Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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He Knows My Name

I love to think about how God knows us by name before we’re remotely aware of him. He’s laying the groundwork for some really own great plan or surprise for us, before it ever occurs to us to ask for direction. So many times we look back on the way things came together and we say, “If I hadn’t been in such and such a place…this or that might not have happened….”  But I’m convinced that there are no simple coincidences.

I didn’t know this at the time, but now I can say I’m very sure that it was God who gave me the idea to take a certain sociology class.  I didn’t need that particular class to graduate; It was a lot of hard work and there were other choices that would have fulfilled the same requirement. But for some reason this one caught my attention. So there I was, writing a sociology paper – a huge project! – about the three-gereration Americanization of a family from another country.

Fortunately I had just “happened” to meet a guy who was full blooded Italian. Third generation in this country.

John and I had been on only a couple of dates when we took a drive over to Novato so I could interview his Grandfather, and see the family roots.

Zippity-doo-dah!  It was a day to be happy! Glorious blue skies over one of the lovliest little towns I’d ever seen. I met Grandpa Guido, and chatted with Aunt Anna. I met Uncle Cherubino, and saw the house Grandpa built, where all the little Paladini cousins played. I even took a picture of John standing beside the street sign that said “Paladini Road”.

I already had lots of material for my paper when John came up with still one more idea. “Let’s drive down this road and I’ll show you the house where my Grandfather worked for shares of the crops before he built his own place.”

We drove down a long shaded lane and stopped a little distance from the white farmhouse. We didn’t want to go too close because it was private property, owned by someone we didn’t know. I drank in the view – the most picturesque little ranch!  We stood by the car talking, and enjoying the day, and that first shy feeling of falling in like.

“Hallooo,” a man was walking toward us. “Can I help you?”

John apologized for trespassing, and explained that his Grandpa had worked here, and that this was where his dad grew up.

Mr. Weidemeyer knew all about the Paladini family and became instantly hospitable!  “Come on!  I’ll show you around.” He explained that he worked in San Francisco, and it was sort of a hobby for him to be a weekend rancher, working a few acres of his land land with some of the antique farm equipment.

He knew all about the history of the place, and the Paladinis. We traipsed around, looking at this or that, and finally ended up in his kitchen where he offered us a drink of lemonade or something. He introduced us to his wife.  “This is John Paladini, and this is Andrena.  Andrena Paladini — what a beautiful name!”

“Thank you.” I may have blushed, but I didn’t correct him. Neither did John. Even though we barely knew each other, I think we both were thinking that there was a certain ring to it!  (And, of course, the Lord had that name in mind for me all along.)

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Writing in a Book: a love story

I was leafing through a used book to sell in my online bookstore. It had a lot of underlining and notes in the margin. Hmmm…that meant I would have to describe this otherwise beautiful book only as “good”, rather than “very good”.

Sometimes messy writing and underlining completely destroys a good book. But sometimes intelligent, thought-provoking notes can make a good book even better.

I almost always make notes in my own books, but I hardly ever get rid of a book I have enjoyed enough to write in.

This train of thought took me to one of my favourite stories about writing in a book. I heard it years ago and I don’t know if it’s a true story. But I love it.  I hope you will too.

It was sometime during the days of the Second World War and Lieutenant John Jeffries was going to be shipped overseas for a long tour of duty. A few days before his departure he went to a used book store to pick up a few books to take with him. As he browsed the shelves, his choices were random and eclectic.

Several months later, thousands of miles from home and feeling very forlorn, John opened one of the books. It immediately captured his attention.  But what captured his attention even more, were the notes and underlines in the book. It seemed that the previous owner had been fascinated and interested in all the same parts as John himself. It was uncanny!  Reading on, John kept wishing he could have a conversation with the person who had marked in the book.

He flipped to the front of the book, and looked at the name and address carefully penned on a bookplate:  Catherine Abernathy, of such and such a street in Raleigh, New Jersey.

After some consideration, and feeling kind of silly and awkward, John wrote a letter to Catherine Abernathy in New Jersey. He explained that he had purchased the used book, and asked if she had written all the notes and underlined the passages in this book which bore her nameplate.

(Nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

Catherine wrote back in the affirmative. And so began a wonderful pen pal friendship.

For John, the dark days of the war were lightened with every letter from Catherine.  They talked deeply and thoroughly about every subject.  They agreed about most things, and had interesting, stimulating discussions about the things they did not.

John could hardly wait for his leave when hopefully he would have an opportunity to meet this amazing woman in person.

So far Catherine had refused to send him a photograph, saying she didn’t want looks to interfere with what seemed to be a very real and honest friendship.

Sometimes John considered Catherine’s point with instinctive nervousness. But he always pushed his discomfort aside, reminding himself that there are more important things than looks. Didn’t their letters prove how compatible they were in all the ways that really count? Did it really matter what Catherine looked like?

Finally, in May of 1945 John would be coming home! He and Catherine made arrangements to meet in Times Square. On such and such a day, she told him, she would be at the corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue. She would be there at noon, and he would know her because she would be carrying a book.

Lieutenant John Jeffries was only one of many handsome young servicemen basking in the glow of victory and bright sunshine that Sunday afternoon in late May. And wherever he looked, there were lots of pretty girls, ready to flirt with their heroes!

John was a little bewildered as he looked around, trying to catch sight of a girl or woman with a book. (He didn’t even know how old Catherine was!)

No books in sight – but plenty of smiles.

One of the cutest girls John had ever seen brushed up close to him and gave him a wink, and a smile.  “Hey soldier, goin’ my way?”

“Sorry,” John managed, “I’m meeting a friend.”  With some regret he watched the pretty blond flounce away with a swish of her sea green sundress, and a tap of dainty white sandals.

A few moments later he noticed a rather plain looking, middle aged woman sitting on a bench holding a book.  She had a nice face, but she was…well, rather squarish, and wearing what they call “sensible shoes”.

Reminding himself that looks are only skin deep, and reinforcing in his mind all the wonderful conversations they had shared in letters, John approached her. “Hello. Are you Catherine Abernathy?”  He held out his hand.

Squinting in the sunlight, the woman looked up at John through her wire-rimmed glasses. “I don’t exactly know what this is all about,” she giggled, holding the book out toward John, “but that blond woman in the green dress asked me to hold onto this book. She said if you come over and talk to me I should give you the book and ask you to meet her at that coffee shop there across the street.”


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David and Amanda’s Twelve Days of Christmas – a love story

No partridges, or calling birds or French hens, but on the first day of Christmas her true love gave her a dozen roses.

David was Amanda’s “true love”.  She had loved him since they were in the five-year-olds class at church. In fact, Amanda’s mom, Dora, remembers the exact night her daughter fell in love. Amanda came home from church with her eyes aglow over “the nice boy in the bow tie” who let her use his blue crayon during craft time.  (Yes, I did dress my little boy in a bow tie.)

Amanda says she liked him because he was nice.  As David’s mom I feel particularly blessed by this. When David was growing up he had a few heartbreaking years of dealing with “cool” boys who were mean to him. I always told him “It’s better to be nice than to be cool.”

I must have told him that a couple of hundred times. We laugh about that now.

The niceness paid off.

So Amanda loved him from afar – too shy to even look straight at him, or speak to him.  And although David was nice to her when their paths crossed at church, he never really noticed her. One of Dora’s favorite stories is when Amanda came home from junior high youth group and excitedly told her that David had said “Hi” to her. “Well, did you say hi back?” her mom asked. “NO!” an embarrassed Amanda buried her head in her pillow.

Things changed dramatically one fateful evening in 2003. Our families had begun to get to know each other, and the Nuttings invited us over for dinner.

We were sitting around the table talking. Most of us were talking, that is – Amanda was still painfully shy. Then for some reason, to make some point, David burst out singing a line from Weird Al’s “Albuquerque” song.  And – wonder of wonders – Amanda joined in! They both knew every word of the 11 minute 13 second song, and they sang it together in perfect harmony!

“I like her!” David enthused, as we were driving home.  “She’s really cool!”

He found out just how cool she was about a week later when our families went to a Modesto Nuts Baseball game together.  He found out she loved to read, she was a walking encyclopedia about all things relating to animals, she was good at video games …and best of all, she liked baseball!

But David says that was the first time in his life he went to a baseball game and didn’t pay attention to the game.

Amanda was 15 and David was 17 when they began to “like each other” officially; and when Amanda was old enough, they began to call it dating.

Amanda discovered that David really enjoyed chick flicks, and when David took her up in the hills deer hunting he discovered that Amanda was a better rifle shot than he.

When our family went on a llama pack trip with some friends, Amanda came along.

When Amanda’s entire extended family went to Hawaii to celebrate her grandparents’ 50th anniversary, David was invited to join them.  They had been dating for a year when they called us from Maui to tell us they had kissed for the first time on the beach at sunset.

And so, on December 13th, David’s Twelve Days of Christmas began, as he gave Amanda a dozen red roses.

The following day, the 11th day of Christmas, he gave her 11 sappy love notes.

On the 10th day of Christmas he gave her a $10 gift certificate for a local bookstore.

On the 9th day of Christmas he gave her 9 bath oil beads

Amanda loves V8, so on the 8th day of Christmas he gave her 8 cans of V8.

On the 7th day of Christmas he took her to the Orient House for dinner. We all love the Orient House and we always get the same thing. When the employees see us come in they know what we order. They  always laugh and say “Two Number Sevens?”

On the 6th day of Christmas he gave her a multiple picture frame he made with 6 pictures of the two of them.

On the 5th day of Christmas he gave her 5 chocolate truffles.

On the 4th day of Christmas he gave her 4 soft socks.

David and his two longtime best friends, Kyle and Shane have always called themselves “The Fab Three” …and so it was natural that the third day of Christmas would involve The Fab Three. Amanda’s mom let the boys sneak into their house very early in the morning to make Amanda a “Fab-Three-Breakfast-in-Bed”

On the 2nd  day of Christmas he gave her 2 compilation CD’s of country music.

By this time Amanda had begun to see a pattern. What would her true love give her on Christmas Eve – the first day of Christmas?

On that 1st day of Christmas he gave her a package with a big #1 on it. Inside was a scarf he had knitted himself. (Complete with puff balls!)

When the scarf was warmly in place around her neck he told her that they were going to the snow. And after an day of playing in the snow he said he had one more gift for the first day of Christmas.

Out of his backpack David pulled a box with stenciled letters that read, “The Amanda Box.” In this box he had kept a keepsake from every date they had ever been on. Amanda had found the box once before, and David told her that the only time she would ever be able to open it would be if they got married. Now she was wondering what was going on! She eagerly opened the box and found a large river rock inside. A note said, “I told you, you have to wait!” Amanda looked up curiously, and there was David on his knee in the snow. He was holding his real gift for the First Day of Christmas – an engagement ring. He was asking her to marry him.

Nope…no partridges or calling birds or French hens or swimming swans or laying geese…just sweet lovebirds. They are now in their third year of marriage – with a coopful of chickens in their back yard, and a baby in their arms, and a song in their heart!


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Miss Peggy Marries Clint Eastwood

Although Miss Peggy never married, she did have a wedding.  When she was almost 89 she was a guest at the beautiful outdoor wedding of Sandy’s daughter, Rachel.  Sitting at a table with Jennifer and me, she sighed with delight, “Isn’t this elegant?”

She said, “Isn’t it too bad you can’t have a lovely wedding like this without having to get married?”

“You want a wedding but not a husband, huh?”  Jennifer and I grinned at each other and an idea began to form. 

Peggy’s 89th birthday was coming up.  Why not give her a wedding for her birthday?  A surprise wedding!  She would have no idea.

Friends, driving girls and a few others quickly got into the spirit of the party, and the ideas flew!  We could have it in John and Jeannie Kennedy’s beautiful backyard garden.  Trina could do the flowers, I could make the wedding cake, and Sandy offered the decorations from Rachel’s wedding.

We’d tell Peggy we were going to the Kennedys’ house for an evening of games. She was pretty sharp so she might might guess  it was a birthday celebration, but she’d never think it was a wedding.

John and I picked Peggy up, and she told me later that she wondered why I suggested she wear a particular gauzy white blouse…

But then when she stepped out of our car to be greeted by Sandy and Jennifer, wearing tiaras and carrying flowers, she knew something was up!  She began to cackle with laughter.

The bridesmaids produced a veil and bouquet for the bride, and escorted her in the gate.

Heads turned and necks craned as Miss Peggy, still grinning with delighted surprise, was escorted down the aisle on the arm of Sandy’s husband, Roger – the honorary father of the bride. 

The processional music was the stirring, haunting notes of The Theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And why not?  The handsome groom was none other than a life-sized cardboard stand-up figure of Clint Eastwood! 

Groomsmen John Kennedy and Tom Hindman stood ready to assist Clint in his nuptial endeavor.

My husband, John, mimicking the “Impressive Clergyman” from Princess Bride, stood before us.  “Mawage,” he intoned. “Mawage is wot bwings us togedda today.  Mawage, that Bwessed Awangement, dat  Dweam Wif-in a Dweam….And Wuv… Twue Wuv, will fowow you fowevva…So tweasure your wuv…

“Do you have the wing?” he asked, turning to Tom, the best man. 

“Not only the WING,” Tom replied, solemnly reaching into his jacket, “I have the whole chicken!”  He pulled out a rubber chicken and waved it in the air.

When the laughter had subsided, “The Impressive Clerygman” reverted to his real self, Peggy’s good friend, Pastor John, who proceeded with the fun and serious business of wedding vows.

“Peggy, will you take this High Plains Drifter for Good, For Bad, and for Ugly? Will you take him with a Fistful of Dollars, or A Few Dollars More?”

 “Um, where’s the money?” Peggy interrupted.

“Will you take him whether he Paints Your Wagon, or turns Every Which Way But Loose?”

 “Well, I guess I’ll have to!”

 “Peggy, we all love, honor and cherish you.” John continued, suddenly serious. “Do you promise to pray for us all?”      “I do.”

 “Do you promise to call upon us when you need help?”   “I do.”

 “And now, Peggy, we have a special song for you.”

Our then-16-year-old son, David, dressed in evening clothes, stepped forward, with microphone in hand. Gazing seriously at Peggy he began to croon The Paper Groom Song which I had written to the tune of I’m Gonna Buy a Paper Doll.

She’s gonna have a paper groom that she can call her own –  

A guy she can fold up and put away.

And he’ll be with her every night,

And he’ll never fuss or fight.

He’ll always let her talk and have her say. ♫♫♪…

He’ll be the most agreeable of fellows.

He won’t go stayin’ out late with the boys.

He’ll always be there to remind her that she is well loved,

And he’ll do it without making noise.♫♫♪…

She’s gonna have a paper groom that she can call her own –  

A man that she can stash behind the door.

She can look at him and laugh,

Then she can fold him up in half.

And he’ll never throw his socks down on the floor.♫♫♪…

He’ll smile at her and always seem to listen.

But though he won’t contribute much, it’s true,

She’ll have the fun of walkin’ down the aisle surrounded by

Her good friends sayin’ “Peggy, we love you!”…♫♫♪…

As the laughter once again died down, John stepped forward. “And now, Peggy, we’d like to pray for you.”  We all prayed as John prayed aloud and thanked the Lord for our dear friend, and the way her life so richly touched so many.

Then, smiling at the seated audience, John said “It is my pleasure to present to you the BIRTHDAY GIRL, Peggy Kilmer!”

We all applauded and blew bubbles as Peggy, grinning broadly, made her way back down the aisle.

While Peggy opened birthday gifts, including a specially prepared and very much edited wedding portrait (pictured below); we all enjoyed wedding cake and listened to background music of  The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra and various big bands from the days of Peggy’s youth.

Sandy, Roger, John and I drove Peggy and Clint home that evening, and Clint happily stood in Peggy’s living room from that night until death did them part.

* This post is excerpted fromDriving Miss Peggy


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Wedding Week Wanderings

When I got up this morning and thought about the exciting, busy week we’re heading into, I was tempted to “hit the deck running”.   But then I remembered my tendency to be like Martha and get too busy to enjoy the moment.

I’ve heard a quote by Martin Luther…something like, “I pray for two hours every morning except when I’m really busy. Then I pray for three.”

I’m not nearly as noble as Martin Luther, but I did spend some time in my magic chair this morning, and then Simon and I headed out for our morning stroll. I made an encouraging joke to myself: “Some morning prayer and a morning stroll – good for the body and good for the soul!” And it was good – so good.

As Simon and I walked along, I thought about my beautiful daughter, who will be getting married in just a few days. What delight she has brought us! I thanked God for Dan, her fiancé, who seems to have been made to order. And I prayed for their life together.

A few wedding details and questions shoved their way to the front of my mind, and with a deliberate effort I moved them aside and asked the Lord to remind me of them when I got home and had a pencil and paper in front of me.

As I walked, I thought about Dan’s family, who will be flying in from Maryland soon. I thanked God for keeping them all safe as “Hurricane Irene” swept through their neighborhood over the weekend.

I thought about my sister from Texas. How good it will be to see her and the rest of our extended family!

I started to mentally count the out-of-town guests who will be coming, and I lost track at around 40. I decided to go through the list again and say a prayer for each of them…and I did that for awhile; but then I started to wonder who would be eating at our house and when…and if we had enough sandwich stuff. And this and that and this and that.

 And I still have not decided which shoes “the mother of the bride” is going to wear. And I need to make an appointment to get my nails done, and … It’s a good thing Simon knows our walking route because my mind was a million miles away running hither and yon – praying one minute and planning the next.

I’m so excited I can’t stand it! There’s hardly anything I like better than having a big bustling houseful of people and feeding them and making them comfortable. In the last few days my crock pot has had a work-out like it never has before! We’re going to have a couple of big meals before the wedding is actually here. We’ll have hamburgers and grill some chicken, but I’m also planning to have pasta shuta, and pulled pork, and refried beans.

Fortunately John has been a voice of sanity, insisting that we can buy tortillas instead of making them.

And John – my precious husband! I need to remember that our own wedding anniversary is right in the middle of all this other wonderful craziness.

I hope we have time to play some games while everyone is here. And I was just thinking about Ethan and Angelina. (Their  mommy, Sarah, is dating our Matthew so I call them my someday grandkids.) We’ll have to think about something fun to do when they visit us on Friday while Sarah and Matthew go to the bachelor and bachelorette parties.

So here I am, writing a blog post – forcing myself to relax and still my mind. Every once in a while I just let out a scream ’cause there’s so much to think about, but more often I laugh out loud. It’s all so much fun! 

I have a growing to-do list here beside the computer, but shoot – we still have more than 150 hours before the wedding!


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Spiladini 3: Orange and Black Victory

There was a high pitch of excitement in the Paladini home – and all across Central California! It was October of 2010, and it looked like the Giants would be going to the playoffs! Against all odds.

We proudly wore our Orange and Black. When Monica and Dan talked on the phone they often debated the relative merits of their two Orange and Black teams. Dan is an avid and knowledgeable fan of all sports, but especially and most adamantly, of the Baltimore Orioles. Indeed, as Monica had told me years earlier, that was one of the reasons they would probably never “get together” – he loved the Orioles and she loved the Giants. That, and the fact that Dan was determined to live in Maryland and Monica never wanted to live anywhere except California.

It had been almost two years since their date to New York City. They had both dated several other people, but the friendship between them was deepening, and the phone calls were more frequent.

But he was still “Dan Spilman, my friend from Pensacola” – someone only marginally connected to our family. Now as I look back in my mommy archives I can clearly remember the afternoon that all changed and Dan took on more solid dimensions.

Monica had received two bouquets of flowers for her birthday that morning. The first one, gorgeous red roses, had a note that said “Happy Birthday, from your Secret Admirer”.

We stood there trying to figure out who they were from… Monica had a lot of guy friends. At first we were pretty sure they were from someone I’ll call “Joe”, but when the second bouquet arrived “Joe” had signed it. Back to square one: Who was her Secret Admirer?

We were talking about it as we did errands later that afternoon. We were driving to the car wash when Monica suddenly said, “I think they’re from Dan Spilman!  On the envelope of the card it said ‘Monica Bee’ and Dan’s the only one who calls me ‘Monica Bee’ except for our family.”

As if on cue, Monica’s cell phone rang and the caller was Dan. He said he had called to wish her Happy Birthday.

I drove and listened as Monica tried to get him to admit he had sent the roses. We kept grinning at each other while Dan, on the speaker phone, disavowed any knowledge of the bouquet. But it was clear to us that they were from him.

Besides calling to wish Monica happy birthday, Dan said he was calling to see if he could come and visit her. He was planning to come out to California on a business trip and he said he’d like to come and see her and meet her family. I told Monica we could fix up a bedroom for him in the office.

A few weeks later Dan arrived. And with the help of windmills on the altamont, taco truck burritos, family Scrabble games, the Giants winning the World Series, and the exciting  victory parade…they fell in love.

The Maryland boy found himself caught up in the thrill of Giants’ fever, and he fell in love with the California Girl, and with California into the bargain. It was fun to watch it happen right under our very noses.

When Dan left a week later Monica asked if we could invite him to have Christmas with us, and we did.

Dan brought his laptop and telecommuted while he was with us. Sometimes he took his laptop to the restaurant and worked while Monica did her shift. A hard-working, honorable young man  — the more we got to know him the more we liked him.

Monica bloomed and John and I smiled. It seemed that our 24 year old daughter, who had sworn she was destined to be single all her life, had met her match. We always prayed for our children and prayed for whoever they might grow up and fall in love with. It seemed that once again, God had proved faithful!

The huge extended Paladini family gathered at our house for Christmas, and Dan won all of their hearts. We had friends over for New Year’s Eve and they all loved him too.

And then, the next day, on January first he came into the kitchen, where John and I were sitting at the table. He sat down and asked if he could talk with us. After a few minutes of general, pleasant conversation he came to the point. Would it be alright with us if he asked Monica to marry him?

To be continued (but not on this blog)


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Spiladini II – The Love Story Continues

Monica was at college in Virginia, and since she would be graduating and coming home in December, she decided to stay back there for Thanksgiving. We were having a long phone conversation about our family holiday plans.

“I’ll spend Thanksgiving with Uncle Mark and Aunt Tracy in Virginia Beach,” she told me, “and then the weekend after Thanksgiving I’m going to go home with Brittany. And mom – guess what…?!”

She went on to tell me that she had been talking on the phone with Dan. (“You remember Dan Spilman. I met him at Pensacola.”) As usual, they were having a long discussion about politics, morals and ideology, when Brittany happened to walk by. Monica said suddenly it struck her – “Dan, exactly where do you live?”

And it just “so happened” that Mr. Dan Spilman lived only 20 minutes from Monica’s friend and hall-mate, Brittany.

She rode four hours home with Brittany that weekend, and Dan met her in the driveway for their first hug ever. She says they spent a “memorable evening of charades, ping-pong and movies” with Brittany’s family. That night Dan promised that if they were ever both single, someday he would take Monica on a real date.

A year later, in January 2009, they had that date. Monica flew back out to Virginia to visit her old friends from college, and her Aunt and Uncle in Virginia Beach. She borrowed her Uncle and Aunt’s hybrid and “swung by” University of Maryland, where Dan was attending Architecture School.

Bright and early the next morning, Dan and Monica drove four more hours and arrived in New York City. In one day, they saw almost every major landmark from Central Park, to the Statue of Liberty.

California girl, Monica, says she learned a new definition of the word “cold”…and they exchanged a “first kiss”…and their friendship began to warm.