Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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The Home Depot Bible

By John Paladini ~

There is nothing especially spiritual about a Home Depot gift card. But on a recent trip to my favorite store, I learned a great spiritual lesson. I watched dozens of 139866_Home_Depot_5Cards-01_0_1tradesmen, contractors and craftsmen enter the store empty handed, and emerge a little while later with their carts stacked full of tools and supplies. It dawned on me that you can only do works of service when you’re fully equipped, and God wants to supply all our needs. Those artisans, not only had the materials they needed, but I could see that they had a plan in mind. Many of them were already “building” their projects as they headed for their truck. That’s a gift from God. I just love it when a plan comes together!

“And He Himself gave some …gifts… for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-12

John has contributed previous articles to Paladini Potpie. If you enjoyed this post you might want to check out   “Scaffolding” and “Defying Gravity on the Erie Canal”  He also has his own blog where he writes articles to encourage and build up marriages. You can read his posts and sign up to receive them on


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A Broken Connection

half lightIt seemed like the apocalypse without the zombies as I walked into the house. It was filled with an other-worldly kind of light. Andee greeted me with an “I have no idea what went wrong, but nothing seems right.” kind of look on her face. The ballasts were humming and the lights were at half-mast. The GFIs were buzzing and the computers were turning themselves off and then on again. The refrigerator and freezer stopped running and the only sign of life was the dim half glow of the bulb inside.

dark fridgeI made my way to the breaker box, but was surprised to find no tripped breakers. When I unplugged the freezer, the light in the garage went from dim to bright. When I plugged the refrigerator into a standard outlet, the lights in the kitchen dimmed. The electricity was not behaving in a way I had ever known it to behave before.

Andee put the word out to pray.

Huge thanks for the help from my son Matt and my friends Roy, Rick and Kyle, all electricians who talked me off the ledge and walked me through testing circuit after circuit. I was getting wild swings on the meter readings which made it impossible to diagnose the problem, let alone find a solution.

Finally Rick called me and said “I’m coming over.” He set to work tightening connections while listening as I described the symptoms. Finally he said “Nothing with a motor works. You must have had a power spike and MID (our power company) would have a record of it.”

power pole 2I called MID and they sent a very capable technician who concluded that a power line had broken somewhere between the pole and where it connected to the house. He called a crew who converged on the place like a swat team. By 3:30 in the morning our lights were back on and everything was normal again, with the exception of two surge protectors that had fried so the computers they were protecting could live.

We’re feeling very blessed to have our house running normally again; but even more for the prayers and help of our friends and family. Thank you.MID workers at night

John wrote this as a sort of debriefing, journaling piece, the day after our electrical adventure. I call it an adventure now, but at the time it was a pretty scary trial. We didn’t know if we’d be buying new appliances the next day, or having our whole house rewired. Or burned down.

In 30 years of marriage I have never seen my husband so flummoxed. John is very smart. He always rises to the challenge and knows how to figure things out. But in this case I saw him completely at a loss, even with the telephone support of three expert journeyman electricians! Over and over, our son Matthew lamented the 300 miles that separate us. “This is crazy,” he said, “Those readings can’t be right!” But there they were.

We are so thankful that our friend Rick urged us to call the power company.

It didn’t take them long to discover that the problem was not in our house. The line to the power pole had a break in it.

And we know it isn’t good to have a broken connection to the source of power.

I was pondering it the next day:

The light was weak and shaky.
None of the appliances could do their job.
And there was that awful smell.bright light

What a great spiritual lesson. When I am not connected to The Power Source my light is weak and shaky.
I am not able to do my jobs well.
And frankly, I’m pretty stinky!

Jesus talks about this very thing. “Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.” (John 15:4)

He might just as easily have said, “Remain connected to me and I will remain connected to you. You can’t conjure up your own electricity, so you won’t have the power you need to unless we stay connected.”

Thanks to my husband John, for inspiring this blog – and writing most of it!

(You can read John’s blog – Marriage Feast –  by clicking here.)

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Emily’s Christmas Story

Today I’m posting a sad, victorious, and thought-provoking article by my good friend Emily Cotton. Emily is a historical fiction writer, and sometimes blogger.  Watch for the release of her upcoming book, Barbarossa’s Barb.  And in the meantime you can read her posts on Cotton Unraveled, and visit her on Facebook

EmilyI’m grateful for Christmas.
December 1961 was my Christmas without Santa Claus. I was eight years old, and my youngest brother was in the hospital dying of leukemia. He was the second brother I had lost to that dreaded disease and so I had no hope that he would come home again.

My parents spent most of their time with him. The usual pre-Christmas round of buying gifts with our hoarded allowances was hurried and subdued; the Christmas lights never went up, and the decorations looked like the efforts of four kids aged 4 to 11, with the occasional oversight of a distant older brother home from college break.

It’s not that I ever believed in Santa. We never had a fireplace, and I wasn’t dumb enough to think reindeer could fly. Besides, being an extremely literal family who didn’t go in for religious nonsense, all us kids knew that nobody could cover the globe in one night, let alone give every person their just deserts for a year’s behavior. But since the whole culture did the story, like the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy, we joined in singing ‘Up on the rooftop, reindeer pause; down comes good old Santa Claus!” (Except I always thought it was ‘reindeer paws’ and thought the lyricist should have known that all deer have hooves.) I never liked the Santa-themed carols much. They sounded stupid.

Not so the traditional carols. The ageless tunes spoke to my starving soul, and the words even more: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men! Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
I learned every verse of every carol, even to the last stanzas, the ones rarely sung. “Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”

I thought that if you were going to dwell on a fantasy, the God one beat Santa all hollow. Wouldn’t it be amazingly wonderful if there really were a Creator of the universe, of me and of my sick little brother, who actually, personally cared about us? If he really became like us, starting as a helpless infant, conceived under the shadow of bastardy, to be teased and rejected by the other children? If he really were born to an unwelcomed homeless couple sheltering in somebody’s cattle-shed, in a backwards conquered country under the heel of a totalitarian empire? If, despite all that evil could throw against him (and evil can throw a lot against a child on the bottom) he really lived through all that without once giving back wrong for wrong?

Wouldn’t it be amazingly wonderful if, because of that god-man’s sacrifice on our behalf, all our own wrongs would be erased, and there would be no more death?

Little Paul Harlan left us on Christmas Eve. My parents were anti-religious, so there was no church or temple or synagogue or mosque to help our family cope. No funeral. No neighbors bringing food, and none of the comfort Good Religion provides the bereaved. Over the next five years, while our family fell apart, I saw that my parents’ godless philosophy only worked in fair weather. It didn’t hold up to the storms.

That sad holiday was the beginning of my investigation into what works. With my limited knowledge, and a skeptical, cynical, materialist viewpoint, I started a groping search for the answer to pain and death and disease and evil. I had one tool at my disposal: I had history. And even a child could see that all of history bent around the short life of the man named Jesus of Nazareth.

It took me another 12 years to realize that he still lived, and that he wanted me. Hot-tempered, self-centered, loud, impulsive, negligent, buck-toothed, unpopular, trouble-on-the-hoof me. With infinite patience Jesus poked and prodded, lured and wooed, until at last I was desperate enough to hear his call: “Come. Rest. Give me your burdens. Take me as yoke-fellow; I’ll do the heaviest part, and if you watch me and listen, you’ll learn the commands too. Help me pull this planet in the right direction, for I have work perfectly suited to your abilities and passions. And don’t grieve, because your brothers are here in my keeping. You’ll see them again.”

nativity-scene1I’ve proved him for 40 years now. He’s kept his promises, and I trust he will keep them forever.

“For lo! The days are hast’ning on, by prophets seen of old, ‘till with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold. When heaven and earth shall acknowledge the Prince of Peace their king, and the whole world give back the song that now the angels sing.”


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We Are Like Pumpkins

Thanks to my sister, Patti Hill, for this great illustration she came up with while she and her son, Dillon, were carving their Halloween pumpkin.

“I was talking with Dillon about how we are like pumpkins when we let Jesus into our hearts…

He opens our heart, takes out all the nasty gross stuff…

puts a smile on our face…

…and puts His light in us to shine for all the world to see!”



By John Paladini ~

We recently spent a couple of days on vacation in New York City. It’s fascinating to walk the streets and avenues.

You see an eclectic mix of buildings and architecture.

After our breakfast of an “everything” bagel with cream cheese (Andee had lox on hers)  we headed up 50th Street to Madison Avenue, where Saint Patrick’s Cathedral has stood since 1879.

Its gothic revival architecture provides a sharp contrast to the modern buildings all around.

One of New York’s taller buildings in its day, the 328 foot spire is dwarfed by the many skyscrapers that sketch the New York skyline today.

I hardly knew we had arrived as we wove our way, along the sidewalk, through a maze of scaffolding which envelopes the entire structure. I guess the recent 5.8 magnitude east coast earthquake has rattled authorities to require retrofitting these venerable edifices.

Finally we escaped inside through the massive arched entry. We were transported back a hundred and thirty years in time. We marveled at the lattices and doors carved by skilled hands that long ago ceased their work. Marble floors trod by generations of souls seeking God. Volumes of quiet space as the arched ceilings draw your eyes toward heaven.

Then as if on cue, the ancient pipe organ came to life and began to breathe its deep resonant tones until every nook and cranny was filled with worship. I hadn’t even noticed the worshippers in the pews until they began to sing praises to the Lord. I don’t know why it surprised me that the church was being used for the purpose it was created.

The bible says though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor 4:16).

I woke today with some aches and pains and realized I’m a lot like the cathedral. I continually need repairs. So if I notice a little scaffolding around my life, I’ll know that God’s at work and I still have days ahead to do what I was created to do. Worship him.


The Ghost of Bodie

“They came in search of gold and dreams of a better life, and here they remain.”  ~Loni Patterson

The year was 1859 and gold was not as plentiful as reports had indicated.  All the easy placer gold on the western slope of the sierra was long gone, picked clean by the 49ers.  The California gold rush was still luring prospectors with the possibility of hitting the mother lode and striking it rich. Then word came to the mining camps that gold was struck in Bodie! People of every sort packed up, lock, stock and barrel and headed for the eastern slope of the Sierra, to the Comstock Lode to seek their fortune.

We must have passed the sign a dozen times over the years: Bodie 13 miles. We always said, “We’ll have to go to Bodie one of these days.” Well, “one of these days” finally came and we visited Bodie. The first ten miles of paved road got us past the point of no return. We couldn’t change our minds now. Not after we’d come so far. So we drove our up-to-this-point-clean Avalon over the washboard dirt road for the next three miles, dodging pot holes and small boulders. We were not disappointed when the ghost town of Bodie came into view. I was expecting a dozen or so remnants of a cowboy town. What we saw was a hundred or more buildings including an entire main street with several saloons, hotels, hardware stores, fire house, churches, a school and dozens and dozens of homes. Astonishingly, the buildings remaining are only 5% of what once stood on the site in 1880 when the population was 10,000 people. We took a walking tour through the town. I recommend the tour booklet (available for 2 bucks) which includes a map and a paragraph of history about many of the buildings.

With the discovery of gold, the town of Bodie sprung up overnight. Gold was being extracted from hard rock mines where the gold is encased in quartz veins deep within the earth. To reach these veins, miners had to sink shafts deep into the ground and work thousands of feet below the surface. Miles of tunnel were dug underground and shored up with timber from the nearby mountains. Miners blasted and dug their way through the mountain, and descended in cage-like elevators, to fill buckets and ore cars with quartz rock. The work was dangerous. Cave-ins, explosions, toxic fumes, and flooding injured and killed many. The mine produced about a hundred million dollars in gold.

Miners, not exactly known for their thrift, would emerge from the mines and proceed to drink away their day’s wages. Bodie had 65 saloons and many brothels in its heyday. It was notorious for wickedness, bad men and “the worst climate out of doors”.  One little girl, whose parents were headed for Bodie, wrote in her diary “Good-bye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

Most folks brought by the lure of gold did not strike it rich, but became merchants, hotel keepers and civic leaders. They earned their living providing a service in their community. With the closing of the mines at the onset of World War II, the school and the post office were also soon closed and the last residents left town. The buildings remain in a state of “arrested decay” each with a rich history of the people who lived, worked and raised their families. And many of them are laid to rest in the Bodie cemetery.

(Thank to my wonderful husband, John Paladini, for this post.)


Defying Gravity on The Erie Canal

How do you float a barge over a mountain range? That was the challenge in upstate New York in 1817. Navigating a boat over Appalachian Mountains sparked the spirit of American ingenuity, and the Erie Canal was conceived. A waterway from Lake Erie to the Hudson River that would lift a barge 500 feet would provide a way to deliver goods and produce from rural inland farms to the growing metropolitan cities.

Immigrants from Ireland, England and Germany flocked to America, the land of opportunity, to work on the project. They carved the 363-mile-long, and 40-foot-wide canal using picks, shovels and horse carts as it was before the days of motorized equipment.

We recently took a ride on the Erie Canal out of a little town called Lockport, New York. We learned that the canal has a total of 85 locks. A lock is a chamber the boat enters and is locked in by water gates. The lock is then filled with river water, diverted from upstream, until the boat is raised 25 feet. Once the water level in the lock is equal to the water level of the river, the gates part and are opened. It is amazing that no pumps or any kind of machinery are needed to raise the boat. The simple physics of gravity and buoyancy do all the work. Even the weight of the water pressure holds the gates closed until the pressure on each side of the gate is equal. Then they can be easily opened and the boat or barge can continue on its way. As you travel along the canal you can see many churches and homes built with “free stone” which is the material that was excavated during construction of the canal, free to anyone who wanted it.

Barges were the most practical way to move heavy loads from one place to another. They were pulled along the canal by mules at a speed of about 2.3 miles per hour. They covered about 55 miles in a 24 hour period so the trip took about 6 1/2 days. Later the railroad came, and could haul freight at a speedy 30 miles per hour. Competing for business, the railroad even built “up-side-down” railroad trestles over the canal to limit the height of the load a barge could carry. “Low bridge, everybody down” became a familiar call. Ultimately the canal system couldn’t compete and the railroad became the standard way of hauling freight.

Today the Erie Canal is used mostly for recreation and pleasure cruising. People rent houseboats that are replicas of the early canal boats, and cruise for their family vacation. But the canal was one of the key elements in the early commercial success of the United States and an important step in our nation’s expansion west.

(Thanks to my husband John Paladini for this great blog post.)


Wind Surfing

The sail of my windsurfer went suddenly slack, and my board slowed nearly to a stop. I was adrift more than half a mile from shore. That’s when I noticed the unmistakable sleek form of a shark following close behind me.

They say your life flashes before your eyes in moments like this, but all I could see was that it was gaining speed and rising rapidly below me.

Riding a windsurfer is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn to ride one, you never forget. But learning to ride the waves involves hours of practice and dozens – even hundreds – of falls, and the perseverance to get back on and try again. The hazards, however, are different. No scraped knees or broken arms thankfully. But drowning is a real possibility if you ride without a life jacket like we did in those days. And then there are other dangers; the perils of the deep, and creatures that lurk in dark waters.

“I’m your favorite senior citizen” a robust, athletic Deet Eichel would say, putting on the feeblest voice he could muster. The ranger at the gate would wave us through because seniors get in free. A couple of times a week Deet would swing by the cabinet shop to pick us up, windsurfers strapped to the top of the car.  In thirty minutes we’d be gliding across the water, our sails full of wind.

John wind surfing at Modesto Reservoir (circa 1978)

Like sailing, windsurfing is a peaceful solitary sport. There are no motors and no noise, only the sound of your board rippling across the top of the water. Maybe now and then a “WooHoo!” from one of your partners. It requires strength and stamina and, oh yes, wind. It is not uncommon to find yourself alone in the center of a huge body of water far from shore with no one in sight. And that‘s exactly where I was when the wind died.

Balancing on a windsurfer without any wind is like riding a bicycle at zero miles per hour. I’ve seen Lance Armstrong stay upright on a fully stopped bicycle, but then, he’s a professional. I was beginning to lose my balance, and was about to drop into the water when I saw it. My mind began to race, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It was at least six feet long. “What kind of giant fish live in fresh water? Sturgeon…Shark? There was no mistaking the fact that it was getting closer. I began to see long green tendrils protruding from the top of it as bright sunlight illuminated the ground around it.

Then I realized…the tendrils were grass, and my “shark” was the shadow of my windsurfer! I hopped off the board, laughing. I stood on solid ground in three feet of water in the very center of the lake. It was an underwater hill with grass growing on it that would be an island when the water level dropped a few feet. But for now it was one of those uncanny things that turn a regular day of windsurfing into an adventure on the high seas.

(Thanks to my husband, John Paladini, for sharing this story.)