WeFree Days

Monday we continued our tour of the grounds and learned more about the philosophy behind the San Pa program.  Yesterday was spent hanging out with the kids and the teens during WeFree celebration at San Pa.

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We toured the kennels on Monday.  One of San Pa’s social enterprises is training therapy dogs.  They also take in retired police dogs and strays. They have about 140 dogs on the premises and the crew spends their days socializing with the dogs, training them and making them feel loved and welcome.

Before San Pa was San Pa, it was a vineyard.  After its transition to a community, San Pa retained the vineyards as one of its social enterprises.  The wine produced by San Pa is renowned and has won several awards.  The process is quite extensive.  In August it is typically slow for several sectors in the community because most of Italy goes on Holiday or “vacanza” for the month.  IMG_1299Thus, most of San Pa’s outside customers are closed and that translates to down-time for many departments at San Pa.  For those residents who find themselves with slow work during that time they often help harvest the grapes in the vineyards.  Thus begins the elaborate process of crushing the grapes, removing impurities and fermenting in oak barrels in a climate-controlled cellar.  When ready, the wines are bottled, corked, labeled and shipped throughout the world.  IMG_1291

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We passed by the stables where the cows (used for producing milk for the cheese made at San Pa) and the pigs (used for meat and sausage sold to the public or used to feed the residents) but did not have the time for a tour.  Neither did we have the opportunity to view the equine sector where the horses are used for therapy, breeding and show. Perhaps on another day.

Tuesday was a big day at San Pa – WeFree Days 2017.  WeFree Days is a two-day event designed to be both educational and fun for teens across Italy.  Over 3,000 students attended the festivities!  There were dance performances, theater, music, art and crafting events for the students.  For the adults there was a public forum with speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss ideas and issues surrounding drugs, educational systems and prevention.  The students had a wonderful time and really appreciated the interaction of the San Pa residents discussing their stories with drugs and the dangers of addiction.  It was quite moving! IMG_20171010_084147099_HDR

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As I have mentioned earlier, one of the most rewarding parts of this workshop is the opportunity to be present with the residents.  I have spent countless hours having conversations with many residents – Dylan, Tom, Scott, Mark, Edo, Gustavo – to name a few.  We’ve shared some laughs, sure, but we’ve also shared our stories.  I’ve answered many questions about my journey in recovery, told my history and shared what I’ve learned during the process.  The value of human connection, empathy and fellowship cannot be underestimated.  We all struggle with the same challenges, we all share in the same joys.

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Making art with Steph and Rachele

We are family, regardless of the language barriers, because love overcomes all obstacles.

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Enjoying WeFree Days

 

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Music and Art and Family

Various ramblings heard during the Easter weekend:

While sitting around the dinner table during Easter the conversation turned to mEaster 2015usic.  Kris was asked, “What kind of music do you like to listen to?”  “Oh, I like the rap music” he answered.  Then he turns to Kathy Golden, Eileen’s mom and says, “Sorry Gran. I will not dance the disco with you. You will have to find someone else.”  Cut to Kathy who is laughing so hard that she must wipe away the tears.

On Good Friday there was a multisensory art exhibit that coincided with the stations of the cross.  The art, music, poetry and readings combined to make an already emotional event extraordinary and stellar.

Resurrection Day

Resurrection Day by Shannon Almanzar

Entombed

Laid in a Tomb by Annie Cullen

Last Supper

The Last Supper by Pamela Stopfer

Mary

Mother and John by Anne Fantini

Finally, during Good Friday service this song was performed by two young women in our church.  Angelic.

The Sailor and his First Mate

We come across so many influential people in our lives, don’t we? Sometimes their presence is loud, obvious and boisterous and at other times it is more subtle and gentle, like a summer breeze. Those subtle presences are sometimes so barely perceptible that we don’t even realize how they permeate our lives, influence our thinking and mold our character that it is often years before we are abUJ and Angelle to realize their impact. Such is the case with my aunt and uncle, Jerri and Joe.

Jerri is my Mom’s sister.  She was a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx for over thirty years.  When we left our Bronx apartment in 1965 she moved into it; it was in the same building where by paternal grandmother and grandfather lived and about six blocks from the apartment on Addams Place where she grew up and my maternal grandparents lived.  She grew up in the Belmont section – the Little Italy of the Bronx – where the neighborhood was rich in Italian heritage and culture.  It remains an enclave of history and an oasis of exquisite Italian food, music, festivals and tradition.  Anyone who knows anything about Italian culture in the Bronx knows about Arthur Avenue!!!

I remember trips to the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, both of which were within a few minutes walk from the neighborhood.  Aunt Jerri would accompany us on many of those excursions.  I also have fond memories of being in her apartment with friends of hers from the neighborhood and from college.  There was always lots of singing, laughing and camaraderie!  UJ and AJ 1996

She married my Uncle Joe in the early 1970’s.  Uncle Joe loved the sea.  He served in the Coast Guard in WWII (he lied about his age). They were always game for adventures – taking trips up to Cape Cod or Florida or upstate New York. After my parents split their role became evermore important in my development.  I recall trips to the dunes on Cape Cod with Uncle Joe and my siblings spending hours exploring and running up and down the giant dunes.  There were also adventures to Pelham Bay and exploring various ships that wrecked and washed up on the shores.  There was snorkeling in the Florida keys and building model rockets and firing them off into the sky at the high school football field.  I particularly relished the times when we would sing his favorite Irish sea shanty at the top of our lungs! (http://youtu.be/1uUVxwDwc_s)

Both were very strong in their beliefs, both politically and spiritually.  I didn’t always agree with tUJ and AJ Reunionheir points of view but I always respected their positions.  I always knew where they stood and I appreciated that steadfastness.  I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were one of the few people in the world that I could count on.  In fact, Uncle Joe once told me that if I was lucky, I would be able to count on one hand the number of true friends I would have in life.  I never forgot that.

They now live in the Keys and we keep in touch every so often.  Uncle Joe is very hard of hearing now due primarily to an injury sustained in WWII.  I got the chance to speak with him over the phone not too long ago – a rarity these days.  It was oh so nice to hear his voice.

Aunt Jerri and uncle Joe are, for all intents and purposes, my second parents. I love them with all my heart.UJ and AJ West

School’s Out

So … school was cancelled due to sleet and freezing rain.  What is a poor boy to do? What else but head to the library and check out some books.  Just a little light reading:

  • Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Einstein’s God by Krista Tippett
  • How We Die by Sherwin Nuland
  • If Ignorance Is Bliss Why Aren’t There More Happy People? by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson

Not only do I love to write but I LOVE to read.

I also heard this song on Saturday afternoon while listening to WNTI.  Seriously brought back a flood of memories from high school and college.  So, I found it on YouTube and a few others that reminded me of seeing The Clash on Broadway, NYC with my friend Suzanne.  Grand Master Flash opened for The Clash, hence the connection.

http://youtu.be/O4o8TeqKhgY

http://youtu.be/cELt9nCWY_0

http://youtu.be/tZQQGX24Teg

I make no claims to of ownership to these videos or songs. All rights reserved to the original artists.