Art Ambush Founder Interviewed

A sixty-nine year old woman sits in her late husband’s favorite easy chair.

The only sound is the crackling of the dry wood in the stone fireplace.

The flames provide her only light in the early winter morning.

Her trusted hound snuggles against her feet.

She isn’t sad, she’d grown accustomed to living alone years ago. She smiles and lays her head back in the wingback chair. A conscious reverie segues into a rare morning nap–and a dream.

Luger’s bark at the mail carrier awakens her and she pats him on the head, “Let’s go check the mail.”

She didn’t have to go far.

Tony left her mail on the front porch.

In boxes.

Three boxes, each a bit larger than shoe boxes, all full of mail, and one package.

She called out for him, “Tony!” but he was gone. “Surely this can’t all be for me.”

But it was.

She was the victim of another “art ambush.”

Cards, letters, small photographs, and one original oil painting had arrived to show her she wasn’t forgotten.

Anonymous expressions of care from artists (and friends of artists) all over the world.

If she had known who to thank, it would have been Lisa Brandel.

We caught up with Lisa last week for a brief telephone interview.

Welcome, Lisa!  We’re excited to find out more about Art Ambush.  Once our readers are familiar with your project, the name will be obvious and quite descriptive. Tell us how the project was born and how the name was chosen.

Well, I am an insomniac and one night when I couldn’t sleep I was searching for

Lisa B-1

Art Ambush founder, Lisa Brandel

inspirational quotes to use in the Widow Lady-to write about- and I found a picture of a man who I thought I needed to paint him.  I started doing the painting and someone asked me what I planned on doing with the painting.  I said I was going to send it to the man (who happens to be a stage actor) as like an ambush of art he didn’t expect.  Then my friend, who was also an artist, sent me some art and I sent him some art all out of the blue and we ended up putting together the page and decided that we’d give this gift of giving to other people.  That was three years and 1500 ambushes ago.

  • How has Art Ambush been promoted and how many active participants are there worldwide?

We have a stable of about 40 regular artists and then we have closer to 100 people who jump in when they see something that pulls at them.  I opened up the ability to ambush to ‘non-artists’ or people who don’t want to be listed but want to give and it’s been incredible the response.  It is now growing all the time and we have artists and non-artists in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and all over the U.S.

  • How are recipients of Art Ambush’s attention chosen?

People nominate them to me.  They send me an email on FB or in my private email  telling me the story of the person and why they feel they should get a bit of ambushed love.  Sometimes we’ll catch a story on the news about someone going through a hard time, or being a hero and the group kind of just calls for the want to give to someone.  So it’s varied.

  • Other than the price of a stamp and perhaps a greeting card, what expenses might a new participant expect?

It’s really up to the giver.  I’ve sent thousand dollar oil paintings at random to people and I know others who have done the same.  We have jewelry artists who send pieces that I know are expensive, but we don’t talk cost really none of us ever have.  So, it’s really at your own comfort level.  If you want to send a card and that’s where you are good, then by all means it is as priceless as what I might send. I see no distinction.  We’ve had some non-artist send art supplies to people, CD…even some of our writer friends have sent autographed copies of their books.  The things sent are as varied as the people we send them to.

Lisa at work

Brandel at work in her Ohio studio.

  • Some well meaning, caring types out there who won’t or can’t take the time to send a card, would take the easy way out and say, “Just let me throw some money at the problem.” Does Art Ambush accept donations and if so how might a philanthropist contribute?

     

We actually have only ever gotten one cash donation and the person just sent it to me.  I used it to help us buy our ambush cards and mailing labels for those who send out packages.  We’ve not asked for donations really even when we’ve sent large boxes of things to groups for the shipping.  I just absorb the expense and that’s fine with me.

  • We suspect there must be associations of artists of all media who could get involved. Which art groups have supported your efforts?

We have supporters all over the place and all over Facebook, but we as a group have kept in the shadows.  We aren’t trying to go viral, nor do we expect or want spotlight for what we do.  That kind of defeats the purpose in some ways.  We like the whole ninja aspect of what we do…we slide out from the shadows, dump some happy on people, and then retreat back to the shadows again.  Our giving is an act of faith.  You don’t see what happens or how it helps people you just do it and hope.

  • What are your future plans for Art Ambush? How big can this become? Do you have any celebrity endorsements or participants?

The Ambush has been gaining ground since it was founded, and honestly keeping it small has been harder than growing it.  People want to do good things and this just kind of gives a direction for it, a focus.  I would like to see in the future a home base for the group, a physical location, things to be more organized on a bigger scale without losing the personal touch, and to be able to employ some people so people can work in something they love, but that is all down the road.  As far as celebrity endorsements, well…We have ambushed some famous people both here and in England, but we don’t advertise that nor do we want to really…it’s a personal experience made person to person without care of status, age, religious leanings, anything really. No one person and no one ambush is more important than another.  We keep the names to ourselves and just do the work.  The work, the art, the giving, that is what we celebrate.

Want to participate in the next ambush? Check with Lisa via Facebook for two current Art Ambushes.

To visit  the Art Ambush page on Facebook, click HERE.

To see Lisa Brandel’s art, click HERE.

Steak Dinner for One (or…I’m Alright)

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This night, I dined alfresco on the back deck.

Dining alone has never been my first choice. In fact, if pressed to rank my preferences, it would come in dead last. At some point in our lives, I suppose we’ve all had to endure a solitary dining experience. Over the last forty or so years, I’ve had my share of solo meals.

During the last fifteen years, it was a rare occurrence. Now, it seems as though it is my destiny.

Fate stepped in. Seems like that happens a lot to us mortal humans.

I’ve always been the optimist. Not sure if it’s the result of genes or a learned behavior, but I have forever seen that proverbial glass as half full. My feet seem to always find the sunny side of the street and I accentuate the positive. It’s become a lifelong habit.

In a twelve week span that included May, June, and most of July, my brother-in-law, John, and his wife, Veronica, taught me how to cook, plan meals, manage my refrigerator and freezer and gave me some tips on shopping. I now use my slow cooker and rice cooker regularly and freeze my leftovers for later meals. Veronica taught me the importance of an attractive presentation of a meal. That made sense to me. Get the visual appeal in tune with the aromas and flavors.

Last week, I decided to prove to myself that I could do it and at the same time, assure my family and friends that I’ve learned a few things. Planning and shopping started the project. A white cotton table cloth and white “hotel” napkins came from Amazon. At the grocery story, I purchased a bag with nineteen different kinds of lettuce for my salad. Chopped walnuts and dried cranberries have always been a favorite in my salad and I found some Texas toast croutons in the cupboard. Add in the Marzetti Sweet & Sour dressing, and the salad was done. IMG_20150812_193400675

My favorite cut of beef is a rib eye steak. I prepared that on the grill while enjoying a cocktail of Wild Turkey and Coke. After I turned it the last time, I cut a few holes into it and filled them with blue cheese. Voila!  Black and blue rib eye. A can of corn warmed with real butter (it’s better for you than margarine) rounded out the main course. Complementing the steak dinner was a glass   of  Bell’Agio Chianti.

For dessert, I had vanilla ice cream with chopped up Oreos and a fresh cup of Community Coffee. Finally, I finished off the evening with an after dinner drink (Amaretto) and a fine cigar (Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8).

Everything worked out well. While I was the only diner physically present, I’m certain I was not alone. I enjoyed it so much, I’ll definitely do it again. In fact, I’ve purchased a red and white checkered table cloth for the next time. The fare will be Italian—probably pork chops (instead of meatballs) and spaghetti.

Dinner anyone?

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After dinner drink and cigar. (Yes, the photos are out of sequence, but I don’t know how to fix that.)

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Where’s the steak?

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Dessert: vanilla ice cream with Oreo bits and Community Coffee.

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

Management NewSpeak–Orwell was Right (or “How I learned to speak in tongues at work.”)

The Excerpt:    Newspeak-1

Some of my friends consider me to be an anachronism. In  some ways, they’re correct.  In many ways, I’m stuck in the sixties. Some of my mannerisms and behavior from the past  have  carried over into the new century.

I don’t like the new age management jargon that has become prevalent in the last ten years. I prefer the old way of talking.

It was clear.

It was direct.

It wasn’t concerned about being politically correct.

[Some of my author friends may encounter this in their dealings with corporate types.]

904b8-aaa-www

The Back Story:

After the above excerpt, which sets up the blog pretty well, I believe, the article continues with some examples of the language that to me, is anathema. (That’s a big word I learned from a bona fide genius.)

Moving forward, reach out to me and we’ll dialogue about this and I’m sure you’ll be come a champion of the better way of talking with lots of takeaways from the entire blog, which can be found HERE.

Got some words for us? (8-10 sentences)

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on FaceBook.

Third Novel Wins Award

904b8-aaa-wwwThe Excerpt:

Watch for a new chapter of my serial novel soon!

Watch for a new chapter of my serial novel soon!

Claudia Barry owned Manhattan’s West 33rd Street.

She stayed close to the buildings, away from the crowds, aware of every face. Every movement got her attention. It was an old habit and hard to break. It had kept her alive. She took deliberate strides toward 8th Street.

The drizzle had stopped, the skies were still overcast, and the sidewalk wet. It would have been impossible for her to miss the action fifty feet ahead of her.

The Big News:

This week’s sample is the first eight sentences from A Year Without Killing (my third book.) It recently was selected as a finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild’s First Chapter Book Awards.

BLUE-FINALIST2015According to Roger Middleton, president of the Guild, “We received an overwhelming number of entries from around the world, including authors submitting from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, South Africa, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.”

Each entry was judged by three different judges from a panel representing, editors, authors, educators, and avid book readers. An additional three judges were brought in to select winners from the finalists.

Read the entire first chapter of A Year Without Killing, HERE.

Share your work with us!

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on FaceBook.

My Life as an Animal

904b8-aaa-wwwThe Excerpt:

Owls-1

Miss Bob’s cross stitch. It hangs on the wall in my studio, near where I’m typing this blog post.

The television series, Twin Peaks, featured a memorable dream sequence in which a giant man appears to Special Agent Dale Cooper. In the dream, the giant says, among other things, “The owls are not what they seem.” My wife said that I was an owl, too, because I turned out to me something I didn’t seem to be originally (a friend who later became her husband.) Eventually, we had a collection of owl memorabilia from cross stitch to various sized replicas. It was nice to be an owl for her. She had been a “Kat” and morphed into a flamingo.

Maybe we were birds of a feather?

The Setup:

We’re all animals anyway, but there are times in all of our lives when we seem to be something other than homo sapiens.

Today’s sample comes from a blog that will post on Friday, the 31st on my publisher’s site. OK, it’s HERE.

I was a

I was a “zebra” for sixteen years. In this shot, I’m conducting a coin toss.

Got a sample of your work?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on FaceBook.

My return to Weekend Writing Warriors

The Eight Sentences:

I looked forward to another treatment of the plight of the Indians in North America with the same lack of enthusiasm.

A factor that made this different was that my wife and I had combined our creative talents (mostly hers) to create a group she named, “The League of Old Men.” The title sounded familiar so I looked it up and found this book with a similar but not exactly the same title. Turned out to be a short story of only twenty-three pages. I read it aloud to her today.

London addressed a terrible loss of life amongst both Indian and the White man with a casual, unemotional review of the numbers and few specific incidents.Old Indian

At the same time, readers are drawn into the profoundly emotional story of the old man who created his own holocaust as he and his comrades delivered death to the invaders without remorse or prejudice.

In the end, the judge carries out his own duties as proscribed by law and his broken heart represents the conflicted emotions of the conquerors of the new world.

==============

The Back Story:

The reference in the first sentence was to my disinterest in Schindler’s List when it first came out. I didn’t see it for several years after its theatrical run.

The “League of Old Men” came from the back of several chairs I’d purchased at a church garage sale. Bob took one look at the lettering, “L.O.O.M.” and thought up the name. Then I asked, “Who are they?” Then she told me.

[NOTE: I read her this story and wrote the above article about it on April 7. She died on April 27.]

======================

You got eight sentences?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook.

Timelines Converge

Two "Chips" meet and time lines converge.

Two “Chips” meet and time lines converge.

We saw only one person moving about in the cemetery.

If it wasn’t a caretaker, it must be him.

He was adjusting his lawn chair near the headstone of his wife.

I walked towards him.

When I got close enough to speak, I reached out to shake hands and said, “Good morning, my name is Chip.”

He smiled and said, “My name is Chip, too.”

My attention went directly to the tombstone, “I was sorry to learn of your wife’s passing.”
“She had dementia and died of double pneumonia.”

Our eyes met and I replied, “My wife was waiting on a liver transplant and died of double pneumonia.”

My voice broke.

He instinctively reached out and put his hand on my shoulder to offer comfort.

That was the sign my friend and two family members who were waiting in the car had hoped might appear. My brother-in-law said, “When he put his hand on your shoulder, we knew everything was okay.”

Our group consisted of a close friend, Art Hoffman, and my brother-in-law, John Coe and his wife, Veronica. Our outing that morning had been to visit a location Art had found a week or so before our visit to Louisville from North Carolina. My return to work begins next week and we all needed a break from home, Chip and Bob’s Flamingo Farm.

Earlier, the lady who told us about Mr. Chip appeared with little warning as we soaked in the ambiance of Art’s surprise. It

John, Veronica, and Art in front of Sissy's Consignment store.

John, Veronica, and Art in front of Sissy’s Consignment store.

was a consignment store that featured numerous flamingoes, my wife’s favorite fowl. The mystery lady said Mr. Chip had been keeping a daily vigil in the cemetery and cautioned us to approach with care and respect. It isn’t often a community sees a seventy-something year old man make daily visits to the grave of his wife—visits that last hours. The cemetery was on the main thoroughfare in town, just a block or two from the fire station. Mr. Chip was in plain view every day, on stage, for all to see. According to the mystery lady, the local townspeople had pitched in to purchase the headstone for Mrs. Perkins.

We had more than a nickname in common. His given name is Charles Franklin. Mine is Frank Cecil. So we share reversed initials, C.F. and F.C.

This morning, we had found him about to get situated in a lawn chair, in a blazing sun.

He was about to read to his wife from Open Windows, a devotional publication from LifeWay.

It was her birthday.

Who would have thought that on her birthday, a Chip from the present would cross trails with a Chip of the future.

I hope Mr. Chip found an unexpected visit from another “Chip” as comforting as I did.

Video, Part One:

For Part Two of the video, click, HERE.

Is today’s model family much like the Holy Family?

Our guest blogger today is Deacon John Coe. He was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church on June 7, 2008 in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. Currently assigned to Saint Bartholomew Catholic Church in Fort Worth, Texas.Retired as Consul from the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State after 20 years of service.Deacon JohnRetired from U.S. Navy with the rank of Commander.Married 35 years to Luisa Veronica, with three sons.============

Can the Holy Family still teach us anything about what a family should be?  We have always pointed to them as an example of a model family.  But as we look at the plaster statues of father, mother and child placed in a manger, is there still a lesson for the many forms of family we actually experience in our lives?

If all we say about families is they consist of a man, a woman, and their natural child or children, I think we will be leaving a lot of people out.  And the one thing we never want to do in a church that calls itself universal is to leave people out.

Let’s take a closer look at the Holy Family.  It includes Joseph, who is a foster parent.  So perhaps some people would say this family is less than ideal.  And in fact, we know Joseph did something really courageous when he trusted God, and cancelled his plans to divorce Mary.  What must the neighbors have thought?  Mary was pregnant before she even lived with Joseph.  Joseph did this because he loved God, and he loved Mary and the child Jesus.  So, what Joseph shows us in this non-traditional family is the most important element in forming family is love.

Jesus was not the typical child either.  Oh yeah, he was fully human, that’s true.  He was like us in every way but sin.  So completely like us that those swaddling clothes had to be changed on a regular basis.  Otherwise, that manger was going to start smelling worse than a barn.  We forget about that sort of stuff, I guess.  He also was not conceived in the normal way.  As the angel told Mary: “With God, all things are possible!”

Jesus was also an only child.  That wasn’t your typical Jewish family in first century Palestine.  And of course, Jesus was fully divine.  He was just not your typical child.

Scripture tells us Mary was a virgin until Jesus was born.  Our Church [Roman Catholic] teaches she remained a perpetual virgin.  So that means Joseph and Mary lived together as brother and sister.  Definitely not a traditional marriage, neither for first century Jews, nor today.  What a testament to their love of God, and for each other!  Some people in marriages not recognized by the Church choose to live this way as well, so they can receive Holy Communion.  What a great testimony to their love for God!

And then there was Jesus’s relationship to his family.  In legend, we see Jesus always at his mother’s side; or obediently working in his father’s carpentry shop.  Perhaps.  But in Scripture, we see something quite different.  We see the boy who stayed behind in the Temple; so he could sit with the teachers, and listen to them, and ask them questions.  He wasn’t the obedient child that day.  And later, one time when he was speaking to the crowds, we heard Jesus say, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  And he answers his own question, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.

And what is the will of his heavenly Father?  We should love one another.  So Jesus is radically redefining family.  It is not just a small group of people with a biological connection.  Instead Jesus teaches us the family is defined by a relationship of love for each other, based in relationship to the one Father.  Even on the cross, Jesus tells Mary and his beloved disciple they are family.  This was certainly not the traditional understanding of what a family was in first century Palestine.

This is a message of great hope.  If you come here today wondering if you fit in, please know, you do!  If you think your family is nothing like the Holy Family, look again.  Broaden your understanding of family.   If there are people in your life who are away from the Church because they don’t think they will be accepted, because their family doesn’t fit the “traditional” mold, let them know we need them; we need their example of love.

Family is the place where we experience love.  It is where we learn to be loving people.  That doesn’t always happen in the family we were born into.  But Jesus teaches us we can all be part of a real, loving family, if we can set aside some of our old ideas, and join together in love for others, in relationship to our one Father.

The Value of a Quarter — Guest Blog by Keely K. Passmore

For the last few years, we’ve worked with fellow photographer, Vicki Passmore shooting Folkmoot, USA. Her granddaughter wants to become a writer. Our guest blogger today is 14 year old Keely Keziah Passmore.

Keely Keziah Passmore

Keely Keziah Passmore

. She’s  a freshman at Enka High School in western North Carolina and told me, “I have been writing a lot for the past 4 years. I have found writing to be a creative way to express myself and share my thoughts. I would love to become an author because writing is my passion.” I asked her to write about a memorable experience. Something she would never forget. I think she’s already achieved her goal of becoming a writer. Here is what she submitted.

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I let my eyes wander around the stuffy restaurant.

It was packed full of people, odd and interesting. With the curiosity of an eight year old I allowed myself to forget my manners and I stared openly at all of the “crazies” that seemed to appear in Asheville.

I was engrossed in this one lady. She was small and really skinny, like if she walked two steps outside she would be whisked away by the wind. She was also what my Nana would describe as “ugly as soap”. Her chin jutted out, and her cheeks were sunken in. I wondered what in the world had happened to make her look that way. Make her look so thin, frail, and helpless. I glanced up at her every so often, but she just sat there. There was no food on her table, and no pocketbook to be seen. The busy waiters kept asking if there was something she needed. They needed her to move so they could have free tables for paying customers. I saw her slowly stand to her feet, shaking slightly. She was gripping the table so hard her knuckles were white. I had this urge to hug her. I wanted to run up and wrap my arms around her. I wanted to help her keep it together, not fall apart.

Image credit: Jeremy Fokkens

Image credit: Jeremy Fokkens

I felt my eyes water as she begrudgingly walked out the door and sat on the sidewalk about ten feet away. I didn’t understand why I felt so strongly. I watched the rest of my family chow down, and eat heartily. It was obvious we never had to fret about missing a meal. I excused myself from the table to go to the bathroom. I let my feet slide to the floor and I smoothed my pink skirt then I practically ran across the room. I stopped at the display window and looked outside. The sun was beating down on the black asphalt. The once yellow dandelions were shriveled and dry. The sky was blue and the birds were singing, but the flowers remained there, next to them sat the woman that had held my attention.

She was asking people if they had any money.

Up until this point I didn’t know money was something people could not have.  I looked behind me checking if my family had noticed my detour before going outside and handing the woman a quarter. I was going to spend it on the candy machine. I felt bad that this was all I had to give.

I tapped her shoulder gently and handed her the small coin. She looked at it resting in her palm and then at me. She spoke only one word, but it changed me.

I thought about what she had said and I still do, “Innocence.”

Happy Santas!

A group of Santas get together in the off season and here's what happens!

A group of Santas get together in the off season and here’s what happens!

Born to be Jolly

My only shot at being Santa.

One summer over ten years ago, our church in Baton Rouge had “Christmas in July.” The usual “Santa” was unavailable so I got drafted. It was my only  and closest encounter with Sainthood. My wife made me a Hawaiian shirt with Christmas themed material, a do-rag, and I got a temporary tattoo.

Flash forward to 2015 and a group of professional Santas (one of whom is a close friend) who couldn’t wait till July. Let’s see what kind of fun they have in April. Were they convening an income tax session? I think not! These guys know how to be jolly and how to get HAPPY!  Sing, dance, and clap along with them!

My good friend, Art Hoffman, does great video work and had done all my video book trailers. He’s also captured many of the acts at North Carolina’s annual Folkmoot USA festival. See more Santa video and the amazing variety of topics by visiting Art’s YouTube channel, HERE.

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