Category Archives: family

making tables – part one

years ago my friend ellice and i were wandering around soho and saw a ‘tire table‘ on display in an art gallery for a ridiculous sum of money – at least we thought so at the time. the table consisted of a round piece of glass set upon two stacked tires.  freshly sprung from college, i suspect any amount of money for a piece of furniture may have seemed ridiculous back then, but we both really loved that table. right away, ellice and i set out on a mission to acquire free tires and made our own tire tables for the cost of a piece of glass.

recently, i was in need of a table with a large working space. as luck would have it, someone left a giant round glass table top downstairs in the basement.  i put the word out for a table base and my mother suggested another tire table, which i thought was a perfect idea.  i immediately put an order out to the universe for 3 tires so that i could make a new, larger version of my old beloved tire table.  i was so excited, that i forgot to include any details with the request  . . . .

shortly after i placed the order, on my way home from nj, my car fell into an enormous black hole in the middle of route 78 and blew out the right front tire. after 2 1/2 hours of waiting for roadside assistance, my brother thomas, a state trooper and a flatbed tow truck showed up all at about the same time.  my brother and the tow truck driver both told me that my spare tire was leaking and it was not going to make it back to the city –  i would have to follow my brother to his house, spend the night there and deal with the tire in the morning – which i did – sort of . . . .

tire 1

02-07-15 thomas flat tire


my brother woke me in the morning, asked for my keys and told me he was taking my car to the tire store, where he was meeting my dad who was going to pay for my new tire (thank you, dad!).  i asked thomas if he wouldn’t mind asking the guys at the tire store if he could have 3 old tires so that i could make my tire table.  he was not looking overly pleased with my request as he walked out the door around 9:00 am on a freezing cold sunday morning, but i knew he would come through.  3 hours later, thomas arrived back home with my sparkling clean car (he had taken to the car wash), sporting 4 brand new tires and my other 3 good tires all wrapped up in plastic bags in the trunk.

tire desk at 350 e 52nd st (1)

my next shout out to the universe is to send me a husband who is a perfect mix of my dad and my brother, thomas – no additional details required.


“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.”
 ~ Dalai Lama



many thanks

my aunt fran, who we always called sis, spent every day making life better for people. she was an accomplished professor who left the world of higher education to assist  people who may not have been able to receive a higher education without her help, generosity and kindness.  she taught children in the public school system in downtown newark, nj and made lives better for all ‘her’ children. because of her efforts helping kids understand that they mattered, assisting them to learn and sharing her light, there are adults today that have risen out of poverty, gone on to college, and made a better life for themselves –  a legacy we should all want leave behind.

sis left this world way too early yet was able to do what may take others many lifetimes to accomplish. she spent her spare time doing things like volunteering for habitats for humanity and helping the poor and underprivileged throughout the world in many ways. it’s hard to believe it’s been seven years without her yet good to know her legacy will live forever.

Dad's Grad4

thanks for all you’ve done here, sis – and a big shout out of gratitude to all the people who helped her along the way.


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
 ~ Mahatma Gandhi 



i love a good festival!

happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, hanukkah – every night during this festival of lights!



May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind.


fear & love

there is something about 9/11 that can only be known by the people who experienced it in nyc.  it’s a bond between new yorkers that did not exist before 2001. it was a day that has lasted for 13 years.  it was a day filled with more fear than anyone could have imagined they would survive.    god bless the ones who didn’t.  god bless their families.  god bless all of america’s heroes who rushed in to help.  it was a day where the people in this city saw more acts of kindness and heroism than one would expect to see in an entire lifetime.

american flag at plaza hotel (2)

god bless us all in this world.


“It takes courage in the midst of fear, but you do it with the grace of God.”
~ Father Mychal Judge
“I love you, so just love each other the best you can.”.On September 11, 2001, as Fr. Mychal rushed into the burning tower, Mayor Rudy Giuliani called out, “Father Mike, pray for us!” Mychal called back, “I always do! I always pray for you!”
Thomas Cagnassola 9-11
Thomas Cagnassola

“Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.”

-Prayer of Father Mychal Judge


‘Dead’ girl wakes up at her own funeral


A 3-year-old girl who was pronounced dead after a fever woke up a day later — in a coffin, during her funeral  . . . .  the toddler was taken to a local hospital on Friday after suffering a severe fever.

“During that time, the attending clinic personnel and physician confirmed that the young patient had no more pulse and was clinically dead last Saturday morning about 9 a.m.,” Teelan said. The grave error was only discovered when a funeral attendee removed the cover of the girl’s coffin and saw her head move . . . . .

The family is seeking treatment at a better-equipped hospital.

the family is seeking treatment at a better-equipped hospital???  

. . . . well now there’s an idea worth investigating.

ny post story

“Man cannot live by incompetence alone.”
 ~ Charlotte Whitton





for golfers only

what do you think are the chances of hitting a hole in one?  


according to golf digest,  it’s one in 12,500  –  which is precisely why i don’t golf.  i will never understand why people think it’s so much fun to hit a ball around the grass to get it into a hole that it would take 12,500 swings, to actually achieve 100% success,  just one time. . . .  but people do love it – and my mom is one of those people – and today she got a hole in one!

here she is; the hole-in-one winner:

mom june 2014

and because this is not her first hole-in-one, she is eligible for the multiple hole-in-one winner gold star award!

gold star

congratulations, mom! 

“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”
 ~ Hank Aaron


laugh icon






“There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other’s cooking & say it was good.”
 ~ storypeople



how low can you go?

in a pathetic attempt to get his ex-wife angry, this man gave his child’s dog away. a very good plan.  it sure did work.  and now their 16 year old daughter is paying for it with her tears.  please show support for katie jones by reading this child’s plea and leave  loving comments on her “missing molly” blog. thanks for your kindness and for helping a wonderful child know that there is way more good than bad in this world.

 molly’s website

4 x 6 in. (2)



Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.

 ~ Kevin Heath


angel party

angel party in the sky today – i’m sure of it!   happy birthday, sis.   you’re still being thought about and missed every single day down here.   

Little Sis Sis B&W Dress



I searched for God and found only myself.
I searched for myself and found only God.
~Sufi Proverb




like it was yesterday

Thomas Sept 11 Thomas & Peter  WTC 2001

2 of my brothers volunteering at ground zero 12 years ago.
god bless every one of us.


“As for those that carried out these attacks there are no adequate words of condemnation. Their barbarism will stand as their shame for all eternity.”
–British Prime Minister Tony Blair

the budster

in loving memory of my parents dog, buddy.   he was one of the great ones.

mom & buddy

  mom & buddy

thanks for all the years your happiness filled the house.  you did a good, good job.    bye bud – love you.


“There is honor in being a dog.”
 – Aristotle


yikes! in the news . . . .

would you look at this?   omg – is all i can say.



A baby, weighing 13.4 pounds and 57cm long, has been born naturally.

Jasleen, a baby girl, was born at University Hospital in Leipzig, Germany, on July 26, making her the country’s largest-ever.   story


“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
 ~ Friedrich Nietzsche 

a great day in history

in 1862 on june 19th,  president abraham lincoln outlined his emancipation proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the us.

in 1902 on june 19th atelio bernard cagnassola was born in raritan, new jersey.

happy birthday, pop!


and thanks for the pennies.  i miss you & love you.

“Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”
 ~ Alex Haley


everyday . . .

this is the universe:


and this is the best father in it:

Dad (1)

happy father’s day to you, dad.

i love you billions x infinity!!




a good day for good people!

i love june 10th!   june 10 is the birthday of two of my favorite peeps;  susan and thomas.   click on their pix to find out why they are both so special!

sue birthday Untitled-1

wishing you both a happy day and an amazing year ahead filled with love, laughs and miracles!


“I am confident that, in the end, common sense and justice will prevail. I’m an optimist, brought up on the belief that if you wait to the end of the story, you get to see the good people live happily ever after.”
 ~ Cat Stevens

happy day, mom!

just a reminder . . . . 70 reasons why we love you_23 70 reasons why we love you_24 copy 70 reasons why we love you_21

happy mothers day to the greatest mom!  i love you!!!

A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.  ~ Thomas Carlyle 


best friends holding hands


best friends

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
~ Aristotle

babysitting in the city

here is the perfect recipe for keeping kids entertained in the city for an entire day – for free!

2 dogs (borrow from neighbors if necessary)

2 pillows

1 building maintenance man.

mix well and play.

IMG_9129 IMG_9136 copy IMG_9135 copy

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”
~ Milton Berle

want to see what a real earth angel looks like?

this is chris:


now read what he’s done for my family – and just try not to cry!

Hollister Construction Gives Westfield Girl, 9, a Lift

Sara Cagnassola, born with cerebral palsy, had an elevator installed in the Westfield home her great grandfather built.

By Elizabeth Alterman,  Westfield Patch

A conversation with a former college friend led to a dream-come-true experience for the Cagnassola family of Westfield.

Thomas Cagnassola, 44, explained that he ran into his friend and former fraternity brother Chris Johnson at a New Year’s Eve party four years ago. Knowing that Johnson was in the construction field, Cagnossola casually asked his advice on having an elevator installed in the English Tudor he shares with his wife and children.

Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of the Parsippany-based Hollister Construction Services, said while he had noticed that Thomas was often carrying his daughter Sara, then 5, he didn’t understand why his friend would want to undertake such a massive project.

Cagnassola explained that as much as he and his family wanted to remain in their home, built in 1932 by his grandfather, it was becoming increasingly difficult for his young daughter Sara, born with cerebral palsy, to navigate.

“When Chris said he’d like to help, I knew he was sincere but what I didn’t expect was that he not only picked up the ball and ran it though the end zone, but he kept going through the band and out the back door,” said Cagnassola.

Establishing the charitable foundation Strides for Sara in 2009, Johnson made it his mission to first find Sara a wheelchair which would allow her to remain in the Westfield School District. Without the chair, Johnson explained, Sara would have to be bussed nearly 45 minutes away to the Mountain Lakes School District.

While hosting a golf outing for Strides for Sara, Johnson mentioned the need to a colleague who serves with him at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“He said, ‘We just bought a brand new wheelchair for my mother but she passed away. It’s never been used,'” said Johnson.

“Next thing we knew a Hollister truck pulled up and dropped off the wheelchair,” said Cagnassola.

Once he’d secured the chair, Johnson said he was “off and running.” Each year, Strides for Sara has been hosting a fundraising event with the long-term goal of installing an elevator inside the Cagnassolas’ three-level home.

This March that dream became a reality. After working with an architect and finding contractors and subcontractors who were willing to donate their time to this labor of love, the three-and-a-half story addition was complete.

Johnson explained that the project, which took a little more than five months to build, began with a ramp at the mud room level. Cagnassola said this ramp, which allows Sara the independence to go outdoors and visit with friends in the neighborhood without having to ask her mom for help, is just one of the examples of the ways the team took all of Sara’s needs into consideration.

Johnson said the kitchen and bathroom areas are now ADA-complaint. In addition, an electrician has outfitted the home so that through an iPad, Sara is able to adjust light and heat settings as well as see who is at the front door.

“Sara is the fifth generation of our family to live in Westfield. My dad and grandfather are both Westfield High School graduates. This house means a lot to us. If it weren’t for Chris and the Hollister Foundation we would have had to move to a ranch, I’m sure,” said Cagnassola, who added that it was thrilling to watch the project come to life. “This is a fairy tale for any family with special needs. It’s like something right out of one of those television shows.”

Through his company’s charity, The Hollister Foundation, Johnson has raised more than $500,000 to promote awareness for organizations that foster children’s advancement through education and healthy initiatives. The organization supports a range of charities including Strides for Sara, United Way, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Hugs from Home, and The Center for Autism.

Additionally, Johnson is a supporter of the Ryan Wolf Kossar Foundation, the CJ Foundation for SIDS, the Development School for Youth, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Family Services of Morris County and Fairleigh Dickinson University, according to Hollister’s website.

Sara’s First Ride

Once the installation was complete, Sara reserved her first ride for the man who made it all possible–Johnson. The entire Hollister team, along with the subcontractors who donated their time and talent to the project, were at the Cagnassolas’ home for the inaugural ride.

“It took four years of grit, determination and, most of all, love for Sara to see this project through, from getting permits and approvals, to raising donations and holding fund-raising events, to completing the construction work,” said Johnson. “All that effort came together when we saw the big smile on Sara’s face as she took her first ride on her elevator. It was a wonderful moment that reminded us of why we are committed as a company to building stronger communities by doing what we can to help those in need.”

Johnson said intially he had been thinking only about how the elevator would improve life for Sara but after taking their first ride together, Sara’s reaction made him realize the full impact this gift would have on the Cagnassola family.

“She said, ‘Now my mommy doesn’t have to carry me – it will help Mommy,'” recalled Johnson. “It was pretty moving.”

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” added Andrew Goetting, Hollister’s Business Development Manager.

Johnson said he was motivated to help his friend’s family because he always believed Sara should be offered the same opportunities his own children have.

“It’s important to give back,” said Johnson, a 2011 finalist in the Corporate Citizen of the Year category of the 2011 NJBIZ Business of the Year awards program. “But the actual gift was to us. After we finished, you felt good, like you could run through brick walls.”

Cagnassola said he can’t thank Johnson and his team of contractors, electricians and plumbers enough. “You’ve not only transformed my home but also my daughter’s abilities,” he said.

For more information about Hollister Construction Services, visit the company’s website 

sara chris johnson strides (5)to the team of hollister construction – thank you, thank you, thank you!!

sara chris johnson strides (4)pushing the button – getting ready for take-off!

sara chris johnson strides (3) mommy & sara

sara chris johnson strides (2)mission accomplished!

sara chris johnson strides (1) sara & hollister superheros!

sara chris johnson strides (6) happy family with grandma & grandpa

may god continue to bless you forever and ever,
chris johnson!

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
~ Lao Tzu 

4 questions & the goy

my introduction into all things jewish came mostly from the weinstein’s.  debbie weinstein was my college roommate and one of 798 jewish peeps in my freshman year dorm complex which housed 800 people.  debbie always invited me to her parents home in boston for the holidays and it was there that i got accustomed to the seder rituals.  being the token goy, i didn’t have to actually participate in the prayer and hebrew readings so i was only familiar with the big picture and didn’t really know exactly what was going on.  the truth is, i was there for mrs. weinstein’s good cooking, and mr. weinstein’s  jokes – which were usually at my expense, but funny none the less.

after we graduated from school, i continued to go to the weinstein’s on jewish holidays and by that time i thought i had learned everything i needed to know about what to do at a seder – even though i never had to actually do anything. . .

then one year debbie’s brother mark got married and everything changed. this year, we had to go to mark’s in-laws for passover.  i guess they expected me to be jewish. or maybe they felt obligated to make sure i was aware of their collective suffering as a race. or maybe, debbie didn’t tell them she was bringing me and they were just pissed off about that – i don’t know.  whatever the reason, they were intent on teaching me how it’s done by making me to eat things i didn’t want, participate in the readings and pray in hebrew. with 5 or 6 seders under my belt, i felt like i could handle the situation just fine – until marks mother in-law asked me   if i knew the answers to the 4 questions, which i couldn’t quite remember.  i was mortified because i did know the questions were central to the seder.  i’m sure it didn’t happen this way at all, but i recall seeing dark red horns growing from my skull in the tiny reflection of her eyeballs.  i  blame mr. weinstein for my lack of knowledge because i’m positive he must have been making me laugh too hard to pay proper attention to this part of the ritual in years past.

this post serves to save all goyim who may be put in a similar situation this evening during a passover seder.  first, i would like to point out out that there is really only one question and four answers, which i would not advise pointing out to seder host.

here is what you’ll need to know:

Why is this night different from all other nights, from all other nights?


On all other nights, we may eat chametz and matzah. On this night,  only matzah.

On all other nights, we eat many vegetables.  On this night, on this night, maror.

On all other nights, we do not dip even once. On this night, on this night, twice.
(A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten.)

On all other nights we eat while sitting upright, but on this night we eat reclining.

and you may also want to know that mark has since re-married a nice girl from a  nice family who i am sure, would not make me eat anything i didn’t want.  tonight i will celebrate passover in nyc with the enzer’s, as i have  since debbie moved to chicago. i will read, pray in hebrew, answer the question(s), have a good time with good people, and as always on passover, be missing mr. weinstein’s enormous laughter.

gut yontiff to all!


Breaking Bonds
To break the bonds of anger,
To live with gentle pride.

To break the bonds of shame,
To live with humble strength.

To break the bonds of envy,
To serve each other in joy.

To break the bonds of guilt,
To accept all G-d’s gifts.

To break the bonds of fear,
To love with fullness of heart.

To break the bonds of lust,
To love with fullness of being.

To break the bonds of loneliness,
To receive a hand of hope.

To break the bonds of neglect,
To reach out a hand of help.

To break the bond of tears,
To see with awe and wonder.

To break the bonds of loss,
To rejoice in all G-d’s works.

© 2011 Alden Solovy and All rights reserved.