Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family lore

According to NPR today is the "National Day of Listening" in which people are encouraged to record stories from relatives about their lives or the past.

Nonny's house where my brothers grew up (post-renovations)
I thought instead of my usual blog, I'd share a story heard about my late (half-)brother Dino. Dino was bigger than life when he was alive, so you know he's almost a mythical figure now. I heard a story that I've confirmed with my Dad is true - at least mostly. I should also say that I know almost nothing about cars, classic, sports or otherwise. So if I am wrong about the details of cars or stamps or the like, please know I'm not trying to mislead...

Here is "How Dino leveraged a paper route into a Ferrari" (as told by cousin Robbie and now retold in my own words):

Can you guess which one is Dino?
Once upon a time (ca. late 1960s) my then-teenage brother had a paper route. Not just a paper route - THE paper route. Through a lucrative area of then-prosperous Elmira, New York. Back in the day, paper boys (almost exclusively) sold one another the rights to their routes. So after a few years of hitting the pavement daily, he sold his lucrative mini-business to another kid.

With that money, before he had a driver's license, he bought his first beat-up car. He then fixed that car up, and sold it. With the proceeds he bought the first car he could drive.

A Morgan. Not your typical car for a high school student!!! Who drives a Morgan to High School? Dino!

But the story doesn't stop there. At some point, when he was a kid, he and my brother, Ron, were in Siena, Italy visiting Nonno and Nonna (their grandparents) and Nonno (Grandpa) thought that boys should have a hobby, and he started them collecting stamps. They visited a little stamp shop and each of them purchased some stamps (and this is where the story has multiple versions, see below) which they brought back to America.

According to Robbie, Dino picked rare Vatican stamps that were worth a fortune ($40,000). Ron's stamps? "Not so much"***

So Dino sold the Morgan, sold the stamps and bought a Ferrari. How many teenagers in Elmira, New York (or anywhere?) had a Ferrari in the late 1960s? One.

Dino went on to fix up and sell Ferraris for a living. I never thought of Dino as the family's greatest Capitalist.

Add it to his long list of wonderful attributes. Wonder what he'd be doing today?

(My father tells this slightly differently: he says that Ron's stamps were also valuable. According to my Dad, Ron also had Vatican stamps (I heard that they were birds or flowers). These were in a safety deposit box that was ruined in a flood in 1972. My mom spent a lot of time trying to get insurance payment for these stamps, and apparently she got some money but not their true value. At any rate, not enough to buy a sports car.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Went to the BOE meeting this week and heard the Assistant Superintendent speak. You can hear the presentation here. (I was looking for the powerpoint to share here but couldn't find it at this time).

I learned three key items:

  • 7th graders do poor on the Language Arts section of the NJ Ask and other testing. Some feel this is because of the unique age. Others talked about the test perhaps being more challenging. No one mentioned poor instruction. My daughter had a FABULOUS 7th grade LAL teacher - but I don't know about the others.
  • That the new way that test scores are being considered may water down results, making it seem as though issues that were being noticed by the old way of number crunching will be hidden in the new way to look at results.
  • Returning the lost days to the calendar isn't going to make anyone happy. The Superintendent had something like 5 suggestions... to which the board and the community suggested various tweaks. 
 I was sad to see that Cindy Cullen will be leaving the board of ed. She was referred to as "an outlying member"  (or something like that - listen to the audio if you want a direct quote or anything other than my opinion). That critical element is vital to our community in which we have boards that too often are full of consensus - or like-minded party members. (Changes in election dates seems to have resulted in party-alliances helping members get on the BOE. But it will take several years to see if the trend continues. (The election resulted in an incumbent (elected originally before we started voting in November for the BOE), another unaffiliated candidate but  a third who is immediate family with a Town Council Representative in a town with sole-Republican representation. Does the school board really have to be turned into a political party too???

One thing I liked is hearing for myself what is going on. What the BOE as a body is thinking and discussing. And I enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of a post-negotiation (i.e. the teacher contract) BOE meeting where things weren't undertoned with hostility.

Christmas is coming. I spent yesterday decorating the store where I work. It inspired me to get my house more in order. The key to keeping me from becoming crazy: an early start. Gifts are already waiting to be wrapped, being ordered or being planned.

Last minute doesn't work well.... but it still is my modus operandi. When will I learn?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Three minute blog

I don't know where the time went!

It seems as though "three minutes ago" I was happy about one portion of election results and distraught over others. I think my predictions of party politics invading the school board elections came true: a well-known R family is now represented on the BOE. Am disappointed that Cullen will no longer be on the BOE - she is one of the few members that openly challenged and the leadership and asks questions that show thinking out of the box. She was a good antidote to the reputation that the BOE is most concerned about gifted kids. Maybe other members are just as broadly-minded in their concern, but hers was palpable. Her loss is my loss.
Diego: apathetic about elections, but no fan of snow

I was much more distraught about a different win... but what can you do with opposition who has a winning grin and the right connections?

Then "two minutes ago" I was at work in Metuchen when the power went out (we kept working)... and I came home through the sleek snow - followed by another electricity-induced day off from school for N. At this rate they will be doing finals on Independence Day.

And then about a minute ago (i.e. this weekend) I drove from Bridgewater to Elmira, picked up my Dad's visitor from London (his best friends' daughter, Joanne). Joanne and I drove to Penn Yan where C was meeting her friend. Then we drove to Corning for dinner, then back to Elmira. On Saturday I drove Joanne and my sister and her sons to Ithaca and back to Elmira. Then early Sunday morning I drove from Elmira to Metuchen so I could teach my first knitting class. Then back to Bridgewater. Then to NYC to pick up C from the bus from her friend in Rochester. Then... home (except T drove from NYC when he realized I'd driven so much already - I drove in because I wanted to show him easy parking at Port Authority). Mapquest tells me that I drove 686 miles this weekend. No wonder I felt car sick on the ride home from NYC (an additional 40+ miles) - I went straight to bed.

The trip to Elmira was wonderful. I'd never met Joanne before and she was warm and positive. We talked about the big stuff: life, family, careers, politics, education, religion, travel... often intertwined. It was as though we knew each other our whole lives. Maybe I just love people who love my Dad... but maybe it is something more? She's a linguist and recently-retired "solicitor" in courts in London. Fluent in French. Well traveled. And nice.

Today is "Post-procrastination Monday". The kitchen: full of dirty dishes. The bedroom: full of laundry - dirty, clean or undetermined. And then - the to do list gets tackled.

At some point I have to figure out what I'm bringing for Thanksgiving at Martha Stewart's... One dish - Poppy's Eggplant is a sure winner. But I need another idea or two. Last year I brought Norwegian cheeses and delicacies. Hmmmm.... Enough procrastinating.

Also on the agenda: a good long run. I've been putting that off too! Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


First - and foremost - thank you to all our friends and relatives from around the world that have shown such concern and care. It's hard to imagine how quickly life changes when you go from techno-addict to a dark house with no cell phone service, tv or light. We tried to make the most of it. Realizing that so many people have experienced extreme hardship makes it easy to pull ourselves out of the trap of self-pity. A week or two without power is horribly annoying, but not life-threatening. (Although it sucks to be in the midst of a power outage). Even our neighbors behind us still are without power, as is most of this section of Bridgewater. How we ended up as the lucky few in the "Eisenhower section" is beyond me!

Our yard got the beating that our house was spared. Today I spent a couple of hours trying to clear some tree branches so that we can use the chainsaw (which I was considering to take on, until my husband suggested that maybe I shouldn't play with tools that I don't know how to handle.... After thinking "sexist!" I realized he had a point.) Dragging "smaller" branches is actually heavy work! This "project cleanup" is going to take several months - and we are some of the most fortunate people in New Jersey!

Sandy pushed me into a sort of curfew. To lighten the mood I placed candles throughout the living room. It was rather cozy. A couple of evenings I knit two projects that I'm pushing myself to finish. Unfortunately, both use dark-colored yarns one is a navy alpaca/wool cowl and the other is a dark brown sweater. It was hard to see, and when I finally had a chance to view them in the light (during the days, I tried to concentrate on household things - mostly in the kitchen so that I could get as much done before darkness set in) I found tons of mistakes. I had to rip out most of what I knit fireside.

Well, the aftermath of Sandy is still hitting so many here - and so much devastation within 1 hour's drive. A little knitting is barely worth a mention.

To my faithful reader who tried to connect with me this week. Apologies for the bad timing. I'm thinking of you...