice taught Spanish; now they own a business WendyLynn and Co  that represents illustrators to the children's book publishing market. Invitations instructed us to bring three clean, useful items we no longer wanted. These would be traded for three items we could use. Coffee, tea and delicious food would be served. No clothing was to be traded.
Wendy and Janice with the clothes pins
I took a lamp that I bought in Grand Rapids, MI at Meijers (which is the Michigan version of Walmart) only bigger and with lots of Dutch delicacies like Wilhemina Mints and ham buns. It was dirt cheap and came in a set with a floor lamp which has since broken and which I am still using. (It slants toward the guest bed). The table lamp came with a red shade that I didn't notice (or like) because it was in the box. I couldn't return it to Michigan, so I put it in my family room and never turned it on.

I had a large box of rust colored scented candles, not yet burned.  I took them.

I also took an old French Press one of my children left here when they moved out. I had been using it, but I was given a beautiful, new one for Christmas so didn't need the other.
the red box and the quilt
When I arrived at Wendy's house, which serves also as the lovely Meadowgardens Bed and Breakfast, I was welcomed with a strong and delicious hot cup of tea, a cranberry muffin and a warm, hospitable atmosphere. Conversation was flowing and during this, I was instructed to take a tag, which was cut in the shape of a heart and use it to identify my items with a description of its use and why I was giving it away.
items to swap
Already lots of women were there (some Homies, some from other circles of friendship), and they had placed their items on tables Wendy had set out in her lovely, warm home. We all mingled and talked, enjoyed our hot drinks, shared stories of how we had survived the recent blizzards and looked at the things people had brought.

Many of the women had added a bow or grouped a few like things together. There was an entire set of dishes there, lots of pitchers, placemats, napkins, a hand made quilt, vases, a fax machine, an indoor mood water fountain, glass ware and another French press.

Janice gave each woman three clothes pins. We were to write our name on each and clip one to each of the three items we wanted. If there was more than one woman who wanted an item, the clothespins would be put in a dish and the winner chosen by a blind draw. Those who didn't win were allowed to quickly run and attach their pins to another item.

I saw a vintage cake carrier I liked, but changed my mind. Instead I put my clips on a big red wooden box with dividers that I thought Icould use in my sewing room, on a blue stoneware pitcher, and on a bundle of yellow kitchen towels.

Everyone wanted the cake carrier, the red box and the stoneware pitcher.  I figured I'd get the yellow towels and while the trading was going on, I met up with the mom of a dear, former student.  We had so much news to catch up on, that I didn't pay attention.

I understand these sort of parties are popular with my daughter's crowd also. They call them "Naked Lady" parties because  they are primarily for trading clothing. My daughter recently attended one and came back with a pair of mustard yellow heels that she would never have bought, but that she wears all the time!

My son recently went to another kind of swap party. Its formal name is Bulk Item Pick Up. On a scheduled night, residents set out things they don't want. These items are to be picked up the next day. Saavy, frugal people drive through the streets looking for things they might use.  My son found a snow shovel to replace the one stolen recently from his brother-in-law. He found a light bulb for his dark refrigerator and a few other wierd things.
drawing out the winning clothes pins

In case you haven't heard about it, things are also traded these days via a website called The Freecycle Network at http://freecycle.org/. Here you can find things and give away things you don't need. Some churches in our area host something called a Free Family Flea Market where you can just stop by and take what's there.

Thanks to Janice and Wendy for a warm, friendly, practical way to spend a snowy February morning. The swap party was just another reason why I have the dearest, most fun friends in the world.

It turns out, I won the pitcher!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No One Knows

When a child is born, no one knows what she will do in life. Stories and legends tell about otherworldly beings who speak prophetic words over children sometimes giving blessing, sometimes wreaking havoc. But as for me, I watched and wondered.


Valerie was a sleepy, cheerful child who was not interested in learning to read or write. I never dreamed that her calling would involve the written language. She loved playing, though, and doing things together especially if it involved making a big, imaginative production. I thought she might be a photographer because of her artistic eye.  I thought she might be a physical therapist because I noticed how she identified with people’s struggles, (which shows how little I then knew about physical therapists). I had no premonition that Valerie would be a rockin’ awesome singer songwriter!

When she was away at college, she would sometimes call while in the throes of frustration. Her lament was often, “I can’t write a song! I haven’t written a song!” One would think that her mother (me) who writes stuff also, would understand this lament, but I thought her gift in life was her spectacularly gorgeous, light-filled voice. What else could compare? So I would try to console her. But I was thinking something like: Why not sing some Janis Joplin songs or some Carole King or some Patty Griffin or some Eva Cassidy? I may have suggested something lame and typical like “Dream a Little Dream of Me” which I knew to be within her range.

Little did I know!

When she wrote her first song, she stood in our living room by the fireplace, guitar in her arms, and sang it to me. I could not breathe! That Christmas a friend challenged her to write a Christmas song. She plinked around on the piano and then at a family and friends’ gathering offered to play a song she’d written, adding, “it might not be any good.” Then she sang “Torch” for the first time.
"There must be someone to bring a little light into these dark eyes."
“Constellations in the gravel/Their rhinestone dress directs my travel./ Funny how I haven't found my path looking at the ground."  The last chords sounded and we blinked at her, searching for words to express something like—“Could you play that again? Could you play that beautiful, stirring, song a million more times? Please?” “Torch” is still an amazing favorite, though now she’s written so many others.
performing at the Seafood Festival two weeks before Clare was born
It turns out that my daughter is a poet! For me, an English teacher who also writes, Valerie’s poetic gift was both surprising and delightful. I love poetry, but I’m picky and critical about it. I love Val's poetry which she crafts from sharp observations, deft language skill, a respect for human suffering, a belief in human triumph and the notion that God is good. Her poetry is real, her images surprising, but apt, and her voice, itself a bright triumph, is part of that gift, inseparable, rich and to me, thrilling.
I wonder what this baby's gifts are?

People have asked me how Valerie became a poet. But I don’t know. It’s true that I read poetry to her beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child's Garden of Verses and it is also true that she never tired of this book; she has it memorized. I read other poems to her—whatever delighted me and might also delight her, such as “An Eskimo Baby” and “Wynken, Blynken and Nod.” I recently read these poems aloud to my grandson, hoping to infuse some poetry into his active and practical soul. He touched my arm gently and said, “Grannie, would you please pay attention to me?” So, obviously it doesn't work like a charm.
The band won a place in the "New Talent Competition at Cornerstone Festival

When Valerie was a little older, she and her brothers fought a lot in the car on the way to places (anyplace, everyplace), so I made them listen to Sir Alec Guinness reading T.S. Eliot’s poems. You may think this was cruel. It was certainly dull as chalk. But I found it soothed everything in the car to a gray quiet and the tepid tenor of his voice fit well with the tedious, depressing subject of the poems. I suppose my secret hope was that they would revel with me about the notion of a person measuring his life in coffee spoons or say when they graduated from college “I’m getting old; I wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.” This didn’t happen because they don’t wear trousers and they hated T.S. Eliot read by Sir Alec. My preventative measures worked though. My children did not fight while poetry was playing; they slept and mocked me for years after.
playing at First Sunday in Annapolis
It might have been Bible reading. The Bible’s language is poetic and dramatic. It might have been all the Shakespeare In The Park plays we forced her to attend, or the fact that I watched Hamlet videos regularly just to hear the poetry spoken in my house. For some reason, I like the way it sounds better than-- let's say the conversation on Oprah. But Val likes Oprah and Shakespeare, so no clue there.
Val with Josh on bass
People also ask me where Valerie got her voice. I don’t have an answer to this, but I have an idea. Her father has a big, beautiful voice and he loves music. Both her Nebbia grandparents played the piano and sang in musical theatre in college. So there’s some inherited ability. But I think it comes from her being such an incredibly bald baby.
Clare is speechless while her mom rehearses
She was cute but bald. And she stayed bald. I dressed my only daughter (the bald one) in pink or purple, in dresses and ruffles, but she was so bald that when I took her out, despite her clothes, people would say, “Oh you have 3 boys. Bet you want a girl!” I would say, “This one is a girl.” People actually looked at me like I was lying.

This continued until people were saying to me, “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a girl this time,” when I was expecting Karl. At two, she was still bald. And she was still bald when people commented, “Oh, you have four boys! I bet they’re a handful.” To which I’d respond, “This one’s a girl,” and get no reaction. None.
Does this child look like a boy? Don't answer that!
So when Val was well past three, nearly four, a foreign born faith healer stayed with us for a couple of days. When he left, he asked to pray for the children and all I could think of to ask for Valerie was that she’d get some hair. (Come on, really? That’s all you can think of to ask for?) He heard me and said, “That’s my specialty.” He prayed  for her and her hair grew and has always been gorgeous. But I just wonder… what else God gave her that day. I mean God might have pitied me for not coming up with something more significant to ask for… but then again, Sampson’s hair was part of his strength, wasn’t it?

Maybe it all has nothing to do with that single prayer. Maybe God gave her voice and the words to sing when she was formed, maybe He planned it all along. But I think they are both His gifts and calling. I know you can’t hear her, as I am hearing her voice now, and I know you’re thinking it is because I’m her mother that I would make such a bold and reckless claim, but I do think it is true.

Valerie tells us that she wanted to sing and write music from a young age. I remember one day when she was in middle school and came to my classroom at the end of the day to say that her choir teacher had kept her after class, but not for the usual reasons (talking or disrupting) but because as Valerie put it in her inimitable way, “a jewel came out of my throat when I sang.”

That’s what she sounds like—that surprising, that valuable, that dazzling. Someone once said she sounded as if she’d swallowed an apple whole. Her voice is big and clear and stirring. It’s bright with a rare ability to give insight. And there’s a sound to it, a note or a ring that is there and unique and impossible to describe. She’s sounds maybe a bit like Eva Cassidy but with more energy and wit and purpose. She can be as powerful and raw as Janis Joplin, but with a sweet poignancy that will wring tears from the stoniest heart. Her voice is a gift and she has beautiful things to say.
Clare thinks so too
Valerie’s choir teacher asked her to sing a solo one Spring Concert when she was in tenth grade. It was the first part of a song called, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” I was nervous for her. She looked so small and timid when she stepped up to sing, but her voice soared, far bigger than herself, clear as sunshine with that mysterious note of the wind in it. "What tho' the darkness gather round?/Songs in the night He giveth..."

She’s had break from performing since her baby was born, and we are all so looking forward to hear what she has planned this Saturday for her “return to the stage” at Ramshead in Annapolis. I know they’ve planned a remix of the old favorite “Torch,” a bluesy version of “Smell of Cotton” the teariest tear-jerker, and lots of other surprises. Though she performs her own beautiful songs, she does cover some other artists. Last year she gave a bold, resonating performance of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason To Stay Here;” that really brings that tune alive. The band is eager to play lots of great music and they sound better than ever.

Tim at Ramshead
If you’re free on Saturday afternoon, come and join us at Ramshead Onstage. I wonder if you’ll be able to hear how hard my heart is beating when Val sings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All The Best

I met Andrea in 1996 when she was a student in my 3rd period class at AACS. She was sixteen years old, in grade 11, happy, popular, genuine, talkative, opinionated, gorgeous, athletic and involved in everything.The first thing I remember loving about her is her sunny smile and as I got to know her that year, I saw that her smile was not only sunny, but genuine and encouraging. She had some official office in her class and quickly I realized that she had been given the gifts of true leadership. She is genuinely interested in others; she tries to talk to people about their lives and their interests. Naturally energetic and organized, she can generate enthusiasm and make the most difficult and involved event happen. And because she loves people and is interested in everyone, if someone has a good idea, Andrea will get behind it and help bring it to life. If it’s not such a good idea, she’ll say so.

Andrea and some of her friends ate lunch in my classroom. They sat on my counter, on the floor, a happy crowd of chattering teenagers, my son, Joe, and his friends among them. I remember envying Andrea's and her sister Jen’s lunches. They devoured gorgeous sandwiches made of fresh bread or golden bagels stuffed with cheese and sprouts, chicken salad and crisp lettuce while I sat at my desk grading vocab quizzes and eating, without tasting, my half cup of dull, vanilla yogurt.

But hearing bits of her conversations, I grew to know that she loved justice, was dedicated to her sisters, her parents, her grandparents, her friends (many of whom she's enjoyed all her life) and that she was truthful, sometimes bluntly so. I liked her honesty best of all. She appreciated the gifts and talents of other people. I learned that she loved animals (horses, dogs, etc), that she raised chickens and as Joe said, hers was the only house in the county where as soon as you parked in the driveway, a pet goat would jump on your car.
Joey took these pictures of his mommy blowing out her candles.
During one of these lunch times, Joe and Andrea came to my desk, both smiling. This caught my attention because they were usually arguing passionately about something—was the sky blue or pale blue? Was Mr. Bitzer funny or hilarious? Did the teacher throw the ruler at the student or at the blackboard and just (unfortunately) hit the student? I don’t remember what they were smiling about that time they weren't arguing but Andrea took Joe’s arm and I thought—just for a split second—that I saw a spark. But no, everyone (Jen, Crystal, everyone) said they were only and would only ever be just friends.

When the only and forever friends Joe and Andrea married four years later, I thought Andrea was stunningly beautiful.

Since then, I’ve gotten to know her better.

Andrea brought a positive outlook to our family that I wonder now how we did without. The autumn after they were married, they visited one Sunday. Andrea took the box of outdoor trash bags and said to my family, who were all in some state of repose, probably reading or watching football with the most ambitious of us doing both, “We’ll take a break after we’ve filled all these trash bags with leaves.”
Clare did some ballet moves for Aunt Yandi's birthday.
Of course no one wanted to disappoint our newest family member, so after asking in whispers if this meant we had to put our books down, followed her outside to work. Andrea, being Andrea, worked circles around all of us, but her enthusiasm gave us something new. It actually had never occurred to any of us to set such a tangible goal and Andrea made reaching it lots of fun.
No activity too difficult -she defines courage with her "can do" attitude. Here skating with the Joes.
Andrea and I share lots of interests besides family. These include teaching, gardening, cooking, and sewing. One summer we thought we’d try to run a summer sewing camp. What a joy to work with her, organizing the lessons, creating the samples, depending on her sense of organization and vision. This year, we decided to extend our summer sewing camp through the rest of the year by adding classes through the months in other areas of home-making. Her friendship is one of my life's greatest joys.

I respect Andrea’s values. She loves family, peace, wholesome things and frugality. She does not hold grudges, and she always gives me the benefit of the doubt. She’s a champion bargain hunter and she’s pragmatic. She cares about the important things in life and gives herself—with enthusiasm to them. She’s still reaching out to others with her friendly smile and her genuine enthusiasm. She is still celebrating other people's strengths, still organizing help for when people are down or sick. I love that I can depend on Andrea to be present at important events.

welcoming their newest niece
After my mother's death, Andrea worked beside me and my siblings to get my mother's house ready to sell. I am not sure whether I loved better her practical wisdom or her dedication, but I know I'll never forget this kindness she did for me. When I was the saddest and most broken I've ever been, she was not afraid, never impatient, but stood beside me.

During our happy times, Andrea made things wonderful.  At 8 in the morning after Val and Andrew were engaged, she called me as I was calling her to discuss planning and organization! She has the gift of "being there" of showing respect for what she is perceptive enough to see is important to people. In this way she lends her strength to others.

Performing a skit they wrote for Care and Eric's rehearsal dinner

The way Andrea supports, praises and encourages her husband is inspiring. I admire her dedication to him and to their relationship. Working together with Joe in her honest, hopeful way, she’s made a lovely, warm hospitable home where the food is delicious, there are always games to be played or projects to cooperate on, and I always feel welcome.
Team Nebbia worked many weekends before the recent weddings
I love the way she teaches and plays with her children. I was waiting for them at my front door the other day when I heard her telling Joey, “No, dew is not precipitation. It’s condensation.” I asked Joey about this later and do you know? He understood the difference?! She also taught him about white and red blood cells, bioluminescence, how to water the plants, find worms in the dirt, how to measure dry ingredients etc. etc. She celebrates her children’s strengths and she is honest about their struggles, making a plan with Joe about how to help them grow through them.
For Jack's first birthday, she delighted him with a ball pit
Now that I have the privilege of calling Andrea “family, daughter, dear friend” now that I daily enjoy working side by side with her, learning from her and being inspired by her, I know that her worth is inestimable. She is a more beautiful now than when I first met her and she has the kind of inner beauty that years will not tarnish. That’s because it is made of real heart, honest love and  pure gold. May the next thirty years be more fun, more fulfilling, more exciting, more filled with love and laughter than you ever dreamed, imagined, or asked for, Andrea!
Happy Birthday, Andrea!