Pio’s Place Revisited

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In honor of St. Pio’s feast day which we just celebrated on Friday, I’m going to re-post our Padre Pio story from earlier in February. Enjoy!

  I just have to share my favorite moment of the year: finding our home. It was truly (without being cliché) a miracle.

For the past nine and a half months, we had been living with my family. We moved in with CG still commuting 2 1/2 hours to work each morning to and fro from NYC. Our plan was to save up for a house, but every possible avenue we took didn’t seem to pan out.  "Where does God want us?" we constantly inquired. We prayed, talked and seemed to seek out every option we could imagine. We felt at a dead end. It felt like we couldn’t see anything beyond living in the basement.

The exhaustion from commuting paired with our confusion as to our path lead to a bit of stress between CG and myself. We just so badly wanted to "plant our roots" and establish our life as a family. Our deepest desire was to find our Nazareth…our home close to family & job.  The constancy of "transition" was like laboring for months on end with no birth in sight. We needed a spiritual epidural to carry us through to the delivery of finding a home.

Spur of the moment we decided on Columbus Day weekend to pack up the station wagon and drive down to the Padre Pio shrine. Padre Pio had been knocking on our hearts  lately, so had Our Lady of Fatima…but for some reason we said “let’s go” and we were off. Luckily the National Shrine was nearby and it was an exact replica of the real shrine in Italy. We arrived there eager & anxious to pour out our petitions. We cried, prayed & lit candles- begging God to show us where we belonged and to give CG fulfillment with his work. I left the shrine hopeful & revived. CG was still weary. But we all returned to our proper work stations on Monday morning with hope in our hearts, even if it was just barely glimmering.

Tuesday came, and the doubt started to creep in again. We knew in the depths of our hearts that God was leading us somewhere, but we felt spent and still questioning…how much longer? I flicked on the radio just as an evangelical minister was coming on the local Christian station. It was just one of those “burden” moments, where suddenly, everything just feels so…heavy. He came on loud & strong saying exactly what my soul needed to hear:

“Stop thinking that your deepest desires aren’t worthy of God’s ears! Even the smallest request gives God glory! It honors God to petition him with the desires of your heart! Ask & you shall receive! Honor your God! You are just human…you can do nothing without him! Ask him right now for what it is in your heart that you desire! Give God the glory he so deserves! Glorify Him with your petitions!”

It was true. All along I had been petitioning God half heartedly. I felt unworthy to ask for such a selfish thing as a home, when there were so many other people dying, ill, lonely, hurt, that needed a miracle more than us. Even at the shrine, after we prayed with the stigmata glove of Padre Pio, I looked around at all the prayer requests scribbled on papers about this one or that one sick with cancer, or who died in a car accident, or who wanted to have children. I felt ashamed to slide my request of “Please help us find a home” in amongst the truly deserving. But that Tuesday morning, I know it was not coincidence that I heard that minister speaking. He was right.  I clicked off the radio abruptly, spun around to face Padre Pio’s holy card on the fridge and spluttered out

“Ok. Fine. This is me asking for a house. I am asking you to intercede for us. Please. And help CG find fulfillment in his job. It’s in your hands now…”

That day, totally unexpectedly I get a phone call from CG. His boss had approached him and said they wanted to set him up with a satellite office near the town we were living. CG was shocked. He called me and told me to call a real estate agent…we both knew this was the miracle we were praying for. The only chance we had of buying a house was if he got a new job closer to our purchase area or if his job relocated him. We never thought they would approach him. So the gates were opened and the race was on. At last! We were going to plant our family!

After two very unsuccessful bouts of seeing what was in our range, we once again were confused. Apartments were going for more than a mortgage but every house we saw was falling apart! There was no chance in heck we would ever find our dream home, as we described it to our agent: “A piece of Pittsburgh in New York…a Victorian, with original wood work, stained glass windows. Hard wood floors throughout, walk up attic, fenced in yard, a clothesline…in move in condition”. Our realtor kept stressing to us that we really shouldn’t expect much for what we could afford. After a few more days we had completely exhausted the MLS in our area and had found absolutely nothing that “clicked” or was even considerable. It was not looking good. Who were we kidding ourselves? How could we ever find our Nazareth? This time our petitions turned to Padre Pio and St. Philomena.

“Alright, This is going to take a real miracle. We are asking for our Nazareth. Please help us.”

Well, they say St. Philomena works quickly. They say the same about Padre Pio. Put them together, and yeah, you better believe that we bid on a house a couple days later. Practically the day after our prayer, CG found this home listed online and e-mailed it to me. He called to make sure I checked my e-mail. The listing was way too interesting. It HAD to be sold already…there was just no way…or maybe something was really wrong with it…it just fit our dream list too perfectly. Everybody knows that never happens. But there is was before our eyes on the World Wide Web: in our price range which was considerably less than the appraised value of the home, with every detail imaginable on our list. Right down to the clothesline. In “excellent” condition. Surely something had to be wrong. I immediately called our agent and we got in the next afternoon for a look.

No one was more dumbfounded at the discovery than our agent. When we walked into the home all three of us stood in the foyer with our mouths gaping.

“I can’t believe this. It’s everything you wanted. I don’t know why this listing wasn’t coming up when I was looking.”

She took pictures of the home to send to her husband just to show him the original woodwork. We all slowly poked through the house and kept saying to each other, “I can’t believe it” over and over again. It was like a movie. Things like this just don’t happen! And right in the hallway, on the plaster walls were two toddler hand prints for two different children. They were exactly the size of Pretty Princess and Mr. Chubs hands! The home was a gem to us. It was 112 years old, definitely not lacking character but man! Was it ever well taken care of! Everything right down to the paint supplies in the basement were neat as a pin. This home was the missing piece of the puzzle. We were all just standing there in the living room, staring in shock of it all. I looked at CG and mouthed “Pio” to him as we tried to come down to earth.

The icing on the cake was that the owner of the home waltzed through the door just as we were leaving. After chatting with him briefly, he told us that most of the furniture we had seen, power tools & appliances were going to be left behind. We asked him the reason he was moving. It couldn’t be some simple reason.  Everything has to be romantic…He was a middle-aged bachelor who had gotten married over the summer to a foreign schoolteacher. They got married, and she went back to her country to wait for him to sell the house. Where was he moving to? Of course Padre Pio would only have it be: Italy.  CG and I exchanged glances and the house was sold right there.  We put our bid in at 15K less than the listed price, got our offer accepted and celebrated with a dinner out.  Everything ironically happened to just take place on our wedding anniversary. It was the most fitting way to begin our next year of marriage: with not just a new page, but a brand new book on the bookshelf of our life. We like to call it: “Pio’s Place”.

Flour Power

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I went through two 5 lb bags of flour in one week! I’m sorry, but this is awesome! I like to use bags of flour as my barometer for how I’m doing in the honing of my homemaking skills. Some people have computer skills, or bow hunting skills but I am working on my homemaking skills. J Trust me, my intentions are certainly noble, but it’s going to take a lot more honing than I thought.

So about bags of flour as my barometer. If its taking me a really long time to use up flour, or I’ve forgotten where I put it then I know I haven’t been channeling my inner June Cleaver to well. Time to roll up my sleeves, crack open a cookbook and get down to business. Initially, it used to take some serious thought and effort on my part to get through that bag of flour. However, this year (so far)in only a week, I managed to whisk through two and find myself giddy with delight late last night as I finished off the bag. This was a good start to the year and I’m hopeful about the rest of 2011. What ever will the year bring? Dozens of cookies? Piles of pizzas? A blue ribbon at the county fair? Or just higher cholesterol? Who knows.

The fact of the matter is that what is driving me to bake in excess is my insatiable cravings for carbs. Always my downfall, always will be. Pasta, breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, pizza, biscuits…I have to stop myself before I get out of control. I snack constantly. What’s driven me to bake is that I can’t take how hard it’s been to find a decent “sweet snack” in the store. One that isn’t filled with preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils or excess sugar. But also one that doesn’t taste like a tire. I’m not looking for healthy, just something that can fill my sweet tooth craving but I don’t have to feel guilty about eating. Wait did I really just write “I’m not looking for healthy” ? Wow.

I was reading a Dr. Oz article the other week and he was saying that eating high amounts of carbohydrates (which = sugars) can triple women’s risk for heart disease but not mens. This shocked me. And it excited CG because now he saw all those snacks as his only. I immediately cut out the quote and taped it to the inside door of my snack cabinet. Along with a chart on the 5 warnings signs of a heart attack and how to avoid one.

“There! That’ll show me!” I proudly convinced myself that this would help me limit my consumption and make me choose better options for snacks like fresh veggies, fruit or nuts. I could be a ticking time bomb if I didn’t beware.

Yeah right. After about a week, the cabinet is still just as loaded with carbs as before and the only thing that quote is doing for me is giving me reading material while I stuff my face. Who really eats fresh veggies, fruits and nuts instead of some nutella on a cookie? C’mon people, lets be realistic. Or at least let me be realistic with myself. So I am.

Realistically, I thought of Gram Sue. She’s in her nineties, has survived the depression, World War II, and various ailments or physical setbacks. She’s witty, sharp as anything and full of vivaciousness. Gram Sue, just like anyone who grew up “back then” in the time of real food, didn’t worry about balancing out carbs & proteins, or limiting fats & sugars…they just ate everything in moderation. Gram Sue who is healthy as a horse you might be surprised to know stashes mallomars in her bread drawer and has a freezer filled with individual soft serve dishes (her little “soliders” as she dubbed them). This speaks volumes more to me. Everything in moderation. Also, make as much of it homemade as you can. Hence, the flour bags.

So I’m replacing that anti-carb quote with a more reasonable (and much less scary) one: Everything in moderation. I’m also vowing to load up on flour and only have homemade cookies in that cabinet. No more oreos! I had once thought that if I died an oreo-related death, it would be a good way to go. Definitely not. It’s going to at least be homemade cookies with some nutella on it.