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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Scrabble Anyone? – Part 5 of Our Love Story

I was startled to hear the doorbell late one afternoon.  I wasn’t expecting anyone…at least not for a couple of hours.

 “Surprise!”  My mom stood on the front porch.  She had decided to drive up from Southern California for a vist, taking the chance that I’d be home if she drove 300 miles and knocked on my door. (Obviously she knew I didn’t have much of a social life!)

 Well, I was home, but this evening I was actually getting ready for a date.

 “Hi mom!”  I was glad to see her, but as I explained, it was too late to break my date with Steve. I told her I would cancel my babysitter, and come home as early as I could.  Mom and six-year-old Matthew could play games keep each other company.  They were both happy with that plan.

 As I got dressed that evening, I had no idea that I was dressing for the last date of my life as an “unattached single woman”.

I thought about the previous weekend – my afternoon with John Paladini.  This dinner with Steve had already been planned, but now my heart wasn’t really in it. I had liked John more than I had expected last Sunday.  He had enjoyed it too, I guess. He sent me a thank you note.  (Who in the world sends a thank you note “for sharing your day with me”?)

 I think was a little smitten, but John hadn’t called again…

 And now, here it was, Friday night.  I was taking hot rollers out of my hair when the phone rang.

 It was John! He said he had enjoyed our date on Sunday and wondered if I was free to do something the following evening, Saturday.

 My mind was racing. Mom had just driven all this way up to see me, and I was heading out the door on a date I was less than excited about.  I couldn’t very well ask her to stay home a second night and watch Matthew while I went out again. Even if it was with John. Rats!

 “Do you like to play Scrabble?” I asked him tentatively.

 I told him about my mom’s surprise visit, and asked if he’d like to come over and play Scrabble with us.

 He immediately said yes!

 You may remember that I had somewhat frivolously put Scrabble on my list, but of course John knew nothing of that. He had played a dozen times or so in his life, while I was a bit of a fanatic.

 John, my mom and I played two games of Scrabble the following night, and then mom went to bed. John and I played a third game.  That’s about six hours of words, on and off the board.

 Long after midnight we said goodnight.  It would be many weeks before we held hands or kissed, but that was the night we began to fall in love.

 As an epilogue – we have continued to play Scrabble since we’ve been married.  We have kept a cumulative score all these years and we’re well matched. On our ninth anniversary our score was tied. As of today John has 53, 890 and I have 54,144.


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The Sauce Thickens – Part 1

When I described the Paladini Potpie I said the Love of God is the crust.  Within the crust we live and move and have our being – and the crust never changes!  But the ingredients…and the sauce…now those can change!  The sauce of the Paladini Potpie is Family Love. It has a particular flavour, but it’s not unchanging!

 

New family flavor - Dale on the drums with Big Booty Bob and the Backside Kickers

Some new flavours were added to the Paladini Potpie Sauce two years ago when David married Amanda, and the Nutting family brought their unique essence into the mix. Their goofy, offbeat humour was already a pretty good match, as was their family integrity and love of God. But the Nuttings added great musical talent and extraordinary facility with all kinds of technology. They also brought real estate savvy, an amazing breadth of knowledge about reptiles and every animal ever created…and a truly  discerning palate for wine tasting. The sauce thickened and was better than ever!

And now it’s time to thicken the sauce again as Monica and Dan prepare for their wedding in September.

Dan Spilman has lived his whole life near Baltimore, the son of native Marylanders. None of us expected sunny California Girl, Monica, to fall in love with a boy from back East.

Even less did we expect her to apply for a job and move back to Maryland to be near her knight in shining armour!

But Cupid’s arrow would not be deterred…and we could hardly blame Monica for her decision.  After all, we met Dan last fall when he came to California and captured all of our hearts!

And so, as we make plans for Monica and Dan’s wedding day, here in California, we thought it would be a good thing for John and me to fly to Maryland and meet the Spilmans, the family who will add their own special spices and flavour to the sauce of the Paladini Potpie!

I hope you’ll join me in the next few blog posts and get to know this wonderful family for yourself!


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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