Sunday, February 19, 2017 – “Sunday is PASTA DAY!”

Sunday, February 19, 2017 – “Sunday is PASTA DAY!”

On Friday, Feb. 17th, Leslie, Danny and I were on our way to South Carolina to give a surprise visit to Mom and Dad. We were just into Virginia on I-95 when I was thinking about something I have never done before…..make pasta!  I asked Danny if he had a pasta machine I could borrow at some point and he said, “Phooey! You don’t need a machine! I make it all the time!”. Who knew??

So we decided he would show me how and I would make it for dinner on Sunday at Mom and Dad’s house! A simple recipe was all we needed and we were set to go.

I mixed the 2 cups of flour with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Then I beat two eggs with 1/3 cup of water and 1 tsp. of oil.  When I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together, the dough formed into a gooey ball. Danny coached me to continue to add a little more flour to get it just to the right consistency! When it was just perfect, I had to wrap it in Saran Wrap and let it sit for about a half hour or so. Danny told me that we had to give it a little time to “let the glutens relax”!

Leslie, Mom and I went off to Line Dancing and came back to finish cooking our pasta dinner! Danny showed me how to stretch the dough out with a rolling pin….but we didn’t have one….so a wine bottle did just the same trick! A nice thin flat dough was then cut with a pizza cutter to just the right widths. It was not even close to being even cuts, but Danny assured me that this did not matter!

The lightly salted water came to a rolling boil and I dropped the strips of dough into it. Within about 5 minutes or less, the pasta strips floated to the top and our spaghetti was done!

Covered in a wonderful meat sauce Mom had made, the dinner was delicious! I had NO IDEA how easy it was to make pasta!!

On Monday, we were back on the road to head home.  I was already an hour on the road when I realized I had forgotten the serving I had saved for Vinnie in Mom’s refrigerator in South Carolina! So, on Tuesday, Feb. 21st, I made another batch for Vinnie. By then I was feeling like a pro so I made homemade manicotti to go with it!

Delicious!

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 – “Meet My New Friend, Otis!”

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 – “Meet My New Friend, Otis!”

On Feb. 17, 2017, Leslie, Danny, and I drove to South Carolina to surprise mom and dad for Dad’s 79th birthday (one week ago!).

Chad and Jason and Vincent had just been there last week and Jason and Chad were looking at buying a house not far from Mom and Dad…so we took a ride to see it! Turning off the main road, there were a few beautiful homes, some older trailers, and a few cows standing in a back yard. The road continued straight onto grass, no real driveway, but behind the hedges was a pretty nice ranch style house that needs some work and some love. It had been started years ago, the man passed away, and his kids never finished it. Perfect house for these two young men, but a lot of work to be done. Using our imaginations, it could be beautiful.

Leaving the house, we came around the bend and there was a gentleman walking down the street. He was a black man who had a slight build and a little mustache. He wore a brown suit, a little cap on his head and carried a cane. We rolled down the window to ask if he knew anything about the house and in a true Southern drawl as answered, “Yes, ma’am. I grew up here.” We pulled the car over and the 5 of us jumped out to talk to him. What a treat that was!! He stood with both hands perched on the cane and told us about the neighborhood. He had grown up just around the bend and so did his parents and his grandmother. He knew the parts of this area with his eyes closed. He was a long shore man who worked in the harbor in Savannah! He also told us about all the properties he owned in South Carolina….totaling a million dollars worth of land!  He even told us about his “Angus Steaks” he is raising in the yard…this way he gets the tax break for the “farm” he runs!  He even chuckled at that himself. His father had taught him an important lesson – Don’t let your money sit, you need to move it around and make it work for you. Clearly he had followed his Dad’s advice!

As the conversation ran down, we introduced ourselves.  Reaching out to each of us, he said, “And I am Otis Wilson, blessed to meet you” as we all shook his hand.

Almost reading our minds, as a mother of Chad, an aunt and uncle to both boys, and the 2 grandparents standing there,  he assured us that “this is a very safe neighborhood”.  What wonderful words to hear from a stranger who had grown up on this very street and obviously loved his neighborhood.

As we pulled away, our windows still down, Otis, with one hand on the cane, and one waving to us, he called out, “You’ll have a blessed day”.

What a treat it was to meet such a Southern gentleman!

Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 – “1-800-GOT-JUNK” for the 2nd time!!

Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 – “1-800-GOT-JUNK” for the 2nd time!!

I know this is a year of “firsts” however…this is the first time I had to call 1-800-Got-Junk for the 2nd time!! Those guys are amazing!! In less than 2 hours, for $750, they fully packed another truck load of “stuff” that used to fill a part of my life, but now no longer does.

It has been quite a process of letting go of “stuff”. Two years ago we began cleaning out the house to get it ready for selling. Here we are two years later, the house hasn’t sold, and I had to call the men back to get more stuff out! WHERE DOES THIS STUFF COME FROM??  I am not a materialistic person. I am not a shopper. I am not even a real collector. And yet, my house seems to attract stuff when I am not looking!

When we moved into this house 16 years ago, EVERY THING we owned fit into the dining room. I know this because for one week, we were technically “homeless”. The previous owner was kind enough to let us store everything we owned in the dining room while we stayed at my sister’s house. Over the years, our “stuff” seemed to multiply. People gave us couches (4 to be exact!), dressers showed up on my porch, sets of dishes for all our parties started arriving, and platters came with guests and stayed. Our kids were 12,11,9, and 7. And now they are 27, 26, 24, and 22 and none of them live here anymore. However, bins full of their stuff still live here! Old prom dresses whisper quiet memories of slow dances as they hang in the closets, high heeled shoes sit in quiet rows on the shelves of a closet, and old and well used weights sit idle in the basement. Exactly 12 Rubbermaid tubs are stacked neatly in the corner of the basement holding years of photo albums, old report cards, and Valentine cards from every classmate that the four kids ever sat next to from preschool all the way up through high school.

So this week, we signed with a new realtor and he had the same advice as our first one; “De-clutter and make the rooms look more sparse”.  So, with renewed gusto,  we piled more stuff in the centers of each room; the end tables no one uses any more, but came from Grandma’s bedroom originally; the heavy duty couch that I had reupholstered to match the other hand-me-down couch a friend gave us; the dresser that Vinnie has had since he was 8 years old.  Amidst the piles were 7 wooden dining room chairs that can not be re-glued together one more time, yet they hold the secrets shared over many bottles of wine; the TV stand that held three different TVs over the years, and a broken down white little dresser that used to hold every bottle of nail polish my girls ever bought. Three more bags stuffed with quilts were not in the pile. They were given a special place in the corner of the living room to wait their turn to be dropped off to the church to join the first 7 bags that have already been distributed to the streets of NYC on a Midnight Run.

So on Saturday, as Jason and Ed from 1-800-Got-Junk loaded up the truck with the “stuff” that has appeared over the years, I watched and thought about all the memories that also were loaded up in the truck. Every item had a story. Only Vinnie and I know each of their stories…..who gave each item to us, who brought the item to our home, who once loved the item maybe even more than we did. Jason and Ed will never know the stories, but I am forever grateful that they took our stuff, with reverence and a sense of dignity that the “stuff” deserved for all the years it all served us so well.

PS – HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful Dad, Charlie….who turned 79 on Saturday as well! I called him to wish him a Happy Birthday, just as the canvas lid was being pulled over the dump truck full of my “stuff”.  It became very obvious to me as my Dad answered the phone that it is not the material stuff that really mattered to me in the end…it was the fact that I could talk to my Dad as the material stuff left the driveway with Jason and Ed, piled tightly and neatly into a 1-800-Got-Junk truck!

 

Feb. 2, 2017 – “It’s a RAP”

Feb. 2, 2017 – “It’s a RAP”

When I think of the word rapper, I guess I go to a place that is a stereotype in my mind. I think of a big African American guy with gold chains, gold grills on his teeth, pants hanging down, and mumbling a series of rhymes I don’t understand and certainly don’t really connect to…OR…I think of a skinny white guy with an oversize baseball cap on backwards, a few diamond studs in his ears, pants hanging down, and mumbling a series of rhymes I don’t understand and certainly don’t really connect to.

Today was a first for me! I met a RAPPER and he completely did not fit my stereotype!! He challenged me to rethink what I always thought I knew about rappers. Actually, truth be told, I never met a rapper, but I had already had a preconceived notion of who they are and what they look like.

This rapper visited my school, St. Augustine Academy in Bridgeport, to talk about his journey, his passions, and his goal of feeding the hungry right here in Fairfield County, CT. He made it very clear that 1 in every 200 children in Fairfield County do not know when their next meal will be or where it will come from. He has made it his business to do something about this very real issue for so many local children. This man grew up in Norwalk, graduated from Brien McMahon High School, graduated from  Southern CT State University, went on to UNH for his masters and is a bank manager by day and a rapper by night.  I have never been a bank manager or a rapper, but I did grow up in Norwalk, graduated from Brien McMahon High School and graduated from SCSU!!  We had more in common than it would first appear to an untrained (or a stereotyping) eye!

FNX (the rapper) also known as Ken Shuyler (the bank manager), was featured in an article in the Norwalk Hour in November 2016. He was releasing his new album for free in hopes that the people who listened to it would donate on GOFUNDME so that he could feed four families over the holidays in lower Fairfield County.  He had faith in his listeners and his listeners obviously had faith in him…..he ended up with enough money to feed thirteen families!! One of my teachers, Cindy, read the article the same day as I did. We talked about it, she contacted him, and we chatted with him on the phone. Long story short…he visited the whole school in a large group and then in small groups for half the day!

What a wonderful day it was! What a great role model for the students! He was his true self, dressed in a white shirt and black pants and jacket. No fancy gold draped around his neck. No strut in his walk or attitude oozing from his pores. All of the “stereotypical images” I had in my head were forced to leave. This man was a gentleman who spoke of God’s grace, the path he has walked, his hopes and dreams and his desire to provide for others in any way he can. He spoke to the students about being with like-minded people who help them rise to a higher level and not be brought down by the negative influences that often surround each of us. The students held onto every interaction he had with each of them.

What a treat it was to spend my day with a rapper, FNX. A basic and good human being who is originally from Norwalk, who will be married this summer to his fiancee, and who will continue to move up in the ranks with the bank he works for every day Monday through Friday. And yet, he is the same FNX, the rapper by night,  who will continue to inspire the hundreds of people who hear his lyrics and hold on to a dream that has been placed in their hearts.

I am not sure if I will ever spend 4 hours straight with another rapper, but I sure am happy my path has crossed with this one. He truly helped me to rethink what I thought I knew!

Thank you, FNX, for being the gift that you are AND for visiting us at St. Augustine Academy!