Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Chapter One – “A Novel Adventure” by Jane Jardscg

Geigy, Denise, Robyn, Jennifer, Sally, Andrena, Colleen


She didn’t realize she had been holding her breath. Now as she turned off the ignition she exhaled slowly. Incredibly, she had forgotten the morning glories! As she gazed at the low rambling farmhouse before her, she felt a thrill of pleasure. The wall of the building was a mass of glowing green and bright jewel colors. A slight breeze shivered across the expanse of heart-shaped leaves, sending a ripple right into her heart.

She was nine years old, sitting on that verandah, dangling skinny legs and idly bumping her heels against the old brick of the foundation. She examined the vines, intrigued by the way each little tendril eagerly reached out to grasp and hold on as its blossom turned a bright trusting face toward the sun.

She shook her head now, as she opened the door of the rental car and stepped out onto the rutted gravel driveway. She was glad she had arrived in the morning to see the bright blossoms open, and so full of hope. She remembered now, that it had always made her vaguely sad to see the lovely flowers withdraw into themselves as evening approached. Having begun this day with hope, the blossoms seemed, like open arms, to welcome her home. Home? Was this a homecoming? Could one really come home?

Again the breeze seemed to send a cold shiver into her heart. She resolutely shook her head once more, and closed the car door. She urged her mind back through the tangle of confusion and pain. Leaning her elbow on the roof of the car, and idly twisting a strand of hair, she stood lost in thought. How long had it been? Her mind drifted back 20 years…

…The driveway was a sea of mud; even the steadfast morning glories seemed beaten down and defeated in the storm of heaven’s tears as the little girl pressed her wet face against the car window and sobbed. She watched the farmhouse until it disappeared from sight.

She hadn’t seen her grandmother since that day. Grandma Rose, who raised her for nearly ten years after the sudden tragic death of her parents…Her own grandmother – but the years had blurred the memory of her face just as so many small evil slanders had blurred the memory of Grandma Rose’s gentle goodness.

“Oh Grandma,” she sighed aloud. Cupping her cheek in her hand, she stared sightlessly at the whispering wall of green. “Are you still here? Or did you go back to Ireland like they said? Grandma, are you even still alive?”

Then, for the first time in years, she remembered. With sudden clarity she saw her grandmother’s hands cutting back strands of the vines, which left unchecked would have quickly grown to cover the windows of the farmhouse.

Grandma tucked one of the little vines back in among its brothers. Then she gently but firmly tugged on another grasping tendril, encouraging it to hold onto the strong wire trellis Papa had attached to the house years earlier. “We train them,” Grandma explained, “and then they naturally go where they are supposed to go. If we don’t cut them or tie them back a wee bit when they start to go like this, why, they just go wild.” She snipped off a obstinate tendril, frowning slightly. “It happens faster than you expect – and when they begin to go wild like that. Then we have to do some serious cutting to put them right.”

The mist cleared a little more and she saw her grandmother’s ageless and wise face. It was surprisingly unlined, except for the multitude of tiny wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, giving evidence of a ready humor and sense of fun.

Grandma Rose laughed a bit ruefully, bringing her story to its moral conclusion. “Young folks are a lot like that too, my girl,” she said, “I’ve see them go both ways. But you know the Lord tells us to train up a child in the way she should go and when she’s grown up she’ll not depart from that training.”

Standing on the rutted driveway now, she sighed with a violent shudder. “Oh Grandma,” she whispered aloud, “I have so many loose tendrils trying to grasp onto God-only-knows-what! I don’t even know if I can find that trellis if I try!”

She remembered the anger in Aunt Leona’s eyes that stormy afternoon; the violent words flung at her grandmother, and the older woman’s steady unperturbed gaze. A few belongings had been hastily stuffed in a brown paper bag, and she could still feel Aunt Leona’s urgent tug forcing her out the door and toward the waiting car.

The car sped down the driveway sending up a spray of muddy water behind it – the muddy water splashed up to mingle with the torrent of fresh drops that poured from a glowering sky.

She knew now, that her own innocent tears, fresh from eyes unaccustomed to crying, had mingled in some way that morning, with the tears of her grandmother who had lived long years in a dirt covered world. Grandma Rose had lived in sorrow as hopefully as the morning glories, which daily turned their trusting faces to the Giver of Light.

She caught herself up sharply. Enough of the melancholy reverie! Just walk up to the door and knock! You know what you came here for.

Assuming the bravado that had carried her for so many miles of hard years, she strode across the gravel driveway. Without a glance at the morning glories she mounted the wooden steps to cross the verandah and knock boldly on the rickety wooden frame of the screen door. There was a sound of rustling from inside the house, and a creak as the inner door opened.

She was not prepared for the face that appeared dimly through the screen. She stared with astonishment into the cold hard eyes which boldly met her own. “Agnes!’ she managed to choke out. The name was something like a strangled shriek. “What are you doing here?”

To be continued…

If you are new to “The Paladini Potpie” or have not visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.


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Who Is Jane Jardscg?

Who is Jane Jardscg? A few years ago our Lala Book Group decided to combine our various writing talents and embark on a novel enterprise! We spent the better part of one of our meetings making plans for writing a book. The Great Lala Novel!

We would need a nom de plume, of course, and the obvious choice was Jane. (Jane Eyre…Jane Austen…Jane Doe…)

We combined the initials of each of our first names to give Jane her surname: Jardscg – Jennifer, Andrena, Robyn, Denise, Sally, Colleen, Geigy. .

At this point I should officially introduce you to the Lalas. (In the picture we’re each holding one of our very favorite books.)

We’re all happily married with mostly grown children. In the back row you see Robyn on the far left. Robyn is a church secretary. And she is, without a doubt, the record keeper, mind and memory of our Lala group! Jennifer, probably the most intelligent woman I know, is next to Robyn. When her sons went off to college Jennifer herself returned to get her degree, and is now an RN. I am beside Jennifer. Next to me is Colleen, who is an elementary school teacher. (And by the way, was my son Matthew’s first grade teacher.) In the front row, Denise is on the far left. Denise works with finances in an office. Sally is beside Denise. She may be our busiest Lala, juggling her own college classes and a job at an elemantary school. Next is Geigy. She and her husband are missionaries in Tokyo, where their children go to Japanese public school.

We decided our novel would take seven months to write, and coincidentally enough, there were seven women in the group at that time! We would write our chapters anonymously. We put seven slips of paper in a basket that night, and drew lots to decide our month and order of writing.

The first author began chapter one that very month.

Our method of passing the manuscript was very cloak and dagger! At our next meeting, writer number one covertly placed a manila envelope on the kitchen counter of the house where we were meeting. It contained a copy of the Chapter One manuscript for each of us, including herself.

Then Author Number Two wrote her chapter, moving the story along. She brought seven copies in a manilla envelope to the home where we were meeting, and sneakily placed it on the counter.

And so it continued for seven months.

And then we had our unveiling meeting. We sat around the kitchen table and each of us tried to guess, and finally admitted, who had written which chapter.

We laughed at the plot holes and time warps, and agreed that Jane Jardscg has multiple personality disorders!

So now I invite you, dear reader, to follow me into the world of Jane Jardscg. In the coming days and weeks her novel will be serialized on this very blog!

You too will have the opportunity to guess which of the Lalas wrote which chapter.


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Meet The Lalas

Geigy, Denise, Robyn, Jennifer, Sally, Andrena, Colleen

June is full of wondrous celebrations…weddings, graduations, Father’s Day and birthdays – specifically the birthday of my sister-in-law Susan (June 12) , my brother, Stuart (June 20) and me! Hooray! Today is my birthday! But that’s not what this post is about. I just thought I’d mention it…

Amid all of the hoopla of June, there’s a very special, and little known celebration – the anniversary of the charter meeting of The Ladies Literary League.

It all began one fine June evening 16 years ago. We assumed our pretentious name with our tongues firmly in cheek, but it was not long before Zach, the son of Literary Lady Robyn, put us firmly in our place. “Are you going to you LALA meeting tonight?” he asked his mom, rolling his eyes.

We laughed our heads off when Robyn told us about it, but the nickname stuck! We are The Lalas. We love books but I guess we’re really not very literary.

Book groups are popular today, but I don’t really know how many were around 16 years ago. We all thought we were onto something fresh, exciting and revolutionary. A group of girlfriends who loved to read. How fun it would be, we thought, for all of us to read the same book and then get together once a month a talk about it.

And so it began. We set the group up to have a rotating role as hostess. The hostess chooses the book and we have that month’s meeting at her house.

Sometimes we dress up for the occasion. Vivacious Robyn met us at the door drearily costumed as Mrs. Danvers when we read Rebecca.

Sometimes the hostess decorates a little bit to go along with the theme of the book. I remember being startled as I came up to Jennifer’s porch on the evening we would talk about Agatha Christie’s, And Then There Were None. She had hidden a tape recorder in the bushes to set the stage with scary noises as we approached the door.

The hostess usually gives each Lala a little gift that represents the book. For example, on that Agatha Christie night, Jennifer gave us a jar of blood orange marmalade. Colleen gave everyone a little bag of chocolate coins when we read Silas Marner; Sally presented us with a bottle of lemon water and a sponge when we read Circle of Friends; Denise gave each of us a small piece of clan tartan when we read The Baronet’s Song; and Geigy gave us Shasta Daisy seeds when we read The Great Gatsby.

Sometimes we adopt food from the book. I served blanc mange the month we read Little Women. Rather gross, but fitting for the occasion.

Every September we have a couples’ meeting and include our husbands. Whoever is hosting that month chooses a “manly book” like John Grisham or one of the Sackett cowboy adventure stories.

In December we have a Christmas party with an ornament-exchange-and-steal game. We try to find ornaments that represent the books we’ve read, or books in general. As an aside, I just want to say that’s a lot harder than you might think! I’m always on the lookout for book-themed ornaments.

With a few exceptions, the number in the group has stayed pretty consistent over the years. From time to time some new ladies have joined, and some have left. Some, heartbreakingly have moved away. Jennifer now lives across the United States and Geigy lives in Japan, but they stay involved with what we’re reading. Sometimes we talk to them on Skype during the meeting…and whenever either of them is back in California we try to arrange for her to host a gathering.

We are all so thankful for the wonder of books and the wonder of enduring friendship.

Over the years we have watched each other’s children grow up, and it’s been fun to share a love of books with them. The children have watched their mommies having fun with books. So imagine our delight, a couple of months ago, when we welcomed some new Literary Ladies into the League – three of our very own daughters – a new generation of Lalas!


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Losing My Glasses and Losing My Mind

I just got an e-mail notice that my library book is due. “Losing My Mind” by Thomas DeBaggio. Hmmm…do I see some foreshadowing here? I went to the library website to renew it – something I’ve done roughly a zillion times with no problem…

I’ve had this same library card for more than 30 years, and when I check out a book the librarians look at my taped and battered blue card with disdain. Sometimes they offer to issue me a new one. I say, no thank you, since this one nearly qualifies as an antique. The real reason I refuse is because I’ve had this card number memorized for more than 25 years and I don’t want to learn another new number.

But this morning, on the library web site, I looked at the number I had just typed and I panicked. I stared at the screen. The number didn’t seem right. I tried to think rationally about it, but suddenly no number combination seemed familiar. I went to find my purse…but first I needed to find my glasses!…and dug out my library card.

And, wonder of wonders, quite apart from my brain, my fingers had typed the correct number!

A similar thing happened recently with my driver’s license number – which I’ve had memorized for way more than 25 years – and which I usually rattle off at an instant’s notice when someone asks for it.

Passwords…pin numbers…user names…everything needs one! And of course, they tell you – and common sense tells you – not to use the same number or word.

No wonder my brain is full! Need more RAM!

I do what I can do to get that RAM. I work crossword puzzles. I memorize entire passages of scripture. I make an effort to learn new things. (Like blogging.) I make a hard copy of all the important passwords and numbers I need to remember. I try to avoid foods that are bad brain foods and eat those that are supposed to be good. (Although they keep changing opinions on that!)

When my kids were very young I taught them “The phone number song” to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
The last numeral of our phone number was 1, so it was an easy little song: The first line went, “hmm, hmm, hmm – hmm, hmm, hmm, one. And the second line was “Phone numbers are so much fun!”

Same with our address. The first line ended with the word, “street” and the second line rhymed, “Our address is really neat!”

But now every person in the family has a cell phone or two and we all have different addresses. Too many song to remember!

In the light of all this, I guess the main song that helps me these days, and gives me hope, is one that was written many years ago by my talented songwriter friend, Kit Lloyd.

(And I bet when he wrote this little song, Kit had no idea how much truer his words would be in years to come.)

“Gonna get a new body, body.
The old one’s falling apart.
Gotta get a new body, body,
I’ve already got a new heart.”

So, I press on, trusting the Lord to bring to mind what I need when I need it, and trusting that a new brain will come with that new body!


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Opening A Can of Worms

What’s red and green, male and female, and can easily eat half their body weight in garbage every day? Give up? A worm bin. Redworms are hermaphrodites – male and female. And they can eat a lot of garbage and they produce a lot of wonderful rich compost. What could be more green?

We’ve had our worm bin since 1997 when David – with lots of help and supervision – put it together for his second grade Science Fair project. It seemed like the perfect project for a boy who liked to play in the dirt, and loved to fish. And whose mom loved to garden and keep plants in the house.

And it was a great science fair project! It won a first place blue ribbon, and the worms took up permanent residence in the Paladini menagerie.

Of course nine-year-old David wasn’t much interested in continuing the upkeep of the project after he got his ribbon. Mercenary little dude! (In all fairness worms aren’t all that much fun to play with. They provide very little interaction.)

But his mother became a very enthusiastic wormkeeper. I think they are fascinating! With some ebb and flow, we have maintained a pretty healthy worm farm for about 14 years now. There were two times when the population was nearly wiped out – once from heat and another time, I think, from neglect. I had to call in new recruits from a local bait store.

I keep the bin just outside our back door, in a shady place. (They need to stay cool.) There really is no odor and it’s a convenient and interesting way to get rid of vegetable scraps and the mystery food that I find in little tupperware containers when I clean out the fridge.

John calls the worms my girls, although, as I mentioned earlier, they’re actually hermaphrodites. They have both male and female sex organs. I keep a container by the side of the sink where we collect food scraps to feed the worms. John will be helping me cut up some vegetables and he might indicate a pile of peelings or something and ask, “Does this go to the girls?”

The worms will eat fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and even the coffee filters. I don’t put citrus or spicy things into the bin and I don’t put any kind of meat scraps in. That would be where a decomposing odor would come from.

I can just feel the enthusiasm growing! You are dying to know how you too can have your very own worm bin, right?

This is how David did his project all those years ago.

He got a large Rubbermaid tub and poked holes in the bottom for drainage.

He shredded and moistened enough newspaper to fill the tub about half-way.

Then he added a thousand worms. That is one pound. We got them from The Bond Worm Farm in Ceres. Touring that cool worm warehouse was an interesting field trip associated with the project. (Today redworms can be ordered from any number of online suppliers.)

Then he added scraps of vegetables and peelings and apples cores, and set the bin aside. It’s as easy as that!

Every few days we added more veggie scraps, burying them under the paper. Then voilá! In about 6 weeks the worms had created a rich compost of castings. Yes, worm poop. But it looks a lot like dirt.

Maintaining it has really been pretty easy. Just bury the food scraps and add shredded paper from time to time. When the organic matter looks like good rich compost with no big chunks of vegetable scraps, I push it to one side of the bin and add more shredded paper and vegetable scraps to the empty side. (I just dump the contents of my office paper shredder into the worm bin.) Most of the worms will eventually move over to the side with new paper as the pickin’s get slim among the castings.

And I can scoop out the rich black compost to add to our garden or potted plants. Sometimes a few worms come along, but that’s all to the good.


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Idea Basket ABCs (part 3)

I – In-boxes for mail. Those plastic organizers that attach to the wall – you can get them at office supply stores or Wal Mart. We each had an in-box with our name on it. They were mounted on the wall by the phone and it saved on piles of mail and magazines on the tables and counters.

J – JOY – Sometimes the kids thought this was cool and other times they thought it was hokey. But we told them a perfect acronym for JOY: Jesus first. Others second, Yourself last. JOY.

K – I was talking to Monica and John about our best Paladini idea that begins with “K”. Monica said “knitting”. She reminded me that I taught all of them to knit when they were very young and David even knitted a scarf to give Amanda when they were dating. John said his favourite “K idea” is kissing on bridges. (It has become a tradition over the years that we kiss every time we walk across a bridge.) A tradition is not exactly the same as an idea, though. And this particular post is about ideas. But I do think kissing traditions are good ideas… And I think it’s a good idea to pass knitting (or whatever crafting skills you have) on to your Kids at an early age.


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My List – Part 4 of our Love Story

I was not exactly Ado Annie from Oklahoma, but in my earlier years I did have trouble saying no. So when John asked me to go with him to “The Valentine Friendship Banquet” I said yes, before I even thought about it. And then it struck me. Oh great. I’ve only known this guy for a few days. I’ve only been going to this church for a few weeks. And I agree to go to a singles’ “Valentines Friendship Banquet” with him! What have I done?

In the first place, I was pretty sure that “friendship” was a misnomer. And if I showed up with a date we would be automatically linked together as a couple. I fretted about it all that Sunday, and later when I went back to church for the evening service, the first thing I did was look for John. I needed to tell him I would enjoy hanging out with him at the “banquet” but I didn’t think I should go with him. I awkwardly tried to explain my reasoning and he was very understanding, so I suggested that we might go out and have coffee (an undate) just to see if we would even like to date each other.

About two years earlier I had underlined 1 Timothy 5:14 in my bible: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households…” I compiled a list of attributes I would look for in The Man I Would Marry, and wrote it inside the back cover of my bible. I determined that I wouldn’t seriously date anyone unless there was some promise or possibility of marriage. I wanted to write my list while I was singularly unattached, because it needed to be a list of what was really important and admirable to me – unadulterated by concessions I might have made after I met some hot guy or got into a relationship.

And believe me. No attractive man paid the slightest attention to me for all those months after I wrote the list. I even wondered why I had bothered to write it since I seemed to be destined to be single for the rest of my life. I waited and prayed and got very frustrated…and waited and prayed some more.

On February 15, with my list fresh in my mind, I went to Marie Callender’s with John for our should-we-date? date. And we sat there and talked for three wonderful hours.

We went to the Valentine Friendship Banquet, but not together. I watched John, and admired his easy grace and the friendliness he showed to everyone. At the end of the evening, as we both stayed late and helped clean up the hall, he asked me to go to a Dallas Holm concert with him the next day. And I said yes. I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t mind if everyone in my new church linked our names together!

To this very day I encourage single women to pray and make a list of what they admire most in a man. And make it at a time when they are not interested in someone. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I was giving God my order, but I needed to have it written down so I would remember what was important to me when butterflies and hormones entered the picture.

I wrote my wish list (prayer list) in the back of my bible on August 24, 1981, and did not meet John till February 4, 1984. It was hard to wait all those months, but God was faithful to give me a pretty darn good fit to my heart’s desire!

My List

1. Loves Jesus first and foremost in his life
2. Sensitive, kind and nice
3. A good father to Matthew
4. Able to have more children
5. Doesn’t smoke
6. Doesn’t drink, but is not legalistic about it
7. Intelligent
8. Nice looking; big and tall
9. Good manners
10. Makes eye contact
11. Not a TV addict. Likes Scrabble etc
12. Likes to sing. (playing guitar would be a bonus)
13. Not financially poor


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Water

I discover this every few years, and each time I do I experience a kind of exciting serendipitous déjá vu. I realize I’m not drinking enough water. It might be because I get a certain kind of headache…or the skin on my face feels dry…or I just feel tired overall. But the interesting thing is, I don’t actually feel thirsty. I am thirsty. But I just don’t know it.

Of course I know water is good for me. (It “does a body good” way more than milk.) Besides quenching my thirst, it makes me healthier as it washes all kinds of impurities out of my body. But I forget.

So I discipline myself to drink more water. Okay, eight glasses a day – and I’ll make slash marks on the white board to keep track and make sure I do drink all eight of those glasses. The first one is hard. A few sips. It’s hard to drink even one glassful. But in just a couple of days I can easily drink two or three in a row.

And I feel so much healthier. Vibrant. Beautiful!

And I find that I’m thirsty. I feel thirst. I just had a glassful an hour ago and I find myself thirsting for more.

The thing I discovered years ago – that serendipitous déjá vu discovery I mentioned earlier – is the parallel between drinking water and Living Water.

It takes a certain amount of discipline to read (drink in) even one chapter of the bible if I’ve gotten lazy and am not “in the habit” of doing so. I forget how good it is for me. But if I discipline myself to read, I get a new thirst for it and need to read more. I’m refreshed in places I didn’t even know I needed refreshment. And besides quenching my spiritual thirst, it washes all kinds of impurities out of my mind and spirit!

So…cheers! L’chaim! Drink up!


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The Big Black Pickup

The car was spinning and I was literally not in control. I saw the center barrier wall of the freeway coming toward me. People talk about how times like this seem to pass in slow motion and it’s really true. I was trying to remember everything I had ever learned about maintaining control of a spinning vehicle – and nothing seemed to be coming to mind. Except to pray. I remember saying “Oh Jesus,” and it was a prayer! One of the kids was screaming. And the big black pickup truck which had cut me off and caused the problem was speeding down the freeway off-ramp. I was aware of it all, but it felt like I was in a dream.

When the car came to a stop we had not hit the wall. Then almost as an afterthought, an oncoming car hit the passenger side of our car, and Monica’s face crashed into the window. The poor driver of that car had not been able to stop, valiantly as he had tried. The last thing he had expected to see that day was a car stopped sideways in his lane on the freeway.

As I think back on it I remember, almost irrelevantly, being sad that his crunched car was some kind of a beautifully restored older model with a gorgeous ornate grille.

This all came back to my mind as I had quiet time in my magic chair this morning. I was reading The Daily Bread and there was a story about an accident and a hit and run driver. How many times over the years I have thought about the driver of that big black pickup, and wondered if he ever thinks about that day.

So many times I have recalled it all with amazement. Our car was totaled, of course. And I don’t know about the beautiful collector car that hit me. But Monica’s concussion was the most serious injury in a crash that could easily have been fatal.

By the time the police arrived, my composure was on the verge of crumbling. I was second guessing every move I had made, and wondering if there had even been a big black pickup.

The police officer talked with me, and then – wonder of wonders – he told me that there were two witnesses who had stopped and had concurring accounts of the crash. One person was in a car up ahead of us, parked on the shoulder of the freeway. He saw the crash and pulled over to wait for the police. The other witness, now parked on the shoulder some way behind us had seen it all; but it was too late for him to stop so he actually got off the freeway and came back.

Both witnesses had seen the big black pickup, and one of them told the police officer he had never seen such skillful driving as mine. That cracks me up. I know I am not a particularly skillful driver and I know I was not in control during that event.

I’m unspeakably thankful to God for protecting us and guiding my mind and my hands and feet. And I am forever grateful to the two people, (who I never met) who were conscientious enough to wait for the police and tell what they saw. And I hope that the man who hit me was able to restore his beautiful collectible car.