Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Blindness

What do singer Bree Noble, radio announcer Marty Lancer, and resource teacher Ron Freitas have in common? All three are blind.  I read their stories, and the stories of fourteen other blind people in “The Little House That Cares”.  I was stunned and inspired by their courage and fortitude.  They were honest about their struggles and jubilant about their victories. I read that book in humble admiration.  I’m always griping about my 20/400 eyesight, and bemoaning the fact that I’m “blind”.

I’m not a complete stranger to real blindness though. For some years now, my mom has been legally blind due to macular degeneration. I travel to visit her once or twice a year, and I’m amazed at how well she does with very limited eyesight. And I’m grateful for the resources available to her through the “Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired”  She is always showing me some little helpful gadget she got from the “VIPS”

Catchy name – VIPS. I was thinking about my mom one day when I was out for a walk. I was making a mental note to call the Arizona Talking Book Library, and put some books on mom’s list. Suddenly I noticed the cutest little house set back from the street. It had a nicely landscaped yard, wheelchair access, and a big sign on the front near the peaked roof: VIPS: Visually Impaired Persons Support.  Right here in my own neighborhood.

I made up my mind to pop in one day and just chat with the people there; maybe get some tips for mom, or how ideas of how I can support her.  But time got away from me…

Then one day my friend, Ruth McKinsey, came to my house and showed me the book she had helped edit for the VIPS.  What a surprise! I’ve known Ruth for years, and I knew her daughter was blind. But somehow I had never really put it together, or thought about her possible involvement with VIPS.  The main thing I know about Ruth’s daughter, Bree, is that she’s an amazing singer.

I eagerly bought a copy of “The Little House That Cares”.  Some of the accounts are better written that others, but every one of them had a story that held my interest. I read straight through the book.

What would it be like to be completely blind?  The question haunted me.  How do you suddenly learn to read Braille or walk with a cane if blindness overtakes you quickly, as it did with a couple of the people in the book?  I stood up from reading and closed my eyes and tried to walk into the kitchen to get a drink of water.  But I couldn’t do it.  I immediately got disoriented and nervous.

It gave me an idea though. I would buy some of those eye patches and make myself blind for a day – or an afternoon.  I really wanted to see what it would be like.  I decided that I’d stop by the VIP house, and see if I could get some tips or ideas from one of the people who had written stories in the book.

I told John about my upcoming experiment and he urged me to wait till he was home so he could help me.  Most of the people in the book have faithful helpers or caregivers.

I was really excited. We went to Wal Mart and got the patches. John’s vacation was coming up.  But I still needed to talk to a blind person and get some tips.

Then the phone rang one Friday afternoon.  “Hello, Andrena? My name is Ron Freitas. I got your name from Ruth McKinsey…”

“Oh my gosh, I know who you are!  It’s so nice to talk with you! I loved the story you wrote in the VIPS book.”

Ron told me he’s considering a more in-depth book, and he wanted to talk to me about editing and publishing help.

I told him I’d be glad to look at his manuscript, and I told him about my planned day of blindness. A former resource teacher for the city schools, Ron was almost as enthusiastic as I was.  “Come over to my house for a couple of hours,” he offered, “and I’ll give you some tips.”

I was nearly dancing around the kitchen in excitement.  A completely unsolicited offer of just the kind of help I had been wanting!  John had been listening to my side of the conversation from his office, and he stuck his head out the door with the most flabbergasted grin on his face.

So Ron and I made plans to meet the following Monday…

To be continued

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Orange and Black Birthdays and Books

The library is our first destination every Thursday morning when Nathan comes to visit. I want my grandson to love books, and I want the library to be one of his favourite places.

And so it was, that last Thursday we had looked at lots of books, played with puzzles in the children’s library, and were heading toward the door when I stopped short. I had just heard the words, “Matt Cain”

Books and Baseball – the marriage of two of my great loves! I stopped to eavesdrop.

Two young library employees had paused in their work, to talk about Matt Cain’s perfect game the previous day. Their arms were full of books and their faces were full of animation.

A lady librarian looked up from her desk and saw me standing there. “May I help you?”

“No, thank you.” I smiled, “I’m just enjoying these guys’ conversation about the Giants.”  I spoke loudly, intending for the guys to hear me. They laughed, and I was admitted into the conversation.

We talked about Matt Cain of course, and Buster Posey. And how the whole team had worked together so well to create the perfect game.

Then I told them that it was really special for me because June 13th  was my birthday. I had hoped the Giants would win, but I didn’t expect them to give me a history-making game.

One of the guys, Brian, stared at me. “Yesterday was my birthday  too!”

“Are you kidding me?!”

He grinned. “I was so excited that it happened on my birthday, and I was wishing I was at the game.”  He told us he usually gives himself Giants’ tickets for a birthday present, but he had decided to go to one of the weekend games instead of the middle of the week.

“Wait a minute.”  Brian and I both looked over at Josh, who was shaking his head in disbelief. He pointed at Brian, “Yesterday was your birthday…” He pointed at me. “…and it was your birthday…?  Yesterday was my birthday!”

What are the odds? Of course we were dumfounded! Three distinct generations – 26, 41, 60 – all book lovers, all Giants’ fans, and all three having our birthday on the same day.

(We agreed that none of us consider Friday the 13th to be a bad luck day. In fact, both Josh and I were born on a Friday.)

I told them I don’t know very many people who share my birthday, and Brian agreed. He said he didn’t know anyone else; and he didn’t even know of any famous people who have a June 13th birthday. (Except he had just read that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen do.)

But Josh knows someone else who shares the date with him. More than one date, actually. It’s his girlfriend, Jennaca. She was born on June 13th the year after Josh. And Jennaca is as much of a Giants’ fan as Josh.  He said they love to go to the games together, and they have both been Giants’ fans for as long as they’ve followed baseball.

Baseball has always been a tradition in Brian’s family, but it wasn’t always the Giants. He grew up as an American League fan, especially following the Kansas City Royals. He said his dad didn’t care for the windy, cold Candlestick Park, but once in a while they went to an A’s game. Then in 1986 Will Clark caught his attention, and the Giants became Brian’s team of choice.  Now he’s passing the tradition on to his daughter, Kaori, as they make plans for a family outing to AT&T Park.

Humm Baby, it’s gonna be more fun than ever to go to the Modesto Library now! Listen closely as you walk along those aisles of beautifully organized books. You might hear the faintest strains of “Take me out to the ballgame.” And whatever you do, Don’t stop believin’ – There’s definitely a Giant influence in the place. Say hello to Brian and Josh (You gotta like these kids!) And remember, “Together We’re Giant!”


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Immanuel Every Day

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

We live in an age of colliding man-made wonders and man-made atrocities and it’s easy to forget that God is with us – Immanuel.

I have a happy and contented life, with predictable ups and downs. I know God is with me, but sometimes I really don’t have a feeling of his presence. Sometimes I just go through the days and remember C.S. Lewis’s words about how God is pleased when a person “…looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

But sometimes God bursts into my ordinary life in the most mind-spinning way and shouts “Immanuel! Heeelllooo…?”

He has done it three times in the last few weeks and I can hardly stop smiling.

I was with my friend Sandy and her 3-year-old granddaughter, Emma.  We usually go yardsaling together, but this day we had taken a mutual friend to the hospital for an appointment to prepare her for upcoming chemo. Our friend just had a double mastectomy.

As we were driving home, Emma must have been bewildered that we weren’t going to yard sales like we usually do. She said, “I have an idea. Let’s play a game. Whoever sees a yard sale sign…we’ll stop!”

We all cracked up. “Okay Emma,” we laughed, “We’ll look for yard sale signs.  Tell us if you see one.”  There weren’t many that day, but the sharp-eyed little girl suddenly spotted one. “Look Grammie! Over there!”

We were already past the sign, but Sandy turned the car around and we wound our way through the neighborhood to a God-ordained yard sale.

A mother and daughter were doing it. The daughter was a registered nurse and the mother was a three-year breast cancer survivor. Our friend had been looking for some pretty button-up shirts in her new size – and there they were, clean and beautiful and cheap!  But she got more than that.

The lady was selling her wigs, and that initiated a lot of conversation about cancer and chemo. The lady was very vocal about her own vibrant recovery from breast cancer; and when she found out that our friend was approaching chemo, she completely embraced her. 

They prayed together, and exchanged stories, and finally exchanged phone numbers. The yard sale lady now takes our friend to the hospital sometimes. She calls her and prays for her and has become a great support.

I think Immanuel gave Emma the idea of playing that yard sale game!

Then, a couple of weeks later, my friend Bev asked me to find her a copy of  The Strong’s Concordance, since I have a book business.

As I was on my computer, in the process of looking for the book, my neighbor came over and knocked on my door. He told me he was cleaning out some shelves and he wondered if I could use this book, or sell it, or give it to one of the ladies who come to my bible study…

My neighbor isn’t a Christian, he doesn’t know Bev, and doesn’t know she was looking for the book — but he was holding out a beautiful, hard-bound Strong’s Concordance!  

I think Immanuel told him to bring it over!

Finally, just this week Immanuel suggested I make pasta for the people in John’s department at work.  I didn’t realize He was telling me to make it; John and I just wanted to do something fun and nice.

I made a couple of loaves of bread and a big pot of pasta shuta, and they had a yummy lunch.  There was plenty left over, and John was going to put it away when a couple of  volunteers came by, so he offered them lunch.

As he was serving them, BethAnn, one of the ladies from another department came downstairs to go to the little coffee shop in the courtyard. John says when BethAnn saw them her eyes got as big as saucers.  “Oh my gosh!” she said, “I just told the ladies I was coming down to the coffee shop and asked if I could bring anybody anything and Susan said she had forgotten her lunch – would I bring her some pasta.” 

It was a joke, of course. The coffee shop doesn’t serve pasta. But five minutes later BethAnn carried a plate of pasta back up to Susan.

This is what Susan posted later on Facebook:  “Careful what you ask for. BethAnn asked us if we needed or wanted anything. I said ‘pasta please’ and look what she brought me! Yum!! On second thought, don’t be careful. Ask away! You never know what might happen! We have been talking about God showing off and He did it again!!”

Immanuel.


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Google to the Rescue: Wedding, Potpie and Crabcakes

 Barb and her husband were mystified when they received a wedding invitation from a family called Paladini. They didn’t know anyone by that name.  Tearing open the envelope, Barb’s puzzlement turned to delight. 

 The invitation was from the bride’s family – people she didn’t know.  But the groom was the son of her longtime friend, Pat Spilman.

 Now that was a blast from the past!

 Pat and Barb became friends when they were seniors in high school. Barbara’s family had come from Holland to Maryland, and her father worked for the Dutch Embassy. 

 Their families attended the same church, and they became very close.

When it was time for Barbara’s parents to move back to Holland, she wanted to finish college in theUnited States; so Pat’s parents invited her to come and live with them.

 What fun! Barb lived with Pat’s family  for two years and the girls’ friendship deepened.

 Then Cupid entered the picture! Pat fell in love and married handsome young Tom Spilman. And Barbara met Ron at a singles’ group at church and they also fell in love. The two weddings were 6 months apart. 

 Okay…fast forward more than thirty years…

 Today Barb and Ron live in centralCalifornia, and the Spilmans live inMaryland.  The two women remain good friends, but rarely have a chance to visit.  Pat said they had only seen each other twice in the last ten years, when Barb accompanied her husband on business trips toWashingtonDC.

 (Ironically, John and I were visiting the Spilmans last July when Pat got the ecstatic phone call from California.  Barb and Ron had received the invitation, and yes – they would be at the wedding!) 

 They traveled to Hollandin August and returned just prior to the September 4th wedding.  Oh no! Barbara discovered that they had misplaced the invitation and couldn’t remember the location! 

 To make matters worse, she wasn’t able to get in touch with the Spilmans because they were already out inCalifornia!  What a dilemma!

 Barb was very upset at first, but after giving it some thought she remembered that the bride’s name was Paladini.  

 She googled it, and up came PaladiniPotpie!  

Okay…Barb decided to bite.

 She clicked the link to PaladiniPotpie, and there after another click or two, she came upon Mrs. Spilman’s Crabcakes, and the smiling face of her old friend, Pat.

This was all a pretty good indication that there was a connection between the PaladiniPotpie and an upcoming Spilman/Paladini wedding. 

Barb took the chance and called “information” and was able to get in touch with us. My sister happened to be home and gave her all the information about Monica and Dan’s wedding the following day.

John and I enjoyed meeting Ron and Barb, had fun laughing about this story and marveling at the way Google came to the rescue in this roundabout way!


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The Hope Diamond

There were umbrellas, books, jackets, gloves and sweaters. And there was a Tupperware box to hold smaller things. Today it contained at least 50 items. Besides photos, scraps of notes and bookmarks, there were keys, watches, sunglasses and pieces of broken jewelry.

I was working at the lost and found counter at church. Most of the things were tagged with a date, and if they weren’t claimed in three months they were donated to a local non-profit thrift store. The trash, broken bits of jewelry, and torn clothing were tossed.

I picked up a key ring and stared at it in wonder. It had been in the box three weeks. These electronic car keys cost about $100 to replace. Don’t people realize when they’ve lost their keys? How do they get home? I hated to think of all the lost things that would never be returned to their owner.

“Excuse me…?” I looked up into the worried face of a woman who looked like she was ready to break into tears. She said, “I know this is impossible, but I lost the diamond out of my ring.” She extended her hand to show me the empty setting. “Did anyone turn in a diamond?”

I looked in all the corners of the plastic container, but sadly, there was no diamond. “When did you notice it was missing?” I asked her, “Where were you sitting?”

She told me as much as she could remember.

“Well,” I suggested, “They’re cleaning up the auditorium. Let’s say a prayer together right now, and then I’ll go tell the men to keep their eyes open for it.” Actually, they were more than “cleaning up” the auditorium. About 30 men were feverishly dismantling the huge room.  They were taking down the neat rows of chairs and setting the room up with dozens tables and chairs for a special ladies’ dinner that night. It was chaos!

I had very little hope that a diamond could be found, but we held hands and prayed; and the lady gave me her phone number and left. John happened to walk by just then, so I asked him if he would spread the word.

Less than three minutes later he walked back to the counter grinning. “You are not going to believe this!” He held out his hand and the diamond lay sparkling on his palm! “I told Chuck about it,” John explained, “because he was getting ready to vacuum before they set up the tables. There were gum wrappers and all kinds of little bits of trash on the floor. And then a minute later I walked into the auditorium he came up to me holding it in his hand!” John shook his head in disbelief.

As fast as I could, I called the lady who had lost her diamond. She had not even reached her house yet.

There was great rejoicing that day! Everyone was talking about the lost and found diamond. So many people were encouraged by the story. When something that amazing and nearly impossible happens, it gives you hope for just about anything!

A week later I was once again at my lost and found “station”. I decided to go through the plastic box and get rid of some of the odd bits of paper and pens and useless broken things. There was so much junk in the box that we could easily miss small valuable things. (Like a diamond!)

I began to make a little trash pile…a couple of torn book marks, a lipstick, a lego man, a some hair barrettes…I picked up a broken bracelet and started to put it in the pile, but then I reconsidered. The clasp was broken but maybe it was still important to someone. It was very pretty – with rhinestones all around like a diamond tennis bracelet. I put it back in the box.

“Excuse me, Andee?” I looked up to see Chuck. Yes, the same Chuck who had found the lost diamond the previous week. He stood there with his wife, Vickie, and they looked stricken. “Has anyone turned in a diamond bracelet?”

Hardly daring to hope, I fished through the stuff in the Tupperware container. “Is this it?” I held up what I had thought was rhinestone costume jewelry, and watched relief and delight wash over Vickie’s face! It was a real diamond bracelet Chuck had just given his wife for their anniversary.

To this day I am thankful for what I see as an example of the Lord’s interest in the details of our lives. Chuck’s faithfulness and honesty had brought hope to so many of us when we heard the story of a single diamond actually being found in the huge auditorium. And a week later the blessing was returned to him twenty times over!


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The White Buddhist CHP

I was startled when John suddenly began to pull the car to the side of the freeway as we were driving to church this morning.  I had been reading to him and I looked up in surprise, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m being pulled over.”

We sat in stunned silence watching the CHP officer make the long slow trek toward our car. The flashing lights on top of his cruiser circled round and round and round…

Just last night we had barely avoided a serious collision when a speeding car changed lanes abruptly, and forced John to brake very quickly and pull part-way into the next lane.  As we watched the offending car speed blithely out of sight we were shaken and enraged – “Where are the police when someone does something stupid like that?”

Now we knew where the police were.

The CHP officer was ever so slowly approaching my passenger side window.

We had been driving in the fast lane and come upon a pocket of cars following one slowly moving vehicle, traveling along at about 59 mph.  John had pulled into the right lane to get ahead of them, and apparently was so enthralled with what I had been reading that he forgot to decelerate.

I rolled the window down.

“Good morning, sir. The reason I stopped you, is that you were speeding. Were you aware of that, sir?

John made a peaceful, non-argumentative gesture, and admitted that he really had not been aware of his speed.

“And where are you going this morning, in such a hurry?” This time he looked from one of us to the other, so I took the opportunity to answer.

“We’re going to church and he’s a pastor.”

The officer took a step back and smiled with an exaggerated grimace. “Ohhhh.  I really hate to give you a ticket.  But I clocked you back there at 80 mph and the speed limit is 65. I really can’t let you go. May I see you driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance?”

“I understand.” John nodded, as he handed his license to the officer and I fished through the glove compartment for the other papers.

“So…a pastor’s wife.  How’s that?” he asked me conversationally.

“It’s all good.” I smiled.

Having gathered our papers, he started to go back to his car and then he returned to the window.  “I can’t let you go, but I’m going to write it for  less so it won’t be such a big fine.”

“Thank you.” John acknowledged.

The officer went back to his car and John and I glanced at each other.  Ouch. This was not going to be good.  Just yesterday we had decided on a certain amount of money to start a tax-deferred educational savings account for our grandson, Nathan.   Fines are no fun in any amount,  and this speeding ticket sounded like it was going to be expensive.

The officer returned to the window. “I can’t do it,” he said.  “I mean, you’re the man. You’re going to church and you help people…”

We listened in disbelief.

“This is a strange thing to ask you,” the officer continued, “but maybe it’s not.  Have you ever seen a White Buddhist Monk?”

We shook our heads. We had not.

“Well, you’re looking at one.”

He looked like the most normal, stereotypical CHP officer you could imagine.  But he went on to explain that he had gone to Tibet, and shaved his head and studied Buddhism – that he was actually a White Buddhist Monk.

We made some kind of show of interested acknowledgement, still stunned that he wasn’t going to give us a ticket.

“Now, how are you going to talk about this today?” He asked John with a grin.

John laughed and shook his head, a little at loss for what to say. “Thank you,” he said simply and sincerely.

“Be sure to tell people there are consequences to breaking the law,” the officer advised.

“So I guess we won’t talk too much about grace?” I ventured.

“Huh?”  He looked puzzled.

“You know, grace.  We broke the law and we didn’t get a ticket.”

“Oh no!” he laughed. “Tell them about grace. Let them know that we’re not all bad guys. But now, you’re really cutting into my ticket count.”

His eyes were already scanning the passing traffic as he gave us a few instructions about how to safely re-enter the freeway. Then he smiled and stepped back from the car and waved goodbye.


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The Sauce Thickens: Part 3 – Delays and Detours

Our connection in Phoenix must have been one of the fastest in history.  Literally five minutes from being aboard one plane and then being aboard the other. We were the last two people to get on the plane.

I had been hopeful that our “A” numbered boarding passes would score a certain window seat, but now as the airline employee hurried us down the empty ramp I only hoped that John and I would be able to get seats together!

Clutching our belongings in front of us, we carefully edged our way down the aisle of the very full plane. We dodged elbows, and smiled or averted our eyes from the curious, sometimes sympathetic (but sometimes irritated ) faces of seated passengers.  (“For crying out loud, why can’t people get to the airport on time?”)

Every seat seemed to have been claimed.

And then – halfway between the wing and the back of the plane were two seats next to a man seated on the aisle.  (Score!)  He smiled a welcome and quickly picked up several piles of paperwork he was working on, and had spread across the empty seats beside him.

Tom is a man of Italian descent.  He’s a native of the Baltimore area, a frequent business traveler, and was a very congenial seatmate! He treated us to a glass of wine and we spent most of the flight in animated conversation. We chatted about raising kids, the Baltimore area, the work we do, religion, our mutual Catholic roots, and the Lord. It was absolutely delightful!

“We’re just about over Mount Airy  now.” Tom indicated sparse lights below us.  We would soon be landing in Baltimore, only to turn  around and drive back to the area we were now flying over. We joked about “Too bad we can’t just parachute out and be at our destination…”

Detours and delays…it’s human nature to gripe about them.  I don’t know where we would have chosen to sit if we had arrived at the Phoenix Airport on time, and entered the plane as part of the first group of passengers holding the coveted  “A” boarding passes. But I think the Lord put dibs for us on those two seats.  He has a way of orchestrating those so-called delays and detours to bring about surprising blessings.