Welcoming the Year of the Dog

by Diane Chubb

       Time for a fresh start!  Chinese New Year is a time to do a little spring cleaning, sweeping out the bad luck, and allowing the new luck in. 

       The Year of the Dog started out wagging its tail as children learned about Chinese New Year at Nesmith Library in Windham on Saturday, March 25. 

       Sharon Chu put together a wonderfully informative program for children and parents alike.  Liwen McCann gave a presentation, complete with slides, video, and some samples of Chinese candy.  The room was festively decorated in red and gold, which symbolize wealth and luck. 

       The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar cycle.  Chinese New Year depends on the new moon cycle.  In 2006, January 29 brought in the Year of the Dog. 

       Each year is named for one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.  According to Chinese astrology, the animal under which you were born determines your personality. 

       In China, New Years is a 15-day celebration.  It is a time for everyone to do “spring cleaning” and make a fresh start.  People will cut their hair, buy new clothes, wear their best clothes, and settle any debts. 

       During the celebration, the Chinese visit friends and family and exchange oranges or tangerines, which represent happiness and wealth.  Trays of Chinese candy are shared, with each candy having a different meaning.  Coconut, for example, symbolizes togetherness. 

       Fireworks are set off in front of a house to ward off the evil spirits.  Once the evil spirits are scared away, guardians are hung on the doors to keep the house safe. 

       The Lion Dance is an important tradition in China.  It is usually performed with two dancers, one in the head, and one in the tail.  If well-performed, the Lion Dance is believed to bring luck and happiness.

       Christina McCann and Athena Chan did an excellent job performing the traditional Lion Dance for everyone present.  Everyone was captivated as the “lions” darted about the floor. 

       One child pointed out that the lions looked more like dragons.  This is not surprising, as lions are not native to China.  The first lions seen by the Chinese were actually a gift to the emperor.  Rulers in what is today Iran and Afghanistan sent lions to China via the famous Silk Road in order to get the right to trade with Silk Road merchants.

       After the presentation, children had the opportunity to try on authentic Chinese clothing.  The morning wrapped up with a craft, as children made Chinese zodiac animals to bring home.  Happy New Year!

Xavier Spencer and his mom, Amy, complete their Chinese monkey. 

Jason Chubb models traditional Chinese clothing.

Pelham Royal Red Hats Indulge in Chocolate and Good Friends

       The Royal Red Hats of Pelham have been very busy with monthly gatherings, activities and the pleasure of welcoming all of the new Red Hat members at the March gathering.

       On Valentine’s Day, after the monthly gathering, a Chocolate Fantasy was held.  A contest was held for any member, (some anonymously) who wanted to write down their chocolate fantasy and give them to Vice Queen Sue Hovling to read while members stood in line for the buffet.  By applause, the women then voted for the person whom they felt had the best fantasy.  The winner was Dot Hill, with her fantasy of being stranded on a desert island with Country Singer Alan Jackson in a tub of chocolate. 

       For having the best fantasy, she won a book entitled, the Greatest Chocolate Cook Book.

       Names were then called one by one for those who had previously signed up to have their palms read by Mrs. Marsh, from Readings by Mrs. Marsh, located in Salem.  It was fascinating and very interesting to hear what some members, after having their palms read, had to say about their reading and tell us how accurate Mrs. Marsh was with what she told them.  It was amazed to learn that approximately 80 percent of the time, what she said was true.

       Unrenowned to everyone, during the gathering, in strolled four handsome gentlemen wearing tuxedos and looking for Red Hatter Anna Narinkiewicz.  Anna's face was one of shock when they found her and presented her with a red rose.  She was very surprised and had no clue as to what was about to happen next. 

       Her daughter, Marie Cockett, had arranged for a Barber Shop Quartet called Men with Good Hats, from The Granite Statesmen to entertain and sing to her as a Valentine’s Day gift.  Anna’s daughter is very special to her and is always enjoys surprising her mother by doing things unexpectedly for her.  Everyone was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the chorus and sang along as they serenaded Anna a cappalla with old love songs such as, Heart of My Heart.  The Red Hatters, including Anna, certainly enjoyed every minute of it.

       Yet to come was a variety of fruits to dip into the warm melted chocolate.  Among them were marshmallows, pineapple, banana slices, strawberry, and cheese and crackers to choose from.  It’s not believed that anyone counted calories that day!

       Those in charge of this February fun-filled event were Vice Queen Sue Hovling, Madeline Annis, Kathy Moreschi, Mary Glance, and Tricia Gill.  The group also handed out little valentines with chocolates attached for each member present.  They did a fantastic job planning this event.  Their fellow Red Hatters thanked them all for the wonderful time.

       At the March 14 gathering, outgoing Queen Virginia Fichera thanked outgoing Secretary/Treasurer, Dot Carter, for a job well done during her year in office and then introduced the new elected Secretary/Treasurer, Dot Hill for the ensuing year.  It was then time for Queen Virginia to hand over her crown and red robe to the new Queen, Terri Parent.  A round of applause by the Red Hatters was then given for the past and new officers.  Congratulations to both the new Queen and Secretary/Treasurer as the group looks forward to another fun-filled year of activities.

       Queen Terri then took over the gathering and acknowledged the new members present.  A hardy round of applause was given for all.  Welcome to the Red Hat Society, girls!

       There was quite an array of food at the buffet that followed the gathering.  Those responsible for this event were the Queen herself and her team consisting of Jackee Sonia, Heather Oriole, and Doris Tirrell.

       Coming up on April 24, is a trip to view model homes and condominiums located in Derry and Londonderry through the Prudential Verani Realty.  There will be free food, prizes, and, of course, all of the fun that comes with just being together as a group.  In charge of this April event will be Captain Pauline Kopacz, Kay Neskey, Irene Nickerson, Dianne Sweeney, Dot Hill, Nancy Broekhoff, and Marietta Potter.

       In May, a Mystery Trip is in the planning stages. 

       The next monthly gathering will be on Tuesday, April 11.

Anna Narinkiewicz thanks the four The Granite Statesmen for serenading her.

Terry Desell dipping her bananas on a stick in the warm chocolate with Dot Matthews waiting her turn.

‘The Principal’s Apprentice’ was Lots of Laughs

       It wasn’t your normal day at Bandersnatch High School.  In fact, it was a day filled with light-hearted humor and lots of laughs as the cast and crew of “The Principal’s Apprentice” thrilled audiences at Windham Middle School.

       Directed by eighth grade teacher Michael Kirste and produced by Windham Middle School parent Yvonne Smith, the play is a wildly comic send-up of the classic tale “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the legend of a young apprentice who takes things too far when he tries to use his master’s magic for his own good.  In the play, the story moves to modern times, where young Griffin Dodge (Nick Aldwin) is starting his new job as the apprentice to a high school principal, an all-around not-so-nice guy named Donald Trumpet (Sean Kelly), who bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain well-known real estate mogul/reality TV star.  When Griffin discovers the secret to Donald’s success, he tries to ensure his own survival by using it to help himself.  It isn’t long before things fall wildly out of hand, and Griffin must find a way to free himself from the mess he has created before he, too, hears the fateful words:  “You’re fired!”

       The cast included several veterans of Windham school productions, as well as quite a few newcomers.  They were, in alphabetical order:  Nick Aldwin, Stephanie Chapman, Nicole Chenelle, Jon Christianson, Carolyn Colbert, Anna Cino, Stephen Dennison, Adam DiPersio, Amy Donovan, Siobhan Forde, Chip Hasting, Sean Kelly, Summer LaCrosse, Tannishtha Pramanick, Chelby Sharpe, Jake Simard, Maddie Smith, Emma Vitolo, and Rachel Ward.

       As always the cast and crew had a great time. 

The cast gathers around the conference table at Bandersnatch High School.

‘No’ Vote Causing Hardship at Pelham Library

by Diane Chubb

       Imagine a trip to the library and finding a velvet rope blocking the staircase to the Children's Room. 

       That may be the case if voters continue to reject the Pelham Library's requests for funding for a full-time children's librarian.  For the third straight year, voters rejected a request by the Pelham Library to increase the hours for a children's librarian to a full-time position. 

       In 2005, despite a “no” vote and a default budget, the library was able to increase the children's librarian hours from 10 hours per week to 28 hours per week.  This was done by “stitching together a patchwork of part-time coverage hours,” said Library Director Sue Hoadley. 

       This past election, the library tried an incremental approach.  It sought only those funds required to secure a benefits package.  Under the library's current personnel policies, staff members are eligible to receive benefits only at 30 hours.  Funding the package would have allowed the library to increase the Children's Librarian hours to 30 or more per week. 

       However, voters rejected the request almost 2 - 1 by a vote of 851 in favor to 1939 against. 

       Unfortunately, the remedy used last year to increase the hours of a Children's Librarian will not work this year.  The town Budget Committee took $1,607 from the Children's Librarian salary and $500 from the programming budget.  There are no funds for any additional hours. 

       “Ideally, we would have a children's librarian who worked 40 hours per week, rather than 28.  The missing 12 hours are critical,” says Hoadley.  In fact, the Children's Department has no adult presence from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and none all day on Friday.  “We're getting packs of unruly adolescents upsetting order and committing acts of vandalism.”

       The Pelham Library lags far behind other libraries for similar-sized towns in children's services.  A survey of 12 New Hampshire libraries reveals that 10 of the 12 employed full-time children's librarians, including five towns smaller than Pelham.  Children's materials make up more than 60 percent of the library's circulation, and attendance at children's programming continues to increase.   

       Some have suggested that the library incorporate volunteers to staff the desks and supervise the children's department.  However, this is not a viable solution. 

       “Many people have the misconception that all we do is check things in and out, like a cashier at the grocery store,” says Hoadley.  “Patron records are confidential, so only someone trained in protecting that information can have access to it -- even in watching the names pop up on the computer screen when items are being checked in.” 

       Hoadley notes that in another library in which she worked, there was a rigorous personnel system, with a multi-page questionnaire where the questions were weighted.  The resulting score from the questionnaire determined the pay grade and step library staff would be assigned in the classification and compensation plan.

       “I weighed the library staff high on 'personal discretion' due to the confidentiality issues,” she explained.  “For instance, if someone is taking out books on AIDS or HIV, it is a serious matter.  If someone is taking out books on divorce, not only is it no one else's business, but it could result in the injury or death of that person if the information got into the wrong hands.  There are a hundred reasons why someone may wish to read books on those subjects.  In either case, it’s not our place to speculate on the reasons.”

       In addition, federal labor laws are very strict about replacing employees with volunteers. 

       Therefore, unless voters choose to support a future warrant article for the funds required for a full-time children's librarian, it may be necessary to close the Children's Room during those times when there is no adult supervision.

       “I would hate to do that,” Hoadley stated, “but we've been bending over backwards to provide all the programs that we do -- because it's not just the library's mission, it's also a personal vocation to do everything possible to help people get the information and services that they want!”

Windham Performing Arts Presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

       This spring, Windham Performing Arts is proud to bring Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical extravaganza Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to the stage of the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry. 

       Told by a cast of more than 35 talented local actors, the cast of Joseph includes Robert Long of Pelham, and Emily and Donna Mahoney, Sarah Vivinetto, Megan Borase, Deb Mackenzie, Jonathan Kaplan, Emily Hutchings, Louise Peltz, Angela Sanscrainte, Deb Talcott, Patrick Troy, and Kevin Waterhouse, all of Windham. 

       Joseph is the story of Jacob’s favorite son, his 11 jealous brothers, and his beautiful multicolored coat.  Joseph is produced and directed by Ginger Borase, with musical direction by Alice Hannon, and choreography by Bonnie Soper.

       Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on March 31, April 1, 7, and 8 and matinee performances are at 2:00 p.m. on April 2 and 8.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the WPA ticket hotline at 603-425-0785 or by visiting http://www.windhamperformingarts.org/.  Groups of 10 or more should call for rates.

Local Book Club Hosts Author Visit and Book Signing

by Karen Plumley

       A Pelham women’s book club held its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday evening, but it was far from an ordinary affair.  Local author Michaeline Della Fera paid a visit to the group, which during March chose to read her first published book, Trading Faces.  The book, which is a story about a slightly overweight female detective from Hollis, New Hampshire, is in the genre of “cozy mystery.” 

Pelham women’s book club enjoys the company of local author Michaeline Della Fera on Wednesday evening.

       “The story doesn’t have a lot of blood and gore, but it has a lot of character building,” described Della Fera.  According to the author, real people in her life inspired many of the characters in her book.  But the heroine, a junk food lover who does not regularly exercise but can still manage to huff and puff her way to the bad guys in no way describes Della Fera.  “I’m a health nut.  I run several miles per day and really watch what I eat.  I don’t know why I like to write about food.  I just do.”

       These and many other insights were what made the meeting so special.  The book club, which is part of the MOMS Club of Pelham Area, normally reads one book every month and then the women get together for an evening of lively discussion.  Inevitably, this often leads club members to ponder the origins of some of the characters and the inspirations for the actual stories themselves.  In this case, however, the group was able to get a rare glimpse inside what goes on in a writer’s mind during the development of a story.

       Donning a humorous T-shirt that read, “I’m a famous author.  Ask me about my book,” Della Fera then went on to describe some of the trials of getting a book published and sold.  “You really have to be like a used car salesman in order to get your book out there,” she described.

       After the night had ended, everyone left with a signed copy of Trading Faces and a greater appreciation for what it takes to make it as an author.  For more information about author Michaeline Della Fera and her works, log on to her website at www.mdellafera.com.

Local author of cozy mystery Trading Faces, Michaeline Della Fera, signs her books at book club meeting in Pelham on Wednesday evening.

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