Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Italian? That's Easy... Catholic?

I'm Italian. I can make homemade ravioli and polenta with the best of them. Easy. It is my heritage. But what about being Catholic? Good question.

At times in my life I have traversed what I can only call a religious desert. It's not that God wasn't present in my life, but I have struggled with being Catholic, or maybe it's really a struggle with the importance of attending our church. Not feeling as if I am ministered to, I have had to put on the parental face as we head out the door to Mass. While inside, seriously wondering if a change was required in our family's spiritual path.

Though really how could I contemplate not being Catholic? I've been Catholic as long as I've been Italian; since before birth.

It was my dear friend and her questions that showed me my answer. And I wonder if this was how Peter felt when Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him. For it's not uncommon, as I have been writing, for my friend to ask me several times in the course of a morning, "Are you Catholic?"

To which I reply, "Yes, I am." But by answering that question, with a smile, interest and love, several times in the course of one conversation, I was handed a gift.

Yes I am Catholic and my mission is to serve those around me. As Mother Theresa instructed, "To recognize Christ in the distress of the poor." How blessed am I, my friend caught a glimpse of Him in me. For now I may see Him in others.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where do you live?

Great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings.

Life has high points and low ones. Times that we never want to forget and other times we hold out hope for selective memory loss.

Before my time, the story goes that my grandfather, Vito Bertolino would come out to this town to visit his cousin, Billy Caradonna, who would be his best man when he married my grandmother, Ella Pagano. That was my one glimpse of this town until 30 years ago, when I started my own story line visiting various Italian kitchens for a meal, listening, laughing, and learning.

Mostly this learning revolved about a warning, "Beware of the Red People," (complete with the pointed shaking of a crooked right index finger), the Sicilians... but being Sicilian, I would just smile. The rest of what I learned was a litany of names: Grandoni, Feranti, Ghilani, Falconi, Spinazola, (I am sure there were more.) Really the who's who of Coburnville, the old Italian neighborhood. But from those times my life moved on.

Now, fast forward to the present.

My friend and I are talking... She asks, "Where do you live?"


The snooty people live there.

Maybe, (I leave that comment alone.) Where are you from?


Oh, do you know the Grandonis?

Maria, yes she lives on an extension near the cemetery.

Yes, she did -- Bridge St. And what about Aldo and Edo?

Yes, I know them. How do you know Maria?

She was a family friend. She was always warning me of the red people.

The Sicilians. My mother lived next door to them. She got along with them. Did you know the Caradonnas?

Yes, I met Billy Caradonna once. He came over for lunch. Did you know him? He was my grandfather's, Vito Bertolino's, cousin.

I knew him and the Bertolinos. I went to school with Susan Caradonna. I was a Ghilani.

I've heard of your family. Do you remember the Feranti family?

(And it goes on.)


The common ground builds. We exchange stories. My friend is reminded of her childhood, but mostly it is me hanging on to lifelong facts and stories of a town and it's immigrant Italian families and being amazed at the circular nature of life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leg Lamp 2011

There are no words.

Your Name?

Before the shining faces above were even a twinkle, before I was born, I was named. Aunt Angie, Miss Angela Pagano, was calling my infant, older sister, not by her given name, but instead Patricia. Months later my arrival, my name: Patricia. Now fast forward 50 plus years to a recent conversation.

My new friend asks, "What's your name?"



Well Patricia...

Are you Italian? Named Patricia?

Yes, my Aunt Angie, Angela Pagano, liked that name. She named me.

Pagano, that's Italian. My confirmation name is Patricia.

And so it goes. We have a common ground. Stories flow. Bonds are established and built upon. Trust. All over a name. More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Four Questions

What's your name?
Where do you live?
Are you Italian?
Are you Catholic?

At work it is very common place for me to be repeatedly asked and to repeatedly answer these four questions. All simple, with simple answers that open so many doors to conversation and opportunity. But not just for my clients, but for me. Really, I have the best job.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Learn By Making Mistakes

Life, living, and learning are like knitting. For all can be complicated, tough to read or understand, and improve with mistakes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011




Turduken Start

This is the start of our 8th Thanksgiving Turduken.

Learning by Listening

Thanksgiving is a time for listening and learning. For years my family would gather at my maternal grandparents' home for Thanksgiving. It was our turkey day as well as our Christmas with them, for as soon as the leftovers were gone, so would they head to sunny Florida for the winter. (I don't have any digital images from that era, but the image above is from more recent past Thanksgiving were many of my family gathered, told stories, sang the traditional "I'm Mrs Turkey" song, laughed, and loved.)

Still, I remember, every year at this time, how my grandfather would tell us his stories of growing up, trapping and canoeing along the Providence River, driving through a hurricane to reach my then pregnant grandmother. He would tell us about family camping trips to New Hampshire and of trips to Cape Cod. We listened and we learned the bits and pieces of our heritage. But so much was lost. So many questions went unasked, unanswered.

Today I am fortunate to work with some very special people who are sharing their life's history with me. I have learned about delivering coal by horse drawn wagon, about how Apple St, was renamed to Bethany Rd., about the influenza epidemic that left a little boy motherless at the age of 5, and about the Sons of Italy girls' drill team. I'm learning a little Italian here and there, and soaking all this history in.

This Thanksgiving, whether you celebrate for one afternoon, one day, two days, a week, share the family celebration of learning through listening.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Learning by doing - in the kitchen

I love to cook and to learn. And on plenty of occasions we have combined the two to learn while cooking.

Many years ago I picked up the cookbook, A Century of America's Favorite Foods. On page 26 is a recipe for a War Cake. The recipe sidebar reads, "Some say this eggless, sugarless, butterless cake was created during the Civil War, but it was quite popular during both World War I and II and during the Depression, when the name was changed to Depression Cake. "

1 cup light corn syrup (We didn't have any, so I used a cup of mollasses.)
1 cup water
1 cup raisins
2 tbsp shortening
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

Grease and flour a 8 by 4 inch loaf pan
In a sauce pan combine, corn syrup, water, raisins, shortening, spices, and salt. Bring to boil and simmer 3 minutes.
Cool to room temperature.
Stir together flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Stir into liquids; mix to combine.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes.
Let cool 10 minutes then turn out onto wired rack.

I am sure we are not the first cooks to substitute molasses for the light corn syrup in this recipe. After all there was a war going on... This cake is all about creating a dessert when the usual dessert fixings were not available.

And the results: The molasses cake is robust with a great flavor. I doubt we will ever try this recipe with light corn syrup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Our Dear Friend, Paul

Paul gave us all a scare last week by collapsing at work and then having another episode in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It looked like it was touch and go, but he has proven once again, that he is a Super man. Jiminy Cricket... as I am heard to say. We hiked the Boy Scout Reservation, not the high peak, but we were out for about an hour. It certainly felt good to be out. Better yet, out with our good friend Paul and his personal Emergency Med Tech, David.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cough drop pep talk

Get through it! Love it!

Do You Believe?

Nana visited my sister the night she passed from this world to the next, (lucky sister). Mrs. Gill dropped in to see me when she departed. Leaving me with the message of, "Don't worry, Mary is watching." Her prayer card is a reminder for those times when worrying seems to be the only option. I keep grandparents close. One Nana's rocker is my preferred banjo playing chair, the other's door harp is in my bedroom. One grandpa's art hangs in the hall with his hat and fishing creel, the other's Army photo graces the living room. I find a penny and it is from "Grampa". A message - thinking if you, you can do this. So really how can heaven be further than a heartbeat away.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What if we...

Displayed our potential for growth and improvement just like a Christmas cactus. This time of year the Christmas cacti are littered with buds. And each bud blossoms more stunning than its neighbor. Imagine if we did the same with our own personal development. Imagine the support and praise we would gather and in turn shower on one another. Now why does it take the outward sign of a bud to garner praise for the growth we know is there already? Just wondering...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I complained about a heel blister until I saw...

a person with no legs.

Twice a year I catch a cold. Twice a year, it kicks up the asthma. Twice a year, it feels like an elephant is squeezing my chest with its trunk. Twice a year, I seek out my inhaler.... I know it is somewhere in the house. Just twice... So really who am I to complain. I am joyous it is just twice a year, and not everyday, all day and all night.

No worries, right? Right.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nature is the Best Teacher II

Animals that inhabit the darkest places on earth, like deep ocean trenches, make their own light. The lesson for us: When we are traveling into darkness, remember to allow our inner light shine forth brightly. With a good heart; it's all we will ever need. Shine On.

Enjoy your day. Enjoy your life.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Really, I have the best job!

I am happy to report, once again, I love my job. I love hanging out with great people. I love being recognized from 100 feet, or more, away, and hearing that little knock on the 4th floor window of recognition. Someone is looking forward to seeing me. And I am looking forward to seeing them. I love that little smile, as we go out for a walk. I love starting a knitting project, even though my dear new friend says, "I don't knit anymore." Her hands tell me different, for she has great rhythm. I love learning how to sing in Italian, O Marie..., and learning all about town history and the influenza epidemic. I love hearing the old family stories and being invited into other people's lives. I love my job.

Friday, November 11, 2011


HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY... See you for real in a few days.

Love, your blister.

Thank a Veteran

Veteran's Day, one of the most revered of secular holidays. For all that we are as a person, as a nation and as a leader in the global community, we owe to the sacrifices of our men and women in the armed services.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011


a camera shows details that the eye misses... When we visited the Pompeii exhibit at the Museum of Science I didn't grasp this individuals point of focus. But this image shows the tension and intensity as this man attempted to breath through the ash that was engulfing him.

Sometimes life can be like that. I think it pays to keep moving.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The words of a half giant

"I am what I am, an' I'm not ashamed. 'Never be ashamed,' my ol' dad used ter say, 'there's some who'll hold it against you, but they're not worth botherin' with.' An' he was right."

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Chapter 24
Page 456

Remember... They're not worth botherin' with.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


What I love about bowling is that it is accessible and enjoyable to a wide range of fun seeking participants. Whether you are like the young man who enjoyed a couple of strings next to us; bowling a 200. Or a member of the league, complete with league shirts, a half a dozen lanes to our left, who used ramps to aim their balls towards the pins. Or you could be like me, Queen of the Nine, dancing and celebrating when the ball actually traveled straight. Bowling is fun.

What I love about life is that is is accessible and enjoyable to a wide range of seeking participants.

If you haven't bowled in a while, go check it out. An no worries, if you find yourself celebrating the nine.

I know, and enjoy the feeling.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Things aren't always what they appear to be

Is this a man's face or St. George slaying a dragon? Or maybe a little of both? Always take a second look. There is often more to life than than meets the eye.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Best Birthday Present Ever!

All Saint's Day - All Soul's Day

The homily on All Saint's Day pointed out that when Jesus presented the Beatitudes to the Apostles, He took them aside and delivered that sermon privately. Using each beatitude to point out what He loved about His most beloved, but humanly flawed followers. Perhaps pointing out to Peter, who would deny Him, that he was also a great peacemaker. And that James and John, though they bickered over who was the most loved, were in themselves meek and humble of heart.

We are all called to be Saints.
Focus on your good points. God does.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Famous In Death

"I recognize that dog. I read about it in the Scholastic Magazine." That is what my little one said when we toured the Pompeii Exhibit at the Museum of Science. It's an odd thing, fame. We all want a bit if it. Even if it's being known as the fun mom, or the soccer coach, or the wacky math teacher. To be good at something. To excel; to be respected and thought of. But for this poor dog, somebody's pet, left chained behind when its family ran for their lives. The dog strained and strained at its chain until it suffocated in the ash. The same fate was for many other men, women and children, their fame is the result of their tragic misfortune and death.

Still after all this time can we learn from them?

Friends take the bite out of life

The October Nor'easter knocked the power out to most people for some period of time. Some, like our Disney extended family, for days, and for others an afternoon or hour or two. We had a power loss to 2/3 of our house. I never suspected our house was divided supply wise.

But as cold as it got, we were warmed by the offers and concern of others. And it made for great stories walking about trick or treating.