Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

I don't think I ever associated the holiday season with anxiety dreams before. Maybe that says something about my Martha Stewart-esque organizational abilities. Or the fact that I don't really do much around the holidays anyway.

But last night. Ay yi yi. It might as well have been finals week in college. I had all the classics: I missed my flight, I read the calendar wrong, I couldn't find any of the presents I have hidden around the house, I never sent the cards....

I think it all started when I passed by the church yesterday and noticed an unusual amount of activity for a Wednesday afternoon. It wasn't until over an hour later that I realized it was Thursday, not Wednesday. Which meant the activity at the church was the extra confession hours they squeezed in this week. Of course by the time I figured this out, the extra confession session was over.

Damn- um, I mean, drat.

And I was doing pretty well up until yesterday, really. I even had a to-do list. Several of them.

I'm going to make a new list today, and this time it's going to be for real. No more screwing around with "do the laundry" or "find the dog." No. Today it's going to be strictly last-minute Christmas stuff. It will probably look something like this:

1. Go on Amazon.
2. Go on Amazon.
3. Go on Amazon.....


Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Two Cute Girls, One Great Hymn

Happy St Nicholas' Day!

Not sure I got the punctuation right up there, But you get the idea.

Today is the Feast of St Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children and sailors. In the U.S it's not a commonly observed holiday, but I have been doing it for about 25 years now. This is all my friend Maggie's fault.

At the time I was living in NYC. So was my friend Maggie, along with her three-year-old son. The rest of her family lived on the West Coast, so she was really on her own. She was born into a Catholic family but the family had pulled out of the church when she was still in grade school, so she was pretty clueless.

One day Maggie showed up at my door and said, "We have to start some Christmas traditions for my son. Do you know any?"

I thought about this. The only Christmas traditions I knew from my own childhood were hiding from my dad as he tried to sort out the Christmas lights and wondering why we bothered to hang up stockings, since nobody ever put anything in them.

"Nope," I said.

Being the writer types we are Maggie and I then did the only thing we knew how to do in such circumstances: we went to Barnes and Noble. Where we actually found a book called "How To Have A Traditional Family Christmas," or something very close to that.
And one of its recommendations was "celebrate St Nicholas Day!"

So we started having little St Nicholas Day parties. At first we let Maggie's little boy pick the menu for dinner (the book recommended this). But this proved to be so disgusting that we gave up on that after a couple of years. Then we introduced the annual making of the gingerbread houses. I baked the walls, Maggie brought the candy, we went wild. Do yo have any hipster friends you'd like to see cut loose once in a while? Invite them to a gingerbread house party. It's amazing how intense the competition gets.

Time passed, Maggie's son grew up, but we kept on celebrating St Nicholas Day. We started giving our annual Christmas party as close to the feast as possible, and always announced it as a St Nicholas party, not a Christmas party or, God forbid, a "holiday" party. We always had a full house.

We;re not giving the party this year. Having the back walls ripped off your house is a real obstacle to lavish entertaining. But we will definitely do something special for good old St Nick.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

It's Still New

Yesterday I went to the 5pm vigil mass. I love going to the vigil mass. It has so many advantages over the Sunday morning masses. It's easier to park, for one thing. For another there is no temptation to head down to the basement afterwards and snag one of those delicious thousand-calorie donuts they serve every other week. Best of all, in winter it makes Sunday the only day of the week when I don't have to shovel snow off my car at some ungodly hour in the morning. I do not know who came up with the idea of the Saturday vigil mass, but in my book the man is a saint.

Oh, one more benefit: you can very conveniently get your sorry sinner soul to confession right before mass. Which I decided to do yesterday.

So I'm standing on the confession line, leaning against the wall, and mass starts. My parish is particularly generous about confession times, and they will keep hearing confessions all through the mass if they have to. Everyone on line just participates in the mass as usual until it's his turn.

Only yesterday we all found out this no longer works. Without those new cheat=cards from the pews, none of us knew the words to the new translation yet. After a few flubbed "and also with yous" most of us on the line gave up. Except one man in front of me, who made a valiant attempt to steal a card from a nearby pew. This ticked off the people in the pew, so he put it back.

I was still standing on line when we got to the Creed (it was a long line). I wasn't even going to attempt the new Creed on my own. Especially when I noticed even the celebrant was peering at his big missal very carefully as he read the prayer.

Then I noticed something else; the words were completely familiar. Hey, I thought, this is exactly like the Apostle's Creed! I didn't know that was a new option now!

The people on the confession line glanced at each other-- Are you hearing what I'm hearing?- and then, hesitantly, joined in.

Of course at the end of mass the celebrant made an announcement: "So, did anybody figure out I turned the wrong page and read the wrong creed? Oops!"

My fellow parishioners, being the good-natured sorts they generally are, just laughed.

It's all worth it. It'll take a while, but it's all worth it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Big Excitement

There is big excitement here in the Desperate household. Yesterday we replaced our old broken-down sliding glass doors with (drum roll please) brand new French doors! And not just any French doors. The kind with the blinds built in. You know, between the two layers of glass.

Impressed? Huh? Huh?

We did not do this for reasons of style, although "style is, of course, Desperate's middle name. We did this because a few months ago we noticed the non-glass part of the sliding glass door was actually split, from top to bottom. If you yanked the handle hard enough-- and you had to yank it hard, otherwise it wouldn't open- half the frame took a second to catch up with the other half. And none of us could work up any enthusiasm for a winter with the wind whistling through the split door.

So, a trip to Menards, a phone call to the priceless Chad, carpenter extraordinaire, and voila! New door!

The best thing about all this is we can now go in and out through our back door. Which we couldn't, with the old door. The old door only locked from the inside. We had to lock the back door and then go out through the front. Then whenever I parked the car int eh garage- which is behind the house- I had to walk around to the front so I could open the back door to bring the groceries in. It was complicated. And annoying.

So you can imagine my joy today. In, out! In, out! WHENEVER I FRACKIN' FEEL LIKE IT!

I know, I know. You're jealous, aren't you?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Price of Fame

I just got word that this guy is following me on Twitter. Any comments?

"haifabains456 @haifabains456 is now following you (@SusanVigilante).

Are you a young guy that wants an older hot girl? please follow me. http://qqurl.in/eOQKVM "

I Got My First Present Already!

Knowing my devotion to Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," Sophia gave me the official Ralphie-in-the-pink-bunny-suit ornament yesterday. It looks perfect on the tree.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this classic, here is the relevant scene. And I can never type "relevant" without hearing Shepherd's rant on the word, on WOR Radio in New York. (I was hiding under the blankets with my transistor radio listening every night.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Translation Day

DIH normally hits the 11 am mass on Sundays. But for once she's thinking seriously about hitting the 5 o'clock this afternoon.

Why? Because I want to be among the first to screw up new responses.

Anyone of a certain age knows how long it took to get used to the translation of the mass that officially dies today. Anyone with a rudimentary education, and mine is nothing if not rudimentary, knows how irritating it was to have to translate "Credo" as "we believe." I mean, come on. Sister Gerarda would have torn me a new one for a gaff like that. Seriously- the dumbest kid in my Latin class would could tell a first person singular from a first person plural! Sheesh.

And anyone of the crabby nature knows how annoying all those little "pep talks" we've been getting for the past year on the new translation have been. "Now, see, everyone? You've been doing it WRONG all these years!" And how we had to suppress the "Yeah, we know, Einstein, but it was all your idea, not ours" type of response.

So today we start the new translation. It's about time. I will do my best but I am sure the occasional "And also with you--oops,, I meant to say 'and with your spirit,' sorry" will slip past her lips.

For which she begs her pewmates' pardon in advance.

But I'm trying. Try to remember that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lately I've been counting my blessings. I figured the fact that I wasn't counting them often enough explained why I'm usually such a crab. So here are a few of my faves.

Hot running water. No kidding, is this awesome or what? You turn a handle, it comes out all nice and warm and there's so much of it! Anyone who grew up in a house with five siblings and no hot water tank will understand how I feel about this.

Warm weather for Thanksgiving! It must be 50 degrees here in Minneapolis today! This, by the way, is more like my idea of Thanksgiving. This is how I remember all those D.C. Thanksgivings. THIS IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

Between a good-natured labrador, my sweet Bella, and a ferocious miniature pinscher-- Mitzi-- I have the canine spectrum covered. P.s.-- any would-be burglars out there who are contemplating a raid, I leave you to Mitzi. She will deal with you.

Next week I am finally getting my back door replaced. No more dislocating my shoulder every time I try to "slide" this "sliding door " open. Thank you. God!

Those wonderful Peppermint Joe Joe's are back at Trader Joe's for the season. I wait for them all year long, and now they're here. Nirvana.

And most of all: for yet another year I have dodged the bullet and I am not cooking for Thanksgiving. I intend to make this trend last the rest of my life. This may necessitate making a few new friends who will invite me over. Hence my decision to work on this "crab" thing.

So-- how am I doing?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ode for St. Cecilia's Day

In honor of the feast of this lovely saint, a few words from one of my favorite Cecilias.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Snowfall Serenade

Thanks to Terry Teachout for this one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Last Chance

Today is the last day of fall. I repeat, the last day. As of tomorrow morning winter moves in in all its wet and freezing foulness.

Please remove all lawn ornaments, garden hoses and anything that could suggest you might still be happy to be outdoors from your property immediately.

Thank you. And sorry about this.

-God

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Season of Giving

It's that time of year when we start dropping off cans of food at various spots, to help stock the various local food banks. At our church we do this throughout the year, But yesterday my favorite pizza place announced if you dropped off a non-perishable food item they'd give you a few dollars off your favorite pizza.

Well, you don't have to twist my arm to get me to my favorite pizza place anyway. But offer me a deal like this and I'll stand in line for hours. Even in the cold and wind. Which was the weather last night.

As always when an appeal for canned food and the like goes out I head for my pantry shelves and select a suitable item. This is not as easy as it sounds, as my pantry shelves are stocked with things like maraschino cherries and black olives. (Come on, you never know when you're going to need a maraschino cherry, am I right?)

But I can usually come up with a canned item or two that is rumored to have more nutritional value. That's when I make the mistake of reading the expiration date on the can, and find out the item's shelf life expired in October or 2010.

But last night I found two cans of cannellini beans that just expired two weeks ago. Well, I said to myself. How bad can they be? I mean, come on, two weeks. Not exactly a big deal.

My first thought was to cook up a batch of some nice Italian-style soup, preferably involving escarole. But epicurious.com failed to inspire, and allrecipes.com refused to recognize the word "cannellini." So I kept digging.

I eventually found a recipe for a soup that involves chicken and cannellini and canned tomatoes. I have decided to chance it.

Unless anyone out there has any serious warnings about expired cannellini.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Then Reasons Why Kicking the OWS Crowd Out of Zucotti Park Was A Mistake

10. The guys who were cooking up a batch of bubonic plague down there will never get to see if the stuff worked.

9. Bad as the park smelled, Janitor in a Drum smells worse.

8. Protestors are confused: does this mean they have to get jobs now?

7. And does that make Working for the Man a good thing? Or a bad thing?

6. Ja-Z had just signed on a killer Chinese factory to make his tee shirts.

5. CBS News now may be forced to cover something else.

4. Ditto the New York Times.

3. Santa won't know where to look for half his "Naughty" list.

2. Soup kitchens thought they might catch a break at Thanksgiving this year for a change, but no-ooooo...

and

1. Bob Dylan will be disappointed and may even feel the need to release another Christmas album.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Desperate Hours

Still trying to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count. At the moment it's not looking so good.

This is my excuse for not blogging so much lately. Which is better than using "blogging too much" for lagging on the novel's word count.

There are still two weeks left in November, right? So I still have a chance, right?

I should hire some cheerleaders....

Friday, November 11, 2011

And Happy Corduroy Day!

11-11-11. A corduroy lover's dream.

Happy Nigel Tufnel Day

Today everything goes to eleven!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Winter Awareness, Con't.

REMEMBER: Beware the sneak heat wave!

Just In Case You Haven't Checked Your Calendar (Or, Your Tax Dollars At Work)

Or the weather. Or the nearly-bare trees, or those fat furry little caterpillars that keep crawling across the sidewalk.

My fellow Minnesotans. Did you know that-- drum roll please--

Winter is coming?

That's right. Just when you least expect it. Somewhere toward the end of that cute cat calendar you got at Barnes and Noble there's a page marked "December." Even more sinister is the one before that, marked "November." November is the sneaky one. Remember that. Never trust November any further than you can throw it.

How can we know what to expect?

Luckily for you, the State of Minnesota has declared November 7-11 to be Winter Awareness Week. Or more fully, Winter Hazard Awareness Week. WHAW.

No kidding, there's an official website. From the opening paragraph:

"The cold and snowy season is almost here and the question is – are you ready for it? To make sure everyone is, HSEM--" [that's Homeland Security, folks-- everyone knows the dastardly plans terrorists have for winter weather]"-- is again sponsoring Winter Hazard Awareness Week.ˆ"

Isn't that decent of them? They're making sure everyone knows what time of the year it is! Because if the State of Minnesota didn't tell you, how would you know? What, you're gonna rely on that old "see how furry the wooly caterpillars are" trick? Everyone knows you can't trust a wooly caterpillar!

But I feel safer now. More aware. Less completely clueless about the seasons.

"The week is a dedicated information campaign designed to educate and remind people of the most common hazards associated with winter and practical tips on how to avoid them."


The most practical tip, of course, would be "Move. Somewhere south." Followed closely by "We're really, really sorry we thought this would be a good place to set up a state."

"At some point every winter, temperatures in Minnesota drop below zero." No kidding. I like that "at some point" part. I guess it's more tactful than "about a dozen times, sometimes for days at a time. You're gonna love it."

"Naturally, the best way to avoid any danger is to stay indoors in a well heated environment." Well. I'll only believe that if a real live climate scientist wrote it. Did a scientist write that? Credentials, please?



"But if you do feel the need to venture outdoors, make sure you take proper precautions and know how to spot the signs of frostbite and hypothermia." Also "death." They left out "death." It helps entertain the kiddies if you can also properly identify the following: snowmen, skating rinks, and anyone without snow tires. But you want to keep your distance from that last group. Stupid is catching.

And to make it all more fun, they are sponsoring a Photo Contest. They're calling it "What's Your Winter?"

"The public is invited to show us how they enjoy their safe winter by sharing their best digital photos throughout the season."

The winner of last year's contest- youth division- can be viewed on the website.

It is a picture of some snow.

Now say it with me, everyone: We love living in Minnesota. We really, really do!

Monday, November 07, 2011

TopTop Ten Reasons Why "Occupy Wall Street" Is A Good Thing

10. Living in tents reminds us why mankind developed better shelters.

9. The "Save the Sexually Transmitted Diseases" movement gets a real shot in the arm. (ba-dum-bum.)

8. Proof that if you wait long enough someone will show up with a steam table and a chafing dish.

7. Six weeks of OWS drumming has done more to revitalize music education programs than years of begging and whining. (Why didn't the teachers' unions think of this?)

6. Compared to OWS'ers, Conan O'Brien's beard doesn't look so seedy after all.

5. L.L. Bean now looks positively classy.

4. Lack of a catchy theme song offers job opportunities for aspiring songwriters everywhere. Create jobs!

3. Debbie Wasserman Schulz has clearly had a chance to share her hairstylist. More job opportunities.

2. Anyone who misses Times Square in the seventies can take a walk down memory lane, a

and


1. At last this guy's musical genius is known to the world:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

All Souls' Day

So what do you do for the souls in Purgatory?

When as I was little grade school kid, one of our teachers told us that when you pray for the souls in Purgatory, they are so grateful that when they get to Heaven they will happily pray for you.

As my life progressed and it became clearer and clearer that I was going to need all the heavenly help I could get, I made it a point to offer little sacrifices for the Holy Souls.

But I kept losing track of things. So finally, one day about 25 years ago, I came up with a plan: henceforth I would have three standing sacrifices that i would offer for the Holy Souls. Two things I have to do on a regular basis- so there's volume right there- and that I really don't like to do (the sacrifice part). And the third thing I only do once a year but I really hate it.

Since today is All Souls', I thought I would share my master plan for releasing all the poor guys in Purgatory.

The two things: a) pump gas into my car, a tedious exercise at best but in the winter it really sucks, and b) blow dry my hair.

Anyone out there love to blow dry their hair?

I didn't think so.

The third thing I usually do at the beginning of Lent, thereby making it a twofer on the sacrifice front: get a dental checkup. Being the generous sort I am I also throw in any subsequent dental work. One year I had some godawful root canals that I am sure had Purgatory temporarily empty.

So I offer these ideas to you, my fellow Catholics who are hoping one day someone will pray you out of Purgatory, too.

Which I am pretty sure includes most of us.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The First of November

A better Catholic blogger than myself would take this opportunity to blog about the saints.

November first, after all, is All Saints' Day. A day that, for many of us, signals the beginning of the holiday season. A day that sees many more of us frantically scanning our parish websites, trying to find out if All Saints' is a holy day of obligation in our particular diocese or not. This is assuming we can remember what diocese we live in, after the sugar shock hangover of Halloween.

And in fact the better sort of Catholic bloggers are all writing about the saints today. Check out The Anchoress, or Happy Catholic, or Julie over at Conversion Diary. Those dames know how to do it.

As for me, November First is a day of reckoning. The day when I examine my life and conclude, Sooner or later, Desperate, you're gonna have to quit watching the funny dog videos on YouTube and sign up for NaNoWriMo.

Which, and I am trembling as I write this, I just did.

Yes, it's National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo, and that's the last time I capitalize those initials. Nanowrimo, the challenge to writers al over he world to produce a complete novel by the end of the month.

Some writers plan ahead. They have a plot outlined and everything, and they just blast through with their first draft. This, to my mind, is cheating. I think all Nanowrimo-ers should be like me, clueless and optimistic, with just a dash of panic thrown in. Fairly sure this effort will not do a damn thing for our careers. Well, okay, there's the wild hope, but it's a wild one.

But what the heck, right? A novel in a month. Why not? Hiroshima was destroyed in like an hour, right? Give me a month and I promise to do the same for the English language and all its rich literary tradition.

Wish me luck, reader.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I wonder what my fellow attendees of the Vatican Bloggers' Meeting would say if they knew how much I love Halloween.

Part of it is climate. I have lived all of my life in northern places (I'm counting Virginia as northern. Sorry, CSA.). In the fall everything dies. Sure, the leaves go out with a blaze of glory- I love fall leaves, to a point beyond reason- but face it' it's all going downhill. Those gorgeous reds and golds? They're a death rattle.

So thousands of years ago man looked around and said to himself, "Everything is dying. This can't be good." It stands to reason his thoughts would turn a little gloomy.

Flash forward to the days of Christianity. Christians celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1. How long do you figure it was before somebody asked himself, "It's one thing to throw a party for the saints, but mightn't there be, um, gate-crashers? And wouldn't it be a good idea to, you know, ward them off if we can?"

Bingo. All Hallows' Eve, the ultimate velvet-rope=and-bouncers holiday. Carve your scary pumpkin and relax, there's no way wondering spirits are getting past that.

Worried cavemen, nervous Christians, what's not to love? Throw in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and a couple of tell-tale organs and voila, you've got yourself a gathering around the campfire. Which is a party in my book.

I know many of my fellow Christians have reservations about Halloween. Many of them I think are well founded. I hate slasher movies for the most part. I'm not real keen on the blood and gore that Hollywood thinks is an autumn theme. I object to that stuff, too.

But I don't object to the ghostly stuff. I like graveyards. I like ghost stories. I don't think there's anything unchristian about ghost stories, either. There are ghosts in the Bible. What about Saul summoning up the Witch of Endor? Huh? And if the apostles had never heard anything about ghosts, why did the post-resurrection Jesus have to prove to them He wasn't one, by asking for something to eat? Huh? Huh? What about that, huh?

It's the end of the growing season. Everything is dying. In a few weeks we'll be buried in the dead cold snow.

Let's party while we can. Boo, baby!

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Thermos Challenge

As I type this my daughter is taking part in the annual Rosary Procession over in St Paul. In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (that's today) all the schoolkids in the archdiocese walk about a mile to the Cathedral, praying the rosary as they go. We got an email yesterday that said this meant lunch at school would be a little late, so make sure your kid eats a decent breakfast (Sophia is not a big breakfast girl) and brings a water bottle for the hike. Oh, and after walking a mile inteh brisk wind they'll probably e pretty hungry, so pack a good lunch. Since it's significantly cooler today than it's been all week, I thought today would be a good day for a thermos lunch. So this morning I heated up leftovers from last night and filled the lunch-sized thermos I bought at Costco last week. Now the only thing that could go wrong with this thermos is Sophia might not be able to get it open. This happened the last time I sent her to school with a (much cheaper) thermos. Apparently every adult in the school- custodians, teachers, hapless visitors-- tried to pry it open and failed. We never did get the thing open again. I finally threw it in the trash, with the "hot lunch" presumably still hot inside it. I admit I have a thing about thermoses. The idea that you can tote your own hot food with you when you go out and not have to buy McDonalds has great appeal. Feeds the body, and the ego- in the "look how healthy I'm being!" sense. But I must also conclude the thermoses in my life have not been very reliable. The glass liners broke, the tops got lost, they leaked. Maybe I just have bad thermos karma, I don't know. But today I'm giving it another shot. Optimism is my middle name. Our Lady of the Rosary, please help my kid pry the top off the damn thing at lunchtime.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs, RIP

If it weren't for Steve Jobs, I might have had to learn some kind of computer language. DOS or whatever. But I was spared that agony because i have been, from the first, a Mac girl. I can still remember our first Mac. An ugly little box of a thing, with a tiny screen and a dangling mouse. And of course our dot matrix printer. But with each new generation of MAcs- at least the ones that sprung up when we had any income- we advanced with Apple. I had one of Apple's firs laptops- they were grey bak then, with little "feet" you could roll down to make the screen stand at a more visible angle. Later I got one of those clamshell jobs- mine was orange. Stylish. Really stood out in a crowd. The beauty of the Mac was that you could be a technophobe like me and still do just about anything on a computer. I think Yo Yo Ma said it best. Rest in Peace, Steve.

Too Weird for Words

I refer, of course, to our unseasonalby warm weather here in the MiniApple. Yesterday it was 86 degrees. 86! In October! In Minnesota! While everyone is happy to be out jogging and biking ad whatnot, I notice many are also keeping a sharp lookout for four horsemen. Others are sending apologetic notes to Al Gore. (We're sorry we didn't believe you, Al!) Still others are doing a brisk trade in used lawn furniture. Our little family loves to eat outdoors. When we were looking for a place to live we turned down one lovely- and nicely priced, with everything already renovated- house because it was too near the noise of the highway. How could we linger over dinner with the sounds of 394 roaring in our ears? So we bought the house we're in now. No highway noise. But lots of dead oak leaves falling into your food and squirrels hurling acorns at your head. Hey, at least it's natural. As for me I am taking advantage of the lovely weather by running around in circles. Literally. Around the lake near my house. Which is usually half-frozen by now, but as of today is still in liquid form. Weird.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Decorating Ideas

My more stylish neighbors have been working on their fall landscaping. So far I've counted about fifteen pumpkin-and-hay decorating schemes. One neighbor has at least twelve pumpkins piled up alongside her walkway. I wonder how long it will be before the squirrels turn the display into the food fight scene from "Animal House." I give it a week. As for me, I have a big basket of mums plunked down on the front steps. I didn't put it there; a friend did. I think I'm supposed to water it from time to time. Which is more than I've done for the lawn in about eight weeks. I gave up on the lawn a long time ago. It's riddled with creeping charlie and blasted buckthorn shoots, so what's the point? I keep it clipped, but that's about it. Still with the bite of fall in the air I start getting ideas. Wouldn't it be nice, I find myself musing, to come home to one of those glowing fall displays? You know, the ones on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Flaming foliage and golden yellow flowers. Some dark grey rocks for contrast. No cute scarecrows, I don't do scarecrows. A headless horseman I wouldn't mind. Literary reference, you know. Helps educate the local schoolchildren. All right, I want to know: does anybody out there really have a yard like Better Homes and Gardens? And if so do you do anything else with your life? Or does it take up every moment? Because I'm starting to think landscaping must be either a profession or an obsession, or maybe both.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Update From the Hood

There's been a little mystery cooking in my back yard. For two or three weeks now, my very precise nose has been picking up whiffs of natural gas. Not in the house, mind you. Only when I'm standing in the middle of the back yard. Hm, I says to myself. I suppose I should call the gas company. But I've been putting it off, mainly because most of the times I find myself in the middle of the yard I'm on my way to the garage, to run some errand or other. And you know how it is when you call the gas company, you're waiting around forever. The other reason being that whenever you call to report the smell of gas, they tell you, "Open all your windows and get out of the house." Well, I was already out of the house. And if I opened all the windows I'd only be letting the gas in. A dilemma, no? So the other day a bunch of friends and I are hanging out on the patio, enjoying one of the last reasonably not freezing days of the fall, and someone says, "I smell gas." "I know," I sigh. "It's not coming from the house. I don't know what the deal is- it's a mystery." "Oh, no mystery," pipes up one friend. "You've got a meth lab in the neighborhood." Now, this friend will tell you proudly she is from "North of 694." (Another Minnesota friend explains the local to me thusly: "You know, one of those places you go there and 'Dueling Banjos' starts playing in your head.") So I figure she should know from meth labs. [Hey- did you see how I said "cooking" in the first paragraph? Get it? "Cooking?" Foreshadowing!] So now I'm not sure what to do. I suppose the next time I smell gas out there I could look around and see who has their windows open. Or I could throw a party and invite a lot of DEA agents. Or I could just call Feds and ask how they're planning on coming up with the cash to keep operating this week, and see if they start acting all evasive. You never know.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another Day, Another Gala

It's just me and the dogs awake in the house at the moment, and I am surrounded by crates. In the crates are rented dishes, rented glasses, rented tablecloths, etc. We're having a party tonight. We are going to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and it just dawned on me: I must be a Minnesotan at last. Because we're having the party in the garden, and it will be barely 50 degrees. In my former life this kind of thing would be called "lunacy." But I've begun to accept it as relatively normal. Relative to what, you ask? Relative to ice-fishing. See? Oh, we'll have a heat source or two out there. A bonfire (what's a classy party without a bonfire?) and one of those patio heater things. And it's not like we're locking people out of the house, they can come in whenever they want. But since the current plan is to put the bar in the garden, and knowing the crowd I run with, my guess is most partygoers will opt for outside. Anyway, if I come down with bronchial pneumonia at least it will be in a happy setting. And I can hardly wait for the bonfire.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Sports Mom

I never thought I'd say this, but I think I'm in danger of becoming one of those horrible sports parents. You know the ones I mean. The ones with all the opinions. The ones who yell at coaches and criticize their own kids for less-than-Olympic performance. They're always there in the bleachers, pontificating or swearing or threatening to pull their kids off the court if the coach makes on more "mistake." I don't think I'm that bad, yet. But I was a little worried at the surge of glee I felt last night, when I saw that the team the Holy Family Academy Crusaders was made up entirely of fourth grades. Little, short ones. Nowhere near as tall as half our girls. I looked at those cute little fourth graders and I thought, Hm. Our team has a few sixth-graders on it. We could murder these runts! Not a charitable thought, or even a sporting one. But still. Our team doesn't win all that much. I thought it would be good for the children's self-esteem. Not to mention mine. Anyway we did wipe out the first team we played. Then we ran into a notorious volleyball powerhouse, and , well, they wiped us out in the first two games. You win again, Holy Name of Jesus. Yeah, you think that bothers us? We weren't even surprised! How do you like that, huh?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Annals of the Writing LIfe

Heard this on the radio the other day It struck me as a pretty good description of how it is when you're between projects. Writers out there will understand. As for you non-writers-- you lucky dogs!-- remember this movie?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Time

We are well into September now, which means the first frost is maybe two weeks away and everyone is getting their vegetables in from their gardens while the sun still shines. Last week a sweet friend gave me a homegrown zucchini that could take out Baghdad, easy. And down at ye olde farmer's market under the interstate, the eggplant are in and the tomatoes, well, the tomatoes. Probably shouldn't get started on those. So I head down to the farmer's market, thinking it 's time to make the massive batch of ratatouille I make every year around this time. And I see what looks like a nice little basket of melanzane for eight bucks. The tiny Hmong lady takes my cash and fetches a plastic bag the size of an industrial trash can, dumps the basketful of veggies in, and hands it to me. I heft the bag onto my shoulder and stagger. I must have bought forty pounds of eggplant. No matter, I thought, I'll just have a lot of ratatouille this year. Now where are the zucchini? Answer: not at the farmer's market. Or, it seems, anywhere else. My sweet friend's monster zucchini is the only one I can find. I don't know if anyone out there has experienced the horror of standing back and getting a good look at the results of not thinking too clearly at the farmer's market. Produce takes over your kitchen. Neighbors stick their heads in just for a good laugh. Before long you're dreaming about eggplant. Ever dream about eggplant? It's not pretty. Let me put it in plain English: DOES ANYONE NEED ANY EGGPLANT? I know where you can get some cheap!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Week One, Done

The first full week of school draws to a close today. Let's review our experiences, shall we?

Total lunches prepared: zero. Daughter is keen on making her own. Oh please, God, let this one last.

Total uniforms laid out the night before: also zero. Every since daughter was promoted to the "big girls'" uniform- pleated skirt and oxford shirt, as opposed to boxy jumper and Peter Pan collars that never stayed down, she is also keen on handling this task on her own. Please, please, pleeeeease let this one last.

Total carpool miles logged: God knows. Compared to the other ladies in the carpool line, most of whom have at least four kids, I know my mileage would look wimpy. Still I reserve my right to grumble.

Total "hey, I'm not the one who has to play volleyball, keep track of your own darn kneepads" speeches: also zero.

Alright this one has me a little on edge. Ten days of school completed and no lectures given make Mom a dull Mom. What if daughter behaves this way all year? What if I lose my edge? Then what?

What, indeed?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Woman v. Clutter, Con't.

I got a note from a lady who is a professional declutterer the other day. Sally at
A Good Sort read my previous post and remarked, "It sounds like you're off to a good start."

That's right, people. A decluttering PROFESSIONAL gave DIH the thumbs up!

So naturally I went to Sally's website to see what else she had to say. Imagine how my blood ran cold when I saw she actually had advice on how to deal with your overstuffed Tupperware drawer. The only method I've ever come up with is the "run away screaming" technique.

But Sally never even mentioned screaming. A Good Sort is full of metal health. I gotta hand it to you, Sally. Anyone who declutters for a living must be a regular Zen Buddhist compared to women like me.

Anyway here's the link

http://agoodsort.com/

for Sally's website. Take a look and take a few deep breaths. It'll be good for your soul, I promise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Decluttering

For the past few days I have been "decluttering" my house. And I must admit I'm disappointed.

Anyone who's ever dropped by the old Desperate homestead know that yours turly is not exactly a fanatic when it comes to housekeeping. Good Lord, what a waste of time. When I could be watching "Law and Order" reruns or staring vacantly into space? Please.

But something sparked a decluttering spree a few days ago. I forget what. Maybe I thought I would find a pile of cash or my old iPod Touch. Whatever it was, it got me going. And now I'm finding it hard to stop.

Check this out:

Kitchen junk drawers-- DONE! All five of 'em!

Laundry room- DONE! (Note to self, stop buying gallon-sized Windex. Have six.)

Bathroom cabinets- DONE! (Note #2 to self: stop buying makeup. Or buy three new faces, either one.)

This may not sound like a lot of decluttering but trust me, it filled many a trash bag.

So now in addition to staring vacantly into space I have a new pastime: staring at my cleared-out kitchen drawers. Which, I have concluded, is nowhere near as satisfying as all those decluttering articles led me to believe it would be.

Moral of the story: if you get the urge to declutter, go on and do it, but it is not the path to inner peace. I still think that lies with the "Law and "order" reruns. You might be a slob, but hey, at least you're no mass murdered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

...And Tomorrow's

WASHINGTON- A panel of clinicians, psychoanalysts and other authorities has recommended that health plans cover a broad range of sunblocks, sunscreens and parasols for nudists without copayments.

The IONA/ON, or Institute of Nudists and/or Naturalists, has recommended that American nudists be provided with the protection their situation requires.

"Nudism is a natural state and as such involves certain health risks," says Dr. Marie "Buffy" Jacobs, president of the Gypsy Rose Lee Federation of Naturalists. "Skin cancer is a big risk. And windburn? Have you ever had a really bad windburn? Ay yi yi."

"Nudists are protected by the Constitution just like everyone else," says Dr. Sigmund Sigfried of the IONA/A. "And heaven knows they've had enough harassment from those pesky 'right to privacy' people. In case no one's noticed the Constitution also protects the right to self-expression. Somewhere. I'm like totally sure."

In addition to various skincare products, the IONA/ON plan also recommends the institution of nationwide network of hedges and other protective cover. "People see a couple of naked guys in the bushes and they make, well, certain assumptions," says Dr. Sigfried. "We want to dispel the notion that all naked people crawling around int the greenery are looking for spare change and returnable bottles. Some of us are just taking a break. You know?"

Dr. Jacobs said she would not rest until nudists are given the free health care they deserve. "I let public pressure force me into clothes for years," she declared. "They day I decided I would no longer allow my essence to be obscured was the greatest day of my life. Also the chilliest, as I recall, but that's normal at first. It's a cold world out there."

The panel said it would consider recommending portable personal heaters, paid for by the taxpayers, in the near future.

Today's News

"Panel Supports Free Birth Control

WASHINGTON - An independent panel of doctors and health experts recommended Tuesday that health plans cover a broad range of contraceptives for women without copayments, setting the stage for another debate over the impact of the health care overhaul.

The law that President Obama signed last year requires new health plans to cover many preventive health services without copayments or deductibles for patients, a key provision that experts believe will encourage more Americans to get recommended immunizations, cancer screenings and other services.

But the law directed the Department of Health and Human Services to seek input from clinicians and other authorities about which additional services should be covered for women.

That prompted the report Tuesday from the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences that provides guidance to policymakers.

Among eight recommendations, the IOM panel urged coverage for "the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling."

With close to half of all pregnancies unplanned in the United States, many experts see easy access to contraception as critical to women's and babies' health."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On The Index

The current temperature here in Minneapolis is somewhere in the low nineties, but the Heat Index is telling us it feels like 116.

I never heard of the heat index until today. All my life all I've ever heard is "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" and all complaints were left at that. But now I have a real scientific tool to refer to whenever I want to kvetch about the summer weather.

So we're in the midst of a heat and humidity wave that is not expected to break until tomorrow night. Time for a pop quiz:

True or False: DIH's air conditioning is broken.

Ha! Trick question. Only half my A/C is on the fritz. I can keep it running on the first floor, but not upstairs. As a result the current temperature in my bedroom is 90 degrees. I know because I just checked. Also the varnish is melting off the bannister. Checked that, too, but not on purpose.

So tonight, once again, we will all be camping out on the porch with the dogs. It's not exactly comfortable and it's definitely on the hairy side, but at least we will be able to breathe.

And no, I still do not wish it was winter again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Gardening, Con't.

The City of Minneapolis has decided to give me a present. They have planted a little sapling tree on the strip of lawn that separates the sidewalk from the street, right in front of my house.

They also left me a note. "Please take care of your new baby tree. Baby trees need an amount of watering that will astound you. Please make sure Little Tree gets her water!"

At first I thought, They're kidding, right? They can see my front yard, for god's sake. They can see the crispy brown "lawn" and the shriveled daylilies, can't they? And they want me to water this thing?

Well, I took a walk around the neighborhood the other day, and I discovered quite a few of my neighbors have received the precious gift of new arboreal life.

But guess what?

They also got Treegators.

A Treegator, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of encountering one, is a kind of enormous plastic sack that comes halfway up the base of the tree. The sack is filled with something like 50 gallons of water. The City refills the sacks when Little Trees have drunk them down. This keeps the Little Tree alive and lets it grow into a Big Tree.

So my question is, Where the hell is my Treegator?

What, I don't rate? I have to know somebody? Or do I have to call the powers that be downtown and spell it out for them: "If you don't put a 'Gator on this sapling pronto you can expect to be clearing firewood in the fall."

Listen up Minneapolis: this is Desperate talking. I AM NO GOOD WITH PLANTS. I have killed every shrub, every evergreen, every annual I have ever tried to make grow. This is spite of water and weeding plant food and loving- ok, grudging attention.

That the City would see my yard and still stick me with a baby tree amounts to nothing less than Baby Tree Abuse (BTA). Unless the City wants that on its conscience they'd better send somebody 'round right now. I cannot be responsible for the wellbeing of this little tree. It's a disaster in the making.

Ask any plant on my property.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Morning After

Yesterday my parish celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi. A bang-up wrap-up to the Easter season, Corpus Christi celebrates what Flannery O'Connor called "the center of existence for me." That's right, folks, the Eucharist. The Biggest of Big Deals, the whole enchilada, the reason you have life in you. It's a major, major feast.

Yes, I realize it's also a city in Texas. A very pretty one from what I hear. But let's move on.

I don't remember Corpus Christi being observed with any particular fanfare when I was growing up. This is probably just as well, since in the 1970s the average Catholic church's idea of "fanfare" was a couple of extra guitars and some colorful balloons. (Yes, balloons. Don't get me started on that godawful fad.)


Lately, though, a lot of parishes are trying out a return to older customs for the feast. The most obvious of which, I guess, is a Eucharistic procession after the high mass.

A Eucharistic procession is when the priest carries the monstrance outside the church and walks around the block, while the congregation follows, singing hymns. I don't imagine many Americans have ever seen one. Which accounts for the funny looks you get from people watering their lawns on a Sunday morning as you process past.

At first I wasn't going to go along with the procession. I figured I'd stay discreetly behind in the church, waiting for everyone to return so e we could have Benediction and a celebratory picnic. But then my dear friend Jay, following the parade with his family, spotted me lurking in the shadows and dragged me along. Since Jay is such a good sport about all the guff I give him for belonging to Opus Dei, I thought it only polite to acquiesce.

If you're not used to processions, and I'm not, it's a strange experience. Strolling along a public street singing with a bunch of her fellow Catholics is something DIH normally only does on St Patrick's Day, and even then only with the aid of an adult beverage or two. But once I got past the lawn-waterers I started to get into it.

I mean, ask yourself: is the Eucharist the reason you have life in you, or is it just some old custom? Which do you really believe?

It's the kind of question you don't deal with head-on every day. The Feast of Corpus Christi sort of forces your hand.

So? What's your answer?

I'll leave it to my readers to discuss. In the meantime, a public note of thanks:

Dear Lawn-Waterers,

On behalf of my fellow processioners, I'd like to thank you for your hospitality yesterday. I know we were an odd sight, and I know (oh boy, do I know) that the spectacle of Catholics singing is enough to feed the grain of atheism in any man. Thank you for not throwing tomatoes. Thank you for just watching and wondering "What the hell are those weirdos up to now?" And thank you for keeping the neighborhood nice and green.

Yours truly,

Desperate

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk

Actor Peter Falk died earlier today, of Alzheimer's disease. When I think of him I think of this scene. The man was hilarious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Home Improvement, Con't.

Daughter, self and canines are currently holed up in the upstairs bedroom, hiding from our living room. More precisely we are hiding from the chaos that was once our living room.

Our carpenter friend is carving holes in our living room ceiling in order to install recessed lighting. This has been a dream of mine since, well, ever since we moved in, I guess. I figure with better lighting we'll actually be able to read in the living room in the long winter evenings without resorting to those silly strap-on-your-head lights from the Brookstone catalog. Since the living room is where the fireplace is, and Minnesota winter nights are long and coooooold, I'm very excited about the new lighting.

The problem, of course, as every homeowner knows, is once you improve one thing in your house everything else starts to look kind of shabby. Your furniture, for instance. Or your windows. Or in my case, if I happen to step outside, the roof, the landscaping, the front steps...

One must resist the urge to do too much too soon. For all I know next year shabby steps and jungle gardening may be all the rage. In the meantime I plan on basking in the recessed lighting as soon as it's finished. Heck, I may even buy a sofa.

Where I'd be without Craig's List, I have no idea....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Home Improvements: Great Idea or Invitation to Disaster?

It's the latter. Easily.

Earlier this week I embarked on a modest home improvement course. I shopped consignment shops, mined Craig's List, and ultimately bought a nice new-to-me coffee table for the living room.

Which, of course, succeeded in making all my other furniture look even worse than usual.

I tried rearranging the furniture. Which made all my furniture look crappy in different places.

Then the unthinkable happened: I started thinking about my living space. And I came up with ideas.

It was all downhill from there. As of last night I was sort-of committed to about a grand worth of home improvements.

So naturally- and it's important to note cause and effect here- this morning, the labrador totally blew out her knee.

Estimated cost of vet repair: $3,000.

The moral of the story is never improve your home. Or if you must, make sure you don't have any dogs first.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just So You Get The Idea

I couldn't find a YouTube of any classic goings-on at the Drones Club, but here's Bertie Wooster singing one of their favorite songs. Maybe you'll see what I mean.

The Tonys

The Anchoress put up this clip from this morning. From the Tonys the other night.

I thought it would be weird seeing Harry Potter as Robert Morse, but that wasn't what struck me in this clip. It's the choreography. It looks as if they hired the social director of the Drones Club to work it out. Which come to think of it wouldnt' have been a bad idea.

Come on, can anyone watch this and not think of the Drones?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Now Here's A Lovely Email

"Dear Susan Vigilante,

We have detected suspicious activity on your Facebook account and have temporarily suspended your account as a security precaution.

You can regain control of your account by logging into Facebook and following the on-screen instructions.

For more information, visit our Help Center...

Thanks,
Facebook Security Team."

Oh dear I do hope Congressman Weiner hasn't been sending out more photos.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Woe is Weiner

OK. Time to talk about this sad affair.

When Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York Times) spent he las week denying he had sent anyone any lewd photos of himself on Twitter, he did a classic thing. He turned around and accused his accusers. Anyone who dared question his credibility was treated to a vicious counter attack. It was your basic "this is all YOUR fault" weenie response.

Now that he's come clean, or at least cleanish, about the photos, everyone has a theory about a) why he did it and b) why he lied about it. So far I haven't seen any theories about why he got away with blaming his accusers.

The weirdest defense I've read this morning comes from The Huffington Post. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach explains that Anthony Weiner is your basic BAM- Broken American Male. Men like Anthony Weiner live in the permanent fear that they are not special. Their greatest fear is that they are ordinary. And they spend their lives trying to disprove that fear... [and] Women are the quickest and most reliable way for broken men to feel good about themselves."

(The whole piece is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/anthony-weiner-_b_872220.html.)

Note to Rep. Weiner and/or Rabbi Boteach: you know that bit from Shakespeare about the wise man knowing himself to be a fool? The wise man also knows he's nothing special. He knows he's just a human being, like every other poor schmuck on the planet. Given some of Rep. Weiner's outbursts in his career, you'd think he'd be even more aware of that fact than most people. But no.

Really, you have to wonder about Weiner. Did it ever cross his mind that "Thou shalt not commit adultery" had other implications beyond the dictionary definition? I remember Bill Clinton explaining it didn't, and we saw where that kind of thinking landed him.

I mean, come on-- between Shakespeare and the Commandments, anyone who had even a half-baked Western education should have thought about this, right?

Like everyone else who saw the Congressman's press conference yesterday, I feel bad for the guy. So, an open letter to Rep. Anthony Weiner:

Dear Tony,

Everybody's a jerk sometimes. Including me- well, actually, especially me, just ask around. But here's the cool thing: the moment you know for a fact what a jerk you've been can be the greatest moment in your life. Because now you can get to work on de-jerkifying yourself. And that really will make the world a better place.

Unlike, I don't know, Obamacare and the like.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Training

My Chihuahua- MinPin mix is in training. Or I am, I'm not sure which.

Mitzi is about a year old now. She's nine or ten pounds, tan, kind of pretty actually. When we got her from the rescue society they informed us she was seriously traumatized. Someone found her cowering under a truck in a Home Depot parking lot one night, at barely eight weeks old.

For the first two weeks we had her we rarely saw her. She was always hiding someplace, usually under a bed. Did you ever try finding a small, remarkably fast dog who thinks you're out to get her? Really. Try it some time.

We couldn't even coax her out with food. She was the least food-oriented dog I'd ever seen. true, I'm comparing her with Labradors, but still. Even after she'd been with us a while and was willing to emerge from the bedroom she would only eat her supper if we all pretended we weren't looking. I think she thought she had to steal it then run for her life.

Well. It's been a while, and Mitzi has relaxed a little. Which is to say, her paranoia has developed into hostility. So far she has snapped at three people and bitten at least one-- that one being my husband. (Mitzi, wise up: who do you think pays for the dog food?)

After she lunged at a jogger last week-- who was pretty ticked off, let me tell you-- I called the rescue society and told them Mitzi/Minx was on the verge of becoming a liability.

A few days later I got a call from their resident expert in miniature pinschers.

"It's the breed," she said. "You think you're seeing fear, but you're not: Mitzi is displaying dominance behavior. Does she jump up on your lap uninvited? Demand to be petted? Run up the stairs before you? All dominance. You've got to show her you're the boss. Put her on a leash 24/7 and call me in a week."

Well, Mitzi has lived with a leash attached to her collar for nearly a week. She no longer tears up the stairs ahead of me but keeps pace with me. She's starting to get the gist of "down." A few days ago I took her out walking with another dog owner and she didn't try t attack the other dogs. Progress, right?

But here's the thing: Mitzi, I realize now, is one smart dog. So I have this suspicion she's trying to lull me into a false sense of security. I think she's just waiting for the right opportunity to rip the leash out of my hands and go on a rampage.

I'll know more when I talk to the trainer again. In the meantime, a public service announcement: Beware minpins. They're adorable, but they are not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weeds

I spent the last two hours pulling up weeds. At least I think they were weeds. I hope they were.

It's not easy dealing with a garden when you have a black thumb. I can't count the number of plants I've killed. House plants, yard plants, it doesn't matter. Plants look at me and die.

It wouldn't be so bad if I could keep the images of Miss Marple out of my head. Agatha Christie's heroine actually liked gardening. She liked digging in the dirt and coaxing fragile seedlings to life. I mean, I know St Mary Meade was a quiet village,and there probably wasn't much else to do, but come on.

Here's the truth, people: nature hates us. Buckthorn is forever. Creeping Charlie laughs at your attempts to control it. And dandelions? They don't even have the decency to wait until your back is turned. They spring right back no matter what you do.

I wish I liked gardening. I wish I couldn't wait to tend to the irises and "put in" annuals. But I don't. Which probably means I'd never make it as a character in an English detective novel.

But I can live with that.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Duke!

Happy birthday to John Wayne. Born Marion Robert Morrison on this day in 1907, in Winterset,Iowa.

A little birthday fanfare for the Duke.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Uh-Oh, Ahnold

In today's LA Times-

"Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver separated after she learned he'd fathered the child more than a decade ago with a household employee.

His wife, Maria Shriver, moved out of their Brentwood mansion earlier this year after the former governor acknowledged the child was his. The staff member worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January."

Let me see if I've got this straight.

Ten years ago, Ahnold had a child with a staffer. A staffer who lived with the family, in the same house.

Said staffer remained with the family another ten years, presumably with Ahnold Junior running about the house all day.

Ten years? Ten years of living with her husband's out of wedlock child, and Maria is just tumbling to the news now?

What, she missed the clues? The square jaw, the lederhosen? The Conan the Barbarian playsets?

Nobody ever called the Kennedy clan a brain trust. But this is ridiculous.

Monday, May 16, 2011

There Goes the Weekend

As I have mentioned earlier on my other blog, breakfastwiththepope.com, the world is scheduled to end this Saturday. From Fox News, via Hot Air:

"A New York man spent his entire $140,000 life savings advertising his prediction that the world will end May 21, the New York Post reported Friday.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year-old Staten Island resident, said he spent at least that sum on 1,000 subway-car placards and ads on bus kiosks and subway cars.
They say, "Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever! Judgment Day May 21, 2011."
In a self-published book, "The Doomsday Code," Fitzpatrick said the Bible offers "proof that cannot be dismissed."
"Judgment Day will surprise people. We will not be ready for it," Fitzpatrick said in an interview with the newspaper. "A giant earthquake will render the earth uninhabitable."


[Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/05/14/new-york-man-spends-life-savings-ahead-21-doomsday/#ixzz1MVsu7UIj. ]

Now, aside from the obvious observation- "You'd think a guy on Staten Island could handle 'uninhabitable'"- Mr. Fitzpatrick's campaign brings up several very important issues. Like, should I cancel my dentist appointment? I mean, what's the use, right? Or should I go ahead with it as a dress rehearsal for the terrible sufferings to come?

What about my library books?

Is it better to face Judgement Day with a decent pedicure?

If the wrath of God incinerates me and my home, will He toast the squirrels, too? Because that would be sweet revenge.

I'm not sure what time all this is supposed to happen on Saturday. Before or after the softball game? Really, you'd think Mr. Fitzpatrick would tell us if he knew. Unless he's rooting for the other team. Which would be typical of these doomsday guys.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Food Poisoning

We all have our weaknesses. Our tendencies. Some people pick up headcolds at the drop of a Kleenex. Others are accident prone and know the location of every emergency room in fifty states.

I, for some reason, am a walking target for food poisoning.

I don't know why. It's not like I'm an adventurous eater or anything. I never go near exotic delicacies like blood sausage or deep fried grasshoppers. Offered anything faintly jiggly like raw oysters or undercooked eggs my response is always a firm "no, thank you." But none of my stick-to-the-beaten-path ways have spared me from major bouts of food poisoning.

I remember one particularly graphic episode my first month in Washington, D.C. At my first Washington party. That one involved some leftover guacamole and a Halloween costume. Also the Secret Service, who by the way are not especially sympathetic guys. It wasn't pretty.

Today's episode, I think, stems from-- well, I don't know what, actually. I do know this time it wasn't the sushi. I was feeling rotten way before I ate the sushi. But I imagine the sushi didn't improve things much.

My preferred course of treatment is simple: Advil for the pounding headache, hot tea for the frayed nerves, and a steady diet of paperback mystery novels to pass the time until the whole ugly thing blows over. So far I've blown through a Robert Parker and two randy Wayne Whites.

If anyone has any suggestions they'd be welcome. In the meantime, stay away from sushi, just to be safe.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sliding Into Summer

I don't know about you, but whenever I come home from a vacation abroad the first thing I like to do is hit the emergency room with an injured child.

Unpack? Catch up on laundry? No no no. That kind of thing is for pikers. A real American mom knows the place to be when you're half stoned from jet lag and there's still no food in the house is the waiting room of a children's hospital. Along with about fifty other parents. Only half of whom speak any English, most of the kids are crying, and there's only one nurse pracitioner on duty.

Yeah. That's the life for me.

Yesterday was one of the the first really warm days of summer. So, naturally, every child in the Twin Cities was outside playing games they only half remember how to play from the long ago summer of 2010. No one, obviously, is going to be in mid-season form.

Take softball, for example. Great game. Girls love it. And this early in the season they're eager to improve their skills. They want to throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, sprint for first base.

This last skill is especially important. I mean, what's the point of all that hitting if you never get to first base? You gotta be fast. You gotta be focused. And you have to know how to slide for the bag.

This is when some bozo gets the bright idea, "Hey. It's hot, the kids need to practice sliding. Who's got one of those Slip N' Slides?"

You know. Long flat stretch of vinyl, you attach a garden hose and voila, you've got the perfect place to practice running as though your life depended on it then hurling yourself to the ground, sliding for all you're worth to that first precious base. And you get wet too, which not only helps your slide but cools you off a the same time. Fun, right?

At last count the number of injured from last night's practice was low. Only two. One with a seriously screwed up ankle- it's the boot and a pair of crutches for you, kid!= and one with a smashed up shoulder. Mine is the one with the smashed up shoulder. She, if you can believe it, is actually jealous of the kid with the busted ankle. ("How come she gets crutches and I don't? Crutches are cool." "Shut up and put your sling back on," mom explains.)

Yep, the summer of 2011 is off to a bang-up start. Softball season is over a little early, though.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Vatican Blogmeet

"Mrs. V. goes to Vatican City"

ROME- Yesterday Desperate Irish Housewife attended the big Bloggers' Meeting at the Vatican, where she discovered- to her great relief- that she was not the only blogger who was still amazed to have been invited. Other bloggers, too, had daily checked their email for the message from the organizers saying that her invitation had been a big mistake. But no such message came, and there they all were.

The first thing DIH did was locate and introduce herself to the venerable Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia. The first thing the Anchoress did was offer DIH a breath mint. (BTW, smooth move, Liz.) DIH gratefully accepted.

The second thing DIH did was discover her iPad was screwed up and she could not blog, but only Tweet. So tweet, tweet tweet she went.

They handed out headphones so that all could understand the different languages the presenters spoke. DIH of course clung to hers for dear life, but she noticed quite a few people scorned the headphones and understood all the languages on their own. This was another reminder to Desperate that she still has not mastered any of the languages she has studied off and on, and is not happy about it. (I swear, I WILL break out that Rosetta Stone set the minute I get home.)

Chief among the multi-linguists was a young Dutch priest who gave a sparkling talk about how he started his blog: by writing about Star Wars. It got thousands of hits the first week. Hm, he said to himself. Maybe writing stuff people are actually interested in is the way to go. Later he launched a podcast series on how to succeed at Farmville. This got even more hits, and was IMHO a brilliant idea.

I wonder if this means DIH should start playing Farmville...

The centerpiece of the event was the unveiling of the new Vatican website, still under development but "coming soon," they promised. This will be the most comprehensive, one-stop-shopping website the folks at St peters have ever produced, and it sounded pretty exciting.

Add to the "Why I Love Being Catholic" files: at the break between panels, they gave us pastries and prosecco.

I'm telling you. IS THIS A GREAT RELIGION, OR WHAT????

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 1, Part 2.

There's got to bea way to get in quicker, we reason. Whose palm do we have to grease?
The answer arrives in the form of a guy fom somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. "Join tour? Over there, man from Ohio."

The man from Ohio turned out to be Mike, an Iraq war vet who has been leading tours of Rome for over six years. "I came here for a girl," he explained. "It took me a year to figure out that she really wanted nothing to do with me. But by then I was hooked on Rome, so here I am."

I have to say Mike led one of the best toursI've ever been on. How many tours of the Vatican start out with a visit to the Swiss Guards laundry room? And include meeting their tailor? Mike also pointed out the Guards' barracks. "Listen up, people! The Swiss Guard may look like a bunch of little dolls in those uniforms, but make no mistake, they are the Vatocan's answer to the Navy Seals. They do not, I repeat not, mess around. Although in this soldier's opinion the pink stuccoed barracks undercuts the image a bit."

Mike's tour was unusual in every possible respect. "People, we are about the pass through the Hall of Tapestries. Most people just rush right through this gallery other way to the Sistina. But we will not rush through. We will admire these magnificent tapestries,and I will show you why they deserve our admiration.". Five minutes later everyone oN the tour was thoroughly spooked by the way the eyes in some of the tapestries followed us down the hall. This bit of nerve rattling, however, was nothing compared to the creeps we felt whenMike pointed out a two thousand year old statue that, I swear, looked exactly like the young Bill Clinton. "Even has Monica's dress over his arm," Mike noted. I'm telling you, it was weird.

Another thing I liked about Mike: he was nothing if not direct. "This is called the Pine Cone Court. see that enormous ball of sculpted brass in the center? It was a gift to John Paul II and is unquestionably the most hated work of 'art' in the Vatican. Look at it, it's a piece of junk! The only cool thing about it is you can spin it around. Big deal."

But like every other decent person in Rome, Mike was in love with the Sistine chapel. He gave us a half hour tutorial on the ceiling before we even set foot in the chapel. "I realize this might seem like I'm slowing you down, but trust me, you will appreciate the ceiling much more this way." And he was right, of course.

When In Rome

The first thing you should have done is check if your hotel has wi-fi.

Which, sadly some of us neglected to do.

So it took me a day or two to find Internet access. So hello again, everyone!

Right now I am in the Friends cafe scarfing down the buffet and breaking out the iPad.

Rome has been a great adventure so far Starting with our arrival, when I, Desperate Irish Housewife, drove through Roman rush hour traffic. In the rain. With a stick shift.

Impressive,huh? All I can say is thank God for all those years driving around Long Island malls. I learned well the all important skill of avoiding eye contact when cutting someone off in traffic. Besides Italians like to yell. I like to spread a little joy.

Anyway we all survived the drive, and here we are.

DAY 1. Hang around the Campo de Fiori. Eat something then scour the open air market stalls for the all important Pope John Paul II bobble head doll. No luck. Considered buying a Pope Benedict bobble head but decided against it. Likeness not close enough.

Head over to St Peter's square. At the moment the Square looks like a construction site. Scaffolding and work crews setting upf for the big bash on Sunday, guys from Fox news taping their little bits of wisdom, mile long line to get into the basilica.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Packing

There are basically two schools of thought on the subject of packing. The first is the minimalist school. This is the "nothing but the essentials" approach. Toothbrush, one change of clothes, maybe something to read. Most of the adherents to this school are men who never had to pack for anyone but themselves and relied on their wives to carry everything else, like the Metamucil or the athlete's foot spray.

The second school of thought is the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach. Summery clothes just in case it gets warm. Wintery clothes just in case it gets cold. Evening dress just in case the Prime Minister invites you to dinner. A toe ring just in case you find yourself at a NASCAR race. The entire contents of your bahrroom cabinet.

While I aspire to becoming a member of the first school, experience has taught me this is pipe dream. Taking the minimalist approach, I have learned, virtually guarantees an invitation to the PM's table. On the other hand, when you pack twelve outfits cover g any and a
L occasions, you will almost certainly end you vacation in a pair of capris and a tee shirt. That's just the way it is.

No, there are no winners in the packing game. I always feel like a jerk packing as much as I do, but I have come to believe it is better to feel like a jerk than have to spend half your clothing allowance for next year on a last minute evening outfit.

So I overpack. Heck, there are worse thing, right?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Last Thing You Want To Hear

...whne you call Travelocity to double-check on your hotel reservation.

Automated voice: "You are confirmed for five nights at the Hotel X in Roma, Australia."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Geoffrey Chaucer, Call Your Office

Hello, Geoff? Hey. It's me, Desperate. We've been out of touch for a while. Like, since about ninth grade.

But I remember you, Geoff. I can even remember that tongue-twister of yours our English teacher made us memorize. OK, so I can only manage the first two lines... but still, I'd think after all these years you'd be flattered:

"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote..."

Impressed? Now for the contemporary version:

"When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root.."

Now here's the bad news. Geoff. Those showers ain't exactly as sweet as you made them out to be. Today, for example. It's one thing to wake up in the morning and see a gentle dusting of snow on the landscape, or your car, in December. But seeing it today is just too much. Today is the 20th of April, Geoff. And we got snow.

It might not be so depressing if I'd never heard of The Canterbury Tales. I mean, come on, the expectations you set up! Hooray, can't wait for April, it'll be sweet! The Zephyrs! The tender shoot and buds! The "many little birds that make melody!"

Unless they FROZE to death, right, Geoff?!! Unless the tender little buds all DIED in the KILLER FROST! You never thought of that, did you GC?

Well, take a look outside my window and think about it now. I expect a whole new Prologue on my desk by this afternoon. Otherwise I'm going to start spilling what I really know about your little set of pilgrims, and as you know, it won't be pretty.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Big News Spreads

As you can imagine I am pretty thrilled to be going to the big Vatican Blognic on May 2. And it warms my heart to hear so many people are happy for me.

Although every so often I get a reaction I wasn't quite expecting.

{Yesterday evening. DIH approaches clergyman.}

DIH: So... guess who's going to the big Vatican blogger's meeting?

CLGY: My friend Father X, of course.

DIH: Uh- I, I don't know. I didn't see his name on the list. But I'm going!

CLGY: But Father X's blog is huge. It's the biggest one out there.

DIH: Yes... well, maybe he didn't fill out an application.

CLGY: I don't see how they can call it a meeting of Catholic bloggers if they didn't invite Father X. Oh, by the way-- congratulations, have a great time.

Now it point of fact, Father X's blog is huge. It gets more traffic in a day than a dozen other blogs put together get in a month. My friend the clergyman was quite right: it really was a bit odd that his name wasn't on the list.

When I got home I read the "Invitees" list again, just to make sure. But unless he's writing under a pseudonym, Father X (not his real name) isn't going to the Blognic.

I reread the invitation carefully. This is the important part:
"Selection to attend does not imply Vatican approval of the contents of any of the blogs. Neither does non-selection imply disapproval."

It also says something about picking some famous bloggers and some, um, not-famous bloggers. To get a good mix.

All I can say now is THANK YOU, VATICAN GUYS!!! for picking a non=famous type like yours truly. I will do my best to add whatever I can to the meeting. We of the non-famous community are deeply grateful for this opportunity.

I can't wait to meet the famous bloggers. I'd better wear a nametag, though. Did I say "nametag?" Make that "a sandwich board."

Great News, Travelers!

"Another air traffic controller sleeping on the job; FAA says changes to work schedules coming" (Star Tribune, Sunday April 17)

Coming? Uh- coming when, exactly?

Hey, It's Done a Great Job So Far

Headline on Drudge: CAN DRUGS AND SEX SAVE DETROIT?

The link is to an article in Friday's Detroit Free Press:

"Could Detroit be the new Amsterdam -- a city where prostitution and marijuana are both legalized to help attract young people and turn the troubled city’s prospects around?

"Why not, barrister and occasional mayoral candidate Geoffrey Fieger said during a taping of “Michigan Matters” on what he would do if he walked in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s shoes."

Ew. I have a 12-hour layover in Amsterdam on the return trip from Rome. Does this mean I might as well be in Detroit?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rome Is Calling!

Yours truly has been invited to the Bloggers' Meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at the Vatican, on Monday May 2.

Don't that beat all?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

East Coast Buried, All Calm Here

New York City got hit with 19 inches of snow yesterday. The Big Apple shut down. Now that takes a lot of snow.

Here in the Mini-Ap, we've reached another stage in our annual snow collection. We are at the stage where we start hoping for the occasional dusting, so that pretty new white snow will cover up the grey heaps that are all over the landscape at this point. Makes it a little less depressing.

I am not one to snark at any other city's inability to deal with a blizzard. Far from it. I lived in D.C. for ten years, I know how it goes. At the first rumor of a snowfall everyone heads to the Safeway and strips it bare of milk, bread and eggs. Then they go home, not necessarily ready for disaster but definitely on top of things should the urge to make French toast seize them as they watch the snow pile up. It's very Washington, in a way. "Ready the irrelevant!" Catchy battle cry.

Actually our big concern here nowadays is the inevitable thaw. That's when all the ice dams on everybody's roofs will start leaking into their living rooms. Have you always wanted an indoor pool? Now's your chance to get one cheap.

So while our neighbors to the East dig out from under the snowdrifts, we here in the Upper Midwest are breaking out the beach towels. A sun lamp, a boom box and your living room- or attic, or whatever- becomes a regular Riviera. Think of all the shoveling those chic New Yorkers are doing right now. But don't gloat. Spring is never as close as you wish it were.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BWP in Space

Tonight I will be interviewed on the Busted Halo show, on Sirius Satellite Radio. That's at 7:20 pm my time (Central), 8:20 on the East Coast.

Today was a good day for Desperate. Ever since "Breakfast with the Pope" came out, I have endeavored to do what all good authors must do and sell books. And today, I sold one. I was in Barnes and Noble, standing around the "Religion" aisle, looking admiringly at my book right there on the shelf. I do this a lot. It's my new hobby.

Anyway there was a woman standing a few feet away from me, browsing some other religion books. Well, I said to myself. She's obviously interested in the subject. I think I can help her out.

"That's my book," I said, pointing.

She looked confused. "Did you leave it there?"

"No no," I said. "I wrote it. It's my book."

"Oh, well then," she said. "Since I've met the author I suppose I have to buy it."

"Yes," I said. "Yes, that's what it means."

See? I think I'm getting pretty good at this author stuff.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Good News, Bad News

The good news: I have successfully put away all the Christmas china. So long 'til next year.

The bad news: I can't remember where I hid the everyday china.

Looks like it's paper plate time.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Horns From Hell

All right.

I approve of champagne. I think the little party hats are funny. I can tolerate the little horns and the noisemakers and the confetti.

BUT WHO THE HELL THOUGH OF NEW YEAR'S EVE VUVUZELAS?

AND WHAT DIRE ENEMY GAVE MY KID ONE?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

January 2

Yours truly bailed on a New Year's celebration last night owing to a bout of stomach flu. Now I think my daughter is coming down with it. So far 2011 is not off to an auspicious start.

However, I am taking it all in stride. I have made my New Years' resolutions- only two, and easy ones, so I should actually be able to keep them.

The trouble with New Year's resolutions, for me, is I can't tell the difference between a list of resolutions and a to-do list. I mean, "learn Spanish" has been on my list for years, On all my lists, in fact. I decided this year it was more of a to-do item than a resolution, so I'm off the hook.

Is anyone realistic about to-do lists? I know we're all supposedly total fakes when it comes to a New Year's list, but a to-do is supposed to be in earnest. I looked at my lists for the past week and saw that they were all exactly 50 percent done. So I conclude I must be doing something wrong.

But so far I've acted on my first NY resolution, which is to read more. Over the past two days I've finished two books. Since they were sick days this was relatively easy to do. Let's see how I do in the hale and hearty days ahead.