Celebration Time!

It finally arrived, 2 years in the making, my MBA from New York University graduation ceremony. I celebrated by uncorking my *best* bottle of wine: a 2007 Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious. Delicious for two reasons: 1) it’s from Cakebread and this stuff never fails and 2) it was a long time coming. I bought the wine in 2008 at the Napa winery and promised to save it for a special moment. I think earning my MBA from NYU is a special occasion.

Graduating from NYU is a very special occasion and a lifelong dream for me. I grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire (Woodsville) and graduated high school in 1988. I was considered a “smart” kid; I graduated 2nd in my class of 88 students with an average of 98% (they didn’t even do GPA at our school). But I wasn’t just smart, I did extra stuff. I played sports every season: cross country in the fall, cross country skiing in winter, and softball in spring. I participated in the drama club, math league (which makes me laugh now because I’m numerically moronic) and was inducted into the honor society. I did a semester as an exchange student in Germany and spent a summer at St. Paul’s School summer accelerated learning program. I did everything right despite a total lack of support from my mother and bet all my chips that a good education would be the key to a better life. Given my screwed up home life, my teachers and administrators pegged me as a bet not worth taking. My mother wasn’t much of a person; a drunk, a drug addict and an all-round mean spirited person. She let me know, under no uncertain terms, that I was truly a burden to her and essentially worthless. I believe most of my teachers and school administrators agreed.

When it came time to choose a college, I had dreams of Princeton or Dartmouth (we were dirt poor so I knew school loans would be in my future). My father offered to send me to Millersville University in Pennsylvania and keep a 3.5 GPA and he’d foot the bill. Go anywhere else and I’d be on my own. I knew my mother would be no help and I knew my “guidance counselor” would be useless. His only interest was in the baseball players who were good enough to get scholarships to local colleges. So, I took the deal. An education in the hand is worth more than two in the bush I suppose. And I’ve regretted it ever since. I often wonder where and who I’d be today if I’d gone to a big name school. Would I have done something amazing, noteworthy or even relevant? I don’t know, but I know it was something I always wished I’d done.

So, at the age of 40 I made a choice to jump in and fulfill my dream and answer the question of “what if.” I took the GMAT (could I score high enough?), submitted my undergraduate transcripts (would they admit me even though I went to an unknown state school?), wrote some essays (would they think I was too average and boring?), pulled some recommendations together (did anyone even think I had it in me?), and crossed my fingers. And sure enough, the acceptance letter came and I finally got my dream; an education from a big name school.

So the question is “now what?” I got what I wanted but it’s up to me to do something with it. This is where all the doubts and voices from my youth tell me I’ll only be average on a good day. My dream now, is to show those voices who’s boss. I will not be average. I will be better and I will continue to get better even at the age of 41.

But I digress, back to the Cakebread wine. I drank it with a nice Italian meal that my husband and I can eat off for the next few days. I love those types of recipes, ones you can make one day and eat off for a few days later. Thank you to the Joy of Cooking for this one:
Johnny Marzetti Spaghetti Pie
Combine in a large pot:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (I used a red pepper but the green would be more colorful)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Place over medium-high heat and cook, breaking up the beef with a spoon, until it is browned and the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with 1/2 cup juice
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
I also added kalamata olives
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir into beef mixture:
1 pound spaghetti, ziti, or other pasta, cooked and well drained
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (4 ounces) (I used mozzarella)
Transfer to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Mix together well, and then sprinkle over the top:
1 cup fresh or dry bread crumbs
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar (again, I used mozzarella)
Bake until the top is lightly browned and the casserole is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Served it with a baby spinach and strawberry salad. Not too shabby for my first day of greatness.


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