P.C.Pop with Pablo

Archive for the ‘Tradition’ Category

Why I Love to Vote!

In Children, College Students, Election, Family, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, Politics, Tradition, Uncategorized, Vote on November 3, 2012 at 9:02 am


“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” Franklin D. Roosevelt


As election day approaches I start to get more and more excited because I love to VOTE.

I grew up in a house filled with politics and lively discussions about the issues facing our community and our nation. My father was a city council member for many years; and my mother was appointed by the mayor of our city to serve on the city’s Housing Authority, of which she soon became the chair for more than 15 years. In addition to my parents’ direct service as public officials, one elected and one appointed, we were involved in several political campaigns. We always had candidates’ signs on our lawn, we always worked our party’s “booth” at the various town gatherings and festivals, and we always worked on election day. My parents wrote letters to editor, called their elected officials, spoke at open forums and attended meeting regularly. My mother was asked to leave a few open “public” meetings, once even by the mayor. Of course she challenged them by filing a complaint with FOI (Freedom of Information) — and BTW she won — resulting in the mayor and city manager having to personally pay a fine.

As a teenager on election day, I made phone calls to remind people to vote, drove people to the polls to vote, collected data from polling sites for the party headquarters, and even worked for a national TV network to survey voters and call in polling information. I attended several post election receptions — and for the record, I prefer partying with the winners. That was the fun part. It wasn’t so much fun when my father voted against the teachers’ contract triggering a teachers’ strike. The head of the teachers’ union was my calculus teacher, and he did not hesitate to make comments about my father in class. My brother got the same treatment from his Italian teacher who was also his soccer coach. I laughed it off; my brother got angry and quit soccer; and my sister was too young to understand. My parents eventually transferred by sister to catholic school. That was not fun — but it was a great learning experience and made me even more passionate. When I attended college, I joined a political student organization and continued to work on campaigns and work on election day. My involvement and interest in politics, campaigns and elections never waned.


“Thinking is not to agree or disagree. That’s voting.” Robert Frost


Then I began my career in higher education and chose to put my personal political beliefs aside. I say “chose” because it was not a hard/fast policy. I decided that if I was going to “serve all students” I had to be nonpartisan. Being nonpartisan meant that every student leader and every student organization could count on me to serve them well — regardless of their politics, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of their religion, regardless of their attitude. I encouraged political engagement; I encouraged political rallies and protests (and counter-protests); and I assisted in candidate and surrogate visits (including three Presidents, several US Senators, and a few Governors). Everyone knew that I would work hard to support them and make their dreams come true — no matter their agenda. They were important, they were valued, and they were a vital part of our campus and our nation. I pushed them to exercise ALL of their rights and fought for them when others objected. What a great job it was. I worked with a wide variety of student organizations including the following:

  • Amnesty International
  • College Democrats
  • College Republicans
  • Conservative Action Network
  • Feminists
  • Green — Anti-Coal
  • LGBTQ Student Alliance
  • Libertarian Socialists
  • Libertarians
  • Marxists
  • Military
  • Non-Theists (formerly known as Atheists)
  • NORML – National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • NOW – National Organization for Women
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
  • PIRG – Public Interest Research Group
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Pro-Life
  • Pro-Peace
  • PUGWASH
  • Socialists
  • Student Government
  • Students Against Sweatshops
  • War on Hunger

Since I was unable to put a sign on my lawn, wear a button on my lapel, support a candidate, openly debate political issues, or work for my party on election day — encouraging students to care about politics is what kept me going. During this time I grew as a professional and as a citizen when I was truly nonpartisan — when I was working hard for ALL student leaders – ALL student organizations. Today, I am a little bit more open about which candidates I support but still hesitate because of all of those years keeping it under wraps. Those year did however help me develop a much greater respect for anyone who gets involved in any part of the democratic process. After all  how much fun would it be if everyone agreed with me? Not too, that’s how much!


“In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.” David Foster Wallace



I love voting. I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to election day though. On election day, I will get up early and put out our USA flag. I wear only red, white and blue — and have a special “election day” tie and a wide assortment of flag lapel pins. Before I was eligible to vote, I couldn’t wait until the day came that I could vote — especially in a presidential election. My visit time was as exciting as I imagined. Before I vote — I study, I read, I listen, I debate — until I am ready. I take this process very seriously. I usually vote the straight party ticket — but I never pull the straight-party lever. I enjoy pushing a lever for each and every candidate — and vote on every question and referendum. I also don’t vote early – even though I passionately support early voting — and anything that enables more citizens to vote. I am afraid that if I don’t vote on the actual election DAY it won’t feel the same – and I am not willing to take that risk. For me it is all about getting prepared, waiting and anticipating, and getting more and more excited — and voting on election day, the second Tuesday in November (not before). If a candidate visits our city, I am there whether or not I agree with their platform. To name a few, I’ve attended speeches or debates with Jerry Brown, Mitch Daniels, Chris Dodd, Ross Perot, Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Richard Lugar, Lowell Weicker, Joseph Lieberman, Evan Bayh, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill Bradley, Mario Cuomo, and Colin Powell. I was even involved in the first ever Rock the Vote campaign in 1992.


“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” John Quincy Adams


To me it is a privilege and honor. To me it is a duty and an obligation. I know it sounds corny, but when I am voting I feel very patriotic. And I wear my “I Voted” sticker with great pride. Voting on election day gives me such joy. I love democracy and I love the United States of America. I don’t take my citizenship for granted — and know how lucky I am. I can’t even comprehend US citizens who are eligible to vote who DON’T. I just don’t get it. I also believe if I vote then I will have a right to complain later. And those who don’t vote; well, you know – how do they have the nerve to complain? The people who really baffle me are the self-proclaimed “undecided” voters. How can this be possible? Who are these people? Are they messing with us — or just in need of attention?


On Undecided Voters: “To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes​ down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. ‘Can I interest you in the chicken?​’ she asks. ‘Or would you prefer the platter of poop with bits of broken glass in it?’ To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.” David Sedaris


Lastly, I don’t even acknowledge the argument by non-voters that “my one vote doesn’t count and doesn’t matter.” I truly don’t believe that and even if it were true — that would not stop me. I AM VOTING!


“Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process.”  Hillary Clinton


I truly appreciate my parents for surrounding me and my siblings with politics and getting us involved in current issues and the needs of our community. They made it accessible and exciting. My mother (who is a few years past the age of legal retirement) still attends Housing Authority meetings and is an advocate for any tenant who needs her support. Our weekly phone conversations typically include some talk of the politics of the week. And nothing would stop her from voting — nothing!


“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Winston Churchill


My obligation to my country and my parents is to VOTE. And now that I have two kids (12 and 14 years old) – I must keep up our family tradition. A family tradition of caring, staying informed and getting involved — and being patriotic, loving our country and doing our duty as engaged citizens. Both of my kids, especially my oldest, get fired up as much as I do about politics. My oldest even watches political news shows with me — and get frustrated and laughs at the appropriate times. This is the greatest gift I can give to my parents…and my country. The next generation will have at least two kids who will VOTE and will become involved, good citizens — stepping up to serve their community, studying the issues, supporting candidates, putting signs on their lawns, and working on election day.


“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.” Gore Vidal


I must admit — I am ready for the 2012 “campaigning” to end but I can’t wait to VOTE. My only complaint is that my time in the voting booth isn’t long enough. I believe in democracy – I believe in this country – and I believe in the strength and resilience of the generous and caring people of this great nation. I am an eternal optimist and have great hope – always. And when I VOTE – Inever feel more HOPE and hopefulness deep within my soul. This one act – VOTING – defines who I am as a US citizen. It is a beautiful and inspiring thing.


“A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” Theodore Roosevelt


So, next Tuesday (and every second-Tuesday of November) — I will meet you at the Voting Center. Please – don’t forget to VOTE and bring a friend to VOTE too. We all matter — and our votes do count! If only for that wonderful feeling of patriotism — that knowledge that your vote is as important as anyone else’s — that sense of duty. Then, perhaps, you will LOVE to VOTE and get as excited to vote as I do. I am certain of it.

Have I mentioned — I LOVE TO VOTE!


{For more information on how to VOTE and get engaged — click HERE.}


“Stand beside her, and guide her | Thru the night with a light from above” – Irving Berlin



Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


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Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

In Family, fatherhood, Food, Italian, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, Summer for Renewal, Tradition, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm

This is one from my grandmother’s kitchen. It is a recipe from the old country — true Italian comfort food. Pasta e Fagioli can be found on the menu of many of the best Italian restaurants around — but the dish was a peasant dish served by frugal families. My grandmother’s version used salt pork or a ham bone for flavoring. My version is vegetarian (often vegan), high protein, and low fat. Pasta e Fagioli is a special treat for my family — and I hope it becomes that for you. For the whole story of my family’s Pasta e Fagioli tradition, READ the PC Pop Blog post: My Pasta Fazool Story (aka Pasta e Fagioli).


Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

Serves: 10-12


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups – onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups – celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves – garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups (2 cans) – kidney bean (light and dark red)
  • 2 cans (28 oz.) – crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) – diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs. – olive oil
  • 2-4 tbs. – dried or freshly chopped parsley
  • onion powder/garlic powder, to taste
  • 28 oz. – water or broth
  • 1 cup – pasta (ditalini)
  • grated cheese
  • crushed red pepper
  • crusty Italian bread

 

 


In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and onions. Saute onions stirring often until they begin to look translucent – about 2-3 minutes; then add garlic and celery. Continue to stir occasionally over medium heat for about 5 minutes (be careful not to burn onions or garlic). Optional – add other chopped vegetables.

Add kidney beans, parsley, onion powder and garlic powder – and combine ingredients by tossing well. Add crushed tomatoes and stewed tomatoes. Fill each empty tomato-can half-full with water or broth (approximately 28 oz. total) to get remaining tomatoes — add to the pan. Bring soup to a boil carefully; then reduce heat and simmer for 20-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For al dente pasta, 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, carefully bring the soup to boil. Then add the pasta, bring to boil again, cover and turn off heat. Let stand, covered for 20-30 minutes. Stir and serve with grated cheese, crushed red pepper, and crusty Italian bread. Fresh green salad with oil/vinegar or Italian dressing is a perfect accompaniment.


Buon Appetito!



This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:


Mia Famiglia

In Family, Food, Italian, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, Summer for Renewal, Tradition, Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

What I did on My Summer Vacation: Rediscovered My Family through Food, Kids and Tattoos


The family was an art…and the dinner table was the place it found expression. 

Don DeLillo, Underworld


Coco

Coco

This summer we drove 850 miles to be with our family in the homestead. My childhood home was the center of our family gatherings and holidays for many years. Now it is just my mom and her dog, Coco. Although I have kids of my own now and everyone is 30 years older; we were able to recapture the magic of our weekly Sunday family get-togethers again.

From the turn of the century through 1935, many Italians migrated to the United States of America — including my family. On my father’s side, my grandfather and grandmother’s parents were born in Italy. On my mother’s side, all of my great-grandparents were born in Italy. Although my father only had one brother,  my mother’s family was quite large. I grew up attending weekly Sunday family gatherings and became very close with my aunts (not pronounced “ant”), uncles and cousins. We met every Sunday at my maternal grandparents with the rest of the clan numbering 15-20 relatives. When my grandfather passed away, my mother, the eldest of her siblings, was asked by my grandmother to host the weekly get-together. It made sense because we had a home with a large backyard, in-ground pool, and enough room to seat everyone (albeit tight) for dinner. So, in the early-1970’s, my family began hosting. Like many family traditions, we were going strong until the kids started growing up and eventually having their own kids, families, in-laws, other cousins, etc.

On a recent visit to the family homestead (we now live 850 miles away), we were able to re-create the magic of those American-Italian family gatherings — and it sort of happened spontaneously. We let everyone know we were coming in advance, and many family members generously shared their days-0ff and vacation days with us. Family was coming together like old times. It was a welcome and wonderful treat. We caught up on everything going on with everyone, but honestly we spent most of our time reminiscing about old times. One surprise was how many of my family had tattoos. My sister, her son/my nephew and two of my first cousins had tattoos. Perhaps I noticed them this visit is because it was summer, and we were swimming and at the beach. It struck me that all of the tattoos had something to do with family. My sister has a tattoo of my nephew as an infant and another memorializing my father. My female first cousin had, in script, on her foot, perfectly aligned with the curve of her left flip-flop, simply, “la famaglia.” I thought nothing of it at the time — I was just surprise that they all had tattoos.

Part of the fun was also telling our family stories to the newest generation, aged 4 to 14. It was wonderful how curious the kids were, and amazing how vivid and similar all of our stories were. We also were fortunate enough to hear stories from a few of our great aunts two of whom are 90 and 92 year old sisters. What a hoot. Our shared experiences brought us closer and closer as a family in just a few short hours. As a family we have been lucky. Yes, we have had our losses, our tragedies, but all in all, we had a closeness that others have envied. over the years, we have also created  many traditions that focus on family and also honor our heritage. The constant with any gathering, holiday or family tradition was the FOOD. Preparing a meal together and eating as one big family as always been central to all of our get-togethers. And if your birthday fell the week of the Sunday family gathering, there was a home-baked cake in your honor. Birthdays were about family. Today we plan our kids’ birthdays  at the movie theater, nail salon, country-club pool — with lots of their friends. My birthdays through the years were with family — and I loved it. On this visit we even had an old fashioned birthday celebration for my son (see photo above).


So here’s the story we told our kids recently. The meal for Sundays was always the same. Homemade marinara sauce (not gravy), homemade meatballs, Italian sausage, and pasta (which we called macaroni). Typically the pasta was rigatoni but occasionally we would get crazy and have penne or ziti — but never spaghetti. My mother (my grandfather pre-early-1970’s) would get up at 5 a.m. to begin making the sauce and meatballs because the sauce needed to simmer for 4-6 hours. A big tossed salad was also a part of the meal prepared with olive oil and red wine vinegar and various Italian herbs. Whoever was closest to the Italian bakery was responsible for bringing the Italian bread. It is a meal to die for. An old fashion Italian feast.

The family would begin arriving at 11 a.m. and munch on whatever antipasto that was prepared or carried-in. Swimming began right away and the ball game of the day was put on the TV downstairs (usually either New York Giants or Yankees, depending on the season). Vegetables for the salad were prepared by 1 p.m.; at 1 p.m. meatballs were put in the sauce to simmer for an hour; at 1:15 p.m. the water was put on the stove to boil; and once this enourmous pot of water was at a raging boil, 4-5 pounds of pasta were dumped in to cook. Then the kitchen was cleaned, the Italian bread was cut and buttered, the salad was dressed and tossed, and the sinked was scoured in preparation for draining the (al dente) pasta. Around 2 p.m., my mother would be making plates for everyone and we would eat. She knew exactly what everyone wanted whether it was both meatball and sausage, no meat, extra sauce, light on sauce, etc. For a few minutes it was chaotic until everyone was seated and eating.  Once everyone finished grabbing bread, adding parmesan cheese and/or hot crushed red pepper, it was silent, for a moment, for the first time all day. Once everyone finished their pasta, the salad was served typically in your pasta plate. One or two ate their salad with their pasta but most ate their salad after their meal. (Italians believe it helps settle your stomach after a big meal.)

After Sunday dinner, there was more swimming and potentially a softball game in the front yard. When the sun started to go down, we would go indoors and play Setback (cards) or backgammon. My maternal grandmother was very serious about her card game. Usually by this time everyone would begin getting hungry again, and we would started making sandwiches.  If there was a birthday or anniversary to celebrate this was also the time to bring out the cake and coffee.  Speaking of coffee, there was hot coffee available all day and all night long.


During our recent Summer visit, once the meal was served, all of our wonderful memories of our family through the years came flooding back. The special Italian feast is the one thing that we share as a family.  My maternal grandfather would tell you that at the turn of the century, Italian immigrants had to be frugal.  The food we ate was the food of the peasant in Italy. It was absurd to even think of going out to eat for Italian food. First, we made the food better, more authentic with fresh ingredients; second, our grandparents and parents refused to pay for a meal that they could make for pennies.  We also never used “jarred” sauce. To this day, I feel funny about going out for Italian food or buying sauce in a jar. Not only do I have family memories about food but also specific foods for specific holidays, events, and seasons. Some of these food memories are as follows: chili dogs and homemade ice cream on July 4th; stuffed breads, baked ziti, and lasagna for special occasions like showers, bachelor parties, Christenings; fried dough with powdered sugar for holiday breakfasts; for events that need really special desserts – cannoli, rum cream cake,  pasticiotti, New York cheesecake; for family events like birthday parties – homemade pizza; for special Sunday gatherings – gnocchi or cavatelli; linguine with clam sauce on Christmas Eve; lentil soup on New Year’s Eve; and pasta e fagioli, for some reason, I remember it as the perfect food for the reception after funerals.


If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.

Bernard Shaw, preface, Immaturity


We are all getting older and wiser, and during this visit we all realized that nothing is more important than family. No matter what drama we have dealt with in the past and regardless of what issues we are dealing with today, family members love you and accept you and make it right. As a family we are not perfect, but this recent visit was filled with so many wonderful memories. More importantly we have shared our stories, history and traditions with a new generation. We laughed loudly, we hugged, we danced, we swam, we took lots of pictures, we chill-axed, we ate. Our Family connections are stronger than ever. We were able to be ourselves, we were comfortable and content, and it was easy and natural. This is the beginning of a new era. And we are committed to keeping this family together and continuing to create new memories while honoring our Italian and American heritage and our established traditions.

And I can’t help but thing of those TATTOOS — especially “la famiglia.” How profound, yet simple – and perhaps this one word, in Italian, was inscribed permanently on my cousin’s foot not by accident but rather with focused intention. I am convinced in our own silent ways, we all wanted this; and we made it happen. Thank God.


Benedici la Mia Famiglia!


This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:


 

Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts: